There is a saying that has been going around Montreal since at least 1534... “There are only two things wrong with Canadian winters; July and August!” As with all sayings, there is a good deal of exaggeration covering that little grain of truth; usually May and June are quite tolerable (however, I do remember a few years ago when my wife and I eagerly set up at our campground on May 8th, we were greeted the next morning by a little overnight storm that left us with about 25 cm of snow on the ground) and during the month of October when the maples change colour, it is so beautiful that a French pop singer named Joe Dassin used it as a theme for a 1975 hit named «L’été indien – Indian Summer».
Whatever, back to our story! It is now the middle of summer and it is hotter than hell ... I am sure there are plenty of cities in North America that claim, rightly or wrongly, that they are the ‘hottest’ town in America and Montreal is no exception. One thing distinguishes Montreal from most of the others, however; it is the speed at which winter changes into summer. At the start of summer which starts, depending on the year, anywhere from the end of April to mid-June, the temperature is 5°C, if that, especially at night. The following day, it will be 17°C and the day after that 36°C.
There is another aspect that, if anything, makes it even worse. This 36°C could have been perfectly welcome if it wasn’t always accompanied by a relative humidity that varied between 90 and 95% and that the wind that blew along the canyons between the down-town high-rises and literally froze your nuts off in winter would suddenly disappear instead of cooling the sweat off your brow. Altogether, it made summertime in Montreal frequently unbearable, especially in the poorer districts of the city, such as St-Henry, Point-St-Charles and that part of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve that is spread out against the St-Lawrence River.
In the summertime, girls walk around in tight tops barely as large as a washcloth held up by straps thinner than shoelaces and shorts that showed off their butts rather than cover them. Guys, well aware of the importance of looking good, would not dare change out of their 5XL jeans that told everyone that they too were bad enough to have spent time in jail in East LA. However, they were more than willing to lose their ragged tees and show off their skull and clan tattoos to all and sundry. Where a neighbourhood park was graced with a fountain, the more daring would stretch out in the water and under the water spray to find a few moments of blessed relief.
In summer, as well, radio stations and the local papers speak of the current heat wave and of the ‘humidex’ (an innocent little word that someone invented to explain why the 100°F outside actually felt like it was 150°, like) and recommended that older people should stay inside. That assumed, of course, that the ‘inside’ had air conditioning because, otherwise ‘inside’ was even worse. The big shopping malls like Place Versailles and Carrefour Angrignon then became the equivalent of churches and temples as they were the only accessible places with air conditioning.
In a tavern on Beaubien, just north of St-Lawrence Blvd., a man was having a grilled cheese sandwich and a draft beer alone in a corner next to an old beat-up AC unit. He did not seem at all in a hurry to finish his lunch in spite of the miserable décor of the place. As he was eating, his eyes wandered along the other customers when he thought he recognised one who had just walked in.
“Hey, Tony ... Tony Colantonio!”
The man, hearing his name, looked around trying to find who had called him in the relative darkness of the place. “Butch... ? Butch! What are you doing here, man? The last time we saw each other, it was in St-Henry.”
“That’s a long story, man ... When my woman dumped me, she took off with one of the cars in my boss’s lot. He was so pissed off, he booted me out. I managed to find a new job in a small garage around the corner. You? What’s happening with you; I haven’t seen you around for two years.”
“Me, it’s about the same; I had this thing going that was doing not too bad but one of my partners got picked up by the cops. He stooled me out and I had to hightail it out to Toronto. It’s been about two months since I’m back. Say, didn’t you have a kid ... how’s family life treating you?”
“Don’t even mention it ... when she left, she took the kid with her, the bitch! If I knew where she was, I’d really tell her that nobody does that to me!”
“Oh? I know a way you could get your kid back and get even with your ho at the same time. And even better, it’s perfectly legal. This is what you do ... First, find out where she disappeared to ... You know her friends? Don’t ask them directly but rather, find their friends and ask them; I dunno, think up some tale about how you owe her some money, like, and tell them you want to find her to pay her back.”
“Let’s say she’s gone to Chicoutimi ... once you know where she is, accuse her of criminal negligence with the DPJ in Montreal and with the police in Chicoutimi, accuse her of kidnapping. The DPJ has its own investigators and that gang of ‘Do-gooders’ is always at war with the cops. Those two will fight to the death to claim ownership of the file and, out of the ruins, you’ll end up with your kid and your ho will be in so much trouble with the DPJ and the cops that she’ll never manage to crawl out of all that shit.”
DPJ – Direction de la Protection de la Jeunesse, Quebec’s Child Welfare Bureau