The International Adventures of the Binghamton Morris Men

Friday evening by various means, the Binghamton Morris Men arrived at the Tranzac Club, 292 Brunswick Ave, Toronto, Ontario for the start of the 2015 Toronto Morris Ale.

The BMM side was kind of strange. We’d gotten an invitation to the ale but there wasn’t much favorable response when Ken asked about it, so it seemed we wouldn’t go and Ken made other plans. Then during the ATM Alex Naar pushed for going and got something like a side to commit, but drawn heavily on the away members; in the end we had seven BMM men there. And no women! Neither Roberta nor Maggie could go. But we had me, Peter Klosky, Tom Keays, Will Quale, and Devin Pierce all of whom could play music (though normally do not, for BMM); we also had Alex and Jim Moskin. Just before the ale Alex talked Jud MacIntyre into coming. He’s on Foggy Bottom, not BMM, but he borrowed a vest and danced as an eighth BMM for the weekend.

Other teams attending were Green Fiddle, Toronto Morris Men, Cold Barn, Orange Peel, Toronto Women’s Sword, Thames Valley International, Bassett Street Hounds, Rock Creek, and Dame’s Rocket.

Not a lot happens Friday evening at the Toronto Ale but we did get some pickup morris going, primarily BMM and Rock Creek people. We thought the TFMM would be doing that too, but no, they were in the front room singing… as was I once the dancing dissipated. I sang “Yangtze River Chantey” for the first time; they knew the chorus and it went well. Jud and I met up with our billeting host, Lynn Westerhout, and went off to sleep at her very nice house whose walls are covered with books, LPs, photos, and various string instruments — including a couple ukuleles, but she principally plays banjo.

Saturday morning Jud and I walked to the subway station, bought a day pass for two, and rode to Bloor and Spadina and walked from there to the Tranzac. We had some breakfast, and I went to change into my kit. At some point I discovered I couldn’t find my wallet. I thought I’d just mislaid it a few minutes earlier, but on further thought realized I had no conscious recollection of seeing it since buying ice cream the night before. I’m pretty sure I had it later, though, and my best guess is I left it at the subway station counter.

Anyway, I searched the club, Lynn’s house and car, and my bags; I asked at the subway station; it didn’t turn up. Before the tour I called Heather to ask her to call the credit card companies (she did, and all the cards were canceled before any new charges turned up) ,and Sunday morning I reported the wallet missing to the police. I did still have my passport, and my cell phone. Could have been worse.

Before departing the club, the BMM rehearsed a few dances not familiar to all present.

Touring Saturday was with TFMM and TVI and we started at the corner of Yonge and Gould. Did two dances each (I played one) in the sunny hot dancing spot, then tour leader Stefan decided to take us to an unscheduled pub stop at The Imperial Pub Aquarium Bar and Library Lounge. Yay Stefan. Then we danced again, two more, on Gould near Ryerson University; then official pub stop at Hair of the Dog; then massed dancing at Allen Gardens. Yep, five whole dances on that tour. Except we also did some dancing in the pub (where also we sang anthemic songs, and I pulled “Clementine” (to the tune of “God of Grace and God of Glory”) out of deep repertoire). Our show dance was Johnson the Butcher.

Dinner was back at the Tranzac, and it was good. Contradance followed. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to contradance, play in the pickup band, or do something else; some pickup morris on the street had been mentioned, but I don’t think it ever happened. Finally I gathered up instruments and joined the band. In back, away from the microphones, because I’m far from used to correlating chord names with shapes on the baritone ukulele I’d brought mainly for that purpose. When I decided I couldn’t cope with chords I switched to pennywhistle and when the melody was beyond me, hand drum. It was fun, and one of the few chances I’ll ever have to play in a contradance band with someone doubling on bassoon and theremin.

Then there was more singing, then the subway and walking back to Lynn’s.

Sunday after the police report we went to the Tranzac, had breakfast, ran through a few more dances, and went to dance on Bloor Street, closed off for many blocks just for us. Well, maybe not just for us. We pubbed at the Pauper, danced some more, pubbed some more. Got more than 4 dances in this time. Mainly in the shade. Us were BMM, TFMM, and Rock Creek. Which is possibly an even more fun tour than BMM, TFMM, TVI. At the second pub I was surprised to learn one of the Rock Creek women has a PhD in nuclear physics. Man. There could be a nuclear physicist right next to you and you wouldn’t know.

Show dances were, as has been the case for more than a decade and maybe more than two, at the pizza oven in Dufferin Grove Park; we did John Peel. No jokes about pizza peels or Orange Peel were made.

The two massed stands were unfortunately the only places we got to see the dancing of Toronto Women’s Sword — they did killer rapper on Saturday and a beautiful Papa Stour Sunday — and Dame’s Rocket, a women’s Northwest team from Brasstown, NC I’d not seen before, who also turned in great performances both days. Rock Creek did some of the best Cotswold I’ve seen recently. Great to tour with them.

BMM (minus Jud who went following singers) returned to the Pauper after the massed stand, and then went kitty corner across the intersection and danced across from outdoor diners who mostly ignored us, but we did five (six?) dances in four traditions, just the seven of us. Then back for dinner, gin and tonics, singing.

Monday morning Lynn dropped Jud off at the airport and me at John Mayberry’s house (where Peter stayed), and Peter and I headed back. Between a Labor Day parade, border delay, general holiday traffic, and needing to stop repeatedly to deal with a piece of Peter’s car that kept wanting to fall off, the trip home took close to seven hours, but I made it and presume Peter did too.

There’s a few pictures here.


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