Yesterday, I spontaneously decided to out myself publicly as a recovering alcoholic while also committing myself to daily updates on my sober life in Montreal. Errr, WHAT THE HELL have I done? I temporarily relocated to Montreal to find a little peace and quiet and on day one, I decreed to all that I would maintain an exciting diary of all my adventures. Gee, better get off this computer and find some fun! It’s a wee bit of pressure. Beyond the promise of a colourful diary, I have completely screwed myself out of ever drinking again. (That’s the crafty alcoholic voice that I am continually at war with.)

If a handful of people know you have a drinking problem, it may be possible to manipulate them into believing you when you tell them, “It’s okay, I’m better now, really,” and slide back into old habits, finding a scene that will not only approve of your drinking but encourage it. However, once you announce your issues to a mass audience in one fell swoop, you’re kinda stuck. But perhaps this was my intention? The mind of an alcoholic works a bit like Jekyll & Hyde; there is the healthy voice and the dangerous voice. So far, I’ve been able to hush my devil, but she sometimes gets real loud. Conniving little bitch.

While taking a long walk home from a Westmount AA meeting last night I began to worry about this diary: What if it is boring? What if I just feel like reading in a park? Why do I constantly create crazy challenges for myself? But then I reminded myself that I don’t need to find the circus or troll the streets until 4am; a jaunt to the grocery store alone usually reveals some form of intrigue. It’s all about where and how you look. If I follow my curiousity, it will no doubt lead me to the quirky, inspiring, fun, sexy, tasty and, hopefully, the bizarre. (Always my preference.)  Some relief came with that thought, but how do I make it engaging for others? I walked in silence, mind twitching. By the time I reached the McGill campus, I’d devised a plan.

I suppose this July in Montreal is my own Eat, Pray, Love adventure. It’s a bit of an experiment in progress. I’ll give it my best shot and see if it works.

Day 1: There are wild cats that lounge in the hair salon
Walking west on Duluth, I came across a window with an oversized, exotic cat stretched out on a bench. I turned to Haley and remarked, “What is it? A puma?”

Within thirty seconds, an eccentric hair stylist emerged from the door. “A for Awesome-O is a Bengal cat. Come in and see, but you can’t pet. You can only pet if you get your hair done here, or attend a catvertising party.”

“What is a catvertising party?”

“Come, look at our patio.” He directed, we followed. And along the way we met another wild feline. “This is B for Badass Tarzan. But watch, she’s not always friendly.”

At the back of the salon, he opened the door to reveal a small patio, tangled with vines and high fences. “We have catvertising parties with seafood, wine and our Bengal cats. If you come, you can pet them.”

“When is the next one?”

“We never know. They just sort of happen when we feel like it.”

Hopefully, one day I’ll pass Salon MOOV and be lured in by the smell of octopus and oysters. If not, I may need to book a haircut to stroke the back of the leopard print kitty. Meoooow.

Salon MOOV is located at 163, rue Duluth Est.
Find them on Facebook.

La Vieille Europe Cheese Binge
Whenever traveling in a foreign land (Quebec counts!) I like to indulge on the local fare. Unlike my local cheese shops in Toronto, gouda, goat’s cheese and cheddar is reasonably priced here. And La Vieille Europe is a heavenly destination for all things charcuterie. I filled my basket with summer sausage, olives, an assortment of cheese and proscuitto. For about $20, I was able to assemble a glorious wooden board of savoury delights and invited two friends for sparkling apple juice and cheese tasting. Set to blaring Vivaldi, it was an occasion. I’m excited to expand my Quebec cheese knowledge while here and it’s handy that one of the best vendors is within view of my front windows. 

La Vieille Europe is located at 3855 St. Laurent
The perfect place to stock your picnic basket.

Square Saint-Louis by dusk and dawn
During my time at university here, I used to often sit in Square Saint-Louis and dream of making out with an imaginary boyfriend. Tucked between St. Laurent and St. Denis off Prince Arthur, this is a truly beautiful spot that instantly calms. Unlike Toronto, which boasts plenty of green space, squares in Montreal remind me of Paris. There is something so dignified about licking an ice cream at sundown on a park bench facing a misty fountain. It is said that Leonard Cohen dwells in one of the stunning stone homes that line the square. I don’t even need to flip on my iPod to hear The Stranger Song. I actually prefer to hear it in my mind, for then I can also listen to the laughter of children, the dogs shaking off water after a dip in the pool, teenage girls giggling between tokes and soft exchanges between lovers. This summer, I’m going to make sure that wet kiss under the stars by the fountain in Square Saint-Louis happens.

On my walk home, I played an evil game with myself. As I passed sidewalks busy with people out for a late dinner and drinks, I eyeballed the tables and counted how many of them sipped wine and cocktails. I noticed tables where the man drank beer and the woman water. I noticed tables where espressos were sipped instead of alcohol, I noticed who had carafes, whose drinks sat still, and who swallowed quickly. If you were walking with me, I could have probably given you a solid count on every order a minute after passing the restaurant or bar. Is this what you do? I didn’t think so. Even after being sober for 20 months, I have to constantly chant to myself, “Any loser can not drink for one day. Any loser can not drink for one day.” Perhaps it isn’t the most uplifting mantra, but it works for me.

I arrived back home, Skyped my lover, brewed some mint tea, settled into bed for an episode of BBC’s Sherlock Holmes and hoped for dreams of wild cats seductively circling romantic fountains where couples caress.

~ Jen McNeely