here, for the record, is how what will probably be a future family running gag was born. A completely true story of the events of the evening of December 25, 2020.
The Christmas Potato Masher
A new fable for our times.
Christmas was quiet. Just me and my spouse.
All four of our children moved out of the house.
Mama in her kerchief and I in my cap
Had just settled down for an empty-nest nap.
When what to our wondering ears should appear,
But a phone call from Tyler. “Help me, Mama dear!
We’re cooking our dinner. Can you be here in a flash? er…
It turns out we don’t have a potato masher.”
As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
When your son needs some help, you must leap to the sky!
We found our lone masher, and got into the car
And drove to see Tyler. (It wasn’t too far.).
We handed it over – a small ceremony
Took place. See the photographic testimony
But as we drove off, across the street, saw a store
Rabba Fine Foods. Open 7/24!
We thought they might have a small utensil section
Perhaps a new masher’d be in their selection
And lo! They had one potato masher there
For $4.99. ‘Twas the last one, I swear
“Thank you for this Christmas miracle”, I said
To the clerk, and he smiled and nodded his head
“That’s why we’re all here”, he declared, as I paid
And we drove back to Tyler, to offer a trade.
“Give us back the old one”, we asked, “Make it quick.
It’s plastic, and all of OUR pans are non-stick.
I’ll trade you this new one from Rabba. It’s metal.
We’ll take one more picture, and that will be settled.”
A new running gag was created that night,
The mashers might now be an annual sight.
Get ready for photos on Facebook each year
More potato mashers will surely appear!
Blogging this for posterity. Anybody who’s ever played in a band or orchestra has probably done the Leroy Anderson classic Sleigh Ride a bunch of times – and if you have, I hope you’ll enjoy this incredible version.
Is this brilliant or terrible or both? It takes a lot of skill to produce a train wreck like this. I find something new to laugh about every time. The pianist arbitrarily changing keys, the other players rushing to catch up, the ending that goes on too long, the final guitar honk, and maybe my favourite bit – all the extra eighth notes the second time through the bridge at 1:02 or so.
It reminds me a bit of Argonotes. Talented musicians all acting as directionless independent contractors and nobody really following the leader too carefully, and everybody having fun.
The Youtube comments give us an explanation.
This was recorded in one take by Nashville studio musicians in 2007, during a recording session for a legitimate artist’s Christmas project. The artist intended to use this as a “hidden track”, but then decided their audience wouldn’t get the joke.
Well that would be me, Jerry McPherson, on guitar, Scott Williamson on drums, I believe it was Joeie Canaday on bass, and the always amazing Jason Webb on piano.
Ah, Montreal. The band’s first overnight grey cup trip. In 1998 we’d come down for a regular season game at Molson Stadium – worthy of a blog post of its own, the team chartered 3 cars of a Via train to Montreal and miraculously offered the band a free ride – and we all remembered that so fondly, how could we NOT go to Montreal for the Grey Cup?
Plus it’s an eastern division cup. Those are easy. In all our history, we only ever managed to get the band to fly somewhere once (to a “home” game in Fort McMurray, Alberta) but hiring a bus to go to an eastern opponent seems simpler. And here’s Rick, our bus driver from Great Canadian, a great guy.
(More to come, this blog entry more or less a placeholder.)
I’m indebted to Colin “Trombone” Leech for the photos on this page (and for showing up! As the Ottawa branch of Argonotes, we could always count on Colin to show up only for certain road games.)
Wait, what? Argonotes at the 2017 Grey Cup?
Didn’t the band fold in 2017?
Well, yeah, it kind of did, the band packed it in after 22 years just before the start of the 2017 season (and reunited for one reunion performance in July) but that’s a topic for a much longer post. Or if you subscribe to The Athletic, you can read about it here…
However, Argonotes did actually perform on Grey Cup Weekend. Sort of! So it gets its own entry in the archives.
the eastern final
So I guess the Curse of Argonotes that we applied to the team didn’t work, because they won the Eastern Final and made it to the Grey Cup against Calgary.
I was delighted to take my dad (and brother (and one son)) to the Eastern final at BMO Field, and the Argos beat Saskatchewan.
should I stay or should I go
Yours truly was kind of moping around that week, debating whether to go to Ottawa for the game.
I’d talked myself into Not Going. I can’t go. Not without my band.
But after some intense lobbying by basically everybody I’d ever met in my entire life, all saying “What, are you nuts? Go!”, and especially after an invitation to connect with the Saskatchewan Roughrider Pep Band (who were making their 4,000th straight Grey Cup trip), I found a ticket and headed to Ottawa for the weekend.
hanging out with musical friends
The Roughrider band even let us hang around and play and possibly even conduct.
It was a fantastic experience, and I owe a lot to the Rider band for the invitation, and to my Argonotes colleague Jenn “Piccolo” “Or Bass Drum” Annis, because I think we both agreed that two people is, legally, a band.
two people are legally a band
And we found ourselves at the Argo bash. I had this informal plan to have the entire Riders band show up and I was going to give them Argos shirts if they’d just play Go Argos Go and pretend to be Argonotes, but that kind of fell apart when they said “Sure, we’ll do it, but wearing green”, which wouldn’t have been nearly subversive enough.
So, what the heck, whaddya gonna do, there’s a stage and a rowdy group of Argo fans and there’s beer and we had a trombone and a bass drum, what more do you need, and without further ado, here is a performance of “Go Argos Go” by Argonotes, the Until Recently Toronto Argonauts Band, at the Argos Ottawa party the night before the Grey Cup, and I promise you, there are much better recordings of this song!
My thanks to Spitzka for the video and all his support over the years.
Was it a great weekend?
Absolutely! Inspired, no doubt, by our performance, the Argos beat Calgary in an epic snow globe of a game, with some wild plays, an incredible finish, a great halftime show by Shania Twain (who arrived on a dogsled) and I had a great 2nd row seat surrounded by Ottawa REDBLACKS fans who couldn’t have been more gracious after the victory.
Was this our greatest Argonotes performance ever?
Probably not. Other than the part where it inspired the Argos to victory the following day.
Was it our final Argonotes performance ever?
Hey, you never know.
1995 was the band’s first year and at the end of the season, I think we were just too addled to even think about going to that year’s Grey Cup. But in the final game of 1995, there was some sort of Canadian identity crisis thing going on and as I recall, the team let anybody in to the final game for free if you brought a flag.
It was quite a sight in 1995, all those fans, and all those flags. It must have impressed the visiting quarterback, a guy from Calgary named Doug Flutie, because he wound up signing with the Argos for the 1996 season and led the team to a 1996 Grey Cup Victory.
Of course most of us had watched the 1995 Grey Cup on TV, and had probably seen the parties, and might have noticed some sort of green and white band from Saskatchewan in some of the media reports, and since the ’96 Grey Cup was in Hamilton, hmm. I wonder. We’d never played anywhere out of town. Could we make it to Hamilton?
As it turns out,
a) we did, and
b) there isn’t as much online record of it as you might like, because people weren’t yet carrying around cell phone cameras documenting every waking minute of their lives.
The 1996 season was notable for, I think, the first mention of the band in the Toronto Star. Dig the old URLs! People didn’t even think to get their own domain names.
Toronto Star, 1996:
ARGGOOSS: As the CFL playoffs get under way, you might want to check out the Double Blue’s official site in cyberspace(http://www.interlog.com/argos).
Along with the standard mix of schedules, results and statistics, the Argos’ homepage has a nice where-are-they-now feature called “Ancient Mariners”.
The latest one is on 1940s star Bruce Richardson, but you can also select one of several earlier Ancient Mariners from the archive provided.
For a look at the lighter side of the gridiron, take a wander into the home page of the Argonotes, the team’s official band
Anyway, what were we talking about? Oh, right, the 1996 Grey Cup in Hamilton. Here are a few memories.
the Ottawa party
Somehow we’d heard that the city of Ottawa was hosting a party in Hamilton, and we got ourselves invited to that. It was a little awkward, because the Ottawa Rough Riders had either just folded or were on the verge of doing so.
I recall the band actually giving the organizer some money from the stage just to see if it would help. (It didn’t.)
We went on right after the Saskatchewan band. This was our first glimpse of our Western rivals –
I remember thinking – Hmm. They seem to know what they’re doing. Perhaps I should contact them and see if we can, you know, do some Massed CFL Bands thing in future years? (Foreshadowing! Stay tuned.)
And I think this is us at one of the gigs that year – sorry, cameras back then did not typically embed detailed timestamps and latitude/longitude info in each picture …
what else was going on
Hey, check this out, I never throw anything out, an email to the band outlining our plans for the weekend
From: Steve Hayman
Date: Thu, 21 Nov 1996 20:03:06 -0500
Subject: Quick Grey Cup Weekend Reminder!
Meet at 7:30 PM tomorrow (Friday) at the beer tent at King & Bay. At 8:30 we'll be at the Edmonton hospitality suite in the Ramada Hotel; at 9:30 PM, the Spirit of Ottawa show at the Royal Connaught Hotel.
Then on Saturday, meet at 10:30 AM at the Ramada Hotel for the Edmonton Klondike Breakfast, and we'll move on after that for the parade.
I have been unable to get tickets for the game itself on Sunday - although I did try; talked to the chairman of the grey cup committee, wrote to CFL chairman Larry Smith
too. Oh well.
Any problems, give me a ring.
See you tomorrow!
"Still no baby."
“Still no baby” ? What was that about? Oh, I remember now (see later.)
the Grey Cup Parade
Hamilton wisely combined the Grey Cup Parade with the city’s annual Santa Claus Parade.
The Grey Cup part was a sort of pre-parade that went right down the main street of Hamilton, with hundreds of thousands of people in attendance, and when they all saw the Argos Band proudly riding on the Argos Float, they all said – if I remember correctly – “Boo.”
Here are a couple of grainy photos from the live CBC coverage. For the full effect, please yell “BOO” at your computer when reading.
That’d be me at the front holding the shield.
the MOB – the Massed Ontario Band
Somehow I thought it’d be fun to worry about not one but two bands in the parade, and put together the first and last appearance of the MOB – the Massed Ontario Bands, a combined entry from the marching bands of Queen’s University, the University of Western Ontario, the non-marching but game-to-try-anything Waterloo Warriors Band, and the Carleton University Band, which turned out to be one guy (thanks for coming, Peter.)
We sent out a few simple tunes to all 4 schools and everybody theoretically learned them – I think we were doing “Ca-Na-Da”, the 1967 Centennial song, “Hogan’s Heroes”, the theme from a TV show about – wait, can this be right? a world war II prison camp? people thought that was funny? – and “Scotland the Brave”, because of the large contingent of pipers from Queen’s.
This was so much fun, I hope we can do it again some time. Everybody enjoyed it, old rivalvies were set aside, the group some how self-organized into a marching band shape and proceeded down the parade route. That was pretty cool. I still have the MOB banner out in the garage.
Thanks to my cousin John Hayman – Warriors Band Fhorn – for the photos, which it turns out were actually taken by my brother Michael!
A classic. Argos win, in a snowstorm. Flutie, long thought by many westerners to have fumbled on a crucial late game third down, did not in fact fumble, because if he had fumbled, surely the refs would have said something.
did you get in
No. We faxed the league, and commissioner Larry Smith asking if we could get in, and got a reply a week after the game saying basically “Sorry, everybody was out of the office and we didn’t see this message” which is an easier reply than “No.”
later that same week
The Grey Cup was on Sunday November 24, 1996.
on Monday, November 25, I sent the following urgent email to the band –
Subject: ALERT! ARGO VICTORY PARADE TUESDAY NOON! BAND NEEDED!
12:15 (noon), Union Station. Parade up to Nathan Phillips Square. Possibly marching, possibly riding on a bus. We will be right behind Doug Flutie himself.
I need people for this! Can you come? Please? It'll be over pretty quickly.
BONUS: FREE LUNCH! Seriously! The city will buy us lunch if we do this.
I called the mayor's office - which is running the parade - and got us invited. Somehow the Argos neglected to mention us as a possible entrant. Figures.
Our first GREY CUP VICTORY PARADE
On Tuesday, November 27, the team organized our first Grey Cup Victory Parade, from Union Station to City Hall.
Gerry was whacking the bass drum pretty hard; an “E” fell off live on TV and by the end of the parade, the bass drum read “GR Y CUP CHAMPS”.
Here’s Global’s report on the victory parade, with the typical sort of downer woebegotten angle that too much CFL coverage of the day included. But they also included a brief glimpse of the band
On Wednesday, November 28, this picture from the parade was on the cover of the Toronto Star. Doug Flutie, Alexa Flutie, coach Don Matthews, the Grey Cup and … a glimpse of some guy with a trombone.
Later that day I took a copy of that day’s paper to the hospital and proudly showed it to a brand new baby. Nick, see that? Your dad’s on the cover of the paper today. Happy Zeroth Birthday. Maybe you’d like to join the band in 16 years or so. We could use some more trumpet players.
The 2007 Grey Cup was the first one in Toronto since 1992 (and, thus, the first home grey cup for Argonotes, since the band started in 1995.) We were so excited we even had special collector’s edition lapel pins made up. See above! No, you can’t have one, I think I only have this one left. They were pretty popular.
We were particularly pleased to be joined by the Saskatchewan Roughrider Pep Band, who, of course, manage somehow to go to every Grey Cup, whereas in Argonotes we could only muster the strength to go to the East Division ones.
As usual we played at all the team parties, including the fabulous Spirit of Edmonton event and their legendary Saturday morning breakfast. I recall that we’d established an official band beachhead at the Novotel downtown where most of us stayed Thursday-Sunday. That sure made it easier to get around without anybody worrying about what anybody had had to drink, if theoretically that were happening.
In a post appropriately titled What we learned while killing our brain cells, the legendary Boatmen Blog had these kind words to say about our performance at Saturday morning’s Spirit of Edmonton breakfast. (The whole post is worth a read but, well, if I had to pick one paragraph it’d probably be this one.)
It’s never too early for Steve Hayman to bring his A-game. As always at the Spirit of Edmonton Breakfast (which, as you can see, is really a goldmine for material), we were treated to an MC making assorted jokes that range from the corny to the slightly blue. For a guy trying to work a room full of drunks on a Saturday morning, he did a fair job. But he had nothing on the leader of the beloved Argonotes, who came equipped with a dizzying array of one-liners – among them a solid one about Saskatchewan poised to match the number of Grey Cups won by Sarnia and Queen’s University, and…well, truthfully, we can’t remember the others, on account of the nature of the event. But trust us, he was very funny. And we maintain that the Argonotes’ cover of BTO’s Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet is genuinely more enjoyable than the original.
strolling around Toronto
I’m lucky I didn’t get fired for having the band play inside the Apple store at the Eaton Centre.
The CFL Pep Band Summit
Just before the parade we hosted the Saskatchewan band for lunch at our favourite pregame hangout, Joe Badali’s which – what do you know – turned out to be the starting point of the parade. (Photos of summit to come, once I can find them.)
parade? what parade? who said anything about a parade?
There was no official Grey Cup Parade, which naturally caused a lot of sneering in western Canada about those high faluting Toronto hipsters who are too cool for the CFL etc etc etc – any Argo fan has been hearing this for decades – but that didn’t stop anybody. Naturally we got together with the Saskatchewan band, the Calgary Grey Cup Committee (who host the annual pancake breakfast and do the horse-in-a-hotel routine) and various fan groups and decided we’d all meet at the corner of Front and Simcoe on Grey Cup Saturday for the ..
the Not the Grey Cup Parade
The theory being that parade permits were super expensive, but protest marches were free, so it wasn’t a parade, it was a protest march objecting to the lack of a parade.
We started at Front and Simcoe, went west on Front (mostly on the sidewalk), turned south on John St over the bridge to Skydome, and wound up at the Convention Centre.
We may have tipped off the media in advance. Rob Leth of Global did a fantastic report.
Right at the start of that report, and again towards the end, you can see a Winnipeg fan hugging a Saskatchewan fan named June Trueman, who was a delightful member of the Saskatchewan pep band and who, sadly, passed away last month. June was a founding member of the Saskatchewan band and seemingly everybody’s favourite alto sax player. It was always a pleasure to seek her out and say hello. Thank you, June.
I remember turning around during the parade and seeing this incredible mass of humanity following along, which was pretty amazing for a non-event that we only started “planning” a couple of days before.
post parade performances
Here are a few Youtube clips of band performances that day
Post-parade, Super Tequila at the Convention Centre
Grey Cup Sunday, Surfin’ USA in the fountain outside Skydome
Geez, that fountain was a good spot. I’m glad nobody found the switch to turn on the pumps, though. We got a nice picture there, and then moments later the fountain was swarmed by Saskatchewan fans.
as a proud Canadian band, isn’t it a little weird that you keep playing “Surfin’ USA”
how about we call it “Surfin’ PEI.” Happy now?
did we get into the game?
Yes. The league graciously gave us some passes to get in, although we didn’t have any seats so we had to find obstructed-view unsold seats. The Saskatchewan band got in, of course; they always buy tickets. What? Buy Tickets? Who does that?
Part of the reason for this post is that I haven’t blogged anything in a while, but mostly it’s because the 2020 Grey Cup should have been played last Sunday, but wasn’t.
It’s all got me feeling really nostalgic about the Grey Cups I’ve been lucky to attend with Argonotes, from our first in 1996 to our last in 2017.
Some were road trips to Cups in Hamilton, Ottawa and Montreal, and some were at home in Toronto, but they were all memorable, multi day festivals of fun and music and drinking and parties and camaraderie and fierce but good-natured rivalries with the Saskatchewan Roughrider Pep Band, and occasionally a football game at the end, and at this time of year, past pictures, videos and posts keep popping up in my Facebook on-this-day-in-years-past memories feed.
I feel the need to write about each of them.
I don’t much care whether anybody reads this series, but I want to gather all my best memories of each one in one spot. And this seems like a good spot.
More to come.
In no particular order … ok in numerical order … with a few articles still to be written
I wonder what Gordon Lightfoot would have said. Hmm.
The legend lives on
From Ontarians on down
Of the shipping canal they call “Welland”
There’s room, they all cry
For two ships to pass by
If the captains are paying attention
When a load of black coal
Met a ship that was full
Of some windmill parts for Minnesota
And the beeper it beeped
As the other ship creeped
Closer, not changing course one iota
Bystanders, it’s known
Filmed the scene with their phones
As they shouted out, “She’s gonna hit ‘er”
The collision, it showed
Now they’ve got to upload
it to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter
Sing along if you like! Here’s a karaoke backing track!
People seemed to like this poetry when I tweeted it, even though I’m not going to win too many awards for trying to rhyme “welland” and “attention”. I thought I was pretty hot stuff. I got a dozen likes between facebook and twitter.
And then my son tweeted a video he’d made, something to do with Super Smash Bros, and I totally don’t understand it but his has, so far, 1,983 retweets and 8,295 likes, which I think is more than I’ve got in total in 13 years of using Twitter.
The news broke today that the Montreal Alouettes have disbanded their cheerleading / dance group.
Citing financial concerns, the Montreal Alouettes have disbanded their cheerleading squad ahead of the 2020 season.
“This decision has nothing to do with the hard work (the cheerleaders) put in, or their popularity,” said Charles Rooke, the Alouettes president of communications. “In the current context of financial turnaround, difficult decisions must be made.”
This is sad. And weird, because they’re keeping the coach around (to work as Director General of the Alouettes Foundation) but axing a very talented group.
It’s also shortsighted, and wrong. Here’s why.
it’s a package
People have options these days. Watching a football game from the comfort of your own home in front of your 65″ TV in a luxurious armchair has a lot of appeal. The challenge for a league like the CFL is to get people to come to the games.
what if it was just football
Here’s a thought experiment. Suppose the only thing going on was the football game itself. No cheerleaders. No mascot. No live music. No T-shirt-tosses or other stunts. Just football. Montreal vs Toronto out there bashing in to each other.
How many people would come, if it was just football? You’d have 1,000 diehards, people who really know the Xs and Os of the game, people who are anxiously watching defensive alignments and discussing the minutia of pass interference. They would have a great time, but another 20,000 people would be fidgety, bored, confused, and, most likely, would actually be at home watching something else.
what you really need
There aren’t nearly enough “pure football” fans to make the business work. In 2020, the game isn’t enough. You need a full game-day experience. And that means having
a team with a reasonable chance of winning
cheerleaders and a dance team
stuff going on before the game, outside the stadium
lots of loud and crazy fans contributing to the spectacle.
Now, for any item X on that list, you’ll find people who say “I don’t care about X.” Fine. But there aren’t enough of you! This has to appeal to everybody. And cheerleaders and live music and everything else are all part of the package.
I think the Alouettes, and their new owners, are making a mistake here. (The fact that the new owners are from Ontario isn’t helping, but at least they got off to a good start by proclaiming at an early interview that the Argos suck.)
money? it’s about money?
I have no idea what the operation in Montreal cost, although the Als did mention on Facebook that their cheerleaders are getting paid per game. That isn’t the only model that could work. Surely there are sponsorship opportunities. Maybe a volunteering model with fees for outside appearances makes sense. (I’m honestly not sure how it works in other cities, but I do know that every CFL cheer squad works hard to raise money to travel to the Grey Cup, which won’t be the same without Montreal’s excellent group.)
(Also as you might imagine, I have a little CFL game-day experience. Argonotes, the Until Recently Argonauts Band was completely volunteer-based and never got a dime from the team, although the Drum Line was being paid. Lots of different models can work. But as you might have heard, the Argos and Argonotes parted ways in 2017. I wrote down why, somewhere. I forget exactly.)
ditching the cheerleaders is not right.
If the new owners are that short of money that they can’t keep the cheerleaders going, maybe they aren’t ready for this.