Stuart McLean is an extraordinary storyteller. He’s a writer too, I suppose, but I’d never read one of his stories. I’d only heard him tell them. On the radio. On his weekly CBC radio program called The Vinyl Cafe.
McLean delights in telling stories about his friend Dave and wife Morley and their kids, a prepubescent boy and a teenage girl. Dave runs the Vinyl Cafe, a used record store whose motto is “we’re not big, but we’re small”. Most of the audience at the Savoy that night were familiar with cafe and the stories of Dave and Morley’s life, but there were a few there who weren’t, and one of them was sitting two seats away from me. For their benefit he gave a bit of background based on the question, which our row-mate had wondered practically verbatim earlier, “where am I and what am I doing here?”
The answer was evident as McLean put on his glasses (and took them off and put them on top of his head and put them back on his face and held them in his hand again) and started to share the intimate details of his friend Dave’s life.
It being so close to Christmas, he told us about the time Dave, after having a few beers, got his tongue stuck to the television antenna while on his roof putting up the Christmas lights and about Morley’s recent experience directing the school pageant. He told us about the time Dave’s daughter went to summer camp and mistakenly put a letter to her best friend in an envelope addressed to her father and shared a touching account of soldiers in the First World War spent one Christmas.
Between stories, he sat in a big comfortable looking chair while J.P. Cormier, Hilda Chiasson-Cormier and Daniel Maillet entertained with songs and instrumental magic.
After the show, McLean signed copies of his latest book, Home from the Vinyl Cafe, which details the days between the Christmas Dave cooked the turkey and his misdeed at neighbour Polly Anderson’s Christmas party the following year.
McLean says he’d like to come back to tape a show at the Savoy. I hope he does.