looking back one more time
July 30, 2009, 11:08 pm
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i spent a summer in alaska. i was a fishing guide. the story of how i ended up there is too long, so i’ll cut out that part of the story. just know that i went unwillingly. i was invited and had every opportunity to say no. i was not an overly adventurous lad. i talked a big game, but when push came to shove, i usually just wound up sitting at home. so it was as much of a surprise to me as it was to anyone else that i went. i still remember the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as the float plane made the short trip to our cabin in the middle of nowhere. there was  nothing. the closest town was 150 miles away. and in order to get there in case of emergency, we had to hope out satellite phone could pick up a signal. and then we had to wait for a float plane which wasn’t cheap. and so as we landed, i knew i was in this for the long haul. 2 months. middle of nowhere. no fiance. no friends. no bad summer television or sports highlights. just me, my boss (terry), a dirty old cabin, and a rickety old boat. i have to admit it was a thing of beauty. i was honored and privileged to have this opportunity. i didn’t want to complain, because it was the chance of a lifetime. but still…i felt sick and alone. so as bad as i make it sound, i knew it was a moment of beauty in my life. i imagine it must have been the feeling that barack obama had when he became president. he must have said, “what a great opportunity for me, but…i have to deal with this mess?” so practically, i am barack obama. and while i was scared, i was also excited for a new period in my life. and so i knew it would pass.

Tundra_View_8this was my home for the summer. it doesn’t look like much, but it became my refuge. just out of view to the right was a big flat portion of the roof. it’s where i would sit every night to unwind, smoke cigars, and watch the sun go down…at least as much as the sun can go down in alaska in the middle of the summer. sitting on this roof were some of my best times. i could just sit for hours in total silence. reading a book. watching a bear swim across the river, seeing the seals pop their heads up to steal our fish. the loneliness seemed to melt during my time on the roof. because i felt like a small part of a huge world, but like my small part somehow mattered. you couldn’t look around and not see God or feel that he was right there with you. we built a small addition which involved crawling under the floor boards of a stagnant cabin. this was terrifying to me. i hate spiders, and while i doubt there are poisonous spiders in alaska, they have some mother lovin huge abs daddy long legs. i am still scared of spiders, but living out here helped me to appreciate them a bit more. there was the time when in an effort to clean out the cabin, we threw a bunch of boxes into the small attic. about a month later, we noticed a strong stench invading the entire cabin. i mean, i know we didn’t shower that often, but this was worse. being the grunt guy, i had the job of seeking the source of the smell. my search led me to a box we had thrown in the attic, which had a month overdue package of baloney in it. baloney packs a mean punch when left to rot. i buried it in the dirt about a mile from our cabin. a few days later i went to check on it only to see a deep hole had been dug by one of our bear friends and the baloney was gone. we lived with the animals, but mostly the bears. there were a few days where it was just me out there all alone. i wasn’t so scared at first. until on the first night the bear alarm screamed at me to wake up. i grabbed the shot gun and ran outside to see two bears running in either direction. the bear alarm was by our front door and detected any movement within 10 feet of the cabin. so i had a couple bears about 15 feet from eating my brains. i didn’t sleep much those few days. but this cabin became my home. you quickly forgot about your comfortable bed and warm shower when you bathed in a near freezing river  and slept on a gym mat on a hundred year old cot. life was simple. and i grew to love it. 

Tundra_View_10the boat quickly became my best friend. i was not a natural at controlling a boat. i spent the first week learning how to control the motor. often, i would turn the throttle too strongly, causing my boss to nearly fall out. after much frustration and embarrassment, i got the hang of it. the people that came were not always my best friends. they weren’t awful people. but the longer i lived in the middle of nowhere, the harder i found it to relate to people. i make it sound like i’m gandhi or something (minus the being an amazing example to humanity part). there was nothing self-righteous about it. i just became a little less jaded, and conversation about the chaos of the outside world scared me. and so as i drove the small motor boat up and down the river, my music became my conversation. my headphones would scream into my ears. old hopesfall, beloved, and yes, even some matt redman and hillsong united. as much as some worship music makes me want to vomit at times today (not because i don’t like  worship, but because of the whole “worship industry”. that is a discussion for another day), these musicians became my companions. weaving in and out of the shallow parts of the narrow river while screaming at the top of my lungs to hardcore music became my daily ritual. our key fishing spot was a 40 minute boat ride away, and so i had lots of time to rest in the beauty. watching the eagles soar above and driving past moose, caribou and bears on the river bank became the norm for me. instead of freaking out like i did the first few times, i would keep singing and wave to the animals as if they knew me. yes, i living in the bush does make you just a little bit crazy. just thought i’d state the obvious so you didn’t feel like you were judging me when you thought the same thing. the thrill of reeling in a fish is something that i have yet to find a parallel to today. the king salmon became my respected foe. many times i won, but often he would steal my hook and go tell all his friends what a chump i was. i remember the 1 hour battle i had with what i swear to be the biggest fish in the history of the universe. maybe i’m exaggerating about the last part, but i did battle a fish for a whole hour. i ran up and down the shoreline, trying to reel him in. but i couldn’t. every time i would think i was winning, he would make a run for it and take more of my line. eventually, he spooled me, which is the ultimate insult to a fisherman. once you’ve been spooled, you hang your head in shame. but i was not ashamed, because a worthy foe had beaten me on that day. and what did i have to be upset about. my arms felt like they were going to fall off, but i simply went back to my boat, and let the music take me home. 

i don’t know why i share this with you today. i’ve been thinking a lot about both the good things and the bad things of my past lately. there are healthy and unhealthy ways to think on the past. this was a beautiful moment in my life. i grew immensely in these two months, and i often wonder what it would be like to live that life. the life of a recluse, with no one but my family and i living with the beautiful creation all around us. but i’m realizing that the more i hang on to old memories, the more destructive they can become. and this goes for the good and bad. most of us are okay to let the bad things go. but if we hold to tightly to the good things of our past, then it’s hard for us to fully live in the present. our past wasn’t meant to be lived out today. and as much as we want certain parts of our lives to never change, they will. and we should be okay with that. i came back from alaska a changed man, but i also came back into a world that had gone on without me. a world that continued to move forward in my absence. the world will always move forward, whether we move with it or whether we live in the past. i loved being in alaska. but to live in that memory is to miss out on something right now. my beautiful wife. my amazing children. an incredible job. the past is the past. we should leave it there. so i decided to give alaska one more hurrah. it was an important time in my life. but not as important as right now. i hope our society can learn how to better live in the moment. not looking behind. not looking ahead. right here. right now. we can be thankful for our past. we can be excited about our future. but not at the expense of missing what is right in front of us.

so alaska can shove it. i live in regina.

couch surfing & hitchhiking
July 27, 2009, 9:20 pm
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411i picked up a couple hitch hikers today for a 5 minute drive across town. they had a sign saying they wanted to get from downtown to the highway, so i thought i might as well. my wife hates it when i pick random people up. you always hear the horror stories about people getting jacked or stabbed or canoodled or what not. she loves people and helping people. but there is something about picking up a total stranger that makes her nervous. and with good reason. especially when you have kids. but my kids weren’t with me, so i thought at least if i died, it could be a cool story. who wants to die in their sleep? i’d rather be stabbed by a hobo. they were nice college age people. she was from czechoslavak-idontknowifimspellingthisright-ia. he was from massacheusetts. what’s with people from hard to spell places? i guess i’m from saskatchewan, which might as well have been an alien planet for these two. with towns like moose jaw, elbow and findlater, i guess we are weirder than they are. they were couch surfing across canada. apparently couch surfing is a huge thing these days, at least according to these drifters who hadn’t murdered me yet. there is a website and everything where you can find people willing to put up weary travelers in their home. cool idea. i dropped them on the highway and pondered my own hitch hiking experiences.

when i was a young lad, you could always count on my dad picking up a hitchhiker. apparently slasher films weren’t invented yet in the 1980’s, or at least he hadn’t watched any yet. so with our families lives in danger, we picked people up on the side of the road. if you can’t read sarcasm through words on a computer screen (which you obviously can’t, because that would make you weird), i am joking about the murderous drifter image i am painting. i believe in the general goodness of people. sure, you’ll meet some oddballs along the way. but that’s part of the fun. i remember dad picking up mr. stanky. that’s what i called him, or at least what i’ll call him now. dad was driving me to grandview for my baseball game. we were already late, and i was stressed because i was the star pitcher of our team (i totally made that last part up, about me being the star pitcher. remind me to edit out this side note later). from a distance, you could tell the guy was drunk. he was staggering half in the middle of the highway. i climbed in the back and let him have the front seat. the door opened, and the stench enveloped me. he slurred his words, most of which i couldn’t understand. but my dad carried on a conversation with him for the half hour journey. while i sat in discomfort and borderline disgust, dad treated him with respect and dignity. i think that’s pretty amazing about my dad. and i remember even as a young kid learning from him that if someone needed help, you helped and treated them with respect. and if that meant giving a drunkard a ride, you did it. Hitch_hikers

a few years back, i saw a young guy on the road to Winnipeg with two husky dogs and a huge backpack sitting on the side of the road in the rain. i drove past and in my rearview mirror, i’m pretty sure i saw him give me the finger. i drove about a mile down the road. after debating the awkwardness level of hours of driving with a guy who just gave me the finger vs. the guilt of leaving him in the rain, i pulled a u-turn and came back to get him. his dogs were awesome. they were shedding all over, but it didn’t really matter. they stunk, but not as bad as their owner. he was a hippy drug addict to the max, if there is such a thing. kind of like the polar opposite of rush limbaugh. i don’t know why i thought of rush limbaugh, especially since he used to be a drug addict. he offered me some weed and i declined. a few years earlier, i would have graciously accepted. he told me stories of being disowned by his family and running away from home to get away. he had left ontario and moved to BC a few years earlier. he worked odd job in some northern town i had never heard of. he made it sound like not many people liked him. and i understood why. he was pretty abrasive and in your face. so maybe he is more like rush limbaugh than i thought. a few days earlier he had gotten a phone call from his aunty telling him his father had passed away. i apologized, but he said he didn’t care. you knew he did, though. because he was traveling across the country to get back in time for the funeral. how can you not care and go through what he was going through in order to get home? we drove together for 4 hours. he borrowed my phone to make sleeping arrangements with a friends mom in winnipeg. she didn’t sound to stoked on him being there, but finally relented and allowed him into her home. i dropped him off, and all he left behind was the smell of his weed and a couple pounds of dog hair.

later on in life, i desperately wanted to go to a concert in Regina. Satanic Surfers was the band. they are kind of like chris tomlin, only not in anyway like him. i had a way there, but no way back. so my friend and i decided to hitch it back. it was a rush. i still remember my brother dropping us off on the side of the little traveled highway (especially mid-week), and he gave me a pen, so i could stab anyone who gave me trouble. thanks for looking out for me, brother. a knife or a gun would have been nice, but i guess you go with what you got. the trip was long and largely uneventful. until about two hours away from our destination. an old beat up pick up truck pulled over about a km ahead. he didn’t back up, but waited. so a few minutes later, we were greeted by an elderly man who was making the rest of the trip to our destination. i was excited to have made the rest of our way home, but that excitement quickly turned to awkwardness as this man shared stories that would embarrass a sailor. at many times throughout the two hour drive, which he drove at 85 km/h, i wondered if we would make it. partly due to bad driving, partly to the awkwardness of the situation and me wanting to stab myself with the pen my brother gave me. he told us his whole life story. and he dove beneath the surface of his raunchy stories to tell us how he had been a bad father. how his daughter was a stripper in the town he was heading and he was hoping to make amends with her. he asked if we knew the bar. not being huge strip club attenders, we didn’t. he asked us what we thought he should do. how should he make amends to his daughter he hadn’t seen in years? i was at a loss for words. an elderly man, pouring his heart out to two 18 year old punk kids, asking for advice on how to fix his broken and messed up life. we shrugged. about 20 minutes from home, he asked if we’d like to stop for coffee. of course, we didn’t. we had been hitchhiking for 9 hours and wanted nothing more than to be at home. but he was driving, and so what could we say. we stopped for coffee. i don’t think we really said anything to each other. he just enjoyed our company. when he dropped us at the edge of town, he asked if we wanted to meet for coffee later. being young and awkward, i politely declined. i don’t know if i’ve ever been as thankful as i was at that moment to be out of a vehicle. and that includes the time my little sister puked on my lap in the middle of a 16 hour car trip. but thinking about it now, i realize the guy was just lonely. desperate for some kind of human connection. he obviously had little to no one else in his life. and he found 2 punk kids who had to listen to him because he was giving them a ride. thinking back, i am thankful for that experience. even old weirdo’s can teach you something about life. and he taught me that i don’t want to live a life of regrets. i don’t want to look back at my life and wonder if i could have been a better father, husband, person. 

i’ve picked up many hitchhikers since then. partly because of my dad’s example. partly because of this weird, unknowingly wise old man who taught me a valuable life lesson. actually, he taught me two life lessons. 

1. live a life that won’t be filled with regrets.

2. when you pick up a hitchhiker and their are 3 of you in the cab of a compact truck, keep your hands to yourself, cause that can make an awkward situation more awkward.

if you have room in your car on a drive, pick up a hitchhiker. don’t look at their appearance. their skin color. their 2 dogs. their hippy appearance. their staggering drunkenness. pick them up. it might make you uncomfortable, but uncomfortable moments are the most memorable. and people need help, so do something about it.

unless it’s rush limbaugh. he should be left on the side of the road.

an ode to davis love III
July 18, 2009, 3:45 am
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today, my friend dave is getting married. and i have no jokes. s861195458_2364654_9860

for those that know dave and i, you might think this would be a moment filled with jokes, embarrassing anecdotes, and a fat can of whoop abs. but no. i love this man. no word of a lie. does that even make sense? no word of a lie…i’ve been saying it for years, but now that i think about it…i can’t tell if that’s an accurate sentence or not.

i have known dave for 8 years. we met at clearview camp and have been in love ever since. not really. but mostly. there are too many memories of dave to list, and so i will only mention the things about him that i find to be the most important.

working at blessings with dave was an honor. those who know us know that we do not hold that business, or christian retail in general, in very high regard. but there is not a better person i could have gone through 3 years (was it really that long??? brutal…) of hell with. i mean, we got our pay checks on time every month. although, dave got screwed out of his raise for about a year. but to see God exploited on a daily basis takes a lot out of you as a christian. especially when your the one in charge of exploiting him. but dave kept me honest. i have always been the type to go with the flow (believe it or not) and it would have been really simple of me to put my head down and my heart on hold and make a life of this place. but dave held me up. he helped me to see the good where it was, which was always found in the people who walked through the doors. it inspired me the way he would deal with people. always gracious. always looking beneath the surface. i totally think you should have hooked up with kat and her crazy mom. too soon? sorry. a moment came when i was promoted to assistant manager, and so it was my job to help the manager cut back hours of staff as we were not making enough money. i remember the meeting when we did this. there was tears and anger from most involved. but dave’s primary concern was for the other staff. he stood up for them, and offered to take more cuts if it meant saving someone else’s job. that’s who he was. as serious as that story sounds, most of our moments at blessings were not serious, but unbelievably hilarious. whether it was playing baseball, very literally, with copies of “who wants to be a millionaire god’s way” (i won’t put god in capital letters here because that is not the god i serve) and a metal pipe in the receiving area, punching the lights out of mercyme cardboard cutouts, smoking captain blacks in the back alley (i mean, we were clearly having a business meeting, tiffany), or just wasting time laughing and talking about good books and music (and just as much time talking about bad books and bad music, which there was much more of), my memories at this soul sucking place were wonderful because i had dave as a friend. that’s the type of guy dave is.

there is not a guy out there i can be as honest with about the garbage in my life. no matter how wrong something is that i have done, dave will not judge me (or he at least hides it very well…). i have never had a moment where i thought dave would turn his back on me. there were times where i would lay a big fat load of crap on his head (figuratively, of course…or is it?), and he would walk through it with me. and even when i treated him like garbage, he never turned his back on me. there are so many times i have been a self-righteous boob and written dave off or turned my back on him, but he has never returned the favor. i used to do this thing when we were driving somewhere, and i was pissed off at him or had something heavy to say…i would always wait until we were a minute away, and then unload on him. it was a great strategy, really. this way, i never gave him a chance to retaliate. but the truth was, he never would have retaliated, because it was always some stupid petty thing that meant nothing. and i was overreacting. because i tend to do that. and dave doesn’t. because that’s the type of guy dave is.

dave’s the kind of guy that can call me on my crap without sounding self-righteous. that is a gift, and everyone should have a friend like that. someone who can call you out without ticking you off. sometimes i got ticked off, but i always knew he was right. we are both cynical people at times, and my cynicism often leads me to unfair criticisms of people and the church. but he stops short of that most of the time, and lets me know when i’m taking things too far. he’ll always challenge and push peoples buttons when he knows they are doing wrong, but i’ve never seen him act hateful towards someone because of it. that’s the kind of guy dave turner is. 

he’s the kind of guy you can make the worst jokes with and laugh for hours about them. he’s the kind of guy that will come with you on a 24 hour trip to winnipeg in the middle of the night in an ice storm (i swear, officer, i didn’t know there was a storm coming…) to see your girlfriend, just because he knows you’ll want the company and he’s up for an adventure. not to mention he likes separating his shoulder in his sleep. watch out for that, liz. he’s the kind of guy who you can confide in that your going to ask your girlfriend to marry you. most of my friends would have made fun of me or thought i was stupid at the time if i had told them. but dave didn’t. he encouraged me. he’s the kind of guy that you can order 5 large pizzas with and almost eat all of them while playing winning 11 on PS2 (what do you expect, pizza hut, when you only charge 5 bux for each additional pizza? don’t judge me). he’s the kind of guy that you can go to the casino with, and he’ll support your habit, but not if it’s getting too ugly. most people would think that’s not good. for me, the compulsive gambler, i like that quality in a friend. he’s the kind of guy you can mock the most holy of holy things with, because you know the other is kidding. i can’t even count the amount of blasphemies we’ve unleashed on this world. he’s the kind of guy that will give up two years of his life and a decent paying job to travel the world with a group of orphans in order to raise awareness for the crisis they face in Africa. he’s the kind of guy that will never stab you in the back. he’ll always be truthful. he’ll never walk away when you screw up. and he’ll give you the shirt off his back if you need it. he’ll slap you around if you need it. he’ll do the right thing, even when it’s the hardest thing. he is humble, and he would hate that i am saying all these nice things about him. he’ll be the first one to tell you what a mess he is, even though he is all that and then some. uh huh, girlfriend. he is true blue, tried and true, and doesn’t even smell like poo. i was debating going profound in that last sentence, but went with the potty humor. because that is also dave. potty humor. and i love it. 

there isn’t a better friend out there. and i’m happy he’s found a girl almost as cool as him. no disrespect, liz. have a fun marriage and keep being who you guys are. cause there aren’t many out there better than you. although, gandhi and jesus would kill you in a best person alive contest, no question. no, i am not crying. i just have something in my eye. SHUT-UP!

feel free to share your dave-isms in the comments section.

superman invented Canada
July 5, 2009, 5:43 am
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Supermanpatriotism has always seemed like a strange concept to me. we paint lines on a map that dictate where we’re from, and we feel a strange sense of loyalty to this place within the imaginary lines christopher columbus and lewis & clark discovered (commonly confused with lois & clark, the superman and his mistress). i know that’s not how we came to be known as the country of Canada, but it was so much easier to make that up than to actually do the research. so superman invented Canada, and i never really understood why people feel so proud to be from here. or from any country, for that matter. i mean, at least Canada was invented by superman (which i hope i get credit from for that discovery in national geographic) so at least we have a bit more going for us than those other lousy countries. they were probably invented by the green goblin, or robin, who is pretty much as lame as a super villain. jk, usa.

it’s not that i don’t like Canada. i love living here, and i love that i am free to eat as much taco bell as i can in one sitting. without that, though, what makes us any different from afghanistan or zimbabwe? lots, i guess. so that’s kind of a stupid question. forget i said that. at any rate, i don’t think people of the world are all that different, and so it really confuses me when people are so proud of a flag, which is essentially a piece of fabric, and a song (not the hockey song by tom connors, but our anthem) which i remember most vividly for some Vegas lounge singer singing the wrong words during a CFL game during the dreaded expansion years when i was a kid. his beautiful flowing majestic hair couldn’t get him out of that firestorm. and so for a long time, i have told people i think it’s dumb to be proud of a place we randomly ended up at. we can be thankful. but pride just never made sense to me. but that was a while ago. and now i am seeing things in a different light.

when i look at our country, there are many things that i am proud of. i am proud that we are free. free to go to Roughriders games and get soaked in the sweat and beer of the greasy old man sitting next to us. free to let our lawns grow as long as our neighbors can tolerate it before they politely mow it for us (thanks, by the way). but seriously, just free. i know there are many places in this world that aren’t free. and with freedom comes great responsibility, and for the most part, Canada does well with being responsible at home and around the globe. and as much as our politicians might make us want to vomit our chicken pot pie while we’re watching the evening news, they love this country, and look out for our best interests (most of the time). all partisanship aside (because lord knows i am a partisan, or is it parmesan?), i think most politicians are really there because they care about people, and that says something about the country we live in. and they offer us this freedom. i don’t care if stephane dion couldn’t pronounce saskatchewan, there was no doubt in my mind that he loved people and was doing his job because of that love. and our military. i have always struggled with this. because i don’t approve of war. i don’t ever think there is a valid reason to raise a gun towards another human being. but i know they are fighting for something bigger than themselves. and i know that it’s complicated. and to trivialize it with slogans does a disservice to the men and women who give their lives to protect people. i find it humorous (and disgusting) that americans often make fun of canada for our lack of military prowess. but that is a source of pride for me. because i have no doubt we could defend ourselves. that is not why i’m proud. but i am proud for our role in peacekeeping and rebuilding missions. i am proud that we often support the downtrodden and offer protection for those who need it. and while i don’t always approve of the reasons behind a war, i will never look down upon someone who is giving a piece of their life so that i can live. that is noble. so go ahead and make fun of the peacekeepers. we are an accepting country, which is also a source of pride for me. and while there will always be bigots, racists and homophobes, Canadians generally do not put limits on who is accepted as a human being. for that i am grateful, especially with much of the world drowning in these issues. i am not naive. i know this stuff still happens on much too large a scale. i live in a city that is surrounded with racism and bigotry. and that must change. generally speaking, though, these are attitudes that most Canadians do not adopt. for that, i am extremely grateful. 

the older i get, the more i realize there is reason to be proud to be from Canada. but not because we live in these imaginary lines drawn on a map. but because of the people. the people who exemplify Canada. the soldiers and peacekeepers, the politicians (that almost made me barf to say, but i am thankful nonetheless), the people who give Canada the stereotype of being full of nice people, the people who believe in the dignity and worth of others, the people who offer and receive universal healthcare…those and many more are the reasons that i am proud. not a flag or a song. the people. the people are what makes a country, and so if you feel pride in anything, feel proud of the people that make your country beautiful.images-5 and know that other countries are full of beautiful people too. don’t let patriotism feed nationalism. the world is a beautiful place. and i am thankful and proud to be a citizen of the world.

i know this is a departure from my normal story telling structure, but this is what’s been on my heart lately and i felt i needed to say it. in my next blog, you will hear the amazing story of how i, kenneth blair roberts, made the incredible discovery that superman invented canada. it involves the da vinci code, tom hanks, and a giant garbage bin filled with old comics. that’s all i can say for now.