Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Ten Things I Love About Saskatoon

Well hello! I'm right in the thick of rehearsals in my usual summer home of Saskatoon at the moment, but it's starting to weigh on my mind that it's only a quick visit this year. (Although I did spend 4 weeks here in the spring, so if you count those weeks plus the 3 weeks I'm here this month, it'll have been 7 weeks total in 2017.) Although I miss my sweetheart a lot, I am always happy to be here. There's something about this place that has really captured my heart, so I thought I'd make a list of some of the things I love about this prairie city:
  1. The people. It's that small-city-big-town thing I guess, but strangers really do smile and say hello to you here.
  2. The neighbourhoods: Caswell Hill- my home away from home. Riversdale, where I enjoy the farmers market, a cappuccino at Collective Coffee, and shopping at all the hipster stores. Oh, and brunches at The Hollows (sadly not this summer though, because I work Saturdays, and they're not open 'til 11). Broadway/Nutana across the river, where I love to go shopping and eating! Downtown, where I spend way too much money at Midtown Mall. The Weir, a manmade waterfall on the river, just beside a giant railway trestle that you can walk across. Stunning. Mayfair- home of the Safeway where I stock up on supplies, the zany antique-store-coffee-shop, the bakery, and several other cool stores on 33rd. 
  3. Speaking of stores... The local corner stores here are wonderful. You'll be biking along a residential street, and suddenly you'll come across a convenience store that's totally like a small-town store: it'll have the usual chips and candy, but there'll also be some baking, or some kitchen supplies, or some home cooking, or something else that makes it just a little different than your run-of-the-mill corner store. Even though Saskatoon has all the big box stores and supermarkets, these little local stores continue to offer neighbourhood shopping for their communities, even if those communities are only a few blocks in size. It's pretty cool.
  4. Pelicans. When I came here in March this year, these giant birds hadn't yet arrived, and it was weird seeing the river without them. When I came back in April they'd come back, and most nights in April and May I'd walk or bike down to the weir to see them floating gently above the falls, or bouncing on the choppy waters beneath, looking for fish. They spend some of their year in exotic places like Mexico and Guatemala, and they look foreign and out of place here, but I love them, because we don't have them in BC *EDIT: And Jackrabbits! I can't believe I forgot about Jackrabbits! Seeing these big-footed bunnies bounding through the city streets is always a treat. 
  5. Jazz Fest. Every year, my visits coincide with Saskatoon's Jazz Festival. I will admit that I've seen very little actual jazz here, since their headliners and free shows tend to be more pop/hip hop/rock than jazz. But, there's nothing I love more than heading the short distance to the free stage after rehearsal, grabbing a drink, and letting the music wash over me. This year, Pride Fest and Jazz Fest joined forces and brought Hawksley Workman to the free stage last Saturday, and I was in heaven. I also love hanging out by the river behind the Bessborough Hotel and hearing the big-name headline acts playing their shows. Why pay 60-70 dollars when you can hear just as well behind the stage with a great view of the river? I'll be hanging out down there on Thursday night, when Michael Franti hits the stage.
  6. The weather. I KNOW. I am a total fair-weather friend to Saskatoon, having never spent a winter here. Even being here for a few weeks in March and April this year had its challenges, as I had to walk everywhere because it was too icy to bike (it was too icy to walk, for that matter). But summers here are the bomb. Except this one, because it's been kinda cold and very windy. But even so- still sunny, most days. And when there's rain, it's epic and short-lived. Oh, and thunder storms! Love 'em. 
  7. Biking and running. It's flat. Biking is easy. Running is a delight. Oh, and there are also fabulous paths on either side of the river for your walking/running/biking pleasure. 
  8. Outdoor swimming pools. I think I've written about this before, but it blows my mind how many outdoor swimming pools this wintery city has. Not only do they have awesome pools, but the pools also usually fence off grassy areas as well, so that you can lie on the grass and relax before or after your swim. True story: when I flew into Saskatoon for the very first time, 2 years ago, I looked down from the plane and saw a gorgeous little park and a cute little pool with a water slide, and I thought, what a great neighbourhood. Little did I know that I would be living RIGHT BESIDE THAT PARK. And to this day, I still make my home very close to Ashworth Holmes  Park and Mayfair Pool, every summer. 
  9. The theatre community. Small but vibrant, Saskatoon's theatre scene is pretty awesome. Shakespeare? Check. (Their version of Bard on the Beach is called Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan, and it's in a tent down by the river.) Brand new works by local playwrights? Absolutely? A theatre company that is passionate about making a difference in their community? (Big shout-out to Sum Theatre, who were my employers last summer, and who are incredible in this regard.) I feel so very lucky to have been welcomed into this community as a musician/music director, because there's certainly no shortage of local talent. 
  10. My friends. Who are, by and large, part of the theatre community here. It's getting so I'm more likely to have people to talk to at an opening night in Saskatoon than back home in Vancouver. My friends here lend me bicycles so I can get around. They let me live with them for 6 weeks while I'm working here.  They invite me to stay at their farm on my day off. They ask me when I'm going to move here for good (probably never, but I sure hope I can make it my home away from home for a long time to come). 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Ten Reasons I Won't Ever Use the Term #Blessed (unless I'm being sarcastic)

  1. It's glib. You're putting shit like this mindlessly at the end of your social media posts because everyone's doing it and who knows, maybe it'll win you more followers, right? Or maybe because you think that posting this hashtag makes you exempt from, you know, actually doing something for others. Way easier to be #blessed than to make sure others are feeling that way. 
  2. It turns your uber-boastful post into something that looks like gratitude. Putting the word #blessed in your posts does not suddenly give you carte blanche to post a gazillion pictures of your kid, your material possessions, or your tropical holiday. Guess what? We know you're still showing off. You're just hiding it behind a humblebrag. 
  3. If God existed, She wouldn't bless you. No, really. He doesn't hand out blessings like the Easter Bunny hands out chocolate eggs. Or so they tell me. 
  4. If you don't believe in God, it's even weirder that you're using this hashtag. Who the hell #blessed you- the Tooth Fairy? 
  5. It's symptomatic of our guilt over the glut of things we possess. Do we know that there are millions of people in the world- hell, in our towns, mere streets or houses away from us- who have a tiny fraction of the things we have? Yes we do know that, and we think that somehow, if we acknowledge that we're #blessed, we can sleep a little easier on our soft, soft feather beds. 
  6. Because practically any other adjective would be more accurate. You could claim to be #rich, if you're showing us your new house. You could be another #boringparent or #ObsessivePetOwner, if you're posting nothing but shots of your kids, either furry or not. (and no, that doesn't mean I don't want to see any pics of your pets or kids, before you get all upset with me. I do. Just don't be boring about it.) You most certainly are #lucky, or more honestly, #privileged beyond belief. And here's the most accurate hashtag of all, but you won't see this one popping up on people's feeds...
  7. ...#Random. Most of us, even the atheists, want to believe in some kind of order in the universe. It's way easier (and glib-er- see #1) to say that you're #blessed than to admit that the world is completely random, and that most of the great things that fall our way are the result of frighteningly chance occurrences, connections or coincidences.
  8. You think it's a simple way to show gratitude. Gratitude is great. But truly showing gratitude doesn't mean adding a couple of meaningless hashtags to your boast-y posts. True gratitude should be about acknowledging your good fortune, luck, random set of circumstances, etc. by taking action, whether it is in a good attitude, a positive mood, or even better: by sharing your good fortune with others. 
  9. It's thoughtless. I mean that in a very literal sense. It's as bad as posting Minions memes, linking to ill-informed articles you haven't actually read, or basically putting up anything that doesn't contain some original thought. The internet is full of stupid. Why make it more so? 
  10. Look, I get it. Social media is designed for bragging. I do it all the time. So do you. And then we feel guilty, so we add that one little word to make ourselves feel better. But maybe instead, we should take the time to think a little more about what we're posting on social media. And why we feel the compulsion to post anything in the first place.