July 1, 2012. This is the day of the Nation’s 145th birthday. While the rest of the country is taking advantage of a nationally sponsored day for sleeping in, today a celebration of a different kind is taking place, bright and early, on the streets of Montreal.
By 9:00 AM I have settled into my room at Concordia University’s Grey Nuns Residence. Groggy, but ready and eager to explore, I want to gleefully dance through the streets–but instead, wanting to make a good first impression on the city, I opt for normalcy. Heading towards Atwater and passing the imposing Canadian Architecture Centre, a Canada Day parade is in the works.
There’s no excessive red and white invading the streets. Instead, I can tell that a parade will take place from the marching of workers frantically commanding each other to place neon pylons and tape at chosen spots. Crossing the street I follow the lead of a perky dog walker.
With each step, I’m hypnotized by the bright green light beckoning walkers to cross into another world. I quickly learn that in Montreal you cross streets at green lights instead of red. At the other end of the street I can see that despite their frenzied planning, the volunteers I left behind seemed confident that their efforts would pay off. As I would come to observe, it wasn’t just the parade volunteers who seemed cool and confident. It was the whole city.
I head west, relying on my curiosity to act as my guide. A couple blocks away the first unexpected event occurs. I stumble across an old mattress lying comfortably along the side of the road. The abused mattress seems out of place on the historic beauty of the streets.
A few minutes later, I observe a couple struggling with large moving boxes while shakily placing them into their vehicle. Blocks away there are more piles of beds, some are stacked on top of each other, others lie solo along the sidewalks. Is something wrong here?
Taking a good look at the houses on the street, I apply my x-ray vision to the exterior of the homes. I’m drawn in by the way that these elegant old bricks are splashed with bands of pastel oranges, purples, and greens. Nothing appears to be wrong.
But, it wasn’t just the one neighbourhood that seemed to be turning its homes inside out, it was all of Montreal. July 1st is also a fiesta declared as ‘Moving Day’ by Montreal.
It’s a designated time for people to move on to something different.