A few things:
- Gord Downie has died. We all knew it was coming but we all hoped that it wouldn’t happen. At least not for a long time. The saddest thing is that someone who brought us all together as a country is no longer around anymore to hear from us about how much we love him for that very fact. It was my belief that if the entire country just hoped hard enough and sang loud enough and loved each other enough that we could keep Gord alive by sheer force of will. Maybe we did do that. We had a whole summer to say goodbye and, more importantly, say thank you. And sing! We all have a song in our hearts forever because of that man and that band.
- Last summer (after the news of Gord’s illness broke) I met a guy while I was at a writers conference in Portugal. He was an American guy from L.A. but he grew up in Michigan and the first time we were introduced to each other in our workshop and he heard I was Canadian he immediately mentioned The Tragically Hip. It may have been the first words out of his mouth. Growing up in Michigan he was one of the few Americans who probably listened to the Hip on the radio. This guy is a great guy. He’s friendly and energetic and he liked talking about tennis which I liked a lot. At the end of the first week in Portugal we were all celebrating Portugal’s win in the Euro tournament. It was such a joyous time in the whole country and the whole city of Lisbon was electric and exuberant and we were right in the middle of it. Hanging out that night the talk again drifted towards the Hip. Whenever a song lyric would enter his head he would just kind of shout it at me. I didn’t want to talk about the bad news about Gord’s cancer but I brought it up and said how sad it was and how I hoped he would fight it and all that stuff. This guy hadn’t heard that news. I was telling him for the first time. The news stopped him right in his tracks. I punched him right in his heart. I didn’t mean to. He started to tear up right in the bar. I hope this story doesn’t embarrass him. It was quite the moment to see someone digesting that news for the first time.
- The Tragically Hip’s last concert was broadcast across the country. Of course! I was struck by many things in that concert but the thing I wasn’t expecting at all was how Gord used this platform that he had never probably had before. Even though he was part of the most popular bands in Canada there were never more people all watching him at that one moment than ever before. He took that moment to talk about the First Nations people. “The people way up north” as he called them. We have to care about them, he said. We have to keep our promises. We have to work towards reconciliation. In that moment where all of Canada had come together to celebrate art and music and life itself, there was Gord telling us we could all still work to be better, not just to each other, but we could and should all work to build a better country. I hope everyone remembers that message he had to us as we spend the day quoting song lyrics at each other and play deep cuts for each other.
- Today is a day for my fellow artists to create some art. Make something today of all days. Make something where before there was nothing. A drawing or song or even just string a few chords together. Write a couplet or a poem or a story. Even if nobody will ever hear it or read it.
- Today on Instagram my friend posted a photo of his nephew’s school assignment where he was writing about why he loved his uncle so much. On one of the last lines, near the bottom of the page he said, “I always wish he was here.”