Since my accident, I’ve been spending way more time on the love seat than in the saddle. Likewise, I am on way more drugs than usual. I was hoping the painkillers the small-town doctor hooked me up with would evoke some blog-worthy introspection. Alas, painkillers don’t do that. Not even morphine. At best, it made sulking on the love seat a little less uncomfortable.
It took exactly a week before I felt I had recovered enough to go on a benign adventure. On Saturday I found myself back on a gravel path, only I didn’t have a bicycle beneath me.
This particular path– Le Réseau-Vert–runs alongside the Canadian Pacific Railway line for about 3km through the borough of Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie. Up until the beginning of spring, it was a simple unmarked car-free path. The city then decided to add some gimmicky park benches, tables, a playground for doing calisthenics, and information panels.
Being without my bicycle forced me to slow down and appreciate this $1 million upgrade. I was able to stop and smell the roses/learn a bit about my ‘hood. In French.
I was not disappointed.
For more than a year, I had been cycling past a giant building with twin smokestacks that never seemed to emit smoke. I knew the building belonged to the city, but my best guess was that it was a place where all the traffic cones were stored, and where more could be manufactured should the city’s supply ever run low.
Between 1929 and 1993, this building spewed burning garbage. Not the best smell to attract cyclists and joggers to Le Réseau-Vert. So, after 64 years of garbage burning fun, the city decided the pollution was getting a trifle excessive and shut it down. Instead of converting it into something better-smelling, like a cookie factory, the building was deserted.
As many abandoned buildings in Montréal end up being revamped into overpriced studio apartments, why not this one? The smokestacks already have balconies in place. The spiral ramp would be fun to sledge down in the winter. There’s ample parking!
It would cost millions to clean up the contaminated soil, which is apparently okay to jog and cycle next to but not live on. Turning this incinerator inside-out and burning it down wasn’t an option, so the city has decided to let it slowly erode.
With the addition of the information panels along the bike path, the city has inadvertently turned incinerator #3 into an attractive nuisance. Up until now, I was okay with leaving it alone. Now, I desperately want to go inside.
Knowing Montréal, there are probably cops inside the building waiting to ambush trespassers with fines.
One of the other information panels described a former local celebrity who went by the name of The Great Antonio. He was a Hagrid-looking man famous for pulling loaded city buses using two ropes made of hair… still attached to his head. Initially, Antonio was Croatian, but he later decided that being Italian would be more marketable in a neighbourhood like La Petite-Patrie. That is until his inflamed hair follicles affected the little sanity he had, compelling him to declare himself an extraterrestrial.
Since aliens don’t have fancy technology like voice mail, in his later years Antonio used Dunkin’ Donuts employees as his personal messengers. If this isn’t weird enough, Antonio also sold postcards and brochures of himself at metro stations. He was his own biggest fan.
Sometimes I feel goofy about having a blog where I write about myself, but I’m far from being so confident in my allure that the city of Montréal will posthumously devote a park bench to me, paint a mural, and print my photo on an information panel erected next to an old garbage incinerator.
Act like you’re famous, and eventually, people will start believing it.