The Powder Keg

I was thinking recently about the dawning of the internet and also my early days as a writer, which led me to the memory of a BBS I sort of belonged to called The Powder Keg. It was a pretty small group of Toronto-based writers that somehow I got hooked into. I think at the time I was one of the youngest and least experienced writers on the BBS. But seeing as how I thought of myself as perhaps a writer, the confidence of youth propelled me onward.

Wikipedia mentions some interesting facts in its description of the BBS: “The BBS was also a local phenomenon, as one had to dial into a BBS with a phone line and would have to pay additional long distance charges for a BBS out of the local area, as opposed to less expensive local charges. Thus, many users of a given BBS usually lived in the same area, and activities such as BBS Meets or Get Togethers (GTs or GTGs), where everyone from the board would gather and meet face to face, were common.” Seeing the letters “GTG” makes me remember the occasional Powder Keg poetry night held at a local restaurant called Cafe May (now defunct) on Roncesvalles. I never went: I was too young, too shy, and besides, the aged cedar facade of Cafe May, and cavern-like lighting made it intimidating from the outside. The Powder Keg members/writers would do readings, peddle chapbooks, discuss each other’s work. I think the ringleader (SysOp) was named Ian, but it’s so long ago I can’t remember. He also might have had a beard and wore Birkenstocks with socks, and I probably had a foolish teenage crush on him. But remember, it was the early 90’s.

A few years ago, in the midst of some Dears media broo-ha-ha, The Powder Keg – which had before this moment had faded almost completely in my memory – made its reappearance. I received an email from a fellow Kegger,
James McNally. I recall we’d connected beyond just the BBS, we’d met at a vernissage or something poetry-related, and I think he was my only real BBS friend. Completely by accident he stumbled onto The Dears, then noticed my name in the credits. You can read the whole story on his blog. He reminded me of some 4-track demos I had made, and basically how I was so explosively creative in those days. That was before I grew up, which I hope to explain here on my blog over the next few…years?

Anyway, the topic of the past few weeks seems to be “Blasts From The Past.” I had another one explode in my face at Neptune’s 2nd birthday party this weekend, which I will save delightlfully for later…it’s related to my zine years. Yeah, that’s right. I had a zine, but that is another tangent to take on the story of my life.

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12 thoughts on “The Powder Keg

  1. I used to frequent a BBS in Toronto called Presto BBS. For years afterwards I had the number memorized (one line meant a lot of busy signals) but fortunately it’s faded now. It was run by a guy named Scott Rogers (I think) who worked in radio in Toronto.

    I found another BBS after that which was more underground and had (to my amazement) “em-pee-three” music files to download. Of course, they were out of my reach, as I was still on a 2400 baud modem at the time…

    Ha! I see your weather station and raise you one modem speed.

  2. Natalia, it’s awesome that you’ve started a blog. The guy who ran the Powder Keg BBS was Ian Kelso. He’s now the head of Interactive Ontario, a new media association. I bumped into him in the late 90s when we were both getting into web and new media work. Another guy who was involved was Darren Wershler-Henry, who is now considered something of an authority on technology. So really, I’m the only one who never went on to fame and fortune (!)

    I can’t wait to hear your stories about your ‘zine, of which I still have a few issues. I’m pretty sure you published some of my nasty writing, too. Bless you.

  3. Ok, now I’ll have to correct myself. It was actually Ian Firla who was in the Powder Keg. (Ian Kelso I knew from creative writing at York, but that’s another story).

  4. Why on earth did I get the urge to do a Google search on “Powderkeg BBS???” An idle moment, I’m sure – but what a surprise to see that someone actually remembers those days and events. Some people here may recognize my (almost long forgotten) login ID – yes, I was “Gunrunner,” who originally started the Powder Keg BBS in 1985 on (believe it or not) a Coleco ADAM! I soon upgraded to an XT, then a 286, which ran faithfully 24/7 for many years until I handed the system over to “Melodie” in 1994. Wonder what happened after that…

    Gunrunner

  5. I was definitely involved pre-1994, so thank you for running the Powder Keg BBS! Reading your username really took me back…its awesome. Let’s see how many other Keggers stumble this way…

  6. *->-+-*->soaringhorse<-+-<-+-< is here…
    I had dinner with William and Melodie just the other night.
    Wait, I;ll see if I can get them to come over and say Hi.

    Hi gunrunner: why did it take almost 20 years for me to learn your real name?
    and the big questions are: where are Leah and Sandy?

  7. Gravity pulled me back here once more… Soaring Horse!! My god, it’s been a million years. I still get occasional e-mail from Leah, who’s out in the Brighton area now.

    Now, I’m embarrassed, because I cannot recall if Malcolm is your fist name or your last!

    Gunrunner

  8. Holy cow. jmcnally got in touch with me some time ago via linkedin and mentioned that he had come across you and got thinking about the Powder Keg BBS and got googeling members and found me and etc… I thought, “I should do the same” but somehow never got around to it.

    Then, the other day, I was unpacking some boxes that had followed me from Oxford to Warsaw and I came across an envelope from you to me with an issue of “Quit Gawking” in it.

    Congratulations on your music and for making it as an artist! I’ve listened to some a couple of “The Dears” tracks and like what you do.

    “Socks and Birkenstocks”??? At that time I was wearing spray painted combat boots and fighting with anyone who didn’t think Nirvana was the greatest band, ever.

    These days? I’m a long way from poetry (and even further from spray painted combat boots). I run a proprietary futures trading company in Poland.

    ps. I was never the sysop of the Powder Keg. I did publish an electronic magazine that was largely driven by content contributed by members of the BBS but was never anything more than a user of the board. I think, ultimately, ‘Karl’, the sysop, deleted my account for the hassle I was causing.

  9. Gunrunner: I can be found through my blog: soaringhorse.blogspot.com . Would dearly love it if you would say hi to leah for me. Melodie and Will and I were / are all wondering where she went and how she is.

    I’m very remote now: picked up the fam and moved to pennsylvania last summer. Let me know if you ever get down this way. We’ve never actually met and its still on my list of things to do…

  10. A lonely, ethereal call out to my fellow Keggers! I know I am a couple of years too late, but I thought I would check in. I was involved with the magazine as an occasional contributor in the early to mid 90’s (I think), and really have a soft spot when I recall that particular era. I never attended any of the events in person, I was not really local to the Toronto area, but I did faithfully download every issue. It was my escape from the small-town bring down which was my daily life, and allowed me to explore my creative side without all of my metal-head and hardcore punk buddies laughing at me! 🙂 I really appreciated the works of others, and I do recall how hard some of the members worked at their labour of love. I haven’t put pen to paper in a poetic sense in many years, which is kind of sad. I now spend my time writing reports and investigating insurance losses. But I still have my guitar, and still love to crank it up with the boys and make some noise. Good to see people still getting in touch so many years later.

    Paul McFee

  11. Yet another Kegger here: Sidney Rampulsky. I have so many find memories of those days. At a time when I fit in so sporadically, I found a way to fit in there. I have lost touch with the fiction writing side of my personality, but I do still write a lot as a software consultant, and I could never overestimate the impact of my Keg experience on the quality of my writing. In some significant ways, it helped prepare me to write my first and to date only book.

    Today I said “Rhubarb, Wombat, Light Switch”, which led me to find a reference in Google Books to Peter Holliday’s poetry collection. I was amazed to bump into Peter in a class at the now-defunct computer science department of Glendon College. I really liked Peter. The google reference to Peter’s collection is now a dead link, which I find sad, but that led me to google “Powder Keg”, and so I stumbled upon this. Yay!

    While I didn’t know many Keggers personally, I knew a few, and Natalia, you in particular. You’ll have to excuse me from the last time I reached out to by email. Alcohol is a strange beast. 🙂

    At any rate, it’s been nice to recall those memories. They flood back to me whenever I visit Toronto.

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