Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Lost Actor

    A few months ago I wrote a letter to the Nelson Star using the very technical theological term "locution", and the Star, although it is by no means the mouthpiece of the local Catholic Church, printed the letter. I was both grateful and relieved. Grateful, because no writer likes to see his efforts wasted; and relieved because the previous letter I had written to our local newspaper had not been sent to print, the editor having decided it contained too much criticism of persons and an era he was not familiar with. I was disappointed over the rejected letter, but as someone who believes in the relative sacredness of conscience there was no way I could argue with the editor's decision. The rejected letter had to do with the late Bishop W.E. Doyle, a scoundrel if there ever was one, and all his harm had been committed long before Bob Hall, the editor, came from Edmonton to work for the old Nelson Daily News.
    The locution, that is, words from the mouth of Almighty God delivered to the mind of one of his creatures, a young man utterly puzzled by much of his life at that time, was exactly this: "The university is going, but the movies are coming." It came to me in the spring of 1965, as I was walking down the 600 block, Mill Street, thus heading in the direction of the Cathedral of Mary Immaculate, at that time the centre of the diocese. I had been in Nelson something like eight months, was still spinning through each day in utter amazement at all the turns my life had taken since I had arrived here, but fundamentally secure, thanks to my daily reading of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, and confident that "God was in His heaven, and all was right with the world." I had by then left the little Catholic university I had enrolled in, the previous autumn, had started once again with the dear old "Yacht Novel", and as well as that put in three weeks at the building site of the Duncan Dam, getting my tail frozen as a rod man on the survey crew.
And a few weeks ago, as I sat in my chair in Oso Negro, an over-the-top coffee outlet a block south of Nelson's world famous Baker Street (how many films, paintings, etc, now?), all by myself with a little ring binder in which I have been trying out the first words for a poem which just might be longer than The Iliad, I noticed across the aisle a young man I had never noticed before. (To me, a man of fifty is young.) And he was alone.
    He was not unimpressive. A body builder's physique, and a face born to play both tragic and heroic roles. Long hair. And, as I was to learn, a writer who brooded in the spirit of Victor Hugo and Sir Walter Scott. I knew absolutely none of this last, of course, but I was about to find out.
I decided there could be no harm in speaking to him. "Are you having a good day, so far?" I said.
He said that he was, and more than that, he became completely attentive. We exchanged a few more pleasantries of the kind that often come up come up between hitherto perfect strangers in Nelson. but also quickly got to the point where we knew we both might have very much in common, so much in common that we had to admit that such a "chance encounter" was in fact no chance at all but utterly providential, in fact, predestined. He brought his cup of coffee and himself across the aisle to my table, and we got to it.
I discovered quite quickly that he was a fellow novelist, and more than that, was at the moment making a feature film based on his book. The book had won an award in Quebec, which could have resulted in a publishing deal, but he had decided to look for a larger market than would come to him through that route, was wondering about a bit of rewrite, and meanwhile making the film.
I had in fact heard a little about the movie a few months previous, from someone who was actually in it, but at that time my mind was either in the Chilcotin Cariboo, Rome, or the music researches. With the conclusion of the questions still to come, but knowing they were near, I could not be distracted.      But by that morning the Cariboo had quietened down, Rome had acquired a new Pope, and I was so happily at the end of my investigations into theory and fingering that I was relating to a prospective publisher and a prospective graphic designer. Life was nicely levelling out, and thus I was free for a new challenge.
    Or rather, to be absolutely precise, a wrapping up, thanks to divine providence, of a lot of old challenges. He turned out to be a vigorous laddie, my new acquaintance. And one destined to be in the thick of things. Consider this. Last evening an email from him, telling me that the chase scene in Saints and Outlaws, not in automobiles, but on horses thundering across the fields of Napoleonic France, (aka the fields of the Slocan Valley) was all done, in spite of the current heat wave. A few hours later, as I fired up the computer to talk to a Vancouver Sun reporter about the music matter, I see a Telus news note about 3,000 souls handed evacuation notices because of a truck loaded with helicopter fuel finding itself in a Slocan Valley creek, inadvertantly offloading 35,000 gallons of its volatile and poisonous cargo. I must admit I was praying for Antonio Bastone and his cast and crew to get gracefully through their day. And so, wherever he was, was our Capuchin bishop, who only last week had nodded his permission for me to be filmed in his cathedral. Antonio has decided I should play the good cardinal who has come to straighten out some bad churchmen.
     And as if that weren't enough action, later on this morning I meet with a Nelson lad, not born here but adopted and raised here, who has recently opened a recording studio. He was, with my oldest son, something of a daredevil when he was young, and as an adult turned that imagination into running light shows for major entertainment groups. Rock stars and all that. He's just home from jazzing up the visuals for Michael Buble, in England, he called to answer my phone message of previous days, and over the next month he and I just might come up with some of the most interesting and useful scale harmonies ever recorded on film.

     As Chuck Berry said, and everybody sang, "Roll Over, Beethoven."

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