Last night I had dreams that while I was sitting in a classroom at school, a group of boys were beating up a kid in a wheelchair with sticks. In the dream I went outside and scruffy kids were sitting all over a courtyard, waiting for the cops. A Mr. Raditch-type of principal character was walking through the crowd saying “They’re all trying to figure out how to beat the charges.”
Not too hard to figure out where such a mental scene could have come from: I attended my first Shebeen Club event last night, the theme of which was “My Life in Crime”.
The main speaker was Jeremy Hainsworth, a crime reporter. He spoke very well despite his self-confessed nervousness about public speaking and his computer battery dying only a few minutes into the talk. He talked about his experiences at several gruesome crime scenes, including his first one where several young boys had kicked a homeless man to death.
Robert “Willy” Pickton, the pig farmer and accused serial killer was a topic of discussion that was returned to throughout the evening. Specific details about the case could not be discussed because of the publication ban (Jeremy brought the official writ of the ban for show and tell). However, we could all feel the irony of the situation when Jeremy described being dressed down by the judge for allegedly violating the ban early on in the preliminary hearings while Pickton himself sat a few feet away, smirking. Jeremy will be covering the trial, on the condition that his employer pay for his psychiatric bills. Shebeen Club organizer Lorraine Murphy also shared an anecdote about meeting Pickton many years ago at an event in Gastown, and being asked out by the man! I forget the exact words she used to describe him, but said that he was very weird even back then and had a most peculiar smell about him – like “rotting steel.” According to Lorraine, back in the middle ages, the metallic smell was associated with demonic possession. Today, it is said, some schizophrenics and many serial killers (Ted Bundy’s name came up) carry such an odor.
The lecture turned into a engaging panel discussion as attendees John Daly, Global TV crime reporter, and Darlene (last name?), a former sitting Justice of the Peace contributed their stories ans asked questions. Darlene’s story about the time she was asked to help scare an eight-year-old boy straight was poignant and rounded off the evening nicely. A single father had come to her and asked for her help because his boy was stealing things every day. Fighting all her “maternal instincts” to look tough, she took the child down to an isolated area of the jail cells for a talk about crime and punishment. As it turned out, the child was stealing things for other kids to avoid getting beat up at school. She took the child back to his father, told the father to straighten out the situation, and told the boy how to contact her if he ran afoul of the bullies again. She said it made her happy that she never heard from the boy again.
After the talk several people lingered over bloody marys (the theme drink of the evening was very, very tasty – love the pickled beans) and whiskies (the Shebeen is known for its selection of Whisky and Scotch) to talk crime and crime novels. I went not knowing anyone, except for Print Futures classmate and recent alum, Millie. The people I sat with were super-friendly and talkative and I would love to run into them again at the next installment!
I had it in my mind somehow that there would be dessert (blood orange tart?), because my lamb carpaccio wasn’t terribly filling, although it was tasty. Apparently, chef Sean Heather was unable to make blood pudding a reality. All in all, the friendly vibe, themed drinks and good stories make me want to return for another round at the Shebeen.