Contrast and Confusion: A Montreal Experience - My Family Travels

           My Dad’s eyes are subtly asymmetrical; the right one is open, alert, while the left is slightly shadowed by the brow, a little rounder in shape. On a father-daughter trip to Montreal, I snapped a photo of him standing against a painted wall, the sun perfectly striking his face; the right eye more prominent, slightly illuminated, the left, shadowed, mysterious. He smiles in the photo, and on the wall behind him a ferocious animé girl is painted, her two glowing eyes symmetrical and icy blue, whip-like hair violet, fiery against the orange brick background. This photo always reminds me of our trip to that city: contrasts between order and chaos, between planned splendor and accidental beauty, which somehow meld to form a frustrating, magnificent place.

 After the first day in Montreal, I was exhausted- not because of our vast amount of walking, or climbing the stairs with our luggage, or even hiking over the melting snow banks- but mentally drained. I was virtually mute, even with the amiable shop-keepers or the friendly bell-boy; I didn’t know whether to speak English, or attempt to converse in poorly accented French. The streets were directionless; a downtown laid out in Cartesian coordinates, blended into winding alleyways and narrow cobblestone streets, joined with highway systems overlooking their industrial centers. Used to the simple streets of my hometown, I was frustrated, and therefore blind to the beauty that is Montreal confusion.

 Our second and final day we took one long walk around the city. We were lost again – yet, this time instead of trying to master its maze, we let the streets take control of us. We never opened our map, never stopped to ask for direction, to find a destination; we followed the winding alleyways, explored the streets lined with a rainbow assortment of color-blocked houses, traveled from the downtown to the college ghetto to the old town square by foot. Stopping by a café for lunch, I ordered in French, helping my Dad to do the same, my cheeks blushing crimson as I received a surge of adrenaline and the correct plate of food; hot crepes with ham and cheese. (A couple months later, I told a visiting student from France about these; she exclaimed at their deliciousness, calling them “Zee Szalty Crepes!”)

 Only when I lost myself in Montreal was I able to find the beauty that existed. My senses were open, unblocked by frustration that had consumed me; I noticed the twangy French-Canadian accents, slightly more nasally than French from France, the vaguely sweet smell of damp leaves and debris, and the amazing street art that covered every free wall. On one of these walls we found the animé girl; startlingly striking, half-moon eyes glowing as her face spread across the entire side of a building. As my Dad walked ahead of me, I pulled out my camera to take her picture, and as the shutter snapped, he turned around, smiling, their eyes different, contrasting, but together rendering something beautiful.



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