Thursday, July 20, 2006


As if American Idol and Canadian Idol were not enough, last night I caught the tail end of Saint John Idol. Live, no less.

Thousands of people packed the boardwalk area just outside of Market Square. The restaurants, all of which have outdoor seating areas, were doing a land-office business. And the weather, which can be notoriously cool, drizzly, and foggy here with no provocation or warning whatsoever, actually cooperated. It was a perfect evening, comfortably cool, the kind that follows a beautiful warm day when the planets are properly aligned. Shirtsleeve weather with a deep Prussian blue sky that stayed light until nearly 10 p.m.

Earlier, I had met up with my blogniece Lisa for an alfresco dinner at Billy’s, a seafood restaurant hard by the City Market. We ordered the planked salmon. Billy’s – and, for that matter, most restaurants hereabouts – do planked salmon up a little differently from the way I do in the Kitchens d’Elisson. Here, the fish is coated in a sauce of ginger, thyme, and maple syrup before being laid on the cedar plank; at home, I use a dry rub. No matter: it was superb.

The waiter and I recognized each other from a meal I had had two months ago at the Asian Palace. A young man with a sardonic sense of humor and an engaging personality – and a Newfie accent to boot – he had recommended Billy’s to me back then. Good call.

For those who don’t already know, Lisa is planning to attend this year’s Southeast Writer’s Conference, Tea Party, and Ice Cream Social in Helen, Georgia. Brave soul, she is, and barring some sort of completely bizarre Surprise Attendee, she will win the Distance Traveled award hands down. Sooper Seekrit Survival Tip (H/T Zonker): That Chatham Artillery Punch? The happy stuff that tastes like the bastard child of a union between Hawaiian Punch and Long Island Iced Tea, with a dash of Hurricane thrown in? Do not be misled by its mild, fruity taste. It is capable of doing some serious damage. Two words: Pace. Yourself.

After Lisa and I parted ways, I headed down King Street to Market Square. I knew that a group of my Corporate Salt Mine colleagues would be there, holding down a table amidst the surging mob. I wound my way through a sea of people and located my Corpo-Peeps, grabbing a few minutes of digital movies along the way.

The deal: The people in this local version of Canadian Idol are competing for – hell, I have no idea what, except I know there’s a trip to Brazil involved for the winner. I got there late enough to have missed all but the last three performers, of whom the first one was so-so, the second was not quite good enough to be so-so, and the third was excellent. And they had judges, just like the Real Thing.

Whatever. It was mildly entertaining. But what entertained me far more than the Performer Wanna-Bes on stage was the crowd, a milling throng of happy people of all ages, out having a good time, and mostly well-behaved. Local folks on a beautiful summer evening at the shores of the Bay of Fundy. And I felt right at home.

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