Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I met Jordan that first day in the café. She told me that I reminded her of her friend Stephanie, who is a chef and now lives out of town, but happened to be visiting. Jordan wanted us to meet, we seemed so alike, but it unfortunately didn’t end up happening (“You’d really like her, she’s also really down to earth and friendly and caring and open and positive”…I was quite flattered that I reminded her of someone that sounds so lovely, especially after sharing such a short conversation). Jordan seemed happy to lend me a pair of shoes. She said she would bring by her converse sneakers so that I could pick them up from Matthew. So that’s what I did.

Jordan told me briefly about her shoes—that she got them in Toronto, when she was 19, I think. It sounded like they marked a pretty exciting time for her. It also seems that she's enjoyed them--they have little holes and tears hiding all over.

I was quite drawn to the colour of Jordan’s shoes…a kind of mustard yellow-gold, I guess. I don’t think I’ve worn shoes quite that colour before. It was like having autumn on my feet.

Although Jordan’s shoes were large for me, they still managed to just about disappear under my jeans (which get wide at the bottom). I experimented with rolling my pants up so that I could see them there, which helped me remember that I wasn’t wearing my own shoes. Other things helped me remember as well were: the fact that I could feel the ground through the thin soles—whatever things I happened to step on would poke through—and the way they kind of flopped as I walked.

My sister Katie had a day off of work. We had decided to go on a mini adventure. Weeks ago I told her I had come across the website for the PEI Potato Museum, and she was dead set on going. I have to admit that I was pretty curious myself. The promise of the giant potato sculpture in the parking lot was the cincher for me.
(By the way, did you know that it's the International Year of the Potato? Hmmm...I'm actually about to go to the community garden to hill mine.)

We had already been to Brackley Beach a couple of days before, and although I really wanted to see Cavendish, we decided to include just the museum on our road trip, with a quick stop in Summerside if we had the time.

In the car ride, I stitched up Matthew and Michael’s shoes with white thread. We mostly drove by fields (so green! so red!), as well as some interesting roadside signs, and a couple of awesome looking diners. We finally came to the big potato in O’Leary PEI, and pulled in the parking lot. We were the only visitors.

The museum was really quite large, and included a local history component (where we saw an iron lung, various severe-looking medical tools, and a cast iron stove manufactured in Sackville, NB…earlier in my travels I had actually come across old crates outside where the stoves used to be made ). Highlights from the potato exhibit included pictures of all the ways potatoes can be served, and (my favourite) a row of miniature coffins containing faux diseased potatoes, illustrating the many and varied ways that a potato might become unfit for human consumption. Oh yes, and a Stompin' Tom record.

After being inside without daylight for so long, Katie and I enjoyed roaming through the buildings outside (an old church, a one room school house, an old telephone switchboard…). Katie’s very favourite was the wooden train climbing structure. We played on that for awhile, and then we went on the swings.

We eventually made our way back to the car and drove to Summerside. It was quite overcast, and it eventually began to rain. Katie and I walked a bit, and spent some time in the Pro Hardware, which was definitely not your average hardware store. It was like a cross between Action Surplus, Home Hardware and Stedmans. Most things in there seemed like there were from a different era (or universe), and there was a lot of dust. I couldn’t get over the post cards and sunglasses and bizarre touristy trinkets. There were even these super strange monk dolls whose erect penises would emerge from their robes when their arms were squeezed (just sitting by the teapots, below the postcard rack, near the glued together seashell puppy dogs). I’m telling you, monk dolls aside, this place is just a million art projects waiting to happen.
Katie, by the way, was absolutely mortified. The monks offended her sensibilities.

(There were actually a whole variety of the emerging penis dolls, but I can’t for the life of me remember what the other characters were. Maybe if you are reading this, and you are near the Summerside Pro Hardware, you can let me know. And maybe also tell me what your favourite thing in that store is. There is so much to choose from.)

Maybe it was because our Summerside excursion began with an investigation of the Pro Hardware, or ended with passing by the used bookstore that had “Cooking with The Young and the Restless” in the window, but the town seemed to have a strange feeling about it. Katie and stopped in a little café. She bought an orange soda mostly to humour me.

When I arrived in PEI, they were just in the process of phasing out their policy on carbonated beverages. Having to be conscious about waste as an island, all carbonated beverages until very recently were sold in glass bottles, which are sold with a deposit, and collected to be re-filled. Pop cans are now allowed on the island, and the bottles are being phased out. Folks worry about what this will mean for the bottling industry and local soda manufacturer. I worry about where government’s head is in making this decision just as so many other governments are waking up to the reality of needing to seriously reconsider our habits around waste, and the environment.

I won’t launch into a rant.
Katie and I sat and shared her locally made orange soda, which was very very orange. I was proud of myself because I haven’t eaten or drank anything so unnaturally colourful for a really really long time. I was heartened by the presence of orange pulp at the bottom. And, I must say, it was pretty yummy.

We headed back to Charlottetown and made a brief stop to say hello to Matthew. I wanted to pass the shoes by him, and see if he’d like me to add some embroidery floss to them. He liked that idea, and told me some of Michael’s favourite colours.

Katie and I had dinner and watched Juno. I hadn’t seen the film, but was already in love with the soundtrack. I stiched up Matthew and Michael’s shoes all colourful, and sang along to the parts I knew.

Jordan’s shoes are thin-soled and floppy. I enjoyed wearing them on my little excursion. I feel like they let me take in things that I wouldn’t have otherwise: the precise feeling of the grass outside the potato museum, the pebbles by the swings, concrete, pavement, wood, carpet, tile. It was interesting how they at once blended into my day (and my jeans), and yet were also such an essential part of it. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to separate the giant potato sculpture and orange soda in a glass bottle from the colour of Jordan’s shoes. They may mean, “Toronto, age 19” to her, but they are forever caught up with PEI, giant potatoes, and unexpected friendship for me.

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