Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Life as an explat*

I have wanted to live in St Henri since I moved to Montreal. I would glimpse it from the window of the train and think “There – I want to live there.” After a stint in the Plateau and then the Village, I've finally made my way here. I love it – the canal, the hushed nights, the fascinating collision of condos and history, the Atwater Market a quick stroll down the street. But I'm learning that being removed from ‘the action’ is a double-edged sword. Pop-bys have dropped off precipitously, which lets me live without fear of being found slovenly. I don’t mind the sense of distance, but on this (as with many other things) my wallet disagrees. There’s travel time and costs – no night buses venture into St Henri, so I either must become more adept at cycling drunk, or drink less and cab home, or not go out as often. And I'm finding that for my Plateau/Village/Mile End friends St Henri has the aura of the rabbit hole: with cheerful trepidation they approach it as somewhere bravely ventured, a bona-fide excursion. As one put it, “Well, at least it’s close to… whatever places it’s close to” (tautologies, boo).
Apropos of home(s) - I talked for hours with one of my old girlfriends the other day, and we made giddy plans for a friend’s upcoming wedding. She had a list of the things we should do when I was ‘home,’ i.e. back in St Catharines. It struck me after I hung up the phone how naturally I accepted that phrasing – I lived there for three years while I did my MA, and it was the closest any place in my student life has ever come to being home. Not the city per se (that honour goes to Montreal – I feel the city thrumming in my feet) but the people, the pace. There was a sense of camaraderie, of spending rather than passing time, and the pleasure of knowing that I could walk into any one of my (limited) haunts and find someone. Social life works differently here – as a matter of geography and demography it’s more diffuse. If home really is where the heart is, then I’d like to transplant many people to this city (they don’t have to live in St Henri) so I can stop feeling torn between these competing loves – the comfortable nice guy appeal of old dear supportive friends or the intoxicating bad boy charisma of Montreal’s passionate history, rollicking nightlife, energizing arts (we all know how that scenario ends… when have I ever picked the nice guy?).
*This being my latest neologism, meaning an expatriate from the Plateau.


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