Neil Elwood Peart, 1952-2020

I’ve been a Rush fan since high school. Being a drummer I was attracted by that, then eventually got into Neil’s lyrics. He influenced me in so many ways. He made me realize rock musicians could be smart. He got me to read again. I wrote poetry. 

Over the years I have owned all the albums on CD and cassette. I’ve read all his books. Several times. I’ve read all the magazine articles. I own the DVDs. As I mentioned on my About page,

Rush albums mark and coincide with distinct periods of my life and I have memories of time periods that jive with each release.

Several years ago I wrote Neil a letter explaining what his music and words had meant to me, and included some books I thought he’d enjoy in return as I knew him to be an avid reader. Later I received this signed postcard and word of thanks.

In contrast to many celebrities, he’s always been an intensely private guy – a weirdness with fame that he addressed in songs such as ‘Limelight’.

“Living in a fisheye lens
Caught in the camera eye
I have no heart to lie
I can’t pretend a stranger
Is a long awaited friend”

Though he shared little, what he did share was thoughtful, thought-provoking, and at times brutally honest. I felt like I did know him, ironically – though that’s far from the truth.

What I do know is that he aimed to live a full life – and inspired others, including me, to do so as well. In this capacity he far surpassed simply ‘being a drummer’ – even if he happened to be one of the best of all time. An article in Rolling Stone at the end of their last tour summed it up:

Neil Peart likes to ask himself a couple of key questions. One is “What is the most excellent thing I can do today?” The answers lead him to travel between Rush’s shows on a BMW motorcycle instead of a plane or bus (creating scheduling nightmares for the band’s management), and to embark upon extracurricular bicycle trips through West Africa and China and Europe. He aims to fill every minute of his life with as much much-ness as possible, which may also help explain all those 32nd notes.

While I am sad at his passing – it is too early, the paradox is that this supremely private man still had so much worthwhile to share with us, musical or otherwise – I know that Neil managed to cram several lifetimes into his unfortunately abbreviated one and for those of us that remain remembering him, that is his last lesson and reminder to all of us.

Get out and find as much much-ness as you can my friends, and perhaps pause a beat once in awhile in the rhythm of life to remember those that have inspired us and moved on.

Universal Holidays

Derek Sivers hits the nail on the head for me in his blog post, Time is personal. Your year changes when your life changes:

Your year really begins when you move to a new home, start school, quit a job, have a big breakup, have a baby, quit a bad habit, start a new project, or whatever else. Those are the real memorable turning points — where one day is very different than the day before. Those are the meaningful markers of time. Those are your real new years.

To force these celebrations on universal dates disconnects them from the meaning they’re supposed to celebrate.

Happy New Year people, whenever it is you may be celebrating.

FACKENTHALL AGREES TO TERMS FOR TNHL 2019-2020 SEASON

OCT. 3, FREDERICTON, N.B. – Gritty defensive winger and perennial fan-favorite Kent Fackenthall has agreed to terms with the Thursday Night Hockey League to play full-time for the 2019-2020 season. 

After a lackluster season last year, where he saw most of his time spent in the minors with the occasional call up-to The Show, Fackenthall admitted that his game needed work. “Yeah, last year was a a bit of a disappointment for me. I felt like I could do better. I struggled with some nagging injury issues and had a hard time adjusting to the late ice-times. I was – y’know – tired – it was past my usual bedtime – and it was hard to get up the next day. So that sucked, now that I’m older.” When asked if he’d done anything in the off-season to help get back on track he replied, “yeah, I rode a lot of bike to try and strengthen my knees and I’ve worked with my trainer on a pretty comprehensive nap program that I’ll be trying out this year.” 

At the end of last season rumors swirled that Fackenthall might end his long and storied career, retire and go to work in the front office in player development. “I had some talks with the league, with my family, my agent, and the guy who does the ice at the rink and decided to give it one more go. I wanted to try and play another year and then assess – maybe go out on a high note – also, there’s the money, too, right?” Long noted for his aggressive play and willingness to mix it up on the ice – even when it is entirely inappropriate – Fackenthall has developed a reputation, and in some cases a report – with other members of the league. “Yeah, he’s a bit of a dick at times,” – says Mike Morton, a veteran center that often finds himself battling opposite Fackenthall on the ice. “He’s not above the frequent cheap shot, slew foot or butt end. He likes to talk smack, but he’s easy to get off his game – you can get inside his head and then he’s done.” 

When asked if he planned to change his game any in an effort to secure his spot on the team, Fackenthall replied, “Yah, uhm, no, I don’t think so. Not really. I mean, pretty much my style is look for the guy on the other team who’s maybe not having the best night, then go out and maybe try and make it a little worse for ‘em, y’know. Mostly I don’t want to work too hard and just try and get out of the room fast afterwards so I can get to bed.”

When asked if Fackenthall’s return to full time play would have a positive or negative effect on the profile of the league, Commissioner Collin Sleep replied, “Kent WHO? Oh, oh, oh, THAT, Kent. Um, yeah, whatever – as long as he pays me it’s up to him if he shows up or not – I just gotta cover these ice time costs. Some of these bastards still owe me from LAST year.”

Looking longer term, Fackenthall was non-committal on his future past this season. “Yeah, I dunno, we’ll see. Maybe I’ll play another year, or I could just coast through this one, then into a cush front office job or maybe a sweet real-estate sales gig, probably.”

The TNHL kicks off Thursday, October 17 at 10:15pm at Willie Oree Place. Admission is free and the league asks that if a couple of fans could bring water bottles on the off chance Collin forgets them or doesn’t show, that would be appreciated. 

‘Willie’, The Willie O’Ree Story

Took Colin and Olivia to see a screening of the documentary of Fredericton hometown hero Willie O’Ree last night, ‘Willie’. It was followed by a lovely Q&A with the man himself and the director of the movie. Truly a magnificent and inspiring story .

For those not in the know, Willie was the first Black player in the NHL, and if that wasn’t enough, after playing pro for 20 or so years, he retired, but went to work taking the game of hockey to kids all over North America who wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to play – AND continues to do so now at 82.

A superbly well done documentary. I don’t know where or when it’s screening, but if you get the chance I highly suggest you check it out. It’s about so much more than hockey. It was great to learn more about this man, I feel fortunate to have landed in the region of Canada from which he sprung, and I’m proud that my kids get to play in the same rink that he did and one that now bears his name. Totally a class act.

Willie said it best, “They called me the Jackie Robinson of the NHL, and I guess that sort of stuck, but that wasn’t me, I’m the Willie O’Ree of the NHL.” You know he’s a class act – and a badass – because they only let those kinds of guys wear fedoras. Thanks to @discoverunb for the free screening.

Different Rivers

When I moved here in 2006 I discovered there were two options for a commuting route from my house, both about 15km one-way. One was on the road, the other, almost entirely on converted rail-to-trail. My policy has always been and continues to be to avoid slicing and dicing with grumpy morning folks trapped in confined metal boxes, so whenever possible, the trail it is.

Up until 2010, my commute to work took me across two rivers, The Nashwaak and the St. John. After 2010, I changed jobs and now work on the north side of the St. John, so only cross the Nashwaak each trip. I used to keep track of my rides and mileage and all that but have stopped bothering. So, subtracting weekends, holidays, weather, sleep-in’s and other misses and adding back in various market trips, rides for coffee and group rides, I’d say conservatively on average I’ve commuted or ridden this route 150 times a year (each way, so 300 total) – at some point during every season and kind of weather you can conjure.*

Some dude, wiser than I, many seasons ago, once observed that “no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Well then it must also apply that a man can’t CROSS the same river twice either.

Doing the fancy math that accounts for both jobs, that means approximately 5,100 different rivers crossed for this cat in 13 years. And I probably have at least half that many pictures clogging up the internet and cloud storage to prove it.

The thing is, they are truly different. Every. Time. Which is why I almost always stop. And while I didn’t always stop, make coffee, eat home made granola with chocolate milk and watch the sun come up on Fredericton across the St. John while tons of ducks do whatever it is ducks do in the morning – I have been quite a bit recently. If I had my druthers (and I don’t know what a ‘druther’ is – or why anyone would want one) I’d just ride my bike around rivers drinking coffee all day, but like so many of you, I have to go to work. I’m pretty sure though, that if one HAS to go to work, I may have stumbled onto the absolute best way to do it. Even without coffee and snacks.

*That’s also roughly 58,500km of commuting for those playing along at home. Also, there’s not enough space here to discuss how I have changed as a man, so don’t ask.