I had a dream that seemed so real. Let me see if I can recount it.
I was to give a reading, presumably from my novel The Piano Teacher, though I don’t know if that was ever confirmed. It was to happen at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary, which is a big venue so this was not small potatoes.
It was all arranged by a woman whom I seemed to know more from Facebook than anywhere else. I don’t believe I ever knew her name and I certainly didn’t have her phone number.
I’m not the sort of person who is ever late for anything, ever. I boarded a bus with plenty of time to get to the hall, even though I easily could have walked there or ridden my bike in only a few minutes.
The minute I got on the bus, things started to go wrong. At no point did we go down any streets that were at all familiar to me at all. At first it was all right as I had plenty of time. (For some reason the reading was to take place at 6:30 PM. When does anything ever start at 6:30???)
And so the bus made its way down unfamiliar streets. But before you knew it, we were waiting at the entrance of a Mr. Lube shop – worse, even, the driver backed up to the doors so we were going to back up into the service bay.
Once the doors opened, the bus shot right through the bay into the back which was mostly a sea of mud and rusting hulks of old cars and various pieces of machinery lying around. It didn’t seem possible we could get through the mud but the driver gunned it and before long we had come out onto another street which was totally unfamiliar to me.
That street led onto a freeway and soon the bus was out on the freeway, going at a good clip, taking me further and further away from anything that was familiar to me. I checked my watch and it was slightly after 6, but I had no way of contacting the woman who had arranged the reading to tell her I might be late.
There was still time. We were running out of time, but there was still time.
When we finally turned off the freeway, the bus deposited me in a very bad neighbourhood which seemed decidedly more like new York or Chicago than Calgary. On leaving the bus, I was shaken down by two serious dudes, one with his face painted mint green. I told them I had no time for their bullshit, I was on my way to a reading, a hall full of people was waiting for me, I couldn’t let them down, they didn’t want to be a party to all those people being let down, so the two thugs led me to a bodega/lunch counter where it was thought I could get directions back downtown.
There was a swarthy man behind the cash register and a slim blonde waitress who wore nothing under her tiny apron. She wasn’t immediately attractive to me, but she soon grew on me. I bought a pack of Camel Lights and got directions to the subway.
Their directions took me into the bowels of a large theatre complex. The stairs took me into an actual theatre. Patrons were waiting for a play to begin. I had to jump over people waiting for the play to begin to make any progress to where I thought I could catch a train back to more familiar terrain.
I finally found an elevator but it wouldn’t go anywhere. I pushed the buttons but nothing happened. At first I was alone, but suddenly the elevator was packed. There was a tall blond Norwegian guy who didn’t speak any English standing in front of the control panel. I felt incredible rage towards him.
It turned out that we had to go up but I had been trying to go down. To activate the elevator, a special chip was needed and everyone but me had one, including the Norwegian guy.
Finally we got to the street and then all of us who had been in the elevator ended up in the cab, about ten of us. We were driving though a town I didn’t recognize. I checked my watch: 6:25. There was still time, but hope was fading fast.
I asked where we had been because it seemed like a funky part of town that I would like to visit again. Someone said it was Indian Road and that it was chaotic because Indiana had won the big game today. And that’s why everyone was dressed in red. (Though I hadn’t realized everyone was dressed in red.)
The lady beside me in the cab said, “You know, if you ever decide to write a novel, I can get you a good book deal.”
I say, “I’VE WRITTEN A NOVEL, I’M SUPPOSED TO BE READING IT AT THE JACK SINGER CONCERT HALL RIGHT THIS MOMENT! IN FACT NOW I’M LATE!!!!”
Then I realized I didn’t even have a copy of the book and that I would have to go home before I could go to the hall, making me ever later. I checked my watch: 6:35. I imagined the Jack full of people waiting for me, but me nowhere to be seen. If only I could have called that woman whose name I never knew!
Looking out the window of the cab, I saw we were now on a street called Quebec Avenue and I realized that we were in Montreal, even though I knew this street didn’t exist in Montreal or anywhere else, still the architecture was interesting.
And then I woke up all in a panic. I realized I was in my bed and breathed a sigh of relief. It was just a dream. I wouldn’t be late for my reading after all.
And then I realized that I have no reading to do tonight.
That was my dream.
Thanks for reading.
Go ahead, put your hand in his mouth!
Standing outside Caffe Beano the other morning, I was approached by an elderly gentleman (even by my standards) who wanted to give me a free coffee card. I don’t know what it is about me, people seem to like to give me things.
They say more serotonin is released when we give than when we receive, giving physiological proof to the old adage. Maybe I’m some kind of trigger, something about my face that screams out “Give this guy something! Give him a coffee card! Give him the shirt off your back!” Whatever.
(There is a DONATE button on the left side of the page if you want to FEEL GOOD RIGHT NOW.)
On any account, the gentleman who gave me the card gave me something far more valuable and enduring – he gave me a story. A good one too!
In his career, he was a dental surgeon, and in his free time he belonged to the Board of the Calgary Zoo. These two pursuits came together one day when he became the first oral surgeon to operate on a “big animal” (at least not of the domestic variety) in all of Canada. That animal was a Siberian tiger and he took two broken teeth out of its mouth, obviously while the tiger was under anesthetic.
They had laid the tiger on its side on the operating table and put shackles around its paws. As he was extracting one of the teeth, the tiger’s two front paws, which were not far from its head, raised a little off the table and then one by one its claws shot out from their sheaths. Of course, our good surgeon has his hands in the tiger’s mouth as this was happening.
As calmly as he could, he said “I think we might need a little more anesthetic here.”
Do ya think??
Anyway, he obviously survived and the tiger was relieved of its suffering and on a street corner years hence on a chilly autumn morning, I was given that story along with a free coffee card.
It got me thinking that there a lot of fascinating people walking around out there with stories that sadly enough may never get shared. A few years ago, I wrote a series of profiles for The Calgary Beacon called The Eugenius Questionnaire on people I know and admire, mostly from the Calgary arts scene. When I stopped writing for The Beacon, that idea died, but yesterday’s encounter with my new dentist friend rekindled my desire to create profiles on people by way of the questionnaire who have an interesting story to tell.
I think I ought to start it up again, and if he calls me (I gave him my card) I’ll start with my dentist friend and his story about being an oral surgeon to the big animals. Then you can hear it right from the horse’s – or the tiger’s – mouth. So to speak.
If you can think of a likely subject for this enterprise, why not let me know? There’s a comment button down below, so it’s easy enough to get in touch with me. (There’s also a donation button on the left . . . )
And by the way, if you’d be interested in doing something like this yourself, check out Dave Isay’s wonder Ted Talk on his project, StoryCorps. With their convenient App, you could be out gathering stories of your own in no time. I’ve shared it below. (Or at least tried to.)
Thanks for reading!
Kent at this year’s Pride Parade
For those of you not familiar with the riding of Calgary Centre, or if you are suffering from political amnesia, here are a few thoughts about the riding in advance of Monday’s federal election.
This riding was for many years held by Lee Richardson who came to it by way of the old Progressive Conservative Party, which bears little resemblance to today’s Conservative Party of Canada which is actually the old Reform Party, or Alliance Party, in disguise. In fact, it is one of those ridings that has long been considered a “fortress” of the Conservatives, whatever they are calling themselves.
Mr. Richardson vacated the seat back in 2012 and a by-election was called. I really became aware of it when I heard from some of my Progressive Conservative friends in the riding who were disillusioned and even disgusted with the CPC handling of the nomination for a candidate for the by-election. In fact there was no real nomination. The Prime Minister’s Office, aka Stephen Harper, told them they were to support his choice, Joan Crockatt. End of discussion. Case closed.
My friends were moved to do, for them, the unthinkable – to support the Liberal candidate in the by-election, Harvey Locke. Harvey was a great choice for the riding. He’s a lawyer, but don’t hold that against him. He’s also a conservationist and art curator, totally bilingual. It wasn’t hard to get behind him and a lot of us did. It looked for a while like the fortress might crumble and the long Conservative hold on this riding might finally come to an end.
But for one thing: the unlikely rise of Chris Turner and the Green Party. Young and hip, it seemed to me that Mr. Turner brought together the disenfranchised young and hip constituents of this riding. He ran a wildly successful campaign along the lines of Naheed Nenshi’s campaign when he became Mayor of Calgary.
I like Chris Turner and I like Harvey Locke. But that situation was a disaster waiting to happen in terms of the left vote splitting itself. That’s exactly what happened, allowing Ms. Crockatt to sneak in to office.
These were the final numbers:
Don Meade from the NDP picked up another 1,000 votes or so.
Clearly, Locke and Turner weren’t trying to defeat each other. They were both trying to defeat Crockatt. A meeting should have been called. Late night, downtown somewhere. Straws should have been drawn, or a coin flipped. One should have withdrawn and supported the other. But it never happened.
As a result, for the last three years we in Calgary Centre have been represented by a woman whom Frank Magazine crowned “the most useless MP on the Hill.” But not entirely useless, perhaps. In her recent newsletter to the people she represents, she made it clear that she herself could arrange to get a photo of the Queen for our hall.
Useless. And not even popular with many of her own Conservative constituents.
While all this madness was going on, in the provincial riding of Calgary Buffalo which covers much the same area as the federal riding of Calgary Centre, we were well represented by Liberal MLA Kent Hehr. Despite the doom and gloom prophecies of the 2012 election, Kent won handily for his second term. He is a vibrant and accessible politician, known and I would even say loved by many of the people who live in this part of Calgary.
One could say that while the Turner-Locke travesty was unfolding, Kent was keeping an eye on things, biding his time, waiting for the right moment to jump from provincial to federal politics. Given the orange tide that swept the province this year, he probably did well to make the change when he did.
Now, he has emerged as a very strong candidate for the Liberals in Monday’s election in a showdown that is primarily between him and “the most useless MP on the Hill.” I have seen Kent at least a dozen times during this election campaign, from the pride Parade (where I took the above photo) to breakfasts for the homeless on Olympic Plaza to just hanging out by the 8th Street underpass greeting people on their way to work. He’s there. He’s here. He’s one of us and he’s known and admired. He is the logical choice to represent us in Ottawa.
He may even be able to arrange to get pictures of the Queen for all of us, who knows?
Please, friends, don’t take this election lightly. Ignore it at your peril. Canada is shifting to a place that many of us are no longer comfortable with. Every seat we can take from the ruling party is critical towards bring some much-needed change to the country we all love. A vote for Kent is a small step towards creating this change.
By the way, now that I have you here . . . A year or so I wrote a blog post about the teaching I do at Abes College in North Calgary. It’s titled “This Is What My Country Looks Like” and you can find it by using the Search function on the left side of this page. It’s one “old stock” person’s take on some of the immigrant students I have had over the years.
We’re not all racists and we’re not all afraid of immigrants in this country. In fact, my life has been enriched by my association with the students I have met in my program. Please check it out and feel free to share it. Really, we need to stop this race-bating madness before it goes any further.
Eugenius supports Liberal candidate Kent Hehr in Calgary Centre.
Please get out and vote on October 19th, if you haven’t already.
Thanks for reading!
On Friday October 9 at 7:00 PM on the second floor of the Le Forte Centre at St. Mary’s University, located in Fish Creek Park in south Calgary, I will be reading from my novel The Piano Teacher. To bring some musical artistry to the even, my friend Morag Northey will be helping me out. Morag is one of the finest cellists in the land. We first worked together on my play Queen Lear, for which she created a musical score and performed every night in the original production of the play.
I’ve been involved with St. Mary’s in one way or another since 2005 when we took a small production of my play Closer and Closer Apart there one winter’s evening. I loved the “boutique” nature of the place — a small (but ever-growing) student population, small class sizes, excellent faculty. In my mind it offers a liberal arts education the way it’s meant to be done and I’ve been proud to be associated with the place these last 10 years.
So, if you want to check St. Mary’s out — it’s a beautiful campus off of Bannister Road near Fish Creek — and you would like a signed copy of my novel, and even the chance to hear me read from it, and of course hear Morag as well, please come by Friday evening.
Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, everyone!
Thanks for reading.
So there I was, bleeding at the War Memorial in Kensington.
My front tire had hit a ridge where the pavement gives way to the planking of the Memorial and I went down in an inglorious heap. It truly was an inelegant moment in the history of cycling.
My first thought was of my ribs – I had a fall last summer and broke a rib on my left side (#8, I believe it was). Let me tell you, that hurt like stink. So I sat there and although my hip hurt and my arm was bleeding and my knee was bleeding and my ankle was bleeding, at least my ribs seemed ok.
My second thought was of the precious cargo on my bike rack. This cargo was the point of the journey, after all. Ten copies of my novel The Piano Teacher destined for Pages in Kensington book store. The books seemed fine and so I breathed a sigh of relief.
But I remember thinking at that moment that this was a situation unique to self-publishing where you have to do everything yourself. Maybe, just maybe, when I finish my next novel I’ll shop around a little more seriously to find a publisher who would do such things for me.
Then there was a lovely moment as a person of the street came up to me and helped my on my feet and got my bike up and make sure I was all right before sending me on my way. It was a little act of kindness, generosity of spirit, that took some of the sting from my minor injuries and put things in perspective for me.
So my book is now available at Shelf Life Books, Pages in Kensington, Owl’s Nest Books, and Reid’s Stationers, all in Calgary. If you are further afield than this, you can order it from Blurb.ca which is a print-on-demand service that I use. They put out a nice product, their books are virtually identical to the ones I have printed at Blitz Print here in Calgary. (The direct link to Blurb is here: http://www.blurb.ca/b/6423475-the-piano-teacher)
If this seems too much for you, for whatever reason, let me know and we’ll figure out a way to get you a copy of the book.
I’m happy to report that The Piano Teacher was #3 on Calgary’s best sellers last week. (As of September 12.)
Finally, I have arranged to give a reading at St. Mary’s University in south Calgary, where I am the writer in residence, on October 9 starting at 7 PM, but more on that anon.
I hope you enjoying the transition from summer to fall. It’s beautiful here in Alberta, but as we discover year after year, all so brief. Enjoy the colours while they last!
Thanks for reading . . .
We have a good problem, I suppose – there are currently no copies to be had except on-line through Blurb.ca. (I will provide the link below.)
A recent article on the book and on me by Eric Volmers in the Calgary Herald sparked renewed interest but alas there are no copies to be had in any of Calgary’s book stores.
I printed what I assumed would be enough copies to last through the summer back in May when the book first came out and was launched at Shelf Life Books. Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your point of view I suppose, we have exhausted that first run.
It was drawn to my attention that there were a number of typos in the book – sorry about that! We have now expunged those (or at least corrected them) and the book is back at the printers and we now eagerly await the error-free second edition. I would put the date for the book to be back on the shelf (as it were) hopefully around August 29.
I prefer whenever possible to support locally owned businesses, and so at this point in time the book will be available at Shelf Life Books, Pages in Kensington, Owl’s Nest Books as well as Reid’s Stationers, all in Calgary. That’s how it stands now, but that could change if other book stores decide they would like to carry it.
The book is also available through the Calgary Public Library. They recently ordered extra copies (through Blurb) to keep up with the demand. (Wherever you may live in the world, you can always ask your local library to order the book and they usually do. One book at a time is how it goes . . . )
But as I say, it is also available if you order it through Blurb.ca, which is essentially a print-on-demand service. It takes a few days for the book to arrive and it costs a little extra for shipping, but it is the same book you would get at any of the above bookstores. (I actually make a greater royalty this way, so please don’t be shy. It’s just like ordering a book through Amazon, only I don’t like what Amazon is doing to the world and so you won’t find it there. But that’s another story.)
The link for buying the book is currently rather wobbly, so the best course of action to take for now is to visit blurb.ca (or dot-com outside of Canada) and go from there. Thanks! (Ahhh, technology!)
If you would like to have a signed copy, then you just have to get in touch with me and we will find a way to make that happen. Looking ahead, there will be a launch/celebration of the book at St. Mary’s University in south Calgary where I am writer in residence sometime this fall.
And then all those other things I don’t know about yet . . .
So there you have it. Now you know what I know. Before I leave you with the link to Eric’s piece, I’d like to thank my designer on this project, Jackie Bourgaize, for her excellent design and patience and my brother Tom and his wife Alison for their immense support – without them, there would be no book, plain and simple.
And thank you as well to everyone who has bought the book so far, and for all the nice things you have said to me on Facebook and in person. It has been a very gratifying experience so far.
It almost feels like I oughtta write another one!
Thanks for reading!
Here’s Eric’s piece . . .
There really was a tremendous storm last night here in Calgary.
The day before Canada Day, Mother Nature provided better fireworks than we’re likely to see tonight. As a friend of mine put it, “it was like my apartment was in the middle of a thundercloud.” I felt the same in mine.
There was a most amazing storm last night . . . such a statement, which you can see from the photo I wrote in my journal this morning, might be quite unremarkable in and of itself, but listen to this:
When I was a music major at the University of Regina for a brief time in the 1970’s, I studied piano with a marvelously eccentric and talented pianist named Thomas Manshardt. I have drawn heavily on what I remember of Tom, all these years later, for both the narrator and his teacher Alfred in my novel The Piano Teacher.
Tom was one of the last students of the venerable Alfred Cortot in Paris. Through Cortot, Tom could trace his pianistic lineage back to Czerny – and I guess, by extension, so can I!
In those days before Political Correctness has reared its ugly head, it was not uncommon for a prof to invite a student over for a drink, and it was not uncommon for me to show up at Tom’s apartment for a glass or two of Pernod to talk about art and music and life and everything in between.
Tom’s apartment is memorable for a few things as I look back some 40 years. One, it had a commanding view of Regina’s beautiful Wascana Park. And it was entirely bereft of any furniture whatsoever, unless we consider book shelves to be furniture. There were plenty of books, plenty of open space, but not a chair or table or couch to be seen.
Once during this time, there was a tremendous thunderstorm in Regina, far worse than the one we saw in Calgary last night. It caused havoc and destruction throughout the city. Even my own parents’ basement flooded in that storm, and the house was hardly on low land.
That night I was over at Tom’s and saw that his journal was lying open. On the journal, his Montblanc Meisterstuck fountain pen, just as mine is in the photo above. He had written at the top of the page, as I have done all 4 decades later –
“There was a most amazing storm last night.”
In many ways you could say my life began that night, the moment I read those words . . . .
Thanks for reading. Happy Canada Day!
Here’s Cortot . . .