When I stepped out my front door a couple of days ago, it was very, very hard to believe that the vernal equinox was exactly one week away. It has been a mean winter, with record hydro bills, and countless nights I had to leave the bathroom faucets dribbling so the pipes wouldn’t freeze as the water made its long trek from the basement up through the unheated first floor. I even bought a portable construction heater to keep the washing machine in the basement from freezing up as it did last year.
The week before spring hadn’t produced a single spring crocus, but it did see the warming of the provincial election campaign and the emergence of familiarly jaw-dropping political idiocies. I say “familiarly” because I was here during the first election of the Parti Québécois and the first and second referenda on separation. I remember pushing my infant daughter along a bicycle path beside the aqueduct canal and watching the stroller’s tires roll over stencilled orders to “Kill Anglos.” Then veering off the bicycle path past the wall of the factory that pleaded “SOS FLQ.” (The FLQ was a separatist terrorist organization noted for putting bombs in mailboxes in the 60s. In 1970, they murdered Minister of Employment and Labour Pierre Laporte.) Then, completing our grand tour, returning home via a lane with “Anglos go home” painted on the back walls of tenements.
But, we’ll let that bump in the path toward social peace pass. Instead, we’ll fast forward to 2014, when the government puts forth a bill to ban hijabs, turbans, crosses and presumably, Egyptian ankhs and Zoroastrian faravahars, in any part of the public service, from hospital cleaner to university professor. One Parti Quebecois candidate posts a picture of a topless woman on Facebook. She’s giving the viewer the finger as the text beneath her declares “Fuck Islam.” Another PQ candidate complains about the “Kosher tax,” which white supremacists and anti-Semites the world over insist is a hidden tax paid into the pockets of rapacious rabbis.
Enter “PKP,” Pierre-Karl Péladeau, star PQ candidate and super-wealthy inheritor of printing and media giant Quebecor, a company started by his father, who famously declared that Jews “take up too much space” in Quebec . PKP, who formerly disdained politics is suddenly driven by the need to “give [his children] a country of which they will be proud.” Of course, this sharp turn to plutocratic hopefulness caused a few ripples of concern. Premier Marois literally pulled PKP away from a microphone when he was pledging his devotion to separatism and soothed us with certainties. She reassured us that, after separation, Québec would have no borders and Quebecers could, for example, travel to Vancouver any time they wanted. Oh, yes. Not to forget that Québec, the sovereign and independent country, will continue to use the Canadian dollar and Quebecers will have a seat on the governing board of the Bank of Canada. Why, golly, it’ll be just like being a Canadian province!
Meanwhile, a poll revealed that a considerable majority Francophone Quebecers feels that Islamic fundamentalism is a threat. After all, towns like Trois Pistoles and Magog, as well as other regional hotbeds of excessive accommodation, have to protect themselves. There’s no telling what might be hidden under a head scarf.
So. By all means, full speed ahead. Rip those head scarves off and save the state, the culture, and the home. Have a say in monetary policy in the foreign country of Canada. Erect no borders and declare free trade. Canada, split in two, will surely love it! And thin the Jews out, for God’s sake. Then we’ll finally be able to afford groceries!
So was it any wonder that I couldn’t stay inside a moment longer, couldn’t be within earshot of a radio newscast, and had to search for a crocus trying to crack through the vast sheet of ice that’s been covering us for 4 months?
I didn’t see any real signs of election fever in the Point. A few tattered and faded flags, but that’s ordinary. La guerre des drapeaux hadn’t yet begun, and may not.
Politics in the Point is still dominated by the old-fashioned, Us vs. Them themes of a class-conscious industrial economy.
(Not that those issues are irrelevant or gone, but in the Point the political fight appears to have narrowed to affordable housing vs. condos and gentrification. Shouldn’t the battle instead be linked with other issues like education and job creation, or practices of exclusion in the trades themselves? Case in point: an electrician told me that he has to have a number of hours under his belt as an apprentice before he can get his full certification. However, companies will only hire him off-book at lower wages. And since it’s off-book, his hours don’t count. As a result, he’s professionally frozen out.)
So, as I was saying, I decided to take a walk in the windy -9 degree weather to see what else Point St. Charles might have to show me a week before the first day of spring. I am sorry to report that I discovered a fatality. Santa, apparently overcome by the long winter, clearly became deflated and, well, I’ll let the image speak for itself.
There have been many coyote sightings in the vast chunk of land around the old CN maintenance yards. I went looking for tracks but, unless coyotes walk with short hops, I suspect this is evidence of another animal entirely. I’m pretty sure it was a bear.
A major discovery! The final resting place of old urinals, now at peace.
I couldn’t resist visiting my favourite Chinese restaurant, incongruously named “Restaurant ‘Jean-Guy’ Epicerie.” Inside, you will find neither Jean-Guy nor an épicerie, but a Chinese chef wearing a traditional chef`s hat, and seating for four. Please note the orange child’s mitt on the gate. Someone picked it up off the sidewalk a year ago, but it’s still unclaimed.
I was disappointed to see that someone has tagged my favourite Impressionist mural behind the Point’s only tanning salon.
Here’s one of the faces that was lost.
And here are a few views to soften the hearts of those who left, and yearn for, the Point.
Oh, yeah, the spring crocus. This is as close as I could come.