Saturday, May 07, 2005

Pacific to Prairies

The last few days have been too filled with ferry rides and pine trees to write any blog entries, but here in the Okanagan Valley (at Ann and Colin's place in Kelowna) I've got a respite from oceans and mountains, so I can write.

First, know that on Sunday, May 8th (tommorrow, Mother's Day), I'll be doing a performance in Edmonton, along with local spoken word performer T. L. Cowan, about whom I've heard great things and whom I can't wait to meet, among other reasons because she's also working on a PhD concerned with spoken word. The show is at 8 pm, at the Melting Pot, 10351 82nd Ave (Whyte Ave) in Alberta's capital, and it's pay-what-you-can. I've had to cancel the show in Saskatoon unfortunately, because I'm on my own and don't have any local back-up there, but I'll be passing through for old times' sake on the 9th (I used to be a pizza deliverer there for Santa's Pizza). After that I'll be appearing in Winnipeg on the 10th, as a featured performer at the Winnipeg Slam semi-finals, at Dreg's Cafe.

The evening I left Portland did find me in Canada eventually. I stopped in Seattle for a quick visit to Confounded Books and a burrito at Bimbo, before driving to the border. The Canadian customs officer who greeted me was perhaps the most laid-back border guard I've ever encountered. "So," he said,"what are you up to?" He didn't ask for papers or anything. I told him what I was up to, and he said, "You're Canadian, right?" I said yeah. "See you later," he concluded. A bit different from the grilling and fingerprinting you get entering the US.

I stayed with Anne Stone and Wayde Compton in Vancouver that night, and the next morning got on the ferry from Tsuwassen to Vancouver Island. It was a gorgeous day - in fact, with the exception of a bit of fog and light showers between Victoria and Gabriola Island, the weather has been pretty uniformly gorgeous since I got to Canada. It had been 14 years since I last took the ferry to Vancouver Island - the last time was in my first car, a white Mercury Lynx, and I locked the keys inside while waiting in the line-up, and ended up missing the ferry. That did not happen this time. In Victoria I saw my friend and former touring partner Glenna, who is an amazing singer. We put on what I thought was a good show that night for a small but particularly enthusiastic audience - including my old Montreal friend and former Fluffy Pagan Echo Justin McGrail - featuring local poets Matt Bigelow and Joshua James. Lots of thanks to them and to the Solstice Cafe for hosting us.

The next day I drove up what I now know is the Malahat highway to Nanaimo, a small city which to me (from my Americanized-by-habit perspective) felt somehow very remote and northern, even though it is about on level with the 49th parallel. My car stayed there while I grabbed my sleeping bag and walked onto the ferry to Gabriola Island. I had never been there, and my whole 20-hour experience on the island was a pleasure, mostly thanks to spoken-word/welding genius Hilary Peach and her partner Alex, who hosted me in a beautiful woodsy house where I slept under a skylight looking at the stars and the tips of tall trees. We watched the sun set from the beach and then settled in for a few Caesars/seizures at the beach pub where a jam session was going on. Gabriola Island is a fantastic place (and by that I mean wonderful, but also I mean it's a place where elves and houses shaped like toadstools wouldn't seem out of place. In fact, I visited a house shaped like a toadstool. Or was it a golf ball?) At the pub I met some of the musicians - guitarists, mandolinists, accordionists, bassists, and percussive tap-dancers - and artists, and psychics, that make up the island's unique population. In the morning, after lots of great food and a sound sleep, we did a modicum of sniggling and then it was time to get the ferry back to The 'Mo, as Justin calls it.

On "the big ferry", on the way back to Vancouver across the Georgia Strait, I watched the snow-tipped mountains of the mainland looming higher and higher, with the skyscrapers of downtown Vancouver looking miniscule at their feet. That night Anne and Wayde read with me at the Helen Pitt Gallery, hosted by Lance Blomgren. (Thanks, guys!) This show was lightly attended, for which I put the blame on Emily Carr and her darn "conference" that was happening at the same time, but it was a fun time anyway and certainly a big enough crowd to make it a lively hob-nob between the performances and travel slides. A poet I had met in Melbourne came all the way from Hong Kong - perhaps not exclusively for my reading, granted, but it was good to see her all the same. She also interviewed me for her radio show, so for all you Hong Kong listeners out there, tune in for my interview with Mani Rao sometime soon.

Yesterday I hung out in Vancouver for most of the day and then left around rush hour with a tray of take-out sushi, only to find myself sitting in traffic in Coquitlam. But the drive up the Coquihalla Highway was mesmerizingly scenic, as I listened to Bill Bryson on audiobook explain to me how the universe was formed and how mountains come into being. Then upon arrival in Kelowna it was great to see Ann, a fellow islander whom I haven't seen in 10 years. I love to travel, but when I do I usually manage to feel like I still don't do it enough. This afternoon I will cross the Rockies, quickly and slowly depending on which side of the hill I'm on and how many mountain goats and elk are in the way, and get to Calgary sometime tonight, with the Canadian prairies and the American midwest stretching out ahead of me for the next week.


Blogger wesdoe... said...

hi frost.
read a couple of paragraphs.
very approachable.

10:03 AM  

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