Home > Uncategorized > Quarantine Diaries – Day 73 (happy birthday Lorne Clarke)

Quarantine Diaries – Day 73 (happy birthday Lorne Clarke)

I don’t want to talk about what I see when I look out my window today. Hatred and racism and a President threatening to shut down Twitter by posting said threat…..on Twitter. I just can’t today. My soul is tired from the stupids.

So I’ll talk about friendship instead.


Lorne Clake in Rwanda

Today is Lorne Clarke’s birthday. I won’t tell you how old he is, but he’s waaaaay older than me…and that’s all I got to say about that.

He’s one of my oldest and closest friends, and has been for 25+ years. I adore his wife Esther and their 3 girls, Heather, Hilary, and Gillian. I’ve watched them grow up. Lorne is the godfather to my youngest daughter. He’s watched her grow.

Our relationship is…..well just about anything goes. There’s no filter. When he thinks I need to shut my hole, he’ll say something like “hey why don’t you shut yer hole?”. When I’m tired of his yapping, I’ll remind him again that he sounds like Gordon Lightfoot, which drives him crazy. We’ve played music together and written songs together and played shows together and been partners on all sorts of schemes…..none of which has netted us a nickel….either US or Canadian. But I wouldn’t trade any of it away….because the nickels would be gone by now. His friendship isn’t. It sustains me still. For free.

The year 2020 has sucked ass for just about everybody, but Lorne got an extra dose when he was hit with a spinal infection that required emergency surgery…..all this happening in the midst of the most urgent phase of Covid-19 (“your timing, as usual, is impeccable” is what I told him. He laughed….I think…). Initially misdiagnosed, which made things even worse….he now has to learn to walk all over again. After 2 months in various hospitals, he’s now back home and doing outpatient therapy. It’s not easy. No days are good. Some are just less bad than others. His kids all live in Toronto, so they’re not allowed to visit due to the closed border. Esther, already a saint for putting up with him this long, is currently earning extra-credit. But theirs is a love story for the ages.

beerHe’s infuriatingly stubborn, so nobody who knows him well doubts that he’s gonna be back to 100% eventually. Doctors, therapists, they’re all amazed at his progress so far. Less amazed are his wife and kids. And me. When I saw him stand for the first time, I asked him why he wasn’t jogging yet. I would not suggest you say that to him, but I can get away with it.

We were introduced in the mid 90s by George Graham of WVIA-FM. George sent me a tape of a radio session Lorne did…with a note saying something like “thought you might like this….”

It was staggering. Many of the songs that would make up his first record were on the tape. It’s the one and only time I heard the music of a total stranger and immediately needed to get in touch. I called and introduced myself….and that’s how it started. He invited me up to his farm, he always the consummate host……we broke out the guitars…..and mutual admiration started….and grew.

I harassed him. He harassed me. But when I need a favor, he is always there. When he needed help moving his Mom in Toronto, I went with him and nearly got us arrested at the border for blurting out to a suspicious border agent that we were “musicians”….a mistake that delayed us for hours while drug dogs sniffed the U haul down from one end to the other. (On the other hand, Canadian agents were much more friendly. Lorne’s Mom had written a note for us to pass to them….I shit you not. It told them who we were and what we were doing. They read it and cheerfully waved us in. Reason number 245 why I love Canadians.)

When I needed a partner for an online service that would post a brand new song every week for 5 years running, he was the only one crazy enough to take me seriously. We tackled off-beat subjects like genocide and sexual abuse, along with current events, because that’s what we figured 2 incorrigible commies with guitars were supposed to do. We made countless friends along the way…..collaborated on 2 documentary soundtracks. We’ve co-hosted a singer-songwriter in-the-round series for over 20 years and counting.

He’d give and give and give and expect nothing in return, and when I saw (or thought I saw) folks taking advantage, I had a tendency to not merely burn that bridge on his behalf, but pack it with explosives and blow it up. Of course that’s not his way. At all. So my impetuousness would cause him grief. But he knew where it sprang from. And he’d never threaten to kill me when other people were around.

We shared gigs….and horror stories on how bad some of them were. It was my idea to volunteer us to play in a airplane hanger with a sound system barely able to fill my living room…….and in the midst of a many-versed mining ballad all I could see were drunken polka fans ignoring me waiting for the next act, Stanky and the Coal Miners. When I turned to Lorne to signal we should cut the song short, he was already gone and offstage……enjoying my misery and flipping me off with one hand while drinking a beer with the other.

He insisting “the show must go on” when a coffee house crowd consisted of a single table of loud ladies playing scrabble. I proceeded to sing the Barney theme song with filthy lyrics to prove that they weren’t listening. They never stopped the game.

We still argue over which of the above was worse.

He hosted a concert series for 19 years…..in his non-existent spare time. It became legendary….both for the brilliance of the performers he’d bring in, and for just how remote the location was. Musicians would show up a few hours early, after getting lost 34 times trying to find the place, and just deflate immediately, sure NOBODY would be attending. By showtime 120+ had packed their way into the old church, with Lorne the genial host…..his introductions and between set stage-patter as looked forward to as the music itself. When you met Lorne, you just liked him. And you wanted to stay in touch. Just about every headlining act that passed through that series has become a friend.

He’s probably the most inherently decent man I’ve ever known, and deserves better than what 2020 is laying on him right now. But I do his complaining for him, and he just gets busy putting one foot in front of the other.

His Mom would sign off emails to me with “Your Canadian Mum”. That being the case, happy birthday my brother.

In a bit..


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