2018 recap

I wrote a recap last year and I really liked it so I’m doing it again this year. I was thinking about it the other day and it reminds me of the letters my family would receive at xmas from friends and family we didn’t see very often, letters those people had written to keep us abreast of what they got up to over the year. I found those letters universally boring and old-fashioned but when it comes to my own life and writing about it in point form, well, it’s just a really doggone efficient way to sum up a year’s worth of living.

Without further ado, here is what the masses have been clamouring for all year long! Sound the trumpets, open the gates! It’s my recap of 2018, yahoooooo…

  • Jenn took part in a video that went modestly viral, accumulating almost one million views in a week or two. She thinks the video will be the single ‘biggest’ thing she ever does in her life, in terms of reaching a vast audience. I agree with her, and think that’s pretty neat.
  • After selling her horse last year, Jenn found a new project in a one-eyed walking panic attack she named Marvel. To liken him to a human so he’s understandable to people who aren’t familiar with horses: he’s like the son of Usain Bolt and Serena Williams (in other words, a gifted athlete by nature) who was always a nervous child to start with, who then went blind in one eye at an early age and subsequently passed from foster home to foster home, accumulating mountains of mental trauma along the way which resulted in turning him from an anxious fellow into a full-on delusional, paranoid spaz. But Jenn saw the natural talent in Marvel and decided to try putting a lot of love and effort into him and what do you know, he’s come around in a big way. Personally, I love him because he’s a big, gentle beast who wants nothing more than someone to show him affection — he’s like a big dog, and that’s the only kind of horse I really like.
  • In January, I bought a Nissan X-trail after lusting for one for years. It turned out to be a very frustrating lemon. I managed to sell it without too much difficulty but it was an unpleasant experience.
  • In early February, Jenn and I drove the Pacific Marine Circle Route from here to Sooke to Port Renfrew to Lake Cowichan to home. We left at 7 am and got home at 7 pm, and had a fantastic time. We saw lots of cool waterfalls, giant trees, and abandoned towns. I love doing ‘tourist in your own town’ shit.
  • Jenn and I explored and hiked some other areas around here we hadn’t seen, like Mount Manuel Quimper in Sooke and some tucked-away areas in Goldstream.
  • In March, we went up to our property in Sointula to build a lean-to so we had a place to store some shit and keep it dry before we started building a small cabin. We didn’t do a very good job on the lean-to but it (almost) does the job. On the bright side, we did some fun stuff while we were there. The tide was out so we walked across the bay to the marina to use their showers, and we hiked to Melvin’s Bog which sounds shitty but was actually very pretty, and on the drive home from Sointula we hiked up to the Woss Lookout which was downright breathtaking. We were above the clouds and it felt like being in a fantasy movie.
  • Spring 2018 was a banner year for chickens having babies at our place, as five of my eight hens went broody. For those not familiar with chickens, that’s a lot for breeds like Rhode Island Reds and Barred Rocks. Altogether, we raised a dozen chicks here over the summer, and I learned a lot about what I want to do different with raising chicks next year. I kept two, slaughtered one rooster, and gave the rest away to my dear friends Tom and Marion. I still visit the kids when their new parents allow me.
  • I built a 200-gallon rainwater collection system off of our barn for use in our vegetable garden. It went pretty well, and was a good learning experience in case we decide to do something similar for our cabin up island.
  • Jenn and I started building a one-room cabin on our second property. Falling trees was fucking hard work, and took much longer than expected. Learning to lay out the construction blocks square and level was frustrating, and had a steep learning curve. Putting the walls and roof up was extremely challenging — even writing this now, I’m having flashbacks to how awful I felt at the time. But since getting the roof on, things have gone smoother: we got the doors and windows in and put the Tyvek stuff up, then Liam came up with me and basically built the frame for a roof over the deck by himself. Slowly, the dread from the worst parts of the build is receding in my mind, and that’s good. That was a dark week.
  • On the way back from another trip to Sointula, Jenn, Stella and I went swimming at Stotan Falls in Courtenay. Beautiful place, easy access. What a gem of a swimming hole.
  • Some friends from Vancouver came and stayed with us for a long weekend in the summer, and we tried to give them a nice ‘small town weekend.’ I think it went perfectly. We went thrift shopping with them, took them to some local breweries, went bowling at Duncan Lanes, took them to The Black Swan for karaoke, went swimming in the quarry, and watched a horror movie on the side of the house. I get wistful just thinking about that weekend, it was such a good time.
  • Ben, Tom, Dana, Paul and I went tubing down the Cowichan River in July, and it couldn’t have been any better. Dana’s Star Trek floating chair was a huge hit with everyone who saw it, Paul was gooned basically from the start till the end and was mercilessly tossed from his tube countless times (almost face-first into a rock wall, at one point), and we all had a groovy 3 hr float in the sun. We went for dinner at the York St. Diner and Ben was too drunk to stop the content of his sandwich from exploding onto his plate. The waitress was very understanding of our situation. Our better halves all worried sick about us being gone so much longer than we’d originally estimated, but these are the trials and tribulations of river floating. I am eagerly looking forward to doing it again next year.
  • Jenn bought a second project horse named Gossip, who was an adorable and easy baby of a pony. She was perfectly sweet, friendly, curious, eager to learn, and eager to please. She took longer to sell than Jenn hoped for but she finally went to a great home, which was the most important thing. However, the lesson learned was: two horses is too much — one horse is enough.
  • My chicken’s eggs won first place in the Cobble Hill Fair in the ‘large, brown’ division. I was such a proud daddy!
  • Jenn and I went to the Cowichan Exhibition for the first time in years. It was…gross. I don’t think I’ll go again for another five years or so.
  • My revamped Misfits cover band finally played a Halloween show. The promoter was an odd duck, a strange schmoozy rude brat of a person, but our performance was fine. More than anything, I just loved playing music I love with guys I love hanging out with, and am excited to start playing with the gents again soon.
  • I volunteered at the Glenora Haunted Hall for the second year in a row, and it was just as great as last year. My friend Julia teamed up with me for a gory human butcher scene, and we were a big hit. Dana even came and volunteered at the hall with us on the second night. I felt like a kid again.
  • I watched my grandfather die. He was 95 or so and his health suddenly declined so he signed up for a medically assisted death. Jenn and I joined my mom and the rest of that side of the family to see him off. I’ve witnessed enough death that I wasn’t fazed. But he wasn’t the warmest individual either so I’m sure that made the whole process a bit easier.
  • I went down the rabbit hole this year with acquiring all manners of vintage household items — appliances, artwork, kitchen utensils, stereo equipment, clothing, xmas decorations, etc. I now like our home much more than before, and I have to once again thank my wonderful friends who indulged my insanity and helped me get my hands on a lot of this stuff.
  • Xmas 2018 was a little weird overall. I worked xmas day, I was the only member of my family at my family dinner, there was a huge storm just before xmas that knocked out power and internet to everyone for a few days, and it wasn’t snowy or even very cold. That being said, this was the best family dinner I can remember, free of endless, pointless Grandpa Simpson-esque stories and an undercurrent of awkwardness and strained relationships. And Jenn and I did our typical xmas morning stuff on xmas eve and that was perfectly lovely. And because of the power outage caused by the storm, Jenn and I made soup on our wood stove and played Scrabble by candlelight, which was a beautiful, ‘slow living’ evening that reminded me of how different life can be if we just turn shit off for a while.
  • Speaking of slow living, after some thought and a blog post, I decided to start reading at home more, and so far I’m really enjoying it and feel good about my efforts.

Boy, I had been worried that I wouldn’t have much to write here, that not much really happened in 2018. Was I ever wrong. That’s one of the beauties of this exercise, it really illustrates just how much note-worthy stuff goes on in a year, even if we take it for granted or just don’t remember it all at once.

I lead a charmed life, and I’m grateful for it. Many thanks to Jenn and all my friends who, against great odds, make life in this proto-wasteland fun and worth living.

Happy new year.

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Haunted houses, and a lesson in the value of heart

This Halloween, I volunteered at a haunted house in Glenora. It was my second year in a row helping out there, and I absolutely love it. There are a lot of things about this particular haunted house that I love.

First off, I just love the community of Glenora. It feels so ridiculously small town, even though it’s literally a five minute drive from downtown Duncan. The corner store, the hall, the beautiful old farms and houses, and the large parcels of land make it feel like a place that time has, luckily for Glenora, forgotten.

I also have a particular nostalgia for the Glenora hall. I remember going to and playing at all-ages punk shows there when I was a teenager. Those were thrilling times.

Regarding the haunted house itself, I love that it takes place at this hall in the seeming middle of nowhere. When Jenn and I first went to it as attendees four or five years ago, we almost turned the car around and left because it looked so sad — an empty parking lot with a few Halloween decorations outside the door of the hall. I was already embarrassed for the people involved, imagining them sitting inside with absolutely no visitors, bored and disappointed. I pictured their haunted house being nothing but bowls of peeled grapes (“these are the witch’s eyeballs”) and cooked spaghetti (“this is her hair”). I didn’t want to come face to face with such sadness. But we had driven to Glenora┬ájust to see this damn thing so we prepared to give a half-hearted “ooohhhh, scary, haha” and get the hell out of there.

And then it turned out to be an excellent haunted house. It was full of enthusiastic volunteers and I was legitimately scared (ok, surprised or shocked are probably better words – regardless, it was very enjoyable) several times throughout it. And while the parking lot was never jam packed and there was never a lineup out the door, it maintained a steady clientele throughout the night. We left, very pleasantly surprised at what the adorable little community of Glenora had pulled off.

We went to it again two years later, and it was just as good. But this time, I was even more amazed because that same year I went to a big, fancy haunted house in Victoria that cost $10 or $15, had a 45 minute lineup, and was full of expensive and elaborate special effects, but was somehow just not that good. It was like they were trying to be flashy and impressive rather than creepy or scary, like they were leaning on their budget instead of focusing on the essential core components of a haunted house. Somehow, the sad, tiny, admission-by-donation-to-the-food-bank haunted house at Glenora hall was superior.

It wasn’t until this year that I was talking about this topic with some people when I realized that I think the reason the Glenora Haunted Hall is so great is because, simply put, it has heart. It doesn’t attempt to impress attendees with fancy robotics or professional-grade costumes and makeup. Instead, it’s just a bunch of enthusiastic locals who dream up some cheap, simple, effective, old-fashioned scares, and then execute them with great joy. It’s sort of like a piece of furniture that is handmade by a novice who obviously enjoys the process — it’s not perfect but it is so unique and has such character that it stands out as a very special piece.

If I could offer a piece of advice to haunted house proprietors everywhere, it would be: keep it simple, and keep it scary — just jump out lots, scream lots, surprise people lots. That’s the meat and potatoes of the haunted house. It works in Glenora so it should work for you too.

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But it doesn’t hurt if you also have a ghost that really knows how to groove.