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Re-emerging, ever so gently... 

If you have found this, you are indeed intrepid! This is a quiet little post, a sneak up on ya' kind of thing as I gently test the waters for coming back out and making  the music again. It has been an intense few months.
Well, it's been intense since March 14 in fact, when I found out the work world I had been building up for so many years was just going to go away. Ok, maybe it took months to fully come to that conclusion, but the loss of immediate work, all on one day, as I gave my first and last show at Toast on Bloor,  was a gut punch. I am a worker bee. I stay busy and do whatever I must to keep the lights on in this metropolis I was born and bred in.

I use an actual book book for a calendar, a Moleskin with ink pen and a highly sophisticated highlighter code for keeping my various workings organized- blue for meetings, green for weird money J.O.B.'s, pink for teaching.  I use purple for gigs because it's a solid colour to align with artistic pursuits. I used to have just a bit of purple, not necessarily every week.  When the Covid hit, I had a lot of purple. I had been slowly adding in gigs around the city, moving the show out of town, building up a case for needing to play more, to purple more.

I left all the colours in my book where they were. I was a few months ahead. I started an on-line show, All The Fridays, but used yellow to indicate some sort of temporary state as I had an inability to see this as a normal, new way of life. Slowly all the colours disappeared from my Moleskin and I was left with just this yellow.

Yellow is a tricky colour. It's the colour used for the self-confidence chakra, if you are into that (I am). But it's also used as a 'get the hell out of here' colour in the corporate world. Subway does not want you to stay for longer than to eat their 'food', so they make use of the vibrant yellow. Not the muted yellows- those say other things. But the highlighter yellow?? It kind of yells at you, as its' meant to do in the highlighting game.

So I 'got the hell out' in a September break that was meant to be for just a month.  All the colour from my book, gone. It is still my calendar. I use it as my history of what I am up to and, increasingly, as a Zoom etc. organizer. I am still a bit in denial and have not colour coded the Zoom meetings yet. I will. The colour will return. I will return.

September turned into October, as it is right now whilst I type. The last few months I have spent upgrading sound equipment, swearing at the process of upgrading sound equipment, shouting, crying and then just  breathing deeply into the brave new world and knowing it's the way ahead. I have also been courting the muse a bit here, writing poetry a bit there and sometimes, forgetting about how the world is now.

I was on a bike ride the other day and kind of forgot about COVID for a great deal of minutes. That was quite enjoyable. Sometimes there is a quick intake of breath and I re-realize I have left whatever I was building, in the way that I was building it, behind. It's a mix of grief and weird relief and confusion. A strange emotional cocktail that feels like one endless hangover from a live lived before the winds of change blew in a far less poetic manner than the phrase suggests. Gut punch in March, resignation here and now in October.

The colour will come back to my trusty Moleskin very soon. And it will be purple, damn it! 

Thanks Dad 

On April 23rd in 2014, my Dad died.

It was the year of the big ice storm and, I will say, not my favourite Christmas ever. No one was in their homes, it was so cold and confusing and was not the best 'last' Christmas to have with Dad.

I have been thinking of him so much lately, wondering just how unamused he would be by being unable to watch hockey and curling. Unable to go out. I think of him all the time really, every time I need a match. It's funny the things you want to keep when you lose someone. I have an odd collection of ties, keys, endless watches, for some reason, and matches. I am a bit of a squirreler awayer, like my Dad, so I inherited his eclectic collection of little chattels. And many posters from his days as at lithographer. He had a great eye and taught me how to see things. I always told him he was an artist, he always said he was a tradesmen.

We were both right.

I also really appreciate the slice of our history and this city's history that the matches bring to life. Weddings and anniversaries. Cottage country keepsakes. Scarborough hot spots like O'Tooles and Watt's. And the downtown Toronto 70's/80's era finds bring back beautiful memories.

Our family loved restaurants. My parents raised us in every ethnically diverse restaurant they could find. I don't remember ever not knowing how to use chopsticks. We would often be the only white family in the Chinese restaurants in the Midland/Sheppard area. When my Dad discovered the Russian restaurant Barmalay's at Bay and Elm, we tried to go there with everyone. It was a wild ride, very fun.

And the matches from the Big Bop! Ha. Probably from when Mom and Dad came to see me play upstairs at Holy Joe's. Match book memory ephemera. It's just a whole other way of remembering, very decade specific. When I see matches these days I grab them almost nostalgically.

The picture of my Dad, one of my favourites, used to hang- may very well still hang- from the ceiling at Alterna Credit Union out in Scarborough. Fitting. Dad grew up on the Danforth, married a gal from Timmins and made a great life for a fortunate brood of kids in the just-starting-to-grow suburbial Scarborough. I always liked that his beautiful, cheery smile welcomed people in a the heartland of Scarborough.

The internet often thinks I am from Timmins. People often think it's Toronto proper. When I correct them I say I am a proud Scarb.

Thanks Dad. I miss you so much, we all do. XO

 

 

See You Soon TO 

I am in the HUGE Atlanta airport on the way home.

No heroic sprint this time, just good coffee and a nap. Had shrimp and grits in the New Orleans airport to say good bye properly. I am happily exhausted and won’t make sense of it all for a few days.

The Folk Alliance Conference has been a blast and was well worth using as a cover to return to Nola. These pics are mostly of the perfect last night party at Tipitina’s, a fitting finale to some perfectly magical trip.

Yesterday was a challenge and a success, a swing and a miss and a lemonade making day. Heard some fantastic music in the morning, all local artists, got my muffuletta from Napoleon House, my last French Truck Coffee and a hilarious end of night personal Bourbon St promenade. But my car rental fell through and that meant no Lower 9th Ward visit. Totally frustrating. I have never had a car on New Orleans and was looking forward to tooling around and seeing things. I admit it- I had a little cry. Averaging 4 hours of sleep for a week will do that to you. But I solved it through my tears and then made some new ones.

I will post more this week to flesh out some of the best moments but the flight is being called and I must make my way from 10 plus to, according to my phone, 1 plus. Back to reality, my bed, my country and no more counting pennies. See you soon TO.

Hola from NOLA! 

Hola from NOLA! 

When last I posted, I had breakfasted on beignets and beer. I still stand behind that as a breakfast choice. I mean, not all the time but when in Nola, roam like you’re not home, eat to the beat and, well, rhyme when you have time.

So much has happened in so many darn days. Big long walks down Magazine, musical Frenchman wanders, watching my old, insanely gifted guitar friend Alex McMurray kill it a few nights in a row, solo and with his ban The Tin Men. This town is the land of passive music. You have to work hard not to hear live sounds around you. I am full of second line rhythms, have had a good tuba feed.

My friend Jenn went home but now I have an entire community of musicians to replace her. The Folk Alliance Conference is a big, overwhelming affair with so much music on tap that I keep forgetting I am in my favorite town. I have glided from room to room and taken in crazy amounts of music in showcases in hotel ballrooms but the magic happens later when you are squished you in impossibly tiny hotel rooms hearing people you did not know existed in this world and wondering how you lived so long without them.

I am taking a breather on a conference hallway floor. Someone is warming up their accordion to play a zydeco set and I can hear Suzy Vinnick working her magic down the hall. It’s a nice bubble, a perfect Brigadoon of music and culture. It will end. And to say I don’t miss my bed or the idea of eating vegetables ( The City that Health Forgot) would be a lie. But I still have some rooms to cram my hungry music ears into and a whole Sunday ahead of me before I board the return trip.

I have some ambition for tomorrow. Muffulettas, Tipatina’s, Cafe du Monde, again. But I will go on my own little pilgrimage to the Lower 9th Ward to pay my respects to all the life lost during Katrina. The bonne temps do roullez but I need a a visit the new normal that is this city.  See you when that is done.

See you when that is done.

Oysters for breakfast 

Oysters for breakfast, oh yes we did.

I am having a delightful time doing the memory parade here in New Orleans. I am here with my also photo averse friend Jennifer Bouman. We hang out here a few decades back and are having many giggle filled moments. Walking through Frenchman St remembering the characters and citizens like Kenny Claighbourn. We were chatting about the likelihood of him still being here when we look up to see him idlyling towards us.

That is kind of how the city works in its own mysterious way. It gives you what you may or may now want in a delightful and random way.

We had a grand catch up and continued on. Before he arrived we were actually looking for the R Bar when we found him. We found ourselves there many hours later. It was a great dive bar in our day and that has not changed. Also, there was always a barber chair to trip over in the doorway. Still there. Only difference, last night someone got a nice haircut. It was Haircut Monday, apparently. We had a nice easy day listening to jazz we stumbled on, after oysters we craved, and sidewalks we stomped on. It ended with a drive through the French Quarter home.

Over and out.

Day One Done 

Well and well, day one and done. Architecture, parade one, tuba brass etc, Baby Dolls(!!!). Abita beer, a bar called Bud Rips, a bar that is gentrified now but once did not allow women or any non-whites and one night I jumped behind a bar because knives busted out and oh!, a Mardi Gras Indian at parade number Two, a tiny, perfect very New Orleans appropriate neighbourhood library and a visit to my old apartment, sigh. So much. So far back in time. In the end, I think I really, really conquered my 10,000 steps.

  

I have landed! 

I have landed.

Wow it was snowy at Pearson last night. I was amazed we took off at all. We did lose an hour to de-icing, so that was fun. Lots of people lost their connections in Atlanta. I was insanely determined to not be that person. I had 20 mins to orient myself in a HUGE airport, find a down escalator, jump on a train, change into my run-friendly shoes, find up escalators after only finding down ones, find I went wrong way, turn around and, like a great movie, I could see Gate 30 and I literally (correct usage, I guarantee) had 2 minutes to cover 7 gates.

Success, wheeze, wheeze...they have my aisle seat away, but I got on the plane darn it. Found a shuttle. Listened to the driver’s familiar, distinctive New Orleans patter.

I landed on the biz side of the Quarter but I spent my first night in the 9th Ward so I took my first walk across the Quarter in years. It looks a little ragged for my memory but she has been through much- we should all wish to age so well. I was strategically passing by Cafe du Monde but the line-up was insane. I will sait that deep craving later today. Grabbed pizza and my first walking beverage- an Abita Amber.

I am home. At least home to a part of me.

I believe I will find her in a few hours, right behind a tuba. In the meantime, I am hanging with my photo-averse Mom-South SueSue and her many cats and ridiculously good coffee. I slept well to the sounds of string winds and boats moving through the very canal that caused such havoc so long ago. It’s a good start.

Night Before 

Here is a little opening blog about symmetry. I sit here on Jan 17th, one more sleep away (snow storm willing) of heading to New Orleans for the first time in 17 years. I like it. It's even- even with two odd numbers. Auspicious start to a trip I have wanted to take for so long. I have been to this magical city many times. Why did I even first visit, you may ask. Hmm. It goes way back to my youth. One year of university under my belt, I still felt a bit lost. In Canada that usually means one of two things- you go to Europe or to Banff. Some of my friends went Europe, my friend Jan and I went Banff. Loved it. Loved the mountains and the whole very West of where I grew up-ness of it all. I did many jobs there and one was as a host for corporate bus tours. Happened to work one such gig and met a father/ son team from New Orleans. They were very sure I should visit New Orleans, that it would make a difference.  Had never thought about that town til then. We, the son and I, corresponded for awhile and before I knew it, I was headed there for Mardi Gras. There is no short way fo making sense of Mardi Gras or New Orleans or any of it really. I had this first visit and the seed was planted. The city has become a sort of North Star for me. It came out of nowhere and eventually I lived there for a few years and I feel I came of age- again- there. You can shed your innocence many times. You can pick many stops along the line of growing up for tossing out what no longer fits, for taking on new looks. I did a whole bunch of that there and most of it I did while dancing, while following tubas down streets and not caring what I was 'supposed' to be doing. Instead, I followed my heart, my intuition, my energy. It led to some crazy places. Living there was constantly surreal. I was out of my city, province, country and often out of my mind. I spent lots of time trying to figure out if I was dealing with a US/Canada thing, a Southern thing, a black/white thing. Sometimes it was a songwriter in a groove town thing. I rode the very insane wave that it was until I could no longer then I came home. I have always said that New Orleans is where you go to discover your inner cartoon character and I think mine was Observer Girl. At least then. I was very quiet about being a musician. so it worked for me. I got to listen without performance expectations.  I needed that. I was in recovery from leaving a band that had somehow defined me. I needed out of all musical boxes and that was the town to do it in. It was easy to be Observer Girl. Fill up a glass, go up and down Bourbon St and listen to real, live musicians carve out sound. Loved it. Loved all the time I spent there, but it ended. Not so much by my choice, but I feel like it ran its course. That does not mean it was easy leaving. Nope. I did, but I still think about that city every damn day. So, this trip must happen. First time in 17  years. I am going back after Katrina so I will take some time to honour that lose. And I am just excited to walk the streets and run into the me that felt like a few years in a wild setting would set me free and open my heart and mind. So, I am poised to leave in a bunch of hours and look forward to all the who's and what's I will run into. I will keep you posted. 

And so it begins... 

Welcome! 

New venture, adventure here. I know, I know, I know- there are so many blogs out there. I get that. I know Instagram, Twitter, Tick Tock etc are the way people get their words and even more popularly, images, around. Well, this is where I am at right now so if you are interested you will read, if not you won’t. I will write, one way or the other. Not totally even sure what the themes will be. But I need to start somewhere. I am headed to New Olreans in January . Seems a great place to start. 

See you as this unrolls, as my ramblings turn into Rumball-ings. 
Michelle