Gastowners – Bucky
The Gastown haunt – a place where no one knows your name – that would be “a hidden gem” according to Bucky. “The fact that you can be anonymous there and nobody cares. They take you at face value and you’re either accepted or you’re unaccepted based on who you are as opposed to what you are.”
Bucky can speak from experience. Bucky has spent the last 17 years behind the bar at the Irish Heather with only a handful of people knowing his real name. Now he is off in search of a new adventure.
I was sad to see him leave and curious about where his new road was taking him. I was excited to hear it was a creative place.
“I’ve got a book that I’d like to finish,” he said. “I would like to do something that was a little more financially beneficial with my art – interior design, photo finishing, working in film, something like that. I have some personal projects as well. I’ve done murals before… I want to do something to refer and draw attention to where I grew up and how I grew up.”
I took the opportunity to find out where that was and how he arrived in Gastown. “Belfast,” he said. Then he summed up the second question in classic Bucky fashion. “My job came to an end, divorce, house sale, redundancy,” he said and nodded, seemingly content with his answer. I laughed and ordered another round, determined to draw a bit more out of him.
He explained that he worked in telecommunications in Ireland, and that his deciding to leave may have been a factor in his company eventually shutting down the department he worked in. “They had to do something drastic because there were only three of us doing the job,” he explained. “One died, I moved away and left everything with this one poor bugger.
“That’s why you can’t make a phone call in Northern Ireland,” he said, smirking.
In the end it was redundancy, and fear of it, that chased him from the only home he ever knew. A friend had moved to Vancouver, and he urged Bucky to take his newfound freedom and do the same. “He was just trying to get me out of the country and I had no option other than to agree with him,” he confessed. His friend’s plan was a success and what was originally intended as a visit resulted in relocation.
“I found an apartment for $400.00 a month; it seemed like a great deal at the time,” he said, laughing at the memory. “My friends introduced me to Sean (Heather) before the Heather opened and I told him that I had a lot of bar experience, which technically was true. It was just the wrong side of the bar… but that didn’t seem to matter at the time.”
Although things seemed to be going in Bucky’s favour, they were about to get serendipitous, “I was working on a little set decorating job and I met this guy from Dublin,” he said. “He and I hit it off straight away with a mutual love for the black stuff. When I went to do my interview for Sean, my new friend opened the door and said, ‘we’ve both got the job’. So we were in from there and neither of us had poured a pint before.”
Bucky began to tell me stories of the Irish Heather in the good old days. “At the time the Heather was unique because it was filled with accents. You only appreciated it when you left the building and remembered you were in a different country. When you left it sounded like everyone outside was talking funny. “
I asked him what Gastown was like at the time. He grimaced a little and said bemusedly: “We were well aware that there were such things as rules, but it didn’t seem to matter. It was the Wild West back then. Carrall Street was pretty much the front lines. It was still a bit of a spectacle. On a Friday night you’d see people being put through windows and there’d be fights in the street. The usual.”
We laughed for a while at “Gastown after dark” stories but slowly our conversation drifted back to art. Knowing Bucky primarily as a portrait artist, I asked what drove him in that direction.
“I enjoy portraits because it’s my way of saying a thank you,” he said. “When I do a little caricature and stuff like that because I know a person and I have a great deal of affection for them, it’s my way of saying thanks for sharing your time with me. I do it with the best of intentions but it always has a little dig or two in it. It has to for it to a caricature. You have to have fun doing it for one thing, and you have to embarrass the person that you’re giving it to, otherwise there’s no point. You know, a little bit of humiliation goes a long way I think. Bruises fade over time. But your caricature over your toilet will stay with you forever and ever. That’s the best place for a caricature.”
I asked him what of all of the mediums he is working with does he do best? A slightly smug, slightly sly smile crossed his face, and he chuckled as he said, “What is it that I do best? I’ve yet to discover what I do best.”
By Dani Kremeniuk
Photos by Aaron Aubrey