Some readers have expressed to me their discontent over the flagrant randomness of my blog posting. I was under the impression that posting inconsistently was my trademark, an attribute that made me unique in a mighty sea of bloggers, and therefore forgivable. I humbly stand corrected. A few weeks ago I posted an article called the ‘Disorient Express’, detailing our train journey from Halifax back to Montreal…last May. (For those of you who have not read it, the topics discussed therein are train fitness, baby elephants and monster geese.) We got back from that train tour in mid-June, had a lovely summer in and around Vancouver, and have now arrived in Toronto, having started off another train tour traveling across Canada playing music for VIA Rail passengers for the second time this year.
So….let me very succinctly regale you with the ‘quick notes’ version of the last several weeks of Mad for Joy’s first Cross Canada tour….so that I can have a clean start for Mad for Joy’s second cross-Canada tour.. Below is the longest run-on sentence I’m sure you have ever endured. Many of you may not make it, I am aware of this, but to those of you who do I heartily congratulate you and offer you a free CD by way of apology.
After getting into Montreal, a tad bleary eyed from being kept awake all night by a monster goose, (part of the farm animal residency program on the Montreal to Halifax line), we rented a car, did a house concert in the Quebecois countryside for a bevy of boisterous Quebecers chez Francis et Karin, where we played a good show but were nonetheless upstaged by two wildly talented Cuban preschoolers, then drove to Ottawa and were fabulously hosted by Martha and Bahram Nabatian, who arranged for us to do a house concert ‘chez eux’ (if you don’t speak french, message me privately, and if you do and my grammar is incorrect, message me privately), where Shireen and Papa Bahram joined the house concert line up with an opening number of Persian opera, inspiring us all, and afterwards we left Ottawa for Gravenhurst where we met a group of delightful people, friends of new friends Barb and Vern, who we met on the train from Vancouver to Toronto (the first time), and where we had a night of such fun and laughter we became quickly addicted to the town and it’s people that we promised (actually begged) a return visit, when we might take them up on their offer to marry us on a few dingy’s rafted up together in the middle of a lake, an event for which our new friend Sue has offered to perform the holy sacraments as a newly ordained “dude-ist” priest, as well as make everyone fruit cake, whether they want it or not…the next night we played a house concert in Toronto at Nicola and Jack’s amazing place, full of amazing friends and we had amazing fun there too….and now…..I have decided to stop the sentence to give special emphasis to this next bit.
I got to see my Great Aunt Merda. Merda is my dear late grandmother Ellie’s sister, and is 95 years old this year. Merda and Ellie were Irish twins, with Ellie born in January, 1920 and Merda born in December of the same year. It was such a tremendous treat to be able to see Aunt Merda. I also reunited with family members Gail, Norm and Andrew Lockington after 20 years of our living in separate provinces. A heartfelt thank you to Gail for making it possible for us to play music for Aunt Merda and the other residents of Meighen Manor. We are so excited to be making a repeat performance at the end of October.
We then played a show in Guelph, another one in Toronto and then a fundraiser with Wil Carlos, a great man and a great friend, when we finally met up with Tobias at the Toronto train station and were pleased to learn that he was game to be our ‘wingman’ on a special research mission at the Royal York hotel, across from Union Station. Armed with a complimentary apple courtesy of VIA Rail, Tobias non-nonchalantly juggled his apple one-handed and Adam covertly filmed while I asked an unsuspecting Royal York front desk attendant if they could possibly rent the three of us a room for the hour, as we had heard from my family members that this kind of thing was in fact possible, if you happened to need a rest in the middle of the day. We weren’t serious of course, we had a train to catch, but I asked the question anyway and Adam videoed with Tobias juggling his apple, and there was an awkward pause… I waited patiently, (the only place I had seen a hotel sign renting rooms by the hour was off a highway in Mexico and the sign was pink and flashing, with arrows), there was no such sign here. It was in fact in the nicest lobby of the nicest hotel I had ever been in in the world – and then I had my answer; they do in fact provide this service, but they refer to it as a “half day rate”, not “room rentals by the hour,” so we thanked them very much for this correction in nomenclature and scurried off to the train station to review our video footage. Then off to Winnipeg we go, our first day off in 14 days of steady shows and we are on our way to Gimli, the home away from home for many Icelandic families (though not mine), and we decide to stop and check out the Fort Garry museum, where, jealous of Tobias’s cultural access pass, only given out by the federal government to ‘new’ Canadians, Adam asks if we can ‘play’ for our $7.50 admission, which we do, for 5 school classes at the Governor’s house, and we officially learn that Justin Bieber is not as widely adored as he once was and that K-OS’s ‘Crabbucket’ can still hold it’s own in a room full of 11 year olds, then off to Gimli we went, where we ate too much fish and chips, met another Jocelyn and saw a large, bronze viking statue, and then back to Winnipeg where we played on the roof top of the MEC building downtown (thank you Dawn), dined with an earl (Peter), met a celebrated author (Barbara), played disc golf with an amateur world champion (Joël) and had an edifying time at the new Human Rights museum, then got back on the train, met back up with Tobias and Christina in Jasper, played two of our most fun, most heartfelt, most rewarding shows of the whole trip in coach, (and also managed to play two different shows in two different parts of the train, both at 9pm…kids that’s a riddle….if you can figure this one out I’ll give you a free tee-shirt….yes it is possible….we played one show as we were passing Wainwright, Alberta, the other as we were passing Viking, Saskatchewan, and yet we never got off the train… )
This part warrants another break. On our very last train of the tour we met the creator of VIA Rail’s ‘Artists on Board’ program. His name is Fabien and I was uniquely inspired by his incredible ability to create such a marvellous, mutually enriching and beneficial experience for both passengers and musicians alike, and convince corporate VIA Rail to go for it. A wonderfully talented musician himself, it was the most special way imaginable to end the most special tour imaginable. I dedicated our very last song of our very last set to my mother, Vicky, without whom I would not have been on that train and therefore might not be on this train, that is steadily choo-chooing under my bum as I write this.
Let’s all raise our glasses to Vicky!
And let’s pick them all up again and wish us well on our second cross-Canada tour this year… Vancouver to Toronto on VIA Rail where we will play three shows a day for passengers across Canada and make merry every step of the way!