Thursday, September 29, 2005
Why I Love This Town
At the time I happened to be reading We Are Not You, by Claude Denis, which explores native rights, religious pluralism, and the 'limit experience'. The limit experience is essentially where you put yourself to certain physical limits to bring yourself closer to god - fasting is the most common example. Having not eaten that day anyway (having been sooo hurleyburleyish), cycling toward an afternoon strategic planning session, and having no cash, I decided to make it a limit experience, see if I could chase the troubling circular logic questions from my mind and arrive at some sort of deeper conclusion about my life and more specifically, my work. Just for the record, cycling through Toronto traffic is no place to have a limit experience. But I did make it to the meeting, where there were sandwiches. The troubling questions stayed with me.
Questions like: am I really making a difference in the world? What would things be like without me? Is there some way my talents could be better used? I want to be a writer, but would it be selfish to leave my current work for something more personally gratifying but more self-centred? Am I really good enough to be a professional writer? Am I even qualified to be telling the stories of other people (even if told through my own lense and experience)? Aren't there already enough (or too many) middle class white guys dominating public discourse? On the other hand, if I'm so privileged why must I struggle to find time and energy to write on top of my day job? Would I be better off quitting the socially conscious yet occasionally soul-sucking job and getting a mindless one so as to save energy for the writing? But what....etc. You can see why such questions would put one in the mood to torture oneself.
I wrestled all day with these and then I brought my opponent-thoughts to my wife, who quickly stomped them like ants, then gave me her own demons, ones I knew well, the demons that haunt every over-sized cubicle farm in North America, even the ones purportedly working for the public good and not the private dollar. I exorcised them right smartly.
We dried our eyes, pried them open, and headed to a fundraising concert featuring the likes of Danny Michel, Justin Rutledge, Bob Lanois (brother of the more famous Daniel Lanois, who in addition to his own batch of albums has produced the likes of U2 and Bob Dylan) and Tom Wilson, not to mention the great Andy Kim, who wrote masterpieces like Sugar Sugar, and The Way We Was [remember how the way we used to was], and recent hits for recent artists like the the Barenaked Ladies. The finale was Andy Stochansky, whose name I didn't recognize but his music ran familiar thanks to all that driving to work in a borrowed car with no cd player, just 102.1, the Edge.
Of course I was there mainly because I'm a bit of an overaged wrong-sexed Danny Michel groupie - he's so clever and dreamy and he's a magician onstage. It was a happy coincidence that Justin Rutledge, whose debut album I'd just picked up, was there, and he totally kicked my ass - this guy is a MAJOR talent, and he's only 26. He stole the show (well, until Andy Kim sang Sugar Sugar with Danny M.).
The existential shit melted right off me in the heat of all that musical talent. When Bob Lanois covered his brother's hit, 'Under da Stormy Sky', Miia and I danced like toothless old haunts in a local pub in some town about a thousand miles north of . riviere-du-loup. The rest of the crowd was more into the schmooze side of things than the music, and Tom Wilson's frustration was palpable. But after their 2 songs, M. Lanois joined the crowd and as Andy Kim covered Neil Diamond's version of his song, the french Bobby caught my eye, strolled toward me, grabbed my hand and said, "I'm Bob Lanois, you were great!"
And I said "so were you!" I've never considered myself a celebrity whore but there is something exciting about that. This guy (admittedly a minor Canadian celebrity at best), who was in the spotlight, noticed M and I, and took the time to thank us for our support. That's a nice guy!
After the show Miia compared me to Justin Rutledge, saying he must be insecure, wondering if people will buy his album, if there will be a chance to make another, etc. It was a sweet way of making the point that you can be good and unknown, and being unknown or unpublished is not necessarily the same as lacking talent. Point taken.
And then at the other end of the spectrum you have Mr. Salman Rushdie, one of my personal favourites of late, and a writer who filled a large hall last night with faithful fans hanging on his every word, be it about General Musharraf in Pakistan, his latest book, or the latest Batman movie. I joined an outthedoor lineup, $40 hardcover in hand, to get a signature and 5 seconds in the man's presence. The BookCity bouncers ensured everyone had their book open to the right page and were promptly herded through with out incident or delay. Somehow I outsmarted those lettered goons and managed to slip Salman a story I wrote last year. Maybe he'll read it, probably he won't, but it was a rush and a thrill.
Not to be a celebraty whore, but in the past year, in this town, I've met Danny Michel, Bob Lanois, Salman Rushdie, and Steve Forbert - all people that have inspired me, none of whom I'd have met in Halifax, where I often long to be. Quoting Joel Plaskett out of geographical context, there's a reason why I love this town.