Monday, May 19, 2008

The International Brotherhood

Have I found the perfect schedule for writing this thing? From the fall of 53 to the spring of 57 I was habitually a part-time author. (I speak of the fiction, not the journalism of the Ubyssey or the Sun.) I could use only the energy of the evening, not that which most professionals prefer, the spirit of the morning, with or without breakfast. If I felt I had become a different person simply by taking up the typewriter to sketch out a story in 53, I felt the same change again, only deeper, when I had the freedom of the entire day and could get to the Once-upon-a-time in the morning,with a completely fresh and well-rested brain. In March of 57 I left an office job to spend a few weeks trying my hand at what I thought of as realism, and I was so happy with the mood of the results that I stayed at my post-breakfast typewriter until well into May, when I left Vancouver for my dream job in the bush.
I now seem to getting to that same schedule here, which means I get to set up a good draft before lunch, let it all roll around in my head for the rest of the day, and come back to edit the next morning. Then, if I'm still feeling feisty, I get on with the draft of the next post.
Thusly, I began to answer my own question from yesterday.
B Company also exists, but with a different, and longer, name than the WMV. It is: The International Brotherhood of the Sippers and Sharers of Single Malt Whiskey. The IBSSSMW. Is this Polish, like the Pope who broke the back of the Soviet bear? John Paul liked whiskey. I know that, because I saw a clip on TV, where the seminarians at the Scots college in Rome presented him with a bottle of the stuff. This was back in 84, just before he came to Canada and three years after I had written my first transformation scene, which involved two men drinking the dew of the Highlands together. Chapter 10, book two. I mentioned the possibility of such a unique spiritual event as the transformation in the first pages of the book, so as to avoid confusing the readers of Field and Stream, and then had to wait out thirty chapters before such a thing showed up. Philippe Gagnon, the centre piece of all this phenomena, has just returned home after yet another futile conversation with his blind, deaf, bishop. These defects were spiritual, of course, the kind Jesus could not heal with a little mixture of mud and spit. Philippe's companion for this event was a patron, Gaetan Renard,whose creation is owed to the Editor-in-chief, due to a conversation one summer morning as we strolled the waterfront pathway at the Nelson mall.
Now, the IB is even more loosely organized than the WMV, and so far, much smaller. It started out two years ago because of a film and a bottle of Glenmorangie and at the beginning I had absolutely no idea of where it was leading to. I was by that time getting used to the Net, and as I can see now, practicing for the world of the Blog by engaging various souls in internet conversation, but I was still thinking about publishing as a print shop process, and music, or music instruction, as something to be produced in a much more complicated ambience than the studio at hand. We all know now that I had even considered the acreage of the CPR lands in Nelson.
But, starting back in 2002 or so, a young film maker named Aubrey Nealon made a very classy little film, "A Simple Curve", mostly in and around New Denver, in the Slocan Valley. It was the sort of story, I thought, once it was screened early in 2006, that both Aeschylus and Aristophanes would be very happy with: funny, swift, and beautifully pastoral, yet terribly true to life and the relation of cause and effect. True, we had experienced Hollywood showing up and fulfilling the old locution about the campus going down and the movies coming up, much more than once, but this was home grown, not only Canadian to a major degree, but with a tale indigenous to our part of the universe and even including in the cast, through marriage, relatives of mine.
I knew nothing about the production when it was happening, and was, I admit, even wary of seeing it when it came out. The Slocan Valley has been known for flake, now and again, and Canadian films, at least in earlier days, were notorious for underestimating the time it took to write a thoroughly good script.
But not to worry. We had ourselves a classic. I saw it four times, and bought copies for all my bairns. Not since "Chariots of Fire" had I walked that often into our local movie theatre for one movie.
Also, I wanted more information on the background of the film, and thus got in touch with a lively little bi-weekly called the "Valley Voice", not only published in New Denver, but with credits at the end of the film for helping out with the production. They gave me all their stories about the film and I became a regular reader of the paper. The Voice had always been available at our local food co-op, along with other organs in the newspaper rack, but my business then, as I saw it, was with the store's magazine shelves, where I could find the "Yoga Journal", "Tai Chi", and "Ascent", which last, although published in Montreal, was really the spiritual product of our local ashram at Kootenay Bay. It is in fact a photograph from the history of the search for the ashram site that happily occupies my computer dashboard. The Three Sisters, in the Rockies, south across the Bow in the rising sun.
The Voice is a family enterprise. Dan Nicholson, publisher; Jan McMurray, editor and reporter. It also boasts a regular reporter, Art Joyce, who is a much published poet, although not in that newspaper, and other contributors of note.
The Voice is also known and appreciated for its full two-page letters section, virtually a living history of many of the issues of our times.
Shortly into my reading of the paper, I perceived the possibility of a running joke. It seemed that the publisher, a Scotch man, could get a certain mileage out of "complaining" about the fact that no one ever thought of buying the thirsty newsman a bottle of the stuff. The Voice is longer on integrity and relevance than it is on profiteering. I related to this situation with complete visceral empathy, as I could remember the weeks on either side of Christmas, 81, when I was on a very anxious tear through a certain section of "Contemplatives" and had most kindly had my creative nerves soothed by not only one, but two, bottles of scotch that came my way as gifts. One was from the local Knights of Columbus, in gratitude for my calling their bingo once a month for some years past, even though I was not a Knight anymore; the other from the incomparable Pauline Hanbury, founder of the Nelson Christmas Faire, who seemed to think I had made myself useful by hanging around when the Faire was running a week or two previously. Actually, I think I made the bank run, and therefore did make a contribution.
It had happened in New Denver that the mayor, Hal Wright, coming upon Dan in the liquor store, on the one hand muttered at Dan's complaining, and on the other, bought him a mickey of scotch. So Dan wrote a little editorial reporting this, with, of course his tongue in this bearded cheek. He keeps his offerings short, and even non-existent, in order to maximize the space for his letter writers, but when he steps up to the plate he inevitably hits the ball well and I realized I had in my own back yard a man who knew words, and also an opportunity for sharing a little of my recently acquired bank account in the spirit of the Volunteers.
I had to wait a while for the delivery to get through. We had not owned a car for years and no one seemed to be dropping by the house on his or her way to New Denver. I had mentioned to Jan the idea of sending up a bottle, over the phone while talking about back copies, but weeks, then months, went by and I began to feel that I had been shooting off my face, making promises I couldn't keep.
Then, with the 2006 running season begun, late, but very seriously, at the end of June, I was nicely into it when I came back from a trot late one sunny Friday afternoon to hear a familiar voice holding forth in my living room. Pat Pyrz, who had grown up in Winnipeg with my oldest son-in-law, was talking with the housekeeper. We had not seen him for some time, but we had heard he had bought property away to the north of us. He was in fact on his way back to it, to a lodge he had built himself on the Incomappleux, a river that flows into the Upper Arrow Lake well north of New Denver.
"Aha," says I. "Do you know the Valley Voice?"
"Not only do I know them," says Pat, "I have to drop by tonight, to do with a story on my place."
So, I had not been off my trolley after all.
My supply house was one of the local cool stores, with a good hard bar selection, but at the time with only one single malt, Glenmorangie. Good enough, and Pat headed out of town.
Lo and behold, in the next issue of the Voice, the tale is told, and with a nice little reference to Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island", in that Dan, when Pat handed him the brown paper bag,wondered if someone were tipping him the black spot. He also mentioned that Glenmorangie was his father's favourite malt. Pat told him who the bottle was from, but Dan had arrived in New Denver shortly after I dropped out of the active life of the well-known performer and he'd never heard of me. He knew Shawn from the museum world, but that was not necessarily a connection. We got into a fairly regular back and forth, with the first conclusion a number of months ago, when I sent him the first chapter of the book of fiction narrating piano theory. He approved, very generously. But he really got into gear less than three weeks ago when he flatly told me I should put the music system on the Web.
So now you know whom to reward if you get anything out of these music dictations, and what to send him. Jan also has her preference in such things, but naming it will require an installment of its own.
Tomorrow, with all these memories of the Mosebys and music about, we should get to the guitar.

1 comment:

Dan Nicholson said...

This characterization of me falls within the realm of fair comment. You make a number of assertions about my character that are probably untrueThanks, Ken.