Sunday, June 10, 2012

Blinky Sees All

Growing up, while her young classmates had visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads, I’m convinced Susan had visions of heated leather seats. Late last month, her vision finally came true.

Heated leather seats were actually third on her SUV wish list, after V6 and 4X4. She also landed, although not all these items were on the wish list, chrome mags, sunroof, leather-wrap steering wheel, heated mirrors and running boards!

When we decided we were financially ready to explore the possibility of getting a new SUV, Tristan and I were assigned the task of scoping-out the possibilities. It’s fair to say Susan dreads the haggling and discussion that typically surrounds dealership visits. With unbridled zeal, my son and I dove in to the dirty work.

Tristan and the salesman certainly seemed to hit it off; in fact, at one point, the sales guy talked about putting a desk next to his, so the two of them could do business together!

Our discussions seemed to go exceptionally well and, lo and behold, the dealership had the vehicle of her dreams right there on its parking lot! Karma, indeed! Trying to remain guarded, we headed out to take a peek. It was black with custom chrome dual mufflers. By the time we’d finished at the dealership, we were giddy with exitement and pride at how quickly we had nailed down Susan’s dream vehicle. Her wish list sparkled with promise. We e-mailed pictures to her at work. Rather inevitably, with the two of us excitedly skipping, hopping and bobbing around her, her initially subdued state began to escalate until she, too, was eager to finalize a purchase.

That weekend, we took her to the parking lot to see her prospective SUV. Within the first thirty seconds, she looked at us with considerable reproach and exclaimed, “But it’s not four-wheel drive!” At first we waved off her claim, dismissed it outright. Then, reluctantly and dumbfounded, as we stared at the paper hanging on the inside of the passenger window, our huge gaffe began to dawn on us. Sure enough, it was not 4X4! What had we done wrong? How could we have allowed such a colossal oversight? What wickedly insidious magic had the salesman woven?

You could hear the air, loudly, steadily, sometimes with a disgusting flapping sound, jetting from our badly burst balloon! We had been shamed, humbled and humiliated. To this day, we don’t know how we neglected to secure the number-two prerequisite on Susan’s wish list. We still have a hard time talking about it.

We are clearly not the observant, attentive, all-seeing fellows we think we are; alas, it gets worse.

In the Flintstones episode about “Dripper” the sealosaurus, one of the villain’s henchmen is named “Blinky” because of his terrible eyesight! We would sometimes refer to Susan as “Blinky” because she often didn’t see things that we had noticed at a glance.

This past winter I called home from work one stormy night. Tristan began telling me how the howling wind had dropped a tree branch into the neighbor’s front yard. He said the branch was the size of a tree and as tall as the neighbor’s roof! As the storm raged outside, Susan insisted the tree had always been there. (You can see this coming can't you?) After replaying a variety of scenarios together, Tristan and I emphatically agreed we did not have the faintest recollection of any tree next door! I vowed to examine the tree when I got home late that night.

As I walked up the street from the train, the tree branch did, indeed, look quite foreign. I walked onto the neighbor’s lawn and tried to push over the branch, gently at first and then with considerable effort. Then, for good measure, I tried to pull it straight out of the groud where it stood, spear-like and firm. The tree is still standing there today! It is a full-fledged, card-carrying tree and always was; only, why had we never noticed it before?

Now, when Susan sees things, observes things, notices things, or disputes our observations, conclusions or factual statements and declarations, we silently and most deferentially, bow our heads and dare not to doubt, for Blinky sees all.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Stellar Steve

I’m putting the new album by Steve Hill, his seventh, among my top five favorite blues records. It’s titled “Solo Recordings Volume One”. The album has it all, fire, smoke, smouldering coals, silk and rain clouds! It wails, it’s giddy, it cooks and it cries. It's electric, it's acoustic and it showcases his versatility.

The album is truly a collection of solo recordings. Steve is alone for each song, with a guitar in his hands and instruments played with his feet. In most cases, his feet are playing a bass drum and hi-hat. In other cases, for example, the Cream re-make, “Politician”, he has a coffee cup filled with change, taped to his boot.

He actually stood in the recording studio playing guitar and singing, at the same time that his feet played bass drum and hi-hat! He confessed there were sometimes balance issues, when he’d occasionally stumble backwards! It’s a cool way to do an album and the result is an irrepressibly pure performance and listening experience.

Steve was at Global Montreal studios yesterday to tape this weekend’s edition of “Focus Montreal”. It’s his second appearance on the show. I talked to him about the album, his busy summer concert schedule and he offered viewers a highly memorable performance of his soulful ballad, “Out of Phase”.

I'm always so excited to be able to talk to the great guests on "Focus Montreal", but when they're kind enough to agree to a picture, I usually end up looking like the biggest goof in the world!

We gave away an autographed copy of Steve's album on the air. After the interview, he signed the album, we chatted a bit and he left. Only then did I notice that he'd signed the album, "Thanks Richard, Steve Hill”. I couldn’t give that to a viewer! Steve had been telling me moments before that he’s hooked on vinyl and had planned to head into HMV below our office to see what records he could find.

I grabbed a “sharpie”, ran down to the music store, found him, asked him not to leave, bought a copy of “Solo Recordings Volume One” and dashed back to the spot where I'd left him! By the time I got back to the record rack, there were others waiting for an autograph! He happily signed the albums for all of us.

Steve’s an easygoing guy and a supremely talented guitarist and singer, who’s played with the likes of BB King, Jimmy Vaughn, Buddy Guy and Metallica.

If you have an appreciation of the blues, check out “Focus Montreal” this Sunday, or buy a copy of the album. If you win it on our show, I can certainly vouch for the autograph's authenticity! While I savor “Solo Recordings Volume One”, I can't help but eagerly await “Volume Two”.