There is an imposing structure that intrigues me from a distance every time I go to Atwater Library, so today, the third day in my year of daily doing something I've never done before, I decided to investigate. The place looks like Hogwarts, and I have asked a lot of people what it is, but nobody seemed to know. It sends chimneys and turrets into the Montreal sky from partway up the mountain. Someone told me it was an upscale residence and I imagined myself growing old there, if my books sell lots of copies, and happily paying a very high rent and looking out over the whole of downtown from a lofty height. This was one fantasy: another one, more downmarket, has me dropping Djarum ash off a dilapidated balcony over Kensington Market while the neighbourhood cats come to me for fresh sardines. But today I returned my library book and walked up Atwater and around to Cote-des-Neiges, toward the enticing loftiness that has beguiled me whenever I'm in that part of town.
To get there at all I had taken the metro, and I decided I'd do another thing I'd never done yet, which was draw portraits of some of the people on the train, which you'll see below. I'm not sure if their apparent sadness is a pervasive emotion on the metro, or whether it somehow reflected something in myself. But these people were there, and I don't think they were the people living in the houses I passed on my way to the imposing structure. These houses had roses and thistles in cement around their beveled glass and hardwood doors, and they were so big that for awhile during my ascent on foot I lost sight of my original goal and wondered if I were encountering it without recognizing it, because of having come closer to it. But at Cote-des-Neiges I saw the particular formations of its crenellations. I went up to it. There were archways. There was stone. There was a rose-cloud view. There was a white settee sitting out in front - apparently this part of town had a day, as did the rest of the city, when work crews come and take away unwanted household items. The settee had a lovely white, tasseled cushion on it that I decided to take home. Only when I was halfway home on the metro with the cushion and some takeout sushi did I realize that once again, on my journey to do something new each day, the universe had given me a little present like yesterday's blue wool sweater and the previous day's Indian food on a silver dish.
There was a rarefied atmosphere around the stone building. Its name is Gleneagles and it is indeed a complex of luxury apartments. While I looked up at the windows and wondered what it was like inside, I also felt there was loneliness in the atmosphere - a feeling of being imprisoned, if you lived there. It was a short walk down to the part of downtown where you meet the denizens of the subway again, passing the mall where there are many poor people, old people, people eating two dollar meals and carrying heavy bags, and it was a walk that reminded me once again, as I am often reminded, that one of the most revealing lenses through which you can look at people is through the lens of money and class: a thing the new world claims to have overcome.