Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Time Machine

I have wanted to do this one for ages but was waiting for the right time to do it. Now is that time.

You'll see why when you get to the end.

This is about the greatest rock band in the world, RUSH, and how my life has passed through the years along with them. That's where the Time Machine title idea came from.

One day in 1975 as I was walking home I noticed an old record player in someone's garbage. I don't know if it was just because I was 12 years old or that I had a hunch that this record player may still work but I decided to bring it home with me.

My family had an 8-track player and I had a cassette recorder/player but we didn't have a record player. As such we had no need for vinyl record albums in the house. I had won a Bobby Sherman vinyl album at a School Safety Patrol Christmas party. It had never been played before and even though it wasn't my choice of music to listen to, it would suit the purpose of seeing if my new/old record player worked.

I discovered that the record player "worked" perfectly in that it played the music. The only thing was that when I touched the center post or any metal part of the player I got an electric shock. I suppose that would explain why it was in the garbage but I overlooked that and had myself a new record player/wakeup device.

Soon afterwards I decided to take a trip down to the local public library and check out the assortment of LP's that were available to sign out.

This seems so bizarre to think that the North York Public Library could be a source of discovering the music of the day but they were up to date and anyone with a library card could sign out the albums of their choice.

I can still clearly visualize going through the records and stopping at RUSH - Fly By Night. This was the second album put out by the boys and the first with the "new guy" Neil Peart who replaced John Rutsey as the drummer and lyric writer.

I had never heard of these guys before but the cover of this album was so cool with a big snowy owl coming right out of the picture at me. I had to check this out.

I couldn't even tell you if I signed out any other albums along with it but I made my way home with Fly By Night under my arm. I went upstairs to my bedroom, took the record out of its sleeve, zapped myself as I put the record onto the post and turned the record player on and sat back to hear what this stuff was.

At that moment a lifelong fan of RUSH was born.

I would have been 11 or 12 years old at that time. Roughly 36 years ago. Man, I can't believe it's been that long...

I didn't have a lot of spending money in those years but I usually found a way to get a new RUSH album within the first day or so of its release. For the longest time RUSH would release a new one annually. I could listen to an album for about a year before I was really hungry for new stuff so this worked out perfectly.

I'm not positive of the first time that I saw the lads in concert. I originally thought that it was in 1977 or 1978 but I'm not positive.
What I AM positive of was that I was at their show on Sunday September 2, 1979 at Varsity Stadium in Toronto. My family had to speed back to Toronto from a cottage that we were using on Lake Simcoe just so that I could get to see this concert.

I still have the ticket stub somewhere. (I'll have to look for that and scan it, just for fun.). One of the best things about this show was that I finally had the opportunity to see FM who were another of my favourite bands of the time. Both bands were awesome but RUSH was what I was there for.

I've looked around on the internet and found that this show was part of the Permanent Waves Warm Up Tour. Even if this was the case the show was for the prior album "Hemispheres". I'm certain of that because I have this program from the show.

Once I went to my first show it became a tradition that I would see them every time they played in Toronto or somewhere within a few hours driving distance such as Hamilton or even Buffalo. If I had plans of some kind the plans would have to change.

RUSH was my priority.
You'll see later in this post that this hasn't changed after more than 30 years. There were a couple of times that I went to the shows by myself but I always ran into friends and spent the rest of the show hanging out with them.

Last year a documentary "Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage" was being released in theaters around the world for one night only.
As luck would have it the only place in New Brunswick that was showing it was in Moncton. It was a midnight show only.
Can you guess what I did? Yep, the family packed up and made an overnight mini-vacation out of it. This was the closest thing we had to seeing RUSH in these parts.

It was a blast. Sure it was late and we were all tired but what an incredible movie it is! Seeing it on the large screen made it even more amazing.

It was almost surreal seeing my old high school named in it.
Even more astounding was when it showed Geddy and Alex walking around outside a church where they first performed shows in the basement. That was where I went to nursery school!
I could still visualize the parade we all had on the church driveway for my birthday that year. That very driveway was right there on the screen.

Guitarist Alex Lifeson attended the same high school that I did. It was several years before I was there as he is about 9 years older than I am so I didn't see him personally. However, I found out fairly recently that our favourite babysitter was his friend at school.

It was when I was at high school that I learned Alex's real last name is Zivojinovich.
One of the walls in the band room was covered with a mural that he had painted. In the bottom corner was A. Zivojinovich. I don't recall how I found out that it was him but I admired the artwork that much more when I did.

In 1997 I heard on the news that Neil Peart's daughter had died in an automobile accident. It was such a strange feeling to feel so much grief and sympathy for someone who has meant so much to me for so long but has no idea who I am or that I even exist. How many of us wanted to tell Neil how sad we felt for him and express our condolences?

Less than a year after this Neil's wife Jacqueline passed away from cancer.

My god, how much could one man take...

For the next 5 years there was nothing from RUSH. Alex and Geddy did solo projects which were good but not the same.
I learned later that Neil packed up his life and rode 55,000 miles on his BMW motorcycle in order to mourn and reflect.

He wrote a book about the journey "Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road" which I bought and read. Only when I read this book did it really sink in how close we came to losing RUSH forever. At his daughter Selena's funeral he told Alex and Geddy "consider me retired".

At some point in the travels Neil met a new woman that he married in September 2000.

Thankfully, in 2001 Neil contacted Geddy and Alex and told them that he was ready to get back to work and start writing music again.

In 2002 "Vapor Trails" was released and the boys were back. On July 17, 2002 I saw them play the Molson Ampitheatre in Toronto. I went by myself but I'd be damned if I was going to miss my first RUSH show in over 5 years.

Since moving to New Brunswick I have travelled back to Ontario to see them in concert.

I really wish that they would consider playing somewhere in Atlantic Canada. I have heard that they played here in Fredericton 30 years ago for the "Moving Pictures" tour but they haven't been here for a while.

I note that when we went to see the movie in Moncton there were about 100 people in the theatre. A friend of mine in the US told me that the midnight movie screening in his city was completely sold out and he couldn't get in. That may tell something of the interest out here.

From the time my sons were babies they have listened to RUSH. Many times we were in the car I would have a RUSH CD or cassette playing and they would rock along.

One of the funniest things I remember is playing the cassette "Roll the Bones" when they were 3 or 4 years old and both of them singing "We are young!" when it came up in the song "Dreamline". I can still hear it.

As you probably already know, both boys have taken up music. T with piano and B playing drums.

In fact, B idolizes Neil Peart. He has photos of Neil and his amazing drum kit in his bedroom and regularily practices playing along to RUSH songs. He's doing darn well too!

A friend of mine is on a mailing list for upcoming concerts. Last fall she forwarded me a message that tickets were about to be sold for a show in Montreal on April 20, 2011. This was to be the first time that RUSH has played east of Ontario since we had moved to New Brunswick in 2003.

I didn't need to think about it very long. We were going. All of us. Myself, Cheryl and the boys. I decided that it was time the boys went to see their first big rock show.

The significance of the show's date didn't immediately strike me but it was taking place just a couple of days after the boys' 13th birthdays.

As luck would have it the grand opening of the new N.B. Liquor store was going to be on April 21, the day after the concert. There was no way we could make it back in time but as I said before RUSH was the priority.

I wish that I could have been there but Mayor Brad Woodside gave me a "shout-out" at the ceremony. What a great guy he is.
Charles took a great video of Brad and the "shout-out". Have a look.


I called the Bell Centre in Montreal before we left and found out that it was okay for me to take my camera into the show as long as it wasn't a professional camera with a zoom lens. Excellent.
I took several videos. Here is a link to one that I posted on YouTube.


Even though my camera isn't a professional one by any means I think it did pretty well.
Here are a few of my photos.

That last one was taken at a really nice restaurant named Baton Rouge across from the Bell Centre. We went there for dinner before heading to the show.

There we were with our boys who had just become teenagers about to go to their first big rock concert. Wow.

There is something very cool about that photo and what the boys are wearing.
T is wearing my t-shirt that I bought at the Triumph - Allied Forces 1981 tour show.
B is wearing my RUSH - Moving Pictures 1981 tour t-shirt.
I bought those 30 years ago.

I have seen RUSH in concert more times than I can remember but I think I can honestly say that this show was the best I have ever seen them play.

They played for more than 3 hours with a short intermission in the middle.

An interesting note is that to commemorate the 30th anniversary of "Moving Pictures" album, RUSH played the album in its entirety in the second half of the show.
How's THAT for a coincidence?

For their last song they played "Working Man" from their first album.
We watched in amazement as Neil crashed away, Geddy slapped the bass like a maniac and Alex played his guitar so fast we couldn't keep up with his fingers.
After already playing for more than 3 hours they looked like they were ready to go for 3 more!

We all loved it. The boys had their best birthday trip ever and I got to see RUSH in concert again.

By the way, guess what RUSH has named their current tour?

The Time Machine Tour.

What a cool coincidence. :)

Stay well,

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Man, that's annoying...

Yesterday afternoon I was thinking about something really great and was going to blog about it.
I'm sure I had quite a bit of it written up in my mind but just had to wait for the chance to type it up.
Now that I have a chance do you think that I can remember what it was about?
Not a thing. It's gone.
Leave it with me and if I can remember it I'll try to remember to blog it right away.
If I remember.
I hate getting older... :-(

Stay well,

Tim Scammell, PTech

Monday, April 4, 2011

Simply, The Best

What a surprise. Another blog about hockey. :)
This one is a little different though.
Our family is in total agreement that this past weekend was the best and most successful sports weekend that we have ever had.

I dare not diminish the baseball championship that they won last fall. That was certainly outstanding and was the first time that any team the boys have been on had gone all the way to get the big prize at the end of the season.

But with all things considered and how it all played out, this past weekend was one that will never be forgotten.

It didn't start out too well though.
Over the past couple of weeks we've been having fabulous warm weather which had done a nice job of melting the huge piles of snow that have been around us for months.
Then last Friday, April Fool's Day, Mother Nature decided to play a joke on us and pounded us with a snowstorm.
The boys' semi-final hockey game was scheduled to go in the late afternoon.
Initially we were convinced that the game was going to be cancelled due to the horrendous road conditions but as the afternoon went on it became clear that the show would go on.

The final Championship game was to be played the next day so if the semi-final was cancelled there was no place to squeeze it in before the final game.

Personally I wasn't too thrilled with this. I didn't see the sense of people risking their lives because the FYHA couldn't find a way to move things around.

I was at our Fredericton office not too far from the arena but Cheryl was going to have to drive all the way from New Maryland through the blizzard with the boys to get to the rink.
T had been sick and didn't go to school that day. It didn't look like he would be able to play anyway.
B was coming out of a cold and was still sniffly and achy.
We decided that this was not going to happen. Our sons were just going to have to miss the game.

T had a long nap that afternoon. When he woke up he announced that he was ready to play if the game was on.
B was ready to go no matter how he felt.

So Cheryl made a couple of calls to parents of some other players who live in our area and have better vehicles for handling the road conditions.
Cheryl and T were picked up by one family and B was picked up by another and I met them at the rink.

I was surprised but everyone on our team made it to the rink on time. The other team was missing a player or two but was ready to go.
The referee and two linesman were there on time and the game went on.

It started out a little slowly but our team eventually got their groove and the barrage of goals against the other team began.

As the game went on I was sending out updates on my Facebook and Twitter of the score.
A friend whose son is on the other team and is on Facebook had decided against trying to get to the arena. When she realized that it was her son's team we were playing she jokingly sent a message asking if our kids could maybe not beat them so badly.

Well, once that train started down that track nothing I could say would slow it down.

Our kids ended up winning 7-0.
B got himself another hat-trick for good measure.

When I think about it now it could have gone either way even though the score doesn't reflect that.
It seemed that the other team's goalie was just having a bad day and missed some things that he usually could have saved.
In our end our goalies were pulling off some awesome saves that they may not have done on another day.
I do admit that our team is quite strong with B and T and several other good players but I don't know if they were 7-0 strong.

Regardless, they did it and had to rest up and get sleep before the big game the next day.

The Championship game was against the Stars who had become our biggest rivals. We just didn't like them. There were a couple of kids on there who weren't always the cleanest players.
We played them in the Hampton tournament a little while back and they beat us in overtime with the help of some very puzzling officiating.

One of the players who is in B's class at school made sure that he bragged aloud to everyone how they beat B's team for the gold medal.

Plus, they beat us in a shootout for the bronze medal in the Christmas tournament.

We did beat them a couple of weeks ago but I was really hoping that we would not have to play them again.
No such luck.

My guys went to bed early Friday night, had a great breakfast on Saturday and ate some raisins for energy as I told them to do.
T still was not feeling 100% but would hold his own.

For some bizarre reason the top scorer on the other team was away and didn't play.
The game should be a breeze then right?
Not likely.

The Stars scored first and were ahead 1-0 for a very long time. They were playing a solid game. It was scary to think what would have happened if their star player was there.
For some reason our best players were having a hard time getting the job done. Plus, the other goalie was pulling out some magic from midair with some of his saves.

Finally we scored a goal and tied it up in the second period. It was 1-1.

Well into the third period I was really thinking that this thing would go into overtime and I wasn't thrilled with the thought.

With 8 minutes left in the third, B did one of his spectacular end-to-end, deke 'em all plays and popped the puck into the top corner past the goalies glove. That was good timing, I'll say.

Now could they hold on for eight more minutes to win this thing?
I should mention that this game was three, fifteen minute stop-time periods which was different than usual. In regular games the play was straight-time non-stop up until the last five minutes of the game when it became stop-time.

A couple of minutes later our fears were realized when the Stars tied it up.
Regulation time ended with a 2-2 score and it was going into overtime. (I'm convinced that overtime was created to make anyone watching or involved with the game go insane with frazzled nerves.)

The overtime period was a wild one to say the least. There were so many opportunties and so many saves to beat them I couldn't count.
But no-one scored and they had to go into a shootout. Rats.

To me a shootout is a terrible way to end any game of any kind. Admittedly each team has several chances and uses different players for each shot but I really don't think it's a fair representation of the team's skills.

Each team had 4 shooters take their turns and each team had 1 goal to show for it.

The Stars player went down for the fifth shot and was blocked out by our goalie.

Then our fifth player got ready to go.
This boy is an awesome player and had done some excellent plays over the season but seemed to have a tendency of shooting the puck directly at the goalie rather than where the goalie wasn't.

If there was ever a time for him to do this differently this was it. I was right down by the other team's net and watched him coming down. I almost didn't want to look but did so anyway.

It's a darn good thing that I did too. The lad pulled some magic out of his hat and zipped a perfect wrist shot into the corner.

Gold Medal! Sweet. It wasn't the prettiest victory but it worked perfectly for me.
Those other losses to these guys didn't matter anymore. This was the game that counted and our kids did it.

What a moment. It's impossible to tell you just how proud we felt. Beyond words.

The team manager had made a very wise decision to have the end-of-season party that same evening at Killarney Lodge up at Killarney Lake just north of Fredericton.

That was such a blast. The coaches and manager had gone and had trophies made for every player AND gave them the gift of a new graphite stick each!
Cheryl did up one of her special Odes to the Peewee Sharks and read it to everyone. She did a spectacular job too.
The Ode is a poem.
My father started composing Odes many years ago when he lived in Toronto and would write one every time a friend was retiring or moving on or whenever a special occasion came along.
He wrote Odes for the weddings of my sister and myself too.
For the last couple of years Cheryl has started doing them and is a natural talent at them.

There was great food and assorted sweets for everyone to load up on.

I was very impressed with the cake. Here is a photo of it.

You would think that this day could not get any more awesome than that wouldn't you?
It's not over yet.

Tha assistant coach had everyone over to his house for the kids to play road hockey in the court.
It was raining a bit but the kids had a blast.
Inside the house the adults were treated to chicken wings, fruit trays, vegetable dips and whatever beverages we desired. (The assistant coach works for a huge international beverage manufacturer and gets a pretty good deal.)

It felt like the evening should be winding down before long when the assistant coach mentioned something about the Varsity Reds.

PARDON?? What did he say?? I must be hearing things!!

You see, the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds men's hockey team proved just last week that they are the best team in the entire country by winning the University Cup in the final CIS tournament in Fredericton.

This is the some of the best hockey I have ever seen. (With the exception of our kids' games of course. ) :)
Our family has attended as many of these games as we could over the last several years and we love it. The boys can name every player on the team. Fredericton's university hockey is without question the best show in town.
The Varsity Reds players define what being a top athlete really is. Their skills are outstanding. Their coach is regarded as one of the best in the sport.
Plus, they are all great guys.

We had met some of them on numerous occasions and they are always friendly and happy to talk to a fan.
Truly a great bunch of lads and absolutely deserving of the national crown.

B and I went to one of the CIS tournament games and T and I were at the final game.

Anyway, back to this.

The assistant coach informed us that most of the UNB team was across the road at that very moment having a party and the University Cup was with them!

It doesn't get much better than that.

Check this out.

Yep, that's my sons holding the University Cup with most of their favourite UNB players in the picture with them.
Unfortunately our top favourite player, Hunter Tremblay, was not there. He was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers a couple of days before and was on his way to Oklahoma to join the farm team. That's a shame for us but excellent for him.
We've loved watching him play and are really going to miss having him in town but we certainly hope he becomes a star in the NHL as he was here.
I know the boys were thrilled with the whole scene but I was on cloud 9 too.

So, that's the story of what was the Scammell's best sports weekend.

So far... :)

Stay well,