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Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Nicky Drumbolis's TBay bookshop


Wonder of Thunder Bay: Look inside a gallery of overlooked books

A shop specializing in ‘nutbar’ titles is a national treasure waiting to be found – or lost forever, writes Mark Medley
Photography by Lindsay Lauckner Gundlock for The Globe and Mail

'My education was largely one at rummage sales,' says Mr. Drumbolis. 'I'd find a book and go,

Nicky Drumbolis is shown at his Thunder Bay store, Letters Bookshop. 

Before it became “the grotto shrine to the fetish object formerly known as the book,” as it’s often described by its unlikely proprietor, Letters Bookshop was a karate dojo, of all things. The store is located on a desolate strip in a sketchy part of Thunder Bay, across the street from a bakery and the train tracks. From the sidewalk it appears to be abandoned, the kind of shuttered business blighting small towns all over the country; the windows have been boarded up, although an attentive passerby might notice the plywood has been painted with scenes from the prehistoric Lascaux cave walls in France – some of humankind’s earliest stories. There’s little indication that what may be Canada’s most unusual collection of books is housed inside, carefully curated, over the course of five decades, by one of the more unusual personalities the Canadian book trade has ever produced.

What’s most fascinating about Nicky Drumbolis and his one-of-a-kind collection isn’t its value, which he estimates is in the millions, or its size – although it includes roughly 50,000 titles, and fills the building, floor to ceiling – but the focus. He has devoted a great portion of his life and livelihood to work that, as he describes it, “slips through the cracks.” Pamphlets and hand-sewn chapbooks that were produced in minuscule print runs; novels and poetry collections published by the most obscure of presses; the work of authors whose names the world has forgotten, if it ever knew them.

Mr. Drumbolis describes himself, as do many others, as an outsider, and he has devoted himself to the literary equivalents. Walking into his bookstore is to be exposed to an alternate history of publishing, one in which the likes of Blew Ointment Press and Ganglia and grOnk are just as celebrated as McClelland & Stewart or Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

The front room of the store.
“He’s a remarkable person,” says Anne Dondertman, director of the world-renowned Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library at the University of Toronto. “You have to admire someone who’s that single-minded. He’s given up everything to do this.”

His is a collection “that only speaks to people who are interested in the obscure, the oblique, the esoteric,” Mr. Drumbolis says. “There never was and there never will be” another like it – which is why its fate is of interest to so many, from authors to fellow booksellers to librarians, who understand its importance to our collective cultural history.

They also wonder how it can be saved from being dismantled, or, worse, winding up as landfill – considering that Mr. Drumbolis was forced to retreat north in a last-ditch bid to preserve his life’s work, a tactic he now fears has only delayed the inevitable, as there is no white knight in sight.
Besides being a bookseller and de facto literary conservationist, Mr. Drumbolis is a historian, writer, editor, bookbinder, gallerist, typographer, detective and storyteller, who claims he’ll “talk forever if you want to listen.” But he doesn’t get many opportunities these days; since moving here from Toronto, he estimates, no more than 50 people have stepped inside the store he purchased five years ago this month. Letters Bookshop is like a treasure buried just below the surface, either waiting to be found – or lost forever.


A little more than a year ago, I ran into Nick Mount, who teaches English at the University of Toronto and is writing a book about Canadian literature in the 1960s. I asked how research was going. He’d just returned from Thunder Bay, he said. Did I know Nicky Drumbolis?

I remembered his small, crowded store in Parkdale, in Toronto’s west end, where the aisles were so tight in places you could barely squeeze by, with boxes upon boxes wedged three and four rows deep. But like many second-hand antiquarian bookstores in the city, it had disappeared, and I figured he was out of the business. Prof. Mount smiled when I said this, and his eyes grew wide. Mr. Drumbolis was still very much in business, he said.
Nine months later, I was in the home of the Sleeping Giant.

Various objects in the store's windowsill.
Although he doesn’t own a car, and had repeatedly been told I’d gladly take a cab, Mr. Drumbolis is waiting for me at the airport, waving a copy of Crad Kilodney’s Sex Slaves of the Astro-Mutants over his head like a welcome banner. (Mr. Kilodney, who died in 2014, was best known for selling his self-published books on the streets of Toronto – exactly the sort of author Mr. Drumbolis has championed.)

He is 67 but looks a decade younger, and is wearing a black fleece jacket over a blue T-shirt, baggy black jeans, black sneakers and a black beret with “Euskal Herria” embroidered on one side. (It’s what the Basques call their homeland and he’s Greek.) His goatee is more salt than pepper, and he wears his hair in a ponytail that falls to his shoulders.

On the bus ride downtown, he tells me about his move to Thunder Bay in 2011. He grudgingly returned to his hometown after being priced out of Toronto, an increasingly common fate for booksellers. He searched the province for suitable alternate digs, from Wingham, a few hours outside Toronto, to tiny Red Lake, several hours north of here. “I didn’t care where I lived,” he says. “As long as it had a beer store and a post office, I was cool.”

A friend loaned him $70,000 to cover the cost of the building ($45,000) and the move. It’s the first place he has been able to call his own: “I’ve never owned anything in my life except books.”
A lot of books. It took him a year to box them up for the move. Charlie Huisken, former co-owner of This Ain’t The Rosedale Library, the iconic independent bookstore, recalls coming out one weekend with other members of Toronto’s literary community to help pack up the store and the contents of a dozen-odd storage units Mr. Drumbolis had filled over the years: “There was so much stuff that the trailer was starting to rest on the tires rather than on the suspension.”

Once everything had been shifted 1,400 kilometres to Northwestern Ontario – courtesy of two big trucks, one an 18-wheeler – Mr. Drumbolis needed a year to unpack, and then, once he’d built the shelves, another year to organize the collection. The Parkdale store, at 77 Florence St. (also near the train tracks), had soaring 14-foot ceilings but only about 500 square feet of space; he now has more than 3,000 square feet devoted to books, although even this “is hardly big enough.” There are still boxes on top of almost every bookshelf, and the old dojo change rooms are now devoted to overflow. The building has no basement and rests on stilts; Mr. Drumbolis wasn’t sure it would support everything, so he consulted an engineer and researched how best to distribute the weight. He now figures it will hold. The roof needs replacing, though.

It wasn’t always a dojo; the building dates from the early 20th century, and in past lives has been a general store and a post office. An imposing black safe from the period sits in the front room, near the entrance, as does a glass counter that used to tempt the neighbourhood children with candy but now tempts me with a copy, among the many books on display, of Gregory Corso’s first major collection, Gasoline, which happens to be inscribed to the Beat poet’s friend, Allen Ginsberg, who wrote the introduction and signed it as well.

“Johnny Depp collects Beat stuff, right?” asks Mr. Drumbolis. “If he wants it for seventy-five hundred beans, I’ll fly over and put it in his back pocket for him.”
The shop is, in fact, four connected buildings. The book collection, divided into various categories, takes up the front half, along with a small workroom for repairs, a bathroom and storage space. The back half has been turned into an apartment, with a modest kitchen, bathroom, a personal research library and office, and two bedrooms, one of which is devoted to the books he has written and published under his own imprint, and where he sleeps on an air mattress.
He describes Letters both as a “shrine” and a “museum,” and it’s hard to argue with him; it’s unlike any bookstore I’ve ever visited.


Nicky Drumbolis says his life has been “a novel, not a story.” If that’s the case, the prologue begins just across the street. Outside the store, he points east, to an overgrown lot beyond the rail tracks where a two-storey house once stood – and his father was born. His life, in a way, has come full circle.

The path to becoming “probably the most remarkable bookseller Canada has produced,” as Toronto rare-book dealer David Mason called Mr. Drumbolis in his 2013 memoir, The Pope’s Bookbinder, actually started across town. He was born in Port Arthur (amalgamated with Fort William in 1970 to form Thunder Bay), the oldest of six children. Despite being selected for a city-wide advanced-learning program, he didn’t finish high school, and even though he later managed to enroll at both Lakehead and York, he didn’t finish university, either.

“My education was largely one at rummage sales,” he says. “I’d find a book and go, ‘This looks neat,’ and I’d take it home and read it. And I particularly loved nutbar books.”
His life has been immersed in “nutbar” books – books that struggle to find a readership, that don’t appear on bestseller lists, that are overlooked for awards, that most people have never heard of. He has spent his bookselling career trying to introduce these works to a larger audience, trying to salvage them from the remainder bin that is time, and, if no one is interested at the moment, ensuring at least one copy survives, just in case a future reader stumbles across it, as he did, and finds some kind of joy. “It’s bringing these people back to life,” he says.

A shelf dedicated to art.
By the mid-1970s, Mr. Drumbolis was living in Toronto, where he managed a successive string of second-hand bookshops around the city, including Olympia Books, on a seedy strip of Yonge Street, where he was first introduced to the rare and antiquarian trade; and the adult-oriented Reid’s Bookstore, also on Yonge Street, where, after being hired, he “started writing [small-press publishers] around North America,” imploring them to send their newest titles.

Some publishers were perplexed. “I thought it was a strange place to sell this stuff,” recalls Marty Gervais, who had founded the influential Black Moss Press in 1969, and would drive up from Windsor, Ont., with a carload of chapbooks and literary magazines to drop off. “Right beside a vast array of grotesquely large dildos was the poetry I was publishing by the likes of bpNichol and Al Purdy. It made me wonder what his clientele was taking home with them. Living out their sexual fantasies alongside lyrical recitations, maybe?” (According to Mr. Drumbolis, “all that stuff sold. Why? Because these people would come in to buy porno and then they’d always take something to cover it up!”)

The first of his own stores, Acme Book, opened in 1978 in the west-end Toronto apartment he shared with his wife, Susan Fritz, the same year he co-founded a magazine-distribution company. He’d drive down to New York to pick up porn, but also avant-garde literature and underground magazines – he says he was the first to bring Art Spiegelman’s Raw to Canada. Those trips served a dual purpose: “On the way back, I’d stop in every fucking small town and scout rare books.”
In 1982, the first incarnation of Letters opened on the strip of Queen Street West once known as “booksellers’ row,” where up to 20 bookstores operated at any given time. It was the golden age of bookselling in Toronto, although Mr. Drumbolis set himself apart from his colleagues, as he still does.
“There’s two types of booksellers,” he says. “There’s the distributive bookseller – the guy who just sells whatever he can fucking get – and then there’s the contributive bookseller, which is me, who emplaces the kind of book that I think needs to be read.

“As a contributive bookseller, the important thing I felt that a bookstore ought to represent was a depot for the work, a hostel to house people if they needed it – a place to crash or a place to come and hang out – and then a forum, a place where they could exchange ideas.”
Letters was all these things. It was somewhere that writers could hold readings, “basically to give these people a forum where they were at the centre,” he says. It was a gallery, with display cases housing the best in what Mr. Drumbolis terms “the book arts.” It was a publishing house, with him releasing his own work (often using the pseudonym Arthur Cravan, a nod to the Swiss Surrealist poet) and that of other writers he admired under the Letters imprint. It served as a crash pad, not only for writers but for Mr. Drumbolis himself, who slept in a sleeping bag in a back room after his marriage dissolved.

And, perhaps most important, it was a bookstore that was decidedly democratic in how the shelves were stocked – he’d sell almost any book that he deemed worthy. “It wasn’t a cabinet of curiosities, but a collection of literary wonders,” says Mr. Huisken. “It wasn’t just an accumulation, it was a creation.”

There’s a photo of the old store at 452E Queen St. W., a modest three-storey brick building, with the front window full of what looks to be chapbooks and the front door almost entirely papered over with posters. Mr. Drumbolis stands out front, wearing oversized glasses and a multicoloured checkered sweater, his hands jammed in his front pockets, a thin smile on his lips. It dates from 1988, and was taken by Stan Bevington, a friend and the founder of Coach House Books, perhaps the most important publisher to emerge from the Canadian small-press boom of the sixties and seventies.
The following year, rising rents prompted Mr. Drumbolis to move to Florence Street and take a job with Coach House, where he worked as a bookbinder, off and on, for the next two decades. “Everyone,” he says, “saw me as a binder at Coach House, a menial, and didn’t know I still had the store.”

Mr. Gervais recalls visiting the stop late one night, and being shown early Black Moss titles, some of which he’d likely dropped off amid the sex toys and porno mags years before.
“It was so neat, just being in this place, really quiet at night, and there he is, living in and among his own collection. Many of us have a love for our work, but we go home, as well. But his home was where his books were.”

Thunder Bay, as seen from Hillcrest Park.

Thunder Bay, as seen from Hillcrest Park.


And yet his new home isn’t such a happy one. Almost no one in Thunder Bay – almost no one in Canada – knows what he is doing.

“I hate my existence up here,” he says. “It’s done a number on my soul and, believe me, I don’t believe in souls.” He’s lonely, bemoans the lack of good coffee shops and the fact he’s so far away from his friends, that he can’t go out any given night to a poetry reading. He’s angry, frankly, that he had to leave in the first place.

“Toronto lost a huge resource,” he says. “I resented the fact that there wasn’t enough space on the postage stamp for just one more little guy. So I’ve got to play out the string up here.”
Living on a modest pension (he has repaid all of the $70,000 loan), he spends his days working on his own books, which range wildly in subject matter from lunar iconography to Shakespeare, and which he uploads online, and researching the titles in his collection. “Every book has a story,” he says, and he’s driven, in part, by finding out what the story is and then sharing it with the world.

Mr. Bevington describes the store as “a retirement home for books,” which is probably the most accurate description I’ve heard. The 50,000 or so volumes it houses don’t include the impressive array of art and publishing ephemera Mr. Drumbolis has accumulated. And for the first time, all his books are out on display, which makes the fact that hardly anyone has seen them that much more depressing.

An extremely rare vintage Dada poster for the first and only public gathering of the Dadaists.
“All of this is my memory,” Mr. Drombolis says. “Every single thing in here has some memorable factor about it, and every piece in here was scavenged from some experience. And that experience is still pregnant in these things. This is all the inside of my head, in a way.”

Walking through the store is an overwhelming experience. Everywhere I look I spot something I’ve never seen before and will probably never see again. I could have picked a single shelf of a single bookcase and spent my entire visit studying its contents. Not that Mr. Drumbolis would have let me do that. As we amble up and down the aisles, he is constantly narrating, constantly picking out items at random and telling their story – how he acquired it, or who published it, or whatever happened to its author – which often leads into another, entirely different story, and another book, and so on, until I can’t remember which book started the conversation in the first place.

Let Us Compare Mythologies by Leonard Cohen. Published in 1956 as an edition of 400, it is Cohen's first book.
He throws around words like “shit kicker” or “heavyweight” to describe books he particularly loves, his voice growing progressively louder and more animated, the longer he talks. He pulls out a first edition of Leonard Cohen’s 1956 debut Let Us Compare Mythologies, part of what is probably the most extensive sampling in existence of Montreal’s legendary Contact Press, which helped to launch Margaret Atwood, Irving Layton, Raymond Souster and others. Now here’s his Franz Kafka collection, and over here Ezra Pound, and Charles Bukowski, and a few remaining titles from his collection of William S. Burroughs, most of which he sold years ago to David Cronenberg around the time the director was adapting the Burroughs novel, Naked Lunch.

“Henry James,” he says, tapping a shelf filled with first editions of the American master. “The guy I wanted to read cover to cover before I died. I don’t think I’ll get to it now.”
His words are tinged with melancholy, not just about James, I think, but about the whole store. After spending a lifetime collecting and preserving these books, there’s not enough time in the world to actually enjoy them, let alone sell them. “I’m going to die with more shit than I’m going to fucking sell,” he tells me. When I spot a first edition of Joe Gould’s Secret, Joseph Mitchell’s 1965 book about a man who spent his life working on an oral history of the modern world, I can’t help but draw a line between the Greenwich Village writer and this Thunder Bay bookseller.

At one point he stops, mid-sentence, and looks around, in what seems like awe. “I have so much shit,” he says, as if to himself.
Part of the reason is that he just doesn’t sell many books, at least not any more.
“He’s sold everything he’s ever sold reluctantly,” says Mr. Mason. “Try and buy a book from him. It’s not going to work.”

Prof. Mount gave it a shot, and was rebuffed – but in the end was given one for free. I was sent home with a suitcase filled with books, too, despite the fact I hadn’t asked for any.

For instance, his Queen Street store featured a lending library. He can rattle off titles borrowed years ago and never returned, or titles that came back not in the same condition as when they left. He shows off a first-edition copy of In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, a short-story collection by William Gass; it’s stained with what looks like tea, returned that way, he says, by literary icon Alice Munro, once a regular customer. “This was a rare book,” he says.

He describes himself as a “cultural mediator” who is “simply a custodian of a shared resource.”
“I don’t see all of this as ‘mine’ or ‘yours.’ I see this as ‘ours.’ This is history,” he says. “I have temporary custody of the book. That’s all. It’s going to be here after I’m dead.”
Or will it?

Various objects in the windowsill of Nick Drumbolis's store.

Mr. Drumbolis: ‘My education was largely one at rummage sales. I’d find a book and go, “This looks neat,” and I’d take it home and read it. And I particularly loved nutbar books.’


I was in Thunder Bay for two days, sleeping overnight at the store and speaking to more than a dozen of Mr. Drumbolis’s friends and acquaintances. In every conversation, the question as to what will happen to these books was just below the surface. Mr. Drumbolis, for his part, refers to the store as his “tomb.” The priority is to ensure the books aren’t buried with him.

“It scares the hell out of me thinking about it, because the word ‘landfill’ keeps coming up,” says Steven Temple, a rare-book dealer based in Welland, Ont.
“It should be preserved somewhere, somehow,” says John W. Curry, an Ottawa avant-garde poet (as jwcurry) and friend whose small-press collection is one of the few to rival that of Mr. Drumbolis. “There is not another repository like that. It should probably just be turned into a museum.”

Mr. Drumbolis: 'I don’t see all of this as "mine" or "yours." I see this as ours. This is history.'
Says Mr. Huisken, “What we have to do is create an institution to take care of that collection. It’s not going to happen on its own.”
Mr. Drumbolis has a daughter, a social worker in Sudbury, but doesn’t want to burden her. Part of the problem, he says, is that “it’s now up in Thunder Bay where, when I drop dead of an aneurysm, it’s going to go to the Sally Ann.

“I held onto this stuff, to the detriment of my health, against all odds, in the hopes of seeing it go somewhere,” he says. “Nobody wants it, at any cost.”
It’s more complicated than that. Ms. Dondertman, of the Fisher library, says part of the problem is the size of the collection. “There aren’t a lot of libraries who can cope with those numbers, no matter what the books are,” she says. “It’s a huge, huge challenge.”

Mr. Mason maintains that it “won’t end up in the dump. There are now enough people in the book trade who know how important what he has is, that that will not be allowed to happen.”
That said, what the shop contains “is less than what he has in his head, which is the part that’s going to disappear, sadly,” says Mr. Bevington. “I don’t think that there’s any way that you can collect the amount of information that he has in his head.”

Poet Cameron Anstee agrees. “It’s not just that he has books no one has, but he knows things about those books that no one else knows. The amount of knowledge that he possesses as a result of his life’s work – it’s not really reproducible.
“Whoever picks up that tradition from him, it’s going to be a huge task,” adds Mr. Anstee, a doctoral candidate at the University of Ottawa writing about postwar bookselling in Canada. “A hugely important task.”

Honeymoon Suite features poems by Victor Coleman and artwork by David Bolduc.

Honeymoon Suite features poems by Victor Coleman and artwork by David Bolduc.


On my second morning in Thunder Bay, while drinking lukewarm coffee at his kitchen table, Mr. Drumbolis asks me a question I’ve been trying to answer ever since: “If I died, what would you say about this place?”

The best answer, I think, is found in 77 Florence, a poem in Phil Hall’s 2011 Governor-General’s Award-winning collection, Killdeer, inspired by the store “where pilgrims arrive in bewilderment.”
This is what Mr. Hall sees when he looks at what Mr. Drumbolis has accomplished:
This recent April flames engulfed Baghdad’s National Library/ destroying manuscripts untold centuries old
Almost nothing remains of that great library’s tens of thousands of/manuscripts – books – & Iraqi newspapers
In light of such atrocities – Drumbolis’s preservation instinct/ means – to catch the glowing ashes – & save them – so the world-/as-book can be – if not rebuilt – at least remembered – intensely 

                                                 ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

On 2016-01-23, at 1:42 PM, anna yin wrote:

Thanks for sharing.

Shared it on facebook.


                                                    .    .    .    .

Thanks for sharing this Chris!
Nicky's shop is a national treasure!
And he's written some interesting books of his own, too!
Best wishes,

Dr. Karl E. Jirgens, Editor, Rampike Magazine
Dept. of English Language, Literature & Creative Writing
Associate Professor
University of Windsor

                                                .    .    .    .


Thursday, 21 January 2016

Poetry Publishers Lament: Tai Grove/Chris Faiers

Following is a found poem created by Tai Grove, Hidden Brook Press publisher,  from an email I sent him. Great minds and all that  ;  )-

Tai is starting a distribution company, and if anyone on the Canuck poetry scene can accomplish this miracle successfully, it's Tai.

The Small Publisher Warehouse

Shelves loaded to the ceiling!
A common towered sight
for so many Canuck small presses.
Poets & academics want their books
small presses link hopes
with authors for countless reasons
(often just to make a quota
to keep their government oiled
subsidies flowing),
with the end product,
tree book towers.
The forgotten books,
live for decades piled
piled, piled on top of each other
tipping ignominiously,
toppling towers into the gaping
iron mouths endless appetite.
Shredded, recycled into cardboard
boxes to carry our Wheaties,
the power house for obscure poets

that languor in obscurity, in
the shadows of tree book towers.

hi Chris

thanks for your email. the crux, the future, of publishing CanPo and CanLit has to be is POD. to comment on your remark about stacks of warehoused poetry books – thank goodness i only have small stacks of books, nothing that cannot fit in my office. most of my stacks are from the pre-POD era when we had to print a minimum of 200 books just to get the press to jerk forward to spit out the first book – we would sell 25 and stack the rest and admire our hard work while we feared the stack might fall on us and crush our goals of publishing yet another stack of books. now POD makes it possible to publish with few books insulating the walls – some i can’t even give away. my garbage man said to me the other day. “so, you are cleaning out the basement again are you” as i helped fling 6 cobwebbed sagging boxes into the iron monster’s jaw, feeding its endless appetite for obsolete CanPo. I was thinking that they need to make bio fuel out of old shredded fermented poetry books. the problem is that the cars that ran on the CanPo fuel would sit at the curb and contemplate the journey for too long before going anywhere. The only journey such a car would take is to the town of Obscurity, via Poverty Highway, at the intersection of Hope and Ego, in the very deep dark valley of Anonymity.

i could not help but see the poem in your email to me. i stole your words and wrote this. it is not worth the paper it is written on (no paper) but it is worth a chuckle.


Sunday, 17 January 2016

the real David Bowie was ...


 a dude named Lou Reed. Lou died 2 years ago, & I didn't see the kind of adulation for an original like Lou that I have for a poser (brit slang for poseur) like Bowie. There's a lot of another dude named Jagger in Bowie's make-up (pun intended) as well. Jagger/dagger - some kind of rhyming cockney slang perhaps. Bowie wanted to have a cool tough name like Mick, so he reinvented himself with the new moniker. No harm, no foul, but if you want the first & real thing, listen to Lou Reed, either with the Velvet Underground or solo. If you want fag/hag power rock & lyrics, listen to Mick on 'when the whip comes down".

IMHO the only good Bowie tune was 'Rebel, Rebel'. The rest is just trend jumping imitative shite. He was a great poser, altho far from the first or most original or interesting. Bowie was a popularizer of existing trends - kinda like Henry Ford or Bill Gates - he didn't invent anything new, he just knew how to market the hell out of existing images created by more interesting musician/performers.

Also I can't imagine Jagger or Reed spouting pro Hitler BS, no matter how effing high they got on coke (1970s Berlin). Please listen to some Velvets, & lotsa Stones. I've never owned a Bowie record, but I can listen to Velvets/Reed or The Stones for hours on end. Even Bowie's last record has The Velvet Underground droning sound circa the 1960s.

At least Ziggy Stardust gave Lou Reed his big shot at commercial success by producing Reed's hit album 'Transformer' (e.g. 'walk on the wild side' single).
It always saddens me that the pushiest people, instead of the most creative, get the limelight. I guess this is OK if the scene stealers eventually lead you to the truer talents, tho.

RIP Ziggy ; )- 
                                         ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

On 2016-01-17, at 5:19 PM, John Duderion wrote:

I can dig it. Nice to hear a corrective voice amid all the hagiography, the amount and intensity of which has rather surprised me. My sense of Bowie was just that. I didn't think there was much or any actual music in what he was doing. That seemed like a pretext, a hook on which to hang his undoubted genius for self-promotion and hyper-eclectic self-imaging. Which, let's face it, has become fair game in popular no small part due to him. If there is now an excessive outpouring of adulation for him it's because popcult has totally integrated the 'values' that he was promoting. He kind of is popular culture. Not my cuppa in any case. I think I prefer his movie roles at the end of the day.


Friday, 15 January 2016

wither Marmora? - bank left town with all our money

td bank

In the late 1980s I decided I wanted to live closer to nature. I sold my ramshackle semi in a rough part of Toronto and moved to the hamlet of Cordova Mines on the edge of The Shield. The people of Cordova welcomed me like a long lost crazy relative, and I enjoyed the fresh air and having a remote bush trail leading from my back door. But my lack of country skills, compounded by a century old farmhouse with more drafty holes than insulation, cut short my stay. A chance visit to a friend's grandfather's house in the nearby village of Marmora suggested it was the perfect size for me. Living in a small village, rather than in a hamlet, would mean my water would be potable instead of from the dubious ground water well, and my sewage wouldn't be backing up into my bathtub, which happened with pungent frequency with the unreliable septic system.

So in the early 1990s I moved to Marmora, six or seven miles back down the road towards Belleville and Lake Ontario, and here I've remained for a quarter century. When I moved into Archie's tiny bungalow, the short main street of Marmora was flourishing. A TD bank and a hardware store bookended the main drag at the traffic lights on Highway 7, and Cassidy's furniture store and Dizzy's Bar staunchly upheld the other end a hundred or so yards along. Between were a Stedman's five and dime, a dry goods store, a glasses shop, insurance office, the ubiquitous LCBO, a corner store, barbershop, a knickknack shop for tourists and others.

Now gone, all gone, with only the liquor store, insurance agent and barber remaining on a once lively main street where you could actually shop. The TD bank pulled out last summer after a century of service. Perhaps it's a chicken or the egg variation now,  natural demographics - the pull to the big cities - caused the decline of the commerce section of Marmora and was an obvious influence on the bank's head office decision makers. Now we're waiting to see if the bank's closure will be the final straw in the demise of downtown Marmora leading to a weakening and lessening of the population.

The TD Bank recently pulled this same stunt in another small rural community, and it looks like this is a trend other banks will follow. What effect this final betrayal will have on the residents of Marmora is starting to play out. Most inhabitants in Marmora are poor, and many of us are seniors. It's too late to move back to a major centre, and our meagre life savings are tied up in our houses. These were our retirement funds after a lifetime of low paying factory, mining or service industry jobs. With no bank to anchor new business ventures, will our property values - our retirement nest eggs - decrease substantially in value?

Will the province decide the remaining schools should close or amalgamate as the population drops and education funding declines? Will we lose funding for our already prohibitively expensive town water system? One of the few growth areas in Marmora is housing for seniors, and who will now choose to retire in Marmora when a simple bank visit will require a round trip to either Madoc or Havelock, trips requiring a car and several hours of time?

My experience in Cordova Mines showed how resilient and mutually supportive rural people can be. I suspect the old mining town toughness, which still permeates Marmora life, will mean the village will somehow survive this vicious desertion by our billionaire banks. But Marmora is devolving, going backwards rather than forwards, and most of use here are not happy campers with our federal and provincial financial and political "leaders". 

A little effing help and consideration, please!   

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From: Chris Faiers <>
Date: January 16, 2016 12:55:43 PM EST
To: Tim Miller,  Belleville Intelligencer (Sun Media)
Subject: potential article on Marmora after TD Bank left town

Hi Tim,
Thanks for doing the great piece on Jim Christy ;  )- The man deserves to be wined, dined and feted for all he's done for literature!

Here's an idea for an investigative piece on Marmora. The TD Bank closed last summer, after anchoring the village's main street for a century. Six months have now gone by without full bank services, & it might make for an interesting article, or series of articles, on how the closure is affecting life in Marmora. You could talk to real estate agents to see how that market has been influenced. The Reeve and other elected officials to see what plans (if any) they have for the future. Senior citizens like myself now feel a bit more trapped here, with concerns our main retirement asset, our houses, may be depreciating in value.

Other possible sources are Cathy Jones, with the Marmora Historical Society, the few remaining local merchants, like insurance broker Lionel Bennet (the Reeve long ago). Andre Philpott, also once upon a time, was the Mayor/Reeve, & author of a history of Marmora, etc. .

Following is a post I put on my blog yesterday detailing some concerns. You're welcome to quote from it if you wish. I may send it around as a letter-to-the-editor - haven't decided yet.

peace, poetry power & investigative journalism!
Chris (Faiers)

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Yesterday, Jan. 28, I decided to send this blog posting around to local friends and community leaders, as well as to various media outlets. A high proportion of local people kindly responded. Here's a selection of their interesting comments:

Thank you for forwarding your latest composition - well written of course & a strong message.

I did want to point out there are many, many people in the area who are not 'poor' - have you ever taken a complete boat ride around Crowe Lake & up Beaver Creek, as well as along Crowe River?    My children & I have the past two summers taken a boat cruise with Doug Alcock - it's amazing the size of the beautiful homes - and so very many of them!!!!

It's true few of them stay in the town but so many still coming from the city to settle here.

I am constantly grateful for the wonderful job Anne Philpot continues to do with our Historical Foundation - all the scanning & documenting the various histories is wonderful.  Cathie does a good job manning the office of course & chatting with visitors, but Anne's work is outstanding.

I had approached our Council to recognize all the tremendous work done by André Philpot on our history (signs, trails & written)- have heard nothing yet - also Anne should be recognized - it's a wait & see.

I very much enjoyed reading your article & look forward to some more!

                                               .    .    .    .    .    .

Couldn’t agree more with the way that you express your opinions about Marmora’s current situation. Not sure if there is any interest or know how from town officials to do anything to change the situation. It requires work and commitment .
Really appreciate you trying to bring this to peoples attention.  As somebody who invested a a lot of money and effort in what we have here,we now find ourselves often questioning the wisdom of the move,
Best of luck to you in trying to make outside people aware of the situation that small rural tows are faced with these days.

                                             .    .    .    .    .    .

Nice work and more noise should be made about the lack of political enthusiasm. But i fear you are standing in front of a moving bulldozer. The world is changing. We are simply the old folk now comparing life with the "old days". This is not new. My guess is it happens for every generation. Bricks & mortar are dissolving.   It's all about megabytes now which is good for profit but makes for a bleak lifestyle. 

                                            .    .    .    .    .    .

Great article on Marmora and the bank.  You are right that it will certainly affect the seniors and the disadvantaged but it won't affect those who retired here and built big homes on the lake and the river. They shop in Peterborough or Belleville. 

                                            .    .    .    .    .    .

Well written Chris (of course!).  Thank you for sharing.

As a side note, thank you for all your points and chats about book publishing.  I truly appreciate it.


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 Our new Member of Parliament, Mike Bossio, is Chair of the Liberal Rural Caucus. Here's an email I sent Feb. 13:

Hi Aline,
Congrats again on the huge victory over the Horrible Harperites! Last Friday night I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Bossio in person at Marmora's SnoFest Talent Show. The show was a hoot, and Mike demonstrated his good nature beyond all measure by sitting through the whole shebang - both the 'under 12's and the adult contests - a feat I only managed by holding my gut to restrain the belly laughs and then occasionally popping sugary candies to stay awake. The man deserves a medal for tolerance  ;  )-

I'm pleased that Mike has assumed the Chair of the National Rural Caucus. We have an issue of national concern playing out here in our small village. The TD Bank closed it branch here after a full century of service. The ramifications of this desertion are starting to play out in our community, and I'm aware of a similar big bank desertion in process in Deseronto. A Belleville Intelligencer staffer
is considering doing an article on the situation, so Mike may be approached for a response.

Here's my blog posting on the situation:

peace & poetry power!
Chris (Faiers)

Saturday, 9 January 2016

butterflies on a sea wind: beginning zen

I found this book at an area used bookstore in a sort of zen happenstance. At the end of last summer I sold my little retreat, ZenRiver Gardens, and part of the clearing up process has been finding new homes for the poetry books from the small library. As someone involved with writing and promoting poetry for my entire adult life, hundreds of other books of poetry have found refuge on my bookshelves. Now that I'm in my late 60s, though, I feel it's time to 'wabi sabi' my life, to simplify my surroundings and myself, so I've been taking small boxes of books to The Bookworm used bookshop in the nearby village of Madoc.

A solemn promise to buy no more books, not to even glance at the store's bookshelves, proved beyond my powers to keep. A slim volume, beautiful cover in pristine condition, caught my eye. The dollar donation would go to benefit the Madoc Library, and I might learn something from butterflies on a sea wind: beginning zen. A fair trade, really, a box of books unloaded, with just a slim volume returning home ;  )

So to the book ... I highly recommend anyone interested in zen, or any form of Buddhism, read this book. I've often wondered about the very formal and structured practice of zen, and Anne Rudloe kindly takes you inside her mind, retreat after retreat, revealing aspects of how the discipline, refined through these retreats, has enriched her personal life. Anne is a doctor of marine biology, so she's no hippie dippy dabbler in Buddhism like me. Anne has the strength to sit for hours, day after day, in retreats far afield with a room of strangers - not my cup of tea or choice of meditative surroundings.

I found Anne's internal monologues during zen sitting extremely honest and personal. She clearly remembers her early difficulties with meditation, the trouble with just letting go, stilling the movie scripts we all incessantly run through our consciousness. After her early retreats, though, Anne quickly finds benefits in dealing with interpersonal relationships. She was raised near the Florida panhandle by her grandmother, who sounds like an archetypical Florida cracker. The fiercely stubborn, fiery old lady constantly gets Anne's goat, until in a moment of clarity and compassion learned through her meditations, Anne finally snaps back. Surprisingly, the raw emotional honesty of Anne's response makes the old lady laugh, and the two develop a stronger bond than they've had for most of their lives.

Extended passages of this book read like haibun. There are beautifully descriptive passages of the marshland gulf coast of Florida, where Anne and her husband run a small aquarium and marine animal supply business. Of course there are also sections where Anne struggles to articulate zen insights, and like almost everyone who attempts to describe these moments of awareness and insight in prose, well, we all come off sounding like secondhand Deepak Chopras or Eckhart Tolles!

I Googled butterflies on a sea wind with hopes of finding a pic of the cover, and I was very pleased to learn the book is again in print and available from Amazon. Great reading on many levels. 

butterflies on a sea wind: beginning zen, Anne Rudloe
Andrew McMeel Publishing, Kansas City, 2002, 179 pages

postscript: I just Googled Anne, and she died of cancer in 2012.
rest in peace

Anne Rudloe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Anne Eidemiller Rudloe
Anne Eidemiller Rudloe.jpg
Picture of Anne Eidemiller Rudloe at the U.S. Naval base in Panama City in the underwater research and diving techniques as part of the "Scientists in the Sea" program.
Born December 24, 1947
Troy, Ohio, U.S.
Died April 27, 2012 (aged 64)
Panacea, Florida, U.S.
Residence Panacea, Florida, U.S.
Nationality American
Fields Marine biology
Institutions Panacea Institute of Marine Science, Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory
Alma mater Mary Washington College, Florida State University
Notable awards National Wetlands Award
External video
PSJ FL US 98 St Joseph Bay02.jpg
Jack and Anne Rudloe coastal tour, St. Joseph Bay, AMM1539
The Estuary of Panacea, Gulf Specimen Aquarium
Anne Rudloe (née Eidemiller, December 24, 1947 – April 27, 2012) was an American marine biologist. She was the co-founder of the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory in Panacea, Florida.


Rudloe was born Anne Eidemiller, December 24, 1947 in Troy, Ohio, and grew up in Hampton, Virginia. In 1971, she married writer and naturalist Jack Rudloe.[1][2][3]
She earned a BSc (Biology) at Mary Washington College in 1969. She received an MSc in Oceanography from Florida State University in 1972 for Significant associations of the motile epibenthos of the turtle-grass beds of St. Joseph Bay, Florida.[4] She received a PhD in Marine Biology in 1978 working with William F. Hernkind at Florida State University for Some ecologically significant aspects of the behavior of the horseshoe crab Limulus polyphemus.[5] She trained at the United States Naval base in Panama City in underwater research and diving techniques in the "Scientists in the Sea" program and was the first woman to complete the program. She was an FSU adjunct professor of biological science. In 1980 she founded the Panacea Institute of Marine Science in Panacea, Florida.[2] In 1990, she co-founded the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratory,[6] as a non-profit teaching laboratory of which she was the managing director.[3][7]
Rudloe published five books, in addition to scientific articles on horseshoe crabs, electric rays, mysid shrimp, and sea turtles. She wrote for a larger audience as well,[8] in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Natural History and Audubon. The article "Trouble in Bayou Country" (National Geographic 182 (September 1979): 377–9), which she co-wrote with her husband, is frequently cited in accounts of environmental damage to the Atchafalaya Basin.[9][10]
Rudloe also studied Zen Bhuddism and received INGA (Dharma transmission) to teach as a JDPSN (Jido Pope Sanim) in the Kwan Um School of Zen. She then became the Abbot at the Cypress Tree Zen Center in Tallahassee, Florida.[1] She was a frequent guest contributor for National Public Radio for both her conservation efforts and Zen Bhuddism.[1]
She died of colon cancer, April 27, 2012.[11][12][13] Rudloe was posthumously honored by the Environmental Law Institute with the 2014 Education and Outreach/National Wetlands award.[2][14]

Selected works

  • Butterflies on a sea wind: beginning Zen (2002)
  • Chicken Wars (fiction, 2006, with Jack Rudloe)
  • Priceless Florida: natural ecosystems and native species (2004, with E. Whitney and D.B. Means)
  • Shrimp: the endless quest for pink gold (2010, with Jack Rudloe)
  • Zen in a Wild Country (2012)
  • "The Suwannee, Our Wild and Scenic Rivers" in National Geographic Vol. 152, No. 1, July, 1977 (with Jack Rudloe)

commentary by Chris Faiers/cricket
Jan. 9/16

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review posted on Buddhist Channel TV

On 2016-01-14, at 8:46 AM, Lim Kooi Fong wrote:

Dear Chris,

Hi, I'm Lim from the Buddhist Channel. Thank you for your sharing on Anne Rudloe's book. It was truly a moving review.

We have published it here:,12628,0,0,1,0#.VpemS08avnM

Best wishes
Lim KF

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Hi Lim,
Thank you for posting the review. It was saddening to learn of Anne Rudloe's death - I had hoped to correspond with her. She has left a beautiful, heartfelt and thoughtful legacy in many forms.