This morning in London, I leaned back in my patio chair, facing the sun with my eyes closed, rolled my pyjama pants up to my knees and let myself pretend I was in Montreal in springtime.
The sound of traffic drove me closer, because the last home I had in Montreal was on Avenue du Parc, a main thoroughfare just barely north of the city’s answer for Central Park, and by the same designer – Parc Mont-Royal. Its fields and wood served as a local reserve for raccoons, birds, itinerant campers and, on Sundays, barefoot drumming neo-hippies, pseudo-Rastafari, real drug dealers, and medieval troops prepared to reenact battle with an improvised armory of cardboard, plastic and foam, held together with duct tape. The battles, set in a muddy clearing, never fail to draw a crowd. It’s like watching a live scene from Life of Brian, or witnessing the manifestation of a major fault in our collective genetic make up.
Of course we’d only wander there after a breakfast of bitter coffee and a version of eggs Benedict concocted by someone who’s apparently never eaten it before, who happens to be the ornery owner, chef and sole waiter of the oddly busy cafe. Refills are free, but we’d go behind the counter into the small kitchen to get them ourselves. Otherwise, we’d be accused of being inconsiderate for not noticing he’s busy, and as lazy for not taking the initiative to pour a simple cup of coffee. That, he’d say, is the problem with people these days. I don’t remember the name of the place, because we called it Oo-veet, or the rough pronunciation of a neon OUVERT sign with a few of the letters burnt out.
Then, because the coffee would be unsatisfactory, we’d wander down the same road into the hub and heart of Mile End, to Café Olimpico. Veterans call it Open Da Night, again thanks to a trend in the neighbourhood, of not replacing bulbs in illuminated signage. It was meant to be informative, Open Day and Night. There, we’d trade a raunchy joke with the staff and order a latte, the undisputed best in the city. We’d find a spot in the sun, somewhere between a few members of Arcade Fire and tens of up-and-comers, and that wouldn’t make it different from any other day. If we’d be lucky, our friend Domenico Ciccarelli would stop by, and we’d get to say his name.
By then it might be time for a dog walk, through the wet streets of the Plateau and muddy trails of Mont-Royal or Parc Lafontaine, soggy from the melting snow. We’d buy some Belle Guelle pilsner at a corner store – ‘dep’ by local vernacular – and sit on the plastic bag it came in, somewhere on the grass in the sun. We’d stay until we got too cold to be comfortable, and reluctantly leave to fire up my hibachi on our friend’s balcony, where her boyfriend would talk about his bands, Drunken Dru and Metallian, and maybe play guitar. The barbecued meat would be over or undercooked, and entirely delicious. The process would drive us all to drool, only slightly more, the dog.
Walking home, we’d pass people still out, heading to a friend’s DJ night or chatting in the streets, stretching out the day well into da night. And best of all, the ‘we’ would be my best friends and all their beautiful quirks. As quirky and full of life and coffee as the city we lived in.
Here we are at some weird arty promo thing in a park, not looking our best, which is something we were very good at.