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Op-Ed: Montreal City Chronicles ( Part 2) Special

By Michael Werbowski     Apr 19, 2010 in World
Montreal - Another installment in the life of a major Canadian city. Looking at its urban decor and degradation of the environment due to trash and "urban art".
Recently, I attended a media conference at Montreal's City Hall, which launched a kind of citizen's call to action initiated by the Mayor Gerald Tremblay . The objective of this operation is seemingly, to clean up the island of Montreal. And believe me it's dirty these days. The event was attended by some of the local media and co-sponsored by radio stations in the city, which are to make announcements on the air periodically . From my understanding, the campaign is meant to mobilize the population to organize into small groups, to sweep up and get rid of the pervasive litter problem. Great idea but will it work in practise? This remains to be seen.
In the past weeks, to see for myself how much cleaning needs to be done, I have visited some touristic sites, such a the iconic Mount-Royal Park and saw trash and litter scattered throughout the grounds. The mountain comprised of "Beaver lake" is also the location of one of the most historical cemeteries in Canada ( Robert Bourassa , Quebec's former premier is buried there), called "Notre Dame Des Neiges" . On a visit to the cemetery where in another section, my grandparents' plot is located , I was stunned to see more garbage tossed just outside the cemetary gates ( on a long Easter weekend) . It is indeed a pitiful sight to see my fellow city dwellers ( joggers, bikers, pick- nick revellers) throw trash on such hallowed grounds with such cavalier disregard for this splendid bucolic setting. Really it's quite repugnant!
Learning to love garbage
Wherever there is garbage , there's graffiti too, it seems. Last week, while strolling down one of the main commercial thoroughfares of the city, St-Denis street, I saw the "decorative defacement" on walls and on store-fronts. As well, I counted 10 trash bags piled up one on top of the other in a kind of a post-modern in situ
dump heap, which reminded me of a grotesque version of installation art. As the weather warms , this waste is bound to give off a pungent putrid odor soon. The only time, I saw so much rubbish before, rotting under the searing sun, was in the down town core sector of Mexico city, near the main office of a newspaper I used to write for back then. It was a bit surprising for me, to see so much trash in a city the size of Montreal, which is dwarfed by a much bigger and more populous megalopolis such as the Mexican capital. Especially in he wake of the H1N1 hysteria . Isn't piles of trash decomposing on the street corner next to an eatery, a serious public health hazard? Is it only me? Or has anybody else noticed this urban scourge?
A bit exasperated , I called the 311 Montreal Access number and reported this mess. I was asked by the obliging and polite attended on the line, to report my location as if I were in a war zone and needed immediate rescue. She then patched me through to the municipal services and a fellow told me, "there's no worries, " and that the city's clean up crew is due to pick up the rubbish the same evening. I have not yet returned to the site on St-Denis street, but I bet the garbage is still there now. As for the graffiti, I popped into a fashionable diner-restaurant and asked about the art-work sprayed on the entrance to the place. The manager's assistant, told me the anti graffiti brigade or cleaning crews remove the "tags" from time to time, once the vandalism is reported. But then," they return and tag the walls and facades again," she said. Amid all this urban decay, I sometimes feel like a lab rat here, that is exposed to all this human detritus and visual blight . It all reminds of the classic work on big city life, by the eminent American social commentator, urban theorist, historian, and political activist, Mike Davis whose book, "City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles" foretells the transformations of the "cityscape" into a kind of a "no man's land", where fear and barbarism reign. Then the citizen loses, their connection with his/her community and surroundings. Well, if not much is done to clean up the streets of Montreal soon, then this bleak future scenario may become a reality one day.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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