TOO MUCH TO DO SO IT’S TIME TO GO

Hello everyone, everywhere,

Well, it has been an incredible journey. I started this blog almost four years ago, and this is post number two hundred. I have been humbled by the number of people who have read my blog from all over the world.

But now the journey is taking flight. I am working with Michelle to write my memoirs and I must focus on that. Thank you, everyone, everywhere for following my blog. I will definitely let you know when my memoirs are complete.

My stories are my life and I’m ready to spread my wings. Let’s go. Oh, and I left one true story to walk away with. I just call it….

NEVER EVER GIVE UP

Four years ago my friend Mary sent me to Red who built my website and taught me how to use it. Then I found Michelle and the rest of it followed–music, compassion, respect.  Thank you to everyone who supported me on my journey. And a big thank you to Dean, who with much trust has allowed Michelle and me to work together over the years. He’s a good guy. And don’t worry, Dean. Your trust was well placed. Thanks, buddy.

To the people who were touched by my stories–you honour me and I thank you, whether you got me or not.

Now it is time, for the last time, to close our eyes, and rest…if only for a moment.

That’s all.

(NEVER EVER GIVE UP)

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By jamesghutcheson

THE SOUND OF TENDERNESS

Hello everyone, everywhere,

I will begin by saying that this is my penultimate blog posting. I’ll tell you more next week.

We had a great concert on Friday. There were so many people there, the band was hot, and everything was working. As always we thank Curtis for being on the soundboard for us.

On to this week’s story. I often see news stories about people wanting to die with dignity. So I often think about what would it be like if a husband and wife were both suffering from the same thing and they wanted to go together. If I loved someone as much as the couple in the story love each other, I would probably want to do the same thing they did. Yes, it’s a little fantasy, but maybe not. I’ll let you decide.

And now it’s time to close our eyes and our thoughts, if only for a moment…and rest.

A HARD RAIN AND A SOFT GOODBYE

The night was very quiet, though if you closed your eyes for a moment you could hear Frank Sinatra singing and the Tommy Dorsey band backing him up. It was here, in the Red Deer Hospice, where Stan and Cora made their last stand.

All their grown children and their grandchildren had been there all day. Finally, Stan looked up at them all and said. “I need to be with your mother for a bit.” The children pushed Stan and Cora’s beds together, smiled, and left the room. They knew that the time was very short.

Then Stan and Cora were alone with their memories, together with an unspoken love that had lasted sixty-two years. They gently touched each other’s hands as Nat King Cole sang “Smile”. How they loved that song.

Stan and Cora gazed into each other’s eyes just as they did sixty-two years ago. Their tears fell slowly, and as great drops of rain ran down the window…Cora passed. Stan lasted just long enough to say, “Don’t worry old girl. Together in life, together in love. Good night, Cora.” And moments later, Stanley passed with a smile for his best friend.

That’s all.

(NEVER EVER GIVE UP)

By jamesghutcheson

THERE’S A LOT OF GREY IN THOSE CLOUDS

Hello everyone, everywhere,

Today was a difficult day at rehearsal. I pulled some muscles over the weekend and had a rough start but things loosened up eventually and everything was fine again. We have a show coming up this week at the Hub and I’m really looking forward to it.

I’ve lived in Alberta for almost twenty years and until recently the economy was really good. The change in the last couple of years was crushing to so many people and I feel for them very much.

And now it’s time to close our eyes and our thoughts, if only for a moment…and rest.

VOICES IN THE WIND

You know, these days I see people lining up for any respectable job. The jobs that they rejected yesterday now seem good enough to fill out the paperwork.

Faces. Faces. So many faces are gone. From everywhere they came, and to everywhere they went.  A lot of those who are still here want to leave.

On the flip side, for us to have all we need tramples on the rights of those who truly own this land, who were made to suffer excuses and dishonour while watching so much of their lives disappear.

Some days it becomes almost overwhelming–all these voices in the wind.

That’s all.

(NEVER EVER GIVE UP).

By jamesghutcheson

HANG TOUGH

Hello everyone, everywhere,

First off, the music, Michelle, and Dean are all well. Now on to it.

I was sitting outside last night. It was very quiet for a change and, I don’t know why, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my lost brother. It’s coming up three years and I still haven’t quite come to terms with it. Because of the way I think,  the things that I can’t remember any more haunt me day and night. But that’s my problem.

Merv watched over me for fifty years, and even in death he never rested until I was all right. People thought I was very cold when Merv died because I didn’t react properly or say the right things. It’s just that I had no time to think.

But that’s all yesterday, and none of it matters. After Merv died I never got to give my brother the tribute that I wanted to give him. So tonight I’m telling you a story that’s long overdue. I haven’t told anyone in my life this story and now I’m telling the world. All I’ll say on all of this is that it’s all true, and this is how it happened.

And now it’s time to close our eyes and our thoughts, if only for a moment…and rest.

HOW I MET MERVIN (THAT’S MERV) JOSEPH LUCIEN SUTHERLAND

(1955-2014)

I’d just moved: from Brandon, Manitoba to Des Moines Iowa, then back to Winnipeg; out of a house and into an apartment; dad off to Calgary. So it was my mother, my younger brother, my two baby sisters and me, all living together in a two-bedroom apartment.  Another school, different kids, more fighting. I was barely thirteen and I felt like I was forty.

On the first day of school, I walked with another fellow from my building. I was really nervous to be starting another school again. My face had broken out the night before so that was a good opener, clothes weren’t up to snuff, hair wasn’t long enough or clean enough. You know.

We walked into the schoolyard that was filled with all these kids, most bigger than me. I didn’t know where to go or where to start. This kid that I was with said, “I know this guy. Jim Hutcheson, meet Merv Sutherland.”  I was looking at this big guy in a pea jacket wearing 1945 army-issue glasses.

Merv shook my hand and then the kid just sort of vanished. So there’s me talking to this Merv guy who I had just met. Anyways Merv just started talking to me and we started laughing. And he said, “I’ll show you where you’ve got to go. It’s my second year here.”

I always remember saying, “Man I love your coat!” My next line stayed with us until the day he died: “How come you’re wearing 1945 army-issue glasses?” Now you have to understand that they were big black rimmed glasses that are in style now but back then it was “take it or leave it”. As we approached the school I remember saying to him, “I really don’t want to go in here. I hate starting because it never goes well.”

“Ah it will be okay,” he said. Because that was his way.

So off we went into the building to find our homerooms. Merv said to me, “Who is your teacher?”

I looked at my schedule and said, “It’s Miss Reddin.” (I hope that old girl is long gone because–man oh man).

Merv said, “That’s mine too!”

We were laughing as we walked into the classroom. Miss Reddin said, “Good morning to you, Merv Sutherland. Are you in my class?”

Merv said, “Good afternoon to you, Miss Reddin.”

I was standing behind him, half his size, and I was killing myself laughing. And then I realized that this guy was funny!

The teacher said, “And you are Jim Hutcheson.” And I forgot her name.

“Hello Mrs. Red Rose or Red Nose,” I said.

“You I don’t like,” she said. And it never got better from that moment on.

And that’s how I met Merv Sutherland. Who’d have thought that we would end up as brothers for fifty years.

That’s it.

(NEVER EVER GIVE UP).

 

By jamesghutcheson

IN HARMONY

Hello everyone, everyone,

The music has been taking me to places I’m just feeling very full. I play now with my eyes shut and my glasses off. I play now where I always played and that is because I trust people I’m working with to hit the right notes and to be there. It takes an incredible amount of time to get that trust built up in a band especially incredibly hard when you’re dealing with a disability band. It’s not what they have so much as what we have to do in our minds to get it right and play it. It’s quite a journey.

This will take you to tonight’s story. This is a real story. This is my story. This is where the journey began.

And now it’s time to close our eyes and our thoughts, if only for a moment…and rest.

FIBROMYALGIA

(A Bitch of a Story)

How do I start? It doesn’t matter; it’s only infinity.

Almost thirty years ago I lost my life for the third or fourth time. I was trying to defend my job on a strike line and a replacement worker hit me with his truck. This guy didn’t kill me but he triggered the disease that has been killing me ever since: fibromyalgia.

Getting fibro is not the issue–surviving with it is the real dance. It attacks the central nervous system, then races through the body, punching and banging all the way, pulling muscles tight.  Imagine pulling a bowstring at full tension and then just letting go and letting it attack against the force. That’s how I wake up.

With fibro there are doctors and pills, and witch doctors and con artists. I’m always fighting through a maze of rituals to proceed with my day.  I only know what keeps me sane after having not (one) single day in all these many many years where it just doesn’t hurt.

This disease took my life, took my career, took my sanity, and that was only the beginning of my journey. To date, there is no cure for fibromyalgia so what I tell myself is to find a way to smile and never ever give up. The trouble with fibromyalgia is that it never gives up either.

That’s all.

(NEVER EVER GIVE UP).

By jamesghutcheson

I THOUGHT IT WAS AROUND THE CORNER!

Hello everyone, everywhere,

Okay folks, first I’ve got to start off saying that the music has been going wonderfully. And I’m doing the best that I can.

Now let’s get onto it. You know, you’d think that Michelle couldn’t do three in a row but I swear this woman has more mishaps than Carter has pills!

Michelle has taken on a new endeavor with her sister Jill. They took the call to deliver hot meals to people who can’t cook for themselves. There is no doubt that Michelle is a very caring person, as is her sister.

Now, back to the scene. The other day was their second run. The first run went really smoothly so they thought the second would be no problem. Not so much.

In the fluster to get going, the GPS didn’t get turned on. The sisters were trying to stay calm as they weaved their way through the streets of Edmonton (where they grew up. Apparently, they didn’t grow up where they were delivering). Once they both realized that they had no idea where they were going, panic set in. Michelle decided to be the calm one. I’ve met all the sisters. Michelle is not the calm one.

But anyway, somehow they got the deliveries going. Except one order got mixed up with another order, and halfway through they realized that they’d screwed up again. At this point, Michelle said she knew a shortcut. It didn’t work out.

They finally did get all the meals delivered (somewhat late), dropped off the empties, made sure everyone was still breathing, and left for the day. On the way out they high-fived each other and said, “Well, that was a good day.

And so ends another week with Michelle.

That’s it.

And now it’s time to close our eyes and our thoughts, if only for a moment…and rest.

 

DICK PHILLBURN CALLS HOME

Now Dick Phillburn has lived away from his home territory a long time. Even though he has carved out an intensely different kind of life, he is occasionally pulled back, and yesterday’s memories come alive. One or two of his old friends from damn near forty years ago are left.

But the phone remains silent.

Dick thinks, Well…when the phone doesn’t ring, apparently it doesn’t mean it’s broken. Maybe it’s time for me to call the past.

Dick calls his friend whom he calls a crazy hillbilly. This guy never stops going. He’s always been ahead of most steps.

The call is answered by his friend’s lovely wife who says, “This can’t be Mr. Dick Phillburn calling after all this time. Hold on I’ll go grab him.”

Seconds later, an old comforting voice says, “Is this really Dick Phillburn calling?”

Dick says, “How are you, my favourite hillbilly?”

“You know, garbage keeps piling up.”

“Oh! You work at the dump?”

“No, I work at City Hall,” his friend says.

Dick chuckles to himself and thinks, Sometimes you’ve just got to phone home.

That’s all.

(NEVER EVER GIVE UP).

By jamesghutcheson

LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION!

Hello everyone, everywhere,

Everything is going well, so let’s get on to what I really want to talk about. You know, I thought Michelle couldn’t outdo her LA story, but barely two weeks later, in the middle of the night on a Friday, Michelle woke up when she thought she heard something out front. She looked out the window and her eyes opened wide. She was looking at a movie being filmed on her street and on her lawn. Now Dean’s a pretty good sleeper but Michelle made sure she prodded him enough to get him up and told him, “They’re shooting a movie in front of our house!”

No kidding, it was a movie. The star of the show was Sean Penn’s son Hopper. After two hours of setup, the scene started.  A car is parked at an angle on the road right in front of Michelle and Dean’s house. A guy gets out of the car to look for what he’s hit. It’s a porcupine. So they hold a camera on him while he pets the porcupine. They go over this scene about five times and then finally the guy brings out his laptop from his car, walks to the porcupine, and hits it on the head with it to make sure it’s dead. Then he drags the porcupine across the street and buries it. Cut, print, and it’s over. It took half the night and they filmed him for about five minutes.

This is why I called the story this week The Extra.

And now it’s time to close our eyes and our thoughts, if only for a moment, and rest.

THE EXTRA

They were shooting a movie in town and the movie people asked us if we could get people from around the area to work as extras. The Wives’ Club started phoning, and one thing to another, we were in. The scene was supposed to be at a fair. Well, people here know how to put on a fair, believe me.

Eleven-year-old Bobby Hansen was one of the three hundred extras–farmers most of them. He had the big lights of the city on his mind. If I pull this off, I’ll change my name to Bobby Handsome. Yes, that’s a splendid idea. Yes, splendid. I have rehearsed until my toes hurt. Gotta get it right. One shot. Come on Bobby, you can do it!

It was on. Three hundred people at a fair. “Action!” the director called. “Two minutes, camera’s rolling.”

Bobby thought, Now get into your role. Kid at the water fountain.

The director yelled, “Cut! Print! Thanks, folks”. And it was over.

Bobby was stumped. But he figured it like this. Sure, doing movies is a great life. I think I might just stay where I am though. You see, it’s hard to stay on top when you’re an extra.

That’s all.

(NEVER EVER GIVE UP).

By jamesghutcheson

DISTANT NOW

Hello everyone, everywhere,

You know, I’ve been talking to myself a lot more these last few years. It is at the point where, when I’m out amongst real people, there’s not much to say because there’s really no one to say it to. I accept blame for some of it and that’s the bulk of tonight’s tale.

That’s it.

And now it’s time to close our eyes and our thoughts, if only for a moment…and rest.

THE LEPER IN THE BLUE PINSTRIPE SUIT

He goes downtown, strutting his stuff. Been strutting since he was thirteen because by then you are starting to build your future grown-up life skills.

He, being poor and covered in zits, immediately learns that he has to change his game. You see, when you are one of the smaller people then you get pushed and tripped and chased and laughed at. So he devises a plan. He stops being so funny. And then he stops getting pushed so much.

Time goes by. He has it all. Beautiful wife, home, and really good friends. And then years later, body and brain fueled by alcohol and pills, he is in a horrific accident after having a breakdown. Wife gone, home gone, in the hospital dying, and he doesn’t hear once from his really good friends (or his really good wife).  He’s gone then a few days later is back.

So many years and faces later he settles in with what he was dealt. Though the lesson is learned, he wonders why he can still turn the girls’ heads, and get a smile, even interest once in a while. But once they find out, excuses and pity are the call of the day. It doesn’t matter much to him anymore.  Since he is a man of class and honour, he now knows that no matter what, he is forever a leper in a blue pinstripe suit.

(NEVER EVER GIVE UP)

By jamesghutcheson

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC

Hello everyone, everywhere,

This week, we talk music. But just before we do, I have to say that Michelle and Dean just got back from LA. Dean’s a science teacher and they were at a science conference. Poor Michelle was walking down a street, minding her own business, and some creep with a line from the sixties says to her as she’s going by, “Hey there, lady!” So Michelle keeps walking by, looking the other way, and the guy yells at her, “Fuck you, bitch!” And Michelle thinks to herself, “They don’t know how to talk to Canadian women here”.

My life, for better or worse, starts and ends with music. I am sixty-one years old, and I feel and play like…I could have made it to the big time. And at that moment when I was asked…I gave the wrong answer.

That’s it.

And now it’s time to close our eyes and our thoughts, if only for a moment…and rest. Tonight’s piece was brought on by too many pop stars. As an old musician, I just needed to vent.

THE STATE OF AFFAIRS

Dance and play to the sun they will; cries from long-missed time.

I am a musician. A real one. No one tweaked me or set the lights just so.

Oh, I came from a time when you had to earn it.

Hundreds of miles from one to the other. Darkness. Highway, white-out from snow.

That never stopped me. It was part of the show.

You fight all the bullshit, smile at the crowd. They look at you. Hey! You’re too fuckin’ loud!

Huddling together with nothing to say. But forty years later I’m still here to play.

(NEVER EVER GIVE UP).

By jamesghutcheson

I HAD COFFEE WITH COUNT BASIE

Hello everyone everywhere,

You know, Count Basie was one of the greatest jazz musicians I have ever seen. I grew up with him and Duke Ellington. My father brought me up on big band jazz and taught me to understand what they were doing.

I can’t remember most of my past but I do remember something that happened when I was eighteen. My father ran a big hotel and I was sitting in the coffee shop one morning. I looked up, and standing there was my father and Count Basie.

I’m falling off my chair, and my dad calls me over and introduces me. I mean, this man was a legend! Is still a legend!

He said to me, “You’re a player.”

“I’m trying,” I said.

And he said to me, “Well let’s have coffee and we’ll chat”.

That’s pretty much how it went. So there I am, this eighteen-year-old nobody having coffee with one of the greatest jazz legends of all time. We had a wonderful talk. I don’t remember a damn word of it but I know it was a good one.

Anyway, that’s just another remarkable moment of my life that this brain tried to take away, but I found it again. It’s a great story and it’s a true story.

That’s all.

And now it’s time to close our eyes and our thoughts, if only for a moment…and rest.

THE STORY OF SANDY CHARLES

An old man sits by the river path in the park. Sandy Charles likes to sit on a certain bench where the river feels more solitary. It isn’t much of a day for early spring–gloom always sets in on a dark day.

Sandy always has a smile if you need one, and even a story to tell, though in retrospect he knows that most of the stories will stay with him. He is trying hard to piece together something that is so badly broken.

And then events happened and that something became a new something.  Everything became new.

The new Sandy Charles looks pretty much the same as the old one. But he knows that he is very different. Years of saying and doing in a constant search, only to realize that the dance is over and all these many years have now brought him to a crossroad.

It is time for him to close his eyes and rest, if only for a  moment.

That’s all.

(NEVER EVER GIVE UP).

By jamesghutcheson