© Keith Waddington 1998

Over the Edge: Verdun

An Occasional Feature for Special Occasions

Even the tremendously guilty must realise by now that Alternative is about as alternative as a Black Sabbath LP from 1971. Not only is Alternative old hat, but the matching scarf and gloves are two sizes too small. Out and about in Plateau Mont Royal, those 16 year old hippies, the pale faced gothics, the tongue tied S and M aficionados, the hopping mad hip-hoppers, and the rest of the motley crew are like reminders of last year’s yo-yo fad.

So what’s the authentic Alternative dude supposed to do, where to do it and how to do it? The answer, strangely, is VERDUN. That’s right, Verdun. Those of us who actually live in Verdun generally keep it to ourselves, not only because we’re tired of raised eyebrows and lowered jaws, but, quite frankly, because we don’t actually want all those bogus make-believe Alternative types moving in. So what makes Verdun an Alternative haven? Well, first of all, imagine a three bedroomed apartment (or “flat,” as we call them down here) for $350. Even the smallest room is big enough for a ping-pong table--notwithstanding the size of your balls. Spacious? You want spacious? You want room to swing a cat? Buy the cat. Swing the cat. Invariably, your landlady will be the kind of woman that infuriates the language police: not only does she speak no French, but not a word of English either. She lives in linguistic limbo land for the simple reason that she’s of Irish descent. This is very handy when she’s asking you to pay the rent, because you can politely decline, pretending she’s just offering you a pint of Guinness; and who the hell wants beer so thick you have to use a fork?

Imagine also a quick two minute walk from your back door, over to the shore of the great St. Lawrence Seaway, known around the world for its Saintlawrenceness, its Seawayness, and it’s ability to float ships of any size. And then there’s the little known pebble beach, where you can sit with the one you love; or, if you don’t like being alone, with a good friend. Sit yourself down and enjoy the setting sun, especially nice when viewed through the bottom of a beer bottle, though less impressive if you’re drinking from a can. Duck if you see a heron. The Lachine rapids are a bike ride away. And they really are very rapid--even on a slow day.

Best of all, Verdun hangs on to a quaint law that prohibits bars, taverns and even those fun little drug dens where frothing at the mouth is not only acceptable but encouraged. This might not sound so good; but what it actually means is that when you feel like being rowdy, you go off some place else and be rowdy. Verdun remains that lovely quiet Alternative haven. Why not head on back up to the Plateau, where you used to live in those unenlightened Alternative days, and be as rowdy as you want. Hell, why not throw up in the street and call all your friends “Jimmy.”

Bester of all, the native residents of Verdun, like your accommodating landlady, are all of Irish pedigree, spending most of their time contemplating the possibility of licking their own testicles or wagging someone else’s tail, and never even notice the Alternative dudes that are increasingly moving in. This means that no matter what your own particular and authentic Alternative predilection might be, you’ll be accepted by the regular folk like a hot totty on a cold winter’s day.

All this and only twelve minutes from down town. Hell, it almost makes being Alternative fun. Verdun: the alternative Alternative. See you down there.