I’d always thought it somewhat shameful–but also not that big of a deal–that I’d spent my entire life in the United States without ever checking in on our Canadian buds up north. From what I heard, we had better poutine in the diners of New Jersey, under the guise of “disco fries.”
It does stand as birthplace to such commercially-successful names as Neil Young, the girl who wrote “Call Me Maybe?” a single-testicle-clad Tom Green, Aubrey Drizzy Drake Graham, and of course Wade Desarmo, tech whiz/tall-tee extraordinaire. My hesitation came from a place of indifference– the feeling that my hard-earned, often-wasted dollars would be best spent in a seemingly more exotic place—like Mexico, or like, Montana or something. Well, I’m here to tell you—Mexico is sick! Montana is fucking breath taking! But the past weekend spent in Montreal, QC was definitely a really, really great time skating incredible spots with incredible people. It’s a big fuckin’ city and I barely saw a fraction of it, but here’s what I can remember of what happened I think.
Montreal, Quebec: ninth largest country in North America, tenth best place in the world to be a University student, largest French-speaking city outside of Paris. Bagels: pretty good. Poutine: didn’t try ’em. 16 oz. of Labatt Blue from the store: $2.50. The bar: $8.* (*This reporter noted that due to the excessive beer prices many lower-income rippers and bums drank Busch Ice, or other super boozy, super disgusting ~15% sludge) An eighth of ‘dro: $25. The customary unit of measurement: they only really know what you’re talking about when it comes to weed.
We took the three-day Columbus Day weekend as a chance to get up there before it got too cold. It was 35 degrees at night, 50ish by day. They kept using Celsius numbers but I had no idea what they meant. The drive from New York was like six hours not including time spent at the border. Montreal saw a great deal of economic success as a result of that dumb time we passed an amendment prohibiting the sale of booze. So Americans would go get their rocks off at the growing number of spots of ill repute, paving the way for the variety of freaky digs you might find today. There’s a casino, and one of the games offered is the card game “War,” just like in Vegas Vacation. Word has it that there is a shake joint up there where the chicks are loose enough that at the end of their performance, they’ll splay out, roll up a poster, “spread clam” and well…Canadian currency under $5 is in coin-form. You catch my vibe. We had tight enough budgets to keep us out of those places, despite some very persuasive late-night impulses.
At the border, the boys and I kept our cool. You need a passport and shit. The kind, weird-speaking, really strong border police searched our shit inside and out and made me feel really guilty for not having any sort of contraband in the vehicle. They almost convinced me that I did, they were so persuasive. I was trembling by the end of it all. Holy hell, I’m getting nervous just thinking about it. We stayed in an Airbnb just west of Parc Lafontaine, named after a big-ass fountain. Aside from said fontaine there’s also a très chill set of marble benches on the east side of the park, half of them perfectly waxed, the other half, fortuitously skate-stopped so that the boys could chill at any hour, day or night, without impeding the session. Those few Quebecois rippers who weren’t posted with an air-chilled Labatt Bleu in hand skated the ledges and parfait flat until it was time to hit the skater pad.
The dudes showing us around, representatives of the Dime MTL squad, were some of the most gifted individuals, off and on the board, that I’d ever come across. Their extended fam is made up of scores of incredible skaters. Mix that with three or four driven, productive, hilarious people in charge of the brand, and you’ve got some of the most inspired content in skateboarding. You may recall their homage to the tall-tee (or, the “real Canadian Tuxedo”), or their compilation of historic tricks done while sporting a yellow t-shirt. The pipeline for Dime is stacked with good stuff that will present itself in due time. In the meantime, they’ve got an in-depth spot list on their site to help you get around, and the rugbies are fire.
The local skater bar is called Thrash Bar, which is less endearingly known as “Trash Bar” by most of the skaters, seeing as they give chicks free shots for taking off their bras and whipping them into the ceiling rafters. There’s a mellow caged-in bowl on the first floor, and a sizeable mini-ramp on the second floor. I’m pretty sure I smashed my hip dropping in on the bowl, but it’s really tough to say.
On Saturday, nothing came easy. Montreal’s name comes from “Mont Royal,” a triple-peaked hill in the middle of the city. We had the chance to bomb one of the peaks while skating the bank on Berri Street for far too long. It’s a crusty bank to Quikreted parking block with a pillar in the middle of it, on a crusty sidewalk on a crusty steep hill. All the Montreal dudes did every trick I would have wanted to do in the first ten minutes, leaving us to try really hard for two hours to land literally nothing.
We skated Berri Park next, which could be best compared to Major Colvin’s controversial social experiment “Hamsterdam” in the Wire. I have never seen so many open-air drug transactions in my entire fucking life. Buncha zombies wandering around, yelling and coughing and asking for shit. There’s a fountain with dark-green water on its edge that smells like fresh nod-out. One of the locals, noticing an open wound on my hand, sternly advised me to find a Band-Aid, because this what the absolute last place I wanted to fall.
So I went to a Canadian kabab chain called Amir’s, across from the park, and got a shawarma wrap for $6, and washed my hand and dressed it, and went to the park, and took a bite, and threw it out. Cheap food out there exists, yes, and it is inedible. Just splurge fifteen and keep your dignity. I would recommend a Portuguese place called Ma Poule Mouillee (or “My Wet Hen”) that does quarter, half, and full chickens with fries for the price of a Quart de Livre w/ cheese Meal. That night we went to a funk night at some happening bar with an all-too-New York line around the corner. Capacity is actually a consideration, like, actually. The bouncers don’t even let their boys in. We bopped around downtown to Chinatown, checked out Jake Johnson’s massive wallride ender from Static IV, hit a couple swanky bars, fell asleep in a cab.
Sunday was an opportunity to skate the governmental buildings, though a ton of spots are near or at churches. We skated the Palais de Justice and nothing came easy. A plaza with five black marble ledges and a manual pad on the edge. An alarm sounded while I was rolling a joint so I ran away. Then we skated the triangle ledge spot where Koston does that line with the nollie impossible and the crappy boardslide in Chomp. Then we skated that famed high-impact granite marble J. Cassanova spot PAC (Pointe a Calliere), and nothing came easy for the Yankees yet again. One guy was there trying out his brand-new drone, which was terrifying kinda. It followed another guy while he tried to big flip a bigger gap. A sketchy tourist man hung around, looking sus, taking photos while lying on his side. Connor took an ice bath and we bought thirty-six beers.
Columbus Day is Canadian Thanksgiving. Canadian Thanksgiving is not unlike the American tradition, in that it celebrates a mythical unification between Native and Conqueror, except no one in Canada was celebrating. Instead of Christmas music, Canadian radio was playing a lot of Drake (thank God.) We had a poignant start to the day, skating Place d’Armes, which hosts a monument to Paul de Chomedey, founder of New France, renowned slayer of tons of St. Lawrence Iroquois Indians. There are slick wooden benches with fat, round backrests in the middle for to boardslide. Nothing came easy but Connor, with due diligence, conquered in a very G, very switch-stanced fashion. Then we got in the car and drove to the South side of town to skate that up-ledge that Busenitz slayed in that Adidas edit. The ground was recently destroyed and the ledge sandblasted, so we went to this hubba around the corner with a short, pot-holed run-up. In trying to front board it, I broke my board. Then I broke everyone else’s board. Then we finished our ‘dro and went back to America.
I’ll be back in the spring for an extended stay. Peace to QS and Dime MTL.