Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Hurricane Katrina has done extensive damage and killed hundreds, if not thousands, of people in one of my favourite American cities: New Orleans. And since we belong to a society that always tries to find fault in others, who should we blame this incredibly sad catastrophe on?

An evangelical Christian group that regularly demonstrates at LGBT events is blaming gays for hurricane Katrina.
Repent America says that God "destroyed" New Orleans because of Southern Decadence, the gay festival that was to have taken place in the city over the Labor Day weekend.
"Southern Decadence" has a history of filling the French Quarters section of the city with drunken homosexuals engaging in sex acts in the public streets and bars" Repent America director Michael Marcavage said in a statement Wednesday.
"Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city." Marcavage said. "From ‘Girls Gone Wild’ to ‘Southern Decadence’, New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. May it never be the same."
"Let us pray for those ravaged by this disaster. However, we must not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long," Marcavage said.
"May this act of God cause us all to think about what we tolerate in our city limits, and bring us trembling before the throne of Almighty God," Marcavage concluded.

A group calling itself Columbia Christians for Life says that a satellite image of Hurricane Katrina as it hit the Gulf Coast Monday looks just like a six-week-old fetus.
"The image of the hurricane ... with its eye already ashore at 12:32 p.m. Monday, August 29, looks like a fetus (unborn human baby) facing to the left (west) in the womb, in the early weeks of gestation (approx. 6 weeks)," the e-mail message says. "Even the orange color of the image is reminiscent of a commonly used pro-life picture of earlyprenatal development."
"Louisiana has 10 child-murder-by-abortion centers," the groups says, and "five are in New Orleans."

Both arguments are so compelling and make so much sense that, quite frankly, I don't know which one I should believe.
BAD ALBUM COVERS,,5-2005380599,00.html

Some of you may have seen many of these already, but there are a few new ones in the slide show that I hadn't checked out before.
Some day Joyce may bear my children.
It must be 10:30. I can hear the fireworks from the CNE.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I was unable to attend the Gang of Four concert in Toronto in the spring, and the band unfortunately hasn't included my city in its fall tour itinerary. However, the group has re-recorded some of its old classics and will release them through V2 Records on an album called Return The Gift on Oct. 11. You can listen to the album at I've been listening this afternoon and have been impressed. So if you're an old fan, or want to discover where groups like The Rapture, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Franz Ferdinand and Interpol got a lot of their inspiration and influences from, visit the site and listen for yourself.
Thanks to Gregg Smithe for the tip.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Another weekend, another rained-out baseball game. But this time, instead of going to Harbourfront, I went to the Boulton Avenue (the street where I lived in a house with four other guys while we were going to Ryerson in 1989-90 and in a different house on weekends with my former girlfriend in 1990-91) home of Heather Morgan and Greg Bennett for a barbecue, party and jam session.
I had already eaten, but I did partake of a dozen beers, a glass of Sangria and shared custody of a number of aromatic combustibles. (Thanks, Michael) As well as seeing some friends, I got to renew acquaintances with a few people who I had met only a few times before, like Bruce Farley "Mole" Mowat and Peter Hudson, and meet totally new people like Nancy Dutra.
I've been a longtime fan of Chris "Baby Jesus" Houston as both a solo artist and from his days with the Forgotten Rebels, and I enjoyed talking to him for the first time and hearing some of his stories. Edgar Breau of Simply Saucer was also there, and it was a pleasure to meet another relatively obscure musical icon from Hamilton. There were just a lot of music lovers there. And that's the kind of environment that I love.
A good portion of the people in attendance were musicians, singers or both, and had brought instruments. Heather, Scott Bradshaw, one of the White Cowbell Oklahoma guys, Edgar and Andrea England were among those who I enjoyed. My personal highlight (and one of Heather's, too) was Chris doing an acoustic version of Surfing On Heroin with a few altered lyrics, and Hudson plugging into a cigarette pack amplifier behind him to add some fuzz guitar.
The wet weather might have kept a few people away, and the cops showing up may have toned things down a bit, but I had a great time. Thanks to Heather and Greg for their hospitality and ability to cultivate such an interesting guest list.
Thanks to Warren Campbell for forwarding this:

ELVIRA'S JONESING LEFT HER IN STITCHES: "The actress behind horror icon Elvira has revealed she needed stitches after losing her virginity to Welsh crooner Tom Jones - because he was so well-endowed." If you want or need to know the rest of this
penetrating story, here goes: Cassandra Peterson, who was also romantically linked to Elvis Presley during her teen years as a Vegas showgirl, remembers the deed thusly: "I ended up with a little tearing, a little bleeding and going to the hospital. I had to get stitches." (To which some physicians might say, "It's Not Unusual") Despite the uncomfortable details, Peterson, now 55, added that she enjoyed the experience, but regrets not losing her virginity to Presley. "Elvis was constantly surrounded by his entourage ["The Memphis Mafia"], and I was only 17, and I'm sure they knew it."

I have always been a big Tom Jones fan and have always called him The Welsh Superstar. I guess that Jon Langford, Ian Woosnam and John Cale would be the three losing semi-finalists for that title. I've only seen TJ (not Hooker, though I do like me some Shatner every now and then as well) perform live once, about five years ago, and he was great. I've heard, repeated and even embellished the legends about Tom's member and his sexual prowess, so I appreciated hearing this one (since Elvira enjoyed it despite the obvious pain.) "What's New Pussy Cat," indeed.
My favourite Tom Jones penis story, however, dates back to the '60s when TJ was the hot new singer and stud in Hollywood. He was appearing on a TV show and met Milton Berle backstage. Uncle Miltie said had apparently heard stories about TJ's big schlong and then said: "Just remember kid, I'm still the biggest in the business" before whipping down his pants to display a dick that was even bigger than Tom's.
The Future is my favourite Leonard Cohen album as a whole, while I love other songs from other albums as well. Leonard autographed my copy of The Future at the launch party for the album in the venerable Cabana Room of the old Spadina Hotel (which is now a youth hostel) in Toronto. I was flattered that he ignored Rosanna Arquette, who he was dating at the time, to talk to me and my friend about old-time country music.
A couple of years later, at the launch party for Tower of Song: The Songs of Leonard Cohen, we continued that discussion over a number of Red Needles (the drink that Leonard invented; see for the delicious recipe). He's a very gracious, intelligent and funny man. I hope that he gets his recently revealed money problems sorted out.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

After reading Stewart's somewhat baffling e-mail to Chart, that was forwarded on to me, I contacted him myself to figure out if I knew him. Below is the transcript of our online conversation:

----- Original Message -----
From: Steve McLean
Sent: Thursday, August 25, 2005 7:30 PM
Subject: Thank you

Hi Stewart.
I hope that you enjoyed my Big Mac scraps, and thank you for thinking that it was newsworthy.

His reply:

Hi Steve,
You are most welcome.
I believe that these sorts of historic moments should be noted and archived. Which I believe Aaron has already done, though I'm not sure if 'archived' was the word he used.
To help you remember back to the heady days of 1984. I was part of the Empty Shells. The 'cute one' as I was known...or was it the 'funny one'...I'm not sure.
Your displays of total irresponsibility from that time have stuck with me to this day. I have used them countless times as a cautionary tale for my own children.
I have recently been involved in a going musical concern called Brittlestar. You can rest easy in the knowledge that your influence has had no influence on that particular aspect of my life.
I truly hope you are well and that if you ever need a hug, you will call upon someone else.

How could I have forgottten the "cute one" from the Empty Shells? His web site address is actually I checked it out, and his brand of pop music is pretty good. Stewart worked with Stephen "Tin Tin" Duffy on his new album.
Chart publisher Ed Skira and managing editor Aaron Brophy both forwarded this e-mail to me after receiving it at the magazine:

Name: stewart reynolds
Comment: it's just come to my attention that steve mclean is a writer at chart.
i wish it to be known that i fought for, and won, steve's big mac scraps when he was social convenor at stratford central secondary school.
i believe this to be newsworthy.

I remember an Ian Reynolds from high-school, and have seen him occasionally in the intervening years, but I'm not sure about a Stewart Reynolds. I didn't eat that many Big Macs back then (though I did win a couple of ice cream-eating contests that I should tell you about sometime), and I didn't leave any scraps for people to fight over if I did.
But I'm glad that I could make such an impression on young Stewart that he thinks his 20-year-old accomplishment is now newsworthy.
Marlins suspend batboy for milk-drinking dare
From news services

Milk does a body good, but it didn't do good for one batboy.
On a dare, a Florida Marlins batboy tried to drink a gallon of milk in under an hour without throwing up.
But not only did the batboy not succeed in the challenge, his mere attempt cost him his job for six games, the Miami Herald reported Wednesday. The Marlins suspended the unidentified batboy for the team's upcoming six-game homestand against the Cardinals and Mets from Aug. 28 through Sept. 4 for accepting the dare Sunday from Dodgers pitcher (and former Marlin) Brad Penny. Penny offered the batboy $500 if he could drink a gallon of milk in less than an hour before Sunday's game without throwing up. Penny told the paper the boy drank the milk and didn't throw up, but didn't finish the gallon in the
allotted time frame to win the dare.
"It's kind of ridiculous that you get a 10-game suspension for steroids and a six-game suspension for milk," Penny told the Herald. ''It's ridiculous that they worry about stuff like that. It shows they [the Marlins organization] don't know anything about the game. That kind of stuff goes on everywhere. It didn't affect the way he worked, the way he did his job.''
Tommy Lee Presents Tommyland: The Ride is the name of the new solo album from the Motley Crue drummer. Being the chaste young man that I am, I'm probably one of the few people who hasn't seen the video where Tommy and Pamela Anderson get it on while on a boat. But I'm sure I'd find that ride more interesting than this one. It's not a bad record, but just doesn't have anything to grab my attention aside from The English Butler -- comprised entirely of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous host Robin Leach (or a sound-alike) on Tommy's answering machine, which leads directly into Tired and its lyrical references to Tommy getting tired of Pammy, Puffy tiring of J.Lo, and Hugh Hefner tiring of Playboy bunnies. Tryin' To Be Me is the first single, while its follow-up will be Good Times. That song is also the theme to Tommy's new reality TV show, Tommy Lee Goes To College, which I haven't seen but have read is pretty innocuous. The same can be said of this album. While I've never been a Crue fan, this album -- which was released on Chad Kroeger's 604 label -- doesn't rock as hard as that band. It features contributions from Dave Navarro, Sum 41's Deryck Whibley, Guns 'N Roses' Matt Sorum, Good Charlotte's Joel Madden, Fuel's Carl Bell, Something Corporate's Andrew McMahon and Backstreet Boy Nick Carter, but who cares. As both a drummer and a lover, Tommy is apparently pretty adept with long sticks. But that's not enough to make me listen to this record again.
The Crue played the Molson Amphitheatre on Tuesday night and I passed a couple of big-haired, tattooed, leather-clad dudes walking on Lakeshore who must have been on their way to the show. I didn't know that people still dressed that way. I'd like to think that it was a put-on, but, sadly, I doubt it.
The Rolling Stones seem to like Canadian acts. After inviting The Trews to open the band's "secret" show at The Phoenix a few weeks ago, the group has enlisted The Tragically Hip, Our Lady Peace, Alanis Morissette and 54.40 to open selected shows on its current tour. 54.40 will play with the Stones in Calgary on Oct. 28, and hopefully it can bring more attention to the Vancouver band's new Yes To Everything album. The disc is very solid, one of my 20 favourite so far this year, and continues the band's tradition of making fine rock records. While the group isn't particularly electrifying on stage, its extensive repertoire from the past 20 years can fill 90 minutes with little let-up from great songs. I saw the band twice during NXNE in June and thoroughly enjoyed both shows. 54.40 will be playing a number of dates across Canada this fall and, if you haven't seen it for a while, do yourself a favour and get out to a show.
After years of trading away youth for expensive older talent to take runs – that inevitably ended up falling short – at the Stanley Cup, the Toronto Maple Leafs find themselves in a bit of quandary at the dawn of the NHL’s salary cap era.
Gone are high-priced veterans Alexander Mogilny, Brian Leetch, Owen Nolan, Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk, who the team couldn’t fit in its new salary structure. Age and health concerns made all of them risks to re-sign to multi-year, multi-million-dollar deals, but their production will be missed.
The team has less than $3 million left under the $39-million cap and might want to hold on to a bit of that money for mid-season acquisitions. And with the cap expected to fall next year due to decreased revenues from the fallout of the lockout that wiped out last season, that will put an even tighter squeeze on the formerly free-spending squad.
But the Leafs haven’t been sitting idly by in this craziest of summers for NHL general managers, agents and players. They added former MVP Eric Lindros for $1.55 million and former 90-point scorer Jason Allison for around the same price in a contract that could escalate to $4 million if he lives up to past performances and meets all of his incentive clauses. While both players have a history of major injuries and can be considered risky signings, their relatively low price tags can be considered coups for the Leafs.
Combined with captain and perennial leading scorer Mats Sundin, Lindros and Allison will give the Leafs as much solid depth at centre as any team in the league. Nik Antropov will either centre the fourth line or move to the wing and allow promising youngster Matt Stajan some playing time up the middle. Look for Allison and Lindros to also play some wing on the power play.
While the Leafs look strong up the middle, they don’t have much in the way of speedy snipers to take advantage of the new no red line rule who can streak down the boards to put the puck in the net. New acquisition Jeff O’Neill was once that type of player, but struggled in his final season for the Carolina Hurricanes. If the 29-year-old can regain his past 40-goal touch, he should make a solid linemate for Sundin and, most likely, Darcy Tucker. Tucker, a rambunctious winger and agitator, has also shown a nose for the net.
After that, however, things take a dramatic drop. While Tie Domi is a fan favourite and was coveted by other teams this summer, the 35-year-old tough guy has never scored more than 15 goals or 29 points in a season. Wade Belak is another enforcer, but his offensive prowess makes Domi look like Martin St. Louis. Chad Kilger, Nathan Perrott and Clarke Wilm won’t strike fear into the hearts of any defenders, so the Leafs will have a long look at 2002 first-round draft pick Alexander Steen.
Thomas Kaberle, Brian McCabe and Ken Klee, who should give the team a decent balance of defensive toughness and offensive skills, will anchor the blue line. Free agent acquisition Alexander Khavanov and the returning Aki Berg will likely get the bulk of the remaining minutes, but it’s hoped that former first rounder Carlo Colaiacovo can stick with the big club this fall and add more offence to the back line. On a team short of real prospects, he may be the top one.
Ed Belfour is a future Hall of Fame goaltender, but the advancing years and recurring back problems could haunt him this season. If he plays as well as he did in 2003-04, when he racked up 10 shutouts, the Leafs should be in good shape. If he goes down, Mikael Tellqvist or former Pittsburgh Penguin Jean-Sebastien Aubin will have a heavy burden on their shoulders.
Both goalies played for St. John’s last season, but the Leafs’ AHL franchise has moved from Newfoundland to Toronto and been renamed the Marlies. Former Carolina coach Paul Maurice has been hired to oversee the team (and perhaps take over from Leafs coach Pat Quinn a year or two down the road), and the front office and scouting staffs should be able to keep a closer eye on things down the street at the Ricoh Centre then they could with players on the rock.
The Leafs have beefed up their scouting in an effort to look to the future, but such potential free agent stars as Jarome Iginla, Joe Thornton and Vincent Lecavalier have all been locked up to long-term deals by their current clubs, so there may not be that much for the team to pick from next season to bolster the roster either.
The Leafs should contend for a playoff spot this season, but the Stanley Cup drought that has lasted since 1967 shows no sign of ending soon.
I was happy to read this:

press release from the California Nurses Association (

‘No Sympathy’ for Schwarzenegger at Rolling Stones Concert in Boston - RNs Protest Sticky Fingers for Corporate Cash

For Immediate Release
August 22, 2005

(Oakland, CA) There was "No Sympathy" for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Sunday night as he sought to turn a Rolling Stones concert in Boston into a fundraiser only to be picketed by registered nurses from California, Illinois and Massachusetts outside the stadium and loudly booed by thousands of rock fans when introduced inside.
Exploiting the kickoff event of the Stones latest North American tour to raise cash for his own national fundraising efforts, Schwarzenegger resold $450 concert tickets to donors for $10,000 a piece, and offered fans the chance to sit with him in a luxury box for $100,000 a pop. But, Schwarzenegger quickly discovered, he was ‘Playing With Fire’, once again thanks to the California Nurses Association with the help of the Massachusetts Nurses Association and Chicago nurses from the CNA-sponsored National Nurses Organizing Committee.
First, the ticket sales for the $100,000 seats were a bust. According to observers, only three people could be spotted in the luxury box, including the governor and his wife, Maria Shriver. Then much of the attention prior to the concert was on the protest.
Dozens of RNs picketed outside Fenway Park, site of the concert, Sunday afternoon. As the nurses handed out 3,000 signs to Stones fans in the form of a large ticket that read "Stop Arnold. Sticky Fingers for Corrupt Corporate Cash. No Sympathy for Schwarzenegger," an airplane circled overhead bearing the banner, “Arnold's Beast of Burden: Corporate Cash.”
Inside sitting nearly alone in his private box, Schwarzenegger must have been looking for Wild Horses to drag him away. Hundreds of fans held up the CNA signs. When Stones lead singer Mick Jagger welcomed the governor, he was lustily booed, and even Jagger mocked Schwarzenegger noting "As a matter of fact, he was seen out in front of Fenway Park tonight raising funds by scalping tickets and tee-shirts."
"What a colossal embarrassment for California, the sight of our governor jeered as he fundraises across the nation and scalping concert tickets for corporate cash to buy ads for a wasteful special election most Californians did not want," said CNA Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro. "Californians should send this governor and his corporate sponsors a message as well -- You Can’t Always Get What You Want.…and vote No in November."
I liked Justin Fargas when he was the running back sharing the backfield with quarterback Carson Palmer when USC won the U.S. national title during the 2002-2003 season. But after being drafted by the Raiders in the third round of the 2003 NFL draft, he's been hampered by injuries and hasn't been able to play much or live up to his potential the last two years. Yesterday I found out that Justin is the son of Antonio Fargas, who played Huggy Bear on Starsky and Hutch in the '70s. I think I may have found my new favourite NFL player.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Souls' Chapel, the first gospel album from Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives, is an attractive listen no matter what your religious persuasion is. While the messages are there, they're not in your face. And they're presented in a rootsy fashion that includes elements of country and the blues. Stuart -- a respected veteran of the country scene's new traditionalist movement who has also delved into honky-tonk, rockabilly and bluegrass in the past -- wrote or co-wrote half of the album's 12 tracks. There are also a few gospel standards and two songs written by "Pops" Staples from The Staples Singers. One of them, Move Along Train, features vocals from Mavis Staples. I haven't attended church on a regular basis for 20 years, but songs like these could draw me in sporadically, at least.

np The Bled - Found In The Flood (Stay away unless you're into that "screamo" stuff.)
ALI G, PAMELA ANDERSON AND THE VILLAGE PEOPLE,,2-1343-1344_1758474,00.html

I can think of a lot of things that I might do to Pamela Anderson, but rugby tackling her would rank pretty low on that list.
What exactly is a "Village People-style cap?" Each member has his own distinctive head apparel. I'll just assume that they're referring to leather man, even though you know what they say about people who assume. And that could be especially risky while in the vicinity of the Village People. I bought the Village People's Cruisin' album when I was 13 and didn't realize the homosexual themes involved with it. I used to play it at my grandmother's house, and she obviously didn't either. Years later I saw a picture disc version of Cruisin' in a record store bargain bin for two dollars. I bought it and put it up on my office wall. It made a nice conversation piece.
You've got to like how Ali G made his entrance.
Thanks to Tima Steinberg for the link.

np Wide Mouth Mason - Shot Down Satellites (It's a bit more alternative-leaning than past material and I like it more, but I'm still not much of a fan.)

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

It's sad that even the "King of Rock and Roll" sometimes has to resort to a day job to make ends meet.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Here are a couple of shots from Living Elvis Karaoke concerts that I alluded to yesterday. How do you like my maintenance job -- and that drum kit?
Thanks to Warren Campbell for this:
Actor Abe Vigoda eats a huge bowl of oatmeal -- "more oatmeal than a
man half his age could eat!" -- Practically every day at Lenny's on
East 77th Street in NYC.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Before I graduated to the Elvis Festival, I honed my craft on the stage of the Horseshoe during their biannual Living Elvis Karaoke nights that were held on the King's birthday (Jan. 8) and death day (Aug. 16) for years until they wound to a halt earlier this year. The Royal Crowns were the house band, with drummer and bartender extraordinaire Teddy Fury helping to keep things rolling along. For some reason, even though there were a lot of great performances by professional singers, my punk Elvis routine seemed to entertain a lot of people. The club even used my name in a newspaper ad and poster to attract people one time, which I found very funny. So while I could never usurp Max Brand (Black Elvis), I became a staple and enjoyed donning this jumpsuit twice a year.
The jumpsuit even made me look fat in the above photo, which I guess is appropriate. It may also be the reason why Marla the Prize Queen was trying to pry that bottle of 50 from my hand. I'll miss those Living Elvis Karaoke nights and I hope that they'll someday be revived. After all, Mary Margaret O'Hara told me that she'd like to sing back-up for me, and that still hasn't happened. But now that I've exhausted my Elvis Festival photos from Collingwood, I'll post a few shots from those nights at the Horseshoe over the next few days to relive some of those memories.
Another canceled baseball game, after torrential rains and flooding in parts of Scarborough, meant spending a second consecutive Friday night at the CIBC Stage at Harbourfront. I walked down, had another tasty order of Mediterranean chicken and vegetables, and met up with Tara and Tima to see Matt Mays and El Torpedo. The weather probably kept some people away, but I'd guess that there were 700 people there to check out material from Matt's two albums. Just as when I saw the band in Hubbards, N.S. three weeks ago, the jamming was reduced and the volume brought down a bit, which suited me just fine. The crowd was reserved, but a late set Cocaine Cowgirl brought most people to their feet. I also found out that the band was so impressed with Hubbards that it shot the video for On The Hood there.
We went up to the Horseshoe to pick up JC and then walked to the Amsterdam Brewery to sit on the patio and comment on everyone walking by us on the patio. Jordan and Michelle joined us to round out the party, and CBC/Moxy Fruvous guy Jian Ghomeshi stopped to chat for a while as well. While I was disappointed that there was no Avalanche in stock, and I could only get a bottle of Framboise, a couple pints of Nut Brown after that hit the spot. After being told that we couldn't hang out there any longer, we went our separate ways and I got home at 3 a.m.

To celebrate a 20-3 baseball win on Saturday night, JC and I returned to Harbourfront to see The Joel Plaskett Emergency. We arrived mid-set, but still caught such great songs as Down At The Khyber, Maybe We Should Just Go Home, Work Out Fine, Mystery & Crime, Extraordinary, Come On Teacher and a solo acoustic encore of True Patriot Love, where Joel forgot a lot of the lyrics. He has great stage presence and it's always a treat to see him perform.
We went from there up to Lee's Palace to see The Constantines as part of the Three Gut Records farewell party. We had to endure almost half-an-hour of the essentially annoying Oneida first, however. The club was packed with Constantines devotees, and the band had them under its intense spell from the get-go as it drove its way through such winners as Shine A Light, Nighttime/Anytime (It's Alright), On To You, Sub-Domestic, Hotline Operator and, my personal favourite, Young Lions. Johanna, who was my host when I visited Nairobi last fall, was visiting Toronto with her Kenyan husband, Anthony. As we sat above the stage and looked down, it was interesting to see and hear Anthony's reactions to seeing a rock show from that close for the first time in his life.
We were all a bit hungry, so we cut out from the show a bit early to get a seat at Swatow to enjoy some excellent Chinese food. The company (JC, Tara, Sonja, Johanna and Anthony) and the chow were great, and I even got some leftovers that I'll enjoy for dinner tomorrow night. Because tonight we get back to our winning ways in softball and then get to christen Fred and Joanne's new place with burgers and beer at a barbecue that they've graciously volunteered to host.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

That's my friend Kirk leading the dancers as I entertained the masses by singing Devil In Disguise on the main stage of the Elvis Festival.

My friend Kirk got me to perform Viva Las Vegas at a pub that was taking part in the Elvis Festival.

That's my package.

Friday, August 19, 2005

I don't know if Elvis ever wore khaki pants, but the impersonator behind me seemed very comfortable in them.
Jimmie Dale Gilmore's new Come On Back album is dedicated to the memory of his musician father Brian, who died of Lou Gehrig's Disease five years ago. The album features 13 of his father's favourite old country tunes, and the choice of material helps make this a standout. The album was produced by Gilmore's Lubbock, Tex. childhood buddy and fellow Flatlander Joe Ely, who also plays on the disc. Things get off to a great start with a fiddle-driven version of Harlan Howard's Pick Me Up On Your Way Down. Gilmore's homespun, slightly nasal vocals fit well on the Lefty Frizzell hit, Saginaw, Michigan. Gilmore was named after country pioneer Jimmie Rodgers, so it's quite appropriate that he covers the "Singin' Brakeman's" Standin' On The Corner (Blue Yodel No. 9). There are also exemplary covers of Hank Williams' I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, Ernest Tubb's classic Walking The Floor Over You and The Carter Family's Jimmie Brown The Newsboy, while fiddle and electric guitar drive Hank Snow's I'm Movin' On along like the little engine that could. Gilmore's voice doesn't have the resonance of either Marty Robbins or Johnny Cash, but that's still no reason to overlook his respective versions of Don't Worry 'Bout Me and Train Of Love. Gotta Travel On has already been recorded by a lot of people, but Gilmore's take is by no means superfluous. The album ends with the sacred Peace In The Valley, which became Brian Gilmore's favourite song shortly before he died. If you're a fan of either Gilmore or classic old country music, add this to your collection. It's a definite top 20 of 2005 contender for me.

Going back even further than the repertoire on Gilmore's album is The Stanley Brothers' Earliest Recordings: The Complete Rich-R-Tone 78s (1947-1952). The 13 songs here (The Little Glass Of Wine appears in two versions) include the brothers' first recordings ever, and most of them also feature Pee Wee (mandolin) and Ray (bass) Lambert and Leslie Keith (fiddle) playing along with Carter (guitar) and Ralph (banjo). There were four separate sessions, and some of them sound more crackly than others, but that adds to the ambience of these vintage recordings. There are traditionals, gospel tunes, Carter Stanley originals, as well as songs from Pee Wee Lambert, Ernest Tubb and Bill Monroe, including the most energetic and most bluegrass-flavoured tune on the album, Molly and Tenbrook. If you're into old-time country and exploring archival material, this may interest you.

Alana Levandoski is a 26-year-old singer/songwriter from rural Manitoba who recently released her debut album, Unsettled Down. She's a very good and detailed storyteller with a charming voice that suits her rootsy folk- and country-based pop songs. The production by Norm Dugas is impressively full, and Levandoski's acoustic guitar is nicely rounded out by electric guitar, bass, drums, pedal steel, fiddle, organ and piano. Though this isn't the kind of stuff that I'd listen to on a regular basis, I recognize its quality and wouldn't have a problem recommending it to fans of Nanci Griffith, Patty Griffin and the like. Levandoski is managed by Billboard Canadian bureau chief Larry Leblanc, who also works with Joel Kroeker.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


I'm sure that it can't beat the great taste of Heidelberg, the brand that got me hooked when I was a kid. Damn, I miss that beer.
Thanks to Heather Morgan for the link.
I received the Modern Sounds of The Knitters album that I was promised this week and, while not blown away, I certainly wasn't disappointed with the group's follow-up to 1985's Poor Little Critter in the Road. The arrangement of the traditional Give Me Flowers While I'm Living features Exene Cervenka on vocals and has a melody similar to Truck Drivin' Man. Dave Alvin's baritone guitar is the highlight of In This House That I Call Home, which has an arrangement that differs a bit from the original X version. Alvin wrote Dry River and does some nice guitar picking as John Doe sings the song. Though I still prefer the original, The New Call Of The Wreckin' Ball is about as successful as most sequels get. Porter Wagoner had a hit with I'll Go Down Swinging, and The Knitters' rootsy rockabilly version with Exene singing is a hit in my universe. Long Chain On is sombre and adds a nice counterpoint to some of the 12 other songs here, including X's Burning House Of Love and Skin Deep Town, which was a high point from the band's Lee's Palace performance on Aug. 7. Born To Be Wild ends the album and doesn't reach the heights that I might have hoped for, but Steppenwolf covered in a hillbilly style seems to be a pretty appropriate way to end this album.

If this friendly Elvis didn't have that slick pompadour, he might be confused with former BJ and the Bear star, Greg Evigan.

Considering the sign in the background, I call these guys the "auto shop Elvi." The one on the left I envision as the nerdy parts manager who fulfills his fantasy of wearing silk scarves once a year at the Elvis Festival, while the one on the right is the swaggering mechanic who misguidedly thinks he's a real ladies man.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I've been asked to work in the Bahamas as an editor for travel publications there. As well as the personal issues I'll have to
consider in making the decision, I'm also looking for feedback from anyone who has ever moved there to work. If you know anyone who might be able to help me out, could you please pass their contact info on to me so I could find about their experiences.
Thanks for your help,
I listened to Willie's Countryman reggae album recently, and it's not too bad at all. Twelve songs check in at 36 minutes. My favourites include Do You Mind Too Much If I Don't Understand, How Long Is Forever, a duet with Toots Hibbert on Johnny and June Carter-Cash's I'm A Worried Man, Willie and Ray Price's I've Just Destroyed The World, and Willie and Hank Cochran's Undo The Right. The songs that don't stand up as well are probably the two best known, covers of Jimmy Cliff's The Harder They Come and Sitting In Limbo. This album has sat in limbo since 1997, but kudos to Lost Highway for now giving
us a chance to hear it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Cuff The Duke’s self-titled follow-up to 2002’s Life Stories for Minimum Wage still has roots elements at the core of its sound, but has traded in some of its edginess for more orchestral pop sounds in places. It certainly isn’t the most lyrically cheery album that you’ll hear this year, but the music that envelops those words is varied enough that it evokes a multitude of moods during its 43-minute duration. Single/video Take My Money And Run is a rollicking anti-corporate song of destitution, while The Future Hangs and Belgium Or Peru are moving songs of lost love. There’s a solid mix of guitar and piano on the old-fashioned sounding The Ballad of Poor John Henry, which is topped off by charming female harmonies in the chorus. Moog and jangly guitar highlight the catchy I’ll Meet You On The Other Side, while an extended instrumental coda concludes the album on It’s Over. By producing quality music like this, Cuff The Duke’s career seems to be anything but over.

The first night of the T.O. Twang festival on Aug. 12 was a blast. I arrived at Harbourfront in time to enjoy an excellent seven-dollar plate of Mediterranean chicken and vegetables and catch the last few songs from N.Q. Arbuckle, which is peermusic's Neville Quinlan and his backing band. I haven't heard the latest album, but live Neville is an engaging frontman and the folky-roots rock the band played was well-received by the audience at the CIBC stage.

After a beer break it was time for The Sadies to take the CIBC stage. The band launched into the great spaghetti western track Dying Is Easy to start the set before Dallas and Travis Good welcomed their mom, Margaret, to the stage for a lovely take of Higher Power that extended into a lengthy instrumental featuring Travis on fiddle. Mom stayed around as the band romped through Pretty Polly. Part One and Part Two from the band's latest album, Favourite Colours, made nice bookends around the great '60s-based surf instrumental, Rat Creek.
Blue Rodeo's Greg Keelor was standing in the wings offstage and I expected him to join the band and handle lead vocals for Wearin' That Loved On Look, which I've seen him do a few times in the past. He didn't, but he really wasn't missed. There was a great mix of raw rock with the totally poppy "Shoop De Shoop" chorus that put the version of the song that Elvis opened his From Elvis In Memphis album with to shame.
After a few more songs, Keelor and partner Jim Cuddy joined the band for three songs. Having four guitars on stage added extra dimensions to the songs and combined to make one of the show's many highlights.
Back to the core four, The Sadies delivered more gold -- including Ridge Runner Rag, Lay Down Your Arms, Tell Her Lies & Feed Her Candy and Clarence White's Hong Kong Hillbilly -- before Margaret rejoined them for the spiritual I'll Fly Away and a festive version of Tiger Tiger to end the set.
Following a standing ovation, the band returned for an encore of The Story's Often Told and two others, one of which was dedicated to Jimmy Martin, who died a few months ago. Keelor, Cuddy and Blue Rodeo bassist Bazil Donovan then came on stage, and Baz strapped on Travis' red Gretsch guitar while Travis picked up the fiddle so Keelor could lead the supergroup through a cover of Neil Young's Are You Ready For The Country? that seemed like the perfect way to end the show.

One of Carolyn Mark's previous bands was Her Boyfriends. Conversely, me and my Girlfriends (Kate, Tima and Tracy) for the evening moved on to the Brigantine Room to see Carolyn and her latest band, Her New Best Friends. Among the members of the group were longtime accompanist Tolan MacNeil playing guitar, Bob Egan playing lap steel and Ford Pier playing the most energetic keyboards I've seen since Bobby Wiseman in the early days of Blue Rodeo. Pier also duetted on Done Something Wrong, from Mark's new Just Married: An Album of Duets, and N.Q. Arbuckle's Neville Quinlan joined her on stage for Fireworks from the same album. We were too busy dancing in front of the stage for me to take any notes, but I remember that she also played After Bar Party, Not Another Other Woman and that Idaho song from the Nashville tribute album from 2002 that Carolyn oversaw. Carolyn has a great sense of humour and always has so much fun on stage that the crowd can't help but share in her enthusiasm. There was even a very cute dead ringer for Norah Jones dancing with us.

I had hoped to catch a bit of Elliott Brood in between Carolyn's sets, but we unfortunately arrived just after the band had finished. I always enjoy the band's southern gothic take on roots music, and it comes across much more lively than it does on the group's 2003 Tin Type debut. You should definitely check the group out if you haven't already. And they're nice guys, to boot.

Next up were The Sin-Tones, a trio that blends '60s influences, surf instrmentals, swamp rock and more rootsy stompers. The set was thoroughly enjoyable, with: a very subtle but impressive cover of the Spiderman theme; a much less subtle but still impressive cover of the Batman theme; an odd but effective Rasputin/Rawhide medley; Knot of Wood (they saw Jesus in one, and it sounds just like The Cramps' Goo Goo Muck); a relaxed cover of the Peter Gunn theme; a number of other originals; and a very fast surf instrumental cover of Stairway To Heaven. It was my favourite version of the song ever, but I guess it's not that hard to do since I'm so bored with the Led Zeppelin original.
I remember DJing a high-school dance 20 years ago, when every dance used to end with Stairway To Heaven to give the kids 10 minutes of groping time before heading home. I played the first minute of the song so everyone found their favourite guy or gal and got into the slowdance position and then ripped it off the turntable and threw on Motorhead's Ace of Spades to drive everyone out of the gym. That was a good time.
The band returned for a two-song encore that included an instrumental cover of Gordon Lightfoot's If You Could Read My Mind and a lighthearted Folsom Prison Blues.
The Sin-Tones released a very fun album called Surf-o-Ghetti! a couple of years ago and sent me a can of Alphaghetti with a customized label along with the CD. I found both quite tasty.

All the Harbourfront bars closed at 1:30 a.m. and the only bar in the vicinity was some trendy dance club that deemed Jeff Kilpatrick and I unsuitably attired for entrance. We didn't want to hang with those snobs anyway, we just wanted a few more drinks. So we walked back to my place and enjoyed several Tiverton Bear Dark Lagers (which I cut my hands on a number of times since their plastic bottles had a 50-percent failure rate when it came to opening their screw-top caps and I had to get a knife to pry them open) while discussing music, beer and the Nixon administration until 5 a.m.

Elvis apparently died 28 years ago today, but not everyone believes that. If there's some way that he could have saved enough money (Colonel Tom Parker ripped him off badly, and that very tasteful furniture throughout Graceland must have cost a pretty penny) to get some radical surgery to make himself into a younger Filipino man with a passion for beads and red satin shirts, I might actually have been standing beside the King when this photo was taken.
I saw my first white squirrel on Sunday when I was cutting through the Queen Street Mental Health Centre. I'd heard that there were a few of them in nearby Trinity Bellwoods Park, but had never seen one. I stopped to watch it for a minute and then kept looking back at it as I walked away. Apparently there are lots of white squirrels in Exeter, Ontario -- enough that The Chickens (four of the five members of the band hail from that small southwestern Ontario town) wrote a song called White Squirrel Town on their Prepare To Plug In album. It's a great song from a great album, and its Bring It On successor also rocks. The Chickens are the best live band in Toronto and, if you haven't heard them, you should. Visit to hear samples, see a clip from the band's appearance on Little Steven's Underground Garage MTV special, find tour dates and, of course, buy stuff.
I saw a crack pipe in the stairway leading to my underground garage yesterday. It was the first time I had seen one there. Human excrement, yes. But not a crack pipe.
But that still wasn't as unusual as on a fall afternoon about five years ago when I was coming up those stairs out of the garage and, as soon as I turned the corner to walk to my townhouse, I saw a coyote five metres in front of me. Since I live in downtown Toronto, that's not something you see everyday. I figured that it must have been from High Park, which is a few kilometres west of my place. But for it to be that lost, I figured it must have been rabid and disoriented. We stared each other down for about two minutes, with neither of us moving. The coyote then turned and ran into the courtyard of our complex and then disappeared.
Two months ago I was very hot and decided to sleep on my couch because there was a nice breeze blowing in from the screen door on my back deck. I guess I wasn't sleeping very soundly because I awoke around 5 a.m. after hearing a noise. I looked up to see a racoon's face a metre away from mine. The rascal had managed to open my screen door and was sticking its head in to investigate what kind of goodies it might be able to get its claws on. I jumped up and made some sort of bad animal noise and it turned around and ran out. It climbed up to my third-storey deck, where I saw two younger racoons. I watched until they eventually climbed to someone else's deck.
I apparently got lucky. I was talking to some neighbours at a party two weeks ago and two of them told me that racoons had actually got inside their townhouses, ate some food, caused some damage and generally made a mess. One of them chased the varmint out with a broom after chasing it around the place, while another got her dog to do the same thing. I like watching racoons, but I don't want to live with any.

np The Sadies - Stories Often Told

Sunday, August 14, 2005

This guy is also a big fan of Elvis In Hawaii. He's sporting the TCB lightning pendant that the King was fond of. He's got a nice smile. It's too bad that he drinks Coors Light.

This guy has the classic sexy young Elvis look, so I didn't mind him hitting on me. Actually he didn't, but a number of middle-aged women did.

This Elvis has a pretty good sneer and a smaller collar than "Confused Elvis." Check out that dollar sign pendant he's wearing. And that STOP sign in the background adds a nice artistic touch to this shot, doesn't it?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

This guy had proper Elvis sideburns, but a Beatle-like moptop on the rest of his head. Let's call him "Confused Elvis."

This Elvis is obviously fond of guitars. And by the looks of him, he's also obviously as fond of beer as I am.

Elvis liked Hawaii. This guy likes Hawaiian shirts. And rings -- lots of rings. Elvis also liked to shoot guns. This guy likes to pretend that he's shooting a gun.

That's me to the left. Strapping young lad, aren't I?
That's an Elvis mask on top of my head. I wore it there because it was easier to drink that way. I drank quite a bit the last night I wore it -- so much, in fact, that I lost the mask. So if any of you have a rubber Elvis mask that you'd like to send my way, I'd be most appreciative.
I wore the mask at the Collingwood Elvis Festival a few weeks ago. It's a pretty surreal experience walking the streets and getting loaded with dozens of Elvis impersonators, but it's drawn me for the past three years and I know that I'll be returning again. In the coming days, I'll be posting photos of me wearing the mask with various Elvis impersonators that I spent time with. I hope that you like them.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

It probably started with Mike Myers' "If it's not Scottish, it's crap!" character years ago on Saturday Night Live and came back into the spotlight a couple of years ago with the overzealous Keith's fan in the kilt commercials, which I admit that I generally enjoy. But now, it seems, radio and TV commercials featuring men with exaggerated Scottish accents are everywhere. And most of the time there's no reason for them to talk like that since it has nothing at all to do with the product being flogged. Will the Grolsch guy with the vaguely Dutch accent who has trouble pronouncing certain words be the next role model for bandwagon-jumping ad hacks, or what should we expect next?

Monday, August 08, 2005

I arrived at Lee's Palace too late to see Phranc, unfortunately, since
I bought her I Enjoy Being A Girl album upon its 1989 release and
quite liked it -- especially Folksinger, Martina, Bloodbath and Take
Off Your Swastika. I said "Hi" to her in the dressing room, but that
was it.
I arrived during The Knitters' third song and went to the office above
the stage to get a prime view. It's a bit odd that John Doe still
looks cool but Exene now looks somewhat matronly -- albeit with
tattoos. DJ Bonebrake was playing a stand-up snare drum and a washtub
bass drum at the front of the stage with the rest of the group and had
a constant smile on his face. I moved down beside the stage and stood
less than a metre from Dave Alvin, who has to be one of the coolest
guitar players around. He didn't even have a microphone and just did
his part without fanfare. It's rare that you see a player like that
who seems to lack any ego.
I saw John Doe perform a solo show at SXSW in March, and I saw Exene
that same night fronting the Original Sinners, but had never seen them
together. I know that it will never make economic sense for X to play
Toronto, so this is as good as it will ever get for me, and hearing
John and Exene's voices together was magic. The X portion of the
playlist consisted of Skin Deep Town, Call of the Wreckin' Ball,
Burning House of Love, I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts and House I Call
Home. A cover of Rock Island Line sounded great, and the set-ending
cover of Born To Be Wild wasn't too bad either.
It was a great show and I was about to buy the new Knitters album from
the merch table, but the Canadian Rounder rep told me that he'd mail
me a free one instead. Who am I to say "No" to that. So while I can't
vouch for the new album, apart from whatever live stuff the band
played from it last night, I look forward to hearing it.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

I was walking home just past noon today when I saw huge black clouds straight ahead of me as I turned north on to Strachan Avenue from East Liberty Street. It was obviously a fire and, although I could tell it was two blocks east of my house, it was close enough to lure me in. I kept on walking and saw a dozen fire trucks, that many cops, and about 50 firefighters battling a blaze at the corner of Richmond and Strachan. Flames and smoke were billowing out the back of the second floor of a Victorian townhouse, and the hoses from the trucks had little pressure at first to try and put them out, which didn't help. Part of the house was engulfed and collapsed, but most of the structure seemed pretty solid. Unfortunately, there were adjoining townhouses that also got caught up. I heard that one of them contained a dog and three cats and I went around to the front to get a look at them. Firefighters broke windows and doors to enter and the animals were thankfully rescued, but there was extensive smoke and water damage. The firefighters actually had to cut a hole in the roof of one of the adjoining houses to get water pumped into it, so even if all the houses don't have to be gutted, I'm sure that we're looking at damages in the high six figures. I also saw a police officer who looked like he had a pretty serious burn on his arm.
I heard that there were roofers on the house who were throwing things from it earlier in the day, so I suspect that they could have done something to trigger the blaze. But an investigation will hopefully find out the actual cause.
The temperature was 30 degrees and I was sweating even before I got near the fire. I don't know how firefighters can don heavy suits and enter burning buildings and actually get things done in all that heat. You have to respect those guys. Even if I wasn't wary of ladders (one fell out from underneath me when I was cleaning out eavestroughs years ago, and I had to jump down after the eave I was hanging on to started to give way), I know that I wouldn't want to be a firefighter.

But the Canadian Country Music Awards media conference that I attended this morning, combined with my fire-gawking, put me behind in my work. Since I have to keep working towards meeting my CCMA awards program writing and editing deadlines and have an article to write for the Toronto Sun, it looks like I'll be working on an amateur baseball story tonight instead of hitting an early show by Spirit of the West at Lee's Palace. I haven't seen the band in years, but I used to be a big fan. And since my weekend trip to Nova Scotia has inspired me to listen to some Celtic music this week at home, it would have fit in well with the theme. Oh well, hopefully the next two nights will provide me with blog fodder if tonight doesn't.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

I've taken about 40 commercial air flights within the past year, including my last one yesterday to land at Toronto's Pearson International Airport. Yesterday I also visited the memorial near Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, where Swissair flight SR111 went down just off the coast in the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 229 occupants. It was moving.
So a major chill went through my entire body when I heard a radio report that an Air France flight with some 300 passengers aboard had crashed at Pearson today. I had been working at my computer looking out my window at the rain, dark clouds and lightning, while listening to heavy thunder farther in the distance, when the plane went down around 4 p.m. But the weather was no worse than most summer thunderstorms we get around here. I went downstairs to tune in to CNN to watch the non-stop coverage for two hours as more news leaked out about the crash. Eventually it was revealed that everyone aboard the plane survived, despite heavy damage and a huge fire that sent flames and smoke billowing on a runway I was close to yesterday and right beside a highway -- the busiest in Canada -- that I drive on frequently. A huge wave of relief swept over me and I returned to my computer.
I watched a plane fall from the sky and a pilot die at an air show when I was a child in Stratford. Shane Antaya, a guy I went to high-school with (I had a bit of a crush on his sister), was a Canadian Air Force pilot who died when his Snowbird plunged into Lake Ontario during the Canadian National Exhibition's air show in 1989. Despite these tragedies, I've never had a fear of flying, and I won't develop one now. But moments like these, and today's narrowly averted disaster, really make you think about things. I'm just so glad that everyone made it out alive this afternoon.
I'm weeding through my alphabetically organized CDs to try and make more room for new ones, and I've made it to the letter P. Here are three that I pleasantly rediscovered:

The first one in the category is P's self-titled album, which Capitol released in 1995. It was probably best known for having actor Johnny Depp as its bassist, although Flea is also listed in the credits as an additional musician, so I'm not sure how much Depp actually played. Sex Pistol guitarist Steve Jones is also listed as an additional musician, joining a lineup fronted by Butthole Surfers singer Gibby Haynes. I'm a big Butthole fan, and especially recommend the group's 1983 Brown Reason To Live debut EP, 1985's Psychic ... Powerless ... Another Man's Sac debut. as well as Hairway To Steven, Locust Abortion Technician and Electriclarryland. Fans of Haynes' eccentric yet often catchy work are also well-advised to seek out Gibby Haynes & His Problem, which released a self-titled album through Surfdog Records last year. Which takes me back to P, which I hadn't listened to in a long time and was unsure of how well I'd like it. But the eclectic disc proved its worth with weird opener I Save Cigarette Butts, a reasonably reverential cover of ABBA's Dancing Queen, the nine-minute dub workout Jon Glenn (Mega Mix), the rollicking Mr. Officer and the self-explanatory White Man Sings The Blues.

Pansy Division's More Lovin' From Our Oven shows the band's sense of humour and its open homosexuality in its 21 tracks released by Lookout Records in 1997. I'll take Manada as a compliment even though I'm not gay. Hockey Hair also has resonance in the Great White North and joins my growing list of hockey songs. Along with the originals that occasionally walk that fine line between clever and juvenile are covers of Depeche Mode's Pretty Boy (What's Your Name?), Judas Priest's Breaking the Law, The Police's On Any Other Day, Maow's One Night Stand, The Undertones' Male Model and KISS' Sweet Pain.

Unpeeled is a largely acoustic album by Pamplemousse, a Toronto duo comprised of friendly acquaintances Pete Windrem and Andrew Chapman. They gave me the album a number of years ago and, though I've run into Pete a couple of times in the interim, I don't believe that they're performing anymore and I'd be surprised if you can find the album anywhere outside of used bins in Toronto. The two guys have a strong sense of humour that shine through on the album's 11 songs, and I can still visualize them playing Christians on stage many moons ago. If the Barenaked Ladies hadn't become successful and more serious, they might have been Pamplemousse.

np Oysterband - Deserters
I spent my long weekend in Nova Scotia and, as with every trip I take there, I discovered new things while also renewing my fondness and respect for the people, the land and the sea.
Four other friends and I arrived in Halifax on Friday night and were met by Jim, our limo driver for the weekend, who took us to the Delta Halifax -- where Jeff and Tara Cohen were waiting for us in the Bill Clinton Suite that was one of their wedding presents from last summer. We celebrated Jeff Ross' birthday with appetizers, drinks and cake before heading down to a large tent set up by the harbour where we partook of Keith's and listened to a band called Blueberry Grunt -- which I can only assume is an affliction that can leave you toilet-ridden after eating too many blueberries. The group played a good mixture of rock, pop and Celtic covers until things closed down and we returned to the hotel where I sat in a hot tub drinking beer, smoking a Monte Cristo and enjoying good conversation until 4:30 a.m.
The next morning we set out for the little village of Hubbards, which is less than an hour outside of Halifax. Tara had arranged the rental of three cabins for us as well as some of her Halifax friends and family members. The next three days were spent taking walks by the beach and through forested roads and generally relaxing. I even did yoga for more than an hour, though my compassionate teacher was much better at it than I'll ever hope to be.
Saturday night was spent at the Shore Club, an old dance hall from the 1930s, where we were entertained by local favourites, The Persuaders. There were lots of fun covers, including JC joining the band for a rendition of the Waco Brothers' Do You Think About Me that left him hoarse for the rest of the weekend. While the dancing continued until 1:30 a.m., a friend and I cut out early to get our ball gloves to play catch under the moonlight and a motion-detecting light that required occasional jumping-jacks to reactivate it. I guess I missed a brawl at the club, but I was invited to tell stories (some of which may eventually make it here) in an impromptu pajama party in a bedroom with three lovely ladies before heading on to a couple of other cabins for more fellowship until setting my head down at 6 a.m.
Sunday afternoon was spent on a 22-foot sailboat with a few friends and our very generous hosts, Captain Carl and his wife Gayle, who we had just met that afternoon. With the wind blowing in our faces, we sailed calm seas around the St. Margaret's Bay area for three relaxing hours that were a highlight of the trip. We returned to party central cabin and were greeted with a great lobster dinner before we returned to the Shore Club, where The Persuaders did an opening set before Matt Mays & El Torpedo took the stage. The band's performance wasn't as loud as the last few I've seen, but it was definitely one of the best, as the band delivered healthy doses of its Neil Young-flavoured roots rock from its two albums. The venue doesn't usually host bands of that calibre, so the crowd was going nuts. Limo driver Jim, a very big man who had more than a few beers in him, was so excited that he lifted me on his shoulders and danced around. Apart from almost hanging myself from netting hanging from the ceiling, and being disappointed that no-one yelled at me to "Show us your tits," it was an interesting way to watch part of a concert. The night was capped off by a stroll down to the beach for a bonfire and fireworks, and then another tour of the cabin circuit for more beers.
The next afternoon we visited Peggy's Cove and the memorial established a few kilometres away at the site of the horrific airline crash that killed more than 200 people in 1998. It was the second time I had visited both, and they still moved me very much. The waves weren't crashing like they sometimes do so you could walk almost right to the water's edge. I could spend hours climbing the rocks around Peggy's Cove, and I gained even more appreciation for it by having Clara "the climbing dog" with us.
Thanks, as always, go to Jeff and Tara for arranging such a great weekend. It was excellent to spend quality time with some of my best Toronto friends (and two great dogs), and to renew or start new acquaintances with some of the fine locals who are always engaging and treat me like one of them. As beautiful as British Columbia is, I'm definitely more of an east coast guy than a west coast guy.

np Oysterband - Trawler