May 2020 25

Mercifully, we reach the final post about the 10 albums that have affected me. Rather than just a cover without explanation, I decided to write something about each one. An edited version of this appeared on Facebook. 

 

 

It arrived three weeks before Christmas.

Canada Posted from exotic Regina, Saskatchewan. I was 11 years old.

Inside a larger parcel that contained various gifts for the entire family, there it was. Square. Flat. Festively wrapped, ribbonned, and tagged ‘For Brenda and Andrew. With much love, Uncle Bruce and Auntie Fran.’

My mom placed it under the Christmas Tree.

Where it would sit, I remind you, for three whole entire agonizing weeks.

“Stay away from the presents,” Yuki, my mom, warned. “Do not peek at them this year.” My reputation was notorious. Peeker.

This year, I would resist, I told myself. I’m 11 now. I could do this.

However, every morning I would get up and descend downstairs for breakfast and have to pass it, sitting there under the branches dripping with ornaments. Beckoning me.

My obsession started innocently. ‘Hmmmm, is it actually a record though? Maybe I should at least find out. That’s not peeking’, I told myself. The rationalizing of an addict so close to their score and not allowed to have it.

Confident of a few minutes of secrecy one morning, I got closer, picked it up (ahhh, my precious), and ran my fingers all over it. Smooth. Sleek. I grabbed a record from the family collection, and married it up for size. A match. Yes. Record. I replaced it carefully.

My sister had lost interest. Four years older and in high school and popular and shit, she had obviously put it out of her mind. But I was an eleven year-old with time on my hands – it was the 1980s, we had time on our hands –  and I had sampled the drug. I now went to bed wondering, “Okay, a record. But WHAT record? Something grownup? Something cool?”

Over the next few weeks, I would go on various missions of curiosity without really peeking and risking Yuki’s wrath. I did the standard shaking. No clue there, but definitely not a double record. I held the wrapped slab up to a bright lamp to try to see through the wrapping paper. Nope. I looked for seams in the wrapping and scotch tape to try to get a look inside. Uh uh.

One night, really close to Christmas Day now, I doubled-down. The Family was downstairs in the wood-pannelled basement watching TV. And I passed through the living room, alone. The Christmas Tree lights were on, illuminating the square like a jewel. I had no chance, really. I got down on all fours and tore a little corner of the wrapping, on the backside so it wouldn’t be evident.

And there I saw it … the edge of a dark photograph. But no evident names of bands like ‘AC/DC’ or ‘Ozzy Osborne’ or ‘Van Halen’, like I hoped. But darkness equalled grown-up and cool for sure, right?  So, satisfied, I smoothed over the violation and slept a bit more contently that night, knowing I had reclaimed my title of Peeker.

Christmas Morning.

I awakened. As if I’d slept, right? And I went on a direct collision course with the mysterious square package that had occupied my thoughts for weeks to fulfil visions of tearing it open like a hungry audio-seeking animal.

Clearly, I still think about that record.

So, what was it, you ask? What was the fuckin record, Andrew?

Does it really matter?

Doesn’t every record you get, you hope, have the potential to change your life? That’s what this challenge is all about, isn’t it? It’s less about music, and more about the person.

Who are we? Each of us.

Some bands you hear for the first time and you just think, “Yes I get this. And this gets me. This is how I’m feeling. I feel so understood.”

We’re all just looking for the next one in life, aren’t we?

We’re all just hoping for that next elusive connection, delivered via needle drop or hitting of ‘play’, to something new inside of us that we didn’t know was there.

The most exciting record. It’s always the next one.

 

 

 

May 2020 24

 

Yes, reader. I’m still volunteering for the Food Bank.

And still humble bragging about it.

Anyhow, we’ll leave my ego to my therapist to deal with. The point of this post is that this past week I got to revisit a client whom I haven’t seen in awhile.

Back in early April,  I made my first awkward deliveries. I wouldn’t say I’m smooth at it now, but I’ve got a system that works for me, complete with mask and glove protocol, and how to balance a box of food in an apartment building elevator while simultaneously pushing a button with your elbow.

Fine. I’m now Baryshnikov with a cardboard box. Killin it.

This was not so in early April. Anyhow, remember early April? Dark days. We thought the virus was going to infect us all. The scientific community was just starting to figure out how to treat it – or if they even could. There weren’t enough ventilators. Italy was a mess. New York was a mess. And economic uncertainty hung over everything. We were all afraid, and hunkered down indoors.

Plus, the weather was grey and downright shitty.

Well, here we are, reader. End of May. The virus is still just as infectious and the danger is real. But we seem to be getting used to our new normal (for better or worse). And dare I say it, but there’s a feeling of optimism out there. That we can outlast this thing. Sun helps, right? Vitamin D? And no more videos of celebrities singing songs from their mansions.

This week, I got to visit a whole bunch of repeat clients. And it’s satisfying to see how they are coping despite needing the Food Bank services still. Emotionally coping. Some of them I have a rapport with now. And even if it’s just a quick phone call to say I’m leaving a box for them in a few minutes (“Don’t come out. I’ll knock and back 6ft away!”) we have a chat about how they are, and how I am. Some of them ask about my well-being too and how I’ve been, which is really nice.

One person tried to give me gas money recently. It does make me feel we’re all in it together.

Anyhow, this past week among the regulars, I got a name and address on my delivery list that rang a bell. Yes, someone I visited that first week in April and haven’t seen since.

This person has a lot of kids and they’ve been on my mind. How are they coping? That’s a lot of kids to keep engaged without them going to school, and to have to feed of course.

When they saw me, they recognized me too. It was like those scenes in war movies where soldiers go ‘Shit! You’re still alive, too!’. And they trade war stories and they see how much they’ve both grown. Or at least, endured.

It’s been tough on them. No CERB. No partner to split the responsibilities with. I didn’t even want to ask about rent.

But this person is just so damn cheerful and positive. “Yogurt? Amazing. They’ve been wanting that. Cereal? Yes!” and the positivity went on and on. Those kids are lucky to have this person. I would’ve been jaded and bitter by now.

I left worried about them, still.  But oddly, inspired.

With luck, we’ll see each other again to compare our war wounds and survival stories.

Each week, I am reminded how lucky I am to have a roof over my head. To have food in the cupboard. To know my rent is going to be paid. To have a network. To have time on my hands. To have the luxury of being bored.

The weather is nicer. Gatherings are happening. But don’t be fooled, reader. This is not over.

For many people, it will be early April for a long, long time.

 

 

 

May 2020 23

One upside of the Pandemic, my sister sat still today for the longest I’ve seen in a decade. I adore this human.

_#highpark #reunion #picnic #famjam #slow #isolation2020

Instagram @henrysperson

May 2020 22

2020

ME: “What? WHAT?! Sorry, I can’t hear very well out of my right ear.”

 

2009 – in a small bar concert venue in Chicago

CHRISTINE: “We’re right next to the speaker. Sure you don’t want earplugs?”

ME: “No way! This is awesome!”

 

After yesterday’s long and emotional album challenge post, here’s a quick story about this band that should’ve ruled the goddamn world, their debut record, and how I lost some of my hearing seeing them – my fave dirty garage psychedelic rockers of all time, The Ponys – Live, in their hometown on a Halloween night, at The Empty Bottle, the bar they cut their teeth in.

It was a rollicking, riotous show. The stage, decked out like a wrestling ring. And the band emerged costumed-up for All Hallows Eve in wigs and grappling gear, ready to throw down.

Much like every band since has had to get into the ring and defeat The Ponys for the Champion Belt.

I happily stood at the very front of that stage, too close to that speaker stack all night, grinning ear-to-ear as the upper ranges of my hearing in one of them decided not to make the return flight to Toronto. They would stay there as tribute.

Eternally grateful to ex partner Christine for fulfilling that dream.

And please speak into my left ear.

 

 

May 2020 21

 

Day 8.

Can a record impact your life without ever being played?

Can a record be pressed with a message that will only be delivered decades later?

For years this one sat in my parents’ record collection.

Untouched.

Every year it would get pushed further down the shelf to make way for 70s and 80s suburban parental staples like the ‘Chariots of Fire’ soundtrack, and ‘Hooked on Classics’.

A few years ago we moved my dad, Bert, out of the family home. While raiding the family record collection, I came across this record again, vaguely remembering seeing it throughout my childhood. Spanish writing. Scenes of broken buildings on it. No clue.

Oh a whim, I decided to save it from the fate of 1-800 JUNK and put it in the stack for my own collection.

Some months later, both my dad and Carlos Morenowere over. My dad was born in Belize, by the way. Carlos is from Guatemala. Neighbouring countries in Central America, there’s a long frosty history between the two nations, but the friendship between Bert and Carlos is warm. One of my dad’s fave people.

Hmmm. Didn’t that record have something to do with Central America?

I brought it out.

Carlos was silent. The phrase ‘It was like he was seeing a ghost’ is an apt cliché.

“Where did you get that?” Carlos asked.

“I dunno actually,” I admitted. “Dad, where’d this one come from?”

“Oh,” Bert said. “Someone came to the door in the 70s selling them for a fundraiser. And mom bought one.”

And then I remembered, years ago, Carlos told me about an earthquake in Guatemala. The record was Guatemalan. The images are from that earthquake. It was a fundraiser for his home country. I was too thick to make the connection earlier.

It turns out that two decades before Carlos and I even met, my mom had bought something for him.

Today’s record isn’t even mine. It rightfully belongs to Carlos, actually.

Once again, Reader, I remind you of the strangeness of how the universe moves. The foundations of the future are always growing around us, even if the present doesn’t make sense.

 

 

 

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