Category Archives: “The Making Of” No Schedule Man CD
Entries from a weekly journal documenting the triumphs, trials and tribulations during the nearly year and a half it took to create and release the CD, “No Schedule Man.”
Well, we did it. No matter what script the future writes, I know in my heart that I set a goal, I stuck with it through thick and thin and I darn well got the job done. On June 26th, we (me, Kevin Gorman and Alyssa Sestric) did a show at the London Music Club, played songs from our new “No Schedule Man” CD, and I’ll be damned if we didn’t have copies of the darn thing to sell.
We did it.
And no one can ever take that away.
Over a year ago, KG and I set a goal and set out on the task. Bit by little bit, we inched closer to fulfilling our objective. At times, it seemed like we’d never get there. But we did. We did it. And if I may so, I feel we did a fine job, too.
It still hasn’t really sunk in yet. But we did it.
I’m proud of that.
The only trouble is that the completion of our project arrived in conjunction with the poorest health I’ve encountered in a good long while. Coincidence? Mmmm … that’s up for debate. However I’ve documented it in this blog throughout these last few months, so there’s little need to go into too much detail again, other than to remind you that there was a hospital visit at the end of May which necessitated the rescheduling of our CD release from June 12 to June 26 (which cost us scores of people, including members of my family who were planning to attend the show as originally scheduled). I then encountered a setback a few weeks ago (one week before the rescheduled CD release on June 26th) with a strep infection that required another run of antibiotics. Stupidly, I didn’t say anything about that little spell (except to my doctor) because I didn’t want to cast any doubt upon the rescheduled date either. And of course this all went along with the herniated discs in my back that have been delivering debilitating sciatic nerve pain in my left leg since the beginning of May.
Looking back, I see now that I should have shelved the CD release until at least the fall. That’s easy to see from the outside. But when you’re the one who’s dreamt of it your entire adult life, and when you’re the one who has worked at it for a year or more; and when you’re the one who has made commitments to others to get the thing done; and when you’re so close to reaching out and touching what you’ve worked for … well, you feel you should suck it up and do it.
So that’s what I did.
And I’ll be honest: I don’t know that I did the right thing.
I’m not sure I really enjoyed it as much as I should have, but I did what I said I was going to do. Perhaps it’s a flawed perspective but it matters to me, and it’s more than many people I’ve observed would have done. So for me, it counts for something.
Despite the leg and back pain, I did get through the night on the 26th. Though we made our mistakes (due to the fact that I was too sick to rehearse properly leading up to the event), I thought we played reasonably well that night. No, actually, I know we did really well. I’m exceptionally proud of KG and Alyssa, who joined me on stage.
And, yeah, I’ll say it: I’m proud of myself too.
This has been a great learning experience. Many people have been telling me to “slow down.” I thought I was doing that when I cut out my 5-day-a-week radio job on BX 93 back in February. Turns out I need to cut back some more.
When it comes to people telling me to “slow down,” I have found that my true friends say it and mean it, no matter whether it affects them or not. And then there are others who tell me to take care of myself out of one side of their mouth and then immediately ask me for something out of the other side. In fact, there’s one person in particular who I thought was my friend, and he left me five desperate-sounding voice messages on my cell phone at a time when he knew I’d been taken to the hospital. Funny thing was that I busted my butt to help him as soon as I got out of the hospital. And what I got for my trouble was prolonged ill health and more demands from that same person.
It’s my own fault. I take full responsibility. And I will correct it. But I also know from experience that, people like that; you really can’t help them. It’s upsetting, but you have to take your lumps and move on. The alternative is to never trust anyone again, and I fundamentally don’t believe in that.
It’s a shame, but it’s also the reason why songs like “Do Better” and “Awake (But Not Alive)” come to life. And when you hear my rock songs (maybe some time in the next year or two), well … I’ll just say that it’s been good therapy for working through some relationships with people who are convinced they know better.
All that aside, the fact remains that those close to me are correct. I do need to slow down. I’ve been trying. I have cut out most of my music-related efforts until such time as I can feel well again. I’ve slowed my pace somewhat with my company, CPT Entertainment, and have found my business partners to be entirely supportive. I’ve been going to physiotherapy every other day for the last couple of weeks and as a result I’m noticing incremental improvements in my leg/butt/back pain. And after weeks of being awake all night and finding what little sleep I could manage on the family room couch with my feet on a nearby end table, I have finally arrived at the point where I can manage a few hours’ sleep in my own bed. That alone has made an incredible difference in my sense of well being.
And so here I am, at the end of the journey to complete a CD of original songs. I did it. There’s a whole pile of them sitting in the corner of my office, about ten feet away as I type this. And yet here I am: physically broken down and mentally worn out from all that I’ve done. I acknowledge victory in getting the CD done but I have also, reluctantly, conceded defeat in terms of how I feel.
But I will correct it.
In fact, I believe the whole situation to be healthy. My feeling is that I am now paying for far too many years of running too hard, trying to fulfill unrealistic expectations that I had set for myself, and listening too much to the people who tell me one thing but mean another. Ultimately, it’s all my responsibility. And I will fix it.
As for the CD, I’m now at the end of the first part of the journey. And as such, this will be the final entry in a year’s worth of what I’ve called “recording journals.” There hasn’t been any “recording” in quite some time. I’ll keep entering a journal, as I’ve come to enjoy and value the experience, however I’m not going to promise that I’ll deliver one every week. Silly as it sounds, I’ve learned that the only person that expectation matters to is me. So I’ll submit more notes down the road. But I’m not sure what they will be called or when they will arrive. But they will arrive when the time is right.
Whenever that is.
The next logical step is promotion and performance of the songs on the CD. And I’m excited about that part of it. But I also realize that it’s now time to back away from it before I get going on part two of this adventure. The first priority is to get well. After that, I’ll put together a plan and get back out to where I might find some people willing to listen. Until then … who knows.
In closing, I will say that for the most part, I’m very pleased with the CD. There are songs I wish we could tweak some more, but I’m not going to tell you which ones they are. However I will tell you which songs I feel turned out the best compared to my original vision: “Sunny Day in November,” “Bagley Avenue” and “Kevin’s Prayer.” I’m really happy with those three numbers. I am also extraordinarily proud of “Song for Sean,” but for different reasons which you may have already read about. If not, go back a few months in this journal and you’ll find the stories, along with the reason for the “Celebrating Hope” campaign, which is also waiting in the wings, ready to go whenever I am.
And so ends another adventure. And what an adventure it’s been. I am so entirely grateful to Kevin Gorman for sharing his time and talents, and for all the people who contributed in some small way to helping me achieve my dream of completing the “No Schedule Man” CD. I did it and now I will always have it. Forever.
In the end, ironically, I realize that I really could stand to learn from the main character that I created in the CD’s title track. The truth is that “No Schedule Man” and I are complete opposites. And although he is a creation of my imagination, I also envy him and aspire to be more like him. I wonder: how is it possible that you can create something totally unlike yourself and then want to learn from your own thoughts?
Strange, isn’t it?
I just have to keep reminding myself: no plan is all part of the plan. I’ll get there when I get there, if I get there at all.
All day, all play.
Sound advice. I think I’ll take it.
Thank you for reading. See you on the road … whenever I get there.
Is this it?
One year ago, we started work on a CD I hoped to call “No Schedule Man.” We’ve been through break-ins, hospital stays, equipment failures and all sorts of other challenges, including the re-scheduling of the CD release show because of some of what I just mentioned. And now, as I write this, we’re standing just a few steps away from the end of the tunnel, with the CD set to arrive later this week and the show scheduled for 6 days from now at the London Music Club.
So this is it, huh?
Of course, I understand that this means far more to me than anyone else. Completing and sharing a collection of my own songs has been a goal of mine my entire adult life. To think that the time has almost arrived is humbling and even a little bit disorienting. I understand that the real work begins only after we put the CD out: no one is going to care about it unless we go and share the music with people that have never heard it before. So far, friends and family have given me wonderful support and encouragement and I am grateful beyond words. But just like anything else, if you want to expand your fan base and market share, you’ve got to go out to where the people are and do the hardest work of all: make a good-enough impression that they might remember you, and maybe even ask you to come back and/or listen to your songs again.
It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with this music over the next year or two, because I won’t be “touring” per se. Music is what I love most, but it’s not my job and, frankly, I don’t want it to be. I would like to become known as a songwriter and, ten years from now, I’d love to be able to afford to spend my time creating and collaborating more often than I do now. So for the time being, I’ll have to try to be content to do shows at little clubs around Ontario as much as we can without going too hard, and also looking for opportunities to support other artists with an opening set or something like that. I’d also love to get to the point where I could play some festivals and go see some places around Canada I’ve never visited before. But that’ll come with time.
Meantime, when we do release the CD this weekend, it will look like I’m contradicting everything I just said because we are coming out guns a-blazing. The CD, t-shirts, hats, magnets, notepads, bracelets and more will all be available from a customized, fully-themed merchandise area at our shows. A short time later, the CD will be available through online retailers around the world, and the merchandise will be for sale online too, through CPT Entertainment Inc.
On top of all of that, we are set to launch a fund and awareness-raising campaign for Hospice of London called “Celebrating Hope” in memory of Sean and Cindy Alward. I believe I’m just as proud of that as I am of completing the CD. Maybe more so. More information about that partnership will be shared early this coming week.
I am very confident that the more shows we do, the more we’ll give people a really nice evening of music. Kevin Gorman and I have the ability to showcase quite a lot of versatility on stage, and I believe our chemistry, vocal harmonies and range of sounds gives us an edge. When you add Alyssa Sestric into the mix, we can really throw a lot at you, and Alyssa is going to do as many shows with us as she can (that’ll not only give her more experience, but it will provide a chance for her to showcase some of her own songs too, and she is a very talented songwriter). When we do the CD release show, we’ll be a little rusty. You’re never perfect right out of the gates. The difference in me now as opposed to even just a few years ago is that I’m okay with that. As long as the tone of the show as a whole comes off the way we want it, we’ll laugh at whatever else may get in the way.
After all, having been through hospital stays, robberies, computer failures and the like and still getting the job done, I hardly think a few mistakes in our live show will register on the radar screen.
Right now, I’ll be happy just to get there, as I’m writing this while I’m sitting in bed, trying to recover from what seems to be a slight reoccurrence of the illness that set me back a few weeks ago. Or maybe it’s just side effects from the useless drugs my doctor gave me earlier this week to help deal with my back and leg pain and help me sleep. Or maybe it’s from navigating through yet another calamitous week.
Or maybe all of the above.
But that’s another story for another day.
Hello from the floor of my living room. Having received some advice from my physiotherapist (as we work to improve the herniated disc in my lower back), I am typing this journal while lying flat on the floor, stomach to the ground, chin on a pillow and hands out in front of me to reach the computer. Sounds ridiculous, I know. But it puts the least amount of pressure on my damaged disc, so I’ll deal with it.
Speaking of discs, we’re only 2 weeks away from releasing ours. I sure wish I had it ready. Instead, we are biting our nails as we’ve had a computer failure at the studio that has set back KG’s plans to do the final mixing and mastering this weekend. Truly, just about everything else (except my back) is ready to go.
We just need the bloody songs done!
You may remember that today was to be the original release date of the “No Schedule Man” CD. But my recent hospital visit set us back. In my mind, the CD should have been long completed by now. But it’s never that simple. I guess we set deadlines for a reason, and that’s so we can go right up to them. Without deadlines and goal-setting, perhaps we’d never get anything done. Still, it’s frustrating.
You should have a couple weeks (ideally) turn-around time to have the disc duplicated up in Toronto. The artwork for the CD itself is already there and waiting. The CD inserts/cover, etc, have been approved and printed. The first run of souvenir t-shirts and hats and such have been ordered. The merchandise display has been built.
But we’re still waiting for the songs.
14 days left.
I debated whether to write about this or not. I don’t want to appear negative in any respect. However, I promised that I’d write a realistic account of what goes into preparing a project like this, and what’s happening (err, not happening) right now is about as real as it gets.
There’s another reason why I chose to write about it, and that is the fact that I know we’ll be ready, one way or the other, come June 26th. I’ve been through situations like this many times before in my professional life. And I’ve learned that when you encounter these unforeseen setbacks, you must press on, keep a positive attitude and remind yourself that every “problem” is really just a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is obvious. I am trying to keep myself open to recognize and pick up on the opportunity.
We’ll find it.
I’ll site two of my favourite pop culture examples that have helped me learn:
Example 1. In the film “Back to the Future Part 3,” Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) has the time machine DeLorean at an old drive-in theatre. He needs to get the car up to 88 mph so that he can be transported back in time to save his friend. But in the path of his proposed travel is a wall with cowboys and Indians painted on it. He recognizes the fact and protests to his scientist buddy, Doc Brown, that if he drives straight for the wall, he’ll run into the (painted) Indians.
Doc Brown says: “Marty, you’re not thinking fourth-dimensionally. You’ll instantly be transported to 1885 and those Indians (wall) won’t even be there.”
I think of that scene often as I prepare for an event. I like to think “fourth dimensionally.” We may not be ready now, but as long as things are in place by the time we hit 88 mph (June 26), we’ll be all right.
The wall won’t even be there.
Example 2. One of my favourite books is “Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway. I open it often and re-read passages I’ve marked with yellow highlighter.
In that book, an old man finds himself on the ocean with little more than a small boat and a fishing line he has in his hands. He ends up hooking a large fish; too large for him to be handling with his meagre provisions, really. He recognizes the opportunity (and the challenge) and desperately wants to land the great fish, but he’s struggling.
Next comes a line I often repeat to myself. The old man thinks, “What I’ll do if he (the fish) sounds and dies, I don’t know. But I’ll do something. There are plenty of things I can do.”
There are plenty of things I can do.
Try to remember that the next time you get tossed a curveball. There are always options. It’s just that some are more appealing than others. But you always have a choice.
Meantime, I’ve got all this other great stuff happening, including a support program based around my music that will honour some people very close to my heart and will help a very worthwhile community group help other people. We met this week and agreed to work together and I’m just so very excited about it. We should be announcing that program this coming week.
Our rehearsals are sounding better and better so I know it’s going to be a good show when we land at the London Music Club two weeks from tonight.
I’m thrilled with the merchandise display that my friend Howie built for me. I’m happy with how the merchandise is looking. I’m ecstatic to see the graphic design of some of my song concepts coming to live. I love the way the CD artwork looks.
All I need now are the songs.
So as I finish up, lying on my stomach because I can’t stand for long or walk far without the help of a cane, I think again about this computer-related headache we’ve been presented with, and how we’re going to have to find a way around it here at the eleventh hour. And in so doing, I’m reminded of another one of my favourite lines, from Jimmy Buffett’s book “A Salty Piece of Land.”
It says: “There’s a strange sense of pleasure being beat to hell by a storm when you’re on a ship that is not going to sink.”
Sail on, sailor.
If was the kind of person that thrived on sympathy, I’d have been in heaven these past few days. But I don’t want sympathy.
I want to be a part of the action.
Which is why I bought a cane and hauled my busted-up body out to the race track this past weekend.
I have learned that you have to have a pretty strong sense of self if you’re going to go to a stock-car racing track with a cane when you’re only in your mid-thirties. When you do that, you get one of two reactions: 1) sympathy 2) serious razzing.
Actually, both were kind of fun. And people have been exceptionally kind to me and I am grateful.
If you want to know what the sympathy and the cane are for, please read last week’s journal entry. As for the razzing, it was pretty funny: “What the heck!? Here comes Bulmer with his sympathy stick!” All sorts of ribbing.
I’m just over seven days removed from a four-day hospital visit. I managed to rest myself enough to improve slightly every day over the last week and meet all my obligations at the same time. It wasn’t easy, but I did it and I don’t mind telling you that I’m proud of myself.
My team from CPT Entertainment had a big role in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series race that ran at Delaware Speedway last night. Ours is behind-the-scenes kind of work, but it’s important. And you need to know what you’re doing. We do. Though I wear out quickly with this herniated disc in my back, I wasn’t going to miss the race last night or anything leading into it.
And I didn’t.
On top of that, we managed to mash the throttle in preparation for our “No Schedule Man” CD release too.
Earlier this week, I was able to collaborate with Angela from “Distinct Impression” graphic design as we worked on a number of things for some music-related merchandise. I’m pleased with the results and excited to move forward. Angela does great work and she and I seem to be on the same page. That’s rare, and also a lot of fun.
I met with my favourite promotional products company this week as well, and we picked out some hats and shirts and other items that we’re going to turn into merchandise. We’ll order that this coming week.
Of course, I’m not going to just sit my CDs, shirts and hats out on any plain old table, so I’ve also been thinking full-steam about a themed merchandise sales area called the “No Schedule Man Trading Co.” Luckily, one of my best pals has a brother who is ridiculously talented with things like that. Luckier yet, said brother also is a friend of mine and happens to be willing to help me out. After having discussed it a few times, he and I met this morning and purchased some material and so the construction is now underway.
I met with my favourite print company, Middlesex Printing here in London, earlier this week. There, I was able to – finally – submit the artwork for the CD insert, cover, etc. It should go to print this coming week. I will be very proud to have it printed there, where my friends Terry, Jody, Kathy and Cynthia have encouraged me for many years.
And speaking of the artwork, constructing it has been a collaborative effort between me, my buddy and business partner at CPT Entertainment, Jeff Graham, and my mother (who took some photographs). Jeff has done a wonderful job (as always) and I’m glad to have had his hands in the projecet.
If you’ve been following along with this journal, you’ll remember that I had some promotional photos taken a couple of months ago and as part of that process I visited “Joe Kool’s,” my favourite local restaurant. It so happened that I was back there this past week, visiting with my great good friend Jimmy, and while we were there we were greeted by Mike Smith, the owner of the place. I told Mike that one of the CD artwork panels was going to consist of a colour photo of me outside his restaurant and he seemed genuinely pleased. That was cool. I’m going to frame a copy and bring it to him in a few more weeks.
I also had the pleasure of visiting my buddy and music producer, Kevin Gorman, this past Tuesday night. At that time, he played me some of the songs that he’d been working on while I was cooped up in the hospital. The song I wanted to hear most was “Kevin’s Prayer.” Well, let me tell you: when he played that song for me, the hair stood up on my arms and neck. Darn near moved me to tears. The song sounds almost exactly how I was hoping it would. And friends, that almost never happens.
Now that I’m feeling a little better, we are going to pick back up with rehearsals tomorrow night.
In a couple more days, I have a meeting with a highly respected community group. We are gathering to discuss and fund-and-awareness-raising campaign based around my music. I will be thrilled if we can bring that together and I am able to help a worthwhile organization, even in some small way, through the presentation of my songs. I hope very much to have some news to report to you on that front next week.
Aside from all of that, I confess that I am my own worst enemy. While we are in the final stages of post production for the acoustic-driven “No Schedule Man” CD, I have been spending whatever little creative thinking time I can find on my rock material. I’m very excited about it and I plan to do it next. In fact, I’ve already discussed with KG that I want to be recording the rock record while we tour in support of “No Schedule Man.” Truth be told, the rock project has had a name for over three years. So it’s not a surprise. And I’m ready to do it. Soon.
But we’ll see.
We’ll get there when we get there. Just like the song says.
This past week was one I’ll not soon forget. And if you go back and read the last few weeks’ worth of journals, I suppose you could argue that you could see this coming.
As you may know, I’ve been managing through some vicious left leg/butt pain for the entire month of May. Last Saturday (May 22), I actually felt as though I was coming out of it. Working at Delaware Speedway, I was getting around better than I had all month. My left calf muscle felt cramped, but my leg felt more functional. I was getting up and down the grandstands just fine.
When I felt sore again on Sunday and Monday, I was disappointed but not surprised. Monday was a holiday here in Ontario and I wanted to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather. I started by mowing the front lawn for the first time this year, dragging my left leg around like Igor and catching my breath every few moments when the pain would strike. But I got it done.
In the afternoon, I took my boys to play mini golf and though I didn’t play, I limped along as best I could and completely enjoyed watching them. The best part was after we returned their putters. We bought a couple of slushies and sat out on the patio, under the shade of a tree, and just enjoyed each other’s company. Funny faces were made. Laughs were had. Good times all around. Yes, my leg was hurting but I was happy and content nonetheless.
I later went to KG Records for a rehearsal with Kev and Alyssa. Though I was hurting, I managed to find a place in a chair that felt okay, and we went through a mix of our own songs and some cover material to add into our show. The results were predictably rocky (because we’re just getting started with the rehearsals) but very encouraging. Alyssa sings beautifully. Kevin’s playing is incredible. And though I’m the least talented, performance-wise, of the three of us, I believe my passion and sincerity propels the songs forward. We have a good mix. It was an encouraging session.
The down side was that I was completely exhausted after the rehearsal. Upon returning home, I still had to collect and take out the garbage, a task that darn near killed me. By that time I was in a lot of pain and, looking back now, I should have been able to see that something was wrong. I was too tired and irritable.
After I finished the chore, I laid on the couch for a while to rest my leg and gain back some steam. Following that, I cooked myself some late dinner and it was then that I noticed my neck and jaw starting to ache and feel a little swollen. I decided not to think much about it and went off to bed a short time later.
That’s when the wheels came off.
I awoke around 1:30 a.m. with pain all over my body. I couldn’t turn my neck or nod my head. Any movement shot vicious pain through my leg. But I was too weak to move myself around with my arms. I felt nauseous. I was freezing cold; shaking and chattering my teeth uncontrollably yet sweating all over the place at the same time. My wife Tracey was scared at what she found when I woke her up. I’m still not sure how we got through the rest of the night, but I remember her bringing me some Tylenol and that I somehow got back to sleep.
When I woke later that morning, I knew I was in trouble. I just didn’t know how bad it was going to be. By mid-morning, I’d called my family doctor and made an appointment for 2:00 that afternoon.
I couldn’t stand or walk let alone drive, so my hero of heroes, Wray “Big Dog” Ramsay (my father-in-law) came back from work to take me to the doctor. Funny, we’ve each done that for the other a couple of times. There’s little better than being able to count on family.
When we arrived at my doctor’s office, I needed a wheelchair to get into the place. They looked at me and decided quickly that I needed to be at the hospital. They sent us off to Emergency with the benefit of a call to let them know I was coming.
Poor Wray. I tossed my cookies on the way. I had a container to spit it into, but it still can’t have been nice, trying to drive while I was next to him, throwing up. At least I’d not eaten anything that day so it was all water. In fact, now that I think about it, the whole thing is kind of funny.
Me: “Blleeeearrrgghhhh! Wray … [huff-puff-huff] … I’m sooo sorry. Bleeeeauuuuuuughhh!”
Wray: “That’s, um, okay. Maybe you can dump that out the window.”
I did so, probably to the dismay of the motorists beside and behind us.
Me: “I’m so sorry Wray. I think I got it all in this container thing – blaaaaaafarrgghh!”
Wray: “Don’t worry about it! Don’t worry about it!”
We arrived at the ER and Wray went right in, retuning moments later with a staff member equipped with a wheelchair. They set me directly inside, put a mask on me, asked me a few questions and before I knew which way was up, I was in an “isolation room.”
I now know that their main concern, given my symptoms, was that I might have had meningitis.
I was soon swarmed by various hospital people. Blood was taken. An IV was put in (which was later relocated two more times). Questions were asked. And asked again. And again. I was just trying not to throw up.
The doctors were initially confused by the situation. They weren’t sure whether or not the issues were related. Matters were made worse when they saw the eczema on certain parts of my skin. It’s something I’ve battled my entire life, but they didn’t know that and so they began to worry about it as well. I kept telling them, “That’s not why I here.” They kept telling me it didn’t matter, that they were concerned about it anyway.
After a few hours, they decided to give me a “lumbar puncture,” which is about as much fun as it sounds. It’s a three-inch needle into your spine, designed to go through the disc and draw out spinal fluid to determine whether or not there is an infection.
They gave me freezing shots in my back, but not enough. I told them I could still feel everything, so they gave me more (but only after I spoke up). The doctors argued about how the procedure should be done. I wanted to tell them to take their arguing into the hallway and come back when they were sure, but I was still trying not to puke.
At first I was on my side, curled into the fetal position to stretch out my back. It hurt my leg to be like that, but I could deal with it. So they went on with the procedure … and screwed it up. They put the needle in very slowly. You can’t really feel it but you know it’s there and you can feel the pressure. And I truly did feel it when the needle clearly hit a spot it was not suppose to hit, shooting immediate pain through my spine like I’ve never felt before. I yelped. Everyone in the room yelped in response. And they yanked out the needle.
They waited a few minutes and then decided to try again. This time they sat me up, my legs dangling over the edge of the bed and my arms hanging over a tray table. The position hurt my left leg quite a lot. I told them so. They didn’t seem to care. Into my back went three more freezing needles. Then in went the three-inch needle, for the second time.
My left leg was screaming in pain. I told them. They told me not to move. I told them, “I don’t care what you tell me not to do. I’m telling you the pain in my leg is killing me. I don’t care about the needle in my back. I can’t keep sitting like this!”
Their solution was to shoot me with morphine (in my right arm) at the same time as the needle was in my back. It did not help.
I breathed my way through it and we got it done. I’m not sure how to describe the leg pain other than to imagine the worst cramp you’ve ever had and multiply it several times. Or, imagine having a three-inch needle in your spine and not caring because your leg hurts so much. A horrible feeling.
A short time later I was taken for hip and chest x-rays, and then sent back into my isolation room, a concrete tomb with bright lights but no clock. No one was allowed in to see me unless they’d gone into a “pre-entry” room where they put on a mask, gloves and full-body gown (like a trench coat made of a giant yellow translucent hair net).
Bless his heart, Wray stayed for hours, knowing little about my condition and having no company at all in the waiting room. Eventually he came in to tell me they were going to keep me overnight and so he was going home. This was around 9:00 or 9:30 p.m.
I was told later that my sweet Tracey, who was at her parent’s place with our boys, was horrified when her dad returned home with nothing more than my shoes in his car. “Where’s Kevin?!” she gasped. And then reality started to sink in for her that it might be a bit of a rough week. Poor Tracey.
Back in the ER, a nurse was attending to me every few minutes, changing IV bags, taking blood, checking my blood pressure and taking my temperature. They could not get my fever down.
Funny, a couple things I’m just remembering from that time: I was begging for water. I had been left alone for a while and my mouth was drier than I could ever remember. I knew they were worried about my nausea but I was desperate for a drink of water. I didn’t know if they could hear me but I began pleading, “Please! Someone … water! Please! Water!”
Eventually they brought me a tiny sip. I asked for more. They told me I could have more in a half hour. And when that time came, I was right on top of it and made them bring me more.
Hours later, they’d seen I’d not ralfed-up the water so I suppose they figured my stomach was settling. They’d done their needlepoint on my back and taken the blood and all of that, so I asked the nurse if I could please have something to eat. She brought me a turkey “sandwich.” It was two pieces of white bread with two thin slices of turkey-like meat inside. And that’s it. She brought me a little packet of Miracle Whip, so I drowned the sandwich with it and began to chew. From that experience, I remember two things:
1 – It hurt to chew because my jaw was so sore
2 – It tasted like the best thing I’d ever eaten
Funny how your priorities change when you’re down-and-out. Water became the sweetest drink. And a dry and barren hospital-issue turkey sandwich became a delicacy. I was just that tired and desperate.
A little while later, without any warning, they whisked me away to another part of the facility and dumped me into a room that would become my home for the next three and a half days. I was too zonked out to notice and appreciate that it was a private room. For that I was embarrassingly fortunate. But I do remember thinking, “Wow, this bed is way more comfortable than the emergency room gurney.” I didn’t feel too rosy about that bed for long though.
I struggled through the night, trying to feel comfortable, sleeping little. I napped for a couple of half-hour stretches between 5:30 a.m. and 8:00 a.m., when they brought me breakfast. I remember being very glad that they’d brought coffee and 2% milk, exactly what I like at home. Of course, the coffee was horrid but it was hot and I was glad for it. The rest of the food was brutal but I ate what I could.
Later that morning, I got to speak with my wife for the first time since leaving the house the day before. I found out she’d been calling the hospital constantly, trying to find out what was going on. Ironically, she knew more than I did and I was there!
I later rented three days’ worth of phone usage ($8.08) and they hooked up a giant white phone that looked like it had come off a decommissioned submarine or something. Still, that phone was my lifeline for the next few days.
I don’t remember much else about the first day except that it consisted of trying to stay comfortable and staring at the walls, as I didn’t have so much as a book or magazine to keep me occupied. What I do remember is that my face and neck swelled up to a hideous extent. I got a look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day and was shocked. It became even worse the next day but began to correct itself after they took me off the general IV fluids, leaving the tube in solely for direct delivery of the antibiotics.
Through my blood work, the doctors were able to determine that I was male, 36 years old, from London Ontario. They found that I loved to read, cheer for the Detroit Tigers and that I had some kind of nasty infection of unknown origin. My white blood cell count was way down (or up – whichever one is bad).
They didn’t know what was the cause of my leg pain so they ordered an MRI, which was done on Thursday night.
Now let me tell you about the MRI: it sounds like something slick and cool that professional athletes visit all the time. In reality, it is a claustrophobic’s nightmare than rattles and bangs for 45 minutes while managing to scare the daylights out of you the entire time. You are strapped to a stretcher (they even taped my feet together) and told not to move again for three quarters of an hour. Hands across your chest, you’re then shoved into a tube barely bigger than the size of your own body. No moving. No escape. And no space.
But, I decided, it was all for the best. So I closed my eyes as soon as they started to put me inside the machine and I used every bit of mental willpower I’ve ever had to keep my eyes shut until after they brought me back out. It wasn’t easy. I wanted to look and see just how tight the space was so I could describe it more vividly later on. But I knew better. I knew that if I looked, I would panic. But I did not. I was proud of myself.
I also was given and ultrasound test on my left leg to rule out blood clots or an abscess.
On Friday, I improved a great deal and was entirely frustrated to not get so much as a phone call or message relayed through the nurses on behalf of the doctors. They never came to visit and they never told me what was up. My family members were in a panic, wondering what the MRI would show. But on Saturday morning, I found out it was a herniated disc. I could go home with a prescription of antibiotics and the promise to take it easy and to continue to try and strengthen my back after I was better. Needless to say, I was relieved beyond words and thrilled at the prospect of returning home.
Before I go any further I want to share with you just how completely grateful I am to the nursing staff at that hospital. For three days, a male nurse named Ed became my closest friend and confidant. At first I thought he was a little aloof and absent-minded, perhaps too much so for his own good. But we quickly grew to have a good chemistry in terms of our communication and his personality traits that initially worried me became part of his charm. Go ahead and make whatever joke you want about me being cared for by a male nurse. I don’t care. I am so entirely grateful to Ed and I will be until the day I die.
A team of female nurses were just a great to me. It’s just that I only saw one of them – Nancy – more than once, so Ed sticks out in my mind more because we shared so much time together. Working the overnight shift, a nurse named Catherine was completely kind and compassionate to me while I suffered through my worst night in the joint. She tried everything she could to make me comfortable and was far more patient than I could have asked.
Another Kathy looked after me my last night there. She and I didn’t interact too much because I’d figured out the routine by that time and was improving. I didn’t need as much attention. Still, she was very kind and I could tell that she and I would have gotten along swimmingly if we’d shared more time together.
And then there was Nancy, who I mentioned before. She looked after me overnight on Thursday night and I was sorry to see her go. She had a quick wit and a sort of “don’t mess with me” kind of charm that was really just an act; she was exceedingly kind, compassionate and efficient. In fact, Nancy’s reappearance gave me a boost when I needed it most.
Friday night, I went to bed not knowing when I might ever get out of there, but also knowing that Ed was not going to be back on Saturday. That made the thought of staying even less appealing, having to come up with a whole new routine with another nurse. But when I awoke from my three-hour sleep on Saturday morning, there was Nancy, turned around from a night shift Thursday night to a day shift on Saturday. She doesn’t know this, but I was elated to see her. At that time, I was frustrated and angry that the doctors had not been around to see me the day before. I wanted to go home worse than ever. But when I saw that Nancy was there for the day, I thought, “Okay. I still want out of here, but I can deal with it with her around.” I intend that as a very high compliment to her.
I wonder if those people realize how much of a positive impact they have on people’s lives in such a short amount of time?
In any event, my sweet Tracey arrived with my boys to get me shortly after 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. I finished my last bag of antibiotics through my IV, Nancy removed the needle from my arm and we were on our way. Funny, for just a moment it felt bittersweet to leave. I’d been ill and these people made me well again. I was confined to one room for several days, but I was lucky to have it and everything in it served me well. As I prepared to leave, I experienced an overwhelming rush of gratitude for all that had helped me through the challenge. I found Nancy at the nurse’s station, gave her a somewhat awkward hug (I don’t think she’s used to that) and hobbled off behind my loving family.
Before I forget, I just want to right down a few random remembrances from the hospital stay. I admit this is purely for my own benefit. I want to be able to remember these things and chuckle when I am old and gray. Here goes:
- When I arrived, I was in such pain that the nurses could not get my shirt off (so that they could put me in a hospital gown). They asked me if they could cut the shirt off. Trouble was I had my Detroit Tigers no. 54 Joel Zumaya t-shirt on. I told them, “I don’t care how much I scream from the neck and jaw pain, but you get that shirt off of me. Do not cut my Joel Zumaya shirt.” Haha. Juvenile, yes. But I still have my Zumaya shirt.
- One of the things Tracey brought me to help cope was our mini DVD player. During the course of my stay, I watched the “Making of” the original Battlestar Galactic, the first two episodes of “Nash Bridges” and an episode of “Due South.”
- The book I was reading through my stay – “Hell’s Aquarium” by Steve Alten – got soaked when one of the nurses left an ice pack on it. I’m still not finished it, but the book is still readable, even though it’s still a little soggy in a few spots.
- There are no cell phones allowed in the hospital. But they had several free wireless internet feeds available. So I asked Tracey to bring me TWIKI, my Blackberry. I never made or received a call, but I was able to check email and Facebook (which I only did through the wireless network). I’m still not sure I should have had TWIKI there, but I am so glad I did. He was my connection to the rest of the world. In some cases, I sent out Facebook messages in the middle of the night just to try and keep me sane. I was careful only to use TWIKI when no one was looking.
- The first full day I was there, Ed the nurse was on my case a little about showering and shaving. I hadn’t shaved since Saturday, so by Wednesday I was looking a little like one of the guys from ZZ Top. I was still very sore and didn’t bother until the next day, which made Ed happy to no end. It was funny to me that he cared so much that I looked clean and tidy.
- When they were putting the “lumbar puncture” needle in my back, after they’d screwed up the first time, they got to a certain point and said, “Good. We’re done.” I asked, “You’re done?” They responded with, “Yes, we’re done.” Seeing as my leg was in total agony, I began to straighten up to gain some leg relief. The doctors screamed at me, especially the lady doctor who had been irritated with me before. She yelled, “Kevin! What are you doing! Don’t! Move!” I said, “I thought you said we were done?!” She said, “I meant that the needle is all the way in. I still have to take the sample and pull it out. Sheesh. Be STILL!” Nice, huh? I said, “Gee, I’m sorry. I took ‘we’re done’ to mean that – I don’t know – we were DONE!” That doctor and I will not be exchanging Christmas cards. Our relationship is done. By that I mean finished. Completed.
- People that visited me: Tracey, Eddie and Jaden; my Dad and Stepmom, Barb; my business partners Jeff and Dave; my good buddies Kevin “KG” Gorman, Ken Alward, Derek Botten, Lisa Brandt and Rob Sharpe. My father-in-law, the “Big Dog” got me there in the first place and stayed with me in the toughest part, the very beginning. And I am so grateful to the countless people who called and emailed their support.
- A rough needle-count estimate: Three placements of the IV; at least 6 blood samples; 6 shots of morphine; 4 shots of blood thinner (two of them in the stomach); 6 shots of freezing fluid in my back and 2 “lumbar puncture” 3-inch needles. That’s 27 needles in 4 days, and I’m not sure: I may be forgetting a few. But 27 is enough.
So now that I’m home, what of our CD project and everything else? Well, KG was working on the CD while I was cooped up. However, going into this week we were balancing on the razor’s edge with a number of behind-the-scenes issues. We are now behind. I’ve already looked into several scenarios but priority number one is to get well for another long haul. I’ll see what I can figure out in the next couple days, but we already know this about the No Schedule Man:
He gets there when he gets there.
If he gets there at all.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my back/left leg pain and my first visit to massage therapy. I did so with an eye toward humour.
I’m not laughing anymore.
I’ve now been in real pain the entire month of May. After two treatments with massage, the therapist suggested I go back to my family doctor (who had told me to go to the massage therapist). Last Friday morning, I finally arrived at my wit’s end (little did I know it would get worse) and called to make an appointment to go see a physician. That afternoon, I went in and was told to, “Take ibuprofen and go see a physiotherapist.”
Translation: Take a pill.
Now, this is a family blog. So I will not tell you in plain words what my opinion is of that diagnosis. After all, it’s the same bloody diagnosis you get for everything.
Take a pill.
To be fair, there was the physiotherapy thing. I’ve done that too. They gave me exercises. They gave me ultrasound treatment on my sore back. And guess what? I did what they told me, religiously, for a long time. I never got any better. And at that, my current pain is so bad that I can’t manage a stretch or any sort of an exercise anyway, so what’d be the point?
Still, I asked the doctor, “What do you expect a physiotherapist to do?”
He said, “Well, they may be able to manipulate your spine and if it’s a slipped disc or something, they might be able to pop it back into place.”
I said, “Moving bones around? So you mean a chiropractor.”
“Oh no,” he recoiled. “No, no.”
Friends, here’s some free advice. Wanna know how you can tell when you’ve found the truth? Look for the people squirming. It never fails. When I mentioned “chiropractor” I may as well have yelled “SHARK!!!” I knew right then I’d probably be going to see Alan from Two and Half Men before long.
I left the doctor’s office entirely unsatisfied, popped my ibuprofen and went off to the race track for my night’s work there.
An aside: Try to remember that I live a pretty active life. Or at least I try to. Squash, golf, push-ups, street hockey, stretches; it’s not like I never move around. I’ve been eating better, quit my radio (part-time) radio job to have more room to breathe, have kept up regular visits to the gym for over four years and still have ended up here. Frustrating.
I somehow muddled through the weekend but it wasn’t much fun. And then Monday morning arrived and I knew I was in serious trouble. I talked to a good friend of mine in Toronto who specializes in wellness and works with some physiotherapists in his clinic. He told me I was welcome to come to Toronto for an assessment. Much as I love him, I needed help that very day and I wasn’t feeling up to a two-hour drive. I asked him his thoughts on chiropractors. His answer was, “Brother, it all depends on the chiropractor; what kind of person they are, how they feel about their patients, all of that.”
My two business partners, along with one of my good friends and co-workers, have sworn by chiropractic since I’ve known them. I’ve never begrudged their feelings, but I’d never been particularly interested either. Until Monday.
I called the chiro that treats my business buddies and she welcomed me in that day.
Let me tell you: that was an experience.
After the first “adjustment” I began laughing uncontrollably. I felt like I was in the middle of sitcom. I could only think of Seinfeld, and Kramer getting set to jerk Elaine’s head while saying “From pain will come pleasure” and then you hear that cartoonish crrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaccccckkkkk sound. Well I heard that sound coming from my own body and it struck me funny.
Also, I was a little scared. But I tried to roll with it. And I did, until she turned me on my right side (thereby exposing my sore left butt cheek) and said, “Now, this is going to hurt.”
Coolly, I replied, “It already hurts, so go ahead and ARROOOOWWWHHOOGHHAHHHAGGAA!!!!!!!!!!!”
As she dug her elbow fiercely into the sorest part of my body, she cooed, “Deep breaths.”
And so it went.
And it got worse.
I was back for my second “adjustment” yesterday (Wednesday) and actually felt pretty good afterward. I foolishly thought I’d turned the corner. In fact, I vividly remember waking at 2:00 a.m. and thinking, “Hey – my leg doesn’t hurt at all! This is bliss!” And I happily went back to sleep. Never mind that I awoke every hour on the hour from that point with pain and discomfort. I still felt I was making progress.
Then I woke for the day and tried to get out of bed. I put my left leg on the floor and cried out in such a way that I believe I scared the daylights out Tracey. I could not walk. She looked over me with pain in her eyes and pleaded, “What can I do for you?”
I asked, “Please bring me TWIKI (my phone) and my ice pack.” She did. I used TWIKI to let my business partner know I was an “if” for our 9:30 a.m. meeting and I used the ice to ease the pain in my leg. And then I started doing mental gymnastics.
‘Don’t panic’ I said to myself. ‘Don’t get frustrated. Be patient. Give it time. Listen to your body.’
Listen to my body. I’m about ready to hang the damn thing for treason, except that that’d ruin a lot of my other plans!
But I digress.
I pumped some ibuprofen into me and waited. After a while, I was able to hobble to the washroom for a shower. No shaving today (I hacked my face up pretty good the other day because I could hardly stand over the sink. I was putting cream on my neck afterward and found my hands covered in blood. It took me two band aids to stop the bleeding).
I made the meeting. I was exhausted after the fact, but I was there.
And so here I sit, speaking with you and knowing that I need to somehow make my way through working at two racing events in the next two days (quick aside: someone at a related business asked me for something early today because they were “in long weekend mode.” Sheesh. Must be nice. We don’t have those here in the real world where if you don’t do the work, you don’t get paid and the government doesn’t do a damn thing to help you along the way. But I digress again).
And, oh yeah: I’m supposed to release a CD three weeks from Saturday. I can’t even play my acoustic right now because I can’t even sit in the position I need to and hold guitar, let alone sing. I’ve got artwork to finish and print, CD cases to buy, the songs to master and send off to duplicate, merchandise designs to approve and print and rehearsals to do. It’s hard to believe that I actually have been working at this for a year, wanting this. And now my body has abandoned me.
But here’s the thing: When the time comes, I will be ready. I’m not sure how, but I will be ready. You watch.
See you on June 12th.
Greetings! This is Kevin Bulmer, coming to you LIVE from inside a sea of post-it notes, mock-up merchandise designs, doodles, lists and other plans! And I’m here to ask you: will I ever reach this goal? Are you still with me? Are we still on track? Does anyone still care?
I’m starting to feel like the boy who cried wolf. I’ve been writing this journal for almost a year. It’s like a movie that never ends. Like Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (which, I believe, it still going on at a theatre near you). Or maybe it’s just because we are getting near the conclusion of this chapter and I’m not sure how to deal with it.
As we near the release of our CD, I’ve been relegated to some behind-the-scenes work while I give KG some space to edit, fix some piano stuff and put some spit and polish to the songs. When our regular Tuesday night studio session came around, he texted me to tell me to, “Take the night off – I’ll have some stuff for you to listen to on Friday.” I told him, “Okay, but we’re cutting it pretty close!” He responded: “I have a plan.”
I love it when a plan comes together.
Still, it’s hard not to be right in there beside him. I’ll hear what he’s done tomorrow. Hopefully we’re close, because we are inside a month of release and we still have to send the master disc off to the duplication house, print the artwork/CD inserts, buy the jewel cases and – oh yeah – rehearse!
People are starting to try and give me money for tickets to the CD release show. I suppose I should take it. But it’s almost as if I’ve programmed myself to think that this event is so far off in the distance that, now that I know it’s getting close, I don’t know how to react. Oh well. I have faith in myself. I’ll get it figured out and when the time comes, we’ll be ready.
While KG toils in the studio, I’ve been working on a variety of things, including some merchandise designs and even the construction of the “No Schedule Man Trading Co.” display for our live shows. Wait’ll you see it! I’d describe it to you except I have no idea how it’s going to look. But there again, I have faith. We’ll get it done. Somehow.
I also took my first shot at a “video blog” this week. I think you’ll agree that George Lucas is shaking in his boots (if in fact he wears boots).
Meantime, if you read last week’s journal, you know that I have been suffering through what I have diagnosed as a pinched sciatic nerve. (Yes, I diagnosed it. Why? The doctor told me to go get massage therapy. Which I did. Twice. And then the therapist told me to go to the doctor. Sheesh.)
So Tiger Woods and I are now brothers in joint inflammation and lousy golf swings. Also, neither of us currently have a swing coach.
But I digress.
Basically, the situation is this: I’m going on two weeks whereby I feel that I’ll soon need to get a walker and start referring to people as “sonny.” It’s miserable, unless I’m under the influence of the miracle that is ibuprofen. I’m not proud of it, but right now that seems to be the only thing that helps. Which tells me I’ve got some inflammation. Will it ever go away?
Tune in next week and find out!
In other news, this past weekend I made my annual pilgrimage up to Thunder Beach (on Georgian Bay) to help my mom open up the family cottage. It’s not as easy as it sounds, especially when you can’t even get in or out of your own car without significant pain. But we got the job done and I got some quality time with my mom on Mother’s Day. Lucky kid.
Today I was not so lucky. Months ago I purchased a ticket to see the Detroit Tigers play the New York Yankees at Comerica Park in a game scheduled for this afternoon. It turned out to be a miserable day. All forecasts were for rain (ranging from 90% to 100% chance) so my pal Ken and I decided not to go. Well, darned if they didn’t get the game in. Tigers 6 Yankees 0. So I feel like a buffoon.
At least I’m used to the feeling.
Tomorrow night I am back at Delaware Speedway. And then I have the first Saturday/Sunday combo since I can remember where I have absolutely no plans. I believe Tracey is even taking the boys out for a few hours on Saturday. She asked me earlier tonight what I am going to do with my “quiet time.”
It’s a good bet I’ll be right here at my desk, working to beat our deadline.
Things in CD land have slowed down this week after much excitement the previous seven days. We pressed hard in order to be ready to release two new songs and also to be prepared for our live radio interview and performance. The whole week was extremely gratifying. There is always a wonderful sense of accomplishment when you fulfill a goal and we did that last week.
The only trouble is … we’re not all the way there yet.
After our CKXS adventure last Friday, I was right back into action in my CPT Entertainment duties, spending the entire day Saturday back at Delaware Speedway as an announcer coach/consultant. I then spent a good deal of the following day (Sunday) compiling my “reports” after the fact. Next thing I knew, it was Monday again and time to get back to business.
It never stops, friends. Not if you want to accomplish something out of your ordinary.
The process of finishing the whole “No Schedule Man” CD is pretty much in KG’s hands now. Everything is recorded except for some piano parts he may choose to redo. We are officially in “post production.” I have a lot of work to do in completing the artwork and other behind-the-scenes activities, but for the most part it’s up to KG (Kevin Gorman) to deliver us to the CD duplication company prior to our deadline.
I went to see him Tuesday night and it was immediately clear that neither of us had much enthusiasm for doing anything new. We were both tired. He had worked for a few hours on the song “Awake (But Not Alive)” so we listened through that, chatted, and called it a night. Our feeling was that sometimes the best way to reach a goal is to leave it alone. I know Kev is working at it through the week. But as I’ve stated in this space many times before, KG and I are not professional full-time musicians. I own an event and media management company and Kev is a full-time producer, teacher and man of all musical trades. We both have many other people and projects that we must report to in order to make our living. The “No Schedule Man” CD is a labour of love. That means we love it. But it’s also labour. You don’t always feel like doing the work because the time to do it is primarily in the evening or on weekends. Or, if you have to take some time out of a “regular” work day, then you darn well better make up for it. For in the world of entrepreneurs, you either do the work or don’t get paid. Everybody should have to be an entrepreneur at some point in their lives. But that is another opinion and story for another day.
With KG and me, we’d just been pushing ourselves so hard to obtain our goals that we’d finally worn out.
And so it goes.
So now we ramp up for the next run: completion of the CD and rehearsal for the first show (June 12 at the London Music Club) and all of the shows that come after it. That’ll be fun.
The other thing that I’ll look back on and remember from this week is a debilitating pain on the left side of my lower body.
In short, I’ve got a tight butt.
Laugh if you like, but it’s horrible. I have been doing my best to overcome lower back pain for the last four years. Much of it has to do with stress I’ve brought upon myself and the accumulation of some less-than-productive habits. I have been working to get in better shape and to that end I have good days and bad. But I have never felt anything like what I’m fighting through this week.
It has been diagnosed as a pinched sciatic nerve (aka “sciatica”) on the lower left side of my body. It means you’re in discomfort from your lower back right down to your toes. At the start of the week, I could not function without some Advil in my system and I was not pleased about that. I’ve been working hard to put fewer toxins in my body, not more. The discomfort prompted me to finally do what my doctors have been telling me to do for three years: go get massage therapy treatment.
I went for my first massage yesterday. All I could think about was George Costanza in Seinfeld, when he got massaged by a guy and later said to Jerry in a panic, “I think it moved!” Well, I didn’t care if a guy worked on me, a girl or if they drove a bloody truck over my back. I just wanted to feel better.
It turned out to be a woman that treated me, but I can assure you there was absolutely nothing erotic about it. Oddly, having another woman rub her hands all over your rear end is not anywhere near as exciting as one might hope. It was painful. Also, it was not quite embarrassing, but it was close. It felt like paying someone to treat you like a baby.
At one point, this nice lady had what I assumed (hoped?) to be a knuckle driven deep into the sorest point on my left butt cheek. She must have known that I was in pain, because I stopped talking. I never stop talking. But I did then. So she said, “Take a deep breath.” I thought, “I will if you take your knuckle off my butt.” But she did not, at least not for a few seconds.
So I took a deep breath. A few of them, actually.
Soon thereafter, she told me that the muscles all up and down my spine were, “Among the tightest she’d ever seen.” So there: my back muscles are tighter than yours.
Even so, I never got so much as a participation ribbon for all my troubles.
When it was done, I got dressed and then she asked me how I felt. I didn’t know what to say, because I honestly felt the same. So I came up with the only insightful, helpful thing I could think of and answered her by saying, “Umm, I don’t know.”
She said, “Some people feel great right away. For others it takes a while longer.”
Hmm. Okay. Well, I agreed to go back next week and then limped back to the Kevin-mobile to take me home.
So here I sit today, happily visiting with you, shifting in my chair every few moments to ease the pain emanating from my left gluteus. My back and butt woes are officially “to be continued.”
When we finally finish our CD, please don’t congratulate me by slapping me on the rear.
I’d rather have my finger caught in a mouse trap.
There is a little town on the banks of the Sydenham River, about halfway between Sarnia and Chatham, Ontario. It’s called Wallaceburg.
I adore the place.
I was born in London but I view Wallaceburg as my “other” hometown. My parents were born there. My grandparents spent most of their lives there. My great-grandparents were there. And as far as I’m concerned, I was born in London but I am from Wallaceburg.
Today KG and I capped a terrific week by visiting Wallaceburg, as we’d been asked to do a live, in-studio interview and performance on 99.1 CKXS FM, a radio station that did not exist the last time I was in the town (August of 2008).
We had a grand time. It was a gorgeous, sunny day. KG and I chatted the entire drive from London and completely enjoyed each other’s company. When we popped out of the car along the banks of the Sydenham River, I immediately asked for a picture.
I love the place. The moment we arrived, I could feel my family’s heartbeat. It just feels comfortable. Warm. Welcome. It feels right. I don’t know how else to describe it. For a time after my Grandpa Newkirk passed away, I’d lost that feeling. But it was back in full force today. It was as if I could hear my Grandpa’s trademark chuckle, happy that I had returned and brought friends.
KG and I had lunch at the Fiesta Restaurant and then went on walkabout. I was pleased to be able to have my picture taken by a mural of lake boat that used to sail straight up the Sydenham and into downtown Wallaceburg. And while we were at it, a woman happened by and starting asking questions of us. It turned out that she’d been in the same school as my mom and dad, only a year behind them. We chatted for about 15 minutes, right there on the street, after which she wished us her sincere best wishes and sent us on our way.
Boy, I love that place.
We also stopped by the local music store (“The Gear Box”) where KG checked out some microphones and I bought some guitar picks the likes of which I have never seen before. It’ll be neat if I come to like playing with them. Time will tell.
Back at the radio station, we did an interview where I was given the chance to talk about my family a little bit. That was fun. And then we played one of our new songs, “Do Better,” followed by my favourite song from my first EP/CD, a tune called “Glass.” That was fun too! It was the first time KG and I have “performed” since October of 2008. But it felt completely natural. We’re just getting started.
The time on the drive home flew by. Many stories were shared and many laughs were had. It was a grand time.
Earlier in the week, we’d debuted two new singles, “Hope Over Hurt” and the aforementioned “Do Better.” I am very proud of both and am entirely excited to have this train rolling along. It now seems hard to imagine that it was just last Sunday night that KG, Alyssa Sestric and I were back at Kevin’s studio, all three of us dog tired, trying to re-record a part I felt was very important for “Hope Over Hurt.” Less than three days later, the song was on the air on an FM radio station. Two days later, KG and I were there to personally see to the task.
One other thing I don’t want to forget: Green Day’s “Last of the American Girls” was the last song to play on the air before our featured spot. We joked that they were “opening” for us. But, jokes aside, I took it as a sign that I was on the right track. I love Green Day, and especially their most recent CD, “21st Century Breakdown.” The only rock band I like better is …
EXTREME! They also graced me with their new live CD “Take Us Alive” this week. The playing in their performance is absolutely out of this world. It is going to be a while before I listen to much else. That’s my band. I love Extreme! I’m so excited to have the chance to see them live again. They are my favourite band and they always will be.
I also celebrated my 36th birthday this week by playing nine holes of golf with my great good pals from CPT Entertainment. What I got for it was a terribly sore back and a terrific sense of satisfaction that I work with the best crew ever. Upon arriving home, I was greeted with hugs and kisses from my three most favourite people in the world. My boys gave me some of their Pokemon cards for my birthday and were determined to have me eat some of the cake that they helped Tracey make. It was great. They are great. Life is great.
And we haven’t even put out our CD yet? Hahaha!
Hey Wallaceburg! You know what?
We will be back.
What a week. I’m whipped. And looking back in my day planner and listing out all the things I’ve tried to tackle, I can understand why.
Got my taxes finished, submitted and processed this week. I got our car e-tested and the plates renewed. I also had to turn to Tracey’s dad for help in solving a water-in-the-basement issue that had been going on for almost two weeks. He and I gobbled up an evening and part of the next morning diagnosing and fixing it. However that was only after I’d contacted the company that provides our water heater and had it replaced (which turned out not to be the issue).
That was Monday.
I won’t even get into the puzzle that exists in the land of CPT Entertainment. It’s too much to describe. It’s all good, but too much to describe. I bet I would exhaust you if I tried to explain it. So I won’t.
My role (through CPT) in assisting our partners at Delaware Speedway has also become one that I won’t bother attempting to articulate, other than to say that we are on the doorstep of another season and we are all under a crush of deadlines. It’s fun and exciting, but it’s the kind of thing where you need to stop yourself from time to time, take a deep breath, focus, re-prioritize and then cut to the heart of the matter. Fast. And then do it again. And again.
And then there is the music, which sees us creeping closer and closer to various deadlines, the latest being our promise to release the first two singles from the new CD on CKXS FM next week. Since they are featuring us in their Local Spotlight program, we have the wonderful opportunity of having our music played on an FM music station and around the world via their internet stream. It’s important to me that we take advantage of that opportunity by having some new material to share.
You might think that several months’ warning would be enough. Me too. But it never seems to matter; when I come up on a deadline, there always seems to be a scramble. Maybe that’s why I set deadlines. Anyway, the time is upon us and one way or the other, we’ll be ready
Monday morning, I asked KG (Kevin Gorman) if he’d make me a CD copy of the two songs we’re releasing next week (“Hope Over Hurt” and “Do Better”). Now, in order to understand why I asked for that, you must realize that, for the last few months, we’ve been hearing the songs in bits and pieces; a vocal line here, a piano part there. It’s been a while since we just sat back and listened, start to finish, to a couple of full songs. The parts of what I’d been hearing of each were good. And the individual performances were also pretty good. But I wanted to get a sense of how it felt as a whole, and how close (or far away) we were to being ready. So I popped by to KG’s around lunch time on Monday and collected the CD from him. I promptly put it in my car stereo and turned it up full.
Soon after that, I felt a little ill.
We’re always our own worst critics, but I felt that we were off the mark on “Hope Over Hurt.” Now, I knew that there were edits and mixing issues that we hadn’t yet attacked and would be fixed, but I was still jarred at the overall lack of “feel” in the whole thing. That was my honest impression.
“Do Better” gave me a slightly better feeling, although there were some things missing that made me a little uneasy. And I know better. I asked KG for the songs before they were done. I knew there were things missing. But I felt I needed to stand back and hear it as a whole and when I did, I thought, “Oh boy; we’ve got work left to do.”
I wonder if painters do that; just stand way back from their work and take it all in from time-to-time. KG and I do. It’s just that we’ve been so focussed on a lot of little things over the last few weeks that we haven’t stood back to hear the big picture.
After listening to “Hope Over Hurt” several times, it started to become clear to me that the song was okay, but it just needed some adjustment, sort of like a race car that’s just not tuned up quite as well as it can be. The more I listened to it, the more I felt confident about what we needed to do, and none of it was a big deal.
I texted Kev, telling him that I “Had some thoughts about ‘Hope’ and would email him later.” He said that was fine. So after dinner and after putting the kids to bed, I sat down at my computer and typed out my thoughts. In the interests of giving you the inside look on how this stuff comes together, here is exactly what I wrote to KG that night:
It’s going to look like I’m being hyper-critical. I’m not. I love both songs. Just giving you my gut feeling on a few things with each:
Hope Over Hurt
Piano – are we overdoing it? I’m wondering about something more basically “rhythmic” like what you do in “Glass.” The fills are nice but it almost seems to slow the song down. Plus, I wonder if we did less of that through the verses if, as a result, the solo would really pop more? Just a thought. This is my fault, I know. Seems you would have learned by now!
Bass – I know what you’ve got in there is just a placeholder. I think there can be more from the bass, especially in the solo, to help drive the song along.
Beginning – I’m not convinced we need the beginning to be that long. My gut says we should go back to the way we had it before and cut the intro back to half of what it is now. Start with just the guitar for 4 bars and then the piano would come in with the vocals when my voice says “pilgrims” (by the way, the opening lyric starts just a hair too late … easily fixed!)
The Ending – I’d like to hear how it sounds if you filled out the ending on the piano a little more. Sounds too sparse to me. Sorta’ my feeling about the song as a whole … needs more balls to give it that subconscious confidence right off the hop. Just a thought.
Percussion – I have an idea. Ask me tonight and we’ll see if it’d help or just make things a whole lot worse. Hahaha.
Vocals – There are a few shaky moments for my voice but we’ll just have to live with it I guess. I wonder about the descant. Part of it sounds off to me (at 2:58). Not sure if you were going to do that over or if my ears are screwy.
Too much echo/reverb on my voice. I sound way too far away. Rough mix though, I know. Just thought I’d mention it.
We need your voice in the chorus and in the “na-na-na” part to balance it out. We have to have you in there!
There is a little “pop” in the vocals after the line “permanently gratified state” (I think). I could hear it in the car but not on my computer speakers and I can’t quite place it on my iPod headphones. But in the car, it comes off as an audible “click” from an edit. Easy to miss.
Tuesday night, I returned to KG Records (albeit 2 hours late because of the basement water woes I mentioned earlier). Kev smiled and held up the paper with the email you’ve just now read. He chuckled and said, “Now, you may not remember this,” (I smile) “But just about everything you’ve mentioned here, we’ve talked about before.”
“I know,” I said.
KG smiled. “I know you know. And the good news is that I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said.”
The only thing Kev talked me out of was my proposed change to the beginning. He convinced me we should leave it the way it is. I’ll be interested to know what you think of it when you finally here it.
The rest of the night, we worked on some minor editing and arrangement issues and I felt better about things when I left.
Later in the week, I saw Kevin again, along with Alyssa Sestric, a cool young lady who is lending her talents to some harmony vocals on our CD. Alyssa is a big fan of country music. As you might know, I spent over three years working with BX 93, the FM radio country music monster in this market. Weeks ago, I asked Alyssa if she’d like to go and see the station and meet some of the people that work there. It didn’t take much convincing. She was enthusiastic, to say the least. So, after clearing it with my radio pals, I met KG and Alyssa at the station Thursday afternoon, gave them the “tour” and introduced them to anyone I could find that was willing to talk to us.
Of particular interest to Alyssa was my great good pal Chris Harding, the afternoon drive host and Music Director at BX 93. I’d told Alyssa that Chris would be willing to offer her some advice and share some stories, and he did just that. Chris has a great ear for music, far more so than you’d be able to tell by simply listening the station (regardless of what you think about the song selection that actually goes to air, I can promise you that far more work goes into it than you could possibly imagine).
It was fun to watch Alyssa. She was clearly excited to be there. She listened intently to everything Chris had to say. I am very grateful to Alyssa for the time and energy she has put to what is largely my project. And I am also very grateful to Chris for being a great friend, mentor and just an overall good person. To see them together was especially gratifying to me.
We also stopped by to chat with Barry Smith, the Operations Manager. Barry is another person I hold in the highest of esteem. I will never forget that he took the time to offer me his constructive feedback about 15 years ago, even though I worked in another market (Sarnia) and for a rival broadcasting company. Little did I know that he and I would cross paths again, and that he would throw me a lifeline back in 2007 when I needed it most (but that is another story). It was fun for me to go back to him and say, “Here is a young person I believe has a lot to offer by way of talent and personality” and to see him agree and encourage Alyssa.
In any event, the whole thing was fun. It generated some positive energy, got me back to see some of my radio mates and got KG, Alyssa and I together away from the studio for the first time.
Moving on to today, I popped in to see Kev at his studio again for a couple hours and we worked out more of “Hope” and I got him to sing the parts I wanted him to do for “Do Better.” The results were great. We’ll be back at it again tomorrow. And when 99.1 CKXS FM comes a-callin’ we will be ready. Besides all that, I’m so ready to share some of this newer music, I feel about ready to bust. Today I felt like just screaming at Kev: “Just FINISH it!!” Hahaha. But of course it’s not that simple. He’s working as hard as he can and so am I.
In the rest of the world, I must admit I am a happy guy. In terms of the things that entertain me, it would seem that the stars are all lining up to put on a show just for me. I’m delighted! Earlier this week, the mail carrier brought me my copy of Craig Werth’s new CD “The Spokes Man.” It’s terrific; a gorgeous collection of songs (matter of fact it’s on right at this very minute; the song “I Had To Get Here”).
On top of that, my favourite band of all, EXTREME, is on the verge of releasing their first-ever live CD/DVD combo. I have pre-ordered it from Amazon and will try to be patient while I await its arrival. I have had a love affair with Extreme’s music in a manner than I’m not sure I can explain. Their 1992 album “III Sides to Every Story” not only changed the way I look at music, it changed the way I view the world and myself. That view still holds. There is something intangible about the combination of Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt together that hits my music nerve. I don’t know what it is. But I do know that others out there like me share the same affliction. When EXTREME’s “Take Us Alive” CD arrives at our door, we’re going to have a hard time listening to anything else for some time.
It is also not lost on me that Jimmy Buffett (another one of my absolute favourites) has released a new collection called “Encores.” I look forward to hearing it, though I’ve decided I’m going to wait to get that one until I’m really in the mood. For all I know, that’ll be tomorrow. Or maybe months from now. I don’t know. But I do love Jimmy Buffett and I look forward to hearing “Encores.”
As for this last one, you might find it funny. But I’ve always liked the rock band Jackyl. Tracey and I went to see them a few times in the early-to-mid nineties. I’ve always liked their attitude and their straight-ahead, no apologies brand of rock and roll. So when I learned that they have a new CD on the way within a couple of weeks, I was pretty happy. I bought their new single on iTunes the other day and have been pushing the limits of my car stereo with it ever since.
I am also looking forward to Carl Hiaasen’s next book and the new TV series “Caprica” (now that I’ve watched all my Battlestar Galactica DVDs). That’s all good.
Gotta’ have things to look forward to.
And I am looking forward to finally getting this CD completed, releasing it and sharing it with whoever will listen. The work doesn’t go away; it just changes from creating it to playing and promoting it.
And I wanna play.
PS – A week ago today, my ‘big’ sister Karen was born. Today, one week later, I celebrate the arrival of my baby sister Janna (or, as I know her, “J”). I am constantly inspired by both of my sisters. But what J has accomplished, I’ll never quite understand. It amazes me. Years ago, she ventured up north as north can be: to Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. I didn’t think she’d last three months. Instead, she adapted to the climate and the culture and she has not only made it her home, she has become so involved in the community as to make a truly positive difference in the lives of many people. She has married a terrific fellow named Kurtis and I am just so proud of my sister, I can’t tell you. My lone regret is that J is as far away as she is. Of course, she could say the same thing about me. We may be a long way apart, but I love my kid sister as only a proud brother can. I love you J. Happy Birthday.