Saturday, November 22, 2014

Northern reflections: Author ponders sense of place during fortnight in the Arctic

Winnipeg Free Press—PRINT EDITION
Reviewed by Ariel Gordon

Boundless: Tracing Land and Dream in a New Northwest Passage
By Kathleen Winter
House of Anansi Press, 256 pages, $30

In 2010, just after the release of her much-acclaimed first novel Annabel, Montreal-based writer Kathleen Winter got an unusual phone call.

It was Noah Richler, and he was offering her his spot on the Clipper Adventurer, a ship scheduled to travel the Northwest Passage in a little less than a week.

As part of the services offered to its passengers, tour company Adventure Canada usually added ornithologists, scientists and artists to its roster of crew members. If Winter accepted, she would be the designated writer.
Winter packed her bags, stowing her husband's duct-taped and paint-smeared raincoat and a flip-flop/little-black-dress combo in her bag and locating an insulated beer cooler that would hold her old, out-of-tune concertina.

This being Kathleen Winter, she also packed a beard: "The forms and waivers came with photos of the other resource staff. I noticed they were nearly all men, and most had explorer-type beards. I happened to have a beard I'd crocheted out of brown wool on a train trip with my mother—it was a bit more Rasputin than Explorer, but it possessed loops that fit nicely around my ears, so I packed that as well."

Because of her last-minute assignment, Winter had no formal responsibilities during the two-week journey, unlike cultural ambassadors such as Greenlandic-Canadian Inuit guide Aaju Peter, Canadian Inuit guide Bernadette Dean and Winnipeg-based singer Nathan Rogers.

Winter spent her time on board writing and sketching, trying to unpack her ideas about Canada's North and what it means to be both home and away.

This process starts when she listens to Rogers perform his father's Stan's song The Northwest Passage, with its line "tracing one warm line / through a land so wild and savage."

Though now based in Montreal, Winter spent her childhood and early adulthood in Newfoundland, where she moved with her English family as a child. As a grown-up, with elderly parents and children of her own, Winter feels like a cultural orphan, being neither fully Canadian nor properly English:
"How devoid of this warm line my life had felt, uprooted from ancestry, living in industrial cities and mill towns, not understanding messages from animals or from ancestors the way Bernadette and others appeared to do."

She confides some of this to Aaju Peter, herself a mix of Greenlandic and Inuit traditions, who notes: "It's perfectly OK to belong to two cultures. Your voice is authentic, because it's human."

Consoled, Winter begins thinking on the mixed European and indigenous legacy confronting her at every step, how the two ways of life have been intertwined in the North for a long time.

She spends her evening knitting the muskox fur she's collected into the hat she's working on. She starts listening to the land, accumulating lists of fauna with English common names, Latin names and Inuit names.

And so it goes, in a relatively peaceful fashion, until the last leg of their journey, when the Clipper Adventurer runs aground and its 128 passengers have to be rescued. Winter and her fellow passengers weren't in any danger, except perhaps of missing their pre-arranged flights home while waiting for the Amundsen, the Coast Guard icebreaker that happened to be nearby conducting research, to come get them.

But adventure is not really the point of Boundless, which was recently a finalist for the 2014 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction. It is a meditation in the truest sense by a skilled and ever-so-slightly strange storyteller on a two-week trip to Canada's North.

Readers who followed the discovery this past fall of Sir John Franklin's ship HMS Erebus—lost in 1845 as he searched for the Northwest Passage—will enjoy following Winter and her fellow passengers along his route, as well as Winter's account of the ceremonial unearthing of what was supposed to be the logbook from Franklin's voyage.

The long-buried box contained a cardboard box, pieces of newspaper and tallow, but like Boundless, it still makes for a pretty good story.

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Out-of-Town-Authors: Mark Sampson

Mark Sampson is a Toronto writer.  Originally from PEI, he and I met in 1997 at the University of King's College in Halifax. We were both enrolled in the journalism program. Later, we both taught English in South Korea, though my stint was in 1998-9 and his 2003-5.

When I was in South Korea, I often looked on with longing as my male co-workers began dating Korean women. They were often engaged within the year. What I envied was the access my co-workers had to Korean culture. They were often invited to family gatherings in the country, festivals, and holiday celebrations while my sister and I tried to scrounge up dinner in a strangely empty city. What's more, my colleagues had built-in translators and tour guides.

As such, Sampson's new novel Sad Peninsula is interesting not only for its spot-on depiction of Seoul's foreigner's district but also for exploring the contemporary male Western expat/Korean woman relationship and other aspects of Korean history from a distinctly female perspective.

What do you want people to know about Sad Peninsula?

Sad Peninsula is a novel with two main threads: one tells the story of a troubled young Canadian named Michael who is teaching ESL in Seoul in 2003-2005, and who gets roped up in the sleazy, hyper-sexualized underbelly of Korea’s expat teaching community. The second thread details the history of Korea’s “comfort women”the young women and girls who were taken away by the occupying Japanese forces during the Second World War to be sex slaves on the battlefronts of China —as told through the perspective of a Korean woman named Eun-young. The two threads collide when Michael begins dating a young Korean woman named Jin, who is Eun-young’s grand-niece.

That’s the general summary of the book. But I guess what I want readers to know is that there is quite a bit of call and response between the two threads of Sad Peninsula, one that generates (I hope) a lot of thematic connections around the idea of “sexual conquest”—both on a micro-level between characters but also on a larger, colonial level between countries. I want readers to know that the book deals with a lot of difficult ideas around sex and the grey areas between seduction and coercion, and it sometimes deals with these ideas in a very graphic way. But people should know that Sad Peninsula is also a love story, and (again, I hope) a tenderly rendered one at that.

As a writer (i.e. someone whose artistic practice is predicated on time spent alone) how do you approach readings? What do you get out of them?

I love doing readings, and I think it’s because the rest of the writerly life is so solitary. When I’m writing, I tend to read my work aloud as I go, and in many ways this feels like a rehearsal for sharing the work out loud with an audience. I’m very comfortable reading in front of a crowd—I would do it daily if someone would pay me

—and I tend to adopt the voices of the characters and really get into it. I know a lot of writers have anxiety about performing their work, but this is not something I go through myself. If anything, I feel anxious if I haven’t done a reading in a while.

Now that you’ve published two novels and have a book of short stories and a collection of poems coming out in 2015 and 2016 respectively, what have you learned about writing? What have you learned about your own process?

The experience of the last few years, when I’ve begun to publish a lot more than I ever have before, has just reinforced for me the importance of continuity in my writing process. To me, it’s really important to just take a workmanlike approach to the craft and not fetishize or romanticize the writing life too much—because lord knows other people will do that for you anyway once you start having a bit of success. I work a 9-to-5 day job, so my routine is to write from 4:30 to 7:30 am, five days a week. Some days I generate 50 words and other days I generate 1,000, but either way it’s important to maintain that daily discipline, that daily continuity, especially if I’m working on a novel. I’m very protective of this time, because I know I’m not the kind of person who can come at a project in fits and starts or have dedicated “writing days.” This is just anathema to how I’m wired as a writer.

Sad Peninsula alternates between the points of view of a Michael, a failed journalist teaching English in Seoul and Eun-young, an elderly Korean woman who was a comfort woman during WWII. Did you ever have moments of discomfort about writing across all those lines—race, age, sexual violence—and how did you overcome them?

There was always a certain amount of discomfort in whether I had the chops to fully inhabit Eun-young’s world and whether I would be able to accurately and honestly render her story on the page. I mean, she’s just about as different from me as one can get: she’s female, she’s Korean, she was born in 1928, and she spent two and a half years in a “comfort station,” being raped up to 35 times a day. So I knew that the task of creating her and telling her story would be enormous. But I was also lucky in the sense that her personality began to emerge in my mind at the same time as I was researching all of the horrific things that happened in those camps, and so I was able to develop her character in tandem with what I was learning. Sometimes I would come upon some bit of information and think, “You know, that would definitely resonate with someone like Eun-young” or “Yeah, no, she really wouldn’t relate to that bit of the history.” Over time, I was able to get a real symbiosis going between my research into Korean culture and history with the lengthy character sketches I was writing for Eun-young before beginning the first draft. So that helped immensely.

Another big part of it was giving myself permission to inhabit her world and tell her story, and that took a long time, too. You always doubt yourself: have I done enough research, have I sketched out this person enough, do I really understand all the different aspect of her psyche that are going to propel her through this narrative? But at some point you have to let go of those reservations and just let her voice rise to the surface and take over. And that’s what it did.

I taught English in South Korea immediately after the IMF Crisis and spent a lot of my time in Internet cafes writing poems. What were you writing while you were there?

I was writing my first novel while I was there. I had been thinking about and mapping out Off Book for about two or three years by that point, and I used my move to Seoul to hunker down and pound it out. That had been the plan all along. But as I was closing in on my last few months there, when the novel was finally done, I began to think about how I might use some of my Korean experiences in future writing. What emerged, obviously, was Sad Peninsula, but also two or three short stories and about a half dozen poems. For a period of my life that last just 27 months, it was actually very fruitful.

Have you ever been to Winnipeg? What have you heard?

Oh yes, I lived in Winnipeg from 2000 to 2002, where I earned my MA in English at the University of Manitoba. In fact, I went to Korea the following year in part to pay off the student loans incurred during that and my previous degree. I loved Winnipeg, still do. I did quite a bit of research before moving there in 2000, and knew that its literary community definitely punched above its weight. The writers I fell in with and learned from were wonderful: David Arnason. Dennis Cooley, Alison Calder, George Amabile, Warren Cariou, to name a few. I was also there studying at the same time as a number of writers who have since emerged as the next generation of talented Prairie scribblers: Nathan Dueck, Cara Hedley, and Jonathan Ball.

To a certain degree, I think I washed up on the U of M campus in the fall of 2000 rather inexplicably: I had, for three years previous, been a relatively successful magazine writer and editor in Halifax, and I didn’t know a single soul in Winnipeg when I moved there. But that was sort of the point. I think I needed the jolt of starting my life from scratch—a much easier task when you’re still in your 20s, believe me—to really get my creative energy to the next level, and so Winnipeg served that purpose for me. I was very “regionalist” in my aesthetic at the time—needing to get away from the Maritimes in order to write about it, blah blah blah – and while the focus of my work has changed a lot since then, I still see those years as quite formative.

What are you reading right now? What are you writing right now?

I’m in the middle of K.D. Miller’s delightful new short story collection, All Saints, published earlier this year by Biblioasis. I have a real soft spot for Biblioasis’s roster of talented short fiction writers— so much so, in fact, that I married one of them—and it’s wonderful to read a writer like Miller at the very top of her game.

As for my own stuff, I am (of course!) working on a new novel. It’s about a high-profile Canadian public intellectual who says something wildly inappropriate while on live national television shortly after getting into a row with his stay-at-home wife, and how the ensuing social media fallout exposes all the cracks and fissures in his marriage. Whereas Sad Peninsula is a complex novel with many heady and serious themes, this new book will be, I hope, shorter and much more comic.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

bitter-est nut

Peeled and un-.

bitter-er nut

bitter nut

All photos RIM Park Trail, Waterloo, ON. October 25, 2014.

* * *

This is a grossly overdue posting, but the photos have been lurking on my hard drive, just biding their time. And now is that time...

On my recent southern Ontario tour of Stowaways, people familiar with my forest-y ways offered to take me for walks in the woods. And so, when  I was in Kitchener/Waterloo, poet/prof Tanis MacDonald took me to the RIM Park Trails in Waterloo, which was adjacent to a golf course.

The trails were still recovering from an ice storm the year before, which had felled a lot of trees and/or taken down branches.

Tree trunks, living or dead, usually make for great mushrooming this time of year, but they had signs about not going off path ("Environmentally Sensitive Area. Please Stay on Trail."), so I stayed on the figurative straight and narrow.

So while we saw some birds, which made Tanis happy, I was forced to amuse myself with tangles of wild cucumber and burst-open milkweed pods.

Until we came to this stand of trees, which was a new-to-me species, the Bitternut Hickory. Which is also called the Swamp or Pignut Hickory and is native to Ontario. These trees were apparently at the very edge of the Bitternut Hickory range, so I felt lucky to have seen them.

After standing under their canopy for a while, we shuffled through the leaf litter, trying to find nuts. We had just concluded that the trees must be too old/sick to have produced nuts when Tanis spied one on the middle of the path.

And then we saw them everywhere. We were, as you would imagine, simultaneously proud of ourselves and ashamed.

We each collected three or four of the hundreds on the path.

Later, I gave one to Guiliana Saimirri, the Urban Forest Coordinator for the Urban Forest Coordinator. She's the type of person who collects nuts and seeds and tries to grow them, so she showed me the collection of nuts she had in her fridge, waiting to be planted, and the jars of seed on a shelf over her dryer.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Reprint: P.I. New Poetry

So I was interviewed Sunday afternoon on CKUW, the campus and community radio station at the University of Winnipeg.

It was blizzard-y out and I was headed to the MWG's fundraising dinner at McNally's afterwards, so I was wearing my big faux-fur jacket as I walked down Ellice to the uni.

The most notable feature of the jacket is its hood, which is enormous. (I figure two faux-fur beasties died for its sake...)

All of which is to say, I looked suitably dramatic for the interview, which was for Winnipeg poet Carmelo Militano's new spoken word/poetry show, P.I. New Poetry.

Here's Carmelo's description of the show:

"P.I. New Poetry is where we investigate, interrogate and speculate poetry by the usual and unusual suspects. Hosted by poet and novelist, Carmelo Militano, man of cafes and cabarets, flaneur and general doppleganger."

(P.I. apparently stands for Post-Imperium.)(You'll have to ask Carmelo what, precisely, that means....)

Now the previous show, about all things comic book-related, went long, so our interview didn't start on time. But then the host of the show that followed Carmelo's was late—probably because it was blizzard-y out—so we went long in the interest of filling the dead air.

You can listen to the interview here, if you want, and then follow that up with the archive of interviews with other Winnipeg poets, such as Steve Snyder (October 26), Kristian Enright (November 2), and Brenda Sciberras (November 9).

Suffice to say, it was nice to gnaw away at the connective tissue between the different sections of Stowaways with Carmelo.

It was also pleasant to sit on the couch before the interview and contemplate CKUW's offices. Which, of course, were once the Uniter's offices, back when I was a student at the University of Winnipeg and worked as A&E Editor for the student newspaper.

CKUW had always had their offices/studios in the basement (I had a show one year and discovered that it really wasn't my thing...) and one year staff decided that they wanted our offices, which were on the fourth floor, up a set of stairs in the middle of the cafeteria.

They attempted to take our offices at the next UWSA AGM by stacking the meeting with their volunteers, but we got word of it and attended too. In the end, we registered our anger at the fact that they hadn't just asked to trade offices...and then shrugged and agreed to trade.

Despite all the new bricks and mortar that has expanded the University of Winnipeg's footprint into the surrounding community, the main buildings persist in looking the same way they did in 1991, my first year of university.

And I sort of like that. I also like spending a blizzard-y Sunday afternoon talking poetry, especially if it's MY poetry.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Out-of-Town-Authors: Fred Stenson

From The Winnipeg Review
By Ariel Gordon 

Alberta writer Fred Stenson recently published his sixth novel, Who by Fire (Doubleday Canada), one of the first novels to inhabit the province’s oil-and-gas-industry.

Tom and Ella Ryder work a farm in southern Alberta that’s been in the family for generations. But when a sour gas plant is erected on the next farm in 1960, the question becomes not only ‘should we leave the farm?’ but also ‘who would buy the farm now?’ given the corroded fencing, the sick and stunted livestock, and the nosebleeds. A second strand of the novel follows Bill, Tom and Ella’s son, who was most affected by the plant’s emissions, but who grows up to become an engineer at a gas plant in Fort McMurray.

As he approaches middle age, Bill staves off his loneliness with work, drink, and gambling. He can’t reconcile the loyalty he feels to his late father, to all the small communities that have become conjoined with industry, with the loyalty his employers tell him, over and over, that he should feel to the company. But, unlike the faulty gas plant in his home town, Bill is worth renovating, as readers of this compelling novel will discover:

He thought of Tom and Ella, and his sisters, and of himself when he’d been Billy—of all the people, animals, and things whose fate it was to be born too close to the fire. The shaking house, the creatures born dying, the rivers running discoloured to the sea.

Stenson’s previous novel, The Great Karoo (2008), was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. Both his two earlier historical fictions, Lightning (2003) and The Trade (2000), won Alberta’s Grant MacEwan Writer’s Award and The Trade was shortlisted for the Scotia Bank Giller Prize. His non-fiction books include Thing Feigned or Imagined, a guide to the craft of fiction, published by Banff Centre Press. This interview was conducted by email.

What do you want readers to know about Who by Fire?

What I hoped to do with this novel was to personalize the experience of industry intruding on the lives of individuals. The Ryder family story is drawn somewhat from my own experience; that is, quite a few of the precise events came from a diary my parents kept of dangerous days and nights. But I did not use myself or my actual family as characters. I wanted to portray a reality that was harder than ours—less acknowledged, I guess I mean. Our community had an air pollution lawsuit back in the ’60s; one of the couples in our suit was interviewed by Peter Gzowski on This Country in the Morning. So we were not totally ignored. But I knew there had to be many people with the same problems who were getting nowhere, who had to suffer these things alone. That’s what I wanted to portray. Also I wanted a story that could see into both solitudes: community’s and industry’s. That the character Bill, the youngest in the Ryder family, goes into the oil industry as an engineer is not at all far fetched because it is an active practice in the oil industry to try and recruit the neighbours. Farm boys make great engineers. At any rate, Bill Ryder has lived in both worlds and his loyalty is torn, always.

You’re known for your historical fiction about the West, with a capital W: you’ve focused on the fur trade, ranching, and farming. This novel, your sixth, is more contemporary, though it is also completely Western. Was writing this story a shifting of literary gears for you? Or was it a progression from your other work—are HBC Factors and army corporals similar to Texas oilmen? Are voyageurs similar to oil sands workers?

When I started writing my first historical novel (The Trade) in 1985, I was dreaming of a big cycle of novels: one for each economic frontier in western Canadian history. The problem with the plan was that The Trade took fifteen years to write and publish. By then, 2000, the plan no longer looked all that realistic. But I did move on in time with the next two novels: Lightning, about the open range ranch era and The Great Karoo, about western Canadian mounted infantrymen in the Boer War. By the time The Great Karoo came out, 2008, my vision of the “cycle” was that it was complete at three: a trio of books about the nineteenth century. But I suppose enough of the idea about the economic frontiers lingered that I felt I needed an oil industry novel too. So in that sense it is part of this historical march forward that the prairie provinces have gone through—and very rapidly. No economic frontier has lasted all that long here.

How did you come to write a novel that smelled of sulfur? (Put another way, how much research did you have to do to write this book? And how much of your own politics around climate change and resource extraction seeped into the book?)

I came to know the “smell of sulphur” altogether too well as a southern Alberta farm boy. As for knowing about the industry, I did work a couple of summers in gas plants. But the majority of my knowledge came from non-fiction writing I’ve done in the last thirty years. I have always supported my fiction with writing documentary films and non-fiction books. In Alberta, that will often take you into the oil and gas industry.

This book may be viewed as an indictment of the oil industry; I think someone has already used those words. If people feel they are being propagandized I will have failed with the novel. It is much more my hope that readers will feel moved by the predicament of people whose bad luck it is to live too close to this fire that is industry. I have lived a certain amount of this (though I’m not an oil industry engineer by any stretch) and I do feel that the kind of team play that goes on in the industry and in government is completely inappropriate when you’re dealing with individual lives and individual ecologies as well. As for my own politics being in this book, it’s natural enough that that would be so, but I hope people will notice that those beliefs include a belief that there are idealistic engineers working in places like Alberta who honestly do their best to build and operate good plants and to treat the people nearby with respect. I also believe that such idealism is no longer the quickest way to prosper in the industry, and that is extremely sad. Treating people’s lives as not important is team play gone insane.

You’ve spent much of your career telling the story of Alberta, where you were born and raised. Did you ever find it difficult to achieve the necessary distance (maybe “perspective” is the right word…) from your home province so you could write about it?

I grew up on James Joyce and the idea that he had to leave Dublin to write about Dublin. That was true of James Joyce, who luckily had an iron genius memory that retained every detail. He also wrote letters home asking for tiny data bits that he needed. But there is also something to be gained from staying in the place you write about. I would not have had the many different views of the oil and gas industry that I have had were I to have gone away at any point. The whole thing goes on changing and you need to be here to see how it plays out.

I’ve also aspired to write from Canada’s west, Alberta most specifically, as a way of being a writer. Not the only way of course, but the way I wanted to. To get to know the place by its history, by its landscape, by its cities and towns, by its changing population. I wanted to drill down, I guess.

You write a humour column for Alberta Views Magazine, but your fiction is more wry than humourous. Tell me about the pleasures of being funny.

Up until The Trade was published, I was known (to the extent that I was known at all) as a humorist. My short stories and novels had relied heavily on humour, and I honestly did not imagine myself at the time ever becoming any different as a writer. What I did from about 1990 onward was write about different things, and what those things called for was a much darker kind of story telling. I have greatly enjoyed writing a Wit column for Alberta Views (over fifteen years worth) because it lets that other side speak. There too I sometimes forget to be funny, when the subject is too dark.
You’ve run the Wired Writing Studio at The Banff Centre for many years. What has encountering young writers every fall changed how and when you write?

At The Banff Centre, I have directed the Wired Writing Studio for fifteen years. It’s a contract job, and most of the studio is on-line, so I actually only spend two weeks at Banff each fall. I have very much enjoyed this connection. I am very fond of TBC and proud to be connected to its long history of developing artists of high quality. One of the things that work stimulated me to do was to write a book about the craft of writing (Thing Feigned or Imagined). But on a more continuous basis it keeps me connected to those moments in an artist’s life when the pursuit of the art of writing is most brightly lit, burning with great heat. People sometimes ask why writing is important, but, at Banff, in the studio, no one needs to ask that. It’s a given. That has had a great deal to do with why I go on.

What are you reading right now? What are you writing right now?

I am lying fallow at present, as far as fiction writing is concerned; trying to make sure that the next project is the right project. But I have been reading like mad. One of my projects for 2014 has been to read and reread classics, so I’ve been soaking up much Dostoevsky, Hardy, Bronte, Eliot, Hamsun, Fitzgerald, Faulkner, Borges. Some of the translations of newer Spanish and South American writers are tremendous. There are many Canadian books I’m looking forward to this fall. New books by Caroline Adderson, Margaret Sweatman, Jacqueline Baker, David Adams Richards to name a few.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hosting Into the Blizzard

* * *

I'm emceeing this event on Thursday, so I've been furiously reading Into the Blizzard, Winter's first non-fiction outing, with its gorgeous layout & design, its grand biscuit-tin art. And also his last novel, Minister Without a Portfolio. And also his sister Kathleen's Boundless, which was her third non-fiction book, even if the promotional bumf suggested otherwise.

I'm interested in families with more than one artist. I'm interested in people who work in genres unfamiliar to them. I'm interested in writing, almost always.

Should be fun.

(If you've got something Michael Winter-y you've always wanted to know, tell me. And I'll ask him.)

Sunday, November 09, 2014





Assiniboine Forest, Wpg, MB. November 8, 2014. Photo by Mike Deal.

* * *

We'd planned to go for a walk in the forest with M but discovered, once we were out in the world, that I was cold. Chilled even. We were already halfway across the city, so we stopped at a Winners in the hopes of finding a hat and mitts...

In the toppling mounds of things at Winners, I snagged a pair of faux-fur mitts but the only hat I could find was a $35 knit cap. Which was about five times what I'd been hoping to pay, so I walked down Pembina to Giant Tiger. Again, nothing that wasn't Jets merch, but I found a cheap vest.

And so, now half-dressed for the weather, we went walking. But my head was still cold, and I was pulling one loop of my woolly infinity scarf up over my hair when we saw it: a buck chasing a doe across the meadow.

There was couple ahead of us on the path. And it so took M's "Hey, look at that!" for them to look up and see them.

As soon as the deer plunged into the aspens at the far edge of the meadow, the couple marched off. M and I walked a bit more slowly...and saw the male swinging his candelabra five feet into the trees, watching us. (The female was a bit further away but we located her too...)

M was cold too, so we did a quick loop. But the light was lovely and so were the deep lungfuls of forest, and the clubhouses/killing games we indulged in afterwards helped in the creature-comfort department.

Of course, I dropped the faux-fur mitts getting out of the car at The Garwood. I scooped them up while opening my door but M saw me and cracked wise, something about me already losing my new mitts.

And that was the kind of day it was.