Category: music

Working at a day job

Anyone who has read this blog for a while and/or knows me personally knows that I have a lot of anxiety when it comes to Going Somewhere, Doing Something and Having a Plan.

None of which I have right now.

But you know what? I’m having fun. More fun than I’ve had in a long time, working at a relatively easy (though occasionally crazy job) that is NOT my career, but hanging out with fun people and generally messing around a bit.

Because I needed a break from Real Life. At least a bit.

Somedays, I get caught up in the anxiety again and I have to stop and remind myself that I’m still Going Somewhere… I’m just taking a little rest stop on the way. Which is a bit hard, since I’m not the rest stop kind of person and I often drive eight hours straight without even stopping to pee.

But being that kind of person is tiring. And I’m learning a lot about myself right now, in this in between time.

And I’m working at a day job while I decide what I really want to do…

And when that isn’t enough, I turn, as always, to a song to comfort me. This time it’s Kate Miller Heidke, who generally inspired my embracing life when I was in England, and who’s song Apartment is pretty much my mantra at the moment.

I’m living for the present
I’m living day to day
And I don’t have a trust fund
Don’t feel the need to superannuate

It’s almost summer, and I’m determined to enjoy what I can of this summer - live day to day and stop worrying so much about Where I’m Going.

The capitalized words can wait until September or thereabouts.

In a song…

I’ve been listening to Kate Miller Heidke on repeat and it reminds me of September.

I listened to her music endlessly from about September until December, and it brings me right back to where I was then. Jury’s out on whether that is a good thing or not.

The songs I have loved all remind me of times in my life. Death Cab for Cutie’s Plans reminds me of first year. Something Corporate always brings back high school memories. Vienna Teng, Jason Webley and Damien Rice remind me of Ireland. Ingrid Michaelson reminds me of my last year of my undergrad.

Besides smell, music is the thing that most triggers my memory. It’s strange how songs can be shaped and changed by our experiences and the things we associate them with. I can’t listen to one of my former favourite songs at all anymore, because it reminds me of an ex boyfriend I would rather forget.

So I’m listening to Kate on repeat and I think I’m a little stuck in the past.

When I see I’ve had enough
And the seas are getting rough
I just need time
Til everything is back to normal
And everything is as it should be
If everything is less than you hoped for
Everything’s okay by me

-Shoebox by Kate Miller Heidke

Remember that time

I have seen dozens of concerts in my life. In fact, I have seen nearly all of my favourite bands in concert. There was the Something Corporate concert, when Jes’ dad drove us to Montreal and I got to touch Andrew and I shouted for Konstantine and the crowd got quiet for nine and a half minutes. There was the Bright Eyes concert, hundreds of emo kids staring at the stage with a hunger in their eyes as if hoping somehow they’d find meaning. There was Death Cab for Cutie, where we stood in the mosh pit and watched people cry. Green Day, the day I almost died when I got moshed away. Good Charlotte on a rainy day, when we loved Good Charlotte because we were young and angry and we had signs that said I love you, Benji. There was Sarah Slean and a piano, a free show and only a few dozen other people there and I sat in the front row by myself and smiled like an idiot. Amy Millan at the Roisin Dubh in Galway, where she asked me to sign Calendar Girl with her but I was too drunk and I’ll regret it forever. All American Rejects, Jimmy Eat World, Our Lady Peace, Barenaked Ladies, Emily Haines, Tegan and Sara, Brand New. Somehow, it has worked out that I got to see my most important bands at the times I loved them most.

You went into the kitchen cupboard
Got yourself another hour
And you gave half of it to me

With those words, the Regina Spektor concert that I’d taken the train to Manchester to see started. A girl, a piano, a cello, a violin and a drummer. And about 3000 people of all types, all clearly in love with Regina, maybe even more than myself.

It was amazing to hear her live. She was perfect, exactly like the recordings. She played some of my favourite songs, and my absolute favourite song. But she didn’t talk. Not except to say “Thank you. Thanks very much.” I think at one point she said “Hello, Manchester.”

I’m not used to this. I wasn’t expecting this. Regina, shy? The girl who sings Mary Ann and Remember That Time? Her songs are so personal, so raw and so weird sometimes, I thought she would be the same playful, outgoing person on stage.

After the concert we went outside to be fan girls and wait by her tour bus. The girls standing there said she’d already come out and gone into her bus. She didn’t stop to talk to them because she was cold, she said. It was cold. I know, I had to wait an hour and a half to get in before the show. And then I waited another hour outside that bus to get an autograph.

The British girl said she’d seen the last two shows and was going to tomorrow’s as well. Chandra and I huddled closer, we could no longer feel our toes. The crowds slowly died out, caught the bus or a taxi and went home. Only about twenty of us stuck it out. I thought for sure she’d come out and say hi when there were only a few of us.

After over an hour, we watched the tour bus drive away, and I never got my autograph.

I was cold and disappointed. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the chance to see a Regina concert again. Her music means so much to me, it would have been amazing if she’d bothered even just to come out and wave. Tell us that she was too cold, but thanks for coming. Thanks for paying for her warm tour bus while we freeze our asses off outside.

Don’t get me wrong, the concert was amazing. Her music is beautiful. But there’s more to a performance than singing well or playing a piano. There’s an aspect of connecting with your fans. It’s the reason they spend so much money to see you. It’s the reason you have a job at all.

I hope she was just having a bad day, because I definitely lost a little bit of my love for Regina in Manchester last week.

I remember the sound…

I can see my breath in the air as my gloved hands fumble for the play button. I’m indoors, if you can call the space between two rusted and dented white sheets of metal indoors, but it will take over half an hour for the slow and chugging heat to fill the car. By that time, I’ll almost be home. For now, I have a hat, gloves and a new mix CD to keep me warm.

The first few bars fill the car as I pull out of the parking lot. Already, I can feel myself relaxing, easing into the sense of rightness that this song instantly creates in me. I have never listened to it before but it feels like I have been hearing it my whole life. Of course it exists. So perfect, it fills my heart and head and leaves me unable to imagine the time, short minutes ago, before I’d heard it.

How pale is the sky that brings forth the rain
As the changing of seasons prepares me again
For the long bitter nights and the wild winter’s day
My heart has grown cold, my love stored away…


photo by me

Over the next four years, I would listen to the CD hundreds of times. I would cycle through relationships with each song, love and boredom interchangeably. Always changing with my mood, with my age, with my life. But two songs would remain, too perfect to fade.

And every time I hear those chords I’m taken back to that cold December day, shivering in the old Sunfire we lovingly called Blanche, my soul melting into the piano, violin and Allison Krauss’ beautiful voice. My heart hooked on each word that told it’s own story.

I remember. I remember the sound of November and December, the melancholy created by that time of year, a juxtaposition of holiday joy and sadness. I remember a 5am bus to Toronto, watching the rain against the window. I remember the first lines of a song.

I should know who I am by now
I walk the record stand somehow
Thinking of winter
The name is the splinter inside me, while I wait…

I should know who I am by now. The words haunt me still. Each year I’m brought back to this song and the fact that I do not know. I remember thinking that I was following that path, on the road to figuring it out. Who I am. What I want. Where I belong.

This November I feel even further from this. The song has changed again, and it is now a dull ache reminding me that I have not gotten far on this journey, that I’ve been derailed or detoured or taken too many breaks and now I’m too late. Or that maybe I was going the wrong way all along and I’m not even close anymore.

photo of my sister, by me

The first song is Get Me Through December by Allison Krauss, the second is Winter by Joshua Radin. The mix CD, which I call the December CD, was a gift from my Dad and remains one of my favourite presents ever.

Far away

She’s packed up her bags, she’s heading out
She says, “I know that I’m ready,”
With such beautiful doubt.

Here’s where I wax poetic about distances and the spaces between. With a few steps, a car ride, a transatlantic flight, I leave behind the place I have lived for 22 years. I leave behind what I thought I knew for something I want to know. I exchange dollars for pounds, boxes for suitcases. I exchange endings for beginnings, the minute the plane leaves the ground.

My suitcases are too heavy to lift comfortably. No doubt I’ll struggle to pull them off the baggage claim, and someone will have to help me before I either fall over or knock someone out. My head is a storm of conflicting worry and excitement. No doubt I’ll hesitate at the gate, doubt myself and my plans.

The feeling of anticipation has been keeping me awake. I haven’t slept more than the bare minimum in two weeks. There’s too much to do, too much to think about.

And when I take my seat on the airplane, I’ll lean back and daydream as the plane lifts off. I’ll feel all of the doubt and worry fade away and leave behind only the excitement. With my headphones on, I’ll give my journey a soundtrack to be proud of. Leaving songs. Love songs. Life.

And by tomorrow I’ll be in England. And cold.

Far away far away, I want to go far away.
To a new life on a new shore line.
Where the water is blue and the people are new.
To another island, in another life.