I know the man’s voice with its lecture hall delivery and resonance. His white hair, with a hint of wild to it. His jutting lower jaw. Here in PEI, nearly the other side of the country the odds of running into an acquaintance should be slim. Yet, despite probability forcing doubt on recollection, I know this man.
The lobby of the Great George in Charlottetown, PEI at breakfast is a deftly executed bit of social engineering. You eat off tray-tables set in front chairs arranged into conversational spaces though out the lobby. Yes, you could avoid conversation with your fellow travelers, but the act of eating while facing another person or couple near demands conversation.
Perhaps the owners of the Great George learned a subtle lesson from the architects of Canada. In September of 1864, just down the street from where our breakfast conversation frets over the state of the country, a meeting was planned between the representatives of the Maritime colonies Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island to discuss a union. This was the Charlottetown conference, and each evening, but for one, there was a banquet and party held after the evening’s meal. A building of social ties over food and drink allowing the refinement of the Confederation of Canada.
The woman replies that she is a librarian, and her husband a teacher. For me a light goes off, but the conversation flows onwards. Eventually I circle back, “What did you teach?”
I’ve come across the country, only to find a part of my personal history. It all snaps to, this is Professor Mason Harris, a man whose classes I fought to take. With oratory flair and dramatic delivery Professor Harris made English literature live. In the most hackneyed phrase you’d say he breathed life into literature, but that doesn’t fit, instead Professor Harris scraped back time to reveal the pulsating passion and truth coursing still at the heart of the books we studied.
“I took your courses.” Then I say the dumbest thing you can say to a former teacher, “I write in large part thanks to you.”
It’s true though Mason Harris never taught me the particulars of creative writing or the details of journalism, but he demonstrated that truth and passion could create something timeless in a story. That is something to aspire to, even if it is never achieved.
Charlottetown is a place of aspirations, and you can’t get much bigger than the creation of a country.
There likely was need for those bonds formed over food and drink. In a distinctly un-Canadian move, delegates from the Province of Canada invited themselves to the Charlottetown Conference, steaming into town aboard the SS Victoria and pushing for a union that would include them. Apparently the assumption of politeness being at the core of the Canadian psyche did not yet apply.
Riding through PEI, confederation is huge part of the island Province’s identity; Confederation Bridge, Confederation Centre of the Arts, Confederation Court Mall, Confederation Trail… the list is long and growing. Ironic given that PEI chose not to join in the original confederation on July 1st, 1867, instead holding out until 1873.
Saving you from feeling being confederated to death, the pain of all the Anne of Green Gables tat distracts you. Branding wise the impetuous redhead puts the entire confederation shtick to same. You name it, it’s done up in green with a redhead on it. Would you like Anne with that Sir?
No thanks. Skipping Anne’s Land, the Multistrada and I thunder through our variant of the Points East Coastal Drive periodically running parallel the actual rout and sweeping around the eastern end of the island. The ride is one and PEI is offering up interesting roads as well as views.
PEI for a motorcycle tourist is the most easily consumable province available. Base yourself in Charlottetown and you can ditch the luggage and loop trip the entire province handily in two days (ok, the iron butts amongst you in one) but why hurry? There are nooks-and-crannies aplenty to explore. The roads overall are in good condition, and offer a range from gentle and flowing to downright invigoration. Mind the corners though, the Island is still largely agrarian and transiting tractors tend to leave gravel and red earth behind.
I defy you to not find a picturesque corner of PEI for yourself. The place abounds with verdant fields, stunning shorelines, vivid red earth, meadows, covered bridges, artfully aged barns, golden crops, sun dappled roadways, through to open spaces and wind-farms. Toss a toddler a camera and one out of three pictures will be frame-able.
“My child’s a genius!”
Oh, you’ve been to PEI?