His house instantly reminded me of my grandmother. Didn't mind smoking indoors, which sometimes can be really comforting in its familiarity. Everything backed up the recognition, even my Aunt & Uncle's exact kitchen table and chairs. Old creaky floors, dirty kickboards, skinny staircase up the wall just past the entrance. They'd had the good luck to find a place relatively unrenovated, still with the high shelving in the dining room for decorative plateware. As if that was a thing!
He is up and spry as ever, comical in his exuberance. Zesty, even. Cardigan and an old t-shirt, thick wool socks and an enthusiastically whimsical haircut. Very young mad scientist.
Piano to the right, mandolin atop.
Bach portrait, records, various stringed instruments and WII-era weaponry along the walls. Sherlock Holmes-references tucked throughout.
There's a tiny cat, precocious and ginger. Mostly through the force of its jump and not actually its featherweight it knocks a chair over while we make coffee, sprinkling in lavender.
"It may taste like motor oil, I never really get the proportions right." and then "I've got a song for you -- a classic Newfoundland protest song from the '40s".
There's an old bar and a record player in what would've been the dining room, now the sitting room. Most of the albums date from the 30s - 60s. A small, deliberate liquor selection.
Two wingbacked chairs and his roommate joins us shortly after. A collector of eclectic personalities, I have an interesting pattern of long, casual friendships with everyone he has ever introduced me to. Two of whom married last year, her writing forever something to be jealous of.
Maybe nine years ago, walking the streets of Oshawa, his band playing with my boyfriend. We were on a pre-show quest for Tim Hortons. Pre-internet and for some reason without a car, it was a mission mostly of wandering. We found one in the hospital foodcourt.
His sister was considering breast augmentation, I forget what else. He mentioned T and J, two metalhead kids who at that point were coming to every show. Huge into the same, he figured we would be fast friends; we took to each other enough to still casually keep in touch. J lived in England throughout university and T and I annually run into each other at the Royal, both are still endearingly nerdy.
Coffees in hand, we headed back to the Dungeon. Bathroom doors with broken latches, toilets that only flushed for the first hour the venue was open. Cheap rough brown paper towels all over the floor, graffiti'd and stickered walls. It reeked of piss in that basement hallway. The roof was low and the 19+ area was half-heartedly manned at best. Fake ID in hand, call me Steph, or maybe Victoria.
They were leaving on tour with some ridiculous tech metal band that was impossible to listen to if you weren't a huge geek. We fell back to talking about Dostoevsky, Russian literature being something I had learned enough about to feign an interest based entirely off of his fascination and my naive belief that there was something to be said for matching literary tastes. Then it took a well honed knowledge of Mayakovsky, now I'm just impressed if a dude owns any book.
His house now is similar again to mine in this respect. Books are everywhere, haphazardly filling bookshelves and piled in stacks on the floor, on the bar, on the piano, the kitchen table.
There's an assortment of tobaccos -- cigarettes, cigars, tinned rolling tobacco, snuff. Vague talk of bringing chew into the house to offer guests, but that is voted down because, uh, shit is super gross.
Coffee doesn't actually taste like motor oil, it's got a weirdly minty kick to it despite the lavender. Canned Gordon's g&t is poured into sake cups and another cigarette is left to dangle, occasionally called into duty to gesticulate, the other hand punctuating the conversation by fingers being run emphatically through his hair.
Grey hairs, now an inevitability, but still novel in early appearance.
We had left the Bovine late. I was living at Bloor & Spadina ("You're going North of Bloor, don't forget your passport" he'd joked the other day, when asking for his address) and required both a hot dog and an escort, it must have been near 5am. Hot dog in hand, mustard on shirt, sobering with the sunrise but giddy and brave and brazen.
'Of course, a lot of people are probably very glad you're single.'
'Are you one of them?' all self-assurance and sun boldened.
'Yeah', with some pause 'I guess I am'.
Dropped off outside my apartment, a hug and a promise of breakfast yet to be fulfilled.
Years earlier, walking up Spadina in similar circumstance, first heavy snowfall of the year. Stopping on the streetcar tracks to make snow angels.
Despite his jovality, he is much too serious to be playful. Even at his most boisterous there remains a particular dignity, though maybe that is changing as music becomes more an instrument of leisure than business.
I don't know anyone else who can wear a vest & cravat together without looking kitschy, but it makes sense. Forever his air of high-falutin' hobo.
'There's a place I think you'd really like', tiny joint in hand, he lead the way down a skinny alley off of Bathurst and up a fire escape. Across a gravel roof with little wooden pathway, a clawfoot bathtub waiting for us on the other side of a small bridge (the apartment that this rooftop belonged to would later be inhabited by a dude with two dogs who forever threatened to have them attack trespassers, making this a thoroughly less welcoming rooftop to sneak up onto late at night), then a short jump across to the other side of the alley. Now with a view of a large schoolyard, but sheltered from the major intersection just behind.
Once more, in a significantly different environment. A financial district condo, shared with his sister. Drinking tea and watching Golden Girls. I tried to ease my nerves by perusing his bookshelves, at the time relatively well organized and peppered with textbooks, mostly hers. Actually I think maybe they were all hers? I feel like he never pursued university?
4am at the Lakeview, the latest revival. A few years without contact, the longest we'd gone, probably. Poutine and two surprising additions to our booth, we steamrolled the conversation over our friends and traded barbs.
A palate cleanser, a reminder of greatness and a manifestation of the creatively successful dream.
True to form, a follow-up message, and the promise of more time to be spent. Spanning time, again.