Of the 40 years I’ve been around, I’ve lived about 33 of them in or around Montreal. The times I was away occurred in two stints, and mostly in California: 1971-1973, my first two years of life, and 1982-1987, from the age of 11 to (nearly) 16. During the latter stretch, I missed Montreal something terrible. Over time, I found some ways to soothe my homesickness. Better libraries had telephone book collections. I’d find a quiet table and pore over the Montreal Yellow Pages, perusing advertisements for familiar restaurants and stores like Chenoys and Au Bon Marché. When I learned you could call long-distance Information from payphones for free (remember Area Code + 555 +1212?), I dialled up Montreal and asked the operator for the score in the Canadiens’ game. She told me I wasn’t supposed to call for this purpose and proceeded to let me know the Habs were up 2-1 in the third period.
I also used to stick my head inside freezers. They smelled like winter. I detail the discovery of this home-channelling method in “Bay Area Freezers,” a piece I wrote for CBC’s Canada Writes’ True Winter Tales challenge. It’s on their site today as “Pick of the Day.”
On a cold, grey November day in 1982, a week after my eleventh birthday, I stood at the top of our walk and watched my family’s stretch-wrapped belongings get loaded into a big Bekins moving truck. We were leaving Montreal for northern California. I was sad and nervous. I was also, apparently, very fortunate. Maybe it was the time of year, the weather growing ever colder, full-blown winter a mere meteorological dip away, because, as we said our goodbyes, everyone spoke jealously of how I’d be soon sitting on a beach while they’d be soon shovelling driveways.
Read the rest here.