Accordion, Instrument of the Gods It Happened to Me

Last Sunday in Boston


After BloggerCon, a number of us — Boss Ross, Dave, Doc, Wendy, Roland, Griff, Phil, Britt and Ryan went to dinner at an Indian restaurant near Harvard Square. Dave, upon finding out that I knew lots about Indian food, put me in charge of ordering.

Sissy K’s

After dinner, Ryan and I tried to convince some of the dinnerfolk to join us in a Guinness-drinking and music-enjoying trip to Boston. Everyone was too tired, and Boris, who phoned me after he’d finished dinner with Joi, was too drunk.

(If you want to drink plenty and drink well, hanging out with Joi is a good strategy.)

So it was just me and Ryan. We took the subway from Cambridge into Boston.

Our first stop was Sissy K’s. Located in the area around Faneuil Hall, it’s Ryan’s first regular hangout, which he started frequenting days after he turned 21 (the outrageously late legal drinking age in the States). We walked in as Ryan’s friend Greg Luttrell, played acoustic guitar on stage while singing a very sweet rendition of Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds:

Don’t worry about a thing

‘Cause every little thing’s gonna be all right

We went straight to the bar, at a spot right beside the Guinness taps.

The staff — most of whom were pretty women in tight shirts — all knew Ryan. The one working the bar, having seen Ryan enter, had already started pouring a pint of Guinness.

The bar was pretty lively for a Sunday night, which might had something to do with the Boston Red Sox / Oakland A’s baseball game that had taken place earlier that evening. A raucous bunch of Irish and Engliosh accented-men in various “footy” club shirts stood beside us, goading each other into drinking yet another pint.

“We’re from the bloody RAF! We’re deliverin’ jets!” yelled one of them at me. “RAF, you know wot tha’ is, then?”

“Royal Air Force,” I replied. “I’m from Canada. We’ve got Legion halls too, they’re all identical, with dartboards and pictures of the Queen.”

“A Commonwealth guy! Y’didn’t happen to bring any of tha’ Canadian beer with yeh?”

“‘Fraid not.”

“Ah, feck. Guess it’s the American pisswater then. It’s na’ even strong enough to wean babies!”

Ryan walked off to chat with Greg while I talked a little more with the British guys, who were drunkenly telling me that their assignment was comprised of activities that they were absolutely not allowed to talk about. He returned a couple of minutes later, telling me that Greg had invited me on stage to join him for a rendition of The Who’s Squeeze Box. Greg let me have an extended solo — thanks, Greg!

After playing, I returned to the bar and was introduced to Ryan’s friend Kristin, who’d sung a couple of numbers with Greg earlier. We chatted for a while until the bartender informed us that they’d run out of Guinness. A bar’s stock is always lowest at the end of the weekend; my guess is that the RAF guys must’ve drained the keg.

Before we left, Ryan got a gropesome goodbye from some young woman.

“I almost didn’t quite leave with you,” he said.

“Perfectly understandable. The Uniform Code of Guys allows you to do that under those conditions.”

“Yeah, but she’ll be in town after tomorrow, while you won’t.”

Thanks, Ryan!


Ryan, Kristin and made our way from Sissy K’s to Clarke’s. Clarke’s looks considerably larger than Sissy K’s and has two large bar rooms. We went past the first one and straight into the back, which had a dance floor and a stage. A trio, consisting of Chad LaMarsh on acoustic guitar, his friend Stu Sinclair on electric guitar and a guy named Woody on hand drum played a mix of cover tunes and Chad’s own songs. At the end of the set, Chad came over to talk to Ryan, during which we were introduced. Chad saw the accordion and invited me to join them for the next step.

“Everyone,” he said wehen I got onstage, “this is Joey from Toe-ron-toe!”

Most Americans pronounce it that way; Canadians prefer the proper “Tronno”.

“The keys might be a bit weird,” said Stu, as he plugged in his guitar. “We’re all tuned down a half-step.”

“That’s okay,” I replied. “I could use the practice.”

We performed a popular rock number (I can’t remember which, though) in E flat and, in honour of “Toe-ron-toe”, The Barenaked Ladies’ One Week in A flat, and the guys let me solo in both songs. Thanks, guys!

The handsomest Asian guy she’s ever seen

We left Clarke’s after the bar shut down and hung out by the taxi stand while Ryan lit another cigarette. We were approached by a woman who asked us what we were doing out so late. We told her that we’d been at a conference all day, had dinner, and spent the night catching live acts at bars in the Market. She told us that she was a waitress at the bar across the street and pointed it out.

She turned to me and said “Uh, look…D’you mind if I say something, and I hope you don’t take it the wrong way. I mean it as a compliment, but it might sound a little…um, racist.”

“Ah, go ahead,” I said. I’d had such a good weekend and was riding the crest of having spent the evening with good company, good beer and even some impromptu accordion jamming. Ryan was trying to keep a straight face. He’d read an earlier entry in my blog, and as a result was expecting the same statement I was: You speak such good English!

“You are like, the handsomest Asian guy I have ever seen. I mean, you’re gorgeous!”

Holy shit, I thought. Just when you think nothing will surprise you anymore…

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Ryan doubling over with surprise and laughter.

“Thank you,” I said.

“No, really. You know, you normally don’t think of Asian guys as being hot…” she continued.

(I do. Every time I look in the mirror!)

“…but you’re totally hot. And you have a nice smile. And an accordion!”

Thank you, miss, whoever you are.

And thank you for being there, Ryan. The only thing better than being told you’re hot is being told you’re hot in front of witnesses!

Recommended Reading

Two things from the lyrics of Barenaked Ladies’ One Week that might have gone straight over your head if you’re not from Canada or “Tronno”:

  • Chalet Suisse: The French name for Swiss Chalet, a chain of roast chicken restaurants in Canada. A lot of people like their chicken dipping sauce. The use of the French name by English-speakers is sort of like the hipster American habit of pronouncing the name of the American department store Target with a French accent — “Tar-zhay”.
  • Birchmount Stadium, home of the Robbie: A small stadium (seats 6,000) in Scarborough, an east-end suburb of Accordion City. The Robbie is a soccer tournament.

Little-known fact outside Canada: Real Canadians don’t like the Barenaked Ladies or Nickelback. Only Americans and Canadian crypto-Americans (their bodies are in “905” — the area code for Toronto’s suburbs — but their hearts and souls are in New Jersey) do.

Boris has posted his photos from his trip to Boston, which include some of yours truly.

As if dating weren’t already fraught with peril…

10 replies on “Last Sunday in Boston”

Not sure about the whole BNL thing (If I Had A Million Dollars is among my favourite tunes – top 100 or so), but I know we sure as hell don’t love Celine Dion as much as some of them Damn Yanks think we do. Why, I could go an entire lifetime or two without hearing “My Heart Will Go On”…

-an all-Canadian 905er who pronounces every T, but doesn’t call it T-dot

As someone whose body is currently in “201”, I feel obligied to pass along the fact that real New Jerseyites don’t like Bon Jovi.

Nor do they call it “New Joisey”–those are the transplants from Long Island.

Thanks for ordering the Indian food for all of us, Joey. I stuffed myself… best Indian food I’ve eaten, next to my hometown favorite, Chapati, right here in Northfield, MN. A blog client of mine, natch!

I hear that real Long Islanders pronounce it “Lawn Guyland”. I used to annoy my former girlfriend from Hempstead by pronouncing it that way.

Actually I think anyone who isn’t from Ontario calls it Toe-ron-toe. But what the hell do they know. They should just change the name officially to Tronno just so everyone gets it right. Or even go the whole hog and just call it Accordion City (after all, those in the know call it that) 😉

real canadians *shouldn’t* like BNL or (heaven forbid) Nickleback, but I know quite a few born-and-bred torontonians who’re huge BNL fans (and oddly enough, almost all of ’em live near yonge & eglinton..what does that tell ya)..

She lives in Boston and she’s never found Asian guys hot before? What rock does she live under? Hello! College town! I’ve dated my way across Asia in the years I’ve been here.

She’s a recent transplant from Houston. I get the feeling that the Asian community there isn’t as big as it is in cities on the coasts.

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