My two best friends during this endless-seeming recovery from surgery have been Patricia and my Kindle. The first has a large supply of optimism and encouragement and the second has reading material. Neither, as turns out, has done much for the state of my physical conditioning. A couple of weeks ago, in gloriously mild autumn weather, I took the 10-minute walk to the IGA feeling endlessly pleased with existence itself. But the walk back was a physically exhausting trial. As a result I set for myself the goal of an hour or so of brisk walking-with-camera every day.
The new regimen quickly improved my stamina. This weekend, in a burst of hubris, I installed sub-floor panels downstairs for about ten hours straight. At the end of the day, I was over-tired and careless and managed to hurt my leg quite badly. It was disgustingly bruised, weeping, and swollen so badly that it reminded me of that famous nineteenth century portrait, “Bellevue Venus,” of a woman with elephantiasis Even the ER doc at the Montreal General was impressed, whistling through his teeth when he saw it. The triage nurse said, “Wow, that’s a good one. How can you walk on that thing?” Patricia said, “Idiot. How can I trust you to work alone if you’re going to be that careless?”
When I turned on the radio this morning, the lead item on the news was a demonstration a few blocks away on de la Congregation. Local residents were blocking a caravan of dump trucks that made the street unlivable with the noise of their engines and the pall of dust they threw into the air. By the time I limped down to de la Congregation to see for myself, the demo was breaking up. But I did speak with Marie-Josée from Action-Gardien, a representative of a round-table organization of twenty or so Point St. Charles groups whose interests range from healthy food to the CN yards.
Marie-Josée and a fellow activist told me that the trucks on de la Congregation were carrying tons of excavated soil from condo construction projects across the canal in Griffintown, and she was concerned about the possibility that their loads might be contaminated, not to mention the dust and the noise.
Just as the Point had become a dumping ground for the poor, for garbage, and for the sometimes-sketchy folks who live in the many nearby flophouses, it has become a repository for just plain dirt.
The in-your-face irony here is that Point St. Charles is seen as both a dépotoir and as an object of desire. The automatic conversion of old houses or empty lots into condos large and small appears to be the default position of city planners and developers while long-time residents of the Point struggle with the pressures of rising rents. To some, the newcomers are an invasive population.
Before I wrecked my leg and had to curtail my walks, I saw the rhetorical question, “Who Does the Point Belong To?” posted on telephone poles, construction hoardings, and abandoned buildings from Boilermakers Park to Maison St-Gabriel.
I’m afraid it’s too late for revolution. Real change has already arrived. The Point prides itself on it very long history as well as its more recent Irish heritage, but the commenter (above) who gives us a quote from the American Declaration of Independence (“Le gouvernement pour le people…”) does so in French with Spanish exclamation marks. It’s already a different place from the one some people are trying to protect.
It should be said that there is sometimes strange crosstalk in these angry denunciations of gentrification–
–as the fearsome thighs and calves facing those Moroccan gigolos will attest.
Signs of the bricks and mortar changes are as common as resentment of the changes themselves.
And of course there’s the literal bricks and mortar.
And old bricks and mortar about to be replaced by new.
And projects with strange names.
Does anyone remember the popular ’90s computer game “Myst”?
Here’s what a Myst dwelling looked like. Is that what we can expect to see along the canal? But my favourite condo development is still the “Style New Yorkais” penthouse “nests for rare birds,” some of which have been thoughtfully, if rather terrifyingly, illustrated for us.
I’d also like to know where the Point St. Charles Spanish language market is. A sign outside a new condo two steps from this morning’s anti-trucking demonstration at de la Congregation has posted this display of la belle vie in Point St. Charles.
I’d really like to find some of those “Nectarinas muy dulces” advertised for only 99 cents a kilo in the top middle panel. The nectarines I get at the IGA don’t look nearly this good and they’re labelled in French, not Spanish.
The more I recover from this surgery, and the more ground I cover in the Point, the more convinced I am that the community is fighting a rear-guard action. The change has already happened. The question of who the Point belongs to is rhetorical because property always belongs to the people who hold the deed to it. Ideally, I’d like to see the city do some serious experimentation with the sorts of housing new Norwegian development uses, with middle class units mixed indistinguishably with subsidized “social housing.” I’d also like to see evidence of the development of commercial infrastructure (a fruit and vegetables store with signs in any language would be nice) to help support these thousands of new residents. And if they all have cars and drive to the suburbs to shop, where will they park when they’re home?