How do you prepare for a ride that roars through towns so far to the north that a Tim Horton's coffee is an exotic luxury, so verifiably 'out there' rolling over Canadian shield that you could blink and whiz by six misty lakes, so remote that the 'Night Danger: Moose' signs appear at a 10-to-1 ratio with stop signs? What do you bring along for an excursion that then drops you south south south? So far that the pervasive language transforms to Spanish, so far that a million year old sanguine hue bleeds from the landscape -- dominating wide angle views from the tiny RV window, so far that the prickliest thing within arm's reach is no longer your travel partner, but instead, forests of cacti reaching from the dusty mesa. What sort of shoe do you strap to your pack if you plan to clamber over cascades of violently crafted geology and multi-coloured carpets of ancient lichens lining Lake Superior's Coastal Trail, if you intend to protect yourself from 'playa foot' while spinning through psychedelic infinity in the Black Rock Desert, if you endeavour to move over Pacific-facing beaches in silence, sharing the moment only with you and your memory.
What does that bag look like? I haven't a clue, but we gave our best estimate of the 'right answer', with most of the packing happening the same morning as our departure. Team Freeman whipped together a few bags, aiming for minimalism, tossed them into the generous storage areas of our shining Giddy Up safari vehicle, and were only four hours late for our intended shove-off time -- operating in true 'Freeman' fashion.
Though the lion's share of the next two months' travel will have us moving westward and southward, our first leg was to take us east to the land of gravy and curd-laiden fries, of momentum-gathering separatist opinion, and of the freshest member of Team Freeman -- Montreal. The journey just wouldn't feel right if we weren't able to share a proper send-off celebration with Brit's husband (pronounced 'hubband'), Denis, who stood solidly by our sides as we navigated life's labyrinth with Dad -- the ultimate show of strength and compassion from a life mate. All of us continue to share in the sentiment that inspired the words 'I'm glad you brought him along', which I was sure to weave into Brit and Denis' wedding ceremony*. He is a good guy to have along for the ride.
*If you haven't yet heard the incredible story of Brit and Denis' wedding this March, please make mention in the comment section. That is a story in need of re-telling for all you poor folks who missed out on the CarePage.
A City in Heat
Months previous, Brit, Denis, and I had conjured plans (and tickets) to be in Montreal together over the August 1-2-3 weekend for Osheaga festival -- a 3-day, 40 000 daily attendee music festival at Île Sainte-Hélène's Parc Jean-Drapeau -- so it wasn't much of a brain-bender to acknowledge this as being an ideal first stop for the Giddy Up Tour and a prime way to start this trip off with a BANG. And what a bang it was. Montreal was in the throes of peak summer and the city was quaking with activity. Every restaurant had their own line-up ribboning the sidewalk, every metro car throbbing with youthful energy, and every 20- or 30-something you spotted was clad with radical shades and some well-curated floral patterning covering their body. The city was red-hot.
Bringing Mom to Osheaga wasn't much of a stretch either. She appreciates the freedom of expression, she generally digs tunes with a solid beat, and she is not easily perturbed by those under the influence of temporary euphoria inducers, whether the active ingredient be ethanol or 'other'. After all, Mom has spent the majority of her life hanging around a guy who, when addressing his hindered sight and inconsistent balance, explained to the doctors, "Thank goodness I have plenty of practice being drunk! Otherwise, this walking thing could really be a problem!" On another occasion he was asked "Have you ever been a big drinker, Mr. Freeman?" Even with hindered cognitive function, Dad didn't skip a beat to offer the reply, "No, no. But that isn't to say that I haven't drunk BIG before!" These samples should make it clear that Mom's 'normal' when it comes to a party partner is someone who dances on one leg whilst careening diagonally across a Chilean disco floor, or someone who routinely finds himself in possession of other crew's sailing flags and a few extra bottles of rum at Caribbean regattas. Mom is very used to outrageous company, so the antics of the kids playing at their little festival simply doesn't hold a match to the instigating powerhouse that was her husband, Geoff Freeman. If you wanted to be the centre of attention within an hour, you hung around with that guy.
So to the festival we went, with Mom, and thousands of others whose ages likely averaged 21. We took Mom on a whirlwind tour of the island, of new music, of new fashion, of new friends, and of new ways to experience a hot Quebec weekend -- she did great. Really great. The scores of friends that Brit, Denis, and I met up with throughout the festival all seemed to come to the conclusions of 'Your Mom is COOLEST!' or 'Oh my god, I just fell in love with your Mom. She's adorable.' Mom made new friends, just as Dad undoubtedly would have, all weekend long and was the recipient of more than a few ninja-hugs from the people we just met. They would, unfailingly, come to the conclusion, 'Oh MAN! Your Mom gives the BEST hugs!' -- Mom's hugging prowess is well understood within her circles, these poor bastards are just coming realize this incredible attribute of hers now!
Gleaming Festival Moments:
Mom Loves French Techno -- While I was navigating a serpentine path through friends and newly met acquaintances at the Picnik Electronik stage, french techno god Gesaffelstein flipped his faders to reveal a track with a repeating vocal that sounded like, 'Something for your Mom'. I spun on my heels at my first recognition of this hook to see if I could find Mom and bring it to her attention. Once I spotted her, I find that a pack of my smiling friends have also spotted her and are involved in a simultaneous bowing action directed at my fantastic Mother, in sync with the metronome-dictated delivery of the all-too-appropriate vocals, 'Something for your Mom'. Mom is in the centre of a semi-circle of chanting youths, howling at the situation, while Brit, Denis, and I are splitting our sides and wondering, 'Is this real life?'
Momma's First Rap Show -- Naturally, the very first concert to which we decided to bring Mom was a hip-hop performance by a fella by the name of Pusha T. A few great friends of mine, Shrey and Vresh, are big fans so I thought we had a sure shot of locating the two strapping Indian men near the front of the crowd. Like clockwork, Team Freeman arrived at the stage just in time to catch a few flying hugs and mingle with the cool kids. Here's what happened next;
Shrey happens to string rhymes together in a phenomenal way and lucky for us, we got ourselves a live showing of his chops. Funny enough, this wasn't even the first time Mom had experienced Shrey's talents. When Dad was receiving treatment at Princess Margaret this February, there was an evening when I gathered a fairly large group of my friends to pack our 'party' room -- I wanted them either to meet Dad or to re-acquaint themselves with his awesomeness. A big group of us sat around Dad in his PMH penthouse, all having different conversations. This type of environment made it difficult for Dad to focus and participate in the discussion, so I decided to provide a focal point -- Shrey and his rhymes. Mom walked in a few minutes later, surprised to find the room bouncing to some thoughtfully crafted hip hop -- Dad bopping to the music with his quintessential pointed finger dance moves. Without interrupting the flow, Shrey hugged Mom for the first time. Magic.
Shrey occasionally uploads his tracks to SoundCloud under the moniker A.K. Shrey so fine folks like you can see what he's got. As it happens, the lyrics doled out in the video above were recorded and put over an instrumental track produced by none other than Pusha T.
Saying Hi to Haim -- Brit, Mom, and I are all in the business of tuning life's tone such that we are well-groomed to live loud for the rest of our days, just like Dad did with every one of his. In order to light fire under our asses and more reliably ensure this way of living continues to take hold in us, we decided to insight a rule that we must do at least one thing per day that scares us. Well, with this in mind, when sister-trio Haim -- easily the best show of the weekend, check them out if you get the chance -- addressed the crowd to say how much they loved when their audience members were elevated upon each other's shoulders, it didn't take much convincing for Mom and I to share a reciprocal daily comfort zone erasure. We were handed even more motivation when Brit leaned over and whispered, "I dare ya." I dipped myself to the ground, stood up with Mom balanced on top, and there she remained for a few sweet songs. I kept hearing Mom gasp and say things like, "This is sooooo cool, Mike." Those scary things are worth it, my friends. Mom came down with tears in her eyes, butterflies in her stomach, and one more funky experience for her adventure journal. Mom was confident that Dad was all around her, with tears in his own eyes and hollering, "You go girl!", as she rose above the sea of thousands.
As an aside, another act spurred by the 'one thing per day that scares you' rule, which was perpetrated by each member of Team Freeman, was jumping over metro turnstiles with a crowd of festival-goers while the attendant was nowhere to be found. It was a riot watching Mom hesitate….then DASH. Just sayin'.
Jack White and the Myriad of Fire -- One of my favourite acts of the weekend (and of all time) was Jack White -- his unorthodox blues is something of power. Though nothing specific happened between Brit, Denis, Mom, and I during this act, we did bear witness to another fabulous alignment of the stars, just as we've seen so many times through our experience with Dad. Just as Jack belted out the chorus of his upbeat classic, 'Hotel Yorba', expanding fans of white-hot explosives filled the sky to our east and lighted the faces of thousands as they quickly turned 90 degrees to glimpse the airborne spectacle. The coinciding schedules of that night's final act with the international fireworks competition happening at La Ronde was no accident, but there was something about the beauty of the moment that made me think that Dad's presence was strong and that he was expressing his emphatic approval of our choices in life by scattering some colourful stuff across the sky for all to see. We're glad you like it, Dad.
Team Freeman's Talent Review Honour Role
Sam Roberts Band
Taking my Parents to Osheaga, Man!
This entry's name is a play on a film's title created by a friend of mine, Bry Boesen, who decided one year that he would bring his 50-something parents to the social experiment desert festival I mentioned in one of my last posts, Burning Man. 'Taking My Parents to Burning Man' has received a huge amount of critical acclaim as Bry and his partners follow the film festival circuit around Canada and the States, with critics and audience members concurring that the coming-of-age story is one of the year's best and funniest documentaries.
Enthralled by the idea, I showed both Mom and Dad the film's trailer, leaving both of them with silly grins on their faces and eliciting a big, "That's…awesome!", from Dad. I have absolute confidence that Dad would have had a ball at this festival and Mom would have been turning things up by his side as they dropped in on camps, teaching them how to mix rum drinks and spinning to the desert music. I think Dad would have been amongst his kind at Burning Man, and at festivals in general, so this year Dad will be hitching a ride and using our tickets as we see these places and experience these 'happenings'.
Though Dad's spirit streams along with us at all moments of the day, in any conditions, for the rest of time, we were sure to bring some of his body with us on the journey, in the form of ashes. Being the first stop on our journey and being an environment that was so damn appropriate to the way our man lived, it was decided that the hill overlooking Osheaga's 'Scène de la Montagne' stage would be the first fantastic place where we left a bit of Dad. I encourage you to read more about this process of ours on the 'A Trail of Colour: Mapping Our Man' page and you can find more details about this first experience of 'returning Dad to awesome' on a daughter page of the Trail of Colour parent called 'August 2, 2014: Life of the Party -- Osheaga Festival, Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal, QC'.
Thank you, Denis, for offering your beautiful condo in Old Montreal to the other members of your new team for the weekend, for acting as our resident brunch connoisseur every morning, and for leading us on enriching and enthusiastic tours of your fantastic city.
Thank you Micheline, J.D., Anne, and Dominic for the wonderfully lively, tangled, character-saturated evening of conversation -- so typical of the Caribbean isles from which they hail -- vibrating well into the summer's night. Thank you, Micheline, for a lovely dinner and thank you so very much for fostering the Giddy Up Mobile in your driveway as we traced our excited footprints all over the your electric city. Thank you J.D., specifically, for offering us instances of poetic truth throughout the night -- "My definition of time: 'Time waits for no one, it passes us by. Like the water down the stream, which goes drifting by'. Who said that, you ask? J.D. Miller." and "You're as old as you feel." With this understanding, this 80-something was surely not a day past 30, and my firecracker father likely never passed age 25.
Thank you to all of the beautiful friends we met and made through this weekend dancing through Montreal. You made Team Freeman feel like we were rock stars on tour and you made my Mom feel like she had been frequenting music festivals for decades, collecting a well-rounded web of colourful mates along the way. Through you guys, you made it simple for her to look, think, and act as young as she feels. Magical work, you kids.
The Giddy Up Mobile has been moving only west west west and north north north across the land since that first weekend in August. Settling down and leveling out, Team Freeman is beginning their gentle pursuit of tranquility, clear memory, full feeling, and living connection with each other and our physical-cum-etherial teammate, Geoff. We now move through the endless back country of a huge province I thought I knew, but, of course, had no idea. We aim our bus west across the mainland and then throw a lasso around Lake Superior, slingshotting ourselves to parts unknown. In true Freeman fashion, again, I have submerged myself in a sea of our journey's past-tense experiences that I yearn to describe in full, but a strict schedule of making each day count provides a clear restriction to my writing time. This weekend in Montreal was an activity-packed one, so its coinciding blog entry deserved some meat, but I suspect that future entries will be more focused on brevity, nuance, and feeling.
Thank you so much for your tolerance of my rambling and thank you so much for the comforting feeling of your collective eyes on our backs as we blaze life's trail with our trademark gait. We hope to do you, Dad, and ourselves proud as we dive headlong into the sea of opportunity that is our future.