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Happiness is Love

January 30, 2010

This past Thursday was my23rd birthday.

Every year I make a big deal about my birthday. I throw myself a big party and invite everyone I know to it. The point is that I enjoy it. I don’t hide all day from all the well wishers. I don’t make myself sick to my stomach thinking about how I’m one year closer to death. I tell everyone I know, and am surprised and happy when the love comes back to me. Like when Brianne and Chris, two customers at my work, came in just to bring me cupcakes. I was actually floored by how nice a gesture that was.

I decided to celebrate on Wednesday night, so I was very very hungover on Thursday. I was supposed to cover Charles Spearin’s show and talk at the Harbourfront Centre for the Strand, or at least I thought I was supposed to cover Charles Spearin’s show for the Strand- and normally this would be a treat, but the hangover and the fact that no one wanted to go with me was getting me down. But when I told Dave that the trains were running with serious delays, he agreed to come with me to the show.

There’s a feeling that I’ve been trying to put into words, but haven’t been able to. Since I moved into the Lansdowne place, I’ve been a subscriber to Toronto Life Magazine. I’d buy the occasional issue here and there, when the cover story looked good, and I’d read it with interest. But since I’ve become a subscriber, I’ve come to realize that I don’t actually like the content. I find it really stodgy, and written to a demographic too old and loaded for me to relate to. All those Toronto things that I get excited about, like cycling along the lakeshore, summer concerts at the Harbourfront centre, free Wednesdays at the AGO, the revival of folk music, Toronto design- These things fail month after month to make it into the magazine. Instead, they print feature articles about how well seniors are living.

What happened to free Toronto? Where is the celebration of our public spaces?

This January 28th, I visited free Toronto when I watched Charles Spearin play a free performance of “the happiness project” at the Harbourfront Centre.

How can I explain the happiness project? The benefit of the Jan. 28th Harbourfront show was that the format was half interview (thank you Eye Weekly), so I don’t have to. Spearin self-describes the project as “talk-rock”. Music that has been made around the musicality that is inherent in everyday speech. In his Bathurst and Bloor neighbourhood, Spearin collected and recorded dialogues from his neighbours on the topic of happiness.

When asked why happiness, he explained it like this. The project is about finding meaning in ordinary things. Spearin wanted his speakers to be able to access their philosophical side “and the one thing that everyone has in common is that they’re looking for happiness. This is what drives us”. The songs are all different, and there were only as many tracks made as appear on the album. But what they all have in common is that each of the neighbours come to their happiness through simple means. Getting to make art at school on Valentines Day. The memory of a mother. I was a little surprised to hear Charles’ say that in a world where we are constantly being bombarded with new ways to buy happiness, “no one said happiness is money or being famous”.

The idea from the project comes from Spearin’s extensive world touring with bands Broken Social Scene and Do Make Say Think. They were waking up every morning in a new place to a new language they couldn’t understand, and when the context of the language was lost, something interesting emerged. “There are all sorts of moments in life that are musical.” People’s natural cadences are keys. We speak in keys, and when we come to a point in our speaking, we switch keys. “Everytime they were singing they were saying the most important thing.”

The music is surprisingly listenable. Which is why this beautiful idea that Spearin never even expected to perform has enjoyed a surprise success. My favourite part of the performance was watching the performers break into smiles at their favourite parts in the song. And I found myself smiling too.

At the end of the concert, I didn’t end up caring that I was still hung over and too tired. And I still don’t care about the pages of verbatim notes I took on the show for naught.

I got to share a lovely show with a lovely person on my birthday about love and happiness. Love is the best birthday gift I got this year, and it was everywhere.

Here’s to another 23.


PS. Buy the recording. The youtube version does not do it any justice. Better yet, see it live if you can.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. January 30, 2010 4:02 pm


    Sounds like you had a pretty good time too 🙂 I think it’s awesome that there are all these cool events in Toronto, I really miss it! Even if the old people magazines don’t really celebrate it – there’s always Eye Weekly for your weekly dose of free shit.

  2. Dave permalink
    January 31, 2010 6:05 am

    The Ghost of Charles Spearin salutes you with his Trumpet of Happiness

  3. January 31, 2010 7:17 pm

    Thanks Jordan. I love you too. And thank God for Eye Weekly. I want to intern there SO badly.

  4. Paula permalink
    February 4, 2010 3:21 am

    Aww…reading this makes me smile so much, I’m glad you had such a good birthday. I hope you’re having a good night tonight – I hope you found someone to go to that show with you – I’m still working on homework…

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