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On and On 

I'm writing this morning from Calgary. Lori and I are staying with my sister for a few days. We made the trip over the mountains this time in order to be present for two family memorials, one for my little brother, who passed a year ago and the other for Lyle, who I have written about and who was a relative by marriage to Lori. Lyle was 99, Preston was just shy of his sixty-first birthday. 

Preston’s anniversary was yesterday and family and friends gathered at what is now his wife’s home, as we had done so many times over the years, to eat, drink, make some music and party. There were toasts and memories… he would have loved it. 

It all sets me to wondering…yet again…about the oldest of questions…What are we all doing here?…why are some lives only moments long and others 100 years?…do we get do-overs?…would we even want such a thing?…and, of course, 

is this all there is?…which is indeed a ridiculous question. I ask myself, ’How can I even think such a thing? How can I pose such a dumb question?  How can everything not be enough?’ 

It’s all so subjective though, so contingent upon what we think of as ‘enough’. Have I had enough love, enough pleasure, enough pain, enough money, travel, sex, friendship,  struggle, recognition, affirmation, fear, fortune…ah fuck it!…maybe it’s all just TOO MUCH! 

My living has led me to the conclusion that basically nothing matters. While I find it hard to believe that the essence of life ends with physical death I am absolutely ok with folks who can’t see any other possibility…I just think it doesn’t make any sense. It seems that I have, for reasons unknown to me, structured my life to allow for lots of contemplative time, lots of hours spent in my personal church which is the natural world…the forest, the water, the vast open spaces…and the creatures that live there. I have watched all manner of life change from living to so-called dead and then watched as new life sprang from it. An endless recycling of energy. And if this energy… material life energy… continues to transform and exist and remain alive, then how is it possible that the much faster, infinitely more sublime energy of consciousness could vanish without a trace? 

It’s simply not. 

I think it was in grade five science class that I learned that energy could be neither created nor destroyed (which is a pretty bold statement given our limited perspective). But if that is in fact the case, then the statement must apply to energies too fast for our current technology to detect…and there is no doubt that they exist. 

Perhaps one day science will offer proof of life beyond the physical…a world beyond the material…but I am doubtful that we shall ever get to the end of the rainbow…to an understanding of the mystery. The more we learn the more fantastic it all becomes. But perhaps we have a deep knowing already. Perhaps that’s why we can accept our condition and carry on even when the proof of our own physical mortality pops up undeniably right under our noses. People disappear… the dead are celebrated and cherished…for awhile. 

Then life goes on…and on and on.

1968 

I watched a very interesting show on tv the other night. It was a CNN look-back on the year 1968. Sixty-eight was, of course, 50 years ago and it was indeed an extraordinarily  tumultuous year for the United States and the entire world. The effects of all the trauma were under our noses here in Canada just as they were for Americans thanks to the ability of tv signals to skip borders. 

Those were the days of constant enmity between the Americans and the Russians, of daily news film, uncensored in those days, graphically showing the horrors of the hugely divisive war in Vietnam, the race riots, the assassinations and the brutality of the Chicago police clubbing and beating young demonstrators at the Democratic National Convention, of brawls and physical violence inside the walls of that very convention hall among warring factions of that same party. 

Flailing police batons, bleeding heads, tear gas, water cannons and fire…lots and lots of fire. It seemed all America was ablaze. 

Wow! 

Makes todays shenanigans seem truly tame. 

I turned twenty right smack in the middle of that mad, mad year. I didn’t really understand just how nuts it all was but the sense of impending danger was everywhere. My interest in world affairs and politics was beginning to emerge, but at that age, making sense of my own immediate life and situation occupied the vast majority of my energy, mental and otherwise. 

By July of 1968 I had been on the road for two full years. The band was based in Toronto but we spent most of our time living in low-end hotel rooms and playing in bars, downstairs or down the street, in towns and cities all over Ontario and Quebec. We played for the young and the broken and the drunk; we backed up the topless dancers and were backlit by the oily lava-lamplight projected through a smoke haze so thick that it poured out the open doors like an inverted waterfall and saturated the night air with the reckless abandon of the young and possibly doomed. 

And I was a newlywed to boot…just to complicate things…Georgia and I had gotten hitched in April. 

The thing that did strike me, and I think most other young people that year, was that it seemed everything was about us. It was college students who led the demonstrations and sit-ins and building occupations. They marched in gigantic parades carrying placards decrying the War, Nixon, and the Draft. Young women burned bras, young men burned draft cards. 

I met American draft dodgers in the same bars where I met Canadians who had gone to enlist in the US army so they could go fight in Vietnam. Some were going back for second and third tours, they were excited and high on adrenalin; some others just sat in dark corners and drank. 

And this was Canada. I can only imagine what American bars were like in those days. 

It was all fascinating to me and I wondered what I would have done if I had been born there…in the USA. Would I have actually gone into the army? I don’t think so. When I was a kid I loved all things military but by high school I had begun cultivating a fairly powerful anti-authority stance in keeping with the trend of my generation, and killing people or being killed by them was just nowhere in my life plan. But then again, I hadn’t been raised in that jingoistic, uber-patriotic, love-it-or-leave-it brainwash that so appealed to so many young men on both sides of the border. 

Back then it was all just the way it was. We had all grown up waiting for the bomb to drop in our backyards so a little more existential anxiety was nothing to write home about. I played my drums and dreamed of being a star and planned my life in spite of all the noise. I could tune it out, I guess, just like so many are doing now. And the times changed and life went on. 

And we’re all still here…most of us anyway…and I guess that’s the point that emerges most powerfully from watching a re-play of that harrowing time. 

If the world could survive that (and it truly was a year when all bets were off when it came to war, democracy and personal freedom) then surely we can all get our shit together and get past the current avalanche of dung being hurled from high towers the world over. 

Once again I’m betting on the young…fresh legs are needed. Reminders of past struggles are needed too…and experience and memory and perhaps even a snippet of wisdom. 

We do go round and round…we humans. We repeat past mistakes and create deeper grooves with each pass. But like a wheel we are all moving forward even as we go round and round…it just takes a little correction this way or that to avoid the ruts. 

ps. 

I remember watching a Beatles press conference in the United States back in those times.  A reporter asked, “Ringo, how do you feel about the draft?” To which the smart-ass Beatle replied,  “It’s a little much, would you close the window.”

How High's the Water Momma? 

Man is it wet this morning, a real soaker, solid grey with a foggy haze obscuring the hilltops. The lake is up a good four inches overnight. I know because I had planted some stakes to mark my water line and last evening they were still showing  that much above the surface…this morning they are underwater. The rain must be widespread and in the high mountains as well, washing the deep snowpack down…enough to lift my ancient, heavy dock out of the mud. 

There is still lots of headroom in lake Okanagan due to a controlled run-off that’s been going on since February…the fear of a repeat of last years immense flood damage prompted the drastic drain. Still, it’ll be close for the people just above the normal waterline; last year the lake kept rising until mid June and I hear the snowpack in the mountains is even deeper this year. 

We are not on flatland…this house stands a good ten feet above a full pond so we’re safe…for now. But who knows? I mean it seems ridiculous that lake levels could rise three or four meters above full but can it still be thought impossible? 

??? 

Just sayin’…what used to be 100 year weather events seem to be cycling now in a decade. And the climate folks say we’re in for another hot, dry summer. There was a time not so long ago when I would have cheered such a forecast but having lived through last summers smoke-in I now dread it. Ah well…whatchagonnado? 

The Okanagan is still one of the worlds beauty spots and since getting home from the tour it’s been absolutely gorgeous with daily highs in the mid twenties and mucho sunshine. I’ve been working outdoors a lot and so have lost winters pallor to a vitamin D rich ruddy glow. For all the hassles that come with lakeside living, it’s still worth it. I do love it. 

Tomorrow I spray for bugs. 

On another note, this will be my last written blog for a couple of weeks. I’m heading for Ontario for some Stamps gigs and a visit with some old friends and my kids and grandkids. I’ll be working for a few days with Gary Mac at his studio; we’ll be putting the final touches on a couple of tunes I plan to reveal soon. 

Anyway, I thought I’d do video blogs while I’m away instead of writing. It’s easier to ramble verbally into my phone than to lug my laptop around. So I will still be keeping in touch with all you lovelies who enjoy my blather. 

Till then…then

Foot Valve 

It’s Tuesday morning and I’m sitting in the living room by the windows so I can look out at this shiny new day. We’ve had a couple of geese hanging around. They had taken to perching on the roof and making a lot of noise before swooping down right in front of the windows and out over the lake, honking all the way. They may have moved on though, found a more secluded nesting spot or maybe gone to another part of the lake. 

We’ve been home for a week now, Lori and I, and as much as it would have been nice to have been able to just crash and re-coup for a few days, t’was not to be. Lori got home a couple of days before me and found that the house water wasn’t working…aahhh! You don’t realize how completely dependent on water we all are until it stops running. 

I had her try the only obvious remedy…check the circuit breaker to make sure the juice was flowing…it was. Oh well…nothing to do but wait for me to get home…maybe check into a hotel for a couple of nights…but she said she had plenty of drinking water (we buy 20 litre jugs) so decided she would tough it out for a day but would get a room for us for when I returned so we could shower up and get ready to tackle the problem. 

As it happens, the lake is at an all time low. Not for lack of spring run-off but because of it. There are concerns again this year of severe flooding so the folks in charge of the dam downstream have been draining the lake since January, thus making it possible to walk all the way out to our intake valve and check it out. Upon hearing of Lori’s distress our good neighbour, Larry, donned his chest waders and did exactly that. It turns out the foot valve (intake) was completely clogged and needed to be replaced. 

As I already knew what the job was by the time I got to Kelowna, I picked up a new foot valve and assorted other necessary parts and, with the help of a friend, got into my own waders and strolled out to change it. (OK, so ‘stroll’ is a little droll…the valve is about 500 feet out and the water was hip deep and the bottom is slippery silt and you need to bring a rake to balance lest you tip sideways and drown) but we got it done. Total cost…$100.00. 

Had this clog not become apparent until the lake was full the job could not have been done without a boat and someone to dive down and bring up the line… which would have been many times more expensive IF we could find someone up to doing it. So what had at first seemed like a bad break and a pain in-the-ass turned out to be good fortune…we had the water running by Monday evening. 

That was day one of my relaxing return home. The rest of the week was equally busy. Spring at a cabin by the lake does not allow for a lot of down time. The next day I took advantage of the low water levels and got out in the mud to dig my waterline down into it…into the mud that is. Hopefully this will help prevent ice damage should next winter be as chilly as the last two. Whatever happened to ‘el Nino’? Did he give way to his mean sister forever or  will he make a return visit next winter and give us a break? 

Sigh… 

Anyway…I’m starting to come around…getting a handle on the yard work, the cleanup, the hose repairs and the rapidly growing weeds and grass…catching up on sleep and eating my own cooking, which I have to say, beats the hell out of 90% of the hotel meals…make that 99%…oh, what the hell…it beats the hell out of all of them. I dressed in my work clothes yesterday but didn’t do anything…that felt REALLY good. 

I may just do that again today…we’ll see. 

Cheers!

Rock On 

Well…only one thing I can write about today and that, of course, is the ongoing Stampeder tour of British Columbia. The thing about being a band on tour is that it’s all-consuming…you really don’t have time or energy for anything beyond the three absolutes of life on the road…performance, driving and SLEEP. 

Sleep, for me, was hard to come by for the first three nights. It certainly was not for lack of exhaustion, I was wiped, but the niggling worry about how our three senior bodies would react to the opening six consecutive night run kept me on edge, and that certainly is exactly the wrong state of mind to be in as a lack of sleep is the ultimate enemy. It wasn’t until after the five hour drive-and-play on day four that I finally settled in for a major snooze. We were over the hump. 

And now that’s done…Whew! 

We made it! We did it! 

Three old troopers put it all out there every single night and were rewarded with three sell-outs and three near sell-outs…great reviews…voices still intact and all still standing. 

I must say we are quite impressed with ourselves…it has been 40-odd years since we have played that many in a row. We have one more five night run to make starting Sunday but no really long drives once we get underway. 

Yesterday was a day off…of a sort…we drove seven hours from Kamloops to Nelson with the knowledge that one complete, travel-free, day off awaited us here. We’d had some trouble with our rented van on Monday just as we pulled into Kamloops so yesterday morning I was roused from a deep slumber by my obnoxious alarm at 6:30 to get the thing in for service as a swap-out wasn’t available. It turned out that we had picked up a stone in the brakes and no repair was needed so we got on the road by 10:30 and into a very nice hotel with an excellent restaurant around 6:00. 

We had been gifted six bottles of fabulous wine by a vintner in Kelowna…all but one vanished by dinner…there are ten of us in the entourage. 

Last night was the first big wine and food-fest since our arrival in Victoria a week ago. It was well earned and roundly enjoyed. 

So now, as I write this, we are all free to do whatever we like. I’ve heard that Rich is watching tv, Holly and Patrick are on a hike, Dan and Dave are at the laundromat, which is what Lori and I will do when I wrap this up, and MaryLynn has found a great shoe store. 

Oh, and Ronnie is enjoying a late, late brunch and will also be in attendance at the laundry. 

And so it goes. 

Rock on!

It's Showtime Folks! 

Well, here I am in Victoria. Or perhaps I should say here WE are because there is a fair entourage on the road this trip. Lori is with me and Rich has his wife Mary-Lynn and daughter Holly. We have two Dans…our sound man and friend Dan Belanger and his friend, Dan # 2; they drove from North Bay, Ontario in a van full of gear to do this BC run with us. And of course we must include the one and only Ronnie King who, really, should count for two on the strength of his larger than life persona. We have two rental vans plus Dan’s truck for transportation, all loaded to the max with gear, merchandise and luggage. Ronnie, of course, has the most baggage, out-doing any of the girls by at least half…Ronnie does not do laundromats. 

It’s 11:30 am…day one of six show nights in a row…something we haven’t done since the seventies. I’m not sure why we’re doing it now. Perhaps it’s a test to see if we’re still worthy of wearing the mantle of Rock n’ Roll…more likely it’s because of the availability of suitable venues in co-ordination with ‘not-completely-insane’ routing. 

Sadly it’s raining today, smudging the beauty of this lovely city. It will be raining for most of the tour according to my weather app. That’s kind of a shame for the guys from the east because BC can be very beautiful in spring and I’m sorry they won’t be seeing it in all it’s sunny glory. I am hoping that we don’t run into snow on any of the mountain drives but  am all too aware that rain in the low country is snow in the mountains, so it will depend on just when we hit those high stretches. 

These are the things that go through one’s mind on day one…the concerns… the worries. 

The big question though, is will we be able to sustain the kind of energy required to do so many consecutive shows…and will anybody crash and bring the caravan to a screeching halt? Who knows? 

As for myself, I have noticed over the years that I tend to subconsciously conserve energy. I feel tired all through the day until show time and then seem to kick in with a big burst of juice that carries on until about midnight which, in these circumstances, is about two hours post performance. I think Ronnie does that too but Rich seems to go like the Ever-ready rabbit all day long. 

Anyway…we shall see. I know that when the lights come up and we walk on stage that we will all be putting out everything that we have. We talk about pacing ourselves for the long haul but the fact is that never happens. Every performance is all in. 

On the days when everything goes smoothly we can catch an hour of sleep, or at least what I call ‘zoning’, before heading for the venue. Some days that won’t work out and we’ll go from the drive to the sound check to the gig without time for a decent meal. 

That’s another issue…eating. Timing dinner is important. A meal too late will leave you bloated and gasping for breath, especially on the high notes, so with shows starting at 7:30 (the new norm for aging audiences) it is best to be finished eating no later than 6:00. I like to be done with two full hours to spare because drumming with a tummy full is like swimming with 50 pounds of lead strapped to your waist. If time is tight I usually opt for a salad or soup, enough to fuel me for the show but afterwards I’m ready to consume anything and everything I can get my hands on. 

So that’s how it is on day one. I must end this now because I have to go help organize the merch…then sound check…then dinner…hopefully a little zone-out and…

It’s showtime folks!

Lyle 

Lyle died last night. 

It’s been a couple of hours since we heard. 

It’s been about 24 hours since we saw him last. 

Lori and I had discussed on Sunday whether to wait until Easter for a visit or go to Kelowna earlier in the week. We chose yesterday…and so were able to see him one last time. 

We were able to tell him goodbye. 

It was obvious upon our arrival that he was slipping. He didn’t want company so we went away for a few hours and then returned, hoping to find him in different spirits. He was not. He looked up at each of us briefly and then dropped his gaze. Lori asked if he wanted to talk and he shook his head no. 

It was clear that he preferred to be alone, as so many people do when they come to casting off the form that has served as the sole expression of Self for an entire lifetime. 

I do not believe that he was afraid…or depressed…just that he had other business to attend to… and that dragging himself back to spend a few more minutes with us was a delay he could no longer abide. 

He would pull up his shirt and make light clawing movements at his chest. 

He wanted out…wanted to be free…was ready to be free. 

And so now he is. 

And now is the time, then, for us to think of him and celebrate his wonderful long life and rejoice for the freedom of his spirit. 

I spoke last week about singing for him a couple of weeks ago. Here's that video.

 

copyright: Kimball Meyer, 2018

Bing Crosby 

Yesterday Lori and I went to Kelowna for our friend Lyle’s 99 birthday party. It was the second one he’s had since the weekend. For the first one, which was held on Sunday, he was treated to a belly dance from two nubile young ladies, friends, I think, of one of his grand-nieces although I’m not really certain about that. But certainly it was a great idea, however it came to pass…we watched the video…he was as charmed as he could be and no doubt deeply appreciative of the attention. 

You may remember my blog of a few weeks back about Lyle and his struggle to make it to 100 so he could be recognized by the Queen…apparently she sends out congratulatory notes to centenarians as they come of age throughout the Commonwealth. 

Remember the Commonwealth…as in the British Commonwealth? Does such a thing still exist I wonder. Am I still a British Subject? I remember being told in my elementary school days that I was indeed such a thing. All Canadians, I was told, were British Subjects, that the Queen of England was the Queen of Canada too… as well as of Australia and India and a collection of lands too numerous to mention, but upon which the sun never set. Yes…The Sun Never Sets Upon the British Empire…that was it…Empire…then Commonwealth…then…what? The English speaking chunk of the Eurozone? 

No wonder they’re Brexiting. 

Anyway, Lyle would have grown up a British Subject, and proud to be one too. He joined the Canadian army at age nineteen, right at the beginning of WW II to go fight for King and country, to be part of a great adventure, of something so much bigger than any life he had known on the dusty farm in Saskatchewan; although, to be sure, his family had done well during the dirty thirties. They had a some bottom land on which they dug irrigation ditches and were able to grow potatoes which were immediately purchased by the government. But they held back enough to feed any neighbours who were not lucky enough to have productive land during those bleak years. 

He still likes to tell stories. You have to lean in a bit because he doesn’t have a lot of breath but it’s so worth the effort. I wish Lori and I had visited more often when he was still able to be chatty. He told us yesterday about how he had kept photographs and a personal historical record of his WWII experience. Apparently he was quite a photographer and had a very good camera and a passion for recording his life. But it was all lost in a flood caused by teenaged pranksters when he and his wife were away from home for a period. The kids broke into the basement of his house where all his photography stuff was kept and turned on the water and left. Neighbours noticed water coming out of the basement windows and were able to stop the flood but it was too late. All that history was ruined along with his camera. I guess he never had the heart to start over. 

Lyle was born one day after my own father. My Dad has been gone for so long that it feels almost impossible that they could be the same age, but there it is. There’s no accounting for longevity really. Perhaps it’s largely genetic (Lyle’s sister is 92 and looks 72) but perhaps it has also to do with how much you like being in the world. Lyle still wants to walk again and I think probably still spends more time imagining life than death. He has bad days for sure but has, so far anyway, managed to slough them off and keep going. I doubt that I would be so tenacious were I in his position…I think I’d be asking for the ‘rubber hammer’ as the Dutch say. 

Still, I look forward to the next visit. I’m sure there are infinite stories should he be in the mood. 

 I brought my guitar down last week and sang for him. He asked if I knew any Bing Crosby. 

“I used to sing like Bing Crosby” he said.

Beware the Ides of March 

The Ides of March. A very bad day for Julius Caesar… or so the story goes. Imperial blood on the tile, multiple knife holes in the royal toga, betrayal, disbelief, death. 

Yup…sounds like March to me. Not that I necessarily identify with Juli C…we have, after all, but one thing in common… like Juli, I too have found March to be the most obnoxious of months…especially around the middle, when it is neither winter nor spring, when one day may be bathed in glorious warmth and sunshine only to be followed the next by a winter blast to make the teeth chatter and the tongue curse. 

March is schizophrenic, bi-polar, multiple personality. 

March madness…comes in like a lamb, goes out like a lion…or vice versa…either way it’s not to be trusted…could be the end of winter…or not. 

March, bloody March. 

When will this winter end? 

Or will it end? 

Or is this the year the planet tumbles ass over teakettle into a permanent Winter-World with some kind of cosmic malfunction creating an instant ice age? 

Aagggh! 

You get the point, right? 

I’m sick of winter. 

Beware the Ides of March indeed!

Here We Are Again 

Well, here we are again, the end of another February. Winter lingers. More than lingers, it’s like the last drunk at the bar who won’t go home even though the chairs are being turned up on the tables and the vacuum is howling. 

And, as anxious as I am for spring, I’m not nearly as anxious as my dearly beloved for whom each new snowfall is like a vice tightening on her sanity. I have learned that when it’s snowing and she is bemoaning the endlessness of winter,  commiseration is the only acceptable response; it is unwise to mention any possible upside to this long, dark winter. 

The fact is though, the isolation of a Canadian winter, the quiet of the snow blanket, the long nights, the icy freeze that prompts a desire to stay close to the fire,  does indeed cause one to shift into a much more introspective space than the busy fun of summer will allow. Introspective and creative. 

This winter has really exemplified that for both Lori and I. Each in our own way, we have had a very creative and productive winter. I have spent most days, aside from the shovelling and ice breaking, in my studio writing and recording and producing a bunch of new music. Lori has spent her days in her studio working on creating an online radio station which is now up and running and which provides her with the ability to do what she most wants to do which is to play her favourite music and talk about it. In fact, as I write this, she is broadcasting ‘live’ to her small but growing audience. 

The cool thing is that when we are engaged in these labours of love we forget all about the world outside. We are absolutely present in our own little ‘happy land’, oblivious to the wind and the snow and the general madness ongoing outside of our cocoons. 

 And speaking of the madness… 

I wonder, sometimes, if getting away from it, from the news feed, the slander and judgement, the opinions and spin, might not be the best thing I could do for my general health and well-being. The trouble is it’s an addiction of sorts, almost like Sunday football or Hockey Night in Canada. When it comes to world affairs I, like most other folks, have my favourite teams so, naturally, I’m interested in how they are doing in the day to day struggle for power and influence which may, or may not, eventually actually affect me. Sad to say it is all too often just another form of grizzly entertainment not unlike the Roman Circus in that most of us, it seems to me, end up cheering for the lions in whatever form they may appear. And in the general confusion, of course, there can be no consensus; one man’s lions are another man’s Christians. 

But all that aside, and even though I long for shorts and tank tops, I have genuinely appreciated this winter and am pleased with what it’s chilly days have brought me.

And I understand it is unlikely that I will become an information hermit any time soon. Perhaps because, in my heart of hearts, I believe that all the world is just a game, or rather, a dream of a game that must ultimately be played to a draw, with no winners or losers; just a wake-up and a wondering, “What the hell was that  all about?” 

See what I mean about winter and introspection?