New York City has five boroughs,. The Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn to help remind all tourists, that it is a very big city. Towns are smaller than cities, but that does not stop towns from trying to look big. The town of Oakville addressed this little inferiority complex by creating a village of their own. Bronte is a quaint little area at the far west end of their town, which helps the people of Oakville to believe in its New York City potential.
Bronte was founded in 1834 as a little fishing village at the mouth of the 12-mile creek. That creek eventually became Bronte Creek to eliminate the confusion of converting miles to kilometers. The root of the word Bronte comes from the Greek meaning Thunder. If the town of Oakville had just waited a century for the comic book craze to occur, this little village would have been named THOR. The Name Bronte is a tribute to British Navel hero Lord Horatio Nelson. King Ferdinand III of Sicily made Nelson the “Duke of Bronte” in the early 1800s. For you war history buffs, this was not the Archduke Ferdinand from Austria whose assassination led to the start of WWI. I point this out only to help those who keep blaming Bronte for World War I.
During my childhood in the other part of Oakville, teenagers only visited Bronte for two reasons. The first reason was to eat at Sir Pizza, which had the reputation of the best pizza in town battling vigorously with the more convenient Mother’s Pizza location. Second the Pig and Whistle served cheap beer, and were very loose on their “checking ID” policy. My twin brother took guitar lessons at Meredith Music in Bronte. My father would drive from Trafalgar Rd. to Lakeshore and Bronte every Tuesday for the 7:30 lesson.
This routine changed dramatically when my brother turned 16. Dad would now wait for his son at the Pig and Whistle, where he would consume cheap draught beer as he waited for his virtuoso son to complete his lesson. My brother Dan would then walk to the pub in rain, shine but most notably through blizzards to meet my dad and drive him home.
Fast forward to this week. My wife and I traveled to Thor, I mean Bronte, for a little night out. No Pig and Whistle, no Sir Pizza, but many more trendy restaurants now inhabit the Lakeshore Road \ Bronte Road vicinity. We sat outside on a patio to absorb the sounds of traffic, Bronte Creek waves and children begging for dessert before ordering the meal.
Alcohol has unique effects on its consumers. Some people become happy drunks. Some people become mean drunks. Some just fall asleep. I become arrogant. Now you may argue that this state of arrogance is my normal sober state, but I actually become even more obnoxious after a beer or five. I begin to claim to have done great things that I have never done. Climb Mount Everest, invented the internet, visited Australia or most annoyingly am a “retired astronaut”, just to keep the conversation going.
When playing the piano at the hospital, once in a while, and by once in a while I mean once, a patient approached the piano and asked if I play professionally? I smile and suggest that they get their hearing checked at the treatment room very close to the lobby where I play.
After the dinner my wife and I walked around Bronte. As we got to the end of the pier, I may have mentioned that I was in the navy and during the Napoleanoic wars, so I may have fought in the battle of Waterloo. Fortunately my wife was in no mood to fact check and graciously allowed me to continue telling my heroic stories that never happened. My wife has more patience than a walk in clinic on Saturday morning during flu season.
One thing led to another, which is a cliché I use to help move this story along. The one thing that led to another was I suggested to my wife we go Cucci restaurant and I play the piano in their piano bar. Well one thing led to another, and my wife drove me to the piano bar, but cleverly stayed in the car.
I stumbled into the restaurant and was greeted by the manager.
Manager: Can I help you?
Arrogant Me: Yes I was wondering how one auditions to play in your piano bar?
Manager: We are booked for the rest of the year.
Confused Arrogant Me: Oh, I see. But who is in charge of the selection of musicians?
Manager: I am.
Less Arrogant Me: Oh um, ah when do you audition people for next year?
Manager: Not sure but do you have a card?
More Arrogant me: Well can I audition right now?
Manager: Well we have the professional musician coming in thirty minutes…
Most Arrogant Me: No problem I will be quick…
It was early evening and understandably there was only one couple dining in the restaurant as I sat at the piano. I played a song and the manager didn’t stop me. I looked at the couple and asked them if there was any song they would like. The lady asked for a Beatle’s song and I complied. Then I asked the gentleman and he was a little more specific. “That’s Life” by Frank Sinatra. Well that was the song we played at the end of my dad’s funeral last year, as it perfectly describe his life. How fortunate for me that this was his request as I hit a new level of arrogance. I played that song and looked at the manager and asked is that enough? He said please play some more. I texted my wife and let her know that if she came in from the hot car, I would by her a drink. She did and I bought her a glass of water.
I played her favourite song as the alcohol and the arrogance slowly dissipated from my body. I sheepishly stopped playing. The manager called me over and suggested that since one of the “professional” musicians was on vacation in August, I could take his place. He booked me for August 20, 22, 27 and 29. This man was taking quite a risk though these were Monday and Wednesday nights, so I suppose this is just more of an audience audition. Let’s hope the hecklers show up on the weekends.
Our night in Bronte turned out to be an interesting evening. People who question my “amateur” status will undoubtedly confirm that assessment of my talent during the last two weeks of August, but I won’t. When August ends, if anyone ever asks me if I play piano professionally, my answer will now be “of course I do!”
Cue the Blong: I wrote Lakeshore Road as a cautionary note to remind all of the unique opportunity Oakville embraces with its downtown. Support your local shops.