Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A Hip Grandma

In my last "Ode to the Fair City of Kingston" I explained that I am a Grandma. That should give you an idea of my age, although in my mind I'm a pretty "hip" Grandma. The word "hip" brings to mind one of my very favourite Kingston memories. (and No...I didn't break my hip there or anywhere else...Yet). "The Hip", or "the Tragically Hip" is a band who is famous all over North America and Europe. I have always been a huge fan, even long before I knew they came from Kingston. Finding out their origin was "icing on the cake"- my favourite group called my favourite city "home".

Now people who live in Kingston are "cool" about The Hip - I have never got an overly exuberant response when I mention them when I'm visiting. What I find amusing is that, while no one I have met actually knows any of the group personally, everyone seems to have a cousin who lives beside the brother of a schoolmate of the drummer, or the bass, or even Gordon Downie himself. I guess it really IS a small world. Anyway, its always close enough for me...I am always suitably impressed.

A couple of years ago my daughter called from Kingston to say she had signed me up as a volunteer. The Hip were playing a one night "gig" in Kingston. The only venue big enough to hold them at that time (not like the KROCK Centre now) was the playing field at the military college (RMC), and the organizers had to promise the field would be returned to RMC in pristine condition at the end of the concert. My job was to be part of the clean-up crew- picking up all the trash left by the crowd. In my mind I was going to be a "roadie" for the Hip- a once in a lifetime opportunity! I could just see myself being invited to go backstage to meet the band. I reserved my train ticket for the following day.

The big evening finally arrived. My first inkling that this little stint might not go as I had pictured it in my mind was when my daughter and son-in-law decided parking downtown might be tricky- they suggested we WALK to the RMC playing field. I am a person who takes the car to the corner store (me bad..too bad). I NEVER walk if it can possibly be avoided. I couldn't imagine walking what seemed like 30 miles just to get there- but far be it from me to sound old and decrepit. I should also mention my son-in-law is about 6 feet tall- and 5 feet of that is legs. He walks a mile a minute. I take four steps to his one. Oh well- off we go, me huffing and puffing in the rear- and trotting as fast as my old Grandma legs could go. I made it- just- but I was hot, and tired. Did I mention cranky?

The crowd was amazing. No matter how cool the citizens of Kingston were when speaking of The Hip- everyone showed up to hear them. What an exciting night! All was forgotten and forgiven. I left my daughter and her group (pregnant wives and hubbies either backpacking or pushing wee children in strollers), and pushed my way right up front. I expected to end up with the movers, groovers, smokers and moshers, but I guess THEY were the ones I pushed out of the way. The very front row was filled with other "Grandmas" of all shapes and sizes. We clapped, we boogied and we sang along. They played all our favourite Hip tunes. I, at least, had an official t-shirt, which I showed off. I had hoped it would say "staff" just so I could call myself a "roadie", but, alas it designated me as a volunteer. Still- I think the other ladies were so wishing they were me.

The concert was soon over. It surely was an evening to remember. I re-grouped with my family and we waited for the crowd to clear. Can you imagine what a mess thousands of people can make, and how many bottles and junk they leave behind? And I had promised to clean it all up. I had already walked what seemed like 50 miles or so (it goes up every time I tell this story), then performed with my new front row friends for over two hours- and now they expected me to put everything back to the way we found it. I was pretty sure each person there purposely left TWO empty water or pop bottles just for me. Also- upon checking, I discovered it was WAY past my bedtime.

We eventually did have the field cleaned up. I made it very plain, however, that if I was expected to walk home I would report my children to the authorities for causing cruel and unusual punishment. I was allowed to take a bus (although it didn't take us home, it instead dropped off us downtown at the Holiday Inn and we still had to walk).

That night is one of my fondest Kingston memories. I thought I might get a call-back from "Gord" asking me to join them again, but so far nothing. I'm not worried, there is always tomorrow for someone with my background training and extensive experience. This Grandma "roadie" will be ready!

Linda (Smith)

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