Friday, November 3, 2017

2017 Winnipeg Folk Festival

The view from inside our tent of the Baggiecon circle.  Nice weather this year!
I'll try to keep my recap a bit shorter this year, even though it was a great folk fest yet again with the best weather I've ever experienced there, with temps in the low-to-mid 80s F with a light breeze and just a spot of rain early one morning.  Even Erin couldn't remember a better weather year herself, and this was her 30th anniversary this year.  There's always good music but it's much more pleasant to listen to under blue skies than in the rain.

One thing we finally did this year was take our bicycles, as our minivan has a hitch and I was able to get an adapter so I could attach my old bike rack to it.  It worked fine, although it was very long and we had to be careful not to drag the bikes at times.  It was great to have them to ride around the festival campground and to the festival site, as well as to a nearby lake (where you could swim) in Birds Hill Park.  We'll definitely be bringing them next year.

Our friend Teresia in New Richmond was kind enough to take care of our two dogs and cat, and even took them to her home so they could play with her dog Freya in her backyard a few times, as well as taking poor Ceilidh down in the basement with her when fireworks were going off on the Fourth of July.  We were able to stay in touch with her while away too, thanks to T-Mobile now giving us free calls, texts, and even data when in Canada.  It was really handy to be able to use our phones at the folk fest to keep in touch with each other as well as our fellow Baggiecon campers.

We'd planned on leaving Monday and getting to Winnipeg a day early so we could have time to pack all the camp gear and have time to visit too, but it turned out that Erin had to work until 2pm that day, and that combined with the usual extra time it always takes to pack all our stuff we decided to hold off and leave Tuesday morning instead.  We finally left at 9:30am and had a pleasant drive to the border where we had no hassles crossing thankfully, and made it to the Bhigg House a little after 7pm.

That didn't leave much time to load the Baggiecon group camping gear and Dave Clement's own gear, which required me to repack the whole minivan, but I managed to get it done in about an hour and a half and I was barely able to park the minivan in the garage with the bike rack on.  (I didn't want to take it off because I had a *really* hard time getting it on with the new adapter and didn't want to mess with it again.)  After finishing I took a refreshing shower we all had a nice late supper that Elizabeth fixed for us and then our friends Donna and Terry came by for a visit (including two new Baggieconners, France and Steven who had arrived at the Bhigg House a couple of hours after we did) and we talked until after 10pm when they left and I then went to bed.

Erin and I had a decent night's sleep and we took our time in the morning as Wolfgang and Lillian were there plenty early enough to get a good camping spot.  So after having some coffee and gathering up our things Erin and I got in the minivan and drove out to Birds Hill Park.  We got there around 10am just as the parking lineup to get in the festival camping area was dwindling down to the last few dozen vehicles, and we ended up parking in the first row of the overflow parking lot.  So not ideal in terms of hauling everything in but not nearly as bad as having to park somewhere waay up at the very far north end.

We found Wolf and Lil right away in Zone 1A, as they'd claimed almost the same exact spot that Baggiecon was last year, thanks to being just about the first vehicle in the lineup.  It's always a mad rush as there are around 1000 eager camping beavers all trying to get a favorite spot, usually in the shade of some trees.  We instead look for a firepit in the open where there's a breeze and we set up a 10'x20' car port for shade as well as shelter from the rain, and that's worked well for us for decades, ever since Erin volunteered her old art show canopy waay back in the goodle days of the early 1990s.

It took about ten full garden cart loads to get everything out of the minivan, which I did (with some very welcome help from Wolfgang) while Erin stayed around to do the organizing as her foot was giving her some pain.  She'd bought a new pair of sandals before we left that helped her walk without bending her arthritic toes so much, but I was fine with doing most of the hauling.  It was a good thing that I've been working out on the ellipticals at the gym and had gotten into better shape leg-wise.  Of course there were hundreds of other people working just as hard hauling their gear as I was and not all of them were younger than me!

The last thing I got was my bicycle, and my reward was having the fun of riding it back to camp instead of slogging on foot.  Whee!  Then after Erin and I decided where the tent was going to go, she went off with France back into Winnipeg to get some groceries and other things and I helped get the kitchen tent up with Wolfgang and then put out tent up.  In the meantime Dave and Elizabeth had been bringing in their things, including a cooler with sandwich fixings that Elizabeth organized, and we all had a break with a cool drink and a welcome bite to eat after working hard.  Then Lenore arrived and I helped her put her tent up, and soon after that came Lana, then Polly and Sharif, and pretty soon the circle was filling out nicely.

In fact, we'd finished with everything by 4pm or so, and Dave and Elizabeth took off for the lake to cool off (it was fairly warm at around 86F, but with a few clouds) and I took a shower in our spiffy shower tent.  As usual, we had passersby ask what it was and after being told it was a Tardis we told them it was our shower, complete with water warmed in black plastic cubes and pumped through a shower head with the help of a 12-volt RV battery that was recharged with a 20-watt solar panel.  Yes, it all has to be hauled in but when you're going to be there for 5-1/2 days the creature comforts are worth it.

Then by the time Erin and France made it back we were ready to relax for the evening.  Thanks to a truck coming by with a rack of firewood for us we were all set for the rest of the fest for campfires.  I'd brought two guitars with me this year, my Simon & Patrick that I usually play but this year I brought it for Dave Clement as he's been dealing with some serious issues with his left hand and couldn't play the Seagull 12-string guitar I'd been bringing for him since 2010.  (Dave has a very fine Taylor 410 guitar himself, but he won't bring it out to the festival as it's a $2000+ instrument.)  So I strung my S&P with light-gauge strings to make it easier to fret.  The other guitar I brought was my Seagull Artist that I bought two years ago, and while I was nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs to bring it out to the fest because it's in such good condition (the S&P still sounds fine but it's acquired its share of dings in 22 years) but I was careful and it survived the experience without a scratch.  Whew.

Besides Dave and myself, Wolfgang and Heather also brought guitars and a ukulele to play around the fire, and there were plenty of other people happy to sing along and occasionally sing something themselves.  Sadly, we had no drummers but there was another group camping next to us that had a drummer who was quite good (I know, hard to believe) and we enjoyed hearing their music too during the fest.  It's really become more of a pickin' and strumming scene in the festival campground now, with no big Castle Boys encampment or even fire show over at Pope's Hill now.  There are still some featured attractions to be found, including the Big Games folks, an ink stamp tattoo parlor, an open jam session site, etc., but they're all smaller-scale.  I know some miss the big stuff that used to be around, but it's a more mellow place for it.  I think the folk fest management has decided to make the festival site itself the place where the big stuff happens at night, and that's fine with me.

Thursday morning came all too early as usual for me as I can never sleep in for very long thanks to my own internal clock that wakes me up whether I want to or not.  It was a beautiful morning and I soon got to making that first pot of coffee after making sure the solar panel was in a sunny place to charge our battery.  I usually have a couple of thermos bottles handy to use to pour hot coffee into so another pot can be made, but John and Karen hadn't made it yet because John wasn't feeling well and John had the thermos bottles.  Thankfully the coffee maker was able to keep up with demand as more Baggieconners got up.  We did later hear from Karen and John that they were on the way but wouldn't be making it until Friday, which is certainly better than not making it at all as folk fest happens only once a year. 

As Thursday is a day where there's only music at the Main Stage in the evening, we had the whole day to relax and have fun in the festival campground.  I just hung around for a few hours and visited with people and did some water-hauling (a note: I wasn't pleased with the number of people who think the communal water spigot is where their personal hygiene should be done.  If I wanted to step in puddles of spat-out toothpaste, I'd bloody well say so.  I must send a letter to the fest asking if they could perhaps put a sign on their flag that asks folkies to do their spitting elsewhere.  Also, it really lengthens the line of people getting water.)   Later in the afternoon, I went off riding my bicycle around the grounds and rode over to the lake to check it out and found Dave and Elizabeth were there for a swim themselves, and after I went wading I spent some time with them before heading back. 

On the way, I decided to check out where there used to be a lesser-known entrance into festival camping so people could use a pit toilet in a picnic area, but found it was blocked off with a double fence.  We used to be able to walk from the Bur Oak stage directly back to camp, but after 2011 the fest had put an end to that, so I wasn't surprised that they'd closed the entrance too.  But I did find there was a nice asphalt path that ran from the picnic area north along the festival camping fence line, so I took off and quickly made it to the entrance that allowed access to Pope's Hill.  Something to remember, and write down for future reference, I thought.  And so I am!

I then took a spin up Pope's Hill to enjoy the view for a minute and then sped back down and re-entered the festival campground, and eventually rode over to where the Giant Scrabble game was set up in the RV camping area and found Erin and Lana there playing.  Well, not playing as much as advising other players and Erin impressed them so much she earned the title "Scrabble Goddess" from one of the players there.  They should meet Erin's sister Mary sometime...

Erin in the green t-shirt (and greenish hair) kibbitzing with the kids playing Big Scrabble
I then rode all the way up to the north end of the camping area and then explored a part of the festival camping area I'd oddly never been to in my 13 years of camping there, Zone 5 where there's accessible camping for those who need it, as well as actual indoor flush toilets and showers.  Then I went down the only trail head I'd never been down, #4, and headed over to a food truck as I was hungry enough to eat something after all the riding I'd been doing.  I got something I'd call an African poutine (with red curry sauce) that was filling and tasty.  Then back to camp finally.  I will never go back to not having a bicycle at the folk fest, it's so handy.

After getting back I then learned that Polly had gone down to get in line for a tarp ticket and managed to get a #2 for us, and I agreed to run it at 5:15pm.  So at 4:45pm I grabed the Baggiecon tarp and biked down.  When it was time for us #2's to do the tarp stroll, I kept an eye out for where the #1's (who went first, naturally) might have left an empty space for a tarp, and sure enough I found a 6x8 area only four tarps back from the front of the Main Stage and folded my tarp down to fit it.  (You're allowed up to an 8'x10' tarp.)  Yay.  I then took a look around and noticed that instead of there being a solid wall of huge subwoofers in front of the stage like there was last year, there were only about 8 or so, and that looked promising after last year's blowout of sound.

The evening show was scheduled to start at 7pm with an opening ceremony, but I headed back to camp to have a quick shower, figuring that I'd then not have to take one in the morning which would save me time before I would be running the tarp again at 10:15 am.  Soon enough it was close to 7 pm so I headed down for the main stage.  I missed the opening ceremonies, but made it in time for the first show by Small Glories, a duo featuring Cara Luft (formerly of The Wailin' Jennies) and J.D. Edwards and they were a fine opening act and represented Winnipeg nicely, trading off lead on each other's songs and doing some fine guitar and banjo playing as well.  Just right to start the night.

The first tweener of the night was Carly Dow, who was nice if not particularly memorable.  One of the reasons I wait a bit to write all this up is to see what's stuck with me after a month or more has passed.  The next act, Brandi Carlile, was _very_ memorable.  I'd been told by Chas Somdahl before the folk fest to be sure and hear her and I'd certainly hear her played on the radio for the past several years and liked what I'd heard.  But as a live performer she was amazingly good.  She had two sidemen playing with her who had been with her for many years and they were tight but not too tight, if you know what I mean.  The Chris Frayer, the artistic director of the folk fest had mentioned in a news article that he thought Brandi Carlile would be one of the hits of the festival, and he was right.  Carlile is a fine songwriter and she also has a great singing voice - powerful but not shouty at all and right on key.  I couldn't take my eyes off her, and at one point when she lowered her mike and walked to the front of the state and just sang, I was really glad I'd found that spot for the tarp close to the front.  Wow.

After Carlile's last song the crowd really wanted an encore but we didn't get one.  Oh well, I guess the need to keep things on schedule matters, but jeeze.  The next tweener was Aoife O'Donovan, who I'd heard sing on Prairie Home Companion a few time and I had liked what I heard.  But again, her short set wasn't all that memorable and then it was time for the last act of the night, the band The Shins.  I didn't know much about them but they were definitely a rock band with a bit of a techno flavor to them and they'd bround with them a fantastic light show that I enjoyed as much, if not more, than their music.  Their drummer was quite impressive, but their lead singer was hard to decipher so I just relaxed and watched the lights and had a good time, and so did the rest of the crowd.  I took a video of it with my iPhone and I'll try to load it here.  Don't tell anyone...

Then it was back to the campsite and more playing around the campfire before turning in for the night, which passed peacefully to the sounds of distant and sometimes not-so-distant drumming.  Friday morning started out as a copy of Thursday's, refreshingly cool with a warming sun.  I started coffee and did a water run and by the time Polly was back in camp with a #1 tarp ticket I was feeling fine as others arose in camp.  Even Erin didn't seem to be suffering too much from the usual morning fuzziness before coffee.  I had plenty of time to collect things (thanks to having showered the day before) and then walked down with my chair and the tarp for the run, and I ended up getting a spot almost exactly where I did the night before.  I guess all that training is finally paying off.

After having a bite for breakfast, I wandered over to the Bur Oak state to hear a guitarist workshop that I figured I'd appreciate as a guitarist myself, and it was pleasant enough, although I'd have liked more jamming.  I did like Marisa Anderson's playing for being out of the ordinary in terms of it's eclectic inspiration.  After the workshop I did a walk around the Handmade Village and ran into Anya behind the Green Ash stage where I sat for a while and, ghu help me, checked my phone for stuff.  I know I should have far better things to do but I had data and I just had to.  In my defense, I wasn't the only one with my face planted in my phone.  I did at least use the folk fest app, which was nice to have.

Then it was off to the Big Bluestem stage to hear some bluegrass.  There was an all-afternoon bluegrass revue scheduled there for Friday and while I didn't want to hear it all, I was interested in Nick Forster and Danny Barnes, on guitar and banjo respectively.  They were fantastic players and had good stage presence, unsurprisingly on Forster's part as he's a host of a live radio show and had been talking for years to audiences.  When they started with the tune Eight More Miles to Louisville, I knew I was in good hands for the whole set.

I would have liked to stick around to hear fiddle player Tim O'Brien after that, but I wanted to head back to Green Ash to hear a workshop with Bruce Cockburn, Graham Parker, and Daniel Lanois, which was heavily attended by the time I got there as you might expect, so I found a spot a way back among the trees in the shade, as the sound was good no matter where you sat.  There was a lot of banter and the playing wasn't as tight as I'd heard from Forster and Barnes, but it was a lot of fun still.  Cockburn's voice struggled a bit at first when he started singing, but that thankfully didn't last long and it's not surprising given he's now around 72 years old.  Geez, where does the time go?  Parker made some bemused remarkes about that subject, but he was still young at heart and rocked, well, as much as you can rock out at a folk festival anyway.

I thought about sticking around for one more workshop, but there wasn't anything that just grabbed me (although I heard later that the choir workshop with Bruce Cockburn was a big hit).  I headed back to camp where I took a shower and enjoyed a cold beer, or maybe two, I don't remember, and chatted with other Baggieconners who were there.  I headed back down to the Main Stage and caught part of the first act, Esme Patterson, who is yet another indie artist I had no clue about, although she'd played with some bands I had heard of, like Shakey Graves.  I don't think I'm that out of touch with popular music, but I do have some blind spots for sure. 

Then after a local tweeer, Richard Inman, was Bruce Cockburn, solo, who I really wanted to hear and, wow, he turned in a fantastic set.  His guitar playing was amazingly sharp and fluid, and I wasn't the only one on the Baggiecon tarp to note that.  Of course he's a great song writer too and his entire set was superb from start to finish.  Given he'd already done a couple of workshops his voice was good too and I think some of the younger folkies who were wondering "who IS this guy?" were pleasantly surprised.  We wanted an encore but didn't get one yet again and as it turned out I don't remember anyone getting one on Main Stage this year.  Guess that's a new policy to keep things on time.  I blame Xavier Rudd, who literally had the power plug pulled on him back in 2013 when he was the closing performer on Sunday night.

I then trucked on over to the Big Blue at Night stage to hear Camper Van Beethoven's set, which was a lot of fun, and after that I decided I was ready to head back to the campground and play some music myself.  After we'd gone around the circle for an hour and some more we ended up doing some show tunes after talk around the fire turned to that subject, with Kat gleefully leading us, and we had great fun.  I tried to shoot a video with my phone and at least got something, here...

Saturday morning was again beautiful, which one can get used to.  Then as usual I did the tarp run and then got some breakfast and decided to head over to the Shady Grove stage for the first workshop featuring duos, including Nick Forster and Danny Barnes, as well as The Small Glories, and 100 Mile House.  Yeah, I'd already seen two of the acts, but I liked them and it was nice to spend time in the shade early in the day and avoid the sun for a bit longer.  I'm pretty mindful about not getting sunburned over the whole five days as it's pretty miserable to deal with a bad case of sunburn while at an outdoor festival.

Then, to be honest about it, I can't quite remember what I was doing for the next hour or two.  Probably walking around the Handmade Village and elsewhere on the grounds.  (I'm writing this months later because I simply didn't get around to it right after getting home.)  But eventually I headed over to the Green Ash stage and caught the last part of a workshop there before Graham Parker & Brinsley Schwartz had a concert scheduled at 2:45pm and I managed to find a just-vacated spot for my chair right up near the front where you can see the whites of the performers eyes, er, their fingers on the guitar fretboard.  I'm glad I did as I enjoyed seeing both Parker and Schwartz get their groove on.  Still pretty spry for a couple of 1970s guys, I gotta say.

Then I managed to get a hold of Erin on the phone (yay for a working cellphone) and said I'd look for her at the Bur Oak stage where there was a workshop titled Waiting For The Great Leap Forward that included Peter Yarrow, and it was something we both wanted to see.  As it turned out of course, so did a lot of other people and it was a big crowd.  Luckily, Lana Klassen spotted me and called my name and she had a nice spot that still had a view of the stage a ways back in the shade along with Anya and her friend Heather, so I put my chair down just in time and held a spot for Erin too, who just made it as the set started.  Whew.  It turned out to be a good old-fashioned folk singing set with the crowd getting to join in often too, and yes, there was a political message or two as you would expect.  The final number led by Yarrow was Bob Dylan's Blowin' In the Wind, and by the time the last chorus was sung everyone was standing and swaying in the wind, arms held up high.  Not many dry eyes that I could see, but then I was a bit visually impaired myself...

After that, I decided to head back to camp and take a quick shower and relax a bit, but as it turned out I decided to stay in camp and not head down to the Main Stage at all.  I just felt more like chillin' for some reason.  I did get some fresh ice for the cooler at the camp store and refilled some water jugs, had a beer and a bit of a walkabout in the neighborhood on my bike before settling in with my guitar and having fun beneath the setting prairie sun.  (It doesn't set until 9:30pm and stays light for sometime after that.)  Baggieconners eventually started trickling back home and then we were waiting for Dave Clement to return so we could have our ceremony welcoming newcomers to Baggiecon, but we waited, and waited, and waited and still no Dave and it was well after midnight.  Erin was tired and decided to turn in herself before Dave finally arrived around 1pm, and we had a ceremony.  Turned out Dave's friends from out east, France and Steven, wanted to stay until the very end of the last set, and on Saturday it ends fairly late, obviously.  I've not been staying late myself to hear the last act on Friday or Saturday as it's generally more a dancing scene.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, it's just not what I've been into.  Part of that has been the crazy loud sound that made the Main Stage hard to bear for the past few years, but this year it was turned down significantly, and I've since learned it won't be cranked up so high again, so maybe I'll reconsider hearing the last acts more next year.

Sunday morning dawned just as nice as the previous ones and before I took off I took the time to coordinate with Erin and Lana to meet them at the Shady Grove stage at 11am for the first workshop there.  Then as I walked to the main entrance to get in line for the tarp run, I spotted Polly way up front in one of the lines and elected to walk right up to her like she was waiting for me, so I could be one of the first people in.  Not quite fair, but no one really minded or at least said anything.  I even got my chair pre-checked and enjoyed the front gate volunteers pep song, which was sweet.

Then the gates opened and I was able to walk straight to Shady Grove and put my chair right in the very front row, and put a towel out to hold space for more chairs, which people graciously accepted.  Then it was off to the tarp run and back again to join Erin, Lana, and Anya to hear an amazing Celtic workship featuring yet another superb band from Prince Edward Island that Lana loved, Ten Strings and a Goat Skin, along with a blazingly talented band from Scotland, RURA, and another singer-songwriter from Scotland, Paul McKenna.  It was everything you could want in a workshop, with virtuoso playing and jamming galore, some heartfelt moments, and humor too.  Erin and Lana, talented artists both, also spent time sketching one of the handsomer musicians (they said they like him because he didn't move so much, but it was really because he was good-looking).  At the end of the workshop they had him sign them, and he was tickled.  Me, I was fired up and ready for more.

I'm sure Lana & Erin would invite him to come look at their etchings anytime too!
Erin and Lana, being artists themselves, always do a walkabout by themselves to see the art installations around the festival site and that's what they went off to do, so I was on my own and since I can walk pretty fast I manged to make it to the Little State in the Forest to hear the last fifteen minutes of a solo performer,  Mohsin Zaman, there (the Little Stage is where a lot of solo acts play), and he was a immigrant with Pakistani roots who now lives in Canada and had a very interesting, soulful sound.  I was glad to hear what I did from him.  Then when he was done I left my chair where it was and walked over to the Spruce Hollow stage to hear about ten minutes of the Gin and Misery workshop with Margaret Glaspy among others, and chatted a bit with two Baggieconners there (Shareif and his girlfriend) hanging out there in hammocks (Spruce Hollow has lots of trees for people to do that with) before going back over just as Matt Haeck, who I liked hearing earlier when he was part of the workshop with Peter Yarrow, started playing on the Little Stage.  He turned in a fine set and I meant to get one of his CDs, but I didn't make it into the merch tent this year, unfortunately.  Hope I can get one next year.

Then it was right over to the Big Bluestem stage to hear a concept workshop based around the Byrd's bluegrass-rock album Sweetheart of the Rodeo that they released back in 1968.  Featured musicians included Hot Rize, The Small Glories, Lenoard Podolak, Luke Roberts, and again Matt Haeck, among others.  The idea (did two years previously by Robyn Hitchcock and The Sadies for The Band's Stage Fright LP) was to play the songs on the album in sequence, with performers taking turns on each song.  They did a very good job, from the opening Dylan cover to the last song "Nothing Was Delivered", which was nicely ironic.

I should mention that I did get there early enough to hear the end of the previous concert by a great, big, fun brass band from Los Angeles, MarchFourth, which not only featured around a dozen musicians, but also circus performers in their act.  They reminded me a lot of a band from England I heard back at the 2009 folk fest, Bellowhead, with even more zanyness, and they had practically everyone in front of the state up and dancing and bouncing along with their groove.

Then, after all that, I went back over the Bur Oak to catch the last fifteen minutes of Peter Yarrow's concert, which I would have liked to hear all of but I'm glad I got to hear what I did.  Erin was there to hear it all and she loved it, and she managed to pick up two CDs of his in the merch tent to take home.  But wait, there's more!  There was one more workshop over at Green Ash with Camper Van Beetheoven and the Saturday night closing act from Africa (Kinshasa to be precise), Mbongwana Star.  What does a rock band from Los Angeles and one from Kinshasa have in common?  As it turned out, the opening song they jammed on was Pink Floyd's Interstellar Overdrive.  That was fun, and it was a wonderful way to bliss out under a perfect summer sky.

I did leave a bit early to go back to camp to clean up and then head back down for the last night of the festival, always a kind of sigh, it's all over already feeling, but I was feeling so good I just couldn't feel sad.  The sun coming through the trees as I came back in was so nice I took a photo of it, and it captures the feeling well enough.

I grabbed some dinner at one of the food booths (a yummy burrito, I think) and made it up to the front baggie to hear the last few songs by the first performer of the night, Foy Vance.  He had a very nice voice, but not terribly distinctive songs, at least to my ear.  The next-to-last act for the fest was Joey Landreth, who was energetic and nice enough, but as the sun was going down it wasn't shaping up to be a rousing end for this year's folk fest.  Well, I needn't have worried about that, as the final act was The Barenaked Ladies and I knew they would be a lot of fun.  But they were even more fun than I anticipated and their energy and banter was infectious and the whole crowd just lit up in response.  They were tight musically, funny, frenetic, and waay too bouncy for guys their age.  I loved it!  We all did!  More Kraft Dinners for everyone!

Then it was time for the Finale, and rolling up the front tarp one more time with a satisfied mind.  The usual trio of closing songs, The Mary Ellen Carter / Wild Mountain Thyme / Amazing Grace were all performed very well, respectively by The Small Glories with Leonard Podolak, RURA (a great choice!), and Begonia, who sang beautifully.  It was getting chilly by the time I arrived for our usual Baggiecon closing song, and there were two dozen of us who all made a circle and sang Ripple one more warm time.  Sigh.  Then back to camp where we repeated the Baggiecon newbies ceremony which made Erin happy since she'd missed it on Saturday night.  Then after some singing around the fire we turned in and had sweet dreams.  It helped that a number of campers in the festival campground had already left earlier in the day and that we weren't the only ones remaining who were tired but happy.

Monday morning dawned clear and cool, with no rain in the forecast until later in the afternoon, which left us plenty of time to pack everything and haul it out to the minivan.  We left the shade structure up until the end so we had some shade to take breaks under, but we finally took it down and bid farewell and left Birds Hill Park at about 1pm.  Thankfully, I remembered all the road construction on the Perimeter Highway at Hwy 59 and took an alternate route (Dugald Road) back into Winnipeg, where we unloaded all the Baggiecon group camping gear we had into the Bhigg House garage.

Taking one more break in the shade on Monday before the final load out...
We couldn't stay another day this year as we usually do because Erin had to work on Tuesday, so we had to say our goodbyes and take off for home.  Thankfully we had no delays at the border (where we found that white spruce tree seedlings that had been given out at the folk fest weren't allowed into the U.S., but we didn't have one) and no traffic hassles on the way home.  I was too tired to drive all the way myself, but Erin was able to continue and we made it home a little after midnight (it helped to play the Peter Yarrow CD that Erin bought to stay alert), where we had a warm welcome from the dogs and the cat.  "You're home!  You're home!  You're home!"

I guess I didn't keep it so short, but the tale just kept growing...

Monday, June 19, 2017

There Comes the Strangest Moment

by Kate Light

There comes the strangest moment in your life,
when everything you thought before breaks free—
what you relied upon, as ground-rule and as rite
looks upside down from how it used to be.

Skin’s gone pale, your brain is shedding cells;
you question every tenet you set down;
obedient thoughts have turned to infidels
and every verb desires to be a noun.

I want—my want. I love—my love. I’ll stay
with you. I thought transitions were the best,
but I want what’s here to never go away.
I’ll make my peace, my bed, and kiss this breast…

Your heart’s in retrograde. You simply have no choice.
Things people told you turn out to be true.
You have to hold that body, hear that voice.
You’d have sworn no one knew you more than you.

How many people thought you’d never change?
But here you have. It’s beautiful. It’s strange.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Park Bench

by Albert Garcia

There should be a park bench.
We’ll sit next to each other,

watching a man throw a tennis ball
to his yellow lab, sending

and retrieving the dog
whose loyalty to task is clear

to both of them. I’ll say something
to start, something I’ve wanted

to say for years, words I’ve never before
been able to put together,

and you’ll hear them perfectly,
my words like a child’s wooden blocks

you can hold in your hands,
turning them for their modest gleam.

What you say comes as a breeze
that sinks in my skin,

not warm, not cool, just
what I needed to feel and hear,

like bath water, like tea. Then
we sit, and the dog

lopes out again to retrieve
his ball. The man waits

for what he knows is coming,
and the breeze, if there,

moves between us, back
and forth, silently.

Friday, September 23, 2016

2016 Winnipeg Folk Festival


It was a good time as usual, except for a few occasions I wanted to shake my fist and shout at a passing cloud but thankfully didn't.  To sum up, it was much more of an indie pop festival this year, but there were enough moments of folk to satisfy me, mostly.  I only wish they'd finally realize they don't need to include the festival campground as part of the Main Stage audience, but at this point I'm sure any complaints are falling on deafened ears.


This year we managed to leave a day earlier than we usually do thanks to Monday being the Fourth of July holiday in the U.S.  As part of our preparations we recently bought a new used 2006 Chrysler minivan that had plenty of room which we were later fortunate to have.  We managed to line up various sitters for two or our dogs and our cat, and took our dog Ceilidh with us to Canada.  So as we left we made a couple of stops to leave a dog, Missy with Auntie Shar out on the farm in the country, and Tucker with our friend Peter in Minneapolis.  We got off to our usual delayed start, but we still were able to get on the interstate out of the Twin Cities a little before 1pm.

Tucker riding shotgun as we prepare to depart

We made quick time on I-94 to Fargo, passing through a cool front where the temperature at Fergus Falls dropped to 73F only to arrive at Fargo where it was a hot 91F.  Our minivan's air conditioning wasn't working well (we've fixed it since) so it was getting warm but we were able to get gas at a station in Fargo that had a roof over the pump so it didn't get really hot inside.  We made sure Ceilidh had plenty of water and a draft of lukecool air blowing over her and she was fine.  We then headed north on I-29 to Grand Forks and as we passed through we encountered another cool front and by the time we were close to the border the temperatures had dropped back to the lower 80s and the clouds provided some respite from the heat as well as some spectacular scenery as we passed though the storm front.  We made a quick border stop at Pembina to fill the gas tank there and get some Irish whiskey at the duty free store, and then zipped through customs without a hitch and the drive the rest of the way went by quickly.

Our destination was the home of Donna and Terry on the south side of Winnipeg near the Perimeter Highway.  Donna loves our dogs and was looking forward to taking care of Ceilidh while we were camping at the folk fest, and one of the reasons we left a day earlier than usual was so we could spend an extra day visiting and also give Ceilidh time to get used to her home away from home while Donna was taking care of her.  We arrived before sunset and were warmly greeted and Ceilidh was happy to be out of the van, finally.  We settled down to a late dinner that Terry had made that Donna saved for us and then we relaxed for another hour or so before turning in for a good night's sleep.


A very full minivan!
I got up early the next morning and fixed some coffee, let Ceilidh out, and then after everyone was up and Terry had headed off to work, Donna, Erin, and I went over to IKEA to pick up a few things and of course have the cheap breakfast.  Erin needed a pillow as she'd left hers at home and I picked up some rhubarb drink concentrate that I tried later and liked a lot, but forgot to take to the folk fest later.  Figures.  After noon, we drove our minivan over to the Bhigg House to load as much camping gear as we could into it.  As you can tell by the photo, it was a LOT.  I was grateful we had load-leveling struts on the rear axle and a 3.8-liter engine to move it all.  Erin did a good job of packing it in too, and our handy garden cart proved invaluable as the alley behind the Bhigg House was being reconstructed so we couldn't drive around to the garage and had to haul it out to the street in front.  Dave Clement didn't let us forget our festival tickets and the provincial park pass that our friend Kylea kindly lent us.  We then headed over to get groceries at our usual place that used to be a Safeway but is now a Co-op store, and Erin wanted a Games magazine at the McNally-Robinson bookstore, and we ended up spending time just browsing too.  It's a very nice (and independent!) bookstore.

After all that we went back to Donna and Terry's house and cleaned up, and we then we all had dinner and spent the evening talking and just hanging out.  Ceilidh was getting settled in, but she was still nervous around Terry who was a bit mortified, but we told him that's the way she is with big guys no matter how nice they are.  Ceilidh was doing fine otherwise though and I later at Donna's suggestion took her for a walk around the neighborhood where we found a nice walkway through a park and she barked at a kid on a skateboard because it wasn't natural for people to move like that.  She does it home too, so it wasn't a surprise that she didn't like them in Winnipeg either.  We then turned in for the night after a nice glass of wine.


We were going to leave bright and early Wednesday morning for the folk fest to get a better place in the festival campground line-up, but we decided instead to take our time this year and didn't leave Winnipeg until after 9am.  It didn't take us long to get to Bird's Hill Park via the Perimeter Highway that runs along the eastern outskirts of Winnipeg and we found ourselves driving straight to the folk fest parking lot, no line at all, and being directed straight to the festival camping entrance where we got our wristbands in exchange for our passes, so that was easy.  It's the first time we haven't had to wait in a line-up to enter the campground since 2005.  Yay!  We managed to park our minivan in the truck parking area that wasn't too far down the road, got our first cartload together and walked in via trail head 1-B and we found our campsite that was in a perfect spot thanks to Wolfgang and Lillian getting there bright and early themselves as they'd camped in the Bird's Hill park campground the night before along with all the other eager beavers looking to score prime camping sites.  So we dumped our first load and headed back out again via trail head 1-B and when we made it back out I spotted an open parking spot right across the road that someone had just left.  So I told Erin to hold it and then went and got our minivan and drove it back down and parked it there.  Sweet, and it saved us a lot of walking back and forth for the rest of the festival.

We lucked out on weather too, which was partly cloudy and mild that day in Winnipeg, which made all the work much more pleasant.  In no time at all we'd gotten it all hauled to the site and started setting up tents in our usual circle, with the usual discussion about where to put them all, which didn't take long thankfully.  I'd gotten a "new" used tent I'd found on eBay that was the same brand and model as the one we bought back in 2009 (a Coleman Tucana), so basically I'd gotten $80 worth of spare parts.  It was in great shape and we've liked having all the room (it's 16'x10'), the openness (it has four big windows to let breezes in), and the convenience of an actual door that you don't have to always zip and unzip to go in and out, plus a huge vestibule to stash chairs and other stuff under.  We call it the Taj-Ma-Tent, and hopefully it'll last us another several years or so, depending on the breezes that blow that have trashed more than a few of our past tents.

Setting up the Baggiecon camp
While I was dealing with our tent and the shower tent, Erin and Wolfgang and others were putting up our 10'x20' car port that we use for shade to sit under, and other Baggiecon campers were also arriving and starting to set up their tents too.  This year there was a smaller group of six comprised of young friends of Anya Klassen who wanted to camp more on their own than with us old folkies who had set their tents up just past some nearby trees.  We ended up calling them The Pinkies because Baggiecon's official color is pink and since we call ourselves "country mice" who camp at the folk fest (as opposed to "city mice" who stay in Winnipeg) and baby mice are called pinkies.  They did have to relocate their tents though, because one of Lana Klassen's conditions as The Mom was that their camp be in eyesight of where she was camping, not behind some trees.  There may have been some grumbling, but the Pinkies didn't take long to relocate themselves.

Still getting camp set up, with Elizabeth taking a break in the shade

Erin checking things out while Christine unloads her gear
It was a much neater site by Friday, with our Taj-Ma-Tent at the center-right.  The red caution tape was put there by Erin after someone the night before stumbled ON our tent.  Unfortunately, we can't install electric fences...
We were also treated to sandwiches and drinks by Elizabeth Clement later in the afternoon when she and Dave arrived, which were wolfed down gratefully by all of us hard workers.  Eventually we got it all put up (only moving the shade structure once to just the right spot, as camping feng shui matters) and after admiring our handiwork were able to relax, and also help others get set up as they arrived, as well as sorting out the kitchen tent and setting up a new kitchen table that Elizabeth found from Cabelas that was very nice and quite handy.  We also scored a big rack of firewood from a truck that was driving through the festival campground selling it, thus saving ourselves the work of later hauling separate bundles from the Campground Store.  As you might be able to tell, we weren't exactly roughing it.  It's like having a five day picnic with a few thousand others nearby doing the same.

We later had a bite to eat and then a few of us settled down to just play some music around the campfire.  We had just enough armless chairs to accommodate all the guitar players and it was beautiful evening to hang out, chat, and sing.  We could also hear pickers and singers from other groups camped next to us, all having fun as well.  I wandered over to one a little later, and talked with them and found they were all volunteers working for the festival this year and had been camping together for awhile now.  They said they'd camped near us before and that we were good neighbors.  It really is a nice vibe in the festival campground these days, far less rowdy than it was for the first nine years I went to the folk fest, and while some of the craziness is missed, it's a lot easier to sleep at night.


As usual, I was the first one up in camp and after checking our tent's sunshade to make sure it was helping keep our tent cooler inside as the sun rose, I made some coffee after spending a little time finding a way to light the camp stove.  It's always takes a little time to find out where everything is initially, and thankfully our fellow campers are pretty good about keeping the site organized.  It's so much less hassle when you don't have to look for everything.  The nice thing about getting up early is getting that first cup of coffee, but soon a few other were stirring and more pots of coffee were made.  It was a nice morning, mild and dry too.

Since there are no afternoon workshops or concerts happening on Thursday, it was a good time to do nothing and look over the festival schedule and mark what I wanted to see.  I'd downloaded the WFF app to my smartphone and found it was pretty handy to have the whole festival, but it wasn't a substitute for the WFF program book.  (There were no lyrics for the closing festival songs, for example.)  More Baggiecon campers arrived during the day and soon we were half a million strong, er, make that one hundred, um, maybe more like twenty or so. 

Eventually some of us took a walkabout of the huge festival campgrounds (while Dave and Elizabeth went swimming in the nearby park lake) and looked over some of the campground installations that had been set up, including a two-story yurt that I was still limber enough to climb up some handholds nailed to what looked like part of a tree-trunk to check out.  I made it back down safely too, thankfully.  There was a very cool Psychedelic Car Wash that consisted of a 10'x10' EZ-up that had been strung with dozens of brightly colored cloth rope-like "cleaners" that were tightly packed together.  So like a car getting all the dirt taken by brushed at the car wash, we festive campers got our minds cleaned of the usual cares to go and enjoy the folk fest mentally refreshed.  It was cute.

The Psychedelic Car Wash was getting plenty of business!
Then it was time to head down to the festival grounds for the show at the Main Stage.  It was a nice evening.  I'd like to say more about the music but honestly I don't remember much.  It usually isn't like that, but either I've gotten more forgetful or the music wasn't as memorable.  It's probably a combination of both.  I did head back early before the end of the last act, and we did have some nice times playing tunes around the campfire (and telling jokes, which was a lot of fun) before turning in.
My foot as I relax waiting for music on the Main Stage to start on Thursday

Again, got up early and enjoyed some early morning coffee before having to get ready to do the tarp run at 10:15am after getting a #1 tarp ticket from Polly.  So there was no problem getting a good spot at the Main Stage and I had a nice time as usual chatting with others in the holding pen who were ready to stampede, er, shuffle when the ropes dropped.  Me, I figure it's all good and that the most important thing is to not break something trying to snag that perfect tarp spot.  Thankfully most of my fellow shufflers were like-minded and kept things Manitoba friendly.

The Baggiecon tarp marker isn't flashy, but it makes up for it by being useful as it holds the tarp and stakes safely when you're doing the tarp shuffle.
Obligatory selfie after getting the tarp down at the Main Stage on Sunday
Then with some time to spare I had a bite to eat at one of the food booths, named The Walleye Wagon, which had some tasty pickerel for breakfast (not my usual fare) and then I decided to find a spot in the shade along the tree line at the Snowberry stage to hear Oysterband and Colin Hay.  Oysterband turned in a terrific set (they've been at the folk fest five times since 1989) and Hay did nicely as well, and during the set Erin arrived and joined me to enjoy the music too.  We decided to just stay put for the next workshop at Snowberry featuring banjo performers, including Noam Pikelny who was phenomenal, and a singer-songwriter who went the stage name Possessed by Paul James who was very engaging and sincere in a very sincere way.  The more rocking Brothers Comatose provided the rowdy to balance out the virtuosity of Pikelny and the sweetness of James.  A good set.

Erin looking over the festival program at the Snowberry stage
Erin and I then did a little wandering around the Handmade Village and grabbed some lunch, and later ended up at the Bur Oak stage for the Harp & Soul workshop, which featured some indie-pop acts, the best of which were The Staves from England.  It was pleasant if not arresting, and we decided to leave a bit early.  I headed back to camp to relax for a bit, before going back down for Friday night's bluegrass from the Big Bluestem stage.  In a switch from past years, when Big Bluestem was the place for more rocking music, it was now where the more folky music was going to be.  I guess that's a sign of the time and a tell that it isn't your father's folk fest anymore.  First up was a band from Toronto, The Foggy Hogtown Boys, and they were pretty entertaining and lively.  Then it was a roots band from California, The Wild Reeds, who were o.k. but not otherwise memorable, then Noam Pikelny and his band performed and did a fine set, and then I stayed around for about half the set of The Infamous Stringdusters before deciding to head back to the camp and enjoy some time around the fire pit before turning in for the night. 


It was a nice enough day when I got up and made coffee and had some yogurt, and I took a morning stroll around the campground, intending to go over to Pope's Hill but instead walked a bit in the RV section of festival camping just to see how it looked.  I think in a few years if pitching a tent has lost its charms that it would be nice to try it with a pop-up camper or maybe a camper van.  Then it was time for a quick shower before going down for the main stage tarp run, which went well enough.  I then grabbed a really good egg burrito for breakfast at Burrito Splendido and headed over early to the Shady Grove stage to get a good seat in the shade, naturally.  The 11am workshop, named "Plectrum Electrum", featured Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams, as well as Possessed by Paul James, and Rayland Baxter.  Campbell and Williams were supurb performers and he was a fine picker too.  Baxter has been a sideman for Bob Dylan, and I wasn't surprised given his chops, and he was also a fine singer.  A very nice start to the day.

After that, I hooked up with Dave Clement and headed over to the Big Bluestem stage for one of the bigger workshops of the fest, featuring Alan Doyle (of Great Big Sea fame) and his band, along with Oysterband, The East Pointers (a band from the eastern point of Prince Edward Island), and a singer from Newfoundland, Matthew Byrne.  It was a very high energy affair from Doyle and Oysterband, with a more traditional sound from the East Pointers and Byrne, and it all came together beautifully.  Perhaps the best workshop of the festival, and it was packed.  Thankfully Dave and I and later Erin had a nice spot back from the crowd that was comfortable.

I don't remember what we did immediately after that, so I imagine we got something to eat and took a break.  One of the nice things about the Winnipeg Folk Fest is that there's plenty of room to just chill if you want some quiet time out on the prairie.  There's also a kid's activity and a folk music school tent that offers something to do other than sit and listen.  The Handmade Village is always worth wandering through, and I always like stopping where there are musical instruments for sale and Erin enjoys shopping for gifts there too.  There's a lake with a beach nearby too when the weather gets warm and if you have a bicycle it's just a few minutes away, and the entire park has many miles of hiking trails to explore.  It's not a sin to go to a folk music festival and not spend every moment listening to music.
While walking around the labyrinth that's mowed on the prairie grass every year, I spotted this photograph of the prairie on the prairie, with the Handmade Village and kid's area in the background.  How meta.
As it was getting late in the afternoon, it started to cloud over and it looked like it would rain soon, and sure enough by 5:30pm or so it was raining.  Not hard, but enough to get you wet.  I had a poncho handy but was wearing shorts and sandals, so while I was dry mostly I wasn't very warm.  I decided to go to the back baggie (that's a tarp) to hear the first act of the night on the Main Stage.  It was the Moulettes, who were perhaps interesting, but unfortunately from the very start the sound was turned up so loud that even as far back as I was it was just annoying and didn't sound good.  So after about a half hour of that in the rain, I decided to just bag it and head back to camp.  One of the few times I've been in a sour mood at the folk fest.  Back at camp I decided to get under some covers in our tent to warm up and I had no problem hearing the Main Stage from zone 1A, so there was that at least.  Oh well.

It did stop raining later and we did have a nice fire and Dave Clement with Erin's help gave out mugs to five who in the Baggiecon camp for the first time, including three of the Pinkies.  The idea is to bring back the mug the next year, or whenever you make it back.  There was more music and we had some other musicians drop by to play with us who were wonderful, including a concertina player that plays with Dave in a band in Winnipeg who if I recall correctly was also named Dave.  Then I turned in and tuned out for the night.

Around the campfire early in the evening on Saturday

The last day of the fest got off to a decent start, cool and overcast but dry.  I'd had a good night's sleep and was in a better mood, and had a fun time doing the tarp run and chatting with the others waiting to claim their 8x10 foot space.  Then I again got a tasty egg burrito for breakfast and headed over to the Shady Grove stage to hear Loudon Wainwright III with his two daughters, Martha and Lucy.  Thanks to Polly being an early bird there I was lucky enough to have a seat saved for me right up front too.  They put on a great show, funny & sarcastic at times as you would expect, and even the sun came out for a little while in appreciation, at least that's what I think.

Loudon Wainwright III and family at the Shady Grove stage on Sunday
I then headed over to the Green Ash stage, where I'd told Dave Clement I would be for a set by The East Pointers that Dave had wanted to hear.  I managed to get a nice spot in the shade where the sound was good and just as the show was getting underway I spotted Dave who was with Karen and John making their way through the crowd and waved them on over.  It was a fine foot-tapping Celtic music set which I know Dave liked, and so did we.

Then I spent a little time wandering and eventually ended up thinking about going into the woods where at the Spruce Hollow stage there was a workshop celebrating some recently departed musicians, like Merle Haggard, Guy Clark, and Prince.  I got there and soon found it was so packed that I started considering what else there was going on, and noted that Matthew Byrne was playing at the Little Stage in the Woods nearby.  So I got up and and moved over there and found a nice spot to hear his solo set, which I liked very much and I ended up getting out of Byrne's CDs at the festival music store.  Byrne was modest but quite engaging and not a bad storyteller, always a plus.

Matthew Byrne performing at the Little Stage in the Forest
By then it was after 4pm and I went back to camp for a bit but soon it was time for Main Stage and since the first performer of the night was Loudon Wainwright I wasn't going to be late.  I arrived at the front baggie in plenty of time and it was almost hot, and so sunny that it was no surprise that Wainwright was wearing sunglasses up on stage.  He was first given a Winnipeg Folk Festival award for his contributions to folk music, and it was accepted with a bit of levity and, dare I say, sarcasm.  Well, it's what he does so why not?  Then Loudon did a funny, sarcastic, and at times disturbing set, the only real political one of the whole festival.  His song about Donald Trump becoming President had us all shouting "NO!" from the audience, but it was a song about guns and Christmas that really was discomfiting.  It should be.  He also had his daughter Lucy come up to join him for a song, which was a bonus.

After that, the next act up was an odd one.  Lucius is very much a pop act and they certainly were eccentric in both their singing and fashion.  Their band was very good and tight and the harmonies were sharp indeed.  That said, it wasn't quite my cup of tea but I did enjoy it for what it was.  The final act was a bad from Los Angeles, Lord Huron, and for me it was underwhelming but some in the crowd around me liked them a lot.  So it goes.  The one thing I was curious about was that I spend a LOT of time listening to music from various sources, folk, classic rock, indie, etc. and I'd never heard of them.  Then again, I listen to radio (streaming & broadcast) and perhaps they're an internet phenomena that I'm just ignorant of.  But you'd think if they were a breaking act that I'd have heard _something_.  Hmm.  Could it be time to rename it the Winnipeg Poppapalooza Fest?  (snark)

Then it was time for the end of fest finale, and I pulled up the tarp and slowly made my way through the crowd, while hearing Stan Rogers "Mary Ellen Carter" performed on the main stage, to the back where we had our own Baggiecon finale for the first time in a couple of years after being rained out twice, and we all made our circle and sang Ripple as our own end of fest ritual.  Then we did our usual singing of shanties while we walked back as a group, and we were appreciated by those around us, thankfully.  I'd hate to be annoying, after all.  Then it was time for one last fire and eventually people started drifting off to go to sleep, but I stayed up for some time just winding down and started getting some things put away.


I was about ready to go to bed after 2am when I heard from one of the campground security folks was walking by and he told me that there was soon going to be a fairly big storm front coming through, so I stayed up a little longer and took down the shower tent and put it away dry, and put all the shower gear under the shade structure too.  So I didn't get to sleep until after 3am.  As it turned out it didn't storm but only rained a bit, but we later heard that there were some severe weather further south in Minnesota so it was a real concern.  Of course I still was up early in the morning, but a little coffee helped with that.  We were lucky enough to have no rain later in the morning, so after a couple of hours it was dry enough to start putting tents away dry too, and by 1pm we were all packed up and heading out.

Taking it all down on Monday after the weather cleared
Erin and I drove back to Donna and Terry's home where we were welcomed by Cedligh who was so happy to see us, and we cleaned up a bit and relaxed for an hour or so before heading over to the Bhigg House to unload all the group camping gear and put it back in the garage  (thank goodness for the garden cart!), and then repacked our own stuff for the trip back home so that our puppy would have plenty of room too.  Then we had dinner and stayed around for the Dead Mouse party and I played music with Dave, Wolfgang, Christine, and Susan Israel who dropped by to join us.  By 11pm we headed back to Donna and Terry's and turned in.


After a good night's sleep and a chance to do laundry so we could pack away clean clothes for the trip home, we did our usual thing and headed over to Burnstein's Deli for breakfast with Dave, Donna, Christine, and Elizabeth and it was very tasty.  We left Winnipeg around 11am and had no trouble at the border (yay!) and made very quick time on the interstate and picked up our Tucker at Peter's and then Missy and Auntie Shar's just as the sun was setting and pulled into the driveway at 9:45pm safe and sound.  The cat was very happy to see us too.

The next day after getting home, I still had my folk fest wristband on.  I did eventually take it off.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

In the Hospital

by George Garrett

Here everything is white and clean
as driftwood. Pain’s localized
and suffering, strictly routine,
goes on behind a modest screen.

Softly the nurses glide on wheels,
crackle like windy sails, smelling of soap,
I’m needled and the whole room reels.
The Fury asks me how I feel

and, grinning turns to the brisk care
of an old man’s need, he who awake
is silent, at the window stares,
sleeping, like drowning, cries for air.

And finally the fever like a spell
my years cast off. I notice now
nurse’s firm buttocks, the ripe swell
of her breasts. It seems I will get well.

Next visitors with magazines;
they come whispering as in church.
The old man looks away and leans
toward light. Dying, too, is a routine.

I pack my bag and say goodbyes.
So long to nurse and this Sargasso Sea.
I nod to him and in his eyes
read, raging, the seabird’s lonely cries.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Future Plans

by Kate Barnes

When I am an old, old woman I may very well be
living all alone like many another before me
and I rather look forward to the day when I shall have
a tumbledown house on a hill top and behave
just as I wish to. No more need to be proud—
at the tag end of life one is at last allowed
to be answerable to no one. Then I shall wear
a shapeless felt hat clapped on over my white hair,
sneakers with holes for the toes, and a ragged dress.
My house shall be always in a deep-drifted mess,
my overgrown garden a jungle. I shall keep a crew
of cats and dogs, with perhaps a goat or two
for my agate-eyed familiars. And what delight
I shall take in the vagaries of day and night,
in the wind in the branches, in the rain on the roof!
I shall toss like an old leaf, weather-mad, without reproof.
I’ll wake when I please, and when I please I shall doze;
whatever I think, I shall say; and I suppose
that with such a habit of speech I’ll be let well alone
to mumble plain truth like an old dog with a bare bone.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Ode to the Pull-Out Couch

by Sonja Johanson

Which once belonged to your great-
grandparents, but belongs to us now,
and still works, even if the cushions
are pretty well flattened and the stuffing
is coming out from one armrest,
and the color, which was probably
once cream with red stitching, has
become mostly a muddy rust —

and which is always called a couch
and never, ever a sofa, just as
a pocketbook is not a purse, a bureau
is not a dresser, and pants are not
slacks. Only snooty people on TV
would call a couch a sofa, or rich
people, or maybe people from away.
Which we are not.

Because if we were any of those,
instead of just a pull-out couch,
we would have a guest room, with
a comforter and duvet, which no
guests would ever sleep under
because they would be staying at
a five-star hotel, where we would
join them for a five-star dinner

instead of the supper we cook
for our cousins up from Alfred,
which makes them still from here
and not from away, so they can’t
afford to go out to dinner, much
less afford a fancy hotel room
even if there was a hotel in town.
Which there is not.

And after our supper and before
we wake up early to take them
ice fishing, we pull out the couch
and give them pillows and blankets
and maybe even the granny-square
afghan, and they get to sleep by
the woodstove with the extra cats
and know that they are welcome.