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.
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.
It was two weeks ago (less a day) that KG and I last lit the red light by hitting the “record” button on our music project.
Thankfully, the last two times we worked on the CD, we caught some nice momentum, which surprised me a little bit. On the evening of December 21st, I went to KG’s place having followed his orders for “vocal prep” to the letter (he’d told me to wear a scarf when I was out – to keep my neck/throat from sudden changes in temperature – and to drink lots of water). I was proud that I’d done what he told me. I drank so much water I was constantly running to the washroom to get rid of it. And the scarf makes me look like a real artist.
But I got a cold anyway.
Nonetheless, I could still sing, so we managed to get the lead vocals recorded for “Sunny Day in November” that night. The following evening, I felt worse. I didn’t think we’d get much done, but we started in on the lead vocals of “Do Better.” After three or four takes, my energy dropped and my voice started to give out. I could feel it. The same thing happens sometimes when I do my radio work; it’s like a switch gets flipped and then you just don’t have it anymore.
Kev called for a break. At that point, I thought we might be done for the night. But Kevin wanted two more takes of “Do Better.” I thought he was crazy. I suggested perhaps we try something a little softer (though “Do Better” is not really very demanding vocally) and then to come back to “Better.” KG said to go ahead and try that.
But then I changed my mind and said, “Let’s do those two takes right now. I’m ready. Let’s go.”
We did the first and KG said, “Wow – I don’t know what happened during our break, but it sure worked. That was the best yet. Now give me one a little better.” So I did. And Kev was happy.
I don’t know how my voice recovered, but it did. Perhaps it’s all in your head? Could be. As Yogi Berra said: “The game is ninety percent half mental.”
If we’d called it quits then, I could have been tricked into being pleased about it. But we kept at it and a funny thing happened: not only did we finish the lead vocals for “Do Better,” but we also did the vocals for three other songs, including “Bagley Avenue,” “Kevin’s Prayer” and “Awake (But Not Alive).”
In fact, sensing some momentum, we pushed it a little longer. With only about 20 minutes left in our scheduled session (and already three lead vocal tracks in the bag) I asked Kev if he was up for another one. I said, “I figure we’ve got just enough time to for me to sing ‘Awake’ about four times.”
So that’s what we did. I think I ended up singing that song six times in total, just to give KG some choice as to what sounded best (plus, in my opinion, that song is all killer and no filler so I’m happy to sing it as many times as KG asks me to).
I don’t know how we got that much done on that night. Perhaps the universe knew what was to come, and squeezed all it could out of us. Immediately after that, I sniffled and coughed through most of the days surrounding Christmas. It was nothing debilitating, but not good for singing. And of course, if you’ve been following this story, you know what happened next: The break-in at the studio on Christmas Eve (for more about that see last week’s blog).
For a quick update on that situation, Kev is recovering from it okay, but it is by no means over with. He’s had a ton of extra work to do because of the thefts, not to mention dealing with the psychological burden that goes with being violated like that. Add in Christmas (“holidays” … yeah, right) and other day-to-day stresses, and he’s got a lot to deal with right now.
He’ll get through it. His other buddies and I are doing our best to keep his spirits up. But by and large, he does a fine job of that on his own. We have great admiration and respect for him and love him very much. No person who has that need ever worry, as he’s already earned everything that really matters. It just doesn’t feel like it sometimes; times like these. But he’ll get through it.
Meantime, I managed through Christmas as well. During that time, I largely put the brakes on anything related to the music project, other than playing guitar here and there and noodling with some new song ideas for down the road.
A highlight of the holiday season was getting to see my sister Karen who was here from St. John’s, Newfoundland. I love my family very much and wish I got to see my sisters more (my kid sister, Janna, is in Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories, of all places. Not exactly a day-trip).
Another great good friend of mine zipped off to Vegas and married his better half (who is also a great friend), so that was a terrific piece of news.
And beyond that, I was pleased that I finally gave myself a little bit of time to just sit. I enjoyed watching the first two “X Men” films just prior to Christmas (I never thought I’d say that), got completely wrapped up in the Canada vs. USA World Junior Hockey Game (that hasn’t happened since I was a kid), began reading a great book by Jeffrey Deaver (lent to me by the same friend that got married) and started watching the newer version of the “Battlestar Galactica” TV series on DVD, and I absolutely love it.
Oh yeah – I also managed to be on the radio on BX 93 for 6 hours every weekday around Christmas and New Year’s too.
But other than that, nothing happened.
Meantime, getting back to the point of this journal, while KG and I are unable to record, we are getting together at his studio for our regular Tuesday night session tomorrow night. The show goes on. We’ll be rehearsing. Singing. Playing. Having fun.
And when the time comes for that red light to go back on, we will be ready.