Monday, 24 September 2012

St. Laurent Blvd.: Living the dream

As I sit on my perch surveying my kingdom, I watch the weirdos and drug addicts walk down the street and I try not to be judgmental. Who am I? I know nothing about their lives.
Maybe they used to be rock stars or soccer kids. Somebody must have loved them. Maybe they had jobs and dreams.  Not today, not on this journey down the road to despair.
I live on Saint Laurent Boulevard, a trashy street in the east end of Ottawa, a block from a Quickie convenience store, and directly across from a grow-op. It might not be a grow-op but it certainly is a quick stop for drugs. Stretch limos arrive at all hours and there's a lot of foot traffic, in and out, sure signs of nasty business being transacted within.
The place is a dilapitated war-era house, the kind that might have started out as a trailer but somehow morphed into a single home dwelling in what was once an Ottawa suburb. It's certainly seen better days with its unkempt lawn, wooden deck that is oddly out of place, and garage covered in bright blue tarpoline. The driveway is littered with pizza boxs, ladders and a variety of cars and vans in various states of ruin.
The house is owned by a guy named Len who, apparently, has a roofing business. It's tiny but a lot of people seem to live there including a girl who was pregnant a few months ago, yet today there is no sign of a baby. When we moved in, that girl was a school girl with a knapsack on her back and a mop of ginger hair. Just a kid like my own daughter. Now she's a wasted wreck of a chain-smoking human being. So sad. I hope the baby is having a better life somewhere, not in this neighborhood and not in some kind of trashcan in the back garden.
Kitty corner to my house is an apartment building filled with yahoos who like to light fireworks in the street on major holidays and threaten passersby. Nice. Calls to the police are somewhat useless, as the boys seem to be pretty good at rolling up their tents when the heat arrives.
What's weird is that most of the rest of the neighbors are nice old folks who keep tidy lawns and have probably lived here for years. They are fiercely house-proud, mostly immigrants who somehow are able to co-exist in this wackjob neighborhood of human decay.
My neighbors on the other side are wonderful, hard-working Jamaicans whose lives are made miserable by a government job-owning bitch who needs to get her own life. The bylaw guys are there constantly ticketing their cars and complaining about their campfires. We think the Jamaicans are fabulous and we're in cahoots with them. We let them park in our extra parking and our gesture is returned handsomely with spirits come Christmas time.
From my perch, I can see yet another neighbor, a poor woman with irritable bowel syndrome named Yvonne who looks like a Holocaust survivor. She might be young, might be old; it's hard to tell given her stooped neck and thinning hair. She's so fragile, sometimes I think the wind will carry her away as she walks her tiny dog down the street.
Yvonne is sweet of spirit, the loving grandma of three hellions she watches daily for her daughter.
A few weeks back, she offered me a tomato, I offered her a peach. She shook her head. Couldn't eat it. She lives on boiled eggs and cigarettes, and the odd tomato for which she will pay dearly the next day.
What she wouldn't give for a nice steak.
I was pleased to see that Yvonne has recently attracted a gentleman caller, a man in a motorized wheelchair with a military haircut and a constant fag hanging out of his mouth. A few times every day, Mr. Military pays Yvonne a visit; sometimes she's there, other times, she's not. When they're together, they smoke and trade stories under her carport. When she's not, I see him motor by, sigh and reach for a smoke. He hovers for a moment, and then he's off.
An hour or so later, he returns.
She's there under the carport, a sad Tennessee Williams character waiting for her handsome motorized gentleman caller to take her out of this hellhole. Bliss.
It's the sweetest and the saddest unrequited love story, a Nicholas Sparks, three-hanky affair bound to end in tragedy as Wheelchair man succumbs to his three pack a day habit or she to the body eating her from within.
I like living here. It feels like I'm in a Beatles song, A Day in the Life.
Not much doing on the surface, lots of intrigue below.
Living here might seem precarious. I think it's cool, edgy.
The dogs can bark at all the weirdos -- the circus ladies in tank tops with camel toe, the low talkers who weave down the street, the variety of youngsters hauling pizza and pop from the Quickie. They hardly notice the dogs, wrapped as they are in the musical gardens strapped to their ears.
This isn't the suburbs where the neighbors look down their noses if your yard isn't clipped. Nobody cares what kind of car you drive.
People in this 'hood are just living the dream, lucky to be driving anything at all.


1 comment:

  1. Ok Rose:
    How about a few words about globe@mail margie Wende
    The public editor..who was answering to the same editor that proof read the suspect columns said (sorta) there is smoke but no fire...jezz louise..
    Another globe writer used her column to sell her beloved newspaper industry..its like watching the Titanic
    take care

    It was a column from The Globe's very own Princess Diarist, Leah MacLaren, in which she uses the paper to sell her own house. Which is charming, I gather, from her gushing copy. Just $599,000 and only "a dog's trot away from shops and cafes on Queen Street West and the leafy splendor of Trinity Bellwoods Park" in Toronto.