|1940 – Keyes, Manitoba I’m not even sure he knew what fascism really meant when he signed up to the Canadian forces. He was 17 years old. He had only finished grade 10 at school before quitting to work on the farm. He had obviously heard that Hitler and Mussolini were tyrannical men. Maybe even the title of “fascist” had been used in the same sentence. I don’t know. I think it was more a desire to leave a life of poverty and seek adventure, rather than a deep-rooted quest to take on evil. He was dear to the other 4 younger siblings, but he needed out of an isolated farmer’s life defined by the weather patterns and the seasons. Would the first frost come too soon and kill the harvest? Were there enough vegetables canned and potatoes harvested to get through the 5 months of deep snow drifts and frozen rivers? After lying about his age at the local enlisting station, he took a step towards the unknown. A year later he found himself trying to circumvent the attacking Japanese Army on Victoria Peak in Hong Kong. Simultaneously, Japanese fighter pilots were wreaking havoc on Pearl Harbour. He was with three other Canadian soldiers as they rounded a corner on the mountain path. A Japanese soldier fired out from behind a hidden spot among the trees. Three of them dropped dead and then somehow the Japanese soldier stopped firing. I never asked my him for further details. 1990s – Nanaimo, British Columbia As a teenager, we would sit at the kitchen table in his mobile home on the hillside overlooking the bay of Nanaimo down below. He would nurse his Chardonnay with a straw. His shaky hands would pull the straw to his mouth, and he would sip with his eyes closed. Very often the sky would be cement grey. Rain on the roof like sand being dropped on a metallic slide on the playground. Grandma would most often go to bed first, and then he would really talk. The post-war curling matches in Gladstone, the hidden mickeys of whiskey, the life of living with the soil and the sun and the wind and the rain back on the farm. One day he talked about Grandma. They’d gone to a movie in Winnipeg. (Some of you might have already heard this story – Old Time Cinema Newsreel from Temporary Cures) Before the movie, they had the international newsreel come on the big screen. At one point they showed the face of a Japanese soldier convicted of war crimes. My grandpa jumped up out of his seat and started screaming in Japanese at the screen. He knew that face intimately. He had fallen underneath that young man’s torturing hands many times in his POW camp in Omine, Japan. I don’t know the details: did the popcorn in his lap spill everywhere? Did his cinema neighbours look at him annoyed or with empathy? Did they stop the newsreel? Did my Grandma start shouting at him in turn to calm down? I have no idea. All I know is that he had to leave and my Grandma left with him. I assume she held him outside on the sidewalk, their date-night in tatters. The long tentacles of his trauma slowly retreating once again to the shadows. The bottle of Chardonnay was three-quarters empty. His eyes were drawing closer to sleep. I would often at these moments say something like, “maybe we should head to bed?”, or something indirect and polite, yet suggestive, like “it’s starting to get late”. He would strike back with “I’ll go to bed when I’m tired Mark!”. I would then feel embarrassed. Like a sheep following the Victorian shepherd extolling inauthentic modes of politeness. It’s hard to leave those kitchen table lessons taught while cutting up my pork chops and trying to eat green peas with a fork.
|Private Lloyd Wesley Hanna – Winnipeg Grenadiers 1923 – 2007
|One night he said softly that you only fall in love twice in your life. I didn’t understand at first what he meant. He meant that real love will only come twice over the span of your life, if you’re lucky. When it does, don’t let it go. His hand shook slightly as he reached across the table and tapped my arm, a clear look in his blue eyes. He was now ready for bed. He lay the straw down on the kitchen table beside his empty glass, gave me a hug, and walked down the hallway to his bedroom. 10 years later, on an early fall evening, he cut the 60th wedding cake with my grandma in the eating area at the hospital. I was deep asleep in Montreal. He wasn’t able to smile for the camera. But he was there. He’d been bed-ridden since the spring. They were both surrounded by family, blue scrubs, IV tubes, fluorescent lighting, and he was on his four-wheeled bed. That night he fell asleep, his lungs filled with water, and he was gone by the time the sun rose. It felt like he had planned it like this all along.
|And then some day you realize that even with all your imperfections and inadequacies, someone mysteriously grows to love you, and you love them back. And for that moment, you feel like you are truly theirs.
New Video + New Tour Dates
From the second Kliffs’ album “after the flattery” released in February, 2023 with Backseat Records. This was filmed on a perfect September afternoon beside the Spree River in Berlin.
Check out our ever-expanding list of tour dates here.
Dear Friends, For a period of 6 months in the mid-1980s, my parents decided that we could have a TV. But in Swaziland back in those days (now officially Eswatini), there was only 6 hours of programming. It started around 4 in the afternoon with a picture of King Mswati III and the national anthem being sung. Then the news came on, then the children’s cartoon show “Fat Albert”, and then a variety of adult shows, then the news again, followed once more by Mswati’s face and the same choir singing “Nkulunkulu Mnikati…..”. Among the adult shows, was the Jimmy Swaggert show. For those of you who are not familiar with him, he was one of the most famous televangelists in the world. He would preach with his Louisiana drawl to thousands and broadcast it everywhere. I remember his blond coiffed hair, his mono-coloured suits, his perspiring face as he held the microphone often with eyes closed, his gallivanting and gesticulating across the stage as he cried and pleaded for the blessing of Jesus, and of course for donations from his congregation to help fund his private jet, his multi-million dollar house, and his secret out-of-town motel meetings with prostitutes. The people in the audience were big-eyed and awe-struck. Some were crying. Some were swaying back and forth, their feathered hair-styles flowing like limp ferns. They all seemed utterly convinced of the singular truth in Swaggert’s words. If he had told them to go jump into the river with their clothes on in the middle of winter for the lord, you got the feeling that they would have run outside and immediately done it. I also was transfixed by his performance, on the other side of the world under a night sky holding the Southern Cross. “Alibi” is not about Swaggert and his empire. But it is about someone who has a blind faith in the idea that their belief is the ‘one’ and only one. That Armagedon, Kingdom Come, and some epic final battle between good and evil will materialize. And they alone have the truth. They alone are capable of seeing what is right and wrong. And they are willing to arm these beliefs with intentions that make the world an uglier place. I asked myself: how does one salvage enough empathy in order to soften the face of the one attacking you? You can watch the video for ALIBI we did with Luca Lucchesi below: