I was on muscle relaxers and Benadryl. It was in the middle of the night when we stopped at the Canadian border, the bus driver delivering instructions to us over the loudspeaker that I was still too groggy to entirely comprehend as real and not as a voiceover in a dream. Giant, stadium-like lighting lit up the place a clinical white, this large stretch of asphalt out in the middle of nowhere. Jacob and I answered some questions, showed our passports, and soon were back on the bus. A bit more sleep and then we pulled into the bus station at Montreal around five in the morning. We dropped our bags off at the hotel, a room not ready, asked the guy at the front desk if he could recommend a place still open that served food and where we could hide out from the cold. He mentioned the McDonald's a block away.
We consulted our guidebook instead, not traveling to a frigid Montreal, eight hours by an overnight bus, to eat at McDonalds. We found a 24 hour diner, La Banquise, famous for its poutine. We walked past the McDonald's, past the bus station, and through the pre-dawn streets of Montreal, observing the exterior staircases on many of the buildings, the French signage all around us, and very slowly, light started to appear at one far corner of the sky. Some early morning joggers passed us as we walked along the edge of a park, matching up street by street a physical city with a street grid presented to us on a map.
The diner was playing Belle and Sebastian. This was a sign as sure as there needed to be that this was the place we should be in at this moment in time. We split an order of poutine and a breakfast plate, had some coffees, discussed what we could do during these early morning hours in a city we didn't know, and watched the sky lighten outside the window we were sitting against, a city coming into being. Despite the vomit-like appearance of poutine and despite the fact that it is a plate of fries covered in gravy and cheese curds, it was actually quite good, much more so than I expected.
With food and coffee in our system and nothing still open yet, we walked to Parc du Mont-Royal, and hiked to the top of the "mountain" that gives the city its name. There is a gorgeous view from the top of the city below. We took it in, took some photos, thought about extending this specific moment in time into future moments, this a memento to look back on at some point when scrolling through pictures on my phone or when looking at photos I have posted to Facebook.
More wanderings around the city, tiredness setting in, not much sleep had on the bus, and around one in the afternoon, we checked into our room and took a long nap. We woke up around happy hour time and had numerous drinks at a couple of the bars on rue Sainte Catherine. We took the subway a stop and ate dinner at cute bistro, L'Express, and then took the subway back a stop and went right on back to drinking in the Gay Village.
We went to Campus, a gay strip bar I had wanted to go to for quite a while. There seem to be a large number of porn stars that I really love that have come out of Montreal and this was a bar I had frequently seen listed in appearances by some of these porn stars. So there was that and there was my love of seeing naked men, really the same reason I believe, and so the two of us went to this bar quite drunk and eager to see naked flesh.
There is a stage up front and then tables surrounding the stage, right up against it, and then a bar behind these tables where you could sit and watch the stage with a very clear sightline. For whatever reason, there were many Christmas decorations up on stage, reindeer with heads that moved back and forth. I am also imagining a giant candy cane, though I could be wrong about that detail. Gay strip clubs barely exist as such in much of the US and so I was very excited to try out the numerous strip clubs Montreal has. Washington, DC used to have a really excellent gay strip club scene but most of the bars were razed a few years ago to make room for the baseball stadium they built in Southeast DC. The first strip club I went to, probably when I was 18, was Wet. This bar, mythic in my memory, is now gone. DC is very liberal with its liquor laws. Most states have laws that don't allow liquor to be served if a bar has full nudity on stage. DC does not have such laws and so had a really thriving gay strip club scene for a while. Montreal also has no such laws and so Jacob and I sat there at a table against the stage, pretending to fan ourselves, mouthing "So hot" at all the sexy flesh on display, at all the beautiful dicks that made their way across the stage.
We wanted to try out the other big strip club in Montreal and so walked a couple blocks down to Stud, which charged a small cover (unlike Campus) and which was also much larger of a club. For this reason, there were some insanely hot men that made their way across the stage, but it also felt at a further remove than the set-up at Campus. After watching some insanely sexy man play with his cock on stage, I found him afterwards and bought a lap dance from him for Jacob and I. He brought us back into a curtained off tiny little room and sat us down on a couch against the wall. He got naked and writhed his body against us. We felt him up as he danced for us, touching his ass, his back, his chest, his cock, wanting to have more access to this body, a frustration and also a pleasure had in the remove, in the distance preventing us from being able to suck his dick or for him to fuck us, that this is what it was, this lap dance where we could touch him, and the longing for more stoked our desire, made the thing almost unbearable. Jacob and I left soon after to fuck each other back in our hotel room, the horniness too much to further suppress.
The next day, we wandered around the city more, ate more food, napped again, and then found ourselves wandering drunk down Sainte Catherine looking for fun. We went to Unity on the advice of several cute guys, but the club was awful. There were what appeared to be some seriously underaged boys there, some boys looking barely 14. And, okay, maybe I can look past that. But what I cannot look past is terrible music. When they started playing Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling," that's when it was time to go.
We decided to hit up another strip club, Taboo. This was one of the most amazing bars I have ever been to. It was like walking into a shady strip club in the 1970s. Coming to this bar after hitting up Campus and Stud did this bar no favors. Both of those are very nice bars with insanely sexy men. There is something very sad about Taboo, off a lonely side street. The audience was mainly old men sipping their waters. The bar was run down but in such a beautiful way, a small long stage surrounded by a few tables, red lights as the main light source, a small bar in the back. It would be a great set for a film about a sad strip club or a photo shoot. Everything about the bar was absolutely perfect and despite the fact that it probably wouldn't be my first choice if I were to return to a gay strip club in Montreal, there was something so hypnotic about the place. The strippers were definitely the B team of Montreal strippers, guys that could not make it to Campus or Stud. Their bodies were not on point, their dance moves were definitely not on point, and many of the guys were wearing old, saggy briefs that did them no compliments. A French-Canadian boy felt up my cock when I was peeing in the bathroom. I looked at him and he said he did not mean to offend. I told him he did not offend. I think he was embarrassed though and left the bar soon after. As much as the two of us were fascinated by this train wreck of a bar, we eventually wanted to see some sexy naked men again and so headed back to Campus.
I am now in my thirtieth year on this planet and still no closer to being bored by the sight of naked men than I was when I was a young boy and looking at the naked men I would occasionally see in gym locker rooms. That there are things that can still manage to hold my interest after so many years and in such an intense way is a great thing.
There is a table for me in a few decades at Taboo, where I will be hopefully drinking something stronger than water. The pleasure I got from seeing these audience members was that of a kinship and of a knowledge that this is something that will never bore me, that when everything else does, there will still be young flesh to gaze upon, the human form to admire, bodies to long over.