Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Karaoke PEI-style was lots of fun

No one could ever call me an early adopter and nowhere is this more true than in respect to karaoke — a recreational activity which probably peaked in excitement about 20+ years ago.

But when Greg and I heard about Karaoke Night at the local community centre, we felt we had to go to this our first karaoke night. Doing karaoke — or is it singing along to karaoke — wasn't exactly on my bucket list, but then, I like adding things to a list after I've done them just for the joy of crossing them off.

We had a little nap after dinner and then set out on the five-minute drive to the Fortune Community Centre, site of bingo, trivial pursuit nights, wedding receptions, Michael Smith’s Fund-Raising Night, and now, for the first time, karaoke.

From the web-site  http://www.fortunecommunitycentre.com

We arrived on time, for once. And for once, we didn’t need to have worried about being prompt. There were a couple of attendees smoking outside with whom we exchanged hellos. Inside, the DJ had all the equipment set up; the bar was open; I ordered a Keith’s; Greg got an Alpine, and we surveyed the mostly empty room. A couple of tables over, there were six other attendees poring over the karaoke book listing the music, but that was about it.

Later one of the organizers explained that people just don’t come out to things early in the evening (it was about 10:30 by this time). He recalled a dance held earlier this year. The band cost a lot of money, and at midnight, there were only three people there. At 12:15 a.m., another 75 suddenly arrived — to his enormous relief. The dances around here “start” at 10:00 p.m. and end at 2:00 a.m. Local customs can sometimes be a bit puzzling to people like us “from away.”   

Be that as it may, I did learn a few more things that night.

First of all, you don’t start singing until the words on the screen turn green.

Also, it is a good idea to have some familiarity with how the words fit the tune before you choose a song. And it should go without saying that you should have a pretty firm  handle on that tune.  Just because I like Time after Time didn’t mean I should have chosen it. Cyndi Lauper packed way more words into that song than I remembered.  And they (and I) turned green in an awful hurry. 

You can hear for yourself what I was up against lyrics-wise: 

I did much better with Somewhere over the Rainbow. I even held the long note at the end without going flat. The DJ  remarked positively to me about my interpretation. Wow! I acknowledged the applause from the audience with a small self-deprecating bow.

Then I realized I had received almost as much applause when I bombed as when I did better.  Admittedly, it was kind of like singing in a nursing home. In a long-term care facility, people are listening, but they can’t all hear.  At karaoke, they were hearing but, because they were busy leafing through the song book and writing down the titles they were going to perform, they were not really listening.  Nevertheless, whenever anyone finished, the handful of people in the audience paused and heartily applauded.

This held an important lesson for me.  It’s good to get up and sing in front of an audience just for the heck of it no matter how it goes. In life, sometimes you should just get up for fun and thank your lucky stars you are in a group of people who applaud you for doing just that, even when the results are not the greatest. 

It’s nice not to be judged and likely found wanting. Having people applaud even a feeble attempt gives you the confidence that you can do better the next time.

Also, you are inclined to return the favour and give others hearty applause too. To me, that greases the social machinery in a very nice way.

I was chatting with the organist at church the next day and mentioned my adventures the night before. He nodded and said that people around here are always very supportive of one another. I like that.

So much so that I’m looking forward to the next karaoke evening. I may sing Elvis Presley’s Teddy Bear, a featured song of the Ausable Singers, a seniors' choir in which I am an alto. I shall have to master the soprano part, however.

On a different inspirational note, B.B. King’s Stand by Me comes to mind as well. It has a catchy tune but relatively few words. 

I noticed both pieces were both in the DJ’s book, and I can practise them ahead of time via YouTube:



Thursday, 10 July 2014

The Village Feast was a super treat

We had a great time at this event. Every year for the past seven years, Chef Michael Smith and a vast army of local volunteers (including members of the actual armed forces) make it happen. The dinner is a fundraiser for four charities. PEI-based Farmer Helping Farmers builds cook-houses  in Kenya with donations from the feast. Other money goes locally to the Souris Food Bank, Coats for Kids, and the Main Street Family Resource Centre. 

What struck me was how well-organized it was and how helpful and cheerful the volunteers were. One of them told me they had 1,100 meals ready to go this year. And as you shall see, this wasn't just hot-dogs-on-a-bun fare, but a delicious three-course locally provisioned meal. When you consider Souris, the largest place around here for about 25 miles, has a population of 1,600, that is quite a feat. 

The physical layout  was a big part of the success. Moving so many people through the event over just three hours and keeping everyone was happy was what  really impressed me. It was like going through a combination of  IKEA and that Swiss-based restaurant in downtown Toronto whose name I forget.  Aha ... Movenpick!

Our ticket is propped up against a bag of lettuce as a centrepiece. It had tear-offs all around it  missing in the photo, but you can see the perforations — which we used at each food station.


Because of the high winds due to Tropical Storm Arthur, the event was held inside this year — necessitating last minute changes that seemed to us — as mere attendees  to go off without a hitch.The entrance to the Eastern Kings Sportsplex is not pretty, but the bales of hay were placed in such a way that a large crowd could congregate but then get narrowed into a line to go in to the building. You just followed the labyrinthine path.

I  suspect the same farmer who last year donated the hay bales at Micheal Smith's wedding also donated to the Feast. We visited Sweetwater Farms last year; this is the hay barn.

Anyhow, once inside, we were met with a volunteer at the entrance to the dining area,which is the ice rink in the winter. Her sole duty was to give us and everyone else useful advice to make getting our food easy.

Find your chairs first, tip them up, go get your chowder and dessert, and then afterwards, head out for your main course. Sounded sensible to me!

However, we were immediately distracted by the oysters, and not reading the sign too carefully decided on two for $5, much to the amusement of the volunteer shuckers.

As the salty dog on the left said, it's all for a good cause.

Having tipped up their chairs,  our table mates had gone for their dinner:

The chowder stand was out back. The shrimp, lobster, and potato-filled  delight was served  by members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Next, each of us picked up one of the 1,100 rhubarb shortcakes and whipped cream for our dessert:

Here is what things looked like at about 5:00. The feast ran from 3:00 to 6:00 in the afternoon.

Chowder eaten,  it was back out the way we came in for our main course:

The steak, garlic mashed potatoes, and gravy station was first.  Such a clever way of dividing the crowd: by the degree of doneness each person wanted for their meat.  But no well-done steaks on offer, as you can see.

The lobster station was next, made obvious by the lobster boat! I wonder who lent it.

A couple of eager young people handed out the greens with gloved hands from huge bowls, another time saver. Alas, no picture of them in action.

A nod to Kenyan cuisine was given in curry-flavoured githeri, consisting of beans and maize. It was a tasty vegetarian addition.

Next stop: Acadian bread baked in that nifty oven, which usually lives near Michael Smith's kitchen.

Here is the final product; we had already devoured the lobster- and shrimp-laden  chowder.

Greg had gone the surf and turf route and did not have enough room for the lobster, which we took home for our next day's supper.

Lots of silly entertainment was orchestrated by Michael Smith while we ate. These 12 people paid $100 each to wear a funny Anne-hat, put on a potato bag apron, shuck an oyster, peel a potato and apologize (we're Canadians) to the person next to them. The money was donated to Farmers Helping Farmers.

I think they also had to drink the strawberry cordial:

Later, the crown gave a standing ovation to the orange-clad Feast volunteers.

Time to go home. The crowd is breaking up.

We stopped off at the gift stand and looked over African-made wares.

I suggested to Greg he buy another giraffe, as his previous one had its nose knocked off in one of our moves. This one does have feet; I was concentrating on its snout  for the picture.

So many sponsors:

I can hardly wait until next year.  I may not only attend, but also  volunteer to peel potatoes or maybe slice up rhubarb.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

No more talking with trolls

I usually don’t comment on public venues on anything controversial (religion and politics come to mind), but something came over me the other day. Likely it was boredom.  I joined a slew of people on a CBC string on Facebook commenting on Rob Ford’s return to the city after rehab.

I opined that he did not look a lot slimmer.  Almost immediately someone accused me of fat shaming.  Oh dear, was I doing that? I reflected briefly, then wrote back to say I was just puzzled: he didn’t look to have dropped as many pant sizes as his brother said. That threw the fat onto the Internet fire:

Well, said the other person, I should look at his face to see the evidence. I did look and did not see a lot of change. However, at this point, I left the conversation, as boredom now seemed a better alternative to engaging in this any further.  I was feeling “trolled.”

Being something of a coward by nature, I thought withdrawing was the intelligent thing to do. Also I was beginning to wonder about my own inner troll. Was I being disingenuous saying I was “puzzled” when really I was “fat shaming” and didn’t want to admit it? I needed to think about this dark side of myself for a while.

However, things on the mini-string I started did not end there, and I had the dubious pleasure of seeing what happened next.

Someone posted a bit of uncomplimentary name-calling: to wit that the mayor was not only sizable but also a liar.  In response, the troll opined that not only was the new commenter fat and ugly, but she had something inappropriate on her chest (not exactly the words he or she used, but decency requires a euphemism).  Well this was a bit off-topic, I thought, deleted the item, and went to the next message in my in-box.

The next thing I knew, into my email popped the next round of chat. Someone else had entered the conversation and had rushed to my defense, saying that calling me fat and old was not at all sporting and was just as bad in its way as fat shaming.

To say I was startled would be putting it mildly. How on earth had the troll accessed my Facebook page!  So much for remaining aloof. Curiosity immediately got the better of me.  

I opened the link provided by Troll and found myself on Facebook looking at an image purportedly of me. But what on earth was I doing in a wading pool – haven’t done that for years, if ever. Then I looked at who was splashing about: a hearty woman of a certain age with a tattoo on her chest. She looked to be having lots of fun.

But the photo was most assuredly not of me. 

Thank goodness. I breathed a hearty sigh of relief:  Troll had not found me.

It turned out that commenter who had rushed to my defense had confused my name with that frolicking woman’s. Having no desire to draw further attention to myself, I did not correct that error!

The next thing I did was to re-check the privacy settings on my FB page and tighten them up. I also deleted my comment, and with it the string of subsequent comments, from the original posting.

I looked up Troll and found a Facebook page with nothing on it: no pictures, posts, nothing except a brief reference to attendance at a high school. There was next to nothing on the Internet as well.

This spooked me; it’s a cruel, mad word out there and I am not going to engage, even briefly, with trolls ever again!