The Man They Called Reveen

Last week on Facebook I posted this: “Made a Reveen reference today. Two of the three other people in the room didn’t get it. Another sign of me skewing to an older demographic.”

To my surprise there was a ton of response. (Obviously people who have also skewed to an older demo.)

The man they called Reveen, Reveen the Impossiblist, came to Lethbridge many many times and I always made a point of going to see him because he was highly entertaining. While his show had a lot of the same elements to it, he was able to change things up so that you might see something totally different from one performance to another.

Mostly I saw his shows where he hypnotized members of the audience but I also saw some magic shows where he performed some remarkable illusions.

He was big on doing some mental stunts to start some of his shows. I recall he would ask a member of the audience to call out where he should place a knight on a big chess-board square. While blind-folded Reveen would tell his assistant to move the knight to every square until he landed on all of them. (He had to move in the way that a knight moves in chess.) He never failed to complete the task. I thought that was pretty amazing.

I saw him in the old Capitol Theatre, the Paramount Theatre, the Yates and I remember he did a big show at the Sportsplex (Enmax.)

Reveen had that deep voice with a charming Australian accent. He handled the audience so professionally and had an aura about him that made you like him right from when he walked on the stage.

Of course, he would ask for volunteers for the show. Many would get up. For those who didn’t there was also a test he would give. He’d tell you to interlock your hands and put them over your head. You had to listen intently to his voice and he’d tell you that your hands were locked and you couldn’t unlock them until he touched them. Some people couldn’t unlock their hands. So there were others who ended up going on stage.  

I was never disappointed with the show.

My only disappointment was that I tried to get hypnotized one night. I failed. Probably too many distractions in my brain.

One of the big things I remember is that at the end of the show he would give his volunteers some positive reinforcement as they were zonked out. That they would wake up and feel totally refreshed.

His show was also very family friendly. And I know he was very proud of that.

I loved that the Trailer Park Boys made some references to Reveen.

He was indeed one of the best there ever was.

A Field of Dreams With Ty Penner

You may have heard that Ty Penner of Lethbridge signed a professional baseball contract with the Philadelphia Phillies earlier this year. Ty has deep baseball roots in southern Alberta including being a big part of the 2021 Lethbridge Bulls championship run. Ty is currently in Florida honing his skills and took a few moments to answer some questions about the incredible journey he is on.

Was there a moment in your life when you said to yourself, “I want to pursue baseball as a possible professional career?”

Being a professional baseball player was always my dream growing up, but most kids have that dream growing up if they love sports, so I wasn’t sure how realistic my dream was. Although I always believed in my dream, it wasn’t until the summer of my sophomore year of college that I started to really think a career in professional baseball was a great possibility, and after that I was all in to making it happen.

Did you play other sports and were you good at them as well?

I was lucky to be able to play a lot of sports growing up, including hockey, volleyball, basketball, badminton, track and field, and a little bit of football. I loved all sports, but hockey and baseball were always my favourites. I was fairly good at the other sports, but I was always best at baseball.

I’ve always believed that Lethbridge has a great minor baseball system with outstanding facilities and quality people to run it. Would you agree? Are there things that could be better?

I would absolutely agree that Lethbridge has a phenomenal minor baseball system. The facilities are good, but the baseball minds that we have in and around Lethbridge are what makes it phenomenal. I was very lucky to have countless amazing coaches growing up in Southwest Little League, all the way through to my days with the American Legion Program, and the Bulls. I think kids growing up in Lethbridge are very lucky to have access to these facilities and mentors even at a young age with things like the PBA kids camps. You can pick up a lot just from being around good baseball people, so I would say we just need kids to continue to give baseball a shot

How important was the Vauxhall Academy in your development?

The Vauxhall Academy was a really amazing experience for me. I don’t think there is any other high school baseball experience quite like what you get at the Vauxhall Academy. Not only are you surrounded by amazing coaches and people who will do anything to help you succeed, but you also get to live with 22 of your best friends. Without the VAB I certainly wouldn’t be the player or the person I am today, and I would recommend that program to anyone. They did an amazing job preparing me to be a college, and professional baseball player.

Take us through how you got signed by the Philadelphia Phillies. IE: How did you get scouted, who called you, do you have an agent?

So I didn’t really start getting attention from major league scouts until just before my junior year at UBC, and with COVID getting in the way of my junior year, the scouting didn’t pick up until I was able to play again in my senior year. About 1/3 of the way into my senior season I was off to a pretty good start, and I was having some teams reach out to me to start talking about the possibility of being drafted. I continued to get scouted at my games with UBC and with Kamloops up until the draft in July, and going into the draft I knew I had about 4-5 teams that were interested in selecting me (including the Phillies). The final day of the draft was a bit of a whirlwind cause I knew I had a chance to be picked but I didn’t know if or when it might happen.

Long story short, I didn’t end up being picked in the draft and for about 10 minutes I thought I missed my chance, and I was prepared to go back to UBC in the fall. But then I started to get some phone calls from teams asking me if I was interested in a free agent contract, and I ended up going with the Phillies. The name of my scout from the Phillies is Dave Dangler and he was always the person I dealt with from the Phillies (shoutout to Dave, he is an amazing guy). And I actually do not have an agent, but I got help from my UBC coach when needed.

While signing a professional contract with a major league team is a wonderful start to making “the show” it’s still a process to get there. What is your mindset going into the Phillies organization knowing that there’s still a lot of work to be done?

Baseball is a weird sport in that even the 1st overall pick in the draft doesn’t go straight to the show, and everyone goes through the minor leagues for some amount of time. My mindset is the same as it has always been, which is that I look at every day as a chance to improve in some way, and a chance to get closer to my dream of making the show. Getting signed gives me the opportunity that I have always wanted, and now it is up to me to make it happen. It also helps that getting to play baseball every day is probably the most fun form of work I could ask for.

You were an integral part of the Lethbridge Bulls Championship season last year. Talk about that experience.

That was a really great team to be a part of. It was a great group of guys and a great coaching staff, and was probably the most fun I have had playing summer baseball. It always helps when your team has great chemistry and I think that is what we had that year. We went into playoffs on a terrible losing streak, but we were able to get it done when it mattered most. Both of my summers with the Bulls were awesome, and that is largely due to the great people in the organization, and the great community of Lethbridge.

You played University ball for the UBC Thunderbirds. Was playing for a Canadian University your first choice or would you have rather gone to the US?

In high school I always thought I was going to end up somewhere in the US, but I was thrilled to go to UBC. UBC was always a bit of a dream school for me because of how great their baseball program is and how good the school is academically. To stay in Canada and get a degree from an esteemed University was an added bonus. In a lot of ways UBC was my first choice.

How important is getting an education along with having the experience of playing baseball while getting a degree?

I think it’s a great experience to live the student-athlete life. It can be extremely busy and hectic, especially with all the travel, but you really learn how to time manage and how to balance out different aspects of your life. I have always been a big believer in getting a good education, but to be able to do it while playing baseball is amazing.

Like anyone who plays a sport you’re one torn knee ligament injury away from not having a career in a profession you love. Is baseball the only goal right now or do you have a contingency plan?

I have always taken pride in my academics and extra curriculars, knowing that I most likely won’t be able to playbaseball for my whole life. I still have to finish up the final year of my undergrad, but physio therapy or med school are the most intriguing back-up plans for me right now. I would love to be able to continue to work in sport in some way, whether that be as a physio for a team, or something entirely different.

You played in Henderson Stadium which has quite a rich history of baseball. Players who became Hall-of-Famers or World Series Champs like Andre Dawson, Steve Sax, Mike Marshall, Craig Brock, Sid Fernandez and many others played there as well. Did you ever think about that legacy that you’re a part of?

I have never given ton of thought to that, but it is pretty cool to think about. Lethbridge has a rich baseball history and I am extremely proud to be a part of it in some way.

What’s your walk-up song and why did you choose it?

I have changed my walk-up song quite a few times, but the most recent one I had was Paradise City by Guns N’Roses. I usually have one of my older brothers pick my walk-up song. The one who chose that one is a big rock fan.

In 10 years when you win the MVP award, who are the people you are going to have to thank in your acceptance speech?

Oh man (haha). The list of people I would want to thank if that were to happen is way too long to think about right now, so I think I’ll save that thinking for when I do hopefully win it. My parents will certainly be at the top of the list though.

Any manager will tell you that while being a great baseball player is important to a career, being a great human being can be just as important. Is that something that was part of your development and do you think about that aspect of your life as a pro athlete?

I think being a great human being is much more important than just being a great player. Sometimes it can be really hard to be a great player, but you always have the choice to be a good person. Trying to be a good person first was absolutely a part of my development, and almost every coach I had preached being a great human being first. That lesson is something I take with me everywhere I go and I definitely think about it now as a pro athlete.

What was your favorite team growing up and who are some of your favorite players?

My favourite team was always the Boston Red Sox. Some of my favourite players were David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia,and Kevin Youkilis.

Now that you’re signed with the Phillies, what happens for the rest of the year?

I finished up the Rookie Ball season with the Florida Complex League Phillies last month and I am currently down in Florida at “instructional league”. Instructional league will be over in the second week of October and then I will likely be back in Vancouver for the off-season, until spring training next year.

What’s been your best baseball moment in your life so far?

I always have so many amazing moments flood my head when I get asked this, but the one that always pops into my head first is hitting a walk-off grand slam in the semi-final of the Firecracker Tournament in Kalispell, Montana when I was 12 years old.

Final thoughts?

Thanks for giving me the chance to answer these questions! If any kids somehow end up reading this… keep on playing the great game of baseball, believe in your dreams (because they really might come true), but most importantly, have fun playing the game.

Takin’ Care of Business With Darryl Kenna

I first got to know Darryl Kenna as a fierce competitor in the Lethbridge Ball Hockey Association back in the 80s. He played for the dastardly Tom’s Roofing and I toiled with McMurren’s Gym. While I mostly hated playing against those guys because they were so much better than us I developed a deep respect for Darryl. Not only was he an incredible athlete but it was obvious he had other skills as a leader. Years later in 2016 I read where Darryl had been named Distinguished Alumni at the Lethbridge College because of his exemplary work in the business world. The unique abilities I had witnessed on the Ball Hockey floor had converted quite successfully to the realm of the business world. Darryl is now the CEO of Epiphany Group, a successful private asset-management company.  And he has written a book called Vision Meets Execution. Darryl took some time out of a very busy schedule to talk about his latest endeavor.

What inspired you write Vision Meets Execution?

The idea for the book was in my head for years. After years of building, consulting with and mentoring businesses I felt that most businesses were missing the understanding of how to see their companies through a different set of eyes. By applying the Vision Meets Execution approach they can help accelerate their understanding and then in turn the businesses success going forward.

How difficult or how easy was it for you to go from having an idea for a book to having it available for readers?

It took over 500 hours of time once I decided to write it. It is quite an involved process that at times were both easy and difficult. You just have to stay committed to it.

Talk about why you wanted to make the book not only helpful to business owners but to have a fictional framework to tell the story.

A lot of time the business theory is presented in quite a dry manner, and this can hurt the reader’s willingness to adopt it because they cannot digest or relate to some of the concepts.

The fictional framework allows for an easier approach for the reader to ease into the concept and continually connect to the concepts.

You had great mentors as you started in the business world. Talk about their influence on your career.

Their influence meant everything; without it I would not have had the success I have had so far. I think we all need people to believe in us at points in our lives where we might be waning in our belief of ourselves. I have been blessed to have had two gentlemen that I crossed paths with that have inspired me to strive for more in my life.

You’re a distinguished Alumni of the Lethbridge College. What kind of an impact did attending the college have?

 I think while you are at college you don’t realize the impact but years later you do. For me college was both about the education I received and the symbolism of “going to college”. This meant striving for a better version of yourself. The relationships of the people you meet and being at the same spot in our lives at that moment stay with you for years. It was a very positive experience.

Was there a big “aha moment” in your life when you said, “I really know what I want to do in business?”

I believe my “aha moment”came when one of my mentors challenged me to steer the business to where I thought it should go. He positioned it that he was much older and if he steered it, I would be stuck with what he created. Given this he said why don’t you steer the direction of our business and I will be here if you need support. This endorsement provided that moment where it felt “right” and I said I could do this.

Over the last 25 years of building, mentoring and selling companies, what is the most common mistake businesses make?

 I think the one that jumps out at me is within the leadership of the business. I think people fail to realize that the CEO of any business is there to serve the business not the other way around.

Too often people put their personal needs ahead of those of the business a status before results approach which impairs the business long term.

What’s your greatest success story?

My greatest success story is the people I have been fortunate to mentor. When I see their understanding of business improve and they embrace their roles within the business I feel fulfilled. To quote from the book…”when they take the pebble from my hand” then all is good. Success is measured to me by the amount of people I have positively influenced and empowered.

What does living in Lethbridge mean to you?

I have been fortunate to travel the world and travel up and down 7 provinces.

What I have come to realize is we live in a great country, a great province, and a great city. This a great city for business, lifestyle, and community. I am proud to say I am from Lethbridge.

Are there any big-time business people you’d like to meet?

Obviously, I would love to meet Warren Buffett and sit down and spend a couple hours with him. If I had a magic wand and could bring people back to life, I would give anything to spend another hour with my mentors.

Who should read your book and what do you hope they get out of it?

Any person in business. From a one-person business to any size. I hope they come away with an understanding that it is a blessing to be allowed to own, oversee, and grow a business. It is an opportunity to look to improve yourself in your leadership role and then the business will improve accordingly.

Where is it available?

Friesen press bookstore. Barnes & Noble, Chapters/Indigo, Amazon. E-book available at Apple books, Kobo,Kindle, Google Play.

https://books.friesenpress.com/store/title/119734000246071258

Final thoughts?

Anyone who is serious about their business grab yourself a book and send me the feedback. Part of the proceeds will be going to the Give One Legacy Foundation to give back to our community. Enjoy the read.

Back To The Moon “Alice”

NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard is seen atop the mobile launcher as it is rolled up the ramp at Launch Pad 39B, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA’s Artemis I mission is the first integrated test of the agency’s deep space exploration systems: the Orion spacecraft, SLS rocket, and supporting ground systems. Launch of the uncrewed flight test is targeted for no earlier than Aug. 29. Photo Credit: (NASA/Joel Kowsky)

As I write this on a Friday, NASA has scheduled the Artemis I rocket to launch from Cape Canaveral on Saturday. If all goes well it will head for the moon, circle around it and come back. There will be three mannequins on board, no actual humans.

I wonder if there was a Jackie Gleason fan with NASA who wanted to name one of the mannequins Alice.

I digress.

It will be the first trip to the moon in 50 years. I am old enough to vividly remember back in 1969 when I was glued to the TV set watching Neil do his thing. It was the culmination of what was an incredibly prolific man-in-space program that started back in the 50s with the Mercury project, then Gemini and then Apollo. I remember getting up numerous times at about 5am to watch the launch on TV and then making sure I got to watch them splash down in the ocean afterwards. I followed with great interest throughout the 60s and especially enjoyed the many photos that Life Magazine used to have.

While there were a lot of triumphs during NASAs run to get to the moon, there were also tragedies. Most notably was the fire on the launch pad that killed Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee. That was in 1967 and I can still recite their names even though I can’t remember my most recent password. A photo in Life Magazine showed the charred interior of the command module. What was striking about that photo is that there was a paper notepad that did not burn. That’s etched in my mind forever.

After Apollo 11 NASA sent astronauts to the moon six more times. Each time they went, it seemed that people in general lost interest compared to the world-wide audience that watched in 1969. Of course, interest was big when Apollo 13 went through that little issue. The movie was incredible and I’m still amazed how they figured out how to get that crew back.

Apollo 17 was the last crew and Gene Cernan, who died in 2017 was the last human to walk on the moon. We don’t know if he left the stove on before getting back to the ship.

A few weeks ago my wife and I discovered “For All Mankind” on Apple +. It is a retelling of the space race as if the Russians actually landed on the moon before Neil and Buzz did. They change history by telling us that Ted Kennedy became President of the US and NASA sent women to the moon. The moon became a military base and a stopping point for getting to Mars. It’s quite a fascinating series and I can’t wait till it continues.

It’s very coincidental that after we binge-watched the entire series, we heard about Artemis I and the long-term goal of getting to the moon again and then to Mars and also include a woman and a person of color.

Much like back in 1972 when Apollo 17 made its voyage we seem to take for granted that getting to the moon isn’t that hard.

While in my world I feel that getting through Deerfoot in Calgary is a great achievement, we need to embrace that getting to the moon is as remarkable now as it was 50 years ago. And there’s a lot of Canadian technology with Artemis I not to mention there will be a Canadian astronaut when a real person goes to the moon in 2024 on Artemis II.

Now, about a Canadian team winning the Stanley Cup….fodder for another blog on another day.

That Time I Got Hired to Lift Bales Of Hay

This isn’t me but you get the idea…

I had a flash back this morning to a summer of my youth when Hire-A-
Student Canada was doing a big campaign to get employers to hire able-
bodied high school kids. I dropped by their office downtown and put my
name down for whatever they could get me. I was ready to make the big
bucks. It only took a couple of days before I got a call saying a farmer
needed a hand for a day moving some hay bales. I was up for it. I was 16
and in fairly good shape. Or so I thought.
How hard could it be to move straw?
I received an awakening that fateful day.
I showed up in pair of jeans and a t-shirt.
There was another guy with me.
First off, the farmer said, “No gloves?”
“Um. Why? It’s straw.”
He got out a pair and said, “You’ll want these.”
He lead me and my straw-moving colleague to the barn.
It’s been 50 years so my memory of what we were tasked to do has been
blocked out of my whatever part of the brain it is that helps you forget
stuff.
What I do recall is that this city kid learned that picking up a bale of hay
is like picking up 40 pounds of needles. Yes, you need gloves!! And hay
in a bale is frickin’ heavy!!!
I was 16 and I was short and I had yet to form the massive forearms that
Bobby Hull showed off in photos of him working on his farm.
I was a terrible hire.
Instead of me helping the farmer, the farmer had to help me lift those
bales into his truck. I just wasn’t strong enough.

I spent the entire day at that farm. It was hotter than hell. My body hurt
and the jeans I wore were destroyed. There was no denim left where I
tried to maneuver the bales from the ground to my thighs to the truck.
I seem to recall the farmer saying, “Geez, fire him now.”
I think I slept for 12 hours after that day.
And that’s when I said, “I should get into radio.”

The Headshots Story From Down Under

In 1978 I made the decision to quit the radio business and take up an offer from my good friend Tom Cullen to travel with him to Australia. I had only been an announcer for four years but I really got burned out. That was back in the day when we were all required to work six days a week. Sometimes on your day off you were asked to do a remote or some promotional event so there were stretches where you’d work 14 days straight. While I loved the business I really needed a break from it. A six-month trip to the land down under seemed like a panacea for all my troubles. I sold my 1090 CHEC Keep On Dancin Disco and my car and I was on my way to seek my fame and fortune.

Surely, once the people of Australia saw me, they would welcome me with open arms and lead me to a new fabulous career.

I had hoped that once I got off the plane in Sydney, there would be someone there who would miraculously discover me.

It may surprise you that that didn’t happen.

It was always Tom’s intention to get a job once in Australia. It became critical for him because after stops in Hawaii, Fiji and New Zealand he was running on fumes economically.

We were lucky to have met a great Aussie who was vacationing in Fiji while we were there. He invited us to stay with him. We said OK. (He may have regretted it.)

Tom ended up finding a job on a farm outside of Sydney. It was going to be a temporary thing so that he could replenish spending money and we would continue on our way. In the meantime, I was left alone mooching off our amazing host.

I took that opportunity to try to find some kind of work as an actor. After all, I had done Annie Get Your Gone and Damn Yankees with LMT. Who wouldn’t want me? I ended up finding a talent agency in Sydney and they asked me to get some head shots so they could show them to perspective agents.

I put on the best shirt I could find out of my backpack and found a photographer.

He took the pictures. I gave them to the talent agency and waited for a call.

I’m not sure if they lost my pictures or the number I gave them to call me but mysteriously, I was never contacted.

As I continue to purge the many boxes of memories I have in my small closet, those headshots resurfaced. I can now understand why I never got that call.

My hair was rather long and shaggy and at the end of a perm that I had gotten six months before. I had a bit of a pornstache and I wish someone would have said, “You know, two eyebrows are always better than one.”

I stayed with my Aussie people for about three weeks and I finally said farewell them. I caught up with Tom who had a few paychecks under his belt and we were back on our way.

Getting a job in acting was not in the cards for me. I left all the good roles for Hugh Jackman.

As a side note after these pictures were taken I was pretending to be a playful puppy with a gal I had met (as one does) and I was biting her on her sleeve. My capped front tooth popped off. That’s a sad commentary for another day.

Side note #2. I tried to get a job in radio in Alice Springs but I was told, “Sorry, mate. You’ve got an accent.”

“What??!!! You’ve got an accent, not me!!”

Good times.

The Interviewer Becomes The Interviewee

I did an interview with award-winning author Darcy Tamayose a number of weeks ago. At the end of that interview she asked if she could interview me. It turns out that she and her good friend June had done a feature on me back in the 70s when I was working at 1090 CHEC. So, while this is rather unusual, I said I would take her hard-hitting questions and do my utmost to answer them in a sincere and profound way. So I’ll turn my blog over to Darcy. This is her intro and these are the questions I was given:

When June (Burt) MacFarlane and Darcy Tamayose were attending Winston Churchill High School—back in the days of bellbottomed jeans, pinball machines, April Wine concerts, and a “unique” school smoke room—they were part of a fledgling school newsmagazine team. One of the stories they remembered producing back then as part of the inaugural publication was on a multi-talented 1090 CHEC disc jockey named Mark Campbell. Decades later over the summer of 2022 when the world was considerably different—in a “holding-pattern” state of COVID pandemic, LIVE band performances (tentatively) re-emerging as part of life, and schools delivering curriculum via in-person/online hybridics— the high school friends once again had an opportunity to interview Campbell, now a City of Lethbridge council member.

What are some of your fondest memories in your professional life?

I think back to when I got my first job in radio. It was doing the all-night show on 1090 CHEC. My shift was Midnight to 6am. I was so excited and so nervous. My first song was “Searching So Long” by Chicago. It had a long intro so I had lots of time to say who I was and introduce the tune I was playing. I was thrilled to get the opportunity and I knew this is what I wanted to do. Paul Tessier was the announcer before me who was doing the 7-midnight shift at the time. I was lucky to have him as someone who really cared about helping a novice guy like me to figure out the ropes and he was always there to offer assistance. I had a great program director as well named Walt Edwards. He was the man who hired me and gave me the constructive criticism I needed to hone my career.

I eventually moved up to the evening show (7-mid) the drive show (3-7pm) and then the morning show.

I eventually did morning shows at LA FM, then back to CHEC which became, CKRX and then after a hiatus from radio I got recruited to the morning show at what was then called The Lounge.

What is a common theme when talking about fondest memories over the years is the people that I got to work with. Radio people are a unique brew and I’ve maintained life-long friendships with many of them.

Getting a job doing TV weather was also a great memory. I had grown up watching the legendary Bill Matheson on CJLH TV. I remember being on Kids Bids and seeing Bill’s weather wall and thinking, I’d like to do that one day. That came true and it was a big thrill. Getting to expand my role in TV with Scene & Heard is probably what I’m most fond of in my career. That was an opportunity to interview so many people in the community and it was also an incredible chance to meet many performers who were passing through Lethbridge. One name that stands out is Lady Gaga. She was just making her mark on the music scene and she played at the Suede Nightclub (now Moxies). She was very kind, even gave me a kiss on the cheek for doing the interview. Little did I know what a mega-star she would become.

What are the professional accomplishments that you are most proud of?

I think I’m really proud of what the Scene & Heard show was able to provide for the city for about 15 years. I did three to four interviews a day five days a week and gave platforms to everyone who had a positive message to share whether it was about their non-profit group or a high school musical. Some may wonder how did I come up with so much content but it really wasn’t that hard. There are so many wonderful organizations and so many great stories to share. I truly loved doing Scene & Heard and that’s probably the biggest thing I miss not being in media anymore.

If you could give a young person going into media some advice, what would it be?

First and foremost, be willing to do anything and I mean anything. If you have to start emptying garbage for the morning show person, do it. Your time will come. Be willing to learn. Absorb as much as you can. It sounds really cliché, but if you really want to be in media, never give up. There will be rejections. I’ve learned over my 40+ years in the business that you are going to face some heartache especially in a career that keeps changing almost daily. Be prepared for those tough times and figure out what your next move will be. 

You were involved in a lot of local theatre. How many plays did you perform in all together? Can you tell us what your favourite role was? What was your most challenging role? Why did you enjoy this kind of performance so much?

I must have performed in 30 or 40 various performances going back to high school. The Allied Arts Council used to do a summer show every year and I was involved in a couple of those. I did about 10 Lethbridge Musical Theatre shows (LMT), a Playgoers show, there was Centre Stage, Theatreworks, New West Theatre and I did multiple shows with the dynamic Fran Rude-Ken Rogers tandem.

When people ask what my favorite role was I can’t just chose one. There are three that stand out for me: Che in Evita, Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar and Jean Valjean in Les Miserable. All three were very challenging but they were such wonderful characters to play. I was fortunate to perform Che twice and Judas twice. I love the music of those musicals and there are a lot of dramatic moments for Che, Judas and Jean.

I don’t know if anyone can explain what gets you hooked into getting on stage in front of people. I remember going to the old Capitol Theatre and seeing Bill Matheson in Finian’s Rainbow in 1964. I said, “I want to do that.” My parents owned the Broadway soundtracks to Camelot and My Fair Lady and for some reason those shows resonated with me. My first real musical was I think in the summer of 1973 when I did Damn Yankees. I loved it. I made life-long friends and it was a wonderful way to spend a summer.

It was interesting (at least for me) when I played Judas for the second time. There had been about a 10-year gap since I had played him the first time. It might be because I experienced a little more life but I got really emotional during the show. There’s a dramatic part where Jesus and Judas have a major confrontation and Judas realizes that his betrayal was ultimately all part of a large plan. Judas truly loved Jesus and felt what he was doing was the right thing to do. He was conflicted in a big way and I felt that angst much more playing him the second time. (Also as an aside, just before the show I caught a flu bug that was going around. I have never been more sick in my life. Thankfully I was still able to sing but it was a tough go.)

Did you want to talk about your family a bit? For example do you remember a lot about your father and his work as the McGavin’s Bread delivery man? Is it true that you met your wife at an Elvis impersonator stage show in Las Vegas?

My dad delivered bread for McGavins for as long as I can remember. Back in the day, there was an actual bakery (where Cuppers is now) and on occasion we’d go pick him up there. I will forever remember the wonderful smell of fresh bread. He used to get Wednesdays off and that was the day he’d pick my brother Ken and I up at school at lunchtime and we’d go to the A&W on 5th Avenue and Mayor Magrath Drive. It’s now a 7-11. That was when you’d put your car lights on and the waitress would come out to your car to take your order. I always had a Mama Burger with ketchup, Ken had a Mama Burger with Mustard. And of course we’d have fries and a root beer. We went so often the waitress only had to wave at us and she’d bring us our order.

My mom was an operating room nurse at St. Mike’s Hospital. She eventually became the supervisor there. She was well loved and respected by nurses and doctors. She used to have to take call for 2 weeks at a time (Never got paid for overtime.) I used to hate it when she got called out because that meant my dad had to cook supper. He was not a great cook. But we lived.

I only had the one brother. We played on the same football team one year. I remember he decided we should get into our football uniforms and he’d make me try to get past him in the narrow hallway of the house. (I never could-he was bigger and stronger than me.)

I lived at home until I was 24. I had it great. I had a wonderful relationship with my parents and they were always supportive of everything I did.

I did not meet my wife at an Elvis Impersonator show in Vegas. It was a George Carlin concert. (We’ll be married 29 years this October.)

 After a lifetime of asking other people about their lives, Mark, what is a question that you would ask of yourself?

Hmmm…that’s a tough and deep question. I guess I’d ask, “Have you done everything you’ve wanted to do?”

I don’t know the answer to that yet.

What are your top 5 albums of all time?

In no particular order:

  1. Abby Road-The Beatles
  2. Let It Be-The Beatles
  3. Captain Fantastic & The Brown Dirt Cowboy-Elton John
  4. Chicago II
  5. The Soundtrack to Hamilton

What are you top 5 songs of all time?

Tough list to come up with. But here’s what popped into my head and in no particular order:

  1. Reeling In The Years-Steely Dan
  2. Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me-Elton John
  3. Saturday In The Park-Chicago
  4. Piano Man-Billy Joel
  5. Hey Jude-The Beatles

Thank You For Coming To Our Show

It’s been over a week since our 40th Anniversary Greetergrammer show and so I’ve had some time to reflect. The idea to do a show was conceived about two years ago when I realized that 2022 would be the 40th Anniversary of when we started doing Greetergrammers. I didn’t know what the show would look like or who was actually going to be in it but nevertheless just forged ahead.

I wrote a show, rewrote a show, edited it and then changed it to what it became on June 30.

Originally, I thought we’d get the gang together, sit around a piano, sing a few songs and tell a few stories. That evolved into a full band performing a repertoire of the tunes we always used to do and then because I felt that each singer deserved to display their own special talents, everyone should pick a song they wanted to do.

With guys coming in from out of town it would be difficult to get everyone together at the same time. In fact, the only time that the entire band and all of the singers were ever together was on the day of the show.

My philosophy going into the Yates that night was to just have some fun and try to nail some harmonies. It was kind of the mantra of what the Greetergrammers did. I like to call it guerilla harmony tactics. We just attacked the music. We never really looked at notes on a page, we just felt the music-like the “think method” in Music Man.

Did we hit all the right notes?

Absolutely not.

Did we screw up?

Yes we did.

Did it matter.

Not really.

The beauty of what happened last Thursday was that a bunch of friends got together much like in the backyard of someone’s house and had a party.

Thankfully, the audience was on board.

It was a wonderful feeling to get a big ovation when we came out doing our “Boom chuck-a-lucka” entrance.

We got nice applause after every song we did and actually got some laughs from the jokes. (Some bigger laughs than others-alas, the plight of trying to do comedy.)

I think what came across on the night from everyone who performed was not only the joy of being there, but the sincerity of that joy. We all truly loved doing Greetergrammers and we all really like each other.

Other highlights for me was hearing Rhonda Dawes speak about her decision to donate a kidney after being inspired by the Logan Boulet effect. And, of course it was an honor having Toby and Bernie Boulet wax eloquently about their wonderful son. There were a few tears in the house. I wasn’t aware that our bass player Randy Paskuski’s son played hockey with Logan. And I also didn’t realize there was a friendship with our lead guitar player Mark Boh and the Boulets. It just added to how special the night was.

The guys surprised me at the end of the night by giving me a huge bouquet of flowers and singling me out for putting together the show. While I appreciated the gesture, me without them is like the sound of one hand clapping-not great. It was always a collaborative effort.

We haven’t got the final tallies in but it looks like we’ll be able to donate about $6,000 to the Logan Boulet Endowment Fund.

And so, trying not to sound like someone who just won something at an award show I have to thank the great band we had: Bente Hansen, Mark Boh, Randy Paskuski, Neil Sheets, and Don Robb.

Of course, thanks to the guys: Thad Mandin, Mike Day, George Gallant, Mark Ward, Mark Switzer (there were too many Marks in the show), Lyndon Bray, Lloyd Pollock and Dave Mikuliak.

Thanks to Jason Eveleigh for the sound and lighting.

Thanks to New West Theatre for helping us make this happen at the Yates.

And ESPECIALLY, thank you to the audience who came to the show and supported us.

The Trials & Tribulations of Traveling

I’ve learned over the years when you do any traveling, you should always expect that something is probably going to go wrong. With that mindset, you’re mentally prepared and you can take a deep breath and figure out how to deal with it. When I travel internationally there’s always a little more added fear that in a worse-case scenario I end up in an interrogation room being told that I’m going to spend ten years in jail. That may be a bit extreme but I’m never totally comfortable going through security and customs. I don’t really relax until the trip is over and I’m in bed watching Jimmy Fallon.

Our grandson, Dylan graduated from High School in Ventura, California back on June 16. We booked a flight to be there. Since the last time we flew to the States they added the need for 24 hour Covid testing and of course you have to have the ArriveCanada app. Just what I need. More stress. Our fight was on Wednesday, June 15th. The previous Sunday it was announced that people flying into the US from Canada no longer needed the 24-hour Covid test done. Yay!!! One less thing to worry about.

I downloaded the ArriveCanada app and was ready to fill it all in 72 hours before our return to Canada.

So…..we drove up to Calgary, stayed the night on the 14th and took an early morning cab to the airport. We decided to pay the $10 per night fee to park in the garage of the hotel instead of parking at the airport. We thought it would be cheaper. The $50 cab-ride made us regret that decision since it’s $15 a night at the airport.

We got to the airport. A lovely gal there helped us to check in on one of the kiosks. She helped us load our luggage and we were sent to the security. So far, so good. I showed my passport. All good. My wife shows her passport.

Hmm.

Hmm.

Hmm..

“This passport says you reported it lost.”

Oh, shit.

It was true. We did report it lost. And we got a new one. And then we found the old one.

Both passports were in the same spot. I took the wrong one.

Oh boy.

We were asked to go into the backroom. Oh, geez. This could be my 10 years in jail scenario.

It was determined that we would be let into the US but he seized the passport. He gave us a photo-copy and said, talk to the airline before boarding your flight.

The airline let us on.

But. What about getting back?

As soon as we got to our destination I called my daughter and told her to go to our house, find the right passport and overnight it to us.

She found the passport and since it was late in the day, she would go to Purolator the next day.

It was on a Thursday that she called back and said, “You’ll get your passport on Monday at 10:30.”

Damn.

“Our Flight leaves on Monday. Can you ask if it can get here sooner?”

“They can get it to you by 9am.” She said.

“OK. Just do it.” I said.

“That will be $248.” She said.

“Aaaaaah!!!” I said.

Upon further reflection, even if they said they would get it to us by 9am, there’s a chance it won’t and we will miss our flight. Especially since we have to go an hour in traffic to LAX.

So we were able to change the flight to the next day.

The passport showed up at 8am.

We probably could have made it.

Or not.

Lesson: Bring the right passport, dummy.

A Chat With Award-Winning Author Darcy Tamayose

I had the great pleasure of working with Darcy Tamayose at Global TV for many years where she plied her craft as a graphic artist. Not only was she exceptionally talented at her job, we found out she is an extraordinary author. She has two books to her name: Odori, and a youth fiction book, Katie Be Quiet. She received a Canada-Japan Literary Award and has been shortlisted for both the Alberta Writer’s Guild Georges Bugnet Award and Foreword Indie Juvenile Award. She now has a new book called Ezra’s Ghosts. She took the time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions.

How would you describe what your life was like growing up in Lethbridge?

Life growing up in Lethbridge through the lens of a northsider: memories of Galbraith, Senator Buchanan, Wilson, and Winston Churchill; walking and bicycling everywhere across the city from Dave Elton ball field to the Sportsplex (Enmax) to the downtown core of Kresge/Woolworths/Eatons, up the west side hill when transit buses had yet to be assigned, and then back to the northside. There were five of us siblings with sub-circles of friends, classmates, teammates, and acquaintances. Life growing up in Lethbridge included making the most of winter and ice. In early years we lived on 12A Street North only a short walk away from the Buchanan schoolyard where there was a ball diamond for the summer and an outdoor rink for the winter—five kids across the alley and five in our family made up teams. My dad would frame the garden area in the winter and flood it for an ice rink. He encouraged participation and would often shovel a section of snow off Henderson Lake to skate on. As a teen we lived in a home flanked on one side by the Schroeder’s and on the other by the Wiskerke’s and on a street where hockey was played. Memories comprised of many April Wine concerts, tobogganing down the coulees, Winston Churchill’s smokeroom, the Lotus Inn, Capri’s YBC, piano lessons, Westminster Pool, the public library, and a close circle of friends: June MacFarlane (Burt), Shelley Metzger (Barva), Charlotte Kirk (Keturakis), and Joni Kwan. In a material sense we didn’t have a lot growing up, yet in thinking back it seems in terms of relationship and community we had everything that mattered.

Was it important to your parents to teach you and your siblings about your Japanese history and culture?

Okinawan and Japanese culture didn’t seem an intentional teaching or focus, simply part of being in a larger family and doing social activities that reflected the island way of life.  Because my mom was raised in Okinawa from the age of two to 17, she came back to Canada (she was born in Hardieville in 1935) with an island sensibility. Memories of culture that are distinct include Okinawan dance lessons every year through fall and winter either in our kitchen, Kelly’s Confectionary (Min and Jim Kanashiro’s store), or Jack Miyagi’s basement. Participants in the program would practice skits, sanshin playing and singing, various levels and styles of odori, and plan the huge potluck banquet (food always central) in preparation for the annual keirokai celebration that honoured the elderly Okinawan issei in Lethbridge and area at the Rainbow Hall—there must have been close to two hundred people from the Okinawan families in southern Alberta and beyond attending on an annual basis. There were picnics complete with ball games, pinatas, various race competitions, a tug-of-war, and again a potluck. Throughout the year gatherings in homes, get-togethers for planning sessions, painting backdrops for performances at halls and churches, and regular gaji games. We were very close to the aunties and uncles, gisans and basans many of whom originated from the 1907 Okinawan Canadian labour diaspora.

It was over the last decade when I received formal education in Okinawan and Japanese history/culture through undergrad and grad studies under the supervision of Gideon Fujiwara, Carly Adams, Darren Aoki, and recently Jason Laurendeau and Gregory Smits.

When did you first realize you had a knack for writing stories?

I was a graphic designer and illustrator first. Taking up writing was a way to stay in the creative arts field in order make a living—writing copy for advertising campaigns, journalistic efforts, and fiction manuscripts was something that I thought might be of value in my communication arts toolbox. I attended the Alberta College of Art in Calgary (ACA, now known as Alberta University of the Arts) after high school because of my love for drawing. That was before computers and all the Adobe software design products that I use now, so the process back then was all by hand—paper and pencil. When I left ACA and came back to Lethbridge, trying to make a living in southern Alberta as a graphic designer/illustrator was very difficult. It was in the mid-80s working with publisher Paul Byrne at Lethbridge Magazine when the writing skills began to develop. During this time, I tried my hand at producing a novel-length manuscript. In the early 2000s I took a creative writing course from Alex Kizuk at the University of Lethbridge. As part of the grade, he encouraged the class to submit our writing to publishing houses. I sent away the beginnings of Odori (my first published novel) to a press in Toronto called Cormorant Books. Publisher Marc Côté had such a trust in my writing and the story about Okinawa—it turned out to be the first novelistic telling of the Okinawan diaspora in Canada and received the Canada-Japan Literary Award.

You had tremendous success with your previous books Odori and Katie Be Quiet. How satisfying was that for you and does it give you more confidence or more pressure going into another project to make sure it’s as good as the previous work?

It’s been over a decade between the publication of Odori (2007)/Katie Be Quiet (2008) and Ezra’s Ghosts (2022). Within this timeframe, I continued to write stories and amass plenty of rejections but just kept writing and editing. I will always remember the work on Ezra’s Ghosts writing the sentences, shaping and revising storyline, developing characters, describing landscapes, and the work of polishing. There is something bittersweet about finishing and saying goodbye to the process and world of a story that you’ve become so intimate with—when it leaves the manuscript form and turns into a book. You almost want to go right into another to fill the void.

What inspired you to write your new book Ezra’s Ghosts?

The first book, Odori, was a fictionalized version of my mom’s experience as a kika nisei (a person who is born in Canada, leaves for Japan, and returns later) and the Battle of Okinawa which years later I revisioned under the supervision of Gideon Fujiwara into an oral history-scaffolded master’s thesis. With this new book, I wanted to write something that was inspired by my dad, so I wrote “The Ryukyuan” which was initially intended to be a hybridic literary graphic novel—and somewhere in the move from one northside home to the other I misplaced my portfolio of illustrations. The story eventually went from the idea of graphic novel to novella. I sent this story to Matt Bowes at NeWest Press and he liked it enough to ask me if I had more short stories for a collection. Matt waited for each of the three other stories to be written over the course of several years. It was my dad who inspired me with the beginnings of Ezra’s Ghosts with that first story “The Ryukyuan” and Matt who encouraged my writing process by faithfully waiting for each story.

Can you give us a brief overview of what the book is about?

Ezra’s Ghosts is an imagined world layered with a quiet kind of horror.

Though seemingly diverse in storyline different parts of the Ezra’s Ghosts collection of four stories do quietly inform one another—the Ryukyu islands; arrivals and departures circling Ezra; intersections of graphic design and illustration; the academic journey; and an underlying haunting. The storyline at the beginning of the book connects directly to the story at the end of the book by a main character who is granted opportunity to study in the East China Sea region where his research centers on a disputed cluster of uninhabited islands that situate in the complex geo-political crosshairs of China, Taiwan, Japan, and (by way of military occupation) the United States. “The Thesis” fast-forwards to the 2044 post-pandemic landscape of “Redux”, the final story of the collection. In this timeframe of skin wars and geographical cosmetics it is possible to reanimate dead loved ones through two processes that include HoloG: mere facsimile or Self-manifestation: a full-fledged resurrection. In addition, the Ryukyu islands, part of the 2019 research foci, have twenty years later begun a strange process of ascension over the East China Sea. “The Thesis” and “Redux” serve to flank the murder mystery, “Ghostfly” and the magical realism of “The Ryukyuan”.

You continue to have a thirst for knowledge in your life. Where does that come from?

I think it just seems that way because I’m doing things a bit unconventionally: work for first part of life then university education for latter. In addition, I’m very much aware that the generations before me (whether here on the prairies or across the ocean in Okinawa) did not have opportunities for education that I have had especially with working in a university setting with deans, supervisors, and friends who have encouraged me to “keep going” with my studies from the moment I began working for the Faculty of Education—people like Jane O’Dea, Craig Loewen, Gideon Fujiwara, Carol Knibbs, Elizabeth McLachlan, Elaine Toth, Carly Adams, Darren Aoki, and so many more. I am also influenced by a significant moment: John Price from the University of Victoria once invited me to speak to his class, they were assigned Odori as a course text. While in Victoria he arranged a luncheon for me with a group who had been attending the University of British Columbia prior to Japan’s 1941 Pearl Harbor incident. These folks, though Canadians and not responsible for the actions, were expelled from university. The 80-year-old lady sitting beside me had, after being expelled when young, returned to university and was working on her PhD. That moment impacted.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to attend university and gain theoretical and methodological knowledge, at the same time I have an abiding respect for the hands-on knowing that tradesmen and labourers possess. I think that kind of knowledge is priceless.

What’s your writing process? Do you lock yourself in a room for a month? Do you write bits and pieces or does everything just manage to flow out for you?

With Ezra’s Ghosts my writing process was influenced by my grad studies and specifically the academic close read of texts and immersive essay-writing. Though I thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the academic journey sometimes after working on a paper I’m ready for the freedom to write fiction. Creative momentum can be generated through academic texts that inspire, and the decentering and oppression of that creative state caused sometimes by academic study can produce an intense urge to write fiction. Tension can be valuable in the writing process.

I write most productively in the winter. Good ideas can brew while shoveling snow in the early morning hours. At the kitchen table around 5:00 am is the best time to write. Coffee. Quiet.

Would you like to see your material turn into a movie? If so, do you have actors in mind?

A movie: that would be so much fun, wouldn’t it? Or would it? Not so sure. If by slim chance there was an opportunity to turn Ezra’s Ghosts into a movie my dream director, Denis Villeneuve—stunning how he adapted Ted Chiang’s short story into the film, Arrival.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Favourite authors:

Kazuo Ishiguro, Olga Tokarczuk, Maryanne Robinson, Haruki Murakami, Zadie Smith, and Ted Chiang

Just for fun, name your top 5 music albums of all time.

Favourite albums (ACA and Jean Jungle/Sam the Record Man days):

1. Songs from the Big Chair—Tears for Fears

2. London Calling—The Clash

3. Armed Forces—Elvis Costello and the Attractions

4. Life During Wartime—Talking Heads

5. Learning to Crawl—The Pretenders

Do you have another idea for a book or is that something you just can’t talk about until it’s done?

I’m not sure yet.

What do you want your readers to take away from your stories?

I’m just thankful that a reader will take the time with any of my writing.

What would you like to say to future authors who just need a little push to do what you’ve been able to do?

Three ideas that may resonate:

1. Read good books/texts a couple times—once for enjoyment and then again for study. If you are a nerd like me dissect the book: I highlight and marginalia-ize in order to find entry point of interest, gain clarity, and to maintain focus.

2. Watch good movies a couple times: once for enjoyment and again for study. Turn on subtitles to learn the natural flow of dialogue; art direction might help with descriptives; be conscious of how soundtrack affects scene; recognize how you’re impacted by lighting and cinematography.

3. Take a quality writing course that encourages you to produce a story or work on one that you’ve already drafted. Getting published is an incredible feeling but enjoying the process of putting words to paper is the cornerstone.

Where can we get your book?

NeWest Press: https://bookshop.newestpress.com/products/ezras-ghosts

Analog Books

University of Lethbridge Bookstore

Chapters: https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/ezras-ghosts-stories/9781774390474-item.html?ikwid=ezra%27s+ghosts&ikwsec=Home&ikwidx=0#algoliaQueryId=a592cb160a5a64c1365e1399bf60fc6d

Final thoughts?

In Grade 7 at Wilson Junior High, June MacFarlane (Burt) and I were so excited when we got to interview you for the school newspaper. You worked for 1090 CHEC back then and known as The Boogeyman. I wonder if you’d allow June and I to interview you for your blog. I think she has a copy of that original interview we did.

(I would be happy to. Just don’t ask the tough questions.)