File this under: Expired
It is 2:43 am in Calgary and very very cold…
My milk has expired. In fact a lot of my milk has expired. I went to my fridge to find something that fulfilled the following requirements…
And what I found was expired milk, margarine, expired milk, cinnamon spread for toast (no bread, I might add), and expired milk. Three cartons of it in fact.
I have this terrible habit of knowing that the milk is going to expire, so I buy a new carton. However, as the old milk hasn’t really expired yet, I keep it. This has become a vicious cycle that has ended in me staring at a fridge full of expired milk and toast toppings at almost 3 am.
But that’s how life goes sometimes. Sometimes you go downstairs and there is a party that resembles a beer commercial with girls in bikinis, a pig on a spit and loud music being played by a pseudo-punk band that has camped itself out in the kitchen when all you really expected was sour milk. Of course, when you really want the party, you open the fridge to find out that the only party going on is being hosted inside of a waxed cardboard carton, and if you decide to have anything to do with that party, you’ll spend the next three days on the shitter.
I really wanted some roasted pig and a bikini girl to sit in my lap and giggle brainlessly.
But I have coagulating milk instead.
I probably won’t try to make some sort of use of it. In fact, I’ll probably just leave it there and let evolution take its natural course. It’s what I’ve done so far. Far more interesting as well. But you never know. I find myself contemplating the strainer I believe I have living in my cupboard. I realize how ridiculous the idea is, but sometimes it’s easier to just take what you’re given and try to live off of it rather than go to the store and solve the problem in a rational adult way.
I have never really been known for rational adult behavior.
And the store is almost eight whole blocks away…
And it’s snowing…
Which makes a nice little segue into…
Be Careful What You Wish For…
Well, last month I made it pretty clear that I was somewhat unhappy with the way winter had turned out so far. I wrote about how I would like some snow, and how I was disappointed with the fact that it hadn’t really gotten cold.
My apologies to all who have been negatively affected by the TWO FEET of snow that has fallen over the last couple of days. My apologies also extend to the sudden drop in temperature. I had no idea that my Reprisals could have such far-reaching effects. I never got my Omnibot, so I could never have guessed what would happen when I mentioned winter. I appear to have angered the digression gods somewhat.
However, looking out my window at the sudden blanket of white that has been pulled up over my street, I find myself in that reflective mood that I mentioned I had been missing last month. This is leading me to all sorts of interesting conclusions regarding life, music, the Caramilk secret, and all sorts of interesting nonsense.
My spell checker doesn’t like the word Caramilk. Hmmm…
One of the things that I have realized is in fact the real reason why I write both music and these silly little monthly diatribes.
First of all, in these two arenas, I can say exactly what I want to say, edit it properly, and never have to worry about being interrupted. I find in life that so many conversations/moments don’t go the way that you expected them to go, if for no other reason that the words that you come up with at the time don’t say what you want to say. But in song or in these things, I can take a whole month (or more) to make sure that I’ve gotten it right. I like that. Gives me a chance to look like a little less of a fuck up.
Secondly, I want a record.
Obvious puns aside.
I want to tell the stories that don’t get told. I need to know I have tried to do that.
With that in mind…
There’s Always A Victim…
When I was younger I used to be a youth leader of sorts. It was before the world cracked me open and took out most of my good parts. I had good parts back then. Now, I’m not so sure…
I was, I’d like to think, a good youth leader. I did my planning, I made sure I was prepared. All that. But there’s always a blip on the radar isn’t there? There’s always that one thing that you don’t see coming. And when it does, it’s like a freight train that really doesn’t give a damn who is in its way. It just comes, because really, that’s what freight trains do.
And so into my happy world of youth leaderness came a kid named Kelly. Kelly was about 13 years old and was a foster child. The powers that be warned me that this red haired kid had something of a checkered past. The powers that be told me to watch myself around him, as he was nothing but trouble. The powers that be were old stuffy shirts that for the most part, hadn’t the vaguest idea what the story with this kid was.
He was a troublemaker, to be sure. He made a point of actively antagonizing the other kids to no end. He would mock them, make them cry, all of the stereotypical bullshit you would expect from a maladjusted pseudo teenager.
And then one day my eyes were yanked open so violently that I doubt very much I have seen the world in the same light since.
It started innocently enough. I, in my shiny happy youth leader way of thinking, had come upon the idea of the kids in my program drawing a comic based on the most important moment of their life. I figured I would get Christmas presents and the birth of younger siblings and the latest vacation to Disneyland.
I never expected to get a 13-year-old kid’s representation of the murder of his mother.
But I did.
When I collected the comics and began to read them to the group of kids I was with, I eventually came upon Kelly’s.
In literature and theatre and film and anything artsy you hear the occasional talk of blood running cold. Until that moment in time I always thought that phrasing like that was something crafted with some degree of artistic license.
Rest assured, it is not. It is terrifyingly real, and if you are ever so unfortunate as to experience the sensation, you will never forget it. In my life, I have never found something quite so horrifying as the story that was laid out before me in the scrawl of a barely literate pseudo teenager.
(Pseudo is, for the record, the prefix of the month…)
This was the story…
When Kelly was just a child, on his birthday his mother sent him out to a local theme restaurant with a small sum of money and the promise that she would join him shortly. Kelly went to said restaurant and waited for his mothers’ arrival. He would wait a long time. Eventually, after waiting several hours, he and his sister would find that they had run out of money with which to play the character adapted version Of Whack-A-Mole. They would then find their way home. That is not all they would find.
You see, while Kelly and his sister were beating the top of a mouse with a mallet and other such games, it would seem that someone had made decidedly other plans for Kelly’s mother. Someone, it would seem, thought that rather than have her meet up with her children for a birthday celebration, it would be much more interesting to play their own home invasion version of Whack-A-Mole with her. These someone’s did just that and beat her to death. And so Kelly and his sister found her, bloodied and vacant of all signs of life.
His father was not to be of much help, being a raging drug addict and alcoholic. In later years, Kelly would attempt something of reconciliation, and after coming quite close to one he would again discover the last of his parents dead. But I’ll get to that…
At the time, Kelly’s father was, well as he should have been, deemed an unfit parent, and Kelly was thrown into foster care. Whether or not this was a failure or a success of the system is hard to gauge. While it provided Kelly with a roof over his head, clothing, and regular meals, it also provided him with a seemingly never ending stream of foster families who were all to happy to either abuse him or simply use him for the cheque they were cut at the end of each month for putting up with an extra kid. When I met him, Kelly had been placed with a foster family consisting of a woman who felt that taking care of troubled children somehow elevated her social status, and an ex cop who was, shall we say, a big believer in discipline. This foster family was, however, big believers in community, and so Kelly washed up on the shore of my little youth program, cursing and swearing and doing everything he could to hide this monster of a pain that was hiding inside of him.
And on that particular day where I had decided to come up with the idea of the kids in my happy youth group drawing a comic of their big moments in life, I stood there holding Kelly’s rendering of these events. Speechless. I couldn’t very well tell the rest of the kids this story, but at the same time, as I looked into Kelly’s eyes, I knew this was not some sort of elaborate prank. This was Kelly reaching out. So I folded up the piece of paper and carried on like nothing had happened.
After class, mind you, I made a point of taking Kelly aside and talking to him. He explained the comic in detail, and he said he just wanted to talk to someone about it.
From that point on Kelly was my problem. Not because I was some sort of super counselor (truth be told I was grossly ill equipped to deal with problems of the magnitude Kelly had), but because no one else would have him. And, truth be told, when treated like a human being, he really wasn’t that much of a problem at all. He had his "issues" but when treated with a modicum of respect, his behavior was just like that which you’d expect from a normal teenager.
He went more or less wherever I did. I felt that I had the ability to save this child from what his life had been up until that point. How I could have possibly been so arrogant is beyond me. I was an 18-year-old kid and I hadn’t the vaguest idea what kind of demons I was trying to run up against.
I have, in the past, marveled at how quickly things can go downhill. It always seems to start with one thing, and then tumble out of control faster than you would have ever thought possible. With Kelly, that one thing was a pick up truck driven by a drunken candidate for sterilization who thought that he could quite safely drive right through the minivan that was carrying Kelly and the rest of his foster family.
He was half-right.
The pick up did in fact go through the mini-van. It did not, however, do this consequence free. Far from it. All of the occupants were seriously injured with Kelly taking the worst of it. He had more broken bones than one might think possible, internal injuries, a fractured skull, and massive brain hemorrhaging. I got the phone call about an hour after it happened, and I have never felt such an intense anger at the heavens. It amazed me that of all the people on the road, it was Kelly who would fall victim to this. This was only compounded by the fact that the son of a bitch who had hit Kelly had, as many drunk drivers do, walked away from the accident with nothing more than a couple of scrapes.
I remember leaving my house because the walls of my house had decided to close in on me, and walking until I ended up in a field by my house that had a hockey rink built in it. I remember standing beside that hockey rink and cursing out every good thing that I had believed in up until that point for allowing something like this to happen a kid who had already had a harder life than most people can even begin to imagine.
It didn’t do a whole lot of good though.
The next day I paid a visit to Kelly in the hospital. I continued to visit him every day until he woke up. I visited him every day until he was released, in fact, but that first day was by far the one that will stick out in my mind the most.
Kelly had finally gotten out of surgery at about 9 PM. I had been waiting to see him, and being that I was his youth leader, the kind nurses at the Alberta Children’s Hospital allowed me to wait even past the hours that most people were allowed to visit. And wait I did, right up until the moment that Kelly was able to take visitors, unconscious though he was. I remember that it was at night, and that the lights were more or less of in the room that Kelly was recovering in. It was a shared room, as most hospital rooms are these days, and Kelly was lying in a bed that looked more like some sort of a armored tank than something to aid in the healing of a human being. There were the obligatory tubes and hoses and paraphernalia which while making sure that Kelly took his next breath, served to provide a horrific reality to the whole scene. There was a single light above his bed, and the shadows of those tubes and hoses crept across Kelly and on to the floor. And in the midst of all of this I was forcibly reminded of the one fact I have learned about hospitals and hospital beds and hospital rooms and the entire hospital thing.
Hospitals have a way of making people look very, very small. I have never been able to figure out why, but hospitals possess an inherent ability to shrink people. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed that, but rest assured, next time you visit someone in a hospital, take a look, and you will notice how very small they appear.
And with all of those hoses, and bandages with dried blood, and with his head wrapped up in enough swaddling to easily keep any child deity in comfort, Kelly looked smaller than anyone I have ever seen.
He recovered, if such a word can be used. The headaches stayed with him for life, as far as I know. He walked with a limp for a very long time, and since his foster parents were also injured, it was decided that they couldn’t handle a kid who had just gotten that much angrier at the world.
You really do have to admire their dedication…
And so, like so many times before, Kelly was passed on from foster home to foster home. He ran away once in a while, and for the longest time I harbored naive plans to adopt him myself, and give him whatever it was he was so desperately looking for. But I was just an 18-year-old kid, and the operations of the real world were still far from my understanding at the time. I thought I might be able to pull it off… I was wrong. Kelly kept bouncing to a new home on an almost weekly basis. Our visits for coffee and what have you became more and more infrequent, until finally they only came when he would call me once every six or eight months. With each visit it became more and more evident that Kelly was falling into the world of crime and drugs and the what-have-you that so many disenfranchised children fall into. There was really nothing I could do other than simply wait for his next call and try to be there for him.
Inevitably, he fell into the local drug scene and began dealing various narcotics to the club kids who were always happy to see him, if for no reason other than the chemical joys that he always brought. He had found a place that he fit in, and he had found a place where people always wanted him. People were always glad to have him around, and he was never passed off to someone else because he had gotten boring or to be too much work. Whatever the reasons for this interest people were vesting in him was secondary, as it is for so many people. Kelly had fallen into that deadliest of traps where the temporary becomes the most comforting. And this lifestyle consumed him.
The last two memories I have of Kelly are all too short and brutal for my liking.
The first is when he called me up to tell me that his father (and once again, I use that term as loosely as possible) had died. Kelly had found him a couple of month’s prior, holed up in a hotel room that, as Kelly described it, could have come right out of a Tarantino flick. His father had apparently lived in that room for some time feeding various addictions and occasionally himself. Kelly told me that he had made a point of trying to connect with his father before his inevitable death, and that between a couple of shared highs, he felt he had.
But, as seemed to be Kelly’s lot in life, his fathers body eventually decided that it had had enough of the chemicals that had been pumped into it for so many years. Despite his fathers desire to continue with those addictions, it simply said "no more" in that most final of ways. Kelly of course was the one to find him, because really, who checks on an addict who lives in a third story hotel room.
Kelly told me this story with the cold detachment that can only come from a life such as his. He told it as we sat in a local pub, sharing a beer, as I searched desperately for some sign of life in the kid that had become my friend. For some sign of the kid that I had once known. Of course, all I found were empty assurances that everything was fine.
Listening to him talk about the death of his father like he was describing something as important as concrete, but trying to make it sound like it wasn’t, everything was clearly not "fine".
The last that I heard from Kelly was a phone call that I missed by no more than two seconds. It was in the dead of winter (again with the winter, somebody stop me…) on a very cold night. I was bundled up in enough layers that I could have been hit by a bus and in all likelihood would probably been bounced around like one of those guys in an inflatable sumo suit.
So there I was, waiting at the Sunnyside LRT station, when my cell phone starts to ring. I immediately began doing the grand mal seizure dance that all people who are trying to dig out cell phones from under layers of clothing do. I got it out, but not in time. I checked the caller ID, and it was from a blocked number. So I put the phone away. A minute later, it began to buzz madly indicating that I had a voicemail.
A shiny new quarter if you can guess who it was from…
The very intoxicated voice that I knew so well told me that he was in Regina for the weekend, he was in some trouble, but that he would be back in Calgary in a couple of days and he would give me a call then.
That was over a year ago. I still haven’t gotten a call.
I have tried to find him. The only thing that I have found is that if Kelly didn’t want to be found, there really was no finding him. At all. I have spoken to the police on several occasions asking if they might be able to help me with the whereabouts of Kelly, but the only answers they seem to be able or willing to give me only give me more questions or concerns. It’s funny, they’ll tell you that a person is still in trouble with the law, but no details. Police can serve and protect, but when it comes to finding people, there’s not a whole hell of a lot they will do.
And that’s where it left off. That was really it. If you’d like a better ending, I’m sorry I can’t oblige, but it would seem even I don’t get to know the ending of this particular story.
So that’s it. End of the story. At least this of this story, because it’s the only ending I have, and in all likelihood, the only one I will ever get.
They’re a funny thing, "endings" like that. The endings that aren’t. It’s like when you wind yourself up for a really good sigh, and then someone comes along and interrupts you, so you are left only with the certainty that it would have been a very satisfying sigh, if only it had been allowed to finish. But it didn’t finish, and you just feel a little dizzy.
Updates and other housekeeping…
Well, well, well…
What a busy month it has been. The new band has now officially played its first couple of shows, and while the first was typical of a first show, the second was fantastic.
So allow me to brag for a moment.
I have always wanted to say that I have played for a capacity crowd. I can say that now. The show at Bob the Fish on the 22nd was nothing short of fantastic. Not only did Dave and Josh play like men possessed, but the crowd was simply awesome. All of this despite Dave being viciously attacked by an eight foot swordfish (but I'll get into that next month...). Also, the premiere of "Revolution" went better than I ever could have expected. Now all I have to do is figure out a way to get the damn thing recorded…
Special thanks to everyone who showed up despite the weather, but in particular to Jim and Nikki for being some of the best friends a person can have and bringing out their own little war parties. Dunno what I would do without you guys. Extra, extra thanks to Nikki for the incredible poster design. People commented about how good it was to no end.
There are other people who deserve extreme thanks and a small tropical island for their support despite the fact that geography or other factors will not currently allow them to come to a show, but still I want to thank for their support and encouragement… You know who you are.
Watch out for me and the boys… We’re just now getting warmed up…
The Revolution Is Here… Are You?
It is now 7:51 AM in a suburb of Toronto, on a different day than I started and very, very cold I’m told…
And I am smiling...