20140704 - Tisdale SK


I'm back at the hotel with my heartburn medicine and my bug juice. I didn't know I needed the bug juice until I was on my walk to get the Gaviscon. The heartburn is a longer story.

We arrived in Tisdale Saskatchewan Last night around nine. I called the only Chinese food place in town to order my traditional beef and brocolli - but they'd already been closed for an hour. The nice lady there told me all the restaurants in town closed at the same time. I called the front desk to confirm that and Crystal told me there was one place still open. A hotel that made pizzas. So I called.

"Hi, I'd like to order for delivery" "Sorry, the taxi driver's not answering his phone" " ... "

I was hungry so I thought I could walk into town to pick up - so I asked:

"I'm at the Canalta Hotel can you tell me where you are from here?" "We're just down past the Subway" " ..."

The girl I was talking to seemed to be losing patience with our call. I could hear how busy the bar was. I thanked her and called back down to the front desk in a now desperate bid for some eleventh hour local restaurant knowledge.

"Oh, I can get Debbie to run over and get that Pizza for ya"

As it turned out, Debbie picked up three pizzas and a 24 of beer for us. You gotta love a small town.

The pizza was delicious, but I should have stopped eating when the heartburn started. My restless night in Tisdale was my own fault. This morning though, I headed out on foot to the Pharmasave on the main drag there. Just down past the Subway.

My Summer - 2011 Edition

I've just returned home from the last Trooper show of the summer. There are a few more shows coming up in the fall and winter but the "Trooper 2011 Summer Tour of Canada" has officially concluded. It was, without question, the best, most successful and most fun tour I can remember. As he did last year, my brother-in-arms Gogo snapped photos from his vantage point at the keyboards. I'd like to thank him again for this. Just like last year, I'm blown away by seeing pictures of all the shows in one place. It was a helluva tour. There are 29 shows here - shown in chronological order. The Curacao show is missing (despite the fact it was the Carribean, and hot, it was technically pre-summer), as is the private birthday party in Ontario. Otherwise, though, I think they're all here.


My Summer

I haven't written here much this summer. I did manage to contribute a bit to the Twittersphere, but anything more that 140 characters seemed to be beyond me. I was pretty busy. Luckily, for the first time ever, Gogo took photographs at every show this summer from his place at the keyboards - so you can get an idea of what my life's been like for the past few months. Many of these shots necessarily involve the back of my head, but all of them show the party in front of us. Short of standing up there yourself and feeling the palpable love that overwhelms us every night - it's a stage-side look at what we did this summer. Three of the shows (Parksville, Olds and Cochrane) have two pictures each (Cochrane, so that the collection wouldn't end on an odd number) but the rest are individual shows and roughly in the order we played them. Every show we've done since Canada Day is represented here except for the private one we played for our multimillionaire buddy in Muskoka.

Gogo's full set of pictures from the tour, including autographed body parts and tour bus exposés are here and I encourage you to check them all out. I thank my rock and roll brother for documenting our experience every night. It's the first time anyone's ever done it, and seeing all of them together like this is quite moving for me. Hopefully you enjoy it too.

20100704 - Vancouver to Dauphin, Dauphin to Vancouver

A seven o’clock flight means a six o’clock airport arrival - means a five o’clock leave - means a four o’clock wake-up in White Rock. I always check and double check the numbers for fear of messing up - despite the fact I never have - and I always write the times down on a postit note, from the bottom up, and leave it stuck to my monitor before I go to bed. Then I double check it in the morning after I’ve dutifully arisen, robot-like, to my alarm. Debbie can lay-in a bit while I do my last minute packing. This morning I retrieved my Canada Day clothes from the dryer, folded them and added them to a suitcase that already contains enough clothes for a week. Re-packing for just one show would take a lot longer than just leaving them all in there, so I just zip up the bulging bag and bang it down the stairs behind me.

We allow an hour for the airport run, but it never takes more than 40 minutes. Except for those very few times when my blood began to run cold and I frantically texted ahead about the highway standstills we found ourselves in the midst of. Even those runs probably took no more than an hour, but I just don’t like rushing to catch a flight.

I slept on the plane from Vancouver to Calgary. I read comics on my iPad during the two hour Calgary lay-over. I slept again on the flight from Calgary to Regina. It’s 3:09 PST now and we’re in our rented Buick SUV passing through Yorkton, Saskatchewan. There are conflicting opinions about how long this drive to Dauphin, Manitoba will take. Opinions range from three hours to five. Most likely it will be some increment in between. Like I said to Debbie in the text I sent from the Yorkton Tim Horton’s … there’s only one way to find out.

We play the Dauphin CountryFest tonight at midnight. Tomorrow we repeat this travel itinerary in reverse. In the meantime, the weather report calls for “Thunderstorms” for this evening. So the summer tour has begun in earnest!

Dauphin in the Distance:

We are all in great spirits after our massively successful and love-filled Canada Day show in Parksville BC two days ago and primed and ready for the adventures that no doubt await us.


For a long time now, I’ve kept my camera, my flash drives and my noise-cancelling headphones in my backpack, which resides under my desk here at home, so it’s at hand for road trips. I use it as an auxilliary desk drawer. I also keep doubles of my computer power cables, adapters, USB, ethernet and audio cables in the backpack so I can ready my laptop for the drive to the airport in the time it takes to unplug it and pack it away. Since the camera, drives and headphones are stored in there already, I’m less likely to leave them behind.

Jumping up and leaving town is such an expected part of my everyday reality, this routine seems eminently logical …

Until this morning, in the early days of Trooper’s traditional winter break, when I paused for a confused moment wondering where to put my camera.

My 6-Minute 3-Minute Film

This was my submission for the 2009 "Cindy & Monty's 3-Minute Film Festival" (discussed earlier, here). We had the best time ever at this year's event – and I showed my film to great critical acclaim – but I withdrew from competition because, despite my best efforts, my 3-Minute film turned out to be 3-Minutes too long! It's a twenty-something travelogue, documenting Connor McGuire's solo month in Europe. Check Connor's website to see *his* 3-Minute film ...

The Summer

It’s September 4th and I guess the summer is over. I’m sitting at Gate C at the Regina Airport. A couple of weeks ago we did 5 flights in four days. The week before, we did eight flights in five days. We’ve pissed away a lot of the summer in airports. We flew the day they arrested the liquids-and-gels terrorists. Don’t get me started.

There’s been way too much going on this summer. We were supposed to do a CBC TV show with Mark Kelly from the National. He was going to travel with us for a week and document our crazy reality on two TV shows. It was all set up, flights booked and plans made. And I bailed. Too damn much going on.

Debbie’s father died. My Uncle Ray died.

Frankie gave his notice. He could no longer balance his high paying real job with his wild and crazy Trooper gig. We got wind of this when he told us he wouldn’t be able to swing the frighteningly imminent first 20 show of our summer tour. Our old friend Lance Chalmers saved our bacon at the eleventh hour. We began looking for a new drummer. Dave Hampshire finished up his contracted year as our Tour Manager. In a bizarre example of rock and roll irony, he is leaving his position with the band to concentrate on becoming a better drummer. We began looking for a new Tour Manager. Last night, in Regina, was Frankie and Dave’s last night with the band.

At one level (because there are many) it’s been a summer of loss for me. First Alex - who still refuses to return, regaling us with stories of hockey victory - then Uncle Ray, and now, in a significantly less final version of loss - Frankie and Dave. Much of my activity this summer has been in response to losses. We’ve seen more of Debbie’s Mom. I’ve increased the value of my life insurance. We’ve redone our wills. Smitty and I searched, successfully I hope, for a new drummer. We have searched, unsuccessfully so far, for a new Tour Manager. I’ve glazed-over a bit with Trooper business. Too damn much going on.

I’ve fantasized a life that is less concerned with loss, either recently incurred or potentially imminent. i have a quote on my powerbook desktop that reads; “Worry is the misuse of imagination”. I strain, as I drive by, to catch a glimpse of the old tarnished Airstream parked in the brambles behind the house on 16th Avenue. Debbie and I went to Protection Island for two days. We’ve gone to the bank to see how much money we could muster to fund an as yet undefined getaway.

The shows have been beautiful. When I walk onto a stage, there is nothing but the music and the audience, and I have floated euphorically, every night, in the sweet spot between the two. We have broken attendance records at every fair we have played this summer. The crowds have been large and loving. I do love my job.

The Last Day of the Tour

” … and if we can’t put her down in Halifax we’ll have to go to … uh … our alternate.”

The landing gear came down, but the dense grey fog prevailed, with no land in sight below us. At the very last minute of our descent, the nose pulled up sharply. The flight attendant answered her phone, listened and then announced:

” … we’re going to try again on the other runway, and if we’re unable to land there, we’ll go on to Moncton.” She smiled coyly. “Although the weather’s not that great in Moncton either …”

I was drifting in and out of a fitful upright unconsciousness. When my alarm woke me at 5:00 am, I’d had two hours sleep. Our second pass at the Halifax airport was no more successful than the first. Moncton was twenty minutes away.

Our show in Triton, Newfoundland was our third sold-out performance in our favourite province. Like both Gander and Port Aux Basques, the lively and loving crowd joined us in a fun-filled, large-scale, kick out the jams kitchen party. Although Triton is full of die hard Trooper fans, it lacks a hotel, so we didn’t arrive at our Deer Lake rooms till 3:00 am. Our flight boarded at 6:30.

Conditions over Moncton were identical to those at Halifax. We began our third descent through socked-in fog, trying not to consider what our options would be if we again failed to touch down. We peered into the unchanging grey until grass came into view. As we taxied to the terminal we had new issues to consider.

For reasons still unclear to me, our friend Jack Livingston, the promoter of the three Newfoundland shows, had booked our flights out of Newfoundland into Halifax, Nova Scotia despite the fact that we needed to get to a place called Neguac, New Brunswick - two hours out of Moncton. Four days earlier, in order to accommodate this far from perfect itinerary, we had left our two rental vehicles and some luggage behind at the Halifax airport. Now we were sitting on the runway in Moncton, much closer to where we needed to be, listening to the flight attendant discuss the possibility of flying back to Halifax, or, if Halifax remained unreachable, Montreal, Quebec.

Our crew had not slept at all. Dave, Randy and Richard had struck the stage and dead-headed to the Deer Lake airport. Pulling himself together, Dave began trying to convince the Air Canada ground crew to let us disembark the Halifax flight in Moncton while Smitty discussed options with the National car rental people. We left the plane twenty minutes later with a rough plan that involved Dave and Richard taking an Air Canada financed cab ride to Halifax to pick up the two vans while we drove on to the gig with Randy and the gear in two additional rented vehicles.

Before we left, Smitty and I picked up our complimentary Air Canada toiletry kits. The suitcases we had checked in Deer Lake were not on the plane.

Ready to Make Something New

I’m in a creative holding pattern, cycling through a daily regimen of familiar themes and experiences - phoning ahead to next week’s cities to discuss last year’s adventures. I feel like a snake that’s eating it’s tail. The perpetual Escher-esque self-reference that the book’s promotion necessitates has stolen my ‘now’.

I shouldn’t complain. I’m getting great reviews and sales are brisk. I’ve been offered daily interviews with press, radio and TV all over Canada. There were two this morning here in Kingston, and I have four tomorrow.

On Thursday I’m appearing on ‘Canada AM’ and, later that afternoon, ‘Entertainment Tonight’ wants to talk to me about “the sex, drugs and rock and roll aspect of the book”. I’ll also be having lunch with a friend who wants to talk about a show in which I would play “a version” of myself. Perfect. I’m already immersed in a similar role.

I’m awaiting inspiration. It’s a foolish conceit and I know it - yet I continue to expect an epiphany of some kind. I feel as though I’m reaching critical mass and that soon I will complete a complex artistic synthesis and, at some significant moment - perhaps the completion of the Toronto book launch event - I will ping like a microwave oven and know that I’m ready.

Ready to make something new.

Leaving Ottawa

Two Marshall amps sit on the sand. Waves crash in the distance as an orange west coast sunset burns through it’s final minutes of glory. A young man approaches, straps on a waiting Stratocaster and begins to play. Thunderous Jimmy Page power chords echo across the beach.


The short film ends and I sit, transfixed, in the darkness - the only person in the small theatre. I was waiting at the entrance to the National Gallery of Canada when they opened the doors this morning.

I had wandered slowly through the lower gallery taking, as always, extra time with the Group of Seven, soaking up the power and tenderness of Tom Thompson and the majesty of Lawren Harris and J. E. H. MacDonald. I sensed my Dad’s presence beside me as I admired a Cornelius Kreighoff, one of his favourites. I stood with my nose nearly touching Alex Colville’s “To Prince Edward Island” and examined the thousands of tiny brush strokes that create the high-surrealism of his eerie and evocative paintings. In the Contemporary Gallery, I mounted a motorized office chair in a large interactive installation and, pedaling hard, failed to elicit the promised spinning. As I exited down the Gallery’s long staircase/ramp I could feel my creative batteries topping off.

Our return to the Ottawa Tulip Festival last night was a triumph over the elements and an excellent party, despite intermittent rain and a cold, biting wind that whistled past the Parliament buildings and across the large outdoor stage. As the crowd-lights came up in “Raise a Little Hell”, I could see the faces of thousands of brave concert-goers standing in the rain - arms in the air - shouting the words.

Lance Chalmers has returned for our summer tour - still the brother he became during his eight years with the band. He walked onto the stage in Sarnia, Ontario - after three years and no rehearsal - and dropped back into the slot without missing a proverbial beat. Ottawa is Lance’s home town and last night his parents, brothers, sisters in-law and their kids all partied happily backstage with us. Gogo invited two random teens in for orange juice and full deli-tray priviledges. They were visibly chuffed to be part of the action. Kids, parents and grandparents swarmed the t-shirt booth after the show. An eighteen year old girl told me I was “hot”.

A 9:30 show time put us back at the ‘Les Suites’ Hotel by 12:30AM. By 12:35 I was sleeping like a baby.

On the Road Again

The first three days of the Spring tour were just an extension of the frenetic weeks that preceded them. At home, interviews about my just-released book complicated my usual pre-flight drill of trying to wrap-up family business whilst simultaneously wrestling last minute tour details. As usual, my eleventh-hour efforts to prevent something or someone falling through the cracks were unsuccessful. Instead of making more time for Debbie and Connor, who I wouldn’t see for a month, I squandered the time obsessively, refusing to acknowledge the one sure truth in life - that nothing is ever dependably finished.

I arrived at Vancouver International Airport with my backpack, my suitcase and a jacket pocket full of yellow post-it notes: “Find out about Ottawa flights”, “Insurance”, “Mike re: Horseshoe”, “Write Tom”…

It was somewhere between London and Cambridge, on Friday afternoon, when it happened. Kevin Gilbert’s CD was playing on the van’s stereo, the highway was smooth and traffic was moving swiftly. We were talking quietly about Gilbert’s lyrics, his brilliant arrangements, and the care taken in the album’s production. I took a sip of my coffee and glanced out the window at the green and wet Ontario scenery and, exhaling slowly, I felt my mind and body acknowledge the transition to that familiar sweet spot between yesterday and tomorrow - that road-wearied zone where time becomes relative and immaterial. I reached for the volume knob and turned up the music - and settled into road-mode.

End of Tour Party

In our Nelson, BC dressing room, Randy Bergner joked about falling asleep at the sound board with his arms on the faders, slowly nudging the volume higher as he fell deeper into unconsciousness. He had slept for only two hours since the show at the Delia, Alberta Community Hall the night before. He could barely keep his eyes open. Richard Nott, our new merchandise manager and guitar tech, seemed surprisingly fresh, despite having shared the cab of a five-ton truck with his fellow crew-members for a grueling 760 kilometer, ten hour drive. Our tour manager, Dave Hampshire, his head newly shaven for the April western tour, also seemed impressively unaffected by the hard work and long drives that had characterized the tour.

We had completed a dozen sold out shows in sixteen days, logged eight thousand kilometers on our rented gold Suburban, and crisscrossed the thawing prairies between Vancouver and Winnipeg. We were all tired, but energized by the incomparable buzz of being part of the Trooper touring machine.

Two weeks earlier, at the first band party of the tour - an acoustic jam in a Camrose Alberta hotel room - we realized that with Richard playing bass, Randy playing guitar, and Dave drumming, we could, potentially, have TWO bands on the tour. Part way through our Banff, Alberta show, “Funbucket” took to the stage, busting out a blazing version of Doucette’s “Mama Let Him Play”. They happily returned to the stage many times throughout the tour. The Nelson ‘end-of-tour party’ version of the song, with additional harmonies and percussion from Frankie, Scott, Gogo and I, was the tightest of the tour.

Gogo brought his violin - which he played frequently in small town Tim Hortons parking lots and hotel lobbies - and a ukulele - which eventually lead to a traveling Tiny Tim party. Scott and I worked our way through a collection of songs by “The Big Four” - Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and Dean Martin. We refined the playlist to a fifteen-song set of classics that Scott rehearsed daily. We downloaded videos of the Dean Martin show and Frank Sinatra concert clips that we watched as we rolled down the highway. Nothing brain-bombs more effectively than songs like “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love” and “Ain’t That a Kick In the Head” and I spent most of the tour singing like Frank, Dean or Tony. Scott plans to become a crooner, a perfect fit for his rich baritone voice - and by the end of the tour he was confidently singing those brilliantly constructed songs, performed originally by true vocal masters.

After the final show, the band and crew relaxed in the candle-lit dressing room with some new Nelson friends. An Irish tenor, sitting across the table from me, got everyone singing “Lean on Me”. A surprising number of our guests sang well, dropping in harmonies and soulful licks. Another song followed and voices grew stronger. I smiled around the room at my traveling companions and savoured the moment.

All About Yesterday

(This is the post that followed the final post in the book - and the last entry before I shut the site down for the winter)


"You should know that there may be some weight issues on the way back."

The young pilot leaned close to me and spoke quietly.

"Sorry?" I said.

"Well, with the gravel and all ..."

"The gravel?"

"Well, ya ... and the short runway. And the fact that the take off is over water. There may be some weight issues. You may have to leave some things behind tonight."

"We already left a bunch of stuff behind in Winnipeg." I said, thinking out loud. "And we play tomorrow night ..."

I paused, weighing safety against a potentially missed gig, "How much stuff?"

"No more than a hundred pounds ... but it's really up to the pilot ..." He thought for a moment, "and the wind".

Our tiny ten passenger Pilatus single engine turbo prop sat alone on the Big Trout Lake air strip - a ragged gravel swatch cut out of the lakeside forest - surrounded by the band, the crew, a small collection of gear and the community's welcoming committee.

We moved quietly through the gathering entourage, shaking hands and making introductions. Accompanied by Eno, the show's coordinator, Luke, our constant companion for the evening, and three teenage boys, we boarded a battered yellow school bus for the ride to the "resting place". We crashed and bounced through the trees on dusty dirt roads - I raised my left hand, like a rodeo bull rider, bouncing on my seat. We hooted and hollered. Glen the school teacher - obviously British, wearing a Tilley hat, steel-rimmed glasses, shorts and boots grinned from behind the wheel.

"Kish'n'mayg'sib" Luke delivers the community's name as though it contains no more than two syllables.

"A little slower, Luke. Who's got a pen?"

"Kitchen - aw - maygo - sip" I repeated the word over and over in the arena's basement dressing room.

"Kitchenawmagosip, Kitchenawmagosip, Kitchenawmagosip"

"You've got it now" said Luke, smiling.

"Kitchenawmagosip" I repeated, unconvinced.

Kitchenawmagosip, or Big Trout Lake as it's called on the map, is an hour and a half flight northeast of Winnipeg. It's not accessible by road in the summer, when the ice-roads have melted. They have two stores, a school, a police station with three policemen, a woman's shelter, and a small hotel with a restaurant. They are planning a youth centre and a laundromat. We were there as part of a celebration that also included square dancing, fiddle music and a $50,000 Bingo game.

"Take us there!" we said when we heard.

"Two Fifty a card" replied one of the buzz-cut teenagers.

"Two hundred and fifty dollars?"

"That's how we do things." Eno said proudly.

About a hundred people, in two rows of chairs, sat at the halfway point in the large dark arena. The six o'clock show-time had drifted to seven. Our high-intensity intro music exploded in the silent, near empty arena and the first show began. It is fair to say that first nations people have a general tendency to shyness. As an audience, they applaud appreciatively between songs but lack the animated interaction of a typical rock crowd. After I insisted that they move their chairs closer to the stage, the small audience began to warm up. They smile. Shyly.

We have flown from Vancouver to Winnipeg, from Winnipeg to Big Trout Lake and performed a ninety minute set. Our second show begins after a short thirty minute break - most of which is squandered signing autographs at the t-shirt table. We are already exhausted as we take the stage for the second time that day.

"That second show was on fire!" says Luke quietly as we make our way down the basement hallway to our bright yellow dressing room.

"Hey thanks." I say, shaking his outstretched hand.

By 11:00 PM we are assembled again at the airstrip. The warm, clear northern night is pin-drop quiet - headlights from a few randomly parked pickups provide enough light to load the gear. We talk quietly as we say our farewells. Luke promises to email photos. Eno's handshake turns into a hug. I step away from the group for a moment to discuss the weight issue with the pilot.

Ten minutes later, as we fly back to the tree-line, the copilot shuts off all the lights in the plane. We are high above the clouds and sharing the sky with a massive display of northern lights. Our tiny plane is surrounded by enormous curtains of shimmering and dancing light. Like children, we press our faces to the small windows - maneuvering our elbows to the seats in an effort to see higher into the night sky.

An hour passes before Winnipeg floats into view in front of us. We take turns craning over the pilots' shoulders as the city lights grow brighter. Soon, two clearly defined parallel rows of lights position themselves below and ahead of us. It still seems like a very long way down. Tilted at a slight angle to break our speed, but moving straight towards the runway, we descend smoothly to the Winnipeg tarmac.