Uncovered -Queen & Bowie

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So tired I feel like I’m practically blind today, but it was definitely worth it!

Last night I had the good fortune of attending the closing night performance of Acting Up Stage’s annual Uncovered show. This year, an impressive assembly of Canadian talent performed selections from the musical libraries of David Bowie and Queen, and included a pair of actors who basically channelled the ghosts of Bowie and Freddie Mercury as they tackled a variety of quotes from over the course of each legend’s career. The whole evening turned into a somewhat intimate affair, as our Bowie and Mercury held a dialogue on stage in between the amazing musical numbers throughout.

My more-or-less-friend-now, the lovely and obscenely talented Melissa O’Neil, had given me a heads up some time ago that she would be a part of this show, and I marked it on my calendar right away, as I fully intend to just support her and her career whenever possible. I looked up the show online and thought it looked pretty cool, but still really had no idea what to expect. Even figuring out that another insanely talented friend, Gabe Grey, would be playing Freddie, didn’t change how much of a happy surprise the evening ended up being!

It made me sad that I’ve missed the other 9 years of this Uncovered show, but determined that this won’t have been my last. So much fun, guys!

I stopped watching Gabe pretty early on, because he was so good that, in my mind, he pretty much morphed into Freddie Mercury. For those few hours, my friend wasn’t on stage at all. He had transcended himself. And the woman playing Bowie? Holy Hannah! Applause greeted her first words, but from that moment on, she was David Bowie. She had every mannerism and movement down to the point where it just seemed natural. She was he.

Watching Melissa O’Neil sing – especially when she is obviously really enjoying herself – is an absolute joy. I woke up with her version of Let’s Dance in my head this morning, and every time I think about seeing her last night, a giant stupid grin appears on my face. I think that’s how I looked the whole time she was on stage, actually, so it’s a good thing it was dark in there. I realized after that it was also the first time I’d gotten to see her perform live. I’ll need to make sure it’s not the last time for that, either, ’cause damn. I adore that woman to no end, and this show just cemented that feeling all the more.

I loved every single performer last night, and there were several I hadn’t known of prior to taking my seat and pouring over the programme. I can’t count the number of times I was given goosebumps throughout the night, or driven into bouts of gleeful cheers and applause. I was crushing on all the ladies of the stage, including the wicked talented woman rocking the violin. But it was one incredibly talented performer who pulled tears from my eyes not once but twice, just due to how stunningly beautiful her renditions were. Divine Brown rocked my world and broke my heart and put it back together again. She’s seriously, like, not of this earth, guys. Just whoa.

She turned me into Wes Bentley watching a plastic bag floating on the breeze in American Beauty. So, so beautiful.

My whole evening would not have been possible were it not for my friend, Sarah, who snagged our tickets AND managed to pick up some flowers for Mel when I had not the time nor the cash flow after my work day ended, AND still beat me to the subway on our way back downtown. So eternal thanks to that woman! I suspect it won’t be her last night out to support these crazy talented folks, now, either!

Go check out Acting Up Stage Company’s website here. They do amazing work in the world of musical theatre, and have an impressive line-up of content coming all year long!

Don’t Read This One

Seriously, I’m just ranting – you don’t need to read this one.  I feel like I say too much, but not nearly enough, and am just trying to get out of my head for a moment.

It’s okay to give this one a pass.

I’ll write something else later.

Either way, here goes nothing…

To say I am frustrated and disappointed with the Fire Marshal would be an understatement. There really are no words, yet at the same time, there will never be enough words. I can’t wrap my head around what appears to be a flippant dismissal of the loss of life, and responsibility, and justice…and while none of that can bring back those kids, I feel like a half-assed investigation only adds insult to injury. I mean, isn’t the main function of a Fire Marshal investigation to determine the cause of a fire? Not just call it inconclusive, sit on it for over two years and then say, “Oh, I don’t know, it was probably caused by (this first guess). Case closed.”

I don’t think a Coroner would just wave his or her hand and say, “I don’t know…the person probably died because of (this first guess). Case closed.”

Or maybe they would. I don’t know if anyone is doing their freaking job anymore. I have lost confidence in the people who hold such positions to carry their share of the responsibility in determining what happened, and how similar tragedies can be prevented in the future.

They didn’t even interview the lone survivor about that night, let alone any of the people who were at the apartment so often it was like a second home to them. Yet apparently felt it was fine to ask me questions through a friend. For the most part, though, they just made an assumption and called it a day. An assumption that was quite likely incorrect. Didn’t even look into anything else; any other possible cause.

One smoke detector had no battery, the other was probably not working – they’re not sure. Just that everyone reported that no smoke detectors were going off when the fire was discovered. One was located above the stove in the kitchen, and one outside the boys’ bedrooms at the front. So…I guess the one in the kitchen also served as the regulated-by-law smoke detector that is supposed to be outside of the girls’ sleeping areas, as well? A little double duty from over the stove in the kitchen?

That both exits were on the same side of the building doesn’t seem to have raised any concerns about the apartment being up to code, nor the fact that walls were added to turn the space into a 4-bedroom instead of two. I have a screen shot of the rental ad – well, a rental ad for that apartment. Not necessarily the one the kids answered when they found the place. But basically the same. It wasn’t turned into a makeshift 4-bedroom for them specifically. It was advertised as such. Are two smoke detectors really enough for a 4-bedroom when one of them is in the kitchen area? Above the stove, for Pete’s sake?

That the landlord is not legally responsible for maintaining the smoke detectors is frustrating. Apparently we as a society feel it is up to a group of kids in their early 20’s to dutifully check to ensure everything is in proper working order when they move in, rather than the owner dude renting the space to them in the first place. I didn’t check mine until this all happened, because I know that the landlord checks them regularly, but when I found that things like this can not only happen, but also be my fault, I became a little more paranoid than I was before (and I was already really paranoid). I am not in my early 20’s, though. Not on my own for the first time. I was 41 when I started testing my smoke detectors more often than the landlord was doing it.

The kids’ landlord didn’t do it at all. Not in the time that they lived there, at least.

And apparently the Fire Marshal doesn’t deem that an important factor, either. Doesn’t think any of it is, really. So what if three kids and a little kitten lost their lives? No one need speak for them. No one need determine the reason how any of it happened. I used to believe people in those positions would fight to do their jobs to the very best of their abilities. That not knowing wasn’t a suitable answer. That guessing was never the way.

Which means I watch too much TV. Turns out to real people, it’s just a day job, and then they go home, without giving another thought to those who will never get to go home again.

I get that everyone’s just doing the minimum required. I get that nothing can change what happened, no matter how much investigation is done. I understand (almost) all of it on a reasonable level, but that doesn’t change my frustration and sadness and disappointment and anger and hurt and…just…overall upset-ness. The minimum effort raises more questions than it answers, and those kids deserve more. The families deserve more. Ethan deserves more. He at least deserves the chance to fill in some of the blanks for those investigating what happened. He was there, after all, and he’s the one who has to live with those memories for the rest of his life. At least ask his side of it, if it’s your job to determine what happened. To me, that actually falls under the bare minimum, but then again, I’m not the Fire Marshal. Just someone who, on some level, will never really understand any of it at all.

I go over that night in my head constantly, you know. Constantly. I wasn’t there. I’d never been inside the apartment until after everything had been taken out. I didn’t even know any of them but Alysia. But I picture it over and over; my mind is full of unanswered questions about how everything happened, trying to fill in the many, many blanks. I feel like if any one thing had gone differently that night, they would all still be alive.

If even just one smoke detector had gone off, for example.

I had a dream last night that I was choosing between…like, it had something to do with Spanish, even though I don’t speak it. But essentially, I had to choose whether I would learn to help Spanish-speaking people in a legal forum, or a musical one. I know. But hey, music speaks, too. I had the impression that either I would be working for people’s rights – the rights of those who could not communicate effectively due to the language barrier – or if I would help in a more spiritual/emotional way through the implementation of music and dance programs.

I chose law, and even in the dream I couldn’t believe I was picking the more difficult road.

I just felt it would be the one where I could be most effective and make the most difference.

I chose to speak for those who could not speak for themselves.

Last Day of Vacay

Hot day, cold beer.

Uploading photos to my poor old computer, which will then be backed up into an external drive, then deleted from said computer, because poor and old.

Once I’ve posted some of the better ones online, I’ll reformat my card and begin anew.

Lately, I find many of my dreams involve trying to capture moments on film.  Or…digitally, but same feeling driving the intent.  I like taking pictures.

Day drunkenness means I won’t likely get anything else constructive done today, but so be it.  Maybe I’ll at least stop all the hatred and anger and hurt.

Except physical hurt.  That’ll just have to heal up in its own time.

Made a new playlist for a new (to me) MP3 player, but can’t get my poor old computer to recognize the device, so just listening to it on speakers while pics upload.  I haven’t done that in a long time, just put music on and veg.  I used to do it all the time.  Every day.

It was like a wind down for me.  A chance to be alone with my thoughts, my rhythm, and my eclectic musical tastes.

Music and I go way back; probably to when I was still in the womb.  I grew up with it because I had good parents, and can’t remember a time when I didn’t have some song or other in my head.  It’s part of the reason I have a hard time falling asleep, so I’ve trained myself to switch to a particular song, which helps regulate my breathing, settle my mind, and like a bell to Pavlov’s dogs, condition my response to be one of sleepiness once I get the song going on repeat in my mind.

I have a hard time falling asleep TO music, but have adopted a couple of background noises which help.  I remember sleeping next to one person in particular and I was so attuned to her breathing that I would wake up at the slightest change in its rhythm.  Yet going back to NOT sleeping next to her didn’t really take after.  Maybe that’s why I need the background noise now.

Even living in the city so long means I can’t sleep when it’s quiet.

It’s annoying…I sort of had plans for today, but while I wasn’t committed to them, I also didn’t make an alternate plans in the event that the main ones didn’t pan out.  Which, I’m thinking, they probably aren’t, at this point.  That comes with a whole batch of different feelings, but none stronger than the other.  In the back, though, is an old distrust of myself.  Mistrust?  Whatever.  I have a habit of hurting myself, sometime intentionally, and sometimes – like this weekend, actually – more of a lack of caution to avoid hurting myself.  Which is usually just a matter of semantics, really.  It annoys me.  I annoy me.

Anyway – music.

I was tempted to fill my Facebook feed with lyrics from the WIDE variety of songs that are in today’s playlist.  I know everyone likes to think they have the furthest ranging taste in music, but I actually do.  Haha  See what I did there?  Okay, so maybe it’s not the literal furthest, but it’s pretty huge.  I love music.  Most days, my very cells are listening and singing along.  There are memories, emotions, fantasies…everything I am can be tied to a song or a melody.  Sometimes I listen to fuel my mood; other times to change it, or create one anew.

I should open a bar that has alternating karaoke and lip synch nights.  I’d be all over that shit  – in theory.  In reality, I would only be all over it alone in my living room, like right now.  Minus the non-humans who live with me, except they were a bit disturbed when I was dancing with myself earlier.

Fuck…how is THAT song not in this playlist?!

(Edit:  False alarm – it totally is)

Holy crap – the photos are done uploading!  All 8000-something of them!

I think I had more to say, but screw it.  Tomorrow is another day.

Even if it is a back-to-work day after this abysmal failure of a vacation.  At least day drunk is a good thing!

 

 

For The Love

So tired today, guys. So so tired.

Struggling through this work day, but it’s okay. Getting there.

Went out to see my beloved Arden and the Tourists perform for the first time in years. First time in years for me seeing them, I mean, not for them performing. They just rarely do any public gigs these days. It’s all been private events lately. My lovely friends indulged me by driving to the venue and hanging out with me for a couple of hours, and then driving home.

But there have been a couple of things making it hard for my brain to settle down, and unfortunately neither is really resolved yet.

It’s all driving me crazy and making my animal-loving heart hurt.

First, it was discovered earlier this week that there were some baby raccoons trapped in the no-longer-used chimney at my work. Not sure how they got down to the bottom of it, or if their mom was with them and/or able to get in and out, but they could apparently be heard scratching around in there just above the flue. Debris was falling from inside as they were possibly trying to find a way out. I didn’t go investigate because, frankly, I have trouble listening to animals in distress right now. It’s too upsetting for me just knowing about them without having to hear it, as well.

So for the past few days, all I can think about is these poor critters, trapped, likely without food and water, basically dying a slow painful death in there while we stand around and listen. I was running through every possible scenario in my mind last night, and wondering if I would come in today and risk my job trying to get them out, or at least taking matters into my own hands and calling wildlife services to come and do it properly.

Much to my relief, the building manager called wildlife services, and they came in today to see what could be done.

One thing they discovered is that there are actually two chimneys, and at the bottom of the other one is a nest of baby squirrels. They aren’t worried about them, though, because mom can get in and out and eventually they’ll be big enough to get out, themselves. So that’s good. And cute.

The other thing they discovered is that there are no baby raccoons in this chimney. There is a single pigeon. Unfortunately, the chimney doesn’t go straight down – there is a bend in it and the pigeon is at the bottom where they can’t get to it, so there’s no way to retrieve it from the roof. The flue is stuck shut and no one has been able to get it open from the bottom, so for now, the poor thing is fully trapped in there. For at least three days and counting.

I went and had a look and discovered that there is a piece of brick jammed at the edge of the flue door thingy, which is likely what’s preventing it from opening. Again I’ve been toying with the thought of taking matters into my own hands and risking my employment to try and get the flue open…but so far I’ve remained mostly impotent. No one really cares about saving the pigeon, but they do care about how much decomposition can smell, so I emailed a couple of people to let them know about the piece of brick, and offered some ideas as to how to remove it, as well as a spare coat that we could wrap the bird in and get it outside safely.

I’ve received no response, and am not really sure if more is being done or if they are just kind of tossing around ideas or dismissing it all together.

So while I am glad it’s not baby raccoons dying in there, it’s still somebody dying in there, and it still bothers me. Will have to see how it all plays out, I guess, though that also makes me feel cowardly and almost as bad as someone who just doesn’t care.

I don’t know. We’ll see.

The other issue bothering me right now just arose yesterday evening. Brody and I were out for a walk when we came across a woman looking for a missing dog. Apparently while in someone else’s care for the day, a restaurant delivery guy accidentally allowed the dog to scamper into the apartment building’s hallway during the transaction. No one noticed, but it’s a big building. Pepper (the dog) wouldn’t really get past the end of the hallway. However, the delivery guy also apparently had no issue with the dog riding down in the elevator with him…and then the douche let the dog outside!

So little Pepper went for a bit of a run. He was spotted on Yonge street, on Mount Pleasant…they think he was basically running his regular walk route. He’s escaped once before and made his way home once he got tired, so everyone was hoping he’d turn up somewhere safe before too long. I went out, walked Brody again when I got home, and went to bed.

This morning, there were missing dog posters all over my street and surrounding area.

I’m hoping someone caught him and kept him inside overnight. He wasn’t wearing a collar (because he wasn’t supposed to be going outside), so it’s possible someone has him and wouldn’t know what to do with him until they saw the signs this morning. There are a million other horrible scenarios that also could have happened, but until I learn otherwise, I’m going to keep praying for Pepper’s safe return.

And if I can find out which restaurant that delivery guy was from, I’ll make sure never to give them my patronage.

Seriously, who let’s someone else’s pet just run outside? People I hate, obviously.

The Soundtrack Of My Life

Before I get started on my topic du jour, I want to just take a moment to acknowledge that, on this day in 2013, I had to say goodbye to my favourite polar bear boy, but got the honour of tossing him some fish during his final Keeper Talk at the Toronto Zoo! It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and something I will treasure always. I love that fool bear. Miss you, Hudson!

Anyway, I’ve been big into music pretty much since I was in the womb. Not in a cultured, knowledgeable music snob kind of way, and certainly not in a way that would suggest I can dance any better than a white guy, or sing as well as someone who is tone deaf…I’m actually not great at creating music at all. BUT I love to listen to it. I always have. I always have a song in my head (sometimes stuck there against my will, but mostly I like whatever’s “playing”), and am one of those people who CAN’T really have it playing if I need to focus on anything else, because it’s distracting as hell to me. I want to let me mind go wherever the music takes it, not force myself to concentrate on anything else, like reading, working or conversation.

I spent hours upon hours in my room, listening to music and just thinking about things. I’m pretty sure I did that daily up until I got my own apartment, in my early 30’s. Actually, even more recently than that…probably up until I got my PVR, actually! Haha Damn television. 😉

I still do it now, just less often. Definitely while I am cleaning, and every day travelling back and forth on public transit. Music helps me control my rage, apparently!

I don’t have music on when out for a walk with Brody, though. That’s our time together and I want to spend it more with him than inside my own head.

My musical upbringing was deliciously varied. My parents introduced me to classic rock from the 50’s and 60’s, then other crazy things like Roger Whitakker, Johnny Horton, a bunch of country music when my dad was going through that phase, and – who was that ukulele guy? George Formby! Yeah.

My grandfather on my dad’s side was a huge fan of big band music. An ex introduced me to jazz in my 20’s. And then there was just plain old growing up in the 80’s. The first vinyl I ever got was Olivia Newton-John’s Greatest Hits Volume 2. My first cassette tape was Bryan Adams Reckless. I actually kept buying vinyl and then recording them onto cassette pretty much right up until I was buying CD’s, but I did have a few cassettes, in the end. I also recorded a LOT of songs off the radio. Ever do THAT? You wait and wait for the one song you want to come on, and then inevitably lose the beginning of it while the recorder got going. Good times.

It never fails to amaze me how versatile music is. Like different scents, a song can often re-create a memory so strongly that it transports you back in time. I have songs that take me back to different moments of past relationships (and break-ups, let’s be real), and some that just evoke a certain feeling from another time – like elementary school, or high school – various periods of time, I guess is what I’m saying. Then there are more specific memories, like AC/DC Back In Black being played at the back of the bus every day on the way to school in Grade 9. Or how I was sure I could run forever if I had Flashdance (Oh What A Feeling) playing on my headphones. Or singing Lean On Me before the audience arrived to warm up for a band/choir performance and help get rid of any jitters.

The first time I asked a boy to dance was to Every Rose Has Its Thorn in high school. I can still remember the shirt he was wearing and how good he smelled up close. My University residence floor’s pre-going-out routine was to turn off the lights in our lounge, put on hats, and dance on the furniture to KLF’s 3am Eternal. It’s how we bonded, or something. But every time it was played at the bar, you’d better believe we all dropped what we were doing and danced in a circle together, because D-1 RULES!!!

Where was I?

Ah yes, various movie soundtrack songs – anything from Grease brings up memories (especially my host teacher and I showing the Grade 8 kids how it’s done at their graduation dance), that song from Karate Kid about being the best around makes me want to kick some ass through a competition. Mortal Kombat just makes me want to kick some ass in general. Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes makes me want to sleep with John Cusack and then break up with him in the hopes that he’ll do that thing with the stereo outside my window.

Anything we played or sang in high school – including the parodies (Phantom of the Oprey most of all).

And any concert I’ve ever been to I am often transported to when I hear various songs in my head. Madonna, Alanis, Melissa Etheridge, Mel C, Gogol Bordello, Rage Against The Machine…Mini Pops…  

You know, the usual.

Music is memory. I feel like I’m not making as many musical memories as I used to, but it’s possible that I am, and just won’t realize it until somewhere down the road. Until then, I’m content with re-living memories through music – and living each day surrounded by music – and basically just enjoying the ongoing soundtrack of my life.