4. Mr. Ulterior
words & music © 1999 Veronica Start. All rights reserved.
produced by John Shepp and Veronica Start
recorded at Utopia Parkway Studios, Vancouver, Canada
mixed by John Shepp
vocals & programming by Veronica Start
programming, guitars, bass, percussion by John Shepp
“Cover me with veils of happy. Cover me with smoke.”
Since I was about 13 years old, I was a product of my environment. The ‘party culture’ was a rite of passage, growing up in Grande Prairie’s oil boom times. Smoking skills, drinking skills, etc., all needed to be attained. Not that anyone forced me into it. I truly wanted to fit in with my high school friends who liked to smoke weed with the older boys during lunch break. They were the tougher, cool girls…and at the time, I thought they best modeled the inner courage or strength that I didn’t have.
I didn’t really know how to be myself back then. Coming from an abusive home environment, it just felt unsafe in general, so my habits were to be vigilant and to mold my behaviour to avoid trouble in any situation, to subjugate my own opinions, just get through the day. Getting high really helped me with gaining the distance from myself that I needed to avoid the twisted reality I was living in at home. Yet, I remained highly functioning due to blessings of creativity.
I learned to be entertaining. Most importantly, I learned to be an actor. I became a person who liked to party and I think everyone knows the score with party-friends. The love can be rather superficial and mutually dependant on the entertainment value and doubly so if you need to scratch the same itch. We’re all running from something and if you’re lucky in the party world, you’ll easily find others to play hide and seek with.
Fast forward many years later to Vancouver’s 90s clubs like Luvafair, The Odyssey, Celebrities; and the after-hours warehouses were the haunts that I felt played the best music. Being a makeup artist and singer who loved to show off, I attracted gay male friends with my loud mouth ways and perfect MAC lip line. I can’t remember exactly where I met Antony (not his real name) – probably The Odyssey’s smoking garden -- but we quickly became epic party-buddies.
Antony was my playmate for several months but it wasn’t long before I was starving from the emptiness of our connection. Also, I couldn’t confide any feelings to him, he was rather dismissive and changed the subjects to gossip and escapist party stories. I was so unbalanced inside and I just thought I was too sensitive for him at first. I soon discovered that he had a whole other person locked inside and I was never going to see it.
One of the last times I saw Antony was at my wedding to John. He gave me a great up-do that morning, and then later, at the reception, his friend Linda kept him frequent company at the open bar. They’d already arrived pretty tipsy and when things were winding down later, they sloppily stole a few of our balloon bouquets on the way out to their cab. I wasn't too happy about that.
It wasn’t long before my brain was starting to feel too old to be chemically inducing myself on weekends until 5 am. My conscience and eye-bags were screaming for me to sort it out. After my wedding, it wasn’t long until our friendship blew up in a puff of smoke with me ending it in a very sloppy way.
These days, I’m very grateful for the gift of time, the gift of grace and the gift of discernment. The gift of finally learning what friendship is, if only by realizing that I, too, was not such a great friend. Hell, I didn’t even know how to be a friend to my own self back then. It's likely that Antony didn’t either. We were willing victims to the guidance we were born into.I see now that when I wrote this song that it was a way to pin the focus on Antony instead of my own self-abuse.
But you know, my songs just come as they do. They are not written, they are given. And fortunately, my subconscious is so much smarter than my logical mind - this song is not really about a person at all. It's about the drug called 'distraction from who we really are'. We all seek a rest, a vacation, a respite from our minds which can sometimes be therapeutic but Lord knows - and if you don’t know, you will be taught harshly - that a vacation is no way to live. Our Ulterior ego keeps us hiding, avoiding those pesky, nasty feelings that drag us down from pleasure. He's the veil that softens your eyes and puts you to sleep. He's the one that says he's there to serve and protect you until you have no choice but to do his bidding.
Mr. Ulterior is a personification of smoke itself.