Have phone, won’t text…

(Warning: some naughty words…)

 

Texting.
I don’t do it.
I don’t text for, what I think is a very good reason.
I just don’t like it.
Of course, I am acutely aware that I am probably the last person on the planet who doesn’t text and that makes me some kind of a Luddite knuckle dragger, and I don’t care.
I honestly don’t see the point of it.

Hey
What R you doing?
Nothing
K
What R you doing later?
Dunno
K
K

Man, what a riveting way to connect, right?
Now, this is not a condemnation of the whole texting thing.
Not at all.
It’s just for me, it’s a pretty stupid way to communicate.
I really don’t get it – typing away on a keyboard tinier than the Toronto Maple Leafs playoff hopes, misspellings rectified by an auto correct function programmed by a Grade 3 Spelling Bee loser. And because the auto correct is a useless piece of crap, if you decide not to use it, you have to manually fix all the mistakes yourself, a chore only slightly less frustrating than trying to teach your grandmother how to send an email.
Seriously, why not just make a phone call? I still own a flip phone and (yup), I use it for phone calls. That’s why I got it – to make and take the occasional call. If I need to get a hold of someone, I make a call.
Now, I understand that sometimes a quick text like “I’m running late,” “Don’t forget to pick up Junior at soccer” or “Toilet paper – hurry!” is sometimes necessary.
Dashing off a quick note is perfectly fine. Makes sense.
What I don’t understand is having whole conversations via text.
Who has time for that shit?
It boggles my mind. Anywhere – in restaurants, in movie theatres, in churches, on the sidewalk, in cars, in the goddamn toilet, for Christsakes – like chronic masturbators, texters (or better yet, texticles), tap mindlessly away, utterly engrossed in detailed conversations with a ferocious intensity and with blurred fingers in orgasmic textacy.
It’s ludicrous.
The telephone was supposed to be a step up from the telegraph. How is tapping out texts any different from tapping out messages in Morse code?
What’s next? Smoke signals? Carrier pigeons?
I’ve heard the excuse that the reason why some people text is that they don’t want to talk on the phone.
Fair enough.
However, if you want to get off the phone, just end the damn conversation, dude. All you have to say is, “Gotta go.”
Done. Draw a line under it. Have a Coke and a smile.
Is that really so hard?
But cutting someone off on the phone is rude, you say? How is being hunched over your phone in a restaurant like a vulture with a freshly killed antelope on the Serengeti, completely ignoring the person or people you’re with not rude?
And if you get caught up in a fairly detailed text-versation, it could conceivably go on longer than a “Lord of the Rings” marathon.
Text. Send. Receive. Text. Send. Receive. Text. Send. Receive. Text. Send. Receive. Text. Send. Receive. Text. Send. Receive. Text. Send. Receive. Text. Send. Receive. Text. Send. Receive. Text. Send. Receive. Text. Send. Receive. Text. Send. Receive…
What a joke – just make a friggin’ phone call!
Ironically enough, I recently found myself in a position where I was going to have to actually write a text a few weeks back.
My first.
Fuck me…
I was coming back from the Writer’s Festival in Eden Mills near Guelph with my partner and we were hoping to stop by in Toronto to meet my friend Sonya for coffee. We realized though, that we wouldn’t have time to meet her and since my partner was driving, she asked me to send a text.
I looked at her like I was a beagle who just heard a dog whistle.
“What?”
“Send her a text,” she repeated.
I snorted and shook my head. “A text? No way. I’ll just call her.”
“No,” she said, with a firmness reserved for a truculent child who is refusing to eat his vegetables. “You need to know how to do this.”
I gazed out the window, hoping to catch the eye of a fellow non-texter in another car who might be able to call me and tell me how to get out of this horrendous impending predicament.
“Are you serious?”
I was surprised at how whiny I sounded.
“Don’t be a baby,” she said.
“Why don’t we just pull over and you text her,” I said.
“Oh my God, just do it,” she replied without taking her eyes from the road. “I’ll talk you through it.”
Okay, first of all, you need to know that smart phones and I do not play nice together. Any time I hold one in my hand, some weird force causes it to fuck up. It’s kinda like when they opened up the Ark of the Covenant in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” I always expect my face to melt or something.
With a heavy reluctance, I took her iPhone, holding it like it was laced with anthrax.
It immediately went into camera mode.
“What the hell is this shit?”
“What did you do?” she asked, not even trying to hide her annoyance with me.
“Nothing! I put the piece of crap in my hand and now it’s in camera mode.”
She sighed. “Okay – just exit it and press the green icon.”
“I fuckin’ hate these things…”
“Yes, I know dear. Did you press the icon?”
“The one that looks like a cartoon speech bubble?”
“Yes, that’s the one.”
“Yeah…now what?”
“Click her name and it will open up a window so you can write a text.”
I clicked her name.
Nothing.
So I clicked it again…and again.
I must have clicked her name about 20 times.
“It’s not opening.”
“What exactly are you doing?”
“Explain to me again how this is easier than making a phone call?”
(Quick aside – I should let you know that I exasperate extremely easily. I mean, I tend to lose my shit in mere seconds when I’m on the couch and the tv remote is two inches out of my reach. So by this point in the texting lesson, I was way beyond exasperation and heading full speed into out and out frustration.)
I stabbed at the phone like I was trying to gouge out an eye. “I’m pushing her name and nothing’s happ…aw, come on…”
“Do you have it?”
“Seriously? It’s a fucking camera again!”
She sighed again. “Lord, give me strength.”
“This is such bullshit, man…”
Somehow, I was finally able to open the stupid app and so now I had a Lilliputian keyboard and a box to put the text in. The car ride was not exactly smooth so typing was like trying to thread a needle with my foot.
It was incredibly slow going.
Slow?
How about ponderous? Plodding?
How the hell is this better than a phone call??
“Okay…now how do I make a number?” I asked.
“You have to flip the keyboard.”
“Are you serious? Flip the keyboard? How do I…fuck! It just disappeared!”
“What?”
Resigned,  I put the phone down. “I think it’s gone back into camera mode again…”
No bullshit, I must have taken about two dozen stabs at it. I had to give up on it or risk not only losing what is left of my mind, but also my partner’s patience and her smart phone out the window.
Ten kilometres later, I used the iPhone to do the unthinkable: I called her.

I really think that people need to get back to the art of actual conversation. They need to relearn the value of human connection. And this is coming from a guy who doesn’t even like small talk (more like loathes small talk) but still sees the importance of one-on-one conversations.
And I readily acknowledge that conversations can be a major pain in the ass, but Jesus Christ, at least I don’t have to type out the fucking exchange!

If I ever find myself in an end-of-the-world scenario where my life is dependent on sending a text to someone I know exactly what I will write:

Call me

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Swipe out; my problem with plastic…

The other day I had to hit the grocery store. Not much to get, just a couple of things. Everything came to about sixteen dollars.

Then I did something really weird…I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out some cash.

Remember cash? The medium of exchange, the standard of deferred payment? The use of cash, or “money” for those who are apparently unfamiliar with the term goes back to about 3000 BC when someone exchanged a couple of beads for a goat, or a friggin’ donkey or something. For the last five thousand years it’s been a pretty good system.

The cashier automatically assumed I would be using my debit card instead of cash.

Of course I gave her cash – it was only sixteen bucks, for Christ’s sakes.

When did the idea of using a debit card for every damn thing you buy become de rigueur? It really drives me nuts.

Now before everyone wets themselves telling me about the advantages of using debit over cash, I want to say that I don’t fucking care.

Cash is easier and faster and it gets me out of the store quicker.

Fact.

Case in point – last week I was at the store and a guy in front of me was buying a newspaper and a pack of gum. His purchase was only a couple of bucks.

Literally – a couple of bucks.

He then proceeded to pull out his debit card to make the purchase.

Really?

A debit card for less than a three dollar purchase?

I stood there in disbelief as he swiped his card about 50 or 60 times because it wasn’t working. The cashier apologized every time it didn’t work. He turned to me and offered a weak smile.

“Ah technology…what are you gonna do?” he says.

Um, how about “Here’s a couple of fucking twoonies for my gum and newspaper. I shoulda done this in the first place instead of being such a thick headed twat.”

Unbelievably, he pulls out a credit card.

A credit card…for less than a THREE DOLLAR purchase???

It was becoming incredibly close to a case of card rage.

And, of course, the credit card didn’t work either. No amount of swiping, tapping or saying “c’mon” seemed to work.

“I don’t understand,” the cashier said. “It must be the machine”

Yeah, it was the machine, all right. It had become self aware and realized that the moron was trying to pay a three dollar bill with a credit card and said “Fuck this shit – use cash, you arsehole!”

Finally, he pulls out a five dollar bill. The dickhead had a five dollar bill the whole time!! I swear to god, I wanted to hit him in the face with a gym sock full of cat turds.

Why, oh why do people do this?

For a large purchase, sure, use your credit card or your debit card. That’s what they’re for – so you don’t have to carry large wads of cash around. But what happened to the idea of always having cash on your person at all times? I always have a couple of bucks on me. It just makes sense.

A few weeks back there was a sale on televisions and I thought I’d pick one up for the bedroom. The price was good so I hit the ATM and took out about two hundred dollars. When I got to the store, I grabbed a tv and headed to the cash to pay for it. There were six spots at the checkout, but only two cashiers.

Seriously? Two cashiers? There’s about a hundred people buying cheap tvs and they have two cashiers – brilliant.

Anyway, I wait my turn and when I finally get to one of the cashiers, he says “Credit card or debit?”

“Neither,” I said. “Cash.”

“Oooh, I’m sorry – I can only take a credit card or debit.”

Fuck me…

I told the guy I wanted to pay cash.

He shrugged his shoulders and grinned like a chimp that just discovered masturbation.

Okay – why the hell are they’re called cashiers anyway?

I pointed toward the other cashier. “What about that guy? Does he take cash?” I asked. He said no. He’d have to page the cash guy. After a few minutes, it was apparent that the cash guy was either on a coffee break, in the shitter or deceased.

Goddamn it…I was forced to use my credit card. I gave it to the cashier and he placed it in the reader.

“All right,” he said “just enter your PIN for me.”

PIN? For my credit card? I didn’t even know I had a PIN for my credit card. That’s how often I use the goddamn thing.

I told him I didn’t know my PIN. I asked him if he could just swipe it. He told me it didn’t work that way.

Whaaaat?

So I put the stupid credit card away and pulled out my debit card. I put in my debit PIN (at least I know that one) and chose “Savings.”

Well, surprise, surprise! It didn’t work. Of course it didn’t work. I tried again…and again. Same thing.

I tried “Chequing.”

Yep – same shit as before.

As I understand it, these cards are supposed to make things easier, right? Bull-fucking-shit. I think it would be easier to catch a lard covered football spinning end over end with my mouth. So far this transaction has taken up more time than it took for my mom to give birth to me.

Such horseshit. Finally the cash guy showed up. I duly moved over to his spot. I then pulled out my cash and the transaction was done in about thirty seconds.

Thirty seconds!

Fact – it`s faster and easier to use cash…case fucking closed.

What’s next?

Handing a homeless person your Visa?

Strippers with debit card swipers for lap dances?

Neighbourhood kids with wifi at a lemonade stand?

I guess when they say if life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

I say fine – make the lemonade, but make ‘em pay cash.

Anti-social media behaviour…

Some foul language…

I’m not a hockey fan. I don’t hate hockey – it’s just that I don’t follow it, that’s all. The sport holds no interest for me and I sure won’t be wetting myself if Ottawa doesn’t make the playoffs.
I should say though, that as a true Canadian, strong and free, I did play hockey as a kid but I quit when I was about 14.
Why?
The hockey parents.
Plain and simply, most of ‘em were (and probably still are) malignant assholes. They’d howl and yowl like World War Two klaxons at their kids (and quite often at other people’s kids) like it was an NHL final or something.
I mean, it was friggin’ house league, for Christ’s sakes! Who gives a shit? There were no scouts in the stands watching any young Bobby Orrs or Wayne Gretzkys out there. Did they think that screaming like senseless banshees at their ankle skating kid was going to get them signed?
Hey arseholes – shut the fuck up and let them have fun.
As I grew older, my interest in hockey waned and I moved on, discovering that playing music was far, far cooler than scoring goals.
Okay…I understand the zeal hockey fans have for the game, but often I find that the fervour, the enthusiasm, the goddamn obsession that those fans have for the damn game is really quite frightening.
You know the kind of fan I mean – the one draped in the oversized jersey of his favourite team, sprawled in his lawn chair, buried in snow up to his knees in front of his house, a can of beer spilling over his right fist and holding a misspelled sign in his left begging passing motorists to “Honk yor horn for the (insert team name here)” usually punctuated with whoops and grunts.
(By the way, car honking should never be wasted on showing support for your favourite hockey team – it should be saved for the idiot in front of you who doesn’t know how to use his goddamn turn signal.)
I get it – you love your team. Good for you.
This maniacal devotion however can, and often does, turn some of these well-intentioned fans into some of the biggest douchebags on the planet.
The other day I came across an article about the Toronto Maple Leafs. As I said earlier, I’m not a hockey fan, so normally any articles about hockey (or just sports in general) wouldn’t interest me but the headline caught my eye:
“April Reimer, wife of Maple Leaf James Reimer, attacked on Twitter…”
Sorry, what?
I read the article.
It began by saying that April Reimer, the spouse of Maple Leaf goaltender James Reimer spent the weekend fighting off attacks on Twitter about her husband’s recent play.
What…the…fuck?
What is this shit?
What in the name of God is the thought process going on here?
Is there even a thought process going on here?
What kind of knuckle dragging, mouth breathing imbecile would post an attack against the wife of an athlete of a team he supposedly cheers for?
I’ll tell you – the kind of imbecile who thinks that by wearing team colours and watching a game or two makes him a hockey genius.
The kind of imbecile who thinks that face painting is art.
The kind of imbecile who has never worn a jockstrap in his life and calls phone-in shows with all kinds of moronic drivel that, in his insignificant brain, passes for expert advice for coaches and GM’s.
The kind of imbecile who has never even laced up a skate and couldn’t find a puck even if it was wedged up his ass sideways.
Unfortunately, imbeciles with access to social media who think that they’re brilliant are everywhere – as if one finger typing and managing to keep drool from falling on the keyboard by sucking it back in is somehow brilliant.
Hardly – the fact of the matter is that they are bullies and should be bitch slapped nine ways to Sunday for being the idiotic shitheads they are.
I have a few questions for these idiotic shitheads:
What makes you think that your fatuous opinion is important anyway?
What makes you think that shitting on your favourite team makes you a great fan?
What makes you think that your gutless attack on an innocent person is a good idea?
What makes you think that being a completely classless sphincter is clever?
What makes you even think?
Now, what makes me think my opinion on this is worth the read?
Well, although I don’t watch hockey, I have played it in the past which means I’m already up on most of these sofa bound turds. For another, I certainly would never post any bullying horseshit about the spouse of a player on the team I’m supposed to be a fan of.
That in itself should be enough.
Of course, this kind of douchebaggy rubbish is not relegated to hockey – not by a long shot. Sports fans have been shitting on the home team in every sport ever since Cro Magnon man kicked a rock between Neanderthal man’s legs about fifty thousand years ago.
You have to wonder if some of these sports fans thought processes have even progressed since then.
It seems that in some cases the cave man still exists – only he’s clothed in his team’s colours…

My Pet “Pee”ve…

Okay – fair warning: this post happens to be about bodily functions. If you are easily offended by these things (even though you do them every day), then move on…nothing to see here….

Fair waring…

Some naughty language too…

I’ll admit it – I’m not a people person.

When I go out, I like to get things done quickly and with very little human contact. Let me buy what I need, pay for it and then get the hell out of the store as fast as possible. Small talk is not wanted nor appreciated – if you want to talk about the weather, find a meteorologist.

And speaking of annoying small talk, on to one of my pet peeves (accent on “pee”) -conversations in public washrooms when I’m trying to urinate.

What is it about public urinals that make everybody suddenly become Marc Anthony at Julius Caesar’s funeral?

Seriously – what makes you think I want a coffee klatch at that precise moment? I’m busy trying not to soak my shoes – please, for the love of God, shut up.

And knock off the goddamn whistling too.

And another thing…why do some people feel the need to take the empty urinal RIGHT NEXT to mine when there is a multitude of empty pissers just waiting to be used?

It’s unbelievable.

I used to loathe using the bathroom at my former place of work because of Dave (not his real name.) If Dave should happen to come in while I was watering the plants, he would, without fail, pass by all the empty urinals, take the one right next to me and begin a conversation.

Without fail.

Dude, there are five other empty pissers and four stalls to choose from and you take the one right next to me? WTF?

It’s out of order – the protocol, I mean, not the urinal.

He’d unzip, fiddle around until he found it, and then smile at me. “Great game last night, eh? Did you catch it?”

Of course I didn’t – I was too busy trying to come up with inane talking points in case someone wanted to blather on to me while peeing…

He’d then drone on about the Ottawa Senators and in between sputtering farts, would wax eloquent about their power play.

I’d just stare straight ahead and count the tiles on the wall.

There were 36, by the way.

And it was far worse if I hadn’t started to pee before he came in. Even if my bladder were at the point of rupture, it would succumb to stage fright and refuse to yield a single drop. It would be no use. I’d wait about 20 seconds, exert a sigh of frustration rather than one of satisfaction and then zip up, pretending that I’d finished. I’d then wash my hands, exit, then hide around the corner, waiting for him to leave. Once he was gone, I’d rush back into the can before the dam inevitably burst.

Did Emily Post ever write anything about bathroom etiquette? A pee parlay is one thing, however, there is one particular annoyance that for me takes the (urinal) cake…

The other day I needed to relieve myself. I was hoping to hold it until I got home, but thanks to the patented, god-awful shitiness of the drivers in this town, I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t make it. I was forced to use the public facilities.

Resigned to my fate, I hung my head and entered the bathroom.

Seeing the wall of empty urinals (oh, thank Christ– no vacuous hockey talk!) I happened to choose the one nearest the stalls.

Just as I start to empty my bladder, I heard it.

It was small, almost imperceptible, yet horrifyingly ubiquitous.

Someone passed wind. In the stall next to me.

It sounded like someone had stepped on a mouse – quick, high pitched and a little frightened.

How did I not notice the shoes peeking out from under the door? A terribly unfortunate lapse of judgement on my part.

Fuck me.

I closed my eyes and shook my head.

A few seconds later, he became a little hard to ignore. (For those with really delicate sensibilities, please stop reading…)

It was like the baked bean scene in “Blazing Saddles” come to life. I swear, there were less explosions during the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Goddamn it, dude…

Panic overtook me as the realization of my biggest bathroom fear washed over me.

If he finishes before I do, I’ll see him and actually have to acknowledge him.

You know, that uncomfortable and embarrassed moment when you come face to face with the guy that just assaulted your ears and sinus passages.

Here’s my question – why, in God’s name why, when you’ve committed an atrocity like the one committed right next to me, can’t you wait until I’ve exited the scene of the crime? Guess what? I don’t want to see you dude. I don’t even want to know that you walk the friggin’ planet. It’s like witnessing a mob hit, for gawd’s sakes. Please don’t let him notice me and let me escape with my life.

I needed an immediate course of action. I had to complete my business asap and get the hell outta there before the Abominable Shitman discovered me.

I went into overdrive and began to power piss. Body tensed and with a vengeance, I fired a vicious stream into the urinal puck.

It was as if I was putting out a forest fire in Algonquin Park. The splash back was prodigious, but I sure as shit (pun intended) wanted to be outta there before Vincent Van Go-for-a-Massive-Dump was done with his odoriferous shitsterpiece.

I swear to God, it was the longest piss ever. Wars were fought and won in less time. If I could have cut off the stream I would have but it’s damn near impossible. Guys, you know you just can’t do it. It friggin’ drips everywhere and by everywhere I mean all over the front of your pants and down your leg.

Why the hell did I have that extra Pepsi? I wasn’t even thirsty, for chrissakes…

Racehorses don’t piss this much!

Finally my bottomless bladder was voided and I began to zip up. It was then I realized that I hadn’t even taken a breath since the Vesuvian eruptions next door started. I considered bolting the bathroom without even washing my hands when I heard the flush.

Nooooooooo!

 The door opened and Gaseous Clay lumbered out. It was so awkward – he just turned the whole area into a mini Yucca Flat nuclear test site and now he’s buckling up next to me at the sinks.

He tossed me a vapid smile – “Oh man, I really gotta lay off the cabbage rolls, huh?”

Cabbage rolls…good God…truly, a Poolitzer prize winning statement.

How in God’s name am I supposed to respond to that?

“Um, actually the cabbage rolls give off a nice piquant aroma that you really can’t get from eggplant or brussel sprouts…”

“Oh, it’s not that bad – my eyes are only watering a little bit…”

“Didn’t notice – by the way, I always gag after I have a piss…”

Instead, I gave him a quick nod and with my lungs convulsing, I quickly shot out of there like Kim Kardashian looking for a sale on extra large yoga pants.

As I said before, I’m not a “peeple” person.

And I think it goes without saying that I’m not a “poople” person either…

It was fifty years ago today…er, tomorrow…

Okay…I’m back.

Been hibernating for the winter but I figured I’d re-enter the blog-o-sphere because of a special event happening tomorrow.

Sunday, February 9th as you may or may not be aware, is the 50th anniversary of an historic moment in music (although I’m pretty sure that when Justin Beiber announces his retirement, it may rival this particular event.)

On February 9th, 1964, four Liverpudlians made their American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show and created what is probably the single longest shadow ever produced in rock and roll (and music in general.) The Beatles, a former skiffle group from Liverpool landed in New York spawning the second British Invasion and creating what we now know as “Beatlemania.” (Incidentally, the term Beatlemania was coined in 1963 by Sandy Gardiner, a writer for the Ottawa Journal.  It’s nice to see Ottawa has provided something of significant value other than the shittiest drivers on the planet.)

No one at the time knew exactly what was wrought that night, but since then, the influence wielded by John, Paul, George and Ringo is undeniable. Every rock and pop musician on the planet owes a huge debt of gratitude to these fellows and it’s a testament to their incontrovertible awesomeness that we are even celebrating the 50th anniversary of this meaningful event.

I remember as a kid originally hearing the Beatles on the radio. We were living in Cornwall Ontario and I recall hearing “Hey Jude” for the first time in 1968. I was about 6 years old and what struck me was how it stuck in my head. In my house, we had to listen to an insane amount of country music so hearing this song was like the heavens opening up – literally kicking the shit out of the shit kicking tunes I was used to. It’s funny but I can even recall the song that was on right after it – “Wedding Bell Blues” by Laura Nyro. I can’t remember to put out the goddamn garbage on Tuesday nights but I remember that!

God, my brain’s fucked sometimes…

As I got older and more into music (rock star wannabe that I was…uh, am), I became more aware of the Beatles and their music and being the nerdy dipshit I was (who am I kidding…still am) I had to know more about the music that so fascinated me. I devoured any book I could find on them and soon I really began to appreciate just how fucking great they were. February 9th 1964 wasn’t just a turning point in music – it was a turning point in history as well. The Beatles created friggin’ hit after hit (under the knowledgeable tutelage of producer George Martin) and their approach to song writing followed no trends but created them. Simple pop paeans soon gave way to more introspective lyrics (especially on the part of John Lennon) as well as complex chord and song structures that were well ahead of their time. Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” has never been better illustrated. Songs like “Strawberry Fields Forever,” “A Day in the Life” and “Yesterday” are not only classics but signs of the changing times.

Music would never be the same.

Tangential rant time – to those who bitch and moan about how over rated the Beatles are I would like to point out that without the Beatles, there would be no Lady Gagas, Katy Perrys or  Miley Cyrus’ or even male pop singers who I don’t know or give a shit about.  You don’t have to be a fan of the Beatles to appreciate their contribution to music. Just understand that point and know that without ‘em, there’s nothing. Yeah, that’s right…nothing. As you were…

Such influence. As a tunesmith, they certainly shaped my forays into song writing but their American debut on the Ed Sullivan Show also inspired me in a whole new creative way.

Now for the shameless tie in – a few years ago, I decided to put pen to paper (or in this case, finger to keyboard) and write a story that gnawed at my brain for almost two decades (yeah, I’m a real fireball when it comes to writing…) I had read that during that fateful night, 73 million people tuned in to watch the performance.

73 million in 1964! In 2014 numbers that would be…what, about 20 billion, right? (give or take a few). It was said that in that hour, not a major crime was committed in New York City – not even a hubcap was stolen.

It occurred to me that it would have been the perfect time to rob a bank.

And from that deviant thought, my novel “Can’t Buy Me Love” was born. Two of my favourite things, the Beatles and larceny together in one book – it was obvious that I had to write it.

A lot has changed in 50 years. Now, I’m not so arrogant that I think my book could ever possibly leave an indelible stamp as large as the one created that wintery night at CBS but I’d like to think it’s my small way of showing respect to probably the greatest and most important rock act of all time. So thanks John, Paul, George and Ringo for the songs, the memories and for the influence.

Rock on.

And to those who have bought (or plan to buy) my book, read on…

Date with a tape – or, dude your song sucks (part 2)…

Some swearing…actually, more than some…

 

Recap – a few years back, while in Toronto for a song writing contest, my cousin Steve Casey and I decided to check out The Songwriters Association of Canada’s “Date with a Tape,” a music critiquing and testicle squashing exercise that has, in the past, left many an ego battered, bruised and writhing on the floor. We decided to enter two songs (against the rules, but oh, were we rebels…) – one under Steve’s name and one under mine.  One of the lyrics in the song entered under my name (“Alison”) contained the line “an anger of ardence” – something that Steve had made up because it sang better than “anger so ardent.” Although I didn’t write the lyric, if chosen, I would be the one who would have to explain the apparent neologism.  After watching the judges crush the hopes and dreams of the multitude of hapless songwriters surrounding us, I cringed in horror as I realized that “Alison” was heading towards the sacrificial altar and would no doubt be carved up like a Christmas turkey…

 

The break was now over. “Alison” was being loaded into the tape player. The pink lyric sheet was placed in front of the judges.

“Alison” and her “anger of ardence” were now staring up at them.

I quickly scanned the room looking for an escape.

I was trapped. I turned to Steve.

“Hey I got an idea. How about you say that you’re me when they ask whose song it is?”

He grinned. He either said “relax, it’ll be fine” or “no goddamn way” – I’m not sure which – just as they hit “play” on the tape player.

Everything was funeral home hushed as the brooding strains of “Alison” filled the room.

I will admit that I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth “anger of ardence” sounded. Smooth as a 21 year old shot of Oban scotch.

It was a perfectly fine lyric. Wish I thought of it.

I took a quick look around – no strange looks from the audience; no bizarre reactions from the judges.

Ardence…yep, it’s a good word…fuck yeah…

So far, so good.

At the end of the chorus, they stopped the tape. For a few moments no one spoke.

I could hear my heartbeat in my ears.

Jesus, somebody say something…

At last one of the judges, Ian Thomas (an excellent Canadian singer/songwriter that Steve and I both admired for years) spoke.

“All right – whose song is this?”

The inquiry, although pleasant, still sounded like a teacher demanding to know who just farted during study period. I waited in vain to see if someone else was going to take ownership of the song thereby letting me of the hook.

No takers. Gutless fuckers…

I awkwardly put up my hand and with all the energy of a narcoleptic, I eventually stood up.

Ian smiled – I was immediately reminded of the grinning guy in William Castle’s “Mr. Sardonicus.”

“So this is yours, huh?” he asked. He kinda nodded a bit, then said, “Good verse…pre chorus leads to the chorus nicely…really like the chorus too.” He then stared at me with a crooked grin. “Yeah, that’s how you write a song. Nice job.”

Did I just hear that correctly? Nice job?

It was like I had just deflected a punt to my ‘nads. I nudged Steve and noticed he was beaming.

The next judge (I think he was from EMI Canada…not so sure after all this time) nodded as well. “Yeah, it’s pretty good. I like it too. You know what you’re doing, I’ve got nothing to add.”

Holy shit – just dodged another boot to the balls. Two for two…could we make the sweep?

Next up was the Sony dude.

He waited before he spoke, as if he was gathering his thoughts.

I’m pretty sure he was just yanking me. What a dick …

After what seemed to me to be about half an hour (but was probably closer to five seconds) he said, “You know, I have to agree. I like the verse and the chorus is really catchy.”

After a short paused he added, “The vocal might be a little overwrought, though.”

I exchanged a quick glance with Steve. He sure didn’t seem to be very impressed with that particular assessment.  I snickered slightly.

The Sony guy continued. “Good tune, man. Congratulations.”

Even if there wasn’t, I like to believe that there was a polite smattering of applause for the lucky guy who dodged a bullet.

I was feeling pretty chuffed. Fuck yeah…

As I started to take my seat, the guy from Sony suddenly said, “oh – one more thing…”

I stopped moving. Not sure if I should continue to sit or to stand back up I decided to hang there in mid hunch. I looked like I had scoliosis.

“By the way,” Sony dude said. “What’s ardence?”

And there it was – the inevitable, thoroughly expected hoof to the testes.

It was as if I had just scaled the wall at Alcatraz and was about five feet from the boat on the shore when I was suddenly caught in the spotlight.

Son of a bitch…!

I rarely smile so my lame attempt at a grin undoubtedly was more psychotic serial killer than ingratiating.

“Um…ardence?” I began.

Jesus, is it normal for someone to suddenly sweat that fast and that much?

The Sony dude continued his interrogation in his dry, inquisitive tone. “Yeah, ardence. What is that anyway? What does that mean?”

I winced. Now even greater globs of perspiration began to set up camp on my forehead. I glimpsed at Steve. If a countenance could be completely devoid of compassion, I was now looking at the prime example. In fact, I’m pretty sure I could see a trace of a smugness that said “don’t look at me – you’re on your own, buddy…overwrought vocal, my ass…”

Serves me right for snickering…

I turned back to the Sony dude. “Yeah, ardence. Um, it’s like, uh…ardour,” I mumbled.

Instead of just stopping there and leaving everyone with the idea I was a complete dolt, I decided to continue speaking, cementing the impression.

“I thought that, uh,  ‘ardent’ was too harsh a word, so I, uh,  thought I’d soften it, and use ‘ardence’ instead – you know, the soft ‘s’ sound is, uh, more pleasing to the…uh, palate…”

What the fuck was that drivel? Palate? Palate? What the fuck…?

Goodbye clear thinking…it’s been nice knowing ya…

The only thing that would have made that speech even more ridiculous would be if I was wearing a beanie with a propeller on it.

By the look on his face, I’m fairly certain that at this point he was starting to wonder if I had any hand in writing the lyrics at all and was no doubt wondering if English was even my first language.

“Uh huh…so it’s like passion?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said, my head bouncing around like a goddamned bobblehead. “Like passion. Exactly.”

“Hmm,” intoned Sony dude. “Okay, but is it even a word?”

My brain, which earlier had apparently decided that discretion was the better part of valour and fucked off at the beginning of the conversation, suddenly reappeared and whirred into overdrive.

Welcome back, brain. Great to see ya…you’re up!

“It…could be a word,” I eventually muttered.

As those inadequate syllables dribbled out, I so wanted to give my brain a fuckin’ wedgie.

The Sony guy leaned forward. “So it’s not a real word then.” He smirked. “You made it up. You basically just made up a word to make it work.”

Hanging my head, I sighed. I thrust out my wrists, moistened palms facing the ceiling as if I was about to be handcuffed and taken away for the fraud I appeared to be.

“Yeah, you got me,” I confessed.

The Sony dude then folded his arms and sat back in his chair like Henry the Eighth after condemning Anne Boleyn’s head to roll.

“Cool,” he laughed. “That’s the whole essence of rock and roll, man.”

Ever had flop sweat? I’d heard about it and always thought it was hyperbole. It’s not. My armpits could have drenched an Amazon rainforest.

I nodded weakly and took my seat.

Man, I’m never doing this shit again.

 

I’d like to say that after that experience, “Alison” went on to be a smash hit, but alas, it wasn’t so. Soon after that Steve and I kinda drifted away from song writing. I eventually moved on to a fresh hell – writing novels – but every now and then I think about song writing and one day having a hit song. Maybe I’ll get back into it – but only if my balls can take it.

Date with a tape – or, dude your song sucks…

Some swearing…obviously…

Instead of a rant, I thought I’d relate an amusing little anecdote (in 2 parts) about a time when I thought I’d suffer through the ignominy of trying to be a professional songwriter instead of the ignominy of trying to be a professional novelist…

 

Song writing – oh man, I really, really wanted to be a songwriter. I thought that it would have been a really cool profession.

You  know, like if someone came up to you and asked you what you did for a living. I’d raise an eyebrow and say “I’m a songwriter,” and that person would be sooo impressed, right?

God, I can be such a knob sometimes.

I did write songs, actually. My cousin, Steve Casey and I used to have a band called “Network.” It was just the two of us. We played all the instruments and Steve did all the vocals and we wrote and recorded two CD’s that sold millions.

Nah, that’s bullshit. About selling millions of CDs, I mean.

Our friends bought ’em but that was about it. That’s not to say that there were terrible songs on them– on the contrary, many of the tunes were pretty decent, if I do say so myself. A bunch of ’em won a number of song writing contests over the years, including a New York song writing contest and the prestigious Nashville Songwriters Association International song writing contest (with a pop song, no less). The only problem though was that we just could never seem to connect with the record industry. Trying to pitch our stuff down in Nashville was a real eye opener too.

If you ever have the uncontrollable desire to be kicked repeatedly in the nuts, I would suggest trying to hawk your tunes on Music Row.

You’ll be icing yourself for weeks.

One time, many years ago, Steve and I were in Toronto for a songwriting contest (we were Ontario finalists in a national songwriting competition) and we decided that while we were down there, we’d take in a song writing critiquing session put on by the Songwriters Association of Canada called “Date with a Tape.”

“Date With A Tape” – sounds sweet, don’t it? What could be nicer than a date…with a tape?

It’s actually the musical equivalent of shitting your pants while giving a speech in grade school as everyone points and laughs…

If anyone has ever been to one of these soul-sucking events, they’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Basically you present your “hit” song to a panel of industry insiders who would then proceed to play the first verse and chorus.

They would then tell you in no uncertain terms why it was a piece of crap. Once, if the planets all lined up and if a tune was half decent they’d offer up advice as to how to make it better, but most of the time the songs weren’t all that good so the comments could be pretty devastating.

It was like “American Idol” about ten years before Simon Cowell made being a dream crushing dick a career choice.

You could only enter one song, so you had better pick the best thing you’d done. Of course, since Steve and I figured we were the Lennon and McCartney of Kanata Ontario, we had a multitude of sure-fire hits – the question was, which one do we pick? We narrowed it down to two but we could only enter one.

Steve came up with a simple, yet elegant solution – we’d each enter a song under our individual names – that way we’d at least have two songs entered and better the odds.

Brilliant…however….

In our song writing arrangement, I usually wrote the music and Steve wrote the lyrics. And being the ignorant twat I was at that time (as if that’s changed…), I never paid much attention to our lyrics. I’m happy to report that I do now know all of our lyrics and can say without hesitation that they really are great, but at that time I was probably (definitely) a bit of a self centred douchebag who only marveled at what I thought were the cleverest chord changes east of Difford and Tilbrook (look ’em up…jesus…)

Steve duly prepared the two tapes. He also printed the lyrics on two separate coloured sheets so that they would stand out from the rest of the bunch and we would know if our tune (or tunes) were about to be played. Again, simple yet brilliant (it would never have occurred to me to do it).

Steve entered our tune “Shiver You Up,” an awesome, bouncy and catchy earworm that I still believe to this day, could be a hit, under his name with lyrics on a blue sheet and I entered “Alison,” a brooding Crowded House style ballad under my name, with the lyrics on a pink sheet.

Awww, pink…seriously?

Now for the first time since we wrote the song, I decided to actually take a look at the lyrics.  After all, it was going up under my name.

Wow, I thought. This is really good – except…

There was one line that jumped out at me – “an anger of ardence…”

“An anger of ardence?” I thought.

What the fuck was ardence?

I turned to Steve and he explained that it was like “ardour.”

“Ardour? You mean like passion?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay, but ardence isn’t a word,” I said.

“Oh I know,” he responded. “But it sounds great when you sing it.”

He was right. “Anger so ardent” may be grammatically correct but “anger of ardence” sang so much better.

Oh yeah, I thought. Makes total sense. Of course.

The judges took their places at the head table and the bloodbath…I mean, the session began.

The first song I recall, was by an older gent and the only things I can remember about it was that it was about drinking whiskey and his whiskey soaked vocal.

At the end of the chorus the tape was stopped and one of the judges (I believe it was the Sony Music dude) said: “I’d really like to comment on this song but I can’t get past this terrible vocal.” He then pointed to the old guy and said: “Is this you singing? It’s pretty awful.”

Holy fuckin’ shit! What the hell was that?  They were kinder during the Spanish Inquisition.

It was one of the most cringe worthy moments I’ve ever witnessed. The old guy scowled, got up and slunk out of the room without a whiskey soaked word.

I don’t even think he collected his tape…

Jeeezus…on to the next victim.

The carnage continued in this way for about forty of the longest minutes on record:

“If you think this is good, just what exactly do you think is bad?”

“Wow – this is the best you got? Really?”

“Jeez, I could go out and have a light lunch before that chorus comes in…if I’m not already asleep, I mean…”

“Hey this is great…too bad Jennifer Lopez wrote it first…you should look up the word ‘plagiarism’…”

“I hope you’re not seriously thinking of writing songs for a living…are you?”

At last it was time for the musical version of throwing Christians to the lions to take a break. As I stood up, a coldness suddenly slammed me. I felt a shiver glide up and down my spine.

I watched in helpless terror as a familiar pink sheet of paper inexorably made its way to the front table.

“Alison” was going to be the next victim when the session resumed.

After watching all those other songs go down in ignominious flames, I began to sweat.

Fuck me

(end of part one)