The best time of year is unofficially upon us: those last three weeks of spring when the city is suddenly inundated with copious quantities of poplar seed fluff. Drifting through the air like particles of dreams, collecting in snowy little heaps at the base of trees, the fluff lends everything an ethereal and gossamer air, especially the annual sidewalk sale on Avenue Mont-Royal, of which it is the harbinger. Sausage and strappy sandals, second-hand shirts and trinkets, dog-eared paperbacks and smeared vats of lemonade await to be touched by summer-starved passers-by beneath a haze of poplar butterflies. At this time of year, all meats and tawdry things are rendered tender, all rough edges are made softer. As I follow the trail of fluff to the Mountain or the park, it seems that the city not so much welcomes as emanates the stuff. From every brick and staircase, from every bench and hydrant, from the very asphalt, tufts of fluff detach like molecules and drift off into the streets and sky. The city is made of dream matter.
And yet, not all emanations of the city are so benevolent and tender. In the spring of last year, the daily paper 24h ran a story on certain sinister aerial elements, which I cannot get out of my mind. Featured on the March 22, 2016 cover was a poker-faced pigeon perched upon the disconcerting caption: "OISEAUX DE MALHEUR!" (BIRDS OF MISFORTUNE!). I grabbed the paper at once and tore it open to page 3 expecting (and hoping, frankly) for some Hitchcock-worthy news of birds gone awry, clawing out the eyes of shoppers downtown. Alas, the situation was more grave than that: Terminus Angrignon was inundated with bird shit which was dropping upon its patrons at all times of day and night, courtesy of its pigeon squatters! Oh, Lordie! Another image featured a terminus bench covered in misfortune, with a smug-looking pigeon posturing nearby, clearly neither frightened nor deterred by the fact that he had just made the headlines. Under the subheading "Mesures antipigeons" readers were informed that low-voltage electrical wires had been installed to no avail. "L'AMT évalue actuellement les différentes options qui s'offrent à elle pour régler le problème, mais aucune décision n'a encore été prise à ce sujet," the paragraph concluded sadly.
In these unfortunate and fluffy times, it is comforting to hop on the bus and ride down to the river in Verdun in order to feed the seagulls and ducks and to consider any dropping a sign of good fortune and a source of good luck.