I often dream, as I did again last night, of the rooming houses I’ve lived in. Especially the one on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal’s Notre Dame de Grace area. That was the house in last night’s dream, although it was very different in the dream than in real life—as is usually, if not always, the case. The gist of these dreams always seems to be that I have returned after a lengthy absence and am concerned about getting my room back.
Sometimes I am afraid it has been rented out to someone else because I was in arrears. Or I simply cant find the one that was my room, as if the house were a maze. Usually the people I run into, residents of the house, are quite friendly. As they were in last night’s dream, even going out of their way to help me find my old room.
Perhaps my greatest feelings of comradeship in life have been with my fellow boarders at the rooming houses I’ve lived in. Certainly they have been among the best. I met a few unsavory characters in the Montreal rooming house (whom I’ve written about elsewhere, though not yet published), but for the most part we were good folks with each other, sharing a down-at-the-heels bond that made us get along quite well.
I’m especially thankful for those periods of my life because they, more than any other, may be responsible for whatever love I have for my fellow man. My religious childhood, on the other hand, in the arrogance of its exclusivist context and implied holier-than-thou piety, unwittingly taught me to spurn my fellow man. (Which is why, apart from a few homey and innocent memories, I have such great disdain for the church and so-called faith I was raised in. If it was not the seed bed it was certainly the manure that fertilized the feelings of alienation that made my youngman years so hellish at times.)
In fact, I think my real education—both self-directed and what life had to teach me—began in that rooming house on Sherbrooke Street. Its lesson was repeated in the Vancouver Rooming houses, of which there were three. (I’ve written about those elsewhere as well.)