Walkabout: Jeff Walker November 11th, 2017

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How one coffee buddy changed another’s career path

Listening to ex-welder Rutherford led barista-writer Aubin in a different direction

Jeff Walker/Streeter COFFEE BREAK: Old and young pros, John Rutherford and Marek Aubin, share their stories at La Cigogne on Bayview Avenue.

Jeff Walker Walkabout column logoIf you’ve ever been a “Second Cup on Bayview” aficionado over the past decade, you’ve probably encountered John Rutherford and Marek Aubin.

Rutherford, just turned 84, is a late-afternoon regular along with wife Elizabeth and friends. The Rutherfords were Airdrie Road Leasiders for 40 years and only recently moved to the Bethel Church condos just west of Bayview.

From Winnipeg, Aubin is a 36-year-old affably-gothic Glendon College graduate in English. While not yet published, post-Glendon he’s managed to write two novels and a volume of linked short stories in the sci-fi/horror/fantasy mode, plus poetry.

All this he did despite so many hours devoted to serving up lattés and a hundred other concoctions behind the counter, mostly at Second Cup but also at Starbucks for a spell.

He’s something of an artist too, though lacking the patience to fill in all the fine detail imagined for his drawings. I would guess he’ll be deploying that artistic touch in new ways in the coming years.

It’s no secret that a university degree in English is not exactly a ticket-to-ride career-wise, and that few careers are harder to launch than that of ‘novelist’, especially since the economic meltdown of 2009. So, not surprisingly, Marek wound up just down the road from Glendon doing the barista thing on Bayview. And he did it for a lot longer than he’d expected to, at near-minimum wage and with limited prospects at a Second Cup franchise with seemingly endless changeovers in management.

Enter British-born John Rutherford, welder by trade but one who initially raised a family as a grain farmer in the Peace River district of northern British Columbia.

Rutherford first got to know Aubin, whom he calls Mike, during Marek’s Starbucks phase several years ago. Even at that point Rutherford questioned Aubin’s barista jobs trajectory and suggested he give welding a try, with an assist from himself.

Spinning his wheels

Barely into his coffee-shop phase, Aubin shook off that bizarre notion with bemusement. But as the years behind the counter wore on, Marek sometimes wondered he perhaps he should have taken his friend up on the offer.

(Meanwhile, Rutherford made the same offer to the daughter of the guy who’d been best man at his and Elizabeth’s wedding. On an academic track at U of T, she still wanted to do something more practical, and indeed he taught her his trade and she’s a professional welder today.)

As the saying goes, “The postman always rings twice.” Fast forward to about three years ago. Ensconced at the Second Cup, Aubin unhappily realizes he’s just spinning his wheels.

Re-enter citizen Rutherford. Both as a joke and to goad Aubin into reconsidering the welding proposition placed on the table years before, Rutherford needled, “Come-on, Mikey, when are you gonna start paying some taxes? Why don’t you let me teach you to weld and you can start making some real money?”

To which Aubin replied “okay,” thereby stunning John and doubtless himself as well.

And the rest, as they say, is history. But it’s been a somewhat convoluted history….

Which you’ll learn about in next month’s column, complete with a sidebar on Citizen Rutherford and his own roundabout journey.