Recently, I went to Bar Pam Pam, a mysterious old-man bar in my neighborhood that I have often passed but never had the courage to enter. My friend Murray and I asked what was on tap, and the owner said, “Vieux Montreal” and stopped there. I liked that—it was like an old-time saloon. What kind of beer do you have? Just beer, stranger. This bar was wonderful, genuine, unmanufactured focus-group atmosphere, no loud music and a welcome refuge from hipsters and young people. The old-man bar, like many old men, is an institution that is dying out. It made me think of all of the other old-man bars that I know and love in Montreal. Come with me, I’ll show you …
Bar Pam Pam
I’ve already told you the appeal of this little gem, mere footsteps from my home! But a few notes from my visit there are worth the telling. A tipsy woman took out her guitar, randomly sang “Me and Bobby McGee” in heavily accented English, put the guitar back in its case, and continued drinking. No one else clapped or even seemed to notice this performance. Later, a heavy, bearded dude came in, and the bartender immediately brought a pitcher and glass to his table.
“Why you bring this? You never see me before,” said the bearded man.
“My friend, every night you come, this I know,” said the bartender, with a smile that was met by one from the bearded man. This was obviously their ritual.
I live in a neighborhood in Montréal called Parc X. Now, I confess this sounds a lot more ghetto-y and gangsta than it actually is. It’s really a hard-working, largely immigrant neighborhood that is in imminent danger of being overrun by white hipsters.
We do literally go through a hole in a fence from our slum to take our son to his school in the neighboring wealthy Anglophone area, but the fact that he wears a fancy school uniform does slightly tarnish our street cred, I admit.
Montréal’s ostensibly a French-speaking city, but the French language is rarely heard in my mostly Greek and Pakistani neighborhood. I am neither French, Greek, nor Pakistani and speak none of their languages with proficiency, so I’m perpetually an outcast, though I am, by nature, a bit of a Zelig, attempting and failing to ever fit in. Always the pale, white, cultureless bridesmaid.
It was Easter recently, which this year not only coincided with Greek Easter, or “Greece-ster,” as I sensitively and cleverly have named it, but also Passover. In the French-speaking world of Quebec, Passover is noted on French calendars as “Paque Juive,” or Jewish Easter (!), which my Jewish homeys find offensive based on the fact that Passover preceded Easter and therefore should not be relegated to Easter-spin-off status. Oh people, why can’t we all just get along?