Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Bay Beyond The Bagpipes

Sometimes, this life can be sad. Make no mistake.

We weave our sullen moonlit paths through quiet cornfields of contemplation and hope that we can make it to the clearing.

Maybe I mourn at a different rate than most people, but things stick with me - like a winter bowl of piping oatmeal caking to the inside of my guts.

But I need to get this out.


Dale Smith was a guy I didn't know all that well, but I got to know him through my brother. He originally got into blogging through my brother (after some nudging) and he wrote well - and with conviction. A simple but intellectual public servant, Dale was a man raised from the ethics of hard work and down-home, country values. He was never judging and always happy to see you for you - not some foreign or future idea of who you might become.

As an avid fan of cinema, it was nice to have a rival who could rattle off actors and directors more quickly than I ever could. We could get from Jim Jarmusch to Abel Ferrara in two easy steps.

When he started getting sick, it seemed like he was rolling downhill fast. I'd hear updates from Adam, and although my brother is a severe realist, I knew there was a tinge of gut-wrenching existential fog surrounding the whole topic.

After battling brain cancer once, his body didn't have the gusto to fight it a second time when it came back as leukemia. That nasty word. I wish that the autocorrect didn't know the words cancer or leukemia, and that they were redlined as some foolish, knavish language of aliens.

We were going to visit him (for the third time since he'd been really sick) on a Saturday, but we cancelled due to being too busy. He died the following Wednesday. That's tough to swallow.

He died way too young. 43. And now he's gone and the rest of us are left here in the space between sadness and discovery.

What a fucked up year of death and destitution.


Even in the wake of Dale's sudden departure, I'm still reeling from the loss of another mutual friend (Jay - who also had the last name Smith) who, even though I wasn't close to him, deeply affected many people who are close to me.

Being the loved guitarist for Matt Mays and a prominent Halifax musician, Jay's end, after only 34 years of existence, was a sad one - and one that was all too quick.

On a newspaper interview phone call recently, I was expressing to Matt how I feel close to the situation, even though I'd only had one really good conversation with Jay in my entire life.

Matt responded simply; "One conversation was all you needed, man."

One conversation was enough to know that Jay was a quality, loving and funny guy.

Jay died far too quickly in late March.


Ace (Errol) Coleman was an accountant who worked himself to the bone with my dad, and who was a bit of a mystery to many. He liked his lunch hours, where he would hit the local greasy spoon, and read a left-leaning paper, and enjoy solitude. I could talk hockey with him for hours on end. Apparently, in his day, Ace had quite the windmill pitching technique in softball and helped my dad's office team win a few tournaments. He was always kind to me and seemed eager to talk hockey when I popped into his office.

His sudden battle with cancer took his life at 65, and he died days after Dale in early August.

Denis Larocque was a man I never met, but I didn't need to meet him to know his impact. He was the father of one of my good, good friends - Dan. Being at his funeral in Hawkesbury was enough to show anyone that this man was a man of luminance, kindness and positivity, as the entire town showed up to honour him.

He died in April - shortly after Jay.


I imagine Ace and Denis having some conversations together, now - with many other loved ones around them. Maybe the four of them have all had drinks and they're making evening plans.

Although the surname Smith has more ties to England and Ireland than it does to Scotland, I can't help but think of pipers playing all four of these fellas into the great beyond as they appeared.

Dale was a stern man of English descent, but being from Maxville, he had a fond likeness for the Scottish highland games that featured one of the largest, annual bagpipes celebrations in the world.

I can hear the pipes playing now - and they are playing a version of Feel Flows by the Beach Boys.

I need to say goodbye.

Goodnight, Dale. Goodnight, Jay. Goodnight Ace and Denis. Rest easy, my brothers. May you walk among the lush greens of the ether, like warrior poets surveying the rocky crags and moors stretching out before your eyes. May the beautifully sad drone of the pipes follow your feet into whatever meadows you choose to roam within. Although you are strangers to each other, I have a feeling you guys might be friends, now - maybe even family.

See ya when I see ya.

Monday, August 05, 2013

The Writing Never Stops

True writers - the ones who are really writers in every ethos and thumbed corner of their dusty beings - are always writing.

Always composing. Always notating. Always typing - Forever, the thoughts entwine inside the spools of their ever-churning brainmills and suddenly, tapestries of colours that can't be described are formed.

Sadness is an important thing to wrestle with. We can never fully be who we want to be or who we strive to be in this life. All of our affectations and desires amount to winding smoke trails and restless sleeps.

Yes - we may never get what we want. We may never arrive at that shiny, magical destination that we have craved for so long in our mind's eye.

But who we become - THAT is unavoidable and a thing of raw, unfettered beauty.

That can't be altered - it just happens.

A good friend said it best to me once, in a dimly lit, Toronto hotel room at 4 in the morning: "Ma-Keck - as an artist, fucked up is where you need to be".

As an artist, and a writer, it's sad in a sense, but I long for the heartache. I long for the suffering. I long for the journey that we all must undertake. I long to lose friends and to see how the pain will all shake out. I get a jolt out of poking holes in the fabric that so many people dress themselves with.

Sure - the journey sucks. And it's going to kick the shit out of you and bloody up your soul - but it's going to bring about change, realization...and possibly even revelation.

We can't go back to way we were but we constantly try to find ways to get there. Why? Do we get closer to birth as we get closer to death - or do we just understand more in a reflective sense?

Some may say that writers are self-obsessed and narcissistic. This may be true - but I'll happily be obsessed with myself as long as it makes me self-aware.

And the writing never stops.

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