Thursday, October 27, 2016


I recently put my name in to become an ambassador for Tourism Regina - basically a person who does things in the city and then tells other people about the things they've done.

I thought, That sounds like something I could do -- because it sounds like something I already do. If you look over to the right and click on the label YQR, or if you follow me on Instagram, you'll see what I mean. I get out a lot. I see a lot of shows, go to a lot of local events, frequent a lot of small businesses.

When I first moved to Regina, I was just floating through, the way you do when you're 20. (I was going to work for a few months and save up some money and move to England. I can't remember why or what for.)

I'd been living in Swift Current; an old high school friend had called me up and said she needed a roommate for the summer in Regina. I moved here a week later (I obviously wasn't that attached to Swift Current) and I've been here ever since. I have a house. A house!

If Then Me could read this, she'd probably cry. She'd probably sob her face actually off. She'd be like, "You bought a house? What could you possibly be thinking? Why didn't you just lay down and let them cover you in concrete while you were at it?" Don't even get me started on what she'd say if she saw that I was also wearing skinny jeans.

Because Then Me still likes her flares and thinks she's going to end up in London or New York, someplace with taller skyscrapers and more celebrities. She has yet to learn that where you are is just as good as where you're not - and, in fact, it's even better. Because you're there. You can make stuff happen where you are.

I'll stop talking about myself in this weird third-person-past-tense now.

What was I even talking about? Regina?

So, I grew up in a literal village, in between another village and a hamlet and also a place called Loomis with a population of 1. There were 17 kids in my grad class. We did stupid things for fun. We didn't have a swimming pool and the nearest movie theatre was an hour away and only showed movies that had already been out for a year. Maybe that's why I have in my heart such a deep appreciation for Something to Do. Maybe it's also why I have have such a need for tight-knit community. And maybe that's why I now have this unexpected thing for Regina, Saskatchewan - because it's big enough to have one without losing the other?


But seriously, Regina is just exactly the right size because it's not big enough to swallow me up like New York inevitably would, but it's also not so small that I can't move around in it. It's a place with actual opportunities for anyone who wants them. Like, I can say, "Hey, I want to be an ambassador for Tourism Regina," and Regina's like, "Okay, here's your fanny pack." (I don't thiiiink they were joking about the fanny pack. I'll keep you posted.)

Anyway, I was accepted and I've been an official Tourism Regina "Ambassador" (I don't know why, but every time I say that word out loud I feel the need to do air quotes) for about a month now (check me out here). Obviously it's fun to do stuff for free, but I also genuinely love that the city is running this program. I think it's important for people to be excited about where they live, to get involved in the community in whatever way they can or want to and to be aware of the opportunities to help out or have fun.

I mean, those very opportunities will dry up if no one's taking advantage of them, right? The small businesses can't thrive if people aren't supporting them (and some of those small business owners are pretty dang important to me, personally), the arts scene will wither away if no one appreciates it, charities can't run without volunteers and donations, and out-of-town musicians won't come back through if they can't sell tickets (horror).

And that's just the Negative Nancy side of things. There're a billion good things that can come out of a community that spends time enjoying and building into itself. A billion good relationships and ideas.

So that's that, just in case you've ever wondered why I put so much time and effort into enjoying this little city and all it has to offer.

I enjoy it because the more I enjoy it, the more enjoyable it will become. Which sounds fluffy and dumb but which is pretty true of almost everything.

Monday, October 17, 2016


Sunday morning, as my son's sticky bare feet danced across my face and I subsequently pried my eyelids open with a nail file at 6 something AM, I told myself a magical fairy tale. It went like this:

"Once upon a time, I was 21.

I often stayed out all night and was never tired.

If I got tired, though, I could just take a nap or sleep in until noon.

And I never, ever, ever got bags under my eyes.

The end."

BreakOut West was in Regina this weekend - it's a yearly music conference celebrating the thriving music scene in western Canada, featuring workshops and networking opportunities for musicians, as well as a three-day music festival for me.

I mean, for everyone.

As you should know, I take live music very seriously. I prep. I study. I plan.

These are things I was not good at in high school. Actually, these are things that I'm still not good at in any area of life except for live music. Give me a biology test, I'll lay with my head on the binder on my bed and fall asleep, hoping that the Garfield comic about learning by osmosis is legit. Give me a music festival, I'll get out my coffee and highlighters and do this:

Don't look at me like that.

There were more than 65 bands in town this weekend, and I had more than a few that I absolutely needed to see. But also, there were 13 venues all going simultaneously. Which means that unless you're super organized (see: ME) you will waste your entire evening scrolling through the app like, "Oh crap, I can't see JP Hoe and Slow Leaves at the same time! I should've gone to Slow Leaves last night at Crave at 8PM so that I could sit here and enjoy JP Hoe at the Exchange..." 

So I went through and highlighted all of my must sees and then cross-checked to make sure they didn't interfere with each other and a few of them did but most were playing more than once, so I juggled and rearranged and whittled it all down to a concise little schedule which I mostly stuck with.  I wanted to support the local talent, but I also wanted to see some out-of-towners, and there was also the matter of seeing a band perform in a venue well-suited to them - I mean, if you have a choice between seeing Mike Edel playing the Artful Dodger or Bobby's Place, you should pick the Artful Dodger show because it suits the style of music better. It's a science.

...and you're giving me sympathetic You're Crazy Eyes right now aren't you? Yeah, well.

Anyway. I got a media pass through Tourism Regina which gave me access to both awards ceremonies and all of the venues. I was little nuts about it and went to everything possible. Today, the edges of my vision are fuzzy and when I try to smile at people I think I just snarl a little instead. Well worth it.

A brief overview for my personal records, followed by a playlist for your listening pleasure:

Thursday: Western Canadian Music Awards and afterparties
My +1: Kate (and Robyn joined us later)
Highlight: #jaredthepublicist
Favourite musical performances: William Prince, Colin James, and Michael Bernard Fitzgerald

After the show, we went to Colin James' CD release/afterparty. There was a big table in the middle of the room, and it was just full of deep-fried chips. So we ate those and then we did the obligatory group picture, immediately after which Colin James literally - literally - ran out the door. Sprinted, even. It was weird. (But if you look at the picture, you can totally tell he's about to run. His smile says it.)

So then we went to the other afterparty at the Artful Dodger. Colin James was there too. 

I hope he didn't think we'd followed him.

Friday: BreakOut West Music Festival, Night 1
My +1: Ashley 
Bands: Bears in Hazenmore, Youngblood, Rah Rah, Mariachi Ghost, The Matinee
Venues: University Multipurpose Room, Durty Nelly's, The Owl
Favorite: Bears in Hazenmore

These pictures are all out of order. What a mess.

Saturday morning: Canadian Music Industry Awards Brunch @ The Doubletree
My +1: Erin
Bands: Megan Nash, Arlo Maverick, Nadia Gaudet & Jason Burnstick
Eats: pancakes and stuff
Highlight: the return of #jaredthepublicist

Saturday Afternoon: Mini BreakOut West @ The Royal Saskatchewan Museum
My +1s: Sullivan, Julia & Myles, Kate & Eldon

They had a free afternoon music festival for kids at the Museum, and I took Sully to that. What a great idea! I definitely take every opportunity to expose Sullivan to live music. My parents did the same to me - I've heard tales about me and my brother sleeping in our car seats at the back of rock concerts as babies. 

This explains a lot, actually.

Saturday Night: BreakOut West Music Festival, Night 2
My +1: Robyn
Bands: Mike Edel, Ryan McNally, Jesse and the Dandelions, Sam Weber, 36?, JP Hoe, Slow Leaves
Venues: Artful Dodger, The Exchange, The Club, Durty Nelly's
Worth Noting: I almost got hit by a taxi crossing the street this night. I had a full on Kevin-from-Home-Alone moment (when the van with the robbers stops just inches from his face?) and a guy, from the safety of the sidewalk, yelled "YOU ALMOST DIED!" 
Favourite performance: JP Hoe. Because I have a big emotional attachment to his song Save You and he played it and it was amazing.

(I first heard it a few months ago on the CBC as I was driving, but the radio DJ didn't say who it was. I tried to remember the lyrics so I could look it up when I got home but...did not. The next time I heard it, I actually pulled over to Shazam it so I could find it later on Spotify, but the last note died away just as I hit the Shazam button. Rats. It became this uncanny Thing, that every time I got into my car, it was just ending, or every time I tried to Shazam it, I wouldn't be able to pull over in time, or whatever. It took me a crazy long time, but finally one sunny afternoon in August, Rich Terfry said the magic words: "And that was Winnipeg's own JP Hoe with Save You..." 

I was very polite about it, I said, "Thank you, Rich," right out loud in my car. And then I went home and listened to that song on Spotify, and then something went weird with my app and it was stuck on his album, Hideaway, for two weeks. Not a terrible thing; that album is pretty dang good.)

Anyway, I was super excited when I saw he was going to be at Breakout West, and he didn't disappoint me. 

His was the second-last show I saw, and it started at 12:15. By that point in the "evening," Robyn had gone home and I was alone - but if you know me at all you know that I really don't hate being at concerts all by myself. I just enjoy them in a different way than I do when I'm with someone. Like anything, I guess. Besides, the thing about live music is that you're never really alone, not in a lonely way, because there's all this connecting going on between the musician and the audience and between all of the people and the actual music and between the members of the audience and between the members of the band... Like, we're all here to have fun and we all have at least this one thing in common, and now we'll all share this really sweet memory. It's cool. 

Another point worth making: the music scene has some loyal regulars. Some of them I've never spoken to, but it's getting more and more common to strike up a conversation with one or two of them between songs. There's a girl who's at every Rah Rah show who wears a mushroom backpack. There's a really tall girl and a guy who always looks bored but never misses a show so I don't think he's actually bored. There's Paul (hi, Paul). There're a few people I recognize from the coffee shops I frequent. Etcetera. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. If you feel dumb going to shows alone, just come stand by me. It's not weird - everyone's standing by everyone. It's basically the least exclusive social club ever - all you have to do is show up. You don't even have to say anything. 

So that was that. It's a lot less strenuous in writing, but it does lack some of the excitement and panache. The whole thing was marvellous; I left the weekend feeling really proud of our half of Canada, and of Regina specifically. The music scene and the people. 

One last thing: I've put together a playlist, with one song each from most of the musicians I saw this weekend (I couldn't find McNally on Spotify! Sad, because their set was incredible). There were so many musicians I didn't get to see who would be lovely additions to this playlist. Next year, I suppose?

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Human Nature

The other night when I was tucking Sullivan into bed, he stood up suddenly, on top of his covers and said, "Mom, there are two Sullys."

And I said, "Huh?" The doctor had thought he was twins at first because he was growing so quickly in utero, but there is only one of him. I would know. I'm the mom.

And he said, "There are two Sullys. A dark Sully and a light Sully."

I was not prepared for this discussion. I said, "Huh?"



"Which one is the real Sully? The dark Sully or the light Sully?"

I shook my head. "I uh...huh?" Was this a developmental milestone of some kind? I hadn't been keeping up with those milestone websites, so maybe. Age 2.5: develops philosophical streak, begins to ask questions about whether, fundamentally speaking, humans are inherently good or evil.

And then he pointed at the wall behind him, where his shadow stood. "Is that the real Sully, or is this the real Sully?" He pointed at his head.

"Good grief," I said.

"Charlie Brown says that," he said.

"That's true."

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Dancing On My Own

I went to a fancy party by myself a couple of nights ago. This is the third time in a month I've attended a social event solo - and you know, it's getting easier. Funner, even. Who is this person I am all of a sudden? I'm getting better at small talk (I think). I'd probably attribute this to the discovery of something all of you have most likely known for years already, something you figured out while I was home being a mommy blogger:

When you're a teenager, you go to a party and you make friends. You exchange phone numbers and email addresses and add each other on MSN and MySpace (or, you know, Snapchat, Twitter, whatever whatever). Then you're friends and you stay in touch.

When you're an adult, or, at least, someone who looks like one, you go to a party and you network. It's networking now. You approach a stranger and ask what they do and they ask what you do and they go, "Oh! We should talk down the road - I need someone like you." And then, instead of scrawling your phone number on their arm in black Sharpie marker, you ask for a business card. Networking is twenty times easier than socializing because you can stay at the businessy level as long as you want, but there's still the friendship option. I came home last night with clean arms and a pocket full of business cards - a few new friends too. Win.

Plus, it should be noted that the snacks - sorry, hors d'oeuvres - at a grown-up party are way better than teenage party snacks.

Being an adult: 10/10, would do it again.

Anyway, the party was a launch event for Hotel Saskatchewan, which has just completed a massive renovation, and it was unreal. Five star everything. The kind of party you need a map for. Actually...

...and I forgot to paint my fingernails.

The whole place was open to explore, with food and drinks and music in all of the main rooms - live jazz in the ball room, a barbershop quartet in the barbershop, etc. There was dancing and even a couple of actors walking around in character as mobsters.

At least, I'm assuming they were actors. They didn't say they were actors. But one of them was named Mickey and told me he wanted me to say hi to Vinnie for him because they weren't on-speakin-terms-if-you-know-what-I'm-sayin, and something about sleeping with fishes, so.

Right? (Hotel Sask: if you didn't hire actors for the party the other night, you might want to look into this.)

They were clearly going for a classic but modern theme in every aspect - decor, entertainment, etc... I loved it. I loved all of it. I'm moving in (if they don't want that, they shouldn't have fed me so well).

Speaking of food: Good grief. I came home afterward, feigned a dramatic faint on the couch and described the food to Barclay for about half an hour. Poor guy. I didn't think to sneak anything home for him in my purse. Not even a seafood push-up or a flambeed kiwi.

Entertainment and gluttony aside, the hotel itself is just a really beautiful place to hang out. It has a lot of character, and I'm glad they didn't lose that when they did all of their renovations.

(As I'm beginning to sound like a paid advertisement, I just want to note that I'm not. That never used to be a thing with blogging, and now it is, but I'm not into it. I just had a really great night. This is, at the very most, a thank-you note to Hotel Saskatchewan and Katie Bially for a very sweet evening.)

On my way home, I had to stop at the grocery store to buy diapers and rice and the flour I forgot to buy the day before. Walking into the store, I felt really fancy because my hair was done and I was in high heels - and on my way out I just looked a train wreck, curls in my eyes, trying to balance on my trippy shoes while carrying all that heavy stuff. It was cute, I'm sure. You can picture it, if you want.

#staytrue, indeed