Montreal: A day in the life

On Fairmount Street, I pass a sign in a store window. "Coming soon," it said. As I walked by, the sign began to morph until it said, "Already gone." It happened so quickly, and that's exactly how I feel about my time as the CBC/QWF writer-in-residence.

Streets swollen with cars, sidewalks crowded with people — every one a stranger with a story to tell

'People tell me their secrets: affairs, divorces, hopes, fears. It's like I'm their priest,' says my barber, Chris Pilozzi. 'I can't tell anyone. I just walk around all day with other people’s secrets in my head.' (Joshua Levy/CBC)

This is the fifth and final in a series of blog posts by the 2018 CBC/Quebec Writers' Federation writer-in-residence, Joshua Levy.

Welcome to my day in the life of Montreal.

7:00 a.m.

I awake to the sound of a dog losing his mind on a nearby Mile End balcony. Maybe he wishes he was a rooster, I think.

A minute later, the walls of my bedroom vibrate as construction starts up down the street, and a minute after that someone on the street begins honking a bastardized melody on their car horn with aplomb.

Montreal seems to have decided that it is time for me to rise and shine.

8:00 a.m.

People line up at the bus stop on Parc Avenue. It is easy to spot "morning people" from the ones who have mastered the art of sleeping while standing.

At 8 a.m. on Parc Avenue in Mile End, you can spot the early-morning risers in the bus lineup. (Joshua Levy/CBC)

9:00 a.m.

At a café, I interview strangers — something that I will do throughout the day — to try and take the pulse of Montrealers. Are we consumed by politics? The economy? Weather?

Nope, not in this café, anyways. Everyone wants to talk about their weekend plans. It's Friday, after all.

(Joshua Levy/CBC)

I ask a man if I can take his photograph. He tells me that he is far more photogenic after his coffee.  

10:00 a.m.

In the park, two police officers shoot photographs of a homeless man camped out on the steps of a church.

I spot a little girl chasing a pigeon, a woman feeding her dog by a fountain, and an old woman rocking back and forth on a wooden rocking chair put there by the city.

(Craig Desson/CBC)

12:00 p.m.

Men huddle around a bench, scarfing down Montreal bagels. They are Americans, here for a bachelor party.

"The smell of these bagels, man," says the groom-to-be. "I've fallen madly in love with the smell of these bagels. I think the wedding's off!"

The friends laugh before taking turns punching him in the arm.

(Joshua Levy/CBC)

The group of friends tell me they chose to visit Montreal because we have good food, good beer, and they needed a break from American politics. 

1:00 p.m.

People grunt, pant, and sweat at the Mile End YMCA — but for different reasons.

"I work out to look good naked," says one.

"I do it for my health," says another.

"For me, it's the endorphins," says a third — before adding that she also does it to look good naked.

One man, Kabir Jean-Raphaël Michaud, is walking backwards on a treadmill, punching and kicking at the air.

"Muay Thai fight in two weeks," he explains, "and I plan on being ready."

2:00 p.m.

My barber, Chris Pilozzi, studies my head and scowls.

Finally, he shrugs and begins removing my smock.

"I guess I'm done," he sighs.

I try not to take it personally, but I can't help but feel that my head has somehow let him down.

My barber, Chris Pilozzi, takes one last look. (Joshua Levy/CBC)

3:00 p.m.

It occurs to me that everyone is happier in summer – even a pair of squirrels chasing each other around a tree.

The squirrels don't seem to mind the summer heat. (Joshua Levy/CBC)

4:00 p.m.

My friend, Greg Santos, is celebrating his birthday. As I approach his home in NDG, I marvel at the fact that we've been friends for almost 25 years: long before he was a husband or a father.

Greg's daughter waves to me from her perch on top of the radiator (a tradition that we've had since she was three), while his son challenges me to a wrestling match.

“I am strong. I am good at wrestling. I am happy that I’m five,” Greg Santos's son, Arthur, while they wrestle. (Joshua Levy/CBC)

He is five. He defeats me. He defeats his dad. Then, he defeats us simultaneously.

'It’s hard for me to believe that I’m in my late 30s. I look at old pictures of myself and I don’t feel that much older. Yes, I look different. My body certainly feels more achy. But, in many ways, I still feel like I did when I was a teenager - just now I also happen to have a wonderful family with a wife and kids. That’s amazing to me! Having children makes you see the world through the eyes of a child again. Days can be messy, and wild, but also filled with magic. I want to hold onto these moments and appreciate them as best that I can.' (Joshua Levy/CBC)

Wrestling builds quite the appetite — all the better to enjoy Greg's birthday cake.

5:00 p.m.

I circle Beaver Lake on foot and find a string of couples canoodling and sharing bottles of wine on blankets. A toddler waddles over to a family of ducks. A man, meditating cross-legged, suddenly opens his eyes and asks me what time it is.

(Joshua Levy/CBC)

A girl wants me to take a photo of her and her boyfriend. They are tourists from France. She is particularly excited about her new hat.

(Joshua Levy)

6:00 p.m.

At the lookout, I stare out at the city for a very long time.

The streets are swollen with cars. The sidewalks are crowded with people.

This week has already begun emptying out into the weekend.

Earlier, on Fairmount Street, I passed an advertisement in a store window which announced: COMING SOON. But, as I walked by the sign began to morph until it said: ALREADY GONE.

It happened so quickly, and that's exactly how I feel about my time as the CBC/Quebec Writers' Federation writer-in-residence. Somehow, I suddenly find myself at the end of my last article.

Thanks for reading.

If I had stopped you on the street, what would you have shared about your day? Share your stories below or on the CBC Montreal Facebook page.

Read more from Joshua Levy:    

Learn more about the author: Meet Joshua Levy, CBC/QWF's 2018 writer-in-residence or visit his website


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