Asia on Tour – Kiha & the Faces – Slot Machine – MIYAVI – Vancouver 04/01/2017

It’s been six years since I’ve had the opportunity to write one of these reviews and that is definitely way too long.

So here we go!

Asia On Tour is a tour-event produced by Live Nation featuring three acts from different countries, in this case Kiha & The Faces from South Korea, Slot Machine from Thailand, and MIYAVI from Japan. Prior to finding out MIYAVI was doing the show with two other bands I had no idea who they were, and I will admit to being a little disappointed that it wasn’t going to be a one-man* tour. Still, I was going to get to see MIYAVI and I was not going to miss the opportunity. I did do a little searching for music by Kiha & The Faces as well as Slot Machine and found that both of them are available on Spotify. Found Kiha to have a bit of a funk-rock sound, really fun spoken-sung lyrics and a pretty good feeling. Slot Machine was a little harder, little more classic rock, singing in English and Thai, and they sounded a bit more like something I would listen to on a regular basis.

For those new to this part of my life MIYAVI himself has been a great big part of it for just over a decade. The first song I heard by him was probably Girls be Ambitious and I didn’t like it. When Sakihokoru Hana no You ni ~ Neo Vizualism was released in 2007 I was really impressed. What ultimately cinched it for me was the fact that he has a line in that song where he’s talking about becoming a big artist but also one that can be respected and whom his fans will proud of. That really impressed me; that it was something he thought about and even wrote into a song. More than that, the whole song is about being yourself, proudly and unapologetically no matter how much people try to suppress you. As someone who’s always tried to be that kind of person I really related to it and it made me give him a second chance. Since then I’ve had the opportunity to see him live in Canada, the US, and Japan. This show marked 22 live performance I’ve attended personally and 35 live shows I’ve ever seen (the remaining 13 were live broadcast shows – one of which did not have a real audience at all and was broadcast from a studio in Tokyo.)

MIYAVI’s musical style is ever-evolving and changing as he does. From early work that sounds a lot more heavy metal to an acoustic album really showcasing his particular style of slap-guitar to the over-embellished ethnically-proud Kabuki Rock, to the bare-bones guitar and drumkit setup that is his recent self-titled album his willingness to explore new sounds sets him apart even on an international stage. Live on stage he is dynamic and engrossing to watch, his excitement spilling over into the audience as he calls for us to jump and sing with him.

It was his music that brought me some of my closest friends, one of whom started me down this crazy tour adventure. We’ve had our share of adventures, so when I found out Miyavi was coming to Vancouver and I had no chance of making it to more than one show, of course I asked her to come to the show with me. Which would probably have been more reasonable if she didn’t currently live on the other side of the continent. Still, to my great joy she agreed, and booked her flight to Vancouver. I also invited my friend Jenn, whom I introduced to MIYAVI some time ago, probably shortly before my last trip to see him in Japan. The day before we were to head over to Vancouver I realized I had forgotten to book our hotel however between Jenn and I we managed to figure something out.

So of course we headed to Vancouver Friday night, heading straight from work to the airport to pick up Maura who was arriving just after 10pm.

Three years is a long time without seeing one of your best friends.

Having said that whenever we get together it’s like we’ve never been apart.

So Maura, Jenn and I headed off to our hotel in Downtown Vancouver. The Blue Horizon Hotel on Robson is quite a lot nicer on the inside than it looks on the outside. And it has a pool. Of course by the time we arrived at the hotel it was 11pm and the pool was closed and we were all pretty tired and hungry so we went to Frites for poutine. Because if you’ve got an American in Canada you absolutely must take them for proper poutine.

Naturally it was super delicious and afterward we wandered back to the hotel in the rain.

We did end up staying up until pretty late talking and I regret that I didn’t actually get much sleep (usual in a new place) but that’s never stopped me from anything before so Saturday morning I woke up and Maura and I headed down to the pool. Me to swim a few laps and practice my dolphin kick and Maura to wake up and sit in the hot tub. Jenn didn’t get much sleep so she stayed in bed for a while longer.

Back at the hotel room we got showered and changed and then headed down to breakfast at the restaurant in the lobby. That sorted we wandered out of the hotel around ten o’clock, heading down to Venue to find out that no one was there.

It seems I had forgotten that the line up doesn’t start in Vancouver until quite late. So we went to McDonald’s to use the bathroom and get a couple drinks and use their wifi. We figured we’d join the line when it got some more people. So about half an hour later or so we found a couple girls wander in to McD’s and then wander out again and we decided they looked like they were going to the concert and so we went out to look and they were there!

So of course we sat down, and shortly thereafter made some new friends, Brittany and Chantelle. Like Jenn this was their first MIYAVI show, as they were both too young to attend the 19+ show back in 2010 at the Commodore. I still think it’s super exciting to meet people who are just seeing him for the first time; it only happens once in your life no matter how many times you see him after that. And honestly I was pretty stoked to be seeing him for the first time in six years. So we hung out and chatted for awhile, and then a couple of the guys from Live Nation Asian Concerts (@livenationasn) came out and asked if they could interview us about the tour. Ethan sat down with us and we chatted on camera about the tour and our expectations and the idea of bringing Asian artists to other countries around the world. That was probably an hour or two into us hanging out and was the moment we FINALLY learned each other’s names.

It’s also worth noting the look on Ethan’s face when I said I had already been to see Miyavi 21 times and then Maura pointed out how many shows she’d been to (we’re talking multiple hundreds here).

Still they left and we continued hanging out, taking turns going to grab food or drinks or going for a walk and counting down the hours till the show. People started showing up about 4:30 in the afternoon, which I finally remembered happening the first time I saw him in Vancouver as well. Still, I wouldn’t have changed anything; hanging out with Chantelle and Brittany was awesome.

So when people finally started showing up we looked slightly less odd sitting in front of the venue, and several people came up to ask us when the will call tickets were going to be picked up. Most of the people in line were waiting for them (myself included, since my tickets didn’t actually arrive). We also made friends with a girl named Veronica, who then introduced us to her sister Kat and their friend Lee. So now we were eight!

About six pm they came out and started wrist-banding the people who’d won passes to the meet and greet. Kat and Veronica flipped a coin since they’d only gotten one meet and greet pass and Kat won. So when they were wrist-banding the five of us, I passed mine to Veronica. Which made all of us cry.

Honestly though, I’ve been lucky enough to meet him more than once thus far, and I’m sure I’ll get the chance again. What’s more I had the opportunity when working with MasaKarasu to attend as Press when we went to Houston for Anime Matsuri and saw him there, so it was perfectly acceptable to not get into the meet and greet especially since that was my first show. I love MIYAVI to death, but we’re really awkward in face-to-face situations. So Everyone went into the Meet and Greet with the other two bands and Miyavi about six-thirty leaving me outside, and I found a girl who wanted to come to the show it turns out that Veronica had a spare ticket so she got in for free. Pay it forward and all that. I was really glad I could pass on the opportunity to meet MIYAVI face to face for the first time to someone who hadn’t had the chance.

Fast Forward to them letting us in, and I totally forgot I needed two pieces of ID – fortunately that went okay – and we were IN. Maura had scored us front and center up against the stage since we had to check my backpack and Jenn’s jacket.

Venue Nightclub first impressions: A lot smaller than The Commodore. The upper balcony level gave a great view of the stage. Stage was quite high-I couldnt really even rest my arms comfortably across the top of the amp in front of me. Still, better the three tall chicks stuck behind it than people who weren’t that tall. Venue didn’t seem all that full for the first couple bands, but I thought the turnout was better than the show back in 2010.

Lights go out and the show starts.

Kiha & The Faces came out for their 45 minute set, and they were super fun. It was cool to see their fans in the audience singing along and we all rocked out together. Definitely a band I’d consider seeing again. Super chill vibe from them, definitely funky and a good time. Couldn’t tell you their set list, but that’s to be expected. They were good with the audience, and I was really impressed.

After a short break we got Slot Machine.

And they killed it for us. They came on stage with this mafia-gangster vibe in 3 piece suits and a lot of swagger and they rocked hard. Their vocalist has a great range, really reminiscent of the great rock voices from the 70s. They sang in English and Thai and I’ll admit I was a bit sad they when they were heading off stage. Definitely a band that’s made my regular playlist. Totally worth giving a listen. They’ve definitely got some new fans from the show myself included.

But of course I was really there to see MIYAVI and I feel a little bad for not being able to give a better review than what I’ve already posted but the Samurai Guitarist just totally blew my mind.

And you know, the fans surprised me. After the first Vancouver show, I admit I expected some less than stellar behavior and I was wrong. There’s always a moment before he comes on stage where I brace myself for the possible push from behind. And I get it, people are excited and they want to be close and touch him and know he’s real and they want to see him and it’s exciting and if even a couple people push it escalates just by the number of people. But there was nothing. Everyone cheered when he came up and we were LOUD but there was nothing. It was like everyone was on the same wavelength and maybe it was because there were fans of the other two bands there as well but it was amazing and it was the first time I’d ever seen a North American audience with no push at all.

And MIYAVI just came out with his guitar and just blew me away. In part it was the sudden, powerful realization that being on the floor at a MIYAVI show, and seeing him in front of us ready to rock is coming HOME. I hadn’t felt it for six years and I’d forgotten how good it is to come to that place, where we are united in one purpose and it’s rocking the hell out of wherever we are. And our eyes met and we both knew exactly what we were there for. No doubt, no fear, no second thoughts. Just the same desire to rock out together.

I can’t tell you the setlist exactly, because I honestly don’t know most of it.

His first song was without words, just him and Bobo and Lenny doing their thing. I’m sure it’s a song though. *Laugh* Honestly I think he played two more vocal-free tracks before he played the Mission Impossible Rogue Nation theme, and we were rocking. The whole audience was just giving him back the energy he was giving us and it was amazing.

After the first song (where he stayed sort of in the middle of the stage), he came out front and stood right in front of us at centreish stage, and it was the first time I saw all the hands in the air and not one of them reach out for him. And he walked away and came back and the same thing happened. No one pushed forward to grab at him (and it would have been so easy, he was like RIGHT THERE) and it changed everything. I say this because I’ve seen him at a half dozen shows in Canada and the US, and more than a dozen in Japan. The best MIYAVI is the one who is totally comfortable with the audience. If he can trust us with himself, 100% he will give us ALL his energy. And for the first time in North America I saw him REALLY getting into it with the audience. He was at the front of the stage, he was on his knees less than a handful of inches from us, he was playful, intense, and FREE. I saw him playing on his knees for half a minute at the very edge of the stage right in the faces of the girls next to us. And it was BRILLIANT.

I think after The MI:RN theme he played What a Wonderful World (Day2 Mix). But he had us singing the chorus, though he did help that one.

He played Live to Die Another Day, his new song for the new Day 2 Album, but I don’t think he sang it. (Little bit sad in retrospect cuz it’s awesome) and it might not be the same as the album version – I think (now) he might have played Steal the Sun, but I’m not sure (and if he did I don’t think he sang it….) definitely Firebird, Long Nights, Cry Like This and the Day 2 Mix of What’s My Name. That I know of.

Dim it was interesting; I’m sure by now people have seen the video posted by Miyavi_Staff on Instagram, reposted by Miyavi where he slipped into the audience. That was Dim It, we were rocking out and suddenly MIYAVI. We had NO IDEA what was going on. We weren’t really paying attention to him (Maura and I weren’t, anyway) and suddenly he kind of landed on her face and everyone was moving and I raised my head and WTFMIYAVI. I swear to god I was terrified he was going to fall off the stage. And mostly really confused how it happened. Or like…how he got there. ONE MINUTE AGO HE WAS ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE STAGE. We figured he slipped, since we like to think he didn’t MEAN to kick Maura in the face. I really sincerely hope he’s careful in the future. MIYAVI falling off stage and getting hurt again is probably one of my biggest fears. But we kept him up and it didn’t even faze him (well, it didn’t show anyway) and it really felt like he trusted us to not assault him or you know, let him hit the floor. And then he got up and we went back to rocking.

I did kind of accidentally hit him in the leg though, but that’s not my fault he came out of nowhere while I was headbanging!

From the moment he came on stage I felt like he really was embracing the statement he made recently that he really wanted to make his guitar sing. And did he ever. I think there are really few artists who could come on stage and basically just jam without really performing the fan favorites or you know singing the whole song and still completely captivate the audience. And he did just that.

He really really did.

This was the BEST show I’ve ever seen. I walked in in expecting to rock out maybe to some of the new songs and maybe a favorite or two, but I got so much MORE than I expected. I got probably the most interactive show I’ve EVER SEEN in North America, and I got to see MIYAVI at I think his absolute best, totally comfortable on stage, totally comfortable with the audience, totally free to party with us and not for us. We’ve all heard him talk about how he wants to unite the world with music and I’ve known for a long time that he wants us to go there with him but I have never seen it so clearly as when he was on stage in Vancouver and we were all in it.

So in closing; if you are willing to give him all your energy and give him space to trust you with his person he will reward you with all his energy and passion. When you can be on the same page with him, 100% willing to go wherever he leads you will see a MIYAVI like you’ve never seen him before.

And when the night ends he will come out and high-five you and you will leave so high and so much a part of something bigger than any one of us. You become a part of our family.

CoMiyavi means I’m never alone.

CoMiyavi is Family.

*One-Man is a term used for a tour or show consisting of a single act, no opening bands at all.

Stranded on Prevost – Kayaking Trip

Kayak on beach
Break time!
Well, since I have a kayak that means I should go on more adventures, right? This year Canada Day (July 1st) fell on a Friday. So in an attempt to contiue exploring the coast from our kayaks, Natalie and I had decided to go on a 3 day kayaking trip around Saltspring. Three days of paddling in nice weather was just the thing. But we went paddling the weekend before, and decided to join another paddler in the Slegg Lumber Build-a-Quick-Boat Race on Friday the 1st. Because how hard can it be to build a boat in 4 hours and paddle it around a short course? So we had to go meet up with Claudia on Tuesday so we could get our plan together and also to practice paddling in a team, which we totally started to figure out.

Friday morning I’m up early but have to leave earlier than usual to get out to Pacifica Paddle Sports to meet Natalie and get our kayaks. All our gear is packed and stowed in the car. Kayaks on the roof of her new (yay!) car. We head over to meet Claudia, running a little bit late due to how far away we had to park since we have kayaks (and it’s not acceptable to run people over) and there was a parade going on. We finally get to see our materials, and we have our plans and our tools and we are ready to go (well, we had to grab food and more coffee, of course).

Promptly at noon we got to work.

It turns out we should probably have measured things a little more carefully. And maybe gotten some dowling. It also turns out that 1500 feet of plastic wrap makes a really effective canoe skin. Who knew?

We were planning to make the thing 16 feet long, which is a totally respectable length for a canoe.

The 20’ long final product was maybe a bit extreme.

We accidentally made a monster canoe. With kayak paddles for power. Except the paddles ended up being super heavy. Maybe next year we will get dowling…

We ended up stuck behind someone else when the race started and we were terribly uncoordinated until just before we rounded the second buoy. One team had already reached shore. The second team landed as we finished the turn. Two of us were in the final stretch. And there were people on their feet cheering and clapping and super excited as we pushed and closed the gap and then pulled ahead and took third place. I was pretty sure my arms were going to fall off. Four hours of sawing, sanding, and screwing and I was pretty tired.

Build-a-boat race
Securing Canoe to car with more plastic wrap!
I kept trying to sell the canoe for 3 coffees, but no one wanted to take me up on it. I mean who DOESN’T want a 20-foot plastic-wrap canoe with a broken spar? I mean really. Unreasonable. Since no one wanted our canoe, we had to get the canoe out of there and since there was some plastic wrap left, we used that to tie it to Claudia’s roof. We might have been the crowd favorite, but we lost that award to the firemen. I mean you can’t really argue with that. They rescue kittens. And we got trophies for third place anyway.

Finally we were off to Canoe Cove, Pacifica’s second location. Took some time to get our stuff sorted and then get our gear packed and get parking sorted out, but we were finally ready to launch well after eight.

The first leg of our adventure took us out from the harbour, between Knapp and Piers Island and out to Portland Island. This is the most open water we’ve ever paddled in, even though it’s just a short hop from island to island it’s still a bit different than paddling in Brentwood Bay. It was, however, a largely uneventful paddle. We caught the waves from a couple of the smaller ferries and made good time, landing about 9:30 pm. Well, we made a mistake and landed on Brackman Island which is an ecological reserve. So we got off the island and paddled around to Shell Beach, which is the Marine Park campground on Portland. No running water, but we did have a food cache and a pit toilet. My only complaint was that we weren’t allowed to have a fire, but given the temperature and the mosquitos that didn’t end up being a big issue, everything is just more fun with fire.

We did sent our tent up maybe just a little too close to the water – and we did spend the night paranoid we were going to end up with the water licking at us (and almost did) but it didn’t and we were dry all night.

We were slow to get going in the morning, our sleeping bags were far too cozy for us to venture out into the day, though it was beautifully sunny and soon enough we were finishing up breakfast and packing our kayaks.

Kayaker
This is me and Syl. Syl is not full here.
I learned on this trip that my kayak-some 60lbs when empty-is a monster when she’s full. Well over 100lbs not including myself, and trying to get her onto the beach with gear in is nearly impossible. Later I learned a valuable tip involving dollar store pool noodles. Still need to get one of those. Regardless, we managed to get them off the shore and headed out to explore some of the coast of Portland Island before crossing Satellite Channel to the coast of Saltspring Island.

This was probably the thing that ended up being the least nerve-wracking for us, despite the fact that we were crossing ferry traffic. Once across the channel we turned to head up the eastern coast of Saltspring Island, rounding Ruckle Park into Captain Passage.

Nat Yelled at me to look at her so many times.
Captain passage lies between Saltspring and Prevost, and leads straight into Ganges Harbour which is the ‘big town’ on Saltspring Island. We’d been paddling a few hours and were starting to get hungry so we took a break on a public beach for lunch and a glass of wine (because the best thing about kayaking is the fact your boat carries your gear for you). I had a short nap in the sun until the waves started breaking over my toes–and Natalie laughed quite a lot when I startled awake. Looking out over the water the wind had picked up and there were more than a few white caps visible. Not a good sign.

Having checked the forecast before we left we knew the weather was supposed to be pretty mild, and there had been no warning of strong winds. Still, we thought we could make it and so we set out into the waves. With the onlookers on the beach looking somewhere between impressed and concerned as the waves were coming up almost a foot high on the beach. Nat had the harder time of it; I’m harder on the bottom of my kayak than she is owing to the fact Sylphrena is a heavy plastic monstrosity so I could just slide off the beach with much more ease. Nat had to get in Tippy while she was in the water, and that took both of us and she almost went in a couple times. But managed some crazy dexterity and did not. I climbed into Syl and pushed off of the beach to meet her.

This was where things got a bit hairy.

We had no way to measure the wind, beyond visual cues where the waves were concerned, we knew it was the worst we had paddled through–actually made the ‘bad’ day we had in Brentwood Bay a few weeks earlier seem a lot less intimidating and that had been about 16kn winds in a pretty sheltered bay. We did have one of the big sailboats out that day circling us, with the crew looking on concerned that we were maybe not okay or in over our heads. The fact that they left us alone after a few turns makes me think they believed we were perhaps more experienced than we were. I admit that at this point, a large part of my anxiety in that crossing was the possibility that I’d go over and not be able to get out again due to panic. Probably should have practiced wet-exits before heading out on that trip, but that would have been the smart thing and sometimes we just don’t do that. Nat had done her wet-exit and self-rescue lesson, and since then I’ve also learned what it feels like to be upside down in my kayak and get myself out of trouble. Surprisingly easy to get out of the thing. Once the skirt is off you just pop out. Getting back in is harder for sure, especially in weather and I’m glad neither of us went in during this trip.

Kayaker
Nat titled this “Steph being Brave”
We took shelter on a private beach; between the wind and the current it was certainly too much for me to confidently keep pushing. Sheltered as the tide pushed up on to the beach we called into Pacifica to discuss our possibilities. They confirmed this to be an unforcasted South East wind, strong enough we probably could have justified not paddling on it. They presented us with two options; knowing that we have stronger-than-novice paddling skills they suggested pressing on and paddling around to Long Harbour, then rounding Nose Point and crossing to James Bay on Prevost Island. The angle of Trincomali Channel would shelter us from the worst of the wind, in retrospect, once we rounded nose point we could have continued up the eastern coast of Saltspring with little difficulty, excepting that we would have missed the turning of the tide that was to have carried us around then north tip and to our planned camp on Tent Island. Still, with a forecast calling for stronger winds the following day, it probably was in our best interest to hold until we knew for sure. So we headed around to Prevost and landed on the beach in James Bay to set up camp.

We met a gentleman named Drew here, who was on his 22nd day of his kayak trip, and his 8th island. As well we chatted with our camp neighbors, a couple who were travelling by tandem kayak. Most of our conversations were in regards to weather, the forecast, and gear we had. Since then I’ve realized that pretty much every activity I do results in getting together with other like-minded individuals on similar adventures and discussing gear. Climbers do it, kayakers do it, and backpackers do it.This kayak trip was the first time I realized I might not actually qualify as a ‘novice’ kayaker, for all my lack of knowledge.

Camping on the coast
The view from camp.
With limited times to kayak, Nat and I will often venture out into less than stellar weather just to get out and do it. And we will alter our planned course as necessary to ensure we aren’t getting too in over our heads. But the fact is that we are better paddlers than our experience dictates we should be. I think climbing–and the balance and fine motor control that stems from that–plays a big part of that. Core strength and balance is something that is vital to climbers, and I think that translates well into kayaking. Everything about our lives means we spend time on the water when we can, and (un?)fortunately for us that sometimes means we end up in weather that is more challenging than we might otherwise have chosen. This served us quite well on this trip as we faced stronger winds and weather than we had previously, plus currents stronger than anything we had yet found on the bay.

Me and Drew hanging out and talking gear.
Saturday we called in to work, to let them know we may not be making it home in time for our Monday shifts. It was kind of funny “so I know it’s Saturday and I don’t work until Monday, but we came into some weather and we may not be back in time for work. We’re safe, just maybe not coming in to work. We’re stranded on Prevost until the weather changes.” At the time this was our only option; the Sunday forecast was for 25-30 knot winds, well above what we would be able to kayak in. Without a fire we crawled into our beds pretty early, knowing we would need to check the forecast again in the morning before making any determination.

Sunday the forecast had changed again; it called for weaker winds in the morning, strengthening in the afternoon.

So we made our breakfast and discussed gear with our neighbors. And we discovered that Mountain House makes a KILLER freeze-dried breakfast skillet. Did you know that freeze-dried eggs could actually be fluffy and tasty? I did not think it was possible. I was wrong. It’s pretty tasty.

Waiting for the ferry with our kayaks. No trolly tho….
After breakfast we packed up, and got back into our kayaks to head back over to Saltspring. The plan was to tuck into Long Harbour, and then see if we could make into Ganges. Given that we found out later that Ganges charges for that, I’m glad we didn’t make it. We landed on the beach at the end of Long Harbour–but did find some GREAT cliffs for free-soloing on the way–and called my aunt and her husband who live on Saltspring. They very kindly picked us and our gear and kayaks up off the beach and drove us to the ferry. And even drove us around looking for a Kayak trolley to make getting our Kayaks on and off the ferry less troublesome. We were not able to, but she did offer to bring all our gear over the next day leaving us only our Kayaks to carry on to the ferry.

And thanks so much to BC Ferries staff for letting us walk our 17-foot kayaks one at a time onto the ferry deck. The water in Satellite Channel was amazingly calm, so we could have launched from Fulford harbour without any difficulty and paddled home, but we didn’t know that until we saw it. Still, frustrating as that was, it was also hilarious.

We got a few weird looks.

What else is new?

Still, we did make it Swartz Bay and Natalie walked to get the car and come back and pick me and the kayaks up. And then we were off to drop off the boats and then home.

So we ended up stranded on Prevost for a little while, but we survived, and our gear survived. And I think we learned a lot about ourselves and our abilities.

And honestly we had a lot of fun paddling in some conditions that would have been pretty intimidating not that long ago, including paddling into, through, across, and broadside to the wakes thrown up by all sizes of craft.

Sitting here, writing this up after the fact, I’m reminded that I love being on the water. And that as hard as it was to know I was not up to finishing the trip, I know better my limits and I have learned skills since that day that will serve to make me a better, more confident kayaker. I don’t know when we’re going next; the next several weeks are full with the Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade, surfing, and camping. But sometime, we are going to get back on the water and we will do better. I will do better.

I’m going to use this, and my most recent adventure (post and photos coming soon, I promise) to help redefine ‘failure’. It’s so easy to be discouraged when you do not complete something, and to berate yourself for failing. But truthfully the only failure is not trying. I may have not pushed myself to my physical limits on this trip, but I did push my mental boundaries. I pushed beyond where I thought my capability was to find out I was more capable and stronger than I thought. That makes it something to be celebrated.

What is the last ‘failure’ you had, how could it be interpreted as a learning experience or ‘victory’? Do you find failure makes you want to give up, or push forward? Tell me why or why not!

Keep adventuring!

Not Lost Girl

World Falls Down – Labyrinth of Jareth part 1

I can’t remember a time I did not love Labyrinth.

Labyrinth_ver2It feels like it has always been with me, always been a part of who I am. I’m sure that when I felt like things were most unfair, Sarah’s growth as a person helped me understand that sometimes things happen to us that aren’t fair. It sucks, but that’s just how it is. The fact that sometimes your words can get you into more trouble, and you should be careful what you wish for. That words have consequences. That David Bowie is amazing and gets away with wearing some really, really tight pants.

For those who are unfamiliar (and I keep finding you…) Labyrinth was a film released in 1986 starring Jennifer Connolly and David Bowie. It also features a horde of creatures designed by Brian Froud and brought to life by Jim Henson. It tells the story of Sarah Williams, a self-important fifteen year old who believes that her father and stepmother are out to ruin her life and resents the half brother she perceives as usurping her place in her father’s affections. A moment of weakness and bitterness and the words are said; ”I wish the goblins would take you away.”

david_bowie_803890
He also wears REALLY tight pants.

Enter Jareth the Goblin King, capricious ruler of the Labyrinth and its denizens. He sings. The songs are unsurprisingly catchy and deep; they were written by Bowie. He announces “what’s said is said” and the only way for Sarah to retrieve her wished away brother is to run the Labyrinth and reach the Castle Beyond the Goblin City. Which she agrees to do. Adventure ensues with the heroine learning valuable lessons about life and growing up.

The short of it is that Labyrinth has a very loyal fan base. We’re quiet about it for the most part, but heavens forbid you tell us you haven’t seen it.

So imagine my awe when I find out that every year in Los Angeles, California there is a two-night masquerade ball called the Labyrinth of Jareth Masquerade. Besides wandering in the woods my favourite thing is getting dressed up, whether for a fancy event or for a costume event. My boss at the time sent me the link on Facebook one week before the 2013 event. I came into work two days later and he came up to me and apologized for not being able to give me the time off because this was obviously an event that caters directly to me. Well, one year later I had the time booked off and was headed down to LA for my first LoJ.

The site states a very specific, if vague dress code: Formal wear with a mask or a costume befitting the Fantasy theme-imaginative costumes are strongly encouraged.

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Gilded Invitation (VIP Ticket) from the Court of Sypher

Obviously I am perfectly comfortable wearing outdoor gear and traipsing through the woods. That was the original point of the blog, after all. But you may not have known that I am also a huge fan of pageantry and haute couture designers. I love getting dressed up–like REALLY dressed up. Costumes, formal wear, the whole gamut. I’m a self-taught makeup artist though I don’t typically wear it on a day to day basis. I love costumes, and I love being able to go big with them. A quick gander through the photos on the Labyrinth webpage was at once intimidating and inspiring; costumes from professional designers, headpieces that left me speechless with awe, gowns and armor and fauns and nymphs and familiar characters and original characters and there was nothing I saw that told me my imagination needed to be reined in. Every photo told me that the only way I would be satisfied was to pursue a design of my own creation, and to design it as if I knew what I was doing.

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Original Sketch (I draw!)

So I prepared a gown unlike anything I had done before; thirteen metres of chiffon draped and pleated to craft a form-fitting bodice in the front and leaving my entire back open (I have an extensive back tattoo, and it seemed a pity to hide it). Of course, being a perfectionist I put it off to the last minute and made the thing in two weeks. I cried when it came together at the last minute and it worked. I beaded the straps, hand stitched the pleats, crafted the crown out of wire and picked out some simple gold jewelry. And I commissioned a sleeve of red scale mail, because I was, after all, a dragon.

And so I was headed to the ball.

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Photo: John Truong

My first year was the last year LoJ was held at the Park Plaza hotel. There are things I remember so fondly about that venue, but the air conditioning isn’t one of them. My dress, completely backless and sleeveless was a blessing as it allowed me to keep from overheating. Small blessings.

That weekend I found a place for the other side of myself.

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Photo: John Truong

I’ve known for most of my life that the readily accessible outdoors here on Vancouver Island made it a near-perfect environment for me. But there has never really been a place here for the part of me that goes above and beyond where costuming is concerned. For the first time in my life I found myself not the best dressed and It was amazing. I will remember forever the person who told me I did not look like a first-year. That was the moment I really felt like I had found a place where my attention to detail was truly appreciated and understood. Because as someone else told me; it was the details that took the ensemble into a higher category.

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From Sketch…

Last year, I took my friend Susanna’s words to heart. We go bigger every year.

1400 goose feathers, individually ironed, trimmed and stitched later, and I stand firmly beside that idea. But the real star of the show were my wings.

I had this idea for an owl-woman, which evolved into this white bird-woman. And of course she needed wings. The wing-design I found was truly amazing; it did not require an extensive harness and while contemplating the design I realized I could alter the design slightly to reduce the number of necessary visible fixtures. Adjustments made, I arrived Saturday night with a 12-foot wingspan, completely articulated, that disappeared when I put my arms down. Even better, I still had free use of my hands. After rock climbing, the hardware at my wrist–which may have seemed heavy–was not

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…To Angel – Photo: Greg Autry

so bad and I did not notice more than a slight tiredness in my muscles unless I held the wings open for several minutes. I could even dance with them. This was also the first year (and so far only year) where I had a Friday costume that was both simpler and completely different from the Saturday plan. It was a few pieces I already had, modified into a wildcat-woman. It was a great success, though not so much as the wings.

So this brings us to this year, 2016.

At the time I started writing this I had several ideas planned out, and had already assessed the he work involved with bringing them into being. But with the depression hounding me, the motivation to start working on a project that required so much time and effort seemed beyond my ability. So I opted to pursue a different kind of costume.

Several hundred dollars later I have become the owner of a wedding kimono and uchikake (over-kimono?). Plus a wig. I have decided to go to the ball as a kitsune-a Japanese fox-demon-in Oiran dress. Oiran are the prostitute-sisters to Geisha. Traditionally their hair is even more elaborate, their hair accessories numerous, and their Obi tied in front. If I can pull this off, it will be extremely visually stunning.

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Wildwoman – Photo: Greg Autry

Of course, I am finishing this entry after the event itself and I know how it turned out.

But the point of this blog entry, is that there is another side of me that does not involve trekking out into the woods by myself.

And there are adventures that happen as much in your head as they do in real life, and this is definitely one of those.

So keep adventuring, but even more than that, keep dreaming.

-Not Lost Girl

(Photo credits: John Truong and Greg Autry)

What events or situations have stirred your own creativity? What dreams have become tangible for you? Tell me about it below.

A Little About Why I Climb

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Climbing outside makes me extremely apprehensive.

I am afraid of heights. Not in the way where I get vertigo or can’t go to the edge of something and look down-if supported I have no problem with that at all. Rationally I understand that the harness and rope are as safe as we can make them and the gear we attach to is the same. I am also aware that things go wrong. Part of my brain is constantly reminding me that a bolt could blow, a rock could fall on me, something could go wrong and I could die. I do not find this feeling exhilarating or liberating.

I really just find it terrifying.

Much of the time I spend on real rock, especially if lead-climbing, there is a part of me that is out of my mind with terror. If you could play the soundtrack in my head you would have one voice that is shrieking mindlessly and another calmer voice talking me through it.

Breathe. Hand up. Foot up. Shift your weight. Reach. Breathe. It’s ok. You’re safe. Trust your feet. Nice. Take it easy. Relax your grip. Breathe.

Clipping myself to a steel bolt on the side of a cliff hundreds of feet in the air with a couple carabiners and a bit of rope does not exactly make me feel safe. And yet despite my fear I continue to do it. If you ask me why my first answer is probably not going to be anything about ‘fun’.

Climbing is amazing.

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The view from the top of “Emergency Rainbow Generator” 5.7 – Quadra Island

The reason I climb isn’t because I always find it fun. I climb because the awe I feel when I am standing at the top of a climb on Quadra island and seeing a massive stretch of Vancouver Island and all of its largest park. Or looking out across Howe Sound and the Tantalus range as the sun goes down. Or standing at the foot of The Chief in squamish and staring straight up at 9 pitches and 1000 feet of the most beautiful granite I’ve ever seen.

These moments are what keep driving me outside.

Standing in awe of nature, and in awe of the human spirit that inspires us to scale a sheer cliff face with fingers and toes and constantly push the limits of what is possible.

It’s pretty awesome.

And before I forget: Today I am choosing to be thankful for my friends, who want to do all the things I do and then some. They encourage and push me and help me do better.

-Not Lost Girl

What leaves you in awe? When was the last time you felt that way? Let me know in the comments!

(Today’s Post inspired by The Daily Prompt: Awe )

Thank you, Self – Day 1 (again)

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Today I went to work planning to climb tonight. I have decided that Wednesdays and Fridays are climbing days for sure. Every week. Partway through the day Rhea asked if I wanted to climb outside if the weather held. We’ve not had decent weather the past week, and I wasn’t holding out hope. I did not respond right away as I had planned to climb with a different partner per my carefully set schedule. However that friend had to do other things and then the weather tanked and as I entered my local gym’s 8-week climbing competition I figured I should probably go and try to send something related to the comp.

By the time I got off work the LAST thing I wanted to do was climb. Sitting on the bus from work I was writing in my journal when I realized that the feelings I have that tell me it would be better to go home and be by myself because I feel overwhelmed and I need to recuperate are wrong. I do need time to recuperate by myself. I need quiet time without interacting with other people in order to work through my thoughts and feelings. But that crushing feeling I had, the one that tells me it is better to be by myself, that I’ve pushed myself too hard and have overextended myself…this time it is a lie.

And it has been a lie more times than not, recently.

So realizing this, I took the bus all the way into town and grabbed some food before heading over to the gym. Rhea wasn’t there yet and I didn’t really want to climb, so I went into the studio to stretch a little–my back has been bothering me quite a lot the last few days–before climbing. Harrison (one of the staff) wandered in and we had a chat in which he said I should take my lead test. This let me bring up the fact that the word ‘should’ is causing me a lot of  trouble lately. It is a word that-in my head-I’ve been using almost as a punishment. There is an implied judgement with that word, and I’ve been hanging it over my own head for so long that its use in conversations has an almost immediate negative reaction. He immediately rephrased it. “You could take your lead test.” This I agreed with, but did not end up taking my lead test today. I still find the words “you should be able to take your lead test” echoing in my head, but they’re quiet today. I do not have to take it. I will not judge myself for taking it or not.

It also strikes me that this is just one more example of how supportive and amazing the climbing community here in Victoria is. When I honestly tell someone that I’m struggling or that something is hard for me to react positively to the people around me don’t belittle it. They’re supportive and encouraging. They don’t pass a negative judgement on it; instead they admire my honesty about it and encourage me to keep on striving for a better place.

Harry also suggested climbing easy routes slowly and statically. ‘Static’ is a word we use in climbing to describe movement that is controlled and deliberate. There are no leaps or wild grabs in static climbing. Every movement flows into the next, your body is poised between balance and effort and you don’t make sudden ‘dynamic’ movement to reach anything. Thinking that climbing some easy stuff extra slowly would be good endurance and technique training I started climbing a pretty low grade at first.

Now I’m not always a huge fan of easy climbs because they often feel like they have too many holds and the feet are in the wrong place and they’re too much like ladders to be flowy. It turns out I am actually wrong and I’m just climbing them wrong. When you slow it down, when every movement is deliberate and you’re not just rushing for the top, you can find the right movements. It also allows you to practice precise foot placements, saving yourself energy by not having to reposition.

But climbing easy stuff just makes me want to try other things.

So after warming up by stretching and then climbing some stuff well below my project grade, I climbed a couple harder things. But then I had to get on my project. It’s one of the routes for the House Feature Scramble Competition, an 8-week boulder and route progression comp at Crag X Climbing Gym that I signed up for on a whim last week. I mean hey, for 20 bucks I get entered into a bunch of weekly raffles, get to record my climbs, and get a tshirt. Totally worth it. I’m not much of a boulderer (climbing without a rope to much lower heights) these days, so I’ve mostly been focused on the routes. There are 16 boulder problems and 3 routes that change every week.

Week one I only sent two of the boulder problems. And I sent route 1, a tricky but flowing climb somewhere in the low ten range (the upper range for beginners). Route 2 has a dyno (dynamic, explosive move) in the middle and I didn’t try it. Route 3 was short, consisted of a technical corner and transitioned into a balancy top section on thin (read not very big) holds. It was the kind of climb where a foot or knee out of place meant you were coming off the wall. Absolutely unforgiving.

I loved it.

Except I hadn’t been able to send it clean. Four days I tried sending it, and every time I fell off because my foot was wrong or I forgot a hold or I was tired. So tonight I got back on it. I made it through the lower corner section (I love corners) and set up to tackle the technical face climb. And my fingers just slipped and my balance was wrong and I couldn’t recover.

It was the furthest I had made it up that climb without falling and it was the last day it would count for the competition. I thought about just giving up, after all I had tried, right? My left knee was shrieking from the angle I had put it into.

But I wanted to send it clean and get the point. So Rhea suggested climbing something easy to help my fingers recover. I climbed something vertical and easy, then belayed Rhea up something else. My knee wasn’t feeling better, I figured I had one shot to get it done. After all, up until today I had never climbed the thing in two pieces. My forearms were feeling ok. If I took rests in the right spot, I could push through the top.

So I got back on the climb.

This time I took rests at every good stance. The lower section being a corner, that meant about every two moves, but I didn’t let go. I didn’t fall. I got to the final corner moves before the transition and rested, leaning into the corner with my hands behind my back. Deep breath. Take the pinch. Reach around to the left, right foot onto the top edge of the sloper (friction, friction), right hand up to the pinch, shift weight to prevent swinging too quickly to the left. Left hand up, left foot on top sloper. Shift weight to the right, right toe up on the pinch from three moves ago. Roll onto it and reach for the hold, hook the edge with the fingers. Pop up for the left hand. Left foot high, right hand on the crimp, pull and lock off and reach for the left hand. Shift feet, hook the right fingers on the edge, left hand up to another thin crimp. Right foot to the chip and up to the final hold.

And I made every single move.

I did, at one point, make a desperate grab for a hold and punch another hold which resulted in me taking the skin off my right thumb. Only ironic because I made a rather desperate grab for something I was probably stable enough to not grab desperately for and my fingers were rested by the time I got there so it felt pretty comfortable.

So today I got to cross off another route for the comp, and I sent my first 5.11a clean in the new gym.

imageI did go home right after that and tape my knee-because apparently if I apply KT tape to my skin when it is actually clean it comes off in like three seconds. But if I do it after a whole day of doing things it’s totally fine and stays on for weeks. My body makes no sense.

Today, I am thanking myself for going to the gym, even though I didn’t want to. I am thanking myself for being willing and able to consider that feeling like I need to hide from the world and that life is too much to deal with is not actually my thought and is instead the Black Dog trying to take a bite out of me and drag me back down to the dark.

Today I am thanking myself for not giving up.

So thank you, Self. For pushing yourself beyond what the Blackness says you are capable of. Thank you for trying. Thank you for fighting the judgement that comes with the word ‘should’. Thank you.

-Not Lost Girl

What are you thankful for today? Leave a comment below!

 

Thank You, Self – Day 3

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Thank you, Self. We didn’t do anything exceptional today, but even though right now there is a big part of me that doesn’t want to do this (“you can skip it today, just this once”) you are still telling me that I can, and thank you for that strength. It’s so hard to ignore the Black Dog. I hope you can stay strong, that we can stay strong enough to keep at it.

I know some days it will be easier than others to do the tasks I set myself.

But if I ever want out of this hole, I have to do the work.

-Not Lost Girl

Thank You, Self – Day 2

 

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Thank you, Self.

Today went according to plan, and I’m grateful for that. But what I’m most grateful for was the moment when I reached the bottom of the hill up to my house.

It was raining hard enough that my jacket and leggings were getting pretty wet. The shoes I was wearing were not made to be worn in rain. It struck me that they were really no better than walking barefoot, and after being in climbing shoes the texture of the concrete would probably feel good.

So, bundled up against the night, I took my shoes off and walked up the hill.

The rain was heavy enough that it was running down the hill. As I walked it streamed over the tops of my feet, and the concrete-lukewarm even after the cloudy day-made the rain cool, not cold. It was not a long walk, but as I came up to my doorstep I found I didn’t want it to end.

Because as I walked, listening to a song I find really encouraging and with rainwater streaming over my feet, I felt content for the first time in a very long while.

And now, I can think of a few other moments that were much the same; walking barefoot into the ocean in the middle of the night to see the bio-luminescence dancing around my feet, or swimming in the Pacific Ocean in May (both happened on Quadra Island, actually).

So I am going to add a new Habit to my Habitica list; Do Something Impulsive. Bonus points if it is free. Maybe this whole time I’ve been trying to make myself feel better the wrong way. Maybe all I needed was to spend more time walking barefoot in the rain.

-Not Lost Girl

What is the last impulsive thing you did? Did it leave you feeling better or worse? What is your best impulsive memory?

Thank you, Self – Day 1

Thank you, Self. Today you chose to do an hour of yoga when you really wanted only to play video games and pretend you don’t exist in this world. You did not have to. You did not have to commit yourself to the meditation, and you did not have to try to stick with it, even when it was hard and seemed to be futile. Thank you for that. You did good today.

Yesterday my friend told me about Habitica, a free habit-building and productivity app that treats your real life like a fantasy RPG. You get experience points for tasks on your to-do list, your habits list, and your dailies list. You lose health if you do not complete your dailies. You can set it up so you lose health when you indulge in your bad habits. You can also join parties to fight bosses and there are guilds as well.

I’ve decided that one of my daily tasks is going to be write a thank you to myself at the end of every day. I have decided that I will post these thank you notes to myself here on the blog. It’s not an adventure post, but It’s a real post. Hopefully it will help get me back into the habit of writing, and will help turn my depression around.

Do you think something like Habitica would help you? What motivates you to do the things you don’t want to do? Tell me Below!

-Not Lost Girl