Archive for the ‘One Yellow Rabbit’ Tag

I’m The Guy In The Light! Michael Green Remembered   7 comments

Photo by Brian Jensen

Photo by Brian Jensen

Like so many others, I was shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of Michael Green in a fatal accident in Saskatchewan earlier this week. He was a gift, really, taken away too soon and so suddenly. Although Michael and I were friends for 20 years, we never had the opportunity to work together. We had been meeting with a producer on a rather ambitious project, and had high hopes for creating a show for 2017 together, but now, alas, that will never be.

There were three others who also lost their lives in this terrible accident: Michele Sereda, who was an old friend and even former neighbour from Regina; Blackfoot Elder and film maker Narcisse Blood — I know it was my great loss not to have met such a great man; and finally, Lacy Morin-Desjarlais, a Saulteux artist from Saskatchewan. To all of the friends, family and colleagues left to mourn the untimely passing of these four beautiful souls, I offer my heart-felt condolences and most sincere sympathy.

Now, it wouldn’t fall to me to write any kind of official tribute for Michael. As friendly as we were for so long, there are many other who knew him better and are far more qualified to talk about his dazzling life and many, many accomplishments.

However, at the spontaneous gathering held at the Big Secret Theatre on Wednesday, I kept thinking of a story of his that to me says so much about the kind of man he was, and that’s what I’m here to share.

Here’s how it went down . . .

A couple of years ago, on a warm summer’s evening, a few of us, including Johanne Deleeuw, Tim Williams, Kate Newby, Cam Ascroft,  a few others and myself had gathered at the Auburn Saloon with the express purpose of drinking some beers and generally shooting the shit. After we had been there for an hour or so, Michael wandered in, got himself a drink and joined us.

He told us that a couple of nights earlier, he had been sitting in his back yard with a friend, smoking a joint and having a couple of drinks when suddenly, out of nowhere, a police helicopter flew in, hovering directly overhead, making a hell of a racket and generally scaring the hell out of them.

If that weren’t bad enough, after a minute or so, it turned on its powerful spot light and shone it right into Michael’s little yard, illuminating him and his friend in a stark and very bright, even blinding, light.

I don’t know if it’s on account of my own tendency to suffer from rather intense feelings of paranoia whenever I smoke up, but if that had happened to me, I’m sure I would have taken refuge inside my house, turned out all the lights and probably hidden under my couch.

But not so with Michael Green. Once he had sized up the situation and was reasonably sure he was not being abducted by space aliens, he picked up his phone, dialed 911, and when they answered, yelled, “I’M THE GUY IN THE LIGHT!”

After an intense conversation with the operator, he was actually patched through to the officer in the helicopter, to whom he repeated, “I’M THE GUY IN THE LIGHT!” Adding, “WHY THE HELL ARE YOU SHINING YOUR LIGHT IN MY YARD?! I’M TRYING TO HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH MY FRIEND! SHUT IT OFF!”

Amazingly, they did just that, they turned off their light and flew away.

Michael had us all in stitches telling that story, and ever since I heard him tell it, I always thought it said so much about him:

“I’M THE GUY IN THE LIGHT!”

It’s so fitting on one hand, and yet, those of us who knew him would surely suggest he wasn’t, after all, the guy in the light. He was, in fact, the light itself. The source.

He radiated a pure, dazzling, multi-coloured light that shone on all of us who were fortunate enough to know him. It shone on audiences of One Yellow Rabbit performances and the High Performance Rodeo for the better part of three decades. It shone all throughout the City of Calgary at hundreds of events during Calgary 2012. Most recently, it shone on the lives and illuminated the stories of our First Nations People who have been shrouded in darkness far too long.

In fact, that’s why he was in Saskatchewan in the first place, to explore the possibility of creating “Making Treaty 4” along the lines of “Making Treaty 7” which he helped produce here in Alberta.

Such a bright light he was. For many of us, the world became a little darker, a little dimmer with his passing.

He will be missed.

Thanks for reading.

The lights of Calgary shone yellow for One Yellow Rabbit on Tuesday night. I shamelessly stole this photo from Facebook. If it's yours, please let me know and I'll give you credit!

The lights of Calgary shone yellow for One Yellow Rabbit on Tuesday night. I shamelessly stole this photo from Facebook. If it’s yours, please let me know and I’ll give you credit!

Mining the Journals   3 comments

Some of my journals from the last two years. These are just a few of the hundreds I have filled over the years.

I have been an inveterate diarist since I was in high school, and that’s going back a few years now, let me tell you. I actually have one of my journals from 1974, when I was in Grade 12. It records among other things a trip my friend Richard Campbell and I took from Regina to Banff. Anytime I lose my mind and think about camping as a possible activity, I only have to go back and read that record of those cold soggy nights on the side of a mountain and I quickly come to my senses.

With a few holes, a few missing years, alas, I have a fairly complete record of my life that spans some 40 years recorded in hundreds of notebooks,  containing probably close to 3,000,000 words.

Blake Brooker of One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theatre and I have talked about doing something with all these journals, some kind of interactive performance piece with them. I think all we’re lacking is any sense of urgency. Since we last talked about it, I’ve probably filled half a dozen more books. The possibilities would seem to be endless for such a piece. Want to know what I was doing on the day you were born? I could probably tell you. (Unless you’re older than me, but you’re probably not!)

These days, I am a regular fixture at Caffe Beano just off 17th Avenue SW in Calgary. I write in my journal there almost every day. When I am traveling, I look for new coffee shops that are conducive to the writing process. Last fall in Statford, I discovered Balzac’s on my first day there and wrote there every day for  three weeks. I guess I’m a creature of habit, which is no small trick when you don’t really have a daily schedule.

David Mamet once wrote a great essay, “Writing in Restaurants,” which gave the title for a collection of essays. There’s something interesting about engaging in a very personal act in a public place, especially one you won’t get arrested for. I don’t pretend to understand the reasons why I am able to be so productive in a coffee shop, so much more so than if I stay at home to do the same thing. You can’t argue with results, and my coffee shop and restaurant output has been consistently prodigious.

Yet, in a way, that’s the easy part. The hard part is having the discipline to go back through them and mine them, as it were, for the gold they may or may not contain. In doing this, one is confronted with one’s past, which at times can be uplifting, while at other times and more often than not,  simply deary, I’ve often noticed that we don’t tend to sit down and write anything when our favourite team wins a big game. But, get our hearts broken and that’s a different story. Unhappy events in our lives tend to send us scurrying back to the comfort of the written word, and so my journals, at any rate, tend to be a little on the dark side.

(If I had never had my heart broken, I might have 3,000 words instead of 3,000,000. That’s just how it goes.)

Along with the minutiae, the quotidian, as it were, we mine these journals for the poems and scenes of plays we may have written down on a rainy Tuesday afternoon, say, or late at night when we simply couldn’t fall asleep. These are a few pages from the notebook I kept in Stratford and wrote mostly while at Balzac’s:

It's a scene from a play someone wrote. Oh yeah! It was me!!

 

Obviously by now, writing down my deep thoughts on a daily basis is second nature. It’s habitual and probably very therapeutic. But as I say, the hard part is going back through it to see if there’s anything there of interest.

This scene I’ve been looking at today seems like it might have some potential. There are about ten such scenes in this unnamed play that I called at one point “an epic fantasy,” yet there’s no actual title at this point  So these days, cold days in Calgary when one looks for reasons to stay indoors, I am transcribing this raw material into my computer, with a wait and see attitude about what’s there. Is it gold, or fool’s gold? Too early to tell and no way to tell but to go through the process, hoping for the best.

Even though such scenes are written in full sobriety (for some reason I can’t write in bars) there are times when I go back and read them and have little or no recollection of having written them in the first place. What that’s all about, I’m not really sure, other than to say we clearly go into a very different frame of mind when creating, the results of which can be at some level unrecognizable even to ourselves.

And so now, it’s -30 degrees outside, yet I’ve been at this computer far too long. So even on a wretched day like this, I am to Beano to see what words are waiting on the page of my journal for me to draw out.

Thanks for reading! Stay warm!!

 

 

%d bloggers like this: