My Impressions after a 50 Year High School Reunion

Everybody here is old!!!!! How can that be?!?!? I am still 16. I look around and see younger faces emerging dreamlike from older faces. Some of the emerging faces have names that I could recall instantly, others remained murky. We are wearing name tags on lanyards at chest level and none of us are wearing our reading glasses so there is a lot of staring closely at breasts and groping to turn the name tags around because they are only printed on one side. 

Some of the faces are vaguely familiar, all of them kind and eager, but belong to people that may have chosen different electives (mine were all artsy). Some belonged to people who entered the high school in grade ten which was when I was entering grade ten at Laurentian Regional in Lachute. One lady rushed up to me and exuberantly exclaimed “ I remember you from Grad!!!!” Which was funny, seeing as I did not graduate with this group. I helped her sort out her error. 

I was most interested in the faces I have known since we were all five years old and (due to flukes in geography, zoning, religion and socioeconomic status) were thrust into the same kindergarten class.

There were two Kindergarten classes at our school and pretty well two classes for every other grade up through grade seven. Some kids might be in your class one year and the other class the next year. Even shuffled, we all went to the same birthday parties, some met in cub scouts, Sunday School, municipal sports etc.

Shuffling classes at the end of each school year is a humorous ritual I sat in on every year throughout my own teaching career. Kid A and Kid B shouldn’t be in the same class. The mother of kid K doesn’t want K to be near student R. He’s ”Special K”. Student P and student Q shouldn’t sit together. “Mind your P’s and Q’s”.

Suffice it to say we all knew each other pretty well by grade seven. In high school we stuck together at first because in eighth grade we went from 60 kids in our grade to a huge school with probably a few thousand kids some of whom actually smoked, drank, did drugs, had sex, etc. Overwhelming for a young knob to go from top of the hill to bottom of the pile. Seeing familiar faces was a relief then, even if the kid you saw may not have been a friend before. Without all the angst, last night was similar. Friendly familiar faces were like oases.

At this 50 year reunion our elementary school (Dunrae Gardens) was well represented with just under twenty of us there. I managed to talk to most, but not all. Some I have been in touch with over the years, and some I hadn’t seen since 1971 (two years before grad). Many came from quite far away. Cincinnati, Houston, California, Western Canada and mostly next door in Ontario. Striking how few live in Montreal. 

Some conversations I wished could go on for hours. Others were not as stimulating. Not everyone has the gift of gab, nor others, the gift of listening. I hope I didn’t bore anyone with anything! Subjects were wide and varied. Common denominators were: dealing with the deaths of our parents, various medical procedures (lol) and grandchildren, DIVERSE subjects such as politics; how lousy the MRHS football team was; band; favourite music; exporting alfalfa sprouts to Saudi Arabia (I’m not kidding…very interesting actually) etc. 

What struck me most when surveying the crowd, taking the pulse, was how homogeneous the crowd was. We were 95% white skinned, English speaking, mostly privileged well fed middle class people. I thought ‘we are interlopers in a place that used to be home’. TMR is now predominantly French speaking and to live in TMR these days, requires more moolah than even an Aeronautical Engineer like my dad could muster. My kindergarten teacher Mrs. Sevigny lived across the street from us. I know I couldn’t live there now on a teacher’s income.

Having taught for many years in this city I can assure you that this experience of homogeneity is an anomaly, a throwback to a different era. An era that only exists in fading memories and history books.

One classmate remarked that we were so lucky to benefit from post war stability, relative affluence and an insular environment. Our music was great, our freedoms were many, our problems few. OK Boomer…. We know that on the surface it was like that, but dig a bit and the skeletons come out. 

One dear friend took me to task when I said we came from privilege. His parents were blue collar and he grew up in a basement apartment on Graham Boulevard, etc. I said: “Fair enough, did you ever go hungry? Were you sheltered? Did you lack anything?” Right. Privilege.

My own parents were not rich, they were educated, socially active, volunteered, were active in the church. I was fortunate. My family was less dysfunctional than some. Many families held dark secrets: alcoholism; abuse; absentee parents; etc. Easy to hide all that in the surface environment of school.. 

I loved seeing the classmates that I did, but many of the classmates I also wanted to see were not there. Reunions aren’t for everyone. My old gang is off the grid. I, like them, didn’t really fit school, not because I didn’t love learning, I didn’t like the institution and I am not really a joiner. Ironic that I became a teacher.

Part of me says if I really cared so much about lost friends, we wouldn’t have lost touch. The rational part of me says that our friendship is locked in history and maybe if we met today there would be no bond like before. The kids I played tennis racquet guitar with, kids I pulled pranks with, swiped candy from Deguire’s with, smoked pot with, have all moved on as well. 

An interesting thing I noticed on the way out was a picture display of classmates who have died. There were perhaps eight or nine. Maybe as many as twelve. Point is: a relatively small number.

I was also invited to attend a reunion of the second High School I attended. I am in touch with most the friends I made there via social media and the occasional visit. I am otherly occupied on that day, so I declined. The obituary list for my class at that rural regional school was easily double that of my class at MRHS. Pause for thought about the reality of hardships faced on the farm and speeding on country roads and in one case my dear friend who died of loneliness, poor nutrition and alcoholism.

I recognize my privilege and my good fortune to live a life worth living, an examined life, an artistic life. My wife’s cousin and I were discussing Charles Darwin who never needed a job, he was heir to a vast fortune but worked tirelessly on his specimens and ideas and advanced humankind via his writings. I said I was rethinking my ideas on class divide. She said “There’s nothing wrong with privilege, It’s what you DO with it.”


This elderly gentleman caught my eye while at the magnificent Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England. He was ambling slowly along the far wall, but something made him change course and admire this statue. I was fortunate to catch this image frozen forever in time, the angle of his back almost parallel to the lovely sculpted torso of the maiden. He was wearing a pressed grey flannel suit, polished shoes and he reminded me of my own beloved British grandfather although this man is younger than even my father would be today. Perhaps twenty years older than I am now.

I processed the photo in Black and white (essentially grey) which are the colours of my memories of Papa. My grandfather did not have Osteoporosis like this man, nor did he wear a peaked cap but wore a fedora until that style disappeared completely in the early 1960’s. I view him as an everyman grandfather, a trove of experience, hopes, sorrows.

I wanted to write a poem about him, but he already IS a poem. Not a song, though…not yet. I wrote a lyric. I have the rhythm of the words and the form as solid as the statue but my life is too busy to set it properly to music. It is in me, but will have to wait. Next week.

Dapper as can be 
filled with History

The weight of the world may have bent you 
but broken you are not
you visit the museum 
to restore what you forgot

living out your years
no more time for tears

the world has spun away from you
but you don’t seem to care
all your best behind you
content to just be there

the sum of where you’ve been
oh what  your eyes  have seen

“mes meilleurs souvenirs”
in my declining years
my worries and my fears
have all disappeared

the sum of where you’ve been
oh what  your eyes  have seen

Saxophone Colossus

Of course I knew who Sonny Rollins is. He is a master of an art form that has resonated with me for over 2/3 of my time on this planet. I had all the right albums and knew the lineage as well as any other student of Jazz. Trouble was it didn’t hit me viscerally in the same way some of his contemporaries did. I have had reverential posters on my wall of John Coltrane; Miles Davis; Duke Ellington but never Sonny Rollins.

I just finished a 700 page biography of Sonny’s life and music written by Aidan Levy. It took me a long time to traverse this Tome as I would stop and listen to the records mentioned and fill in the gaps of music I had not yet heard. By guided listening, I was able to rebuild a more accurate view of Sonny Rollins. Hearing the amazing Bud Powell but listening for Sonny… Realizing that although I have several Clifford Brown-Max Roach albums, I didn’t have the one they made with Sonny nor the Max Roach plus albums… rectified.

Focussed listening always brings great results. As various albums came up in the book, I’d stop and listen. Brilliant Corners (Thelonious Monk) The Fabulous Fats Navarro, Art Farmer, Kenny Dorham. All great albums in my collection where I never really remarked on the sax player being Sonny. Each new listen bringing me closer to the general consensus that Sonny was one of the greatest improvisers in modern jazz.

Of course I have been aware of and have played several of Sonny’s songs. Oleo, Doxy, Pent-Up House, St. Thomas, Tenor Madness, Airegin, etc. A very long list of what are now part of the standard Jazz repertoire. great tunes, great vehicles for improvising.

I listened to Saxophone Colossus, Tenor Madness and then Live at the Village Vanguard which I initially had dismissed because it was a trio (no guitar or piano). My ears were not ready back then. I held so many opinions then that I disagree with now.

There is a famous story where Sonny stopped performing and took a sabbatical to reimagine his approach and strengthen his mind and body. he practiced daily on the Williamsburg bridge in NYC. When he decided to end his exile he emerged with a quartet that included guitarist Jim Hall. The album “The Bridge” was and is one of my favourite discs. I realized this time around that my ears were mostly attuned to the guitar and the rhythm section and I was taking the leader soloist for granted. i listened intently several times focusing on elements I had heretofore ignored and the disc became alive and complete. It was as if I was experiencing something for the first time. A richer experience because I had been awakened.

As a music student in the late seventies and early eighties I was learning so much about jazz all at once. i would scour used record stores for names I recognized and would snap up their discs for cheap. Some were gems, others, duds. I picked up three or four titles from Sonny’s catalogue and was disappointed by each of them. According to the book, the period where these albums were from was the weakest era of his career. he was marrying improvisation on a more ‘pop’ or ‘commercial’ backing. I am not against this kind of music per se, but at the time I was a hardcore bop fanatic and I felt that Sonny was slumming it. It is no wonder that I dismissed the entirety of Sonny off this random sampling. I feel differently now. I know more. I hear better.

The gift in all of this is that by him being under the radar for most of my life, I am discovering remarkable music daily from this same source. The motherlode of riches is like when a miner hits a huge vein of precious ore. Eldorado!

Reading about Sonny’s personal and spiritual journey has also deepened my experience of his music. i have read several biographies of other heroes from the same or similar eras. Most of my musical heroes did not live to experience old age. Easier, tidier to wrap a life already lived than one that is ongoing. Sonny is no longer able to play, but I am thankful for the richness of his oeuvre and what he has taught.

If I have ever said anything disparaging or disapproving about Sonny Rollins in the past, please forgive me. I was an asshole!

Musings Out Of Time

I am reading a biography of Sonny Rollins called “Saxophone Colossus” which has rekindled my love and appreciation for Bebop and Hard Bop music.

The format I listen to music now is very different from LP and/or CD. I download my CDs and transfer the files to one of several iPod Classics. I listen with my eyes closed and bathe in the sound. My form of meditation and migraine relief.

To relax yesterday, I listened intently to another Sonny. Sonny Clark’s album “Cool Struttin'” from 1958 which I have listened to probably several dozen times since I first purchased it in the 1970’s.

I like to guess the players on music I listen to if I don’t already know in advance. I knew it was Sonny Clark on piano, because he was the leader whose album I had selected. I have many other albums by him, and this one was chosen at random. I immediately recognized Paul Chambers on bass and Philly-Joe Jones on drums. They were 2/3 of perhaps the greatest rhythm section of that era. I know all their recordings with Miles Davis and many others. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out the trumpet and saxophone player. I wracked my brain and it upset my serenity that I didn’t recognize the players, so I googled it. Jackie Mclean on alto and Art Farmer on trumpet. These are both masterful artists that I am familiar with in other settings. Art Farmer is better known as a flugelhorn player and I was surprised at his tuning on this. I felt he was just under the pitch which was especially noticeable on the ensemble playing with Jackie who (to my ears) is always just the other side of the pitch. One was flat, and the other sharp. Seeing as I haven’t noticed it before on previous listens, I returned to my enjoyment and willingly suspended my analytical listening.

The early chapters of the book on Sonny Rollins fresh in my mind and the sounds of the music of Sonny Clark’s combo got me to thinking about how unstuck in time I am.

When I first encountered and became engaged to this style of music, I was twenty years of age. Hard bop music was already around twenty years old by then. I thought of these musicians as older than me and revered them as masters of the form that I sought to master. Rollins’ biography made me realize that the musicians I was worshipping were essentially around my age when they were making this fresh and compelling music. Why was this fact, which on some level I must have known, just becoming a reality to me now?

If I see a Hockey game or any other professional team sport, I don’t think of the men on the ice as younger than me… is it because I first encountered team sports from the perspective of a child? Something that a grown up does. If I encounter women’s team sports I do not have the same experience. I see them as dynamic women younger than me. Is this because Women’s professional organized sports has only fairly recently become a”thing”?

I’m starting to think that the way I store things in my brain is faulty. If I perceive musicians who are younger than me on recordings as older than me and conversely, Hockey players in real life who are younger than me as older than me do I have faulty perception? Do others experience this? When we picture notable people do we picture “Sun Records Elvis” or “Las Vegas Elvis”? We see Einstein with White hair. We tend to see people in their image “after achievement”. A Monolithic vision.

Another thing of which I am recently becoming acutely aware is the time line and perspective of history. Concurrent to the Sonny Rollins book I am also reading “Indiginous Continent” and “A People’s History of The United States” (and Trees by Hermann Hesse…doesn’t fit this essay). So many different perspectives of things I thought I knew. Things and people evolve.

Some things I could lecture on at length and am able to distinguish a time line. The career of each year of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, history of the guitar, the time lines of what we call “classical music and art” but includes Baroque, Renaissance, Romantic, etc. I would regularly blow the minds of students when discussing things in the past that never occured to them. On Mozart. Do you know what was here (the island of Montreal) when Mozart lived? The population of Canada was under 100,000 people and Montreal’s population could fit inside a hockey Arena except Hockey Arena’s didn’t exist at that time.

I think perhaps we all go through life placing things vaguely in “the past” as “chunks” without giving a thought about things we take for granted and were always there, so always will be. As we experience the deaths of loved ones and/or historic events it dawns on us that we are impermanent and situations change… pre-Covid….college days… when dad died….

Only age, experience and education is making me evolve my world view. Everything is in flux. I love this short video that illustrates transformation.

A post-script. Wayne Shorter transitioned from a living human being into the spirit world (as was his belief)yesterday. I have followed Wayne’s career from when he first came to prominence in the Jazz world (roughly a decade and a bit after Sonny Rollins). His music is a part of me. My fabric. I know he was young when he was with Art Blakey and then Miles, on his own and then with Weather Report. I never experienced him as “young”, middle-aged” or “old” just as “Wayne Shorter”. Now that he is no longer Wayne Shorter, but his recordings still exist, I can still think of him fondly and honour what he brought into my life.

All lessons still exist “out of time” and although our bodies will run “out of time” the spirit of art lives on.

Downtown Train, Different Times

The train from the Town of Mount Royal to Central Station takes less than ten minutes. It travels in a straight line from the center of what was once called “Model City” to a hole at the foot of the “mountain” where there is a brief stop and then the train is swallowed and eventually finds the platform under Central Station in the heart of downtown Montreal. I was always amazed that this hole went right under the mountain and came out the other side. I would stay up at night and think about how they might have achieved this. I think my one way fare as a student was 10 cents. Maybe 15. It was a while back.

Some of my most vivid and fondest memories of my childhood are of that train. At ten years old, My parents were trusting enough in me and in society to let me go downtown by myself. I was required to go to choir practice at Christ Church Cathedral on Tuesdays and Thursdays after school. I also had to go early on Sundays before the service.

I was one of six charter members of the boy’s choir which started in 1966 the same year Montreal got it’s Metro. At its peak the boy’s choir had around 24 choristers who came from various parts of the city to sing. There were several from Town of Mount Royal and at least one from Ville St. Laurent (one stop past TMR). Many came from “the Point” (Point St. Charles) or “Little Burgundy” and Verdun. These last three neighbourhoods could be described as “inner city” or “disadvantaged” although I knew nothing of that as a young boy. We were all just “kids”.

Sunday morning was my favourite commute. There was hardly anyone on the train or at Central station and there was no Sunday shopping, so there were no shoppers along the boutique lined passageways of Place Ville Marie which had been built in 1962, so was relatively new when I frequented these passageways.

The rays of the sweep light atop Place Ville Marie were visible from my home and kept a steady beat in the sky. I loved watching it while lying on my back in the back yard accompanied by the smell of apple blossoms in Spring, thick honeysuckle and ripening apples in summer and dead leaves and rotting windfalls in fall. I am trying to recollect a winter memory of ozone and damp wool, but given Canadian winters I doubt if I lay in the back yard after dark. I saw the light anyways from my bed. Sweep…..sweep……sweep….sleep.

Exiting PVM on Cathcart street, I made my way to University Street (now named Robert-Bourassa after a politician who had not yet become Premier of Quebec).

I would head north on University towards Ste. Catherine Street which was essentially the core of downtown. Big department stores, delis, churches, banks. On Sunday morning the street was bare. Hardly a soul. It is how I imagine a city would look after an evacuation or a rapture. Only me and maybe a street cleaner or a stray pedestrian wearing a fedora huddled against the wind and sheets of newspaper wafting around empty curbs. Being alone in such a large desolate space made it mine. I own it to this day.

The Cathedral sits between University (Robert-Bourassa) and Union. It was usually described as the big church between Eaton’s and Morgan’s (now The Bay). The two largest department store chains in Canada. Just North of the Cathedral there was a grey stone building that housed a number of church related activities. This was attached to another building which housed offices and a hall called Fulford Hall. These buildings in turn were connected to the Cathedral itself by a long tunnel. At the end of the church service the officiant (usually the Dean) would say “let us depart in peace” and the choristers would reply “in the name of the lord” and we’d all say “amen” together and the boys would tear through the tunnel taking off our surplices, ruffs and cassocks as we flew back to the croft and gave them to be hung away for another week. We would then either go back home or go to Fulford Hall for overly sugared and milked tea and cookies depending on how we had arranged to go home.

The music we sang in church was wonderful. Motets, Anthems, hymns and psalms. I will always love this music. It has permanently altered me at a molecular level. Because the Cathedral was “high Anglican” there was a lot of very serious liturgical stuff and candle lighting and standing and sitting. Not quite incense swinging and everything in Latin, but close . We learned:The Apostle’s creed, the Nicene Creed, Benediction, bunch of stuff in Latin. My favourite being the Kyrie Eleison. Music was better for Morning Prayer than the Eucharist. Probably to keep people in the pews. The Eucharist (Holy Communion) had a part where the choir would sing softly as people went up to the Altar to receive the body and blood of Christ. Usually when everybody was done and after the officiant honked the last of the “blood” (apparently it was a sin to waste blessed wine) we would sing an anthem. Often this would be A Capella (which translates as “in the Chapel”, but means “unaccompanied”.) Being in the midst of this glorious reverberant sound of men and boys singing music that is the acme of western civilization is one of the greatest feelings I have ever had. It is easy to believe there is a God when in the middle of a good choir.

Once a month we had to sing “Evensong” so the boys would be treated to lunch and we would have some sports activity between services. Evensong was almost all music, so even though the sermon was an abbreviated rerun the music was fresh and good. My favourite restaurant that we might go to at the time was Mr. Steer which is still around. Their #2 which costs $12.25 plus GPS and TPS today, was $1.10 then. It was a steerburger and Suzy Q fries with a soft drink. The price was just before the tax cut in, so was popular with businessmen for lunch. Very clever incentive. My dad explained that to me after talking to the owner who I referred to as Mr. Steer. His real name was a very Jewish sounding name like Katz. Most of the delis in Montreal at that time were owned and run by Jewish immigrants from Europe. They probably still are, but there is more competition from the delicacies of more recent immigrants’ cuisine as well. We had to sing for our supper once at Dunn’s delicatessen. Helped the church pay for our Smoked Meat sandwiches.

Trains, music and food. The sights and sounds and smells of my youth that still affect me viscerally. Memories like these help me be grateful for such a long life well-lived.


I was sitting alone in my favourite daytime café today half daydreaming and half listening to an over loud monologue (I originally typed nonologue lol) by one of the patrons (an overeducated older white male blowbag) reminiscent of the lobby scene in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall where a man in line is spewing off theories about Marshall McLuhan and Woody calls him out and the guy says he teaches a course on McLuhan and Woody brings Marshall McLuhan into the scene and McLuhan completely refutes and debases the professor. “If life were only like that” said Woody. This story is not about him, the patronizing patron.

As I was daydreaming/eavesdropping, a large man in a large, worn winter coat walked into my field of vision and sat in front of the window I was staring out. As he arranged his posture he looked directly at me and said “Hi!” in a booming and overly loud for the space voice. I mumbled “hi” back and went back to thinking and waiting for my double espresso to cool down and also waiting for my phone to ring as I was killing time while Sharon was at the vet’s. Not for herself, of course, but one of the birds had her “annual” bank account draining check up.

The man was quite unusual looking. He looked perhaps like an Australian aboriginal man with curly tousled hair and a scruffy beard and missing a few teeth. He had kind, intelligent eyes and looked like he spent a great deal of time outdoors. I am pretty sure most people’s snap judgement of him if they met him on the street would be that he was homeless and to avoid him or brace themselves for a demand for alms because his size and appearance could be considered daunting.

As I pondered his greeting, I thought that maybe he thought I was staring at him and was offended and that is why he said “Hi”so loudly like it might have been a “Here I am… Want a picture?!?” but there had been no trace of sarcasm in the monosyllabic greeting, just volume. I know many people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder who sometimes use their “outside voice” inside, but this did not seem to be the case either.

I soon got my text to pick up Sharon and the bird, so I quickly downed my defibrillator espresso in one gulp and got up and put my coat on. As I approached the table where the man who had greeted me was sitting I said to him “I am sorry if you thought I was staring at you, your greeting surprised me and I was unsure if it was a friendly conversation starter or if I had offended you.” He was most affable and assured me that he was just being friendly and he thanked me for approaching him to be understood clearly.

I felt mildly ashamed at my train of thought and wished I had had more time to engage this gentleman in a proper conversation. He looked wise and kind, his life full and his stories most assuredly would have been better than the one I had involuntarily been listening to before.

Dave Gossage Sep7tet …encore

I last wrote about my experience of attending a show by the Dave Gossage se7tet in November 2021 in the midst of the pandemic.

The music they play is in the same genre as “Bitches Brew”, or mid career Herbie Hancock: (Mwandishi,Headhunters,Thrust) or John Abercrombie or Jack DeJohnette’s Special Edition even the group “Focus”. But unmistakably Dave.

They were playing Café Resonance last time which fell victim to the pandemic and is no more. This time around they were playing the Diese Onze (Sharp eleven). The name is referring to a chord extension that is used frequently in modern jazz.

The locale is on St. Denis street and is more upscale than the Resonance was. Reservations were necessary. It was a full house and the cover was $15 for one show or $25 for both the seven o’clock and the nine o’clock. I went with my younger daughter again despite her living in NY, she always seems to be in Montreal when the Se7tet makes an appearance.

I made our reservation late as I made the mistake that people often do of clicking “going” on the event page but neglecting to make an actual reservation at that time. Because we reserved late, we had the last seats at an ell shaped bar. The sightlines were awful, but the sound was very professionally handled. The mix was even and all the instruments audible. I saw the sound engineer near us. He asked about the mix and he was controlling it with an app on his phone. I told him the mix was great, and I half-jokingly asked if he had an app to shut up the constant chatter of the three tables near us. He rolled his eyes in complete empathy with me and said he’d turn up the mix near us.

I don’t understand why people will pay a cover charge to enter a venue and be virtually unaware that there is music (art) being made in their presence and are oblivious that their chatter works against it. This is a whole other blog topic. I said to my daughter that the ell shaped bar was like The Village Vanguard in NYC with the exception that jazz audiences in NYC are reprimanded if they talk during a show.

I had ordered a burger, but the host came back after about ten minutes and told me they were out. My daughter had observed several being sent back and replaced. so perhaps the chefs were over or undercooking the meat. Bummer. I chose another option from the menu which appealed to me less, but was quite good despite the Dore being characterless and bland, the opposite of the music being presented.

We decided that if we couldn’t change places we wouldn’t stay for what used to be called a second set, but now is considered a second “show” with a second cover charge. We told the server that we’d like to change seats for the 9:00 “show” intending to leave if it were not possible.

He managed to seat us at the opposite end of the bar which was absolutely amazing for us. We were within touching reach of both Rich Irwin (the drummer) and Steve Raegele (the guitarist). The mix was not as good where we were, but the chatter was too far away to hear and we saw and heard the rhythm section as if we were part of the band except the monitors fo the horns were not pointed at us, so the mix was unbalanced. So What!

From where we now sat, I no longer felt the sting of a night out that was “less than expected”. We salvaged the experience and in the end, walked out into the winter air as better people. The music that these seven men made transported us. The new friends I made at the bar had a similar experience. I mentioned after the show that I felt “high” and they looked at me in wonderment and said they had just said exactly the same thing to each other.

There were two new members of the septet who brought different ingredients to the music of the ensemble. Remi-Jean Leblanc on Electric Bass brought a different feel than Adrian Verdady’s upright. Not better, but also not worse. When he kicked in the octave pedal it got pretty LOW and LOUD. vibrates the innards. Jerome Beaulieu on Keys did a stellar job and was funt to watch as he was so physically invested in the music.

Samuel Blais on Alto and Bari and electronics and Frank Lozano on Tenor sax were stellar and playful while playing and serious and pensive while awaiting their next cue.

Richard Irwin on Drums and Steve Raegele (playing a Les Paul Goldtop this time). were on their game. Dave may be the driver of this outfit, but Rich is the engine. He was so much fun to watch as he seemingly shut out the world and was wholly immersed in the music.

Dave, as I wrote in the other article controls everything by shouting out cues or giving hand signals Mingus-like to the others. Always a joy to see and hear.

I have some short clips that I will share below that don’t really do the music justice n Iphone has limited fidelity. They are short clips as I don’t like filming as much as experiencing.

Our vantage point was at a disadvantage, but the music was great.
Band Side

Small Stuff

There is a view I have from the armchair in our living room that I cherish. I look into my office/studio which right now is fairly uncluttered (at least the part we see here lol.) I have been organizing and sorting and finding things that I knew I had, but had misplaced or, rather, changed the place of so I’d find it better when I needed it…. Right…. My vape machine has been missing for several months. i use it infrequently, only when my migraine is unbearable. I forgot that I had given it a new home in it’s own artsy box and had put it on a shelf of its own meant to hold a dozen or so CD’s. The second thing was several gifts I got on sale at Chapters. Not books, but clothing items for my girls who I didn’t see in person this year at Christmas. Bought them at 30% off last year Boxing Day (week). It is not like me to think that far ahead. I have lost and found them 3x in a year. This time I wrapped them and labeled them and put them in a bag on the back of my studio door hanging with dozens of guitar cables. I can always refer to this blog now in case I forget where they are. Trouble is, these items are like passwords on the internuts. Don’t get me started.

I feel like an archaeologist several times a year shuffling stuff around. Maybe it’s a game like our cockatoo plays until she changes the rules from boredom. She is a real character! Incidentally her cage is directly behind the chair from where I took this photo.

Above the door is a street sign I bought in Liverpool. Favourite song by favourite Beatle. Just down and to the right is a stylized portrait of Bob Dylan that Sharon bought for me from our artist friend Susan Shulman.

I love it ‘cause it’s weird. Bob has three arms. Two on the Fender bass and one holding a cigarette. 

Down to the right and partially obscured by a candlestick is a lovely picture of a cuddly roly poly Sharon with dancing eyes and mischievous smile. Other objects on the table is a lamp with a dog on the vase and dingle berries hanging from the shade. Retro chic. There is a cut glass candy tray filled with white tail feathers from one of the other birds: Betty White. There is a woodcut of a cabin in the woods and in front of that a tiny brass claw foot bathtub with pretty rocks I had collected on my travels as a younger man and gave to my mum. Each with a story. My mum gave them back as she neared her final voyage. Treasures.

The table itself had been my grandmother’s passed on to my parents and fits perfectly right there. Under the table I stashed my Martin guitar, having just returned from teaching a private lesson. Mundane details,  they are merely objects, but they give me comfort. Small stuff.

Nice Eyes

“Nice eyes!” The woman ahead of me at the post office was sending money overseas to her family. She was dressed in a bright green Kameez under a Kanuk overcoat. Obviously from the Indian subcontinent.

I said “Pardon me?”

“You have nice blue eyes.” she clarified. “And kind eyes. Where I come from we all have dark eyes.” I said “My wife was born in India and she says the same thing about her eyes.” I told her what I would have told Sharon: that she should be thankful for her eyes, they see! I also told her it was a nice way to end off 2022, to be complimented by a pretty lady.

She apologized for the long wait and told me she was sending money home, and I told her I wasn’t in a hurry and that my package was part of a funny mistake. I told her this story:

My wife’s mother is Welsh and quite elderly. She has one surviving brother still in Wales whose wife had sent her a gift via us, as my mother-in law’s address has recently changed. As Jennie was opening her parcel and then the wrapped gift inside she saw an address book. Upon opening the address book, my mother-in-law was confused. “There are names and numbers already in here.” We quickly figured out that her sister-in-law had wrapped her address book up in the present and sent it to Canada by mistake. Everybody had a good giggle over this miscue. Sharon fired off a message to one of her Welsh cousins who confirmed that his mum had wondered where her address book was and had turned the house upside down looking for it. Sharon repackaged the book and I took it to the post office this morning.

Everyone within earshot at the post office had a good giggle and we went our merry ways.

On the way home I reflected on how close we came this year to Sharon almost losing the sight in one eye, the death of her father who was legally blind for the last few years of his life. I was grateful for my eyesight, all the doctors (including my brother-in-law) who took such care to get her into and through a difficult surgery. We so often take our senses for granted in our day to day doings. I am thankful for this lady in the Post Office for bringing my attention to bear on something that is so important to me and for which I am grateful.

I remembered this poem I wrote in reply to Sharon saying to me in 2017 that I was lucky to have such nice blue eyes and that her eyes were “ordinary”. Her eyes are especially beautiful in my eyes. All eyes are beautiful; they are conduits to the world and facilitate our movement in it, and our appreciation of it.


You say your eyes 
are ordinary

Ordinary eyes....
Melanin loaded....

Mine are a fluke of 
Tyndall scattering
in the stroma
and larger
deposits of collagen

But they see

Mine see yours 
Yours see mine 

unique, oblique, boutique
probes and globes 

A sight for sorry eyes
Anything but common

Four Different Kinds of Teachers 

Over the last week including yesterday, I have been trying to resolve technical/and or electrical issues. 

Here is Ian’s electronic odyssey:

Our printer became a paperweight when it was most needed….. we both kept getting an ‘out of paper’ message which was b.s. Sharon wanted to replace the whole printer but I thought maybe we should call HP and try to see if they could resolve the issues.

Once I  ran the gauntlet of ‘what kind of device?….what model?…. Was it purchased in the last year…. Home or office? ….PC or Mac? ….’ And was rerouted several times and had to run said gauntlet for each reroute I had to find the serial number which was like one of those bibles written on a grain of rice and some other code from somewhere else needing a microscope, we finally got down to the problem. The person on the other end of the phone was very calm and methodical and patient on our one and a half hours together. During a lull I asked her where on our planet she was located. She told me she was in the Philippines and was so polite and her spiels so scripted that I imagined her chained to her desk and talking at gunpoint. We finally got my iPad to print when we overrode colour printing and after unplugging and/or restarting the printer, removing and replacing cartridges and/or the iPad several times, she got me to remove the colour cartridge and reboot the printer. It worked!

I said I could live with it in black and white until i got a new colour cartridgeand we ended the session and I headed off to the local Bureau en Gros to get the supplies. 

I put in the new cartridge and switched to colour printing and ….nada….back to the Philippines and only one gauntlet this time because I had a case number and a legible printout of the necessary answers… yay. The very similar sounding technician was very polite and we ran through the same calisthenics with a new twist. The blue didn’t print…it was about 20% . I got a step by step tutorial (including allowing her to access my phone’s camera) on cleaning the heads which needed to be done four times with me actually going in there the third time with a dampened lint free cloth. Finally got it to work and I was about to conclude the call when Sharon called upstairs and said her iPad was still saying ‘no paper’ and wouldn’t print. We had to then reinstall hp smart and reinstall the printer and finally got it working for her iPad, mine, both our phones, our desktops etc. I then thought about my stepson’s PC…… we kept the file open with the technician because Sean was at school and we had no access. Fortunately we did not need more tech support because he was able to print and hp actually sent an extra free colour cartridge by courier. That was a few half days gone, but a good result. 

The actual instruction was very methodical, evenly paced and well thought out. It was a good example of great teaching. Both technicians said “we will get it working” as if their personal pride might be offended if we didn’t (or their overseers might shoot them). 

That was only the first leg of the odyssey.

Yesterday was “special”. 

I had to replace my first MacBook about a year ago because I was having “storage issues”. About 6 weeks ago I started to have storage issues” again despite having bought a shitload of internal memory, extra iCloud storage and two external hard drives with tons of memory. 

I put out a distress signal last week on fb asking for help and within an hour my neighbour volunteered. I quickly deleted the call for help before the “clever” and silly messages and puns started to come in. 

My neighbour is very Zen. Looks like he could be Elvis Costello’s son. He is very confident and is no stranger to solving exactly the kind of problem I had. We both play music and enjoy each other’s company. He quickly analyzed and explained exactly what my problems were. When he actually started to open and close pages and delve deep into the bowels of my Mac he was like Steven Seagal whupping a dozen criminal asses, a real fast Aikido  fighter. He calmly explained what my problems were as he was breaking the dozen asses. He then got out of warp speed and explained what he did in real time and now we wait….

I really did not understand “paths” on computers. My computer was making multiple copies of stuff and then the “time machine “ saved my stuff. All of it….each time it saved….. he said it was like stacking books. A very dumb thing to do. But for a click in preferences, I was clogging my arteries. You would think a computer would save only what was new and add it to what was saved. Like throwing away first drafts and keeping the most recent version, but no. My computer is still deleting files right now. It has been at it for hours and is still not done. Periodic checks of my hard drives show me that the burden is diminishing and every once in a while it stops and tells me an operation can’t be completed because such and such is still in use even though all programs are shut. It may be because this device is linked and I am writing on it. I don’t know. I actually don’t want to know. I just can’t want it to work properly like a car; like a toaster;, like a musical instrument; like my body.

Ian (yes, same name as me) showed me how to continue several times patiently and slowly and asked me if I wanted him to write down the steps? I said “no, I think I have it.” He had to go and said he’d call back later to see how it was going. An hour later one of the functions finished and I panicked. I couldn’t remember the  order of his instructions. I texted and he kindly wrote them down. I am on the penultimate  stage of this journey. The next thing to do is shut er down when the trash is empty. We’re close to 1,300,000 items deleted, and that is not counting some other crap we bulk deleted before. It feels like emptying a hoarder’s house except the hoard crept up on me. 

All told, Ian’s teaching was cool, calm and collected. At no time did he treat me like the dummy I am when it comes to this. He even told me in a conciliatory manner that it just wasn’t my skill set. I agree. I do some things really well. This is not one of them. 

As I write, the computer is still deleting, but the last chapter in my odyssey is our wall mounted oven. A few years ago the broil element burned out and I took the element to a local shop that dealt only in oven and stove repair. The Septuagenarian running the shop (which hadn’t been dusted or swept in a decade) ambled over to a wall full of different shaped elements and laid his hand directly on the exact one. I remarked at his skill and he told me he was closing the business after 40 plus years because none of his children were interested in carrying on. Kind of sad, really. I fixed the oven easily. 

About four months ago, maybe longer we have had a rough year of: illnesses, a death in the family, and the aftermath and oth Sharon and I have had some grounding health issues. I went to bake something and I turned on the bake and set it to 350. Nada. Broil did not work either. The clock worked, the displays all lit up. I thought it must be a fuse. I looked everywhere I could access and could see no fuse on the oven. I started unscrewing the plates hiding the rough edges of the wall it was set into. Nada. I went online and searched for this pre internet model and found nothing. I went downstairs and checked all the breakers in the breaker box and the  fuses in the other (older) fuse box. Nothing I could see. I went on Facebook and put out a call for anyone with experience with this kind of thing or a reputable electrician who specialized in appliances. Some response, but none of it useful. Some phone numbers, but often led to a dead end or electricians not interested in a small job. 

We lived without an oven for a while. Not the end of the world, I have a slow cooker, a pressure cooker a stove and a microwave, a toaster, I got a small convection oven, but have hardly ever used it. 

Baking season is upon us (almost over actually) and Sharon said we should either fix the oven or replace it. The dream of remodelling the kitchen in a big way has evaporated. I thought one last try was in order. I called some guy and he said he’d call “next week”. He didn’t. I called after a week and left a message. He called back and said he could come “tomorrow “ which is today. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but through texting he said he’d be here between five and seven. He came at around five. I don’t think his eyesight is very good because he called me from in front of the house and the number is lit. I told him we are the house with blue lights in the two square front windows. He struggled up the drive with a tool box and I led him to the kitchen. His accent was south Asian and very strong and told me he wasn’t from Canada originally, but he came with a 4.9 star rating. 

He looked at the oven and I explained again what was wrong an what I had done. He looked about and asked if I had taken the oven out of the wall. I told him I had only been able to get it half out of the wall as there was a metal encased wire holding it back. He said it was impossible. Unless they built the enclosure around the oven. His brusqueness and arrogance were starting to get on my nerves. I pulled the oven out of the wall using a chair and upside down frying pan  to make a platform the same height to rest it on. The manufacturer’s pamphlet was there as were the screws I had removed. He told me I should not store things there. I explained that they were only there because the oven didn’t work and I didn’t want to misplace them. He seemed miffed. He said to pull it more to which I replied “this is only how far it can go because of the power wire” he looked inside the display panel and shone the flashlight around and instructed me to push it back in. No words to indicate “you’re right.” Next we went downstairs to re check the fuse box. The fuses had handwriting beside some strips, but not all. I went upstairs as he unscrewed fuses and switch breakers to yell down if the oven display was on or off. All of these steps I had done before. The next step was for him to come upstairs and he turned on the oven. Lo and behold it worked. Then the broiler and eureka, success. I asked him what he did?and he said he’d tell me after I answered a question. He asked me back “do you agree I fixed it?” I replied in the affirmative. He showed me a plastic panel with two fuses on it. He pried them out and determined that one of them was blown and needed replacement. He said he took the other panel out and exchanged them. Very simple solution. He asked me if I had a spare fuse. I didn’t know. I knew there was a container downstairs with fuses in it, so we went downstairs. No 30 amp fuses. He was dressing me down patronizingly for not having extras. I tried to explain that the house was functioning a long time before I moved in. He looked disgusted at my lack of knowledge and preparedness as the ‘man of the house’.

We went upstairs and he started to put away his tools before the oven was back in place. He said “you do it” I asked him to at least do the screws he had taken out as he had a cordless power drill with a light. He begrudged me that and I did the rest after he left. I asked him how much we owed and Sharon paid him. As he was putting on his boots he said “with all that gym equipment in the basement how come you have a big belly?” 

I am thankful that he was able to figure out the problem that eluded me because I was unaware of the “hidden” fuses, but could have done without the critical and patronizing attitude. After he left and I closed the door Sharon said “that’s how my father was as a teacher using blame and shaming you for not knowing something already. Your lack of knowledge.” 

This made me meditate on the three problems and the three methods used to solve things that are low on my skill set. I asked Sharon if I ever did that while teaching her vocal or guitar parts? She quickly replied in the negative. I know I have not always been patient as a teacher in my career, but I think I got things done in a kind and loving way. I remember laughter and dedication and tears and headaches and love. I think I always came from a loving attitude.

I used to tell the kids who asked me why I became a music teacher that: “I love music, I love children and I love sharing what I know to make the world a better place, this must be the right place for me.”