Summer Salad

A while back, I heard an angry mother on a radio phone-in show declare that there was no way she would allow her kids to be transferred from a defunct English school in a nearby district to one in the Point because “there’s open warfare down there.”

Now that school has started, I’d like to reassure the concerned parents of neighbouring districts that we’ve learned to handle the warfare because it rarely involves civilians. The real problem is something quite different.  As we know, much of the Point is built on a landfill of garbage and debris that grew like a tumour on the original St. Lawrence shoreline. And where you have garbage, what else have you got? Right. Bears.

I took this video a few weeks ago. Even the militias (as they like to call themselves) will stand together for a few minutes to gawk at the bears before returning to their noisy arguments with Soviet-era weapons.

When these 400-kilogram brutes (the bears, not the gunmen–most of whom look like they really could use a square meal and a clean pair of sweat pants) turn up on your doorstep as you’re dragging out the bags on garbage day it just scares the living bejesus out of you. Monday night, a lively old lady who gets around with a walker had a garbage bag torn out of her hands when a bear smelled the remains of a salmon dinner inside it. Fixing this problem is where the Point St. Charles warriors should be using their energy instead of taking pot shots at each other in the old CN Yards.

Think of old ladies. Think of the school children. Shoot the bears. The meat can be distributed to the poor, the tanning and dying of hides can provide the raw material for rugs, coats, and hats for the carriage trade, and the increased tax revenue can be earmarked for civic improvement.

What’s not to like about that?

***

The Wellington Café has re-opened with a new owner, Bob Hliaras, and a deli menu starring, in particular, Bob’s hand-sliced, lean smoked meat. The sidewalk tables, flower boxes, music, and imported beer are a welcome display of economic and social life. Maria Stergiou, herself a recent immigrant to the Point (“I came here to find peace of mind”) looks after the tables and argues vociferously with Bob in Greek.

Patricia and I just finished one of Bob’s smoked meat sandwiches. The nachos and tzatziki included with the smoked meat platter are a little peculiar in combination but, no matter, it was all good. Bob’s a good guy. His place deserves a visit.

As long as I’m reporting from the street, I have to note that the Wellington Café’s next-door neighbour is an anarchist organization that meets every Thursday from 5 to 9 pm. Their street address—swear to God—is 1984.

***

We continue, of course, to work on the house. In particular, the last annoying bits of demo on the ground floor, in the old stairwell at the back of the house, and in the stairwell entrance at the front. The temperature, with Humidex kicked in, was parked at around 41 degrees C. The dubious pleasures of demo have been amplified by the useless old blown-in cellulose insulation that cascades from the ceiling every time I remove a new strip of lath. That, and the ancient dust beneath it, stick to my sweaty body and shirt like fur.

For some reason, I didn’t previously write about the one-man removal of the two old water heaters in the basement. They had been emptied, of course, but getting them up the stairs and around the corner at the top of the stairs was a trial.

I used a $20 block and tackle I picked up at Canadian Tire, anchored it to studs and joists and hauled away.

Disentangling all those ropes from the intricate system of pulleys has given me a new and profound respect for the engineers who designed the system a couple of thousand years ago.

About Terence Byrnes

Terence Byrnes is a writer and photographer who teaches at Concordia University in Montreal. Visit www.terencebyrnes.com to see his photography.
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2 Responses to Summer Salad

  1. Ed Ward says:

    Hate to burst the bubble, but you’re not going to make many friends among the poor by giving them bear meat. It’s incredibly tough (although the paws are alleged to make good eating, and I actually saw some for sale in Berlin’s famous KaDeWe food hall before the store was sold to a chain), and the flavor is pretty rank. Where bears are of use culinarily is with their fat, which is probably best harvested in the winter when they’re hibernating. Properly rendered, it was, in colonial times, considered far superior to hog lard for pie crust. Of course, with enough yuppies in the Point, this fact can be manipulated using words like “traditional” and “artisinal” to your advantage. You won’t need the poor — or, if you’re careful about it, be poor yourself!

    • Ahh, true as far as it goes, but incomplete. Bear meat is often nasty, but it depends on the time of the year and age of the animal. That said, it’s my least favourite form of gibier. It’s even worse if you don’t take out the tendons and any bloodshot meat. Frequently, Canadian hunters make their game meats (moose and bear, in particular) into sausage. And there we go. There are two Polish sausage makers in the Point that I know of, so we have the infrastructure already in place.

      Also, winter harvesting sounds good in theory, but they’re harder to find when they’re holed up and their entrances are covered in snow.

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