Our vendors: Réjean Blouin (L’Itinéraire, Montréal, Québec, Canada)

By Marie Brion, L’Itinéraire

Réjean (63) is a one-man band, much like a kaleidoscope, his multicolour personality radiates softly. Falling into music from birth, cradled by his singing mother to the sound of music played by his father, he received a beautiful inheritance. But this was burdened by his father’s drinking.

“The father is always a role model,” he says. “He had had problems in his own childhood, which he then passed on too. I understood that later. At the time though, I was angry.” Music and alcohol eased the pain.

At 13 years old, Réjean began to drink and play heavy metal, rebel music on bass guitar. “Friends replace family members.”

At 16 years old, he left. Thumbs up and guitar on his back, he travelled around the country, curious about everything. He fervently learned differences in the English language. “Eleven years on the go, six years in Ottawa. A time of freedom, peace and love – we weren’t afraid of AIDS! The hippie communes… I went through a bohemian phase, as a bit of a hippie. When I was interested in a girl, I would write poetry. It was a lottery, sometimes it wouldn’t last for long but it was my way of finding a female soulmate.”

Réjean Blouin, L'Itinéraire vendor (Credit: Milton Fernandes/L'Itinéraire)

He earned his living as a musician in cafes, bars and as a kitchen assistant – two environments saturated with alcohol, a depressant. “A couple of suicide attempts, followed by help from a psychologist, helped me get out a lot of things. It helped me to stop drinking.”

In 1978, he completely stopped. He continued his performances and worked in a bookshop, entertaining children. He invented Timo, the clown.

Employed by the University of Québec in Montréal, and by Laval University, he worked with students with physical or mental disabilities. For him, they were first and foremost, unique people. He helped them with their exams, their coursework and their note-taking. As a child, one of his aunts taught him to understand and love people who were different.

Then L’Itinéraire came into his life.  “I met Manon who was selling L’Itinéraire. I bought it from her. My wife started to become an addict. I looked for work, for contracts as a singer. I had a duet with Lucette. Then, I tried to sell L’Itinéraire.” They also continue to have short-term contracts.

He learned to write music and lyrics, attended workshops in painting and drawing at the Museum of Fine Arts. In short, he continued to develop his artistic talents.

At 63, he thinks he’ll work another 10 years. With open arms and an eagerness to learn from others and to live as one, for Réjean, the future is that of curiosity.

Translated from French by Zoë McKerr