30 April 2012

Blue Metropolis

I realized at some point in March that I was in a bit of a rut. I had become so accustomed to living in pain that now that I'm not in pain I'm still living my life as if I were. I made myself a commitment that I would make it a point to enjoy my life more, even if I had to schedule things. As it happens, when you make a commitment, the next email I received was from Blue Metropolis in Montreal and it was their events and dates.

Sometimes I don't have to be hammered over the head before I get things. I decided that I would attend. I haven't been to Montreal in at least 5 years and the way the scheduling worked, I would be free in the mornings to do what ever I wanted. I realized that everyone would be at work during the week so I knew I wouldn't be seeing too many people. Because I stayed at my best-friend's house, I drove into town with him every morning and did my own thing.

I made plans with my Aunt and a couple cousins to meet up for lunches. When in Montreal, I've got to eat everything that I cannot get in Toronto. Like good Smoked Meat sandwiches, Lafleur's hot dogs, bagels, good pizza (although Pizza Nova Toronto comes close). My mom used to get mad at me because I never wanted home cooking, I just wanted fast food but in the end she got over it when she realized she didn't have to cook.

Wednesday I got my location figured out. Hotel Opus, where Blue Met was being held, was in the perfect spot at Sherbrooke and St Lawrence. It's close to the Mountain, Close to Smoked meat sandwiches (although I didn't go to Schwartz's deli, I went to Salaison Slovenia for Smoked meat and hot salami combo), downtown, and close to a zillion Metro stations (Subway stations, if you've never been to Montreal.) The people at the Hotel were awesome, friendly, always smiling, made me feel comfortable when I was just hanging out in the lobby for my next event. Apparently it was the first year that Blue Met was held there.

Thursday I had breakfast at Eggspectation on De Maisonneuve near Crescent, after walking past riot police surrounding a handful of protesting students. If there's going to be drama let it not be mine. lol
Eggspectation was a brilliant choice, baked beans with sausage and eggs!?! Never thought of that. Loved it.
Everyone was so friendly. It's not the Montreal of old, when you spoke English and people were pissy with you because of it. Everyone said, "Bonjour, Hello." The French has to come first but at least the English does come and not grudgingly. What a pleasant surprise. I left there and rode the Park Ave (Avenue du Parc) bus all the way to the end and back. Located St. Viateur, which unfortunately I never had a chance to get back to for St. Viateurs bagels because of the student protest on Sunday. I walked over to the Dairy Queen on Park Avenue, near the mountain, and could remember being 4 years old and standing in line with my Mother and my Brother on a hot summer night to get some ice cream. I swear that DQ has had to have been there for at least 50 years. I guess they do well! I walked a block over where KayVan Furniture used to be and looked at our old place, the first place I can remember living at.

It's spooky how much I can still remember and how the same it looked. It looks the way I remember. I wrote down the address for my journalling and went and sat at the foot of the Mountain until it was time to make my way to meet up with my Aunt and my cousin, her youngest son for lunch. We had lunch at a Portuguese restaurant and caught up. It's been so long since I've been around family that it was nice. Just as we were about to eat, I stopped and looked at them both and said, "Oh my Mom is here!"
They both looked at me suspiciously. I told them that the first song I heard after spreading my mother's ashes on the Mountain back in 1997 was the song, "You Gotta Be" by Des'ree and that song was playing in the restaurant.
I said, "It's like she came to visit and to let us know that she's happy we're together."
I haven't heard that song in years.

Friday morning I was supposed to spend with my Aunt's older son but he had to cancel so I had the morning to myself. Of course it was cold and raining. Not to be deterred, I walked from my BF's work to Atwater Metro, got a day pass and a map and got on the metro. I went to Villa Maria Station and checked out the place we used to live in at the corner of Monkland and Decarie Blvd. Place is all renovated and looks nice, I'd live there now, if I could be a full-time writer and didn't have to go to a 9 to 5 job. ha-ha! We lived there until we moved to British Columbia for a year.

I walked to the first place we lived after we moved from Park Avenue, which was down the street on Decarie Blvd just above Notre Dame De Grace. The place looks the same and still has a furniture place underneath. We seemed to have a furniture theme for a minute there. Only now they sell Antiques. The old guy that owned the entire building when I was a kid died years before my mom did. Been trying to remember his name and somehow I keep thinking it was Chesterfield. Funny!

I walked along N.D.G towards Girourd Ave to where my elementary school used to be, down Girourd towards Sherbrooke through Girourd park where one summer in the 1970's it was overrun with bats. I remembered the bushes that ran all the way down through the park and when we were kids we would run through the middle of those bushes.
I walked over to Sherbrooke and Decarie where we lived when we got back from living in BC. They were important places, those homes on Decarie. The first one with my father and all that entailed, the second one being on the run and ultimately leaving the city and the third place coming back and feeling safer. Or better yet, The first place I was an outgoing child who would perform if you asked me to and by the time we moved to the third place, I was shy and quiet.

I left there bussed it back to Villa Maria and metroed it to Angrignon Station in Ville LaSalle to bus it to the place I lived from the age of 11 to about 15. It was the only place that we lived that enabled me to stay in the same school once I started High School. We moved again but I refused to change schools. It was a traumatic place, with violence and knowing more than a child should and superstitions like, "If you laugh all day, you'll cry all night." That superstition was proved time and again and for many years in my life as an adult, I continued to believe it until I decided to change that belief. I still get nervous if I laugh all day.

I stood outside that house and talked to myself. It's the place where I could never be sure if I'd even see the future. It was the place where I started to write. It was the place where I lost my good feelings about myself. It was the place where I learned that stress can make you physically sick. It was the place where so many things happened that I need to write about them but for the most part I felt like I exorcised them just with my presence and facing them down. Yes I survived it and I've changed so many of my beliefs that were born there.

As I stood there, I wondered about the energy of me as a little girl, if in some other dimension she is still living that life. I pretended that my now self could meet my then self and tell her to hang in there, you're going to make it. And as I walked away, I burst into tears.

Before I left Toronto, I had dinner with a girlfriend and I was telling her that I was having some anxiety attacks over going home. I didn't know what it was but I thought maybe this was the opportunity to go face down some longstanding demons. I said to her, "I've been through so much and I never stop to acknowledge the strength it took to survive. I don't know my own strength."

When I walked away from that house in tears, I realized my own strength. I had to have a helluva lot to make it through those tests. And I did. I do.

I took the Lapierre bus to Lafleur and Clement and had a great lunch at LaFleur's restaurant of Michigan hot dogs (hot dogs with spaghetti sauce) and French fries. If nothing else, everyone knows I have to have Lafleur's when I'm in town. The first thing everybody says is, "LaFleurs?" and I say, "Of course!"

The rest of my weekend was spent indoors at the Hotel Opus attending my writer's festival. I couldn't have imagined nor intended a better vacation. It was a little bit of everything that I needed.