Archive for June, 2012

A few days back I was having breakfast with a friend from work at a restaurant close to the office. As we were finishing our coffee, a genuine Canadian celebrity came in with another person and sat down for breakfast.

I recognized him as Brent Butt – the creator and star of the TV series Corner Gas. For those outside Canada this may not mean much, but Corner Gas was the most successful Canadian comedy series of all time. And I really liked that show. When I was home a few years back convalescing from reactive arthritis, Corner Gas was one of my regular shows to watch. Corner Gas was a very funny, gentle show that still is one of my favourites.

We left the restaurant and I went back to my office. I mentioned to one of my co-workers that I had seen Brent Butt next door in the restaurant.

Her question, “Did you get his autograph?”.

“No, the guy was eating breakfast. I wasn’t going to bother him”, was my reply.

Her response, “Oh how Canadian!”

And I guess it was … 🙂


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For Dad

When I was younger I remember hearing that children grow up to be their parents. Of course, when you are young, that is the last thing you want, or expect, to happen. But it does.

I remember using Dad’s repertoire of sayings when the kids were growing up. Occasionally I would catch myself – thinking “I remember Dad using that one”. It is almost like that little tape recorder in your head just goes back to the last appropriate time and you get back what works in that situation.

This Father’s Day was another reminder. My kids asked what I would like for Father’s Day and at first, I truthfully said I really didn’t want anything – exactly what Dad would say. (I later relented and asked for a gift card from our local hat shop.) I had struggled with this with my Dad until – and I don’t remember whether he suggested this or I thought it up on my own – I figured out something that he would like.

Dad had always supported my interest in photography and as I got better at taking pictures, it occurred to me that prints of my best shots might be a good option. So Dad started getting prints. I never was quite sure that it was the right thing to do until I didn’t give him one for Christmas and was asked, “where’s my print?”. When Dad passed in 1994, I inherited the album that he had put together. The gift prints can be found on my Flickr account in a set called ‘Dad’s Shots’.

Here are a few from the set:

North Channel – Georgian Bay – This was near Thessalon Ontario where Dad had spent time after coming back from WW2. I took this in 1975 when I was moving to Alberta

A sunrise captured at Rocky Mountain House, Alberta in 1987

A lightning strike taken from my apartment balcony in Edmonton, Alberta in 1980.

And a little bit of advice for new Dad’s – don’t worry about the “what” they get you or whether you even need or want it. Just let them give you something back as their thanks to you.

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I feel very fortunate to play music with a couple of good songwriters. And I am quite proud of the fact that most of the music we play is original. Will I be able to retire playing original music? Not very likely – but there is something satisfying in knowing the music we play is our own.

Both Don and Jim have been after me to write a song of my own. I have contributed to a couple of theirs but so far nothing has burst forth. One of the issues I find when I try and write is I have followed music for such a long time and every time I think of a lyric, I almost immediately think of someone else who has done it before.

In mulling this over a couple of days ago, I started thinking of memorable lyrics I have encountered over the years. So maybe in a fit of purging, here are some lyrics that I thought were well done (and hopefully will lead to some of my own).

In no particular order:

“Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours”

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Gordon Lightfoot on ‘Summertime Dream’

“and if you could see inside me, I don’t think you’d have me here”

Crucifiction Lane – Procol Harum on ‘A Salty Dog’

“Do you simply reflect changes in the patterns of the sky,
Or is it true to say the weather heeds the twinkle in your eye?
Do you fight the rush of winter; do you hold snowflakes at bay?
Do you lift the dawn sun from the fields and help him on his way?”

“Good morning Weathercock: make this day bright.
Put us in touch with your fair winds.
Sing to us softly, hum evening’s song.
Point the way to better days we can share with you.”

Weathercock – Jethro Tull on ‘Heavy Horses’

“I’ll tell you this
No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn”

The Wasp (Texas Radio and the Big Beat) – The Doors on ‘L.A. Woman’

“A one way ticket’s in my hand
Heading for the chosen land
My troubles will all turn to sand
When I get to the border
Salty girl with the yellow hair
Waiting in that rocking chair
And if I’m weary I won’t care
When I get to the border”

When I Get to the Border – Richard and Linda Thompson on ‘I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight’

“All across the city’s heart the lights were coming on
The hotel lift softly hummed a Cole Porter song
If I went to look for him I knew he would be gone
A picture-card of yesterday
A photograph of yesterday”

Modern Times – Al Stewart on ‘Modern Times’

“I came home to find the lights all burning bright

And I was feeling good inside, a friend had seen through the night

And you know that thing that hits you

When you realize you’ve thrown it far too high

And as I call your name around the place

Silence is a very loud reply”

For The Second Time – Ian Matthews on ‘The Soul of Many Places’

“Such a long long time to be gone

and a short time to be there”

Box of Rain – Grateful Dead on ‘American Beauty’

“I am the entertainer, I’ve come to do my show
You’ve heard my latest record, it’s been on the radio
It took me years to write it, they were the best years of my life
It was a beautiful song but it ran too long
If you’re gonna have a hit you gotta make it fit
So they cut it down to 3:05”

The Entertainer – Billy Joel on ‘Streetlife Serenade’

“This old world may never change
The way it’s been
And all the ways of war
Can’t change it back again

 I’ve been searchin’
For the dolphins in the sea
And sometimes I wonder
Do you ever think of me”

 The Dolphins – Fred Neil on ‘Fred Neil’

Wow – I was just getting started. I could put down a lot, lot more.

No wonder I am having troubles with my own …

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A long time ago, when I was in Grade 13 (yes, Ontario had Grades 1-13), one of our English teachers imparted some wisdom that has stayed with me. Essentially (because I don’t remember the exact wording) life is a series of stages. We had just completed the high school stage. If we were astute, we would watch for the rest as we grew older. The stages were something like; we would all go to university or somewhere similar (this was why we were in Grade 13), we would fall in love, we would graduate and get jobs, we would get married, we would have children, we would lose our grandparents and then our parents, we would watch our children progress through their schooling and become young adults, we (or some of us) would get divorced (I don’t know if that was a personal statement or not), we would retire, we would grow old and we would die. His advice was to sit back and watch.

I started writing this post when I learned that Ray Bradbury had passed away last week. I do confess to being a sci-fi geek (nerd, whatever) and Bradbury, along with Clarke, Asimov and Heinlein, were who I grew up with. Many hours of my youth were spent with speculative fiction. And it struck me that I really was in the stage where the heroes of my youth were really coming to their end. There have been quite a few (or it seems like it to me) in the last while. Doc Watson, Doug Dillard, Duck Dunn, Etta James, Johnny Otis, Earl Scruggs, Levon Helm, even Davy Jones – and these were just the musicians. It is a sad stage to be in. But their music and words are still with us and for that I am thankful.

I mentioned I started writing this post a couple of days ago. I found out today that a good friend from Halifax had passed last Thursday. He was one of those unique individuals that I learned so much from during our time together. He was only four years older than me. I am saddened to lose him. He touched not just my life but those of many others. I will bet there are quite a few of us in the same space right now. Thank you Sunny.

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Heart of the City Festival 2012

For the fourth year in a row, the Big Sky Gliders played the Heart of the City Festival in downtown Edmonton. And as usual, it was somewhat of an adventure.


Last year, the organizers introduced us earlier than our scheduled start time and before we were ready to go. Then when we were finished, they asked us to play more … that lesson was always have more material than scheduled.

The festival alternates acts on two stages and this year we had only 15 minutes to set up. We were travelling a little lighter than normal with Don having his keyboard, guitar and mandolin, Jim with guitar and banjo and me with the bass (I would share Don’s mandolin). The trouble with the two stage setup is there is really no time to do a sound check. You make sure the mikes are working and you can hear your individual instruments but we don’t hear ourselves together until the first song starts.

Jim and I singing ‘Back to You”

The other issue is you really have no idea how the music sounds to the audience since what you hear is coming through the monitors. And what was coming through the monitors wasn’t pretty. We made it through our first four songs (My Dream Automobile, Melt Sugar, Johnson Brown and Smoke Down the Road) when the stage manager came up and told us we had one song left. We had been told we had a half-hour but apparently there was a misunderstanding and we were now down to 20 minutes. So with some juggling – forget two songs – we skipped to our last number. It is fun to play the festival – I just wish that for once we could have an uneventful set.

The ‘Fan’

More pictures from the Festival are up on my Flickr feed – taken by my daughter Kathryn.

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