MONTREAL -- The Greyhound ride was sweeter than expected, as I was sandwiched between two Canadian vixens the whole way up. Across the aisle was a cute manicured hippiechick who slugged a bottle of cabernet between Manchester and Burlington; behind me I had a questionably-legal teen with cans so firm that they couldn’t have sprouted more than six months ago. The latter was traveling with her grandparents, who seemed oblivious to their baby’s flirtatious, stripper-bound ways. Either that or they’ve just accepted that 16-year-olds are fair game in Quebec.
I don’t know what this says about my past and current substance abuse issues, but I was extremely nervous to go through customs -- even though I was innocent! When you take a bus across the border, you automatically have to get off and chat with inspectors, and since I resemble the president of Iran, things like this make me nervous. Luckily, there was a dude with a terrorist beard to take the heat off, as well as a guy whose push-ups outside the bus on every break led me to believe that his rap sheet is no blank slate.
I saw three above-ground pools on the way up, so while it’s pretty obvious that Canadians are for the most part stronger-willed and better-looking than Americans, some of them have less class than Rodney Dangerfield. I always look for signs like this because, well, I, too, have no class. Not only that, but I have a pretty thick New York accent that makes me feel especially unrefined when conversing with foreigners.
Like most people who took 10 years of French, I don’t speak a word of it. Not only that, but I refuse to try. To me it’s like karate lessons: you practice all these cool kicks and grapple holds, then when you get in a fight, you instinctually grab your opponent’s ears and kick him in the groin. Luckily, my friend Adam Sampler will be showing me around all weekend. He doesn’t speak French either, but he’s been living here for eight years so he knows the drill.
Quick side story: when I was growing up, the code name in my family for Jewish people was “Canadian.” Not on some Nazi shit, but when you're full-blooded guineas living on Long Island it’s impossible to abstain entirely from anti-Semitism – no matter how many close Jewish friends you have. Long story short, after hanging with my family for a day, Adam – who’s both Jewish and Canadian – asked me what my aunt had against Canadians. Needless to say, there was no talking my way out of that one.
So within minutes of landing at my boy’s apartment I’m tugging on a tampon-sized spliff and strolling on the Esplanade. As I’m sure you know, the weed is splendid up here, and neither cops nor people with small children seem to care if you toke in public. Last time I was in Montreal, you could smoke inside everywhere. But that’s not the case anymore; now the streets are flooded with people burning everything from butts and blunts to pipe tobacco.
Before I continue, let me just say right now that there will be no music news today. This dispatch covers Tuesday, and I’m not checking shows until tonight. I know you don’t care, but I figured that you might have justified using valuable work time to read this by kidding yourself that you’re learning something about jazz. If that’s the case, please return tomorrow.
Actually – if you’re interested in getting interested about jazz, pick up Downbeat magazine. It’s one of the last authentic music mags in any genre, and boy are they in full-force up here. Nice guys these jazz critics are: last night I met a dude named Chris from Los Angeles who, at least in my mind, defined what a jazz reporter should look and act like. From his skin to his shirt to his pants and shoes, Chris was black on black on black on black. He’s been to more Jazz Fests than he can count – for real – and when I asked him what he was excited to see, he might as well have run through the whole schedule. I hope I’m still that excited about music 30 years from now. Most of the aging rock critics I meet at festivals and conferences are decidedly miserable to the point that you would forget they’ve been partying on their paper’s tab for a half-century.
Before I run off, let me give a brief preview of the rest of this week. No doubt I’ll be doing some sort of ignorant list about things that are funny in Montreal (i.e., the way French people pronounce “Super Sex” – the name of the biggest tourist trap strip club up here – makes you want to say, “Uhhh – I’ll have the sex”). Music-wise, tonight I’m meandering about various random jazz shows, tomorrow I’m checking out the RZA and GZA, the latter of whom is performing his entire album “Liquid Swords,” and on Friday I’ll be checking Lee Perry, who’s jamming with the Wailers. Much more, too. Maybe I’ll even post some nude photos. Of chicks, dude – chill.