BlogTO- 10 Zines Artists Currently Setting Toronto on Fire
Zine Review for Artificial Life in Broken Pencil
Interview for "Rise of the Female Traveller" on ComparaSave
Interview in View the Vibe
Hoser Punx Vol 4. Review in Broken Pencil
Zine Review on Music She Blogged
Zine Review on Zine Nation
Smell of Our Own with Glockabelle
Five Years of Pleasence
Hannah Zine Review
The Punk Site
Review of IΛVΛl EP
Interview with Ian Blurton of Public Animal
Review of A Fat Wreck
Interview with Rusty
Review of Grievances EP
Interview with Danny of Wasted Potential
Interview with Carlos of The Nils
Interview with Brian of Night Birds
Interview with Brian of Pears
Interview with Hugo of Medictation
Interview with The Atom Age
Interview with Russ of Good Riddance
Interview with Atom of Against Me!
Interview with John of NoMeansNo
Interview with El Hefe of NOFX
Interview with KJ of Chixdiggit!
Interview with The Blue Intruder of Masked Intruder
Interview with metal band GWAR
David Bowie Is exhibit review
King Khan concert review
The Queers and The Dwarves concert review
Patti Smith concert review
King Tuff and Wavves concert review
Hunx and his Punx concert review
Burger Records Burgerama Caravan concert review
RUNNING album review
Dinosaur Bones album review
Shovels and Ropes concert review
GWAR concert review
Mazzy Star concert review
The Kills concert review
Pouzza Fest review
Social Media Examples
Examples of social media writing for various diffrenet companies I worked with.
You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @ShelbyMonita
With A Bullet Radio Promotions:
Ottawa, @InFlight_Safety are playing your city tonight at Cafe Dekcuf, go out and enjoy!
Midge Flower Boutique:
The silver lining on days like today- without rain there would be no flowers (or life on Earth) #grateful #xoTO #flowers #davisville
How are you going to spend this gloomy Saturday? We suggest picking up a bright and cheerful arrangement from Midge! #xoTO #davisville
Great #blog post on the White Wedding Pop Up Shop we participated in #white #wedding #flowers #popup #shopping http://ow.ly/lHLWt
Unveil It- Wedding Photography:
Not just for weddings! We also do special events, take a peak at our gallery http://unveilit.ca/events/
Love is the flower you've got to let grow. -John Lennon #Quote #love #theBeatles
Mothers Day is around the corner, we want to know from the Brides-To-Be, how are you going to celebrate your soon to be Mother-In-Law?
*Hotshot- Gallery and Event Space
Come by *Hotshot today for our Silkscreening party and the last day of #SupaFrik pop-up shop open till 7pm 181 Augusta Ave
Did you know we have a #Facebook Page? Like us to be invited to all our events! http://ow.ly/5z7im
Maxi dresses galore in our pop up shop right now. Beautiful floral prints and fantastic colours to put a little spring in your step #toronto
Fashion Group International Press Release
Press Release written by myself for Fashion Group International while I was working at The Siren Group, a PR firm.
For Immediate Release
January 23, 2012
Fashion Group International® (FGI) Toronto announces
first Lifetime Achievement Award recipient
-- FGI award bestowed posthumously on Canadian fashion innovator Shirley Cheatley --
Toronto, ON – The Toronto Chapter of Fashion Group International® (FGI) bestowed its first annual Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously on Shirley Cheatley, a long-standing member of FGI and daughter of the Toronto chapter’s founding member, Elen Henderson. The Lifetime Achievement Award has traditionally recognized members who are industry icons or leaders in other Fashion Group chapters around the world. Accepting this honor on behalf of
Mrs. Cheatley was her widow Peter, son Peter and daughter-in-law at the chapter’s Annual General Meeting held earlier this week. Mrs. Cheatley passed away in September 2010.
“Since FGI Toronto’s inception in 1958, many people have voluntarily given their time and devotion to the organization. We wanted to establish an award that recognizes the significant contributions of truly outstanding members who have gone above and beyond,” said Leesa Butler, regional co-director, Fashion Group International Toronto.
“Shirley Cheatley was instrumental in children’s fashionwear,” commented Farley Chatto, regional co-director, Fashion Group International Toronto. “We are proud to showcase a woman who played a key role in our chapter for so many years. She will be greatly missed, not only by FGI but by the entire fashion community,” added Chatto.
Mrs. Cheatley sat on the Board of Directors, numerous committees and was the longtime chair of archives for Fashion Group. Her most recognized accomplishment was the transformation of her mother’s small, designer childrenswear local retail destination, into a multi-million dollar international enterprise. Under Shirley’s leadership, the production grew from one line to four including, E-H Girls' Dresses, Elen Henderson Baby, Harper's by Rosemarie and O for boys. Mrs. Cheatley received many industry awards for merchandising excellence including an Ontario Fashion Design Award. During her tenure with FGI, she served for over a decade in various capacities: Treasurer in 1967, Director in 1969, Chair of the Awards Committee and Chair of Archives.
Fashion Group International (FGI) is a global, non-profit professional association established in 1928 with more than 5,000 members of influence including executives, designers and entrepreneurs representing all areas of the fashion, beauty and design industries. With more than thirty chapters around the world, FGI provides a high-profile forum to promote fashion and beauty. For more information on Fashion Group International Toronto, visit www.fgitoronto.org or follow on Twitter @fgitoronto.
Bovine Sex Club Press Release
Bovine Sex Club 25th Anniversary
The Bovine to Mark 25 Years on Queen West With Months of Celebrations
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 5th, 2016
TORONTO, ON- Toronto’s infamous Queen West concert venue, Bovine Sex Club is celebrating 25 years. To commemorate this milestone “The Bovine” as locals call it will host numerous events including fundraisers, reunion shows and concerts. The first of which will take place tonight, Thursday May 5th as a part of Canadian Music Week and will continue until the end of this year.
Some might be shocked by the longevity The Bovine has endured as owner Darryl Fine admits when the doors first opened many thought they were “too far west too last”. That is no longer the case as the venue is now located in one of the most booming and trendy Toronto neighbourhood’s, a far cry from the desolate Queen West of 25 years ago.
Bovine Sex Club started in 1991 with three local notables Chris Sheppard, Wesley Thuro and Darryl Fine who is now the sole owner. The eclectic club filled with colourful curiosities from floor to ceiling has housed many memorable events including parities for U2, Velvet Revolver, Warped Tour, TIFF, and Tommy Lee. There of course have been an uncountable number of electrifying acts such as Anti Flag, Cancer Bats, Rusty, Sum 41 and Billy Talent’s legendary Queen St Fire Relief Charity Show. As the years roll on Fine likes to think of himself as “a passenger on Star Ship Bovine. It’s more of a community project now”. For the past four years this community has had a welcomed addition of the Tiki Bar located on the roof of The Bovine. With the popularity of Queen West Fine feels without the additional bar they would “probably have to move to Parkdale”. Thankfully that is not the case as the Bovine Sex Club is an essential part of Queen West’s identity and is looking forward to the next quarter century.
Short Film: Grrrl Lyfe
Interview: Pleasant Gehman
My interview with Pleasant Gehman, the "Princess of Hollywood". We talk zines, The Cramps and belly dancing.
You had a zine detailing the LA punk scene in the late 70s, what made you want to make a zine?
A. I knew that the music I loved wasn’t being covered in mainstream rock magazines. Since I was about ten, I’d read rock’n’roll and alternative magazines like Cream, Rock Scene, and Andy Warhol’s Interview, but they really didn’t cover punk. Once I got a hold of Sniffin’ Glue from the UK, I realized that I could make my own zine, with my own writing!
So I started getting stuff together, my ideas, some reviews of shows I’d seen or albums and 45’s I’d gotten. My friend Randy Kaye and I started Lobotomy together. We both loved Mad Magazine…the satire and parody it featured about current events was hysterical. So I wanted Lobotomy to have some of that feeling, too…and to take rock ‘n’roll (but not ourselves or Lobotomy) too seriously.
I got a lot of friends and roommates to help out with writing. Kid Congo, later of the Cramps and Gun Club, was living with me and he had a really sick and fun sense of humor- we both laughed all the time! He wrote a lot of stuff for Lobotomy…and he also had a job at Bomp! Records, so he got a lot of import 45’s before anyone else did.
Photographer Theresa Kereakes and I met at The Whisky A Go-Go, in 1976. We both were teenagers; we went out every night, and were obsessed with rock’n’roll and punk rock. I asked Theresa to take photos for Lobotomy, and of course she accepted! At the time, neither of us ever thought that we would be friends for forty years- but we still are… and now, we’re working on a book about Lobotomy for Punk Hostage Press. Featuring my writing and Theresa’s photos, many of them have never been seen! The Lobotomy book will be published in early 2017.
Do you think zines are still relevant now that anyone can easily have a blog with a tenth of the effort it is to make a zine?
A. Well, I think the original punk ‘zines are totally relevant as an important piece of rock’n’roll history, for sure.
I know there are many people – mostly younger ones who weren’t even alive during the late 70’s and early 80’s making zines and chapbooks. There is something really, really cool about actually having a physical hard copy of someone’s work, it’s like a piece of handmade art.
I see new zines all the time…but in truth, a blog is much easier to set up, andhundredsor thousands of people can see it right away, the moment it’s published. Still, zines have value, and they’re really fun to make…and will be an awesome physical “time capsule” item. Just the same way as when somebody puts an event page on Facebook for a concert or show, but they still make hard copy flyers for the event.
Who was your favourite roommate in Disgraceland?
A. Ahhh…. I never really thought of that, and can’t decide (and not going to, either!) Between Belinda Carlisle, Iris Berry, or Laura Bennett, who was my bass player in the Screamin’ Sirens. They were all so much fun!
Belinda lived with me before-and right after- The Go-Go’s got famous. We got into tons of trouble together, we had a blast! But eventually, all the fans coming around, and like, kids sticking their faces up at the windows and their hands through the mail-box slot on the door made it a necessity for her to move.
Iris is now my publisher at Punk Hostage Press, and I still see Laura all the time. We all had mad, crazy, wild fun together, we all got into so much trouble!
How was it being in an all female punk band (Screamin' Sirens) in the early 80s? Did you feel like you were paving the way for more women in the scene?
A. Yes, I did…. But also, my close friends had kind of paved the way for the Sirens, and me too. I’d been a friend with Joan Jett since 1975, right when the Runaways were starting, and with Belinda since 1976. By the time I started the Sirens in the early 1980’s, The Runaways had broken up and Joan had started The Black hearts…and Belinda and The Go-Go’s were getting really famous.
Starting an all-girl band was a no-brainer, cause I loved all the gals I was hanging out with. But even though the punk scene in LA was full of women in bands- or other all-girl bands like The Bangles and The Pandoras, there was still a huge amount of sexism in the mainstream music industry.
Record companies all though we were “novelty acts” and wouldn’t sign us!
In those days, going into a music store to buy strings or drumsticks, the clerks would always say, “What does your boyfriend play”?
It was insane, no one ever used to take female musicians seriously.
Just a couple of years ago- a good 30 + years after I started the Sirens and twenty years from our last show, I went into Guitar Center on Sunset Boulevard to get some batteries. All the clerks in the store were women- there were at least five of them. One was helping a customer with a drumhead, another was recommending a bass to someone. I was blown away…in fact; I (seriously) started to cry! I was so amazed and delighted and proud that every damn clerk in the store was a chick, it was an incredible moment. It proved how far we’ve come, especially in rock’n’roll, which has always been a male-dominated industry.
How was it to be the so called Queen of the LA Scene? Did you feel a sense of authority?
A. Ha! I knew so many great people (then and now) and was always backstage or always knew about the best parties, that I think Rodney Bingenheimer was the one who started calling me that… I went over every night for like, almost thirty years…
I never really felt a sense of “authority”, I guess cause I wasn’t interested in, like, having “power”. I was just into going out, having a great time, being creative, hanging out with amazing people!
It’s weird; some people get really nervous when they meet me … they just don’t realize I’m just a goofy chick who had a shit-ton of fun. : )
Do you desire to write another movie?
A. Well, that’s a possibility, but right now, I’m more into acting in films, and have four books that are started and need to be finished. The Lobotomy book, a book on Disgraceland I’m co-writing with Iris Berry, a book on Tarot reading that I’m collaborating on with my divination partner Crystal Ravenwolf, and my another forthcoming memoir, called (Super) Natural Woman , about all my life-long paranormal experiences. So… that’s gonna take some time! I’mworking on all that stuff now between dance gigs.
How did you transition from punk queen to belly dancing star?
A. I’m sure it seems insane to people who don’t know me, but for me, it was a logical progression. In 1990, I was on the dance floor at a rock club and a woman asked if I was a belly dancer. She said, “You move like one”.
She was a belly dancer, and I went to see her perform, and then I was hooked. I begged her to teach me. So I started taking lessons, and loved it. Then, a friend gave me a ticket to Greece- you could totally give or sell airline tickets before September 11- it seemed like fate was calling my name, and I needed to take things as far as they would go!
So I added on Cairo, told my family I was going, quit my job and up and left for an adventure that lasted eight weeks in the Greek Islands, Cairo and Upper Egypt.
I learned as much about belly dance as I could in Egypt, and returned several times usually once a year. Right after I came back from that trip, I started working as a belly dancer… and twenty-seven years later, I’m performing and teaching all over the world. Crazy! If anyone had told me in 1990 that belly dancing would take over my life, and I would become a professional, I would’ve laughed him or her out of the dance studio…but here I am!
What were your favourite bands in the late 70s/early 80s?
A. Oh man, there’ssoooo many! The bands I saw most live were, in no particular order: The Cramps, Blondie, The Go-Gos, The Gun Club, The Germs, Tex & The Horseheads, X, The Mumps, The Ramones…
I adored The Damned , Siouxsie, The Buzzcocks and The Sex Pistols, and saw them a lot too, in UK as well as in LA, or in the Pistols’ case, their last show in San Francisco.
But there are tons and tons more… too many to mention!
Do you listen to much punk today and if so, what?
A. I listen to mostly older, original punk, still love it!
One more question that I have to ask: what are Jim Jarmusch and Iggy Pop like to hang out with?
A. I didn’t know Jim Jarmusch that well, just saw him around a lot at gigs and art shows on the scene in New York around 1978-1980, but he was always fun.
Iggy was, of course, wild. Got into a lot of trouble with him on various occasions, from 1975 until the early 1990’s! I met him and we started hanging out when I was fifteen- the whole story is in the book Pamela Des Barres wrote, called Let’s Spend The Night Together: Backstage Secrets Of Rock Muses And Supergroupies. Had a lot of crazy times when he was living in Malibu, in 1977. David Bowie rented the house for him, I stayed there on an off all summer that year. He had the walls covered in butcher paper and would spray paint all over them, and like, dump buckets of house paint over his head so it dripped all over his body, ten run at the walls making body prints. It was beyond. We’d go into town to see punk bands or whoever was at The Whisky play. It was an outrageous way to spend an LA summer!
For more info or to contact Pleasant, go to her website:
Interview: Gary Pig Gold
I met Gary through a friend one night at a screening of a documentary at the Bloor Cinema. Our mutual friend left us to grab some popcorn and through making friendly conversation, Gary and I found out we have one vital thing in common: punk rock zines. Gary actually made one of the first punk rock fanzines in Canada while living in Toronto in the ‘70s. He told me in our first conversation that regular newspapers refused to review punk bands, since to them it wasn’t real music. That left Gary and his zine open to interview bands such as The Ramones and The Kinks when they came into town, as he was one of the few who was actually excited to write about them. After meeting we kept in contact and he was nice enough to grant me this interview with him. Enjoy.
Shelby Monita: Where did the idea to do the fanzine, also how did you come up with the name?
Gary Gold: "The Pig Paper" began as snail-mail correspondence between myself and my oldest pal, Rock Serling, who worked summers at a day camp up north. He was Totally out of the loop up there - this was PRE-Internet, remember - so I'd keep him posted on what was happening on CHUM-AM Radio at the time (not much), what good concerts were going on (absolutely None!) and what old records I was finding in the local junk shops (Lots! This was the early 70s, and people were getting rid of all their
45s and LPs from the 50s and 60s. Eventually, those records ended up in
The (in)famous "Pig" name came in high school when a kinda scandalous film I made about my hometown, Port Credit of all places, won an award at a film competition and was picked up by PBS Television in Buffalo, NY to be screened. Beforehand, my school's legal department told me
that, just in case lawsuits started flying, I should indemnify myself -and the school - by crediting the film to someone
fictitious. So the very morning the opening credits had to be reshot, a little plastic Pig stamper fell out of my cereal box, I swear, and "Gary Pig" the director - and soon to be "punk" journalist - was born!
SM: Why do you think there were few other fanzines in Canada at the time?
GG: Good question. Probably because it took a Lot of work back then to type, cut and paste - literally! - everything together, raise the money, find a printer, carry boxes of issues around…you know what it's like, Shelby!
That said, I probably never would have started "The Pig Paper" in the first place had all the Toronto newspapers not refused to print the record reviews I was always sending them (quote, "The Stooges? Ramones? This is a MUSIC column we're running here! When you decide to write about Real Music, we may consider looking at your work").
There was, however, a Great zine called "denim delinquent" which started out of Ottawa in 1971 then moved to L.A., though I wasn't aware of it at the time. I think they only published a few issues, once a year, and were gone by the time "The Pig Paper" got going.
SM: If there were a zine school, what would you think should be taught there?
GG: Well, if it was specifically a p-u-n-k zine school, I'd say only one thing need be stressed:
Don't read, or even Look at, Anyone else's work first, start around 2:30 in the morning tomorrow, put on your favourite music, crank UP, then just write about what you're Feeling, only, and always. But: Don't think too much or too hard first, and Please don't re-write or even edit. And absolutely NO computers allowed either (especially Apples). Simple!
SM: Who is the most memorable person you interviewed and why?
GG: Elvis Costello, Dennis Wilson, Nardwuar or even Jerry Lee Lewis? No.
It would have to be Steven Leckie and Freddy Pompeii of those Viletones, back in everyone's prime (as in 1977/78). Why? Because they were as honest as a three-dollar bill, brutally insightful by the minute, and as if that wasn't enough already were intelligent and even downright charming. Like their music. And all I had to do was pay for the beer first.
SM: Why do you think there is so little
acknowledgement/appreciation/recognition/documentation of Canadian punk roots?
GG: "Treat Me Like Dirt" and "The Last Pogo Jumps Again" are both brave and necessary first steps, yep. But I still can't help but wonder why it took over a quarter of a century for "the media" to catch on and catch up. The mid-70s scenes/sounds of London, New York and even L.A. were pretty well documented - and supported - right from the
get-go, but Toronto (and especially Hamilton!) were not only operating to the same depths right alongside those other people and places, but in many Many ways, especially musically, were FAR ahead of that pack. But I guess back then it was a tragic case of too few people paying too
little attention, and even less money and time being spent nurturing the pioneers. A shame. A pitiful shame.
SM: Why didn't you continue with the punk band you started as a teenager?
GG: Mainly because everyone took off to play in other peoples' bands! Our drummer ended up in the Diodes, our singer eventually got a deal with Capitol Records, and our guitarist joined Simply Saucer. And me? I took off to Southern California and almost - I say Almost - ended up on tour
in Australia with Jan & Dean. But that's Another story...
SM: You made a documentary on your home town of Port Credit when you were still a teen. Have you work on any films since?
GG: Well, I've been IN a few documentaries since. One on Jandek, plus "The Last Pogo Jumps Again" of course, and in fact as we speak I'm getting driven back to Hamilton to appear in another doc!
SM: Your achievements are so vast it's hard to talk about just one thing. Can you speak about Pig Records- Simply Saucer were your first release, how many more did you put out after that and does one stand out above the rest?
GG: Pig Records kept on going right into the 21st Century, with releases by the Ghost Rockets, Dave Rave, The Masticators, two "Unsound" compilations and even an all-star Gene Pitney tribute album. But I'd have to say that first Saucer 45 still holds a very, very special place for me …on the cold concrete floor in my parents' basement to be exact,
gluing together picture sleeves and Jiffy mailers in the middle of the night.
SM: You've been around since almost the beginning of punk rock. What do you think of what it has become?
GG: I think I've been around since Before anyone had even started to use the "p"-word …unless it was to talk about some old Syndicate of Sound B-side from 1966. And now in 2015 you can hear the word "punk" sometimes used in the same sentence as "Green Day" and "Miley Cyrus," so that about tells you what it's become. Oh well...
SM: You have made a living doing what you love. Any advice on how others could do the same?
GG: Sure! The old cliche really is true: Do what you love, and love what you do. That's just about it. And sooner or later you'll start making a living at it; if you have the time to notice, that is!
It has been almost two years since my first surgery. It seems this is the only thing I can write about. Everything else is blocked. In the last two years I have hardly written a thing and all I have been able to write about is this. I have my apprehensions to continue to write about one subject. There is a part of me (most of me) that wishes I had moved on already, then there is my audience who even when I bring this up in a joking way in everyday conversation it makes them uncomfortable, or feel I have gone on with for too long and it is time to stop bringing attention to it.
How do I stop? When I was a kid my sister and I were in the crawl space looking for items to sell at the garage sale we had coming up. While we were in there we heard strange music playing. After searching for where it was coming from we found it was an old handheld video game, a race-car game. This game was playing on it’s own. We turned it around and looked at the back and saw the batteries were completely melted. We blamed this on a ghost of a good family friend who loved race cars and had passed away and maybe it was him saying hi. If not, then the question is, how was this game playing all on it’s own with batteries that were completely drained and how do you stop it? This is my problem. Everything I could of ever felt about what happened has been felt over and over again, so much so that I am completely drained of all power and yet I cannot stop reliving it over and over.
It might be because my anniversary is coming up, it might be because stacks of big tests are coming up, but everything is worse right now. I’m obsessed with death. I don’t talk about it, I don’t even like to think about it. Yet, when I brush my teeth I see visions of my family sorting through my things and wondering what to do with it all. I get mad thinking about all the amazing items I have that they would just throw away. How do they know about this amazing Chinese silk, hand embroidered blouse that was given to me by a woman who used to own one of the great clothing stores in Yorkville at the height of the hippie era? And when they find will they possibly see it has significance and sell it on Ebay or worse, give it to my brother for his store? Then I start to think about how I could make life easier for them. If I end up in the hospital again I must write down my passwords to all my important websites. I think about this all the time like it is an item on my to-do lists that keeps getting put off. Think about how much easier it would be to close my bank account, if they have the password to my online banking.
Then there is the memory loss that is very sneaky when it starts. I didn’t know this until I had to, until my therapist and doctor mentioned PTSD to me, but memory loss is associated with trauma. When I start getting bad one of the first things to go is my short-term memory and vocabulary. Words don’t come to me as easily as they used to. I think to myself I would like a glass of water then notice I already poured myself a glass. At the age of 30, this is never something I thought I would experience so soon. It isn’t always this way it just comes around when everything starts to spiral a bit. It comes when the flashbacks start.
Sometimes when I’m lying in bed I try to remember what it felt like when I was really unwell. I could feel my tumours, of course at that time I didn’t know what those large bumps were, now I know and for whatever reason I want to remember. If I sweat in the night, it brings me back to when my infection was bad and my fever would break every night. If I have some heartburn, I remember always needing Tums to get through the days. If some hair comes out in the shower I try to figure out of it is a normal amount or if it is like the chunks that fell out when I was sick. When I’m in the grocery store and I see Jello I get a pain in my jaw and remember my family trying to force me to eat Jello in the hospital because I was so malnourished but it just hurt my teeth so much I refused to touch it.
All of this plays in my head every day at some moment. Not all days are the same, some are tolerable and some make even something seemingly easy like learning to drive standard an incredible feat because every nerve feels shaken. On the bad days I snap at the ones I love and on the good days I can be a normal functioning human who is learning to live with some sadness.
Is it possible to change batteries that have been melted inside a game or is the game just stuck playing the same course over and over until all the power is drained? Can you start a new game with melted batteries and if so will the game play the same as it did before? I do hope one day my batteries will be recharged, my mind will get out of this Groundhog’s Day mode it is stuck in and hopefully I can move forward in my life and in my new decade of being a 30-something and finally show to those who will pay attention that somewhere under all this black tar there is something that I have been hoping to show to the world. I want to get back to my life and do what I know I have it in me to do. I just don’t know when the fuck that will be and a part of me fears when I do get there I will miss the comfort I have found in being so down.
Cancer Pt. 4
Tonight I was lying on my floor having the same thought that I regularly spend time dwelling over: what now?
It has been a month and a half since my final cancer surgery. Medically I know what my future holds, many many tests, but what about every other aspect of my life? I try to tell myself nothing has changed; I’m still the same Shelby. If I could have it my way then my cancer would be tucked away with my ex’s. It would be put on a shelf to collect dust and all my true friends would know to never mention it around me ever again. It’s this mindset that makes writing part four of my cancer story so hard. I promised myself I would never let cancer define me. I don’t want to spend much time talking about it because I hated it. I hated the time it took from me. I hated how sick it made me. I hated how worried it made the people I love. Though most of all I hate how other people see me. People who really know me, who I speak to often, have been more than amazing. I’m pretty sure most of them actually forgot at this point that I ever had cancer, or at least they are acting as if that is the case. These are the people who know me well, I don’t even have to ask them to not mention it and they don’t treat me any different. The people who I run into on the street or at some kind of social gathering, they are keeping me from going out, from going to parties, from seeing people. Most people I don’t know well or haven’t seen in awhile when trying to talk to me act as if I’m about to cough blood on them or are worried I will burst into tears. I promise you neither of those things will happen. If though, the coughing blood thing does happen, please call 911. Maybe they act this way because seeing someone so young deal with something so huge reminds them of their own mortality (that’s selfish, I’m the one who could of died, not you) or maybe they just don’t know what to say. Whatever the reason is why normal people have suddenly become so socially awkward around me, I have to tell you it hurts like hell. Every time it happens I feel as if I’ve been put into some kind of “other” category. There are the healthy people that you can talk to about work and relationships and then there are the “other” people that you bust out your biggest puppy eyes for just before you lean in for an awkward hug and say with a fake, high pitched sympathetic voice “how are you?” I have experimented with two replies to this question. One reply I am really bubbly and express how I’m great and everything is fine. The other reply I am a bit down and say something about how it’s hard and I get tired easily, but it will be better soon. Both replies are equally true and both yield the same response from who ever asked it. They look uncomfortable, as if they have run out of polite conversation, and they walk away.
When I was diagnosed there were many things people didn’t warn me about. One of them being I would lose my entire personality and all interests. Maybe no one warned me about that because that never happened. I’M STILL THE SAME PERSON. Yes I took a vacation from the working world and my social life, but I didn’t lose my eyes or sense of hearing. If someone is recovering from any major surgery or going through cancer treatment chances are they have been watching a lot of movies and reading a lot of books. Instead of your fake sympathetic polite small talk you could replace it with these simple questions: “have you seen any good movies?” or “have you read any good books?” Then you could do what two people in a social situation usually do, you can have a conversation. This way you don’t look like an asshole and someone in my situation doesn’t feel like they are a poor, sick cancer patient no one wants to deal with.
So, what now? Do I lock myself in my apartment until everyone forgets I had cancer? No, I don’t have air conditioning. I need to leave my apartment to find air conditioning. Why am I even obsessing over this. I have much bigger things on my plate. Like, will I ever find a job? How the hell am I supposed to date? Will my hair, the only thing I ever liked about my physical appearance grow back properly? Will I regain my confidence? Will the cancer come back?
I know I sound like I’m whining, probably because I am. But fuck it I had cancer and if I have learned anything over the past few months it doesn’t matter if I whine or am optimistic, you will give me the same fake sympathetic smile and walk away as soon as possible. And it’s because of this that no, I will not come to your party. Instead I will spend time lying on my floor wondering “what now?”
Please donate to my OneWalk so I can walk all over cancer this September CLICK HERE
Cancer Pt. 3
Life in Limbo
My debut during recovery from my first major surgery was to the Toronto Symphony. My Dad, Step-Mom, friend and I had made the date months before. I was lucky to have enough strength to be able to make it out for this. I forgot what symphony we choose to see, it wasn’t until I got to Roy Thompson Hall and the usher handed me the program that I learned we were about to witness Mozart’s Requiem. This piece was commission by an anonymous patron to commemorate the death of his wife. Then in sweet irony while writing this commissioned piece to celebrate a life, it was left unfinished, as Mozart died while writing it. And this was my welcoming back into society after facing a serious illness I was greeted with death.
Life in limbo, as I am calling it is a lot more stressful than you might think. Some might hear limbo as this wonderful state where you can just float and coast in life with nowhere to go and nothing to do. Though that might sound like bliss, it doesn’t work so well when during that time you have to wait to hear when your next surgery will be, when the life you were just getting used to again will be taken away from you. Or that is the shell of the life you once lived. Life isn’t just like it was before my surgery. I have been back in my apartment for a month now but I still feel restricted. My diet is very unusual which makes eating out a bit of a challenge, so I tend to stay in. I have this wound that I don’t like to talk about but do have to care for and because of it I am apprehensive to do much outside of my apartment. And if I am being totally honest, mentally I’m just not as with it as I used to be. I’m sure this will pass, but I really just don’t care about most things as much as I used to.
The biggest take away from this experience is patience. I have to be patient to hear back from my doctor, for my hair to grow back, waiting for the day when I can eat cucumbers again, and patient while I wait and hope for certain people to reach out, but as time moves further along I doubt they will. It isn’t that I’m not completely grateful for the support I do have, there are just a few missing links. It’s unfortunate when people are right about the shitty things. Like when people told me “you’ll find out who your true friends are” but at least I’m not lacking in numbers when it comes to true friends.
The biggest challenge I seem to face is waking up each day and brace myself for how I’m going to handle the day. Will I be completely numb to everything, will I feel acceptance for what the rest of my life filled with CT scans and a giant scar will look like, will I go on like nothing happened or while doing the dishes will I just break down and find myself in tears on the kitchen floor? Every day is an adventure. What makes it even more exciting is explaining why I’m not working right now and trying so hard to love the people who act like I’m just getting over a cold and I should be back to normal by now. As if I’m over dramatizing how fucked up I feel sometimes.
Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 that I have already written had humor and a bit of lightheartedness and I wish I could put some of that into this piece as well. Unfortunately the more I live with all that has happened the more real it feels. It’s no longer this crazy rollercoaster I’m on, it’s my new reality and it’s not going away. This rollercoaster isn’t stopping and I can’t yell at anyone to hit the breaks. It just keeps going.
So there is nothing else I can do except continue to annoying people on text and messenger, seeking company. Forcing people to interrupt their busy lives to entertain me for a bit. At least until I can get my life back together and I can be one of the busy people again who gives five minutes here and there to keep someone else company who might need it like I did when I was floating in limbo.
Cancer Part 2: The Chemo Tal
Gather around and let me tell you all the wonderful things I learned about chemo. After my surgery to remove the majority of my colon, it was unsure if I needed chemo. There were pathology tests that had to done on the 43 irritated lymph nodes that were removed around the tumors. It was a few weeks wait and the tests came back. Everyone was unsure what to do. The short version of the story is that they both did and did not find cancer cells. This is when my case was described as “complicated” and an “anomaly”. Those are not the words you want doctors to use when explaining your situation. While my surgeon waited to take my case to a board of experts to get their opinion, I lived through one of the more confusing and stressful 10 days of my life.
It started with learning that though my cancer is classified as high-risk stage 2, because of the gene mutation I have that caused the cancer I would need the more aggressive chemo for people with stage 3. I couldn’t get in to see an oncologist* right away to talk and talk and talk their ear off and learn all I could learn about chemo. Which meant I was left in the dark for a while. For me, a young woman with an over active imagination this was pure torture. I had no idea what I was in for, if I was going to puke all the time, if my hair was going to fall out, how much pain I would be in, if I was going to look sick and weak…all of this I could manage but the not knowing I couldn’t deal with.
Before I got into to see an oncologist I first spoke with a fertility doctor. This is actually where most the stress and terror is centered. Hey did you know that chemo kills your eggs? Cus’ it sure does. You could be a 28-year-old woman and go through menopause during chemo. That’s a thing…that happens. The type of cancer I have is so rare in women under 50 they really didn’t have any stats on how the type of chemo I would need would affect my fertility but did a rough guess that I had a 30% chance of going through menopause, again at 28. That information freaked me out. It didn’t freak me out as much as the option of freezing my eggs.
I never really wanted to be pregnant; the option of adoption and fostering always seemed like the path for me. Now all of a sudden I had people telling me “you might change you’re mind and you would want the option.” Or try to predict my future by making me imagine being with a man who wants to have children and I can’t because I didn’t freeze my eggs. I don’t even have a boyfriend and all of a sudden I have this massive rift in my hypothetical relationship in the future. I got a lot of opinions from a lot of people who wanted me to predict what 35-year-old Shelby would want. They also wanted me to predict what my maybe boyfriend would want. Making me feel like I don’t know myself. On top of that freezing eggs is expensive. The Canadian government does cover fertility treatment for cancer patients, but the cost of prescription drugs is still $5000. 5G’s for if future Shelby changes her mind. Not only that but I might spend all that money and try to get pregnant with one of those frozen wonders and some don’t survive, then they might not take. Even if one does take then they would be able to test the embryo for Lynch Syndrome which is the genetic mutation that gave me cancer. So do I go through with it knowing I could give another life an 80% chance of getting cancer? Future Shelby WHAT WILL YOU DO?!?!? Tell me now for the love of God please tell me! Then, again, what if I don’t freeze them? What trials will future Shelby have to endure? Maybe I would get that sudden urge to have children and be heart broken that the option is no longer on the table. This is where I consider myself incredibly lucky. I know I don’t want to give birth so this fertility talk isn’t so heavy on me. Though when I was talking to the doctor my heart sunk into my stomach for the women in their 20s who have always wanted children and needed chemo. How hard this fertility talk would be for them. I hope they all carry strength and have a great team around them because this information alone could keep a woman in bed for weeks. If you are a woman who had to have this talk just know you are part of a large group of women and if you ever want to share your story you’ll be surprised how many people will open their arms to you.
Back to future Shelby’s situation: what if I do find a man who feels very strong about having his own children and me unable to have a biological child is a deal breaker? Then fuck that guy, I wouldn’t be able to show him the door fast enough. If a man doesn’t want me because I can’t have children due to the fact I had cancer THEN BYE FELICIA! Or what if he’s fine with me having a donor egg and use his sperm because again he will only raise his own children, his ego is that big it needs an offspring. Then again, he’s not the man for me. I hope to be with a guy who shares my vision of adopting and fostering. How great it would be to help a child in need rather than raise one from birth. I already have a hard enough time with sleep, I don’t need to add a baby into the equation. Isn’t it funny how a story about chemo can so easily turn into a dating profile?
With all this information in mind I decided to not freeze my eggs. It was not a popular choice in my family, but my body is nobody’s body but mine. I figure if do change my mind about the pregnancy thing then I’m mentally prepared in knowing its very unlikely to happen. Which again, I’m lucky I would know. Some couples try and try to conceive and are unable to and don’t know why. If I don’t get pregnant I know why and I would have years of preparing myself for that.
I did finally meet with an oncologist who also informed me of the possibility of menopause. He also told me I most likely won’t lose my hair but might have minor nerve damage in my fingers and toes. The treatment would be once every two weeks for 6 months and that some people are still able to work while having chemo. All of this eased my mind and I knew without a doubt I could handle it.
In the end it turned out I don’t need chemo. I can guarantee this experience did give me a few fresh grey hairs.
* for those who don’t know an oncologist is a doctor who specializes in chemo
Cancer Pt. 1: Who Invited You to the Party?
I actually know who invited those two tumors in my colon to the party at the young age of 28. They were invited by a genetic mutation I have called Lynch Syndrome. This genetic mutation happens to be an asshole, incase you can’t tell. It gives a person a very heightened risk of colon, stomach and uterine cancer. For me it got passed down through my mother who is a survivor of colon cancer. Here is a fact for a The More You Know segment: Lynch Syndrome is most commonly found in people from Northern Italy and Newfoundland. I did not make this up. Northern Italy is where my mother’s people are from. It is also where most vampires call home. This explains my pale skin, many freckles, luscious lips, round hips, once thick hair, and thirst for blood. It also, in a stretch explains my cancer.
Life was going pretty well before the diagnoses. That is if you ignore my declining health in the last year. I was looking into why I felt shitty and I did have a team helping me. The only problem was no one thought it was cancer. I was anemic, tired, actually so exhausted that some nights I couldn’t move off my bed. I would cry from my inability to lift a finger. As well my hair started falling out in clumps and I lost 20lbs in a month. Let’s not forget walking a block would make my heart race, my loss of appetite and extreme stomach pains. Everyone was puzzled by what it could be. It wasn’t until one night my mom forced my hand into the ER that my wonderful experience began. I was originally in an ER in Hamilton, but then switch to a Toronto hospital where my doctors who were already helping me were located. The ER didn’t know what was wrong with me. To be safe they put me in isolation for fear I might have some terrible infectious disease. There was a warning on my door that stated all hospital workers who came into my room must wear a gown, a mask and gloves. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I did know it wasn’t ebola. This situation lightened my mood tremendously. Each time someone walked into my room looking like the evil villain in a Disney cartoon I would laugh to myself. This also worked to my benefit because people in isolation can’t share a room with other patients, so this girl got a big private room once I was admitted.
It would only be logical in the timeline to tell you about all the tests I had done. Though the entire time I was having them I was sleep deprived and half the time pretty high on something. I was also throwing up like a champ. Here’s what I can tell you from what I can remember. All ultrasound techs are evil or just socially awkward. The lab to get an x-ray at Mount Sinai is fancier than my apartment. I suspect not all nurses went to medical school. I have two bruises still present a month later from missed placed IV needles as evidence. When a tech injects the dye into you right before a CT scan it hurts like hell. A nurse wanting an ECG scan will do anything to get it. She might even flip you on your back while you’re sleeping, lift your shirt so you’re flashing everyone in the room just to connect wires all over your body to get a reading of your heart. Vegetarian hospital food is cold, sauce-less egg noodles. The worst part of a colonoscopy is the prep.
It was a few hours after my colonoscopy (I think, details are sketchy for me) that the doctor came in to my big private room and explained I had two massive growths in my colon and though they still need to test them, it is likely cancer. All my parents were in the room with me. Actually the entire time there was always a parent in my room, my mom, dad, step mom and step dad. A child’s cancer really brings the family together. When we heard the news everyone fell silent. The very nice and humble doctor quietly left the room. Finally we all could breathe and cry. Everyone in the room were in tears. The odd thing was I only cried for about 5 minutes. After that I just looked at everyone else crying and repeated to myself “it’s just surgery then chemo, just surgery then chemo”. That somehow kept me calm. Which is odd because this is the week I find out if I do need chemo and I can’t stop freaking out over it.
It didn’t take long for me to start calling everyone I love and breaking the news to them. This was the worst part of the entire experience. First I had to see my parents suffer over the news and now I had to break it to my closest friends. You never want to cause anyone pain and when I saw my family cry and heard it from my friends on the phone it just broke me. If I spoke with you, you would know how optimistic I was on the phone but it was rough hurting people over and over again. Being the reason why everyone you love is crying creates an almost indescribable feeling, a feeling that can only be described as “fuck. I’m sorry”.
Once that largely eventful day I was over, I finally had a break. No tests to get wheeled down the hall to go to. Just time to sleep, though sleep didn’t happen. Sleep didn’t happen for a month actually. Over the next few days I was chillin’ watching loads of HGTV and OWN. Things were pretty easy going (or more so then they had been), until some random doctor came in and was a total bummer. To back up a bit, since 10 months before this doctors were encouraging me to get a blood transfusion because I was so anemic and I always declined. I declined for two reasons. One reason being that I do know two people who died of HIV from a bad blood transfusion. Yes, they got their blood in the early ‘80s, but yes they were great men who are still very much missed. I do know the screening process has become much more sophisticated since then, but seeing this first hand is a hard experience to shake. The second and more logical reason for me to decline blood is I absolutely find it disgusting. Call it immature or shallow minded but the idea of having someone’s blood run through me is enough to puke. Now with this information I will continue with why this doctor was a total bummer. He told me in order for me to be healthy enough for surgery I needed to have a blood transfusion. I then looked at him as if I were trying to melt him with my eyes. I told him about the two brothers with HIV, he gave me a pamphlet to ease my worrying about why that fear in 2015 is insane. I then told him about how gross blood transfusions are. He looked at me like I was crazy and treated like I was a basic bitch who needed to check her privilege at the door. I agreed to the transfusion and I feel as a punishment for my attitude he sent the blood just before I got my dinner. As if the sight of hospital food wasn’t enough to turn my stomach, I now had to look at it WHILE BLOOD DRIPPED FROM A BAG HANGING NEXT TO ME AND FLOWED INTO MY VEIN. There is so much more I can tell you from my hospital experience and more is coming, but this was the most traumatic. I mean we can all agree that doctor was a jerk, right?
The day after I inherited “the gift of life” I can say with ease it did not change me into some kind of monster or make hair grow in weird places. I did start having a lot of pain and was throwing up all the time. The tumors had made me totally obstructed and my surgery was pushed up. Within two days, high on painkillers I was under the knife. Never before had I been to an ER or spent the night in the hospital. Never before had I had a surgery and here I was being wheeled into a room to have my stomach ripped open and majority of an important organ removed. It was only five days before I was told how sick I was and now BAM my life was going to change forever. Forever after this moment I would need to have a high sodium and high potassium diet.
According to the news my family received from my surgeon afterwards, it went very well and everyone was pleased… except me. I was happy of course that it went so well. I had an amazing surgical team and am forever grateful for them. Also very happy they are doing my second surgery later in the year. What I didn’t like was the lack of warning as what to expect during recovery. I woke up from the surgery in a bit of a daze with oxygen tubes coming out of my nose. I wasn’t in pain because drugs are magical. It was the next morning when I tried to reposition myself in my bed that I realized I couldn’t. Do you know how important your stomach muscles are for moving basically any part of your body from the boobs down? You need those muscles for everything. I was uncomfortable, unable to sleep (still) and had 50 staples running down my abdomen. I was upset because I had no warning. I knew it was a massive surgery and recovery was hard, but I thought it would just be painful. I didn’t know it would take weeks before I could get out of a chair on my own and walk properly. I was discharged from the hospital on Christmas Eve and was put in the care of my mother at her place in the country. I didn’t leave my mom’s house for two weeks. I watched a lot of the Food Network and began a fantasized love affair with Jamie Oliver. As I type it is the night before I see my surgeon for a check up. This week is when I find out if I need chemo or not. It’s looking likely. I’ve already begun shopping for wigs and smaller clothes (so far I’ve dropped two sizes).
At this point I want to highlight the good experiences:
· I have more energy and feel more like myself- Before we had a final diagnoses I was so tired, though the fatigue did much more than make me sleep five times a day. All of a sudden I was leaving my friends at the bar early because I felt like I was going to collapse. I was sitting down every chance I got. I flaked on so many plans (which is the exact opposite of who I am). I would drive everywhere because walking was too much. My friends started to get annoyed with me because I couldn’t keep up like I used to. And worst of all I lost all confidence. When you’re excruciatingly exhausted 24/7 you lose yourself. I never felt like me, because the me I knew had loads of energy and enjoyed being social and out all night. I didn’t know or like the person I became and it made me depressed. It made me incredibly depressed.
· I realized what an amazing support system I have- Before I had my surgery I really didn’t tell many people what was going on. Only my family and close friends knew I had cancer or that I was sick at all. And everyone was incredible. The messages, hospital visits, gifts, laughs and hugs helped more than anyone would understand. My divorced parents and their partners banded together. My parents were already cool with each other, don’t get me wrong, but never before did they and my step parents need come together as a team. When push came to shove they were phenomenal and continue to be. There was always a parental figure at my bed side keeping me company. As well my siblings came through in a bit of an unexpected way, in the best most encouraging way. This experience has really brought my entire family to a new level. After my surgery I made it public what was happening and the outpouring of love from the people I have surrounded myself with over the years was overwhelming. People I haven’t spoken to in years sent positive words my way. It brought so many amazing people back into my life, how can I not be grateful for that?
· I’m no longer in constant pain- That’s not totally true. Recovering from a massive surgery on your stomach is painful. I would still much rather this pain than the pain I was in. Before whenever I ate I would be in pain. Sometimes it was so bad I could only have two bites of soup before I had to crash on my bed and hold my stomach. Most nights I wouldn’t be able to sleep because I was in so much pain. Surgery pain is nothing compared to what I went through for months.
· I’ve lost so much weight- When people applaud me for this I want to punch them in the face. It doesn’t feel like a triumph when the weight loss came from something that was killing me. But still when I put on a fitted dress, smaller than what I’m used to I can’t help to look in the mirror and carry a smirk on my face that says ‘heyyyyyyyyyy’
So you see it’s not all bad! In addition to the good things above, I have also seen tonnes of movies, got caught up on some crucial magazine reading, coloured some pretty drawings, read Mindy Kaling’s latest book and sold a painting.
I still have a long road to go and 2016 is looking like a full calendar of recovery. Though I think the biggest tragedy that can come of this is if we took this experience and threw it out the window without learning what we can from it. What I have learned so far is if you know you could have a cancer causing genetic mutation, don’t put off getting tested for it, if you’re not feeling right tell you doctor everything- don’t hold back and people when they need to can really surprise you, and when they do it’s more beautiful then anything you’ve seen in a store.
**update, since I wrote this I learned I do not need chemo. Just one more big surgery to go!
Interview: Blag from The Dwarves
At Pouzza Fest in Montreal this year I had a last minute opportunity to interview Blag from the Dwarves. I tried to hide how drunk I was and I thought I was successful until I later watched the video and saw my flask was in my hand through out the entire conversation. I think it went well though, later that night at another bar Blag offered my friend and I some Nerds to eat. That’s a good sign, right?
Here is the interview:
So is this your first Pouzza fest?
Actually it is our second Pouzza Fest. Last time we played with The Meatmen, so Pouzza Fest is a good time.
You like Montreal?
I love Montreal, walking around this neighbourhood is pretty fucked up, you know? Just a bunch of Freaks
I heard you’re a big Cab Calloway fan, is that true?
I love Cab, I love Cab Calloway, I got back to those records over and over again. Just great fun to listen to.
I was talking to an animator years ago who worked on Corpse Bride with Tim Burton and he told me that the Skeleton scene in the bar was inspired by Cab Calloway’s Minnie the Moocher
I believe it. There’s this great old carton called Bosko. If you get a chance go back and check out Bosko. It a character of this black cartoon and they would do parodies of Louie Armstrong and Cab Calloway and it’s great. If you get a chance go back and check out Bosko.
Yeah, Minnie the Moocher has an intro with Cab Calloway and that’s how I got to know him, through that.
Yeah well Minnie the Moocher was a character that was introduced in a song called “Kicking the Gong Around”. Then they made a bunch of versions of songs off that. There’s one called “Minnie the Moochers Wedding Day” yeah there’s a whole bunch of them about Minnie the Moocher. I can’t even remember the one country guy who started it called “Kicking the Gong Around” I think and Cab Calloway did it and it spawned this whole Minnie the Moocher thing. Then it ended up in that Blues Brothers movie which is weird in it self
SO you have traveled the world, toured a lot. Is there one thing you have found in the scene that connects everyone, the thing we all have in common?
Genitals. Everyone has genitals.
All over the world we’re all the same
No they are wildly different, some of them you wouldn’t even want to get near
Other than that is there anything that connects the scene through out the world?
The Dwarves have rocked them all
That’s true, it is pretty unique
Yeah every scene is united in their love for the Dwarves
You guys started in Chicago and moved too California, why the move?
That’s right I grew up outside of Chicago and you know in the 80s Chicago was a place that you left. But by the 90s it became a destination, people started going there, when you grew up there it was a place you wanted to leave. But I love Chicago and I love going back but I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago
I love Chicago, I love California, I don’t know how you could choose.
Well you don’t have to, you can go to both.
I know you’ve been asked this a lot, but that hacker group that took over your website, how do you feel about what they posted? Did you feel violated when that happened?
Yeah I felt angry. I don’t know about violated. Our shit is all hanging out in the open, you know? It’s a pain in the ass, it costs lots of money, it’s a waste of time. I did get to write a good article about it in thoughtcatalog.com. You can read about Islamic bullshit and that people in America think that people everywhere have some kind of bullshit PC attitude that every culture is equal, every idea is equal but it’s not. I love punk rock and violence and nudity and fun, and they’re against all that so I’m against them.
Why do you think you were targeted?
I think it’s because it was right when “Sluts of the USA” came out and it was premiered on Noisy and they were profiled on Noisy.com so I think just randomly saw us. But it could be somebody was hip to us for whatever reasons no one ever explained it. They just took credit for it. But it’s like if I could negate the masturbation fantasies of a bunch of Islamic guys then I’m glad I was able to do that with the dirty pictures on my site, they need it
Q+A with the legendary Pamela Des Barres
About 2.5 years ago I was lucky enough to be one of 20 women in Pamela Des Barres first Toronto writing class. My life has never been the same since. Not only did I get to know a legend to the point where I could casually ask her to do a Q+A for my zine. But I also met women in that group who have become close friends and who are some of the funniest and most talented people I know. Here are ten burning questions I had for Miss P.
Q: If I'm With the Band were written today, what 5 rockstars would take the place of the men you wrote about in the 70s?
A: Jack White
Jack White Jack White and Jack White
Q: You hold writing groups across North America where you teach, give tips and allow women to open up and share their stories in a safe environment. What is something you have learned from doing this?
A: I learn as much as my dolls do each week about how women tick! I am so lucky to be able to watch them grow and become more aware of how to deal with all their various difficulties or challenging experiences by writing about them. It's cathartic, rewarding and very surprising a lot of the time. They discover they are a lot more courageous and brilliant, astute and loving that they ever imagined.
Q: What do you do when you have writers block?
Q: Do you have a favourite Frank Zappa story and do you still keep in touch with the family? (I'm a huge Marc Maron fan and got a little jealous when he was dating Moon)
A: I just loved being able to make him laugh. There was nothing better than when you could get Mr Zappa to laugh out loud, and beat his knee with enjoyment at one of your antics! Or a little ditty or a wild outfit! I am close with the whole family, yes...
Q: How does it feel to be such an influential woman for not only pop culture, but also for every day women like myself?
A: Surprising. I was just living my life, still just living my life in the best and most free-spirited way possible. I love that I am kind of a fashion muse. I wore vintage clothing long before it was called that! Haha! I love to deck myself and my dolls out in feminine finery. Don't be afraid to be a dream doll, a muse in every way, a GIRL! a WOMAN!
Q: I'm trying to get my writing published, do you have any tips?
A: It's a tough one. I was turned down by several publishers myself. I believe in self-publishing, blogging, writing for various sites, staring your own website just to write.
Q: What is your favourite kind of ice cream and why?
A: I don't eat sugar any more, and almost no dairy except GOAT! SO my fave now is La-Loo's chocolate ice cream!
Q: What is wrong with Hollywood? It's insane your life hasn't been made into a move (or a mini series like it almost was on HBO)
A: I've sold it numerous times to no avail. I think ultimately the bigwigs are afraid to take a chance on a sexy 60s women's music story. This country is still afraid of a lustful woman unless it comes with bondage, guilt or fear. And they haven't figured out how to get the 60s music scene right!
Q: What is your favourite Disney movie?
A: I love all the earliest, Snow White, Lady and the Tramp, Dumbo, Bambi, Peter Pan. Let's have a good cry!
Q: I remember the last time I saw you, you mentioned a new book you are working on, when can we expect it?
A: It's a book called "Let It Bleed" about my women's workshops. I need a good subtitle, help! It should be out next Spring!
Midnight Train to Memphis
When I got on the train in Chicago, I checked my ticket; seat number 13. I thought it was a joke. I’d had nothing but the number 13 so far on this trip: room number 13, taxi number 13, $13 for lunch… it was always 13. For my sanity I could only take this as positive reinforcement. I was given seat number 13 on the overnight train to Memphis. While walking down the aisle to my chair, I looked ahead to see who my seat-partner was for this 10-hour ride, hoping I would be alone with enough room to stretch out and sleep. I took to my seat with no one next to me. In front of me was a middle aged, thin man with a blue sequined sailor hat, attempting to store the two shopping bags that he was using for luggage. He seemed a bit odd, but it didn’t bother me; I wasn’t sitting with him and wasn’t forced to interact with him. Just as I was thinking about how fortunate I was to have two seats to myself, two young men approached and informed me that I was in their place. I’d misread the numbers, accidentally taking a seat in number 11. Number 13 was directly next to the odd sailor-loving man.
I went to sit next to him and gave him a friendly smile, hoping we could sit in silence. I was exhausted. During one of my moments of brilliance earlier in the day, I thought it was a great idea to have breakfast, check out, leave my luggage at the hostel and walk the 1.5 hours to Millennium Park. I would try to kill an entire day, wear myself out, and hop on the train at 8 o’clock at night. Not a bad plan; not at all. I walked all the way down Milwaukee Avenue, getting lost a few times, but found my way. I wandered around the park for a while, only to realize how much time I still had before catching my train. I took to the Art Institute of Chicago and walked for hours, taking in everything I could. This is one of the most impressive arts establishments I’ve ever been in – it’s huge, never ending and filled with masterpieces. Since being there, I haven’t been able to go to another gallery. Despite one of the biggest in Canada being located just down the street from where I live, it’s not The Art Institute of Chicago and it’s not in Millennium Park. Being so caught up in all of this, I never sat down and ate – not for eight hours. I simply walked and took in the last bits of the city before I left. So, as you can see, by the time my tired feet got to rest on the train, I was exhausted and no mood to talk.
It seemed like nothing was going to go my way from here on in, and so this faux-sailor started talking to me. I discovered that his name is Palmer and he lives in San Francisco, but grew up in a suburb of Detroit. In fact, he grew up on the same street as the Lisbon family, the family famous from the book, then movie, The Virgin Suicides. He didn’t know much of the girls and no one in the neighborhood really spoke about what happened, even when the suicides had taken place. It was obvious that he didn’t really care to speak of it. Palmer was on a journey of his own. He was taking some time off work to go back home to Detroit to visit his family for a few days. After he was done there, he bought an open pass for the train, which allowed him to hop on and off as he pleased. He didn’t bring any luggage, just two large burlap shopping bags that held few clothes and some food. He was doing this for two weeks, tracking every mile and every state. Palmer was fascinating. He never booked a room in any city, taking an overnight train where he could sleep. He would then take off in the morning, asking the customer service desk at the station to hold his things for the day. Cruising around on a pair of roller blades, he would explore whichever city he was lucky enough to see that day. Palmer fed me tips from his extensive knowledge of train travel: For instance, if you purchase one of the inflatable mats for sale, you can go to the observation car in the train and lie there for a good night’s sleep. He actually did this partway through our trip. Also, it’s best to bring hard-boiled eggs and 3L of water on the long rides. Public swimming pools are great places to shower, and wearing flashy things (like a blue sequined sailor hat) is a great way to grab attention and make conversation with new people. When I told him that San Francisco was my last stop, he took my journal that I had been filing and used a page to draw a map and write down every place worth seeing, like a focaccia bakery in North Beach that is famous for the amazing Italian bread and also the mother/daughter team that bicker like none other. I ended up visiting this bakery on my last day in Frisco and Palmer didn’t disappoint – the bread was spectacular and the mother and daughter loved to hate each other.
Deep into our conversation, both our sets of eyes were getting tired, and so we decided to sleep. Palmer took his own advice, bringing his mat to the observation car, which gave me both seats to stretch out in. My roomy resting place felt like heaven, even though this midnight train to Memphis never turned the lights down and sleep was near impossible with little lights shining in my eyes. Just as I was finally settling into a slumber, I was woken up by a huge bang. It had been raining virtually the entire time and lightning hit the track, which only added to the odd events of this trip. After the lightning struck, it seemed like no one on the train was going back to sleep – not even Palmer, who returned to his seat to continue our conversation. As we were nearing Memphis, he asked me if I knew the movie Mystery Train. My jaw dropped – this Jim Jarmusch film, set in Memphis, is only one of my favourite movies. The film is made up of three intertwined stories about people on a train to Memphis who all ended up staying in the same rundown motel. It was filmed in the late 80s and stars Joe Strummer, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Steve Buscemi and many others. It’s amazing, though – this movie hadn’t even crossed my mind on my way to Memphis until this mysterious man on this overnight train mentioned it. I, of course, jumped up and told him it was one of my favourite movies and that I couldn’t believe he’d just mentioned it. Palmer explained that 20 years prior, he had gone to Memphis on a school trip and ate at the diner featured in Mystery Train. In fact, this very diner happened to be right across the street from the train station, where Palmer planned on eating breakfast. He invited me along. I didn’t answer right away, instead choosing to leave my options open. The train pulled into Memphis an hour ahead of schedule, and I blamed the lightning that had struck the track. At 5:30am, it was dark, rainy, and Palmer was the only soul I knew for miles and miles. Once I realized this, I looked over at him and told him I would love to join him for breakfast.
Leaving the train behind, we crossed Main Street towards Memphis’ oldest diner, the Arcade Restaurant, established 1919. I was excited – I hadn’t had a meal in 24 hours and I was going to be eating in a diner that I’d only seen in scenes from my favourite movie. We tried the door but it was locked, and wouldn’t open until 7:00am. So there we were: two tired, hungry strangers on a corner in a legendary little town. With an unspoken understanding that we were in this together, we walked back into the train station as the sun was rising, parking ourselves on a beautiful old wooden bench for the next hour and a half. We only had time to get to know each other better. Palmer used to be a claymation artist on a Disney film in San Francisco. I might add this is not the first time I’ve had an odd encounter with a claymation artist for Disney, but that is another story. He worked as an artist on a movie that I never learned the name of, until Disney bought Star Wars and ran out of money for the production. Now he works at a popular coffee chain, Pete’s, across the bay. The rest I can’t remember. From here it becomes a bit hazy; a hunger, sleep deprived daze. At 7:00am, we ran across the street, the first customers to grab a booth. We ordered water and coffee and started to salivate over the menu. They had a “Mystery Train” sandwich, but I went for an omelet. While we waited for food, I looked around the place and learned a few things about it: Jack White loves to eat there since his home in Nashville is only a three hour drive away, Elvis was a regular, and many other movies were filmed there after Mystery Train, (though none of them as good). The original building from 1919 hasn’t been redecorated since the 1950s, and this was obvious. Again, everything became a daze. Palmer told me how he liked to dress in a blue one piece jumper with Obama written down its front and rollerblade around, hoping it would spark conversation. He also spoke about the high housing prices in San Fran, and the tech companies that have moved into the city ruining it for everyone else. I helped him pick out a souvenir shirt from the diner and we split the bill. Then he walked me the 1.2 miles down Main Street to my hotel, passing by the famous Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. When we got to the front of my hotel we said our good-byes. He told me his real name is David.
Patti Smith Review
Review of Patti Smith concert at Toronto's legendary Massey Hall
Originally published in September 2013 for Aestetic Magazine
Friday night, one of Toronto’s most beautiful and infamous venues, Massey Hall, lent its stage to Patti Smith and her band for the first time since 1976. Though to everyone’s shock, her Massey Hall return only filled half of the seats, something that could easily be attributed to this being the opening weekend to the celebrity loving Toronto International Film Festival.
Patti and her band which included her long time guitarist Lenny Kaye, came on stage with contagious enthusiasm, as she kicked her feet together like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz as she danced around for the intro of the first song of her two-hour set, “Dancing Barefoot”. Others who have been to a Patti Smith show could agree that it is a wildly supreme experience. Few artists are able to achieve the passion and intimacy that is felt from Patti. From her aggressive spiting on stage, whenever and wherever she pleased, to her intensity when reciting poetry, to her roaring voice during the conclusion of “Pissing in the River”, she never fails to prove her rightful title as Godmother of Punk.
Patti, a known social commentator, wasn’t shy to use her soapbox to preach revolution. She made sure during several spoken word sections throughout her set to use updated references to make her point clear, mostly speaking of the problems in Syria and the trials of Edward Snowden. The night also had a nice spontaneous surprise when Patti went off the written set list and did a cover of John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy”, giving the reason to sing this being it took her over a month to learn how to sing it. A third of the way through the night, Patti left the stage and let Lenny Kaye take the lead. Back in the ‘70s Lenny, a self-proclaimed musical historian made a compilation album called Nuggets, when included some of psych-rock’s greatest songs. He used some of the material from this compilation for a ten minute long melody. The audience loved it; people were dancing in the aisle, letting loose and having a great time. It seemed like this was Patti’s chance for a bit of a rest, but part way through the rock goddess couldn’t help herself as she wondered into the shadows of the stage to have a little dance. Patti didn’t let the audience down and made her only top ten hit, “Because the Night” part of the set, dedicating it to the man who inspired the words, her late husband Fred Sonic Smith. She then fooled the audience when the intro to “Gloria” was played, only for her to put a stop to it, which led into “Horses” as Patti sung it almost to the end when the song was gradually switched into “Gloria” and everyone went nuts.
As people screamed out “G-L-O-R-I-A”, there were only huge smiling grins on everybody’s faces, more than satisfied and a knowing look that this night is unlike all the others. Patti’s passion, Patti’s words should be experienced by everyone, at least once, more than once if lucky.
Her encore was nothing short of pure punk rock. Starting off with “Bagna”, Patti’s roaring voice barked into the microphone, and she no longer looked like a person, but a symbol to revolt. The last song of the night was perfection, “Rock n’ Roll Nigger”, had Patti reminding the audience that, “we are the future, it’s our decision, we are the future and the future is now.” Making the point stronger by tossing a bucket of rose peddles into the audience, a symbol of love, passion and blood. By the end of the song she stated “with this bow I send my love”, with that she ripped one of the strings out of her guitar, reminded the crowd of her love for everyone, and the show was over.
It’s hard to truly describe a Patti Smith show to someone who hasn’t been. She breaks everyone down, has the crowd rethink their entire life, their decisions and directions. Then with love and passion builds everyone back up to remind them that they are okay and to fight for your rights and she does all of this in two hours. If you ever have the chance, and if you’re ever lucky enough, go see a Patti Smith performance and never forget it.
Q+A with Alex from Toronto's METZ who offer up advice to DIY bands
How long have you officially been a band?
Roughly 7 years.
Was there ever a time you all had doubts and wanted to throw in the towel?
There has never been an end goal for us. I don't think we would still be going if we didn't all really love it and have a good time.
I look at it like this: "Make music with your friends. When it stops being fun, quit".
The three of us have been playing music and touring (in bands before METZ) for most of our lives,
so if this band ended I think we would probably all start something new. So far, we don't totally hate each other.
What advice would you give bands who are still very diy?
I certainly can't claim to know more about this than anyone else. We are all just learning as we go.
Don't compromise. Make the music you want to make and don't consider anything/anyone else.
I think most people who grew up listening to punk
or reading zines or going to shows connect with that sentiment in one way or another.
What have you learned on the road to being signed to Sub Pop?
There is no "right" or "wrong" way to do things. Just do what feels good to you. And play shows as much
as possible. Bands like Sonic Youth, Bad Brains, Fugazi all took very different paths. What matters to me
is the music.
What are the major differences between being DIY vs being on a somewhat-major label?
Nowadays I think labels are becoming less and less necessary and I think that
can only be a good thing. People can make music and distribute it across the planet without depending on anyone else's approval.
In our case, the main thing was that by working with a label, there was a possibility that more people were going to hear our music.
Of course there are horror stories of bands being seriously taken advantage of and getting ripped off. Like any industry, there are leeches out there with bad intentions.
So its important to be educated on the agreement you are making.
Luckily, we really like the people we work with and
there is zero influence or pressure on us to change who we are or what we do.
We still run the day-to-day decisions of the band and make the music we want, when we want, and with who we want.
I'm not saying its the right fit for everyone; it seems to be a good fit for us right now.
Is there any food in this would that is better than poutine?
Of course not.
Are there any Canadian punk bands you're cheering for right now?
New Fries, Weaves, S.H.I.T.
Is there anything you would like to see different in the Canadian punk rock scene? Any changes for better or worse?
I can't make that call. The "punk scene" is totally amorphous and unclassifiable. Everyone thinks it is something else. Ideally, its an open-minded supportive community of people
Interview: Richard Flohil
I first met Richard about five, maybe even six years ago through a singer/song writer I was closer with at the time, Jadea Kelly. How I know Jadea is a long story that doesn’t need to be told. As most folk artists in Toronto do, Jadea played the legendary Cameron House on Queen West and eventually took up a weekly residency there. This must have been when I first met Richard who was acting as Jadea’s publicist. Though from observing how others would interact with Richard it didn’t take long for me to acknowledge that for this older gentleman, helping young artists was more than a hobby.
At the time I was managing an art gallery and though loved working with visual artists, I was always interested in the music industry. Music has been the main focal point of my life and being a curious brat, I wanted to know everything and everyone. I struck a conversation with Richard and eventually asked him if he were interested in getting a coffee with me to talk more. He suggested brunch instead at the early hour of 8am. A few days had passed when we met at Toronto’s infamous 24-hour diner, Fran’s on College St. This is where our friendship and our brunches began.
Richard is easy to pick out of a crowd, he is always in black, has shoulder length white hair with a matching mustache and (especially if you catch him at a gig) usually has a huge smile on his face and charms the ladies with his British accent that hasn’t left him after residing in Canada for 50+ years. Richard grew up in England, his parents were part of the upper middle class, which allowed him to attend private school. At the age of 16 he began apprenticing at a local paper in hopes of becoming a reporter. While he was learning to become a journalist, he was at the same time growing into what he describes a “music freak” remembers, “By now I’m a big music freak, I’m deeply into music that now hardly exist. Early American jazz and the British attempt to play it which for the most part were pretty awful but there were some pretty fine music to come out of it. That genre of music was popular in the 50s through to the early 60s”.
Richard’s love for American jazz became so strong he was frustrated that there was no way of him to see these acts in England. That is when he started looking to America as a place to reside. As Richard explains, “the blues boom had yet to happen and I left Britain in ’57 or ’58. I tried to go to the states but they were very worried. You know they were having communists freak outs, [asking me] “oh my God, is your grandmother a communist?” … [And I would reply] “I don’t know, I don’t know that” so that’s when I went to the Canadian office.” Toronto as now was the biggest city in Canada and not a long way from Chicago, where Richard initially was hoping to stay. His first time to Toronto was enough to make him stick here. Richard is very nostalgic of the moment he arrived, “Toronto was an amazing town, it was dull, Presbyterian, boring, and the second tallest building was the Royal York hotel. There was a great music scene because black American musicians could come here all the time and not worry about where they could stay, or where they could eat. So there was always an on rush of black jazz and R&B musicians, just general entertainers, whatever and that made Toronto a really good music town.”
Even though he was in the wrong country, Richard never forgot about his goal and why he left England, he wanted to be in Chicago. He was able to see many great jazz and blues musicians in Toronto, people like Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino and Earl Hines, but he still wasn’t at the source. He would make it to Chicago and make a splash when he did, telling me “later on I did go to Chicago and I did meet Muddy Waters and I did meet Howling Wolf, went to recording sessions with musicians, I became friends with the black Buddy Guy and all of this- then I started bringing these people to Toronto”. He continues, “we did Muddy Waters for a week here, in a small venue. We did lesser-known names. Robert Nighthawk, a wonder player who nobody hears of anymore, and I got this rep, like I’m the blues expert. So then I was invited to something called a folk festival, I had no idea what that was but I was asked to host a workshop”
This was the turning point for Richard’s career, having devoted years to American jazz and blues and allowing Toronto fans to enjoy the music live, he was now about to enjoy the same satisfaction with folk music. Richard elaborates on when this career shift happened. “In 1965 I met Leonard Cohen, Gordon Light Foot, Ian and Sylvia, Phil Ochs, all of this was new music to me. And it was like “wow,” like being hit in the head, I discovered gravity. So that sort of sent me off on a path. In 1970 I was editing trade magazines to make a living, wood working, electrical contracting, whatever because I couldn’t get a newspaper job… So I started doing publicity for the Mariposa Folk Festival then I got a job with Cap Act which was one of two organizations at the time who merged and became SOCAN (which is the organization that collects royalties for song writers and music publishers) and I worked for them on a half time basis for 23 years through which time I met and did stories about, you name it, everybody from classical composers to Gordon Lightfoot, Stompin’ Tom Connors, Burton Cummings, did them all, met them all, wrote stories and still got’em”.
Richard has his own publicity company and keeps very busy working in Toronto with emerging artist with a passion that hasn’t faded over the years. Though as he says “I have a theory and I’ve been doing this from 1965 till, what… are we getting up to 50 years now, nearly? That during this time, during any period for that long, if you don’t have any stories you’ve wasted your time.” So with that I will continue on with my favourite stories as told by Richard from his lasting careers.
When Miles Davis tried to buy Richard’s car after a show at Massy Hall:
“The limo didn’t show up so I had to just run him over to Jarvis street where the hotel was and he got in the car holding a bottle of beer and I just about crapped because there were cops seeing him in my car holding a bottle of beer. But you don’t tell Miles Davis you can’t drink in my car. So along the way he decided he didn’t want to go to Montreal for a sold out show the next night and he said ‘how much is this car worth?’ and I had an old crapper and he said ‘I’ll give you $2000 for it, I’ll drive it to New York tonight’”
Being a teenager and taking The Platters around town:
“Even as a kid as a newspaper reporter I remember doing a story on a group called The Platters. Nobody remembers them now, but they were a 5 piece vocal group who had a lot of hits “The Great Pretender”, “Only You”, very very good black vocal group and they were starting their very first European tour in a town I was working in, a city in the north bay called York. York’s a very historic place, so I called their management and said “why don’t I be your guide and I’ll take the guys around this historic city for a few hours and I’ll write a story blah blah blah good idea. So here is me, and these five black Americans. Me with my short hair and glasses looking particularly nerdy and nebbish-like and one of the places I took them was York Minster. York Minster is this enormous cathedral and I think it’s the second largest one in Europe. It’s huge, bigger than Notre Dame in Paris. And when you walk in, in the far end of the building, which is like a football field away there is this giant 6-story stained glass window with the light shinning through, sunlight shinning through it. And I walked these Americans into the building and the woman in the group gave me the hook, she said ‘we ain’t got one of these in Texas’.”
One of Toronto’s forgotten dive bars, Larry’s Hideaway:
“Well it was the most awful, dismal basement in a basically hooker hotel, um and there’s a couple of memorable stories. I remember a British band I loved called Steeleye Span, it was a folk band but they added drums, David Bowie produced one of their records. And so the lead singer, a women called Maddy Prior, a terribly proper middle class English lady who when the band came back to do their encore said “thank you very much ladies and gentlemen, we’ve really enjoyed our evening with you, but I do have to say that this is the first time our band has played inside an ash tray”. Best story of all, One of the Gary’s told me this, they brought in Allen Toussaint, the New Orleans pianist, composure, song writer, producer, amazing cat. They found out it was his birthday so they went to Loblaws and got a sticky cake, put some candles on it and “happy birthday Allen!” they were going to cut the cake in the hole that they called a dressing room. He said ‘oh no I’m on stage, we’ll do it at intermission’ came back in the intermission and the cake was a brown squiggling mess. Every cockroach in the building was having the feast of a lifetime. Larry’s Hideaway burned down, the whole building burned down, it’s now a part of Allan Gardens and if you go by you’ll see three sides… trees in a square by the sidewalk that marked the hotel. So you got the actual sight where the hotel was, it’s marked by the trees. Larry’s hideaway, I heard some great music there, but what a hole… what a hole.”
The first jazz musician he saw in Toronto:
“On my first day in Canada I walked down Yonge St and I saw this sign “Earl Hines and his all stars” well I went into the bar and I was gobsmacked and I said “Earl Hines, the piano player that worked with Louise Armstrong in the 20s” and all the jazz musicians in his band were all sort of names to me. You know from my addiction to early American jazz and he said “yeah” I said, “Oh, how much is it to get in?” he said it was free but you have to buy 2 drinks. I really thought ‘wow’ and that night I went to go see him and the next night I found a jazz club with a sort of local, Dixie Land-ish band which wasn’t bad and the night after that I found a place on King St. that is no longer there of course. Um and the Stanley cup hockey finals were on. It was on a black and white television set over the stage with the hockey game on, no sound, on stage was this black pianist from Montreal called Oscar Peterson, who I had never heard of, but my jaw was just on the floor.”
Richard Flohil is currently working on a new book that outlines all his wild stories from 50+ years in the music industry. As soon as you’re able, I would highly suggest picking it up. The final part of our interview sums up the flame that Richard still holds for music. As it went when the topic of vinyl came up he explained, “Oh Yeah. I mean I was saying the other day I did a radio interview and I played a Louis Armstrong record from the 20s and I said I rarely play this record because I can play it in my head any time I like. I know every lick of it; I’ve been listening to it since I was 16. And it still talks to me; it’s still a part of my life. If I finish this can I play you a couple of records that you’ve never heard of?” To which I obviously replied, “Yes, of course please” and then he ordered me to, “turn off your machinery”. The rest of the morning was spent listening to records fill the living room of his downtown home.
Excerpt from my Burger Revolution zine, Q+A with Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams and Hunx and his Punx!!
Q: What’s your favourite cartoon to draw?
A: I’ve been cartooning a lot of
Q: What was the name of your first band?
A: Shannon and the Clams
Q: What sports should be included in the party Olympics?
A: Weapon Lord
Q: When is the best time of day?
A: I love twighlight in the summer time
Q: When did you start playing music?
A: age 25 (you’re never too old!)
Q: What piece of cutlery do you prefer most?
A: A really good chefs knife
Q: What’s been your biggest musical influence outside of bands?
A: Disney soundtracks from the 50’s until the 70’s
Q: Who would you rather party with: Aliens or Zombies?
Q: Do you remember the album that made you want to play music?
A: The Strokes Is This It? I heard that bass line from the first song on the album and it made me finally wanna learn bass
Q: What is your favourite food combo?
A: salad ON TOP of pizza is rad
There is Hope for in the Music Industry
Interview with Jason Croke of Nettwerk Music Group- Los Angeles, CA, USA
There I was, standing on the corner of Sunset and Vine in the grime-ridden streets of Hollywood. A place that was once rumoured to be covered in gold had turned to dust, though the hot California sun still shines down upon it. Waiting with my fellow low-income bus dwellers, I stood, anticipating the nerve-racking ride to the neighbourhood of Silver Lake. I was home sick and was told this was where the hipsters rest. Hailing from Toronto where most of the 22-35 year olds can only identify with having over sized non-prescription glasses and predominantly wearing clothing people sweat and fucked in fifty years ago (true hipster fashion), I was curious how this translated in California. On this day, however, I never found out.
The Los Angeles transit system tested my patience, as ten minutes had now passed with out any sign of a bus, while I received a text message from Jason Croke. I wouldn’t say that Jason and I knew each other well at this point. Now a resident of LA, he and his wife, Michelle Calvert, are from my hometown of Toronto. Back when Michelle and Jason lived in the north, Michelle was, for a period of time, my boss. It wasn’t until she held a company Christmas party at the house she shared with Jason, that he and I first met and instantly found our love of music to be common ground. During my visit in LA, I would have loved to see Michelle, but unfortunately she was out of the city. They were the only ones I knew in the Los Angeles area, so Jason and I had made loose plans to hang out. When Jason wrote me that text message, he asked what I was doing. I responded with letting him know about the agonizing long wait for the bus and that I could be persuaded to change my plans. He told me to walk to Amoeba and he would meet me in five minutes.
Five minutes passed, and there was Jason on the corner in front of legendary record store, Amoeba in his air-conditioned, non-public transit vehicle. When I hopped into his car, he was eager to show me one of the many and great musical sites of the historical and wild city. So off we went to the Chateau Marmont. In case you are not aware, this West Hollywood hotel has a colourful life as a haven for celebrities. From being the former address of both Jim Morrison and Neil Young, to having beautiful oriental carpets where Jim Belushi took his last steps, any celeb worth knowing or groupie worth interviewing has walked through these doors. In fact, while Jason and I indulged in our beverages, a very tiny, sour, and elderly Glenn Close was seated just a few tables down from us on the patio. Since this is a very popular hangout for the famous, no photographs of any kind are allowed. Therefore all I have for you is my eyewitness account. Though our time together there wasn’t long, Jason and I did have some great conversations, sharing our stories and musical knowledge. From telling me about all the great Toronto shows I had missed while I was young and learning my ABC’s, to his rough career adjustment after moving to LA. Not to worry, Jason landed on his feet and is now the Director of Sales in the LA office for Vancouver based record label, Nettwerk.
I don’t know many people in the record industry, especially people who work in the industry and are living in LA. Curious to know more, after I arrived back home, Jason and I set up a more-candid-than-usual phone interview. It was during our talk that he alone gave me hope for the major record labels; that there is still passion for the music and it’s not all about dollars and cents for everyone. On a nice summer evening, after I came home from my day job in Toronto, I picked up the phone to reach Jason in LA and we talked about his musical beginnings and his path to the west coast.
Jason grew up in Barrie, Ontario, a suburb north of Toronto. I would give you a reference for how you might know this city, but I can’t think of one. I can tell you there’s an exit on the 401 East to take the 400 North to Barrie. It’s a tricky exit and I have had many close calls with almost, accidentally driving to Barrie, instead of my destination because of it. Coming from a city that has no memorable identity did not seem to bother him; Jason was able to step away from the usual. As he told me, his musical education came in a package with his rebellious youth skateboarding around town: “[Skateboarding] impacted the decision of appearance, attitude and then the music just came along with it.” He continued by saying, “right off the top, right when I can start saying I liked music, it had already become a way that I wasn’t going to go with the grain. I was going to go as far away from it as possible. As much of the time as possible, really.” The music Jason was talking about at this point in his life was mainly grunge, before anyone knew it to be grunge. He confessed that Nirvana was one of the worse things to happen to him. Or at the moment at least it had seemed to be, as he told me, “That underground scene was a great thing until Nirvana came around.” Jason identified with an underground scene whose fate was to be dragged through the mainstream mud.
As Croke matured into his twenties, it actually was Nirvana that helped him see the light when it came to the music industry, and how an unknown band making it big is actually a beautiful thing. Jason showed his soft side when he admitted, “There is a romantic side to the business of music, with the stories [for example], the day Nirvana got signed and there’s all this drama behind it and I love that shit. I just thought it was incredible. That a small label in Seattle got this shitty Seattle band and virtually changed everything… that started peaking my interest into what record labels are and what they do… It’s kind of hard to do both. Be the business guy as well as the artist. The business side is an art form in its own right… how do you take a band that are not good to some and great to others, market them and create a career for four people. It’s pretty incredible… At a certain point I didn’t know where I was going to end up, but I knew I was going to carve my way into that industry.” That is exactly what Jason was able to do, from working as a reviewer for legendary Toronto record store, Sam the Man, to being in sales for Select Distribution, which allowed him to work closely with the iconic Beggars Group. Jason was on a path that most up and comers in the music industry look to for inspiration. So why did he leave Toronto for LA?
Speaking from my own (biased) experience, Toronto can be frustrating for almost any creative industry. My own background includes working in an art gallery, working for a top fashion designer and in the music industry. When someone wants to try another city for a chance to explore the bigger and better, I do come down with a hint of jealousy. That’s why when Jason and his wife Michelle left town, I couldn’t blame them and didn’t question it. I was, however, still interested in why they made the decision. I know they had both lived there at one point in their twenties, and it seems that after so many years, the Hollywood Hills missed them and seemed to pull them back. Los Angeles looked like a good career choice as Jason started to envision his future in Toronto, and wasn’t sure how much further he would get in a city where the most creative industries have lower ceilings than most creative capitols. It did take some time, but Croke was able to find a position that he loves, and that loves him right back, at Nettwerk in Los Angeles, and his infatuation of the industry has remained true. He told me with hints of joy in his voice, “It’s priceless and can’t get any better. Through all the years of me being in the industry in Canada and now LA, the cast of characters that have come through my life, some of them funnier than others, some of them complete assholes, you learn off of all of them and some of them are lazy and you learn off them too because you think ‘oh, you’re just lingering, man you’re not doing anything’ and those are the guys that you go, ‘great, I’m going to stomp right past you as you’re sitting there doing nothing, so you’re out of my way.’ The there’s the next guys who are really good at what they do, you want to beat them, but you also want to be them.“ On the topic of avoiding the music industry on account of its instability, unpredictability, and slim chance of making the big bucks Jason reassured me, “The dollar itself, sure we all need one to get by. But I think at this rate it’s more the passion that keeps you in this game and I wouldn’t give it up for anything to be honest with you. It would be hard to tell you to start selling cars and make triple the money.”
Interview with GWAR's Dave Brockie (RIP)
This interview took place September 2013. Originally published for Aestechic Magazine
Interstellar metal band, GWAR will release their 13th full-length studio album, Battle Maximus, on September 17th. After losing band member of ten years, lead guitarist Flattus Maximus, portrayed by Cory Smoot in 2011 due to natural causes while the band was touring in support of their last album, Bloody Pit of Horror, GWAR have assembled what they are calling their greatest album to date, a fitting tribute to Flattus.
“The next chapter in GWAR”, lead singer Odeous Maximus, portrayed by Dave Brockie explains, “is fighting Mr. Perfect, who comes through time to steal from GWAR the secret of immortality… the far greater struggle is to move on after losing Flattus Maximus.” Though Flattus does live on in this record. One of his final projects was constructing GWAR’s own recording studio, Slave Pit Studio, the latest album is the first to be recorded in this space. When speaking of recording in GWAR’s own studio, Odeous describes how Flattus influenced the process, “We recorded the new album using the lessons of Flattus, this was going to be his first time recording at the studio, but unfortunately that didn’t work out. Felt like we had to make him proud of us. Flattus was never far away from us during the process.” Odeous does elaborate to admit, “Owning your own studio is so much easier. Everything you need is right there. GWAR being GWAR, in GWAR’s studio. As a result I think we’ve come up with probably our greatest fucking album ever.”
Finding a new guitarist was no easy feat. In order for Pustulus Maximus, portrayed by Brent Purgason to take the position as lead guitarist, he first had to endure a battle between all the Maximus’ on Earth, once the dust was settled, he was the one left standing, and as it turns out, a perfect fit for GWAR. One can only imagine what barbaric scene would of played out during that battle. GWAR have admitted to many attempts at destroying the human race while stuck on Earth, though have faced numerous difficulties adapting to the technical age, as Odeous expresses with frustration, “We are traditional guys who want to still have fun with medieval devices. We don’t want to resort to using nuclear bombs. It is way more fun to kill people with your hands. More up close and personal.” Odeous’ disgust for the human race is even obvious when talking about popular TV show, Breaking Bad when he describing how unrealistic character of Jesse is portrayed simply because he has gained weight throughout the show, something that would never happen to a true drug addict.
GWAR’s career is nearing the 30-year mark. A tough defeat for most bands, Odeous expresses his motives to keep going, “Being immortal helps, unlike being a normal human where you make a few albums and drop dead. There is a tremendous amount of really horrible music that is out there, that’s another reason we do it so much. There is so much awful shit out there that someone has to revive the human race- something that doesn’t completely fucking suck and to amuse us. There isn’t a lot to do on this planet except heavy metal, devise massive war machines and destroy enemies from outer space. This is what I do for a living and I’ve always been like this.”
Though GWAR have an extensive collection of merchandise including dolls, BBQ sauce and beer, they have no plans to add to this for the next while, at the moment all their focus is on the new album and tour. When asked how it is best to experience GWAR for the first time Odeous replies, “To get the full GWAR experience you have to see it and hear it… not just the sight of GWAR, not just the sound of GWAR, also the smell of GWAR.”
Interview with Erick Lyle
Shelby Monita: Are you noticing a growing curiosity among younger readers discovering your writing and zine, wanting to know what they missed out on?
Erick Lyle: Hmmm…. Maybe. (I’m assuming you mean the Black Flag issue of SCAM with this question). I think there’s been a growing interest in The Old Days of punk for many years. Punk started getting self-conscious about its past, I think, as far back as 1991 when there were a couple pretty important seismic shifts in what was then clearly an underground subculture. Nirvana broke as a huge mainstream rock band and threw open the doors to the major labels for many longtime underground punk bands that had struggled through the long dark 80’s. At the same time, as punk started to appear on MTV and in the mall, there really was also a sort-of underground renaissance taking place. There was lots of new energy in DIY punk in spaces like Gilman Street and ABC NO RIO and a general shift away from the bummer so-called “Crossover” years or the late 80’s NYC hardcore/metal and straight edge stuff that seemed violent and stupid to many of us in the rest of the country. Personal zines became really huge at that time and much of that punk literature in many ways looked for inspiration back to the earliest days of punk before things had got so pro-rock or violent or metal in the late 80’s. Zines like Cometbus were the first to really explore punk – something that was always about “no future” and living in the moment – as something that had a history. But when Nirvana came along, some of that self-consciousness about punk history – about, lets say, that eternal question, what is punk?—was also about maintaining punk identity as oppositional in the face of the cooptation of punk style by major labels.
I think in recent years with the rise of the Internet, the clear line between “mainstream” and “underground” has almost completely disappeared. As my pal, Becca says, what we do is NOT secret! The mainstream has continued to mine subcultures for every last shred of commodifiable authentic spark. Punk is in the museums and the academy. Punks feel free to post what were once punk secrets online for all to see. I mean, here in NYC, many “all ages DIY spaces” more closely resemble for-profit rock bars that happen to be run quasi-illegally in warehouses and the shows are listed in the New Yorker! So the cat’s out of the bag. Folks know all about it. With the Black Flag reunions, we even see the pathetic sight of mainstream publications like Rolling Stone trying to now cover the band with a knowing tone, to make up for all the years they completely ignored the Dark Matter of the US punk underground that was all around them. So there’s a market for books about The Old Days and many of those old days stories are, of course, really quite great so people read them.
Its possible that the current obsession with the Old Days represents punk’s anxiety about its own authenticity in the new place in the culture it suddenly finds itself in. Black Flag once could not play a show without LAPD starting a riot. Now the Black Flag reunions will play at large outdoor festivals this summer in many cities and the reunions are covered in NY Times, LA Times, Rolling Stone – evenForbes.com! Black Flag and punk seems to have partially won the battle with the larger culture. So what happens to punk now? The question seems to me, then, how to take it back from being a commodity or how to make it dangerous again in some way, or is it just time to do something else?
If anything, I’d say, though, that most of the mail I’ve received from younger readers seems to be in agreement with the zine’s postscript that addresses punk and its current increasing retreat into nostalgia for its own glory days. Kids have written me, complaining about what they perceive as a hierarchy of cool where the Old Days are presented as something inherently better than now. They say knowing every detail about the old days or having all these old records is part of some currency that they feel is gross to accrue when punk to them was supposed to be about no rules and doing what you want and challenging the status quo. So there might be a backlash against nostalgia where it really counts – in the young kids who are making and reading zines and making new bands. But, this is hardly scientific. I’m only talking about a handful of letters.
I would also say that “missed out on” is perhaps the wrong way to look at it. While bands like Black Flag and their SST contemporaries seem to me to be among the best bands ever and I can only imagine what it was like to see them in their prime, I DO know what its like to be part of really amazing scenes and communities and to be at really amazing, life changing shows. Everything that is old is new to people who find it for the first time and that spirit of rebirth is part of punk. Look at the Minutemen documentary. In it you see footage of this band that is now considered legendary enough to make a film about, but they were playing live in 1983 to, like, three very puzzled skinheads in a completely empty room! A lot of The Old Days was really like that. Which is to say it’s the same as now: small groups of committed and excited and probably weird people inventing something together out of sight from the rest of the world in remote unknown locations. The Old Days are happening live before your eyes so make the most of it while you’re in it!
SM: In the postscript of SCAM Issue #9, Damaged, the story of Black Flag’s first album, you wrote about what happened, happened and can never be recreated. For what now (through younger naïve eyes) seems to be such a romantic period in music, do you feel that such genuine passion can ever be created again without the same social restraints?
EL: Well, I suppose the aesthetics or formal aspects of punk music have lost their shock value or have come to signify something else in the culture, if that’s the kind of “social restraint” you mean. You’re probably not automatically going to get harassed for having a mohawk in most places these days. But the riot police are still on hand to attack any large group of folks who are inventing together their own autonomous culture that’s against the prevailing social order. Look no further than Occupy Wall Street, which suffered from intense surveillance, infiltration, and violent physical attack – much of it illegal — from US law enforcement in Occupy camps across the country. I was working on the first interviews for the Black Flag zine during the short Occupy era and felt there were obvious parallels between the joy people were finding in Occupy and what it must have been like for kids who were discovering – and creating together – punk in SoCal in that summer of 1981 I was writing about. Everyone was saying how “the energy is like nothing else that’s happened before”, etc. So, yes, I definitely think new, genuinely passionate culture can be created right now!
SM: Do you still feel the same connection to punk rock as you did when you were a teen in South Florida?
EL: Yes and no. In many ways I feel a greater connection because punk rock has been my whole life since then. When I was a kid in South Florida, I was dreaming of starting a band, doing a zine, booking shows, traveling around the country on tour, etc. and now I have done all of that many times over. It has been so much of my focus for so many years and has brought me really deep connection with so many wonderful people and experiences all over the country.
On the other hand, when I was a teen, I saw punk rock as a total universe that could meet all my needs in life. It’s now been years since I felt that way. After a time, I realized that it was too small a world to contain all my interests. First, I started to feel like activism within punk was very limited and that for real change to happen, I would need to connect my activism with people outside of the punk rock world. Later, as a reporter or when I got involved in curating art shows, I started to feel, too, like my curiosity was taking me beyond the bounds of punk.
But I think this is good. You should get inspiration from wherever you can. As the saying goes, punk rock saved my life. I think this is true for many others. But I’ve seen over the years that many people who felt that great promise from punk in the beginning later get bitter when they see punk isn’t perfect and so they leave the scene. In particular, I’ve seen it with kids who become activists and start to find punk to be too apathetic or privileged so they make a sharp break with it and feel condescending toward it. I never wanted to quit punk, though. I think its possible to make a contribution in many areas and not expect one thing to meet all your needs.
SM: What do you feel is the best reward for living a creative life?
EL: Creative satisfaction! That, and living in a way that you can continually discover new things, experiment, find new people to collaborate with or to have conversations with, etc. Also, it can be good for you to not have so much security sometimes, to not know where the next month’s rent is coming from. It keeps you on your toes, puts some spice in the mix… It’s all work but it’s worth it to me, the hustle. It feels good to rely on yourself in life.
SM: I read your interview in Beached Miami where you spoke of the overdevelopment and housing issues in Southern Florida. In Toronto, we are facing similar issues as Miami. People with lower income are not treated with respect, government housing and historical buildings being torn down to make way for dysfunctional condos for the rich and cooperation’s being preferred over small business. Is there anything you witnessed in Miami that could be a cautionary tale for other cities like Toronto?
EL: Ha ha ha… Well, I can’t imagine anything as insane as the completely fucked universe of Miami ever happening in Canada! Also, Toronto’s a much larger and more sophisticated city than Miami and I’ve met a lot of cool activists from Toronto over the years, so I’m sure folks there know what to look for. In Miami, specifically, I was writing about the city’s claims that Art Basel and all the art world money that it brought to Miami were going to at last bring money and jobs to Miami’s poorest neighborhoods, when actually the city and developers are just cynically using art money as an engine to inflate real estate values, grab public lands for private art museums, and to displace low income tenants from huge swaths of Miami’s poorest inner city neighborhoods. I would say, in general, its good to be cynical about pre-fab “arts neighborhoods”. Genuine arts communities tend to form organically in remote corners of cities where there’s abandonment, crime, poor city services, low rent, etc. Not so much in brand new condos on the waterfront – even if they’re now covered in developer-sanctioned “Street Art”!
SM: Any words of advice for the next generation of writers and zine enthusiast, who only want to write and never want a job?
EL: YOU CAN DO IT!
SM: What’s your favourite Iggy Pop album?
EL: Well, I should say first that to my great surprise, the new Stooges record is actually really killer! Even as we’re complaining about nostalgia here, I got to say that its not nostalgia if you’ve still got it! I checked out some live clips online and it was really inspiring to me to see James Williamson and Mike Watt rocking out so insanely hard to these new songs. Those guys are deadly serious. They always really bring it. You hear fans complain and say things like, “A bunch of senior citizens shouldn’t be playing punk rock!” But those folks have it exactly wrong. The truth is, being old is punk! I don’t mean like The Rolling Stones, Inc. Roadshow, which is still just as corporate, louche, and contemptuous of its audience as ever. Or The Who, who really suck. But when you’re like Fred and Toodie Cole or Watt and you’re up there on stage, looking all wild and ragged and you’re rocking out, warts and all, blowing younger bands off the stage…that is seriously cool! Any 20 year old can sing, “I’m going to stay young until I die”, but those oldtimers have been staring it down everyday for a long time and still deliver. These people are true lifers and I’m inspired by their dedication.
I guess if we’re talking about solo records, I’d have to say Lust For Life is still my favorite. I mean, for starters, who can deny that killer cover photo of The Ig and that thousand-watt grin? “I’m worth a million in prizes”… But Kill City is amazing. Even New Values… I’ve been listening to that a lot lately.
I’ve actually been listening to LFL, The Idiot, and New Values a lot lately, though. For some reason those sound so great to me right now. It’s like pulling a warm blanket over my head and burrowing deeper under the covers on a cold Sunday morning. They really capture that It has that glorious empire-in-ruins-pre-Reagan-fascism late 70’s sound… “From Central Park to shanty town… Don’t look down.”Williamson was really hinked on those saxaphones and lush female backing vocals, huh? That big studio 70’s analog sound was what the first music I heard on the radio when I was a tiny child sounded like, so there’s always been something both creepy and thrilling about it. Its like the sound that “Horses”, Fleetwood Mac, “Jailbreak”, “Marquee Moon”, “The E Street Shuffle”, and Dylan’s “Street Legal” record all have in common. Something on the line between luxurious and just bloated. I think Bowie got something like that for Iggy with scrappier production values on those records they made in Berlin together. It makes me wonder, what would a record that captures exactly our current moment sound like? And would we even like it or would it not sound good for another 20 years?!? Of course, Bowie was trying to channel Weimer-era nostalgia with those records for The Ig so they were born already drenched in nostalgia. But why do they sound perfect to me this week?
5 Questions for Dr.Disc
5 questions for the boss man, Mark from Hamilton's Dr. Disc
20 Wilson St, Hamilton, Ontario
Q: What is your favourite record store (besides your own)?
A: In Canada, I love Grooves Records in London, both for the music and the staff! Worldwide I would have to say Rough Trade in London, UK.
Q: What is your favourite venue?
A: I really don’t have a favourite. I think that certain magical things can happen to or at a venue when a particular band is playing and the stars just magically align, so to speak. So I think for me the live music experience can actually make a venue special. For example, one of my favourite concerts in 2012 was Reverend Horton Heat which took place at This Ain’t Hollywood, a gritty Hamilton rock n’ roll club in the north end. The band’s performance and personality; the music; and the crowd all combined for me to make that bar the best place in the world to see live music on that particular night.
Q: Who is your favourite Ontario punk band?
A: Definitely two different kinds of punk rock are represented in this geographically biased answer, but I love The Dirty Nil and TV Freaks (both from the Hamilton area).
Q: What do you love most about Ontario?
Q: Hockey or Curling?
A: Sorry, not a sports fan at all. But my girlfriend just said that if I answered curling that she would leave the room, so I would definitely say hockey!
An excerpt from Boston
I cut through a back alley all for it’s beauty (most allies are more beautiful than any street could ever be) and came to find a strange orange, bridge with spiral ramps on either side. The bridge took pedestrians above the highway to look over the city. This urban structure was interesting enough and I enjoyed the idea of being able to look far and wide, so I took to walking up one of the spiral ramps to look out onto Boston. I stood at the centre of the bridge for only a minute. This moment, like many others in my life was greatly exaggerated and romanticized in my mind before it even happened, so much so that reality didn’t stand a chance. While I attempted to enjoy this fleeting moment, I looked over to the other side of where I came, the other side of the bridge and saw the Charles River. I was hoping I would be able to walk by the river during my visit and, serendipity, there it was. The waterfront was garnished with Cherry Blossoms that were bursting at the seams, a stage built to withstand small orchestras and a dock, with one chair waiting for me. As I walked up to this chair that I swear had my name engraved in it, I asked an older grey haired man filling the seat opposite to the one I was wanting to call home and asked if it were taken. He assured me it was all mine, I sat down and we were one. The older Boston gentleman and his thick New England accent made conversation with me about small details in life. He was on break from being an usher, mostly working Celtic games. During our silent moments I looked out onto the river, so quit and calm, as the sailboats would glide by. In that moment, inevitably the Motown classic “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” began on repeat in my head. I finally got that song, unlike when it would play in my car in rush hour and thought I “got it”. I finally fucking lived that song. Life is filled with little victories.
A Penny Weighs a Ton
I have an awful, daunting, time consuming habit of always being early. The thought of missing a deadline, missing a train, keeping someone waiting is too much guilt for me to digest. An hour early, waiting to board my train to Memphis, I was stuck in Chicago, in the most uninspired station yet. Nothing to do but sit on the edge of a fountain and hope 60 minutes feels like 45. Sitting next to me, a few feet down was an older African American woman who looked unkempt and I assumed could possibly be homeless. She had a rag covering her hair and a garbage bag holding her blanket. This is when I began my new ritual with wishing fountains. Out of sheer boredom I looked at the fountain that was behind him, felt the weight of my change purse and figured two things equal one. Fountain + penny= wish. I pulled out all the pennies I had and carelessly made a wish with each one and threw in a penny to go along with it. The unkempt woman next to me saw what I was doing and told me it seemed like a good idea. She began digging in her bag, in a very desperate way, searching and searching for even just one penny. When I saw what she was doing I stopped her, told her I had some to spare and gave her three pennies to use as she wished. Then I watched her. With each penny she had, she would do the same. Hold it in her hand, make a strong, tight fist, close her eyes, squeezed her lids and focused. So still and so determined, as if she were reaching out to God, having a conversation. Asking him/her to grant her this one wish and in return she would sacrifice this penny. With this one with her life and the lives of others around her will be greater and life will no longer seem like a steep, uphill sloop to climb. Her hard days would be behind her and she could finally breath. Three times she had this focus, three times she ad this determination, three times she had hope and three times she gave a sacrifice, all she had to give. When it was all over she looked at me and said thank you. I told her I hope all her wishes come true, and she told me they have to, they are very important. She is why I started this ritual and continue it in every city I travel, in respect of her wishes, in respect of her battles.