One of the reasons J and I packed up our crap and our kids, loaded it all into the 1989 Toyota Camry station wagon and headed out to this quaint city of rust and decrepitude, this eccentric oasis in the middle of white bread North America land, this mecca of arts and culture and barely controlled chaos, is to get away from stupid, self-righteous, didactic, unreasonable rules. The kind that uptight, middle class folk like to have to maintain the illusion of control.
But I have noticed a disturbing trend in this fair city of Montreal lately and it worries me greatly. It used to be, we could go catch a show at the Casa del Popolo. We could order a beer, sit back (or stand squished like sardines beside other fans) and listen to some music. No longer. Yes, they have been beaten by the dreaded license bi-law, the one where it says you can only drink if you order food. Worse, they can’t have any shows until they get the appropriate “spectacle” license, which means they are closed to shows until they get meet the necessary requirements. Here is an open letter on Midnight Poutine that explains it. (I just checked their website, and they say they will be starting to book shows very soon. But still! My point remains!)
This licensing nastiness, this you-can’t-drink-unless-you-eat excrement, has also reared its ugly head in two other haunts of mine, the Cagibi and Cafe Romolo. This is the kind of thing that used to drive me nuts in Victoria. You don’t want to go to a bar, the pubs all have televisions, and you just want a beer. How hard can it be? Montreal seemed above this type of stupid, nonsensical rule. I guess they’re not.
Another thing: the clamp down on jaywalking. Nevermind that cars regularly run red lights and think this is okay because they honk to warn people that they are doing this. NO. The real threat is the jaywalker. J told me about a news story he heard on the radio the other morning about a man who was given a thirty-five dollar ticket for crossing the street. He was crossing on a green light on a crosswalk but he still got a ticket. Confused, he asked the policeman why. The policeman told him he didn’t follow the walk sign and that the walk sign had precedence over the green light sign. Now according to a lawyer who was on the show, this is the letter of the law. But who wants to follow the letter? If the guy was crossing on a red light, disturbing traffic and almost getting himself killed, then yeah. 35$ might be a good lesson. But the guy was trying to be as law abiding as was reasonable.
Like religion, if you blindly follow the rules, they become meaningless, tyrannical dictates. If people followed the spirit however, society would be a more thoughtful, considerate place.