La Pluie Mon­tréalaise

Geist - - Findings - PETER DESBARATS

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

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