Friday, November 27, 2009

Oh Susanna's Tough City

So the CBC's Great Canadian Song Quest wraps up today. As I mentioned before, Oh Susanna was chosen to write a song about Tofino. Her song, Tough City, is now available for download and you can hear a snippet here. (You have to click on the province to bring up her link.)

Here's a story from The Westerly on the creation of the song.

I've heard of Oh Susanna of course, but I think this close listen will be sending me back to iTunes for more of her work. (And the rest of the Song Quest album sounds very worth a listen, too.) Her voice is strong and her storytelling rooted in place. I see from her website that she was inspired by Bob Dylan, Sarah Harmer and Ron Sexsmith among others and that her band includes musicians from Blue Rodeo so that seals the appeal — I'm fans of them all.

I downloaded the song this morning and have listened several times now. I'm a sentimental gal at heart, so the song appealed to me a great deal. Tough City is the "she" in this song and in it we hear of the history ("when I was young / there were no roads to spare / only the ocean could carry you there"), changes in the economy (the decline of fishing, for instance), and some of Tough City's new reality ("new people come / with their buckets of money / no notion of staying / or knowing her story"). (I know, I know, that last bit is a sweeping statement, but you can't deny that it isn't/hasn't been true in many cases.)

So why don't you take a listen for yourself? Let me know what you think.

Books and Birds

Look who's coming to Tofino:

Okay, so unless you live here and have heard the buzz or are particularly attune to all things literature in Canada, you may not recognize authors, Margaret Atwood and Graeme Gibson in this photo (which comes from here, by the way). They are keen naturalists - as you can probably tell from the photo - and are willing to rough it a bit so I'm sure they'll love Tofino.

There will be quite an event tomorrow afternoon with a presentation by Gibson on his latest book, The Bedside Book of Beasts and then a reading by Atwood from The Year of the Flood. Since the event is three hours long I suspect there will be lots of mingling time (and perhaps a few nibbles?) and the proceeds are graciously going toward local environmental education initiatives.

Tickets and more information can be had from Wildside Booksellers, one of two fabulous bookstores in our wee town. I hear the event is almost sold out so act quickly if you haven't got your tickets yet.

(And don't forget that tonight is Jingle Into Christmas. Should you be buying gifts this Christmas, looking locally first would help give local businesses a boost through the slow months ahead.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Horses on Chesterman

Daughter A and I went for a very rainy walk on the weekend. While rounding the corner at the point of Chesterman Beach, we saw this apparition down the beach...

We walked closer...

...and closer...

Horses, of course, are rare these days on Chesterman, but occasionally you might see one, even on the bike path. Years ago, when horses were a mode of travel for a few (not many people had horses out here; a bit hard to get one in without a road) you might have seen horses on Chesterman or Long Beach. And cattle, too. When "the book" is out, I'll tell you more. (I promise; I will do a post about this book one day. It needs a title and more details before "the reveal.") One fellow actually had 50 steer at Long Beach. Amazing to think of today.

[Apologies for the poor photos. It was really raining hard!]

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Long Beach Diaries

From October 6, 1927 to May 22, 1929, George Jackson, a lineman living at Long Beach, kept a journal. As someone who often writes about local history and natural history, Jackson's short observations are a well-spring of information. I thought you might find it interesting to you, so I'll reprint a few of his observations from time-to-time. I'll post them on the same date on which he made them over eighty years ago.

Jackson's house sat on what many locals will know as the Lovekin Property. The Lovekin house was built on the same spot and they used Jackson's house for a time in the 1930s. For the rest of you, Jackson lived on the rise up above Long Beach — up above the parking lots at Long Beach. At the time, all of that area was an open field with grazing cattle and horses. Jackson maintained the telegraph line along the beach, from South Bay (near Tofino) and then down toward Combers, where a lineman from Ucluelet took over. Jackson also maintained a "spur line" up to the cannery at the Kennedy River.

Wouldn't you know it, though, the one page I seem to have missing in my copy of the journal is from November 23 to December 3. So, in lieu of the exact date, here is his entry from November 22, 1927:

A strong S. E. gale got up quite suddenly about daybreak this a.m. after a quiet night. Blew hard all day and rained and still blowing tonight. Did not get out of the house all day. Had a wire from Runcke, he is not able to come out at present for his hunt. Pressler came in this afternoon and full of trouble, wet through. He left Tofino early this a.m. in his skiff, loaded with his camp equipment. Got caught when storm came on, wrecked in Browning Passage. Smashed his boat which sank, his stuff floated out and he got ashore some way and saved most of his outfit. George Evans picked him and his wrecked outfit up and landed them on the float at Mud Bay and he then walked on home before dark and got dry clothes on. Had been wet since early this morning when his boat sank under him. Pretty tough for an old man. He is nearly 70 years. Bill Lornie was the Captain of the Annie Tuck yesterday. Had two other men aboard with him. They broke a tail shaft and was probably out of business. Lucky for them it was yesterday morning not this morning that they were caught. They would not last an hour out there today.

Winter Weather in Pictures

The radio just said Tofino was the hot spot on the island — a whole 8 degrees (Celsius)! Positively balmy. The rainy weather continued this weekend (no surprise there), but we were spared the winds for a few days. Bring it on, I say. It's one of the only ways I can get Daughter P out to the beach — there is a certain appeal with being battered by wind and rain until you're soaked through!

TJ Watt captured our November weather perfectly in these pics taken at Long Beach. Thanks for sharing, TJ!

Friday, November 20, 2009

In Season: Oysters

Wow, it's hard to photograph those babies to make them look appealing! There's oyster fever in Tofino this weekend because it's time for the annual Clayoquot Oyster Festival. There are many activities to take part in if you happen to be in town. Tonight, of course, there is The Mermaid's Ball. Now where are those fins and pearls when you need them?

There's lots of great browsing on the Oyster Festival site, including info on just how good oysters are for you — if you can manage to get them down that is. I have grown to love oysters, but I eat them on my own terms. I love Oyster Bisque or the FH's method of baking the oysters on the half shell and topping them with with hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and a bit of grated cheese. Mike Mullin's Oysters La Pincoya (scroll down the page a bit) is also fabulous and Mike says it's the best recipe to use when introducing kids to oysters. Sadly, it still hasn't worked its magic in my home. (By the way, thanks, Mike, for these oysters!)

Today, though, I think I might just try Oyster Jim Martin's recipe for West Coast Tacos. This is from the cookbook, Vittles and Vignettes: Recipes and Reminiscences of Old-time Ucluelet, which is worth the purchase just for the historical photos and small history notes. It's available from The Crow's Nest and other shops in Ukee.

Oyster Jim's West Coast Tacos

Steam oysters in shell for 10 minutes (or for 8 minutes out of shell). Pop open and grate any soft yellow cheese, like Monterey Jack, over oysters. Broil until cheese melts. Top with salsa. Garnish with tortilla chips. (I suspect wedged inside a taco shell will work well, too.)

One of the events that doesn't involve eating, drinking or dancing, is a tour to some oyster farms via Remote Passages. A great way to get out an experience Clayoquot Sound.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

'Tis the Season

Quick. It's not raining, or blowing like stink, or snowing. 'Tis the time of year to take advantage of the breaks in the weather. I took a quick walk to the beach today before the next storm hits. We had a doozie last night. And the night before. I was driving home in the dark on Sunday night and the height of the Kennedy River was frightening. I suddenly became paranoid of sliding off the road into it — something I'd never considered in the 16 years I've been driving HIghway 4

And then of course we lose power, which I actually enjoy a great deal. That was how Sunday night was spent.

While we rarely get snow out here on the coast, the same cannot be said for the road we have to drive to "get out." This is how it looked Saturday afternoon.

The snow has since been washed away, but it will be back.

So, 'tis the season to be able to enjoy the breaks in the weather as soon as they come 'cos you know something else is riding its butt. It's also the season for stocking up on candles; and putting on the snow tires.

[Further to this post, here are some wonderful photos showing the stormy weather and the height of the river.]

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Long Beach Olympics

In my stupor I thought I'd actually posted pictures of the hoopla from the Halloween weekend. So, unless you are an avid link-clicker, you may have no idea what I was talking about re. the Olympics.

The torch came through town on that weekend, and while I am on the ambivalent-side of the whole event — especially given all of the cuts to schools, libraries, and arts; I could list a range of better ways, MUCH better ways, to spend our tax dollars — I did participate just a bit. We went out to Long Beach because I love the place and I did want to see this:

[Reuters Photo, picked up here]

It was quite a lovely day — drippy and cool, but lots of folks from both towns feeling happy, which is always a good thing. The torch was first met by the Tla-o-qui-aht people and elder John Tom Sr. walked it down the beach to Ruth Sadler who walked it down to Raph Bruhwiler who surfed on by to light his torch. I especially wanted to be there for Ruth, who is a wonderful woman and wife of Jim Sadler, who was a legendary surfer here and one of the first, oh, 40 years or so ago now.

Honestly, the rest of the day and the Gong Show in town with all of the security and cars and confusion I could have done without, but I'm glad I didn't miss the "pass" on Long Beach. This was fun, too:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I have re-emerged from Book Deadline Hell. It was a doozy, and it's by no means over, but at least I have a little reprieve. I'll get out with the camera and some more lucid thoughts asap, but for now I have updated the "THIS is what we do here" and "What Others are Saying" marginalia.

My last post was about all of the surfing excitement around here last weekend. For a bit of surfing history you might be interested in this article. It's nice to see that Peter Devries' mother, Alice, gets some mention too! And Jackie has been busy writing and recording after her week of covering the surf competition. Here are her audio stories.

The photo above is by Jeremy Koreski who, like Pete, is a local "boy" (neither of them are boys, of course). Jeremy is the man behind many of these fabulous surf pictures of Pete and Raph Bruhwiler. Jeremy has graciously sent me a few pictures, which I'll be posting in the near future. Please check out his website.