Lew & Jay

Montreal: Day 2

As a former French student, I have always been slightly jealous that people in Quebec grow up speaking both French & English. It’s rare for an American to grow up speaking more than one language, unless their parent migrated from somewhere else. My family has been in America for so long that we don’t know where we’re from or what language we would’ve spoken.

But apparently, knowing two languages isn’t as cool to those who actually do. Lew & Jay can understand French, but they told me they don’t like to speak it. Jay was chill. Lew smiled big and he smiled a lot. I met them at a mural festival on my second night in Montreal. I approached them and asked what young adults do here for fun, but our conversation was much like a road trip. We made several stops. We lingered the longest on the topic of language.

Lew & Jay admitted when people ask them a question in French, they respond in English. Other young adults said the same thing. I wondered if it was a generational preference. I was surprised when they told me that not knowing French could lead to discrimination in certain parts of the province.

I responded that as an African American, I know discrimination well but felt safer in Montreal. They quickly explained that racial discrimination happens there too. Jay told me how he was followed around a store by someone who assumed he was stealing. It took me back to the days when I would shop along Harry Hines Blvd. in Dallas as a child. I realized that although we live hundreds of miles apart in two different countries, our skin color forces us to experience identical trials.

The similarities didn’t stop there. They explained if you don’t speak French in certain areas, some people will scoff at you, get annoyed and look down on you. In America, I’ve watched English speakers berate Spanish speakers and mock them on the news. I can remember getting frustrated with a Spanish speaker in the past. I was ashamed of myself afterward. How dare I not offer that person patience? How dare we only consider ourselves?

Lew & Jay had been to the States before and said they liked New York. When I told them I was from Kansas, they got excited, “That’s so cool! I’ve never heard anyone say that before.” They told me they traveled around the U.S. while playing basketball growing up.

They suggested I try a Canadian dish called la poutine (french fries covered in gravy & cheese curds). When I made a slightly disgusted face, Jay exclaimed, “What was that face?! It’s a national treasure!” I told them I tried it the night before. The cheese curds reminded me of a bad experience I had in Michigan. I couldn’t get past it. Lew kindly suggested I try it with shredded mozzarella cheese, but “that’s not real poutine.”

If there’s one thing I know for sure: THERE WILL BE NO DRAKE SLANDER AROUND THEM! I asked who they thought won the battle between Drake & Pusha T.

Jay: “Maybe he’s [Drake] just being the bigger man.”

Lew: “I really can’t pick a side. They’re both great artists.”

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