This little "tourette" has been chock-full of reminders of why we do what we do -- what we give, and what we gain by saying to hell with security and stability. :-)
Discovering the town of Tatamagouche, Fables Club and its owners Hanna and Chuck, and its members and patrons was one such reminder -- well probably a handful of reminders all rolled into one biggie!
So many things to tell, it's hard to know where to start... It was a beautiful drive up from Halifax, with lots of fall colours. Tatamagouche is on the north shore of Nova Scotia, in a land that Rogers wireless service has forgotten (Hanna warned us, fortunately, so we had our map ready to go, rather than rely on our phone's GPS.) As with coming in to NS, the first thing that welcomes you to Tatamagouche is a sea of windmills, scattered throughout the hills. As Chuck later told us, Tatamagouche's electrical system is entirely wind-based, and they sell energy back into the grid. As we also found out later that evening, despite a local population of about 700, there are THREE charging stations in town for electrical cars, and several electrical car owners in the area. The store owners have also all agreed to deal in local organic / sustainable products, or fair trade if they have to go outside for things like coffee or chocolate. Unlike most small towns in the province (or any province, really), Tatamagouche actually has young people moving here to start family farms -- and the established families are happy to see the influx, as they know these new folks will keep the area alive, unlike some of its neighbours.
Again, despite the population of 700, Fables Club has been running for four years now, with events at least four days a week, live music being at least two of those nights. Chuck and Hanna have created a wonderful establishment that seems to have become a cultural centre for the community -- a live music venue, poetry and spoken word, art lessons and workshops, photography and art on the walls, book exchange on the shelves, philosophical and political discussion groups... as we were setting up our gear, one local author came in to autograph a few of his books they were going to sell for him. A super-artistic and environmentally aware community, that seems to be doing a number of things just right. As Don commented, they should really be held up as a template for other small communities. All it takes is a few people to create the spark and bring folks on board.
We set ourselves up and did a wee sound check, and then Hanna came out with our dinner -- chimichangas to die for! She's originally from California, and loves to cook, both of which shine through in her creations. Just the perfect blend of spice, without hiding the natural flavours of the food. She offered us seconds, and we would have been tempted if not for the fact that we'd have been too stuffed to sing!
There was still quite a bit of time before the show started, though, so we followed Chuck to their house for a bit of relaxing. And what a house -- which Chuck designed. Right on the water, lots of windows, and a whole dorm-like apartment above the garage, where they apparently welcome many musicians coming through, as there were at least five beds up there, including one he'd brought back from his time in Saudi Arabia, which was even bigger than a king sized -- we could sleep starfish-style and still not get anywhere close to each other -- and super-comfy.
Before seeing the bed, though, we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I've seen recently ("I got it just for you!" Chuck assured us). Tried for a photo, but it didn't do it justice. We were greeted by geese as we walked up the driveway. Then the friendly grunts of Porkquois, the "miniature" (but still over 250 pounds) pot-bellied pig in his outdoor pen. As we came through the house, though, it was time for the fierce hounds -- three yellow labs, wiggling in excitement that company was here. I warned Chuck he'd better count the dogs before we left. :-)
Chuck headed back to the club, leaving us to nap and get ready for the show. We found our way back a little before 7:30, as folks were starting to arrive. As it was Margarita Thursday, Chuck offered us a couple, but we thought we'd better wait, so opted for the water bar instead. We started chatting with a few patrons, including a local playwright -- so many artsy folks in this town! Nobody, of course, had heard of us, as we've never played anywhere near the area before, but they all trusted Hanna's taste, so came to check us out anyhow.
As we started, a number of folks moved up into the tables right in front of us -- perhaps they'd originally been worried we'd be too loud, or were hoping to make a silent exit if we were horrible. ;-) It's definitely a listening audience at Fables -- any conversation still lingering quickly got "the eye" from other patrons. We'd been asked to do a few shorter sets, so drinks could be served on the breaks without interrupting the music. It had the feeling of a very large house concert, in your favourite (quiet) pub.
In our final break, we gave in and accepted our Margaritas, made by Chuck -- and cursed ourselves for not accepting them earlier (while simultaneously patting ourselves on the back, because we probably wouldn't have remembered any lyrics if we'd started earlier!). Don never fancied himself a Margarita man, but Chuck has convinced him now! (Next time we come, he's going to ply us with Singapore Slings, instead -- this could be dangerous...)
Before we'd finished our last song, Hanna had already invited us to come back -- but on a Saturday next time, so more people would come out, and our fee would be higher. Well... twist our arms! :-) A handful of people stayed behind to chat with us for a bit after the show, and we learned more about the town and all the incredible things going on in the community. Truly impressive. Having gone stir-crazy in a town of 1200, I don't think I could handle 700, but if we weren't such city-people, we would be very tempted...
Another Margarita (mmm!) and a bit of tidying-up, and then the four of us headed back to the house to unwind. We learned more about our hosts, and really enjoyed talking with them. Chuck was also from the States -- New Jersey in his case -- but had spent many years in Singapore and Saudi Arabia. He had an environmental "epiphany" while he and Hanna were driving somewhere and heard an interview with Noam Chomsky on the radio. He had to stop the car, to finish listening, and he says that interview switched his life around -- he went from being a former worker in the oil business to being an environmental and social activist. Hanna was already pretty much there, but this was a big change for him. His family thinks he's lost his mind, but he feels like he's finally seeing things clearly. He's on the committee that brought in the wind power, and the two of them seem to be a part of many of the initiatives in the community -- something the Fables patrons are more likely to tell you about than they are. An amazing couple!
We headed up to bed (saying goodnight to the dogs on the way), and fell into mini-comas.
The next morning, Hanna had been up to her culinary magic again, making us omelettes with chuckless beans and salsa. Anyone who knows my breakfast tendencies will be shocked to hear that I ate the whole darned thing, and loved every minute of it.
Sadly, we had to get back to Halifax for lunch / babysitting the kidlets -- next time we will make sure to schedule more time to just hang out in town and with our hosts -- so we had to depart with big hugs for our new friends, and a promise to keep in touch. We also worked out the date of our return -- Saturday, May 25. We can't wait to come back!
As mentioned, Friday was our day to look after our niece and nephew (they had a P.D. day from school, but Daniel was at a conference in Fredericton and Tarah had an afternoon teleconference). When they got to Grammy's house, we told them we'd thought we'd go to DeeDee's ice cream for lunch -- expecting whoops of joy. But they didn't want to share us with the world, they wanted egg salad sandwiches at home. No ice cream?!?!? Who ARE you children?!?!? So we enjoyed a quiet lunch at home, and played a bit, but then instead of going to the art gallery as planned, all they wanted to do was read books with us -- ah, ok, you DO share some genes with me, phew! (not that I have anything against art, it's just that reading books was always my favourite thing to do, too) Lilly and Uncle Don got a bit sleepy, and each decided to go off to their own corners for a nap, and Wyatt and I made it through all the "Mister" books on the shelf.
Uncle Don was down for the count, so once the kidlets were up, we left him to his snoring and headed back to their house, where their mother was equally shocked that they hadn't gone for the ice cream! It was a good thing Uncle Don was still snoozing, though, because Tarah was just finishing icing his (belated) birthday cake (shaped like a guitar, of course!), and Lilly still had to ice the cupcakes. Some of that icing ended up in her hair, much in her mouth, but she did an amazing job at decorating them -- each cupcake had a white icing base, and she used the icing bag to squeeze two chocolate eighth-notes on each of them too. (Icing ability obviously comes from genes that skipped me...)
Daddy came home, with new moccasins for the kids (they LOVED them!) that he'd picked up on the way home. We gave Uncle Don a call and got him to come over -- he didn't know we'd even left. :-) Tarah made us Dark'n'Stormy's while we all chatted away -- a NS specialty of rum, lime and ginger beer.
The kids had earned a special pizza-and-movie night (a rarity for them, as they've only seen 4 movies, and don't watch TV), so they were... let's say a LITTLE excited. Picture Mexican Jumping Beans on speed... I can't remember the name of the place Tarah & Daniel get their pizza from, but it's not your ordinary pizza. The kidlets just had a basic cheese and sauce, but the adults got to choose between a red pesto pizza with gorgonzola, or a smoked mozzarella with wild mushrooms and heavenly seasonings. I don't think that's how the flyer described it, but it works. Can't remember what the wine was, either, but I do believe there were a few different bottles... might have something to do with the not remembering?
The movie the kids had wanted to watch wasn't available yet at the video store, so they'd picked The Muppet Movie: Treasure Island. Note to parents, this might be a little TOO scary for five-year-olds!!! Of course, it did mean that the five-year-old wanted extra snuggles, so this aunt is not going to complain. :-) Lilly found it scary too, but seemed to be able to separate it a bit better -- as Wyatt told me later, he forgot to remind himself it was just a story. The word "pirate" was not allowed to be used for at least 24 hours after that.
Tarah and I got to do the bedtime snuggles, and we tried to find as many silly stories from our childhood as we could find, to get Wyatt's brain off of pirates. I think we succeeded, because the next morning he was smiling and cheerful again, and happily announced he hadn't had any nightmares. We'll see what happens when he goes to therapy in his 30's... ;-)
We're about to stop for lunch, so I'll post this now, and fill you in on the rest of the weekend later.
Alyssa (and Don, who is driving the car, so not typing, thank goodness...)