in memoriam

To those who have passed afore me
I give remembrance.
Your sacrifices, your lives, your very being
I honour.

I can only hope that my actions
allow me to
stand as tall as you once did.
Inspiring, commanding.

Your spirits live in the hearts
of those who loved you.
Your memories echo in the minds
of those whom you touched.

May your rest aeternal grant you
the peace, knowing that
future generations continue to live, to love
all because of you.

I kneel before you and pay homage.
An act of supplication and submission.
Your wisdom continues to guide me.
Your memory rests its hand on my shoulder.

Today I remember.
Tomorrow I will never forget.
Until my time comes
and I join you in spirit.

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dear larry – a state of the union, four years later

Dear Larry,

Here I am four years after your passing.  I’m not sure if you’ve been following but it’s been a pretty busy year for me.

While I have a lot to feel accomplished and proud about, I still often feel I’m no further ahead than before.  I suspect this feeling of “Yeah but…what’s next?” will be continually present in my life for quite some time…but who knows?

I’m quite resolutely single.  There are special people in my life, however none of them have become someone to share my life with at this moment.  I know and feel love, but nothing even remotely close to what we had.  I’m content with that for the moment – despite the occasional pangs of almost crippling loneliness, Chloe and I are doing okay, facing the world together.

Chloe is doing well, she’s acclimatized to being an “only child” after Sunny passed and is enjoying the occasional visitor and trip to Grandmas!  She’s taking good care of me and continues to know instinctively when I need a little extra cuddle or quiet time.  Her seizures have diminished and only happen when things are really hot and she’s stressed out.

Mom’s doing okay, she’s coping with some issues with the house that Dad normally would have taken care of, but with the help of Stephen, Ivan, Jack Goldsmith and myself, I think she’s doing all right…despite the odd crowbar being thrown into plans.  Stephen, Dana and the girls are doing well – you’d be so proud of Hannah, she starts University in September and has decided to go to York.

Santa Bob is still in contact and we often chat together.  He and some of the other Santas have been a remarkable help and incredibly supportive of me as I heal, recover, learn and grow.  I suspect that Santa will be in my life in some form or another for quite some time.

After years of struggle, Bob and I finally had to call it a day with Santa Canada.  Too many people wanted to handle the visits and “glory work” but no one wanted to step up to the plate and handle the grunt work…it was a valiant effort by the Santas Bob and I but alas…

David is still my mentor, psychologist and “second dad” – it’s been a while since I’ve seen him in person, but we’re in regular contact to keep each other sane and laughing.  Doug, Dana and Mara are still amazing friends who keep me grounded and remind me that there will ALWAYS someone there “in case of emergency.”

Rev. Doug has become a great friend since you died.  His no-nonsense demeanour and solid grounding in faith is an anchor for me…you’d be so happy that Rev. Beyerl has taken me under his wing to ensure my studies that started with you have continued…I am blessed to be able to walk the fine line between Pagan and Christian.

While the Hamilton Gay Mens’ Chorus has disbanded, I still sing at St. Paul’s and my voice has grown stronger over the years.  It has helped me find my voice and strength in other areas of singing and I forever am thankful for Blair to have taken the chance on me as a singer.

I wish I could tell you how Cheryl, Melissa and the kids are doing, however they seem to be quite out of the picture and have not responded to attempts to contact them.  I guess I will now be “out of sight, out of mind.”

I suspect you know your cousin Elda has joined you on the other side of the veil and I hope you have had time to catch up and chat…

table for one. has been recorded and released.  It’s an audio document of my life while you were convalescing from cancer and then my recovery from the psychological and emotional devastation of your and Dad’s (and yes, Sunny’s) deaths.

I am happy to have it “out of me” and in the public eye and ear as it has allowed me to move on creatively.  It’s as if the stones blocking my pathway…

That being said, I’m still a basket case and unsure of what the future brings.  Work, despite being more peaceful now, seems to be up in the air and after almost 2 decades there, I am not sure of what I would desire for my future.  It’s very interesting as I know my future path is veering away from that direction but at the moment, I am unsure of where it will lead me.

Thank you for loving me when I was pretty near unlovable.  Thank you for believing in me when even I could not do so.  Thank you for picking up the broken pieces of my life and making me whole again.

I miss you.  I hope to continue to honour your memory.  I love you.

m.

expectations of privacy in public places

Over the past few days, I’ve had a series of interesting conversations with people about privacy and their rights.  Particularly with regard to having photographs or videos taken in public areas.

This is something that is interesting to me as I often work as a public figure (musician, family entertainer, clown and “cosplayer”) and control of how my public personae are presented is an important concept for me.

Rocky1

These days where everyone who has a phone has a camera and almost instant access to publishing the videos or photos they take, controlling one’s public image is becoming more and more difficult.  It has made me even more aware of how I behave and act in public and a lot of my focus when I’m “in character” is about how I am perceived.

One thing that IS clear is this:  In the modern age, if you are in a public area and dressed in what can be considered a “costume,” “getup” or “drag,” you should EXPECT to be photographed or stopped.

PEN Canada’s formal statement on photography in public places sums this issue succinctly:

“People are welcome to take pictures or film in malls, transportation centres, and the like, unless posted signs specifically prohibit it, or until they are requested to desist by a representative of the owners of the property.  In such an instance, though the owners or their representatives (such as a security guard) are within their right to request a halt to any further photographic activities, they have no legal right to force the deletion or destruction of photos that have already been taken.  The publication of these photos is a separate issue and may be affected by other applicable laws.”

Photography blog, Ambient Light, has a great guide to public photography laws which includes what one’s individual rights on privacy entail:

“You cannot photograph a person who has a ‘reasonable expectation of privacy‘. This is someone who believes that they are in a private location and no-one is watching them, such as a person in a bathroom.”

The key words here are “private location.”  On public property, like side walks and city streets.  Photographers can photograph anything that a normal person could see from public property.

In other words:  if you are in public, photographers are legally allowed to capture your image.  If you are at a public event or street fair and in some form of “costume” that makes you stand out from the crowd, you should expect to be photographed.  Yes, it would be preferable if they asked your permission, but it is not necessary for them to do so.

Where it can become an issue for you is if they use that photograph for commercial purposes.

On property that is privately owned, but open to the public, like malls, galleries, etc. Although you should ask before taking photos, if there aren’t any “no photography” signs, photos can be taken unless the photographer is told otherwise by the owner, property manager, security guard, or other representative of the owner.

This is why a number of events or conventions have recently added signs that state “cosplay does not equal consent.”  Most conventions have signs posted that state that people MUST ask for permission to take photographs of others, particularly cosplayers. With the recent boom in cosplay popularity, it became quite typical for people to “ambush” cosplayers and take pictures that were often less than flattering.  Prior to this a lack of rules around photography created the potential for cosplayers to be subject to unwanted physical contact and even abuse.

Many “adult-themed” events and locations now have a no-cameras rule to allow attendees a level of privacy.  Often only “sanctioned” photographers are allowed.

Theme parks like Disney actually have locations where one can get photographed with costumed characters.  This allows more “one-on-one” time for folks with their favourite characters and allows Disney to control the behaviour of the guests getting the pictures and video.

As someone who is often in the public eye and is acutely aware of their image, having an unflattering or even just an unwelcome photograph taken can be an annoyance, but is part and parcel of having an unusual public persona.  I have found that an unwelcome photographer can be at least paused with an “I’d prefer that you not take my picture at the moment.” (usually while the clown is setting up or eating lunch), most do pause and allow me time to compose myself for a photograph at least.

However if they do not, I cannot stop them if I am visible from public property.  If it is on private property or in a controlled access event, I can report the photographer.  If they are peering through a window or over a fence, I call the police…

Every time I step out of the house in my performance clothes, either as Myke Hutchings, musician, Rocky the Clown, or in my Steampunk clothing, I leave the house with the expectation that I will be photographed or filmed.   When Rocky used to take the GO Train into Toronto for gigs, I had a sign that read “Clown at Work” on a plunger that I stuck to the window beside me, in case I napped…there are a few cute photos of a sleepy clown floating around…

If you are presenting a public persona beyond yourself, you should expect to be photographed.  Try to be polite and gracious at all times, even if you are saying “please don’t.”

dear santa.

Dear Santa,

At this time of year, I know you’re quite used to folks writing to you asking for things.  This letter will be different.

I am writing to thank you for all you have done for me throughout the years.

When Larry decided to portray you, I was happy he found something to keep him busy during the months of November and December.  Little did we know that his portrayal of you would become something much deeper for both of us.

When Larry began networking, little did I know that he would meet people who would become friends for the rest of his life.  Little did I know that many of these folks would become good friends, mentors and spiritual advisors to me.  The men who portray you are often incredible people who set aside their lives to portray you, and eventually their lives are shaped by you and what you represent.

It never ceases to amaze me.  And those that remain in my life have been blessings to me – I am reminded of your giving nature and love in their actions.  My faith in humanity is refreshed when I am with them.

Your biggest and best gift to me was Larry being given a focus and drive.  Your next greatest gift to me are all the men who portray you who have stood behind me and supported me when my world fell apart.  You continue to give in the men who were inspired by Larry to grow their beards and don the suit of red and portray you.

At least two of these folks have been a large part of my life before you entered it and they remain a large part of my life.  They continue to support me in their actions, words, prayers and deeds and they remind me that faith can be a powerful thing when given the right intent and reason.

The latest gift you have given me is the latest Santa who has asked me to be his “elf” in the way I was for Larry – supporting, helping connect him with resources and continue to serve your spirit by helping another great friend portray you.  Michael kept me going when I hit rock bottom with PTSD and Depression and I am blessed and honoured to call him friend.

The only reason why I’m still walking this earth is because of him and I am indebted for his quiet love and peaceful resolve to keep me talking when my mind and heart were trying to shut down, screaming for my body to join them somehow.  I wear the semicolon on my left forearm because Michael gave me reason to stay alive – because I need to honour a promise I made to Larry.

You have given me a good friend who both portrays you but also has taken me under his wing and works with me musically.  David has been my most ardent supporter, believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.  He still does.

You have given me a number of spiritual supports and guides who are showing me that faith is a personal thing and can be balanced with my scientific mind’s desire for rationality and evidence.  Just as I believe in your existence in the hearts of the people who portray you, I believe in a higher power that exists in the hearts and minds of people who are searching for more.

You have given me the drive to keep going when everything within me fought forward motion.  I have recorded and released a CD that is singularly me, I have started writing new songs that build upon while moving away from table for one.

You have continued to keep my family in my life and I am blessed with a supportive and caring Mother and an amazing brother, sister-in-law and nieces.

So.  For once, it’s time that someone thank you for all you have given me.  Gifts that aren’t material, however gifts that have supported me and provided me strength.

Thank you, Santa, for all you have given.

Love,

myke.

P.S. I’d like to ask you for one thing.  If there’s someone who is supposed to be in my life to make me happy, can you make it happen soon?  If he has long white hair, a beard and chubby belly – even better!

 

 

on on being human.

For me, this is the hardest song from table for one. It represents a pretty ugly period for me and accurately describes how I was feeling when I was at my worst.  on being human. was written on a train ride home from Ottawa in December 2014. I had just hit rock bottom and after years of fighting PTSD and the dissociation from it, I had completely been cut off from my emotions. Even things that once brought me pleasure left me more often than not confused and wanting to withdraw further from life, I was shutting down and detached from emotions, caring and desires…

“i’m going through the motions
just to see if i still can care.
i’m going through the motions
just to see if i’m still there;
i’m just trying to be human.”

I had finally experienced a full tilt nervous breakdown and even something that came naturally to me – playing bass – stopped “working” entirely. My hands felt like they were in oven mitts and my brain stopped talking to my fingers. I was, for all intents and purposes, useless.

“i’m going through the motions
but that doesn’t make me any less real.
i’m going through the motions
but it doesn’t mean i still don’t feel;
i’m just trying to be human.”

I went home and hid from life for a few days, just trying to make sense of it all. The last little piece of what made Myke Myke was completely lost to me. I was scared and my future had pretty much hidden itself from me at that moment.

“i disconnect again.”

Until that moment, music and playing bass in particular was the one place in life I found solace, peace and joy. After Dad died, it seemed as though that was slipping away until that fateful afternoon in Ottawa when it was yanked out from under me, bowling me over in the process. I had nothing left, no husband, no music, no love. Nothing made sense except the overwhelming sense of loss, anger and nothingness.

“after years of alienation, ambivalence and fear,
i’m just trying to prove to myself that i am still here;
wanting to restore the past i have lost.
attempting to find myself again, no matter what the cost –
just trying to be human.”

And in that I failed. Miserably. If it weren’t for Michael Morin and Drake Jensen – I doubt I’d be around writing this today. Those two men saved my life – I am indebted to them and love them dearly because of their handling of my situation. They both were gentle to me, even though I failed them and others. They are still there for me when I need them and they are two of my most ardent supporters AND providers of reality checks.  I want them to be proud of me. I want to show them that I can.

“i start going through the motions
but i don’t know if i can.
i start going through the motions
because this is who i am;
just trying to be human.”

And I’m still just trying to be human. I still haven’t regained the passion to play bass yet. Even though it’s my main instrument, I still haven’t found the “love” of the instrument and ones that I was once connected to, feel little more than tools to do a job. That’s why I’ve been so heavily focused on acoustic guitar the past two years, particularly the baritone acoustic as it combines my love of the lower frequencies with a more melodic form of expression.

The baritone acoustic is the instrument you hear on this particular song. I’ve further detuned it to make it deeper and darker as a representation of where I was at the time this song was written. There’s something joyfully perverse about taking a lovely acoustic instrument and cranking it through a guitar amplifier to get some distortion which sums up how my emotions were at the time – jagged and chaotic.

I hope, one day, to reconnect with the bass. Until then they sit in my living room, out of their cases for once, waiting for the human me to pick them up and make their voices heard.

no such thing as a free ride: budgeting for an album explained

I’m going to preface this with the fact that I’m happy, overwhelmed and honoured by the response to table for one., both the live show and the recording.  However, this is my response to the most asked question about this.
Well folks, it’s happened.  Less than 24 hours of being available online, I’ve had the inevitable requests for a free copy of table for one.
If this happens in person, the person asking will likely get a head tilt, followed by “the look” and then a brief and simple “no.” from me.
If you were going to get a free copy of the $10 download or the $15 CD, you would have been notified of it already – my next list is the folks who graciously pre-paid for copies of table for one. along with their tickets to the August 28, 2016 concert.  These folks should expect their email from me by the end of the day!
However, even as a labour of love, I cannot simply afford to give my music away.  And honestly, as it represents 7 years’ of my life distilled down into 10 songs, putting a monetary value on it hurts.   But it also represents a LOT of work and the accounting below does not include the hours of writing, rewriting, rehearsal, travel and administrative work necessary to produce such a document.
Keep in mind that I did this album as frugally as I could without resorting to doing it myself on Garageband, as I wanted to focus on the actual performances while an incredible professional focused on technical things like microphone placement and compression.
tableforoneaccounting-page-001
I’m grateful for the folks who have supported me, however I’d like to at least break even on this, so I can continue to afford to make music.  So, if I don’t offer you a free download or CD…this is why.
You will note that even on such a small budget, I still have quite a way to go before even recuperating the expenses of producing this album and why I’m equally frugal with who gets free copies of my life’s work.  I make music because I love doing it and I’m driven to do so.  I’m not asking for huge success, I’m hoping it will be at least self-supporting.

rediscovering the muse

So after jumpstarting my musical output on August 28th and finally getting table for one. out of my system – the big question is: what next?

I’ve been muddling around with that one for a while and trying to avoid forcing the issue, and I suspect the answer will be an ongoing process of evolution and discovery.

Until then, I’ve had a few major epiphanies as of late:

The discovery of what has become for me “the perfect guitar.” By now, most everyone knows about my first “good” guitar being stolen from a gig and finally recovered 7 years later. By then insurance had replaced it with my now mainstay Taylor dreadnought guitar that I had developed a decent rapport with. When my old guitar was returned to me, courtesy of the shop I purchased it at and Metro Toronto Police, I tried to rekindle the magic but it was gone. I eventually sold it on consignment and continued to play the dreadnought.

Cue the fateful visit to The Acoustic Room in Hamilton and the discovery of a Taylor Grand Concert model steel string guitar that was built more like a nylon string classical guitar. I asked the owner about this guitar and proceeded to play it in the store, falling in love with its playability and tone immediately. I convinced the store to trade in a guitar I had purchased earlier but did not love. While it was gorgeous, it didn’t speak to me in the long run and I felt no love for it.

The Grand Concert guitar was different – it felt like the original time I picked up my first good guitar and then some. Since getting this guitar, I have fallen more in love with its feel, its tone and yes, its quirks and foibles. It was the main guitar used to record table for one. and both engineers on the project could not get over its tone, how easily it played and how it “fit” the mix. It is truly a special guitar and would be (along with Chloe) what I grab from the house in an emergency.

I’m in love with this guitar and have begun to focus on it becoming my instrumental voice.
Bob Weir’s loose, live performance at Amoeba Records. Following up with the perfect guitar, I have fallen in love with former Grateful Dead guitarist, Bob Weir’s current record Blue Mountain. I’m not the biggest Deadhead to say the least, however Bob’s solo discs from the 1970’s and his work with RatDog have been music I’ve enjoyed over the years. Earlier this week he performed an hour long set at Amoeba Records to promote Blue Mountain and his honesty, looseness and voice blew me away. I could sit for hours and listen to music like this – as it highlights my love for bluegrass, acoustic country and Appalachian folk music.

As a classically trained pianist and vocalist I used to strive for musical perfection (I still must singing chorally) but as a solo performer, I’m more focused on entertainment, vibe and honesty. Yes there are a few vocal clams on table for one., however the music is real and expresses the pain, anger and grief that the past few years have brought for me.
Bob’s loose, honest performance at Amoeba, combined with his humour and precision – when his guitar began feeding back, he asked the sound person to notch out at 300hz and the feedback disappeared immediately – showed his professionalism despite the clearly disheveled appearance. There was no pretense about it. Just a guy with a guitar, playing to a few hundred friends…I hope to give that experience in the years to come.

What’s more interesting to me is that the pieces from table for one. that are gaining the most attention are the two songs where I am at my most relaxed and, honestly actually letting go. “on being human.” is perhaps the most difficult song for me to listen to as it’s the song where I finally LET GO and let all the rage, fear, anger, angst and disconnect out, “moving on.” is a song which surprised many people as they aren’t used to me actually letting go and…GASP….HAVING FUN musically. Honestly I’m not used to either so they are both quite the experience for me.

After visiting the Chihuly exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum and revisiting the photos from my 2013 visit to the Desert Botanical Gardens in Scottsdale, I decided to watch the documentaries “Dale Chihuly Outside” and “Dale Chihuly Fire and Ice.”

Both documentaries focused on Chihuly’s creative process – particularly how he is inspired by the spaces he will be exhibiting in and also how he works with the craftspeople who actually make the glass and metal objects he creates. It is amazing how he collaborates with both the space, nature and the people whom execute his vision, being inspired and pushed to create objects and make art that both adorns, emphasizes and co-exists with the spaces he is given to work with. Incredibly some of his works reside in nature years after he has created them becoming as much a part of the landscape as the features and organisms around them.

His ability to repurpose and recontextualize older creations, giving them new life in new surroundings amazes me and, seeing him visiting installations days, weeks, months later and reworking them as they no longer suit his vision is inspirational. This constant reworking of past ideas is what has endeared Frank Zappa and the Residents to me as they often revisited older works and recontextualized them with fresh eyes and ears.

Hence the song “table for one.” is an evolution of an earlier song “Untitled.” Interestingly enough, a number of the songs from “table for one.” are already taking on their own lives and continue to evolve, change and grow. It will be interesting to see what they will end up becoming as I continue to discover how they will fit in with my life as I move forward and build on my past.

So between finding what seems to be THE instrument to express myself with. Finding a new honesty in letting go and just being there for the music, warts and all. And learning to work with my environment and evolve with who, where and what I am at any given point in life.

I honestly haven’t found my muses, at long last they have finally found me.