Monday, December 29, 2008
I moved to the Island in February of 1997 and lived here just under a year. Turned thirty here. Launched a new stage of my life here, my adult life really. My career started. Met the woman who would be my wife. Picked up a certain someone out of a litter of farm pups at the pet store.
A terrific year with a summer where I roared like a young lion once more and managed to turn back the clock with a lot of late nights and many pints. Days at the beach and on the boat, tooling around the harbour. Nights in the bars drinking and in a little apartment tumbling around under the sheets.
Now if you've never been then you have to do it one day. Gentle rolling hills. Old wooden churches overlooking the verdant land. Around every bend the blue of the sea. Red clay dust on my feet. And the easy slow cadence of the Islanders as they talk, a slight lilt in their accent, MacLeods and MacKinnons and MacLeans, Learys and Keefes and O'Hanleys, Gallants and Arsenaults and Gaudets (pronounced Goodie).
The talk of Islanders is bound up in the names of people and places. You talk about running into Trevor MacLeod and Pat McLean at the Harbour Bridge and yes Trevor is in Stratford now, just down the road from his folks' place and yes, his mother is a Hunter from up in Montague and he's married to a MacDonald, they're from that way too, in fact they were married in the church in Belfast. And Pat is in town with his wife and kids, she's a Sanderson, they're up in Winsloe, her parents that is, her father is from St. Peter's, all those Sandersons from up there, he grew up along the Greenwich road, the last house, they owned all that land up that way, the dunes and all of it, now its a National Park. Pat's a good fellow even though he's from away. Lived here for a year a while back. That's when they met. In Toronto now. Couldn't pay me enough to live there, goddamned Toronto.
Names and places, names and places. What's your father's name? Where are your people from? What did your father do? The questions they ask to find out who you are, how many degrees of separation there are between you. The stereotype that every Islander knows every other Islander not too far off of the mark.
Ask for directions to anywhere, my God, its a code to decipher, with no street names or numbers. Going to visit my wife's uncle yesterday and it could be as simple as this - go up the highway to Cornwall, turn left at Upper Meadowbank Rd., they are at number ####.
Instead we got this: Go down the highway towards the bridge until you get to Cornwall. You'll pass the old church on the right and then go up the hill. When you come down the hill turn left. If you get to the pig farm then you've gone too far.
Once you're on the Meadowbank Road you'll be driving and then when you go through a valley you'll come to a bunch of houses on both the left and the right. They're the beige house on the left, last one, with the shutters and you'll know it by Kevin's truck, which is burgundy. There was also an argument as to what constituted burgundy before we even got on the road so we knew were on thin ice already.
Well there was no valley, no shutters and it was not the last house on the left. There were three houses on the left with burgundy trucks as a matter of fact and we picked the one that looked most beige and tentatively knocked on the door. We happened to be right but Jesus Murphy.
When I was to pick up the tuxes for our wedding the directions were as follows: Take the highway and turn left at the Tim Horton's in Cornwall. Take the left hand fork when you hit it and then follow the road a ways. When it starts to get hilly then you're in Canoe Cove and she's on the left but her place is back from the road a ways, you can't see it from the road. No street number.
Somehow we found the place and I insisted on picking up all of the tuxes - I could just imagine the entire wedding party, only one of them an Islander, getting lost and never making it to the wedding.
For a good part of this year the Oilers have looked like a team trying to find their destination after having been told to turn left at the little brown dog. A young developing defenceman in the pressbox and playing the wing, his spot in the lineup taken by a borderline NHLer just hanging on. Players playing out of position. The returning number one goalie exiled for a month. Another young goalie wasting months when he could be playing somewhere. Players called out by the coach. A team unable to win at home and looking like it had quit on their coach. A once vaunted penalty kill lost at sea - no shot blocking, no down ice pressure. Player after player underperforming.
And suddenly, suddenly, things look to be pointing in the right direction. Smid playing on the third pair with his erstwhile mentor and doing a fine job. The much maligned Souray (mea culpa) putting up big numbers offensively and doing the job in his own end against tough opposition. Roloson takes the number one job and runs with it. Visnovsky giving the team everything expected and more. Gilbert back in form.
And up front Hemsky now a star. Horcoff and Cogliano with ten goals each. Penner a force in the offensive zone. Pouliot having his best month as a pro. A reasonable fourth line. And maybe, just maybe, Cole and Gagner awakening, each two and two in the last four games, Cole with three points last night, perhaps the genesis of a strong second line.
Tonight the Oilers are in eighth by the thinnest of margins, ahead of the Avs and the Wild. By the end of the night they may be back of the pack again. But a December at 7-3-1 and three wins in a row and things maybe finally looking good.
I've said it before - Oiler fans are mental. But there's a reason for it. Following this club is like trying to get to a party in Kensington in a blinding snowstorm.
Turn right after you pass the old MacInnes place. You can't miss it.
Posted by Black Dog at 8:10 PM