Category Archives: Music

Shamone (Part 2)

We had veered off the TransCanada highway ages ago, deciding instead to follow the backroads that lined the providence – a network of ragged capillaries that spread out and fed the small places that dotted the landscape.

(There’s more of them than you’d think, these places; places such as these.)

Places that could not rightly be said to compare to the big places elsewhere, but which offered a break from the monotony of the road, nonetheless.

Places whose existence by the wayside remained contingent on their ability to attract the curious, the eager and the weary, and to capture their attention for just long enough, for that crucial moment, or two.

Places whose particular claim to fame included tours of forsaken industry (mines, factories, mills), offerings of historic (or historical) points of interest (a fort, a trading post, the birthplace of some local notable, fictional or otherwise), and (my favourite) roadside attractions toting otherworldly monuments invoking hometown character or charm, standing resolutely in place and steadfastly against time. The quirky, the bizarre, the aberrant, unabashed, on full display, for all the world to see:

WITNESS! Bow Island’s orange-footed, sheriff-hatted, cartoon-faced statue of one “Pinto MacBean,” smile askance, holstered gun at the ready, gloved hand a great, keyhole-shaped oven mitt forever waving to passersby. Erected 1992 to signify “the importance of the dry edible bean industry to the area” (so says Pinto’s commemorative plaque).

 SEE! The World’s Largest Dinosaur in Drumheller. Purportedly the largest. I never verified (it’s not the kind of thing you verify). A nominal fee lets you climb the staircase embedded in this T-Rex’s fiberglass flesh so that you can peer out of her open mouth at people standing not all that far below (you can then, like Pinto, wave to them). Erected in 2000, she stands 25 meters tall and can fit up to 12 people in her mouth at a time.

 EXPERIENCE! The (slightly deranged) whimsy of the stuffed and mounted rodents at Torrington’s World Famous Gopher Hole Museum. The critters are plentiful, and are outfitted in cute little costumes as they engage in various hometown activities, like going to church, frequenting the local pool hall, or street brawling with animal rights activists. Admission also just a nominal fee away (two dollars, but that’s 2009 pricing). Established 1996.

 Witness! See! Experience! Between work, between school, between the responsibilities and expectations of everyday life, between us, we had all the time in the world to explore these places; places such as these where MJ had manifestly refused to materialize.

Now, though.

I found myself quietly singing along here and there as the pavement rolled on under the rusting carriage of Terry’s ancient Corolla, and there was nothing much else to do but stare up, into that enormous Alberta sky, out there, at clouds as big mountain ranges and a blue so intense it made you feel somehow flattered, and somewhat ashamed.

Stephen woke up with a start, then drifted off to sleep again. He kept doing that, never fully waking, not entirely sleeping. It got to be unnerving. “More MJ?” he asked. “Still MJ?” he breathed, then dozed.

Mae pulled back from the window and tilted her head towards the radio.

Terry drove.

No. Nothing much else to do at all but surrender to the vastness ahead and MJ’s omnipresence within, hovering over us, god-like, and with such measured indifference for all his omnipotence that always seemed to me prerequisite to being one amongst the gods.

The songs flowed, one after another as Terry flipped blithely from station to station, managing somehow to prompt no apparent break in the music, failing to rouse a voice from the ether to break the spell and confirm or deny what it was (whatever it was) that was happening.

The whole world has to answer right now, just to tell you once again,

Don’t want to see no blood, don’t be a macho man,

Cause we danced on the floor in the round,

Inside a killer thriller tonight,

A crescendo, Annie.

Celebrity, unleashed! MJ in all his glory, in all his incarnations, from Off The Wall (1979), to Bad (1987), to Dangerous (1991) and HIStory (1995), and on to Invincible (2001).

Thriller (1982).

We should have known.

But since we were drifting anyway, and with no particular destination in mind as the towns blurred together and it became difficult to know for certain which name belonged to which place, which attraction meant what, and to whom, it was, admittedly, kind of nice to have something familiar along for the ride.

We found the Birds of Prey Sanctuary more than we discovered it. Just east of Lethbridge, off Highway #3. Established 1982.

The clerks inside the gift shop were friendly and politely curious. Attentive in the way that clerks are when the arrival of patrons means a long-awaited reprieve from the dusting of pristine shelves and the wiping down of spotless countertops.

“Where you from?” one of them asked.

Terry and Mae and Stephen answered easily. “Ottawa,” they said. “Thunder Bay.” I hesitated, and then answered “Toronto” and then we watched as the clerks’ faces changed accordingly, as if something had fallen into place for them. I suppose they took that as their right. I guess, anyway, that it was at least their prerogative. This is such a big country.

It was by now late afternoon.

Did they not know about MJ?

“Toronto, eh?”

***

We stopped at a place not too far from the sanctuary for dinner. It was famous for its Italian-Canadian fare (that’s what the guy at the gas station said), but it was particularly prized for its gigantic pizza bread: great slabs of hot dough, the rough size and heft of a decorative pillow, leaden with shredded, multicoloured cheese and finished off with a spray of light green parsley not at all unlike the trimmings fired from the backend of a lawnmower.

(The description above, I assure you, does not do justice to the taste).

We settled in, ushered to a booth by an unnamed hostess. Someone looked up.

And there he was again.

Only this time a vision dancing in perfect synchronization with his sister, Janet, in the legendary Scream video, two figures effortlessly swaying, pop-locking and pivoting in zero gravity on a screen affixed to an unassuming corner of the dining room, close (but not too close) to the bathrooms.

“Look!”

The Incomparable Jacksons. The Immaculate MJ. Just east of Lethbridge, off Highway #3.

“Here too!” exclaimed Terry, pointing, eyes no longer heavy-lidded.

Our server, a man with a shining forehead, thick arms and little patience, may have heard the urgency in Terry’s voice. We were, if memory serves, agog. Certainly, I was and Stephen too.

“Don’t you know?” barked the server, snapping us to attention. “You don’t know?” he added more gently when he realized he had it. “He died. Michael Jackson’s dead.” He eventually left us with our food, carefully arranging it before us on the heavy, water-stained table.

“Died?” echoed Mae. “Dead?” she said, tasting the words.

Despite everything, given everything he had been and done and had become, MJ had never done that, never been that before.

It shouldn’t have been possible: Michael Jackson was dead.

Pinto MacBean, however, remained.

Remains.

Annie are you okay? Will you tell us that you’re okay?

It should not have been possible: something of the permanence of life as we knew it had shifted under our feet and left us stumbling for purchase. As sudden as it was, therefore, absurd. It was more than enough.

It was time to go home.

Time to head back and, if possible, redeem ourselves.

“I’ll drive,” Terry said finally, attempting a laugh around a mouthful of bread.

 

END

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Celebrity, Change, Death, Food, Friends, Music, People, Places, Pop Culture, THE PAST, Travel

Eponymous

Let’s skip the definition here and witness the word in action, so rarely do we get to do that with such perspicacity:

Our manager, Bristol,* ever-loving Bristol, easy-going Bristol (or so she would have you believe and, really, do I have any proof to say otherwise?), Bristol wanted to shake things up, play a little music as we worked.

Music of our choosing.

“What shall we play?” she asked cheerfully after her playlist had exhausted itself.

“Beyoncé,” answered Simone.

“O-K. Beyonce! What songs? Which album?”

Beyoncé.”

“I heard, Beyonce.”

“Beyoncé.”

“I need you to give me an album, at least to start.”

Beyoncé.”

“STOP SAYING BEYONCE!”

It took several long moments, in which nothing was said, in which nothing, (Beyoncé or otherwise) played, before Bristol, finally, blessedly caught up, got with it & realized.

“Oh. You mean – “

“Beyoncé: Beyoncé,” answered Simone.

As the music played and we four women (Bristol included) worked steadily away to Drunk in Love (feat. Jay Z), Tim, a report writer, stuck his head through the door and into our workspace.

“Wow. It’s like a sorority in here,” he said.

(Tim’s head: did I mention it was undersized?)

But Tim is another story:

Tim’s an asshole, the very definition.

 

 

 

________________________________________________

* Not real names. No real names, not here, not today.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Communications, Jobs, Music, Names, People, Words

Open Secrets Vol. 2

– You can be kind to be cruel. It is, definitely, an option.

– Apocalypse/beauty/success is in the eye of the beholder.

– That sheer difference between luck and fate.

– She doesn’t like you.

– There are other beholders.

– Everyone: poops, lies.

– “Hideous” is a very good word.

– The facts don’t matter compared to the Truth.

– It’s not them, it’s us.

– What does, and does not, count as controversy.

– Lake —> Lake Monster.

– “Because why not?” is why.

– It also gets better before it gets worse.

– More to the point: you’re not them.

– Beyoncé. Always.

– Just make sure they’re good lies.

– Never Beyonce.

– It’s not OK. And yet.

– It’s really obvious when you don’t think about it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Celebrity, Music, Names, Philosophy, Relationships, Ritual, Routines

1. 2. & 3. Real Stories About Music

 
No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious and charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED

FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

WAS MUSIC

– Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without Country (2005: 66).

 
 
 
1. A Trip to the Supermarket.

Drink up, before it gets cold! It’s not as nice when it gets cold.

You know, I was at the supermarket, picking up this and that for the house when I saw it. It was on sale. So drink on up!

The thing about the supermarket, though, dear, you know. All the supermarkets today. They play songs. Fast songs, radio songs, saxophone songs.

And the people.

The People, the people say, you know, that even if they don’t particularly like them – or at all – that the songs don’t bother them. Not at all. They say to me all the time, dear, people say they can’t even hear those songs. Can you believe that?

But meanwhile, you know, there’s other people. People like me who can’t just stand there and not hear the songs. Clattering around in your brain like rats in a bone heap.

Have another. There’s plenty. Don’t be shy; it does no good.

So, you know, now, it’s like, OK. When people don’t mind the songs, when they don’t even hear them anymore, then why, why, why, why play them?? I can’t stand it. It’s like, well, you know? It’s like…

[bangs fists softly but rapidly on table top, abruptly stops]

It’s. Like. It. Makes. Me. Want. To. Take. A. Gun.

A gun, dear.

It makes me want to take a gun, put it in my tote, drive to the supermarket and then take out my gun from my tote and stand there in the supermarket and shoot out all the speakers. Every last one of them. Such a rush! And I’d shoot them one by one so that they’ll see and learn and know what those songs can do to a person.

Honestly, it’s enough to drive one mad.

Have another sip, dear.

That’s a girl.
 
 
 
2. Radio in E-flat Major.

Whoa. Wait, wait, wait! One moment…

Ah! I knew it. Concerto No.5! Beethoven. No. 5, E-flat Major, Op. 73. To be eggs-act. Sorry, guys, I need to turn this up!

HA!

The Emperor Concerto. “C’est l’empereur de concerti!” Beethoven’s last and best, if you ask me. Forget your Rachmaninoffs and your Brahms and Tchaikovskys!

You can keep Mozart.

Bay-tho-VEEN!

HEY. Did I ever tell you guys about Charlie? Charlie H. Now, there was a good man. Good man, Charlie! Tough and mean as bloody hell, but a true and loyal friend if you were lucky enough to get on his good side. Which few ever did. He’d mess you up.

Charlie, Charlie.

 Charlie, Charlie, Charlie

They must play more of this kind of thing on the radio, all the time.

But good old Charlie. God, you shoulda seen him! Head like an anvil; gigantic, immovable! Legs so bow-legged he looked ready to pounce soon as you looked at him. But his hands. My god, but his hands were a thing of absolute beauty. You wouldn’t think they could be his, but they were. Delicate, yet firm. Strong, yet elegant. Luminous in the day and night.

Artist’s hands.

Charlie could play piano. Self-taught. He was, believe you me, one of the greatest pianists around, ever. Period. Charlie could play Beethoven’s No. 5, E-flat Major and he knew it and only played it very, very rarely. I used to go over to his house and he’d try to teach me but I never did get the hang of it. Mind you, I’d go over all the same, just to watch him play that fearless piano. The 2nd movement is where it got me every time. Gets me.

I like to imagine him, lying there that night, listening to the radio to No. 5, E-flat Major when his cabin burned down. Lit up like you wouldn’t goddamn believe, and with poor old Charlie inside.

FROOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!

Just like that. Log cabin in the middle of the woods, there was nothing left but ashes.

Nothing left of Charlie. Nothing left you could call Charlie.

Lightning.

HA, HA! The Gods themselves had to take good old Charlie down!

That was years and years ago, see, but it wasn’t properly writ up in the papers. They got wrong what happened, is what.

November 28th, 1811. Leipzig. I would give anything to have been there at the Gewandhaus. But what can you do?

What can you do?

His bed was right there, next to that old piano. Almost at it should have been.

You know?

Shit. I think we missed our exit.
 
 
 
3. Soundtrack of Our Lives.

My brother? The usual. He’s taken over the entire basement now – threw out all my old workout stuff and videos. I dunno. He’s, like, dwelling down there with god-knows-who. Different fucking people all the time. Fucking different people.

Why not? Because where is he supposed to go, that’s why not. He barely works. He’s bad with money. He’s broke. She knows that.

He’s the youngest too, which helps his case. I couldn’t get away with half of his fucking goddamn bullshit.

All kinds of people!

OK. Look. OK.

He’s got sheets and, like, lights up on the walls. He’s got cameras, CAMERAS, pointed at them.

Because I went down there to find it. I know! He asked me to come and see.

So we go down there and he’s got these white sheets up on the wall and there’s his laptop and he opens it and turns it on. I’m like, “OK. Where is it?” And he’s like, “just wait, man. You have got to see this.”

And it smells down there. It fucking reeks and I just want to get it and leave and, I dunno, get on with my life. OK? I mean, there’s garbage and furry plates and dirty underwear, like, fucking, everywhere. And…there’s a fucking mattress in front of the white sheets. Like, an extra, additional mattress in the middle of the room in addition to the one he sleeps on. And I look at the screen as I’m, you know, taking this all in and there’s that fucking mattress again.

On the screen! On his fucking dirty-ass laptop. And then, fuck me, these two ladies come on and they are rough as fucking hell and they start making out on the mattress on the screen and, you know, the one starts pawing at the other’s Sears underwear and ripping off her sports bra and I’m sure, I am like fucking goddamn sure, that I recognize one of them, she worked at the high school or some shit, like, holy fuck, is that lady from the admin office? Dylan’s mom? Is that Dylan’s fucking mom sinking into that dirty-ass mattress in the middle of the room, on the screen?

I am so, fucking, enraptured by this that I don’t even notice it at first. But it’s there. It was there from the instant when he clicked on the video. To play it, right? I realize that now.

My music. The stuff from back in the day. He found it when he was throwing out the rest of my shit. And, and, he cued it up. He looped it to make it last. He made it happen. OK?

Ever? No. Not ever. How do I, I can’t even. And it’s, like, he made it work. Finally. Which means, in a way, I made it for him.

It was always for him.
 
 
 
“Back to music. It makes practically everybody fonder of life than he or she would be without it” (Vonnegut 2005: 67).
 
 
 
 
 
 
References

Vonnegut, Kurt. A Man Without Country. (2005). Random House Trade Paperbacks: New York.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Leave a comment

Filed under Music, People