February 19th, 2009
05:14 PM ET

I left my heart and my leather pants in Montreal

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Jack Gray
AC360° Associate Producer

President Obama is in Canada – a key and often overlooked U.S. ally and economic partner - today for the first foreign trip of his presidency.  I find myself waxing nostalgic for the trips my friends and I made some years ago to Montreal.  It was a time when Canada was still known as the land of hockey and Celine Dion, long before it became the Sarah Palin Buffer Zone.

Our first trip up there, by car from New England, was when I was 17.  The allure was that the drinking age in Montreal was 18.  I know what you’re thinking.  But it turns out the word “Montreal” is French for “eh, close enough.”

Getting there was not always easy.  We had trouble at the border more than once.  Though I still don’t see what was so suspicious about two teenagers in a souped-up Dodge Stealth filled with fireworks and rolling papers.

Or that other time – five college kids, each from a different state, quietly pushing a Mercedes that didn’t belong to any of us through a seldom-used border crossing in the dark of night.  That guard had some nerve to suggest we were lying when we said we were merely re-creating the final scene from The Sound of Music.

Anyway, upon arrival that first time, we were awestruck. Montreal is a stylish city full of energy.  A city that knows what it wants.  A city that understands bars become decidedly more intriguing when you add “de Sexe” to the end of the name.

It was, obviously, my first opportunity to “legally” order a drink.  At the time I thought I was pretty smooth, though in retrospect perhaps I should not have asked for a bendy straw with my martini.

Nevertheless, despite our inexperience, we embraced the cosmopolitan atmosphere:  speaking French, smoking Cuban cigars, dining on exotic meals of chicken fingers and Budweiser at the Hard Rock Café.

We felt like glamorous high rollers when we went to the Casino de Montreal.  It was my first time gambling but you would have never known.  As far as my fellow gamblers were concerned, I was a veteran of the casino floor – asking for help with the slot machines and telling the guy running the roulette wheel that I wanted to buy a vowel.

Our trips were always great fun and, aside from that one time when I technically was Prime Minister for three hours, there weren’t any international incidents.

Sadly, our Canadian voyages have long since come to an end.  That’s life, I suppose.  Friends eventually go their separate ways.  But Canada, especially the city of Montreal, will always have a warm place in my heart.

As for Celine Dion…well, no one ever said Canada was perfect.


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Filed under: 360° Radar • Canada • Jack Gray
soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. Roweena D'Souza, Mangalore

    you can leave the leather pants, I hope you got your heart back 🙂

    At one point I was only two hours away from the Canadian border, but never crossed it for *some* reasons! Sound of Music and Celine Dion, love both!

    February 20, 2009 at 3:59 am |
  2. Alex (Aliso Viejo)

    Never been to Montreal. It is a very good thing to know they have Martini even with a bended straw. And yes, nothing is perfect. 🙂

    February 20, 2009 at 1:16 am |
  3. Jolene, St. Joseph, MI

    Jack: Ok, you brought back some great memories for me. Living in Michigan, we often planned trips across the border to party because we could legally drink. We would go to Windsor. Great Canadian city, IMO. We would shop, eat, drink, dance, drink, gamble, drink...and oh yes, did I say drink?

    Never lost any leather pants in Canada, however, I did moon a car full of guys...does that count? Oh....the memories.......

    "It's all coming back to me now"

    Wait...isn't that a Celine Dion song? Uh oh.... 😯

    February 19, 2009 at 11:52 pm |
  4. Lori from IL

    Jack -

    Trying to figure this Twitter thing out - loved the little pig video you posted. Not sure how to respond to you on Twitter - hope it's okay to use this blog/comment area to do so.

    I grew up on a farm and we raised baby pigs - brought back some great memories.

    February 19, 2009 at 11:36 pm |
  5. Mike

    Ahhhhh you need to experience Quebec City. Montreal is PG.......

    February 19, 2009 at 11:03 pm |
  6. Alicia

    Try Windsor next time, Jack. Heck- at this point we're begging for your tourist dollars anyway! If you found all the "de Sexe" interesting in Montreal, you'll surely love the 'massage' establishments that will greet you in downtown Windsor.
    Canada is a fantastic place to visit, and an even better place to live.

    Dulcie from Denver– you're the people we still tell stories about to our American neighbours and yet no one believes us. Good to know you're all still out there!

    Windsor, ON

    February 19, 2009 at 10:29 pm |
  7. Annie Kate

    Hey Jack

    So the last scene in the Sound of Music – who was Maria in your little group? And did you sing Edelweiss? That might be a good reason to bring all your friends back together and you can recreate it again for the shot of the day! I'd love to see that complete with leiderhosen and a goat or two.

    Prime Minister for 3 hours? I hope you at least got the key to the city and some free beers for that one!

    Great post. Keep them coming!

    February 19, 2009 at 9:26 pm |
  8. Lisa Griffiths Benalla - Australia

    Jack, You are obviously a true renaissance man; drinking, smoking gambling, illegal border crossing in the dark of night and The Sound of Music.

    February 19, 2009 at 9:14 pm |
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