A kind of homecoming

Posted By on October 14, 2007

I’m in Montreal for a Best Western convention. I used to visit this Quebec city frequently in the ‘70s, when I lived in Burlington, Vermont, only 90 miles south. I always liked Montreal; I remember coming here with Susan Linsky and Peggy Kuchta and Donald Rafael from Burlington. Susan was a friend, Peggy was more than that, and Don was a buddy. Black, too. I remember one morning in the early hippie ‘70s when we all woke up for breakfast and Don literally skipped down the street saying he felt free. No prejudice, at least not the American kind, was apparent here. Still isn’t, and the city, which feels way foreign and mostly French, is as diverse and appealing as it ever was.

The east side is French, the west side English. I used to walk down St. Catherine, the key commercial boulevard (like Michigan Avenue in Chicago), enjoying the crush and variety and commerce. Still true. I also used to hang out around McGill College, in the English section. That’s where I and some coworkers used to go to get sexual education printed material for Planned Parenthood of Vermont, where I was a counselor in the earliest ‘70s, before Roe Wade. You had to go to Canada for freedom in the sexual sense, too. Montreal’s a sexy city. Feels free, like we used to in America.

It’s friendly, too. I went to the Bay, a big department store on St. Catherine, in search of winter cargo pants. Couldn’t find them. A guy I asked about them made some suggestions and when I told him I didn’t know how to get to where he advised, he took me there. We spent 15 minutes talking and walking. I don’t know whether I’ll ever see Suilun again, but I’ll remember him. Montreal’s a civilized city, at least most of the time.

Not always, though. I got here on Saturday the 13th and stayed at a Candlewood, a limited-service InterContinental hotel. The place was OK, except that there was a fire on the second floor early in the morning, rousting all the guests, who had to be evacuated. There we all were, in the cold, for about 45 minutes. It was literally alarming. The drunken young louts who kept mock-fighting didn’t raise the calmness level.

This morning, however, the Candlewood let everybody stay beyond their scheduled departure times. That almost made up for the chaos of the morning.


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I'm a veteran critic and business writer who reads and listens and writes about music, books, hotels and travel. I've been in the business for many years and still enjoy it. My pride and joy is my book, Cleveland Rock & Roll Memories. Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/CarloWolff