Writer’s Journal 13 “Practicing Ethnography”

Old Montreal in the summer is a lively center of attraction day and night. The city knows how it’s a magnet for both the tourists and the locals therefore there are always public events happening there. These range from live concerts to public hot yoga. On this sunny day, it feels like all Montrealers want to celebrate the arrival of summer by being outside at the Old Port. The red flowers fill the center of the pedestrian area as if there will be a royal wedding.

I sit on the soft grass and watch the cyclers and the roller-bladers swoosh by while a man plays fetch with his golden retriever. The well-behaved drooling dog brings back the yellow tennis ball without deviating from his path. There’s a family sitting at a pic-nick table sharing a packed-lunch, the little boy and girl sit on their knees and lean forward biting into triangle toast sandwiches. There’s a young couple lying idyllic on a blanket in the sun. They seem to be whispering affections to each other in between kisses.

I love watching the crowd, the different languages floating in the air and mixing. I can’t hear what I imagine to be Québécois, English, Italian, Arabic, Spanish, and Greek. The polyphonic sounds characteristic of Montreal’s vibrancy, dynamism, and multi-culturalism. The commonality between the crowds are the smiles, and the ice creams. The sun’s rays are strong that’s why everyone is in shorts, sleeveless tops, and flip-flops. To cool off even more, there’s a small lake in the distance, where people are renting pédalo.

I’m facing the Saint-Lawrence river, it looks majestic with the light reflecting in its ripples. On the opposite bank is Longueil, with the cubic condos, and in the far left, the roller-coasters of “La Ronde” appear. From here, they look like a child’s Lego-city.

I turn and look at the cobblestone road behind me, it’s the pedestrian area of the Vieux-Port. People are lining-up outside restaurants. All the seats in the stalls of the caricature artists are taken, and people gather around the person being drawn as the artist chooses one facial feature to exaggerate. There’s a crowd forming around a street performer who’s about to start his show. He’s dressed in a black loose outfit that seems bigger than his size. He takes a piece of chalk and draws a circle on the ground to delineate where people should stand while he does his show, like a teacher about to start a lesson.

I notice the bumper to bumper traffic mixed-in with the horse-drawn carriages which are a hallmark of Old Montreal found in every brochure.

There is a noticeable long line in front of the food truck area. I squint and realize it’s the pink truck which happens to be home to the best cookies in the world, Mr. Félix and Mr. Norton. I trick myself into thinking I can smell them from here. I close my eyes, and remember the melted white-chocolate, mixed with macadamia balanced to perfection within each cookie. Every bite makes you want more. I wet my lips and promise myself that I will reward the day with a half-dozen cookies.

Categories Writer’s Journals

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