2015

Over the course of these retrospectives I’ve compared my life to a movie series a few times, and I’m gonna use that analogy again here: 2015 was a straight-up reboot of 2011. A low-stress period of peace and regrowth with no unwelcome surprises. I loved it. I love love love love love loved it.

Just like in 2011, January was a deep dark period of rest. Once again I spent most days going on long walks with my dog, with a new sense of appreciation for them after her injury. Every night we went exploring into the mysterious woods under the winter night sky. You know that light brownish colour it gets when there’s cloud cover in the colder months? That makes it feel like you’re in a Siberian folk tale? I’ve loved it since childhood, but in 2015 I made a ritual of heading into the forest and staring up at that sky through the gnarled bare branches of the towering trees around me.

Another sight that always satisfies the existential nerd inside me is that of tall buildings against the backdrop of a bleak grey January day, which is what I took in on a walk after signing paperwork for my new promo gig.

Q107’s promo events were not drastically different from The Edge’s; I hadn’t stepped into some magical new dream of a career. They were paid though, and that tiniest increment of a step forward was enough for me. I didn’t really care that I’d replaced standing outside Muse and Imagine Dragons concerts with standing outside Bob Seger and Fleetwood Mac concerts. I would totally feign enthusiasm for Classic Albums Live (Toronto’s rockingest classic rock tribute act) for money.

I saved my real enthusiasm for the social media coverage shifts, where I had creative control over the content on the stations’ channels. One of the first of the year was Bush at Sound Academy- the perfect opportunity to post a Listerine meme in between some very professional iPad shots.

Ridiculous? Yeah, but that meme did numbers on Instagram and Facebook, becoming one of the most widely shared and liked images the station had ever posted. That success had me covering the JUNO Awards in Hamilton that year, which was a dream come true.

No, not the awards themselves. The fact that my content had gotten me noticed and was appreciated. I live for that validation, man.

The awards were fun though. I got to hang out in a media corral on the red carpet, be in a press room, and take in Hamilton’s vibrant needle-on-the-ground scene.

A busy weekend led right into a busy week, as the day immediately after the awards I auditioned for an on-air position at CTV. Then I covered a St. Patrick’s Day event for Rogers. Then my car’s alternator went out and I had to drop another couple hundred on it.

The following week was less busy, as was the following month, and the month after that. April and May passed without anything noteworthy happening, and for that I was beyond grateful. I was totally satisfied with status quo as long as the bad stuff stayed away. Q promo shifts, Edge social media shifts, and regularly updating my comic was fine by me. I made a bunch of new friends online when I found a comics platform much more functional and visible than this website. I slowly developed a stable audience and improved my craft.

There was another platform I’d been eying for a few months, and it was called Instagram. I was way behind the times and although I’d been using it for the official Edge account for two years, I had yet to create a personal account because my phone was only functional when it was held together with a piece of electrical tape and crazy glue (that is to say- it was not a smart phone).

On June 3rd I bought myself an iPod touch with my newfound Q107 promo money and installed Instagram so I could:

  • Start sharing my art with people I knew
  • Reconnect with the many people I’d lost touch with over the course of 2014

This was a very important moment in my life. You may laugh and laugh and laugh at this sentence but it is true.

Buying that iPod touch and installing Instagram would eventually lead to some of the most life-changing opportunities I’ve had.

Please note the word eventually. Starting out all I posted were ridiculous homemade memes which garnered roughly 3-5 likes per post.

I wasn’t too concerned at first, instead spending my life enjoying summer. I worked Bestival on Toronto Island where I got stuck with thousands of other people waiting for the ferry. I went to Wonderland for the first time in ten years. I went to the grand closing of the local bowling alley that had been a part of my life for so many years. I fully renovated a bathroom on my own. I bought a tiny figure of…myself. I auditioned for a reporter position with CityTV. I had some pleasant but brief interactions with Pauline, one of the delightful Molson Girls, at the many Q promo shifts I worked over the summer.

I got to experience my first Canada Day Picnic at Woodbine Park, a collection of the kind of people who only attend free public events. I also experienced the very first edition of WayHome, a hectic but enjoyable affair where I saw both Modest Mouse and Run the Jewels. I was only up in Oro-Medonte for one day, however, as the following day I had another event to attend to.

I got to lead the Edge’s promo team for what would be the final Edgefest this decade. In a stunning reversal from 2014, I was no longer guarding a porta-potty but instead delegating and being a real boss guy. To be honest I would have been satisfied with any role that wasn’t fundamentally embarrassing, but being in charge was moderately cool. The look of pride in my friend Sierra’s eyes when she stopped by the promo tent and saw me coordinating with Echo Beach’s grounds manager was worth the minor hassles and stress that came with being in a leadership role.

Word that a major market rock radio station was sending people to concerts with iPads as cameras got out in Toronto’s live music scene, and venues started to deny me access. Which was frustrating but also understandable. But also frustrating. Because it kind of cut into me making money. My social shifts almost entirely disappeared.

Luckily word hadn’t spread to Dundas, Ontario, and one of the final social shifts I did that summer was the Greenbelt Harvest Picnic. It took me three hours to walk there through two small towns and along industrial trucking routes, but to be honest I didn’t mind it at all. Once I got to this secret valley festival I got to sit by a lake and eat a portobello mushroom burger as I waited five hours for the Arkells to hit the stage. Then I took some pictures with my iPad…in the official photo pit. Hilariously unprofessional, but still a fun adventure of a day.

I spent the very last day of August working at the CNE. The shift was meh, but afterwards as I weaved through the massive crowds and sat on the platform waiting for the train to arrive I felt something in the air. Things were about to start happening. I didn’t know what kind of things, or where they would lead, but in that golden summer evening light I felt a palpable sense of new beginnings.

Was it foretelling me helping my sister move into her new place in Kitchener the next day? That was definitely a new beginning. As was the AC/DC concert where our iPads were finally replaced with professional point-and-shoot cameras. (I could have done without fracturing two of my toes running for the train though.)

Yes, those were both the start of something, but I think what I had felt was the urge to up my creative game. The new beginning ended up being me getting back into video creation, which I’d largely given up on in the decade thus far. I’d done the video blogs for the Edge in 2010 but nothing regular since then, opting for making music and comics instead.

So in mid-September I went all-in. I bought a green screen, a lav mic, studio lights, and a gimbal. I wanted to show up everyone else on Instagram. While they were all posting pictures of food and selfies, I was gonna make fifteen second masterpieces.

Things didn’t quite blow up how I wanted them to, but I forged on, improving not only my technical skills but also my comedic sensibilities.

Wanting to hone my shot composition in a professional setting, I pitched myself as a professional photographer to the Edge’s social media coordinator. I figured I could be a multi-tasking pro, covering both the social media for concerts and the picture taking. And it worked. I mean, I was thrown into a pool of photographers who took precedence over me, but almost right away I got access to events.

There was another beginning at hand, this one not as hopeful. After 17 years in the family and thousands of dollars in repairs, my car finally gave out as I was driving home from the train station. The muffler literally fell off on the road.

It’s funny that I look back at 2015 with rose-tinted glasses, because just like any other year there were moments of major sadness. I tend to forget about them or gloss over them, but they were definitely there. I mean, the day I took my car to the shop for its final inspection was “bleak af”, as today’s uncool brands say.

For real though, the long existential city walk that November night was not filled with the most pleasant thoughts. I literally came up with the idea for a semi-satirical blog titled “7 Fun Things You Can Do When You Have No Friends” while walking through my alma mater’s campus and seeing all the hip students with their big fun groups.

That experience spurred me to get my mind off money, though. Like with all my other long city walks, I took action to change my life and when I got home I messaged Keira, asking if she’d like to do a photoshoot.

Who is Keira? Keira was a cashier at No Frills who was a Popular Hip Girl. She was into the Billie Eilish scene before Billie Eilish had even started her career. I hadn’t seen Keira for two years but she was one of the few people who regularly liked all the video experiments I was tossing up on Instagram. We’d always maintained a fun casual vibe between us, mostly because I knew I had no chance with her. But I was emboldened by being approved as an Edge photographer and determined to stop thinking about my car issues, and so I threw out the crazy suggestion that we could meet up for this photoshoot.

She agreed. Not like, actually agreed though. It was that vague “yeah for sure maybe soon haha” way. Enough to boost my ego a little, but I understood that it was likely a nice way of brushing me off and I forgot about it.

On Tuesday November 24th I got a new car and went right back into massive debt. Then I watched as the scrap metal guys came and towed my old car away. It was a very emotional moment. 2015 teetered on the edge of badness, but a few days later Keira messaged me out of the blue with a specific day she could meet up with me.

Saturday, December 12th was a warm night and I had very defined plans of walking around the city doing some thinking. I had absolutely no expectation that Keira would actually show up. I got off the bus, went to Union Station, and looked for her. Not having seen her in person in two years, I kept thinking I’d see her only to awkwardly realize it was a stranger. Half an hour passed and no sign of her. On a whim I decided to run over to Brookfield Place, a nearby building with WiFi, to check my Instagram messages. She had indeed sent me a few saying she’d be late, followed by a few more saying “are u here?” “where r u??”. I frantically messaged back telling her to meet me near the big UNION STATION letters and sprinted back …and there she was. I was legitimately hanging out with Popular Hip Girl Keira.

It was a wonderful night, pleasant and fun and productive. I still had no expectations other than this one night, so I managed to stay cool and casual the whole time without feelings turning me into a bumbling idiot. I got some amazing photos and video for my portfolio, she got some nice shots for her social media, and we both went our separate ways.

Christmas that year was another winner, a warm and breezy springlike day with no worries, just family time. Life was good. Walking my dog around on Christmas night and taking in the many inflatable Minions on peoples’ lawns, I realized that I needed to appreciate good times while those good times were actually happening, and that’s exactly what I did. I was in huge debt, but I had a new car. I didn’t have my dream job, but I had a dream side-gig. I’d taken some wild risks and they’d paid off. It was like YOLO phase 2.0, only this time I had the sense to enjoy life as I was living it.

I didn’t care what 2016 had in store for me, I just wanted to-

“heeyyyy dusty! just wanted to wish you a merry christmas! hope to see you soon! <3”

Oh.