PQ-17 and the iMac

Just over 10 years ago I found myself on a Cubana flight to Varadero. I was travelling with a woman I’d just met. We were footloose and fancy free, and going to Cuba was an impulsive last-minute thing.

Sitting in front of us on the plane was a long-haired tall guy. He looked weird, and I kept my distance. My consort had no such inhibitions and so she ended up in conversation with him, and we traded travel guidebooks and chatted a little.

As it turns out, we were staying in the same complex in Cuba — the Punta Blanca memorialized in Jane Siberry’s song Miss Punta Blanca, and that night by the bar we ended up joining this lanky guy for drinks.

We learned that his name was Bill Coleman, and he was in Cuba, alone, to help recover from the break-up of a long-term relationship. He had just moved back to Toronto from New York City where he’d worked in a health club to support his real vocation, which was choreography and modern dance.

As things out, my young consort decided to re-consort herself with the saxaphone player from the house band at Punta Blanca (an episode I will someday pay tribute to in song, I’m sure), and Bill and I ended up spending a lot of time together that week in the sun. By the end of the week, we had a tentative agreement that I would do some graphic design for some shows he was organizing in Toronto that summer.

Which I did.

The next summer, with the help of $25,000 from the Canada Council (these were the carefree days of bountiful arts funding), Bill set off on a cross-U.S. driving tour in a cherry red 1967 Chrysler Newport designed to gather the raw materials for a dance show. He staged the grand finale of his tour in Peterborough, Ontario, where I cleaned out the local liquor store of Schlitz Beer and organized a motorcycle escort for him (it was actually a moped). As luck would have it, the Newport conked out about 1 mile from the destination point, and Bill got his picture in the paper with the hood up looking perplexed.

The tour became the dance piece Heartland, and Bill asked me to produce the poster for it, which was tremendous fun largely because it involved secretly using the colour separation machine at the newspaper where I was working between 2:00 a.m. and 3:00 a.m. for several successive Saturday mornings after putting the paper to bed and waiting for the first copies to roll off the press.

This is all a very large run up to a story about Apple’s iMac: many years after Heartland, Bill was happily married to Laurence Lemiux and they had little Jimmy Coleman underfoot. Bill and Laurence wanted to become more independent from the Big Dance Scene and to this end had decided to organize themselves into a sort of rapid response dance and choreography team. They needed to get online, both to be able to use email and to publicize their work, so they called me for advice. I suggested they buy an iMac.

So they did.

At the time the focus of Apple’s advertising was that you could take your new iMac out of the box and be online in 10 or 15 minutes. And that’s exactly what Bill and Laurence did with their new iMac: took it out of the box, plugged it into the wall, signed up for an Earthlink account and, blammo, they were online.

I dropped by shortly thereafter and taught them how to use web search engines: the first search they did was for the phrase “PQ17”, which was the name of a north Atlantic convoy that Bill’s father was a member of during WWII. The first search result led to a website in St. Petersburg, which led to an email address to which Bill wrote an exploratory email looking for assistance in mounting a dance piece about the PQ17 convoy that was shuffling around in his brain at the time. Flash forward several years (and much hard work) and the piece premiered in St. Petersburg. Ain’t the web grand.

Which makes a very long preamble to the story of my permanent consort Catherine’s new iMac, purchased this week from the friendly folks at little mac shoppe in Charlottetown. We picked up the computer yesterday and Catherine worked to set it up while Oliver and I went off for a kiwi-strawberry-orange juice at Just Juicin’. When we came back 35 minutes later, Catherine had the machine set up, the Airport card installed, and was online.

Which is all to say that above and beyond the aesthetics, the reality distortion field, and all the Apple mythology, Apple computers remain easy to set up and easy to use.

Young Dave and I are off to MacWorld in two weeks to dive into the centre of the Mac-o-verse. I’m sure we’ll be reporting live from the frontier. And I’m almost certain that Dave won’t take up with the saxaphone player from the house band. But you never know.


Johnny's picture
Johnny on June 29, 2002 - 20:34 Permalink

Imac or no Imac, you certainly have a flair for telling stories.

Al's picture
Al on June 30, 2002 - 03:53 Permalink

Unlike you. What happened to the JR site?