A Lament for Lost Outport Libraries

Half the libraries to close—our rural places take another hit.
I considered it all, just struck in disbelief.
Just another in a slew of bad decisions
and I’m torn; should I be angry or feel grief?

First the financial disaster that is Muskrat Falls,
and the levy—not a tax; more like a fine.
And the nickel and diming, I could even take that,
but this latest move shows that we’ve crossed a line.

Still those in control insist this move will result
in a system that is better for us all.
The rurals can dump their kids to fetch some books
when they drive to town to stock up at the mall.

The plan: drop off your ‘scrip, and go grab a burger
while the library staff diligently minds your kids
then take the hour-long drive back home
on winter roads, avoiding potholes, moose and skids.

Seems all so great ‘til you think about it and realize
that’s not really how libraries are supposed to work.
They’re not dumping grounds where you grab some stuff
and take off while your kids just run berserk.

My thoughts drift back to Southern Harbour
in Placentia Bay, the place that I once called home.
Mild winters, lots of fish, good work but still
nearly always under a misty, thick fog filled dome.

On those many, many days when the weather was too poor
to chase after a puck or smack around a ball
off to the library we’d all head for the afternoon.
Me—the bookworm—I’d figure we had ‘er scalled.

The names that then became my lifelong friends
Adams, King, Archer, LeGuin, Asimov and Dick,
Niven, Clarke, Zelazney, Thompson,
Hinton, Herriot—so many more I could pick.

I’d never have known about their thoughts
and stories of worlds far better than I could dream.
Without them I figure I’d still be stuck in the past
and soaking up the crap from each new political team.

And the sense of community that Bride created
along with the library board—she made it such
that singalongs, story time and celebrations
added to books and reading that special touch.

But now austerity is the only word.
Whatever judged “not needed” has to close.
So outport libraries are seen as waste;
so called “low hanging fruit” one does suppose.

Know what? What frightens me to the core
is the realization that we are now led by
those who fail to see the beyond the moment
and understand the reasons for the outcry.

There’s more to life than working a job to make
enough to pay your taxes and your bills
with just enough left for fast food and perhaps
some meds and other stuff to treat your ills.

It’s not just about a few books and “shh.”
it’s even about more than basic literacy.
It’s more than access to internet and government docs.
It’s more than the facts to support curiosity.

No, more than anything libraries are living symbols of the hope;
the feeling that, through knowledge and wisdom we can do much more—
a thing our forebears knew so very well.
Now I fear for what the future might have in store.

Because with those closings that hope won’t shine so bright;
yet another reason to pack it up and leave.
And what of those who still decide to stay
in a place diminished, perhaps for them we’ll grieve.

For myself, and in the here and now
it won’t matter much, my job surrounds me with all I need.
Besides, right now I earn enough
to pay for Internet and the things I choose to read.

But things are cyclical and there will surely come a time
when I find myself in some underfunded private health care home
without the work and responsibility that nurtures me today
family grown and feeling so very much alone.

I will no longer get the refuge I once found
in that place of respect, knowledge, in which I felt secure;
no longer will I find the books and things
like I once did, just a short walk from my door.

But it is what it is, I and I know, it’s true
so often things are decided on a whim
by those who understand and use them the least
and just want their way; only want to win.

Still, the savings are so miniscule against
the deficit that it’s supposed to reduce
and we know the damage that this act will do
and for that stupidity there can be no excuse.

Second Snowstorm in April

Just last week after the last blizzard
I dropped my car off at the shop
figuring I’d seen the last of winter’s blast
the guys gave my winter tires the swap.

Now it’s not because I like the look
of my lovely alloy wheels
and it’s not because I like the way
driving with skinny summer tires feels.

No it’s really because I’ve been a teacher too long
and I’ve a reputation to upkeep.
From those winter tires I’ll get five years
and I don’t care if you call me cheap.

But I feel a little off this morning
with the weather so very wicked
and my car on the lawn up off the road
lest the Pearlie cops give me a ticket.

So what odds I’ll head ‘er out
and crawl my way to work
driving slow with cars backed up behind.
I’ll be that slow coach you think’s a jerk.

But laugh all you want, it’s spring after all
soon the rain and fog will melt it down
and soon enough we’ll get to see again
winter garbage strewn about the town.

So when you drive with your studded tires
all decked off like tracks on a skidoo
ripping ruts in the road as you go along
I’ll be the one who’s cussing you.

The Day the Dreams all Died

A few years back when oil flowed free
we all bowed down on bended knee
and gave thanks that “have not” was no more.
But now that the oil’s so cheap
there’s no thanksgiving; it’s time to weep
and with no savings the wolf’s back at our doors.

So last fall we turfed the old crowd out.
“A Stronger Future,” we heard the new crowd shout.
“But first let us consult.
You’ll all love the result.”

So we all sat in anticipation;
a brilliant plan our expectation;
solution to our situation;
but now we all sit in agitation
the day all hope just died…

So bye bye that future’s a lie;
sold my Chevy for the levy ‘
cause my account has gone dry.
Don’t have enough left to drown my sorrows with rye.
I’ll be in debt ‘til the day that I die.

I’m hit with even more HST
and in an province that has low literacy
we’re the first to get taxed on books.
Now insurance is subject to that tax
gas’ll go so high I my vaccy got the axe.
Guess I’ll be buying my ciggies from the crooks.

And as for your kids still in school:
bugger classes will be the rule.
And I hope you’ve got an RESP
‘cause it’s about to cost more for your degree.

And while we hoped for some light ahead,
or some compassion, what we got instead
was told to suck it up—
got handed a bitter empty cup
the day all hope just died

So bye bye that future’s a lie;
sold my Chevy for the levy ‘
cause my account has gone dry.
Don’t have enough left to drown my sorrows with rye.
I’ll be in debt ‘til the day that I die.

I just sit and listen to the news.
“Can this get worse?” the mind does muse.
But then I think of that mess called Muskrat Falls.
Barely worth it at 6 now going to 12 billion dollars.
“It’ll make light bills double,” commons sense hollers,
and if the North Spur fails we’ll all have sweet F—all.

And still they’re taking shots in the dark.
it’s started with closing Masonic Park.
Something about money savin’
too bad I don’t believe ‘en.

And perhaps the thing that hurts the most
as I consider heading for the west coast
is that for a time I did believe their boasts…
…but now the hope has died

And I’m singing…

So bye bye that future’s a lie;
sold my Chevy for the levy ‘
cause my account has gone dry.
Don’t have enough left to drown my sorrows with rye.
I’ll be in debt ‘til the day that I die.

Perhaps I’ll move the family to Brunei.


Caller: this is Windows…

You know those guys who call on the land line and insist that they’re calling from “Windows – and that your computer has a virus?” These days I have a script right by the phone and I just read it off.

Oh, the computer has a virus. Which one are you referring to?
My old Dell Laptop that I use for a media server by the TV?
My HP laptop that I need to replace soon?
My PC downstairs that I also use as a print server?
Or maybe it’s not a computer at all, maybe its my android phone?
Or my Nexus Tablet?
Or the iPad from work?

Oh, wait, maybe it’s not mine at all. Maybe it’s my wife’s HP laptop?
Or perhaps her iPad?
Or maybe her iPhone?

It could be one of the kids’ machines too.
Maybe my eldest son’s desktop PC?
Or his Lenovo laptop?
Or maybe his Android phone?
Or his 3DS?
Or his Sony Vita or his old PSP?
Or his PS4?

Or maybe the next-oldest son?
Maybe his desktop PC?
Or his old Dell laptop?
Or his new Lenovo Laptop?
Or his DS?
Or his Android phone?

Maybe even the youngest son.
Maybe his Desktop PC?
Or his HP laptop?
Or his Android tablet?
Or his Android phone?
Or his 3DS

Maybe even the daughter.
Perhaps it’s her Toshiba laptop?
Or her Android Tablet?
Or her Android Phone?

Maybe it’s none of those.
It could be the Xbox One,
Or the Xbox 360
Or the Wii?
Maybe even one of the old game boys?

Hell it could be one of the really old ones – the original Xbox or one of the Dreamcast Units. They haven’t been used in years but still might be left on ‘cause there’s a fine heat coming up from the basement?

“Is it warm out your way? Enough to freeze ya here—except for all the heat from the basement, what with all the  $%#& viruses I must have they’re all working overtime, eh, b’y?””

I’ve never NEVER gotten to the bottom of the list. Somewhere along the line after I ignore his repeated attempts to say, “the one closest to you,” he says a few bad words and hangs up.

Shagger. I don’t even get the last line; the one where I call HIM an arsehole and hang up.

I love it anyway.

And Then it Got Worse

The first strains of the story: the lone female firefighter and member of the municipal council in a nearby small town alleged a long history of discrimination against her. My first response: disbelief. In my defense, it’s a learned response, a natural one to the tonnes of pure bullshit I’ve encountered throughout my life; at school, at work, in social gatherings, in the media…essentially everywhere. The stuff—if you care to look beyond the obvious—is so prevalent that, unless you wish to live a hermit’s life, the only response you can possibly have is to assume that everything you get second-hand has to be false and that a burden of proof rests on the story’s teller. “What makes you say that?” my inner voice always inquires whenever I hear anything.

But then the evidence came. Piece by piece the story came together: Brenda Seymour, the sole female member on s volunteer fire department denied the opportunity for advancement or further training. A personal, successful effort to obtain that training resulted in still no advancement opportunities. Time after time she was denied a fair shake but still she persevered.

The disbelief was replaced by a rising anger. How blind and spiteful could her so-called colleagues possibly be?

I sought answers; discussed it with friends and fellow workers. The overwhelming feeling was the same as mine. The one conclusion was that it was increasingly evident that the volunteer fire department in that rural community must have become the one sole holdout mens’ club and was fiercely holding on to that status for dear life. How quaint. Here in the 21st century there still remains, here and there, the notion that women need to be regularly and systematically excluded from the company of men and, furthermore, the civil unit charged with saving life and property is the most appropriate place to do it. Let the pretty little women busy their cute quiet adorable helpless selves (1) making cold plates to raise money and (2) laundering our undies and / or otherwise cleaning up after us. We men folk have real work to do; tasks that they are clearly not fit for.

Let’s take a quick joke-break. Riddle me this: how do you summarize the Entire Russian History in five words?

Answer: And Then It Got Worse

That’s just what happened to this story. Shortly after the evidence started to pile up in favour of Ms. Seymour a story came to light about an alleged short (not that “short” matters at all) pornographic video that was shown at the end of firefighting training session, a session in which Ms. Seymour was the lone female in attendance. (Sweet $#@!&% I can’t believe I just wrote that.) Apparently everyone had laughed at it. The training officer responsible for the “event” gave several radio interviews, verified that he had done it, and went on to indicate that he “meant no innuendo” and he’d only done it to “help blow off some steam” and it must have been OK because “even she laughed at it.”

I was driving home from work. I was tired and could think of nothing intelligent to say. Suddenly I was aware of what it must feel like when under the influence of mushrooms or acid. I tried to say something but in light of what I’d just heard my brain was simply incapable of forming any coherent thought. I imagine what happened to my neurons, under the influence of that onslaught of complete and utter ignorant bullshit was roughly the equivalent of what happens to your whole body when suddenly immersed in ice-water. Biological function temporarily ceases. Paralysis. Yes, complete bran paralysis.

I managed a snort. That was it.

Son #2, who was also in the car, recovered before me, “Technically the part about no innuendo was correct as innuendo implies a degree of subtlety. Nothing subtle about what he did.”

That was it. The anger boiled over. How in the name of GOD could anyone be that stupid? He showed pornography (yes, pornography!!!!) in an educational setting and not only saw absolutely nothing wrong in it but also is now angry at Ms. Seymour who has, in his mind, now betrayed the trust and camaraderie he had so perfectly brought together! Ah, yes, nothing brings da b’ys together like some shared porn and how dare that uppity woman for upsetting the cozy happy state of affairs he has so proudly cultivated in the 300 or so firefighting men he’s trained.

And then it got worse; more stories about the less-than-stellar behaviour of Ms. Seymour’s colleagues, including one about a firefighter’s headgear that’s just plain too disgusting to relate. Take my word for it.

And then it got worse; efforts to remove the pesky Ms. Seymour, clearly an all-out troublemaker, from council.

And then it got worse; twenty members of the fire department not only resigned but also, a few of the more thuggish among them saw fit to buzz by–intimidate, that is–on their loud snow machines when the media tried to interview Ms. Seymour.

Through it all, though, Ms. Seymour kept that same quiet dignity that she has so consistently displayed both on council and at the fire department. “I learned a lot of things in training to be Firefighter 2,” she noted in a radio interview, “but giving up was not one of them.”

Anger finally gone, I thought about how I should be feeling.

I thought about the many times she’d been denied promotion but no fellow man had shown the courage to speak up.

I thought about the community rally that had been organized to “save our men.” It had been judged appropriate that the quiet efforts of one victimized woman had resulted in the need for the whole community to gather behind and lend support to the male bullies. Poor things.

I thought about the group of men, plus one woman, that had viewed porn in an educational setting. Some thought it was funny but most likely felt some degree or other of awkwardness. None of the men, though, ever did stiffen their spine and object, instead taking the easy way out a just going along with it.

I thought about the chiefs—all men—who had never bothered to show leadership when it was required. That filthy disgusting incident with the head gear, for instance. Did it even occur to the chief that the one and only correct response was, “Go get your belongings and go home. Don’t come back.”?

Shame it is, then. There’s no choice left, is there? The kind of systematic, pack-related bullying experienced by Ms. Seymour was done by a large, organized group of men. Not only was the abuse done by many, and over a long period of time but, far worse than that, never once. NOT EVEN ONCE did a group of men or even a single measly male voice speak up and demand that it be stopped. This is not something that can be dismissed as the actions of a few yahoos. It is not something that can be attributed to a “small town mentality” or anything like it.

No, it’s far worse. It’s a vestigial nasty, ugly, primitive little piece of evil that has managed to stay in the male gene pool despite the fact that it provides absolutely no evolutionary advantage whatsoever. This is something that reflects not only on the poor clueless fools who still seek to defend their mindless misogynistic lives, but on all of the rest of us who have chosen to remain silent so many times when we bore witness to something similar. Because we have.

Shame it is.

To my female friends: if it seems that I’m a little more shy or withdrawn over the next few days now you know why. Please don’t make any effort to “make things better” by pointing out that not every man is as clueless, ignorant and just plain hateful as the few who continue to defend the actions I’ve outlined. Sometimes people need to be left in a funk for a while and allowed time to reflect on certain things they have taken for granted for far too long.

I noticed on social media that we should forgive the perpetrators because of the courage they have all shown through the years. We are assured that it takes great courage to run into a burning building.

No, it doesn’t. It takes nothing more than adrenaline. We’re wired for it. Under the right circumstances, especially with a crowd egging you on, anyone could do it. It’s a one shot thing, nothing more.

Real courage is what you have when you stand up and face overwhelming adversity.


And again.

And again.

I’m left to reflect on the courage and dignity shown by Ms. Seymour throughout all of this. I notice also that the Mayor of Spaniard’s Bay has written an apology to Ms. Seymour. I suppose it’s a start.

Now, I ask you, do you really think that the story that originated in Spaniard’s Bay, NL is a single, isolated one?

And then it got…

The Northern Coal Miner

For most of my life I’ve worked here at the mine,
this dim miserable dusty old hole.
From when I rise from my sleep, ‘til I’m ready to drop
it’s all about digging the coal.

“Can’t slow down, Boys,” the boss cheerfully laughs,
his eyes so twinkling and bright,
“The demand for our stuff continues to rise
and, besides, we’ll need extra tonight.”

How I dream, as each day slips by me in the dark
how my life could have been different from this;
how instead of the aches, the cuts and the cough
I’d be up there, living day-to-day bliss.

The work is so tough I can barely recall
the times when it wasn’t so hard
back when I was young, and had fun with my friends
when my back was still straight, hands unscarred.

But good times never last and I was handed my lot:
mine or factory—a choice drawn from a hat
I closed my eyes, made a wish, and drew out my slip…
bad luck in the draw and that’s that.


And now every day, as I swing the hammer
and drill to cut the black rock by the tonne
I try not to think of the lucky ones up above
and the good times, through fate, that they’ve won.

The factory above is so different from here,
a place of joy built for life driven by skill.
Sure, there’s still lots of work to be done
but it’s clean, safe, and a place for good will.


But I know I should stop dreaming of those fine things,
pick up my tools, and do what I must.
My day’s quota of coal is not met for today
so I’ll get back to hacking rocks through the dust.

Tonight’s the biggest day of our calendar year.
Above ground they’ve been loading the goods all the day.
Down here we’ve turned on the second conveyer belt—
half for the furnace, and half for the sleigh.

And well I imagine the Boss’s big hearty laugh
tonight as the sleigh takes to air from the snow
finally loaded and ready for kids good or bad:
(SPOKEN) toys or coal, “Merry Christmas, Ho Ho Ho!”


Christmas Songs: My Top Ten (Part 3 of 3)

Mummers’ Song

by Simani

Mummering is an age old tradition that came to our shores along with the European visitors who, for one reason or another, decided to stay. These days it’s only practiced occasionally and mainly in our rural communities where people are fairly certain that those weirdly-garbed visitors have lunacy, not larceny on their minds.

This time of year you’ll find it impossible to attend any party and not hear it. For a DJ, if people are in a particularly lazy mood this one is a sure bet to get people off their backsides and out onto the dance floor for a scuff.

The nonstalgic sentiment it beings is something that never seems to get old. “Why is that?” you might wonder. Some might say that it’s just the nonstalgic longing that is associated with either (a) expats who wish they could be home again or (b) those who have consumed too much of the craic.


Still others might say it’s related to the fact that we’re never satisfied. No matter what we have we always want more.


I think it’s more complicated and something else entirely. Let’s start with a bit of wisdom I gleaned from my brother in law Darrell some years back. At a Boxing Day party with all of the extended family present one of our sisters in law was walking around videoing people’s responses to, “What’s your favourite part of Christmas?” Darrel’s answer was the only one that has stuck with me, “watching the kids opening their presents.” It’s true, isn’t it? There are few pleasures that compare with the one that you might refer to as “the spirit of giving” and it’s made all the more magical by the presence of others. A one to one gift exchange is touching, but one in which many are present is downright magical.

It’s all about the shared experience, and that’s the whole point here. Once, not too long ago in my province, there was no electricity grid, few radios, fewer still TVs and, of course, no Internet. The fun that people had was built around the whole idea of the shared experience and included things like religious celebrations, dances, card games, parties…and mummuring.

Crude though these events may seem when viewed through the modern day lens that includes personal computers, big screen TVs, they were, arguably, an order of magnitude more intense in terms of raw enjoyment. That, not anything else, is what I suspect it is that people are longing for.

So let’s go have some fun—together.

Christmas 1915

by Cormac McConnell, performed by Celtic Thunder

The uniforms worn by the performers resemble the one worn my my Grando MacCormack and suddenly I’m drawn back in time…

The first stop is to the collectively-recalled times of my youth when the “Christmas Parcel” would arrive from Ireland. Grannie and Grando always prepared a festive package with treats for all. For my Mom and Dad there’d be…stuff. I honestly cannot recall what they’d get. You know how it can be with children’s awareness in times of great excitement, such as the opening of the parcel. The focus narrows, tunnel like, to just what pertains to them. The stuff for the parents amounted to little more than something to heighten the anticipation for the ‘real’ stuff. Next, the pudding and cake with it’s double-layered icing. The marzipan was my favourite. The box of Fry Cadbury chocolate, it’s contents to be distributed 2 or 3 pieces at a time would then emerge. Second-last were the Annuals. My Beano would be read, and re-read so many, many times. Finally the gifts for me and my sister. Legos would be my favourite.

And then off to the next stop, the world experienced by my Grando when he served in the Somme from 1915 until 1919. The song that follows is based on real-life events that were reported here and there along the front, in France and Belgium, one hundred years ago. Perhaps he was a part of it. I don’t know. Like most vets he did not speak of his time there.

You might listen to this song and get only a simple message—a cry for peace. I see so much more. Like war itself, perhaps this song is much more complicated than it seems. For those who choose to only see the futility of war I can only offer the simple fact that the majority of the countries involved in the “Great War” and the World War that followed 20 years later have not since taken arms against one another. Perhaps one lesson learned from those huge conflicts was the need to set war as only the absolute last resort and not to be so quick to set sights only on the opportunity for glory and honour since they only come at a staggering cost of human life.

As for those lives, regardless of which ‘side’ the fought for it’s plain to me that they were not and are given in vain. Though wars continue to be fought throughout our world there are still many places where peace continues to be the norm. Every second of that peace was bought and paid for by the blood of those men and women who bravely offer themselves to do what most of us deem as unthinkable. It seems therefore only right to honour those who put our peace ahead of their own safety by showing respect in any way we can and by doing our own part to ensure that war remains the choice of last resort.

Could those same soldiers who enjoyed that all too brief soldiers’ truce ever imagine what would eventually come of their actions? Now, exactly one hundred years later, can we?

I’ll be There Christmas Eve

by Ron Hynes, performed by the Ennis Sisters

There’s something of an irony in the way that a time of the year that brings the most joy can also bring back memories and feelings of pain, of hurts in inflicted by and inflicted on. The feelings come, though, perhaps triggered by a scent, something spoken to you in confidence, or a song associated with the season. You turn your head away from the crowd, fearful lest someone see your moment of weakness in the midst of often forced holiday cheer.

Perhaps it’s just balance, Maybe there’s some universal tally being kept such that every down has an up, every bad has a corresponding good, every heart-wrenching cry has a corresponding joyful laugh.

Perhaps it’s the case that every hurt inflicted does, in the act of its creation, also generate its polar opposite, a quantum anti-particle that also contains the right measure of atonement and forgiveness to nullify the misdeed. Who knows? After all, even though the physical world is, and always will be, far beyond human understanding, if there’s one thing physicists know it is that the universe loves symmetry.

Of course this is all just idle speculation. If, though, it turns out that’s the case then it behooves us all to keep an ever vigilant eye out for those golden opportunities for us to create a balance where once there was none. Our little speck of a world is right now in sore need of better equality between hurt and forgiveness.

Missed parts 1 and 2? No worries–links can be found to both at the top right of this page under “recent posts.”

Christmas Songs: My Top Ten (Part 2 of 3)

A Childrens’ Winter

by Dermot O’Reilly

Though not necessarily a Christmas song, it’s not unusual to hear it performed in clubs and at concerts this time of the year. The easy D-A-G arrangement makes this ideal as something to loosen up the fingers while also loosening  up a gathering of people who may, or may not know the words, and who may or may not know exactly what it is they have in common. At times like those safe-bets are always a good idea. After all, who does not have memories of being outdoors, playing with childhood friends in new fallen-snow. Those can be shared.

Just stop and think for a moment. Can you see some children sledding, others making a snowman, and still others throwing snowballs? Can you recall the sound of childrens’ laughter, softly muted by the  falling snow?

Christmas Eve in St. Johns

by Gary O’Driscol, performed by D’arcy Broderick

Look around you at the images most people associate with Christmas. Notice the smiling faces and the stuff; the plenitude of material goods, whether they be the gifts exchanged or the food and drink consumed. In so many ways Christmas is portrayed as a time of joyful excess, a time when we party more than we should, laugh just as we should and don’t get too stressed when we notice that the belts around our waists need to be let out an extra notch or two.

Not only are those images everywhere but other aspects of our culture encourage us to only see them. The happy songs, the ads for stuff from the stores, even the, “here b’y have a drop of the Christmas cheer,” all of it serves to turn our eyes towards excess, towards merriment.

And to not look at the others.

Who? You know—the ones who, for whatever reason, don’t feel joyful right now: the lonely, the ones who grieve, whether it be for lost health (their own or that of someone they love), lost employment, or even the loss of a loved one. Them.

Just the other day, while talking to a friend at work about what gifts we were purchasing this year she noted that this year her family had ‘adopted’ another one and were all—adults and kids—purchasing gifts for their less fortunate counterparts. The giving would be anonymous, of course, the way it should be. Funny, though, I could see by her eyes that she was getting so much more joy from planning and handling that project than she was getting from handling the giving at home.

My friend generally has it together, I figure.

Little Drummer Boy

by Katherine Kennicott Davis, performed by Bob Seger

You know how it is with some songs—you can hear them time after time and barely take notice. On one single occasion, though, for whatever reason they just strike your fancy, becoming, at first, a welcome ear worm and then, over time, a song you look forward to with anticipation. For me, this is one of those.

In the version below the focus is clearly on Bob. He’s in charge and the camera loves him. He’s got the kind of voice that can add interest to any type of music and his take on the song it at once passionate, unique yet still accessible.

It looks like an acoustic set but don’t let that fool you. Listen for the horns, out of sight but nonetheless powerful. Now the guitars—played with the apparent effortlessness that only comes from decades of practice. And the backup singers—you can hardly notice them tucked away in the background. The harmonies they layer on top of Bob’s vocals elevate the song.

In the end, it’s Bob’s skill and charisma that bring it to us. But, by themselves neither Bob nor the Silver Bullet Band would be remarkable. But together? Pure passion and magic!

So much of what happens at Christmas is like that, too. The director of the food sharing association is the visible front for hundreds of volunteers and tens of thousands of donors. So too with the kind gentle faces of the SA workers who smile when you put a donation in the kettle and who also don’t judge when your pockets are empty—they are the front for thousands more who work behind the scenes day after day.

And so it goes. Some of the heroes are visible and many, many more are not.

Next, the top three, coming tomorrow or the day after.

Christmas Songs: My Top Ten (Part 1 of 3)

Number 10: Tinsel Town

by Jimmy Rankin

Christmas is almost upon us. In fact as Jimmy’s opening line, “everywhere you look, everywhere you go,” notes, it’s kind of hard to miss.

Especially on the radio; every station finds a reason to slip in some Christmas music chosen by the program director who, in turn, probably consulted lists of what’s currently popular and what has a history of being played this time of the year.

There was a time when I loved the mainstream stuff. VOCM, the one station we could receive reliably out in my childhood home, has a long tradition of playing seasonal music, and I vividly recall it being on our kitchen radio non-stop. The words of the classics I knew by heart long before I knew my times tables.

Some of my earliest record purchases, too, were of Christmas music. Somewhere in my head lurks a recollection of buying The Hundred Voices of Christmas at Dawe’s Supermarket. How wonderful it was to listen to it on Dad’s old record player! I have an original vinyl copy of Snoopy’s Christmas somewhere down in the basement, its grooves scratched and probably almost worn out, especially around the title song. Did I buy it or steal it from my sister, I wonder. I was also one of those who unquestioningly sent away my mail order for “$19.95 plus shipping and handling” for The Time Life Treasury of Christmas as soon as it was out…and proceeded to wear out all three cassettes in my 1984 Chrysler Laser’s player.

Over time, though, just like the tracks on my records many of the songs wore thin. Worse, the beloved classics were joined by an increasing and increasingly awful parade of new stuff as more and more music executives discovered the ease with which suckers like me would part with money in search of that one great song (ugh—see here for some examples).

Still, though, there are many Christmas songs that I look forward to this time of the year.

Jimmy’s recent song has just made my top ten list probably because it is an accessible, well written and performed song, but one that still feels a bit fresh from year to year as it’s not played much on the radio.

That’s a bit of a shame since the song deserves more recognition as does Jimmy!

His song follows along with the rest on the list. The criteria for inclusion were simple: they are the ten songs I most look forward to hearing, to playing on the guitar and—shhhhhh—to singing, too, when no one’s around to laugh at me.

In particular, to my friends who practice one religions faith or another: I’m not trying to say anything either profoundly positive or negative here. This post is just about music I enjoy and not about either endorsing or insulting anyone’s beliefs. It’s just about me enjoying a bit of seasonal music, nothing more.

Number 9: Drivin’ Home for Christmas

by Chris Rea

Here in Newfoundland Labrador, Canada, we have a tradition of having to leave home for want of employment. In times past, when our economy depended mainly on the fishery and on logging, the men would leave for extended periods, either on fishing vessels or in logging camps. As time went on and travel became a little easier whole families moved away; men and women alike. Toronto at first. As its oil industry boomed Alberta’s beckoning fingers called increasing numbers of East Coasters…and they went. Places like Edmonton, Calgary and Fort McMurray became as well known as the more familiar St. John’s, Corner Brook and Gander; perhaps more so.  In many ways the leaving was like that in times past. Logging camps were replaced with oil and gas work camps or mines, voyages on schooners and western boats were replaced with ones on oil tankers, oil rigs and support vessels. Whole-family moves to ‘the Boston states’ were replaced with ones to cities in western Canada.

The bodies left but the hearts did not.

Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day may have afforded something of a break from the fall routines but now we long for something a bit more substantial. It’s time for a rest and, as we look around to take stock, to see if we have prepared enough, our thoughts once again turn to home, the one place we can recall being fully whole and fully rested, and the longing begins. It matters not where you are. Perhaps, through what, in these modern times, must be seen as something of a fluke, you are lucky enough to still reside in the place in which you were raised. You still long for that thing you call home.

And so, here on the Eastern Edge, traveling has long been associated with the Christmas season. Like the fabled magi of old, the wearied travelers plan and take the journey ‘back home.’ Maybe by road, maybe by air, but always filled with a mixture of anticipation and excitement.

Laughter, as well as “snots and bawling” await!

Number 8: Days Gone By

by Fred Jorgenson and the Navigators

As the 25th looms closer and closer days are increasingly filled with tasks to be done—cleaning, things to be bought, decorations to be placed and the endless parade of social events. The quiet moments, it seems, are rare. When they do happen, the opportunity for refuge from the endless lists causes the mind to recall memories of simpler times; of less orchestrated events, of times when it was easier to live in the moment rather than endlessly obsessing with the phones and other gadgets driven by some manic desire to either record the evet for later or, perhaps, to prove to online friends that, yes, you do occasionally put down the phone and actually live in the moment.

And, yes, those memories may well be imperfect. Perhaps the recalled event was instead a collage of treasured events experienced separately, maybe even on different years. But, what odds, the act of spinning our own narrative is one of several means by which we derive meaning or at least preserve sanity. Times when busyness and obligations start to crowd out that which brings life its greatest happiness are exactly time times when we break out that powerful medicine of events, recalled in just the way to suit our own needs.

Number 7: The Season’s Upon Us

by the Dropkick Murphys

We all know those who have chosen to surround themselves only with those who share their values and ideas. Perhaps it’s because they fear the unknown or maybe it’s because their own sense of self-importance is such that there’s no room for thoughts that did not originate with them. Whatever the case, the end-result is always the same—a tendency to become increasingly entrenched in whatever values they have deemed important.

Sometimes this is not a big deal; fans become super-fans; those somewhat committed to a just cause become more committed. Harmless—maybe even good stuff if taken in small doses. More often, though, this leads to the kind of commitment that borders on obsession. With no one around to challenge your opinions how can it be otherwise? Safe in the knowledge that yours is the one right opinion you become more vocal, more convinced, more radical.

Fortunately there’s a readily available antidote for this madness: family. You don’t get to choose it. You don’t therefore get to choose what it says and does. This time of the year you have no choice but to suck it up and associate with those who will say and do things that will bring you far beyond your comfort zone and, in so doing, cause you to take a good hard look on those values you hold so dear—for good or for bad.

And maybe even put a smile on that tired, crooked old face of yours.

Next: Numbers Six to Four

After 78 Days it’s Finally Over

Back in the day my father had a hand cranked phonograph
and in my boyish youth I enjoyed putting on it my 33s.
At 78 the chipmunked sounds would make me laugh
and best of all boring talk would slip by, just like the breeze.

But now up in Ottawa Mr. Harper and his gang of cons have instead
judged it wise to make the election campaign to last a full 78 drawn-out days
and just as they’ve managed to turn just the best of Canada on its head
78 now means the opposite—no more fun just heaps and heaps of bored malaise.

Ideally a lengthy campaign should the others, their chances impair.
So for the past 11 weeks, from the attack ads there’s been no reprieve:
“Justin just isn’t ready,” and the others  “in it for themselves May and Mulcair.”
We need to be saved from terrorists and niqabs so we should vote for Steve.

And so now after watching the mud and crap being slung for all of 78 days
here we are, election day, at least for those of us who left it to the end.
I’ll try and bring my gang of six to the poll, head home to watch the Jays,
and hope that quite a few, away from Ottawa, in exile, we will send.

If you haven’t already figured it out I didn’t need 78 days to decide
and in fact, with each passing day, with Harper I become more pissed.
Still I will admit the choice was difficult; not an easy ride
to choose between the names that will be on my ballot list.

But which party to vote for? A question not that easy for to address
even when I take out what’s-his-name who’s running for the cons
I’m still left with some good choices, making it hard for me to assess
who I’d like to see representing us here in Mount Pearl South – St. Johns.

The Cons?  The guy—Harper—who won last time through feats of sleight?
Says frig climate change, and we don’t need to hear scientists and women’s voices;
who opposes the notion of water as a human right;
wants to kill off Medicare, international aid, the census, and reduce our choices.

The guy who insists it’s HIS government, not ours, just wants more power, less oversight;
and while insisting only he knows the economy gave us nothing but deficit;
killed the Kelowna accord and dashed the dreams of our aboriginals outright.
It’s clear he cares only about the super-rich and as for the rest of us he doesn’t give a shit.

Liberals? They insist they offer us real change
a break from years of going nowhere fast
so to start it out they plan a bunch of deficits—strange,
isn’t that just what the cons did for the six years that have just passed?

And while free votes and transparency strike me as very good
about remaking the democratic process in 18 months, I have my doubts.
Besides I don’t care about door to door mail so I wonder, like ya would,
once they get their majority Monday night, can they effectively toll this out?

Greens? I will admit that to me their platform makes good sense.
Cooperation, sustainability, climate action and building strong communities
are just the things I want government to dispense—
things the current crowd banjaxed, one by one, and with impunity.

But still when I look at the list of candidates I fail to be inspired
few of them are expected to put up much of a contest
save the leader—a person I admit I do admire,
so a vote for them counts for little more than a protest.

So which one will I vote for? No, that bit I won’t disclose
lest the one who gets in is not the one that I voted for
and I don’t need him to have that stuck up his nose
if I ever have to get something done and come upon his door.

Finally the 19th is here and I’ll dash off from work to make my x without delay,
head home glad the election’s over—thinking what a miserable slog it’s been
and while I’m watching baseball I’ll reminisce on the words I always say:
it doesn’t matter who you vote for ‘cause “The Government” always gets in.

A quiet moment considering what the candidates have said offers a bit of clarity on election day. Mercifully the campaign is finally over.