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Test Patterns

A Cultural Life
by Joseph Sherman

In the end we paid $88 for this year’s version of the small television we abandoned at a local repair shop over ten years ago, and which had cost us over twice that figure. It wasn’t that we desperately wanted another after so long, but diversion can be hard to come by unless one is willing to steeplechase the threshold. Even two measly channels can divert for an hour or so daily, if such diversion is desired.

I’m doing my best not to remember showtimes, so there’ll be less temptation to abandon any of my projects and root myself before the wrong box. I’m already puzzled by the mind-numbing repetition of commercials (this is deliberate, huh?), news broadcasts that seem the same day-in and day-out, and programs (some of them Canadian) that are as diabolically appealing as lint-polished pocket change. What gives CBC radio its local flavour several hours each weekday is diminished, on TV, to half an hour. Ah, that global village.

I spend most of the broadcast day, as it used to be described, exercising avoidance, and that includes late-night CBC movies (as a teen I had the requisite ichor-infused stamina), some of which I’d love to see. But a 3 a.m. bedtime is not conducive to diurnal hunting and gathering. Who stays up that late and then does anything but kip ’til noon …shift workers? Well yes, I suppose that’s it.

We’re not acquiring a DVD player or VCR. More distractions, and without stereo and a flat screen, who wants to see anything blockbusterish? I’d rather make my viewing of contemporary film into a true excursion, one I can share with others.

With few exceptions, television is mind-mint at its most exuberantly artificial, the kind of confection in which chemical sweeteners top the ingredients list; there is naught good to be ingested. Reality shows, so called, are no better or worse than most of what passes for scripted programming, though they mean less work for schooled actors. Reality players are no more real than paid actors, and own less ambition. Sports have their place on television. And there’s a babysitting function. Plus there’s been a recent spiked interest in crime scene investigation as a career …fancy that.

Declaring you aren’t owned by a television elicits the same sort of reaction as admitting you don’t own a phone. (Will the phone companies soon make us all listen to ads before dialing out is permitted?) If its power to distract, lull, and corrupt is now being shared with all that computer culture can offer, at least a computer requires more than an easy chair and one hand free to tickle the remote. The remote …isn’t that something? I don’t even know how they work. I can point ours at any of the cats or our resident rhesus, Pieces, and still change the channel.

Some believe that screen action, large or small, represents Nature’s cultural advance on live theatre. Not so. Live performance requires participatory mobility, mental and physical, and a willingness to engage, as opposed to the feelings engendered by any screen’s translucent fourth wall. Live theatre is an implicit dialogue (ever wonder why theatres don’t serve popcorn?); a thrown image is a monologue. Heads and faces rendered too small or too large operate to no good effect; they may as well be animated. Sure, the effervescing screen reaches teeming millions, but so what?

In today’s paper I read that a new kind of TV screen becomes, when off-powered, a perfect mirror. Oh, but doesn’t the symbolism take your breath away?

Note to companeros: The seductive test pattern of yore, it turns out, was an illusion. It was an image of an image etched on the aether. It cost me my innocence.

How it was, George

A Cultural Life
by Joseph Sherman

This evening really begins with my being commanded to remove my cap in the legion basement…rules. Back upstairs, the few folks keen to attend this Saturday night poetry reading in fishermen’s dance territory are finding the nearly empty room already moist with tension. The Impresario ushers in his visiting poets, an Australian-via-B.C. salmon fisherman and a grey-collar Bluenoser. A new venue, this coastal legion. There’s a three-legged dog sniffing and hovering. And PEI’s own ‘A’ Poet, having made it out here, has found himself a solitary table. An audience, he sits and waits.

Fishermen and their dates begin turning up from the Bishop Romero memorial mass, looking for their weekly dance, their dance band, as the first poet begins; the Bluenoser, impressed by the ‘A’ Poet’s presence, encouraged by the ebullient Impresario, a small, intense man alive with eloquent enthusiasm and righteousness, but not of this Island community. Watch, I say to my wife.

The young men of the community are confused, but not voiceless. Who is this small, intense man? Who are these people? They don’t know the ‘A’ Poet from a three-legged dog. Where’s the music?

Line after nervously delivered line…one can see the hands of the Bluenose poet tremble, his flinch as coarse words fly out of the dark, words of irate frustration. Ignore them, stage-whispers the Impresario. The second poet hovers in the wings.

Ah, the band’s arrived. A hand for the band. Just a sec, says its leader, we’re only warming up, this is intermission. Give these guys a break, folks. The burly Aussie flexes, sports a smile as wide as a four-legged dog—smile enough.

The room, dimly lit, smoky, is now nearly full with locals, men and women. On the little stage, which the relieved Bluenoser has vacated, the band, having set up, is itchily preparing to yield to the burly Aussie. The room-sized growl grows. A union man addresses his own: These are our guests, fellas, let’s be nice, let’s be friendly. We watch the power drain from his eyes, as chair legs are tortured, threats wobble glassily on the tabletops—the dim light striated with restless shadows. Doomed. The ‘A’ Poet sits put, quietly. Known for his appeal to the common man, the man makes no appeal.

The Impresario pushes purposefully to the bandstand, faces the glaring…faces. Hit the floor when the bottles begin to fly, I whisper to my wife. How many of us are here this night who aren’t aggrieved fishermen? The Impresario is passionate in his denunciation of the impatience and disrespect being demonstrated. He had wanted, he said, to bring literature to their isolated community for this one night—to edify—and invited, he adds, two ‘work’ poets, and here these poets are, being insulted, threatened.

In a B movie he’d have been cheered or witnessed the fruits of chagrin.

The burly salmon fisherman takes the mike, begins to recite, that dog-wide smile unwavering. The voices from the dark grow louder, angrier. Close to his planned end, he pauses, then announces, with a jolly curse and a flourish, that he’ll continue a while longer. Grins.

In a B movie he’d have been cheered, someone vindicated.

Prayers have surely been uttered. Something does finish. We outsiders find ourselves at a single table, most of the fishermen regrouping downstairs, the band tuning up with intent.

One young man approaches, thanks the poets for being there.

The Impresario asks if we’d drive the ‘A’ Poet back into town. We exit as the band kicks in. The three-legged dog claims the gravel parking lot. All the way in, the ‘A’ Poet, back-seated in the lesser dark, claims the silence, the roar of Saturday night lost behind us. Poetry has been scattered to the kinder stars.

This reminiscence is dedicated to George Zimbel.

Making Time

A Cultural Life
by Joseph Sherman

Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak Memory and Isaac Bashevis Singer’s In My Father’s Court are marvelous memoirs by two brilliant writers who experienced much and travelled far; the gold standard for personal narrative is set by such as these. I can’t imagine writing anything comparable.

A memoir needn’t be exotic, but the writer should be able to recall dates, at least the essential ones. I can’t. The events of my life accordion into one another—the 5-year-old me easily consorting with the 11-year-old edition. Oh, I remember some historical and seminal happenings in which I was a semi-conscious observer: the then-Princess Elizabeth’s motorcade through Whitney Pier, the Suez Crisis, my Bar Mitzvah, Habs defenceman extraordinaire Doug Harvey’s visit to Whitney School—but I can’t identify a first-ever memory. Was it when my tiny thumb was slammed in the passenger door of my father’s delivery van? The time the same father made me a juvenile accomplice in smelt poaching? What about watching my best-ever dog rip my dearest teddybear to bits? Or the time a neighbour found the wee me standing nonchalantly beneath a suburban cow and ran screaming for my mother? Ah, that last memory isn’t mine, but my mother’s. She related it to me to illustrate the neighbour’s excitable nature; I remember no udder.

Some people have a keen memory for the days of their lives. Do they distort or filter in recollection? Is my own brain a rusty tea-strainer? Would hypnosis help? Perhaps there are, in the recesses of my graying grey matter, words and pictures that might yet be winkled out and put together—committed to page or screen, exploited.

I mention this because I am trying to do what comes unnaturally, write a foreshortened memoir, upon request if not demand. It’s to accompany other pre-existing material so needn’t be comprehensive to a fault. Who really cares? Will advertising when I first kissed a blonde girl better illuminate the crannies of my poetry? Will my describing ritualized chicken slaughter, as witnessed through a boy’s eyes, explain my temperament and neuroses? Mining for lumps of memory is one thing, unrolling these on one extended shag carpet is another (I acknowledge the mixed metaphors).

Oddly (and this is intellectually incongruous), I don’t remember my first movie. Though I do recall the first time I saw a television; it was turned off. It was also the same morning I saw my first helicopter.

The dramatically ‘true’ story of my life may yet be hidden, even from me, but it’s more likely that my life has been a bottle of vin ordinaire, defined solely by a few intermittently shifting geographies and a loping parade of only slightly offbeat acquaintances, colleagues, friends.

Perhaps I have too much time on my hands.

Why would I dip into the past rather than engage with the present and with the prospect of our shared futures? Politically, socially, this generously endowed country is a shambles-in-progress and in grave danger from within and without. The culturally significant Canada we think to know will be unrecognizable in a decade; I am surer of this than ever I was about the fate of my favourite, and pregnant, pooch in . . . ah, 1951 (my father had her shot), the last year Canada was still a promise waiting to be inflated. Anyone entering the world now will, when he or she is my age, have little to connect him or her with me, or with you. Not every change is as good as a rest; it can be the no-nonsense invoice one is handed for taking up space in the world—a writ of passage. Memory fodder indeed.

It may be, as my eldest brother has offered, that life, chapter and verse, is most palatably served up not as clarified recollection but as a never-ending fiction.

Vanity Fare

A Cultural Life
by Joseph Sherman

Matthew Sherman, Ann Sherman and Leonard Cohen with Laura Brandon looking on. Photo by Joseph Sherman at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa on the occasion of his receiving the Order of Canada medal.On the late bus back to our hotel, I tap Lee Valley Tools' Len Lee on the shoulder with a banquet menu and tell him I love his watering-cans. “You smooth talker, you,” he chortles.

The last I saw of Leonard Cohen, he was engaged in intense chat with John Ralston Saul in one of Rideau Hall's cosy sitting rooms. Ours was a hallway view, like something out of Gosford Park, and I was no more privy to their conversation than you are now.

I felt no need to intrude. Nor did I at the banquet that preceded our Rideau Hall walkabout, the attached greenhouse made deliciously mysterious by night. I was seated wallward, facing a distinguished cytogeneticist and the incandescently lovely American bride of another Order of Canada recipient (an entrepreneur); my near companions one insignia-and-decorations officer and a military aide resplendent in his red tunic. L. Cohen sat at another table named after a former Governor General (I crewed for Connaught), his nearest seatmate Her Excellency, whose houseguest he was. The eve began with a ‘class' picture.

Prior to that, a hotel-room interval found me, with my family, mulling over the marginally surreal aspects of morning: the pomp, the players, the reception, the enameled hardware, circumstance. Other than a registration blip at the venerable Chateau Laurier, all had gone smoothly. The time-out also enabled the processing of film shot earlier, and the requisite switch from “business attire” to “black tie.” My principal guest and I periodically peeked at our now personalized copies of The Book of Mercy and The Spice Box of Earth.

My daughter never did find Kiefer Sutherland, the popular actor squiring mother and O.C. recipient Shirley Douglas, because he'd skipped out for a smoke. My daughter also smokes, but that didn't help. Like the rest of us, she fondly recalled a 16-year-old Kiefer in The Bay Boy, the movie, he told me, that “changed my life.” My son not only met him, they were photographed together, smiles all around. Icing on his cake, as moments before I had introduced my clan to Leonard Cohen himself, the elder statesman of Eros and spiritual seasoning. He is, you should know, a mensh, radiating benevolence, graciously posing with his fans, their books and liner notes extended. Here he is in a snapshot with my son, kidding around. No kidding.

This took place at the reception following the investiture for appointees to the Order of Canada, in the largest and most ornate ballroom I have ever invaded. All of us were warmly received, none more so than social activist Stephen Lewis, and Mr. Cohen. During the reading of his citation his eyes remained shut…a spiritual man's response to benediction?

At the post-breakfast briefing, the appointees assembled in a small ballroom, signed the honours register, and were rehearsed. Adjacent me stood a buoyant Dr. B.K. Sood and a demure Elisapie Killiktee Ootova, speaking only Inuktitut. And there was the poet-musician, an island unto himself, awaiting the same instructions. If I hadn't approached him immediately, I'd have talked myself out of it (twice done with the late Mordecai Richler). Am I a fan? Let's just say that in the '60s, no young Canadian poet could overlook Cohen and his Cohenisms—like him or not—inclusive of his songs. We also share some mutual friends.

I said as much when I stepped forward, not knowing how receptive he would be to a later shmooze with my family. Ah, but he's a dab old hand, charming in his self-assurance. You know that smile of his? We sat together at the briefing.

Uniforming myself for the morning, after telephone reveille, I consider how all might shake out. Facing the day

with my family, preparing for the resplendently sober experience about to unfold, I know I've the ingredients for an optimum Friday.

Almighty Wind

A Cultural Life
by Joseph Sherman

I could say that a hurricane is a great leveler, but that would be a tasteless joke and a worse pun.

Hurricane damage photos…can we ever get enough?

The forest of felled trees in Connaught Square was almost otherworldly, certainly like a scene from a film shot elsewhere in the world: splayed trunks invading green space and roads alike, treating houses and vehicles as obstructions on their way to earth.

Leaving the Island, and returning a week later to find enormous stumps and no sign of green lumber, it seemed even grimmer, hard evidence of erasure. If tree rings represent age and the ages, what sadness to contemplate the eradication of arboreal memory, of its implications to us, the presumptuously sentient.

Boats foundered while anchored and berthed…it’s unnatural. Safe harbour is the converse of threat on and from the high seas. This seems an extreme insult.

In Fredericton, where I spent the following week, many of those I spoke with had no real conception of what P.E.I. and N.S. had experienced. Even watching their TV screens and noticing photos in their newspapers, it may as well have happened in Florida or Papua New Guinea.

Visual artists were active during the worst of the storm’s fury, here and in N.S. Watch for hurricane and tropical storm art: images by the score…paintings, photographs. Were poems written? Not in this house.

I did wonder at the feral mind of the storm, the wind rising and falling, staking its path with iron nails, leaving its spoor, sometimes fractionally reduced but even then dramatic with sound. I’ve never heard such a wind, and the way it played hard at our shingles as at the keys of an accursed piano.

Once, an aeon ago, I almost froze to death in a rural Quebec whiteout, or thought I might, which is pretty much the same thing to an active imagination. That wind was unsubtle, incessant, prolix. Juan appeared to be driven by a calculating mind, determined, bullying.

Flashes in the post-midnight sky weren’t silent lightning, as we thought, they were transformers exploding. How tenuous it all is, civilization.

The people who windsurf a hurricane sea are related to those who play pattycake with grizzlies in the wild. Their regret is rarely recorded.

Our ancestors would have shared our fear of this weather, but they lit oil lamps and wood stoves; their source of light and heat was the same before and during the inclement weather. Boats today are as vulnerable still, evanescently fragile.

Our late neighbour Pete Costain would’ve both loved and hated Juan. A lanky and inveterate collector of eclectic detritus, he’d have been overwhelmed by the sudden plethora of available wood.

If a tree falls in the city does anybody hear?

Loss of the boardwalk…like losing the Farmer’s Market…or City Cinema.

If weather patterns are indeed changing, we are bound to become culturally attuned. Parts of the world where climate-related disasters-in-the-making are seasonal adapt accordingly. There are typhoon mentalities and cultures, active-volcano cultures, earthquake cultures; people adopt a rhythm, an outlook, a sense of fatalism if not forbearance. We don’t have that yet in this neck of the grotto, where we’ve only been expected to accommodate the tail ends of named hurricanes and tropical storms, and a later slew of nameless blizzards.

California…majoring in earthquake culture, with a forest-fire minor…and death by cultish misadventure. It’s where most silver dreams are promised, compromised, and founder. And yet where a muscle-bound, pop-cult shteiger can be invited into the master stateroom. (Austrians, transplanted and domestic, have such a fascinating track record, culturally and politically. Think also of Kurt Waldheim and Joerg Haider. Consider Charlie Chaplin.) There are mentalities and mentalities, and popular culture has always moved with the weather. Writing, last month, in favour of artists becoming society’s leaders, I had a different sort of artist in mind. Who so qualified lives among us in fair representation of our own climatically evolving culture? Perhaps there’s a name written on the wind.

Adventures in Excellency

A Cultural Life
by Joseph Sherman

If Herménégilde Chiasson’s first language was English, he would probably be as familiar to you as the names of George Bowering or Jason Sherman or Ron Mann. For, like them, he writes poetry and plays and makes films. Unlike them, he does all three. Chiasson is also a printmaker and performance artist, as well as an academic and an arts activist. (I once chastised him for not being a composer and musician as well; he was apologetic.) But Chiasson is a Francophone out of Moncton-area l’Acadie, and he’s no household name hereabouts. The Atlantic literary world knows who he is. One of his several prizes is a Governor General’s Award for Poetry.

You’ll hear more about him over the next while. Herménégilde Chiasson has just been named Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, the first professional artist to be so appointed. I have to admit the announcement caught me off-guard. Hermé is not only political, he’s a finely calibrated iconoclast, and I wondered at the thinking of those who submitted his name to the PM’s office. A professional artist, and a multifaceted one at that, will he feel muzzled, like Vaclav Havel (who is only a playwright)? What can it mean when an active artist is promoted to vice-regal office? I mean, the guy is going to have to live in a fancy pile on the edge of Fredericton and host teas with Brownies, the IODE, and any number of touring dignitaries. He’s also going to have to read the Speech from the Throne, and maybe even brunch with HRH and her kin.

Granted, his predecessor, a physician (who has just been named to the Senate), has been especially generous with, and attentive to, her province’s cultural community, as has PEI’s own Lieutenant Governor. But it’s one thing to have a generous patron in office, another to empower a practicing professional artist with a reputation for asking the hard questions.

On the assumption that this news from across the strait qualifies as a Good Thing, I am delighted with the precedent. It is mildly ironic that those in N.B. campaigning to create a Poet Laureateship have been unsuccessful so far, whereas here on PEI that position was established with a flourish late last year. Have we now been trumped? No. These are not mutually exclusive appointments. In fact, wouldn’t it be grand to see a Lieutenant Governor who’s a practicing artist preside vice-regally in a province that also platforms a Poet Laureate?

It may be that both positions are marginalized by the real world of politics and econo-bustle, but so long as they remain on the books and, artist enthroned, are given a firm nod, they’ll validate all art practice. The relative marginilization of the poet in society (despite the faddish innovation of such mishegoss as poetry slams) means that the poet is a spokesperson for the broader creative process. Poetry = artistry. To risk a cliché, a regal rep who’s an artist breathes new life into the role. And as good artists tend to be open-minded and eclectic, as well as imaginative, all benefit. Even though that sport extraordinaire Jean Belliveau was once offered the Governor Generalship (graciously declined), I’d be less than enthusiastic about seeing a professional athlete fill the formalwear.

Hermé Chiasson is a pillar in his particular community, an inspiration to fellow Acadians and now fellow New Brunswickers at-large. Their artists should be thrilled. He can use higher office to promote, without pain, culturemaking and the intellectual life, and to validate it for society at large.

Were PEI’s powers-that-be to consider appointing one of the province’s creative lights to the position of Lieutenant Governor down the road, there are several names I’d be happy to pass along, exemplary minds all, who would set an example and invigorate an office that can best justify its existence in the 21st century by seating an accomplished artist, regardless of past political affiliations. Put an artist in charge, however emblematic the position, and watch things happen. Why, there’s a future in this.

On the Road, Again

A Cultural Life
by Joseph Sherman

The best thing? Leaving PEI at summer's inception for eleven days. A road trip with two other sprightly graybeards—such is adventure—began the Thursday before Victoria Day Weekend. My past journeys to Ontario have almost always been by air, so jitneying up to Ottawa and back by way of Montreal (very briefly) and Kingston was a rare opportunity to see and smell country Canada, observing the sub-urban snows of late winter dissolve into the assuring greens of new foliage. Coming off the Renous highway, there was a lunchtime stopover in Edmundston, where I worked out the 1970s, and a brief look at the old homestead (at least for my children, both of whom were born in La République de Madawaska), which hasn't fared well.

Images: the tiny themed-room Québec auberge where we overnighted, remarkable Québec architecture (ancient and contemporary), the slatey business-like flow of the St. Lawrence, and the squadron flight of snow geese skimming its darkened waters just past dusk—reassuringly ghostly—as we three relaxed over a simple country supper washed down with a cold one.

Pretty Kingston was a treat. The weather perfect. Home away from home was a mid-19th century cabin-like manse on Wolfe Island, an uncommon suburb 20 minutes from downtown, with gratis efficient car-ferry service and a beautiful, contemplative ride almost to our front door. I now know more about composting toilets than I'd ever expected to learn; but then, a holiday trip should also edify.

When I completed the next leg to Ottawa, solo (leaving my fellow sprites to traipse Kingston's links before driving on), I chose railway over highway. It was an easy decision. Here on PEI one forgets a train's rhythm, its capaciousness compared to any roadliner. The Kingston-Ottawa run may fall short of being the most picturesque, but it was a sweet change. I do miss real train stations, though, the Kingston and Ottawa depots being soulless shells of sheer utility, and both located nowhere near their respective downtowns, where train depots traditionally stood as proud architectural beacons. Still… And Ottawa, despite its staid reputation, has its sensory pleasures. And renewable friendships.

The open road. Guy talk. Québec and Ontario potables. Fair weather…mostly. Old haunts and new. Eleven days…did I say that? The hinged mask of summer. Train and boat and automobile. There and back again. And thus did the season unfurl.

There and Back

A Cultural Life
by Joseph Sherman

April 19: Five were bound for Tobago: A, B, C, D and J. Aloft, A informs J that circumstances have reduced them to three; B and C can't be there. There follows a period of intense contemplation on J's part. The plane continues to climb.

A and J overnight in Toronto and dine with family. Early liftoff to Barbados necessitates an early night; for J also a sleepless one.

April 20: No Terminal 2 turmoil, just honeymooners on parade, overpacked and giddy. The wide-body jet is half-empty/half-full, its passengers free to seat-switch, which A does, the better to see the islands and seagoing trimarans. Adams airport is being renovated and they trek through a plywood maze to customs, then provision-shop and await LIAT's Dash 8 to Tobago. Twilight obscures further viewing, but there's a St. Lucia stopover to fetch a couple outfitted like a Tilley ad. Tobago by night. Customs friendly. A relieved D greets A and J, having walked to the airport from their digs in Crown Point.

April 21: J needs a pharmacy. Enter the concierge, one Ziggy Husein, a retired Trinidadian judge from Port of Spain, and his wife Jackie: an air-conditioned lift to market, pharmacy, and fruit stall. More provisions. Chickens everywhere, dogs and cats too skinny to cast a shadow. Read in the local Guardian of a fireman being planassed with a cutlass.
Man of War Bay near Charlotteville is stunning, its pacific Caribbean waters cupped between skyward headlands terraced with tiny homes; no wonder pirates took R&R here. The 25-mile drive from Crown Point is nearly two hours; J's never experienced roads so steep and winding. (Jemo, the driver, has a daughter studying in Tacoma.) At 6:30-ish darkness settles with a thud.

April 22: Nimble antenna-poled fishing pirogues target the horizon, putt-putting past the few anchored recreational one- and two-masters; a hardhatted crew of two seems the norm. A, D & J can see all from their seafront cottage. Food vendors perambulate the public beach with their bags and coolers: Andy the Fruit King (mangos, golden apples, pomerack); Miss Vicki the Coconut Cookie lady; Satoo, purveyor of spicy rotis assembled on cue. Birds on show: pelicans, pillikins, blue-gray tanagers, ruby-topaz hummingbirds, Carib grackles, laughing gulls, ground doves, the elusive cocrico, and high overhead the magnificent frigate bird. Roosters parade their wives each morning. Falling nuts drum the metal roof day and night, one shoe at a time.

April 23: Charlotteville has unprepossessing but superlative eateries. No fresh milk in the mini-marts but granola is plentiful. It's a fact, J can't snorkel with glasses on or see anything without them. D calls the bay's seductive swell a meniscus effect. Postcard time. A squad of bare-to-the-waist teen boys is serjeanted past at the trot, chanting verses that end Boom-Boom.

April 24: J braves mid-day heat to find a surprisingly modern library, the only local source for newspapers. And air conditioning. There are leaf-strewn concrete gulches everywhere; obviously key during rainy season. J spots his first lizard. A sumptuous late meal for three at Jane's Quality Kitchen, serenaded from the hilly distance by the voices of a revival meeting &an antique pump organ breathing ecstatically.

April 25: Last morning before moving to Speyside and the Atlantic. A contends with her infected bites, exults in spotting a green bird with a scarlet breast. J nurses blisters, his head…attracted to a low porch beam. He wishes for a video and sound recorder. While packing up, meets a London ad-man from an adjoining cottage who drums for fun and whose fave group is Great Big Sea. D has befriended his small daughters. A farewell swim. No cocrico.
The Speyside Inn is a transformed estate-house (A and J have a circular tower room with a magnificent beamed ceiling) in a roadside village characterized by strewn rubble and refuse. Its worldly owner (she edits Island Life) knows Toronto and Montreal. An evening meal at Miss Jemma's Treehouse restaurant, Carib grackles swooping and thieving through dinner. At night a hopeful lizard hunts from a high beam. The grand window shutters are thrown wide.

April 26: An adolescent chicken begs at breakfast; J dubs him Schnorrer. Few other guests; the world is become a cautious place. A hot, exhausting walk-spiralling up, then down-to the jetty for Frank's Glass Bottom Boat tour, a jolly cruise out to Angel Reef and Little Tobago Island. Five passengers, four crew. Guide Deion rattles off fish names-"Trumpetfish, blue tang, angelfish, queen of the reef. . ." and presents the world's second-largest brain coral. A and D and an Aberdeen duo (Marcia, a tennis coach and her daughter, Jette) snorkel. Where birds of paradise once nested (bring me the blue-crowned motmot, if not the cocrico), they climb towards the sun and out of their skins. J prefers peering downward, through glass.

April 27: Another taxi day. Bully (nice shirt) delivers them to the Crown Point Beach Hotel. . .air conditioning, water rationing, boil-water-alert. Sensational view-frangipani, bougainvillea, casuarina, slippery elm, coconut palm, cycad-a glorious Caribbean, with a reef accessible down a flight of steps. A fishing derby is just ending. Many boats at anchor.

April 28: Overnight power outage &stifling. Planes land and leave constantly. J misses Charlotteville's tranquility. And the meniscus. Though the beach is fine. D & J make a banking and pineapple foray.

April 29: D leaves for home, reluctantly. A and J watch a two-foot brown lizard pursue a one-foot brown lizard, the Be Strong take on an enormous seine. The fruit stand lady offers to peel the pineapple. Not a cutlass in sight.

April 30: J knows it's time to move on-to an island of nutmeg ice cream-the hour he watches a young Tobagonian bicycle vigorously across the calm waters off Crown Point.

May 1: A galumphing pair of cocricos for J-perfect!

Events Calendar

January 2019
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6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31

Some Upcoming Events

The Charlottetown Film Society & L’Ipéen...

Select dates
City Cinema Tickets at the door, cash only, $7, or visit for advance [ ... ]

Bluegrass at the Carriage House

February 3
Beaconsfield Carriage House Janet McGarry and Wildwood, a favourite PEI band, will be fea [ ... ]

Raised on TV #3

February 15 & 16
The Guild Now in its third season, Raised on Television (RoTV3) is taking a loo [ ... ]

Recent News & Articles

Music PEI Canadian Songwriter Challenge

In partnership with ECMA 2019 Music PEI and ECMA 2019 have announced a partnership bringing togethe [ ... ]

The facilitator

Profile: Steve Bellamy by Jane Ledwell “Arts are ways into emotions. Arts are where we connect, [ ... ]

A gift of Island poetry: John MacKenzie

The Feet of Blue Herons If you happen to live in another town,
Or country, or even galaxy
As dim and  [ ... ]