What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part 2

I left Québec City the next morning for my lunch date in Montréal with CoCo, my day-job colleague whom I’d not yet met in person. Originally from Egypt but living in Montréal for 40 years now, CoCo is a quintessential Montrealer — a classy, multilingual woman in her early 60s who loves to laugh and has a deep but unassuming understanding of what savoir-vivre is about. The drive into the busy city earlier provided my first sign that I’m destined for Montréal: although I had only consulted a rudimentary map the day before, I was able to navigate my way without problem directly to our rendez-vous spot in the heart of downtown.

After lunch and meeting other colleagues in offices at Place Ville-Marie, I found my way to the B&B where I was staying and had a nice long chat with the friendly and hospitable owner. After a little nap and a shower, I had supper in The Village and eventually, taking advantage of the sultry night air, sat among the people gathered in the little park across from Saloon on Ste-Cat and sipped on orange-flavoured coffee from Starbucks. Summers were made for Montréal, or perhaps it’s the other way around, but it doesn’t matter. It is simply a delight just to be there on such an evening.

That’s when a slighter, younger and bespectacled Naveen Andrews lookalike sat on a marble block diagonally from me.

Given that I have repeatedly failed Cruising 101 and, as a result, live in constant fear of having my gay membership card revoked, the best I could muster after a while was a smile when our eyes locked but for a few seconds. I quickly convinced myself that the smile was reciprocated only out of politeness and refused to believe that I, and not some other younger character near me, was the object of his occasional nonchalant glances in my direction. So convinced was I that when I began to have a headache, which I assumed was due to the heat and eating too late, I merely got up, smiled as I walked by him, and left the park.

Later I learned that he followed me until he lost me in the crowd on Ste-Cat.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation, Part 1

I turned 42 at 1:25 this morning. And my vacation ends today, too. That first statement is banal, but the second refers to a rather extraordinary event. For although I was only gone for a week, I feel as though I packed in much more than a week’s worth of everything.

On Day 1, I drove out of Halifax shortly before 7:00 am and reached Québec City in what seemed like a flash. It was rather grey and miserable when I left, but by Moncton I could see a clear delineation of the cloud line to the west: I was driving into blue skies and, indeed, by Fredericton, I was privied to a marvelous summer day that persisted right through to Québec City.

I had no trouble finding the hostel where I was staying, although I must say that referring to it as a hostel is extending the meaning of that word. It was very clean and the outside of the building was promising, but it’s really more of a sauna where the hotel section was an afterthought. Not that I have anything against saunas, but the accommodations weren’t up to the standards of the B&Bs to which I’ve become accustomed in Montréal. But on the bright side, it’s located just within the walled city which makes QC — in my opinion — the most historically and culturally amazing city on this continent.

The same cannot be said of gay life in QC, though. Although the population of the metropolitan area is more than twice Halifax’s, it is quite possibly more provincial. There is precisely one club worth mentioning, and drag queens are the big thing there at the exclusion of other “gay things,” plus I found the people remarkably standoffish. I had heard that about QC, but it was very apparent to me this time. But there’s always a bright side: I found that a delightful restaurant, Le Hobbit, still existed at the corner of St-Jean and Ste-Geneviève. I had a memorable supper there 17 years ago with Poupoune and her partner at the time, so while I waited for my meal on the sidewalk terrace, I couldn’t resist calling Poupoune from my cell phone and leaving her a voice-mail message.

My last stop before turning in that night was at Porte St-Jean to listen to a small group of Latino buskers. I had no idea how prescient that moment would be.