Advertisements

PEOPLE’S INSTINCTIVE TRAVELS AND THE PATH OF HISTORY

 

I left Nashville and flew into Montréal on a Monday night. I was there to investigate the primary objective of my favorite hockey team, the Montréal Canadiens – Les Glorieux. With 24 Stanley Cup championships, they are the most successful team in the history of hockey and one of the most iconic franchises in all of sport.

Despite their history of success, the Habs haven’t won a cup in 25 years. There’s all kinds of possible explanations: the organization’s insistence on icing a small fast team in years when the make-up of the league prevented such teams from achieving success; the low relative value of the Canadian dollar in the 90’s preventing Montréal from spending their way to a cup when there was no salary cap in the NHL; the hard salary cap installed in the aughts which prevented Montréal from spending their way to a cup once the Canadian dollar recovered. There was also the French-English Divide, Canada’s reigning champion of identity politics. It handcuffs the Canadiens into hiring only coaches who speak French and ensuring there are a few token Quebecois on the team. This further erodes whatever competitive advantage the Habs may have.

Dryden Lemoyne

I emailed these and other complaints in elaborate detail to Walt, my former beer league teammate from my Boston days. He finds absolute glee in assigning blame as well as administering criticism in general. I thought, why not unleash his predilections on the matter of the competitive advantage of the Montréal Canadiens? That’s what’s funny about Walt. His hatred and accusations will rain down unsolicited. Yet, as soon as you acknowledge him, provide a forum for his grievances by asking for insight, he becomes evasive.

He wouldn’t give me a straight answer. He just sent me a book – Strategy: Pure & Simple by Michel Robert. I have no idea if this Robert is a Quebecois, but the book was published in 1993 – the last year Montréal won a Stanley Cup. It’s about strategic thinking in organizations. I will be so bold as to condense Monsieur Robert’s treatise into a few sentences, surely demonstrating my lack of reading comprehension in the process. He proposes that effective strategic thinking is achieved by articulating a definitive primary objective. Once an organization clearly understands their purpose, all decision-making – broad and narrow – is filtered through the primary objective. He offers several case studies. Unsuccessful organizations tend to get distracted. Sometimes this is as simple as getting greedy and maximizing revenue at the expense of the long-term focus. Other times, it’s branching out into activities which run tangential to the organization’s primary objective, diverting resources from their true goal.

I’m not sure I fully absorbed the lessons of the book. At the very least, it got me through the flight. Honestly, I probably didn’t need to physically travel to Montréal to conduct this examination. It did provide a convenient excuse to buy tickets to a game at the Bell Centre. Also, one of my Third Man Wreckers teammates in Nashville is Canadian. He explained to me about Justin Trudeau legalizing marijuana. He made a point of mentioning Monsieur Trudeau had signed it into law on the anniversary of Gord Downie’s death. I understood the people had a need to be informed about the Canadian Prime Minister’s experimentations with marijuana. I accepted the burden of investigating this matter as well.

I also had a desire to go to Montréal because, despite growing up an hour from the city, I hadn’t been there since 2004, when I attended an Expos game in the baseball team’s final season before they relocated to Washington DC and started calling themselves the Nationals.

That’s not 100% true. I had been to Montréal in 2017, but that doesn’t really count. I went with my brother Marty and my cousin Little Reggie to attend a Canadiens – Sabres game. We drove into Montréal, checked into our hotel, got a bite to eat and a few beers, went to the game, left for a few more beers, went back to the hotel to sleep, woke up, and drove back to the United States. We were there for under 24 hours. The entire time, we were insulated by either a bar, hockey game, or hotel.

Actually, all the trips in my life into Montréal – and Quebec in general – had been under 24 hours. They had always been for the purpose of attending a game, concert, or experiencing the nightlife. I had never soaked up Montréal for a few days. I really knew nothing about what transpired there during the daylight.

I wanted a second chance at a first impression of a city I’ve essentially claimed as my hometown. I want to compare this first impression with the recollections of Montréal from my youth as well as the perceptions and generalizations that have been foisted upon me by the media and Bruins fans during my decade living a so-called life in Boston. I suppose it’s helpful to document the latter before I experience the former.

In Boston, Montréal is dismissed as an insular and tribal city. Just like I assume people in my new home of Tennessee cling to their guns and their religion, Bostonians claim Montréal clings to the French language. There’s circumstantial evidence which allows them to corroborate this.

They insist on French being the official language by which the city conducts its affairs. Street signs are written in French. Stops on the Metro are announced in French. Signage on storefronts is mandated to be presented in French, same goes for restaurant menus. Public school is offered in French and English but various carrots and sticks steer the majority of students into the French schools. In order for Quebec citizens to attend English public school, the student must be able to demonstrate their previous formal education has been in English. For example, a Canadian 6th-grader moving from Calgary, Alberta to Montréal would be able to attend an English public school.

All children of immigrants living in Quebec must attend French public schools. The only English schooling option available to them is paying out of pocket to attend a private school.

In high school, going over the border into Quebec in order to stimulate their economy through the methodology of underage drinking, my friends and I had the same outlook as the Bostonians. We thought they clung to their French, resisting the natural diffusion of the English language into their province. We used to scoff at the servers, bartenders, and passersby that insisted on persisting in French in spite of us obviously being unilingual Anglophones. Age has provided me with a small modicum of empathy and I’ve tried to apply that in order to view those times through that lens, through their eyes. I considered how obnoxious we must have been, some immature 16-year old’s from Vermont attempting to manage a beer buzz and a foreign country with a different language – all for the first time. If I were in that bartender’s shoes, I might have also chosen to stick to French and not let on about any ability to speak or understand English.

I adhere to a strict when-in-Rome-do-as-the-Romans-do operating protocol. Conducting my affairs by the policy as I’ve bounced around North America has provided me with an eclectic amalgam of attributes. In Nashville, I acquired a hat and a pair of boots. It’s not a cowboy hat and they’re not cowboy boots. I didn’t have it in me to immerse myself that deep. It’s a porkpie hat and the boots are made out of Pirarucu skin. Pirarucu is a large fish native to the Amazon River. I’m frustrated with myself for not concocting a well-rehearsed story about how I speared the beast then commissioned some natives to make boots out of its hide while I hiked the Inka Trail. Coming out of the concourse, I came upon a couple young ladies selling poppies for charity. Canadians wear a poppy on their lapel throughout November in honor of Remembrance Day. It’s a physical allusion to the poem In Flanders Fieldsby John McRae. I was going to wear a poppy on my lapel, if not through November, at least through my Montréal stay.

 

 

So I had my porkpie hat, my boots, my poppy, and my luggage. I made my way out of the airport, found a taxi, and in accordance with when-in-Rome protocol, said “Bonjour”.

“Hello”, the taxi driver replied.

I told him the name of the hotel I was staying at. He objected. He said that hotel had been shut down. I insisted. I told him I had booked reservations online. I told him I had stayed there in 2017. He said something about how he thought they must have undergone renovations. I asked him if any of his fares had mentioned how they liked the renovations.

He changed the subject. He complained about the road construction. There was a massive project on the Turcot Interchange. There was a bottleneck where the new Champlain Bridge was being erected. I tried to roll with the changes. I told him how I was living in Nashville and there were construction projects popping up on every corner. There were bottlenecks everywhere. There was no coordination. He grunted and through up the back of his hand in agreement. He said at least the construction down there got spread out over the whole year. In Montréal, it was too cold to lay concrete for 4 months of the year. “Well…at least you get a break from it.”

“Calisse…that’s pothole season!”

He dropped me at my hotel and I quickly understood why the cabbie had changed the subject so quickly. The place was a total shithole. He peeled out and blew a red light before I could turn and object, point out there was no way this place had been renovated since La Révolution Tranquille. The front desk was covered with the type of wood veneer found on Wal-Mart furniture. The mirrors in the elevators had been punched and/or kicked. The spiderwebbed shards were held in place by duct tape. This was the case in all three elevators. The floor of my room was linoleum. After thinking it through, I was actually glad it wasn’t carpet.

This wasn’t the place I had stayed at in 2017. I got the names mixed up. I was the only white person in this entire hotel. That sounds racist. That shouldn’t make me feel uncomfortable. But just think about in terms of probability. In North America, in Canada of all places – to be the only white person in a building.

There weren’t any black people either. At first, I thought they were Asian. They were all way shorter than me. But that wasn’t quite right. Then I thought maybe they were South American. They were all way shorter than me. That wasn’t right, either. Then I figured it out. At first, I rejected the notion. Then I thought it over again. No. It had to be. It was them.

Eskimos.

Or First-Nations. I can’t remember what it is they’re supposed to be called right now. I’m calling them Eskimos. That’s fucking bad-ass. I knew they still existed but there was at least a hundred of them. I had no clue there were actually a hundred Eskimos left in the world. And they were all staying at my hotel. There was old man Eskimos. There were female Eskimos. There were baby Eskimos. There were Eskimo families.

I wanted to ask them what they were doing here. But they avoid eye contact at all costs and asking them felt vaguely racist. I thought about going to the front desk and asking what all the Eskimos were doing at the hotel. That felt definitively racist. I decided to table the matter of the Eskimos and get something to eat. I fired up my laptop and launched Google Maps. I was looking for a reputable restaurant somewhere off of St. Catherine Street. That’s when I spotted it on the map – the Montréal Forum. That was the home arena for the Canadiens until 1996. That was where they won all 24 of their Stanley Cups, where the legend was born. I thought it had been bulldozed. It was still there. It was 10 minutes by foot. That’s where I was going.

I don’t have a smartphone. I’ve been rolling with an old-school flip phone for the past few months. The contract on my old phone ran its course. It felt like I was paying lavishly compared to others. I wasn’t in the mood for serious market research, so I got a burner phone to buy some time. The detachment from social media and not having a computer at my fingertips saddled me with something approaching withdrawal symptoms. It was disconcerting. The signs of dependency gave me the sense I should stick with the flip phone and work through whatever this was.

Eventually, it became therapeutic not to be drawn to twitter, facebook, or random web surfing at every idle moment of my life. As a writer, it was also helpful to pick my head up and, you know, observe things. I’ve become irate at people who bury their heads in smartphones all the time – the ones that wander distracted down the sidewalk, fiddling on their phones. They expect us to dodge their aimlessness, generally accommodate their blissfully ignorant wandering. Draconian new updates need to be made to jaywalking laws for the information age. There should be mandatory minimums associated with phone fiddling in a crosswalk – walking half-speed – while drivers are waiting in rage so they can get to where they’re going.

I understand that part of this is projection. I understand that another part to this is that high-mindedness analogous to those who have recently quit smoking, the way they admonish current smokers.

There are downsides to not having a smartphone. One is not having access to rideshare apps which forces me to deal with condescending taxi drivers. Another is lacking access to GPS navigation while on foot. I’m left to find things the old-fashioned way – remembering landmarks and street names. Consequently, the way I learn about new places is by getting lost and wandering aimlessly (with head up albeit).

I figure there’s no way I can miss the Old Forum. I’m already on St. Catherine’s Street and it literally is the landmark. I remember the red brick façade from my childhood. I had been there in the late 80’s. It wasn’t for a Habs game. It was some international exhibition game between the United States and the USSR.

Nevertheless, a 10-minute walk turned into a 20-minute walk. Then 30. Finally, I spotted a sushi restaurant. I remembered my hunger. I lived in the landlocked city of Nashville now, too scared to eat any form of seafood except catfish and smoked salmon. My sushi tank was on E.

Walking back, I came across my original destination. In my egress, I had walked right by it. Maybe it was because the façade was now an industrial metallic. Maybe it had always been that way. My boyhood memories romanticized the building in brick. Maybe I missed it because it now functions as a shopping mall.

I don’t know what I was expecting. A museum? A French language hockey hall of fame? Who knows. It’s mostly a movie theatre. There are bars and restaurants on the upper floors. The ground floor is a giant rendering of an ice hockey surface with the red and blue lines, the face off circles. The Forum’s old seats are scattered throughout the lobby for the idle and the fatigued, emotionally and otherwise. Two of those chairs house statues. Statues may not be precise terminology. Plastic molds. One is of a quintessential Canadiens fan, cheering on the home team in his replica jersey. The other is of an idle Rocket Richard. Somehow it doesn’t look right, Rocket sitting down like that.

I’m certain I was the only person in the building visiting due to hockey nostalgia. Everyone else seemed unaware they were in one of the most legendary venues in the history of sports, steeped in championships, tradition, and memory. They were fiddling with those phones, ascending the escalator to the theatre entrances, or going to dinner. I tried sitting in one of those old seats, waiting around to see if I could feel anything from the ghosts that supposedly haunted the place.

Either they moved out with the Habs or I lost my nerve. I didn’t feel anything except self-consciousness. Here I was, a 40-year old man, all alone in a shopping mall just sitting, up to nothing in particular. I felt somehow creepy. Nobody gave me a sidelong glance. No security guard approached me. I just felt like I didn’t belong there. This wasn’t my place. It didn’t matter what the building had meant for nearly a hundred years. It didn’t belong to the Montréal Canadiens anymore. It didn’t belong to hockey or its fans. It belonged to the retail consumer industry now. Whatever culture that got left behind had been appropriated.

When I got back to the hotel, there was a band of Eskimos smoking cigarettes in the parking lot. These fellas were making eye contact. They’d been drinking. They were full of social graces. One of them, missing all his bottom teeth, asked me what I was doing here. I told him I was from Vermont. He said “You’re from Vermont…so what in the hell are you doing here?”

I didn’t want to uncork my whole life story on them. I kept it simple. I told them I was in town to catch a Habs game. I said “Where are you fellas from?”

“Oh…up north, y’know…hey, fuck the Habs, man…I’m a Wings fan.”

“Right on…Dylan Larkin…he’s a hell of a player.”

“Who…in the fuck…is Dylan Larkin?”

“Uh…he’s-he’s one of your dudes…dude.”

“Naw…naw…Brendan Shanahan…man.”

“Word up-word up.”

“Stevie Y, bro.”

“Yeah-yeah.”

“I like the old school players.”

“For sure! Bobby fucking Probert!”

“Who…in the fuck…are you talking about?”

“Wha-…he’s old school!”

“When…are you going…back to Vermont?”

“Actually, I live in Nashville, Tennessee now.”

“Oh yeah”, He looked me up and down, the boots, the hat – not sure if he caught the poppy. “I think…you found your spot…bro.”

I wanted to ask him what they were all doing here. It seemed like the wrong approach. It seemed like he was dying to be antagonized. Instead, in the ensuing awkward pause, I high-tailed it up to my room. Apparently, these Eskimos went from aloof to surly binarily.

There was an Eskimo lady on the elevator the next morning. I wanted to find out what brought her to Montréal. I was hoping to strike up some typical idle elevator chatter then slip that question into the mix, virtually undetected. She wouldn’t make eye contact, just stared straight at the ground. Thwarted, I trudged to breakfast.

I found a café. I greeted the barista with “bonjour”. He bit his lip and responded with “Hey man, what’s up?”

“Uh…not much, dude. Can I get a cappuccino and a…uh…croque…de…matin?”

“C’mon man…are you talking about the ham, egg, and cheese on a croissant?”

“Whatever dude…yeah.”

Since he was so insistent on English, I decided to stress-test the insolent barista’s language skills. While he was microwaving my breakfast and banging the steamed milk container, I interrogated him about this emerging market of legal marijuana in la belle province. I extracted from him that, in Quebec, SQDC was the vendor tasked with selling the marijuana to the general public. The closest outlet was located on the corner of St. Catherine’s and Metcalf. According to this guy, Justin Trudeau had went and lost his damn mind. Not only was marijuana legal to purchase but you’re allowed to smoke weed in the street without cops harassing. Black, Latino, and Anglo-Saxon.

After choking down a mediocre breakfast sandwich and enjoying a rather tasty cappuccino, I made my way to this SQDC. I was worried about lines. There were no lines. I went straight to the front door. The place was closed, closed until Thursday. I was supremely frustrated and agitated – on behalf of my readers of course. I had set aside most of the day in order to endure the substance’s toxins for their benefit and enlightenment. I had a sacred duty to investigate the real-world manifestations of this legislation and report my findings. Now I was failing them.

I regrouped in another café with another barista. This was a lady who rebuked my French advances with stifled laughter oddly similar to the gentleman barista before her. I ordered a cappucino along with a “pain du chocolat”. Her gaze revealed increasing bewilderment as it shifted from me to the display case back to me back to the display case. It finally fixed on me as she asked, “Are you talking about…the chocolate croissant?”

I drank my cappucino and ate my “chocolate croissant” in frustration. I had been anticipating a vaguely European retreat. These baristas were destroying the authenticity. I wondered if these places were too busy. Maybe a barista without a line to contend with would be willing to indulge my broken French. But the people on the street weren’t the way I expected either. Montréal was…really brown. And it wasn’t just Eskimos. Those were only at my hotel. The brownness on the streets seemed to be mostly Asian, Middle Eastern, and African. I understood that all cities across the world were becoming more and more multicultural, but this, it was borderline cosmopolitan.

Justin Trudeau was on the television, raving about something or other. I couldn’t tell what. The televisions were muted. All the captions were in French. It seemed like the televisions in Montréal’s public spaces were always tuned to a French station. I asked the uppity barista what the man was going on about. She explained that he was apologizing for Canada turning away the MS St. Louis in 1939. The MS St. Louis was a ship of German Jewish refugees seeking political asylum. They were rejected by Cuba, the Unites States, and Canada. They were forced back to Europe where many of them wound up tortured and murdered in concentration camps.

Apologizing for something the rest of the world had forgotten about seemed so utterly Canadian. The barista wouldn’t stop indulging herself in English. It was incessant. Now she was telling me about some Holocaust museum on the outskirts of Montréal. Without the marijuana, my afternoon was free. I decided to fritter away some of the time going to this Holocaust museum she was prattling on about.

 

WWL

 

Originally, my plan had been to select a destination, consume some of this marijuana substance, then attempt to navigate Montréal’s French-narrated public transportation network to said destination. I had visited many cities over the past few months. Among other commonalities, everybody complained about the ineffectiveness of public transportation or lack thereof. I hypothesized that confusion imposed by this marijuana product, compounded by the French, would get me good and lost. This would provide ample fodder for deriding Montréal’s public transportation.

Unfortunately, the Metro was rather plain and straightforward. Despite the French, I found myself deposited two blocks from the Montréal Holocaust Museum.

I didn’t have high expectations for the place. I knew the Holocaust was horrible. I’ve seen the pictures. I’ve heard the stories. I passed the test in high school history. I anticipated anger. I anticipated sadness. I was honest with myself and delegated some probability to apathy. I never expected to feel surprised.

Whether it was by the Montréal Holocaust Museum’s design or a product of my own interpretation, a different picture was painted for me. There was the steady drumbeat of photos of emaciated Jewish people and stories of brutality on behalf of the Nazis. I’d seen and heard all that before. Usually, all those stories add up to the Nazis being the face of evil and Hitler is the evil genius. He’s the anti-Christ. He’s their Cobra Commander. He uses hatred and fear as tactics. He’s shrewd and opportunistic. He spreads evil across the globe until the Allies rise to action – the forces of good.

Montréal didn’t tell me that story.

Maybe it was the museum. Maybe it was Justin Trudeau. Maybe it was just the shape I was in. I heard a different story, at least on that Tuesday.

Hitler wasn’t portrayed as an anti-Christ or Cobra Commander. He was just a guy. Hitler receives a very minimalist treatment in Montréal. Holocaust is the product of global society. It is the will of the people. Hitler simply rode the wave. It required plenty of downtrodden racists in Germany to launch the Nazi movement. Racism, self-interest, and apathy throughout Europe and across the globe were required for it to grow and metastasize the way it has.

Most history books portray appeasement as poor strategy. Appeasement’s goal was to thwart the spread of Nazism. Hitler was just smarter or more ruthless than they expected. Montréal disagrees with this.

The exhibits are painstakingly redundant in their portrayal of antisemitism before the rise of the Nazis. It was rampant across the globe. The Great Depression and the terms of WW1 surrender created an environment of bitterness which weaponized bigotry in Germany. However, Parisians agreed with a lot of those sentiments. So did people in London. So did people in Ottawa. So did people in Mayberry.

The Jewish people were always minorities in Europe. They were subjected to bigotry the way minorities always are. Historical narrative stereotypes the Jewish people as greedy and scheming. This made them a natural scapegoat when the ceremonial assigning of the blame became necessary w/r/t the hardships of the Great Depression, the humiliation of losing WW1, and the war reparations which followed. That was the sentiment of German society-at-large. Hitler and the Nazis just amplified it.

Observing this historical movement with nearly 80 years of insulation, it takes just a distant precursor to critical-thinking to realize this makes no sense. You can’t throw your hands up at global financial fallout and political turbulence and mutter “but the Jews”. But those were not abstract concepts back then. Back then, those meant empty stomachs and being poor. It meant being helpless while your children suffered.

Then some guy wanders into the situation who was evidently somewhat charismatic. I mean, to me, it seems like people should have fingered him for an evil conniving motherfucker from a mile away. Maybe that’s just a revisionist first impression. Anyway, Hitler had all these angry helpless people at his disposal. All he had to do was articulate and legitimize their hatred. He was in business. Now they had an outlet. Now they weren’t helpless anymore. Now they could go do something about their problems. He promised to turn their lives around, to turn Germany around. He promised, not only to bring back their greatness before WW1, he promised to make Germany greater than it had ever been before.

They had a final solution.

Montréal lays it out methodically – step by step. It almost makes sense. It’s almost not even evil. It’s just a foible of humanity. In this particular context, it randomly adds up to the worst evil that the world has ever perpetrated upon itself. That makes it all the more horrifying.

Montréal doesn’t tell but shows how Jewish people in Germany didn’t take it all that seriously at first. It was just a minority of crazy people getting worked up. They weren’t going to uproot their lives over that. But antisemitism kept gaining momentum. It galvanized German society.

Gradually, more and more Jewish people concluded they needed to get out. It didn’t matter that they were going to lose their livelihoods, lose their life-savings, and cast themselves into some unknown land. They had to get out to survive. That’s when global antisemitism, self-interest, and apathy conspired against them.

No countries would take them. In Canada, the rallying cry was “none is too many”. Nearly unanimously, every country in the world shared this sentiment. They didn’t have the space. They didn’t have the jobs. They didn’t have the appetite for rubbing elbows with all those Jews. They refused the Jewish immigrants and their pleas for asylum. They were just as bias against the Jewish people as the Nazis. They effectively conspired with the Nazis in order to lock those people into Germany and make it a death row.

History is determined to remember Adolf Hitler as the anti-Christ leading the Nazis to committing a genocide upon the Jewish people. That’s simply not the way it happened. The entire world killed all those people. The men. The women. The children, too.

I left the Montréal Holocaust Museum and took the Metro back downtown. I walked over to the Bell Centre. It was on the way back to the hotel and I needed something lighter and more playful than global genocide to wash over my thoughts.

The Habs were returning from a road trip. The Bell Centre was vacant. I took a stroll through the gift shop. I couldn’t locate the urge to waste my money on anything. I walked around the outside of the building. The box office doors announced tours in French and English twice every day. I had missed that day’s tour but committed myself to Wednesday. I made my way around the building to the statues: Howie Morenz, Maurice Richard, and Guy LaFleur. These were statues in the pure sense. Not plastic molds, they were sculpted from stone. Richard wasn’t idle. He was frozen in mid-stride, galloping down the ice with that fire in his stare. LaFleur’s hair was flowing in the wind just like history remembered. The bricks along the walkway were engraved with great moments from Canadiens history.

It made me consider what it meant to be a Montréal Canadiens fan. I love PK Subban but I could never become a Nashville Predators fan, even if the Habs disbanded and I live in Nashville for the rest of my life. Not even if the Predators go on to become the greatest dynasty sport has ever known.

It’s not just the stench of the Predators’ urine-soaked jerseys. It’s not just the 24 Stanley Cup banners that hang in the Bell Centre. It’s not just that I grew up an hour from Montréal either. It’s how the team is steeped in culture and history. It’s the gravitas, how the culture and history of the region are interwoven with the team.

It’s disproportionate and it’s probably unhealthy but that’s why I’m drawn to it.

It’s the Richard Riot, when Montréal set itself on fire in 1955 to protest the Rocket being suspended for the playoffs. It’s the 1993 riots, when Montréal set itself on fire again, this time to celebrate winning the cup. It’s how the city imposes itself on the team, insisting upon the French language, Quebecois players in the line-up, and a French-Canadian coach behind the bench. It’s Montréal. The Canadiens are so much more than hockey. In Quebec, their influence and cultural resonance exceeds even the Catholic church’s.

 

Richard Riot

 

It reminds me of that book on strategy Walt gave me to read. Is that why the team doesn’t win Cups anymore? Because hockey is actually just a minor component of their operation? Michel Robert’s book insists on the need for an organization to define their mission and their vision. For most hockey teams, the vision would be to win a Stanley Cup. The Montréal Canadiens are, quite literally, the stewards of Quebec’s cultural identity. Does that create the need for a different mission and vision? Is that mission and vision determined by the organization or imposed by the people?

I ran into more Eskimos in the hotel that night and the next morning. One of them made eye contact. She commented on my boots, asked me if they were snakeskin. I told her no, they were Pirarucu, that was a type of fish I had speared in the Amazon. It was like a man-sized version of a Piranha.

“A man-eater?”

“Yeah”, I said “had them natives turn him into boots while I was on the Inka Trail.”

She broke off all eye contact and went back to staring at the ground. All the other Eskimos made no eye contact and stared at the ground. I’m not sure if that was just their way or that lady got to them.

It was Wednesday. SQDC was still shuttered. My marijuana muckraking would have to wait. The Bell Centre tour would have to do. I was the only party without young children in tow. The tour guide walked us around the lower bowl. He brought us up to one of the private boxes. From there, he pointed out the play-by-play booth, noting that it was unique among NHL arenas because it was suspended over the ice, not a part of the press box. I said, “Didn’t Bob Cole design that?”

“Hmmm…I’m not sure about that.”

I was. Unless Cole was lying about it in his book. Later we got to check out the locker room. It was cool but it would have felt more authentic if the Habs were back in town and their equipment was hung in the stalls. The last stop was the press room where Head Coach Claude Julien gives his post-game press conference. The place was far smaller than I expected. It was roughly the size of a face-off circle with short 10-foot ceilings. It must have gotten cramped like a slave ship after games. The tour guide was telling us how the Public Relations Director had a challenging job in Montréal. Unlike other cities, the press here was bilingual. The trick was to group similar questions from both languages together. That made it easier for Julien to stay consistent in both languages. Someone’s kid piped up “Has there ever been a coach that doesn’t speak French?”

The tour guide hemmed and hawed. No real answer came out. He knew the answer. “Randy Cunneyworth”, I said.

“Yeah…Cunneyworth…um…yeah.”

This was a family activity. I also happened to know one was a family of Maple Leaf fans from Toronto. I decided to help him off the hook before those Anglos piled on. “There was also a few back in the day…in the Original 6 Era.”

“Oh, I’m sure…say…do any of you kids wanna get your picture taken behind the podium?”

Whether the Montréal Canadiens Head Coach spoke French or not never used to matter. Language always mattered in Canada. Quebec has always been the epicenter for that conflict. It simply hasn’t always spilled over into the toy department. There are a variety of reasons for this.

One factor was the Quiet Revolution. This was a period of increased secularization and socialism in the province. As the Catholic church ceded influence, nationalist voices gained momentum. They churned up emotions enough to spawn two failed secession referendums in 1980 and 1995. It’s similar to the Civil Rights Movement in the southern United States. There has always been racist violence in the Jim Crown South but one of the most brutal periods was during the Civil Rights Movement when white southerners began to perceive a threat to “their way of life”. The Quiet Revolution was similar in that the Nationalist voices mobilized the population by the age-old means of making them feel their way of life was being threatened, that the Anglos were intent on overrunning their culture. In this context the Montréal Canadiens became just one more front in a total war approach.

There’s also the fact that nobody used to care what language the coach spoke because the Montréal Canadiens didn’t matter. They weren’t always Les Glorieux. There was a time they were just another band of hockey players, barnstorming wherever they could score a decent payday. They were the Nashville Predators of that era. Nobody cared about the coach. All anybody cared about was being entertained if they happened to wander into a game. It wasn’t until the Canadiens built themselves into the sport’s most celebrated franchise that anybody thought to use them for political gain.

The Montréal Canadiens immortalized themselves in a 40-year window which spanned from 1940 to 1979. They won 18 of their 24 Stanley Cups during this period. They had 5 Head Coaches: Dick Irvin (3 Cups), Toe Blake (8 Cups), Claude Ruel (1 Cup), Al MacNeil (1 Cup), and Scotty Bowman (5 Cups). Neither Irvin or MacNeil spoke French. Irvin was actually born and raised among the hated Anglos in Toronto. Toe Blake was from Ontario, but he spoke French, growing up just outside the French-Canadian stronghold of Sudbury. Ruel was a Quebecois from Sherbrooke. Scotty Bowman was an Anglophone from Montréal. He didn’t speak fluent French, but he could regurgitate enough to appease the beat reporters.

Following the 1979 season, Bowman was passed over for the General Manager (Directeur Général) position. He left the organization, serving in various roles for the Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins (2 Cups) and Detroit Red Wings (3 Cups).

Since Bowman’s departure, every Head Coach has been a French speaker of French-Canadian heritage. There have been just two instances which approach an exception. These were anglophone interim coaches. The first was Bob Gainey. Gainey had been a legendary player for the Canadiens, serving as Captain (1982-89) and widely regarded as the greatest defensive forward to ever play the game. After retiring, he served as the team’s GM (DG) from 2003-10. Twice during his tenure, he fired the Head Coach and filled those duties for the rest of the season.

The second exception was Randy Cunneyworth. The Cunneyworth experiment lays bare how Quebec’s Identity Politics have seeped into the day-to-day operations of the Montréal Canadiens.

The Canadiens began the 2011-12 season under Jacques Martin. Cunneyworth was an assistant coach. His primary responsibility was overseeing deployment of the forward lines. The Canadiens struggled through a disappointing season. Boos rained down on them as they lost game after game, firmly riveted to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Qualifying for the playoffs was statistically improbable and realistically impossible. The season had gone off the rails.

This happens all the time. All teams in every sport sooner or later run face-first into a dreadful season. A standard countermeasure is to fire the Head Coach. It gives the appearance that management understands the results are unacceptable and they are taking corrective action. Quite often, the maneuver is necessary from an internal perspective because the coach has lost his influence amongst the players. The standard accompanying move, across all sports, is to transfer an internal employee to the role of Interim Head Coach. This alleviates the need to conduct a hiring search during the whirlwind of the regular season. Management is allowed to reevaluate everything in the offseason, once the dust has settled. The Canadiens followed this standard protocol.

GM (DG) Pierre Gauthier fired Martin and promoted Cunneyworth to serve as Interim Head Coach as the team played out the string of remaining regular season games. It’s likely he had no intention of making the promotion permanent. He possibly harbored hopes that Cunneyworth would bungle the job even worse than Martin had. This would allow the Canadiens to plummet even further in the standings, securing them a valuable early selection in the NHL Entry Draft.

Unfortunately, all hell broke loose. At least there was the perception of all hell breaking loose. Parties throughout the province spoke up early and often. They denounced the appointment of a coach that did not speak French. These were voices from the nationalist movement, public office holders, and various other rabble-rousers. There were calls to boycott Molson beer, which was another holding of the team’s majority owner, Geoff Molson. A protest was staged outside the Bell Centre during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

These were disingenuous gestures designed to score cheap political points on a vulnerable target. Common sense dictated that Martin’s role be filled internally, on a short-term basis, by an individual like Cunneyworth. Even the most casual of sports fan understands this. Anybody who has ever had an actual job would understand this on an instinctive level. If the owner of a Buick dealership suddenly needs to fire the manager, they don’t pluck the first warm body off the street to fill the job. They call on the assistant manager to pick up the slack until a permanent solution can be arranged.

Politics rarely dovetails with common sense. Sensible voices lack the bluster and bravado of extremist outrage. The sequence of events might not have devolved into a complete tailspin if the media had reported the denunciations for what they were – political theatre. Media outlets have bills to pay too, though. Securing advertising pays the bills. Nothing pays quite like controversy. In Quebec, nothing is quite as controversial as a good old-fashioned language dust-up.

The media reported it deadpan, in both languages.

Molson was in a tight spot. It was a spectacle, but a few missteps could make it very real and very damaging economically. To American readers this may all seem comical. To Canadians it is not. It strikes a very real and very tender nerve. This is their gun control debate. This is what they get belligerent, entrenched, and irrational about. A few years later, overachievement of some players, underachievement of others, along with random injuries would lead then-Head Coach Michel Therrien to ice a Montréal Canadiens lineup devoid of Quebecois representation. In response, local hockey writer Rejean Tremblay lashed out with a scathing editorial, deploying the ominous allusion of ‘the final solution’.

We’re talking about one lineup…for a single regular season game.

This was the maelstrom Molson found himself in. He chose to release a statement assuring the public that the Cunneyworth hiring was a temporary measure, he would not be hired permanently, and that being “bilingual” was a prerequisite to being Head Coach of the Montréal Canadiens.

This was a mistake on several different levels. The most apparent was that extreme but minority voices in Quebec society had been rewarded for their opportunistic and bombastic incitements. It had not been a din. It had been a few mid-level politicians clamoring for relevance buttressed by some media hacks flailing for readership. And that protest? Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly the Million Man March. At best, it was a scattering of naysayers. It was a PR stunt and it worked. The tail had wagged the dog.

On another level, Molson put his employee, Cunneyworth, in an unfair and untenable position. If the owner of the Buick dealership fires the manager, the assistant manager needs to think he has some shot, however small, at getting hired as the guy. That’s the only way the assistant manager is going to do the job and try to do it well. If the assistant manager doesn’t perceive an upside, just a downside, that individual will just go through the motions. There’s also the chance the assistant refuses the role altogether, starts testing the job market out of spite, and that person ends up leaving for Honda or Volvo.

There’s also the matter of opportunity cost. The remaining games on the schedule after the firing of Martin were meaningless only within the context of success in that particular season. In terms of long-term success for the organization, they were invaluable. They offered opportunity to evaluate players in meaningful and competitive NHL games. They could be evaluated in ways that were unavailable while single season success was still a possibility. Young prospects or fringe players could be recalled from the minor league affiliate in order to evaluate them accurately against NHL competition. Players could be deployed in ways atypical for their perceived skillset – a soft floating winger in a late-game defensive situation or a stay-at-home defenseman on the power play.

All these opportunities were relinquished once it became common knowledge that Cunneyworth was not a consideration for the permanent role. Nobody busts their ass for a boss who’s already given their notice. They go through the motions until the real boss shows up.

They also relinquished the opportunity to evaluate a coach. Cunneyworth might have been good at that job. There had to be some reason it was him they selected to fill the interim role back before the shitstorm hit town. Nobody will ever know. His tenure was sabotaged before he ever got the chance to try to make his team buy in to however it was he wanted to coach.

 

Protest against Montreal Canadiens' interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth

 

I still can’t lay the blame on Molson. His decision led to a poor outcome but there was a lot of people running around acting like jack-asses with nothing to lose. Despite his poor choice, Molson seems to be the only individual who was reasoning like a stakeholder. He chose to take a defensive posture in order to protect and steward his organization. He was supposed to be running a hockey team. This was supposed to be the toy department. Toy department PR scandals are supposed to be ticket prices, losing seasons, and players having rough nights out on St. Catherine’s Street that get blared all over social media. Instead he’s dealing with nuclear fallout from the reigning champion of Canadian wedge issues. He’s got politicians calling him out, people threatening to boycott two (2) of his companies, and a guy in the media basically calling him a Nazi.

There might have been a more viable alternative path if his last name was Montagne, not Molson. It’s not. His heritage is English. In America, that means next to nothing. In Quebec, it’s almost everything. I can disagree with it all I want. It wasn’t me with the fate of two companies hanging on the outcome. A teacher in high school, Mrs. Caggige, told me, “It’s not the choice that matters, it’s the reasoning behind your choice.”

I sympathize with the reasoning that led Geoff Molson to punt and live to fight another day.

I ran into more Eskimos at the hotel. One of them made eye contact with me and she was actually sober. I told her I was from Nashville and asked where she was from. It had the whiff of natural conversation. She simply replied, “Up North.”

The obvious follow-up would have been to ask what brought her into town. It never came to mind. I was simply in awe of someone standing with both feet in Montréal, Quebec, Canada, saying that they were from “Up North”.

The next morning, I saw a guy in the lobby who wasn’t an Eskimo. He didn’t work for the hotel, either. He was taller than me. He was calling out names, rounding up a group of Eskimos. Eskimos congregated in the lobby all day long. I theorized they hung around waiting for this guy but I had no idea where he took them. It felt like a shady day laborer situation, but these guys weren’t Mexicans. They were Eskimos. They were citizens with full access to the rights and benefits which came with that title. Even though they still felt the need to live “Up North” of Montréal. I wanted to ask him where he was going with all these Eskimos, but it felt racist or potentially like kicking a hornet’s nest.

Plus, I had to get to St. Catherine’s Street. It was Thursday. SQDC was finally open. I could finally quench the thirst of my readers for knowledge. I timed my arrival for 10 am sharp, just as they were scheduled to open. I allowed for the possibility that, it being a marijuana dispensary and all, their posted hours were merely guidelines. I was shocked to find a line that already extended halfway down the block. It gave me flashbacks of commuting into Boston, stuck in the parking lot they referred to as I-93 South.

Lines are the physical manifestation of bureaucracy and red tape. These seemed to run counter to the spirit of acquiring and ingesting marijuana. At least this was my impression from what I had researched on the topic. I postulated that these were simply the hardcore reefer addicts. SQDC had been closed for three long days. They had certainly burned through their stashes and were in the throes of withdrawal. I decided to move onto other activities and return after the junkies had gotten their fix.

I went to the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, or as the natives call it: Musēe des Beaux-Arts Montréal. I didn’t want to spend all day there, sifting through the minutiae of whatever these Quebecois considered art. I breezed my way through the exhibits at a fairly brisk pace. I did happen across a few pieces that managed to appease my staggering level of artistic refinement. They had a casting of The Thinker (Le Penseur) which I could sympathize with: Dante at the gates of Hell, pondering his great poem. There was archaeology, art from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and even a permanent exhibition of Quebec and Canadian art. That was where I found Dryden by Serge Lemoyne. Dryden is a splash painting depicting the iconic mask of the Canadiens Hall-of-Fame goalie, Ken Dryden, rendered in the bleu, blanc et rouge of the Habs.

Only in Montréal would a painting of a hockey player wind up in the city’s museum of fine arts. That would never happen in Nashville. PK Subban could lead the Predators to 10 Stanley Cups. The best he can hope for is posters on the wall. He is there for entertainment purposes only. In Nashville, it’s Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Hank Williams who get put in museums. Those are the entertainers that are interwoven into the fabric of Nashville’s culture. In Montréal, it’s the hockey players.

After the museum, it was back to the weed shop. To my horror, the lines were around the corner. SQDC’s indulgent 3-day closure had clearly driven demand to preposterous levels. My enquiry into that matter was becoming hopelessly derailed. I had nothing to do but wait for game time.

At first, I was slightly annoyed that the only Canadiens home game during my stay was against the Buffalo Sabres. I had already seen them play the Sabres in 2017. I also had a knee-jerk assumption that the Sabres were a perpetual bottom-dweller. A quick look at the standings before the game revealed this wasn’t the case. Buffalo was off to a good start. In fact, the teams were within two points of each other in the standings, both holding a grasp on the wild card positions in the Eastern Conference. This was an important game.

It was a great game to be in the building for. I hate paying good money for tickets only to attend a grinding contest where the puck is trapped along the wall while players grapple for body position. Living in Boston, I had wasted countless dollars on watching Bruins teams intent on cycling the puck down low, grinding the opponent into submission. It was a war of attrition. For all I know, those were winning tactics. It just wasn’t aesthetically appealing.

The 2017 Canadiens-Sabres game I attended had been a grinding affair. That was in the midst of a roughly 2-year experiment which began approximately with the PK Subban trade during which Montréal tried to become more physically imposing and rugged. It seemed to have ended over the offseason. They acquired skilled players like Max Domi, Tomas Tatar, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi (Special K?). They also committed to smaller yet faster players already in the organization like Victor Mete, Charles Hudon, and Paul Byron. They were back to playing the beautiful style (Style Magnifique).

Iconic teams take on identities. The Pittsburgh Steelers are known for their hard-nosed, 3-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust style which reflects the blue-collar mentality of the steel industry which brought that city to prominence. The Yankees are straight-laced, instructing their players to be clean-shaven at all times, emblematic of the buttoned-down white-collar types bustling along Wall Street. The LA Lakers moniker is Showtime which accurately describes the playmaking of their star-studded rosters as well the local movie industry that bolsters that region’s economy, enabling it to financially support all those gaudy contracts. The Boston Red Sox rarely have African-Americans in their lineup.

The Canadiens have always been the Flying Frenchmen. They don’t just win games and Stanley Cups, they do it with flair and panache. This is how the city views their home team. This is how the city sees itself – a vibrant metropolis with a European flair setting it apart from the other cookie-cutter urban centers located beneath them in North America.

That’s how the partisans in Montréal and throughout Quebec view their team’s identity and, by extension, themselves. But the Canadiens are a wedge issue unto themselves. They’re either loved or hated. The same is true of the region. The haters define the Habs as sawed-off whiners and divers. They can’t compete physically with their opponents. Rather than engage them honestly, they hit the deck whenever they’re touched and lobby the referees for a penalty call. The haters apply the same narrative to the region. They dismiss Francophones as whiny and xenophobic. They denounce their heritage as insular and tribal, a device intended to assure them of every advantage while denying others from gaining a foothold.

Buffalo had some skill of their own: Jack Eichel, Rasmus Dahlin, and Nathan Beaulieu {I miss watching Nate in a Habs uniform [Puck-moving defenseman (genuine 100%)]}. The game was fast paced and full of action. Neither side was able to mount a forecheck in order to sustain pressure in the offensive zone. It led to furious transition back and forth. It was a see-saw affair on the scoreboard as well, both teams trading goals, neither side able to separate. Regulation play ended with the score tied at 5. In overtime, Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen picked a loose puck off the boards, raced down the wing, and fired a slapshot top shelf for the winner.

It wasn’t the result I was hoping for, but it was a beauty to watch.

Friday was my last day in Montréal. I was catching a plane out in the evening. I only had a few precious hours to conduct my marijuana research on behalf of my readers. I showered, dressed, and packed my luggage so it would be ready at a moment’s notice, providing the rest of the day for my examination. I rode the elevator and walked through the lobby, surrounded by Eskimos staring at the ground in their life’s mission of avoiding eye contact.

As I exited the lobby, I found the tall non-Eskimo dude. He was smoking a cigarette and greeted me with a broad smile contrasting the stoicism of the Eskimos he shepherded. I was unsure whether it was a display of genuine warmth or a mask of sanity meant to divert my attention from whatever nefarious affairs he had the Eskimos wrapped up in. I decided the marijuana expedition could wait. I was going to call his bluff. I asked him what it was he was doing here. I told him how I had seen him in the lobby the other day, corralling Eskimos. I left my accusations of shadiness unsaid as a subtext.

He doubled-down on that broad grin. He explained to me that he was a government outreach worker. He helped these Eskimos get medical care. Inuits, he called them. It sounded well-rehearsed. I threw him a curveball, pointing out that they must have hospitals where they’re from. He said they did. Canada had spent lavishly on medical facilities “Up North”. What they failed to anticipate was no doctor of any repute would be willing to ply his trade halfway to the Arctic Circle. Therefore, anything beyond the most basic of services – shots or cremation – required travelling into civilization. It cost almost $1500 per person to get them here. It was a planes, trains, and automobiles affair. Some of these places didn’t even have roads. Their journey began on snowmobile. Then they might hop on a bush plane. Eventually, a bus or train deposited them into Montréal. By the time they got here, there was only enough money left to put them up in this dive hotel. He was pretty sure I was the only person who had ever checked into this place without being entrapped by the Canadian Federal Government.

I gave him a nod which suggested I would be looking into his alibi and told him I had my own concerns to attend to.

Somehow the lines at SQDC were even longer on Friday than they had been on Thursday. I saw a lady in line who looked like she might be helpful. Instead of saying “Bonjour”, I said “Enchantée” because that sounds bad-ass.

She was somehow repulsed. “What the hell do you want?!”

I asked her what was going on with the lines. She rolled her eyes. She said the lines were always ridiculous. She advised that there was no way I was going to be allowed to cut her in line. If I had a problem waiting, I should take the Metro to Little Italy. There was another SQDC outlet there.

So I took the Metro to Little Italy. Flawless and sober execution brought me to St. Hubert St. It wasn’t nearly as hustling and bustling as St. Catherine’s Street, just a few people strolling here and there. I had high hopes. I walked from block to block to block. We tell ourselves endlessly to live in the moment but there is something to be said for anticipation. As I came closer to the address of my desire, the horizon was obscured by construction: cranes, bulldozers, and fencing. All of St. Hubert was ripped open. It looked like something out of Operation Desert Storm. The fencing forced me to criss-cross the street at high frequency in order to accommodate the construction workers and their dallying. Eventually, the cross streets were even riven, precipitating improvised arched bridges with comically steep bell curves. I was so caught up in this maze like a lab rat that I failed to take in my surroundings. I didn’t notice SQDC until I was directly upon it. That’s when I spotted its green faux-pharmacy façade. That’s when I noticed the line, the line that went off into infinity.

There was no way I was going to make it through that line with enough time to conduct testing with proper controls. I probably wouldn’t get halfway through it before it was time to depart for the airport. I considered that lady in line on St. Catherine’s Street. I reflected upon the incongruence of her initial surliness followed by overt helpfulness.

French.

I retraced the labyrinth back toward the Metro. I was frustrated I had wasted so much time on nothing on my last day in Montréal. I considered Justin Trudeau. If he was crazy, he was crazy like a fox. With lines like those, marijuana consumption had surely plummeted to critical levels.

I wanted to salvage the journey, but I had drank plenty of coffee, it was too early for lunch, and my bags were packed too full to accommodate the purchase of any knick-knacks. There was a bookstore.

It was a French bookstore but that was okay. They had a children’s section. I wanted to get my 2-year old nephew, Julien a book. I had a pincer strategy in mind. It was going to be a children’s book in French. This would brainwash him into pursuing a second language from a young age. With any luck, there would be a French children’s book about PK Subban. This would also manipulate him at an early age, send him down the righteous path toward becoming a puck-moving defenseman. I was looking through the stacks, hoping to come across this French children’s PK Subban treatise via my own brute force when one of the store employees approached me. She said “Bonjour!”

I was blindsided. I didn’t know how to respond. It was the first instance during my entire stay in Montréal that someone had engaged me in the French. Indecisive, I finally managed “PK…Subban?”

For some reason, I said his name in what felt like a French accent. She shot me a smirk. “Oh…I’m so sorry. We do carry one children’s book about PK Subban but it is very popular. Unfortunately, we do not have any copies in stock.”

“Oh, I see…No problem. Thanks anyway.”

“You are looking for a hockey book.”

“Yeah…sure.”

She walked down the stacks, doubled back a little and reached down to the second shelf. “This one is very popular”.

“Le Chandail de Hockey” I read aloud.

“The Hockey Sweater”, she translated.

I had read this when I was a boy. It had been in English then. It would do.

Due to admonishments about avoiding the rush hour traffic, bottlenecked from all the construction, I arrived at my airport terminal prohibitively early. I passed the time reading the French children’s book. I tried to piece together the story based on my rudimentary comprehension of French and fuzzy childhood memories.

 

 

Written by Roch Carrier, it depicts an allegedly true story from the author’s childhood in rural Quebec in the 1940’s. Carrier, like all his friends, was a Canadiens fan in general and a Maurice Richard fan in particular. They all wore Canadiens Maurice Richard sweaters, purchased from Eaton’s, while playing pickup hockey on the frozen pond after school. “We were five Maurice Richards against five other Maurice Richards”.

Carrier outgrows his Richard sweater so his mother attempts to order him a new one through the Eaton’s catalogue. She doesn’t understand English well enough to navigate the order form. Instead she writes out her order in French, longhand, on stationary. Eaton’s fills the order promptly and incorrectly, mailing the young Carrier a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater – to his home in Quebec.

The boy is horrified. He is going to be a laughingstock. He refuses to wear the Maple Leafs sweater. His mother laments that she is going to have to tell “Monsieur” Eaton about this and he is going to be very upset. He is English. Young Carrier backs down. He wears his Maple Leafs sweater to play pond hockey. Just as he feared, he is a laughingstock. He is a source of ridicule for his peers and even the priests who referee the game. They leave him on the bench. In rare moments when he does get to play, he is whistled for a penalty and reprimanded. “This is a persecution!”

The story ends with the boy going to church and kneeling to pray. He prays for a cloud of moths to come devour that hated Maple Leafs sweater.

At first read, the story makes no apparent sense. There is no character development. The boy started out a Canadiens fan who despised the Maple Leafs. His experience within the story only reinforced these feelings. It takes some reflection for the reader to realize it has nothing to do with what the young Carrier learned. This is about what the grown Carrier had learned – the one who was writing the story – from the experience his mother had forced him to endure. She forced him to be The Other. She made him feel rejection and ostracism. As a boy, it led to nothing but hurt feelings, just another annoying and uncomfortable childhood experience. It didn’t pay dividends until he was an adult. By forcing Carrier to endure the role of The Other, he was provided with the quality of empathy. As readers, we know that Carrier has absorbed this quality. We understand this because the experience affected him so deeply that he has chosen to write a story to tell others about it.

“If you make up your mind about something before you try it, my boy, you won’t go very far in this life.”

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: