…counting down….

I might not like their coffee at all, but this picture really sums up the last couple of days here in TO.

Well.

That was interesting.  We got a bit of ice hereabouts.  And that ice weighed down all the hydro lines and left electrical power just a fading memory to a fair number of folks here in our sleepy little burgh.

The temperature has plummeted and it’s not looking like some peeps are going to get the electricity back before Wednesday.  Generally speaking my little part of the town is all okay.  I have hydro, and the commute to work is such that the streetcar and subway closures didn’t affect me.  Hoping that the situation stays okay- but preparing just in case.

The shopping is all done- so there’s no more running around required, at least.  A little more in the way of food prep for the day itself- and for some parties in the days following, but I’m basically feeling like I have a pretty solid handle on things.

Does that mean I’ve captured some of the spirit that has been so elusive this year?  Hmmm.  Not sure I can go that far.  But I think I’m getting there.

Despite an incredible night of Skydiggers fun and games on Friday (GREAT show) and some solid face-time and catching up accomplished with part of my extended fam/friends, I’m still not sure I’m feeling all that holiday-motivated.

One of my dearest buds- a good Irish/French Canadian Roman Catholic lad- is always asking me (seriously dude, it’s been something like 25 years- you really don’t know by now?) how I prefer to address the ‘greetings of the season’.  There has been a whole lot of nonsense about ‘wars on Christmas’ and that sort of rot on the ‘news’ channels of late, but I, personally, am in a very comfortable place with regards to my non-belief in the deity driving the holiday but my FIRM belief in the goodness of humanity.  And that does tend to get a good, solid airing at this time of the year.

I tell him (over and over) that any variation of Merry/Happy Christmas is fine by me- and not something that offends in the slightest.  I do celebrate the holiday- after a fashion.  I certainly celebrate the STORY behind the holiday- probably more ‘devoutly’ (for lack of a better word) than some of those who make claims of belief.  The story of Jesus- and the Nativity- is one of the greatest and most enduring of all our many and varied myths.  It chokes me up with its beauty- especially the Adoration of the Magi (an ecumenical touch that very much speaks to me- and you know I love the Zoroastrians), and it has had such an impact on our history and culture… what’s not to love?

Do I have to believe in the divinity of Jesus- or of the details of the story- to appreciate it?  I’d argue that I do not.  The same way I do not have to subscribe to the entirety of the belief system behind the story of Hanukkah to find grace and hope in that miraculous triumph of light over darkness.  Especially at this time of year- and in with Toronto’s current state of emergency (or non-emergency, according to the ‘mayor)- when any and all light in the darkness is welcome and appreciated.

The story of Christmas- in all its variations and off-shoots- permeates our culture.  The music, the subsequent stories- of giving, of love, of acceptance- it represents, to me, one of the many flavours of the strength of our humanity, and the love and hope we cling to as we share our time with those closest to us. Traditional Christmas carols can make me a little teary.  Especially Good King Wenceslas with its wonderful message and example…

This time of year is also always one of pretty heavy introspection.  That’s the pagan in me, I guess.  The longer nights, the turning of the year.  There’s just a whole lot of looking back happening, and a little bit of looking forward that seems to go along with that.  Such thoughts seem to be of weightier import this year, since I’m in a state of flux at the moment- next directions and contributions to the betterment of those things that I’ve been complaining of for the past year (and more) are still being ruminated upon- with no easy solutions found, thus far.  I’m getting close to a game plan- so we’ll see how that pans out, once the city is actually up and running again.

Christmas Eve is generally my night to sit and just feel the feelings of the season.  With a glass of wine- or some rummy eggnog- and the solstice tree all lit up, I take myself back over the past year and use the memories as a starting point for the goals and plans for the one that’s up-coming.  It’s a space of quiet amongst all the hustle and bustle of running to and from friends and family and shopping and cooking/baking.

The past couple of weeks have involved even more rushing about than is even the norm at this time of year, so the respite will be even more welcome- if increasingly plagued by concerns and lack of knowledge just what to do about them.  As usual, I will have some great stories to keep me company- a movie or two (have to re-watch the first installment of The Hobbit in anticipation of seeing Part Two on Boxing Day, and It’s a Wonderful Life is pretty much always on the playlist on the 24th), and I have a novel I’ve been trying to finish for weeks now.  My brain has been running in far too many directions to give it the attention it deserves (Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl, if you’re curious) but I will try again this evening, for a bit, at least.

While I’m reading, there will be, of course, a soundtrack.  It varies little from year to year, and I’ve mentioned some of the songs here before, but this will be the playlist on the Shuffle Daemon that will see me through to the holiday festivities of Wednesday.

This song exemplifies so much of what the season means to me.  Pared down- just those familiar Monkee voices in wonderful harmonies, candlelight and quiet.  It’s comforting in a way I can’t really articulate.  Even if one of them is now missing.

I’m not going to say more about Ray, specifically (but I did link one of the other posts I wrote about him, if you’re interested).  If you’re not a Kinks fan (but seriously, how can you NOT be?), I know you’re probably sick of me going on about him as I have been doing lately.  But this song remains so very culturally relevant that it is tied for my favourite holiday tune.  Remembering those less fortunate.  THAT’S a message that too often gets lost in the iPads and PS-whatevers and stuffstuffstuff (Steve Austin outfits?) that become the focus.

Father Christmas is neck-and-neck with that one there ^^^.  I love the Pogues.  Surprised I haven’t already written about them, actually.  I think Shane MacGowan (who was born on December 25th, interestingly) is one of the great lyricists of the 20th century- despite (or perhaps because of) his seemingly-significant personal demons.  I once saw a copy of a book of his lyrics, called Poguetry, in a music/bookstore at Yonge/Eglinton.  I didn’t buy it, since I was on my way somewhere and didn’t want to carry it around, and I’ve yet to find a copy.  Big regret.  Anyway… the song demonstrates the investment we have in the time of year- and the disappointment of those expectations that sometimes happens.  Or often happens.  But we keep on, and there are memories and new experiences to celebrate.

I wrote about this one before.  Strong, beautiful message.  And it’s Midge.  Co-author of a song that changed the world for a time.

This song.  That changed the world.  I wrote about it before too– and about how Bob and Midge started something incredible with a tune about giving and just being aware of something outside of ourselves.  All year round.

From the sublime to the Canadian… Nav65 and I were talking about this the other day.  A bit of the best of this place I call home.  A bit of funny.  A bit of silly.  A bit of Canada.

Thank you to all of you who have graciously joined me here in this little corner of the WordPress world and demonstrated that community isn’t an anachronism.  My wish for all is that you celebrate, with those you love best (either in realized or remembered festivities) and let go of the hardships of the past year while looking forward to the one to come with hope and the true sense of giving and receiving that the stories of this time of year evoke- once the material trapping are stripped away from the core.

Happy Christmas everyone.  May all your stories be wonderful this season.

Celebrating

Well.  I’m not sure if it’s the residual exhaustion from the not-yet-completed move, or the fact that it’s turned cold here all of a sudden (I HATE the cold and tend toward hibernation mode when the temperatures drop), but I’ve had a hell of time trying to get my brain functioning well enough to offer up a reflection on the other night that might be in any way worthy.

Still, here goes…

Wow.

In a word.

We started with dinner at Mr. Greenjeans in the Eaton Centre.  Since one of our crew is a born-and-bred 905-er, it seemed appropriate to let him have the entirety of the suburbanite-coming-into-the-big-town experience.  Mr. Greenjeans used to be THE go-to place for birthday parties in (junior) high school (they have a giant, share-with-the-whole-table, sundae called ‘Hats off to the Party’- it comes in a clear plastic top hat), complete with Emporium off to the side in which you could buy all kinds of crazy crap.  Artie was pleased with the nod to his youth, and the evening was off to a great start. 

(Despite its position as a fixture in the mall- 34 years!- the place has done a good job of keeping up with current food trends.  I had a great seared tuna sandwich- with a side of their buffalo chips, and a GIANT freakin’ beer.  I’ll go back if in the neighbourhood and jonesin’ for some homey food- even if the Emporium is long gone).

Then it was across the street to the Grande Dame that is Massey Hall.  Fletch and Mar took their seats on the floor, and Artie and I made the looooooong climb up to the second balcony, but we were more than happy with the great view of the stage as the place quickly filled.  One of the nice things about MH is its feeling of intimacy.  For all that it holds 2500+ people, the lines of sight allowed me to pick out and wave to friends who were scattered around the joint before the lights went down.

And when they did…

The Boys from Glasgow opened the show with Broken Glass Park, one of two new songs off their multidisc offering Celebrate: The Greatest Hits+.  A strong song, and one that will bear a further listen or two in days to come.

Then came the instantly recognizable opening notes of an oldie-and-oh-so-goodie, and the excitement level around us skyrocketed.

Jim was not only in fantastic voice, his ambitious stage moves (and singular dance style- I say ‘singular’, but as Artie pointed out, more than once, ‘Jim dances like Fletch’) suggest that he has spent at least part of the ten+ years since the band last toured North America in a yoga studio.  Pretty flexible for an older dude.  Gotta say.  I was impressed.

As many friends commented, it was refreshing to see a performance that was completely without airs or pretension or attitude.  The whole band was there to put on a great show and hang with a welcoming crowd.  They seemed happy to be back in TO- as evidenced even the day before their return to MH- in a shining article in the Toronto Star.  They certainly didn’t disappoint their loyal fan base.

After a packed first set- which included great songs from the vault- they ended with New Gold Dream (81-82-83-84) before taking a break.  Artie was beyond thrilled with the instrumental version of Speed Your Love to Me that started off set two- one of his favourites, and not one he thought to hear performed live.  Charlie (who has retained a REMARKABLE amount of hair) and Mel (who has not) led the band through the loops and whorls of an engaging arrangement of the tune and got the energy level back up and running after the trip to the bar and the merch table (and, in our case, the walk back up all those flights of stairs).

Then Jim retook the stage for I Travel, and Someone Somewhere in Summertime, one of my personal faves (referenced before here).  Other incredibly solid offerings followed, until one tune blew all the wonder that had come before completely out of the water.

Love the manpurse in that video, Jim.

I think I came close to tears a couple of times as they played their Glaswegian hearts out and held the crowd in the palms of their hands for a those minutes.

See the Lights was followed by ‘that song’ (Don’t You (Forget About Me), which, although it may be their most enduringly popular hit- and the only one to really make it big in the US market, isn’t really a Simple Minds song.  I don’t have the same level of hate-on for it that some purists do- it’s a solid and now-iconic tune which evokes John Hughes-80s goodness- but it isn’t top of my list, for sure) which brought the entirety of the crowd to its collective feet.  Which was fantastic since the follow up song, that ended the second set, was Promised You a Miracle.  Artie and I re-enacted Guid’s now-patented charades move in an act of sincere homage.  Miss you, Guid.

Fletch was most impressed by their first encore- Theme for Great Cities– which never received a whole lot of airplay over here but is one of the songs that started his enduring love affair with the band.  Next up:

Never one of my go-to SM tunes, but I think Tuesday’s performance might have changed that a little.

They ended a stellar night with, appropriately,

They sure are.  They are back, in a big way.  And Toronto still loves them (despite some murmurings about the crowd being somewhat ‘lame’- we were all about the high energy groove up in the second balc).

It has been a week (and more) of dealing with the mundane- the job/job search, the packing, the moving, the unpacking, the commuting, the packing, the cleaning, the trips to the storage space…  Having something so out of the ordinary- something extraordinary in every way- happen in the midst of the chaos was a breath of fresh air that was most definitely needed.  I think I might actually manage to make it through the rest of the move now.

SO many thanks to Fletch, the founder of the fun, for getting the tickets, and to Artie and Mar (and everyone else who made it out to the show- even if we only managed a wave in passing) for contributing to a fantastic night.

And to the band… well.  Welcome back boys.  I didn’t realize just how much I’d missed you.  Thanks for showing us one HELL of a great time.  You.  Were.  Magical.  In that way that old friends keep on bringing the magic into life.

Happy weekend, my friends.  Old and new.