Saturday, July 10, 2010


Of what is an incredibly beautiful paint job in the front hall symbolic? When you are a contemplative, the littlest changes in life have a moderate significance, so the big changes have a huge one. I hear that there will be photographs going out about this striking new feature to the Silica Street premises, from the roving cameric eye of MT, and no blogger worthy of the name could ignore such an opportunity to swank out on his and others' skill with a paint brush. (And no small degree of adroitness at keeping his feet out of the roller tray. Old eyes with cataracts are a disaster looking for an opportunity.)
When we moved into our final Nelson house, the fifth, in 1975, we knew we were settled, and we knew we had landed ourselves into a property which had every advantage except a decor satisfactory to the critical norms of the middle class. Any doubts anyone might have had on this score were utterly swept away by my parents, who while they generously wished to help us buy a house and get settled, definitely did not think this one suitable. It simply looked too scruffy, both outside and in, and I could not disagree with such a critical opinion. From a strictly visual point of view it really was down at the heels according to the norms of better homes and gardens, and my mother, when she bravely came up on the bus in November of 1975, ostensibly to see her son play Matthew in the university theatre department production of Anne of Green Gables - sold-out audiences for fifteen performances - scurried around town with real estate agents in search of a house that, to her, seemed like an improvement. It took me a while to catch on to what she was up to, and I was delighted, of course, with her concern for our welfare, but I knew after two months in this house that it was exactly what we needed, no matter what it looked like on the surface.
At that time, I had never heard of Warren Buffet, but I certainly knew how to think like him, otherwise I would never have settled in Nelson. Find something worth investing in, even though it seems to lack the glamour of the moment in the eyes of the world, and get it up and running.In Nelson, things were up and running indeed in 75. They were lining up for Jaws at the Civic Theatre, and lining up for Anne of Green Gables at Saint Martin's Hall theatre space at the college. My mother was stunned by the performance, and convinced that though neither she nor her husband completely understood their oldest son, he was deserving of a modest degree of financial backing. Besides, he and his wife had provide them with a complete six-pack of lovely grandchildren, and they too were worth making secure amongst the tumult of the world and its vicissitudes.
So, when they came up in the summer, making their annual pilgrimage to the land of the contemplatives and their puzzling ways - on some days, it's impossible to believe that Luther and Calvin are not frying in Hell for their unspeakable perversions of Christ's impeccable creative instincts - out came the cheque for the down payment and off flew our worries, to a degree, over the future. A dump to some eyes, maybe, but a dump that worked. A roof, a yard - with trees - a place to eat, sleep, and bring home your friends, within walking or biking distance of everything that mattered: what more do you need, especially when your parents have absolutely no illusions about the privations in which millions and millions of the world's other children have to live? (Even in Canada, where so many of the poor little buggers are given nothing of the arts or religion.)
To me, the lack of cosmetic perfection was simply a reminder of these salient points of consideration. Yes, it is the world's ugliest entrance to a home, almost award winning in its third world aspects, and one day it will most certainly be straightened out, but for the moment it is a provocative symbol of all sorts of things, possibly a lot of which your utterly Thomistic and mystical father as no bloody sense of whatsoever. Suck it up, and enjoy the view of the West Arm. There are million dollar homes in the city of your father's birth that don't have a view like that.
And of course fixing up that hall, and all the other things that needed attention, would have cost money. No one in Nelson that I knew was giving paint away, and any money beyond rent, food, and clothing went for music and dance lessons and so forth. And equally significant, God was not giving me the grace to do what my very practical and tradesmanly skillful father would have done.
Mind you, the hall was not initially as scabrous as it later became. There was a sort-of wall board covering the v-joint, something or other over the broken plaster of the ceiling, a big closet for coats and boots, and hundreds of our books instantly went up along the east wall on a readily taken apart and put back together  bookcase built a couple of houses back by a live-in friend. It had been his room and board for a month. In other words, the hall functioned, just as the house and its location functioned.
Eventually, the big cupboard moved to the porch, where it remains, but without its sliding doors that were always coming off the track. This was possible once we'd moved the master bedroom from that spot. The cupboard had partially hidden a spot in the wall where there had once been a door, and now there became a door again, thus allowing a much better passage of air on hot summer nights as they cooled. In a flurry of inspiration that followed a major overhaul of the dining room, the v-joint was uncovered, with the intention of attention, but that was stalled.
In 1992, our oldest son's wife died, her double-lung heart transplant having kept her alive for just over a year.
Because the hall also served as the staircase to the second floor, in a hundred-year old house that was built in the days of the high ceilings, we told the families that when the hall was restored to its original grandeur we would use its lofty reaches to hang some of the painting collection, and name our little gallery after her.
Mind you, I did not foresee that as the hall was refurbished our local daily paper would be sent down the drain. The press gang currently owned by David Black has just bought out its western rival in smaller publications, Glacier, and its first decision was to close the papers that have been losing significant amounts of money. As my oldest had just started full time reporting with the Prince Rupert daily, I had an early tip as soon as she heard the insiders' news, but I found it a little hard to believe that Black and his boys could think they could wipe out a daily in as town as culturally active as Nelson. Or as wealthy. The money safely banked in this burgh could buy Black and his little empire out three or four times over.
I've already had the offer of investment in a Web press, whatever that is, and offered, through the pages of the last week of the current daily, have recommended that Mr. Black take another look at the community. I don't think his scouts brought home the real intelligence. Not a good beginning for someone in the reporting business.

No comments: