Reunion and Remembrance with @MarkBlevis and the “Bob Mob”

Jay Moonah and the PAB Players Back when Voyageur was still a bunch of materials scattered across Canada taking shape only in my mind and the mind of the luthier, I knew I wanted to build a community at the same time as we built a guitar. It was 2005 - Apple had just launched their "Podcast" platform as part of iTunes and my friend Tod Maffin was (as usual) way ahead of the technology curve. And we came up with the idea of doing a series of short audio documentaries for this new platform that would begin to articulate this community of musicians and fans and educators across Canada through which Voyageur would eventually find its voice. Tod introduced me to a talented young producer in Ottawa named Mark Blevis who would eventually oversee the creation of the documentary series. While they never got the audience I felt they deserved, they still resonate powerfully for me.

A few years later - once Six String Nation was very much alive and out and about in the world - Mark invited me to present the project at the sophomore gathering of podcast pioneers called Podcasters Across Borders in Kingston Ontario. Just like me, he was building a community around a collection of stories and storytellers meeting on a new platform. There were certainly people I knew from the radio world there but also a whole new tribe of independent producers laying the groundwork for the medium that would make good on the promise of the technology to let people tell stories to a local or global audience without the apparatus of mass, corporate media. Mark's partner-in-crime in creating the PAB Conference was Bob Goyetche - an IBM IT guy from Montreal by profession but a songwriter and storyteller by passion - and the two of them co-hosted most of the events at the conferences. Seeing the two of them together, it was easy to see how they came by the nicknames of "Bert" (Mark) and "Ernie" (Bob). As part of my presentation, Bob played Voyageur with Mark accompanying on bass. Apparently, the presentation and the presence of the guitar at that 2007 conference made quite an impact on the attendees as Mark relayed to me in subsequent conversations. Indeed, one of the attendees, Ken Bole, helped lay the groundwork for me to obtain the swatch of fabric from the Vancouver Asahi baseball jersey from the Japanese-Canadian Cultural Centre six years later!

When Bob died unexpectedly of an undetected heart condition this past November 10th, it was naturally devastating for his wife, Cathy, and son, Simon but also for this continent-wide community whose trail he had blazed. That same community responded with equal measures of shock and support since the fall and this past weekend they reconvened in Kingston to be together, to remember Bob and to raise a little money for a college fund for Simon. I was honoured to be asked to attend and once again feel the strength of that community. We met for a cruise around Kingston Harbour on the Island Belle and swapped stories as part of the ceremony. Following the speeches and the auction (where I didn't get the print I wanted but did manage to raise some surprisingly good money for a few Six String Nation guitar picks!), I brought out Voyageur and put it in the hands, first, of podcaster and Twisted Pines Festival Duct Tape Guy, Sean McGaughey - who performed a song written specifically for this guitar called, fittingly, "Six String Nation" and then of fellow former-CBCer Jay Moonah (aka Broke Fuse), who lead the spontaneously assembled PAB Players in a rendition of, again fittingly, "With a Little Help from My Friends".

Thanks again to Mark Blevis, Tod Maffin, Cathy Bobkowicz, Mark and Maureen Blaseckie, Angela Misri and everyone else who welcomed Sarah and me into that very special embrace in memory of Bob.

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