January 16, 2008

Jazzmanian Devils Appreciation Day July 30th 2004

Art History....

Some come for the fun. Some come for the fashion. Please come for the passion. And some just come numb. The sky was overcast; the cast were assembled. The roles were handed out: one by one by one/ Get too blasted in the past. Blast them Blast them Cast them in plastic.
And the heavens thundered and ripped the plastic blue asunder, laying waste to that which was already gone, putting the pretty vacants out to pasture bedtime, showing the sheep the gate, giving the proverbial lamb the provincial chop.....and Lo a voice of reason ( was it Neil Harrison, Tom Hall, or Les O' Day) issued forth the proclamation of post-punk patronage. And we were sore afraid. Let Art be put on High/ fi to all who mock the Rock and fail to heed our newfound heir to the airwaves. Art Bergmann has paid his dues, drunk from the cup, done the ten year prerequisite for overnight success and now, this was it, the knight of nights. Since the release of his demo tape to CITR and emergence of POISONED, the local rock hounds have been falling over themselves in attempts to grease the wheels of industry and to confirm his success. Let me not be the odd man out, the vile and bitter cynic bent on bursting the bubble of provincial enrapture. "Oh, what a lovely sound world", indeed.
I first saw Art Bergmann in the mid-seventies out in Surrey with the Schmorgs, a great garage band in the classic white thrash mold. Their cross to bear was playing raw, driving rock at a time when the popular taste sucked wind. The next time I saw Art was at one of the first punk gigs in Vancouver, at the Japanese Hall with the Schmorgs and the Monitors. The Monitors later evolved into Active Dog, which spunoff the Modernettes, and much later provided the bulk of Los Popularos.
This group of crazed individuals included Buck Cherry, Bill Shirt, Gord Nicholl, and Art Bergmann. In the history of Vancouver punk, they are known as the White Rock connection.
It is hard for me to describe the excitement of those early punk days. There was a special camaraderie, wildness, spontaneity, and humour which can never be repeated. All these bored and boring white kids moving in from the vacuous suburbs, attempting to create their own culture. And this happened all over the western world in different degrees of success, and on different schedules.
In those days, when you walked down the streets with coloured hair, torn clothes, leather or whatever gear you were into, that was a statement whether you knew it or not. A political statement as well as a fashion statement. There was real danger in dress, which of course seems ridiculous now. It seemed ridiculous then, but when your concerts were always being invaded by bike gangs, thugs, greaseballs intent on smashing your head, you thought a bit before leaving the house. The media was not helpful in trying to explain this scene to the mainstream; sensationalism, as usual, dominated with the more bizarre incidents blown out of proportion, always accentuating the negative angle. People began to pick up on these nihilistic elements, seeking to emulate. The fun shoving of the early gigs became increasingly violent and stupid; while the bands became more concerned with success and getting out of town. Punk and new wave was now serious business, already affecting the fashion styles and buying habits. Some inventive pop had made it to the airwaves, but the real stuff from the bottom stayed there.
Which brings me to the Young Canadians, or K-tels. The YCs were probably Vancouver's best all round band in their day. They combined the best of raw power, wild melodicism and cynical humour. Along with Jim Bescott and Barry Taylor, Art Bergmann should have received more attention from the Mainstream press. But the Vancouver press is conservative to the core, and more importantly, lazy. The powers that be found it easier to print tabloid wire service pablum than to pay attention to homegrown culture. In this environment of stagnation, it's not hard to see why a band would break up.
Los Popularos, originally a fuck band in the best Vancouver tradition of Luxfordism, made their move to be taken seriously. This band had no lack of character (s); what it did lack was consistency. There were too many gigs marred with bad sound, drunk performances, bad publicity, lack of management; just too many really funny guys for one band. You couldn't help but love them.
Bill Shirt was a great frontman, one of the best this city has had. Buck Cherry had so much ability that we knew it was a marriage which would never last, and soon he was back with the Modernettes in a re-vamped lineup. Gord Nicholl was always that funny little guy with the twisted smile from Active Dog and Pointed Sticks. Tony Bardach first played in Private School, then the Pointed Sticks, was all class or chaos depending on when you caught him. And Zippy....all heart and personality. No other band could play so bad and still have a following. And while this is what attracted me to them, it also proved their greatest liability, because the times had changed and raw, expressive pop was no longer popular, if it had ever been.
Synthesizers, disco and shiny young entrepreneurs with expensive briefcases and $60 haircuts were the 'new order' of the day. Backed with good sound, money, promotion, money, management, money and parents who were willing to invest in their future, these young drips were the new wave.
Even CITR, our bastion of alternatives on the putrid face of radio, shunned local product in favour of Anglo-synth pap. People were not surprised with Los Popularos finally called it quits; we were only surprised that their friendship had kept them together as long as it did.
I had heard much about the new band POISONED. I had read all the hype, and most of what I heard was positive if not raving. There was some criticism from the taste police that guilt was evident in the use of heavy guitars and some had detected 70's influences. But after seeing these guys, I must say I was impressed with the tight, professional sound and strong ensemble approach. There is an obvious bid for mainstream acceptance here, but the 70's connection is simply roots talking.
Fortunately, Art has taste in how he shapes these influences into songs. His raw expressive singing and insightful lyrical content gives this stuff its guts. This guy is no ego headed rock monster; neither is he a wimpy sythetic popstart. He is Art Bergmann and he's paid dues. He was "there" before all of us. I'm not mourning the past, what should have been or what could have happened. But I won't forget my roots, and neither will Art Bergmann. From the generation with NO FUTURE, here's to you Berg. Good Luck.
(First published in Issue Magazine, an independent art magazine from the early 1980's edited by Jim Carrico. I had forgotten some of the details in the article, but it still stands up today. Viva the K-tels, Young Canadians, Los Popularos and Poisoned!!! Art, we still love you. Stay well. ) Dennis Mills Jan 2008

January 3, 2008


Wednesday, November 28, 2007
The Puffy Coat

And so begins the story children of how Dense Milt almost made it onto the Vancouver Complication album, an historical musical project that included most of the first wave of punk and new wave bands of the day, including bands like DOA, The Subhumans, Tim Ray & AV, Active Dog, and the K-Tels ( who became the Young Canadians).

My first band was a group called AKA; we were part of the second wave by my accounts, but chronologically we almost made it. The real reason for our exclusion may have been a puffy coat.
One of the bands featured on the Vancouver Complicaton was The Exxotone, who presented two songs Big Shot, and Sideways. Their lineup was Randy Pandora- vocals, Reed Eurchuck - keyboards, Warren Hunter- bass, and Warren Ash on the drums.
If my dates are correct, I had seen this band when they were going by the name The Detectives in the summer of 1978 at the Windmill, which was one of the first clubs for punk rock in Vancouver. The two Warrens- Ash and Hunter, were to later join me in AKA, along with Alex Varty after being "let go" from the Exxotone, who quickly thereafter disintegrated.

We jokingly called ourselves the "Rejectives" for a few practices in Alex's basement. You will soon find out why.

I had found Alex through an ad he made up and posted at Quintessence Records, which was the hive for the emerging punk/new wave scene in Vancouver. We would go there to get the latest import singles, pick up the latest copy of Snotrag, and read the Musicians Wanted boards. This was how many of the early bands got together. Alex listed about a hundred different bands that he considered essential, and a good portion of these bands were also bands that I liked, so I called him up and invited myself over. There I was to meet the two Warrens.

When I saw the Exxotone at the Windmill, I was immediatedly captivated by the drummer, Warren Ash. Randy Pandora was the charismatic lead singer, but he was nowhere as interesting as Warren, who looked possessed. Randy had been singing previously with The Generators, an art-punk band that included Gary Bourgeous on guitar, Michael Wonderful on Keyboards, Gary's wife to be Gina Daniels on keyboards and blender, and Brock Smith ( who played with Tim Ray and the original AV). Randy got together with Reed to work on songs after leaving the Generators, and they found the two Warrens from Deep Cove, one of Vancouver's most intense and interesting rhythm sections.

It is interesting to note that the majority of the Vancouver scene had come from the many suburbs of Vancouver, including North Vancouver, White Rock/Surrey and Burnaby. As the scene developed in 1978, the exodus began, and the first wave of punks started playing gigs at different halls in town (Japanese Hall, Oddfellow's Hall, Cambrian Hall, Russian Hall). The Windmill was one of the first actual clubs that booked punk bands,having nothing to lose. It was a run down grubby little club on Granville street, but we called it home for a few shows.

Warren was up on stage, and he was wearing these glasses he had manufactured out of plastic forks and black electric tubing and a rubber band. Talk about DIY. He looked fierce, and in those days, would play the drums with such force, that he would be unable to open his hands for at least a half an hour after each show.
I'm not sure where I met Reed, but he was an intense guy who lived in the house next to the infamous Gore Street Squat, home of DOA's Joey Shithead. What many people do not know, is that before Reed started working with Randy, he and I had gotten together to try to write some songs.

We met up on a cold night as I was living in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver, at the time with my parents. Before leaving Richmond for Vancouver, I borrowed my dad's blue puffy coat (you know, the down-filled ones that make you look like the Michellin Man). It was super cold and I hate being cold. Now it was obvious that the puffy coat was totally uncool, and that any self-respecting aspiring punk rocker would have on a threadbare cloth jacket despite the weather.

But it was freezing, and I didn't care about cool. I got down to Reed's,and we jammed on a few songs, one which later became the song Sideways on the Complication album. In our jams, we were using the lyrics from my song Mental Timebombs, which later appeared in completely different and more appropriate musical setting on the Red Therapy lp for AKA. You can listen to it by clicking on the ReverbNation icon to the left.

The evening ended and we both mouthed something about maybe getting together again, but well.....we didn't. But I believe things all happen for a reason, and only a few months later, I was jamming with the Two Warrens along with Alex. Later Randy Pandora even played with AKA for a few shows, and we wrote some songs together.

And so all's well that ends well, but in my opinion, I missed my chance to be on the Vancouver Complication album all for the love of a puffy coat. I'll never know the truth, but I do know that later that same night at the Windmill, I ended up hanging out with Gary Useless, bass player for the Subhumans. We called him Nature Punk, and not just because he had the green hair.

We left with some girls after the show, and ended up on Cypress Mountain looking down on the lights of Vancouver feeling like we were kings of the world. Later all 4 or 5 of us crashed in a one bedroom apartment in Kitsilano for the few hours left of the night. We found other ways to keep warm so that I didn't need the puffy coat.

Monday, November 26, 2007
Bennies, Goofies and Phenos-those were the days
Since man first tasted the apple left fermenting on the ground,
we have searched for ways to improve upon the reality we were given. From Java's jump and jive to Harry the Hipster telling us about putting benzedrine in Mrs. Murphy's ovaltine ,we make our choices, cuz it's all a cup of poison for the asking. I know it, you know it, we all goddam know it, and yet, we can't deny the pull to find new wool to pull over the sight for sore eyes.
Sleep has become the new drug of choice for those over the age of consent. Our world has gone mad with multi-tasking through the many modern distractions; now we find ourselves fuelled by our own internal hormonal chemistry sets, who knew gravity could pull so hard?
Even sleep has been given its own drugs to enhance and enable the experience. Who can forget
"Take Sominex at night....and sleep...sleep ...sleep." It sounded so wonderful, even to a small boy in the sixties.....to sleep, sleep, sleep. Perchance to Dream of a little Persian man on the Magic Carpet (was he a genie or did he have a genie?).
I know I Dreamt of Jeannie. Who could turn away from a half dressed Barbara Eden running around in silky pyjamas all day long blinking her eyes and folding her arms, saying yes, master.
From crosswords to cupcakes to dusty lp collections in Dad's Polynesian Rec-Room, we seek out soft-serve novelties and neologisms to help keep us from dealing with the devil we know.
Does it matter if we call it a god-shaped hole, or get all Christopher Hitchens, and call it by another "other", we are left with the void that is left when we take time to be with ourselves. Why are people so obsessed with keeping busy and working their fingers to the bone? We have lost the knowledge of how to be our own best friend.
First, you have to listen, and be open. This is a frightening proposition for most of us, and we will find anything and everything we can to distract ourselves.
My new puppy cannot stop herself from chewing, doesn't matter what, must chew, must find something new to chew, must go back to what she was told only yesterday or five minutes ago NOT TO CHEW, and chew, lick, nibble, and gnaw.
Consider it part of our 'oral tradition'; the story started with boobs and babes in diapers, and it looks like it ends that way too.
Posted by Dennis Mills at 9:09 AM 0 comments

Half Man Will Travel

Friday, October 5, 2007

"Fathers appear to us to love us without condition if only we can interpret
their complicated language.

Fathers move over expanses of time, across abysses of generations;

fathers move across impediments, opening out, softening, becoming unguarded, giving away rules of fathers to younger, angrier men; fathers, over time, become solicitous and kind,
regretful and warm, sensitive and even, gentle." **Rick Moody 'The Black Veil' page 21

The Harvest is come, and we must prepare to brine the turkey, stuffing it with lemons, oranges, and pears to roast in the cavity of the great bird; peel the apples, open the cans of pumpkin, roast all variety of root vegetables, and mashed potatoes; don't forget the butter and the links of pork sausage that cover the turkey like a dress.

I pause to think and to thank. I thank my many friends, who have given so much love and support in past four months since my heart attack. I thank them for all the love and support for so many years before that. If I can be half the man (and woman) that my friends have shown themselves to be.....I thank my family. The one I have created, and the one I was born into. If I have been half the man, let it be like my better half. The best thing that has ever happened to me was the day I became a father myself. There is no comparable feeling.

I thank my mother for her gentle healing touch on the face the day of my angioplasty, like so many other days so long ago.I can never forget the soft caress that only a mother can give, and only a son can receive.

And I thank my father, who is not with us, but who will always be with us. We are reminded of him and other fathers every time we sit down to eat and give thanks.I will remember the touch of his hands on the day he died, how strong and solid the handshake even as he sat there weakened beyond understanding with the weight of his own body, and the determined beating of his congested heart.Given the fact I share him with my four older brothers and two younger sisters, I am somewhat less than half of the man, but I inherited half the man's heart.It is my will to expand upon that heart, and thank him for his part in my creation, thank him for his part in my character, and to note that while I am a part of him, and he of me, I am not him. Not half the man, but my own whole man. Thank you.

In Hell All Devils Are Equal

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Against each other
Cheek to cheek
and branched with fierce snarls
A pirate of animals trembling
in the night wind
Under his feet he is naked
except for a black skull
This could not be hell......
Splitting open..as cave/washing.....washing.....washing.....the age-old son of a mother
A few rags of mind a drop of holy water melting into one rhythm
All the dogs come crawling
A dream silence full of murmurs
Sinners become the smoke
He weeps that the wind
from above is beaming
to bleed the balloon
An eye as milky fog whose matter has the lustre of a pearl
And he dug the dog a tomb
a bone every rusty fragment
each of my thoughts sprang from night
Things forever coming into being and passing on the land of dreams
A dream red backwards....................In hell all devils are equal.dense milt circa 1979/80 from the archives

The Red Book

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Breathe...just breathe. I can get through this.
'Think of what you love.'
The heart tightens but life goes on. Hold on.
The ride is bumpy. Get a grip.
'We'll be on the ground soon if we only
My lungs are on fire. There is fire in my belly,
but my lungs are on fire. It is not my decision;
Dear God, it is in your hands now. No. It is my decision. It is in my
hands now. My palms are sweaty. I am cold, clammy, my forehead is drenched,
my shirt sticks to my back. My lungs are on fire.
MUST BELIEVE. MUST BE ALIVE. 'You must believe if you want to live.'
My heart tightens and my lungs are on fire. 'There is no one to hold your hand.'
It is your choice. Some decisions are life and death. The air is melting around
me. I can't breathe. My lungs are on fire. BREATHE. BELIEVE. BE ALIVE.
Concentrate, it's easy if you want it to be. Do you want it? Life, that is.
Do you want it? 'Get me home.' What is happening? This is bad.
My lungs are on fire. I'll be good, if only. BREATHE. Think of the people you

Gravy with those biscuits?

Saturday, September 1, 2007

"You've had a heart attack." It was about 11:30 pm in a bright white lighted emergency room in a small country suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. Acute myocardial infarction. That is the technical term. Considering the odds of surviving a heart attack on an airplane, I was damn lucky that I was still hearing these words. "We're going to admit you."
My sister had been by my side the whole time since we had checked in around 10 pm. As brother and sister, we have always been close. Along with my youngest sister, the three of us were the last of the seven children my parents had. By the time we were growing up, the first wave had mostly left home. She was there for me, like I will always be there for her, holding my hand, joking with me, trying to keep it all real. I knew that there had been a special reason I kept saying to myself on the airplane, God, please get me to Atlanta. If it's my time, I accept that, but I knew that I had family I love that needs me. I knew that I had family waiting for me at the other end of this flight. I believed that it was not my time, as there is a purpose for me that I have yet to reveal. Perhaps telling this story is part of this journey.
At one point early on in the emergency room, when they were still trying to decide what was wrong, and also trying to make sense of my extended health travel insurance (What do you mean you don't have a social security number? 'I'm a Canadian.' What do you mean you don't have a social security number?), I turned to my sister. "Should I call my wife and tell her? Or would it only make her worry?"
"Of course, you should call her. If my husband was in this situation and he didn't call, I'd be pissed." I made the call. "I'm not sure what the problem is yet, but I'm in the hospital in the emergency ward outside of Atlanta. We'll let you know more when we know more. I love you, too. Don't worry".
Famous last words. Don't worry. Of course she worried. She spent the next few hours worrying until my sister called her to say that I had had a heart attack. At about 6 or 7 in the morning she started checking for flights and making arrangements for her and my daughter to fly to Atlanta to be at my side. By noon, the dog was in a kennel, the car was parked at the long term parking at the airport, my niece who had been visiting my daughter was back with her mother, and my wife and daughter were on a plane to Atlanta, knowing only that I was in the hospital and had suffered a major heart attack.
They gave me drugs to relax me,and to stabilize me through the night. I remember nurses checking on me throughout the night. In the morning, one of them gave me a dose of dilaudid for breakfast. Apparently I was going on a trip. In an ambulance. Did the nurse have to go with me? No, we've got him. He's in our hands now. I was getting dreamy from the dilaudid.
It's strange being in a hospital anyway. Especially one in another country. The deep South is another country. They were very kind and very polite. Really, if you're down that way, and feel a little tightness in the chest, feel free to drop in for a spell. They'll take real good care of you.
They hoist me from the hospital gurney to the emergency ambulance gurney and I'm on the move. We've all the seen the tv shows. No, they did not use paddles, I was stabilized and on my way to one of the top ten hospitals in the United States for cardiac traumas. I can see out the window of the rear of the ambulance. The siren is not on, but we are moving at a rapid pace.
Atlanta is humid and overcast. They have been waiting for rain for many days/months. Maybe today will be the day. I try to joke that this was not the way I thought I would be travelling when visiting Atlanta. We thankfully arrive quickly at the destination hospital, and they bring me through the doors into another emergency receiving area.
The doctors and nurses are all assembled, ready for incoming. The ambulance personnel move me from their gurney to the new gurney here. A nurse is pulling up the hospital gown I am wearing from the other hospital and starts shaving my groin. I think, I came all this way to get a Brazillian? Before I can get the words out, they ask if I have eaten anything this morning. Only dilaudid, if that counts. I am fully conscious, but narcotized ( which the dictionary summarizes as doped, drugged, or under the influence of narcotics; "knocked out by doped wine"; "a drugged sleep"; "were under the effect of the drugged sweets"; "in a narcotized state; stuperous". Yes, I am definitely stuperous. What a stuperous situation to be in.
The doctor has moved in and has inserted tubes into my upper thigh just below my partially shaved groin. They left a landing strip; a soul patch.
I can't feel anything, but the tubes are winding their way toward my heart. The doctors are conferring, and I get the feeling they are plumbing the clog with the 'snake" they have wormed its way into my hear. The one in charge stops for a moment to show me a photo- a black and white version of the one I have "doctored" at the top of this post. "This is your right coronary artery before we inserted the stent; and this is your right coronary artery after. You can see that the artery was 100% blocked. Now it is clear and open. We don't know now what the damage to your heart has occurred as a result of this myocardial infarction; we will keep you here for a few days, and you can see your doctors in Canada to take care of the other arteries with less than 100% blockages. "
"You are not to move your leg where we have inserted the angioplasty for a few days. This is very important." Do you have any questions? Why no, I seem to be at a loss for words, except "It was never my plan, " which I keep repeating for the next week. This is a gallows humor that my sister and I developed in the emergency from the time my father said a facsimile of these words when we told him he needed to go into the extended care facility, to most likely die, but more hopefully, not to take my mother along with him.
After the insertion of the stent, I was wheeled to the intensive care for cardiac trauma where I drifted in and out of consciousness for the next few hours. My sisters and my mother, and my brother and his wife, and probably more that I have problems remembering visited me in the afternoon. Most distinctively, I remember looking up to see the smiling face of my mother, and to feel the cool softness of her 86 year old hands as they gently caressed my forehead like she had done so many times when I was small. There is nothing like that feeling. Sometime around 1 in the morning, my wife and daughter arrive, and there is nothing like that feeling either.
Posted by Dense at 12:57 AM 0 comments

The Only Devils in this World

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"The Only Devils in this World are those running around inside our own hearts, and that is where all our battles should be fought." -Mahatma Ghandi
Three weeks after having my heart attack, I was waiting in a small closet sized room in St. Paul's hospital in June wearing one of those hospital gowns that leave you feeling cold and vulnerable from the draft coming in the back of the gown. I was waiting for someone to tell me what happened next.
Just before seven in the morning I arrived and was given an injection of a radioactive dye, so that they could determine the extent of damage to my heart from the heart attack.
I was told to go out to eat a small meal, and come back in about an hour or so. After my return, I lay down on a table, while a great white machine hovered over my head. My body was transported back and forth under the machine, while it performed its medical magic. For as much as I was aware, it could have been a shaman holding his hands over my body chanting and waving a smoking brush.
Next I was waiting in a closet sized room prior to undergoing the actual stress test, which involves being hooked up to electrodes attached on your chest, then running on a treadmill, until your heart rate reaches what the technicians deem to be a satisfactory result. Or you collapse and they rush you to emergency. At least that is what goes on in your mind.
Two nurses, a male nurse from South Asia, and a female nurse from Germany, bartered over who would do the honors of shaving my chest hairs to attach the electrodes. The female nurse won the bet. She entered the curtained room and asked me to drop my robe, so that she may shave parts of my chest. Using a disposable Bic, she dry shaved a few patches and attached the sticky pads of the monitors. I said to her that I was a bit nervous about taking the test since I had my heart attack only about three weeks prior.
She said, "You cannot worry. That is why you had the heart attack. You have to learn to let go, and to go with the flow. I can see you are too young to have had this heart attack. You have had a little temper tantrum in your heart. Now you must learn to not worry, to relax, and just go with the flow."
It is amazing the messages that angels send to us, and surely, I was receiving one at that moment. There were devils running around in my heart, having temper tantrums, acting like the nihilistic spoiled inner child they were. Anything just to get a little attention. Except this time, the teenage wasteland, the punkrock deathwish had gone too far.
She ushered me out of the closet into the exercise room, and I began the treadmill test for another cardiac nurse. About 5 minutes into the exercise, I started to feel faint, so when asked if I wanted to stop the test, I said yes. What happened next I would not wish on my worst enemy.
Because I had not been able to physically finish the test, I had to be injected with another chemical to artificially induce my heart to reach certain rates. Who doesn't love being injected with unknown drugs? I'm joking, but at that moment did not really have much of a choice, or at least the possibility of saying no did not enter my lexicon.
What happens next was worse than having a heart attack, at least for me. I felt tightness in my chest,and the sensation of someone kicking me hard again and again in the stomach. At the same time, my head felt like it was about to explode. It was a Jack Bauer moment, and all I had in the way of relief was the ticking clock. Just three minutes and we will give you the antidote.
Groaning and swearing and no going with the flow ensued. Just one minute and we will give you antidote. AAAAAAAH! JUST TWENTY SECONDS AND I WILL GIVE YOU THE ANTIDOTE. IT WILL REACT VERY FAST, AND YOU WILL BE BACK TO NORMAL.
Except I didn't feel back to normal. And then she said, you can have a break now. Go and have yourself a coffee, and I guarantee you will feel better.
Well, I had that coffee, and I followed it with a non-cardiac breakfast of chorizo sausage and eggs. I definitely went with that flow.
Ten days later I was given the good news by my cardiologist that I was lucky, as the tests showed that my heart had good flow, and no significant damage from the acute myocardial infarction I had suffered.
The devils in my heart were not running my world that day. And the way to keep them from running, was to follow the advice of that small Germanic nurse, who told me to let go, and go with the flow.
Posted by Dennis Mills at 11:39 PM 1 comments


Friday, August 31, 2007

He has an abnormal fear of crowds.
He rejects "the modern frenzy of increase."His desire to blend in competes with his need to control.He "loves density" but does not understand the rhythmic compulsions.He is sympathetic to the crowd’s need to survive, as he knows it "wants to grow”.
He is comforted by the thought that "there are no lonely crowds."
Quotations from "Crowds and Power" by Elias Canetti.
Posted by Dense Milt at 11:23 AM 0 comments

Before and After my stent in Atlanta on May 26

Saturday, August 25, 2007

RCA is the Right Coronary Artery.
"Before": One can see the results of a 100% blockage. This is what caused my acute myocardial infarction, better known as a heart attack on May 25.
"After": This is the same artery after Dr. Lembo inserted the stent.
How did it feel having a heart attack? Surprisingly it did not happen like one would imagine. I had been in NYC on vacation with my best friend Scotty Hard aka Broadway Sol Goodman partying to the fullest. For a sedentary man on the dark side of his Fortieth decade, I was clearly out of shape and practice when it came to walking all over a city, eating giant steaks at Peter Lugers, drinking and partying until all hours of the morning. In short, we tried to turn the clock back 20 years, and something got stuck. Lodged in my artery.
Was it the pizza or Nathan's Hot Dog from Coney Island? The brisket sandwich from Katz Deli? The fore mentioned steak for two from Peter Lugers, along with the bacon appetizer- a veritable bacon steak itself!
To paraphrase my dear sister Kathy "One night or even several nights of mischief are not going to bring one from zero to 100% blockage overnight". Or did it? I'll never really know.
Obviously, this had been building for some time. The many days of doing the work of many; the long days of commuting with almost 3 hours per day in a car stuck in traffic from
White Rock to Vancouver; TV and ice cream......Clearly I was an accident waiting to happen.
The night of May 24th, BSG and I had walked all over Manhattan, from the docks of the Staten Island Ferry to Ground Zero to Wall Street to Chinatown to CBGB's ( gone but never forgotten) to SOHO and Katz's and the Village for a book launch with the incredible Steve Bernstein and SexMob. I was out of breath and my lungs felt as if they were on fire. The day was hot and humid in that way that only New York can be. There was a tightness in my chest, but at the time I felt it was simply a result of the endless walking.
We rested at the bar for the book launch enjoying the company of Scott's friend Reverend Vince Anderson- a very good musician himself. We had seen the Reverend at Black Betty on the Monday which is his usual haunt. SATAN HATES ME! he sang out, and I guess he hates me too.
Anyway we drank of the free open bar until the band finished and headed over to another bar to watch the blessed Mets. Uptown to catch Tandy, a band and friend of Scott's from upstate then over to the ubiquitous Black Betty for drinks and devils dust dancing in the shadows.
The next morning I get up..........in a cold sweat....Help now. I would massage my chest and the tightness would let up a bit. Still the lungs on fire.
I thought I had come down with pneumonia, as I had picked that up in 1989 on the tailend of another bender. As the morning progressed and we left for the subway to the airport, the intensity of the tightness and burning in my lungs continued. I was running a fever, sweating and feeling generally lousy all over. I did not have the classic symptoms of an elephant standing on my chest or pain running down my left arm, but I now believe that I was undergoing the heart attack. Next up....my plane to Atlanta or how to have a heart attack while flying.
Posted by dense milt at 8:37 AM 0 comments

Don't Try This At Home

Sunday, August 26, 2007

One of the things I have learned this summer is that I would not recommend having a heart attack while flying. Now I'm not totally sure that was when it all happened, but I do know I had a heart attack sometime between 7:00 Thursday evening and 10:00 Friday evening when I checked myself into the emergency ward of the local hospital outside of Atlanta.
As I explained earlier, I have been feeling lousy since the Thursday evening, in mounting waves of discomfort, nausea, cold sweats, shortness of breath, and this incredible feeling that my lungs were on fire, and every breath I took was increasingly difficult. My good friend (best man to be precise) Broadway Sol Goodman and I had left his apartment in Long Island City headed to the airport by subway first.
"This is the right line for JFK", he said. I said the ticket says La Guardia. Ooops... We exited the station and crossed the street, finding the right line to take us closer to La Guardia. Even though I was travelling light, the weight of the baggage, the humidity, and what I later learned was the symptoms of a heart attack, started to weigh on me.
I started the game we have all played of making deals with God. Just get me to ____, and I'll _____. We start small with "get me to the bus to the airport", then "get me to the airport check-in", then "get me through the check-in". Anything in the baggage, sir? Let me see, when should I tell someone that I might be having a major health crisis?
I move on to the airport bar, which is very full, this being Memorial Day weekend in America. I contemplate what kind of food goes best with a major health crisis, and decide that beer is what has got me this far, so it should be good enough to help me get where I need to go.
In America, nothing is done half-ass, except perhaps wading into a hornet's nest of blood hatred in the land of sand and oil like a drunk at a kid's pinata. The beer was gigantic, but even with my major health crisis, I was able to get most of it down. Not all of it, which shows that something was definitely going wrong for me.I made my way to the boarding gate for cheap flight from NYC to Atlanta. My nephew (and godson) had become a high school dad, and they were having a baptism for his son. I was totally pleased with my week long stay in NY with my best bud; we had turned the clock back so far that a spring had sprung. But I was looking forward to getting to Atlanta and being with my family. My mother had surprised all of us by booking herself a ticket to join in the fun, and my sister was coming from Toronto where she had been on business. It looked to be a great finish to what was already one of my best vacations. Too bad I couldn't breathe.
The lounge for departure was overfull, with many people hanging around trying to get home on a standby ticket. Standby, as the very funny Indian ticket agent informed all who cared to listen, was what you had to do when waiting to see if someone might not show up. If they all show up, then you keep standing. One guy was told that it was likely he would be there until Monday (this was Friday). Even though I had a ticket, my fear was that I would be left behind in this hot, humid, stinky departure lounge suffering from what I did know for the next few days. Finally, the plane boarded, and I found my seat. They informed us that just as soon as everybody got on and we were able to leave, they would then turn on the air conditioning. Until then children, you are all to sit and sweat and enjoy the fact that you were flying for next to free.
All very well except that every moment I am having to making bigger deals with God just to get me to Atlanta. I thought maybe I had come down with pneumonia since I had that in 1989, and the feelings in my lungs were similar. I tried concentrating on my breathing, concentrating on how an extremely tall black man with a ipod could actually fit into one of these sardine size airline seats next to me. He was prepared with his tunes for the trip and all I could do was hope to hear some kind audio exhaust; alas, his earphones were top quality, and no leakage of the tunage was possible.
It's amazing just how long an hour and a half flight can be when you are having a heart attack. The deals were made with God and Devil and I landed in Atlanta drenched in my own bodily liquids. I turned my cell phone on, and my sister let me know that they were waiting for both me and my mother, who was fortuitously coming in about ten minutes after my flight. I informed her that I was feeling majorly lousy, and not to expect the party animal I can be.
The airport in Atlanta is so big that they have a subway train that takes you from the gates to the baggage area. I made it to the train, and held on for dear life, getting to the baggage area and my waiting family. We picked up my mother and headed in airconditioned SUV to suburban Atlanta. It felt so good to be off the plane and among my family, that the symptoms of the heart attack ebbed until I arrived at my sister's beautiful house. I told them I thought maybe I had pneumonia and they hooked me up with some killer antibiotics that reported killed the walking pneumonia. They apparently were not so effective for myocardial infarctions. After a tour of the house and up the stairs to the deck, I informed my brother-in-law that perhaps it was the "widowmaker", a term I had picked up after reading the great Joan Didion book, A Year of Magical Thinking. My brother-in-law said if that is what you feel, you should get it checked out. I called the 1-800 number on my extended health care card and they said if you are having chest pains, get thee to a hospital, dummy. OK, they didn't say dummy, but by now, that is what I was thinking. As I was told later at the hospital, I was extremely lucky that I was still living.
Posted by dense milt at 12:21 PM 0 comments

Like drowning in your own body

In April of 2006, my father died of congestive heart failure. Congestive heart failure is like drowning in your own body. The body produces more and more fluids and cannot get rid of them. This puts strain on the heart, which lacks the power to pump all the blood, causing more fluid to collect, making the heart work even harder until finally, the day comes when it can work no more, and you drown in your own body.

From 1979: (I was mad at dad when I wrote this poem)

the heart: it chokes the lodger in my throat

the father a man but not a family man

his love his company his children his interest

his use of vocabulary was economical

his power unconscious

he was not a bank,he said.

he said he was not a bank.

the heart: it chokes

the lodger in my throat.

dense milt 1979

Despite the feelings this poem recalls from almost thirty years ago, my father and I had grown close as he neared the end of his life. My sister and I had travelled to visit him on what turned out to be his last day. His knees were the size of thighs, and his body was heavy and full of fluids. His breath was laboured, and he drifted in and out of full coherence. Still, he knew we were there. I don't remember him smiling, or having words of wisdom to impart. He was in pain, and he knew that he was dying. At one point, he wanted to go to the bathroom, so we helped him up and started to guide him to the toilet. He was really out of it though, and started to stumble. I was trying to hold him up, but he ain't heavy, he's my father. The weight was simply too much for me to keep him vertical. This is why they call it "dead weight". My sister went to get nurses to help, and it took about 4 or 5 of them (and these were all big overweight American nurses) to lift him and get him back to his bed. From then on, they told him that it was bedpans or diapers as he would not be allowed to go on his own.
Knowing the force and pride of this man, I knew this was not in his plans. It seemed that he would not be long for our world. We said our goodbyes, and he held my hand and thanked us for coming. I remember the feeling of my father's hands. Like other hands of his generation, they were the hands of men who worked with their hands- bigger, meatier than hands today. Our relationship which had not always been so close, had changed (for the better) with the birth of my daughter.
Growing up, my dad was often "not there" for me. I grew up thinking that somehow this was my fault, but found out after he died, when I had the opportunity to spend some time with my second oldest brother, that my father had not been there for him either. He related stories of my mother getting him up to go for hockey practices on the other side of town in the nether hours of the morning. He would take the bus on his own. Where was my dad in this? Probably in bed, although it was entirely possible that he could have been active in coaching other people's kids as he was always more comfortable in the company of strangers.
About a month before he died, I woke early in the morning to the type of dream where you are almost conscious. Your dream plays like a movie, and you are the director. My dad had become a very good grandfather; he was much better at that than being a dad to us. He was always telling his grandkids wild stories of his youth. We would listen as he told us how he was taking this girl home up on Dunbar St, then discovering he didn't have fare for the bus, and had to walk all the way back to east Vancouver. He stopped at the Aristocrat on Broadway and Granville as he had enough for a coffee, and met up with a neighbourhood celebrity who was a prize fighter. The prize fighter asked Freddie (my dad) what he was up to, and he said he was on his way home. The fighter said hang with me for the rest of the night and I'll get you home. He then gave my dad a giant roll of money to hold for him, as they embarked on a crawl of epic proportions through the many afterhour places of ill repute. This, like the Johnny Cash story, was only one of his stories. There were many, and they seemed to improve upon each telling. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. As my father neared his death, I worried that his stories would die with him. I thought what about all the ones he had yet to get to telling; no one would ever hear them again.
As I lay dreaming, I reasoned that I was created from dna that came from my father. Perhaps memory could be stored in dna, then if I could just concentrate hard enough, maybe I would be able to tap into his dna inside of me and "remember" all the stories that he knew but had not had the time to tell. I remember trying very hard to drift back. Just as the memories started to flood back, I awoke and once again they were lost.

Posted by dense milt at 12:24 AM

Devil Dust Daddy

Friday, August 24, 2007

Black Betty licks her lips with the Devil’s Dust

In a hole in the back where the mirrors all rust

She can turn the clock back make a white man black

She owns your soul Gave you a heart attack

And she’ll serve you up right when you’re down that way

There you’ll talk to a rock Let him have his say

Everything goes blurry monkeys jumping in your heart

They say the devil’s in the details let’s go back to the start

Black Betty cuts a line through the crowd like a cat

With her nails so sharp that the mirror ball’s flat

With eyes like a needle she finds her way into your heart

She throws the best party but you got the best part

Now your blood went greasy but your hair stayed thick

And your fingers go sticky on her Lickety Stick

There’s a bowl full of bacon and a whipped up crowd

And the Devil Dust Daddy makes his Daddy so proud

Your lungs on fire there’s chicken wire in your heart

Just breathe through your nose if you’re so damned smart

You’re an emergency waiting This was not what you planned;

Gave your heart to the devil but you didn’t take her hand.