Polebridge, MT is at the end of a gnarly dirt road in a valley adjacent to Glacier National Park. Every so often, an old debate erupts again over whether to pave that road, but the paving proponents always lose. Oliver, the German-born owner of the North Fork Hostel, where I stayed last night in a one-room cabin called the Goat Chalet, told me the dirt road is so daunting that it tends to filter out all uninteresting people. Therefore, Polebridge remains impossibly small. Nearby the North Fork Hostel is the Polebridge Mercantile, a general store that’s developed a following in the area for its confections, including its huckleberry bear claws, and the Northern Lights Saloon, a bar and restaurant (pictured above) with picnic tables set out in front under a huge canopy tree. At the Northern Lights I ate seared trout made by the cook, Tater, whose chef’s hat, which towered above him like a small nuclear cloud, lent him a strange kind of dignity. Yesterday was Tater’s birthday—I judged that he might have been turning 25 or so—and friends of his, a country and western band from Knoxville, Tenn., drove up along that long dirt road in a great white school bus, and set up for an outdoor show under the Northern Lights tree. Tater had to continue cooking through much of the music, which made his friends taunt him. At 10 or so, though, the kitchen shut, and Tater, who is lanky and pale and wears his dark hair long, joined his pals. It was quite a party. When I got up this morning, at 8:30 or so, Tater was still going—he hadn’t gone to bed yet, I heard him tell someone—and by now he was standing with his buddy out in front of the Mercantile, and had switched from his chef’s toque, to a 10-gallon cowboy hat.
August and Russell Cobb eating tiramisu in the Painter House, part of the Leighton Artists’ Colony at the Banff Centre. Once owned by Glen Sather, former player and coach of the Edmonton Oilers, the Painter was transplanted from Buffalo Street, in the town of Banff, to the colony a few years ago. Russell, a transplant from Oklahoma, teaches Latin American studies at the University of Alberta, and has been working on a piece of non-fiction at the Banff Centre. His amazing story, Heretics, about a preacher in Tulsa who became the subject of controversy within the church when he rejected the notion of Hell, appeared on This American Life in 2005. It is hard to know who likes tiramisu better—Russell or his four-year-old son August. Like many people, August enjoys dancing to the Daft Punk tune Get Lucky; unlike many of his fellow enthusiasts, both adult and pre-school, August can pull it off.
July 29, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tagged August Cobb, Banff, Banff Centre, Buffalo Street, Daft Punk, Edmonton Oilers, Get Lucky, Glen Sather, Heretics, Leighton Artists' Colony, New York Rangers, Painter House, Russell Cobb, This American Life, University of Alberta
Last night, all of us in the literary journalism program read from the stories we’ve been working on here at the Banff Centre. I went last. One of my classmates speculated this was because organizers worried people might flee after hearing me. Ian Brown, the Globe and Mail writer who runs the program, spent a lot of time over drinks later impersonating me and the way I read in front of large crowds. Supposedly, when I said “suture,” my hands made sewing gestures. This photo courtesy Richard Johnson.
Measha Brueggergosman, the Canadian soprano, and Calvin Trillin, the New Yorker writer, having a drink at the Banff Centre. Earlier in the evening, as part of the Literary Journalism program here, Trillin did a reading—from pieces on Conrad Black and poutine, amongst other things—in front of an audience, which included Brueggergosman, who is a fan. Brueggergosman is to perform over the weekend. She and Trillin got along.
This is where I’ll be working during my stay at the Banff Centre over the next four weeks—a cabin in the woods that’s part of the Leighton Artists’ Colony. Joni Mitchell worked out of this space for a week or so a few years ago. Apparently she received few visitors, and spent most of her time shooting pool with the Banff Centre staff. I think a few of cigarettes got smoked here. Lots of wildlife walks by the cabin, which has a small deck, a kitchenette and this baby grand piano. I have to keep the doors shut when I play so I don’t bother my colleagues in the cabins through the trees. You can see my desk in the corner by the sliding doors.
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