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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Blog: Johanna Nutter and the Journey of My Pregnant Brother (Part II)

July 18th, Pender to Salt Spring Ferry

Everything has a story. Remember Architect David of the Penthouse Sweet? Well, he just told me the last one I heard on Pender. I took a photo of this sculpture (above)—one of countless beautiful things in the home that he designed for he and Professor John on the island. The artist, Cathy, was married to a bad man. He drank and when he did, he got violent. He would go out to the barn and beat the horses. Well, one night, the horses had had enough: they trampled him to death. And that changed Cathy’s life. This sculpture is a self-portrait… There’s Cathy, in the middle, surrounded by the horses who saved her.

I love Islanders. Arguably, I am one. Yes, Montrealers, we’re Islanders, too. These 48 hours on Pender have been so full of beautiful stories told by beautiful Islanders I don’t know where to begin. Barb and Keith. That’s where. Barb and I were roommates in St. Henri—above the AA restaurant on Notre Dame—way back in the day. Montreal was full to busting with musicians then: Jerry Jerry and the Sons of Rhythm Orchestra, Three O’Clock Train, The Nils, Bootsauce, Me, Mom & Morgentaler… Montreal’s first wave of awesome bands was in full swing. And Barb swung the best parties. We had a long wooden veranda and it was always full of flowers, people, and wine. 

And Barb is still swinging wine. Only now she makes it. With Keith, whom she married five years ago (smart move, Barb) at the Morning Bay Vineyard. They have a music fest every year called Winestock: Dave Rave from Teenage Head always makes it up to play. Oh, this place is heaven to me. Well, just look at it: 

Idyllic, eh?

While we were still back at the Penthouse in Vancouver, Keith explained that the peace at the vineyard had been slightly disturbed of late by Gilles the Picker. He had contacted Keith about employment, saying he and his girlfriend were coming from the Okanagan and could they get work on the grapes. Keith thought it would be a good idea to have some professionals on the job, so he said yes. Well, as it turned out, he was a professional alcoholic who spent his time at the winery—until 6am most days—drinking the wine. Then he and his girlfriend had an explosive break-up and Keith had to fire Gilles. His tent and all his things (including his kitten) were still behind the winery and he had gone off on a tear. His girlfriend, they suspected, was not ever coming back. 

So, the first night was Anna’s birthday. Anna is Greek and personally, I don’t think you can come from a much better place. I often wish I were Greek. If you met Anna, you’d wish you were Greek, too. Her boyfriend, Niels, helps Keith and Barb run the winery. That’s Niels’ calling in life: he helps. He helps everybody. He’s from PoCo, too. That’s where my niece lives. It’s reassuring to me to know that such a wonderful person comes from PoCo. If Gilles doesn’t claim him, Niels will take the kitten. We had a lovely time, outside on the porch as the fog rolled in, reminiscing and of course, drinking wine. Boy, do they make good wine at Morning Bay. The 2004 Merlot is especially pleasing. Here’s a still life of some salami and an old photo of me and Barb at a Halloween party in the Guaranteed Milk Building, circa 1993. I was dressed as a Far Side Cow, but at that point I’d lost my head. Oh, and that’s the cocktail napkin that came with my 2004 Merlot: Oscar Wilde seemed to be speaking directly to me, reassuring me that everything was going to be okay with the show. In fact, I felt like I had mystical Guardians surrounding me the whole time I was there.

No really, it was like I was watched over by angels on that Island. Because of the rain, I performed My Pregnant Brother inside the winery, with a backdrop of barrels, for about 35 wise men and women and one twelve year old boy. There was even a longshoreman!!! Karl. When I got to the part in the play where we meet Marissa, the longshoreman, he sat up straight in his chair. His girlfriend, Elisabetta is just one of these open wide gorgeous human beings who makes you happy just to be in her presence. She was in a car accident with three of her friends when she was eighteen. They walked away without a scratch between them and she’s been in a wheelchair ever since. Apparently, she was sitting in the fifty-fifty seat.

I am so glad I previewed the West Coast Première at Morning Bay Vineyard. It felt so right, drawing my map in chalk surrounded by barrels with mysterious codes marked in…chalk. And I was so struck by the new geography--Montreal was now on the other side of the country and all the West Coast stuff was happening right here—that at times I had to sort of pause and find my way through this new landscape. I’m happy I could do that with such a dear and intimate audience, including Barb, who knows all the players in this pageant and whose laugh of recognition at the Montreal references was music to my ears. 

And then we drank more wine. 

The next morning, Niels was putting the winery back together when who should appear at the door but… Gilles. He was back to see if he could get a final paycheck. Niels told me he saw him scratching his head and staring at the floor: he couldn’t understand why the streets of his old neighbourhood were written in chalk on the cement!!! 

Keith said they’re not going to wash it off. They’re going to let it fade over time, and live with the memory a little longer. He also said he thinks the wine will taste better now that it’s been through the experience of my play. Isn’t that a nice thing to say?

Now, time to see my Mum on Salt Spring Island…


  1. when i checked the "like" square the #7 appeared like magic
    Johanna was born on the 7th and 7 happens with her often.
    You are a good story teller Johanna
    You might become a favourite blogger of mine, along with Montreal Simon.

  2. So, how do we reserve a bottle of that rare wine? The Nutter Merlot-2011. It might be worth a lot some day. -J.D.

  3. Such a awesome post. If anybody share posts like this then things become quite easy. I'm very happy to read posts like this.


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