David Sloma

writer

Category: R.I.P.

Gord Downie’s Change of Cosmic Address/Walk Among the Stars

Photo: http://www.metronews.ca/content/dam/thestar/uploads/2016/8/17/van-tragicallyhip1jennifergauthier-copy.jpg.size.xxlarge.promo.jpg

It feels like I’ve lost an old friend, one that I never met.

Like many around here, I grew up listening to The Tragically Hip with Gord Downie singing. His lyrics and delivery have rattled around in my head, and on my lips, for decades.

The Hip’s music (and presence on radio/TV, in papers, and in live shows) has been a constant in most of the land known as Canada pretty much since the mid-1980’s – good thing they were a great band and I happened to enjoy them!

And while their music was international in scope, Gord and the Hip helped show us who we were, that it was OK, even cool, to be us – those of us living on the land called Canada, in the shadow of our much larger neighbour to the south, to whom comparisons were often made. We could more readily appreciate that we had things of our own, wonderful and beautiful things, to be proud of and to celebrate, when Gord and the band held them up for us to see more clearly.

People talk about music being the soundtrack to their lives; for a lot of us, the Hip’s music, with Gord on the mic, was just that.

Now, Gord has changed his cosmic address and is gone to continue his walk among the stars.

He was recently honoured at an Assembly of First Nations with the Indigenous name Wicapi Omani, which is Lakota for “man who walks among the stars” for his work in helping to bring attention and healing to the disgrace and tragedy of the residential schools, and other issues faced by the indigenous peoples of Canada.

The tears might never fully stop, all the time, when we hear his music and remember, but we can laugh as well…Let’s not forget Gord’s great sense of humour! Remember The Trailer Park Boys with him in the Hip video for the song The Darkest One? And the many others times he made us laugh, too!

See you later, Gord, and thanks…for the beauty and a lot more. I’ll be singing, dancing, feeling, and thinking to your words and music for a long time to come.

I know I won’t be alone.

Taken north of Toronto a couple days ago.

#GordDownie #TheHip #thetragicallyhip #GordDowniesCanada

RIP Carrie Fisher

leia-card

For those who’ve been there from the start in 1977, you’ll recognize this card.

I’m saddened out today.

Leonard Cohen’s Change of Cosmic Address

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Thank you, Leonard Cohen, from the mourning lovers you consoled with sympathy, the iced hearts you warmed with tears; thank you for the hope you gave to those lost, for showing the way to something more, out of the darkness.

Thank you from your fans (I count myself as one) for your beautiful, truthful music and words, the inspiration you gave to other artists to follow their paths at their heart’s urgings, and to spiritual seekers to follow their soul’s longings. Thank you for the kindness you shared with those lucky enough to cross your path.

I crossed your path, in a way, when I received a personal letter from you many years ago, in response to a book of my poetry I had sent you. That gesture of yours told me a lot about your depth of character and respect for other artists. That you, such an esteemed writer, took the time and effort to respond to me meant a great deal to the young writer I was at the time. And it still does.

I hope you are able to read this now, Leonard, and that you are happy and in a better place. We can play your music and read your words when we miss you, but nothing will ever replace you.

Thank you again for all you gave, and see you around.

-Dave Sloma

 

Lewis Vella’s Change of Cosmic Address

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Lewis Vella’s Change of Cosmic Address

By David Sloma

June 21, 2016

 

I just found out that Lewis Vella died. Over two years later.

I was just thinking about him the other day. Now, I find that he’s another local writer who died suddenly at a young age, another friend passed on.

I prefer to say Lewis has passed on, or changed his cosmic address…those terms seem more fitting for his artistic soul, and I don’t think it’s the end when our soul departs from this plane, anyway.

The terms we use to describe what has happened to him are not that important. A friend, and an inspiration has moved on from this life, leaving us missing him. It was a shock to me to learn he was gone.

I’m glad that some of his family and friends have left messages on his on Facebook page (which is how I found out), talking about their memories of him, and even still wishing him a happy birthday years after he’s gone—some of them are even now departed themselves. If that’s not love, and missing someone, I don’t know what is!

Here’s something of my memory of him.

I saw an orange VW bus the other evening parked in downtown Toronto while walking with a friend, enjoying the warm June weather, and it made me think of Lewis Vella. I wondered if it was his bus. I had lost touch with him over the last couple of years, and he had often crossed my mind, certainly every time I saw a similar bus.

I had remarked to my friend that the VW looked like one a writer I knew had, and I recounted how Lewis would sell his own books out of his camper at the side of the street. That we were walking around some of the neighbourhoods that Lewis used to frequent made his memory in my mind even more vivid.

I hoped that I would run into Lewis again now that the summer weather was here; a good time for sitting in the VW with the door open, his books on display, talking to who might pass by and dispensing his unique perspectives on life that were like medicine for a world gone insane in many ways.

I first met Lewis in the Annex many years back, when he was sitting in his VW parked by the side of Bloor Street outside Lee’s Palace. I was intrigued by this character and his books, and by his spirit. I got the feeling of artistic and life freedom from him, this unique soul in his bus with his books, going where the winds of inspiration would take him next, then writing it down for us to ponder later.

I got some of his books and enjoyed them (Mutant Migrant is a favourite, and with a title like that you can’t go wrong!), and it was a great thing to be able to buy them right from the author in his bus and get them signed! Where does that happen? Back then, as an aspiring writer myself looking for a way to get published, Lewis was a revelation and an inspiration. We had interesting conversations, both on the bus and in local cafes, about writing and everything under the sun.

I listened to his tales about how he had left the advertising world behind because his heart was no longer in it, to live his life on his own terms and to be a writer. That he self-published and sold his work himself sent a clear message to me that there was another way to artistic fulfillment than begging on the doorsteps of the traditional publishing industry with my manuscripts in hand, hoping to win their lottery.

I admired his freedom, attained by following his own path and having control over how his writing was published and distributed. Nowadays, self-publishing is not nearly the dirty word it was back then, but back then he was one of the few writers I had met who had the guts to put out their own work. It was also way before the rise of ebooks and the Internet sites to sell them on, so then it was either go the traditional publishing route (and hope) or do-it-yourself and spend the money to do so; it was not easy.

But here was someone self-publishing and making a go of it! It was possible! And right in front of my eyes. In short order I began self-publishing my own writing, placing it for sale in local bookstores (it sold!), and inspired by Lewis, no doubt, even taking a spin at selling my books on the street—and I even sold some there, too! (I’ve yet to get a VW bus, but you never know…)

Lewis Vella was one-of-a-kind in the best sense. He had wisdom about life and art that was gained by hard experience. He shared that wisdom freely when you asked for it. His thoughts will live on in his writing, and I’m glad we have his art.

Thank you, Lewis, for being an inspiration and a friend. I wish I could have seen you again and spent more time talking with you. I guess I’ll see you around, eh? Because we’re still in this big, wild, universe together, whatever form we’re in…so I’m sure I’ll see you again. Maybe you’ll even get to read my writing. Tell me what you think? Do you like what those writers Forrest Ackerman and Phil Dick are doing, sending messages from the Other Side? Maybe you’ll do the same one day? (See the books An Atheist In Heaven, and Philip K. Dick: The Dream Connection.)

Perhaps it’s fitting that I found out about Lewis’s change of cosmic address today, one day after the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, as now the days are getting shorter again, and we are going back into the dark time of the year. But when I thought of Lewis the other evening, after spotting that orange VW bus, the days were still growing longer and filling with more and more light—I’d like to remember him that way.

I was blessed to have met Lewis and to have read his books, bought right from him and autographed in his bus. You can still read his work and be blessed too, by his wit, insight, life-lessons, and heart.

For the last few years whenever I’ve seen an orange VW bus I’ve thought of Lewis Vella, and I know I’ll continue to do so.

Goodbye Lewis, see you around.

 

-David Sloma

Why I’ll Miss Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy

Why I’ll Miss Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy
By David Sloma (www.davidsloma.com)

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It started on a black and white TV from Eatons department store. The brand was Viking, their house brand. I remember that tube TV used to take a while to warm up, and when you switched it off the picture slowly disappeared into a small white dot in the middle of the screen. There was only one speaker, no cable channels, and the signals were collected by a “rabbit ears” antenna—that was how I was introduced to the original Star Trek series in the early 1970’s when I was a child.

Even with that humble TV set, the stories of Star Trek came through to my young mind and heart as crystal clear as in the latest HD, sparking my imagination from then on. The episodes thrilled me, at times scared me, amused me, and made me wonder about unknown things and possibilities. With plays set in space, I found real lessons about life on Earth. Star Trek started a fire in me, and also in the world at large. I thought a lot about outer space and travel to the stars, years before I was old enough to drive a car. Those tales are surely part of the reason why I write science fiction today.

I liked Captain Kirk because he was the Captain, and he did alright with the ladies (both human and alien). But there was something strange and deeply intriguing about the man in the blue shirt with the pointed ears and weirdly cut black hair: Mr. Spock spoke to the outsiders, the ones who didn’t feel they fit into a world not of their making. For a supposedly cold and mostly logical character, only half-human, I found a lot of feeling in Spock’s portrayal. It would be years later until I came to appreciate what he stood for more deeply.

As I grew up and the TV sets in our house got better, I kept watching Mr. Spock through the years. I learned there was a real man behind the character of Spock, indeed there were real people behind all of the characters I’d grown fond of on-board the Enterprise (and even some of the aliens, too). I found out the ships were not real but only TV and movie sets. They were not in space but on movie lots. And the actors behind the characters aged as I aged, too.

When Leonard Nimoy passed away on February 27, 2015, I felt a bit of shock. A part of my childhood had ended, I felt. In fact, Spock had been there through most of my life and now he was gone. There would be no more movies or TV shows with Mr. Spock in them, I had to accept. I still had the action figures, toys, cards, comic books, videos and other stuff of Star Trek from the years, but there would be no more new appearances by Mr. Nimoy.

I felt sad about that and also blessed, as I remembered how much he had given to the world. He kept being Mr. Spock long past the point of needing the money and that says the world to me. His work lives on and will prosper, of that I have no doubt. They just don’t make them that like anymore.

Thank you, Leonard Nimoy.

R.I.P. – Gary Coleman

2 icons gone in one week! Part of my childhood has gone with them, too, I think. A lot of great memories and laughs…thank you, Gary.

Gary Coleman back in the Diff'rent Strokes days. Image link from: scrapetv.com

Gary Coleman back in the Diff'rent Strokes days. Image link from: scrapetv.com

Dennis Hopper has passed away – "Now it’s dark…"

I’m shocked and saddened by the news that actor-writer-director Dennis Hopper died yesterday. He was best known for his roles in films like Apocalypse Now, Easy Rider, Blue Velvet and Hoosiers, but Dennis was also an accomplished painter and photographer. He was truly an inspiring artist. I loved many of his films and his artwork interested me, too.

Dennis Hopper in 1969 during the filming of Easy Rider. Image source: Wikipedia.com

You will be missed, Dennis.

His Wikipedia entry, including his extensive filmography, spanning over 50 years: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dennis_Hopper

“Now it’s dark…” – Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth in the film Blue Velvet.

Jack Pierce, make up artist on Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, and others

The excellent radio show Cinephobia, broadcast out of CKLN in Toronto,  just ran a contest to give away some tickets to a screening of a 35mm print of  the 1931 FRANKENSTEIN! I didn’t win the contest, but in answering their contest question, I was reminded of the incredible work of Jack Pierce who did the make up for Boris Karloff in Frankenstein, and Lon Chaney, Jr. in The Wolf Man, among other films. There’s an interesting read about Pierce at Wikipedia.

I directed a short film/commercial a little while back which featured our own “Frankenstein” and you can watch it below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1Yn2LwmFp8
See the credits for the film here: http://www.vimeo.com/8430163

That make up is not easy! We could have used his help on the set! Jack Pierce, RIP.

Viddy well!

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