25 June 2005

of ottawa, owen, and orangeville


Went to the Ottawa Small Press Fair last weekend, and I always have such a good time in Ottawa. Stayed with the ever-generous Michael Dennis and Kirsty Jackson for the weekend. First night there, Michael surprises me with tickets to the National Arts Centre, where Kirsty's choir is one of a few singing with the NAC Orchestra in their performance of Beethoven's 9th. I don't think I've experienced live classical music since Andrew Davis' debut with the Toronto Symphony, which was probably about 30 years ago or somethin'.

It was pretty glorious, and I liked how the choir members all simply stared forward motionlessly for the first hour, until their moment at plinging the triangle came along. Weird experience being among the well-dressed symphony-goers when my usual cultural outing is a poetry reading. Later, my fave part of staying with Michael: talking with him late into the night.

The Small Press Fair was sparsely attended but still worthwhile. rob and I stayed well away from each other most of the time. Had great visits at my table with John Lavery and Stephen Brockwell, and Kristiana's old roommate Karen Meaghar (who I'm sure doesn't spell her last name that way), and I got to see pregnant Kira and Sean of the Ottawa Int'l Writers' Festival, with whom I visited the Manx post-fair. Michael Dennis dropped by the fair, which was shocking, because he don't go out to nuthin' literary. Behind the tables were Jon Paul Fiorentino, Jennifer Mulligan, Wanda O'Connor, Amanda Earl, Joe Blades, Gary Gravelle, and a bunch of others. I sold about $225 worth of stuff and bought a few cool items.

After the Manx, Sean, Kira and I joined the post-fair get-together at the James Station Pub or whatever it's called, and then took a cab to their new gigantic house, which is about two blocks from Michael's. It was great to visit with them; it's been a while. They'd bought a copy of Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer at the fair and I'm a little anxious about how they'll view my column on getting turfed from my traditional residency in the hospitality suite of the OIWF.

Sunday lunch with the wonderful Melanie Little and Peter Norman at Ceylonta, my favourite Ottawa restaurant. They're about to move to Calgary, where Melanie got a writer-in-residence position that I've tried for a bunch of times. Damn her! Great lunch, great company, and then the road back to Toronto.


June 23 was my brother Owen's birthday. But he died in 2000, at age 46, the age I'm about to turn in a few weeks. He'll forever be my older brother, even though I'll soon overtake the highest age he reached. Owen would have been 52 this year. My relationship with him was complex, because we talked very little and had very tempestuous times as we grew up. He was a gruff, private person whose only great pleasure was coaching little league baseball, at which he was incredible apparently. His funeral, which took place 14 hours after his sudden death, was attended by a phalanx of kids in baseball uniforms. To this day, a North York league baseball hat sits on his grave.


Last night I went to Orangeville for the Lyrical Coffeehouse gig, with singer-songwriter Marianne Girard, at the Baba Ghanoush Restaurant. Everyone who attended was a folkie fan -- no one came for the poetry, so I felt a little odd there. But they were a warm and welcoming audience, and my stuff went over pretty well. The cover charge was $12, so I was surprised that anyone came at all, but my cut of the door was an astonishing $140, and I sold three copies of Crumbling Balcony, so it ended up being more lucrative than most strictly literary gigs I do. The series is organized by Tracy Harrison, who has had me read a couple of times at the Furry Folk Festival at Hugh's Room. She's damn cool. I liked Orangeville, and will return to wander around. I bet there's some good stuff at the Sally Ann Thrift Store.


Since returning from Europe, I haven't gotten back into full productive mode. I'm feeling overwhelmed by all the stuff that's built up. My solution is to avoid most of it, but that's got to change. Right? It's a strange thing trying to piece together a living from my writing life, but I don't ever want to work in an office again, so I've got to get to work.



At June 27, 2005 9:45 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

what day's your birthday, stu?

At June 28, 2005 5:07 pm , Blogger John W. MacDonald said...

Thanks for the Juan Butler (The Garbageman) reference at the Ottawa SPBF. The book was delivered in my mailbox today. I can't wait to start it tonight. Glad you enjoyed your time in Ottawa.



Tell me, in the anarchist society that you envisage, where all men will be free, where no one will ever be in a position to impose his will upon his fellow man, where "doing your own thing" will be the norm rather than the exception, where creative leisure - as oppsed to the material success - will be the aspired-for work goal, where all politcal authority will disappear and economic controls will exist on a purlely voluntary basis, who will pick uo the garbage?

The garbageman."


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