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Plight of the Spoonman

by Archives January 12, 2005

For many people, especially students, the surrounding environment is something that becomes an integral part of one’s existence. There is a certain degree of comfort in knowing that something, or someone, will always be there to remain a consistent part of our lives, unless of course we decide we want them, or it, to cease from being such. This is the problem that Montreal, more specifically the Pester McGill ward, is having with spoon-playing busker Cyrille Esteve who has long entertained passersby in front of the Ogilvy’s on Ste-Catherine St.

When it comes to larger, more widespread elements of our environment, it may take an exhaustive amount of time to eliminate them from our lives. However, when concerned with more minute details like the one Esteve is regarded as, we tend to be more efficient. It’s for this reason that those who put forth a bylaw to outlaw spoon-playing in an effort to displace Esteve from his current post, should be considering why they are having so much trouble.

While customer complaints have apparently been the motivation behind the ban, it should send a message to the borough that public reaction to Esteve hasn’t been strong enough to force him from abandoning the spot altogether. If such a large segment of pedestrians and customers held him in as much contempt as those complaining, then he would have likely departed of his own will to avoid the ridicule. Fortunately, that’s not the way this city operates, Montreal residents tend to be more accepting of those doing what they can to survive, or to make their lives more fulfilling.

With that in mind, Esteve should be congratulated for not backing down against the borough, as he continues to make his music heard. Although he isn’t permitted to play the spoons, he has taken up the castanets instead, an instrument that wasn’t included in the ban.

Whether we want to accept it or not, people like Esteve play a big part in making Montreal what it is, and provide it with a character that is unique from most other cities. It would be easy to ostracize others like him who take up residence on sidewalks, whether they be asking for spare change or entertaining the masses with one of the many street performances that we have grown accustomed to.

It’s hard to imagine what the streets would be like without the blind woman and her seeing-eye dog, which makes you weep a little inside when you see the two of them. Then there is the always determined individual carrying around the “1 cent for a smile” sign. One also can’t forget about the war vet standing at the foot of the escalator at Guy Metro or the banana/water gun totting, “my brother from a different mother” man that frequently greets you after you exit the metro.

If anyone can appreciate the value that these people serve in giving a sense of normality in our daily lives, it is the student population of Concordia University. If Esteve were standing outside Ogilvy’s and yelling obsenities out of a megaphone, then pherhaps those high-hat elitists seeking his dismissal would have a valid argument. But one would be hard-pressed to find a student of this school who would walk by this street musician and whose initial reaction would be to file a complaint.

There are those that would accuse all these twenty-somethings of being too passive and fun-loving, but really we’re just the more sensible of the lot.

Hopefully, Cyrille Esteve will be allowed to play on for as much longer, as he deems fit for himself and his audience. Yet, should he ultimately be forced to depart from the spot that he has earned to keep, it can only be hoped that someone just as familiar and unpretentious will take his place.

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