Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Song for Norman

Something within fishermen tries to make fishing into a world perfect and apart - I don't know what it is or where, because sometimes it is in my arms and sometimes in my throat and sometimes nowhere in particular except somewhere deep. Many of us probably would be better fishermen if we did not spend so much time watching and waiting for the world to become perfect From Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It (Listen to The Mountain Goats Pale Green Things) I’d imagine that my uncle Norman MacLean had close to nothing in common with the author who shares his name. Uncle Norman said little and, to my knowledge, wrote even less. He was a willow of a man; gentle, dependable, solid and uncomplicated. His voice, when he used it, was a curious instrument; by turns high-pitched and rumbling. It whispered and roiled like a big ship moving into dock. Then it slid, in bursts of humour; a wrenching metal hull on ancient, wet wood. Norman died Friday at the age of 83. Like the author, my Norman MacLean was a physical man who loved the things his hands and feet and arms and legs and heart and eyes could do when they worked together. He delivered mail for over 30 years; he loved softball and hockey, tennis and badminton. He loved to fish. When Norman said he and my aunt Jean - who was his life for fifty years - were “goin’ down th’Margaree” it was understood that at the end of the day there’d be trout; speckled and shining, peeking out a shallow bath of milk like something precious glinting through the murky soup of a prospector’s pan. To understand the importance of “goin’ down th’Margaree,” you’d have to do more than listen to my uncle. In a sense, you would have to feel the rhythms of the language he used. You’d have to know him, and Cape Breton, well enough to fill in the spaces between the words. For Cape Breton’s English is full of unexplained cues that an outsider might find strange, if he hears them at all. The accent is part of the mystery. It's as constant as the tide, eroding consonants and shrinking and rounding vowels as ceaselessly as salt water smoothes stones and salt air lifts the paint off clapboard houses. But history and world view are there too; nestled in the pauses, burnishing the words, adding weight. “Me’n th’boys used'teh play bahl there,” a 74-year-old Norman once murmured to me from behind the wheel of his old Grand Am. We were passing an empty playing field, quieted by the grey of late October. My aunt shook her head in the front seat as Norman's eyes filled with the twinkle of a reformed hellraiser. They caught mine in the rear view mirror and, without smiling or giving much away, he delivered his punchline: “Dat was b’fore I met your Aunt Jean, now." He allowed himself a chuckle, but not a smile, as he left me to imagine the days of his wreckless youth. “Yeh, b’fore I met Jean." Other stuff! - FunJunkie! has started its annual summer burn CD exchange. It looks like, well, fun. (From LHB) - I'm not particularly partizan...but is anyone in Parliament more transparent than Belinda Stronach? Or, for that matter, more vapid? - The OTHER 50 Tracks tracks will be staying up until THIS Sunday in recognition of the fact that I will be making another appearance on CBC Toronto's Here and Now. Look out for me on Friday between 4 and 5. You can stream it here. - Did any PWI readers in Fat City get to see Plaskett at the Tulip Fest Monday? How was it? - Comic book geek? Check THIS out (but only if you can afford to goof around for several hours)

I saw Joel Plaskett a few weeks ago doing a solo show at Hugh's Room in Toronto. There was a company filming the show and then giving away the DVD to everyone as they left. This was the first show that they have done, kind of a test run. I thought you might want a copy, so I got an extra.
Kick ASS Nathan. Thanks a million!

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