Summer 2006 - Part 4: 'Womyn' Behind Blue Skies
Blue Skies Festival-Clarendon, Ontario
Middle of second day. about to die of exposure. Poison
ivy, mosquitos, the beating sun. Diona and I realized
that we were running out of smokes and if we ever
wanted to find a ride outta there, we better run back
to the farm and gather our stuff for maximum ease the
next day. Jenny was into it cause she had a bottle of
wine back there she wanted fetched and supplies were
running low and of course everyone wanted smokes. We
got to take Harmer's fancy new hybrid car,"The Prius",
down the back country roads marvelling how every day
found us in a different car. The light was perfect,
religious almost, when we pulled up to the farm. We
pulled down the clothes we'd left to dry a couple of
days before off the line and just for a second we got
to feel like it was all ours and it was heart
"Hey! we're living the fantasy while living the
"Our" new car! "Our" farmhouse! AND, as if placed by a
set decorator, just enough wine lingered in a bottle
on the porch beside two cigarettes.
"Oh my god! Are we in a play?!"
A Perfect Gorgeous Stolen Moment that defied space,
time and logic. It smelled like flowers and sunset and
forgiveness. We had found the calm in the eye of the
Of course you have to pay back every stolen moment
with interest, so as our shadows grew longer, we
grabbed the supplies and peeled back to the festival
with moments to spare before show time. We got held up
by the time gobblers directing traffic to the site.
They thwarted our plans to park in front the the
handicapped outhouse and made us relocate to the upper
lot. Whatever. I had taken some of the stolen time to
change into my show outfit and write the set list so
if my guitar was still by the garbage can where I left
it after the workshop, we should be golden.
It was. It was that kind of festival. I mean our tents
had New Sleeping Bags in them and were set up for us
before we got there! And it wasn't on a swamp and the
food was good and the people were nice. It's the
details I guess that get smoothed out after thirty
years of doing something.
Even the wristbands were cool. They were woven thread
affairs with pretty blue beads instead of the usual
crappy plastic thingies.
We played both nights but the second show was better
since we were all acclimatized and get this: the hula
hoops I'd left at the last festival were backstage at
this festival giving the illusion that backstage is
the only constant, which it kind of is for us show
folk. After my bit, I came off stage and told Jenny
that I was worried that we were too loud as I'd seen
some people covering their ears. She said "Oh never
look at the audience." as she poured wine from her
I was learning so much.
Speaking of covered body parts, somewhere on this tour
someone ("It was ME!", says Hank.) had told us about
how polar bears, when they want to be alone, simply
cover their nose with a paw because it's the only
thing on them that's black eh? and they live in the
snow eh? So a few of us had adopted the gesture as
shorthand for wanting to be alone. I have no idea if
it's true about the polar bears, but it's a hell of a
story. Ask Kyle man. ask fucking Kyle!
The show ran smoothly and everyone sounded great.
Safest place for all of us to be is on stage. There
are too many variables and temptations in real life
for this many people to stay focused on The Common
Goal. Plus it's the only place on earth you're
actually expected to follow your instincts and
encouraged to be your unedited self.
We asked the emcee/clown to announce that some of us
needed a ride to Toronto in the morning and within
moments we were set up. Dan, who plays with Romy Maze
and is the former president of the Ontario Trucker's
Union and an all around Awesome Dude, said he could
take Me and Diona and a beautiful woman came for Hank
Partied like it was 1999 back at camp and I got so
stoned I couldn't move even though the mosquitos and
poison oak were doing a number on my feet. Diona woke
up because I was moaning so loudly without knowing it
and suggested I go to bed. And once the blood left my
feet I slept hard, thankful that the whole ride thing
had been sorted.
In the morning, we loaded up our stuff into Dan's van,
had one last breakfast, settled up at the merchandise
tent, said goodbye to everyone and hit the fucking
Blue Skies is a beautiful festival and I'm glad they
had us even though I fear our crew and The De-Rangers
might have made people wanna rename it The Booze Skies
No brakes until The Fifth Wheel. Dan was thrilled that
we wanted to stop at a truck stop. Said none of his
other bands ever wanted to.
Dan took us to the Toronto airport and I went in to
rent a car. Aunt Flow had come to visit on top of all
the mosquito bites so there was no blood left to run
my brain. A beautiful girl with hair extensions and
golden green contacts set me up and because of her
contacts and persuasive ways I ticked the insurance
waiver which made it cost more but since we were
already lying about Not Leaving The Province of
Ontario, I thought of Dallas Good's mother and how she
told him never to break two laws at one time.
"Only one driver?"
I could hear Geoff Berner delivering his speech about
"pot odds" and how they can never be beaten but
switched stations before the dashboard-pounding
Finally got out of there, without actually channelling
everybody I've ever met, in a sparkling blue Sebring
"Touring". The car was actually called a "Touring".
As we approached the border, Diona and I made a pact
to wear seat belts and not to speed, figuring the last
thing we wanted to attract in our semi- stolen car
would be American fuzz.
The plan was to just head "somewhere in Michigan" and
spend the night. We were going to visit my brother the
next day who lives in the "third finger of the mitt"
or something. I don't know. We hadn't got a map yet
but Michigan people are all about The Mitt.
And sure I've seen the movie Roger and Me but somehow
we ended up in Flint looking for one of those big
American grocery stores to get hotel pic-a-nic fixins.
Instead we found an endless ghetto strip with only
signs for Jesus and chicken and Jesus and ribs and
Jesus chicken and Jesus ribs. I got kind of freaked
out. Diona wanted to pull over and ask somebody for
directions and I was all like "You'll do nothing of
the sort young lady now lock your window!" which I am
never like but it was really freaky. Or I was just out
of my mind.
She got out at a corner store with bars on the windows
and asked this huge black guy wearing giant pants and
a huge gold medallion. (I know any black guy in any
story is always "HUGE" but I tell you this dude really
was HUGE! )
I couldn't hear what he said because I had the windows
rolled up so tight they were about to go through the
roof but he was making pointing gestures up the street
and then when D. turned to come back to the car, even
though he was making a real effort not to, I saw him
cast his eyes downward and check out her ass.
We went up a main-ish road in the direction he had
pointed and found a giant American grocery store.
When we got to the check-out, there were two options:
You could either go to a til with a person or use the
automated check-out. Since we didn't see any people we
went for the machine.
Now the machine's fine if all your stuff has a
bar-code on it, but at the end we had two tomatoes and
cucumber we didn't know what to do with so we just
threw them in the bag and hit the parking lot, our
little Canadian hearts racing as we got in our illegal
car and got the rock outta there. Diona was driving
and did a magnificent shit-hook to get us back to the
interstate. When the terror subsided into pure
adrenaline, we started laughing like crazy.
"Oh my God! Can you just see the headlines? 2 Canadian
girls of dubious orientation at large, last seen in a
stolen car peeling out of a Michigan ghetto grocery
store, doing a U-turn in possession of a stolen
That's like six broken laws! Do they cancel each other
out after a while? Holy Shit. Cross one border and it
all goes to hell!
Somehow we found a hotel and checked in using cash and
a fake name (M. Simpson 2541 Evergreen Terrace,
Springfield USA, if you must know)
I was bleeding so hard I knew I was gonna leave some
sort of crime scene worthy of calling in the dude from
CSI so I didn't want to leave my real name. Also I had
plans to dye my hair which is also never makes for
pretty leavings. Sorry towels. Maybe one day you'll
need to wipe yourselves on me!
* * *
Got to my brother's in the early afternoon. It was
closer than I thought. We had gotten a large scale map
so it took like twenty minutes to drive like five
Hung out with the calves and the cats and the dog
until Nancy and Baby Petra came home from town. After
dinner everybody passed out on the living room floor.
Guess we were saving the fire for the next night.
* * *
Went to the Kent County Fair to see Nancy's twin
nieces participate in the goat obstacle course! Say
what you will but it's hell of a good time! Some of
the goats were more willing than others. Same with the
Rode the zipper, ate gigantic onion rings and fell in
love with a pair of blue-eyed paint horses. Saw
earless goats and fainting goats and those chickens
with the crazy hairdo's. The twin nieces are really
sweet and eerily smart. Perhaps it's the home
schooling... They kept bringing us different animals
to hold. Saw this one horse that had a sign on his pen
that said, "Don't pet me. I bite." Thought about
making my own sign.
Stopped at a U-pick blueberry place on the way home
for the full Michigan experience. Diona picked 25
cents more berries than me. God if we were migrant
workers she'd totally get picked first!
Got to have a big fire after dinner and my brother lit
off fireworks and he and I outlasted everybody and got
drunk together for the first time.
* * *
Early Morning. Good bye to the family. Good bye to the
farm. Back in the Touring. The radio was still on when
D. flipped the ignition. Aerosmith's "Dude Looks Like
a Lady" came blasting through the speakers. The
imminent reality of our destination-The Michigan
Womyns Festival- hit us with the first chorus and we
started laughing really hard.
Also I was still drunk from staying up with my
Turns out that the official song of the Michigan
Womyns Festival is more like "Lady Looks Like a Dude".
But I'm jumping ahead.
Nancy had printed off a map of Michigan back roads for
us and we tried pretty much all of them before finding
the right one. A long dirt road into the trees. Okay
deep breath. Why was this freaking me out so much? I
guess segregated events in general make me
uncomfortable. I'd heard that if anyone brought a boy
baby they'd be put in a separate pen and that The
Transgendered were protesting with their own party
just outside the gates, contentious of the 'no dick'
We pulled up and two security ladies in vests started
radioing frantically for a shuttle. We had cut it a
little close and the Po'Girls were allegedly freakin'.
We got in a van with some other people. Well, Dames.
The driver had bleach blonde hair and some facial
piercings and seemed really funny and friendly. A
black chick from New York riding shotgun started
quizzing Diona on the sexual preferences of Po'Girl
and told us that when she was On Broadway they were
fined $75 if they were late for rehearsal and then she
reached back to clutch the hand of the big lady in the
back seat in case we got any ideas.
I was staring out the window trying to ignore the
black chick because she was humourless and I wanted to
punch her in the throat, which I realize is also not
funny, but one must fight fire with fire.
Also, I was crossing the border from Still Drunk to
As we wound into the heart of The Land, we passed by a
bezillion womyns. It was boiling hot and the grass was
all brown and beaten down. Without the prying eye of
the Evil Mens to worry about, most of the womyn were
walking around topless.
Erase the porn fantasy you just created for yourself
when you read that last sentence because the song
"Saginaw Michigan' kept popping into my head. It was
titty city out there and it wasn't pretty.
One tit. Two tits. Red tits. No tits.
Even saw Rodney Dangerfield With Tits walk by on our
way to the stage.
When we got there, The Po'girls weren't as freakin' as
we've been led to believe. Or they were hiding it. Or
they calmed down once they saw the whites of Diona's
It's good to see them. We've spent so much time
together this year that reuniting always feels good.
The ladies took the stage. The sound man was a lady
and the stage crew were all ladies but most of them
had moustaches and cargo shorts so it didn't really
feel any different than usual.
A woman with dreadlocks and pretty cool clothes named
Bitch is the M.C. and she exudes confidence. I liked
her. She addressed the audience as "You gays" and tap
danced while reciting poetry. Apparently she is one
half of a duo called Bitch and Animal.
The sound was kind of weird at first but they figured
it all out while I watched from the audience. The
addition of a signer for the deaf to the right of the
stage added an interesting element.
It was boiling hot and the sun was beating down
Beside me Chris Cooper With Tits (and a really nice
ass)sunbathed on a towel.
The girls asked me to come up and sing with them and
thank god. If I would have stayed in the sun any
longer I would have melted my brain. The stage was
covered so there was some shade.
I can see why people wanted to know if The Po'Girls
were gay. They were the hottest things around for
I was sitting on a bench side stage. Bitch came
running up and grabbed her clipboard off a tree stump
as the set ended.
The middle aged woman beside me laughed and said
"Bitch is always running around."
I met the ladies backstage when they finished and
spied Jane Siberry walking by in a shawl accompanied
by a handler.
Apparently she has changed her name to Issa and given
up all her possessions. Yeah. So now she's like a
"musician" I guess.
My Brother With Tits and Sook Yin Previn With Tits
walked by holding hands.
I was thinking that we were gonna leave right away but
the girls wanted to stay for dinner. Fine. It was
boiling and I was grumpy so Diona took me for a walk.
There was some cool stuff in the vending area and I
ducked into the bookstore for a minute and oh the
titles! There was a book for everything! I was
thumbing through a copy of something called "I'm
Happily Married But in Love With My Friend" when Diona
snuck up behind me. I jumped like fifty feet and threw
the book behind a shelf lest she get any ideas. I
grabbed something else to replace it but the book I
grabbed was some hardcore erotica and I totally felt
as awkward and uptight as Don Knotts. I'm no prude-
well it depends who you ask I guess- but it disturbed
me that there was a book for everything.
It is equally as vexing as it is comforting to
discover that you are not alone.
Diona found a hammock in the shade and we got in and
she was like "There's no way you can bitch now" and I
was like "Oh yeah? Watch me".
It had been a full moon the night before so maybe
every bitch here was bleeding. This was not something
I enjoyed thinking about either.
A horn sounded and "The Bull Dyke Parade" wound it's
way past us.
Sailors and Hobos and Teamsters Oh my!
We spent the next hour perusing the programme and
checking out chicks.
Me: Hey do you think she's hot?
Dee: Nah. She looks like one of those dogs who ran
face first into a wall.
Me: Woah that's meaner than any dude.
Dee: Yeah well they think it. I get to say it.
The programme is distressing. All the workshops and
events are so specific and compartmental.
The Sweat Lodge for Native Recovering Alcoholics
Who've Been Abused.
The Beginning Strap-On Workshop.
The Chem-Free Zone. The Scent-Free Zone.
The Quiet Camping Area. Where to stand while watching
the music. Yeah if women ran the world it would be
like this. I found all this to be far more oppressive
that the 'real world'. It's like the reverse of what
they're rebelling against but it's really just the
same, maybe even worse.
I couldn't really put it into words what was bothering
me at the time. I was just mad like an animal and
mostly just lay there flushed and fanning myself in my
little gingham dress moaning, "I just wish it was The
Fifties!" over and over again which I'm sure made me a
real treat to hang out with.
It was all the compartments. Reminded me of the first
time I went to San Francisco and read the personal
"Submissive top seeks M2F for fisting, rimming and
water sports. No weirdos".
Just how do you know what you are and what you'll want
in advance? Can people do that?
And how do you pick? Aren't you afraid that by
choosing you'll rule out other potential options you
haven't even thought about?
I've always had this problem. I just wrote a song
about it. I can never pick one thing.
Like I said, it was just undefined low level rage back
in the hammock but Ali Riley of Vulcan later lent me
a book and there was this comforting passage that put
my feelings into words:
"Definitions are prisons. Divisions are useful only on
the level of great populations not on a personal
level...I am nothing and I am something ... and what
this is I'll never know and if I ever tell you I know,
shake me, shake me hard, for the finality of self
naming is as dull as death."
Also consoling was renting the Sarah Silverman movie
where she says, " I don't want people to think of me
as straight, or gay or whatever. I just want them to
think of me as white!"
But I didn't know all that then and I was hungover and
it was boiling. Let's go back:
We entered a big tent structure filled with long
tables and chairs in search of snacks. A smallish
faux-hawked creature looked up from her notepad and
said "How do you spell deviant?" addressing nobody in
We sat for a while but we had to flee when the people
a couple of rows over started talking about Po'Girl's
set, unaware of our proximity. It was positive but
it's always weird to hear people talking about you
when you're right there.
Diona and I had promised in advance to be each others
beards for the duration of the festival but nature
called and I had to hit the outhouse. I left her alone
for maybe four minutes and when I came back she was
surrounded. Womyn use a different technique to hit on
you than men. They smother you with care. One was
offering to apply sunscreen. Another wanted to know
where she got her shirt. Another felt her forehead to
see if she was feverish. She spied me and we bolted.
"Your powers are mighty grasshopper."
"Get me the fuck out of here!"
Finally the dinner hour arrived. And holy fuck was the
food good. There are some advantages to having women
run the show. Also it should be noted that the
outhouses were spotless and smelled good. Like they
didn't just smell good by outhouse standards, they
smelt good for any room in the house! Oh and of course
they are called "Janes" instead of "Johns".
Take back the night sisters!
We ate dinner with the Fruit girls and we started
telling jokes. To my amazement the redheaded one told
us this one:
"Guy comes home late after the bar holding a duck
under one arm. Careens up the stairs and whips open
the bedroom door where his wife is sleeping and says,
"This is the pig I've been fucking."
The wife wakes up and switches on the lamp and says
"Oh darling you're drunk. That's a duck."
And the man says, "I was talking to the duck!"
Surprise filth always impresses me.
I pulled out my showstopper I got from Tolan:
Father and daughter. Daughter wants to borrow the car.
Father says "Okay but you have to suck my dick."
She starts and then says, "Dad, your dick tastes like
And the Dad says, "Oh that's right. Your brother has
the car tonight."
They didn't get it. Might be a bit cerebral for some
I was so hungry I went back for more food but it
started to taste weird. I looked down and realized
that I was eating my plate! The juices from the
curried veggies had dissolved the paper and I had
eaten my way through to the table.
So long bitches, time to go.
Turns out the Time Gobbler is equal opportunity all
the way. We had to wait for a shuttle to take us back
to the car and they kept forgetting us. Hung out with
these girls wearing eyeliner and black jeans from a
band called Lez Zeppelin who seemed really cool and
then finally wove through the trees and got to the car
only Awna forgot her bass so she had to go back yadda
yadda yadda and then load up everyone and hit the
Drove and drove and drove and no troubles at the
border. Ended up in a hotel room in London, Ontario
and we were all so tired, we fell asleep in our
clothes without even cracking the wine.