About a year ago, Stuart McLean was diagnosed with melanoma.
For those of you who don’t know what melanoma is, it’s a type of skin cancer, and for those of you who don’t know who Stuart McLean is … well, I’m a little upset with you, but I’ll tell you anyway.
McLean started out by making radio documentaries back in the late 1970s and early 80s for the CBC program Sunday Morning, eventually becoming the show’s executive producer. He then became a frequent guest and sometimes-host of Morningside with Peter Gzowski.
Then, on one fateful day in 1994, McLean aired a show he’d written and produced as a summer replacement for the CBC called The Vinyl Cafe. Within a couple of years the show was being broadcast nationwide every Sunday at Noon. And it’s been going on the air weekly ever since. Which is astonishing, considering The Vinyl Cafe is basically just McLean telling stories he’s made up about the day-to-day life a regular, everyday guy named Dave who owns a little record store, his wife, Morley, and their two kids, Sam and Stephanie.
Well, I shouldn’t say it’s astonishing, because anyone who has listened to him will surely agree that McLean is an absolutely gripping storyteller, and his writing of these characters and their exploits is brilliant – so much so that not once, not twice, but thrice, McLean’s collections of these stories, turned into books, have won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour – the top prize given out in Canada for humour writing. What makes McLean’s stories so good is that they are just about the regular, everyday life of a regular, everyday dude.
Dave could be any of us.
Sure, he makes some questionable decisions with hilarious consequences, but, when you think about it, we all do that, sometimes.
We could all be the guy who tries to surprise his wife with a gift she’ll love by smuggling a clipping of an exotic herb home at the end of our vacation because she said she loved the smell of it, only to have it take over our backyard – and the neighbour’s, and the other neighbour’s – because we didn’t look into whether it was an invasive species with a root structure the likes of which we’d never seen.
And we could all be the guy who has an odd but loving friendship with the Asian immigrant who runs the restaurant up the street – and who gives as much as he gets in our ongoing prank war.
And we could all be Morley, who, despite – and probably in part because of – our husband’s bumbling nature at times, loves him just the way he is.
There haven’t been any new Dave and Morley stories for a while, but I’ve been perfectly happy to listen to the old ones when they air. As of January, however, I won’t be able to do that. McLean announced this week that it’s not fair to take airtime away from people making new content just to keep running his old stories, told on a stage years ago in front of an audience on one of his cross-country tours. After all, he was given a chance to make something as a gap-filler once. Now he’s giving someone else a turn to try. Anyway, I guess this is just my little “Thank-you” to Stuart McLean for the years of laughter by myself in my car.
Sometimes I really needed it.
And maybe…hopefully…as McLean says in his announcement this week, “this isn’t goodbye. It’s just … so long for now.”