Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Kid gets a New Home

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The Kid gets a New Home
[or "How I went to breakfast with Buck 65 & his wife, Emily"]

SHORT "facts only" VERSION:

I read on Buck 65's website that he's been super down because his hero, Gary Carter, is very sick.
I emailed him to offer my painting of Gary Carter in an attempt to lift his spirits.
On June 26th, I went to his Jazz Fest show at Club Soda.
The next morning I had breakfast with him and his wife.
She gave me a huge Schwartz's brisket.
I gave them my painting of Gary Carter.
We talked about baseball and other stuff.
Then my bike had a flat tire so I walked home.

LONG "overly dramatic" VERSION:

A few weeks ago, in the beginning of June, I was up late because I couldn't sleep. I grabbed my laptop and sat in the yard catching up on some updates from my favorite websites. In my half sleep I stumbled around the web and eventually navigated onto Buck 65's website, that, these days, seems to be predominantly of a personal blog with bonus info. There was a new post entitled 'Broken Shoulders' and this got my attention right away. "What's wrong with Buck?" I thought.

The post [link] spoke to me in a very personal way since I've been, and continue to be a huge baseball fan. It's a sport filled with little things: Superstition, strategy, secret codes, unwritten rules, smells, sounds, etc. So when Rich writes: "I am so deeply invested in baseball as a fan that when my favorite team or player loses or performs badly, it fills me with an honest-to-goodness despair that sometimes I have a hard time shaking" I understand 100% what he's talking about.

But here's what really got me:

He writes: "My next problem is that I found out last week that my childhood hero, Gary Carter is gravely ill. [...] I really love this man and this news troubles me in a profound way. It’s hard to express what Gary Carter has meant to me in my life. He’s my hero! I met him when I was 12 years old and he was the greatest guy you could imagine."

This got me thinking about my own relationship with baseball, with my own heroes, and how it feels when one of my heroes is facing his own mortality. Then I thought about the painting of Gary Carter that I made in March of 2009. That painting, old as it may be, remains one of my favorite and is probably the one that got me the most attention a few years ago when I was just starting. I have received so many comments about it and it has sparked so many impromptu Expos conversations that I have to believe that it's something special. In some way, I may not be where I am today had I not painted him then.

[Above: Me in March 2009... No idea where this is going to take me in 2011]

Being born in 1979, though, I never had the chance to experience Gary in his prime while he played in Montreal. By the time I was 9 and started to play ball, he was already with the New York Mets. Keeping that in mind, it remains impossible to be blind what he meant , and still means to the city of Montreal. So because I was too young, I never could really consider him a hero, but I do recognize him as a staple in Expos history and that's why, when I wanted to paint a tribute to the team, he's the first guy who came to mind.

Since then, the painting has been sitting in my office with a bunch of others and has been gathering dust for the past little while. So I figured I would seize this opportunity try to give it a new home and do something good at the same time.

In the relationship between fan and artist, it's usually very one-sided [excluding live shows, maybe]. The artist gives all and the fans take all. What I saw here was an opportunity to create a role reversal. Many times in the past, when I've been down in the dumps, I've referred back to Buck 65's vast music catalog in order to find some light get through a rough patch. I thought that if I offered him my painting of his hero, Gary, maybe this could help shine some light for him in his time of need. So I emailed him via his website and crossed my fingers.

A few days went by and I eventually got an answer from a very flattered Rich and, to my great pleasure, he was super excited to get his hands on the painting. In an email, he writes, "I just got your message and saw your painting. I can't believe it. It's so great. And if you want it to be rescued from collecting dust, I'd sure be happy to hang it on my wall [...] I look forward to shaking your hand." I can't really explain how psyched that made me. One of my favorite artists of all time was looking forward to shaking my hand... what? Long story short, we planned to meet at some point around the time he was scheduled to come play Montreal's Jazz Fest in the end of June.

The show was excellent. It's hard to describe but these pictures display pretty much what was going on: A very animated Buck on one side of the stage and a very calm, elegant Marnie on the other. In fact, there were times where it looked like they had some sort of bet where Rich would act silly and try to make her laugh while she sang her parts...

After the show I introduced myself to Emily, Rich's wife. The first thing she said to me is: "That's so cool, our cat's name is Kevin!" Can't say I expected that one. Only after she realized I was "the emailing man who had the Gary Carter painting" did we make arrangements to have breakfast the next day. I didn't have a chance to speak with Rich the night of the show.

So the next morning I biked over to their hotel and waited for them in the lobby. I don't really know what I was expecting when they first appeared from the elevator... but to have Emily open with, "Do you like brisket?" was definitely not a scenario that had crossed my mind. After clarifying for me, at my request, that brisket is a piece of uncut smoked meat, I answered "Yes, of course I like brisket." So she handed me a huge piece of meat from Schwartz's that a guy had given them the previous night. It seems they couldn't keep it with them due to having no portable refrigeration possibilities. Surprised? Confused? Grateful? All of the above and an overall good start...

Se we proceeded to go for breakfast across the street. Now, what do you talk about with someone who you've heard on record for almost 10 years and have of always wanted to talk to? You talk about baseball. You talk about trying to make it in this world as an artist. You talk about cats. You tell stories. You talk. Period. I learned a lot about him and gained perspective about myself as an artist as we discussed re-establishing the parameters of successes and failures over eggs and fruit.

The best moment was when I told him that my girlfriend's mother had rolled Gary Carter's perm back in the early 80's. The man in front of me, who has been responsible for many of my favorite moments ever in music, reduced in age to 12 years old and couldn't say anything but, "No! No! That's incredible!" Jaw dropped and eyes bulging. Good times.

After breakfast, we exchanged a few more pleasantries and each went our separate ways. He was off to film a live performance of "Final Approach" with Quebec's own Marie-Pierre Arthur for a local TV station and I had to go home to finish a graphic design contract. It was upon returning to my bike that I discovered I had a flat tire. That morning, I had had a thought about that before leaving... it went something like this: "Whatever, I'm going to meet Buck 65... I don't need the pump and spare tube I never leave home without... it's going to be fine."

So I walked all the way home...
But I must say, it didn't bother me all that much...


Rich and his wife are truly amazing people because of how simple they are. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to share a meal and to hang out with them, if only for a little while. It's not given to everyone to have a chance to meet one of their favorite artists and for that I am truly grateful. I am even more grateful that Rich happened to be so approachable that not even 2 minutes into talking with him did I forget what he is and what he represents to better discover who he actually is. Not to mention, it's pretty cool that one of my paintings will now hang in his house... and that I've been able to provide him with a one of a kind tribute to his childhood hero.

So I guess the lesson here is to never stop reaching out to people... cause in the end, that's just what they are... people.

Take care friends... The best is yet to come.

P.S.: I'm sorry if this post is a little on the looooooooong side. In order to make it up a little bit... Here's some "making of" shots from 2009...



  1. I shook the hand of the immigration officer (complicated deal where I had to go through immigration twice because of some mixup) in 1984 at Dorval Airport who said to me, guess who's hand I just shook before you? Gary Carter's." He had just left Mtl. for the Mets. So I'm like, one hand away from shaking Gary Carter's hand! You can shake mine if you want...

  2. That's an excellent anecdote... It feels like the more we open up the discussion the more people are remembering their own Gary anecdotes... It looks like really no one was impervious to his personality... Just excellent!