Winter, it’s cold, all right.

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The Walk Home

Yes, like everywhere in the lower mainland, it’s cold, very cold, so cold we had to bring all our drinks in from our carport crush bar because they were freezing (Oh, the hardship). It snowed and then it melted a bit and froze, so you can walk on top of the snow and every now and then your boot breaks through for an icy, winter surprise.

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Winter at the Edge of the Forest.

Meaghan assured me that the trees had protected the forest paths from getting covered, but they really were snowy and hikers and bikers (dedication!) had packed the snow down into white, glassy trails. My snow boots don’t have enough traction and when I tried to go uphill I would just slide back down. I had to go off the trail and find a way to use untrodden snow on the side for grip. Eventually we had to decide between trail and logging road and road won because I could navigate it. The only scary part was the downward icy hill leading to the swamp bridge—go on your bum or risk a swamp bath.

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Camp Road

The next day I went to Canadian Tire and bought some Grip-Ons, which are light weight crampons that go over your shoes. They work okay. I still fell over once on top of the slag heap near Old Japantown, I think because I am a clumsy walker to begin with and the Grip-Ons made me too confident.

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Oh, this Whacky Village.

The Village does a kind of funny thing where they plow Main Street so that the snow pile is in the middle. Makes for interesting jaywalking.

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Villagers Enjoy the Swamp

Adam cleared some snow off the swamp and poured water on it (the swamp is only frozen in spots, which is weird when you walk on it because you can see spots that are liquid). Then he put some hockey nets and someone, maybe Adam as well, put a bench on there. It’s been sunny and the holidays so this skating “rink” is well used. In my imagination people forget to take these things off the swamp before the melt comes, and the swamp bottom is covered with hockey nets and benches, but really, Adam probably removes them in time.

At night the stars are beautiful, and sometimes there is moisture in the air which freezes and it makes an icy fog.

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Archie Roasts Oysters on a Winter Fire.

SO WHY DO WE STILL HAVE MOSQUITOES, THEN? WHY? I’ve been meaning to mention a quirk of Cumberland is we have mosquitoes all year ’round. The mostly don’t bite, mostly, but I do have an itchy bump on my index finger right now. I think the mosquitoes mainly live at our house, in the bathtub. When I shower I open the window over our bathtub and blow them outside. Take that, winter mosquitoes! So now you know how mosquitoes survive over winter—they migrate to Cumberland and vex us 12 months of the year. You’re welcome?

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Adam, Hero of the Swamp, and Step, Decked Out for New Year’s Eve. He Can Pull it Off!

 

 

 

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Not So Anonymous Here

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Who Doesn’t Love an El Camino?

You see way more old cars in the Comox Valley than you do in the city, which is a little confusing because there is more road salting and seaside driving here. Either people really love old cars or it’s an economic thing. I am guessing it’s the love, it’s the love. Our 1986 Chevy Camper Van  fits right in. Our camper is really dirty but I’m afraid to wash it because it might fall apart. There are also more “art cars” and one creepy camper van shaped like a skull that lives around the corner from our house. When I see it on the road I try to video it in action but so far these attempts have been met with failure.

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Living Inside Their Head

Things play out differently in a small community. A disgruntled employee brought an internet mob to libel Biblio Taco, which is a damn fine little taco joint, on their Facebook review page, and the village responded by publishing over 1000 positive reviews and eating more tacos. Biblio Taco showed a sense of humour about the whole thing, briefly changing their name to 1 Star Tacos, with merch to match, and still smiling when people started ordering racoon burritos with mouse poo sprinkles. Even though I don’t want a small business to suffer from such antics, some of those one star reviews were pretty funny and imaginative. But then the sad little trolls started bullying a few of the people of the village who called them out, and that was stressful and horrible. Our only consolation is they have to live with themselves and we don’t.

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Feeding the Village People, even the Trolls!

The Village has been upgrading, I think the sewer?, or maybe the road itself?, or both?, anyway Dunsmuir Ave, AKA “Main Street” for ALL SUMMER and FALL. I never knew road work could take so long. It’s kind of funny, and again contrasty to the city, because they didn’t block the road from pedestrian traffic, so people could just wander into whatever part they were working on and look down the big holes. Instead of traipsing down the street at night you could trip down, and one day Stella’s leg fell into a waterworks manhole.The good thing is we now have a beautifully smooth Main Street. The bad thing is anything that took place on the street, like parades and stuff, were cancelled this year and the merchants maybe suffered a little bit financially. The Village People responded by organizing a Cash Mob, which was supposed to be like a flash mob but instead you went into the village and spent cash at the shops. I have no idea how that worked out because I was volunteering at the Elevate Winter Bazaar that day.

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Hey, What Are You Guys Doing?

I keep telling people that Step is a great DJ but the fact that I am married to him makes people think I have some kind of bias. They are starting to catch on, though, and this weekend Step DJed both the opening of the “10 Under 100” show and Tim’s birthday party. Dancing ensued. Jump around, Selector Sproutsonic!

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An Homage to the Village which I put in the 10 Under 100 Show.

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Summer of Beaches

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Step Enjoys Coal Beach

It feels like the summer somehow got away, although looking back through the pictures I have, things happened. Last summer I felt I hadn’t gone swimming often enough so I tried to go every nice day this year. We found some new-to-us swim holes I really enjoy. Step prefers Coal Beach but I like Palm Beach. Well, I like them both, and we also went to Gartley Point a lot because it is in the ocean and easily accessible—you can drive right in unlike most of the other places. Meaghan would also come because she is teaching Cadi how to swim.

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Step and Jon Relax at Gartley Point

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Palm Beach on the Puntledge River

Being super duper busy (but with what?) didn’t stop us from hosting a few parties. We usually have something on Canada day, and this year I borrowed a big charcoal barbecue from the Fleshers and made a several gallons of Arnold Palmer with some whiskey on the side. Badminton is big with us this year, seeing how we have this massive yard, and by the end of the day the grass on both sides of the net was trampled and brown, and all the Arnold Palmer was gone, so I would call that a success!

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Canada Day Friends Playing a Game That Involves a Mouth Full of Water

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Canada Day DJ Action

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I Made a Legendary Community Banner

I took the logo I made for Kevin, which he decided not to use for his tour company, and made a community banner. The first time it appeared was at a fundraiser we did for an improv club I started with my friend, Jon. The fundraiser was called Legends of Badminton, and it was also in our yard. It was competitive sportsing but none of the competitions were classic badminton. Here are some folks playing “Cumberland Fire Drill” and a video of the Awards Ceremony (I took this video on Step’s phone and there are a few points where his phone case shows in the frame. Sorry). Aelia made these sweet sweatbands, and Josie, the woman who claimed first prize, will wear hers. It says “Legendary” on it.

The banner appeared at the Comox Valley Collective Magazine Launch, and was at Foggy Mountain Fall Fair Follies and the Pie Contest, so it’s getting some use. Step told me Sean Sullivan, esteemed Village Councillor, called it the Village Narcissism Banner, but Step doesn’t remember telling me that, or talking to Sean about the banner, so maybe it didn’t happen? Only Sean knows. I probably could have made a banner that said “Historic” instead, but it wouldn’t have been as funny and also no one has commissioned and rejected an “Historic” logo from me (yet).

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Me with Sean Sullivan as “Acting Mayor” During Atmosphere Festival

My brother and his family came to visit us this summer. They live far away so we don’t see them often. I gave my nephew, Emmett, a Captain Thunderpants CD, and he sang “Please Don’t Pull My Pants Down, I Don’t Want to Show My Bum” for about 2 days. It was fun to hang out with him now that he’s old enough to talk, and he seemed to extra love Uncle Step. Step is so excited to be an Uncle, we better get down to their house soon!

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Emmett and Uncle Step Walk in the Forest

We didn’t camp much this summer, other than at Strathcona Dam, and a couple nights on Quadra. Meaghan gets a couple sites every year and a bunch of people go. The campsite  is called Wei Wai Kai and is run by Wei Wai Kai Nation. It’s right on the ocean and there are all sorts of whacky, handmade structures and interesting sculptures. You can’t buy firewood there, instead, they tell you to go to Rebecca Spit and collect it off the beach. This seemed crazy to me until I went there and saw the endless ocean of driftwood. We didn’t have to go far to collect enough wood for the whole weekend.

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Camping at Wei Wai Kai

It’s raining now, seemingly endlessly. The Puntledge river has overflowed and flooded Lewis Park in Courtenay, and I heard a rumour people were kayaking on it (no pics, though, so it might not have happened (edit: It did happen, at least in Puntledge Park, which, it turns out, is flooded as well)). Like many people in Cumberland, we have a sump pump in our unfinished basement, and our lives have a background soundtrack of a rumble, and then the sound of water in the pipes, and then a gurgle, about every 60 seconds, but it’s kind of comforting to know the basement isn’t flooding until the power goes out.

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Seen at Cumberland Peace Park

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Lewis Park. Photo stolen from Comox Valley Echo.

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The River Part of Campbell River

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The Falls of Elk Falls

My full time, temporary job ended which is depressing because I really, really liked that job and now I am a little at loose ends, but at least, finally! we could go camping. Step and I usually go camping in spring, before school is out, and after Labour Day, when school is back in, and other than taking everything we need including water and fuel, we don’t do a lot of planning, which was also our method this time, which turns out to be not the best method for when school is out. We wanted to go somewhere around the river of Campbell River, so first we tried a provincial park near the city of Campbell River called Elk Falls, and while it was beautiful in the same way all the provincial parks are, it was super crowded and the attendant was a little cranky (I guess she was overwhelmed?). All the really good sites were taken so we decided to soldier on. There are a lot of recreational sites  along the river so we tried some. You have to go down long, dirt logging roads to get to them. The first one we tried was Miller Creek, which has, I think, 14 sites, 13 of which were occupied and they were all really close together with no trees or anything in between. That is my least favourite campsite!

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Many People Enjoy Campbell River

We left there instead of snagging the remaining spot and debated on whether to drive all the way to where the turnoff to Gold River and the next provincial park is, and decided to at least go in that direction. The highway, while in very good condition, is really windy (windy, not windy) and people tend to speed down it, and we saw the aftermath of a horrible accident, with a turned over car, and police everywhere and numbered markers showing the skids. That was very disturbing and a cautionary tale. I have traveled down that road many times for my ex-temporary, full time job and I often sped, but I won’t again.

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Q: What Does a Woman Have to Do to Get a Camp Site Like This One?

We noticed BC Hydro had a recreational site at the Strathcona dam and checked that out. The dam is between upper Campbell Lake and Lower Campbell lake. It  was down a dirt road not well marked and after crossing the dam halfway we could see the camp sites below on Lower Campbell Lake but couldn’t figure out how to get to them.  We had seen a Mo-Ho going down a certain road so we turned around and tried that. The road was super bumpy at it went on and on, but we could see the Mo-Ho ahead of us so we plugged along. I started to complain to Step that we had gone way further than the campsite we had seen from the dam, and eventually we found a spot to turn around and back track. Another car approached. I said “Let’s ask this guy. He must know about this place”, but Step was driving and instead of asking the guy questions he just waved and went past him. Then I was quite upset! We had missed out chance for information and the bumpy road was giving me a headache and we wouldn’t find a camping spot before dark! We headed back to the highway, but the mystery of the Strathcona Dam Recreational site vexed us. How the hell did those campers get down there? I brilliantly (if belatedly) consulted a book we keep in the back of the van called “Camp Free in BC“. It instructed we were to go down the Strathcona Dam Road and, tada!, there is the camp site. Step noted that the campsite had river on both sides, so maybe you have to cross the dam and approach it from the other side? And that was the solution and we came to the sites.

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Step at Our Private Little Beach

Maybe half of them were occupied and some were in full view of the massive industrial complex that is the dam, but right at the end we found a magical one, easily the best site of them all, and miraculously unoccupied. Step suddenly realized he had forgotten to bring the hammock! I reminded him we used to enjoy camping even before we got the hammock. From then on, nothing bad happened on our camping trip. The sky cleared of clouds and we could see the milky way. We woke up on a shady waterfront site next to a beautiful, clear turquoise lake, with a fire pit and picnic table, and it was free! You couldn’t even see the dam from there and you had to really turn your neck to see any power lines. It was very relaxing and the water was not too cold. We had a little private beach with a sharp underwater drop off and that was perfect for swimming. Yes, some geese came into our campsite while we were out for a walk and they poohed everywhere, but we flicked that shit away with a stick, so that doesn’t count as bad, it only counts as “not perfect”.

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A: Look For It.

After a couple of nights we had to leave and we visited the Elk Falls suspension bridge on the way home. This is a new bridge that the Campbell River Rotary Club envisioned and helped build, with a bunch of other people, to promote tourism and show off the falls. When you walk there you have to go through some hydro construction and there is a little bridge spanning some penstocks, which some people might find confusing as the bridge. Expectation vs. reality! Keep walking, people! The falls themselves are quite majestic, and the suspension bridge is sturdy, but those suspension bridges are always nerve wracking.

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This Can’t Be It

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This is It.

For lunch, Step got to go to the Ideal Cafe for the first time, and we ran into our friend Dave there. How ideal!

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The Cafe Where Friends Meet Friends.

 

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Escher Road Signs of Merville

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Oh, the Places You’ll Go or Not Go.

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More Going On and On About Food

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Lia of Clever Crow Farm Gets Photo Bombed by a Doomed Duck.

I killed a duck. Not only did I kill it by chopping off its head with an axe, I got up early Sunday morning and drove to Black Creek to do it, after hosting some backyard karaoke the night before (happy birthday, Meaghan!). Clever Crow farm was having a workshop and I figured there was never going to be a better opportunity for me to learn how to kill and pluck and gut a duck than that, plus it was only $35 and you got to keep the duck, so it was a bargain as well.

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Contrary to What This Photo Depicts, I am Not a Psychopathic Duck Killer. I am Smiling Because I Overcame My Duck Killing Reservations in Order to Not Be a Carnivorous Hypocrite and to Be Closer to My Food. Respect.

Technically you didn’t have to kill your own duck if you didn’t want to, and at first I was going to let the instructor do it for me, but at the last minute I decided it would be hypocritical to eat the duck if I couldn’t kill it myself so I went ahead and did it. I would like to say I chopped off its head in one clean and sudden chop but it took me about 4 chops and I kept swinging harder and faster because I didn’t want the duck to suffer (I had been holding it for a while and we had become friendly). Also, maybe the axe I was using wasn’t sharp enough. It wasn’t as bad as what happened to someone else’s duck, whose head got only half chopped off before they lost their grip and it turned messy. It was people’s first time. Ducks, like chickens, keep moving after their heads have been chopped off so you are holding the duck upside down to drain out the blood and its wings are flapping around and blood gets everywhere. If you go kill a duck, make sure you are wearing old clothes, an apron, and rubber boots.

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My Beautiful Fritons. AKA Duck Fat Mouth Explosions.

I made crispy skinned duck breasts, fritons (YUM!), and confit, plus I rendered a lot of fat so I have about a litre of duck fat mixed with olive oil and let me tell you, that stuff is delicious! I gave away the offal, feet and head to another workshop goer. I know duck tongues are supposed to be delicious but I’m not that adventurous of an eater and even the Foie Gras is not that palatable to me.

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Pizza Party!

We took some of the confit to a pizza party in Fanny Bay where the hosts have a beautiful outdoor kitchen in their beautiful outdoor garden. I am happy to report we are finally getting invited to more parties so we are seeing areas of the valley we might not otherwise know about. Check out this view from a house in East Courtenay where we went to a barbecue (who knew?):

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This is Your View When You Live on the Hills of East Courtenay.

I also called LeeAndra to tell her we were crashing the Tree Frog Radio anniversary party, so we spent some time on Denman Island. They have a new eatery called the “Chuck Wagon”, which is a stationary food truck on some farm land. It was good. Really good. And they have a charming ivy covered country store. Bruce and LeeAndra have a stone oven for pizza, too, and they produce their own food. Hippies have the best food, it’s the rule and the appeal of the lifestyle.

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Farm Store by the Chuck Wagon

Someone told Step that the drought last year makes the cherries fight back this year, so there is a serious bumper crop going on. I had to stop offering to pick fruit for half because we can’t process all these cherries! (And this year people are being fined for not picking fruit because of how it attracts the bears). We have frozen cherries for pies, made cocktail cherries in booze, made sour cherry shrub (so good!), and I have about 3 litres of cherries  vodka. It’s a cherry year.

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People Anticipating Their Future Sour Cherry Shrub Cocktails.

Other food news is we offered to be the drop off for the Merville Organics CSA this year and have been getting weekly bins of locally grown goodness. For the first 3 weeks there was some confusion and at least one person didn’t pick up their bins so we were ending up with double the food fun but things are going like clockwork now. It really gets you going creatively when your bin has 3 cups of tarragon in it. I learned how to make Green Goddess dressing.

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Families Pick Up Their Merville Organics CSA Bins. What Will They Do With Their Tarragon?

You’d think with all this fresh, organic goodness I would be eating a healthy breakfast, but half the days I eat bacon and the other half I eat orange juice with liquorice from the Liquorice Parlour in Vancouver. Tiger’s Tail! Healthy! I am not a practical person.

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Cumberland Has a Farmers’ Market, Now.

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If You Visit Bruce and LeeAndra, Your Food Could End Up Here.

 

 

 

 

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Campbell River, it’s Not So Bad, and Elevate Arts Festival

 

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An Ideal Lunch Spot is the Ideal Cafe

I have had to go to Campbell River quite often due to my temporary full time job and it turns out it’s not a bad little town after all. It’s maligned because of it’s economic condition (the mills closed), but it is sweet-by-the-sea and it has a pretty decent strip mall Thai restaurant called Imagine Thai (the Tord Mun Moo is to die for). The Comox Valley doesn’t have a single good Thai restaurant and as a Thai food lover that is hard on me. Campbell River also has an vintage diner called Ideal Cafe that serves milkshakes, and it’s authentically retro—like, it’s been there and that way forever, a relic from another time.

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The Market Seen from Discovery Pier

I also went to Campbell River with Kevin Flesher, Comox Valley Poet Laureate, and his business partner Mark, because  I was helping them make some promotional material for their new Legendary Tour company (I ended up not getting great pictures for their rack cards and they rejected the logo I made for them, so in the end I wasn’t much help after all. Onward.) But first Kevin’s alter-ego, Captain Thunderpants, had to do a show at the Campbell River Farmers’ Market, which I had been meaning to check out. It turns out it’s more of a craft market than a food type deal, at least at this time of year, but I did buy a giant bag of spinach from the culty farm-to-table restaurant people for a mere $3. I went on and on about how reasonable that was and later when I walked by their booth again I saw they had changed the price of giant bags of spinach to $4. Haha! I have eaten at their restaurant in Chilliwack a few times and once in Nelson but whenever I try to go to the one in Courtenay it is closed.

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Captain Thunderpants being Slightly Blurry (I was having focus issues that day)

The Campbell River Farmers’ Market is at the foot of Discovery Pier which is T shaped and you can rent fishing poles and fish off the dock. It also has a tiny little aquarium you can have a tour of.

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Giant Copper Stills at Shelter Point Distillery

Captain Thunderpants is a good entertainer but maybe not the best at time management so the tour stops on the way home were rushed. We spent a little time at the Shelter Point Distillery which is an incredibly beautiful facility, with indoor water features and giant copper vats. The spirits were tasty, too! We also stopped at Coastal Black Estate Winery, but it was pretty much like every other vineyard  I’ve been to, so while it was nice not a lot stood out about it. You can sit in their courtyard and look at birds in a big cage if you have more time than we did.

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Setting Up Rockets at the Entrance to Elevate

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I’m Starting to Suspect the Golden Honey Second String Marching Band is Following Me Around

When I got home I took the little girls swimming at the lake and after I dropped them off I went to Puntledge river to join some Elevators decompressing after the Elevate the Arts summer festival. Step was heavily involved with Elevate as a board member and volunteer but due to my job all I did was some karaoke in the alley. Despite having the worst technical difficulties ever it went okay. It was the usual karaoke phenomenon where it was hard to get people to start and then hard to get them to stop. The rest of the festival was really enjoyable. There are vendors and entertainers on the street and there are inside venues as well. Everything is free admission because the mandate of the festival is to be accessible. I listened to Jon play his accordion while I made a collage at the collaging station (collage is really popular around these parts). To me it felt like the day when Cumberland came to Courtenay and hung out. The volunteer meals had a DJ and Projectionists, and there was Pop-Up art gallery show of Ed Varney‘s collection titled “The 80’s Called, They Want Their Art Back” which featured a lot of A Walk Is…artists like I. Braineater and ManWoman. (I had a solo show at A Walk Is…pretty much annually but there was none of my stuff, or Marta Pan’s, or Teresa Henri’s,  but there was one Jan Wade piece so the show really had that genuine ’80’s feel to it). I enjoyed seeing art and artists I had maybe forgotten about like Mandad‘s crazy silicone animals and David Ostrem‘s whimsical comicesque paintings. The space felt like an ’80’s style gallery space too.

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An ’80’s Art Gallery Experience

Even though I wasn’t really a driving force for Elevate this year I went with Step to the debriefing meeting. I was planning on being the BBQer but there was a lot of food left from Miners’ Memorial Weekend and BBQ wasn’t needed, so I just hung out on the beautiful beach with the beautiful people and felt beautiful. Elevate yo’self!

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Post Elevate Beauty

Bonus Picture:

Elevate Collage

Collage I Made While Listening to Jon

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