Norse Legends – II

And who’s minding the kids?

Sorry Dr Spo still no Odin or Loki but a bit more of a preamble to our setting off on the voyage. Several people – well okay it was one and the rest was done with mirrors – asked the very important question: who is taking care of the kids while you are pursuing Vikings around Scandinavia?

Here’s Nora asking the same question:

Well our dear friend Blake, Nicky and Nora’s Uncle Pervy, has flown in from Ottawa to look after them. He will be there to attend to their every need and be at their constant beck and call.

September 3 is Skyscraper Day proclaimed he from the 31st floor of a 57 story building. More about that later.

This, That, and the Other Thing

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve brought the world in general and both my faithful readers up to date with events at the corner of Water and Prince. I’m sure breathes have been baited and anticipations run highish so without further palavers here’s a few tidbits of news.

It’s called “groaking” and these two have it down to a science.

Starting as always with the Hounds from Hell – I know what’s important and what people really care about. Nicky and Nora have had their yearly check-ups and great was the surprise when the 4th year vet student was told they were 10 years old. Nora seems to have rebounded from her back problems however I’ve noticed she has moments when she slows down – for her! Now that spring is here and her friends Steve, Jerry, Sarah and Cathy from the Parks Department are back in their orange vests (pockets brimming with treats) she wants her two or three long walks and is most indignant when they are cut short. We are trying, often unsuccessfully, to keep the running, jumping and tussling to a minimum.

What’s your problem? The mat say “HOME” and we’re making ourselves “at HOME”.

Nicky’s main pursuit is the sun; his motto is “there is sun then it must be basked in”. Forget that it is still only in the one digits there are rays to be caught! And don’t forget to leave the door open and if the humans are cold they can put their sweaters on.

Holland America’s Zaandam is small cruise ship as cruise ships go these days however May 1st it still brings almost 2000 people (passengers and crew) into Port each visit.

The arrival of HAL’s Zaandam in port on May 1st signalled the beginning of cruise ship season. During the summer the Zaandam’s in almost every week alternating Tuesdays and Wednesdays depending on where the journey began, Montreal or Boston. Over June, July and August five or six other ships will visit town irregularly however come September through October there will be ships in port almost every day – on at least five days there will be three ships visiting. And on one day mid-September there will be four cruise ships disgorging upwards of 5000 passengers onto our fair shores. Let’s hope that lessons learned last year will bear results this year but just in case I think we will get the hell out of town that day.

Already this cruise ship season Nicky and Nora have had their pictures taken five times. I am tempted to buy them little straw hats with red pigtails and tell people they are Anne’s dogs. I figure $10.00 a photo should help pay some of those vet bills??

Lillian Roth in 1971 during the recording of the original cast album of her last Broadway appearance in 70, Girls, 70.

In my surfing for bits and pieces about Lillian Roth earlier this week I came across a reference to her grave marker at Mount Pleasant Cemetery in West Chester County, New York. It came as no surprise when I read that is simply gives her name, dates and this comment on her life:

As bad as it was it was good.

A welcome sign of the season on Peake’s Quay is Carron’s little red Chip Shack. The self-proclaimed – and rightly to my mind – Queen of Fries she has the best French Fries on the Island if not in Canada. Fresh cut PEI potatoes, double fried to a nice crispy brown-gold outside and butter soft inside. We were in line on the 7th when she was up and floating by the dock and had our first “small” bag of chips of the season.

Another sure, if not necessarily all that welcome, sign that spring – and tourist season – is here would be the blue awning up on the terrace at Peake’s Quay. Which means that Friday and Saturday nights on Water Street will be “festive”, yes I think that’s the word they want us to us “festive” until the wee hours of the morning. Ah well we choose to live in tourist central so suck it up buttercup!

Happy to say it was an almost capacity and very enthusiastic house for the performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 by the PEI Symphony Orchestra on April 14. Photograph by Darrell Theriault for the PEISO.

You may recall that a great deal of my month of April was taken up with Gustav Mahler in preparation for the performance of his Symphony No. 3 by our PEI Symphony Orchestra. With all the build up there was a chance that the performance itself could be a bit of a let down however Maestro Mark Shapiro, the orchestra and choruses met the challenge of both the work and the anticipation. The horn section – sometimes I think Mahler had it in for the brass players – shone in some of the most difficult passages in the brass repertoire. My friend David had mentioned that he hoped the string section was up to that heart-breakingly beautiful final movement and I assure him they were. It was a remarkably fine performance and made at least one audience member very proud to be involved howbeit tangentially.

The children and women’s choruses along with the hard-working horn section waiting for the downbeat at the beginning of the 4th movement. Photograph by Darrell Theriault for the PEISO.

As remarkable as the performance was the audience reaction and involvement. In his brief remarks Maestro Shapiro observed that we were about to climb a mountain – audience, orchestra and chorus. And this audience was very much involved in that climb. During the interval after that lengthy first movement the talk was mostly about what had just been heard and more than one person remarked to me in passing that they were eager to hear what was to come. The reaction at the end went beyond the now de rigeur standing applause – there were whoops, whistles and some good old fashioned foot stomping. We had reached the summit of that mountain – perhaps a little flushed and winded but definitely triumphantly there.

I don’t know how I missed it but yesterdays was Lost Sock Memorial Day! And today is Clean Up Your Room Day; don’t know about you but I think they should be reversed.

This, That, and the Other Thing

Nicky (left) shows an (unusual) bit of affection for our Nora. Nothing that boy likes more than a sunbeam.

As I have in the past I’ll start with the Nora report. Well things have improved greatly and our Nora is spending less time in her kennel though she is still on medication and will be for a while yet. However the task of stopping her from running, jumping, and generally living life to the fullest is proving a major challenge. It means keeping an constant eye on her – she can go from peacefully sleeping on your lap to the front door at mach 10 and frankly it’s dangerous (for her) to stop her in mid-flight. Nicky has been even suckier than normal. He did not take kindly to us leaving him for a few days and has been keeping a close eye on the comings and goings to make sure no bags are involved.

There is nothing our Nicky loves more than the sun – well okay maybe bacon.. and cheese… and carrot… and … well okay probably food comes #1 but the sun is definitely #2. And though it is still hovering around 8c he insists on being outside on the deck. He also firmly believes that if you stare long and hard enough at the door knob someone will come and turn it. He’s right. And not only that someone will lift you up onto a chair in the sunshine.

I’m not sure if John O’Brien was listening to Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 when he did this New Yorker cover but if not he should have been.

There is a reason that I have made very few appearances here in Blogdom over the past two weeks: Gustav Mahler!

Our PEI Symphony is performing his Symphony No. 3 this coming Sunday under the baton of our wonderful music director Mark Shapiro. It’s a mammoth undertaking involving 67 musicians, a women’s and chidren’s chorus of 86, an alto soloist and four – count them – four timpani. If it’s not the biggest thing we’ve ever done it’s pretty darn close. And we are doing a reduction of the original score by Yoon Jae Lee. Maestro Lee is a New York based conductor/arranger who is adapting all of Mahler’s symphonies including Das Leid von der Erde so that they are accessible to smaller orchestras and ensembles.

I’m responsible for the notes in both the printed programme and online. By necessity the paper version is limited (I am normally given 500-600 words to write about the entire programme) so we are now posting extensive notes on our website. There is certain advantage having them online – you can include video, audio, and links to other websites. But it can prove both a boon and a bane, particularly in the case of Mahler. There is so damned much out there. Largely unappreciated as a composer during his lifetime he has become one of the most performed and recorded composer in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

So for the past two weeks I’ve been wading through documentaries, commentaries, other programme notes, recordings, and performances. And the more I discover the more I am fascinated by the man, his world, and his music. And I’ve become seriously skeptical of earlier views that were largely based on the memories of his wife Alma. It becomes more and more apparent, to me at least, that she was selective and self-aggrandizing in her writings. A recent biography suggests that contrary to her version she was not the long-suffering one in any of her three marriages. I am also to the point of challenging the view that the Mahler Renaissance was solely the work of Leonard Bernstein. Never known for a lack of ego this was a view that was often expressed by Bernstein himself. There is little doubt that he and his New York Philharmonic were instrumental* in restoring Mahler to prominence in North America but Bruno Walter, Felix Prohaska, Otto Klemperer, and John Barbirolli were performing and championing Mahler’s works when little Lenny had to use a booster seat at the podium. Though I have to admit that as much as I love Abbado’s Mahler -any of Abbado’s Mahler – the 1961 recording of Symphony No. 3 by Bernstein and his NY crew is beyond reproach.

Having said all this I’m happy to say that my online notes are up and available for the world to see – or at least hopefully the audience that will be attending Sunday’s performance. Should you want to take a look they are available at: PEI Symphony Orchestra – The World of Mahler No. 3.

*I know – bad pun.

A few years ago I signed up for a site called “Asking Canadians” which offered Aeroplan points for participating in online consumer surveys. Prior to taking the survey you answer tombstone questions and if you are vetted in and complete the survey between 50 and 200 points are added to your account. If you are eliminated in the “pre-screening” then you get 5 points as a token. For several years I racked up points which actually got us a few flights however in the past two years there has been a change. On almost every survey it would appear that they have sufficient data from 73 year old, retired, white males from PEI.

It is starting to happen with such frequency that I am beginning to suspect that they really don’t want input from old white guys from the Island.

April 9th is Be Kind to Lawyers Day. We have been given notice that we are enjoined from being unkind to lawyers.


Gratuitous Puppy Celebrations

Well not really puppy – they both turn ten this month but to us they will always be our puppies.

It’s difficult to believe that it’s almost ten years since we made that trip to Casa delgi Orso in Capena just north of Rome and first saw our Nicky and Nora – better known as the Hounds from Hell. They were just over three weeks old and their eyes had barely opened. They were still in their whelping boxes and nestled with their respective dams and litter mates.

Below would be our feisty girl’s dam and sire: Lucie and Camillo. Lucie was such a suck and loved to be snuggled even if it meant interrupting feeding time. Camillo was a little fireball and a champion working dog, who gave us a real demonstration of his abilities as a hunter and tracker when one of the pups got loose. Both of Nora’s parents were in hunting packs and their prey was, believe it or not, boar! We know that Nora came by her rub “my belly and cuddle me” genes, her hunting howl, and tracking nose honestly.

And these are the young lad’s parents: Giverny and Monet. Giverny was most upset that I had handled her little guy – she checked him over to make sure everything was still there, licked him clean and then he headed straight for a teat. Monet was a show dog so we know where Nicky got his “I’m on the catwalk of life” vibe! And with that sort of parentage how could he not be an “artiste”.

Elenora di Capena was born on February 13 and Fantastico Nicky on February 24 making her the older one. And she’s never let him forget it. Back in July of 2011, a few days before they immigrated to Canada, Nora (without her collar) read the riot act to Nicky. She was the boss back then and eight years later she’s still the boss.

Happy birthday to our two whining, barking, growling, groaking, irritating, demanding but loved beyond all belief Hounds from Hell!

On this day in 1972: José María Velasco Ibarra, serving as President of Ecuador for the fifth time, is overthrown by the military for the fourth time.

Hounds From Hell Again

Fripperies for the discerning dachshund owner*

For some reason – well actually for two reasons – every day or two I get an advert popping up on my FaceBook page telling me about a new delight for daschund owners.  Normally it is a t-shirt or something of the sort which allow me to publicize to the world that my life is controlled by four (eight in my case) legged, elongated, demanding Hounds from Hell.  I have been collecting them to no known purpose – sorry the adverts not the dogs – they, so I’m told, do have a purpose.  What that purpose may be I will leave to you, my faithful reader, to decided.

This would be our Nora.

Nora once again! With Nicky adding the descant.

That would be Nikcy – here let me just lay my head on your crotch.  Oh and don’t move lest you hurt yourself.

Okay this one is just creepy!

Self-explanatory I believe?

I will leave the last word to the remarkable wordsmithing of E. B. White and his observation on his beloved Fred.

Being the owner of dachshunds, to me a book on dog discipline becomes a volume of inspired humor. Every sentence is a riot. Some day, if I ever get a chance, I shall write a book, or warning, on the character and temperament of the dachshund and why he can’t be trained and shouldn’t be. I would rather train a striped zebra to balance an Indian club than induce a dachshund to heed my slightest command. When I address Fred I never have to raise either my voice or my hopes. He even disobeys me when I instruct him in something he wants to do.

E. B. White

Oh wait a minute I stand corrected the last word – or a least image will go to the Hounds from Hell.

You want me to do what?  Is there a biscuit in the equation? If not just forget it foolish human.

The reason that I finished this post using only my right hand.

*As if anyone can actually own a dachshund!!!!!

On this day in 1898: Caleb Bradham‘s beverage “Brad’s Drink” is renamed “Pepsi-Cola”