Sitting on my porch earlier this evening, waiting for the sheets of rain that have only now just started to fall, I watched the ever-expanding gang of backyard cats chase fireflies, the bats swoop down and then disappear into the darkness. Off in the distance a train hollered, the dog lay snoring at the top of the stairs, my neighbour popped her head out to exchange pleasantries about the break in the heat.

I entertained an avowed Plateau-er earlier this week. At one point he took a long drag on his cigarette, shifted so my legs rested more comfortably across his, and in a tone typically reserved for cottage country remarked on this peacefulness. I’ve worked this theme before, trying to articulate the intangible reasons why St. Henri feels more like home than most of my (many) other apartments. It’s how the quiet is barely broken by the quick pop of someone down the street opening a third beer, or the way the light from my window pools around the nape of your neck as you prop your legs up on the banister. Laundry lines snake between tall old trees, and when the moon is full its reflection captivates the surface of the canal. Hot July afternoons smell like cut grass, sunscreen, and barbeque. I will admit that the Plateau-er’s air-conditioning is a powerful aphrodisiac, but that’s not what makes the 3am, $17 cab ride worth it – it’s spending those final few moments of replay and relish on a bona-fide porch with the humid summer night resting wetly on my skin. A hangover, perhaps, from growing up in cottage country, but home is where both the beer and I are sweating in equal measure.

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Verdun, somehow.

December 10, 2007

Since the canal paths don’t really get cleared in the winter, I’m back to running on the streets. I’ve spent the past week trying to figure out a workable route, with little success so far, mostly because it seems that regardless of my initial direction I keep ending up in Verdun. Things aren’t as griddy here in the sud-ouest. What I envision as a simple loop becomes a spiraling vortex, with Verdun at its centre. Don’t misunderstand – I have nothing against Verdun, it’s just not where I intend to be when I lace up my sneakers and leave the house.
When I’m not getting lost in Verdun, I’m running along the back ends of factories and warehouses, buildings with high fences and pacing guard dogs. It’s starkly compelling – save for the occasional lumbering truck the streets are grimly quiet and the sidewalks empty, while men alone with their cigarettes watch with indifference from hooded doorways. I like it. Though my knees miss the canal’s softer terrain, and while a map shoved into my pocket would no doubt be useful, I like stumbling onto these streets and knowing I’ve somehow made my way closer to home.