Old Friends

Every so often an email pops into my inbox, from Steve Paul Simms. It always gives me a feeling of delight to see it there. Steve Paul is a talented singer/songwriter from Toronto. But he is so much more than that, in my humble opinion. He is the best kind of friend. He is himself, and in being himself he makes it wonderful to be oneself in his presence. We first met in 1987 at a back yard BBQ. We have been friends through thick and through thin ever since.

So when an email message from Steve Paul popped into the inbox yesterday, I was delighted. Steve Paul had just bumped into another old friend of ours, Ray, who had asked after me; so Steve Paul sent me Ray’s telephone number.

Old friends can be friends that are old, or friends that have been friends for a long time. My old friend Ray Peake is both. Recently Ray’s house burned down and he is staying in a very nice place, where he says he is very comfortable and that they take care of him. He is planning on finding another place of his own, some time soon.

Ray and Ed ran Fat Alberts Open Stage & Coffee House, an open stage in Toronto, Ontario. Over the decades that Ray and Ed ran the open stage, hundreds and hundreds of people with artistic interests shared their work on the stage. Ray and Ed made everyone welcome. Some performers were mesmerizing, others were unaware that they agonizingly tone deaf. Some sang, some played instruments, some performed performance art, and some read poetry.

I read my poetry, from time to time.

A self-defined writer living in Greece, who was attending Fat Alberts during the same time period that I did, commented in his blog, that the poets were awful. I found that interesting, as there were a few much admired Canadian poets who performed on the Fat Alberts stage, as well as many others who were unknown to the publishing circuit. To single out the poets as awful seemed a little drastic and unbalanced, in my opinion, considering some of the “music” that was performed. Really, his commentary was unworthy of the Fat Alberts spirit.

I enjoyed catching up with Ray’s news, and sharing a bit of my own. He said he remembered me, but that may or may not be the case. Hundreds of performers and individuals flowed through the doors at Fat Alberts. Meeting so many people, over so many years, I would be surprised if many of us have remained vivid in Ray’s memory. Still, I remember him very fondly, and so we talked of the old times we both knew.

It has been a day of memories. Another friend, Norm Hacking, passed away in 2007. Jennifer Ives posted a video clip of an interview Norm did with Olivia Duck, to be viewed here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ii2ab0olng0qq9f/thefolkinme.dv.

Norm was a fine human being and a talented singer/songwriter. We ran into each other frequently over the years when I lived in Toronto, and I came to admire and appreciate what a great person he was. For example, Norm used to run an open stage at the Silver Dollar, a bar on Spadina, that was located just south of Queen’s Park. One night he invited me to read poetry at the bar. Knowing his audience, he timed it perfectly. It was late enough that people had time for a relaxing drink, and early enough that they hadn’t had time to have a lot to drink. My reading went very well, thanks to Norm. He knew that poetry, unlike music, would not likely capture the attention of an inebriated audience, at least not in a good way.

I last talked with Norm in September of 2005, at the Renaissance Cafe, on Danforth Avenue in Toronto. It was an event organized by Steve Paul Simms, to celebrate the life and songs of the late Patrick Logier, our mutual friend. There were some very good times shared.

So that is what Earth Day brought into my life today, friendship and fond memories.

Ontario Canada Barns April 21, 2013 [Taken at 90 km an hour, through a closed car window.]
Web 1 green roof

Worldly Distractions


Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 103.1 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 12.9°C
Dewpoint: -3.7°C
Humidity: 31%
Wind: S 18 gust 37 km/h


“Friendship makes prosperity more shining and lessens adversity by dividing and sharing it.”
106 BC – 43 BC

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Bob Wiseman

Ray? House burned down? Oh no, I must look into helping him. By the way he is in this video as is Sam Larkin, – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wc5UTBfhJF8


The barn in the picture brings back memories. I grew up on a 50-acre farm in upper Connecticut. The house had been rebuilt around 1790 after burning down in a fire, but the barn was the original, with the lower level stone wall (like yours) and the upper level and loft pegged hand-hewn lumber. I used to escape to the hay loft and read and listen to the horse underneath whuffling in his feed and the goats annoying the dogs (who took great pleasure in pretending to be afraid).

Many of my friends are back in that part of the country, never having moved farther away than the nearest towns, or maybe (gasp!) Hartford, the capitol. When I graduated from high school (32 in my graduating class) and told everyone I was going to Stanford–well, you can imagine the reaction. CALIFORNIA? The land of the weird?

Though I’ve been around the world and lived in other countries, California remains my home; you could call me a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, in a way.

Gosh, reading your journal brings back so many memories!