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Archive for July, 2010

When the town of Villeray was incorporated in 1896 it was mostly farmland.  By 1956 there was one left.

The agent of change in Villeray was the Park and Island Railway Company which operated  some tram lines in competition with the Montreal Street Railway Company.  The P and I had a line running up what is now Lajeunesse Street, pouring newly minted suburbanites into Villeray’s grid.  By the time it became a part of Montreal in 1905 it had a population of 800.  In the next 45 years it would explode.

The P and I was set up in 1885 to  “construire et de faire fonctionner des chemins de fer ou des tramways vers le Mont-Royal et diverses municipalités de l’île de Montréal, à partir de certains endroits de Montréal, afin de permettre aux familles de passer l’été à la campagne et aux chefs de famille de voir à leurs affaires en ville.”  Villeray was a sleepy little village at the time and not yet incorporated itself but in 1896 the P and I began construction on the line that would take the people of Montreal “à la campagne.”  It ran a block east of Berri.

But the Park and Island Railway Company, its fleet mostly destroyed by fire in June of 1896, never really got to it together.  They struggled along until  1911 when they were bought out by the Montreal Street Railway Company who would rip out the line east of Berri and place tracks along St. Denis instead, tracks plied by the (23) tram.  The space formerly taken by tracks east of Berri was converted into Rue Lajeunesse which, I suppose is why it’s so wide today.

By 1949 Villeray was hoppin’.

The increased population meant and increased need for schools, churches, baths and other institutions.  Most of the housing stock left in Villeray today is from this period or slightly earlier.

Julia and I wanted to try out and do a Hand to Mouth on the pupuseria Iris on Jarry so we decided to combine our love of stuffing our gullets with walking and taking pictures.  We started at our home in Parc-Ex and walked through Jarry Park but since we covered Jarry Park in our last Street Walking we’ll just start at the corner of Jarry and St. Laurent.

Right on the corner of Jarry and St. Laurent is Bellamine House.  I don’t really know anything about it except that it is or was some sort of religious structure.

In Montreal and on St. Dominique specifically, it’s always hockey season.

Villeray is flush with great alleys such as this one between St. Dominique and Casgrain.

That is one desolate goat.  As a matter of fact they all look pretty down.  WTF?

The church of St. Vincent Ferrer, serving Jarry Street since 1931.

Great sign?  You bet!  As we would soon see, Villeray is a cool sign goldmine.

You know what I really, really hate?  Those idiotic faux- balconies that grace the facades of so many condo developments today.  Does anyone out there have one of these dumbass looking things and like it?  Do they serve a purpose other than being exceedingly ugsome?

On St. Hubert we ran into this cat in a commercial window.  Mouser?  Perhaps.  Adorable?  Definitely.

And now we enter a lost world, a world painted by hand.  This stretch of St. Hubert between Jarry and Jean Talon is like stepping into a time machine and going back 30 years.  This kind of sign craftsmanship is on the way out, though some people are keeping the tradition alive.  Is there anything much cooler than hand-painted-on-glass storefronts?

Apparently this is also the Peruvian district that will probably be featured in a future Hand to Mouth.

Anyone ever been to Bar Stainless?

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Here are some images from a rally in Athena Park on Jean Talon today.  According to No One Is Illegal‘s website, “As part of the National Day of Action against Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, Solidarity Across Borders and No One Is Illegal Montreal invite you to a PEOPLES’ PICNIC in PARK ATHENA located at the corner of Jean-Talon W. and de l’Épée, Parc-Extension
SATURDAY JULY 24TH, 2010.”

There was tons of food but having just eaten pupusas at Iris on Jarry we were regrettably not very hungry.  I did have a cookie,  though and Julia had a piece of watermelon.

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It’s impossible to look at the Cross Bronx Expressway…

…and the Decarie Expressway…

…and not see a a lot of similarities.  They’re both ditches.  They were both plowed through existing neighborhoods.  The toll the Cross Bronx took on new York is well documented by Robert Caro in his book about Robert Moses, The Power Broker.  But what was the price Montreal paid for its trench highway?  Search as I may through the Gazette’s archives I cannot find one article on any opposition.  What gives?  Was Drapeau able to keep it out of the papers?  Was there any opposition at all, anyway?  If anyone has any first-hands accounts, I’d love to hear them.  Granted, Decarie Boulevard was a wide street and not much needed to be torn down or moved compared to the Cross Bronx but someone had to be pissed, right?

Robert Moses was invited to Montreal in 1938. He couldn’t make it but sent an aid.  It’s not surprise, looking at those two photos that Moses’ opinion was very much sought after but just to confirm it check out this Gazette article from 1955:

Just in case you the people of Montreal needed a little prodding…  Of course, this was right at the beginning of Jean Drapeau’s first term as mayor.  Given the three years he was in office it would have been impossible for him to commence construction on the massive projects we would later become famous for, thought he must have been thinking about it.  Drapeau held power in Montreal for a total of 29 years, Moses in New York for 44.  No doubt, Drapeau saw in Moses bits of himself and saw things that Moses built that he also wanted to build.  I’m sure Drapeau wanted Moses’ name in the public’s ear as much as possible at the time, but by the time he got re-elected 1960, Moses was on the road to irrelevancy, though it would be a few years before he finally reached the end of his reign.  Drapeau would keep shaping Montreal until 1986, foisting upon it’s citizens many projects that years later would be broken, falling apart or in need of demolition.

So, what was the relationship between Jean Drapeau and Robert Moses?  Drapeau was coming in as Moses was going out.  Whatever contact was made between the City of Montreal and Mighty Triborough it’s obvious, just by looking at the Decarie Expressway, that Moses’ influence was guiding the hands of Montreal’s planning department.

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Julia and I moved to Parc-Extension this month from Point St. Charles and what a difference.  Dense and bustling it couldn’t be much farther removed from The Point’s quiet village-ness.  But, it wasn’t always the exciting urban space that it is today.  By the late 1920’s developers were trying to sell people on the peaceful suburban character Parc-Ex had at the time.

The area above the tracks was sparsely populated especially above Jean Talon (or Hopper Ave.) as can be seen in this 1929 insurance map.

It wasn’t until the 1950’s during the post-war boom period that the area really started to fill out, mostly with Jews moving up from Mile-End or coming straight from Europe.  By the late 1960’s the Jewish population began to be displaced by Greek settlers who by the late 1970’s had come to dominate the cultural landscape.  But as South Asian immigrants began to move in in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, the neighborhood began to lose it’s Greek character and today during a walk down Jean Talon you’ll encounter one of the most ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Canada.

During a minor respite from the oppressive heat last week Julia and I took a walk around our new neighborhood up Durocher and then down Jarry, Ball, and St. Roch before finally heading back down Birnam to Jean Talon.

Parc-Ex-ers are apparently into street cleanliness.  You wouldn’t know it from the toilet on the sidewalk, though, just a few feet from that “propre pole.”

Parc-Ex has quite a few one story houses.  The McMansions of a half-century ago.

When we got up to St. Roch we noticed a grade crossing into Jarry Park.

Jarry Park was not always public property.  The Bagg family, which owned much of the land in the area leased it to the city for $1 a year provided the city use it as a public park with the option to buy in the future.  In 1935 the Bagg family  broached the subject of purchasing the land for a suggested price of $750,000.  The city, not being able to afford it opted for another lease.  But on September 11th, 1945 it was announced that the city would finally buy the property from the Bagg family for $509,173.  Jarry Park was here to stay and crossing the tracks into it from the west made for a nice, green change from the hanging laundry, ambulances and police cars and traffic of St. Roch.

We walked north along the edge of the park up to Jarry, hung a left and walked its length to l’Acadie.This is as close as we get to street food here in Montreal and it’s a real shame.  The smell wafting off that meat was amazing.  The city could only be improved by street food vendors and our lack of them upsets me to no end.  Get your heads out of your asses City Hall!

There’s so much left to explore here and this grocery store on Jarry had some great looking sweets as well as fresh produce and a large supply of malt beverages.

Doesn’t that look delicious?  Well, yes, it kind of does but unfortunately they were closed at the time.

A pre-security cameras anti-shoplifting sign in Marche J.P.A.

In the mood for some ice-cream and unable to turn down a $1 cone we stopped in at Bismallah on St. Roch.
Bismallah is also a casse-croute and serve $1.25 hamburgers!

The ice cream was quite good.  I got pistachio and Julia had vanilla.   Fresh meat (!) at a grocery store on St. Roch.

And an ancient beer fridge at Steve’s depanneur also on St. Roch.Finally a decked out apartment building on Birnam.  And home we went to to our Mickey’s vs. Guinness Extra Stout taste test.

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Matt:  Can you believe what we just ate?

Julia: Mmmm…uggg….mmmff. Soooo fullllll.

Matt:  So, for $14 we got three Kothu Parotta meals and we could only finish one between us.  Good deal?  I’d say so.  This is some serious poor people food.

Julia: And quite delicious. I guess the “parotta” is the flatbread part. It’s like a spongy, chewy naan that they then chop up and fry with meat, vegetables, spices, chilis, and egg. With lime juice on top.  There’s something dumpling-esque about it, doncha think?

Matt:  Kind of.

Julia:  And extremely filling. This stuff sits solid in the tum.

Matt:  And it is not un-spicy.  Those big chunks of green chili they throw in are hot.  Not un-deliciously hot.

Julia:  Don’t stop not using double negatives.

Matt:  But I am using them.  Not un-annoyingly so.

Julia:  On to the decor/atmosphere. I love the bright yellow walls and the tiny little gnome door leading into the kitchen. It looks like an old diner or maybe a tavern.

Matt:  I liked how they had two radios playing two different stations at once.  And the cook was happy to answer all of our questions, like what the hell everything was.

Julia:  Plus he made me touch a piece of parotta. I liked touching the parotta.

Matt:  I could tell.  Anyway, since we got take-out we didn’t get to enjoy the experience of eating there.  Sometime we will, I’m sure but the fact that it’s only two blocks away and that the take-out menu offers all kinds of free stuff means that this is our new go-to take-out place.  I mean, for $14 we got enough food for SIX meals!  That’s just ridiculous.

Julia: And we gotta try the biriyani! And all those mysterious variations on fried patties of things and breads and stuff.

Matt:  I give V.I.P, which I believe serves Sri Lankan food five thumbs up.  What do you think?

Julia: I give V.I.P. a golden mango award.

Matt:  What’s a golden mango award?

Julia:  It’s in the title, silly. It’s a golden mango that you award someone who gives you something good to eat.

Matt:  That is also what my thumbs mean.  And by thumbs I mean hands.  Hands to mouths.

Julia:  Yay!

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On a Sunday stroll round the neighborhood we picked up a couple of beers, unusual ones in this part of town (Parc-Ex).  First up is Mickey’s, bought at Marche Africaine on Jean Talon.  Mickey’s is brewed in Milwuakee by the Miller company.

Mickey’s

Matt:  It has a certain ephemeral quality.

Julia:  You mean watery?

Matt:  Yeah.

Julia:  PBR-esque.

Matt:  PBR’s better, though for what that’s worth.

Julia:  It’s so bad I don’t even want any more.

The Guinness Extra Stout comes to us from Halifax and was bought at  J.P.A. on St. Roch.

Guinness Extra Stout


Matt:  Wow, what a difference.

Julia:  Mmmm, now that’s a beer,

Matt:  I forgot what flavour tasted like.

Julia:  Did you know that Guinness is actually pretty low in alcohol and calories? People are always like, “Oooh, arrg, a meal in a bottle!” But that’s just cause it’s dark in color.

Matt:  Colour.

Julia:  And it has a certain creaminess.

Matt:  Creaminouss.

Julia:  Creaminouss?

Matt:  That’s how we spell it up here.  This is the Queen’s English, not your mongrelized, bastardized and despised “American” english.

Julia: Eh?

Matt:  I’m disappointed that we can’t get my favourite Indian beer, Cheetah out here.  What’s up with that?

Julia: Just in restaurants. I’m also disappointed that we can’t find Mythos, that Greek beer, in any deps.

Matt:  Fail.  Total fail.  Utterly Fail.

Julia:  (silence)

Matt:  Well, we may not have a great dep beer selection but some good stuff can be had at the Loblaws near Parc Metro, including one of my all-time favourites, Blonde d’Achouffe.

Julia: That Loblaws reminds me of my long-lost and beloved Wegman’s.

Matt:  Ah, yes, Wegman’s.  The last refuge of the scoundrel.  Well, the last refuge of the average Syracustian.

Julia: Syracustian? No one says that. It’s Syracusan. Duh.

Matt:  Since I had to down that entire bottle of Mickey’s all by my lonesome I think I’m entitled to some made up titles.

Julia: This is getting long and pointless.

Matt:  You’re long and pointless.

Julia: Your face is long and pointless.

Matt:  I’m the onyl one drinking hjere.  whty dont you shut op.

Julia: Time for a nap.

Matt:  (snore)

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By Matt

LeBron James is joining his buddies in Miami in the ultimate expression of free-agency.  This is what the strengthening of players rights to dictate their own careers has been working towards.  The revolution that Curt Flood started decades ago has reached its zenith.  Let’s take a look at how we got here:

On September 29, 1879 at a meeting in Buffalo, NY National League owners colluded to keep salaries down by agreeing to reserve five players, untouchable by any other team.  What was at first a gentleman’s agreement soon became standard practice.  Five players soon turned into 11 in 1883, 12 in 1886 and 14 in 1887 with the latter being the first time a reserve clause had been written into a player’s contract.  Though the clause was deemed unconstitutional several times it wasn’t seriously opposed until 1969 when Curt Flood refused to report to Philadelphia Phillies training camp after being traded from the St. Louis Cardinals.  The reserve clause basically meant that the Phillies owned him.  But Flood did not want to play in Philadelphia, didn’t show up for camp and took the issue to court in an anti-trust suit.  He lost.  What he started would finally be finished in 1975 when Andy Messersmith of the Dodgers and Dave McNally or your Montreal Expos played the 1975 season without signing contracts and with the reserve clause no longer applicable, hit the market as free agents.  With players able to play anywhere they wished salaries sky-rocketed and leagues that had previously adopted caps only to reject them began re-instituting them.  The NBA actually had a cap for one year in the mid 1940’s.  By the early 1980’s salaries had, according to owners, become out of control and in 1984 it was reinstated (the cap that year?  $3.6 million).  That 1984 cap is basically the one that’s in place now and though players had before teamed up in isolated cases there’s been nothing on this scale before pro in basketball.

Will we see more of this in the future?  In the NBA, I doubt it very much.  Basketball is a sport uniquely suited to the one-superstar-plus-role-players system and if a player can’t carry a team on his back to a championship he’ll never be on the truly great ones.  In basketball winning is first and foremost the star’s responsibility.  Who’s really the all-time great on a team of stars?

I guess I should throw in one more Expos reference to make this a little more apropos.  Where and when did Curt flood collect his first Major League hit?  On April 14, 1969 against Larry Jaster of the Montreal Expos.  It was a double in the first inning of the Expos inaugural home game.

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