Monday, July 25, 2005

Sudbury! Sudbury! Sudbury!

Friday. The barista at the coffee joint near the Bathurst Manor Ancestral Home hands me my Grande Rift Valley and I rush off to the airport to pick up Marty, who was arriving at 8:45 a.m. With one jittery hand on the wheel and Q107 blaring, we two caffinated wonders take off to Sudbury to visit Miriam at camp.

Make no mistake about it -- the 400 and all roads leading from Rome up to da nord country der, eh? are treacherous. They will kill you if they don't pass you, and sometimes they'll kill you AND pass you. Some parents reported that there was a fatal long after we had settled in at our downtown bivouac. That added another hour or more to many parents' trip time of roughly four hours, if you calculate in a stop in Bracebridge for a decent meal at a waterfront cafe plus a refueling.

Anyway, we were safely tucked away at our downtown Howard Johnson on Brady Street, not to be confused with the Holiday Inn on Regent, which last year was the Howard Johnson on Regent at precisely the time when the Howard Johnson on Brady was the Holiday Inn on Brady. We were all very confused. No apologies necessary, though, we were all there for a good time and didn't really care too much. Despite the fact that the Soccer Tournament was on, there were still a few rooms at several hotels in the area.

How were we going to use this weekend? We debated a visit to the science centre or possibly to the Big Nickel to see a nickel mine and the exhibits. There was a powwow on in the area; lots of music; art festivals and more. My choice was to sleep, uninterrupted, for many hours at a time. For most of the weekend. It was a plan that worked.

Friday night at 7 we were tooling down Long Lake Road toward Tilden Lake Road, all alone, no other cars in sight. We no sooner got to the opening of the camp when two BMW SUVs flanked us and together we made it to the parking lot.

We -- Miriam's parental units -- were VIPs, it turns out: the only parents of campers. The rest of the parents were there to see their kids who were on staff, or else they were board members whose objective was to raise funds for the camp from people like us.

Although Miriam was thrilled to see us, she wisely kept her distance so that I wouldn't be able to do anything to embarrass her. I will not name names here, but I did actually know around 70 percent of the parents there from my many previous lives. There were loads of people (now adults) who I knew from school and also from camp. When our own beloved Camp Massad (of blessed memory) in Torrance, Ontario, passed away in 1978, it left a lot of orphans. Well, here we were. Now with our own kids in a camp which has not only survived, but has apparently thrived with our own kids in the system.

Over the course of the weekend Miriam would approach me with some of her friends. Of course, right away it starts with the Jewish geography. Over the years Miriam has gone from mortified to kinda morbidly fascinated by how I know these folks. One thing for sure -- I adore seeing them from year to year, particularly now that I am no longer living in Canada on a full-time basis. It's as much a visitors day for me as it is for her. We had a great Shabbat evening dinner, hung out with the director, who has become a great friend, and left around midnight. In fact, we were the last to leave.

We had Saturday to ourselves since her program did not start until evening. I had managed to find a terrifc vintage store which had a handknit sweater with Ojibway patterns on it which was done in a combination of intarsia and Fair Isle techniques. It had a sewn-in lining. Just by the look of it, I could tell that some nice grandmother had made this sweater with the intention of having her marry "in."

The program that night was great and I got to see the rest of the "gang" who had not been part of the previous evening's experience. Once again, we closed the joint. But not before Miriam's tentmates had begged me to sleep over. Marty was quite willing to let me go, but I was scared that I'd get kicked out of camp and bring the innocents down with me. Instead I offered them accommodations at the NJ house whenever they come to visit.

The next day we picked up Miriam from the designated spot and before long we were driving around in the misty, dreary rain, looking for a little hot action. So we went to Value Village where I did my usual Garbageologist schtick and checked out the tees and sweatshirts for the wealth of information about how the locals live. Miriam found a Tim Horton's soccer jersey. I admired the incredible selection of hand-knit blankets in the bedding section. As I described what I was looking at (intricate chevron pattern which was made on a large circular needle; clapotis; bowtie pattern, etc), a lady overheard me and decided she needed to have all of these magnificent blankets. She thanked me for the knitting lesson and tossed the beautiful handmade items into her buggy. Total cost: mebbe ten or twelve bucks. A bargain!

Eventually we went for an early dinner where I got the real 411 on what's happening this year. It was a classic mom-daughter gabfest, which I have missed all summer long, since both my babies went to camp.

Not terribly eager to leave camp, naturally I snuck back in with poor Marty in tow. Miriam took me to the lounge where a bunch of the guys were jamming. The bass player had popped his low E string and was banging away on three strings, although he sounded terrific. The guitar player unstrapped his Strat and gave it to me to check out. I plugged in through a recent model solid state Fender Champ and flipped it to the out-of-phase position, and then I set the reverb to 7, bass to 3, treble to 7 and volume to deafening. It was time to wail.

I cannot imagine how embarrassed poor Miriam must have been, but she sucked it in pretty good and watched me bang out some blues with the guys. We chit chatted about Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix. I showed the guitar player a few licks. The drummer was actually the other guitar player at camp, but he wanted to listen, so he took a seat behind the kit. After a few measures here and there -- just enough to whet their musical whistles -- I unstrapped myself and told them, "remember, never underestimate the blues."

As I left, two of them ran up behind me and Miriam had the unfortunate duty of confirming to htme them that I was her mother. She lamented that this would mean that from now until the end of camp, she would be bombarded with taunts of "your mother's so kewl!" She and I know the truth; that I am not kewl; that I just play guitar.

Before we left, Miriam promised me she would take guitar as one of her interest groups. All I ask is that she come home with a few chords. Once again, we were the last ones to leave. With Mattisyahu blasting on the camp sound system, and also from my car CD player, we headed back south and arrived safely at 10:15 last night.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Survival of the Fittest

After tae kwon do class yesterday one of the students shocked us with her story of a car that had just almost knocked over her and her new baby as they tried to cross a busy street in Teaneck, NJ. The car was being driven by an elderly gentleman who apparently was not as sharp as he once was. The sidewalks were under construction; she had a tricky time negotiating the bits of the sidewalk that were usable. Out of the blue, this man's car sped toward her. She darted in between a parked car and quickly pulled the stroller up with her. Meantime, the driver knocked over four large traffic cones and sped off. My fellow student was sure that he didn't see her.

Lookit, in Canada, we drive crazy, but we drive close to each other because essentially we trust that the other guy will get out of the way and let us pass if we really need to keep barrelling. We are a fairly unassuming, social bunch. And we do really trust the other guy. The other big reason that you might want to get out of the way is because in Canada our beer is made with actual alcohol.

And besides, it's altogether possible that the guy knows you and just wants to drive close to say "Hey, how's it going?"

My tae kwon do instructor and I talked about this and then equated the scenario to the midwest, where -- strong beer notwithstanding -- the same thing could happen.

However, here in the Northeast it's about survival of the fittest. The driver may have been thinking that if this little lady with her baby buggy couldn't get out of the way fast enough, they deserved what they got.

I think he's onto something. It could also be that he is a martial arts master. I will ponder this when I'm out blading today, listening to ZZ Top on the iPod.