Goderich, Ontario
August 6th-14th, 2000

I don't generally carry people's addresses with me, so I can't send normal postcards. On the other hand, I've got my computer, and after three days of head scratching, I figured out how to get onto the Internet. So I can at least report quickly on my doings. (As usual, if I had more time, this would be shorter....)

I arrived Sunday afternoon. The drive up is remarkably like the drive to Lexington on the other side of the lake, albeit twice as long. Goderich itself, however, is more Marine City-sized -- a little bit bigger in the core, but it just pops out of farm country, where Marine City has heavily populated surrounding townships, so it's probably about even.

Goderich, however, is built for tourism. It's got a lot of beautiful Lake Huron beach, with a boardwalk along it so you can take in the view without getting sand in your shoes. The town proper is on a hill overhead, and is built around a central "square" which is actually an octagon, ringed by shops, restaurants, and banks. It's very neat-looking, and allows them to get lots of streetfront for shops, but treacherous to the poor unsuspecting visitor. It is trivially easy to lose track of what street you came in on and go in circles. And if you leave down the wrong street, you find yourself lost in a maze of quiet town blocks, all alike, except for the odd road at 45 degree angles. Woe to the poor fool who doesn't take his town map when first exploring the place.

A quick word on the names of the shops. The very first one I saw was The Literary Dragon, which instantly made me think well of the town. On the other hand, the name of the health food store Pandora's Pantry leads to a host of questions. Perhaps they would argue that they've let all the evil food out of her pantry, and all that's left are hope-filled soy products. And let us not forget Big Daddy's Pizza, not to be confused with Daddy's Big Pizza, which is three blocks over.

So after unpacking my stuff, I come up with a handy guideline for figuring out what to do in a town with a hundred Celtic musicians around: "What would Dale do?" The answer was obvious -- sling backpack over shoulder and go looking for people he knew, people he should know, or at least, people interested in playing. However, my backpack was heavy, so I made the unfortunate decision to leave it (and my map) behind. The bright side was I wasn't carrying a lot when I got lost. Of course, if I'd had the map, I wouldn't have been lost. (I did have a whistle in my pocket, just in case of wandering tunes.)

Eventually, I made it back to my motel and carefully studied the map to figure out where I had gone wrong. Once I'd marked all the important locations on it, I shouldered the backpack and headed out for the welcome ceili. Through a minor misunderstanding of the schedule, I ended up reading _Last Call_ for an hour, in a strategically placed location that allowed people I knew to run into me. I thus learned that a decent-sized chunk of the Gaelic League and White Heather crowds were there.

The ceili consisted of a few short announcements, followed by music and dancing. I sat on the edge of my seat for a few tunes, trying to figure out if anyone could play. Finally Rachel and Sherri joined the group, and I was there a second later. For some reason the White Heather types ended up starting the dance tunes, which of course meant I knew most of them. And so on for an evening of playing and drinking.

Given the chance, I could ramble on forever. But this message is already so big you're probably not reading this. So let me simply describe the day I got my schedule worked out.

Tuesday morning I got up around seven and threw breakfast in the microwave. I drove down to the beach, walked until I found a relatively secluded bench, and practised my whistle for an hour. After going back to the motel and cleaning up, I drove to the location high school, where classes are. First up is Advanced Whistle, where Loretto Reid suggests a number of mind-boggling things to do to the Connaughtman's Rambles, like putting super-short rolls on the second repeated eighth note in those spots at the beginning of the tune. After lunch I sat outside and played some tunes with folks from Windsor. Then to my class on the Irish Mythological Cycle, to hear about the two battles of Mag Turig. (More spelling problems -- damn Gaelic.) After that, I met Sherri and Rachel outside, and they suggest joining them for Clare & East Galway Fiddle Styles, since they're learning tunes there. Picked up a new tune and discovered they had learned "I Buried My Wife" the class period before.

After dinner with them, we went to the evening's concerts. First up was the teacher for the Myth Cycle, surprising me by singing a couple of beautiful sean-nos songs. She's followed by superb harp player. The capping act for the night is the Loretto Reid (family) Band. She opens with a screaming tin whistle solo, and ends with smoking box playing on "Tam Lin". (The reel, not the song.)

They announced that the fast session/music for dancing will be in the hall, so I stuck around, on the theory that I can play for dancers. Hah! It was as bad as Conor O'Neill's on a bad night. So I went to the pub next door, into a crowded session which filled up a quarter of the place. It's too noisy and hard to hear, but I stood the course, and eventually it turned into a great session. Around midnight, we moved to the bar next door because they have better air conditioning. At this point, we were down to 5-10 players, and it's perfect fun. Finally I dragged myself back to my motel at around 1:30.

In other words, I'm having more fun than anyone should be allowed to have, and learning a bunch at the same time.

Wish you all were here!