February 24, 2019 by Darren Clarke
Foreword- This is the first of what is hopefully an ongoing series of blogs that embrace the abbreviated, the wonderful, the ludicrous moments of life which have become all the more precious to me in a world that often seems to overflow with the biased, the disingenuous, the angry.
This first instalment of The Little Things finds me in the passenger seat of Stu Christe’s SUV which is humming down the Queen Elizabeth Way East, within a darkening world wherein the last vestiges of light are weighted down on the horizon by deeply bruised and brooding, January, dusk.
“I have to make a stop before we meet Pat.”
Stu breaks this to me on the highway as we were closing in on our destination. We’re meeting a friend of ours from Windsor who was working in Burlington for the week. I sigh at the mention of a stop, “For what?”
Ignoring my question Stu replies, “Shouldn’t take long. It’s right by where we are meeting Pat.”
“What is right by Pat? Is this a Kijiji thing?”
“Yeah it is,” Stu laughs, “Look, I’m telling you that this won’t take long.”
“In a parking lot… At night… What is it this time? Another hub cap exchange?” The hub cap reference by the way alludes to the last time I got roped into accompanying one of Stu’s Kijiji exchanges. On that occasion the exchange took place in a random parking lot in Toronto before we went and saw the band Do, Make, Say, Think. A band whose epic adventures into a wordless, narrative-less, ebb and flow of chaos and order would inspire Stu to suggest halfway through the concert, “Let’s go.”
Stu bristles at the suggestion of the item in question at that time being a hub cap, “That wasn’t a hubcap… it was… well I don’t really know what it was exactly but it was more than a hub cap…”
“Well what is this time?’
“It’s a typewriter.”
“A typewriter? Who are you selling the typewriter too- 1977?”
“My brother-in-law found it in the back of the warehouse and put it on Kijiji and some guy who has apparently been looking for exactly that kind of typewriter wants to buy it.”
“Man, if I end up getting killed today in a mall parking lot over a Kijiji typewriter exchange gone wrong I am going to be pissed.”
Once we arrive at the Mall Stu looks for a place to park. I suggest parking in front of the abandoned Sears building strictly for poetic purposes. Stu parks amongst a bunch of other cars. I point a little further up, “There’s a massive empty spot in the parking lot just thirty feet away why not just move up, that would make it easier for him to find us.”
Stu is texting back and forth with his Kijiji trading partner and doesn’t look up, “Yeah, I’ll move up in a second…”
Ten minutes later we are still parked in the same spot- texting back and forth is happening between Stu and the potential suitor for the typewriter. The night deepens and finally we see a vehicle snaking through the parking lot in a hesitant, searching, manner parking some way before us, in the emptier portion of the lot I had suggested to Stu before.
Stu flashes his headlights. I shake my head.
Prior to exiting to go around to the back of his truck for the goods Stu had been scrolling on his phone, “He has a website actually. He’s a music guy…”
As Stu goes out to make the exchange I look at the website a little deeper while the two chat outside on the parking lot tar. Minutes later the exchange is over and Stu reenters the truck and sits back behind the wheel of his SUV commenting matter of factly, “Nice guy.”
“Did you get any Bruce Cockburn stories from him?”
“Yeah didn’t you look at that dude’s website you were on? There’s a picture of him and Bruce Cockburn. There’s got to be a story there.”
“Nope I missed that. I didn’t look that deeply at it.”
“So I risked my life tonight for a typewriter exchange and you couldn’t even get one Bruce Cockburn story for us? Brutal…”
Largely ignoring my irreverence Stu starts the truck, “I guess his dad had a typewriter like that and that’s why he wanted it. He was pretty happy, says it looks exactly like his father’s… he mentioned, “This looks pretty bad meeting in a parking lot at night exchanging money for a black case.”
“It was in a black case?”
The next morning I received a text message from Stu that contained only this typewritten attachment that he’d received from the Typewriter Purchaser-
The few days later one of my favourite artists, Del Stephen, (who actually introduced me to Do, Make, Say, Think) mentioned on his Facebook page that he was giving away a special prize to anyone who downloaded one of his earlier albums, specifically, his I’ll Meet You There album from 2014, “Zio Camillo is in Canada for a few more weeks. We’ve had so much coffee and he has been sharing so many great jokes. So, with every album purchase from now until he returns to Italy (Jan.24, I think), I will write you an email with 1 of his many jokes.”
Zio Camillo appeared on Stephen’s I’ll Meet You There album adding, in his extraordinary, gravelly, stacatto’d, Italian voice, a wandering, spoken work story of his life overtop of Steve’s wondrous, languidly blooming, stream of electronica background. A little sample of the lyrics from Zio Camillo, “I was born in 1944… just after the war… and ah… when I was six-years old in Italy there was nothing… zero… just we get the food because my father was a farmer… and ah… the food okay but money, no money… 1963… 62… I left to Switzerland, I work in Switzerland… after that, I made application for Canada then I went for two years in Canada… but over that it was really good so… I come back to Italy with American company… then after that I get married…” (see how I left you hanging there? Listen to the song and find out the rest)
As a big fan of Zio Camillo the Facebook offer was of course too good to pass up, particularly given that I had already purchased the album. I inquired if the offer worked retroactively to which Steve, big fan of lower case that he is, responded, “yea, of course! would you prefer email or private message?”
I responded back, “Email. I like the more formal delivery of it. Ideally I think snail mail would be the appropriate method but I’ll take email.”
“well now you’re getting a postcard. message me your current mailing address and wait for a few sunsets to pass.”
A few sunsets passed.
Then it arrived.
Anyways, those are the two stories. I don’t know what it is about it that struck me as awesome but they both did. It’s like watching people dancing or singing or holding hands. The small, the easy, the earnest, the genuine. And if I wasn’t paying attention I might not have have missed it.
The little things.