So, my buddy, Dave, is a genius. People throw that word around a lot, so I thought I would, too. Because I must admit, Dave didn’t invent a new kind of stem cell or iPhone. He’s just a really smart a guy who can compose and act and write and refurbish computers and speak sign language. He blows my mind all the time, and this is genius enough for me. He’s a Brit, nearing 50, with wild tufts of hair and glasses, enlarging his curious, seeking eyes.
Today, Dave’s working for the Alberta Avenue Community League, part of a project to create a historic perspective of the neighbourhood. To this end, he’s trying to make friends with the Potestio family, owners of the Avenue’s most iconic pawn shop, Avenue Trading Post. And I’m tagging along.
Now me, and a lot of artsy types like me, have settled in the area these last years. We’re drawn here by the cheap but cute wartime houses and the promise of community. I bought one of those houses, but Dave being Dave, he lives in the ArtsHab co-operative, making that better too.
But today, he’s at the Avenue Trading Post, trying to ask the staff about some old photos he’s got. The last few times he came, nobody paid him much mind, but today is different. One staff member jabs at a picture of the corner of 118th Avenue and 92nd Street. “My dad had a jewellery store right there, by the Chinese place!” (It’s a Vietnamese place, but we let it go.)
Now, the water is chummed, and the others come by, too; Potestios, both Junior and Senior. Dave supplies old photos and they educate the newcomers.
Earlier, he interviewed a woman whose childhood house was torn down to make way for the Capilano Freeway (now Wayne Gretzky Drive). He wired her up for sound and they walked along the busy road until they stood right where the house used to be.
Watching Dave put in so much time into this particular project made me ask him why he does it. I know he already has a pile of work to get to. He says, “I like to find out about the place I’m living in. It makes me feel like I belong.”
Walking home, past the Avenue Trading Post, where I now knew the people a little, I realize Dave was right, the genius. Dave was right again.
Chris Craddock is an Edmonton-based writer/performer working in theatre, film and TV. He loves his wife and will soon be a dad! Come see him and all the crazies of Rapid Fire Theatre in their new home at the Citadel Theatre.