Thursday, 16 July 2015

Wednesday Night on Hastings

Arrived late last night. The midnight walk from Waterfront Station to the Patricia Hotel is always a shock, never more than at midnight on a chilly Tuesday. The glows of crack bowls lit my way like eerie, wayward jack-a-lanterns. Cop cars' sirens, ambulances, a lady trying to scrap passers-by wearing an open, tattered blue housecoat wide open, her wrinkled, sagging tits and unkempt bush blowing in the cool night air--these were the sad symphonies of this Vancouver night. Cardboard beds lining sections of the street as bums and junkies huddled for warmth, protection and camaraderie. This is the family we so often ignore.

Welcome home. Welcome to Canada.

This is a strip where our human condition is displayed in its rawest form. This is not Disneyland, this is not the Sunshine Coast--this is our humanity and these our frailties and our failures—and all of this is all so wonderfully real.

Fly By Night

Ok, so here we go—off to the races, of sorts. Yesterday was a road trip, solo—with some trepidation. I drove 8.5 hours through the heart of Thailand: rain, heat, rain, lost (20 minutes), Bangkok signs, expressway (thought I’d get lost and didn’t), hotel: breathe. Traveling alone is great, allows the mind to stretch, lets the driver pass when not completely safe, listen to Max Webster’s greatest hits twice, back-to-back. Two stops: both times got diesel, one time added two bags of salted peanuts and a 1.5 liter bottle of water. That was it. Two stops. Two pisses (really). No wasted time and thoughts of food. I knew there was food in Bangkok and so on I drove. I sang along to the complete 14 tracks of McCartney and Wings, greatest hits, the Scottish song twice. I listed to Rush’s Permanent Waves (amazing album!) as I rolled slowly into the City of Angels. And all this, why? And without the famile? And why and how and why, again? Well, here’s how the story goes.

I knew Rush was playing in Vancouver on the 17th, July. I knew it was their R40 tour—40 years of the same three dudes pushing out impossibly good, complex, interesting music (and almost completely without a radio hit and well over 40 million in album sales, third only to the Beatles and the Stones in their string of gold records). Thus far this was cool and I was only envious of those able to attend, but I knew I could not. I was in Thailand. I was working. I was busy with the family and the farm. One day I was in town and having lunch at a cool little café just off main. I was updating my podcasts of the Blue Jays (All-Star break and under 500! Shite.) radio shows. I just happened to search the Rush Tour to read a few reviews, see how the old boys were doing; see how they were being received. First thing I found out was that they were selling out every show. Cool. The second thing was that Rush alluded to the fact that this would be the final tour of this scale, this magnitude, this complexity. Shock. This was it. Rush would still make music, they said, but they would not really ever tour again like this. They are getting old. Neil Peart simply cannot continue with his amazingly complex sets of songs, and being Rush, they will not simply go through the motions. This is a band that has always exemplified integrity and master-musicianship, and they are not willing to give in to mediocrity. I love these guys. But their final tour? Baby, I was shaken. This band gave me hope, shared their voice with me, helped my understand the value of originality, of sticking to one’s beliefs, of creating beauty for beauty’s sake. And they were to fold up their stage after this run.

I went back to the farm and worked for three days. In the trees I was pruning and picking fruit and thinning fruit…and stewing. I didn't sleep well. (I haven’t slept well all summer.) I didn’t know what to do. Then the obvious epiphany came to me while coming back to the farm from town. I simply told the crew while driving: “I’m going to see Rush.”
“What?” My wife looked puzzled.
“I have to go see Rush. They changed my life.”
“With who?”
“No one.” 
“You are going to Canada with yourself to see Rush?”
“Can I come?” Heathcliff chipped in.
Can I come?” Keats needlessly questioned.
“How long?” Kaeo asked sternly.
“Three days.”
“Three days?”
“Three days, two really.”
“Two days?”
And that was sort of it. (And she complains I lack communication skills—ha.)

So here I am at the airport after One Night in Bangkok (yes, and you know what, the song is mostly true—it will make a strong man humble if he’s uninitiated and unrestrained…) waiting for my flight.

I arrive in Canada tonight at 21:25. I’ll be in my East Hastings weird hotel by midnight. I’ll be up most of the night, I’m sure. But I’m going to see Rush’s last big show in Canada. I have a great seat, although I’m sure I’ll be standing. I have no real plans for Vancouver. I’ll also be watching Rush on the night of my wedding anniversary (the last straw? Perhaps.). But I’m going and I’m happy about that.

In the wee coils of my guts, the anticipation is building. My heart rate is faster already. Three sets of Rush live with great seats. Solo. Flying By Night.

Monday, 19 January 2015



Lying with Heathcliff as we’ve finished stories and it’s nearly time for sleep.

“I’m going to miss you when I grow up,” he states without subjectivity.
“Well, I’m not dead yet.”
“Yah, but you’re 50.”
“Sure, but I have a young heart.”
“How young is it?”
“Well, depends: sometimes, 12, sometimes 16.”
Heathcliff pauses.
“Let me feel your heart.” So I put his wee hand on my chest and he feels its beat a minute.
“It’s 15,” he states emphatically.
“Ok, 15 it is.”

He rests easier and together we look out the window at the dying day, at the tree on the hill as it shivers in the slight breeze.

My heart breaks for not being able to watch him grow when I am gone.

death and lies

"There is a taint of death, a flavour of mortality in lies...." Oh, that Conrad: Joseph, Joseph, Joseph where are you now? The flip-side of lies is, of course, the truth, and who the hell wants to hear the truth? My wife is pissy at me right now because of the truth--two doses of it this evening. A colleague will be pissy at me tomorrow after we have a truth session. And so it goes.
What is it with truth and lies, and how did we get so immersed in the latter and so estranged from the former? It wasn't so long ago we were all religious folk, at least on paper, and all of our collective soul asylums state that lies are bad and truth is so damned good--liberating even; so why don't we tell the truth all the time? 
Lies are easier (and therefore more fun)--even little ones. 

"How are you?"
(what should I say? I feel like shite, like leaving my wife and kids, like dropping out to the south for a few months so I can write in peace, like people no longer hold any charm for me...)
"Yah, ok I guess."
"Good. See you later." 
"Yah. Bye." 

And lies are that easy, quick, soon forgotten (if, indeed we even register them) and regular. Of course, those are the small harmless ones. We also have grand, piercing, manipulative, Machiavellian lies that we tell with great conviction and regularity. Is one brand of non-truth greater or lesser than another? I don't know. I simply know that instead of lying I told the truth and will do so again tomorrow, and now I’m in the doghouse, and I imagine, will be then as well.