I've been working on Toronto time—both literally and figuratively—waking up two hours early to meet Eastern Standard Time deadlines; gulping back cups of coffee while the Cold Lakers around me stroll, oblivious to a life where every moment is money. I've been on edge, raw, grumpy, waking up in the middle of the night to check emails on my phone.
On Wednesday, I drove an hour into northern Saskatchewan, just to have dinner with my best friend Naomi. She lives in Goodsoil, which is the second village over the border. (The first being Pierceland.)
Fresh BC cherries at my side, I tossed the pits out my open window, the Wooden Sky coming through my speakers. As I drove across the border, the haze from the forest fires that's been ever-present since my arrival finally cleared, opening up the perfect Prairie sky.
After dinner, we sat on Naomi's back porch, eating rhubarb from her garden, which she had baked into a piping hot crisp. Sitting in the kind of comfortable silence that only years of friendship can provide, we watched a storm roll across the field towards us, lightening flashing, the clouds unfurling careful grey tendrils as they passed over her house.
"I don't understand why people find driving through Alberta and Saskatchewan boring," I lamented. "I still think it's one of the most beautiful places on earth."
"Some people just take things for granted," Naomi said. "Every time I drive to Cold Lake I find something new to look at. Everything changes so quickly."
I think the problem is that people are just looking at the wrong thing. They're looking down, instead of up at the perfect Alberta sky.
Ever since I got to Cold Lake last Wednesday, I can't help but think that #OnlyInColdLake should be a Twitter hashtag. (Or maybe it should be #TICL for "This is Cold Lake." It's nominally less offensive than the all-encompassing and horrifyingly common usage of #TIA.)
Here are a couple of examples of how I would use this hashtag (minus the hashtag, of course):
It's too bad that nobody in Cold Lake seems to know how to use Twitter. It's also too bad that I don't really know how to use Twitter.
Anyway, this fictional hashtag was all I could think about as I geared up to attend the Snoop Dogg concert in Cold Lake last Friday.
Only in Cold Lake: Will you be ticket holder 1190, knowing that there were only about 1300 tickets sold.
Only in Cold Lake: Can you legitimately wear cowboy boots to a Snoop Dogg concert.
Only in Cold Lake: Is the line-up this short to see arguably the largest celebrity to ever visit the town in history. (I say arguably because it was a pretty big deal when the cast members of Degrassi visited in 1991. However, Snoop is definitely a bigger deal than that time the Swollen Members played here in 2002.)
Only in Cold Lake: Does Snoop Dogg get the same level of billing as Creedence Clearwater Revisited. (Actually, after Googling this, it's kind of legit. I just figured that Revisted was a cover band, but it's actually two members of the original CCR.)
Only in Cold Lake: Do they serve beef jerky at a Snoop show. (Again, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they serve beef jerky at all Snoop shows?)
Only in Cold Lake: Actually, I'm pretty sure this doesn't only happen in Cold Lake.
Only in Cold Lake: Are people legitimately surprised when the headlining performer actually shows up. (At the bar afterwards, everyone was just kind of in shock. I don't think anyone, myself included, really believed that it was going to happen until he walked out on stage.)
Only in Cold Lake: Would people be too satisfied, too stupid or just too stoned to know that they could--and should--demand an encore. (I'm pretty sure it's the only encore-free concert I've ever been to, with the exception of the Smashing Pumpkins performance at Summersault in 2000. And they were just dicks.)
Only in Cold Lake: Would you give a random guy a ride to the bar and let him sit on your lap. (Turns out none of us knew the dude in the green shirt.)
In conclusion: I'm pretty sure that seeing Snoop in Cold Lake was the highlight of my life to date. Fact.
The next day, after barely sleeping, I got up at 6:45 am to drive my parents to the city for my little cousin's wedding.
Graham totally locked that shit down. Good work, team.
I don't look tired, right?
Maybe not, but I do have to warn you: if you ever invite me to your wedding and there is a photobooth, I WILL source props from elsewhere in the room. (This usually involves dismantling your centrepieces and decorations. Might as well put them to good use.)
I met some like-minded photobooth abusers. We called this series, "Forever Alone." (I particularly like how our photos are perfectly juxtaposed against Graham's happy couple stud shot.)
The truth is though, with cousins like these, I don't think I'll ever truly be alone.
Four teenagers are hanging out at the marina. One teenage boy to the rest of the group: "I didn't fail high school! I just have to go back and upgrade so I can get a good job in the oil field."
Also, for everyone who keeps asking me how late it stays light out here, I took this picture of my street on my walk the other night. Want to garner a guess of what time I took it? (Cold Lakers are not allowed to participate in this challenge.)
No, seriously, isn't life sometimes just the best?
So, because I love a good backstory, this post requires a short introduction: I have a problem, one that largely entails talking to strangers.
In January 2006, I was outside the Mod Club (this is why I specified that it was early 2006—I feel like the year is contextually necessary) when I noticed a girl standing in front of us in line, solo. I struck up a conversation with her, which in itself isn't notable. In fact, it would have been a completely unremarkable event if it wasn't for a fact that a month later, when Chloé, David Berry and I were in New York, she checked into our hostel.
Anyway, Emily is this completely lovely human being who I had the good fortune of spending a week with once upon a time. (And again, it's another one of those magical situations of meeting someone at the bar who should have remained a stranger, but somehow isn't.)
Fast forward to three weeks ago. My co-worker Lisha and I were at the Leslieville Tree Festival when one of the local circus schools started performing aerial silks on the tree next to our booth. Lisha was enthralled.
"I wish I could try that," she said.
"I actually have a friend who teaches aerial silks," I told Lisha, thinking of Emily's school, Hercinia Arts Collective. "I should put you in touch with her."
Two days later, Emily, somewhat out of the blue, messaged me on Facebook to see if I wanted to try a private lesson. Oh, and I could bring a friend.
I messaged Lisha right away. (See, isn't life just sometimes magical?)
It also didn't hurt that this is the first activity of the year that genuinely fit in with Year of the Physical Fitness Challenge. (Let's face it; dogsledding and ice-fishing don't necessarily count as such.) And like all other activities in the year (that are yet to come, of course), I was completely terrified.
On Tuesday, I met up with Emily and Lisha at the Hercinia studio in Liberty Village.
First up, we tried silks. It was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate just how ungraceful and uncoordinated I am.
Lisha, on the other hand, was immediately a pro.
Next up was the hoop.
Emily makes everything look easy, which is simultaneously terrifying and reassuring.
At least I have decent balance. It's my saving grace.
Finally, we moved on to the trapeze, which I thought was going to be my favourite. (When I was a kid, our log cabin down by the lake hanging from the roof. We used to spend our summers swinging from the dining table to the fireplace.) That is, until I remembered my fear of heights, hence the look of sheer terror on my face.
Most terrifying two seconds of my life.
Seriously, I know I sound like a wimp, but I wouldn't have had the guts to try any of this if it wasn't for Emily. She is an amazing, clear and patient instructor and made me feel 100 per cent comfortable that I wasn't going to kill myself. (And I didn't, so I rate the day as a success.)
Evidence in the video below of Lisha on the trapeze:
Best part? Walking out, I felt relaxed for the first time in weeks. (It was a way better de-stressor than the mani/pedi that I went for on Monday. Seriously.)
If you want to try a class with Emily or any of the other instructors at Hercinia (which trust me, you probably do) they offer year-round private, semi-private and group classes, which are capped at four people.
The truth is, I don't even know how to properly articulate this, but last night was one of those rare occasions that was relatively uneventful--yet perfectly serendipitous and magical in the most unexpected way.
Here's the back story: A year and a half ago, I was out at the bar when I met Ramsey and Chris at Stone's Place. "Clearly, we are meant to be friends," I later wrote on my blog about the encounter. But I was worried about how I could ever possibly develop a friendship with two guys that I quite literally picked up at the bar.
One of our last stops of the day was the New Farm. It was clear that it was a really special spot. (I dedicated an entire blog post to its outhouse. That's saying something, right there. )
So when Chris invited me to camp with him and Ramsey up at the New Farm for Grow for the Stop, a charity event where Toronto chefs serve up local food, it somehow seemed very full circle. (The mint and radish salad picture pictured above was dope, by the way. I can't complain about the fried green tomatoes from Keriwa, either.)
(This picture is for Monique. Me and Carl Heinrich, the winner of Top Chef Canada. "This is my first photo request," he told me. I felt like a dork, especially considering that I had only learned of his existence about 30 minutes earlier.)
But it gets better. After I finished consuming two platefuls of food and two beet donuts (which may not sound excessive, except for the fact that I ate three more donuts before the night was over) we went into the barn, where Stars was playing their first show in a year.
Maybe it's my hangover or maybe it's just that there are no other words that are appropriate, but it was magical. Dancing and singing along, I found myself surrounded by friends that very well could have remained strangers.
The best part though? When Amy's mic cut out and a barn-wide singalong broke out. (The video is a short clip of Ageless Beauty.)
The next morning, Chris, Ramsey, Sasha (who had joined us later in the night, along with Courtney and Darren) and I packed up our tent in the damp and drove back to Toronto, giggling the whole way.
At home, I washed away the previous night's bonfire and booze and got ready for work. With time to spare, I decided to walk around the corner to my new favourite coffee shop, Lost and Found, journal in hand.
"I just feel so lucky sometimes, you know?" I told the proprietor, Justin, as he handed me my double Americano.
"I can tell," he said, smiling. "Positivity is just radiating off of you."
Every day of my life. Every day of my life I am blessed.