Saturday 8 September 2012--I share the breakfast table this morning with two young Japanese women. No one familiar with PEI will be surprised by
this--the island's number one cultural export, Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, has for many years been wildly popular among young
Japanese girls, who know her as "Anne of the red hair". I imagine that treatises have been written on why it is that Anne resonates so deeply in Japan,
to the point that more and more Japanese couples are getting married in Cavendish every year. I don't really feel any need to understand it. Places
tug at you for whatever reason makes sense to you. I've been traveling to Scotland for years because the movie Local Hero grabbed me in a way
that isn't really rational. My love for Canada goes back further, and is perhaps even more inexplicable. In both cases, my interest long preceded my
knowledge of my heritage in the respective countries. Is there such a thing as genetic memory? It's easy sometimes to believe some things are simply in
your blood. But it's magical thinking; and anyway, it can't explain why so many Japanese girls make the pilgrimage to Prince Edward Island every year.
I don't really have a lot in mind to do today. I've stayed in Charlottetown many times on the bus tours, have always liked the place, and just want to hang out without any responsibilities hanging over my head. Charlottetown bills itself as the Birthplace of Canada, or the Cradle of Confederation, because of the 1864 Charlottetown Conference, at which representatives from the remaining British colonies in North America laid the groundwork for the foundation of the country in 1867. (Ironically, a skeptical Prince Edward Island waited four more years before signing on.) The conference was held mainly at Province House, still home to the provincial legislature, with some social functions occurring at Government House, the residence of the Lieutenant Governor General. I pass by both of these, in between following a historical trail that leads along the waterfront. It seems to me there are more interpretive panels around town than there used to be...or more likely, I guess, I just never paid them much attention before. Along the way, there is one of the more charming Irish immigration monuments, with a ring of stones from each of Ireland's thirty-two counties.
At St Dunstan's Basilica, I run into a couple I sat next to at the Café de la Grave the other night. I've been running into familiar faces all through this trip.
One of my favorite stops in town is The Bookman, a used bookshop on Queen Street. I used to know at least one shop like this in every Canadian city I visited, and I've lined my shelves with Canadiana bought from them (as well as from new booksellers like Indigo). Today there are two coffee table books that pique my interest, Canadian Churches: An Architectural History, by Peter and Douglas Richardson, and Old Canadian Cemeteries: Places of Memory, by Jane Irwin. The principal photographer for both is Dutch-born John de Visser, who has been documenting Canadian subjects for more than fifty years. I don't know how many books I have with his work in them--a dozen, maybe, or two dozen. These two are big, heavy tomes, not cheap even used, and I find myself headed for the door, thinking, "Maybe next time." What next time? I turn around, and buy them both. One of the advantages of this driving trip, after all, is that I don't have to worry about overweight luggage.*
I have a pint at the Pilot House, and go back to the room for a late afternoon nap. Then dinner back at the Pilot House. I have in mind to go see what's up at Gahan House, but decide that I'm just as happy to have my last pints here. I probably could have made better use of my stay here, but I'm content. Charlottetown's a nice little city, and it seems to be booming, insofar as a town of 35,000 can boom. There's quite a bit of new construction going on around. When I first visited thirty years ago, it seemed a nice enough place, but too small and sleepy to be really interesting. Now it seems to me a fine place to live.
*Several months on, having scratched the surface of both books, I can say I'm very happy to have them both--they will provide a considerable amount of insight and inspiration.