It’s been quiet here on the site over the last month or so, and with good reason.
I said good-bye to Montreal in October after living there, with a few short stints in other cities, since the late 1990s, and am posting this from way out in the woods. Well, maybe not waaaay out in the woods, but when I look out my window now I see mountains instead of a bustling city street, and at night there’s nothing but the soft glow of the stars to light the darkness that surrounds out new home.
Truth be told, I’ve wanted out for quite a while. As much as Montreal was the right place for me to be for a very long time, changes to both the city and me as a person have conspired to push us further and further apart. I thought I’d never, ever, leave, but this entire process has taught me a lot about myself and the foolishness of pretending I’ll know what tomorrow’s Benjamin will want out of life.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years writing about Montreal in our graphic novel Code 45, and that link continues into Dead Air (which sets some of the action within the city’s borders). I don’t expect that to change, as spending so much of my life there has ingrained it into my soul. That being said, so much of my storytelling takes place in a version of the city that no longer exists, a Montreal of the past that I connect with in a very different way than the one in our current timeline.
When I left the city this month, I expected it to be emotional. I loved my home, where I’d been for exactly 10 years, but I was surprised to discover how quickly I put the hustle and bustle of the metropolis behind me. Coming back onto the island for professional commitments, and as part of what seemed like a never-ending moving process, felt more like interruptions to the much more peaceful, and isolated lifestyle I had chosen in the country than they did a return to something familiar and comfortable.
I now realize that exploring the stories of Code 45 and Dead Air has worked as a way for me to work through my feelings about the move. Writing these books has allowed me to mourn a Montreal that disappeared long ago, the one that first drew me with its charms and then convinced me to stay on and build a life there.
The lofts and warehouses I once used for raves have largely been bulldozed, converted either into highways, clout-chasing restaurant experiences, or row after row of identical condo buildings. The entire city is increasingly squeezing out the few remaining underground music venues, galleries, and gathering spots for Montreal’s artistic community, in favor of plans that line the pockets of developers without any consideration for what they are doing to the fabric of the city itself.
It’s no exaggeration to say that leaving Montreal is the best way for me to preserve my relationship with it. I’m happy to be able revisit the Montreal in my heart, on the page, without being forced to co-exist with the one I’ve fallen out of love with.
I’ve only been in our new home for a short while, but I already feel energized and inspired. Being able to move very close to the same area I grew up in, which is astonishing in its natural beauty, has helped me relax and let go of a lot of the stress I’d been carrying during my final few years in Montreal. I’m excited to direct that energy into Dead Air, a story that also has strong ties to this region of Quebec, and one which continues to help me bridge the major changes happening in my own life.