merry christmas larry

Hi Hon, Merry Christmas!

I think I’ve done it! I’ve pretty much managed to get through my first holiday season on my own. It’s been tough for me but I’m managing to perservere.

I’ve put a small tree up but have not had the stomach or heart to go through our ornaments yet. Mom and Dad gave me some glass ornaments from my childhood and I have used them as well as the ornament we bought together last year. A local artisan, JB Styles has made some custom ornaments for me too that I will hang with pride for years on OUR tree. I also hung the lit wreath and the two small trees outside so I have done SOME decorating, I just haven’t had “it” in me to go further.

The toughest part of this year so far has been that I wasn’t able to see Mom, Dad, Stephen, Dana and the kids before they travelled this year, the winter storm pretty much put a stop to that – heck there still isn’t power in Mom and Dad’s section of Ajax…I offered to have them stay with me but they said no. It’s tough not having my family around at Christmas, while I’m surrounded by folks who genuinely love and care for me, I have never felt so alone.

I’m going for dinner at the Mandarin with the Prime Timers tomorrow if I’m feeling human. You always enjoyed our Christmas dinners at Mandarin, so I will try to have some Singapore Noodles in your honour.

Sunny and Chloe are doing okay, Chloe especially, although Sunny is showing the signs of his age, he’s getting thinner and slower and doing a lot of lying down. I suspect he will be joining you and Tia soon – I only hope he falls asleep and never wakes up. Aaron is looking after them during the day, when he’s healthy, however he has been diagnosed with diabetes and also lymphoma (yup – cancer) due to the medications they have him on. So it’s been a continued tough go for him, Jeff and Michele and they need whatever love and support we can give them.

I’ve managed to keep myself busy with music this year, the CD release went really well and we’ve sold a bunch of copies. It’s even moreso special that you are our cover boy for this one and when friends recognize you and comment, it really makes me happy. David has been up twice and we managed to do a set in each of the Gay Men’s Chorus’ shows…

The Gay Men’s Chorus shows went really well and the Christmas concerts this year were dedicated in your memory – the boys managed to play keep away with the program from me until late on the second show – I teared up massively when I saw it.

As we were preparing to hit the stage for the St. Catharines show, Drake Jensen messaged me with the press release for his version of Here Comes Santa Claus as he and Michael are donating the profit from the song to Santa Canada in your name. Cue massive water works.

Church has been good for me, both singing at St. Paul’s and becoming a member of Laidlaw Memorial. While I still take issue with a good chunk of Christian doctrine and the abuses I’ve suffered in the past due to organized religion, I have found support, love and solace with both members of the St. Paul’s choir AND in Rev. Doug and the congregation at Laidlaw.

Jeff and Leslie are incredible as always and we’ve been working together in the way you hoped we would. We’ve been good for one another and they are continuing to learn from your life’s work and teachings. Your white robes were worn at Yule this year and they made a lovely addition to the evening. Jeff looked so regal in them.

Santas Bob (Boyter and Garvin) have been so incredible and supportive, I’m enjoying working with them on continuing to grow Santa Canada and they are also helping me come to terms with surviving the season. I got to visit Bob Boyter at the “office” and realized that you’d be so happy with the log cabin they built for storytime with Santa, I wish you could have seen it – it’s truly magical! Speaking of Santas, your various suits and boots are continuing spreading the joy and love of the season with the various Santas wearing them. There may even be two new real bearded Santas next year in David and Hal…you continue to work your magic!

It’s so funny that it’s the little things I miss, the kiss and hug when I get home from work, holding your hand when we watch TV, the look of anticipation on your face when Cindy or Anne delivered your waffles to you at the Cannon…

Merry Christmas hon, I miss you so much.

Myke

myke’s holiday 2013 faq

Dear friends,

I thank you all for your love, support and general concerns about my well being, particularly over the holiday season. Between Larry’s death (sorry folks, I refuse to use “passing” or some other bogus euphemism – let’s call it for what it is) and my being unable to join my family in Arizona for Christmas due to work obligations…it’s gonna be a difficult year this year.

However I am surrounded by the family I have built for myself throughout Hamilton over the years – not to mention my extended online family near and far… This being said I am growing weary of talking about myself and how I’m doing so here, for your edification and clarification, are the responses to a number of frequently asked questions.

1. Honestly, I’m doing as okay as possible, all things considered. Yes I have my moments, yes there are times when I just break down and cry, just as there are times when I want to scream till my throat burns, but I have to give myself these times and allow them to happen.
2. Yes it’s particularly hard during the holiday season, this was a time of year very special to Larry and I and quite honestly seeing Santa in the malls is really fucking difficult for me. Thankfully Santa Bob B. and Santa Bob G. have stepped up to the plate and made me comfortable in seeing the man and the image.
3. It’s doubly hard as my family will be away for the holidays and work obligations do not allow me to join them on Christmas Day, however good friends Paul and Roy have arranged for me to join them at Mandarin for a Chinese Christmas brunch – we shall see how human I actually feel!
4. Santa Canada continues to soldier on, and yes, running his charity is hard for me. Thankfully Santa Bob B. and Santa Bob G. have stepped up to the plate and are taking a good chunk of the stress off my shoulders and are helping Santa Canada move ahead. Thanks also to Drake Jensen for dedicating the funds from his sales of “Here Comes Santa Claus” to the charity. His and his husband Michael’s support means a lot to me.
5. Yes I’m keeping myself intentionally busy during the season. Between the Balderdash and Humbug CD release, singing at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church and the Hamilton Gay Men’s Chorus (concerts, various church services and carolling), it’s been a good season for me musically. I’ve also begun doing evenings of solo bass music in cafés and house concerts during the season; all of which is in preparation for…
6. table for one. continues to evolve and metamorphose into a statement of my life over the past few years. Several of the songs I had originally written have had to be shelved after Larry’s death, I’m looking at preliminary recording at some point early in the New Year – whether this is done in Hamilton or in North Carolina remains to be seen.
7. I’m astonished by the friendship and support of fellow musicians, including Drake Jensen, George Furlanetto, Jonathan Edwards, Jacob Moon, Steve Lawson, The Dave Barrett Trio, Kira Small, and Trip Wamsley. Thank you, all, for being so darned inspirational, so darned friendly and so darned supportive! Your music has helped lift up and heal this broken soul!

Thank you all for you care and support during this first holiday season on my own. I appreciate the concern and hope that these answers will assist in letting you know my frame of mind. Let’s just talk, folks, I want to talk about us and not focus so much on me these days.

it isn’t about me

Over my career as a bassist and singer, I’ve been forced to realize one inevitable fact about performing as a musician: my primary role is to serve the song, my secondary role is to entertain my audience.

In other words, for the bulk of my career, it isn’t all about me.

As much as I’d like to serve my ego and focus on showing off all my mad chops and abilities on the bass guitar and highlight my vocal prowess, first and foremost I am a servant to the song and the audience’s desires.

Which means as a freelance musician, I am asked to play songs I normally wouldn’t listen to recreationally, I am asked to sing and emote lyrics that make me uncomfortable. However as a working musician, I am willing to bend to a certain extent. There are some things I won’t do (blatantly misogynist, homophobic or racist lyrics) but sometimes one has to set their personal comfort aside to express art.

It’s a very simple equation – if I want to work, I have to be able to set my ego aside and force myself focus on each individual song’s goal and who the intended audience is. I treat all of my gigs in the same way – be it a recording session, singing in a church choir or a solo house concert!

As a founding member of Hamilton Gay Men’s Chorus, I have had to sing a number of songs that I feel support stereotypical views of gay culture. However I realize that as a chorus that has a focus on supporting the gay community and educating all areas about the diversity of Canada’s gay culture, I’d have to swallow my pride (ba dum bum) and sing these songs. The same way that our first cabaret, titled “Easter Gaybaret,” made me uncomfortable – however it served a purpose and helped establish our brand as a community organization.

Believe me, as a classically trained musician and singer who is also a heavy metal and honky tonk listening punk from the suburbs, I don’t meet the “typical” view of a gay man – I don’t particularly like Barbra Streisand or Bette Midler and my Broadway show tunes collection is extremely limited. However I realize that our chorus’ repertoire must reflect the views and experiences of all chorus members. This is why I joined the chorus’ artistic committee as a founding member, to ensure that every one has an equal chance to have a part of the soundtrack to their lives heard!

While some of the members may initially chafe due to the song selection and perhaps even the themes of the shows, they understand it represents a broader spectrum and that they can realize that their voices can be heard as well if they engage.

As a performer there is always a certain amount of ego involved and sometimes that ego can bruise due to the demands placed upon it. I am constantly reminding my ego that it can’t always be about me and I work on serving each performance to my utmost. When the time comes when it is all about me, it allows my ego a chance to savour that moment even more!

myke’s book club: autobiographical reading list

One way I’ve learned how to get to know people better is to read the books that resonate with them and those that have shaped the person they have become. Reading these books often gives me insight into the people I know and love and also provides a common ground upon which we can converse.

I want to understand better how my friends think, I want to have a glimpse into what moves them and makes them feel. For my friends who are consummate readers, reading what they have read and what books they feel are apocryphal and cornerstones in their lives allows me to share in one small piece of their past and reflect on shared knowledge and ideas.

For those who care and want to get to know me better, I will recommend starting with these choices.

Wolf of Shadows – Whitley Streiber – a children’s book about the possible realities of nuclear war and what the survivors would be dealing with in the aftermath, as told from the perspective of an alpha wolf. A chilling yet touching account about the need to find family and loyalty, no matter what form it takes, in time of hardship.

The Giver – Lois Lowry – the first time a book really slapped me upside the head and made me think about myself and my role in life differently. This book discusses the power of knowledge and the importance that the pursuit of love, choice, knowledge and expression can be full of danger. To choose between consistency and safety in exchange for the likelihood of shallow simplicity or freedom, expression and knowledge in exchange for the chance of being hurt in the ensuing chaos.

Most folks who know me well enough know that I bear my battle scars with pride and honour.

The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway – Another examination on the choice between individuals to choose a risky life of artistic freedom and expression versus the tragedy of decadence and decline of strong values. The latter part of the story focuses on a character living with troubled masculine values as the main character Jake is constantly struggling with his impotence and his relationships with other men as well as the women in his life.

Considered to be perhaps Hemingway’s greatest work, it also shows his personal flaws as women are depicted as weak or prostitutes and it also depicts a kind of anti-Semitism that is pervasive in his handling of the lone Jewish character in the story, wherein the reader is constantly reminded in the most vulgar manner that the character is Jewish.

Microserfs – Douglas Coupland – This book is a scarily accurate reflection of my life from 1996 to 2000, when I worked in the technology field. Each one of the main characters has a direct analogue in my life and my personal growth and value system grew much like Daniel’s in the story.

Coupland’s use of epistolary format as well as stream of consciousness lists were key influences for my song and prose writing processes – for better or worse.

The Real Frank Zappa Book – Frank Zappa – An iconoclast writing about himself with little pretense of ego and a surprisingly honest level of self-awareness about his own personal foibles and short comings.

A Massive Swelling – Cintra Wilson – Ms. Wilson examines celebrity and celebrity culture as a grotesque crippling disease through a collection of essays focusing on America’s obsession with celebrity culture and the desire to obtain celebrity status. These essays are brutally honest and opinionated, as much as Ms. Wilson’s writings tend to be, and focus on media and celebrity culture as being a “machine” that uses artists for a period of time, discarding them once they become unprofitable.

Written over thirteen years ago, I would love to see a new edition with updates showing more current cultural trends and an examination of recent casualties of the celebrity machine…

Illusions – Richard Bach – Is reality an illusion that we create ourselves to help us learn and enjoy life? Two pilots meet in a field in Midwest America. While Bach’s books tend to be shallow and overly simplistic, Illusions helped me get through a tough time by forcing me to realize that a number of barriers in my life were self-imposed and that only I had the ability to remove them.

It also reminded me that people really aren’t looking for the deeper meaning behind the unexplained miracles, but are merely looking for a quick fix or entertainment, whereupon the miraculous are rendered as meaningless and empty as illusions.

I have spent my life attempting to dispel the illusions in search of meaning and possible miracles.

The Music Lesson – Victor Wooten – Victor is an incredible bassist. Victor is an incredible musician. Victor is an incredible educator. Victor is an incredible human being. This book combines all four aspects in a fictional narrative which explains his philosophy regarding the creation and performance of music as a fundamental of existence.

This book is definitely NOT for everyone as he often teeters towards the mystical, however Victor highlights that music is found everywhere – be it in the chaotic hustle and bustle of the city, to animal tracks on the forest floor. It just takes time to allow one to quiet oneself and listen. However, if you want to take a chance and reflect on what the act of making music or art means to you, then try reading The Music Lesson. It helped renew while reinforcing my beliefs about music and finding beauty in unlikely places as an artist.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog – Muriel Barbery – A beautiful story about two individuals who feel the need to hide their intelligence, depth of knowledge and emotional perception. The two characters have done so to shield themselves from the disapproval of others who are made uncomfortable by people existing outside of societal and bourgeois norms. One is an apartment caretaker of low social status, the other is a precocious and perceptive child who befriends the caretaker and reaches a level of mutual understanding.

This book reflects how I often felt throughout high school and university, having to conceal several aspects of my true self, in order to find social acceptance and a feeling of security, realizing later that doing so is only to my detriment.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist – Mohsin Hamid – An incredible story, told as a first person monologue, about a young man emigrating from Pakistan to the United States in hopes of finding the American dream, but finding quite the opposite after the events of September 11, 2001. The story explores how someone can go from believing in the American dream to the realization that he has become a servant of an empire which has constantly interfered and manipulated his homeland.

My Bass and Other Animals – Guy Pratt – Guy Pratt is known as a session bassist, having played with Pink Floyd, Roxy Music, Michael Jackson and Robbie Robertson. In the early 2000’s he began writing a one-man music/comedy show with the same title as this book, which debuted at the Edinburgh Festival in 2005. In 2007, this humourous memoir was released.

Guy’s memoir made me realize once again that as a working musician, that music should be both serious and fun at the same time. He provides a balanced and honest view of what session life can be like, including the drunken escapades and personalities behind the music. He makes no apologies for his life, the opportunities handed to him and the mistakes he made along the way. I aim to emulate his honesty, I aim to achieve his abilities on the instrument, I respect him for both qualities.

August Farewell – David G Hallman – the most recent addition to this list. I’ve already “reviewed” this one earlier on my blog, so I’ll recommend you check it out!