April 2004

No Reprisal this monthÖ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nah, Just fuckin with yaÖ

Alrighty thenÖ

Tried to write this last month. Didnít work out so well for me. Letís try it again and see if just maybe I can get through it without my computer deciding that itís past my bedtime. The time change is working against me tonight, so Iím not placing any particularly high bets, but you never know right?

So if youíre not reading this, itís either because once again my computer bailed, or you donít care all that much. Either way, I suppose you donít know what youíre missing, if in fact youíre missing anything.

Hard to say for sure.

Anyways, Iím sure itís best served if I just get down to it and go from there.

So letís talk about Miss Emily, shall we?

Miss Emily Liked CandlesÖ

Miss Emily liked candles.

She had thousands of them.

She had house full of them. Shelves full of candles and all sorts of candleholders. Candles of all colors ranging from the standard white tapered candle to the most colorful candles you could ever imagine. Candle holders that were as simple a small glass stand to elaborate candelabras to wine bottles to little dwarves that would hold a candle like it was a torch lighting the darkest cave.

You know those Hollywood movies wherein there is some sort of shrine that has an impossible number of candles in it? Miss Emilyís house could have easily served as a set for one of those movies. In a heartbeat.

Save one small detail.

Not one of them had ever been lit.

Not a one.

Miss Emily didnít collect candles so that she could burn them. She collected them and collected them, but she never once lit a single one of them. She had a place for every candle that came into her care, and for the new ones she found a spot that she believed was exactly where it belonged.

Miss Emily had the house to do it in too. It was an old Victorian house. It had everything that you would expect from an old Victorian house. It had the hardwood floors, it had the spire in the corner of it, and it had the old wood banister that sang of ages past. There wasnít a corner of Miss Emilyís house that you could be in and not feel the history. There wasnít a corner that Time didnít make itís presence felt in the fullest.

And every spare inch of space accommodated a candle of some sort.

Walking into Miss Emilyís house, you immediately were surrounded in the smell of old people and candles. By that I mean that odd minty Rub A535 smell and beeswax. Sadly, not a whole lot of people walked into Miss Emilyís house.

When you live to the age that Miss Emily lived to, things go one of two ways. Either you become that senior citizen that the local news channel does a story on when the have no other kickers to run at the end of a newscast, or you become the crazy lady at the end of the street.

Not much of a choice really.

But Miss Emily managed to stay low enough under the radar that she became the crazy lady at the end of the street.

We all have had those people in our lives. The "witch" at the end of the street. The house that all the kids talk about pranking in one sort or another, but when push comes to shove, get altogether too scared to even think about even getting close to.

That was the way that the town saw Miss Emily. She was the one that everyone didnít talk about but loved to talk about. She was the one that was odd enough and old enough to be worthy of discussion, but only ever in hushed tones. She was the old lady that you would take sugar cookies to at Christmas, but ignore with a quiet discomfort for the rest of the year.

The only real company that Miss Emily had was a parakeet named Walter.

Walter lived in a small white cage with a domed roof. The cage and itís surroundings were, of course, heavily decorated with candles. Walter was a happy bird. Twice a day, Miss Emily would take Walter out, sit in her old oak rocking chair and have the most simple, yet intense conversations with him. Twice a day, Miss Emily would place Walter ever so carefully back in his cage.

Walter was OK with that system.

When youíre a parakeet, you take what you can get.

Twice a week, Miss Emily would walk down to the post office to pick up her mail. The postmaster would always treat her with a quiet respect, although she rarely spoke to him. She would simply glide into the post office, and from there go to her mailbox, extract whatever mail had come for her that week, and glide back out.

Miss Emily was one of those that despite her advanced age had never lost the art of gliding.

People loved to guess at the history of Miss Emily. The story of Miss Emilyís life ranged from her being the daughter of a wealthy oil baron to being, as I said earlier, a mistress of the occult.

The truth of the matter is both far less, and far more dramatic.

I know it, so I will tell you.

Miss Emily was born in England in 1920. For those of you that donít know, England is an Island off the coast of Europe where people have an odd fascination with royalty, tabloid news papers that write a lot about royalty and half naked people and tea.

The English, as a country are a little odd. Most countries are I suppose though.

So Miss Emily was born in 1920, which was, as I understand it, not a bad time to be born in England. I canít say for certain though, as I was born in 1976, and rely largely on what people from that period tell me. I trust Miss Emily though, and if she says it was a good time to be born, I choose to believe her.

Miss Emilyís childhood was, by and large, a fairly normal childhood. She grew up in the fading shadows of the first World War. That war was called "The Great War" and "The War To End All Wars".

Boy, were they wrong about that.

Miss Emily was a normal child. As she tells it, there was nothing spectacular about her. She was quite plain in most respects. She was not so unattractive to be ugly, but at the same time, she wasnít attractive enough to be one of the good-looking people.

Apparently despite the whole issue the English are reputed to have with teeth, there are some attractive people over there. I have never been to England, so I canít say for certain, but again, people I trust tell me this, and I choose to believe them.

Miss Emily lived her life, and had her tea, and did all the things that a good English girl did. Miss Emily also found that she quite enjoyed helping people. She was the type of girl that always would find the birds that had hit windows and nursed them back to health in small hatboxes. She would continue this tradition, and when she was old enough, she began to go to school to be a nurse.

And then a most unexpected thing happened.

It turned out that while Miss Emily was doing her best to learn out how to make peoples lives a little better, there was a man across the English Channel who was doing everything he could to not make peoples lives better, but rather simply make people disappear. And a whole lot of them at one time at that.

And after a time, this crazy little man decided that he would have his armies fly in their airplanes over to the little island of England and proceed to do everything they could to simply bomb the fuck out of it.

Clearly, by the fact that the English are still around and having children and such, he did not manage to bomb the fuck out of them (although I donít doubt that he did ruin the mood for quite some time). He did however manage to make a lot of dead people, and a lot of injured people as well.

And so it came to pass that Miss Emily was educated as to how cruel people could be when they could wreak incredible damage on one another from a reasonable enough distance that they didnít actually have to witness the real human cost. Miss Emily saw countless people brought into makeshift shelters who were the victims of this cruelty.

And Miss Emily was horrified by it all. The human cost would have been at the time unimaginable were it not for the fact that it was so present, and more often than not, quite literally falling into your lap.

Try to remember that previous conflict was fought by and large in quite close quarters. To drop balls of metal and fire on civilian cities was unheard of, and at the very least in very poor taste.

Try to remember, this was before you could turn on the TV (they didnít have much of that back then), and choose between your favorite sports station, an animated series based on the amusing parts of domestic life, and a live broadcast of a missile flying into a building with pinpoint accuracy and vaporizing the occupants in high definition.

Try to remember, at this point in time, the idea of vaporizing other people was not only unheard of, but also not something that most people would have agreed would be a good idea.

Boy did that change.

Miss Emily lived through the first and only war in history that started off as traditional combat and moved, quite quickly, to the complete and total removal of entire cities from the face of the earth.

Entire cities, imagine that.

Miss Emily certainly couldnít. Miss Emily told me often of the sheer disbelief that she had when she first learned of the firebombing in Europe and then the holocaust in Europe and then the nuclear holocaust in Japan.

If one looks up holocaust in a dictionary, this is what they might find:

hol∑o∑caust (hl-kôst, hl-)n.

1. Great destruction resulting in the extensive loss of life, especially by fire.

a. Holocaust The genocide of European Jews and others by the Nazis during World War II.

b. A massive slaughter.

2. A sacrificial offering that is consumed entirely by flames.

[Middle English, burnt offering, from Old French holocauste, from Latin holocaustum, from Greek holokauston, from neuter of holokaustos, burnt whole : holo-, holo- + kaustos, burnt (from kaiein, to burn).]

On the basis of this, Miss Emily often insisted that all of those atrocities were holocausts in their own right, despite the fact that it has since been used to only describe one of those slaughters. Miss Emily always had a dictionary, and she often would insist that anytime you start killing people and have to count them using the word "thousand" any where in the sentence describing the number of casualties, you had failed immeasurably in your responsibilities as a human being.

And on one particular night after dealing with the horrors of all she had seen, Miss Emily found her way to a neighbourhood pub and proceeded to get epic-ly hammered. Somehow, she became the target of a serviceman who had just returned from the war, and the two of them hooked up and did what comes so easily to people under the influence of a couple of beverages and a world that has just finished trying to tear itís own throat out.

As I said, the efforts to bomb the fuck out of the English people failed miserably.

And the serviceman, as many men do, disappeared. And suddenly, Miss Emily found herself about to give birth to a child, by and large entirely on her own.

But then, as always, thereís fate isnít there.

While pregnant, Miss Emily met a man who was reasonably decent to her, and who wanted to take care of her. She decided to let him, so he did. They were married, and then, for reasons that Miss Emily never fully explained to me, they moved to Canada. Miss Emily had her child, and several more with the man. She had a family, which was one of the things that she had always wanted.

And so for a very long time, Miss Emily was a mother, and a very good one at that. Miss Emilyís compassion shone through in the way that she raised her children, and they eventually moved on to have families of their own.

Some things, however, never change, and Miss Emilyís desire to better humankind, even on the smallest scale never faded. That simply wasnít her style. Miss Emily believed in the potential of all things above all else, and as such, she inevitably gravitated to work that involved the nurturing of potential. So after most of her children moved on, she began a new mission.

Miss Emily began to work with other children in her community, doing what she could to offer them a little guidance and support in a world that seemed to have developed a taste for disenfranchising as many as possible. She did that for a long time, and that is when I met her.

Miss Emily ran a youth program in my community, and being that I was a youth at the time, and there wasnít a whole lot for a misfit like myself to do on weeknights, it didnít take very long for me to come under her wing.

I remember being thrown by her incredible calm at all times. Usually people want something from you, thatís generally what people do. Miss Emily didnít want anything from anyone, she wanted it for them.

And she wanted it for me. Which I thought was pretty neat.

In time, I actually took up a position as an aide to her. It was an enormous amount of fun, and there was something about Miss Emily that made you want to do that sort of thing.

Itís worth mentioning that while Miss Emily was running all of these programs for young people, she also was always unflappably proper. Maybe that was the English in her, but she had that sort of old school style and manner to her.

That little fact will come in to play later, that I can promise.

Eventually, I became frustrated with the politics of the program funders, and that combined with some other silliness of the highest order caused me to have to leave my role assisting Miss Emily, but I made a point to stay in touch.

I have always been amused to no end how people always say that they will stay in touch. We seem to have this built in denial mechanism that leads us to believe that we will stay in touch with anything other than the smallest fraction of people that we meet in our lives.

Personally, I like it that way. That way I know that the people that have chosen to keep in touch with me actually give a damn. And the same goes the other way. Polite is nice and all, but when you can go out of your way to say to someone after countless years that they, and their opinion mean a great deal to you, and they do the same, I like that a great deal.

That may well be one of the worst paragraphs I have written since grade school.

RegardlessÖ

I would tell you how it came to be that Miss Emily ended up in that old Victorian house by and large on her own, but the truth is that I donít really know.

All I know is that for some reason, a lot of the people that Miss Emily had so profoundly touched choose to forget that touch. And I know that her English manners had taught her that it was better to simply stand and be polite than to try and make people realize that perhaps they were being assholes of a galactic proportion.

A shame that.

All I know is I didnít, and even after Miss Emily stopped answering her door, I would still make a point of driving up to her house and leaving her a candle on her old doorstop. A little candle, just from me.

There isnít a word that I know of for saving people with fire. Only killing them. There should be. For all of the Holocausts that Miss Emily knew, she did more than light a couple of fires to not burn away the good in the world, but rather to try and shine some light on it.

Miss Emily liked candles.

She had thousands of them.

And from time to time, I like to think of myself as one of them.

And Just Because It Wouldnít Be A Reprisal If I didnítÖ

Last weekend I went to see a show. It wasnít an enormously well known band, but itís a band that Iím quite a fan of. They have had a reasonable degree of success in music, and despite the fact that the person that put up their posters did so covering up a good deal of mine, I wanted to see them play.

So I did.

And I would, for the record like to say that I was thrilled with their show. I was however amazed at the turnout. This is a band that have a record deal, national promotion, and amazing music, and there were no more than 35 people at the show.

Now aside from the fact that this made me realize that our band isnít doing as nearly as bad as I thought it was, I have to askÖ

What exactly do people expect from music these days?

I live in a city where cover bands get paid in the thousands, and an original band, regardless of how good they are, are lucky to get booked, let alone make a living at it. I live in a city where getting people to come out to a live show is harder than convincing them that a full frontal lobotomy with a Black and Decker is a good idea.

And now I know itís not just me and mine. Iíve had to harbor musings that perhaps my band and the bands that we play with arenít that good, but having seen what I saw last weekend, I have to accept the fact that itís not us. Itís more than that.

And in discussion with others in other cities, itís been made clear to me that there is the smallest of markets for live original music in a lot of cities.

So whatís up?

I donít have an answer. Is TV really that good? I donít think it is, but Iíve always been cursed with a modicum of taste. Is the internet that attractive on a Friday night? Maybe, but I like going out on the nights that I can sleep in the next day.

So do me a favour.

Next time youíre at a bar or some pub and thereís a band, request something original from them. Maybe it will suck and maybe it wonít, but hereís the bottom line kidsÖ

If the bars see that you all get excited about the Offspring song from two years ago, or some carbon copy attempt at "Crazy Train", thatís all youíre going to get. There is a stunning number of bands releasing covers of classic rock songs as their first single these days, and I really believe that is only going to get worse.

Most of the reasons people like these older songs is because they have memories associated with them. Sure some of them are good songs, and some of them are great songs, but given the choice between old memories and making new ones, Iíll go for the new.

So ask yourself, do you want a jukebox or something new?

Man I wish Bill Hicks was still around.

Seems itís not past my bedtime just yetÖ

You know where to find meÖ

Nate@natepike.com