More on Bass River Chairs

I requested a catalogue from the Bass River Chairs website last week (see below for a critique of same). Today the catalog arrived, and it included a “wooden nickel” which is a $5.00 credit on a $25.00 purchase (everyone gets this, form letter suggests — not just people who think their website is horrible). So that was nice. But, alas, the catalogue itself has the actual prices of items included on a separate photocopied sheet rather than beside the pictures of the items themselves in the body. While this is probably cheaper, and gives them the flexibility to raise and lower prices without reprinting the catalogue, it’s user-hostile, and makes it difficult to browse the catalogue easily. Sigh.

Musical Coincidence?

Here are the opening lines to the song But I do Love You, popularized by its presence in the movie Coyote Ugly:

I don’t like to be alone at night
And I don’t like to hear I’m wrong when I’m right
And I don’t like to have the rain on my shoe
But I do love you.
Now compare this to the opening lines to the song I Don’t Like your Fish, which I wrote in 1991:
I don’t like your fish,
I don’t like them one bit
I don’t like the way they look at me
I don’t like the way the shit [all over the place]
But I sure, yes I sure, do love you.

Old Man River

A CBC “Off the Beaten Track” episode in which I talk about Showboat and the history of the song Old Man River. Originally aired on August 20, 2000 on CBC Radio’s Mainstreet program in Prince Edward Island.

Ol’ Man River

Introduction: A brief history of the song “Ol’ Man River,” along with two very different interpretations by Canadian artists Curtis Driedger and Jane Siberry.

Show Boat

  • In 1926, a book called “Show Boat” by Edna Ferber was published – she was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan who had won the Pulitzer Prize in 1924 for her book So Big.
  • Show Boat follows the life of Magnolia, daughter of the captain of the riverboat The Cotton Blossom.
  • Magnolia marries a gambler, Gaylord Ravenal.
  • As a result of his gambling, they separate
  • Magnolia moves to Chicago where she takes up life in musical comedy.
  • Their daughter follows her mother into show business, and eventually Magnolia and Gaylord are reunited years later at a performance of their now internationally famous daughter.
  • Woven throughout this plot is the sub-plot concerning the lives of the black workers on the riverboats, and marriage of Magnolia’s best friend Julie La Verne and her husband, which runs afoul of the law because it is discovered that Julie is of mixed black and white heritage, and this is against the law.
  • In 1927, collaborators Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II adapted the book into a Broadway show.
  • Show Boat the musical was groundbreaking when it premiered in 1927, as musicals up to that point hadn’t had a coherent plot or songs tied to the action.
  • Show Boat is said in many circles to mark the beginning of American musical theatre.
  • Show Boat originally played Broadway in 1927, was adapted into a movie in 1936 and again in 1951, and was revived on Broadway in 1946, and several times thereafter, most famously in recent years in 1994 by Garth Drabinsky.

Ol’ Man River

  • The song Ol’ Man River is sung by Joe, one of the riverboat workers, several times throughout the musical.
  • Edna Ferber said in her autobiography: “…Jerome Kern appeared at my apartment late one afternoon with a strange look of quiet exultation in his eyes. He sat down at the piano. He didn’t play the piano particularly well and his singing voice, though true, was negligible. He played and sang ‘Ol’ Man River.’ The music mounted, mounted, and I give you my word my hair stood on end, the tears came to my eyes, I breathed like a heroine in a melodrama. This was great music. This was music that would outlast Jerome Kern’s day and mine. I have never heard it since without that emotional surge. When SHOW BOAT was revived at the Casino Theater in New York just four years after its original production at the Ziegfeld I saw a New York first-night audience, after Paul Robeson’s singing of ‘Ol’ Man River,’ shout and cheer and behave generally as I’ve never seen an audience behave in any theater in all my years of playgoing…”
  • The song is most closely associated with Paul Robeson, who played Joe in the Broadway production of Show Boat and in the 1936 movie.
  • In the original 1927 lyrics, it’s written:

I gits weary and sick of tryin’;
I’m tired of livin’ and scared of dyin’
And Ol’ man river, he just keeps rollin’ along.

  • Robeson later revised the lyrics to:

I keeps laffin’ instead of cryin’
I must keep fightin’ until I’m dyin’
And Ol’ man river, he just keeps rollin’ along.

  • Roberson, who had been a football star and then an actor, went on to a life as a political activist.

Canadian Singers on Ol’ Man River

  • Back on June 1, 1990, I was program director at Trent Radio, a community radio station in Peterborough, Ontario.
  • We organized an evening of performances by local musicians at the Market Hall in downtown Peterborough.
  • One of the performers was Curtis Driedger, formerly of the infamous Toronto band the CeeDees.
  • Here’s some of his performance from that night, recorded live and originally broadcast on Trent Radio…

[clip from “Curtis Dreidger live at Artspace”, recorded June 1, 1990; on cassette tape, queued]

  • Toronto singer/songwriter Jane Siberry, who has, in recent years, been running her musical career largely through her own Sheeba Records website – — is about to release an album of Celtic and American spirituals called “Hush.”
  • From that album, here is her own rendition of “Ol’ Man River,” which you will immediately see is quite different from Curtis’

[clip from “Hush” by Jane Siberry, track 9]


The weather for September 22

What with our first child scheduled to be born on September 22, I though I should find out what the weather for that day will bring. According to the forecast, it will be “rain, then warm.” Not bad weather to be born into, I think.

Boston Survival Guide

A CBC “Off the Beaten Track” episode in which I talk traveling to Boston for Prince Edward Islanders. Originally aired on August 18, 2000 on CBC Radio’s Mainstreet program in Prince Edward Island.

As with all of these pieces, I prepared a script for host Matthew Rainnie and me; it went like this:

Peter’s Boston Survival Guide

Introduction: It’s easy for Islanders to get to Boston.  We should do it more often.  This is the six-minute guide to getting to Boston in one piece and having fun while there.

Step One: Getting to Boston

  • The best flight to Boston is the 6:15 a.m. Air Nova flight direct from Charlottetown, which arrives in Boston 2 hours later at 9:13 a.m.
  • It costs a lot to stay in Boston – might as well maximize your time there by arriving early!
  • The earlier you reserve this flight the better – it can range anywhere from $250 to $1200.  There are usually seat sales three or four times a year.
  • As usual, it’s cheaper to fly if you stay over a Saturday night.
  • You only need 15,000 Aeroplan or Canadian Plus points to get to Boston.
  • The flight takes about ½ an hour to get to Halifax, then you have a ½ hour wait, and then it’s about an hour to get to Boston.

Step Two: In from the Airport

  • Boston’s Logan Airport is located just across Boston Harbor from downtown Boston.
  • You can take a taxi, a bus, a limousine – even a water taxi – but the best way to get to downtown Boston is by subway – known in Boston as “the T.”
  • It costs only 85 cents, and it tales about ½ an hour to get downtown.
  • Go out of the terminal building to the ground transportation area and look for the signs to “Logan Shuttle” – this is a free bus that takes you to the Airport subway station.
  • Make sure you get on the right bus – not all of them stop at the subway station, but they’re all clearly marked.
  • Once you get to the “T station” you pay your 85 cents and get on the subway – make sure you’re getting on the one going downtown – just ask the person in the toll booth.
  • About 9 minutes later, you’re downtown!

Step Three: Where to Stay?

  • Boston is a really expensive place to stay!
  • If you’re willing to stay in the suburbs you can find a good room for less than $100/night.
  • In general, the closer you are to the heart of Boston, the more you’re going to pay and to stay downtown means paying $150 to $300 (or more!) a night.
  • My picks for places to stay are:
    • Susse Chalet Boston
      • One of a chain of New England budget hotels
      • Basic accommodations, but clean and well-located
      • Make sure you stay at the Boston one, not the Cambridge one (Cambridge location is right on the highway, and very noisy!)
      • Has a pool; is next door to a bowling center; has a restaurant; Burger King is around the corner.
      • Not right on the subway, but they have a free shuttle that will take you there.
      • About $100/night.
    • Newbury Guest House and the Harborside Inn
      • Sister properties – one located on Newbury Street (the chichi shopping district of Boston) and the other located just of Quincy Market right downtown.
      • Small and friendly.
      • Clean rooms, a step up from the Susse Chalet.
      • Very nice continental breakfast is included.
      • Can’t beat the location – both are located in the heart of very interesting neighbourhoods.
      • $110 to $160/night, depending on the time of year.
    • The College Club
      • My personal favourite place to stay.
      • Located in an historic building very near Boston Common, right in the heart of the city.
      • Started life as a private club for college women; now invites the public to stay in its guest rooms.
      • The rooms are small; sometimes you have to share a bath down the hall.
      • Rooms have a lot of character – books and magazines, antique furnishings, large windows.
      • But there’s a good breakfast included, you’re in the heart of the city and a block from the subway, and the building is beautiful.
      • And the rooms go for $55 to $85/night, which is a great deal for Boston.

Step Four: What to do?

  • It’s easy to get around on foot or on the subway – there’s very little need for a car.
  • You can get a free subway map from toll collectors.
  • You could spend weeks in Boston and never run out of things to do.  
  • Here are some “must see” things:
    • Go to the top of the John Hancock Tower.  It’s a little expensive at $6 a person, but you get a great view of the entire city, and there’s an interesting presentation about the history of the city.
    • The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, right around the corner from the Museum of Fine Arts, is a fantastic building which houses the personal collection of Isabella Stewart Gardner, who was a wealthy patron of the arts.  The building is in the style of a 15th century Venetian palace, and is as interesting as the art.
    • The Nostalgia Factory in North Boston, which is the Italian district of the city, is a cramped little second-floor store, very hard to find.  They have a collection of 30,000 historic movie posters, lobby cards, photographs, books, and magazines.
    • While in North Boston, eat at Ida’s Restaurant.  Like the Nostalgia Factory, it’s cramped and hard to find, but they serve wonderful homemade Italian food.
    • Kendall Square Cinema over the Charles River in Cambridge is an “art house multiplex” and always has interesting movies playing.  It’s kind of hard to get to: you go to the Kendall ‘T’ stop, and then take a free shuttle bus to the Galleria Mall.
    • While you’re on the Cambridge side of the Charles River, you can try Fire & Ice, which is a weird sort of “make your own meal” restaurant, where you assemble a collection of meat and vegetables and spices and then have them cooked for you on a huge 8-foot diameter grill.
    • Finally, my favourite place in Boston is Filene’s Basement, which sells a motley collection of seconds, overruns and liquidated clothing at prices that gradually go down to zero as time marches on.  If you’re wily, you can buy an entire wardrobe for under $100.
    • When you’re at Filene’s, be sure to eat at Chacarero, a small Chilean takeout stand in the same building that sells a most amazing sandwich the core ingredient of which is steamed green beans.

Step Five: Coming back to PEI.

  • There’s a 6:00 p.m. flight from Boston to Charlottetown every day, which lets you still a full day in Boston after checking out of your hotel.
  • Many hotels, esp. smaller ones, have a luggage room where you can leave your things after you check out.
  • Remember that you have a $50 exemption from duty if you’re gone for 24 hours or more, a $200 exemption if you’re gone for 48 hours or more, and a $750 exemption if you’re gone for more than a week.

Marketing without advertising

Here’s Brian Sobey’s entire marketing campaign:

“Wee Haul — U Call: Hire Man and Truck for Just a Few Bucks.”
Call Brian at 892-9099 if you need stuff hauled in Charlottetown or area. He did a good job for us hauling 50 years worth of smelly old carpets to the dump today.