Monday, December 29, 2008

Island Directions

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.

Good times.

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.


Unleaded said...

Love the blog BD. But are you sure it wasn't a left?

hunter1909 said...

I thought you were supposed to be on holiday with your family, then you keep posting like a mad fool, lol.

Think about it.

I always wanted to visit the maritimes, the real Canada, where the vikings and original people of the Egnlish race settled along with New England.

People forget that this area was once properous, until they foolishly joined Canada.

Black Dog said...

hunter - still out East but holidays are over. Back to it for a couple of days at least.

Anyone who has not visited the Maritimes and Newfoundland should do so, tout de suite.

Swabbubba said...

It is the different accents that get me. I do think that the folks from Cape Breton are just as wild as u can get. Give them a couple drinks then a person that spoke perfect english reverts to some forgotten dialect of undetermined origin. The east does hold its charms but as born and raised in AB I can never leave this province for more than 6 months at a time.

If we can win the rest of the games this month... then son as they say we would be cookin with gas.

namflashback said...

Grew up in a small town that was pretty much on top of North America's largest natural gas pool. Boom town that didn't barely exist before 1970 and grew up and got hit hard in the early 80's.

Anyway, during that boom, a large number of Capers settled into the town -- better than collecting pogey after the Sydney mines got shut down. Good lot, those boys sure knew how to throw a house party. (say entire paragraph with a Cape Breton accent please)

The young ones, including my best grade school friend quickly outgrew the accent, but the young men who came during that wave of in-migration could never shake the dialect. And it made for some good times imitating them during boring stretches in Social 20. That's for darn sure.

hunter1909 said...

I imagine maritimers still talk a lot like their Irish and jock ancestors who came over in the 16 and 1700's

Doogie2K said...

I do think that the folks from Cape Breton are just as wild as u can get. Give them a couple drinks then a person that spoke perfect english reverts to some forgotten dialect of undetermined origin.

Or get two Newfies in a room. You don't even need the screech, though it makes the effect more pronounced. I'd never heard that many marine metaphors in my life until I started working and occasionally partying with a girl from "town" (St. John's, as opposed to everywhere else, which I believe is "'round the Bay" or something like that). Also, just as every Islander seems to know each other, every Newfie, or at least the ones from the Rock, seems to be one or two degrees of separation from every other. I remember my co-worker once talking to the drummer of a Maritime Celtic band who had mentioned offhand he was from "Windsor." Turned out she guessed correctly that it was Windsor, NL, which is this small town in the middle of the island that she knew someone from and they spent the entire fifteen-minute intermission chatting about home.

Maritimers are crazy and awesome.

hunter1909 said...

Newfoundlanders just seem very, very Irish to me.

Black Dog said...

hunter - Newfoundlanders have a lot of Irish and also there is a lot of heritage from western England, I believe it may be Kent? A lot of their idioms come from that area I believe.

And I think you're not to call a Newfoundlander a Maritimer, I believe.

Folks from towns are easily understood but I have friends who know Newfoundland well who swear they have met folks from the outports and they have been barely able to understand them.

Doogie - Maritimers and Newfoundlanders are the greatest, hey I married one! They work to live, not the other way around, and they love to have fun, especially the drinking and the fucking.

Its a good way to be.

Doogie2K said...

And I think you're not to call a Newfoundlander a Maritimer, I believe.

I've heard this from a Caper, but never a Newfie, though I've also always called them Newfies to their face and not Maritimers, so I dunno.

hunter1909 said...

Kent is right next door to London, and is heavily populated by Normans, so I'm not too sure about that.

Irish people are easy to understand...all you have to do is put a half second time delay when they talk and you catch most of what they're saying.

Irish people are bigtime drinkers and fuckers also lol.

What's interesting is that until the 1940's newfoundland was a british colony.

Black Dog said...

Hmm, maybe I have my areas wrong. I do know that a good part of Newfoundland was settled by English settlers but they were from a western county.

Must be Cornwall as I see Kent is in the East.

Newfoundland was actually a Dominion from 1907 until 1934 when they reverted to being a colony.

They were bankrupted by the Great War and voluntarily gave up self rule.

Read The Danger Tree - sad sad tale or the Major history of Newfoundland, sorry its name escapes me.

Both excellent.

Yeah I don't find the Irish too hard to understand.

hunter1909 said...

It's that celt dna that allows us to understand the un-understandable vibrations of the Scots/Irish.

Once I went to Aberdeenshire to meet ancient relations. Wow! They looked exactly like my family, and I learned stuff about the far north of Europe that simply has to be told when people are at their most receptive.

What people don't get, is that northern Scotland is for all intents and purposes a nordic place.

I see the maritimes as the iron curtain countries in the cold war. In a strange way, their poverty pays off, since at the end of the day they're less subject to the pressures of the bullshit known as early 21st century society.

Like what the Chinese say, something to the effect of 'when the emperor is bad, head for the hills' lol

hunter1909 said...

I know the Cornish a little. Red haired loonies, celts also, maybe they went to Newfoundland to fish(they're all basically fishermen there).

Black Dog said...

Yeah its the Cornish, I think.

We all know about the Newfoundlanders' rise but truth is times are fairly good all the way about out here. In the rural areas there is still some poverty but in the cities and towns things are far better. Same as a lot of Canada I think.

Its a nice thing to see.

We went to Scotland on our first trip over but spent our time in Edinburgh and Glasgow with a quick day trip to Luss, I belive it was called, on Loch Lamond.

Definitely need to get to the Highlands though.