Nov 302016
 

My family was celebrating my birthday at a fancy, French restaurant. In the corner, was a pianist – an elderly gent – dressed in a tuxedo and weaving his way, non-stop, through a varied selection of show tunes and contemporary classics.

Afterwards, he joined us at our table, where we marvelled at his mastery of music. He told us many people have said that they would give anything to play as he does. He tells them,“You wouldn’t give up six hours a day, practicing for 40 years, to play like me.” And, if you appreciate anything resembling a balanced lifestyle, he’s probably right.

“I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you”  –– Hallelujah by Leonard Cohn

I often think of that pianist when I’m feeling that my accomplishments aren’t moving along as fast as I would like… everything takes time and comes at a cost. So, one must decide if it’s all worth it.

 I owe music a lot. Its melodies and words of wisdom have soothed my restless spirit, gladdened my heart, and made my world happier.

Music was with me as my world changed… where there once was one, there became two; where there once was two, there was an expanding family. My life is happily not my own. The lessons I’ve learned and love I’ve shared can never be duplicated… not even by music. As my youngest daughter discovered, after co-launching a successful Toronto-oriented band, talent was one thing, but the always self-serving music ‘biz’ sucked away her happiness.

“If you gotta play garden parties, I wish you a lotta luck
But if memories were all I sang, I rather drive a  truck…
But it’s all right now, I learned my lesson well,
See, ya can’t please everyone, so you gotta to please yourself”

–– Garden Party by Ricky Nelson

Now, well past middle-age, I can honestly say – compared to what I could have done – I’ve surely failed as a husband, a father, and friend. I’ve carried out many successes in my life; yet, at what cost to my family?It’s been all about me taking their love for granted… not six hours a day…  but 24/7. My next book?Life for Dummies

If only I could claim to have returned even a tiny fraction of the love given to me.

“And there’s so much time to make up everywhere you turn
Time we have wasted on the way” ––
Wasted On The Way by Crosby, Stills & Nash

As soon as I start hoping to be forgiven for all the time I’ve squandered, I realize forgiveness has come a long time ago.You see, life-sustaining love is often given even when it’s not deserved. So, next time people make you feel down – realize how far you’ve come. Is it further than yesterday? Then you’re a winner already!

If we fall short of lofty expectations, we can celebrate with Leonard Cohen:

“I did my best, it wasn’t much…
And even
though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah”

Life’s too short!

Music in Me The Music In Me July, 2016

Music in Me  FredParry.ca
November, 2016


 

 

 

 

Oct 182016
 

By now, most people know that Bob Dylan has won the 2016 Nobel prize for literature.The literary world was rocked – first time ever for an artist mainly known as a musician to win. One critic sarcastically offered that Keith Richards should get the Nobel prize for chemistry.

Explaining its rational for choosing Dylan for this honour, spokesperson Sara Danius stated it was, “… for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” She compared his accomplishments to that of Homer and Sappho, whose works were  also delivered orally… “and certainly from Milton and Blake onward”, she said. 

It makes sense. Wikipedia tells us Milton’s poetry and prose reflected his deep personal convictions, a passion for freedom and self-determination towards the urgent and political issues of his day… can easily be similarly regarded. Bob Dylan himself said, “It’s not easy to define poetry.” He’s also been influential to other poets like Leonard Cohn – to whom he said was the best, right after him. Cohn and Dylan both use music to more effectively communicate their works – not that it’s easy.  As John Lennon explained, “It’s like sending a postcard; you’ve not much room to say a lot.” And, Cohn said, “If I knew where the hits came from, I’d go there more often.”

My first introduction to Dylan was in an English classroom. Up to that point, I’ve only ever listened to the music – with the lyrics a poor second choice. I didn’t understand how, but he opened a whole new perspective for me, so that as the Beatles evolved, I was ready for the possibilities.

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”  – Subterranean Homesick Blues by Bob Dylan

Journalist, Bill Wyman, in support of Dylan, said, “His lyricism is exquisite; his concerns and subjects are demonstrably timeless; and few poets of any era have seen their work bear more influence.

Salman Rushdie tweeted “From Fran Orpheus to Faiz, songs and poetry have been closely linked. Dylan is the brilliant inheritor of the bardic tradition. Great choice.

Finally, I feel I can add my own two cents worth to the conversation. 

My ‘Music in Me’ column, blog and book were created out of a need for self-expression. So, I’m lucky to be living at a time when there are so many ways to get your words out. Which is good, because, as Dylan has said, “I’d go crazy if I couldn’t write.”

When asked if the committee was broadening the definition of literature, Darious said, “Perhaps, the times they are a-changing.” But, as The New York Times succinctly put it, “He finally got the prize because he re-arranged the way we all think.” 

One thing for certain… at 75, Dylan will acknowledge this latest award in the same skeptical way. As he’s said before: “Having these colossal accolades and titles, they get in the way.”

Music in Me The Music In Me July, 2016

Music In Me FredParry.ca                
October, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 282016
 

Looking at the dealership invoice, I knew I had a hard decision to make: should I ignore the fact that I hadn’t been charged $300 for parts on work just done on my car? At first, I said nothing… the equivalent of “take the money and run”. Like the TV commercial, where a woman runs out of the store – her arms full of purchases – thinking she was the lucky recipient of a clerical error.The TV announcer,however, saying that the store’s prices are so low, it only seems like, well… a steal.

For some reason, as I slowly agonized over my decision, my mind transported me back to the famous ‘Lunch-atop-a-skysrcaper-c1932’photo: a New York skyscraper under construction with eleven iron-workers casually sitting, enjoying lunch, while balanced on a steel crossbeam – suspended 69 stories above the ground – Manhattan spread out beneath their dangling boots.

All, except for one Mohawk from Kahnawake, Quebec, were immigrants… like my Irish grandfather, ‘Pip’. His no “bull” attitude was typical of these men: saying to a local newspaper interviewer, at age 86, just after passing his engineering exams, “The only thing that would kill me is a 40-hour work-week.”

And, retirement? Forget it! Not for this tough, straight-shooting dude.

No longer with us, Pip’s testament to honesty and hard work lives on. I can easily surmise what he’d have thought of my hesitation to do what had to be done… not much!

So, after explaining to the service rep the billing discrepancy, she checked the work order and thanked me for being so “trustworthy”. The problem was, after dithering for what seemed like hours, I didn’t feel that way. Why did it take me so long to do the right thing? What if my car had been ready a bit sooner and so had missed my chance to set things right?

The determining factor for me was that I didn’t want to see anyone get in trouble. How would I’ve felt if any of these (not-so-highly-paid) workers had been let go by some unforgiving owner/manager? No amount of dollars so gained would have ever eased my conscience.

About to drive away, a staff member presented me with a gift: a smart-looking corporate key chain made of stainless steel and leather. I’ll always value it… not for something I did right; but, as a reminder to react, sooner than later, next time.

“They can change their minds but they can’t change me
I’ve got a dream… And I’m gonna go there free”
I’ve Got a Name by Jim Croce

Tough times made for tough men… and women. Living with honesty and integrity is, and has always been, our real job. I can’t tell you how to do it. But somehow that old photo of those men high in the New York city air makes me remember…  somethings are stronger than steel.

Music in Me The Music In Me July, 2016

Fred Parry                  Music in Me
September, 2016

 

 

 

 

29 Sep 1932 --- Construction workers eat their lunches atop a steel beam 800 feet above ground, at the building site of the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS Wikimedia Commons/Fair Use

29 Sep 1932 — Construction workers eat their lunches atop a steel beam 800 feet above ground, at the building site of the RCA Building in Rockefeller Center. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
Wikimedia Commons/Fair Use

Aug 162016
 

“Uptown, in penthouse number three
Uptown, just my baby and me”
Uptown by Roy Orbison

Well, after 34 years living in a century farm home, our big move to the city didn’t land us in a penthouse, but we’re happy with our spacious two-bedroom apartment.

As we walk through nearby Victoria park, we’re greeted by a scene reminiscent of a 19th century Currier and Ives print. Folks, like ourselves, seeking a welcomed getaway from the stress of the day’s fast lifestyle.

Parents spreading out blankets in picnic fashion for their young toddlers to enjoy; athletic young men laughing while playing touch football; people crisscrossing the park on bikes; a group of seniors strolling leisurely while enjoying an ice cream… bought from a vendor, peddling his way among the throngs.

“People dancing, people laughing / a man selling ice cream”                                               – Saturday in the Park by Chicago

Yet, close by, we’re reminded that this idyllic scene is not without hardship. You’d have to be wearing rose-coloured glasses not to see.

Underneath a large maple tree, on the edge of the park, there’s a blanket covering a human form. And later, as we entered a nearby variety store, we’re greeted by a homeless person with cap in hand – while inside a sad scene unfolds before us. 

A distraught woman is on the floor, dumping out the contents of her oversized bag looking for $5.55 to pay for her purchase – staff and customers warily standing back. Not wishing to extend this pathetic situation any longer, I ask the owner to add it to my order. She turns around and mumbles a thank you, but it’s clear she unaware of where she is.

Then, I see my mistake… her items of ice cream and bubble gum. I mean, who wastes their limited funds on such trivialities – unless your priorities are badly misplaced? The hatless man giving us a suspicious look as we leave.

Maybe, I shouldn’t be surprised; yet, I also realize that I’m not qualified to pass judgement. All I know is that there are people with genuine hardship, through no fault of their own – often including their children – lives greatly diminished by low expectations. But, how to tell the difference between real need and scam artists… everywhere on the economic ladder?

“Don’t assume everything on the surface is what you see /
Cause that classmate just lost her mother
And that taxi driver’s got a PhD”                                                                                                                                                             – Everybody’s Got a Story by Amanda Marshall

Next day, looking out, the sun burns through the morning fog to show a church’s steeple, as my faith reminds me that there are no mistakes. What if I was meant to be in that store, at the exact moment that woman was looking for a miracle?

Who knows if she needed some sign that the world still cared and I was the unlikely instrument to show it… maybe the best $5.55 investment of both our lives!

Music in Me August 2016 The Music In Me July, 2016

Music In Me FredParry.ca
August, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jul 242016
 

“Life is a highway; I want to drive it all night long.”   – Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane

I love highway driving – day or night – in my “classic” ride.Even long stretches don’t bother me; allowing more time for my favorite hobby…listening to music. And, it doesn’t much matter what’s the music genre, as long as it speaks to my heart, mind and soul. So, I don’t necessarily play the typical classic car tunes: like ‘GTO’ by Ronny & the Daytona’s:

“Little GTO you’re really looking fine /  Three deuces and a four speed and a 389.”

To me, those long trips are a chance to get rejuvenated.

For example, a few years back, my youngest daughter introduced me to the music of the late, George Jones. I popped his ‘greatest hits’ into  the CD, and (as I complained to my daughter later) by the time old George got finished with my heart, I was an emotional wreck by the end of the trip.

I went to see him just today/Oh, but I didn’t see no tears                                                        All  dressed up to go away/ First time I’d seen him smile in years”

He Stopped Loving Her Today

It reminded me of how blessed we are to be loved, because there’re some hurts that never will die, until we do. And, no one makes you feel that pain like Mr. Jones. Thanks George, I needed that… not!

Maybe, because I was in a certain mood, as I got emotionally free from Jones’ clutches, I ran into another instructive experience – compliments of the ‘The Travelling Wilburys’ song the ‘End of the Line’- featuring the ever-so-soulful voice of the late Roy Orbison.

“Well it’s all right, even if your old and gray/Well it’s all right, you still got something to say/ Well it’s all right, remember to live and let live/ Well it’s all right, the best you can do is forgive”

Since we’re all heading to the “end of the line”, I try looking at my life experiences and contributions: could I’ve given back more, been kinder, less judgemental, more forgiving… even to strangers. As a veteran police officer once said to me, “You have to have a little faith in humanity.”

“Take it or leave it, or try to believe it/ If you’ve been down too long                                        – Rainy Day People by Gordon Lightfoot

And, to think I was a-washed by all this wisdom simply cruising down the highway – enjoying the journey over the destination. Plus more… feeling my little engine of life’s just starting to ‘tach up.’
“Now were doing a hundred twenty, as fast as I can go/
The Rambler pulled alongside of me, as if we were going slow/The fella rolled down his window, and yelled for me to hear/  Hey buddy how do I get this car outa second gear?”
Beep! Beep! by the The Playmates

Fred Parry The Music In Me July, 2016

Fred Parry
The Music In Me
July, 2016