Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Stan Rogers

His name was Stan Rogers. I didn't even know about him till long after he died. He was brought to my attention seven or eight years ago by P-Doug (and, ironically, a friend in New England), who was astonished and dismayed that I had never heard of the man. Ever since then, so have I been.

The United States is stuffed to the gills with people who sing about it, unabashedly, unreservedly. There seems to be no impediment at all to picking a city or a state or an event, or even the country itself, and just letting loose with your feelings in verse. That's something that's been so rare, nearly entirely absent in Canada. The few examples a Canadian was prone to hear at all seemed either so forced or so trivial as to make one blush and deepen the conviction there was nothing to say about this country. Certainly nothing to sing. There have been so few exceptions. Gordon Lightfoot and Stompin' Tom Connors are only a handful of examples that spring to mind when I think of English Canadians who can, and do, sing about this country and make it stick in an enduring way.

But there was also Stan Rogers.

Stan Rogers was kind of the opposite of me. He was born in Hamilton, Ontario to parents from the Maritimes and considered Halifax, Nova Scotia his home. I, on the other hand, was born in Halifax to parents from central Canada, and moved to Hamilton as a boy, to the province where my roots were and with which I've come to identify. We swapped birthrights, it seems. But we're both Canadians.

Stan took accessible, real-life things about Canada and wrote beautiful, singable songs about them. Most of what I know of his work comes from a live album, Home in Halifax. This is an album where he writes sobering but hopeful lyrics about a farmer watching his friends fall away as he struggles on; about the farm wife facing "beauty's finish, like Rodin's Belle Heaulmière", only to find herself forever beautiful in her husband's eyes at the the long-awaited Legion dance. Jocular songs about a rodeo rider made good fighting off cattle rustlers, or the Halifax privateer telling of his misadventures preying on Yankee shipping during the Revolutionary War. Frank but proud songs about easterners heading out west for work, either from factories in Ontario or the decimated fisheries of Newfoundland. On other albums, a paean to the other hero of the Battle of Queenston Heights, Brock's forgotten lieutenant and successor, John MacDonnell, whose brave (and personally fatal) charge leading the redcoats "set the heights aflame" and arguably saved the country from annexation in the War of 1812. Or the beautiful song I first heard by Rogers, long before I knew who he was: Northwest Passage, about the lost Franklin Expedition, as well as all the other explorers who opened up the country centuries ago. Who else writes songs like this? Who else could, without forcing a blush to the cheek of the average sanguine anglo Canadian? No one I can think of. But Stan Rogers did.

It bothers me he's not better known. That I could grow up and not have heard of him well into my 30s. What's wrong with this country that this man isn't mentioned in conversation on a nearly daily basis, his songs heard at every public function, sporting event, and cottage weekend?

Stan Rogers died, far, far too soon and too young, at just 33, in an airplane fire on the runway at a Cincinnati area airport in June, 1983, coming back from an event in Texas. He was on his way home. Five days before he died, a recording was made of the last song he performed in public. This is that song... Down the Road. For this, and everything else you gave us and never got the chance to, Stan... thank you.

MacDonnell on the Heights
Night Guard
The Idiot
Free in the Harbour
The Field Behind the Plow
Northwest Passage

Monday, March 26, 2012

Gee, I haven't written anything here in a while. Feel like I should.

What's happened in the past month? Well, we did okay last year at work, both me and the company, and I got a very nice bonus. My plan was to spend a little over half of it on a new computer, and put the rest on my Twinkle tab. Well, I managed the computer, but the rest got rendered unto Caesar (nominally, Her Majesty, I suppose). Oh, well. Free computer, essentially. I really wanted to upgrade. The other is five years old, easily the longest I've gone without upgrading, and I was two operating systems behind. The thing is 32-bit only and there's increasingly a lot of stuff it simply can't run. Not can't run well, but can't run at all. I ordered one that wasn't the cheapest, nor the most expensive, but expensive compared to what I've paid in the past. A nice machine, that should be good for two or three years. Mind you, it showed up with first one, then finally both, of the USB 3.0 ports in the front not working, which meant I took it to the shop, where they also talked me into replacing my 5-year-old antivirus solution, as well as an associated resource manager. More money. But hey, I want the thing to run, and run well, while I have it. Now it's a matter of slowly transferring over to the new machine, finally moving it to Nerd Central (the Archie Bunker-esque La-Z Boy and shelving combo in the living room facing the TV that was originally just the temporary set-up spot two computers ago), and figuring out where to put the old one, which will run the printers for which no 64-bit drivers exist.

I have new glasses, too, as of last Friday. Last year when I was taking the bus I was doing a lot of reading and around the time I moved, I was reading a biography of LBJ and I was starting to notice I had to keep the book in my lap to read it easily. I can remember my dad having to borrow Plastic Man's arms to read the phone book, and I realized the time was coming where I'd need bifocals. Well, a coupon from Lenscrafters came last week, and I haven't had my eyes checked in about three years, so, seemed like the time had come. So Friday was interesting. I dropped the computer off about 10 to 11 in the morning, but they guy was answering phones and doing this and doing that and my eye appointment was at 11:40 across town. I finally had to beg off. He wanted me to pay up front. I hadn't transferred the money. Finally I said I could be back in two hours, and he agreed to write up the work order but not do anything. Fine. Head to eye exam. Optometrist has moved clear to other end of mall. Great. Get examined. Pick glasses. Oh, won't be ready for a couple of hours. Can you wait? Nope. Off across town again. Pay for work on computer. Then back to the mall again. Hang around Walmart. No call. Finally pop in. Glasses ready? Oh, sorry, yup! Yay. Get fitted. Leave. Drive home using old glasses, then settle into the new ones.

I didn't do much Saturday but pick up cat treats and food and stuff, and wait for the newest episode of MLP:FiM to show up on YouTube (yes, to my own utter amazement, I've been roped into it and I've found myself a brony... it's well-written and fun to watch, sue me!).

Sunday--and this is the bit that got me writing so I don't know why it's last--I decided I ought to do something with the weekend so I took off to see if the closed bridge on Kirkham Road's been torn down yet. Nope. But for the first time I walked the whole length of Kirkham Road, which really used to be the leg of Meadowvale that crossed the Rouge River till around the early 70s when they moved the Metro Zoo there and really built Meadowvale northward to service it. In the process, I noticed that leaves were already appearing on some of the trees there, and I was just astounded. Leaves on March 25th! I can remember a May not too many years ago where the trees weren't in leaf yet. Mind you, it's supposed to hit -7C tonight, so I hope those little leaves do okay. Then back to 18 by Wednesday. The weather's been all over the place lately, but mostly in impressively positive numbers. A green, leafy April would be fantastic.

View Larger Map