Down The Rabbit Hole for Christmas


It's been a cold and sunny December so far at my house. I like these days because being outside in them is so stimulating. Sadly, I'm only seeing fragments through the window of my basement apartment because I've been down the rabbit hole working on new songs. When your in that place, all you can do is madly compose for days on end and when absolutely necessary, you come up for a snack. It's fun, its compelling and its the best way I know to get the music from my head, to my hands, to my guitar and finally onto a recording machine that will remember the tune if my over filled brain forgets.

My house can be cold in the winter and sometimes, really dry. Wearing a big sweater and an extra pair of socks works brilliantly for me but my guitars really don't like the cold. Cold dries the air and the beautiful woods used in the construction of guitars scream at you as they lose their moisture. Humidifiers work nicely but they add more electrical cords competing for the already limited plug space. And then there is the problem of having to fill them with water which more than occasionally I forget about. Yes, I've also lost a few plants to for the same reason and probably a girl friend but being down the rabbit hole is like that. It's the price you pay for having ideas running around in your head.

Looking out my window today with the sun reflecting off a half frozen puddle in the yard and snow crystals hanging in the air - I squint, look away from the window and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I see a younger version of me sitting in the town square in Avignon in the south of France on a cold sunny winters day, lost in thought, imagining the short and spectacular life of snow flakes falling around me.

Fortified by wine and cheese, I sat quietly watching the flakes collect on a near by carousel and lost in the magic of it all, I remembered a song we used to sing in school when I was a child in Montreal, something about dancing on a bridge in Avignon - Sur le pont d'Avignon l'on y danse, l'on y danse. It's curious that I had to come so far in my life and so far from home to discover something about a song that has been in my head forever. The song was written by an anonymous composer back in the 15th century. But siting there with my bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape , I had no sense of who wrote the song, only that it mattered in my life. And maybe that connection is why some music lasts forever.

Something about that place and that moment was overwhelming. I saw a snowflake fall on to the carousel and it occurred to me - if the carousel was spinning it would alter the course and the life of the snowflake. Not too different from how our lives and journeys unfold - because you never know when you are going to be on that spinning wheel with life changing events you will have to navigate. So it was, I composed an instrumental of the song that had an older french feel in regards to music - though I don't really know what that is.

The song sounds sad because the snowflake was by itself - though it could have been one of millions falling. It's symbolic, I suppose that everyone in this world has a grand entrance and a grand exit - ours to embrace or to fear. Then we retreat to mother earth. I wonder if we are the physical aspect of the earth experiencing itself?

I call my song Flocon De Neige, "Snowflake".

Here’s a performance of the song on a standard guitar

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkjoERQLrV0

Merry Christmas everyone, may the new year find you dancing on the bridge in Avignon. You may see me there because all those years ago, I bought a second bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 86 and promised myself I would return to town square to open it, and live in that moment as snowflakes forever have.

Maybe we will see each other there...    

We Are All Disabled - Part 16

Don Alder is a musician and partner in a grand adventure - "Man In Motion" that forever changed the way we see disability. He lives alone in a basement suite over run by guitars, note books full of ideas for songs and everywhere, memories of going around the world with his best friend, Rick Hansen. 




Some Day I'm Going To Change You, Silly Boy

Whether it's really true, or just part of my need to connect the dots in the circle of life , I've come to believe that happiness and tragedy, success and sadness all exist in the same place and at the same time. What I'm trying to say is that within any given circle of friends, someone is beaten down by the odds and is diagnosed with something unthinkable, while someone else falls in love and shares the feeling with everyone, without having to say a word. 

Sometimes, I think I've taken bumps and bruises more than most.  And that life and lady luck,  passed me by.  And then I look around at all those faces and the memories of the friends who have and come gone and, I realize, no one gets through this life without bumps and bruises.
The story I'm going to tell you is not pretty but its about a pretty girl with one of the biggest hearts in the world, who by the way, was one of the best friends a teenage boy could dream about having. . Her name was Cherie. She moved to Williams Lake with her mom and dad and two sisters from somewhere in the US. I'm not sure why the Bishop family opened their home and hearts to me.  Maybe they figured, I was lonely, which I was sometimes. Or maybe the Bishops were just the nicest of people.  So there I was surrounded by the Bishops, teaching Cherie how to play the guitar. She loved to sing and embraced the idea of adding music to her voice.

Cherie's friend, Janet Bates was really popular as s singer growing up in Williams Lake. She had so much talent and shared it so freely, especially with Cherie when they sang for hours imagining they were Joni Mitchell, who I should point out, I didn’t know very much about. Instead, I was listening to Black Sabbath.  But then one day on the radio, I heard someone that rocked my world. It was a guitarist named Amos Garrett playing a solo on a song called, Midnight at the Oasis, sung by Maria Muldaur. 

I couldn't wait to tell Cherie about my discovery - her pal Donny discovering the most amazing guitar solo while listing to a girl sing a love song. Quite a leap for a heavy metal country boy. I told her all about it,  but had to add for effect, that Maria Muldaur, could kick Joni  Mitchell's butt,  And then Cherie did something I will never forget, she looked into my eyes for the longest time and said, ' someday, I'm going to change you, silly boy'. We laughed and couldn't stop looking at each other.

We were friends but we were also everything else that mattered. What happened next is foggy, not because we ever stopped caring about each other, but when you're young and imagining life as a rock god, sometimes you don't know what you have.  And our young lives drifted apart,  pushed and pulled by different rhythms, but never very far away from each others heart.   

I saw Cherie for the last time on Kits Beach in Vancouver just before I left on the Man in Motion Tour. It was always the same with her. Like soul mates, we talked and laughed about everything and nothing. She told me I was crazy heading out across the world and then,  quietly, sadly she told me how difficult her marriage had become with her high school sweat heart. His name was Herb. He looked like Roger Daltry, down to the shinny tooth. I wanted to like him, Cherie chose him, but I don’t think he ever knew or cared about who my friend really was.

Herb had become involved in the drug trade. He and Cherie had a beautiful little boy, Sean. But family responsibilities for a drug dealer are never a good thing. The drugs won, every time. Cherie told me on the beach that day she would leave the marriage, she had to. I think I told her,  it was the only thing to do, I cant remember much.  But I do remember feeling how deeply hurt my friend was and how determined she was to make it right, for her son.

Herb did not take the news well. He used a shotgun to kill Cherie at midnight in their home and then turned the gun on himself in the morning.  Sadly Sean, a four year old answered the front door in the morning to his babysitter in horror.  I lost my father when I was kid. The circumstance was different but the shock and the confusion had to be the same. Too young to know what happened, except how much it hurt. 

I was part of the funeral procession and still feel the anguish of that day. I was so young and self absorbed. And yet, I had a girl in my life who was always trying to teach me things including complexities of the heart. Sure, I was a slow learner but better late than never. Some of these things have taught me to a be a better person and our love of music has made sure I’ll never forget her.

When I listen to the radio and hear, Joni Mitchell, now one of my heroes,  I remember my friend telling me, "one day silly boy, I'm going to change you". Cherie did just that.  And when I think about how much I want to see her little boy, now a man, and tell Sean my about my friend - the prettiest girl in the world, I'm reminded, Cherie changed us both and connected those dots in the circle of life. Now it’s our turn. 



This is a song I wrote for Cherie, a friend forever.

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Countdown to Toronto... 1 DAY!!

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"WE"RE GOING TO THE TOP"

Struggling with heat, exhaustion and a lingering infection, Rick is overwhelmed by the steepness of the ascent. Amanda searches for a way to help his through the pain.

Countdown to Toronto ... 2 days to go!!!




"WE WERE FISHING" 


Ivan manoeuvres  Don into remembering the accident that broke Rick's back. It's an uncomfortable memory, but believing the incident  is a big part of his story, the reporter pushes and Don reveals an long buried secret.

Countdown to Toronto... 3 days!



"THOSE STAIRS AREN'T SUPPOSE TO BE THERE"

The Great Wall snakes across the mountains in China's high country. In many places, ancient stone stairs are the only route op to the wall.  Faced with the impossible reality that he can not climb the steep, narrow stone entrance, Rick is quick to frustration. His long held dream hangs in the balance.

Countdown to Toronto... 4 Days Left!!!




"RICK'S SPEECH"


After a year of pushing himself half way across the world, Rick, Amanda, Don and Lee find themselves at the centre of million Chinese who have embraced their dream. It's both a moment of triumph and reflection as Rick remembers how long the journey  has been from obscurity for everyone who knows disability.

Countdown to Toronto ... 5 days!!!



"IT'S A CHAIN REACTION"

Steeper, hotter and rougher than expected, Rick's ascent up the Great Wall is measured in how much longer his body can sustain its core temperate rising. Don presses Amanda for a solution that will allow the climb go continue.

Countdown to Toronto...6 Days!!!



"IT'S NOT FAIR"

Half way into their ascent of The Great Wall, Rick stops - a necessary break to cool him down. A wave of emotion washes over him as Rick wonders if his dream of making the world pay attention, matters to anyone. Lee sits quietly worried about how hard this must be. Don takes the opportunity to say something, he has been waiting a lifetime for. It is an honest moment between best friends that needed to be said. 

Countdown To Toronto ... 7 days!!!



"I CAN'T KEEP UP"

On a back road in the high country, heat and exhaustion have begun to take their toll. Amanda no longer to keep up to Rick's pace, falls behind. Don struggles and like Amanda, can no longer endure the heat and is left in the shadow of a dragon, pushing through the pain of the Great Wall. 

Countdown to Toronto ... 8 Days!



"HOW MUCH MORE PREPARED CAN WE BE?"

With an upper body overdeveloped from pushing his wheelchair chair half way around the world, Rick's muscles produce heat that must be controlled during his climb up the Great Wall. Recurring infection and fever make the effort to control his temperature more difficult as he struggles with the increasing grade and the sun that  quickly warms the mountain air. Ivan, a  reporter searching for a story to discredit Rick's dream of redefining disability, challenges Amanda who uses science to explain, Rick has risked his life to make the world pay attention.  

Countdown To Toronto ... 9 Days To Go!!!


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"HEADING TO THE GREAT WALL"

Chinese legend has it,  the Great Wall was built over the centuries  on the blood of those who died and were buried beneath it.  In recent times, Chairman Mao told his people that to be a hero, one must reach the Great Wall. For Rick Hansen, Don Alder, Amanda and Mike Reid, Lee Gibson and others, climbing the Wall would prove to a skeptical world that their dreams mattered. In this scene, they awake early in a village at the base of the Great Wall with the knowledge press from China and around the world will soon soon descend to witness their climb. Unnerved by Ivan, the only reporter to arrive early, the team push to the Wall, while Amanda worries Rick's fatigue and the steepness of the climb could end his dream.

Countdown to Toronto ... 10 Days To Go!

We're so excited for the Special Event Screening in Toronto on September 28 that we've decided to do a countdown to the event to get you just as excited about it as we are! Everyday for the next 10 days we will be posting different clips from the film which we believe exemplify the true meaning of what it means to be a hero. Please like, comment, share with your friends and make sure you reserve your FREE ticket today!




"EMBRACE A HERO"

In this scene, an American reporter based in China reminds us that in the 1980s, a man in a wheel chair pushing himself across the world was not taken very seriously. The reporter wonders if its a publicity stunt. It's a harsh reminder of how sceptical many people were of a disabled man trying to make a difference. Reluctantly the reporter accepts the assignment and begins his investigation into why a million Chinese are in the streets to welcome a hero from the West.



We Are All Disabled - Part 15


Turning Victor Webster into a Pretzel 

In the interview excerpt below, Mike Jacobs who worked with Victor Webster - teaching him what it took to play a disabled athlete, talks about Victor's journey and his own. Sadly, Mike Jacobs passed away before seeing the film completed but his contribution to the movie and the lessons learned by all lucky enough to have crossed his path, will never be forgotten.   


Q. Tell me about the Victor Webster? 
A. Victor is a good man with a good heart and a good sense of humour which he will really need. When I'm teaching actors about what it means and feels like to be disabled, it can be very emotional for them and for me.  I try to make it funny sometimes but its all very hard work. Victor is tough on the outside but inside he's a gentle giant of man. Just like me, except the movie star thing.   

Q. What did you teach him first? 
A. To laugh at himself and at me. 

Q. How did you do that?
A. By reminding Victor that he was taller than me but, I wouldn't hold it against him. And even though he was better looking and had more hair, I didn't hold that against him either. 

Q. Beyond those things, what impressed you about the young man you were about to make over into a disabled athlete?  
A. The thing that impressed me most was that he was very serious and very thoughtful about what he was doing and very focused, just like another great actor I worked with years before.

Q. Who was that? 
A. Early on with Victor, I had a flashback about dealing with Jon Voight when we were first starting out on the movie 'Coming Home'.  Like Victor, Jon was so determined to get it right.  He wanted to get into the head trip. He wanted to know about the psychology about the emotions. And that was relatively easy for me because for anyone that's been through it, its in our memory bank. You don't want to recollect it everyday but your are never that far away from it. 

Q. Have you always been an optimist? 
A. I'd say, I'm a realist. I woke up in a hospital after my accident and I knew everything changed.  At first, I felt sorry for myself and I got mad at god and everybody else until I learned to listen to the people around me. They cared for and loved me whether I was in a chair or not. All of a sudden, it didn't matter how tall I was anymore, so I figured it was time to get on with this life. 

Q. When did the question of god come up?
A. Victor and I went through all the embarrassments because it's a list you have in your head when you’re first hurt. The first few days, the first few weeks when you’re lying there and you’re saying why me? And you’re bargaining with god saying.  “I’ll be good and go to church everyday if you heal me”. 
Then you ask god, “why is my hair falling out and by the way, I can’t walk either”. So pretty soon you have this list in your head.  All the things that you can’t do and you won’t be able to do. And after a few weeks, the list starts to shrink.  And in my case, I had to give up ballet and beach volleyball - after I was comfortable and things got a lot better, because then you look around and say, ‘okay here I am , what can I do with it’. 

Q, What are you going to take Victor now? 
A. Believe it or not, the thing we’re working on most is stretching. I want him to be a pretzel- he’s got to be like a gymnast. If he’s going to make the right moves and look real- for someone who’s paralyzed, Victor will have to lose some muscle tone and muscle tension. You have to get in certain positions to make other things easier to do.  The way I explained it to him,before I did the demonstration  - I said, when you make a transfer and you go from your wheelchair to whatever else, in order to make any transfer - you have to get your head and your shoulders down and your butt up. There are certain muscle groups you have to strengthen. Muscles you haven’t used before. I don’t care if you’re the biggest bodybuilder in the world, you have to be able to go and put your chest down on your knees easily and stay there.  
I did a demonstration on how to transfer, what looks real, a normal transfer from a wheelchair to a bench. Now, I have him transferring to a bed. Once he’s in bed and he’s over here and the object of his interest is over there, how is he going to get from here to there, without moving his legs?  
Its an important thing to be able to do - so that’s what he’s working on right now and when we get together the next time, I’m going to see how well he did his homework. 

Q. Do you think that by learning to play a disabled man, Victor will change the way he sees the world? 
A. It's pretty clear to me, he knows a lot about disability already. Victor doesn't see the wheelchair or any line between his life and mine. That's why I like him. I think its also why he got the job to play such a demanding role in a important movie, just like Jon Voight did all those years ago when I was taller and had more hair.     

To be continued...



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We Are All Disabled - Part 14

A Blue Man's Tale

I laugh a lot but never more than at myself. A Blue Man's Tale is about one of those moments. Mercifully, I was alone - almost alone anyway because when it happened, I was beside myself. At first, it was shock then disbelief and then it all became, too funny.  

On the road with Man in Motion Tour twenty five years ago,  I had many different responsibilities. Friends forever was always a part of it, but the harder we pushed, the more everyday became just about survival.  I was the mechanic. Let me clarify that, I was the wheelchair mechanic but not the kind of mechanic who could fix anything, like air conditioners, rockets and broken hearts. But that never got in the way of me from sticking my nose in fixing things.  

So there I was, either charged with or having volunteered, to fix a vital mechanical aspect of the motorhome. The job required someone with the finesse to play a 12 string guitar, someone who had no fear of the unknown, and someone who knew exactly what he was doing. I met the first qualification. The others, not so much. But I was willing to try and that had to count for something. 

I don't mean to bore you with too many technical details but I do need you to be very clear about one of the most critical aspects of motorhomes. And to do this, I'vs done a quick Google Search, the result of which you can see below - a beautifully written, expertly illustrated,  passionate explanation of my what my responsibility entailed on that day, twenty five years ago:

Introduction To RV Plumbing

"The RV plumbing system depends on two external forces, one to bring water into the rig (fresh water) and one to remove the waste (sewer). It's this system that really makes RVing so luxurious. Imagine being able to travel with your very own bathroom. No more rest room toilets! There might be some unpleasant aspects to deal with water in an RV, but they are a small price to pay!"

I'm not sure I really I should to go any further explaining what happened.  But for those who have never dealt with the above mentioned 'unpleasant aspects' of motor home life, here goes:

We used a powerful blue liquid for the toilette flushing system while we pushed around the world, living in the motorhome. It was full of chemicals and burned your skin but it did the dirty job.  I remember it being called something like Selsun Blue. Yes, I know that sounds weird because Selsun Blue is a dandruff shampoo. But maybe we mixed our own special flushing product by mixing the foul smelling bright blue sewage liquid with the not so bad smelling, Selsun Blue Dandruff Shampoo. 

Draining the motorhomes sewage system should have been simple enough, but the drain plug was stuck, really stuck. Being a mechanic, I banged on it with a hammer and even a tire iron. That technique should have worked but it didn't. Then I put my whole body into one of those Hercules poses and I yanked on the drain plug with every fibre of my being, yelling at it to open.

I knew the septic tank was overloaded but the plug wouldn't budge. That should have been my first clue to leave it alone, but not to be outdone by a septic tank, I gave it one more go.And just when I was about to blow a vein in my neck, the plug exploded from the drain, followed by a river of blue sludge that engulfed me. I was smart enough to close my eyes and shut my mouth but not smart enough to get out of the way. And so it was, I became a blue man in every way. Just in case you wondered - now matter how much I scrubbed, the blue hue stayed in my hair and coloured by skin for weeks and I just couldn't get rid of the smell that followed me around.  

Standing there in the indignity of it all, I was beside myself and then it all became very funny. Funny enough to laugh out loud and think about starting a Blue Man Band. After all, my career as a mechanic was in shambles. 












We Are All Disabled - Part 13

The Man I Want To Be



For two years now I've hidden my bicycle away behind amplifiers and buried it under guitars. It's much easier not to think about how good a bike can be for your heart and especially, for your head which as you know from these blogs, can a problem for a musician like me, who is prone to think too much. 

But then summer arrived in Vancouver and full of reckless abandon, I pulled out the two wheeler and headed downtown, across a bridge where the gusting wind from the ocean reminded me that Rick Hansen and his team of which I was a part wheeled around the world, determined to make that world pay attention.  And I suppose for a time, it did.  But quickly, I came back to reality when a cop stopped me and issued a ticket for not wearing a helmet while riding my bike.  Despite my best excuses, the cop convinced me there was no way around the rules and while I didn't think guitar players riding old bicycles should get ticketed for being rebellious, I paid the fine but get will justice by writing a song and playing it really loud, every time I see a cop. 

This is a story about a man who never gave up on me when I was rebellious, which has always been part of my nature.  When I was a young, frustrated by decisions in the road ahead and full of angst in a world I was not prepared for, Marshal Smith embraced me, as he did his own children. I remember feeling so calm in his presence. He instilled in me everything I imagined my father might have, had my father lived to see me grow into a man from the child he knew so briefly. 

Marshal's family generously shared their father with me. And even today, bike ticket in hand, all these years after his passing, I'm blessed with those memories. I met Mr. Smith just before the Man in Motion Tour began. 

Rick knew Marshal was very involved with and respected by the City for his service to Vancouver as head of Parks and Recreation. Most important, Marshal believed in us and opened doors to those who could support and fund Rick's dream. In those early days, Marshal was instrumental for so many reasons. 

I'm not sure why it matters, but I want to say the Marshal I knew, was in a wheelchair. By any measure, he and his story are bigger than life. He lost his wife to a fatal illness, he lost two of his five children to fatal accidents and he lost the use of his legs during surgery to repair a chronic injury from the adventure and sports that defined his life. But in the face of these tragic losses, Marshal never let sadness or loss define him.  He was for me and for everyone lucky enough to cross his path, humble, caring and at peace with the world.

Marshal and I became friends after Man in Motion because I suspect , I had the good fortune to date one of his daughters, who remains a trusted friend and for that relationship, I am forever grateful. 

I came to know  and to trust him, realizing he was compelled by the idea, we must embrace the world in front of us, never dwelling for too long on the life that might have been. And in that peace of mind, Marshal lived the fullest of lives, powered by a spirit that lives on in his family and even in me, when I'm at my best. 

Marshal loved Hawaii and spent his time in Maui, in a house by the sea, in the warm wind that is so intoxicating. He died there peacefully in the embrace of that wind. I knew that magical place well having been his guest. Sometimes, I long to relive those days but the man who taught me so much about what it meant to have a father, would not rest easy knowing I longed for something, I did not pursue. 

So it is, I will continue to ride my bike in the warmth of the summer wind. I will abide by the helmet rules and I will deal with the cards life has dealt me by playing my guitar as passionately as Marshal lived his life because when I grow up, I want to be the man Mr. Smith always was.

I wrote this song for Marshal, I hope it says everything I feel. 





*To leave a comment please click on the orange title "We Are All Disabled" at the top of the post *

Don Alder is a musician and partner in a grand adventure - "Man In Motion" that forever changed the way we see disability. He lives alone in a basement suite over run by guitars, note books full of ideas for songs and everywhere, memories of going around the world with his best friend, Rick Hansen. 

We Are All Disabled - Part 12B

Oh Father, Where Art Thou?

I never really knew my dad, Morris but on Sunday, I celebrated Father's Day for the first time with him in heart.

At some point, the sadness of a father not being there needed to become the story of a boy who did have a father, if only for a heart beat. Its taken me all these years to realize my mother and my father gave me the most precious of gifts, when they gave me life. It’s been such a long and hard road being able to say that but it’s true.  

I was born into scandal - you wouldn't say that now but the world was younger, back then. In those days in Montreal lived a perfect family. A mother and father with three beautiful daughters. They were well respected and thriving in the city's Jewish community. Then somehow, Morris the husband and father met and fell in love with a girl who became pregnant with me. That's all I know for sure because after that, everything gets complicated.


Morris was ostracized by his community. His wife refused to give him a divorce. When my mother gave birth, everyone expected the baby would be a girl whose name would be Donna. But out came a boy who was soon christened, Donald, Lee.

My father, Morris Adler did not give me his last name, instead he made a small change flipping two letters from Adler to Alder. Maybe he was trying to protect me by hiding my identity. I wish I knew. 

Everything changed; Morris left his wife and daughters. He left his faith, his community and his work to live with my mother and his baby. We were a family but I imagine his other family was heartbroken. For a long time, I'm sure I was considered the child who destroyed the Adler family and that never felt very good.

My father struggled to find work. Eventually he became involved with the Blind Association. I think he must have had very poor vision because the pictures I have show him with glasses as thick as coke bottles. 

I was four years old when something extraordinary happened. Morris's three daughters moved into our small apartment. Their mother died suddenly and their father was obligated to provide a home.  It was chaos; these were cultured young women from another world.  

All of a sudden I had sisters who were 12, 15 and 18. We shared a single bedroom with two sets of bunk beds. I remember them being giants around me. It was hard for my mother too. She grew up on a farm and didn't know much about the life the girls had grown up in. 

Very unhappy times followed for all of us. It was hard I guess, living with girls who saw my mother and I as the beginning and end of their despair.

Eighteen months later, everything got worse when my father died of a heart attack.  I think I remember being at the hospital with my mother when the heart monitor flat lined, but maybe that's just my emotions creating a memory. What I do remember for sure is that days after Morris died, strangers came to our apartment.

First they took my sisters, then the cars and everything in our house except a bed and my fathers couch. My mother was in the bathroom crying. She was scared about that day and about the future.

When she stopped crying, it was over. We had nothing. We were alone. Without much of an education, work was hard to find but she did it.  Bless her heart for keeping us alive.

Living through that period in time is where I probably learned about what compassion was. Knowing how hard it can be for some people makes you appreciate how lucky you are to be surrounded by those who love you, especially when misfortune makes it hard to love anyone.

I still think about being that little boy watching strangers take things from us. I can't change the past but I can change my feelings about it. 




In 1985 before leaving with Rick on the Man in Motion Tour, I contacted each of my half sisters. They are good people who like me were innocent bystanders. Over the years, I sometimes write to the eldest, just to say hello and let the family know their little half brother is healthy, happy and making his way in the world.  

I missed growing up with everyday memories of a father nearby and I know too well how confidence can be shattered by dwelling on things your heart aches for.  But for all the things I never had, I did have a mother and father who loved each other and me, if only for a heart beat in time.  

Being lucky enough to have the gift of music, allows me to say and feel things with my guitar that I cant find words for. And for all the Father's Days to come, I will with my guitar, remember and love my dad, Morris Adler and a dear friend I met many years later. His name was Marshall Smith, who treated me like a son, always.


*To leave a comment please click on the orange title "We Are All Disabled" at the top of the post *


Don Alder is a musician and partner in a grand adventure - "Man In Motion" that forever changed the way we see disability. He lives alone in a basement suite over run by guitars, note books full of ideas for songs and everywhere, memories of going around the world with his best friend, Rick Hansen. 




We Are All Disabled - Part 12A


Hits Are Hard To Find






 The countryside between Seattle and Vancouver is well travelled in my memory. It marked the beginning of a journey around the world with Rick Hansen more than 25 years ago. We were young, ambitious and determined to make a difference.

On that road to Seattle with the Canadian border at our backs, I came to appreciate how hard it would be for my friend in a chair to make the world pay attention. And how hard it would be for me to keep up, physically and emotionally.   

Driving home from Seattle last week on that same road, my memories of yesterday slipped away. I was lost in the excitement of a performance the night before. Everything worked, it was a kind of magic that left me buzzing for days. That kind of feeling is a privilege and as much about the audience as it is about my music. 

But at one point on the drive home from the Seattle show, a song on the radio instantly transported me back to the old days. It was St. Elmo's Fire, the hit song David Foster produced with singer John Parr, inspired by Rick Hansen's journey. 


I laughed out loud when I heard it again. I love the song and I couldn't help but smile remembering how before there was Man in Motion, Rick wanted a powerful theme song for the tour. We just didnt know how to go about it.

During a  kick off party for the tour we met Terry David Mulligan, a broadcaster who knew many big time rock stars, including David Foster who he went to school with.


Terry really helped us and managed to get David's production manager Chris Earthy, CBC news footage of Rick wheeling. Chris promised Terry he would have David watch it during a break in their recording session in LA.

 

Terry pulled through, Chris pulled through and so did David who was so inspired when he saw the news footage that he wrote the song with John Parr. The rest is history. When we arrived in LA on the Man in Motion Tour, David and Chris took time from recording an album to make us feel at home and important as we pushed around the world.
A lot of people believed in Rick Hansen and helped him. I was one of those people and will always smile remembering how in spite of the exhaustion, we never gave up on each other. David Foster's inspired tribute to the Man in Motion ends as all hit songs do in about 3 minutes and when the real world returned, I'm back in my car, on that same road in northern Washington.

But this time, I'm going home and the music that plays in my head, is my own. That my life has been touched by David Foster, Chris Earthy, Terry David Mulligan, John Parr and others, makes me especially proud that like them, I've landed in the music business with so much to say and so little time to say it.
But there’s more to this story, coming next blog...





*To leave a comment please click on the orange title "We Are All Disabled" at the top of the post *

Don Alder is a musician and partner in a grand adventure - "Man In Motion" that forever changed the way we see disability. He lives alone in a basement suite over run by guitars, note books full of ideas for songs and everywhere, memories of going around the world with his best friend, Rick Hansen. 

We Are All Disabled - Part 11

She Loves You Ya, Ya, Ya...


How do you not love your mother? How do you not smile when you think about how much she loves you? How do you not tear up with the memory of her holding you close, kissing your tears away?


As Mothers Day's arrives, I'm hopeful the Post Office delivers the cards to my mother and my grandmother, both of whom were and are the best mothers a guitar player could ever have. 

Before the guitar came into my life, it was the Beatles. I can't begin to describe what their music did to my brain but I can tell you, somehow a little boy living in Montreal with his mom, (that's me of course), convinced that mom to buy a Beatles 45 record and a Beatles wig. Yes it's true.

Holding my mother's hand so tightly, her circulation must have been cut off, wondering why everyone was looking at me and smiling.  My mother, radiant as always and me, in my Beatles wig, awkward and embarrassed, wondering why everyone would look at me. We were all Beatles then, weren't we? 



I didn't know much about what being funny meant then and sometimes even today, I'm not sure, but I remember my mother cleaning our apartment in Montreal and holding a mop, smiling and asking, where the Beatles got their hair styles? You know, that mop thing is still kind of funny.

She Loves You, Ya, Ya, Ya was my life. I was forever a devoted Beatles fan . And then my loving mother got me a guitar. And then I heard another song on the radio called Satisfaction.  It shattered me and the Rolling Stones held me hostage. Or more accurately, they held my mother hostage because I must have played the same section from Satisfaction a million times or more. I could only play a few notes on a single string. But that didn't matter, I was playing alongside the Stones. 


It was not pretty but my mother held me close, whenever I would let her and she seemed so happy her little boy had found himself in music. What else does a boy need to love his mother forever?


I'm still a huge Beatles fan but have misplaced the wig. My mother and I, who had the toughest of times together and apart  - survived and are best friends. How else would you describe a woman who held your hand, singing 'She Loves You' ?


Sometimes while performing, I think about being that awkward kid in Montreal, wearing the Beatles wig and then I think about my mother, wanting to hold my hand and making everything right in the world..Ive been lucky, Mother's Day reminds me of that. And it reminds me how smart my mother was not caving into my plea for a drum set. Our apartment was small and my obsession to bring rock and roll into our lives would surely have put us in the street had drums been allowed to join our family. 


But what she didn't know was...





*To leave a comment please click on the orange title "We Are All Disabled" at the top of the post *

Don Alder is a musician and partner in a grand adventure - "Man In Motion" that forever changed the way we see disability. He lives alone in a basement suite over run by guitars, note books full of ideas for songs and everywhere, memories of going around the world with his best friend, Rick Hansen. 

We Are All Disabled - Part 10


When I Grow Up...


I watched the Juno Awards and in the closeness of my basement suite felt the walls close in. 

To see and to hear that much talent on one stage and to know in someway, I'm competing for a piece of that audience is humbling. And then after a long night of thinking too much, being humbled turns into being challenged. So it is, I pick up my guitar, I practice, I compose and I practice again, knowing there is no other way to survive. 

Looking back at my life, being reflective is the best way I know to move forward. It's not about indulgence or obsession, I can't afford to do that. Instead I think about the people whose talent, support and love have provided me direction. That's where the rest of my life begins - being grateful to and learning from the people who have shared part of themselves with me. 

Today those memories take me to Jim Byrnes. A brilliant performer, an inspired writer, an actor and a man who has spent most o f his life in the services of others. I've played with Jim but never felt I was his equal. Our music and our styles are different but that isn't it, instead I've just never been able to feel as deeply as he does, in words anyway - on the guitar maybe, but never in words. 

The Jim Byrnes most people know has won Juno Awards, performs his music around the world and is a big time movie and television actor. The Jim Byrnes I know is all those things but he is also a man who lost his legs helping someone change a tire on the side of the road when he was hit by another car, speeding down a dark highway. I think that moment changed the course of Jim's life. There is a humility around Jim as he constantly lends his talent to people and ideas that make the world a better place. There is an honesty and an intensity to him that is unmatched and playing close to him only magnifies those feelings. 

One night in China a few years ago while shooting Heart Of A Dragon, I played with Jim in a village built into the base of the Great Wall. Jim sang songs, rich in a tradition that defined his life- honest, powerful and loyal to the bluesmen that have gone before. 

I have thought about that night at the Great Wall many times and about the grace and determination he carries himself with. Our music and talent may be different but our hearts are the same and when I grow up ... I want to be just like Mr. Byrnes. 


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