Our mean-spirited winter and my recently acquired physical debilities have made me a little more philosophical about this project. We’re now 3 ½ years into it, with no end in sight. I’m particularly conscious of this because our new neighbour across the back lane hired a contractor to gut and renovate his place and it was done in something like 6 months. I’m envious but, on sunny days, I do wander around downstairs appreciating the potential of the space, smelling the fresh-cut spruce, and accepting that this work has become a way of life as well as a means to an end.
Anyone who undertakes a project of this sort has to like doing it. Otherwise, you’ll fail, or sell, or give up, or destroy your property value, or ruin your marriage. You have to love the work for its own sake and, most likely, be prepared for some post-partum depression when it’s done. I’ve already made my preparations. When the house is done, I’ll start designing and building furniture for it. Have you seen how disposable and crappy even a lot of high-end furniture is?
Since I’ve called this entry “Entr’acte,” I suppose I should open the program folder during this intermission and say a few things about what’s to come. I haven’t written about the history of the house, which I can do because we have all the elegantly handwritten bills of sale dating from 1892. There are also the ancient newspapers I found in the walls, offering fascinating snapshots of life in Montreal going back almost as long as the house has been here. And construction hints. I’d like to do a piece on interior insulation that’s as good as spray foam but at a tiny fraction of the cost. Casting the net a little wider, there’s eating in Point St. Charles. I bet I’ve found a place or two that will surprise you. And another bigger and vaguer idea. During this long, illness-inspired hiatus, I’ve received messages from other home owners in the Point who are enduring some of the same hopes and trials that we are. I’d like to occasionally profile some of these other projects. With pictures, of course, and words of advice from other renovators.
Some readers may recall the weird treasures that fell from the walls, ceiling and stairwells of the house during demo. One of the most amusing was several beautiful, and beautifully preserved, packages of CleoTex “pure latex” condoms from the ‘20s. A more recent find of Altex Liquid Latex Condoms (“Tested Individually” as well as guaranteed five years) wasn’t up to the test of time.
Three things that have recently come to my door:
1) A neighbour balancing an armful of New Yorker magazines. The Canada Post mail carrier had dumped a bagful through his letter slot and the neighbour was reading the subscription labels and delivering them throughout the Point
2) This indecipherable, hand-made message about Marxism, race, and several community organizations, including the Point St. Charles Clinic
And a final note on the Point’s rep in the outside world. A while ago, after hearing someone on the radio say there was “open warfare” in Point St. Charles, I wrote a ridiculous piece claiming that gangs in the Point, armed as they were with AK-47s, should stop shooting each other in the CN Yards. Instead, I argued, we should put them to work shooting the urban bears that plague the Point, and those bears (fur, meat for sausage) could be the basis of a new industry. I received numerous e-mails saying “Those poor bears!” or “I didn’t know you had bears….” Not a soul expressed doubt about the existence of gangs with machine guns whose incessant chatter keeps the terrified citizenry awake at night.