Basking in Saint John
10 Aug 1997 17:44:47 -0700
flat; Saint John, New Brunswick :: 02 AUG 97
I'm staying with Kate, the marvellous sister-in-law of a marvellous
friend of mine named Charles. Her apartment here is a beautiful little
thing of hardwood floors and thick white paint several layers deep over
plaster walls and wooden doors. The apartment juts out the back of the
building so that the living room features windows on opposite walls making
it bright and friendly.
Today was one of those regrouping days for me. While Kate worked
I slept in, then read for a while in her deep, stubby bath tub. Between
two PM and 4:30 I napped soundly on the foldout bed I'd never bothered
folding in after a 9 hour sleep the previous night. Later, I walked over
and picked Kate up from the gallery she owns in partnership and we enjoyed
a quiet, talkative dinner at the warm, colourful Guatemalan restaurant
just a block from her apartment. And now she naps in her room while amber
sunset light illuminates the living room where I jot down these observations.
Saint John is one of those small cities that established its
character some time ago. Without economic impetus toward modernising growth
it has instead grown comfortable with itself. I love all the brownstone
and wood constructed with the artisan's attention to detail; tree-shrouded
grassy parks feature wrought iron gazebos. And of the inhabitants, few
seem attracted to sleek suits or hip sunglasses. A town without pretence.
There are two stone churches on Germain Street, one each to
fill the windows in Kate's living room. So bells welcome the passing hours
of the day and night, not with the resounding fervour one might expect
from such stolid steeples but gently, neighbourly: "Here comes another
hour on a warm, sunny day-enjoy." And so I have.
Kate's been one of those hosts incorrigible travelers adore:
they open up their home to you unquestioningly and aren't set on organising
your visit, or constantly attending to your needs. That she's comfortable
enough in my presence to nap in the early evening between dinner and a
night on the town absolves the traveler's burden of imposing on their
20:20 Elon, Virginia :: 10 AUG 97
The following morning found Kate, myself and Kate's friend,
Paul in Reggie's - I can't remember if it calls itself a diner, restaurant
or cafe. No matter. Everyone in town knows it simply as Reggie's. And
Reggie seems to know everyone in town on a first name basis. Paul had
a hard time getting a bite in edgewise what with half the other patrons
stopping by our table beside the door to chat him up on the way out.
We said our good-byes to Paul and walked back to Kate's place
where I'd be packing up for departure. Kate had commented a couple days
earlier that an old codger with a favourite spot by one of the two nearby
churches hadn't been around in a few weeks. She wondered if something
happened to him. On that beautiful Sunday morning, walking back with a
full belly of Reggie's fish cakes 'n eggs, we found Kate's old codger
back in his usual place and there we stopped for a chat. Yes, he had been
in the hospital for two months, recovering from a stroke. Ohhh, tough
time, it was. At first he couldn't even speak (though he talked up a blue-streak
now). Had to learn everything new, all over again.
For the next few minutes we talked about this, that, or the
other thing-shooting the shit. The topics weren't all that important,
or significant. What was significant was taking the time to check up on
the well-being of each other, making personal contact.
In Vancouver, Toronto, New York or most urban places this man
would have been a fringe-dweller. At best, his presence would be ignored
by computer programmers, art gallery owners and their patrons. And therein
lies the beauty of Saint John, a small place filled with people who are
not too big for each other.
~~~ Responses Sought ~~~
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name...
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