Thursday, September 23, 2004

Guvernment -Keane Concert

Hopes & Fears

Vocals: Tom Chaplin
Piano: Tim Rice-Oxley
Drums: Richard Hughes

It's Tuesdsay evening and I am at the Guvernment amidst a very eclectic all ages crowd. We are all waiting with anticipation for Keane to come on stage to perform from their album Hopes & Fears. I have come to the concert with one of my friends, whose birthday also happens to fall on this eve. We peruse the crowd and feel a bit old, but try to brush that to the back of our minds as a really cute 20 something comes by and stands in front of us.
The opening act French Kicks from NYC was good, though his voice was a little off.

After being asked for identification and almost refused entry to the bar, we walk around and have a few beers. Though I was flattered someone thought I was 13 years younger than my age, I was more annoyed about not getting some much needed liquid to quench my thirst. Around 10pm Keane came on and began to sing. The show was really very good and lead singer Tom Chaplin's voice was absolutely incredible. What is so unique about this U.K band is that they only have 3 permanent band members and no guitar player, using a mix of drums and keyboard and vocals to create their sound, which I liken to an 80's Radiohead/Coldplay. The show was great and I definitely see their appeal to all ages.

In Brief:
* Keane are from Battle in East Sussex.
* Drummer Richard first met Keyboard player Tim at about the age of 11.
* They rehearse and record in a little old room in Tim's parents' house in Battle.
* Their single Everybody's Changing was not their first release - they previously released a single in February 2000 and June 2001 on their own Zoomorphic label.
* They have just been named the most promising act on the music scene in a recent BBC online survey.

Check out the Keane interview.

Friday, September 17, 2004


I recently came across a blog about a homeless guy and his experiences on the street, and it reminded me of something I wrote earlier this year, which I never published, for reasons of my own. Here it is.

Sunday morning
I'm tired but still tweaked from an over-indulgent night of dancing and partying. I have since decided to prolong this with a couple of other friends, so have gone to an After-hours club, where we have been lounging and chatting. I peer into the dark corners of the club, but my eyes can't seem to penetrate the smokey haze. The throbbing of the overhead strobe lights pierce the thick air, making the whole experience even that more surreal. The music is deep and hard and the heavy bass vibrates us and increases the sensations and we are quite content.

I go down to the washroom to rinse my face. The cool water feels refreshing and rinses away the remnants of any fogginess. The bathroom is lit quite well, and appears to be empty except for the ever present bass. I turn to grab some towels to wipe off and I hear what sounds like a sobbing coming from the stalls. I turn to listen and the sobbing gets louder. I am unsure what to do, but decide to knock and ask if he or she is ok. The door opens and I see a skinny guy with tattoos on his arms and neck. His eyes are red and tears stream down his face. He looks oddly familiar but I can't place him. He looks at me and asks if I have a smoke, but I don't. He looks at me again, eyes squinting, thinking. They open wide for a second, then he says an almost inaudible "Alex?"

I look at him again and clarity begins to take hold. I take a step back and am shocked. The familiarity seems to be coming back, but he is nothing but a shell of what I remember. His gaunt face, skinny body and disshevelled appearance are almost unrecognizable. Che (as in Guevara) and I knew each other close to 8 years ago, when I used to see him in the clubs or on Church street. He was a nice, handsome kid, very friendly who hung out with the circuit crowd, despite being straight.

Che and I chat and I soon find out that he got involved into heavy drugs years ago, and spiralled downwards into addiction, theft, and then jail. He tells me he has been out of jail for a few months, but was just kicked out of his home with just the clothes and knapsack on his back. He looks desperate and asks if I can lend him money for food. He definitely looks like he needs it, so we walk out to the Burger King and I get him a few burgers which he wolfs down. We continue talking about his life and what his life has been like, living on the streets, selling crack and dope. I am perturbed. I am not accustomed to hearing stories like this, and can not possibly understand his situation. I am out of my element and my comfort zone, but I stay and listen, drawn into his stories like a child.

The sun has been up for sometime now, and I am getting tired and tell him I need to leave, but he begs me to stay and keep him company. He has no where to go, no where to sleep and it is -20 celsius outside. He also says he has no one to talk to. My heart breaks a little, and I am reminded of who he was, and what is now sitting before me. I can see that his tough street-wise exterior is just a facade for something lost. We chat for another hour and now he is beginning to nod off. Despite protests from my inner-voice, I tell him he can wash up and sleep on my couch for the day. He smiles and hugs me, saying that I won't be sorry. I am not sure what to think, but know that I can't leave him here in the cold.

We get to my place and he showers and asks if he can use my phone. He pulls out a little black book and points to a picture and says "thats my dad, and this is my mum". He says it matter-of-factly, but I can almost feel the memories racing through his head. He asks if he can call them as he has not spoken to them in a long time. He begins to dial, stops, then hangs up. He looks down at the floor, head in hands, then at me again with apprehension and frustration in his eyes. He passes me the phone and asks if I can dial for him and ask for his mom. I call and speak with her for a short bit, saying that I am an old friend and that he is ok. She is crying when I hand the phone to him. Che speaks quietly with her, hangs up and makes a note in his book. I ask what he is doing and he says that he is writing something down that his mother had said. I don't push any further.

Che calls his father next and they chat for an hour or so. He ends the conversation with "I love you dad." I really don't know what to say or do. We both just sit quietly as he deals with his demons.

Against my better judgement I allow him to stay the evening. He has washed his clothes and says he feels much better. He thanks me and asks if we can keep in touch and if he can stay a few more nights. I tell Che, that it is not appropriate and that I have work and other obligations to take care of. I see dissappointment in his face, almost as though he were used to being cast aside. I give him some old clothes to wear and give him my number and say that I will be happy to let him shower and eat here, but he cannot stay. He thanks me for the offer.

A week passes.
During this time, he calls me and he comes over to shower, eat and use my computer. We chat about his life and goals and what he needs to do, to get back on his feet. I assist him with his welfare and Parole officer appointments, and tell him he needs to put his money to proper use. He is grateful, but I am getting worried that he will become dependent on my help.

Week 2
It is several days later when I hear from him, and he asks if he can come over for food and rest. When he arrives, I can tell something else is up. He is even more haggard than before. We chat for a bit and he falls asleep while eating. I try waking him, but he won't wake, so I leave him there to rest, keeping a watchful eye. He looks like a kid, but the conversations and shit he has dealt with have made him street tough. It is only in these quiet vulnerable moments that he seems to let his guard down.

At some point in the evening I too fall asleep and when I wake, I find he is gone and has taken a number of things of mine. I take stock of the situation and feel anger and dissapointment well up, not because he did this, but because I already knew that this would happen, and I believed that somehow I might have gotten through to him. I feel like I should kick myself for having done what I did, but realise that it is past, and recipicent thoughts are not in my nature.

I don't know where he has gone, what has happened to him or if I will ever see him again. I imagine that he will never get away from his addictions, from the world of crime or the streets. His life was surrounded by darkness, distrust and despair, and I thought that for a moment I might have been able to reach out to him and bring him out of it. He was a hard core punk fan, and it seemed his only comfort and identity was his music. He lived his life reckless and "free" like the music he listened too, never realising that he was actually a prisoner of his own circumstances and of his own doing. He told me about his world and how he identified with his music and I got a sense of how he felt. He said his dream was to go back to California, where he would open a garage to fix cars, but reality is a bitch, and the fact is that he is or will be just another sad statistic.

Twenty one, feeling down
I tell you nothing with a thousand words
and I get weaker, with every step
I waste my money on compact disc's and stale fish
I can't remember the last time I did something that made
me feel alright longer than a few hours
if I only had the strength to make some muffins then I
swear that I would share them with you now.
Am I odd or am I not?
That's a question I spend time analysing
I'm so soft, but still I'm not
living up to what people want me to be
cause I'm busy with me, myself and I
can't be understood by someone I don't know to well
so I'm shutting out the whole world just to play Nintendo
I've got these new games but I'm afraid you can't join me.
...These last few years I've been strugglin
and I'm tired of keeping low profile
so now it's time to show that I'm alive...
I'm gonna change my life, plans, Vans start to dance
change my thoughts, sox, moves, even my pro fighter Q.
This apparently was his favourite song. It speaks for itself.
I wish him luck and hope he finds peace.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Grandpapa Part deux

With fear in his eyes, my father has told us that our dear old grandfather has picked up and left China, buying a one way plane ticket to New York City on September 09. This all taking place after my Uncle in Taiwan got so fed up with my grandfather calling and screaming at him, that he gave all my grandfathers money back to him (as he was managing his accounts). Those of you who have just tuned in, this is Part deux of an ongoing saga, previously written about here. Apparently, the old man has been getting more and more belligerent with his live-in maids and helpers and has been throwing things at them. My father has told him not to come here, as we do not have the time or means to care for him, and my Aunt is scared to death since she is the one living in NYC.

When I visited him in China, I could see that his feisty temper and disposition had not changed. The only difference was that he was older and more frail. His mind worked in circuitous rhythms, and he would stare into us with his blurry eyes, seemingly knowing all our thoughts and secrets. We told him we were in China for only a few more days and had to leave, but we knew he could see through it. It was like trying to trick a child to eat breaded liver, when they could easily see that it was simply breaded to disguise it. I imagined what it would be like to reach the ripe age of 95 and vowed that if I ever got to 70 I would be happy. The pain and burden is something I would not wish upon any friend or family member to bear.

The last I heard, he had arrived at my Aunts' door, where he slept for 2 days straight. When he got up, he started screaming and kvetching about the family and now is planning on staying at his Mennonite friends place in Rochester. Apparently, Mr. Mennonite said grandpapa was welcome, but now Mrs. Mennonite is not happy about it and won't have anything to do with it. How can I blame them? I lived with him for 10 years and he never treated me like a grandson, more of a servant and task doer. Anyhow, I have no idea where the saga will end, but I will certainly keep you all in the loop.