Today is the nicest day of the year. Not “one of the nicest” but without a doubt there is no other day between January 1st and December 31st that will be able to outdo today in the nice, no, splendid, absolutely-blissful-day category. The thermometer says 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) and, looking up earlier upon leaving the Indian grocery store on Victoria Street, I was greeted by an unboundedl and cloudless Fall day. Naturally, one can’t talk about autumn without mentioning the trees which in Montreal at beginning the last week of October are either at that “golden” stage of in-your-face colour, or completely barren of leaves.
I’ve always loved autumn but this year my appreciation is reaching the heavens. Summer for me was hot and humid; working outside in the gardens (I work an eighth of an acre at my property in the country) left me usually soaked and dripping with perspiration within minutes. And call me the “canary in the coal mine” if you wish, but being outside these days, under the sun, does not feel very healthy anymore, even with sunscreen on. I’m no scientist, but I’d wager that the thin ozone layer is what’s making me more and more uncomfortable being outside at our latitude.(45.13 degrees North).
But back to today — to make matters better, I happen to be renting a pied-à-terre in what I feel is the nicest neighbourhood in Montreal, not “one of the nicest”, no, the nicest.
I live just beyond the western boundary of Outremont in a comfy 3 1/2, which means three rooms and a bathroom. (Do people in other cities call their apartments in the same way?) Price-wise for Montreal it’s a bit on the expensive side. Price-wise for other cities, probably quite inexpensive — $915 per month, not including electricity ($45 per month).
In this neighbourhood, as in so many other cosmopolitan towns, there is a diversity of the residents living in it, but there does exist a sizable Orthodox Jewish population, something which comforts me for some reason. Montreal’s Jewish population is sizable (90,000) and is divided into different neighbourhoods depending on whether one is Hasidic, non-Hasidic Orthodox, modern Orthodox, semi-religious or non-religious, the later two not being a visible minority. As I said, where I live one can see a fairly sizable non-Hasidic Orthodox community (there is lots of black clothing, hats and beards, not too many flowing sidelocks and funny furry hats on the Sabbath).
As I walk east along Van Horne Avenue and enter the city of Outremont I feel that I am walking into an old part of an extremely wealthy European city.
The homes are of a certain size and splendour and age; the trees are all stately and old. People proudly leave their windows unconcealed for all the world to see. Walking in the country, a joy to so many people, is boring for me; city walking is what I like. And while not large in size, this super-wealthy western edge of Outremont has got to be the nicest neighbourhood to walk in, better than Toronto’s rich neighbourhoods and Vancouver’s. It true that you can walk through it rather quickly but while you’re doing it, wow! It’s all Old World and culture, each mansion so different from its neighbour and lovely to look upon, lush parks and tall, tall trees, Orthodox Jews passing French-speaking Quebecers on their way to whatever. I love it.
I’ve been looking for this nook in this city for a long time. Anyone who’s lived with me (women I mean; actually two different ones covering about 27 years) has had endure me kvetching about the city and regretting not living elsewhere. Not anymore. I pull my dear wife for walks all the time, to the bistros on Bernard Avenue and the pizzerias on Van Horne. Just last night I started singing, not knowing the words of course, that lovely song from “My Fair Lady”, “The Street Where You Live”. I started singing it because my wife and I had not, in fact, walked down this particular road yet. I noticed this fact and also that you could look into virtually every living room. When I got home I found the song on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YtbFwWkB4b8) and enjoyed hearing what the words really are.
All in all a perfect evening (dining on Bernard Avenue) and walking in the cool autumn air. That, plus today’s perfect weather, help to explain why my pied-à-terre has helped make me a happy person.