Jan 2020 20

 

 

Tried a Tangelo fruit today.

If anyone actually cared about me, someone would’ve told me about this before.

Screw the lot of you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 2020 10

I wanted to get my feelings and thoughts down about the passing of Neil Peart, the drummer and lyricist of Rush, while they were still raw. For me, calling him a Drummer was an afterthought. Writer, explorer, thinker, champion feeler. This was a life mentor. Not ‘cool’, but love is love, man. 

So, I take you back to Andrew – Grade 10. 

“Well everyone,” announced my teacher, Ms. Soares, to the class. “Let’s see what Mr. Bradley is listening to.”

She had taken the cassette tape case off my desk and was now holding it up for her inspection.

Looking back, I suppose I shouldn’t have had headphones on and been listening to music in class. It was a bit disrespectful, and maybe showing off. But it was Grade 10 Typing Class. And frankly, after just a few weeks when everyone was still pecking out home row shit like ‘A-A-A L-L-L J-J-J’, I was already experimenting with sentences involving Qs, Ns, and (gasp) Zs.

Maybe I was just fulfilling some future destiny of being a writer. Maybe it was in my blood as in my mother’s things, I have found medals and pins for typing accuracy and speed. Back then, I was embarrassed to admit that autoshop and welding class didn’t do it for me. The keyboard did. So yes, I would listen to music while typing. It was fun. Even then, I suppose I was building a private universe of words that I now live in.

Ms. Soares held up the tape case and prepared to read the tracklist out loud.

I can still see her like she is standing right in front of my desk. A sexy Jamaican lady who wore form-caressing but respectful pantsuits to her classes. She could’ve walked into any office on Bay Street dressed like she did. But here she was instead, in a high school in Rexdale, and teaching me how to type. Her hair was pulled tight in a bun. And she wore big, sexy librarian, owl-sized glasses on her face. Makeup impeccable.

As she got ready to recite, the cries of tortured typewriters stopped. There was some snickering in anticipation. But my Universe was a private one and I really didn’t want her telling everyone what I was listening to. I wished it was my Iron Maiden tape.

She cleared her throat.

“Ahem… Grace Under Pressure…”

Rush. I was listening to Rush. Not cool stuff.

She looked at me curiously and then back to the case, glancing through the tracklist looking for something juicy to call out.

“The Body Electric?”

Yes. There was a track leading off Side 2 of Rush’s Grace Under Pressure called ‘The Body Electric’.

“Well, well, well… Mr. Bradley…”

The class went wild. She looked at me, impressed, like I was listening to slow jams that I was banging the cheerleaders to.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I was banging nothing but those typewriter keys in class, and the ones at home on my Commodore 64 computer. There were no cheerleaders in my life, except the ones I imagined when I looked through the lone glossy Penthouse mag I had stolen from the mall and was now hidden under my mattress. And I listened to a lot of Rush.

I tried other bands. I really did. Zeppelin. Van Halen. New Order. The Cult. The Clash. The Jam. Even Depeche Mode. But nothing kept me coming back to the well like Rush.

Why?

It’s hard to explain. And those that get it, just do. I will never convince you to like Rush if you don’t. And I’m not sure I can explain how Neil Peart, their lyricist, opened the world for me.

When KISS was singing things like “Don’t want to wait til you know me better. Lick it up. Lick it up. Ahhhhh!” (fine lyrics for a certain mood for sure, btw), I heard the words of ‘Subdivisions’ by Neil Peart. An exploration of alienation, peer pressure, longing, and feeling like your tribe was still out there and waiting to be found. And I marvelled at the dreamy landscape of ‘The Analog Kid’ exploring youthful longing and sexual and self-awakening.

Somehow, like many geeks from that time, my life seemed to fall into lockstep with the lyrics of Neil Peart.

I grew into my teens and explored other music. I lectured people on the merits of REM and New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen. But I secretly devoured every Rush album’s lyric sheet every two years when they’d release a record. Peart expanded Rush’s concepts and explored geo-politics, the future, being your own prime mover of your destiny, the oppressed, the emerging world, and even failure and rebirth of the spirit, I found my life events and thoughts mirrored his outlook as I grew into my late teens.

And when I had abandoned them in my early 20s as a foolish folly, Peart came back with the album ‘Counterparts’ which explored the heart, and relationships, including non-heterosexual ones. Not your average rock power trio stuff of the mid 1990s.

When it comes to Rush, for me, the main dish was his words. The music was just the gravy.

As for the person behind the poet, he cycled across Africa. He lost a wife and child to tragedy. He motorcycled across North and South America, disappearing from the limelight for years. Not satisfied with being called the greatest rock drummer, at the height of his influence he learned jazz/swing style drumming and incorporated a whole new style in his performances. And always, he explored his feelings in his writing.

This was a life mentor.

Even today, decades after that typing class, I can pull up a piece of poetry (song, if you want) that Neil wrote that reflects any mood I’m in. I have favourites when dealing with success, failure, love, loss, grief, and especially hope and picking myself up off the mat and trying again. Today, I will pluck the bass along to the words of ‘Bravado’ and because there are no words sometimes, the soothing staccato of ‘La Villa Strangiato’.

Horribly uncool. Today, and especially back in high school typing class.

Oh, and ‘The Body Electric’? A favourite of Ms. Soares apparently, and truthfully not one of mine of Neil’s, but a good example. It’s a song about an A.I. Robot in the future who wants to become more than its programming. It wants to live. To feel. To love. To escape. All with a chorus of ‘One Zero Zero One Zero Zero One – S.O.S!!!’.

So not slow jam banging cheerleaders stuff.

Neil Peart showed me that it was okay to be the outcast. It was okay to be off the beat. It was okay to be a thinker and introspective and a recluse. It was okay to be good at typing. In the rooms of Rexdale back then, bedrooms and classrooms, I dreamed of the life I have now. And it was all concocted while listening to his words that opened my mind to a bigger world, and to a bigger version of myself.

I suppose I not only mourn a person, I mourn a time long past in my life. Although this geek typists world is darker today, I can still feel the beat that The Timekeeper set for me.

I will march on to it. And explore.

 

Each of us 
A cell of awareness 
Imperfect and incomplete 
Genetic blends 
With uncertain ends 
On a fortune hunt 
That’s far too fleet

– Neil Peart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 2020 10

 

Neil Peart, drummer of, and writer for Rush, has died.

This will take me awhile to process.

He was my Bowie, Hemingway, and Cohen all rolled into one.

Expect meandering essay soon on growing up as a geek, to a constant beat and flow of gate-opening words and concepts that made me feel like I belonged … somewhere.

 

 

 

Jan 2020 09

“That man, the Iraninan General. He was a bad man, Andrew. And it is good he is gone.”

I have become that person. I talk to every Uber driver and cabbie about life and politics and real stuff as much as possible. It may affect my rating in bad ways, I dunno. But I do it. Because people are fascinating.

“But not like that”, he added. “Trump is just causing more problems.”

We talked about Iran and the situation in the middle east and puppet regimes. All kinds of things. Modern life.

“It’s hard to keep up with what is going on in the world”, I said. “Like, I’ve been in a meeting for a couple of hours. Did I miss anything? Did anything bad happen? Any more on that plane crash?”

We agreed it was terrible thing for the Iranian-Canadian community. And I thought about a man I bought a Persian rug from in Parkdale last year. He is Iranian, Persia as the region was historically called. The rug we picked out was the first thing I bought for my new apartment.

My driver was from Pakistan. He’s been here for 11 years. He goes back every year to spend time with family. It is a troubled region and has been for a long time. The relationship with India is complicated. I thought about how ‘Paki’ was a slur that was thrown around quite liberally in Rexdale when I was growing up. We didn’t know the context back then of how calling someone this who was from India was a huge insult to them, specifically. Words are less hateful when you are young. You are throwing dull knives, not understanding their power.

We both agreed that the world is becoming increasingly fucked – Australia, the Amazon, Iran, America, on and on and on.

And more than anything, we definitely agreed that we were lucky to be in Canada.

“Here, we can express ourselves however we want, Andrew. You and I we can be ourselves and for the most part know we will be safe.”

“Do you want to bring the rest of your family here?”

“I do. We are all working on it. I like Canada a lot. Not big problems. Just small ones. Here there are only the three double-yous as problems.”

“What do you mean, double-yous?” I wondered if he meant the worldwide web (WWW).

“The three Ws. The letter. I have trouble with them. First W – Work. This job is hard to make a living at. Second W – the Weather. (yes it was fucking cold last night). And the third W challenge here I am learning about… Women. I am trying to understand the women and meet one.”

“I was born here but I have the same challenge with all those Ws, too.” I said.

Our car wandered into Parkdale on the cold January night, and I got ready to scramble out. Somewhere there is a war waging. Somewhere there are crazy fires burning, killing things that will never come back. Somewhere there are people who are mourning loved ones killed in a mysterious plane crash.

I have small problems. The Ws. I’m lucky.

Yes, I have become that person. I talk to my drivers.

 

Jan 2020 07

10

Posted In Blog,The world

“Well, you know what today is,” my sister said on the phone.

Sure. Tuesday. What? And why was she calling me at 1 pm? I only answered because I thought it was bad news. She never calls me during lunch on a weekday.

“… So I wanted to check-in and see how you’re doing.”

“Today?”

January 7th…? I had to think.

And then I realized. Fuck. Our mother died today. Ten years ago today.

I’m glad I didn’t remember. It means I’ve moved on.

My sister said “How does 10 years go by so quickly? How has a whole decade passed?”

But I know how. Some days, especially at the beginning, seemed like weeks. And others, most of them, come and go in your life with as little notable as what you had for Saturday breakfast three weeks ago. Do you remember what you had for breakfast three Saturdays ago? You think of the departed on Mother’s Day, holidays, her birthday, your birthday, and strange times like when you hear a certain Elvis song, or catch your niece throwing you some serious shade in a way that resembles her Grandmother whom she probably doesn’t even remember but certainly can channel. Genes run hard.

But I didn’t wake up thinking about it today.

It was a sunny day. Just like today, actually. I showed up to the hospital midday to visit and brought her something. Some Chinese Food – shitty, greasy, sodium-maximized stir-fried mall food court noodles, her favourite – because she hadn’t been eating much. When she didn’t want it, perhaps I should have known something was up. She was quiet. She was lying on her side, since it was more comfortable. A large tumour in her abdomen wasn’t helping. There were plans to try to remove it in a couple of days at Princess Margaret Hospital, where she was waiting to be transferred.

I read her a bit of the newspaper and we made small talk.

My dad showed up.

And, restless, I decided to leave. I decided to go home and get ready for the coming days when I thought the real war was going to happen. But truthfully, I felt helpless. I like to have a purpose. I like to feel like I’m doing something or making difference. I could not. I could only fucking bring noodles. So I left.

My last image of her was in the sun. It was beaming in through the hospital room window, illuminating her, as she laid almost in fetal position. Such a hopeful last sight of someone who could cast such long shadows when she wanted to. Such a sour disposition for someone who could also cast so much light sometimes. When she let you see in the cracks that she quickly sealed up.

“Thanks for coming by, Andrew” she said softly as I was going.

I looked at my dad, who would later call me, stunned, as in the background I could hear frenzied doctors and a defibrillator machine going off once, then twice, as they tried to shock start a heart.

“Dad, go outside the hospital room” I would tell him firmly but calmly. “And sit down. And do not move. I am on my way. Do not come back in this room. I will be right there.”

I recall my drive to the hospital. And talking to the doctor, and telling him to stop CPR. It had been over 30 minutes. My call.

Ten years ago.

No, I didn’t remember. Thank fucking god.

It’s Tuesday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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