Roadsworth’s Legacy

Eight years ago, I was crossing Fairmount Avenue near my apartment in Montreal’s Mile End district when I noticed a strange addition to the zebra crossing beneath my feet: barbed wire. Not actual barbed wire, but a painted rendition of it along the edge of the crosswalk, half in yellow, the other half white, both […]

In Between

The neighbourhood around Marconi Avenue is a bit of a strange place. I’m not even sure what to call it. Marooned between Little Italy to the east, the CPR tracks to the south, the Outremont railyards to the west and Jean-Talon to the north, it’s a kind of urban interstitial space, not entirely industrial, a […]

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Morning Coffee: Navarino

Eight years ago, I was an undergraduate student in Montreal, living in a two-room apartment that had nice wood floors but no natural light. One morning in early December, I awoke with my girlfriend, who had an end-of-semester exam, and as we left my building we discovered a thick blanket of fresh show that had […]

Il Caffè della solitudine: Montreal, Mile End

Parmi vous, Mile End, Montreal Un matin de novembre, je suis seul, et pourtant je suis ici, assis, sur la bordure de la fenêtre de ce caffè. À entendre la rumeur matinale du quartier qui s’éveille, de ces conversations croisées qui m’entourent, qui me surplombent, qui dominent la tendresse de ma tranquillité. À épier ces […]

The Gap-Toothed Street

Step one: fire When I first moved to Montreal in 2002, the city was littered with vacant lots, many of them in very prominent locations. The lots, which were filled with weeds and surrounded by heavy concrete blocks, had become as much a symbol of the city as potholes and outdoor staircases. Since then, many […]

Coffee and a Letter

Woman reading a hand-written letter in the Navarino bakery-café. Mile End, Montreal, September 25, 2004

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Dear Hong Kong: Why I Love Bixi

The following essay appears in the August 2010 issue of Muse, a Hong Kong arts and culture magazine. I still remember bicycling up Mount Royal. It was a warm summer night and there were five of us riding through the streets of Montreal, looking for something to do. Somebody suggested heading up the mountain that […]

Postering in Montreal: Legal at Last

Stapling a poster to a Saint-Viateur hydro pole A Quebec Court of Appeal judge has ruled that Montreal’s anti-postering bylaw, which prohibits posters from being stuck to public street furniture, violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Montreal will now have to find a way to legally accommodate posters on public property. We have local […]

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Summer Soft-Serve

Dairy Queen in the Petite Patrie. Photo by Kate McDonnell Branded architecture is wrong in so many ways: it’s disposable, it’s a waste of space, it’s vulgar. So then why do I have such a soft spot for Dairy Queen’s little Swiss huts? It must go back to the Dairy Queen at the corner of […]

The View from Above

[youtube][/youtube] Part of the brilliance of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film Rear Window was the way it acknowledged voyeurism as part of urban life. In the city, we’re always being watched and we’re always watching others, be it on the street, from across a café or on the web, through street photography. I’d be lying if […]

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Hey, Rialto!

The Rialto Theatre is located on the corner of rue Bernard and avenue du Parc, in Montreal’s Mile End neighbourhood. It was built in 1924 and was one of thousands of ornate movie theatres built in North America at the turn of the century, at a time when films were first entering the mainstream. These […]

Crossing the Tracks

Lately I’ve been listening to one of my favourite Jean Leloup albums, La Vallée des Réputations, which was released in 2002. It’s folkier than most of his previous albums, a feel captured perfectly by its cover image of Leloup walking down some railroad tracks, guitar slung over his shoulder. The railway in the photo happens […]

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Plus ça change…

Kate McDonnell pointed the way to some Flickr photos recently uploaded by Michel Gravel, a photojournalist for La Presse whose career has spanned more than 40 years. Many of the photos are street scenes from Montreal in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. What amazes me is how Montreal’s essential character has remained intact despite the […]

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Hops, Bees and Honey in Mile End

For the last couple of weeks, bees have been buzzing around flowers growing wild in a former industrial space that may become an unusual urban park — or a municipal heavy machinery yard. The land is located between de Gaspé and Henri-Julien streets, immediately south of the Canadian Pacific rail tracks, with a spur jutting […]