Monday, April 13, 2009

Golden Oldies

My apologies for not posting a little more frequently, it has been a busy few weeks.

So the last few weeks have been great for live music enthusiasts in St. John's. I had the privilege of seeing both Kris Kristofferson and Neil Young in recent weeks, two people who I never thought I would have the pleasure of seeing live. Both legends in their own right and both lived up to every expectation.

I have to say that I was a little pessimistic going in having been disappointed by the Bob Dylan show last year. Bob is also a legend I thought I would never get to see and having attended that show last year the fact that I can scratch it off my bucket list is about the only reward anyone at the show received. I went in expecting to be disappointed, knowing that he would do mostly new stuff with very few old favorites, and even those so heavily modified that they are barely recognizable; that is exactly what I got. Just being in the same room as the man was worth the ticket price and I will defend my decision to attend that show to the death.

Kris Kristofferson was similar to the Dylan show in that he is clearly a folk legend past his prime. The difference between Kris and Dylan is that Kris made no bones about it. According to emcee, Paul Raynes, he wanted no long winded introduction despite his many accomplishments and took the stage unceremoniously. The next 2 hours were among the best spent at any musical performance. Kris was truly humbled by the reception he received from the near sold out crowd at Mile One Center and played from the heart the whole time. Despite forgetting a large portion of the lyrics, singing the first minute or so of most songs before thanking the crowd and taking a sip of his Gatorade, the show was fantastically intimate. For a man who has written, arguably, thousands of songs in his lifetime and is still touring into his senior years, forgetting a few lyrics is forgivable. The experience will never be forgotten. Kristofferson connected with the 3000+ fans in attendance as if it were a small club venue; fantastic!

Neil Young was incredible for all the right reasons. I cannot say enough about the show! He mixed perfectly the old with the new and played a great cross section of tunes from his new album despite the official launch coming a day later in St. John's. His new album smacks of the same social action he has become known for since the Buffalo Springfield days. The stage was decorated beautifully reminiscent of a garage jam space with two 20ft screens suspended on either side streaming a fully produced live video of the performance. Again, for a man who has toured his ass off for over 25 years, he can still rock harder than most bands playing the festival circuit today. I truly felt throughout the entire show as if I were watching a living legend who hasn't aged a day since the 70's; another experience i shall not soon forget.

Here's hoping that Mile One Center continues to draw names like these in the future. Newfoundlanders have now proven it is economically feasible and that people will pay the money for an act that is worth it. Hats off to St. John's Sports and Entertainment and Unicorn Promotions and Sonic Concerts for the Kristofferson and Young shows, respectively.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Too Close to Home

It has been five days, if you can believe it, since Cougar Flight 491 crashed into the cold Atlantic leaving only one survivor and 17 families mourning the loss of fathers, husbands, brothers, sons and friends.

Five days later and only now can I put words to what has happened in my mind personally and in terms of how the province has responded. To this effect I must reference a great commentary in the March 17th edition of The Telegram written by Russell Wangersky titled, More Than I Can Say. In the article Mr. Wangersky sums up the general feeling of most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians at this terrible time. We are a sea-fearing people and have been since 1497 when Europeans first set foot on our shores; there has been countless unfortunate tragedies in the oil patch as well as in our fishery and many lives lost while trying to make a living on the unforgiving waters which many call a second home. None of these previous tragedies can temper the grief that is being felt at this time by Newfoundlanders home and abroad.

And what is there to say?

As Wangersky points out, details into the crash are scant and we now know all bodies have thankfully been recovered, much needed closure, no doubt, for families who have easily had the worst week of their lives. There are personal stories yet to be heard. It is important that these stories not become a means of satiating the media's appetite for the next big "scoop" stemming from this tragedy but to serve as a form of therapy for those wishing to air the personal impact this has had on them. It is in this spirit that I have decided to write my thoughts on this event that has tragically etched itself into the ever evolving story of Newfoundland and Labrador.

I was at work on Thursday morning reading the morning headlines in the paper and listening, as I always do, to Open Line on VOCM. Nothing out of the ordinary until Randy Simms' show was interrupted by a special report from the VOCM newsroom. Gerry Phelan announced that a chopper has gone down of the coast of St. John's and Search and Rescue has been dispatched to the scene.

That was it. Simple. Short. But it was the beginning of a national frenzy that continues today.

Immediately I called home to make sure that my father, who was scheduled to fly offshore that day for his three week shift aboard the Henry Goodrich drilling rig but was granted an extra day onshore to nurse his flu, had not actually gone offshore. My only concern at this point was making sure he was safe and sound. Thankfully he was. I informed my mother of the news I had just heard and added a post script that, at this point, I didn't even know if it was a Cougar helicopter. This horrific possibility was confirmed a few minutes later after a call I placed to VOCM. It was a Cougar helicopter and it was carrying workers offshore.

The flurry that followed from the news reports of only two people in the water, only one survivor, two life rafts spotted, no one in the life rafts, chopper not visible, survivor brought to hospital did absolutely nothing to comfort my mind. I could not get the image of the Cougar helicopter, one identical to the choppers I watched dad board time and time again on his way offshore, with workers just like my father on board in the familiar orange survival suits out of my mind. A world wind of what-ifs swirled in my head, "Was dad supposed to be on that flight?", "What if he wasn't sick today?", "What if there is more than one helicopter affected by this problem?", "What if dad knows these people?", and "What now?".

These questions and the details rapidly filtering through the news became too much for me shortly after lunch and I was rightfully dismissed and sent home from the office to spend time with my family, which I was more than happy to do. I spent the rest of that fateful Thursday at home with dad watching the news and periodically distracting ourselves with TSN's coverage of the Tim Horton's Brier.

The days that followed confirmed that dad was not scheduled for that particular flight and would have been scheduled to fly later in the afternoon had he not been ill, he did know most everyone on board the doomed chopper and just how many helicopters affected is yet to be determined by the Transportation and Safety Board. For my father's part he has gone through periods of extreme sadness and trepidation, as have all of us, knowing that he must return offshore eventually.

He did so yesterday via supply ship passing the make-shift memorial set up at Cougar headquarters solidifying the tragedy in his mind, making it tangible and tightening the knot in his stomach as he kissed my mother goodbye to earn a living on the water as he has done for close to 25 years.

For me, I accept the things I cannot change. I know he has to go to work to put food on my family's table and I know he loves his job and would have it no other way; I know that the men and women who work offshore are safe although they work in some of the most dangerous and unforgiving seas on earth; and I know that the families and friends of those on that flight are hurting. I have never in my life been so closely associated with a tragedy of this magnitude and I hope never to be again.

Now it is a time to stand with the families who are grieving and lend a hand and an open heart of support as only Newfoundlanders and Labradorians know how to do. The appetite for blame and the accusatory questioning from the media is to be ignored for the time being, it is a matter for the TSB and all will come to light in its time. In times of greatest tragedy there are always the birds who prey circling waiting for their opportunity to swoop in and seize on any emotional line to turn into a headline. As with any bird, make a swat at them and they will fly off.

My thoughts and prayers are with the families of victims and their colleagues who continue their work offshore. Be strong. This too shall pass and we will all be stronger and wiser for it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hands in My Pockets

I have always marveled at what I choose to keep in my pocket and what makes its way in there through sheer accident or necessity. I can get a lot of stuff in there and my pocket's capacity amazes me most of the time.

Girls have purses, guys have pockets; we put almost the same amount of stuff in there too. Below is a list of what is in there currently, because I have nothing better to do apparently.

It is my office away from the office. My leash. It has become the only thing that is constantly in my pocket. It has also been dropped more than it should, I need a case.

The leftover change from my morning coffee. Sadly the only cash I have on me.

The days I forget this thing are the worst.

Business Cards
Because you never know when you will need them

Chap Stick
I feel surprisingly lost without this. I have "problem" lips. They are always cracking and chapping, especially this time of year. Some have said I need to drink more water, I think I just need a constant supply of Chap Stick. Words cannot describe how annoying it is to have painful lips and no means of hydration. Big thanks to Michael Venn for this obsessive compulsive habit.

I have no idea why I put that in my pocket. it'll probably bust and ruin my pants. I am taking it out of there.

The product of a clean pair of pants!