Thursday, July 18, 2013

We Rocked Those Shores Again

   A few days ago, the largest outdoor music festival to hit the Victoria region, Rock The Shores, took place and for the second year in a row I got to play a big part in the event's production. It was a lot of very hard work and there were some lessons learned along the way, but I honestly have to say it was a privilege to be part of such an amazing team and to be a part of something people will be talking about for a long time to come.
   Over two very hot days, thousands of music lovers were treated to a barrage of outstanding performances from a dozen mostly Canadian acts such as: 54-40, Sam Roberts, Mother Mother, City And Colour, Jimmy Eat World, AWOLNation, Acres Of Lions, Reignwolf, The Sheepdogs, Matthew Good, Vince Vaccaro and headliners Weezer.
   While a lot of hard work went in to putting on the event, the payoff was a collection of experiences that I will remember for the rest of my life. I reconnected with old friends and made some new friends along the way and I must have had a million conversations with so many interesting people. It wasn't all fun and games and beer, though. That came after we all worked our asses off to put on a show for 10,000 people a day.
  It started several days before the show with setting up the fields and protecting the lawn from heavy equipment by laying down hundreds of sheets of plywood.
   The mobile stage arrived the next day and was assembled throughout the afternoon, then the sound and light team took over and installed their gear.
   Once the festival kicked off I was assigned to roam around the upper portion of the field and help out wherever needed. I may not have gotten close to the stage, but thanks to the amazing sound guys I had no problems hearing and enjoying some of my favorite bands.
   Headliners Weezer closed out the show late Sunday evening and played all their best known hits. By that time I was able to get closer to the stage and as my colleague Joe put it: "There's nothing like standing at the side of the stage and hearing 10,000 people just having fun!"
   Alas, all good things must come to an end and those of us on the crew all knew we had some more work to do before we could join the party backstage. Once the band left the stage after their encore, we had to make sure those 10,000 people got out safely and then start cleaning up after them. Not the most delightful task, but an important one nonetheless.
    A few key pieces of equipment were packed up in their respective trucks so that the drivers could make it to the early ferries off the Island the next morning, and then, at long last, our bosses finally said it was beer o'clock. The party was on!
    As anyone who's hosted a big party will know, the cleanup the next morning can be a little rough, especially when burned out from the night before, but we promised Westshore Parks And Rec that we'd leave the field as spotless as we could and we delivered. The stage was dismantled and the tents put away. I even had a little group of helpers following me around as I swept the field!  
   All in all, Rock The Shores 2013 was an incredible experience and I would do it all again in a heartbeat. Well, maybe after a few days out of the sun eating home cooked food. There's only so much festival food a guy can handle.
   Bring on Rock The Shores 2014!
The Wandering Oak

Monday, May 13, 2013's been a while...

   I've done it again. I've let this blog sit idle for too long and visitor traffic has almost come to a stand still. Well, today I've decided to try to rectify that and bring you folks up to speed on what I've been up to lately.
  • My job at Target is going well. It's been over two months now and I've really settled into my role as a member of the store's logistics team. In simple terms you could say I'm a glorified stock-boy, but I don't like that title. I do so much more than just stocking shelves.
  • I get along really well with all of my coworkers and am making new friends all the time. I'd say everyone there gets along well, actually. I don't see any animosity between anybody and it's so nice to work in a drama-free environment.
  • It's also really nice to continually hear how well I do my job. It's amazing just how much hearing the phrase "good job" can do for my morale. I've had other jobs in the past where my employers never did that and would only talk to me when I was doing something they saw as wrong, even if I was right. There's a reason those companies don't keep very many long term employees.
  • Outside of Target, my involvement with this year's Rock The Shores and Rifflandia music festivals has already started. I've been contacted by the event producers and invited to work with them again this summer and I can hardly wait for that. Just the other day I helped the producers move into their new office downtown, which was a lot of work, but it was good to see everyone again.
  • As far as my own musical hobby goes, I can't really say I've done a lot of playing lately. I've really been suffering from a lack of inspiration these days and I'm looking into possibly getting new guitar effects hoping that will spark something. I'll write more about that next time.
  • I am making a lot of progress with my model ships. My third ship, a US Navy command ship, is really taking shape now and is starting to actually look more like a ship and not just a hodge-podge of random parts. I've done a lot of custom scratch-building and detailing to make the model look as much like the real ship does today as I can and while it can be frustrating working with such tiny parts, the payoff is worth it. The unfinished model already has a commanding presence on my bookcase!
  • Speaking of my model ships, the video I made last year for my RMS Titanic has had over 11,000 views and has received a lot of positive comments. I'm really quite proud of that one.
   So that's about it, really. I know I'm not the most exciting blogger out there, but my life is stable. I have my wife, my friends, my health, and my home and I'm thankful for those things.
   I'll do my best to write more soon. To tide you over, here's a recent photo of my current model ship. This is the forward section of the main deck, loaded with communications equipment. There's a bit more to do, but I'm happy with how it looks so far!

   Take care of yourselves, and each other!

The Wandering Oak

Monday, February 25, 2013

Big Red Bull's Eye

   Hello, readers!
   It's been some time since my last post, but I honestly haven't had a lot to write about until now. The weeks since I lost my job at the bookstore have been a little tough with the job markets being so lean. Anyone that's been out of work for a while can tell you how frustrating it can get, especially in this day and age of online job boards with vague postings and faceless hiring procedures. You send them an email or resume and wait for a response.
And wait.
And wait.
   Even though I have hobbies like playing music, photography, and scale model ship building, I still found myself getting kind of bored and stir crazy.
   Well I'm happy to report that after almost two months of sitting idle I have found myself a new day job that I'll start soon. Not only that, I've also recently heard from some of the people I worked with during last summer's music festival season and they would like me to work with them again this summer!
   My new day job will be at a brand new Target store set to open here in Victoria this Spring. They hosted a hiring fair last week and I decided to go and meet them. The best part about Target I discovered is that they are very flexible in their scheduling. I told them during my interviews that I like to be a roadie in the summer months - which, by the way, they thought was "so cool!" - and they said there should be no problem balancing both jobs so long as I've got plenty of notice. Perfect!
   So, starting March 12th, I will be part of the receiving and merchandising team at the new store. Yes I'll have to get up pretty early, but it sounds pretty straight forward. The products come into the store and I help get them onto the shelves. Once in a while I'll be called upon to help a customer find something. Nothing I haven't done before. There's no commissioned sales or anything, so no worries there. I never was the strongest salesperson. I'll help a customer, but I'm not out to get them to spend more than they intended to.
   I've got a little shopping to do before I start my new job. Anyone familiar with Target likely noticed the staff dress code of red shirts and tan pants. I'm okay with that and I look good in red, which is something else I joked about near the end of my interviews when I knew I had the job. It made them laugh and I know I scored an extra point.
    I should be glad my new job isn't on the Starship Enterprise or that red shirt would pretty much make me a big red bull's eye!

Image courtesy of Google. 

The Wandering Oak

Thursday, January 17, 2013

It Took Me 25 Years To Read The Hobbit

   I finally finished reading Tolkien's The Hobbit this week. It only took me 25 years to do it. Now to be clear, I haven't been carrying around the same copy this whole time. You know, reading a word a day. Could you imagine? No, what I mean is that after several false starts over the past quarter century I finally managed to read the entire story from front to back.
   My first attempt was when I was in fourth or fifth grade, about 25 years ago, though I can't remember clearly as I had the same teacher for both grades so it all kind of meshed into one year. Anyway, my teacher loved to have his classes do book reports and our class prided ourselves on being a well read bunch of ten year olds so we cranked them out. We were always free to choose our own books, but of course there were a lot of books that were assigned to us and The Hobbit was one of them.
   Well, unlike everyone else, I just couldn't get into it at the time. Perhaps I wasn't ready for it yet, or maybe it just didn't interest me, or maybe my ten year old brain was too distracted by other things. Maybe it was all of the above. I don't really know. I do remember that the copy I was given was old and beat up and published in the sixties. To a ten year old in the eighties, that was ancient! Funny how all these years later I love old books, but I've grown up a lot since then, in more ways than one.
   After a while reading the Hobbit started to feel like a chore and I really lost interest. Needless to say I got a failing grade for that part of the class. That would have been okay if my teacher wasn't such a dick about it. "I'm very disapointed. I don't know why you don't like it. It's such a good story. Everyone else was able to do a report on it." And so forth. I didn't know it back then, but perhaps I didn't want to be like everyone else. They all moved on to the the Lord Of The Rings books and I dove into whatever I could find that was as far away from that genre as I could get. I remember reading my first rock and roll biography around that time. It was on Bruce Springsteen!
   Time passed and I eventually ended up forgetting about the Tolkien books until the early 2000s when nerds the world over wet themselves on hearing that the LOTR series was being made into films. Suddenly that was all everyone could talk about. To be fair, the movies were really well done and deserved all the awards they won - and this is coming from someone who hasn't read the books and therefore can't argue about what they changed in the films. I watched them and I enjoyed them as far as anyone who enjoys a good movie with great special effects and brilliant acting would, but I still couldn't get past that mental block put up by my ten year old self. Why the obsession?
   I did eventually start reading fantasy novels by other authors such as Terry Goodkind and Robert Jordan and I actually enjoyed them, especially Goodkind's books. His stories really struck the right chords with me. Seeing this, Megan gave me the Tolkien books on paperback a few years ago as a way of gently encouraging me to give them another try. I did attempt to, but again my inner ten year old made up as many excuses as he could to get me out of it and they've sat unread for a few years now in our bookcase. I didn't want to break Megan's heart, so I made her a promise that I would try again when I was ready.
   Fast forward to present day. There's a new Hobbit movie in theaters that Megan would really like to see and she once again suggested I give the book another try. Add to this that I worked at a major bookstore that was promoting the hell out of The Hobbit with stacks of books and toys everywhere, I reckoned it was time to buckle down and cross it off my list of books to read and be done with it. Whenever I had bits of spare time to read I put my ten year old self in his room and told him he was grounded while my thirty five year old self wandered through Tolkien's world following Bilbo Baggins and the Dwarves through the Misty Mountains and into adventure.
   You know something? It really wasn't half bad. I can see now why the book is as highly regarded as it is - and Led Zeppelin lyrics even make a little more sense now too! I will soon move on to the rest of the series, but a historical mystery/thriller by Brad Meltzer has caught my attention and I want to read it first.
   I learned two things from all of this: First of all, things are more enjoyable when it's your decision to do them and nobody else's. Secondly, in some situations you have to let go of certain memories and not let one bad experience or fear keep you from trying something new. You never know what adventures may await you.
The Wandering Oak

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Short Chapter, Long Wait

    Well, here we are more than two weeks into 2013 and I find myself in the same position I was in this time last year: out of work. I did have a part time job at the Chapters store in downtown Victoria, but it turns out my seasonal contract with them was far shorter than I anticipated. Once the Christmas and Boxing Week rush was over, I was laid off.
    Fortunately we parted ways on good terms and I do have the option of working there again when there's work available, so no bridges were burned. As I said on my Facebook page the day it happened: "It's not like I crapped on the manager's desk, set fire to the place, and ran out yelling 'Later, bitches!'." In fact, it was quite the opposite. There was a lot of friendly handshakes and a "see you again". I even wrote a nice little note telling everyone there how much I enjoyed working with them and pinned it to the bulletin board in the staff lunchroom.
    Since that short chapter of my life has come to a close I haven't had a lot of luck on the job search front. I've applied for a few jobs and am waiting for replies, but a lot of other seasonal workers are in the same boat I'm in so it's a tough market out there. As I've mentioned before, what's important to my wife and me is keeping money in our emergency savings account, so I really just need something that will help us do that. It doesn't even have to be long term since I'm hoping to get back into working in live music once festival season starts up again in the summer. Although all the work involved left me little time for my family and friends, which I felt bad about, there was something about finally being able to work in the music industry that really made me happy. Lucky for me my wife and friends understand that and have actually been very supportive. I love them for it.
    But that was last summer and this is now. Right now I just need something to fill the gap. I know that the connections I made this summer haven't forgotten about me because one of them recently sent me some information about upcoming training sessions for building mobile stages similar to the ones I worked on at various gigs. That is an option. I did enjoy working on the stages and being certified could open some doors for me, but I'm nervous about spending the money on the course. As you know, no amount of training ever guarantees one work. I know someone who spent all kinds of money in university only to end up working at a fast food restaurant.
    Still, having that extra point on my resume might look good. As my former employer told me, "This is a great opportunity to get your name out there, not only in Victoria, but throughout BC. Depending on your future plan it is up to you to determine what's valuable to you." I guess I have some thinking to do.
   One bit of good news is that same former employer has forwarded my information to the appropriate parties that run the various events, so they know I'm out there waiting to help again. I guess I impressed the right people, but it's still going to feel like a long wait.
   Another unrelated, yet still positive, note is that I've had plenty of time to spend on my hobbies. I've read a good book, started another book, and have made a lot of progress on my scale model ships. All of that I will write about another time. Until then, I'll leave you with this bit of live sound humor:
The Wandering Oak

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Zone's Third Annual Toy Drive An Overwhelming Success!

   For the third year in a row now, I've had the pleasure of being a part of the Zone's Annual Toy Drive and I'm pleased to say it has been another successful event. I'm continually blown away by just how generous Victorians can be this time of year in spite of all the world's troubles. No donation was considered too big or too small because every little bit helps.
   This was the pile about 20 minutes after I arrived. I can't even see the items I brought because it built up so fast!
   From the beginning this toy drive has been hosted by local radio station 91.3 The Zone and benefits the St. Vincent De Paul Social Concern Office, an organization dedicated to assisting the less fortunate. I enjoy taking part in this toy drive and I'll continue to do so whenever I can. I've had a few Christmases in my early youth that wouldn't have happened without the donations of strangers, so it feels good to be able to give back whatever little bit I can. As usual Megan and I bought a bunch of small, cute stuffed animals that are guaranteed to make some kids smile.
   This year I even had a little help from my managers at the book store I work at and we put together a nice bundle of children's books for donation on behalf of the store. The books were gratefully accepted and many of the Zone's staff were delighted to see a book about space since the phrase "Spacebook!" often comes up in conversations about anything to do with outer space. Believe me, it happens a lot.
   I always enjoy it when I get to meet and mingle with the staff at the Zone and it's great that they will always remember who their listeners and friends are. I felt like Norm from the old show Cheers when I got a round of "Will!" as I arrived. Too bad I didn't have a witty line like Norm would have.
   After dropping off the toys and books, I stuck around to mingle and watch as more donations came in then I helped to load the truck at the end. I even got to participate in a morning show game live on the air called Dylan vs. The World. Normally, listeners would call in for this game, but I think because the hosts were on location and not in the studio they decided to ask someone who was present and they picked me. In the game listeners go up against morning announcer Dylan answering general trivia questions read by morning show co-announcer Jason. The listener is asked to choose one of two categories and is asked the first question. If a player gets an answer wrong, the other player has a chance to steal a point if they know the answer. The questions go back and forth until one player gets two correct answers.
   The category I chose was Charities, since we were at a charity event. After a strike each for both Dylan and myself, I got one point, he got one point, and suddenly I scored the tie breaker with my correct answer about Doctors Without Borders. I won! I won't say what my prize was as I intend to share it with someone as a gift, but it's still a victory for me. I almost never win anything! It's a Christmas radio miracle!
   Enough about me. To use a real cliche phrase here, the real winners today are the children. By the end of the Toy Drive the pile was huge! There are going to be a lot of very happy kids this holiday!
This angle shows how all the bins, and the sleigh, supporting the pile were stuffed to capacity!
   Thanks again to my friends at the Zone for letting me hang out and thanks to everyone who took the time to make a donation and a special thanks to Mother Nature for the dry weather. It may have been a little chilly, but it was nice to see the sun!
   I look forward to next year's Toy Drive.
The Wandering Oak

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Missing Sock Comes Home

   We've all lost socks in our laundry. It's a fact most of us have learned to live with and a lot of us have fun speculating on where they might go. Did they go to another dimension? Did gnomes take them? Did the machines eat them? Are they in Narnia?
   Several months ago I lost a sock to the laundry gods, and I realize that's not such an interesting thing to write about, but would you believe me if I told you that my missing sock came home?
   In early August I was staying at a hotel in Comox, BC while I worked at the Filberg Festival. During my stay I visited my Mother-in-Law and her husband and took them up on their offer to use their laundry machines. That's when I figure my aforementioned sock went missing, only I wouldn't notice this until I returned to Victoria and unpacked. I didn't have time to sort and fold my clean laundry in Comox and simply shoved it all into my bag the night before I went home.
   Although it was only just a sock and not the end of the world, we decided to tell Megan's mother to keep her eyes open for it and I hung on to the spare sock just in case the mate turned up. It's a brand new sock that has only been worn once and looks nothing like her husband's socks. It was either at her house or I lost it at the hotel, though I'm sure I checked that room many times over to be sure I didn't leave anything. Traveller's OCD.
   Two months passed and when we visited again for the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday in October someone mentioned the missing sock. Megan's mom had seen it but misplaced it again in the shuffle as she was clearing out old clothing. No big deal. At least it's still in this dimension.
   Two more months have passed since then and out of the blue I got an envelope in the mail yesterday from Megan's mother addressed to me. I'm not going to lie, I had actually forgotten about the sock and at first I couldn't figure out what she'd send me. It was Megan that got it right away when she picked up the envelope. Sure enough, there was my sock wrapped in paper, still as gleaming white as the day I bought it, and pressed flat by the sorting machines at the postal station.
   I'm glad I kept the spare sock.
"Re-united... and it feels so good!"
The Wandering Oak
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