Thank you Montreal, Thank you Leonard Cohen

Montreal Cityscape with Cohen mural We arrived late in Montreal, which was fine because we had a late reservation at Liverpool House - one of our favourite restaurants in the city. Having said that, we arrived a few minutes early and while they were readying our table we stood near the bar with an aperitif. I immediately recognized the gentleman sitting at the bar facing me as Member of Parliament for Ville-Marie/Le Sud-Ouest/Île-des-Soeurs Marc Miller, who had popped down to see Voyageur during our photo session on Parliament Hill two days earlier. He recognized me too and I went over to greet him (and chide him for not sticking around to get his portrait done). Who was he sitting at the bar with but Minister of Defence Harjit Saajan. Now that's a great way to start an evening out! But a great meal at Liverpool House was only the beginning. On now and through until April, the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal is hosting an extraordinary multi-artist exhibition in tribute to the great Leonard Cohen entitled Une brèche en toute chose/A Crack in Everything. And it just so happened that that night the gallery was open until 2:00am with bars, DJs and a whole scene happening - how could we not go? Besides which, a little known story about the Six String Nation project is that shortly after the CBC Television deal collapsed in early 2006, I started talks with an independent Calgary-based production company who was interested in developing something we could sell back to the CBC. I had imagined it as a series of performances with Voyageur set in locations from which the guitar had been built. For Montreal, I had proposed that we get Leonard Cohen on a stool in the tiny retail area of the Fairmount Bagel Bakery in his old neighbourhood doing a song while other famous Montreal artists pretended to bake bagels in the background. Remember this was just before the huge resurgence of interest in Cohen. The company approached Cohen's people with the idea and apparently he was interested! Unfortunately, CBC was not at the time and the whole idea fell through. It's one of my greatest regrets of the project. In any event, seeing the work of these global contemporary artists in such a magical and intensive setting - from the epically immersive multi-screen performance installation of George Fok to an intimate recreation of the great poet's garret - was more than mere consolation - much of it was truly a revelation. Perhaps not surprisingly, my favourite room was the poetry-organ piece by the genius sound sculpturists Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller. The following morning we headed for pastries at our favourite spot, Kouign-Amann, and decided to take the eponymous sweet, dense, flaky, buttery treats up to Mount Royal and found ourselves at the gates of the famed cemetery. Nestled on the side of the hill just before the north gates are two adjacent Jewish cemeteries, including the Shaar Hashomayim where we knew Leonard was buried and decided to make a little pilgrimage. It took us a while to find - especially among many other Cohen family plots - but we eventually found it not far from the small iron gate we'd come in and close to the road, topped with many small stones and messages of thanks and various tokens left by admirers. From there we continued up the mountain to the observatory. Gazing out over the city you notice this huge mural of Leonard painted onto the side of a building on Avenue de Montagne. See if you can find it in the photo above. We drove up from the condo on our way out of town the following morning to get a closer look and it really is magnificent - such a monumental and yet serene and beneficent tribute to a favourite son of the city. We had dropped off a bunch of stuff at Kate's brother's house in Cornwall on our way to Montreal in order not to provide further temptation for the city's notoriously fast-working car break-in artists and headed there to retrieve it (following a quick stop at the Glengarry fromagerie!) - listening to a huge Apple Music playlist on shuffle in the car as we went. Off the highway, down one arterial road to a smaller one and then the secondary road toward the neighbourhood. As we turned onto the residential street, what should come on the stereo but Madeleine Peyroux's rendition of "Dance Me to the End of Love". Our Montreal adventure was over and Leonard had accompanied us virtually the entire way. Thanks to Matt and Erin and the family, Jen and Jim and Mrs. Li.

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