Charlie Haden #Bass #Mondayblogs #jazz

As a teen I would spend hours on end reading different articles in Bass Player Magazine. I was spending more time playing regularly just in the neighborhood with a few others. Others who would be doing the same thing some evenings. Sitting in their rooms listening to music and reading the publication of their chosen instrument.

Much of what I was playing was rock and metal. Metal is the very core of my musical background. It is still the music I enjoy listening to the most.

Bass Player Magazine opened my mind to putting names and faces to musicians of different genres. While I always liked hearing the occasional jazz piece on CBC Radio, I never thought much to put names to the musicians. I was playing electric bass guitar and had hoped to branch into playing upright eventually. Through Bass Player Magazine I began to read about upright players who would become influences. Charles Mingus, Christian MacBride, Eberhard Weber, just to name a few. Then there was Charlie Haden. Haden recently passed away last week. His life and career are being celebrated by the bass community and the music community in general.

While I no longer have a copy of the interview I remember it so very well just from the photo header and some of the things that were written. The cover page was Haden relaxing in a chair reading something. Reading his thoughts on music and life were fascinating. Before I would even hear him play I figured out that this was an incredible talent who was a key figure in the change of direction for the instrument.

It was not too long after reading this interview that I found a concert of his group “Quartet West” on a Bravo Television edition of the Montreal Jazz Festival. The concert was a terrific display of musicianship and creativity. Haden’s phrasing and tone became easily recognizable. Over the years I was able to obtain a few of his recordings on Compact Disc. Worth mentioning is his masterpiece duet record with guitarist Pat Metheny “Beyond The Missouri Sky”. This record is a marvelous display of bass and guitar with minimal extra accompaniment set against the backdrop themes of living and growing up in the mid-western U.S.

The opening track “Waltz For Ruth” (written by Haden for his wife Ruth Cameron), is something worthy of being called a standard. This piece remains one of my favourite compositions to this day. The melody was something I would start to just play as part of warm up exercises and just jamming at home. Literally almost every time I pick up a bass, I end up playing the melody from this track. It is a song that I have wanted to record just with 2 basses. My electric upright for the bass line and perhaps a six-string bass guitar to play the main melody.

It is time to dig out this record and the Quartet West CD’s again. I owe it to myself to seek out and find some earlier recordings of his work. Especially with the Liberation Music Orchestra and Ornette Coleman.

I encourage others to do the same.

This Old House – Last Call. #Writing

House Last Call

For most of the first 20 years of my life, this was one of the places I called home the most. It was the first place I ever knew as a home. Even while living a 10 minute drive away on and off through my teens, this was known to me as a home.

In the last few months, there have been days where I have wanted to walk up to the entrance of this old house and hope that Dad would answer. Even knowing full-well that he would never be there again. I have wanted to walk in and put the kettle on, or grab a beer from the fridge, then rack up the table for a short best-of-seven series of 8-ball while spinning a few records. Or perhaps hear a classic old song with Dad singing lead and playing rhythm guitar. After which we would then pick up where we left off on our lifelong argument about proper guitar tuning.

Side Story – Dad played guitar tuned a complete half step-down from standard tuning. For years he insisted it was the proper tuning. When we would play a few songs together it was always easy for me to adapt on the bass and just roll with it. I now have that great old guitar. Years ago during one of our discussions he said to me perhaps out of frustration, “One day when this thing is yours you can tune it exactly how YOU want it to.”  

So I did.

Although you cannot see it in this photo, to the left of the house stands a tall willow tree. For years I wondered if it should have at least been trimmed back. My thinking was that the damn thing is so tall that if a good wind were to pick it up it would literally fall completely on top of and over the house. I should be giving the tree population in general more credit. When the roots are as strong as the ones on this willow, you realize it’s probably not going anywhere.

Phone smashed

Basement Counter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here you see part of the basement. This spaced was used as a practice area for hockey shots, an indoor bowling alley and a jam space. This space originally was used as a salon by the first owner of the home. She briefly ran some sort of operation right out of the basement. For those of you born after 2000, the phone you see is a rotary phone. These were the most common phones used for decades. When I went to the old house prior to cleaning it out I was touring the basement with a friend. I explained to him that this phone had been here since day one. It still was running for a few years when we lived here but eventually the wires were snipped. It was crusted with dirt, dust and mildew from decades of being in this basement. The outside casing was smashed off with a croquet mallet.

This old house saw happy and hard times. It is in those happy times that a few more moments of peace have come from the grieving process. Being able to have this house organized so it would show well to potential buyers and exploring every part of it to remember the complete picture of what it was has been healing and helpful.

There are a thousand stories to tell that involve this old house. Maybe even a thousand more after that. I’ve spent many mornings over the last few weeks sorting through them and figuring out which ones to write and which ones to perhaps save for another day. Most of the stories I have been able to reflect and remember have been positive ones. Some of the best ones are worth telling, while some are worth saving for another day.

Good memories will always stand stronger than the foundation of any house. I expect that the new home owners will start writing their own chapters today as they take possession. I will miss it and the relative quiet of the community it sits in. So I happily let it go and bid this old house a bittersweet yet fond farewell.

The most valuable currency is not money, it is your life. So raise a glass and spend it all.

 

 

 

 

Blizzards and Basketball #mondayblogs

 

Basketball

In behind the overgrowth of branches in this photo you can see a basketball net. The backboard is well worn from over two decades of weather and bank shots.  The ground pounded down from heavy footsteps and layup pathways.

Hours were spent here in every season. Even waist deep winter storms could never stop me from my overactive imagination.  Multiple fake NBA championships were won at this net.  Mostly because the game-winning three-pointer would be called back on “fouls” from the opposing team.  This would give the “refs” the chance to “reset” the clock and allow for one more long-distance shot at the net.  Many of these “games” would go on well past 2 regulation NBA games without “players” getting fouled out or the refs getting called for some seriously questionable calls.

As a kid this was one of my sanctuaries. A short walk outside the door of Dad’s house. I remember many nights walking out here after supper and coming in only when it was way too late to even think. By the late hours the court was only lit by the faint overcast of a nearby street light.  It barely allowed for a decent clear view of the basket.

One evening, my brother and I wasted several hours attempting to connect a football throw from the opposite end of the yard.  He succeeded after at least two hours of throwing. Did not even strike the backboard or the rim on that winning shot. Clear sailing through the mesh.

The court has not been used for some time. Branches have taken over the once clear and wide air paths for flying basketballs. Many have walked the grass in front and sank many shots while launching them from almost every piece of the land.

My parents rarely every called me in during a school night that I was out here. Why would they? I was getting decent exercise and doing something that I found calming. For the brief period that I moved back into the old house before leaving Nova Scotia, I took to this old court again. How great it was to again find peace while playing sport just for fun.

I was always grateful that Dad cemented this into the ground. The old court net still stands there today, strong and solid.  If the new owners were to tear it down I certainly would understand. I’m happier knowing that the memories of all those shots, all those games, all that time outdoors, will outlast almost anything.

Twitter: @WriterDann

 

 

 

 

This Old House, Pieces of Time. #Writing #MondayBlogs


clockwheel

This old clock on the wall is a symbol of time in so many ways beyond the obvious. It is more than a time piece against the backdrop of an oft-painted kitchen wall.

In the middle of the night if I had woken up I would peek into the room to check the time. Even though I owned a digital clock at a young age. Perhaps I trusted this one more since it never left its’ place on the wall. I started to think about where it could go in my own home. The trustworthy electronic powered gears would give off an audible hum that could be heard anywhere upstairs in the home. When there was no other noise around, you could always hear this clock rolling along with time.

I remember seeing similar clocks in a few antique shops somewhere and occasionally running into them in different homes I have been in throughout my life. When I see them it takes me back to this place. This old familiar site on the old familiar wall. Where it was surrounded by the sites and smells of many meals, baking, or even just warmth from a tea kettle.

As I walked through the rooms of this house for one final time I had intended to take this old clock with me. I figured I could find a home for it somewhere within the surroundings of my home office. Maybe continue to enjoy the familiar sounds I had become accustomed to for nearly twenty years. It is a sound I would occasionally think of on a few sleepless nights when I was far away from it.

When I returned to the kitchen I reached for the wall with the intention of removing it before I left. I stopped and thought for a second or two about how empty the wall would seem if it was gone. How out of place it would look if I removed it.

It didn’t seem right.

So I walked away from the room for the final time with the clock left in place. Whether it will remain there or not will be left to the new homeowner’s choice. From my perspective, it belongs to this house and on this wall.  This is how I will remember it, regardless of where time takes it next. 

 

June 17, 2014 Update. Hours after this was posted, my brother called me to say that after he read this, he decided he wanted the old clock. So it’s going to stay with the family after all.

 

 

 

 

Peace in a Place, MacPhersons Mills #novascotia #mondayblogs #amwriting #VictoriaDay

 

 

Mills3

A short drive outside of my hometown lies a community tied directly to history. An old grist mill set against the natural backdrop of trails and trees.

This community is home to one of my best friends and his family. His folks still are there in one of my favourite homes ever. A cozy and quiet hamlet for me that was a home away from home.

 

As kids this was one place that always I always looked forward to visiting. If I was to ever spend a weekend here, we would walk down to this old mill a number of times.

Farther beyond the old structures where the mill’s wheel once spun, a perfectly carved old trail leads into the woods running alongside the river seen here which eventually empties out at Park Falls. Often we would walk beyond the paths and end up farther in the woods. Even then it was easy to find our way back.

During summers it was common to walk down here to find many people swimming right here. The water was always cool among the calm surroundings. Legend has it that even on the opposite side of this now worn-out bridge,  someone once dove off and into the water, seat first.

This is known as a Johnny Asscracker. Had he hit some rocks, surely his ass would have been permanently cracked. Incredible courage for sure.

Memories aside, walking down to this place again was not just about “walking to the mill”. Even with the now barricaded bridge and the road closed off to through-flowing traffic, I found something that has been missing from my life over the last few months.

Total peace.

It has been a reminder to me that there are places I can take myself mentally that will allow me to relax and turn my thinking around. This old mill and the community surrounding it is an incredible piece of history. It is a place that I always feel at peace to be in. Where many people come to hear and feel the same cool waters they felt in younger days.

Rural Nova Scotia (and indeed rural anywhere), probably holds a place in the heart of someone. It is in these memories that people can deploy a strong tool of self-comfort. Retreating to places like this in mind and memory can bring a person to an incredibly calm state. A pleasant memory can sometimes be the perfect remedy when you least expect it.

Sit back, and spend a few minutes thinking about places in your life that mean something special to you. Ask yourself where in your past did you find some peaceful and positive memories? How can you bring those memories into the present to help you now? Can it be used as a coping strategy during a dark day?

Make a list of those places. Of those moments. Of those memories. Refer to it often, and you may find some peace that is sorely needed.

 

“You’ll Change Your Mind” #Childfree #mondayblogs

book Cover

No I won’t. There is nothing wrong with the mind I already have.

Among the most supplementary comments to telling someone you do not want to have children is the captioned titled. People automatically assume that a person determined to never have children will just cave in to the societal norm.

Some do change their thinking and become parents. Some of the same people become parents through circumstances that most might call “twists of fate”. It happens all the time.

The childfree, steadfast in their choice, are the likely to start singing a different song. Most will go out of there way to protect the life they want to live. Daily reminders about why they have made the choice are abundantly noticeable. One never has to leave the comfort of home to discover it! It is as simple as turning on the nightly news. Or reading the vast array of headlines and sub-headlines that make their way to the pages of cyberspace. It exists in social media where many parents will share their good days and bad days with everyone.

I’ve commented many times to friends and colleagues who are parents and tell them flatly that I don’t know how they do it. It’s a genuine comment and I mean it with all sincerity. I’ve spent too much time complaining about the lack of time I seem to have for things lately and making a ton of excuses for myself. Something I am working to change. So I could only imagine what a commitment it would be for me to be a parent! It’s just not something that  was ever for me.

When I started writing “Planned UnParenthood” (available at Amazon sites worldwide) several years ago, the idea was to explain the reasoning behind not wanting children and the many things that lead to the decision. As it came together it accomplished that and more. It became a great discussion for me to lay out a male perspective on the childfree subject. Even with the male point of view being prominent in the writing, I make a point to highlight the importance of how this choice should be more celebrated among women. As I have done more reading of various blog sites and connected with readers I am finding that many more women are feeling greater freedom in celebrating their choices. Biology truly is not destiny anymore.

The old expectations are exactly that.

Old.

A thing of the past.

 

 

 

 

Dismissing God. #MondayBlogs #Atheist #Religion

 

Cross Pic

 

Time has a way of making the acceptance of “Reality” much easier.

During one of the last conversations I had with my late Grandmother, she asked me a loaded question with an easy answer.

Are you abandoning your faith?”

To which I promptly responded;

“My faith has abandoned me.”

My Grandmother was a deeply religious person who was brought up in rural Prince Edward Island. As much as she did not understand why I started to question, she certainly accepted it as part of who I was becoming. She never held any of it against me right up to her passing. It was something I still take great comfort in.

At the time of that last conversation I may not have been aware of what my response meant. It was a time when I started to ask so many more questions about the painfully obvious absurdities of all religion, including Christianity. The concept of an over-seer who knows all, sees all and forbids you to live a life of absolute peace and pleasure unless you serve his name, sounds like absolute madness.

It seems a long time ago now that my own personal de-conversion away from Christianity began.  After many years of questioning I finally felt enough courage to ask a few harder questions of others around me that maybe I was afraid to ask before. As a Christian, why was I so easily able to dismiss other seemingly absurd concepts of faith without taking a look at what I was supporting? Once I started to ask more questions, the answers that I would get just seemed to be non-existent without any fresh air of reality. When given answers they started to read like lines out of faraway fabled fiction novels.

As I began to read more about science and the lack of evidence for a God, the questions would get more detailed and dense. The supposed answers started to open my eyes and make me shake my head with disbelief. Having read the New Testament from cover to back, how was I not questioning so many things? How could I so easily dismiss so many quotes in both the New and Old Testament that promoted so many things harmful to society at large? I wanted to seriously enjoy freedom of thought and action and not be concerned about what some supposed invisible entity thinks. After all, I’m pretty sure I pose no threat to society. Why am I supposed to do all kinds of things in working towards an afterlife with no proof that it actually exists? Should I not be enjoying life now? How can churches that are scandal-ridden with criminal convictions involving sex crimes turn a blind eye to these acts and call themselves positively proven paths of faith?

These sample questions are really just a smattering of what myself and many others have asked. With a decline in church and religious enrollment over many parts of the world I am willing to bet these questions are being asked multiple times daily by multiple persons.

As the answers continued to get even more absurd or non-existent I decided it was time to dismiss God from my life once and for all.

So I fired “God” from being part of this life I am living.

To date it has been one of the most freeing things I ever did. Shortly after being able to admit that I could call myself an Atheist I began to feel an immediate release of anger that I held towards religion. When one leaves religion completely there can be a sense of betrayal felt. Some people feel that perhaps all of the time spent in church was a waste. For a period of time this was something I very much thought of constantly.  With my Dad’s sudden passing I became more angry again at religion and took it out against a system of belief he cherished and served for decades. A supposedly loving and supportive God would have saved the life of a man who served him so faithfully.

I’ve come to the conclusion that church ultimately was not a waste of time. It has provided me with a detailed memory bank of certain things that stand out as to some of the reasons why I dismissed it all. To draw a job-related reference, I handed “God” and religion a pink slip for things like convincing people to ignore science and forcing recitations of horrendously spoken passages of words. These words when spoken by a crowd mimic the sounds of a chorus of bad radio announcers. These are absolutely ridiculous mantras which prove nothing and merely tell a story that has become hard to believe. involving waking the dead and having them magically float away. It is even harder to believe now that millions of people believe it to be true!

As mentioned, there is a phase of  leaving religion that involves the immediate release of anger towards all religions including the one a person has just left. Part of that anger can be a result of alienation from friends and family who cannot accept your choice of free thought. Most people do not want their religion questioned. You can easily pull at least one news story a week from where people are mercilessly murdered because of religious differences. Families have been divided and torn apart because of religious indifference.

It does happen.

It is also true that religion seems to give many people a false sense of moral superiority over others. It is absolutely incredible to think that some people believe a conviction based on supposed morals should come first before the application of all administrative and protective laws. Funny thing is you would never see many of these same people declare that same sense of moral superiority in the context of violence. Using morals which may have come from religion as a false front of supposed fairness is undeniably a delusional framework for disaster.

In my first book “Planned UnParenthood Creating A Life Without Procreating”, I openly challenge the notion that many parents claim they supposedly teach children to think for themselves. Parents will say this then turn around and force their children to attend Sunday services in an act of subtle hypocrisy. Children who are truly taught to think for themselves should be told about what religion is and that they should do their own reading about it if they are interested. Parents who can truly teach right from wrong can surely educate their kids to be open-minded and to challenge common perceptions among different beliefs. As a kid if any of my Sunday school classmates challenged any concept of “God” they would have been for sure sentenced to some sort of religiously permissible reprimand.

I remember during one Sunday school class project there was a penny drive to raise funds for those affected by the famine in Ethiopia.  Apparently by raising a whopping 8 dollars and 2 cents God was pleased with us and would help make sure this money would get to Ethiopia.

Years later I have realized there are a few things wrong with this classroom exercise.

1. It would have cost more than  8 dollars to transport these pennies to the famine-struck African nation;

2. If God was planning to help transport this money, did he own Federal Express or UPS? I would have asked for full disclosure of his financial interests here; and,

3.  If God really did exist there would have been no famine in the first place and the nation would be able to flourish.

Religion has received a free ride for far too long. Many church goers are complaining about dropping attendances and unfairly blaming whatever they can on the decline. Reality is that many people are becoming freethinkers. God is getting dismissed by more people who ask the tough questions that need to be asked.  Especially when they are getting no answers. Those people are beginning to gain confidence to ask questions of their faith. They are learning to see through much of the smoke and mirrors that religion creates.

Above all, more people are learning to trust and accept “Reality”.

Dann Alexander is a freelance writer based just outside of Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada.  His book “Planned UnParenthood Creating A Life Without Procreating” is available on Amazon and other online retailers worldwide.  

http://amzn.to/PUJsmQ  - Amazon U.S. Listing for Planned UnParenthood Creating A Life Without Procreating. 

A recent collection of short fiction “Throwing Dice” is available through Amazon and Lulu Press.