Category: Work

Politics

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I drag my sorry ass outside in a desperation trip to the grocer. I don’t want to get groceries but I never want to get groceries, and I know that my one remaining pear won’t be enough to last me until Friday, even if I have no appetite. I forget my bike helmet in the apartment, so I risk permanent debilitation because I cannot look past the seven steps to my bedroom even though I know I may never walk again because of it. Politics.

One of those days where starting smoking sounds like a good idea because of how it reflects inner thought.

The grocer is sad. Only one jar of peanut butter on the shelf, wrinkled limes in the fridge, no deodorant left. But it has good intentions. I still manage to spend $60. Get home, eat a few crackers and a homemade hummus that tastes like tunafish, get back on the bike to go to the hockey rink.

The ice is soft like our discussion of impotence. Existential non-boners. We play hockey on the ice anyway. Rather destroy what is left of the rink in the name of a good time than preserve it for someone who would enjoy it less.

Somehow my Spam folder knows what I dreamt about the night before.
HotH00kup Alert
H0rny Sextmatch

Couchsurfers from Quebec politely put up with my sad-man room and speak excitedly about their impending trips to brighter lands. The arcade is closed, the only sober thing to do in the city, so we go for a beer. We only get one beer, so it is good. Bed by ten. Not bad.

Trying to to distract myself because good people die when bureaucrats want successful track records for their resumes and political futures. Because the real world and the citizenry run in never-overlapping circles and we make decisions for the citizenry. We make decisions for the taxpayers who pay the wages. Politics.

Season of the Badlands

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The following was originally published with photos in Of Land & Living Skies: A Community Journal on Place, Land, and Learning. For more interesting content and events, consider becoming a Sask Outdoors member at SaskOutdoors.orgDigital magazine available here.

Just west of the yard in a field of summer fallow is a rock. Its existence alone isn’t remarkable; there are a multitude of rocks in the dirt around Horse Creek. All over the prairies there are rock piles, decades or centuries of rounded stones the size of softballs or buffalo skulls or lawnmowers, stacked as monuments to the neighbouring broken earth. But the rock west of the yard, picked out of the ground to clear the way for tilling, ended up being the size of a small car. Forty paces from the road it looks substantial but unremarkable; flat and several feet high, grey brown, leaning back with a salute to the sky, the remaining clover hissing at its base. But the illusion disappears when it is approached. It juts out significantly, looking like the missing nose of the Sphinx. A nearly immovable object, even with all the trucks and tractors around, because of its size and the damage it would do to the road and the ditch. It would look good in the garden but the force needed to move it is a force we do not have. So there it sits.

My grandma was born in Horse Creek. I never knew this until a week before I headed there myself. Horse Creek is located on Treaty 4 Territory, seventeen miles south of McCord, 110 miles southwest of Swift Current and just sixteen miles as the crow flies from the American border. If you look for it on a map or even the internet, you may not find it. In a time of unions and co-operatives, grandma’s father was a carpenter in Horse Creek for her first year of life. Last November, I was in Horse Creek holding tape measures and nailing boards and starting my own imaginary union to provoke my anti-union, farming friends.

Much of that summer was spent exploring the badlands of southern Saskatchewan. The first weekend of spring meant camping with three friends at Grasslands National Park, which shares the same hill ranges as Horse Creek. In 4x4s we were guided through pastures and down ravines to Storey Lowell’s, the local folklore touting it as an early hideout for horse rustlers, when it is more modestly two adobe shacks that made the home of an old homesteader. Later we hiked in at McGowan’s Visitor Centre and camped in a coulee just steps from the moon-like landscape of dirt and cliff. Before darkness settled we walked to the highest point in sight, overlooking the crumbling badlands, with heavy clouds and bursting light advancing from the south sky. Walking back in the heavy showers we purposefully searched out the storied quicksand piles by tossing rocks on odd looking pieces of dirt, then toeing them, then stepping on them, then stomping on them, tempting our fate for a movie-like reaction from the earth. We never found any quicksand.

Later in summer we visited Castle Butte, a massive ice-age-created structure of sandstone and clay reaching to the sky of the Big Muddy. A few miles from there we navigated to Buffalo Effigy, the flat outline of rocks which shape a buffalo on the highest hill around——a sacred site now part of a pasture, luckily fenced off and somewhat preserved. A few weeks later we camped at St. Victor Petroglyph Park, timeworn carvings on horizontal rock on the top of another highest hill in the area. These three sites of identity and significance to the First Peoples, all purposefully placed on top of the highest of hills, existed long before my maternal grandparents settled in the area——around Harptree, Brooking, Radville——and began creating their own monuments in picked rock piles and homesteads.

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In the snow-covered shortgrass prairie of Horse Creek, I attempted to experience the ranching and farming life in which my family was once rooted. I picked bales and fixed fence and tried to be useful. When on break, to bolster my writing craft, I urinated poems into the snow in cursive.

When heading south to move lumber or check on cows it looked as though the clouds that rested on the hills that enclose the badlands were the end of the world, which in my own way, is the truth. The badlands are dead land and past them is a barbed wire pasture fence that is patrolled with drones and satellites of the American border guard. Other border-adjacent land is sold off to multinational companies scavenging for oil whose only identity in the land they own is corporate identity. The end of the world and the end of identity exists in deserts and robots and contracts.

I have a vested interest in preserving this land from such ominous ends because I feel connected to it in some vague, flaky kind of way. My friend who has lived here his whole life and whose family has farmed it for a century offers the same. Giving up his land would be the last thing he would do, and because of his connection to the land he acknowledges that he knows to some extent what it might have felt like when the settlers came. I identify with the land that sits atop the badlands because of personal history, but this land does not identify with me any more than it identifies with the farmers or ranchers or indigenous peoples or the Queen who leases it out or that rock west of the yard.

The connection felt from being on the land, from spending time caring for it and working it, is universal and real. I am not entitled to this land, nor is any one person or group of people. Instead the land has an entitlement to be inhabited by people who identify with it, because those who identify with the land are more apt to treat it as it ought to be treated.

To be an asset to the land, to be the type of person that the land is entitled to, I learn as much as I can about how it works and how to live well on it. About all its intricacies of connectedness, which offer lessons of how to exist and how to relate. Like the rock west of the yard, I am not out of place standing alone on the prairie, I only look that way when I am dug up from the city and thrown naked in a field. Like the rock, my ancestral composition lies in the soil, just as everyone else.

Each time I visit the badlands and hills adjacent I seek out the highest geographical point possible——to feel the wind’s unmitigated power or to fully realize the thunderstorm that approaches. Monuments that mark time, the carvings and effigies and buttes of the area, are locations of height for a reason. They are standing points that we revisit to watch the thunderstorm of the future steadily move in. The easiest place to keep your feet grounded for change and resistance is in community and identity. Strengthening our connection with these highest places is the only way to ensure the thunderstorm doesn’t come in and drown us all out and to ensure that when we are walking home, we see the pits of quicksand that would otherwise swallow us up.

I drove out of the yard and left the farm behind with a year of vagrancy and foreign experiences on the horizon. The rock west of the yard sat silent with the ice fog painted low in the background. The rock will quite likely be there when I get back.

To look just on the surface, and think that what you see from horizon to horizon is all that is needed to survive, is to misunderstand your place on the ground which you stand. To scale its heights-to learn its lessons—one must be alive to the underlying structures that support the visible and not-so-visible world around you.

-John Borrows (Kegedonce), Drawing Out Law: A Spirit’s Guide (University of Toronto Press, 2010, p72)

Lyrics of the Month: December 2015

The Funeral Procession

The funeral procession passed by here today. Confusion and questions left strewn in its wake. But I feel like I knew his pain-a mechanical failure while enduring the norm. Some of us fracture, others simply deform and lose their elasticity, never to return to the shape they were. I wonder which is worse? I try to keep my composure amidst the insanity, resigned to the truth that I will not live to see the dawn of a better day that might wash away the sadness of this age. I try to keep the voices calling me at bay, desperately clinging to any futile act of human decency. The voices love to remind me of my futility. Sitting on my hands hoping anyone else than me will do what should be done, it’s hard to not succumb as they call my name. You gotta keep on truckin’ anyways.

-Propangandhi, Supporting Caste, The Funeral Procession

Good People

I sat cross-legged in the cushioned armchair, scratching paint off my water bottle in the cozy, warmly coloured, obviously intentionally non-institutional office of my psychologist/psychotherapist/whatever.

Isn’t it enough to just be a good person and treat people well? she asked after a near hour-long discussion of how far one needs to go to make the world less of a festering shit hole, with me grinding myself into a hole trying to figure out how to do so.

I thought it over. I pictured the tax-paying, maybe church-going, home-owning, child-rearing city councillor who occasionally shovels his neighbour’s sidewalk and might even give a few bucks in December to one of the organizations that sent Christmas mail-outs. His kids are in hockey. He loves his spouse.

No, I said. That’s a cop out. 

I wondered what she thought—-that I was attacking her personally—-or if she was clinically breaking down my obvious guilt that stems from years in conservative religion, my fear that comes from the insecurity issues of being the youngest child, my anger from decades of not expressing myself in healthy mediums, and my depression which is induced by the daily watching of my friends dying while my other friends are not even able to give a shit. She was likely doing neither, she is significantly smarter than I.

Because of constant deconstruction of social programs, the development of neighbourhoods that are exclusive in nature, and the importance financial-driven success, being a good person means keeping to one’s self. It means not being an evil person. Not being a murderer, rapist, tax-evader, alcoholic, street worker. Not beating your children or spouse. Not pouring toxic waste into a animal rescue facility. Not bothering your neighbour. Being a good person, by the standards of our colonial, patriarchal society, means staying in line. The fact that my day job exists entirely to remind people of their worth, that they aren’t bad people for needing a shot of morphine everyday by noon, that they aren’t bad people if they fall off the wagon, that they aren’t bad people for being on welfare, that they aren’t bad people for having a culture that precedes the current—-the fact that this day job even exists, shows that good people, in today’s standards, are those with privilege.

I drank a sip from my water bottle, an action steeped in anxiety, done to make me look more natural. After a near hour of discussing my rage, my mind became blurry. By the time we got around to ways I can improve upon myself, I didn’t have the energy to comprehend new ideas. I pretended to take another sip of water from the empty bottle and nodded along with my psychological professional.

Being a good person and treating people well wouldn’t be a cop out if it meant something else. If it means more than smiling in public and not using racial slurs, then it may be enough. Enough to make changes that matter, to staunch the wounds that pour blood into the alleys. But until it does, until the characteristics of being a ‘good person’ include understanding and standing up for those our system have methodically destroyed, being a good person is not enough.

It’s not the fault of the good people that they are good people under the current model of good. We have been gutted and replaced with slop from the machine of individualistic, selfish commercialism. Our jobs don’t allow us the time to give a shit. In order to stay sane, we bask in the glory of our beautiful families and don’t look out the window to the family being kicked to the curb by a police officer, because we legitimately don’t have time, because the Mayor has stricken that topic from discussion in council, because if we do, we’ll get depressed. Good people everywhere don’t know how to participate in a change they want to make, so they rely on posting on internet, or they don’t do anything. I am that kind of good person.

Tonight as I watched city council directly shut down citizen concerns, bully them by calling requests of accountability disrespectful, and promote gun violence as seen on their favourite television shows, I watched a room full of good people fighting for their definition of good. The uninformed relied on tokenism, touching stories, and fear tactics to justify their definition of good, that is, to justify the increase in funding for the organization that protects their privilege. The informed stood up and defended their idea of good, that is, they were willing to understand and stand up for the good people outside of the room who have been trampled by the uninformed, power-protecting policies of racial profiling and bad-person profiling. Everyone was working for their own idea of good. Some of them were just unfortunately, painfully, and dangerously uninformed. I left city hall with a renewed interest in changing our current definition of what makes a good person. How we go about doing that has never been my strength.

I left the psychologist’s office $160 poorer, one-hour later, one vague understanding of fear and guilt, with one empty water bottle. I’m going to have to book another appointment. Or two.

 

Lyrics of the Month: November 2015 – Geoff Berner

My city has been in a housing crisis
For fifteen years or more,
Middle class families can’t afford to live here,
And there’s a ten thousand dollar fine
For being poor.
They said if we let them build all these condo towers,
The market would pull down the rent,
Now we’ve got the most expensive city
On the whole damn continent.
Our Mayor says he wants Eco Density,
And of course it’s a sin not to be Green,
But when Mayor Happy Planet says Eco Density
What does he really mean?

He means
Sunday, condos
Monday, condos
Tuesday and Wednesday
Condos,
Thursday, Friday,
A few more condos,
Saturday, for a change,
Condos.

What happened to a thousand culture buildings and counting?
They knocked them down to build some condos.
And the social housing on Little Mountain?
Get rid of it!
(We need more condos.)
The Ridge, Richards, the Capital,
That’s a special kind of condos—
The kind of condos that you call
After the thing that you knocked down to make the

Sunday, condos
Monday, condos
Tuesday and Wednesday,
Condos,
Thursday, Friday,
A few more condos Saturday, for a change,
Townhouse condominiums.

What’s the plan for the Georgia Viaduct?
Well, they’re gonna knock it down and build some condos,
And why’s the city four hundred million dollars on the hook? —–They’re fucked!
They paid some guys to build Olympic condos.

And what about the sacred burial site?
Not as sacred as condos,
Till the Musqueam Nation actually put up a fight,
And that’s how you stop the condos.

So what’s going to happen now, for God’s sake?
Are we just going to let them build more condos?
Or could there be a time when we finally put the brakes
On Vancouver’s mad sickness for

Sunday, condos
Monday, condos
Tuesday and Wednesday Condos,
Thursday, Friday,
A few more condos,
Saturday, for a change,
Market artist live/work studios.

Geoff Berner, We Are Going To Bremen To Be Musicians, Condos

Blogging will save the world..

White Butte

I was accidentally put on a ‘panel of experts’ discussing homelessness at a recent documentary release. Politicians mingled with professors and service providers in an eatery that neighbours the dry men’s shelter. Concerned citizens arrived early to bounce pleasantries off one another, nibbling on fine sausage and kalamata olives. I showed up late, downed a whiskey to calm the nerves, and shook with anxious rage throughout the entire documentary.

The panel discussion concluded past its allotted time, and the moderator hurriedly spilt the plan, funding model, and hopes for the upcoming year in the industry of homelessness, with no one really understanding what it all meant. The crowd left restless and confused as to how to help, and the panelists left more disgruntled than before, and a month later, mid-October, there are still people sleeping in the alley in Regina.

As a white male, when I speak, people generally listen. They listen for two or three sentences until they realize that I don’t know what I’m saying, then they rightfully daydream about food and sports and sex. On this year’s Blog Action Day, a day where organizers attempt to unite writers under one socially-driven topic (a day that I use the prompt to get off my ass and write something off-topic), people were asked to consider the title Raise Your Voice. Writers, artists, and journalists have the responsibility to tell the stories of those who are unable to do so. But an important part of this is to give people the platform to tell their own stories. Those whose voices need to be heard—the marginalized, the people of colour, the refugees, the LGBTQ2, the Indigenous, the working class—are denounced because a wealth-driven patriarchal society determines whose voices have worth. For completely unjust reasons, I have a voice. Instead of only ever using my voice to amplify the voices of others, I attempt to use my voice and my actions to create a place where others can be heard without need for amplification. When you create a place where people have inherent value, their voices will inevitably be heard.

To Raise Your Voice in the digital era by blogging, sharing, liking, or ranting is as effective as leaving scraps of paper with motivational slogans blowing in the gutters. Divisive and irritating, the internet only further entrenches beliefs and perpetuates ignorance. While speaking on the panel I kept repeating this idea that we can pressure and lobby government until our heads explode, but that this is only one, arguably ineffective, means to creating change. That the only way homelessness and class-divide will end is through a system-wide change, altering how we treat and relate to one another, and changing the wealth and social inequalities that oppress minorities. I left the event feeling empty and sick, for I sounded like a politician—pushing for an idea while offering no tangible examples of how it might work and while participating in no organizing that may lead realization of the idea.

Appealing to the judicial, legislative, or executive branches of government in the hope of reform is as realistic as accepting the offer made by the March Hare during the Mad Tea-Party in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland:
“Have some wine,” the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.
Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea.
“I don’t see any wine,” she remarked.
“There isn’t any,” said the March Hare.

-Hedges, Wages of Rebellion, The Post-Constitutional Era, p 61

On Thanksgiving Monday I biked to the advanced polls to participate in the experiment of democracy. My hands numb in the wind, I waffled left and right each time I saw an election sign posted in a front lawn, truly not knowing who’d get my vote upon arrival. I’d rather waffle left. I voted in a way that reflects my values. I voted in a way that is considered a throwaway. This is because I do not believe in the ability for real reform under the current economic system in which the major parties function, but I simultaneously participate in this economic system and rarely make an effort in being a part of breaking it down. When I raise my voice but drink my sorrows, doing nothing to participate in making true change, I am complicit.

Later on Thanksgiving Monday I lost a game of cribbage to a person who I’ve only known for a few months. It definitely wasn’t the first game of crib I’ve ever lost, and sure, I gave away several pairs of sevens to the crib. After he pegged out and we congratulated ourselves on a game well-played, I laid on the floor and watched him paint while we listened to new Northcote and RahRah. My new friend has been housed for three months, homeless for years before that, and still requires regular and extensive assistance to live a healthy life. I am extremely privileged to be employed by one of the few places that actively works to repair the damages caused by the wealth inequality synonymous to the capitalism, however, continually cleaning up the messes left by a system that purposefully destroys the lives of a particular cultural group is ineffective. Working within the current system is necessary to a point, but a total dismantling of this system is required to ensure real, lasting equality.

There is no morality in words. Morals are behavioural, based in how a person acts. A person can raise their voice to the heavens while sitting in their recliner. If you raise your voice without breaking a few walls, no one outside your already-converted group will hear you. Breaking walls means breaking laws, breaking norms, supporting (verbally and physically) oppressed minorities, and thinking outside of the “cult of the self”* in which we find ourselves.

And I can say with certainty that I’ve never broke down a wall in my life…

*Hedges

Lyrics of the Month: August 2015 – Incalculable Effects

We were all together in the pouring rain. Solvents being passed around to dull the pain. The air was choked with the dismal smell. The reek of sadness and despair. Minds fucked-up beyond repair. She said she just turned six. She’s got some good jokes for a kid. She’s working hard to avoid a woman bleeding from her teeth. Her life goes on despite the fact her mom sleeps fucked-up on the cement. She flashed a look, an image burnt into my mind. I know that sinking feeling all too fucking well. Shame, frustration setting in. Confusion that burns us inside out. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I don’t know why she can’t wake up.” Her life goes on despite the fact. Her mom lays fucked-up on the cement. It’s an ugly fucking world.

Propagandhi, Supporting Caste, Incalculable Effects

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!”

Carmichael Free Press copy

Counter Assault

We stood on the trail from the lake to our campsite, holding hands in fear of our premature deaths. What the fuck is that, I had wondered, an elk? It was a blondish brown patch of fur the size of a beach towel, stomping in the bush. It turned its body around for us to see enough of its shoulder to know that it wasn’t a charming, peaceful elk, but a medium-sized, overly curious grizzly. We backed our way down the path, jingled our keys and bear bells like distracted children at a Christmas pageant, trying to remember the advice from the Bear vs Human pamphlets. We spoke loudly, awkwardly. She recited poetry, I repeated it in booming baritone.

Not to lose the feel of the mountains
while still retaining the prairies
is a difficult thing. What’s lovely
is whatever makes the adrenalin run;
therefore I count terror and fear among
the greatest beauty. The greatest
beauty is to be alive, forgetting nothing
although remembrance hurts
like a foolish act, is a foolish act.

-John Newlove, excerpt from The Double-Headed Snake, The Wascana Poetry Anthology

The fear of death brought the idea of practice into our minds. The more your practice it, the less you fear it. The next week, (although we saw no more quadrupedal omnivores on the trail) we felt stronger, more secure, more confident in grizzly country. But the pressurized can of capiscum in my back pocket, Counter Assault Bear Spray, may have been the source of that confidence. By the tenth time I see a bear, fear will be an afterthought and the Coghlin’s Brand Survival Horn that we bought for a sense of security will be even more of a prank.

After nearly two weeks surrounded by a Matt Goud/Tim Barry/Ken Freeman/Allison Weiss tour, you learn to fear not death, but inaction. Don’t be afraid of dying, be afraid not to live, Tim would say most nights. A wasted life is worse than death. Not in a danceclub/yolo/butt-touch kind of way, but in a I’ve-wasted-enough-time-on-all-the-bullshit kind of way. These mantras ring throughout the art that most closely resonates with me. But ‘wasting’ is what needs to be discovered. What is living?

The greatest
beauty is to be alive, forgetting nothing

I’m reading books about writers. Fiction books. Bohemian authors of San Francisco or Toronto talk about the noble craft and its apparent sexual exploits. Dry literature, to me, but classic to many. It somehow puts the fear in me. Not the fear of death, but the fear of running out of things to say that are worth anything, the fear of writing about writing; writing about extramarital affairs, writing about ‘cultural eras’. So here I am, trying to scare the fear away the only way I know how. With practice.

I dream of quitting my day job to write. Drive across the country occasionally, wash dishes at the pizza place, sit in a grungy library facing a scuffed-up wall and do something as banal as ‘express myself’, being naive enough to think it might change someone’s perspective. But to me, not paying attention to your neighbour is a waste of both your life and theirs. Not living is comforts and distractions. Quitting to pursue a naive selfish dream of typing nonsense onto a dead tree or into a digital void, can seem like a waste. Is a waste.

But it may also be a waste to isolate, to work 11 hours a day even in the vague name of social justice, to sit in a stiflingly humid bachelor apartment overflowing with hats, broken bicycles, interprovincial beer. So which is it?

Not to lose the feel of the mountains
while still retaining the prairies
is a difficult thing…

It becomes a lot easier to fear not death, when it isn’t literally knocking on your fire escape window, asking your deteriorating body if you want a huff. To have the privilege to even make this choice is what eats me alive like a starved grizzly south of the Crow’s Nest Pass. And these words are my only Counter Assault.

HAT FARM

Hat Farm

HAT FARM on Instagram

Since it’s invention, the ball cap has been the preeminent accessory of comfort and the ultimate casual lifestyle. People participating in baseball games or other leisure activities, those hiding from the harsh rays of the sun, those who don’t know how else to deal with a bad hair day, or those who don’t take themselves too seriously, wear hats. But they also wear hats simply because hats are comfortable.

HAT FARM was born out of a desperate need for simple funds for the Carmichael Outreach Housing Program, and the regular classic hat donations received by the Clothing Depot Donation Program. Carmichael’s Housing Support Team works to remove the barriers the community has in finding adequate and safe housing, which often includes small financial obstacles that aren’t covered in other budget lines or in housing clients’ budgets. The profits made here will go towards removing those barriers and thus housing people, and keeping them housed.

 Teddy

The hat I wear daily is one I’ve had since I was 12 years old, but only started wearing it about a decade ago. I have separation anxiety when I don’t have it for long periods of time. I have nearly lost it out the window of moving vehicles, in fist fights on the beach in Mexico, in severe gusts of prairie wind, in the rivers of Thailand, off ferries on the west coast. I’ve repaired the plastic snap three separate times, and the once body-filled hat now rests limp and tattered like a discarded pair of briefs. I have moments of panic knowing that one day it will disappear in a drunken stupor or traumatic event, some instance where losing your head and what rests upon it is possible. For that reason I began auditions for a new, future everyday hat. Like when your best friend moves away, you start flipping through your contact book dejectedly for someone that may be able to partially fill the void, if anything at least for a weekly beer.

When I began hat auditions I happened to be working at Carmichael Outreach, a community drop-in centre downtown Regina with free food, coffee, hygiene products, housing services, needle exchange, and clothing, open to anyone in the city. Hundreds of clothing donations are dropped off to the back door weekly where they are sorted and put out for the community depending on their seasonal use and if there is room in the tiny three-rack clothing depot. Community members browse daily for clothes, dishes, puzzles, Patsy Cline CDs, used printers, children’s books, all of which are free in the clothing depot, open all day Monday to Friday. Closets from all over Saskatchewan have been cleaned out after decades of storage bringing in vintage Star Wars toys, unworn embroidered cowboy shirts, antique decorative plates, slightly malfuctioning DVD players, and much more.

Larsen's

One day I walked into the clothing depot to find a stack of hats six feet long, the collection of hat connoisseurs around the province. Farm industry logos, country legends, family vacation destinations, family reunions, all immortalized on the unparalleled medium of the trucker hat. Several small town hat collectors dropped off their decades-old work so that hatless men in the city could feel the dignity of cranial comfort once again. Before the hats were put on the rack, I searched through the most classic, mint condition, collectors hats from all over the world, and documented the rest which have all been put back into the clothing store.

All proceeds from the hats collected and sold here will go towards the Carmichael Outreach Housing Program, including funds for damage deposits, carpet cleanings, new small household items, fees for money orders for rent payments or identification applications, or any other potential barriers that might keep community members from maintaining stable housing in the City of Regina. Because as much as a person needs a nice ball cap to feel comfortable, a roof over their head does them one better.

For more information, to buy, or to donate, email thehatfarm@gmail.com

Halfway Husky