Giving Thanks

So we just celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving this past weekend, and I sure have plenty to be thankful for. Even days later today I am thankful for a few free hours of time to blast off this blog I have been meaning to write for about a week now. Last I wrote I was praising Nebraska, and those good vibes are still held near and dear to my heart. But the journey carried on, and I am thankful to say that the next chapter was more of the same awesomeness.

I woke up early Thursday morning ready to make my way west of Nebraska.  One thing I learned about Nebraska before I headed west was that the weather there is very polar. Bi-polar that is. I am not sure if it’s just in the autumn, but during my stay one minute it was 85F / 30C and sunny and the next about 60F / 15C and pouring rain. Clear starry night once glance.  And the next lightning bolts are zigzagging there way across the evening skies. When I left Thursday morning it was cold and pouring. But I didn’t let the dreary weather bother me much. Soon I would be back to the sunshine.

I flew from Omaha through Las Vegas. The view from above Vegas was rad, especially Lake Mead. I found it hard to believe such a massive lake could exist somewhere so dry even if it is fed by the mighty Colorado River. We switched planes in Vegas and the time was just enough to do some people watching and take in the sights and feel of this crazy place. Since I was flying Southwest (THE BEST airline in N America for passengers with disabilities) I was given early boarding.  This gave me the chance to sit front row window. My favourite. And time to watch the people board the plane.

Vegas is always a fun place to people watch because you see a bit of everything.  Especially boarding a plane.  People board looking like they have just lost their shirt and surely many have.  Others leave tanned and smiling sinister grins that nearly divulge the twisted tales with which their smiles were inspired.  Some just look like they are trying to get the Hell out of there and fast.  A bit of everything for sure.  As I enjoyed this entertaining reality, I spotted a familiar face.

Shawn Stern singer from one of my favourite punk bands of all time Youth Brigade was boarding the plane. And like a nerdy fan I yelled out “Youth Brigade!!” Shawn gave me a weary nod.   A familiar expression found on many a faces leaving sin city. I was pretty stoked to even get a nod. Shawn Stern and his brothers are old school LA punkers, though born in Ontario, Canada. They not only started the band Youth Brigade, but also BYO Records and Punk Rock Bowling – arguably the punkest music festival alive. One that takes place in Vegas. One that I plan to properly attend for the first time this coming May. In hindsight, likely why Shawn was in Vegas and on the plane I was on headed for LA.   Dude is a legend.  This clip says it all.

On a bunk day I love landing in LA. So I am right amped on this day and feeling proud to be punk when the bird touches down.  A  nice thing about the increased regularity of my landings in LA is that I know the process and even some of the people. The folks at the Budget Rental Car at LAX airport treat me like royalty. Once again I left Budget happy.  Into my car, punk rock playlist plugged in and GPS coordinates set. Next stop, as always, In N Out Burger on Sepulveda. Oh how I love my In N Out Burgers. I went all In N Out and got a double-double and a regular cheeseburger both animal style. Delicious!

The drive from LAX / In N Out to Venice Beach (my home the next four nights) was not far. Bonus! I listened to Social Distortion yet another classic SoCal punk band as I drove and took in the sights. I wondered what it would be like to call this place home. Something I can’t help doing every time I visit my favourite place on earth. Once I got to Venice it took a few laps to find my place of residence – The Cadillac Hotel. Now I had read a bunch of reviews so I wasn’t expecting much. Glad I read the reviews btw. The place was much more run down (on the inside anyways) than what I am used to but LOCATION LOCATION LOCATION sure made up for what the hotel was lacking on the inner.  If you want an affordable room right on the water where pretty much anything goes… The Cadillac Hotel in Venice.

I literally rolled out the hotel lobby, took a sharp left and in about 10 wheel rotations was on the Venice boardwalk. Talk about location!  And forget Vegas being crazy. The Venice boardwalk is a full on freak show. They even have a freak show! The entire boardwalk is lined with street performers and buskers and people hocking all kinds of goods and bads too. The legendary Muscle Beach is located on the boardwalk. This is a truly iconic American beach town.  In the daytime it’s like flea market meets the circus.  People are everywhere.  And the people watching is like nowhere else I have ever been.  One thing I really love about Venice is the discernible skateboard / surf culture.   Skateboards wiz through the swarms of gawking tourists non-stop throughout Venice, as this is also home to the original Dogtown Z-boys. The home of skateboarding, and arguably modern surfing as well.  Also home to one of the most iconic pioneering crossover thrash metal / punk bands of all time S/T .

The boardwalk was pretty quiet the first night by the time we made acquaintances, but this was a good thing. I wasn’t looking for too much entertainment since I had an early morning presentation ahead of me. I did do a couple laps trying to find a patio to hang out on though and found one at the Venice Ale House. I wet my whistle and made friends with a couple sitting beside me, as did I with my server and the hostess who “sat me”. I was feeling good vibes from this place so far. It felt like home. And the sounds of waves crashing into the sandy shores of the beach as I rolled back to my room that night truly made me want to figure out a way how to actually call this home one day.

5:30am came early the next morning. But the sound of those waves crashing ashore sure washed away any feelings of tiredness I might have had. The sun was gently rising as I made my way out of the front doors of the Cadillac Hotel and into my Kia something or other, or whatever I was driving. It didn’t really matter. It had an auxiliary jack and I had a cord and thousands and thousands of songs to listen to. My destination this morning was Viewpoint School in Calabasas, California. What I knew of Calabasas was what I had seen on TV and read a bit on Wikipedia. I was aware the Kardashians and Bieber lived there. I assumed it would be a pretty upscale place. I was right.

Viewpoint School is one of the coolest campuses I have ever been too. If not the coolest. And I say campus because the private school is on a campus nestled in a valley between rolling hills and towering mountains. It felt like a getaway when I arrived. Security were really cool too. I am still taken back a bit when I am met with security guards in the parking lot of a school, but these guys did their job and were cordial about it. I guess security guards at school entrances is the day we are living in. Better safe than sorry. I was quite early, so I told the guard I would grab a coffee and make my way back. He was chill.

By the time my GPS got me to the nearest Starbucks located in probably the nicest strip mall I have ever seen I was running a bit short of time. I got the feeling that everyone knew everyone in this place whether it be the java lovers chilling on the Starbucks patio or anyone shopping in this stunning stretch of storefronts. I felt a bit out of place rolling out in my Ramones shirt, tattoos etc. But I didn’t feel unwelcome. In fact a kindly man opened the door to Starbucks for me, which is about as far as I got. I saw the longest line-up I have ever seen in any coffee shop in my life and knew there would be no time for SB this morning. Fortunately I did find a Taco Bell drive-thru enroute back to the school, so I grabbed a coffee and breakfast burrito. Breakfast of champs.

Back to Viewpoint I went, where I was met again by security. The campus is massive, so it took me a few different entrances to find the right one. This also gave me a chance to meet probably most every guard at the school. All good dudes. Finally I found my parking spot where I was greeted by school staff. Everybody seemed so happy and comfortable in this place. I think it has something to do with the sunshine. 8:45am and it was already starting to get hot. I could get used to this.

I presented to a gymnasium full of sharply dressed students at Viewpoint. Assemblies are call for formal dress here. This gave me a good opening joke about my Ramones t and shorts and not getting the wardrobe memo.  My joke went over well. Off to a good start!  The good vibes never wavered. I was tight on time, so I chose my words, anecdotes, stories and points wisely. My greatest hope was that I would have time to show my video at the end, which I just barely did. The response from the students and staff was phenomenal. I always bring my A-game to Cali, and this was yet another example of it being appreciated. I was stoked. I shook hands with a long line of students who came up to meet me after my talk. Then I was invited up to a classroom.

The classroom I was invited to was a photography class. They were doing a project on finding beauty or positives in destruction. This fit well with my story. The teacher who had invited me up was really chill and to the point.  He explained to me that I had borderline devastated his class with my talk. They were a bit shell shocked.  So after salutations I explained to the class that because I was short on time I had to focus on why I was asked to be there and that was road safety. I assured them that I normally crack more jokes and have an underlying super positive uplifting ending to my presentation. After a few short stories and jokes we were all laughing and comfortable. One student named Angela bravely volunteered to snap shots and make me her project, so I struck some poses while the remainder of the class watched videos of me wheelchair shredding (bungee / skatepark) off my laptop. It was a pretty cool experience. I left Viewpoint with nothing but positive feelings. What an awesome school. Thanks so much!!  I should add after-the-fact I just opened an email from Angela my photographer and here are a couple of the shots she snapped

The sun was really shining now… that California sunshine. I had a weekend ahead of me and planned to enjoy every second of it.  That I did.  I explored Venice and Marina Del Ray quite extensively. I rolled everywhere and learned this indeed would be a great place to live. Flat.  Barely any hills.  And lots of beach front pathways!!  I ate great food and made new friends and even saw an old one or two. People are so friendly here.  I felt like a regular right away. I even had fish tacos with a former Dogtown sponsored skateboarder at the joint where Jason Segal’s character take Paul Rudd’s character in the movie I Love You Man. It’s called James Beach and the fish tacos were epic! I truly fell in love with this eclectic southern California beach town, and as I left Monday I vowed to return.

Every time I go to California I feel I leave a piece of my heart there. And every time I return to Vancouver and my current home I am all jazzed up about finding a way to make the move.  This time when I left California I took a piece home with me to remind me.  My new Hwy 101 tattoo.

I have been home a week now. I have had a chance to see a bunch of my family and some of my friends. I have gone out and had fun. I have done the routine chores and errands that I do day-to-day and week-to-week. I have talked lots with my close family about the possibility of me moving. All of them have been very encouraging. Of course they would miss me, as I would miss them. But at least I will be living somewhere awesome to visit. And I can always come visit Vancouver / Whistler of course too. Once thing heard repeatedly has been “when it is time to go you know it” or some variation of that phrase. And I so understand it. Although it is going to be an epic upheaval, I feel ready to make moves.  I feel it in my heart.  Of course it is also always almost easier to stay than it is to go. But Change is good. Change is growth. Growth is life. Life is short.  And this rule words can be implied to any sort of situation in life… relationships, work, choices in lifestyle… residence.

Although Vancouver will always be home. I can feel that piece of me in southern California that has grown bigger and bigger over the years calling me back louder and louder. And I am determined to find a way. One thing I was sure to do when I was visiting Venice and meeting new people was to learn their stories. Where were they from? What brought them to SoCal or Venice?? Many were transplants like I intend to be. People who had the same achy feeling I did for change. The difference between them and me only is that they made the move. I am using these brave souls as inspiration. If they did it, so can I. So will I. It is just a matter of time. One day I will write this blog from my home in Southern California. Mark my words.

So on the heels of Canadian Thanksgiving, which I will always celebrate whether I am living in Canada or America because who wants to wait an extra month + for a turkey feast, I have lots to be thankful for. I have an amazingly supportive and loving family. We genuinely enjoy each other’s company. Had a blast with my mom, uncle and aunt (all over 60 years old) at a blues show last week for instance.  Headed to Kelowna to see Mad Caddies with my cousins Alina and Josh tomorrow.  Love the fam.  I have a career I am in love with that allows me to meet new people from all over the world. I am able to inspire many of these people and bring positive change to their lives. And in turn they do the same for me. I am thankful to be alive and thankful that I have the ability to live the life I want to live. Where I live today is undeniably a great place that I will always love and always call home.  But I have also found a new home and my mistress has stolen my heart and is calling for me daily.  North America is such an amazing place to live full of freedoms and opportunities that I think we can sometimes take for granted.  Today I feel grateful for this great continent that I call home and all of the great places I have visited so far and the many more ahead.  Home is where the heart is, and we can have more than one home. Southern California I am am coming…  One of these days I will visit for good.

Thanks for reading!