Monday, January 2, 2012

Flashback Road Trip Part 8: Sault St. Marie, Mark and Los Pinguos!

Sault St. Marie, Airport Road 

The Soo! Visiting with long time friend, Mark Kuntsi (aka muukiithefinn), a reformed professional musician, actor, visual artist and aspiring vigilante crime fighter living amongst the rocks and trees, and trees and rocks (and water) of Northern Ontario.

We are somewhere down Airport Road as I can see Mark Lake and perhaps the US border.  The soundtrack to our reunion is: Los Pinguos! ( from California (they are on Mark’s Nephew’s soccer team). 

Whoa! Here it comes again! Mark flips his hands and arms up into the air, bending his knees silhouetting a chicken as he bops along.  He pitches a similar, Wu! and then resumes his dinner preparation.  

I sit at the kitchen table collecting thoughts and record our thoughts as I outline my drive.   Today was most beautiful: Lake Superior Provincial Park – the reds of the earth, the white quartz and an array of a fresh pallet of Fall colour melting into the familiar limestone slats of the Bruce Peninsula ( and Tobermory (

They are home-made-stuffed-sausages, he says half listening to my nostalgic wanderings, Everything here is from my garden.  There is a lot of sizzling in the background on the steel skillet as he sets out a Greek salad.  Here, smell thisMark hands me a sprig of basil.  Go on, he says. 

I slide the leaflet between my thumb and forefinger as the oils relinquish home.  I am reminded of cottage dinners and my Father’s infamous Summer-Sauce-Spaghetti.  I smile.

We switch gears and relive how we met twelve years ago, in Tobermory at the Crowsnest ( “Silverwater” is a great memory, I laugh.  Mark was a server at the pub but he also played Thursday nights, bringing in a decent sized local crowd.  His acoustic gigs and his flavour of music are just as palpable as his talent today as I hear of his recent successes and stage activity.  

I spent my early twenties working at The Crowsnest to pay for my Undergraduate degree as well as most of my travel expeditions.  Every break in semester I was touring: Calgary for Christmas in 2001, The U.K. in the spring of 2002,  Maui before Christmas 2003, Florida for Spring break 2003, Europe after graduation 2004, and then India before teacher's college in the fall of 2004.  I balanced paradise with tourism and isolation, saving money and not having anywhere to spend it until I took these trips.  My last summer working at The Pub was in 2006, after I returned home from Teacher's College in Australia at Newcastle in New South Wales when I didn't have a penny to my name or a teaching job. 

Dinner is ready as Mark opens a bottle of Reserve Perrin Cotes Du Rhone. D-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s. This is a special occasion, he says. We toast to friends.  Ready to dig into the feast, Mark hands me a fork.  Have you been back there recently?

He is referring to the cottage and Tobermory. 

I have just spent the summer in Ontario with my family and friends and I catch Mark up to speed with my current state.  I flew back West September 2, in order to pack up my life in Whistler and to relocate back to Ontario for immediate family matters, but also to pursue entrepreneurial endeavours.   The Universe has a way of folding priority and circumstance together in the type of handshake you make unknowingly.  My strength and my voice as an artist is growing out of my mother's current state: she is dying.  At this point we think we have another few months, but the cancer is spreading quite quickly. 

We entertain The Soo with our words, mixing food and stories.  The drive from British Columbia to Ontario takes precedence as Mark unravels the last few times he toured the country, though his tales of little sleep, lots of coffee and heavy feet, unveil a very different experience. 
I consider for a moment, how often I have flown from Vancouver to Toronto; 2-3 times a year for the last few years.  And before that, Calgary half a dozen times. Yet this is the first time I have made the time to drive the distance.  Airport transfer saves time but sometimes the journey is more important than the destination; or rather, clarity is sought in the destination.  My Mother's failing health is giving me strength and I cannot explain this sensation.

I have been gone three weeks and I know she will be different when I see her next.  Her deterioration has been hard to watch, and I know what will happen next will change us all.
Mark pours me another glass of wine.  Remember, he says, reclining in his chair nibbling on a sausage and vegetable fork-kabob, there are many unexpected ways to fail.  He continues, the outcome is not the destination but the journey. 'Sisu,' is the Finnish word for perseverance. 

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