I just wrapped up my four-day road trip to Central Newfoundland with Riley and Corbin. For the most part, we spent our time soaking up the tranquility of our evenings in isolation. But our first night in Twillingate was a celebration.
We pulled into Twillingate on a Friday afternoon. Our first stop was to visit Iceberg Quest’s new food joint on their pier, the Canvas Cove Café. We knew the precedent had been set for our trip when we went to settle our bill, only to find it was “cash only.” The waitress, Tara, waved us off. “It’s okay, you can come back and pay tomorrow!”
To kick off our road-trip celebration, we picked up some beers to enjoy before a dinner of cod tongues and fish and brewis at The Anchor Inn. We’d be participating in a Kitchen Party that evening with Karen Churchill. This is a Newfoundland tradition where everyone gathers in somebody’s kitchen for song, drink, and merriment. It’s like a big communal concert, with everyone clacking away on Ugly Sticks, tambourines, and anything else that makes noise.
We arrived at Georgie’s Pub for the party and immediately realized that we were the only people there under 50. I feared we’d be singled out as “the young hooligans in the back” who’d only come to mock the celebrations.
Nothing of the sort.
An Ugly Stick was immediately thrust at me. Being the only Newfoundlander of my crew, I was expected to know how to use it. The pressure. I couldn’t tell if the Stick was standing correctly or completely arse up. With great trepidation, I started slapping the other stick against it, pumping the mop end into the floor.
At some point, Karen sang out for the Ugly Stick folks to get up and dance. I stood by my table, grinning like an idiot, until she singled me out.
“You – young one! Get up here with the rest!”
And then I Ugly Stick jammed with a bunch of seniors who seriously knew how to jam.
Back at the table, we laughed and got back into the groove. An 82-year old Ugly Stick pro by the name of Gladys approached me. “Let me teach you!” And then I was given the best musical lesson of my life. She was pure class, tall and charming and full of life. I want to be her.
By the time the Screech-In ceremony started, our table had an embarrassing collection of beer bottles. Riley and Corbin were preparing to kiss the cod and shoot some of Newfoundland’s most notorious rum. At the front of the room, I was invited to participate.
“I’m a Newfoundlander! I’m from Bay d’Espoir!” I shouted defensively. They all seemed shocked. Was it my Ugly Stick inabilities?
Riley and Corbin pulled it off like pros. Well, as pro as you can get when your table is littered with empty India bottles. They’ve got the certificates to prove it.
The night ended with Corbin on-stage strumming the guitar with Karen. Riley and I danced jigs. And the Kitchen Party participants came to talk to us one-by-one as they made their way home.
Red-rimmed eyes and pounding heads, we grabbed coffees the next morning at The Crow’s Nest and sought out greasy breakfasts. And we ran into those lively, upbeat seniors everywhere we went, apparently untouched and unperturbed by the previous night’s festivities.