Music is a powerful drug, a mischievous elixir capable of elevating spirits you didn’t know were worn out. Sometimes it takes a infectious Fionn skeleton to set things right.
CBC Radio provided background chatter for this afternoon’s drive home from work. Traffic, weather and politics morphed into a monotone loop. When was my last day off? How many hours have I worked this week? Never mind, doesn’t matter, I’m so tired. Suddenly shoulders lifted and toes tapped as red light turned to green.
Exhibiting signs of full blown infection, I cranked the radio, gliding home on a Fionn Skeleton cloud. Go figure.
15 running shoes containing detached human feet washed up on British Columbia shores since 2007. News of the 15th broke on February 11, 2019 when West Vancouver police and the British Columbia Coroner Service issued a plea for public assistance in identifying the missing person who wore this Nike men’s size 9.5 sneaker with an OrthoLite insert. Trouble is number 15 landed on a West Vancouver beach in September, 2018, so why did authorities wait 5 months before going public?
Officially 10 of 15 detached feet are identified as belonging to 7 people who died by accident or suicide, 5 remain a mystery. Be that as it may, where are the rest of their bodies? Feet only detach from water logged bodies when they’re encased in a running shoe? Why a cluster of detached feet in Southwestern B.C.? Why 5 months between finding #15 and going public? Surely there’s a reasonable explanation, unfortunately what that might be remains ponderously elusive.
Another foot, the 15th since 2007, washes up on a B.C. beach
For the past eight years the last holiday party of the year falls a few days before Christmas with the same corporate client. We deck the halls for eighty employees at head office of this grocery/drug store chain with anticipation of their appreciation and our eminent release from party season. We provide prime rib, baked ham, turkey dinner with all the fixings. They provide a truck load of cheese/meat deli platters, dozens of sushi platters, 30 boxes of mandarin oranges, a plethora of cakes, desserts and non-alcoholic beverages. The understanding being we deliver leftover bounty to a homeless mission or soup kitchen.
So far so good, head office employees eat themselves into blissful comas, we start packing everything for the mission. Without fail a handful of vultures start to circle. Well mannered scroungers receive polite reminders leftovers are destined for charitable donation, sneaky scavengers are shamed when we point them out to corporate management. Professional temperance prevents me from shouting “What’s wrong with you! ” Truly a mind boggling spectacle to witness human nature at its worst, glutinous employees gorging on free lunch then plotting to deny the homeless.
This afternoon oblivious ignorance reached a new low. Female employee enters room, doesn’t make eye contact or say a word, starts rummaging through stacks of platters set aside for the mission. “Can I help you?” She turns to face me holding a large platter of sushi, uttering “I have a party tonight, going to take this with me”. I doubt she’ll ever know what happened next solidified her place in my ledger of shame, that her shallow insensitivity spawned Quote Of The Day ponders.
“All leftovers are going to Union Gospel Mission” I said.
“Homeless people don’t eat sushi” she replied, and marched out of the room.
In 2011 Toronto visionaries Daveed Goldman and Nobu Adilman launched Choir! Choir! Choir! Twice a week, Clinton’s Tavern in Toronto opens its doors to anyone wanting to participate in a sing-a-long. Goldman and Adilman teach arrangements for one song, then film the performance. The results are magical.
When I watch Choir! Choir! Choir! videos my heart sings in harmony.
Choir! Choir! Choir! transcends race, religion and politics. Voices of everyday people erupt in inspiring song.
In May 2016, 1,999 voices filled Toronto’s Massey Hall to remember Prince with When Doves Cry.
On October 11, 2018 Choir! Choir! Choir! gathered at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto to mark the first anniversary of Gord Downie’s death. Led by Goldman, Adilman and surviving members of Tragically Hip, Grace, Too enveloped the night.
For those who might not know Downey, the Hip or Grace,Too – I conclude with the Tragically Hip performing Grace,Too at Woodstock 1999.
This ponder is dedicated to my dear friend and co-worker Tony. A true gentleman, salt of the earth and kind soul whose thoughtful tribute to the 100th anniversary of SS Princess Sophia’s tragic demise touched my heart.
The SS Princess Sophia, before her tragic end. (Alaska State Library, Sadlier-Olsen Family Collection)
On the 100th anniversary of armistice take a moment to ponder the 100th anniversary of Princess Sophia, a maritime disaster worth remembering. Below, Tony’s letter to his Princess line shipmates….
One hundred years ago today, in the early morning hours of October 24th 1918 the CPR’s Princess Sophia ran aground on Vanderbilt Reef in Lynn Canal, about 60 miles south of Skagway, Alaska, bound for Juneau and points south The ship had left Skagway with a full load of ‘end of season’ passengers at 10 pm, three hours late. It was one of the last two sailings southbound before winter set in; Princess Alice was on her way north and would be just about the last chance to travel south. About 400 people were waiting in Skagway, many of them seasonal workers and crews from the paddle wheelers on the interior lakes. There was excitement building over rumours of an end to the Great War but a number of the passengers and crew members were already sick with the ‘flu, the influenza epidemic which would kill at least 20 million people worldwide, 30 to 50,000 Canadians.
The weather deteriorated soon after departure and at the time of the grounding the Sophia was travelling at 12 – 14 knots through a snowstorm with a 50 mph tailwind. Navigation was conducted by sounding the ship’s whistle and calculating the distance from the steep cliff sides of the channel which was about 8 miles wide at that point. The vessel veered off course, too far to the west and struck the reef with so much force that it was driven almost its entire length high onto the reef but settled level. There was a radio on board and Captain Locke managed to alert both Skagway and Juneau.
The ship seemed securely wedged and not too much damage was visible to the hull. There seemed to be no immediate danger. A decision was made wait for moderation in the weather before allowing rescue attempts from the several small vessels which had arrived to help. At low tide it was not possible to launch the lifeboats because of the surrounding rocks and even at high tide it was thought that they would be dashed against the rocks before they could clear away. For forty hours the ship remained on the reef awaiting the forecast improvement in the weather. An all out rescue effort was planned for high tide on the 26th but towards the evening of the 25th fresh high winds and pounding seas moved the stern of the vessel completely around and it began to slide into deeper water. Princess Sophia sank late on October 25th, with the loss of all the passengers and crew, about 340 souls in all. Many bodies were found trapped inside the vessel and others were still being found in the water up to eight miles away for weeks after. Princess Alice carried many of the bodies back to Vancouver and arrived on November 11th, Armistice Day. The ship anchored off shore and did not enter the port until the next day. The arrival almost went unnoticed amid the great celebrations surrounding Armistice Day and its announcement only appeared on an inside page of the newspaper. Despite being the biggest maritime disaster in Alaska’s history the event was quickly almost forgotten. Unlike the great Titanic disaster, there were no survivors of the Princess Sophia sinking to tell their stories.
The attached photo is of Princess Sophia arriving in Vancouver sometime between 1914 / 1918. The resolution is high enough that if you zoom in you can clearly see some stewards on the foredeck ….. white shirts and bow ties! Perhaps they were looking out for wives and girlfriends on the dock. Many soldiers are visible and there seem to be officers waiting dockside as well as a band playing just above the foredeck. Also attached a picture of some crew members, stewards again I think, on board before the disaster. I wonder what the tips were like in those days. The route the ships took back then was the same as the Princess Patricia in the 1970s, the same ports in a different order. It is a sobering thought to think that all of us passed that same reef many, many times, northbound and southbound and always in darkness. Luckily we had the benefit of radar, depth sounders ….. and Angus Twatt often at the helm, a fine seaman from the Orkney Islands!
This afternoon at Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver the B.C. Maritime Museum installed a plaque commemorating seven O’Brien family members lost on Princess Sophia.
It wouldn’t be summer without a road trip to the Okanagan Valley, forty one years gone but forever home. Wildfire smoke smothered the road home. Falling ash sang red sun blues, an eerily apocalyptic symphony oblivious to suffocating cinder rain. Ponder a road trip gallery –
Enlarge, explore, see more of my husband’s road trip photos at the link below.
Ponder Petunia & The Vipers –
From Petunia & The Vipers Facebook page –
“Louis Armstrong was once asked what his favorite kind of music was, and his response was simple; “Good music”. Petunia & the Vipers’ sound may not sit comfortably in one certain genre, but “Good Music” describes it well. Hank Williams on acid… Tom Waits meets Elvis at Woody Guthrie’s Hobo junction… Avant-Country night club scene music… One of the best bands in the world today, of any kind… hillbilly-flavoured-swing inflected-ragtime-goodtime-thunderously rolling-one-of-a-kind-you-don’t-want-to-miss-this-sort-of-a-show… A new music that springboards off of music of the past and jumps into the present day, left with only echoes of the past… Something in between 1920’s and steam punk. It’s good for your mind… These are just a few of the words uttered by folks around the globe trying to pin down a description of all that is Petunia & The Vipers.”
Petunia & The Vipers make me smile. Enjoy –