Monday, September 28, 2009

The Great Gordon Mystery

Gordie Howe, Gord Kluzak, and Gordie Roberts*. Gord Murphy. Gordie Dwyer. All are Canadian. Although Gordon and its variations seem to have gone out of vogue—the likes of Ethan, Aiden, and Lucas are all the rage—the names are still prevalent north of the 49th parallel.

The name’s popularity in Canada extends outside hockey circles. Media: Gordon Sinclair. Music: Gordon Lightfoot and “Gordie”, the title of the Bare Naked Ladies’ first album.

The only Gords I know of here in the States are a kid from high school; Gordie the Pig in the movie, Gordie; and Gordon Shumway (a.k.a. ALF), who resided in Riverside, CA.

But why is this name more popular in Canada than in the States?

I reckoned this phenomenon has something to do with Canada’s connection to the Crown, but I couldn’t pinpoint a reason. So I put the question to my field agents, some living stateside and others Up North. They filed the following dispatches:

Nova Scotia: No clue.
Thanks for checking in though, always good to hear from you.

PEI: “You should write the Bare Naked Ladies and ask them why they named their debut album Gordon.”
Not an answer to the question, but that’s a good idea. Stay tuned.
Republic of Newfoundlander: “Don’t forget the lead singer of the Tragically Hip, Gordon Downey.”
Right on.

Ontario: “…It dates, I am sure, from the first Canadian International Military Expedition…and involved voyageurs and loggers being sent in canoes to free General Gordon.”
We’re on to something.

In 1884, Charles George Gordon, a.k.a., Gordon of Khartoum (because he was the former governor-general of Sudan’s capital city), helped Egyptians escape from a jihad led by Muhammad Ahmad.

However, the Canadians on this Nile Expedition—also referred to as the Gordon Relief Expedition—did not reach Khartoum until it was two days too late. Gordon had been beheaded.

Nonetheless, as the field agent wrote, “(The account) is one of Britain’s most famous tales and directly involved Canada.”

*Gordie Roberts is American, born and raised in Detroit. His parents were Red Wings fans and named him after that other guy named Gordie. Sorry for the error.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Random Research from Newfoundland, Part II: Foods and Fred’s

Cont'd from Part I: A Baker's Dozen

Sitting in the Halifax airport and waiting to board our plane, which is emblazoned with the Maple Leaf and is bound for Boston, my wife unwraps a Maple Nut Clif Bar.

Smell this, she says.

“I don’t like maple,” I say, scrunching up my nose.

“What kind of Canadian spy are you?” she says.

The kind that likes maple syrup on his pancakes but not as a primary flavor in a nutrition bar or as frosting on a donut. And the kind that waits until he has outwitted the authorities —again—to file his findings.

Here then, is the second installment—a baker’s dozen sequel to
Part I—of a two-part report.
1. Best Fish Sandwich: Chaffe’s Landing, Petty Harbour
The AMHL Photographer loved the lightly-bread cod, which the proprietor himself had caught that morning.

2. Best Record Store: Fred’s, St. John’sNo offense to O’Briens, which we’ve never visited, but Fred’s has the welcoming purple storefront, a friendly staff, ample space and selection, and about a half dozen preview stations.

3. Best CD I Bought: Tarahan, Tarahan’s Town
The CD cover, which depicts the Kool-Aid coloured (proposed new flavours: Cheery Cherry, Guffaw Grape, and Laugh-Out-Loud Lime) row houses for which St. John’s is famous, attracted me. Then, the balance buoyed by the bands’ own well-crafted lyrics and splendid renditions of a U2 classic and Newfoundland favourite, hooked me.

4. Best CD I Didn’t Buy: Donnie Dumphy, I Loves Doing Wheelies
Donnie Dumphy’s I Loves Doing Wheelies first commanded my attention as we walked by the announcement (nailed to a telephone pole) of his CD release. His lyrics were, in the words of the AMHL Photographer, “disturbingly catchy.” I liked the album’s title and the cover shot, but the songs were not my cup of Tetley.

5. Best Non-Red Green Pun: Just Desserts
Red Green, the hockey-loving redneck with the Irish-invoking surname, delivered a couple doozies as part of the “Possum Drop” episode, which airs on the CBC (and PBS in the states), but the raspy-voiced rascal’s puns would take to long to explain here. Channeling the Canadian punmaster as I walked past the vacated Just Desserts shop, I said, “It looks deserted.” (“I knew you were going to say that,” my wife replied. “I knew, on some level, you were going to say that.)

6. Best Senior Hockey Team: Clarenville Caribous
Caribou or Caribous? Doesn’t matter what collective noun you use. This team of adult hockey players won the Herder by beating the Conception Bay Cee Bees.

7. Best New Donut at Tim Hortons: The Key Lime
The aroma reaches the olfactory system before the taste buds can take over. I normally don’t go for the filled donuts—too messy—but the sour power of this tangy treat was too much to resist.

8. Best Place to Re-tell Ghost Stories: O’Reilly’s, St. John’s
You need only find a friendly off-duty employee and a bouncer/folklore major.

9. Best Place to See a Ghost: Queen’s Street in St. John’s
I double dog dare you to take the Haunted Hike with Doug Jarvis; follow that up by reading his book; and then—the next night—take a solo tour of Queen’s Road.

10. Best Getaway for a Gluten-free Snack
At The Bookery, you’ll satisfy not only your sweet tooth but will also be beset by beguiling books (many that you won’t necessarily find at Chapters or Borders). I recommend losing yourself in the literary realm for as long as you need, and then enjoying your newfound treasure with an almond cranberry pastry and a white tea.

11. Best Recommendation We Didn’t Follow
The Caribou Burger at Aqua, recommended by The Bookery’s proprietor, sounded tasty. But on our last night in Newfoundland, this Canadian spy opted to keep a low profile.

12. Best Salad in St. John’s
In a province where flavorful fruit and crunchy vegetables are difficult to keep fresh, the YellowBelly Brewery and Public House offers just that. Orange wedges, curly-qued carrot shavings, cranberries, and leafy greens—mix in pecans and drip in maple vinaigrette—and you’ve got a colourful and crunchy salad that’s anything but cowardly.

13. Best Food and Service
At Pasta Plus Café on Water Street, you’ll find a wide variety of temping creations. My favorite is the baked Mac ‘n’ Cheese (go the extra kilometer and add chicken for three bucks). And if you’re lucky, your waiter will be as earnest and friendly as Matthew Hornell.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Random Research from Newfoundland, Part I: The Best Of, a Baker’s Dozen

On a dead end road, the spy car is stopped. We’re waiting for the safe house operator to arrive. Exposed, with no where to go.

“I don’t have a signal, either,” the AMHL Photographer/my wife says about the spy phone. She goes to sleep, and I take first watch.

All is calm on this random island—until two counterintelligence operatives wearing orange life vests speed by in a motored boat. They cast suspicious glances in our direction but continue west. Close call…and the mission, to identify the best of Newfoundland Labrador, continues…

1. Best weather: Light snow in late May
Frosting the “pine-clad hills" of the Avalon region, the snowy image may grace our next Christmas card.

2. Best ice-breaker: “How are ya gettin’ on?”This conversation-starter is common on “The Rock,” but any come-from-away posing this question with the correct pitch and pronunciation will (without raising suspicion) get the locals talking.

3. Best iceberg: Trinity Bay, Bonavista Peninsula (pictured)The AMHL Photographer captured this pinnacled ‘berg off the coast of Melrose.

4. Best Sign: Bonavista City Limits
Bonavista: Home of NHLers Michael Ryder (Bruins) and Adam Pardy (Flames).

5. Best History Lesson: Cape Bonavista Lighthouse
Thank you to the modern-day lighthouse guides. The light no longer needs an overnight keeper, and weather trends are tracked by someone else; but our guides are now history’s beacons.

6. Best Cup of Coffee (and Blueberry Cheesecake): Walkham’s Gate Pub, Bonavista
Java so smooth to the palate and cheesecake sans too much sugar: These two items belong together like hockey and donuts.

7. Best Hockey Color Commentator: PJ StockThe former Bruin, now retired but still sporting a playoff beard, still packs a powerful, yet playful, punch as a between-periods analyst on Hockey Night in Canada.

8. Best Book I Didn’t Buy at Chapters: Forward Thinking, The Danny Cleary Story
I have way too many hockey books in my queue, but after perusing this Newfoundlander’s biography, I was tempted to add Brendan McCarthy’s book to my bookshelf.

9. Best Donut Book Not Available at Chapters: Do Donuts Fall in the Winter?I had no idea what the book is about, but the title is catchy, eh? It's not available in the Chapters in St. John's, so you'll have to order it online.

10. Best Musical Performance: Chris Hennessy at Shamrock City, St. John’s

A pint of Guinness on the stool beside him, a guitar in his hands, and a soothing voice to comfort the crowd. Nobody does “Candle in the Wine” any better.

11. Best Place to Read Ghost Stories: Random Island
Spine-tingling tales from Dale Jarvis. Best to read Haunted Shores: True Ghost Stories of Newfoundland and Labrador with a security blanket or, even better, a real person to watch your back.

12. Best Radio Station: VOCMCall in or just listen to Open Line or Back Talk. Or when these programs are off the air, listen to the likes of Paul Brandt or Shania Twain (both Canadians) or tune into the news at 590 on your AM dial.

13. Best News: Daffodil Place Meets Its GoalsThis haven for families fighting cancer, which raised seven million dollars in just two years (a year sooner than expected), will conduct opening ceremonies on June 12, 2009.

Part II: Food and Fred's