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Grant Lawrence, and the etiquette of a nude neighbourhood potluck

The North Shore author will present a night of storytelling and music May 6 at West Vancouver's Kay Meek Arts Centre.
Grant Lawrence credit Grant Harder 2 WEB
Grant Lawrence launches into a story at his family's Desolation Sound cabin. Lawrence will present a night of storytelling and music at West Vancouver's Kay Meek Arts Centre May 6.

What shouldn’t you wear to a nude potluck?

The answer to that question is painfully obvious now to North Shore raconteur Grant Lawrence, a musician, broadcaster, author, and beer league hockey goaltender who is set to host a night of storytelling and music at West Vancouver’s Kay Meek Arts Centre Friday, May 6.

“What not to wear to a nude potluck is, obviously, clothes,” he said with a laugh in an interview with the North Shore News Thursday. But the situation wasn’t nearly so clear, or funny, when the question first arose for the Lawrence family after they received an invite to a community potluck in the rugged Desolation Sound area where they had a cabin. Grant and his sister were both under the age of 10 at the time, and the whole family received a shock when they approached the party in the family boat.

“As we got closer and closer, we were like, ‘What are people wearing? Everyone looks kind of brown,’” said Lawrence. “And as we got closer, we realized that they weren’t wearing anything. Nobody was wearing clothes.”

The whole Lawrence family, meanwhile, was very much clothed. And they remained that way throughout the whole party.

“I was a major nerd and so I didn’t like summer,” said Lawrence. “I think I was wearing a turtleneck.”

What makes it a classic family story now, said Lawrence, is that it was the four clothed prudes from the North Shore, not the Desolation Sound naturalists, who were the oddballs in the whole nude potluck situation.

“If you're the only people clothed at a nudist party in the wilderness, it kind of felt as awkward as if you would be dropped naked onto Lonsdale Avenue,” said Lawrence. “It was bizarre – we were the ones who felt out of place. We just wouldn't – and I guess this is a bit of a pun – but we just wouldn't grin and bear it. We were too prudish, and just too embarrassed. And so we spent about 90 minutes at the party before my dad said, ‘OK, we're out of here.’ My sister was kind of shocked at all the dangling male members bouncing all over the place. That was basically the story of the nude potluck in a nutshell – and that might be a pun too.”

The nude potluck experience is one of the bedrock stories in Adventures in Solitude, Lawrence’s 2010 book featuring local stories from the Sunshine Coast. He’s back again with a follow-up, Return to Solitude, which features more strange but true tales of the Lawrence clan and the unusual characters they’ve encountered on their frequent excursions to Desolation Sound. The book's publication date is Saturday (April 30), which is also Independent Bookstore Day, and Lawrence will be holding a launch event from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at 32 Books in Edgemont Village that afternoon.

Return to Solitude navigates some of the same waters as Lawrence’s first book – there’s no end to the colourful characters and harrowing stories of Desolation Sound cougars and bandits and stomach-churning car rides to try to catch ferries – but this time around he is writing as a father and husband tasked with taking care of his own two kids, rather than a free-wheeling bachelor mining the stories of his own childhood.

“I have changed a lot, and I realized that in many ways I've become my parents,” he said. “Because it was them in the ‘70s and ‘80s who would drag me out of bed and strap me into the back of a car – back then no car seats, just a lap belt, if that – and I’d be puking all over the place and we'd be listening to Beach Boys and Abba, driving up the Sunshine Coast Highway. … Now I’m the parent cleaning up puke at the Earl’s Cove ferry terminal, having just missed yet another ferry in my life.”

Lawrence will be sharing stories old and new at his Kay Meek event, including some doozies from his family history on the North Shore

“I'm gonna be telling some West Van stories that involve my family over the generations, and there are some pretty infamous North Shore stories that they’ve been involved in,” he said. “Some of them have appeared in the North Shore News. … [There was] a house party on the North Shore that went really wrong, like way out of control. I think that one ended up on the front page of the North Shore News.”

There was also the infamous incident of a load of cattle being dumped into Burrard Inlet right under Lions Gate Bridge.

“You can imagine how shocked people would be, sitting in Ambleside on a log, and a cow walks out of the water and just stands there, shaking the water off,” he said. “Those were my dad’s cows!”

The Kay Meek show will also feature a number of talented musicians, including Kathryn Calder of the New Pornographers, Jay Malinowski of Bedouin Soundclash, Jill Barber, who also happens to be Lawrence’s wife, and other special guests.  

“It’s going to be a very crowded show,” said Lawrence, adding that it was originally scheduled for April 2020 but was bumped several times since then due to COVID-19 concerns. It looks like he’ll finally get to hit the stage with his stories and talented friends, and one piece of good luck out of all the delays is now he has a new book to go with the show.

“The show is over two years in the making,” he said “It was postponed once, twice, three times. … Two years later, it looks like it’s actually going to happen. And I’m very excited about it.”

Now all that’s left for Lawrence to do is decide what to wear.

When: Friday May 6, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Kay Meek Arts Centre

Cost: $46-$49, tickets available at kaymeek.com

 

 

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