2005 In Review.

December 28, 2005

It’s that time of year again – when every jackass/jackass-ette with a personal website trots out their ‘best of the year’ lists. This isn’t a clever list of obscure but essential recordings or books or films designed to make me seem more ‘hip’ that I am (or am not). Rather, this is a list of experiences that formed my world in the year 2005. It was a year of heartache, happiness, international travel, simple pleasures, and much else. If I learned one thing in 2005, it’s that the world is a fuckuva lot bigger than any of us realize. I don’t think anyone could properly throw their arms around the whole place. I did my best to hold tight to my own little corner of the world.

If you’re faintly interested, you can check out my 2004 year in review here.

In roughly chronological order, here we go:
  • Web Publishing. Back in February, my old website, dirtpuppy.com, underwent a top-to-bottom renovation. A lot of under-the-hood type shit was tweaked and improved upon from the original version. Over the course of the year, dirtpuppy also gained some much needed content focus. From a ranting, random pile of dogshit, the site evolved into a half-way respectable urban weblog. In December of 2005, I killed dirtpuppy.com and moved my city writings to a new home: streetrag.com. I’m pretty happy with my new digs, if I do say so myself.
  • The Death of my Uncle Maurice. February was also tainted with some sadness. In early February my Father’s brother passed on after a short but intense battle with cancer. My Father was devastated. For the second time is less than eight months, the family asked me to deliver a eulogy. Because it was a strict Catholic service the eulogy had to come before the actual ceremony. This meant that I had to open up the proceedings in front of several hundred people. It was terrifying. And completely nerve racking. Along with delivering my grandfather’s eulogy in 2004, this was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done.
  • Teaching for a Day. In March, I got a call from a high school English teacher who was in the midst of teaching her students the fineries of poetry. She wanted to get a “real life poet” into the class to show the kids what modern poetry was all about. She asked me to teach her class about the Beat writers, and I accepted with great honour. I read them Ginsberg’s “America” at the start of the class. Some weren’t listening, but some were blown away by the poem. They had no idea that poetry could be like that. It was a great feeling to expand young minds, even just for day. I think I’d make a good teacher, actually.
  • The Single Onion in Calgary. Near the end of March, myself and Mingus took a road trip down to Cowtown to show them southerners how poetry is done. We jammed with the good folks down at the Single Onion Society. It was a great show and it was great to gig with Mingus and a few other esteemed colleagues again. After the show, someone said to me, “You know, your poetry made me feel that I had just dropped acid and flushed my head down the toilet.” Man, you can’t buy reviews like that.
  • First Anniversary of Sobriety. April marked my first complete year of sobriety. As I’ve said many times before, going sober was one of the best decisions I ever made. Quitting drinking changed everything.
  • Strife for the Raving Poets. For five years, myself and my colleagues in The Raving Poets brought our brand of poetic awesomness to the public at Whyte Avenue’s Backroom Vodka Bar. That all changed in early April. A change in the bar’s direction forced us to leave our home. It was heartbreaking. We floundered for most of the year, gigging sporadically at a few venues in the Old Scona area. It wasn’t until November that we finally got our shit together and found a new home…
  • The Historica Fair. In May I participated in The Historica Fair, which was a ‘history fair’ in the mold of a science fair. Hundreds of kids aged 7 to 14 built historical projects and presented them. It was fun walking around with the place and seeing kids get nervous when I cast a scowl at them or approached them with my “JUDGE” badge glinting in fluorescent lights. During this event, a weird feeling came over me. This is gonna sound really stupid, but it struck me that I was an adult. I know it seems idiotic to write that, but when you hang around with adults all day and every day you kind of forget that you’re one of them. Bizarre, and enlightening.
  • The Summer Reading Series. With the Raving Poets on forced hiatus, my colleague CT Staples and I took the opportunity to throw together a little poetry series called “The Rasp and the Wine”. We did three naked gigs over the course of the summer and we featured some “obscure” and otherwise not-as-well-known readers, which was very cool. It was a great series.
  • My trip to Europe. Probably the coolest thing that happened this past year. In September, my brother and I packed ‘er up and headed out for a month-long hiatus in southern Europe. It was my first trip overseas; his second. We hit Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, Naples, Patras, Athens, Samos, and London. In hindsight it was a bit of a whirlwind tour, but it opened my eyes to just how friggin’ big this planet is – a perspective that simply can’t be gained unless you experience it for yourself. And it’s not just big geography-wise. It’s big in a people sense. It’s big in ideas and history. It’s bigger than anyone can ever hope to take in. The trip, while amazing in every way, made me appreciate my home greatly. We’ve got is so good in Canada. We’re truly lucky to live here.
  • Revisiting Thoreau’s “Walden”. There are only a handful of books to which I can point and say, “that book changed my life.” Walden is one of those books. It is a deeply passionate series of essays that detail Thoreau’s life in the Walden Woods. It’s a treatise for living simply and deliberately. A completely inspiring read that I recommend to everyone.
  • My friends having children. It’s a bit surreal to think of your life-long friends as parents. I’m fortunate to have a few life-longers. While I was sunning on a Grecian beach, my friend Scott became a father. He and his wife Trish had a boy and named him Michael, after yours truly. A truly touching gesture, that. Upon my return, my friend Scott (another Scott) and his wife bore their second child, a baby girl. They didn’t name her Michael. I was completely insulted. Little Brooke Ann is a little cutie, though. That makes me the last one of the group to be unmarried and without kids. I blame it on my temperament. That and my foul mouth. Still, it’s very surreal to think of my friends as parents.
  • The Roar on 24th. A few colleagues and I threw a big goddam literary party and invited everyone we knew. The result was Edmonton’s newest and most exciting literary festival: The Roar. It was a spectacular day with over 100 Edmonton poets burning up the Hy Street area of Edmonton with poetic greatness. Next year’s event is in the pipe and it’s going to be a bit crazier and wilder than the 2005 event. More animal sacrifice, more gratuitous nudity, and more publicity stunts involving penguins and blowtorches. Stay tuned.
  • Meeting Justine’s Daughter. A bit of a long story here. In October, I finally got to meet Justine’s daughter. Surprisingly, the little gaffer and I get along pretty good. We share the same caustic temperament and we both love mint ice cream. It’s been a very welcome learning experience, for sure.
  • The passing of my Grandmother. Death struck the family twice in 2005. In November, my grandmother passed on. She was sick for some time and kept her illness largely to herself. She passed away suddenly. I didn’t do the eulogy this time. She was the last of my grandparents. Goodbye, Grandma.
  • The Raving Poets do Yianni’s. The RP’s spent the month of November kicking out a series down at Yianni’s Taverna – a moody little lounge in the heart of Whyte Avenue. It was a fantastic series, and I do believe that the RP’s have found a new home. For now, at least.

That about does it, I think. 2005 wasn’t as pivotal as 2004, but it was still an eventful year. If you’ve penned your own “best of 2005” list, I’d love to read about it. Drop me a line. Catcha later.

Vignette #16

StreetRag, An Urban Notebook

StreetRag ::: An Urban Notebook

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StreetRag is an urban weblog and podcast about the city of Edmonton, which is located in the province of Alberta, Canada. It is authored by Edmonton-based writer, web advocate, and poet Michael Gravel and is updated frequently with written urban vignettes, amateurish photographs, deuteronomous audio material, barely coherent musings and rambling ecumenical treatises. StreetRag is a love letter to a lonely prairie burg struggling with its big city ambitions and small-town feel.

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