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‘He was a classy dude, but he ate like a pirate’

I’ve been at the Toadstool for 11 years, and some mornings I wasn’t quite awake until I heard Bob McQuillen shriek, “Willard, pick up the goddamn phone!” We don’t open until 10 a.m., but Bob’s hours started a lot earlier, drinking coffee and shooting bull with the local morning folk.

He was playing a show at the Town Hall recently, and I was running around, shoring up last minute gaps, double- and triple-checking the evening’s details. I dropped in to check on the green room underneath the stage, and heard that familiar howl, both grave and twinkling. He was there, holding court with Will Kindler, JT Lawrence, Maryse Smith, and the fellas from Paper Castles, hollering, cussing, and carrying on like the strange priest he was. He had them all cracking up. He, cut from the teacher’s cloth, the firefighter, the tattooed sailor madman of the north. I asked him if he wanted anything, and he instructed me to go across the street and get him a ham and butter sandwich. I had never heard of such a thing in my life, but this was apparently a staple of Bob’s diet. I repeated the order to him with disbelief, and he patiently assured me that that was indeed all he wanted. He was a classy dude, but he ate like a pirate.

Eric Gagne lives in Peterborough.

Pure McQuillen. Thanks for the story

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