Act III

Backstage

For a long time, the title of this post was going to be “F**k You 2014″ (yes, my language has become much saltier over the past year), but I decided to change it to something that at least tries to look ahead rather than backward.

After losing my father in October 2012, my only blood relative in this hemisphere, my idea of family changed, was forced to change. And now I’ve lost both my partner and best friend, and her mother, the only mother I’ve known over the past two decades.

The sturdy structure I thought we’d been building together for nearly 17 years turned out to be made of spit and tissue paper.

I’ve written a lot about this, some publicly, most privately. But often I’m just reduced to mute:

  • Shock
  • Bafflement
  • Confusion
  • Fear
  • Sadness
  • Loss
  • Resentment
  • Anger
  • Pain
  • Abandonment
  • Betrayal

So this is definitely not my most articulate blog post.

And just to make things worse…

Since May (when I began keeping a written record), 78 job applications, not one interview.

I look at my dwindling savings (aka the inheritance I wasn’t supposed to be spending) and for the first time, I’m actually worried that I won’t recover from this. I want to be a part of the world and I know that I have a lot to contribute. But for the last year I’ve felt a bit like a surplus human being, unwanted, unneeded. That’s definitely not me. I need to get the twinkle back in my eye.

What does Act III look like for me? I turn 50 years old in February, and if I’m very lucky, I might have 25 years left of this life. What will I do with it? How will I learn from what’s gone before and make this next year and next stage of my life better?

I’d hoped that I’d be able to make this blog post a bit more hopeful. I don’t have the answers yet. Maybe I’ll never have them. The last year has been very hard, and I am hopeful the year ahead will be less hard. But that’s a pretty feeble kind of hope. A new friend has told me that my job for now is just to pass the time. Nature will sort out the rest.

So 2015 is a blanker canvas than I’d ever expected. To mix in some more creative metaphors, it’s a clean white page and an empty stage. And I’m trying to see that as a good thing.

So, curtain up on Act III…

P.S. Strange to look back at a few older “new year” posts:

Best Music of 2014

These days, when December arrives, I begin scrambling to listen to as much music from the current year as I can. Although I hear a few things throughout the year, I’m always scrambling to make my Top Ten a fair list and not just the only ten new records I heard that year. I think I did a good job this year, although five of my top ten are year-end discoveries.

As soon as I heard the first notes of Alvvays’ “Adult Diversion,” I knew I was onto a good thing. Their first album is filler-free, nine perfectly-polished pop gems that will stick in your head immediately. I was also privileged to see them live twice this year (once opening for hardcore act Fucked Up, which was adorable). I’m also immensely proud to be putting a Toronto band top of my list for maybe the first time ever. And I’m excited that there are a few other local bands tilling the same dreampop ground that may make it onto my list next year (WISH, Moon King, The Lonely Parade, Iris).

And I have to mention being knocked out by First Aid Kit’s record Stay Gold quite late in the year. If you’ve read this blog this year, you’ll know that I’d be all over a record with that title, and lyrically and musically, it’s been a balm (yes, maybe a literal first aid kit) for my battered heart even as I find myself crying while listening to it.

Spoon made another solid record this year, but as with all of their more recent stuff, it’s taken me a while to let it settle in. Amazing that I’ve been listening to them for more than 15 years now.

My love affair with metal continues unabated, although I find a bit too many “doom” bands are stretching the songs to absurd lengths. That being said, Pallbearer’s excellent record cannot be denied its rightful place in my list. And nice to see another comeback record (At The Gates) to rival last year’s Carcass release.

The biggest surprise on the list is a band called The Bilinda Butchers, who have made a wildly ambitious concept album based on a 19th-century Japanese love story. With a band name that references one of my all-time ladyrock crushes, I was bound to give them a chance, but the record (which you can actually download and name your own price) is musically eclectic but always compelling. Check it out.

So another year of semi-random music listening, but that’s the way I like it. If I find myself listening to something a lot, it’s going to make my year-end list, and so without further ado, here are my favourite releases of the past year.

Alvvays - Alvvays
First Aid Kit - Stay GoldSpoon - They Want My Soul
The Bilinda Butchers - HEAVENPallbearer - Foundation of BurdenWhite Lung - Deep Fantasy
Parquet Courts - Sunbathing AnimalAt The Gates - At War With RealityAgainst Me! - Transgender Dysphoria BluesLiterature - Chorus

In list form, if you’re not visually inclined:

  1. Alvvays – Alvvays
  2. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
  3. Spoon – They Want My Soul
  4. The Bilinda Butchers – HEAVEN
  5. Pallbearer – Foundation of Burden
  6. White Lung – Deep Fantasy
  7. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
  8. At The Gates – At War With Reality
  9. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
  10. Literature – Chorus

Honourable Mentions:

  • The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
  • Nothing – Guilty of Everything
  • Army Navy – The Wilderness Inside
  • The Raveonettes – Pe’ahi
  • Exodus – Blood In Blood Out

Just for fun, here are some of my previous lists:

How about you? What were some of your favourites?

P.S. If you still haven’t caught up on all of 2014’s music (and there’s no way to actually do that), I’d recommend downloading this massive 10-disc annual collection from Fluxblog.

Moving

So, I am moving. Not too far, just down 18 floors in the same building. But of course, unearthing old stuff and memories and ghosts. Here’s an interesting poem I just found, written sometime in the late 1980s, after I’d moved out of the place I lived since I was six, and into my father’s cramped and smoky apartment.

Moving

my life won’t fit into these boxes
something will be left behind,
forgotten,
and my grief won’t fit into these cliches
something’s been lost
is being lost
I can’t even write
how I feel
I think about climbing
into a box with my things
like a pharaoh.

Leaves, Weeds, and Flowers

Some of my creative output from the early 1990s is bringing me a certain level of comfort right now. Or maybe the familiarity of these emotions isn’t exactly comfort, but it’s something I know pretty well.

the cruellest month (1994)

the august trees were already
leaving by september
when I autumned into love with you.

I pictured you in green
slipping through the forest
hiding among the oaks
like a frightened deer
or escaping into the woods
with your secrets
climbing into the longrooted branches.

wintering in this cold country
I picked icicles like fruit
looking for a sign of you.
when spring came, my icicles
turned and ran
through my fingers
and my torn hands healed.

the forest in green
ran me through, living
while my small love died.

in the weeds (1994)

In The Weeds (1994) by James McNally

bad flowers (1992)

vomited petals
and the taste of roses
that bouquet I ate
it wasn’t love after all.

The Man Who Doesn’t Fit In

Robert Service knows me:

The Men That Don’t Fit In (c. 1907)

There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.

They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.

If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they’re always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.

They say: “Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!”
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.

And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.

And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that’s dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.

He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life’s been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.

Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He’s a rolling stone, and it’s bred in the bone;
He’s a man who won’t fit in.