Family Lines

stories for you

Tag: memories (page 1 of 14)

Swimming again

Mist rises in the cold air at the Queen Elizabeth outdoor pool.

Mist rises in the cold air at the Queen Elizabeth outdoor pool.

I used to be a competitive swimmer for Ryerson University. Swimming is great exercise and the water always feels like home to me. It’s because no matter where I am, pool water never changes. It’s always wet in South Korea, The Gambia, Fort Smith and Calgary. Since I just moved to Edmonton, I thought I’d head to something familiar in this unfamiliar place.

I decided to go to an outdoor pool. Even though it hasn’t been that warm here, the pool remained open up until yesterday. I walked to the pool in the cold rain and cursed myself for not wearing mittens (it really was that cold) or bringing a tuque for the stroll home. I started hemming and hawing about continuing.

“It’s raining and it’s cold,” I said to myself, “why are you doing this to yourself?”

Really, there was no argument. I knew why I was going. I wanted some exercise and I wanted to do something regular – routine, in a day that had started differently from the last seven years in Calgary. I wanted to focus on my breathing and stroke count and seeing if I could beat my 100 freestyle (four laps of a 25 metre pool) time from last month. I didn’t want to think about unpacking and what went where and what didn’t fit there. I wanted a break from new spaces and spots and streets with strange numbers.

Despite the icy rain, the gate to the pool was wide open. As I walked onto the deck, the chlorine struck my nostrils. I took a deep breath in. Ahhhh! (I liked it.) That strong chemical smell of the water never changes either. The wisps of fog swimming over the pool didn’t make it look inviting. I shivered in the mist and then picked up a flutter board.

I headed to the edge of the pool. There was someone in the lane already splashing up and down the 25 metres. I jumped in beside him and said hello when he surfaced for air at the end of the lane.

“Hi,” he said before disappearing under a wave.

I pulled on my googles. The water was warm on my skin. Not at all cold, like the air around me. I pushed off the wall and struck out for the other side. Something I’ve done over and over again in a few different places.

Firsts and forgets

Dr. Conley and I in Halifax.I love seeing people’s “first day of school” photos (especially those of my niece and nephew). While I was home in Nova Scotia last week, Acadia University students were moving into residence, some for the first time.

It has been more than 20 years since I was a student at Acadia, set on changing the world. I was going to be a foreign correspondent who would fly herself (in her own plane) to troubled regions and report the news. I would spread the word about terrible atrocities and make the world understand that it needed to help right away. I would force people to wake up and start caring. Yep, that was my plan.

I was reminded of these naïve aspirations a couple of weeks ago while visiting a professor / mentor in Halifax. Dr. Marshall Conley is a globetrotting human rights expert whom I first met when I was in his introductory political science class at Acadia. He also spearheaded a youth international internship program that paired volunteers under 30 with human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs) as well as governments. In 1998, I was one of Dr. Conley’s interns.

After finishing my degree at Acadia and then the journalism program at Ryerson University in Toronto, I was sent to the African Centre for Democracy and Human Right Studies in The Gambia as a publications officer. During my recent trip back to Nova Scotia, Dr. Conley (I still can’t call him by his first name even though we’ve been friends for years) invited my husband and I to his lovely home for lunch. When we arrived, I saw he had set out a photograph of the 16 interns he had sent around the world the year I went to The Gambia.

I blinked at the picture of young adults lined up in two rows. I had always thought that I would never forget the people in my intern cohort but here I was, blanking. While I remembered their faces, I couldn’t remember many of their names. It worried me. If I let these fine details escape from my brain, how many other things am I forgetting?

Dr. Conley came over and once he said who each person was, a light bulb went on inside my head.

“Oh, yes,” my brain said. “I remember now.”

I do remember. I remember tidbits about each person too. I remember where they all went, one to Estonia, one to Paris, two to Bangladesh, two to The Gambia (one was me), etc. I remember the excitement we all had when we were about to take off to exotic and strange locations. I remember the nervousness of heading into the unknown. I also remember trying to find a mosquito net in Halifax long before Mountain Equipment Co-op was a thing. I remember booking my flight that took me from Nova Scotia, to Iceland, to London and then to Africa. (Björk was on my plane from Reykjavik to London. She wore a white butcher’s apron as a dress and flip-flops with socks. The whole ensemble looked uncomfortable.)

Miriama from theAfrican Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies.

Miriama from theAfrican Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies.

I remember thinking that this internship would lay the foundation for my career as a foreign correspondent. In Gambia, I would get experience in human rights, NGOs, politics and policy and be introduced to new ideas and ways of life. With all these tools and insight, I would jump to an exciting and fulfilling journalism career.

I did learn a lot about human rights and statecraft and met all sorts of people from all walks of life in The Gambia. I also learned how to barter (my roommate was better, though), how to find my way through sandy streets and that unripe mangos make a tasty mango crisp. All these lessons and moments added up to a truly life-changing experience. I was on my way to making my goal a reality.

Then the real world got in the way.

When I returned home from my many months aboard, I needed a job. I got one in Calgary working as a news writer for a television station. I didn’t like working in TV and three years later, I left to be a pilot. Flying my own plane was the second piece to my world reporting aspirations. However, 9/11 happened and people were afraid to fly and the demand for pilots dropped. I did get my private licence but didn’t go on any further. I got a job at Mount Allison University and somewhere throughout the years, my dreams of being the flying foreign correspondent drifted away like clouds I flew through in my Cessna.

I'm flying a Cessna over Acadia University.

I’m flying a Cessna over Acadia University.

Last week while looking at the picture of the interns, I realized I hadn’t thought about my first life goal in a long, long time. It wasn’t that I had forgotten about it, I just needed a reminder about that “first.” But that’s why it was a first, because life isn’t linear and lots of other goals came after it. I’d still like to say thanks to Dr. Conley for giving me a step up on my way to changing the world. Because we all have in some way. While attending a pan-African human rights conference in Gambia, someone said, “’If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito in the room.” (That quote has also been attributed to the Dalai Lama but I heard it attributed to an African proverb.) It’s true. We’re all making a difference.

Breaking up with Calgary

Nose Hill Park on a frosty March day.

Nose Hill Park on a frosty March day.

Dear Calgary,

It’s not you, it’s me. You’ve probably heard that before but it’s true. I’m not breaking up with you today because I want to, it’s because I have to. After living in Cowtown a total of eleven years, it’s time to move on. We’ll always have our memories.

When I first landed here in 1999, you were a bonafide city but you had doubts about yourself. Your skyscrapers weren’t Toronto height but you were growing. Downtown was dead on nights and weekends and Eau Claire Market was brimming with shops and shoppers. The mountains were farther away because the city limits didn’t stretch as far. There were independent cafes and no Starbucks and Tim Hortons were rare. A handful of diners managed the brunch crowd. You were friendly yet feisty.

I left you three years later. It was definitely you then. I wanted to experience other places and sights and sounds. So I went and did interesting and new things. (Some not so interesting.) Then you called me back in 2010 and I’m glad you did.

Returning to Calgary wasn’t hard. Friends I had made here earlier and kept in touch with were incredibly encouraging and supportive. I came back for work and a job that was strictly contract. It went week-to-week and I never knew when it was going to end. That’s when our relationship wavered. I felt you weren’t committed to me. Also, you had changed.

Your ego was larger than I remembered. You were loud with your streets full of large and roaring vehicles. Nine times out of ten, I was yelled at by drivers when I went for a walk or a bicycle ride. Downtown was humming with people and Eau Claire Market wasn’t. Chain cafes were everywhere. Your skyscrapers touched the clouds and the mountains were even closer as houses spread and spread and spread and the city limits moved with them, taking over former pastures.

However, in the last few years, you’ve mellowed and I’ve seen your true personality break through during the

All day I kept seeing hearts around Calgary - on the sidewalk, in Starbucks...

All day I kept seeing hearts around Calgary – on the sidewalk, in Starbucks…

rough times. Calgarians of all shapes and sizes and ages joined hands and helped their neighbours after the 2013 flood. I was one of those who put on rubber gloves and rubber boots and dug into the mud to rescue photographs and silver cutlery. I met my husband through you and together we have wonderful friends, born and bred Calgarians and others from across Canada and around the world. I’m upset about leaving them. I’m upset about leaving you too, Calgary, but I know you’ll understand. It’s part of your nature, your boom and bust attitude. You’ve seen bad times and good and been my home during both.

When I visit, I’ll remember my life here with you was woven with cold mornings and warm afternoons, cowboy hats and boots, lemon yellow autumn leaves, the rush of the Bow under the Centre Street Bridge and your people, friends of mine and foes of the bicycle. Thanks, Calgary. I’ll always love you.

Hollywood Hong Kong

Re-tail therapy - shopcat.

Re-tail therapy – shopcat.

Looking out across Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong, I see lightening split the sky. It’s only noon but it’s as dark as a Calgary winter evening. I had hoped to be shopping right now but my friend, Digger, just texted and told me to stay in.

“Don’t go out in the storm,” she said. “Wan Chai can wait.”

I’m glad I listened to her because minutes later, the wind is easily plucking palm branches off trunks and the rain is as thick as a velvet curtain. It’s hard to see through it to the other side. Thunder is loud and shakes the floor of the apartment. I sit in front of the open patio door and watch as the storm takes over the city.

Nothing slows down in the tempest. Buses keep going. People keep walking. Vehicles splash through the new streams snaking down the street. Nothing is keeping this energetic city down. (Digger said when there is a typhoon warning, Hong Kong does stop. A tropical cyclone is comparable to a major snowstorm in Canada.)

Well, if the locals are out, I can go out too.

Digger had already taken me to Hollywood Road. Hollywood in North America connotes celebrities and movie stars. In Hong Kong, it’s a great place to find trinkets and antiques. It’s also dotted with art galleries and is home to a Man Mo Temple. The shrine is used to worship two gods, a civil/literature god and a martial god, by students. We visited the Sheung Wan area temple that was built as a place of worship in 1847. It’s now a monument and a popular tourist attraction.

After viewing the wonders of the shrine, Digger and I headed straight into the heart of Hollywood. Shops and vendors are lined up along both sides of the street. There’s so much to look at that I couldn’t stop from swivelling my head this way and that. There are pretty blue-and-white porcelain bracelets, animals intricately carved from mammoth bone, posters with Mao Tse-tung (Mao Zedong), the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, and other communist leaders saluting each other (to my horror), and so many other interesting bits and pieces and odds and ends of shelf life.

I didn’t buy anything the first time I went to Hollywood Road because I was waiting for Wan Chai. Wan Chai is a shopper’s paradise. It has anything and everything. It’s only a hop, skip and a bus ride away from where Digger and her husband live. My friend said I could get colourful china bowls and lovely iron dragon locks for cheap. (Well, cheaper than Hollywood Road.)

One Hong Kong dollar (HKD) is .17 to the Canadian dollar. Goods, like a decorative comb, start at 9 HKD (about $1.50 CAD). I get my cash ready for Wan Chai, got an umbrella and head out in the warm rain to the trusty Bus #15 stop. I don’t have to wait long before I’m hopping aboard and on my way to Wan Chai.

Oops.

I get off at the wrong stop and have to backtrack about ten minutes in the rain to the main shopping area. But even though the rain’s steady, it’s not cold.

I wander through the crowds, lifting up my umbrella to avoid hitting people in the face. My first stop is at the Wan Chai wet market. I had been warned about some of the smells. Digger said it could get rank at the wet market and the odours would hit me right in the face –  just like the umbrella of a passerby. However, it isn’t too bad. I’ve been other places overseas that were worse. Saying that, the air is pretty pungent, steeped in a ripe produce, ripe meat and wet spice smell, but it’s all part of the charm.

From the wet market, I head out onto the street. There are tiny shops as well as booths set up along the sidewalks. I saunter from stall to stall, looking for the best bargains and deals. There’s a lot of outlet clothing for sale from names such as Adidas and Ann Taylor. There are also a few no-name shops that have the most delightful skirts screen-printed with shimmering butterflies and flowers. However, when I stand in front of a mirror to see if a skirt fits, it’s yanked out of my hands by a shop clerk.

“No fit,” she says.

Then no buy.

I’m not really interested in clothing anyway. I’m interested in dishes. When I lived in South Korea in 1998, I used to buy delicate green ceramic bowls from women who would set up alongside a residential street. In Wan Chai in 2017, I have dreams about finding some of these beautiful treasures.

Alas, I never do — although I do find some brightly-decorated porcelain bowls and soup spoons to buy and send home as presents to my family. I start collecting a pile and add and subtract to it. There are many lovey patterns and colours and I’m finding it hard to choose. At last, I’m done. Now I have to pay up.

I had heard that I was supposed to barter in Wan Chai and I did. However, I guess I look desperate to keep my stash of pretty plates so I don’t get too much of a bargain…only ten HKD are dropped.

Strolling around in the rain, I go up and down and down and up and all around the Wan Chai market. I look at thing and touch things and buy a few things. The rain has tapered off and I decide to go downtown and try and find some beer to bring back for my husband. He’s a beer writer (on his down time) and I want to get him some local HK brew. Easier said than done.

I had googled beer stores before I left the apartment and found most places are delivery services instead of walk-in stores. I get that. HK is busy and traffic is constant and so it’s hard to jump into your car to grab a case of beer. It’s much better to have someone bring it to you. Well, I wished I had gone that route too.

I have the address of HK Brewcraft and I know (sort-of) where it is. I walk here and there and up stairs and then when I’m tired of climbing stairs, I go left and I’m in a school playground somehow. Dead end. (A lot of HK’s famous escalators were being repaired.) I continue up the stairs and then back down and over there and under that and.. is it in this apartment building?

I open the door to what I think is the small lobby of a family condo building. Hit the button for the elevator and get it. There’s the sign for the shop. Phew. I talk to the knowledgeable beer guy and get three beers for my man. Then, with my aching feet and bag filled with goodies, I go home.

A few days later, Digger and I head to Temple Market, a night market in Kowloon. I’ve been to a night market in Richmond, just outside of Vancouver, but the Temple Street Night Market is a different kind of experience. The Canadian night market is full of offerings of food while the Temple Street Night Market is full of electronics and counterfeit designer handbags: good quality counterfeits.

To get to the HK night market, Digger and I take the MTR (Mass Transit Railway – subway) to Kowloon, an area across the harbour from Hong Kong Island. (The MTR actually goes underneath Victoria Harbour.) The night market is more than purses and wallets, it’s fortune tellers and cards that when opened, show you worlds you’ve only seen in your dreams.

Don’t expect the vendors to be light and fluffy about their prices. Here, they bargain and bargain hard. I want to get six cards and Digger turns into my middle-woman. She barters with the seller to gets them down in cost. She also helps me secure a handbag. Thanks to her, I now tote a nice floral handbag all over Calgary. And it’s not a knock-off: it’s Kowloon original.

 

The pulse of Hong Kong

View of Hong Kong from Mid Levels.

View of Hong Kong from Mid Levels.

“Can you get to Vancouver on Friday?” texted my friend late Wednesday night. “I can get you to from Hong Kong from there.”

Ummm…

 

“Sure!” I said, from Calgary. One perk of being self-employed is that I can work from anywhere, any time, 70 per cent of the time.

Two days later, on Friday April 28, I started the voyage west, waaaay west. I landed Saturday night and was immediately whisked away by my long-time friend Digger and her husband, VC, to an 80s dance party. It was a lot of fun grooving to the tunes of my youth. (Am I old?) The action didn’t stop there. I was constantly on the move seeing the Hong Kong sights and eating the Hong Kong delights.

Hong Kong was incredibly different from what I had imagined it to be. I thought it would be one massive city with tall buildings everywhere, traffic honking all the time and people crowding the streets. However, it is not like that.

The city pulses and breathes along with the waves surrounding it. It’s a city of energy and is always awake. There’s a lot of steel and skyline made up of many skyscrapers that are surrounded by lush green hills. There are hiking trails and beaches and quiet spots right in the city. The weather was fantastic and a little bit humid and a little bit hot: not super moist and suffocating. My friends took me to Repulse Bay and I swam in the China Sea. The next day, we hiked the MacLehose Trail, a trail that crosses the New Territories, and played Frisbee on Tai Long Wan beach. I swam here too and kicked something large and soft under the water.

“There have been shark attacks here,” said VC and we quickly kicked to shore.

After an afternoon of surf and sun, we took a boat back to where we had left the car. I think bull riders at the Stampede get gentler rides. Let’s just say the ups were up and the downs were very hard downs. Nevertheless, it was a good way to get the sand off your towel and get a facial scrub at the same time.

From boats to buses, I took the #15 to Victoria Peak almost every day. The peak is an incredible look off over of the city and harbour from the top of Mount Austin – if the fog, humidity and smog don’t drift over the view out of the view. Before vehicles wound their way up the steep road, residents who lived at the top used sedan chairs – chairs that had poles on each side that people used to lift and carry up hill. That would be one tough hike for the porters.

Besides the bus, you can also take your own car or a taxi or the train. When you arrive at the peak, there are two malls and many places to eat and get out of the heat. I didn’t mind the warm temperatures (around 27 C) and humidity after surviving a cold and dry Calgary winter. 

The summit is great for getting the blood pumping to the legs after a long flight (although the dancing from the night before was good for that too.) The walk I did was mainly Harlech Road, a paved and flat loop that goes around the peak. Early in the morning, the path is used by runners and dogs and their walkers. Later in the morning, the path is full of tourists. (I was one of them on my first day.) The loop is about 3.5 km and took me an hour to complete.

One day, I went off the beaten path … and into the path of a wild boar. Some seniors warned me about the big pig and while I didn’t see it, I could hear it crashing through the forest. Another time, I took Plantation Road and saw some amazing houses. The peak is known for being at the top of the luxury real estate market. 

Hong Kong is renowned for its food and I sampled a lot, thanks to Digger and VC. We went to hotspots like Little Bao (bao is a steamed bun) and Ho Lee Fook (which means “good fortune for your mouth”). Both places had fresh and interesting cuisine that I had never tasted before. From Fish Tempura (fish in a bao) and Prawn Toast and Okonomiyaki – it was all spectacular. 

For a more traditional experience, we went for dim sum at Maxims. It was my first time for dim sum and it was amazing.

Maxims is in city hall and constantly full on Sundays, when we decided to go for brunch. But there’s an app that lets you get a number and wait at home instead of waiting in line. But I’ll wait in line all day for Maxims now that I know what dim sum takes like. Why haven’t I had dim sum before? I don’t know. It’s just nothing I’ve ever thought about.

Servers walk around with trolley full of mouth-watering treats. Some servers are nicer than others but the glares are part of the charm. There are hundreds of dishes to choose from and we only had about nine of them. It was filling and delicious.

Next week I’ll tell you my shopping stories. Oh goodies.

The French un-connection

Photo of a French woman.

Could this be Beatrice?

Beatrice,

Reads the start of the e-mail message sent to me.

Beatrice is not me.

J’ai essaye do t’envoiyer des photos de ton sejour avec nous il y a asse longhtemps maintenant et j’ai cru que tout alle bien, mais peut-etre pas!

(The gist of the note: I tried to send you photos of your time with us but they didn’t go through.)

Still not me. Nevertheless, I’m happy to read further down in the message that Beatrice sent a lovely card to the writer and she is writing back to thank her.

This isn’t the first time I’ve received an e-mail for Beatrice. It has been happening for many years. I’ve been privy to gossip and travel plans and even a weekly French clothing store newsletter, from which I unsubscribed after a month. (Although the clothes were tres chic.) When I started receiving Beatrice’s personal e-mails, I always replied to the sender:

Salut,

Vous avez la mauvaise adresse. Je suis une femme qui vit au Canada.
SVP, essayer une autre adresse pour Beatrice.

(Hi, You have the wrong e-mail address. I’m a woman who lives in Canada. Please use another address for Beatrice.)

Photo of a French woman.

Or is this Beatrice?

Usually the person e-mails back and says thanks for letting her know. However, once someone accused me of being Beatrice and told me I wasn’t being nice. If I wanted to cut ties, I should just say so. That was just a one-off thankfully.

Since most of Beatrice’s friends know to use her address now and not mine, I haven’t had any of her messages end up in my inbox in two years. Until yesterday morning. It was a surprise and kind of like hearing from a long lost friend. Except I have no real connection to this woman. The only tie we have is through an electronic address: not even a physical space.

I guess Beatrice and I have similar personal e-mail addresses. There are many stories on the web these days about mix-ups with people who have the same name. (There is another Lea Storry but she spells her first name differently. We were Facebook friends for a while.) While I was searching for some stories, I came across this website. It’s a U.S. site that tracks how many people have your name: first and last.

http://howmanyofme.com/search/

Pretty cool. I hope Beatrice gets her merci card in the mail.

Instant Hook Runner-Up

Slave River, NT.

Slave River, NT. This is where my story starts.

In November, I printed off the first 300 words of a novel I was working on and mailed it off to the Fourth Instant Hook Writing Contest. This past weekend, I found out that I’m a runner-up.

The Instant Hook contest gauges how well a writer can “hook” a reader in the beginning of an unpublished novel. Many of you know that if you’re not grabbed at the start of a story, then you’ll probably never turn the page. Authors have to make their words compelling and interesting and worth your time.

The competition was developed by Paul Butler, a writer and creative writer instructor in Lethbridge. Over one hundred first pages from across Canada were submitted to him. The winner is Bianca Lakoseljac from Ontario with her novel Where the Sidewalk Ends. I was a runner-up along with Shawna Troke-Leukert, an author from Newfoundland and Labrador, who wrote Forgive.

Paul said there were a large number of very strong entries this year and “the runners-up represent a small shortlist made up from a very good long shortlist.” My story, Me, You and Here, is about a couple who go on a canoe trip in the Northwest Territories. One of them doesn’t make it back.

  Me, you and here

At first, there was only a sprinkle of rain. Now it’s an angry storm. Rain pours from the sky. Thunder shakes the earth. Lightening slashes the clouds in half and the wind whips the lake into a frenzy. The only thing we can do, you and I, is get off the water.

There’s nowhere to hide on this rocky and wild shore. There’s no dock to pull up to and no warm cabin to keep us dry. There are only millions of trees reaching for the tempest and rejoicing that it’s rain, not snow, falling in the middle of the northern bush.

I’m not sure who suggested turning over the canoe for shelter – you or me? I think it was me. Once I got stuck in weather like this with my family when I was little. My dad paddled us to shore and we all hid underneath the boat until the pelting rain stopped.

That lake is thousands of kilometres away from this one. That lake is much, much closer to civilization. Unlike here, where no one would ever find us if something went wrong.

This morning had dressed as a sunny day. No dark clouds had threatened our journey. No signs of anything to impede our way. Except for your shadowy face. I didn’t dare ask what was wrong this time. We had miles to go and not hours to wait while you explained to me what I did or who I wasn’t.

We had planned this trip years ago. When we were both younger and more energetic and… happier? I put a question mark beside “happier” because I can’t answer that for you. I only know I was happier. I could be happy now too. If I knew you would stay with me.

Okay

I went to Ryerson University in Toronto for my journalism degree. I was taking a course on non-fiction writing and one of our assignments was to write about a recent experience. The following is a story I wrote about an evening in 1995.

 Okay

I was sitting on the subway. Feeling fat, loveless and cranky. On Feb.14.

It was late at night, around 10:30. A woman and a little girl got on the train. I wondered what the girl was doing up so late on a school night.

People were scattered everywhere in the car. There was a man with big glasses sitting across from me. My roommate reading a book beside me. The mom and girl sitting a couple of rows down. But I didn’t turn to look at anyone. I didn’t want to see them.

I was drowning in the hum of the subway and the problems of the world. With me in it. How the ozone layer is dying. How children are starving. How humans are killing each other. How Valentine’s Day is just one more day to make money out of something that I can’t even get for free. How far away I feel from home. My real home in Nova Scotia with a dog and cats and warmth and family and friends. How cold the bright lights of the underground are. Making everything harsh. Making the blemishes stand out clearly. The red pimple on my roommate’s nose, the greasiness of that guy’s big glasses, dirt and grime and grossness.

Then I heard someone singing. And I turned around.

All I could see was the top of a beret further down the train. I stood up. Looked.

A woman, sitting alone, was singing. She was singing “Everything’s going to be okay. Everything’s going to be all right.”

I recognized the tune; a Bob Marley song. Other heads turned. The woman with the child smiled. The man with the glasses picked up his head. My roommate put down her book.

For a moment, the world stood still and I actually believed the minstrel. For moment, I believed everything was okay. Everything was all right. For a moment, everybody listened and everyone heard.

Heading south – to Nashville

Trying on cowpoke boots and hats in Nashville.

Trying on cowpoke boots and hats in Nashville.

I headed south last week with a group of Calgary friends. We didn’t go to Mexico or Florida or the Caribbean. We went to Nashville, Tennessee — the first time for all of us — where we listened to some music, did some dancing and heard some interesting stories from the past (and created some new ones too).

Nashville is known as the capital of country music and it’s also the birthplace of its country cousin, bluegrass. Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Chubby Wise and Howard Watts popularized the American roots music in the mid-1940s. The genre supposedly got the name from the four musicians who formed a band called Blue Grass Boys.

One bluegrass song I know is Cripple Creek. We had to sing it in music class while at Gaspereau Elementary in Nova Scotia. I don’t remember the following verse being included in the lyrics.History of blue grass sign.

I went down to Cripple Creek
To see what them girls had to eat
I got drunk and fell against the wall
Old corn likker was the cause of it all 

Things weren’t as strict in school in the 1980s but I don’t think any parent wants his/her child trilling about being half-cut.

Printers Alley is a little side street in downtown Nashville. It doesn’t look like much but it’s full of alcoves with doors set in them that lead to adventure. In the 1800s, the area was home to newspapers, print shops and publishers. When the printing presses weren’t in use, the workers would meet in the street and the alley became a meeting place.

Printers Alley sign. In the 1940s, Printers Alley turned into a mecca for liquor (when the sale of booze was prohibited) and entertainment. Today you can buy wine or vodka or have a pop and catch up with friends, like I did with a buddy from Nova Scotia who lives in Tennessee. He filled me in on what’s happening with his family as well as former university schoolmates who I haven’t thought about in years.

Food is always a big part of a trip. I tried grits for the first time. Gone with the Wind is one of my favourite books and Scarlett and co. ate a lot of stuff I had never heard of before. Collards, salt pork, hominy and grits are part of Southern Cuisine. Before having grits at Biscuit Love (where we had to stand in line for about 45 minutes), I thought grits were fried lumps of dough. They are not. They’re like porridge made from cornmeal. I think the fried lumps would have been tastier. My grits had cheese in them and I didn’t like the slightly salty flavour and the coarse texture. The biscuits, however, were amazing.

Haunted bar?

The Honky Tonk Pub Crawl took us to historical spots with historical stories (as well as a shot or two). We were regaled with tales about musical legends, pioneers, brothels and visited a haunted bar where a man (it might have been a woman) may have been pushed out of a top floor window by a ghost (or rum vapours?) Nobody knows.

I know that my time in Nashville is now the stuff of legends. My friends and I have good memories of the place and will laugh about the good and the bad and the Southern for years to come.

Flight path

This is the first page of The Raven named Flight and How She Learned to Fly.

This is the first page of The Raven named Flight and How She Learned to Fly. Click on the photo for a better view.

Flight has flown all the way to Yellowknife! The Raven named Flight and How She Learned to Fly is available at the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre. On her way, she stopped in Enterprise and copies of her book can be found at Winnie’s Dene Art Gallery and Gift Shop.

The Raven named Flight and How She Learned to Fly

Flight is a young raven born in Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories, Canada. She loves her family and hanging out in their comfy, cozy nest. When it comes time for Flight to spread her wings, she first has to overcome her fear of flying.

Ebook: http://bit.ly/2hCFIxI

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