Christmas Eve on Key Largo (2022)

Throughout his nearly 80-year-long artistic lifetime, (Jonas) Mekas embraced the diaristic form, arguably more than any other through cameras, sound devices, and written journals, while maintaining a radical dedication to elevating the personal and poetic aspects of daily life, always seeking to capture the essence of the moment. Mekas recorded what was happening in front of him in the present, the here and now. With an emphasis on that which is typically regarded as the small and insignificant, he was unwaveringly committed to sharing “fragments of paradise on Earth.”

Elle Burchill, Microscope Gallery, New York, NY

At Christmastime there are boundless images and sentiments which succeed to overtake; viz., Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” (1843), Santa Claus, midnight mass, turkey and plum pudding, wreaths and ornaments, sleigh bells and wintry scenes, Christmas trees and Jacquie Lawson electronic Christmas cards, to name but a few.

While pondering today how I might recognize the festive day of Christmas Eve on Key Largo, an odd set of circumstances and near epiphanies unfolded. Certainly one of the central themes of Christmas is communication of well-being between one another.  I had already conjoined my historic Yuletide writings and shared them so I felt there was little I could do to enlarge that library.

I conducted my ritual tricycle exercise about the neighbourhood after breakfast this morning. Not only was I politely asked to remove myself from the townhouse while more profitable undertakings were pursued in my absence, but also was I favourably disposed to get a breath of what was assured to be fresh air on this unusually frigid morning. The forecast was for a strong north wind and a composing temperature of 57°F.

It is sous entendu that what emerges in our daily lives is the product of ingredients; that is, the power of association and the ineluctable serendipity of life.  These combine to evolve a sometimes dramatic sequel.  So it was today. Once again, by chance the map of my being blossomed in a way I had not predicted. Granted much of the upshot was a legacy of my own doing but there was by any measure also the unforeseen influence of others.

To speak (as I am taught) from the general to the specific, permit me to begin this record of events and experiences by relating that ever since I began to record my thoughts on a compulsory daily basis on a public platform (which is to say, on my personal website and by what is generally called a blog), I have found myself increasingly obliged to confine my intellectual curiosity to what is before my eyes. I suspect this reflects the obstruction of more arduous abstract thinking. This in addition means that my focus is devoted to what I characterize as immediacy; that is, current, lively, subsisting matters.  Obviously this limitation (for indeed that is what it is) ensures preoccupation with either intuitive or recent indicia (a term I use broadly to encompass people, events and things). I have often privately chastised myself for having such a narrow scope; but I confess my comparative inability to capture much depth in what transpires beyond that particular sphere such as are the sublime rings encircling the planet Saturn. I further excuse this constraint by arguing that by inexpressible standard I am capable of relating more about the present than the past.

Picture then my delight upon reading the preamble from Microscope Gallery (noted above) that, “Mekas recorded what was happening in front of him in the present, the here and now.” Here was a sufficiency by which to expiate my former disfavour! Importantly I must interject by way of added redress that my acquaintance with the gallery in New York City arose only recently and fortuitously from a contact with a woman who – by further chance – spells her usual full name identically to my usual first three names (lgwilliam). It was for this reason that she received (from my friend Karen) by misadventure an email meant for me (; and, it was thereafter I connected with her to thank her for notifying my correspondent Karen of the error. Subsequently I learned that the woman was an artist from New York City and from that additional intelligence the gallery connection ensued.

That, dear Reader, constitutes my primary general assertion; namely, emphasis upon the present or what is sometimes dismissed as the “small and insignificant”, what Mekas called the “fragments of paradise on Earth”. I think you’ll agree that the insight afforded by that purely unrelated erroneous email is alone enough to qualify as magical.

But now, onto the secondary assertion of particulars! This segment consists of two parts; the infinite and the finite. Both derive from the following email I received only two days ago from my said friend Karen regarding the publication of a short story entitled “The Red Panda”.

What a charming teddy bear story! Nick would love that the clock shop owner’s name is Schomberg!!!

Merry Christmas again!

The infinite:

The immeasurable aspect of this record is that which pertains to human nature. While I was naturally pleased to read that Karen had enjoyed my teddy bear story, it was her mention of her brother Nick which attracted my priority. Nick and I had been friends at boarding school at St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ontario over 50 years ago.  We shared several mutual friendships, fraternity which had swept us about the globe from dining with family in Thornhill, Ontario to skiing in Stowe, Vermont to swimming in Kingston, Jamaica. Admittedly apart from the epicurean encounters our friendship was not visibly far beyond. Nonetheless by having preserved (or in the past decade having revitalized) my friendship with his sister Karen I felt the now tenuous connection with Nick was still sustainable. This may or may not be true.  In this instance I voiced my opinion to Karen that I regretted the lapse of my friendship with her brother.  When she offered to discuss the matter with her brother I energized my examination of the matter and concluded there was no point in doing so, adding to her that I would enact my own agenda of diplomacy if desired.  More significantly I have concluded that, as is so often said, there is a time and place for everything; and, to add to the complication, there has been a great deal that has happened in the lives of both Nick and me in the past half-century, some of it indisputably dramatic and even catastrophic. Parenthetically allow me to add that one of the singular moments of our lives was the recent death of David about whom Karen had initially sent the mistaken email mentioned above to the New York artist.  David was from Kingston, Jamaica where he, Nick, I and others had travelled together years before.

In any event, to tie up this detail with the overall theme of the entry (namely, dwell upon the present not the past), I have concluded that the proper course is to do precisely that. Which brings me to the next segment of this discussion of the secondary assertion of particulars.

The finite:

The measurable aspect of this record is that which pertains to matters far less esoteric than human nature. Once again the stimulation arises from Karen’s email noted above, in particular her reference to Schomberg. To clarify, in my Red Panda story I had written, “He (the teddy bear) ‘lived’ in the Village clock shoppe of Mr. Dilwert Schomberg…”.  In retrospect I have no idea why I chose the name Schomberg when I wrote the story many years ago.  What amused me today was why Karen had suggested her brother Nick would be amused by the name. Without making further enquiry about that exact question, I instead conducted a brief on-line search of the name Schomberg and this is what I found:

Now before I begin to dissect this information, I want to acknowledge that I may be making a great deal more of this than is merited.  However, I have to say that upon reading this result of my search – which, pointedly, I conducted from here on Key Largo (not on home territory in Ontario)  and which was the first and only result of my simple search of Schomberg – I was astounded by what to me was the vitality of personal relationship deriving from the search result.

To begin, King, Ontario is a locale which, when I was 15 years old attending St. Andrew’s College in Aurora, Ontario was virtually unheard of.  King (which is the correct municipal name) was frequently mis-described as King City.  In either event King was at the time of my youth a distant (30 miles) suburb of Toronto.  King was also on the path to St. Andrew’s College from Thornhill, Ontario (north of Toronto) where Nick, his sister Karen and their parents (Dr. and Mrs. Frank Glassow of Shouldice Hospital fame) lived at the time. Significantly for me however King was the home of Gage Hayward Love:

He was president of the W.J. Gage Company, publisher of that great bestseller, Dick and Jane. When he took over the company, it was a small shop on Spadina Avenue. When he left, the company had moved to Scarborough and was one of Canada’s most important printers and publishers. The company recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. He was a chairman of The Toronto Board of Trade and of the Board of St. Andrew’s College. Gage was a relentless and passionate philanthropist. He served as chair of The Gage Research Institute, The Ina Grafton Gage Home, Pollution Probe and West Park Hospital. He served on the board of The Boy Scouts, King City United Church, National Sanitarium Association, The Ontario Heart and Stroke Foundation, Toronto Community Foundation, United Way of Greater Toronto and York Central Hospital. He supported a great many other community organizations and charitable causes.The funeral service will be held at Timothy Eaton Memorial Church, 230 St. Clair Avenue West on Tuesday, September 9 at 11 am. Betty and Gage were married in this church 62 years ago.

For inexplicable reasons I developed an acquaintance with Gage H. Love both at St. Andrew’s College and subsequently when I was a fund raiser for a Christian theatre company called “Creation 2” in Toronto.

Original Toronto Star caption: Toronto’s theatre community gets perplexed whenever the names of Louis Capson (left) and Gary Reeves (right) are mentioned. Their Creation 2 troupe has an insatiable urge to turn the established theatre on its head; says Star staff writer Gina Mallet. Capson’s latest work; Night Sword; opens tomorrow night for a week’s run at the St. Lawrence Centre. The production has been wrought from a Toronto murder trial.

Gage H. Love was my first source of philanthropy. Subsequently I tackled St. Paul’s Anglican Church of Canada on Bloor St. E. in Toronto. The Bishop proved equally generous.  It was at St. Paul’s Cathedral that St. Andrew’s College conducted its annual cadet parade complete with kilt and pipe band and drums.

The Schomberg reference, in addition to noting the name of Aurora where St. Andrew’s College was located, mentioned nearby Newmarket, the home of Sir William Mulock and the ancestor of Bill Mulock who each day was driven by the family chauffeur to school. Sir William is perhaps best known as Postmaster General of Canada (1896 – 1905).

Sir William Mulock PC, PC (Can), KCMG, QC (January 19, 1843 – October 1, 1944) was a Canadian lawyer, businessman, educator, farmer, politician, judge, and philanthropist. He served as vice-chancellor of the University of Toronto from 1881 to 1900, negotiating the federation of denominational colleges and professional schools into a modern university.

My classmate Bill Mulock memorably hosted a “breakfast party” following our first St. Andrew’s College annual cadet ball. The aforementioned Schomberg search also referenced Barrie, Ontario whence derived George Dangerfield (another colleague); and Fraser MacTavish from Orangeville, Ontario.

Well, that about completes the unanticipated familiarity of the Schomberg reference from which I can derive any possible significance to my former classmate. I realize this constitutes an unusual Christmas Eve account but it was more apparent to me than any other.