OK... from Toronto to now:
Finally! A good show in Toronto! Old friends I haven't seen in many years came out of the woodwork to say hello and show support. The house, though not full, was present, warm, and listening. What a treat from the Big Smoke! After all the traffic shenanigans, and walking several city blocks from Spadina (where The Deuce dropped me off) to the Roncesvalles neighborhood in the still sweltering heat, it was great to arrive to a groovy place with atmosphere, tasty food and good beer. I arrived quite early (about 3hrs), so I settled in with my book.
[The book is fabulous, by the way - "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell". It's about a couple of fictional magicians, and their impact, at the turn of the 19th century. I highly recommend it.]
Slowly but surely, the show got going, as Derek and I were both mingling with steadily arriving friends. I remember little of the set, except that I was in the mood to play every humourous song I had in me, and for the second time on this tour I dropped my pants to play "My Hammerhead Baby". I guess it is getting to the point that recording that song is a necessity for the next album.
At the end of the night, a rather explicit girl decided to make-out with my old tree-planting pal Gabe right beside our table, which was pretty amusing. She literally mounted his lap right there. Ha ha ha! I think Gabe ended up going home with her only to put her to bed. What a gentleman!
I got myself home on the streetcar by 3:00am, and was blessed with a light shower while walking from Queen up to Gerard. I dragged myself in, threw on the new CD I bought from Noah Zacharin, and after having listened to it through (it's great) passed out cold in The Deuce's vacant bed. Turns out I was viciously tired because The Deuce came home and plopped her exhausted paramedic butt down beside me and I had no idea until I woke up around 2pm. We decided to go to Kensington Market to check out a new vegan restuarant for lunch, and it was well worth it. I can't remember what the place is called, but it is closer to College St and has vegan ice cream that flat-out blew the mind of my tastebuds. Black sesame ice cream is one of the best things I have ever tasted!
After our taste explosion, we fought traffic yet again to get out to Oshawa for The Velvet Elvis gig. [Now, The Elvis is where Deuce and I met - she was a waitress and I was playing. So there was nostalgia in this.] Deuce dropped me at the door and took off to walk her lonesome dog and take a dip. I spent most of the lead-up to the show trying to figure out how to get to Consecon the next day, and finally linked up with Jake Willis from down in Guelph who was heading up to Blue Skies the next morning and was kind enough to offer me a ride there, even though it was a little out of his way. The show was good, I think. Derek did his thing for some friends that came up from Hamilton to see him. I'm not sure what I did, though I know I grew a big smile when Billy Blasko and Trish Robb walked in. I hadn't seen Blasko in years, and hadn't seen Trish since last I was in Montreal, I think. I finished my set relatively early for an Elvis gig, and spent the next while visiting with Deuce and Blasko, catching up and reminiscing and talking new too. I ended up going back to Blasko's place with the plan to sleep, but a few beers, great conversation, a few songs, and one recording later, it was 5:45am and I had to get up in an hour to call Jake to see where he was at. So I napped and called him and he was in Milton, so I slept a bit more and called again and he was nearer to Oshawa, so I groggly dragged myself down the stairs and out the door and over to The Elvis' parking lot, ate Tim Horton's sandwich on the asphalt in the morning. Ha ha ha! How many times have I been in this ridiculous situation?
The ride to Consecon with Jake was splendid. That's the only way of putting it. We went up Hwy 2 just above Lake Ontario, which offers some beautiful country views. Rich greens of summer leaves and vast expanses of tall grasses - an occasional brook babbling its way down to the the big water. The towns along this stretch are some of the most aesthetically pleasing towns I've ever seen. Huge oaks and red brick houses - the kind of places I knew when I was a teen trapsing about Perth and parts of Lanark County. Except these places were sunnier somehow. Maybe it was the way the sun was hitting them, but there seemed a lot of joy in them. Maybe it was Jake's positivity rubbing off on me. You see, Jake is a pretty phenomenal man. He's a lot of things, but I think most of all he is a philanthropist and humanitarian. He's a man of faith and a political activist, and he does not seem to blend the two - he merely seems to let them co-exist as independants. On the ride he expressed his concern about a document that might be signed on August 20th that might deepen the political, economical and military ties between the countries of North America. His view was that the United States of America was trying to take over Canada and Mexico "with a pen". I don't know much about what's going on politically. I am out of the loop. But I hope our leaders will not act in such a way that will compromise our integrity as a nation. If we are going to conglomorate with the US and Mexico, it needs to be a mutually benificial action, and there are too many things I do know of that wouldn't be beneficial to share, like privatized health care, for instance, or a deep disparity between rich and poor. Canada was once a more socially-minded nation. The social programs we've had have provided us with an identity. I would hate to see us drown in the deep waters of a North-American capitalism that is, frankly, viciously Machiavellian. There is no arguing it. America's profits are built on blood, sweat, tears and broken dreams - mostly outside their borders, but more and more the tragedy is creeping in.
OK. Enough of the rant. On to Consecon, where the beaches look tropical and old mills are made into drinking holes. I arrived at the Cascades Pub & Grill at 11am, and decided I needed to have a nap after the 1hr sleep absurdness. The girl at the bar drew me a little map, and I only got lost twice before finding the beach two hours later. It was worth it, though. The wind was blowing in off the lake, the sun was high, the waves were breaking, and I found a patch of shade on a patch of sand. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.... I woke up sweaty and hot, as the sun had found me, and jumped in the lake fully clothed before I began walking back to town. It was a glorious walk back as my clothes dried around me and I kept cool as the wind blew them. When I got back, the Cascades Open Stage was jumping, and it reminded me some of Irene's here in Ottawa - people even had songs with the name of the bar and the regulars in them! After the open stage, the place cleared out, and I spent my first set playing an up-close-and-personal set to a couple of tables. By the time Derek got up to play the second set, though, the place had filled up some, and though he fought the noise of the crowd a little bit, he did a pretty darn good job of keeping their attention. Fifteen minutes later, I went up to do my second set, and by that point the bar had erupted into a very noisy situation. Oh - did I mention we were unplugged? Yep. I had to blast my way through every high-tempo, high-volume tune I knew just to keep a scrap of attention. Luckily, it worked, as a lot of people responded very well to me. (There was even a guy who gave me his card who is a Nashville-based promotion outfit - pretty cool, eh?) We were supposed to earn $250 that night, but neither Derek or I felt we'd earned it, so we offered to take a pay cut down to $170, which would cover our expenses, but Chris wanted to pay us $200, so that's what we got. I guess it worked out OK for everyone. It is a hard thing, though, when you've made a deal for a certain amount, and you feel like you haven't earned it. I have trouble with that, anyway....
Later that night I went home with Richard Paxton (the fellow who made Derek's beautiful sounding guitar) and his wife, and they gave me a ride in the morning up to Belleville where I met my dad and headed to Blue Skies. Before I left I got to play some of the guitars he's made, and see his workshop. Guitar-making is an art form that boggles my mind. Sometimes, upon seeing the process, I feel unworthy of playing the things. =)
Ahhhhh... Blue Skies. Home sweet home. Familiar faces and warm embraces - the kindness and love that I need right now. Blue Skies was a whirr of reunions, music, joy. I arrived and felt uplifted. I got my bracelet on and felt liberated. I saw my friends - so many friends. I stayed up all night playing music along Washboard Hank, the good folks from Galitcha, Trevor Mills, Tannis Slimmon, my sister and my dad. I felt sad sad sad as everybody left on Monday and I got an all-too-short jam in with Jerome-Antoine, my greatest playing partner. By Monday night I just wanted to get stoned to erase how melancholy I was feeling, but ultimately it didn't help.