Thoughts on Tools

I’ve been off the road and home for a couple of weeks now, and pretty much will be for a few months. Being home is heaven for me. But to have a long stretch is a rare and wonderful treat. The main thing it signifies is time to write. And it IS time to write a new album, there’s no escaping that. It also means time to deal with all the wear and tear a 20 year old house has weathered – culling the extra crap, cleaning the icky parts and fixing things. Like the shower door that has leaked for those 20 years because it was hung incorrectly. (Months and years go by when I give up on it, and then I throw myself at it one more time in a determined, but ultimately futile effort to stop it from leaking. THIS time, I think I’ve done it, thanks to the therapist at Home Depot who took the time to listen to my problems.)

So for the past two weeks I have been painting, cleaning. grouting, caulking (my personal favourite just for the word alone), repairing and organizing my way towards writing. And this….this is the resulting wisdom I would like to share with you. Of all the tools I have, and I have a burning love for tools – drills, saws, (hand and power of course!) clamps, chisels, all manner of drill bits and drivers, levels, squares, scrapers etc, what is THE single most useful tool of all which inevitably rises to the top as the most ubiquitous, handy and effective. Come on, you know it’s true….

The butter knife. 

You ALL know what I’m talking about. The screw driver, scraper, reamer, glue distributer, caulking smoother, always a reach-into-the-cutlery-drawer away – butter knife. So I’m here to sing it’s praises given it never gets the credit it deserves. And it deserves it just for its effectiveness in slopping way too much butter on my toast every morning. 

In truth, all this triviality and home improvement, beyond it’s role as the predictable preamble to getting down to the business of writing songs, is really to distract me from (if you are reading this to small children, or offended by cursing, please skip to the next sentence) the shit storm and cluster fuck that is the election in my mother country, the U.S of A. I know, we are ALL sick of hearing about it, so I sincerely apologize for even bringing it up.

I vacillate between shame, embarrassment, depression, and cold dark fear. It seems to be holding up a mirror we can no longer avoid looking into, of the moral and civil bankruptcy of America.

And speaking of tools….

Why isn’t it looked at like a simple job interview? Do they hire the intelligent articulate person who has 30 years of experience in an unparalleled complex field requiring intelligence and diplomacy, or the person who has no experience and demonstrates a low IQ and moral character? Uh….duh. The rest is just a LOT of noise. Check out the Passionate Eye documentary on the two candidates. It’s very unbiased and enlightening.

We are so going to miss the smart, unshaken-ably dignified, poised, humble, Obama. He tried so hard to serve the people despite the power moves and ugliness of politics that reduced what he could have accomplished to a trickle. Every time another shockingly ignorant and misogynistic statement comes out of you now who, I imagine how bizarre it would be if those words were uttered by Obama. It would never ever ever happen. Like I say, we’re going to miss him.

Then there’s the greed and depravity that is ruling the world. Let’s just say, its time to replace the usual curse adjective we use and replace it with – it’s a “fracking” nightmare. And you know me, I’m the full on Pollyanna of annoyingly chipper humans. In the past week I have watched both Before the Flood” and “Years of Living Dangerously – devastatingly discouraging documentaries on the environmental devastation wreaked on our planet by human greed. I can’t handle any more truth – I’m going to put my head back down and escape into music. 

My mother had a more than a few platitudes about the world, but ultimately distilled it down to one word which explained for her the source of all problems and our ultimate demise. “Overpopulation”. The written word doesn’t deliver it with the sing-song “oh well” tone of inevitability she gave it. Of course she was right – my mother was always right. I wonder if Julia will say that about me someday?

So, tomorrow it will be finally over - and a new kind of crazy will begin. But rather than watch it on November 8th, I’ve booked a special concert/lecture on songwriting that night in Maple Ridge so I can spend the evening singing “la la la” with my fingers in my ears instead. Want to join me? It’s at the ACT Arts Centre in Maple Ridge. Info here.

Alright – I’m done ranting now. Sorry! It’s a strange time and chattering away about my trivial little life seems like the violinist on the deck of the Titanic. Inappropriate and yet, perhaps the best coping tactic? I think we’re all feeling the confusion and a deep sense of unsettledness in this time of Bad Behavior. So I felt like I had to acknowledge it. But I AM innately an optimist and when I see the amazing skill, determination and wisdom coming up through the next generation, it does give me hope.

News…I’m officially a senior now. Holy crap, how did that happen?? There I am on the cover of Inspired Senior Living Magazine. YIKES! 
At least I can look forward to senior discounts….whoo hoo! Nothing like that benchmark to make you realize that “someday” list better become the “do it now” list. I still want to be a visual artist (I HAVE started painting - wow...such a whole different artistic medium!), do symphony concerts, play soft seat theatres all over the world, and write an autobiography. Those are just the things at the top of the list. I need another 65 years to get to it all.

Little bits:

The High Bar Gang is on the long long short list for a Grammy – as in, a very long shot, but still fun to boast.
Julia is working on mixing the audio and editing the video for both the The Hometown Band and the Shari Ulrich Band concerts at Blue Frog Studios, so I’ll let you know when those are posted. I was slightly chastised for summing up the Valdy and the Hometown Band shows as “loud” in my last newsletter. In fact, it was a tremendous and rich experience. Just the pre-production alone working with Claire Lawrence and Michael Creber was one of the best musical experiences I’ve had in a long time. Revisiting the music from 40 years in one’s past is a rare opportunity for a musician. I’ll share more in the book!

Sorry to go on – if it makes you feel any better, I edited out a lot of my ranting.  

Stay sane out there. The one thing we can do is be kind to those we encounter, be conscious caring humans, and keep our sense of humour. (I have never loved John Oliver more!)

Happy Trails my friend!

Julia GraffComment