Dear Billy

Jenn and I just got back from camping with pals at Weaver Lake. I wanted to write about it here, but then I ended up emailing Bill about it and I like how I write when I email him, so I’m going to copy and paste most of that email to here, Tom-style.

We left Friday morning and caught the 1 pm ferry to Horseshoe Bay but that was kind of dumb because we got to the mainland just in time for rush hour traffic. But it ended up being neat because we took some alternate routes and went through some communities I’ve never seen before, and some Jenn hadn’t seen in 20 years or ever been to. I learned that Maple Ridge is a really shitty, gross, neat community, kind of like the worst areas of Sooke, and Mission is a really awesome ugly town. Like Duncan was when we were kids. Filthy, poor. Then we went through a couple tiny communities that were super quaint. The first was Dewdney, and the next was Deroche. Dewdney just had a super old general store/post office, and an awesome gross-looking restaurant across the street called Michael’s Family Restaurant. There was also a historic pub just down another road but we didn’t have a chance to see it.

Deroche just had a community hall and a general store, but the general store had everything — post office, liquor store, groceries, Chester’s Fried Chicken, ammunition, etc. And the place was hopping on Friday night! The lineup in there was huge. Jenn had put on some silly devil horns in the car and then forgot to take them off, and she fit in perfectly in there. 

We got to the group campground in the evening, like 6 or 7 pm. It was in a really remote area, and was just our big group of friends. Set our tent up, saw lots of old friends, caught up. A bunch of people were lighting off tons of crazy fireworks. I went to bed around 1 am, Jenn came to bed sometime after that.

The next day we relaxed with friends, I tanned on the dock, then Jenn and I did a big hike around Weaver Lake. The website said it was only 6 km but it took us about 2.5 hrs so I don’t think that was accurate. It was really nice though. Got back to camp and our pal Tony had brought a frozen turkey, wrapped it in bacon and stuffed it with hot dog wieners, wrapped the whole thing in tinfoil, buried it in the giant fire pit, and then cooked it all day with the camp fire. He pulled it out at about 7 and everyone was enrapt. There was lots of cheering and excitement to see if it had actually worked or if it would be a grotesque mess. It smelled badly burnt. He pulled back all the tinfoil and the end of a leg was exposed and it was absolutely charred. The crowd let out a collective “noooo.” Tony pulled more tinfoil back and the whole breast was charred and sunken. All the meat had burnt off! We laughed and gave up all hope on the bird. Then he stabbed deeper down into it with a big knife and ripped some meat off with that, and the meat lower down was perfect! Well, it was very dry, but it was thoroughly cooked and safe to eat, which no one believed would ever be possible, and the crowd cheered. There was high five’s and hugs all round, like we’d just won a war or an election. I used meat from it and made myself a turkey dog for dinner, which was awesome.

Jenn and I left early on Sunday morning because we wanted to get home before night time. We got up around 8, packed up and left by 9. We stopped at a sad swap meet in Deroche where I bought a few ugly things, and then got brunch at Michael’s family restaurant. It was really good! Oh and we checked out the super old general store across the street too, chatted with the old lady running it.

I had wanted to stop at Robin’s Donuts in Langley on the way home but we had to race to catch the 12:45 ferry so not this time 😦  Next time though!

Robin's Donuts Crop Crop

Lord, do I miss Robin’s Donuts.

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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.
  • In April, I officiated Ben and Madeline’s wedding. I was nervous as all hell but it went great, and the ensuing wedding was utterly fabulous. It was a stellar collection of friends, the place was stunning, the food was unreal, the fancy hot tub was a nice touch, and I got to dance to Dark Cat.
  • 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.

buying/selling used stuff is the shits

i put lucy’s old dog house on usedcowichan.com for free a few weeks ago.

lucy’s old dog house does not look like this

the ad says it’s big and heavy so bring some people to move it. 10 minutes ago, a tiny woman showed up alone, looked at it, hummed and hawed for a minute, and then said she would think about it.

she’s going to think about taking my free dog house.

maybe, if i’m lucky.

fuck you, lady. i’m going to burn the goddamned thing just to spite you. i’m so sick of dealing with people on craigslist and usedvic. i post something, say “the price is firm,” and all i get are emails saying “would you take half of what you’re asking?” or “i have a really nice pontiac sunfire i could trade you, just needs a clutch and a bit of brake and body and front end work.” or people say they will come by and then never show, or they come and kick tires and make insulting offers in person. i actually like that last situation more though because i have no problem saying “sorry, i’ll hang on to it” so that they have to drive empty-handed all the way back to sooke or wherever these scum crawl out of. one lady offered to trade jenn CATS for her $2300 horse trailer a month ago, no joke.

why does it seem like every idiot is trying to trade me a beat up sunfire for my stuff?

bill hates this stuff too. he told me a while ago that he was selling something but had a bunch of no shows and was mad as all hell about it. the next guy said he’d be at bill’s apartment at 2:00 but by 2:10, bill hadn’t heard from the guy and was fuming. at 2:15 the guy rang bill’s buzzer but bill was so pissed he just didn’t answer. the guy called bill’s cell and left a message but bill ignored it. i love that. it’s turning the tables on those assholes, giving them some of their own grief. i’m know it’s not the gracious or kind thing to do but shit, sometimes you just get so fucking pissed at people being unreliable, entitled, and/or low-balling bastards and it feels good to give a little something back to them.

if i actually do burn the dog house, i’ll take a pic of it and post it here. then i’ll email the link to the lady that just came by.