Friday, January 22, 2010

Paul Quarrington: July 22, 1953 - January 20, 2010;

[Gregory Betts + Paul Quarrington at the spring 2009 ottawa international writers festival hospiality suite, crashing the party] Got into Toronto last night, in just enough time to hear about writer/musician Paul Quarrington, who died earlier in the day, after a long battle with cancer. Buddy, I thought we had more time? I must have met him around five years ago, through the ottawa international writers festival, Clare Latremouille and I in the hospitality suite, corralling him into singing Saturday morning cartoon theme songs with us (he knew quite a lot).

I didn't know him well, but well enough, but I'd see him at things here and there, including the ottawa fest, Eden Mills, and other literary haunts; well enough, that when he came to Ottawa for a conference last spring, he emailed me to ask what was going on, worth going to? I told him, festival, baby; gave him the hotel and room number, and he showed up that night, Greg Betts in tow, apparently both in town for a conference on literature and film at the University of Ottawa.

I didn't know him well, but he was always game for a conversation and a comfortable word, open to whatever might have been happening around, and seemed the most un-authory of any of those "famous novelists" I've met over the years. He was just Paul; any beer in the fridge? What have you been up to lately? Apparently he and Steve Heighton (I was witness to it at a previous festival) told each other bad (I mean, bad) jokes when they met at festivals or the like. Pretty entertaining, but like watching a train wreck at the same time; marvellous.

We were even talking of going over to his backyard for a bbq at some point, myself and my beautiful lady, once the weather got warmer (I thought we had more time...).

[I know, I should probably include less unflattering, say, photos, but this was a good night, and the only pics I have of him with me right now] Whenever I saw him, I was always reminded of the film based on his novel, Whale Music, and the great Rheostatics song co-writ by Quarrington himself, "the beast needs more torque," etc (unfortunately I can't find it online, but here's another lovely song from the same film by them Rheostatics). It might have been the author of Fishing With My Old Guy, his memoir on fishing with his father (pretty self-explanatory, I know) where I first connected with his writing, but boy, I'm going to miss the friendly casualness of the talented author of everything to do with Whale Music. I'm going to miss that guy, Paul. Tonight, sir, I will raise up a glass...

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