A Cultural Life
by Joseph Sherman
Where can you observe the finest of the finest kind acting out within a km or two of this very office?
The Farmers Market—Roger Greaves, maitre’d. It’s been said that anyone you don’t run into at the FM of a Saturday morning isn’t worth meeting. A cross-section of PEI society and Society, some there for what’s fresh, some as well for a shmoozefest potentially ranging over the entire a.m. and early p.m., parades the vendor-shouldered aisles. Entrepreneurs, politicians (ex and current), bureaucrats, professionals, retirees, artists, con artists, homemakers—the urban and the rural—most make their appearance. And when summer surfaces, a plethora of incomers appears, those connected to the Island by blood or property, with others making the FM into a garden-fresh discovery. Away students return tidally twice or thrice a year, and with them the ambience alters. People pass through in waves and cycles, guided by a weekend’s weather. Small children run free (then grow up and return garbed in another uniform). There are early Marketers and late. Some buy and bail quickly, to avoid being rooted, others linger for the potables and ethnic edibles and a claimable dining space. There are flocks and herds: the DVA crowd and the AVC folks and those at George’s Table, for example. And the Wrecktangle, a shadow-show of artists and writers. Serious words are uttered, gossip and jokes delivered on a bun, but all in the spirit. It’s where Saturday Morning Chapbooks was born.
Atlantic Superstore—for the best feng shui in town. Shmooze with folks you just missed at the Farmers Market or didn’t see enough of. The considerable acreage also allows you to wheel your cart away in a trice and avoid these people altogether. Blush at the hypocrisy and incongruity of food-marketing in slicksville, where subliminal and brazen buy-me messages nibble at your pocketbook. Curse the secretly browning mangoes, celebrate the cheese.
City Cinema—Derek Martin, prop. Arrive early enough and you can discuss future arrivals—films and people—with the nearly omnipresent DM, who will work to hold up his end of any conversation while buttering the p’corn and brewing you a cuppa. Or greet your plan-famished friends. During school breaks, see their nearly-grown children, address them as equals. Discuss just-seen films at the door and in the parking lot. (Leave free the fabled haunted parking space.) Risk forgetting which movie is late, which early, whether you got the start time wrong again; grumble over your elusive membership card. This is a club. Members are special. Many won’t go near a big screen but will wait for the City to come through, which doesn’t always happen. Some think Derek should serve lattes and install coat hooks. The devout have their favourite seats.
The Reading Well—Louise Vergnano and Heather Stewart (Saturday) at your service. Cosy, chuffy, woodsy, and the fluctuating stream of writers and readers makes for an apt ambience. What the ladies of the Well don’t know about literature they are good-naturedly keen to hear about, especially if you are a writer with a book to place or a reading in search of a venue. TRW, with the best PEI book selection anywhere, and a distinguished display of kidlit, has operated from four downtown Cht’n locations and this isn’t the most accessible, but the Island is lucky to have it at all. You can’t be entirely invisible in TRW, cottagy as it is, but you can soak up the contemplative quietude while waiting for someone to happen. Reminiscent of what a library used to be. The home address of Saturday Morning Chapbooks.
I was also going to sing the gawpable virtues of Winners, the Bulk Barn, and the Boardwalk, but I see my time is up.