The first time I met her was at a bus stop in front of Lakeport high school at night. I was headed to my first high school dance. It was grade nine, and my christian high school didn’t have dances, for whatever biblical reasons, and I was nervous.
Jen was already too cool for school dances. She was leaving the dance–she had better and more interesting things to do and cooler people to hang out with. She was dressed in all black, the jeans tight on her skinny legs, her long red hair had a slight feather to it and the wings of her eyeliner were extended further than I had ever seen on anyone since the 80s.
Her tough exterior and aloof coolness were intimidating to this square and dorky church girl. The friend I was with introduced us, and I felt lame. I was definitely not as cool as this girl and there’s no way she’d want to be friends with lame preppy little me. She was rock and roll. She was Jen Hatcher.
The following year, I transferred schools, and started attending Lakeport myself. But badass Jen had already been kicked out of Lakeport or some shit, so our paths never really crossed again, until much much later. That brief meeting must have made some impression on the both of us, though, because years later we met up again, and there was no question that we knew each other.
I was in university at the time, and had landed my then dream job, working at Scizzions as the receptionist. Jen was working as a stylist at the same salon, and was a bit standoffish at first. I’m certain she had kept her distance because of my lame quotient, but running into me at a Sick Boys rock show upped my cool factor by about a million. So then we were friends.
We worked together almost every day for 5 years, along side our other co-workers, and I often describe that time as “working with my best friends everyday”. The pranks we pulled were outrageous and often ended in uncontrollable giggle fests while clients were left waiting for their hair cuts and colours. We took liberties with each other’s personal property that no coworkers should ever take but our senses of humour made it work. The laughs and our friendship extended far beyond the walls of the salon as we often spent our free time together too…smoking cigarettes, sharing secrets and spilling drinks for hours before passing out on each other’s couches.
I learned a lot about Jen in that time, and we became very very close friends–Another unique friendship with a special soul that I have been so fortunate to collect in my lifetime. So please, let me tell you all about her. My friend, Jen.
My friend Jen was born in the 70’s and grew up in the 80’s. She’s always loved (hair) metal, which is totally weird for someone our age. I liked metal for a spell in the 80’s, when I wanted to be like my babysitter. I listened to Motley Crue’s Theatre of Pain, maybe more than most 8 year olds, but Jen loved it all. Motley Crue, Quiet Riot, even Ratt. She’s been to more Cinderella concerts than is even conceivable for someone in their 30’s and if there was a world record for use of the kyuss in everyday life, she’d own it. Jen is a skid. A rockin’ 80’s skid.
But beyond her skiddy tastes in music, is a beautiful and loving sweet soul. She is the kindest, most gentle human you’ll ever get the chance to meet. She is friendly and cheerful, and has hoards of friends. She is bright and sunny and motivated and ambitious. She’s even sensitive, though she’s not likely to admit it. She is empathetic and loving and wonderful. She is the truest of the true, the bluest of the blue and the best god damned friend you could ever ask for.
Jen Hatcher has been there for me in some of the most difficult and trying times in my life. Always offering a shoulder to cry on, a hand to lend, or pages of words encouraging me to do something with my life. Urging me to follow my dreams. Pushing me to turn my life around when there was no one else that could do that for me. She was there cheering me on and chairing my fan club when I felt alone and scared and was ready to give up.
She’s tougher than tough, stronger than strong and has endured some extremely challenging times in her life–things that could literally crush anyone’s soul. And she has lived through it all with remarkable grace and poise and patience. The world would be a better place if we would all strive to be just a little more like her.
I could go on for days, and it still wouldn’t do her justice. I am so lucky to have such a incredible and amazing friendship with Rock and Roll Jen. I never saw it coming that cool autumn some 20 years ago as Meatloaf blared from the high school gym. But beyond the eyeliner and tight jeans was an extraordinary spirit so unique and special who has come to mean so much to me. Ultimately, I’m writing because I’m inspired by her and I’m grateful every single day to have her in my corner.
My friend Jen. Keep on rockin’, you skid.
There are few things in life (aside from my children and husband) that make me happier than making mixed cds, wandering the streets of Toronto or cooking brunch for friends. I seem to easily forget that this holy trinity is the simplest way to get me out of any sort of funk, and remind me that there is so much in life to love–no matter how much this child screams in my face.
I was reminded of these things a few weekends ago when I managed to pull off said trifecta. I went for long stroll, heading west along Queen, from Bathurst to Beaconsfield, while wearing, and sometimes nursing my baby. Martin and MG were at the soccer game so I had the afternoon alone with Alice. It had been quite a long week, with a lot of face screaming and pacing and gripe water. Baby Alice is quite different from Marigold, who slept constantly and barely cried. However, Alice sleeps at night, and is usually only fussy in the evenings so I will try my best not to complain. Anyways, a long walk was much needed therapy for my tired soul.
The next day, my old pal AQP came over for a delicious brunch (sadly, no pictures!) and I was reminded of the magic that is a home cooked Sunday brunch. I used to pull off amazing brunch feats back in the day, almost every weekend, when I wasn’t too hungover or craving a traditional from Sneak’s. Still high from the brunch success, later that night I busted out the old laptop that hosts all of my music. I haven’t yet transferred my iTunes library to my new machine, so I sadly spend most of my time listening to internet radio these days. Every time I get out that old machine, open up iTunes and hit play, it’s like I’ve taken drugs. Really awesome drugs.
I was reminded while out on my Saturday stroll, that a friend’s birthday was just around the corner. This chum really appreciates my handmade efforts–I usually go above and beyond to ensure her gifts, for whatever occasion, are out of this world. I also know that she really appreciates a good mixed cd and making a mix makes me insanely happy! It’s the only opportunity I have to play DJ in this life-piling the songs into the playlist, to curate and organize once I’ve made my way through the entire library. Sometimes the cd’s have a theme or constraint, making it tricky to deliver, but this time, all I needed were songs I liked.
For this project, it was tough to narrow it down to 80 minutes of music, but I managed to cram some ska, reggae, soul, grunge and 50’s/60’s oldies into the mix. I think there’s even some 90’s alternative on there. I typically arrange the cd like sets and I listen to the beginnings and endings of songs over and over to make sure it all jives. And then, once I’m satisfied, I give it a full listen from beginning to end, to make sure it’s perfect.
The songs on that cd entitled “Songs I like, Cuz I Like You” include some of my all time favourites that still hold up today. The recipient, I’m sure, won’t love it all, but I know for certain that she will love hearing the opening beats of the Wanderer, by Dion. Everyone loves hearing it. If you know someone who doesn’t love it, I would like to hear about it–because I find that hard to believe.
I am sure that I first heard Dion when sleeping over at my friends house as a kid. We’ve been friends since the day I was born and we’re still friends today! She lived with her mom and older sister, and her step dad. I remember the sisters rolling their eyes to me when I would sleep over about how their step dad would probably come home later that night, a few sheets to the wind, and start playing his records really loud. He had been known to do that, and while I’m sure it annoyed the fuck out of them, whenever I slept over I secretly hoped he would come home, wasted, and blast his records. It was the mid 80’s but he was listening to that classic pop music from the 50’s and early 60’s and I thought it was awesome. My parents were really into 8 tracks and country, and I was more into records and rock and roll. I’m pretty sure we were awakened by him playing Dion on many occasions, though typically he was more fond of “I Wonder Why” and “Runaround Sue”.
Several years ago, I was going through a 50’s/60’s music phase right along side my burgeoning interest in Jackie Kennedy. I listened to a lot of 1050 CHUM in those days, and my iTunes library started to fill up with the Chiffons, Ricky Nelson and Sam Cooke. And of course Dion. And the song the Wanderer became one of many theme songs in my life.
The song itself is about a transient guy with lots of lady friends and he travels all around never looking to settle down. While my life at the time wasn’t quite that exciting–there was a lot of dudes around, I liked to party a lot and I did roam the streets ALL THE TIME. I would wake up (late) on the weekends, pack my bag with some smokes, some cash, maybe my flask, do a little paper work and head out the door for the day, sometimes not returning until late in the evening. I wouldn’t have a destination planned, or a rendezvous arranged, I would just wander for hours. And sometimes I would meet up with my sweet chum in the park to watch the dogs, who was also spending her Saturday, just walking around.
I had my own lyrics–replacing the girls names in the song with the dudes that we all knew. I’d sing it in the streets, I’d dance to it at bars, and sweet djs would dedicate the song to me because they knew of my love for the song. And it is the only way I can tolerate the saxophone. I hate the saxophone, but the sax solo at about 1:45 gives me goosebumps every time.
These days, my solo walks along Queen are few and far between, and I’ve traded my cigarettes and flask for a baby sling, but I’m still wandering. And I still listen to the Wanderer by Dion. Over and over again.
I’ve been trying to remember how old I was when I got my first keyboard for Christmas. Between 7-9 I guess. It was the 21 key Casio PT100. And it was awesome. I also got 4 how-to books that taught you how to play. The music in the books had the notes on the staff and there were stickers so you could mark the keys on your keyboard. And that, my friends, is how I learned to play the piano. I commited to memory the notes of the treble clef, and eventually the stickers all rubbed off the keys and it all stuck in my brain. I also had this pretty great ability to figure out how to play a song just by listening, so when I had worn my way through those four beginner books, I just sortof figured out the songs I wanted to play. I was only about 9 after all, so my selections weren’t really that complicated, but I could really nail Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and mash out all the favourite hymns I knew from church.
Before the PT100, there was the old decrepit organ in the basement. You had to hit the switch a few times to get it to turn on, sometimes augmenting the switch flip with a hard shake of the whole instrument. It took a few minutes for it warm up, and it always had a loud and distinct hum that you would have to ignore if you wanted to be in the same room for any length of time. I mostly managed to tune it out while playing. I loved to goof around on it, with it’s push button chords and two dusty keyboards. I think my sisters may have had to practise on it for their piano lessons, and needless to say, they gave up, as would most respectable humans because the sound was actually atrocious.
When I was around 11, the church I attended got new hymn books, and were “selling” the old ones for a $4 donation, and unfortunately the Sunday this was all going down, I was sick with the chickenpox, so I missed out on the hymn book sale. Devastated, I was, since I wanted to at least see if I was playing the right notes to the hymns, and learn others that I just couldn’t figure out on my own. A lady at my church, Joanne, knew that I really wanted one, so that Sunday, she dropped it by. I get all misty-eyed just thinking about it. To her, it was likely a very small gesture, but it was significantly influential to me.
I played the shit out of “Great Hymns of Faith”, making up the chords based on the way things sounded in church. I didn’t know how to read the bass clef–my instructional books failed to cover that. I also refused to play anything with more than 2 flats or 3 sharps, so instead I would transpose the music in my head. How I learned about key signatures is beyond me–I just kinda knew.
I would alternate playing through that hymn book on the organ and on my little PT100, pretending to be Mrs. Speer (piano) or Mrs. Toews (organ)–the ladies who accompanied the congregation in their singing. My dream was to one day become the church pianist. But clearly I couldn’t do it without piano lessons or a real piano.
I’m not sure why my parents never indulged my desire for lessons–most parents force that shit on their kids, but I guess they just didn’t take it seriously. Or maybe they just thought I didn’t need them. So instead, later that year for Christmas, I got upgraded to the Casio MT 520.
This model had more keys, though they were much smaller and it had a pretty sweet drum pad. You could really rock out, I guess, but I just wanted to play church hymns like a weirdo. And hymns I played until I started busting the keys. I first lost the F sharp just below middle C, and next to go was the B flat in the same direction. The keys were broken, but you could still hit them so they would press the little button underneath to make the sound. Until that button came off and the notes stopped working entirely. I think at the end I had about 7 or 8 broken keys on that thing, but I just wouldn’t give up.
Whenever I was in a place that had a piano, I would play it. People’s houses, the school music room, church, AWANA, wherever. And if I couldn’t play it for whatever reason, my stomach would almost hurt because I wanted to so bad. I wished all the time that my parents would just buy me a frigging piano. It couldn’t be that hard, right? So many birthdays I would secretly hope for the best birthday surprise of all, where I would come home and find a piano delivery truck in our driveway. Unfortunately, no such surprise ever materialized.
About halfway through grade 9, at 14 years old, I finally got the chance to take lessons. They were offered at my school, and I could duck out of geography once a week for a 30 minute, $9 lesson with Mrs. Giesbrecht. I told her of my dreams to become a church pianist, and she wanted to help me with that, but she knew I needed to learn some proper technique first–which I absolutely hated. She pointed out to me that I didn’t play with my thumbs. She thought it was the strangest thing she’d seen, until I explained that I couldn’t really use my thumbs to play properly on the MT-520. The keys were just too small for my hand span. Understanding my technique was hampered by the tiny keys, she mostly overlooked my awkward fingering and encouraged me to continue. She was a really nice lady.
The summer after grade 9, my dad died. And when Mrs. Giesbrecht called to see if I would be continuing lessons in the fall and to inform us of a price increase, I told her I wasn’t sure that we would still be able to afford it, with my dad no longer around. She offered to keep the lessons at the original price and I was able to continue to take lessons for the next 2 years or so.
When someone dies there’s a ton of shit that happens, unexpected costs arise and life gets a bit crazy. Not only does it suck that you’ve just lost your loved one, but you basically get screwed in a lot of different ways when you’re trying to wade your way through the grief. Months after my dad died, his friends held a memorial golf tournament in his honour. The proceeds from that tournament were donated to our family. I’m not sure why my mom agreed to use a portion to buy me a piano, but she did, and I was super jazzed. Pretty much the only bright spot after months of shitty despair.
We scoured the newspapers, and piano stores as there wasn’t the internet in those days. We came across an old painted upright that was for sale for $400. It didn’t have a bench and it was painted, but the price was right, so we went to check it out. It was a nice piano, the keys were quite yellow, but the paint job wasn’t bad and the sound was really nice. It was the one. The thing I had wanted for my entire life. My very own piano.
The day the piano was delivered was probably one of the most exciting days of my life. I played it from when I got home until well past my bedtime. I remember sitting in the dark living room playing because the sun had set and I didn’t want to get up to turn the lights on. It looked nice in our living room, and the yellow keys never bothered me. My very thoughtful and talented friend, Amber, managed to make me a matching bench in her grade 11 shop class. I don’t think I ever really thanked her for that–it really is a beautiful piece, and especially so, since she was only like 16.
Not long after I got the piano, I did my Grade 8 Piano exam, and passed with flying colours. I went on to be a church pianist and eventually a worship director. I played at almost every service (sometimes 3 a week–it was a fundamental baptist church after all!) for probably 4 years or more. It was a dream come true–the lessons, playing in church, and the piano.
When my mom sold the house several years later, I moved into a one bedroom apartment with no room for a piano, and such has been the case since then. There’s never room for the piano. My Auntie housed my piano at her place for years hoping that one day I might be able to find room for it, until she moved, and could look after it no longer.
My super friend, Rock N Roll Jen offered to take it for me and it stayed with her up until now. I could visit it when I wanted, and it being at Jen’s made for some loud and drunken piano sessions. The time has come that Jen can no longer keep it for me, and I can’t move it here. I’ve come to realize that I will never, while living here in Toronto, be able to host a piano of it’s size. We might be able to fit it into our home now, but we’d never be able to get it up the two flights of stairs. We couldn’t even fit a regular couch in, so I doubt a hundred year old upright would fit.
So it’s time to let it go. I’ll try to give it away–we haven’t had luck so far, but maybe soon someone will take it. And if not, I’ve got a back up plan–my friend Mike and his company Just Junk will know what to do with it–sad as that outcome may be.
The last tune I tickled on it’s ivories was a shaky rendition of Lovesong by the Cure. Pretty fitting, I’d say.
I’m no longer a church pianist nor am I a worship director. I don’t even really play at all anymore. I guess it’s all behind me now but I wanted to tell you about my piano. It’s just an instrument, I know, but it was so much more than that to me and I thought you should know.
|…he even fakes a toss|
I had been thinking for a while now, about how I want to remember everything, the whole reason I write this blog. And how, so very often a song comes on and it immediately transports me to another time and place. A time and place that I truly lived. I can honestly say that music, in whatever form, has been a driving force in my life. I know most people could probably say that, but if you know me…like really really know me, you know this is true. Truer for me than for most, you’d probably say.
But this song, Re: Stacks by Bon Iver, and the moment I first heard it will stay with me until the day that I die.
I was probably just slightly overdue with Marigold at the time, and was living the ultimate wait and see routine–a classic life theme I’ve adopted from my favourite book, The Cider House Rules by John Irving. I was just finishing up some housework and the upstairs of our then apartment was at it’s brightest point of the day. You know how sometimes rooms have a time of the day where the outside light is just perfect and it makes you love your space in no way that furniture or design could ever do? I have been fortunate to have this in almost all of my apartments in the city and I sincerely promise to never take that for granted.
|the light at 195|
It was that time of the day for 195 Grace Street. It was that day where I thought I was truly ready for this life changing event that was about to occur. I had been walking tons, drinking red raspberry leaf tea, and having what seemed like copious amounts of sex for a huge pregnant person (looking back it was probably just once or twice, it just seemed like a lot because I was massive AND exhausted) hoping to induce labour. I was ready. And then I heard this song.
It came on the radio. I stopped, walked into the beautifully lit living space. I sat down and I started to cry. If I close my eyes and listen right now, I am overcome by the same feeling I had that day. I can hear myself singing a little harmony on the chorus, as I’m want to do even when I’ve never heard the song before. Somehow, in short six minutes, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver has me questioning everything I’ve ever done in my life, and my ability to do anything in the future. And suddenly I know that things are never going to be the same. Suddenly, Peattie herself is never going to be the same. And it’s like suddenly I’m not ready, not ready for any of this. And then suddenly it doesn’t matter. This new addition to my life is going to share something with me that no other two people on earth are going to have, or ever even going to understand.
I’m not really sure what the song is about, and I might be disappointed one day to find out. And it doesn’t really matter because I love the words, the story, the strumming pattern, the melody, the chord progression, I love his voice. But what I love the absolute most is the last line. It is a promise, no, it is our promise.
I know there will be plenty of times in my life where I hear this song and it will have other powerful impressions to leave on my heart. And as time goes on, Stacks will always be about reminding me of where I was, acknowledging where I am now, and dreaming about wherever I’ll be in the future. But mostly how in all of this, I never want her to forget that her love will always be safe with me.