Metropolitan Homesick Blues

Southampton Stories & Other Stuff

Archive for January 2008

Southampton Snow Piles!

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Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

January 23, 2008 at 8:08 PM

Posted in Home Town

Saugeen Mud & Ice

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From somewhere in Southern Ontario the Saugeen meanders for 160 km, flowing northwest. There’s a North and South Saugeen, both formed from many smaller tributaries. Somewhere 24 km South of Southampton the two main branches meet.

The Saugeen gets it name from the Anishinaabe or Ojibwe word ‘Zaagling’ meaning “outlet.” And that’s an apt meaning because it does just that – empties itself into Lake Huron at Southampton Harbour.

12.jpgHigh winds tend to rake the Saugeen’s surface, churning up the silt on the river bottom until it becomes one long brown flowing mass of water. 

2.jpgWind and rain bring high water. The force of the flow relentlessly carries the silt out into Lake Huron. From anywhere on the shore you can see the muddy Saugeen stream out towards Chantry Island. Brown water moves up and down the shoreline for great distances depending on wind and current. Beyond this, blue water and white caps wait to see how far out this beige stream will force itself.  

The Saugeen wants to move. Even in the dead of February when it’s frozen solid you can hear it creak and groan. You can see the fissures and pressure cracks pushing against each other. Ice rams into the harbour’s steel sides sounding like nails on a chalkboard. 

It takes days for the river to defeat the ice. But, when it does the sight of it carrying 18-inch thick floes with tree trunks, docks, tires and whatever else it picks up on the way down is daunting. Again the Saugeen carries everything out into Huron.

Nothing stops it. The Saugeen is true to its name.





Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

January 15, 2008 at 7:35 PM

Posted in thoughts

Hockey Night in Saugeen Shores

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That’s the first thing you hear when you step into the chill of the rink.

Pucks whacked into boards. Bouncing off posts. Crashing against safety glass. The scrunch, scrunch, scrunch of skates on freshly Zambonied ice and the yells of hockey players warming up, mixed with top forty tunes from the 70’s and 80’s blasting from loudspeakers.                 

This is it…hockey night at the Plex in Port Elgin. People from “Port” and “South” (Southampton) as the locals call the two towns, are there. Folks from the other towns in Saugeen Shores help fill the bleachers. There’s a bus in the parking lot so the Visitors probably brought some fans as well. Thing is the seats are only on one side. Sometimes we cram upwards of 700 people into the place. Small town arenas can’t afford to build big like the ACC.                 

Where I was, there were corporate boxes. Where I am, there’s a glass-fronted bar called ‘The Hawk’s Nest’ upstairs at the far end of the rink. There are no servers bringing you your drinks. You line up to buy tickets. Then you line up at the bar. Its a good place to thaw out from the chill of the rink between periods. Lots of people hang out there because you can watch the game without freezing.                 

Our game announcer is from the local radio station. We have a 50-50 draw. On a good night you can win six or seven hundred dollars. It gets loud in there because the fans are happy to have a team that wins. The Saugeen Shores Winterhawks have only lost three games, which puts them on top in their division.

This is Senior Men’s Hockey and it is good hockey. The team is made up of  guys who played Junior and College mostly. They’re fast, tough, know how to win and they’re not millionaires because they have day jobs.                 

Where I was, seats to a Leafs game were hard to come by. You either got them for yourself or clients as comps, paid a scalper, or lucked into the benevolence of someone with season or corporate tickets. Where I am, admission is $5.00…$4.00 if you’re a Senior. Kids pay even less. And the seats are all the same colour…natural wood.                 

Where I am, The Winterhawks give the locals a lot to make noise about. Where I was, the citizens of ‘Leaf Nation’ are still longing for Lord Stanley’s Cup.        

As I sit on my blanket on the plank benches I realize that’s its a satisfying feeling to yell yourself hoarse for a winning team…instead of whining about overpaid losers.                     


Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

January 7, 2008 at 8:35 PM

Posted in Home Town

Sunrise. Sunset. The Pictures.

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Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

January 3, 2008 at 9:07 PM

Posted in Home Town


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Where I was, sunsets were hidden behind skyscrapers or veiled in smog.

To catch a sunrise I had to walk from my house to Avenue Road, stand amid the morning traffic and wait until the yellow ball cleared the trees. Sometimes the traffic haze diffused the early morning light such that you would think you were looking through a filter. You never knew what kind of sunrise it would be. The colour depended on the level of pollution in the air.

            At various times in my career I worked in those skyscrapers. Two of which always gave me unfettered sunsets, if you like looking out over the Gardner Expressway or the rooftops of King Street. Big cities do their best to transform the sun’s coming and going, molding it into something artificial. They steal its reality by making themselves more important.

Where I am, I have rediscovered the truth about the sun. And that is its purity. Nothing impedes its rising and setting. It is clean, sharp and brilliant. Nothing interferes with its colour. Instead it gives colour to everything its light touches. Each season brings its own character.

In the morning the front of my house lights up with incandescence that puts a smile on your face. Rainbows sparkle on the walls from small crystals that we’ve hung in the windows. The treetops behind us turn shades of crimson as they catch the rising light. Shades of terra cotta touch the clouds as the sun creeps up behind them. If you’re driving concession roads past open farm fields you hit a whiteout of light until you drop your visor.

And then you watch the sun in its transit across the sky as it measures the day.

I can stand in my family room or on my deck to watch the sun set now. Again, its light fills my house, but with a more mellow, golden hue. Through the season it travels the length of the forest in back of me. And when its down it leaves indescribable colours in the coming night sky.

Come summer, they celebrate sunsets at the beach. On Friday nights a piper plays until it is gone. The tourists gather at the flag, cameras ready, taking pictures to bring back to the city so they’ll remember what a sunset is supposed to look like. When the sun disappears behind the horizon its golden, green, yellow, ochre, magenta rays reflect on that vast infinity pool that is Lake Huron.

Where I am now, I don’t have to go searching for sunrise or sunset. It is always there…waiting for me.


Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

January 3, 2008 at 8:52 PM

Posted in thoughts

Mac’s in the Morning

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Where I was, my morning paper arrived without fail on my doorstep before 6:00 AM.

The deliveryman would heave it from mid-driveway. He had quite an arm. More often than not it was my wake-up call. The ‘thud’ it made when it hit the front door was as good as any alarm clock. That, plus the fact that his van needed a new muffler, told me it was time to stumbled down to pick up the daily news.

When the weather was bad a plastic bag protected the paper. Sometimes the impact with my front door broke the plastic open. If I wasn’t quick I often ended up with a soggy mess of newsprint.

But, at least it arrived on time.

Where I am, there’s no such guarantee. Big city newspapers don’t get home delivery in small towns. Which means getting out of bed, getting dressed, getting in your car and driving into town to Mac’s Milk on Highway 21 to see if the Star has made it from Toronto three hours down the road.

            If you get to Mac’s anytime after 6:30 AM you’re usually in luck. On the odd day you’ll have to wait for the delivery van to arrive. With a cup of Mac’s so-so coffee the wait is tolerable. Besides, you get to socialize with the lady behind the counter. People get to know your name. Workmen leave their trucks idling outside and come in for coffee and cigarettes. Doesn’t do the environment much good. But, Al Gore means nothing to these guys,

            Come winter, it’s a different story. When the snow squalls blow in off Lake Huron, Georgian Bay and Owen Sound, the O.P.P. likes to close all connecting highways and county roads. Nothing moves. And that includes my morning paper. But, if I time it right I beat the snowplow home and get into my garage before he barricades the driveway with a line of snow three feet high.

            Regardless of the weather I make my way to Mac’s every morning. I see the same man walking his dog and I wave. I pass the same two women speed walking and speed talking and I wave. Each truck that drives by gets a wave even if I don’t know the man behind the wheel. Waving is automatic. The locals expect it. And in a small town you can’t afford not to acknowledge the wave. People talk.

            My morning drive takes me down empty, quiet streets past houses where one light shines in the darkness. It’s always the same houses. The glow of a TV set illuminates the living room of one, the fluorescent glare of a stove light burns from the kitchen of another. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of someone moving about and I wonder if they’re going for a paper too.

            Come the good weather, I leave the car and ride my bike waving to the same people, peering into the same windows.

It sounds a touch mundane, but it forces you to begin each day with a quest. Compared to where I was, where I am leaves me feeling more alive than home delivery ever did.










Written by metropolitanhomesickblues

January 1, 2008 at 2:25 PM

Posted in thoughts