Laissez le bon temps et les grands groupes commencent!

Somebody once asked me "Why do you guys LOVE Montreal for vacation so much?" That question kept surfacing last night as we wandered through the Jazz Festival groundsa and there is no complete answer. There are, however, a few clues worth noting:

+ First, Montreal is a big, multi-cultural city that moves to its own groove. It isn't wildly fast-paced like NYC nor is it obsessively chill like New Orleans. It is a place that feels human-sized to me without the worries of rushing to and fro with something to prove.

+ Second, it is clean and wildly family friendly: there are things for children to do everywhere. That means little ones and their siblings are to be found in the Jazz Festival as well as the Contemporary Art Museum. It is a bicycle friendly urban area too so people of all ages are riding through the town well into early evenings.

+ Third, it is a relatively safe city. To be sure, bikers have taken up residence in places outside the urban area to ply their meth trade - and the presence of the mob infects construction and other building trades - but the truth of the matter is that our visits rarely encounter those scenes. The most troubling thing we encounter is the presence of First Nation street people who are often wasted and/or asleep in public places. And while Canada is far ahead of the US when it comes to its aboriginal tribes, there is still massive alcoholism and homelessness.

+ Fourth, the multi-lingual/multi-cultural reality is too kewel for school. I am a HUGE Francophone - I need to really strengthen and deepen my ability to both hear and speak French - but I am so grateful to the Quebecers who patiently allow me to practice and try my best. And the French-thing touches everything here from fashion to cuisine - and that is a blessing, too. 

+ And fifth, this place knows who to make the most of their FESTIVALS! They fill the summer months with creative street parties and concerts that run the gamut from free to upscale. Not only has that generated a buzz about the user-friendliness of Montreal, but it brings in millions of creative tourists each year eager to experience jazz, indie-rock, comedy, French music, film, visual art and so much more. I have learned more about the creative economy by simply walking around this town each summer for the past seven years than from almost any where else - and this has implications for my own home as well as our ministry to the community. What's more, the depth and breadth of the jazz shows - free and ticketed - is always a blast and an educational endeavor.

I suspect the last reason I so totally dig being in Montreal is that it has become a place liberated from the heavy-hand of the church so that thriving congregations have had to reinvent themselves in a brave new world. In one generation Montreal has gone from a municipality dominated by the presence of the Roman Catholic Church to an urban community that intentionally disestablished the church from its political life. Some congregations simply shattered because they did not know how to survive in this open context. But others, like Gesu or St. James United Church of Canada found new ministries that have allowed them to be embraced with love and respect by greater Montreal.  That, too, holds important lessons for me as our small congregation wrestles with our version of American disestablishment in the 21st century.

Ok, the truly last reason - number seven - that I adore making my way to Montreal each summer with my honey:  it is a hip place where I can simply let my hair down in anonymity. Does that sound weird? Being such a public person in Pittsfield - a small city - means I am always on display. And while I love my ministry, I totally need decompression time, too or else I get cranky and resentful. Here, not only am I unknown, most of the time I have to work hard at listening rather than speaking, so even the enforced silence becomes a salve for my soul.

Today, before the rest of the clan arrives, we're going to take in the young big band jazz performers in the high school and college age level. They are always smokin' and evoke hope in my heart. Laissez le bon temps et les grands groupes commencent!

credit:  all pictures by Dianne De Mott


JF-M said…
Beautiful! This really resonates with me as I LOVED Montreal when I lived there. I cried when leaving. My experience was somewhat different, being in my early 20's in the 1970's, but Mtl was always a warm and vibrant place for me. Hope your birthdays are wonderful!!
Thanks for your posts and Di's great pics. Joyce

RJ said…
Love to you,too Joyce. And the 70s were such a different time. Thanks for your sweet note.

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