Posts tagged ‘kingston’

November 13, 2012

Road tales from the Tragically Hip

[Big thrill for me to interview the guys from the Tragically Hip a couple of months back. This article appeared in on November 4, 2012.]

KINGSTON, ONTARIO — Armed with will and determination, the Tragically Hip embarked 30 years ago on a rock ‘n roll journey that has taken them around the world and across Canada more times than the band members can remember.

Those trips have resulted in songs and lyrics that will forever resonate with the group’s devoted fan base. “At the Hundredth Meridian,” “Last American Exit,” “As I Wind Down the Pines” and “Silver Jet”— with its continent-binding lyric about flying “fromClayoqout Sound to Cape Spear” — are only a handful of the Hip’s songs that reference Canadian geography and a sense of the nation’s vastness.

Another travel-inspired tune is “Broken Road,”which appears on guitarist Paul Langlois’ solo album, “Fix This Head.” The song was written “while I was in the middle of doing a lot of driving for these guys,” says Langlois, whose lyrics speak of being 700 miles away and homesick for Cataraqui — the river that flows through the Hip’s hometown of Kingston, Ontario. It recalls the quintet’s early days in the ’80s when they toured the country in a van, not the luxury bus or airline flight that takes them from stop to stop these days.

“Travel is a big part of lucky people’s lives. We’re lucky enough to travel. I’m quite happy to know the country pretty well. Certainly not all the areas, but the places along the highways for sure,” Langlois said after a performance of his own songs at Kingston’s Market Square in August that featured Hip bandmates Robby Baker and Gord Sinclair on stage while Gord Downie watched with the rest of the crowd of about 400 people. “Every writer is different, but i think travel’s a big part of a lot of songwriters’ lives because you do that so often and it does influence your outlook on the world.”

Travel, according to Baker, should be an essential rite of passage for Canadians.

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April 23, 2011

Canada Election 2011: Finding a true patriot in Kingston

Canadian-Pacific engine in Kingston, Ontario.

That's no ordinary train. It's Canadian history on view in Kingston. (Thanks to Julia Pelish Photography)

[This article about the Sir John A. Macdonald Walking Tour in Kingston was published in the April 23, 2011 edition of the Toronto Star. ]

KINGSTON, ONT. — Arthur Milnes’ hero is a long-dead tavern owner with a drinking problem, penchant for business dealings that end in scandal and a wicked wit. He’s also the father of our nation.

For Milnes, that’s a fact not celebrated nearly enough, especially in Sir John A. Macdonald’s hometown, this tony old city on Lake Ontario that was the country’s first capital. Since 2009, Milnes, a researcher on Brian Mulroney’s memoirs, has offered walking tours in Kingston of sites relevant to Macdonald. He carries a doll of Sir John A., which is a conversation starter for sure, and a passion for Canadian political history that anyone would find difficult to match. His dog, Mr. Pearson, is named after another beloved prime minister and his garden features trees planted by Paul Martin and John Turner.

Along with sharing his deep knowledge of political history, the Queen’s University fellow who specializes in researching prime ministers and U.S. presidents mixes in scintillating stories about our first leader and other politicians, both past and current.

With the nation subjected to yet another dismal election and with voter apathy at an all-time high, the tour proves refreshingly patriotic and reminds us we have a rich political history to cherish. Sitting in the Royal Tavern, which once belonged to Macdonald, Milnes says, “If we were in Virginia, in George Washington’s hometown, and we were in a bar that he owned, there would be tour buses lined up outside of this place.”

Instead, he and I are among only a handful of patrons in a tavern that could easily hold 200. The Royal is an old-time Canadian bar with round wooden tables, chairs seemingly made to encourage slouching and wall paneling that will remind you of some stationwagons from the ’70s. You can hear Robert Johnson on the jukebox, but other than that there’s not a whole lot of charm. It’s our history, though, and that’s something to drink to. There are some photos of Macdonald and the deed to the tavern showing his signature. No clear signs on Princess St. indicate the locale was once his possession. In fact, up until two years ago, there were no signs on the 401 demarking Kingston as the prime minister’s hometown.


Sir John A. Macdonald stands tall in his hometown, Canada's first capital. (Julia took this one too)

Milnes lobbied for action on that front and two striking, blue-hued billboards — one in English, one in French — now appear as you near the city. A journalist and Scarborough native, Milnes also continues to push for more national recognition for Macdonald, including a bicentennial celebration of his birth.

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April 22, 2011

Canada Election 2011: Queen’s political history scholar discusses voter turnout

KINGSTON, Ontario – Arthur Milnes is about as knowledgeable a historian on Canadian prime ministers as you’ll find. He’s a fellow at Queen’s University and was a researcher on Brian Mulroney’s memoirs. I was up in Kingston recently and he and I got together for the first time in 16 years to talk 2011 Canadian election. He’s engaging, as you’ll see from the video. We’ll have a couple of clips of this interview posted here and you can also find him this Saturday on the cover of the Toronto Star’s Travel section discussing his unique Sir John A. Macdonald Walking Tour. Hope you enjoy and hope we can get more of Art talking U.S. and Canadian politics in the future. Art also knows a ton about American presidents – and has written books on them, as well. He’s headed to Plains, Georgia, to launch his book about Jimmy Carter’s influence on Canada, with the former president on hand.

More 2011 Canadian Election News
Election Debate winners and losers
5 reasons not to vote for Stephen Harper
5 reasons not to vote for Michael Ignatieff
5 reasons not to vote for Jack Layton
Why I won’t vote on May 2

April 11, 2011

Margaret Trudeau talks 2011 Canadian Election

Margaret Trudeau

Margaret Trudeau jokes, "24 Sussex is the crown jewel of the federal penitentiary system." (Julia Pelish photo)

If you want to get inspired about Canada, about Canadian politics, about the qualities that make so many of us proud to call this country home, forget the people running for election and go listen to Margaret Trudeau speak.

On Sunday afternoon, I attended a fundraiser in Kingston in which Trudeau was the headline speaker. Bubbly, warm, radiant, hilarious and tear-provokingly candid, Trudeau showed more spirit in one half-hour than either Stephen Harper or Michael Ignatieff has demonstrated in two weeks.

In describing her fight with bi-polar disorder, she told the audience at Kingston City Hall about hitting “rock bottom” after the deaths of her son, Michel, in 1998 and then her “beloved Pierre” two years later.

“I wore a mask, so many of us wear masks to hide who we are, and it was so much effort to keep that mask on,” she said in a moving account of her struggles and triumphs over mental illness.

She declared herself to now be “joyous and happy,” and genuinely looked it.

Married at 22, the wife of a Prime Minister, the focus of a nation and now a grandmother, cheerleader for her politician son and staunch advocate for the mentally challenged, Trudeau wants action. When I asked her why mental-health isn’t a topic of conversation among the candidates for the May 2 Canadian federal election, the reply was blunt.

“They’re all staying away from the mental-health issue, which they always do,” she said. “It’s just not a sexy issue. Yet one out of three Canadians will suffer depression in their lifetime. Every family is affected by mental illness. The help that is offered is wonderful but it’s not enough.”

While promoting her bestselling memoir, “Changing My Mind,” Trudeau, 62, took a few minutes to answer some more questions about the upcoming election and her past. Here are her statements, some of them given to me, others to the audience at the Horizons of Friendship Fundraiser, which benefits developing communities in Central America and Mexico.

On her son Justin Trudeau’s chances of defending his Parliament seat in the Papineau, Quebec riding: “Oh, he’s going to do wonderfully. He works very hard in his riding. He’s a fighter.

“I wish more young Canadians will get into politics and change the face of politics. I hope Justin will be able to do that.”

On hearing that I plan on not voting for the first time: “I’m so sorry to hear that. If we don’t vote, it shows a level of apathy and lack of engagement in our society and in fact that’s what we need more of. On a community basis, we need people to care.”

On life as a Prime Minister’s wife: “I have always said that 24 Sussex is the crown jewel of the federal penitentiary system.”

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