Route 66 :: June '97 -- October '97

Subject: Basking in Saint John
Date: Sun, 10 Aug 1997 17:44:47 -0700

15:00 Kate's 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 host.

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 ~~~

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