After a bad week, I heard the news on Friday that Neil Peart had passed away. 

My mom and I moved to the Chicago suburbs in 1978, thorougly uprooting me from my Mayberry like life in rural New England. My hometown was an example of late 70's post-industrial collapse. No jobs, no surviving industry, and being located in a valley, no radio signals. We'd get one rock station, that specialized in 60's hippie and acid rock and distantly, on a good night, a pop station out of Westerly, Rhode Island.

And then I got dropped into Chicagoland, and the rock scene there was heavily influenced by Canadian imports. Moxy, Pat Travers, April Wine, Triumph and this little band called Rush.

While my school peers listened to more mainstream bands, the nerds at my school all listened to Rush, among other bands. WLUP would occasionally throw one of their songs on the air, and it was always a good time. While Rush wasn't mainstream, it was at least well known enough in Chicago that you weren't completely ostracized for listening to them.

All of that changed in 1982, when we moved back to New England and the valley of shadow of radio signals. Coincidentally almost in time with Rush's release of their album, Signals. Then, my age peers didn't want anything to do with Rush or Geddy Lee's shrieky vocals. The content of Peart's lyrics was of little interest to them. Rush became my solitary pleasure. The music I listened to alone, frequently when I had time to read the liner notes and contemplate the message that Peart, Lee and Lifeson were sending.

Peart, in his younger years was an admirer or Ayn Rand, and although by his own admission he parted ways with her philosphy, he remained a staunch libertarian. And that belief shone through in his lyrics, and in a way, infected me. Meanwhile, the 80's and 90's rolled on. The albums kept coming, life was good.

Until it wasn't. Peart was rocked by two tragedies, the death of his only daughter and his wife. Rush ended their tour early and went on hiatus. I didn't know it at the time, but Peart took to riding his motorcycle around North and Central America, twice, trying to decide whether he wanted to live or die. As usual, great pain can be channeled into art. And he wrote about his journey in a book, Ghost Rider.

Hiatus usually means a band is done. But around the beginning of 2001 I started hearing rumors of a new Rush album. And sure enough it came to be. My favorite band was back and hopefully would be forever. 

But if you live long enough, you get to see your heroes die.

Peart officially retired in 2015. It was explained that he retired because he could no longer perform at the level he expected of himself due to tendonitis. Of course, it's easy to now surmise that his retirement was related to his diagnosis of brain cancer. 

So, here's Rush being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an honor that was long denied them. It's a nice snapshot of a happier time and acknowledgement that this little quirky trio from Toronto is, was and always will be cool.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTAqCEPMHEg


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Thanks for this Ray, I listened to Rush as a kid and didn't know the whole story.
I've known you 15 years and there is still so much I don't know about you. I had no idea you were a huge Rush fan. Sweeeeet!

Thank you for writing and sharing this snapshot.

Losing Neil, man... this one hurts.
Ouch. I thought he left the band to write steampunk fiction (which he did do in the past few years). He was an amazing musician and inventor - his drum rigs were unreal.
 

So, I had carpal tunnel surgery on my left hand 3/8. Two weeks later, I got the stitches out and my hand looked like a gutted fish. Recuperated for two weeks and then got the same surgery on my right hand on 4/10. Two weeks later, I got the stitches out and my right hand looked like a gutted fish.

In between, my old roommate, Rick Desautels died of a respiratory infection.

We had been pals and roommates for ten years, during our desperate twenties and into our thirties. He had survived two bouts of chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A third roommate, Bernie Lisewski, committed suicide in 2003. We reunited at his memorial service to scatter his ashes. The last time I saw him was in 2004, when I was returning from vacation in Charleston, SC. I stopped in Raleigh and hung out with him for a day. We lost touch after that. In those missing years, he went through another round of chemotherapy. Each successive round took a toll on his heart and lungs. His doctor had recently told him that he had the lungs of an eighty-year old man.

Rick never had a big footprint on the internet. I searched for him from time to time over the years. The only thing I ever found was an arrest record for possession of a weapon of mass destruction. I was only a little surprised and surprisingly proud. (It wasn’t a weapon of mass destruction. It was a training model of an AT-4 rocket propelled grenade.)

In between the time I knew him and his passing he became a staple at a burlesque theater in Raleigh. He would hold down the stage or work the door. He armed the dancers with pepper spray, walked them to their cars, controlled the odd drunk or handsy audience member and generally made himself an invaluable member of the community.

Rick, or as he was known and loved by the burlesque and nerd community in Raleigh, Lord War Bunny, had a massively irreverent sense of humor. He enjoyed tilting at windmills and his lance was humor. Sarcasm was his super power.

His brother Chris described him as a man of intense passion and little ambition. But what Rick cared about most was people. He wanted people to be safe. He might grumble about it, but he’d walk the girls to their cars and make sure they weren’t hassled by the patrons. Even if they’d have to stop for him to catch his breath on the way there. At his memorial the celebrants described how when they entered a new venue for a game, a convention or a performance if they looked around and spotted Lord War Bunny, they knew that was their safe place.

The celebrants at the mundane memorial and the memorial held by the burlesque community for him described how they’d hear that Bunny was in the hospital. And at the next show he’d be standing there next to the stage. His quiet presence reassuring them that everything was okay and nothing was going to go wrong. And it didn’t.

Good job, buddy. You’ve earned your rest. I’ll be along someday. Make sure you save me a seat.

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4/30 '19 1 Comment
Holy lord. It's the understatement of the year to say that this has been a very rough patch for you. I'm lousy with comforting words, but please know that I love you very much and would be honored to be a sounding board for you... or just to be a friend where you can sit quietly with no obligation to talk.