I come in peace

August 17, 2011

90 mph

 

West bound.

 

Out of Montreal, it’s 1:14 AM

 

I had journeyed from Ottawa to a small bar on Rue St Denis to make peace.

 

Now I was on my way back with peace in my heart.

 

I went to tie back a thread that had first been hand picked and woven in 2008.  And life happened.   Hers, mine, his, theirs… I did not want to leave the misunderstandings that had been coloring the truth, live on, the anger and the emotionalities I did not want them to rule the future.  Who am I to think I can change the color of things?  But I am an artist am I not?  So I can at least try…

 

There is always a sense of unreality when I land in Montreal. It’s only a Tuesday night but even on this sleepy mid-week night, nowhere else in this sleepy country can such a vibe be found.

 

To find myself on these streets, at this specific latitude and longitude on Beowulf… it must be a dream.  Seems like a thousand years, no, like five thousand years have poured into the vase that will contain the whole of my life since I grew up here in this province. Vague images summoned : the displaced, scared college girl…  the little girl wrinkling her nose at the polluted air after leaving her beloved fields at home…   come to think of it, I was mostly always here against my will…  Now from the height of those 50 centuries, it seems that all I can see are my mistakes.

 

The bike whistles and growls. I’m following the directions from the GPS, the pink ribbon glowing in the night,  turn left, turn right, then the little victory flag ; you have arrived.  I park next to a Harley Davidson, It’s 8:55 but I still pay the 25 cents for 5 minutes of parking, just in case, I don’t want to anger the parking Gods as my parking record is clean so far.  I remove my helmet, gloves, earplugs. I look across the street, here I am.

For lack of better words I told her : “I come in peace.”  Hugs. What else can be done?  Is it the correct course of action?  I don’t know.  Am I a troll brutally trampling over a flower garden?  I don’t know.  I sure hope not.   All I know is that I mean it and hopefully that it will communicate.


I watched the singers sing, the players play, the spectator spectate. I sit between two friends, fellow artists, westerners, beautiful souls. It is a balm to have them here next to me. They tie me to some sort of past, to a shared history, shared dreams. We were all upcoming, Western Canadian Francophone artists. Now we are all on different trajectories, like planets in a solar system.  Tonight we are having an eclipse, we all shine. It simply is good.

 

B. came over and offered me a shooter of vodka.   She came, woman of the world, both hands carrying the little glasses, each dressed with a neatly cut piece of lime.  It was a peace & love offering.  She looked so purposeful.  I had to say no, I was embarrassed to have to say no, socially it is the wrong thing to do…  her face expressed dismay.

I think of this need we have to dose the moment with alcohol.  Wrah, wrah, wrah.   Bottoms up in a righteous gesture, then a wipe of the mouth with the back of the hand, as if trying to prove something while the fire of the liquid burns the insides and nullifies the mind. I looked around trying to find takers but no one was game.  The shooter glass passed from hand to hand to hand, this without disturbing the piece of lime and landed back in her hand.  “I’m sorry.”  I said lamely.    I had to ride the 200 KM back to Ottawa I explained to her ear and through her long blond hair over the noise of the band.  I was trying to find a way to salvage the dance, but toes were already crushed.  She took the drink and disappeared in the recesses of the bar.

The night came to an end with a call and answer chorus pleading : “take your time…” a blues song about guys wanting to go too fast and girls not wanting to go fast enough. The crowd is warm, ready and lubricated. Heads are craned towards the stage, smiles float dreamily on lips, hands will clap when prompted, hips move, feet tap. The climax has been well orchestrated.

 

I chose that moment to use the washroom so I wouldn’t have to partake in this sing-along.  Songs containing such cliches about men and women irritate me to no end. It takes all the poetry and improvisation out of life, reducing us all to a drooling mass of horny, predictable beasts… After that, we don’t stand a chance in hell to get anywhere with any kind of grace.

 
90 MPH on the 417.

 

Westbound.

I do a shoulder check and I see the moon over my left shoulder.

 

Oh moon, oh moon… Your light is my cloak. For thousands of miles you have bestowed upon me the grace of your watchful stare. Then I remember. I am found. I am home.

It’s colder than I expected. The damp night air slowly finds it’s way through the woven fabric, the swelled polyester of the lining and the leather. I can sense the air insinuating itself in every possible crevice in my armor. I also sense the buildup of engine heat hanging around my calves. A mix of hot and cold, life and death.

I am lying on the tank, my elbows tucked in, feeling the rounded shape of the tank, loving the contact point with all my heart. I am a wind jockey. My feet on the rear foot pegs. I stay out of the stream of cold air behind my slight windshield.  My right arm slowly gets colder and colder, a spot of fog appears inside my face shield.

The miles roll under the wheels. Beowulf feels like an impregnable fortress. “She will serve you well” Zanya had told me. She was so right. This engine mounted over two wheels, charging through the night steady, unstoppable.

 

This road is so civilized. This night ride is a sweet, comfortable one. I remember crossing the mountains from Altadena to Lancaster through the Angeles National Forrest in the middle of the night… That too was a two hour ride… Twists, turns, ups and downs, blind curves, falling rocks, risks of flash floods, cold, wild animals, limited vision, yet impossibly magical. Every crossing was a test of my skills and instinct. It was a victory, a test of trust and teamship with the machine. It was deliverance in the night when  the warm air would hug me as I would finally hit the flats of the 14.  Unlike that, this here road is like a ribbon with a silk interface unfurling under the blue moon between evergreens that do not tower and frown over you. This is a road that leads men to believe that they are in control.
The smell of manure…  Pictures of worn wood beams painted over too many times to count. Straw underfoot. How long ago was that? I don’t know.  Blind woman in the night remembering odd particles of her past. Meaningless bits brought on by scents.

 

Wisps of fog.  White and confounding if only for one second.  The vegetation in the ditches is silvery white in the gleam of the headlight.  Like the playthings of fairies.  Sweet, impossibly beautiful in the dark night.

 

And the tarmac rolls on. The hands are light on the controls. The guitar slung over my shoulder is barely perceptible. A car. A semi. I pass them delicately. I come in peace.

 

Ottawa’s orange glow precedes the city. And with it, the air always warms. The exits multiply, the trees get scarcer. Funny enough, every time I see this city’s profile in the distance, I smile.  There is one slight regret : The ride is almost over.  This is so beautiful, so perfect.  Calm.  It’s almost 3 AM and there is almost no one on the streets, I can glide along unheeded.

 

I pull off the 417 onto Metcalfe exit, I straighten up, open the face shield and am greeted with a blast of warm damp air.  “Oh!” I exclaim and smile again. The city is giving me a warm welcome.   I get to the apartment, push the large key in the garage door opener. The brown creaky contraption sighs and grinds it’s way up and I plunge into the catacombs of the parking lot.

 

Written under the spell of La Lune a moon and motorcycle song from Michel Marchildon http://www.myspace.com/michelmarchildon

 

 

 

 

To be

August 13, 2011

Last night I played a small open stage at the Brass Monkey in Ottawa, it was at a suburban strip mall, I’m actually not sure where it is, somewhere East from Downtown. I went to visit friends of friends and we went for a walk. We ended up at Tim Hortons then someone said: “Hey there is a bar next door, they have an open stage and it’s tonight…”

 

So we walked over there, my idea was to get information and leave. We went down the stairs, the place is in the basement of the strip mall. There was a black metal railing leading us down to a space with a dozen or so pool tables to the right a stage to the left and a bar in the center of it all. Four TV screens, two on the football and two on the golf channel. There are only a few souls, most of them playing pool. The four of us sat at a table. While we ordered, a guy was doing sound check with a guitar, putting up microphones.. the usual open mic stuff.

“Hey you should ask what time they start” Said one of my friends.

“hmmm hmm” I said. I walked over to the sound man, a hirsute, taciturn man with long reddish hair that he was starting to lose on the top of his head. He directed me to “Gary”.

I walked over to Gary who was talking to a pretty girl.

 

“Hi, I was wondering at what time the open mic starts?” I learned that the pretty girl was actually Jessika who was also hosting the show. She has long black hair, dark eyes, she is very pretty.

 

Gary informed me : “9 or 9:30 depending on when people show up. Do you play?”

 

“Yes, I do, but I don’t have my instrument.”

 

“Oh you can use my guitar, I got a really good one and I have a pick and a capo. Everything you need.”

 

“Oh OK.”

 

“So what kind of music you play?”

“I write my own material.”

“Oh! Original music! I love original music! Do you have recordings?”

 

“I’m working on my fifth album…”

 

“FIFTH! Well! You HAVE to play! I am going to block all the exits, you can’t leave without playing! You have to play!”

 

“Well all right!” I said.

 

He was truly excited. In this music world there is often an undercurrent of insecurity that makes people either aloof or arrogant or aggressive. This guy was totally into music. You find them here and there. The true music lovers. They get excited by a song, a chord, a phrase or a rhyme. It’s refreshing.

 

“We’ll play a couple numbers then have you play.”

I went back to my seat, suddenly feeling a nervous energy rising, wondering which songs to play, what order to play them in, how is that guitar going to feel, then reminiscing about the number of times in the last year when I have had to make due with whatever instrument was available to me and fearlessly go on… or should I say go on regardless of fear. It was going to be the first time my friends would hear me play, and that too added to the raised vibrations.

 

Gary and Jessika played 3 songs and I was invited on the stage. A stage, a slightly raised floor for you to both be seen and see, lights to make you look good and lights that envelop you of both aura and heat. There are no illusions to bask in. These stages host the best and the worst and people clapping their hands is not guarantee that you possess a micro-ounce of talent or not you just have to go to a Karaoke bar to prove the point.

I sling the guitar over my head, of course the strap is too long, as I wear my guitars really high, we managed to shorten this a few inches so I could actually play. Got a pick in my back pocket, there is a capo pinched on the headstock of the guitar. Ready to go.

 

I had been paying attention to the sound of the instrument when Gary played it, it was a very bright sounding guitar, I quickly picked a couple notes to get a feel for it. It’s going to work, it has to work. It feels gigantic after playing the Go Guitar for the last 6 months.

 

I started to talk, small talk that made me feel slightly disconnected. By now there actually was some people in there, best course of action is to just launch into the first song. Fingers on the strings. The mind, the ears tune into the environment, I study the way the guitar responds, it’s sensitive, nice neck action. It’s a dialog between the guitarist and the guitar. Find what kind of tone, mood the instrument possess and try to make it sing.


I’m tremulous at first but it disappears pretty fast when I start focusing on the sound, on the music, the air flowing through my lungs then across the vocal cords… I look around and people are quickly getting into it. A woman is even singing along the choruses and the “Never Know, Never Know, Never Know” lines with emotion. Feel the ground. Feel the air. Feel. Breathe. Feel the guitar and start pushing it and start pushing myself.

 

I played the 4 songs I was asked to play then Gary asked for another one. I asked out loud : “ So you want another one?” Unanimous yes. I played the fifth one and ended my little tour of duty. I gave Gary back his guitar and walked back to our table.

 

“So you “really” are a singer!” they laughed and I laughed too.

 

I’ve been somewhat paralyzed these last 5 week. The goals had been set : go finish the record, get the cd made, go back “home” to California and resume my life where I had left it back on April 1st… April’s fool I was, now that I think about it.. all these wishful plans hinging on me crossing the border.

 

That did not happen. Door closed.

 

Now what? I’m waiting to hear from people, I’m waiting for time to pass. I’m waiting for answers to appear. Thinking about it, I might be doing too much waiting. I truly question if in fact, plans have no right to existence in my universe because back in May 2010 I had vowed that : there is no plan.” Those words were written black on white at the beginning of this blog, They were the directive that guided the Journey, the rebirth, the discoveries. And that directive had brought me back to life.

 

But we get attached. To ideas, to concepts, to habits, to goals. To lifestyles. We tie ourselves tightly and the sturdiness of the rope seem so reassuring. Sometimes we even go for chains. The discomfort caused by the tight bounds on the limbs is nothing compared to the comfort found in this imagined stability. Can’t go wrong doing the “right” thing, right? To submit to a “plan” and follow it.

 

I did take the denial of entry at the border incredibly well. I did not ignite in raging self-righteousness or discombobulate in a mess of tears and snot, truly, that was a personal accomplishment. “I accept the will of the Gods.” I had declared. It was beautiful. Glorious.

 

A week later I wondered who I was, where I was going, what was my fate? My task? I am indeed stubborn and the symptoms are obvious. The vision narrows and only a rising well frustration fills the mind, the heart, the vision. Like a spoiled brat jumping up and down on the supermarket floor tiles… . Embarrassingly, I was jumping up and down internally on the slippery slopes of my demoted dreams. I see now that I have bundled my self-worth and identity with the making of this album, my being in California and even the riding of the bike, effectively single-handedly narrowing down my opportunities to experience life and it’s lessons. Oh so much to learn.

 

So the question remains : what is my task? To rock the world? Find a spot to pray and write out in the woods. Carve things of wonder in hard stones that no-one wants? Ride until the earth runs out and fossil fuels become an extinct species or until I crash and die in a burst of fire and poetic glory?

Is there an organic answer to human thirst?

To be the butterfly flitting by, eliciting a smile from the ones who saw it or otherwise flies by unnoticed. There is beautiful poetry in that. Beautiful freedom and simplicity. My weakest trait is to worry too much about disappointing people. Not being good enough.
There are seeds of inspiration coming, a couple of doors materializing. The hardest is always just to be. Be humble enough to just be all you can be and trust that you can.

 

Ottawa at night

August 11, 2011

It started with a dramatic sky.  Up on the 6th floor the sun sets in flamboyant fashion.  I set out on the streets of downtown Ottawa.  The natural light disappeared to make room for the man made incandescent, neon, halogen types.  In those types of light things look different.    


 

 

 

 

August 3

August 3, 2011

Live as if you will never die
Pray as if death was going to take you tomorrow.
live without hanging to the questions, the deadlines
the hows and the whys and the material concerns

The bike sits in an underground garage
most of the time, but for a weekend escape.
I’m moon and wind deprived
But I am harvesting the blooms of Turkish wild flowers

I cry, I’m lost. I cry I’m found.
I cannot deny. I cannot run.

The life of a bird
Sun, rain, predators, unexpected shelter.
Feeding on the crumbs that fall from plump white slices of bread
Tenderly hugging ham and cheese at a local yuppy cafe.