This past Saturday afternoon, after my 11-hour shift at the daycare (yes, some of them are open on weekends) and my self-loathing walk to the metro with the theme of Why Can't I Stay Away from Jobs that Make Me Work Inconvenient Hours with Bad Pay, swiftly turned into a conscious raising stroll of assurance and gratitude. I'm falling in love with my city again. Any traveler (or any person, for that matter) can't ignore the beauty that exists in Montreal, especially in the middle and sometimes forgotten borough of Ville St-Laurent.
Monks and Saturday Mass
A few minutes into my walk I turned the corner onto Petit Parc and noticed parishioners from the Seventh Day Adventist Church leaving in swarms after the Saturday afternoon service. This Church is right next to a Buddhist Temple (like, five yards away) where that morning I spotted a monk eating his breakfast outside on the lawn. I miss temples. I used to get lost in them in China. I hiked up to them in Korea. I'm used to them being everywhere. It's hard to get back to life without a golden Buddha statue starring you down with that perfect amount of glee sculpted on it's face. Now, almost every morning before work I get to gaze in awe at the temple and know that one of these days I'll knock on their door and ask, "May I come in?"
On my walk down Decarie from Cote Vertu metro station, I noticed a group of people barbequeing in Hartenstein Park. It was 6:40 a.m. I saw the smoke and at first I was worried, but when I realized what it was I thanked God that people can be so awesome as to start a Saturday BBQ park party so soon after sunrise.
In St-Laurent there's parks everywhere. On a 1/2 kilometre walk I pass about four. It's like I'm walking around Lower Manhattan in Nyc. Isn't that the absolute best way to build community in a city? Swings, slides, and barbeque?
To say that St-Laurent is a random but eclectic place would be an understatement. Giant Asian grocer down the street from a mosque? Yes please. Walking into a Tim Hortons and hearing over five different languages being spoken? Why not?! A block where an over-priced sushi shop is empty and a brasserie is packed? Of course! It's a place where old men sit on the patio of brunch restaurants with their shirts off. It has an Arahovas, one of the best/cheapest Greek restaurants in the city. It's the only place on the island of Montreal where you can stil snag a pita with it's generous servings of Tzaziki. And you know what? You can get even better Greek food at a little place on Poirier Street that seats about a dozen and it's nestled between a Depanneur and an Arabic restaurant. The only place with that much diversity over such a small area that I can think of is Brooklyn (do you know any others?). And there are so many movies about that place. It's iconic. When's the award-winning documentary on Ville St-Laurent coming out?
Sometimes during the week when I finish at 5:30, on my walk to the bus stop on Grenet Street I pass numerous Muslims (women with their children, men walking two by two, people walking alone), heading to the Mosque around the corner for prayer time. Then a crazy guy who looks like Santa Claus will sit with me at the bus stop, talking about being a dinosaur in this modern era of technology, then bid me adieu saying "God bless you."
Get Over It
Yes, there's construction on Cote-Vertu. Yes, there's enormous and expensive condo projects that boldly stand where humble housing once did. But you know what? In one of those condos I know a dude who makes weekly trips to the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa and who can get me a visa for cheap and stress-free, so I don't care! #badperson
I'm Still Not Done Being Excited Over the Food
Driving to the grocery store while living in the suburbs is an absolute failure and a waste of time. Now that I am blessed to spend time in St-Laurent, I get my Fenugreek seeds and mango juice for dirt cheap (how it should be) at the Tunisian and Indian grocers around the corner from my work. I pay $1.99 for double the amount of spices I would get at Loblaws for $4. It's like I'm back to my city dwelling lifestyle where I can live freely without superstores. Hooray!
So, is this delightful borough the perfect place for someone like myself to set up camp? I don't know, I'm still looking :)