Summer 2006 - Part 1: Tee Dot Party
Toronto. Pearson Airport. Arrival and crosscheck.
Ah summer in Toronto.
Hot and stinky. Both me and Toronto.
Shared a taxi into town with this girl from Halifax
who was coming to 'surprise' her boyfriend because she
hadn't heard from him in a couple of months.
Holy bad idea Batman! He had moved to the city to
start a business and was apparently quite busy with
that and she had stayed back home on account of the
old dog. I asked what business and she said well, he
was featured on television's Seinfeld once.
"You're dating the SOUP NAZI?"
"Do you have any backup plan in case this doesn't work
"And he has no idea you're here?"
Women. I swear there's a chemical that flows through
our veins to spare us from the obvious. Makes sense I
suppose. A great deal of belief must be suspended and
a lot of fantasy infused to distract us from the fact
that they are just men and when they are talking to
the dog perhaps they are simply talking to the dog and
it's not a metaphor for anything.
It was so boiling. Headed to the guitar store so the
Kesper Twins could take a look at my ailing axe.
Alejandro Escovedo was there and invited me to his
show that night. Left the guitar with boys even though
they fixed it right away no problem and headed up to
Garth Johnson. The Old Drummer. We used to live
together and play together and now he lives in
Chinatown. Totally awesome real estate. Right behind
The Horseshoe with enough room for guests. And he is a
fabulous host. And an amazing cook. Heat and good
smells hit me when I walked up the stairs past the
bike in the hall.
Man it was hot and he was slaving away over the stove.
Rosa, his Room-mate The Artist, whom I adore, was
sitting at the kitchen table drinking wine.
"Hey! Hug hug kiss kiss let's get you some wine and
It's so nice when you're real friends and there's none
of those strained host/guest feelings. (Or he's that
good of an actor.)
A delicious pasta was served and Garth's brother Brad
come over on a mission to drain a Jaegermeister
bottle. Wife away doncha know.
Suggested going to the Alejandro show but we were in
no condition to be seen in public. Especially after
the joint was passed around.
I went to bed right when Brad climbed out the window
to get on the super pointy roof three stories up to
have a word with the raccoon.
Up at the crack of 2pm! I had travelled through time
so it was actually 11.
Brad and Garth took me out to breakfast and talked
about making an appearance at their work but decided
to go to the lake instead.
They were making big city life look pretty easy in
their modern Toronto film maker glasses and short
Garth lent me his bicycle and I went to rehearsal.
This was a Hootenanny Summer. Our little super group
side project that's slowly taking over everything. We
were booked at something every weekend. Rode over to
Oh! Susanna's house and found the gang on the porch.
Mostly hung out and made a set list. There was some
hilarity with the childproofed toilet and I think I
broke the sink. Both things in like under three
minutes of being there too!
Thursday was dinner with Neville only there was no
dinner. We talked for like seven hours straight and
figured out the whole universe. Felt bad because by
the time Ford came over after practise we had already
peaked and were down to monosyllabic grunting.
This is vaguely distressing but I can't remember what
happened the next night. It's completely blank. I
remember being on the roof with Garth at like 5am
drinking wine while he wielded some sort of power tool
and put some screening over the hole where the
raccoons were getting in. I remember wrapping the
extension cord around the chimney and then making him
wrap it around his waist and perhaps holding an ankle.
We totally shook hands with danger.
I vaguely remember doing a voice over for a tampon
commercial at Garth's editing suite.
I remember loafing around Neville's. This is my
speciality and why I love Toronto. People let me
lounge around in their houses while they go to work to
pay for them. It's a beautiful arrangement.
Oh wait now I remember! Another hootenanny rehearsal
out at Jenny's Dad's house in Etobicoke. Rode the bike
down by the Lakeshore. Snickered at all the people
stuck in the heat and the Friday rush hour traffic
underneath me when I cruised above the 401 on an
overpass but then remembered that it would soon be me
down there. Got to feel smug for a moment though, and
it's been a while.
The ladies were making dinner. Jenny and Joey looked
gorgeous because they'd been to Granny's funeral
earlier. I remember my parents coming to get me and my
brother from school once and they were dressed up and
arm in arm and looked like movie stars in love and
we'd never seen them like that and they took us out
for supper and they said they'd been to something
called "A Funeral" and me and my brother were all
like, "You guys should go to way more of those!"
Dinner. Drinks. Practise.
The Mandolin Genius was kind of plastered and
listening to Merle Haggard. He kept grabbing me to
check out the lyrics man. There was this one called
'Shoot out the Footlights' that's like the most
depressing song I've ever heard.
I told him I'd be right back. I was just going to the
back yard to kill myself!
I think women secretly hate when their fellows get
wasted and blubber into the stereo over Merle Haggard.
Especially when they end up passing out before band
practise has even started. At least Merle Haggard has
some cred and worked jobs and made it to all his shows
and went to jail and kind of tries to be a man. I
think the Townes Van Zant 'loser as hero' thing is
more troubling. It's just like when all the dudes
gather round to watch World at War or something. The
ladies are just left going where's OUR heroes? Don't
you see it's up to you to make your OWN history? As I
used to say to the old guitar player when I was trying
to make her join me on some caper, "God Brigette! When
they write the biography, this night's gonna be a
total write-off!" She never fell for it not even once
and will probably outlive me.
Uh, I don't know how this happened but there are
children in our band. Well they were at practise
demanding all the attention anyway. I suspect they
came with their parents. It's an interesting
development as we were already having a tacit
competition to see who could be the most high
maintenance one. I was almost winning and then they
had to bring in the ringers.
I put on a puppet show when it wasn't my turn to play.
Figured out the order and ran everyone's songs and a
young man I've never seen before came down the stairs
and joined us on the organ. He was really good. Turned
out to be Jenny's younger brother. Didn't realize how
young he was. Might have laid Ali's "Double fisting is
the new black" line on him after band practise. Hard
to say. Jenny told me about it the next day but at the
time I was delightfully oblivious. Success!
Harbourfront Hootenanny Show.
Beautiful sunset while we played the stage right
beside the Jamaican booth. Made us feel especially
White in our matching outfits and enthusiastic
choreography. The children joined us onstage holding
paper tambourines and when I was introducing Jenny I
felt something oh so soft and smooth travelling up my
inner thigh. You know like THE FEELING. I jumped a
foot and screamed but it was just Jenny's three year
old daughter Lila reaching for my hand and missing.
Holy. If we're gonna be having children on stage then
I get a dog goddamn it!
Afterwards, we went to The Handsome Family show at the
Horsehoe. Jenny and I held hands on the patio and had
a couple of bracers before going in. Seriously
considered getting The Horseshoe door stamp tattooed
on my wrist. I'm here so much it would just save time.
And also to symbolize my seeming career stasis at the
Smallish Canadian Bar level.
The show was SO GOOD. The Handsome Family are the best
band ever of all time! I love them so much it hurts. I
want to hump their legs and take them home and make
them mine. It is crucial if you are in a band to see a
brilliant show every so often because it makes you
remember what it's all for.
Sunday Morning Coming Down
Took myself out to Mimi's. Thought about calling
someone but thought I'd be selfish and savour the
freedom of going alone. Mimi's is a teensy 12 seat
cafe on Bathurst above a bathhouse run by Mimi.
Jane Siberry's song 'Mimi on the Beach' is allegedly
Garth's roommate Rosa, The Artist, works there too.
It's full of knick-knacks and autographed band posters
and she has a promotional McGregor's Happy Foot and
signed photograph of The Dalrubio Triplets. Live
concert videos play round the clock on a TV above the
bar. It looks a lot like Pee Wee's Playhouse which is
exactly my sensibility.
Okay, it looks like my kitchen.
Mimi does not give her love without a referral.
I went there once in The Before Times and she threw me
I went again with Neko and Mimi fawned all over her to
the point that I was checking my pulse every few
minutes to see if I was still there.
Then somehow, she saw a show or heard something and I
was deemed Worthy and ever since then it's been pure
love. She once baked me a guitar shaped brownie cake
saying, "I didn't know how much you took so I put it
on the side" quoting a Woody Allen movie and handing
me some fine buds for the road. Ah what a woman!
She made me an omelet that was bigger than my head and
a giant plate of fresh fruit.
Went for a bike ride and headed back to the crash pad
to await instruction from Agent Jansen.
Shuyler.(pronounced Shy-ler) Currently my only ally
from The West in the group. The others had yet to
He had a solo show in Waterloo that night at The
Starlight and I wanted to go and surprise the club
owner Bernard who is an old friend. The Starlight is
my favourite place to play. And hanging out with
Shuyler is like going swimming; I've never once
We were stealing Vanna White, Jenny and Joey's minivan
for the trip, but first we had to take them to the
party. Cam and Suzie's boy Sal's first birthday. Kind
of a big deal since the little fellow was premature
and was about the size of a mouse when he was born.
Knowing him now I figure he just couldn't wait to get
here. As much of a fan of his as I am, afternoon
kiddie parties ain't my scene so we dropped them off
and then faked them out by pretending we were coming
up the stairs behind them and then running back to the
van at the last minute and peeling out of the
For once there was no traffic on the way out of town
and Shuyler lit up a big joint and we were grinning to
ourselves at our Western Stealth and the prospect of a
night of undiluted Bernard hospitality. I believe we
were actually high-fiving each other when the oil
light came on.
"No! Joey told me to check check the oil but I thought
he meant like 'next time you get gas check the oil'
not like 'CHECK THE OIL!"
Shuyler is a man in a band from Alberta who prides
himself on knowing this stuff so this is killing him.
We pull over and pop the hood.
We were on the 401 and cars and rigs were wailing by.
And it was boiling and the sun was beating down.
Hmm. Well the engine wasn't seized so that's good. I
made a sign with some lined paper and a jiffy marker
that said, "Oil?" and stood by the side of the road
holding it up hopefully.
The thing is the cars were going like 120 so even if
they could have seen me it would have taken them like
800 meters to slow down.
We ain't Out West anymore.
A woman stopped though and gave us half a thing of oil
and then a rig stopped and then a tow truck and then
The cop said someone had reported a woman in a crazy
dress holding a sign on the side of the road. Well
it's always nice to have advance publicity...
The tow truck guy was anxious to get the ailing van
into his clutches and the cop wanted us gone. I said,
"Oh try it just once more!" and it turned over and we
sent everyone away. We made it to the next exit but
Vanna was fading.
Went to a gas station. Had a smoke. Fuck it was hot.
"Guess I better call Joey..." said Shuyler.
"I'll call Bernard".
I told Bernard that I was on my way to see him and he
sounded excited. Bernard always sounds excited which
is why we love him. Oh how he stands miles above the
other jaded snobby club owners in our estimation. It's
so rare to meet kindred spirits who enjoy what they
do. I think it freaks other people out. To use the
porno film analogy, it's like we're having real
orgasms instead of faking them like you're supposed to
when you're working.
While he was still excited, I explained our plight.
Bernard is always rescuing someone. It's only an hour
and a half from Toronto to Waterloo but for some
reason it's notoriously hard to get to.
I figure it's called Waterloo for a reason.
Shuyler's on the other phone talking to Joey. I love
how undramatic men can be when shit's going down.
"Hey. Van's fucked. Yeah. Oil light keeps coming on.
Okay. Call you back."
We go out to the parking lot and turn her over and run
it for a while. Seems fine. Temperature's normal. Oil
light's staying off. Maybe we can just take back roads
and it'll be all right...
We make it about half a mile down the road and all the
symptoms recur and now there is smoke.
The next gas station we stop at is tiny and has no
phone so we walk a mile or so and end up at a computer
store in a strip mall.
Welcome to beautiful Mississauga. Population:Us.
There is a mosque across the street and the way the
wind is carrying the music it sounds like fucked up
George Jones. We end up in an Indian grocery store and
Shuyler makes one last call to Bernard.
"Hey look I'm really sorry. Looks like I can't make
it. Hey. Thank the other band for me would ya? Tell
em.. Tell em I would have been great."
You could actually hear the sound of three hearts
"Okay. Stay put. I'll come and get you."
We start jumping up and down because it was looking so
bleak for a while there.
A tow truck is coming and so is Joey and so is
Bernard. Miraculously all three show up at about the
Shuyler says to Joey who arrives first, "Hey. You
think I'm a prick now, well I'm still going to the
Joey is awesomely unphased.
We peel away with Bernard and speed towards the show.
Shuyler gets there just in time to play and he's
awesome. The sound is good and the little hipsters
enjoy him. Obviously we miss dinner but Bernard keeps
the vodka cranberries coming hard and fast.
The other band is young and American and obviously has
support of some kind. They sound like The Old 97's,
like it's Whitesnake pop riffs disguised as something
more gritty only the grit is dusted on the surface
instead of the other way around. Whatever, I'm tired
and fall asleep on one of the couches in the bar.
Shuyler is across the room passed out on two chairs.
The staff parties.
Oh yeah. Somewhere in there we ended up talking to The
Bouncers. They were celebrating the one's Last Night
and talking about cheating. My ears pricked up
immediately and I had to join them.
Turns out the one leaving was a Turkish prince who's
been hiding in Canada disguised as a Regular Guy
before his Real Life begins. The other one is really
funny. He tells wild stories that all begin and end
with the phrase "Ask Kyle man. Ask fucking Kyle man!"
Kyle is his younger brother and, to him, the
Kilimanjaro of authority. They tell a story about this
bouncer they used to work with who is famous for
never having any trouble during his shifts because of
his cool calming terrifying aura. Turns out it's
because he actually, you know, killed someone. Yup.
Dragged 'em to the river and held 'em under the water.
"Ask fucking Kyle man. Ask fucking Kyle!"
Bernard has obviously never heard these stories before
and I can see him wondering about the secret lives of
the rest of his staff.
Bernard wakes us up at about four and takes us back to
his apartment up the street. It's boiling and smells
like rotting fish sauce. I kind of wish he'd left us
in the coolth of the bar.
We wake up ridiculously dehydrated .
Breakfast and then Bernard puts us on the bus back to
Toronto. I bury myself in The Philosophy of Love
book I'm reading to escape my earthly pains.
Joey picks us up at the station in his Mother's car
and we go to the mechanic's to face the music. And it
ain't a pretty song.
They're putting in a new radiator to the tune of $500
which seems weird to me because it wasn't leaking or
spewing green smoke or any of the usual radiator
signs. I had just been through that a few weeks before
in Alberta with The Honeys but whatevs.
I left them in the parking lot and headed back to
Garth's and made a date with my friend Trish even
though I was kind of spent. It's a long bike ride to
her house but I needed the air. Any air'll do even it
it's hot and stinky air.
We were sitting in the back yard eating gazpacho and
drinking mint juleps with the dog when then the wind
and heat lightening started up. And it was mighty. I
was thinking about the overpass on Dundas that I
needed to ride the bike over. Trish made me a bed in
the living room. So awesome to sleep...
I think I realize why east coasters talk about where
they're from so much. It's because they're displaced
and homesick. I am starting to relate to them. It's a
lonesome feeling to experience culture shock within
your own country. I think it's mostly the humour that
I miss. The jokes out here are like a different brand
of smokes; they'll do until you find your own kind
I've been reading what I suspect is light summer lady
reading disguised as something more noble.
"The Consolations of Philosophy" by Allan de Botton. A
brief easy-read paperback on the history of and modern
applications of philosophy. Garth's buddy Glen, the
philosophy professor, hates it. Rosa, Garth's
room-mate, the artist, thinks it's wonderful.
It starts with Aristotle who chose to die rather than
compromise his beliefs even though he was the one that
came up with the whole sometimes it's stronger in
battle to retreat than advance.
Pass the Hemlock, A-Dog, I'll drink to that!
And then it's Seneca and Epicurus who found solace
when they lowered their expectations and then my
favourite Shopenhauer who claimed that there needed to
be rough for us to even notice smooth and then ending
with Neitchze the favourite of teenage girls around
the world who said all the other philosophers were a
bunch of cabbage heads and that life is a total shit
show and only he was strong enough to take it. That
is, until he went to Italy and it blew his fucking
mind and he fell in love and started writing poetry
and then spent his last eleven years locked up in an
asylum. Damn. I was so with him until the end. (Some
say it was the syphilis)
Anyway it's the dangerous kind of book that makes you
feel instantly smart without any effort.
Turns out The Philosophy of Love book is way more
dangerous if you happen to crack it when you're laying
around other peoples' apartments in the heat staring
wistfully out the window at your new boyfriend The CN
Tower. The book gives you the notion that you should
find someone immediately and what easier prey than
those waiting in the wings ready to pounce at the
slightest indication. So you Call Home and The Voice
on the other end has no idea what is hanging in the
balance and what magic words are so desperately needed
because The Voice on the other end does not travel or
suffer from self doubt and cares not for words and
will speak only of the dog's health leaving you with
only the hope that his words can be read as a metaphor
for his concern for you. So maybe you get drunk and
call someone easier to reach but it's never as good,
or no better rather, so then finally you give up, stop
dressing in the morning and write two songs which was
always the answer all along.
And you are so pleased with your two new songs you are
humming them and smiling fiendishly while putting on
your false eyelashes for the show and you embed the
two new songs in the set of tried and true faves and
when you are finished you cast your eyes coquettishly
upwards from the deep bow of the encore awaiting
Review and your real friends say 'Hey Anais Nin!
What's going on?" and The Rest gather around you after
the show and say they like the new stuff, mostly
because they want you to notice that they've noticed
that there's new stuff which is one of the fairer
deals this life offers and you drink too much wine
because your nerves are shot and stumble home alone
praying there's no one on the computer because now
you've got Something To Say Goddamn it!
Just another day at the office.
Waking up in Chinatown:
What the? Oh yeah. Hey Michelle gave me some books
last night. Where are they? Oh yeah they're with the
guitar which should be ....HOLY FUCK THE GUITAR!!!!!!
"Garth Garth the guitar!!!"
We ran down the street back to the scene of the crime
where I had left my guitar. (My guitar that was built
special for me. There's only one of it's kind in the
world!) The whole way there I was making a deal with
God that if the guitar was still there I would never
drink again. (Later I was all like "I believe in
God"?) We turned the corner and a familiar black
rounded shape came into view. Phew. Holy Shit.
I grabbed it and hugged the case. A guy was behind the
bar setting up for the day.
"Uh did you find any books?"
He held up two familiar looking tomes.
Garth and I exit and on our way to breakfast behind
his back, I sneak a peak heavenwards and say with a
point and a wink, "You know when I said all that stuff
back there, I was just saying...."