The Journey of SILVER BROWN

The Curious Case of Elmýr Garfield

My first apartment in Toronto was literally right next door to a Buddhist temple. Every Sunday morning, I could hear the sound of the gongs coming right through my walls. Never saw the inside of that temple, though. Mostly on account of the fact that it was a Theravada sanctuary catering to the diaspora, and I don’t speak a lick of Vietnamese outside of exactly one word. But I nevertheless appreciated the vibrations of those gongs every Sunday. After spending Monday through Friday (and frequently Saturday to boot) catering to the hyper-frazzled demands of The Machine, that weekly dose of sonic medicine was a most welcome reprieve.

The day those healing vibrations stopped came when my building was sold to a new owner, and I ended up getting renovicted. The next apartment after that was something I subletted from the company I was working for at the time. I only called that place home for a mere eight months, for it was inhabited by vast insurmountable colonies of bedbugs (and fleas!) and a handful of very cranky people. One woman who lived there told me the building was haunted. She was probably right.


I recall a foursome of geriatric men who would spend the daylight hours sitting on lounge chairs in front of the Apartment Building of the Damned, wiling away their golden years complaining loudly about things their juniors would seldom think to complain about, occasionally yelling obscenities at random passersby just for the sheer hell of it. Like a cruder version of King of the Hill. I’m not a hundred percent sure if their demeanour was merely because of the bedbug problem or something that could be chalked up to senility (it was probably a combination of the two), but this meditation on cranky old geezerhood manifested itself into what would eventually become SILVER BROWN. Its chosen guise was that of an Eccentric Mentor with a mastery of cybersorcery and certain forbidden knowledge sought out by the main characters in their quest for the Secret Ingredient.

The warlock Elmýr Garfield was a cursed character from the very beginning, but after several rewrites his curses have only multiplied. In the second or third draft I introduced the idea that the story starts off with him being dead, necessitating a cybermagickal trip to the netherworlds of the Environment to retrieve his innate isness and bring it back to the Sea of Joy to reboot it. Yet he is not so much reanimated as he is reborn. The audience is first introduced to him as a seventy-five-year-old man in the body of a seventy-five-second-old infant. An allusion to old stories of Gautama Buddha that told of him walking and talking on the day he was born. Or to Baby Herman from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Either one works. Take your pick.

As a result of the cursed nature of his existence (or more likely, because Florys errs slightly when she casts the spell to bring him back to life), Elmýr ages very rapidly after his rebirth, advancing through all the different life stages over the course of several chapters before finally exiting the story as a withered lifeless husk. At an inopportune moment in the narrative that greatly inconveniences the protagonists. If his final wilting occurred at a more convenient time, it wouldn’t be much of a story.


The Journey of SILVER BROWN

I Served A Werelizard

A former colleague of mine contacted me by phone a few months ago. He offered me a job. Decided not to take it, though. For two reasons. The first reason being that he was very insistent I move back to Toronto to take the job. Something I have precisely zero interest in doing. I lived and worked in Toronto for a number of years, and those were arguably the darkest years of my life.

My old program coordinator at Sheridan College once advised a more naïve and innocent version of yours truly against seeking work in the Big Smoke upon graduation. Her exact pearl of wisdom was: “You’re just not a Toronto kind of guy.” I probably should’ve taken her advice in retrospect. But I didn’t, and learned the hard way what she was getting at. I ended up working for a psychopath who eventually got arrested for stabbing a dude, but that wasn’t the half of it. Toronto is only exciting and glamourous if you’ve never had the experience of living or working there. Otherwise, it’s a miserable place. Shameless materialism and delusions of grandeur are epidemics in that town. If you dare to base your whole sense of self-worth on something other than the number of zeros on your paycheque, people actually think there’s something horribly wrong with you.

I hate myself and want to die. That’s darling! #WhatIWore

The second reason why I turned down the job is because I’ve already made definitive plans as to what I’m going to do with the post-Ellis Galea Kirkland phase of my professional life. Plans which I may or may not elaborate on in a future blog post. I’d like to devote my time and talents towards a more noble endeavour. All the paperwork with regards to said endeavour has been completed and submitted to the relevant personnel; I should be hearing back from them in a few months’ time. [EDIT 1/30/2020 10:40 UTC-5 These plans ultimately did not work out for me, as I elaborate on in more detail here. So the search continues for life’s next great adventure. Hopefully that adventure will not involve dealing with anyone with a God complex. Satisfaction would still be a good and welcome thing.]


It was the first time I had spoken to the aforementioned former colleague in four years, and the conversation did not revolve entirely around this job he was offering me. Among other things, he enlightened me to the fact that our one-time boss did not actually commit suicide, as was initially reported in the Globe. That was the “official” explanation given to the media, but the truth is even stranger (and hence far more interesting) than that. She died accidentally. Hypothermic shock.

giphy (2)

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere on this site, Ellis Galea Kirkland was a cancer survivor. She successfully bought her way back to relative health, but not before her years of illness rendered numerous biological functions defective. One of those functions being the human body’s natural thermoregulatory ability. Over a period of years, her body temperature would gradually lose its propensity to remain consistent regardless of external atmospheric conditions, and would instead fluctuate in response to her body’s immediate surroundings. In short, she ceased to be a normal warm-blooded mammal and became cold-blooded. Like a reptile.

Years ago when Ellis first discussed this particular quirk of her physiology with me, I made some wisecrack to her in response about how she was a human lizard. Despite her hair-trigger temper and her tendency to take herself way too seriously, she laughed that one off. The joke likely reminded her of the pet iguana she used to have back in the Eighties.

Yeah, you read that right – being the near-Michael Jackson level of eccentric she was, Ellis once had a pet iguana. I never met the iguana, unfortunately. It had been dead for years by the time I first met Ellis, but I’ve personally seen old photographs of her posing with it. She would tell me that this critter expired prematurely as a result of an unintended moment’s exposure to a particularly harsh Canadian winter. In a weird way, one could say the iguana eerily presaged its owner’s death some thirty years later.

“And it shall come to pass…”

With her reptilianism in some unbeknownst waxing phase, it would be a mere five minutes outside on a bitter New Year’s Eve in the financial capital of a certain country far in the Northern Hemisphere known the world over for its harsh winters (if nothing else) that would ultimately do her in. A demise that recalls the Wicked Witch of the West, in the sense that she was killed by something that has been naturally present on Earth for millions of years which the comfortable majority can easily withstand exposure to without suffering any life-threatening medical complications.

I may or may not use this as a plot device in SILVER BROWN. Some variant of it might show up, but right now it’s really too early to tell. It’s certainly fucked-up enough to make excellent fodder for fiction. The stuff of a good biological horror story worthy of Cronenberg. There are quite a few characters in SILVER BROWN that cannot be accurately described as human, so if I find myself having to kill one of them off, it would be only fitting to give them a very inhuman sendoff.

The Soundtrack of SILVER BROWN

The New Jazz [Part IV]: Crown Lands

Folks, up until about a week and a half ago or so, I was fully convinced rock n’ roll had no more worlds left to conquer. Every conceivable genre and musical concept has been explored within the rock idiom at least once. Even if the results didn’t exactly set the world on fire, it’s still been tried. We’ve heard funk rock. Jazz rock. Blues rock. Punk rock. Latin rock. Soul rock. Reggae rock. Industrial rock. Country rock. All thirty-one flavours of metal up yer ass. We’ve heard several rock operas. We’ve heard rock that borrows heavily from Tchaikovsky, or traditional folk music, or hip hop. We’ve heard rock with a synthesizer as a lead instrument, or three guitars, or two drummers. A band with two bass players? Check. We’ve heard what happens when the usual guitar-bass-drums-and-sometimes-keyboards setup is augmented with timbres not usually found in rock, like a flute, or a bagpipe, or even a didgeridoo. Quirkier still, we’ve also heard rock that does away with the guitar entirely, or uses it sparingly. We’ve heard a whole slew of bands unplugged. We’ve heard them collaborating with symphony orchestras. We’ve also heard this, which most would agree is in a class by itself…

I look at a band like Greta Van Fleet now, and reminisce with amusement how a younger, hipper version of me would have hated them. With every fibre of my being. How dare they commit the ultimate sacrilege by modelling their entire sound on the Mighty Zep! Such was the way of thinking of yours truly at the age of twenty-one. But now the attitude is: Meh. Let the kids rip off Zeppelin if they like. The Hammer of the Gods hasn’t done much in the way of mammoth touring since Bonzo drank himself to death (unless you count that series of records and tours Bob and Pagey did together in the Nineties), and some folks in the know are opining that Bob Plant’s iconic banshee wail ain’t what it used to be due to his advanced years. Hence, it’s arguably refreshing to hear a younger and more vigorous band attempt to take up the mantle, even if their efforts clearly pale in comparison to the original. It’s not like there’s any uncharted territory for a young band to go exploring in…

…or is there?

Before I expand upon that question, let me share with you all an interesting little tidbit about Canada that even most Canadians are dimly aware of. We have our own football league. Gridiron football, the local variant. Ever wonder why there are no NFL teams in Canada? Well, now you know. If hypothetically the NFL tried to put an expansion team in Toronto, such a move would almost certainly cause friction with the existing Toronto Argonauts organization, one of the oldest and most storied franchises of the Canadian Football League. So they never bother with it. Most would agree that the CFL lacks much of the bombast and pageantry of its American counterpart. And it does. But hey, it’s our league. It’s the league all our local teams play in. My heart and soul has been painted and tattooed Bomber Blue since I was but a wee lad. If you have even a passing familiarly with the CFL and its associated lore, you’ll understand what I mean by that.

Best in the West, bitches! That Grey Cup will be ours for the taking. Many a non-Bomber ass will be soundly kicked this November.

The other night I was watching my Bombers open up a big ol’ can of whoop-ass on their hated arch-rivals, the painfully nauseating Calgary Stampeders (if you think Argos fans are obnoxious, you’ve obviously never been to Calgary). Sometime during the second quarter, it was announced that some band I’ve never heard of was going to be performing during halftime. A band called Crown Lands, hailing from Oshawa, Ontario (one of Toronto’s satellite cities, for those not familiar with the geography). Usually halftime is when I get up to answer nature’s call and help myself to refreshments edible, drinkable and smokable, but I caught a certain vibe from this particular musical act. One that piqued my interest enough to stay tuned.

There are only two guys in this band. Which doesn’t seem so unusual on the surface. Duos have been a part of rock n’ roll since at least the Everly Brothers. But most musical duos hitherto have tended to fall in one of three categories. The first category would encompass the aforementioned Everly Brothers, and involves both performers being vocalists and frontmen. This type of duo functions very much so like a solo act with two people, and as such they frequently need to hire the services of a backup band. The second type is the Pet Shop Boys configuration, where one guy is the singer and the other guy replicates the sound of a backup band with an invariably impressive synthesizer rack, and doesn’t sing. Hip hop duos that consist of an MC and a DJ would be a variant of the Pet Shop Boys concept. You don’t see too many duos of this type used in hard rock contexts, although it’d be interesting to see somebody try. The third type is the White Stripes configuration, which is your basic garage-rock power trio minus a bassist. Probably the most minimalist rock n’ roll lineup there is. One that’s also rarely used, as it can have disastrous results if it’s not done right. Jack White is one of the few who somehow managed to make it work.

I hereby decree that there is now a fourth type of duo. Crown Lands, who are a category unto themselves.

One guy is the drummer. He’s also the lead singer. He sings and plays drums with equal virtuosity. Like Geddy Lee, only on drums. If that’s not cool enough, he’s got a Roger Taylor-esque gong as part of his kit to boot. The other guy is the guitarist. A guitarist with many curiosities among his vast array of pedals, which includes a prominent bass pedal as its centerpiece. During a performance, he plays the guitar parts with his hands and the bass (and synth!) parts with his feet. Like Ray Manzarek, only on guitar. A guitar that emits plenty of otherworldly sounds…

The preceding was the halftime performance in its entirety. Picture quality in that video is wack-ass, but at least it gives you an idea of what I saw. Here’s a slightly better-quality video that shows off more of the guitar player’s pedal rig…

Their music videos don’t blow nearly as much mind as their live performances, but here’s one of them…