I was 15 years old when I first picked up a book called Stories from the Vinyl Cafe. It was a Sunday afternoon, I was waiting patiently for my mother to finish visiting with her friend. I was sitting on the couch in her living room as they talked about things in the back garden. At first I didn't notice it sitting on a pile of other books on the corner of the coffee table, there was a faint layer of dust on the cover which was only caught by the sun that was shining through the west facing window. It wasn't the title that attracted me, I remember thinking to myself "What the heck is a Vinyl Cafe?" and pictured sticky plastic table cloths and wondered who would ever write a book about that. I picked it up, first to see if anything interesting was laying underneath it, maybe Vogue or something else that would be easy for me to flip through while I waited. Finding nothing of interest I absentmindedly turned over Stories from the Vinyl Cafe to read the back, it looked like a collection of stories. Sighing I parted the book somewhere near the middle and found myself at the beginning of a story about a man named Dave and his Record Store.
That was my first moment with the writings of Stuart Mclean (who is a total Canadian Treasure) and most definitely not my last. What I didn't realise at the time was Stuart was a story teller, a man who loved the radio and a man who loved to tell his stories on the radio. There was nothing complicated about his words which made it so easy to feel welcomed in the family of Dave, Morley, Sam, Stephanie and Aurthur the dog. The world of Kenny Wong and his Scottish Meat pie shop, Polly Andersen and Nancy Turlington all seemed so comfortable and familiar. It is this world that I picture when I think of my future and the family I hope to have. Not perfect but comfortable.
Since that Sunday many years ago Stuart has written more stories, recorded hundreds of radio shows and published a few more books. He has also become a part of my Christmas tradition when he started his touring Christmas show 3 years ago. I can honestly say that it would take an infestation of killer winter hybrid spider bee's (not real at this time) to even make me consider missing it. Friday, with the hellish weather conditions Calgary was experiencing I still made sure I made it to the concert hall to see the show. I wasn't the only one either- the concert hall was full to the brim as hundreds of brave souls made it through the white out conditions, rebellious against the warnings to stay home out of the snow storm and off of the roads.
It was special night, through crowded the show seemed more intimate. Stuart was relaxed on stage as he drew us in with his stories and distinctive old school radio voice. Jill Barber and Matt Andersen (who I will tell you about later- this guy was phenomenal. I have never heard a voice like that live-ever. Just amazing...such a talent) serenaded us with seasonal and personal tunes. There was even Egg Nog and Rum to sip during the intermission...
However, my most specular moment was before the show even started. Stuart was mingling through the crowd talking to this person and shaking hands with that person. I've met him before, a few times to be honest. Standing in line at book signings only to make a total fool of myself once I actually get a chance to talk to him. I assumed this time wasn't going to be any different and so it was as I turned around I came face to face with him. He smiled and held out his hand "Thank you so much for coming out on a night like this", I'm not really sure what I said to him. He asked my name and I told him "Blanche" and of course, like most people do he asked me in french if I can speak french which I can't really. Not anymore. I asked him if I could have my picture taken with him and he pulled me in and said "I've been waiting all night for this".
It was in that embrace that, I don't know.... I kind of got it. All I remember is seeing his arms stretched out and it was as though I was a little kid crawling into bed. Warm and comfortable- everything that Stuarts stories are to the world he was in that moment to me.
PS: I've taken care of #8 by seeing Stuart Mclean and being introduced to the music of Matt Andersen.