Flash and Thunder

I don’t know exactly where the line is between history and experience, between something that happened and something that’s still happening. Is an explosion still happening while the shockwave is racing towards a building? While you can still hear echoes of it across a river? Is it still happening when you’re dreaming of it, years later? When all you can hear on a still night is the ringing in your ears that you’ve heard since the first flash and thunder?

I think a lot about family. I struggle with it. I struggle with the challenges that family has left me, with sacrifices family have made for me, with the hole in my experience where family should have been. I live with Josh, my brother, who I grew up with. We lived together for eleven or twelve years as kids, and now again for the last two. It’s comfortable. It’s friendly and loving. It has all the things that you should have in a home.

I’ve never lived with my father (not for any meaningful value of ‘living’, at least), but he was always there in one way or another. He was the reason we would be followed home, or why we had to move, or why some of us had so much more than others. When we spent time in the same space, we would inevitably end up at a nightclub, at a recording studio. The music was always loud, painfully loud. I’d yell and ask him to turn it down, my hands over my ears. I could never hear myself yelling. He would never turn it down.

Part of me remembers him telling me to toughen up, to not be such a baby; those memories are cloudy and suspect, just as likely to be a projection of what I assume he’d say as they are to be a recalling of fact. When we would leave the studio and step into the street, everything was bright, muffled, and far away, my skull stuffed with cotton and sawdust.

No matter how hard we try, we’re all defined in some way by him. From my own hypervigilance to my brother Oliver getting locked up at Fenbrook. (It’s his birthday today. He’s 28.)

And now we all try to figure out our own damages, try to find answers where we know there aren’t any. A kind of ritual therapy for blood relatives.

No matter how many years and miles separate me from the boy stepping into the street with a head full of dust, on a still night all I can hear is ringing.


One of the weirdest things about this trip is the peek it gives on how I could have turned out.

I’m a bit of a celebrity here, because I’m the only one of Flint’s children who made it to his sister’s funeral (the big man himself was explicitly uninvited, and was smart enough to stay away).

Of course, no one here really knows me. They know a part of my story, or what I was like when I was eight or ten or fourteen. (One aunt refuses to refer to me by my name, she calls me “the genius” instead, like I’m from a different world.)

I’m asked a lot why I never moved back to montreal, why I’m not moving back now. There’s opportunity abound (this cousin just bought a fido store on a whim, that uncle runs a very successful new media firm, etc.) and it’s difficult to articulate my reasons in ways that make any sense to them.

The stories shared over drinks (congac that I could never afford, let alone appreciate) are equally alien: turning Bill Gates down for an opportunity to invest in Microsoft in ’73, trying to call a cab to a family-owned factory in the heart of Compton at 4AM, or paying off a hit on a brother to save their life (and then telling them years later how much they regretted it).

More to come as I get the chance to post it.


I’m in Montreal for a funeral. It was for one of my aunts, someone who helped take care of me when I was young, after my dad kidnapped me. (I didn’t post about it before, because I didn’t want to advertise that the largest gathering of clan Kaya in twenty years would be in range of one well-placed grenade.)

This is the most involved that I’ve been with my father’s side of the family since those days, and it feels like I’m through the looking glass. Limos, private restaurants, multimillion dollar homes, arguments about who stole the will from who…

It’s all very surreal. I’ll try to take some photos.

softer, lesser, slower, weaker

I took a sick day today. I’m feeling pretty icky, but mostly I’ve just got the winter blues, and I wasn’t up to a Monday morning.

I feel like shit whining about how I feel like shit, especially since I’m well aware how heavily the season is weighing on my mood. I know that it’s exaggerated, and that if it were bright and sunny I wouldn’t really feel this way, but that doesn’t change what it’s like inside my own skin.

I’m not going to be heading out on the Chemlab tour with Cyanotic. The details of why aren’t really important, but mostly it just didn’t make for good logistics.

I’d like to take some of my vacation time and travel somewhere, commitment-free. Nowhere fancy or far away, just somewhere where I won’t be DJing, playing, working, or doing anything out of obligation. A week in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, to drink coffee, explore the streets at night, and wrap myself in the anonymity that comes with being a stranger in a big city.

I do have friends and family in all of these places, but I’m not sure that my navel-gazing would make for good company. I’m also not sure where I stand with a lot of these people — not for any reason other than the erosion that silence and distance work on relationships — and I don’t want to impose my yearly existential crisis on anyone else.

I don’t talk much about why this time of year upsets me so much, or about the place that it puts me in.

A year or three ago, I wrote my excessively wordy LJ bio:

“I would tell you of my childhood, but I remember very little. I lived with my mother, and I was sixteen before I saw both of my parents in the same room together. I remember moving, always moving. I remember being kidnapped when I was eight, and a Christmas that the Hell’s Angels gave us a tree and gifts when we didn’t have money for food, much less toys […]

Mostly I remember a sense of profound sadness; A feeling that above all, life is about survival, and little else.”

That’s what Christmas reminds me of, and that’s how winter makes me feel. I was always profoundly aware every Christmas just how poor we were, and how hard my mother worked to bring my brother and I that single day of toys, smiles, and happiness. She’d do everything she could to get us whatever it was we’d been dreaming of all year (which was almost certainly video games), and more often than not she’d succeed — but it wasn’t what she gave us that was depressing, it was the struggle itself. It brought into sharp focus just how little life cares for fairness, how naive the idea of karma really was.

When I was a very, very young child, it was Kelvin, my grandfather, who would take me fishing, or to a new movie, or to the arcade. He wasn’t related to me by blood, but he was my grandfather, and I loved him as much as I loved my mother.

He died on Christmas day when I was eight. My mother didn’t tell me until Boxing Day, and I vividly remember how numbing the news was. I didn’t feel shocked, or sad, or much of anything at all. I didn’t cry when she told me, or at his funeral, and in all truth and honesty I don’t remember crying again until I was fourteen and I found a hidden folder of stories and comics on a friend’s computer, each one making fun of me in a different way: My hair, my nose, my teeth, my voice, my everything.

I do have good memories of Christmas — staying up all night and all day with Josh playing our new Nintendo 64, seeing the little furry ball of kitten that my mother surprised me with, sitting on the porch with Tracy Page and smoking cigarettes, watching the snow fall — but they’re few, far between, and hopelessly outnumbered.

Now I try to spend Christmas with friends, in a quiet, safe space; but Christmas is just one day in a long winter.

This is why I travel so much during winter, in spite of how unhappy the cold makes me. When I’m writing in an empty Toronto cafe with the wind pounding at the door, or walking down St. Catherine between giant snowflakes, that’s my insulation. My quiet, safe space. It’s not fair to expect my friends and family to shore me up emotionally every day until the sun comes back.

quelle horreur

Ah, Montreal. You are like the sexy leather-clad mistress whom I take home for a night of unspeakable indulgences, only to wake and find you setting my couch on fire to rid it of evil spirits.

I spent some time there with my family this weekend, which is always an interesting and unnerving experience. Most of the family there are the immigrants: aunts, uncles, and their children, and are your typical Arab stereotypes. Pitbulls, Versace, Ferraris. However, my little brother has also recently moved to Montreal from LA in an attempt to go straight, and is not your typical Arab stereotype:

We couldn’t have been out for more than an hour or two when he got into a fight with three huge french-speaking Mexicans. Bottles broken over heads, knives pulled, teeth lost, and so on. To his credit, he didn’t start it, nor did he stab anyone this time.

Things calmed down a little after that, but really only a little. Aside from an hour spent watching a mindblowing surprise fireworks show downtown (who knew they could make explosions shaped like cubes?), the weekend was mostly dominated by chaos, confusion, and excess. One of my cousins called me this morning to let me know that my brother ended up in jail a few hours after I left. Aside from a kicked-in police car window, details are pretty sketchy, and no one knows exactly what happened, or where he went after he was released.

Family aside, I got to see Yann and Guilliame perform as Memmaker, which was excellent; we’ll be bringing them to town to play soon. I also got to spin an impromptu tag-team set with Yann at Saphir which was a lot of fun, and also resulted in a booking for a rave sometime next month. There are a lot of Montreal DJs who’re interested in playing Ottawa at some point, maybe we’ll see about having a Cultural Exchange night.

The house is coming along well, although the pace of the move is much slower than I’d like. I should be borrowing Charles’ father’s truck sometime soon to get the rest of the big pieces from the old house, and it should be all downhill after that.

It is, even in it’s unfinished and cluttered state, beautiful. I would buy it tomorrow if it were for sale. And if it were sold at about a third of it’s actual value so that I could afford it.

Instead of banknotes, today’s pictures are of the castle on Kaya street in Turkey where my father’s side of the family grew up. (It has since been taken over by the Turkish government, and turned into a museum and movie set.)

In the summer, the entire family would sleep outside on this roof.

This was my grandmother’s room and bedset. She left it when they moved, and they have maintained it for the last 40 years.

One of the guest rooms.

Jairus Kaya

I’ve been spending some time with my family from my father’s side, recently. Mostly siblings and cousins, mostly around my age. It’s fairly stressful for everyone involved, I think. We were never taught how to trust each other.

I keep writing and erasing things. I don’t know how to divorce the people from the circumstances.


I read my own biography today:

I was born to a mother who was a biker, a graduate of the streets and the right hand of my father, who was a nightclub baron and was also diverse enough in his business dealings to be crowned “The King of Coke” on the front page of the paper when they took him down.

I would tell you of my childhood, but I remember very little. I lived with my mother, and I was sixteen before I saw both of my parents in the same room together. I remember moving, always moving. I remember being kidnapped when I was eight, and a Christmas that the Hell’s Angels gave us a tree and gifts when we didn’t have money for food, much less toys. There was abuse and trauma, but this is so common as to be typical, and I suffered nothing that a million others have not.

Mostly I remember a sense of profound sadness; A feeling that above all, life is about survival, and little else.

Sometimes I wonder what Joshua remembers of those times, if he remembers the asshole addict babysitters, or the urgency in our mother’s voice as she explained that we’d be moving again, a thousand kilometres away.

Then, I wonder about our little brother Charlie, and how different his childhood memories will be. My mother’s a thousand kilometres away again, but this time she moved because of what was waiting for her. A house, and a quiet life by the sea

I remember being a teenager, and always watching for the white van with the incompetent RCMP officers who thought we didn’t know they were there, or listening for the click on the phone line that meant every word would be recorded, examined, dissected. I remember the knowing looks from officers in the courtrooms, on the street, everywhere.

And I think about what’s waiting for me, thousands of kilometres away.

A house, and a life by the sea.