Embarking upon the journey of a writer.

Last week I began the process of baking, cooking cleaning (which all fall under the act of procrastination. When I had gluten-free cookies on hand, lentil soup in my fridge and freezer, and all of my tax receipts organized, I then began to cut, paste, edit, remember, laugh and cry; which all fall under the act of writing. I’ll never forget the time I told my father that I was abandoning my teaching career for the life of a musician. We were walking by the creek alongside my property in Nelson, BC; the property that he had helped to finance and now, in his eyes, could be problematic. Would I be able to afford the mortgage payments as an artist? As we followed the stream’s winding course, I looked around to all of the cedar that surrounded us and made a silent prayer: “Please cedar. Protect me from the potential wrath and judgment of Dad” Cedar, according to first nations communities, is the tree of protection and guidance. As I began explaining that music is really one of the parts in my life that made me truly happy and feel alive, I know that he was silently, and perhaps begrudgingly empathizing. He was at Woodstock after all, and knew what it was like to have music pervade every cell of your being. Every Saturday he’d go down to Sam the Record Man’s in downtown Barrie to buy a new album. He’d spend late afternoons in the family room alongside the turntable, listening and falling into the world of the new recordings. I’d often sit with him, letting new sounds, melodies and moods wash over me, watching how the music transformed my father’s mood. He worked hard throughout the week, leaving the house by 7:30am to be at “the shop” by 8:00, and he’d shut down anywhere between 5 and 5:30 depending on deliveries and pick ups. Over the course of over 20 years, he didn’t have one sick day. He’d shut down from time to time for holidays, usually ski trips with his buddies, but overall, he lived and breathed his work. This Saturday afternoon forays into the world of sound became a ritual for him, just like his attending mass on Sundays, but I believe, the music was more meaningful. I have photographs of me as a baby, about 2 years old, sitting on a chartreuse green velvet chair circa 1975, propped between maroon velour pillows, wearing huge earmuff-style earphones, apparently listening to the Stones’ Exile on Main Street. This is what Dad would get up to when he was babysitting me. He and I had this bond of love for listening to rock and roll, and I eagerly anticipated his weekly quest at Sam’s. So really, me choosing to be a musician was his fault…and Mum’s. She was the one who brought me to all those musicals as a kid, loading us into the car to drive to Toronto to see the latest Andrew Lloyd Webber or Rogers and Hammerstein revival shows. She was the one who made me practice piano every day from the time I was seven until I was 16, when I decided that boys and beer were more important than Beethoven. Yes, if there was anyone to blame: it was them.

“So, you do realize, you’re choosing the life of a starving artist. You do realize that don’t you?” his tone stating, as opposed to questioning. The implied questions being: Why would anyone be leaving a pension and secure job for the world of music? Couldn’t I just keep music as a hobby and continue to go to open stages? Realistically, no. I couldn’t. By the time I’d finished marking essays and tests and prepared lessons, I was too exhausted to even walk to the living room to put a record on, let alone write a song. The answer was “No. I couldn’t just do it as a hobby anymore”. And so, I enrolled myself into the jazz program at Selkirk College, which is the Canadian satellite school for Berkeley in Boston, and entered a world where music became much more than a hobby; it became my life. Fast-forward six years later to a time when my Dad had hoped that I had got “that music thing” out of my system; I’d recorded two albums, toured various parts of the world and been in a successful off-Broadway musical. Now, I could fall back into Plan B, which was of course, teaching. Or perhaps, go back to school to get a masters degree in education and then I could be a teacher again who gets paid a lot more. After the switch from education into music, I didn’t think that I could shock him any more. I was wrong. “So Dad, I’ve decided that I’m going to put the music on hold for a little bit and write a book.” I stated, trying to sound mature, steady and sure of myself, which of course was a complete façade. He looked confused and scrunched up his face, “You mean, like, a book?” “Yes Dad. I mean, like, a book. And, I was wondering if I can use your place up north that’s empty as a place to write, just until it sells, then I’ll move back to Toronto.” I don’t really know how he agreed; he found pity in his heart that I was still mourning the loss of P. and maybe just felt sorry for me. Whatever the reason, he said yes, and my patron saint in this lifetime is St. Michael, but the Michael being my dad.

And so it was that I settled myself into the sleepy town of Midland, Ontario for a year and began my quest of healing, forgiving, cooking, writing and creating music. I hope you’ll come with me on this journey as I recall, remember, laugh and cry this project into form. I’d love to hear any of your thoughts as I periodically post some content from the book, and share some music with you over the next few months. I value your input and value you as friends and lovers of music and words. (PS. I’ve gained about 10 pounds in the past couple of months to prove to Dad that I am far from starving. See photo above eating with Nana)

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