Friday, September 30, 2011


Our 13-1/2 hour drive actually only lasted about 13 -- which includes all of our pit-stops and stopping for lunch in Blind River.

We won't mention which one(s) of us has a lead foot...  ;-)

We pulled in to Swanmore Terrace for the FridayFolk opener, and couldn't find a parking spot!  Had to park up the road.  I've never been so happy to not find a parking spot in my life.

Missed Tyler's opening set, but got there just towards the end of first intermission.  Paul was out for his smoke break and gave us big hugs as we came in.  Our newest volunteer, Meredith, was doing the announcements -- way to step up to the plate, Meredith!

I've never been so happy to be not needed.  :-)

We caught all of Andrew's first set.  Then... we just couldn't do it any more.  Hugged hellos and goodbyes to many people, and headed home to unpack.

The cats looked at us blankly for a moment or two.  Cookie ran outside, realized it was cold, then came the snuggle fest.  Both of them have forgiven us, life is good.

Walked into the kitchen -- Paul had left us flowers and GFB's (great flippin' -- not really flippin', but you get it -- brownies, for the unitiated) as a welcome home.

It's good to be loved.

And it's good to be home.  There are piles of mail to sort through... eventually.  I've found the cheques, the rest can wait.  :-)

We cracked open one of the many bottles of champagne still in our fridge from the wedding.  We survived the tour.  We still love each other.  Our friends still love us.  Our cats forgave us in less than ten minutes.  Life is good.

Much love and gratitude to all who braided paths with us on the road, and all who kept the home fires burning.

We are blessed.

Alyssa & Don

Day 40 - the end

The last day of the tour -- the long drive home (13-1/2 hours, oy!).

There's a reason why all the long journeys in the bible are said to take 40 days and 40 nights.  Oh sure, there's that whole numerological / biblical reason, but the most obvious reason for me today is:


At least we didn't have to share our home with all the animals of the world -- although a dog to keep my feet warm would have been nice. :-)

It rained and poured for forty day-sies day-sies day-sies
Rained and poured for forty day-sies day-sies day-sies
Must have driven the whole world crazy crazy
Children of the lord...

Forty days gives a lot of time for transformation -- of the self, of the world around the self.

When we left, it was the middle of a heat wave.  Today, on the drive home, we're seeing snow -- yes, SNOW.  Just when I was looking forward to a Margarita...

When we left, the country had just lost Jack.  This weekend, people across the country are taking part in Turning Point, an exciting new movement created by Lead Now, and inspired by Jack's parting letter.

Don and I are still married and still talking (although it came close when he served me watery decaf this morning), which is a miracle in itself after six weeks in each others' faces 24 hours a day!  Although my introverted self is looking forward to being able to lock myself in a room all by myself for a few minutes again.

Hmm... what do I miss most on the road?  Fresh fruit and the ability to be antisocial.  ;-)

Makes it seem even more funny that I'm looking forward to girls' night tomorrow, but then again... they're girls. :-)

For those of you wondering, yes we did wake up at 6:00.  Were on the highway by 7:00 -- no coffee shop to be seen until Marathon, though, and that was a Robin's.  We have yet to enjoy anything from a Robin's, but we were desperate.  Tasted like crap, but it had caffeine.  Held us over 'til Wawa, where there's at least a Tim Horton's.  Our next stop was just outside the Sault, in Goulais River, so I could pick up the novel I'd left behind the first night of our tour -- just as I was getting to the good stuff!  We gassed up in Sault Ste. Marie and I took over the driving for a while as -- you guessed it -- Don slept.

We were making good time, so stopped in Blind River at Pier Seventeen (where we'd stopped on our way home from Red Rock in August) for a late lunch.  Cream of mushroom soup (comfort food to stave off the snow) and a halibut burger for me.  Sirloin burger with fries for Don.  A nice break, then Don went back into the driver's seat.

The snow has turned to drizzle now.  Mother Nature has wrapped herself in all those colours your human mother said only belonged together in the wash -- reds, oranges, pinks, purples.  The trees are almost iridescent in their rainbowy state.  Every time we get a glimpse of Superior, the waves are crashing up against the rocks, reminding us that Mother Mare isn't one to be messed with.  I'm enjoying all these strong feminine images -- maybe it's because I'm gearing up for girls' night with some of the strongest women I know; maybe it's because in my exhausted state, I need a reminder of what lies beneath and will be at my disposal once I'm taking care of myself again.

Why does taking care of details always come ahead of taking care of myself?  No wonder I'm exhausted... 

I'm reminded of the first song I wrote for Lilly, just after she was born -- or maybe she wrote it for me?

Ground yourself upon the earth
Take inspiration from the skies
Circle has brought you here, circle within you lies.
Fire, Earth, Air and Sea
Fire, Earth, Air and Sea
Fire, Earth, Air and Sea
Just Breathe

We left early so we wouldn't get home too late -- didn't want to hit a moose in the night our our last day of the tour, and we want to get home in time to at least see the last set of the FridayFolk season opener.  I look at the clock, 5:30pm, they should be setting up now.  I'm fretting about all the things I usually fret about at 5:30, even though there's nothing I can do about it from the Sudbury region!  There's a team in place, all is well.  I want to see Andrew play, but I'm kind of toying with the idea of not going -- don't want the new team to think I don't trust them to do it without me (I'm thrilled they're doing it without me!); and I don't trust myself to not try and help once I get there.

If you saw the bags under my vacant-stare eyes, you would know I'm in no shape to help out in any capacity.  But try and convince Little Miss Helper-Bee when push comes to shove...  Maybe I should go in with an "I'm not really here" sign on my shirt?  :-)   They're going to be on their own for the most part next month, as well, so they're going to have to get used to it -- Don will be freshly out of hospital and stuck in bed.

Ah yes, with the closeness to home comes all the stuff that could be put on hold while we were away, avoided, ignored...  I know there are at least 140 "to-do's" I hit "snooze until October 1" on... guess what day tomorrow is?  No wonder I'm looking forward to girls' night.  :-)

Looking forward to the treadmill (yes, really!) and losing this lump of flab that keeps blocking the computer.  Looking forward to cooking food that doesn't have 4 times my daily sodium requirement or 3 times the fat limit.  Drinking water out of my big JB glass.  Getting clothes out of a closet instead of a suitcase.  WEARING A DIFFERENT PAIR OF PANTS.

Seeing the pussycats and waking up totally uncomfortable because I didn't want to move Cookie.  Having Bomber start yelling at me an hour before breakfast.

Hey, seeing the completed roof!

Getting the students back into shape, getting my classical self back into shape, getting my inbox back in shape, getting the front yard back in shape (that's as far as I go -- the back'll just have to wait).

Oy.  We're home.  The tour is over, everything else is about to begin.

But first -- girls' night.

Musically and manically,

A nice way to end the tour!

Another sleep in -- yay!  But Don finally gave up and woke me -- John had an energy audit guy coming in at 11:30, and we wanted to be out of his hair by then.  They'd saved me some coffee. :-)

A bit of visiting and chit-chat, a fair bit of arguing about him paying us back for dinner the night before -- what can we say?: we're stubborn, and greatly appreciative of having a place to stay.  Don loaded the suitcases in the trunk, and then we prepared to load the instruments.  "Where are your suitcases?" asked John.

"Already in the trunk!"

"Well, how am I supposed to sneak money into your suitcase when you're not looking?"


OK, we were sneaky, but he was even sneakier -- later that night, when we got back to our room, there was an e-mail from John to check the glove compartment.  Grrrr...

Hey, I know you've got a PayPal account, buddy!  ;-)

As previously mentioned, it was the first grey, low-ceilinged, drizzly day of fall.  I was finally wearing knits.  Getting ready to cocoon, but not yet...  just a little longer.

Don still had to get his nails done, as he was making the type of crackly sounds with them that make my teeth sweat and my spine go fizzledy -- and not in a good way.  So he dropped me at the closest Starbucks and went in search of a nail place.  I enjoyed a pumpkin loaf and grande bold and did some blogging and e-mails.  My battery started to limp just as a table next to a receptacle freed up -- but where the heck was my husband?  He had been stuck in traffic, went to the first mall where there was no nail place, but a hairdresser sent him to another place who sent him to another place and then he got stuck in traffic again.

Oh well, at least we weren't in a hurry this time.  Only a two-hours-and-a-bit drive today.  He finally got back and grabbed his own breakfast -- bringing me a second grande bold.  Don checked his e-mails for a sec, and then we got ready to hit the road, with Don saying he needed to fill up the gas tank on his way out of town.

Twenty minutes out of town, he remembered this statement, just as the yellow light started flickering on and off...

What starts with 4 and rhymes with more sight?

I pulled up MapQuest -- no gas station listed for an hour and a half.  We headed back to Thunder Bay.

Gas in car and tongue firmly bitten down, we got back on the highway.

Oh well, at least we weren't in a hurry this time...

The drive was incredibly windy, but incredibly beautiful.  The hills, the rocks, the lake, the waves... the fall colours!  The reds and oranges had been shocked into display, and the yellows just brilliant.

Big sweater / roaring fire / hot chocolate kind of day.  We settled for fleece / grande bold / turn the heat up in the car.  Soon, soon...

We got to the turnoff for the Rossport loop.  Quickly found the Serendipity Gardens Guest House, with a sign to check in at the Cafe, about 400 metres ahead.  Sure enough, there was the cafe -- a cute spot from the outside, with colourful Muskoka chairs laid out along the grounds and a big staircase leading up the hill into the main building.

There was nobody eating there, but it was late afternoon. Roger was the first to come out and greet us, and called his wife Mary shortly after.  We signed in to the guest house (complimentary, as part of our payment for the night), and he brought out our "breakfast box" to take back to the room for morning -- a cute blue and white thermos purse, filled with juice, yogourt and muffins.

They showed us the corner where we'd be playing, so we decided to set up before the dinner folks showed up.  They directed us to the alley and parking lot out back, so we didn't have to haul all our stuff up those stairs!  We loaded everything in and started to set up.

Mary offered us a glass of wine, which we declined for now, but told her we'd take her up on it after we were finished singing.  She also told us dinner was also on the house -- a pleasant surprise.  It was easiest for her to serve us before the regular guests came in, and that would give us time to digest before we sang, too.  She gave us a couple of menus and set us up at a table.

The menu looked fabulous, and there was also a fresh-caught fish entree.  But my eyes had already been caught by the spanakopita and greek salad.  Don ordered the mediterranean chicken.  Both these came with the soup of the day, which was a bean soup.  Mary started us off with a basket of hot bread and little bowl of spicy olives.  I hadn't realized I was so hungry...

Out came the soup, in big platter-like bowls.  Good thing I was hungry, because it was a meal in itself -- nice and hearty, more like a bean stew than a bean soup!  We ate it all. :-)

And then, Mary brought out an armload of food.  We looked around the room -- no, that big group of ten hadn't arrived yet, this was all for us!  A platter of THREE spanakopita slices for me, plus a separate dinner-plate sized greek salad.  Don had a giant platter with rice, vegetables, mediterranean chicken and greek salad.  Good thing we still had a few hours before showtime!

I dove into the first triangle -- and perhaps burnt my mouth a bit in my enthusiasm.  It was worth it.  :-)   I realized, though, that if I ate everything in front of me, it would take more than a few hours to digest!  So I aimed to finish the salad and just the first triangle -- the other two would be nice as a midnight snack or car picnic.

Don ate the whole darned thing.  :-)

The dinner guests were coming in, so we grabbed a to-go box from Mary before she got too busy, and took it and our breakfast box to the guest house.

From the outside, it's a bright and cheery aquamarine-painted building, looking a bit like two tall and skinny barns or perhaps fat church arches glued together.  Inside are four separate guest rooms.  We were in room 4, which is on the second floor.  We let ourselves in the front door, and walked up the wooden staircase, taking a peek at all the local art on the walls, and the bookcases at each landing.  Let ourselves into room #4 and... WOW!

The four trusses rise up from the corners, curving up to meet in the centre of the ceiling -- the walls and ceiling are a mixture of red cedar, spruce and pine.  More like a cathedral than a hotel room.  And a beautiful room!  Very large, with a bed area, a living room area, kitchenette / dining area, and a huge bathroom with big bathtub -- I promise myself a bubble bath after the show (but never make it...).

I settle down on the couch with the laptop.  Don lies on the bed "to look at the ceiling".  Yeah, whatever...  I type to the sound of snoring. :-)

Almost showtime!  I wake up sleeping beauty, and we head back to the cafe.  We pop in the back door and Mary tells us that Liz, Kathy and Tim are here from Red Rock.  We head over to their table and enjoy a nice round of hugs.  This is the first time we've seen Liz in a while -- she was in China when we were at the festival this summer, and is full of interesting stories about her work and travels.  Kathy is the hospitality co-ordinator for Live From The Rock, so doesn't get much chance to visit or listen during the festival, so she was looking forward to being able to sit down and finally hear a full show with us.  We enjoyed a nice visit with the three of them, and then Roger said it was time to get started.

We headed to our "stage" and tuned up.  The party of ten stood up and made a hasty retreat.  Ah well, not music lovers... they were soon replaced by a number of people who were coming in just for the show -- including some more friends from the festival, and a bunch of total strangers (otherwise known as future friends!).

We're working without a P.A., but the acoustics are so good, we don't really need one -- once the table of ten makes it out the door and the grannies in the corner get the "sshhhh" hints aimed their way.  It's kind of like a house concert, but in a really big living room overlooking Lake Superior.  :-)

Roger has built the cafe, as well as the guest house -- quite a master, in our opinion!  He and Mary are obviously music lovers, too, and Roger is often asking Don about various tunings he's using, etc.  The audience -- even the grannies, eventually -- is attentive and appreciative, and we're having a great time.

We take what's supposed to be a short break, as our start time was delayed with the large business group that left, but everyone's wanting to chat, so... we chat back (surprise!).  But we know Mary wanted to put her feet up by 11:00 (she's been working solo tonight, as her scheduled staffer's mother was in hospital), so we ease our way back to the stage for our second set.

We're finished.  The tour is over.  Wow, we did it -- just one 13-1/2 hour drive to go!  (Just?!?)

Some more visiting with friends new and old, and then folks gradually trickle out to their cars (nobody in the audience was actually from Rossport, everyone had a bit of a drive still).  Big hugs from our Red Rock crew.

Roger brought us each a glass of Merlot (he pours like my sister -- right to the top, yeah!), and we started to pack up.

Mary had a quandry -- only one piece of chocolate cake left, what to do, what to do?  ;-)   Don opted for the cake, and I went for the cheesecake.  She disappeared in the back for a moment and came out with two GINORMOUS plates of dessert, all artistically drizzled in chocolate sauce and raspberry syrup.

We sat down to eat, drink and chat with our ever-so-generous hosts.  As well as running the cafe and guest house, Mary is a parole officer for youth in the area -- and a very wide area it is.  Roger came to Canada in '68 from Ohio, and his design and construction expertise is self-taught.  They both love music of all sorts of varieties, although seem to have a leaning towards the rootsy side.  And they've got strong pouring arms -- Mary refilled our Merlot with a Tarah-pour, to help us digest those giant desserts (Don finished, I left the last few bites).

More big hugs good-bye, and an invitation for us to return anytime -- they loved it when someone of our quality came to their venue!

We headed back to our beautiful room at the guest house, just leaving the instruments in the car -- there are only 35 households in Rossport, and the parking spot was right under our window, and it hadn't yet gotten TOO cold outside.

I decided to forego the bubble bath, as it was after midnight and we were setting the alarm for 6:00 -- yes, really.  We signed the guest book and settled down for a very short sleep.

It was a great way to end the tour, though -- a fun concert, a fabulous meal and a great place to stay.  When the last memory of the tour is a good one, it's more likely we'll go on another one sometime. :-)


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Heading home

I am blogging about Wednesday, though today is Thursday.  I'm sitting in a Starbucks (surprise!) while Don is out finding a place to do his nails.  It's the first real day of fall -- at least, in Thunder Bay.  The sky is grey, clouds hanging low and being blown to and fro.  We had to swerve around numerous empty garbage pails and lids to get here.  The leaves are swirling.

I am finally wearing one of my warm shirts, for the first time all tour.  In the next 36 or so hours, I'm gonna have to wear four more plus a couple of sweaters in order to justify their presence in my suitcase.  :-)

Ah well, if I hadn't packed them, the weather would have been freezing all month!

So, back to Wednesday.

Another travel day, so not terribly exciting.  Even Mr. and Mrs. GrumpyPutz were hidden out of sight (and sound).

We woke up early -- yes, really -- so we could say good-bye to Sam and Susan before they went to work.  Sat around the kitchen table drinking coffee, commenting on articles in the paper -- you know, that stuff people normally do when they wake up early for work.  :-)   Sam grabbed an extra cup, which he acknowledged would make him late for work, but... I guess he didn't want the visit to end, either!  Susan left first, Sam when his coffee was finished -- I think he got out the door around 8:20, which didn't bode well for his 8:30 start. :-)

I got some last-minute stuff done for the OFS and home -- the cell connection from the provincial border in to Thunder Bay being rather questionable -- then got dressed and packed up, while Don filed the gas tank.

We left the house more or less when we'd wanted.  MapQuest sent us on an extremely convoluted route out of town, much of it under construction, too.  A few wrong turns and u-turns later, we were finally close to the highway.  Quick Starbucks search and... bonus, we're just about to be there!  Properly loaded up, we hit the highway.  Despite the late highway-getting-to, Mr. and Mrs. GrumpyPutz are nowhere to be seen.  :-)

We did a little happy-dance as we crossed the provincial border.  Almost home!!!

Took a little detour / scenic route / didn't really know what we were doing into Kenora, but found our way back to the main highway without a problem -- somebody should really update MapQuest, though, that 17A is the way to go around!  OK, I guess that would be us...

Internet and cell connections disappeared -- ah yes, we must be on the north shore of Superior.  You know, the place where the map shows a bunch of coverage and we and our other touring friends have yet to find any?  Let it go, Lyssy, let it go...

Another little happy dance as we passed the sign indicating the time change.  Now we're the same time zone as home!

The rest of the trip was fairly standard, albeit with some construction taking time away.  We ended up reaching Thunder Bay about an hour and a half later than we'd wanted to get there -- oops!

We had offered to take John and Sharron out for dinner as a thank you, but their grandson was staying with them on a surprise visit this week (his mom was sick), so we'd decided to order in, instead.  When we arrived at the house, Sharron and Nathan were heading out for a "b" errand -- getting bread, bananas, etc.   We loaded our stuff in with John, making our way around the lego and trucks (most of the time!).  Had a nice visit, were wondering what was taking Sharron and Nathan so long, but they finally arrived, with the reason for their delay -- Nathan was halfway through a banana-strawberry smoothie!

Back in the house, Nathan took it upon himself to show us all his toys.  Don enjoyed playing with them far too much.  :-)   Nathan was showing us all his police cars and ambulances with sirens on the top, and I mentioned that Don used to be a firefighter and had a fire truck with a big red siren.  Nathan's eyes rolled into the back of his head and he nearly exploded... then he found his two red fire hats and all of his various fire trucks.  Boy bliss.  :-)

The adults tried to figure out where to order in from -- it got narrowed down to Kelsey's or Appleby's, but Kelsey's was the easiest menu to find, so it won.  Yes, we're definitely closer to home -- all we needed was for Kim to greet us at the bar!

Sharron attempted to get Nathan into the bath, while John and Don headed out to pick up the food.  Apparently, there was quite a fight over who was going to pay the bill. Don won, but I'm not sure how he did it -- I ask no questions.  :-)

Occasionally accompanied by Nathan, who was having trouble falling asleep, the four of us sat at the kitchen table and ate our meals with a lovely bottle of Shiraz, followed by a bottle of "Sharron's Plonk", as John called it -- which was perfectly good as well.

Just when we thought it was safe... Sharron brought out dessert!  Neither Don nor I could even conceive of it -- we'd eaten far too much already.  We promised to do it for breakfast (oops, just realized we didn't keep that promise, AND I forgot my leftovers in the fridge -- hope you like lemon-pepper shrimp penne, John and Sharron!).

A bit more visiting, and then it was definitely nap time!  John and Sharron were in Nathan's room, with him on a camping mat on the floor and Remo (the golden retriever) out in the hall.  We, once again, were given the master bedroom -- people are far too nice to us!

Musically -- and maybe doing a little almost-home-happy-dance,

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Birthday Day / The Mists of Avalon / Oh Canada!

I did hear Sam and Susan leave for work Tuesday morning, but then my go-back-to-bed gene kicked in, and that was the end of that.  Still, when I woke again, Don was comatose and snoring his birthday snores. I played a few rounds of Sudoku to warm up my brain before making demands of my body -- besides, I was kind of trapped, having taken the side of the bed against the wall, so Don could get up first without waking me up.  So much for that...  :-)

Finally, I heard a mumbled "good morning".  And I broke into Happy Birthday -- but quietly. :-)  We'd agreed to actually celebrate "for real" once we got home, but he at least needed a birthday song!

This was the day for me to finish up the Orillia Folk Society stuff, before I entered the no-internet territory around Thunder Bay (no Rogers, your map is still lying through its teeth, there is no signal, no matter how many ways your so-called Customer Service representatives invent to talk down to me!), as well as taking care of some personal stuff back home.  So much of the day was spent in my slouches at the kitchen table -- oh, the glamour!  :-)

Don was playing with Sam's guitar in the living room, and fell in love with his clip-on tuner.  At 3:15, he announced he was going to go to Long & McQuade to get one, and then get his nails done on the way back.

I reminded him we had to leave the house at 5pm to get to our gig and there would be rush hour traffic.  No problem, he said.

Remember what I mentioned in the previous blog about foresight?

About ten past four, just as I'm about to go upstairs to wash my hair, I get a call on my cell -- he's lost, still hasn't made it to Long & McQuade.


I figure out where he is and talk him in the rest of the way.  Call another ten minutes later to make sure he found it.  Yes.  Good.

Shower time!  (Once again, you're welcome.)

When I get out of the shower, Sam and Susan are home.  No sign of Don.  They would have been home earlier, but they were stuck behind an accident on Main St. for over half an hour.

Yes, Main Street, the road Don will be coming home on.


I call Don's cell again to figure out where he is.  Fortunately, he got lost again (!) on the way home and asked a guy for directions, which steered him around the worst of it.  He's just around the corner.

5:15, Don arrives home to change and get his instruments ready for our 5:00 departure. (!)  He's got two new tuners (even though his two old tuners worked just fine and we have several Long & McQuade-s back home... just sayin'), but is not certain his nails will last through the gig. (!!!)

5:28, we make our 5:00 departure.

Fortunately, Sam and Susan have given us an alternate route that isn't too clogged.  As we're about 5 minutes away from our destination, Don exclaims "oh, this is where I turned to go to Long & McQuade this afternoon!".


Foresight, remember?  When checking the route to Long & McQuade, he never clued in to the fact that it's right around the corner from Pam and Kevin's (where he's been before), nor did he think to check, at 3:15 when he left, whether this was something we could do en route from the north end of the city to the south end of the city.


But it was his birthday.  And it's considered bad form to call your husband a dimtwit on his birthday.  No matter how much you'd like to.


So I smiled and ignored and tucked it all away for the day-after-birthday blog, when I'm once again allowed to call him a dimtwit without breaking the birthday code.  :-)

(Just once more, for old-time's sake...)

We find Pam and Kevin's house without further ado -- "Avalon Arts".  Pam answers the door and is all big hugs, even for me, who she's just met. I like hugs.  :-)

We load our gear in, and then she introduces us to two guests who have come early to join them for dinner -- Kian and Zeinab, who just arrived here in August from Iran to study at the University.  Pam and Kevin seem to make it a habit to take foreign students under their wing -- another former student, Tiago, has now moved back here from Brazil, and will be at the concert later, too.  So our Avalon Arts concert is a truly international event!

Kian and Zeinab are a lovely young couple, still trying to get the hang of Canadian slang and catch up with Pam and Kevin's fast-talking son, but doing beautifully with the language, helping out wherever they can, and trying very hard to adapt to the culture in their new home.  (As Pam later commented, it must be quite the culture shock for Shiite Muslims from a rather fundamentalist country to come to Winnipeg -- Zeinab is learning to knit mittens and toques now! -- and a community of people who are constantly hugging each other!)

Kian played us some music from a CD by a traditional Persian singer and an old American blues guy -- the blending was beautiful, and the song we listened to was presented with her singing the original song, and then he would translate the poetry into English and sing it blues-style.  He promised to send us a link to their iTunes page -- we'll share when we get it!

Don ate dinner with them too, as he hadn't had time to even have lunch, while I set up the CDs and mailing list.  Then the other guests started coming in.  It was a really great group of people, including their friend Wendy, who shares a birthday with Don -- although, as she pointed out, a decade later. :-)  Someone (perhaps her husband? I didn't notice) had brought in a giant birthday cake -- which we had to just look at until we'd finished singing.  :-(

All the guests had arrived, so we started our first set a bit before 7:30.   What an appreciative audience!!!   We kept hearing "wow" after many of our songs.  AND they loved Scarlett (my accordion, for the uninitiated) almost as much as I do.  My voice was finally getting back to its normal, healthy self -- my brain seemed to be going in the other direction.  A few "whoopsie!" moments, but people were kind and forgiving -- thank you, Winnipeg.  :-)

Break time, and we enjoyed visiting with Pam and Kevin's friends.  Some of them had been out to see Don's solo concert way back in 2004, and came out to see him again.  It was, as always, fun chatting with everyone, but we were conscious of the fact that many folks had to wake up the next morning, so Pam urged everyone back to the living room for the second set.

OK, the voice had a wee moment on the last high note of "Real Big Man", but other than that, it was feeling back to normal.  Wish I could say the same for my brain... I haven't messed up the accompaniment so badly all tour.  Sigh...  Once again, very forgiving folks.  We finished the set, got excited to finally eat cake, but they wanted an encore.  :-)

They got the encore, we got cake. Everyone was happy. :-)

AND birthday girl Wendy won the "line from a famous Canadian poem" contest -- the 4th person ever to do so, with the first 3 being from B.C.  Happy Birthday, Wendy!

A few folks stayed around to chat, but not terribly late.  Kian and Zeinab helped to tidy up while we packed up our things, and then Kevin got ready to drive them and Tiago back home -- we think there's the beginning of a wonderful multi-national friendship between the three of them!  We headed out ourselves, with big hugs all 'round.

As we were driving home, we had big silly grins on our faces.  We'd had just a fabulous evening and, despite my brain farts, were enjoying quite the music high -- as well as the joy shared with Pam and Kevin's friends.  Plus, we were really loving the fact that we lived in Canada, where Iranians and Brazilians can sit in Winnipeg and listen to music from Ontario that draws its roots from myriad other cultures.  Oh Canada!

Still glowing today, in fact.

Seriously. :-)

We got back to the house, where Susan's meeting had just ended about 20 minutes before we got there.  Sam had been working on proposals all night.  We gave him the hug and the kick in the shins Pam had sent for not being there.  :-)

They were easily tempted with a bottle of Dirty Laundry's Pinot Gris, though, and we headed to the sunroom to chat about our evenings.

Susan was beat, but Sam wanted to show us some of what he'd done with our photos, and transfer the originals to our hard drives.  They're looking great!  I have zero room left on my hard drive, so will have to show them to you when we get home -- not much longer now!

JPGs transferred, we all went to bed for a short sleep.

Musically and multiculturally,

Monday -- beginning of Week Six!

Sorry for the delay, folks -- yes, we had just a travel day, but with much personal stuff to attend to, plus had to organize the Orillia Folk Society's season opener with Andrew Collins and Tyler Knight this Friday, plus... Don had the audacity to ask me to drive part of the route.  ;-)

Not a huge amount to report about Monday, anyhow.  We were awakened at 6:30am by a call from my dentist office, reminding me about next week's appointment.  Geez, lady, when Don told you a few days ago that we were out west, did you not think about the time change?!?  Ugh...

I am the master of falling back asleep. Don, not so much...  When the alarm went off, he wasn't in bed.  A few snooze buttons later, and I realized he was nowhere to be seen, either.  Saw, finally, a note on my laptop that he'd gone back to 23 Main Street for breakfast with his laptop.  I had just sent him an e-mail to ask him to bring me a coffee and a treat (remember those coffee-in-the-morning wedding vows?), when he came in the door.  Empty Handed.  So much for the wedding vows...

We packed up the car, checked out of Capone's Hideaway, and found the Starbucks.  Where I bought the coffee.  Hmmm... maybe I should take the same kind of liberties with the whole "forsaking all others" part?!?

And yes, this man was about to be stuck in a car with me for seven hours.  Foresight was never Don's forte...

And so, Mr. & Mrs. Grumpyputz made the journey from Moose Jaw to Winnipeg.  Descriptions eliminated so as not to upset small children or other mortals.   Started with Don driving, me working.  Then me driving, Don sleeping.  Then me driving, Don playing Solitaire.  Then Mrs. Grumpyputz having a bit of a snarkyfit.  Then Don driving, me working.  Then Don driving, me navigating us in to Winnipeg.

We got to Sam & Susan's place pretty much on schedule -- we had been running early, but construction on the way in had slowed us down at the very end.  It was yet another glorious evening.  The front door was open, so we loaded in our stuff and called our hello-s.  Silence.  Hmm...  We heard running water -- maybe they were in the shower?  Nope, that was the dishwasher.  Maybe they'd been kidnapped by aliens or those guys in the purple-blue shirts (long story -- see below)?  Maybe they'd heard about the snarkyfit and were hiding?

I looked out the back window and saw the top of Susan's head down by the water.  We made our way down the lawn and found both of them back there, enjoying some rye & gingers and watching the water.   Susan sat me down in one of their new "gravity chairs", and Sam sent Don to get us our rye & gingers.  Balance was restored. :-)

OK, the story of the purple-blue shirts:  When we were staying at Sam & Susan's on our way west last month, Don was walking back to the house after getting his nails done, when an older guy on a bicycle asked if he could speak to him for a moment?  He pointed to Don's shirt, and said "I just wanted to say that I know about all you guys with the purpley-blue shirts.  I just wanted you to know that I'm aware of what you're doing, and even though it's top secret I think it's a really good thing you're doing it, and I support what you're doing.  I'd really like to help you out, but I have some things to do first, you know, I have some mental health issues I have to sort out first, but I wanted you to know that I'm totally in agreement with what you're doing, and I thank you guys for doing what you're doing."  [Whatever that is.]  Don said "thank you very much, I appreciate your support," and off he went.

So, back to Monday...

Rye and gingers finished -- well, actually, I had been sipping daintily, but was ordered to "chug", because people were hungry ;-) -- we got ready to head out.  We'd offered to take Sam and Susan out for dinner, to thank them for putting up with us yet again.  A discussion ensued (we aren't the only ones!): Sam wanted to go to Colosseo, Susan to Civita.  Sam was driving, so he appeared to be winning...

But, once the parking spot was found, we had to walk by Civita first.  The menu was looking pretty darned good, so we decided to head there.  It was fairly quiet, being a Monday, and there was only one water on staff -- she somehow covered TWO patios and the inside dining room, where we ended up.  Sam said if we were getting dinner, they'd get the wine, and ordered a litre of Fat Bastard -- I think, just so he could say "Fat Bastard" and get away with it. :-)

Unfortunately, Susan had already had a large lunch, but the rest of us went to town. :-)  Don started with a prawn cocktail -- the prawns were bigger than his fist! -- I had a spinach salad, and Sam had bison chili, which he shared with Susan.  For main course, Don went for ribs, I had a sweet potato ravioli with smoked cheddar sauce -- decadence! -- Susan had mussels in garlic and white wine sauce with yam frites, and Sam had the pulled lamb (so many jokes, so little time...) and fettuccini special.  All amazingly delicious.  The waiter had brought Don the wrong prawn appetizer (there were two, but he didn't care, he just took what she brought), AND she'd overheard it was his birthday, so she offered him dessert on the house.  He picked the chocolate lava cake and two forks, and Sam and Susan had hazlnut torte and two forks.

We definitely needed the walk back to the car.

And when we got home, we still needed a walk -- more like a waddle.  So we took a waddling tour of the neighbourhood, before coming back to crash into the kitchen chairs and moan a little. :-)

Sam and Susan had an early morning the next day -- you know, that whole working a real job thing -- so headed to bed, with us not too far behind.


Musically -- even when asleep,

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sunday, not-so-bloody Sunday

What a great bed -- didn't want to get out.   But we'd agreed to 10am brunch, so we could leave by noon -- whose crazy idea was that?!? ;-)

We checked the weather (hot!), got dressed and padded into the main part of the house, where Duff and Holly were just starting up as well.  Holly had shown us how to use the coffee maker the night before (one of those single-serving thingamajigs), and Don was able to make his own cup, with a bit of Duff's help.  When it came to my cup, though... uh-oh.  Between the three of us, it could not be done.  Holly to the rescue -- I am human once more.

They've whipped up a delicious brunch for us all: "easy risers" (fried eggs on english muffins with sliced cheese and sausage for the carnivores) and real home fries.  Once again, we are pleasantly stuffed.

We learn that Duff once ran for M.P. in his riding (Liberal in a staunch Conservative territory -- you can guess the result), so of course the conversation turns to politics.  Uh-oh, now we'll never leave! ;-)

But, I'm able to pry Don away, and we actually make it to the car fairly close to our desired schedule.  Holly loads us up with ice waters (much needed, thanks!), we say our good-byes and we frappe la rue.

The directions are quite simple -- stay on highway 16 until you get to highway 2, then turn right and go until you can't. I think we can handle it...  It's the typical prairie open road and big sky for most of it.  Don keeps quipping about the mountains every time we see a hill (I think I liked him better when he slept through the prairies!), but then as we're heading south on highway 2, we hit a beautiful river valley near North Grove.  That shuts him up until we get to town. :-)

Moose Jaw is a very historic town -- we were advised to go on a tour of the underground tunnels from the prohibition days but, alas, our schedule doesn't allow.  The venue is easy enough to find, right in the heart of the downtown historical district, and right next to it is a motel, "Capone's Hideaway" -- "an adventurous choice" said one couple we met at the cafe later on that evening, but perfectly clean and cheap (our only complaint was there was no soap in the bathroom...).  They've tried to decorate it according to theme, with an old-style lamp and telephone, and a chest of drawers that looks like an old liquor cabinet.   It's right across from the former train station, and probably above one of the tunnels. Capone, of course, probably didn't spend a whole lot of time here, but it's good for tourism. :-)

We'll have to leave some time next visit to take a tour of the tunnels -- apparently a 2-hour tour.  They start at the train station and work their way towards various hotels, a shoe store and "Rosie's house".  Not sure who Rosie was, but I'm guessing visits to her house were rather, ah, entertaining.

We check in to the motel and walk our first load of instruments over to the cafe, 23 Main Street.  What a great place!  This is exactly where I'd be hanging out all the time if I lived in Moose Jaw.  A long room with exposed brick walls and hardwood floors, tall cafe tables and clusters of big comfy couches.  The "stage" is a slightly raised area in the front window (tall cafe tables are there when it's not being used as a stage).  The food counter is to your left as you walk in -- first the ice cream parlour (!), then the coffee shop, which also offers pizzas and paninis and salads, etc., plus the whole wide array of specialty coffees and teas.  There are some scarves and clothes being sold in the back section, plus books and jewellery on shelves around the store, and artwork along the walls.

We introduce ourselves to the barista who tells us the boss is out getting some supplies but should be back soon, and we can store our stuff in his office while we wait.  We go back and get our second load to stash in the office.  She offers us drinks while we wait -- I pick "white orchard" tea (very nice) and Don just goes for water.  We figure we might as well eat now too, so we have time to digest before we sing (lesson learned from the night before!).  She says it's on the house -- we knew the drinks were, but dinner was unexpected -- thanks 23 Main!  I opt for the veggie roma panini, Don orders a spicy chicken pizza with chipotle-lime seasoning, and we stake out a big comfy couch.  Don finally gets a chance to check his e-mail (they also have wireless -- yay!), and I finally remember to check the messages at home -- hey, what's two weeks, really?  Anyone who really needed to get us would call our cell phones... but not the 14 recorded messages from PC Financial.  Geez, if they'd bothered to hire humans to make the calls, they would have heard the cell phone numbers!!!

Our dinners arrive and... oh geez, this is really good food!  I'd pretty much live here and get really really fat...

Taylor, the manager, comes back -- a young guy with a really great energy about him.  He's recruited a man to help him set up the stage, I'm guessing in return for a coffee or sandwich or something, as this guy seems to be a little hard on his luck and perhaps battling some mental illness, from the conversation we later have. OK, so this is also a cafe with a good heart.  Me like.

We get ourselves set up and ask him the details of when we should start / break / stop, etc. -- he's pretty easygoing with it, just play it by ear.  Oh, but wait, there's also a spotlight he wants to set up on us. :-)

It's a tip-jar gig, not the kind of thing we'd usually want to do, but on a night we'd have to travel through anyhow,  It's a nice filler in a town that doesn't know us, and helps cover the motel bill.  A friendly, community spot that I'd recommend to any musicians travelling through under the same premise -- no guarantee, and probably not your highest-earning tour gig, but it's a nice place, a great meal, and a friendly, feel-good community.  We really enjoyed ourselves.

The place is pretty hopping for a Sunday night, too -- we had no idea what to expect, this was one of our last-minute gig finds, and with our cafe experiences this tour, we were obviously a bit wary.  The cafe-goers were appreciative, especially this one couple in the first set of couches, and the staff seemed to love it too.

We took our break and chatted a bit with the couple in front.  They were in town from Yorkton, SK (the east end of the province) for an anniversary visit to the spa.  They'd seen us walking our instruments in earlier and had come in to check us out after their dinner.  They were lovely people, and incredibly generous to the tip jar -- thank you, belatedly!!!

The cafe closed at 9:00, and by about 8:45, that couple and the staff were the only ones left.  So we packed up our stuff and helped clear our dishes.  We took our first load back to the hotel.  When we came back for the second, another couple was there -- we're presuming the owners -- who said how much the staff had loved our music, and we were welcome back any time.  We left them with a CD for the cafe, and said cheery good-nights.

Back at the motel, I did some online banking, Don played some solitaire (hmmm...), and then we fell asleep to the sounds of motorcycles (there are a LOT in this city) and trains.

Musically and Moosejawingly,

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Kindasorta one province closer to home...

Saturday morning -- another sunny and clear one.  I'm somehow awake first (has the world shifted on its axis?), but stay in bed for a while, enjoying the silence and the light patterns coming through the blinds... interspersed with a wee bit (!) of snoring coming from the pillow beside me.  OK, maybe that's how I woke up first!  ;-)

Footsteps and water running -- Maria must be up.  I wait for the shower sounds to subside, then tiptoe out of the guest room.  Hmm... no Maria.  But she did mention a farmer's market, so maybe she headed over there?  I grab some water (still dry in Edmonton, though not as dry as Calgary!) and tiptoe back to the room to get dressed.  Don's awake now too, so no more tiptoeing.  Maria comes in -- she'd just been sitting on the back patio, soaking up some sun.

Coffee time!  Maria says she likes hers strong, too -- no wonder we get along so well. :-)  She's used to doing 2 scoops of grounds into her little press, and has calculated that the larger press is three times the volume, so we all agree that 6 scoops must be the way to go.

Woah, mama!  That's some mighty strong coffee!!! OK, apparently coffee making follows a logarithmic curve and not a directly proportionate diagonal.  Maria dilutes hers with cream, and we add some extra hot water.  It could still put hair on our chests, but is pretty darned good!

Maria puts me on toast duty, Don on chopping duty, and prepares to whip up a great Saturday breakfast -- scrambled eggs with roasted green and red peppers, and bacon for the carnivores.  We are spoiled. :-)

Then it's time for my accordion lesson!  Maria says she feels a little odd teaching me, as she herself is self-taught -- but I figure she's been playing it for longer than I have, and she's darned good, so she must have a few words of wisdom, at least!  She'd noticed a couple of things about my posture the night before (she's gone through many Alexander Technique workshops, which are all about balancing the body properly, and are terrific for instrumentalists!) which concern her -- so we experiment with some new strap lengths and instrument placement, which feel quite a bit better.  As far as the bellows are concerned, she seems to keep things a lot closer to the body than I've been doing, which gives her a bit more control over the direction changes -- she gives me a few more tips on working with the phrasing and in-outs.  Got much to practise!

Some more chatting -- geez, it's bad enough to get us started, but when we're chatting with someone we enjoy, and who enjoys chatting too, it can be a little dangerous!  We realize it's quite a bit later than when we thought we'd leave.  Better hit the road!  Maria looks up the best way to get out of town (as there are more road closures), and shows us where the Safeway is -- so Don can get winegums (important road food!) and we can get our grande bolds for the car (there's a little SB kiosk in the grocery store).  Not that our bodies probably need any more coffee, but it's the principle of the thing...

Once again, the roads are open and straight, and we're seeing lots of beautiful fall colours -- even some darker oranges and reds, so perhaps the Chinooks don't make it this far?  Or maybe Louise's theory just got overturned...  ;-)

Lloydminster is officially in Alberta, although it really straddles the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan -- Duff and Holly's house is east of the dividing line, so I'm not exactly sure whether to post my "one more province closer to home" status update.  I opt to wait until we're really and truly in Saskatchewan, no doubt about it.

We finally get to Lloydminster about 4:30, and find the Stewarts' house easily.  Duff comes out to greet us and tells us to pull into the driveway so it's easier to unload.  Holly also emerges, closely followed by their Shih-Tzu, Scampi (I never did figure out if the dog's name is actually Scampi, or if it's Scamp but they've added the "y" suffix as a term of endearment).  They help us load all our stuff in through the back door -- which is actually a door into a private courtyard and then into the house.

They've just moved here in the last month, renting for a while until their daughter finishes high school, they both retire and can move back to Ontario.  It's a really interesting house, full of character, although perhaps lacking a few of the finishing touches here and there.  The owners obviously have a bit of a Santa Fe bent, as Holly points out that the string of chilli-pepper lamps came with the house. :-)  But it's a really great layout, wrapped around the courtyard.  To the right of the courtyard as you're coming in the back lies the master bedroom with ensuite bathroom.  The main body of the house (ahead of you as you come through the courtyard) is a big, open "great room" -- the open kitchen to the left, looking out on the large dining / living room, and then dropping down to the right into a recessed den with fireplace.  Between this great room and the courtyard is a long thin office with sliding glass doors and big windows looking into the courtyard (would be a fabulous writing room!).  Down the other side of the courtyard is the front entrance, two bedrooms and another bathroom.  There's also a nice-sized back yard.  Someone has started to put a tin ceiling on the kitchen, but stopped about a foot short of the wall -- nobody's quite sure why.  A quirky DIY, but it's got a really nice feel to it.

Duff and Holly's 16-year-old daughter, MacKenzie, emerges from the room.  We are warned she's very shy, but... that's parents for you. :-)  She's quite talkative with us, and eager to show us her favourite tea shop around the corner, where she's been tasting her way through the dozens and dozens of different teas they sell.  Duff drops the three of us off at the mall, and we spend time smelling and drooling over (but not into, don't fret!) some of the teas on offer.  There's one called Love Potion #7 that smells more like dessert than tea, and indeed has tiny chocolate bits mixed in with the tea leaves.  I opt for Butternut Cream, Don has Ginger Detox (we could probably use a good detox after this tour!), and MacKenzie has an iced Creme Caramel.  It is, indeed, a good tea shop!  Duff had gone off to buy some ice (there's a big red clawfoot tub in the courtyard, which they were planning to use as the cooler for the party that night), and was waiting for us in the parking lot -- then we all went to pick up their friend Cindy, who was coming for dinner and the concert.

When we got to the house, Holly had put out platters and platters of food -- my goodness, we will never be able to call ourselves "starving artists" after this tour!  Cheese, crackers, chutney, sushi, spring rolls, antipasto, stuffed peppers... and they were also making dinner for us!

Duff was cooking pork and beef ribs for the carnivores in the outside smoker, MacKenzie was preparing her special salmon recipe, which she'd prepared for a recent cooking competition.  This is one heck of a sixteen-year-old!  There were also delicious purple carrots from Holly's friend's garden, rice... and more plates of pickles and other nibbles.  The six of us sat down for a scrumptious meal.  A huge meal.  And then Duff brought out dessert -- little raspberry crumble tarts drizzled in clover honey.  Egads...  ok, well they are tiny...


And, holy geez, we still have to put on a show!  Water, lots of water.

We retreat to our room (actually, the master bedroom, which Duff and Holly have every-so-generously handed over to us for the night) to digest and get ready for the guests to arrive.  We ask how many they're expected -- anywhere from ten to sixty, quips Holly, they're never too sure, but they are thinking about 20, as many are away, enjoying probably one of the last summer-weather weekends.  A few of those people may be a bit late, due to kids' soccer games, etc.

As 8:00 nears, Duff and Holly are pacing and looking extremely nervous...   A wave of relief crosses over them as the first doorbell chimes. :-)

We near 8:30, and they're still quite disturbed by the turnout -- it's closer to their minimum projection so far -- but we figure we'll get started anyhow, so the people who did show aren't having to wait around too long (especially as there is one very young guest who is probably already way past his bedtime).  More folks trickle in as we're playing.  ("Oh, hello new people!" Don exclaims, after coming back from a tuning session to see fresh new faces have arrived in his absence.)  Everyone is most appreciative and mentioning all sorts of people who should be here because they'd really love it and are missing out.

We take our "intermission" and have a chance to chat with some of the guests.  Carson seems to be the troublemaker of the group. ;-)  Originally from Newfoundland, but moved to Calgary when he was 16 and now owns his own construction business in Lloydminster -- while he may have lost most of the accent (until he's had a few, he tells us), The Rock has certainly not left him.  He and Holly seem to be constantly ribbing each other, and he seems quite at home in kitchen parties.

What Cindy thought was just allergies has turned into a full-fledged cold, so she asks Duff to take her home, but not before buying a CD.  We agree to wait for his return for the second half, and they're still expecting a few more people to arrive after various kids are taken home and other events completed.  The young guy is still going strong, so we take a very extended break.

A few more guests arrive, Duff returns home -- they're still waiting for two they know for sure are coming.  It's getting pretty late, though, so we get started on the second set.  As we get to the second song (Yum), the couple arrives.  Oh geez, the poor guys are going to wonder what the heck they've walked into if that's the first song they hear!  Nevermind, they're dog owners, so it's OK.  We redeem ourselves with the next bunch, anyhow.  Then I do "Sweat" and single out Duff in the last verse -- his head snaps back so wildly to Carson, I think he's going to throw his back out! ;-)  Just as we're about to finish up, in walks yet another couple, who weren't expected as they had a company "do" -- which we later learn involved a bagpipe-playing comedian (!) -- but they want to catch the tag end, at least.  Not sure if it technically counts as an "encore", but we were asked to keep playing a couple more songs, so they could enjoy a bit more than one song.  Just as we thought we'd finally get to share in some of the wine, Carson wants to hear something on the Hawaiian King again -- Don obliges.

Finally, wine. :-)   (As I told them in the concert, my songs tend to be about either broken hearts or alcoholic beverages -- and I no longer have a broken heart.)  Holly brings out a huge tray of vegetarian taco dip which "I made just for you, so you have to eat it all!".  It is delicious, but fortunately there are others who assist, because there's a lot of it, and I've already got too many rolls of fat hanging over my keyboard as I type in the car...  Just a few days until I hit the treadmill with a vengeance again!

We have a really delightful night with all Duff and Holly's friends -- a really diverse and fun bunch, whose numbers have now grown to what they were expecting (although Duff admits he was secretly hoping for more -- but it was fine for us!).  Even the couple with the young one stays until almost midnight -- hopefully he's as good at sleeping in as he was at staying up!  Slowly the remaining adults trickle away -- except, of course, Carson and his wife Cheryl (sorry if I'm spelling it wrong!).  She's trying to get him out the door, but he's trying to ply us with more alcohol and start playing again.  We've got a five-hour drive and a gig the next day, though, so we stay strong.  Holly calls him a few names and Cheryl starts to slowly edge him towards the door. ;-)  (Can you imagine how hard it would be to get Don to leave a party if he were also a Newf?)

We try to help clean up the dishes, etc., but Holly and Duff won't have any of that, so we pack up our gear, instead.  Holly's eyes are rolling into the back of her head -- she's used to being asleep by 9:30 -- so Duff banishes her to bed, and we all follow suit shortly thereafter!

Head, meet pillow.  Pillow, meet... zzzzzzz


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Silver linings

Leaving another home -- damn, I hate that part.

Louise, of course, had early morning meetings (she's gonna sleep well this weekend!) on Friday.  Don had left the door open for Ellie again, but it took a certain amount of cajoling to get her into the room this time.  She only stayed on the bed a few minutes before taking up residence at Don's feet -- Don, of course, was eating breakfast, and she didn't want to miss a crumb. :-)

I gave up on Ellie and got out of bed for my coffee.  Then we started packing up our bags and folding up the guest bed.

Ellie was not amused.

She went into Louise's room, curled up on the bed, and wouldn't meet our eyes.  This dog can sulk!

We loaded up the car, to get the suitcases out of view, and sat with our laptops in the living room, catching up on stuff and waiting for Louise to come home from her morning of meetings.  Ellie was happier when she showed up, but was still sulking.

We had a last wee visit with Louise, then big hugs and good-byes.   It was time to head for Edmonton!  An early stop for grande bolds and artisan sandwiches, and then we were on the highway.

The drive from Calgary to Edmonton is quite a bit straighter and flatter than what we'd been driving the previous weeks!  Wide open roads, big sky, and the trees just starting to change colour -- lots of beautiful yellows, the occasional pale oranges, though none of the reds of Ontario.  Apparently the Chinooks around here aren't too good for Maples (or so says Louise, but with the caveat that she doesn't remember where she heard that!).

The drive wasn't too bad, although we did run in to a bit of construction.  As we neared Edmonton, Maria Dunn e-mailed us to let us know of the road closures in the area, and steered us to her house via roads that were actually open.  People are so much more trustworthy than MapQuest. :-)

Maria's in a lovely neighbourhood overlooking parkland, in a cute 2-bedroom bungalow she's lived in for almost nine months -- although, with all her touring (if you don't know her music, check her out!), she feels she's barely gotten used to the place.

We had a couple of hours before she had to head out to a radio interview and we had to get ready for our gig, so we were able to get a nice visit in.  Maria also made us a light meal of sandwiches and salad, which held us all over quite nicely.

Maria dashed off to her interview, leaving us to relax for a while and get dressed for our evening gig -- our load-in wasn't scheduled until 7:15, so we had lots of time.

The route to the venue was easy enough (thank you, Edmonton, for making your grid system an actual grid and understandable system!), with just a bit of slowness as we passed the football stadium.  Though once we got to the area, The Haven was a little tricky to find.  It's a single door entrance to a basement venue, nestled among a block of XXX movie stores, "Adult" entertainment venues and massage parlours.

Er... geez... have we just made a horrible, horrible mistake?!?  What kind of venue is this?  But The Haven Social Club has hosted many respectable folkies -- I don't think they'll expect us to play naked...?

Trepidatiously, we walk down the stairs into the venue.  Alright, there's no pole in the centre of the stage, we're OK!  In fact, it looks downright classy.  Nice stage, tables laid out with chairs facing the stage, lovely artwork on the walls.  No people...  Don't restaurants usually have people?   On a Friday?  Hmmm... maybe it doesn't start hopping until showtime...?

We're starting to understand why Maria previously raised an eyebrow but remained politely silent when we told her where we were playing.

We find a human, who introduces himself as Rob, the bartender for the night.  He's a really nice guy, shows us to the green room, tells us the sound guy will be coming in shortly, unlocks the back door so we can load in our gear from the parking lot.

And that is how we ended up loading our gear in through the door marked "Temptation Massage", and "Your pleasure is our service" written over a semi-erotic cartoon painting on the inside wall.

For the record, we were not tempted. ;-)

Our gear safely stowed away from tempting hands, we grab some water and wait for the sound guy to come and tell us where he wants us.  Our opening act, Lyra Brown, hauls in her keyboard -- assisted by mother and sister, we believe, though they never introduced themselves (neither did she, actually -- perhaps a little lesson in artistic attitude might be helpful, because she spent the rest of the evening unknowingly annoying one artistic director enough to put a "don't bother" stamp in the database, despite her interesting music) -- a local girl who recently won in the Youth category of the Calgary Folk Fest's songwriting contest.  She immediately takes over the stage.

Bryce, the sound guy, comes in shortly after that, politely mentions that he only gives the feature act (us) a full sound check, but she can come 15 minutes before her set to do a line check.

Bryce gets us quickly set up and starts pulling up the sounds -- damn, he's really good!  He's got a fabulous mix up in no time.

It's now about 8:15, cover started at 8:00.  So far, there's one man (who looks kind of familiar, but it's dark looking out from the stage) at one table, plus the local girl's entourage of two.  So much for the local opening act bringing out some new faces for us...  Never mind, we know of a dozen or so people who said they were coming, so at least we'll see some familiar faces -- and maybe once the music starts, other strangers will pour in... you know, those who aren't first tempted by massage or XXX films...  :-)

We head to the back to put together our setlist and not worry about it.  When I emerge to refill my water glass, the single man at the single table has left.  I don't even see a staff member in the room.  This does not bode well...

Last night, we had dozens of people in the room and a crappy sound.  Tonight it looks like we'll have awesome sound and nobody to enjoy it.

Don has a nap in the green room.  I pace.

The opener does her line check... short pause, then we hear her doing something again.  The sound of three hands clapping -- oh dear, she's started.  We decide to be supportive and sit at one of the front tables to listen to her set.  Mom and sis are in the front table, we're second to the front, and... well...  there's Bryce doing sound... and a couple over at the side... and Rob the bartender... and the waitress scurrying around lighting candles on the tables.

We break our usual don't-drink-before-a-show rule and cash in our beer tickets.

Maria comes in part way through the opener and sits with us.  Yes, she nods her head, that is the problem with this venue, there's no built-in crowd, you have to have a following you bring in yourself.  Which, being the first time we've ever set foot in Edmonton, we don't have.  Neither, it seems, does the local opener (perhaps she's pissed off more than artistic directors?).

Our turn.  Well, the show must go on.  Maria goes to sit next to the couple over at the side -- who, it turns out, are Sidney and John, who we met when playing at the Rose & Kettle in Cole Harbour, NS (they were on a year's sabbatical there at the time).  We've got three true fans in the audience, that makes us feel better, at least.  There's another woman sitting behind us now, and look, another man has just walked in, things are looking up!

Except that man and the diva-ette and family stand at the front of the stage, in constant loud conversation all through the first several songs of our set.  I can see Maria's head bobbing in there direction, and she looks like she's about to head over when the two loudest in the group leave and the other two stay to listen for a bit.  Bloodshed is spared. :-)

We do a pretty good set, although it's definitely hard to keep the energy up.  But our three fans enjoy it, the two quieter family members are very complimentary, and the venue's staff are really seeming to enjoy it, as well!  OK, the audience may be small, but they're certainly appreciative!  What the heck, it was a fun evening.

We're able to visit and chat a bit with Sidney and John -- they're terribly apologetic they weren't able to bring more people with them, they'd tried really hard, but many friends were away for the weekend, or had other commitments, there's a bunch of other concerts going on that weekend, AND it's the season opener of one of the (three!) Edmonton folk clubs that night, so all the people who would have really liked our music were probably there instead.

The bad timing bug...

(Although that doesn't quite explain the people who had told us they were coming...)

Rob at the bar is similarly apologetic, and is raving about how much he enjoyed the show.  He says he's going to tell the booker how great we were, says as far as he's concerned, we're welcome back any time, and that next time he'll talk to the booker and make sure we're paired off with a local act who has a big following, because "you guys deserve a much bigger audience!"

The deal at this venue is that the hall keeps the first $250 of the door -- we obviously didn't come anywhere close to that, but the guy at the door has either dipped in to the kitty or taken money out of his own wallet for Rob to give us.  "He felt bad, because you guys are so good, he thought you should at least go home with something!"

So... really pretty venue, really nice staff, super-colossally bad timing -- and, it seems, not the ideal first venue to play for newcomers.  Lesson learned, we'll advise our fellow new-to-Edmonton musicians, and come back some day when we've got a bit more of a following (and it's not a weekend with so much going on!).

We hug Sidney and John good-bye, thank all the staff, and pack up the car.

We're starving!

We follow Maria to her favourite pizza place -- Tony's Pizza Palace.  We're in luck, they're still open!  We order one large "Sal's" and one medium vegetarian to go.  The waiters try to ply us with liquor as we wait, but our drivers have already had a pint each, so we'll wait.

Dinner in hand and a bottle of wine in the trunk, we follow Maria back to the house and grab some plates and glasses.  She has not led us astray, this is really good pizza!  The wine (an Okanagan Merlot) is quite lovely, too. :-)

We chat some more -- well, quite a bit more -- and realize it's quarter to two.  We decide it's time for our beauty rest and call it a night.

Musically -- even in miniature!

Why the previous blog was late...

My body must have been worried about sleeping through our gig, because I was awake before the sun and even before Louise.  Stupid body.  I spent the next few hours dozing, but not terribly successfully.  Don got out of bed first and, as requested, left the door open.  It wasn't long before I had a golden retriever on top of me.  :-)

I miss morning dog cuddles...

We decided to forgo the morning showers, etc., and get the P.A. figured out asap.  Headed down to the pub to meet our contact and check out the mixer situation.  She was there and happy to meet us, showed us where we'd be playing that night, and disappeared for a moment to show us the machine.

While standing in our "stage" we notice the room is very, Very, VERY loud.  Hmmm...  We'd better figure out a set list that doesn't require any sensitive-singer-songwriter stuff, just the up-tempo, loud ones.  You know, all three of them. ;-)

Out walks grumpy and rather rude manager and tells us we can't be here right now, they're preparing for lunch rush.  I politely and patiently (yes, me!) explain we just need to see what connections the mixer has, because if it's not something we can use, we only have a few hours to figure out what to do!


Go away.  Don't come back until after 1:00.


So, we take a walking tour of downtown Calgary.  Including walking by (not into!) the Palliser Hotel, where Don's uncle used to take him for dinner on special occasions.

Hungry ourselves, we decided to grab some lunch.  Guess where we DIDN'T go for lunch?!? ;-)

Feeling a little haughty after having so much of our day wasted and blood pressures raised, we went back to the pub with our Starbucks cups in hand, and sat at the front table until rude manager allowed Kristi to come and talk to us.

As suspected, we'd waited all that time to discover that what they had was absolutely useless to us -- the "mixer" was a stereo mixer, with just RCA jacks for inputs and outputs.

Insert primal scream here.

Alright, off to the D.I. we go!

The D.I. is a huge building, flatiron shaped.  Apparently it first opened on September 11, 2001, with its first clients being passengers stranded when all the airports shut down.  It's a full-service homeless shelter, rehab centre, food bank, soup kitchen, employment and life skills training centre -- pretty much everything you need all under one roof.

Registered clients seem to be able to let themselves in with a fingerprint screening.  We were buzzed in by the front security, and told to wait in the lobby for someone to come and get us.  Lots of folks were milling about on the first floor, with many staff running through and saying hi to a lot of them by first name.  Seems like quite the community.

Louise finally made it down -- she'd been in a meeting when we'd arrived -- and gave us a very brief tour (she'd wanted to give us the grand tour, but we were pretty pressed for time by that point!).  She took us up to the music room, which is next to an art studio, and there's beautiful hand-crafted furniture for sale in the hall.  Some of the more musically inclined clients get training in live sound and recording, those good with their hands learn carpentry, etc.  Seems they've got lots of opportunities for people to learn many new skills!

Jordan had already set up a cart with everything he thought we might need.  He was in a meeting, too, but Michael went through it all with us, and threw in a few more cords, just in case.  Unfortunately, they only had one boom stand, and it was held together with duct tape, but they gave us that and a straight mic stand.  They also didn't have any instrument mics or stands for my drum.  Drat... don't think the subtle acoustics of the cajon would carry over in that pub (2 floors, square, us in the corner by the door and across from the bar).  Sigh... beggars can't be choosers!  (But I might have uttered a few curses at the pub manager, under my breath.)

We promised we'd take good care of everything, and loaded it all into our car and Louise's.  Zoomed home (didn't get lost this time, thank goodness!) for the by-now-much-needed showers.  While I was washing my hair, Don MapQuested Long & McQuade.

The car fully loaded (milk crate of cables on my lap, 16-channel mixer precariously balanced on cello behind Don's head), we found L&McQ quite easily.  We definitely needed boom stands, not to mention ones that would stay together until the end of the gig.  We found two collapsible ones, bought a couple of extra cables and -- ho ho! -- found a great deal on a kick drum mic for only $35.  We'd use the duct-taped boom stand for that one.  Things are looking up!

We rush off to the pub in good time, when suddenly... Calgary rush hour traffic.  Eek!  A little after 5:00, we get a cell call from Louise, who's at the pub with her carload of speakers.  We're almost there -- just three blocks away!

Of course, one of those blocks is under construction, and reads "no through traffic".  Screw it, we're from Toronto -- we bump and hurdle our way through, anyhow.

Kristin is there to help us set up, as his her foul manager, who must have sensed the daggers coming from my eyes, because she keeps her distance the rest of the evening. :-)  We also meet Jessica, the representative from the United Way who's running the benefit that night.  She's carrying what looks like a fold-up lawn chair in a sling.  As we discover later, in wide-eyed wonder, this is actually a huge self-contained banner display for the United Way of Calgary -- it folds into itself kind of like an old projection screen we used to have as kids, only much tinier.

We get our gear set up -- which is kind of tricky, as talking to each other above the din is no easy feat.  I feel like I've lost my voice before we even start -- water, guzzle lots of water!  Ready for our sound check, we ask the bartender to please turn off the stereo, thinking we'll finally be able to hear ourselves.

No such luck.  This pub is like a huge echo chamber, and the table in front of us is filled with eight rather sozzled twenty-something guys.  We do the best we can on our own, and wait for Louise to return (from walking Ellie) to help us figure out the rest.  The stereo comes back on -- quite heavy rock.  Methinks this may be the wrong venue for folksy singer-songwriter fare...  Sigh...

Nevermind, Louise in all her enthusiastic cheeriness returns, soon followed by Nan and Bob from the dinner party, and a few more friends we haven't met yet.  There's a large table of United Way folks over to one side, and several other people who actually seem to be listening -- just not the table of sozzled twenty-somethings. :-)

I begin "My Cup" and hear a giant "WOAH, YEAH!!!"  I feel mighty full of myself, until I see there's a football game on the big screen...

But, if you can ignore the sozzled twenty-somethings, and the fact that neither Don nor I can hear each other, let alone ourselves, there IS an enthusiastic, appreciative audience.  Instead of our regular two sets, though, we opt for the extended single set of songs that may be vaguely appropriate for a bar setting.  We're asked to turn up the speakers by the bar staff -- so they must be enjoying it too, or just trying to drown out the twenty-somethings. :-)

These are the truly exhausting gigs.  You know there are people who are really listening, so you want to do your best and put together an ideal show for them.  But you're fighting the sound and have no idea what, if anything, they can hear, and we don't even know if we're in tune with each other.  So many good intentions...  Apparently, though, we were in tune with each other.  Or our "fan club" was too polite to complain. :-)  Some lovely comments from our new friends and total strangers.  And three encores -- though the last two seem to have come from Louise. :-)

Seeing we were pooped, she promised to stop asking for encores, and bought us beer.  We love Louise. :-)

We learned that we'd managed to raise a few hundred for the United Way.  We did good.  :-)

And then the packing up began -- many people offered to help, but with a combination of our gear, the D.I.'s gear, and some of Michael's gear (and I had earlier discovered I was missing some clothes from... maybe Victoria?), we figured it was best if we did it ourselves, to minimize the room for mistakes.

As we were halfway through our packing, in walks MY blast from the past -- Julie Van Rosendaal.  Julie was my best friend all through nursery school 'til the summer after grade one, when her family moved to Calgary.  I haven't seen her since.  I did rediscover her while working as a librarian in Cannington -- one of her cookbooks came to me for processing, and I was able to e-mail her via her publishing company.  So we've been in touch from time to time over the past few years.  She'd also helped with some of the PR for this trip, as she works at the CBC.  Louise was very excited she was my friend, because she listens to Julie's cooking show all the time.

Julie and her husband had been to a restaurant opening earlier, and had come over as soon as they could -- unfortunately, after we were finished.  But we did get to see each other again for the first time in about 35 years, which was tons of fun.  We promised to be better coordinated the next time out. :-)

We packed up our gear into ours and Louise's cars, and sent Louise home to bed.  We still had to eat dinner (and couldn't handle the noise at the pub any longer), so she recommended a great pizza place on our way home.  We grabbed a Margarita pizza with extra roasted mushrooms and took it back to the house.

Louise's car wasn't in the driveway, so we were worried something had happened to her.  We let ourselves in and said hi to Ellie, and then Louise padded out in her jammies -- she'd put the car in the garage (really? I thought garages were for storing your junk?).

Saying "what the heck? I can sleep on the weekend!", she opened a bottle of Malbec and joined us on the couch, as Ellie very hopefully watched us eat our pizza.  Sorry, dog, this is too good to share!

Louise and Ellie padded to their room, we shuffled into ours and... crashed!

Musically (or so I'm told),

Friday, September 23, 2011

Down memory lane

Sorry about the delay -- been busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest!

Wednesday, as mentioned, Louise had an 8:00 meeting -- not sure how she did it, but she was out the door long before we reached consciousness.  When Don opened our bedroom door, Ellie was very happy to still have company.  We had a lovely coffee- and dog-filled morning!

Then it was time for the trip down memory lane.  We started in the Starbucks -- which I'm pretty sure was not around when Don lived here!  But we needed lunch, and to map out the route to Don's old homes and schools.

I have to say, Calgary must have been designed to confuse tourists!

I'd always thought, when addressing letters to Calgary, that with all the numbered streets, it would be set up in a grid that was logical.

Not really.

The street numbers jump, or don't exist, or merge into each other, or are numbered and lettered: 13... 13A... 17.  And I have to say, sometimes their signage is just plain lousy.  Also, there are some neighbourhoods with actual street names, but they all begin with the same darned letter, so anyone unfamiliar with the language could be in big trouble.  Plus all the various versions of each street name (4th St. NW, 4th St. NE, 4th St. SW, 4th St. SE, 4th Ave. NW, 4th Ave. NE, 4th Ave. SW, 4th Ave. SE), and the confusing "take the exit for 45 East and go southwest" is enough to make your brain bleed!  I wonder how many lost children get reported here?

If I ruled the world...  Just sayin'  ;-)

Anyhow, we managed to find neighbourhood #1 (in the SE, should you be keeping track) -- not the first place Don lived in Calgary, but the first whose address he recalled.  There was his old school (which he, of course, thought looked much smaller than he remembered), his friends' houses, the stoplight where the bully used to wait for him on the way to school...

The scaffolding where his house used to be.

Aw, dang!  Looks like we really just missed it -- the old house had been torn down, and a monster home being built in its place.  Very disappointing.

We managed to find our way to neighbourhood #2 -- eventually.  This was in the northeast, in a neighbourhood where all the streets -- yes, ALL the streets -- begin with the letter "H".  Except for the numbered ones and the ones that aren't.  Oy!

This house was still intact, albeit painted in a different colour.  We ducked through the alley he used to use to walk to school, and found the old school -- now looking like a very multi-cultural perhaps private school, as all the kids were in uniform and playing out in the yard.  Must have been recess.  We checked out the other school, which also looked smaller than remembered, and meandered through the neighbourhood.  The place where he bought penny candy, the ravine he used to -- hey wait a second, it's now a 6-lane highway!

Don also commented on all the houses that didn't used to be there, "although they must have been, because they don't look that new".  That's when I reminded him that he left Calgary 47 years ago, and 45-year-old houses don't look terribly new. ;-)

Then it was off to the cemetery, to find his father's gravestone.  It's a huge cemetery -- kind of like Mount Pleasant in Toronto.  Fortunately, the administrative office was open and easy to find, and they were able to print out a map of how to find the site.  Section L looks like parkland, as all the markers there are flat, and some large willows have grown up between some of the older graves.  (Note to my survivors -- feeding a willow tree after I die would be a good thing, indeed.)  We had to do a bit of wandering along the appointed row, but there we found it, very close to one of the trees, but still out in the open sun.

A moment.  This was the first time Don had ever seen his father's gravestone.  Some words, some tears, some hugs.

A bit more of a neighbourhood crawl, and then we were navigating back to Louise's.  We're getting better at finding her house, although I still have to double-check the St./Ave. NW/SW every time...

Ellie, of course, was very happy to see us.  She and I spent some time on the back porch, hoping Marley (the cat, named after Bob) didn't kill any birds, and writing that day's blog.  Don practised inside.

The laptop battery was starting to falter, so I headed inside to recline on the divine divan and be serenaded by Don while I did my PR work.

Louise made it home early from work -- a planned fire drill meant if she didn't leave early, she'd have been stuck there for a couple of hours.  She got changed, went into the kitchen for five minutes, and -- presto!  She'd made an appetizer.  How the heck does she do that?

It was a 4-layer dip or spread.  Bottom layer was guacamole, second layer diced sweet onions, 3rd layer diced hard-boiled eggs in a bit of mayo, topped with caviar.  This was another of Don's gourmet discoveries, because he doesn't usually like the bottom two ingredients, and had never tried the top, but he was brave, and... liked it!  We managed to devour most of it, actually -- although we needed something to sop up the leftover half bottle of wine from the night before (yes, really, we had leftover wine!).

As her lousy house guests had not yet walked poor Ellie, Louise grabbed the halter and took her out for a romp, while I completed some more PR and felt guilty for not going with her and Don played guitar and felt guilty for not going with her.  We're really good at guilt. :-)

We had offered to take her (Louise, not Ellie) out for dinner as a thank-you, but this woman loves to cook!  So we enjoyed barbecued salmon, beets, potatoes and salad.  Don kept offering to help, but the way she cooks is pretty improvisatory, so there's not much for her to delegate -- other than opening a new bottle of wine. :-)

Another delightful meal, followed by another evening of delightful conversation.  Techno-geeks that we are, we did end up at the dinner table each with our own laptops -- Louise to share the videos she had of us all singing our group song at the haven, us to share photos, trading copies back and forth so we can keep even more memories alive.

It's been difficult (as it was in February) to jump straight from Haven bliss right back into tour mode.  All the backlog of stuff that has to be done, the packing-unpacking-packing... I'm always worried I'll forget the essence of what filled me there.  Of course, I don't -- although it does temporarily get shoved to the backburner until I get home.  But it's been so lovely to have this little oasis in the middle of tour chaos, to re-connect with Louise and all those feelings I was afraid I'd left on Gabriola.

You're not alone... Come on Home.

Whether it's on Gabriola or Calgary or in our '97 Toyota Camray.  Come on Home.  Whether we're sharing a meal or just sharing the memories, Come on Home.

The reverie was rudely interrupted at 10:30pm, when our contact at Thursday's venue e-mailed to tell us they did NOT have a P.A. or microphone stands, or any of the other things we'd e-mailed about A WEEK AGO.  And she'd waited until 18.5 hours before our arrival time to notify us?!?!?  Egads...  But they did have a mixer that their DJ uses, which feeds into the restaurant's speaker system so come in any time tomorrow to check it out.


Never fear, Louise said -- the D.I. has a music department, so we can borrow whatever we need from them!  We e-mail the head of the department to let them know what we need to borrow for sure, and say we may need even more, depending on the state of this mixer.

Panic averted.

Once again, though, we'd kept our poor host up until midnight -- and her internal alarm always goes off at 5:30am!  (Not sure how we ended up friends, really...)

Time for a nap!


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

One province -- and one time zone -- closer to home

Day 30. Working our way back, but still many people to see, many gigs to play.

We actually wake up early -- who'd-a-thunk?  Well, early for us, anyhow.  :-)  Have a quick breakfast with Tim and Roberta before Tim has to head into work.  Like his brother, Tim is very good at procrastinating going to work via good conversation.  :-)

The visit has been all too short, but they're happy to have us back any time, and we promise to return soon -- and maybe send them a few musical friends in the meantime.

Then it's time for us to leave, as well -- we've got a 7.5 hour drive ahead of us, plus we're going to lose an hour as we near the provincial border.

We manage to find our way out of Castlegar much more easily than making our way in, so the morning is bicker-free.  And then -- ah, the mountains!  Did we mention beautiful vistas?   Oh look, another one!  So much beauty in this country...

We're in need of some gas and caffeine and wine gums, so stop in Creston briefly.  The bagels are great, but the coffee, sadly, tastes like someone melted a brown crayon...  :-(

Through more and more mountains, and then into Cranbrook.  Ah yes, the beloved Starbucks.  Our sanity is restored. :-)

After Cranbrook, we spend the next several hours criss-crossing a very long lake or very fat river -- not sure which.  But it's beautiful, of course!  In through Fairmont Hot Springs, which appears to be a place where a lot of rich people go.  Big condos and resorts and an airport and... lots of cars we really don't want to hit!

Up past Invermere and into Kootenay National Park.  Oh my glory... the road is dug through some of the cliffs, and there are all sorts of formations that look like giant sand castles.  Yes, we've taken pictures.

From the Kootenay National Park, we cross the border and into Banff National Park.  Just as beautiful coming through this side as it was on our way out to BC.

The mountains slowly give way to hills which give way to little lumps and then... flat.  We're coming into Calgary.

We manage to find Louise's house without incident -- a little later than we'd wanted, but still early for the 7:00 dinner she said she'd be making for us.  Louise cheerfully greeted us at the front door, quickly overtaken by her golden retriever, Ellie -- as well as the black cat, Marley (an incredibly friendly cat, or dog-cat as I like to call them).  We brought our instruments in and met her daughter, Liseanne, who said she was her mom's date for the evening.

Surprise!  Louise had invited some of her friends to come meet her "famous musician friends".  Hmm... no pressure. ;-)  I joked I'd forgotten my tiara, so she gave me her white bejewelled cowboy hat (she'd made it for a charity auction this year, then bought it back because she liked it so much).

Nan and Bob were the first to arrive, and then Jane and Al.  Nan and Jane had been Louise's friends for a long time, and helped her through some of the rough patches (described in her book, The Dandelion Spirit, which I'd meant to read by the time we got here, but... such is life on the road).

It was a lovely evening, filled with wine and wonderful food, and many stories about "The Fun Club" -- what happens in Fun Club stays in Fun Club.  :-)  We might have to start one, though, because their evenings sound like a hoot!  The friends were also interested in hearing about our songwriting workshop at The Haven, and were thrilled to hear that Louise had written a song.

Homemade guacamole and a baked brie for appetizers (I could have just eaten that all night, but restrained myself, so as not to embarrass the spirit of my 'tiara').  Salad Nicoise, plus barbecued sausage for the carnivores.  Delicious!

Louise's friends were interested in hearing her song.  Louise managed to steer the conversation over to our new songs -- but not for long.  Don said he'd only sing his new one AFTER Louise sang hers.  She tried to deflect again, but the group was working against her. :-)

And so, we pulled out the instruments and I found my chord charts from when we played Louise's ballad at The Haven.  Transposed a new chart for Don (since I'm pretty sure Eric had a detuned guitar and capo when he played this), and we were ready to rumble.  Louise claimed she was only going to sing the beginning and ending, but... once she got started, she couldn't figure out a place to stop.  So we managed to hear the whole darned thing -- yay!  Of course, everyone loved it.

Don sang his new one "I Blame The Horizon" and I sang my new one (still a capella) "The Pendulum".   Louise wanted to hear something with the cello, so I did "Jezebel", hoping the neighbours didn't get worried. :-)

As Louise mentioned, the whole experience brought back our experience of the Haven -- here for a brief moment, just to remind us all of the whole thing once more.  Maybe we should have a reunion? :-)

A little more chat, and then it was time to call it a night -- most of the group had to get up for work the next day, including an 8:00 meeting for Louise!

We hauled in our suitcases from the car, did a quick e-mail check, and then sunk into bed in the guest room for a solid sleep.