The homeless people who were begging outside of Schwartz’s in 2006 are still there, in case you’re wondering. Schwartz’s is the famous Montreal smoked meat shop, though Mike and I, at Bar des Pins, decided that Main, across the street from Schwartz’s, was just as good, if not better. I haven’t seen Mike in years, probably since 2006 or so, but Mike is the barkeep at Bar des Pins, and when the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, Mike told me that I was the only one among the assorted Massholes and shitheads that he was actually happy for.
Mike was my first bartender, and I went back and saw him this evening, after spending the afternoon wandering through the McGill campus, there was no small amount of nostalgia. Mike was my first bartender because in one of the first few days at McGill, Maura and I went to Bar des Pins for a Frosh orientation event, at the end of which Maura puked outside and I pretended not to notice. This is, I would argue, perfectly emblematic of the relationship Maura and I have since developed. One of us pukes in public, the other pretends that didn’t happen, and we’re there for each other no matter what, even if no matter what doesn’t happen as much anymore.
Maura is pretty much a sister to me.
And she became my sister early on. I met Maura my first day in Montreal. My mother was moving me off to college (God, that drive, six hours, pre-Google Maps, into Montreal, having broken up with my high school sweetheart I guess that morning — but that’s another story), and Maura smelled me smoking in my dorm room. “Wow, you can smoke in here?” she asked. “Sure, I guess,” I said.
So that made us buddies. I guess spending four years as buddies can make you love someone.
If there’s a Platonic Form (Plato, “The Republic,” et al.) of the rigid designator (Kripke, “Naming and Necessity”) “Axel,” then Axel pretty much is it. Six foot four, Swiss or Swedish or whatever (Aryan, at least; Hitler, “Mein Kampf”), Axel kind of just looks like you would imagine someone named Axel would look. You have to discount Guns N Roses, of course, but outside of, like, five songs, that should be an acceptable sacrifice. Axel also carries himself like an Axel. Slightly ungraciously, but aware of it.
He’s a good dude.
Axel and I ate at Main last night, after drinking, god — what was it, Axel? — twelve or so beers at the AirBnB I’ve got for the week. He kept wanting to drink more beers and I kept wanting to eat, but he won, because his name is Axel (and I have a drinking problem).
When we finally got there, to Main, the Quebecois woman who was serving us probably thought we were drunk Anglos — and we are, I should add, very much drunk Anglos — but Axel lives in Montreal, and I became a man there, here. So I was counting on her cutting us some slack.
I ate poutine covered with smoked meat. Axel ate, I dunno. What did you eat, Axel? I also got a smoked meat sandwich to go. Should you ever be so inclined, I’d advise against the latter. A sandwich just doesn’t hold up overnight in the fridge.
Mike said I should go to Main and I asked if there was anyplace that had opened on St. Laurent that I should try. He gave me a couple of suggestions and I wound up at the Lebanese place whose potatoes had so kept me alive during my time living in Montreal. I ordered those potatoes (get the garlic tahini-esque thing/sauce when you go), and I ordered a shish taouk, and I ate the shit out of both. I thanked the man at the counter. I forgot to get a receipt.
I was 30.
In a few days, I’ll be 31. I’ll celebrate here because this is the place where I became a man, but I’d also like to become a grown-up.
I’m going to give it a go this year.