Friday, November 27, 2015

A Lonster's Tale - The First Sixty Years. Part 3

As previously stated, I grew up in a small community in the middle of New Brunswick, on Canada's east coast. I think when school was in session and the students were at their desks, the population of the school was larger than the population of the rest of the community!

Our school was very basic; grades one to six were fundamental arithmetic, reading, spelling, social studies, and the like. In grade seven, the boys got introduced to “shop” (today's Industrial Arts – woodworking and electrical) and the girls got introduced to Home Economics – sewing and cooking. It was at that time that we began going to the school dances as well. When I was in grade seven, there were a lot of “sock hops” that featured records of the most up-to-date top forty with a few older favourites thrown in as well. Occasionally there would be a special event where a Disc Jockey from the nearest radio station would come and play the Music. This was a big deal, for in those days, Radio ruled and to see the guys whose voices we heard (sadly, they were all men back then) was a pretty big deal.

Sometimes a live band would come and play, but I didn't actually see any except the local guys who had played for our Friday lunch hour sock hops. The first live band I saw at our school was when I was in grade nine! The Drummer of that band was my friend “W” who lived next door to my cousin. (mentioned in part one) The band was quite large, with two Guitars, Keyboards, Bass, Drums, and Vocals.

Since our school was, as I mentioned, rather basic, we had no Music or Band program, so I watched the drummers who came through on these Friday night dances. By the time I finished school, I had seen a number of drummers who all offered their knowledge to me. I lost touch with the majority of them after school, but some are sill friends to this day.

Each one had something unique to offer; a speciality, if you will. This was also the time of the extended Drum Solo, and when that would happen, most of the dancers would leave the dance floor, some would go for a Coke or hit the washroom, and I'd RUN to the front of the Gym, lean on the stage and watch intently. At home, the next day, I would try to emulate what I'd seen the night before.

Another source of my education was the records I bought. The big Rock bands of the time all had great Drummers and trying to “cop their licks” was a challenge I willingly took on. I'd listen, try to replicate what I'd heard, listen again, until the record was virtually unplayable! When I went to the Music Store in the city, I'd stand transfixed, staring at the Drums. If another Drummer should come along, I'd strike up a conversation, even if I'd never seen him before.

There were many opportunities to see live Music in the late '60s and early '70s, much more so than today. Besides our school dances (which were admittedly a pretty small deal in the larger picture of life) to in-store promotions at department stores and car dealerships, to fairs and exhibitions, I always stayed to talk to the Drummer. I don't recall ever meeting one who wasn't willing to share knowledge and the Joy of Drumming with me. Some even managed to squeeze in an informal lesson if time allowed.

As time went on, I gathered a rather large repertoire of ideas, and “licks” to use in the gigs I played. At that time I hadn't learned “discernment” and much of what I played was totally the wrong thing for the song, or situation, and I often overplayed, but I was growing and testing my wings, getting a lot of stuff out of the way to allow for more refinement as I grew older. Yet, I still had a burning desire to learn and play, and I always approached the stage with a sense of wreckless abandon; like a drunken skydiver screaming, “Let's see where we end up THIS time!”

~ Still Wandering...

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Lonster's Tale - The first 60 years. Part 2

Before I began Drumming, before I even WANTED to play Drums, I was surrounded by Music; that's where many of my Guilty Pleasures come from.

We lived in a small community in a deep valley and the only radio station we could receive was in the nearest city. This station broadcast with 50,000 watts of output transmission which was HUGE! They played an eclectic blend of varying Musical styles, from the vocal Jazz of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Perry Como to Polkas, to Country and Western, to Elvis Presley and Little Richard. I didn't mind what was playing, I wanted to hear it! I remember being somewhat surprised when Mom heard a song on the radio that she liked, and Dad brought home the single for her. That rather changed my perception of Music; I could actually BUY it and have it forever! (Oh, so little did I know about vinyl records as a three-year-old)

After the Beatles landed on the Ed Sullivan Show, I was swayed toward the Rock 'N' Roll side of things, and started to pay a bit more attention to the other R 'N' R groups, but the styles I had previously enjoyed still appealed to me as well. I particularly enjoyed the Music that was on the radio on Saturday mornings: a blend of Polkas and what we knew as “Oom-pah” Music; played on accordions and often featuring Yodellers. I should make it clear that Saturday mornings were when Dad took me with him as he delivered furnace and stove oil.

Saturday afternoon was the Top 40 Hit parade, and during that time I heard the sounds of the New Christie Minstrels, The Seekers, Petula Clarke, Dusty Springfield, and later, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Byrds, and many, many more. Sunday mornings (and for a half hour after school) it was Gospel Music. Dad was a big fan of Country and Old-Time Gospel, so the Carter Family and others of that ilk were frequently heard on the “record player” and later the stereo. There were many songs I heard because one of my parents liked them, and many bring a tear to my eye if I hear them today.

I think if I could have stayed alive by eating Music, I would have, since I certainly devoured it in every other way.

As I grew older, between ages ten and fourteen, I heard a lot of “Bubblegum” Music on the radio, Andy Kim, The Archies, 1910 Fruitgum Company, ... and so that became part of my Musical lexicon as well. I remember one friend who came to visit after school one day remarking, “You don't like THAT shit do you?” I did.

Once I became a Drummer and was learning songs for a band, the Music I played, and to which I listened grew heavier. The Beatles and Stones were still there as were the Hollies, but so were Steppenwolf, Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, The Doors, Grand Funk Railroad, etc... I think I was the only Pink Floyd fan (as in owned their records) in the school until “Dark Side Of The Moon” came out. I KNOW I was the only one with the Blind Faith album.

When I was 15, some of Dad's friends asked me to play drums for them. They were all in their late thirties or forties, and I was a geeky kid with glasses, but JUMPED at the chance to play my Drums and earn money while doing it. Over the next three years, two of the men would leave and be replaced by guys my age, as well as the oldest daughter of the one remaining “older” chap came in to add a female voice. We weren't really great Musicians, but we were popular because we played a good cross section of what was being heard on the radio of that time. We covered the Music of Merle Haggard, Ray Price, Kris Kristofferson, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Lobo, and the like.

Those were good years, and I was making really good money for a kid in high school. Actually I was making more then than I did in many bands since that time.

Just before I turned nineteen, I left that band. Too much alcohol and too much ego resulted in a shoving match between myself and the girl singer's husband. I walked out and sold my Ludwigs. That was the first time I tried to leave Music behind.

~Still Wandering...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

A Lonster's Tale - The first 60 years. Part 1

I was born in 1955, just ten years and one week after the end of WWII. So it was that growing up, WWII became the reference point of many conversations. Things happened either “before the war,” “during the war,” or “just after the war.” It was sometime in one of these three time periods that my father had played guitar in a band with a number of his friends, most of whom he would remain in touch with until his death. One such man had a Music Room in his basement, where he kept a number of Musical instruments, a drumset included. On one of our visits, “Mr. L” took us down and showed us that room. I was immediately drawn to the Drums; a 4-piece kit in White Marine Pearl finish. (although I didn't know what the finish was called back then) At roughly the same time, a small group of students in our school had formed a band and played in our school gym for a “sock hop” every Friday at noon. Again, I was drawn to the drums, and eventually began asking many questions of the Drummer; “What's that for?” “What's that do?” “What do you call that?” “How did you DO that?” He was extremely patient and answered all my questions with his characteristic smile. That band even got to play on a TV show in the early 60s, and I felt special because I knew them!

A couple of years later, a neighbour of my cousin's returned from Germany where his father had been stationed in the Canadian Armed Forces. “W” had purchased a set of drums there, and I would often see him carrying them into or out of the house as he came and went to the various gigs he was playing in the area. I remember once his younger sister (who is my age) took me upstairs to the room where he kept his drums. I was in awe. Completely speechless!

It was during this time period The Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show and I saw Ringo Starr. Game over! A few of my friends can probably remember me before I got bitten by the Drum bug, but not many. To most of my friends, I have always been a drummer, or interested in drums.

My parents recognized my overwhelming desire to become a Drummer, but (as I can now understand) they were not in a financial position to make that happen. Besides, Dad had always dreamed of me following in his footsteps and learn to play guitar, but I was too undisciplined and the strings hurt my fingers. In 1967 they got me a toy drumset from the Sears catalogue.
I was grateful, but felt I was too old for them and a REAL set would have been more appropriate. Still, I played along with the radio every day after school and after I finished my homework in the evening. Once the fibre heads on those drums broke, I found various ways to patch them, and eventually replaced them with plastic Ice cream containers. (empty, of course)

Finally, on Christmas day, 1969, my first “real” drumset arrived. Again, from the Sears catalogue, it was a 3-piece set with the brand name “Saturn.” I was overwhelmed! The three pieces were a 14 X 20 Bass Drum, a 5 X 14 Snare Drum, and an 8 X 12 mounted Tom, all in blue sparkle. (still one of my favourite colours) There was a 12 inch Cymbal mounted on the Bass Drum, which although it didn't sound so great, it was functional.

I was a DRUMMER! The Lonster was born.

~Still Wandering...

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


When I first began this blog, named "Wanderer," it was my intention to use the word "wandering" in some way in each title.  It became evident after a short time that it would not be entirely possible to do so, so I switched to a more relavent method of titling.

Recently, I posted on Facebook how I'd like to get back to writing by sharing the story of my lifetime at the drums. I say “back to” because for a while in 2009, I was employed as a writer/PR agent for a company in New Brunswick named Los Cabos Drumsticks. I may elaborate at a later date as to why I left the company, but for now let me just quote Gary Oldman as Dracula in the 1992 movie, That relationship was not, entirely.... successful… ”

I received a great deal of encouragement from Facebook friends to pursue the idea, although one detail stands out as worrisome. I said I would not mention names, but soon realized there are some events, no matter whose names are withheld, that I just don't feel comfortable revealing. I have not always made the wisest of decisions and many things are embarrassing to not only myself but to those whom I may have offended or hurt along the way. I'm sure I have long since been forgiven or the offence has been forgotten, but it could re-open some old wounds (even for myself) to bring up certain past events.

Therefore, I have decided – for now at least – to present my tale as a series of short stories on my blogs. Yes, blogs, plural. I have been keeping this one for many years; it is reflective of my life in general, 
the non-drumming side of me. (although drumming comes into it many times as reference points) When I got my website, there was an option to add a blog to it, which I started doing earlier this year. It is supposed to be an account of my activities onstage or in the rehearsal halls etc. Sadly, there has been neither since the end of August, so short stories of my life of rhythm would be an ideal way to keep it active. I can see no reason why I can't have the same content in two places, provided it belongs in both.

Obviously, non-drumming related stories would not be published in my website blog, simply because I want to keep the website career-related.

So, follow the links in this post to get to my blog, and my website, and feel free to scroll through the current content. Let me know what you think; I'd love to hear from yo

~Still Wandering...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Get Over It!

“Suck it up!”
“Get over it.”
“Move on.”

Those of us who suffer with depression and anxiety/panic attacks have heard each of these, or some variation thereof, too many times to count. While it is demeaning to say such things to those of us who experience depression and anxiety, it is also as futile and insulting as saying the same thing to someone with cancer, heart disease, or even a broken leg! Whether a person suffers from a physical illness, disease or injury or a form of “mental illness” (I still don't like that term; there must be a kinder way of saying it) the fact still remains that the person in question is SUFFERING! And that suffering is very real.

However, I do think there comes a time when sucking it up, getting over it, and moving on might just be the right thing for us to do.

Now, I realize that statement will elicit cries of protest from some of my readers, but let me explain.

We all know at the subconscious level, and many of us have said aloud, “Nobody understands; it's like they sometimes don't care.” That's all true, in the same way I can't understand how skydiving feels. Like a skydiver, we offer to try to explain to all who would listen, but our words fall short.

Here is where the moving on must take place. No matter how compassionate and willing to listen our friends, family and loved ones are, they will never be able to feel what we feel. If we try too hard, we will drive them away. I have a very dear friend who afforded me great comfort during a time of profound loss and sadness. Throughout the years, we strengthened our friendship, and shared many good times and innumerable laughs. But there eventually came a time when my depression was weighing as much on her as it was on me. I was metaphorically a huge weight that was dragging her down and drowning her! She stopped calling to ask how I was doing; her e-mail responses grew short and curt, she was avoiding me...

I don't blame her in any way. She has always been very upbeat and optimistic, sharing her joi-de-vivre and optimism with those with whom she came in contact. Why should she spend her time trying to raise the spirits of one person, no matter how close the friendship had been?  It just gets to be too much to bear.

Friends come and go, and some will go quickly when our need for comfort exceeds their capacity to give it. This is a terrible loss for all involved, and for this reason, I got over it and moved on. I still experience depression and anxiety, but I no longer share each occurrence; it's too painful to lose friends. Instead, I put on a smile and act as though all is well in my world. Know what? All IS well in my world! By smiling and appearing happy, I have BECOME happy again, like I once was, so long ago. My periods of depression and anxiety don't last very long now either.

I know each of you reading this has the same potential as I have. I'm nothing exceptional, and to use a tired old (but very true) cliché, if I can do it, so can you!

Good luck and many Blessings to you!

~Still Wandering...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Violence In Our World.

Violence is the highest form of disrespect, and poverty is the highest form of violence.

I have been trying to write this for days. I have so many things running through my mind, and it's difficult to put it all together coherently, but I shall try to be as articulate and concise as possible.

On June 4, 2014 Justin Bourque, a 24-year-old from Moncton, New Brunswick killed 3 R.C.M.P. Officers, and attempted to kill 2 others in Moncton.

On October 20, 2014, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent was killed when he was struck by a car while walking through a parking lot in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. The driver of the car, Martin Couture-Rouleau, was shot dead by police

Two days later, on October 22, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot to death as he stood guard duty at Canada's War Memorial in our Nation's Capital. Cpl Cirillo's assailant, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was shot to death inside the Parliament Building by Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers.

Then, on Sunday, October 26, Jian Ghomeshi, a broadcast journalist and host of the popular CBC Radio program “Q,” was dismissed over allegations of sexual violence. (I admit, my already deep rooted trust issues have been greatly reinforced by this) While the deaths of Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo have been attributed to Islamic Terrorists and Justin Bourque has been labelled mentally unstable, what can explain the actions of Jian Ghomeshi? While I cannot personally find BDSM ​erotic, there are many who do, and I suppose “to each her/his own” applies to a point. Or does it? According to the Canadian Supreme Court, the law clearly states a person cannot consent to an assault that causes bodily harm. If a sexual activity causes bodily harm, a person cannot consent to it. Ghomeshi's accusers, all have stated his behaviour had ranged from slapping, choking and suffocating, to punching and biting, clearly in contravention of Canadian law.

Unfortunately, there is a deeper issue involved here, and that is the violence itself.

From a very young age many of us have learned that violence gets results. The school bully has only to inflict a beating on one victim, (usually a smaller, weaker student) with witnesses, and the bully's authority is established. Once the fear is instilled, the bully need only to THREATEN violence and others run away in fear. As well, many school officials
(certainly not all) such as teachers, either do not get involved, or tell the victims to stand up to the bully. Then, if that happens, the victim is punished by the teacher or principal for fighting. Clearly, the victim learns that they are the statue while everyone else, from the bully on up to the teachers, are the pigeons! (Again, this is not true in every case)

Children learn violence in their homes as well. This is not to say that they are beaten by their parents, most are not, but they are sometimes spanked, and most certainly they are reprimanded for misdeeds by parents with raised voices. Siblings and neighbours will resort to similar tactics in order to gain control. And there certainly ARE cases where children are beaten by a parent, or are witness to one parent beating the other.

As the child grows, she/he begins to become resentful of being victimized by others, often harbouring deep resentment, frustration, and anger for many years. Perhaps one day, as a teen, or young adult, this victim will lash out in retaliation, in an ill-conceived sense of “justice.” In some places, teens and pre-teens join gangs to give them an outlet for their anger.

By the time a victim of violence reaches adulthood, the patterns of violence are well established, and the cycle continues.

Let's now look at some other forms of violence besides the obvious physical contact.

Of course, verbal abuse is high on this list. Raising your voice in a debate or argument is an act of violence. Yes, we all do it, and it's generally accepted as standard practise, but deep down, it hurts and leaves resentment. It has reached the point where if I even HEAR someone raise their voice, I tighten up inside. Despite the nursery rhyme, words DO hurt. DEEPLY! Using words as labels can also be seen as violence. “Stupid,” “Retarded,” “Idiot...” are all labels of disrespect, and even when they go unheard by the people about whom they are spoken, (gossip) they can spread the belief that such words are harmless and acceptable.

Psychological violence is very prevalent in our society today. People who use veiled threats, criticism, intimidation, and/or manipulation to get their own way, or to control others, are behaving with violence. The child who cries in a department store because the desired toy has been refused is already learning this.

Gestures, such as a raised middle finger, are violent acts; not because they leave visible bruises, but because of the intended disrespect involved. Raising a clenched fist is clearly a precursor to violence.

Law enforcement and military personnel have often been accused of using excessive force, and there are plenty of You Tube videos and news reports as well as civil suits to verify this. Having friends and relatives who wear or have worn the uniforms however, I can say that not all can be painted with the same brush. Most are honest people doing a difficult and dangerous job. But those who are prone to violence can find purpose and an outlet for their violent nature in a uniform, especially the armed forces. Soldiers who are deployed to war zones are not often scrutinized for their behaviour as long as their aggression is not toward a superior or fellow soldier. Many people who grow up poor can find financial security in a military pension, and the “team” atmosphere is comforting for those who felt isolated in earlier life. The “terrorists” of the Taliban, Al Qaeda or ISIS are most often underprivileged, marginalized, and disenfranchised. As well, they are largely uneducated, and lack the necessary skills to question the truth of what they're told. (By this, I do not mean actually questioning their superiors, but rationally thinking about what they are told) They believe the rewards in the afterlife are worth their actions in this one!

But now for the reveal;
I too, am a man of violent nature.I have used aggressive language, gestures, and even my fists to express my anger and frustration. Am I proud of that? Did it make me feel better about myself? Did it make me feel superior to others? Not at all! Generally, I felt a great measure of guilt which added to the inner anger; an anger fuelled by violence I have experienced at the hands of others since my childhood. Not that there were a lot of fist fights, but certainly the usual childhood squabbles, name calling, and physical attacks from bullies. I thought when I started playing drums at age 14 that it would all change. I became angry when it didn't. Granted, I set myself up for failure by seeking ideals, but I believe the ideals of Peace and cooperation are well worth believing in.

Do I have all the answers? Certainly NOT! Do I have any of the answers? Perhaps, some... Is a world where we all get along and respect each other possible? Probably not, but it IS worth believing in and striving toward.
In the past, I have vowed to change, and be less violent in speech and thought, but the truth is, breaking such habits can be very difficult! It's very easy to slip back into old ways of thought and action. I know there are some of you reading this who are thinking, “What a hypocrite!” and I understand that, but just because I don't behave in a Peaceful manner doesn't mean I don't want Peace. It simply means I am not experiencing Peace... yet!

Reading this back to myself, I realize I have not been as articulate as I would have liked. I cannot write an essay as thought-provokingly as Jian Ghomeshi would have. However, he cannot, it seems, control his violent tendencies as well as the rest of us can. Ultimately, I long for a world, where Mr. Ghomeshi feels no need to act out such fantasies, for such fantasies would not have taken root in his mind.

In conclusion, I wish to apologize to any and all who have been hurt, offended, or otherwise put off due to my words or deeds. I know I often react too quickly, respond too vehemently, and stir the pot that need not be stirred. I may not always succeed, but I will always try to do better.

~Still Wandering...

Friday, October 3, 2014

Sacred Places

The Indigenous peoples of North, Central, and South America, as well as “Earth-Based” societies around the world, share the notion of our planet being a living organism and a Sacred Being; Mother Earth. She is the perfect balance to a male, Sky-Based, God. In fact, there are references to “Father Sky, Mother Earth” among certain First Nations.

When I was very young, probably five or six years of age, many of the old covered bridges in New Brunswick were demolished after newer, more modern structures put in to replace them. Often, the new bridges were placed geographically higher if possible to avoid being damaged or washed out during spring floods. One such bridge was McLaggan bridge, about four miles from my home. I didn't give it much thought throughout the years. Occasionally, as I was crossing it by car, I'd glance over to the place where the old bridge had been, but there was never any desire to explore thee area.
In the early part of this century, I purchased a digital camera and while home visiting, I stopped at a place near one end of the new bridge where it is mostly rock and pavement. In the nearly sixty years since the old bridge was removed, there really hasn't been a lot of growth and there is room to park a car and get out. I decided to stop and get some pictures of the river. It was the first time in over forty years I had stood on that spot.

The last time I was home, a couple of weeks ago, I felt compelled to go there again. This time, there was a cool breeze blowing down the valley, and as I stood there shivering, I looked down at the ground. I had expected to see garbage, the usual cast-offs from weekend under-age drinking or teen-aged couples seeking some alone time. There were a couple of food wrappers yes, but aside from that, it seemed it had been pretty much vacant for some time. There were some Pine cones, and a few bits of trees; the ends of limbs probably snapped off in high winds, and some moss growing on the rocky surface, but not much evidence of human visitation.

As that image returned to my mind this evening, I began to feel sad for this rocky ledge, high above the river below. I saw it as a place where once life had thrived and humans were common. Now, it seems lonely and alone. Suddenly, this place which had held no meaning for me, which I had also ignored for many years, became special and, dare I say, SACRED to me. I can understand the first inhabitants of this region, saying there were some places where “Good Medicine” happened. Places such as this have “Power,” and provide opportunity to build a Sacred Fire to offer Ceremonies to honour the Spirits of the Ancestors, and to Mother Earth Herself.

You can be certain I will visit this spot with each successive visit I make to my homeland; the land of my birth.

~Still Wandering