Anything worth understanding is complicated. Easily obvious things are often not worth the time. Yet we vote for the people who make us think they can make us understand the nuances of a political argument in a five second soundbite.
Here’s what the Tragically Hip means to me, found in a memory, over 20 years old, high on a clearcut overlooking Mereworth Sound in the B.C. Rainforest.
The day was hot. I was tired, sore, strafed by a legion of mosquitoes, and I couldn’t quit because I was broke. All I had to push me forward through that day was a single cassette tape, Trouble At The Henhouse. I played it over and over again on my Walkman as I planted tree after tree across a jagged, ragged clearcut.
As I crested a rise, threw my tired body over deadfall, I came across a doe, grazing quietly. It looked up, dismissed me, and went back to it’s meal.
Only meters from the deer, my planting partner, Rob, sat on a stump, his legs crossed like he was deep in meditation. He was long past his life’s Best Before date: broke and broken, his hair ragged and tossed like a salad, hungover and angry at life, but that’s not who he was at that moment. All the tension in his shoulders gone, his face calm, serene. Only his eyes moved, from the deer, to me, back to the deer, which ambled slowly toward him until it looked up, stopped, sniffed his arm, and walked by.
If Rob wanted to, he could have run his hand over the deer’s back. But he didn’t. He lived in that moment, lived it perfectly, and let the deer walk in then out of his life.
I watched it all, not moving, The Tragically Hip blaring in my ears, the soundtrack of my life at that time and Gord Downie said that the world was a gift shop.
The song ended just as the deer moved out of sight, and Rob hopped down from the stump.
“I will never have a moment as perfect as that,” he said, and I didn’t answer because I didn’t have to.
Music matters; that’s a given, and it used to matter so much to me that it could keep me alive. But I fear that music no longer matters as much as it once did. Not to any of us.
With Spotify, Apple Music and iPhones, every song we want is available any time we want. We have fundamentally changed the way we listen to music, which means we have fundamentally changed its meaning.
Playlists are now specious, temporary things. We’ll never again be left with the agony of a 20 song mix, the only thing to listen to for eight hours driving from Quesnel to Vancouver. Or the tedium of cassettes listened to a dozen times each, the only thing that keeps you going over the autumn months at the northern tip of Vancouver Island.
We will never again be forced to listen to Fiddler’s Green over a hundred times in one season, with the last part of our mind dissecting the lyrics one more time before we fall asleep .
For myself, I have a list of people that I want to meet, and Gord Downie is on it. I don’t have anything of meaning to say to him. I just want to shake his hand. I just want to look him in the eye and say thank you.
Thank you for being the next song.
Imagine a world where it doesn’t matter where you are or what time it is; where you can put out your hand and a cup of steaming coffee will be placed in it.
Just imagine such a world where you can be sitting on a bench in Central Park, New York City, or standing on the edge of a river thick with Salmon on the Olympic Peninsual. It doesn’t matter; if you need a no foam extra hot latte, you can have it.
Two words: Starbucks Drones
What a time to be alive.
Yesterday, a Boy Scout outside the grocery store asked me if I wanted to buy chocolate covered almonds.
“I’m allergic to almonds, sorry,” I told him, and walked on, feeling guilty.
Hold on, I asked myself. Am I so Canadian that I’m apologizing for being allergic to almonds?
But then I remembered that I wasn’t allergic to almonds at all, and I just didn’t want to buy his candy. So I was really apologizing for lying to him, and saying you’re sorry about something like that is a mark of character. On the whole, I think I came out of that ordeal a better person.
Too often, I create heroes who end up representing the good person I want to be. Having done that, I become reluctant to give him a terrible flaw in his character.
I won’t add the very thing necessary for a compelling character because I’m too invested in having painted a picture of who I want to be.
The best characters are those you admire, but not necessarily those you want to become.
For what it’s worth, I think that Pulp Fiction had one of the best scenes I have ever watched. I’m thinking of the scene in which John Travolta meets Uma Thurman, when Vince Vega picks up Mia Wallace for a night on the town.
It’s a good enough scene because Vincent Vega is a hit man, and Mia Wallace is the wife of his boss, the same man who possibly threw someone else off a balcony for giving his wife a foot rub. That, all by itself, with the smouldering sexual tension that that ablates off these two, is enough for a great scene.
But it gets better.
Both of them are high as kites.She’s cranked on coke, and he’s sliding on heroin, and Tarantino lets you ride the horse with him.
The first few minutes in Jack Rabbit Slim’s is completely from the point of view of John Travolta. And he’s walking around the restaurant, the music blaring, people walking by, and he has no idea where he is, but he’s resigned to his fate, and just enjoying the moment as he rides his own personal dragon.
The fluidity of the scene, the off-kilter, continuous motion, and it felt like a Saturday night in college again, that exact same feeling when you get released into public and you are baked out of your mind.
I miss college. I do.
Today, someone followed me on Twitter. When I checked them out, I saw they made 360,000 tweets in the last five years, the equivalent of 120 novels. Something tells me their time would have been better spent just writing the novels …
I’m afraid to follow them back, because all those tweets will make my phone heavier.
That’s not a follower. That’s a stalker.