Once upon a time there was a city in western Quebec called Hull. It doesn’t exist anymore. It’s called Gatineau now and more’s the pity if you ask me, but no one ever does.
Once upon a time Amber Cloutier and I were within walking distance of each other, she working at a brasserie on Promenade du Portage, me living on Hotel de Ville within walking distance of the old Heritage Campus on Rue Champlain which was itself a stone’s throw from Le Trou du Diable where more was done that is forgotten than remembered.
Once upon a time my roommate Wade and I would go dumpster diving at the Steinberg at Promenade du Portage. This was decades before dumpster diving was cool, but it helped us put food on the table. Most of the restaurants and the bakery in Promenade du Portage at the time were family owned and it was possible to mooch a bite to eat here and there too. Steinberg eventually got wise to the dumpster diving and locked the dumpsters overnight. The security guard apologized for it. Steinberg doesn’t exist anymore, I do.
Once upon a time of a Friday or Saturday night the roomie and I would have people over and guitars would be brought and we would tell lies, sing songs and drink more than was strictly healthy.
Once upon a time there was Michael Cormier, Gerry Girouard, Orin Schwartz and myself and we called ourselves The Hull Group content in the knowledge that we would become lions of the arts. We were great, we were giants astride in the National Capitol Region and we were anonymous.
We loved Michael, or maybe only I did and just remember the others loving him too. He was everything I wanted to be, he was confident, tall, handsome, had the gift of the gab and most of all he was a talented poet.
Gerry was the best of us. He was smarter, but didn’t talk as quick. He thought out his answers which sometimes made it seems like he was miles behind the conversation because we at the surface were more concerned with the splash than how deep the river was running. He was/is a better writer than any of us were or are.
Orin was a good guitar player, had an encyclopedic memory for songs and could write a good story. He was always curious about what other people were doing, why people were doing the things they were doing and had a level of empathy that he hid under bravado laid on so thick only a young man would accept it at face value.
Gerry changed his name, writes for a living and I’ve “run in to” him on LinkedIn. I’ve no idea where Michael and Orin are. I heard Orin did some reporting for a while then became a bus driver – I’m sure there is a story in there somewhere. Michael I’ve lost all track of, but once in a while I remember a line from one of his poems and it always brings a smile to my face
“As sea is all of the wave and the wave is all of the sea
So I am part of the earth and the earth is part of me.” – Michael Cormier
I think he wrote that in 1982 or there about.
In the end we did what most people did in the old days before the Internet. We got on with our lives and disappeared in to the relative anonymity of daily life. There’s a beauty and grace to that and somewhere out there, there are new giants astride the earth and I hope they will remember their group as fondly as I remember mine.