Retired a few years back, I instituted an annual ritual of parking my car in Pointe-Claire Village and hopping on the 211 bus to Lionel-Groulx metro station. It is the only time I ever go downtown.
Why would I have to, normally? One has everything minutes away in the West Island, except for whatever is popping up at the Bell Centre. That is why I am a big proponent of building an equivalent venue in the western half of the island. (Is that not covered in the buckets of agglo-taxes sucked out by Montreal?)
Anyway, what I do is walk up Atwater Ave. to Ste-Catherine St. then east to St. Lawrence Blvd. and up to Duluth, then back down along St-Urbain St. (Long trek, good for the blood pressure.)
I do the very personal pilgrimage for two reasons:
1 – I like to see the progress of the bombing of Highway 20/ Turcot Interchange: So, a year later, it looks even more like Berlin circa 1945. How can drivers stomach it? Now they have you slaloming through novice ski hills of dirt and concrete. You can’t even see from north to south much less where the highway proper used to be. I don’t ever check online to see when it is supposed to be completed because I would be an idiot to believe the sloths/planners. (How are those budgets doing?) The view is breath-taking as in I couldn’t breathe for the dust. It is post-apocalyptic less the zombies. (And does the STM ever wash their bus windows?) Personally, I believe graduates of local universities will only see the completed road when they themselves retire. The pyramids at Giza were built quicker (by hand even) but not as high.
Has there ever been a time when Montrealers’ patience for Orange Cone Syndrome been so pushed to the brink? It baffles me how visitors cope. How long before you are lost when the signs are awfully set up and in a language you don’t have in the country you come from? What will it be like during the jazz and laugh festivals searing in 34 degree heat?
2 – I like to revisit the neighbourhood I grew up in: My route takes in the areas I kicked around in until I was 14, before moving permanently into the suburbs, around the time air-conditioning was invented. I visit out of nostalgia. I have fond memories of my upbringing on St-Urbain St., only a few blocks from where Mordecai Richler thrived. (The Plateau is magical.)
As I get older, I am forgetting where the dozens of movie theatres were along Ste-Catherine, our own version of a Las Vegas strip in terms of marquis. Now it all looks like Toronto’s North Yonge St.: Boring, congested, noisy, dirty, and an assault on the sense of smell. Throw in the fact that the main artery of our Big Sister is more dug up than ever, I do not feel I am being unkind nor unrealistic when I say, why in hell would you drive in and out of there when the detours are more confusing than a corn field maze?
I see they painted a Godzillian-sized mural of Leonard Cohen on St-Lawrence. It only made me realize that if he were alive today, he might say what I was thinking: This is not my Montreal anymore — the one I fondly remember in my dreams. The old girl looks very tired.
So as things change, the city sure has. Thomas Wolfe was right: You Can’t Go Home Again.
And as for the completion of Highway 20/Turcot Interchange: Maybe by the time the Habs win another Stanley Cup. That sounds about right.