Caber tossing, Brian Monty's blues benefit, and a missed exit - my Maxville, Ontario adventure

Sounds like a great title for a wacky movie, huh? Maybe someday, but it hints at the kind of weekend I just had. I know what you're thinking - here goes Jon again with another string of random words that he somehow stiches together. That's right. There's more to life than VoIP, telepresence, SIP trunking and fixed mobile convergence, and now you're going to hear about it. If this isn't your cup of tea, then move on, and go back to your Twitter feeds. I'm a big believer in serendipity, and sometimes, it's just more fun - and interesting - to let things unfold instead of trying to get things right all time. Life's just like that, and that's fine by me.

So where are we going this time? Ottawa - I drove there to visit a good friend this weekend. That actually went to plan - it's all the other unplanned stuff that brings me to this post. I'll begin by simply saying that everything happens for a reason, even when things go wrong. This adventure could only have happened to me, and when I connect the dots here, those of you who like surprises and the unexpected (c'mon, it's Halloween!), will totally understand.

I'll start with what is normally a very uneventful trip - driving from Toronto to Ottawa. Despite there being nobody on the road and perfect driving conditions, I inexplicably missed the exit for Ottawa and drove way further until reaching Quebec, at which point I realized I'm WAY off target. No big deal - just double back and I'll get there just fine. Well, I never take the easy route, and decided to follow some sideroads and discover parts of Ontario I'd never seen.

This plan worked just fine, and I made my way through towns and hamlets I'd never heard of. There really was no grand plan to my route, and along the way I come by a town called Maxville. First time I'd come across this town, and it made me smile; some of you would know that my oldest son - the real tech guru in our family - is Max. Neat, huh? I took that as a good sign and that all was not lost.

I kept driving merrily along, and Ottawa was still a good hour away. That would normally be the end of the story, and how was I to know that I would be back very nearby for my evening's entertainment? Not in a million years. The unlikely connections were only just beginning.

So, I get to Ottawa, where my old friend Roger is happy to see me, and we laugh about how I ended up getting there via Quebec. We talk about plans to go out that night, and then one of his friends calls to see if we want to join her. She asked if I like blues? Well, duh. Unlikely connection #2. If you know my life outside of telecom, you'll know that blues is #1. Music is my passion, and blues is what I enjoy playing, listening to and supporting. On that "note", as a sidebar, if you like Canadian blues, you should support the Toronto Blues Society, which I have served as a board member for about 20 years.

Back to the story. Roger and I say we're in, and then she explains the deal. It's a benefit event for a local and renowned guitar maker (luthier, to be more appropro) - Brian Monty - but it's a bit of a drive. Ok, so where is it?, we ask. Guess you figured that out by now - near Maxville. Aha! I told them how I JUST came from there via my misadventure on the road. Quirky huh? Now I get to go to the town with my son's namesake in the middle of nowhere - not once, but twice in the same frickin' day.

I dunno what the odds of that happening are, but for me, they're on par with the biblical events that unfolded for my Red Sox on the last day of the regular season a few weeks ago. I know people talk about Game 6 of this year's World Series being unprecedented for unlikely events, but c'mon, that's a minor footnote compared to the way things climaxed around midnight for the Rays to knock the Sox out of the wildcard. Time to move on - there's no joy in dwelling on that anymore...

Anyhow, I really like when stuff like this happens - it's all for a reason, and the fun would be spoiled if we ever found out why. If you live your life according to a fixed schedule, these things will drive you nuts. Relax. It's ok - take the wrong road every now and then - you never know where it will go, and how much fun you might actually have.

Coming back to tech/telecom briefly - some of the best innovation comes from happy accidents. You may think you know where you're going writing that cool iPhone app, but it's more likely that someone will use it in an entirely new way that's way more cool and makes way more money. Serendipity - have faith - it will provide.

I need a bit of coda here, as I'm sure you're looking to see how the story ends. So, what's the deal with caber tossing? Ok, it's a stretch - I'll admit it, but it just sounds so good in the title. I thrive on the obscure, and I'll bet at least one of you out there knows what Maxville is famous for. You can pipe in on this one any time, but for everyone else, I have learned it's been home to the Glengarry Highland Games since 1948, including the North American Pipe Band Championships. Who knew? I love the bagpipes, but I guess when you have this many blowing away, you'd better be out in the fields. And yeah, caber tossing too. Cool.

While I'm at it, there's another stretch in the story (you have a problem with that?). I may have been near/by Maxville twice in the same day, but I never actually went there. Is that so wrong? I drove through on my way to Ottawa, and the Brian Monty benefit wasn't in Maxville - that was just the biggest town nearby to give people an idea where it was. The benefit actually took place in neighboring Vankleek Hill - how's that for a name? There's actually a good story as to why Brian lives there, but I'll leave that aside for now. Being a blues guy, I know this would be a lot of fun, and it was one of the best blues outings I've had in years. Brian is battling throat cancer, and the event was hugely successful in raising much needed money to help him do that.

It was a very unlikely setting for a show, but people came from all over Ontario and Quebec - totally packed, and totally fun. The bands were great, including Toronto-based Blues Angels. Also performing as The Lincolns, they include the father-son tandem of Prakash and Jordan John. We were in top company as Prakash is the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame - it's worth the trip to Cleveland, btw. There were actually two father/son tandems on the bill that night - another reason to smile, as my youngest son is a budding guitar god. I got him started playing blues on guitar together, but he's way beyond me technically now, and is on a pretty good path to being in the music business.

I've gone on long enough, and think I've tied everything up now. It's all about Maxville - one way or another - and now you know a whole lot about what makes me tick. Anybody want to go on a driving trip with me with no maps or GPS?

Last thing - for the blues fans out there - here's a photo taken by my friend Roger on his iPhone - it's the Stephen Barry Band, mainstays of the Montreal blues scene: