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.



4 Responses to “To be”

  1. Emilia Gerritsen Says:

    How refreshing to see that someone can find the words to describe how I feel. Since I came back from my trip around Canada I haven’t found the words for how I feel right now. I’m disappointed in the people around me, don’t know what to do next, what my goal is, where I want to be… Luckily I’m not alone. Love reading your adventures!

  2. Flip Says:

    Please come back to So. Cal… We miss you

  3. Lévis Says:

    Right to the heart! You brought tears to my eyes….
    …and a lump in my throat… bless you! xoxoxo

    • Aaron Says:

      Again, while reading this, I felt like I was sitting right next to you. Very well written. Good things come to those who wait, sooo, we shall wait for your return Danielle. We sure do miss you. ps, I found some really great places to ride when you return.

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