On the Road, Part II: Freight Train

Robertson Davies would love this. Last Tuesday, as detailed here, I happened upon Fred J. Eaglesmith playing up the street from our World HQ in Charlottetown. A good time was had by all.

On the way home from that night out, I found that I had left the door of my 1993 Eagle Summit ajar; should I have not gone out that night, I wouldn’t have noticed this, and the van’s battery surely would have worn down.

Two days later, I was busily making hotel reservations — at the last minute — for this big working vacation to New England when who should knock at the door by our friend Dental Don. It was late, and he was in search of night cap, his family having abandoned him, due to paint fumes, to Rocky Point. Don pointed out that, again, the door was ajar, and I rushed out to close same lest the battery run down, etc.

Once Don left, night cap happily received, I returned to my hotel quest, and quickly happened upon the hotel where I type this, the Seaport Hotel. So here we arrived, yesterday afternoon.

This morning we headed off for a day of Bostonizing and noticed that right beside the hotel there is a large temporary tent-like structure. We were intrigued. So we drove over and found that this was the FleetBoston Pavilion, a summer concert facility. Playing tonight was Lucinda Williams. I am a fan (mostly due to KPIG).

We debated for most of the day as to whether or not we could manage taking wee Oliver out for his first country/rock concert, especially in light of the green-tea wailing of the previous night. Once we managed to introduce Oliver to swimming for the first time without incident, earlier today, we decided that we had what it takes.

I wandered over around 6:30 p.m. to find good tickets still available, and at 7:30 Catherine and Oliver wheeled over to join me. And so began the musical adventure.

The first thing to remember about live concerts is that the level of the volume of the pre-concert ambient music pales in comparison to the level of the actual volume of the actual concert. We forgot this, of course. So there we were, 23 rows from the stage, happily listening to the Cowboy Junkies, thinking that wee Oliver would loll off to sleep any minute and we would sit back and enjoy the music. And it indeed looked like that was going to happen. Then Kasey Chambers, the opening act, bounded on, the volume went up (way up), and Oliver decided to have none of this. Catherine quickly bounded off with him to the quiet reserves of the expansive food/T-shirt court, and I hung around for another couple of songs before worry got the best of me, and I went out lookin’ for them.

For most of the Kasey Chambers set — she’s a plucky Australian country singer who does a darn good job of appearing natively Texan — Oliver went through various stages of hairy conniption, not really because his eardrums were perforated or anything (the kindly staff gave us earplugs to handle that), but simply because the carnival-like atmosphere provided too many distractions.

Finally, after Kasey Chambers left the stage, and after a long intermission, Oliver drifted off to sleep just as Lucinda Williams took the stage, and we were able to claim more prudent way-back seats with room for stroller. Oliver slept contentedly throughout most of Lucinda Williams’ first set, and we sat happily beside him as he did so (although, given the heart-wrenching nature of most of the songs, “happily” wouldn’t do the mood justice).

When Oliver stirred after 8 or 9 songs, we decided that we should count ourselves lucky to have made it that far, and headed off to bed.

Oh, and the last song that Kasey Chambers played before the intermission? Freight Train, by Fred J. Eaglesmith.

On the Road, Part I: Gyu Negima-Yaki

Tatsukichi (189 State St., Boston) is the first bona fide (i.e. no fork/spoon fall-back) Japanese restaurant I’ve been too. That the maitre d’ was a large Irish man was a confusing first impression (although he did his best to entertain wee Oliver, which was of invaluable help to us). We started with a miso soup, which is complimentary with all meals. Next a couple of appetizers: Gyu Negima-Yaki, which is thinly-sliced sirloin wrapped around scallions and broiled in a Teriyaki sauce), and some strange yam-based appetizer which involved plum sauce, wasabi mustard, and a kind of white yams that were neither sweet nor anything like potatoes. For our main course, we both had Kushiage, which is lightly-battered vegetables, seafood and/or meat; this included a nice pickle mixture, a bowl of sticky rice, and two dipping sauces. For dessert, Catherine ordered a tub of green-tea ice cream to go, and ate it while Oliver (Irish maitre d’-less) wailed all the way back to the hotel. A good feeling meal.

Hotel-wise we’re staying at the sumptous Seaport Hotel across the street from the World Trade and Convention Centre. We’re staying here primarily because it is central, and the price ($179US/night) is the best in Boston (where hotel rates are insane, esp. in the summertime). It’s a very nice hotel — we agreed it was the nicest we’ve ever stayed in save the Millennium Broadway in New York — with interesting features like in-room Ethernet, well stocked business centre, and a no-tipping policy (yet very helpful congierge). After a day in Boston’s hot sun, we’re about to go and swim in the pool (Oliver’s first go at this sort of thing).

Tomorrow morning, I’m off to Quincy to do an install, and Catherine and Oliver are off to the Children’s Museum. Then it’s up to Dublin for 3 days.

I kill airlines.

Alaska Airlines Card Let this note act as a warning to the new airlines of the world: deal with me at your peril.

It all started with the ill-fated Triton Airways, based in St. John’s, Newfoundland. When they announced their launch, with great fares from Toronto to Charlottetown, I made an immediate reservation for my old friend Stephen to come a visit us for a week. One corporate thing led to another. Flights were rescheduled. Flights were cancelled. Coupons were promised and never received. I don’t believe Triton ever actually flew a single flight. Anywhere.

Next I set my sights on the ill-fated Atlantic Island Airways. Again, they offered great fares on Charlottetown to Toronto. In this case they actually got off the ground, and I actually did fly one of their PEI tartan-encrusted flights up to Toronto and back. The flight went fine; I was a little put off by the torn carpet and general unkemptness of the interior of the plane, but it flew fine, which, in the end, is the point. Within a month, Atlantic Island Airways was out of business. I ended up going to the auction of their remaining assets at an airplane hanger in Summerside, and bought an executive-style desk chair, which I used for almost 5 years before it gave out.

And then, most recently, I thought that I might try out Roots Air to get out to Vancouver to see my brother Johnny. In anticipation, I went to their website and registered for their frequent flyer program. A month later, no more Roots Air.

Today in the mail I got the card pictured here, along with a nice letter from Alaska Airlines telling me about the demise of Roots Air, and that my frequent flyer account would now be transferred to their airline. So now I’m primed, ready and equipped to start raking in the mileage on all my Anchorage-Portland flights.

By the way, I never flew CanJet, which explains why it didn’t go out of business by rather just merged into Canada 3000. I’ve never flown WestJet, which explains why it’s still in business. And, come to think of it, when an Air Canada flight had mechanical troubles last fall, I was switched to a Canadian Airlines Charlottetown to Halifax flight. A month later, Canadian Airlines was consumed by Air Canada.

Like I said, beware.

Mac Campbell

As proof positive that it’s a small world, or at least a small Island, I got email from the very same Mac Campbell mentioned yesterday in this space. His explanation: “I called someone today and they said did you see, did you know? Peter is commenting on your presence or lack of at the Eaglesmith concert.” Perhaps now that I’ve attracted the eyes of Mac Campbell, I should casually mention the Pope, or John Coletrane.

Rory Beck, Sting, and Mac Campbell

At the heart of the nexus of the Ola Hammarlund and Mac Campbell demographics lies the Island audience for Fred Eaglesmith. Or so it would seem from the performance at Pat’s Rose and Grey on Tuesday night, for everywhere I turned, I saw Mac. Or Ola. Or at least Mac and Ola dopplegangers. Combine the Mac Campbelloids with the people who wandered in off the street, and you’ve got an audience. What they lacked in mosh pitty frenzy, they more than made up for in sedate enthusiasm.

Feeling that I should seek positive alternatives to having my heart ripped out by Island Tel, I wandered down Richmond Street around 11 o’clock to catch this accidental performance of Fred and his band, arranged only at the last minute when a gig on the mainland fell through.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that and his band included Washboard Hank (of Hank and the Honkers, Reverend Ken and the Lost Followers, among other groups), and Willie P. Bennett, both stalwarts of the strong Peterborough, Ontario music scene we left behind when we headed east.

As to Fred himself, I must say that I suffered immediately from an impression that he looked an awfully lot like Rory Beck (who used to sign my cheques when he was Deputy Minister of Economic Development) and also somewhat like Sting. Once the initial unnervingness of these similarities wore off, this became a pleasant distraction.

Now Pat’s is not exactly the best performance venue in North America. Or even in Charlottetown. Only about 15 people actually get a clear view of the stage, and the acoustics of the building are tuned for a drug store, not a live band. That said, that only 30 people or so were still around when I showed up made for a pretty “intimate” setting, and Fred and the band certainly filled every nook and cranny of the place with music.

I must admit to some ambivalence about the whole idea of Fred Eaglesmith, as Catherine was an is a Big Fan of his, and this traces back to the hallowed Time Before Me, when she was a footloose and fancy free Toronto chick. But I should get over this. And I did. These guys are all fantastic, polished musicians, accustomed to each other and the music, but not going through the motions (and Lord knows you could fall into the trap of going through the motions playing Charlottetown on a Tuesday in early June to a crowd full of Mac Campbell droids). They rocked the place. And I realized that I should get out more.

Disclaimer: The use of Mac Campbell’s spirit in this concert review was done without the permission of Mac Campbell. I think probably, in the end, Mac Campbell wasn’t even at the concert, however much it seemed that he was. This review should not be considered an endorsement nor condemnatio of Fred Eaglesmith, or of louder music in general, by Mac Campbell, nor should the use of the term “Mac Campbell droids” be considered a negative comment about Mac Campbell the actual person. Mac Campbell’s a great guy. We miss him on the CBC. Ola Hammarlund was at the concert. Island Tel has never actually ripped my actual physical heart out; however certain actions of Island Tel and its service providers and affiliated companies have created a psychological effect in me similar to that which I imagine having ones heart ripped out would cause. The fact that Rory Beck looks like Fred Eaglesmith is purely coincidence.

When rsync won’t work…

Note to rsync users: where you get this message from rsync:

unexpected EOF in read_timeout

…it probably means that the path to rsync on your remote server can’t be found. Solve this with —rsync-path=.

Call from Eastlink

Got the call from Eastlink today — they’ve been reading this website, and knew that it was the right time. Many questions to be answered, but looks like we can probably consolidate telephone, Internet, and TV under one account. Note to Island Tel: over the next 25 years, this is $100,000 worth of business. If your “team” is ever going to get back to me with your side of the story, now is the time.

Island Tel High Speed Down Again

11:00 p.m. — Island Tel High Speed Internet network completely down for approx. 10 minutes. This follows on the heels of two major outages on Friday.
11:15 p.m. — Network briefly comes back up.
11:20 p.m. — Network still flaky. 50% packet loss to everywhere, include the ITAS gateway. Place call to technical support.
11:27 p.m. — On hold waiting for someone to answer technical support for 7 minutes and 58 seconds. Note that they have replaced old instrumental rendition of James Taylor song with instrumental rendition of Billy Joel song for on-hold entertainment. Not sure which is more annoying.
11:28 p.m. — Brusk Watts employee cum Island Tel technical support guy comes on the line. Claims problems are cleared up. I protest 50% packet loss. He says problems are cleared up. He says reset my modem. I protest 50% (not 100%) packet loss. He says they’re aware of the problem and someone is working on it. He says no more. I say thank you (why, I don’t know). Call over.
11:32 p.m. — Now experiencing 75% packet loss. Starting to panic that will have no Internet for the night despite much work to complete. Resolve to call Eastlink in the morning. All goodwill from early hopeful calls from Island Tel people after last frustration used up. Stark disbelief that any company can stay in business this long — even run ads in the paper claiming they’re e-business experts — with such completely crappy product and technical support. How do they sleep at night?
11:39 p.m. — Even though I know it’s a stupid idea, go down to basement to reset DSL modem. Note no water in basement; good sign. Come back upstairs. Still running about 50% packet loss. Place another call to technical support. Amazed that phones still work.
11:40 p.m. — Amazingly enough, technical support line answered on first ring. Oddly enough, end up talking to same guy. Guy admits that I didn’t have to reset my modem and that there’s a system-wide problem causing packet loss on the network. Claims it should be all okay by morning. Says someone is working on the problem right now. Two statements seem to be in conflict. Say thank you. End of call.
12:36 a.m. — Still experiencing same problems. Glad Island Tel is not running the highway system.
1:04 a.m. — Into the second hour of downtime now.
1:20 a.m. — Network seems to be back up and funtioning now. Feeling chastened.