August 9, 2016

This Bomb is Personal

I have a bomb in my body.  It could go off at any time.  Unlike other bombs, this bomb is personal. 
It will most likely not kill others around me.  It has my name on it alone.  It is my bomb.  That said, there may be collateral damage. It is unavoidable. Please accept my apologies now. 

I can hear it ticking right now, and that is good thing. As long as the bomb is ticking, I am safe.  I am good to go.

This personal time bomb is of course my heart.  It takes a licking and keeps on ticking.  

Recently , I had to call in the bomb squad.  More accurately,  I walked myself to the local  ER, which is only a few blocks away. That is a good thing.  
I took my bomb and asked the experts in the ER to help me understand if the pains that I have felt consistently for the past week were in my head or in my heart.  I wanted to know if the pin was loose.   
After about four hours, they completed their inspection.  While they did not doubt the
pains in my chest were real, the experts could not tell me why without further tests.
They did confirm that my bomb had not gone off.  There was no evidence of a recent attack.
Nine years ago, the bomb went off. There were no casualties, but hello! Call it a wake up call.

Today more tests.  I did the nuclear stress test. They injected me with the radioactive solution, They took pictures of my bomb, they made me jog until I reached their designated limit, then injected me with more radioactive solution. 

Once again, I passed with flying colours.  My bomb is safe and intact, and not in any immediate danger of going off. 

What am I to make of this?

Have we reached a Detente? 
Are we entering into Peace talks?
Should I expect A Cold War?
Was I just having the male equivalent of A Hot Flash?

Hopefully, me and the bomb will come to a better understanding.   After all, we do have to live together. We depend on each other.  What happens to the bomb, happens to me.  And well, shit happens.

For now, the situation is temporarily defused.  The bomb is still ticking.  

But there is little doubt that one day, the bomb will go off.  One day, 0my personal bomb will shut me down. My shelf life will be up.  

I remember an evangelical preacher, who told me in teens, to be afraid.  Very afraid.  Because God was going to get us, because we were all evil because of Original Sin.  You could slip in the bathtub and die tonight.  You could be killed riding home on a bus, or driving a car.  A toddler could shoot you.  Terrorists, jihads, nuts, strangers- there is a whole schmorgasbord of fears to choose from.  

The important thing is to relax, breathe and not focus on the fear. 
I try to focus on the love, the music, family, and friends.  I am blessed with so much love.
And Life goes on until the day that it doesn't.  

I do not have control, but I do have my bomb.  My own little personal bomb.  And I am happy as long as it keeps on ticking. Tick, Tick, Tick...   

August 7, 2016

The Sandwich Test

After 37 years in the spotlight, there are two things I can say.   I love writing and performing my own music, and I love watching other people perform their music.   When I am performing, I am in the here and now.  I focus on the job at hand.  There is a connection between me and the audience, there is a connection with the band, and there is a connection that my mind makes with my body.

Although I bring a certain confidence on stage,  I am always nervous as hell before, and hyper-critical after.  I am my own worst critic.  But when the performance is happening, and that mind/body connection is working right, there is no greater feeling.  I get lost in the music. I can only give you everything.

Performance is similar to being intimate with someone, in that you are feeling and smelling and listening and vocalizing and staring intently into eyes. You are not thinking of anything else at that moment.  You focus only on the beauty of the moment.  If you cannot bring that focus, just forget about it. Go home right now.  Do us all a big favor and hang up the gloves.   If you are thinking about someone else at this moment, then you are not in the right bed.

I have different rules when I watch other people perform.   I call it the Sandwich Test.
Am I getting caught up in their performance, thinking of nothing else or is my mind wandering?
Rarely do I relax and just be the fan.  I begin imagining myself up there on the stage.   I begin thinking about what kind of sandwich I could be eating.

What choices would I be making?  White, Rye or Sourdough?

June 25, 2016

Nude Girls Sit On Cows...To Cure Them


To cure them.

To  cure them of what?

To cure them of being a cow?

To cure the girls of being nude?

This is a classic "teaser" from 1965, a time when attention grabbing was much simpler than in 2016.

The year was 1965.
I was seven.
I remember the first party that I ever went to at Johnny Mercer's house in Missoula, Montana   Yeah.  Even his name was cool.  He had a Beatle cut, and a stylish little Beatle suit.  I probably was sporting a crew cut, but I still had all my teeth.   Only a year later, I was to chip my front tooth, and had to bear the shame of a silver cap over my front tooth.

I guess I was Gangsta before my time.
Johnny's party was co-ed, which was also a first, and the music that he played was of course The Beatles.   Rubber Soul was my favourite. A certain song about a girl named Michelle, planted an attraction in my head some 10 years ahead of the time when a certain Michelle would come into my life.
Consider that I met my future wife when I was in my last year of high school, bored with the status quo, I decided to take an acting class at Capilano College, travelling once a week from Richmond to North Vancouver.There I met many very cool people, including a skinny girl with long black hair named Michelle.
She had a psycho boyfriend at the time, which cool girls did.   I had a girl that I was "in love" with who was younger than me, but who was also going out with an older guy named Jim.  Later in life our paths would cross again, as Jim was re-born as I Braineater.
At Cap College we had a teacher named Kayla Armstrong, who was from New York.  Doesn't get any hipper than that, kids.  She was smart and edgy and inspired us all.  I met other friends in this class, including local actor Robin Mossley.  Kayla and her husband Robert put on a series of one act plays, and Robin and I were given the challenge of performing Edward Albee's Zoo Story.
Even then I was being typecast with the psycho roles, so Robert switched it up, and cast me as Peter, the quiet mild mannered guy who encounters an outsider named Jerry.  As Wikipedia states:
"Peter and Jerry meet on a park bench in New York City's Central Park. Peter is a middle-class publishing executive with a wife, two daughters, two cats and two parakeets. Jerry is an isolated and disheartened man, desperate to have a meaningful conversation with another human being. He intrudes on Peter’s peaceful state by interrogating him and forcing him to listen to stories about his life, and the reason behind his visit to the zoo. The action is linear, unfolding in front of the audience in “real time”. The elements of ironic humor and unrelenting dramatic suspense are brought to a climax when Jerry brings his victim down to his own savage level.
Eventually, Peter has had enough of his strange companion and tries to leave. Jerry begins pushing Peter off the bench and challenges him to fight for his territory. Unexpectedly, Jerry pulls a knife on Peter, and then drops it as initiative for Peter to grab. When Peter holds the knife defensively, Jerry charges him and impales himself on the knife. Bleeding on the park bench, Jerry finishes his zoo story by bringing it into the immediate present: "Could I have planned all this. No... no, I couldn't have. But I think I did." Horrified, Peter runs away from Jerry, whose dying words, "", are a combination of scornful mimicry and supplication."
Even as the "quiet guy", I was the killer.
Later that year, I was to play the role of Charly in my high school production of Flowers for Algernon.  Charly was a mentally challenged adult, who is given drugs that make him a genius.  Unfortunately, like many drugs, they wear off, and Charly returned to his simple minded ways by the end of the play. Thinking  back I cannot imagine memorizing all those words, when I am dumbstruck now even trying to memorize the words to Born to Be Wild!  But that then, and this is now.
In another one act play at Cap, I played the troubled violent man in Tom Walmsley's play The Working Man, where in an act of stupid Method bravado, I kicked a fellow actor in the head.   This actor happened to be Susan,  the best friend of this girl Michelle.  We can all laugh about it now, but at the time, even I was horrified by how "into the role" I had become.   
Two years later, I was at Langara, taking theatre there, when a teacher sent me into battle in a game of "status" with another fellow actor.  By the end of the "scene", I had the poor guy in tears.  I would now see this as irresponsible direction by the teacher, and certainly, a confusion in my young mind as to the difference in how to play a character versus inhabiting a persona, that was becoming far too comfortable.

A few months later, I was forced to sit in a lighting booth in the dark during a technical rehearsal, while my  actor friend was able to go see Patti Smith, my hero, at the Commodore.  I decided then and there that acting was not my gig.  I needed to live life before I could play someone else's life.   I was drawn to the punk aesthetic of DYI, where I could be actor, performer, writer and director all in one.   The sugar water of the early punk scene drew my "human fly" ego to it, and it has never let go.
Somewhere in all that confusion of ego, performance, sexuality and sound, I found my way to bring a certain girl named Michelle back into my life.   Fate was calling me.  Like nude girls sitting on a cow.  

November 14, 2015

How to Protect the Unconditional Heart

From your first breath, the possibility of unconditional love lives in your heart.
But as you move through this life, various conditions are placed upon this love.
This unconditional love becomes conditional;
And over time, the inventory of conditions become what is known as a heart condition,
As they act to harden the heart.
These conditions are self-imposed upon our hearts, 
with the false hopes that they can protect our hearts from breaking.
In reality, these conditions themselves work to harden the heart,
with the end result being the heart becomes more brittle and subject to breakage.

In this digital age, we fall in love with the new and the novel,
And in a continual effort to remain current, we install software programs 
to what we will call “the heart drive.”
And we come to believe that these applications will help to make us more efficient,
allow us to go faster, and to help make the images of our life more clear,
or less clear if that is the desire, what we call fading in or fading out.
This is why our “heart drives” can become cluttered, 
resulting in usage of too much memory, freezing up, or endless buffering.
Over time, a frozen heart drive will cause your system to crash or simply shut down.

October 17, 2015

Put Me Down Like Your Favourite Pet

In my part of the country, there are clinics with signs that read Walk-Ins Welcome.  I have often joked about a not too distant future, where the signs will read: Walk Outs Welcome.   In Canada, we face a future where the vast majority of the demographic is made up of aging Boomers, and many of the Boomers, like myself, have not planned well for a future.

Issues of declining health and lack of wealth, rising rates of Alzheimer's, and the usual suspects of Heart disease, Strokes and Cancer, may push some of us aging Boomers to choose to check out.  As my song Freedom 85 states " I can't afford a hole in the ground, Hey Buddy, got a match to light me on fire? I told my wife," Take me to the vet, and put me down like your favourite pet."

This last week, local artist and musician Elizabeth Fischer made the choice to end her life with assisted suicide in Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal.  She had been told recently that she had stage 4 terminal lung cancer.  She also recently put her beloved pet down, and remarked on the way our society views this action, as something that is acceptable for humans to do for pets, but somehow not acceptable for humans to do for other humans, or even for humans to make that decision themselves in regards to their own life.

Elizabeth was an extremely talented visual artist, songwriter, bandleader, lyricist and singer.  Her work with the D.P.s, Animal Slaves and Dark Blue World was intense and compelling.  She was a dark, but humourous person; she was a difficult person who did not suffer fools gladly.  She could be judgmental, and I think I fell into the "fool" category for her upon many occasions. She was someone who challenged me, and my concepts of friendship for many years.   We were not "friends" when she made the decision to take her life.  While I regret not taking the opportunity to remedy that situation prior to her exit, it was something I could not bring myself to do.
But for all our personal animosity, I never lost my respect for Elizabeth's art or her music.  She was an important artist, with very unique voice and vision, and she was always true to that vision.

She had relationships with some of my friends, including close friends Ross Hales and Greg Reely, but I could never say I was particulary close to her. We were colleagues and competitors in a small scene.  We worked together many times, my bands playing with her bands, we were co-founders of MO-DA-MU, a musical collective that included 54/40, Rhythm Mission, Animal Slaves,  Junco Run, the Work Party and Tin Twist.

Tin Twist was fronted by Elizabeth's cousin, Judy Kemeny, who was tragically taken from us when she was quite young with cancer.   Elizabeth and Judy both came from Hungary, and their parents were concentration camp survivors.  Obviously, that experience deeply affects the children, and children's children for many generations.  This dark history informed Elizabeth's art and music, it fired her anger and fuelled her art.

She was a strong person, she was a person with a dark sense of humor, she was a performer.  As performers, we  love a stage, we seek drama, we look for the statement or opportunity to make a statement.  Elizabeth had just had a book release and art show Orphans and Dogs, which was a culmination of her life's work; yet how would anyone know that would be her last work?  With someone so creative, I am sure there would have been much more work if only there had been more time.  With the pronouncement of stage 4 cancer, she knew her time was running out, and she decided to end her life on her own terms, the same way she had lived it.

I suppose it is ironic for me that all of this took place in the month of October, normally one of the darkest times of the year for me.  My good friend Lenore Herb died a few years back of stage 4 terminal pancreatic cancer.  Lenore was also a very talented person who was very challenging, outspoken, and not universally loved.  I sat with her on the day before she breathed her last breath, and can only say that cancer is one of the most cruel ways to die.  At that moment, I totally understand why Elizabeth would choose to end her life the way she did.

Another friend of mine took her own life last year around this time of year.  Her suicide was not assisted, she organized it herself.  She was in a very dark place, and we will never know why she did it, or what events in her life led her to that decision on that very darkest of days.   We are left with shock, and sadness, and anger and confusion.

Death of any kind leaves a hole in the lives of those left behind, the people who were friends or family of the departed.  It is a very sad moment no matter what the circumstances. But our reactions to death are very different depending on age and circumstance.  When a person is much older, we say "they lived a long life, and it was time."  Or if they were in much pain, we say, "it was a blessing, now that pain is over." If a person is very young, we say "how tragic that a life is cut so short, when there was so much promise and future."

In the case of assisted suicide, many of us agree that a person has a right to make the choice.   We may say how brave they are to make that choice.
But in the case of suicide, those of us who are left behind can only ask ourselves, why?  What more could we have done?  While there is a general acceptance of assisted suicide, especially when the person has a physical illness,  there is a general non-acceptance of suicide when the person who commits this act has a mental illness.

I have no answers to this.  Personally, I hope that when the time comes for me, it happens fast. I do not fear death as much anymore.  Every year brings more death, and within my circle, there is not so much birth, but there is always opportunity for new friends and changed relationships with old friends.

What is known for sure is that we have no shelf life.  We are born to die as my friend Frank Ramirez said.  There is much work that has been done, and much more left to do.  I would end this with a shout out to Elizabeth.   I am glad that I had the opportunity to know you, to view your art , to hear your music and listen to your voice.   I have no clue what happens when we leave this life, but I honor the life and time that you had; you made a huge impression and you leave behind a body of work that will live on.  Next time around, perhaps we will be better friends.

Shadow from Days to Come

by Alejandra Pizarnik
For Ivonne A. Bordelois*

they’ll dress me in ash for the sunrise,
they’ll fill my mouth with flowers.
I’ll learn to sleep
inside the memory of a wall,
on the breath
of a dreaming animal.

October 14, 2015


Step in the sun
Step out of the shadows
and be who you are
Everybodys got something
that really matters
Use this life for love

You only got one shot out of this barrel
We only ever come this way but once
If you love someone, then just don't fight it
All you got to do is open up your heart.
Open up your heart.

Sarah Wheeler

October 3, 2015

I Will Work For Words

The white page begs for words.  Got words? Spare words?  Hey brother, can you spare a word? The white page holds a sign, scrawled in the blood of poets, asking for the moon in june, begging for a dark and stormy night, mumbles what me worry, calls and responds with call me Ishtar.
The white page is literally starving for verbs to fill the barren expanse, bereft of subject or predicate. The white page will not be satisfied with mere words, as the real craving is for something better, something bigger like a complete thought that turns into a perfect sentence, a sentence to end all sentences, a sentence that shouts to the world, I WILL WORK FOR WORDS, until word after word, the white page fills with words and is not longer blank, no longer void of meaning.

Still this is not enough for the white page.

A half page mocks the writer, whispers in his ear, taunts him with doubt. After all, anybody can draw up a list.  This is not talent, it is typewriting; these are not hits, but only the shell casings of bullet points!  The white page deserves a blow job of full blown romance, craves mystery, invites nods to the masters, wants originality, not secondhand words lifted from the latest bestseller.  Can I get a punchline that will leave them screaming?  Please don't even consider stopping here.  It knows you have more to give.  Just acknowledge that the page has needs too.

The writer proclaims to the page, I will spill my words upon you, and they will grow like seeds upon the ground, gathering hubris.   One day, I will be known as the Johnny Appleseed of Words.  Yes my words will propagate, they will fuck each other hard, spreading far and wide, pushing boundaries and pushing buttons.  They will tear the buttons off the blue bloods, ripping bodices with abandon, filling the air with a gothic sickness.  Single words will beget more words, until sense finally comes out from the dense undergrowth. Is it too much to dream of meaning?

Slowly the white page disappears, as the writer consumes snowy fields, drinks blood from polar bears, gives the albino a black eye spewing out an alphabetical algorhythm of avuncular albacore albatrosses actualizing an autumn abbatoir, bringing on bloody botox bell curves that burble with Bourbon, calling out corrugated crustaceans, come on my cummerbund! I create danger pay for this doggerel day.  Do pardon my dense dream, darling. Excuses excuses excuses. Flogging florid folderol for feckless felons.  Gets gushing over gaberdine gin gimlets, as garrulous giblets begrudge Godhead. Hurry Hurry Hurry.  I- I- I.  The alphabet stops at I and the writer passes out in parentheses.

In the morning, he wakes with paper in his mouth, pencil shavings and eraser rubbings like sand in his sheets. He cringes as he remembers his lost weekend of words.  Then he crumples the foolscap, and reaches for his coffee and another white page.