The Hip With the Roomies
“Ouch!” I felt something like a bite on the back of my leg. As I turned to see what it was, my roommates all ran to me, gasping, speaking rapidly in other languages. Three of them were French, one was Polish, and all four of them were pulling at my shirt with panicked expressions on their faces.
“What is it? What’s wrong?” I demanded to know. The only answer I got was, “I don’t know how to say it in English”. I assumed the worst- my shirt must be on fire! So I started pulling it off, over my head. “No, no no!” they all shouted, so I stopped. Finally, they stopped pulling at me and said it was over.
What was it? I asked. “Mante Religeuse”, Pauline replied while cupping her hands downward in front of her. “Oh, a praying mantis”, I replied. “Yes!” And they pointed to a park bench where the mantid had landed.
People around us were chuckling. I explained in a raised voice that I thought the pain in my leg had been a spark and that my shirt must have had sparks on it as well. But Laughing Louie, a short, hilarious man from France, confessed that he had pulled my leg hair as a joke. After a final laugh, our senses refocused themselves to the scene around us.
It was a beautiful August evening in Market Square, downtown Guelph. Carden Street was closed to traffic to make way for throngs of people doing what 1/3 of the country was doing that night- watching The Tragically Hip’s last concert.
Lead singer Gord Downie performed in a metallic silver suit, larger than life on screens erected in the middle of the road. As the band played, he sang his heart out to tunes most of us knew, transporting us back to years past through the memories those songs are inevitably linked to. It was bittersweet to celebrate these good memories while knowing that Gord was losing his battle against terminal cancer, and this would be our last chance to see the band together.
“Is fock music, yes?” Louie asked. Offended at this unorthodox use of a swear word directed at the band, I asked him to repeat. “You know, ze fock music!”
“Oh, folk music! It’s really more rock than anything else.” The rest of us laughed. A discussion of genres didn’t go far and soon was lost to the music around us.
To take a break from the crowd, we strolled through the water in the splash pad in front of city hall, while still drinking in the music. It was a good night- a magical night, and perhaps the most Canadian thing I have ever done was to bring a group of mostly newcomers to see Canada’s favourite local band.
A round of after-concert drinks brought more fun and laughter, but when we were done, I decided to walk home alone. I needed a little time to process the evening. I walked beside the railroad tracks, whistling “Bobcaygeon” while remembering the village where I grew up, and looking up at the sky, where I saw the constellations reveal themselves, one star at a time.
Gord Downie, 1964-2017, was a Canadian rock musician, writer, and occasional actor. He was the lead singer and lyricist for the Canadian rock band, The Tragically Hip. He also released six solo albums. – Wikipedia
“He loved this country with everything he had… and he wanted to make it better… We are less of a country without Gord Downie in it.” -Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, October 18, 2017