Category Archives: Montréal Stories

Montr̩al Stories { No.3 } РThe Vampire of Viger

Gare Viger and Viger Square - credit to

My first apartment was on the corner of Berri and Viger; I joined a few friends living in the old headquarters of an insurance company, right next to the National Archives. I moved in during Spring Break – it was the first day of a long weird trip.

The square above was right across the street, and being the naive West-Islander I once was, I figured it was harmless, perhaps an even ideal place to hang out and relax. That’s when I came to realize Montréal has a big homeless problem, and Viger Square was about as close as we get to having a bonafide Gypsy camp. My roomates told me that at the end of the summer The Fuzz came by, swept everyone into a paddy wagon, destroyed the shelters, and drove them all to the metropolitan city limits.

Not to say that I really had anything to do with the numerous homeless, anarchists, lunatics and drug-peddlers I now co-habitated with,  but proximity and a new social circle brought a fair bit of news my way, and only a few weeks in I began getting paranoid, freaked out. It turned out there had been a vampire on the loose.

Now granted, the Vampire of Viger Square had been behind bars for a few years at this point, but still, it made me wonder whether this city had pushed its homeless, its bottom rung, so far away from the public’s view that a desperation had taken hold, and they were going to make themselves heard, or felt, at any cost.

I observed them from a distance, kept casual and started changing my habits, my comings and goings. I often stayed in, especially through that spring and early summer, watching from my second floor perch, cold beers and hot, sweaty joints concocting new terrors in my brain. I took to walking around late at night with a solid pine cane, half-concerned for my safety, half-convinced I was there to bring order to the perceived chaos. A long trip of substance abuse (unusually dominated by caffeine and multi-vitamins), and increasing fear, compounded by a deteriorating appreciation of human life, brought on by reckless engagement in syndicate duties; I found my own dark world in Viger Square, where after a couple months of regular, forced interaction, became the only place I felt secure, even if it was only the security I found in the certainty of my gloom and despair.

I had previously thought where one lived was completely arbitrary, that one apartment was really as good as any other, and that location was ultimately meaningless. How very wrong I was.

Leeroy Edwards has crossed into a new dimension; RIP

Photo credit: Martin Ujlaki

The Happy Wanderer has wandered off this mortal coil. I never spoke with him, never knew his name until quite recently, but I remember seeing him, here and there, in his unmistakable cosmic robes, staff and the weird magical way he carried himself (see comment by Air Canada pilot at the bottom of the Gazette article). This was a Montréaler sans pareil; an individual completely comfortable with himself and his world. And what a world he lived in!

Apparently, he circumnavigated the globe at least three times, traveled to upwards of fifty cities and took over 10,000 photographs along the way. He lived at the same address on Coursol Street since 1953, and watched the city grow around him as he grew into the city he loved. I hope the family preserves those photographs, I can only imagine what a unique perspective that camera benefited from, and what an amazing exhibition it would make. He certainly deserves it.

He was as much a fixture of the Métro as a fixture of the city’s great festivals, and was welcomed wherever he went. A tribute to the independent, free spirits of our city, he will be dearly missed but soon forgotten. L’Chaim!

Montréal Stories {No. 2} – A child’s footsteps…

Sunburst during a bogus thaw

Overheard in a restaurant (one woman’s voice):

“I’m staying at that hotel across from the Méridien on Sherbrooke, what? no, it’s closer to Atwater, but I’ve stayed at both, this one’s better. Not bad actually, excellent room service, but you wouldn’t believe what happened last night. Maybe its because its an old house, but I’ve never been so creeped out. All night long I heard these weird creaks and cracks, though I couldn’t hear anyone in the hallway, or even in the other rooms. It was as if I was alone on the entire floor. No it’s not very big, but either way there were plenty of people in the lobby, in the restaurant, all over except my floor, which was completely void. Anyways, in the middle of the night I sort of half-wake up, that sleep-paralysis thing. Anyways, I think I see a kid walking along the edge of my bed. So weird right? I mean typically I just get the gut feeling there’s someone else in the room, but I know its not real. I woke myself up after what felt like an eternity, and turn on the light. I swear to God there were footsteps, wee little footsteps along the edge of the bed.”

Montr̩al Stories { No. 1 } РLove in the Time of Fear

Sunset Through Time

A few weeks back I was walking past the Faubourg after work and was stopped by a young guy, looking a bit lost, asking for a smoke. I obliged and he asked if I wouldn’t mind answering a personal question. I took him up on the offer, though initially for no more reason than to practice my ameliorated French with a bonafide Parisian (the accent is a dead giveaway). He asked me if I thought it was possible to experience true love more than once in a lifetime. I couldn’t have been happier to discuss my philosophical ruminations on love, though when he explained his precise situation amidst the pouring late-October ice-rain, my heart sank. It looks like this young guy, aged 18, had packed his bag for Montréal and hoped on the first available flight to try and win back his love. He had met a Canadian in Paris and had fallen madly in love her over the summer. When her time in Paris came to an end, they decided to try their hand at a long-distance relationship, she no older nor any wiser than he. It failed as so many others do, and so he came to see her at her apartment at the Grey Nun’s Mother House, not knowing what he’d do if she ultimately rejected him. He had nothing and was wearing a thin sweater, soaked head to toe. She wasn’t very amused to see him, and threw him out with a Concordia Security guard’s bum-rush to seal the deal. Though he was heart-broken, I can’t imagine why she would have needed to get a big burly security guard, though I guess distance (and stupidity) made the heart grow more determined. I consoled him as best I could and reminded him that yes, indeed, he will probably find love again, perhaps a more meaningful love than the one he thought he had lost.

Ultimately, he was irreconcilable, and I don’t think I convinced him much. I asked him where he was staying, what his plan was. He said he didn’t know, he had nowhere to stay and that his return flight left in three days, so he’d try to sleep at the airport. The moment of dawning realization was still far from fully manifesting itself in his eyes, though I could tell it wouldn’t be much longer before he realized the magnitude of his decision.

I couldn’t tell whether I was happy to see that grand romantic gestures still existed, or that I was no longer as immature and inexperienced as he. I despised that cynicism, wondering if it would cloud my judgment forevermore, or if it was simply a life well-lived that made me critical of the romantic impulse. Still, to travel all this way on little more than a prayer is remarkable for its optimism and naiveté – both so extreme it’s maddening.

I hope she made the right decision, and I know he’ll never do anything so clueless again. Such is the allure of a Montréal girl…