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Up All Night in Moncton, New Brunswick

We didn’t know what we were going to get ourselves into. We had just spent a week camping and hiking on the sparsely populated Gaspé Peninsula and were about to enter our first “real” city in days. The last time we had gotten a couple drinks and went out into the Canadian night we had nearly gotten into a confrontation with a local. This time? All we knew about Moncton was that it held about 70,000 people, that it used to be a major transportation hub for the Maritimes and that it had bars in it that would be open and serving beer.

We had hoped that we could turn this into a “CPC North” of sorts by bringing the swagger of the College Point Class Conflict Pub Crawls with us, but that plan quickly went by the wayside. Despite Moncton’s blue-collar roots we found the downtown bars around Main Street to have no edge of class conflict or any resistance to outsiders. If anything, Moncton felt more like a Midwestern college town during summer break – it was full of Irish pubs, gastropubs, talkative bartenders and a host of young people. None of this stopped us from drinking, mind you… it just took the edge of a CPC out of the air.

By the time the 2AM curfew drew near we were seated on the patio of the St. James Gate, one of the few bars that had been blaring music all night. The Gate remained crowded as the night wound down and we watched its patrons fight over cabs as they left group by group. As sports go, it was easier than watching Canadian football since the rules of Guido Cab Battle are the same all over North America.

As the final cab battles were fought, the three of us split up: one back to the hotel, two to stay out. The only place on our list that we hadn’t been to was Angie’s, the strip club in neighboring Dieppe, but the thought of “should two guys with cameras really head to the strip club?” never crossed our minds. By that point all thoughts had turned to pizza.

Conveniently, down the block from the Gate was Cut Throat Pizza, which appeared to be the last stop on the drinking express in downtown Moncton. Their sign proclaimed the “pizza of the month” as “spaghetti and meatball pizza” only it sounded special like education instead of like it belonged on a blue plate. We opted for a couple slices of pepperoni, chatted with the people at the counter for a moment and headed back out into the night.

Main Street was quiet save for the odd partier hailing a cab, a construction crew working on new bank and the garbage men making their rounds. Late night revelry was turning over to the overnight night workings of a city. With traffic at its ebb, we got a clearer picture of our surroundings.

Standing above many of the buildings of Moncton was the obelisk outside the city hall. Tall, white and round, it was the kind of monument built in centuries past, only now it had satellite dishes jutting out of it – the future literally perched on top of the past.

Rather than stand and ponder this phallic symbol of progress we went back for more pizza.

This being our second time in the shop, we talked with the Cut Throat crew more and tried the poutine pizza (“We’re kinda known for our weird pizza” the counter girl explained). The bars had long since closed and we were just about the only customers, so like many other young people working the overnight shift, the staff was chatty and looking to pass some time. We paid for the slices (double wide and heavy from being covered in fries and gravy) and headed back outside to eat them. The staff followed.

The four of us stood outside the pizza shop for a while talking and taking the odd photo. The conversation was like any other late night conversation among two pairs of strangers: who are you, who are we, what’s what and why… you try to figure out a little about the other people and where they’re from and what they’re about. Our hosts turned out to be good people.

Rebecca was Acadian and had moved to Moncton to study to be a Phys. Ed. teacher, but hadn’t finished. Tommy was covered in tattoos and was a promoter for the local music scene. The two of them acted with the casual ease of people who have worked long hours together without many other people to talk to, but there was no hint of a desperate need to talk to new people. They were just friendly and maybe a little bored.

We were still eating our poutine pizza when they led us back inside. Tommy and Rebecca showed us around their shop, bringing out the pirate mascot that had been locked away to protect it from the drunks and explaining a little about Moncton through the rock flyers and memorabilia on the walls. We knew they liked us when Rebecca squared off a section of the wall for us to sign, an honor that seemed to have been only given to bands previously.

At one point an older customer came in looking like he had just escaped a Harvey Pekar comic, followed by the third worker whose name we never got and who seemed less excited to have two weirdoes with cameras hanging around the shop. He wasn’t hostile or openly annoyed, but it wasn’t much longer before we said our goodbyes and left the pizza shop. Cut Throat stays open until 5AM and there were pizzas waiting to be made.

As we walked down the deserted streets toward the hotel the third pizzaman passed us. Back in the shop it was hard to tell if he had been more busy or brusque, but now in the street he waved as he made a late night delivery.

We entered our hotel room and got ready to pass out to the sound of light snoring coming from the shadows. Next to each of our beds was a note from our slumbering comrade: “Poutine Pizza / Holy Shit / Good.

He had been to Cut Throat.

And maybe it was really that simple. All night we had seen Monctonians out with their friends, having a few drinks, talking to new people and getting some pizza. There were no Class Conflict confrontations, no wacky stories about a foreign strip club, nothing out of the ordinary. Just a regular night out — in Moncton, the Midwest or anywhere really. We had come from the remote Gaspé Peninsula expecting to clash with civilization and instead had a mirror held up to us. Yes, we were outsiders traveling through town, but just like the locals all we really needed on a Thursday night were a few friends, a couple drinks and some pizza.

See the accompanying “Up All Night in Moncton, New Brunswick” photo gallery on Flickr:

 

Text: Dan Meade
Photos: Dan Meade, Rob Bellinger
September 24, 2012

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