Monday, May 9, 2011
Day Three - aussi
Today I spent some time walking Montreal.
I took some time around the old canal - the Canal de Lachine, which was the old canal through which goods were shipped out of the Ports of Montreal to other parts of Canada and North America. I am struck by how the socio-political terrain of a city can change vastly. Montreal is still an affordable city - well in terms of property, provided you choose wisely, the metro is fairly connected throughout the city and the Bixi system (a interconnected system of rental bicycles), and depending if you would prefer dense housing or a yard and greater space between you and your neighbours will often decide where you might live. Oh, and your $$ as well. The area that I am staying in is very working class and was even more so in the past - it included the factory workers and the dock workers who off loaded the ships and placed crates and good onto the barges and then floated them down in land and onto trains and trucks. This area of Sainte Henri, like all of Montreal is being gentrified - maybe this area more slowly, but it is happening. However traditional structures and homes are maintained and the past enthocultural threads remain of working class French and Irish.
It is only while walking up the hill from Sainte Henri to Westmount when I am struck with the significant change in architecture and roadways. This must have been where the bosses of the factories and ship yards have lived over looking the activities of their workers and at the same time the workers peering through their commoners' eyes would have been looking upon the noses of their bosses. Indeed the class superiors perhaps both physically and symbolically looked down on the workers.
As I am walking and thinking about Montreal and the psydo-psycho walking tour I think about my family. My Mother's Father was a fisherman and while he and his family lived on the eastern coast of Newfoundland after being forced to re-located from the islands that his family considered home for over 100 years; he worked in Boston, Montreal and in the Atlantic areas with the fisheries and in some factories. I think of him and what his early twenties and late teens must have been like and what he did and where he went to find work and money for his family and to make a better life I wonder if he spent time in places like Sainte Henri and if he marveled at the big houses up in Westmount?
At the end of my evening with Karen, Jack, Nathan and Gabe I walk down the tunnel separating Westmount and Sainte Henri and I sit down on the lush grass (rather quite lush for so early in the Spring) and I lay down and look up into the sky and think of a time about 100 years ago and just let my working class body create a deep imprint into the lawn. Tonight it is my act of rebellion and homage to my ancestors.