Two things happened the week I arrived in Nelson.
I went to a fundraiser for the Vallican Whole (or Hole, as it was affectionately known in its nascent state) that involved organic lemonade, granola bars, and people in braids and Birkenstocks dancing to The Age of Aquarius, as played by a band called Riverwheel. Fresh from the punk bars of Calgary, it was a bit of a culture shock.
And then I was invited to a nude potluck. I didn’t know it was clothing-optional when I accepted; I just thought it was nice to be invited as a Nelson newbie. I had a friend who’d come from Calgary to see how I was doing in my new home, and he had a car, so the two of us headed out with a case of beer and some sort of noodle salad. It’ll be a great way to get some exposure to Kootenay culture, I told him. It became quickly clear we were to be exposed to more than we bargained for.
Thus was my introduction to the Kootenays.
So Grant Lawrence’s book Adventures in Solitude: What Not to Wear to a Nude Potluck and Other Stories from Desolation Sound may be, for some Kootenay folk, delightfully familiar. For we are a community of characters here in the Koots, and all roads lead, not to Rome, but to Nelson.
And to Desolation Sound, apparently. Those roads will converge at the Library on Thursday, April 26 at 7:30 pm when Lawrence offers up tales — and a slideshow — from his own quirky corner of the planet.
You’ll know the name Grant Lawrence from his CBC Radio 3 Podcast and his appearances on various CBC Radio One programs. Fans of independent music might remember The Smugglers, Lawrence’s defunct rock band. Clearly quirkiness resonates, because the book won a BC Book Prize and was shortlisted for a few other awards.
Is Lawrence a character? I hope so. In fact, I’m counting on it.
Lawrence’s father bought a piece of land in Desolation Sound in the 1970s, where Lawrence grew up in a community rife with characters such as a gun-toting cougar lady, left-over hippies, and outlaw bikers. It was these early experiences — and an influential hermit named Russell — that led Lawrence to a life of music and journalism. Not so strange, really: I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of quirky writers and musicians I can think of.
If that’s not familiar enough, Adventures in Solitude includes tales that sound eerily Kootenay-esque, such as the tempting dilemma some might experience when finding an unguarded grow-op. Clearly inspired, Lawrence’s prose makes you giggle.
We get some of the Kootenay’s finest characters in the Library. I hope to be counted among them, if not now, at least in the future. Earlier this year I stopped at Whitehorse Library for a reading from my own book, and who should turn up but a former Nelson Library character — now a Whitehorse Library character (his words). I was delighted to see him again, and in such an unexpected place. Home is where you find it — in Desolation Sound, in Nelson, in Whitehorse — and probably even in Rome. Or wherever your road takes you.
Back at the nude Kootenay potluck circa 1981, my friend and I looked at each other for a couple of beats. Should we? Shouldn’t we? When in Rome, he told me. You can guess the rest; I was, after all, 21 years old. We all went home with full bellies and new appreciation for the myriad ways we can be in the world — and just a little too much sun.