Notes from the Newfoundland Literary Pub Crawl

A pub crawl.   In the aftermath of our Canada 150 celebrations, what better way to keep the spirit alive than a pub crawl with friends?   I’ll tell you one better way.   Do it with friends from Newfoundland.
 

That is what happened on the nights of July the 4 th and 5th on Elgin Street in Ottawa, where 6 Newfoundland authors had converged to celebrate the most loveable elements of Newfoundland life, as portrayed in their stories.   First stop: The Lieutenant’s Pump.
 

Deep in the interior of an establishment laid out in odd but conjunctive corners, we gathered to hear Eva Crocker, author of Barrelling Forward As a young person born into the lee side of the millennium, Eva was able to present a view of life from a youthful perspective, with all the challenges and advantages that come with it.   She read, with a sweeping poetic lilt, words that she had authored with a depth and intelligence beyond her years, but from a reservoir not unlike that of her mother’s, as we'd find out later.

A pint and some banter, and we were across the street to climb upstairs into The Cross on Elgin to listen to Edward Riche.   Edward read from his current offering, Today I Learned It Was You , with an account of a nearly realized bar brawl narrowly averted by some moral intervention.   Riche’s voice flowed with that rolling Newfoundland rhythm that is so entertaining to hear.

To end the night, we sauntered northward to Woody’s Pub, where Lisa Moore, mother of Eva Crocker, took the mike.   Her story for the night was not set in a pub, but concerned a common result of any productive pub crawl, an unplanned sexual encounter.   She described the tryst in forceful, explosive language from that reservoir that I described from her daughter’s reading.   It was the perfect end to a rollicking ride, with all the saucy conversation and sordid stories that a night on the town should have.   We all went home after finishing our drinks, knowing this was just the intermission and there was a second night to come.

The next evening, we reconvened at the Lieutenant’s Pub to listen to Bridget Canning read from her novel The Greatest Hits of Wanda Jaynes, which is a story about an average woman facing the severance of her job only to be redeemed by an random, impulsive act of bravery.   It was amusing to listen to Wanda’s ‘hangry’ thoughts leading up to the climax, but as the action took off, not a head in the room moved, so raptly did Bridget’s voice hold our attention.

Across the street again to The Cross on Elgin, it was Robert Chafe’s turn to read. Although he was a decorated playwright, his book, 2 Man Tent was his first work of fiction.   He read an account of a man out on the town with his girlfriend when they meet a flamboyant gay man to whom the protagonist takes an immediate and excessive dislike, although later the man is forced to face his own latent homosexual feelings.   Again, the audience was captivated by the raw emotions in the narrative and sat transfixed on Robert’s every word.

Lastly for the night, it was at Woody’s Pub again where we gathered to hear Kathleen Winter read from her book, Freedom in American Songs. She started with an anecdote about how she revisited shops on Bank Street here in Ottawa where she had lived as a student when she was younger, and noted how different sex shops were between here and Montreal.   Her shameless and candid story was the perfect moodsetter for her story about a farmer in Newfoundland who, usually quiet and shy, becomes much more outspoken after some drinks at an intimate get-together. Her narrative was full of everything I love about Newfoundland writing, where everyone knows everyone else, and their business, the strong sense of community woven into every paragraph like a family that one can never escape.

All in all, it was a fun literary double-header, thanks to good company and great storytelling.   As we filed out of the pub, we walked through Ottawa’s own vibrant street scene with our palates savouring the tastes that had been served so expertly to us these two nights on Elgin Street.