I planned to write a short note based on an article in the March 2009 National Geographic Traveler–but as I was thinking about it, walking back from lunch, I passed a house being “remodeled” nearby. (The scare quotes? It appears to be one of those remodels that’s essentially a teardown, but leaving one wall intact so that it only needs remodeling permits.)
There were three signs in front of the house from three contractors–and I found two of them odd.
- Another house painted by Acme Painters
- Another roof from Acme Roofers
What’s wrong with those? (OK, the companies aren’t named Acme, and no roadrunners were harmed in the making of this remodel, but…)
Maybe nothing–but I don’t want my paint job or roof to be “just another job.” I want it to be dealt with as an individual project requiring individual care. For some reason, “Another x” is a little too reminiscent of the old Golden Arches “Over x billion served,” which sure didn’t sell me on being one of a billion Big Mac consumers.
The local roofing company with the best reputation (as far as I know), one that we’ve used at two different locations, does not use signs saying “another roof” or “another house.” They use a simple sign identifying the company–and do really good, really clean, really individualized work.
But that’s just another example, and maybe not a good one.
The National Geographic Traveler item
The story is “Montreal in Play,” part of a four-story section on “The Magic of the City.”
It’s supposed to make Montreal irresistible. We haven’t been to Montreal, but fully intend to go some day–at least as part of a New England/Canada cruise, possibly independently. And I’m sure we’ll enjoy Montreal. But I’ll admit that, after reading the story, I was considerably less enthusiastic about going to Montreal than before–until I realized that you couldn’t blame the city for Adam Sachs’ glorification of it.
The lede may even give a clue: “Take a fun-loving citizenry, edgy galleries, a merry-go-round of festivals, and that little thing called Cirque du Soleil, and you can’t not have a good time in Montreal.”
OK, so “can’t not have a good time in Montreal” is one of those awful phrases that starts things out badly. (I hadn’t thought about it before, but based on that mix, you “can’t not have a good time” in Las Vegas either, and I’m guessing some would gainsay that certainty.) But that’s not all. The comments from locals sound a bit like the worst of self-satisfied San Franciscans combined with the worst of self-satisfied Francophiles.
I mean, what can you do with Adam Gollner’s statement: “The allure of Montreal is that it’s the only place in the Western world where you can still be a bohemian.” Really? Isn’t that a little, oh, I don’t know, chauvinistic and absurd? A bit later, Gollner feels the need to put down Louisiana.
There seems to be a lot of this, um, charm among the locals, A newspaper columnist says Montreal defines itself in opposition to Toronto and calls the latter city “Cleveland with Medicare.” We’re told “This is a city where you can do pretty much what you like” but that you absolutely must be a hockey fanatic. Dennis Trudeau says “It’s hard to go anywhere else in Canada after Montreal. Now when I got o other cities I find something missing.” (He also puts down anglophones–you know, it’s all part of that Montreal acceptance and joie de vivre.)
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Adam Sachs intended to make Montreal sound like a city full of smug, self-satisfied, chauvinistic drunks busily putting down everywhere else. But I don’t think so. I think he intended to write a piece on the charm of the city. And maybe for some people he succeeded.
I’m sure we’ll enjoy Montreal. But it will be in spite of this article, not because of it.
No good reason. I’ve probably written about unintentional meanings before, and they abound. And probably always will.