In the early 1980’s My friend Dan lived on the third floor in a rear corner 6 1/2 apartment that he shared with two others at 495 Prince Arthur Street in the McGill Ghetto in Montreal. I loved the marble entrance, the marble stairs and the style and location. I envied his apartment. I wished I lived there.
At the time I was in a tiny crappy bachelor apartment with a very noisy neighbour. She left her AM radio on all day while she was gone to work. Requests to have her turn it off so I could study and/practice in peace were ignored. I needed to move.
Dan called me one day and asked if I knew anyone looking for a place because his roommate was moving to another province. I jumped at the chance and made the arrangements to move. I did not have much stuff, a stereo and some guitars and a mattress. Frugal student living. Selective poverty.
Not long after I moved in Dan found a smaller cheaper place across the street where he did not need roommates. I had a series of replacements come through at various times including my brother, my best friend at the time, my future wife and many others.
The building was built in 1911, so it pre-dated both World Wars. I was told the building was created as diplomatic quarters and the smallest room was servant’s quarters though the plumbing was removed. There were two dedicated bedrooms at either corner of the apartment. The Salon Double had been split into two separate rooms using 2×4 lumber and gyprock (drywall). There was a non-functioning gas fireplace in one of the rooms and I put my stereo components in the recessed area of the fireplace where the flames would have been. There was a tiny kitchen (kitchenette really) that barely had enough room for a small table and chairs. You could stir a pot on the stove at the same time as accessing the refrigerator opposite. just outside the kitchen was a built in pantry which was a counter space with cupboards below and a glass case on the wall above.
The McGill Ghetto was a student Ghetto and was fully populated while classes were on Most of the other apartments in the building had been chopped up and renovated into single unit dwellings to maximize the profitability of the place. Ours was a “Grande Dame” of a bygone era. I don’t recall the amount of our rent, but I think it may have been $420.00/mo. Split three ways, it was quite affordable for full time students and part-time musicians.
At one point, we were only two in the place and it didn’t stretch our resources all that much. We decided to throw a party. I told my roommate that we should tear down the drywall and make the place more party worthy. He agreed.
I pinged some holes in the wall and we started to remove the drywall. Messy job, this. To dispose of the detritus, we acted like the tunnellers in The Great Escape. little amounts smuggled out in garbage bags and left next door on garbage days. The 2×4’s were a bit trickier. One person acted as lookout for the concierge and the other beetled away and left them in a removed alleyway. Once all the scrap was gone and the place was washed, you would almost never know there had been a barrier.
We invited too many people (as kids in their twenties do) and it appeared that we were headed towards not just a party, but a “bash”. We got in several cases of 24 and we had tons of food. As a precaution I thought we had better warn our neighbours. I put a sign up in the vestiaire saying there would be strange faces in the building and to please come to us directly if there were any complaints. It seemed like the right thing to do.
About an hour after posting the sign I got a phone call from the owner of the building telling me that parties are forbidden and to call it off To keep the peace I untruthfully told him we would cancel and hung up. I remember that just after hanging up I muttered “Fuck off and die you old prick!”
Our party went ahead as planned with about 50 guests and there wasn’t too much noise or fuss and we rolled into bed at 5 AM. No complaints.
When I awoke and started cleaning up the empties, the butts, the spills, etc. I ran into the concierge downstairs. He told me that “something terrible had happened last night… the owner (who lived far away)had died of a massive heart attack!”
I sort of felt guilty that my last words to him came true.
When I told a sanitized version of this story to my dad, without skipping a beat he replied half questioningly: “I guess you believe in prayer now!”