Culture | Blogging the metropolis

The passion of Kristian Gravenor for all things Montreal

Finding interesting blogs is difficult, because they have to be so many things at once. You should enjoy reading it. You should be able to read it in public and create envy among others; maybe a couple of people with good eyesight should jot down the name of the blog. It should be hip but not too hip, mainstream but not too mainstream. The background should be nice, the font should be nice, the colours, the pictures, the format should be nice.

The best writing is found, however, in the most unexpected blogs. The ones that do not necessarily impress the guy sitting next to you on the metro, but the ones that want to make you wish you could string together words like those on the screen if only with the hopes to understand life better or something.

Coolopolis, a blog by Kristian Gravenor, is just that – an unexpected and pleasant surprise, a blog so great I didn’t want to share with anyone. Then it would be like Kings of Leon, and soon everybody would know about it and the situation would just go downhill after that. Regardless, having spent some time reading it, I’ve come to realize it’s a hidden gem on the internet, and somebody needs to put it on StumbleUpon, because it needs to be discovered.

Most blogs about cities are just condensed, easier-to-read versions of travel guides, but Coolopolis stands out among the rest. As Gravenor aptly states on the blog itself, it is “[his] twisted, unique take on Montreal,” one that does not promote the city through restaurant recommendations, but rather focuses on crime, politics, and land use in Montreal. Gravenor says that he writes about what he feels passionate about and interests him, and over the last six years, the feedback and response he’s received has encouraged him to continue. The comments, he describes, are a “love affair, man,” and only rarely does it become YouTube-esque.

Kristian Gravenor is a great conversationalist. Some people just have a way with words, are effortlessly talented with them, and Gravenor is one of those people. With his love for a good story and desire to share what he discovers with others, Gravenor’s enthusiasm and good nature is reflected in both his writing and conversation. Even though he used to write for the Montreal Mirror, which he believes is where he learned to develop an ear for an offbeat story, Gravenor realized it was not what he wanted to do. However, that is exactly where he finds himself today: a part time, or as he calls it, a “wanna-be” journalist. He also works as a realtor on the side, about which he has published The Confessions of a Slumlord, along with his best-selling book, Montreal: The Unknown City.

Born and raised in Westmount, Gravenor currently lives in downtown Montreal. Having spent his whole life here (with a few years in Vancouver to spare), Gravenor cannot imagine moving somewhere else, though he argues, “it would have to be warmer.” He finds Montreal a magical place, and feels a profound connection to the city. Gravenor sees Montreal as “hallowed ground,” and his love for the city is evident in his reflection of the city in Coolopolis. Gravenor says that through his blog he has found others that share his “weird passion,” and that working in a domain that interests him has lead to a profound sense of enjoyment.

Not only is Coolopolis Gravenor’s passion, it is also an implicit rebuttal to the mainstream media. He believes the mainstream Canadian media should be challenged because, he argues, they are scared, and he would love to see an energized, stronger media tradition rooted in the country. He holds that the media are swayed too much by the government and powerful corporations. Though Gravenor does appreciate the resources the mainstream media have provided him with, he believes this wealth of knowledge should become available to everyone, which is one of the reasons he writes Coolopolis.

Gravenor writes about a variety of things, ranging from the Montreal mafia to “bonding through music in the internet age,” from Montreal in the 1920s to the largest cocaine busts in the city’s history. But though Gravenor covers dense topics (such as homicide or Montreal prisons), his personal and simplistic approach makes it intriguing for even the least curious of readers. Even if history, politics, or criminology is not your thing, this blog is the best way to learn about those aspects of Montreal, from a true Montrealer.

As a sucker for political criticism and a good put-down, I cannot explain the number of times I smile while reading Kristian Gravenor’s entries, especially those pertaining to Montreal’s government and judicial system, both past and present. It is not everyday someone stands up to call governmental leaders “squeaky-voiced men that [make] Mrs. Doubtfire look like the Hulk.” Gravenor proves that having an obsession with the past does not have to come at the expense of humour.

However, Coolopolis is not only a ground for political statements – it is six years’ worth of information on Montreal’s history, culture, and land. Every once in a while, Gravenor even posts old photos of Montreal and asks where it was taken, though don’t feel bad if you can’t figure them out. Gravenor admits that he probably wouldn’t be able to guess them, either.

Read about Gravenor’s “twisted, unique take on Montreal” at coolopolis.blogspot.ca.


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