Why Can’t Things Be Better?


I’m not leaving. I hope! Holding on, hanging in, so far. Esteemed filmmaker friends Charles Wilkinson and Tina Schliessler are currently working on No Fixed Address, a documentary about Vancouver’s housing crisis, though they refer to it as a “housing situation.” Call it what you will, I’m determined to remain in my beloved Vancouver, though I’m not sure how. My son and I are paying $1250. a month for a one-bedroom apartment in East Vancouver, just off Commercial Drive, reasonable apparently, though I wish I could reduce our living expenses. Even with some help and while working my ass off, we are barely scraping by. Because the cost of living is high too. If only we could quit eating.  Sharing such a small space is getting old as well but at least Junior has an exit plan. I don’t.

I love this neighbourhood. It’s where I launched as an artist, sharing a funky, rambling house with band mate and Zellots drummer Conny Nowe near 34th and Victoria.  $400. a month bought us a yard, driveway, fireplace, kitchen, dining room, pantry and four bedrooms. The scene of many festivities, we converted the basement into a rehearsal space. My boy was born in another funky East Van pad near 1st and Victoria 22 years ago. I’ve lived in this city most of my adult life, resent the fact that I might be forced out. The property management company that runs my building insists that tenants sign a new lease each year wherein they raise the rent to whatever  amount they like. At the rate of $50. per lease renewal I won’t be able to afford to stay. I’d like to settle, focus on work and writing but will need to move again in the not-too-distant future.

Many friends have already left, for the suburbs or even the prairies, especially if they want to own a home. I could go back to the suburbs-grew up in Cloverdale-but I’d be going back. I need to be near the ocean, the wild and fantastic ocean. Perhaps I could move to Horseshoe Bay, or Lions Bay, clean houses in West Van and North Van. But, of course, finding anything cheaper will be a major challenge, perhaps impossible.

We shall see. There’s always a trade-off. Can’t have it all, etc. “Things could be worse.” Sure I’ve endured tough times, times when I had no place to live or enough food to eat but I’ve always responded with, “Why can’t things be better?”

I am trapped but cannot stay. Can I? It’s a huge dilemma. I know I’m not alone and Vancouver is just the latest city to be affected. The problem is global in scale. No solace in that, nor solution. Which obviously, is what I need. Gawd help us all. Maybe none of it matters. These are the end times, I am told, and if so constitute a whole other can o’ worms/blog entry.


Girls with Guitars…

…the emphasis on “girls.”


Working on the Zellots record with Jason Flower of Supreme Echo I’ve had to consider time’s inexorable march, how it treads upon our minds and bodies until nothing of us remains. Also, the folly of youth, the hubris of youth. We were so cavalier about the demo tape we were making, about the band we’d created and the songs we’d composed, cavalier to the point of losing the master and most cassette copies. Oh, and breaking up. We didn’t-perhaps couldn’t-appreciate what we had. The late Peter Draper did a stellar job, recording we fools in the basement of our house/rehearsal space near the corner of 34th and Victoria. I can’t recall where or how he mixed it but lucky for us Peter was a very talented guy. Also fortunately, Jason Flower is a hardcore music nerd, driven in fact to seeking us out and resurrecting our group despite scant traces of its existence. I get the impression it’s like a treasure hunt for Jason. In that spirit and though likely a long shot, we’re going to try to track down a copy of the Lenore Herb video for the launch party. No date yet but the new master is currently in the Czech Republic being pressed. I’m as excited as a teenager about to play her first gig!


Out of Cloverdale


Ah, nostalgia, a distraction and nearly impossible to avoid as one gets older. I posted this photo yesterday and my friend Tracy said I looked defiant, an interesting take. I thought I looked pensive but indeed I was defiant, had to be. I don’t idealize my childhood. It was rough, but, it was childhood. According to George Eliot, “We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it.” The kingdom of childhood and as dominated as I was by parents, peers and school, I was its ruler. I ran wild in the woods every spare moment, neighbourhood kids foolishly following me up trees, onto rafts, into tunnels and whatever sort of mischief we could dig up. As a teenager I rebelled. Or, fought back. Mom and Dad began drinking in earnest and an already harrowing home life became necessary to dodge. I cared about nothing but my friends and getting high, though loved to argue, vehemently, in bars and kitchens, railing against sexism and injustice. Somehow I managed to complete high school and several years of post-secondary education before running off to join the punk rock circus. I don’t dwell on regrets and I’m not certain my defiance has delivered me, but it got me out of Cloverdale.


Old Man Winter refuses to leave! Plus, a little good news.

Image: News 1130
Image: News 1130

Vancouverites, including me, are freaking out. Seriously, many sidewalks and streets are frozen over, wreaking injuries and havoc. My livelihood is impacted, especially on snow days when the city goes into virtual lock down. It’s snowing right now. No end in sight. I wish it would remain on the mountains, where it belongs. I keep thinking how this is exactly the weather we needed for the Olympics in 2010, when it rained instead and they were forced to manufacture the white stuff.

I suppose global warming could be causing Vancouver to freeze. Oh well, we must be intrepid. And brave, carry on as best we can, do the things we think we cannot do. I’m trying hard to take life day by day and not freak out. More challenges and upheaval. C’est la vie. Happy New Year!

Some good news; the Zellots record release on Supreme Echo appears imminent; in the spring perhaps. I hope! Thanks to  supreme human being and music freak Jason Flower.


Honour the living…

Candye, me, Maritza & Teresa. Photo: Josef Roehrl

…join our Be Kind to the Living Club.

Lots of ill will toward 2016, many expressing relief at its impending demise. I came across an article that suggests blaming a year is like blaming God. Anthropomorphism certainly, but we have endured and lost more than most arbitrary passages of time including my dear friend Candye Kane. Yesterday I posted; “I wish people would pay tribute before someone dies,” and it has elicited quite a response. Paulette Turcotte suggested we should start a club. “What would we call it,” I replied, “Be Kind to the Living?” Alice Major said, “Well, we all need deadlines to get things done.” So funny, so true. I do find it hypocritical, and irritating, to watch people bash each other until one passes, when suddenly, he or she is a saint.

The discussion evolved into the types of send-offs we imagine upon reaching our expiry date. My inclination is to slip out quietly; have my body cremated and no funeral, or whatever they’re called these days. I won’t be there so what’s the point? If I leave any legacy it will be my son and perhaps some writings.

Stephen Roxborough reminded me that he produced an anthology devoted to bill bisset called Radiant Danse Uv Being. “An eclectic, energetic tribute to one of our most courageous and unconventional writers.” It is also beautiful and I was privileged to attend the launch, with bill and all his admirers. In fact, I had money then and purchased one of his “excellent” paintings which still illuminates my living room.

And as host, producer and musical director Mark Bignell pointed out, he honours our musical heroes on his CFRO Bandcouver show every week and female artists-including moi/AURAL Heather-on She-Boom!.

Then Jason Flower chimed in with, “I pay tribute to Heather Haley!” Yes! Jason and his record label, Supreme Echo are soon to release my first band the Zellots on vinyl. For two years we tried to track down the master tape of the demo, to no avail so wound up using a beat up old cassette I’d been carrying around for decades. Apparently his engineer “Josh of Octic Sound,” pulled off a miracle and managed to restore the songs. Designers are currently working hard to do the same with a gig poster and other printed materials. Better late than never. I’m so grateful and indeed feel appreciated.


“Where the Nights are Twice as Long” reading on the longest night of the year


How cool is that? Love Letters for Winter Solstice! On Wed, Dec, 21 at the Vancouver Public Library I, along with Daphne Marlatt, George Bowering, Christine Lowther, RC Weslowski, Jane Eaton Hamilton and Renee Saklikar will share love letters and epistolary poems published in Where the Nights Are Twice As Long (Goose Lane). With a “musician prelude.” I will have to find out more about that.

This lush, hefty, gorgeous book came out in 2014. Well received, it’s nice to finally celebrate its deliverance in Vancouver. Better late than never as they say. “Here are odes and lyric ecstasies, tirades and tantrums, pastoral comforts and abject horrors – all delivered with the vibrancy, wit, and erudition of our finest poets. Under the covers of Where the Nights Are Twice As Long, David Eso and Jeanette Lynes collect letters and epistolary poems from more than 120 Canadian poets, including Pauline Johnson, Malcolm Lowry, Louis Riel, Alden Nowlan, Anne Szumigalski, Leonard Cohen, John Barton, Di Brandt, and many others, encompassing the breadth of this country’s English literary history.”

Kudos and congratulations Dave and Jeanette! I know how hard and how long they worked on it, and I’m thrilled to be included, though I do get squeamish at the thought of such intimacy on full display. However it will appeal to the voyeur that I believe resides within us all.


I wish it would rain!

Sorry, but I have to whine a little. We Lotus-Landers on the left coast have been hit with snow. Apparently we’re in for another week of this crap so I’m going to have to tamp down my trepidations, thaw out my Volvo and drive myself on my all-season tires to various gigs throughout the city. It’s not as if I can afford not to work. Ugh. I hate it when Old Man Winter visits Vancouver.


Goodbye Peter, goodbye Leonard


Peter Trower gave me this record when I was helping him close up his house in Gibsons. R.I.P. Leonard and sadly, Peter is suffering from Alzheimer’s, sequestered in an institution. I haven’t talked to him in a long time as he doesn’t know who I am. We met in 08 at a launch for ROCKsalt, the Mother Tongue Press anthology of BC poets, having beers after with Rob Taylor and Zach Wells. Peter regaled us with stories naturally including the time he got high with Cohen at a party in Kits. We became buddies. Moneyed then, I used to squire him around to various readings and events, including Leonard Cohen’s 2010 Vancouver concert. I miss Peter and will miss Cohen, whose songs and verse and constitute an integral thread in the fabric of my life. “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is the ash.”


Yankees Stay Home


Darlings I love you but it’s for your own good. Truly. And I don’t understand why you would desert your country when you believe it to be in crisis. Stay and fight.

Americans are still reeling, in shock over the U.S. election results. I had an uneasy feeling early on in the campaign that buffoon and blowhard Donald Trump would win. As an expat I had resided in the States for 12 years. I like Americans but they’re often unpredictable. I suspected they could go for his message, and they did. Canada’s immigration site crashed on election night and I’m dodging frantic messages and pleas from friends south of the border to come to Canada, one a musician offering to play guitar and another to help brick the wall Canadians are threatening to build. All in good humour of course though I think you Yankees need to stay home and deal with the reality (show) of a Trump presidency. It’s a veritable call to action. Work to oust him and change things, including reform or abolition of your Electoral College, which many are now blaming for the disaster. Never underestimate the enemy. It was hard to take Trump seriously, now Americans must.

Who’s Your Daddy? The latest from the geneological front


All right! Received my Family Finder test kit in the mail today. Results will match me with both maternal and paternal relatives. Perhaps I finally have a chance of tracking down the scoundrel that spawned me, or at least, some of his kin. My kin.

I’ve been on this quest for years, ever since my mother blurted out on her death bed, “Danny is not your real father you know.” I paid no attention as she was suffering from dementia, sliding in and out of lucidity, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. I pressed but could not get an answer. After she died, my “alleged father,” apparently the correct legal term, agreed to a DNA test which proved that he is not my biological father. My shock had worn off by then but he was and the first words out of his mouth were, “I never would have married her if I’d known,” which took me aback and I’m not sure why. She did lie, though I have a feeling that knowing my mother, she deluded herself into believing that of the possibilities, Danny was the father. The chosen. Poor guy. Poor me. Looking back I see what an awkward pairing it was.

These days it’s called paternity fraud. I imagine that in small-town Quebec there were few fates worse than unwed mother. Or, bastard. So Corona she did what she had to do. I went to Matapedia several times to talk to her family but none of them could remember anything, or anyone she might have been dating. It was so long ago. I believe she had every intention of taking the secret to her grave.

In any case, I’ve been working with an outfit called Family Tree DNA who claim to have the most comprehensive ancestry database in the world. I will swab my cheek today and return the envelope. Some detective work will be required but I have to admit, I’m excited! Plus, feeling optimistic, hopeful that the mystery of my paternity can be solved at last. We’re on our way, as the result directly impacts my son as well.

Watch out Papa, this intrepid redhead is coming for you.