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Smoked Meat Diaries #1: Left and Leaving

Posted by Will / March 18, 2009

20090318-smokedmeatmap.jpg.jpgNew MP contributor Will Shead didn't always live in the Land of Poutine. His "Smoked Meat Diaries" will be featured regularly on Midnight Poutine, chronicling his acculturation into Montreal life that began in September 2008. Will has a Facebook readership that numbers in the dozens, and he aspires to one day write an irreverent blog for a trendy Montreal website.

Like many journeys, this one started with a kiss. Before I knew it, I was making plans to move from Winnipeg to Montreal - a daunting prospect for someone who had never spent more than a week straight anywhere east of the 97th meridian. But love was calling, and there seemed like no better place to follow La Belle Fille than her hometown of Montreal. So on September 1 we got in my car and left Manitoba. An Anglophone prairie boy and his lovely Quebecoise girlfriend. We were eastbound.

Anyone who has taken a long road trip knows the progression of feelings - it starts with a sense of excitement and wonder, sort of a mini-adventure in which anything is possible. You and your driving companions, hitting the road and fading the white line - charging towards your destination, leaving your old life behind to begin anew. Maybe you blast some "Steppenwolf" to augment this liberating experience, roll down the window, and let the cool breeze tickle your skin. What a rush!

Fast forward two hours. If you have to listen to "Born to be Wild" one more time you're going to shove a sharp pencil into your eardrum. The taste of Redbull is already starting to elicit dry heaves. Your driving companion is fast asleep - probably dreaming about not being in a car. Panic sets in as you realize you've only traveled about 2% of your journey and you're trapped in this tiny driving cubicle with nowhere to go. No escape. Nothing to do but drive. Your entire purpose in life has become steering a car between two lines. Five hours later, tunnel vision kicks in and you are no longer attuned to your surroundings. There is only one goal - get to the end of this driving leg and try not to think about the fact that you must do this all over again the next day... and the day after that. Blech. Not exactly a magic carpet ride.

We planned to arrive in Montreal on September 4. When you drive from Western to Eastern Canada you have two options - 1) you can drive across Ontario and over the Great Lakes, or 2) you can drive through the United States and under the Great Lakes. There are pros and cons to each. We chose the latter. Pros: a bit faster, cheaper gas. Con: you have to drive through the U.S. There are a few reasons why I don't like driving through the U.S. For starters, I hate crossing the border from Canada to the U.S. I've had some bad experiences in the past with power-starved American border agents who have subjected me to ridiculously protracted interrogations that made me feel like a criminal. Is it just me or is everyone being grilled by these superheroes? And half the questions they ask are completely fruitless. I don't know what kind of self-incriminating answers they expect.
Border Agent: Where are you going?
Me: We're moving to Montreal.
Border Agent: Why are you going to Montreal?
Me: We're students at McGill.
Border Agent: What's McGill?
Me: It's a high-security special-ops facility where élite Canadian men and women are recruited and trained to lead the impending hostile takeover of the United States.

Then once you get into the U.S. (if you've somehow managed to bypass the guys they have guarding their border), you have to put up with obscene pro-life billboards along the highways, the mind-numbing presence of roadside firework store after firework store (why do Americans need unlimited, year-round access to so many fireworks?), bad food, white-knuckle-inducing maniacal traffic along the Chicago freeway, and the myriad toll roads across the U.S. of A.

Of course, crossing back into Canada is a picnic compared to crossing into the U.S. "Hi folks, where you headed? Oh really? Montreal, cool! That's great - super duper - you have yourself a wonderful day, eh!" Oh Canada. It was great to be back.

Four days and 30 hours of driving later, we finally reached the outskirts of Montreal. This is the point when you might expect me to write something like, "There was no turning back" or "We made it and we were in it together." Give me some credit! I'm not that cheesy. Besides, at that moment, before we had even crossed the city limits, I knew in my heart that Montreal was the place for me. [pause for effect].

Relevant songs:
"Left and Leaving" by the Weakerthans
I wait in 4/4 time. Count yellow highway lines that you're relying on to lead you home.

"New Goodbye" by Hey Rosetta!
Get your things/ We're leaving/ When the morning birds are singing/ We're sailing/ Cause it's time to go/ What's to come only fate will show.



Acie / February 4, 2015 at 05:12 am
I would LOVE some tips on finding great, criateve & original locations for shoots. Often I will find a place, but I can't tell if it would translate well into pictures without actually taking pictures there. So you actually go to places where you are considering taking pictures and take some test shots or is there something specific you look for when scouting out locations that lets you know it would be a good place or not a great place to take pictures?
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