Hmm. A messy borrowed – sort of – title, and a short post.
We’re staggering towards the end of this academic year – I can’t remember it being this busy in other years, so I guess early middle age must be catching up with me. We did find time to take a short trip out onto the prairies and plains. We passed through grasslands and ranch lands, tracking the Red Deer river, and stopping in the small (very small) town of Big Valley. Friendly small towns and big spaces – that calls for Paul Brandt on the radio:
Big Valley is nestled in knob and kettle country, and what lovely scenery that is. Plus, you know, knob and kettle. The childish delight I have in writing that…Almost every kettle had ducks on the water – it was a waterfowl wonderland, and a very pretty habitat. And yet I don’t have a duck in any of the photos? To be honest, each little family of ducks looked so content, I couldn’t bring myself to stop and take a picture in case we disturbed them. The kettle lakes are close to the road, and although they were visible in all directions, we would have been too close.
Old train cars and trucks aren’t sensitive, and parked, they can’t escape. Yup, here comes another old truck photograph. This one, parked up in Big Valley, is the oldest we’ve seen recently, and a beauty:
The railway used to run through here, and enthusiasts keep part of the line open and run trains between Stettler and Big Valley. Maybe we’ll make time to take that short trip one afternoon, for the fun of it. We were happy enough to sit in the sun, and then wander around the train cars and old farm machinery. A couple of pleasant Big Valley hours, and then back through knob and kettle (can’t help it) country, heading home, with a little more Paul Brandt. He is Mr. Alberta summer soundtrack!
Or if not wild, certainly rising. Keeping a close watch, given the heavy flooding Calgary and other places on the Bow experienced a few years ago.
As spring turns to summer, or as we skip spring for summer – tornado warnings/sightings, and gajillions of mosquitos being my prime evidence – I’m putting together the dreaded OldPlaidCamper road trip mix tape. Just to be clear, and for the record, Mrs. PlaidCamper has excellent musical taste, and a remarkable ability to fall asleep in the car when my mix tape is up next. That might be one of the rock solid foundations of a successful road trip…
You might be asking Why the bit about the river, and then the bit about mix tapes? Good question! This River is Wild is a track on the Sam’s Town album by The Killers. I like the album, and I like the track, and it has popped up in my head each time I’ve crossed the Bow this past week and seen the surging waters. Yup, I’ve got a fairly empty head most mornings, and this is what fills it – plans for a road trip mix tape.
That Killers track! I do enjoy their wailing histrionics, in small doses. You can’t fault them for effort, and the albums Hot Fuss and Sam’s Town include killer, haha, tracks. If you’re interested, follow the link for a live version – I prefer the studio version, but couldn’t find a link – The Killers – This River is Wild
On my little walks around Sunnyside, in between downpours and battling the bloodsucking bugs, I’ve stumbled across some more old trucks and snapped a few pictures. Old trucks always get me thinking about road trips and wide open spaces. The sad truth is, if I owned a cool old truck and was responsible for the maintenance, our road trips would be short. We’d see lots of verges, and be on first name terms with tow truck owners. Sadly, I can only look and dream when it comes to older trucks (or I could learn to be a mechanic – don’t let Mrs PC read that last part, she’s seen me fix and build…)
Oh summer, I can almost see you there, just a little way ahead, and around the next turn! Here’s hoping the river isn’t too wild, the road is long and open, and an as yet unknown distant (wealthy) relative decides to lend me an old truck on permanent loan…
Thanks for reading. Keeping it short this week – mix tape planning can take a lot of time, you know – I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and please feel free to share a road trip song suggestion!
The thread through this post is a little frayed, and a bit twisted – less thread and more like an old cassette tape that has unwound from the spool – but there is a line…
One thing leads to another, if I can borrow an old lyric. Where to begin? A splendid piece, Monster Blues and Salmon, Too, by Walt over at RivertopRambles was the starting gun – it got me thinking and following movies and music along a winding trail. A long and winding (oh stop it, PlaidCamper! Or get your own lyrics…) Walt linked to a video (you can go watch and listen to it at the link above) that had me jumping down a musical rabbit hole, chasing old memories and digging out old albums.
The Big Head Blues Club pointed me to John Lee Hooker, I took a detour with Van Morrison, and ended up traveling through Springsteen’s Nebraska. I heard and found echoes and traces of all these and more after Walt’s blues pulled the musical trigger. Hanging out in Nebraska got me back to the Terrence Malick movie Badlands, and that reminded me I was planning to watch Malick’s Days of Heaven. So I did.
What an astonishing movie! Set in 1916, it is a rural drama played out in the fields of the Texas panhandle. Murder, loyalty, poverty, identity, family breakdown, and the threat of industrial scale farming production are some of the themes in the mix. If that doesn’t appeal, don’t be put off, simply watch the movie as a series of painterly scenes. And Brooke Adams, Richard Gere, and Sam Shepard are all quite pretty.
The actual story is slight, fairly conventional, and the dialogue is rather stilted and spare. Fortunately, what overrides the plot and dialogue deficiencies is the voiceover delivered by the most interesting character, a teenage girl played by Linda Manz. Sometimes I find voiceovers irritating; it can seem as though the movie is unable tell a story effectively without a clunky voiceover explaining everything. The voiceover in Days of Heaven is exceptional. It reveals the real story in the movie, told almost in parallel to the events unfolding on screen, and the commentary presents the most affecting point of view.
Days of Heaven is beautiful, with frame after frame of striking images. For the look of the film, Malick was inspired by Edward Hopper, and if Hopper had ever made a movie, it might have looked something like Days of Heaven. The house in the movie was built as a set based on the painting below:
Malick’s aim was to shoot in natural light, which he mostly did and with striking results – the harvest scenes are breathtaking. The cinematographer, Nestor Almendros, won an Oscar for his lighting.
As I was watching, the natural lighting had me thinking about The Revenant, how that was filmed in a similar way, in natural light at the start and end of the day. I’m such a nerd – some quick research revealed the production designer, Jack Fisk, worked on both movies. The cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki won an Oscar for his work on The Revenant. I ended up watching The Revenant again, wanting to see and compare the cinematography. What a nerd, but what a delightful landscape-heavy double feature. Shot in different seasons, and forty years apart, both movies were made (in part) in Alberta. Oh the winter grandeur of the mountains, and the late summer beauty of the rolling prairies.
What a wonderful music and movie journey I ended up taking. OK, so it was through an iPad screen, and the hour got exceptionally late, but it was as close to being out of the city as I could get midweek.
There you have it. I’m not so sure I’ve managed to wind the cassette tape back onto the spool, but the music and movie trip was good for me (and for Mrs PC – she didn’t have to listen to me complaining about my nature deficit – and she seems to like my noise cancelling headphones even more than I do. Apparently they really work…)
Little end note tangent: I stayed up late and watched movies because I didn’t have “real” work the next day. Instead of teaching, I attended a workshop designed to promote positive mental health in students (and teachers) – I was a little drowsy later in the day – and one repeated theme was about being outdoors and/or in natural environments and having time to play.
The profile of the class I’m teaching this year includes many students with a mental health diagnosis, and there are several others with mental health problems. It’s quite the challenge in our communities these days, and, sad to say, increasingly prevalent amongst our young people…
I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but I firmly believe that being outdoors and involved in the natural world has a fundamental part to play in maintaining good (mental) health. We are better human beings as a result. In that spirit, we are planning on being out in the mountains and on the slopes this coming weekend. Winter playtime!
Thanks for reading, please feel free to share a story, a music or movie recommendation, or a tip for positive mental health, and have a wonderful weekend! If you are in the USA, or from the USA, and you celebrate, I hope you are enjoying a happy Thanksgiving.
Another little end note: to meet the overwhelming demand (erm, one request) the butternut and black bean chilli recipe will be included next week – there was no need (or demand, PlaidCamper) to squeeze in more squash after last week…
I was sat on the C train this morning, the lazy part of my route to work where, for seven minutes between the walk each end – yup, I’ve timed it – I stare out the window and sometimes come up with a plan for what to write about. Sometimes inspiration strikes, and sometimes the mind wanders.
I like the old trains better than the new trains that are being phased in, even though the new carriages are shiny, and rattle and squeak free. The old ones were made in Dusseldorf, and for a onetime European there’s something satisfying about the low-tech solidity of the old school cars. Being busy not getting any younger, I find myself liking old stuff more and more. And sometimes my mind wanders.
Standing at the urinal in an old movie house last week (this is all true, and it is ok to read on, honest) I was entertained by all the movie posters plastered onto the walls. Interesting wallpaper. One that particularly caught my eye (it was straight ahead and at eye level – good etiquette suggests you shouldn’t let your eyes wander too far in this situation) was for Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven. I have to confess that I’ve never seen this movie but always wanted to. I have seen Malick’s Badlands, and it is one of my favourites.
A somewhat grisly heartland road trip, featuring two young criminals/serial killers on the run, Badlands is a haunting/disturbing tone poem. Made in 1973, itis, despite the description I’ve just offered, a quite beautiful film. And what a cast! Sissy Spacek, Martin Sheen, and Warren Oates. (Warren Oates! His face, and his world weary persona, they are made to be seen on the big screen. Etched and interesting. Have you seen Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia? Yikes. Weird isn’t even close, but Warren Oates inhabits his role!)Sometimes, I miss the 1970s.
Getting back to Badlands, I first saw it on TV back when I was an impressionable thirteen year old. I don’t think I should have been watching it, but Ma PlaidCamper was a bit of a Martin Sheen fan, and so transfixed that she didn’t notice me sat there. I was mesmerized by the nature of the movie – in an environmental sense, and in how it was made. An American road trip movie with cool cars, crime, lots of fields, small towns, roadside billboards, and a nihilistic Sheen in a jean jacket smoking a cigarette. Well, how could that impressionable boy resist? Maybe I’ll watch a double feature this coming weekend – Days of Heaven and Badlands…
We weren’t at the old movie house to watch an old movie. A friend was playing with her band Magnolia Buckskin– that’s a cool name, huh? It was a benefit gig to raise money to support a village in Nepal, a place rebuilding and picking up the pieces after the earthquake in 2015. As usual, Kathy and her musician buddies put on a great show. One of their songs, Edge of the Water, appeals because aside from the wonderful playing and vocal harmonies, they sing about how being at the foot of the mountain or edge of the water is to “be a part of something bigger than me…” Hard to argue with that – we are fortunate to lead the lives we do.
I think we might have to put the double feature on hold. Weather permitting, and highways being open, we’re planning a short road trip up to Jasper, and an escape from election fever. Or is it election fatigue? (I’m mystified that there is even a doubt in this particular race. One candidate is a misogynist and xenophobe, and that information there is enough to make a sensible decision…but I’ll stop, because although the result does have an impact on our lives, it’s not our election. Back to the road trip!)
The route is one of our favourites by car, full of scenery that’ll make you feel small yet part of something bigger than ourselves. Some Magnolia Buckskin for the soundtrack, no cigarettes, won’t carry a gun, we’re not on the run, and nihilism doesn’t appeal, but I wonder? Can I still squeeze into that old jean jacket? Might be a few loose buttons to go with these loose connections. I’m losing the thread. What was I saying? Imagine if my train journey was longer than seven minutes…
Thanks for reading! Please feel free to share a story, or a movie or soundtrack recommendation, and have a wonderful weekend!
So, possibly we’re quite excited about the new season. It sort of kicked off for us a couple of weeks ago when we went to the Performance in the Park show in Banff. Nothing says summer like shivering and sheltering under a tree in the pouring rain, admiring how the bands bravely ensured the show must go on. It was such a determinedly Canadian scene! Short sleeves and pants worn under rain gear, umbrellas rather than parasols, children in wellingtons and galoshes throwing frisbees and footballs to keep warm, and enticing smells wafting over from the food tents. Far more coffee than beer was being sold…
Hey Rosetta and Shad gave excellent performances, and both have been added to our road trip playlists. I mentioned in an earlier post how I’ve been listening to quite a bit of Big Star and Neil Young recently, so they’ll figure prominently. Nothing too snoozy for the driver on those long trips.
Apparently, it is quite a common occurrence for men to make lists – of music, movies, books, preferred beers etc. Well, that sounds ridiculous. Grown men doing such a thing?
Here is a short list of what would make my shortlist of favourite summer tunes if I was the sort of person to do such a thing. (Took me forever, kept changing my mind after discussions with some guys I work with, my Dad, my brothers, a random dude on the train…) In the interests of time, and because, let’s face it, lists by other people are boring, I’ll keep it brief. Just three songs:
Thirteenby Big Star. If a song could ever capture the hopeful start of summer, the youthful yearning of first love, of what it feels to be young, and make you nostalgic for your early teenage years, then this is pretty close. I love this song, and maybe you do/will too?
Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins) by Shad. He writes thoughtful, smart lyrics, performs with passion – and often a smile on his face – and tells stories that put you in someone else’s shoes. Apart from all that, his tunes are infectious! I enjoy old school hip-hop that isn’t riddled with misogyny and homophobia. The album Flying Colours is great, and will get played endlessly this summer.
September Gurlsby Big Star. Oh, come on PlaidCamper, you’ve already included Big Star! What can I say? This is a summer classic, a bookend to Thirteen, and a summer closing song. The sound draws heavily on so many summery music influences, and the song is infectious – it may take up residence in your head, but it’s ok, because it is great. Ooh, bit opinionated there, but even the random dude on the train had to agree…
Anyway, a brief list as promised. A bit of fun to kickstart the summer, and possibly make you rather glad you’re not in the back of our car. Feel free to make your own suggestions in the comments below, and have a wonderful weekend!