Building Bridges

Almost one year ago my job was, *ahem*, “bugging” me so badly that I quit. On the spot. Only the second time in my life I’ve done that. Under the circumstances, it was an easy decision. It was also a decision that would propel me into a deep, deep season of change. That incident, coupled with a book recommendation from a customer, sent me on an inward journey. A journey that certainly wasn’t easy and is still ongoing. The fall found me job hopping from part time to part time gig. I trained for delivery work at Canada Post and applied at nearly every restaurant in town (All of which turned me down despite extensive experience). As a result, my journey of discovery and self betterment was also balanced by a serious challenge to my self worth.  Not to mention financial hardship. All of this, typically, would be the perfect storm to propel me into a deep dark depression. And I will confess, there was a day or two here and there. But unusually, I was positive. Calm. Happy and felt (and feel) great peace. Through literature and endless podcasts I became aware of a lot of self limiting issues I was carrying with me. In many cases I was even allowing them, unknowingly,  to direct my life. I set about to reprogram my brain and closely examine some things I had been carrying around for a long time. And most importantly, put the final stranglehold on my ego. 

I employed so many exercises and tools to help accelerate my transformation. Meditation, gratitude, exercise and most importantly, challenging myself to do something that sucks everyday so that when I have to do really hard things there is less resistance from my brain. During this time I came to finally understand what it means when people say “you are not your thoughts”. This felt like the final stage (although it may be the first?!) of a long season of change that I began in 2015. I was finally discovering who I am/was. And why I am/was that way. I’ve learned so much. Much of it has been difficult but extremely rewarding work. 

7 or 8 months into this journey, I managed to find a job I love at a restaurant that is run by people I respect, who seems to give a shit about their product and its quality. Finally, I was gainfully employed again and could begin chipping away at my seven months of unemployment debt.  The fact that the restaurant’s name translates to “to cultivate or grow”, is/was not lost on me. I don’t think it is a coincidence that they were, literally, the only place that would hire me and a place I would find comfort and happiness. After all, I had just spent the winter Odla’ing my self! 77F58666-C913-4FF9-B3AF-538A6EBC43D6

This morning I ran the two bridges in my hood like I do every week. The Broadway and Victoria bridges. As I was crossing the Victoria I thought about how long it took them to rebuild that old, closed down, bridge, how beautiful it is now, how often I use it and that every time I cross it I just love that it’s there. Maybe that seems a little odd, but i appreciate the new old Victoria bridge and it’s place in history. Today I stopped to snap a quick photo on each because I realized that I’ve put a lot of work in building a bridge to my self. It took a long time to get the rust off of it. To stabilize and make sure it was safe. To smooth out the surface and fill in some holes. To make it a useful part of my life again. As of today, I’ve been around the sun 45 times. This morning I woke up with my amazing wife Lisa (YUGE shoutout to Lise because without her support, I wouldn’t be the person I am!). My incredible son, Holden. We laughed and played. Hugged and kissed. Shared smiles. Coffee and “waga”. Had some snacks. Later today I’ll head out to work and enjoy every minute of it. I’ll bring some happiness to the lives of people who, I now know, look forward to seeing me when they decide to go out to spend their hard earned money. In between, I’ll be standing on that bridge I built. Grateful for it. Trying to appreciate it and keep up my maintenance on it. If you’re reading this, I wish you the best of luck in finding whatever you are searching for.


Let’s Celebrate!!!

image1-2Life can be scary. Sometimes you wake up and look around and can’t see a goddamned thing that makes sense to you. Your job. Your home. Maybe even your partner. Sometimes you look in the mirror and think, who WAS I before I became this version of myself? Sometimes there is a feeling so deep down inside you that it cannot be stopped. It cannot be satisfied with a pat on the head or a swig of whiskey. It cannot be quieted with a shushing finger on the lips. It slaps that hand away from your own face and comes galloping out of your guts and right up into that place that doesn’t consult your brain before strumming your vocal chords. These moments are pivotal. Gouging a line into the wooden table of life and asking you very slowly with a hard locked, deep eye stare, “WHICH SIDE DO YOU WANT TO STAY ON?!”.

I’ve been there a couple times in my life. And there are only two choices. Stay and continue your journey into a numb insanity or step over to the other side and get your ticket punched as you get on the ride of a lifetime. Things that are worth doing are nearly always buried in hard work. The hard stuff is where we grow. Where we rip open the cocoon and try as hard as we can to finally stretch our wings out. To desperately get a little air underneath there and get a bit of elevation. This is where the real growth is. It hangs near the top of the tree. The place that you scrap your back on to arrive at. And when finally you stretch your arm out maybe, just maybe you graze the skin with your fingertips. This can be what success feels like. Not holding the fruit and gnashing your teeth into it, no. But ever so gently being able to rock that precious morsel on the vine. Yet as you do so, it is like a start button for the tree and BOOM! It’s shoots up into the sky again and off we go. Climbing and climbing and climbing. This is what chasing a dream can be like. This is what running your own business can be like. It is HARD work. To survive for any length of time is a near miraculous feat and deserves celebration. 

I moved here nearly three years ago. One of the first places my amazing partner took me to was 9 Mile nano brewery. I tried a few of the usual suspects and while they all excelled at their personalities, it was the 9 Mile Ale that really poured itself into the cockles of my heart. The staff were a friendly bunch. Courteous and keen. The combination of all these things won me over and I decided this was the place for me. The spot where I would buy my “Fav local” beer and also the place where I would try all kinds of new-to-me beers. Three years later, they make one of my all time fav beers (OC Collab) and I still find myself learning many new things about beer and life, with every visit I make.  Because of all this, I am supremely grateful to be included as a part of their four year anniversary celebrations. This weekend they will throw a party for us, their customers. Who does that?! Aren’t WE supposed to throw a party for THEM?! Well that’s just the sort of folks they are. So all we have to do is show up, drink the best beer in town and enjoy the company of good people. Sounds easy enough?! Sounds like just about every time I’ve darkened the doors at 9Mile. This Friday I will perform a couple sets of music in the taproom. Starting sometime after 7pm. There will be no admission charge. There will be lots of Saskatchewan micro brews on tap. There will be nice people. Families. Maybe even a dog or two?! I would suggest that you round up a couple of your best buds and stroll on down to Riversdale. Pull up a chair at the community table, order a fresh pint and sit back and relax, as you do so, we’ll celebrate the amazing feat of Shawn, Garret and their incredible TEAM. Four years! Here’s to four hundred more. See you Friday at 9 Mile.



Bob Dylan, Sasktel Centre, July 14 2017

image1-2I’m still trying to process this show. Bob Dylan. American icon. Artist. Musician. Lyricist. Modern renaissance man. Bon vivant. No doubt. I understand Bob is not everyone’s cup of tea. I’m not here to persuade you otherwise. I think last Friday was my 7 or 8th time seeing Bob. I’ve enjoyed him every time. This time was exceptional and I’m glad I convinced myself to go. I wasn’t going to. Then I saw some footage from his recent tour. It was killer. Then I realized they’ve been doing the same set all tour. To me, that meant the band should and would be tight. And they were. As the lights went down and the band walked on stage the vibe was immense. And then…there he was. Bob fucking Dylan. That old familiar feeling washed over me…”I’m in the same room as Bob Dylan”. A privilege. For the next little while the band tore through a variety of Bob’s catalogue. From early numbers like Don’t think Twice, to tunes from the “Time” series of albums, to his re-working of the old classics like Stormy Weather to the swinging blues of the album Tempest. It was all displayed and played expertly. Bob’s voice (again, I’m not here to convince you to like it, but I do) was sounding great. He sang the song book tunes with confidence and swagger. Nailing them. Standing confidently with his hand on his hip as his band became an orchestra. Simply as badass as one can be at 76 and clearly aware of it. All night he seemed to clearly be having a good time. Rocking his baby grand, chatting with band mates. He even addressed the audience with a little fist bump to the heart before they left the stage. Something I’ve never seen him do even once before.

The entire night has been replaying in my head over and over since the show ended. Like a good film I’ve been revisiting each scene. Trying to figure out what it all means. I had a number of moments during the show where things seemed to make sense to me. A vision of the timeline of American music. Blues. Jazz. Swing. Torch. Singer songwriters. And of course, RocknRoll. Bob was/is there amidst all of it. It occurred to me that night, there in that room, that Bob is as important a musical figure as anyone. It must have been a similar feeling to be in the room watching Muddy Waters or Howlin Wolf. Sinatra or Miles Davis. Just the knowing that American Music was being made. Real and true. And all night, whether Bob was at his piano or standing impishly with his hand in his hip, it was as if he was saying to me “I know where I fit in music history. You can put me beside Muddy. Frank. Springsteen. ANYONE, and it will all make sense. I am American music.” Thank god I went one more time because Who knows how much longer we’ll get to keep Bob on this sphere.

I always sort of feel bad for the folks I talk to leading up to and after the show. The folks who went to hear knocking’ on Heaven’s Door or Mr Tambourine man, performed as recorded. Of course Bob doesn’t do that. Not, ever, just rarely. You don’t necessarily get what you want at a Dylan show. You always get what you need though. Whether you realize it or not. One thing I have learned for sure in my few decades on this earthly realm, is that when you enter a situation projecting your own expectations, knowingly or unknowingly, you are nearly always met with disappointment and frustration. This is a common human trait. We seem to expect others to behave or deliver what WE want. What WE desire. As if they would even know what that is. That is not how life works. We are individuals. Unique. Singular. It requires great amounts of communication to understand what another human wants or expects. Until that conversation happens we typically just project our own desires onto a situation or someone.  image2

In a conversation about the show with my must friend, Sean Burns, we came to the conclusion that to enjoy his Bobness live now, you can’t just be a “Like A Rolling Stone Fan”, you can’t just be a “Mr. Tambourine fan”, you can’t just be a “Oh Mercy” Fan. You have to be a BOB DYLAN fan. That means loving him and more importantly, accepting him, through all facets of his journey and the all encompassing weirdness that is Bob Dylan.

Ten Years …

Ten years ago yesterday I played my last set at mariposa folk fest. It was a late night bar set. I think Matt Andersen and I hosted the after party of sorts. It is a fuzzy memory. The next morning my sister and I drove hard to NB.

My dad had been dying of Cancer for some time. Somewhere in the late spring it escalated. Got aggressive. It was clear what was going on. My family gathered and prepared for the inevitable. It was an intense time for my family and I remember so much of it fondly and so much of it is a blur. I recall spending much time beside my father while he slept in his morphine cocoon. Although he was weakening there were still lucid moments for quite a while before it got really bad. I remember writing “Afflicted” sitting there, while he slumbered.

I had scheduled my largest tour yet, of my then very young touring career. It would go deep into Ontario culminating in the prestigious Mariposa gigs. I decided it best to cancel the tour. My father and mother insisted I honour my bookings at Mariposa as it was an important gig. Off we went.

I recall selling out of CDs there. It was an amazing weekend. I felt like a real artist. A real musician. It would be the only time I would ever play that festival. I left feeling triumphant. But I also knew that we were heading home into what would easily be the most trying time in my life.

We landed at home shortly after midnight, I think. Memories are a funny thing. Especially ones rooted in trauma. Anyway, I think less than two hours later, at approximately 130 a.m. AST by my memory, my father shed his mortal coil. I held his right hand. My sister to my left. Mother across the other side of the bed and my brother, I think, at the foot. Like many folks who are in their final moments, we had to tell him to let go. That it was ok to move on. He was a strong man and had waited for his kids to get home. How fortunate were we.

His hand trembled mightily. Like an electric charge. I’ll never, ever, forget it. And then, it was clear, my dad had died. The following days were a blur. Funeral. Visits. Campfires. Relatives. Friends. All a blur. Then the adjustment. Life without my family’s leader. We all took turns in new roles. Dealing with the business at hand. Sometimes literally. People came calling for all kinds of reasons. All very educational.

Years passed. You adjust. You navigate life. You carry on. It goes by you but never away. It can leave you completely for years at a time. Convincing you that you have gotten over it. Then, out of nowhere, a song or a blade of grass, perhaps a piece of pie or a car wash lets you know who’s boss. The void of a parent lost is never filled. Ever. We cope. We carry on. We live. Happily. Unhappily. To each their own.

Currently I write this at what seems to be the happiest point in my life this far and let me tell you, I have had some amazing adventure. Yet still I must reflect for a moment…I’ve had this portable bar for ten years. In it is this bottle of scotch that was on my dad’s dresser. The first time I ever tasted any booze was sitting on my dad’s knee (quite possibly from the very glass in this photo) while he and mom had friends over. Scotch and ginger. Probably Sussex’s Golden ginger ale if I had to guess. The very few times I ever saw my dad enjoy an adult beverage, that is what I remember as his drink. Tonight I will take a “swig” of Chivas for the first time since my dad has passed. I don’t know why I never did before. My gypsy life of the past ten years even afforded me the luxury of forgetting about this bottle for a while. Then, in my last move, I looked in the case and was tickled to find this bottle sloshing around. I knew exactly what it was for. Ten years. Hard to believe. Just yesterday I was beginning my touring career. Here I am now in my forties. Relaxing on my back deck in the prairies. Watching the birds gather. Watering the garden. Thinking of own family. It is peaceful. I have been given some amazing gifts in this life. Some have come at great cost but here I am just the same. Grateful for it all.

Ten years will come and go in the blink of an eye. So I cheers to you, my friends and enemies. Let us not forget one another. Let us keep the memory of what we mean to each other necessary. Let us take a moment and dig up that little moment in time that we have buried deep in our minds and let it turn the sides of our mouths and wrinkle the corner of our eyes. Cheers to our past. Cheers to our present. And cheers to our future. Live well. Love hard.


Maritime Shows Announcement

Big news folks, This Summer I will make a quick trip to the Maritimes for a variety of shows.

June 30th I will have my Big F’n Band in full swing supporting I Mother Earth. This is part of the Canada Day weekend festivities and I can’t wait to get back in Freetown for a visit and especially to see legendary rockers WITH Edwin singing. Love that first album of theirs. More detail right HERE

July 1st I will take my trio (Karl Gans, Will Pacey) back to the lovely town of Saint Andrews to celebrate Canada Day at The Red Herring. One of our favourite spots to play in the whole wide world.

July 2nd I venture over to the fair Isle of Prince Edward to perform my solo show at The Trailside Cafe in Mount Stewart. Tickets for that one are right HERE. Don’t hesitate…

I hope to see many of our Maritime friends and fans out for these shows. See you SOOOOOOON!