Voices Forever

I watched an episode of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, a production out of Botswana, on Youtube. I love everything about this production, the cast, the characters, the story, the portrayed culture, and the music. “Wouldn’t it be great,” I thought, “to have music like that playing through ordinary life events!”

This led me to think about Graceland, the album, one of my very favourites, released at what I might consider the most creative and magical years of my life. In the late 80s I was in newly in love with my work (PhD), with my friends, and with a man who loved me as much as I loved him. It was a magical time, full of laughter, music, and love. There were hard parts, but they didn’t destroy the magic, they couldn’t even touch it. Listening to Graceland reminds me of that time in my life.

All of this comes to me at a time when I need it most. On Saturday a dear friend passed away from lung cancer. He was a singer/songwriter, but more than that, he was one of the gentlest and kindest souls to have walked the earth. How lucky I have been to call him a friend, and how deeply I will miss him.

He was a quiet man, and when he offered a comment it always hit the mark with surprising speed and accuracy. Something he said often caused me to burst into laughter. I loved talking with him, spending time with him, his presence was a transcendence, he was just like that. Perhaps in some ways he was very like me, I recognized something in him that was essential. We were friends in the finest sense of the word. He and Attila got on like a house on fire, it was an instant connection. Derek came to stay with us at the country house one weekend, bringing along Rufus his canine companion, and his guitar; our time together that beautiful fall weekend was unforgettable, low key and charged at the same time.

Derek Currie, Many Times Many Places

I met Derek in 1988, at Fat Albert’s open stage in Toronto, when it was held in the basement of the Bloor Street United Church, across from the previous Rochdale College. By the time I began to spend time at Fat Albert’s it had been in existence for 20 years. I read poetry on stage, at one time accompanied by music, played by Steve-Paul Simms. Fat Albert’s was an indescribable community, that reminded me of the small community where my Granny and Grandpa lived, and where my Mom grew up. All kinds of human traits existed in the community, including the talented, talentless, kind, sarcastic, arrogant, contemptuous, radiant, intelligent, creative, and hopeless; it was a rainbow of humanity, brought together by the common thread of creativity.

Fat Albert’s was urban, my Granny’s community was rural, but the similarity came in the respect, tolerance, and thread of decency and humanity that connected the people involved. Fat Albert’s became my urban community during that time in my life, and Derek was a part of what made the community so rare, healthy, and vibrant.

“Performers who are familiar with Fat’s know the benefits are of the non-monetary kind and accept our limitations. What we pay is attention. We like to see and hear anyone who can come by some Wednesday evening. Ray always said Fat’s ran on a “need to know” basis: when you need to, you’ll find us.”
Ray [Ray Peake] was a bright light in the world, one of the very few people on planet earth that I can honestly say I admired. And he was right about “need to know”, I needed Fat Albert’s and I found it.

Ray passed away a year ago, another fine friend. A favourite memory of mine about Ray was when I was preparing for my week of comprehensive exams for my PhD. I slept little, and sometimes needed a break from the books, so one night, after midnight, I needed to take a break, to get out and walk around, so I called Ray on the phone and he came over in his truck to go for a walk with me. We walked around the Bloor/Bathurst area, and around Kensington Market. At one point we passed a bar that was open, Ray walked over to the large window, and gazed in as if there was something interesting going on. He waved me over and said, “have a look”. I peered into the window to discover that a whole host of Portuguese men, drinks in hand, were staring back at me, wondering what I wanted. Ray had already moved down the sidewalk, chuckling the way he did. We laughed together as we rounded the corner and left the bar far behind us.

Another voice I came to know through Fat Albert’s was that of Sam Larkin. I knew Sam and his music when I frequented Fat Albert’s, but it wasn’t until years later that we became friends. Sam was a very talented singer/songwriter, and Sam really “got me”. Sam saw my strengths, my weaknesses, and could make me smile while “taking the mick”. Sam passed away in 2013, it was a big loss.

Sam Larkin, Voices Forever

These fellows I have lost, as well as other male friends, my brother Carl Robert in July of this year, Patrick Logier in 1996, and my Grandpa in 1985, are the stars in my night sky… they are my voices forever.

Note: Attila and I try to attend musical events, such as house concerts, and small cafe events, but these venues seldom offer a satisfying experience. The show does not promote creativity, we find ourselves in a workplace for practising singers/songwriters/musicians. I am not much of a woman for adoration, I never adore people I don’t know know well, so I don’t adore performers. I appreciate certain performers, as they are channeling something from a higher plane, but that is as far as I can take a top down offering. I do not mistake a conduit for electricity itself. The performance is not one of peers sharing, but of performer and audience, there is a hierarchy. Creativity doesn’t live in these venues. After experiencing Fat Albert’s these venues always, always, always disappoint. I think Ray Peake may have been a genius, or maybe he was a strange kind of angel.

Worldly Distractions

Weather

19°C
Date: 11:00 AM EDT Monday 12 September 2016
Condition: Partly Cloudy
Pressure: 102.4 kPa
Tendency: rising
Visibility: 24 km
Temperature: 19.2°C
Dewpoint: 10.6°C
Humidity: 57%
Wind: SSW 9 km/h

Quote

“Love is not blind – it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.”
Rabbi Julius Gordon

Old Friends

Every so often an email pops into my inbox, from Steve Paul Simms. It always gives me a feeling of delight to see it there. Steve Paul is a talented singer/songwriter from Toronto. But he is so much more than that, in my humble opinion. He is the best kind of friend. He is himself, and in being himself he makes it wonderful to be oneself in his presence. We first met in 1987 at a back yard BBQ. We have been friends through thick and through thin ever since.

So when an email message from Steve Paul popped into the inbox yesterday, I was delighted. Steve Paul had just bumped into another old friend of ours, Ray, who had asked after me; so Steve Paul sent me Ray’s telephone number.

Old friends can be friends that are old, or friends that have been friends for a long time. My old friend Ray Peake is both. Recently Ray’s house burned down and he is staying in a very nice place, where he says he is very comfortable and that they take care of him. He is planning on finding another place of his own, some time soon.

Ray and Ed ran Fat Alberts Open Stage & Coffee House, an open stage in Toronto, Ontario. Over the decades that Ray and Ed ran the open stage, hundreds and hundreds of people with artistic interests shared their work on the stage. Ray and Ed made everyone welcome. Some performers were mesmerizing, others were unaware that they agonizingly tone deaf. Some sang, some played instruments, some performed performance art, and some read poetry.

I read my poetry, from time to time.

A self-defined writer living in Greece, who was attending Fat Alberts during the same time period that I did, commented in his blog, that the poets were awful. I found that interesting, as there were a few much admired Canadian poets who performed on the Fat Alberts stage, as well as many others who were unknown to the publishing circuit. To single out the poets as awful seemed a little drastic and unbalanced, in my opinion, considering some of the “music” that was performed. Really, his commentary was unworthy of the Fat Alberts spirit.

I enjoyed catching up with Ray’s news, and sharing a bit of my own. He said he remembered me, but that may or may not be the case. Hundreds of performers and individuals flowed through the doors at Fat Alberts. Meeting so many people, over so many years, I would be surprised if many of us have remained vivid in Ray’s memory. Still, I remember him very fondly, and so we talked of the old times we both knew.

It has been a day of memories. Another friend, Norm Hacking, passed away in 2007. Jennifer Ives posted a video clip of an interview Norm did with Olivia Duck, to be viewed here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/ii2ab0olng0qq9f/thefolkinme.dv.

Norm was a fine human being and a talented singer/songwriter. We ran into each other frequently over the years when I lived in Toronto, and I came to admire and appreciate what a great person he was. For example, Norm used to run an open stage at the Silver Dollar, a bar on Spadina, that was located just south of Queen’s Park. One night he invited me to read poetry at the bar. Knowing his audience, he timed it perfectly. It was late enough that people had time for a relaxing drink, and early enough that they hadn’t had time to have a lot to drink. My reading went very well, thanks to Norm. He knew that poetry, unlike music, would not likely capture the attention of an inebriated audience, at least not in a good way.

I last talked with Norm in September of 2005, at the Renaissance Cafe, on Danforth Avenue in Toronto. It was an event organized by Steve Paul Simms, to celebrate the life and songs of the late Patrick Logier, our mutual friend. There were some very good times shared.

So that is what Earth Day brought into my life today, friendship and fond memories.

Ontario Canada Barns April 21, 2013 [Taken at 90 km an hour, through a closed car window.]
Web 1 green roof

Worldly Distractions

Weather

Condition: Sunny
Pressure: 103.1 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Temperature: 12.9°C
Dewpoint: -3.7°C
Humidity: 31%
Wind: S 18 gust 37 km/h

Quote

“Friendship makes prosperity more shining and lessens adversity by dividing and sharing it.”
Cicero
106 BC – 43 BC