Saturday, January 30, 2010

Return to Canada

Last night, around 11, I set out to do the dishes. There were quite a lot of them, so of course I turned on the old radio on the windowsill for company. It was the BBC news on NPR, which was fine, but... I wanted something different. It occurred to me that I wanted Canada. It further occurred to me, with that special excitement reserved for technological possibilities, that I could get Canada. Plug in the laptop, find the CBC Radio podcasts, choose "As It Happens" (a more relaxed, more conversational "All Things Considered") and put on the headphones. Moments later, over the faucet and pots, there it was: Canada! my home (Vancouver) from '72 to '85, when CBC Radio was my comfort zone, my ambience. And now here it was in my kitchen. Specifically, it was The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik, former Montrealer (who knew?), talking to Barbara Budd about J.D. Salinger. The best! (

Dishes done. I knew what I really wanted to hear, even though I was approaching the Glide, that dangerous zone that schusses you from 11:30 to 1:00 or 2 in the morning without any work at all. Never mind. I wanted to hear a Canadian appreciation of singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle, who died on the 18th of this month of cancer, age 63. The McGarrigle sisters were a big part of my Canadian soundtrack, along with the like of Pied Pumpkin, Doug and the Slugs, and varied thrushes, preferably in the rain.

More luck. I found another great interview, this one with Linda Ronstadt, who famously recorded the McGarrigles' "Heart Like a Wheel" around 1974, and was a good friend of Kate and Anna. Which led me to YouTube to hear Kate sing one of the most beautiful songs ever written: "Talk to Me of Mendocino." Watch. Listen.

Canadian radio captures the phenomenon of a small population in a vast land. Compared to the slightly self-important media megaphone of NPR—with the exception, perhaps, of "Bob Edwards' Weekend"—it's like a really interesting conversation overheard among fellow passengers on a train, the VIArail, crossing the lakes and woods, prairies, Rockies, and river valleys between Quebec and B.C. Listening now, it's also a bit like tuning into an exotic country on my shortwave radio when I was eleven. Hey, dad, I got Canada!


Tonight, the Wolf Moon rose over Arlington, muzzier than it looked last night, when it rose huge and astonishing into the blue evening sky around 5:30. It's a moon that goes with a wolf, if there were any. Canada has wolves to go with it. Arlington has coyotes, red foxes, and eagles on Mystic Lake, but no wolves, except the lone moon. No wolf song except the music of the spheres.

1 comment:

  1. If there were such a thing as "super fans", I'd be one of yours. Beautiful entry, accompanied by a beautiful song.