Yes, the road.

Yes, the road.
Eagle Nest, New Mexico. “People like to drive because driving is actually and symbolically an almost perfect mechanism for escape…there is probably no human being who does not have troubles, real or imagined, from which he at times feels the need to flee.” George R. Stewart.


My photo
Brooklin, Maine, United States
We own a 1975 GMC Sierra Grande 15 in Maine and a 1986 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe 10 in West Texas. Also a pair of 1997 Volvo 850 wagons. Average age in the fleet is 28 years--we're recycling. I've published 3 novels: THE LAW OF DREAMS (2006), THE O'BRIENS (2012), and CARRY ME (2016). Also 2 short story collections: NIGHT DRIVING(1987) and TRAVELLING LIGHT (2013). More of my literary life is at I was a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study for 2012-13. I'm an adjunct professor at Colorado College and in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. In 2015-16 I was a Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The Autoliterate office is in Car Talk Plaza in Harvard Square, 2 floors above Dewey Cheatem & Howe. SUBSCRIBE TO THE AUTOLITERATE DAILY EMAIL by hitting the button to the right.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

More Montreal

Visiting Montreal last week, we stayed with artist friends Rebecca Duclos & David Ross in St-Henri, in the southwestern part of the city. It was always a working-class neighbourhood and, for a long time, the poorest neighborhood in Canada. It is just down the hill from perhaps the richest neighbourhood, Westmount.  Herbert Brown Ames-- philanthropist,  shoe manufacturer,  city alderman, and Member of Parliament-- revealed southwestern Montreal's dire poverty, in 1897, in his pioneering  The City Below the Hill: a sociological study of a portion of the city of Montreal.  In many quality of life statistics, the district ranked below Calcutta.
           There are acres of old industrial buildings. Imperial Tobacco was the big employer in St-Henri, along with tanneries, and shoe mills. Now the  Métro (subway) stops here, which makes the district easily accessible for the rest of the city. The Atwater Market is a brilliant place to buy Quebec produce, and an startling variety of bread, meat, cheese. The Lachine Canal, which was a reeking industrial sewer, has been cleaned up. Many industrial buildings have been condominiumized or are in the process. This process, which has slowed down in the US as the property market has slumped, seems to be going strong in most of urban Canada.

       It is probably because I grew up there, but all forms of Montreal vernacular architecture have a powerful hold on me. A lot of  19th century Montreal resembles parts of Dublin, and other Irish and British provincial cities. And parts of Montreal look like nowhere else. The crazy winding staircases may not have been the best choice for the city's subarctic winter climate, but they were cheaper to build than indoor staircases, so hundreds of Montreal streets are lined with them.

At the massive St-Henri police station/ firehouse, looking up, I noticed these bas-relief scenes of cops and robbers and firemen:

Speaking of crime, my favorite Montreal blog, Coolopolis, has a post on the latest in the city's ongoing Mafia war.

1 comment: