Saturday, June 12, 2010

CanadAmerica and Beyond: Amiable Exchanges, Part II

Continued from Part I
(image courtesy of Gooslane Editions and BTC Audio Books)
Sunday, May 30
US/New Brunswick Border

An hour after crossing the border (and then the road leading to St. Andrew and the safe house by the sea), my wife/driver nudges me awake. “We’re in St. John,” she says.

“We won’t be arrested this time,” she says as we approach the toll booths before the bridge. (She exaggerates as she recalls an incident at the same bridge: A few years ago, we deposited the proper coinage, but the payment didn’t register. We kept driving, thus triggering sirens to alert provincial officials that track us to this day.

After a nice meal at East Side Mario’s (I recommend the Tuscan Chicken Salad) and a friendly conversation with our waitress (whose favourite donut at Timmy’s is the Boston Cream), Indigo Books and Music beseeches us to indulge our benevolent curiosity in all things Canadian. So we drive up Westmoreland Road, and then enter the bookstore atop the hill.

An author sits at a table near the front of the bookstore. She’s ready to engage in discussion about or sign a copy of the book she has written: Don Messer: The Man Behind the Music.

“Who’s Don Messer?” I ask her and then wince with regret as I anticipate the response. I should know this.

Johanna Bertin is surprised that someone, who sounds as Canadian as I do, does not recognize the name of such an endearing iconoclast. Yet, in True North fashion, she is happy to forgive my faux pas and engages in a friendly dialogue about the subject of her book.

“He was more popular than Hockey Night in Canada,” Bertin explains.

What prompted her to write the book?

Bertin paraphrases what she has written in the acknowledgements I will later read, “Thirty years ago, when I first moved to Harvey Station, New Brunswick, I considered writing a biography of Don Messer. A friend of mine lived in his boyhood home in Tweedside, just a few kilometers from my home, and as we spoke of Don’s accomplishments, it seemed to me they warranted recognition and celebration…”

I say I’m going to return the book I had selected off the shelf for Ms. Bertin’s book, and she becomes gleeful.

Always happy, she says, to learn what another writer thinks.

Back at the stateside safe house: From what I’ve read so far, I’m glad I swapped books. Ms. Bertin has written a superb story about a man whose legacy will hopefully become more recognized and celebrated south of the 49th parallel.
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