This ol' story starts with small notice for the potential for evilness in small small town Ontario. Let me start this saying "yo Canada, get over yourself, and get off your high frikin' horse".
I became really good friends with Ken on the weekend I realized that the whole black/white racism thing was not strictly the purview of these slave driving bastards down here in my newly adopted home. That weekend, Ken and I were assigned to the same group in our Urban Geography class that had been contracted by the local BDIA to canvas Brighton upon a survey of proposed improvements to this and/or that in town.
Of course the first thing Ken and I did was to spark a great big fatty prior to setting out to knock on the doors of our assigned neighbourhood Now, I guarantee you, it wasn't that we reeked of weed, as every door I knocked on offered someone who would answered the 15 or so questions I asked. Ken's doors on the other hand yielded nothing, well nothing but "no thank you's", "what are you doing heres" and a least one nigger reference that Ken would not expand on... Hey, maybe it was the Combination of a nigger AND HIS reeking of dope, who the heck knows. We ended up forging the rest of our surveys, our neighbourhood firmly apposed the improvements, drove to the beach and hung for the remainder of the day.
In general circulation, even though he was only one of three black kids in the entire student population, in general circulation, Ken had very few problems. I guess showing up on these folks doorsteps was just a line he was not supposed to cross. I don't recall the subject ever coming up, but I assume him dating one of their daughters would have stretched the line as well. Hmmm... actually maybe I do recall something like this coming up once...
Ken, entirely on his own, is probably the most talented musician, singer songwriter I've known personally, and I've known quite a few very talented musicians. One goofy little snippet memory I have of his being the cool daddy jack-assie smart-assed-dude we expect our musicians to be came during a school assembly. Ken, although his first talent being piano played what he might call his 15th talent, Bass, in our school band [I mean, c'mon, if the drums were fulled up, I guess the next place you're gonna stick the black kid is the bass].
Anyhow, Ken did get his kicks in, I remember making eye contact with Ken at during a break in the assembly, he gave me a little nod and proceeded to crack out the bass line to "Watching the Detectives", yet another small offensive in our ongoing attempts to be punk-dudes in our corn-paddy back-water high school come holding cell. Ken came from, rather, at the time I knew him, lived in the trailer park down the road from my place. It was probably that fact, more than the fact he was black that my folks were always a bit leery of our friendship, actually, I could guarantee you this. On the days when his bitch of a hard hittin' pill addicted mother let him out of the trailer, or on days were he'd just plain managed to escape, we'd usually just hang in my room.
He'd strum the guitar I never did manage to learn how to play, usually cracklin' joke songs. I'd sit there, either drawing one of my silly fancifuls, or making lame-assed attempts to draw him. We'd talk politics and pop outside from time to time to smoke the spliffs [of course, this may also my have impacted my folks feelings about my friendship with Ken]. Ken was a manic writer. Back then he'd carry around note books full of songs. Prolific, he was probably knocking out two or three a day. I think he carried these books around more so that his mother would not find them or that his A.D.D. brother wouldn't rip them to shreds.
Ken was the son of a Jazz musician from Montreal, a good friend of Oscar Peterson, but was living with a woman who hated the musician who had knocked her up and left her with nothing but two black kids living in a trailer park. The hatred of this musician ultimately soon applied to all musicians, Ken was in a bit of a jam.
Ken and I drifted apart after I stopped smokin' dubes. The drift apart was formalized with my sudden bolting to Toronto [another story]. However, this separation was the start of a new form of relationship I would soon have with Ken. Like an angel, Ken drifts into and out of my life, usually drifting in at the exact moment I need him the most. Maybe I'll start calling him my "dark angel"... I probably will not.
Ken's music is peppered with sardonic wit, he brings this wit and this music into my life at beautifully irregular interval. Our first happen-stance meeting after the high school days was when he found me living about five blocks from where he was living. He had been checked into some psychiatric out patient residence.. He was in pretty rough "out patient" shape. I think I learned some humility or at least found myself humiliated by my inability to help him out in any tangible way. I was down myself, busted and unable to offer him anything more than a few nights of reminiscence
A few years later, quite a few actually, he came to me while I was yoggleing in some bar by myself, probably morning the loss of losing some this girl or that. He was flogging his first CD, carrying a baby in a papoose strapped to his chest. I bought two CDs and persisted in my assertion that I'd track him down... I didn't, but of course he found me again a few years after that, this time he invited me to hook up with him at his now regular gig.
His regular gig turned out to be a "piano bar" night at some up town trendy spot. Ken not only played beautiful bar jazz, but had also tuned his sardonic wit into that in-between song patter that makes lounge singers famous. Of course fame continued to allude, regardless of how deserving he was. I caught that gig for a month or so. I was between "wives", so I had a whole big bunch of dates to fill on the calendar. This was a great way to fill them.
We hung out a few times outside the gigs as well, I recall helping him set up his piano in some park to crank out some impromptu set, saw him at his usual yearly gig or two at the Toronto Jazz Festival, then poof, he was gone again. I've seen him, you know brief run ins on the street a few times since, obviously no times since moving down here to Brooklyn. I googled him the other day, last I read of him. Apparently he's living in Stratford, or at least was so back in 2000. I emailed him, and added him to my buddy list. It would be absolutely grand if he'd contact me and I could waggle him down for a visit. This would be the perfect time to have a visit from my dark-angel.
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