Monday, July 30, 2012


I wish I typed faster. If I did, I’d blog way more often. My wife, Janine, is a lightning fast typist (90 words a minute or so) so it’s no wonder she gets so much done. She is up with the dawn, downstairs with coffee every morning blazing away on her computer with her sexy, geeky glasses on.

I take 6 months to write a blog. But my excuse this time is that it’s been pretty busy around here.  The studio is doing very well and I am teaching in Halifax at least a couple of days a week. So between us, Janine and I are working 7 days a week. We try to squeeze in a mutual day off here and there. Sometimes we are successful, sometimes not.

I am in the process of mixing a CD I am producing for Ann Fearon- which will be lovely when we are done. I have also been working on a project for folk singer-songwriter Vince Morash. After working on one of Ann’s songs yesterday, I put up “Fallen”, a tune of Vince’s we just finished recording last Thursday.

Now I know I am a bit of a sentimental fellow, but a lot of these songs, both from Vince and Ann really get to me. “Fallen” is about a fellow Vince once encountered pan handling on a street in Vancouver’s Lower East Side- about as bad an area as we have in this country.

As I worked on the song, I was reminded about a time, in a past life, when I was playing in a community concert band in that same part of the same city- East Hastings Street. It was a Christmas concert, and we were performing for the ‘fallen’ in a shelter. They had to endure at least one selection from the band before being ushered into the dining hall for their free (and likely only) Christmas dinner.

As the doors opened and they ambled inside, I was surprised how many of them were young and middle-aged. The waft of cigarette smoke preceded them, along with their almost palpable resignation and hopelessness.

As I looked at them from my perch in the back row, with my $3500 trombone in hand, I wondered how they had ended up there. Many surely had drug/booze issues. Others were likely crazies off their meds and on the streets.  But so many of them seemed pretty lucid- almost, dare I say, normal. People who hit a bad patch and ended up fallen. A divorce, death of a loved one, bad business decision, laid off by their employer…so many possible ways to end up on the skids.

It occurred to me that so many of us are a couple of missed pay cheques away from taking this kind of a tumble. In these times, in spite of all our government programs to make the world a better place, things seem to be getting crueler every day. I wonder how many of those fallen were ultimately taken down by the very systems put in place to “protect” them: government, banks, insurance companies. How many have been foreclosed upon, lost property, found they were not insured or were driven to bankruptcy through a series of bad luck or bad decisions?

Vince’s song strikes a chord (yuk yuk yuk) with me because my recent circumstances made it abundantly clear how easily any of us could be blindsided. In the last 5 years I have been divorced, relocated (twice) had a business investment go sour, re-married and re-started everything in a new province. And I am still trying to sell my Toronto condo (No reasonable offer will be refused…) But a couple of months ago, without going into unnecessary details, a bank with whom I’d had a 26-year relationship decided to make my life very, very difficult. Six months from now, it might not have been so difficult. The timing, to put it bluntly, sucked. Oh, and it wasn’t about defaulting, because I have never missed a payment or bounced a check in my life. It was a decision made by a faceless functionary who knew nothing about me- just numbers on a screen. He said, “This isn’t working for us. But we value your business.”

No, I am not making that part up.

Let this be a warning to you- particularly small business owners:  even if you don’t default, even if you pay your bills on time you could end up on some bank’s/insurance company’s/government department’s shit list. Then wait for the fun to start.

It was a very expensive and unpleasant to sort it all out. I didn’t really sleep well for about two months. I still don’t. The good news: I think I pulled a rabbit out of my ass this time but, in so doing, I used up all my rabbits. Still, it made me realize how close I was to being pushed into the ranks of the ‘fallen’. You manage, you juggle, you get through. Usually. I look at the less-fortunate in a different way now. I wonder how many were actually managing until they got blown out of the water by something, someone or some institution they trusted.

It’s worth a thought…and a listen to the song that got me thinkin’.

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