I read with relish Trevor Chinnick’s recent piece about the evolution of St. Henri from district, institution, and enclave into centre. This development is long overdue. For too long this city has been blighted by enclaves, particularly of the working class variety, and districts, especially those of the immigrant type. These are 19th or, at best, 20th century nouns, and their eradication from our town ought have been accomplished by the midnight stroke of the year 2000. As Chinnick, and every rational person, agrees, the history of enclaves (and their even less-reverberant cousins: ghettos) has been one of poverty, insularity, public interest, poorly-manicured lawns, and ancient, fading paintings. I write to express my joy that this city has finally moved away from the world of Van Gogh to the world of Banksy. May all our paint be wet for years to come.
I note with greater, onion-flavoured relish, that not only is the area now a bona-fide centre, but that other, more avant-garde nouns have found a welcoming home underneath the “majestic bank and impressive fire hall” of St. Henri. The introduction of a “woonerf” is sure to be the final nail in the coffin of the decrepit death “streets” that have lain prostrate on our great city’s floor for far too long. Kill the death streets.
But the price of culture is eternal vigilance: evidence suggests some relics of St. Henri’s enclave-past linger on into the centre-present. Some culture-less enclave-dwellers tread the hallowed woonerfs. These remnant-beings are detrimental to cachet. We must improve cachet. So the striving to escape must continue: the working-class roots of death will only expire when all have been cut. Slice the roots of death. The trees of wet paint must flourish.
I, for one, look forward to the day when all enclaves have been disbanded, all districts closed. Perhaps then all our centres will be vibrant; all our fire halls, impressive. Until then, stand firm, as stoic as a market, and do culture.
Yours in reverberation,
“Skeleton of a Lost Time”