A Ditty for the City: 35 street pianos. 5 years. 3 cities. 1 song.

In June of 2013, 88 pianos had been strewn throughout the streets of New York, and I set out with the goal of playing them all. I was wondering how to turn the excursion into an artistic project, and the answer came to me while walking through Central Park listening to my favourite song, Nina Simone's I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free: "I'll play the same song on every piano, I thought, and then piece all 88 clips together."

A street piano rookie at the time, I was naive to the nature of the business — lineups, padlocks, broken keys, horribly untuned pianos — as well as to the geography of NYC. Covering the five boroughs in three days, it turns out, was too much for one little man: of the 88 pianos, I successfully played four.

Over the ensuing five years, I would hone the skills that define all the Great street pianists: patience, persistence and, most importantly, IM-perfectionism. I battled sickness, bad weather and boisterous crowds in my artistic pursuit. I sang over police sirens and service announcements. I peddled across Montreal's varied elevations, plodded up and down the avenues and boulevards of Paris, manoeuvred the madness of Manhattan. And I'm done.

34 Life Lessons




























34. Don’t ruin a good thing because you don’t think you deserve it.











32. Every breath is another chance.













30. Stress, drama and sadness are a part of life.


28. We cannot ask for anything more than to enjoy a beautiful day.



















27. You are what you eat. 

Like, actually.























25.  Sometimes, alcohol makes it worse.





22.  We’re all playing dress-up.



20.  For every comfort we enjoy, somebody has to suffer.



























17. Work doesn't have to be work.



























16. All that

really matters

is that you do it.



























14. Everyone wants to be right.























11.  We’re all worthy.


10.  Every performance deserves applause.  




















8. Safe streets are










6.  Big change can happen fast. 











4. Animals teach.


2. To sing is to express joy.










































                   33. The love of  lifetime, can

take a lifetime to find.









31. Plug your

iPhone in first.








































29. Don't give up.


















26. Everything we want is right in front of us.











24. The answer is exercise.














23. Boredom is a state of mind.















21.  We’re all playing house.





19. The world is a teacher to the blind man, and an enemy to the fool.





18. The ferry from Venice to Athens is 33 hours. Not 9.





















15.  Run-flat tires cannot be patched.














13. Evil is everywhere. 





12. Everyone


has a song.








9. Recycling is important.










7. Comparison is pointless.





























5. There is no place like home.







3. Nature talks. 




1. Love is real, and we all deserve it.

Birthdays are the new Thanksgiving, and Trump is the new President.

They used to be about getting older, when getting older was something to strive for. Now birthdays are about remembering what I have to be thankful for, because I know by now its the only way to really live. I'm thankful for everything I have: friends, family, fortune. And also what I don't have: Leprosy. Lupus. Gingivitis. I try not to think about the rest. The bad in the world. The suffering. All the people who don't have the privileges i enjoy as a young white male in the New World.

i've been thinking about those privileges a lot lately. Where they come from. Who affords me them. Why so many others struggle to have them. Why...me?

I can't believe my life sometimes. The fortune. Things i need and want manifest before in me as if by magic. Opportunities and possibilities flourish. I walk safe streets with strong legs and when I'm tired, I rest. 

Who do I thank for this? Veterans? Teachers? Queen Victoria? OBAMA?

They all played a role, as did the migratory fishermen, merchant capitalists, puritans and social outcasts that claimed this land for their own so I can thrive off of it centuries later. And thrive, I do.

The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness isn't given once and for all. It's a continual battle. We may not see or hear it, but every day, war is being waged to ensure I get my nightly eight hours. 

“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
— George Orwell

This quote has remained etched on my mind. We enjoy such a lush life in Canada, and we owe somebody for that. I guess with nine out of ten of us living less than a two-hour drive from the US border, with whom we share the world's biggest trading relationship, it's safe to say we owe the US for that, including her rough men.

Donald Trump is one of those men. Not rough in a militaristic sense (he dodged multiple drafts), but in a doggedly defensive sense; a sense completely motivated by the addiction to power and ego gratification; a completely and utterly senseless kind of sense.

I'm scared of Donald Trump. I was scared of him on The Apprentice. Even then, he was the face of pure evil. And I can't believe that I'm living in a time when Donald Trump, is the most powerful person on earth. 

I struggle to find the positive. The nugget of hope to right our path when the planet, like a doomed flight, suddenly switches course and veers off in the very wrong direction. The positive is in there, but it's not where I hoped it would be.

In Trump's world, I see bombs, I hear protests. I see judges in bulletproof benches pounding gavels and sealing the fates of immigrants and minority groups. I see disgusting brutality at the hands of police.

In Trump's world I see mass upheaval, mass incarceration, mass madness. A world whose temperature barrels past the point of no return even before the ink has dried on the treaty intended to thwart the crossing of that devastating threshold. 

What has truly startled me about this election, other than how utterly oblivious we are to the concerns of entire swathes of the population that don't share our views, is how easily seduced we allow ourselves to be by an image we identify with.

We wanted Hillary to win for many reasons, just as we love Obama for many reasons. I appreciate how they both championed equal rights and spoke out against corruption and violence. I like Hillary's toughness, and when I see Obama, I want to kiss him. But five years ago, both opposed marriage equality, and both waged wars that killed innocent people. Mass incarceration, gun violence, police brutality and environmental degradation all flourished under their whole or partial rule. In fact, going on experience alone, we may feel safe knowing the president-elect has far less blood on his hands than his formidable opponent.

It may sound rational, but despite his hateful comments, despicable displays of misogyny and racism and the vacant, hollow crevasse that occupies the space reserved for his heart, Trump's world, in many ways, may not be that different from Hillary's. Bombs will continue to drop and involvement in conflicts will continue to increase (as they've done under Obama). because, with all her blunders and blemishes, her conflicts and conquests, her dirty secrets and fundamental flaws, the US is doing something right, and whatever that is, we are all benefiting from it.

And thats where I find the positive. A kind of positive that is tinged with terror. A terrifying kind of positive. That's how I feel.

Positively, terrified.








It doesn't get any better than this

I sat on the daybed in my late grandmother's kitchen yesterday, tapping my toes to the same tunes that filled that same room when I was a kid, and I got to thinking about change. Mainly, how much of it has happened, how much of me has been affected by it, and how much of me hasn't.

It's been about thirteen years since I first read it, but one quote from Conversations with God still stands out:

Copyright  Wavy Navy Designs

It was probably the hardest quote to grasp. How could this be it?, I'd wonder. "I'm not enough," "THIS is not enough!" Enough of what, I didn't know. I still don't. I just knew there was so much I had to accomplish, achieve, acquire, experience, before I could be it.

I've achieved and acquired and experienced plenty since I was a kid and I definitely haven't been unaffected by any of it. Plenty has changed about me in that time - my body, my perspective, my intellectual knowledge, my address (like, 17 times). Things might be different than they were before. But better?  I'm no better of a whatever it is that I am now and was before than I've ever been before now. 

I can recall a million glorious moments when I considered my life to be better than it was when I first read Conversations with God. There were moments in which I had more money, more health, more love, more success, more fun than in previous or latter moments. But all of those moments were moments, and the thing about moments is, they pass. 

I think it is important that we continue to teach our kids to achieve and accomplish and strive and pursue. That they can have more, do more, see and hear and taste more, but that they'll never be any thing more than what they are right now. And that's not only okay, its extraordinary. 

I believed that I wasn’t good enough the way I was, but if I could become good at something, then I could be someone. Now I know I had the game wrong. The game is to find out who we already are, not to become something.
— Quote from Zeitgeist

Also, I've been thinking about suffering a lot. Human suffering in all its forms, and how we all have to deal with it in life, some of us so much more than others, it sometimes seems. 

There's nothing more natural than to want to reduce one's suffering. It has been said that a desire to reduce and eliminate suffering is the primary force driving life on this planet. Our daily lives consist in actions we perform with the ultimate goal of ensuring the least amount of suffering for ourselves and our loved ones. 

Yet, like change, suffering is one of the only constants in life. You can be certain of few things, but you can be certain you'll suffer in this lifetime. Most spiritual leaders agree that to live is to suffer. We enter this world crying, S.N. Goenka often reminded his students. Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, was himself prone to bouts of suicidal depression. Both insist that our suffering serves a vital role:

I've been reminding myself of this a lot lately. Suffering will always be there. It's what makes us human. We can choose to let it help us, or destroy us. And whatever way we choose to react to it, it is going to happen.

In other news, fuck the French language. Learning French is like spending a decade training an impossible-to-isolate muscle that softens and shrinks faster than any other muscle (muscles representing career choices). Not only that, but in order to use the barbell you have to go to a special type of gym whose hours change every minute (gyms representing French-speaking areas and hours representing the dizzying rate at which idiomatic language evolves) and whatever gym rat shows up on the doorstep first gets dibs (gym rats representing whatever keener did better than me in the Translation test I wrote last week for a big company in Montreal). I failed. Can you tell I'm disgruntled?

When I sit on a piano bench my mind wakes up and my soul goes to sleep. I've never been so busy as a musician in my life and each time I do it I become more certain that I will never truly be happy doing anything else. This week alone, I'll be playing here:

The Fifth Ticket

The Fifth Ticket

and here...

The Woodstock Colonial Restaurant

The Woodstock Colonial Restaurant

and here...

St. John's Folk Festival

St. John's Folk Festival

and here....

So in sum, I remind myself daily that nothing I ever do in life will ever make anything better and no matter where I go and what I do I will always have to overcome some sort of struggle and that I can let it empower me if I so choose and therefore all I can do now is enjoy and appreciate the wonderful things coming my way and continue to do exactly what I was put on this earth to do. And knowing all of this, I am becoming more and more comfortable with THIS decision:

2016, I just can't with you.

Some days I forget there is no such thing as the future and that the past is literally a figment of our imagination. I forget that thoughts and feelings are constantly arising and passing like clouds and that I am beyond them. I worry and fret about my life and then I remember that life isn't something I have, it's something I am. In those moments, I thank God for The Power of Now.

Die to the past every moment. You don’t need it. Feel the power of this moment and the fullness of Being. Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have.

I've really been drawing from this book lately. Some days it is hard to tell we have the power to curate our inner state at all times. That we have the power to choose positivity over pessimism. That nothing is inherently bad or negative. 

That can be especially hard to remember in 2016. I can't tell what is more terrifying: the fact that so many horrific events are taking place in such rapid succession, or how the media and politicians use each and every one of them to promote their own agendas.

Speaking of politicians, this election. I just can't. 

I was lost when it came to US politics. So I researched it a bit. I wish I was lost again.

New Hampshire. Bernie wins but then Hillary wins because super delegates. 

Super delegates. Rich former politicians step in to tip the scales in favour of their friends. There are 714 total. Hillary gets 571. 

Nevada. Sixty-four Bernie delegates barred from entering. Hillary wins by less than sixty-four.

Emails. The Democratic National Committee demonized their own Democratic candidate and edged him out of the Democratic race. Then Hillary won because democracy. I just can't.

Hillary. She knew the Benghazi attack was going to happen and then lied under oath about it. She also knew the US was sending arms to Libya that ultimately fuel a faction of Islamic extremists called ISIS. Can't.

ISIS. Stop blaming them for everything. There is no such thing as an "ISIS-inspired" killer. Nobody is inspired by ISIS. ISIS had nothing to do with Paris or Orlando or Istanbul or Nice or San Bernardino or Brussels or the Germany train attack. They are no more responsible for these events than Osama Bin Laden was responsible for every horrible thing that happened after 9/11. The media tells us that so we don't wonder why bombs drop in "ISIS territory," like the one that killed 120 civilians in Syria a week after Nice. Can't even.

And speaking of Nice, stop calling it an attack. An unspeakably horrific event, yes. An act of unthinkable, gutless brutality against hundreds of innocent men, women and children watching fireworks, okay. But "attack" makes France the victim. And France means "The West." And "The West," means war. (Sidenote: WTF happened to Al Qaeda and the Taliban? Are they retired?) Can't.

Also, have we all forgotten that the planet is a sizzling inferno? I. Just. Can't.

In February, Future Tense wrote of a "terrifying milestone" for humans: February 2016 was the most "unusually warm" month ever recorded (previously it was January 2016). Remember that dreaded threshold of 2.0 average global warming that the Paris Agreement was purported to prevent? Yeah, it already happened. Can NOT!

It appears that average temperatures across the Northern Hemisphere have breached the 2 degrees Celsius above “normal” mark for the first time in recorded history, and likely the first time since human civilization began thousands of years ago.

Granted, The Economist did say] there hasn't been an increase in global carbon emissions in two years, which is something that hasn't happened in more than three decades. Also, Johan Rockstrom, formerly the most pessimistic climate scientist, is flabbergasted at the "breakneck" speed at which humans have been employing wind and solar energy. So there's that.

Speaking of wind and solar, why do 80% of homes on Miquelon have private wind turbines and solar panels? Why can't Newfoundland do this? I can't.

Speaking of Miquelon, I paid five bucks for fish cakes in Fortune and had a two-euro pain au chocolat an hour later. France is literally a 40-minute boat ride from Newfoundland. Can't.

Write here...

Write here...

Speaking of Newfoundland, it's my first summer here in ten years and its all like:

Sometimes it looks like this though.

That's why I travel. 

Speaking of which, I went to Vancouver, in February. It reminded me a lot of St. John's, in June.

Were Vancouver a person, it would be young, fit, healthy, and at least half Asian.

If Toronto were a person, it would be the young professional so exhausted from working ten consecutive eight-hour days and commuting for 2.5 hours each day that he never took a single pic the entire time he was in town, except one of the absolutely delicious indian roti he inhaled before scrambling to the airport.

And then there's Montreal, the city that I can never really leave. Even when I'm not in it, it's in me. If Montreal were a person, it would be really, really fun to be around.

Also, there's a gay waterfall north of Montreal. I go there in my dreams.

Oh, and one last rant: Stop comparing every country on earth to Norway. They're an oil giant with 5 million residents. They literally have more money than they know what to do with. Of course they have record-low unemployment. Of course they have high life expectancy and world-class healthcare and of course their prison cells look like honeymoon suites. If you were the Clintons, wouldn't you spoil Chelsea?