Within seconds of stepping into the Town Car that was to take me to my hotel, the driver asked me, “Do you want me to show you ze DVD about Quebec?”
Now who can say no to that question? Of course I wanted to watch a DVD about Quebec, although I also would have settled for watching one of the Sopranos episodes in the same case holding the 12-minute ode to French Canadian tourism. But any DVD is better than riding silently with in the dark. About five minutes through the video, afterÃ‚Â eight mentions of how safe both Montreal and Canada are, I hit me that I was in a place much different from America. Or Europe. And after just a short time in Montreal, I know I’ll definitely be back.
When I went to Paris to check out the upcoming videogame Heavy Rain in November, I thanked the Lord that Barack Obama had won a couple weeks previously. Otherwise, my obvious American-ness (i.e. loose-fitting jeans and shoes with laces instead of a criss-crossing velcro strap), and a French vocabulary which consists of exactly three words, would have made walking the streets by myself a less pleasant experience. Here in Montreal, it doesn’t matter. Want to speak English? That’s fine, everyone else does, too. French takes precedence here, but only subtly. Most signs around here are in both languages, with the French words above and slightly bigger than the English translation.
Nevertheless, I’ve never wished I was fluent in another language more than I have these last couple days. In a nation more foreign than Canada I’m a complete outsider. It’s not that I’m proud of my inability to speak a secondary language (despite five years combined of high school and college Spanish I’m not even conversational, let alone fluent), but in a place where the language is 100% foreign it’s hard not to give up on trying to fit in — and end up trying to find something, anything in English to remind myself I’m not on another planet.
When one hears French and English in a nearly 50/50 ratio, it’s clear how much cooler French sounds. I find myself hoping passers by are speaking French instead of English (although maybe it’s because the most noteworthy thing I heard from an English-speaking stranger was when an American girl walked by while breathlessly telling her friend, “God, she’s such a DICK!”) French is sexy, sophisticated, playful and gentle at the same time. Just don’t call Georges St-Pierre gentle, even if English is far from his first language.
That’s right, I’m not just here to walk around and sample international McDonald’s (I haven’t yet, although you’ll be happy to know that instead of chicken “Snack Wraps” they have Big Mac Wraps…that’s right, burger, special sauce and cheese inside a sesame seed bun tortilla — even the picture looks revolting). I’m here for the new UFC 09: Undisputed videogame, which will be released on May 19. The game looks great (check out my preview on Gamespy after I get back), and I got to speak with GSP himself today, along with getting a personalized autograph for Meg Marlin. And Marlin, you owe me, since it wasn’t exactly easy to tell somebody whose first language is French how to spell “Meagan.”
Tomorrow I have a free day in Canadian Paris before checking out UFC 97 from a luxury suite in the Bell Centre. I know, tough life. For the record, GSP said that while Anderson Silva is obviously the favorite in main event over Thales Leites, Leites definitely has a shot to take out Silva in the same fashion St-Pierre himself was taken out by Matt Serra. Losing to Serra was “the best thing that could have happened to my career,” GSP said. I also can’t wait to watch Chuck Liddell face Shogun Rua, especially since that was the default matchup when we played the game this afternoon. Oh, and by the way, Cheick Kongo is freaking enormous. For all you UFC fans, I’ll have a full report on my interview with GSP and what it was like to see a live UFC Pay-Per-View. Bonjour!