From an old website, Alien in Montreal
Barraca brings back hazy memories of an extremely long and confusing film, watched at mostly-naked hippy festivals, some years ago. So, I'm loaded with these connections when I wander in, at about 7pm on a Tuesday.
It's thin, and artsy, but cosy and well lit too. There's a terrace at the back that reminds me of my Dad's back garden, and a long bar where expert and inexpert barstaff alike mix cocktails and count their tips in quieter moments.
I take a seat at the bar and try to scan the beer pumps before the barmaid reaches me. She arrives too soon and I decide on the closest – St. Ambroise.
I order a pint of it. She barmaid stares at me with a look of incomprehension.
I try again, pointing too. She looks at the pump, and then cranes her head around to the front to see what on earth it was that I'm trying to say so badly. She gives me a look which is a mix of amusement and weariness.
I start to remember that St. Ambroise is pronounced something difficult like 'ahmbrwah', and not like my Anglicised version of 'am-broze'.
The barmaid now makes the usual gestures of 'big glass', 'little glass' rather than trying to speak to me any longer. I make a 'big glass' sign and try and smile convincingly.
When I get my pint it's missing a lot of beer, so I ask for a top up using international bar sign language. She doesn't mind.
Then a young woman comes and sits very close to me on the next barstool. There are plenty of barstools further away, but she chooses the one next to me.
She orders a drink and then sits there fiddling with her fingers, or rubbing her thighs with her hands. A tension builds.
I imagine what it would be like for me if I wasn't married in this city, and was trying to meet women in bars. Difficult, I conclude. If I have trouble ordering beer and talking about the weather, then what hope would I have?
We sit in silence, side by side, for fifteen minutes until her boyfriend arrives, finally. I'm thankful as they get up and leave. A few minutes later my barmaid arrives with plates full of tapas and drinks. She looks at the empty barstool next to me and says to me, 'Did you see them leave?' In English.