Radio Free Montréal (from The Barnstormer)

THERE ARE FEW THINGS I love as I love Montréal. My family. My friends. August and September of 2005. The Silver Jews third and fourth albums, American Water andBright Flight. The second ‘l’ in ‘llama’. The writings of Padgett Powell. 5am. An unnamed inlet tucked beneath the rainforest on Costa Rica’s Peninsula de Nicoya. A girl I met at a club in Copenhagen in 1995. A small scar on a forgotten cheek. Most of these things I can carry with me. They travel well. They are memory and fingerprint, inspiration, late night recollection at familiar tables soaked in drink and freckled in ash. Montréal is the hardest to transport, the most difficult affection to keep in my pocket, reveal in anecdotes, break silences. Montréal is a complicated love.

I know that when I am in Montréal, I feel very much at home. I feel safe. I feel true. And when I left Montréal in early October of 2011, there was nothing I loved that I could tangibly take with me. I could not pack my friends. I could not ask her to follow. I could not convince them to come with me, to Toronto, to the enemy. I had my memories, but Montréal memories are tainted in drink, and painted in rich hues of nostalgia and fiction. While away, while separated from my love, trapped in an adulterous long distance relationship, I was always able to turn to the therapy of radio, and feel at home in the comforting tones of TSN 990, Montréal’s all-sports radio station. This past week came news that TSN 990 will likely be shuttered, a victim of CRTC regulations and media avarice. Looks like I’ll have to move home.

I don’t understand the exact reasons for 990 transitioning from English to French all-sports radio. Bell bought Astral, I guess. The CRTC regulates that any one company may only own three English language radio stations in the Montréal market. The easiest, most financially viable switch was to throw the RDS banner over the TSN one, and call it a day. It’s simple, really: a big company bought another big company, and then people lost their jobs. This is not a unique story in 2012, unfortunately. Bell Canada Enterprises Inc. recorded $574 million in profit in this year’s first quarter, on revenues of $4.9 billion. You can see why they’d need to buy Astral Communications. Who can live on $4.9 billion a quarter? But I get it. We live in a capitalist society. More is more. A lot is never enough. I’m not naïve. But Montréal lost another Anglo media outlet, and I lost my long distance relationship. And in the long run, neither of those things are any good.

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