This means I’ve seen Verdun change quite a bit since the 50s and 60s when the businesses on Wellington Street were thriving. We had a large variety of nice stores, people used to come from all over the island to shop here, we even had 3 movie theatres.
Nowadays we have 3 metro stations, but Wellington Street is hideous and the whole energy has changed for the worse — at least it has in my part of town, near De l’Église metro:
Ugly graffiti everywhere. Too many pizza joints. Crappy vacant lots.
There are more deranged souls roaming around. Mounting numbers of loud freaky people. Stabbings in broad daylight.
Ambulances and firetrucks and police cars come around regularly on account of all the drinking and fighting that go on in an apartment building nearby…
I’m telling you, dear reader, it can be
quite the Twilight Zone at times,
but it’s what I call home.
Naaah, it’s mostly that I’m stuck here.
So while I’m working hard to manifest my brighter future in greener pastures, I thought I’d share with you a snippet of my everyday life in beautiful downtown Verdun Beach — the life of a work-from-home blogger & doodler who calls herself a Certified Giggle Coach and drives an imaginary bus.
The following events happened yesterday…
It’s 3:15 in the afternoon. I’ve been working at the computer for much too long and I need a break. I leave my desk (in the front) and walk over to the kitchen (in the back) to put the kettle on and make myself a pot of tea.
I drink 3 to 4 pots a day.
Peppermint or green.
I notice there’s a police car parked in the lane in front of my neigh- bour’s yard, and the neighbour in question — a tall, slender, sixty-ish man with yellow grey hair who moved nextdoor 3 months ago — is talking to the policeman sitting at the wheel.
I crack open the patio door just in time to see the guy who lives three doors away — short, scrawny, around 45, with a shaved head and a six-inch goatee — come stomping through knee-high snow, screaming at the top of his lungs PÉDOPHILE! PÉDOPHILE! and pointing an aggressive finger in my neighbour’s direction.
To my astonishment, the neighbour seems unperturbed by the grave accusations being thrown at him and carries on talking to the cop, raising his voice in order to be heard over Goatee Guy’s bark: he’s complaining about the fact Goatee Guy’s car is parked in his driveway.
SIDE NOTE: Goatee Guy has been living in that building
for over 5 years and got along just fine with the previous
nextdoor neighbour who let him use his driveway.
Ticked off by my neighbour’s rant concerning the parking space, Goatee Guy’s language gets more foul and he hurls away about how the neighbour entertains little girls and how he always has his hand down his trousers.
Calm as a pallbearer, my neighbour retaliates dully with stuff like, Ooooh that’s what yoooou think… That’s yoooour opinion…
This puts Goatee Guy in a FURY!
Shaking and drooling, he runs to his car, gets in, climbs out again, and proceeds to spit more profanities at the neighbour who’s walking back to his flat. After the neighbour disappears inside, Goatee Guy stumbles through the knee-high snow back to his own flat.
The policeman — a young fellow with dark cropped hair, no cap, who has remained seated and silent throughout the exchange — moves his car backwards 10 feet and parks it in front of my housing co-op’s yard.
All is calm.
The kettle whistles.
I pour the water
into the teapot.
More screams = Goatee guy is at it again!
I dash to the patio door…
Standing beside his car, Goatee Guy’s waving his fist at the neighbour’s house, hollering how he wants to make sure the WHOLE NEIGHBOURHOOD knows that he’s a bleepin PAEDOPHILE.
Out of breath and red as a baboon’s behind, he boards his beat-up sedan, slams the door, lowers the window to holler some more, guns the engine — wheels spin, snow flies — and zigzags out of the driveway, onto the lane, and out of sight.
Capless Cop, still in reverse, moves backwards a few yards, then switches to forward and follows on his trail.
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.
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 charmof 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.
As I was saying in a previous post, I did a lot
of sitting in the first year and a half of my life,
which explains why I started to get bored at a
very young age.
It’s a good thing I had Kitty.
Kitty was a bull terrier.
Maybe not bull terrier through and through — you can tell she probably had some other breed in her — but whatever pedigree or lack thereof, she was my very first friend.
I remember my mom telling me, when I was about seven or eight, how Kitty helped me learn how to walk. She said I would grab onto Kitty’s short coat of hair and follow her as she slowly dragged me through the house or around the balcony.
Hearing this story for the first time, at seven or eight, I found it quite funny and cute. But once I dove into depression, at thirty and forty and fifty, the anecdote turned into a sad, gloomy, soul crippling tragedy. It meant that my mom had been SO busy that she hadn’t even bothered to guide me as I took my first steps on this planet. The word abandonment was a popular one when discussing my early childhood with my therapist.
Now that I’m healed (stand up and shout HALLELUJAH!)
I’ve gone back to finding the story funny and cute.
I can finally appreciate how patient Kitty was with me,
and how much she must have loved me. It fills me with
joy each time I think of her…my very first friend.
Question du jour: Did you have a special friend when you were a toddler?