Photo: Salmaan Farooqui

People of Ryerson: Newfie Mike

In Communities /

By Salmaan Farooqui

“I’ve never missed a Monday once, do you know why?” Mike asks. “Because Monday is the most depressing day in American society and im fuckin’ changing that.”

You might’ve seen him by the Pitman Quad. Or you might’ve seen him by Lake Devo. But if you’ve seen him, he’s always accompanied by his guitar and his harmonica.

He goes only by Newfie Mike, and for the past year he’s been playing guitar for hours, not every day, but every second day that the weather’s been warm enough.

The only thing as sure about Newfie Mike is his sock that conceals a can of his drink of choice. Today, it’s Molson Canadian. He tries to cover it up out of respect, he explains.

At first sight, some students may think he’s homeless, with his fluffy white beard, weathered clothes, and staring blue eyes that seem to have seen a lot.

It’s a humble box filled with guitar picks and a collection of various pipes, as well as a decent guitar and harmonica, that make him look not so homeless after all. In reality, Mike lives just down from campus across Allan Gardens. However, as his nickname alludes to, he was raised in small town Newfoundland.

“I was born on a fishing village, there’s more people here than there ever was in my village,” he says while strumming at his guitar. “I was brought up at the sea, my father was a fisherman and I was putting codfish on the table when they were bigger than I was.”

Newfie Mike explains that he’s a welder by trade, pointing to his stainless steel guitar picks and explaining that he can fix them up if they ever break.

Where his passion lies however, is just purely in playing guitar.

I’m going to retire pretty soon, and I like to do nothin’ other in my fuckin’ life than to play for young people,” he explains with a lot of enthusiasm. “I love being around young people, I dunno maybe it makes me feel young. I feel like maybe I can tell em’ a story; what to strive for.”

That, he explains, is why he sits by the edge of Lake Devo as the groups of young skateboarders keep him entertained while playing. He says that they skate and bang their boards on the ground to the beat of his music.

Mike himself will be turning 64 next week on the 24th of April. He’ll likely celebrate at the same spot rocking on with his guitar.

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