I have been spending a lot of time on my balcony this summer. It overlooks a parking lot that spills onto St-Laurent Boulevard, and at night, the bulbs spanning the street fill the whole place with light. I am learning that there is a lot you can do from your balcony; this small space provides an escape from an often claustrophobic interior life.
1. Impulsive decorating
I am a restless person by nature, a fact that the pandemic has confirmed for me. Attempting to channel this restlessness into productivity has led to what I have called “impulsive decorating.” With the help of McGill’s Free and for Sale, I furnished my balcony with a small IKEA table and stools. A plant from the corner store sits on the table, and Edison lights illuminate the railing.
I am fortunate to look out onto a parking lot with no less than five bright murals, one of which is, in my opinion, the best mural in the city. The piece, commissioned for the Montreal Mural Fest, is by the artist duo PichiAvo, and represents the goddess Artemis and features two ethereal figures overlaid with graffiti-like designs. Another notable mural is Ron English’s “Popagandaa,” a portrait that resembles the Mona Lisa with a skeleton smile. An underrated form of visual excitement, these murals are a much-needed retreat into a world of art separate from the endless days stuck indoors.
At times, I enjoy watching people photographing the murals more than the murals themselves. Tours visit the space several times daily, and groups of 20 people disperse across the parking lot to photograph the murals. It is funny how living in front of a tourist destination makes you feel surprised that other people would want to visit it.
The murals also provide the perfect location for Instagram photos. Bo Burnham aptly said that the physical world is a performance space for the real world of social media, and watching 10 different people snap photos in front of the murals every day seems like the perfect proof. I once witnessed a girl arriving in a yellow dress to contrast the blue of the underwater-themed mural behind her. She stayed for an hour to snap the same photo over and over again. My roommate told me about another woman who posed with her lips puckered, pretending to kiss the whale in the mural.
4. The Waving Game
Recently, I have taken to sitting on the balcony with my roommates with a few drinks in hand to wave at passers-by. The number of people that walk through the parking lot on their way to St-Laurent Boulevard is significant, and they always seem to look up at our little balcony. Their distance from us makes them feel bold enough to stare longer than they should, but I feel powerful looking down at them, and I wonder if it is us or them on display.
We have transformed this exercise into a competition: Whoever waves at the most people wins. This juvenile activity has led to some surprisingly wholesome encounters. Most strangers do not expect you to wave at them and are quite delighted when we do so. One man, who had his hands full with a giant cooler, waved it frantically in the air, then transferred it to his shoulder and flashed us a thumbs up. Another did not stop waving until he was out of sight.
Like many things, the balcony is not without its flaws. Sometimes it soaks up too much sun, burning my skin and making me think I should get an umbrella—perhaps the next step in the decorating process. More often, however, when the wind is blowing just enough and the sun is setting, it is the perfect place to be—a small space turned into a large pleasure.