Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Respite From All That Sunny Weather

But officer! I'm from California! How was I supposed to know that means, "Stop?"

All around me in California there are sun and perfect weather and people speaking Hindi and Spanish and Chinese and Farsi and Arabic. Sometimes I even hear English tossed about a bit. So, coming to Quebec where it is cold and rainy and people speak French and only French, is such a nice change.

They reportedly even have language police here who make sure all the signs really are in French and no one uses ghastly Americanisms like "hot dog" and "French fries." Its chien-chaud and pommes de terre frites or you can't have any.

How chilly is it here? The tulips are just blooming! In the distance there you can see the old city walls of Quebec.

I walked all over the old city today, sometimes using my umbrella, sometimes watching it go inside out and then just resorting to the hood on my rain jacket. The old city of Quebec seems to exist just for tourists, but there weren't a lot of them about. Though there was this one wise guy, clearly not from here ....

He was probably just psyched about Queen Elizabeth's Jubilee. She is still on the coins!

In the eighteenth century we did give the French up here several chances to join us in revolting against the English. But, they fought us off each time. Turns out they had their own secret plan for hating the English Empire in Canada, then the Commonwealth, in their very own unique way by annoying them to death. Forcing them to put two languages on all their milk cartons and stuff like that. Making them all learn French--a language practically nobody else speaks anymore. Ha! Touche!

One does see a rare English mot slip through here and there. Probably the language police only work the same hours they do in France--and that's like, what? Twenty or so per week with six months vacances per annee? 

Le Steak House somehow escaped the censors. Quelle horreur! How do you say "well done?"

As I strolled around trying to keep my umbrella from causing me to burst into song like Catherine Deneuve in the Umbrellas of Cherbourg, I bumped into an old friend of mine. He's half American and one of the great loves of my life.

Poor Winston looked a little rained on today in Quebec City. But his head was unbowed, per usual.

Winston Churchill loved Canada and visited here a number of times--though he often included it in his broad dream of a Union of the English Speaking Peoples--a reve de Winston that I'm sure still rankles this testy minority here. 

Nevertheless, he's honored adjacent to Quebec's Citadelle for his part in the World War II Allied Quebec Conference, at which the D-Day invasions were planned with President Franklin Roosevelt and Canadian PM William Lyon Mackenzie King. 

FDR joined WSC at the 1943 Quebec Conference.

Not sure why the monument is low to the ground and looks like a manhole cover, but I'm sure someone would tell me "it just doesn't translate well."

The Nazis were jackbooting it around the French mainland in 1943, so the Quebecois salute Winston for his usefulness in la liberation.

I hope you know I'm kidding these stubborn people as they cling to the shards of their uniqueness in a world increasingly homogenized. When they began doing all their protesting and molotov-cocktail-tossing back in the 1960s, I'll bet they never dreamed they would one day be the envy of all those they surveyed in North America. By remaining unique, they've done a couple of good things.

A little rue in Quebec City.

They've preserved their history and culture which are treasures that can enrich each one of us if we do the same. 

It is not just admirable, but can be very tough to do in the face of this university-driven desire by urban planners and others cultural anthropologists determined to turn each village and town into blah places  with "gateways" and "public spaces" and libraries with "books only on the second floor." (See Fred Kent and his theories about cities-or not if you don't like a queasy stomach.)

By resisting this in Quebec--and I'm sure this was not their intention but has turned into a lovely accidental by-product--they've created what Disney calls "a destination." A special place like no other place that people really want to see. Mon dieu. What a combo.

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Kathy said...

Vive La Quebec! I celebrate what makes them unique. Homogenization can be so deadly dull, non?
The rain you are experiencing however is not unique. We are having some of it here today in "sunny" California. Must grab my parapluie!

Robin Chapman said...

Hey! C'est si bon (like they say it in Quebec)--that will be good for les tomates! Glad to hear the news. I too celebrate La Difference. Now if we could just
'splain this to the folks running our hometown ....