This week I did as much bridge-building as interviewing, but it was all important work if I want this book to succeed. However as you will see, the interviews I did were with ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I am proud to include each of these stories in my book.
On Tuesday night I attended the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award event (http://www.writerstrust.com/Awards/RBC-Bronwen-Wallace-Award-for-Emerging-Wri…. It seemed intelligent to attend a few of the city’s literary events in order to get my name out there, and besides I wanted to find out whether real creative writers would find this project interesting. With my glass of wine in one hand and my fancy hors d’oeuvres in the other, I sat on a bench beside a young woman who also appeared uncomfortable with the elegance of the room and the class of people in attendance. She introduced herself as Kilby Smith-McGregor, last year’s winner of the award. Kilby declined to talk about her work, but asked graciously about mine. We became friendly during our conversation and she came and sat beside me during the award ceremony. At the end of the evening, she thanked me and requested a business card. I later visited a website and listened to her read a selection from her award winning short story, “The Bird in Hand”. It was a privilege to have met Kilby so unexpectedly and I hope it happens again, sometime.
Kilby, if you are reading this, your support in this project means a great deal. Thank you for listening, and for encouraging me that I already act exactly as a creative writer is expected to act.
On Wednesday afternoon, I met a very studious young man. We emailed back and forth a few times, and his first comment was that he was certain he had no interesting stories. Then it came out that he was 16 and that his mother had given him permission to be interviewed. Oh yes, and that he is an Orthodox Jew. As you can imagine, his was a good story.
On Friday afternoon, I had coffee with a very enthusiastic young person who began the interview with the comment “Getting your card was good. It encouraged me that I am on the right track in life.” This short life has been unfocused and undirected until recently, when they bought their first bike. This summer’s goal is to ride that bike from here to Innisfil, where their family lives. Four goals are now in motion to enable success, and I believe it will happen, based on our conversation. This person is a powerhouse of passion and vision, wrapped in a pint-sized body.
That same evening I had a ticket to the Flat Tires Charity event, held at the Hard Rock Cafe. The place was packed out with people eager to support the 11 woman team of cyclists, all eager to raise money for the Ride to Conquer Cancer. The ride will take place June 12-13, 2010. The team travels from Toronto to Niagara Falls. In the coming months I hope to interview at least a few members of this dedicated team, but for now I can tell you how I fell upon the team. One of the members—who happened to be the MC at Friday’s event—was sitting beside me at my favourite spa one March morning. We were both getting our nails done (Trust me. This is my one girly indulgence.) She noticed my bike helmet on the counter. “Good weather for riding!” she had commented companionably. And we were off like the bride’s pyjamas, as they say.
Saturday astounds me. Wait until you hear. Last week, someone suggested I look into Charlie’s Freewheels. That’s all they said. When I went to the website, it gave a Delaware Avenue address and a contact email. Charlie’s Freewheels is a mentoring program devoted to matching kids in Regent Park with bike repair skills (teach a man to fish) and a bike (the full-course fish dinner). The program was initiated to leave a legacy to an inspiring young cyclist named Charles Prinsep (deceased). On Friday night, I got an email back from one of the founders suggesting I come by their Queen St E. shop on Saturday. I figured I’d be watching people fix bikes, but whatever. I was excited to see more of this wonderful initiative.
After visiting my beloved farmer’s market, I rode over to 242.5 Queen East with my apples, carrots, chocolate and sweet potato muffins in my backpack. The front window was empty but for this hand-painted sign:
Five eager young men and one woman were busy painting, building counters, organizing bike displays. Charlie’s Freewheels, which has been operating out of the Bike Pirates facility during off-hours, now has its own space. Charlie’s Bike Shop is a new not-for-profit operation, where all money made goes back into supporting Charlie’s Freewheels. When I shook hands with one of the young men he commented, “Christine Bruce. I know that name… ” which suggests that my name is getting out there. I don’t know how the RBC Bronwen Wallace Award is connected to Charlie’s Bike Shop. Zero degrees of separation, maybe?
Charlie’s Bike Shop is hosting an official Open House next Sunday, April 17.
And by the way, you want to meet Charlie, so go here: http://www.charliesfreewheels.ca/what-we-do
Just after noon, I found myself at Yonge and Davisville, interviewing another young man who was certain he had no interesting stories. He came to have a bike—his favourite, in fact—when he began working for Turnaround Couriers. He calls this the best courier company in the city. Turnaround Couriers gets kids out of shelters and into active and meaningful employment. On a bike. This young man can’t imagine doing anything else. As it turns out, he was good friends with Darcy Allan Sheppard. I was very moved by his gentle words and his ‘lack’ of interesting stories.
Finally (yeah, I know. cool week, eh?) I had the privilege of interviewing a young couple who have quite a collection of bikes. I met them because I joined the city’s Complaints Choir this winter: one sang in the tenor section with me, and the other was the choir director and song writer. When we set up the interview, one of them described it as a Bike Nerdfest, in which apparently they indulge on a regular basis. The other says bikes are like shoes, and that you choose your bike depending on your situation. For the most part though, they travel everywhere on Brompton folding bikes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNnOdoUn3kg). And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. You wouldn’t believe.
Or maybe after reading some of these stories, you will believe. After this week, I’ve become a total Bike Bunny.