Okay, so I agreed to write this article, but you have to promise to keep it quiet. Like if you’re on the VIA Toronto/Montréal express to visit your friend who lives on the plateau for a weekend of too many pints of cheap St. Ambroise or Belle Geulle at an electronic music show with a guy in a toque, sullenly pushing buttons on a PowerBook, and the hipster-girl next to you wearing a skirt over top of her second-hand jeans and torn legwarmers starts reading this over your shoulder, you have to swear to put this away and immediately start reading Exclaim! or some other entertainment throwaway. Okay?
Because the last thing the hipsters in Montréal want is an influx of Ontarians, swilling Starbucks coffee, yammering into cell phones, hassling members of Godspeed when they see them on the street and basically stinking up the place with their Ontario-ness.
1. Reasons to Leave Ontario
First off, you have to ask yourself: do I want to leave Ontario? The answer is, of course you do! When I left that swampy province, some wanker named Ernie Eaves was running the place. That sounds like a name for an evil children’s entertainer. I’m not even sure who the elected officials are here, but it seems to matter very little in a place where no one ever understands what anyone else is saying while purchasing bananas, let alone while engaging in a debate on the political sphere. If you’re reading this, you’re probably an anarchist anyway, so a place where it is impossible to understand, and therefore be frustrated by politics, is perfect for you.
A more pertinent question to ask yourself is: don’t you like to enjoy a cigarette while you raise a pint in your favourite bar, or while you ride public transit, or even in the house of worship of your choice? If you don’t like to smoke, maybe some other hipster-locale is for you, because, dude, they issue you a pack of duMaurier at the Québec border. But I hear they have artist welfare in Amsterdam.
The girls in Montréal really are prettier than Toronto girls. And they seem less aware of their inherent prettiness and so tend to have less attitude. They are capable women, who can operate power tools and climb fences. Some of them do have hairy legs (mostly as protection against the harsh winters, more about that later) and yes, many of them are performance artists, but the girls in Montréal will make you wish you were Leonard Cohen so you could write a song with their name in it that would make them love you.
If guys are your thing, this is not the town for you. Stay in Toronto, where the pretty boys are. It is true that most of those pretty Toronto boys will be gay, but that could work out cool for you, depending upon your orientation. But if you are a straight girl, looking for boys, Montréal is dead to you. The boys are butt-ugly here.
The French boys all have scraggly, starving-soccer-team-crash-landed-in-the-Andes-beards, often worn in conjunction with ponytails. You remember ponytails, don’t you? Karl Lagerfeld, the ’80s, Billy Ray Cyrus?
The Anglo boys are like archetypical caricatures of zine-fair geeks, with the requisite horn-rimmed glasses and ironic trucker caps, or else they have white-guy dreads.
It took the ice storm of 1998 — an apocalyptic-opening-of-the icy-bowels-of-hell type of winter storm –to make Montréalers complain about the weather, so you know that the winters are a serious concern when moving here. Especially since — and I’m not trying to be mean here –you come from a place where they called out the army to shovel people’s driveways during a snowfall a while back. I do not possess the metaphors suitable to describe in worthy proportions the nine month-orgy of slush and novocaine-cold that is the Montréal winter.
5. Things You Need to Know
There are Fairmount bagels and there are St-Viateur bagels and, in truth, they are virtually indistinguishable, but to look like a local, you need to have a strong preference for one over the other. It’s easy, pick one and make up a reason. Done. Breakfast comes with beans here. You can choose not to eat them. Convenience stores are called “deps” and they sell beer! Yes, people do speak French here, but they also speak English, and it is easy to trick them into doing so by instigating conversations in the most mangled fragments of French imaginable.
That’s all I can tell you. With all I’ve imparted, you should soon be living in a “three-and-a-half,” looking disheveled, eating stale bagels for breakfast and telling your old friends in Ontario that while your spoken French is still bad, you’re really starting to understand the language.
I’ve already said too much. The real hassle in Montréal is not the sign police; it’s the secret society of hipsters that protects this haven of cheap beer and rent from outsiders like you. Anyway, Toronto’s not so bad. I hail from Hamilton and compared to that lumbering brute of a city, Toronto was always like the Emerald City to me.