It begins as the velvet draping that envelops the downtown core of this pearl of the St. Lawrence as night turns pitch black. As the deep evening turns early morning, the moveable feasts make their pilgrimages to their own holy stations. These hours are ours and there are no rules. The stars sparkle and wink guiding you from one holy grail to another. The playrooms of the inner city, with their terraces and open doors, that beckon all who are willing to live life to the fullest into their open arms.
The bars and restos and boites are not just collections of tables and chairs and lights and leathers. They are the altars upon which we consecrate our devotion to sucking the marrow out of the bones of life. The spirits flow freely, pungent smoke exhaled openly, and the conversation is lively amid the salacious subtleties of looks and words between men and women that would make the bureaucrats who try to engineer us mad with envy. This is our Montreal. And we are its guardians. We can’t be pigeon-holed or tamed. In the late and early hours, all is forgiven and all is allowed. Even the cops in their cruisers flip two-fingered salutes as revellers snake their way through our famous play streets imbibing what they like and where they like. The music wafting from each open public house acting as the soundtrack to these special moments of our lives.
We Montrealers want our streets teeming with sensual echoes framed in smoky blue-grey hazes fueled by intoxicating spirits. We crave to hear the sweet murmurs of pleasure. We yearn for those breathless encounters on the precipice of peril and menace. Without all this, life would be nothing but a vast treadmill from birth to grave.
In our crowd, the sparkles of the stars are reflected in the deep, limpid pools of sensual eyes of sparkling, elegant and witty women, and well turned out gentlemen are appropriately appreciative. For in the heat of Montreal’s summer nights passion still rules and style still reigns as sharply and brightly as the thunderclaps of lightening bolts.
Hemingway once wrote, “Paris was always worth it, and you received in return whatever you brought to it. And this is how it was in the early days, when we were very happy. If you were lucky enough to have lived there, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris was a moveable feast.”
That’s pretty much how we Montréalais feel about our “Big Easy North”. Our moveable feast. You do get back what you put in. But you’ve got to be given a chance to put something in. You’ve got to give yourself the chance to live lucky. We will not yield our lives to those dry and brittle souls from the netherworld of conformity who try to take that chance away. Nor the lazy, loutish, brutes who march demanding everything and giving nothing in return. They could never understand us anyway. Summer in this city is the season when the new prohibitionists are on the run, and we take our city back and give chase.
It is the season where virtual straitjackets are discarded and our joyous frolic is uncontrolled and unconfined. It is the season where we celebrate George Jonas’ message that in the face of the seemingly “divine right of bureaucrats” to suffocate us, we exercise our yearning to breathe free and indulge in “private vices rather than public virtues.” Our last safety valve mitigating the often arid desert of most of the year.
Without a healthy degree of licentious resistance, what is life? Life in the only way it was truly meant to be lived. Life in all its glorious, chaotic and passionate uncertainty and unpredictability. If you’ve never lived it in the steamy summer streets of this city, you’ve never truly lived.
This city doesn’t succumb to the warning labels on life.
And that is a very good thing.