Neil on the War of 1812 and Other Happy Endings
Neil in his latest blog post mentions how far down on the radar screen the War of 1812 is to Americans and to the British and yet how far up on the screen it is to Canadians, especially those in Ontario, since some of the war’s most important battles were fought there.
For Canadians, not only was the war not a minor skirmish, but it represented a moment when they got the better of the Americans, defeating them in their effort to “annex” the country.
Of course, as Neil says, whether the Americans really wanted to annex Canada or just give the British a poke in the eye is something that might never be resolved. But the war ended well enough for Canada and for the United States. Canada got to keep the Americans out and burnished its national identity on the world stage, and the United States got to beat the British for a second time. All Britain got was a headache and a memory it would rather forget—and for the most part has.
Which takes us to Neil’s point: whether you’re talking about war or adventure, as long as the outcome is good, the story is fun to tell. It’s the ones in which the outcome isn’t good that the story isn’t fun to tell and indeed rarely if ever gets told. You can bet the British aren’t telling stories about the War of 1812.
In any case, for Neil, his travels around the United States and Canada during the late spring and early summer leg of the Clockwork Angels tour was full of adventure—meaning, of course, that the outcome of his adventure was good. But things could have gone the other way.
In the upper peninsula of Michigan, for example, he and riding partner Michael Mosbach defied their GPS and took a road that looked like a road on a paper map but that was actually a snowmobile trail, and the result was nearly a catastrophe, with both of their bikes slipping out from underneath them. In Michael’s case, the bike took him down an embankment, eventually pinning his leg under the bike frame. Neil was able to lift the bike up enough for Michael to pull his leg out, so the outcome was good.
Later, in Nova Scotia, Neil ran over a nail and had to ride on a steadily deflating tire for the last leg of his ride. With no place to get air, there was nothing to do except hope that the tire would last long enough for them to get to their destination. And it did, and thus the outcome is another good story to tell.
Neil sets this conversation up about stories ending well or ending badly in an interesting way. At the beginning of his blog post, he shows a picture of him in Nova Scotia at a natural landmark, called Balancing Rock (left), and the name captures exactly the rock’s precipitousness: it’s balancing on another rock and it looks like it could easily fall in one direction or the other. Which direction it falls determines whether the story turns out well or turns out badly.
In the end, all of the stories turned out well, and Neil, while he was in Michigan, shows a picture of himself enjoying a glass of The Macallan outside his motel room. The whiskey tasted good because the adventure to get there—with the slipping in the mud and everything—was especially fraught with uncertainty. That’s the trade-off you make.
Neil’s a compelling writer, so it all makes for interesting reading. But he also gives us a little news in his blog post, too. He mentions the misinformation that got passed along after the band’s participation in the July 10 Québec city Festival d’été had to be cut short because of weather. Rush was just one of several acts at the festival, and after it had played about three-quarters of its show, the management directed the band to end its set early. Geddy made the announcement—in English—and the band did what it was told to do.
“I ran offstage . . . while Alex and Geddy, in their cars, drove off to the airport to fly home for the night,” Neil says.
As it turned out, the storm veered away and the festival resumed. But many people were left with the impression that Rush scooted off on its own, because, as Neil tells it, Geddy had made the announcement in English and Quebec City is mostly French speaking. “The Quebec City press spread the impression that it had been Geddy personally who had stopped the show, which was wrong and misleading,” Neil says.
To help set the record straight and to offer up something in return for their mad dash out, the band sent a recording from their next show, in Halifax, of the six songs they didn’t play to the local rock radio station to give away to listeners. “Nothing more we could do,” he says.
The other bit of news has to do with the band’s effort to remix their 2002 studio album Vapor Trails. Back in May, Geddy and Alex spent part of their time off the tour “overseeing a remixed version” of the album. That suggests the project could be in its final stages and possibly ready for release after the Clockwork Angels tour ends, which is in just a few days. (It ends August 2 with the Denver show.)
When the remixed album comes out, that will certainly be a good ending to the Vapor Trails story. The band has never been happy with the production on the album, so getting a new and improved version out there will certainly be a good way to give that tale a happy ending.–-Rob Freedman, Rush Vault
Read Neil’s July blog post, called “On Days Like These,” in its entirety.