This is an excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Naked Montreal. New 500-word excerpts are posted every Monday, so be sure to subscribe to avoid missing a thing!
Need to catch up? Here’s Excerpt 1.
PART I, CHAPTER 1: Bienvenue / Welcome (cont.)
And yes, that really is a mountain and not just a very large hill. Please do not mock Mount Royal nor the park that runs across its countryside, a twisted twin of New York’s mighty Central Park, lest you anger the major deities of the city: Frederick Law Olmsted (park designer) and Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve (city founder). That’s MAY-ZAH-NOOV. Say it with me, folks: MAY-ZAH-NOOV. Better. Practice in the mirror, you’ll get it.
Further east of the famed mountaintop, which has given our city its name, you’ll find our grand boulevard St-Laurent. Shops and restaurants on The Main (as it’s called by locals) demand a constant influx of people who live and die by the principal of “see and be seen.” Visitors don’t bother with much of anything east of St-Laurent, presumably because this is the “French” side of town. Americans particularly fear this bit that’s off the well-worn metro tracks, far from the hustle and bustle of downtown, and definitely difficult to understand without a proper interpreter.
But enough about Montreal. Let’s get naked.
Ah, how rude of me! I haven’t even introduced myself. What was I thinking?
My name’s Francesca Parker, but everyone calls me Frankie. I’m a tour guide, in case you hadn’t guessed. Mostly because I love facts – or perhaps more correctly, I’m addicted to trivia. I like to know exactly how many people live in my city at any given time (currently 3.6 million), because I like to picture them all having sex. I like to know how our male/female demographics break down (48% male, 51% female) so I can accurately picture the possible threesomes (FFM, not MMF, though it depends on the swingers in question). I like knowing there are about 15,000 rainbow flag-waving LGBTQ folks living in The Village; that an average Montrealer’s yearly income is around $68,000 (Canadian, bien sûr), that the average price of an evening out is around $125, and the median age of city residents is 39. All of these facts and figures help, in my line of work.
And not for the reasons you might think.
Showing people around town is relatively easy. Montreal’s a beautiful city, full of cobblestones, spiral staircases and quaint 19th century French architecture. There are gables and flying buttresses and gothic gargoyles posing as downspouts, tin roofs, Our Lady of the Harbour (and yes, with a U in Canada, because of the Brits), and monstrosities-slash-tourist attractions like The Big O (our Olympic stadium from 1976, just paid off this year!) and the boxy Habitat 67, “futuristic” relics of the Montreal World’s Fair turned ritzy apartments. It’s modern and old fashioned at the same time. It has the je ne sais quoi that the tourists love. But it’s not what they come to me for.
They come to have a good time. Good food, strong drinks, a little dancing… and a little more, if you know what I mean. Not the average tourist stuff, the Bateau Mouche on the river, dinner on Mount Royal. They can get that from any guide in the city. They come to me for l’amour.
L’amour passionné. L’amour dangereux. L’amour toujours.