The cowboy mural is by Montreal's notorious graffiti artist - Omen.
‘Mount Real’ is the handle English Montrealers give to their beloved, sometimes taxing (and I don’t mean government taxing – 'cause that’s not sometimes – that’s all the time) city. Lulu keeps a permanent studio in Montreal’s Mile End, a trendy, bohemian neighbourhood of young families, artists. hipsters and Hasidic Jews, with plenty of fabulous cafés and restaurants. Lulu’s studio is hidden deep within the urban jungle, down a mural covered alleyway, past the graffitied trucks and loading docks and butt up against the train tracks.
Lulu's Mount Real studio.
The studio that Lulu shares with 5 other people has no running hot water, intermittent heat and boasts a certain bombed out chic. Stylin’ as that may be, in the dead of January you can feel the north wind blowing in through the cracks in the windows and pushing the heat up through the holes in the ceiling. When I say ‘bombed out’ I’m also referring to the furnace that turns on haphazardly, sending shock waves through out the building as pipes clang and radiators pop with steam. Lulu loves this studio. Several times a week she has live accompaniment with her painting sessions. Next door there is a flamenco dance school and the power coming from 20 women stomping to gypsy music sets Lulu’s resolve afire and her feet a tapping. While the classes practice mostly to recorded music sometimes there’s a live band. The raw emotion of a soulful female singer together with a guitar’s heart throbbing percussion makes Lulu blush with longing. On her way to the washroom she walks past the open doorway of the dance studio and a wave of human heat briefly warms her bones. She loves to peak inside to see the dancers tricked up in gypsy regalia for a dress rehearsal.
Mount Real train tracks - playground for the neighbourhood kids.
As many of you know, I’ve been up and down the northeast corridor of the United States a number of times. One of my favorite pastimes is driving in tandem with the trains that chug along the tracks next to the highway. Trains are the sound of travel, of miles and parcels of fields and forest clacking by like a second hand on a clock. The trains that go past Lulu’s studio are infrequent but each time one passes, Lulu’s heart skips a beat thinking about distant places and future excursions.
Lulu likes to walk along the tracks on her breaks. This past autumn she became obsessed with laying pennies on the tracks and then going to collect the flattened ones after the train went by. She calls it ‘urban farming’. I have yet to ask her if those flattened pennies are organic and gluten free. Ha!
One of Lulu’s projects in Montreal is called ‘Home Portraits’. These are custom made portraits capturing the spirit and nostalgia of home – at least that’s what it says on her website. When I first saw this I thought - that Lulu sure knows how to throw words together to make her art appealing. But then I saw the portraits and it made me feel kinda funny, like my tires got all mushy and my fenders began to sag. I was thinking of all the places I once called home and wished I had one of Lulu’s portraits to remember them by.
Still Ole Blu here is doing better than ever. I’m still going strong! Running down the road from Newfoundland to Montreal and on to Safety Harbor, Florida. I don’t know if you folks know it – but I’m getting to be quite the famous road star. You can check me out on youtube at : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFM4h6lW0DE&list=UUbfAlp8HDkf3a-lliQ9KD3w&index=1