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It’s Tatagamouche to Me by Michael Crummey [guest post]

Day 1: Rush in Halifax

What's it like to tour the eastern Canada with Lisa Moore and our president Sarah MacLachlan? Michael Crummey knows. He spent time with them eating, drining, promoting Under the Keel, and trying to stay out of fights.
What’s it like to tour the eastern Canada with Lisa Moore and Anansi president Sarah MacLachlan? Michael Crummey knows. He travelled with them eating, drinking, promoting Under the Keel, and trying to stay out of fights.

Our first event of the tour: supper at the Atlantic Independent Booksellers Convention. I notice half a dozen people wearing Rush T-shirts as we leave the hotel. Sarah tells me they’re playing at the Metro Centre tonight. I’m a friend of Geddy’s, she says, maybe I could get you a ticket.

No, seriously, she says.

I was a Rush nerd in my teens. Hadn’t glanced their way in decades, but in the past year I’ve been on a bizarre YouTube Rush binge, listening to albums I never bothered with as a kid, Hemispheres and Caress of Steel. Jesus, they suck. Jesus, they’re fantastic.

Sarah goes back inside to leave a message for Geddy at the front desk. Turns out, lots of people claiming to be Geddy Lee’s friend show up at hotels asking to have a message passed on. Sarah sends a text to Geddy’s wife instead.

It’s a beautiful evening and we decide to walk to the booksellers event. Lisa Moore insists she knows the way and we, of course, get lost. Lisa and Sarah argue about where we went wrong as we backtrack. During the meal Sarah checks her phone periodically for Rush messages. Nothing, nothing. Sigh.

The concert probably sucked anyway.

Day 2: It’s Tatagamouche to Me

We stop at an Indigo to sign stock on our way out of Halifax. The staff disappear into the stacks and return pushing a trolley groaning under the weight of about 200 books. All Lisa Moore novels.

We’re sorry, Mr. Crummey, the young woman pushing the trolley tells me, but we’re out of your books right now.

I like that, being called Mister. Very sweet.

Eventually they track down half a dozen copies of Under the Keel on the poetry shelf and one lonely copy of River Thieves. I sign them and then spend half an hour browsing while Lisa suffers through writer’s cramp in the office.

photo copy 2Stinking hot all the way to Tatamagouche (not Tatagamouche, apparently, although I prefer my own twist on the name). Sarah and Lisa argue over directions, even though there is a GPS pointing the way. They argue about good books, bad books, politics, fashion, whether smart phones are making people stupider, ice cream, marketing strategies, music. I do my best to stay out of it, but when called upon I very strategically come down on the side of the publisher.

We read to a packed house at a little café named for the Thomas King novel, Green Grass, Running Water. Someday I hope to read at a café named for one of my books. Preferably not The Wreckage.

It was a sauna in the cafe and afterwards we head for the liquor store. Cart the booze across the street to our un-air-conditioned motel, put the beer in a bucket of ice. Make our way through two monster bags of chips as Lisa and Sarah argue about magazines, diets, sunhats, nature vs. nurture, dogs, movies. Once the chips are gone in Tatamagouche, there’s nothing for it but to go to bed. We make arrangements to meet for breakfast at Green Grass, Running Water at 9:00 and call it a night.

Day 3: A Nap in Annapolis Royal

Lisa Moore is an early riser. By the time I crawl out of bed at 8:50, she has already gone for a run, finished four watercolour paintings, and cleared up her email correspondence. I almost feel as if I’ve done a day’s work myself, hearing her list it off during breakfast.

We hit the road on the way to Annapolis Royal. Stop at the Just Us! Coffeehouse outside Wolfville where Marie Wadden, a producer with CBC Radio in St. John’s, happens to be sitting at the next table. She buys a copy of each of our books out of the back of Sarah’s Volvo.

photoWe reach Annapolis Royal by mid-afternoon. It is a living, breathing postcard of a town. It seems almost too pretty to have toilets. You just want to stretch out on a patch of grass and sleep.

After the reading — another packed house — we drive on to Sarah’s summer place in Sandy Cove. It’s 10:30 by the time we arrive and Lisa Moore is ready for bed but we force her to stay up and drink with us. More chips, including a bag flavoured with Montreal steak spice and drizzled with dark chocolate that I picked up at the Just Us! Coffeehouse.

Sarah’s husband, Noah, has several pounds of scallops for tomorrow’s supper on ice. They were fresh out of the water that afternoon and he offers me one to try raw. It is the largest scallop I’ve ever seen — three cold, sweet, and otherworldly bites. It almost seems a shame to cook them.

Day 4: Poetry Cove

I wake up to a lobster omelette with bacon, fresh greens, and toast, served on the deck of Noah and Sarah’s house, overlooking the bay in Sandy Cove. Lisa is finishing up her fourth or fifth watercolour of the morning as we eat. Then we stroll out to the beach, past the spectacular dilapidated summer house Sarah and Noah are planning to turn into a retreat for writers and artists. The dogs and the lunatics among us go for a dip in the ocean. Sarah and I stay dry.

The reading is at the local library in the afternoon — a single room that is too crowded to hold the crowd. It seems as if the entire town has come out. People are listening outside on the step. People are sitting on the floor in front of the podium, making it feel like story time for adults. There’s a table full of home-baked goodies along one wall.

And those scallops still ahead of us for supper.

Who was it said poetry makes nothing happen? If this is nothing, I hope it keeps happening to me.

Watch Michael Crummey read “Something New” in the film Hard Light.

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