Week X: The Day the Music Died

Tom Petty died late last night. And, lucky me, I managed to throw my back right out so am high on painkillers and on a heating pad, so all I’ve got right now is writing. And Netflix, of course. Frontier was just added – filmed in Newfoundland and starring Jason Momoa. It’s decent, he’s delightful – two drugged thumbs right up. But yes, Tom Petty. 

I grew up with music. My parents brought us up in a home where we were surrounded by music. We sang while we cooked and cleaned, we listened to music all of the time. My father used to (and possibly still does) air guitar to The Rolling Stones as he cleaned, taught us to twist and crocodile rock; my mother made perfect mix tapes that covered Rita MacNeil to Guns N Roses, encouraged us to bring home all of the music to discover. My brother and I grew up dancing together, singing along to whatever came on the radio, and both still have wildly eclectic musical tastes. 

With all of this, I have vivid musical memories. I remember hearing The Traveling Wilburys for the first time (my parents had the album). I remember hearing Free Falling for the first time with Mel, one of my oldest friends. He wasn’t an artist that my parents ever really listened to, but I really liked him when I heard him, and really discovered him in high school. 

Because of the way the high school credit system worked, I needed to either take French or Drama to get my required amount – so I unexpectedly became a drama kid.  I’ve told the story about the drama room here before, so I won’t tell it again. But one unshared part of the drama room was that we had to sing before every single class. The songs were generally songs that we knew, and of course, we had to sing American Pie. At the same time I was taking drama, my HS love and I were discovering music together – I’ve mentioned the Hip before, but we looked into The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Meatloaf, Jethro Tull, AC/DC, Tom Petty, Metallica…. the list marched on into popular music. Even after we ended, I still listened to these tunes. Much later, someone would call me Honeybee in reference to the track off of the Wildflowers album. Tom Petty feels timeless, he feels classic. I always dance when I hear Tom Petty. 

Maybe it’s today’s drugs, or maybe it’s because I’m trapped in a body that generally feels injured and slow… but I am slowly starting to understand why they sang that the music died. We seem to lose all the good ones before we are ready – Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington, Amy Winehouse, the Notorious B.I.G., and Whitney Houston come leaping to mind – and now it seems like we are losing all the really good ones. 

I don’t know where I’m going with this. This week has been nostalgic for me – someone from my past resurfaced in a really unclear, odd way and it has ignited a flame of hope in my chest. One of my favourite films (and BOOKS!) of all time, The Princess Bride, turned 30. I’m afraid with the terror that is gripping the world. And now, my favourite dancing music has died. 

I really hope that the muscle relaxants kick in enough that I can go to the gym tomorrow. I think I need that break. 


I’m fabulously rich…

I recently started commuting in my car.

It’s very different.

I’ve spent 8 years in the city, and have successfully avoided rush hour until now. It’s so strange – I’m so used to leaving the house about an hour early, bag heavy (lunch, keys, coffee, iPod – you know, the essentials) and braving the elements in order to catch my bus. Turns out, though, that commuting via ETS would take me about 2.5 hours to my new-new job, but driving takes 15 minutes. So, morning little Bruce-car. I love my underground parking, and I love my little beast. And my bag is about a million times lighter, because I don’t need to carry it on my person for an hour. OH. And I get to wear high heels!!

Let’s do this commuting insanity.

I’m dealing with the radio too – listening for traffic reports, singing along as I deal with the craziness of city drivers. I have finally warmed my heart to the Garner Andrews Show – it took a few years, but I enjoy Garner’s insight, generosity, and overall dry humour. Today, he performed a wonderful magic trick – he took me back to being a teenager again.

Let me start by saying that I like the Tragically Hip. I’m not a huge fan – I like a lot of their songs, and I enjoy them. Hearing about Gord’s diagnosis broke my little Canadian heart, but I also didn’t buy tickets to the final shows. I’d rather let someone else who loved them go. If my brother wasn’t getting married on Saturday, I’d very likely be going to a bar to drink beer and watch the final concert. But. Priorities.

However. My most vivid memories of my first love are tied to The Tragically Hip. I fell in love for the first time with the Hip (and Zeppelin, and Meatloaf, and AC/DC, to name a few) providing the soundtrack. We met when I was 16, and I busted through the drama room door, minutes from being late, and smashed him with the door. Our first conversation, lemme tell you. Stuff of dreams.

“Why the fuck would you come through a door like that?” he growled as he picked himself up from the floor.

“Who the fuck stands behind a door like that?” I snapped, ever the aggressive Aries.

And then we glowered at one another for a week. Glorious. Can you feel the love or what? Sure enough, shortly after I took him out with the door, our teacher decided that we needed to be in a group together. Hooray.

He was a year older than I. His eyes were emerald green – changing, as I later found, with his green sweater or when he was angry or when he kissed me– and he drove a beat up Ford pick up. He threw his head back when he laughed, and his hands were beautiful – long fingers, soft, gentle palms. He hated having his picture taken, liked skipping class, smoked, and I was in trouble. Of course, now that I’m older and know what real trouble is – my pick-up driving, cigarette-smoking, beer-drinking truant of a high school sweetheart seems like a dream.

We started dating in October, and I remember vividly on our first date – New Orleans is Sinking came on our shitty hometown radio station. (PSA – the radio station still exists, and I imagine that they haven’t expanded their Hip offerings since I was 16)

“It’s the Tragically Hip!” I exclaimed.

“I think I could love you!” he exclaimed back.

Two or three months later, right before Christmas, we drove to “our” spot, and he told me, nervously, full of hope and terror, that he loved me. I, just as full of terror and hope, told him that I loved him, too. Wheat Kings was playing in the background.

Some days, my long memory feels like a curse. I remember a lot of bad things – the heartbreak, the sadness,  the anger – it feels easy to remember how much it hurts. Especially at night, as I lay awake wondering if karma has finally caught up with me. For setting my life on fire to love a man who, I truly fear, never loved me. For never being able to verbalize my fear and vulnerability to the good men over the years, as they made their intentions clear. For the hearts I have broken, so I wouldn’t have to break my own. It can be easy to think, especially when the night falls, that karma has finally caught up to me. I try, in those moments, to remember all of the good little things. I even have a journal near my bed, full of the little things, to try and keep the darkness at bay. And sometimes, like this morning, the little things sneak up on me.

Today, Garner was talking about community celebrations for the final Hip concert – it’s being broadcasted on the CBC – and then he played Bobcaygeon. My very favourite song by the Tragically Hip. The very last Hip song I shared with my high school love.

As I was driving today, all I could remember was the morning we danced together. It was freezing cold, with fresh snow on the ground – maybe December or January? We were waiting for the coffee, or maybe just had the coffee. The floorboard squeaked as we danced in our bare feet. Laying my head on his shoulder, close to his neck, and feeling his cheek rest on the side of my head. One of his hands entwined with mine, kissing my fingertips before placing both of our hands over his heart as we swayed to the music, his other hand resting on my lower back. Hearing his hum as the song went on. The house was quiet, it was just us. No words. There was just love, just sweetness, just my love and I, just the Hip.

Even though I am still struggling with my darkness, clinging to the wall of my well, listening to the water slap against the stone, I strive for the good things. Little things, like memories about kisses on my fingers tips. Exploring new friendships, and collapsing as you laugh together. The way his eyes were sparkling emeralds the first time he said he loved me (it’s occurred to me, as I write this, that I apparently like to lose my heart to green eyed men). Hearing a song for the first time, or for the millionth time, and being taken back in time. Really quiet moments surrounded by the people you love most. Days that start with first round job interviews and end with signed job offers. The million little things that I forget when my anxiety catches up to me, and I fall into my well.

Today, I am thankful for Bobcaygeon, and for my high school sweetheart, wherever he may be.

I wonder how Rosaline felt?

I’ve always hated Romeo and Juliet.

There. I said it.

It’s the play that introduced me to Shakespeare – I honestly don’t recall not knowing it. It’s the first play I studied, the only play that I can remember rhyming couplets for, and I hate it. I thought the idea is ridiculous – I think that Romeo is a player, that Juliet is an airhead, and that they both need to learn to communicate (now, I have to wonder what my tenth grade teacher would have graded for a paper with that opinion….)

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I fell in love with Baz Luhrmann’s version of Romeo and Juliet when it came out. I don’t think I’ll ever look at a fish tank the same way. Need a reminder?

But I only ever liked watching it until the balcony scene. And I’d take County Paris (aka Paul Rudd) any day over Romeo. Especially when that Romeo was played by Leonardo DiCaprio. But it always seemed ridiculous to me, even as a girl. Even when I was a girl in love for the first time… I couldn’t imagine anything like this. Who falls in love at first sight? And what kind of idiots get married after only speaking for twenty minutes? Rosaline got off easy, I thought, escaping an idiot like that.

I was either born jaded or pragmatic.

I can say this, about the Bard’s play. When I was 18, I had one of my most memorable kisses to some of his lines.

I went to South Korea with a TaeKwon Do group when I was 18. If I had to do this by memory (and I do at the moment), I’d say that there was 25 of us. No one really knew me – I had never competed, and when I went for my first black belt I was a stranger. There had been glimpses as I received my instructor’s certification, but in this group that I found myself in, I was a stranger (minus my Master, her son, and another woman from my hometown group). I gravitated to the only person I knew outside of our group – a man from High Prairie. I honestly don’t remember how we met, or his name. But there was a small group from High Prairie with him, and I happened to hit it off with a fellow by the name of Jordan.

With this being so many years ago, I don’t remember much about Jordan, either. I remember his crooked grin. His height. I think there may have been a tattoo? He definitely had spiked hair, and I was definitely senior to him belt-wise… but that’s all I really remember. Anyways. We hit it off. Lots in common. We talked a lot in Seoul. One of the first nights we were there, we left the group as we were walking back from our nightly excursion. I think that we had decided that Seoul was a safe city (if you’ve heard me talk about this trip, I’m still shocked that we all made it back alive and unstabbed), and we snuck into a park near our hotel. We found a fountain under the strange trees, and for whatever reason, Romeo and Juliet came up. He asked if I knew the party scene, I said yes. He asked if I knew the lines that lead up to the first kiss (can you see where this is going? I was so young) – of course. I recited “Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.”

And of course he knew the next bloody line and of course I got kissed in a strange park in Korea. I wouldn’t know Jordan if I saw him on the street now, and I don’t know where he is in the world, but I remember that kiss.


Right now there is a lot of darkness. I tripped and fell headfirst into the well and I’m surrounded by darkness. I don’t sleep a lot. I lay away and think about all of the circumstances, about my next steps, and freaking Romeo and Juliet. I’ve been alone for a long, long time. And part of my brain thinks that the darkness wouldn’t be so bad if I wasn’t alone in it. Because, while I have amazing friends and family and an epic support system… when the night comes, I’m still facing the blackness alone. I know that it takes time and it happens when you aren’t looking… but man. I’ve looked, and I haven’t looked. I’ve worked on myself, I did the thing, I bettered myself… and it’s been 3 years, with minor bumps on the way.

3 years alone is a long, long time. 3 years without being able to whisper secrets and inside jokes is… harder than I can possibly put into words. I’ve been crying a lot this week. In rose bushes and in rocks beside hot tubs. In a front garden, hidden by trees and rocks. Even into my cat’s fur. The darkness frightens me, and being alone in it… doubles it. I drank a lot of Irish whiskey to help me sleep last week – after telling a friend I was done drinking the pain, I haven’t done it once this week. My dreams are unsettling, and I’m sleeping less than 5 hours a night.

I always though that Roseline, Romeo’s unpictured infatuation, got off really, really lucky. Nights like tonight I wonder – maybe she was trying to be proper. Who wouldn’t want the romantic knight of Verona, from one of the best families in town? Maybe she was bashful, and followed the rule book, and returned Romeo’s infatuation in her own quiet way. And then had to learn to survive without her love. That’s the key, right, to survive the play without being stabbed or committing suicide or poisoned or being baked into a pie (no, really, that happens in Titus Androcius). Maybe Roseline got Paris, in the end, but maybe her heart was just broken. Where can you go when your heart has been broken, and there doesn’t seem to be a salve? How many times can it break, before you finally just need to brick it shut and hope for the best?

I have a very wise friend, someone I’ve known since kindergarten. As I’ve been descending into the darkness, I’ve been confiding my terror and sadness to her. “It’s a tunnel,” she tells me, over and over again. “All of this is a tunnel, blocking you from the light. You’re halfway through the tunnel and the light is far away, but tunnels end. This is the purpose of tunnels. They. Have. To. End.”

I can’t wait for my tunnel to end. I’m ready to leave the darkness. Ready to be one of the lovers, rather than wonder about Roseline.