OCT. 6th, 1994 – THE NIGHT GORD DOWNIE HELPED ME WOO MY FUTURE WIFE.
I had been drinking. I was a little drunk. Maybe more than a little.
The day began early with a long drive. Myself, my future wife Jenny and four other university friends departed Lethbridge, AB for Spokane, WA. We had tickets to see The Hip. We arrived early, hit the local bar, and headed to the venue.
I had fallen in love with Jenny that year but being a guy who was never sure of himself and one that always felt awkward around women, I wasn’t sure how to let her know. It was during the second set, in my drunken stupor, up in the balcony of The Met that I decided a really great way to impress Jenny would be to get on stage and sing with the band. [Today, as a performer, I really hate that I did this. What a fool. I can only say that this was before I bought a guitar, before I had any aspirations of performing and before I knew how distracting and scary this kind of behavior is for anyone on stage. I blame it on too much booze, the giddiness of adoring someone new, my own insecurity, and trying way too fucking hard.]
Without saying a word to anyone I made my way to the ground floor of the theatre. I walked down the centre aisle. The band was rockin’. The crowd was on its feet. In front of the stage were four or five bouncers facing the audience. I would have to be swift. As I approached, a security guy eyed me. With a smile I pointed to front row centre, as if saying, “Don’t mind me, I’m just heading to my seat”. He fell for it. The moment he took his eye off me to look where I was pointing, I made my move. With the finesse of The Great One I head-bobbed right and deked left. Like a gazelle I bounded four feet onto the stage and made for a microphone.
Gord was singing “Courage”, one of my favourite songs. I went to guitarist Paul Langlois’s mic and started singing harmony. I only managed one line before being yanked back by a couple roadies. As they hustled me into the wings I heard Gord say. “Whoah, that guy scared me” and the crowd cheered. Back stage another guy in a blazer grabbed me by the scruff of the shirt. Like a dead man walking, the three of them escorted me down into the bowels of the theatre and just like in the movies, they used me to open the back doors and threw me out into the alley, right beside the dumpster.
I found my way back to the bar. I felt dumb. While my friends and the girl I was trying to impress were together celebrating the band and the end of a great day, I was sitting at a table in a strange bar drinking beer alone.
After the show they found me there. I looked to Jenny. Somehow she knew I had done this “for her” but she was neither impressed nor unimpressed. She was the way Jenny always is. The way she has been since the day I met her. Constant. A constant, non-judgmental, kind, human being. She mentioned nothing about my stupid stunt but instead asked me if I was hurt and if I was okay. We married two years later.
As I watched the final show tonight I thought about that one line I got to sing with Gord - “Courage. It couldn’t come at a worst time” - and how very true it was for me that night in Spokane. But more so I thought of the irony of a frontman with terminal brain cancer singing that line, possibly for the last time in front of his hometown crowd, because right now, for Gord, courage couldn’t come at a better time.
Thank you Gord. Thank you Tragically Hip for showing us such courage and for giving us fans one more taste of a truly Canadian experience.