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Montreal, QC

Montreal, QC, Canada
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'two solitudes'...languages and friendship Montreal  Canada

'two solitudes'...languages and friendship

The vibrant-but-not-always-easy rapport between French and English is a huge part of what makes Montréal my favorite city in North America. The phrase 'two solitudes,' made famous by Canadian author Hugh MacLellan, inevitably came to mind when I saw this pairing of exterior spiral staircases--one of the defining features of Montreal's streetscape...

On my second visit here, I took a friend with me. It was his first time out of the U.S., and he spoke no French.

One evening, we were browsing in a used record shop on the Boulevard St.-Laurent, the old linguistic dividing line of the city. Assuming my friend worked there, (he was dressed like he did), a fellow customer approached him with a question. In French.

When my anglophone-only friend motioned to his mouth and said, "Sorry, man, I don't speak French," the guy, suddenly switching to English, became indignant: "What do you MEAN--you work here and you don't speak French?" I was glad that my friend calmly replied: "Whoa, I don't work here, I'm just lookin', like you are." Our fellow music-browser immediately smiled "oh--sorry! 'Scuse me. No worries." By then I'd approached the scene. "Pas de problème," I offered...

Trips abroad open eyes and test friendships. After a few days of close quarters that grew a bit testy, we agreed to part ways, to do our own thing on our last day before flying out. But all was well a few weeks later when this friend of mine said to me, 'Man, we should do that again sometime!'