It probably seems like my whole summer vacation was a vacation, but I worked too, just not like I did in Vancouver before summer vacation started. That was one of the points of moving to Victoria. Most of my work once I moved to Victoria was freelance writing for two companies. One was Yellow Pages Media, which did not involve selling advertising or the delivering or burning of phone books. I interviewed owners of local businesses and asked them to tell me about their life path to opening their micro brew pub or how they screen printed their first batch of greeting cards or how they concocted the recipe for that mango tempeh arugula salad everyone’s lining up around the block on Main Street for. I also took pictures of them and their store and then wrote the article and then it got posted to YP.ca. The initiative behind these was to beef up the business’s existing directory listing and give it more Internet presence.
I liked learning about the faces behind small companies and how they got to where they are. Most of them started out working in a tall office building with people staring at their phones in an elevator and casual Fridays. I still write for Yellow Pages.
The other company I wrote for this summer is called Hootsuite Media. In May I ran into a fellow I hadn’t seen in ages at the Alibi Room and said hello, I haven’t seen you in ages! He said the same thing and what are you up to and I said I just quit two jobs and I’m moving to Victoria soon and what are you up to? He said have you heard of Hootsuite and I said more like Who-tsuite? and laughed because Vancouver. He said I am the managing editor for their blog and I said cool! Do you need a writer? Which made me sweaty because I’m awkward and terrible at asking for things on the spot when it comes to writing work. He said yes in a non-sarcastic tone, but inside I thought he probably just wanted to end the conversation. So we jabbered a bit more and went our own ways. I followed up with him a few days later with some writing samples and then about a month after that he needed a writer and asked if I was available and I squealed in real life and typed a professional YES in an email reply. So I wrote for the Hootsuite blog about things like Instagram and how many hundreds of millions of users it has and how your company can leverage them and its apps better and faster and the best practices to employ so more people know about your company.
I got Twitter notifications several times per day for a long time telling me a handle like Get2Media_420 has followed me or InstaHitz_Now has mentioned me and retweeted an article like “6 Quick Tips To Up Your Instagram Game.”
On my summer vacation, I gained upward of 20 new Twitter followers.
I also did media relations for a music and arts festival called Ponderosa. I wrote press releases and arranged interviews with bands and radio stations and newspapers and arranged advertising and wrote blog posts and helped Kris and Kia, the two best-bud founders, any way I could. I started working for Ponderosa 2 years ago and still work for them. You should come next year.
When you’re 32 and sleeping on the hide-a-bed in your mom’s spare room and someone asks what you do and you tell them you’re a freelance writer for a phone book company and a company that makes media for social media and do media relations for a small indie music festival, turns out conversations get awkward sometimes. If you ever find yourself in this situation, soak the moment in. It’s good creative fodder and you can’t make stuff like that up. Also, consider pursuing a master’s degree. Conversations about work got a bit lighter when I could tack that on.
The thing about writing from home and walking LB and sorting life out is that it is not social in a way that most humans are social on a normal day. So when one day my friends Jenni and Brendan who run Harvest Road, a former Lion’s Club trailer converted into a bustling stationary counter service farm-to-table grill in the middle of the vast fields on the Saanich Peninsula, asked if I could fill in one weekend while they were short staffed, I said yes. It was going to be very busy and they needed extra help. I would stand inside at the counter on one side of the window and people would line up and tell me one of 6 menu items they’d like and I’d agree that was an excellent choice and write it down according to Harvest Road Writing Guidelines and take their money and return their change or card and their drink if they ordered one and tear the order out of the book and turn around and put the ticket in the ticket holder and call order then Jenni and Brendan would start making it. The guest would sit down until their order was called and pick it up from the other end of the counter and eat it. I’d do that again until nobody was lined up and then wash some dishes or stock the teeny fridge with pop or talk with Jen and Bren and make rap names for the ketchup bottle or the steel grill spatula like L’il Squeezy or Big Flippy.
I did all that well enough on the days they needed an extra body that they invited me to come back for some regular shifts. They are very particular about Harvest Road and worked really hard to launch it in May and had a vision to create something personal and special to share with their community and they did it. When they asked me to come back I felt happy and said yes.
I liked that I got to talk to people at Harvest Road even if it was mostly what can I get for you today? and the Harvest Burger is definitely the most popular! a hundred times in an hour because sometimes I’d go for several days without speaking any language except dog or parent and sometimes you just need to laugh with friends no matter how much you’re getting paid or how many times you have to ask would you like to sub the hand cut kennebec potato chips for fries for only $2.50 more? I hadn’t spent much time with Jenni since their Nicaragua wedding 2 years ago and many hangs with Brendan in years prior to that involved bickering over songs the Plain White Tees actually sang or the Internet being smarter than me and generally reinforcing our disdain for each other. This time we all just laughed together about cyclists not locking their cycles to the cycle rack and how twice-fried fries are made. I loved the Harvest Road part of my summer vacation.
On my summer vacation, I spent more time on a boat in the boardwalk village where I grew up called Telegraph Cove, population 6, with my dad than I had in over 10 years. I visited twice this summer totalling almost 3 weeks, once for work and once for play.
For work, I spent a week and a half as their deckhand/naturalist on the tours my dad and stepmom Mary ru on the Gikumi, the 60 foot wooden, freight-turned-whale watching boat that’s been in the family since 1980. They’d hired someone to come and work for them for the whole summer, but circumstances changed and he had to leave early. They found a replacement for most of the trips except one so they asked me because I’m certified appropriately and I think they wanted to put me to work and help me out. I said yes because my schedule allowed it and I could use the money and I enjoy working on the boat and I wanted to help them. Whether they asked a bunch of other people first or not, I was glad they asked me.
I worked two separate tours for them. The first was a private charter by a photographer from Scotland who was visiting Telegraph Cove with his family of 8 specifically to photograph whales and wildlife for a nature magazine he published in the UK. They chartered the Gikumi for 3 days, just them. The photographer’s partner was a veterinarian, as was her sister-in-law. There were 3 teens in the group, 2 of whom were under 16 and had swam across the English Channel. The other had a menagerie of pets like dogs and cats and rats and turtles and birds and lizards and 20 snakes. They all liked crisps a lot and when it was foggy one morning and took a while to find anything other than beds of bull kelp, they bundled up and sat on the back deck with tea and kept a lookout in case we saw anything.
We saw humpbacks and killer whales and Dall’s porpoise and Pacific White-Sided dolphins and a black bear on the beach flipping gigantic rocks like they weighed as much as styrofoam. My dad slowed the boat and got as close to the shore as he could without running aground told us to be quiet because sound travels quickly over water and everyone pulled out their mega telephoto lenses and snapped thousands of pictures.
The bear carried on flipping rocks and didn’t seem to mind us.
When their tour ended, we all shook hands and wished each other well and said come back soon. They went fishing too before they left to go home and caught too much and gave us an entire salmon.
The next tour was one of their last week-long all-inclusives, where they hosted 11 guests for 6 nights, B&B style at their house. The guests were from Florida (2 realtors, a real estate lawyer, and a nurse), Wales (2 social workers and a fellow who might’ve headlined Wembley Stadium before his hair turned silver); Edmonton (2 classical music teachers); and Trinidad and Tobago (a lesbian couple who owned a chain of petrol stations).
Mary and her assistant made breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks everyday for everyone from scratch. I got up at 6 am everyday and drank my coffee on the back deck of the Gikumi, where I was sleeping in a bunk. One morning, it was so silent and the sunlight had just started to bounce off the flat calm water and a pod of killer whales swam by, about 100 metres from where I sat on the boat drinking my coffee.
After coffee, I prepped the boat for the day. I made coffee and boiled water and tightened the lines so the boat was flush with the dock and guests couldn’t fall in. Then my dad and I spent 8 hours on the boat each day, where he did his captain thing, I did the first mate thing, and we shared duties on eating at least 1.5 of Mary’s muffins everyday in addition to the fresh hot soup and sandwiches and cookies that came aboard. I served food and washed dishes and talked with the guests or squealed giddily about the wildlife we’d see, like a pod of killer whales spyhopping incessantly through a tide rip for over an hour, or a humpback mom and calf that my dad found in the middle of a teeny clearing of 0/0 fog that proceeded to breach every 30 seconds for a half hour, between 100 and 2 metres from the boat, or several hundred Pacific White-Sided dolphins chasing us down the straight.
I think my dad and Mary worked about 20 hours everyday and the other 4 they were having nightmares about how much work they had to get up and do in less than 4 hours. Hosting and catering and captaining and cleaning and organizing 11 people all day everyday all is a feat of stamina and commitment, no matter how many times a humpback calf breaches. After I worked that trip with them, my respect for their work ethic and patience skyrocketed. I’d worked for them before, but it was always daily trips with different groups that were less personal and far less involved.
After the trip was over and the guests left and we all went wheeeeeeeeewph and my dad and Mary and I hugged a lot. I packed my things off the boat and into my car. Mary made me a salmon sandwich for the road and we said our goodbyes. I cued up DS2 by Future and then Hello, I Must Be Going by Phil Collins and then Shamebirds by Needles//Pins and finally Shots by Ladyhawk, which I figured would get me to Parksville for a pitstop and I began my drive back to Victoria.