A Few Words about my Muse on the Anniversary of his Death

ImageMy love for Jeff Buckley is not of a rational nature. After all, he put out one full LP in his short lifetime. Though a solid LP, it’s only made up of ten songs, three of which are covers.

Amazing covers, yes. Jeff Buckley’s “Hallelujah” has become a standard of how Leonard Cohen’s song should be performed, though it should be noted that John Cale gave it a new life before in 1991, digging it out of the anonymity in which it had pretty much rested since its release on Cohen’s 1984 Various Positions. Buckley’s version of “Lilac Wine” can also stand proudly next to Nina Simone’s—it’s as hauntingly beautiful and sweet. Finally, “Corpus Christi Carol” is such an odd choice for a rock album and is maybe, together with “So Real”, the reason why my love for Jeff Buckley endures, 20 years after the release of Grace and 17 years after his death that came way too soon. That voice.

That voice.

There’s nothing like it. Nothing that can compare to it. Other voices have charmed me, of course. Mike Patton, Tori Amos, Damien Rice, Patrick Watson, Johnny Cash (see my mad love post), Thom Yorke, James Dean Bradfield, Leonard Cohen, to name a few. But no other voice can hit me right through the heart, can move something in me (I’m not even sure what. Maybe the soul? Though I’m not exactly sold on that concept.) like Jeff Buckley’s voice can. It just flows through me and—perhaps a tad creepily—takes possession of me until the album ends.

Music is part of my everyday life. I pop in an album when I work, when I do the dishes. I hit “shuffle” on my iPod when I go for a run. I read books with music. I clean with music. I can’t do that with Grace. When I put on Grace, I can only sit in awe. I can’t explain it. But there it is.

Those Mother-Effing Injuries

ImageI run. I bike. I swim.

Not bad.

I am not an athlete. I am not training for anything. I have no big goal or number to beat. I just run and bike and swim because it feels good. It clears my mind. It relieves the stress. It helps me to sleep better. And in the words of the osteopath I have consulted this morning to deal with a recent injury (I’m getting there—the title wasn’t just for show): “Keep running.”

“Keep running” because my body is this tight ball of freaking rock. If I didn’t run (or bike or swim), I think there would come a time when I would not be able to bend any joint. So I know my limits. I don’t have lofty ambitions as far as my sporting eadeavours go. I just want to be able to keep at it.

So when those mother-effing injuries rear their ugly heads, I take it personally. I get angry. I scowl at my body—which is nothing new, and it doesn’t help anything, but you can’t control a knee-jerk reaction. Three weeks ago, I was running happily in the park. Enjoying the spring weather after what has been a harsh winter (even for Canada). I had been running for a good twenty-five minutes when a pain shot in my left hip. It was so sudden and virulent, I wondered for an instant if maybe I had been bitten by some kind of bug. No. I had to stop running altogether; I could barely walk. Fortunately, I had biked up to the park, so I was able to just let my bike glide downhill and get back home.

Then came the stretches. The strength exercises. The ice pack (how I hate the sight of you, you poor inanimate object who just minds its own business in my freezer most of the time). And today, the osteo. She gave me the all-clear to start running again—progressively—in the next few days.

Progressively.

Mother-effing injuries.

Music, music or how Conor Oberst captured my heart this week

ImageDo you ever get lost in a new album? I do. It doesn’t happen all the time. It’s not an automatic reaction to a new record.

There’s always excitement. Always. I get giddy when a new album from a fave band or artist of mine is about to get released. It doesn’t matter if the last album was excellent, good, lukewarm or passable: I get excited. Depeche Mode hasn’t put out a solid album in years, and yet I welcome a new release with high anticipation, even if I know very well that there’s a good chance the record won’t deliver the goods. At least, there’s usually one or two gems. Delta Machine has “Soft Touch/Raw Nerve”. It makes the album worthwhile. Plus… well, it’s Depeche Mode. I’ve been a fan since the age of ten. Some traditions, you just can’t shake off.

This past Monday, the lovely folks at NPR streamed Conor Oberst’s new album, Upside Down Mountain, in full. This past Monday, I hit play and I got lost. I played it over and over and over (hang on: there’s five more of those to come) and over and over and over and over and over. Eight times. I only stopped when the clock read 7:30 pm. There was a Habs game on. #BecauseItsTheCup

I don’t remember what else I’ve done on Monday. There was some work, some emails. I must’ve eaten at one point. I don’t know. It’s a blur. It was just me and Upside Down Mountain (X 8). Now, well now, I cannot wait to hold the physical album in my hands.

The unavoidable post about work

ImageI think I have mentioned this before (let’s see if you were paying attention…): I am a translator. Worse still, I am a freelance translator. The word “freelance” includes the word “free”, and while the association of freedom and freelance is not entirely untrue, it is also not completely true. Yes, I am free to choose for whom I work, when I work, how much I work. However, as you might have learned from other freelancers, I am also free to wait for contracts, to accept whatever comes in because I have these pesky things called bills to pay and because you never know when the flow of projects will slow down, and to work long hours and weekends because, often enough, all the contracts come tumbling it at once.

Now, don’t think that freelancing is seldom great. All in all, I have found there are more checks in the pro column than in the cons. I am a solitary person—i.e. a polite word for hermit—and I enjoy doing my work alone while listening to the music I like or with a Frasier or Keeping Up Appearances marathon in the background. I enjoy having the liberty to take a break in the middle of the day to go out for a run or a bike ride or hit the pool where my mantra repeats over and over in my head: “I am Michael Phelps” (I am not).

What I despise—and the word is not an exaggeration here—is the cold calling aspect. After more than five years of freelancing, most of the time, work flows in on its own, which is great. But every once in a while, you are forced to put yourself out there and send out your resume to companies you admire (best case scenario), like (comfortable scenario) or would not hate working for (bingo). And then, you wait. You try not to hyperventilate when you see the bills pile up on the corner of your desk. You try not to tell yourself “I suck” (yeah, I never succeed at avoiding that). You try to stay positive. And you end up more exhausted than if you had worked a 80-hour week while thinking you could swim faster than Michael Phelps.

Portray your tedium for the world to see*

ImageWe live in an interesting age, don’t we? Narcissism seems rampant. But is it, really? Did technology and the advent of social media bring about this new age of narcissism or has it simply helped to express something that was already there; that has been there forever? One needs only to read about some of the historical figures of the past to realise that narcissism is nothing new.

I’ve just recently finished reading a history book; The Tudors by G.J. Meyer. As I was reading about Henry VIII, his multiple wives and his endless battle against Rome and Christianity—a battle purely fueled by lust and ego—I could not help but wonder at what kind of havok Henry VIII would wreck with a Twitter account. But hey! At least, good old Henry would have something interesting to say.

I cannot judge my fellow social media users and abusers as I am one of them. You may find me on Twitter, posting frivolous comments about TV shows or raging against the latest dumb move from the government. You’ll also catch me on Facebook, posting what I think are hilarious comments mostly followed by the sound of crickets. Heck, I even post here on this blog (though I am the only one reading it).

The one thing that worries me about social media is not its narcissistic nature. Those posts are easy enough to ignore. We can read between the lines or Facebook statuses and see the loneliness. No, what worries me is the rise of cynism. There is this growing sense of doubting everything and everyone. It’s hip to be bored. It’s cool to think everyone is out to get you. I can be cynical like nobody’s business, but I don’t think it’s awesome to believe no-one is capable of good; that we are not capable of good. Getting entrenched in cynism means to stop trying. And giving up is not cool.


* Manic Street Preachers – Don’t Be Evil (album: Postcards from a Young Man)