July 1st, 2005 was Canada Day of course, another that I had the privilege of spending in my nation’s capital, and another that I spent hosting the annual festivities at the 40 Main all-day Canaday* party, exchanging ten hours of yelling jokes, introducing bands, and playing silly songs on the guitar for as much Steamwhistle beer as I’d care to run through my gulliver.
I love barter gigs. Avoids the middleman.
I had yet to move into 40 Main’s adjoining compound so I drove my gear over there at 11:30am, drove home again and cycled over, arriving back just as the four rented porta-potties were being aligned barrier-style across the driveway. I spied the tin shed that was now full of snow and twenty-four kegs of beer and looked back at the porta-potties. There was no way those four toilets were going to hold all that beer. Luckily back then there was still a stand of trees behind the gravel parking lot, a tiny forest in the middle of the downtown city block that belonged to 40 Main and contained a clearing with a few rusty chairs and a human-sized plastic Santa Claus that had been transformed into an all-weather hookah.
Y’know, the more I think about it the more I realize how Animal House 40 Main was.
Anyway, I mounted the stage (née the back porch) at 1pm and gave my final sober speech of the day, which was primarily introducing the first act (and actual 40 Main resident), Hux, who played an acoustic guitar run through enough pedals to disguise the fact that he was actually a bass player. Next up was The Grant Buffet Experience, a generally high-quality novelty act who should be a household name for their songs Pasta and/or Everybody Poops but isn’t. Grant pulled me onstage to help close their set with an entirely unrehearsed Another Brick in the Wall (Pt. 2) which was saved by the fact that I had taught the solo for that song a hundred thousand times.
After TGBE came the boxing match. Yes, a real-live, ultra-amateur boxing match, held just for our increasingly drunken and bloodthirsty collective pleasure. A yellow nylon rope was strung up in a triangle (hadn’t any of these people even seen a boxing match before?) and the two contenders Todd and Jay emerged to great applause donning headgear, gloves and tape, trunks; the whole shebang. Of course they were completely free of any and all experience, both fighters going into the bout with a perfect 0-0-0 record.
I screamed “ding” and all hell broke loose. One guy tears right into the other guy, leaving the target guy little recourse but to put up his gloves and take a beating before falling down about fifteen seconds into round one. The referee (who was by far the most professional thing anywhere near this bout) gave the second guy a good long standing eight count (thereby increasing the length of the fight by about 60%) and called the fight back on when dude got to his feet. The first guy tore into the second guy again, landing a solid uppercut that came all the way up from Cornwall and dropped the guy solidly back onto the gravel, where he rolled onto his back and decided to stay. That was okay with the ref who called the fight after tossing a half-glance in the direction of the guy laying there all peaceful and dead looking. The first guy raised his arms and danced out of the isosceles like a true champion while the ref helped the second guy to his feet. I didn’t really expect a knockout but I was correct when I figured that just like every schoolyard fight in the history of Bullydom the fight would be over in about thirty seconds, standing eight-count included.
The rest of the day was a flurry of introductions (“Please welcome the Real Gone Daddies…Put your hands together for Dave-o everybody…Now take your hands apart and use them to clap for 40 Main’s own Comfort Station…Let’s hear it for Bullmoose…Here comes the one, the only, Vanderpark…Ladies and germs, I give you Bluegrassy High!!!!!”), awesome songs by yours truly (Red & White Blues, Pumpkin, and a very rousing rendition of Canada’s secondary national anthem, The Theme to The Littlest Hobo) and handing out Steamwhistle shwag in exchange for answering all-Canadian trivia questions I was inventing on the spot (Who was the original drummer for Rush? Before 1982 what was the official name of our country? Name Canada’s second Prime Minister**). Oh, the hours just flew by.
One of the surprise peaks of the day was the inaugural gig by my late friend Bradm’s band, Inglewood Jack. Featuring a DJ, a sax player, and our tall bearded buddy Bradm, they sounded pretty darn good and I think they impressed pretty much everyone. I never forgave Bradm for not calling his group Bandm – with good reason – but other than that they were a home run, or at least a stand-up double.
What else? Well, there were a couple of rainstorms of course, the shed ran clean out of beer, at some point in the evening I mounted my bike and rode quite recklessly directly through the crowd (can’t believe I was the only person wearing a helmet for that), a couple of girls got up and led us all in a tear-jerking singalong of our primary anthem O Canada (nice song, that one), there was the fireworks show that we took in en masse from aside the nearby canal, and after I got home I was loose enough to win $500US playing online poker into the wee hours.
When I awoke the next morning I wasn’t sure if maybe I dreamt the whole thing and had actually just sat home and played online poker after all, but the wristband (good ole #469, since lost) that I was still wearing set me straight. Well, okay, the morning Guinness is what really set me straight, but set I was.
*If I was Prime Minister I would have the name changed to “Canaday” just because, like, once you thought of it why wouldn’t you? Also, I would instate a four-day long weekend – maybe in mid-July or so – and call it “Explore Canada Weekend”, which I’d encourage everyone to spend visiting something in Canada that they hadn’t yet visited. Oh, and I would change the name of “Civic Holiday” to “Terry Fox Day”. And no more Daylight Savings Time. I mean, c’mon! Plus yeah, I’d take on Turks & Caicos as the fourth (and soon to be most visited) territory.
With this as my platform I would surely win, but really I’d only need to be running the country for about a week, and the bulk of that time would be spent posing for my official portrait. Seems like a lot of work for such a small payoff. Instead, I’ll just keep calling it Canaday until it catches on.
It would be cool to have my portrait done though.
**John Rutsey, The Dominion of Canada, and (nobody I’ve ever met has known the answer to this one) Alexander Mackenzie.