I know, I know, no one likes to hear these words, but this has been on my mind for a while now. I just want to say that you’re a great city, really. You’ve got a lot going for you. I mean, you’ve got wonderful museums and galleries, beautiful parks, and who can forget Old Montreal? And do I have to mention your nightlife?
You’ve pretty much set the standard in Canada for culture, history and lifestyle, but lately Montreal you’ve been looking kind of rough.
I don’t know, maybe it’s me, but firstly, you got to do something about those ratty old buildings. You know the ones, with their windows taped with newspapers. Sure, in the 90’s they evoked both a political and bohemian energy. Today, a decade later, those taped up and run down places say two things: out of work and don’t care.
I realize you’ve always claimed to be thrifty, and who can argue that when you boast the cheapest rents and some of the lowest taxes and tuition fees in the country? But I think it’s about time you spent a little money on yourself, maybe treated yourself to mani-pedi once in a while. I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but most cities a lot younger than you have gotten around to getting proper recycling receptacles on their street corners. You know the ones; they encourage people to separate their waste. I realise that you’ve always been a bit of a defiant holdout –it was part of your charm, with the smoking and whatnot- but those festering, 70s-style garbage bins are now more repellent than rebellious. And while I’m on the topic of urban hygiene: cracked and broken sidewalks and vandalised bus stops are no longer in style now, just like grunge music and patchouli.
You gotta take a look in the mirror, Montreal. This style was really appealing at one time. But things change. People change, and you’ve been riding on your laurels for more than a decade now. When I was a melancholic high school and college student, you were great for me, but I’ve grown. And you, well, you are the second biggest city in Canada for goodness sakes – over 3.5 million people – and yet you still have traffic lights on one of your major highways! And what’s with your overpasses? Are you patching them with Polyfilla?
Once, I used to feel that I was going to another world when approaching you along Highway 20, but I never thought another world would turn out to mean Beirut, on a bad day.
I always warned you about your low taxes and overly-powerful unions. But you never listen to me, and now they are finally taking their toll on you. There is a fine line between a coffeehouse malcontent and the twitchy guy at the Tim Hortons and you’ve crossed it. You see how your pedestrians completely ignore the traffic signals? That’s a danger sign, Montreal. You know what other city had unruly pedestrians? 1980s New York, that’s who. Remember New York back then? Abandoned and stripped cars along Broadway. Garbage everywhere. Gangs of hobos accosting drivers with spray bottles and dirty rags. Is this where you want to go, Montreal? Is it? Because some of your streets are beginning to look and smell like victims of Reaganomics.
That hurts, I know, especially when you’ve always prided yourself on your socialist ideals, but now it’s gone too far, and suddenly I feel more comfortable on your outskirts than in your core, and that says something about us, Montreal. I hate to say it, but I think this little thing we’ve had is over.
But I’ll always have a place in my heart for you. We can still be friends, you know. And as a friend, I just want to suggest three things: shave, shower and please, get a job.