Monday, 23 June 2014



The Longest Days


Summer. As the solstice occurs the days in this northern town become insanely long. While we’re not quite living in Robert Service’s ‘Land of the Midnight Sun,’ darkness begins its slow motion fall only after 10 PM. All of this seasonal light comes with a cost of course. The days before Christmas are shorter than a mad dog’s temper. And goddamned flesh-freezing cold.


Ann’s informal string quartet gathered to play in the backyard Friday evening. One of the pieces on all four music stands was ‘El Choclo,’ an Argentine tango. It’s madcap and obviously fun for the musicians. Sitting outside their circle and listening I could only picture Bugs Bunny in drag looking hotter than Jessica Rabbit and Groucho Marx, eyebrows akimbo, running around on the furniture and waving his Cuban cigar. The session degenerated when the violist requested a cigarette break and then had a second glass of white wine. Not exactly the Rolling Stones at work though I filled the ensuing silence with the ‘Exile’ re-master.


Saturday was the longest day of the year. Following Friday night it truly was. After dinner we talked about an outdoor Scrabble game lit by our short summer’s eternal first evening. Ann’s record against me is something like 50 wins against four losses. Our last game was pretty much over on her second turn; all seven of her tiles down to make me PEEVISH, with a couple of key triple letter scores thrown in for good measure. I retaliated with ZONED, too little and already too late. The final tally had Ann breaking 400 points and me close to 300. So it was just as well we decided to sit outside and talk and just be so I could avoid feeling like the province of Quebec – humiliated yet again. And the mosquitoes weren’t too bad.


Summer is the time of grandiose plans. I will make the best pasta sauce ever with the tomatoes, peppers, zucchinis and basil growing in our garden. Let’s marinate and barbecue every last ounce of meat in Alberta. Let’s read every decent book ever written. Let’s go to Europe or Australia and see the Rolling Stones for maybe the last time – I don’t know. Let’s go to Edmonton’s jazz, folk and blues festivals, get full passes and see everybody. Let’s drive to Oregon. Let’s invite people over every night. Let’s go see a major league baseball game, preferably National League, ideally the Cards or the Cubs. Let’s scrape, sand and repaint the wrought iron railing on the front porch. Tomorrow I will mow the grass. Friday night’s leftovers should probably go into the garbage, especially the shrimp. The ashtray needs emptying, the dishwasher too. We’re low on beer.

Sometime after 11 as it was becoming almost too dark to see, we agreed to go back inside. Artificial light would’ve seemed an intrusion in the backyard. Anyway, urban stargazers are stymied by a city’s ambient light. ‘It’s all downhill from here, you know,’ Ann said. Yes. This is Canadian fatalism. The light of day must now continually dwindle. Heat must turn cold. Winter must come again. The living proof came yesterday when the National Hockey League announced its 2014-15 schedule. The Canadiens are here in late October; I can wait.

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