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My Sober Life in Montreal Day 9: A run-in with the circus

The evening began with a thump on the head. Just as I walked out of my rented apartment, some jerk three storeys up chucked a beer can out the window that smacked me sideways. I looked up to catch the culprit but all I saw was a fat pigeon cooing from a windowsill.

I was on my way to Scandinave Spa in Le Vieux-Port for an evening of water therapy and Lomi-Shiatsu. What sounds like the name of a new miniature dog breed is in fact a combination of Hawaiian massage and  shiatsu pressure points. Someone told me it would feel like a dolphin giving me a warm hug. Sweet, sign me up. It is recommended that us recovering alcoholics seek out luxury spa treatments for ultimate soul searching; nothing gives you deep insight like a few deep breaths in a Eucalyptus steam room. (Alright, no one recommended that, but I’ll make up any excuse to splurge on spa treatments.)

I have been to Scandinave Spa in Collingwood, and Mont-Tremblant. They are tastefully integrated with nature; baths are surrounded by trees and cascade over rocky shelves. Scented with real life evergreen, the outdoor locations come with panoramic views of lush mountainous terrain. In contrast, Scandinave in Le Vieux-Port is all indoors and has an incredibly sexy and dark feel. It’s lit with pretend candles and decorated with bean bags that could accommodate a small orgy. Slick and handsome in design, the Old Montreal location has the appearance of a sprawling loft of some rich guy. You can laze around in your bikini and read Vanity Fair while sipping Chai tea, take a dip in the hot tub, stand upright for a cold rain shower, get sweaty in the sauna, immerse your body in a cold plunge pool or steam alongside other half naked men and women. The one rule is that you do this circuit of rejuvenation in absolute silence. I found the entire experience both cleansing and arousing.

The massage was heavenly. I tried hard to imagine that I was being coddled by a family of dolphins, set to the soothing sounds of a Hawaiian ukulele. It didn’t work but that’s okay, it was still wonderful.

Tingly from relaxation, I stepped out into the night and bumped into a pack of Montreal Police snipers. I was told that there was an armed gun man on the loose outside Notre Dame Basilica. Later, news updates clarified that what appeared to be a weapon was actually a plastic gun. Jolted by the chaos, I made haste to downtown and found myself joining the tail end of a renegade protest.

A fan of parades of all sorts, I followed the group of agitated students as they marched head-on into the throngs of civilians gathered in Place des Arts for Just For Laughs. Attempting to forge our way past the food truck lines, congestion brought us to a stand still, but the clanging of the pots and pans pressed on. As if this wasn’t already absolute pandemonium, medieval characters on stilts began to appear alongside inflated puppets standing forty feet tall. And a clan of slimy monsters ushered in a dozen circus clowns. (If you don’t believe me, please look at the photos.)

As if this wasn’t zany enough, a guy who looked like he walked off the set of Ghostbusters turned to me with a kind of leaf blowing machine and shot a wad of toilet paper at my face. Just For Laughs performance art, I guess.

I detangled myself and slowly made my way home. Reaching the outskirts of the McGill ghetto, the cacophony of noise ceased and the still night sky was met with the soothing sounds of bicycle wheels and subtle gear shifts.

My evening cannot be summed up easily. Comical, relaxing, startling, wild, theatrical, absurd, peaceful, loud, exciting, freakish but most of all magical. Even the stupid beer can on the head made me smirk.

Montreal, I fucking love the noise you make.

~ Jen McNeely

~ Jen McNeely

On day 1, Jen outed herself as a recovering alcoholic. On day 2, she wondered why the hell she did that. On day 3, she compares the dark days of 1999 with vibrant life in 2012. On day 4 Jen randomly meets Steven Tyler while strolling the streets late at night. On day 5 Jen took a meditative morning walk through the Plateau.On day 6 she found serenity in the Fuchsia Tea Room. On day 7 she hits the town for mocktails and shots of OJ. On day 8 she broke down the stereotypes of AA. On Day 9, Jen had a run-in with the circus.

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