God Bless the Big Land

We’re back from Labrador. Wow, what a trip; memorable in so many ways. Cold, don’t be talking. Honest to god, my eye balls started to freeze on my only four minute walk from hotel to theatre. What a beating the poor old face took. Someone suggested duct tape! But the locals don’t seem to mind. They think we islanders are soft as crap. Minus 37o C. “Nothing”, they say. “Should see it when ‘tis cold.”

But there’s more to remember than the cold. The hospitality lingers in our minds too. Nowhere in our travels do we get better treatment than by the caring souls who survive those brutal lows. We were constantly being offered meals, cars, rides, snowmobiles, and … warmer clothing. I’ve always heard that people who have spent a few years there hate to move from Labrador and now I’m starting to understand why. They really know how to look out to others.

Thanks Ellen (Lab West A&C manager) for going far beyond what any other manager would dream of doing to accommodate us. Hi to Dave. Shawn and Kevin (technical) … you’re the best. The crowd at The Carol Inn could not have been more helpful. Thanks.

And Goose Bay … wow. Tony Dawson (CBC). We’ve never had a happier, storytelling driver. Thanks also for the early morning interview where we learned of the pope’s creepy leave. Hats’ off to Kathleen and her theatre crew – the best; they just always get it right. Thanks to the long suffering John for carting us around at all hours and looking out to all the stage details.

And oh the food. Thanks Suzanne for the homemade apple pie after the first show and the scrumptious meal with Berkley on Tuesday. Robyn, my dear, what an amazing lunch and thank you Dennis for the tour of your new recreational business. Loves Da Yammies! Of course Angele outdid herself as usual with another meal (and her sharp wit) to save the starving musicians upon arrival.

A very special thanks to all the people who travelled for many hours on snow mobile from coastal communities to see us. One gentleman told us he and his family drove for 10 hours on skidoos to see us. What can we say? And while on the topic of transportation, the good people from Provincial Air got us to Labrador and back free of charge. If it wasn’t for them we would have had to take Da Yammie!

We are fortunate beyond words to be associated with all of you.

WAKING OUR BANJO

It seems that God doesn’t want a banjo in our band. The signs are very obvious.

On Wednesday morning we happily loaded the musical gear out of the Mississauga Stage West hotel and into our rented van. The show the night before was delightful. All hands were on top shelf as we rolled west along Dixie and on to that ribbon of misery, the 401. We had gone no more than 2 kilometres en route to Port Hope when a man in a SUV sped up side by side with us and gestured strongly for us to pull over. He looked like a trusting soul so we complied. When both vehicles came to a stop on that narrow, unsafe strip of no man’s land he came running towards us.

“Your banjo just fell off the roof of your van”, he sympathetically declared.

It was then that one of us (how kind of me) realized that he had placed the poor creature up there while loading and neither of us had seem it prior to departure.

So, dear friends, the banjo is no more – kaput, roadkill, falttened, pancaked, completely plucked and rendered eternally useless. In a matter of seconds she was passed over by a multitude of wheels and unmistakably trampled. Yes, she will duel more more.

Get this: that was our second banjo crisis. The last one got destroyed a month ago en route from Ft McMurray by the gentle handlers at West Jet.

Now I’m sure, dear fans, that some of you are crying as you read this disturbing news. Like us you probably can’t get her last moments off your mind. We therefore ask that you join us in our grieving by sending us condolences, poems, jokes, odes or any other fitting tributes. We need closure in a bad way.

She was a marvelous little plucker. May she rest in pieces.

Praise to the Big Land

To all the great people in Goose Bay we want to say ‘thank you’ for the reception at our recent shows and for the kindness shown by so many of you. We were given tours, treated to lovely meals, transported, entertained, accommodated and all in fine style.

And we can’t say enough wonderful things about the Lawrence O’Brien Arts Centre. The venue is superb in every way. The staff is professional, kind and easy to be around. It was truly a good experience and that comes from three old codgers who have seen a few theatres in 29 years. Thanks again.

Just one little experience I wish to share with you. On our day off Kathleen Hicks, theatre manager, took us on an excursion to Muskrat Falls. We drove 30 kilometers, walked a foot beaten path for 15 minutes and ended up overlooking one hell of a mighty cascade of water. Standing next to it, being engulfed by the mist, thinking about all the poor souls who portaged around it, hearing the thunderous roar and looking up to the peaceful valley from which it comes is a moving experience to say the least.

Of course the salient question came to mind: should they dam it? Before the reasoning mind was up and running the heart cried out for it to be left alone. It’s just such a powerful piece of nature for future eyes to behold. I know it’s a source of clean power. I know it will provide economic impetus to the region. I know that we need clean energy but tell that to the heart. It’s just not listening.

I could only foresee the tops of noble spruce trees underwater for miles upriver, animal habitat spoiled and a thunderous voice muzzled into silence forever.

I know, I’m an artsy, right minded, romantic sort of guy and the damn dam probably does make financial, social and business sense. But, I can’t help pondering on the question, ‘where will the muskrats go?’

God bless Labrador.

Happy June

It’s June month and for three weeks we’ve been smacked in the face with easterly wind, rain and drizzle. The CBC weatherman, Ryan, even deserted us in desperation and went off to the mainland. It’s like the captain leaving the ship. The capelin won’t even come in. They don’t like rolling among icy slob. The robins have their hoods up and the aspens have good reason to tremble. My rhubarb didn’t make it this year. It’s all enough to get on your nerves.

On the first day of summer I was out in rain gear trying to plant peas with my mitts on. When I opened that package I swear I could hear a chorus of “Please Don’t Bury Me Down in The Cold, Cold Ground”. I thought maybe I’d put them on a Florida bound plane where they’d have a chance.

The onions which I planted in late May are up four inches and giving me strong looks of disapproval. The worms are still deep in the ground and the trout haven’t come up out of the mud yet. I’ll tell you, it’s tough.

But this morning I looked out through the window and noticed smiles from the hardy little blue Forget-me-nots, the purple Pop-up-and-kiss-mes and the brave blooming lilacs. I found strength and inspiration. Yes sir, one must bundle up, sing ‘Storms Never Last’ and go forward despite the elements.

So, I’m going salmon fishing. Does anyone know if the ice is out of the river?

Salmon Fishing

Don’t start. No seriously, get the thought out of your head. It is truly the worse drug known to man. If you want an escape or a diversion from normal living then take up something less addictive like smack, crack cocaine or something. And believe you me, it will be far less expensive and destructive. Guaranteed, it will ruin you in more ways then one. Let’s examine it on several fronts.

Take for example the financial consideration. It will break you. Here’s what the tip of the iceberg looks like. Pole, line, waders, boots, flies, net etc will cost you at least $1000. Believe it or not there is a wardrobe involved and it’s not cheap. To get to your favorite ‘spot’ you will need a four by four at a cost of say, $35,000 and eventually it will come to the point where a boat and engine is a must. That’ll set you back perhaps $8000. Oh, and all that stuff’s got to be maintained at tremendous cost. I won’t go any further on this one except to hint that a cabin will be in your future. All very costly, indeed.

On to another matter; here’s how your marriage will crumble. When you hook your first few fish the adrenaline rushes will be so pleasing that an immediate and long lasting addiction will be formed. The only fix available to you will be found on the river. Your wife will certainly not want to come with you and, yes, you guessed it, your new mistress will be a lady that flows gently from high marshland down to the salt water. You will sneak away in the early morning darkness and stay way too late just to have the pleasure of laying a line on soft flowing waters. The loving wife can only accept so much flirtation; she will get jealous.

You will become dishonest and delusional as you stretch to find reasons to go fishing. Indeed your personality will become totally altered and friends will see the changes in you. After hours and hours of staring at moving water you will occasionally hallucinate, hear voices and experience motion sickness – all the signs of being a junkie, right? Your moods will drastically swing from depression (no rises) to unbridled elation (landing a 6 pounder) and this will impact on your mental heath.

Your health, that’s another issue. You will not sleep for several reasons – coming home late, rising way too early and waking up several times in the night looking at the clock. You will lose weight because eating is unrelated to landing a fish. I have a buddy who takes a break from casting at seven in the morning to have what he calls ‘a breakfast of champions’. This non-nutritional break consists of a Blackhorse and an Eatmore bar. You will most likely start smoking because it calms your nerves after (a) landing a fish (b) losing a fish (c) becoming anemic from fly bites, etc. And then there’s beer. It and fishing just go together so nicely; again, addictive and costly. Put all those negatives together and you pay dearly for your pursuit of the noble fish.

So, after all that do you still want to go fishing? If so give me a call; I can’t wait to tighten a line.