Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bluer than, well, that's between me and Harvey.

Harvey Parks died last week at 80. No big news compared to the Tigeress keeping her head down and swinging, but it set off a wave of nostalgia that echoed from where I sit, back to a 13-year old girl skiing up to the chairlift to be greeted by a devilish grin, a wink, and a "No school again today huh, you ugly lil' bitch."

Harvey Parks had the bluest eyes, the foulest mouth and the biggest heart of anyone I have ever met. A lift attendant at the ski hill where I grew up too fast – Harvey was a seasonal fixture in my youth. I could quite possibly owe my colourful vocabulary and eloquent delivery entirely to Harvey, and his terms of endearment.

It was from Harvey I learned that rye is best served warm in a dirty, styrofoam cup; that appearances are just that; to protect the things you love; to be yourself and speak your mind; and a really cold, windy day was best described as "blowin' like a whore at a Legion convention."

The last time I was home, I paid a visit to Harvey and his long-suffering wife, Iona. A chain smoker, I had to chuckle when I saw the miserable old prick hooked up to an oxygen machine in his living room. Permanently tanned from summer farming and winters spent loading uptight city asses on to the Minute Mile chairlift, Harvey's face was criss-crossed with hard work – and come to think of it, he looked a bit like a cross between Alfred E. Newman and Paul Newman – but it was those blue, blue eyes of his that will twinkle for all eternity. That morning, he greeted me and my cousin with a hearty, "Would ya look at what the sonofabitch of a cat dragged in" and gave me a warm hug that bordered ever so slightly on a grope, but it wouldn't be Harvey if he didn't try.

In that small town where I grew up under the watchful eye of men like Harvey, I can almost hear the 8-track playing Elvis's Blue, Blue, Blue Christmas over and over through tinny outdoor speakers perched above the Osborne's Electric sign. Makes me want to grab my best friend Simone, a six pack of Lonesome Charlie and go back roading, just thinking about it.

I've been thinking about blue Christmases since I was in Sobeys last week. A woman behind me starting loading bottles of Van Dyck's Blueberry Juice onto the checkout belt. She had cases of the stuff in her cart and at $10 bucks a 500ml bottle I figured she was either addicted, or crazy, or both, so I said with a Harvery-esque wink, "Soooo... a little vodka and blueberry back at the ol' assisted living facility?" The uptight ol' bitch avoided eye contact and said she was a supporter of shopping locally and was giving Nova Scotian blueberry juice as gifts.

Fair enough. I am all for antioxidants and shopping locally, no need to get all pissy about it. Toss in a sexy martini glass and some cocktail napkins from Thornbloom and you've got a blue Christmas worth singing about. In fact, once I get rid of this fucking swine flu, I'm heading downtown for a little holiday shopping myself. I guarantee there won't be Elvis Christmas Carols piped in on Spring Garden Road, but Onyx makes a wicked Blueberry vodka martini with sake, blueberry tea reduction and passion fruit. Twilight they call it.

A couple of those and my green eyes will be twinkling all Harvey Parks blue, blue, blue – just in time for Christmas. Cheers! Harvey, ya lovely ol' bastard.

Onyx is at 5680 Spring Garden Road in Halifax.
Van Dyk's Blueberry Juice is available at Sobeys and health food stores across Canada, or by contacting Randy MacDonald at 902-542-4405, or