Ni Quebec, ni Canada

Fresh tracks and timely insight.

Freda Payne, “Band of Gold,” Band of Gold (Invictus)

“Band of Gold” by Freda Payne

Beware working for any company that calls itself a family. A ‘family company’ might sound like a warm proposition on the surface of it, conceiving of our compatriots as sisters and brothers rather than fellow staff members, or playing in corporate baseball tournaments and tousling each other’s hair after a home run with our workmates like wholesome families do. 

But what it really means, as Letterman’s genius writers cooked up for a phoney Robert C. Wright, is that sometimes families forget to pay you back when they owe you money. Or, more alarmingly, sometimes families ostracize victims and protect harassers. I don’t remember mom ever ringing the dinner bell to announce that one of our contracts wouldn’t be renewed. 

You know who had a family? Charlie Manson. They weren’t good company either.

Chris Isaak, “Notice the Ring,” Always Got Tonight (Reprise)

“Notice the Ring” by Chris Isaak

Hockey is not my favourite sport. That’s tantamount to blasphemy in this city, I realize. But it’s not my game. I like snooker. Basketball is exciting to watch and requires athleticism and generally doesn’t involve fist-fighting. Nonetheless, I marked Guy Lafleur’s passing with the appropriate sadness.

Lafleur recorded that abominable disco record, which prompted a flurry of Googling fellow musical hockey players and their albums. Don’t try this at home. Best to leave it to the intrepid experts who can take a musical puck to the teeth for the team.

Wayne Gretzky never recorded an album, but former Buffalo Sabre Jim Schoenfeld’s 1973 LP, Schony, is widely considered one of the worst recordings of all time. On it, he belts out covers of “I Saw Her Standing There” and “You Can’t Do That,” purposefully choosing the Beatles’ most misogynistic catalogue.

Nina Simone, “Plain Gold Ring,” Little Girl Blue (Bethlehem)

“Plain Gold Ring” by Nina Simone

A few weeks ago, I was on my regular jog out to Parc Jean Drapeau. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it all the way to the Totem Pole, my landmark, but I huffed and puffed and got there. I rested in my usual spot, sweaty back against the pole. Some time passed and the sounds of the city fell distant to the sounds of wind and birds and silence. I noticed a little bird that flew into a bush just to my left. Suddenly, it flew right at me. I instinctively flapped my hand in front of my face, but the bird flew right back into the bush and looked straight at me, jerking and turning its tiny head back and forth abruptly as birds do. I realized what was happening. I put my arm out and leaned back against the pole, and the little bird flew and sat right on my outstretched hand. 

I don’t know what kind of bird it was. Small. And grey, maybe a sparrow or something similar. It was very pretty, it had black glass eyes, and beautiful grey and white plumage with a streak of orange like a lightning bolt across its wing. It sat on the heel of my hand and inspected me for about twenty seconds or so and flew away. I’ve gone back every week since, but have not seen it again, although it is possible that it has seen me.

George Jones & Tammy Wynette, “Golden Ring,” single b/w “We’re Putting It Back Together” (Epic)

“Golden Ring” by George Jones & Tammy Wynette

Personally, I welcome Elon Musk as Twitter’s new robot overlord, if only for the Montreal connection. He and Grimes have a modern family together and they’re sure to visit La Belle Province on occasion and spread some of those fully fungible Tesla tokens around. Can’t you just feel the electricity in the air?

Aglaé, “La Bague Au Doigt,” single b/w “Juste En Dansant” (Fantastic)

“La Bague Au Doigt” by Aglaé

One rainy Montreal afternoon in late April, our spies (alright, it was me, I can’t take me anywhere) spied a powerhouse political meeting at a certain downtown restaurant. The first guest in attendance was easy enough to recognize, with her luminous Chicklet grin and shmequesy ideology. It could only have been our illustrious mayor and leader of what’s left of the free world, Val Plante. 

Then, after some discussion, we identified Ms. Plante’s handsome companion not as Sam the Separatist Eagle, as initially thought, but none other than Lucien “Bloc Party” Bouchard. If M. Bouchard had succeeded in ‘95, we all would have been slurping our French Onion soup in another country.

This was bigger than that time I’d brushed elbows with Maxime Bernier at Café Ferreira, or when Line Beauchamp and I both dined alone from across one another in a swank luncheonette during the tail end of 2012’s Maple Spring, half-eating a fancy meal while ignoring thousands of protesters marching in the streets. I’m describing us both. Only one of us was supposed to be paying attention.

After witnessing this particular tête-à-tête, though, ‘90s anxiety is back.

My long-haired companion and I wondered what they were discussing. It couldn’t have been the proposed Holocaust Museum, the big news story of the day. Or that ridiculous 50,000 pound ring the city plans to install in front of the Queen Elizabeth Hotel. Try fixing a pothole.

No, this meeting could only have been about sabre-rattling contre Les Invasions barbares continues. Bouchard must have been there to rekindle that old separatist spark. But I hope Ms. Plante agreed to meet to secretly glean ideas on how to divorce this perfect island from both Quebec and Canada — and the planet if at all possible. 

Keep calm and nous allons. ■

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