Category: Photography

Learning to tie your shoes at 27.

Shoelaces

“You’re tying your shoelaces wrong,” Grandpa told me after he slipped on his insulated rubber boots he wears when flooding the North Weyburn rink. I told him that he’d shown me before, thinking back to one of the other times someone tried to revolutionize my life at mid-age by teaching me more effective ways to tie shoes. Once, a Chinese student in my boarding school in grade 12 had some extremely efficient, one-motion trick he learned in the Chinese Army. The other, an employer told me that we use the ‘weak version’ of the bow knot, overhand instead of under. Neither stuck.

“You make a loop with that there, then you wrap around twice, and feed it through, and pull it tight. Then it’ll never come undone and all you have to do is pull that one to undo it,” Grandpa said. And that’s how I learned to tie my shoes at the age of 27.

We went outside, opened the valve in the pumphouse, hooked up the thick pipe to the protruding attachment sticking out of the earth five feet, insulated with foam and plastic so it wouldn’t entirely freeze through in the winter. He gave me the nozzle and I poured water over an already well-established base of ice, begging to be cut into. Get more water more in that corner, enough to melt all that snow. Don’t flood too much, that’s when you get those little hills. Close the nozzle partially, it’ll shoot further. Ice up the entranceway so the tractor doesn’t bring gravel in when we scrape. Flood between minus 5 and 15 degrees, otherwise it’ll crack. And other pieces of advice I proceeded to forget immediately after he offered them. We drained the hose of water to and left it sitting out in a ditch next to the little hill.

After mandatory microwaved morning coffee and reading a few history books about homesteading Europeans that look like the cold survivalist versions of my grandparents, they set to making seemingly overcomplicated cabinets for the church kitchen remodel, and dropped me at the pottery wheel. Pottery, the making of receptacles primarily for food purposes, is heralded as a soul-calming, primal, spiritual experience between human being and the clay from which the human being is fabled to be formed. Pottery, that terrifying experience of being so close to failure at every minor hand motion, brings about in me an anxious rage that characterizes my last few years of life. It is so easy to lose centre. The metaphor is too damn easy.

Each time I return to the humming potter’s wheel, once a year usually, I dread the guaranteed failure of destroying a pot, of a finger digging into the too-dry clay, the wheel flinging a half-made bowl across the room. I fear the re-realization of how little I know about anything in the world. But each time, I remember part of a hand motion, part of a technique, part of an idea. And the wads of clay slowly, after decades, start to resemble something more useful than a tiny bowl used for storing lint and thumb tacks. I made five bowls, all failures, simultaneously all worthwhile successes.

The night before, Grandpa slipped on his shoes without bending over, using a four-foot shoe horn. He takes them off with a hand-crafted device of similar brilliance and simplicity. I want to forever to spend my time with those who can continue to teach and reteach me how to tie my shoes and are patient enough for me to figure out that getting rid of laces altogether is the final step to enlightenment.

The Carmichael Free Press

This originally appeared at CarmichaelOutreach.ca.

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Noel, Rocky, Mike and others sat in the coffee room on a Thursday afternoon and asked what was going on for programming that afternoon. “Art Class!” I proclaimed on my way downstairs. I brought up the box of scrapbooking supplies that former gourmet chef and art mastermind Mike Wysminity paid for with money he raised himself by selling tomato plants at the Farmers Market in pots hand-painted by Carmichael art participants.

I tossed markers, fancy-edged scissors, stickers, moon-shaped hole punches on the table and people started creating. Noel wrote an inspirational quote and drew a cartoon. Mike wrote a poem. Lisa wrote a note to her son under a picture of him taken from a previous Carmichael Hockey Day. Brian wrote a story. Then staff members cut them out, organized them, and pasted them on the template, made copies, and printed them for the masses.

The Carmichael Free Press is a grassroots publication on it’s fourth edition so far—a zine style scrapbooking newspaper that anyone can contribute to. Not topical, always different, the Free Press is a creative home for real, not-pretentious, unknown writers, artists, painters, comics, mothers, children, and more, not only to produce something they are interested in—they are proud of, that makes them laugh—but to have it shared with their group of friends, the Carmichael staff, and the greater community.

The first ever headline of the Carmichael Free Press was borrowed from a photograph from a previous Carmichael photography class partnered with the Heritage Community Association and Sask Arts Board.

“Here you go!” he said, as he passed his page to me with the inevitable nervous feeling of sharing something you just created. The headline read, “The Princess Royal Walk – Her Royal Highness Visiting Heritage Centre in Regina Sask…..” with an up-close picture of a loyal volunteer. Everyone in the room laughed at the joke. Real news be damned, street news is what matters. The experiences of people in your neighbourhood who you have never met are what truly matter, not the business interests of private national media. Hailed by its creators as “The most important newspaper in Saskatchewan,” the Free Press begins its climb to the top.

Thursday afternoon Art Class at Carmichael has evolved as necessary from painting to drawing to scrapbooking to newspaper-making to who-knows-what-next, depending on interest, on funding, and on person skills of the facilitator. The informality and drop-in style of the Art Class is what makes it a success. Peter walked into the coffee room, saw his friend sitting at the table, saw markers, scissors, empty pages of the Carmichael Free Press, and sat down for ten minutes, drew a remarkable drawing of a pipe with the smoke forming a buffalo, eagle, bear. He thanked us for the time and headed on his way.

Big Mama Page

Every person has the right to have their voice heard, published, and distributed. People in your city are depressed, pissed off, a little bit high, lonely, in love, tired, dope-sick, or extremely happy, and they are entitled to these feelings. The power that is gained in sharing these feelings, putting them in some creative form, is invaluable. Outside of the online world of status updates and cartoon smiley faces, people need to have a forum to express themselves, and since Facebook and other online media aren’t accessible to those without internet access and aren’t really collective, the Free Press fills the void.

Authors and artists work years to get things published or get their art hanging in a coffee shop in the over-marketed world of writing and art, but that doesn’t make the voice of the amateur any less important. If anything it makes it more significant; not being sold as a commodity or graded like a high school paper.

The Carmichael Free Press is the perfect example of Carmichael programming—drop-in-style, no cost, inclusive to all, hilarious, frustrating, and motivating. Sober or not, published or not, practiced or not, community members can use the Carmichael Free Press as a home for personal expression, a place for injustices to be made public, love to be shared.

The sign-off of our first edition reminds readers what the Free Press is trying to proclaim each and every edition—the importance of listening to and helping out people you have never met, and encouraging you to get to know them one way or another, possibly by participating in your local Free Press!

“Sisters and Brothers, we are all on the same page. So don’t flip me!”

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Pizza Scurvy

Disclaimer: This is not pizza from Vera Pizzeria. This is scummy Montreal metro pizza, which also has it's place.

Disclaimer: This is not pizza from Vera Pizzeria. This is scummy Montreal metro pizza, which also has it’s place.

I have oft dreamed of a world free from the bondages of currency. The ‘bootstraps’ analogy that no longer makes analogical sense would neither make societal sense because people would all have the same strapless boots, the same homes, and the same neapolitan ingredients in the fridge. Where no matter how hard you work, you get a piece of the pie. The pizza pie.

I have oft dreamed of a job that pays me in pizza and beer but until recently I believed it was an impossible, utopian dream. I have found said job. I wear an apron, I swing my hips liberally to the hook-heavy anthems of Jenny Lewis, I spray, scrub, soak, sort, and airdry the cheese-grimed pizza plates of Vera Pizzeria, home of the finest pizza your pedestrian tongue (and undoubtedly mine) will likely ever taste. Contrary to my communist, currency-free compulsions, on busy nights where my free labour has been deemed as moderately necessary, I work hardest and get paid the least, a perfect microcosm of capitalism. In the name of that covetous progress, the human-crushing runaway train that it is, they have sourced a commerical dishwasher. And with the simple stroke of a pen, with the lease of a stainless steel washer that sprays with the intensity of a pissed off geyser at 150degrees centigrade, I have become obsolete.

So with my severance package in hand (a bout of scurvy in my organs from a pizza-only diet), and my travel backpack on my shoulder, I will slither towards an early retirement. Savings were significant in the height of the pizza game, and my investments were sound, so with the wealth of a nation, the tropics call my name. I have long desired, for three years or more, to leave my home to see the homes of others, and now, ticket for Thailand securely in hand, visa for India theoretically in transit, this retirement dream will soon come to pass.

I pack my belongings, patch the holes on my backpack, google trip plans when flashbacks of swimming in the ocean, drinking five-cent chai, eating dogmeat bring excited memories of the learned parts of travel. Then flashbacks of sweaty, anxious, late walks on the beach, the embarassed purchase of tacos from women squatting in the alley across from the department store, feeling responsible and justified when I get attacked on several occasions strike my memory.

Hold on a second. People’s dreams change? Without them even knowing it? Until it’s too late? Well that’s some merited bullshit. Some ironic piece of formaggio pizza, light and bubbly crust on the outside, black and tarry on the inside. I’ve already bought a one-way ticket, already dreamed of the exploits and adventures of the trip for three years. Like a soon-to-be-wife with cold feet, always dreaming of the day she’d get married, but when the vows are written and the dress is tailored and the family has flown into town she realizes that this dream was what she wanted when she was 19, not 29. But she goes through with it anyway because, she figures, it’s still what she wants.

Much has changed in my brain in the three years since I last was in a territory that I was not welcome. For example, I have learned that I have always lived in a territory that I was not welcome; The Dominion of Canada. I have learned that as a person of privilege, I am ignorant and blind to my privilege unless someone calls me out on it, and even then I’m likely too stupid to comprehend it. I realize that abusing this privilege by flaunting it and spending its savings unwittingly, I disrespect those who have no privilege, even if I attempt to be ‘socially responsible’ while I do it.

I am willingly throwing myself into a situation to inevitably become the type of person I never want to be. As if I decided to run in party politics, or get season tickets to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The tenets that I used to hold dear and romanticize about my lifestyle—the learning about culture, and seeing new things, and helping where I can—now come off as paternalistic blather. I am a product of loving parents that worked hard to give me everything I ever needed, which, along with the technologial and economic progression of the west, has turned me into a skilless rube whose only ability is to pick up and go. As a ‘writer’ I use this as ‘inspiration’ for ‘projects’ and ‘essays’.  Previously my impulse was to I enjoy flaking on the lifestyles and traditions of groups of people far from my home that have been adversely flaked on by colonial forces for hundreds of years. Now, I’d prefer to do so at home, by myself, in a rundown house in small-town Saskatchewan where I can negatively affect only the people nearest me.

I look forward to coming out of early retirement to rejoin the workforce and finally stop perpetuating the types of relationships I have come to realize as unbalanced and unfair. I look forward to squatting in a moldy, infested apartment, dressing like a true dishwasher thus embracing the motto, “Dress how you want to be addressed” and forever scrubbing the cheese off of pizza-related tools, all for the simple reason that I am too unintelligent to understand how to truly live in balance with other people, so I’d rather just rot.

Horse Creek 3: Moving Cow

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Horse Creek 2: Unionize

Camper Dreams The floor with a view The Union Carnival Off Season Chickens

Horse Creek 1

The Birds Screw Piles Backhoe Progress Fixing Fence

Claybank

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Summer of the Drunk Bike Crash: A Physics Lesson

Milky Way

In a group of ten cyclists at 2am, third from the front, he hit a back tire. The first rider swerved and cut off the second rider who cut off the third, who flipped over his handlebars in a mess of birthday terror in front of the ice cream shop. He bled from his face, his teeth seemed intact.

After riding a block sitting on the curved handlebars in moments of pure dumb pleasure, he landed on his face and didn’t get up. Brothers have been killing their own brothers since Cain and Abel, sometimes accidentally. On a normal day, killing a brother would have just been a bad day. But on the day when I learned of his forthcoming marriage, killing my brother would have been a manslaughter of biblical proportions. After I knew he was alive and taken care-of I rode home with a helmet on and compared my upcoming and pathetic life to his upcoming and exciting one.

In these experiments with physics I learnt about absolutes. The first crash taught me that particles do not have a well-defined position and velocity, rather a quantum state, which is combination of positions and velocities as defined within the limits of the uncertainty principle.* As I swerved from left to right I proved this correct in that my bicycle and myself had no well-defined position, and because of such, a handsome actor nearly lost his face. There is no absolute space, there is no absolute position. In the second crash I learnt about personal absolutes. I compared his life to mine, contemplating which was the right path.

From day to day I can’t decide if I think that I am God’s gift to the world—intelligence, wisdom, tact, social-graces—or if I am Satan’s shit-stained underwear. I can’t decide if my lifestyle of frugality and abstinence is effective or internal. For some reason I can’t conceptualize myself in any other way than the absolute best or the absolute worst. I battle between a hunger for knowledge and a hunger for rest and in doing so I watch episodes of inane teen dramas from my highschool days in between enjoying chapters about quantum mechanics in Stephen Hawking’s A Briefer History of Time, the simpler version of the science classic, still too complicated for me.

I can’t decide if quitting my job was the worst decision of my life, or the best.

As if I were at my first day of second grade, sitting in a circle on a forest-green area rug stating my favourite colour, food, and subject, I instinctively feel as though there is a best and worst for everything. This summer I caught myself looking out upon the prairies, sitting atop the hill at Buffalo Effigy, the warm wind pelting my face with the view of thousands of miles ahead, the green gullies and yellow hills, and I internally stated that I thought I liked the fields better than the mountains. As though in the universe there were a clear winner as to absolute beauty, or as though my personal preference mattered even the weight of a quark fart. I caught myself creating absolutes for things that didn’t matter and have ever since been attempting to stop from deciding favourites. Having favourites—the best dessert or band or sports team or brand of shoes, is a childish form of having absolutes, and according my new favourite book, science doesn’t seem to have many of these. Such absolutes are the cause of conflict as minor as neighbourly squabbles and as horrendous as genocide.

My mind has always stated the situation as being The Right Way To Live versus The Wrong Way To Live, and leaves out the third option, which is simply, and most importantly, just fucking living. I possibly have been conditioned to draw this binary because of early ties with an absolute God, (which is likely, because every single thing I write is either a secular sermon or a parable or both). But certainly there is no absolute. There is no right or wrong, black or white, good or bad. There is no God’s gift to the world and no Satan’s shit-stained underwear. There is no worst decision of my life, and no best. There are simply decisions, and there is simply the process of living, and the process of creating absolutes for such things destroys science, and destroys humanity.

I have generally given every other person the free pass of just living, but I have yet to do so for myself. Maybe today is the day. Now to decide if that is the right decision or not.

…a star that was sufficiently massive and compact would have such a strong gravitational field that light could not escape: any light emitted from the surface of the star would be dragged back by the star’s gravitational attraction before it could get very far. Such objects are what we now call black holes. (Stephen Hawking, A Briefer History of Time, Chapter 8, p77)

…a person that was sufficiently delusional and introverted would have such a strong introspective field that positivity could not escape: any positivity emitted from the person would be dragged back by the person’s bloated or deflated sense of self-worth before it could get very far. Such people are what we now call people. (Nicholas Olson, This Moment of Time, Chapter Sept8, p2014)

*Stephen Hawking, A Briefer History of Time, Chapter 9, p91-92

Moreland to Spring Valley

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The Adirondack Haystack Still Tours

The Adirondack Haystack Still Tours Mini Book Tour/Camping Trip

July 12 – Kokopelli Salon w/ Son Howler, 2052 Commercial Dr, Vancouver BC, 8pm
July 16 – Oaklands Sunset Market, 1-2827 Belmont Ave, Victoria BC, 4pm
July 18 – Pages Books, 1135 Kensington Road NW, Calgary AB, 7:30pm

See posters below. Click below for PDF versions.

 The Adirondack Haystack Still Tours The Adirondack Haystack Still Tours Poster

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July 16 – Victoria