Saturday, November 5, 2011




Everyone knows about sacred ground where major events have occurred. But I have a sacred place that is sacred only to me now. It is the place where I first kissed my husband, Cliff Carter. It happened decades after I first met him.

No one passing that location would imagine that it is a sacred place. It is the site of a broken down, graffiti covered old motel and cocktail lounge on St. Jacques West in the area of NDG in Montreal. The old Raphael. It was always a seedy place, a haunt for Runyonesque characters. There was always an air of almost-danger in being there.
But Cliff Carter played the piano in the lounge there in the early 1970's, and wherever Cliff Carter was, there was elegance, grace and class. It was there in the lounge of the Raphael that I rediscovered Cliff and fell madly in love.
I would sit at the piano and sing with Cliff night after night. Suddenly Cliff's "contract" was cut short. That is - he was fired. Why ? I found out. The Roman Catholic Italian wife of the shady owner of the Raphael was put out by seeing a white woman with a coloured man in her lounge. She was not offended by the regular business of gangsters, gunmen and prostitutes who frequented her motel rooms, but our love, though polite and discreet, offended her.
Very soon Cliff found his next gig at The Astor Lounge facing the big T. Eaton Store on St. Catherine Street. We enjoyed a long and fruitful run there and I began bringing Cliff to the attention of the media. And every Friday, I would have Hill Florist on Westminster in Montreal West deliver a boutonniere of pink or yellow sweetheart roses for Cliff. It was always waiting for him at Alex's bar by the time he came to work. And the people there adored Cliff.

A little while ago, someone set fire to the Raphael and there was some damage. Yet still it stands. It will be a blessing for the community when it is torn down and cleared away.

But no matter what happens to those ruins, or what cold edifice is erected in its place, the ground at the old Raphael will always be sacred to me. Whenever I pass, I stop for at least a moment and let the memories envelope me. And, for at least a moment, I can feel again what I felt back then.

Cliff has been gone for nineteen years now, so I am the only one who knows how magical that bit of ground is. I am the only one who can feel our love and our music.
I have published our story on this blog to honour my beloved husband and to offer hope to those stubborn dreamers who still search for love.