Montreal is a circus.
There are circuses to be banned for they are animals and humans exploiters; but there are also astral circuses so mystical they manage to take you into another dimension. Le Cirque du Soleil does that to me. Listen to this. Thank me later.
Montreal is that kind of circus. It is in another dimension. I am still trying to figure out whether this place is purely great, or if it is a masterpiece of manipulation.
Comparing Montreal to New York would annihilate its charm and its soul. From east to west, the square organization of the long streets, the pretty red houses with black iron stairs, and the invading squirrels could remind one of New York. But that is without acknowledging all the small details that make a all difference.
Making a stop in the middle of a street, looking – up, left, and right – for the street name and number; before you can open your map, locals will take over your confusion and guide you through the right side of the Rue Saint Laurent (cardinal point of the city which marks the division of the city into East and West). Exhibitions are in and out, everywhere, in every form and always interactive. See those white spheres hanging in the tree? They light up at night and you may choose the color by voting on the city website. Feeling jazzy? Swing by the Place des Arts where 21 singing swings are waiting for you to play them. Sit, fly, let the world hear your melody in harmony with 20 strangers swinging their swag away. No place is left unattended; buildings in between two lives are taken over with colorful paintings or mosaics. On the Old Harbor a rope park is built on pirate’s ships, providing the bravest climbers a fantastic view of the old city. Facilities in the many parks please everyone, whether you want to hike up to the raccoon shelter on top of the Mont Royal; perfect your tan on the beach volley fields; see your little ones growing up too fast on the children’s playgrounds; enjoy a beer – or two – in the grass with your friends. Free bathing hours are offered daily in local swimming pools – up to you if you wish to actually swim or soften your skin while gossiping with your friends.
Everything is made so Montrealers (?) are evolving in a »nest – city », which they can appropriate to themselves thanks to a rich and lively cultural life. Talking with a few people, starting with my family here, I understood that the selective immigration had for main objective to re-populate and maintain a young, active, French speaking population.
Opening your business will not be too complicated, as long as we can count more French words than English ones on your front window. Settling in is easier for potential young parents, on the condition that they can themselves bring exceptional skills onto the workplace. Yet, it is a nightmare for young parents to find a proper daycare… and schools welcome kids from minimum 4 years old.
I just walked in the sport center next door and swam among the locals. Thinking: is this great? or is this a modern way of manipulating your people, »easily » meeting their (created) needs and keeping them satisfied thus disciplined? Sure, it is fun to pick up the color of the tree’s lights, but really the true power here is the governmental one. The one they have on their people who will genuinely respect the city and the games they are inviting to join in, because they are fun! It does take quite some creativity to find a way to the heart of your people. Involved on very succinct levels (swings playing musics, really.) people here get the feeling that this city is theirs. Because they see what they have »made » (I mean voted for), they get the feeling that they actually create. They do, but in a frame which is defined by a higher power and which therefore limits their creativity. This share of power, yet minimalist, but because it is very graphic and interactive, creates a group of respectful people with a real sense of community. It is a lot of things, among all it is smart. Smart manipulation.
While we in Europe respond mainly to rules and fear, they seem to have found here a better way to gather people. Creating a bubble of freedom based on creativity and social activities. Might be a way to mask rules which are just as if not more strict than the ones I know, but I want to be optimistic here and conclude differently. I see a community of happy people, enjoying themselves, participating and creating a better and sustainable place. Oke, they are anti-squirrels; but for the rest they are real great people.
Montreal is real. Real good. A real circus, opening to a new dimension of living together. With a real green touch and real concerns about the world that will be left to their children.
I guess this is what you get once you take the side of investing into culture instead of fear. Freedom remains an illusion, but just like circuses, there are some better than others.