Calgary = City of Jeep Wranglers 

I swear Calgary has more Jeeps per capita than any other city in the world. I see an endless stream of these post-military SUVs, stuck in traffic, sporting bright, peacock-ish colours and almost never showing any dirt, mud, or any other indicator that they have ever left the immaculate Calgary roads. 

Let’s be clear, a Jeep is designed to be an off-road vehicle. Built for the battlefield, it was first called a GP (for General Purpose) vehicle, which was slurred into the Jeep brand we all recognize today. A new Jeep Wrangler has an MSRP value of $39,145 for its base model. It is an incredibly expensive and inefficient choice as an urban commuter. A 2019 Jeep Wrangler averages out around 19 MPG in city driving, in a time when gas is a completely optional expense for any urban commuter (Tesla Model 3 starts at $44,999 CAN) 

Over the last 5 years I’ve put on approximately 160,000 KM travelling all over North America. Averaging over 30,000 KM per year. This was done all throughout the year, making multi-trips to a remote heli-ski resort in British Columbia, to other ski hills, with plenty of KMs done on gravel roads. Aside from adding a set of winter tires, the car has been completely safe and reliable in a northern climate. I purchased the car for $7,500 cash with 144,000 KMs on it. I haven’t put any additional money into repairs aside from tires and filters. I run the lowest rate of insurance and still use the car (though I mostly ride an electric bike as my main form of transportation now) 

I can’t see any possible reason why anyone in a major urban centre would ever need a Jeep for commuting. Period. 

In 2013, I invested $5000 of hard-earned cash into making a full-length album. My band at the time was breaking up and I decided to throw it into making a solo album. I was told by numerous people that it was a lot of money to spend out of pocket. I was made to believe it was a bad investment. 

That album allowed me to start touring around the country and opened the doors to hundreds of different experiences. That original $5000 investment has paid itself off year after year financially. Even it had provided zero financial return, I still think it would have been a great use of my finances, just purely for the cathartic reasoning of putting something out there into the world that I made. 

I find it absolutely crazy that our society has absolutely no problem spending $39,145 on a new Jeep, which is inefficient and rapidly decreases in value, but I took all sorts of flack for spending a measly $5000 on a personal dream. 

Maybe these numbers need to be flipped? Maybe it’s time to start reconsidering how we spend our money and utilize our time? What if you instead invest $40,000 into something that might be able to provide you some real benefit and potentially open new doors personally, creatively or in a business sense. 

Maybe it’s time we stop using Jeeps on city roads and save them for the battlefields. Smarten up.

Books - 2018 in review 

After a couple years of ploughing the fields of literary duds, I’m happy to proclaim that 2018 has been a hell of a good year for personal literature consumption. I read some of my favourite books this year, a few that would even register on my Top Ten list, and one that would even creep onto the Top 5. 

I’ve been reading voraciously over the last few years, devouring anything that sparks a glimmer of curiosity. Unfortunately, by reading anything that came in sight, without a proper screening method, I wasted time pursuing books I didn’t need to be reading. A book is a serious commitment of time, so this year I really only read titles strongly recommended by credible friends, confidants or admired public figures. I didn’t accept light recommendations only the type that the nominator would back up with a bullet. 

I read many good books this year. Here are the greats with a brief explanation: 

French Exit – Patrick DeWitt 

I tried very hard not to like Patrick DeWitt. His claim to fame is his novel The Sisters Brothers, a clever Western that feels like a lost Cohen Brothers script. A little too much like a Cohen Bros. script to be frank. People loved it, people really loved it. Maybe it was jealousy - or as my pal Bruce said, “Guy Vanderhaeghe writes considerably better Westerns with a fraction of the acclaim” – For whatever reason, I just didn’t want to get behind DeWitt. Upon further investigation, it certainly was jealousy. 

French Exit is a leap-up in quality. He earned his early success retroactively with this novel. It’s a joyous tragedy about a highly (un)likeable mother-son team who take the world by storm. I usually rebel against novels set in New York or Paris, or worse, both, but I just loved this story. The dialogue is whip smart and worth studying. It’s sincere and Malcom is such a wonderfully delightful character whom I would like so very much to befriend. 

My Brilliant Friend (Neopolitan Novels) – Elena Ferrante 

Ironically, my friend Dylan tried to get me to read this for years. An intense and detailed autobiography about female friendship. The first book of a four-part series about two young girls navigating meager life in Italy. The narrator has an uncanny ability to expose the complex motivations behind a young girl’s decisions and how they lead to loyalty, alliances and deception. I will absolutely read the rest of this series. I believe HBO just made this into a television mini-series. 

A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole 

I’ve often considered Holden Caulfield, Frank Bascombe (The Sportswriter) and Harris (Harris and Me) to be some of my favourite literary characters. Ignatious J Reilly has pushed them all aside into obscurity. This is the funniest book I have ever read. I’ve never burst with laughter so many times while reading a book alone, in a public place. The book has a tragic back story and sadly is the only real book the author wrote and seems like the cause and effect of his suicide in his early thirties. It uses a classic comedy set-up of a protagonist who belongs in another era yet somehow perfectly captures the socio-economic framework of New Orleans. The city built a statue to honour this memorable but despicable character. 

 Boyhood Island (My Struggle: Book 3) – Karl Ove Knausgard 

A virtually unknown and completely unremarkable Norwegian author wrote an autobiography – the catch…it spans 6 volumes and over 6000 words. He can talk about an erection for 40 pages. It works because it’s normal, he’s an everyman writing in extreme detail with beautiful imagery about completely everyday events. This is part 3, supposedly the weakest in the series. It covers the early years of childhood. It completely captures the innocence, wonder, fears and sorrow of these strange times in our lives. Relatable to every single person who was once a child…so, everyone. 

Tribe – Sebastian Junger 

A short book of non-fiction from a war photographer about PTSD. New perspectives, fresh ideas, well researched and personal. He somehow brings it all together and offers amazing moral insight about how we live our lives. 

How To Make Love To A Negro Without Getting Tired – Dany Laferriere 

An accomplished Haitian refugee moves to Montreal and starts his life over with nothing. He deals with racism (surprise) but it’s more complex than that. Rich, white McGill women want to ___ him out of defiance and he want to ___ them to be closer to the American dream. Billed as fiction but based on interviews I’ve read, it’s quite the opposite. An immigration story with some originality and cajones. The title makes me uncomfortable to write and especially uncomfortable to say aloud. The title is also intriguing enough to have made me want to read this. A Canadian classic. 

St. Urbain’s Horseman – Mordecai Richler 

Mordecai Richler has become one of my most cherished Canadian favorites. This is a little deeper in his back catalogue, it’s a fantastic read but by no means his best, I would start with The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz or Barney’s Version to be introduced to his view of the slums of the-cold-water-flat-Jewish-Montreal. You can do a pretty extensive drinking-n-eating tour of Montreal through Mordecai’s favourite establishments. 

Gimme Refuge – Matt Love 

I found Matt Love’s book A Super Sunday In Newport on a Monday, in Portland. Coincidentally, I had just had a great Sunday in Newport the day before. I bought the book by divine intervention and it changed my life. Gimme Refuge is his memoir about leaving his day job as a teacher to become a writer. It’s dedicated, committed and at times, sad. Matt taught me about the importance of being a regional writer and being connected to where you are from. I plan to ask Matt to edit my next book. 

A Complicated Kindness – Miriam Toews 

Miriam Toews embraces her traditional Mennonite upbringing in Steinbach Manitoba the same way Mordecai Richler embraces his Jewish ghetto in Montreal, with one arm open and the other ready to use for protection. Toews writes about her heritage honestly. This is a heavy book about a heavy subject but she always avoids passing judgements and tells it in her own way. My favourite female author working today. 

Honourable Mentions: 

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor E Frankl 

The Flinstones – Mark Russell/Steve Pugh 

Everything is Flammable – Gabrielle Bell 

Wytches - Scott Snyder

Catharsis: a process of transformation=The Banff Centre 

Last year I became completely burnt out with music. The non-stop hustle of the freelance, creative life had worn on me and I had very little left to offer. I stopped writing songs, practicing guitar and rehearsing new stories, and simply went on auto pilot. I pandered to audiences and relied on my pre-existing contacts that I had developed through constant gigging over the years.

Half-way through 2017 I got a job at a local brewery and got another gig hosting and producing an interview based podcast for some corporate whores. I had a huge part of my ego tied up in doing music full time and it was hard to give that up. For the later half of 2017 most of my income came from my other two jobs, rather than creative pursuits. 

The podcast job didn’t last long, and the program essentially lost funding by the end of the 2017. On the plus side, I inherited some awesome gear and learnt how to become a one-man, professional podcaster. It was a tough gig but I really enjoyed it. I was thrown under the bus for 6 months and forced to adapt to each situation and make it work. It was the greatest crash course in podcasting on the planet. I developed my abilities as an interviewer, my audio and technical skillsets and learnt how to arrange each episode in a compelling way. 

I still have my part time job at the brewery (which I love). I’ll be there until I die, they fire me, or until I relocate. (I work at Village Brewery in Calgary if you are wondering. Stop by for a beer sometime)

I applied for a number of full-time gigs when my podcasting job ended. I got a few interviews for high paying, impressive positions that I didn’t think I was qualified for, yet didn’t receive even an interview for some entry-level, non-profit jobs. I got a phone call to find out that I was the 2nd choice for a Finance Communication Analyst position in Edmonton. Life would have looked a lot different if I had been the first choice. 

During all this artistic and personal malaise, I was accepted to a 3-week Singer Songwriter Residency at the Banff Centre. I felt a little strange accepting this, as I really didn’t feel like a songwriter anymore. With no better options on the table, and having a romantic notion with the Banff Centre, I decided to pursue the opportunity…and I am sure glad I did. 

I spent three weeks with 30 of the most humble, interesting, compelling, empathetic and honest songwriters I have ever met. It was a deeply cathartic experience which ultimately led me to fall in love with songwriting again. I had lost myself somewhere on the road. I had stopped really listening to music and was almost exclusively listening to podcasts and talk radio. I had become cynical to the idea of music and was tainted by touring and playing too many bad shows. 

The Banff Centre changed all that. It made me excited to create, listen and collaborate. It made me feel good about the future and the beauty of creative pursuits. It made me realize that I like making art because it’s important and fun. That’s it. The program reminded me that I’m a music fan first and foremost. It reminded me of the beautiful innocence of music. 

We received some free recording time during the residency and we were encouraged to experiment. I did just that and ended up tracking a blistering punk/emo tune, a mystical country song that sounds like The Eagles and a duet I co-wrote with my friend Alix, that sounds like She and Him.

I was able to rediscover a new found joy in music, art and life during my time at the Banff Centre. I feel a sense of gratitude that I haven't had in a long time.

As of June 1st my lease is up on my East Village apartment. I’m not exactly sure what the future holds or where I will end up, but I can’t help but feel like I’m being pushed by some guiding force or intuition towards my creative endeavours. 

I don’t have a solid plan, but I will most likely be focussing on the following during the next six months: 

-Releasing my book, I Am The Lizard King, as a weekly audio book-podcast 
-Releasing an EP of songs (Painted Horses EP) that I recorded in Edmonton over the last 4 years 
-Freelance grant writing for friends 
-Pitching freelance articles to magazines and websites 
-Touring as a working musician 

It’s a hard life trying to make a living off one’s art, but it’s been a good life. I’m remaining open to possibility and trying to bury my ego. I’m not sure what the future holds, but I’ll be sure to let you know. 


The Riv 

Some towns are just too small to have a town drunk, so people take turns. I suppose it was Fred’s turn, and I believe I inadvertently funded his night on the town. I met Fred while he was bartending at the local Legion and we got to talking. 

Most years, around this time, I get hired to play between three and six nights at a very expensive heli ski resort in a very small town in inland British Columbia. I book a few other shows and make a winter tour out of it. I always get treated well and I always get a few stories out of the trip. The money is just good enough to keep me afloat for the rest of the month. It’s not my favourite place to play but it’s the closest thing to a vacation I get these days. 

The heli ski resort is viciously expensive and draws in 1%-ers from a global market. Affluent Europeans, drunk Australians and a few fiscally conservative, morally bankrupt, Trump supporters from America, all gather around to ski fresh powder, drink quality scotch and potentially cheat on their wives with mediocre looking employees in their mid- 20’s. The punk rock spirit dies a little bit everytime I play this resort. 

On the first night of the three night stint, I was approached by a Californian male named Don. He bought me a $25 glass of scotch and chatted me up about drums. He knew what he was talking about and told me about a few of the jazz and blues bands he had played in over the years. At the end of the night he asked me if he could play drums with me. I was playing the shows with an accompanying guitar player and we had no drums in sight nor an interest to play with someone whom we had never rehearsed with. 99% of the time it’s a bad idea to play a show with someone you have never met before or played with. 

The next night Don approached me again and asked if I had found a drum set. The inner voice inside my head told Don to “shut the fuck up before I kick your fucking teeth in,” but my speaking voice simply replied with a humble “no.” 

After our set, the entire resort seemed to be heading to the Legion. Staff would be fraternizing with guests, and I knew things would be getting weird. I told my friend and accompanying guitar player that we better head down there for one drink just to see what chaos would ensue. 

When we got to the Legion, I felt out of place and decided to start chatting with the bartender. Legions across Canada are filled with my type of people. This is how I met Fred. I asked Fred if he knew where to find a drum kit. 

“Ya, I’m the only drummer in town and I’ve got a kit at home.” 

“Hmmm, some guy is on my ass about finding him a kit so he can jam with us,” I stated. 

“I hate loading gear, otherwise I would,” Fred echoed the thoughts of every musician in Canada. 

“Well I’m sure this rich dick would pay you an absorbent amount of money to use your drum kit,” I said. 

I’ve always had a Robin Hood complex and my desire to ‘take from the rich and give to the poor’ was far stronger after a couple beers. 

“See how much you can get,” said Fred with a laugh and a friendly demeanour. 

I found California Don playing pool and I approached him with my discovery. I explained that Fred had a kit but that it was going to need to be rented. I explained that Fred would need $400 for the use of the kit. Don didn’t have an issue with the price and paid $400 in U.S. dollars. 

“Wow, shit! I’ll deliver the kit for that price,” said Fred with a big smile. Legion brothers always look out for one another, and I was throwing Fred a bone. It would be the easiest $400 he ever made. 

The next day at 3 PM Fred showed up with the drums and a buddy to help him load them. That morning I had been secretly hoping that Fred wouldn’t show up. The whole idea seemed like a bad one after the buzz from the beers had worn off from the previous night. But here they were and I was going to have to deal with the situation. 

We got the drums setup and California Don sat down and jammed a song with us. I knew right away that we got lucky. He had great hands, could follow my lead and could fake his way through a song with grace. He was going to do just fine. 

It was a calming feeling to know that we would be able to get away with this. I headed back to my cabin to relax for the next three hours until the festivities took place. 

When I returned I couldn’t help but notice that Fred was still there. He was now mildly intoxicated and telling Don about how he used to play two straight hours of Led Zeppelin covers in the 80’s. 

This was a fancy event and the guests were starting to roll in. Everyone was dressed up for the banquet that would celebrate the end of a wonderful week of skiing overpriced powder. 

Fred was wearing grey sweat pants and old Nike pumps. He didn’t seem like he was going anywhere. He seemed like he was going to make himself at home and enjoy the party. 

You could hear a pin drop in the room when the owner of the heli ski resort took the stage and offered an awkward and heartfelt speech. He had the rooms full attention except for Fred - who was the only person still talking - his natural voice echoing louder than the speech coming from stage. I heard him proudly mention about “I used to do two hours straight of Zeppelin covers in the 80’s,” as the owner talked of the special week. 

Fred was still there when we manned the stage for our first set of the night. I heard someone yell, “Fucking rights boys,” and I’m damn certain it was Fred. 

The next time I noticed him, he was bringing in two new friends through the back door. They were equally as out of place as him. Next, I noticed him carrying a tray of drinks back to the table for his newly established posse. 

I realized then that Fred was going to spend the entire $400 on booze. I now realized that I didn’t help out anyone, I simply enabled a person who was a raging alcoholic. 

Towards the end of the night I saw Fred getting kicked out of the fancy lounge. Apparently Fred had passed out at the table he was sitting at. I heard the bar manager asking him who had even got him into the event. Fred tried to mumble “Tanner” but it came out more like “Tghsghsdhhhhhhrrrrrrrr” and wouldn’t hold up in the heli ski judicial system. 

The next day when we took off we noticed that the drum set was still sitting on the stage. 

I couldn’t help but feel a small sense of satisfaction. I pictured Fred banging out Zeppelin tunes just as drunk as John Bonham.

Old Man And The Sea 

My sister was in Cuba last week so she brought me back a Hemingway picture to place on my writing desk. I like the idea of always keeping an artist you respect close-by to watch over you. It keeps you accountable at the very least. It takes even more courage to find your own path with an onlooker like Hemingway, watching you through the process. 

My favourite piece of prose is from The Old Man And The Sea: 

“He always thought of the sea as la mar which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. Sometimes those who love her say bad things of her but they are always said as though she were a woman. Some of the younger fishermen, those who used buoys as floats for their lines and had motorboats, bought when the shark livers had brought much money, spoke of her as el mar which is masculine. They spoke of her as a contestant or a place or even an enemy. But the old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favours, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them. The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought.” 

The world is filled with such a masculine presence, and I love how the old man refers to the sea as “la mar”. It’s such a romantic notion and shows a sign of respect. This wisdom is acquired from years of contemplation while fishing for marlin, something that may be a lost art one day. 

I try to imagine everything in nature to have a feminine spirit. 

I think about the Old Man often. I wonder if that was his last fishing trip? If he created a sufficient legacy to hang his hat on? Is he still following the Great DiMaggio?

For The People Kombucha 

Every time I hang up my coat in the front closet I get a whiff of fermentation. The smell has increased with the volume of the batches I’ve been brewing. It’s doesn’t bother me. In fact, it kind of feels like home, like the dog meeting you as you walk in the door. 

It smells like progress - life is happening. 

I borrowed a 25 gallon, stainless steel, brew kettle from a buddy. That’s a significant step up from the 5 gallon glass jar I was using before. 

I withdraw every book the Calgary Public Library has on the topics of “Kombucha” or “Fermentation”. 

In Japan it is often referred to as Kocha Kinoko (Red Tea Mushroom) - actually, I have no clue if that is true or not, I just jotted it down from a library book because I liked the way it sounded. 

Kombucha doesn’t involve mushrooms. It involves a SCOBY, which is the mushroom looking thing that freaks most people out. Symbiotic-Culture-of-Bacteria-and-Yeast. It is the life-force that many people are afraid to touch and is often kept in the fridge between batches (don’t ever do this). 

I started brewing Kombucha because I couldn’t afford to buy it. I can make 5 gallons for as little as $5. Some con-artists are charging up to $32 a growler at local Kombucha breweries. These people are criminals. I want to make Kombucha just to share it with people and make it accessible. I don’t want it to turn into a privileged, yuppie drink. 

One time I was dealing with the worst hangover of my life and crushed an $8 bottle of Kombucha and it made my body feel like it had a soul again. Small price to pay for getting your soul back. Love at first gulp. 

I’m going to have to throw a tasting party once this batch is done. I don’t have enough space to store 25 gallons worth of flavoured, refrigerated, Buch. 

Maybe I will start bottling it. My friend Curtis could make me a label design. “For The People” Kombucha. It will be cheap, maybe by-donation. I could drop-it off and teach people how to make it. It could have an illustration of Robin Hood on the label - Robin Hood during an acid trip, that would be cool. Something weird. Lavish colours exploding everywhere. Maybe I will deliver it by bike in the summer. Make it accessible for everyone. 

I can already picture the ridicule and criticism I would get if I posted something like that online. All the rednecks would be confused and therefore defensive. The anti-hipster-hipsters, that do too many drugs and hang out down town, would hate it, based on the principle that it’s healthy and they themselves are aging like dogs. Alas, this is the price you pay for putting yourself out there. I wish I was the type of person that didn’t care what people think. Those are the best kind of people. Rare gems. 

I’m a sensitive beast and I don’t take well to ridicule. I’m working on that though. 

Ginger is the easiest flavour to master. Rose hips and hibiscus are hot right now. Dry hopping is the next trend. 

If we aren’t connected to our food sources and we can’t take pride in our learned and acquired skills then what kind of people are we. I’m trying to get a black belt in Kombucha.

Artistic Realizations  

Artistic Realizations 

Sword In The Stone - 5 years old 
A young King Arthur is turned into a squirrel. He is pursued by a female squirrel. She grows attached to him, he is uncertain, he is turned back into a human. Female squirrel gives me my first indication of heartbreak. I feel sad for her. 

Cocktail starring Tom Cruise - 6 years old 
We move to town for a few years and during that period we inherit the Holy Grail…aka, the Super Channel. We have a TV downstairs and I have 3 blank VHS tapes. I can’t tape over Prancer cause mom loves those piece of shit, made-for-TV, Christmas movies. So that really leaves me with 2 tapes. I record Cocktail and can’t bring myself to tape over it for almost a year. I watch it once a week. I learn everything I know about women from Tom Cruise. I later learn that Tom Cruise probably isn’t the best role model for a 6 year old. 

Edward Scissorhands - 7 years old 
I’m sleeping over at Grandma’s. Uncle Ken rents this on VHS. Grandma gives me a glass of beer so I can be like Uncle Ken. I have one sip and hate it. She lets me keep the full glass near me anyhow. The movie scares me, then makes me laugh, then makes me angry, and finally sad. I never stop thinking about it. 

Brick by Ben Fold Five - 9 years old 
I hear this song on the easy-listening FM station. They play it a lot. I hear it while I’m waiting in the truck while my dad is shutting off the tractor. I hear all the words and know that I’m too young to make sense of it all. Years later I realize it’s about an abortion and I cry and cry. 

Pearl Jam’s Evolution - 11 years old 
We get a satellite dish back on the farm and the first thing I see is the music video for Pearl Jam’s scorcher, Evolution. Todd Mcfarlane animates it and it is absolutely gut wrenching. The guy that gets attacked by the computer makes me still hate computers. Burn them all!  

Of Mice and Men - 12 years old 
Mom lets me read whatever I want. I want Lord of the Flies, To Kill a Mockingbird and Of Mice and Men. She says I won’t like them and I can only choose two. Lord of the Flies gets put off and has never been purchased or read to this day. Some sexual things in the novel go over my head but the maternal friendship makes it clear that it’s a rough and tumble world out there. 

Different Seasons (specifically Shawshank Redemption) - 13 years old 
I borrow Different Seasons from my friend Drew. Mom says I won’t like it. I realize she and I have very different taste in art. I read Shawshank Redemption. The ending is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever read. I can still quote it. I have full faith in everything when he says, “the Pacific is as blue as it was in my dreams.” Love it so much that I dig into Apt Pupil and Stand By Me. I discover all these movies because of this book. I never read the other story. I can’t even remember what it is. Was it Green Mile? Shit, if it was then I missed out. 

Final Fantasy 8 - 14 years old 
Everyone talks about Final Fantasy 7. I lie and say that I played it but never have the opportunity. My cousin has part 8 and I play it in instalments while visiting. The love story moves me. I want to be in love. 

Mrs. Potters Lullaby by Counting Crows - 15 years old 
“Step out the front door like a ghost, nobody notices the contrast of white on white.”  
“If dreams are like movies then memories are films about ghosts.” 
“If you’ve never stared off into the distance then your life is a shame.” 

They play this song a lot on the easy-listening FM station. I can read between the lines and hear all the pain and loneliness in Adam Duritz voice. I don’t know that he’s talking about depression exactly, but I know that one day I’m going to understand what he’s talking about more than I ever care to admit. 

I would rather not hear the Counting Crows this way. I would rather just passively enjoy Mr. Jones like everybody else.  

Darryl’s Grocery Bag/ All Age concert - 15 years old 
I hear the Olds Alberta based, pop-punk band, Darryl’s Grocery Bag for the first time at an All-Age show in Lethbridge. That’s it, it’s all over for me that night. I know I’m going to play in a band one day and probably forever. “I’d rather be broke, and live on a stage, I’d rather pump gas for minimum wage, I’d rather be here than somewhere you are, do you like my van, cause I hate your car.” 

Left and Leaving by the Weakerthans - 16 years old 
Abby sends me this song over MSN messenger. I’m not even aware that you can send shit over MSN messenger. I instantly realize that he can’t really sing, but it’s perfect anyway. All my favourite singers can’t really sing, and it’s probably all because of this. He is a truly great writer. 

The Rocky Fortune - 18 years old 
Darryl’s Grocery Bag grow up and become a Folk Rock band. Don’t we all. 

Bukowski - 18 years old 
I hear about Bukowski in high school but mostly ignore his work. I get dumped by my first real girlfriend and Bukowski pours me a stiff drink and pats me on the back. 

Modest Mouse - 19 years old 
When my mother hears Modest Mouse she tells me that there is some underlying sense of evil. Tyler and I get so obsessed that we actually believe that Isaac Brock is sending us subliminal messages through the songs. 

Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac - 20 years old 
On the Road has nothing on Dharma Bums. Plus, I’m living dangerously close to On the Road when I’m reading it. It hits too close to home. Dharma Bums ages a little better and is a little more deeply rooted in spirituality. It’s where I’m going, not where I’ve been. 

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - 24 years old 
I have a nervous breakdown on a beach in Belize while reading this. It challenges my entire value system and makes me question my motives. It shakes me to the core. It’s a quality book about quality. 

The City Streets - 25 years old 
My friend Sam makes me listen to the City Streets. They are the best band to come out of Edmonton and maybe the best rock band in Canada. They are like the Constantines if the Constantines had narrative lyrics. I can’t figure out why people don’t love them like I do. I realize that art is not fair. Actually, art is always fair. I realize that the Canadian music industry favours the safe and the shitty. People will talk about them like they do the Replacements one day. As a legacy act. 


New Year's Resolutions 

My New Year’s resolution in 2017 was to build a treehouse in the woods. Yep, it was a very mature endeavour that would help me grow into a better person. My original resolution was to be more wild. I wanted to spend more time outside, being a feral child and swimming in lakes, climbing trees and getting dirt under my nails. I wanted to do more hiking, hunting, fishing, swimming and general chillin’ in the great outdoors. I thought the resolution had the right intentions but needed something more tangible to determine if it was a success or not. So hence the “build a treehouse in the woods” resolution. 

I planned to build the structure illegally in a National Park, in a location that was secret but not too difficult to hike to with supplies. 

I was more wild in 2017 and it was a great year for me. My family lives on a farm in southern Alberta and I spent most of my time at home, riding horses and spending time in the garden. My gardening skills improved significantly, it’s an apprenticeship that requires man hours. I put in a week hunting Bighorn sheep by horseback and sleeping in an outfitters tent in October. We produced 70 lbs of deer from field-to-table, doing every part on our own. Looking back, I definitely had a wild year. 

The only problem was I didn’t actually complete my resolution. I scoped out a spot and planned things out, but the actual labour of construction didn’t happen - so I chalk that up as a fail. 

So I’m moving last year’s resolution up to 2018 and pairing it with my New Year’s resolution which is to try standup comedy. 

Building a treehouse in the woods and doing stand-up comedy feel like a match made in heaven!

Turtle House 

As an independent singer-songwriter I often rely on the kindness of strangers. People offer to put me up for the evening and many times I accept these invitations. Musicians have been doing this for a long, long time, it comes with the territory. 

I’ve met many good friends doing this and stayed in many different homes with people from all walks of life. 

It’s almost always works out for the best. 

Except one time..... 

My pedal steel player, Dylan, and I had played a really nice show in a B.C. It felt like the entire town showed up and it was one of those nights when everything worked. People were buying what we were selling and we had the audience in the palm of our hands. Not every show goes that way and we have done this long enough to know to appreciate those moments when they come. 

This particular gig didn’t provide accommodations. We knew we could either pay out of pocket for a hotel room, sleep in the car, or try to find a place to stay. Each option comes with it’s own pros and cons. 

We began talking with a nice group of people and one of the guys offered us accommodations at his house. He said that he had just been divorced and had a large, empty house. His friends were really nice and it seemed normal enough. We decided to accept the offer. 

We followed the man to his house, in our car. He was driving strangely, going noticeably slow at times and swerving all over the road. We hadn’t noticed him drinking and started to question our decision. 

It was around midnight when we arrived. We parked in a very dark alley behind the house. We weren’t familiar with the town and had no idea where we were. 

There were koi ponds in the front yard and the house was a very old, two story home on a large property. He opened the door and we were greeted by a one-eyed cat named Jack. 

He brought us up the stairs and as we moved up the creaky, old, staircase, it seemed to shrink and become disproportionate. It made you feel like you were moving into a different dimension when you walked up the stairs. 

There were two rooms upstairs. The first room belonged to the man’s estranged ex-wife. It was her sewing room, and it was outfitted with a bookshelf of dated Japanese books, trinkets, and a beautiful old sewing machine. The room seemed to be covered in dust and things looked as if they hadn’t been touched or moved since she left.  It felt like “Great Expectations”, things were preserved in an unhealthy way. 

The other room had a large bear rug on the floor. “That’s where one of you can sleep, he said.” We both scanned his face to see if he was joking, but he couldn’t have been more sincere. 

He told us that the house was built on the side of a hill and was actually three stories on one side of the house. “Look out the window he said,” as he hung half his body out the window while hanging on with one hand. He encouraged us to do the same thing. I hesitantly stuck my head out and peered down the three stories. It was frightening. He encouraged me to hang my head out further. I had a strange feeling that he was going to push me the entire time. 

Next, he brought us back down the stairs and showed us the other guest room. It was a small room with a single bed in it. It was painted white with nothing on the walls. There were three turtle tanks in the room. Two were empty, while the third had a large turtle with nothing but water and a single block of wood for the turtle to sit on. The turtle snapped anytime you put your hand close to the glass, and I felt immensely sad for the creature. 

I weighed the odds in my head. My sleeping choices were sleeping on the floor on a bear rug, or sleeping in the turtle room. Neither seemed like good options. Actually, both were the worst options. I would much rather sleep in the car at this point. 

The rest of the house was filthy and had a very strange presence to it. He assured us that the house was haunted. 

The man then began to tell us a story about sport fisherman who he had caught poaching without a license. He explained how the fisherman would just rip the hooks out of the fishes mouths and violently chuck them back into the ocean. 

While he was telling us this story he became animated and violent. He looked at Dylan as if he was one of the fisherman. He seemed to be blurring the lines of reality and directing the entire story at Dylan. His voice became louder and louder. Fear and anxiety started to fill my stomach. I didn’t feel right about the situation. 

Veins in his forehead began to pop and he began to appear taller and taller. His presence grew and he felt like a giant, screaming and ranting about nothing. He was filled with anger and I began to plan an emergency course of action. 

I carefully calculated that I was going to punch him as hard as I could directly in the throat as soon as he crossed the threshold. I determined that I wasn’t going to second guess myself and was going to hit him with everything I had and ask questions later. I was starting to think in survival mode. He was huge and had the crazy factor working in his favour. 

Before I could throw a punch, I had another idea. I interrupted his story and told him that we had left our guitars in the car (which was true) and that we needed to grab them at once, as we never left them unattended. 

We put on our shoes and opened the door. As were were walking out he asked, “do you want some Delicio pizza?” 

We got to the car and realized we were parked in the smallest alley, directly in front of his house. I had to do a 9-point turn to get the car in the opposite direction and I frantically pictured the man smashing our windows open with an axe when he realized we were trying to escape. 

When we finally got the car turned around, we blew out onto the darkened, nameless street. 

We ended up sleeping in the car in a casino parking lot. I kept on waking up, expecting the man to be smashing in the window. I had dreams of turtles and Japanese trinkets and falling out of a window that night. 

That was the last we saw of the strange man. I hope he enjoyed the pizza.

The Library 

I’ve always loved libraries. They are proof that we’ve made some progress as a society. Free information for the general public, archives of history, literature for the masses. 

My friend Mandi says that “a library is the last place for an introvert.” 

When I first moved to Calgary, the library was my sanctuary. I would nestle into one of the comfy chairs in a suburban library, surrounded by mothers and young children scouring for picture books and movies. On the weekends I would take the train down to the Central library and surround myself with the homeless, the freaks and the leftover hippies. I would scour the shelves for CD’s from local bands, and the entire discography of every member of the band Uncle Tupelo. 

I still remember pulling Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 off-the-shelf, and realizing shortly into the book, that my life would never be the same. I think about finding Slaughterhouse-Five and being properly introduced to Kurt Vonnegut. I can’t forget going through Paul Newman’s filmography on DVD while being alienated and alone in a new city. 

(Ps, The Sting and Sometimes A Great Notion are underrated gems) 

The last 10 books I’ve read (from the Calgary library) *This list has not been updated*

Rebirth: A Fable of Love, Forgiveness, and Following your Heart 

by Kamal Ravikant 

Perfect Youth: The Birth of Canadian Punk 

by Sam Sutherland 

Get Started in Self-Publishing 

by Kevin McCann 

Comedy Writing Secrets 

by Mark Shatz 

Barney’s Version 

by Richler Mordecai 

On Writing 

by Charles Bukowski 

How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia 

by Mohsin Hamid 

New Slow City 

by William Powers 


by Jonathan Franzen 

Undermajordomo Minor 

by Patrick deWitt