Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bonjour from Montreal

Ah, here I sit at the Delta in Montreal, enjoying the thrill of high-speed Internet access for an oh-so-brief interlude. We are here for the weekend to celebrate the aforementioned anniversary. We used to live here back in the early 90s; in fact, we moved from Montreal back to Toronto a week before our wedding. No offence to Torontonians (I was born there and lived there for about 28 years of my life) but I was sad to leave Montreal, especially to go back to T.O. which is not my favourite place to live.

I loved living in Montreal, even though I was dirt poor at the time, working as slave labour at my first graphic design job at Starter Canada (blech), earning seven bucks an hour to start. Hubby was in law school at McGill, so he wasn't exactly rolling in dough either. Nonetheless, we had a great time here, living in sin in "Marika-ville", so called because our apartment was in a big old coachhouse owned by a Greek lady named Marika. She had a gruff exterior but was soft at heart. She'd do things like call to warn us when she'd spread salt on the driveway in winter, so that we'd make sure our dog Chelsea didn't irritate her feet on it. She must have liked Gordon because she didn't turf him out when he bounced rent cheques. I should add that this was before I showed up and took control of the finances! Gordon is not good with balancing chequebooks. He also once threw a $1.000 savings bond in the garbage by accident, but fortunately retrieved it before the trash truck appeared.

My now in-laws refused to visit us the whole time we lived here, because we were cohabiting out of wedlock. Also, my mother-in-law was rather alarmed by Gordon's pet gerbils, Oscar and Alfred. My own heathen parents were quite happy to visit, since both of them had lived in sin with other partners after divorcing each other!

Gordon and I used to pool $40 each per week to pay for groceries and toddle off to the grocery store, calculator on hand to make sure we didn't exceed the $80 budget. In the early 90s, grocery stores didn't take credit or debit cards so you didn't want to run out of cash! We ate surprisingly well on that amount of money, although I did ingest more Provigo Dinner (which we much preferred to Kraft Dinner, aka Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese to you Yanks) in those days than might now be considered healthy.

We certainly couldn't afford a car, but that was fine as we lived in the heart of the city, a few doors down from Pierre Trudeau, on Avenue des Pins Ouest. Needless to say, our place was a bit downscale compared to Pierre's. The back of our apartment in fact overlooked the Montreal General Hospital parking garage, and we were often serenaded by car alarms. But from our loft bed at the front of the apartment, we had a stunning view of the city. We were on a third-floor exterior walk-up, which made for healthy exercise but was a tad annoying when the dog had to go out for a pee late at night or early in the morning, especially in winter. The last winter we lived there, I got severe food poisoning one night while Gordon was out, and four ambulance attendants took me down that ice-encrusted metal staircase on a stretcher. Live the adventure!

I only saw Trudeau once in the three years I lived here, when he was escorting a blonde woman in a red coat up to his front door. What happened afterwards, who knows?

We had a couple of students living in the apartment across from us. One of them was a complete and utter filthy slob, and not long after he moved in, so did the cockroaches. Not many insects gross me out, but cockroaches definitely rate. Marika swiftly took care of thatwith professional pest control, and gave the slob a dire warning to clean up his act. One Hallowe'en, said slob also got stinking drunk and tossed my carefully-carved pumpkin over the third floor balcony-railing. His own roommate gave him hell for that. I seem to recall the slob moving out not long after.

Quite a lot seems to have changed in Montreal since we left in 1993, but quite a lot has stayed the same. Ben's (smoked meat sandwiches, fabled deli) has closed, and the Faubourg, which I used to consider chi-chi poo-poo, has fallen onto hard times, although the bagel place we liked is still in there. The cross on the mountain still lights up at night, and miraculously, the Big O (1976 Olympic stadium) hasn't completely disintegrated. The city is more prosperous than it was in 1993 and there are more swank stores and fewer empty storefronts. It's nice to be back for a visit, but I could never live in a city now. I need my peace and quiet, not to mention my 86 acres. Bring on the sheep and chickens!

Our old apartment is still here; I wonder who lives in it now? I wonder if the loft bed is still there, not to mention Marika?!

Enough reminiscing. Time to go find supper!


  1. Anonymous8:59 pm

    I lived in Montreal from 1988 until 2000 - and I still haven't adjusted to Ottawa. I miss living in Montreal.

    Happy Anniversary!

  2. Hey, Leanne, our years of living there overlapped!

    Yeah, Ottawa ain't quite Montreal, now is it?


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