Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Eulogy for my father Wally J. Bryk

Dad Florida Bedroom

My Dad was a straight talker. One of his favourite sayings was “Bullshit Baffles Brains.” If he were here today he would have said “keep it short and sweet” so I hope to speak as honestly and briefly as I can.

My Dad also loved to lean in and sort of point to himself and say “What You See Is What You Get” which was and wasn’t true. And he knew that. He was a simple man in that he had his work, he had his family, he had his faith, and he had his friends — but those four things all overlapped in amazing, complicated ways.

My dad was not a big preacher, I don’t think I ever heard him speak from the pulpit of this church beyond the occasional parish announcement. He was a man of understated faith, but faith that he held deeply. You never met a gentile who knew more or cared more about the holocaust. Every year or two he’d say “Get me this or that book” and it was about a survivor of Birkenau or Treblinka — my father honestly couldn’t wrap his head around human beings doing such evil to others and it fascinated him. Even before Fr. Maximillian Kolbe – the Polish Franciscan priest for whom this facility was founded — had been sainted by Rome, my Dad had sainted him in his heart. Not a lot of things made my dad cry, but talking about Fr. Kolbe stepping out of the safety of a Gestapo line up and volunteering his life in place of a man who cried out “My wife, my family!” — it was the most Christ-like thing imaginable, and it moved my dad deeply because he would have given his life for us too.

My dad was a street guy. At the age when I was in high school whining about not fitting in and not having friends, he had already dropped out. His father Benny worked hard, brutal work on the killing floor at Canada Packers, but my father decided at some point he wasn’t ever going to have a boss. (At least, not until he married my mother.)  He shined shoes, he sold fruit from a truck, he watched and listened and taught himself how to get by. He drove deliveries up and down the east coast. He knew the side routes and two-lanes and kept taking them even when the interstates were there. He has probably been to more useless places than anyone here.

He was a voracious reader despite his lack of formal education – business biographies, books about the war, all sorts of histories of Poland and Canada, and every day you would see all three Toronto papers strewn across his desk. He might ask me “What does this word mean?” but not very often. He wasn’t impressed by how many letters you had after your name. When he was invited on a trade tour to Cuba in the 80’s he came back ranting about the “idiot intellectuals” who acted like everything was fine and everyone was happy. They wanted to keep him in front of the whiteboard at the resort, looking at “facts” and figures and abstractions. Dad wanted to meet the packers, the drivers, the growers. After that eye-opener and especially after a later visit to communist Poland, he had little time for utopian academics. Dad would say shit like “Ph.D piled higher and deeper” and I imagine what he thought about me going to university for english and fine art, not business or medicine or law though he never said a word. But I’ll tell you, I never saw a prouder man the day I wore my cap and gown.

He worked so hard to build this church and cultural center. My father helped establish this parish in temporary space at Holy Name of Mary School, and I can still smell the incense as an altar boy in that first Christmas pageant there, and dad beaming with pride as I sang with the choir. He and his friends busted their dupas to transform that gymnasium into the beautiful church and facility that stands around us today. As the plans and ambitions of the founders expanded, I remember him politely telling Father Bak that we didn’t need such a big temple. I’m not sure he could foresee the size of his faith community, or even the cultural community from where he stood 30 years ago, but my god he was ever proud to have been a part of giving it a place and a home. When I was going through his things looking for memories to share today, I realized he had saved every membership card, every “Kolbe 100 Fundraiser” pledge pin. He didn’t boast about it — well, maybe after a shot of spiritus with his buddies — but he was so proud to give the suburban Poles a grounding place like the St. Stan’s or St. Casimir’s of his childhood.

Dad grew up in a different Toronto, where the Poles were treated as second class citizens by the waspy old guard, but that bigotry seldom manifested itself in how he treated others. He worked hard and built up from a single truck to a thriving business honestly and ethically, not to impress anyone or show off, but as if to prove he already deserved their respect. And he treated everyone as if they deserved HIS time and respect… at least until they proved themselves unworthy. The greatest compliment Dad would bestow upon you is that you were “solid.” I won’t share some of the words that meant you weren’t solid.

It didn’t matter if you were the head chef or the dishwasher, the boss or the truck driver, Wally would shake your hand and ask what you did, how you were, how was your family. He was a true people person and he loved to shoot the breeze with anyone. Last night I swear half the visitors came up to me and said “I just had lunch with your father last month” – he was always “alright, when are we going to go to lunch?” I might have been the musician in the family, by my father worked that telephone like a musical instrument. My father could start a conversation with anyone, any time, any culture, hell any language. He would find the shared interest, he saw the good in everyone.

And if, god forbid, you did fall short of being a good person in my dad’s eyes… you’d get the Wally Eye. Some of you know it. My brother and I knew it well, growing up, and it was a disapproval that you didn’t want. With not much more than that funny look, he would warn us about our friends and business partners. And most of the time he was right. But privately, he was as tough on himself as anyone else.

For all my dad’s business savvy, he could be a real soft touch. If someone came to him with a story of injustice, a streak of bad luck they could turn around with a little help — in my case maybe a totalled car — he was there with an open pocketbook, a billy club, the name and number of a guy who could help, or even just an open mind, a handshake and some solid advice. When he said he wouldn’t let you down, he meant it.

His relationship with my mother could be tempestuous, a ten dollar word he probably wouldn’t care for, but at the heart of their relationship was a deep-seated love that transcended all the things they could throw at each other. Sometimes literally. My parents both grew up in stormy marriages, but they were of the first era where you could walk away and start over without a lot of judgment — an option their parents never had — but they stuck it out, partly because of their faith, but mostly because they loved and needed each other, and because my brother and I were always their first priority, and they believed that a family needed to stay together. They helped each other through good times and bad, and their strengths generally complimented each others weaknesses.

It’s a testament to my dad’s strength that he was one of the most high-functioning raging alcoholics I have ever known. He could be gregarious and generous after a few beers, the life of the party, and that was part of the joyous spirit we all love to remember. I believe that he inherited his affliction, and though that disease tried to twist itself around his and our lives over the years, in the last two decades, with a lot of pushing from my mom and help from his friends, he fought it fairly successfully, and took much better care of both himself and his family. I’m sad that my Henry didn’t see more of my dad in his youthful glory, but I am heartened that the last two nights, everyone keeps telling me all he could talk about was his grandson – apparently all the time.

My cousins and friends and I are different kind of men than our fathers. We talk to our wives about our and their feelings, we change diapers, we clean and vacuum our homes (though our wives would probably say less frequently than we think we do) and most of all, we are always communicating with our children. Being involved in their education and play. Make sure they understand what we expect of them, and making sure their concerns are heard. Being there for them. A lot.

My Dad, not so much. It was hard to talk to him, slightly easier after a few drinks. He provided, he worked hard, he let us know when we were out of line, he bailed us out of trouble, he protected us. He could drive a Lincoln town car 24 hours down the I-75 straight on to Florida with a pack of Salem Lights, a 2-inch crack in the driver’s side window, and a backseat full of noisy kids. And if there was a problem on the interstate, he knew those state roads backwards and forwards from the cab of his truck.

Back in the roaring eighties, when my dad was at the height of his business success, he owned racehorses with one of his customers, and also I believe with his life-long friends Gordy and my godfather Rocky. He wasn’t much of a gambler — he preferred to cut deals — but I know he really enjoyed himself and mostly he loved the community, he loved talking with all the guys at the track. His favourite horse was named “Amazing Dan” and when that horse won (and sadly, was claimed) he brought home the photo finish and gave it to me, beaming with pride. He also lost a shit-load of money in that world, and later he would tell me “son, horse racing is the sport of kings… and your father… he is not a king!”

And I just want to finish by saying no dad, you were a king. You were an inspiration to anyone who knew you well, and a good man to those who knew you a little. I can only pray you knew how much I loved and admired you, and how much all of us here will miss you.


Friday, 22 May 2015

Darkest Sketch, Darkest Sketch

Hey Kids, Look at This! It’s already May, and it’s time for 2015’s first exciting post: “Nothing’s cool, nothing matters.”  Now go and buy that Bugger The Toast album you read about on all those cool blogs. You know the kind.

Also, could someone please write a plug-in that will suck all the “content” from my FB feed (stream? field and stream?) and stick it on my WP? You’re welcome. I’m going back to bed now. This has been an intolerably old-feeling year. Hey… You… get off of my lawn.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Whatever Happened to Dan Bryk?

2014, year of the Twerk. Oh, the Horse. The damn “new record(s)” is/are taking forever, but yet I keep stealing time for them from my busy busy actually-income-streaming life. You’ll like them, I swear. One of the catchier numbers was unveiled in Radio Free Song Club’s episode #30, of which I am understandably honoured to interlope.

I moved to Washington DC (“our nation’s capital!”) at the end of last year. I miss Dar but it’s also nice having my studio back again. I took a Coursera Songwriting MOOC with professor Pat Pattison of Berklee. While finding time for hours of lectures, writing and demoing whilst full-timing a three-year-old was tricky, I learned a ton of valuable stuff, even at my advanced age. The peer assessment feedback was priceless. Assuming you’re curious, here’s my final assignment:


Now that I am practically soaking with UAD mix horsepower, I  decided to dust off and finish up a couple more unreleased, abandoned, practically decontextualized recordings for the Lovers Leap bonus record — one you’ve heard if you basically EVER saw me play a show from 2000 on. The other one you’ve never heard of, I promise, but if you spent time in Parkdale in the early oughts you shall chuckle heartily. And the other other one was the flip of the ultimately non-existent Nova Bryk split 7″. (Those guys are so incredibly post-rock now, they were like “yes, take the rock from us Bryk, it’s yours now.”)

Also, I hereby promise never to Twerk.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Some old sh*t.

Came across this dead link while searching for Lovers Leap Deluxxxe reissue media. That beats Tiny Desk Concerts by a decade! Sadly, the actual performances are probably long since gone. 

I keep coming across stuff that makes me wish I was still half as clever as I was in my 20’s. This is from an interview with Tokyo’s Kansai Scene:

Q: If some stupid rock critic asked you to list your influences, what would you say?

A: Late nights, loud music, and air conditioning. Rock critics always think my influences are Randy Newman and Jonathan Richman, when it fact it’s more like Walter Benjamin and Hoffman-LaRoche.

Q: What’s next for Dan Bryk?

A: Sleep, followed by strong mochaccino, some light exercise, a morning spent at the piano, and perhaps a late afternoon at the bookstore browsing Billboard and The Baffler. I will drive home, prepare a delicious meatless dinner entree, and then feel guilty about procrastinating all day.

But seriously kids, don’t squander your precious, precious youth! When you have a job and kids of your own, you will read statements like that one and feel incredibly envious of your younger self to the point of hatred. And then you will just feel stupid.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Lovers Leap Deluxe Reissue

Let’s see… what else is new? The Deluxe! Lovers Leap reissue hit a bit of a snag after a drive full of original artwork and media assets went into storage instead of coming to Africa with me… but the audio part is all ready and should have some real treats for y’all: Outtakes, alternates, demos, contemporaneous originals, radio sessions and a couple of live versions. And finally, that “Rick WakeMed” cover of Feelings I was too chicken sh*t to release. The original concept was “Lovers Leap: Lucky 13th Anniversary Edition” but it looks like I’m going to slip by that date.

Here’s a question: Does anyone still care about iTunes LPs? I was going to make one as proof of concept that I have the up-to-date .css and .js skills to actually make one, but it looks like Apple and The Orchard might make me jump through hoops to make that happen. I love reading liner notes, especially when they contextualize reissues of things I don’t know enough (or anything) about, and there are some pretty good Lovers Leap stories to share. Every song has at least a paragraph or two, and there are a essays and assays. Would anyone be offended if I just made a 99¢ Kindle Single of the liner notes for anyone who cares enough? I can include a PDF in the Bandcamp version.

Of course, if we kickstarted some vinyl, I would have plenty of room for liner notes…

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Schmello World!

Pole sana. Why the new WP install?  Why, I must be late for my annual blog post! I was seriously tiring of that rapidweaver abomination standing as my “web presence.”  I’m this far from becoming a Facebook dropout, in which case it was manifest destiny to migrate Buddhabubba (formerly “my personal blog”) into sort of a “new website.”  So here we be. I am still in Dar Es Salaam, still nursing the songs and arrangements that will become my “new record(s).” Culture shock, the molasses jar of time called African logistics, and, uh, parental responsibility sucked up an awful lot of time this year. A year of rebooting. Despite my rMBP and now Logic X allowing for yet another unwanted matrix of possibilities, work on the “new record(s)” continues slowly but dutifully. It’s finishing the damn lyrics, as usual, that’s holding everything up. I think these are the wordiest songs I’ve ever tried to sing. One possible release configuration has the working title Lies of Girls and Women: it has one song entitled Hannah Horvath, one called White Nanny, and the possible “hit” has a spelled out chorus: E-R-I-N. As usual, any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental, and even they might complain that songs seem to be the only relationships in my life where I indulge in obstructive perfectionism. Amen, sister.

P.S.: Sorry about all those scare quotes.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Long time.

Hey friends… Bryk here.

Has it really been a year since my last post? As some of you may already know, Erin and I had a little boy last January. Henry just turned 11 months old yesterday. All the cliches about time flying by apply… it seems like just yesterday he showed up and now he’s not far from walking, which will be interesting in a smallish NYC apartment. (If you’re curious, I think there are a few public pictures over at facebook.com/danbryk)

Having a kid definitely shifts your priorities. I went on sort of an unofficial gig hiatus getting ready for his arrival, but I had planned to get an EP out before the pregnancy. Boom! there he was, and that deadline passed. Once Erin went back to work, it made sense for me to say home with Henry. I scored a little indie film and the director was thankfully tolerant of new daddy missing a deadline or two. I thought I might have had time to write a song or two in between the child care. Not quite… although the half-completed songs seem pretty good so far. I think they might even bear some evidence of fatherhood. Not “Father and Son” or “Gracie” capital F fatherhood songs, but something more elliptical (and probably insecure.)

I’ve also had a nifty deluxe reissue of Lovers Leap (which hit twelve years old itself) almost done for over a year now, as well as the first installment of If I Were You… all of which remain “almost done.” But sooner or later they will make it out there. In the meantime I have a job to do, and boy is it full time!

I’m at the age where many of my musician peers have started families and put on suits and gotten “real jobs” and basically hung up their dreams. When I run into people I’ve known for a long time, eventually they ask the question: “So, are you still making music?” What a question! Yeah, I’m still here, still despairing the state of the universe, still making music. Just not chasing that elusive ring so much.

Sorry I’m so sappy. Blame it on those new daddy hormones. I shaved off my beard, just like Matisyahu. Now I’m sporting a Michael Stivic stache, just couldn’t bring myself to shave it off after Movember ended.

Have a happy holiday and a wonderful new year!


P.S. Here’s a little something for your stocking. It’s an attempt at a viral video of my Christmas Ballad, except I only finished it now, a week before Christmas. If you know the song, you’ll know it’s NSFW, so keep your finger on the mute button in case the boss walks by:


Saturday, 21 May 2011

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

I’m still here.

Hey folks.

Still writing, slowly but surely. I have a firm lineup of songs for the next album, definitely writing “inside of the box” with a “strategy” and a “game plan” this time, just struggling with finishing this specific batch of songs to the best of my limited ability. I even have a working title, but I’m sure you’d prefer fewer promises (and perhaps even some surprises) this time.

It’s tonally and rhythmically all over the map, but there’s kind of an overall theme (I would say “concept” but look how well that did for PP) tying it all together. Best songs I’ve ever written blah blah blah. You’ll like the song titles at the very least: my favourite so far is “Nestle Waters of America” which is sort of “People Get Ready” crossed with “Sail Away” crossed with this.

Hang in there, cause if I ever do get this album finished it will make the flowers bloom, the heavens part, and (most importantly) make Pop Psych sound like the ridiculous pity party it is.

Thanks for all your encouragement.


Saturday, 31 October 2009

Upcoming Show, EP

A quick update:

I’m playing “An Evening of Song” at Kenny’s Castaways on Nov 12th, with George Usher (an NYC legend with a long history including Beat Rodeo and “Little Apocalypse”-era Schramms) and Kevin Montgomery, who has assigned himself the herculean task of playing 50 shows in 50 states… in 50 days. I’m on last at 10pm so get there early: details

Work progresses slowly on a new mini-album, sort of a companion record to PP. It will feature a couple of my best unreleased songs, and my intention is to have it out in 2009. If that means Dec. 31st, so be it, I’m putting my foot down on this one. I’ve also been setting up an as-yet-unnamed new analog/digital recording studio out in NJ, which will be a really cool place to get some of my own work done too. The owner is a serious synth dude and has a real treasure trove of classics including a gorgeous-sounding ARP Solina that I hope will make an appearance on the new record.

I’m not usually into licensing my songs for advertising, but I made an exception for Flip and Tumble. Their reusable shopping bags are not only cool-looking, but they fold down so well they really are easy to keep in a jacket pocket when you’re heading to the, um, discount store…