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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