Thursday, March 12, 2009

Porcelain prayers from Naugler country

The lads and I finally escaped to White Point before the Coach could throw in another last minute game. As I type this I am sitting on the toilet drinking wine – not because I am multi-tasking, the lid is down – I am just charging the laptop and it was the only 3-prong plug/seat combo I could find. I love this place.

The drive down here was miserable... snow, sleet then sideways rain. The boys were watching the movie Gran Torino in the backseat and I was listening and trying to cover the dog's ears lest they pick up on Clint's racist ramblings. Hearing about Clint's treasured '72 muscle car seemed appropriate as we entered Naugler country, which is, for those that don't know, generally anywhere the crow flies south of Bridgewater. When I spotted the first hand-made "FOLK ART" sign, I knew I was in my old stompin' ground.

Years ago, I had a folk art gallery in Mahone Bay, called Wholly Mackerel. Keeping the shelves stocked in July & August meant many a lonely ol' trek, baby in tow, down to Italy Cross and area in miserable old Mid-March, February and November.

Eddie Mandaggio. Bradford Naugler. Malcolm Corkum. Bubby Mooers. Leo Naugler. Verna Zwicker. Ransford Naugler. Some names, sadly, I can't even remember now. Faces and colloquialisms, never to be forgotten. Boy, I could write a book on those adventures.

But that's not where I am going. When I arrived and got hooked up with White Point's fancy new wireless, there was a message from Iain MacLeod. Iain's a real writer with whom I shared many a relaxing (!@!?) moment working on Danny Graham's Liberal campaign. Danny lost, but I won a great friend in Iain, even if he does like to chat, while I do not. Iain's message was about a tough writing assignment he was working on – a "thinking of you" message for Tom Roussell.

Tom, for those of you who don't know, owned Soho Kitchen with folky-artist Kyle Jackson. When I first moved here in 1989 to attend NSCAD, Soho was the first Halifax restaurant I ever visited. It was there I fell in love with Nova Scotia folk art (and pie). I'll never forget walking in and seeing Kyle's art and a show of small Lorne Reid paintings. At the time, Lorne's paintings were around $150 dollars and out of this student's reach. But they ignited a love affair that lasts to this day.

Tom and Kyle's restaurant was more like walking into a friend's house. Great music, whimsical art, amazing food and the warmest "hello" hollered from the kitchen or around the corner. That was Tom. Rosey cheeks, wild eyebrows and a non-annoying American accent. Tom always had opinions – reflections really – and they were wise and wonderful. Tom despised bullshit and loved life. This was evident from the space he created. Tom's Soho oozed comfort and "love of life". I hate to think of him tonight in a sterile, art-less hospital room, fighting a long, losing battle. I know he would rather be cruising the backroads looking for an antique whirly gig or listening to jazz at the Soho. Tonight, I just wanted to sit on the can and tell my little world about Tom and our mutual love for simple pleasures.

I am not one who normally prays in the classic sense, but the gods of Naugler country watched over Jack & me on many an icy curve. Tonight I pray for Tom to be without pain and carving up big slices of his heavenly, pecan pie.

Folk art by Kyle Jackson

p.s. While I was doing my final edits on this, my little dog, Dorothy Parker was living up to her name, by drinking the not so little nightcap of port I smuggled back from the Lodge. I guess I'll be holding her ears back as she speaks into my porcelain throne tonight.