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Welcome to the Hipstories section of A Museum After Dark. Since 2005, this has been the spot for your stories, adventures and hilarious show biz anecdotes. It's a place where Hip fans can share their experiences and road stories with a bunch of strangers over the internet. The Hip's web folks thought so much of this feature that they incorporated it into their own website two months after it debuted here. If you'd like, you may still send me your story. All stories are welcome.


Gord tells me a story in Boston, 07/28/02

I'll get things started with a quartet of my own and then open up the floor:

Mr. Gerwin:

In the fall of 1995, I was in grade 10 at Georgetown District High School in Georgetown, Ontario. Every Monday, our English teacher Mr. Gerwin, would set aside the first few minutes of his class for "Music Monday." He'd play the first few seconds of a song on his stereo, ala "name that tune," and the first person to guess the song would not only win a stick of gum... but be able to chew it in class. One day he played "Wheat Kings." After hearing about a second of the Loon call, I put my hand up right away... and guessed: "Mysterious Ways" by U2. I still remember it. I'm still embarrassed by it. After somebody else guessed the song, he told us about the Milgaard case and put the lyrics up on the overhead projector. It was cool to have this 30-something teacher telling us kids about Canadian history and the cultural significance of music. It was likely the catalyst for this crazy project you're nice enough to be visiting now.

This story gets better! During the media appearances I did during the Man Machine Poem Tour, I mentioned the above Mr. Gerwin story. Not only that, but in the interim between that story and The Hip's final tour, I had become a teacher myself. I stole many a thing from Mr. Gerwin. Well, it seems he got word of my ramblings, and after nearly 25 years, got in touch. It was truly the best thing to come from all the media attention during that summer of 2016. In a very classy gesture, Mr. Gerwin sent me an envelope containing a letter and a whole pack of gum to make up for the victorious chewing I missed out on back in 1995.

I also have a vivid memory of Mr. Gerwin drawing a Manitoba vanity licence plate on the board with chalk. This must have been around the time the Winnipeg Jets were shipping out for Phoenix. He was a diehard Jets fan amidst our sea of blue and white in the 905. The plate read: "Jets4Ever." Well, in the above mentioned envelope he also included a vanity plate for this here website.

Thank you Mr. Gerwin. You are the very best at what you do.

My Night In Toronto:

On December 14, 2005, myself, Chris and Lance were lucky enough to be guests of David Bastedo's at the Phoenix concert theatre in Toronto. The Tragically Hip were making a surprise appearance at a benefit concert for Sick Kids Hospital. In the early afternoon, I had the pleasure of speaking to the band and catching sound check. I had the chance to personally thank Gord Sinclair for putting "Escape" on the setlist in Kingston (I had conducted a poll over at hipbase.com before that show and then e-mailed the band our nerdy one-song request), as well as talk to Paul about his golf handicap. Speaking to Gord Downie was surreal, exciting, intimidating and amazing. He's very pensive, very private and extremely contemplative. He ponders his words before saying them, as if searching for poetic or appropriate expressions to insert into conversation.


Chris, Lance, Gord and myself in Toronto, 12/14/05

I asked Gord about a trip he, Sam Roberts and Sarah Harmer made earlier in the day to Sick Kids hospital. Gord told me about being affected by the young children who probably won't be there next year. Later, as the boys covered Bob Dylan's "Going Going Gone," it was difficult to think of anything but Gord's earlier comments as he emoted his way through a very sad song. Gord had also remarked that a little girl in the hospital had asked to hear "Wheat Kings, and I quote from memory Gord's sheepish response: "But I played Bobcaygeon. I've never played Wheat Kings in my life... not sure if I can. I hope she didn't mind."

In full geek mode (and with the best interests of you readers in mind) I spoke to Downie about Shakespeare and the Second World War. He said of The Bard: "Lotsa stories, lots to draw from. He's just... there. Ya know?"

Of WWII he kinda smirked, contemplated and said: "Yeah.. we're at war" with that familiar Gordie grind and bared teeth on the word "war." I made my night by giving Gord a laugh; I thanked him for making male pattern baldness trendy.

Sound check itself consisted of Flamenco, The New Maybe and Daredevil in acoustic form. The theatre was essentially empty, and so watching The Hip play three songs in an empty room felt as close to a personal concert as anything ever could. It was very cool to stand feet from the boys and hear them discuss what songs to play and how to play them during intros and outros of tunes. At one point, Gord Sinclair, Gord and Bobby huddled. Sinclair said: "Flamenco maybe?" and Gord answered with "Yeah, that'd be a good one to do." And so the choice was made. I then helped put up chairs for the event, as Sam Roberts and Sarah Harmer serenaded our makeshift set-up crew.

After sound check, Dave Hodge gave me life advice; what I should do now that I've graduated. He also chatted to Lance and I at length about Team Canada, Crosby and hockey in general. He was actually supposed to sing with Kathleen Edwards but Kathleen was ill. Instead, he intro'd Sarah Harmer, and later joined The Hip on stage for the grand finale performance of Neil Young's "Powderfinger." The closing number also featured Sam Roberts, Sarah Harmer, Danny Michel and Matt Mays.

"The Glove Hand" was probably the highlight of the night. Gord had spoken to me about a hockey game that he and the guys had played just a few hours before show time. Gord was in net of course, and his reflexes served him well later in the night. During the show, the guy beside me asked "does Gord smoke?" I really had no idea, but said: "Yeah, think so." So right in the middle of "Flamenco," this guy hurled a cigarette in Gord's direction. It cartwheeled, end over end, right toward Gord. Downie pulled the most incredible Patrick Roy glove save I had ever seen. He swept his arm up with lightening speed and snatched the cigarette out of mid air. He'd caught it between his fingers, perfectly, as if he'd been casually holding it there all night. Our entire section gave out a cry of "OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOH!" like you'd hear at hockey games or during rap battles on TV (snap! you got schooled!) Gord looked right at the thrower, and then at me, with a look of "damn right. I caught it with my bare friggin' hands." He eventually pretended to take a drag off the smoke just as he sang the "no one drags me anywhere" lyric from the song. As if it were planned. It was the most ridiculous and awesome thing I ever did see at a rock 'n roll show. Amazingly, Lance managed to capture the moment on film:

Paul Coffey and Doug Gilmour also made appearances at the show. The band played acoustic versions of "Flamenco," "Ahead By A Century," "Bobcaygeon," "The New Maybe" and "Daredevil." In addition to the Dylan and Young covers mentioned above, the band also played "The Man Comes Around" for Johnny Cash. Such a great show.

Thanks again Mr. Bastedo.

New Years Eve 1999/00:

Rattlesnake Point is on the very edge of the Niagara Escarpment in Milton, Ontario. Part of the area is a provincial park, but much of the property is privately owned or simply unclaimed. The very tip of the escarpment hangs over the 401. If you've ever driven through Milton on the highway, you've undoubtedly seen it. Looking east from the point, you can clearly see the Toronto skyline. North and south reveal the entire Greater Toronto Area laid bare: fields and villages that stretch out into the horizon. On December 31st, 1999, I jumped in the rusty Toyota with my girlfriend at the time, and we headed for the peak. Beginning at about 11:59, we watched the fireworks going off in different areas of the GTA, you could see each individual celebration, in each individual town. It was almost surreal looking down on the colourful explosions, but a very memorable way to ring in the millennium. (Yeah, I know: there was no year zero, spare me the e-mail) I had planned to have "Live Between Us" cued up on the car stereo tape deck. I had it all planned out. The first song we'd hear in the new century was going to be, fittingly enough: "Ahead By A Century." Well, when I turned the car off, I also unknowingly reverted the stereo from tape deck mode to radio mode. When I eventually turned the keys again, the first song we heard was actually "All Along The Watchtower" by Jimi, courtesy Q107. I quickly remedied the situation, and the acoustic strains of ABAC began to weave through the air, on top of Ontario, during the first few seconds of the 21st century.               

The Killer Whale Tank

My earliest memory of The Hip (I think) is from early 1992 (I think) and I was 11 years old. I was driving in my dad's red VW Jetta. On the radio, 97.7 fm was playing the bootleg version of "New Orleans is Sinking" with the Killer Whale Tank rant in the middle. I was transfixed. When the car ride ended, the song wasn't yet over, so I sat in the car listening to Gord tell his story from the stage. I eventually sought out that bootleg of course, from an "import record shop" in Brampton. I never again heard it on the radio though. Until the day Gord passed away. I had done some media interviews that sad day and told this story a few times. As I got in my car and headed to pick up my son from school, there it was, the Killer Whale Tank, on the radio again. 88.1 fm. When I arrived at the school, the song wasn't over, so just like I had 25 years before, I sat there in the car and listened to Gord until his rant wrapped and the song was done. It was worth it. The universe is strange, man. Thank you Gord.

Listen to it here: killerwhaletank.

And while you're at it: Highway Girl Double Suicide.

Alright, now it's your turn:

DWilliams7926:

One of my best friends was having his wedding and I was best man. The event had been planned for two and a half years, so I had no idea that it coincided with the Fox Theatre show in Detroit last year. I didn't buy tickets ahead of time but ended up getting a main floor pair on-line four days before the show (at face value). So at the rehearsal dinner I told him I had to fly to England to help my mom sell her house.

Needless to say he was pissed as all hell, but I had a great time at the show.

SD: I have family in England... I'll keep this one on file in case I need it. Well done.

LizardKing51:

I'd skip my own wedding to be front row at a Hip show.

The funniest thing that ever happened to me was the time me and a bunch of friends saw the Hip in Clarkston MI at Pine Knob (now DTE), we got stuck on the I75 on the way home in dead traffic backed up as far as you could see and we started to run out of gas, I was driving my MustangGT, and I drove it into the opposite lanes, mind you they were all dirt and machines and pylon-ed off for the construction, but I drove on it anyways for a good 10 minutes, people in their cars thought I was nuts, then I went up the wrong way on an onramp and found a gas station just in time, it was a close one and we had no cell phone. And I didn't know in the states you have to pay first and tell them how much gas you want, I didn't know what to say, but what I asked for was too much and the gas poured all over the car and my pants. I was the happiest guy in the car when we got back to London to say the least. The show kicked ass though. But the worst was after the Watershed concert in Walkerton my fianc�e at the time (now my wife) had her car at my house and she had to drive back to Stratford from London and she didn't know London very well and she went down a dead end road to try and get to the highway and she crashed her car terribly, and I mean bad, the car went through a giant fence flipped over and got hung in a tree, I couldn't believe it when I got there, she was hurt a bit, thankfully not bad. I'll never forget that show.

SD: Wow, can I suggest walking to the next Hip show. Take the bus maybe? :) Glad she was okay.

Shannon Duckworth:

When I was still in high school in Calgary, AB I had a teacher who encouraged my friends and I to skip class early and camp out for tickets, outside the Saddledome, for the Trouble at the Henhouse Tour. While there we were pepper sprayed by some women for knocking over their beers and the police came and it was a big disaster... needless to say, they don't encourage (or allow at all for that matter) camping out at the Saddledome for concerts anymore.

SD: Ah, so you're the reason Casey couldn't camp out for Simple Plan seats.

Guncho Chris:

Here's my favorite story:

I heard the Hip were playing a surprise show at Massey Hall for the release of Music @ Work so I went down by myself with no ticket after work.  I asked a few people if they had an extra ticket to sell and the reply was usually, "good luck!".  So after a while I run into Martin Tielli (Rheostatics) and Kevin Hearn (Barenaked Ladies) who is one of my good friends brothers, whom I have met on a few occasions.  I thought "alright!  If anyone can get me in here it's a member of the Barenaked Ladies!" Sadly even they couldn't get me in.  It was cool to meet Martin though and great to see Kevin.  So at this point I make the decision to ask one more person and if the answer was no, I was going home to make dinner as I was starving.  So I'm looking around trying to decide who would be the last person I ask, when I spy this big black guy standing with his arms crossed, (SD: Could it be Hip security guru and all around nice guy Ricky Wellington?) looking like he was waiting for someone and they were late.

"Hey man, do you have an extra ticket you would sell me?"

"You wouldn't sell it would you?"

"Absolutely not"

"Alright.  Here you go.  I'm with the record company.  Have a good
time"

He didn't even ask for any money.  I was so flabbergasted I clutched his
hand and said "Thank you sir, thank you so much", like I was a little
kid, when in reality I was probably older than him!

So I walk in a little stunned, find my seat like tenth row centre and
the Hip break into Music @ Work.

Sheer pandemonium. :)

SD: See kids, life really is about showing up. You might even meet half the Canadian music industry AND get into a show for free.

A fan:

It was AMAZING! This (Oct of 2004) was of course my first hip show and WOW. Everyone was ON and they looked like they were having a blast tonight.

Now to the backstage part:

Paul looks like he's growing a moustache, or maybe he just wasn't feeling well. He slipped past us backstage

Robbie's facial hair is back and he's lookin GOOD. He's SO nice and wonderful. He's like HUGE! As in tall and pretty darned solid. We talked religion and his slide guitar playing. He also mentioned that if it wasn't for the band he would have gone to school to study art and theology and wanted to become a MINISTER!!!

Gord D needs to cut his hair again, he's lookin a bit shaggy. He was of course really baked. He loved the book I gave him as a gift.

BTW, Gord has 'a rotation of three shirts' for the shows, so he doesn't wear the same one every night. And they are 'laundered quite often'. He also said that he lost his green shirt. He LOVED that shirt and would still be wearing it today for shows if he still had it. He signed my IVL CD with "Lefties have rights too G. Downie" because I had mentioned I was a fellow lefty. He started to talk to me about the hipbase but got distracted.

Gord S was a bit drunk, however wonderful. We talked about the Hipbase and he remembered meeting Lance.

Johnny was great too! He was the first one out and the camera was misbehaving and he actually let me have THREE TRIES to get the stupid camera to take the pic! He's going to be up here this winter in Lake Placid skiing!!! He of course refused to shake hands, says his hands were bleeding.

The tour manager was quite the bitch at first when the 'contest' winners go to go backstage and meet the guys. However, she was nice the rest of the night.

Got to see Billy Ray, MANY times. He actually came out in the crowd during Sam Robert's set. It was like OOOOOO It's the Hip's stage manager!!!

Anyway....I SAW THE HIP!! WOO HOO!!!!

SD: Are you sure Sinclair was the only on who had a few too many? :)

K (the girl who went to all the shows I'm sorry I missed):

There are a few stories I could share about my love for the Hip, but there's one in particular that I'll tell you about. 

When I was living in Montreal, I had 13th row tickets to see the fantastic "Evening With..." show at the Molson Centre on Dec. 7, 2000.  (That's the night the guys looked up the words to "Montreal" during the intermission and surprised the crowd with it- unbelievable!)

I was in university at the time and had a British History exam the next day. I lied to my parents that the exam was actually the day of the concert, as I'm sure there would've been severe disapproval had I told them I was going out the night before an exam. I even took the train all the way down to the university and tried studying for a few hours in an empty classroom, but I was too nervous about the lie, too excited about the concert, and too sick with a cold to concentrate!

When I got home, Mom of course asked how the exam went, to which I vaguely replied (as any student does), "It was okay."  I went to the concert that night and proceeded to flunk my exam the next day.  Looking back, I probably should've got a medical note to postpone the exam, but I'm not sure it would've helped all that much.  Sick or not sick, concert or no concert, lie or no lie, I'm pretty sure I would've flunked it anyway.  That exam remains the only one I failed in university, but thanks to a couple of half-decent papers, I did pass the course.

Can't say I'm proud of what I did, but I don't regret it for a second. I wasn't going to miss the Hip!

SD: You showed you were a woman who had her priorities straight, you were in the house for "Montreal," AND you passed the course anyway... we're all proud of you. 

Corby Hart:

A couple years ago I was on a road trip (not much of a trip) from lower mainland BC to Calgary. The course invariably took me through the Rockies, where I do visit quite frequently, which added to my surprise. As I was going through Golden I had "Live Between Us" cranked, and by one of the largest coincidences I've ever encountered (it still amazes me to think of it) I was listening to "The Luxury." I passed The Golden Rim Motor Inn without hardly noticing, I remember saying the name to myself, then seconds later I heard Gord's voice say it. Before that moment I had never even thought of the Golden Rim Motor Inn as anything but a lyric (not that I had explored the idea much). Anyway, I pulled in, grabbed a business card and brochure and was on my way (and snapped the photo below of course). I'll definitely stay there if I get a chance, seemed like a decent place.

SD: Ah, those moments of creepy HIP coincidence. I've been greeted by Hip tunes I was thinking about as soon as I turned on the car stereo, and often times I've flipped to a radio station I just "knew" had to be playing the boys... and they were. But this one takes the cake. If there's ever a Hip-Convention, no doubt it should go down there.

Bootleg Queen Shannon Warner:

So we were driving up to Kicking Horse Mountain Resort to see the Grizzly Bear refuge when we drove by the Golden Rim Motor Inn. I made a mental note to take a picture on the way back, but I broke my camera at the top of the mountain because I am too damn clumsy. I grabbed a Golden tourism book in the gift shop, and here's the ad just for you. :)

Also, in the Jasper hostel they had a picture of Gord on their wall, which I thought was pretty cool. Along with a quote I thought was neat.

SD: Is it just me, or is "Kicking Horse Mountain Resort" just begging to be a lyric too? And ya gotta love finding Gord's poetry in unexpected places. It always seems fitting, or just always seems to fit.

Babs of the Blogosphere on Magnetic Hill:

I must admit that I'm not a diehard.  I was there for the full concert experience and I'm actually still reeling from the happenings.

I ditched my friends (the same ones that paid for my ticket) as Our Lady Peace took the stage and made my way solo up to the crowded left hand side of the stage. I think I ended up making it to about 100ft of the main stage and about 3 feet left of the "moving stage path". Even at this point, the energy in the crowd was amazing. It increased quite steadily throughout the entire concert and certainly didn't stop when The Hip took the stage. I have seen TTH in concert (Moncton, day for night tour) and I must say that I can't compare the two shows. Maybe it was the 85,000 fans. Maybe it was the 7 storey stage. Maybe they are just getting better as days go on. They really were amazing!

I'm not sure if I just got lucky or if the entire crowd was this friendly. I managed to exchange e-mails with a few people standing around me and hope to stay in touch with them.  They were all a friendly bunch! Seemed to make the whole experience that much better!. Too bad I didn't get an e-mail address for Dave from Fredericton, or Stephanie and Katie from Halifax and Moncton ( I think) and their other friends whose name totally escape me.

When I came home, I knew I would have to report back to the blog population (not that I have that big a readership, but still). The only response I've been able to come up with so far is the following: "Getting tumbled over by pushing crowds, almost knocked out by body surfers: Classic! Getting heated by the pyrotechnics: spine-tingling! Throwing my shirt to the stage and missing by an inch - Priceless!"

I would do it again tomorrow in a hearbeat!


The Blog:  www.babineau.ca/journal/

SD: Yes, we Hip Heads are always that friendly, and we won't tell anybody you're not a diehard. :)

World traveller Katy's wild western ride:

My boyfriend bought me my first ticket to a Hip show about 8 years ago. The concert was on a Sunday night. I was accompanying my mother to Victoria for a conference that same weekend and planning on flying back to Edmonton early Sunday morning, leaving me plenty of time to make it to the concert. In my simple teenage mind, this struck me as a foolproof plan.

The weekend in Victoria was wonderful and when Sunday morning rolled around, I jumped on the plane and headed back to Edmonton with my mother. The flight was calm and peaceful until I awoke to the pilot announcing over the loudspeaker that there seemed to be a thick layer of fog surrounding Edmonton and that we would have to do a few circles around the airport to see if the fog would clear. Sure enough, the fog persisted so an alternate landing plan was decided upon. This is where I started to panic. �Alternate landing plan�? What did that mean exactly? Did the pilot not realize that I had a Tragically Hip concert to get to? So, the plane kept flying and after what seemed like a rather long time, the pilot came back on to say that we would be able to land safely in Regina. REGINA???

Why were we going all the way to Regina? I was not seeing the logic of continuing on all the way to Regina rather than simply going to Calgary. Did the pilot not understand that I had a much better chance of getting to the concert if he landed in Calgary rather than in a whole other province? After landing in the wonderful city of Regina and debarking into the gate, I called my father, who was rather worryingly waiting for me at the Edmonton airport, to tell him that my plane had landed in Regina and that I would call and let him know when we got more details as to how I was getting home. After a panic-stricken hour the flight attendants came to round us back onto the plane which was going to make another attempt at flying over Edmonton. Oh good! This would still leave me enough time to make it to the Hip concert.

I called my father and told him to go home and to have my boyfriend come and meet me at the airport and then we could just go straight to the concert from there. Back onto the plane we all went and started to fly back to Edmonton. I was feeling much better, that is until the pilot came back on to say that there was still too much fog to land and they were going to have to continue on to Calgary. Now this was getting ridiculous�the concert was going to start in just over two hours and I was going to land in Calgary, a good three hours away. This was not good news. I wasn�t going to give up, I was going to that concert. When the plane landed I rushed off, grabbed my bag, and went straight to the greyhound counter where I discovered there was a bus leaving in 5 minutes. I grabbed a ticket and rushed to make it onto the bus. I got there just as the driver was about to close the door. At this point it was an hour and a half to the concert and I knew that if my father picked me up from the greyhound station and drove me straight to the concert then I could make it just in time for the Hip.

So I called my boyfriend and told him that I would be there in about three hours, after the opening band. Sure enough my father picked me up, drove me to the concert and I walked up to greet my boyfriend in our seats just as the Hip came onto the stage to play their first song... perfect timing if you ask me.

Ezra's Tale:

I had been a heavy metal long hair tattoo wearing rock junkie for many years. When my best friend would come to my apartment he would shut off the Cr�e and turn on some random hip cd. Of course, at first I got pissed and tried to hit him in the face with a hot bag of nickels. Then one day at work I heard Silver Jet and something happened in my brain... I became an instant fan...

I wanted to know everything, to listen to every album and just lose myself in the music. Then it came... the first day that The Hip would play in Kingston in over a decade... all I knew is that I was going to that show!! We took the trek from Cape Vincent N.Y. all the way "across the pond." Eventually it was show time so we walked from our motel room on Princess st. all the way to the RCMP camp. Then that's when we found out there would be no beer for the best part of the show....

It's ok, I made up for it the following week when the hip played at the Landmark Theater in Syracuse N.Y. I rode with my boss and we met up with some record reps at a bar, they gave me an envelope full of "In Between Evolution" cd's. We got into the show just as Sam Roberts was getting done and took our 5th row seats and rocked out to The Hip!

This thursday (11/1/2007) will be the third time I will see The Hip on the world container tour... Once again we are going to The Landmark, but this time it'll be sans record reps... I'm once again getting a room, gonna be hammered and will have lots of pictures and possibly some video. My site is here.

Hip Head Mary From Madison, WI:

I was fortunate enough to sit in at my local radio stations taping of their "Live from Studio M" radio show that featured the Hip. It was recorded the afternoon of 5/15/07 before their evening show in Madison at the Barrymore theater.

They performed 3 (very cool) acoustic versions of material from "World Container",(no drums or bass since it was a small recording space). Rob, Gord, and Paul performed and answered questions between the songs. I was one of the 4 fans selected to be in the studio (the studio randomly chooses people from their "Members Club" to sit and watch the taping of various artists.)

Gord told about the night at O'Cayz and sharing the bill with Nirvana. TTH were the headliners, but everyone left before their show.

It was a dream come true for a Hip fan. I sat about 6 ft. in front of them and got to hang out afterwards and do pictures. Actually, I was standing there, stunned by it all, and Rob actually came over to me and introduced himself first. That will always be probably the thing that I remember the most. I'd always heard they were so great to their fans, but they were so gracious, warm and just beyond anything I could have imaged. ("There are no "stars" in Canada" was a quote from Gord during the show.)

So, pretty much an awesome dream come true -private show, pictures, autographs, and talking with 3 members of a band I had been loving for years. I left the studio still in sort of in shock of the experience, sorta felt like maybe it was a dream and I would wake up soon. But it wasn't and I got to go to their show that evening and be front and center "this close" to the stage (no barriers between). I can't imagine any show ever being able to top this day, but still can't wait for them to come around again.

Jason and his Hip miracle

I was 19, it was the summer of 2007 and I was working as a roller hockey instructor at a summer camp in Parry Sound, Ontario. It was looking like a quiet summer on the music front, I needed the money, and I love hockey and the outdoors so I accepted the job at camp months in advance. Shortly after being hired, The Hip announced they�d be playing at The Kee in Bala. Thrilled, I immediately called my boss and tried to negotiate back-to-back day offs so I could attend both shows. Much to my dismay he only allowed me to take one day off which meant I was only going to one show. I bought one ticket for the second night and planned to have my grandparents who lived near by pick me up and drop me off at the show.

Camp was going fine, until June 4 where for a number of reasons I was fired right in the middle of the day. I had no money, a phone on low battery and was forced to pack my belongings including all off my hockey gear and leave camp within the hour. Thankfully, I was given 100 bucks for lunch, my cab, and bus fare. I took a cab to Parry Sound where I had to wait 2 hours outside on a curb in front of Harvey�s for a bus to Toronto. At this point, I�m freaking. Not only did I just get fired, my Grandfather wasn�t up north yet so I couldn�t go stay with him and in order to make it back for the show I had tickets for the next day I was going to have to find a ride back from Toronto to Bala and I was literally broke. Then a miracle happened. Randomly I get a call from an old friend and fellow hip fan who I hadn�t spoken to in months. He was up north (about 20 minutes from Parrysound) and called me because he was going to The Hip show for that night and it reminded him of me. In the middle of our conversation and just as I started to explain my predicament my phone dies. I go into Harvey�s convince them to let me charge my phone and wait until I can make a call with it, some how they let me and I get back on the line with my friend. I tell him where I am, what happened, etc� Not only did he offer to come pick me up, he told me his friend had an extra ticket to the concert for tonight because someone (clearly a moron) bailed last minute, and also told me I could stay at his friend�s cottage for a few nights.

So I get picked up, drove back to his friends cottage (on the way a cub ran across the highway and we almost got in an accident pretty crazy!!) and got settled, cracked a few beers, threw on The Hip, and went fishing. I had around 85 dollars. I gave $60 to my friend for the ticket leaving me $25. I grabbed a sixer and we decided we go to a bar/restaurant down the street from The Kee to grab a beer and food before the show. In the middle of the meal I see Rob Baker and his wife and kid walk into the joint. I�d never met a celebrity, hockey player or rock star before in my life so I didn�t really understand the concept of being star struck. But fuck me; I don�t think my stomach had ever dropped like that in my life. Politely, I introduced myself, apologized for interrupting, and asked for a picture and if he could sign my hip jersey. He happily obliged, we talked a little about some of the shows I�d seen in 2006 (The Phoenix, Fort York, Guelph, Belleville) and about World Container while my friend went to find a sharpie marker in the bar. Nicest guy, kind of quiet, very tall/big guy. I wished him good luck, told him and his family how much I loved his guitar playing and how great is was to meet them all. ** If I wasn�t so star struck I would have asked a bunch of questions but I was kinda in a trance.

Finally got to the show (before Rob did, because when I left he was still eating dinner), drank that sixer in my friend�s car and headed in. For those who attended, or have been to a show at The Kee, or have the recordings and the homemade DVD�s your well aware of how incredible both shows were in terms of performance and set list. The Gems and DD are my favorite ones I�ve ever seen or maybe even heard. Not mention, seeing Cordelia which I had never heard before.

In the end, it was one hell of a day/weekend, something I�ll never forget for the rest of my life. I ended up having the best summer of my life and getting fired on that day was the catalyst for it all. I even got to see another Hip show that summer at the 10k Lakes Festival in Minnesota. Needless to say the words FATE and DESTINY carry a new meaning for me after that experience.

Ryan and his Virgin experience

Dear Hipmuseum,

This past weekend at Virgin festival in Halifax, the Hip were scheduled to play as the headliner band. As you know, the day before the concert, the boys had to cancel due to a family emergency. Well at the festival there was a text message banner where you could text in messages. There were the usual "I love you!!!!" and "Get me a beer" messages but nobody seemed to comment about the Tragically Hip cancelling. Finally after multiple attempts I was able to get through with a "Gord Downie for Prime Minister" message. When it came up you could hear the cheers, even through The Offsprings mic-check. Nonetheless it was a good concert, but I would have enjoyed seeing The Hip in Hali again, I hope they reschedule.

Robert of Avalon

Avalon � LA, Oct. 6th 2004.

A good friend of mine, knew Don Smith. I called my friend, )he was in Austria at the time). He called Don, who then called me to arrange a time to meet at their bus. I showed up, met Don and got on their tour bus. I quickly realized that I was no longer an obsessed 22 year old fan... I was then 35... and was able to compose myself for the 10-15 minutes I spoke with all of them. I took my time to properly thank them for all the years at the lakes, bbq�s, and all around good times. I told Gord he was my Robert Plant.

We went up to meet them after the show again. I went up to Gord, ticket and Sharpie in hand. He took my ticket and said, �Rob is this for you� I turned about because I thought he was talking to Rob Baker. He wasn�t. He was looking at me! He remembered my �effing name... after meeting me for 10 minutes and after a 2 hour insane show. I was and still am floored.

that�s it. just another awesome story courtesy of das hip.

Robert

The Tragic-Ski Hip

My story begins on Grouse Mountain, in North Vancouver, BC.

It was the winter of 2003/04 and I was a rental shop supervisor on the mountain.

It was a slow week day, I was down on the shop level setting skis for renters.

A customer approached and slid their rental waiver across the counter (a rental waiver is what you need to fill out in order to rent equipment, it includes personal details like your name, contact details, height and weight which are needed to set the DIN on your skis). I grabbed the waiver without looking up and the name printed on the first line immediately grew my attention.

"Gordon Downie".

I gave a little 'Ha!" to myself, and said out loud "That's funny, you have the same name as-"

At which point I looked up and I was staring right at Gord. All 6'4" of him. He smiled pleasantly.

I'm not really sure what I said after that, I immediately went beet red and internally I panicked a little. I looked over his shoulder and saw his family (at least his spouse, I remember her because she had a really colourful rainbow toque) getting their things sorted in the lockers.

"Um, right." I now need to find the longest skis in the rental shop to fit a giant.

I set his skis, got him poles (I think?? I'm not really sure about this but I assume I did as poles are pretty customary unless you're a total beginner). Said "have a nice day" and off he went to pay.

I turned to one of my co-workers, an Aussie, and asked. "Do you know who that was?"

They shrugged, nope.

"That was Gord Downie from The Tragically Hip. And I just set his skis."

For the next few hours I worried I had set his skis wrong and I was going to be the cause of the Hip cancelling entire an entire tour of shows because Gord's skis did not release properly on a fall, resulting in a broken hip or something.

Having heard of no ill effects apres-ski, I now tell that story over and over to anyone who will listen.

unpluckedgem76

I Remember Rob in Buffalo... who is raising his kids right

I just wanted to reach out and say "Thank You" for your hipmuseum site & all the hard work that goes into it. I have been a Hip fan since the Spring of 1991, when I first heard Cordelia on the radio. Living in Buffalo, NY - we are fortunate to get Canadian radio! As a young teenager - I made copies of the Road Apples cassette & gave it to as many of my friends as I could. I was blown away by that album from beginning to end.

I have been aware of your website for some time now - but have just started to explore it since the bad news came down in May. I am speechless at what you have compiled. I consider myself a tried & true Hip Geek. I have been to 42 shows all over the place, met & chatted with the guys, played Gord's guitar during Bobcaygeon at Artpark, & greet every new Canadian I meet with the question "Are you a Hip fan?" Literally, I don't listen to anything else but my Hip bootlegs & albums. I, like legions of others - am having a terrible time grappling with the finality of it all. I was lucky enough to score tickets to next week's show in Hamilton - which will be my wife's 30'th show, my 15 year old son's 2nd show, & my 13 year old son's 1st. It has always been a hallmark for me to be able to take my kids to Hip shows. My only disappointment is that it will not be something that we are able to do as a family moving forward.

On the other hand, I feel fortunate to have enjoyed these 5 guys and their music for the last 25 years, and will continue to do so. The experiences that I have had while enjoying them - from live shows to bonfires to bbq's - some of the best times of my life. I am thankful that there's a resource out there that allows my kids to be able to learn and appreciate what their dad is such a freak about! Again, I thank you for your research and what you have compiled.

Thanks

Rob

One In A Million

Hi there. Great site. I play with a band called The Watchmen and have played many shows with The Hip over the years. Gotta a good one for your rarities section. We played some shows circa Up To Here and the band used to include a snippet of 'Green Eyed Lady' by SugarLoaf in one of the songs. Can't remember which one but they DEFINITELY used to include it. Every night. Might have been during an unreleased song called 'It's just as well."

Here's a photo of us with the band in 1998 after 3 nights at a bar called Martyr's in Chicago. The Hip were supporting Phantom Power and we were supporting a record called Silent Radar. Anyway, keep up the great work on this site and feel free to share the photo. I'm beside Gord D.

Taken by Jake Gold (former manager of both bands).

Regards,
Sammy Kohn - @sammykohn

Kalamazoo

I had the honour of opening for the guys back in August 1989. I was in a band named The ERJ out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. We played on a Sunday night at bar named Club Soda, which is now closed, but was the heart of Kalamazoo music scene in the 80's and 90's.

After our opening set, where we had a pretty crappy turnout for being one of the more popular bands in Kalamazoo at the time, most of the crowd left. So, we pulled up chairs right in front of the stage and got our own personal first experience with the Hip. It was amazing.

After the show, we invited the guys over to our band house in the student ghetto (many students attending Western Michigan University live in this neighbourhood). Their tour bus followed us home and dropped them all off, all except Johnny and their then-manager Dave Powell. I guess they had gotten an invitation from two girls to go out to the beach at South Haven on Lake Michigan.

Anyway, the other four guys and one of their roadies hung out with us all night. We smoked a lot of mother nature and philosophized about pretty much everything. We also had three dogs and Flemish Giant rabbit and all those guys really liked the animals. I realized way back then what a special guy Gordon Downie is. I was equally impressed with the other guys too, but just something about him was so endearing. I'll never forget that feeling I had about him. Years later when I'd go see their shows, he would recognize me, remember my name, and even bring me backstage if it worked out.

Of course, their popularity has grown so much in the past decade and a half that I haven't been backstage since I saw them at Taste of Columbus back in 2000-2001, I can't remember the exact year. Getting back to that first night, finally at about 5:00 AM we drove the guys to the hotel where their bus had parked. They got right on the bus and headed to their next show, probably in Detroit or maybe home in Canada. I heard soon after that MCA had taken their bus from them because they weren't selling enough tickets to their shows. That blew me away, because even back in 1989, those guys were one of the best live bands I have ever seen. I was reminded of that night recently when my old band, The ERJ, reunited for a benefit concert in Kalamazoo back in September. We hadn't played together as a band since we split up in 1993. We reminisced about that night we spent with the Hip and how it impacted us all in both our musical and personal lives.

I think the fact that the Hip has stayed together so long and without any personnel changes, is a testament to the kind of men they are. I'm going to miss them, but I'm at peace knowing that they always did it right. They went out the right way too. And Gordon's legacy will be something we can all cherish for the rest of our lives. Take care and keep up the good work at the Hip Museum.

Therron

A Special Night In Toronto

I�ve hesitated to share this post, mostly because I was never doing it for any reason other than sharing this moment with my father, but I will copy and paste my father�s Facebook post for your site here:

"This is a little wordy, however once in a while, things I post here have very deep sentiments for me - this is one of those times. Next weekend I will be cashing in Airmiles to fly to Toronto, just for a few days. Not something within my comfort zone but I am compelled to because of the words of one of my sons who won a pair of tickets to The Tragically Hip by entering a contest explaining what they mean to him (why he deserves them). Read these words and tell me that YOU wouldn't do the same..." My parents divorced when I was very young. 2 or 3, I can never remember. Only a couple years later, my mom relocated from Calgary to Edmonton, 3 hours north. She remarried into the military. I saw my dad every other weekend, we would meet in Red Deer and catch up with the Hip in the background, not to mention the daily phone calls and monthly letters included in his constant effort to play a bigger role in my life than his own dad played in his.

A mere 3 years later, my stepdad was relocated to Kingston, while my dad remained in Calgary. Living in the city where the Hip were formed, I was constantly reminded of the distance between my father and I, but I always had their albums to close that gap, if only for the length of a song or two. I saw my dad once a year for 3 years, a month at a time in the summer. We would drive to visit my grandparents, with Gord Downie's voice echoing his car every time. In 2005, we were once again uprooted and sent back to Edmonton. The 'every other week' routine started up again. I was finally lucky enough to attend my first concert with my dad at the Saddledome. You guessed it: The Tragically Hip. It was everything I thought it would be, with several unforgettable moments shared with the man who shaped me in so many ways.

I moved again a couple years later, and was once again returned to once a year visits. My life has been riddled with constant change, but no matter where I was, how much I missed my dad, I always had The Tragically Hip to bring us together and make it feel like he was right there with me. I'm back near Toronto now, a student on a budget, hoping they can bring us together once more. I (would love for him) to fly him out here, and share in the one thing that made all the distance melt away, one last time. All I need are the tickets into the venue.

(SD: He got 'em).

Brayden

A Transcendent Life Experience

Headed out of Sherwood Park (suburb of Edmonton) to Camrose Exhibition Grounds for Another Roadside Attraction.. July 19, 1997. Had to stop in Stettler for a funeral for my brother-in-laws Aunt.. anyways, get to the grounds on a beautiful Alberta summer afternoon. Los Lobos, and Sheryl Crow round out the openers. SC was actually a really good warm up for the show to come.

Picture this; 30,000 people in the middle of a farmers field, mid summer, the crop is about waist high and swaying in a slight breeze, the music (and the beer) is flowing, Gord is off on a tangent, and the sun is starting to dip.. the sun hits the horizon and starts to meld with the landscape and the band strums into "Wheat Kings". Possibly the most transcendent life experience I had had to that point... can't say much more about that night.

A couple of years later, we went to an arena show at Rexall (or whatever it was called at the time).. not nearly the experience, in fact a bit of a let down. Not really because of the band, but because of the venue.

So this past summer when Gord announces all of the issues he has been dealing with and the Hip announce the tour, I tell my wife I don't think I can go as I believe the Roadside Attraction show needs to be the memory I hold onto for the rest of my days..

.. but typical wife, she doesn't listen and we wind up in Calgary for their show and I find myself having a very deep retrospective on life (as a father of two teenage daughters) and imagining what his family must be going through.. as usual, my wife has provided me with another life memory..

Here is to The Hip as we remember them!!

Chris Sterling

And It Sounds Hero-Incredible

I became inexorably hooked on The Tragically Hip in the spring of 1995, when "At the Hundredth Meridian" was the background music for a car chase scene in the TV series Due South. At the end of its first season, that series already had a special place in my heart. But how little I knew what a huge place the Hip would one day occupy alongside it.

Three years later, I was falsely arrested on charges of criminal mischief (an accident that was misinterpreted as a deliberate act of vandalism). Whilst waiting months in limbo for the resolution, every breath held, every step taken over a minefield of eggshells, one glimmer of hope appeared when Phantom Power hit the shelves that summer. Then the glimmer exploded into a blinding sunburst when the band shared their upcoming tour dates - and they would be playing the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom, only an hour from my home, toward the end of August.

All I had to do was survive that confounded legal action.

Well, long story short, escape was at hand for this travellin' man when the case against me was thrown out on a technicality. But my breath stayed held as I anticipated my first time seeing the Hip live. The ballroom was nicely packed, the band opened with "Save the Planet", and I felt ahead by a century, my courage tapped to new depths, watching the fireworks of Gord Downie's performance as he got something on.

But the whole show became one great gift shop. Standing near the sound panel, I got a glimpse of the setlist, and saw that the encore was to consist of "Grace, Too", "Bobcaygeon", "Fire in the Hole", "Locked In the Trunk of a Car", and "Emergency." By that point, my voice was already so hard done by cheering and hollering at the top of my lungs. But then encore time came - and they changed it at the last minute. Instead of Fire, Locked, and Emergency, they played "Little Bones", "Vapour Trails"....and as a grand finale, a raging fast, 15-minute, hard-jamming "At the Hundredth Meridian."

It was like they knew.

My favourite Hip song of all time, and with it, they all but brought the house down. That performance blew my mind out of the water, and made the single worst day of my life feel like nothing but a bad dream that ends when the phone rings, and the nautical disaster is over and I'm doing all right.

I had the pleasure and joy of seeing the Hip live two more times - once in 2007 on the World Container Tour, and in 2015 during the Fully and Completely Tour. But that night in Hampton Beach with its panel-wood floors, ridin' on mic stem and keeping hope restored, will reign as my fondest memory of Gord, Gord, Johnny, Rob, and Paul sounding hero-incredible and saving the planet.

Rest in power, Gord, and thanks for all those years of inspiration.

Chris Lark

A Profound Experience

Hip Head Steve had this to share: "The last time I saw the Hip was before Gordie's announcement, around 2013 at The Outer Harbor in Buffalo, NY. I went with somebody who (after 21 years of MY fandom) was slowly being introduced to the band over a period of a year or so.

A HUGE storm came in and canceled the show (that they re-scheduled) but a couple things happened during this concert that will always be close to my heart.

First, Gordie ran out onto the speakers, and seeing him so close was surreal. They then went into a very emotional version of "Escape Is at Hand..." and, to my astonishment, I found tears running down my face! After the first hit of rain, Gordie and Paul came out and did an absolutely AMAZING version of "Scared."

This converted my friend, as he recognized the historical importance of such a performance, and once again, produced tears! (I can't remember crying as an adult)

Of the hundreds of concerts I've been to, for some reason (6th sense, who knows) this performance profoundly touched me in a way that no other experience has - and I stay in contact with members of some of my favorite bands! I'm a fairly stoic person, but The Hip always brought out a side of me I never knew existed (I was sore after seeing them in 1994, from jumping, pumping my fist,etc.)

I've seen many bands before they broke (Type O Negative comes to mind top of my head) and many bands who were just breaking (Pumpkins, Blind Melon, Sublime and others no longer with us) but after discovering The Hip around 92-93 (?) from the concerts I was lucky enough to experience, I had never before left a concert so satisfyingly entertained and inspired.

There was amazing, unique, once in a life time magic brought by The Tragically Hip, especially performing live..."

Some long-form Hip stories from Kees. Why the hell not?

Driving Out to the Tragically Hip
by Kees Kapteyn

I left her house that morning; the house of my ex-wife, probably something like ten after nine, I think. I don't really know; the clock in my van is off by about fifteen minutes. I'd been there to pick up some tickets to see the Tragically Hip in Toronto, thanks to some residual generosity on her part, which I'm nonetheless obliged to repay sometime soon, just not now. She has connections to such lofty and inaccessible things like tickets to the Man Machine Poem tour, and knowing how I'd wept when I heard the news of Gordon Downie's diagnosis of terminal brain cancer, she pulled some strings and got them. I'd often thought our relationship would make a good Hip tune, full of questionable syntax, with a heavy Johnny Fay battery, something angry and fast paced with a soft, tender and lilting bridge in the middle.

I left Ottawa towards Highway 15 going through Smiths Falls, taking the scenic route that my brothers and I always prefer to take when we are headed towards Highway 401, treating myself to that rocky rolling landscape, that rugged Canadian Shield that I am sure is the basis of a lot of the Hip's music, as much as the urban drama of the cities they have coaxed into their songs. I was listening to Live Between Us, their live album from 1997. Listening to Gord sing Nautical Disaster, especially his delicious improvisations after the main lyrics of the song, I thought of what an anomaly Gord actually is. No one out there does anything like this, this kind of rampant spontaneous creativity. I thought of the amazing mind that the man has, the deep intelligence from which he can drop these amazing monologues that startle you and draw you in like he was telling you the story of the rest of your life. It truly does make him a phenomenon. How many thousands of seemingly disjointed sentences have passed from his mind, into the stadium air? When I write, a lot of times it's his voice that is coming out, because though it's not the same deep intelligence that I draw from, it's that inspiration that gets me access to my own intelligence and depth. Right now even, little snippets of his voice turn my phrases. It's now like second nature to me, he's burrowed in that deep. That's how important he is to me.

After two hours, I came into the Hip's hometown of Kingston, where my sister has lived for almost the last 40 years. The Hip would play their last show here in a few days, and it would be broadcast on the CBC as a national event, not unlike the 1972 Summit Series, or the signing of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.It has a place in Canadian History, it does. Because she lives just around the corner from Robbie Baker's house, my sister has her own Tragically Hip stories, but they are not all happy ones. She always remembers how Robbie's rottweilers menaced her dog while she took it for a walk down Johnson Street. Robbie always had to hold his rotties back, but my sister always felt he could have held them better, and without the sadistic smile, she said. I had met Robbie myself once, in 2006 at the go cart track just outside of town. Like me, he was there with his kids, doing fatherly things. I shook his hand, that hand that held a guitar and made all that wonderful music. To this day, I remember how that felt. There was no sadistic smile, though I found his voice had a surprisingly deep bass tone to it. I talked with him about family, and kids and his side project at the time; Stripper's Union, then I left him alone with his private time. I was starstruck, of course, but you could do that; talk to a member of the band as easily as running into someone from your high school graduating class. They were that accessible.

A redemptive kind of rain started coming down just as I entered Kingston city limits, gentle and soft, where I could smell the gratitude of the earth as it blessed the ground. It had been a horribly hot week in Ontario, so after such a long stretch of weather, the water was welcome. I thought to myself how it wouldn't be hard to walk through this kind of rain in Toronto, how it would feel like holy water at Easter vigil, cleansing the sweat off of me before I walked into the cathedral heights of the ACC. Merging onto the 401 however, the rain had passed, and I mused on how many times I'd driven down the Macdonald-Cartier and tried to wax poetic about it. I had tried to write about the rocks and the trees and the test strips just outside of Belleville, but I never felt I was doing it any justice. The Hip, however, they've driven down the road thousands of times just like all Ontario bands had. Rush did it, Rheostatics did it, Gordon Lightfoot did it. Yes, an hour later, passing Glenn Miller Road in Trenton, Glenn Miller did it too. But the Hip have captured that landscape, without coming off stinking of maple syrup. They know those roads, those rock and trees. They've sung of polar bears, flooding rinks, greasy jungles, garbage bag trees and Bill Barilko. They just know.

As I came into the busy corridor of Toronto, I passed a woman who was getting out of her car, with no space to do so on the side of the highway. I wondered at what she was doing, fearing for her safety. I looked in the mirror to try and see her, but she was out of sight. I beelined it to the Yorkdale Mall, the best logistical nexus where the subway reaches the highway to fetch my brother, who had railed in from Ingersoll to be there. We had been to many concerts together. Pretty much every Hip show I have been to, he has been there; both of us in different phases of our lives, breakups, marital strife, and now we are the same, struggling through post-marital uncertainties. We ran up to the hotel to shower the salt off our sweaty bodies, then took subway and streetcar downtown into the hustlebustle hurlyburly of a night that hosted not only a Hip show, but a Blue Jays and an Argonauts game. Bodies passed each other by, allegiances on our shirts, expectancy in our eyes. Some fans had the same tee shirt that I had on; the maple leaf crested highway sign. We high fived each other in camaraderie as we passed by.

The concert was surreal. Gord didn't do much of his customary monologues and improvisation, but his energy level was at its peak, as was his voice. He didn't hold anything back, pouring everything into his singing. Maybe that's what he wanted to do. Maybe the time of improvisation was over, maybe his work was done and it was time to present it, faithful to its source. The band as usual was amazing, hovering like bees around the songs' familiar frameworks. At the start of the show, they all seemed to play no less than 6/7 feet away from Gord, all facing him like they were playing the small bars as they played when they were just starting out, or maybe they were all just playing for him, circling him like a wagon train under attack. When they reached one of their intermissions, they hugged him and even kissed him before they all filed off the stage. There were three intermissions that night, and before leaving for each one, Gord lingered after the band and just waved to the crowd to share a few moments with us. He always had a smile as he did this. I don't know whether he was putting on a brave face for us or if he wanted to give us a positive experience rather than a morbid one. There was no morbidity in the show, just heartfelt gratitude and love. That said though, there was that moment while he was singing the part of Nautical Disaster before he was supposed to drop a word, when he stopped over the natural pause of the song and hovered over it tentatively for just the briefest moment, then shrugged and said the word, Death. He said it, all with a smile like he was accepting it, like there was no other way to get around it. Such is the inevitability of death. The word is not even in the official lyrics of the song, but it's in the recording and all live versions of it. It is unmentioned but resides as a natural part of the song, dropped like a dirty job that had to be done. The show then drove on, with pitstops and resurrections until its climax, Ahead by a Century, ending with Gord lingering again on stage, smiling, nodding, waving to the crowd, even once in a while giving a cheeky wink to a few, until he left us behind on the stage, to a place where it will take a hundred years or more for us to catch up.

We took the subway back to the hotel. In the station, a musician was playing an synthesized musak version of Auld Lang Syne that irked me with its sense of apropos. After a nearly sleepless night, I still got up at 5:30 the next morning to take my brother down to Union Station so he could catch a train. Driving down, we passed by horrible wreck on the highway; the hull of a semi completely burned out with nothing left to it but charred metal. Someone had died last night somewhere in the city. Gord was hopefully somewhere, far off, peaceful, sleeping that morning and not conscious of this. Later, having breakfast at the Airport Gate diner, I saw on CP24 News that a 69-year-old man was killed getting out of his car on the on ramp to 427 near Dixon this morning, which was very close to my hotel. I remembered the woman I'd seen doing that very same thing the day before as I was coming into Toronto. How precariousness is life, really? Am I beating the inevitability of death to death just a little bit?

Heading back home to Ottawa, I decided to take Highway 7, which at the start I found to be a big mistake. A torrential rain had finally come, but the traffic, still linked to the suburbs of Toronto, was congested with an overabundance of humanity. Everything moved at a sickening crawl and I began to sink into a brooding misanthropic mood. I was tempted to take Yonge Street north to its alterego of Highway 11, where it could take me as far as the James Bay Basin if I wanted. But no, instead I moved through that skyfall of thick rain, inching east in the stop and go of urban Greater Toronto, past boxes of commerce as far as the eye could see; the ugliest part of an ugly industrial sprawl. I began to think that we, as humans, collectively, are ugly. When we congeal en masse to assume one entity, we are ugly, amoral and soulless. En masse, we are corporations and mobs. It's the individuals that are beautiful, that stand out, beautiful and cherubic and righteous and worthy of praise. Just like Gordon Downie. A total nutcase, a total eccentric, he may seem like a madman muttering to himself but if you listen closely to him you will hear his genius and perhaps your life will be changed forever. I remembered the last night when the crowd did not want to let him go. You could tell he was tired. His eyes were puffy and he walked with a slight hunch. He probably just wanted to go crash on a couch somewhere but we, the greedy palace just kept keeping him up. He complied and still delivered 100%. What a wonderful man. What a giving man. What an artist. What a gracious man. The way he lifted his arm to give us that heavy wave. Good bye and thank you.

Finally, my strained patience paid off and the speed limit jumped from 50 to 70, then finally 80 km/h, while the congestion was relieved and I could relax behind the wheel. The highway went down to one lane at Little Rouge Creek and I started passing little parishes with their 200-year- old cemeteries. There were patches of light and blue sky in the canopy of cloud though the rain still fell, a little softer now. Somebody had a rainbow somewhere. Eventually, I reached the Land of the Lakes; Lennox and Addington county, where the rains stopped and I could finally feel quiet. I rolled the windows down to find that I was in a new climate that was much cooler. Thankfully, the worst was over and I was closer to home. I had wanted to do this drive for a long while and it was nice to finally be there, in communication with the rocks, lakes and trees. Even with all the urban memory in The Hip's songs, the bottom line is this landscape, which is truly Canadian, not the neurotypical repetition of commercial colonialism; the box stores and franchises you can find anywhere on the North American continent. Here, each rock and root is feral and native, in and of itself. Sovereign. You hear this place in the lonely loon call at the beginning of Wheat Kings, the asserting lyrics in the zenith of Lake Fever and the musky cottage comfort of Bobcaygeon. This is where Gord lives when he thinks, where he transcends us to when he sings. A distance sign passed me by which invigorated me. Wayward ho! I was just an hour away from home, though I already felt like I was there already, like I'd been there all along.

Life Without/Gord Downie
by Kees Kapteyn

It was a beautiful day in Ottawa, the Saturday following Gord Downie's passing away. Strange forces out in the distance had orchestrated a comfortable warmth on this autumn day, allowing open windows and t-shirt donning.

Thank you, jetstream.
Thank you, tropical hurricanes.
Thank you, Mother Nature.

Things far away can effect things far away. Sometimes the effect is good, like warm weather, sometimes it's not so good, like the death of a cultural icon you patronized religiously. I finished my chores and errands that morning, performed my workaday obligations, then treated myself to a lunch out on my tiny little balcony, reading a few passages of Al Purdy poetry. I then decided it was a good time to take a walk to the park. I donned my knockoff Tragically Hip shirt, my jean jacket and tucked my notebook into my tote bag to sling over my shoulder. Gord meant something to me, was often the voice in my head while I wrote, his band's music setting the mood I desired to be found in, so the knock-off shirt I bought in the Toronto subway after seeing the Hip last summer was going to be my outfit choice for this walk to the park. I normally wouldn't have bought something like that, knowing it was just another unlicensed leech profiting off that wildly emotional and coveted tour, but the picture on the back was so perfect, just Gord looking lean and sexy in a collared shirt, wearily tipping a rumpled fedora to some fortunate crowd. It was so perfectly him. As I started walking down Donald St., I could see the Peace Tower visible in a forest of office buildings, its Maple Leaf flag still at half-mast, and I’m sure its carillon still chiming Bobcaygeon out over Parliament Hill. I felt privileged to have this view of it, Donald St. having a direct sightline on its stately spire. Canada's focal point, I like to think. The heart of Canada, pining for its departed laureate.

Walking affords you a chance to see the fine print of life out in the neighbourhood. There was a Free Book Box, which sadly had nothing in it, though it had me resolving to add something to it later. I overheard a conversation mixed with French and Arabic echoing from someone's garage. There was a motorcycle show and shine starting to congregate in the parking lot of St. Charbel's Maronite Catholic Church. Ahead of me, I caught sight of a guy weaving down the hill on a skateboard while playing an acoustic guitar. I don't know what he was playing. I passed by the Hardini Community Help Centre, which houses numerous community services like The Snowsuit Fund, a poverty reduction program and an advocate for Syrian refugees. I thought how it was always those with social awareness that were always on top of the issues of the world, while those concerned with the management of money and wealth would rather turn a blind eye to the problems.

Further on, as I approached the busy intersection with Vanier Parkway, I heard the whoops of an approaching ambulance hurrying to save someone in trouble. I did my customary sign of the cross, wishing that person luck, good karma, the grace of God, or whatever that gesture bestows upon a person. When I came up to the intersection myself, I had to wait a good long time, but while I was there, I noticed that there were no panhandlers holding a cup out for donations. Do panhandlers take Saturdays off? I wondered.

Finally crossing the Parkway, I could see the demographic changing in a classic "other side of the tracks" kind of way. There were now century homes and condominiums lining the street, the trees older and taller, a proper example of well-chosen new and well-maintained old. Almost at the river, there was the Rideau Tennis Club, with it's inflated dome newly set up for the coming winter, an imposing structure amidst the senescent trees. In the flowerbeds between the sidewalk and chainlink fence guarding the outdoor courts, I was surprised to find daffodils. I didn't know they could stay in bloom this late in the year, but I was glad to see them. They reminded me of Gord. I stayed on the Vanier side of river so I could see the start of the shallow rapids just off Riverain Park. I sat on the rock terrace there and watched the water dip from glass-flat to turbulent over the little ledge of rock that spanned the whole width of the river. The autumn colours had taken the trees to warm hues of yellow and orange, and I watched some leaves release themselves from their branches to drift down to the water; some above the ridge and some below, straight into the rapids. I thought about how, no matter where a leaf landed, it was still destined to go through that rough water. There was no avoiding it. After a short while, a family came to the same little rocky terrace where I was sitting. One little girl in a white dress descended to the water to throw sticks, unabashed to the fact that she was standing directly in front of me. Her father looked on, offering advice and answering her questions. With her blonde hair tied in French braid though loose tendrils still escaped their clasps, she looked like a little fairy, sweet and radiant. When she turned, I could see a temporary Disney tattoo on her collarbone, her branding of the princess phenomenon. Trick Rider, I thought.

I left that scene to cross the Adawe pedestrian bridge over the river to Strathcona Park. Families and groups of friends had come out to enjoy the classic turn of the 20th century park, tossing frisbees or talking along the paved pathway along the water. On the short stone wall along the banks, an African family was sitting and getting their pictures taken. There was a sullen teenage boy, perturbed in his obviously hot sweater and two rough but wizened older men. The plump woman with the camera urged them to look more alive in her flamboyant dress, but all they did was scowl distantly in their static pose. I went over to a picnic table in the shade, pulled out my notebook, and started to write.

The walk there had me thinking. This is Canada without Gord Downie. This is life after him. Not much different than life before or with him. The change however, is in the perspective.

Gord was such a generous man. He always gave out three precious things that my friend, Ottawa poet Rob Mclennan pointed out in a blog post about Gord. He gave out time, attention and energy. He always sat and listened to people's stories and always put an effort into reciprocating every good thing he ever got from a person. That is why he is so universally loved.

My father was once a miserable, angry old farmer. He didn't have time or energy to be very involved in my or my siblings lives while working the farm. It was heavy load on him and he had to bear it just to put food on the table. It wasn't until he sold the farm and retired, that his disposition finally changed. He became personable, happy and relaxed. He took a low-stress job as a field man for the fruit shipping warehouse we used to consign our fruit crop to, going from farm to farm to forecast how much each grower would bring in that day. He loved that job. He was able to connect with people, and people loved him for it. Gord is a lot like that. He was interested in everyone he met, and when you finished time with him, you had that thrill over having really connected with someone. Since Gord's passing, so many people have come forward and recounted that same experience.

On the leeside of 50 now, I feel myself becoming more like my latter-day Dad. I'm now in a job where I work with young children and I can't get over how happy the job makes me. Being around such youthful joy and innocence just makes me love life more. I am more social than I have ever been and willing to give time, attention and energy to everyone I encounter. Hearing these things about Gord makes me aspire to those things even more now.

In his fundraisers for the Sunnybrook Hospital and the Downie/Wenjack Fund, his urgings to fans to bring canned goods for local food banks to Hip concerts, and most poignantly, his tireless work in improving relations with indigenous peoples, Gord has wanted us all to be better people, wanted Canada to be a better country. He included everybody, just like everybody and everything I saw on the street during my walk down. That is Canada. We had always thought Canada was the best country in the world, then Gord assured us that it is indeed not, though he told us just how it could be.

I finished writing all my notes on that picnic bench, then decided it might be time to go home. I packed up and began to walk back to the bridge. On the way, I passed memorial benches and squirrels squabbling over space in the trees. Under the bridge, there were Canada Geese, seagulls and ducks, all working for food in the rapids of the Rideau, just beginning to convene for their migrations south to avoid the imminent and harsh northern winter. This is life without Gord. Not much different than what it was. Still, I do hope that his influence goes on, just like we have recordings of his voice for posterity. I do hope his message endures. I have Gord's legacy in me and I am going to work on completing the goals that he set out for all of us.

This is Canada after Gord.

What a beautiful place.

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