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The Hawk's Nest

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Investigating music, microbrews and various winery offerings at the Kaslo Jazz Festival was harder work than I got credit for.

“Life is sad, people die and the price of beer keeps going up.” That is a quote from my new favorite philosopher. I might add to that, some of us have to work weekends, too.

We met him at the Kaslo Jazz Etc. Festival in Kaslo B.C. This was the first time in several years the Canadian festival took place a week before the Sandpoint Festival, so we were able to go. In the past they have opened on the same weekend, so it meant, this year, I had another weekend of work on my schedule. That meant I had to drive into one of the most beautiful valleys around and listen to music, look at the view, and visit with the locals - in other words go to work while others played.

Kaslo is one of my favorite villages. It’s north of Nelson on the shores of Kootenay Lake, about 70 miles up the 100-mile-long lake. The floating stage for the concerts is tucked into Kaslo Bay, making the view for the audience breathtaking. Across the lake rises the West Kootenays with Mount Loki, just over 9,000 feet, straight away.  

On the day we were in front of the stage, the music began at 1 pm and for the next 10 hours jazz and blues filled the valley and bounced off the mountains. When a band finished on the main stage everyone turned their chairs around and faced the second stage. From there a regional band played as the stage on the lake was being reset for the next international act.

We saw Muhledy, the Chris Bergson Band, John Hammond, and Jesse Cook all on the floating stage, each giving an excellent show, and just as fun were the local bands who played in between. One of my favorites was Flora Ware from the Nelson area. She sang several old standards in the vein of Eva Cassidy or Norah Jones, but her original works, both lyrics and the music, were highlights for me. Other bands from the region were the Clinton Administration and the Emily Braden Quartet. Every one of the regional groups was highly talented and gave exciting performances, not to mention that they are close to North Idaho.

For my wife and the friends we were with this was a fun weekend of good food, good music, and camaraderie. For me it was another day at work. I knew I would be writing about the day so I kept reminding them I was “on the clock.” I couldn’t get much sympathy though, especially when I tried to get a receipt at the beer garden since it was a business expense. They gave me looks of disgust, again when I told the Polish sausage vender (my new favorite chef) I needed proof of purchase. I decided it is what the workers of the world must put up with to take our place in society, and I can accept that.

Anyway, we were in the beer garden when we met the philosopher. He lives in the woods above the lake not far from town. At our first meeting, it was obvious he had not made any mortgage payments for a dentist. In fact, at this point there were only a few reasons for him to see the dentist with empty gaps in between. Still, I remember thinking “What a great and happy smile.” That smile might have been helped with a liquid diet, which may be the only way he can absorb any nutrients at all.

In a conversation during the transition of stages, it came out quite inadvertently that one in our party was a doctor and someone asked what kind of doc he was. Our friend didn’t want to work that day, even though I was, so said “Doctor of Philosophy.” My new favorite philosopher replied quickly “Are you working on a cure?” Truly a high-minded fellow.

The guy’s wit and intellect intrigued me. I was sure this was not his first trip to a beer garden, even that day, and I think it would be fair to say that as a young man there were a lot more brain cells to operate with, but still he was quite bright and fun. It came out in bits and pieces but we did find out he was from England and had been in Canada for most of his adult life. We never did find out why he came across the pond nor if he had ever gone back. We did find out he loved going to the United States and that the U.S. doesn’t want him to cross the border anymore. The reason for that didn’t come out, either.

One from The Philosopher’s party was a recently retired conductor. I asked where he had conducted. He said the Canadian Pacific Railroad.

The Conductor seemed to be looking for new friends, at least for the night, so moved in out of our group with each attempt and failure. He seemed to be a pleasant sort of chap but was quite interested in finding a friend at the festival. As the evening wore on, he seemed to be working harder, maybe even a little desperately.

With the sun setting behind us, a red-yellow glow at the base of Mt. Loki started to rise from behind a ridge. I wondered if it could be fire, then blue joined the vivid colors of mist, then green. As it lifted, the colors started over again, spreading up and down the crease in the side of the ridge as the snow on the pointed top of Loki turned pink. People were looking over the band and the lake watching the rainbow ascend the mountainside.  

The Conductor, between forays for friendship, asked our doctor friend what he does as a Doctor of Philosophy. “It’s philosophy, think about it,” interrupted my new favorite philosopher.  That seemed to stump The Conductor and he left, possibly to think about it. The rest of us went back to the rainbow accompanied by the blues of John Hammond, who by now had teamed up with the Chris Bergson Band and was competing with the show of air and water, rock and snow, lightness and dark in the mountains.

I continued to work, taking in the shows on the stages as well as the show higher up on the ridges. I worked as clouds moved into and up gouges in the mountains that created the steep canyon wall as it fell, nearly vertically, to the lake.  I also worked at finding out as much as I could about each microbrew on site, as well as some wineries.  I worked while my friends, new and old, made wisecracks about how hard I was working as they relaxed and enjoyed themselves.

 It started to look like The Conductor had finally met a friend. After a time, semi alone at the end of our table, it ended when her friends left and she with them. Instead of a missed opportunity, we all had the impression he could not bring himself to take advantage of a woman who had been imbibing for so long.

The final act under the lights was The Jesse Cook Band. This band is so tight it is almost one voice, yet still has spontaneity in each number, never sounding over-rehearsed and stale, something that takes a group of outstanding musicians hours of time together.

I worked until the stars dotted the sky over those Canadian mountains and was exhausted as we left for the night. On the way back down Kootenay Lake the next day, I had to stop at Ainsworth Hot Springs to soak off the weekend of hard work.

Back home I got ready for more weekends of work at the Sandpoint Festival, but I’ll make the sacrifice in order to share it with others. It’s all about others of course.

Maybe someday I’ll take some personal time, go back to Kaslo and look for The Philosopher and The Conductor, just for fun, when I’m not on the clock.

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Author info

Ernie Hawks Ernie Hawks is a former theater director who has branched into the creative fields of writing and photography. He lives in a cabin in Athol with his lovely wife Linda, and feeds the birds in his spare time.

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