High School Poetry

Since most of us are closet megalomaniacs, we are sometimes tempted to Google our own names. Out of equal parts boredom and curiosity, I find this little secret search entertaining, especially when I discount everything Dears-related and Blog-related. What I’m left with is a handful of old things I wrote, mostly from when I was among the first-generation of the now rampant “bitter music journalist.” But then there’s this nugget, this little, mini scrap from my past: high school poetry. I will have you know that “Bowl of Trail Mix” was selected as the “Cool Poem of the Week,” but really I can’t think of anything less cool than being the author of a poem deemed cool by teachers.

I have a philosophy that I stand very strongly by: that we are all forgiven for everything we did from birth to the age of 18, with an emphasis on the period that spans across the teen years. At any rate, my grade 12 English class, taught by Mr. Pendergrast, participated in some kind of electronic writer’s workshop, back when computers were just invented and class handouts were still being printed by hand-operated mimeographs in the teacher’s room. Ok, not that far back, but, seriously: almost. So a few of us major nerds in English class would bring in our poems, and give them to Mr. Pendergrast. He would then type them up and actually send them by EMAIL to this Writers In Electronic Residence (WIER) message board (or BBS, as they used to be called). Other students from across the province (Ontario) would then read and comment on our poems, and we would do the same for our peers. Anyhow, I remember I thought it was so amazing that, in addition to other students, real, published authors would read and comment on my work! So I basically felt legitimised as a writer, and sailed out on a downward spiral of romanticism. I mean, really, aside from a career in academics, what the frig are you going to do with a degree in English/Creative Writing? What, become an author? Undergrads, listen now and listen hard: other than a valid reason to drink heavily, a degree in Creative Writing will only make you want to put down the pen and never write again. Who needs a bunch of middle-class ding-dongs critisizing your art? I mean, that’s what Pitchfork is for…YEOUCH!

But my bad high school poetry story doesn’t end there. August, 23, 2007: it was a rainy night on the patio of a Toronto hipster bar, where my friend Amanda unveiled the dark secret that was not meant to leave the realm of Google search results: she had stumbled upon a fellow WIER writer, who remebered my crappy poem. So my next project is to somehow reconnect with this person, who I recall conversing with a decade ago, via a strange, pre-internet medium.

To Be Continued…

Satisfied by Failure

I always am amazed by our obsession with the failure of others. I thought it was “just a Montreal thing,” where we all go to bars, read the papers, read the blogs, get depressed and revel in trash-talking others, and their going-down (in flames or otherwise) after reaching any kind of high. But really, it’s universal. Have you ever just scanned the news headlines? They tend to focus on the bad news, the mistakes, the accidents. For example, this WestJet one is absolutely classic: here’s a very successful company that is basically doing everything right. And it’s killing someone out there (CEO of Air Canada?), the idea that they’ve been so competitive and forward-thinking. It’s as if the media were just waiting for them to screw up, waiting for a reason for their stock prices to fall. If you didn’t hear about it:

WestJet Plane Involved in Close Call at LAX. So basically the byline should be: “Nothing happened, due to a common human error.” But the media (in Canada) is going nuts on it. Like the way the paparazzi flock to Britney, because it’s so easy to get some dirt on her. The headlines: “She’s totally not perfect! In fact, she’s just like most of you losers!” I guess this mentality is why The Onion and The Daily Show are so popular: news making fun of the news is more entertaining, because the real news can be totally absurd.

Another clash of reality and, well, fake reality, that’s been creeping me out is this: Eleven Injured on Cruise Film Set. I mean, can you get that photo of Tom with his eye patch and Third Reich outfit out of your head? You know, I kind of like Tom Cruise; at least I’ve got a soft spot for him, and think he’s had a bum rap. He’s done dozens of huge, blockbuster movies, most of which most of us have seen, yet he’s never won an Oscar. I mean, since when did awards justify a career: they’re more like acknowledgements rather than reasons for being. I was at Sam’s place yesterday and I noticed his Juno collection, shelved subtly in a glass cabinet in the corner of a room; not in your face, but still a nice reminder. That said, I’ve also seen other people’s Junos being used as a doorstop, so…

Anyway, can’t we all just get along? Can’t we be happy for each other? Here are two more things I’m fascinated by: fake death and dying having real-life implications, and grupster weddings (actually this kind of reminds me of when I heard Matt Good invited his A&R and the president of his label to his wedding…do these people send out press releases or something? Personally, I think publicity about home life a little dark, but I guess I should feel “refreshed” that at least there’s some “good news” out there.) Once Murray and I were invited to do an interview on eTalk Daily. We thought it was to talk about the album, but then they asked us if we would do the interview in a toy store, shopping for toys with Neptune. When we declined to include Neptune in the interview, but would still go toy shopping with them (really, do you bring your kids to work? Do you flaunt them around hoping to get a raise or a bonus?), they cancelled the whole thing. It was so dark. I guess Murray and I, and our music, just weren’t cute enough.


Earlier this week there was a hail storm. Thunder and lightning struck simlutaneously, and then the fire trucks could be heard pulling out of the station. The weather has been strange: grey and cloudy then a moment later, bright blue and sunny. And last night it was cold. I stepped outside to place some recyclables in the green bin, and the air tasted of it. That dry metallic, wintery taste, letting me know that Montreal’s short summer is nearly over. I imagined the countdown to heavy snow, which is usually early November, though we’ve had snowy Hallow’eens before. I reviewed my wardrobe and realised the frustration of living a season at home (versus a season on tour). At home I just want comfortable, glorified pyjamas. On tour I have to wear real clothes from the moment I get up. Do I have a winter coat? Oh, yes I have that one from H&M…but will it get me through a Montreal winter? I will have to get a cashmere, cardigan sweater…or better yet, a black, cashmere vest. It’s the piece I’ve been missing. It’s time for a trip to NYC and a visit to Uniqlo. But who makes a cardigan, sweater vest? I always know so specifically what piece of clothing I need, and never find it. Then I give up and move on and two years later they are everywhere. Like I predicted the vest on girls making a comeback. Amanda and I fantasized about our clothing line, “Vest by Vest,” on tour years ago. Anyhow, it’s all just speculation, the weather, fashion, life…

Hillside Festival: Some Thoughts

I am the worst blogger ever. Well maybe not the worst but I have some pretty half assed moments. Like I’m in the car driving back from Hillside, writing this blog on my Blackberry, and looking through my pics for something to post. All I have from Saturday is a movie clip of Neptune playing with a whirly rainbow thing. Cute but not suitable.

Hillside is like Canada’s Glastonbury but one thirtieth the size. Literally, if Glasto is 150,000 then Hillside is 5,000. But each have a similar vibe: nature, camping, hippies, hipsters, gruppies, grupsters, etc. They are all there. Murray guest guitared with Jade, which made Neptune want to rush the stage a few times. She was saying: “Jade…singing?” all afternoon. Then we hung about, ate vegetarian catering, saw a bunch of people, chased Neptune around, drank beer and sat in the sun.

Our show was, as many of our last few shows have been, a bit weird. We haven’t rehearsed and I’m losing the songs a little. Saturday before the gig I had so much nervous energy it was troubling. I couldn’t shake it, so I drank a bunch of wine which kind of got me through it. Not my greatest show ever, but overall it was fine. I was so much just in my own bubble trying to keep it together that I have no idea what went on up there. Anyway, you will be able to relive my insular keyboardmanship on CBC Radio 3 who were there and recorded the whole darn thing (check out my trance-like expression in that pic!). They also spoke with Murray whilst he was receiving a reiki massage backstage. Yup, that’s our lives when we’re cruelly torn away from the Food Network.

Ottawa, Beer, Canada Day!

Last night we played this gig in Ottawa. It seems every time we roll into that city, it is raining. Yesterday was no exception. Canada Day shows are inevitably lucrative, but lacking in so many ways. Namely, soul. Ths gig was a beer-spnosored event, with contests and games, and oh yeah some novelty bands playing on the side. After the show a fan (Dave, if I recall correctly) asked me what I thought of these kinds of gigs, and I really had no comment. I’d just rather not say. Anyhow, there were a handful of Dears fans in the front row who knew the songs, some middle-aged couples dancing in the back, and lots of semi-interested baseball-capped others. The show was fine, despite the fact we haven’t rehearsed in about two months. I guess we’ve played the songs so many times that they are ingrained in our brains. I guess I had fun, but the real highlight was getting our gear off the stage, and Mr. Lahey from Trailer Park Boys helped me carry my keyboards down the steps. Randy and Mr. Lahey were in character and MC-ing the event. George was so excited, and it was kind of surreal, since we’ve spent whole tours watching season after season of the show. So all in all I suppose it was a true Canadian experience.


Nouvelles Parc-Extension News

I love picking this up: the thin newsprint volume of Nouvelles Parc-Extension News. I am actually totally blown away right now because they have a website. Usually there are some spicy stories in each issue, but this one was a little on the boring side. No tales of drug busts, or police heroism, only a workshop on how to be a firefighter and talk of the crumbling Jarry Park Walkway (see page 9). This paper reminds me of The Villager, that I used to bring to my grandmother back in Toronto. It was less scandalous (stories were more like: “Kaiser Roll Found at Bottom of Sewer Hill,” or “Cheese Boutique’s Olive Counter Opens”), but told the tales of Eastern-European-Canadians in Bloor West Village, Roncesvalles, and maybe the Junction. Now they probably only talk about condos. Anyway, the two papers don’t compare: the Villager is like a 2006 Volkswagen Passat and Nouvelles Parc-Ex is like a 1992 Dodge Spirit. So next time you are “slumming it” up in Park-Ex, keep an eye out for the word on the street. Available in banks, restaurants and dollar stores.

Weekend in Toronto, ON (The ‘Ront)

1) We listened to DNTO on the drive down to Toronto. It was timed perfectly: Neptune fell asleep and Sook-Yin took us all the way to Kingston. At any rate, the CBC loves to play it’s Canadian indie-folk-rock, and I realised just how much musicians from Ontario love their banjo. Its a staple, part of Ontario’s identity, I suppose. Listen for it…

2) Because we are obsessed, we did a mini Restaurant Makeover tour. Basically anytime I saw a place in Toronto that’s been on the show I would point it out to Murray and we would get all excited, as if we’d just seen some big celebrity. It was pretty pathetic, really. We only saw two (Grappa and Saigon Flower), and the designers kind of homogonise/sterilise the look of the restaurants anyway. But it is 100% entertaining, so I call that a success.

3) It is confirmed, the world is crumbling and its not just us. I was reading a Toronto Star review of the Monterey Pop 40 year anniversary CD (which I can’t find online…sorry!). While the review of the tracks was moderately favourable, the writer touched on an interesting idea. He drew parallels between the socio-cultural climate then (1967) and now (2007): a war nobody cares about (Vietnam/Iraq), general malaise about the human condition, the crumbling environment, uncertainy about the future, and a shift in the recording industry (vinyls replaced by tapes or 8-tracks & our digital downloading era). Also the writer touched on the calibre of music created in uncertain times: is this a human reflex, to connect with better music when our society is fractured? How does a society reconcile these things that are bigger than us, things that are overwhelming for any individual to take on? Sometimes my heart is so heavy with the terrible and idiotic state of the world. Canadians, North Americans are all confused, lost and misguided in their own way. But we are slowly realising that it is time to take control of our lives, to walk the fine line between a money-driven life and one driven by Love. But its not just us: friends in different cities and of varying ages, are feeling the same and sensing the pressure it puts on their daily lives, on getting their shit together, on realising who they are. It was strange to randomly have similar conversations with different people: Maggie, Amanda, Kevin B., all saying the same thing about their lives. Amanda described the crossover as “rhizomal.” She also had the idea totally conceptualised, which would be a whole other thing to get into.

Thursday in the Garden

I have taken on an adversary larger than myself. It looks unassuming now, a short, yellow cornflower-like weed. A fluffy line of them, cute against the stone of the house. But its been growing unchecked for years now. Its growing underneath rocks, hugging the foundation, hiding in the armpits of other plants. I don’t even know its name, but it is shameless. In a few weeks it will sprout with tiny leaves, which will grow and grow into 4-inch, pubescent webbed leaves. It will then spend the summer growing and growing into an undefined, front-garden’s worth of boring leaves. My baby cedar trees standing over it, rolling their eyes and how lame their feet look. So when the lovely weather kicked in on Thursday, after our ridiculous, post-Easter snowstorm (sooo Montreal), I tackled it. I thought about buying a hand tiller (I thought the spiky wheels would eat through the roots like a carnivore), but, as any good vegetarian would, decided to try first with the following tools: pitchfork, hand rake, gardening trowel, hand claw thing and work gloves. Unfortunately for me, I was the most useful tool, alongside work of a back-breaking calibre. Two words describe the menace: tap roots. An unrelenting underground network of soft, thin arteries, linked to other plants, the next clump of flowers, woven into the soil by tiny veins, adored by worms. I must have chopped a dozen worms in half while hacking at uprooted clumps to shake off the soil. But cut worms just grow back into two new worms, (right?) so I was doing everyone a favour. After an hour of investigative extractions, they appeared to be all gone. I’ll give it a few days and see what’s left, wether or not they stay down or try to make a comeback. We will see wether or not more drastic measures are required. For now my garden is a block of overturned dirt, three little cedar trees and a handful of struggling crocuses.

Coldest Day

Quote from a Tim Horton’s: “Why’re you mopping the floor? Its just gonna go back dirty.” Hot damn, its good to be back in Canada. Its great. The weather is shit and I cleaned garbage from the front of the house and was loving it. How do those kinds of things get all tangled in the weeds anyhow? Coffee cups, lottery tickets, plastic bags, candy wrappers, scraps of wood, soda cans. Anyway, that’s what I look forward to. Now it’s all just messed up under the snow. I’ll get back to it in the spring…which won’t happen here until May.

With Love, From Calgary

Is the darkness eroding our spirit? If we were touring some uplifting, four on the floor, George Benson schnitz, would we be happier, more pleased, wanting to dance always? Is that how the Scissor Sisters would feel after a four month tour? While in Glasgow for our last show, I was in a cafe where I actually heard the theme from the show Taxi. Does anyone remember that funky yet sad little ditty? I guess that’s what we would play: melancholic hold music. Maybe its the cold, or the snow, or the continued absence of the sun, or the fact that of all places in Canada, it is the coldest where we are right now. Maybe the darkness is following us? Time to retreat to video games, I think.