Linked In Or The Drake Effect: Birthday No. 48

FullSizeRenderIt’s time for my annual birthday post and this time I started at the bottom and went to the top. Kind of like Drake, who is also born on Oct. 24. (We’re basically twins.)

This has been the toughest birthday post yet. I just deleted about five paragraphs that I’d written in September — all this Blue Jays stuff. I even had a sentence that mentioned Kevin Pillar hitting into a “motherfucking triple play.”

It was quite endearing. I’ll bet you’re sorry you missed it.

Hey — I wasn’t even sure I wanted to do another birthday post.

“I don’t think I should keep drawing attention to how lame my life is,” I told official Reynoworld photographer Melissa Hank.

“But your fans are waiting!” she said as we walked from Starbucks back to the office.

We both laughed knowingly at the joke. Except Melissa kept laughing harder and harder and louder and louder, and I eventually had to prevent her from collapsing on the sidewalk as she clutched her side.

I started at birthday 44. Then came No. 45. After much thought, I decided to follow that with birthday 46. Here’s 47.

Which brings me to today: Birthday 48.

“Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!” a former journalism classmate from the University of King’s College said when I saw him in a bar in Halifax years after we graduated, class of 1992.

“He’s still alive!”

I’m not sure what he thought I was doing in university, but it usually wasn’t enough to get me killed. Guaranteed: Many people had better, wilder times than I did at school. I lived at home in Herring Cove, for Chrissakes.

“Ugh. My head hurts,” I said one Sunday morning to my main man Arthur Canning when he joined me in the living room of the Reyno bungalow after a long night at the downtown Halifax bars. I raised the Sunday Daily News in front of my face, checking NHL summaries.

“Oh, I know!” Arthur said, dishevelled. Clearly not ready for Sunday mass.

“Crazy night. I can’t believe you drove!”

I dropped the paper and looked at Arthur, wild-eyed.

“I drove?!?!”

Am I proud of that? Of course not. But it’s the truth. And Reynoworld might not be much (see lame reference above), but it’s all true.

Here’s more truth: I’m lazy.

“Why don’t you get off your ass and write a novel?” a friend said to me at The Ship here in Hamilton a while back.

Because I’m lazy. I’ve written a few short stories for Reynoworld (this one’s my favourite), but a novel is a whole other, more complicated thing. I work with printed words all day; I don’t want to deal with them too intensely when I’m off. Lots of people can. I can’t.

Look — I’m self-deprecating, but I’m not going to beat myself up.

I believe if it was my job to write a novel, focus strictly on that … I could come up with something. Not that it would be any good, but I’ve read enough fiction to know it wouldn’t be the worst thing ever published.

FullSizeRender 2But I love to write, and I’m proud of my writing. I get all a giggle when someone likes a Reynoworld post. I’m proud that I won an Atlantic Journalism Award for arts & entertainment reporting for stories on Bo Diddley.

It came to me in a flash: I did the phone interview from home in Timberlea, N.S., with Diddley in Florida, conceived the story the next morning in the gym. When I got to the office, I wrote it and laid out the page.

I’d link to it, but I don’t think it exists online. Plus, that’s enough links, don’t you think?

I’m also proud that I was nominated for a sports reporting AJA for stories I did on Sidney Crosby when he played junior hockey in Rimouski, Que.

“It was a great article,” Crosby said the next time I interviewed him.

I know, I know. It’s all ancient history, and small stuff to begin with. But hey — the theme of Reynoworld is to celebrate the small stuff. And I’m-a celebrate it. Holler if you hear me, Mr. Drake.

Melissa says I haven’t reached my peak yet. I hope she’s right. Because if I’ve already reached my peak … I think I missed it.

I’m 48 years old. It makes no sense, but I feel like I’m just starting.

I’m 48 years old. Having said that, I can do the math.

I’m 48 years old. I almost forgot the most important link! Chicken wings.

I’m 48 years old. I started here, then I went to the top.

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Back To The Talkies (Dunkirk Part 2)

“Sure!”

I tell the young woman behind the concession counter when she asks me if I want butter on my popcorn.

Butter on my popcorn! I’m in a movie theatre — a real live movie theatre! For the first time since 2011!

I’m so excited; I even memorize the time Dunkirk starts at Jackson Square mall, just across the street from where I live in Hamilton, Ont.

1 p.m. Or is it 1:05? No matter — as usual, I’m plenty early.

I arrive at one of the automated kiosks at about 12:40 p.m. I haven’t been to a movie theatre in six years, but’s that’s not new.

What is new: I get to pre-select my seat! It’s in one of theatres with the big cozy, reclining chairs. Maybe that privilege is reserved for the fancy movie rooms. Regardless, I pick seat G-1 (like a lot of people, I prefer an aisle seat), second row from the back. Only $6.99! For someone who’s spent for than $50 on beer and wings many times, seven bucks is a gimme.

Up the flight of stairs to the theatre. It’s a talkie.

“I just want a popcorn and a drink,” I tell the young woman behind the concession counter when I get there. I see many combo options on the wall behind her, and all of them involve candy. (I’m a beer drinker and a meat eater: The price I pay is I’m not a sweets or chocolate eater. You have to make sacrifices to be a sleek 205 pounds, 5-foot-11 at age 47.)

“OK, you can pay for them separately,” she tells me.

No Fresca and I don’t drink caffeine, so it’s Barq’s root beer for my drink. Medium (looks like a large).

The large popcorn and Barq’s comes to $14.65. I glance at the combo options again, and I see No.1 is what looks like a small pop, small popcorn and choice of “bagged treat” for $8.49. Live and learn. This is the last time — the last time — I will waste money.

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As I said, I’m always early. I’m the first person in the theatre at 12:48 p.m. Here’s a pic of the action.

The room eventually contains eight people. Two fellow middle-aged losers, a couple (I think the woman gave me the sweet eye, although she may have been wondering where my parole officer was), and what I take for a grandmother, mother, and son, about seven years old.

I thought it was odd for a child to be at a movie like Dunkirk, but I could be wrong. What do you think? I’d love to hear other people’s take on that.

As for the movie itself, Dunkirk is riveting. The level of tension: unremitting, terrifying. As a music guy, one thing that stands out is the choppy strings when the two soldiers run with the stretcher to try to get on a ship back to England. So effective! Build that tension!

Flip side: The sappy orchestration when the small boats arrive at Dunkirk and Kenneth Branagh is asked what he sees, and he lowers his binoculars and says “Home!” Excessive.

Come on! That’s like complaining that your pillow isn’t fluffed enough at a five-star hotel. I would like to own Dunkirk, and my movie collection is only two: Amadeus (best movie ever) and Oh Brother Where Art Thou?

It’s the type of movie that lends itself to repeated viewings. And as we all know, the story of the retreat at Dunkirk is ultimately a successful story.

The Nazis were defeated. The good guys won.

And the Nazis aren’t coming back. Right?

Back To The Talkies: Dunkirk (Part 1)

Well, if you’re going to be a hypocrite, I guess you’d better get to it quick: I’m sick of violence except for vintage hockey fights.

I know I wrote a long time ago about how I was sick of hockey violence. (For those keeping track, it might even have been the first Reynoworld post. What’s that? You’re not keeping track? Me neither — that’s why all these sentences are in parentheses.)

But once in a while, I’ll go on YouTube and watch some old fights. In the early 1990s, a friend a year ahead of me in journalism school was an actual hockey player, and we talked about hockey fights. We both admitted that we liked them, and I remember the reason he gave: “I don’t know why.”

What he said. I don’t know why I like watching hockey fights now and then. I’m not a violent guy; I’m more likely to pee my pants than throw a punch. Maybe it’s because as a kid, fights were the easiest part of hockey to grasp, since I didn’t understand the game.

Maybe. But I don’t care. All that hockey-fight talk was just a too-long intro before I get to what I said at the start:

I’m sick of violence. You know when it happened? After 9/11. I was on my last day of vacation from the Halifax Daily News; I was a page editor on the news desk. (Totally ill-fitted for that job, as my kind-hearted boss let me know repeatedly. Look, I consider myself a creative person: Mime first, writer second. I find a by-the-book work environment stifling. And I guess I had the last laugh — the Daily News folded! HAHAHA! Ha! … ha.)

Anyway, it was my last day of vacation, and I was doing dishes in my estate in the kingdom of Timberlea, N.S., listening to sports radio when the announcer said: “A plane just crashed into one of the towers of the World Trade Center. I’m not kidding.”

I went down to the basement, turned on CNN, didn’t come up till hours later. I remember feeling sick to my stomach seeing the first tower fall. It was the worst day in the history of the world for how many thousands of families?

I remember, hours later, finally getting out of the house to take my beloved beagle Molly for a walk. Nothing in the sky, and on the avenue, it was like Sprucevale was frozen. Just me and Mol: all quiet, overcast sky. Surreal, will never forget it.

So after seeing footage of people falling from the towers, people running down the street being covered in dust, people buried under rubble … why on Earth would I want to see an action hero blow up a car or walk away unflinchingly from an explosion?

Obviously, not all movies are action movies. I work on the arts/life desk for a national newspaper company, after all. And one of the benefits of the job is you learn about low-budget, good-story films: films that lend themselves just as much to home viewing as theatre viewing.

So I hear. I never watch those. I prefer comedies. Right now, I’m catching up on Curb Your Enthusiasm, borrowed from the Hamilton library (It’s free!).

Enough! This post has more digressions than it does points.

Here’s one point: I haven’t been to a theatre since the summer of 2011, when I went to see Moneyball in London, Ont., with my non-anulled ex-wife. After that, I was dating a woman in London and we were going to go to a movie, but we broke up and I never did.

Until now. No more digressions. I’m off Tuesday, which is cheap day at the theatres, as I’m told.

And I’ve heard/read a lot of great things about Dunkirk, that it’s an exceptional drama, portraying the tension and stress of war without the gratuitous violence I’m so sick of.

Here goes! This post means I have to go to the theatre on Tuesday, for the first time in six years. That’ll be part 2.

 

My Filipino Family

I’m not really an ancestry.ca kind of guy. You know, that website that helps you trace your genealogy? That never really interested me.

It’s not that I don’t care … well, I guess I don’t really care. I am who I am. I’m from Herring Cove, Nova Scotia, Canada. If I find out my great great great great granduncle was the first person in his Siberian village to harvest zucchini, I’m still going to eat wings.

Here’s what I know about my family history: My mother’s maiden name was Patricia Fitzpatrick and she was born on St. Patrick’s Day. So obviously I’m half Italian.

The Reyno part is a bit trickier. I’ve heard that it’s Black Irish, supposedly (but maybe not likely) from descendants of the Spanish Armada who settled in Ireland.

Then there’s this:

But in the past few years, I’ve come to think that maybe I’m half Filipino.

A few years ago, I got a friend request on Facebook from Harlyn Reyno in The Philippines.

“Cool!” I thought. “Welcome aboard!”

Then I got another friend request from another Reyno in The Philippines. Then another. Then another.

You can see where this is going. Now, I have at least 40 Facebook friends from The Philippines who have some connection to the name Reyno.

I’ve gotten messages from 10 people or so asking about my Reyno name.

“Happy birthday, cuz!” More than one Filipino friend wrote on my wall when it was my birthday.

Recently, I started receiving messages from a group called “REYNO CLAN REUNION 2018.” It contains more than 160 people. Since it’s not in English, I have no idea what anybody is saying.

Then, last month I got a message from Cora Bautista Reyno inviting me to the May 2018 reunion and to be a guest speaker! I can’t stress that enough – !

Now obviously I’m not qualified to speak publically about anything. What am I going to talk about? My cat?

But it was such a generous, unexpected offer; unlike anything I’ve ever received. I thanked her for her kindness and declined the invitation.

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The sad thing: This is actually a good picture of me.

I later messaged back that although I wouldn’t be attending the reunion, I’d like to write something about it and send it along. I guess this is it.

But since then, I’ve been thinking … why not go? I’ve been messaging with Marc Jhay Reyno, and he’s made it abundantly clear he’ll take care of me if I go.

So I’m going to get my passport renewed, and look into making the trip. Hey, I’ve never been outside of North America. You only live once.

And it’s not like I’d be stepping into the great unknown. Although I’ve never been to The Philippines and know very little about it, it already feels like home. I have family there.

My Four Seasons

I don’t post to this blog as frequently as I used to. I’m doing a lot more writing at work, so I’ve been less inclined to post.

Plus, let’s be honest: I’m not that interesting. You know you’re getting to the end of the line when you post about your boots. (Although I love those boots.)

Oh well. The name of this blog is Reynoworld, not Jim’s Riveting Reads.

Anyway, I don’t want to disappoint the several people who read this blog, so here’s another one. Got a cupla beer in, got a dip in (sorry, Template), got Trane on the stereo. Ready to write.

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Jim Reyno and Brad Hunter welcome summer at The Ship. Kelly Drennan photo.

It’s officially summer. Just turned from spring. I intended to write this post yesterday, but I was busy baseball watchin’ and cat wrasslin’.

But I’ve cleared my schedule and here it is: My ranking off the seasons, from first to worst.

Fall: You’ve had a great summer, lots of hot weather, and now it’s cooler — but not too cool. The leaves haven’t fallen yet, and the colours are spectacular.

Sweater weather, easier to hide the spare tire you’ve earned with a summer of beer drinkin’ and deck sittin’.

Plus, I get a sense of optimism from fall. Great memories of summer, as well as the hope winter won’t be so bad. And as a sports guy, you’ve got baseball playoffs as well as early season NFL and NHL. A perfect storm, if by “storm” you mean fascinating for-real reality TV. I hope my favourite team of millionaires who represent a city I don’t live in beats yours!

Summer: Like a Trump tweet, summer speaks for itself. Sun, warmth, decks, family, friends, barbecue — all that.

Although I don’t like the humid days as much as I did when I was younger. Who wants to feel sweat on their gut? I’m 47 years old.

Spring: Like fall, I get a sense of optimism from spring. You’ve survived the winter, and as everyone knows about baseball spring training, hope springs eternal.

And two of my favourite days of the year are the first day I can wear shorts, and the first day I can open the window in the condo.

Winter: Now just a minute. I don’t hate winter. If you’re ready for the cold weather, it’s not too bad. Me and my main man and Reynoworld guest blogger Nate walk all the way from the office to the Starbucks on Main West in Hamilton pretty well every workday. It’s like, three blocks at least. I think it’s fair to say we are warriors.

One thing that makes winter much easier is having indoor parking at the condo. I rarely have to brush snow off the car. Regardless of how you rank the seasons, I think we can all agree that brushing snow off a car is the worst fucking thing in the history of the world.

But maybe that’s just me. Feel free to tell me how you rank the seasons. If we can reach a consensus, maybe we can change the weather.

The Worst (Ooh That Smell)

I wasn’t going to tell this story, because I know a lot of kids read this blog to provide a moral compass. And I don’t condone what I did. But I shared this story with Reynoworld photographer Melissa Hank, and she was quite touched by it.

So here goes.

In April 1993, my friend and fellow former altar boy Erin went to Montreal to see two Canadiens NHL playoff games and three Expos baseball games. I already wrote about the ridiculous train ride from Halifax. Once we got to Montreal, the ridiculous didn’t stop.

We stayed in downtown Montreal at the Y (that might be another blog post). We drank a lot and we ate a lot of crap. We ate some good food, though — ribs at the legendary Bar-B-Barn. Spectacular! Walking back to the Y, we gave our leftovers to a homeless guy. Made his day, hopefully.

We also ate and drank at the famous Peel Pub. I don’t remember what we had, but I do remember I left the pub to go to a nearby bank machine. I was crossing a one-way street, so I made sure to look before I ran across illegally (safety first).

The thing is I looked the wrong way and got hit by a car. I heard the horn, the squeal of the brakes, and someone nearby yell, “Look out!”

Fortunately, I was basically liquid at that point and rolled over the hood and landed on the road. Injury report: a minor scrap on my left knee.

After I hit the road, I got up and kept running. The same guy who hollered before followed it up with, “Whoa!”

But as I was saying, we ate a lot of crap. Hot dogs, burgers, fries — nothing approaching healthy. It eventually got to be too much for me.

I got really bad gas.

Now I don’t mean: buuuuwp. Oh, pardon me!

I’m talking flatulence. (I can’t be sexy all the time.) I’m talking silent but deadly. SBD, as the kids say.

It started in our room at the Y. Erin, sitting in the bed next to me, having a smoke, suddenly crinkling his face up.

“What the fuck? Was that you?”

“Sorry man, it must’ve been one of those hot dogs.”

And the hits just kept on coming. I won’t bore you with the details (I probably shouldn’t even bore you with these details), but by the time we left for the Expos game, Erin was very upset with me.

I remember riding the subway to Olympic Stadium, Erin seated about five feet away as I stood holding a pole. He scowled as he sat facing me, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. Every once in a while we’d make eye contact, and he’d just shake his head slightly and look away.

Well, I released another one and kept my eyes on Erin. He looked at me, gave me the stink-eye, and looked at the subway floor. Then he looked at me again, more suspiciously. He looked down again, and then it hit him.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake!”

It didn’t get better at Olympic Stadium. We sat in the right-field bleachers. I needed another hotdog and that didn’t help things, plus I spilled mustard on the blue windbreaker of the guy who sat in front of me.

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Melissa Hank photo.

At one point, I glanced at the guy sitting behind me. I’d say he was in his 40s and looked like he had a moustache. I say looked like he had a moustache because he actually had his sweater pulled over his nose.

The good news is, that was the last time anything like that has happened to me. It’s been smooth smelling ever since.

Out Of This World: Celebrating John Coltrane

I was already a fan of John Coltrane when I saw Mr. Holland’s Opus in a Halifax theatre in 1996.

What – you weren’t there? Quickly: Mr. Holland, portrayed by Richard Dreyfuss, is a musician who wants to be a full-time composer, but becomes a music teacher to make ends meet. He ends up being a lifelong teacher.

I originally started another paragraph about the movie, but this post is about Trane, man — the jazz giant who took Giant Steps, and then some. Took on the tenor saxophone like a catharsis, bad teeth[1] and all. Took the soprano sax from the edge of extinction by reinventing a Broadway Favourite. Took his spiritual quest to the Supreme. Took his musical quest as far as it could go — Out Of This World. Maybe too far? Till he ran out of horn.[2]

Here’s the quote about Trane from Mr. Holland’s Opus that stayed with me (spoken by Dreyfuss):

When I was 15, I hung out at a local record store. And the guy there thought he knew what I liked and one day, handed me this record album. And it was John Coltrane. I took it home and played it — and I hated it. I mean — I really hated it. So, I played it again. I played it again. And I played it again. And I just couldn’t stop playing it.

“Oh wow!” I remember thinking in the theatre. “They’re going to bust out some Trane!”

You would think, right? Mr. Holland is obviously profoundly affected by the music of Coltrane, so much so that he and his wife name their son Coltrane.

So you would think, with Trane’s music such an integral part of the protagonist’s life, the moviemakers would give the moviegoers a taste.

But the Trane never comes. A two-hour, 23-minute movie that IMDB.com lists as having 27 music items — and there’s not one second of John Coltrane music.

That’s remarkable, but not surprising. Trane’s intense, long-form music doesn’t lend itself to cheery, movie-sized snippets.

Get down, real low down

You listen to Coltrane, derail your own train

Well, who hasn’t been there before?[3]

Being the optimist that I am (seriously!), I hope those who saw Mr. Holland’s Opus who weren’t already familiar with his music were inspired to learn more about John Coltrane. Trane for short.

To paraphrase what I said in my first post about Brian Wilson, better-qualified writers than me have written about Trane, frequently. So this isn’t a comprehensive Coltrane bio.[4] And as you know I’m no musician (just an occasional mandolin picker), so this is no technical musical analysis, either.

So what is it? It’s in the title: It’s a celebration of Trane. I want to try to explain how much his music means to me. I listen to a wide variety of music, but the older I get, I listen to Trane more frequently. And I hope in my own humble way (seriously!) that those who aren’t already familiar with his music might check it out.

Coltrane’s big break came when Miles Davis hired him to join his first great quintet in the mid-1950s.[5] It wasn’t a popular choice: Critics and fans alike railed about his harsh tone on tenor and his lengthy musical excursions.

Davis himself wondered what was going on.

Miles said to him: “Man, why don’t you try playing 27 choruses instead of 28?” Trane answered: “I get involved in these things and I don’t know how to stop.” Miles said: “Try taking the saxophone out of your mouth.”[6]

But that was Trane. Searching, searching, always searching, musically and spiritually.

I don’t know what I’m looking for. Something that hasn’t been played before. I don’t know what it is. … I’ll just keep searching.[7]

In 1959, Trane played tenor on Miles Davis’s perfect album Kind Of Blue. If you have room for only one jazz album in your collection, conventional wisdom says Kind Of Blue is the one to have.

But if you’ve read this far — hey! Looks like you have room for more than one jazz album!

Try Trane’s Giant Steps, recorded later in 1959. Some have dismissed it as glorified technical exercises, but it still swings and contains Naima, one of Coltrane’s most beloved ballads. And as far as technical prowess goes … Trane was the man! Check out these sheets of sound, as writer Ira Gitler famously called Trane’s improvisational style:

I shake my head in wonder when I hear Countdown. I find all those notes — and the speed! — inspiring. I must get the sheet music for that so I can play it on mandolin.[8]

Recorded in October 1960, My Favourite Things is another can’t-miss Coltrane album. Since everyone knows the title track, it might be a good place to start for the uninitiated. The waltz time is infectious, and Trane’s passionate improvisation is easy to appreciate since everyone knows the tune so well. He soars on soprano sax, at a time when few if anyone in jazz were using the horn. (I previously linked to My Favourite Things in this post.)

Coltrane’s most beloved album is his spiritual tour de force, A Love Supreme (recorded in December 1964). The four-part prayer was recorded in one day with what’s known as his classic quartet: Jimmy Garrison (bass), McCoy Tyner (piano), and Elvin Jones (drums).

As with all great works of art, A Love Supreme rewards revisiting. You can really feel the drive toward the final movement, Psalm, which features Trane “reading” a poem in the album’s original liner notes, via his saxophone. To my ears, A Love Supreme is the story of Trane’s life, a musical representation of his struggle through anonymity, drug and alcohol addiction — not to mention the stresses of being a black man in America — to his successful-yet-never-ending spiritual and musical quest.

You don’t have to be religious to get the passion and commitment of A Love Supreme. I’m not the only one who feels that way:

OK, so we’re up to 1965. This is where the music changes. This is where you might play a Coltrane album, hate it, hate it some more, and keep on hating it.

(Y)ears after it was recorded, John Coltrane’s Ascension remains a good way to start an argument. To some, it was Coltrane’s breakthrough album, a bracing declaration of independence from the prevailing musical restrictions. To others, it marked the beginning of a talented musician’s disturbing slide into chaos.[9]

“It sounds like a car crash,” I’d tell people about Ascension. Recorded June 28, 1965, with Trane’s classic quartet augmented by four more saxophonists, two trumpeters, and another bassist, Ascension is loud, abrasive, relentless. And it does kinda sound like a car crash, until you revisit it enough times that you really start to hear it.

Once I heard it, I realized it was unlike anything I’d heard before. The intensity is overwhelming: I’d owned Ascension for years but didn’t sit down and give it my full attention until last year, when one night I poured a bottle of wine and cranked it. The reissue contains two versions (both roughly 40 minutes), but I could only get through one. Too much sound, too much information, just too much.

But I enjoy Ascension. Not every night, but it’s a good restart if I’ve been listening to too much of the pop music I so love.

Wanna sample it? This is the version Trane preferred. You won’t need your dancing shoes:

So if you listened to even a bit of that, I think you’d agree that it’s not for everyone. Coltrane continued searching for new ways to express himself until his death from liver cancer in July 1967[10], alienating many critics, fans, and fellow musicians along the way.

Till he literally ran out of horn. During some performances in 1966 and ’67, Coltrane would stop playing the saxophone, beat his chest and sing. Drummer Rashied Ali remembers:

“I’d say, ‘Trane, man, why are you doing that?’ … He’d say, ‘Man, I can’t find nothing else to play on the horn.’ He exhausted the saxophone.”[11]

But not before he took us Out Of This World. Here’s my favourite Trane performance, recorded with the classic quartet in 1962:

[1] Coltrane: Chasin’ The Trane by J.C. Thomas (Da Capo, 1975). P. 41.

[2] Drummer Rashied Ali in Coltrane: The Story Of A Sound by Ben Ratliff (Picador, 2007). P. 109.

[3] If It Makes You Happy, Sheryl Crow. Sheryl Crow (A&M Records, 1996).

[4] Jazz fans will notice I pass over Coltrane’s time with pianist Thelonious Monk. I hope to talk about my main man Monk in a future post.

[5] Check out the Miles Davis albums Cookin’, Relaxin’, Workin’, Steamin’, and ’Round About Midnight.

[6] The Jazz Anthology by Miles Kington (HarperCollins, 1992). P. 1992.

[7] The Heavyweight Champion John Coltrane: The Complete Atlantic Recordings liner notes by Lewis Porter (1995). P. 29.

[8] Right.

[9] John Coltrane: Ascension reissue liner notes by Lewis Porter (2000). P. 2.

[10] He was just 40 years old.

[11] Coltrane: The Story Of A Sound. P. 109.

Guest Post: When Jordan Met Melissa

I’m a sucker for pop music.

All that ridiculous, catchy, earworm-y pap that you can’t get away from and some studies have shown rots your teeth? Yeah, I pretty well love all of it.

I have just as many Spice Girl CDs and I do U2 (in my defence, the Spice Girls CD was only $3. Who could resist?). In the 1980s, I wanted a Wham! cassette but I was too embarrassed to buy it myself, so I made my buddy Arthur buy it for me for my birthday. And I remember owning at least one New Kids On The Block cassette and CD.

You know who else loves pop music? My co-worker and official Reynoworld photographer Melissa Hank. In October 2011, Melissa was granted an audience with NKOTB frontman Jordan Knight. I thought her story for TV Guide was very well done and hilariously honest.

Here it is!

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Melissa Hank (right) and not Jordan Knight (left).

I know I’m supposed to be a hard-nosed media professional who girds her loins with objectivity and wears cynicism like it’s this season’s Chanel, but omigosh, omigosh, omigosh!

I’m on CBC’s Cover Me Canada set to interview judge Jordan Knight. Of New Kids on the Block fame. Whom women of a certain age remember gracing numerous T-shirts, pins, bed sheets, and in my case, a fold-out poster from Tiger Beat taped to my closet door. At lip level.

“He must never know about that poster!” Reporter Melissa scolds. “You’ll lose credibility! And keep it zipped about going to the NKOTB-Backstreet Boys concert this summer!” Thirteen-Year-Old Melissa sulks, while Reporter Melissa skims over her questions.

And then, he appears. In a leather jacket, jeans and white T-shirt, the man once named one of People’s Most Beautiful perches atop a stool. Thirteen-Year-Old Melissa’s hand starts twitching and she suddenly needs a glass of water.

“Pitiful,” Reporter Melissa sniffs and she strides towards him, cooly lobbing questions his way.

Reporter Melissa: You’ve stayed in good shape. What kind of workout are you doing?

Jordan Knight: I hate to say the word yoga, but I do calisthenics, stretching and yoga pretty much every morning. And I just watch what I eat. I don’t eat a lot, and I try to eat non-fattening and non-sugary foods.

Unable to hold her silence, 13-year-old Melissa blurts, “So does that mean no cake and ice cream?” It’s a cheesy reference to a lyric in his song Stingy, which has been playing non-stop on her iPod for the past two weeks. Reporter Melissa hangs her head in shame.

He seems unfazed. “I do eat cake and ice cream, but I do it in moderation. I think the only diet that works is the self-control diet.” And that’s Minute 2. Reporter Melissa shoulders back in just as 13-Year-Old Melissa is about to gush about that poster.

Reporter Melissa: Looking back at the ’80s and ’90s, are there any fashions you wore that now you’re like “What was I thinking?”

Jordan Knight: Actually, I was looking at something the other day. It looked like I was wearing pyjamas, basically. And I was out! I was, like, having a night on the town in a pair of pyjamas, so that was really strange.

Minutes 3 and 4 tick by. Reporter Melissa seems in control. She remembers her awesomely tolerant husband back home, shoves thoughts of the poster to the side, and holds 13-Year-Old Melissa’s twitching hand at bay.

Reporter Melissa: I know you did a quick walk-by on (NKOTB member Donnie Wahlberg’s show) Blue Bloods. Would you ever do your own show?

Jordan Knight: I was the guy in the stadium scene, in the crowd. Joking! But acting? If somebody said ‘I’ve got the perfect part for you’ I would definitely do it. But I don’t believe in my acting skills that much to go and go get it. It’d be fun, though.

Reporter Melissa: Will you do gigs while you’re in Toronto?

Jordan Knight: I might. Chum FM just started playing a new song of mine called “One More Night” and it’s one of my favourite songs on the album Unfinished. If that gains traction, I might do a few shows. I’ll probably do something anyhow.

The news is too much for 13-Year-Old Melissa, and at Minute 6 she bursts in, all flushed and giggly, “I saw you in concert in Hamilton this summer!” He looks up, with the puppy-dog brown eyes 13-Year-Old Melissa saw taped to her closet door every night. “Oh, yeah?’

Reporter Melissa knows what’s coming and tries to dive back in before the words tumble out. But it’s like she’s in one of those sitcom sequences where someone’s moving in super-slow-motion, yelling, “Stooooooop!”

Thirteen-Year-Old Melissa: I totally had a poster of you in my bedroom. You know that one where you’re like this? (She cocks her head to the side and arches an eyebrow.)

Jordan Knight, clearly amused: Which poster? What?!

Thirteen-Year-Old Melissa: Yeah, it said “I love Jordan” at the bottom!

Jordan Knight: Really? I don’t remember that poster.

Thirteen-Year-Old Melissa: Oh, yeah – you can Google it!

Jordan Knight, valiantly humouring her: OK, I’ll go check it out.

And that’s Minute 8. The interview is up and I make way for the next reporter, who’s waiting with her veil of cynicism intact.

Reporter Melissa: Idiot!

Thirteen-Year-Old Melissa: Did you see? He only yawned once in the interview! He said it’s because he came in late last night, and that totally proves he didn’t think I was boring!

Reporter Melissa: I can’t take you anywhere.

Thirteen-Year-Old Melissa: Do you think it’s too late to ask for a picture with him?

Fresca Fantasy: A True Hamilton Story

I don’t think it’s necessarily a blessing. And I’m pretty sure it’s not a curse. It just is what it is: I’m always early.

Like, always. Maybe it comes from being in the deadline business. Whatever the case, I’m more likely to be an hour early for something than I am to be one minute late.

5 p.m.: That’s when I was supposed to meet my buddy Moira at Brux House on Locke Street here in Hamilton. So as I approached Locke I checked my iPhone: 4:30.

That’s pretty well on time for me. But I still had time to kill, so I thought I’d walk up Locke then head to Brux.

As I walked up Locke, there were less than a handful of fellow pedestrians. A guy walked toward me with bleach blonde hair wearing a beige parka. The parka was open a bit in front, where he had a small dog tucked in. Not sure of the breed, but I can confirm it was not a beloved beagle.

Now I love dogs (and cats), but something about this guy smacked of: Look at me! I have a cute dog in an unconventional place! Yay me!

I put my eyes to the sidewalk and walked by. I refused to acknowledge him.

But that would change. Oh yes — that would change. It’s such a dramatic transition, I don’t think I’m doing it justice. Let me try again.

 

But that would change.

Oh yes — that would change.

 

I guess the spacing and italics adds drama. Hope so.

Anyway, after I walked up Locke for a bit, I walked back down to Starbucks across the street from Brux. And who was in front of me in line? Dog Boy.

“Not this fucking guy again,” I thought. Then I looked at the counter in front of him: An open can of Fresca.

I looked away. No. Then I looked back. Really? Is it … could he be … is he part of the Fresca Fan Alliance?

I had to know.

“Is that your can?”

He eyed me suspiciously.

“Yeah.”

Me. My heart. Filled with love and pride. And look at the cute dog!

“That’s the best pop in the world,” I said. “I love it.”

“I know!” he smiled. “It’s sooo good.”

“Not many people drink it,” I giggled. “Giggle!”

Here comes the bespectacled barista with her brown hair tied in a ponytail.

“I used to work for a vending company,” she looked me in the eye like we’d known each other our whole lives and why wouldn’t she that’s what Fresca does it brings people together.

“And I loved it when we’d re-load the machine and there’d be extra Frescas.”

Dog Boy raised his.

“I woke up this morning and this was on my deck. I was like, ‘OK! I’ll take that!’”

In hindsight, I probably should have pursued that line of questioning. But it was already getting weird, and as Billy Joel said:

The Over/Under Of Rated (Or From Baseball To Boots)

Bull Durham, released in 1988, ranks sixth on Rolling Stone’s list of top sports movies. As a huge baseball fan, I saw it shortly after it was released and thoroughly enjoyed its depiction of the minor-league life. Starring Kevin Costner as a grizzled veteran catcher and Tim Robbins as a thickheaded pitcher on his way to the big leagues, everything I read indicated the baseball scenes in Bull Durham were true-to-life.

fullsizerenderI’m sure that’s the case. But Bull Durham doesn’t hold up for me. A few years after I first saw it, I bought the DVD, watched it again, and ended up reselling it.

It’s still a good movie — very funny and well written. But a few years removed, I no longer believed Costner as a (mostly) career minor-leaguer. He doesn’t dip, for one thing. And he’s so well-spoken, with a perfect haircut,  and perfectly pressed expensive clothes — he looks like a Hollywood movie star playing a ball player.

So although I still enjoy it, I think Bull Durham is overrated.

But hey, it’s not Costner’s fault! It was that bloody costume designer Louise Frogley (thank you, IMDB.com).

Costner was underrated in another baseball film, 1999’s For The Love Of The Game. He portrays a veteran major-league pitcher on his way to a perfect game in perhaps the final start of his career. (There’s also a bunch of love/romance-y stuff like in Bull Durham.) For The Love Of The Game isn’t a great flick, but I found Costner’s performance effective, and I appreciate the chemistry he has with his catcher, John C. Reilly.

Speaking of baseball — and I know this is sacrilege — but to me Fenway Park in Boston is overrated. As I mentioned previously, the hotdogs are spectacular, but overall Fenway ain’t so great. Built in 1912, the seats are cramped even when the place is empty. When a Red Sox game is on, personal space disappears and it’s bump-into-me-and-spill-my-beer season.

Now if you’ve never been to Fenway, I’m not saying don’t go — I’ve been there 15 to 20 times and even did the stadium tour. It is a unique baseball experience and the history speaks for itself. This is just a heads up for the casual fan that nothing is easy at Fenway, and you already know how much it sucks to spill beer imagine spilling an expensive one.

From Red Sox to real socks. One thing I’ve underrated until recently is the value of a quality pair of socks.

I have no fashion sense, and generally wear clothes until they disintegrate. Socks especially. Unless there are holes in the toes (very annoying), I’m wearing them.

But a while back I was given a pair of high-end socks. They’re red-and-black checkboard patterned from Roots and THICK! Every part of my feet is warm, all the time. And I need that, especially when I’m wearing my boots.

img_1519My boots. My beloved, 20-year-old (I’m guessing), well-worn, down-and-out boots. New boots are overrated.

Look at these warriors. The lace on the left boot is broken and doesn’t go through all the holes. The right boot has a three-centimetre gash by my baby toe that means if I walk through deep snow, I’m getting a soaker. The backs of both boots are frayed from being pulled off and on for so many years. They’ve had everything on them from dog crap to deer crap to tobacco juice to mud to blood to booze.

Why would I want to get rid of them?

I almost did a few weeks ago. I went looking for a new pair, but I couldn’t bring myself to replace my warriors. (Also, have you checked out the price of boots lately? I saw one pair for $160! No thanks, I’ll take the soaker and get groceries.)

img_1521Look, I’ve got to be honest with this blog. So I confess I really don’t care about Costner, Fenway, or even quality socks. I just want to pay tribute to my boots.

They said I couldn’t do it.

“You can’t write a whole post about your boots!”

“Why not?”

“No one cares about your stupid boots!”

“What do you mean? No one’s even seen them up close yet.”

“You have to expand the focus to include other things, then maybe — maybe — you can mention your boots.”

img_1518Oh I’ll mention them, all right. How about I’ll immortalize them for all time in a blog read by literally several people?

Almost forgot: My boots are also steel-toed, which is important for all the heavy typing I do at work.

“You should get them bronzed or give them a proper burial.”

“I’ll be buried with them.”

Melissa Hank contributed to the photography and title of this post, as well as a pair of socks.