November 17, 2020

Fall 2020 news

Hello World of Friends!

First things first: I hope you’re healthy and safe wherever this note may find you.

My family has been trying hard to follow all of the provincial health guidelines here in B.C. for the past eight months and counting. It’s been a challenge. We’re fine. Hope you are too. Touch wood. You know you’ve spent a lot of time with the same four people when “Go Fish” turns into “Go F*ck Yourself.”

These days it feels like life is all about finding positive distractions from the constant news cycle barrage. (Why can’t every day be a Four Seasons Total Landscaping day?)

Here’s hoping I can provide you with a few more distractions with my updates and musings.

CBC

Weird. That’s what it’s like at the CBC these days, mostly because we’re all working from home. For the past 22 years, I’ve had the honour of working full time at the CBC bunker in downtown Vancouver. That was a Monday-to-Friday cycling commute, which hit the brakes on Friday March 13, 2020. That was my last “regular” day at the office. Ever since, I’ve been thankful to be making radio and TV from home. This fall, I became the host of the CBC Music Top 20, a weekly round up of the hottest songs on CBC Music. It’s Canada’s only national countdown show, and it’s a very different broadcasting experience for me – and a lot of fun. It can be heard Thursdays at 7pm and Sundays at 5pm on CBC Music (the former Radio 2) and Wednesdays at 2pm on CBC Radio 1. And I record the show in our basement in East Vancouver, but you would never know that unless I told you. Which I guess I just did. (I do get to go into CBC Vancouver once a week for half an hour to record my weekly TV music column… but that’s it! I miss my co-workers). What’s your work situation in the COVID-era? 

Podcasts

If you want to listen whenever the heck you want, please allow me to point you to my series of adventure story-telling podcasts that have aired over the past few years on North By Northwest on CBC Radio 1. Many of those podcasts flesh out the further wild life-and-death stories of characters I explored in my first book, Adventures in Solitude, such as the Cougar Lady, the Hermit of Desolation Sound, and Bernard the German. You can find those podcasts and others for free download here. I’m currently collaborating on a new series: a murderous true story that took place on the outer coast of Vancouver Island which I’m very excited to share with you. It should go into production in early 2021 and hit the air shortly thereafter.

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Books

If all goes to plan (but really, what IS going to plan in 2020?), I should have two new books out in 2021. Next fall, I’m honoured to be publishing my first children’s book called Bailey the Bat, the story of an insomniac little brown gender-neutral bat who gets into all sorts of daytime adventures while the rest of the bat colony is asleep. The book is aimed at kids ages 4-8 or so (basically… my kids), and will be published by Orca Books. 

This fall also marked the tenth anniversary of my debut book, Adventures in Solitude. I figure enough time has passed that I *think* I can pull off a sequel. Hopefully it will be more Empire Strikes Back than Dumb and Dumber To. The new book will likely contain several new adventures involving my wife and kids and other salty real life characters. Look for that book on Harbour Publishing at some point in 2021… hopefully.

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And if you missed any of my previous books, how dare you? The most recent is Dirty Windshields, the arguably slightly-too-long story of my band the Smugglers

Personally signed copies of all three books are available here. This year’s deadline for Xmas gift orders is Friday December 11. If the order is a gift, please let me know who the book should be signed for. Thanks!

(And by the way, if you’re looking for the Smugglers’ actual music [we released eight albums, hello??], it can be found here.)

Live Shows

Huh. Before COVID hit, I had been ramping up a West Coast-style Vinyl Cafe-esque touring show of stories and songs… oral tales from my books and podcasts mixed with live musical performances from some of my favourite artists, like Said the Whale, Kathryn Calder from the New Pornographers, Dustin Bentall, Ashleigh Ball from Hey Ocean, Luke Wallace, my wife Jill, and many others. We had pulled off shows from Saturna Island to Prince Rupert and many points in between (if you went to one or considered it, thanks!) 

I was about to attempt a national touring show when COVID crashed the circuit. Like everybody else, several of my scheduled shows for the spring, summer, and fall were cancelled, including a sold-out, hometown show in West Vancouver.

That said, there appears to be this oasis theatre in the wasteland of shuttered venues that seems to be able to pull off actual safe live shows: the Mary Winspear Centre in Sidney, BC, on Vancouver Island.

My wife did several performances there in early November and it all went well… so… here goes… I’m trying it, too:

Fri Jan 15, Sat Jan 16 2021, Mary Winspear Centre, w/ musical guests Kathryn Calder (New Pornographers) and Jay Malinowski (Bedouin Soundclash). Tickets available now.

No pressure.

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Jill Barber

Speaking of my lovely and talented singer-songwriter wife, a.k.a. our family’s rock during the pandemic, this Friday November 20th, Jill is performing what is shaping up to be a one-of-a-kind virtual concert, resurrecting a long-gone Vancouver venue through the magic of Hollywood special F/X. With help from the geniuses who created XR Technology movie magic on such films as Star Wars, Avengers: End Game, and Dead Pool, comes Jill Barber Live at the Palomar, performing with her “phantom jazz band” at a glamourous, art-deco, jazz-era, virtual venue that doesn’t actually exist. Nothing like this has ever been attempted before, so I hope you can check it out. Tickets are just $16 and the show is live to the world this Friday at 6pm PT / 9pm ET. 

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Hockey

Yeah, somehow I am still thanklessly strapping on the goalie pads for the Vancouver Flying Vees, now in our 16th straight season. Somehow, we have won four beer league championships during that time, but those sudsy glory days are like a foggy memory. Thanks to COVID, our long-time North Vancouver league crashed to a final halt, so we joined a much larger league, and for the first time, we tried to act our age by joining an older, age-specific division. Bad move. The Flying Vees are 0-8 on the season, a string of losses that includes our all-time worst-ever defeat, a game that contained a bizarre stat: the most goals I have ever let in, and the most saves I have ever made. Weird, eh? I will not mention the score, but I’d be happy to hear your best guess. As of this writing, even though everything had been going well in our new league in relation to the pandemic, rec hockey in BC had to hang up the skates for two weeks. Time will tell if we get back on the ice, but it can (hopefully) only get better from here. I love seeing my teammates, but I’m getting tired of explaining the epic losses to my 7-year-old son. 

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Desolation Sound

The rickety family cabin in the wilderness proved to be somewhat of a godsend during the COVID summer of 2020. Once BC’s non-essential travel restrictions were finally lifted, our family high-tailed it up the coast. This year, I spent the most time in Desolation Sound since the CBC lockout of 2005. My first book came out of that prolonged sojourn, so hopefully the sequel will spin out of this bizarre COVID summer. Our kids are finally getting to the age where they can successfully scamper about on the shoreline rocks and into the forest, with us chasing along behind, and we enjoyed many lovely sunsets, campout nights, whale sightings, and weekly trips in our old boat Big Buck$ to Refuge Cove, our our favourite water-access-only village on the coast. And you won’t see it on Instagram, but we all had our fair share of extreme-proximity meltdowns, too. We also had some much-valued physically distanced visits with some of the colourful neighbours that cling to that coast, year after year, like barnacles in the sun. As one crusty old oyster farmer said to me over a couple of cans of Lucky, “misfits have the best stories.” It’s true.

And if the pandemic is getting you down, remember this: the world has been through this before, a century ago. What followed was the Roaring Twenties and the Age of Jazz. We shall overcome, and we shall party on the other side! 

In the words of B.C.’s Health Officer Doctor Bonnie Henry, “be kind, be calm, be safe.” Once vaccinated, first beer’s on me, eh?

Questions? Comments? Rebuttals? Please let me know.

Wishing you good health,

Grant Lawrence
Desolation Sound, BC
November, 2020

(4) Comments

  1. Dave Olson says:

    Enjoyed all the updates…

    Been a wild summer on this side of the Pacific for us ~ which recalls your initial questions to me back in early February when the schools in Japan were just shutting down and you were curious about how people would handle this… Or how far we’ve come!

    We now have a wonderful little dude with the middle name of “Stanley“ born just before the NHL came back (not quite enough good luck with that name but still…), Followed by a very unique Buddhist funeral circumstance, then a Typhoon, my 50th birthday (which included a personal archaeology project when my entire life archive a ride from various storage lockers to 150 year old grain barn now art studio/music lounge) and just recently, a oddly awesome exhibit of my poems and paintings at a goat farm, plus my singer wife (& pandemic rock Who has also stickhandled through reams of paper work getting me and the official in Japan and a little dude official in Canada) returns to the stage at a cavernous convention center with her bossanova blues the same weekend as your wife hits (my great uncle’s old haunt) of the Palomar / we’re planning on “being there“.

    Also, Dirty Windshield should be longer, not shorter… I mean I really enjoyed all of your books but this one was like reading about my own parallel life, ergo: we were in the same places in similar situation is just different years and circumstances. From punk rock tour vans in Germany to getting robbed in Washington DC to underground explosions in Olympia (where touring bands crashed at my house dubbed “hockey lounge“), bewildered in Japanese labyrinths, VW vans with lightspeed snowstorms & lighters… and many points in between.

    Of course, I was Whalley trekking in by bus to York theater & making zines while you were in West Van doing the same stuff with Nards – just in different suburbs and, back in those days crossing a river *and* an inlet might as well be crossing the English channel.

    Anyhow, thanks for the update – I love living here but I’ve been very much in the “Japan bubble“ since all of this began so it’s nice to hear familiar riffs / let’s get you and the family over to Okayama for top-shelf beer at the goat farm, &/or a goat milk lattes! No these goats are not on the roof and they don’t do yoga.

    And yes, we have trains, lots of trains which sparks a whole other idea…

  2. Hey Grant, this is as good a place as any to update on myself as well! Thankfully my family is ideally configured for Covid, I work from home, and my wife homeschools the kids from home as well. We’re also really lucky (so far) to live in a part of the country where we’ve had very few cases. Yay PEI! It has had a toll on us though, we weren’t able to make our annual Ontario roadtrip to visit with family, looks like Christmas is out as well. We weren’t able to go to Maine with the in laws to their lakeside camp.

    2020 has also been a year of renovations for us. We started the year with a first floor reno, kitchen, living room dining room. Then followed that up by redoing a couple bedrooms upstairs, and are now building on a new entryway/bathroom/laundry room to the first floor. It seems like it’ll never end, but hopefully by the new year we’ll be done.

    Good to read about what you’ve been up to! Hopefully you get to do a book tour for the follow up to Adventures in Solitude and we can see you somewhere on the east coast (great memories of Moe and I sneaking over to was it Moncton? to see you release the first with David Myles).

  3. Grant Lawrence says:

    Hey Dave – so great to hear from you and thanks for all the kind words… yes I remember those early days of the pandemic!! I remember when you told me that the Japanese prime minister had shut the schools down in Feb that I considered it “real” and that if it could impact Japan, it could impact anywhere… and here we are. Always great to hear about your family, your life in Japan, and our previous parallel lives!! One day we will love to visit the goat farm for beers and lattes! Be well, my friend – GL

  4. Grant Lawrence says:

    hey SuckaMC!! Thanks for the amazing update of your life! Glad to hear all is well on PEI… the gentle isle… I just did an interview with Matt Rainnie (sp?) today. You are lucky to be there… but wait – haven’t you been renovating for years now?? Sounds like a major one! THanks for touching base. Be well, old friend!

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