Saturday, April 30, 2005

Montreal's Beauty Is Its People - If You Know Where to Look

Lots of hurrying. Heavy pack backs full of CDs. Getting directions from people who sent me in the completely wrong direction (Dorchester St. is south of St. Catherine's St. not north!), subways, gocking and rain. What could it be? why another trip to Montreal.

I was back in Montreal to promote my CDs at a cool pride conference. I found the people there to be really friendly and receptive. I usually go to these venues feeling like noone cares and it is all going to turn out to be a huge discouragement. But one person at a time I was reminded not to think negative.

I was so inspired to sit amoungst people with such great courage and self respect. We are all on journey's. Some of us are not in the prettiest places right now. But every dark place gets a little brighter sitting with some new friends. Montreal I'll be back!

Monday, April 25, 2005


Crushes for me have led to either:

1. a long enduring pounding red scar of a heart ache or
2. a tender love affiar set against a sun drenched beach.


I'm afraid of crushes. But since fears are just challenges to face something in disguise I'm exploring where crushes can reside along the continuum between these extremes.
I used to be a true romantic in search of a soul mate. These days I'm more emotionally pragmatic. sleep with whoever you want baby! I'm not going to cry about it. (Though I may bite the bed sheets at midnight and rake my fingers down the tiles in the shower. But you'll never see me do it so it doesn't count.")

What does this mean??? It means that I try damn hard to avoid getting crushes on people, fail dismally and proceed to try to repress my feelings by channeling them into Glam Rock and poetry. I sincerely believe that the poems and songs are subtle and obscure. when in fact, they read like honking declarations of my affections to the people who inspired the words. I'm a very "confessional writer". And confessions often egg themselves on.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

KD Lang and the Halleluiah Chorus

KD Lang came onto the Canadian country music screen back in circa. 1987. she came to a small rural town near our home to play the county festival. She got up on stage, a flatbed of an 18 wheeler in the middle of a baseball field, in her trade mark stomping boots, leg warmers and cow embroidered big shirts. My mother took me to the show. I remember my reserved church going mother pushing her way to the front to see this great singer. I covered my little ears from the throbbing pain of the huge outdoor speakers. It was possibly my first experience with Canadian Rock and Roll.

Later, after KD Lang came out as a lesbian my family was in a car winding through some tree lined pot hole riddled, 2 lane artery through the middle of the province listening to my father's Stompin Tom Conners tape. He had a song called "KD Lang the Rany Tang Lady". My parents would play the entire tape until it came to that song. Then they would flip the tape. Refusing to listen to the KD Lang song. Against her for being a lesbian. I remeber feeling like I was sinking into the back of the car seat like it was quik sand. I felt so venerable, scared and alone. Because I knew there was some special quality I shared with KD. I didn't know what it was- and maybe I still don't - but felt a strong connection with her.

Years past, and KD faded into obscurity. basically turned out by country music radio and Canadian popular radio as well. For being one of the "freaks of the music business" that I so miss and long for.

Then, out of nowhere she returned. Through the jealous eyes and steely determination I watch all music awards shows with, I was watching the 2005 Canadian Juno Awards. It was announced KD would sing.

She came out on stage wearing a long, long black dress that was more of an angel's robe. And bare feet. Much older. I hadn't seen her in years. She started to sing. The audience wasn't sure whether it wanted any of her. I could feel the tension. She kept on. What unfolded was nothing short of one of the best, and most historical moments in Canadian music and television. KD began to unravel the most stirring, redition of Bruce Cockburn's song "Halleluiah". She seemed to say "This is me. I have nothing to hide. I have all to give."

I just sat there and wept. I heard myself saying, "I hope anyone who ever did you wrong sees you tonight KD. And everyone who's different that you ever inspired. " Sees her like I saw her- in her most glorious, unassuming, together moment. I cried for myself. She's sort of a battle scar personified for a lot of Canadian freaks who watched her blaze a trail and then have her career torched by bigotry. But she rose again. So eloquently. So wise. So forgiving. "You're much much too kind", she said. Everyone knew they didn't deserve her. I was inspired to keep trying to follow her example to make music on her terms. I think it's only by being your true self that you can ever hope to truly touch another person. KD Lang is proof of that for me. Thank you KD.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Carried Away By The Tide

I started swimming again this year. I go to a new pool with sauna and hot tub. There were some kids in the pool. They were using some brightly coloured foam as a raft. It got me thinking. When I was a kid my brother and I had rafts too. But they weren't foam and they weren't in swimming pools. We swam in a cove flanked by sandstone cliffs. In a basin of the Atlantic ocean. Where the green waves and swift current would carry a person out to sea when the tide changed to go out again, taking km after km of 8 meter deep water away within 4 hours.

My mother would use the huge sand stone walls as points to swim between. She'd say, "I'm going to swim to the other side." Then she'd proceed to let out an "EEEEWWW" as she pushed into the cold water and did the butterfly stroke across to the other side.

Once we found a raft that had been carried in on the tide. It was made out the base of a bin of apples. Not the apple bin itself. But a big base that bins sit on in the orchards. It was made of thick and roughly sawed wood. Inside someone had shoved an assortment of buoys.
We were tough kids. We would shinny on and off of that raft sratching and chaffing our stomachs on the wood. Turning blue in the lips and fingers from the cold sea water that engulfed our bodies. The raft vanished one night just as mysteriously as it had appeared. Despite us having done out best to tie it down. A metaphor for people in our lives it now seems.

The huge sandstone cliffs have now eroded away. My mother no longer swims in the cove. Nothing and noone lasts forever. One learns that living close to the sea. Though sometimes it takes leaving the sea and coming 1650 kms inland to really learn the lesson.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Elevator To Perspective

I was having a bad day. There was a lot of drudgery. I was almost home. An old man got into the elevator with a large, fluffy pure white cat. He was a real wheezing simpleton. He said, "Look at my friend." I said, "Oh isn't she pretty where did you get her?" "My wife got her." But now my wife is dead. And I'm stuck with the cat.", he wheezed. contrary to what he said, you could tell he was clinging to the cat for dear life. The elevator door closed and they were gone. I moaned. What a sad story. Why does this stuff happen to me?! A reminder I suppose. I tried to have a better day.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Give Yourself Another Chance - And Another...

Prime Time tv was at it again this week. Another "girl who’s a guy", as they called it, story played out on a detective show called "Cold Case." The plot involved some investigators discovering in 2005 that a girl who disappeared in 1979 was actually a ts. She and her high school student boyfriend had found love in each other despite the odds working against them. Odds in the form of overt societal back lash, not to mention the negative self talk they both had to overcome as a result of years of being mentally hard wired with the prejudices our society.

Unfortunately not everyone around them was nearly as progressive. The boy’s father followed him to the girl’s apartment where he punched the son for dating her and dragged him out of the apartment after forcing him to insult the girl by calling her "him". It was raunchy. By the time the boy got rid of the father, came to his senses, and ran back to his girlfriend’s house ( maybe 3 hours later) he was just in time to hear her blow her head off with a gun. Then in one final act of tsphobia the young guy buries her body on his own so that noone will know he’s been dating a ts.

So many emotions and questions were stirred in me by this story. Obviously fiction. But how many actual stories are there of this type of love affair? I know of at least 3 real life cases. Some have ended just as dramatically. Another still endures. So I can’t cynically conclude these two lovers would have split up two weeks later even without the father’s bigoted interference. As the boy said 26 years later as he was questioned by the investigators, "You only get one chance to find the one".

This touching sentiment even peeked through a crack in my own emotional armour to suggest that a young guy could love a girl in this situation. As opposed to not loving her because she was in this situation. Or only loving her because she was in this situation (treating her like some sort of punching bag for his fetish). But actually loving her. For her. "Seeing her" as he put it.
As for her actions, she killed herself. (Even that statement is an over simplification. Yes she pulled the trigger. But she was also driven to it by being treated like a leper by everyone she loved and left alone like an outcast. With no hope of any better. And the hopelessness is the kicker.) She didn’t stick it out even until the next morning. To call a friend. Refocus her life. Have a time-out or cooling off period. I’m not judging her. I’ve known this kind of despair. Obviously there was more wrong with this girl’s life than her highschool boyfriend running out on her on prom night. This girl was without family, social support, had just lost the one bright spot she had and was likely all hopped up on the emotionally dizzying effects of hormones. It’s a hell of a loaded gun. But I did call a friend who drove me to another friend’s house so I wasn’t alone in the crisis.

Admittedly, this script was specially crafted to exact maximum emotional collateral damage on the viewer. But beyond the "worst case scenario" hype there are two reminders in this story.

1. Love can exist despite the odds. Rather than dismiss this statement as cliche or trite, this story reminded me consider the statement as more of a plausible long shot. Which is an upgrade from viewing the concept of love as a total fantasy.

2. When the worst does happen a person is advised to seek out friends, support and if nothing or noone else is available at the time to go to bed for the night (things always look better in the morning even if those 1st few moments of regaining consciousness and feeling the pain are harsh enough to make a person bite the bed sheets), go for a walk, go out to dinner or even go to a hospital or crisis centre.

The old saying is " Those who give up never know how close they were to succeeding." It hasn’t been easy. It’s been rock on flesh rough. But I’ve had some reinforcement in the form of positive events coming to pass that suggest to me that by sticking out the rough moments, days and even years, a person can find experiences and moments of real living that are a solace from the despair and the periods of sheer surviving.

So keep working away at that little knot hole of opportunity with progressively larger wooden pegs. Many splinters later it is possible to make the knot hole big enough to crawl through one’s troubles and emerge onto a grassy knoll shining in the sun. New days and new chances await. I’m having a particularly "weak moment day" today. But the tv show - of all things- reminded me to be grateful that I’m still here. And that I’ve got the courage to try and turn disappointments into motivation to look for the next opportunity.

Walking along this morning I saw a poster for a charity that said, "Invest in Hope." In true, "the universe as a language" form this poster was speaking to me with a message that went beyond the meaning intended by the poster makers to touch my own personal reality. Life is a series of little and big "starting overs". So Invest in hope I will. Because it’s a good start.

Monday, April 04, 2005

When We Were Kids

The Pope. He was a figurehead all Generation Xrs and Yers grew up with. Two of the people I treasure most remember the Pope. One grew up in Ottawa/ Hull and the other in Toronto. Both have memories from like 1984 when the Pope visited both cities in his Pope bubble mobile. Both of these kids got to see this spectacle. Who knew, not themselves, nor the Pope that they would eventually meet each other and meet me. We are all linked together in the most preciously invisible little ways. Collective childhood memories being just one of them.

I often wonder if we'd met our best friends when we were 5 yrs old or 20 years old if we would have been friends with them or whether we would have overlooked or even rejected them and they the same to us. As much as I missed certain people before I ever knew them, I can see now why I didn't know them all these years. Timing. I'm in awe of timing.

Friday, April 01, 2005


I put in my notice that I was ending the lease of my apartment. It was a hard decision. I was there 2.5 years. It's the only place I've ever lived in Ontario. When I found this place it was a God sent. I'd moved 1/2 way across the country, got myself stuck living in a rat hole with blackened carpet, the smell of bleach in the hall and a big prostitute who waited for her rides outside my first floor windows. I didn't know the city. I biked through the rain looking at places. I can still remember the rain soaking all over me and the ink of the apartment listing running right off the page in a smug of pink and purple ink that looked like a rag a clown had just wiped his face with.

Then I lucked into this place. My first and last real luck in a long time. It's not the "ritz". It's an old apartment building from the 60's with putrid pink plaster walls in the corridors garbage shoots that stink up every summer and a huge photo of New York City's "Twin Towers" still hanging in the lobby. But it was home. Way up in the sky. The way I like it. So I can sit in the window and look all around. It's a shoe sized little loft. Bursting with memories. My mind, body and outlook on life have all changed more than a cloud changes its shape as it makes its way across the sky. I've talked to two of the people I will love all my life for the last time over the phone in this apartment. Though I didn't know it was the last time when it happened. We never do.

I had my first real kisses of the decade in here. The best of my life really. Wrote songs in here that I think could live beyond whatever years I've got left on this spinning orb of dirt and ocean. Laughed in here, cried in here, almost even died in here. I've known real love and real anguish here. Real solidarity and real abandonment.

This apartment is apartment #7 for me. And like all of its predecessors, it really is a time capsule for me. I've rearranged the furniture many times. There's a computer desk where the sofa he kissed me on used to be. -

The sofa is a story all to itself. I'd had it since 1995. Its thin cushions were covered in a coarse weave fabric all most like rope in a dizzying shape that was neither gray, nor purple. It opened into a hid a bed. I slept on the hida bed from 1995 to 1998 in a couple of 1 room student dwellings. One of these student dweelings was one of Halifax's only highrises. It looked out over Halifax harbour. The fog would roll in so thick it was like the windows had become another white wall. I slept on the sofa so long, the mattress eventually sagged into a curve But in 2004 I even though that out. I find I'm really transcending my reputation for being someone who "holds onto things", be they items or toxic people or whatever has past its place of positivity in my life, for too long.

I know that it is time. I've outgrown this home. I've been though so may rights of passage since I first turned the key that in a way it is holding me in a time warp of an era that no longer exists.

But the memories are forever etched in my memory. I'm choosing to "Take the good and leave the bad", as my pal Tracy says. In terms of memories I suppose I take this apartment with me. This revelation eases my angst about leaving. It's not this box that holds the memories, it is my head. And more memories are awaiting me to make them.