17 May 2005

Saint John Miscellany

[me in Sault Ste. Marie during the 2000 Tour; this was the sign I used to attract audiences. I had a taste for loud shirts in them days]

Well, it's certainly been an interesting day
in Canadian politics, by golly. I've finished the Barbara Tuchman book about the 14th century, though, so nothing fazes me anymore. No one has even been poisoned yet.

In other news, I just noticed that www.plainsofabraham.ca has been moving up the Google rankings. It's #1 under "plainsofabraham" (displacing www.plainsofabraham.com, the American rock band's site), and #9 under "plains of abraham" (following, in order, someone's pictures of their trip to the battlefield; the Battlefields Park site; the CBC People's History TV segment; wikipedia; and two history-oriented sites). As Google rankings pretty much dictate the divine will by now, this is nice to see.

(Update: #1 for "plains" & "epic"; #1 for "abraham" & "epic"; a dedicated link to the site at #3 for "epic" & "canadian." Not even in the Top 10 for "epic" & "performance," however.)

Speaking of random Google searches, I noticed some rather striking, Ani DeFranco-esque lyrics to a song titled "Plains of Abraham." Yet more proof of the strikingly Biblical resonance of the battlefield's name; it goes to show that once a phrase gets out into the popular consciousness it will be reinterpreted. What, one wonders, is the imagined relationship between plains and Abraham? Caanan is not, to my shoddy recollection, described as flat. In my mind, Abraham is associated with mountains. Does he walk across plains to get to the mountain? I can't find anything about that in Genesis, though Cecil B. DeMille would certainly have insisted on it.

The true story of how the Plains of Abraham (Canadian version) got their name is that they were named after Abraham Martin, called "The Scot." (This Abraham was a pilot; piloting was a very international profession at the time.) He apparently settled inland from the shore upriver from Cap Diamant; the Heights along the shore were thus called, logically enough, the "Heights of Abraham," while the plateau at their top was called the "Plains of Abraham." Curiously enough, the battle is still known as the "Battle of the Heights of Abraham" to the British. Even though this phrase would seem to correspond more adroitly with the Patriarch's story, it seems that the word "plains" carries a much more biblical resonance in and of itself than does the word "heights" (which has all but disappeared in contemporary speech except in the "fear of heights").

People sure are friendly in the Maritimes. There I was today, driving like mad to reach a rendezvous with a Globe and Mail photographer at Fort Howe downtown and faced with an unexpected toll bridge across the bay; and not a single coin on me, or anywhere in the car. (I know; I searched madly while actually parked in the toll lane at the machine.) And what happens, of course, but the big pickup behind me starts honking its horn and blinking its lights, and the thought is crossing my mind that I'm about to be scaled, when lo & behold the guy walks up to my car and hands me the coins for the toll with a smile. Perhaps this is a regular occurance here, or indicative of something or other, but for someone used to the take-no-prisoners highway ethos of California, it was deeply unsettling.

Tomorrow morning, we take the ferry to Digby, NS. My memory of it from last Tour is less than 100% cheerful: I had camped in the Annapolis valley somewhere or other, in the pouring rain, and was profoundly damp all the following day, crossing in the other direction to Saint John.


Anonymous said...

I didn't know this was how the Plains of Abraham were named. Will you be performing there? I like your blog.

Anonymous said...

Go get 'em, Jack-o! I wish I could experience the magic personally! I love magic, especially the magic of epic poetry. Instead, I am stuck at the corner of Cole and Waller, drinking a milky-sweet coffee, remembering times past.