Saturday, 27 April 2013
This winter has been insufferable. Wasn’t it back in February, I was whining that it was the longest.winter.ever? Well looky here, we’ve got April on a downhill run and the snow banks are still piled high.
You know what winter is? Winter is the fly that won’t die. You know that one housefly that keeps buzzing around your head. You finally summon the energy to find the fly swatter and then derive great satisfaction from smacking it. Moments later, you witness it crawl right out of the garbage can, take flight and resume its job annoying the heck out of you. At this point, I’d welcome a fly with nine lives. Insufferable.
I heard that the Canada Geese have had a meeting to discuss what they’ve come back to. They say if they are going to continue to allow us to be their title sponsors, we have to get it together before April next year. Otherwise they’re staying in Boca Raton. That’s what I heard.
The thing about a long winter is that there is little else to do but watch TV or join a curling league. I can’t lift a 40 pound rock and I’m iffy at sweeping my own kitchen floor properly, so TV it is. Really though, I haven’t been much of a TV watcher for years, except for the local news, the Food Network, and AFV. But even chuckling babies and a great cat montage wasn’t quite enough to get us through the long stormy evenings, so we turned to Netflix. Do you do Netflix? Oh my stars! You can watch an entire season of TV shows commercial free! Forget snacks or trips to the bathroom. There’s no time; you are committed.
Can you imagine if, when we were kids sitting in front of our gigantic Zenith console television sets, someone told us that one day we would be able to choose whatever we wanted to watch from thousands of shows anywhere, anytime on a portable device? I would never have believed it. Yet here we are.
When I was a kid, we had one channel. Channel 12. CBC. We were One Channel Charlies. Some days we would get Channel 9 if someone held the rabbit ears and turned the dial in a very specific way. Sometimes it was just a colour test pattern and the image would be in a constant vertical roll, but hell, we’d watch it anyway because it was Channel 9! Yellow, cyan, green, magenta...What the hell is cyan? Why use that? "Honey, I think our cyan is off...it's running more to a turquoise."
We had to be content with CBC. If you didn't like The Beachcombers or Front Page Challenge then too bad for you. You had to help your Mom bake bread. For years I heard ‘city friends’ talk about The Brady Bunch, Dukes of Hazzard and all those great shows. I had no clue. What were Daisy Dukes? Even as an adult, I feel I have nothing much to contribute to those nostalgic television conversations. What am I supposed to say, “Oh yeah, remember that one episode of Hymn Sing where one of the altos wore that low-cut blouse?” That’s me, life o’ the party, once again! No, instead I just keep repeating the same thing, “Um, we didn’t get Channel 8”.
Nonetheless, I’m glad I grew up with the Ceeb. I now understand that it’s an institution that gave a voice and a stage to our own. I love it and have great respect for it. Where can I find an old broadcast of The National with Knowlton Nash? I’ll skip the National Ballet specials (sorry, Karen Cain and all the men in those awful tights), but I’d give a lot for one more Irish Rovers Special or to see the Tommy Hunter Country show in all its glory once again. I wonder where Donna & Leroy are now? Boca Raton?
Monday, 18 March 2013
We’ve lost a few legends in the music world lately, and some that I noted with much sadness were the likes of Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and Levon Helm, artists who spent a lifetime just doing what they did.
I’m not much of a celebrity person, but I’ve never felt the loss of one more keenly than I did when I learned of the death of Stompin’ Tom. I felt like the biggest cornball out there because I was in tears, and I couldn’t figure out why I was having this reaction — until I thought about it a little more.
Tom Connors was like family to every Canadian. He was like a favourite uncle who told fantastic stories. I wanted to go to his funeral, hug his kids and bring a loaf of egg salad sandwiches to the lunch because he represents what I so deeply respect in a fellow Canadian and in a musician.
He told the story of people, real people. He was a folk musician who was entertaining as hell, and as clever in his writing as anyone you’ll meet in Nashville. He didn’t follow trends or place himself at the mercy of record companies who wanted to change his music to make it more popular to an ever-changing demographic. No, against amazing odds, he put his head down and did his thing and never once apologized for it.
What he represented to me was a return to my musical roots, where I realized that really good music was nothing but four chords and the truth. In the mid-to-late 1990s, I was feeling major dissatisfaction with the music I was hearing commercially. Rock was grungy and obscure, and country was steadily losing its torch and twang and, in my (never humble) opinion, straight into pop music territory.
This suited some people just fine, but I was looking for something else. I wanted music with life in it. I began to shun commercial radio in favour of our new “8-disc changer” stereo, where Stompin’ Tom, A Proud Canadian, was on heavy rotation. I remembered many songs from when I was a kid. We played it over and over again until I knew every word to every song. It was fun music and as we danced our babies around the living room to the Gumboot Cloggeroo and Margo’s Cargo; it became the soundtrack to our early family life.
Fast forward 15 or so years, and I find myself very involved with a music camp and festival that takes the essence of what traditional music is, teaches it to young and old, and presents it across the generations. It’s real people playing real instruments telling real stories – people trading in mics and amps for kitchens and campfires (and maybe even a chunk of plywood).
So when I think of Stompin’ Tom Connors, I think of the man, the patriot, the story and the storyteller. But I also think of my young family, sweet memories of my infant daughter bouncing in my husband’s arms, and the beginning of a blessed road to finding my place with music. I’m proud to say I’ve stomped along with Stompin’ Tom and will continue to do so. Thank you, sir.
Sunday, 17 February 2013
Ahh February. Love is in the air and you can almost reach out and touch spring…before she snatches her hand away and tosses up another blizzard. This time of year always reminds me of one thing (besides Jamaica). The Winter Carnival.
When you think of a carnival, you think of summer and roller coasters and sketchy characters, certainly not snowmobile racing. If you grew up in a small northern logging town, however, you no doubt had a Winter Carnival. Social event of the year, it was. A whole community came together to celebrate the fact that we are frozen solid for 6 months of the year. May as well rent the hall and have a thing, eh? I suppose it was an offshoot of many of the pioneers who had settled there from Quebec, where the carnival is a massive winter celebration. Complete with a large creepy snowman who is seemingly everywhere. That crazy BonHomme!
The winter carnival had many, many events packed into a single February weekend and I remember a few of them quite vividly. Aside from the obvious hockey tournaments and curling bonspiels, there were the lumberjack events like the Cherry Picker contest (I had no idea what that was, but what a great name, no?) I think the contestants would attempt to show off their heavy duty machinery prowess by picking up an egg off of a tree stump using a logging grapple hook or some crazy thing. Artists would carve various things out of blocks of ice or wood using nothing but a chainsaw. “Look! It’s a squirrel...or a beaver...or a coffee pot, I'm not sure." You can only get so precise with a power saw. Then there would be the trapper’s events like snowshoe races and tea boiling contests. Knee deep in snow, we all had a blast.
Weeks before the event, tickets would be printed with the photos of six teenagers vying for the coveted title of Carnival King and Queen. On top of being able to wear the crown and cloak, they got into all the weekend festivities free of charge and had the first dance at the Lumberjack Stomp. The royal couple may as well have been Mr & Mrs Universe to me when I was small. I dreamt of the day I would stand on the red line at centre ice and receive my crown, but I think I was too lazy to sell tickets when the time came.
The whole weekend was kicked off with…yes, the ICE SHOW, a figure skating spectacular! In our minds, it was like opening night on Broadway. All winter long, we had diligently practiced our routines to such great songs as “The Good old Hockey Game” and “Music Box Dancer”, depending on the year’s grand theme. The night of nights would arrive with much pomp and circumstance. Either it was 40 below or melting. No moderate weather was possible during the third weekend of February; this is just how it was. I would don my newly polished skates and my fortrel dress trimmed with Christmas tinsel and off onto the ice I would go to perform my 8 waltz jumps, usually well ahead of the music. As I skated by my family and friends in the bleachers (usually near tears as I had most likely already fallen down at least twice by that point) they would cheer loudly. I would end with a dramatic one foot spin, wave to the adoring crowd and would then in a dizzy stupor weave my way off the ice. Superstar.
We had a large scary mascot of our own to rival BonHomme. His name was Leo the Moose and I was terrified of him until I was about 10 years old. He insisted on skating in the “Grand Finale” with us every year at the ice show. I made sure I was at the opposite end of the can-can line, lemme tell ya.
So many great memories of life in a northern town. When I think back to the community spirit required to pull together something like that, I wouldn’t trade growing up in the bush for an all-inclusive two week vacation to Jamaica. Anyone know where I can go watch an amateur ice show?
|Me in the 1982 Ice Show. haha|
Saturday, 2 February 2013
Lemme tell you something. You don’t need no stinkin’ rodent to tell you that it’s going to be bloody cold until the end of March! Saskatchewan needs to get its own groundhog and call him Cynical Cyril. Cyril will not even bother coming out of his hole. He’ll just roll over and flip the bird to all the media and onlookers. Read the sign: “Welcome to Saskatchewan; where you’ll never get your early spring.”
Don’t be fooled by this current mild spell, last week it was -34 in Saskatoon with a windchill making it feel like you were on the shores of the Beaufort Sea. And to add insult to injury there was an 85% possibility of precipitation. Longest.Winter.Ever.
The teenagers don’t want to stay in the basement. It’s freezing down there. It reminds me of when I was a kid and my friends and I would never want to hang out in the freezing cold rumpus room. People don't have rumpus rooms any more, do they? Isn’t that a great word, Rumpus Room? Several blogs ago, I wrote about some way back words used by the parentage of our generation, words like 'beauty parlour' and 'piss & vinegar'. My friend-relative, Nicole, said I should have included Rumpus Room, and right then and there I decided it deserved a blog of its own. (Just as an aside, I want to tell you the great joyous thing about having friend-relatives. If they decide one day to ditch you as a friend, they are still obligated to hang out with you because they are family! Isn’t that awesome?)
Anyway, at one time, no one dared build a house without designating one room in the basement as the Rumpus Room. “You kids are creating a noisy, disturbed or disruptive commotion in my living room! I will build you a separate room to create your rumpus in!”
If I had a nickel for every time I heard my mom yelling at my brothers to, "Get downstairs to the Rumpus Room”, I would not be living in Saskatchewan right now. In the 1970s, my parents decided to take on the project of decorating the rumpus room. The result was downright groovy. The new carpet was a (non) luxurious deep red industrial number I liked to call “Hotel Hallway”. They installed a black and red vinyl bar with matching black and red vinyl storage benches along the walls. I’m not sure why they decided on storage benches because there was never anything in them except my brothers’ stinky boxing gloves. (I never actually saw my brothers using them but when you opened those benches; it was Hello Old Sweaty Boxing Gloves!). The only other thing in the benches was an old game of monopoly with everything missing except Baltic Avenue, the race car and three hotels.
My parents decided to order the "Sunset Dream" wallpaper from the Sears Catalogue which was very popular at the time. It was less wallpaper really, and more like one huge picture panel that went on a Feature Wall--the big thing in the 70s. It was supposed to feel like you could just walk right out of your basement and onto a beach in Fiji at sunset.
Regardless, it was at this time that I learned the rule called Never Buy Wallpaper. Problem was you needed a team of 40 giant people to actually adhere it to the wall all at once or it would bubble up all over, causing swear words to tumble out of the homeowner's mouth in an avalanche of frustration. The bubble trouble happened on our feature wall; however my parents had a solution. They purchased stick-on mirror tiles to go behind the groovy vinyl bar and they thought it would be helpful if they stuck the leftover mirrors in panels along the bubbled areas of the Sunset Dream. This created a very unique style of decor, never copied to this day, as far as I am aware.
They also had enough Sunset Dream leftover to wrap around the telepost in our rumpus room. Ah, there it was, basement reno complete. No one ever went down there again.
Tuesday, 22 January 2013
Hey, lots of you know that I am involved with a music society based in Saskatoon. We are very cool. You can find out more about us here. Consequently, we've met a lot of fascinating musicians, who I like to call friends and we like to keep in touch via Facebook. Several of our friends live in the musical mecca of Asheville. That's right, I said Asheville, not Nashville. It's in North Carolina, do yourself a favour and check it out. If you haven't heard the likes of Dehlia Low and Town Mountain, leave your rock and do so immediately.
I need to take this opportunity to tease because according to Facebook, Ashevillians are not receiving the sort of winter they would like. Unseasonable warm temperatures have caused some of them to gripe about the spring-like conditions they are experiencing in January. "This weather is disturbing." "I miss winter!" "I agree! I want snow, not spring", they chorused.
I replied that I had a fair amount of snow I was willing to part with, and we could decide on a price later. This got me thinking that maybe I was missing out on a golden business opportunity. What if we ran all-inclusive winter vacations to Saskatchewan? Betcha we could haul in quite a few unsuspecting southerners who are looking for that authentic winter experience.
It would all begin at the airport where guests will be greeted enthusiastically and issued their winter gear; a snow suit (something old school that zips from the bottom of one pant leg all the way to the throat), a Co-op Feeds toque, and a pair of Kamiks two sizes too big, in order to accommodate at least two pair of wool socks. We’ll hand them a double-double and the keys to their rental pickup so they can experience the joy of winter driving…in Saskatoon. Guests can choose from any of the following amazing packages:
The ‘It’s Snow Wonder’ Package
You’ll experience Saskatchewan winter just like a local, as you become the Snow Angel for a whole city block. Grab a shovel and start clearing! Unfortunately, there won’t be time to check into your hotel first, the City is watching! Won’t this be fun? Too bad you didn’t upgrade to the Snow Blower package!
The Ski-doo Rally Package
We’ll make the trek to Anywhere, SK for their annual community snowmobile rally. Guests will be placed on the back of various snowmobiles, given their own flask of Cherry Whiskey and taught to hang on for dear life. They will end the night with a complimentary bowl of chili and a bottle of Pil at the community hall. Purchasing an arm’s length of 50/50 tickets is not mandatory, but it is encouraged. We don’t want to be seen as cheap visitors, now do we?
The Minor Hockey Game Package
We’ll spend the night in Anywhere at one of the well-appointed small town hotels available to us. We’ll attend a Minor Hockey League tournament. Guests will receive a complimentary rink burger and will be encouraged to try and eat it with their mitts on. Witness a real ‘Hockey Mom’ in action as she berates the ref and her husband starts a fist fight in the stands. Guests will be given a pair of skates and be asked to scrape the ice at intermission.
The Culinary Package
We'll spend time in a real Saskatchewan kitchen and use all the seasonal ingredients available to us…potatoes, canola oil and the last jar of beet pickles. Oh yeah, and some lentils. Maybe you know what to do with them, because we don’t.
The Curling Package
Guests will be introduced to the fast-paced world of curling. They will be given 4 rye & cokes, a broom and a pair of shoes with a piece of Crazy Carpet attached to the bottom of one sole. They must sign a waiver preventing them from asking too many questions.
If this interests any of you folks south of the border, now is a good time to come. With the windchill factored in, the last two days have been close to -40 degrees Celsius. Lucky for you, that's easy to understand, as it's equivalent to -40 Farenheit and yes, you read that right.
Thursday, 10 January 2013
Happy New Year, Saskatoon. 2012 and all its garbage has been brought out to the curb and we have a brand new bin for 2013! I hope we fill it with glorious things.
Speaking of bins, you may remember back when I wrote about my attention deficit housekeeping. If I was a resolution-making person, I would probably be concentrating my efforts on making my house cleaner and more organized. I should scrub more things with a stiff brush. I should make a paste of baking soda and something else (vinegar?) more often. I should fashion more nifty caddies out of recycled milk jugs. I should find new uses for duct tape and chapstick. I should clean the toilet using fizzy denture tablets on a frequent basis. Well, you know what they say…don’t should on yourself.
I read all those helpful hints columns where people send in their burning questions and I marvel that someone actually has the answers to these things. I have years of experience running a household, but I certainly shouldn’t be writing household solutions advice columns; they’d end up looking something like this:
Q: How can I get a streak-free shine on my granite counter tops?
A: Everybody loves a sparkling counter top. I like to use my sleeve. Remember, you only have to do this when company is imminent. Don't waste it on your family. They don't care.
Q: There is a smell coming from my basement. How can I get rid of it?
A: That smell is coming from your teenagers. There is no way that I know of, other than adoption, to get rid of it. It should begin to dissipate between ages 18 and 22; however some people don't notice a difference until age 30. It depends how comfortable your basement is and how much sugary cereal you keep in your pantry. In the meantime, try Febreeze or a combination of broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
Q: How can I get my family to participate in the household chores?
A: Most people agree that getting kids involved with chores as early as possible teaches them valuable life lessons. Most people also agree that doing this is the equivalent of attempting to eat soup with a toothpick. The conversation in my house goes something like this:
Me: “Kids, I need someone to sweep and someone to vacuum.”
Kids: “Who’s coming over?”
(Kids then wait the Appropriate Amount of Time and disappear down the stairs. Unaware, husband approaches.)
Me: “Hon, can you do the sweeping and vacuuming?”
Him: “Why are you ruining my life?”
Q: Can buying in bulk save me time and money?
A: Well, in theory, yes. Let’s talk about reality though. You’ll spend time making a very large grocery list, leave for the store and forget it on the kitchen counter, along with the grocery bags and the coin thingy for the shopping cart. You’ll buy everything you can remember on your list, come home and then immediately return to the grocery store because you have no milk and nothing to make dinner with.So, I have one prediction to make for 2013: The year will end much the same as it began. Chaotic, with a family full of good intentions, stumbling toward greatness. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Tuesday, 1 January 2013
Well here we are, 2013. Doesn't that seem crazy? Think back to when you were a kid and someone mentioned the year 2013. It seemed impossible, like we'd all be wearing tin foil outfits and living on Mars by now.
I think we are at an in-between phase of celebrating New Years Eve. After the busy Christmas season, the thought of putting on itchy pantyhose and a little black dress that I will freeze in and going somewhere noisy cannot compete with the thought of putting on my sweats and reading a book. Yes, Dull Dora, I know, but Dora needs her down time.
I was trying to remember how we celebrated when we were kids, but the whole Christmas season is blurred together, so New Years didn't really stand out. I remember one year having those cracker things to open up. Somehow, I thought it was going to be more exciting than pulling a tissue paper crown and a green plastic ring out of a toilet paper tube, but hey, these are the things we do.
My parents often went to the New Years Eve dance in town. It was called a Dine & Dance and it was all very exciting because they always had a live "Orchestra". That's what bands were known as in those days. In fact, my Dad still wonders why no one has orchestras at their wedding anymore, it's all 'them damn tapes and their boom, boom, boom'. He's hilarious. The orchestra was usually the Gold Tops, our community band. I would give a lot to be able to hear them again.
Party favours were handed out at these New Years dances and apparently, my parents didn't have the presence of mind at 3:00 a.m. or whenever they would make it home to put the party favours elsewhere but on the kitchen table. I'm pretty sure it wasn't their plan to be woken up a few hours later when the kids got up and found the stash of noisemakers. TWEEEET! HONK! CLACKETY-CLACKETY-CLACK! One kid would inevitably try on one of the plastic hats, snap their throat with the cheap elastic and start wailing. Good times.
The apple does not fall far from the tree, because I remember bringing these things home from the New Years dances we went to thinking how much our kids would love them and not giving any thought to what TIME they would love them! "Oh those crazy kids found the tooters! Kill me now."
New Years dances are definitely not my thing. I learned that after the first few I went to. Awkward from start to end, they were. I would spend the whole night with a skillful eye on whose whiskey-induced advances I had to avoid after the countdown. Then everyone stood in a circle and pretended to know the words to Auld Lang Syne. Ach. No thanks.
Even house parties are iffy to someone who has personal space issues like me. At 11:58 you'll see me quietly slip away to the bathroom and remain conspicuously absent at the stroke of midnight until all the drunken hugging and kissing has ceased. It seems totally alien to me to greet someone with a 'Hey, how are ya' at the start of the evening and suddenly at midnight you are locked in an clumsy embrace?? Are you supposed to let them kiss you on the cheek? What if you turn the wrong way and bang heads? No wonder people drink, that's a lot of pressure to get the choreography right! They shouldn't call it New Years Eve, they should call it the Grade 8 dance. The people who know me and get me accept my offer of a High Five to ring in a healthy and prosperous new year. I love the people who know me and get me.
Seriously though, I'm less of a curmudgeon than I seem. I have high hopes for 2013. I'm happy to turn the calendar page. It represents opportunity. 2012 has offered me much and for that I must be grateful. 2012 has shown me that a heart can break but with love, begin to mend again. Thank you for reading this little blog of mine. I wish you health and joy in 2013.