Decade

We had never met. What first attracted me to her was a photo of her on Facebook with a Telecaster and her pithy little blurbs about her day to day life. Little nothings. Bagatelles. Vignettes. We became virtual friends. Her humour and kindness made it easy to become friends. I needed friends at that time of my life and the basket I had put all my eggs into had no room for any of my friends, and by this time no room for me. The internet brought me in touch with new people, new ideas and a release from the pain of my reality.

One day the friend disappeared. All traces gone. Unbeknownst to me she had decided to take a break from her social media. No way to communicate at all. I knew from what little I knew about her that she had been a victim of a cyber bully and I figured that maybe the threats had escalated and she put herself out of harm’s way. I was concerned for her, but also had a feeling of loss. I missed her. I reached out to a facebook friend we had in common who knew her in “real life” and I asked him if he knew if she was alright? He relayed the message and Sharon was touched that someone cared. She messaged me and we resumed our playful interchanges on line. She let out that she was going to watch our mutual friend perform on the 24th of November. I was already curious to see this fellow perform his comedy and so we agreed to meet up at the venue.

At the time I was separated but cohabiting with a highly unpredictable long time partner who had grown to hate and resent me. It was a lonely time and a punishing time. It was beyond repair. Going out and doing something for myself was something new that I was just getting used to again.

I entered the nightclub and espied from behind a thick mane of wavy hair and a small woman wearing a jean jacket and I made my way towards her. I am sensate. In tune with my senses, and especially my olfactory sense. Her perfume hit me when I was several meters from her and she turned around and stood up and gave me a big, genuine hug. Cupid hit me. I am pretty sure Cupid hit Sharon as well, but she has something called “logic” and “facts” and “tangible evidence”. All things that I either espouse or ignore depending on convenience. “There’s no such thing as Cupid, stupid!”

I don’t remember the specifics of what we talked about that night, but I do remember I wanted it to continue. She confessed that she had not changed the strings on her guitar for many many years and I immediately went into rescue mode and offered to change her strings. We made a date to do just that.

The day I changed her strings was one of the happiest days in my life, and Sharon has said the same. Our time together simultaneously felt like it had been nanoseconds and years. Leaving was hard. We had agreed to meet again for coffee soon.

My memory is foggy about the exact sequence of events, but we were rapidly becoming very close friends letting our darkest secrets out in a safe space where we knew it would be honoured. We agreed to see each other again and share our experience with two particular problems. She wanted to know about Al-Anon and I wanted to know how to get a divorce. I had experience with the one, and she, the other.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”- Charles Dickens

Neither of us have or will philander. We had things to settle and put in order before our relationship could continue, let alone enter a new phase. The stress and entanglement that had to be dealt with at the time could have easily destroyed either of us, but the two of us together traversed the rugged terrain and came out smiling if not unscathed or completely untangled.

Ten years since that nascent time. Ten years with different challenges as we age, the world and our priorities shift. Publilius and later Chaucer said: “Familiarity breeds contempt”. It is difficult for two people with differing ways, habits and customs and differences in diet, levels of hygiene, etc. I think contempt sets in when acceptance of the other erodes.

People usually wish and want to see that their loved one is a reflection of themselves. They become critical of things that used to be overlooked. Less tolerant of major differences. I am as guilty of this as the next person. It is human nature. I override these judgements most of the time, and I am sure Sharon overlooks so many of the fundamental things where we differ. For example; Sharon is uber tidy. I can walk over a pile of dirty laundry for weeks before picking it up. Sharon is an introvert and is happy to sit at home with a cup of tea and a book. While I am content to do that some of the time, I do like human interaction and broken routines. We have a balance when we honour these differences in each other. I pick up stuff more often, she lets things slide more often. I honour her solitude and she honours my extroversion. Namasté. I do things for her because I love her. I am willing to change and vice versa.

This is not to say “I wish he/she were more like…” is ignored or disappears, but it is the source of unnecessary and unwanted friction. The power of a couple that maintains a successful relationship is the ability to forgive, to overlook, to respect choices. When these qualities are less present, it is always purely a question of will: “I want you to do this the way I would do it!”, “I want you to react to this song the same way I would”.

Today, on the tenth anniversary of the day we met, I still feel the arrow from Cupid. It always reminds me to treat my love, my partner, truly my other half (even though we are both complete) the way I did in those first moments together.

I look in the mirror and I see me. I love me and I don’t want to see Sharon in my mirror, although her love radiates through me. I look at Sharon and I see her, she is beautiful inside and out and is not an extension of me. I love her.

Frequency

  from Nov. 2018

This is a story about frequency. Not the kind measured in Hertz, such as in the frequency of A=440 hz, or the frequency on the radio where you find your local CBC station. It’s not exactly about the other main definition either, which means “rate of occurrence”. It is about Frequency in the medical sense, which means “occurrence of urination”. 

Some of you may have already experienced the “joys” of what seems to be a shrinking bladder. 

I am a music teacher in a school, so my working day is divided up into little half hour chunks called “periods”. I am also an enthusiast of a beverage called “coffee”.  Typically I teach three periods in a row before a break such as recess affords me the opportunity to use the washroom. 

I used to be able to work comfortably for an hour and a half without leaving my classroom. Those days are over. About half way through the second period my brain receives the first gentle message from my bladder that I should relieve myself fairly soon. Message noted, but not acted upon because the class can’t be left unattended. Usually as the classes transfer, there is an opportunity to ask the other teacher in charge if they would just take over for a minute. 

Sometimes I don’t get to see either the teacher picking kids up, or the one dropping kids off which means I can’t take the time to go and the gentle messages becomes more frequent (pun intended) and increase in intensity like an alarm clock on snooze. No problem. “Mind over matter” right? A little discomfort is no big deal, I know that I will be able to go at the bell. 

Things don’t always work out smoothly though, because there is only one male staff washroom in our school and there are several men on staff whose breaks coincide. My colleague has a class that faces the washroom and she remarked yesterday how she loves to see my reaction to whether the door is locked or unlocked. I guess you could say we get our pleasures where we can. 

Outside of school I have to gauge things accordingly. A two hour trip to Ottawa requires a pit stop about half way. I am now in the habit of going before going anywhere. 

Except yesterday. 

Yesterday I left work in a hurry because we had a staff  meeting that went long and I was left with exactly 25 minutes to drive the 25 minutes it takes to get to a private student’s home to give him a lesson. I tried the handle on the washroom….locked…. I hadn’t received the message yet, so I just drove off in order to make my lesson on time.

The music lesson was fine and we actually lost track of the time. I love teaching the theory behind chordal choices and their practical application to the guitar.

As I was leaving his home the small message from my bladder came in. It is sort of a half hour warning. I took note, and drove the 15 minutes from the Plateau to downtown to meet friends and watch my daughter perform in a jazz club. Did not factor in parking…..oy! The streets around the club were all under construction and almost all of the spaces were not open for parking. I knew that in 15 minutes the bus lane on the boulevard at the foot of the street would close and I would be able to park there. My alarms were coming more frequently by this time. I felt like an expectant mother might when the contractions are 5 minutes apart and the hospital is not in sight. If I parked before 6:30 the meters would not work, so I had to wait. 

When 6:30 finally dragged along, I went  to use the meter which wanted $7.50 to legally park until 9. I had $4 in coins, so I tried my credit card. Put it in wrong…..re-set…tried the other way….put it in wrong in the dark again(like a teen-ager trying sex for the first time…lol). I switched to coins figuring I could come back later and feed the difference. 

As I fed the first coin into the meter I received a very strong message to pee NOW!!!! I put another coin in which the machine rejected. Had to think fast….what to do? I opened the car door to see if there was any loose change on the floor (there was a two dollar coin!) and I realized that if I did not do something immediately I would pee my pants for the first time since I was a little boy and would have to miss my daughter’s show.

It was already dark and there were no pedestrians, so I opened the rear door on the passenger side and retrieved a paper coffee cup from the floor and, hidden from view between the two doors, I opened my fly and let loose into the cup. As I was peeing, I had the fear that perhaps the cup would not hold what I had to offer. It felt like I was expelling an ocean, no need to worry…it was more like a kiddie pool….. and the cup was a “Venti”

The desire to avoid wet pants and to alleviate the discomfort overrode the inhibition of being exposed in a place where I knew I shouldn’t be urinating. I was discrete and undiscovered, so I guess it was a success. I disposed of the cup and it’s contents in the proper manner and went on with the evening. Close call.

As I relievedly walked towards the club, the words of my mother demanding that I “go to the bathroom before going out” were echoing in my head as were the thousands of times I had implored my own children to do the same.

Perhaps this was my mum’s posthumous way of saying “I told you so!”

Nobody Home

The other day I heard a radio announcer (Tom Power if you must know) interviewing a popular musician and a certain phrase jumped out and struck me as a subject worth discussing. He said to her: (essentially) “this was a pivotal moment for you. Before this you were “a nobody” and then you were suddenly thrust into fame and superstardom.”

From this perspective all or most of us are nobodies unless or until we are famous. That discounts a huge number of people in the world. Namasté, baby. 

What an absurd hierarchy. 

My respect for general historical knowledge is growing as I become more aware of where in one’s life one is. I already follow many musicians and authors and artists and can recognize the different eras of each and , so I am aware of their growth and or decline at a macro level. I love comparisons of people and places separated by time. 

Many “non nobodies” we only know from photos or film. We picture them in our heads from one of their photos frozen in time. Ever see Sigmund Freud without a beard? Mark Twain without grey hair? Film actors are trapped at the age the film was shot. When I picture any of the Beatles, it is usually from the sixties.

People change.

The average age of human cells is seven years. Some regenerate in a matter of days and others last for more than several decades. I know this now, because I was thinking about how much people change over time and I googled it. The idea that we are completely different at a cellular level is false. The key word being “average”.

The way I see it, I have significantly changed, pivoted or transitioned probably a dozen times or so in my 66 years on this planet.

There was the young Ian before school; the schoolboy/chorister who lived in TMR; the troubled adolescent me who lived in St. Sauveur. A year at a boarding school in Montebello. Then the college me for two years at Acadia; then the “finding out a direction me” as I discovered a love for jazz and I spent an inordinate amount of time practicing and developing and getting a degree in music, then getting my teacher credentials . The years I spent with a woman who became my first wife. Four in Winnipeg, then back to Montreal and a decade doing music therapy with children with autism. then Kids. The Dad years, houseowner. There is considerable overlap in some of these “eras” or “stages” of my life. Back to teaching. The death of my father. There is the transition from childhood to adolescence of my daughters and the pitfalls of negotiating what had become an untenable marriage. The new marriage; Space to create; retirement; time to create.

Ten years ago I had just gone through a burnout, no music, my marriage was on the skids (we were separated but co-habiting- I don’t recommend it) and I was transforming. Waking up to who I was and who I wanted to be. The only constant throughout this and forever is my love and commitment for my girls. 

My yoga teacher, my therapist and my own hard, truthful appraisal of what was really going on in my life led me to start accepting and believing in myself as I found out who that was and who I could become.  

“I love myself, I love my body, I love my life just the way it is, it is perfect!”-Dr. Bali

Most of the friendships I have now I have developed over the last ten years. The major upheaval of divorce and the huge difference of going from middle aged to golden aged have contributed to this. Most of my current friends have never seen me clean shaven or wearing a tie….. pictures of me from “before” are as alien as pictures of my ancestors from 100 years ago. Their image of me is as I am now. 

Some of my “before” friends were able to keep up and accept me as I am now, some died, some just disappeared. My kids are a constant as are my siblings who have “known me” the longest. I put “known me” in quotation marks because they know only a part of me, like reading a Wikipedia biography. Loads left out, loads of assumptions. They shine a light on what fits their historic assumptions, gloss over the iffy bits. 

There are skimmers everywhere….”Europe in 30 days”…..as if….  People who make snap judgements like taking snapshots of a moment and thinking they have some whole story. Headline readers, “Best of…..” listeners. 

I suppose we are all surface dwellers to a certain extent.

I was re-acquainted recently with a friend from grade school. We had met 61 years ago in Kindergarten. I could have easily picked him out of a line up, and vice versa. He told me I haven’t changed a bit. I jokingly said to him: “I had a beard and grey hair in Kindergarten?!?!?” He remembers me differently from how I remember me, but not by much. We always think worse of ourselves in retrospect. I do, anyway.

Each of those eras is still in me. I am a product of the times. White middle class post-war baby boomer smartass punk. The hopes, the pains, the lessons learned, the lessons ignored, the mistakes made, the roads taken. All of this experience still in me even though many of the cells in my body have been replaced.

I am sure I still exist. I am not famous, but not a nobody. I will continue to exist until I don’t. When I die, there will be some memories of me held by my loved ones, some crap I have acquired, the body of work I have left behind, and that’ll be it. Back to carbon like everybody else. Mortal.

Presence of Absence

I miss my dad. Not always, and less often than at first, but today. It has been over twenty one years since he died. I had young children then and my grieving was balanced by the duties of fatherhood. I have mementos. Things that I inherited that were his. Things that remind me of him and our connection. Things that recall his presence.

I was listening to a radio program called “Ideas” on the CBC yesterday and the episode was called “Haunted”. One of the interviewees was Daniel Goldstein who made art from various things that reflected his feelings of loss as a member of a community that was ravaged by the AIDS epidemic. He used a phrase that I may have heard before, but this time I was prompted to retrieve the episode and listen more closely to make sure I was understanding him correctly.

The phrase was: “presence of absence” to describe his haunting artwork. My spine tingled. This oxymoron hit home. He put into words much of what I love in life. I love deserted spaces, liminal spaces. I love things that have been tossed aside, but remain. I seek out ruins and cemeteries. My pinterest “likes” feeds me rusty train engines and deserted theatres, abandoned subway stops, classic cars and trees growing out of cars and the like. I am waking up to the fact that the reason I like all of these things is my predilection for presence of absence. I imagine what was there before, I may romanticize what was there, because there is no real way of knowing.

I am reminded of photos of derelict barns that my friend Percy takes, the realist art of Alex Colville, Edward Hopper and Winslow Homer. Songs like “Torn Screen Door” by David Francey also come to mind.

Perhaps I love to bask in melancholy. I don’t necessarily feel melancholic or nostalgic, but to witness others that recognize this beauty gives me comfort.

As I googled “presence of absence” the word “Saudade” kept popping up

Saudade is a Portuguese word that is almost untranslatable. The best way to describe it is: the presence of absence. It is a longing for someone or something that you remember fondly but know you can never experience again.

I love word play, and in 2004 when I first looked up the word “Saudade” (a word I had seen in Bossa Nova titles (Chega de Saudade, etc.) I realized that the feeling actually was embodied by a song I was writing then called “So Dad…” which was a conversation with a ghost. I was hoping that they were pronounced the same to complete the pun. Apparently in Portugal they pronounce it “SO Dad Jay” which annoyed me, but the Brazilian version was close to “so dad”. I am with Brazil on this one.

Saudade / So Dad…
Ian G Hanchet

So Dad… I look in the mirror some days
I look in the mirror some days and I see your face
Looking back (2x)

You lived your life well and As far as I can tell 
I got the best of you, I got the worst of you
Right here

So Dad… I can hear your voice some days
I can hear your voice some days 
When I’m yelling at my kids (like you did) (2x)

Then I remember  To treat them warm and tender
But with a firm hand, I understand

So Dad… the shadow that you cast  Is pretty big
The shadow that you cast is pretty big
But it isn’t all dark

So Dad… the fire in your veins went out
The fire in your veins went out 
But though we part, you left a spark

             (chorus 1) 

So Dad… I grew up under your wing
I grew up under your wing 
And I may have stayed too long
So Dad… you gave me a voice to sing
You gave me a voice to sing
But you let me sing my own song

You did your job well and As far as I can tell 
I got the best of you I got the worst of you
Right here

So Dad… the last time I kissed you
The last time I kissed your forehead
It was already cold
You’d stopped… Growing old…

So Dad… A little bit of you lives on
A little bit of you lives on
in your prodigal son

	I’m only a little boy, Just a little boy 
	I’m your little boy still, I’m your little boy still

©2004 IGH


“It doesn’t get any better than this”

A memory of an experience I had around twenty years ago just popped into my head and I thought I’d write about it.

I was assisting in a music therapy session, getting frail elderly patients to engage and/or participate at their level in the activity. My job was to try and animate (mostly wheelchair bound) people in the live music experience. One elderly gent sitting near the back of the room was tapping his hand to the music, so I approached him and asked if he’d like to play a percussion instrument along with the music. His caregiver piped in with the obvious and said “he’s blind”. I ignored that redundant information and placed an instrument (a hand drum) in the man’s hand and he scanned it manually and played a gentle and appropriate accompaniment to the live music. His mien and posture shifted in his wheelchair and he dug in, adding some flourishes as the verses changed to choruses. His smile was palpable. More than a mere smile, he was beaming. As the activity drew to a close he proffered his drum to me and grabbed my hand and said to me in all earnestness: “it doesn’t get better than this!”. 

Here was a man who had lost his sight, in a diaper, in a wheelchair, appreciating a simple activity whose purpose was to stimulate a rather passive and sedentary group while simultaneously providing me with grocery money. I looked him up and down while thanking him and then I noticed the tattoo….. He had survived the holocaust.

We talked a bit. His wife of fifty years had died a few years back and he was all alone. His children had all moved far away and seldom thought of calling. One might be bitter…..

Imagine if the sentence had read like this: 

He said to me sarcastically: “it doesn’t get any better than this?”

Same words….. totally different meaning.

I Wonder

As we age, more and more people disappear. Some just go, and others are eroded slowly through the various things that beleaguer us as we grow older. This song is written from the perspective of someone (not me)who was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease filtered through my own musings on aging.

“Wonder” is a noun and is also a verb. Both are wonderful. I am thankful that my wonder and playfulness are still in evidence, but I wonder how I’d be if they weren’t.

I know the song is long, this is not pop music, but meant to convey ideas and a feeling. Worth 6 minutes and 14 seconds. It took a lot longer to write and record…

listen here: https://ianhanchet.band camp.com/track/i-wonder

I wonder where the wonder went
More miles travelled, they came and went
Our Wonder years already spent
Wondering what anything meant
-Oh-oh-I wonder

I wonder Who I was meant to be
If I’ve seen all that I was meant to see
Or was it all just fantasy
I wonder if I’m really me
-oh-oh-I wonder

I wonder what this is all about
If anybody anywhere could have bailed me out
If I ever bought in, or did I drop out
Hey, Alfie, what’s it all about

I wonder when I can feel it again
If I’ll ever be relieved of residual pain
If I ever figure out what’s been driving me insane
And where I’ll get off this runaway train

I wonder where my my serenity went
The worries in my head should be paying me rent
All of my joy has already been spent
I wonder where everybody went
Oh, oh, I wonder

I wonder why things turned out like they did
Some things in the open, some things hid
I wonder was my offer the winning bid
I wonder if it’ll be the same for my kids
oh, oh, I wonder

I wonder how I’m going to cope with these things now
If I’m going to have a smile or a furrowed brow
I wonder where I’m going to point my prow
Am I going to take everything that life will allow

I wonder why this all seems so strange
Why all of my targets are out of range
I wonder if I’m willing to change
Pretty sure something can be arranged
oh, oh, I wonder.....

Tunnel Vision

I miss maps. 

By now, almost no-one has maps (or gloves, for that matter)in their glove department.

I have had several recent experiences with GPS (and lack of….). 

The first experience I will relate was when I returned my daughter to her new home about an hour north of Manhattan. My daughter was in the car and obviously knew the way, so I followed her instructions and we got there without incident. The return trip back to Canada without her was another matter. Both she and her husband gave me instructions (which differed….) and I set out, confident that I would remember the left turns, the bridge crossing and the route numbers, etc. 

I didn’t. 

I got hopelessly turned around and knew I was going the wrong way when I passed a sign saying “Entering New Jersey”.

When in the US I turn off data and roaming etc. on my cell phone because I am “cheap” that way. One time I didn’t and my bill was stupidly large…. I am from another era and never figured out how to use my phone properly while travelling. My eyes glaze over when someone tries to explain stm cards and dilithium crystals and warp factors etc. 

I found a café and got a coffee and asked how to get to the I87. They said “just check your GPS. I explained that I am from Canada and I did not have GPS (further propagating the myth that we live in igloos). The person then said “I’ll send you the directions by airdrop”. Great, I thought. I got her airdrop and headed out to the car confident I knew what to do. The instructions for the route back had about ten significant turns. The first three I had in my head, so did not refer to the air dropped instructions. When I did turn to them, the file wouldn’t open unless I downloaded some other quackery requiring internet and some password or the other…. So, up Shit Creek without a paddle again.  I decided to proceed anyway. I saw a sign that referred to I 87 and turned. One turn just before I was supposed to….. Misled. There were two choices and I took the “road less travelled” just to spice up the trip…..not.

After several other miscues and inquiries at a doughnut shop (Donut in the US) I got on the highway pointed north and the rest was easy. 

I miss maps

This morning I checked an address on my computer for a celebration of life that is in a rural area of Quebec that is unfamiliar to me. The initial map was a dot on a tiny sea of green. I zoomed out twice to see if I recognized anything (I didn’t) so I scrolled out further and saw the big picture which made sense to me and I have a clearer idea of where it is. 

This got me thinking about tunnel vision which is the absence of peripheral vision. I realized that almost all of us spend a huge amount of time looking at screens and only seeing a focal point. It is like looking through a lens of a camera or a telescope or binoculars. One can see a part of what is there completely, or stated another way one can see completely a part of what is there. 

Standing on top of a mountain, one can see a spectacular panoramic view. Through a lens, the view is limited.

Two weeks ago I went to Varennes to visit dear friends for the first time ever. I checked the route online and it seemed easy and direct. I thought that I had better check Waze on my phone to see which bridge or tunnel to take or avoid because they are always doing renovations to things on weekends. I put the destination in my phone and I took the Champlain bridge and the 138 east towards Varennes. I drove along enjoying the view of the St. Lawrence River from the southern shore. I got to Varennes and the Waze told me there was a railroad crossing ahead, but it didn’t tell me I was ‘there’. I drove about 10 km past Varennes and pulled over at the next town. Surely enough, Waze did not tell me I had overshot my destination. I then put the address into google maps and the annoying female voice that can’t pronounce French names got me to my friend’s home. 

I miss maps.

This week I took the kids in my “Out and About”,(pronounced Oot and Aboot)(to further propagate Canadian tropes for American readers). activity to a small museum. The assistant for one of the children asked if she could drive there as she had to go to another job after the activity. I told her exactly where it was and that I would meet up with her at the statue of strongman Louis Cyr at the intersection of rue Saint-Antoine and rue St. Jacques. We, who had taken two city buses and had walked for another ten minutes, got there before her. She should have been waiting for us. She was relying on GPS instead of looking out the window. The name for Montreal should be “Detour City” because traffic cones and barricades pop up everywhere and  send previously sane drivers into rubber rooms. This girl drove everywhere in further widening circles and had passed the spot we were to meet four times!!! Tunnel vision. Her trajectory reminded me of a Beagle which was once our family dog. Fergie (named after the Duchess of York….my father claimed “our Fergie had a better lineage”….lol) was the worst beagle in existence. She was so stupid (but loveable and loyal) that I saw her catch the scent of a rabbit and tore around ridiculously back and forth and this way and that while the rabbit, as cool as Bugs Bunny, was frozen in plain view. The bunny was camouflaged, but visible. Fergie ran right past the bunny within a metre several times..lol. Soon Fergie gave up without her prey (Royals have little work ethic) and the rabbit lived to see another day. 

When we only rely on only one sense, or one source of information (the assistant with her GPS, the dog and her nose, or me with my memory trials and an app that didn’t do what I wanted it to). We can get lost. 

People smothering their senses of the moment is another form of tunnel vision.

A young man passed me on the sidewalk the other day. He had headphones on. Not earbuds, but “cans” that completely enclosed his ears and he was also staring intently at his phone. I said to my walking companion that I felt sorry for that guy. My walking companion asked why and I told him that the man missed hearing the song sparrow, the blue jay and the chickadee that we had heard in the last 30 seconds, blocked out the jackhammer we had passed by and was unaware of the bicycle traffic he was sharing the path with.. My companion said he hadn’t hear them either. I said that he had heard them, but he was not listening for them. Hearing is passive and listening is active. Headphones dude was actively listening, but importing his own sonic reality and missing out on actual reality.

The more we stare at screens and dull our senses with entertainment, the less we experience the gift of life and the beauty and ugliness that surround us.

Moral of the story? Two choices: Glance at a map, but be here now? or stare at the virtual and be somewhere else? 

I miss maps.

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words (or so)

‘Hijack a truck” he says. “We’ll drive her across the continent and sell the cargo when we reach the coast. You do know the backroads?” Brothers Eli and Colton had hatched a plan to swap a trucker’s uppers for downers. 

This is how it started. 

At Joe’s Café the truckers would gather, swapping lies and popping the pills they got from Joey (another one, not the owner) to get in another 300 miles or so before pulling over for the night. 

The brothers saw a rig pull in hauling four brand new 1957 Cadillac Fleetwoods. The driver, Mortimer (Morty) Hassock was making his first interstate delivery and as he entered Joe’s Café there were at least four eyes watching his every move. Morty chose an empty booth and ordered from Sarah a middle-aged waitress who looked and acted like she had been a part of this Café for centuries and there was nothing new that she hadn’t already seen. As Sarah retreated into the kitchen to deliver the order, Morty made his way to the John to relieve himself. As he passed Joey’s booth just before he reached the washrooms Joey enquired in a whisper if he might need some “helpers” to help him get to his destination sooner? Morty shook his head, no, but thought some more about this as he was relieving himself and when he emerged after washing and drying his hands he agreed to buy $10 worth of amphetamines so that he and his rig could eat more pavement and he could return home to his fiancé after his delivery in time for the Friday dance.

The tiny paper bag holding the pills was very easy to swap out by Eli who came to Morty’s table and made some small talk. He drew Morty’s attention to a very comely young lady in the parking lot and not only switched the bags, but managed to slip a sleeping pill into Morty’s coffee as well. 

Morty got up after his huge “all day breakfast-$1.29” paid, and left a tip for Sarah and proceeded to the parking lot where he did stretching exercises for his neck and shoulders as he walked to his truck with Eli and Colton stealthily pursuing.

At the wheel, Morty was beginning to feel the endorphins from all those carbs and the sedative was also beginning to take effect. He popped a couple of the treats from his paper bag to counter this, and pulled out onto the blacktop.

Of course the pills had the opposite effect on him and soon Morty found himself nodding at the wheel. He pulled onto a side road and made a pillow from his jacket and spare clothing. He was out cold when the brothers pulled up behind the rig and approached the driver’s side door. Eli had a gun “just in case”, but it wasn’t needed as Morty could not be woken up. They pulled Morty out of the cab and covered him up with his jacket and left him snoozing by the side of the road. 

Colton started the rig and pulled onto the road. The idea was to follow the road to a crossroads or a place wide enough to turn around with Eli following in their car. The road was getting narrower, and there were no intersections, so Colton kept on driving for perhaps thirty miles with the occasional homestead or farm appearing every mile or so. Colton stopped and waited for Eli to catch up and they both conferred on what to do with this “hot” rig. It was decided that turning around might not be safe as Morty may have been discovered by now. It was decided that Eli, who had a map would lead the way and they would take several detours across pretty wild territory until they met with a rural route marked as a county road several miles to the south of where they were. 

There was only one problem with this road, unbeknownst to the brothers. There was a small bridge about 20 miles ahead that a car could easily traverse, but the width and weight limitations meant the truck would not be able to. 

When they reached the bridge, they knew they could progress no further. Not only that, but there was still no place to turn around. Colton backed the truck up gingerly for about 200 yards and noticed a derelict field to his left that, if he was lucky, he could finally turn the truck around. he pulled onto the field and started the wide arc to finally get the truck pointed in the right direction. He was successful, but was about to rejoin the path to the road when his brother frantically signalled him to stop. Eli had heard a car rapidly approaching while he was watching the manoeuvring and had the presence of mind to drive his car out of sight. If they were lucky the passing auto would not notice either of them. The car was a police cruiser and it zoomed past them towards the bridge. Eli knew that the car would be returning soon when the police realize the rig could not have gone that way. Colton realized it too, and backed the rig up into a copse of saplings hidden from view to any road. He parked the truck and he and Eli sat in the sedan waiting for the cruiser to return. 

The police did not see the hidden vehicles and vanished back from whence they came. Eli decided that they had to make a plan B. The truck was an unwieldy burden now and the police would be on the lookout for it. Plan B was to return home and wait a week. return to the truck and take each car singly to a town in the next state where they could be “chopped for parts”. Not the bonanza they had originally planned, but a decent payday nonetheless. 

Eli marked the site on his map and the brothers returned the way they had come. They decided to go into Joe’s Diner and grab burgers and fries before heading home. Nobody raised an eyebrow when they walked in and ordered, so the boys relaxed until they saw Morty get out of a police car in the lot. Colton nudged his brother and they both skedaddled out the back door. Better safe than sorry.

Fearful that they might have been made, Eli pulled out onto the highway and they drove above the speed limit for ten miles. On their left was a long freight train running parallel to the road and Eli decided he wanted to get on the other side of it and raced toward where he knew there was a railroad crossing. Not wanting to be stuck at the alreay flashing crossing, Eli took a chance and gunned the engine, determined to sneak through ahead of the train. The car was going very fast and was about ready to make the left turn and hop the level crossing when the car blew a tire and careened onto the tracks. 

The impact was huge and drastic. The fireball consumed both brothers and their schemes and the map. The truck was only discovered fifty years later.

internet photo that inspired this story.

Why Not A Miracle?

Why not a miracle?
We could use several right about now

There are people that we love
Whose company brings delight
Whose lives have meshed with ours
Who have made our hearts light

Some are ailing now, 
some are failing now
Why not a miracle?

 so very, very hard to face this landscape
Beauty ripped from the earth 
Relentless bulldozer's hungry, greedy  pursuit

We could use a miracle
A restraining order
Cease and desist
We're not ready for any of this

The land won't ever be the same
The land can't ever be the same
The contours of the space We loved
Forever gone, gone forever

Smiles and laughter in the rear view mirror 
As we are dragged without a say
Into this barren unforgiving space
Of undesired decay

This shifting shape of loss
Of waking up to less
Ripeness shrivelling
Certainty wavering
Meaning what was meant
Remodelling intent

Another bloody detour


We need another and another and another daybreak
There's much much more love to make
Another and another and another birthday cake

Where have all the flowers gone?

There are places we have known 
 others waiting to be shown
Plucked from memory
Banned from possibility
Bitter bon bons melting away
No sweetness here
All joy and grief in a blender
Return to sender

We could use a miracle
Why not a miracle?


Birth of a Song/Naissance d’une Chanson

In June of 2017 my attention was drawn to someone who resembled me in some ways…. the photo (which I can’t find) was a doppelgänger for sure. His name is Maxime LeClerc-Gingras. We are both from European ancestry, long haired with salt and pepper beards, (although mine is more salt now five years later). 

He has what I view as an enviable alternative lifestyle. He and his companion Ann-Marie live off grid in the woods in rural Quebec and on his Canine Ranch he takes care of dogs among many other things including hosting retreats, offering dog sledding experiences etc/ You can read about him here. 

He is very open about his spiritual journey recovering from addiction and his musings, reflections and meditations have been a source of inspiration to me and others (I presume) as well. Although I, myself am not an addict, my many years of recovery in Al-Anon from the effects of alcoholism on my life make me feel a kinship or brotherhood with this man who I have not yet met in person. 

His posts are uniformly intelligent, compassionate and insightful. His writing about his wife Ann-Marie who suffers from severe migraine (as I do) and his writing about her strength and beauty despite this affliction gave me strength as well.

A short time ago he  wrote this wonderful poem which I copied and saved. I was inspired this week to set it to music and have included my demo video (warts and all) to bring this lovely work out into the light of day. I hope you enjoy it and share it widely. 

One of the lessons in a successful recovery and indeed for being a better person is “service”. Helping others makes us feel less helpless, less alone. Today with global warming; this awful pandemic; and being seemingly on the brink of what might be another world war, I ask myself “what can I do?” “”How can I help?” 

Comment puis-je aider?

J’ai longtemps cherché,
Cherché qui je suis, 
Cherché le sens de ma vie,

J’ai vagabondé,
Je me suis perdu,
Je me suis noyé,
Pour un jour, m’envolé,

Ç’a été long,
Mais je sais aujourd’hui,
Aujourd’hui, je sais mon destin, 
Je l’ai trouvé au fond de la nuit,

Essayer, tant bien que mal,
Souvent maladroitement, 
Être utile à mon prochain, 
Peut-être, humblement, 
Certainement sincèrement, 

Apporter un soupçon de paix, de réconfort, 
Alléger un peu le bagage,
Marcher quelque temps,
Ensemble sur sentier,
Retirer un caillou de nos souliers,
For those of you who don't understand French, here is a crappy translation of his beautiful words:

How can I help?
I searched for a long time,
Finding out who I am
Searched for the meaning of my life,

I wandered,
I lost myself,
I drowned,
Then one day, I flew away,

It's been a long time
But I know today
Today I know my destiny,
I found it in the depths of the night,

I try, somehow,
Often clumsily,
To be useful to my neighbour,
Perhaps, humbly,
Certainly sincerely,

To bring a hint of peace, comfort,
Lighten the baggage a little,
walk for a while,
Together on the trail,
Remove a pebble from our shoes,

Shout out to my good friend Nathalie who helped and reassured me of my pronunciation of some of the lyric.