Column: Son of Dave, ‘Future’
Never think of the future — it comes soon enough, and is probably here already
Damned solar panel isn’t working again. House in darkness. I can hear the yahoos in their speed boats getting too close to my island. Another blast of buckshot through the trees and into the water should keep them away. When I found this house on the lakes near Musoka, 30 years ago, there were no other people for 10 miles. Now it’s pink with assholes.
In 2010, I had driven for hours to find the gig in the Southern Ontario lake district — just past where the urban sprawl ended and the great wilderness began. The normies were advancing by 1000km/squared every decade. The population density then was third behind California and New York — similar to south-east England. You had to drive far to find good freaks like Peter who built a venue in his garage, and Andrew Currie’s Curiosity And Musical Store, where I found a stack of great singles.
On a hungover afternoon after the show, I boarded an 1887 steamship and putted out past electric autumn colours and huge old wooden homes only accessible by boat. I wiped the mould off the records and played them on my portable. ‘The Mouse’ by Señor Soul, ‘Memphis Soul Stew’ by King Kurtis, ‘Bring It To Jerome’, Bo Diddley. The moment was made surreal and will stick with me forever because of the Chinese businessman whistling along. Everything he whistled sounded like he was playing the erhu. He whistled a Cantonese ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and surveyed the luxury homes and my records. He didn’t smile. He wanted to own everything. In fact, the other 30 passengers on board were all Chinese. What the hell?
Dr. Henry Norman Bethune was born in Muskoka in 1892. After serving as a doctor in World War I, the Spanish conflict, and basically inventing mobile blood units and the notion of free health care for the poor, he went to China to help them on the front lines against the Japanese. Mao Zedong honoured him personally with poetry and statues. He died of a toxic cut from a scalpel in that war. Over three million Chinese were killed. He was recognized as a hero in China, Canada, and around the world, but not in the USA, where he is known as a commie traitor.
Tens of thousands of Chinese come every year to visit Bethune’s birthplace. They transformed the area. Now in my elderly years some of them come to find me in my hermit hut to ask for records, but the shrunken heads on the dock scare them off. Someone just blew up Bethune’s Memorial. Probably American fundamentalists. They send death threats here every Thanksgiving.
I tried to warn everyone. Don’t fly into the bug zapper, but no. They gave us minimalism, brushed steel interiors, retro chic, functionalism, Starbucks-ism, Ikea-ism, casual outdoors, sampling, synthesizing, Dolce & Gabbana, P Diddy… It’s all ugly and misled. Now, copies of Western culture have replaced Western culture. In a tax-free industrial zone somewhere there is a mock James Brown and J. D. Salinger. They make Fords and zoot suits and Gaugins for cheap. The originals are gone — long ago discarded, or bought up by Sultans or collectors. Damn the collectors. The grandson of Charles Saatchi just paid ten million for an Elmore James. A hundred million for an Elvis. Blues is a scent by Hilfiger. Only a lucky few have land and things that were made before repro. Civilizations that took 20 centuries to make were suckered into something modern, then charged for re-admission to a shitty theme park resembling their past. Home of Da Blues, step right this way.
I’m sitting here on my mouldy treasure chest and I just want the damn lights back on so I can find my teeth in the last of the earth’s wilderness. It’s not profound, it’s pathetic. Fuck ’em all. I’m taking all this crap with me when I go…
All of a sudden there’s a knock on the door. I’m tempted to blow a hole through it.
“Who is it? Don’t come in!” I yell.
“It’s your editor. You owe me another book.”
“You hate these records, so you are welcome in, Phil. I hope you brought rum.”
“You’re the last of the semi-genuine bluesmen, Son of Dave — we deserve another tour and book.”
“I’m tired, Phil, I can’t find my own pecker in the dark. What they call society now is just a weird race of aliens who’ve inherited the earth. I don’t owe them shit.”
“Let’s talk about it. I have a new paper…”