Saturday, December 13, 2008

Family Gatherings

All of us who are so lucky to enjoy our makeshift extended families—those comprised of close friends and acquaintances who start off as strangers and burrow their way into our hearts—are cognizant of routine minutiae to which others are oblivious. There is an order to our makeshift households and we expect that in due fashion our roommates will adhere to a shower routine or that our best friends will ensure we never go without a pot of coffee. We answer each other’s drunken texts, check the mail and distribute its offerings and are sensitive to even the weakest murmurs of sexual tension. Unlike familial bonds which are derived of blood, our friendship families are formed on the basis of choice and personality; we recognize strengths we have which fit into the greater pattern and skills we use to our own advantage. Even if we deny it, we all play our roles in fashioned drama because it calms us. Perhaps the best thing about these manufactured families is their ability let us grow within them in ways which never cut too close to the bone; perhaps it’s because we create bonds rather than live through them organically. That way, our embarrassments are our own.

I have grown accustomed to my own particular routine: the smoke breaks with good friend Chris Curry (even though I don’t smoke); regular wine “tastings” that devolve into socialist rants and long diatribes about music; Scrabble games that edge toward the bawdy; seasons of Everwood devoured for pure pleasure; evenings pouring over digital files in advance of regular Campus Free Press publication; late night conversations about game, the lack of it and the regularity with which money disappears. The routines offer more than comfort though; after awhile everything feels stock—as though it’s expected—and suddenly it emerges: “This is my life.” A life. As in “I’ve built myself something separate from my brothers and sisters, parents, people I knew in high school.” It’s the evolution of a personal foundation that comes with defining values and opinions, even if sometimes those two seem jarring. Suddenly students who milked the government for student loans become worried taxpayers; folks who crusaded for liberal agenda find themselves voting conservative. Somehow the newfangled routine becomes a blueprint for a life. I find it endlessly fascinating. It’s also so crushing since, like all good things, the stability we build up ends eventually.

I think that’s called adulthood.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Nourishing North Bay

North Bay has been my home for twenty-five years—save one where I spent most of my days kicking around Belfast, Northern Ireland—and its influence on me has been great. There is an indelible hometown spirit in all of us, though so few of us recognize it, and it's best manifested in the way townies support other townies.

Saturday evening, I co-hosted a charity concert called "Nourish: North Bay" with good friend and confidante Chris Curry (with whom NOTHING would be possible). We had a massive success on our hands--we saw 170 North Bayites pass through our doors to enjoy music by Josh Dimmel, Cole Fournier, Dave White, Matt Amond, Killing Caparosa, Cody Allen and local dynamos Yer Blues. We were fortunate enough to raise $375 plus more than a half-dozen crates of non-perishables.

Normally, I write didactics or hope to spurn authority. Today, I'd like to oblige my better manners and do some thank-yous:

VERITASSE CAFE: Without a venue, we'd be out on the street, busking for scraps. Thanks for the shelter, the warmth, the sound and the fury!

CHRIS CURRY: Sir, there are no words. At least... none I can express. You're quickly becoming my better half in all respects, and the world should recognize the greatness of your Chris Curry eyes. Also, you're a badass organizer. Cool as a cucumber.

JES ROY: Thank you for putting up with my often scatterbrained instructions. Jes, your graphics work literally put the Nourish concept on the map, so you have my unwavering love!

THE MUSICIANS: Dear Matt Murphy--you missed a hell of a show. Your peers, Josh, Cole, Dave, Matt Amond, Killing Caparosa, Cody Allen and Yer Blues (especially Yer Blues) set the scene on fire. No musicians mean no nourishing, right?

NORTH BAY NOURISHERS! Thanks of the highest order for everybody who paid admission, donated extra, dropped off food and just anybody who gave us the slightest thought. Amid the clutter stands JENNY POTTER from the North Bay Nugget, who was kind enough to give us a page three story about the concert, which you can read below...

Duo hopes to put music's power to work for community


Posted 7 hours ago
Brett Greene wanted to do something different for his birthday this year.

After years of receiving gifts, he wanted to mark his 25th birthday by giving back to the community.

Saturday night, Greene hosted Nourish North Bay, a benefit concert that brought in $350 and many boxes of food for the North Bay Food Bank.

With help from musician friend Chris Curry, Greene recruited seven mostly acoustic acts -- including Cody Allen, Josh Dimmel and Yer Blues -- to play Veritasse Coffee Bar.

Greene said he chose the food bank because it's always in need between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Greene was surprised with the event's success and hopes the nourishment doesn't stop there.

We want to nourish education, culture and the arts community in North Bay," he said, adding the plan is to make it a bi-monthly event.

It's an opportunity to see live music where there isn't that pressure to drink," Greene said.

Curry said he was surprised so many musicians jumped at the opportunity to perform without any compensation and said they plan to build the event by adding other artists.

We really want to bring the arts community together," he said, to nourish the culture and sense of community here."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Illusions Spring Forth

To the men and women campaigning for delegate positions, and to those wishing to serve on Academic Senate, this is my plea to you: be sure of yourselves and the image you will be projecting because both will be preserved in the minds of voters as your true self.

To you all, I have bared witness to your mockery of the electoral process for too long and feel strongly that cheap chicanery, gimmickry, off-colour humour and divergent hackery will get you everywhere, but at the cost of substance and value. You few and proud will be responsible for subverting the tradition of vying for office, soon making complex campaigns and issues simple enough for the public tastes until all that remains is rhetoric pablum.

You will do this because you will insist, as so many have, to insult the process by removing all aspects of platform and the virtue of new ideas. You will emblazon posters with sharp colours and thick-wit catch phrases, perhaps highlighting baseless credentials or promising virtues you will be unable to uphold. Never once will you dignify your future office by stating your opinion or by making clear your strategy for improvement of infrastructure or policy. You will simply ask for your peers' votes in the mere hope that you are recognizable enough for broad appeal. You will not worry about work ethic or job qualification, nor will you be cognizant of issues your peers are facing. You will lack the foresight to peer past convocation. You will insult the intelligence of the electorate by assuming voters are dim and uninformed, with no desire to be greater than they are now. You will simply appear to disappear.

Dear campaigners, head my warning: you will find yourselves celebrating victory in a week's time and though it will feel sweet, its glow ripe and warm with acceptance, the fruits of your labour will be hollow. You will have succeeded without trying to challenge your voters and for that, you will have learned that stagnation is a virtue and that belief is illusory. You will be a fraud whose acclaim is for naught.

I challenge you, in the days remaining before election, to opine about something dear to your heart. I insist you be honest about your intentions about this campaign, that you answer the simple question: what do you want to get out of your role as delegate or senator? If you seek fortune, so be it. If you seek goodwill, be fair enough to state it. If you seek kinship, may you find it. Do not bear false witness, though, or judge your peers unable to decipher sleight of hand for underneath your prestidigitation may lie only stupidity or poor judgment.

And should you bear false witness, and claim yourself to be without merit, you will indeed rise to your own occasion and fail your peers in a most drastic way.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Futurist

Had someone told me on my graduation day that in just a scant year and change I would return to full-time studies, I might have simply laughed it off, considering it foolish speculation.

I was, after all, resigned to moving onward and upward, my years at Nipissing University more than adequately preparing me for the work world. And for a time, the idea of settling into a career was not only feasible, but comfortable. True to form, I worked for the Canadian Red Cross for a year as a First Aid Coordinator while also maintaining ties to several charitable and campus-oriented organizations. I remained an active member of the university community, spent time with friends and graduates alike and, best of all, was paid for my time.

Unfortunately, even the best laid plans are wont to fail for one reason or another, sometimes because of systemic flaws or external functions, and sometimes because the laid for us never fits just right. After a few months of drudgery, the job became a series of actions done by rote – I was no longer challenged and there was little (if any) room for growth or creativity. At the same time, my friends were engaged at the cerebral and social levels, and though I was happy for their exploits, I was also jealous. I felt fraudulent, as though the expectations put upon me as a graduate – to be a success, and happy – were tangible items I had not the slightest clue of how to attain. Worse, my career was short-lived: I was under contract for the Canadian Red Cross, not a full-time employee and so when I met my one-year mark, I packed my belongings and slogged home. It was just as well though, I suppose; the thrill of First Aid sales and marketing had long lost its spark and it was now clear that training coordination was not a future I wanted.

Home life was, for a week, a welcome change. I would rise at my leisure, read the newspaper, shower for what seemed like an hour and find the day open to my whims. I would often go for walks, finding myself on Main Street peering through glass windows while sipping coffee. Suddenly – and for the first time in years – I had all the time in the world. It’s a dangerous feeling to know structure-less life, though. I became bored and began to apply for jobs of all variations – anything I thought would be suited to my experience and education – I ran the gamut from marketing internships to community organization. That too became an exercise in tedium when application after application was unanswered and even successful interviews profited little. I was in a rut.

The educational system in Ontario, for me and for many others, is based on merit and standardized testing. For my career at Nipissing University, I fared well because of my innovation and intelligence; although I will readily admit that I often had to catch up to others with assignment submissions, I graduated with enough standing to satisfy those around me. Of course, I naturally assumed my life as an alumnus would mean jumping into a white picket fence scenario, complete with a dog, a few kids and a two-car garage. I do not have any of those things. What I do have, though, is experience and the piece of mind to know I am not alone.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Stuff I'm Listening To..

Eloquently Yours

Today, Gen. Colin Powell, former Secretary of State in the Bush Administration, endorsed Senator Barack Obama for President. Powell's rationale is eloquent, beautiful and absolutely assured. Please do me the great favour of watching this video. It's 12:28 you won't waste.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Mark my words: it's all about the perfect pumpkin pie.  

At Thanksgiving each year, as it is with Christmas and to some extent Easter, the main feature is always a freshly baked, perfectly spiced pumpkin pie.  Sure, apple pie has its fans, and I count myself among them.  And yes, the bumbleberry fans might outweigh the lemon meringue pundits, but I find them particularly shallow.  No, Thanksgiving is the cornerstone of the now endless holiday season, and it brings with it turkey, tension and time well spent... with pie.  And excessive overeating.  In fact, so much is made of our ability to detach our jaws in order to swallow roasting birds whole that I shall christen this holiday "Thanksglutton," and smile contentedly.

All over our fair country, from Vancouver to St. John, men 
and women of all shapes and sizes will soon be gorging on turkey, chicken, goose, ham, lamb, stew, roux and perhaps even spaghetti and meatballs. Their bellies will swell, and they will clamour to the couch post-meal claiming to have eaten too much ... until the Running of the Pie is announced. If you've never been to Spain for the Running of the Bulls, pretend that pie is served in the same fashion. And pretend that when prompted for proportions, family and guests alike might bode for "two of three small pieces" instead of one healthy portion because they're watching their wait. Right. If you've seen I Am Legend, think of the ravenous zombie beasts that plague Will Smith and you'll have some idea about what this looks like.  It might just look like this: