Things started getting weird on December 27th, 2020. Sleeping late that morning, in a lazy post-Christmas haze, it wasn't until I stumbled into the living room to check my messages that I realized something was hinky. Facebook messages from complete strangers: Is this you? The messages linked to an article from a Toronto blog site: Mysterious diaries had been found in the crawl space of an Etobicoke home. I was about to erase the messages when my heart began to pound. The house in the accompanying photo? My old house. I'd grown up there. That purple cloth-bound blank book? I recognized that too.
This began a bizarre, surreal, and ultimately very enjoyable 10 days or so, wherein the national media discovered this cute little story (family finds diaries, family turns to internet to return diaries, internet finds moi) and- seeing as it was the limbo week between Christmas and New Year's Eve and the pandemic had been dragging on and everyone was in need of a happy ending- they milked the story for all it was worth. It didn't hurt that Nick Gunz (the man who found the diaries) and myself are both fairly articulate people who not only gave good interviews but who also became friends during this strange time. In fact, Nick and I began an email correspondence that continues to this day.
Ten year-old me wrote those diaries in part because I was obsessed with two amazing kids books: Harriet The Spy, and an Usborne Press book called The Spy's Guidebook. In a coincidence that I still find hard to believe, the man who found the diaries (and me) teaches a History of Espionage class at U of T. Of course Nick and I had to become friends. The universe demanded nothing less.
SONG STORIES: Dead Drop
I leave a message for someone I never see
Spies like you, spies like me...
"Dead Drop" is an espionage term. An agent leaves something- say, a document or a microfilm- in a predetermined location, and eventually another agent picks it up from that location. The two agents never meet, or interact directly; hence the word "dead". I was fascinated with espionage as a little girl, and my brother and I played at being spies a lot. Learning more about actual espionage as an adult I soon realized that "The Great Game" was never for me; I would have been a terrible spy. My mother loves the novels of John LeCarre and when we visited Berlin together in 2019 we both thrilled to feel the undercurrent of espionage and war in the streets and stories of that city. When I wrote "Dead Drop" I was thinking about the danger, deceit, and the weariness that spies must so often feel, knowing that retirement is not usually a choice they get to make (and sometimes 'retirement' is a euphemism for something much, much worse).
I'm losing heart, still I make the drop
'til they tell me that it's safe to stop
It wasn't until after I wrote it that I realized that Nick and I had also lived our own version of a Dead Drop; I had left my diaries in a secret location and years later he found them. Like secret agents, we have never met.
I wanted the song to reflect the sense of danger that spies must carry with them at all times. Listening to the recording now is surreal, because my band performs it very differently to how I originally recorded it. To date, it is the only song that I perform live with a loop pedal, and I enjoy layering various ukulele parts as I play and sing.
"Dead Drop" will be on my upcoming EP Desire Lines, but you can hear the original version here on the YouTube video below.