Vancouver B.C. Canada, 6 September 2011
Labor Day (in Canada, Labour Day) is not my favorite holiday. It always feels sad to come to the end of summer, when I foresee the coming end to the baseball season and the resumption of a less-relaxed concert and teaching schedule. But Labor Day has its charms, too. Yesterday’s holiday was my opportunity to attend the PNE, Vancouver’s annual Pacific National Exhibition, a summer-time traditional country fair with rides, fun food, live music and agricultural attractions (e.g. pig races). Every summer the PNE gives Vancouverites a grand opportunity to hear Canada’s King of Swing, Dal Richards, with his great dance band. Dal has led the band in twice-daily performances at the PNE for some 65 years, and Dal himself is an amazingly youthful 93 years young.
Dal is one of my idols here in Vancouver, and I never miss a chance to hear him. Here we are together, smiling in the bright sunshine after his first show of the PNE on Labor Day. In the background you’ll see one of Dal’s erstwhile saxophonists, Julia Nolan, who tosses off the brilliant solo part of Jimmy Dorsey’s “Oodles of Noodles” as if she were indeed just whipping up a quick plate of linguini.
For me, the summer just ended also included plentiful time in Japan, where I had time to indulge various passions artistic and non. The rustic house where I am sitting here was that of Japan’s foremost novelist Natsume Sōseki (1867 – 1916), author of “I am a Cat” (吾輩は猫である). Sōseki’s Tokyo home (from 1903 to 1906) was physically moved and reconstructed at the astonishing Meiji-mura Village outside Nagoya, a museum theme park consisting of important Japanese architectural treasures. A unique and fascinating place, not to be missed if you have plans to visit Japan.
Another stopover on my July visit to Nagoya was the Nagoya Dome, where I saw a sadly dull baseball game between my beloved Hanshin Tigers and the Chunichi Dragons. The Tigers lost, 1 – 0, but a fine evening was had nonetheless in the company of many Hanshin fans who travelled from far away to cheer on their team on the road. The outfit I am sporting here is actually modest in comparison to many Torakichi, whose game dress often includes Tiger ears, tails, and even Tiger masks. The Tigers are currently locked in a four-way ever-changing tumble-jumble for second place in the Central League, and I bite my nails each morning when I scan the Hanshin website to see how they fared in last evening’s game. Thankfully, summer is never really over when there’s a baseball game to worry about.