It’s a Good Life if You Don’t Weaken

As I sit here playing Fallout 4, on bed rest because of this lung infection that I’ve had for two months and haven’t taken care of until last week, I have the volume turned down on the TV. Any sound that I’m hearing is coming from the windows outside, and from the music that I have playing on my phone. Specifically, I am listening to the Phantom Power album by the Tragically Hip.

Much like millennium, mentioned in a previous post, this music brings me back to a specific time in my life, made golden by the light of memory. The first song I ever heard by The Tragically Hip was Bobcaygeon. It was about 4:30 in the morning at the time of year when the sun starts to rise a bit later each day.

I was depressed, heartbroken, and within a month of fully giving up on life. I hadn’t slept in a week, and my thoughts were barely my own. I had MuchMoreMusic on, because it played calmer music than MuchMusic. Bobcaygeon came on, and I was instantly hooked. The mood, the solitude, the mental state, all could have contributed; and might not have. I’ll never really know.

What I do know is their music helped to carry me to somewhere more stable so I could carry on. This was nearly twenty years ago, and yet memories are burned into my brain, indelible, of sitting in the wan morning light and hearing Gord Downie’s calm sonorous voice. Walking along the bridge west of Celeste at 11 at night after leaving Leon’s house, and Don’t Wake Daddy was just starting up as my boots crunched through the thin sheets of ice on the sidewalk.

Specific moments, frozen in time by one band, as no other has done.

I don’t generally cry when people die, particularly celebrities, as overall I feel like they’re going on to better things. I cried when I read that Gord’s cancer was terminal. I cried through their last concert. I cried when he died. I’m getting misty just writing this.

His job wasn’t nearly done. He left a hole in the world when he left. He was one of few true and pure voices of love and decency.

He will be missed, but memories and music are forever.

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Millennium

The year 1999 was a huge year for me in formative terms. I have more memories of that year than any other. It was a time of strong emotion, of the strengthening of bonds between friends, of learning just how awful and how great my small world at the time was.

For a little perspective, the version of me that exists now is actually a little disgusted that the 1999 version of me existed. I think, in retrospect, that I needed that version of myself in order to become the person I am. I was seventeen, had dropped out of school, and didn’t have a job. My friends were potheads, druggies, and drunks. It was a hot summer, and the neighborhood smelled a lot like the East Indian shops that lined the streets. Strong rotten smells of fish from the convenience stores, and acrid curry smells from the restaurants.  Scarborough was a garbage heap, and still is, as far as I’m concerned.

I was poor, but managed on a couple of dollars each day. With no perspective, I didn’t think anything of how little it was, or that I got it from my mother. I was deeply depressed that summer, had been all year, and had already made a suicide attempt by taking my entire bottle of antidepressants. I’m going to assume it didn’t work. I slept for two days straight, and had muscle spasms for a year or so after.

The song “Millennium” by Robbie Williams was big for a few of the months that I spent being “Depressed, Summer ’99 Mickey”. The song itself was somewhat mediocre, though it had a very unique sound, and was on TV or the radio constantly. I was only sleeping an hour or two a day, usually between eight and ten in the morning.  I often had bouts of a week or so in which I didn’t sleep at all. I’m sure I could have qualified as certifiably insane.

I have only heard that song a few times since that summer and only once since leaving Canada. It always brings me back to a specific day, during sunset, walking to the store with a friend, noting how yellow everything looked, and how the street looked shiny despite being dry. The reflections off the windows of the apartment buildings on one side and the shops to the other side made it even more yellow. A car passed by with Millennium playing on the radio. I mentioned how the song sounds shiny. Kevin, my friend, agreed.

The neighborhood stunk to high heaven, we were poor and depressed, he may have been a little drunk, but the world was shiny for a moment.