Boreal

Thursdays

Montréal's Crescent Street is where booze, beautiful women and bawdiness effortlessly mix. The three downtown blocks north from the city's main east-west thoroughfare, St Catherine Street, may not have all the best bars and restaurants of the second largest French-speaking city on the planet but it may have the most per square feet.

Cosmopolitan Crescent Street attracts a more eclectic crowd then its main party rival, St Denis Street, about a dozen blocks east, where bars and restaurants become bistros and cafés.

On Crescent Street, tourists, visiting businessmen, government officials, politicians, the Montreal Canadians, your sister, your brother... seem to loose all their inhibitions.

On Crescent Street, it’s not just a cliché, you do meet the most interesting people.

On Crescent Street there is a two story building with two spacious outdoor balconies. One is an extension of a well appointed dining room which takes up the entire top floor; the other, an extension of the first floor Cheers-like bar, only bigger. Beneath it all is a night club where disco went to die, and found a new lease on life.

The building, the restaurant, the bar and the disco is called Thursdays or in French "Les Beaux Jeudis", but even its French clientele call it Thursdays.

Thursdays is linked via a short underground tunnel to the Hotel de la Montagne, the preferred hotel for visiting businessmen, Spanish soccer players and others looking for more than a spacious well appointed rooms with mirrors on the ceiling.

Across the street from the Hotel de la Montagne is The Vogue where rock stars or Formula One drivers stash their mistresses or girl friends or discreetly entertain, or are entertained by Montréal’s abundant and accommodating cabaret girls working at the nearby strip clubs.

Across from Thursdays, slightly to the right, is Ziggy’s, a small pub where the late, great and lamented Mordecay Richler could be found. Then there’s Sir Winston Churchill’s Pub (Winnies) just next to Thursdays, an establishment almost as famous as Thursdays, but without the Cheers-like atmosphere or the intimacy of Thursdays’ disco.

I spent a lot of evenings at Thursdays.

If it was early in the evening it was ground floor Thursdays where I would sometimes meet with some of the regulars. More often than not, we would end up at Thursdays' fine restaurant.

If it was late in the evening it was underground Thursdays, the disco bar. After 11 p.m. this was the place to be if you wanted a little impromptu entertainment with that nightcap.

Even if underground Thursdays was a disco bar, you did not have to listen to Donna Summers (thank goodness), though you might get a nice slice of the Bee Gees. Mostly it’s was fairly recent hits set to a disco beat. Even Celine Dion got the disco treatment, and it was not always successful, making the Quebec Diva sound more like The Chipmunks than an accomplished and talented singer.

In Thursdays' disco and bar your bartender was, more often than not, a well dressed maturing man  job security – courtesy, I was told, of the Teamsters. Your floor staff however was usually lovely, pleasant young ladies.

The presence of so many graying bartenders and bartenders with the Andre Agasi shaved heads to hide a receding, or none-existent hair line had its appeal. For me, it was the feeling that I was not the only mature male in the place when the place started filling up, and young women and young men started to outnumber the graying and balding set.

What some might consider deviant-behaviour in a public establishment like Thursdays can take on many forms, but it was never tacky and the performers tended to dress a cut above, and their performance bawdy but in good taste, if you can appreciate the contradiction.

Thursdays was dedicated to promoting romance of whatever variety, from Harlequin to the one night sex adventure with a stranger. The only stipulation was, if it’s going to occur near or on the premises it has to be between consenting adults of the opposite sex, and if it's not of the Harlequin variety, it has to be discreet.

Of course, you can’t really do the full parallel in a public bar of Thursdays’ stature, though women have been observed puffing on something somewhat larger than a cigarette.

If getting off in a public place was not your thing or too risky there was always the Hotel de la Montagne’s coat room. I am sure that more than one patron who has left his or her coat in the care of the hotel staff has found Monica Lewinsky-like stains on their coats which they mistakenly attributed to slushy Montreal sidewalks.

Make trouble, or try to impress your girlfriend with the gun you're carrying, and you were quietly and quickly surrounded by three or four police officers who, moving to the rhythm of the crowd, would literally carry you out of the establishment.

Thursday’s disco was not only a hangout for the young, the restless and dirty old men in business suits. On certain days of the week, it was the the preferred gathering place for women of all ages; single, engaged, married, divorced or widowed seeking a discreet multicultural encounter, or looking to rob the cradle, if only for one night.

Thursdays went out of its way to please them. After midnight, if the supply was not up to the demand, an "Exit Only" door leading to an outside staircase would be discreetly opened and the balance between supply and demand re-established.

As an undergraduate at Simon Fraser University, I took a course in Female Psychology. The course recommended talking and listening to the object of your affection as the best way get her to respond to your advances.

At Thursdays that approach was a complete waste of time, except with the party girl who was looking to settle down with somebody who could take care of her and another man's progeny. Boldness, firm probing hands boldly grabbing the object of your affection à la Michael Douglas in Basic Instinct was the modus operandi of the more successful seducers.

I wasn't much interested in the twenty-something crowd; their life experiences, which often included stripping at the many strip clubs just around the corner on St Catherine made for short conversations. And you knew they were not attracted to you because they could not find a boyfriend closer to their own age.

With the thirthy-something it was different, and it was not just the aging thirthy-something party-girl looking to finally settle down and deciding that you were the one, married or not.

I enjoyed letting the universe unfold in unpredictable ways as long as it did not interfere with tomorrow's commitments. It made for the most pleasant evenings, often in the company of career women who were at Thursdays to relax after a hard day's work, and wishing do the same.

If you are going to have a mid-life crisis Crescent Street may be the place to have it, as long as you are aware of the dangers and your wife is understanding.

On this middle-aged man's fantasy street is where, thanks to Bell Canada Enterprises who required my services as computer consultant and systems analyst, I rented, for almost three years, a tastefully decorated one-bedroom apartment at the only hotel on Crescent Street, the Chateau Royale, across from Thursdays.

--------

Thursdays was not all about hedonistic pleasures, far from it. There was also a lot of sadness. On referendum night 1995 I missed most of it consoling a nurse who had just lost an elderly patient. She was giving him a bath when she was called away for a few minutes, when she returned he had drowned.

On another occasion it was a young woman who had recently been diagnosed with uterine cancer ...

Bernard Payeur

Serendipity