Gabrielle Papillon

After four days of wall-to-wall music at East Coast Music Week, and a few days to let it all sink in, my favourite discovery has emerged as Gabrielle Papillon, a Nova Scotia singer-songwriter I had the pleasure of seeing, accompanied by large and talented band, at the Pourhouse at the Music Nova Scotia showcase on Saturday night. Listen here:

Lubricate often.

It suddenly dawned on me, after a year of use, that I hadn’t been properly lubricating my Golding Jobber No. 8 letterpress. I’d been greasing the axel, yes, but I’d completely ignored the little “lubricate here” holes that can be found in every corner of the press.

To drive this point home to myself – and to any others who might suffer the same fate – I printed up some reminder cards:


Once the ink is dry, I’ll find a way of making them available to others similarly ill-lubricated.

Update: you can now buy your very own “Lubricate Often” card in my Etsy shop for only $2.00 plus (very reasonable) shipping.

The place you go where old people aren't old anymore...

I turned 48 on Saturday, which we celebrated with breakfast at Kettle Black followed by an enthusiastic shovelling session to extricate our car from the ice and snow. I could swear we were picking strawberries on my birthday when I was a kid, but that’s probably not true; but surely there were never snow banks in April in the 1970s, were there?


There’s a funny thing that I’ve noticed in the last few years, the kind of thing that get’s punctuated at birthday time: as we all get older it’s like we split off into generational squads, a sort of “shirts and skins” of life, with the people on our team those with whom we share history, pop-cultural references and the degree to which we are shop-worn.

As Fibber McGee and Molly was to my parents, WKRP in Cincinnati is to my squad.

What I didn’t anticipate in all this was the sense of common cause I have with those of, say, plus or minus 5 years. It’s not “kids today!?”, it’s not “I walked a mile and a half to school,” it’s more like a knowing wink, an increased sense of confidence, and the surprise at the sudden realization that, hey, we’re running this thing now.

I notice this most around the Home and School table, an organization that, because it’s composed entirely of parents of school-age children, generally excludes the younger and the older and thus is perhaps the closest we have to a generational clubhouse. Around that table are people with whom, in many cases, I share almost nothing; we’re from different upbringings, have different politics, different life experiences. But we’ve all got kids making brochures about heat pollution and learning about vertices and worrying about the school dance. And that’s enough to join us together, sometimes rather profoundly.

As it happens, I’ve been walking around for the last year thinking, mistakenly as it turns out, that I turned 48 last year. And so this year is like a special secret bonus year. I promise to try and make it worth it.

Photo from Flickr by daren_ck, Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

The One Where the New Bathtub Pays for Itself

It’s coming up to the end of East Coast Music Week here in Charlottetown, a yearly celebration, showcase, and conference for the music industry in eastern Canada and, for those of us lucky enough to live in the heart of the downtown of the host city, a fantastic opportunity to see a lot of very good music packed into four days of performances at venues 5-minutes-walk-or-less away.

I was determined that, unlike the last time ECMW was in Charlottetown, I was not going to miss out, so, against all my procrastinatory impulses, I purchased an $80 wristband well in advance, entitling me to access to most everything.

And thus it was, armed with the (excellent) ECMW app on my mobile, I headed out into the night on Thursday to go clubbing. One of the great things about having a wristband is that you can be promiscuous in your habits, jumping genres by just picking up and heading down the street. Over the course of the evening, then, I was able to see Amy & Rachel Beck, Brianna Gosse, Eartbound Trio, Colour Code, Breagh Mackinnon and Dennis Ellsworth in as many venues.

On Friday night, thanks to my generous brother Johnny, who stayed home with Oliver and Ethan, Catherine was able to join me and we headed down to the Delta for the “roots” showcase and saw Ryan LeBlanc, Amelia Curran, Samantha Robichaud, Catherine MacLellan, Chrissy Crowley, Dave Gunning, Mary Jane Lamond and Wendy MacIsaac, and Tim Chaisson. All this accompanied by the culinary stylings of Leo’s Thai Food (chicken basil rice) and the Big Orange Lunchbox (lobster tacos), who saved me, not having had time to grab dinner before, from a grumpy hungry night.

On Saturday night I was back out on my own, with my eyes set on the Music Nova Scotia showcase at the Pourhouse, the craggy little venue atop The Old Triangle. Having been turned away at the same event on Thursday because it was over-capacity, I arrived 90 minutes early only to find the room packed already, with not a seat to be found and most everyone there jealously guarding their turf knowing that they were lucky to have secured a seat. No eye contact, in other words; no “you could squeeze in here.”

I was close to giving up and heading home, but decided to stick it out, find a windowsill, pull out my copy of The New Yorker (brought along for just this purpose) and wait, finding a place to stand once the music started to roll.

I was well into the Talk of the Town, minding my own business when someone approached and called me by name.

“Peter!”, he said.

I looked up. Vague recollection spread over my face, which he recognized. Oh, right, yes.

It was the chap who, when we moved into our house at 100 Prince Street fourteen years ago, we contracted to gut our second floor bathroom and build it back up to modern standards (i.e. no carpet on the floor, no shower head coming out of the side of the bathtub). It was a dusty, complicated job, and, as these things often go, we got to know the crew pretty well.  Which is why my interrogator, working as a volunteer in the venue, recognized me and why, eventually, I recognized him.

We chatted for a moment, and, just as he was heading off to his volunteer duties I said “Hey, if you happen to find an extra chair somewhere, I’d really appreciate it.”

Five minutes later he poked his head out with a contraband chair, purloined from the green room (meaning, I assume, that Old Man Luedecke’s sideman was sitting on the floor; which is why I won’t mention my benefactor’s name, lest Old Man Luedecke seek retribution).

With heartfelt thanks, I held onto the chair for dear life and headed back into the fray looking for a place to park it. With luck now on my side, I reasoned that this was no time to be timid, so rather than finding a dark poorly-sightlined corner at the back, I maneuvered myself and my chair right up to the front, set it down in a tiny, convenient patch of floor beside a large enough group that it would look like I was just fitting in, and proceeded to act as if I was supposed to be there, shirking off the imagined barbs of those who’d been camping out for hours just to get a table in the same region.

And I didn’t move for the next 3 hours.

I had a completely unobstucted view of the stage; here, for example, is Gabrielle Papillon and her large retinue of players:

Gabrielle Papillon

It was a fantastic night of music: Ron Bourgeois (a talented singer-songwriter from Cheticamp), Old Man Luedecke (not, to my surprise, old at all; crackerjack banjo-based duo with a set of irony-tinged songs), the aforementioned Gabrielle Papillon (an unexpected joy) with Jimmy Rankin (a pure pleasure: such an entertainer).

As the night played on I became ever-more-thankful for my luck, as the venue filled up and filled up and people were hanging from the rafters and perched precariously on the floor. By 11:30, with the night, relatively speaking, still young, I headed out, willing my chair to the couple who had been patiently standing beside me for 2 hours; I would have stayed longer, but I needed to ensure I didn’t completely lose my hearing.

I great night at the end of a great week.

And proof that, if you live on the Island long enough, it will reveal its fringe benefits to you at unexpected moments.

Thank you, bathtub.

Ethan the Lubricator

Right there on the Autism Assistance Dog page at Dog Guides Canada it says this about one of the roles that Ethan might play in our lives:

The bond that develops between the Dog Guide and child allows for increased social interaction for the family and the child.

One thing I didn’t anticipate is that Ethan would lubricate my social interactions, as well as Oliver’s.

It will be six months to a year before Ethan joins Oliver at school every day and so during this period he’s spending his days in my office and Catherine’s studio, and he goes everywhere we do as we wind our ways through our daily routine, which is part of his training to deal with everyday life in Charlottetown in our family.

What I’m finding in my walking-around-town-living-my-life with Ethan routine is that people who never would have paid me any heed now make eye contact, often with a kind, happy smile. It freaks me out a little, as I’m used to anonymously skulking around the city, nervously averting my eyes so as to not engage, and Ethan pretty well makes this an impossible task.

It doesn’t stop with that, either: people talk to me about Ethan. Especially dog people. But everyone. They are curious, they are open, and somehow Ethan disinfects me of the faint odour of “I won’t talk to him because he’s probably a serial killer” that we all wear around with us.

None of this is necessarily a bad thing. Indeed with Ethan in Oliver’s life as he grows through teenagehood, we will, we hope, see significant benefits from  that same sort social interaction. It will be great if Ethan can be the icebreaker that allows someone latitude to ask Oliver out to the soda shop for a malted (yes, my conceptions of teenage social life are strongly rooted in Archie). And if Ethan reduces Oliver’s stress enough to the point where he can do the same, even better.

And of course this isn’t all just magic Ethan fairy dust: being more relaxed, more self-assured, more able to navigate the complexity of the universe, must inevitably translate into subtle changes in gait and how one presents oneself to the universe. 

If my walking Ethan along Queen Street, head held high and proud and relaxed, is enough to entertain the smiles of the people in my neighbourhood every morning on the way to coffee, signs are good that Oliver and Ethan will go great places together.

Oliver and Ethan