Saturday, January 30, 2010

Wandering in self-description.

Recently, besides the many changes in my life that have brought me right back to where I was a year ago, I made contact with a young woman in my hometown of Stanley, New Brunswick. This young woman, Jessica, is the creator and administrator of a Facebook page, "Village of Stanley." She had posted an article offering blogging availability on and I thought it would be a great way to stay in touch with my homeland and also attract a few new followers to my blog.

With that in mind, and for those of you who might not know some of the details of my life, I am excerpting the "About me" section of my web page, in order that I may fill in some of the blanks.

"Music, particularly rhythmic music, has always been a part of my life. I was born to working class parents in central New Brunswick Canada and grew up in some of the most beautiful country Eastern Canada has to offer. Summers were spent on the rivers, nearby farms and in the forests. Winters were spent skating, snowshoeing and attending school functions.

Music was always present; whether coming in from school or some weekend activity, my mother had the radio on. Dad also had the radio on constantly in the car, so I really can't remember a time when music wasn't woven into the very fabric of my life.

I was introduced to music at an age too young to have a number. I was introduced to rhythm sometime in the early 1960s. The so called British Invasion had begun to wash up on North American shores and I was immediately drawn to its sound; The Beatles, The Hollies, The Dave Clark Five, The Rolling Stones, and the list goes on, I was enthralled.

By the time I began playing drums, real drums, the music had changed and the San Francisco scene was taking over. Protests against the war in Viet Nam were beginning to influence the music and its listeners to no small degree. The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Country Joe MacDonald, The Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and The Holding Company, Steppenwolf; these were turbulent times and the music reflected that turbulence. Still the British came... Joe Cocker, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Humble Pie, and with them came U.S. ex-patriot Jimi Hendrix, returning to America with his British band to fuse all the sounds of the '60s into one exciting new assault to our senses.

It was a time of sex, drugs and Rock and Roll and I was caught right in the middle of it all, playing drums and having the time of my life.

The beginning of the 1970s saw even more turbulence and change. Music began to soften, the anger of the '60s was replaced by a smoother, folkier sound; Crosby, Stills, and Nash sang three part harmonies so tightly they sounded like an entire choir. James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Harry Chapin, Jackson Browne, Bruce Cockburn, Neil Young; their sound was clean and sweet.

Throughout all this there had been the crossover acts; those equally comfortable in nearly any genre, from folk to rock to country. The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Eagles, and of course four fellow Canadians and a good ol' boy from Arkansas, The Band. My drums kept me active, in touch and happy.

My dream was always to play drums for a living. I had several "day jobs" after leaving High School but always I intended to be a full time professional drummer. This opportunity came in October of 1980 when I was hired by the Garrison Brothers, a Folk/Country act out of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. With management in Massachusetts and New Brunswick they truly were an international act. Add to that the fact that two of the members were from Ireland and you have a band with roots on both sides of the Atlantic and in three countries.

My tenure with the Garrisons lasted four wonderful, complete years, ending on December 23rd, 1984. From there, I went with a hardcore Country singer of Acadian origin named Robert Bouchard. It wasn't a great match but the cash was very good. I toured with him until October, 1985 when I got a call from Will Miller of the Irish Rovers and a few short weeks later I was touring New Zealand.

Returning from New Zealand in December 1985, I spent the next four months at home, attempting to find another band to work with. I managed to land a tour with a young lady out of Brampton Ontario named Elaine Jarvis. Elaine sang a mixture of Country, blues, R and B, light rock and jazz. Her gig was fun and profitable but grueling. By September 1986, I was ready for a break and returned home. I had managed to get hired for a mini-tour with Susan Jacks and went into rehearsals in late November. When that tour was over, I left the road and settled into domestic life, performing with a local theatre company and teaching drums a couple of evenings a week.

After two seasons with the theatre company, I began to focus on teaching, expanding my studio and teaching four evenings every week and playing with up to four local bands on the weekends.

On February 14, 1997, fire broke out in the building where I had my teaching studio. It is estimated the fire broke out at about 11:15 a.m. and by 3:00p.m. it was obvious nothing could be done to save it. Fortunately, I was late in getting there because I was actually on my way to the studio to put in some practice time and was planning on being there at around 10:30. If I had been there, I would not be writing this since there was no fire escape from my section of the building.

After the fire, some friends of mine organized a fundraiser and bought me the drums I am using today. I immediately went to work on a college production of The Wizard of Oz and then spent the summer performing Dinner Theatre. January 1998 saw me back at work in the Country music genre and I spent two and a half years touring Canada and the U.S. before that act folded. By the time I had arrived home from the last tour with Scott Phillips, I had a new gig with another country act named Reatta. Unfortunately, they folded in September of 2000 and I stayed out of work until January 2005.

Those were very dark times for me. Depression, anger, bitterness and many more emotions became my constant companions. I changed my focus and began studying Tai Chi and began spending more time canoeing, hiking, cycling and accepting the new life I had been thrust into. When I received the call to join Bad Habits, I had my drums up for sale and had begun to think I was facing retirement.

I had been in the original incarnation of Bad Habits in 1989 and looked forward to the return. Two former members of Reatta, brother and sister Darcy and Erin O'Brien, both powerful singers in the Reatta days were fronting Bad Habits so it was like going home. Sadly, the volume levels onstage were unbearable and my ears were being badly damaged, so in July 2006 I was forced to make a painful decision. I left Bad Habits and began to focus on teaching and painting.

In September 2008, I began teaching at Bay Music School in Glace Bay Nova Scotia, and began preparations to begin my fourth year at McKenzie College in Sydney. In May of 2009, I began writing part time for Los Cabos Drumsticks which led to full-time work in September. This also necessitated a move back to Fredericton which I found exciting and fun. To quote Dracula in the 1992 film, “That relationship was not entirely successful...” and led to my return to Cape Breton where it is much less expensive to live. I found myself once again teaching at McKenzie College, and I’ve been asked to return to Bay Music which I most certainly will do once some details have been negotiated.

And so my life continues in ways that seem odd at times, yet even the oddness has its place and has become somewhat comfortable in my advanced stage of middle age. With so many interests and activities, my days are never boring.

~Still Wandering...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wandering Back to The Middle.

Life is strange. One minute you’re certain of things, you have a good idea of what’s going on and where you’re going; the next, you’re baffled, confused, unsure of yourself, and utterly despondent. Within a heartbeat it can all change yet again. That is how I find my life these last few days.

It is said that every twenty seven years Saturn makes its return to the exact same place in the universe where it was at the moment of your birth. It is further said that while Saturn is neither malevolent nor benevolent, it IS very demanding. This is supposedly why we lose so many people in their twenty-seventh year. If that is true, then it stands to reason that in another twenty seven years, during a person’s fifty-fourth year, the same thing would occur. So it has been with me this year.

I had thought that doing as Saturn does and returning to the exact same place in the Universe where I had been the moment of my birth would give me some peace; that I could still the restlessness within and conclude my life without turmoil. For a while it seemed to be so, but as 2009 ended and we entered 2010, and I entered the second half of my “Saturn return,” I find myself once again unable to still my monkey mind.

As most of you already know, I made the return to my origins in August, and began working in September.

As Christmas approached, I began making plans to go to Cape Breton where I still have a home and a very active relationship. During the very short time I was there, it surprised me just how easily I slipped back into the daily cycle of living. Many friends came by to visit, and I was more at peace than I had been in a long while.

When I returned to Fredericton to begin a new week of work, it felt as if the Universe was giving me very clear messages that this was not the life I should be living. Once I had reached the Cobequid toll station, I began to encounter inclement weather; the further west I drove, the worse it got. By the time I had reached my apartment in Fredericton, there was nearly a foot (30 cm) of snow on the ground. Driving was treacherous, and by the time I had dropped the rental car off, many of the taxi companies had pulled their cars off the road.

The following day, I took my used car to the bank, the Mall, and then stopped to gas up. It didn’t start again. That to me was the final straw.

In discussion with my employer, it was concluded that I could do much of my work from home; home being anywhere I could connect to the internet. There would be a reduction in hours of course, and consequently a reduction in pay, but I could still accomplish my objectives and continue to contribute to the company in a positive manner.

And so with that, I have chosen to return to Cape Breton, to my home and relationship. I will have my back yard which I have put a lot of work into over the years. I’ll have the cycling club to ride with again, my familiar hiking trails and the beach down the road for doing Tai Chi.

My departure date is set for January 14. Since I hadn’t signed a lease, leaving my apartment was no problem. In fact, I have established a very good relationship with my landlord, he being a former drummer too.

I will miss my hometown, the place of my birth. My spirit rests easily here and there is tranquility in the fields and forests, but my time to return is not yet. I had thought I was bringing my life full circle, but it seems there is still more middle to accomplish before the circle can be completed.

To all my friends in Fredericton and surrounding area, I’ll miss you and I’ll try to get back to visit as often as possible.

To all my friends in Cape Breton, I’ll see you soon.

~Still Wandering.