Hugh, studying an art book (at a guess) in the ‘lab room’ of the Halifax Youth Hostel, which we shared during the fall of 1985. He’s wearing a sweater with one of his oil paintings sewn onto the front. Big Icelandic mug full of coffee near at hand, various guitars, his bed lifted up and nestled near one of the big tall windows. My writing desk behind him, electric typewriter for ‘mailing copies’ (my old manual typewriter down in the parking lot booth where I worked), current reading on top is Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion. Velvet Underground book on the shelf. Hugh left Halifax early in ’86, I left in 1992. Hugh died in 1996. The Halifax Youth Hostel was torn down. Nothing left now but the recordings.
Our conversation to start with is on the topic of paying the rent on the room.
Hugh: Yeah, that’s … yeah, I knew that.
Me: (holding in a toke) And then … after that I pay the next one, and by then you should have some shit sold or something.
Hugh: (holding in a toke) Yeah, maybe …
Me: Go drum up some sales …
I start strumming acoustic guitar.
Hugh: We’ll see what happens.
Hugh: We’ll see what happens, don’t worry about it.
Me: No, I mean, I’m not … it’s just like … like my horoscope said today: “A temporary setback will turn into a greater opportunity.” (Rustle of newspaper page.) I took that to mean my short story.
We both chuckle. We’re clearly very stoned, both talking sotto voce.
Hugh: Those horoscopes. Harsh-scopes. (He chuckles some more.) Getting your short story back, pretty harsh.
Apparently I’d sent ‘Bird Dancer’ somewhere and it had come back forthwith.
Me: No, it didn’t bother me. I didn’t really expect to get it – to get anything from them. I just thought it would be nice. Sort of … the way it goes. I’d like to hear back from my pals at New Quarterly.
Hugh: They probably lost your story. That’s why they haven’t written back, they’re too embarassed.
Me: What about those fuck-ups at Poetry Montreal? They never, ever wrote back. (Hugh chuckles.) Not even after I sent them a letter from here. Saying, “What the fuck have you done with my poems?” (Hugh chuckles gleefully.)
Hugh: Hilarium, eh? It probably no longer exists.
Me: That’s what I think. You know, it’s one of those really – but they were doing, like, one a month, eh? Like, they were pretty hot while they were around. They didn’t stink, either, compared to most of those things. Like Xero. (I laugh.) Harsh-O.
Hugh: Yeah, really.
Me: We should get an ad for our show in the next one of those Republicovers.
Hugh: Yeah, you’re right. The end of submissions is like November twenty-fifth, or something like that. For the next issue. It’ll be good to get something in.
We’re talking about advertising our CKDU FM radio show in a NSCAD student publication. This never happened.
Me: You looked at any of the little things I’ve been writing lately? They’re just on little scraps of paper here.
Hugh: Little poems and stuff?
Hugh: I read a couple of poems. They were pretty good.
Me: Any that struck you as worth … collaborating with?
Me: There’s two over here, I think.
Hugh: (hunting around amidst the crazy morass of stuff on our counter) Yeah I saw those two …
Me: There’s another weird little one that has to be revised a bit. (Laughing) This one’s weird ‘cause it’s ah – it’s not actually written by me. All I did was uh – you know … it’s all album covers, right? Album titles? And I noticed a few, how they … transpositioned with each other or whatever?
Hugh: Mm-hmm. (I hand him some sort of confection.) Oh, thanks.
Me: Rum and butter flavoured. I ate a whole bag of them.
Hugh: Oh, wow. (He’s working on the confection, his mouth full.) Mmmm. Hard not to.
Me: Well, you know. Sitting in the booth is the only really harsh thing to deal with, not smoking.
Me: You’ve gotta be – I’ve gotta do something (chuckle).
Hugh is schmecking on the confection and rummaging around his pottery pieces.
Hugh: Yeah, I like how boxy these things are.
Me: (groaning) Oh, the Rog would be so upset.
I’m not sure what Rodger, the Youth Hostel ‘houseparent’, would’ve been upset about – maybe Hugh was firing his clay creations in the hostel’s oven.
Me: ‘Kay, you want me to read you this one? It’s called ‘Record Sale Poem’.
Me: ‘The dream of the blue turtles’. No, no. Sorry. Start again.
I’m having a little difficulty because I want to recite the lines in an order quite different from the way I have them written down.
Me: ‘The Record Sale Poem.’ (I laugh.) By Vince Tinguely. (Hugh laughs.)
Once upon a time
The dream of the blue turtles
Here’s to future days
Dancing in the street
Brothers in arms
Live after death
Me: (laughing) It’s all just titles.
Hugh: Yeah. That’s good.
Me: Quite amusing (I clear my throat). Well, I’m stoned.
Hugh: I’m still fooling around with these weird blobs (chuckling). Just clay, man. Clay and glazes.
Me: (laughing) You’re having a good time are you?
Hugh: We’re talking – The Universe, right? With this stuff.
Me: (in vigourous agreement) Oh yeah, oh yeah!
Hugh: The Uni – or, it’s like being God.
We fall silent. For a while, I’m just trying to tune the guitar.
TAPE TRANSCRIPT ENDS
Some of Hugh’s pottery work on display on the ‘lab counter’ of our room in the Halifax Youth Hostel, fall 1985.