Wednesday, February 27, 2008

le presbytère où je travaille

When you learn a new language in the land of that language, you also learn a lot of other stuff. For instance, the building where I work is the presbytère of the catholic church next door. I now know that a presbytère is the place where the nuns and priests live. I don't know what the word is in english and I think the protestant faith probably has a different system (don't they have a "close" or something? All I know about that is what I learned in passing from certain Michael Gilbert books).

With the decline of the importance of the catholic church in social affairs in Quebec also comes an economic decline. The churches, whose pews are nearly empty these days, also lack funding and personnel. There are fewer priests and nuns entering the fold and less demand for the ones already there. At some point, the paroisse (the parish?), which I guess is the organizing body for each specific church, decided to use their presbytère for profit and they now rent it to several environment non-governmental organizations (NGO's). I guess they still wanted to be community-minded, which is cool.

So that is how I ended up working in a presbytère. Since one of the previous comments had mentioned that it must be nice to work in such an environment, I thought I would share it with you. Because it is nice. The interior of this building has certainly seen more glorious days. It went through some minor periods of renovation, leaving the hideous stamp of the 70s (though compared to the cheapshit renos that are done today, even the tackiest of the 70s looks kind of well-built) and has some general disrepair. The insulation sucks and the roof is barely hanging on (we had a nice inundation last spring). But it retains high ceilings, lots of tall windows, beautiful wood floors, solid oak doors and a very non-corporate feel that makes it very much a joy to come to work (it also helps to have a good job for an organization that is trying to do good in the world).

My personal favorite architectural touches here are the built-in closets (all but one of which are unfortunately painted white) made up of I believe solid oak, though it could be maple and the radiators. The large radiator in the hall really kicks ass.

I'll post some pictures below with captions. Enjoy!

presbytere from outside picture

Here's the building from the outside. Quite the stone block!

whole church from outside picture

This is the whole "compound." It looks like the presbytère is attached, because of the tree, but they are separate buildings, though pretty close. The church itself is worth a separate post at least, because there is a lot of cool stuff going on there. One day, I'll get around to photographing the interior and the gold jesus on the front lawn.


The closet in a side hallway that is dedicated to closet space. Needs to be better organized!


The bannisters. Look at that wood glow! Is this all oak? Any ebenistes out there?


The stairs to the attic. Scary! (the attic is actually awesome, with a little trap door that keeps getting blown off. It's just way too cluttered to be able to take a picture.)


My pride and joy, the radiator. It reads "Safford Patent" and underneath "RD 1898". That thing is 110 years old!


Finally, one of the hideous lamps. It's that unholy alliance between organized religion and the 70s that left such frightening images in my young psyche. I sure would love to have seen the lamps that were here originally.

I've been working here for just under 2 years and in the first 6 months, there was one priest living in the building. I never saw him. His apartment was accessed by a separate entrance and though there was an adjoining door between our hallway and his place, it was never opened. I didn't see the space until after he had left and they rented the space out to another organization. It had a very '70s lonely old man look to it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

le givre

my window at work

the window down the hall

the icicles you can see through the window

Quite beautiful, eh? They look like light little feathers dancing in two dimensions on the glass. They melt away when the sun hits them. All this icey beauty is the result of poor insulation, unfortunately.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Carbon Neutral Move

So we're moving. We are part of the horde of yuppies turning Mile End from an old working class portuguese neighbourhood to the new SOHO of Montreal (I've already seen two new baby stores opening up, a sure sign of the apocalypse). I speak partly in jest, as we are literally moving one block north, across the border of avenue Mont-Royal, which puts us at the very bottom of Mile End. The difference is that we are now owners rather than renters.

Among the many positive aspects of this Step to Maturity, the one I am most excited about is the possible opportunity to make this move entirely by hand. I am a bit obsessive about moving and quite good at it and I have found that hiring people can be very hit or miss. Our rent is so cheap that we can afford to keep our current place for a month and take the time to move slowly. I don't have the kind of competent friends here that I would have in the West Coast (the kind of men who synchronize their watches with the CBC time signal when they hear it), so I am kind of on my own. Not that my friends here aren't competent, but I haven't known them long enough to feel comfortable to ask them to help me move. Though one couple already offered to help with painting or borrowing a car, demonstrating the natural generosity and hospitality of the Québécois.

So I've borrowed a hand truck from work and we are slowly going about boxing non-essential things. I spent this weekend rolling them up the block, through blowing snow, carrying them up the stairs, unpacking everything and then taking the empty boxes back home. I was feeling a bit like a crazy person and suffering from the deeply-ingrained bourgeoisie instincts of guilt when not spending money and doing things like everybody else.

On Sunday morning, on my first run, as I was dragging the heavily-laden handtruck over the small mountains of snow between the sidewalk and the street (it's easier to push the handtruck along the cars' wheel tracks which tend to be clear of snow), I encountered a red-cheeked, older man in an old coat and toque with earflaps. He immediately recognized what I was doing and told me that he had once moved with only a hand truck. The distance between his old place and new one was a lot longer than mine and required 10 trips. We walked up the street together, discussing moving and what a privilege it was to be able to take your time when you move. "C'est une grande luxe de démenager tranquillement. Une grande luxe!" When we parted ways, he gave me a pat on the back and I felt like I had received both social acceptance for my behaviour and a small blessing. The guy was old school Montreal and looked a bit like a friendly gnome and I wondered if he hadn't been sent by the city itself as a reminder that despite the yuppies that swarm the Provigo in their new cars, this is still a working man's town at the core and doing things by hand the cheap way is accepted and approved.