Saturday, December 10, 2011

Follow the Music, Part I: From Bublé to Buffalo

A camera flash pierces the predawn darkness as the AMHL Photographer and I approach the customs booth at the CAN/AM border. A uniformed U.S. official tells us to park the car. No re-entry into the States, not yet. Random search.

Five minutes later and inside the interrogation center, we answer questions about our erstwhile whereabouts and the purpose of our most recent trip to Canada. Short answers. Keep it boring for the border patrol.

Tuesday, November 22
Three days earlier and amidst the hills of CAN/AM country, the cows and blanketed horses oblivious to our adventure and my mission, my wife announced the next music selection: “Break out the Bublé,” she said and then inserted the Canadian crooner’s new Christmas album into the CD player.

We were surprised that Michael B. had decided to record “Santa Baby.” But the hockey-loving singer had deployed a sublime stratagem: replace “baby” with “buddy” and convert the feminine wish list of presents to more male-friendly gifts such as a convertible coupe, Canucks tickets, and a chance for more ice time on the first line.

Songs from Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers’ latest album, Gift Horse, accompanied us to the border. Undetected, my wife and I entered Ontario, and drove west on the 417.

Switching from CD to FM, we listened to the news: Capital Hoedown Country Music Festival announced the 2012 lineup that will include stars representing the Stars and Stripes and the Maple Leaf: Taylor Swift and Reba; Paul Brandt and Terri Clark. And then Blue Rodeo’s “Lost Together,” guided us as we proceeded—without a hitch—to the safe house in Ottawa.

Au cœur du quartier universitaire, the bilingual chargé d'affaires and his studious special agent (a Goldie Poo named Sunny) greeted us at the covert entrance. The pooch padded about the operations centre as his superior sat with us at the kitchen table, highlighting points of interest/mission critical minutia on a map of Canada’s capital city.

Wednesday, November 23
Walking north along the winsome and winding (and not yet frozen) Rideau Canal, I admired the patina on Parliament Hill, the government buildings’ greenish luster most majestic at dusk.

As my wife documented the visual splendor of the illuminated Christmas tree at the corner of Rideau and Colonel By Drive, I followed the music emanating from what locals call “the Underpass.” “Let Your Love Flow” streamed from speakers, or so it seemed. I danced, a subtle solo act (didn’t want to arouse suspicion) as the Bellamy Brothers (band member Randy Hiebert is a Winnipegger) song skipped in and out.

What’s with the intermittent music, I wondered. Was I two-stepping on and off a secret wire that triggered the tune to stop and start? The ineffable pattern (and my complementary moves) continued as “Red Neck Girl” streamed—and stopped—and started from the secret speakers.

I watched the Photographer descend the ramp, toward me, and then as we ascended the other side, the music stopped again. For good, as we walked toward the canal and returned to the safe house, where we listened to the sweet music of…

NHL hockey on Internet radio, as sung by the Toast of Terrace Bay (ON) and Buffalo Sabres’s announcer Rick Jeanneret. “He scooores,” said the Voice of the Sabres after Thomas Vanek gave the Sabres a 2–0 lead over the Boston Bruins. (Even sweeter for B’s fans like me: Benoit Pouliot’s under-the crossbar goal in the shootout lifted Boston over Buffalo.)

Stay tuned for Part II
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