Saturday, May 31, 2014

Red Cow, Blackhorse and the Curragh of Kildare

Image from Rewarding Times

I didn't see the races at this famous track on my recent trip to Ireland, but I got a glimpse of it at sunset, from a green inter-city bus. That evening I was travelling from Dublin to Port Laoise with a friend met by prearrangement at An Tur Solais. Also jocularly referred to as the Stiletto, the Spike and the Nail, this very tall Monument of Light, or Spire of Dublin, is easy to locate.

My friend and I cruised through Marks and Spencer and rode the LUAS tram past many stations including Blackhorse, to a stop called Red Cow, with a hotel, pub and garage by the same name. Interesting how the city's place names reflect the importance of livestock.

At Red Cow, we watched our hourly bus pull out just as we alighted from the tram but it was all good. After a morning of cloud and an afternoon of rain, the sky cleared and we chatted happily as we watched the most astonishing displays of changing cloud formations from the bus shelter.

When the green double-decker rolled in, we climbed aboard and ascended the narrow winding staircase to the nearly empty top floor. We passed race horses grazing in the fields, then the Curragh of Kildare, in a perfect evening lit with late light. It was a moment to experience, not to photograph, so I didn't get a picture.

Having known the words from the song by the same name I sang in my teens, I've added to my knowledge that the Curragh of Kildare (County) is actually a large tract of land like a common. Flat and suitable for horse farming, it is known for Thoroughbred horse breeding and racing, and also contains the large Pollardstown Fen and the Irish National Stud near Kildare town.

The nearby town of Newbridge, I was told, is known for its beautiful silver jewelry, cutlery and other artifacts.

Friday, May 30, 2014

"Some say the divil is dead..."

In one of those unexplainable coincidences that life sometimes dishes out, just after returning from Ireland I picked up a library hold, Malcolm Gladwell's David and Goliath.

One of the ditties I'd learned over there -- humorous but bitter -- gave alternate theories of the present location of the devil (Irish pronunciation: divil). The Wolfe Tones sing thus:

"Some say the devil is dead, (repeat twice more), and buried in Killarney.
More say he rose again (repeat twice more), and joined the British Army."

Humour is sharp, I thought, singing along and laughing with my Irish hosts. I'd sung lots of similarly themed Irish songs in my young folksinging days.

From Gladwell's book, I learned in detail about the Troubles in the North of Ireland, which I had only the sketchiest knowledge about before. The violence lasted from the summer of 1969 until the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Gladwell uses interviews with people who were there to describe how this conflict began, and explains how it escalated in direct proportion to the extreme repression that was applied. The contemporary theory promulgated was that social movements could be quelled by force. It was thought that people would behave rationally in their own interest to avoid conflict when its costs were so obviously high.

Not so, says Gladwell. More important than force in the application of law and order is the perception of the legitimacy of those in authority. The more force the British Army applied in trying to suppress the rioting in Belfast during the Troubles, the more legitimacy they lost in the eyes of those they tried to control, and in a descending spiral into near-chaos, the more force they applied.

The heavy handed attempts to suppress a summer's rioting in West Belfast led to thirty years of violent social conflict entailing an annual death toll that reached 479 in 1972 (Council on Foreign Relations).

Listening to Gladwell explain his ideas, I suddenly wondered: was the devil's signing up for the British Army incorporated into the song during the Troubles? That would make a lot of sense.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

An afternoon at the Dublin Zoo

Image from Dublin Zoo

Just a few days before I visited the amazing zoo in Dublin's Phoenix Park, a baby giraffe was born there. This huge and well-appointed facility contains a whole range of animals.

My afternoon walk took me through a few different climate zones. Under a cloudy sky, I strolled past the big cats, seeing tigers, lions and a close view of a sleeping snow leopard who looked a lot like our house cat, only he was bigger. (See picture below.)

On the way to the specially prepared habitat of the African Savanna, I encountered a heavy rainstorm. By the time I got close to the zebras, giraffes and rhinos, these animals had taken cover.

I pressed on to the gorilla rainforest, which seemed aptly named on that rain-soaked afternoon. Gorillas, including a big silverback with a reputation for being good with his fists, played around behind glass. A nice touch was the presence of moulded handprints from these primates. Chimp hands are so very similar to human ones.

Past a strange bird called the Abyssinian hornbill, I spotted the beautiful Eastern bongo, an antelope I'd neither seen nor heard of before.

By this time, the weather was improving. I paused to watch a magpie and a squirrel scavenging in a garbage can.


As I moved on, the sky cleared. By the time I got to the flamingos, the weather was brilliantly sunny. Quite literally,  I'd been through several climates and seasons.

It was an unforgettable day: the brisk walk, the fresh air, the surrounding beauty of Phoenix Park with deep pink hawthorns in bloom and stands of huge green trees on the wide rolling lawns.

Left: Meercats watch patrons of the zoo cafe. 

Below, a snow leopard takes an afternoon nap.



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Book of Kells and Trinity College Library in Dublin

Image from Denver Library

The building where the collection of ancient books is houses is very beautiful, part of a group of venerable stone designs set in the green quadrangle of Trinity College Dublin.

The enlarged replicas of the illuminated manuscripts are displayed on lighted panels, with explanatory comments beside them to explain the history, symbology and methodology of making the ancient books. Along with the Book of Kells, the Book of Durrow and other ancient books were on display.

Upstairs, The Long Room has a soaring arched ceiling faced in polished wood. Its rows of alcoves are graced with marble busts and filled with ornate wooden shelving and rare antique books.

In this quiet place of study, a series of large panels arranged along both sides explained the bellicose history of the ancient Irish king Brian Boru, who is being celebrated in a millennial festival that takes place at different times and places around the country.

I felt a heavy energy about the ancient place, and after viewing it, I was glad to get away to breathe the fresh air of Phoenix Park. Upon entering Dublin Zoo, I immediately sat down in the Meerkat Restaurant with a cup of tea. The antics of these delightful animals, plainly visible in their spacious habitat behind the cafe window, energized me for for the long walk around the zoo.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Molly Malone temporarily away from home

Image from Wikimedia

For many years the statue of Molly Malone has stood in the middle of the pedestrians-only section of Grafton Street in the centre of Dublin.

But when I visited the place, Molly was not  home. A hardworking member of a family of fishmongers, she was taking a break from selling her "Cockles and mussels, alive, alive-oh."

Molly's statue is being refurbished. It seems she was in the way of the new tram line that is being constructed to connect LUAS (Irish for speed) tram routes north and south of the Liffey.

She will clean and refreshed soon, but when she is, she's moving house. Her new home will be outside the Dublin Tourist Office on Suffolk Street. While many around the world sing about her, she works on, pushing her barrow "through streets broad and narrow."

Canadian born, I have no Irish ancestry, although my Newfoundland forbears share much of the idiom of Anglo-Irish speech. Yet we kids learned Molly Malone in childhood, and as a folksinging teen I learned and sang many other traditional Irish songs. My first visit to the old land brought those familiar place names alive. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Is it yourself?

Image from Etsy

"Is it yourself?" This Irish greeting comes from the forward-facing sheep on a charming post card I found in the shop at the Rock of Cashel, once the seat of the ancient Kings of Munster.

Sheep, horses and cattle are common features of the Irish landscape. One bizarre experience I shared with my friend as we drove the rural roads of Ireland was to watch a bellowing cow pounding along parallel to the roadside, trying to overtake a cattle lorry.

"Bring back my brother," his plaintive bellowing seemed to say. Though my friend was born and bred in the Irish countryside, she'd  never witnessed such a demonstration of solidarity by a field cow for fellow cattle traveling by truck. Did this critter suspect the destination of the lorry?

Or was it just a case of the cow in the field recognizing the one in the truck, and galloping along to call out the friendly Hiberno-English greeting, "Is it yourself?"

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Ed Sheeran

Image from Dublin concerts

Born and raised in England, the popular singer Ed Sheeran is wildly popular in Ireland and beyond. Unlike many young musicians, he does not use a loud back-up band to accompany his lyrics.

My honorary Irish granddaughters sang his praises, but when I heard his heartfelt bluesy version of the traditional Irish ballad The Parting Glass, I truly understood what they were on about.

The girls will attend his Dublin concert in October. The tickets went on sale last week and were sold out immediately. Since the girls got theirs, another concert has been added in the O2.

Coming as I do from a background filled with the traditional folk ballads and protest songs of the sixties, I'm delighted to hear the young sing intelligible lyrics that say speak to real human experience, expressed within the discipline of our ancient human traditions of rhythm and rhyme.

Rare among today's young urban performers, Sheeran also sings traditional songs about the rural landscape. Here he is with Wild Mountain Thyme. His own compositions include hits sung by other bands as well as movie soundtracks. Here he sings "I See Fire," from The Hobbit.

Ed Sheeran also supported the No Going Home campaign, helping to speak out for young people in crisis and lobbying the government to keep housing grants accessible for youth fleeing abuse.

Sheeran has been performing since his teens and has been an international award-winning star since 2011. This amazing young musician, who said in a 2012 interview that he hated his nickname Ginger Jesus, is just 23 years old.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Exit: whirlwind trip to Ireland, bracketed by luncheons

Life is change, and we never know what's around the next corner. Even a month before I did it, I had no idea I would soon retire from a job I loved and worked at for over thirty years. My work place was not immune from alteration. Recent drastic cuts were beyond the control of the college itself.  They were driven by decisions made by federal and provincial governments. But that was only part of the reason I decided it was time I left the academic prep ESL program where I worked, grew, learned and developed over a period of years.

I know I'll miss working with  my wonderful students, mature professional adults. I learned many valuable lessons from them as they brushed up their English skills to pursue post-secondary courses and work in Canada. At the same time, over the last several years, it has become increasingly clear that the relentless forward movement of technology is fundamentally altering how we think, learn and communicate.

Whether or not the baby boom generation of teachers is willing to face this reality, such change necessitates radical rethinking about educational methodology, and I believe the necessary alterations need to be made by educators younger than us. Also, for each of us leaving voluntarily, an instructor at the bottom of the seniority list escapes a layoff.

Though I did not consciously plan it that way, the timing of my exit was perfect. It happened when I was on vacation, so I didn't know my last class for what it was until it was over. Then a friend invited me to visit her in Ireland. Just before I headed to the airport, I attended a farewell lunch put on by my college. On my return, in a final act of rebellion against my former long commute to work, I hosted the departmental retirement lunch for three other colleagues and myself.

It's an exciting time as a whole new world opens up before me. Today, my summer job at SFU Southbank began. The new crop of writers is varied and interesting, and I know we are going to have a great time together.

As I enjoy the freedom and flexibility of not having to commute daily to work, or to be constantly on the alert to find interesting material to use in class, I look forward to the thrill of new pursuits and unexpected discoveries. I feel I'm at the cusp of something wonderful.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Chilliwack

Image from Pacific Northwest Bands

The sixties and early seventies produced many bands. Over time, many of these musical groups turned out to be a flash in the pan.

After getting started in the seventies, Chilliwack has proved to be one of the survivors. Today they can be found on facebook, and they are doing a tour of BC towns in 2014.

Here they rock hard to Whatcha Gonna Do (When I'm Gone?) "Time is just a rubber band. time is A slightly softer sound was this 1977 performance of Fly at Night.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Collectors

Image from wikipedia

The Collectors were a Vancouver band of the sixties. They wrote and performed the songs for a play by noted playwright George Ryga.

The musical performance was live on stage, and was later recorded on the album Grass and Wild Strawberries (1968).

In 1970, The Collectors played at the Canadian Pavilion at the World's Fair in Osaka, Japan.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Geography of the Past remembered

Image from olx.ca

Recently, visiting the Gourmet Warehouse with a friend got me thinking about the past. There we chatted with a retired owner-chef formerly of the wonderful but defunct Cafe Madeleine, formerly at the bottom of Tenth near Alma. Of course it served delightful madeleines.

Years ago, I spent many hours there in retreat from the world, drinking then-still-exotic cafe au lait, eating home made soups, salads and pastries, reading and writing.

So did many others. Its ambiance and its proximity to UBC made it an ideal study place for students, as well as a rendezvous to enjoy quiet conversations. This was long before restaurants installed the now almost ubiquitous TV screens.

Fond memories of the Cafe Madeleine got me thinking about other changing geographies of the city's past. On the corner of Broadway and Clark across the street from the Gourmet Warehouse, for many years stood a restaurant called the Greek Village. There, more years ago than I care to count, I went with my brother to sample the food and witness the celebrations of Greek sailors ashore, as they danced and smashed their glasses into the fireplace after downing their ouzo.

Many years after that, I took an elderly friend to the nearby home branch of the Fishermen's Credit Union, which she and Tom had joined as a young couple working on fish boats. As we drove by the Greek Village, she slid her eye over it.

"That was the first Greek restaurant in Vancouver," she said. "Tom knew the guy who started it, when they came back from the war (World War II)." Now the old Greek Village a trendy new eatery with an eminently forgettable name.

Another historic place on that corner was the West Coast Woollen Mills, where I once got a great price on a bolt of Macbeth tartan. In those days, sewing was a way to get good clothing and save money, rather than an expensive hobby that requires more patience than many contemporaries have. Now the once thriving store has been reduced to a footnote in the Vancouver City Archives.

Still further west along Hastings, Only Sea Foods served fish fresh off the boats. In this small cafe, a family business, the food was wonderful, and the prices great. Its trademark neon sign, shaped like a sea horse, was removed when the place finally closed in 2009. Another city landmark gone, lost relic of a departed era.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Missing Piece of the puzzle

Jigsaw puzzles are strange things. Sometimes they have a piece missing; once, I did a puzzle that had an extra piece. But I wonder: how did this piece end up on the sidewalk?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Two Opposing Business Models

Clearly Contacts and Impark (aka Metro Parking). What do they have in common? When it comes to their approach to doing business, absolutely nothing.

Clearly Contacts values ethics and customer loyalty; Impark does not. Apparently they have confidence that there is an endless supply of people who have to pay for parking in places where Impark has a monopoly. Not surprisingly, they have already been subjected to a class action suit for their ticketing and collection misdeeds.

Where Clearly Contacts makes every effort to satisfy the needs of its customers, Impark brazenly cheats the very people who keep it in business. The company's business practices have been featured on Ripoff Report.

Where Clearly Contacts uses the power of the internet in a revolutionary new business model, Impark ignores complaints and explanations and calls its customers liars.

Where Clearly Contacts follows up customers to ensure satisfaction and offers a money-back guarantee, free adjustments on glasses and rewards for customer loyalty, Impark routinely cheats honest customers and calls them liars when they complain.

For over twenty years, I used an Impark commuter lot. Then, a couple of months ago, I was mischievously ticketed for a parking "infraction" I hadn't committed. When I called to explain that the ticket was a mistake, I was told the only possible concession they could make was to let me pay half. To avoid the harassment they are reputed to do on those who refuse to pay, under protest, I eventually complied.

From the moment I paid out that money, I have gone out of my way to avoid paying Impark another penny, and will continue to do so.

But I'm definitely a loyal customer of Clearly Contacts. I appreciate being treated with politeness, honesty and consideration.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Guess Who

Image from 895thedrive

The Guess Who were that rare phenomenon, the Canadian band that made it big worldwide. With hits in America, they were superstars in Canada in the 60s and early 70s.

With original band member Randy Bachman (Bachman Turner Overdrive) and Burton Cummings as lead singer, this band hit the top ten in 1969 with These Eyes.

Sarcasm notwithstanding, American Woman became a major hit in the USA. Last summer the Guess Who played the Northwest Washington Fair in Lynden.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Garnet Rogers

Image from Canada.com

Garnet Rogers began his life of musical performance in the band of his late brother Stan. When Stan died in a fiery plane crash, Garnet stopped flying and started drinking.

In in end, he found his way out of the depression left by the loss of his brother. In the thirty years since, Garnet has become a "lone wolf troubadour," continuing to tour and sing.

Now nearly sixty, he divides his time between his music and his Ontario home life with his wife and their Thoroughbred horses.

I recall hearing him a few years back at the Centennial Theatre in North Vancouver. I well recall the power of his song Night Drive, about himself and his brother Stan.

Summer Lightning is the song Garnet Rogers has said expresses his philosophy. The words of the chorus are what he'd like carved on his tombstone.

"We are brief as summer lightning; we are swift as swallow's flight.
We are sparks that spiral upward in the darkness of the night.
We are frost upon a window; we won't pass this way again.
In the end, dear, only love remains."

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Harry Chapin

Image by Steve Stout from Harry Chapin

Though Harry Chapin has been dead over 30 years, there is still a website in his name. He was killed in a car crash in 1981, aged 39.

His best known hit was Cat's in the Cradle, a song that deals with our lack of presence in the moment as we rush through life and fail to pay heed to the important things, like the speed with which their children grow up and leave home.

The lyrics express the sad irony of the adult son emulating his father. Like his Dad when he was young, he is now too busy to get together with the aging father who was once too busy to spend time with him.

The theme is profound; the song draws attention to our aimless busy rushing, now much greater now than when Harry first sang this song. It was written by his wife and devoted to their son Josh.

When he was alive, Harry Chapin also established a charity to combat hunger on Long Island.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Doc Fingers greeted tired skiers at the bottom of Blackcomb

Image from docfingers.com

Back in the days when a two-mountain pass for Whistler and Blackcomb cost less than $20, I skiied there often with a friend.

How wonderful it was at the end of the day to take the last run into the village, park the skis and clomp into the bar in unbuckled ski boots to enjoy some refreshment and listen to Doc Fingers and his band before heading to the car to drive home.

Doc also played venues like the Yale Hotel, then still a blues haven. He still played gigs at Whistler in 2009.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Doc Watson

Image from Folklore International Artists

In 2012, the iconic blind folk musician Doc Watson died at 89 in North Carolina.  A legendary finger-picker, he sang and accompanied himself on guitar and banjo. One classic was Deep River Blues; another was Windy and Warm, played here in 1991.

A musician from a musical family, Doc was thirty before he started performing at paid gigs, and pushing forty when he was discovered and made his first album in 1960. A year later he was performing in Greenwich Village in New York. Soon after that it was the Newport Folk Festival and Carnegie Hall.

Doc spent time on the road with his musical son Merle, later tragically killed in a tractor accident. After an interval, Doc began to collaborate with his grandson David Holt. Over his career, he produced over fifty albums.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Tomorrow's Eyes

 Image from Pacific Northwest Bands

At the bottom of the hill on Tenth near Alma, circa 1967, I attended a a club, possibly called Heaven and Hell, to hear an exciting band called Tomorrow's Eyes.

They were short-lived, but good. I recall being very moved by their music, yet I no longer recall the name of the song I adored.

According to an old poster, they also played Totem Park, my old rez home at UBC, but that wasn't when I was there in first year. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Cobra by Frederick Forsyth

Book cover image from Frederick Forsyth

Paul Devereux is a retired spy. Because of his cold and solitary character, he is known to his former colleagues as the Cobra. It is to this man that the White House turns when, after a tragic incident that brings the President in brief contact with a member of his staff who is also "descended from slaves," he makes the decision to take on the gangs and the Colombian cocaine cartel, and end the trade.

While the white powder poisons users on every continent, it generates billions for the Colombian Don and his associates, and for powerful Mexican, American and European gangs. After taking time to consider whether and how this pernicious trade can be destroyed, Devereux says yes to the White House and embarks on the most dangerous operation of his life.

Descended from a family of Boston Brahmins, Paul Devereux has an impeccable education, a liking for classical music and a brilliant analytical brain. An ascetic, even fastidious man, he is driven by his powerful patriotism and his devout Catholicism.

For the director of operations, he selects Dexter, a very different character and the only man who has ever outwitted him. Can they win? Will the British help with the mission? What will be the costs? These are some of the dramatic questions Forsyth uses to keep the reader (or listener) guessing through this hallmark Forsyth thriller.

Besides its dramatic virtuosity, one aspect of this book I particularly enjoyed was the narrator's occasional subtle insertion into the story of what I imagined to be his own sense of wonder and dismay at the insane way humans in power run the world.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Edith Butler, Child of the wind, and of Acadia

Image from biographiesartistesquebecois

Edith Butler is a descendant of the earliest French Canadians, those from Acadia, now in Nova Scotia.

She entered my awareness with her song Avant d'etre depaysee. The song is in French, which I understand very imperfectly. It refers to a historic event: the removal of the early Acadians from the homes they had established.

After the English conquest of Acadia, they were forced onto ships and went to New Orleans, part of the French colony of Louisiana then. Many died enroute, but the survivors established themselves in Louisiana, and the Cajun cooking we know from there now is the heritage left by these early displace Acadians, or Cajuns.

This is only one of her many beautiful songs. In 2009, Monique LeBlanc did a film on her for the NFB. The title is Daughter of the Wind and of Acadie.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Alanna and Brianne

Image from facebook

The tradition of singing sisters goes on. Alanna and Brianne are only sixteen. What a talented duo of singer songwriters.

I heard them busking on White Rock beach one day. Their harmony reached out to envelop me as I strolled, and I paused to listen.

The song was Fleetwood Mac's Rhiannon, an old favourite, and they performed it with the sensitivity and expression of much older and more experienced chanseuses.

At age fourteen, these girls performed their original composition Part of Me on local television, prior to heading for Nashville. Amazing.

I wanted to hear more, but there was a train coming, a long one. I waited for it to pass, then asked the girls if they had a CD. Instead, they gave me their card: I could hear them online. And I did. Lovely.

Here they are with their own composition, an anti-bullying song. It's so inspiring to see the new generations coming up, filled with talent and awareness.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Swimming with Kate and Anna McGarrigle

Image from McGarrigles.com

Of all the wonderful songs by this versatile pair of Montreal born sisters, my fave remains the whimsical Swimming Song. As someone who feared water in childhood and learned to swim only as an adult, I could relate to the fears, pains and joys of learning to swim.

In contrast to the light humour of the Swimming Song, Heart Like a Wheel (sung here at the Caffe Lena in 1990) is tragic and bluesy. Foolish You, written by Wayde Hemsworth, expresses another mood again.

Kate, younger than her sister by two years, died in 2010. She was only 64.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Quartette

Image of Quartette from festivalplace

This remarkable Canadian group was formed in 1993 by solo artists Sylvia Tyson and Cindy Church, along with Caitlin Hanford and Colleen Peterson. Peterson died in 1996, Gwen Swick joined, and Quartette went on.

The blend of female voices is even lovelier than their lyrics. From the early album Work of the Heart, Spring of 45 portrays the reunion of a returning soldier with his wife and the son he sees his son "for the very first time."

This image is hauntingly beautiful. Rain falls "like a gift from Heaven" as two laughing women hurry their laundry from the line, still unaware of the approach of the returned soldier. From the same album, Runaway Heart and Street of the Mariachi are amazing, and very different songs.

Sylvia Tyson is a great songwriter who penned such hits as You were on my mind (1962), a hit for We Five and the British singer Crispian St. Peters. An early favourite of mine was Farewell to the North, sung with Ian Tyson, when the two sang together as Ian and Sylvia.

As a member and supporter of various art organizations including the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Sylvia has also worked hard for fellow artists, and been awarded The Order of Canada.

Lyrics are not Sylvia's only writing passion. As far back as 1985, she co-edited a book of quotations by songwriters. In 2011, she published her first novel, Joyner's Dream, and is working on a second.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mariachi in Vancouver

A Mexican Mariachi band dressed in traditional garb. It was the last thing I expected to witness on a Vancouver street corner. The city streets are full of charming surprises.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Pink petal snow



Off West Fourth Avenue, the spring sidewalks are covered in pink cherry blossom petals.


Friday, May 2, 2014

Must we be constantly entertained?

A foggy ferry ramp at Yarmouth, with the former Cat Ferry to Bar Harbour, Maine ready to board. This service ended in 2010, but was relaunched.

But I have a persistent memory from a trip I took with my daughter there about ten years ago. That foggy day at the terminal, I talked to a woman who shared my view about the losses, social and personal, that we have witnessed on the debit side of recent technological gains.

It's insidious how the latest technologies grip us ever more tightly.

Perhaps the most serious of these losses is quietude. We allow radio, the TV, live streaming videos and podcasts to colonize our waking hours, leaving little or no time for silence, solitude, or solitary contemplation.

To ride the Cat was not in our original plans, since it meant asking elderly relatives, who lived in New Hampshire, to drive a long way to pick us up in Maine. But we had little choice. The Caribou was in drydock for repair, and the Portland run didn't fit our tight schedule either.

The woman I spoke to was also waiting to board. I told her how we'd intended to take the other ship. "Oh," she said, "no loss. That crossing is very noisy. It's a casino style party boat."

For a moment we were quiet, as I recalled the times in years past when I had soothed my soul with silent boat trips, reading, scribbling in my notebook, chatting with a fellow traveller or enjoying a coffee or a solitary meal while I watched the waves slip by the window.

The woman advised us how to avoid the giant screen TVs that were constantly bombarding the passengers, willing or not, with the latest on CNN. "Sit at the very front," she said. There are a couple of small tables there, nice and quiet. The two of you can have a quiet crossing and enjoy the scenery."

When I thanked her for the tip, my fellow passenger asked her rhetorical question, which has come to mind on many occasions since that journey.

"Why must we have be entertained all the time?"

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Wailin' Jennys Looking for the Water from a Deeper Well

Image of the Wailing Jennys from Sarki Sozleri

The song about the deeper well was written by David Olney, first performed by Daniel Lanois and Emmylou Harris.

Canadian trio The Wailing Jennys sing it brilliantly; the drum work takes the song to a deep place. Here they sing One Voice.

Another example of their deep work is their performance of a song by Mike Scott of the Waterboys, Bring 'em all in.

"When that storm comes," they sing in this a capella version of  Storm Comin, "don't run for cover...Let that falling rain wash away the tears and the trouble, cause you can't keep a storm from coming." Truly a unique sound, yet also reminiscent of Quartette.

Pants in a rainy parking lot

Hard to know what to make of this. As I walked to my car after returning on the train from work, I saw these pants.

They appeared to be in good condition, and folded too. Ironic, since they lay in the middle of the commuter parking lot in the pouring rain.

How did they get there?

Was it accidental, or intentional?

Theories, anyone?