Tag Archives: yukon

Getting Schooled by Miles Davis

Music is powerfully emotive.

The right piece at the right time can be a spiritual moment like no other, for some of us.

There are specific times I can remember some songs that blew my mind — songs I’d heard in the background time and time again, but a moment presents itself and the head explodes in all the aural rightness.

Like when it’d been a 14-hour day of stupidity in Whitehorse, Yukon, and The Tragically Hip’s “Cordelia” began playing as I pulled my car into my driveway, me ready to snap or sigh, whatever came first. Suddenly slow rising guitars just matched the coursing muted anger and frustration I felt after such a futile day. I sat there and listened to it twice.

Then I turned the car over, and drove the fuck out of town for an hour, listening to that song over and over.

I’d probably heard it 20 times before that night, but just never when it mattered.

Same deal with The Doors’s “The End.” Until I heard it play in Apocalypse Now, it never really registered on my radar. But a midnight viewing of the Vietnam classic in a dusty old theatre with that track bleeding out of crackling speakers, it just blew my fucking mind.

The creative process, for me, is all about timing, so it’s not really a surprise, then, that ingesting creativity should also require good timing.

Miles Davis is giving me an old-school edumacation today about how foolishly exclusive our tastes can be sometimes, and how much our narrow-mindedness can deny us when we wrongfully judge a genre via a single example of it.

For years and years and years, I was decidedly Not A Jazz Fan. And I ain’t talkin’ Utah, okay? Although…

But I mean jazz-jazz. Crazy trombones, pounding pianos, all that jazz-jazz, man.

It’s really the Story of Two Matriarchs. My aunt tried to get me into jazz when I was 8 and spending the summer with her in Toronto. I sort of got it, but let’s face it — I was eight. I wrote stories about pretend animals on “Garfield” note paper and slept with a teddy bear. What’s there to get? Are The Muppet Babies on TV yet? Miles who?

My mother, though, laughed at this fledgling interest in jazz when I returned to Vancouver. It was just noise, she opined. Aunt Pat was pretty nutty and sure liked to get silly with alcohol, what with that wobbly-walk of hers’n’all, so maybe Mom was right.

I slowly got the whole “it’s just noise” opinion myself from hearing the really experimental stuff, and just wrote the rest off.

Over the years, as I got older, I tried Miles Davis in a not-really-trying-because-I-secretly-know-it’s-just-crap kind of way, and stuck to my taste guns: Jazz was crap.

So, a few weeks ago, I finally got around to playing Miles’s A Kind of Blue, which had been in my iPhone for a while, under the thinking that one day the mood might strike. Well, nothing else was making my musical heart respond as I toggled through artist after artist on my phone, and then I saw Miles.

Hmm. Hey, you know, I’m kind of blue. Maybe I should listen to A Kind of Blue.

So, I did. And I liked it, and this feeling niggled its way into me while I scrubbed my dirty dishes at the kitchen sink. A jazzy kind of blue, kind of niggling thing.

Today I’m diving into The Cellar Door Sessions. And it’s working all too well. A half-hour ago or so, my feet were cold and socks loomed. I’ve been toe-tapping since and flip-flops remain in place with warm-blooded happy feets.

I’m glad I’ve tried again and again to get that appreciation of jazz working for me. I know better than most people, I guess, how quickly we can grow and change. I’m all about change.

It all comes back to the adage, “there’s a time and a place.”

It’s true of tastes, too.

From food to sex to music, it’s too easy to sample something once and think it’s representative of the whole. Maybe it’s THAT salmon you don’t like, not all salmon. Maybe they were a lousy lover and you should rethink your thoughts on sex in X-position with X-prop. And, hey, maybe you were listening to the wrong jazz.

Know who I learned that from?

A two-year-old boy named Jack.

He’d try every food a minimum — seriously, EVERY food — of three times. Three times! It could be rancid but he’d take three bites before he decided his opinion. THEN, he knew passionately which side of the opinion he sat on.

Here I was, 35, and always lived on old opinions, and opinions taken in a single sampling. A bite, a listen, a trial of some sort.

“No, I didn’t like that kind of seafood when I tried it 18 years ago, therefore…”

Now I accept that I’m narrow-minded and given to stupidity with a tendency to default my most obsolete opinions.

Everything’s worth trying again. I now make sure it’s a good example of that thing before I judge it. I’ll talk to others, rethink things. It’s a big world of experiences.

Methinks it’d be terrible to miss out on any because of foolishness and poor decisions.

So, here I am. Tapping my toes as the first disc fades out in applause and disc two of Miles Davis’s Cellar Door Sessions swings into a new groove.

Liking what I thought for 25-plus years I could never like.

This growing-up thing’s all right, man.

How about you? What’s something you did a total 180 on, and why? How’d opening your mind to trying it again change you?

7 More Things You Maybe Didn’t Know About Me

I got tagged for this meme for a second time, this time by JamieLD. The first time was here. And why not just brush it off and say “But I did it already?” Huh? Why?

Well, I’ll tell you. ‘Cos, like, there ARE 14 things about me you don’t know. How do ya like them apples? I know, you’re thinking, “Dude, this is one seriously vast chick.” We’re so on the same page. Here’s just some of that vastness, my fabulous minions:

1. Well, you know I’m funny. In fact, I’ve been told on occasion that I’m even, gasp, “really” funny. I’ll accept that answer. But you know what’s also funny? I don’t watch a lot of comedy. You scour my DVD collection and there are very, very few comedies. Maybe 10% of what I own can be classified as funny. Continue reading

A Ramble: Valentine’s Day

This day, the 15th, is one of my least favourite days of the year for private reasons. I fucking hate it. So, I got to thinking last night as I smoked a joint and continued to write, and this is the rambling ode I had about being single on Valentine’s day, and I dedicate it to all those who rolled out of bed alone today and didn’t feel badly about it.

I’m at home on Valentine’s night. There’s a Dr. Phil show on, about how to “love smart.” It’s a primetime special. Ever noticed how the matchmaker sites go onto full boil around this time of year? Notice the fix-up services advertising more these days? It’s like the world conspires to tell you you’re a loser if a) you’re single or b) your lover doesn’t spend enough on you or c) your lover doesn’t put out.

I’m reveling in my singleness this evening. I made garlic bread. With extra garlic. And spaghetti with meat sauce, something the wise would never eat in front of a date. I’m wearing my cut-off shorts and a fleecy sweater. I’m having an awesome night of relaxing, writing, cooking, watching a little telly, and reading. And deep down inside there’s this niggling of “But they think you need a boyfriend. Do ya, honey?”

I know I had a moment of weakness last week, that’s what I do know. I seized a moment with someone and let things go further than they should have, but for that night, regardless of what the future did or didn’t hold, companionship sounded like a good idea. There are people you know you can trust, even if you can’t imagine really being with them for the long haul. And there are weak moments.

Ultimately, though, I do love being single. I admit, I am alone. I’m not lonely, though. Not usually. (Weakness, it happens.) And I resent Valentine’s Day (and the media and society) for seeming to think my lack of desire for a real, true relationship is anything less than healthy. I want a relationship, but I want the right relationship. Anything less than simpatico is just not worth my time, grief, or efforts. The right man, he gets it all. I’ll drop anything for the right guy, you know. I’m just a diehard romantic. But I scrutinize with the best of them, and I just want the right combination.

Otherwise, I’ll keep my Sundays for reading the paper in my boxers and a t-shirt. I’ll get up when I want, sleep where I want, eat what I want, and do what I want. I won’t have to check to see if “our schedule” is clear, I won’t have to worry about any of that. Like I say, when it’s right, it’s worth it, but when it’s not absolutely right, it’s infringing on my space.

That makes me very male in some ways, I think. I’m not sure why more men feel that way than women, but perhaps it comes down to how comfortable they are alone. It’s interesting, I’ve seen an increase in the media, people bringing up something I’ve long believed: One of the worst things you can say to a lover is what they said in Jerry Maguire, “You complete me.”

If you cannot be complete on your own, you are not a whole person. If you do not have a sense of self, you have nothing. If you cannot love yourself, who else can? These are clichés, and for good reason. They’re as true as they can be.

If you don’t know yourself when you fall in love with someone, you’re going to have the very, very rude experience of cluing the fuck in to who you are somewhere down the line, and that person you’ve committed yourself to is going to find out that they no longer fit the bill. Who you love must complement who you are, not complete it. We’re foolish when it comes to love, we put the cart before the horse.

I long ago discovered that my “fuctedness,” as one pal would say, needed solitude. Every time I got into a relationship, I lost more and more of who I was. I became this person who needed to have that approval from “them” in order to have that sense of self. Now, I couldn’t care less. I know that the right people, the ones I want around me, they dig me. The ones who don’t dig me, don’t get me, and won’t have me, and that’s just fine. Don’t fight it, man. Go with the flow.

But when you really learn to dig yourself, you don’t need anyone anymore. You see people for what they are: Icing on a fuckin’ fab cake, baby.

See, the difference between those of us who enjoy being single and those who do not is pretty simple. Those of us who enjoy it, we’re optimistic about love. We figure, hey, if the time’s ever right, if the cosmos ever aligns, then maybe we’ll come out of that with something/one we just can’t get enough of. Until then, we’re alone, and we’re going to enjoy it, ‘cos when that love comes, aloneness goes. And it’s more than aloneness. It’s solitude, quietude. There are some things you will never, ever experience if you don’t command your time alone. Some of the most profound experiences of my life have come to me in moments spent completely isolated from the world.

I moved to the Yukon for one year when I was 21, and it was a profound experience all the way around. Before then, I was a popular gal and always had plans, always was out. I moved there and discovered the true art of being alone and loving it, and it changed my life. I remember a night right around summer solstice. It was daylight then from three in the morning until two in the morning, just an hour of dusk in between… fucking sublime. Sigh. You could sit and watch the sunset followed by the sunrise in the time it took to slowly nurse a single beer. I was having one of these profound days – a day in between nights at the bar, preceding a long weekend away, where we’d be camping at the foot of Mount McKinley and Mount Logan, the continent’s highest peaks. I remember thinking, “I’ve got it pretty fucking good. This will be one of the best times in my life, and I will never, ever forget these experiences. But tonight I got to slow it down and keep it all to me.”

I packed up a few things… a joint, a couple of beers, some Robert Service poetry, and a sweater. I drove the car out of the city (of 15,000) into the nearby country, Miles’ Canyon, the Yukon’s mini version of the Grand, through which the Yukon river carved a wide and tumultuous path. I did a hike out to the edge of the canyon and found an isolated spot above the river where I sat leaning against an alpine fir and facing northward, where I could see the sun dead ahead, just slightly left of the magnetic north. It was midnight and the sunset wasn’t far off. The mountains lay before me to the north (and to the south and east and west) and the land was all reds and browns and greens and yellows with this beautiful deep blue sky. The light, as that incredible northern light is, was absolutely preternatural. There’s something angelic and sweet about the late eveningg summer’s light up there that bathes the world in buttery goodness. I did what I often do, I just sat there and watched how the light changed and shadows shifted on the landscape. There’s something profound about sitting there literally watching time pass by.

So all I did was sit there, consider my life, my place, the potential in my future, who I was and who I would become. To this day, that moment stands in my top twenty, if not my top ten, in my life experiences – and still, stacked up against international trips, true rites of passage, it holds its own, my friends. I was with no one. Nothing really happened. It was quietude in its finest. Not a human voice. Not a plane. Not a vehicle. Nothing electronic. No wires. Nothing. Just me, the gods, and the earth. And it was fucking incredible.

And when you’re afraid of aloneness, you miss out on moments like that. Moments when you sit around and connect with nature on your own time. A guy once said to me, Cities are built for distraction. Meaning, they’re there to help us forget all the things we wish for, that we’ll never have. So too are the wrong relationships, Valentine’s day be damned.

When you spend more time alone, when you get really honest with yourself about what you ought to be valuing, you gain this inner contentment about what it is you’ve got, and you often develop clarity about what it is you need, and how to attain it. These are things, qualities, that many of my fellow (wo)men need to find.

I wouldn’t say that being single leaves me in a state of nirvana, but I’m in a place that I really dig, and it’s because I’ve come to feel that I’d rather be alone than in a relationship where I’m not fully… I don’t know, what, plugged in? I’m charged, he’s charged, it’s all good? I mean, I’m damned good company, most times, so I’d really have to value a guy to keep him around, is what I’m saying. Life’s just too fucking short.

So, yeah, Valentine’s day. I digressed a lot there. Love’s hard enough without cheapening it with commercialism. If you want romance, celebrate it always. If you want love, keep it year round, not because a calendar tells you it’s that time again. And love ain’t about what you can buy, people. These expensive gifts… really. When did generosity become about the almighty dollar? When did it stop being a thing of spirit, of gesture? I just honestly find that buying into this Valentine’s day bullshit really helps to make people forget what relationships ought to be about. The little things: The qualities shared, the words said, the actions done. Not the things bought. Not the fancy places we go.

But the very best thing about being a content, whole person in the search of love, is that when you find someone who really does deserve a shot at fitting that bill, it’s so incredibly rewarding to just drink them in. They’re not fulfilling you, they’re just nurturing all that is good about you. Then, it feels like a gift, like something you should cherish. Something you want to cherish. Not a job, not an obligation. And isn’t that how things ought to be?