A Canadian Reminds Us That There’s More to Life Than Hockey — and Mostly I Agree

Annually at Christmas I’m gifted books that over the course of the calendar year I’ve identified to¬†family and friends as¬†significant and ensnaring of my attention. The result is a modest pyramid of them late each December that, due to my devotion-mistress the rink,¬†lies ignored about my home generally until my mind rests a bit from thoughts puck. Meaning: I pick them up and begin devouring in spring.¬†My routine¬†October through April is pretty much work, rink, blogging, read blogs, eat,¬†jot down future blog ideas, and sleep. Reading is confined to¬†hockey blogs, three daily newspapers, and — if I’m lucky –¬†one or two good novels consumed mostly in airports¬†and in 12-page fits and bursts on daily Metro rides (100-page bursts on weekend¬†Metro rides).
This past weekend’s rink-as-crypt for the Caps, however,¬†engendered a bit of a psychological break from the hockey season for me earlier than I’d anticipated. On Monday, seeking relief from the grief, I threw myself into one of the undisturbed Christmas books.¬†Three hundred¬†pages in, I feel compelled to highlight¬†one of its sucker punches to the heart for you.
This week I’m reading Neil Peart’s Roadshow: Landscape with Drums.¬†If you’ve been a reader of OFB since its inception last autumn, you know that for its founders Peart and his bandmates, Rush, represent the soundtrack of their youths.
Maybe it’s because they’re Canadian, maybe it’s because their¬†hard rock riffs have endured in hockey rinks across North America¬†counting well past 30 years, but in our travels puck we’ve found a striking volume of sonic soulmates with our affinity for Rush. For instance, the moment¬†I learned that the band would be going back out on the road in 2008 and performing at Hersheypark Stadium this coming July, I had instant takers for a tailgate for it within the Hershey¬†Bears’ hockey organization and community. Mother of Geddy Lee, do we have killer seats for that show!
A band like Rush that’s been around as long as it has has, as you might imagine, a fanbase today in possession of highly disposable disposable income. (America’s wealthiest cohort is its elderly.) And so this blogger will also be journeying out to Colorado to catch the band’s June performance at Red Rocks. [For a snazzy view of that world-class outdoor concert venue, click here.]¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†
But one need not like hard rock nor Rush to appreciate the human being that is Neil Peart. For starters, he is, hands down, the planet’s most accomplished and impressive percussionist; now in his fifties, he still shames rock peers 30 years his juniors with his virtuosity.
Today Peart is in recovery — not from what¬†you’d understandably expect of a big-name rock-and-roller (drugs, booze), but rather from tragedy. In an eleven-month period in 1997-1998, he lost first his lone child, Selena, to an auto accident in Ontario and then some months later his wife of¬†nearly 20 years, Jackie,¬†to cancer. Imagine.¬†Roadshow is¬†Peart’s second book since the twin agonies, and like the first (Ghost Rider: Travels on the Healing Road), documents his travels across North America on a motorcycle. Constant¬†movement for Peart — with his hands and feet within a monstrous drumkit onstage, and afterward, on his bike between gigs out on roads –¬†has been for the past 10 years a therapy for avoiding the painful trap of domestic, stationary living with unimaginable loss.¬†
One of my favorite Rush songs comes from 1982’s¬†Signals, ‘The Analog Kid.’¬†It¬†memorializes a first instance of love, arrived at in adolescence:

The fawn-eyed girl with sun-browned legs
Dances on the edge of his dream
And her voice rings in his ears
Like the music of the spheres

In Roadshow, Peart affords his reader the biography of that song.
“The summer before I turned fifteen, my family camped outside Montreal to visit the World’s Fair, Expo ’67, and at the campground, I met a girl from Ohio. Her father was extremely watchful (warning her that Canadian boys had “Roman hands and Russian fingers”), and we never even kissed, but I fell hopelessly in fourteen-year-old love, and wrote to her all that summer, to Beach City, Ohio.
“I remember sitting on the front steps of our house waiting for the mailman, and when her letters trickled off, I was devastated. Maybe her father made her stop writing me. In any case, I always remembered her . . . ”
Forty years removed from his first love, having been married, tragically widowed, and eventually remarried to an accomplished American photographer, Peart never¬†forgot that¬†summertime first love. In his¬†middle fifties, on the road again with Rush, he programmed into his motorcycle’s GPS¬†a route well out of the way of the band’s itinerary¬†so that he could navigate once again Main Street of Beach City, Ohio.
I think he’s surviving life’s most savage sting rather fine.¬†¬†

This entry was posted in Morning cup-a-joe, OFB, Rush. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to A Canadian Reminds Us That There’s More to Life Than Hockey — and Mostly I Agree

  1. Oh, you just HAD to go there, didn’t you?

  2. NS2NOVA says:

    I can also recommend Peart’s Masked Rider: Cycling in West Africa. I read it when it first came out in ’96. It was a good read.
    It was re-released in 2006.

  3. maruk says:

    Best rock drummer? Probably.
    Most impressive percussionist on the planet? Not. Even. Close.
    Two Words: Antonio Sanchez.

  4. I’ll Google him.

  5. pgreene says:

    having played drums since slightly before i could speak in complete sentences and having at one point committed every lick peart had ever laid down to memory, thanks for the reminder of one of my childhood heroes. i don’t give a damn about motorcycles, but i’ll still go pick up all of these.

  6. Gmann says:

    I too had this book waiting for me under the tree at Christmas and just finished reading it a couple weeks ago. A verbose writer to say the least, it’s a great read. Neat insight on ‘the guys at work’! Pour The Macallan…..

  7. maruk says:

    I’m a bit of a jazz geek, so anyone who isn’t can blissfully ignore the following:
    Sanchez is currently on tour with Pat Metheny and Christian McBride [one of my heroes as a bassist]. Both of these guys are Ovechkin-like on their instrument, but Sanchez was the one I couldn’t take my ears off of.

  8. hotdog88gt says:

    If I may alter a line from Frito in the movie “Idiocracy”:
    “I can’t believe you like Rush, too. We should hang out.”

  9. mark says:

    Thanks for the temporary respite from hockey heartbreak.

  10. pepper says:

    Its interesting that you connect the devastation wrought across Caps land over the weekend to Peart’s profound losses. While the two are obviously not at all in proportion, I strangely connected the two in my mind as well this week. I’ve always been amazed at his strength to keep it together through all that, especially given that he’s a professed atheist.

  11. Pepper,
    You’ve savagely misread the impetus behind this file. I sought a distraction from last weekend’s disappointing results with an immersion in some non-hockey-related literature. That’s it. No correlation of events on any level whatsoever.

  12. pepper says:

    I didn’t mean to suggest that you did, I’m sorry if that was offensive. I should have more simply written that you chose to distract yourself from a fan’s disappointment with a story of, in many ways, a profound triumph.
    I’m also in a very bad mood this week for reasons not related to Caps hockey, and it showed through – I apologize.

  13. beth says:

    The Trio of Canada in the Land of Chocolate this summer?!? Sounds like a grand time (did I miss an invite?)! Glad you found some solace from the Caps’ agonizing weekend somehow…

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