The Death Of Music

Is all good music gone?
Was it killed by a man in the still of the night
Kicked in the darkness till it bled daylight
Before I was full grown?

Or did it just ffffade away?
Into the darkness an old friend of mine
And though I said I would be I wont be fine.
I guess I’ll go my own way.

Will it ever return? I don’t know, I cant say.
I don’t like it but I guess things happen that way.
At least that’s what Johnny told me before he too went away
On a jet plane.

Music used to speak to me.
It was true like ice, true like fire
But even walls fall down; down to the wire
Let it be, Let it be.

The day that music died,
I had someone tell me not to cry
The circle would be unbroken by and by,
Just let your backbone slide.

But when music is gone, where does it go?
Is there an Afterlife for the songs I miss?
Or is music just a Reflektor of a kiss
That hits me as the chariots swing low?

Maybe just when you feel it you don’t,
And just when you find it, it’s gone.
Taken away with miss atomic bomb
In some dustland fairy-tale.

Or what if music is still there?
Like that girl with diamonds on the soles of her shoe
Or the wolves with eyes all Sinatra blue
If you’re bold enough to stare.

Perhaps it’s just in hiding
Swallowing its dreams with cans of regret
Or laying in wait with Benny and the Jets
To come up for the rising.

Maybe good music never really died
And we don’t need sympathy for the devil
In his rotten lair of evil beyond evil
With no tunes to ease his worried mind.

Oh music! I’ll write you a letter tomorrow
But tonight I can’t hold a pen to ink your name
Even though Amy told me Love is a Losing game
I’ll find some damn paper to borrow.

And tomorrow. I’ll write you.

The Cliffs of Insanity

There is something in being carried by the waves.

Perhaps it is beautiful, although it is hard to say, really. To me, it is more the vague yet overwhelming sense of greatness, of beyond, which pulls me to the sea. There is wonder, yes, but there can also be fear.

Can you get used to being powerless? The waves can be your friends, but only if you know how to let them, otherwise, you realize very quickly that your life is not your own out there: you belong to the sea. There can be a release in this knowledge, however, and once you accept that you are no longer yours, you can, in fact, get used to being powerless. I know this, and yet it remains a daily struggle. Something I have to remember, and commit to everyday. Is it worth it? Every damn second.

—–

“You’ve got to pull it HARD.” My father’s voice called to me from the back of the skiff.

I didn’t look. I couldn’t. We were in the middle of a storm. And not one of those storms that roll in to Vancouver after losing half of their strength on the islands blocking the coast. No. This was a real storm, and it was like nothing I had ever seen. The swells rocking our boat were well over two meters high, and despite my familiarity with the open water, as well as my natural affinity for the ocean, I was having a hard time keeping my stomach calm.

I reached up again, having almost fallen overboard with my last attempt to pull the slip knot on the mainstay, but just as I did, we crested another wave and began tipping downwards once more. You’d think I would have seen this coming, as we had been experiencing swells like this for over an hour, but I was thrown off balance, and almost hurled over the side again. Gritting my teeth in fear and frustration, I regained my balance and quickly pulled the rope. The knot came loose, and I turned back around to see my father grinning at me in pride, his sailors hat dripping with salt water from the crashing waves. I grinned back at him, and returned to the prow of the ship.

“That’s my boy.” The silly smile was still on his lips as I came back beside him to where he was steering the ship into the oncoming waves.

“Thanks, Dad.”

He looked over at me sideways. “That was a close one, hey?”

“I guess. Almost went over the side at one point, but I knew I could do it.”

“Oh?”

“Ya. I knew I could.”

“Me too. You are my son, with whom–“

“Ya. Ya.” I said, punching him lightly in the arm, but he just looked at me sideways, a glint of amusement in his eyes.

He wasn’t a big man, and there was a vitality to him; a strength of will, and character that to me seemed almost superhuman, at least at the time. I always had the impression that he was stronger than he let on, too, but he was constantly checking himself, limiting his strength. Not for his own purposes, but for the sake of those around him.

“Self-control.” He used to say. “That is the real measure of a man. It doesn’t matter how big, it doesn’t matter how smart, how able, how rich, or how kind. If a man doesn’t have self control, he’s not really a man.”

I never quite knew what he meant at the time, but now that he is gone and I have more time to think about those words I think I am beginning to see.

——-

I can trace my own masculinity, my own feelings of manliness and my ability to be a man, right back to my father. This was the greatest gift he ever gave me. Not the money, not the house, not the friends – although many of them are wonderful – not even the boat compares. My father taught me how to be a man, and this has proven invaluable. I see men nowadays, although in most cases I am reluctant to call them that, and they have no idea who they are. They have no clue what it means to be a man. Their fathers never taught them. Perhaps their fathers were absent, although more likely than not, it was more of an emotional absence than a physical one. There was a time when fathers taught their sons, and brought them into manhood, but masculinity has been trampled on until it became nigh unrecognizable. Father’s used to teach their son’s their trade, but if you ask me, that was just a backdrop, a foundation for the larger goal: manhood. Nowadays, manhood consists of feats of physical strength, sexual pursuits, and drunkenness; and no fathers are required for these sorts of lessons, only other hormonal and developing friends who have no idea who they are or what it truly means to be a man. Thus, we have an entire culture that is bred on this sort of reckless selfishness.

Self-control. A simple concept, yet extremely difficult to achieve. I grew up reading fantasy novel: stories like the Princess Bride, and Harry Potter, with men who would brave anything for the ones they love. That seems pretty manly, but was my father on to something? Is the true mark of manhood self-control?

——-

For many years, when I was a child, my father would take me sailing in the summer, and so from an early age I learned to yearn for distant shores and the salty wind rushing through my hair.

“See those cliffs?” My father asked me.

I looked over. “Yep, how could I miss them?”

“Those are the Cliffs of Insanity.”

“The what?”

“The Cliffs of Insanity. It is rumored that they are impossible to scale, but they draw people to them because of their haunting beauty, like water you can’t drink, an itch you cant scratch. They drive people mad.” His face was serious, but I could see his lips curling ever so slightly, so I knew he was trying to pull one over on me.

“Well,” I said, “Are you going to go crazy too?”

“Nope.” Slinging his one arm around my shoulder while steering the wheel with the other, he replied, “I don’t need to climb them to prove anything. I have everything I need right here.”

We watched for a bit, looking at the cliffs and soaking in their warmth and allure.

“Dad?”

“Yes?”

“Why did mom leave? I know you asked her not to.”

My father sighed then, and as I looked up at him from the crook of his arm, I saw a sadness come over his recently happy face.

“Son, I made a mistake.” He paused briefly and then continued. “Well, actually, I made a lot of mistakes. I did things I am not proud of, and I pushed your mother away.” He knelt down to look me straight in the eyes. “She didn’t want to leave. Not at first anyways, but eventually… I guess she didn’t feel like she had a choice.” His words trailed off then, and he looked past me, off into the distance.

“What did you do, Dad?” My voice was small, but I had to know.

He looked at me then, and there was pain in his eyes. “I put myself before her.” He swallowed. “I allowed my desires, the things that I wanted, to take me over, so I lost her, and the only reason she didn’t take you with her is because I’m a lawyer, otherwise, I would have lost you too.”

I thought about what he said for a while, and he just looked at me, and I could tell he half expected me to hate him after what he had just said, but for some reason, I didn’t.

“But you would never do that to me?”

“NO.” He said it firmly, and now I could see something different in his eyes. Resolve. “Never you. Son, I would never hurt you, and I’ve learned my lesson. I …” I could see him fighting back tears, but I let him finish. He smiled shakily, and a lonely tear dripped down his face, but when he spoke, his voice was strong. “I’ve learned my lesson,” He repeated.

 “So then why hasn’t mom come back?”

“It doesn’t work that way.”

“Doesn’t it?” I asked, desperately wanting him to change his answer.

“Life doesn’t always go the way you want it son, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be happy, okay?”

“Okay.”

——-

What happens when you give up power; when you cede your own control over a situation in order that someone might learn to grow? This act of giving up, of becoming powerless, requires hope; but ultimately, it requires trust that the circumstances will work out favorably, and that you will not be burned as a result. Knowing when to use your power, and when to limit it. This requires wisdom, sure, but it also requires an act of the will, and if a man is not in control of his will, is he truly a man?

——-

Have you ever seen the Princess Bride? Or perhaps read the book? Either way, in the beginning, as Vizzini, Inigo and Fezzik make off with the princess (followed closely by the man in black), they sail to what are called “The Cliffs of Insanity,” which are impossibly high crags that overlook the sea. Just off of Nanaimo, and on the far side of the Georgia Strait when coming from Vancouver, there is an Island called Valdes which contains similar cliffs. Although they are by no means a match for those in the Princess Bride, my father and I used to call them by the same name as we sailed past: The Cliffs of Insanity.

I am sailing past them now once again, many years later. They are much the same as they were then – daunting as ever, and quite a spectacle. Especially when hit by the setting sun they become streaked with soft hues of pink and yellow. The furrows and pockmarks have been weathered into the cliff like the lines of age on an old mans face – a lively and vigorous old man, to be fair.

It is a perfect day. There is a strong north-easterly wind pulling me up through the Broughton Archipelago, and the sun has yet to reach its zenith. I can hear the waves gently splashing the sides of my skiff as I make my way steadily up past the cliffs of insanity, and on towards my destination.

Bunny Beatings and Belated Bawling

It’s spring. The trees are in blossom, the sun is shining gently on the lower mainland, and I am doing what any sensible teenager does in those conditions: lying in bed reading. As I lay there on the bottom bunk of the bed, undoubtedly making my way through yet another fantasy novel, my brother who shared the room with me saunters in. My back was to him and the rest of the room, but I could see him in my peripherals, rustling through his trove of Easter chocolate.

“Hey! did you eat some of my chocolate.” He asked forcefully.
Not bothered by this regular and factually unfounded question, I mumbled that no, I did not. Unsatisfied with my answer, he asked me again, and if I had been looking, I would undoubtedly have seen an evil glint to his eyes. Once again I responded. This time, more forcefully myself, “Why would I eat your chocolate? I have tons of my own.”

This was true. In fact, I had more chocolate than I knew what to do with, but he was, for whatever reason, constantly suspicious of my eating his chocolate, despite there being zero precedence for such an occurrence.

Over my shoulder, I see him move from his pile of chocolate to mine. Of course, it took me a few seconds to realize what he was doing, but as he began cramming MY chocolate into his mouth, I clued in. Vexed with his incredulous imbecility, I put my book down and got out of the bottom bunk.

“What are you doing?” He asked me.

Saying nothing, I circled around him to his own pile of chocolate and proceeded to take hold of his large, dense, chocolate bunny. Realizing my intentions, my brother lunged and grabbed me from behind, but after a brief struggle, and despite his being much older and larger than me, I unwrapped the bunny, and in a moment of ecstatic triumph I bit off a large chunk from the bunnies head. Thinking the moment over, and the conflict resolved, I naively ceased struggling and dropped the bunny, presuming to return to my book. Of course, my brother had something else in mind. Grabbing the chocolate bunny, he once more latched onto me from behind. This time, however, he began beating me over the head with the solid chocolate rabbit. In pain, I began pleading with my older brother to stop hitting me, but he was deaf to my cries. In desperation I struggled against him, and we crashed around the room knocking into things and creating a ruckus. This proved my saviour, as my father stormed into the room and separated us. I rushed across then hall and into the bathroom whilst tears of indignant rage began spilling down my face, hurt by my role model, and more angry than I had ever been before. It was the first time I had cried in three years.

The Pope

The Pope

The two boys were wandering aimlessly in the back field behind the house, hacking at bushes with sticks, and attacking the new grove of trees which dwarfed the fearless children.

“Did you know that the Pope can speak nine languages?” John asked suddenly.

Will looked over from where he was whacking the trunk of a tree a few feet away.

“Nine?” He asked skeptically.

“Yup.” John replied seriously. “He speaks English, Polish, Italian, and, well, some others, I guess.”

“That’s a lot.” Will remarked. “I guess you have to know a lot of languages to be the pope.”

John just nodded his head as if this were only natural, and the boys promptly resumed their work, destroying invisible enemies and pursuing valiant deeds with wooden swords

The Hero of the Valley

He was an impulsive child. The most recurring comment on his report cards throughout both elementary and high school was: “He is intelligent, but rushes through his work and makes mistakes.” But this never got his spirits down. He was a dreamer; if he wasn’t reading about heroes and villains, elves and orcs, angels and demons, then he was off fighting them with his friends, imagining himself as a classical hero; that or he was playing one video game or another where he was the protagonist of some epic journey.

When the night of his grade seven graduation came, he was excited for the awards ceremony in which he was hoping to receive the proper accolades fitting for a hero such as he. But as the night went on, and the awards were given to churlish ignoramus like Adam, or incompetent swine like Nick R, he was beginning to understand how real life worked. Real life heroes were a lot less cool than the ones he had read about. He realized that the books had been lying to him. And them came the fatal blow, the castration, the decapitation, the spiritual emancipation: his twin sister won the final award.

Disappointed.

By: Alec Gloanec 

Me, The Gates of Hell, My Father, and a Demon

 

Last night I dreamt. Apparently normal, but not for me. I have never been much of a dreamer, and what dreams I do have I either forget shortly or they become garbled up in my head. This dream was different. You hear some people tell you of their nightly excursions: how they have conversations and epic fantasies at night to make up for their dull lives. This dream was like that. I remember it vividly as if I was truly there, experiencing everything with all five senses. Which, of course, shocked me and left me scared shitless, shivering in my bead. That night, I died.

——

Since I was probably 12 years old, I have had an extreme fear of dying. This always perplexed me because I have never been that scared of anything, but thinking of death -the great unknown- leaves me shivering in terror. This life is tangible, and as messed up and confusing as can be, I love it. Dying seems like stepping off of a cliff with the hope that there is a river at the bottom to catch you in its tender embrace, but with the equally likely possibility that you may simply fall, and an abyss that never ends swallows you up; a darkness so intense and pure that thought and life are meaningless. That night, I stepped off the cliff, shouting soundlessly until the darkness received me.

I opened my eyes to the glare of the sun shining down on me like that of some demonic being, red and sweltering. Sensation poured through my body in a rush and as my addled senses returned to me I came to several realizations. First off, I was in a terrible amount of pain; my skin was burned and blistered, my throat dryer than the dessert sand on which I was being dragged. Yes dragged. That was the second thing. My arms were tied, and I was being pulled slowly through a vast expanse of nothingness. The sand was flat, no rolling dunes, nothing. Not a grain moved. Not even my passage across the blankness marred the unblemished blandness of a place devoid of life.

I looked down at myself to find my groin covered by a loincloth, it was the only article of clothing I had. I gave a soft, choked sort of groan. No wonder I was burned and blistered, have I mentioned the sun? I tried to get a look behind me at my captor but was unsuccessful. Apparently when your back is raw and bleeding and your arms are tied behind your head it’s hard to contort your body certain ways… go figure. After a tedious amount straining, I finally got a look at him. I say him, although I wasn’t really sure what he was. He looked like a man, but he was cloaked all in black, shadows seemed to emanate from him and I would have bet money that -had I been standing close enough to him- the air would have been cool. The sun didn’t seem to bother him. I tried to say something, anything to get his attention, but my throat could produce nothing more than a pathetic croak, so I contented myself with relaxing as much as you can while burned, blistered, raw, and being dragged through a god-forsaken dessert.

I looked before me. Unmarked sand stretched on forever, it seemed, giving me no clear idea of how I had gotten where I was, or how long I had been dragged for. Judging by the state of my body however, it must have been quite a while.

The dessert was quiet, the only sound came from my breathing and the whisper of my captor’s cloak. Well, my sluggish brain suggested, this is either hell, purgatory or some other shitty place, because I remember dying and this sure wasn’t heaven. If it was hell, then it was pretty bad but not as bad as it could have been, and, if purgatory, well I didn’t feel like I was being purified. That left, well… I don’t know, what did that leave? Is there something like purgatory for hell? Because that would make sense in a sick, demented sort of way. This was my preparation for an eternity of pain. With this conclusion reached, I passed out.

I awoke to the same sounds; the same place. And as this realization set in, I began to sob, or choke really because of my dry throat. A few miserable tears slid down my face and dried up while I railed at the injustice of it all. And I was dragged.

An indefinite amount of time later I pushed out a word. One word. The only one that came to me.

“Please.” I begged, and was met with a cold, dark chuckle.

“Son where I come from, that word doesn’t even exist.”

I considered asking him again or arguing with him about it, but I found myself incapable of either, that one word having taken up all my strength.

The dragging continued. I couldn’t twist around far enough to see where we were going, but I felt fairly certain I didn’t want to get there, although if it meant an end to this hellish trip through the dessert, I might welcome a number of previously unthinkable hardships. My eyes lost focus and thought abandoned me for a time, although I remained conscious. Suddenly my gaze sharpened on something in the horizon. There was a smudge that had not been there a while before, and it was directly in our trail. There was something in this dessert of nothing… this had to be a good thing.

If this something wasn’t there before, and it was now directly in our path that meant… that meant it must be moving, and moving faster than we were. If so, it might catch up, and maybe this thing would help me! I felt the first stirrings of hope I had had since dying. Of course, it could have been something in league with my captor, in which case I probably didn’t want it to catch up, but I hoped anyways.

Soon after spotting this something, my thoughts became filled with a number of demonic monstrosities which came upon me as if forced down my throat, images I had never seen before which left me trembling in fear. I heard another chuckle come from the manlike creature (he sounded like a man too).

I forced myself to discard the alien and terrifying images, and trained my gaze back upon the smudge. It was getting bigger slowly, and as I twisted to view my captor again, I saw the hood of his cloak turn as he gazed behind me at the something. He cursed softly to himself and I strained to get a look at his face, but it was hidden in the shadows of his cowl. He glanced briefly in my direction and then turned around again. Our pace increased, and I dropped back down feeling elated. If my dragger didn’t like the smudge, it must mean they disagreed as to the nature of my captivity. Of course, the new form on the horizon might also be crueler than my original captor but at that point, I couldn’t see things getting much worse.

As the smudge grew closer. I began to make it out. It looked like a man wearing a plain looking beige robe. I heard the demon (that’s what I figure he was) behind me snarl and as he did I felt a change, we were suddenly going up a slope. The man was drawing steadily closer, and I realized that he was running, right for us and as the distance between us closed I could feel his gaze fixed upon me with an intensity I couldn’t bear. This man was running at me as if his life depended on it, although I’m sure it was mine that really did, and despite my hope at salvation, my gaze shied away from his. I looked back up and my breath caught. It was my Father.

What was he doing here? How had we both ended up in this hellish dessert, and why was he wearing a robe? I saw his gaze slip past me and anguish tore at his features as he redoubled his pace. I started to struggle against my captor with what little strength I had to bear, and he snarled again and cuffed my head, rendering me senseless for a few moments. My father got closer and shouted to me

“SON”.

He said that one word in a fearful and pain filled voice. I had never heard him say it like that before. In life, my father had been distant, a cold sort of man who shunned most emotions, calling them useless. He was a businessman and emotions couldn’t make money, so he discarded them. Never had I seen him show his feelings, let alone fear… for me.

To put it mildly, I was stunned, shocked, and almost appalled. Did I want this man’s love after a lifetime of distance? Part of me would like to say that I didn’t need him and never had, but the truth is, I had never needed him more. Perhaps, I realized, I was the distant one and, his eyes had always held the warmth and concern I saw in them now, maybe I forced him out of my life because I didn’t think I deserved to be loved. Maybe not. Either way I couldn’t respond, my mouth wasn’t listening to me. “Not my son” he shouted at the demon, “NOT MY SON”.

The demon put on a sharp burst of speed and started laughing his cold chuckle. It seems we had reached my destination. Straining with everything I had, I looked past my enslaver and realization dawned upon me. Up ahead was the edge of  a cliff on which stood a gateway. It was made out of iron that was glowing red with infused heat. I shuddered, these were the gates of hell, where else could we be?

That’s when I woke up. Anticlimactic right? I was covered in sweat and shivering in the dark, grateful that it had all been some hellishly demented dream. But despite all that, I couldn’t help feeling disappointed at not knowing how things would have finished between me, the gates of hell, my father and a demon.

By: Alec Gloanec