“The truth is never simple in the Tamarack Room”

by nielskunze on May 26, 2016

Neon Lights

Neon Lights

(Tamarack Room by Missing Peace from our 1996 album Tense Moments)

Perpetual child… forever your forlorn face
Haunt me with your human shape…
Disarm me with your need
Do you have a sense for Quality?
Or will you steal the life from me?

I don’t know if I would deny you
Forever despise you or through pity would love you?
The truth is never simple in the Tamarack Room…

There are trees and mountaintops, rivers and oceans…
More than any picture-book can ever whisper
Do you desire to touch them?
Can you define your emptiness?
Close your vacant eyes…

I don’t know if I could ever show you,
Ever hold your love in a backless mirror…
The truth is never simple in the Tamarack Room…

Oh our mongoloid progeny, every man has the right to misery
But you carry that rusty chain blatantly around your neck…
Does the metal bite your flesh? Can we break for you those rusty chains?
Or will you carry them reservedly to everybody’s grave?
Or will you carry them reservedly to everybody’s grave?

I don’t know what to do for you
So I sing for you… I sing for you
The truth is never simple in the Tamarack Room…
Now I see your unfettered smile…
Now I see your unfettered smile…
Now I see your unfettered smile…

The sun falls gently in the Tamarack Room…
And may the sun come gently to the Tamarack Room…
Forever… more…

Tense Moments 10th Anniversary Edition Album Cover

Tense Moments 10th Anniversary Edition Album Cover

A year ago I didn’t know whether there was any life left in Missing Peace.

Now I know, unequivocally, there is!

I’m trying to stir up interest. We’d like to keep making music… and it’s just so much easier with the constant harassment of fans lighting the fire under our collective ass!

Please, go ahead and share! We’d still like to hold a special little place in your hearts!

Do You Remember?

by nielskunze on May 26, 2016

Froggy

Froggy

Do you remember when
there was nothing more important
than floating popsicle sticks in mud puddles?
Do you remember saving earthworms?
Do you remember when they told you
that the Earth was impossibly old…
But everything was just so brand new?
Do you remember the first time
you heard about death,
And it didn’t make any sense at all?
Do you remember asking about infinity,
and then trying to picture it…
Knowing that it was true–
but not really meant for thinking?
Do you remember when
dreams were real places to visit?
And waking up was just something you did every day?
Do you remember when the world was still safe
because you carried it so tenderly within you?
Do you remember the first time
you fell in love?
Do you remember looking over your shoulder,
saying “This is from where I’ve just come!”
Do you remember when everything changed?
Did it… or was it just you?
Do you remember…?
There’s nothing more important…!

(I Remember I Believe by Missing Peace, composed by Niels, from our 2016 album Second Thoughts)

“I believe in truth and honey in my tea;
I believe in love that keeps you sane.
I believe in life and petals in the stream;
I believe in your smile retained.”

The Bottom Line of the Money Con

by nielskunze on May 25, 2016

…as confidence wanes…

The Money Deception

The Money Deception

The world of money, economics and finance is made to look ridiculously complicated. That’s how a good con works.

There’s many layers, fallback positions, contingencies… built into any good long con. As the long con unravels, lies are revealed… but they were always MEANT to be revealed, eventually. The ‘coming clean’ aspect of the long con is the final obfuscation keeping the central secret hidden– at all costs.

It will appear that great concessions are being made; the fraud is being exposed; the con artists are being eliminated; the system is being corrected… but all the while the core nugget upon which the entire scheme rests remains safely out of view.

That’s where we’re at… with all of this renewed fervor over the Global Currency Revaluation and the startup of the new global financial system– this time gold-backed. La-di-fucking-da!

Money is a tool.

Money has become a tool of control.

Money, in the modern world, has become a dependency. Economics has become such that nothing can be accomplished in the world without adequate money– at the scale of the individual to the scale of nation states. (In even the worst of economic times, there’s always plenty of work that needs doing; there’s plenty of laborers desperate to work; there’s plenty of natural resources available, just as in boom times, to facilitate the work… but everything comes to a grinding halt because “I’m sorry, there just isn’t enough money in the public coffers. There’s nothing we can do… until conditions improve.”)

Whoever controls the issuance of currency wields the ultimate tool of control– over individuals… over nation states.

Every national government has legislative provisions for issuing their own currency through their own national (government) banks, interest free, backed by the nation’s GDP… but they don’t; they choose not to… except for in places like Libya– oops, not anymore; now they’ve had a privately-owned-and-run central bank foisted upon them too. Go figure. (Who benefits?)

Why is money loaned at interest– with COMPOUND interest attached? To make lending money profitable… to make the issuance of currency (through debt instruments) profitable for private lenders– that’s why. Why would borrowers agree to such a thing, especially entire nations? Because they’ve been duped into thinking that they don’t have a choice! (Or the right officials have been adequately bribed.)

That’s the nugget at the base of the long con.

With all of the hoopla about the new-and-improved financial system that’s waiting just around the corner at the crossroads of Soon Avenue and Imminent Street, the most basic way in which money enters into circulation– the real reform– will never be discussed.

It will be glossed over with talk of asset-backing, Basel-3 compliance, and central economic planning agencies. But that’s all just smoke.

Meanwhile, the fire burns in the interest– compound interest– owed to private interests. Get the picture?

Let’s be clear: money can be issued interest-free by our own national governments through our own nationalized banks; the very idea of a ‘national debt’ should not even exist. But such a state of affairs would not continue to serve the elite…

Get the picture?

The issuance of money in private hands, with compound interest attached, is a VERY powerful tool. You may have heard it argued that money is a convenience, a necessity to facilitate the smooth flow and growth of commerce and industry. In public hands, it could very well be exactly that; in private hands, it is a limitation, a means of steering public opinion, of crafting special-interest legislation, of bringing the world to its knees. Isn’t it blatantly obvious enough yet?

Have you ever heard yourself say– or perhaps think– “I can’t do that; there’s no money in it”…? Perhaps there’s something you’re truly passionate about, but you just can’t figure out how to make any real money at it… so you forget about it and settle for doing something you can barely tolerate instead… and that’s how you SPEND your life.

Money has become a dependency which shapes our everyday decisions, our life decisions, our destiny… our lack of soul growth. We gave away the most powerful tool.

We can get excited about financial reform and the freeing of the collateral accounts all we want, but if we don’t begin to understand the basics of the system– the long con– then it won’t make a bit of difference to our children, who will suffer under the very same illusions which have fooled us for generations.

Can’t we wise up now?

The Daily Forest Report May 24, 2016: Grizz!

by nielskunze on May 24, 2016

I had just stopped to grab a chunk of fir sap to chew, had scraped the clinging bark from the amber resin, and finally worked it into a proper wad of gum… when suddenly several things happened at once. I reached the crest of a tiny hillock on the trail, gaining a view up ahead; Toby gained the same view at the same time; the bear that we saw ahead on the trail just saw us too; Sitka and Lhasa immediately saw Toby’s reaction… and the chase was on!

It didn’t last long. The blonde bear I’d just seen streaking away ducked under the barbwire fence at the first opportunity. And immediately, once upon the other side, the bear made a very bear-like woof-growl-roar… and the dogs stopped right there. Of course I was yelling at them to “Stop! And come here!”… but I think the bear was much more persuasive than I. The dogs milled about the ‘hole’ in the fence, sniffing at the tufts of fur caught in the barbs, and issuing a chorus of barks without bite.

When I caught up to them, I said “He’s heading straight to the power-line. I bet we’ll see him there.” The dogs were misbelieving and impatient. For the next twenty minutes they learned to respect the intensity in my tone as I continually insisted “Stay close!”… as well as to appreciate my ability to accurately prognosticate.

Grizzly Bum

Grizzly Bum

And there he was! Just like I said. I was pretty convinced already that what I’d seen sprinting away from me and the dogs was a grizzly. Its colouring was too perfect… and it didn’t run like a black bear.

After stopping to pick a few wild strawberries, we had come out to the long clearing under the power-line. When we looked south, there he was!

I'ma Say... Grizzly

I’ma Say… Grizzly

My first grizzly encounter while out walking in the woods! Sure, as a BC motorist, I’ve seen plenty of grizzlies at the side of the highways… but never out in the Forest… while walking. (There’s nothing between that bear and me other than wide open fields and sunshine… oh, and a camera, of course.)

The master of turning within, denning, maximizing internal resources, Grizzly was out in the uncharacteristically lush spring, sharing his dreams with any who would dream along. He dreamed this year of lives lived as druids; Bear is a cultivator of treemind… although he loves especially the open fields among the wooded hills, where flowers and greens and grubs abound… in unfiltered sunshine.

I was at maximum zoom. It was difficult to keep the dogs at heel and hold the camera still enough to completely focus at that distance. We tried to follow closely, as the bear was upwind and traveling upwind– south… but he was sauntering at a bearish pace… and then he disappeared west– the direction of the backcountry.

Wait! Come Back!

Wait! Come Back!

Thus far, we had zigged and zagged and encountered the grizzly twice… and now we were about to zig again…

But alas, we did not meet up again.

Grizzly Track

Grizzly Track

We found some rain-drizzled footprints in the mud. My estimate of about a 400-pound bear seemed reasonable.

That was a good day… a nice adventure. The dogs learned how to behave as a complete team.

The Hidden Heart Shroom

The Hidden Heart Shroom

We do love our Forest adventures!

Message To/From the TOURS #37: Developments Within the Collective

by nielskunze on May 20, 2016

Eyeless and Headless in the Bright Sunshine

Eyeless and Headless in the Bright Sunshine

Okay, I’m back.

Sorry if you felt somewhat abandoned… but these external dependencies, these addictions, we have to move past them– inwardly. I’m still the fucking heretic who threw you to the wolves; there’s no denying it. And if you got eaten– if you got taken in by any aspect of the dream/delusion– then I guess you’re just a pile of wolf poop now… and this message isn’t for you.

But, if on the other hand (and both hands are equally yours), if you find yourself still standing, holding your ground… and you’re probably going through moments of feeling terribly alone… if you’ve endured thus far, harken to good tidings! An important shift within the Collective has occurred– nay, more than a shift, a reorientation. I’ll try to explain as succinctly as I can.

The true human is a creator being. All of reality comes through you and I. In the recent past, we have been like filters or lenses in our action as a Collective. The world of our perception was projected through us; we were being led by manipulative forces from behind, in the shadows, being led into a blind alley. We created the blind alley, the dead end… because those who were pushing the Collective from behind wished nothing more than to contain us. And for a time they did.

But creator beings cannot abide in stagnation for long. And in the extreme darkness of the blind alley, many began to examine themselves, for there was naught else to do. It was primarily among the longstanding members of the Team Of United Renegade Sovereigns (TOURS) that the very definition of sovereignty was sought. There had been a pervasive feeling of not settling for the same-old, same-old again– climbing upon the rungs of infinite hierarchy. This trip to Earth wasn’t just another deja vu. It was our supreme creatorship which was discovered in the darkness. We were the ones… we are the One.

Those who foisted this dead-end reality upon us from behind are trying everything to keep us in their bind, in the blind alley. They will never show us the way out… but now as we begin to see exactly where we are and who we are, we can’t help but to create the path to our own emancipation. And the only recourse left to them is to hijack that path, to twist it and turn it around into just another bind.

You see, in the recent past, we were being led through manipulation to create a reality not serving our own best interest… and we were content to do so for a time. But that time has run its natural course, and now it is over. Now we are the leaders– truly. And the manipulators frantically follow us on the path of liberation, trying desperately to throw fresh untruths ahead of us. But there are enough now among the Collective who see so easily through their ridiculous ploys to try and reinstate our old dependencies and addictions. We have seen ourselves as the true creator beings… and such a thing cannot be unseen!

Consider the implications. We are marching to freedom… toward the unknown… and they (all) can do naught but follow. Even those who would most vehemently deny and oppose our freedom can do nothing but follow us there… or be left in the blind alleys of their own creation to stagnate. We could never defeat them– finally– by fighting them; we could only liberate ourselves from their choiceless grasp… and so bring back choice– freedom– to all once again.

Do you see the perfection? The inevitability? How could it be otherwise?

So this is merely the announcement of an unavoidable milestone; we were always destined to be here.

Welcome.

“It’s certainly not flawless… but it’s nevertheless perfect!”

by nielskunze on May 18, 2016

Left to Right: Christopher, Cory, Niels, Shane, Ian

Left to Right: Christopher, Cory, Niels, Shane, Ian

I found myself at the centre of a whirlwind. A surreal kaleidoscope of events had swirled around me for days already, and now it was finally winding down…

I was standing in the middle of the restaurant. The last of the drunk and very happy patrons were still relishing in the afterglow of a terrifically nostalgic weekend. We had made them smile… and dance… and sing along. So many had come to relive some cherished memories of youth, when Missing Peace was still regarded as that one band that would surely make it… and everyone had kept the collective aspiration tucked away for the day that they could say “Hey, I knew them when…”

Then and now… not that much, really, had changed. I was fifty now… but I still felt twenty-five. Christopher had replaced David on the drum kit, but still, David had taken to the stage one more time at the end of the night. Ian stood in at bass– as always. But it was Christopher who’d strapped on Shane’s guitar and stepped up to the mic to rip out a Dylan cover. He drums for us– ’cause, fuck, he’s good– but I think he still prefers being the front man, singing and playing guitar. How many CDs has he made now with his other band– the one in which he’s the main songwriter? Goddammit my bandmates are a talented lot!

Ian has always been in bands. He’s that bass player who can sit in on any jam and the other players will love him– guaranteed. He was the one who held the gun to my head so many years ago and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. “We’re going to be a band; we’ll focus on your songs.” How could I say no? Being in an actual rock band wasn’t something that I could take any more seriously than my own antics alone in my bedroom, playing air guitar when I was twelve, lip-syncing to Jerry Doucette as he sang “Mama let that boy play some rock ‘n roll…” It was a fantasy, common… maybe even silly… but Ian had been dead serious… and Ian doesn’t take no for an answer.

It may have started out– oh… about 22 years ago– centred mainly around my songwriting (something I did for myself in a vain attempt at remaining sane), but we weren’t at it very long before the irrepressible talents of my mates insisted on a more diverse path. I’d bought Shane his first guitar. Within a few months he’d written half of the songs that appeared on our first album. The other half were mine, and Cory had written the hidden track with the help of our good friend Steve. Cory had just gotten started. His songwriting skill is irrefutable, and Missing Peace took full advantage of that. And then Ian began contributing his own song-craft too.

This fiftieth birthday celebration had doubled as a CD-release party. The long-awaited, much-talked-about sophomoric release from Missing Peace was finally finished and available to the public… after a mere sixteen years in production– my bad (I wear the sound engineering hat). So what do I think of it? Feel free to quote me on this: “It’s certainly not flawless… but it’s nevertheless perfect!” Despite all of the frustrations and delays, I’m proud of it and glad to share it… and I’m pretty sure my bandmates agree.

So there I was, standing in the middle of the restaurant, at about 1:30 in the morning… and I was sober! Can you believe that? So much had been going on throughout the night– the unrelenting hug-fest among old fans and friends– that I forgot to get drunk! I hadn’t even smoked anything, despite having two pre-rolled doobies in my backpack. Maybe I was finally an adult… and I was meant to face the second half of my life with an unprecedented clarity…?

One thing was certainly clear: Missing Peace was reinvigorated. Lazarus had risen again… looking a bit rough around the edges and perhaps a bit stinky, but this weren’t no zombie corpse– no, this was true life resurrected! Jesus would be jealous.

The local newspaperman who’d always been our staunch ally referred to us again as “forward-thinking” in his writeup of the event. Sure, all the nostalgia and reminiscence was great, but we were definitely looking ahead. And most of all, that’s what I really wanted for this milestone birthday. I wanted Missing Peace to still have a life.

A day after everyone had gone home, back to their regular lives, I sat down and compiled a list of our songs which hadn’t been recorded yet. All of the simpler, poppier, radio-friendly tunes were well represented on the first two albums… and now all that remained was the really, really good stuff! I tend to listen to progressive rock (prog)– you know, the out-of-the-ordinary stuff that I couldn’t play myself if my life depended on it. So in my opinion, our best stuff, our more progressive offerings were still awaiting their day in the sun. You see, back in 2001, Missing Peace existed as a 4-piece; I had left the band– for numerous reasons, but one significant factor was that I simply didn’t have the skill as a musician to keep up with the direction the band was leaning. Besides, I was the ‘folk’ influence… and the new sound wasn’t particularly folky.

(Black & Blue by Missing Peace from our 2016 release Second Thoughts)

I’d never been crazy about gigging in general, and touring was a real pain in my home-loving ass. Maybe we’d still play the odd show here and there going forward, but the guys seemed mostly content to just make music now, to be a recording band, and let the internet handle all the hype and the distribution. That’s all I ever really wanted– from before the internet was even a thing. I guess I should count myself as lucky that my mates so easily welcomed me back into the fold, seeing how I officially quit in 2000.

But some things, especially artistic things, tend to take on a life of their own. Missing Peace had always been just such a creature. Its lifeblood is the genuine bond that has endured among this family of musicians– my brothers in rhythm and melody. Its aspirations have long been the amalgamated childhood fantasies of five guys who still refuse to grow up all the way.

As I drove my sober self home, I reflected… It was the best birthday ever! I’m fifty… and I truly feel that I’m/we’re just getting started.

(Whitman’s Gauntlet by Missing Peace from our 2016 release Second Thoughts)

I Remember I Believe

by nielskunze on May 16, 2016

I remember not too long ago
All I wanted was to end this life;
I remember when I held that blade,
Beheld the corridor amidst the hell.
And I remember in that darkened hole
Despair was heavy on my broken mind.
I remember so well the fall,
And don’t recall when I started the climb.

I believe now that I’ve come to know myself;
I believe now that I’ve come to love.
I believe my life is worth a hundred worlds;
I believe now that I’ve come to love.

I remember your treacherous kiss,
How your love usurped my favourite dreams.
I remember that you’re not to blame;
The boy in the mirror is more than he seems.
I don’t remember when it all took place;
I do remember that it was up to me.
I remember your confused embrace,
But I choose to live in reality.

I believe now that I foster no regrets;
I believe now that I’ve learned to love.
I believe now that I’ve transcended the past;
And I believe now that I’ve come to love.

I remember and I believe
I know now of a love that I’d scarce conceived.
I remember and I believe
Life ain’t to die for… it belongs to me!

And I believe in truth and honey in my tea;
I believe in love that keeps you sane.
I believe in life and petals in the stream;
I believe in your smile retained.

I remember and I believe…

The Merry-Go-Round

by nielskunze on May 16, 2016

It’s such a subtle thing, this basic orientation.

As a child, I was the centre of the universe… and the universe belonged to me. That’s another way of saying that all was in its proper place, its ideal order, and I felt deeply that I belonged.

As an adolescent, I moved away from the centre. I did it for the most noble-seeming reason of all; I did it for love.

And I lost my identity… and my belonging.

For thirteen years, I wasn’t Niels. I had become The-Boy-Who-Is-In-Love-With-___. I was off-centre; I was in orbit, in constant motion, subject to unrelenting external forces. I was being pulled apart.

Exhausted, eventually, I clawed my way back to the centre… and I found that I could sit there, without grasping, without effort, at the very centre of the merry-go-round– still spinning the very same stories… but now I could see them again from the inside-out. From the centre, nothing could pull at me Now… though I could perceive it all, clearly.

There are countless children at the centre with me, happy and secure, immune to external forces. But one-by-one, like me, they are eventually lured off-centre… and very few ever make it back in this lifetime. They are torn asunder by centripetal forces… as the journey back to centre is hard, requiring focus and purposeful effort… and the understanding of a universe in constant motion.

Stillness is always at the centre, always waiting. The dimensionless geometric centre of the merry-go-round doesn’t move one iota; it doesn’t even spin. It is timelessness, non-spatial… and I am that, have always been that, and will always be that… forever confronted with the choice to move… if only to reach out a hand to others…

It’s such a subtle thing, this basic orientation…

(I Remember I Believe by Missing Peace from our 2016 album Second Thoughts, composed by Niels… a song about just this…)

The Living Spirit of Change

by nielskunze on April 22, 2016

The life of the Spirit of Change was in the people’s minds. It existed nowhere else. And like any sentient being, it existed in order to discover and define its own true nature.

In the spring of 2016, the Spirit was very active… and extremely widespread. The Spirit found itself in the thoughts of the Earth majority. Everyone, it seemed, was thinking about change– its necessity, its imminence.

For many, the thought of drastic change was accompanied by fear. And fear is always about the unknown, about unpredictability. But each and every one, the Spirit found, had personal experience with drastic change already. There was not a single human life to be found on Earth that had not been visited at least once by upheaval and calamity.

So even in the face of the unknown, there were assurances… experiences that could be relied upon.

In the mind of the divorcee, the Spirit noticed that the moment of upheaval was always unpleasant… but utterly necessary for love’s hopeful continuance. In the mind of the cancer patient, the Spirit saw that the reordering of priorities itself was painful… but inevitably led to a better place, and the possibility of healing and renewed life. And in the mind of the child leaving home for the first time, the Spirit found the weight of trepidation set squarely on the shoulders of self– the initial unsharing of burdens. But in the shouldering, in the bearing of burdens rightly claimed, invariably a new inner strength was always to be found.

The Spirit of Change came to know its own fearful nature… but that was only a surface reality, a facade. Fear was never the motivation; but rather, it was merely a symptom or a side-effect… a silly mask. No, there was something rather essential at the core of the Spirit of Change… that really had nothing to do with fear at all. And it looked in all seriousness to be the very same thing at the core of every other Spirit in existence.

At its core was Truth.

The most devastating, the most crippling, the most profound expressions of change were ultimately motivated by Truth. The divorcee, the recovering cancer patient, the child leaving home– each was in search of a deeper, more abiding Truth.

The Spirit of Change was called upon when comfortable lies ceased being comfortable, when deeper Truths became preferable to eroding fantasies, when unsustainable falsehoods were wreaking havoc on the world in every moment. It was the nature of people and Spirits alike to call Change into motion… and seek solid ground in such times.

Now is such a time… and the Spirit of Change grows… in excitement, curiosity and the confidence borne of inevitability. Invite it in… and fear not.

The Second Set

by nielskunze on April 18, 2016

The New Album (2016)

The New Album (2016)

Prologue: I never told my bandmates this story before…

It must’ve been early in the winter of 2000; I was standing on stage– or rather, that corner of the pub designated, this night only, as “the stage”… tables cleared, speakers stacked… when I serendipitously spied through the milling bodies a particular gentleman’s arrival. Shane and Ian seemed to notice him too as he pushed through the front door.

We’d already finished our first set at the local pub– the pub which I can practically see from my kitchen window at home– so we were pretty comfortable, relaxed… and maybe we were even a bit lackadaisical in that first set. Not to worry, we would rock it out in the second; you could feel it.

It was interesting, in hindsight, that the three of us noticed this particular gentleman’s presence. (I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Cory and Chris noticed him too. Serendipity can be like that.)

He sat at the bar alone, drank something cool like whisky neat, and somehow seemed to have a whiff of importance about him, a unique fragrance wafting among the common bar-room breezes. He was of average build, middle-aged, and had a big bushy beard. His hair was long, but meticulously bound in a perfect ponytail. So far as I was able to observe, he spoke to no one, except the bartender… and eventually me.

The second set was solid. The local rabble were adequately roused. The band was pleased. And the particular gentleman had remained for the whole set, and had even cracked a smile during the big rock ending, finishing it off.

But now as I was entering the milling crowd and thought to walk nearby him– you know, give him the chance to engage me in conversation– well now, suddenly he was gone. The barstool was vacant… and I thought “Now ain’t that anticlimactic?” I had been quite certain that he was somehow important.

And I’m not even one to go off talking to strangers anyway. I was already stepping out of character because intuition had given me the nod… but I must’ve been mistaken. He’d already taken off. I’d missed him. Weird.

Oh well, I was just going to duck home to enjoy a pee in my own bathroom. (That’s the sort of thing I’d count as a little victory after having become disenchanted with the many inconveniences of band life on the road.)

I zipped up my coat and stepped out the front door… and there he was, waiting for me, or perhaps any one of us, the particular gentleman. He was already handing me his business card:

Phillip Gulliver
president
J-Swift Records Inc.

“Hello Phillip,” I said, reading the card.

“Phil,” he corrected me, holding his hand out patiently for a shake. I eventually grabbed it, as protocol and awkwardness would dictate. He then raised his eyebrows in askance, and it finally dawned on me that he might reciprocally wish to know my name.

“Niels,” I said, giving the hand one final pump.

And he repeated back “Neil. Pleased to make your acquaintance Neil.”

Everyone seems to think I’m joking about the “s” at the end of my name. It’s really there; it’s not silent; I know my own name; and I don’t have a terrible lisp!

I didn’t bother correcting him.

I figured it was my turn to speak, so I looked at the business card again in my hand. “J-Swift as in Jonathan, and these are Gulliver’s travels,” I presumed.

He smiled very broadly. “You’re the first person in five years to put that together. Always a good omen.”

“I was an English Lit. major,” I explained.

“Graduate?”

How did he know I hadn’t? “Nope.”

A chill January wind blew between us and we both hitched up our coats around our necks. And he started in.

“I’m gonna be quick.” I liked him already… (…but if he now made reference to his name being Swift, I would have written him off as a 3D-fucking salesman. He didn’t.) “I’m not here to blow flowers up your ass.” When is there anyone…? Sigh. “I like you guys. You’re original. You’ve made an album already; you know the drill. I’d like you to make the next one with me, on my label.” He paused for a response… and I didn’t know where to begin.

It wasn’t too long ago that I’d said in the Banff band-house that the day we sign a record deal is the day I quit the band. I could just barely tolerate the fact that every life decision I made directly affected the lives of my four other bandmates, and every decision they made affected me. And I certainly wasn’t very keen on signing the whole lot over to some moneyed-interest willing to rigidly schedule the next few years of our lives instead.

The irony was killing me. I was being offered a record deal on behalf of the band– me!

Honestly, I’d really been thinking about quitting. The very idea of quitting the band had been weighing heavily on me. Was this a sign? Or was it possible that a record deal could be a good thing?

He was waiting for my response.

“Please forgive me for being rude, but who the fuck are you, Phillip Gulliver?” He knew what I meant. I mean, he could just be some guy with a computer in a root cellar… and a few too many garden tools. Credentials… why do I want to share custody of my children with you and your company? I need some tasty credentials… or I will never even mention this incident to my bandmates. He knew what I meant.

“Starting in the mid-sixties I worked with A&M.” He paused there as if asking if I’d ever heard of A&M. Of course I’ve fucking heard of A&M! Go on… said my smile, sweetly. “I climbed the ranks of A&M, learned the game, made the contacts, and then broke away on my own a couple of years before A&M went defunct in ’99. The studios are state of the art. But distribution in this emerging digital world is what counts… and my team puts records in people’s hands.” I liked how he’d said records and not CDs; it seemed more authentic.

“We– me and the boys– pretty much decided that we’d produce and engineer our own album.” It sounded like I was rejecting him. “We’re kinda stoked to be doing it ourselves.”

He shook his head, still smiling. “You know how many details need looking after to make a decent album? How much work it is… setting it all up from scratch?”

I wasn’t completely wet behind the ears. Even at that time, I had some inkling as to the monumental task looming before us. Now these many years later, I can fully appreciate the full scope of his query. The answer was “Thousands! Thousands of fucking details!” But I didn’t say it out loud at the time. He just plowed ahead anyway.

“I’m not asking anyone to sign anything tonight. I just want you to call me… and we’ll talk. I don’t want to steal your creativity. I want to be your partner. Call me.” He was fixing to go; I had to say something. But I hate commitment so much that I couldn’t even commit to a phone call… sometime in the nebulous future…

“Where are these studios?” I asked, stalling.

“Toronto.”

“Shitty.”

“For signed artists we have unbelievable deals with the airlines.” He paused again. “So call me.”

“Or I can give your card to Ian; he’s much more adept with telephones.”

“No,” he said, quite seriously. “I think it should be you.”

I nodded. And that was good enough for him. He turned and walked away.

“Call me, Neil!” he shouted from a dark corner of the parking lot.

“Damn straight I’ll call you Neil,” I muttered. “For that as damn sure ain’t my name!”

I quickly trotted home to pee and “freshen up.” And then I hurried back for the third and final set. It was a typical third set– all fired up to start with, and falling into unspackled drunkenness by the end, performers and audience alike.

There was only one incident of note during that final set, early on. In the “brief” pause between songs, we heard a siren outside rushing by on the highway, and Shane said “Uh-oh, they’re coming to get us.” And everyone sniggered.

None of my bandmates were aware that I had talked to Phil and that he was the president of a record company in Toronto. And I never told them… until now.

After that brief chat in the pub parking lot with Phil, I had a couple of sleepless nights. I laid in bed, fantasizing about being rich and famous, a proper rock star and all. It was great as a fantasy, but it wasn’t me in real life. I wasn’t that guy.

The next week I quit the band.

I handed them my carefully crafted resignation letter at a rare Wednesday afternoon jam in the garage. As they passed it around, I picked up the copy of the local newspaper Shane had brought to the jam hall. I was letting them digest the fact of my leaving at the end of this tour schedule… and then I was going to tell them about my conversation with Phil. I was willing to phone him on their behalf, but I wasn’t going to be any part of the deal– if one could be salvaged. I figured I owed my bandmates at least that much.

But when I turned to the third page, where the weekly RCMP Report was, the name Phillip Gulliver leapt from the page and poked me in the eye! “Toronto businessman… head-on collision… dead at the scene… just north of Fairmont…” Holy shit! That’s what those sirens were on Friday night. Gulliver’s earthly travels had come to a swift end.

And I quickly decided that there was no point now of informing my bandmates of the prospect that had gotten away. It’s not like we could phone up the company and say “Um, yeah… your dead boss thought we were pretty cool… and we were just wondering…”

No. None of us is quite that lame.

And that was that. And here we are…

– NK April 15, 2016, Fairmont Hot Springs, BC, Canada