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Metro Roulette - Plamondon, the transit strike edition

Posted by Susan / May 26, 2007

20070526_plamondon.jpgMetro Roulette sends intrepid MP writers to explore the neighbourhoods around the city's Metro stations. With the gun to my head, I set off for Plamondon.

My contribution to Metro Roulette is a big, fat lie.

That's right, folks - my writer's ethic has gone straight to hell. At no point during my research did I actually step foot inside Plamondon Metro station, although I have been there before and I spent a good long while exploring its surrounds.

See, being that my schedule isn't exactly what you would call 9 to 5, the strike's pared down hours of operation posed some organisational difficulties. So to fulfill my duties at a time of day when things would actually be open, I hopped on my bike and pedalled there. "This will work out fine," I thought to myself. "Once I arrive, I'll go inside the station, saunter around, take some photos and then hit the streets." This was a very good plan, as plans formulated by me tend to go. I was confident.

That is, until I was met at the door to the station by a steely-jawed Metro worker.

Apparently, shutting down the train service wasn't enough to make their point. The stations themselves were locked up tight. The one-man picket line glared at me. In my most polite French, I assured him of the purity of my intentions; all I wanted was to take a few photographs of the station. Tee hee?

No dice. So, as photographs of the station's interior go, you'll have to be satisfied with this one, courtesy of the STM.

20070526_plamondon2.jpgFrom memory, I can tell you that this station looks like a lot of other ones, a throwback to the architectural era of the 60's and 70's, when giant slabs of grey concrete positioned at various angles was just neat-o, and the aesthetic was devoted to all things orange. At one end, there is a large, dome-shaped section of the wall, which is lit up from behind. Presumably this is meant to give the impression of a nice, sunny window, to break up the gloom that is inevitably cast by the aforementioned slabs of concrete. Suffice it to say it's not very effective.

My favourite fact about Plamondon is that nobody really knows for sure where the name came from. The station is named after the adjacent avenue Plamondon. But the street itself was named in 1911, and the folks responsible for these things never indicated why. The best guess is that it was either in honour of québécois painter Antoine P., or singer and cellist Rodolphe P.

The other thing I like about this station is that the neighbourhood around it is not just pleasant; it's apparently your one-stop shopping destination for all of your Judaica and Bollywood needs. Yes, on Victoria alone I counted not one, but two places to rent Indian musicals - one of which was called "Planète Bollywood", and was worth the trip on its own - and there used to be a third, but it looked to have recently closed down. One can only assume that market saturation is to blame. And if you're in need of a yarmulke or want to bone up on your kosher cooking, Rodal on Van Horne and Kotel on Victoria will both suit your needs. I once visited the former and discovered that the proprietors communicate exclusively in screams:

Woman (hollering to back of the store): Max, Book of Our Heritage, we have?

Man (disembodied voice yelling from the back): No!

Woman (turning to me to translate): We don't have.

20070526_plamondon5.jpgFabulous. It's easy to see why shops like this abound here. Plamondon is right in the centre of one of the city's densest Jewish areas. But in addition, it is a decidedly multicultural quartier. Lots of little Indian, Greek, Philippino, and etc. restaurants are scattered about on Victoria, and have the unassuming look of a great secret waiting to be discovered. Of course, there are also lots of dingy hair salons that suggest a disaster waiting to happen, but I digress.

On this day, almost the entire Jewish community was out in full force for the holiday of Shavuot, which only reminded me that I was being a bad Jew and writing quippy things in my notebook rather than celebrating the revelation of the Torah at Sinai.

20070526_plamondon4.jpgIf you get the opportunity the next time Chanukah rolls around, take a trip to this station and walk around the neighbourhood for a view of the giant menorahs on a few of the nearby lawns.

And lawns, there are aplenty! Once you get away from the bigger streets, the neighbourhood is residential, but without the haunted, whitewashed feel of many suburbs. It achieves one of those happy mediums for people who are unable to afford a condo on the Plateau but who are also unwilling to give in to the khaki shorts and Soccer Mom haircuts. It's the sort of area where you can grow up and face the realities of adulthood, while still being able to live with yourself. Tree-lined streets abound, as do parks where birds tweet with improbable sincerity.

Oh, and I now officially want a castle-house. But really, who wouldn't? I mean seriously folks, check this baby out. Turrets! I think that's what they're called!


All this greenery basically manages to make up for the other parts around Plamondon, where you can find the kind of ugly that can only be attributed to a strip mall built in a certain era (I'm not sure what kind of fruit and vegetable store merits the description "Krazy," but there you have it,) not to mention a monolithic Pharmaprix.

All this commerce was making me hungry, but there's something about a Chinese restaurant in a strip mall that causes me to shudder like Alex DeLarge before a pert set of breasts. The memory of spring rolls that left a Maybelline shine on my lips and fried rice that sat in my stomach about as lightly as a pétanque boule, well, it was just too much for me. I couldn't risk it.

Instead, I found myself at the whimsically named Tasty Food Pizza over on Décarie. This restaurant overdoes it with the gimmicky, good-time diner décor. But the pizza is passable, falling somewhere along the spectrum between Pizza Hut (just down the road - along with lots of other fast food places scattered around) and actually good pizza, making it a fairly standard Montreal joint. This city just can't seem to get its act together where pizza is concerned. There is something beautiful about 99 cent slices, I'll admit, but they serve another function entirely. No, if we're talking truly good pizza - the kind that makes you swear when you put it in your mouth - part of living here is resigning yourself to the fact that it's fairly hard to come by.

But that's perfection for you. It's a bitch. You get the melted cheese, but the crust leaves something to be desired. You get residential bliss on the Metro line, but you have to tolerate the skeazy plaza around the corner. There's smog and a transit strike and dino-sized holes in the road, but you get to live in Montreal. Personally, I'll take it.



rrrobyn / May 27, 2007 at 09:34 pm
i'm willing to bet that never has plamondon stn area been so entertainingly written about - i'm sold!
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