Monday, June 30, 2008

It's Starting to Realize It's No Longer a Tree

I had the amazing opportunity to play at a really great music festival in Calgary this weekend called Sled Island. It's an annual festival featuring some really great bands, mostly in the rock vein. This year featured Mogwai, Wire, Jonathan Richman, The RZA, Broken Social Scene, The Mae Shi, Grizzly Bear, Forest Tate Fraser (?!), and tons more.

This was only my second Forest show. The festival takes place at various venues around town. Mine was at a smallish club in an old movie theater downtown.

The guitar sounded great on stage. My friend Pat was doing sound and perhaps he was just being nice, but he said it was the best live acoustic sound he's gotten in a long time.

It felt really good to play it in front of people.

Evan, Forest:

After the show, I booted it back to the mainstage which was just down the street for some back stage hacky circle action and Mogwai. Mogwai melted my brain. Perfect music for that moment. There are no words but every song sounded like amazing sweet the sound....that saved a wretch like me..........


Matt, Dude with a Hat, Chad


After the mainstage closed down for the night, Shannon, Dik, Pete, Camile and I went to see Qui (featuring David Yow of The Jesus Lizard) at the HiFi Club. Pretty good. I was able to enjoy myself with the help of my "Good Eye Blinders", a pair of metaphorical blinders made of hearts to keep your eyes focused on what you need to be focusing on. Sounds nuts, I know, but it helped.....It would take too long to explain what I'm talking about. Just ask Rich or watch the Danielson Family movie.

Jeez, Adele is right, I am becoming a hippy.

It was great to run into friends I haven't seen for a while. I had some really great conversations with people. Apparently Saturday was "say nice things to Brendan day". I had so many random interactions where the person said in one way or the other how much they appreciated me. While that doesn't help my ballooning ego, it makes me feel pretty good about things. I must be doing something right. Pete said today on the front stoop that people/relationships are like a mirror. They reflect back what they see.

If yr an asshole, expect to be treated like an asshole. If yr a champ, expect to be treated like a champ.

My last post is coming soon. The last thing the internerd needs is another aimless blog. I'm going to keep journaling for myself though. It's been good for me.


At about week two of my time on The Island, my mom sent me an email saying that playing the first chord on my guitar would be like looking into the eyes of my first born child. I hope he/she isn't that ugly. After frantically putting the finishing touches on the instrument (installing a pick-up, tuners, dressing the frets...), we strung it up with fresh strings, but it wouldn't stay in tune. It has settled in nicely now.

I was short on time, so Brian helped me file the nut and saddle. I would have flown home with an incomplete guitar if it wasn't for his assistance.

It was a proud moment to hold that thing in my arms. I've been gushing about it ever since.

The only thing I have left to do it the finish. I can't decide whether to do a gel finish, which is a poly-urathane that is easy to apply and ok for the environment, but not necessarily professional or a french polish, which is a shellac that is finicky to apply and somewhat toxic, but potentially amazing. We shall see.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Place I Live

Now I'm back in Calgary. I stayed a few days later than planned and didn't have time to ride my bike home. I've got a Forest Tate show on Saturday to rehearse for with Evan. I'm going back in a few weeks to pick up the bike.

I'm not sure how long I'm going to keep doing this blog, but I'll keep it up for a while, until I have time to figure some stuff out.

My head is all over the place right now. I'm really having a hard time with the word "home". I got to the place I pay rent to eat, sleep, and take the odd shower tonight and felt really out of place. My room is a time capsule of who I was a month ago.

To be honest, I had a little panic attack. Not a regular occurrence for me. Here I am an adult living in a dirty house with street signs as art on the walls. Don't get me wrong I love the guys I live with (I don't use the L word flippantly), but this isn't where I should be. Add to this feeling that the city outside my front door doesn't feel much more inviting.

Talk about feeling the burden of the past. Old receipts, concert and hockey ticket stubs, pictures. All gone now. In the trash.

I have a bag that contains most of my gifts from last Christmas. It's been floating around my room since I moved into this place in January. I forgot what was given to me. A couple books. Some chocolate that has probably turned grey by now. A really nice maple, copper, and steel carpenters square from my dad. And this quote, written on the wrapping paper of one of my dads gifts:

"Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the realization that some things are more worthwhile than fear and that some people are worth loving even though it costs us everything. Perfect love casts out fear."


There was a young mother traveling with her infant daughter on the same flight I took from Comox to Calgary. We were through the security check waiting to board the plane. Her family was on the other side of the glass in the airport terminal. No sound. Mouthing words and trying to read lips.

"I miss you already."

"No! I love you more."

Sadness hiding behind big smiles. Screaming in silence. My ears hurt, but it was quiet.


Can you feel so good, it actually hurts? Real pain?

Maybe that's why saying goodbye hurts. Not from the sense that you've lost something, but the recognition that you were close to The Good in another. The experience of KNOWING someone. Being understood. What's better than knowing you are understood?

This whole thing isn't just about existing. It's about loving. Something I think I could fall into everyday.

Hey, I'm going to throw out that word "home" for a little while. I don't have one. I'm homeless. And ok with it. There are worse things to be. As long as there are people to say, "I miss you already" or "no, I love you more" to from time to time, that would be nice.


The guitar is done! I'll post pictures soon.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tyin' on my flyin' shoes

So, I fly home tomorrow (today).

That's all I've got.

For the record, Brian, Stinni, and Arlen are almost my favorite people in the world.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hard to Say Goodbye. At Least I'm Not Wearing a Tie

I just sat on my spot on the beach for the last time. The sun going down. The air caught under yesterday's seaweed wash releasing and causing the sea to boil.

It is so easy to centre myself when I sit on the shoreline. I was having some winter thoughts this afternoon but they're gone now.

I'm heading "home" in a couple days. It's really hard for me to say goodbye. You make plans to see the other again, but they rarely pan out. Went for supper with Brian and Stinni tonight at the Sandbar and I felt a nagging melancholy, yet I was enjoying our time.

I may be contradicting a previous post, but it feels good to meaningfully connect with other people in such a short amount of time. There is something universally good in that. All of us have that in us to give and accept. Well, most of us anyways.

I've changed in the past four weeks. You could study my face and hands and voice for signs of change, but you will come up short. It is inside me.

I don't have the words to explain and I can't prove it, so you'll have to trust me.

However, I will only see the difference these changes will make as I enter whatever rhythm of life I create for myself back "home". I also know there are countless changes I will never recognize.

To be honest, doing this blog has had a huge role in this. I just read through all of my posts (something I haven't done along the way). Sort of like my life flashing before my eyes. Obviously, there is so much more I've experienced and I could have written a book about the characters at the school. That wouldn't have been fun to read. Besides, I've saved the best parts to tell you in person....

The focus has been my internal world, with a side focus on the guitar. I've been as honest as I think you could stomach.

I hope it hasn't been too much. I hope what you've read comes across as someone who loves life too much to let it go by without thinking about it. I'm not this intense all the time. In my head, I started to think that this stuff was immature. Like, if I'm an adult, how come I haven't figured it out yet. I think I still possess innocence as opposed to immaturity.

This is starting to sound like I'm already saying goodbye. Not yet.

There's still a lot to be done on the guitar before I leave Tuesday.

Here's a pictorial of my weekend:

Friday, June 20, 2008

Like Butter

Finishing this guitar is sort of bitter sweet. It is a thing of beauty (in my eyes anyways) and something that I will always cherish. Yet, once it's done I have to leave this place and my new friends. Boo.

Having the neck done feels great. Like I said earlier, the neck has been my favorite component to work on. Funny, since I had the most trepidation about the neck at the beginning. Most of the tooling was done with a scraper ( 2.5" x 4" thin rectangle of metal with a sharp edge).

I wish I could explain how good it feels (in yr bones, heart, mind) to take a swipe with the scraper and remove a long, thin ribbon of wood. Like butter. Especially with mahogany. Take the feeling of popping bubble wrap or walking on that thin ice that forms an inch above the ground and crunches pleasingly under foot and multiply it by 5. That's what it feels like.

While there is artistry involved, there should be little guess work when shaping a neck. Arlen showed me how to draw the end profile on paper and then apply those measurements to the neck blank. Then, you just push and pull yr neck into shape.

Here I am doing some finishing touches.

By the end of the day I was ready to set the neck. This means I fine tuned the area around the dovetail joint to fit snug, while achieving the proper pitch angle of the neck and creating a sharp and snug joint from the heal to the body of the guitar.

Here's Arlen giving me a hand.

It's friday, so we're having a fire tonight. Fun as always. My last weekend here. No tears.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Leaving the Island for a Day or Two

I'm heading to the mainland for a couple days to scope out his new store in Vancouver for Ben, then I'll be back to the island for the weekend to wrap things up.

Oh Yeah, I'm Building a Guitar

I haven't had much time to sit in front of the computer this week and probably won't through the rest of the week. I've been working late in the shop trying to get the first Forest done. Then, hanging with friends into the night. Trying to squeeze every ounce of life from this. Pete says I'm having a time-of-my-life moment. As long as it's not a ONCE-in-my-life moment, I'm ok with it.

I've learned a lot about who I am over the coarse of this trip, but I sincerely believe this wide eyed enthusiasm I'm experiencing is rooted not in the adventures of travel. It's easy to decieve yrself that everything is good, when everything is new. As I said in my last post. The thrill of the ordinary. That's what's driving me.

Monday night I had fun jam with Brian, Cian, Jon, Adam, Tyson, and briefly Monique. It's been a while since I've played music with more than one other person. I haven't talked much about Brian, but he and I have hit it off. He's one of those rare nice guys. A genuine nice guy. His songs are really good too.

Tonight, Stenni, Arlen and I drove up to Kortnay for dinner. Good times. Good dudes. Sorry, these details (and much of this blog) are for my benefit. Something to look back on.


Here's a pictorial update on my first guitar

The neck has been the most gratifying to work on. It really is the soul of the guitar. The part that says, "hey, how you doin'?" I don't have much of a preference when it comes to the shape of a guitar neck, but there are necks that invite you to play and others that leave you cold. Like yr alway reaching, but not connecting.

It took me 4 hours to do a rough carve of my neck. It takes other students a day. Arlen can do one in 20 minutes.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tofino Was a Dream.

I was trying to explain to Dik on the phone Friday night what it was like driving across the island. It was as if I had seen these things in my sleep, but I've never had that dream before. Definitely not deja-vu.

The canopy of rock and sometimes red cedar or dense tangled fern over the road. Water so clear in the ground and falling from impossible angles. Then, the ocean. The real ocean. Crashing waves from the open sea.

I knew a place this beautiful had to exist, I've just never found it until now.

On Saturday I pedaled from town out to a beach and spent the afternoon walking, day dreaming, snoozing, writing and listening to tunes. Pretty ideal.

I was talking to Anna a couple days before I left about not being passive. Embracing the world around us and taking from it what we want instead of letting it slip away. This actually involves more giving than taking I think. I've gone with the flow too much in my life. Just LETTING it happen. Standing in the shadows watching in silence instead of getting out there. MAKING it happen.

It's not about having an agenda. It's about sincerity, honesty, eye contact, watching for that which is larger than life and knowing when to call bullshit on a bullshiter. Seeing the absolute thrill in the ordinary.

Staying in a hostel is a living example of this. Friday night I curled up on the couch in the common room with the latest issue of Harpers. Ipod plugged in. I watched people come and go. No lasting eye contact. Just a friendly smile and nod from time to time. I observed the characters, but made no effort to become one myself.

Saturday, after a day to myself, it was time to break out of my shell. It didn't take much. I just went to where the people were. And in a hostel, it's not too hard to find them.

Traded stories with a truck driver from Quebec. Talked about books and other things with a guy from England. And met a really sweet girl from a village of 250 people in Germany.

Her name is Susanne. She's been in Canada since October, working odd jobs (at the CN Tower, a gift shop in Banff) and traveling.

She showed me a secret beach on the edge of town. You had to walk down a long, crooked, and soon to collapse wooden boardwalk through an ancient forest. There was a piece of timber nailed across two trees at the mouth of the trail. It's intended purpose ignored.

The water, as always was beautiful and full of mystery for me. We had a really good chat. The rising tide and the sun which had set chased us back to the hostel. It's funny how a person who only knew me for a few short hours knows more about me than some acquaintances I've had for years.

There was a moment last night (11:21pm) that I was happy to have noticed. All this talk of the past and future, it's easy to forget about the now.

I wish I was a painter. I would paint the north sky, a golden sliver of light glowing dimly from the summer sun a couple hours gone. The sharp black outline of the mountains against the deep blue night. The glimmering lights from the village across the bay. The stars with german names that hang in the sky and bounce off the water.

I went to a gallery this morning and found this painter. Roy Henry Vickers. He's a local Tofino artist. There's much more gold in this one than was there last night. I wish I could explain the whimsy of the scene. But, I guess that was just for me. I will think about it in quiet moments, probably most clearly when I wake in the night.

Here's some post-modern art I found, Tofino style. Freakin' hippies.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I've got that Chixdiggit song about Tofino stuck in my head.

Made it to Tofino last night. What an amazing ride it is across the island.

It's too chilly for surfing, so I've rented a bike to tool around on.

Lot's of pretty girls in Tofino, but maybe I'm just sensitive on account of the sausage fest that is lutherie school.

They messed up my reservation at the hostel so I had to sleep on the games room floor. Tonight, I upgrade to a bunk.

No real adventures on this leg of the trip yet, but here's hoping....

Friday, June 13, 2008

...and Young

Laid down for a nap after school today and can't seem to shake the fog.

It's nice being in the shop with so few people. No waiting for someone to be done with a tool. Although, I miss the interaction with others.

It's just me, The Twins, RJ, and Cory. Everyone else went to the convention.

The Twins (Essa and Noah) are rad. They're big and awkward 16 year olds who are just starting to figure shit out. Like sponges, they seem to watch everything. Home schooled in southern California. Their nighbors are Steve Vai (cheesy hair-metal guitarist from the '80s) and Graham Nash (of Crosby, Stills, Nash...and Young). Their dad is an inventor.

Noah (grey shirt) really hates getting his picture taken, but I caught him with this one.

Essa was telling me today the last time he saw him, Nash was pulling on his toe to wake him up from a nap.

These kids are living a unique existence. Noah just came from culinary school. Now, far from home learning to build guitars. They're pretty much blowing my preconceptions about rich kids right out of the water. Super sweet kids.

Jeez, like I said, I can't shake the fog from my nap. That's it. Going for a walk.

Oh yeah, I'm heading to Tofino for the weekend. Booked a bunk in the hostel. Gonna try surfing. I'll try to post something just so my mom knows I made it ok.

I'll have my phone if you want to get a hold of me....

PS. I'm beardless for the first time in a couple years. I don't recognize myself. It won't last long though.

Here's a picture of me at the beach without a beard

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Plug in 'er

I know you've been waiting with baited breath as to what was going to happen with the chunk I took out of my guitar yesterday.

RJ and I put a plug in 'er. It sucks, but could have been a lot worse.

Where do I go Now But Nowhere?

When you type "calgary webcam" into Google, one of the first things to pop up is a webcam mounted to the side of a building on the south side of 12th ave and 5th street. The bottom corner of the shot frames the canopy of Gerry's Diner (ex-Huskey House).

There are a few things that strike me about the shot. One, there is a building that was obviously built before 1983 across the street. When the crap is someone going to knock it down and build something more shiny? Two, Calgary's been having some crummy weather. Three, the view never changes. I'm not talking about the camera angle, but the whole scene. Cars, concrete, pedestrians. City living.

I've never been away from Calgary for this long before. As much as I hate to say it, I'm getting homesick. That said, the last time I came back to town after an extended leave was total culture shock. The speed of life was too much. I distinctly remember walking down to The Drum to say hi to Rich and being overwhelmed by cars. Just cars.

I don't miss Calgary. Not in the least.

Actually, maybe homesick is the wrong word. I just can't wait to see what comes next. I want to be done with this in order to get on with it. Wish I could be in two places at once. Like I said in a previous post, the promise of the future is tug, tug, tugging. But this moment feels pretty ok too.

Another wish. I wish I could be experiencing this with someone close. As I've said, some of the people I've met will become long lasting friends, but there's a distance. It takes time for people to let their guard down. To figure each other out.

There's a quaint little ice cream shop I can see from the window of my room. The thought of going for ice cream by myself seems depressing.


My heart sank momentarily today. I took a gouge out of the top of my guitar with a router (fast spinning metal). It's not as bad as it could have been.

I was routing the channels for the decorative strips that surround the top and back of the body.

The instructors and other students talked about being scared of the router. I've never been afraid of them. Back home, I'll grab it with one hand to bevel the edge of a cabinet or what have you.

My hand slipped when I was repositioning the body towards the bit and it got away from me.

It's frustrating because I spent so much time and effort getting the inside braces perfect and no one is ever going to see them. It's not as bad as I make it sound, but the mistake will always be there. I don't mind though. It shows that a human was involved.

It's one of our most abused cliches, but it rings true. Learn from yr mistakes. Arlen says I'll probably never do it again. It could have been the palm of my hand.

Almost everyone from the school is heading down to Tacoma for a luthiers convention tomorrow. I couldn't justify spending the money, so I'm staying behind with The Twins. I'll write more about them soon. I'll be able to speed things up with so few people in the shop.

Send me a message. I'll be lonely without my new friends around.