I first noticed the painting while driving. It was October the fifteenth. I had never driven to Moose Jaw. And though I’ve called Saskatchewan home since second grade, I had not visited the city whose slogan rings, “The Friendly City!” This might be because I am somewhat of an anxious driver. Highway lines flashing with me behind the wheel is an idea I am notably uncomfortable with. Psychologically speaking, this is perhaps due to a severe car accident that took place while I was inexperienced on gravel roads.
Nevertheless, a trip to Moose Jaw was something I felt at ease with. There was someone who wanted to meet along Main St. – we wanted to meet one another.
I was driving down Highway 1, when the nerves struck. Illogical doubts dimmed my mood – worried as I realized that I was meeting a stranger. I suppose I had taken his photo in March. I photographed an event; he was painting a canvas – a quiet artist, but honest with his words. And six months later, he asked me to meet him for a beer. I said I’d come to him.
Following the sign’s instruction, I turned under the bridge and steered onto Caribou St. -- either side lined with mature elm trees. They almost looked regal, as they stood tall and firm, as they would reach. Standing guard. When the hulking elms cleared, they reviled raised train tracks coated with a character.
Now that I know it is there, it’s hard to miss.
I knew that the sleepy-looking figure on the front of the cement pillar – perhaps the most important pillar: it’s the first one, the one to take on the weight of wailing trains – was his. I could tell by the attention to detail; the focus on lines, there must be a hundred or more and those big dopey eyes. The faint green that outlined him was aura-like – it put me at ease. The way his goofy painted smile mirrors yours, and how his body drooped to the right, hinted that I was on the right course.
I met the artist, Spencer, while he lit a cigarette on Main St. that afternoon. He was tall and strikingly handsome. I wondered what he looked like while painting that pillar. Wondered if he had thought about what he was going create for a long time, or if the figure came to be as the paint scattered. Was it in the night?
Now when I hit Caribou St., I feel the anticipation building. I slow down as I roll under the tracks. Squinting to get a glimpse of the familiar face that I know will always smile back at me.