La Pluie Montréalaise
From Parallel #6. Desbarats was a news anchor, columnist, author of thirteen books, dean of journalism at the University of Western Ontario and editor of Parallel, a Montreal literary magazine published from 1966 to 1967. He lived in London, ON.
This city responds magnificently to rain. It is a quality not shared by any other Canadian city except Halifax which, of course, is a city designed in the rain by drenched architects poring over soggy blueprints. Whenever it stops raining in Halifax, the city assumes a strangely desiccated appearance. Five minutes without rain makes it seem as dry and bleached as a soda cracker. You almost expect the Victorian cornices on the buildings to start sifting away on a powdery wind.
Victoria has a suspicion of the same character. Vancouver, despite its maritime history, just sulks in the rain. Prairie cities turn their backs on rain like wet buffalo. When the rain comes down on Toronto, it is more like Lake Ontario going up. The streets empty before the gray deluge. But Montreal welcomes the rain as joyfully as a boy with new rubber boots.
Observation has taught me that Montrealers like to watch liquid in action, whether it’s in a river, fountain (why aren’t there more fountains in the city?), gutter or glass. It comes from being an island people.
This watermania includes rain. On the lowest level, no taxi drivers in the world obtain more satisfaction from rain than ours in Montreal. They exult in speeding through the wet streets between sheets of spray that a British battleship might envy. Plodding pedestrians might curse but the taxi driver has only the song of the tires in his ears as he bowls along Sherbrooke Street suspended like a hovercraft on a pillow of wet turbulence.
Sherbrooke Street in the rain… I didn’t mean to mention it already. I wanted to save it to the end. I always think of Sherbrooke Street in the rain as John Little has painted it, somewhere around the