Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bureaucracy and Musicians: Oil and Vinegar

I committed the cardinal sin of submitting paperwork for 2012 in (gasp) 2013. 

The papers in question were copies of contracts, part of the paper trail for Musicians' pension contributions -- yes, I am now old enough to worry about pension.  Because I was so egregiously and embarrassingly late in passing along our money to someone else, possibly someone named Guido, our vaunted Vancouver Musicians' Association told me I had to include a letter of explanation for the delay. I duly sent a letter of explanation to our beloved Association. 

But, given their curt admonition to be more prompt with my filings and paperwork, I have to conclude that they don't often associate with musicians.  Surely they know very little about our behavior and habits, and their name is probably a misnomer that just stuck, hearkening back to when promptness-conscious, personal hygiene-astute, tux & tails sporting members of the Vancouver Symphony were its only members, in the 20th century. Now,  'Vancouver Agglomeration of the Malodorous Unemployed' might be a better name.  As group of seals is a 'pod', and a bunch of crows a 'murder' maybe 'Vancouver 'Annoyance' of Musicians' should be coined.  'West Coast Irksome Impediments to Administrative Order' is a mouthful but hits the mark. 'Hide Your Fucking Beer 'Cause Here Come the Wankers' is spot-on; 'What's a Union For If You Never Get Paid?' is redolent with youthful veracity, and then there is 'Lower Mainland Appalling Facial Hair Cultivation Society' - not necessarily universal but resonant with oh so many members, many of them men. 

I am not sure how we are expected to stay on top of all the reams of paperwork -- most of us don't even know what form our own funerals will take.  My Spirit of the West band-mate, John Mann, wisely wrote a song describing his Final Wishes -- It's not morbid, merely practical, and unlike everything else in a songwriter's life, impossible to misplace.  And at any rate there is no way in hell anyone would be able to track down the napkin he wrote it on, likely while drunk on an airplane, as he contemplated a nosedive into the nearest tall building (probably only the Delta Regina Hotel but the impact could scratch you up for weeks); so a lovely, hummable, memorable song seemed like a helluva robust idea.  Not clerical, but very clever! 

It's my belief that musicians have traditionally been able to lean on a short-list of excuses for anything along the lines of absent or tardy paperwork, as they have specifically gotten into music to avoid things like honest work, lifting heavy shit without a beer payoff, and filling out stinking papers, like an underpaid, walleyed school secretary.   I give you a tiny excerpt of my list, so you can compare notes: 


1) I got baked and watched Hawaii Five-O for 37 straight nights...Book 'em Danno...
2) I was hung over.  (This can be a totally valid multipurpose excuse until your mid-30s.  Longer, if you hold off marriage.)
3) You never told me.  Are you sure you texted me? (Furtively search for cellphone in mock concern).
4) I don't have a watch -- I use my iPhone clock...
5) Uhh, my iPhone is totally screwed, man...
6) I saw something shiny on the lawn

Admittedly, this list of pre-fab excuses doesn't cut the mustard in certain circumstances.  For example, if you have somehow propagated the fiction that you are a functional adult, worthy of holding an opinion, and thought generally capable to babysit (where diaper changes are NOT required), you have to up the ante.  We are wise to take a melodramatic page out of the operating manual of our artistic cousins, ACTORS.  They can, through mastery of social skills and a generous application of ‘charisma’ (a form of charm used in lieu of talent), make the simplest task seem crushingly complex, a minefield, really; it will possess an unforeseen, wracking, emotional aspect and will be fraught with pathos in its telling. The story will go on sooooooo long, too, that eventually you let them off the hook due to sheer exhaustion and admiration at their nerve, tenacity, and full-on balls.  With this in mind I composed a note to the Vancouver Musicians' Association.    The letter read: 
Dear Pension Gods,

I write this letter to explain why I have let two Spirit of the West contracts from 2012 languish rather than promptly sending them in along with pension contributions. 

Early in 2013, shortly after our New Year’s Eve gig in London, Ontario I witnessed a large, hovering disc above the road to my house.  It flashed green, blue & red and shone a spotlight down upon the ground in front of me.  I stopped the old Volvo, dumbfounded, and stared upwards at this strange sight visited upon me. 

The next thing I knew I was being lifted bodily into the craft (a UFO, clearly).  I was medically examined, probed invasively and taken on a journey to the star Zeta Reticuli.  Although the trip seemed to take a couple of hours it seems that over 3 months had passed on Earth when I was deposited back into my Volvo, now in the Parksville impound lot with a sticker on its windshield. 

Additional to this is that my teenaged son moved out on his own on the 1st of the month, ostensibly saving us effort and money.  Unfortunately, it has cost us so much to set up his housekeeping that I couldn’t afford the stamp to send the cheque. 

I hope you forgive these unforeseen but totally understandable extenuating circumstances.  

Live Long & Prosper,

Vince R. Ditrich (proud member of Local 145 and looking to start up a satellite office on another planet). 

 My wife did not report me missing.  Weird....



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