So far in 2016….

UFV Album covers

In January, we teamed up with the first year Graphic and Digital design department of the University of the Fraser Valley. We gave them permission to use all of our online material as course content for their upcoming projects in designing interactive media. (See some of the awesome results above!)

Some time this year we look forward to releasing a live album of favourite songs from the VIA Rail shows. We’ve decided to call this album ‘Train Famous’ (thank you Josh). If all goes to plan this album will come complete with an interactive-touch-screen-educational booklet designed to whisk you away to the many, varied Canadian environments and landscapes of all the provinces we visited. No pressure UFV!*

(*Disclaimer: There will be no interactive touch screen in our educational booklet…but, as I write this the UFV new media students ARE working with our band media content to create Mad for Joy album covers, interactive documents and electronic press kits. UFV – we are truly delighted to be a part of the curriculum for this semester!)

One potential cover for "Train Famous"

In January, we were pleased to team up with Erin Hope-Goldsmith and Kathy Fitzpatrick to play a heartwarming show for the Shaughnessy Stroke Recovery program. We also played a fantastically fun show with Doc and the Disorderlies in Kamloops.

Check it out:

In February, we were thrilled to be invited to play as the feature act for the Unplugged at the Crossroads Coffeehouse. These wonderful folks have been raising funds for the Crossroads Hospice for over 15 years.

The other very big thing that we have been up to in the last several months is the pre-production for our upcoming studio album, which is yet unnamed. Currently, the two top candidates for an album name are “Garden of the Muse” and “CBC Darlings”.

We have started rehearsals with our new rhythm section, two fellow VCC alumni – Max Ley (as in key) and Jason ‘BP’ ‘Jay’ Smith and we have been so giddy with drum and bass excitement that we have found it hard to play…

Take a listen here:

Coming up at the end of April we will play our first show with Jay and Max at the Surf Pub on Gabriola Island, teaming up again with the incredible ‘Doc and the Disorderlies’. After putting much thought into drumming up the right language to paint an inviting and intriguing picture of a show at the Surf that you wouldn’t want to miss, we created a Facebook page with carefully crafted copy emphasizing that this will be the coolest show ever!! After we posted our event, we noticed the photos from the Surf Pub that Facebook pulled into the event automatically….

Featured was a table full of very large finely dressed stuffed bunnies sitting down together for an Easter tea party.

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Excellent. Exactly the look we were going for… Thank you Facebook.

Up next… a collection of short stories from our last excursion on VIA Rail…. picking up where we left off….

To refresh your memory, here’s the link to our rural exercise video, produced last fall on Wilf’s turkey farm on Kashee lake.

Casualties of Tractor-Yoga

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We arrived in Toronto to delicious bowls of steaming seafood chowder, followed by a generous helping of raucous laughter, merriment and fun! This is what it is to stay with Nicola and Jack. We drank wine, ate cheese, swapped stories of kayaking adventures in the Canadian wilderness, and talked late into the night. It was the warmest and most wonderful welcome back to Toronto we could possibly imagine.

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{note: the three wheely bags are not included in this shot}

When we first set foot upon the train platform in Toronto, we noted that, with all our luggage, which included 3 large wheely bags, 2 guitars, 1 trumpet, 1 ukulele-banjo, and a one-fish-two-fish-red-fish-blue-fish lunch box, we had an impressively ample girth between us. More specifically, we shape-shifted from two human beings to two behemoths rampaging the streets of downtown Toronto. Wherever we went, a ‘Wide Toronto Sea’ of foot traffic parted at the stunning sight of Mad for Joy and our mighty load. Helpful people stopped us every few minutes to give us back some article of clothing I had unintentionally dropped behind us on the great pilgrimage from Union station to the Hertz rental car garage, two and a half very long blocks down the street from the station. {Note from Adam: Don’t ever believe the rental agent when they say that the rental car garage is ‘just around the corner.’}

 

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Adam with turkey

After a glorious day at Nicola and Jack’s, we left for Muskoka and happily reunited with wonderful new friends from the last train tour, Barb and Vern, Sue, Wilf and Brenda, Rick and Jenny…and met many more. Here we shot Muskoka’s first ‘how to be active while on tour’ exercise video made to Paul Simon’s ‘Boy in the Bubble’, using reflective gear, live turkeys, two tractors and a dancing quail. (A big thank you to Wilf for the use of his farms birds and tractors, and all of his great ideas!)

A word of caution to anyone attempting such a video. While riding on the back of a moving tractorMFJ-tractor-yoga-02, I would suggest avoiding certain yoga positions. During the making of this video, I regrettably pulled my lower back out doing downward facing dog while balancing on the back of a moving tractor, something I suggest that all yoga instructors reading this consider warning against, especially those teaching in rural areas. But I don’t want to come down too hard on Tractor Yoga; it is possible that I made this injury worse by bench pressing a tiny kazoo shortly after.

MFJ-chipmunkWe also got a nice variety of cute chipmunk shots and briefly considered adopting one as a companion on the long haul across Canada. In the end we decided against it. It didn’t seem fair to Erin, who had asked if she could share our cabin onboard the Montreal to Halifax line, to which we politely declined. We didn’t want to risk hurting poor Ernie’s feelings by rejecting her company while welcoming a chipmunk’s, even though Erin is just as cute, if not much cuter.

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Concert on Kahshe Lake

We moved from the film site of Wilf and Brenda’s front garden to Barb and Vern’s back garden, where we boarded Rick’s pontoon boat and played a ‘barge’ concert for the residents of Kahshe lake. While serenading people on their docks and in their gardens on the lakeside, we happened upon three unsuspecting kayakers who enjoyed our little concert so much they wanted us to come home with them and play at their house. They also wanted to buy our cd, although in all the excitement in our time with the turkeys, we completely forgot to bring any cd’s onboard with us…so we left a copy at the Summerland General Store for our new kayaking friends. Also, in all the excitement in our time with the turkeys, we completely forgot to get married. For those of you who were perhaps rooting for this, don’t worry, we’re making you a ‘live from Muskoka’ exercise video instead.

For the second time this year, we were deeply touched by the loving generosity of Barb and Vern, and all of their fantastic friends. Thank you.

On our way to play our District Lounge show in Guelph for the Wednesday evening Art Attack event, we swung by Burlington to visit Captain Nano’s pappy, and ended up playing a little garden concert for her mother, Victoria, and brother Tom, who were all over visiting as well. I was very happy to have a real, live Irishman correct my pronunciation of the work ‘Cork’, as in ‘County Cork’ in Ireland, the scene of our newly learned ballad ‘Johnny Jump Up’. (Apparently it’s pronounced K-aei-rkk).

etobicoke-mad-for-joy-danceAfter playing a dual show with the fabulous Matt Rennie of Mimsy and the World,on Thursday night in Etobicoke, and a fantastically fun house concert played with Vaughn Passmore on Friday night at Nicola and Jack’s place, we left Toronto with smiles on our faces and our hearts full of joy. A special thank you to Judy who made the fortuitous mistake of showing up for the house concert one week early. Had she not done this, we would not have discovered that she is a gifted chiropractor and healer. We would not have made an appointment to see her to get tandem adjustments on Friday morning. We would not have had all of this perfectly lined up immediately following the newly acquired tractor injury. After our session with her, I am pleased to say I could once again put on my own stockings, a tricky manouevre that the incident with the tractor (and perhaps kazoo) had rendered impossible.

We have much to do….on top of other work, we need to book more shows in the Maritimes, finalize booking a show in Ottawa, make more videos promoting our songs and keep building our song repertoire. So, naturally, we are focusing all our energies on making an exercise video promoting a well-known and loved Paul Simon tune. As we pass on the train from Toronto to Montreal, Adam is editing the video beside me as I write this.

Stay tuned…it’s coming soon to a Youtube channel near You!

Yours truly,

Jocelyn

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Cross Canada Squared

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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.

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Stunning countryside from the train window

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.

Visiting Aunt Merda

Visiting Aunt Merda

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.

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Livin’ on the edge in the Human Rights Musem

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!

 

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The Oodena Celebration Circle amphitheatre at The Forks in Winnipeg… Does Jocelyn have a clone?

Disorient Express

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Each night, while the train jostles merrily along the railroad track, I negotiate my skinny bunk bed ladder in a clattering feat of clumsy, clanging acrobatics. All too often I find myself ‘past the point of no return’, in a rigorous full body contortion, with one foot tentatively searching in the dark for the mini sink while the other rests high atop my bunk bed, finally reaching the bathroom by falling head first into the toilet. As I make my way up and down in this fashion, I marvel at how VIA rail manages to accommodate it’s many senior citizens on board. I imagine one of the delightful 90 year old ladies I have met in the dining cars, attempting the same type of manoeuvre several times each night. Many of these passengers are avid fans of train travel and have made this trip many a time in their lives, so they must have worked out some kind of trick with the accommodation. Perhaps my elderly neighbours have perfected the art of leaping through the air from the top rung of their ladder in a moving rail car, only to land magnificently on the toilet in one graceful arc of movement. If this is the case, it is this place of nimble finesse that I aspire to reach at some point 60 years from now, when I am still singing for my supper.

20150512_095151_HDR~2It might well be that, as one gets accustomed to the erratic movements of the train, a special kind of equilibrium is reached. A perfect balance that is only engaged (or enhanced) when the train is moving. A young VIA rail waitress confirmed this theory as she admitted to the fact that, while she can graciously float her way around the rail cars with plates of hot food and drink, it is only when the train has stopped that she starts spilling glasses of water.

The night time soundscape onboard the Montreal to Halifax line merits some description. En route back to Montreal, I woke up afraid in the dead of night to startling blasts of high pitched wailing. With the ghost stories of Halifax permeating my fertile imagination, I firmly reassured myself that I was not going to start believing in the supernatural at this ripe age. Armed with this grounding rationale, I actively engaged my listening skills and concluded that VIA Rail had instead captured a fleet of cranky baby elephants from a nearby circus facility and they were all running amok in the dining car.

The only other place I’ve heard a sound like this is on Gabriola Island where I have experienced first hand the scare tactics of an overly aggressive monster goose. I didn’t think there was anything that could prepare a person for the terrorizing honk of a guard-goose…in fact I didn’t realize until a few months ago how effective a guard animal one loyal goose could be… but I know now that an overnight passage on a train will certainly familiarize a person with this peculiar type of cry.

Maybe there is a cabin full of monster geese somewhere on this train…

What's that noise?? I wonder if I can figure out what pitch that is on my guitar...

What’s that noise??
I wonder if I can figure out what pitch that is on my guitar…

Anyone who has taken an ear training class will tell you that every sound is a pitch and that even mechanical sounding blasts are most likely a string of pitches at different intervals. Sometimes the string of pitches even sounds like part of a well known song. For instance, not only were the tired train hydraulics simulating the sounds of angry baby circus elephants, or cabins full of Gabriola Island monster geese, the first few pitches were clear and distinct, and they happened to be the opening notes of My Bonny Lies Over the Ocean. No joke.

I noticed that the noise diminished when I put a plug in the sink, leaving me only to conclude that all of this musical activity must have been taking place somewhere in the plumbing of the train.

I have absolutely no explanation for this whatsoever.

Tatamagouche.

Tatamagouche!

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MFJ-animated_excavator-SMALLOne thing I did not imagine myself doing during this cross-Canada musical tour was trying out my hand at excavation in St. Ours, Québec. I was impressed that Francis could make this kind of activity possible and knew that it would put Adam one step closer to his dream of personally operating large machinery. Upon seeing Adam shift detritus amongst mountains of rocky debris, I was instantly brought back to a childhood past time of moving piles of dirt from one side of the playground to another. Before I knew it, I was in the cab of the great machine myself shifting larger piles of dirt in an even bigger playground, with Francis, Adam and Miranda standing a good distance back, cheering me on.

Later on, after we had parked ourselves at Kendall’s apartment on the Plateau in Montreal, I went to work booking us a place to stay in MFJ-blog-montreal-citroen-kendall-frHalifax. I settled on an historic inn called the Waverley, with beautiful stained glass windows and a history of guests that included Oscar Wilde and P.T. Barnum, among others. The place was half price because the building was under construction (a phenomenon we had also come across in Toronto when we blew all our train tips on a night at the Royal York). By the by, if you are looking for deals on accommodation and want to stay somewhere you normally couldn’t afford, I suggest researching what’s currently under construction. However, be prepared for the occasional catch. For instance, the deal they were offering at the historic Waverly Inn was only valid as long as you paid in Mexican Pesos.

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After having had such an incredible time with wonderful friends in Montreal, it was somewhat of a crash to arrive in Halifax where we knew absolutely no one and had no plans. Our feelings of abject disorientation were kindly delayed a few hours by an extraordinarily generous and entertaining fellow named Sandy,MFJ-Waverly-Sandy the nephew of a friend of mine from Vancouver. I had never before met Sandy, yet all the same, he volunteered to pick us up from the train station upon arrival and take us on a detailed tour of Halifax. Our tour came complete with a history of Halifax’s many ghost stories; including ghoulish tales about the very inn we were staying in. Sandy then treated us to a delicious lobster dinner along the Halifax boardwalk. Fortunately this dinner included a ‘how to’ lesson, as the lobster arrived on the plate boiled and whole with a large tin bucket of complicated looking utensils and plastic bibs (presumably to avoid the splattering of buttery lobster juices all over our elegant performance attire). Elated by this lovely encounter, we went to sleep in our haunted inn contented, and woke up preparing ourselves for a merry romp in Canada’s maritimes.

Our show in Halifax introduced us to many wonderful musicians, and a cool house where the open mic community is made welcome in a kind of ‘underground venue’ sort of way. (This is where a fellow musician kindly opened a bottle of wine for me with a drill gun, after drilling a few holes in his own coconut, as mentioned in a previous post). The only problem with this particular show was that other than the awesome musicians and the lovely lady of the house (who were all excellent people), there was only one audience member, which Adam and I, a mere duo from Vancouver who knew not a soul in Halifax, had somehow managed to bring…
Enter Micheline stage left; a spirited 70 year old Quebecois energy healer and mystic, who loves music, and enjoys saying “mother f**ker”. Micheline was most certainly Halifax’s greatest gift to us. We went all over town and beyond with Micheline…we saw live music, we saw Peggy’s Cove, we saw PEI. Micheline had rented a car and dro20150525_144311_HDRve us from Halifax to PEI and back in one day, after a night of little sleep and amidst a veritable monsoon of horizontal Halifax rain. Unfortunately, Micheline was the only one insured to drive her rental car…fortunately Micheline loves to drive. She handled the car as if she’d recently been selected to represent Quebec in the next Formula 1 event for seniors. Micheline was in short, a champion and the only gift we could give in return, besides our sunny dispositions, was to hook up her iPod to the bluetooth sound system in the car. This made Micheline immeasurably happy and any increase in her speed was usually proportionate to how well she liked whatever song was playing at any given moment.

We traversed PEI in a circuit…over the bridge on the way there and ferry on the way back (an excellent suggestion of Sandy’s). With Micheline’s expert driving skills we drove up the ramp onto the ferry just as it was pulling away from the dock. This was incredibly lucky for all of us, as we were eagerly heading towards a Nova Scotia farm before night fall to visit friends Megan and Rob, a couple of fantastic people I had not seen in 12 years. We met when they were living on Saturna Island at the well-known West coast folk artist Ferron’s place, where my father happened to be living part time as well.

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Meg and Rob met while cycling across Canada, which they did with a group devoted to spreading awareness about climate change in the early 2000’s. They now live on a shared farm outside Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia, and we’re excited to return in early October to play a show in their barn.

Tatamagouche.

I couldn’t stop saying the word and still can’t. In the backseat of Micheline’s rental car, finally starting to relax after a tough few days in Halifax and many a sleepless night, it brought me a great deal of comfort to say, or even shout this new word at random intervals. Adam quietly concluded that I had fin20150526_204121_HDR-2ally lost my mind. Micheline either:

1 – didn’t notice

2 – politely pretended it wasn’t happening

OR

3 – had decided long ago that this kind of behaviour was apparently normal for me.

We arrived back at the Waverley Inn just before midnight then all headed back to the Halifax train station at 10am the next morning. Adam and I played a station set gearing up for another musical journey back to Montreal, where we would begin a period of time that saw us perform 19 shows in about 10 days….

Tatamagouche.

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Eat Play Sleep

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I think I have already gained 20 pounds.
Which is well on the way to the 30 pounds predicted by an American on the train, a native of Brooklyn who is now living in LA. That is to say he was born and raised in Brooklyn and now lives in LA, not that he is a Native American from Brooklyn living in LA. Though he is an American and a native of Brooklyn.
Anyways, with the only exercise being the walk between dome cars on the train (which to be fair could take up to half an hour; though much of that was playing Do Si Do with fellow passengers whilst sporting a guitar) I was actually looking forward to using the ‘recreational facilities’ at the hotel in Toronto.
eatplaysleep05My initial plan of a hardcore gym sesh targeting my glutes, quads, pecs, lats and delts quickly dissolved into a few laps in the pool and a good 1/2 an hour in the hot tub. Also, I didn’t really pack workout clothes anywhere near on par with the seasoned exercise professionals found in a downtown Toronto hotel… and my one pair of swimming shorts mysteriously developed a small hole in the crotch between my washing and packing them for the trip, meaning I had to sacrifice one of the few pairs of underwear I owned. Which eventually lead to an overpriced purchase of boxer briefs at American Apparel. But I digress…
I have been on a steady diet of meat and cheese living in a house by the river!
…And as a result I may be a few steps closer to Chris Farley then simply parodying him in the last sentence.
But enough about my personal struggles with impulse control… The food in Quebec is ridiculously amazing! We went to a random diner that gave us a three course meal of soup (which was incredible), a burger and fries (which were totally homemade and totally delicious) and a devastating homemade chocolate pie for $13.
And that was AFTER spending a Saturday at our friend Jeremie’s, who is soon starting his own Charcuterie, which for those of you who don’t know, is French for “meat shop of melt-your-brain-upon-first-bite quality.” Seriously, this guy gets pork from the Quebec countryside, butchers and smokes it himself at his farm. And it looks like this:
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Holy smoked meat I think I just gained another 2 lbs looking at that photo!
It doesn’t stop there.
After 11 very tasty and very filling meals on the train from Vancouver to Toronto, absurd amounts of meat and cheese a la Quebecois in the week following and another 3 very square meals on the train from Montreal to Halifax, we arrived in Halifax and were promptly treated to a proper Atlantic Lobster dinner by a Nova Scotian who is a relative of one of Jocelyn’s friends.
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The rest of my time in Halifax was admittedly focused on salads and soups, with one decadent moment of weakness in the Halifax farmers market:
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All to say, a few pounds is a small price to pay for utter bliss, since three of my favourite things in life are eating good food, playing good music and getting a good sleep.
The good sleep part has been lacking for a lot of the trip, today being the first day in weeks that I have felt fully rested, thanks to 2 nights of 11 hours in bed and the amazing hospitality of Jocelyn’s cousins in Toronto, Gail and Norm. We have also been incredibly excited to eat our fill of vegetables and salads over the last few days and our stomachs are very thankful :).
It has been really, really busy in the last couple weeks, so we apologize for the delay on the blog posts, but we will be catching up very soon (Jocelyn has 3 more in the works.)
More blog posts coming soon!
~ Adam

Vivre JCM!

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Last night, we played music at a house that didn’t have a cork screw. Unfazed, our helpful host pulled out her drill, saying it’s what she normally uses when the cork screw goes missing. As tiny pieces of cork dust swam in my glass, I marveled at the unabashed ingenuity of these Halifax folk. Beside me a local musician promptly took the drill to a coconut he happened to have in his bag, asking politely if the lady of the house also had a hammer with which he could break apart the shell.

But I am getting ahead of myself…

Our first days onboard VIA Rail were filled with music, laughter, eating and sleeping. (Stay tuned for Adam’s forthcoming blog post entitled: Eat, Play, Sleep.) By the end of the train ride from Vancouver to Toronto, we had a merry band of new ‘Mad for Joy’ enthusiasts diligently following us in our travels from rail car to rail car, for which we were MOST grateful.

Many tears have been shed on this trip so far. After playing 12 shows in 4 days on the train, we found ourselves celebrating our first stop in Toronto with plates of roast duck so succulent that Adam openly wept at the first bite. Days later I teared up at the sights, smells and tastes of smoked trout and Brazilian style barbeque. It happened again a few days later when we ordered pulled pork sandwiches in Old Montréal. Maybe our senses have been heightened by all the excitement of a cross-Canada tour, maybe we are extremely tired, whatever it is neither of us have been shy to tearfully express our appreciation of fine foods on this trip.blog-15

It has been many moons since I have seen my old friends from Canada World Youth, a program that took me to two local communities in Quebec and Brazil. For 6 intense months we all worked together side by side, developing such strong friendships I remember thinking that I could surely not go a day without seeing these people, and then, oddly, woke up to the fact that we have had next to no contact for 15 years. Though I would like to blame the 4 fat provinces that stand in between us I’m sure my lackadaisical facebooking habits have had something to do with this.

But as Francis, Jérémie and I talked into the night at Jérémie and Marie’s home in Bécancour, Québec, we found that time did not matter. It was as if not a day had passed since we all said goodbye so many years ago, and the connection that we felt then was still alive and strong to this day.blog-17As Vancouver is easily identified as the home of the vegan hipster, Jérémie had been somewhat concerned about how well received his feast of fine organic meats and cheeses would be after not having seen me in such a long time. Perhaps partly to prove myself a bona fide omnivore, at this bountiful Brazilian barbecue I happily ate more meat in one night than I have in the past year. The evening of luxurious meat feasting sent Miranda and I flocking to the supermarket the next day on a fervent binge of leafy greens, notably kale. Little known fact that, far from being the revered ‘super food’ we know it as in North America, in Holland kale is disdainfully referred to as ‘farmer’s coal’. And in a move that confounded our Dutch host, Karin, Miranda and I enthusiastically filled her vegetable drawers full of this abrasive green weed. In the days that followed Miranda impressed us all by randomly rambling off a Bubba-Gump style litany of kale recipes, remarkably undeterred by Karin’s expressed disinterest. In short, we talked a lot about it, ate none of it, then left it all for Karin to find the day after we left.

Miranda: "Kale chips, kale salad, kale smoothies, smoked kale, bbq kale, kale on a bun, creme de kale..."

Miranda: “Kale chips, kale salad, kale smoothies, smoked kale, bbq kale, kale on a bun, creme de kale…”

An enormous thank you to Francis, Karin, Jérémie, Marie, Kendall and Martin….all our wonderful friends who showed us such hospitality, fun and kindness during our time in Montreal.

We picked up a new batch of cd’s in Toronto, each with an inscription saying that the album is in loving memory of Vicky Hallett. I am in no doubt that, one way or another, Vicky made much of this experience possible for me. All the more poignant as Adam reminds me that the day we left Vancouver happened to be Mother’s Day.blog-11

Stay tuned for more tales of train travel and fun with coconuts in Halifax…

Bunk Beds!

Blog 06

imageI have always enjoyed sleeping in bunk beds, and the sleeper cabin that VIA rail gave us as part of our contract is no exception. Mine is the top bunk and my dreams are dictated by the drunken jostling of the train car across various tracks of Canadian landscape. Every morning when we wake we open the blinds to new vistas shooting past, from mountains and valleys to prairie flat lands. Last night I nearly dropped a very heavy book about the construction of the Canadian railroad onto Adam’s head, while he was drifting peacefully off to sleep in the bunk directly below mine.

“Did you want me to read this to you?”…. he says in a deeply monotone voice, barely shaking off the vestiges of sleep.

Blog-10That was our first night on the train and I have not had time to read or be read to since. Our days are filled with playing music and eating. We eat around our gig schedules; we gig around our eating schedules. People said we would have time to write songs and contemplate life on this journey…I have not found this to be the case at all, although I am not complaining. Thanks in part to my insistence on always wearing a red feathery fascinator, it feels as though we are always ‘on display’ and we happily talk to any and all passengers at any time.

We have now passed the Canadian rockies. Not only is this made obvious by the constant 360 degrees of prairie in our periphery but the announcements have gone from scenic waterfalls and names of famous mountain tops to potash piles and plains buffaloes. For those who don’t know, ‘potash’ is composed of salts that contain potassium in water soluble form. The word potassium is, in fact, derived from the word ‘potash’. Apparently, Canada is the top producer of potash in the world, ahead of Russia and Belarus. It has been used since antiquity as a soil fertilizer (just FYI).

Blog 04Traversing our great Canadian homeland with all it’s varied landscapes makes me feel oddly patriotic as I marvel at how connected I feel to all of these people and places, despite our geographical separateness. The home base of this particular VIA rail crew is Winnipeg and I have not met a friendlier group of people. In fact, we have plans to go disc golfing with one of our new friends in Winnipeg when we are stopped there in early June.

No one needs to tell us twice, or even once, our crowds on VIA rail are not fans of Justin Bieber (this is not a problem). They are fans of jazz and bluegrass….lucky we both went to jazz school and have at least spent some time listening to bluegrass music. We change up our sets on the fly, depending on who our audience is. I had a request today to translate the only French song I know into English (and sing it) on the spot….which I did….and suddenly I had a new profound appreciation for audience interaction that I never had before.

Blog 08I am writing this to you from Portage Le Prairie. (Am I the only person who finds this name funny?) We have one more full day of train performances on board before we let loose in Toronto, then Montreal, then back on the train to Halifax. Not only are we immensely enjoying the job on board as musicians but it looks like the job on board as crew for VIA rail is a pretty good one…perhaps a career path we have each overlooked. After all, I have always wanted to be paid to travel.

In just a day and a half we’ll be in Toronto with ‘Mad for Joy’ tee-shirts… Ha!