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La Cabane à Olivier

In 2008, in Just Like Everyone Else,  I wrote about the Quebecois who encamp on the streets of NYC at Christmas time to sell trees. I see these operations yearly, however, this year I came across a couple of vendors whose makeshift homes were more substantial than anything I have previously seen. On Bleecker Street, near the LaGuardia Corner Gardens and the Morton Williams supermarket, I found an operation run by Olivier Moreau and his friend, Carl.

I peered through his window and greeted Olivier in the best French I could muster with, I am sure, a French Canadian accent. His ears perked up, much like the feral child who hears the familiar sounds of nuts rustling, and I sensed in his response that he immediately saw me as one of them. I suppose I am, and I explained to him that I was born in northern Maine, where French was and still is the lingua franca of that region. I grew up hearing French spoken, particularly among family gatherings when younger and to this day, my mother still speaks to me in an amalgam of Franglais, French, and English.

I was drawn into his amazing little abode, La Cabane. His rustic quarters was outfitted with all the comforts of home – a bunk bed, an easy chair, a stove, lights, a desk/table, and a wall of tools. It was a balmy, unusually warm evening, and for the Quebecois, no more than a T-shirt was needed. We discussed his business, where he gets his trees (Douglas and Frasier firs from North Carolina), and his top selling ornament (a crossection of tree that proclaims “Mom, I’m Gay”). I quickly guided the conversation towards my favorite French Canadian slang, all of which, to my delight, they were well familiar with. I asked about the unusually spirited French music they were listening to, and they introduced me to an artist I was unfamiliar with – Mononc’ Serge – apparently quite popular, known for his irreverent and vulgar lyrics and sardonic humor. The meeting and conversation was another great New York moment, befitting the Christmas season.

It is amusing to see the lavish homes in New York City often marketed as a possible pied-à-terre, places that most can only dream of as a primary residence. But here, on Bleecker Street, was a true pied-à-terre: the small, modest second home of a Frenchman on his brief stay in New York City, La Cabane à Olivier :)

7 Responses to La Cabane à Olivier

  1. This is utterly cool! I just love the concept of living in NYC in such a simple abode…wish they could connect to the water and sewer system to make it even more convenient. ;-)
    I’m glad you found these compatriots with which to share your childhood native language. What fun!

    And I simply have to say that I find this line to be so beautiful: “His ears perked up, much like the feral child who hears the familiar sounds of nuts rustling.”

    Holiday Blessings & Love to You & Your Family

  2. Very interesting post Brian. Have a Blessed Christmas.

  3. This, whatever it is, will go on until the end. The end of course will be when I’ve left the brother’s and am in “my” apartment which will have no internet and you’ll be free of me and I of you. Jajajajaja. You are correct about everything. You have a family, and that is what you deserve. Don’t worry about me. I leave nothing to the kids.

  4. Karina Holm Nielsen says:

    Hey Brian!

    I really miss your daily updates and your pictures. I have followed your blog for 3 years from Copenhagen. I get much inspiration from the stories and perspectives you share and sad when reading that you have to move your shop! I always miss NY when surfing on your pages!

    Take care and hope to get some news very soon and some more lovely and interesting pictures! From Karina in Copenhagen – heard that you are getting more Copenhagen Lanes in The Big Apple:-)

  5. Very good post Brian.. They sell good quality trees..

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  7. Thank you for interesting information.


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