Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Yes, I have a sister...

Not many people know this, but I do have a sister, and her name is Jeanie Ortis.

No, she's not really my sister by blood but I can't imagine being actually related would make it a whole lot different.  To give you an idea how long Jeanie has been a part of my life... well, truth be told I can't remember a time where Jeanie wasn't around.  She simply has always just "been". In other words I've known Jeanie forever!

 If you can think of all the things kids do growing up, Jeanie and I did them. Selling lemonade by the side of the road for 10 cents a glass?  Did it. Building snow forts?  Did it.  Playing for hours outside 'til our folks called us in for the night? Did it. Putting on puppet shows for grown ups pretending to be entertained?  Did it. Mixing dirt and water in a "Freezie wrapper" and selling it to a kid as a chocolate flavoured Popsicle?  Sadly, we did that too.

If my Parents went out of town without me I would stay over at the Ortis house. It was always exciting for me as I got to eat Mrs. Ortis' great food, learn how to play Pool from Mr. Ortis, and most exciting of all I got to hang out with Jeanie and her older sister Cindy. I really felt I was with my "other" family during those times. There was plenty of fun, laughs and Punchanella Ice Cream at the Ortis household.  What is Punchanella Ice Cream I hear you ask?  I don't really have a good story here... I simply called Neapolitan Ice Cream "Punchanella" one day, and it stuck.  And yes, to this day even Jeanie calls it Punchanella Ice Cream.

I wish I could say it was always fun and laughs when I stayed at the Ortis household but there was one horrific incident I would be remiss not to bring up.  One night after supper Jeanie, myself and Cindy were sitting around the dinner table chatting (Where Mr. and Mrs. Ortis were escapes my memory) everything was fine until Cindy inexplicably grabbed the biggest, greenest, most horrible looking pea I had ever seen and shoved it up her nose!!!!  Yes, as god as my witness, she shoved the ENTIRE pea UP HER NOSE!!!!  It was a sickly green globe pulsating in her nostril and seemed to make Cindy turn into some sort of possessed monster that proceeded to chase us around the dinner table!!!!  We ran in horror as all sense of reason seemed to leave Cindy!  And let me be clear here... she chased us WITH A PEA UP HER NOSE!!!! It seemed to last forever but eventually she stopped chasing us.  It took many years of therapy and counseling for Jeanie and I, but we have since been able to enjoy dinner with each other once again without fear of being chased by Cindy with a pea up her nose.  For the record, Cindy will deny this story... but it happened.  I was there.

Fast forward many years, Jeanie and I are MUCH older, and she is getting married this week to a New Zealander named Eddie Pye. Eddie is a modern day renaissance man. He is an artist, a teacher, and a philosopher. Eddie writes long thought provoking pieces on the existence of the soul... whereas I call Neapolitan Ice Cream "Punchanella".  Normally when a fiance is brought into a tight circle of family and friends it can be a little awkward for everyone as you feel them out and see what they are like.  I can safely say Eddie was a member of the family pretty much 5 minutes after everyone met him. So not only has Eddie got the wonderful Ortis family as part of his life, he now has a taller brother with the last name Anderson too (Whether he likes it or not). He's a wonderful guy... I would do anything for him. I couldn't be happier that they have both found each other and that I get to create new memories with the both of them.

And speaking of memories... since Jeanie is getting married I've been trying the last couple of days to express the proper feeling these memories of Jeanie seem to bring out in me. Is it nostalgia, longing for the past, or are they just amusing? I tried to organize them in my head and thought about the little "in jokes" we had together like...

"Ummmmmm I'm telling" (said when we saw the older kids doing something bad)


"Let's play Fambily" (Yes that's FamBily with a B and a regular request from either Jeanie or myself when we played as kids)

 I also thought about all of our Anderson/Ortis family trips to Spokane Washington when we stayed at the "Trade Winds" and how much I still cherish those trips.  I thought about Jeanie wearing her Holly Hobby outfit on her first day to school, and about the scary day Jeanie fell down the hill by my Grandma's house on her bike. I remember Jeanie being at the hospital lending her support when my Dad fell seriously ill in 2004 and how much strength she gave me in those unpleasant times. When I think of Jeanie I always remember her dog Patches, and the house they used to have across the street from ours, and then those thoughts eventually drift to her wonderful Grandparents the Bruce's. The memories really trail on for quite some time and I can't possibly mention them all but mainly I remember Jeanie making me laugh, and how she was always willing to listen to me. When I think of all these things it's kind of like a mural of memories painted on a wall and when I look at it I realize it made me feel one simple thing ... love.

I love my sister Jeanie Ortis.

That's what it all boils down to, and I can't wait to add more memories as Jeanie and Eddie start their life together...  all that said, I could do without someone ever chasing me with a pea up their nose again.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

On meeting Billy Bragg and losing my cool...

Those of you who really know me, know two things...
One, is that I find pants horribly restricting. The other, is that I have a huge admiration for singer songwriter Billy Bragg. Most people I talk to eventually ask me what kind of music I listen to, and when I say Billy Bragg some look at me blankly "He isn't played on my local morning top 40 radio show", some show slight recognition "He's British right?", and some look at me with great admiration and smile "Ohhhh you're much smarter than you look!".  For the uninitiated Billy Bragg is an artist with a political leaning, but he is sooo much more musically than a protest tune, because Billy can break out the most beautiful love song you've ever heard. He's easily in my top five musical acts, right up there with The Beatles, Ben Folds, Simon and Garfunkel, and The Who.

So, now you know about my love for all things Billy... let me tell you about how I got to meet the man and completely wound up making an ass of myself.

For whatever reason Billy decided to play a gig in the sleepy town of Nelson, BC last month during his latest tour for his new Album "Tooth and Nail".  I have no idea why he came to Nelson, as he usually only plays larger venues in places like Seattle and Vancouver, places befitting a man of his musical stature.  But I wasn't going to question it, I was simply going to go to it! I got my brother Sean,a fellow Bragg fan, a ticket and on April 06 we were making the ninety minute trek from Grand Forks to Nelson.

Billy Live at The Royal in Nelson, BC 04/06/13
Now I've seen Billy Bragg three previous times, all in Vancouver and all with my best friend Mike Ciccone (a review of one show can be read here where the reviewer clearly complains about having to stand behind me.  Hey I'm 6'7"... DEAL!).  While it was weird not having Mike there, Sean was just as excited as I was to see the gig, so things were primed for a great evening and despite arriving there a bit too early THE SHOW WAS GREAT! The setting was a nice small pub so we were close but not right up front. Sean and I also had a good talk before Billy started to play, and we got to see Grant Showbiz, Billy's long time producer, there as well (I regret not asking for a picture with Grant)!!!! The crowd were all Bragg fans too, they knew the words to the songs, and they sang along.  Billy looked a bit tired (and with good reason, the dude travels a lot between gigs) but there was no evidence of weariness in his show.  The energy was full on, the songs made me happy, and even a bit emotional as so much of what this man does connects with my musical and political soul. He's had a great influence on my life in so many ways. And it's not just the music... he likes to talk between the songs and has great stories about everything from meeting the Queen to being part of a panel about Woody Guthrie with Pete Seger.  So I guess, through his music, and his little talks, Billy has always helped me make choices in life.  I don't think I'd know as much about The Smiths if Johnny Marr didn't help produce his album "Don't Try This At Home" and it's very possible my views on the labour movement may have remained indifferent if Billy's message hadn't made me look at it all a bit closer.  So in a sense, I feel like I owe this man a LOT.

After the show I wanted to buy some Billy Bragg swag... so as soon as the last lyric of "Waiting for the Great Leap Forward" was sung by Billy (and myself on back-up) Sean and I hustled over to the merchandise booth to meet Billy and buy some stuff!!!!  I checked out a shirt (sadly too short in length for my 6'7" frame so it was sent back) and I bought his new CD for the great man to sign. We were second in line to meet Billy and I gave Sean my camera to take a picture of us with the following instructions... "Don't FUCK IT UP!". As soon as I said that I saw Billy's roadie setting up a table for Billy to come out... and it was there I started to lose my shit.

Me and George!
Now I've met some great people who have influenced my life before like Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee, Spock himself Leonard Nimoy, even Sulu from Star Trek George Takei, and I handled myself pretty well with those guys. It was exciting, and I enjoyed a nice little talk with all of them!  But as I saw Billy's signing area being set up I started to feel something I've never felt before, I started to feel nervous.  I even turned to my Brother and said "I think I'm starting to freak out". I also started to feel my hands begin to shake a little. I looked down at them and you couldn't see them shaking but by god they were! I felt sweaty, like REALLY sweaty, like drops of sweat running down my face and getting into my eyes sweaty! I used my sleeve to soak up the torrent of liquid running down my brow.  At that point the one person in front of us turned and started talking to me, Sean said a few things to me too... but everything was turning into a bit of a haze. I was responding to them but it was with merely a nod or "uh-huh" accompanied by a 1,000 yard stare.

It's Stan the Man Lee!
Then Mr. Bragg walked out with a beer in one hand and a sharpie in the other, and started immediately talking to the lady in front of us. Numbness quickly overtook me and I could feel my body slowly shutting down. I had so much I wanted to say and ask... and he was right there.  The man who I had spent countless hours musically commiserating with over my broken heart, and raging over the injustices heaped upon us by the right wing upper class was there waiting to talk to me!!!!  I turned to Sean with a look that seemed to say "I don't know what the hell I'm doing" to which Sean gestured for me to turn around, as it was my time to meet "The Bard of Barking".

I walked up to Billy and I wish I could tell you exactly what happened but truthfully it's all a bit of a blur. I DO know that I started talking. I also know that is was mostly incoherent rambling.  I stumbled and bumbled not really making sense. I'm also pretty sure that Billy talked to me, but it was generally him being very nice and agreeing to my mumbling while most likely thinking "What the hell is this tall Canadian trying to say to me?". At some point I must have told him how to spell my name (Because he spelled it correctly on my newly purchased CD) but other than that? Fuck if I know. The majority of the meeting is a smear of a fuzzy memory. I'm sure in reality I only talked for 30 seconds or so, but it seemed like an eternity where the words continued to come out of my mouth yet failed to form any comprehensible whole. The haze does clear however near the end of our meeting, and the thing I remember saying to Billy with crystal clarity is the following phrase...

"mumble mumble...   Pop Sensibilities".

Billy signing my CD
POP SENSIBILITIES????  WHAT THE HELL DOES 'POP SENSIBILITIES' MEAN???? I wanted to die. There was a second where Billy looked at me quizzically then smiled and handed me my signed CD.  I turned and started to leave in a zombie like trance.  Luckily my Brother was there to stop me from walking away and asked Billy if he could get a picture of the two of us.  Billy was great, he hopped up and made sure Sean had the flash ready to go on the camera, it was almost as if he'd heard me tell Sean not to fuck it up earlier! One click and a blinding flash later, our moment was captured for the ages. Thanks to Sean taking the picture I gained enough clarity to shake Billy's hand look him in the eye and say "Thank You... Thank you for everything!". Billy smiled recognizing the slight moment of lucidity in our brief encounter. He said you're welcome back to me and turned to shake Sean's hand as well.

I was still shaking and in a bit of a haze as we walked out of the Royal pub in Nelson.  But that shaking soon turned into excitement as I had just met one of my biggest life influences and had the picture to prove it!  My Brother and I laughed at the state I was in, and I told Sean the only thing I remember is mumbling to him and saying the words"Pop Sensibilities".

Sean doubled over laughing...."What the hell does Pop Sensibilities mean?" he asked...

I don't know... and I still don't. But you know what? It doesn't matter, because even though I made zero sense to a guy I really admire, in the end, when I shook Billy's hand and thanked him I could tell he got it, and understood what I meant. He's been a guy who has been inspired by music too... he's poured over liner notes while listening to an album, he's had his heart broke and had someone else crystallize his feelings in song.  He's been where I am and understands what it's like. That's why I think so much of the man and his music.  He gets it.  Thanks Billy, Thanks for Everything...

"Pop Sensibilities" indeed...

Saturday, February 23, 2013

I've never purchased alcohol for a minor BUT...

Where were you on September 23rd 2005? You don't remember do you? But really, why should you?  I did an extensive (extensive in this case being 3 minutes) Google search on this date and there wasn't much going on. Sure, it was the world premiere date of the TV show "The Ghost Whisperer" starring one of my ex wives Jennifer Love Hewitt. Green Day ruled the charts with the aptly titled "Wake Me Up When September Ends", and we were all reeling from the devastating resignation of the Italian Minister of Economy Domenico Siniscalco (I wept for days because of this). Exciting times to be sure, but I remember this day not for being able to once again to see Jennifer Love Hewitt's boobs bounce on the small screen, but rather more for the world cinematic premiere of George A. Romero's return to zombie films..."Land of the Dead".

Now if you don't know anything about George Romero and zombie movies just know this... he set up all the rules on what we know about zombies today. They are dead, they crave human flesh, the only thing that can stop them is to destroy their brain, and if you get bitten by a zombie you will die and become one of them! That's all you really need to know. I've been a big fan of Mr. Romero since I saw his flick "Dawn of the Dead" on betamax in my basement in the early 1980's. I was instantly fascinated by the notion of a society destroyed by the shambling undead!  This fascination never left even after Romero had made his last zombie film in 1984 and I still hoped beyond hope over the next 21 years he would make another one....and September 23rd 2005 he did!
I went to see "Land of the Dead" on it's first showing at 12:15pm that day at the Silver City Metrotown in Burnaby, BC. I went there thinking I would have a regular day at the movies, but little did I know I WOULD BREAK THE LAW!  Okay, breaking the law isn't accurate but I certainly got past some rules set down by the MPAA.

What did I do?  Well, I walked in to buy my ticket but all the automatic tellers are down that day so I stood there fumbling in my wallet to see if I had any cash to purchase my ticket to zombie goodness and snacks. As I stood there two teenage boys about 13-15 years of age approached me and asked me how I was doing. I said fine, as they looked around nervously, and then they asked me if I was alone. I started to think "Are these kids gonna  roll me and take my movie money?". But before I could run away in fear they cut to the chase... they asked me to go up to the box office and get them into the latest George A. Romero masterpiece!

They went on to explain how they can't get into a movie rated 18A without a parent or guardian. I couldn't help but smile! How could I say no? It's not like I was buying them crack (Which I'm pretty sure an adult can't do either) or the latest issue of "Swank". But I also couldn't just help these kids into the film if they were only looking to get out of school, NO! I wanted them to like Romero's films just like me.  So instead of simply getting them into the flick, I started to quiz them. I asked them what their fave movie was in the series, both answered "Dawn of the Dead".

"Remake or Original?" 

"Original??" they nervously replied....

I eyed them up and down suspiciously, and thought for a second. Okay, I was in. Let's do this! They actually offered to pay for me, which was really cool, but I just took the money for their tickets and we walked up to the box office.

"Three for the 12:15 of 'Land of the Dead' please." I said in the most parental guardian voice I could muster.

"Are you bringing these kids in with you?" The barely 18 herself box office attendant asked.

"Yeah, they are my little brothers" forgetting entirely the kids were Asian.

"Shouldn't they be in School?"

"Well, we aren't from around here..."

"You know this move is Rated 18A?"

"Very aware" (I was starting to get nervous)

"Are they over 18?"

At this point I thought we were done, but she was annoying me with her endless questions and the horrible way she kept snapping her gum. She couldn't keep these kids from witnessing this great directors vision! She would NOT keep us from seeing how the fourth film would further the socio-political subtext that George A. Romero had worked so hard for myself and my younger Asian looking brothers to see!!!!! I was no longer nervous, I was angry...

"Look, 'Joe Friday' just sell us the damn tickets" I snapped

The girl stared blankly at me for thirty seconds, probably confused why I called her Joe Friday, sighed, and printed off the tickets.

YES!!!  We did it!  I was actually excited that we'd BEATEN THE MAN!!!!!  I turned around ready to high five my new friends, talk about zombie flicks, and enjoy a great day of zombie heads being shot off!  But as I turned I noticed the kids had quickly grabbed their tickets and left...

"Thanks" they said over their shoulder as they walked away. For a second I was disappointed that I had lost my two new Asian brothers and our day of zombie fun. But that disappointment quickly turned to pride as I watched these young men walk away...I knew these guys would always remember the day I broke the law for their cinematic freedom!!!!!!

Oh by the way, despite what many say... I LOVED George A. Romero's "Land of the Dead". Beautifully filmed, exciting, gory as hell, all topped off with an amazing subtext about many things political and social.  If you get a chance to see it do so! And, if you need help getting in... just come see me!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

How do I even do this anymore?

A long time ago I was a "Blogger".  Then I stopped. I told myself I would just take a break buuut it's been too long. I essentially gave it up. Now due to some good friends bugging me and some positive comments on some of my old posts I'm gonna give it another go.  I'm not 100% how to even post stuff here anymore!!!  But why have I been away you ask? No real firm answer here. I seem to lack any spark or inspiration that I once had, and maybe Twitter and Facebook received the little creative output I could muster, or maybe I was just lazy.  All of these things are probably true and I'm going to try and make it right by posting here at least once a month. Frankly, for me, that is a realistic goal.  Will I do it? I hope so.  I find living in a small town it's a bit harder to be as personal as I used to be on here, and getting my personal crap out was a lot of the reason I had the blog in the first place. Doesn't mean I won't talk about my personal life, but I will have to be a bit more careful on what I write about. I may talk about comics more, I may have more movie reviews, I dunno.  But right now, I just want to learn the ropes and see if I can actually write more than 150 characters at a time anymore.  Stick around, I will try not to disappoint!!!!