Damn – Janis Joplin turns seventy! Say it ain’t so..
That hit me like an asteroid smashing my lifeline. It wasn’t that long ago we were plowing around San Francisco in her psychotic Mercedes looking for off-beat pool halls for a night of eight ball. I still hear her hearty laugh and big throaty tone. Anyone who’s ever played the game knows it’s a frustrating mess. It’s one of those disciplines that calls upon the gamesman to ply the craft daily to get anywhere near competent. Janis prided herself on her game.
Pool is all about the chatter. The shots fall accordingly but it’s all about the dialogue in between – the color commentary. We never got heated about any of this just lay down the gauntlet in a sophomoric manner. This was about getting to know a person by letting the phrases fly and see where the humor land.
We are such a polite nation constantly packing a can of Lemon Pledge and smooth cloth to anything that seems to have cracks. Janis was carved from rough lumber with few sanded areas. That’s what made her absolutely adorable and a blast to be around. She made me nervous never knowing if there was a falling off point. Youth has a way of making one feel invincible even if the person next to you is about to jump in front of a train.
Kristine and I saw her the year she died backstage of the Festival Express and she was all giddy and big loving joy. We exchanged hugs and she told us about the new love in her life and the fact she was no longer doing hard drugs. Clean! I never gave that much thought – I just thought this one was real to the bone person I like knowing.
I have never been a party dude yet if I was ever to choose the perfect person to jump head first into to a typhoon it would be Janis. At least the landing would be as exciting as the take-off.
-31 Below zero
I’ve done some insane things on a bike but none as bizarre as shooting around the city in -31 temperatures back in early January 1981.
We were in a profound deep freeze and I wasn’t taking it well. I just wanted to get on with normalcy and climb out of winter’s tomb. NFL playoff football was in high gear and the Oakland Raiders were rolling to a second Superbowl appearance under the guidance of quarterback Jim Plunkett. I’d screamed like a cartoon monkey the year before at drummer Billy Reed’s pad along with Doc and Emilio of the band Tower of Power who were hanging around Toronto savoring the night life and recording some tracks with Billy. Now, that was the kind of game and win every football crank lives for - especially sharing with Oakland’s finest – Doc and Emilio. This was elation beyond hillbilly heroin.
So, the stupid bike-ride.
I would never think of taking a taxi or TTC even when the city was hit with two feet of snow. I’d find a way to slide through the side streets and keep focused on hidden black ice. This particular morning I had to get from Bathurst and Bloor up and over to Merton Avenue. Kris bought me this parka designed for crossing Antarctica. I slip in and hit the road. Five minutes cruising I sense something unusual about the air. It’s frozen! I mean I’m breathing ice crystals and that ain’t good. About a mile into the ride I’m getting seriously worried. Breathing is getting increasingly difficult and ice has gathered around the moustache. Then the mind starts screwing with sanity. This was like one of those nights back when you smoked some friends weed and he kept warning you – ‘this stuff will make you crazy’ and you thought - sure – bring it on and he forgot to tell you you’d be up all night having a private meeting with Jesus promising tomorrow will be the first day of my new life as a community monk.
I’m crossing Oriole Parkway and by now everything seems like some remote Siberian trail with nice houses in the distance. Shit, I can’t breathe! I’m near panic ready to knock on someone’s door. So I get off the bike and start walking. Still can’t get a breath. Damn suffocating! Should I knock on a door and seek refuge? Finally, after cursing myself and sweating fear I come to Davisville and Yonge and people. Glorious! Where the hell were they during this bizarre trip – nowhere. This was one of those severe warnings – stay in or die. Little did I know a record wind chill was on us -44.7.
Anyway, did the meeting – warmed up – caught my breath – thanked Jesus and walked outside to unlock bike. Close by was the subway. I took one look and said – fuck it – and biked home. Never again…
I haven’t been cold since. So even with a few days in near deep freeze ahead I say bring it on! The past two years of Al Gore springtime scare me.
There is not one thing Lance Armstrong can do to slow his fall from grace. I suggest he just put the bike away and apply for a red card to North Korea. In the days ahead he will morph into a rat on wheels and serve up those who helped him cheat the universe. It’s not even the fact he functioned on the blood of others it’s the fact he sued those who told the truth in an effort to destroy them. Ever been there? That’s how this stuff is played! Whoopi Goldberg speculated the cancer was a result of prolonged steroid use before the ancient one Barbara Walters chimed in on the View and dissed her. Remember Lyle Alzado of the Oakland Raiders – he felt with certainty his brain cancer was directly related. Let’s give Jose Canseco another five years before they remove his nuts. I’m a 365 day a year cyclist and agree the sport should be removed from the Olympics. I’d rather see that silly ribbon dance that a bunch of frauds. Please join me now is three choruses of the Village People’s Macho Man!
City of Dreams
In the early eighties I decided waiting for a recording deal was a futile mistake and I decided to invest in myself and start Night Passage Music. That meant learning how to stock stores, recording, packaging, pressing vinyl. Jazz has always been music of independent means. Jazz had a few could runs when it tilted near mainstream. In 1983, 1984 and 1985 I recorded ‘Ice’ then ‘Avenue B’ then ‘City of Dreams.’ Photographer Deborah Samuel was my go to design specialist as well as photographer. “Avenue B’ would garner a Juno nomination.
By 1988, I was broadcast in 26 cities with the Jazz Report Network, a three hour weekly jazz show heard Saturday and Sunday evenings across Canada through the willpower and energy of Bruce Davidson. At one point we decided to take another shot at the pop market and secured dollars to record a single. I looked at the amount and determined I could do both an album and a single. The pop single hit the used bin faster than the morning classifieds but the album became part of the first wave of international smooth jazz programming. Radio play across North America was tremendous. Two singles came from it ‘Amerasia’ and ‘Magnolia Nights.’ The players were exceptional; Bob Mann and Rob Piltch guitar, Collin Barrett and David Piltch bass, Dave James drums, John Johnson alto sax, Memo Acevedo percussion.
All About the Dogs
I just let Suzie out to do her morning business. Wait a minute – dogs don’t do business. In fact, my dogs have no business sense or responsibilities. Neither are telemarketers or tote a brief case. I have never seen them leave the house in the morning on the way to a meeting. Neither have paid a bill or brought an item of usefulness in the house other than something dead near the curb like a frayed tennis ball or torn arm from a child’s doll. They earn a food living, they stare at me – watch and anticipate my every move - only then do they grant the privilege of giving a full body massage. Last night we were allowing the series ‘Homeland’ a second chance and glad we did - Samson let me steal him from the bedroom closet where at any given moment he’s more than likely chasing bears or racoons in his parallel universe and haul downstairs to be stuffed in a blanket in my lap. Why? Cause that’s what dogs are for. He snorts, whimpers, rolls in circles, high fives the universe with feet in the air - all the while making me the happiest person on the planet.
Getting back to doing the morning business. This is the hardest part of a dog’s day. Lumbering off the back porch on frozen ground sniffing for the perfect location to spin fifteen times and let the kibble blow. Oh what a life ..
Archie Turns 80…
Tonight at the newly inaugurated Paintbox club a full house was in a celebratory mode for one of Toronto’s most renowned jazz musicians Archie Alleyne. Archie turned eighty January 7, 2013 and you would think that milestone alone would have brought the Toronto jazz community out – I’m speaking of musicians in full force. Not a chance! You’d have to pay the players in Toronto union scale to show for your funeral. Christ sake what a sad commentary on this scene. Those that were there got to share in the goodwill of Alleyne who has long been a vocal patriot of jazz always talking about the younger players and keeping everyone aware of a tradition slowly fading. If tonight was any indication Arch is fighting a losing battle. Since jazz moved into the classroom and far from the bandstand there isn’t much to feel positive about. It all starts in the clubs and reverberates beyond. Kudos to Mitchell Cohen and his posse for creating such a lovely venue. I’m sure as word spreads every jazz hand will be at your door looking for a gig yet never attending another.
Thoughts on Obama’s second term..
First off, I’ve been in motion all day and haven’t caught any ceremony other than watching Beyonce’s ‘Star Spangled Banner’.. passable not Whitney. Beyonce is always good but never bone chilling great.
The door for Obama is open for change and big possibility. I think Obama understands the power points he’s accumulated since winning a second term. I’m not a person who goes blindly with the crowd and cries messiah – there’s no such thing. I never liked his choice of Geithner for Treasury and thought his fixation on banks not people was wallop to the face. The drone thing is troubling except it’s tough to yell killer at the man when a simple flight and smack down is far better than committing 40,000 troops to do the same. The jury is still out on that. The gun issue we both see eye ball to eyeball.
America is an asylum for crazed raging psycho maniacs. You have to be born there to get a read on this. My state of Indiana embraced the Klan – they were holed about outside Madison for eons. That was only a mere sixty miles up the river. I drove there for a craft show years back and was warned about the scum littering the hillsides.
Republicans have been thrown to the curb – not by Obama but by the absurd hug tree of Tea Partiers, FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and Congress. America figured out these entities were operating on behalf of the lunatic fringe. Crazy has limits! That doesn’t mean the paranoid hate filled jive will stop but it does push them farther down the toilet drain.
Guns give us shivers. The NRA is way on the wrong side of this issue never giving a round to save a life. Obama has a fight on his hands but my money is on the gloved one.
Up ahead, a possible new face on the Supreme Court either right or left. Fiscal Cliff, a new cartoon character on Family Guy. Gay rights, climate change, immigration reform, social security, pensions, unions, …
The beauty of this presidency has been the cool that smothers the fire and brimstone prophets. Obama’s family is gorgeous. Photogenic and let’s be honest one stunning wife. Smart – attractive and elegant. Please don’t say Nancy Reagan or Barbara Bush. Pro active yet not so fun loving. Laura Bush was cool but under the radar. Rosalind Carter the mother everyone wanted. Michelle Obama – eleven out of ten!
So let the term begin. I’m sure I’ll continue scratching my head wondering why the O made such a compromise with some radical wing nut but that’s the game of politics. The movie Lincoln offered much insight about getting the deal. You give up a free ride on a circus moose to get a million vaccinated against poverty.
Obama finds is inner Liberal!
Obama recited the word liberal in a manner that has me smiling like a big dandy today.
It’s been decades since a politician said that word without fear of reprisal. Let me say it’s liberating. I feel as if the stench of Bush and Cheney and FOX News has escaped the planet. Fear was always the driving force not hope and optimism. Bush and Cheney gave us the longest war in American history one resolved by sending a team of Navy Seals to nail the culprit to the carpet. Thank you Mr. Liberal president!
Reading through Obama’s speech was like inhaling the first whiff of an Arctic Spring. Refreshing!
I’ve been without cable eighteen months so I was free of the nauseating pundits riding the past election – no CNN or FOX pukes. The election stayed on the peripheral until Mitt Romney came into play. Even my normally cooking liberal blood stayed house temperature. I knew Mitt was a good joke one that never ceased coughing up punch lines. What I’d hoped would come of this farce was having Obama gather his principles and put them down front and act on them. He spoke eloquently and convincingly yesterday. Obama has an opportunity to become a great president or just more Republican road kill. From what I saw yesterday he gets it! From this cup of morning tea I hope we can as people move ahead and let the past be a lesson and face the future with eagerness, curiosity and compassion. The world around us is changing daily in fact it’s speeding ahead – we just need catch a breath and savor the ride.
Tech Me Up!
I spoke at the Harris Institute late afternoon to a class of forty two students. Part of the time was taken rummaging through my past which always leaves me dry but as soon as we got to what’s happening today and the days ahead I lost it. What a time we live in.
Last night I was bored shitless watching some worthless movie when I pick up the iTablet and start my usual search through Zite. Then I come across an online seminar on Lightroom. Lightroom mostly takes up space on my computer although I do have a basic understanding of its value dealing with raw camera files but having a two hour classroom not only clarified but inspired. This happens every day on a number of interests. I’m not a games guy or one who wastes energy screaming about world evil – not much time for that yet I’m in perpetual awe.
The recording industry is a mess - old models don’t work anymore. I hear the tears the anguish for bygone days and none of this gives my pulse a rise. I’m also not one who gripes about today being the most relevant in history or beg for new skin to start over. Damn it.. television started when I was a child. I’m glad I was around for that - catching pops roll a color console into the living room was a far bigger thrill than any Superbowl. I’m also glad I was there when the first stereo system entered out home and I played Streisand over and over and nearly fractured my ears in ecstasy.
We are moving at a techno speed that could now be measured in light speed. From our breakfast table between bites a world of change is occurring at a pace that would make those sloshing through mud a century ago on the way to a feed store hide in a safe house. You can no longer complain and piss in your beer. You’ve got to strap yourself in and hitch a ride. Learning is the best remedy for helplessness.
I can’t even begin to imagine where all this will lead other than eventual travel through far regions of the universe and man am I up for the journey. I’ll keep you posted if I get any messages from Zorcon the Magnificent and his merry band of space maruders !
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