There are days so full of happiness,
days so serene and marvelous, that
they leave behind them a trail of
And this dust lingers on throughout the following days — caressing, bewitching — and the happiness becomes so intense that it feels as though we are constantly unwrapping a gift…a gift that just keeps on getting better and better.
For me, the magic happened on August 26, a hot and sunny Tuesday, by far one of the hottest and sunniest days of what had been, up to that date, a rather wet and dreary summer.
It all started with a rendez-vous scheduled for 1:00 pm at the corner of Saint-Denis and Mont-Royal, where I ended up waiting a good 40 minutes for my Twitter friend F. to show up.
I say a “good” 40 minutes, because even though I had to stand on the sidewalk all this time, I was having lots of fun singing songs in my head and soaking up the sun while comfortably leaning against the hot concrete wall of a busy café. Reggae baby!
As the wait slowly stretched, I felt like a hooker who was protecting her turf; entertained by this new game, I began greeting the passers-by with a big engaging smile. I was an old hooker — a retired hooker — not about to settle for any ol’ schmuck.
Mizz F. finally appeared, honking her horn. She swung open the car door and proceeded to apologize and enumerate her reasons for being late which all had to do with traffic, road repairs and detours. Don’t worry, I told her as I jumped in, let’s pick a restaurant, quick! By then it was almost 2:00 and the hooker was hungry.
We chose to eat on the shady side of Saint-Denis. Seated on the terrace of the Chuch (vege Thaï cuisine), we were happy to get acquainted face to face after months of e-mails and tweets.
The food was mmm exquisite. So was the conversation. We talked about our lives, our worries, our dreams, and we shared our plans to become rich and famous via the Internet. We were gettin’ high!
After the meal, we crossed over to the sunny side for a caffe latte, then we walked a bit and stopped for a cappuccino, and eventually we landed on the stairs that led to a bunch of stores. Pumped with caffeine, there we sat blabbing away, cracking ourselves up, trying not to forget the car and the soon-to-be-expired meter.
At 7:00 pm, F. was forced to leave — her cats and dogs were waiting for her at home. But no one was waiting for me, neither cats nor dogs, and I didn’t want the magic to end. I wanted to keep on enjoying the return of the summer; wanted to walk non-stop; wanted to squeeze every bit of happiness I could squeeze out of that day without missing a single drop. I had become a glutton!
I walked on Saint-Denis straight down to Sainte-Catherine where I turned west, and then I skillfully slalomed on the Cat between all the slow-pokes till I got to Sainte-Elisabeth Street and what is — at last! — the point of this story: The Door I mentioned in my September 8 post.
Yes folks, the door is here, on Sainte-Elisabeth Street.
The building with the cool graffiti holds an Asian restaurant. (I happen to love graffiti; the artsy kind, not the crappy tags.)
For as far back as I can remember, that place has always been an Asian restaurant; not the same one, of course, but always Asian. If you peek through the windows at the entrance on Sainte-Catherine, you can see that its glory days are over.
The brightly lit building at the end of the street is a pub, Le Sainte-Elisabeth.
MontrealPlus.ca has only good things to say about it:
One of The Best Bars in Montreal
Le Sainte-Elisabeth emulates the warmth and hospitality of age-old European pubs. Located in a building built in the 1930s, this pub still holds the charm of yesteryear, with heavy damask curtains lining the windows, a fireplace, polished oak bar tops and stained-glass lamps that lend a warm glow to the setting. This pub has been voted in the top ten of Montreal bars several times.
The Secret Garden
Walking into this pub, you wouldn’t know right away that Le Sainte-Elisabeth has a courtyard which is enclosed within 45 metre- high vine-covered walls. Walk to the back and you’ll see a courtyard terrace blooming with flowers and greenery during the warm months. The second floor of the pub also has a lovely glassed-in terrace that overlooks the enchanting courtyard.
charm of yesteryear,
But for me,
it will always be
You see, from the 1940s right up to his death in 1975, the building belonged to my father’s older brother Raymond who was a General Contractor.
When I was a kid, the first floor was home to one of my uncle’s employees who lived there with his wife and two children. The upper floors were divided into rooms, and these were occupied by a rather strange bunch of people, ranging from the dazed World War One vet who had lost his right ear, to the scary old drunk who zonked out on the stairs, to any one of a dozen or so prostitutes who were just passing by.
The basement — the dark, humid, foul-smelling basement — was where my uncle held his business, commonly referred to as “la shop.” Back then, the door that led to the rat-infested hole was painted grey and secured with a huge padlock.
My father worked for his brother. He was The Foreman.
As soon as my mom had her second child in 1954 — my brother Robert — Dad started taking me to la shop, on Saturdays or Sundays, in order to give my mom a break.
I was 3 and a half years old when Robert was born; I was a big girl now. I amused myself as best I could with what was available, looking at — not touching! — all the tools and equipment, but mostly I drew figures in the dirt and the sawdust.
During that period, my father would occasionally leave la shop for what I later came to understand were visits to whichever prostitute was on duty.
He did this when his friend was around and offered to keep an eye on me while he sat drinking beer in my uncle’s office.
But his friend didn’t just keep an eye on me. He sexually abused me.
So much for the warmth, hospitality,
and charm of my yesteryears!
On August 26, I walked up to that door as I had walked up to it so many times before. And that day, instead of feeling crushed by the weight of the pain, the sadness, the ugliness and the solitude, I felt at peace.
It happened in a flash — as if the heavy black soot that poisoned my soul all these years was instantly sucked out of every orifice in my body and replaced with a light so gentle, so warm, so genuinely good, that I almost lost my balance.
I was drunk with happiness…giddy…gaga.
Skipping and waltzing from one side of the street to the other, I took a whole bunch of pictures; I didn’t want to leave this energy.
But then I noticed the workers at the corner of Sainte-Catherine. Had they been there when I went by earlier on? I couldn’t remember.
I sashayed over to meet them, lured by the smell of freshly sawed wood, a smell so reminiscent of my childhood, my youth. I told the guy who was up in the ladder how much I loved that smell, how it reminded me of my dad who had been a carpenter.
And as soon as I said these words, I realized the grudge I held against my father for abandoning me behind that damn door had lifted. Gone. Evaporated. Blackbird, bye bye.
I was about to continue on my journey when I heard the song that was playing on the workers’ radio — The Times They Are A-Changing, by Bob Dylan. I couldn’t believe it! One of these days, I’ll tell you the story of my brother André (1957-1994), and you’ll understand why.
Dylan is my brother André.
And on August 26, he was
with me to celebrate.