Ville Emard is a struggling enclave of working class, welfare and small businesses in the South West corner of Montreal. Seems M. Emard was a great city counsellor back in the day and so his borough was named after him. I wonder what he would think now of the boarded up storefronts on Monk Blvd. The only really thriving merchants are the tattoo parlour and a few dodgy bars. The Siri Lankan grocery store does pretty well on suspect produce and discount cheese and the dollar store seems to be staying alive. There have been a few attempts at gentrification based on hopes that a hideous superhospital recently opened not too far away would bring new residents and prosperity to this little backwater. The subsidized housing block has a long waiting list, however, and the new block of condos is yet to be filled. The problem is that the superhospital sits just out of reach behind a tangle of overpasses and highways, now being demolished. This is going to be an agonizing process dragged out over several years. We can hardly blame the employees of the hospital for not venturing through the miles of orange cones and bumpy dirt tracks to discover what lies below their leggo-block design facility.
The old-time residents of Ville Emard are Italian, Poles and French Canadian. Now Koreans, South Asians and immigrants from the Maghreb are more likely to be my neighbours. I love my “hood”. It has an air of evolving nostalgia with its huge church now converted into a theatre, its library named for a young Quebecois poet (Marie Uguay). I love my little duplex with the lush city garden. I am lucky to live on a “green lane” , one of the “rouelles vertes” fostered by the city of Montreal. We even made a mention in the New York Times once. That is about as Earth Day as we get around here.
And yet, on my way home yesterday I noticed this new installation, a charging station for electric cars. I have been considering selling my own little car. My frequent stays in Northern Ontario make it more of a nuisance than a convenience these days. My typical city row house has no garage and so quite often I have to find a place to park for extended periods. Most of the time I use the Metro to go downtown as parking is an expensive nightmare. I was looking into the communal auto scheme that operates in Montreal. I still have to do the math but it looks like it might work. Just seeing the slender pole with its long cord made me hopeful for Ville Emard. if we can do it, surely there is hope for freeing ourselves from our slavery to the auto. Next project – having a chat with someone who is actually charging their car there!
Voting next month and I still have ‘t made up my mind. Well, I’ve made up my mind not to vote for Harper but I’m on the fence about voting for either the Liberals or the NDP. The Liberals had an ” event” in my down- home working class neighborhood last Thursday. Since it was only two blocks from my home I decided to see what happened when the son of the revered ( by some) Pierre Trudeau held a pep rally. It was held in a Ville Émard institution, Dilallo’s Restaurant. Dilallo’s makes the best hamburgers and they even have branch in a much more upscale locale, close to,Atwater Market on Notre Dame St. Ours is the original place, though, opened in 1939. It must have taken some nerve to open a restaurant in that year, down in a pretty undeveloped part of Montreal. They recently did renovations inside. Much to my disgust they installed big sports TV’s but…I have a hard time with change. I’m sure guys like munching delicious food and head swivelling to look at golf, hockey or baseball. Beats making conversation, I guess. So, off I went on a sweltering evening like only Montreal can cook up in late summer. There were already quite a lot of people, excited looking families and plenty of “handlers” . I asked one guy if there would be a question period. He was quite canny. He didn’t even burst out laughing but said Mr. Trudeau would have plenty of time to go around the tables and talk to all of us and that we could ask questions then. Judging from the chatty ( read mildly hysterical) mood of the crowd, my hopes of understanding a fine point of Federal financing for long – term projects…..oh, forget it! I took a seat next to two beefy guys chatting it up in mixture of Montreal English and heavily accented Albanese Italian. Believe me, after 15 years in Ville Émard I can tell the difference between Albanese and Calabrian! In a few moments the bus ferrying Trudeau and his staff arrived. Pandemonium! Blue rinsed ladies climbed up onto the newly upholstered benches to get good pictures of their heart throb. The first thing Mr Trudeau did upon entering the restaurant was take a surprised looking baby in his arms and kiss it! I ask you! I can confirm that up close he does have good hair….and teeth and just the right handshake for a politician…firm, dry and imbued with sincerity. I was introduced by the local Liberal candidate – not by name of course as I’d only met him thirty seconds earlier. Somehow a sort of earnest pseudo-thoughtfulness seemed to,have been sprinkled over these two guys as if by a political Tinkerbelle. The crowd was made up of old time first and second generation Italians and other ethnic groups who sat together at adjoining tables, Chinese, Sikhs,. There were no speeches or introductions. The candidate and his leader worked their way around the room shaking hands and posing for innumerable photos while the noise level grew higher and higher. After about half an hour I left and got this picture on my way home. Sort of sums things up. The old established neighborhood restaurant, the political bus and the church of Quebec almost totally obscured. Oh, a nod to Louis Dudek, Quebec poet….” Un homme politique, une lampe electrique.”