Mid-Life Man


Band gigs have not been as frequent lately, mostly because we refuse to work for just about nothing I guess, and that’s where the economy seems to be driving prices for bands around these parts. Gail and I have been doing more gigs as a duo, so we fired up a new website. It’s super simple, but I like it. Dive in at GailandKarl.com

Gail and Karl, and Jay

I don’t know if this will help you play guitar better, but in a way maybe it will. I’ve been inspired by Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why. It makes sense to me.

I am very much at a point in my life where I want to simplify things. I have a long history of embracing new technologies; sometimes slowly and reluctantly, and sometimes I’m in the ‘early adopter’ crowd. Lately though, it just seems to me that along with all the cool things that a technology can bring (Twitter can be useful) there is also more noise. We are turning up the noise all the time. Sure there are lots of ideas and products and services and bright shiny things, but ultimately what is it all for? Or maybe I can ask, WHY is it all for?

Is it right to be all excited about the next iPad when our local food bank is still needed (and in fact is growing yearly)? Okay, a new iPad might be exciting news, but it’s a question of perspective. I get excited by new guitars from Fender and Gibson, because I love guitars. But I really don’t believe that whoever dies with the most toys wins. It ain’t so. It’s about being here now, being awake. And I think starting with why is part of that process of staying in the moment, of being awake to life.

Anyway, Nico Boesten has put up an excellent post that includes an 18-minute video I recommend anyone watch, along with a transcript of the talk that Simon Sinek gave at TEDx explaining the idea behind Start With Why. Do check it out.

Two gigs this week, tomorrow night at the Summerhill Pyramid Winery and Saturday night at The Hooded Merganser in Penticton. The Gibson J-45 will handle everything tomorrow and mostly everything on Saturday. Can’t wait!

The mighty J-45 in action

Mrs. Electricbard found some old pictures today. Was I really that young once? From left to right, Linda McRae, Rick, me, Gail.

Linda, Rick, me and Gail in Vancouver, early 80s

Laurel and Hardy deliver a pianoThe Steinway piano is to pianos what Rolls Royce is to cars. It may not be everyone’s favourite, but its’ name is synonymous with the best that money can buy. And so it was with great anticipation that we music students awaited the arrival of a Steinway grand at our college. We already had a Yamaha grand piano, but this—a Steinway—this was something else altogether.

The big day came, and the piano, still in its’ crate, was carted into the music building. There were several of us hanging around that day, and we were keen to help the college facility guys un-crate the piano. The piano teacher would have none of it, insisting that we must wait until a local piano technician is available to oversee the whole procedure. We assured her there was nothing to worry about. We were just going to help these guys get it out of the crate and mount it on its’ legs, and since there were so many of us here today, it was a good time to do it. Maybe when the technician arrived, there wouldn’t be so many people around to help him. She fluttered around like a bird whose nest is under attack, a picture of nervous anxiety. We men got on with the job, and she left the room, no doubt to track down the piano technician at once.

If you’ve ever seen a grand piano delivered in a crate you’ll know that they’re delivered with the legs and pedals detached. The piano is stood on edge in the crate, and that’s how they’re able to fit them through doorways.

The facility guys got a crowbar and started pulling off one side of the crate, revealing the dull black lid-side of the piano. When the side of the crate was completely removed, they walked around to the other side. All of the students walked around to the other side too, to watch the work in progress. Except for me. Something told me it just wasn’t a good idea, with the piano on its’ side like that, for everyone to be standing on one side of it. So I stood there, hands in pockets, while the un-crating continued on the other side. Suddenly after one vigorous jerk with the crowbar, the piano did a little bounce and flopped—if you can imagine a Steinway grand “flopping”—my way. I was about to be crushed by a flopping great Steinway.

In an instant, my hands came out of my pockets and came up between me and the Steinway. Time stood still, more or less. I stood pretty still, too, palms pressed against the lid, knees bent, back swayed. Everyone stood there motionless, silent, like they were expecting me to just push it back upright. Finally I gave out a little grunt that meant “hey, could use a hand over here” and a bunch of guys rushed around to my side and we got the piano back. What happened next was a real guy moment. We all stood looking at each other, and it was understood that we had just had a real close call, and a silent pact was being made that we would absolutely not mention this to the piano teacher or any of the faculty.

Finally someone said to me, “I have never seen someone move so fast in their lives”. Having to catch a piano will do that to you. You will move faster, be stronger, than you ever thought you could. But like any hero, I just did what I had to do.

BBC story on Lennon

A few years ago I got past the denial stage and finally acquiesced to acquiring eyeglasses. I hadn’t read CD liner notes (anyone remember what a pre-recorded music CD from a store looks like?) for a couple of years before that, and no kind of squinting was working any more. I could not see the small print, but I did see the writing on the wall.

Without my glasses on, I now notice a lot of design elements that I never did before. It’s been surprising to discover just how many gadgets and packages come with such small printing, directions, instructions or interfaces, that without my glasses I have no hope of operating them. I cannot tear along the dotted line, I cannot plug the headphones into the hole marked headphone symbol because the symbol is just slightly raised off its’ same-coloured background and I cannot make it out any better than Helen Keller could have. I cannot open this end only, see details below, and read the fine print that all smart shoppers are applauded for reading. In short, without my glasses, I have to live in the macro world. The micro has become, if not invisible, very fuzzy to me now.

As a kid in the summer, I typically spent a lot of time outside. This was OK because back in those days the planet was protected by something we used to call the “ozone layer” (feel free here to make quotation marks with your hands, a la Dr. Evil). And spending all that time outdoors, we became acquainted with bugs and insects, and the details of things growing in the garden. A big treat was to look at anything, and I mean anything, under a microscope. As a kid, it’s easy to live in the micro world. The macro world is for grownups. Cuban missile crisis? Whatever, kids want to know how rockets work, and whether we can build one in the back yard.

As grownups, we are encouraged to see the big picture, plan ahead, think globally whilst acting locally and all that. Very macro stuff. (Sing with me, “Macro macro man, I want to be a Macro man”). I think this has something to do with that saying of stop and smell the roses. It’s back to a micro world, where little things mean a lot. When you watch folks even older than me, many of them seem to have found their way back to that micro world, at least part of the time.

Once in a while, I guess, it’s good to sweat the details, read the fine print, and take a close look at the bugs outside your house. But whether you find yourself living large or small, macro or micro, stay curious. If you’re not learning, you’re dying.

Hockey fan, oh yeah, and start up guru, Guy Kawasaki wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey. Click on the picture to go to his excellent blog
When you’re watching a soccer game (football to some), the clock ticks up to note how much time has passed. The actual time the game will end is a little fuzzy, ultimately up to the referee to decide. I think a lot of us live our lives that way. We know it’s going to end, but not sure when, exactly, so we kind of run around, trying to work with others towards a common goal.

In the game of ice hockey, the clock ticks down to show you how much time is left. Hence, the familiar announcement “last minute of play…”, which usually spurs the players into one last effort to do whatever it is they can to win the game. So I got to thinking, what if my life was timed that way. If I was given the rules of the game early on, say, “you have 65 years, 3 months, and 5 days to live, and there will be no overtime, no scoring shoot outs. You get to play regulation time only”, what would I have done differently with the time I’ve “played” so far? What would my “game strategy” have been? Would I play defensively, try to stay out of the penalty box? Or maybe offensively, driving to score on every shift? Maybe casually, like hey, it’s just a game?

Of course the game strategy we employ as adults is very much the result of our upbringing. Were we raised in an atmosphere of conservative pragmatism, dreamy optimism, or a confused mix of both? Was it OK to be ourselves growing up? Is it OK to be ourselves now?

Well, thinking backwards from the end is something some of us can do, and those lives give rise to phrases like “living for today”, “live each day as if it were your last”, and so on. If I were living today as if it were my last, what would I do today? Party like it’s 1999? Or get the Dalai Lama on the phone for some last minute advice?

So guys, we’re in the game, the clock is ticking down, and if our game strategy hasn’t made us feel like winners so far, maybe we need to call a time out, have a chat with our peers and the coach (hmmm, maybe finding a coach is a good idea at this point), and figure out how we’re going to play out the remaining time. Because wouldn’t we really prefer to have our victory in the bag before the clock runs out?