In Vancouver, New York and Zurich, they have Creative Mornings, a monthly breakfast lecture series for creative types who can get up early.
In Whistler, we’ve got The Point.
It’s a slightly less hi-fi version of the urban hipster creative klatches. But well worth putting on your radar, if only because the old Youth Hostel venue on Alta Lake might truly be one of the most [vocabulary falls short] spots in Whistler. [Genuine? Original? Stirling? Precious? Un-bogus? Spec-freakin-tacular?]
At least, that was the verdict from a gang of local writers and editors, who moved tables and chairs onto the dock for Thursday night’s Freelance Writers Symposium.
“The panel”, magazine editors Feet Banks (Mountain Life), Mike Berard (Coast Mountain Culture), Adam Levitt (SBC Wakeboard) and Kate MacLennan (BC Business) gave no-holds-barred insights on what editors want.
Here’s an unofficial post-mortem of the top 10 insights, scribbled down in between moderating duties and laughing my ass off.
Life as an Editor
1. As an editor, I just can’t get enough… “time to fix up your shit,” says Feet Banks. So, make your deadlines. “I can always fake your shitty talent, but I can’t go back in time.”
2. Brutal truth? Grammar and punctuation aren’t as important as creative thought. “I can make your writing better. It’s harder to think of a good idea,” says Adam Levitt, SBC Wakeboard’s one-man-writing-editing-blogging-photographing-show.
How to Get Your Big Break
3. Put yourself out there. Make your own opportunities. Make friends with wordpress. Better, yet, learn to code. Then you’ll never be out of work.
4. Know what makes a pitch. That would be an insight. A fresh angle. A story. A hook. A reason to care.
This is an example of a non-pitch:
“I’ve got an idea for an article. Crankworx.”
5. Know what kind of writer you are and play to your strengths.
6. Be Google-able. (See #3.)
How to Stay Off the Black List
7. “Learn the difference between there, they’re and their.” ~ Feet Banks
How to Get on The Gold List
8. “Packaging is everything,” says Kate MacLennan. Send a pitch with sidebar ideas, suggested pull-quotes or a vision for the image, and you’re gold. And PS, write your own headline. “It drives me crazy when writers don’t even try to put in a headline. Yes, headlines are hard.” (Adds Berard: Headlines are mostly what we get in fistfights about at CMC.) “But at least try.”
9. Every magazine today needs more… “intelligence” “air-brushed naked chicks” “features” “illustrations.”
10. “The only rule: make everything awesome all the time.” ~Mike Berard
The Bonus Round: Advice for PR Peeps
Never call an editor. Email, email, email.
“Unless I’ve seen you naked, don’t call.” Feet Banks
Thanks to The Pointman, Stephen Vogler, for the hospitality, ketchup chips and for all the work you’re doing to incubate and house Whistler’s creative mojo.
The Symposium was the brain child of Stephen Vogler and Feet Banks and kicks off a summer of juicy culture events taking place at the Point. You could call them Creative Lazy Saturday Afternoons, a much more Whistler-esque approach to creative networking.
Workshops are also kicking off this week on Tuesdays (improv theatre sports) and Thursdays (kick-starting your creative writing).
Support them. It’s a magical place to hang out. (If we don’t, the muni will abandon the pilot project. Who knows what could happen to the space. It’s not as if there’s an abundance of opportunities or FREE spaces for creative people to get together in Whistler, make stuff, soak in million dollar views and jam.)
Dave Clark is the organiser behind some of Whistler’s most significant fundraising events – the Balding for Dollars bash, the Dusty BBQ Championships Tasting Series, SWELL and the Whistler Half Marathon.
I interviewed him recently for an article about the sold-out-in-record-time Whistler Half Marathon and we got a little side-tracked. Here’s what I learned about Accidental Awesomeness from our long-and-winding conversation. It all began with a good head-shaving.
1. Do not look askance at a man with a handlebar moustache.
In 2002, I was working at the mountain. I saw a Balding for Dollars event in Squamish and thought, maybe I can get a couple friends on this… I mean, kids with cancer? It’s not what being a child is meant to be about. It’s so intrinsically wrong. So I thought, I’m going to go and shave my head and raise a hundred bucks. I put a note in the employee newsletter, thinking I could rally a few other people to get involved, we could all raise $100. Then Mike Varrin phoned. He said, “I don’t think we’ve ever met before, but I’ve got this bad ass moustache, and I want to shave your head, and anyone else’s, in the bar.”
2. The universe responds to positive juju.
It wasn’t quite what Clark was planning. And it meant having to relinquish a degree of control over the program. But he went with the flow. The Hairfarmers were playing, the bar was packed, and a couple of guys in the corner getting their heads shaved turned into a movement. Guitar Doug and Grateful Greg shaved their decade-old beards. “People were like, ‘Where can I give my money?’ And we raised $6500. And that’s how it all got rolling. The next winter, Dusty’s called and said, ‘Do you want to do this fundraising thing at the BBQ Championships?’”
3. Your weakness is your strength.
Dave Clark’s vulnerability is his family’s battle with Inflammatory Bowel Disease. They could struggle in silence and shame, as many do. Or they could own it, claim it, try and make a difference. In August 2002, Taster passes were sold for the Canadian BBQ Championships, with proceeds benefiting the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada, the organisation Clark believes is best positioned to find a cure for IBD in his lifetime. Last August alone, the sale of taster passes raised $9455. In October, Dave was recognised by the Foundation for his fundraising efforts, which have seen the Whistler Friends raise more than a quarter of a million dollars, and declared an Unsung Hero.
4. Listen up.
The #1 thing, if I had to put a sticky note on my laptop as a reminder of the key learning I’ve taken away from organising events, is to LISTEN. Listen to your partners, volunteers, athletes, the community, and ultimately collaborate with them to make it the best it can possibly be. If you surround yourself by people who are very good at what they do, and passionate, you’ll achieve great things.
5. Passion + People is a winning combination.
I don’t think there’s anything stronger than your own personal convictions, and it’s proven over and over again. And a community of passionate people. Whether that’s two or six people, it just takes more than one person, with a shared passion, and a willingness to do things outside the box, to have the agility to say, hmm, that’s not what I was thinking, but we could chanage up the plan.
There’s no just-add-water formula for greatness. But Dave’s recipe strikes me as a pretty solid formula: take genuine passion, informed by your own vulnerability and hope, and put it out in the world to mix it up amongst good people. Then, don’t be surprised if help comes your way, in shapes and forms that you’re least expecting…
The 10th annual Whistler Balding for Dollars is just around the corner. The GLC’s Ultimate Hair-Farming Apres takes it down to bare skin for the BC Children’s Hospital, Saturday March 24 2012. Over the last decade, $153,000 has been raised by the Whistler event, in support of kids in Vancouver’s oncology wards.
40 days is a good amount of time to grow some hair and garner some pledges… don’t you think?
Freeriders, Froriders, flowriders, streetriders, stuntriders, shoreriders, trialsiners, slackers, hoppers, droppers, coasters, jumpers: give us any label you feel necessary to separate our baggy-clothes-wearing, untucked-jersey-selves from you, if that is what you feel you must do. We’ll always have camaraderie amongst ourselves, which is all we really need.” Joey Hayes, 180 Magazine, 2003
Oct 21, 1976 The fat-tire revolution begins with the first downhill mountain bike race in Fairfax, CA, with 12 riders (including Charlie Kelly, Gary Fisher, Tom Ritchey, Mike Sinyard and Brian Cross) descending 400 metres of gravel road in about 5 minutes on “clunkers”. The participants go on to found Fisher Mountain Bikes, Ritchey, Specialized Bicycle Components, as well as mountain cross racing, and the first mountain bike magazine.
1981 Specialized introduces the Stumpjumper – the first major production mountain bike in the world. Available for $750, it is “superlight”, weighing just under 30 pounds, is made of steel, has 15 gears and no shock absorbers.
1980s North Shore pioneers start riding hiking trails:
a small group of bike riders, on primitive mountain bikes, started trying to ride various hiking trails scattered throughout the mountains that give Vancouver it’s picturesque backdrop. Quickly, they learned that many parts of the trail were impassable without getting off of their bikes, and henceforth started to devise ways of overcoming these obstacles. Rocks and planks were added to trails so that mud pits were filled and riders could ride over fallen logs. A few years later, bike specific trails were constructed, and the rocks and planks became integral parts of these new trails, because these new trails were designed to be technical in nature. The trail builders, free from the constraints of traditional hiking trails, sought out lines that linked significant features together. ~ Noel Buckley
1984 Todd “the Digger” Fiander builds his first trail.
Lee Lau later writes: Digger pioneered so many trail features that I cannot even begin to list them definitively. He built ladder bridges over wet sections. Then he “built them high, built them sick, built them skinny”. He saw rideable rock faces before anyone even began to think of riding them & pioneered the use of “Digger’s gold” to lay on top of trailwork to finish sections. Something for which Digger doesn’t get enough credit is his attention to route finding; he hikes routes over and over again before putting in a single shovel. He’s still one of the few builders to not use a chainsaw.
1985 Don Douglass convinces Mammoth Mountain to host the Kamikaze Downhill – the first lift-serviced, ski-resort based mountain bike event. Prior to that “the ‘what if’ subject of taking bikes on a ski lift and riding down the service road had come up plenty of times as the ultimate fantasy.” Charlie Kelly remembers: “The success of the first Kamikaze so impressed the resort’s in-house promotion company that the next year Douglass was out of the picture and Mammoth Mountain promoted the mountain bike races along with the regular programme of road bike races.”
1988 Mitchell Scott’s Fear and Loaming article in Bike magazine highlights the explosion of the North Shore.
1989 Whistler’s Off-Road Cycling Association is founded, in response to BC Parks attempt to keep mountain biking out of Garibaldi Park. 20 years later, WORCA boasts over 1500 members and is the heart and soul of Whistler in the summer.
Early 1990s Front fork shock absorbers introduced
1994 The first ladder bridge is built by Todd, the Digger, Fiander. Dangerous Dan Cowan takes the idea to the trees.
Dangerous Dan Cowan built the Fleshy Wound in 1992 and Todd, The Digger, Fiander (Of the North Shore Extreme video series) began his incredible trail portfolio in 1986. The Digger gets much of the credit for the high standard of trails on the shore. His trails, besides being incredibly inventive and fun, drain amazingly well and can take enormous traffic without becoming shredded. In 1994 Digger showed Dan his first “ladder bridge” which spanned a low, muddy part of Ladies Only where ferns and skunk cabbage grew. A ladder bridge is built by laying 2 pecker poles (preferable cedar) across a gap and then banging split cedar “rungs” into the poles to make a deck. Dan ran with Digger’s invention and started building narrow ladder bridges high above the forest floor. This lead to more difficult trails and other builders began using the technique. Today ladder bridges have spread across North America and the shore virus can be detected in tiny pockets even in the Eastern US. Dan is also credited with the discombobulator, a devious series of teeter totters attached together so that if one moves they all move. Dan is an important figure in the history of the North Shore because of the range of his talents. He is one of the best riders around and at the same time one of the most prolific trail builders. When Dan builds a trail he thinks beyond his current abilities so that his twisted imagination comes up with a trail that is more difficult than his last. ~ Noel Buckley.
mid 90s Lift access mountain bike riding is being experimented with on both Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. To buy a lift ticket to take your bike up the Whistler Mountain gondola, you have to be able to squeeze an orange as hard as you can for a full five minutes, to prove you had the braking strength to go up the mountain. Eric Wight kickstarts the first bike park on Whistler running guided trips on the mountain, combining bike trails with ski runs around Whiskey Jack, Pony Trail, Marmot and Bear Cub. “In the first year, you had to have front suspension or you couldn’t go. And no one wore padding. People thought it was a little crazy.” (Whistler Blackcomb take on its operation in 1999.)
1996 Debut of Olympic mountain biking coincides with the birth of “free-ride” mountain biking in the BC hinterlands – Brett Tippie, Richie Schley and Wade Simmons start the revolution by “launching off anything,” dropping steep lines in Kamloops, putting the “mountain” back into mountain-biking.
The year 1996 had featured the debut of Olympic mountain biking, but already a contra-movement called “freeriding” was taking shape in the B.C. hinterlands. What was this all about? The world found out after Tippie bragged about Schley’s air capabilities to famous filmmaker Greg Stump. When Whistler-based cinematographer Christian Begin later went to Kamloops to film Schley for Stump’s Specialized-commissioned movie, Pulp Traction, Tippie begged his way onto the shoot by dropping a mind-boggling line. The boys and buddy Craig Olsson showed Begin the local goods, Stump was blown away by the footage, and a controversial classic was born. Controversial because it depicted some radical new ideas: no trails; descending natural terrain; man against mountain. In fact, erosion concerns by Sierra Club whiners made Specialized nervous enough to edit down the freeriding in the final cut.
With the 1996 Olympics, mountain biking had launched fully into the public eye: World Cup was booming, the industry, too, but some clearly just wanted to ride. No numbers, no competition, just flowing down a trail or whatever they found under their tires. These riders also weren’t interested in spandex or shaved legs. The rebellion struck a punk chord and after “Sick” dropped Berger’s insane photos, and Begin’s film Tao of Riding took it to another level, Schley, Tippie and downhiller Simmons garnered the first mountain-bike freeride sponsorships from Rocky Mountain. Almost immediately Rocky was at the centre of a copyright lawsuit by Cannondale over the word “freeride.” Sidestepping the terminology minefield, Rocky busted out a few afro wigs and ushered in the Froriders: three fun-loving, hard-riding guys with diverse backgrounds in BMX, skiing and snowboarding. A face for the off-trail descents, huge air, massive drops and maximum style of radical freeriding. More importantly, they were also the face of a new lifestyle: road trips and big personalities; loose clothes and open minds. Photography and cinematography took off. Magazines and movie companies flourished. The usual paradox of non-competition competitions took hold. Critical mass tipped the whole thing into the mainstream and the rest is ongoing history. Leslie Anthony
Greg Stump and Christian Begin capture the action for a Specialised-commissioned movie, Pulp Traction. Richie Schley is featured on the Feb 1997 cover of Bike magazine riding a Kamloops line with the headline: Drop everything!
“…the thing about freeriding is that it is not about Joe Blow being three seconds faster than you on this course – that’s what racing is about. Freeride’s about your personal goals. It’s like ‘oh man, I aired those stairs that I have been looking at for years.’ So have a hundred people that may have aired them better than him but that doesn’t matter. it’s just that’s what he wanted to do on his bike and that’s what he did.” Wade Simmons
1997 Joyride forms, a production company borne in Chris Winter’s garage, with the dream of creating a World Championships of Freeriding, free of the stuffy UCI guidelines that were governing mountain biking at the time. Co-founder Paddy Kaye remembers, “that got kaiboshed on paper pretty early on. We tried to do Joyride ’99, again unsuccessfully, so went back to the drawing board.” In the meantime, PK had been building a little trail on Whistler Mountain, “Joyride”, with a view to hosting a lift-accessed mountain bike event there. In 2001, they hosted the first Joyride, a bikerX inspired by boardercross.
1997 NSMBA forms
1998 Release of Kranked 1 – the first ever freeride movie:
1999 Whistler Blackcomb take on operation of the bike park, opening the Whistler Mountain Bike Park with an expanded trail network. Approximately 10,000 visits are recorded.
2001 A-Line built on Whistler Bike Park. It takes two summers and 1200 machine hours to build. “B-Line began the change, but A-line defined it. That trail alone had such a huge impact on our business and the whole industry of lift-asssisted mountain biking,” said Dave Kelly.
2001 Dave Watson wins the first Joyride, an event organised by the Whistler Summer Gravity Fest founders Paddy Kaye and Chris Winter, Whistler’s first biker cross: “Unlike most events that they would compete in, Joyride was more about just having fun and riding the unreal terrain in Whistler,” remembered Dave Watson. That fall, the Harvest Huckfest debuted, a jump demo that was the beginnings of Whistler’s slopestyle course. Kaye and Winter also produce the first Crud to Mud. Hosting Kranked movie-screenings and the MSP and TGR film premieres in Whistler helps them pay the bills to keep the events side of things afloat. In 2002, Joyride brings in international riders, including Cedric Gracia, Brian Lopes and Steve Peat, who fall in love with the park and spread the word, putting the Whistler Bike Park on the map. Lopes later says: “Whistler is hands down the best place to ride a bike. Riding there made me buy a house there, so it must be special.” In 2003, Gravity Fest includes the Joyride bikercross, an Air Downhill on A-Line, a 2 day trials event, and the first Slopestyle Expression Session, an X-gamesish freerie competition where riders are judged on creativity, type and number of tricks, smoothness, bike control and aggression.
2002 The first Air Downhill is held on Whistler’s A-Line, a last minute addition to the Joyride festival when the World Cup DH is cancelled. Cedric Gracia won for the guys, and Anne-Caroline Chausson won for the ladies. Everyone loved it, and the Air DH legend was born. Remembers Paddy Kaye, “The A line downhill was a whole new thing for mountain biking, a downhill course with 50 jumps. And the riders were taking it seriously. Canada was never known for having fast downhillers. We had fast XC guys, but A-line really built the skills of a lot of local riders. They got really fast really quick, getting lots of laps, and people would have to step up their game when they came over here to compete. And that’s still happening, which is cool.”
2002 Andrew Shandro hosts the first week-long freeride mountain bike camp, introducing 35 Summer Gravity Camp-ers to the Whistler Bike Park. Ten years later, they’re still going strong.
2002 First Red Bull Rampage is held in Utah, Wade Simmons takes the inaugural crown. Unregistered, unsponsored, virtually unknown and recently fired from his job, Darren Berrecloth shows up, and places 3rd.
Richie Schley and Brett Tippie take us back to the beginning, here:
2002 Introduction of dual suspension bike
2002 Wade Simmons lands the Moreno Valley road gap on his Rocky, in New World Disorder 3, a massive 42 feet. (Video, here.)
2003 Dave Watson hucks over the Tour de France.
2003 Wade Simmons offers this definition of ‘freeriding’ and identifies 18 year old Thomas Vanderham as the rider to watch:
“A creative interpretation of the landscape that is original and fits into the ability of the rider. Breaking out of the obvious where someone might say, ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ Finding lines that express talent, that are original… and most importantly that flow and are fun to ride.”
2003 Darren Berrecloth basically invents Slopestyle, crossing over from BMX and winning the first contest ever (and $2000), the Whistler Summer Gravity Festival’s Joyride Slopestyle, an event produced by Paddy Kaye and Chris Winter. Berrecloth is declared one of Outside Magazine’s World’s 25 Coolest People the next year (ranked up there with Jimmy Chin, Kit deLauriers, Michael Phelps and Arnold Schwarznegger.)
2004 Whistler Mountain Bike Park expands into the Garbanzo Zone, tripling the Park’s vertical and adding four hand-built single-track trails through Whistler’s sub-alpine. The International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) describes Whistler as the “benchmark for lift-accessed mountain biking”.
2004 17 year old Paul “Bas” Basagoitia, with no sponsor and a borrowed bike, upstages the field at the first Crankworx to win the Slopestyle, and does it again in 2005 to prove he’s no one-hit wonder.
2004 Joyride moves to Sun Peaks, where they build a new bikercross track. The following year, Paddy Kaye pulls the pin on the event, saying “there is a good chance the Joyride event will be back again some day, but only under the proper circumstances – if it provides great value to all the parties and has a positive impact on the sport. Joyride has always offered a big cash purse to athletes who make a living on a bike and remains a visionary platform for the young sport of mountain biking.” It takes seven years for the planets to align, prompting Kaye to comment: “It was a great experience. I learned a lot. But I think in some ways were were a little ahead of the game, and just needed to sit back and let things catch up.” By 2011, the sport had evolved. “There’s more people. More eyes on it. More opportunities. I’m stoked to have the opportunity to be involved again.”
2005 “The 360 heard ’round the world”: Darren Berrecloth high-speed 360s the road gap at Crankworx. How did it feel? “Very relieving cuz if I crashed I would be mangled but it was such a weird feeling going so fast and far backwards.” ”Do you think I should do it,” he asks Richie Schley. “Can you?” Schley responds, later acknowledging, “I was so impressed.”
Whistler Mountain knows how to build mountain bike features. With huge gap dirt jumps, a ten foot curved wall, quarter pipe and a ridiculous teeter-totter option, which had multiple lines to it. Then there is the 60 ft road gap which Darren Berrecloth 360’d…… WHAT THE &%*#. You must see that guy ride. Burly does not describe what that was. The crowd went insane! Dirtworld.
Five years on, Brian Lopes called it “the sickest thing he’s ever seen.“
“To this day one of the sickest things I’ve ever seen was from Darren Berrecloth. At CrankWorx he 360’d off the huge ladder bridge over a big step-down gap. It blew my mind and every year I see that gap I still can’t believe he did it. To 360 something with no lip, going that fast and gapping to a landing that’s 15ft lower and not so big has enormous consequences if you don’t pull it. But he cleaned it.”
June 10 2007 16 year old Alex Prochazka becomes the first and the youngest rider to land a double backflip in competition, attempting the trick that he has practiced at the Whistler Air Dome for the first time on dirt in competition at the 26Trix Dirt Jump competition in Leogang, Austria.
2007 Mountain biking proves it’s economic chops. It’s now worth $34.3 million to Whistler a year.
2008 Bike park building goes seriously viral and becomes one of Whistler’s most successful exports. Gravity Logic, made up of top trail-makers Tom Prochazka, Dave Kelly and Rob Cocquyt, spins off from Whistler Blackcomb – the trail rats are now legit. Writes Andrew Mitchell of the Pique:
Three years before there even was a Whistler Mountain Bike Park, Dave Kelly and Rob Cocquyt were cutting trails on Whistler Mountain with Eric Wight of Whistler Backroads Adventures. Before that they were building trails in Squamish, including legendary Powerhouse Plunge, 19th Hole, Power Smart, Pseudo Suga, and others with a distinctive freeride bent. When Whistler-Blackcomb decided to open a bike park in 1999, Kelly, Cocquyt, and Tom Prochazka were the obvious choices to plan and build the new trails. Since then the size and scope of the bike park has increased every year, while ridership has increased by double digit percentages annually.
“When we built those first trails on the park in 1996 a busy day was 25 riders, and we were all making single digit hourly wages,” said Kelly. “I never thought in a million years that I would be heading to China or Norway or the Mediterranean to build mountain bike parks and making a legitimate career out of it.”
The success of the park has prompted other mountain resorts around the world to sit up and take notice, which more than two years ago prompted Whistler-Blackcomb to create the Gravity Logic group to serve as consultants for the growing lift-assisted mountain bike industry. They also hosted Gravity Logic forums in Whistler, inviting other resorts to take part.
2008 Andreu Lacondeguy lands a double backflip and wins the Monster Energy Slopestyle at Crankworx in Whistler.
2009 Richie Schley, Wade Simmons and Brett Tippie, the ‘Froriders’, are the first freeride bikers to be inducted into the Mountain Biking Hall of Fame. (Check out Hans Rey’s induction speech:
At a time when full suspension bikes where just growing out of their puberty and World Cup Downhill courses still included fireroads and uphill sections; these guys started shredding steep chutes, gravel fields and drops with transitions. Hmmm, I thought, transitions that’s a pretty genius alternative to the drops to flat I was used to….All three of them had roots in BMX, combine that with their snowboarding or skiing backgrounds and things almost start to sound logical. A lot of these early influences came from these sports and not necessarily from the established mountain biking scene of those days, along with them came other riders, filmmakers, photographers and promoters from the skiing and boarding industry – and all them helped shape this new school movement. Slopes got steeper, drops and jumps got bigger and Tippie’s jokes stayed the same and nobody laughed more about them than he himself. But that’s a different story.)
2010 The FMBA creates the Freeride Mountain Bike World Tour, giving Crankworx one of only two “diamond” event status. More than 50 riders take part in 18 competitions around the globe – Cam Zink ends an epic comeback season to Win the World Tour title.
2010 Cam Zink gives hope to every rider ever laid up on the couch by winning the Kokanee Crankworx Slopestyle, his first victory since taking the title in 2006, after spending 4 years sidelined by injuries and knee surgeries. He goes on to win the Red Bull Rampage and the FMB World Championship and a place in everyone’s hearts as the Comeback King.
2010 Greg Watts wins the VW Trick Showdown with a backflip double whip.
2011 Red Bull Joyride aims to reinvent the slopestyle contest by constructing a rider-designed course that puts the free ride back into slopestyle, with man-made North Shore inspired features, a pure dirt jump line, and a slopestyle line offering a series of options, to allow maximum creativity, and to reflect what mountain biking has become.
May 28 2011 Kiwi Jed Mildon does the first triple back flip. He spends 2 months practicing in the Southern Hemisphere’s biggest foam pit, on a nearby farm with one objective “get triples.” Holy hell. What will they think of next.
Thanks to Leslie Anthony, Chris Armstrong, Mike Crowe, Paddy Kaye, Darren Kinnaird, Lee Lau, Martin Littlejohn, Rob McSkimming, Tarek Rasouli, Mitchell Scott, Richie Schley and Eric Wight for their insights. The oversights, however, are all mine.
Without textbooks or diagrams, an oral culture shares technology by apprenticeship. Working alongside a master. A direct transmission of knowledge, person to person.
It’s a slow-paced way to accumulate expertise, and vulnerable, but that sense of steadying slowness infuses the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre from the moment one pushes open the huge carved entry doors and steps inside.
The foyer is wide and uncluttered, and staff nod acknowledgement at your entry, but let you acclimatize. You adjust to the light, the height of the ceiling, the waft of cedar. Your heart rate settles. You read the first signs – maps that outline the traditional territories of the Squamish, the Lil’wat, and notice that the territories are anchored by rivers in the same way that a map of the human body is all veins and arteries. You are oriented to the fact, as you make your approach to the welcome counter, that you are now in a place that honours Story.
Humans are tuned for relationship. The eyes, the skin, the tongue, ears and nostrils – all are gates where our body receives the nourishment of otherness… For the largest part of our species’ existence, humans have negotiated relationships with every aspect of the sensuous surroundings, exchanging possibilities with every flapping form, with each textured surface and shivering entity that we happened to focus on… Today we participate almost exclusively with other humans and with our own human-made technologies. It is a precarious situation…
[This is not to] imply that we must renounce all our complex technologies. But… we must renew our acquaintance with the sensuous world in which our techniques and technologies are all rooted. Without the oxygenating breath of the forests, without the clutch of gravity and the tumbled magic of river rapids, we have no distance from our technologies, no way of assessing their limitations, no way to keep ourselves from turning into them.
David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous
It’s a good feeling place, neither dusty museum nor mausoleum. It’s a space full of possibility. A place you could visit again and again, and come away each time with something different.
When I go to the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre for the first time, the no-rush energy seems benefit enough. I feel the open space and expansion of time and think, if that’s all I get out of this, that will have been worth it.
Later, Squamish Nation ambassador, David Baker explains to me: “we treat our art as biodegradable. That’s how we keep our art alive, because you have to be able to replace it. We let a totem pole fall down, so it’s up to the young artists to replace it.”
This seems radical to me. Radically different from the culture I grew up in – where art is turned into artefact and hidden behind glass, where masters of the past are revered and hover over you to mock your ambition, “what, you think you could be the next Picasso?”
The willingness to let even masterful pieces of art be reclaimed by the earth is an invitation to the next generation to step up, not to be overwhelmed by history, but to keep the life-energy moving, keep the culture dynamic. When the storyteller runs out of breath, or begins to fall asleep, the storytelling will fall silent. But as long as someone is willing to pick up the thread and weave on, the culture remains alive.
That newly issued invitation, my locals pass (the price of one general admission entry), and the free wireless downstairs in the cafe, makes me think I might just have found my new favourite place to write.
So the year’s over. Did you learn anything?
I learned that things other than obligations and deadlines have power…
Guess you’re ready for 2011 then. May the force be with you.
Power of water. The second largest landslide in Canadian history happens up the road in August. The Meager Mudslide travelled at an average speed of 60 metres per second. 220 kilometres an hour… the average speed of a formula one race car, and was caused by percolating water. Scientist Rick Guthrie said water from below and above gradually weakened the mountainside, causing it to hurdle towards the valley. Guess Bruce Lee was right.
Power of a mission. Ski mountaineer Greg Hill wakes up on 1 January 2010 with a mission – to ski 2 million vertical feet. That required an average of 5500 vertical feet every day. A round-the-world, snow-chasing suffer-fest. Totally self-propelled. He completes it with one day to spare. Slugs champagne from the bottle surrounded by friends and family, sheds a little tear, then takes one more lap, just for the fun of it.
Power of unplugging. Took a three week trip to Yosemite in the fall, and the New York Times was on my mind. Specifically, an article in which a group of neuroscientists went rafting and studied their brains off-line. Said psych professor and the trip organiser, David Strayer, “Attention is the holy grail. Everything that you’re conscious of, everything you let in, everything you remember and you forget, depends on it.” Being plugged-in non-stop is eroding the quality of our attention. This month, Nick Bilton of the Times blogged about the topic again:
Over the last year I’ve started to notice that while technology allows us to connect to people far away, it can simultaneously disconnect us from people who may be directly in front of us.
He polls colleagues – reporters and bloggers who work the wired beat and discovers many are intentionally unplugging, for the weekend, with partners, at dinner, trying to find a balance between their use of technology to connect, and real connections, to “instill a discipline of mind.”
Power of ceremony. Early September, I rode the gondola up Whistler to witness an awakening ceremony for a welcome totem pole that had been carved by Squamish Nation carver Rick Harry and funded by the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, through the incredible work of my friend Mei McCurdy. It was a hot day, there were a ton of speeches, and the part of the ceremony in which the women danced around the pole sprinkling water on it and smacking it with cedar boughs went on and on. I felt my attention start to wander back to my desk where a pile of deadlines waited, to an arm-length to-do list, thinking, okay, we get it, let’s keep this thing moving. Thinking, this is kind of a crazy thing to do with my first day off from writing, writing, writing, in weeks. Then Chief Ian Campbell took the microphone and explained, “What they’re doing here is awakening the spirit of the totem pole, because up until now, it has relied on the spirit of the artist to have life. But the artist needs to be free to move on to his next project, so we are awakening the spirit of the work itself, so it can stand on its own and so he can move on to his next project.” A little bit of my mind creaked open. Oh. Oh, that almost hurts, it feels so good. It was like corpse pose – the part of a yoga routine you usually skip, but the most important and difficult posture to master. The ceremony of completion is worth its own chunk of time.
Power of poetry. Brian Brett spent the fall in Whistler as a writer in residence, working with a dozen local writers. The first I saw of him was at the Gala Reading, sharing the microphone with 9 other guest authors. And he owned it. Spoke poems about motel rooms and sleeping amongst the sloughed-off skin-cells of the great unwashed. Poems about following bear tracks right back to himself. It wasn’t poetry like your English teacher used to read, where you had to really concentrate. It was like the drinking the first big mouthfuls of beer after a day skiing. Afterwards, audience members confessed to one another: I wish we could have heard more from Brian Brett.
Solstice at 60
Now that the sun of my setting
approaches the last rise and fall
of the sun of my seasons –
the frosty breaths of this solstice
and the light pouring summer
into the lake of limpid water –
I count every morning and night.
Blue dark, beautiful darkness
the deeps of the water,
the deeps of this dark,
all those brilliant stars
punched into the night’s black fabric.
But if the old go to ashes
the young go to the light.
Bright and more bright the day after,
all their joys and the promise
of spring following the snow.
The threat of darkness only means
light and birth and love will follow,
the crazy lustrous jewels of the world
blazing in the ashes of my bones
my father’s bones, history’s bones.
Light growing longer by the minute.
Every thing and any thing lovely,
it’s the sorcery called tomorrow –
catkins and flowers and calving grounds,
children and young dogs and seeds –
the promise of the longer day.
Here’s to an empowered 2011.
I took a cruise once. I needed to interview the ship’s doctor for a travel article I was writing for a lifestyle magazine for physicians. He dodged me. He demurred. He point-blank refused.
I persisted. For days. I thought about feigning illness. Or poisoning my mother. But eventually, I prevailed upon him to speak to me, sans recorder, off the record, deep background.
And the stories he told, as if he’d been waiting, all this time, for someone to pull the stopper out of his mouth… Stories of staff members falling overboard, of dead bodies stored in the freezer until the boat got back to port, of family members who would check their elderly ailing parents onto back-to-back cruises as a sort of subsidised assisted living.
Of course, they didn’t make the article.
As Porter Fox, a writer who has contributed to The New York Times magazine and Salon, laments, real narrative is disappearing from travel journalism, replaced with top ten lists and spa service beta.
So, Fox is dishing up an alternative. Nowhere magazine is about getting lost, about disappearing and discovering a real sense of place – places as uncensored as the anonymous co-pilot who reveals just what pilots and flight attendants get up to with all that duty free liquor.
Places like my favourite little patch of nowhere, Pemberton BC… which our feisty mayor defends in this month’s British Columbia magazine. The highway doesn’t end in Whistler, he pronounces. Whistler is tinsel. In Pemberton, the adventure really begins.
On Sunday April 18 Whistler hosted its first PechaKuchaNight.
Event curator Aki Kaltenbach invited me to join her group of presenters, alongside Hana, the founder of TwoGirlsForking, ”Living the Dream” photographer Carin Smolinski, sexy stitchophile Michelle Lee, who is equally passionate about suturing rotting gums as sewing gorgeous wedding dresses, accidental sexpert (and the star of 72 hour Filmmaker Showdown finalist “Missing”) Grant Stoddard and Leslie Anthony, herpetologist and editor of Skier Magazine.
It was a random, eclectic event, that gave people 20 seconds per image to talk about their passions… and reminded me what a beautiful quirky world it is that we live in.
I talked about Slow Food Cycle Sunday, and how it sprang from a desire to eat something I recognised… and how its success, I think, lies in the fact that we all have a deep longing to turn left at McDonalds.
Food shouldn’t necessarily be a commodity. And when we turn everything, right down to a slice of potato, into a commodity, we forfeit so many things – at the top of the list, community and connection. The Slow Cycle Sunday ride is about taking it back.
So is Pecha Kucha Night… so don’t miss the next one.
When Bob and Sue Adams were told they were the 2009 Lifetime Members of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, they had to take each other’s pulses. “Life membership?” they joked. “Are we that old?” “I guess it’s the end of the road…”
I sat down with them this summer for a hilarious tag-team conversation, which served as the basis of a profile about them for Grocer Today magazine.
1. At the end of the day, (once you’ve learned the acronyms) any business is about people. “A good grocery store in a small community can be the cornerstone of the community, and we knew that’s what we wanted to be,” they recounted, of the opportunity to open the Pemberton Valley Grocery Store, otherwise known in P-ton as ‘where the beautiful people shop.’ Partners Mark and Carolyne Blundell say of the Adamses: “Selling groceries is not the hardest thing to do. The hard thing is managing people. For Bob and Sue, people are never just a number.”
2. Give your staff the freedom to grow and they will flourish. For Tanya Ewasiuk Goertzen (who is running in the torch relay next week), the manager for the Adamses’ Upper Village Market, that meant selling her the business when she felt she could go no further as an employee. “They just want to see everyone succeed,” said Ewasiuk Goertzen.
3. When you get to the top, make sure you keep sending the elevator back down. “We’ve been very successful because of the resort and the local community,” said Sue, “and I think we have a corporate responsibility to give back.” The couple have contributed to too many community causes to count.
4. Being small means being flexible and able to experiment. “That is why independents get into business in the first place,” said Bob. “To be independent. And creative. And enterprising.”
5. Think partnerships. You can achieve more, and don’t have to do everything yourself. And have the confidence to ask dumb questions. “I’ve never had trouble asking people for help,” said Sue. “And offering to help other people. It’s all a people business.”