Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Underground art

What does a rider do when it's not safe to ride?

OK, I get it. I did what good writers are not supposed to do.  My opening statement begs an unspoken question. Why is it not safe to ride?  I'd better get that out of the way before tackling the real subject of today's non-riding post.

It's not the cold, at least not directly.  I have enough equipment to deal with the cold.

Even at -15C like today, at this time of year the sun's rays are busy melting the snow.

You can tell this is happening because of the water trickling from the base of the accumulated snow.  And there's the rub.  That run-off water spreads to the roadway.  The sun manages to keep a thin layer of the runoff water liquid so the cars spread the liquid portion out into a very thin layer which freezes solid.

During last night's commute there were numerous places where the roadway was a sheet of ice.  That's OK in my Honda Civic, or any other four-wheeler.  Definitely not OK on a motor bike.

That's why I'm still not riding.  I need mostly positive temps from dawn to dusk to avoid large-ish and otherwise unavoidable ice patches.

Back to the original obvious question.  What to do?

The answer in Montreal is to do what other animals do in the winter.  Head underground.

Montreal is renowned for its underground city.  Miles and miles of interconnected sub-subterranean tunnels and mall space link most of the downtown core, including most of our major hotels, our department stores, boutique chains, food courts, concert halls, convention centres, restaurants, office towers, many condominium towers, and the list goes on, and on.

Our underground city has lots and lots of stairs.  It's possible to get a really good workout wandering around down there.  That's what I've been doing at lunch time since the new year began.

Truth be told, there are many utilitarian stretches of underground tunnel and not much relief for the weary eye.  You can begin to feel like a mole.

What a joy then when the annual Underground Art project brings installation art to the underground city.
Numerous artists do their best to rattle the cave-dwelling pedestrian's complacent meander with large art installations that make very big statements.  The event is curated, so there is lots of useful information concerning the work and the artist.  There are materials available online, an audio guide, and there's an app for that (of course there is).

There is no hope of giving you more than the merest glimpse of this marvelous week-long marvel.  You can learn much more by clicking on the link above if the spirit moves you.

You never know the wonder you'll encounter round the next bend.


SonjaM said...

David, I am also still worrying on my morning commutes. It still gets frosty, however, when it's dry I am good to ride. Best is the commute back from work, with the temps already balmy (still 14C at 7PM).

I love the underground art. It makes the walk so much more interesting.

RichardM said...

Nice to have the underground walkways and the art displays really would add a lot to your experience especially if you were just using them for exercise.

David Masse said...

Sonja, the underground art project only lasts a week, and that makes it special. It really is ephemera, here one day, gone the next.

David Masse said...

Richard, every time I see art, whether visiting the museum, or something like the underground art project, I think about the relative importance of art.

Some see it as a waste of the artist's time, why fool around with arts and craft when they could be banking, lawyering, doctoring or building useful things.

Of all human pursuits, art may be the most important. Nothing challenges the status quo quite as much as art.

I find that a trip to the museum refreshes my mind like nothing else.

Unknown said...


I know this was a test. That entrance, where the cigarette teepee is. It looks eerily familiar, like we came inside from the rain last July into that stairway but I am sure there are thousands of stairways that look like that.

I can't resist photo exhibits . . . and food fairs

A weekend photographer or Riding the Wet Coast

David Masse said...

Bob, that's amazing! I know a bunch of people who seem incapable of navigating the underground city. You are absolutely correct!!

Top marks, you passed the test.

Coop a.k.a. Coopdway said...

Underground....interesting. Here in the Twin Cities we connect everything with skyways over the city streets.

It really looks like fun and a great way to be lost!

RichardM said...

BTW, I noticed that you have recovered from the Florida high carb diet...

David Masse said...

Doug, Calgary has gone the same route. They call their network of connected aerial walkways "+15" because they're basically fifteen feet above street level.

That has to be a more cost effective approach than what Montreal does.

One advantage of having the network underground is that it has a certain attraction for tourists. During tourist season it's not unusual to come across a guided tour in the underground.

David Masse said...

PS: I was remiss for not pointing out that Toronto also has an extensive underground city that basically extends under the key bits of the downtown core, similar to, but perhaps not quite as extensive as Montreal's.

David Masse said...

You're very kind for noticing. The fact is that last weekend had a fair share of low carb violations and that I'm still struggling to get back down to that 191. This morning I tipped the scale at 193. I'll update the weight on the blog when I hit 190. It's all psyops going on in my body, a cold war between my gut and my brain, and I'm stuck in the middle.

Dar said...

Wow that is pretty cool! We have nothing like that here.

Canajun said...

I think it's time for another visit to Montreal.

David Masse said...

Dave, if you come, I'll buy you lunch.

David Masse said...

Dar, it's a tiny price to pay for living on an island on the Pacific, with endless empty beaches strewn with driftwood backing onto a timeless rain forest. We have nothing like that here.

VStar Lady said...

David ... I missed the art by a week. It just seemed sensible to head underground when the weather turned nasty...I travelled "The Path" in Toronto for a bit a few weeks ago, but as usual it never goes the direction I want to go. If you lived in the right spot and worked in the right spot you'd never have to wear boots or a coat or ever see the sun in either city - positively TROLLISH!

David Masse said...

Karen, I am so sorry that we went west when you came east.

I see from your posts that you didn't miss much, you had a very good and knowledgeable guide. You even found l'Avenue, one of our very best and most quirky breakfast venues. I hope the lineup was not too painful.

I can't imagine living all winter indoors. But you're right it is absolutely doable. For instance, you could have a condo in Cours Mont-Royal and work in Place Ville Marie, do your grocery shopping at Westmount Square, and never set foot outside. Trollish indeed!

The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.