(james benedict brown) on the road

Un burger suisse, tout-garni

Posted in Posts by James Benedict Brown on 19 August, 2006

It is a quarter to one on a balmy Friday night in Montréal. I find myself walking along avenue du Mont Royal, past our old apartment, holding two rolls of raffle entry tickets. For old time’s sake, and for the unusually large quantity of fluids in my stomach, I stop by at my favourite diner, the Mont Royal Hot Dog. The Hot Dog has been a sympathetic backdrop to many of the simple but enjoyable nights out I have enjoyed this year. Even in this heat, I cannot go inside without remembering the nights when we escaped the minus twenty temperatures to order a big plate of poutine.

It is too nice an evening, so I’m not stopping here tonight. I order a ‘Swiss’ chesse burger and continue on my way. I know of the perfect bench on which to stop and enjoy my late night treat. Between the streets of Berri, Pontiac, Mont Royal Est and de Bienville is a small park. When I walk here with guests or friends I always describe this tranquil square as the place I would like to like to live one day (above all the other similar promises that I make in this city). The houses range from single storey cottages to three storey town houses, some of which are old shops with big plate-glass windows that face the pavements. There’s a small pedestrianised strip at the north end of the square, with three simple benches; most of the park is occupied with a fenced in children’s play area, which is officially ‘closed’ from midnight to six o’clock in the morning to dissaude any disreputable activity from taking place.

This is an exceptionally romantic city. It is romantic not just for lovers, but also for solitary individuals. Here, sitting on a silent park bench in a wordless city square, I am quite content. The burger is very good, the temperature seems to have eased, and all noises of the traffic on the near-by Mont Royal and St. Denis are muted and distant. In all the places I have travelled, I have not found such a perfect residential district as this one. There is a pefect balance between these tree-lined side streets and the exceptionally tranquil ‘ruelles’ that run between them. On the streets around me, the little houses and the neatly stacked apartments with their traditional external staircases present elegant but modest elevations to the street. The sidewalks are broad and clean; there is room for parking on both sides of the street and a wide lane for single-direction traffic. Cars normally travel at about 40km/h; this is an exceptionally pedestrian-friendly place to live. Trees shade the streets in the summer, and green recycling boxes wait on the kerb for their weekly moment of emptying.

I have had a few moments of helpless panic this week, as I look to the calendar, and my last full week at work in Montréal. There is so much I have not done, so many cafés and diners I have now patronised, and so many parks like this that I have not spent time in. When I had the time to do these things, of course, I did not have the money.

Still, a swiss cheese burger on a park bench at 01h00 goes a long way to calming my pre-departure nerves. It would be nice to pass one more quiet weekend in Montréal. However as usual, there’s something much more exciting that will be happening…

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