Monday, May 18, 2009

Pride Toronto - Saturday June 27 th @ 6:20 pm

I will perfrom at 6:20 pm on Saturday June 27 th at Pride Toronto. Please check the schedule in June to determine the exact location if you would like to attend, which I hope you will. I will be performing songs that have never been played in public as well as some favourites. My goal for the performance is to offer the message that we all need to dance in life, even if we are missing a shoe.

Friday, May 15, 2009

May 15 – Death’s Chariot

( A short story about an ambulance ride .)

He says the smell of vomit is the worst part of the job for him. Out of all of the grotesque sights he’s seen working as what he calls, “an ambulance guy” for 26 years: blood, tears, death, it is smell of kindergarten classes during flue season that turns his stomach the most.

At first he doesn’t like me much: just a lip glossed woman with a cell phone glued to he ear after a traffic accident. The people in the city bus had been hollering to the driver that he had turned the wrong way for the #14, and he had been hollering back in a thick accent that he’d been driving the #5 all morning, and the people were yelling back, “right bus, wrong way” when the screech of metal on metal at 70 kms an hour began tearing through the air like ravens with steel tipped wings. A shiny half tonne truck, that was distinguished by it’s odd plum colour paint job, more so than having been jacked up on monster truck shocks, skidded along the side of the bus like an amateur snow bunny down a picturesque peak in the Alps. Inside the sensation was like being in a sardine can and having the metal lid peeled off. It was only later that I pieced together that the accident had been caused by a garden-variety traffic fuck up: the bus driver not checking his blind spot.

The ambulance guy tells me he’s seen, “more than what the average person sees, that’s for sure.” He doesn’t elaborate, other than to say dealing with people’s emotions is another hard part of his job. He mentions having to go to tell old people that their spouse of 50 years is dead. “That’s not easy.” A voice calls out from a loud speaker, “Female patient. Vomiting blood. Her co-worker is with her.” “A lot of times it’s not as bad as it sounds,” he says dryly.

Overhead there’s a sign that says, “Think Hypo-something-or-other” and offers a “Top 5 Signs” of this medical predicament, which include “hematoma of the head”, “erratic breathing” and other indicators of the immanent separation of body and soul. I notice the discrepancy between the popular notion that if a person gets in an ambulance, that they will have made it into some well equipped medical haven, some safe house with bars on the windows to hold out the pain, a sanctuary where professionals pamper over them like a pedicure parlor. I could see death’s chariot offered no such appointments. With it’s metal framed cots and it’s walls lined with the same sort of metal cabinets found in an old man’s garage, it was clear that the Grim Reaper doesn’t “think you’re special.”

The ambulance guy himself is far from a tender passerby tending to a 5 year old’s freshly scraped knee. It’s not that he’s mean, it’s just that I can tell he’s, “on the job.” He’s like one of my singing teachers who said, “I don’t really care what your goals are”, in response to me sharing my fragile creative aspirations. There was a pay cheque at the end of these inconvenient human interactions, and these men were going to find it. The less the client confuses their needs as being the men’s primary motivator, the better for everyone involved.

The ambulance guy does take a bit more interest in me once he learns I volunteer at a campus radio station. I’m amazed to think anyone is actually listening. “I thought I was talking to the wall.” He says he thinks he’s heard my voice before as he passes me a single use plastic hot pack for my neck and then enough gauze to bandage two wounded soldiers to wrap the scalding little packet in. He ends up telling me his father plays the old time fiddle and his son has just started learning to chord on the guitar. “I never picked anything up,” he adds with a sort of twisting of his mouth and a distant look in his eye, that might suggest he’s hurt by this truth, but somehow it’s clear he doesn’t care. As we ride along in the rain I start telling him that I imagine that a lot of people die with a lot of resentment towards others, feuds between friends not fixed, lover’s quarrels unresolved, loved ones not on speaking terms, regret for what could have been, and bitterness burning in their soul. (I think about my own life.) The ambulance guy offers only, “Things happen fast.”

By the time the door opens at the “Emergency” entrance to the hospital, I’m still thinking of what song I’ll dedicate to the ambulance guy next time I volunteer at the radio station. After hours in the waiting room observing the misery of the human condition juxtaposed against subtitled soap operas playing on muted tv sets, I see the doctor. Secondary diagnosis: “whiplash”. Primary diagnosis, “ Keep on trying to find joy, to the point that you “become joy.” The night before hadn’t I just been visiting with some new-agers with wine glasses in their hand saying, “You don’t have time to educate people, or hold his hand or give him therapy about how he finds his feelings for you too inconvenient to deal with. Life’s too short!” Now these facts are made true all over again by the glint of the ambulance’s mustard yellow paint job that was still flickering in my eyes. Back outside the sun has come out. I ditch the single use hot pack and began to feel fairly refreshed after my reminder of the temporary nature of mortal life. . From what I saw, the Grim Reaper doesn’t have any time for “poor me” routines, so neither should I. It was time to get on with things. As I rode along on a bus destined for downtown I thought: “There’s no particular “key” in your head to turn to “get on with things” - that’s true - but all the same, try to “hot wire” it.