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use it all up, don't save a thing for later

It is 2004. 
It is November. 
I’m going to see a band. 
I don’t really know what is going to happen. 
I don’t know much about the band. 
I don’t know much about the show. 
I’m pretty excited. 
I’ve managed to get second-row tickets. 
I have the newest CD, 
In Between Evolution. 
I listened to rock radio DJ’s put it down. 
“It’s not like they used to be,”

they said. 
Gordie should put his guitar away and just sing,”
they said.

I don’t know what that means. 

I kinda like it. 
I wanna go see. 
I kinda like it a lot.

A band comes on stage. 
Joel Plaskett. 
He plays a song. 
True patriot love and la la la la la. 
I like it. 
Maybe I’ll look for it later. 
Joel leaves. 
Yeah I’ll look for it later. 
Awhile and the arena goes dark. 
The crowd gets really loud. 
Five people walk on the stage. 
They casually wave to the crowd and smile. 
The band just starts playing. 
There is no introduction.
There is no fanfare. 

Vaccination Scar. 
I kinda like this song, 
kinda like, uh,
a lot. 
I know all the words. 
I sing. 

Grace, Too. 
I don’t know this song, really. 
A little bit? 
Maybe I heard it on the radio. 
Everyone else really likes this one. 
The singer guy is doing stuff. 
Is he singing, I don’t know. 
He’s fighting with his microphone stand. 
The singer guy says
HE THINKS HE’S A MAN!” 
What is this? 
“I’M A MAN!”
Sweat is dripping from the singer’s forehead. 
“HE’S JUST A MICROPHONE!”
It’s a blur. 
AND A MICROPHONE STAND!”
The singer’s shirt is starting to stick to him. 
Poets.
He spins around. 
He waves his arms.
Is he always like this? 

What is this?

The guy beside me offers me pot. 
It’s my first rock show. 
I say no. 
I refuse to be swayed,
or to be caught by a cop. 
Silver Jet. 
I’m so close to the stage. 
It’s so big. 
I don’t know what I’m watching. 
All I know is that
whatever that is,
I need it.

Sold.

It’s December 2004. 
I’ve bought the entire discography. 
I voraciously consume it. 
I discover Hipbase, and by extension, 
The Museum After Dark. 
There’s stories, there’s myths, 
there’s national legends, history, 
rhymes that don’t make sense, 
but they kinda do,
phrases unearthed and turned over
as to search for more meaning. 
A whole country of tapers
geeks and super-fans, 
deciphering, together, sharing.
I didn’t know writing could be like this. 
I pick up a pen. 
I need to do what he does. 
I need to write. 
It’s the words. 
I need to be a writer.

I’m not feeling well. 
School isn’t going well. 
I try to study but I can’t. 
I try to find motivation but I can’t. 
I like learning. 
I read lots. 
I read The Brothers Karamazov.
I don’t study. 
I go to the computers at school, 
I can stream interviews on The Hour 
with George Strombolopolous. 
I read Narrudin Farrah.
Thanks George.

It’s 2006. 
World Container. 
I play it over and over and over
and over and
It’s my favourite record. 
In a couple years, I will check my iPod
sort the songs by number of listens. 
Yer Not The Ocean will number over 300 spins. 

I’d rather be Britney Invisible. 
Alright, Google. 
And the Himmler on this one is there’s no dessert. 
What the shit?
Holy fuck! It’s Jesus! 
Manic. 
It never leaves my car. 

I go to San Fransisco. 
I see The Hip at tThe Fillmore, 2007. 
They gave out special posters as we left the venue. 
It’s a big fish and some Canada Gooses.

I still have mine. 

It’s 2009. 
I can’t think. 
I don’t eat. 
I black out. 
I cry. 
I can’t focus on anything. 
I think I’m going to drop out of school, 
maybe. 

I know what I want to do but
I’m not doing it. 
I need to do what he does. 
I need to write. 
It’s the words. 
I need to be a writer.
We Are The Same is released. 
I sit in a silver screen theatre. 
The camera zooms in on Gord Downie at The Bathouse. 
They play Depression Suite. 
Gord Downie sings. 
Are you going through something? 
Cause I am too.”

He smiles.
I break. 

The band announces a tour
including 3 shows in Winnipeg. 
I have almost no money. 
I buy tickets to all three anyway. 
It's a drug now. 
They announce a 4th show. 
I can’t afford it. 
Fuck. 
The band plays something like 52 different songs
across all 4 concerts. 
I get to hear Tiger The Lion. 
Yeah. 
Fuck yeah. 
Gimme them knuckles of Frisco.

I wait after one of the shows
I want to meet them. 
It means so much. 
There’s ten or twelve of us. 
People have their Road Apples 
and their Day for Nights to sign. 
I bring my World Container. 
The band comes out,
everyone crowds around Gord Downie. 
I decide to talk to Paul and Gord Sinclair. 
I tell Sinclair I really like his riff in Love Is a First. 
He says thank you very much, 
and that they didn’t play it very well the last night, 
but they played it good this night. 
I think he’s fucking crazy.
‘Cause I saw them play it last night,
and it was perfect. 
Everyone signs my album. 
I get to meet Gord Downie. 
I’m shaking. 
He asks my name. 
He crosses out World with a sharpie
and writes Graham. 
He says “it’s Graham Container now.” 
He likes how the CD package feels. 
I agree.
It all takes 20 seconds. 
Tomorrow I’ll go to HMV,
and buy another World Container,
to never leave my car.

I drop out of school. 
It’s October 2009. 
Matthew Good releases Vancouver. 
I listen to The Boy Who Could Explode on repeat
It's the words.
What am I thinkin’?
What time is it I’m waiting for?
I guess I’d better stop being afraid,
of whether or not I can write and
just
start
fucking
writing.

Art imitates life. 
Or writing imitates life, 
travels invisible boundaries
binds us together
fixes us to some constant of humanity
perhaps too vague to describe
with words, 
and by words I mean essays, 
dry report writing, 
with footnotes and senior editors, 
removing all the dots that are connected
only in our minds. 
Something like that.
Artists connect the dots.
Give meaning to everything surrounding us,
the kinds of things that…
we never know we needed someone to explain
until someone explains it,
then we wonder how?
Did we ever live without that?

I buy a cheap red Epiphone, 
like Matthew Good’s ES-335. 
It’s all I can afford. 
I think it's beautiful.
I buy a Vox AC15. 
It’s my first electric guitar. 
It’s my first amplifier. 
It's got tubes but…
…I don’t know what that even means. 
It sounds cool.
It’s like Keanu Reeves is air-guitaring
and says to Bill,
It’s tubes, dude.
And Bill is all like,
totally.

I am diagnosed with major depresssion. 
I’m put on a regiment of medication. 
They have weird side effects,
It really fucks me up. 
Like I don't remember entire evenings. 
Like I’m sick in the mornings and can't eat breakfast.
Like I have crazy dreams. 

Sometimes those dreams are just me remembering what I did when I wasn't remembering because of the medication and then somebody later says something like “remember the other day when you did this thing” and I don't remember, so it seems crazy, so I say “yeah I remember" but I’m freaking out because it means my dreams were real and I was a zombie it means that time I dreamed I froze my hands because I was changing a flat tire and it was minus twenty and the tire iron froze my hands meant that I really had a flat tire and that meant I changed it and why the fuck was I driving if I was like that? and that meant I should go check my car to make sure that was fucking real, and when I did, surely enough there was a spare tire on the driver rear side. And sure enough I looked at my hands and they were frost bitten on the palms, like where you would grip a frozen minus twenty tire iron, because you weren’t wearing gloves, because you're from Winnipeg and you're too cool to wear gloves or something stupid like that.

But I can eat now.
And I can sleep,
at least,
a little.
Better than I used to.

I listen exclusively to We Are The Same, 
Vancouver
and
for the next year. 
Like some sort of feedback loop. 
I don’t like feedback. 
It happens cause I’m trying to make my guitar sound like Matthew Good’s
and I turn the knobs the wrong ways
and then it sounds worse. 

Grand Bounce.
It's so different, but it's so good. 
I love Yellow Days.
I write Gord a letter and I send it.
somehwere, I don't even know.
An address in a liner note. 
It worked once, 
I wrote The Rheostatics 
Dave sent me a postcard. 
Thanks Dave.
I wrote something like
"thanks for this music,
it means a lot to me."
I always wonder if hit ever got to him.

It takes a few years before I’m off medication. 
I try to start a band,
so I put up ads. 
What else? 
I don't know any musicians, 
it worked for U2. 
I’m not in, ahem, “the scene.” 
I’m not very good. 
I can't sing very good. 
I meet a lot of people, 
but everyone turns me down. 
I still can't sing well. 
I’m still not a good guitar player. 

Eventually I do form a band, 
but I’ve learned something...
I’ve learned to stop putting The Tragically Hip 
on my “looking for musicians to jam with” ads. 
It turns out that every time I list this band, 
I get a response back that says something to the effect of
“I like all the bands you listed except for The Hip. Good luck.” 
Within the cliques of musicians sitting in basements
answering ads to start bands were biases,
shoulder shrugs and strait up hatred. 

Why? 
Okay there guys.
What-ever.

A band formed of people completely indifferent to The Hip
We played our first show as Hearing Trees 
on June 26th, 2013 at Ozzy’s, 
the basement of the iconic Osborne Village Zoo, 
with the VLT's and the guy with the cane
and the bartender girl with the super cool tattoos. 
We had a 45 minute set and Marc did sound for us. 
Thanks Marc.

We put out a four-song EP in 2014
A year plus two days since our first show at Ozzy’s
And the Park Theatre let us have a big fancy show
on a big fancy stage. 
It was like some crazy dream come true. 
I wrote words. 
And then I sung them. 
And people listened.
I was a writer.

It’s 2015. 
It’s our first tour. 
Our first show was in Toronto, 
at The Horseshoe. 
Everyone in the band was a fan of some other band
that had played at The Horseshoe. 
You already know mine. 
I read the clippings and mix board tape framed on the walls. 
Ya’know, World Container release show was at The Horseshoe. 
Did you know?
I didn't even know. 
The clip said there was a lineup around the block
since early in the morning. 
That night I got to play for 30 minutes. 
Every second meant the world,
with that sparkly iconic stage backdrop, 
and a stage that had hosted everyone from myself, 
to the Foo Fighetrs, 
to Joel Plaskett, 
to The Hold Steady, 
The National
and The Rolling Stones. 
Thanks Bookie.

I feel like things are slow.
Every day I have to convince myself
to write, or that it's worth it, 
or that I'm even good at all.
I like to read Gord Downie's old interviews.
I wonder if I’m productive enough. 
Writing is fuckin' hard.
It takes time. 
You have to convince yourself to even start,
a lot of days,. 
I find an interview from MacLeans. 
Gord says “life's too short for bad coffee.”
I don't think he meant it as some huge profound thing,
But I take it to mean we waste a lot of time
on frivolous things, 
I write the quote out. 
I tape it to the top of my laptop screen,
Every time I go to Facebook
I’m reminded that I'm wasting time,
and that life's too short for shitty stuff,
and I should close my laptop.
Just start writing.
I still use that laptop.
That quote is still there.

It’s May 2016. 
Minha passarinha calls me just before I leave for work. 
Did you hear the news?
Just gimme the news.
Gord Downie has cancer.
It could all be lies.
The kind you don’t get better from.
Everything is clear
She says “I’m sorry.”
just how you described.
I cry the whole way to work. 
I don't want to imagine a world
without Gord Downie in it.

It’s September 2016. 
I’m on tour. 
I’m in Edmonton.
It's my fourth tour.
Minha passarinha calls me.
She says tickets sold out. 
I said no fucking way.
She says ya way.
I roll out of bed. 
Fire up Ticketmaster,
I buy two tickets.
Then I buy two more.
I feel lucky.
I wonder if I really want to even go. 
I roll back to bed,
under the pillow I bury my head
and try to shut Edmonton out.

It’s August 20th, 2017.
I’m at the West End Cultural Centre. 
They’re screening the show. 
This is it. 
I know this one, now.
Grace, Too. 
Gordie closes his eyes. 
He screams with his whole body.
HIM?
Oh my god.
HERE?
What’s happening.
NOW?
Oh god.
NOOOO!
He drops the mic.
Jesus.
Everyone watching got chills.
We all teared up a bit.
Because it was the best performance
by the best performer
we’ve all ever seen
and none of us can believe
that this is it.

It’s October 2017.
I’ve recorded most of a full album with my band.
Some people left the band.
I try to tell myself it’ll be okay.
I want to keep going, anyway. 
There's no hard feelings.
I have a last meeting
on Wednesday. 
It's all I can think about.
It’s like a feedback loop.
I don't like feedback.
Minha passarinha calls me. 
Have you heard the news?
Yeah.
Yeah, I did.
I heard this time. 
He's gone. 
I listen to Heaven is a Better Place Today.
I cry again.
I'm not sure I believe in God
or anything, 
but I don’t believe this is coincidence.
Is like, the universe, 
telling me, something,
right?
Gord never stopped. 
Am I gonna stop?
I need to write. 
It’s the words. 
I wanna be a writer.
I am a writer.
No stopping.
It's time to go. 
I’m gonna keep doin’ this.

It started with a simple curiosity,
it lit my mind on fire, 
for the first time in my life I finally saw something
I wanted to do. 
It took me awhile to learn.
But I did it.
None of this story is possible without
that first show, that first record I got,
the words. 
This is how everything I do started. 
When Gord passed, 
he's still teaching us how to live,
fully, completely. 
It's a new beginning. 
I’m gonna keep on, 
I gotta lotta writing to do.
‘Cause I kinda like it.
It's hard sometimes but,
I kinda like it a lot.
Someone showed me how.
I was lucky, 
this guy showed me how.

Thanks, Gord.