Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Land of the midnight daughter

About a week and a half ago my 31-year-old daughter Ewa, who lives for the moment in Whitehorse, Yukon, fell off a bicycle, hit her head on the icy ground and had a concussion. (She's much better now thanks. As soon I was able, I flew to Whitehorse to do whatever I could, which wasn't much except make her laugh. But that I did, and I'm home again.)
HIGHWAY: Not far from where Ewa's head met the icy road.

When she had the bike mishap, Ewa, who I'd like to mention is fluent in American Sign Language, was on her way to a Whitehorse bar called The 98 to hear a singer named Paris Pick, a singer/songwriter I'd never heard of until last week but who now has, for a fan, me and, as it turns out, Ed the Sock.
The things you learn from your kids.

To whit: Sam, the the hero of the famous poem The Cremation of Sam McGee , was a real person though he wasn't from Tennessee. McGee came from Lindsay, Ont., which would have rhymed too but what do I know?
The poet, Robert Service, was working at a Whitehorse bank. McGee came to town as a road builder. Service saw his name on a bank ledger and decided it was perfect for the poem he was in the midst of composing. Then -- and I love this part of the story -- banker Service contacted McGee and and asked if could use his name. McGee said okay.
really get a good look in.

Sam McGee in the poem died by being willingly cremated in the woodstove on an abandoned barge on Lake Labarge.

McGee from Lindsay died at 73 at his daughter's farm near Beiseker, Alberta, which isn't far from Calgary. Of a heart attack. But not before at least once returning to Whitehorse and being approached by a local offering to sell the visitor a vial of "authentic Sam McGee's ashes."

True--at least as true as it has to be--story.

Another thing I learned? Ewa is in better than excellent hands up there. Ewa's surrounded by a lively  commmunity of loving and fun-loving people, evidenced by what we had for supper the day after my return: Moose stew.

Ewa adventure immortalized
Before I caught my return flight, Ewa's Whitehorse landlady, Mary Gottschall, and her son Chris, outfitted me with about seven pounds of frozen moose meat, which pretty much monopolized my carry-on. I think the airport folks were a bit freaked out when they saw the meat via the x-ray machine. It looked like I was smuggling small humans. I'm still working on a decent carrion pun.

Also, before leaving, I asked Ewa if she minded if I mentioned her sore noggin on Facebook. She said "No, go ahead," her voice sort of  resigned to the fact that I'd try to distill a week's adventure into a blog post. Probably like McGee's when the banker pal asked to use his name.

I then reminded Ewa: "Just be glad you weren't one of those kids whose moms and dads paste every little-league win and brownie fly-up and dance into a gloating Facebook post; you know, the way young parents do these days."

We didn't have Facebook in my day. 

We had to use magazine columns.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Ed's not-so-secret recipe for kickapoo cariboo joy juice

AND ON DECK...ED: Always up for an interesting time

My older brother Eddie died four weeks ago, and I won't bore you with how much I miss him, but I do want to share a story about something that happened a few years back.

Thing is, under other circumstances; i.e., if Ed weren't dead, I'd text him to fact check the story. 

The exchange would go something like this: 

Me: "Remember when we were at the Quebec winter carnival and you were kissing that woman and her husband showed up and knocked you off the wall and you pranged your arm?"

Ed: "Yeah."

Me: "Was his name really Kong."

Ed: "Yup. Kong. What's your point?"

We were in university--him at Laurentian in Sudbury and me at Carleton in Ottawa--and we'd decided to check out the famous Quebec carnival that happens in the week leading up to Lent. We arranged to stay at our aunt Della's place in Ste.-Foie, a suburb of the old city. 

Mid-afternoon, Eddie and I found ourselves standing high on a three-foot-tall ice wall, watching the parade and probably clutching those yard-long hollow plastic canes with the twist-off caps. You could fill the canes with whatever you needed to drink.  

At one point, filled with the excitement of Mardi Gras, Eddie and the woman beside him (whom neither of us had met before that instant) were laughing and passing the cane back and forth and, yes, kissing, when suddenly she pulled back and yelled "My husband! Kong!"


A guy appeared from out of the crowd, took an angry run at Ed and either shoved or punched him so hard Ed fell off the wall. It was serious, too; i.e., serious  enough that he had to go to emerg but we waited until we returned to Ontario the next day because we were  young and stupid and thought our Ontario health care coverage wouldn't work in Quebec. 

Kong's name is just one of the quite-a-few story details I'd fact check with Ed. 

Another involves his 1957-era Fender MusicMaster guitar that I am, as of last week, in possession of. My daughters Ewa and Ria rescued the instrument from Ed's apartment and it still smells like Players cigarettes. 

Whenever Ed visited our place, our cat Iris predictably sidled up to him for skritching and I think she recognizes that it's his Fender and misses him, too.

Here's me fact checking the guitar story: Me: "You know that MusicMaster you got from Moe [Sauve, a friend of our brother Tom's]?"

PLUCK OF THE IRIS: She had a soft spot for Ed
Ed was probably 15. Moe hired Ed to play bass in a Sudbury bar band called The Kings' Knights. At one point, Moe was short of cash so gave Ed the Fender in lieu. To fact check, I'd text: "Did you guys really play in a strip club in Sudbury when you were 15?" 

Ed: "Yep. The Belton. (He'd be talking about the long-gone Belton Hotel.) What's your point?" 

My point is, actually, I just remembered that in my wedding speech, I said something like, "Eddie's done so many cool things that when it's my turn to go, I hope Ed's life  passes before my eyes."

I just remembered something else. 

Those drinking canes I mentioned a few paragraphs ago? The rotgut (I think it was a blend of wine, apple juice and rum) that we drank out of them during the carnival was called "Cariboo." 

It's 11 in the morning. I wish I had some now.