mental health

#950: A Letter To S

Hey S,

I felt like writing again, I hope you don’t mind.  My emails are not the esteemed A Life in Letters by Isaac Asimov, but it’s more about the process of the writing for me.

I’ve been listening to Van Halen in the car a lot.  Long story short:  I’ve been having issues with my music hard drive in the car, with it repeating tracks.  I discovered I could fix it by formatting the drive and starting over.  Certain Van Halen albums used to give me issues in the car, with the repeating songs.  It’s been a pleasure to rock to King Edward this week.  It’s hard to believe but he died over a year ago now.

I remember coming home from work the day he died and I was just in a foul mood.  Not only was I grieving Edward Van Halen, but I felt stupid for grieving someone I never met and never hoped to meet.  It was a torrent of shitty feelings, plus I hadn’t eaten properly.  It was a Tuesday and I had to do laundry or something, and I snapped at Jen.  I felt like an asshole afterwards.  I also remember telling you this story, and you were the one who said it was OK to be grieving.  Until that moment I didn’t really consider that maybe you don’t have to be a psycho to be upset about Van Halen’s death.

Music aside — which was usually warm, fun with instrumental and occasional lyrical depth — Van Halen meant a lot to me.  I must have been 13 years old when I was sitting on the porch with my best friend Bob, hearing 1984 on the tape deck for the first time.  My dad came home from work, heard the noise and asked what we were listening to, as dads often did.  “Van Halen!?” he said.  “Sounds like some kind of tropical disease!”

My dad was always good with one liners!  When we watched music videos on Much, he would mock the singers shrieking their best operatic screams.  “What’s wrong with that man?  Should he go to the hospital?  He sounds like he’s in pain!”

Good memories, all.  I’m very attached to those childhood memories.  I’m trying to commit them all to writing before they’re gone.  Often, lost memories can be triggered by an old photograph.  But there are many things I wish I had video of!  If only there was a tape or photograph of that first time I heard Van Halen.  But film was a precious commodity until the last 15 years or so.  You didn’t just take pictures of you and your friends listening to music on the front porch.

I remember some of the tapes, and conversations.  Iron Maiden’s Maiden Japan was popular in our porch listening sessions.  George would come over from next door, and Bob would come over with his tapes.  My house was right in the middle!  I wonder how much of my happiest childhood memories are due to geographic concerns.  If my house wasn’t right there in the middle of everybody, maybe I never would have been there that day to hear Van Halen or Iron Maiden.

Sometimes I worry that I spend too much time living in the past and trying to recapture those moments.  But then I think about what you would say to that.  “Why are you worried about something that brings you happiness?” I think you might ask.  And you’d be right.  So bring on the Van Halen.  Bring on the Iron Maiden.  Let’s party like it’s 1985.  Might as well go for a soda — nobody hurts, nobody dies.

Mike

 

#940: My Friend of Misery

RECORD STORE TALES #940: My Friend of Misery

“You insist that the weight of the world,
Should be on your shoulders,
There’s much more to life than what you see,
My friend of misery.”

James Hetfield may as well have been talking about me.  But it’s not that simple.  I don’t insist the weight of the world should be on my shoulders.  I’d give anything to take some of the weight off.  But I have a lot of responsibility.

Having somebody’s dirty bathwater leaking all over my floor and carpet the last two weeks has pushed me to the breaking point.

“These times are sent to try men’s souls,
But something’s wrong with all you see,
You, you’ll take it on all yourself,
Remember, misery loves company.”

Trying to be proactive about my health, I took a hiatus from writing.  We now have the plumbing fixed.  There’s plenty of damage to repair and lots of stress.  But I think maybe it’ll be OK dipping my toe back into writing.  A little bit.  Cross fingers, knock wood that nothing else gets fucked up.

Metallica has been a soothing remedy.  I haven’t listened to old Metallica in a long time.  This 14 CD / 6 DVD / 6 LP box set is something else.  I’ve played all the LPs and now I’m into the CDs.  James’ riffs tapes range from startling to suck!  The initial “Sad But True” riff is painfully badly recorded.  But a 22 second snippet of a punk rock “Unforgiven” is a truly cool moment.  There’s a lot to go through here.  Metallica have been taking my mind off things.

I did discover something interesting about my car stereo.  It seems to be able to read files that have been deleted.  When you “delete” something off a hard drive, it doesn’t necessarily go away unless you overwrite it.  My car appears to be able to read tracks like this.  This weekend I ripped the massive Metallica box set, and replaced the old album on my hard drive with the newly remastered one.  I also took the time to rip all my Load, Reload and Garage Inc. CD singles to the hard drive.  A complete set of singles, I might add.  Up until St. Anger, the only Metallica release I was only missing was The 6½ Year Anniversary 12″ EP and a “Neckbrace” remix of “Whiplash” (still need both).

On to the car.  The easiest way for me to clean up the car’s hard drive was to completely delete the Metallica folder and then copy over a new one.  What I discovered when I jumped in the fire…I mean car…was that the car drive now had two copies of Kill ‘Em All, Master of Puppets, etc.  My original rip of the Metallica CD was still there, even though I deleted it.  So it seems my car can read deleted files, at least until they are eventually overwritten.

The annoying thing about this is that because of the way the car reads the ID3 tags, each song gets played twice in a row.  So when I play Kill ‘Em All, I get “Hit the Lights”, then “Hit the Lights”, “The Four Horsemen”, “The Four Horsemen”, and so on.  I can fix this but it’s annoying.

So much to fix.  And I haven’t touched on the family health challenges of late.  Some things should stay private.

So let’s try a little writing again.  Because I want to give this Metallica box set a good solid listen, and I’m only about 1/6th of the way through, I won’t be writing up reviews for a little while.  Instead I’ll be focusing on Record Store Tales, a real WTF of a comment, and a new feature.  Now that I’m not trying to constantly keep my floors dry, I can try to be creative again.

I can try.  Yoda says “Do, or do not, there is no try.”

I say “Fucked, you must get, Yoda.”  I’m doing the best I can here!

#938: Tears of a Clown

RECORD STORE TALES #938: Tears of a Clown

Yesterday, September 10, was Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day.  I was reminded of a good story, about a special young man that I met only once.  It was years ago, but for background, I’m going to tell you some things about myself that I’ve never shared publicly before.

The stigma on people who suffer from mental health issues is real.  We get called “crazy” or “weak”.  In reality we are some of the strongest people you will ever meet because we wrestle daily with things just because the chemistry of our brains is a little bit out of whack.  Every day that we finish is a day that we won.  Support is hard to find.  Everybody here should know by now that I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  This is compounded daily by the stresses of supporting a wife sick with untreatable epilepsy.  Nobody can accuse me of having it easy.  I went to the doctor and got some “happy pills” but they didn’t agree with me.  One day when I couldn’t take it anymore, I went back to the doctor and she immediately put me on a sick leave.  I begged her not to.  I didn’t want my work to have to deal with it.  The doctor talked some sense into me.  I went on sick leave, and I made damn sure I did not waste my time.  As far as I was concerned, I might not have been “at” work, but I had to work, and that meant working on myself.

I enrolled in a class called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.  It’s called “CBT” for short, which means something else too. I’ll get into that in a bit.

The people I met at CBT group were just like anyone else I ever met.  There was en executive.  There was a goth.  There were people who worked in finance.  Parents and grandparents.  People who cared for sick family members.  All walks of life.  Some I’m still friends with today.  We worked through things together and it was heavy.  We had some laughs too, as you should, but we dealt with a lot of things in that group.

One of the ladies I met there, “Katy”, became a friend immediately.  She was an office professional in the world of finance.  I think when she was younger, she worked as stage crew for touring bands.  We knew a lot of the same groups.  She was a fan of the Genitorturers, who I believe she worked for in the past.  One day in CBT class she leaned over and with a sly grin and whispered to me, “Do you know what else CBT stands for?”

I had an idea.  Thanks to some friends in the UK tattoo and piercing community, I knew that CBT also stands for “Cock and Ball Torture”.

She laughed that I knew it, and our bond was cemented.  It was an intense class and I needed a friend.  We got sad and anxious as the weeks wound up, and we were set to go back to our lives.  A bunch of us exchanged phone numbers and made plans to stay in touch.  I was really in a state of worry about heading back to work, as was “Katy”.  I wanted to get some new shoes for the job, and she agreed to help me pick out a pair.

“Is it OK if my son comes along?” she asked.  “You’ll like him.”

I did.  I liked him a lot.

I met up with “Katy” and her son “Kenny” at a central Tim Hortons location.  He reminded me of a young Jeremy Taggart from Our Lady Peace.  We drank coffee for an hour or two, while “Kenny” kept me in stitches with his natural sense of humour.  He reminded me of a stand-up comedian.  He just had the natural ability to make people laugh and entertain.  It was one of the best coffee visits I’ve ever had with anyone.  I asked him if he’d ever be interested in working together.  I didn’t have any clear ideas, I just knew that I wanted to do some kind of video with him.  A commentary, a discussion, a stunt…I knew he’d be hilarious.

After coffee we went to a store looking for my new shoes.  When we got there, “Kenny” asked if he could try on some skin-tight spandex workout suits.  He had no reason to try one on…he was not getting into cycling all of a sudden.  I think he just wanted to make us laugh.  He came out of the change room in this ridiculous outfit that was far too tight.  I’m sure his circulation was cut off and he couldn’t feel his feet.  Seeing him pose around the store in this skin-tight wrapping was both awkward and hilarious.  I recall he had a devil of a time trying to get it off.

I really enjoyed my day with them.  I wore my new shoes on my first day back in the office and it felt good to be in the driver’s seat again.  “Katy” and I kept in touch a little bit.  I knew “Kenny” had his own issues, but I was always a big supporter and fan of his.

Then one day in 2015, “Katy” sent me a message on Facebook.  Her son was gone.  I froze in the shock of it.  One day, I guess he just couldn’t take it anymore.  A feeling that I thought I knew, but had never taken further.  I simply could not believe what I was reading.  It seemed impossibly wrong.  This young man, destined to be someone truly special, who made me laugh so hard I couldn’t breathe, was gone.

“It’s always the funniest ones,” I thought to myself.  The year before, Robin Williams took his own life.  Iron Maiden wrote a song about it called “Tears of a Clown”.

“All alone in a crowded room, he tries to force a smile.”  Could I ever relate to that.  “Wonder why he’s feeling down, tears of a clown.”

When I think of all those comedians who struggle or have struggled with their own problems, I think of my friend and her son.  Without exaggeration, one of the funniest people I ever met, if only for a few hours.  It was a long time ago but I still talk about that day.  He was a special kid and I’m sorry that you’ll never get to see the two of us in a video together like I hoped.  It would have been hilarious.

 

#934: What Now?

RECORD STORE TALES #934:  What Now?

I sound like a broken record at the end of every summer.  It’s tough to keep the spirits up at this time of year.  It’s likely I’ve taken my last swim of 2021.  Next time we get to the lake, the sun will be down by the time we arrive.  And then will come the day it is covered with snow, and empty for the winter slumber.

Music helps – music always, always helps.  So does writing.  But it is an annual challenge.

When I was a kid, the end of August would signal the start of the “sad times”.  The back-to-school ads.   Reminders that I was going to have to spend another year with a bunch of bullies again.  Then the colder weather started to roll in.  Our family would take two weeks of vacation in August but back then, they were two cold, rainy weeks. (Not like today.)  You had to start dressing in long pants and sweat shirts.

Shopping for notebooks and new school clothes.  Realizing that a few weeks of warm freedom were about to be replaced by 10 months of misery.  I hated Labour Day weekend.  Back to the “hell hole” as my sister would say.  These feelings stick with me today.  I can’t flip the calendar from August to September without them.

Even though I’m not in school anymore, the heavy heart returns.  I now know that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder and it’s something I need to fight every fall.

Last year was a success!  I avoided the seasonal depression.  I spent my summer making lots of videos, to take me back there in my mind when I needed it.  I also had the show, the LeBrain Train, to look forward to every weekend.  This year is different.  The videos and photos don’t have the same impact two years in a row, and since May the LeBrain Train has become more of a burden than a joy.  I need something new to keep my spirits up this winter, and I don’t yet know what that is.  It is true that we have a long September ahead, warm but shorter days.  I hope this mitigating factor helps.  I think what I really need is some new creative spark to keep me looking forward.  Last year it was the LeBrain Train but the burnout factor has ensured that I need something fresh that I can look forward to from September to May.

What used to cheer me up at this time of year?

As a kid I used to be excited for a new season of the Pepsi Power Hour which hasn’t existed in 30 years.  I don’t watch a lot of TV these days, but fortunately Marvel has constant content forthcoming on Disney+.  We have a new Iron Maiden album to look forward to, but the idea of new music from my favourite bands doesn’t have the same excitement factor as when I was 15 years old.  Yes I’m happy there is a new Iron Maiden coming, but compared to the sheer expectation of Seventh Son coming out in ’88?  No chills.

It feels like…work?  Like I haven’t finished digesting The Book of Souls and here comes another one.  I can’t remember how half that album goes, and now we have a new one to get to know.  It’s not like in the old days when I felt literally starved of Iron Maiden because I’d played all their albums over and over and over.  Now, there are so many that you don’t necessarily even play them all in a year.

Back then, getting a new Iron Maiden album felt just as amazing as a new Star Wars or Marvel movie today.  Something you have been anticipating for a while.  Music videos were like movie trailers.  We’d watch repeatedly, we’d pause, and we’d slo-mo trying to glimpse details.  Costumes, instruments, stage sets, all of it.

When I was working at the Record Store, I still didn’t know that this seasonal depression thing was real and not just me.  It often came and went in spurts.  I used to call them a “big blue funk”.  2003 was a very “funky” year for me.  I’d been dumped (twice) by my Radio Station Girl, and even with a new Iron Maiden in my back pocket (Dance of Death, and also a new Deep Purple called Bananas) I still felt like I needed to do something to help me get through the winter.  And there was something I used to do to pick myself up back then, especially if I had my heart broke.  Yes, broken hearts are for assholes, but I chose to get new holes.  On September 3, I went to Stigmata in Guelph and got my nose pierced.

It was my third visit to the tattoo studio that year.  After Radio Station Girl dumped me, I got my lip pierced at Stigmata.  A couple months later I got my tragus pierced — that piece of cartilage at the opening of your ear.  A friend of mine named Lois Sarah had just started piercing there and if I remember the details correctly, I was a guinea pig.  It’s fun to go back and read my notes!

Lois asked if I was ready. I said yes, and she asked me to take a deep breath and exhale….

I said, “Wow, I didn’t feel a thing.”

Lois said, “That’s because it’s not through yet.”

I felt the needle go through at least 3 distinct layers of cartilage. Each one hurt more than the last. On the last layer, I said, “FUCK” and both my legs shot out. 

Lois did a great job and it’s the one piercing that I do still have.

But September 3 2003 was just my nose, nothing too painful.  It was Labour Day weekend once more, and I decided to go for it.  Normally I went to get a piercing with a “wingman” but this was my first time going alone.  I distinctly remember wearing my Iron Bitchface T-shirt.  An uber-cool looking guy with a massive afro shot me an approving glance, so I felt good from the get-go.

I was led to the back room, but not before washing up my hands with disinfectant gel. I sat down in the Very Big Chair, as I liked to call it, and Lois prepared the goods. She marked my nostril with a dot and got the position right where I wanted it. Then she applied some iodine to the area, both inside and out. She tested out the position of the receiving tube, and finally asked me to take a deep breath.  As I exhaled, the needle went in no problem. Almost no pain at all. I’ve been pinched harder.  (By your mom.)

The rest of the year still sucked, nose ring or not.  It was the year of working with the Dandy, a manchild that drove me slowly mad as he sucked up to the big-wigs.  Work was miserable and not getting any better.  But at least I was proactive, and did something that I thought would help.  Something that helped in the past.

I’ve been there and done that with piercings, and though I like the look of them, I don’t enjoy the upkeep.  I prefer to spend my money on something more permanent, like a tattoo.  That’s something to consider, but I think I need to look elsewhere for a bright spot this winter.  Maybe I will find my joy in the live show once again, but I can’t count on it.  Truth be told, I haven’t been feeling it as much since May.  I remember telling Deke that I was struggling and he suggested back then that I take a break.  But I didn’t feel like I could take that break until the end of the summer.  And here we are.

So now I search for some new slant on my creative outlet to revitalize me.  Something to look forward to regularly.  I was very lucky during the winter of 2020-2021.  I hope I can pull it off again!

 

#868: Insomni-omni-omni-a

GETTING MORE TALE #868:  Insomni-omni-omni-a

It happened again.  Insomnia.  The battle rages on, win some lose some.  I’m so wired on Friday nights.  Fridays, being the last night of the work week, are the only night I allow myself to enjoy a couple cups of coffee.  That’s part of it, but what really gets me wired is this burst of creative energy that comes with the weekend.  That’s been amplified recently with the Friday night live streams.  Those who have participated know what it’s like.  You get this charge; this burst of adrenaline after a good show.  I’m up for four hours after a decent one, let alone a great one.

Eventually I go to bed but my head rattles all night: ideas, worries, creativity.  The next day is Saturday.  That’s my day to have fun, work on enjoyable projects, and spend time with my wife.  I’ve had problems sleeping in on Saturdays since I was a kid!  It’s a real thing.  I get too excited to get up and at ‘er.

It’s especially unenjoyable when I’m tossing and turning in bed with a song I dislike stuck in my head.  Radio often repeats songs I don’t like.  The Cornell version of “Patience”, or The Wild.  Or even J.J. Wilde.  (I know, I know, she’s local, I shouldn’t say bad things.  I love her voice, just not her song.)  The best thing for me to do in that case is get up and listen to something else.  I have to think carefully about what to listen to, because it’s likely going to be the next song that will be stuck in my head for the rest of the night.  Something old and familiar that feels like good times will work.  It has to be familiar though.  If not, my brain will skip like a record when it can’t remember how parts of the song go.

I have a few strategies in my war against insomnia.  One is to burn off some energy by going for a late night walk, although in recent days this is…not the best option.  Not anymore.  Not since Covid.  A shelter was opened down the street.  We’ve seen an uptick in crime and drug use.  A few weeks ago, a car was on fire in the middle of the night.  I’m not kidding.  This is across the street!

Instead of a walk, I’ll go out on the porch, watch some Youtube, listen to some songs, and eventually go back to bed.  I try not to rise before the sun does.  If the sun is coming out, then I give myself permission to get up.  This does not always work out, but it’s a guideline.  I have also tried turning my clock around so I can’t see the face.  That keeps me from counting the minutes until it’s a good time to get up.

Maybe I’m not the best one for giving advice, but it’s important to talk about this stuff.  I’ve said it multiple times — we are all in this together.  Interrupted sleeping patterns is part of living through a pandemic.  Maybe you can give me some advice.  I’ve tried a few different earphones for sleep but nothing has been comfortable enough to wear longer than an hour.  Do you have any sleep earphone recommendations?  Leave in the comments.  Must be wired — no Bluetooth.  Helping each other is the way we’ll beat this pandemic and the war on insomnia!

 

#866.5: Right Now, I Am Happy

A spontaneous mini-chapter as I navigate a November weekend.

 

 

GETTING MORE TALE #866.5: Right Now, I Am Happy

As of right now, 10:39 AM on a beautiful Saturday morning in early November, I am happy.

It might not last.  It might be a moment as fleeting as the breeze.  But as I remove my mask in the open air, and breath it deep, I feel good.

We’ve had a hell of a week.  A Wednesday kitchen accident left us without a functioning stove and a hell of a mess.  We are working hard and cleaning up.  Just one more thing, right?  But not the end of the world and nobody hurt.  Well, not too badly; I’m sporting a cut hand from some broken glass in a kitchen corner.  It just makes me look tougher!  Hah.

I am learning that it is OK that I can’t do all these home projects on my own.  Somebody is coming to haul the old stove away in about an hour.  On Monday somebody else will be delivering the new one.

I am enjoying my beloved music collection.  This week I have delved back into Judas Priest.  I currently have five Judas Priest reviews ready to post, just awaiting final revisions.  I intend to finish all the Judas Priest reviews before the end of 2020.  It’s going to happen.  It feels good to achieve a goal, trivial to others as it may be.  I am learning not to judge myself too harshly and to recognize my worth.

Priest were a really important band to me in my younger years.  Listening now, even to their more recent music, I still get a huge kick.  “Revelations” from Nostradamus might not sound like the Priest I knew back in 1987, but it gets my head a-bangin’.  My air guitar is tuned and ready to rock when I hear it.  My old bones still creek, but my young heart still pumps molten blood when I have the mighty Priest in my ageing ears.

Well, I’d better split, the junk lady will be here soon to pick up this old stove.  If it’s nice and sunny where you are then I recommend you go outside for some nice air.  It’s a beautiful day and right now, I am happy.

REVIEW: Storm Force – “Breathe” featuring Serena Pryne (2020 music video)

STORM FORCE – “Breathe” featuring Serena Pryne (2020 Escape Music video)

Our rock and roll friends Storm Force have released a new video for “Breathe”, and a good one it is!

These days when a band drops a new video, are you often disappointed?  Many videos today are low budget slideshows of still photos, or crude animations.  This was the trend even before Covid.  Unless you’re AC/DC, few go to the trouble of actually filming a concept/performance music video anymore.  Storm Force did a good one with “Pretty Vegas”, and now they are back to blow minds with “Breathe”, one of the strongest tunes on the new album Age of Fear.

“Breathe” deserved a proper video, and Storm Force deliver.  Lead singer Patrick Gagliardi sings from behind bars, but is it the prison of the mind?  He is joined by vocalist extraordinaire Serena Pryne, who has the grit and power of people like the highly respected Sass Jordan.  Although the lyrics are open enough to work with many interpretations, the song is about mental health, and having someone there to support you.  The video has the right tone and passion for this serious subject.  But if you want, you can just enjoy it as a mighty power ballad.

Of course, guitarist Greg Fraser has plenty of experience with music videos.  His solo on “Breathe” is cool because you can hear that it is him by the tone and technique.  Drummer Brian Hamilton and bassist Mike Berardelli create a really cool groove on this track, and Hamilton looks imposing and fearless in the video.

One must also credit Gagliardi for a collection of increasingly cool hats.

5/5 stars

#861: Fall(ing Down)

GETTING MORE TALE #861: Fall(ing Down)

The air is cooler, the leaves are changing colour, and I am sort of keeping it all together.

Six months ago we all went into lockdown, with the optimism of summer still ahead of us.  We didn’t know what summer would look like, but it had to be better than lockdown, right?  For most of us, it was.  We got outside, basked in some sun, watched the numbers go down, and dared to have some hope.

Now the days are shorter, the sleeves are longer, and the numbers are climbing once again.  As it gets colder, our options for getting out of the house are fewer.  Some people love this season.  They love the leaves, the sweaters, the blankets.  I dislike the cold, the dark, the misery.   Now we have to deal with the uncertainty of the future too.   Thanksgiving?  Halloween?  No guarantees.  Some will participate, some will be unable.

Fortunately, music will be there.  It always has been and always will be.

There are plenty of albums that I consider “autumn albums” even if they are not.

Savatage are a good band for fall and winter.  They might be from Florida but albums like Dead Winter Dead and Handful of Rain have a cold, dark aura.  Early Sabbath fits the mold.  Queensryche’s Rage For OrderRadiation by Marillion.  It’s all very subjective but as much as summer music really activated my memory circuits, the same can happen with winter tunes.  This is something to look forward to.

Yes, there are some things I can look forward to.  When I’m hunkered down indoors staying dry and warm, the VHS Archives will return.  I find this to be a good project to work on in the colder months.  Pulling out old VHS tapes, converting them and putting them on YouTube just seems to work better in the winter.  It’s also a good time for buying and trying new tech.  I’m going to try and teach myself some Photoshop this year, so I can give you better images for this site.  This winter I’ll also have live streaming.  That will continue as long as necessary.  I look forward to it and so do the viewers.

I’ll try to focus on what I can do during the winter, and not what I can’t.  Not the traffic, not the wet, not the mess, not the inconvenience.  I will try.  I never believed in what Yoda said.  “Do.  Or do not.  There is no try.”  I understand the point of it — don’t let failure enter your mind, focus only on completing the task.  I just never bought into it.  I’ve given myself some goals, and I will try.

Maybe I can even use some of that negative stuff that I hate.  Do you want to see videos of driving around in the snow to the music of Max the Axe?  Do you want to see me attempt to live stream outdoors from a snowy porch?  It’s likely that both will happen!

There’s one last brick in this fortress of mental health that I am attempting to build that I have not mentioned.  And that is you.  For almost nine years you’ve been there waiting for the next chapter, review, or video.  You’ve shared your thoughts and ideas, and opened your hearts.  Without the loyal reader (or lately, viewer), I might have given up writing a long time ago and done something else.  I am grateful.  So thank you!

 

#859: Big Water

GETTING MORE TALE #859: Big Water

When I was really small, just a toddler, I can remember having a couple names for this place:  “Big Water” and “Lake Water Stones”.  48 years ago was my first summer at Lake Water Stones, better known as Lake Huron.  Lorne Beach is the exact location.  These patches of land have been in my family for many decades.  The original cottage that Grampa Winter owned is still there, now occupied by Dr. Kathryn.  A lot has changed but not our family’s long roots in that dark sandy soil.

There were several times in my younger years when I didn’t want to be there.  In those foolish years I’d rather be here near the telephone line and creature comforts.  I can remember in the mid 80s at the cottage, my dad had to drive into town to make a phone call.  I had to tape all my precious wrestling matches at home and pray that they recorded.

Perspective changes and so does technology.  Now there’s no place I’d rather be than Lake Water Stones.

2018 changed everything for us.  That was the year Jen’s mom died.  Almost like the year without a summer.  We spent the whole season in hospital rooms and corridors, and hotels in Toronto.  After she passed we spent the whole fall cleaning out her house.  When we finally got back to the lake in spring 2019, we had learned to cherish and savour it more.

As if we needed a reminder how uncertain life can be, 2020 gave us a whole new perspective.  “Essential travel only.”  No road trips to cottage country.  They were wary of outsiders stealing their toilet paper, or spreading disease from the city.  As time wore on, we questioned whether we would be able to go at all.

I kept a positive attitude and I made the most of our time stuck at home.  I took advantage of my little patio, listening to tunes out there and doing several live streams in the fresh air.  Better than nothing.  A small patch of outdoors sure beats staying in all the time.  A little bit of blowing wind feels good on the skin.

Ontario was still on shaky ground and not yet in Phase 2 of re-opening when Jen and I finally returned to the lake at the end of May.  We missed the long weekend, usually a reliable starting point for a happy summer.  Instead we had a cold, dark weekend highlighted by the ominous “Premises Closed” signs posted at the beach entrance points.

I remember walking into the cottage and taking a breath of the woody smelling air.  You don’t notice it after 10 minutes, but it’s so strong at first sniff.  We were having a quiet weekend, no stops in town and we didn’t even tell anyone besides family that we were going.  Only when I tested the internet connection with a live stream was it obvious where we were.  Non-essential travel was frowned upon but I looked at this trip as essential to the mental health of two people who were quarantining pretty strictly.

Phase 2 began in early June and at that point we tried to make it up every other weekend, working around my parents’ schedule.  We wanted to maintain some distancing.  I had some goals I wanted to accomplish this summer.  Tossing out the planned accomplishments for Summer 2020, the new goals were attainable in an altered season.

  • I wanted to live stream outdoors from the lake — and we did this many times.
  • I wanted to eat steak every weekend we were there — and we did.
  • Swim as much as weather permitted — we did.
  • Mental health being the theme of 2020, I wanted to have a virtual counselling appointment from the porch.  I did two.  The setting was incredible.
  • Create as much photo and video content as I could to remember the place by in the winter.  Mission accomplished.

Setting realistic goals helped me make the most of this summer.  I feel more prepared for the fall.  And I’m really looking forward to 2021, when I might be able to add some more goals to the list.  (Still hoping to cook a wagyu steak on my own grill.)

Here’s gratitude for a great 2020 season regardless of the obstacles.  Hoping for better next year.

#851: Freestylin’ 8 – Back to the Future

GETTING MORE TALE #851: Freestylin’ 8 – Back to the Future

“May you have interesting times.”  Have you heard that saying before?  They call it the “Chinese curse” but there’s no evidence it originated in China.  There is little doubt that today we are living in interesting times.  Historic times, too.  The days we are living through now are the days that your children and grandchildren will be studying in school.  Remember asking your grandparents what World War II was like?  Kids one day will be asking you about the great pandemic of 2020-2021.

In recent days we’ve seen some worthwhile attempts to get “back to normal”, specifically with entertainment.  Concerts are a thing again, albeit most of them are different from the ones we remember.  Drive-in concerts could help get us through this period.  Live-streamed concerts have also started.  Bands have used the downtime to jam, write, and record.  It is reported that the Scorpions and the Cult are back in the studio working on new albums.

The landscape has also been devastated.  Venues are closing at a blurry pace, with Rhapsody Barrel Bar being the latest local casualty in a dizzying series.  When this is all over, I believe we will see demand for sports events, movies and concerts as if Covid never happened.  In the meantime, people have to put food on their tables.  There are no easy answers.

I’ll tell you one thing, though:  I’m glad for once that I’m not a parent.  I have enough to deal with.  Talking to my folks the other night, my mom said “I don’t think I would have sent you back to school if this pandemic happened when you were kids.”  I don’t think I would have wanted to go back.  Right now all I can do is cross my fingers, say a prayer and hope that the kids going back now will be safe.  In Canada, we just don’t know yet.  We’ll be finding out soon enough.

It’s true that I have a lot on my plate.  I don’t need to get into the work details — you all have problems, too.  But here we are in late August and I haven’t missed a day (except for scheduled vacations of course).  There were many times I didn’t think I could finish a whole day, but I did it.  But the hard times are relentless.  On August 14, Jen lost her grandfather, a proud Air Force veteran with the wisdom of a sage.  Yet another loss for poor Jen, who nevertheless keeps on getting up and going at it every single day.  This in the same year I lost my Uncle Don.  It’s been hard on our family.  My grandmother turned 96 and is just aching to get out of the house.  She still lives in her own home but can’t go anywhere except out onto the driveway, due to the dangers of Covid when combined with her age.

I’ve talked about this a number of times already, but my 2020 was stressful well before Covid hit our shores and I decided to get some help.  According to my records my first counselling session was February 7.  I’m very lucky that I had good support already setup when lockdown began a little over a month later!  All of this coincided with deep desire to delve back into childhood memories, and music.  I’ve been focused on music I used to enjoy in my teens.  Kiss has dominated.  Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Europe, Frehley’s Comet.  Stuff from happy summers of the past.

It’s incredible how, in the correct mindset, these albums have created aural time travel for me.  I don’t even have to close my eyes, but all the feelings and images and words from that time come back to me like pictures on a screen.  When I listen to The Final Countdown, all I can think of is spring, 1987.  With Frehley’s Comet, suddenly it’s July.  The last time I played Frehley’s Comet, I was at the cottage.  I yelled over to my sister (she’s two lots over to the left), “Hey!  I’m playing the album you gave me for my birthday in 1987.  What is it?”  Without hesitation she yelled back, “Frehley’s Comet!”  She remembered!  That’s pretty cool.

You know what?  These have been interesting times.  I’ve been on my own personal journey, and it probably wouldn’t have taken the same path if it wasn’t for Covid.  As shitty as 2020 has been (and make no mistake, this has been a shit show of a year) I cannot deny that it came with some personal good.  The only thing better than discovering new music for the first time is rediscovering it with fresh eyes, ears and soul.  Take it in anew.  Relive the experience and rejuvenate.