66 Years in the Making!
3 Plays for a Quarter!
Yes, it’s true!
Download the Jukebox for free:
play-the-jukebox PDF version
play-the-jukebox-reid-Dickie ZIP file epub for tablets and ereaders
With gratitude and love I dedicate this book to my parents, Helen and Bruce Dickie, whose gifts I used every day of my life, and to Linda, who lit my way.
Available now at McNally Robinson
Moments away from puberty, young Jim Crawford begins to discover how his newly effervescent maleness gives fresh meaning and expression to manhood in his family, friendships, community and beyond. Set in a small Canadian prairie town just as the tumultuous social and cultural changes of the 1960s begin, Play the Jukebox is a character-driven story entwining bright wholesome and dark pathological expressions of masculinity. As his own unique gifts reveal themselves, Jim learns the heights and depths to which men will go to defend family and future and how shared experience creates diverse forms of camaraderie between men and women.
Jim’s life revolves around pop music and records. The 45 – the little record with the big hole – is king; radio disc jockeys, record players and jukeboxes spin the seven-inch discs constantly. He discovers intimate links between hit songs and his own development as he travels from town to town changing the records in jukeboxes with Percy Peel, a mystery media mogul who leaves lasting impressions on Jim. As they did for millions of 1960s youth, The Beatles play a defining role as one of Jim’s change agents.
McNally Robinson: If you are coming into one of our stores, we suggest that you confirm that the book you want is in stock by emailing the location nearest you: Grant Park, Saskatoon, or by phoning the location nearest you.
Raised in rural Manitoba I developed an early appreciation of birds evidenced by the complete collection of Red Rose Tea Bird Cards on this page. My travels on the prairies including several unexpected birds. Find them all my Birdland page.
CEDAR WAXWINGS IN BRANDON
It was a strange April day in Manitoba: temperatures around 30 degrees C and clear blue skies all weekend long. I was staying with my cousin, Duncan, in the east end of Brandon. On the day I arrived, Duncan pointed out an ornamental cherry tree in his neighbour’s backyard that was loaded with shriveled red cherries. Unfit for human consumption, the cherries are a delicacy of certain birds that, according to Duncan, each spring swarm the tree and feast on the cherries, now sweetened by winter’s freezing and thawing.
The next morning, as if induced by my cousin’s comment, the tree was alive with cedar waxwings. Famished from their long migration, the waxwings cover the tree and the ground below, ravenously eating the cherries. A flock of birds flies up from the ground into the branches and the ones from the tree swarm to the ground, excited birds, appetites whetted, blissful on a hot strange spring day.
The air was vibrating with the shrill keening of the waxwings. Several large still-bare nearby trees were decorated with more cedar waxwings waiting to feed, hundreds of birds in all. Flock after flock dined at the cherry tree.
Several curious species – robins, blue jays and starlings – arrived to see what all the commotion was about. These birds prefer feeders and worms to cherries but waxwing enthusiasm was contagious. The feeding frenzy went on most of the morning then the flock was gone, the air still, quiet, hot.
In a few weeks, the cherry tree will be smothered in tiny white and pink blossoms that perfume the air with a sweet smell. By then subsequent flocks will have stripped all the cherries from the tree.
Cedar waxwings have the ability to digest a variety of berries, some of which are poisonous to humans. Gorging themselves for hours, waxwings have been known to get a little drunk if the berries have fermented.
A sleek, beautiful creature, cedar waxwings are strikingly identifiable: the brown topnotch crest and breast with grey wings and tail, the yellow wash over the belly, the dark eye mask and throat marking, the yellow tail tip and the distinctive waxy red drops on the wings which give the birds their name. The females are somewhat plainer. Cedar waxwings are one of the few birds whose numbers are increasing in North America.
Coniferous trees are favoured places to build their deep nests. Chicks are born late to ensure a supply of berries and bugs for their growth. I remember seeing waxwings as a kid in western Manitoba. Apparently they abound in Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg but I haven’t seen one in our neighbourhood for years. The last time I saw one was a few years ago at Last Mountain Lake in Saskatchewan. I was camping next to the bird sanctuary and saw a nesting pair.
What a hopeful sign it was to see a huge flock of excited birds so eager to fulfill their biological imperative. I had begun to wonder if there were large flocks of any birds remaining. It was good to see an old friend return with such vigor.
Just back from a four day jaunt into western Manitoba that began with a productive heritage meeting in Carberry where the potato harvest is underway. Hundreds of people are involved this year, potato trucks abound on the highways and caterers are kept busying feeding the crews. Over 20,000 acres of potatoes are grown in the the area, much of the crop processed at the McCain Canada plant south of town. Odds are good that an order of french fries at a McDonald’s from here through the Mid West into Texas was grown and processed near Carberry. I followed a potato truck whose model was a Spudnik.
North on Highway #5 got me to Dauphin and the Vondarosa, my cousin’s piece of paradise on the edge of Riding Mountain. The picture at the top is of Riding Mountain and the big Manitoba sky taken from her grid road. It’s a different crop around Dauphin. Thousands of acres sport lush green hemp fields that will be harvested in October for both the fibre and the seed. The fibre will be processed at Plains Hemp in near-by Gilbert Plains. The company is North America’s leading provider of industrial hemp fibre and hurd products which are used for everything from horse bedding to hempcrete (building material). Much of the hemp seed will be processed by Parkland Industrial Hemp Growers in Dauphin.
Although apparently it’s been grown in the area since 1992, I saw my first crop of quinoa growing across the road from a hemp field on this trip. The above picture is of the massive field of the stubby stalks loaded with seeds. NorQuin operates out of Saskatoon, SK and supplies stores with quinoa in numerous forms. Products made from hemp seeds and quinoa seeds are available at Sobey’s, Co-Op and elsewhere. The picture on the left is a close-up of quinoa plants.
The Dauphin Humane Society held a sold-out fundraiser on Saturday night featuring three comedians and a band. All the comedians were edgy and richly entertained the largely 30s and 40s-aged crowd. Dan Glasswick from Winnipeg and Sterling Scott from Edmonton were the headliners but I was most entertained by young Winnipegger Mike Green (right) whose spontaneous style humourously involved the audience, playing off members of the crowd. Scott will represent Canada at the World Series of Comedy in Las Vegas this week. The band called Revolving Door – possibly a joke – was raw, rockin’ and ragged.
As combines do the final harvesting both south and north of RMNP, the fall palette of colours is starting to emerge, especially beautiful through the Park. This is a picture of me at a ford crossing of the Vermilion River with the lush colours all around.
The federal election has spawned a temporary blight of politician’s signs on the landscape. In a field along the highway outside Dauphin these hopeful words:
I sent the following letter to Stephen Harper today regarding Bill C-51 which is supposed to give police power to deal with “terrorism.” Instead it takes away our right and freedoms based on little more than fear-mongering and media booga booga.
Because the Ref-Cons are under the thumb of Big Pharma, Bill C-51 contains directives regarding alternative medicine. For example, up to $5 million fine for growing, preserving or sharing an unregistered natural health product like garlic, vitamins, herbs. The bill turns ordinary Canadians into “terrorists” if we use medicinal alternatives.
My letter went to every MP in Ottawa via one mass emailing. You can find all their email addresses here. Scroll down, copy and paste them into your address bar.
Bill C-51 is your most anti-Canadian bill yet.
This dreadful secret police bill is much too vague in all its definitions, gives too much power to CSIS and overreaches far too deeply into the lives of ordinary Canadians. It gives police the power to detain people who haven’t committed a crime based on mere suspicion, i.e. search and seizure without warrant. This is your devious way of trying to get control of the internet, censor its content and to control medical alternatives. Why are directives against alternative medicine included in this bill?
This bill does nothing to protect our freedoms; it undermines them. No matter how much fear-mongering you do or how many phony terrorists you haul out in front of the cameras, we are not willing to give up our rights and freedoms. Your paranoid anti-democratic views represent a very small portion of Canadians.
C-51 is alien legislation. This wasn’t even drafted in Canada. It was written elsewhere and you were told to apply it to Canada. You know you are wrong which is why you are desperate to limit debate and abuse your power further. How can you make an informed decision without all the information?
The current oversight of CSIS has been under funded and understaffed for the duration of your reign and now you claim this new bill has sufficient oversight. There will be even less oversight and accountability with C-51. What kind of spooks are you turning our country over to?
I am 100% opposed to Bill C-51. It should be scrapped now.
Read Ralph Nader’s letter to Harper about Bill C-51 here
We moved to Shoal Lake in 1957 when I was eight and I left for the city at nineteen. Those are formative years when one grows from an egocentric to sociocentric worldview, taking the role of the Other, starting to think about thinking and finally feeling like a citizen of the planet. Just before I left home, my father said that no matter where I roamed or what I accomplished in my life, I would always think of Shoal Lake as my hometown. He was right.
My cathedrals were somewhat more humble than the stone behemoths the word usually conjures. Though it was a town of 800 with five spired churches (Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Baptist, Anglican, United), my cathedrals were the movie theatre, the town hall, the high school, the ice rink, the train bridge and the spruce grove by the lake.
The only cathedral left standing today in 2015 is the grove of spruce trees that decorate a slow incline up and away from the water’s edge at the north end of the lake. They were planted in 1928 as part of the village landscaping. The trees wrap around the closest thing the lake ever had to a beach, vulnerable to the prevailing, often harsh, northwest winds. During their eighty-seven years, the trees have adopted a slight lean away from the wind. It’s not a thick grove but an airy and light stand with sky at the top end and water at the bottom. Underfoot lies decades of brown needles thatched in slow decay.
By the 1960s the spruce were at their most verdant, early maturity brought a luscious deep green to the shore when viewed in perfect morning light. It was under these sheltering branches that many rites of passage and epiphanal moments occurred for my friends and me. Here bonding moments so serene, proving moments so intense and our love for the whole wide world, created new beings out of us. Boundless expressions of song sang with spruce gum and lake water in the hot sizzle of the metal camp stove, our incense and laughter echoing beyond the trees into the starry night. Acoustic guitars strummed to bleeding during long rambling confessions of angst, love and guilt, inspired by the Doors’ The End. In this confessional, the trees listened patiently, ever returning each of us to sanctity, to grace.
Today the trees are past maturity; their trunks three-quarters bare of branches, the foliage now a rickety umbrella high overhead. The bare overripe spruce are easy pickings for wind; they creak now even in small breezes. Crushing windstorms from the northwest break off the old trees regularly. Yet they remain my one cathedral, still bending in the wind, becoming more majestic in their age and decline.
To walk among them now is to hear the echoes of old friend’s young voices and see them splashing in the shiny water; it is to hear the blues played on a harmonica at the edge of a prairie lake by a farm boy whose father works him like slave. During spring break-up on the lake there are a few days when tinkling needles of ice produce the sound of delicate wind chimes as they float in the cold water, playing counterpoint to the trees combing sighs from a passing breeze. When I walk among these trees today I am among friends, closer to the wisdom of age and experience that we intuited as youth but only recognize now as we grow long in the tooth.
How we worshiped with vigor and hope at that church of green timber! Confusing, hormone-befuddled days turned into evenings of comradeship, peace and caring, of understandings that curious youth bring only to each other. Spirit lived in my cathedrals then and still does today. The link we share with our past when using the local knowledge of a place and its landmarks allows us to discover Spirit in yet another form.
Even though today grass grows thick over my parent’s graves in Shoal Lake Cemetery and I have few friends left in the town and fewer reasons to return, Shoal Lake is still home in the sense of it being the repository of my growing and changing. It is where memories reside. It will always be home to the cathedrals that played significant roles in my youth, cathedrals that time and progress have taken away. When I left Shoal Lake, I forfeited the right to own my cathedrals anywhere but in memory. As it should be.
As you can see in the above picture taken in late August 2013, the Stockton Ferry is back in the water and spanning the Assiniboine River. This is a picture of how the ferry looked two years ago – beached by floodwater.
In 2011 the ferry was pulled from the surging river and spent two summers on land, its infrastructure a tangle of steel beams and cables. Today, its support system rebuilt, the ferry plies the river once more connecting two gravel roads used primarily by locals.
The ferry is free and operates on limited hours: Monday to Friday from 7:00 to 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. with no service on Saturday and Sunday. The site includes a small area where you can camp and fish in the Assiniboine. Facilities are limited.
Stockton is located 11 kms west of Glenboro on Hwy #2 and 3 kms north on signed road. The ferry is past the community across the tracks. Watch for signs.
Click on any picture to watch my 1:20 video report from August 2013.
UPDATE APRIL 9, 2015
Fort la Reine Museum in Portage la Prairie is one of the most progressive and inventive museums in Manitoba. Their Lennon/Ono exhibit last year drew the curious. Always looking for new wrinkles to make use of the museum’s collection, this week I received an email from them suggesting “get married at our museum.” What a novel idea!
They have all kinds of interesting venues to actually hold your wedding including a couple of heritage churches. You can get wed elsewhere and use the museum as the setting for your wedding photos with various amenities available. I Do details are on their website. Even if you’re not getting married the museum is a worthwhile stop, just off the TCH on the east side of Portage.
Under an overcast sky, the mighty Avenger and I took a spin westward on the TCH to Portage la Prairie last Friday. A quick shop of PLP’s thrift shops, it has three, yielded just four classy 1950s glass tumblers @ $1 each at the MCC. A slow cruise through Island Park, literally a park on a large island in the middle of the Assiniboine River, and a pause for a Horts got me homeward bound. But not before a stop at the Fort la Reine Museum on the east side of PLP. The gate and all the buildings were open but Tracey Turner, the museum’s curator and manager, said they don’t officially open until Monday, May 7.
I spent half an hour roaming the sprawling museum which is comprised of 27 different pioneer buildings and items brought into the site creating the feeling of a village. Heritage purists disparagingly refer to these kinds of museums as “petting zoos.” They believe that heritage value exists only when the place is in situ and that value disappears when a building is moved. Not being a heritage snob, I like the clustering of buildings from various times and uses. Fort la Reine Museum displays all the qualities that I appreciate in a museum.
Such as? The pleasant feeling of an early pioneer village. When you enter there is a row of old buildings as you might find on a main drag of a prairie town around 1900. The pictures at the top are of the interior of the museum’s general store. Also on site are a replica of Fort la Reine (the original was built by La Verendrye in 1739), a red barn, St. Nicholas Ukrainian Orthodox Church, fire hall, print shop, school, doctor and dentist’s offices and West Prospect Church.
Specific items on display include a York boat, Musketeer aircraft and several houses. The houses range from a reproduction of a trapper’s crude shack, the Paul family’s log house built in 1879, the Hourie house built in 1890, the Burton house from early 1900s and the Douglas Campbell home. Each house represents an improvement in accommodations and demonstrates the development of prairie architecture from rude shacks to elegant Queen Anne Revival style homes.
The museum has a significant railroad component which includes the private rail car of Sir William Van Horne, the flamboyant general manager of the CPR, a superintendent’s car, a signalman’s shack and a caboose.
Another reason I like this museum concept is, without it, most of these buildings would have been destroyed, converted into sheds and granaries or left to rot into the prairie. Even though they aren’t in their original location, they do still exist thanks to the museum.
Tracey Turner told me they are doing something new this summer. In July and August the museum will host an exhibition about the various traveling vaudeville shows that crisscrossed the country in the early 1900s. Called Voices of the Town, Vaudeville in Canada, the exhibit is on loan from the Peterborough Museum and Archives. I’ll provide more information about the exhibit when its opening day draws nearer.
Meanwhile, the Fort la Reine Museum offers plenty to see and be amazed by. There is lots of space for the kids to run about, fascinating one-of-a-kind exhibits and friendly knowledgable staff. The museum makes a terrific Manitoba day trip. Find out more about the museum here http://www.fortlareinemuseum.ca/
I have another documentary to recommend. Three years in the making, Waste Land follows Brazilian-born Brooklyn artist Vik Muniz back to his native Brazil and to the biggest garbage dump in the world, Jardim Gramacho, just outside of Rio de Janeiro. Muniz returns home to create images of the catadores, a group of about 2500 people who climb mountains of trash to pull recyclable materials out of the tons of garbage deposited daily. Vik’s original plan had been to “paint” the catadores but wound up having the garbage pickers create large images of themselves out of garbage and photographing the results. The despair and the dignity of the catadores is obvious and heartfelt throughout as is the transformational power of art. Suddenly given self-images and seeing their faces on the walls of an art gallery changes the lives of everyone involved in the process. Uplifting and provocative, Waste Land, directed by Lucy Walker, will inspire your imagination and invigorate your spirit. Click the pic to see the trailer.
“Sandy, the fireworks are hailin’ over Little Eden tonight, forcing a light into all those stony faces left stranded on this warm July.” – Bruce Springsteen
My high school English teacher, Mrs. Smith, along with my teacher Mom, instilled in me a deep appreciation of images conjured out of mere words and the power that ability holds. They made me realize that to stimulate the imagination of others using language carries a mysterious power, creates a direct bond between people and satisfies our need to share experiences. I have pursued the satisfactions of words ever since, in what I write, what I hear and what I read. I am always listening for an original turn of phrase, a dazzling metaphor, an unexpected linkage of images to include in my writing. I admire writers who do this with alacrity and clarity. Annie Proulx’s best work is a cascade of exciting and unexpected images. Almost every page of her fiction offers something that makes me think, ‘Yes, that’s a unique way of expressing it.’ Annie intimidates me and inspires me with her imagery.
Songwriters have garnered my admiration for their abilities to build pictures with words, especially Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen. Last summer, when I listened to music on my travels in the mighty Avenger, it was almost always Bruce Springsteen’s first two albums, Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ and The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle, both released in 1973, the year Bruce turned 24. That year I started at CFRW-FM in Winnipeg doing a free-form evening radio show that often spun tracks from Greetings… When the second album came out in the fall, it became a huge hit on my show with listener requests every night. The Boss had arrived!
This revealing picture of Bruce was taken by Lynn Goldsmith and appears in her 1995 book Photodiary. Opposite the full page picture the copy reads: “Once during a studio shoot Bruce started taking off his clothes. I yelled at him to stop. He thought it was funny. I was angry. I told him that if he ever took his clothes off for any photographer he’d be putting himself in the position where one day the pictures could be published.”
The work on Bruce’s first two albums reflected and, to a degree, created American mythology, some of it dredged from adolescent fantasies, some captured from flocks of fresh and fleeting visions in the form of stream of consciousness rants.
Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.
released January 5, 1973
Greetings… consists of nine songs, all written and arranged by Bruce. Every song is infused with youthful vigour and keen enthusiasm, images tumble by as a peculiar cast of characters emerge, live their short urban lives then recede only to be followed by others. The album quickly, and somewhat justifably, earned Bruce the title of “the next Bob Dylan,” an endless quest of 1970s rock journalists. Bruce’s encyclopedic knowledge of 1950 and 60s rock and roll combined with the heavy influence of American movies meant the images from Bruce’s first album already felt familiar. Most songs on Greetings…, especially Lost in the Flood and The Angel, have great cinematic flare. Bruce writes what he knows. His milieu is the big city and seaside resort as experienced by a bright curious American boy. Right from the album title through the postcard cover design to the last track, Bruce invites you into his world. His vision has knowable, safe parameters and sources; he is confident that his world is worth visiting and he is ready to show the rest of the world why.
I always like to know the first words of an artist’s career, meaning the first lyrics they sing on the first track on their first album. In Bruce’s case, Blinded by the Light kicks off Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. with these words: “Madman drummers bummers and Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat in the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way into his hat.” That’s a helluva start to a career! And only the beginning as a rampage of characters follow. In 1977 Manfred Mann’s Earth Band had a #1 hit with their dreadful version of this tune but you need to know the original. It is Bruce’s first song.
Growin’ Up is a wistful mid tempo rocker that demonstrates Bruce’s evolved perspective on vanishing youth. Bruce was 23 years old when this album was recorded.
Mary Queen of Arkansas appears to live on Dylan’s Desolation Row having just returned from My Last Trip to Tulsa on Neil Young’s first album. Harrowing, sparse and personal yet lyrically opaque, Mary has just enough ambiguity and heartbreak showing through to make us yearn along with the poor confused boy.
Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street? One of rock’s great question songs, it’s a peon to entertaining yourself by people watching while riding the bus. A favourite line is, “Man, the dope’s that there’s still hope.” Bruce conjures another wild cast that build to a gorgeous cinematic finale.
“Everybody’s wrecked on Main Street from drinkin’ unholy blood,” – an apt description of the misfits and cops who populate Lost in the Flood. Three things about this track: it has some of Bruce’s most dramatic poetic images that build in an enticing musical and lyrical swell, Steven Van Zandt makes his first appearance on a Bruce album providing “sound effects” (he’d next appear on Born to Run two years later) and I love this track. It takes me there every time! Back in the day, that was the end of Side One of Greetings…
The Angel is the outline for a movie, sung plaintive and plain with a denouement I wish I’d thought of. It demonstrates that right from the get-go Bruce wasn’t afraid to use quiet strings and solo piano to frame his stories.
For You is another cascade of brief but urgent glimpses into the psychic field between devotion and rejection, disease and healing and all the angst contained therein. Bruce and the boys relay the emergency convincingly.
One of Bruce’s sexiest grooves, Spirit in the Night is my favorite track here. Today Martin Scorsese would direct the movie in which this is but one marvellous scene. The characters are high, happy and horny and the events at Greasy Lake are your basic orgy on the beach. Body and soul unite in a magical sex flight “where the gypsy angels go. They’re built like light,” one of my favourite Bruce characterisations. Clarence, who is under used on the album, establishes and maintains the bubbling groove and reenforces it with a fine break. Wild Billy has “a bottle of rose so let’s try it” which I take to mean Wild Irish Rose, a long-time harsh and cheap bum wine. The hint of sadness in Bruce’s voice in the last verse when they leave Greasy Lake makes me feel very nostalgic for youth, for the freedom the unknowable future encourages.
As if he foresaw or richly imagined the life and work ahead of him, such as becoming a Planetary Treasure, It’s Hard To Be a Saint in the City is tongue-in-cheek bluster from one of the coolest guys Bruce ever described. Pumping along, high definition city core images arise then sink back into the steam in the street. The tune and album end with a burbling fadeout.
The E Street Band was in its formative stages on Greetings… The only players here who became permanent band members are saxman Clarence Clemmons and Garry Tallent on bass. The album suffers from muffled production by Mike Appel and Jim Creteros. The biggest drag on the band is the ham-fisted drumming of Vincent Lopez, one of rock’s worst over-drummers. Otherwise the playing is worthy of the songs, Bruce the lone guitar on the entire album.
In order to save some of the cash Columbia Records had advanced to Bruce, Greetings… was recorded quickly in an inexpensive studio in Blauvelt, N.Y. and it sounds like it. The tunes and the songs are there, the talent is evident and the whole album has the feeling of being just the tip of a very large iceberg but the production detracts more than it should. Nonetheless an auspicious beginning!
The album only sold about 25,000 copies in the first year of its release, but had significant critical impact. On its 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, Rolling Stone ranked it #379. It’s #57 on my list.
The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle
released September 11, 1973
This was the convincer for me. Like Axis: Bold As Love, Hendrix’s second album, The Wild… proved without doubt Bruce was a force that the future required, beckoned, quickened. Although again produced by Appel and Cretecos and recorded at 914 Sound Studios, the same studio as the first album, this outing is less muddy than the debut, in fact almost throughout it’s downright bright. Future permanent E Streeter, Danny Federici, turns up on keys, everything’s bigger, even Vini Lopez steps up a little – maybe it’s just how he was recorded this time. Again Bruce is the only guitarist on the album. The Wild… is attractive, convincing, eloquent, beautifully sequenced so every song complements and contrasts the ones around it and Clarence gets to wail!
The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle kicks off the escapade with clattery horns resolving into a smooth groove maintained by Clarence that bounces around under a story of sexy youthful diversions performed by a fleeting cast. The last minute and a half feature a sweet guitar break followed by a funky percussion workout to the fade. Sweet and a perfect introduction the next track.
One of my all-time favourite Bruce songs, 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy), like all great rock and roll, is about fucking and the pursuit thereof. It’s Sandy’s big chance for sex with the needy poet boy from the beach. The fireworks of the first line promise orgasms later. Throughout he’s telling Sandy what he thinks she’ll buy, what will make her sexually sympathetic to him. He mentions getting stuck on the tilt-a-whirl, shares boardwalk gossip, explains his break-up with his waitress girfriend, tires of the factory girls who tease him, generally uses all his “lines.” To create empathy, he tries to explain that he and Sandy are the same stuff, know the same lives. I like how during the line “And the wizards play down on pinball way” Bruce’s acoustic guitar imitates Pete Townsend’s work on Pinball Wizard. Near the end of the song Bruce promises that if she loves him tonight he’ll love her forever. The delivery of the word forever is truly marvellous – a mixture of sexual urge, youthful promise and doubt with a huge scary question mark beside it which acknowledges the understanding between he and Sandy on this potentially special night! Beautiful! But he’s quitting the beach scene and encourages Sandy to do the same, to give up the “carnival life.” Although the song ends without a denouement, I like to think it all worked and they had mad, once-in-a-lifetime sex under the boardwalk that night creating more fireworks as promised.
Kitty’s Back is the perfect companion piece to Sandy, filled with seaside characters and their relationship to Kitty. Bruce’s sweet guitar playing sets the tone for the piece which has a free-for-all break that allowed most of the band members to improvise during concerts. This tune and Rosalita were the album’s most requested songs on CFRW-FM.
Continuing the fast-slow-fast-slow flow of the album, Wild Billy’s Circus Story ends side one with a delightful visit to the circus and some brief glimpses of its odd denizens. Garry Tallent pumps the tuba, Federici provides accordian and Bruce strums guitar and mandolin to create a midway atmosphere so pure and convincing you can smell the hot dogs, taste the cotton candy and hear the screams of the roller coaster riders. Bruce writes what he knows yet the tune only hints at the drama that awaits us.
Side two consists of three epics starting with Incident on 57th Street which features Spanish Johnny and his adventures in bed and out on the street. Here’s Bruce’s opening description of our hero: “Spanish Johnny drove in from the underworld last night with bruised arms and broken rhythm and a beat-up old Buick but dressed just like dynamite.” The whole song could be the outline for a great movie script. The track is dominated by gorgeous piano and organ work from Federici and David Sancious and a bunch of tedious over-drumming from Lopez.
Fuelled by Clarence’s sax and Sancious’ organ, Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) rocks! A long-time concert closer, it’s the story of our poor boy pursuing beautiful Rosie, his “stone desire,” against the strong will of her parents. He’s sure things will work out because “The record company, Rosie, just gave me a big advance!” – one of Bruce’s happiest deliveries.
New York City Serenade offers romantic mythology couched in dramatic piano work from Sancious. The entire epic floats, buoyed by Sancious’ piano and string arrangement and Clarence’s sexy sax wail. A new cast arises, starting with Billy and Diamond Jackie getting it on in the backseat of Billy’s Cadillac at “midnight in Manhattan” with hookers, jazz musicians, small time crooks in “a mad dog’s promenade.” Clarence’s contributes glorious sax throughout. On a personal note, there are two lines from this song that I have said aloud to myself every night for the past 20 years just before I fall asleep. These words have become my day-ending mnemonic device to induce sleep: “Shake away street life, shake away city life.” Works every night. Thanks Bruce!
In 2003, The Wild… was ranked #132 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. On my personal list, it’s #17.
FM radio caught on to Bruce right away. He was hopeful, humorous, intense and great fun! For me, from the beginning, he was a breath of fresh and honest air in a growing sea of mediocrity dominated by phony bands like Kiss.
Bruce Springsteen changed my life. Find out how in this post https://readreidread.wordpress.com/2011/02/05/linda-and-the-boss/
Next my Bruce post is Born to Run. Coming soon to blog near you.
Six weeks after I had double bypass heart surgery in 2002, I wrote this piece about healing and prayer circles.
Before we got our home desktop, whenever my computer-literate friends would talk about virtual reality, virtual communities, virtual museums, virtual anything, I would smile, nod and appear to know exactly what they meant. I didn’t, of course.
I understood the word ‘virtual’ and the concept they were using it to support but I was not adequate to their meaning of the term. It was the context I was missing. I didn’t have the necessary tool to create the possibility of something/anything being ‘virtual’ in my life. That changed the day I unpacked the computer. Soon I’d be keenly aware of the new meaning of this word ‘virtual’.
It was Valentine’s Day 2002 when I found out I needed double-bypass heart surgery. The stress test, angiogram and nuclear heart scan all pointed to the same conclusion: two of my coronary arteries were almost completely blocked. Surgery was recommended though not urgent since I could function with medication and moderation.
Ten years before, at age forty-two, I’d had a heart attack shoveling snow on another February day. It was my wake-up call! I paid attention. Changing my diet, habits and attitude, and walking twenty miles a week for a year at a rehabilitation-fitness centre saved my life. I had ten good years before my “genetic predisposition” caught up with me. The cousin who minds the family tree mentioned how many of my male predecessors had heart problems and attacks. The surgeon who performed the bypasses commented on how I’d gotten a bit of a raw deal genetically since I was slim, otherwise healthy and “young.”
There is a limit to the amount of responsibility for one’s situation you can attribute to “genetic predisposition.” The guilty food pleasures, the walks I should have taken but didn’t, the negative thoughts and aggression that always work against the heart; this is where my responsibility lay, how I started to jam up my own arteries. And now the consequence, the feedback was making itself known. Heart surgery!
Nothing virtual about it. This was a problem at the level of matter and meat. It was something we could fix, do fix everyday, almost routinely, with modern medical tools and skills. A re-arranging of arteries and veins, the right drugs for the various stages of the procedure and afterwards, the pump to take over from the heart and lungs, the drainage pathways required, the restricted movements to allow proper healing of bone and flesh – all this we are very accomplished at doing.
I had the surgery in mid-June. With at least six weeks of recovery after the operation, some financial planning had to be arranged and I needed to research the surgery and the alternatives. I spent many hours online reading about the heart, bypass surgery – often in full colour graphic detail – and the other resources available.
After weighing the alternatives, Linda and I decided the surgery would be my best option at this stage of life. I was strong and healthy enough to survive it intact, we were confident about the skills of the surgeon and the surgical staff.
One idea I came up with during this time was to create a prayer circle of family and friends online and elsewhere when the day of my operation neared; a ‘virtual’ prayer circle as one of my friends dubbed it.
As resilient and resourceful as the human body is, it necessarily houses a spirit that requires expression in the world and thrives on love exchanged between beings. That was what I wanted to tap into with the prayer circle.
I was on the cardiac surgery waiting list four weeks. On a Friday, I got my date. It would be in one week. Linda and I kept the date to ourselves during the weekend giving us a chance to mull it over and feel more settled about the whole procedure. It weighed heavy on my mind.
When we live more intensely, as in a pre-operative state, life begins to manifest itself in ways that are necessary and appropriate. As we began to inform family and friends about the surgery date, something wonderful happened! When we shared the burden of knowing, an increasing lightness started to grow in both Linda and me. The simple act of sharing the burden relieved the weightiness of the immediate future. With each successive person we informed, anxiety melted away. An unexpected confidence started to build in me, complete certainty that this was the right thing to do.
Two days before surgery I emailed the prayer circle request to about 25 family and friends. It was straightforward with date and time of surgery, approximate hospital recovery time and a simple sincere request:
“Please join together in a circle of love during and after my surgery with your prayers and positive energy. Your loving help means so much to us at this time and will aid in my full and speedy recovery. Thank you for sharing in my healing. Now that you have read this, the healing has already begun!”
Several people emailed me right back with their messages of hope and loving support. The rest I felt in my heart. On surgery eve, I was awash in the positive energies and expressions of love generated by the prayer circle; bliss in full measure took over my being. It was palpable. Linda felt it too. I had invoked the healing interplay between body, mind and spirit and wept at the sheer perfection of its unfolding. I was ready for the repairs!
There was nothing virtual about it. The reality of love and friendship, expressed with singular intent across many miles from many sources, converged in me. This aura of love carried me through the surgery, the immediate recovery and onto the ward where I spent four days. I basked in the afterglow of this healing intent, aware of how it was fueling my recovery, abetting the natural regenerative abilities of my body and lifting me when I felt some post-operative depression.
This outpouring of loving support manifested in other ways. It helped me sustain a positive attitude during my hospital stay. The people who noticed this immediately were those angels of mercy, the nurses. They’d seen people deal with this same situation in all manner of ways, some more successful than others. Maybe it was my spiritual preparedness or the intangible support that I brought with me; whatever it was, the nurses and staff recognized something extra was happening.
Looking back on this I now realize what was happening: the ‘virtual’ was being made real in the world. The prayers and loving intent that I asked for ‘virtually’ online became my reality. While the computer tool made the virtual prayer circle possible, it was the spirit and expression of our loving first nature that made it real in the world. I was living those special conditions.
And what was my responsibility? The answer came to me with such brash certainty I could not ignore it. It made perfect sense. The only way I could repay my family and friends for their limitless sharing of love was to recover fully, completely. It would answer their prayers. It was the exchange the special conditions demanded.
In the six weeks after the surgery, my recovery was nothing short of remarkable. My heart, with its new stamina, allowed me the increasing exercise I needed, the flesh and bone healed with little scarring and no infection. An unexpected benefit of the procedure was increased creativity. Suddenly I had all this extra blood flowing to my brain causing fresh new ideas to spew out of me. For a writer that’s almost a miracle! One of the risks of heart bypass surgery is cognitive decline. For the exact opposite to happen is an unexpected bonus.
The fact is, love lives large in the world and, when focused, produces amazing results! The love shared by my family and friends merged with Linda’s unconditional love and devotion resulting in a perfect healing environment for body, mind and spirit. Nothing virtual about it.
Read an earlier post about my heart surgery.
“It’s not the people who vote that count. It’s the people who count the votes.” – Joseph Stalin
“Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” – Benito Mussolini
How pathetic that I have to quote two monsters from the 20th century to frame the crimes against freedom and democracy currently unfolding in Canada. Hot on the heels of Spy Bills C-11 and C-30 comes Robogate or whatever you want to call the highly organized and concerted effort by the Reform-Conservatives to fix Canada’s 2011 election and get a majority government.
Their tactics are familiar and have been used consistently in American elections to confound and confuse the electorate before and during election day. Here are four quick pages from the US Playbook for Political Scumbags that partly explain how the Ref-Cons did it in Canada:
“When Robin Warren of Montreal showed up to vote on Monday, she said her name had been crossed off the voter list. She had to sign an affidavit swearing she had not voted already. While Warren was at the polling station, she said another woman who lives in the same apartment complex had an identical problem.
“On my way back home after we dealt with all this I ran into another group of ladies outside and all their names were crossed off the list, and they had to go through the same thing of signing affidavits. There’s something not right here. There’s too many people in one building,” Warren said. She called Elections Canada to complain but she said the elections agency called the situation an irregularity.”
Wake up Canada! This isn’t “dirty tricks.” That’s mainstream media doublespeak intended to downplay the significance of, what one of my friends calls, treason. Other MSM terms for this include “prank” “hoax” and “mischief.” In Harper’s Canada, treason is now described as “mischief.” Is that the Canada you live in?
Here are some numbers for your consideration:
There is much much more information about this to emerge but based on what we know so far, is there a smoking gun directly linking Harper and the Ref-Cons to these crimes? You decide. In the National Post’s first story they included this paragraph about election day events at Elections Canada:
Internal Elections Canada emails obtained under Access to Information legislation show officials were rattled by the calls. At 11:06 a.m., election officer Anita Hawdur sent an email to legal counsel Karen McNeil with the header: “URGENT Conservative campaign office communications with electors.” Hawdur reported that returning officers were calling to ask about the calls. McNeil responded by asking Hawdur to alert Rennie Molnar, the deputy chief electoral officer. He later emailed Michel Roussel, a senior director: “This one is far more serious. They have actually disrupted the voting process.”
This links Conservative campaign office in the header with intentional disruption of democracy. Interesting wording: “This one is far more…” as if there were other crimes. How much did Elections Canada really know?
This week, one of the call centre workers at RMG blew the whistle by publicly saying that on election day her work was making calls on behalf of the Ref-Cons to intentionally misdirect voters away from their proper polling place. I admire the bravery of whistleblowers and hope she can preserve her anonymity and suffer no consequences. I pray for her.
An unsettling news item turned up today. Some of the calls were made from a call centre in North Dakota! Oh, Canada.
Since both the RCMP and Elections Canada (its head is appointed by the prime minister) are under Harper’s thumb, their already-compromised “investigations” won’t likely turn up anything of substance, just more smoke and mirrors.
What you can do!
Since the MSM is falling down in its job again, it’s up to the online community to react appropriately. Let the politicans know you are ticked. Leadnow.ca has an online petition that is sent to Harper, other party leaders and your MP. Almost 30,000 Canadians have already signed it in the past few days. Find the petition at http://www.leadnow.ca/en/index
Inform your friends and family. Talk to them, email them, text them, post information and/or links on Facebook and Twitter. Make sure they understand the dire times we are living in and what’s required of them and everyone to preserve our freedom and democracy.
These are the 43 ridings that have been identified as targets of the Ref-Cons anti-democratic tactics. Cui bono – who benefits? The Ref-Cons won 29 of these ridings. If you live in one of these ridings, your Ref-Con member may not be legitimate. The ridings in bold are Ref-Con seats won by fewer than 1000 votes:
Write to your MP personally. I highly recommend this especially to Ref-Con MPs elected by fewer than 1000 votes. Cut and paste email addresses for all MPs are at http://sandrafinley.ca/?p=3297 Oh, what the hell, email it to every MP.
Put your imagination to work and come up with other inventive forms of protest against the creeping fascism of the Ref-Cons.
For inspiration, I leave you with two things to ponder.
First, this quote from Ref-Con PM Stephen Harper: “Human rights commissions, as they are evolving, are an attack on our fundamental freedoms and the basic existence of a democratic society. It is in fact totalitarianism. I find this is very scary stuff.” Pot, kettle, black.
And the lyrics to an Elvis Costello song called Night Rally that details a typical evening in a country with a fascist government:
Elvis Costello 1978 British version of This Year’s Model
I would send out for assistance but there’s someone on the signal wire
And the corporation logo is flashing on and off in the sky
They’re putting all your names in the forbidden book
I know what they’re doing but I don’t want to look
You think they’re so dumb, you think they’re so funny
Wait until they’ve got you running to the
Night rally, night rally, night rally
Everybody’s singing with their hand on their heart
About deeds done in the darkest hours
That’s just the sort of catchy little melody
To get you singing in the showers
Oh, I know that I’m ungrateful
I’ve got it lying on a plate
And I’m not buying my share of souvenirs
You can stand to attention
You can pray to your uncle
Only get that chicken out of here
Everyone gets armbands and 3-D glasses
Some are in the back room
And they’re taking those night classes
You think they’re so dumb, you think they’re so funny
Wait until they’ve got you running to the
Night rally, night rally, night rally
A delightful impossibility!
In 1870 the Dominion of Canada bought Rupert’s Land, which was pretty much all of western Canada, from the Hudson’s Bay Company. After passing the Dominion Lands Act in 1872, the government embarked on an advertising campaign to entice people from Europe, the United States and eastern Canada to come to western Canada and take advantage of the free land and unbound opportunity. This campaign went on well into the 20th century. I gathered together ten of the Dominion’s ads from the period, several of them covers for pamphlets about Canada that, more often than not, wildly exaggerated the potential of the prairies. Basically, they were propaganda. In that same tradition, I envisioned what the Dominion’s TV ad might have looked like in the 1870s. Click the poster to watch.
What have they done to the earth?
What have they done to our fair sister?
Ravaged and plundered and ripped her and bit her
Stuck her with knives in the side of the dawn
Tied her with fences and dragged her down
Please watch this