The Journey of SILVER BROWN

2019: A Superfluous Retrospective

Well, this has been a craptacular year for me personally. It had a few highlights and memorable moments. Every year usually does. I’ll get to the highlights later on in this post, I promise. But there were a lot of lows too. Some lows a little lower than usual.

It started off with the death of my mother, which most would agree is not the best way to kick off the new year. I spent much of the rest of the year attempting to join the military – a life decision my mother would have been deadset against if she were still with us. Her whole life was defined by fear. Fear was to her worldview what flour is to bread. I think I’ve eaten enough sandwiches made with that kind of bread in my day. We all remember what a certain legendary sage told us a full two decades ago about this very topic. Funny thing is, he wasn’t kidding…



My mother had a very strict happy-clappy evangelical (Baptist) upbringing. Immersed from birth in a profoundly toxic religious doctrine whose very bread and butter is tinfoilhattery, alarmist hysteria and morbidly irrational phobias concerning things that are demonstrably not worth losing sleep over in light of hard statistics and scientific fact. An anti-vaxxer among religions.

True to the sickly subculture in which she was raised, she lived her life in a near-constant state of anxiety. Sober rational thought untainted by emotion or personal passions was for the most part an alien concept to her. I could never engage in any rugged outdoorsy activities such as hiking without being forced to listen to some inane diatribe afterwards about how hiking is so dangerous (“You’ll get eaten by bears!”). During my teenage years, dating anyone who was not of unsullied European extraction was all but forbidden, as was befriending anyone who was Anishinaabe or openly gay. My mother saw people of cultural backgrounds different from her own (non-Christians or cultures with no historical association with Christendom, especially) as nihilistic savages with no reverence for life or any moral compass, and “practicing” homosexuals as sexual predators, without exception. Some big-haired fire-and-damnation preacher on TV who porked hookers and fleeced old ladies out of their life savings said so, and and he was undeniably a Man of God† because he shared my mother’s contempt for heavy metal music, so why would he ever lie? Speaking of heavy metal, my Judas Priest albums were self-righteously thrown in the garbage until I graduated high school and moved out on my own, because my mother gullibly fell for the 1980s Satanic Panic and all that bullshit about subliminal messages. Hook, line and sinker. Never renounced belief in that bullshit even decades after the rest of civilization had long since done so. Like a musical flat-earther. She forbade my brother and I from playing with cap guns as kids, because she actually believed such toys were capable of causing serious injury or death. Who needs evidence or facts when you’ve got Mother’s Instinct?

I always got that feeling that my safety was way more important to my mother than my happiness. As long as I was encaged in several layers of bubble wrap at all times and was never placed in any situation where anything could possibly hurt me, all was right with the world. I was desperately miserable underneath all those layers, but that didn’t matter. I was safe. Nothing could hurt me. Nothing at all. So you can imagine what her reaction would’ve been to the idea of me going off somewhere to be trained in the use of military-grade weapons. She would’ve instantly turned white as a sheet. All her hair would’ve fallen out, her days thenceforth being spent drooling and mumbling incoherently, attempting to sever her own limbs with a rusty old hacksaw.


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† For those of you who don’t happen to be fluent in Happyclappese, the term “Man of God” translates to someone who faithfully toes the party line and hates all the right people. Things like empathy or loving thy neighbour or turning the other cheek are not necessary to be a Man of God. In fact, that sort of thing is outright discouraged. Toeing the party line and hating the right people are way more important, by a long shot. If you’re a suithiestic serial rapist who cheated on your third (trophy) wife with a porn star whose silence you subsequently tried to buy, that’s no big whoop. You still get to be a Man of God as long as you’re a stark-raving loutish bigot out to take on the so-called Homosexual Steamroller. Locking kids in cages? Meh. Big deal. That’s perfectly sane social policy as long as it happens under the watch of a Man of God who shares our dearly held respect-worthy conviction passed down from our malnourished disease-ridden Bronze Age forefathers that homosexuals are a lower form of life than termites. Blatant racism and antisemitism? Misogyny, misogyny and more misogyny? Behaviour more appropriate for a three-year-old than a seventy-three-year-old? Glaringly obvious signs of mental disorder? It’s all good. Hell, we’d be perfectly cool with armbands and public beheadings. As long as you’re a Man of God working towards the righteous cause of depriving homosexuals of the right to breathe oxygen, none of that shit is any cause for alarm whatsoever. Nosiree, Bob. If you’re on our side, there’s no possible low you can’t sink to. You could cut open babies and eat their raw entrails on live television and we’d gladly look the other way. But if you’re not on our side and don’t believe homosexuals are the spawn of Satan and happen to favour outlawing at least some forms of discrimination against them, then using a cigar as a sexual prop with a willing (albeit extramarital) participant is cause for unfettered moral outrage. Pathological homophobia is the foundation on which our whole faith is built! Lord have mercy on us if future generations inherit a world where homosexuals are entitled to the same rights as everybody else! Who in their right mind would want to live in a world like that? The horror!


My mother didn’t mellow out with age. In fact, the older she got, the more irrational she became. In her final years, she wore a permanent scowl. A facial expression that said: I hate everything that moves and want the whole world to die!!! Not just saying it, but shouting it high on the mountain with a voice of triumph. Her own grandchildren could see it. They would ask her questions like: “Grandma, why do you always look so sad?” A question that would be brushed under the rug, never to be answered. Probably a good thing, too. The answer had something to do with immigrants.

All that crippling fear didn’t exactly do wonders for my mother’s health. That should go without saying. She ended up predeceasing her own mother by eleven months. Funny how shit that happens to you when you’re young has a way of fucking you up for life.


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This is the new look my mother is rocking for 2019.

If there’s a silver lining to all of this, the Universe has granted me Her blessing to live out the rest of my life completely guilt-free and shame-free. A few short years ago, I had a ball and chain on each ankle. But today, I find myself unshackled at long last. Over ninety-nine percent of the guilt and shame that plagued my existence was force-fed to me by a mere two people, both of whom are now worm chow. My mother died exactly a year and two days after the expiration date of the other depressing ball and chain in my life. More on that in a bit. But first, the good stuff.

In that new spirit of fearlessness, I enlisted to join the military. A decision I know I will never have any regrets about for as long as I live. Just the experience of applying was a gas and a half. I paid several personal visits to an Army training facility, at one point spending an entire morning there. The atmosphere of the place was electric. Something about the facility spoke directly to the inner cockles of my heart, saying: Hi, there. We’re the military and we kick ass. Pleased to meet you. In the midst of all that kickassitude, I underwent several aptitude tests. They would test me on my mathematical skills and vocabulary and my ability to spell words correctly. That part of the test was a slam dunk for me, of course. The recruiting sergeant mentioned as much when he debriefed me on the test results. I even did well on the part of the test where they had me lifting sandbags, and those weigh fifty pounds each.

Alas, my aspirations to serve queen and country ultimately didn’t pan out. I received a letter from National Defence a few weeks ago telling me that my application had been rejected, for medical reasons. Ottawa raised concerns of a preexisting condition that could potentially be exacerbated by the rigours of military life. So I guess it’s back to the drawing board for me then. There were a couple of positive takeaways from the experience, though. One, it deepened my respect for the military and what they do. I always did have that respect. You can’t do any work for the NATO Association for any length of time and not have that respect. But the experience of going to that facility and taking those tests bumped up that level of respect a few notches, without a doubt. Secondly, I can now say with absolute certainty that the ghost of my former boss no longer has any business haunting me.


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Ellis Kirkland was in many ways the polar opposite of my mother. Urban. Worldly. Articulate. Well-read. Well-educated. Catholic. Extremely adverse to any form of racism or homophobia. Never spoke ill of religions that were not her own (with the possible exception of Scientology), and in fact was romantically involved with a Hindu throughout most of my tenure in her employ. She had a completely different set of fears than my mother did, but most markedly absent was my mother’s fear of the unknown and unfamiliar. The scant traces of hayseed that stuck with me into the early years of my adulthood were beaten out of me with violent gusto when I started working for Ellis, to such an extent that my brain has been completely rewired and I can never really go back to being the guy my parents raised me to be. These days, I find the political discourse at family gatherings repugnant and infuriating. Embarrassing, even. There used to be a time when racist ways of thinking were as much a part of my daily reality as the air I breathe. I didn’t necessarily indulge or agree with such sentiments. But many people I knew were overtly racist, and I oft found myself forgiving and tolerating their racism for the sake of keeping the peace and maintaining good relations. Those days are long gone. Now, racism just makes me violently ill.

In stark contrast to my mother, Ellis had no qualms whatsoever about putting me in harm’s way. I was one of only a handful of members of the staff who had never served in the armed forces of any country. I was therefore a pussy. Ellis would actually call me a pussy to my face. On multiple occasions. Her attitude was that service in the military was some kind of ultimate measure of manhood. If you had never served in the military, you were a boy. Not a man. Even after she died, I could still hear her voice calling me a pussy somewhere in the back alleys of my mind. It would curse at me throughout my one semester at Fanshawe College – a semester of Spinal Tap-like proportions. After Fanshawe I decided to enlist in the military just to shut that voice up. I didn’t get in, but I honestly gave it my best shot. Haven’t heard much from that old ghost since. In the end, that’s what really matters.

While awaiting word from Ottawa, I spent some quality time up north, navigating forest-encrusted waters in this humble vessel…


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She’s called the Spirit of Barry’s Bay. I didn’t pick that name. She would be called the Christopher Squire if I had christened her.

…and finally finished all that meticulous editing to the first act of SILVER BROWN. Something I’m personally proud of. It’s amazing how far this book has come since I first started working on it.

When I write, I never throw away any of my early drafts. Instead, I let them collect in a special folder squirreled away somewhere on my laptop, so I know where to look if I ever need to resurrect or recycle an excised passage. I dug up one of those early drafts a number of months ago, just for shits and giggles. What I saw was a manuscript so radically different from the project I’m currently working on that it’s barely recognizable as the same book. You can definitely see where I was trying to be George Orwell. Now it’s almost comical how my original vision for this project was that it would be an “important” book. A work of Nobel Prize calibre. Something that would be studied in high school English classes for generations to come as an exemplar of highbrow literature, like John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. That vision would gradually be abandoned when composing such a work proved to be easier said than done. After numerous edits and rewrites, it would evolve into something more lighthearted and satirical. People who have read SILVER BROWN tell me it’s “entertaining”. That’s hardly an adjective I would use to describe the books my teachers made me read in high school. I consider that a win.

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Another area where 2019 notably did not suck for me was on the sports pages. One of the few things on TV that’s still worth watching, methinks. I could care less about keeping up with any real housewives and don’t give a rat’s ass who gets the final rose. That bullshit dumbed down the whole culture and paved the way for Emperor Cheeto to enter the White House. If that’s not reason enough to despise it, I don’t know what is. Give me a good hockey game over that nauseating reality TV drivel any day.

Sure, the Toronto Maple Leafs were underwhelming as always. As were the Jays. I think I summed up the Jays’ season nicely with this tweet from last week…


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…but baseball and hockey aside, there was very little mediocrity to be had. We were treated to a whole trifecta of crowning moments of awesome. First, this happened…



Later on that summer, Bianca Andreescu. Her year ended on a bummer note, what with the whole knee injury and all. But defeating Serena Williams to win that fancy-ass Grand Slam trophy is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Well done, young lady.


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A couple of months after that, the year’s biggest crowning moment of awesome yet. At least for me, personally. The Blue Bombers WON THE MOTHERFUCKING GREY CUP!!!


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Twenty-one years have passed since I last called this city home, but deep down in the cockles of my heart I’ll always be one of her sons.

The Journey of SILVER BROWN

All Hail The Queen

It was three years ago today when I lost one of my closest friends to cancer. In keeping with my personal policy of keeping the identities of all people mentioned in this blog confidential, I shall refer to her in this blog only as “The Queen”. That was not the name on her passport, of course. But it damn well should have been. In the last week of her life, she was officially proclaimed the Queen of the Punks by none other than Joe Fontana, who at the time was the mayor of London, Ontario, where the Queen was born, raised, and lived her entire life. But in the hearts and minds of London’s punk rock community and all the people across Canada and the United States and around the world who knew and loved her, she was always the Queen, and the mayor’s proclamation was a mere formality.

The Queen entered my life through the same door that almost everybody else in my life has entered it through since the turn of the twenty-first century – the Internet. In August of 2002, shortly after my twenty-eighth birthday, I stumbled across an online forum on MSN Groups called the Insane Asylum, a forum that would serve as my home on the web for the remainder of the decade. Don’t go looking for it now – it no longer exists, and hasn’t existed for some time. But during its heyday, the Asylum was in many ways ahead of its time. Unlike most online forums, it was not devoted to the discussion of any particular subject. Instead, it was simply a place for friends to get together to goof off and make each other laugh – a bona fide social network, in the days before Facebook and Twitter even existed. Once one gained the trust of the management, a new initiate into the Asylum would find himself part of a very exclusive and close-knit society of online denizens, one whose core group of regulars would regularly address each other by their real names as opposed to their online handles, and where everybody knew each other’s email addresses, phone numbers, and even home addresses, at a time when sharing such information online was considered – well, insane. And if that weren’t insane enough, once a year there would be an official Asylum Shindig, where members of the gang would organize a weekend of drunken revelry at somebody’s house (I myself was in attendance at every Asylum Shindig between 2003 and 2006, and the Queen attended every one save the first one and the 2006 get-together). Even though the Asylum itself no longer exists, many of the old Asylumites are still friends to this day (roughly about a quarter of the people on my current Facebook friends list have at least some past history of association with the old gang), and there have even been several Asylum marriages – as in people who have met their current spouse by way of the greatest little online forum on the planet.

It wasn’t all fun and games, however. The original Asylum was founded by an ex-convict and confirmed cocaine/crystal meth abuser from the St. Louis area whom we shall call Mr. Methhead. This guy was a stereotypical boneheaded far-right wing American who made himself a lot of enemies in the world of MSN Groups with his radical political views. Particularly vexing to a lot of people was his shamelessly racist and xenophobic outlook, his unwavering support for the administration of George W. Bush and the Iraq War, and his blatant advocacy of genocide. He despised all practicing Muslims and anyone who appeared to be of any kind of Middle Eastern heritage (except Israelis, of course), and believed that every single one of them – man, woman and child – must be killed in the worst way possible. I recall at one point, he laughingly attempted to enlist in the U.S. Marines, so he could, in his own words, “kill sandniggers”. I believe he actually stated this to the recruiter as his reason for wanting to become a jarhead, and needless to say, the Marines turned him down.

Mr. Methhead made no bones about the fact that he wanted to see the entire Islamic world nuked to oblivion, and would frequently air these sentiments on the messageboards (he would eventually denounce Bush in the later years of his presidency however, not because he had a change of heart about the war, but because he felt Bush wasn’t doing enough to kill “sandniggers”). Anyone who dared to openly disagree with him was declared a “terrorist sympathizer” and would be promptly banned from the group, usually immediately followed by the creation of a new thread on the boards in which Mr. Methhead would launch a whole character assassination of the person so banned (he generally had a low opinion of gays and “liberals” also). It goes without saying that he pissed a lot of people off. So much so, in fact, that several anti-Asylum groups started popping up all over MSN, started by people who were dedicated to making Mr. Methhead’s life a living hell. And for the most part, they were very successful at it. The conflict would eventually escalate into an all-out flame war – a war that all the Asylum regulars were all but obliged to take part in, lest they be declared traitors by Mr. Methhead and be banned from the group. To make a long story short, several of the other managers eventually got sick of his bullshit and elected to kick him out of his own group. But the Asylum would carry on without him in some form or another for years after his overthrow, right up until decade’s end, when Microsoft pulled the plug on its MSN Groups service. The Queen (who by that point had been promoted to manager) effortlessly filled the power vacuum that Mr. Methhead left behind, taking up the mantle of the spiritual hen-mother of the whole gang. The Asylum was a much kinder and gentler place under her reign.

The Queen was not a member of the Asylum when I first joined. She joined almost a year after I did. But upon joining, she immediately endeared herself to the other Asylumites; there was hardly anybody who didn’t like her. Mr. Methhead was known to dislike her (her political views were way too left-wing for his liking), but he dared not ban her, because he knew damn well that doing so would cause the other members of the gang to declare mutiny on his ass.

After the Queen entered my life, she would be a regular fixture in it for the next nine years. I first met her in person at the 2004 Asylum Shindig, which was held in Toronto (and would turn out to be the first and only Asylum Shindig to be held in Canada). In the weeks leading up to the big weekend, she and I would regularly converse on instant messenger, making meticulous plans to round up the others on the day everybody was scheduled to fly into the city. From those conversations, her qualities as a hen-mother and a motivator of people were apparent to me. She was the one who did the lion’s share of the organizing and co-ordination; I was merely along for the ride. When we finally met each other at the subway station we agreed to meet at, the first thing she did when she saw me was give me a big hug. It was the first time we had met each other in the flesh, but it was already well-established by that point that we were soul-siblings.

We would meet each other many times after that, even outside of Asylum-related activities. Throughout most of the noughties, I lived with my sister and her husband in Hamilton. Every year for Thanksgiving, they used to have this obnoxious habit of going to Toronto to spend Thanksgiving dinner with their friends, without so much as even thinking to invite me along. They didn’t even have the decency to bring me back any turkey; I was forced to have pork and beans (or whatever other food was available around the house) for Thanksgiving, and eat it in the dark all alone. When I logged on to the Asylum and started grumbling on the boards about how I had been forsaken by my own family, the Queen told me that I was welcome to spend Thanksgiving at her house any time. In late 2007, my brother-in-law accepted a new position in Calgary and moved out west with my sister and their growing family in tow, while I stayed behind in Ontario. The following year, I would take the Queen up on her offer. And it was the best Thanksgiving dinner I had in years. I’ve been going down to London for Turkey Day almost every year since.

Such was the Queen’s character. She was a woman of boundless compassion and love. She was an avowed agnostic, yet more Christ-like then just about every Christian I’ve ever met. If you were down on your luck and had no place to go, she would open her home to you and give you the shirt off her back, and do everything in her power to help you get back on your feet again. If you had just experienced an unspeakable tragedy, she would be the first to offer you her shoulder to cry on, and if she had to make a huge personal and/or financial sacrifice to offer you that shoulder, then so be it. Conversely, if she felt that what you needed was not sympathy but a severe kick in the groin, she would never hesitate to give that to you too. She was an ardent fan and supporter of London’s punk rock scene, always in the front row whenever some local band was performing at Call The Office or Fitzrays or some other live music venue, and practically every musician in the city knew and loved her (she was not really a musician herself – she could definitely sing, and I personally had the pleasure of hearing her perform karaoke at my old watering hole in Toronto way back in the good old days before they tore it down, but she never pursued music as a career, opting to become a hairdresser instead). And probably most importantly, she was a devoted mother to her son, who was the centre of her whole universe. She occasionally expressed disappointment in some of her son’s life choices, but there was never any doubt in my mind that her love for him was ceaseless and unconditional, and she cherished him above anybody and anything else in the world.

The last time I visited the Queen at her castle was in the summer of 2011. I went down to London to celebrate my thirty-seventh birthday with her. At the time, she seemed perfectly normal and healthy, and it never dawned on me for a second that she would be gone by the time I would celebrate my thirty-eighth. She would announce her cancer diagnosis to all her loyal subjects via Facebook the following December. The punk rock community of London came to her aid, organizing a benefit concert for her at London’s Call The Office venue on Valentine’s Day of 2012. But her cancer was a relentless bitch, and in the end, no part of her body would be left untouched by it. By the following summer, word came out of London that the Queen’s condition had gone terminal.

When she was on her deathbed, I made plans to travel to London to visit her one last time before the inevitable happened. Several other old Asylumites did the same – it would turn out to be an Asylum get-together of sorts, although it was by no means a Shindig. No one would pass out or throw up; there would be no drunken shenanigans, or pranks involving fire and urine and shower caps and bare butts. It would be the most serious Asylum get-together yet, for we were a nation bidding a tearful farewell to our beloved monarch. During the weekend we all went to visit her, her hospital room would receive an almost constant stream of visitors, like she was a rock star or something. Things eventually got so chaotic that her sister (and power of attorney) had to impose a limit of three visitors at a time. She was very visibly ill by that point and all her hair was gone, but her sense of humour was still intact, despite the fact that she was in a lot of pain. I remember her face lit up when she saw me. When it came time for me to return home to Toronto, I personally made a point of entering her hospital room to kiss her on her bald head. It was a fitting final memory of the big sister I never had, whose legacy on my heart and soul I will cherish until my dying day.

The next time I would see the Queen, she would be inside an urn. She did not have a traditional funeral, but a memorial concert and social gathering, with several local punk acts on the bill. At least two hundred people were in attendance, and there is little doubt in my mind that if instant teleportation or travel by UFO was a thing already, at least five times as many people would have showed up. I was personally blown away that one single person could touch the lives of so many people. To this day, I consider myself a lucky man to have known this remarkable woman while she walked this earth. She was the closest thing I ever met to a living Buddha.

In the three years that have passed since the Queen left us, I have taken to adopting her as one of the patron divinities of my personal religion. If she was still with us today, I know she would get a kick out of that. I can make up my own traditions since I invented my own religion and all, and one those traditions involves me getting stoned and consuming an entire package of bacon in the Queen’s honour every year around the time of the summer solstice (bacon being one of her favourite foods). This year, I begun a similar tradition for February, to commemorate her birthday (she would have turned forty-eight this year). The bacon feast day of the Queen is the second most sacred holiday to me, after 4/20.

This is going to sound crazy, but I have definitely felt the Queen working her mystical bacon bits in my world; the permanent mark she left on my heart has without question influenced the course of my life since her passing. The most bizarre thing was when I met Helen. When I first saw Helen’s profile on that cheesy dating site (I shan’t say which one), my first thought was: Holy shit! She looks just like the Queen! My mind was totally blown. I never mentioned this before in this blog, but the physical resemblance between the two of them is uncanny, and that’s not just because I was space truckin when I saw her profile either (I always make a point of doing online dating while high). So I interpreted the whole thing as an omen, and sent her a message, and she sent me one back the next day. As our courtship began in earnest, I realized that the fact that they look alike isn’t even the half of it – she also has a similar personality and sense of humour as the Queen. Her laugh even sounds like the Queen’s laugh. When she invited me to her apartment for the first time, I couldn’t help but to notice that she had an LP copy of Blondie’s Parallel Lines displayed prominently on her kitchen table, which if memory serves me correctly, was the first record that the Queen ever owned. My mind was blown clean off when I saw that album cover. It was almost as if she had returned from the dead to offer me much-needed consolation and relief from the heartbreak and devastation I was going through at the time. Helen could have definitely been an Asylumite; it’s kind of a shame that the mystical erotic adventure we went on together was short-lived, and we never got to a point in our relationship where we started introducing each other to our friends. The old gang would have loved her for sure. But she gave me exactly what I needed, just like the Queen would have done. I like to believe that the Queen heard my silent screams of insufferable agony, and responded accordingly.

There hasn’t been an Asylum get-together of any sort since the Queen passed away. You could probably chalk it up to the fact that we’re all getting older, and our bodies just can’t handle ingestion of large quantities of alcohol like they used to. But more likely, it’s because the social dynamic among the old gang has changed – we’re all still friends, but you get the sense that there’s something missing. If one of these days we ever get around to planning another Shindig, however, it’s almost a given that when we’re all sitting around that bonfire, one of those lawn chairs will be kept vacant, in loving memory.