Casey and Finnegan, CBC Beetle Roadtrip, and even Bryan Adams: the top six moments of the greatest summer ever!

// August 27th, 2014 // 1 Comment » // Filed under Blog

The glorious foothills of the Rocky Mountains, one of the best views in Canada.

Well that was one heck  of a summer; the greatest of my life so far, hands down. It was so good that I thought I had better make a Top 5 List, but couldn’t fit it into 5 so here’s 6. I was extremely lucky to spend a lot of this summer with my wife Jill and son Joshua in the first summer of his life, and with the rest of my family. I also zig-zagged the country from coast to coast a couple of times, in planes, and one particular little car called the CBC Beetle. Thanks to everyone I crossed paths with to make it so memorable.

Swimming in 400 feet deep warm water in the middle of Desolation Sound in July.

6. Desolation Sound, BC. It was a challenge to actually get to the ol’ family cabin this summer, but the times we did were glorious. Our boat Big Buck$ roared us around the Sound to spots like the Curme Islands, Refuge Cove, and Hernando Island. In each place the swimming was incredible. We also had fun this year at the Lund Shellfish Festival, the Summer Muse in Powell River, and the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts in Sechelt.

The Murphy-Mendozas and the Lawrence-Barbers on a summer day in Charlottetown harbour.

5. Prince Edward Island. I had the good fortune to be on this summer paradise of an island twice this season, once on the CBC Beetle Roadtrip and once for my wife Jill’s show in Charlottetown for the Confederation anniversary celebrations. What an amazing city and province that knows how to do summer right. Everywhere we turned we ran into friendly musicians, and we had an amazing time staying up in Stanhope in Prince Edward Island National Park. Best eating: Receiver Coffee, Terra Rouge, Richard’s Fresh Seafood. Best drinking: PEI Brewing Company. Thanks to the Kelly-Roberts family! (And I’ll be back on PEI the first week of September for Founders’ Week!)

Swimming at North Beach in Prince Edward County, Ontario, on Canada Day.

4. Prince Edward County. Not to be confused with PEI, PEC is also on an island, but located on the shores on Lake Ontario. It’s where my in-laws have a lovely county home in Wellington (aka “Wellsies”) which is where my wife and son and I spent a beautiful, sunny Canada Day during a short break in the CBC Beetle Roadtrip. We did some amazing family swimming at North Beach, drank Beau’s beer and enjoyed the great little cafes and restaurants that dot the county, like the Tall Poppy, the PEC Food Truck, and East and Main.

Retired CBC puppeteering legend Judith Lawrence introduces us to THEE Casey and Finnegan!!!

3. Meeting Casey and Finnegan on Josh’s first birthday. Somehow, neither my wife or I had ever been to Hornby Island, BC. Thanks to the Hornby Island Festival, we made it this summer and had a fantastic time. I did readings from both of my books and Jill sang some songs. After the event, we were approached by a woman named Judith Lawrence, who told us she used to work for the CBC. When Jill enquired further, she then dropped the nostalgic bombshell that she was THEE Judith Lawrence (no relation), the legendary puppeteer who created, animated, and voiced Casey and Finnegan from Mr. Dressup! And that she still has the original puppets in her possession… there on Hornby Island! The next day just happened to be our son Joshua’s first birthday, so Judith actually brought Casey and Finnegan over to where we were staying and let us meet them. For a kid who grew up watching Mr. Dressup religiously every morning, Monday to Friday, it was a WAY bigger deal for me than Josh. Thanks to Judith, Deb and Drew McVittie, and the Pratts for a GREAT time. What an island!

Johnnie Lawrence Drive, named after my grandfather, in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba.

2. Johnnie Lawrence Drive. For over 40 years, my grandfather Johnnie Lawrence was an exceptional pro-golfer at the Clear Lake Golf Course in Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba. Over the course of those many decades, he created an incredible legacy, teaching thousands of people from multiple generations how to golf. He left a lasting impression on his students, as I still run into them all over the world who want to tell me all about my grandfather and his perfect swing. This summer, Parks Canada and the Clear Lake Golf Course honoured the memory of my grandfather and the Lawrence family by officially naming the road that leads up to the golf course “Johnnie Lawrence Drive” with a ceremony and parade in August. My family is deeply humbled to have a road named for our grandfather in a Canadian national park.

I drove this little car through all ten provinces this summer. It was the trip of a lifetime.

1. The CBC Beetle Roadtrip. I consider myself fortunate to have visited all ten Canadian provinces, but I’ve done it slowly, ticking off the visits to each one over the course of my life. Never have I had the opportunity to drive straight through all of them, coast to coast, until this past summer. We started in Cape Spear, Newfoundland, and drove the CBC Beetle all the way to Mile Zero in Victoria. Along the way we met up with some of the finest musicians in Canada to film them performing their songs in iconic Canadian locations. It was truly an epic voyage through the most stunning country in the world and one of the greatest experiences of my life, which I implore you to do as well. Thanks to Bryan Ward, Chris Kelly, Josh Huculiak, Emma Godmere, CBC Music, and VW Canada for making it happen. You can see all the videos and photos here, or watch this finale recap of the entire trip in a couple of minutes:

{Honourable Mention… Baby Joshua meets Bryan Adams!}

Summer of '69 meets Summer of '14: Baby Joshua and Bryan Adams!

I wasn’t even present for this so I can’t really include it in my favourite moments, but the story is pretty surreal. My wife Jill Barber was on her way to play a festival in Quebec City and ended up sitting next to Bryan Adams on the flight, who actually requested to sit next to her! He was a great guy, shared some new songs with Jill, held Joshua, and came to Jill’s show in Quebec City that night. And to think he used to wash the dishes at the Tomahawk in North Vancouver!

Upcoming Events this Fall:

Sun Sep 21, Word on the Street, Halifax (2:30PM)
Sun Sep 28, Word on the Street, Vancouver (1PM)
Sun Oct 5, Western Canadian Music Awards, Winnipeg MB
Fri Oct 17 – Sun Oct 19, Whistler Readers and Writers Festival, Whistler BC
Mon Oct 20 – Sun Oct 26, BC Book Tour (details tba)

What was YOUR favourite moment of your summer? Comment below!

PUP video “Guilt Trip”: the weird story of how I was cast as the crooked cop

// May 22nd, 2014 // 7 Comments » // Filed under Blog

I'm wearing LOTS of make up, ok???

In case you haven’t heard of PUP, let me prepare you: they are a high voltage, high impact, highly spirited punk rock band from Toronto. They put out one of the most electrifying albums of last year, and one of the best debuts in many years. So, consider me a fan who plays this band regularly on CBC Radio 3.

Pup rocking out. Note: '94 era Canucks shirt!

This past January, my wife and son and I were headed to brunch on a gloomy, wintery  Sunday morning to a restaurant I NEVER want to go to but my wife loves. I was desperately hung over. We were trudging along an industrial stretch of dullness in East Vancouver. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a printed sign taped to a glass doorway. “AUDITIONS FOR PUP Music Video”.

Calling all pups... and one old guy.

I squinted and belched. “There’s no way it could be the same band…” but I snapped a photo and Instagrammed / tweeted it anyway. PUP confirmed seconds later it was indeed an audition for their next video, to which I jokingly replied “do you have a role for a semi-drunk, semi-hungover, hairy, smelly, new dad in his really early 40s?”

The band replied “can you play a convincing police officer?”

At the very moment we arrived at the restaurant that I didn’t want to go to, a burly cop was dragging in a woman who had just dined and dashed. I took it as a sign. I said YES.

Instagramly, PUP put me in touch with the director and producer (who coincidentally were also having brunch at the very same restaurant, also witnessing the police incident) and BOOM. I was cast as a not-so-burly but very evil cop in a video that fictitiously traces PUP’s origins back to their childhood in a dark and wet music video cross between Stand By Me and The River’s Edge.

On the set in the sleet between takes with actor Finn Wolfhard. Photo by John Lee.

The video was filmed mostly in a lumberyard in Brackendale BC just outside of Squamish on an shivering and soggy, classic West Coast winter weekend. For many of my “shots” I was thrown into puddles of mud and slush.

The spritely actors who play the youthful version of PUP are all excellent. I was the most “hands on” (literally) with the amazing Finn Wolfhard who plays the badass bully and (SPOILER ALERT) eventual lead singer.

The four actors who played young PUP keeping warm in the dressing room: the back of a truck with a wood burning pot bellied stove.

The video is co-directed by Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux and produced by Dan Code. Thanks to everyone in the production crew for involving me and treating me so well, and to PUP for actually responding to that instagram photo. And thanks also to my wife, who dragged my sorry, hungover butt past that audition sign in the first place. Funny how things work out sometimes.

The aftermath: whose blood IS that?!?

NOW WATCH, EH?

Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Upcoming Events:

Sat June 14, CBC Music Festival, Deer Lake Park, Burnaby BC
Mon Jun 16 – Fri Jul 25, CBC Beetle Cross-Canada Roadtrip
Sat Aug 2, Hornby Island Arts Festival, Hornby Island BC
Sun Aug 17, Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, Sechelt BC
Sun Sep 21, Word on the Street, Halifax NS
Fri Oct 17 – Sun Oct 19, Whistler Readers and Writers Festival, Whistler BC

BC Book Prize win for “The Lonely End of the Rink”

// May 4th, 2014 // No Comments » // Filed under Blog

Well, it’s been an amazing and humbling 2014 so far, to say the least.

This past Saturday my second book The Lonely End of the Rink: Confessions of a Reluctant Goalie won the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award at the BC Book Prize Gala for Book of the Year. I wish to send out a huge THANK YOU to the independent bookstores for choosing my book for this honour. Thank you for existing and for doing what you do!

Thanks also to my amazing team at Douglas and McIntyre and Harbour Publishing (pictured above), as well as Naomi MacDougall (cover design), Christy Nyiri (sketches and website), Ken Beattie (publicity), Sam Haywood (agency), Christine McAvoy and Geoff “The Dandy” Kehrig (cover photos), my wife Jill and son Josh, my family, and my hockey team, the Vancouver Flying Vees.

Here’s the official word from the press peeps:

“GRANT LAWRENCE WINS BC BOOK PRIZE FOR “THE LONELY END OF THE RINK”

CBC personality and author Grant Lawrence was awarded the top honour at the 30th annual BC Book Prizes Gala for his latest book “The Lonely End of the Rink: Confessions of a Reluctant Goalie”. Lawrence’s hilarious and touching hockey memoir won the Bill Duthie Bookseller’s Choice Award for “the most outstanding work published in British Columbia this year”.

Lawrence was in attendance at the Gala on Saturday night in Vancouver with his parents, and accepted the award along side his publisher, Howard White of Douglas and McIntyre.

“Howard warned me that the hockey book arena was extremely competitive, but I didn’t believe him”, said Lawrence. “Sure enough, my book was repeatedly bodychecked off the the shelf by other big time hockey books by Bobby Orr and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, so I consider this award a real surprise. Thank you to the independent booksellers and stores of BC for this great honour”.

“The Lonely End of the Rink” is Grant Lawrence’s second book, a national bestseller that chronicles his love/hate relationship with hockey and his role as a beer league goalie, backdropped by the story of his beloved Vancouver Canucks and their three failed attempts at the Stanley Cup. This is the second time Lawrence has won the BC Book Prize for Booksellers’ Choice. Lawrence also won it in 2011 for his debut book “Adventures in Solitude”.

Lawrence made history this year, becoming  the only sole author in the thirty year history of the BC Book Prize to win Booksellers’ Choice twice. The Booksellers’ Choice Award is voted upon by the bookstores of BC, for the best book of the year in terms of public appeal, initiative, design, production, and content.

Grant Lawrence is currently working on his third book, a sordid, action-packed rock ‘n’ roll memoir of his many years in the internationally touring band The Smugglers.”

Upcoming Events:

Sat June 14, CBC Music Festival, Deer Lake Park, Burnaby BC
Mon Jun 16 – Fri Jul 25, CBC Beetle Cross-Canada Roadtrip
Sat Aug 2, Hornby Island Arts Festival, Hornby Island BC
Sun Aug 17, Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, Sechelt BC
Sun Sep 21, Word on the Street, Halifax NS
Fri Oct 17 – Sun Oct 19, Whistler Readers and Writers Festival, Whistler BC


Nirvana, Nardwuar, cub, and the Canucks: my 25 years of art, inspiration, and employment on Hamilton Street

// April 1st, 2014 // 9 Comments » // Filed under Blog

What is the longest you’ve ever worked in one location?

In January, I received a CBC management email letting me know that I’ve been working at CBC for fifteen… years… straight. Contemplating that amount of time while riding my bike home along Hamilton Street, just outside the CBC, I realized that I had actually been working at various locations on that very street – and only that street – in Vancouver for even longer… for the past quarter-century, to be exact.

Recently, I was asked to give a presentation at Pecha Kucha Vancouver (20 slides in 6 minutes with commentary), and since my long connection with Hamilton Street was still kicking around in my head, that’s what my presentation became, which you can watch here, and I’ll share some of it with you now in print and photos.

Vancouver's first street corner: Hamilton and West Hastings.

First, the backstory: if you know me even a little bit, you’ll know that I have a great appreciation for the history of the City of Vancouver, so it delighted the dork in me to realize that this street that I have been employed on for so long is actually the first-ever Vancouver city street. It was in 1885, in the midst of a towering and dark rain forest, when the first stake was driven into the soft earth to map out the City of Vancouver by a surveyor named Hamilton… at exactly what is now the corner of Hamilton and West Hastings. When you visit I’ll show you the plaque.

The first place I ever worked on Hamilton Street was at Teamworks Productions, an office in a ramshackle, yet to be restored heritage house. I was fresh out of high school in 1989 and desperate to dive head first into the music business.

Frank Weipert gave me that chance, at a one-stop-shop of artist management (Bob’s Your Uncle, Hard Rock Miners, Roots Roundup), booking agency, and concert promotions. I eagerly dabbled in all of them, especially concert promotion. Frank dealt mainly with roots and art rock, but I begged him to allow me to put on concerts by some of the bands of the burgeoning grunge and punk scene of the late 1980′s and early 1990′s south of the border.

MUDHONEY!

Frank agreed, and that led to me to stage on a string of concerts for Mudhoney (a show Nardwuar and I put on… 1,000 kids showed up, each paying $6), Tad, Bad Religion, Poison Idea, NOFX, Fugazi, the Young Fresh Fellows, the Fastbacks, and, most famously, Nirvana at the Commodore Ballroom just as Nevermind was catching fire.

But the concert promotions business was a harsh mistress for an amateur teenager, and even though many of the gigs were wildly successful, I found out the hard way that, as a promoter, you’re only as great as your last gig, and that not all Seattle grunge bands were created equally. I was coerced by some slick-nick American agent to put on a gig for Love Battery, the ugly duckling of the grunge scene. I guaranteed the band a king’s ransom. The ONLY people to show up for that gig were me and Nardwuar… and I was the promoter and Nardwuar was on the guest list! The show cost Teamworks a fortune, cost me my job, and that was pretty much it for me in the concert business.

The Smugglers circa 1995... not quite as cool as the bands above. Photo by Paul Clarke.

I figured my time would be better spent building up the career of my own band The Smugglers, who rehearsed and wrote many of our best songs at a dangerous dump of a practice space right on Hamilton Street.

By the early 1990′s I began working for Mint Records, located in the iconic Dominion Building at the foot of Hamilton Street. The dusty old dame of a structure was by then a bohemia of arts and culture. Various record labels, publishing companies, magazines, TV productions, and music festival head offices were housed in the circa-1910 building. My primary job was promotions and A&R, but again I dabbled in everything. It was in those offices that we shipped thousands upon thousands of CDs by cub, gob, Pluto, the Smugglers, Neko Case, the New Pornographers, and many other artists. It was a short window in the music industry when almost anything felt possible. There were some glorious times.

Four albums of the many albums we released while I worked at Mint Records

But (and there’s almost always a but) by the end of the 1990s, the bottom fell out of many major labels, having signed way too many bands for far too much money while trying to find the next Green Day and Nirvana. The economic collapse trickled down throughout the music business to the indies, and once again I found myself looking for a new job. (Mint Records is still going to this day, though!)

What CBC Vancouver looked like when I started there in the late 1990s.

I managed to find one just a few blocks up Hamilton, at, lo and behold, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, thanks to hosts Leora Kornfeld and David Wisdom, who had interviewed me countless times for the Smugglers. I landed a gig as an entry-level researcher for a new alternative music show called RadioSonic. By 2000, we started CBC Radio 3. By 2001, both Leora and David had moved on and I was hosting RadioSonic.

I spent a lot of time in the summer of 2005 walking up and down Hamilton Street wearing this sign.

In 2005, the employees of the CBC got locked out in a nasty and prolonged labour dispute. Suddenly, I was pounding the pavement up and down Hamilton Street instead of crossing it to go to work. That lockout led to a lot of time off. The Smugglers had wound down, so I ended up spending a lot of the sudden free time in the wilds of Desolation Sound, BC, at my family cabin. I wasn’t broadcasting, I wasn’t rocking out with the Smugglers, and felt the urge for an artistic outlet, so I began writing what would become my first book, Adventures in Solitude.

My first-ever book reading was... where else? Hamilton Street.

My first-ever public reading of the book? Why, on Hamilton Street of course, at the annual Word On The Street Festival. Hamilton Street would also play a fateful role in my second book, The Lonely End of the Rink, as it was the fiery and violent epicentre of the Stanley Cup Riot of 2011 when the Vancouver Canucks failed to win game seven against the Boston Bruins.

What is that guy doing to the CBC banner?!?

These days, I still walk and cycle up and down Hamilton Street to and from work at the CBC every weekday where I am a host at CBC Radio 3 and CBC Music. Now, if I’m lucky, my wife Jill and baby son Joshua will be waiting outside on Hamilton Street to greet me. And so those are my 25 years (and counting) of art, inspiration, and employment on Hamilton Street… and yes, Nardwuar still loves to remind me of that Love Battery gig. Ugh.

Upcoming Events:

Fri Apr 11, North Shore Writers Festival, North Vancouver City Library, North Vancouver BC 7pm (stories from both books… free!)

Fri Apr 18 – Sun Apr 20, Hockey Summit of the Arts, Toronto ON (Grant plays goal for Sloan’s team)

Sat May 3, BC Book Prizes, Renaissance Harbourside Hotel, Vancouver BC

Sat Jun 14, CBC Music Festival, Deer Lake Park, Burnaby BC

Sat Aug 2, Hornby Island Arts Festival, Hornby Island BC

Thu Aug 14 – Sun Aug 17, Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, Sechelt BC

Related:

The saga of the CBC sweater

Canadian Screen Award win!

The White Stripes slept here: an ode to my old abode

Grant Lawrence wins Canadian Screen Award

// March 5th, 2014 // No Comments » // Filed under Blog

After 15 years of working on radio at the CBC, I never imagined that I would win something called a Canadian Screen Award. That’s right, Screen Award. It’s a golden statue, about a foot or so high, and surprisingly heavy. My team won in the category of Best Original Program or Series produced for Digital Media.

Here’s how in the hell it ever happened: Last year, I embarked on an outrageous opus that became known as CBC Music Presents: The Beetle Roadtrip Sessions, starring a plucky little Volkswagen Fender Edition that affectionately became known as the #CBCBeetle.

The goal of the trip was to film excellent Canadian musicians performing on their own home turf. It would be the reversal of the standard rock ‘n’ roll tour: instead of them coming to us, we’d go to them.

The results were a video series showcased on CBC Music and George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, filmed in spectacular pockets of the country from Vancouver to Toronto. Some of the highlights included getting “banjo’d” into the Elk River in Fernie BC [WATCH] by stoke-folk band Shred Kelly stuffing a live goat into the Beetle [WATCH] courtesy of the Good Ol’ Goats in Cranbrook… jumping into Lake Louise [WATCH] naked… getting treated to a Saskatoon rooftop BBQ [WATCH] from Ewan Currie of the Sheepdogs… and smashing [WATCH] Sam Roberts’ guitar,  among many other good times.

Grant BBQing it up with Ewan from the Sheepdogs

The CBC Beetle Roadtrip was definitely one of the most rewarding and wild of my CBC experiences, made special by the team that made it possible – Bryan Ward, Kai Black, Brent Hodge, Talia Schlanger, Nicole Goodman, Jonas Woost, and Brian Cauley – and the incredible list of Canadian musicians who took part: Yukon Blonde, the Matinee, Shred Kelly, the Good Ol’ Goats, the Sheepdogs, Library Voices, Imaginary Cities, Hawksley Workman, PS I Love You, the Tragically Hip, the Arkells, Hollerado, Metric and the Darcys.

Oh, and what ARE the Canadian Screen Awards? Last year, in an effort to simplify years of confusion honouring the best in Canadian film and TV, the Genies (film) and the Geminis (TV) joined forces to create the Canadian Screen Awards to honour Canadian excellence on movie screens, TV screens, and computer screens. They are considered the Golden Globes/Academy Awards of Canada!!

Hearing our names announced as winners at the gala Tuesday night was a completely surprising, surreal, and exciting experience. Thanks to everyone who made it possible. This 15 year radio vet is definitely stunned and happy… and don’t worry, it hasn’t gone to my head, though I will be bringing that trophy with me to every single meeting at the CBC from now on: “talk to the statue!”

Grant and Shred Kelly on the Elk River in Fernie BC.

Upcoming events:

Fri Apr 11, North Shore Writers Festival, North Vancouver City Library, North Vancouver BC 7pm

Wed – Sun July 9 – 13, Winnipeg Folk Festival, Winnipeg MB

Sat Aug 2, Hornby Island Arts Festival, Hornby Island BC

Thu Aug 14 – Sun Aug 17, Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, Sechelt BC

Back to the CBC…Canadian Screen Awards…Book Festivals

// February 10th, 2014 // No Comments » // Filed under Blog

Happy 2014!

Hope this finds you and yours healthy and happy and ready for spring!! Here’s my latest happenings that I’d like to share with you.

CBC:

I am in the final, final, final days of my six month paternity leave. It’s been a wonderful and gratifying six months of monumental moments, and I am energized to get back behind the mic at the national broadcaster this week.

- I will return to my hosting role at CBC Radio 3 as of Wednesday February 12. I’ll be back in my regular four hour time slot, hosting Monday – Friday, starting at noon ET / 9am PT, playing the best in new and emerging Canadian music. I am live on SiriusXM 162 across North America and on cbcmusic.ca/radio3 around the world. Get the CBC Music app and listen anywhere!

- You’ll also be able to hear me on my regular spots on CBC Radio 1 afternoon shows across the country and sharing the occasional story on DNTO. I’m also working on some exciting new opportunities with CBC Radio 2, and will be creating some very special podcasts.

- Back in May of 2013, I drove a Volkswagen Beetle “Fender Edition” across the country meeting up with various Canadian musicians, filming it all (I also jumped into Lake Louise naked) for the CBC Beetle Roadtrip Sessions. I’m proud to say the video series has been nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for Best Original Program or Series produced for Digital Media.

- I’ll also be hosting a couple of “Toque Sessions” here in Vancouver… free evening concerts at the CBC, with Said the Whale on Thu Feb 20, and Hannah Georgas and Ryan Guldemond (Mother Mother) on Fri Feb 28.

- Oh, and I got my cherished CBC Sweater back after losing it for 35 days!

Books:

- Thanks again for your incredible support of my second book The Lonely End of the Rink: Confessions of a Reluctant Goalie. I completed an invigorating and sometimes totally FREEZING thirty date Canadian book tour from October to December and enjoyed meeting many of you face to face. Thanks to the many, many musicians who performed at my readings. Check out my top ten highlights.

- It’s been surreal for a nerd like me to release a “sports” book and see it reviewed in everything from indie music ‘zines to “The Hockey News”.

- In 2014, I’ll be visiting many literary, book and music festivals, including the excellent Galiano Literary Festival later this month (you should come), and the North Shore Writers Festival in April (complete dates listed below). End-of-the-road movers and shakers and I are working to try and bring a readers and writers’ festival to Lund BC (near Desolation Sound) in the future. More info on that as it happens (as we say on the CBC).

- Personally signed copies of The Lonely End of the Rink and Adventures in Solitude are available to be mailed directly to you anywhere through my website. If it’s a gift, please say for whom it should be signed on the order form.

Family:

- Ever since our son Joshua Matthew Lawrence was born in August, life has been a whirlwind of pure joy. Josh continues to grow in leaps and bounds, loves to smile at all the new people he meets and, true to his parents’ highly questionable lifestyle, at six months, Josh has been on 17 flights and counting.

- My wife Jill Barber won a Western Canadian Music Award for Best Francophone Album of the year for “Chansons”. It was inspiring to watch Jill decide to make a French album, re-learn the language over a two year period, select, learn and record the songs, and win the award.

- Jill will also be receiving an honourary SOCAN Songwriting Award at the society’s 25th annual awards show in Toronto this June, and is currently in studio working on her latest original album, due out this summer in time for festival circuit.

Hockey:


- Hopefully my team the Flying Vees will win another hockey game this year?! For whatever bizarre reason, since the release of “The Lonely End of the Rink”, the Flying Vees have been on an outrageous, near unprecedented plunging losing streak: Before the book: 6 wins, 2 losses. After the book: 1 win, 8 losses, including seven straight, just like the Canucks! If you can explain this, please let me know.

Upcoming events:

Fri Feb 21 – 23, Galiano Island Literary Festival, Galiano Island BC

Sun Mar 9, Canadian Screen Awards, Toronto ON

Fri Apr 11, North Shore Writers Festival, North Vancouver BC

Sat Aug 2, Hornby Island Arts Festival, Hornby Island BC

Thu Aug 14 – Sun Aug 17, Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, Sechelt BC

Questions? Concerns? Ideas? Feedback? Let me know, thanks!

GO CANADA!

Unravelled: the saga of Grant Lawrence’s CBC Sweater

// January 15th, 2014 // 4 Comments » // Filed under Blog

Even though it was five years ago, I remember the question within the email like it was yesterday: “What are your measurements?”

The kind person who wrote the email wanted to knit me a sweater. Sadly, it took me forever to email back my torso measurements, but I sure was glad I eventually did, because a few months later my customized measurements turned into the famed CBC Sweater courtesy of Granted Clothing (no relation).

Kids CBC TV with Mamma Yamma

I was overcome by the sheer majesty of the custom-knit CBC sweater… the workwomanship that went into it… the quality of the wool… the little details like the wooden zipper clip… and the glove-perfect fit. I felt so bad that I had been nonchalant and downright dismissive about sending in my measurements that I promised the kind family that runs Granted Clothing that I would wear the sweater EVERYWHERE.

Desolation Sound, BC.

I’ve made good on my promise. In the past five years I’ve worn the CBC sweater in nine provinces, two territories and four countries. I’ve worn the CBC sweater on stage at folk festivals in Dawson City, Vancouver, Winnipeg, AntigonishYellowknife and others.

The CBC Beetle Roadtrip

I’ve worn it in rock clubs in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, and Austin, Texas. I wore it every day of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. It’s been my uniform on the Tracks on Tracks train adventure across the country and the CBC Beetle Roadtrip.

Everyone wants a piece of the CBC Sweater, even in Drumheller, Alberta.

This fall, CBC Radio 3 listener “McS” knitted a matching version of the CBC Sweater for my baby boy Joshua. Suffice to say, I LOVE THAT CBC SWEATER (and my baby).

Baby Joshua in his matching CBC Sweater knit by "McS"

So you can imagine my shock and horror, when, on my recent book tour for The Lonely End of the Rink, I made my first mistake. I forgot the CBC Sweater in an overhead bin on a tiny Air Canada plane I hopped between Calgary and Edmonton on December 9.

The realization that I didn’t have the CBC Sweater slammed me in the chest like a rodeo bull as I shivered in a taxi in the middle of a blizzard on the way to CBC Calgary for an interview with the afternoon radio show. It was too late to turn back.

CBC afternoon show host Doug Dirks had seen my panicked freak-out missing-sweater tweets and brought it up in the interview. That caught the ear of Jennifer Stewart, who works for Air Canada in Calgary. She tweeted me and vowed to find the CBC Sweater and return it to me. That was over a month ago. IT WAS GONE.

The CBC Sweater on DNTO in Winnipeg.

During that time, Jennifer let me know that the sweater had actually been located in – of all places – Grand Prairie, Alberta. After that, the sweater made its way to Edmonton, and then down to Calgary, where, briefly in late December, just before Christmas, the CBC Sweater was actually physically in Jennifer’s hands. It was found safe and sound. Or so I thought.

That’s when I made my second mistake. Should I have the sweater mailed home, or take up Jennifer on her kindly offer to send the sweater on an Air Canada flight to Vancouver so that I could pick up it up at the airport when I returned from an Ontario holiday after Christmas?

I should have had it mailed home, because that’s when I made my third mistake. We extended our Ontario holiday. I missed the pick up date in Vancouver. By the time I got to the baggage counter in Vancouver after Christmas, the CBC Sweater was gone, apparently banished to the giant, bottomless Air Canada lost and found vat, located in Montreal.

There are so many lost items in this container that it apparently resembles the trash compactor from Star Wars. It is so massive, and so unwieldy as more and more lost items are tossed in, that there is NO PHONE NUMBER for Air Canada’s main lost and found. Not even Air Canada employees can call.

Folk on the Rocks, Yellowknife NWT

Jennifer was very worried. I had pretty much given up all hope. Another Air Canada employee who wished to remain nameless described the lost and found as a “black hole” swirling with more lost loot than Saddam Hussein’s bunker. IT WAS GONE.

That’s when my lifelong friend Megan Barnes stepped into the fray early in the New Year, letting me know that her ball-bustin’ linebacker-sized cousin Chris Bennett works at the baggage department of Air Canada. I still didn’t get my hopes up.

Two days ago, my phone rang at 6:15am.

“WTF?” I thought groggily, glancing at the number. Didn’t recognize it, didn’t answer it. The phone rang again. And again. I finally answered.

A gruff voice on the other end asked ”Is this Moore?”

“Uh, no, you have the wrong number”. I was about to hang up.

“Are you missing a CBC Sweater?”

I bolted straight upright in bed, suddenly wide awake, whipping my cucumber sleeping mask from my eyes. “YES, YES!”

“So, your name is Moore”.

“NO! It’s Lawrence! And I’m missing a CBC Sweater!”

“We may have located the CBC Sweater. Come and pick it up today at the Air Canada baggage counter in Vancouver. Ask for Marco”.

Phog Phest in Windsor ON.

I leapt out of bed, pulled on a t-shirt and ran out the door. Realizing I was shirtcocking, I ran back inside and put on shoes and socks and stumbled to the car.

Marco and Dora were waiting for me at the Air Canada baggage counter with wide smiles. They pulled out a crumpled white plastic bag, that sure enough, inexplicably labelled “MOORE”. From out of the bag unfurled the CBC Sweater, missing for 34 days. My friend Megan’s cousin Chris had beaten the bushes and eventually it turned up.

Dora and Marco return the CBC Sweater at the Vancouver baggage counter!

THANK YOU to Jennifer, Chris, Marco, Dora, and everyone at Air Canada who tracked it down. Thanks to Doug Dirks at CBC Calgary, Megan Barnes, Granted Clothing, Allison Outhit (for the title of this post), and YOU for caring. You’ll see the rescued CBC Sweater on the folk fest stages this summer!

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Top ten highlights of The Lonely End of the Rink book tour

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Top ten highlights of “The Lonely End of the Rink” book tour

// December 20th, 2013 // 4 Comments » // Filed under Blog

5,812 kilometres. 30 events. 25 musicians. 12 libraries. 10 flights. 8 bars. 5 arts centres. 4 theatres. 3 bookstores. 2 rental cars. 1 lost CBC Sweater.

Yes, “The Lonely End of the Rink” book tour is complete. And I survived it! Here are my top ten memories of the last three months on the book touring circuit of Canada…

10. BC Sports Hall of Fame. If someone were to ever tell me, Canada’s #1 non-jock for the vast majority of my life, that I would one day launch a book at an actual sports hall of fame, surrounded by trophies and Olympic medals and jerseys, I would tell them they were crazy. Life is strange and wild if you go with the flow.

9. The bars. It was a thrill and a throwback to hold events in beer-soaked parlours like the award-winning Phog Lounge in Windsor, the kitschy Copper Owl in Victoria, the Gladstone in Toronto (thanks to Kevin Sylvester for the awesome onstage interview), the possibly perfect Pressed in Ottawa, and the legendary, amazing, 25-years-and-counting Amigos Cantina in Saskatoon.

8. The Ottawa Songbird Millionaires. If there was ever a perfect hockey team in the world, it was the vintage Songbird Millionaires of the 2000′s-era Exclaim Cup Hockey Summit. They were a huge inspiration for the Flying Vees because they had so much fun on and off the ice. It was awesome to see so many of them (amazingly) alive and well at the Ottawa launch.

7. Winter. My band the Smugglers had a rule never to tour Canada in December or January. I flew wildly in the face of such wisdom over the past three months, criss-crossing Canada in sub-zero temperatures, the very coldest being -47 in the howling prairie winds of Bruno, Saskatchewan (the frostiest temps I’ve ever experienced in my life). There were snowstorms in London, Calgary, and freezing first-time adventures in Kimberley, McBride, Valemount, and Fort St. James, but I made it through and truly appreciated the beauty and brutality of it all.

6. Fernie, BC. There’s something magical about this little town. I couldn’t think of a better place to end the road portion of the tour than in this snowy Rocky Mountain oasis for authors and readers alike. Thanks to all who filled Canada’s most beautiful library once again.

Johnny Hanson at the Powell River launch party. Photo by Bad Karen.

5. The catalysts. The stories contained within the new book wouldn’t have happened without a few key people: Rob Fleming, now a BC MLA in Victoria, was the kid who showed me the VHS tape of David Letterman reading out my letter on TV, a turning point in my teenage life; Johnny Hanson, now living in Lund BC, the lead singer of the Hanson Brothers, was the guy who showed me that music and hockey can co-exist; and Tom Goodwin, the founder of the arts-based Exclaim Hockey Summit, who urged me to form a hockey team of my own in Vancouver to “take back the game”. It was great to see Rob in Victoria, Johnny in Powell River, and Tom in Toronto.

4. The hockey cards. For whatever extremely generous reason, my CBC colleague Jo-Ann Roberts gave me her personally signed Bobby Orr rookie card at the book launch in Victoria. In Kingston, I was given a signed rookie card by Edmonton Oilers star Taylor Hall by none other than his mom! Thanks, ladies!

Taylor Hall's mom!

3. The musicians. Almost every event was made special by a vast array of independent Canadian musicians who so incredibly and kindly performed a song or two or three. I owe you each a deep debt of gratitude for sharing your music and your talent at these events: Bodhi Jones (Vancouver), Matt Lockhart, Rae Spoon (Victoria), Slim Milkie (Powell River), JF Robitaille (Montreal), Matthew Barber (Kingston + Toronto), The Matinee (Toronto) Crissi Cochrane (Windsor), Marty Kolls (London), Chris Page, Andrew Vincent (Ottawa), Maybe Smith (Saskatoon), Kristen Berkel (Bruno), Mike McDonald (Edmonton), KJ Jansen, Matt Masters (Calgary), The Good Ol’ Goats (Cranbrook), Red Girl (Fernie), and my wife, Jill Barber, in West Vancouver. THANK YOU!

Matt Lockhart performing at Victoria launch

2. The Gruesomes. It would be hard to impress upon you just how massively influential the Montreal band the Gruesomes were to me when I was a teenager. They meant EVERYTHING to me, inspiring me to form my own clone-band that went on to last for 17 years. Suffice to say, it was hugely exciting for me to reunite with three of four Gruesomes (Bobby Beaton and John Davis in Montreal; Gerry Alvarez in Toronto) on the book tour.

John Davis and Bobby Beaton.

1. CBC Radio 3 Fans. Wind, rain, sleet or snow. It all poured down across the country over the past few months, but that didn’t stop you. You were always there. In toques, scarves, and t-shirts. Offering cookies, cupcakes, beer, caramel corn, and baby gifts for Joshua. My deepest thanks to the legions of CBC Radio 3 fans, who, no matter what, made it out to these book events and were often in the front row. Your ongoing support and unflagging enthusiasm for music, arts, friendship and community is hugely inspiring. I can’t do this shit without you!

Thanks to everyone who came out to one or more of these 30 events, to anyone who bought a book, to the librarians, bookstores, media, promoters, Douglas and McIntyre, Killbeat, and the bar owners… thanks to all for what you do for Canadian culture.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and happy holidays to all -

Grant Lawrence

PS. Yes, I lost the CBC Sweater. It was my own fault. I left it in the overhead bin of my flight from Edmonton to Calgary. Jennifer at Air Canada has been great tracking the sweater as it made stops in Grand Prairie, back to Edmonton, threatened to go to the giant Air Canada Lost and Found bin in Montreal (which apparently resembles the trash compactor from Star Wars), but the sweater is finally apparently en route back to Vancouver. I should be able to pick it up sometime after the holidays!

The Lonely End of the Rink tour: the last chapter!

// December 10th, 2013 // 3 Comments » // Filed under Blog

After braving extreme winter temperatures and warm audiences in the Canadian prairies, it’s finally time for the last chapter of book tour dates… I’m into the home stretch and happy to be back in BC in the beautiful East Kootenays. Hope to see you there, and thanks to all who braved temperatures as low as -47 in Saskatchewan and Alberta on the weekend.

Musicians at the following dates include:

Tue Dec 10 – the Good Ol’ Goats

Thu Dec 12 – Red Girl

Sun Dec 15 – Jill Barber

(no music act in Kimberley)

Praise for The Lonely End of the Rink:

“I hate hockey but I love this book” – Cory Ashworth, The Peak FM

“Grant Lawrence is a razor-sharp humourist” – Times Colonist, Victoria

“One of Canada’s leading storytellers” – Vancouver Sun

“Soul-searching, candid and clever” – Ron MacLean, Hockey Night In Canada

“Like David Sedaris in a Canadian tuxedo” – Boyd Devereaux, Stanley Cup Champion, Detroit Red Wings

“Heartbreaking and hilarious” – Angie Abdou, author, The Bone Cage

“It’s not always pretty, but this is a funny, poignant, and very Canadian story”. – Kevin Sylvester, CBC broadcaster

The Lonely End of the Rink tour unfolds in Canadian Prairies

// December 4th, 2013 // No Comments » // Filed under Blog

After an amazing swing through Quebec and Ontario that included reuniting with three out of four members of the Gruesomes (the band that sparked me to form the Smugglers) as well as many other great friends from past and present, the book tour now unfolds into the vast and frozen Canadian prairies!

This weekend will feature some amazing musical performances at all the book events:

Saskatoon: Maybe Smith
Bruno: Kay and the Cadillacs
St. Albert: Mike MacDonald (Jr. Gone Wild)
Calgary: KJ Jansen (Chixdiggit), Matt Masters

Please note that the times noted above are the actual start times for each event. Please arrive before the posted times! Hope to see you soon.

Also, we’re getting very close to that time of the cut off for signed books before Christmas! Cut off to receive your order is THIS FRIDAY DECEMBER 6.

Here are the complete tour dates:

Fri Dec 6, Amigo’s, Saskatoon SK, 8:30pm, w/ musical performance by Maybe SmithRSVP at the Facebook event page.

Sat Dec 7, Bruno Artsbank, Bruno SK, 7pm, w/ musical performance by Kay and the Cadillacs.

Sun Dec 8, Public Library, St. Albert AB, 2pm, w/ musical performance by Mike McDonald (Junior Gone Wild).

Mon Dec 9, National Music Centre, Calgary AB, 7pm, w/ musical performance by KJ Jansen (Chixdiggit)Matt Masters.

Tue Dec 10, Public Library, Cranbrook BC, 7pm

Wed Dec 11, Public Library, Kimberley BC, 7pm

Thu Dec 12, Public Library, Fernie BC, 7pm

Sun Dec 15, Memorial Library, West Vancouver BC, 2:30pm, w/ musical performance from Jill Barber

Early praise for The Lonely End of the Rink:

“I hate hockey but I love this book” – Cory Ashworth, The Peak FM

“Grant Lawrence is a razor-sharp humourist” – Times Colonist, Victoria

“One of Canada’s leading storytellers” – Vancouver Sun

“Soul-searching, candid and clever” – Ron MacLean, Hockey Night In Canada

“Like David Sedaris in a Canadian tuxedo” – Boyd Devereaux, Stanley Cup Champion, Detroit Red Wings

“Heartbreaking and hilarious” – Angie Abdou, author, The Bone Cage

“It’s not always pretty, but this is a funny, poignant, and very Canadian story”. – Kevin Sylvester, CBC broadcaster