Being born a Cape Bretoner, people always assume I’m either the master of many musical instruments or that I must be one hell of a terrific singer. But alas, I am not. Nor were my brothers and sisters growing up, although today that’s changed somewhat since my brother in law Stewart joined the family, a fiddler extraordinaire much in demand amongst the Cape Breton music scene. But Stewie came along much later, so he was of little help back in the day when, alas, we were all thumbs and completely tone deaf it seemed. Now, if truth be told, I’m forever a rock star when I’m driving in the car blaring Gaga or Coldplay and ( most especially) Journey. And I often forget I’m warbling along with my earphones in while running in the treadmill or roaming through the park. And I’ve been known to play a mean imaginary drum kit at times. But no, even that does not a musician make.
But, with that said, I love music. All kinds of music. And I feel a true fellowship and kinship to it, in all its many varied artistic forms. Like most people, music has been the soundtrack to many of the happiest memories of my life. And music’s comforted me through the lowest of times as well. Music lifts my spirits, helps me to relax into the evening after a long day, and gives me energy to face the dawn of a new morning fresh and new.
I believe this long love affair with music first began when I was just a wee, small lad. Growing up in Whitney Pier, in the not quite a metropolis of Sydney, on the beautiful Isle of Cape Breton, I was surrounded by many good, hard-working honest people, who, after putting in day after day of hard back breaking labour (as many an old Celtic song might go), sought to play just as hard when the sun went down. Our house, like many other houses in many other neighborhoods across the Island, was often the site of “kitchen parties”, where friends and families would gather in droves in the heart of the home, the kitchen, eventually spilling over into the living and dining rooms, bathrooms and bedrooms, rooftops and porches….and wherever else one might find space. Bringing with them plenty of food and drink and musical instruments and paraphernalia in tow, the revelers d would sing and dance and carouse well into the early morning hours. I remember those nights still quite clearly. Being only 5 or 6 years of age, clapping and bouncing joyously on my mother’s knee, my younger sister Raylene perched precariously on our father’s knees a few feet away, mirroring my actions as best she could nonetheless. My older sister, Donna, in her green tartan skirt and matching tam, delighting the crowds and company by doing the latest steps learned from her weekly highland dance class. My older brothers, Ian and Dennis, entertaining the masses with how well they could sing along, and recall the words, accents, swear words, and all, to the ol’ Cape Breton coal mining songs. And later, being carried to bed, whimpering while under protest, by my father and mother, but soon drifting off to sleep, still blissfully aware of the slightly muffled but ongoing musical antics below.
`Acceptance. To feel respect and approval from our family, our friends, our fellow man. Something we all yearn for, something we all seek, whether we recognize, or perhaps admit to it, or not. Acceptance can come in many forms, sometimes after long periods of searching for it, after struggles and struggles to work towards it, and sometimes – out of nowhere – when we most least expect it. For me, one of the singular and most life affirming moments that I’ve felt this degree of acceptance was a few years ago at my dear friend Elaine’s wedding.
Elaine and I met through the workplace almost 8 years ago now. In just a short time, we developed an amazing friendship, in a brother from another mother kind of way….well, except she’d be a sister. We bonded over music and food and beer and dancing, and shared a very similar, very wicked Gaelic sense of humour. That, and the girl is absolutely stunningly beautiful, and DAMN – we thought – we looked good together as we went off to take on the town on one of our many adventures. Ironically, and although I am (ahem) a few years older than she, we grew up (me in Whitney Pier, Elaine in New Waterford) about 25 minutes apart in good ol’ Cape Breton, but never met until our paths crossed here.
Anyway, the fun continued, and then one day….er make that night at the Lower Deck, Elaine meets Andy, this good looking, rugby playin’ transplanted Newfoundlander now living and working in the Valley, and the sparks flew. In a magical, here come the fireworks kinda way. And then….nothing. Andy was presumably back home, but had her number, but still, no phone call. The first day I said “don’t be silly, of course he’ll call! You just wait!” The next day, seeing Elaine’s disappointed face, I said “Um, maybe he’s busy, or maybe his dog ate the phone number you think?” And after the third day of no contact, I cried “forget that loser, we’ll go cruising for another one, a better one next Saturday!” (Yes, I literally did teach my buddy how to “cruise” guys, to her great success, but that’s a story for another day!) But then, wouldn’t you know it, Andy phoned that very night. And every night after that. And suddenly he started visiting his sister Charmaine (I love this girl! And a beer rep sister….I mean, come on, seriously, how cool is that??) in the city And months later, moved himself to the city and before long they were completely inseparable, and within a year or so happily engaged to be married.
With this exciting news, Elaine’s Ma Kaye was a more frequent visitor to town, eager to help plan her youngest daughter’s wedding. After hearing so much about her mom, a very lively spirit if ever there was one, well-known in our homeland of Cape Breton for her love of music and step dancing, I was excited for the chance to finally meet her. And we did meet, although rather unexpectedly during the work day, when I ran into them in the hospital corridor where we both worked, on an afternoon Kaye stopped by for a visit. Elaine greeted me with a big hug, while her mom gave me a quick, polite smile but kept walking. “Ma, THIS is my friend Colin that you’ve heard so much about!” Kaye looked at me quizzically, then back to Elaine. “Huh, this is Colin? This guy? Really?” To me “Are you sure?” “MA!” Elaine cried, looking just slightly mortified. “Yup, 100 percent!” I laughed, assuming she must mean my sexuality, “but if I weren’t I would’ve run off with your daughter here years ago, just so you know!”. Elaine continued to apologize long after, and noted what came out of her mom later was even “worse”, something about how I didn’t seem to look gay or act gay, and people must look at me and think “wow, what a waste, with no girlfriend, no wife.” But I thought her mom’s reaction quite funny and amusing, and knew her comments were to be taken lightly. “Come on,” I’d say, “We ARE from Cape Breton! The only point of reference many of our peeps back home have these days is Jack MacFarland, by way of Jack Tripper. Kaye and I came to grow quite close over the following weeks, and she came to love Shawn even more, and the three of us delighted in each other’s company and our ability to make each other laugh, usually at Andy and Elaine’s eye popping and/or eye rolling expense.
GLEEKIN’ OUT! Or how I secretly learned to LOVE…
I HEART Glee. Undeniably, unwaveringly, unabashedly, I am a total GLEEK. But that wasn’t always the case. In truth, I was drawn, virtually kicking and screaming to the show, by my friend Susan. Now Susan and I seem to have a lot in common, and typically like the same things. For instance, we share a passion that knows no bounds for the chicken fingers, and more specifically the honey dill dipping sauce, one can only find at Rogue’s Roost. Entertainment Weekly has been, at times, our one and only Bible, and we revel in gossiping about whatever celebrity details we learn from any trashy website or tabloid cover or radio DJ. We love to try to one up each other with our trivia knowledge, then usually end up conceding that we are, indeed, both super geniuses and really should be in charge of the world. We both share undying love for Veronica Mars and all things Kristen Bell, recognizing the genius and creativity of THAT show while, sadly, the rest of the world did not. Fact is, I trust this woman’s opinion. She knows what I like, knows what I’ll get when maybe no one else will, and vice versa. But one thing we did NOT have in common was Glee. Before the pilot episode was over, you see, she became almost obsessed. She’d come to work every day, raving about the show, about how funny it was, and what great singers they were, and how she’d sworn off all previous celebrity boyfriends (of which there were many) for the love of someone called Finn.
“Whatever”, I said. ”Um, Fame much?”, and” Oh, and I have two words for you: Cop Rock! ” It’ll never last, I thought. People will get tired of the silly premise (a high school glee club…seriously??) and it will soon die a quick death. But she persisted, pressuring me that I had to WATCH THE SHOW, at least once. Still, I resisted, stubbornly refusing to give it a chance. Then, one Friday morning I came to work one day to find Susan surrounded by all of our coworkers as she delighted them in telling stories about the previous night’s apparently “stellar” episode. Something about a celibacy club and a bad boy named Puck and a surprise pregnancy, supposedly from sharing a hot tub, or at least that’s what the dumb football player believed. (And you call that writing, I scoffed?!?) But, after listening to all the talk, and seeing all of their increasingly annoying smiley faces, I thought, DAMN, something this big is happening in the entertainment world and I don’t know what it is to even reference or name check???? NEVER!!!, I cried, to startled glances, forgetting that I cried out in a really loud voice rather than in my head like I was planning. So that very night, I ran home and illegally downlo….er, somehow mysteriously procured I mean…much of the first season, and then convinced my partner Shawn ( who’s typically pretty easy-going and up for anything, but on this occasion raised an eyebrow and said “Um, wasn’t this once called Fame?? “) that we had to watch ‘em, as it was now Susan’s favourite show and everyone was talking about it and I was NOT going to be left out of the loop! Or worse, ignored because I didn’t now what the hell people were talking about!
So we did. For two and a half straight days…
And…I didn’t shower (and I love showers!), didn’t care when I ate last, didn’t care if I stepped outside….I lived and breathed Glee! I actually couldn’t wait until I got back to work on Monday so I could talk about how much I LOVED THIS PROGRAM. And when someone would say they didn’t watch it or weren’t a fan, I’d say “wow, now that’s just collossally stupid.” Like that, one of the converted, one of the eager masses waiting for the twists and turns that await those stormy lovers “Finchel”, or breathlessly waiting to see if windows would start to shatter when Mercedes hit those high notes, or stealing Britney’s hilariously dim-witted and naive one liners for my Facebook status updates (“Did you know that Dolphins are gay sharks?” “When I pulled my hamstring I went to a misogynist” and “I took all my antibiotics and now I don’t know how to leave.”) I was Gleeked out on Glee, and I was loving it… Continue reading