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no. 20/21: high school
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Andrew Aikenhead Summer Bilsky Rachel Burns Roland Campbell Meredyth Cole Michelle Reid Cyca Alyssa Day Sarah Ens Alice Fleerackers
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I recently moved into a new apartment and found myself without Internet for a week. To numb my brain after a long day’s work (until I had Netflix again), I broke out my copy of The O.C. on DVD. It’s been years since I watched the show, but I admit how much I still enjoy Seth Cohen’s quick quips and Marissa Cooper’s mood swings. Hardly anyone would choose to go back to high school, and yet, many of us obsess over those years: the music, the fashion, the d-r-a-m-a. It’s fun to look back, cringing and laughing at who we once were. All of the angst, hormones, and emotions seem comical now. Maybe that’s why it’s still so much fun to watch teen shows. Not everyone’s high school experience was a positive one, though, and I can’t imagine being a teenager in today’s Instagram world. With our High School issue, we don’t aim to make light of the teen experience; in fact, we hope what we’ve done is validate it. It’s easy as adults to patronize squealing 14-year-old girls or sweaty 16-year-old boys. But you won’t find that here. What we offer instead are interviews with Shamir, Dan Savage, and Ivan Coyote; stories on lunch and love; and essays on virginity, reunions, and religion. We also have SAD Mag’s first foray into poetry, and are proud to feature the writing of some local high school students. All that, plus plenty of amazing illustrations and photographs by some of our community’s finest. Because thats what this is: a community. Need a friend?
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LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Confidence, Cohen. —sara harowitz, Editor in Chief
contributing photographers Matthew Burditt Jordan Houston Ryan Ming Samuel Olsen George Reagh Pamela Rounis Jennifer Truong Jourdan Tymkow Gloria Wong
contributors to sadmag.ca Michelle Allin Sarah Bakke
on the cover
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Realm of Convenience 2, Oil on Canvas
Seasoned High Schoolers
By Chris Woods
Max Medina (and other teachers)
Photographed by Sam Olsen
Roland Campbell Katherine Chan Meredyth Cole Paula Duhatschek Nana Heed Sagal Kahin
board of directors Maryam Bagheri Anthony Casey
Brassneck Brewery Carling Borne Clubcard
Shannon Tien Helen Wong
Pamela Sheppard Daniel Zomparelli
Phillips Beer Proper Design Real Vancouver Writers Series Space at 552 Clark Lauren Zbarsky
what’s in this issue? Current High Schoolers
M AT T H E W B U R D I T T
ALICE FLE E RACKE R S
G LOR IA WONG
J E A N PAU L L A N G L O I S
Matthew is an image maker with a passion for intimate editorial, portrait, and fashion photography. He believes his dharma is to assist in the abstraction and diversification of fundamental forms of beauty. He currently lives and works in Vancouver, actively engaging and developing the fashion industry. See his work online at matthewburditt.org
Alice is a writer, editor, and casual doodler living in East Vancouver. Currently, she is one half of SAD Mag’s web editing team and a (mostly) dedicated student at Simon Fraser University. She loves picture books, vegetarian cooking experiments, and the occasional Korean drama. See her work online at sadmag.ca
Gloria is a Vancouver-based photographer and videographer whose work has been published in Local Wolves Magazine. Her work aims to create a narrative of youth culture and explore our relationship with the spaces that we occupy. She is 17 years old and attends Pacific Academy in Vancouver. Find her on Instagram at @gggloriawong
Jean Paul is a Métis artist who currently paints from his home studio in East Vancouver. He enjoys Spaghetti Westerns, obnoxious T-shirts, and hanging out with his dog, Fred. His newest body of work titled “Regret Hunters” opens in February 2016 at IPaintmyMind Gallery in Chicago. Find him online at jeanpaullanglois.ca
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table of contents
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Like a Virgin exploring the before, during, and after your first time Digital Get Down learning about sex from Internet chat rooms A is for Acceptance how high schools have progressed on queer issues Art by Zed Alexandria
Let’s Talk About Sex an interview with Dan Savage The Final 15 Percent notes from the Grade 11 frontier High School in Colombia definitely not Beverly Hills, 90210
Dispatches snapshots of high school life
Centre Stage Rose Butch takes drag in a new direction Mini Schools a case for alternative education Poetry by Esther McPhee
All that Glitters high school is where this artist cut his teeth
sadmag.ca | firstname.lastname@example.org | Instagram @sadmagazine facebook.com/sadmag | twitter.com/sadmag Share your high school memories with us! #SADHIGH
Ghost World an interview with garage band Dead Ghosts Art by Andres Kal
The Parent Trap reflecting on your high school self with your parents SAD Mag Rules 2016 calendar
The Valedictorian interview with pop musician Shamir One in Every Gymnasium Ivan Coyote on storytelling in high schools Sisterhood of the Travelling Diary one journal, three girls Photography by Gloria Wong
Have a Good Life contemplating the 10-year high school reunion
SAD Mag is published two times per year by the SAD Magazine Publishing Society 1-3112 Windsor St. Vancouver, BC V5T 4B1 Distribution coordinated by Disticor
Master Chef 15-year-old culinary prodigy Victor Mangas Adventures in Catholicism attending a religious high school The Outsiders what high school was like for a mother and son Election student council politics are crazier than you think prdictfy
a grown-up version of the mash game Photography by George Reagh
Art by Kyle Buds
ISSN 1923-3566 Contents © 2016 SAD Mag All rights reserved.
Exploring the before, during, and after your first time.
On a spring recess in Grade 6, my friends and I gathered by a little tree in the schoolyard that was growing through the chain-link fence surrounding the property. We were all Mennonite kids growing up in our mostly Mennonite village in the centre of Canada, and we were just starting to learn about the temptations that come along with puberty. The fence separated the elementary school from the high school, and that coming September would see us take part in the customary migration to the other side of the schoolyard. We stuck our fingers through the links, pulling back against the thin metal, and took turns sitting on the exposed tree limb that curled into our childhood sanctuary. We promised each other that next year, when we were all grown up, we would still be friends. We would be friends forever. We would tell each other our secrets. And we wouldn’t smoke. We wouldn’t drink alcohol. We definitely wouldn’t have sex with boys.
I remained a virgin throughout high school, just like I promised. And then, when I was 19 years old, I lost my virginity. Twice.
As soon as I got home I took a shower, feeling stupid, feeling violated, feeling a little bit in love, feeling like a cliché. I wrote the boy a bunch of letters I never gave him and then I just kept dating him, and when it was time to have sex again he told me that actually we hadn’t had sex yet—we had tried that night but he had been too drunk. By the time I actually had sex for the first time, my virginity already felt long gone. The story of virginity I grew up with, in which it is defined by a physical boundary and bound by a holy promise, had stopped making sense to me.
The morning after the first time, I woke up hungover beside the guy that I was seeing. I tried to put together the puzzle of what had happened the night before, each piece feeling like a kick to the stomach. I remembered his thighs, and being shocked that they were so white. I remembered him being on top of me and thinking, “Wow, this is going to happen now.”
As I found out, there is more than one story of virginity, and more than one way of understanding how it impacts, empowers, and controls people. Wanting to learn more about the different ways we experience our first times, I spoke with four friends about vulnerability, trust, self-expression, self-preservation, and whatever the word virginity means, anyway.
Julia’s hair is a light, greasy blue and she wears a big grey sweater while lying on a bed full of stuffed animals. She grew up on a tiny island off the West Coast of BC and, a child of the forest and sea, was “a bit obsessed with sex” in high school. She never considered saving her virginity to be particularly important or interesting, and never felt pressure from her family or church to wait until marriage. However, the opportunity to have sex didn’t arise until the summer after her second year of university. Julia is delighted with the story of her first time, and spends 40 minutes describing a summer music festival on Cortez Island. The tale features mushrooms, mdma, beer, a “princess fairy tent” she made out of floral sheets, “little to no foreplay,” and a guy’s pants around his ankles. Julia smiles and says that she was “just fine” with the situation, and the only thing that concerned her was that the tent was too small for her to lie down in without her feet sticking out. She tells me that the guy penetrated her and then “like two seconds later got soft and the condom was being stupid and we couldn’t get it to work again—condom or penis.” Later that same night, after her unsatisfying but confidence-building first time, Julia successfully pursued a second boy that she had been eyeing for a while, and had “gentle and attentive” sex with him.
Nicole, who grew up in the same village as I did, confirms that the expectations regarding virginity were clear: “You date, you get married, you have sex.” I smile because it’s true—I have the “be radical, be virgin” stickers, handed to me at a school assembly, to prove it. She sits cross-legged, twirling her straightened blonde hair with her pointer finger as her ring finger sparkles with an engagement diamond.
Once we got to high school, we realized that not having sex was the easiest thing in the world. Half the boys we knew couldn’t even talk to girls for fear of sinning and the other half were not at all interested in the bodies that we ourselves were just discovering—hiding and flaunting between first shaves, first zits, first bras.
Nicole always knew that her parents wanted her to wait until she was married to have sex because “virginity is important to treasure and value,” but she felt that the expectation came without an explanation. The church she attended in town—one of four—also never really talked about sex. Nicole, steadfast in her choices, is baffled: “It was always like, sex is bad, but all of a sudden once you’re married, sex is good.” Until she met Jason, now her fiancé, she planned on losing her virginity once she was engaged. But her ideas around virginity changed when she began dating Jason at age 22 and felt drawn to his convictions surrounding sex. She started to believe that intercourse could be both pleasurable and holy if saved for marriage and followed “God’s design,” so they intend to wait.
Nicole used to worry a lot about the awkwardness of having sex for the first time on her wedding night, but she says those fears have disappeared. She laughs, and then winces a little. “For our first kiss, Jason went for an open mouth and I went for a closed mouth and it was just like … awkward noises happened,” she says. “But it was perfect. I think our first time having sex is going to be like that. Awkward but perfect at the same time.” Plus, Nicole isn’t going into it blind. She giggles when she tells me that she and Jason talk “maybe an unhealthy amount” about sex, but explains that they think these Julia purses her lips. “I guess I’ve had some sexual encounters that I wouldn’t discussions will help make them comfortable on their wedding night. She repeat, but I wouldn’t take them away, either.” She brushes her hair off her cheek, pauses and her eyes narrow behind her pink-framed glasses. “I guess I can’t scoops up the stuffed rabbit beside her, and runs its fuzzy ear through her fingers. fully anticipate how it will feel to no longer be able to identify as a virgin,” she “One thing I would say is that the idea that your virginity is something precious admits. I wonder what she’ll feel, too—whether she’ll mourn a loss of purity, and something to be saved can be harmful,” she says. “The concept behind that like I did, or simply feel loved. But Nicole isn’t worried. “I do know that it will is that innocence is more valuable than experience. And that’s a hindering idea be interesting to figure that out,” she says with a shrug. “And Jason and I will both be doing it together.” when it comes to growth.” At this point, Julia’s recollection slows. “It wasn’t as pleasurable as I expected it to be,” she says, her eyes serious. “It threw me for a loop. I was prepared to have sex, and it wasn’t a bad experience, but afterwards I still really liked the [second] guy. And for him it was just casual sex. It wasn’t a big deal. And he didn’t really know me and then I realized, ‘Oh yeah, I don’t really know him, either.’”
jak at all. One reason she waited until her second year of university to sleep with someone was because of the way she felt guys “wanted me to do them a favour, but expected it instead of asking.” She “didn’t want to give the guy power by saying yes.” Laura was surprised that having sex wasn’t as intimate as she expected it to be—“I was way more intimate with guys that I was with before I had sex for the first time,” she says—and found that oral sex was more “penetrative and emotionally harder to overcome.” She waited two years after losing her virginity to give someone a blowjob for the first time. Laura finds it strange that we don’t discuss these kinds of things more as a society: “Sex is funny because it’s a thing that everyone talks about, but nobody talks about. Like poop.”
Jak gives me a crooked smile as they say, “I guess I’ve lost my virginity in a lot of ways.” Some firsts: the first time they were completely naked with a girl, the first time their partner at the time used a strap-on with them, even the first time they kissed a girl. “I will never forget that feeling of actually enjoying it and feeling something on the inside,” they say. Jak moved to my hometown just in time for high school, and had a harder time than Nicole or I did conforming to the expectations of the community. “I definitely felt guilt,” they tell me, their curly, bleached hair poking out from the turned-up brim of a German cycling hat. “But mostly just in the sense of wanting to have sex with a woman.” Jak, who identified as female in high school, believed that they were asexual because they thought heterosexual sex was the only option.
“It’s very rare to actually meet another gay girl who has never had sex with a man.”
On my 16th birthday, a boy—an adorable, good, church-going, Mennonite boy—bought me flowers and we went to the beach. He told me I looked good in my bikini and I giggled. I was intensely aware of my purity, my driven-snow virginity peeking out from my string bikini. Finally, I was going to get to decide how to use it.
Having grown up in our flat, prairie landscape of heteronormativity, Jak’s language surrounding virginity is, much like Nicole’s, based on the idea that virginity is a possession. They explain that “losing your virginity means losing a part of yourself,” and that the queer community they’re part of also grapples with the language of virginity; some people still consider Jak a virgin because they haven’t been penetrated by a man. “It’s very rare to actually meet another gay girl who has never had sex with a man,” they say, eyebrows raised.
In The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth, Monica Sjöö writes that the word virgin originally meant “not belonging to a man—a woman who was ‘one-in-herself.’” She explains that virginity “did not refer to sexual chastity, but sexual independence” and that it wasn’t until Christian men wrote the story of the Virgin Mary that the definition of the word changed to mean “sexually pure, chaste, never touched.” That day at the beach, my sense of self-ownership jostled against the influence of societal and Biblical narratives of virginity and female sexuality. Now, at 23, I am learning to undermine simplistic stories that portray virginity as something defined and undone by one penetrative act. I am starting to believe in first, second, and third times, and in the many stories told by people so one-in-themselves that they cannot be undone.
In their community, “firsts” are understood as an important part of coming out. “After I had sex I started telling people I was gay,” they recall. “That’s when I came out to my family because I was like, ‘This is a huge part of me, and I know who I am now.’ It was a huge deal.” Because losing their virginity was tied to discovering their identity, they were “really hung up” on the girl they slept with and felt “super gaga” but also “kind of bad.” They pause, and then shrug: “I had never let someone else touch me. It was very vulnerable.” Then, tugging on the brim of their hat and grinning, they add, “I guess you remember it with straight sex, as well. It’s just an important thing. It’s a big step into a part of human nature that awakens a lot of things in you.”
laura Laura’s dog, Sasha, has just had her ovaries taken out and is sprawled on the bed with a drowsy look in her eyes. Laura lies beside her on her stomach, giving Sasha a few gentle pats every few minutes; her feet, tucked into grey socks pulled over her jeans, wiggle back and forth behind her head. When I ask her what virginity means to her, she frowns. “That’s a hard question,” she says. “No one’s ever asked me that question. The word almost has a negative connotation to me because it comes with so many things that make girls scared.” Laura, who went to a private school in North Vancouver, grew up in a home that was pretty relaxed when it came to sex. Her dad always made jokes about it and her parents assumed that she became sexually active when she went to university. This assumption actually ended up weighing on her when she remained a virgin throughout her first year. She rolls her eyes. “Everyone talks about how sex is natural and everyone does it and blah, blah, blah,” she says. “But if you’re still a virgin you think, ‘If it’s so natural, why am I not doing it?’” She props her chin up on her hands and says that her first time “was kind of more like a ‘Fuck it.’ It was just kind of a laziness on my part and a persistence on his part.” And while there was a bit of build up, a bit of fear, “in the end, it was kind of boring. The whole thing. The emotions, the act.” Laughing a bit, she draws a flat line with her hand. “It was just like … plateau.” What Laura found more interesting was dealing with different levels of intimacy and power surrounding sex—things that don’t always have to do with virginity
DIGITAL GET DOWN Learning about sex from Internet chat rooms words by michelle reid cyca illustration by carling borne
I know that my era has passed because no one says “cybering” anymore. Today’s youth will never know the stuttering whine of a dial-up modem, or have to yell at their siblings, “Hang up the phone, I’m on the Internet!” And they certainly never visited a Spice Girls fanpage hosted by GeoCities or Angelfire. By the time I graduated from high school, these things were ancient history, and so too was my favourite hobby as a 13-year-old: cybersex with strangers.
men we were chatting with, who were equally likely to be perverse teens. We felt a little bad for them, maybe—they seemed so eager to believe that we were 21/F/Las Vegas (to our teenage sensibilities, Las Vegas seemed like a plausible hometown for a sexually voracious adult chat room visitor), stacked with double-Ds and no gag reflex.
I wasn’t just in it for laughs, though—I wanted to know how sex worked, but I was too scared to search A Guardian article from 2001 (when I was 13) for pornography on Ask Jeeves (RIP), and I was too captures the hysteria that parents felt at the thought embarrassed by my own ignorance to ask my peers, of their children being lured by Internet strangers who were similarly shy and uninformed. “Did you with twisted sexual desires: “You can ‘whisper’ know that when you have sex a boy puts his thing in to an individual, i.e. hold a private conversation you and pees?” a girl told me when we were both in with someone in a separate window, and these are the second grade, and I believed this to be a fact until uncensored. This is where the real danger lies—it the implications of a chat set me straight. is quite easy for a newcomer to say, for instance, that they are a 16-year-old lad, but in fact turn out to be In the AOL era, I was—to borrow from a hit song a 55-year-old paedophile”. As that old chestnut goes, at the time—not a girl, not yet a woman. I wasn’t on the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. Well, in ready to “do it”—the thought of any boy I know 2001, no one knew I was a curious prepubescent teen touching me with his hands, let alone his thing, was typing out blowjob-related phrases that were probably deeply horrifying—but I wanted to figure out the mechanics and understand the appeal. Besides, I even less coherent than my French homework. was vaguely convinced that everyone but me already Sometimes my friends and I conducted these chat knew how this stuff worked. No menacing Internet room liaisons collaboratively, with the same guilt- predator was scarier than the prospect of being left tinged enthusiasm with which we dialled prank calls behind while my friends mastered the art of the during sleepovers. We didn’t feel endangered by the movie theatre handjob.
Even to a 13-year-old, it was clear that cybersex was mostly about wish fulfillment, and even when I wasn’t quite sure what was going on I could make some educated guesses. “is it tight?” my chat partner might ask, and I would say, “yes nice but not too tight”, because I didn’t want to make it sound like a death grip. “how big r ur tits? 1 or 2 handfuls?” I estimated the space around my training bra and Girl Power T-shirt speculatively, then typed, “3 handfuls ;) ;) ;)”. Today’s teens are terrifying their parents by Snapchatting each other nudes; tomorrow’s teens will no doubt find a new cutting-edge way to pervert technology. The digital realm is the safe and familiar territory of teens, where their parents don’t know how to follow them. It’s the logical place to take your abstracted desires and curiosity about sex and enact them, before you are ready for the physical acts. It may not be a comfortable idea—my parents wouldn’t have been thrilled to know that I was upstairs on the family computer describing my heavily-fictionalized breasts to a stranger—but at least no one ever got pregnant from the Internet.
A IS FOR ACCEPTANCE How high schools have progressed on queer issues, according to a teacher by andrew aikenhead illustration by camille segur
For me and my fellow high school teachers, it’s a bit strange to be working with students who have never known a time before the Internet, or who can’t remember 9/11 because it happened before they were born. While it’s easy to observe changes in fashion, music, and slang (we’ve had debates over what the hell “on fleek” means), probably the most significant and dramatic cultural shift we’ve experienced firsthand is just how much progress has been made in regards to queer acceptance. For the past decade, we’ve taught in Surrey, a school district with a very poor track record when it comes to lgbtq+ issues. In 1997, it was the Surrey School Board that banned teacher James Chamberlain from including books about same-sex marriage in his classroom, and then spent over $1.2 million fighting the case, taking it all the way to the Supreme Court. When the first Gay-Straight Alliance in a Surrey school started up in 1999, it was promptly shut down by school authorities. However, just recently the school board passed an anti-homophobia regulation—a welcome (albeit gradual) evolution. Regardless of official policies, my fellow teachers and I have all noticed a huge difference in how teens deal with homophobia, even within the last few years. Whereas the number of “out” students seemed minuscule when I attended high school in the late 1990s, they now comprise a sizable and visible population, and many are members of a GayStraight Alliance at our school. Most of us include
a rainbow sticker somewhere in our classrooms, indicating that it is a lgbtq + friendly place. Today’s students seem to not only be comfortable with their sexuality, but are also proud to be who they are and in their own skin. Some students wear T-shirts that say, “Gay is the New Black”, or walk down the halls openly holding hands with their same-sex partner. Students can be vocal about queer issues without fear of reprisals, snickers, or eye rolls from their peers; the majority of straight students are accepting and don’t see it as an issue. When I was in school, using the word “gay” in a derogatory way or saying someone was a “fag” was as common as any other slang term; today, those actions would warrant roughly the same shocked response as saying the n-word. A gay colleague remembers when he was called a “faggot” in high school—by one of his teachers. Now, because it’s no longer viewed as something taboo, he noticed even some Grade 8 and 9 students are comfortable with coming out. Another colleague of mine remarked that she can’t remember the last time she heard a student say, “That’s so gay”—a huge departure from when she first started teaching. In a recent Socials 9 debate over school uniforms, one of my students said, “What if someone who was transgender didn’t feel comfortable having to dress a way that they didn’t identify with?” Her classmates nodded in agreement. I hadn’t even considered this point before, and was blown away with the
awareness, progressiveness, and genuine empathy of today’s teens. What is also remarkable is how many religious students differentiate between their own spiritual convictions and the importance of not infringing on the rights of others. A large number of my students are devoutly Catholic, yet are also “bffs” (best friends forever) with gay students. When asked about balancing religious convictions with tolerance, one said, “Being against gay marriage is something our parents might believe in, but because so many of our friends are ‘that way,’ we feel if you love someone, the government should not stop you from marrying them.” We are not so naïve to think that what we witness as teachers is necessarily the norm when students are unsupervised, or that homophobia is no longer an issue for lgbtq+ teens. Homophobia has largely moved online; my gay colleague who was bullied in person years ago thinks he would have had an even worse time if social media had existed. The need for anti-homophobia policies and the inclusion of queer issues in curricula is still obvious. Yet as a whole, it is remarkable to me just how much progress can be made in such a short timeframe. Since the baby boom, youth have always played large roles in social progressions and civil rights movements, and it’s pretty cool to witness one of these shifts happening each day in the classroom.
excerpt from graphic novel, A Good Place
: Art——Zed Alexandra
LET’S TALK ABOUT SEX An interview with Dan Savage by alice fleerackers illustration by adam cristobal
Sexual education. No two words could strike more thrill or mortification in my 14-year-old heart. The topic of choice at so many late night truth-or-dare sessions, sex was that thing growing up that everyone wanted to know about, but didn’t want to ask about. It was also that thing that no one—at least no one involved with the sexual education program at my high school—knew how to talk about. A comic about condom-themed action heroes was among the school’s more pleasant attempts to “teach” us; an animated video involving flying phalluses was definitely the worst. I’m not sure what would have happened if I hadn’t discovered Dan Savage’s sex advice column in Grade 11. Once a week, I would sheepishly flip to the back pages of The Georgia Straight where, between the steam room and escort ads, I found Savage Love. People of all sexual orientations, genders, and ages wrote in for advice about kinks and sexual quirks I’d never even heard of. And Savage replied to all of them earnestly—no matter how weird, funny, or disturbing they were. Everything was okay, at least as long as no one was getting hurt (without permission). And so, what started out as mere curiosity became my sexual saving grace. Even with all of the videos, comics, and awkward “educational” lectures I was shown in high school, it was Savage’s writing that really taught me about sex. Now, more than seven years later, I was given the chance to speak with Savage himself in advance of the Vancouver screening of his amateur porn festival, HUMP! Needless to say, the teenage fan inside me was very excited—and horribly nervous. “I grew up reading your column during Grade 11 physics class!” I find myself blurting almost as soon as Savage answers the phone. So much for playing it cool. Savage laughs. “I often hear from people that they read me in high school,” he says. Suddenly his tone becomes serious. “And I flinch. I have a high school– aged kid. I don’t want him reading it.” His reply surprises me. Column aside, much of Savage’s work seems to be geared toward a youth audience; he’s given lectures at high school conventions and discussed issues such as teenage masturbation on his podcast. Most notable, however,
is the It Gets Better Project, a video campaign he started in 2010 to help struggling lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered youth cope with bullying. With over 50 million views, and video submissions by famous faces including Barack Obama and Janet Jackson, the project is a worldwide success. Savage continues. “But then, I’m sure that if my column had been out there when I was 12, I would have read it,” he muses. In fact, he admits he was already deep into his brother’s Penthouse magazine collection by the time he was 12. “Xaviera Hollander’s column Call Me Madam is sort of a spiritual forerunner of mine,” he explains. “I was probably too young to be reading her column, and it didn’t do me any harm.”
that will then ensure you’re one of those angry guys that can’t get laid because no woman will go near you.” I wish I’d been lucky enough to have that conversation back in high school. Even today, I still remember my first—and for a long time, last— porn experience. Crammed onto a sagging couch with two foreign exchange students in someone’s basement, I sipped lukewarm beer and tried to hide my terror. Meanwhile, on screen, two women passed a piece of feces from mouth to mouth. Porn—and YouTube, for that matter—was never quite the same after that.
Savage remembers his first time, too. A Chicago Catholic high schooler in an evangelical Christian family, he first learned about porn at dirty bookstores. Savage isn’t alone in that. In a study conducted “In an urban environment, you can’t isolate your kids— for the American Commission on Obscenity you can’t bring them up in a dome,” he explains. “I and Pornography technical reports, researcher was aware that there were dirty magazines because J. Elias surveyed over 400 high school students I would see them in the store.” Then the VHS about their exposure to erotic photography. Of player came along—the YouTube of the 1970s. “At the teenagers surveyed, 89% of the males and some point one of my older brothers rented a dirty 40% of the females reported that they had looked movie and we watched it,” he recounts. “And it was inside or read a Playboy. And that was back in ... depressing. I was a little gay kid and I remember 1971—decades before the Internet became what it watching and going, ‘Oh my God.’ Straight sex was is today. In a more recent study from 2009, Debra even less appealing than I thought it would be.” K. Braun-Courville and Mary Rojas conducted an anonymous survey of 433 teenagers at a I wonder whether this first experience with porn may New York City health centre to investigate how have fuelled Savage to start HUMP! in 2005. Since Internet access informed their sexual attitudes its inception, the festival has become a platform for and behaviours. Of the respondents, 96% had alternative pornography. Straight porn—though Internet access and over 55% reported having hopefully not the depressing kind—has certainly visited a sexually explicit website. I ask Savage appeared at HUMP!, but generally, the films whether he thinks teenagers would benefit from selected tend to skew weird and unexpected. changing the legal age limit for viewing porn. “It’s irrelevant,” he says, point blank. “Teenagers Audiences, he tells me, often first react like I did in who are interested in seeing porn have access to it. my friend’s basement my first time, or like Savage Period. The end. We can have a debate about what did to his brother’s VHS tapes: by cringing and the age limit should be for porn, but in the real squirming. “[Normally] when you sit and watch porn,” Savage explains, “you click on only what you world, that age limit is not enforceable.” want to see; you curate it for yourself.” This isn’t Rather than trying to restrict their exposure, Savage the case at HUMP!, and so, for the first handful of believes we need to talk to teens about how they films, he continues, “all anybody can see is what’s not consume pornography. “There’s a lot of porn that’s their thing; all anybody can see are the differences.” created for angry guys who can’t get laid,” he tells his own son. “You’re not one of those guys, and you But then, Savage says, about halfway through, this don’t want to become one of those guys.” Whatever incredible thing happens: people start cheering and your porn of choice, Savage emphasizes that “you laughing. They start to see past those differences and can enjoy it without adopting misogynistic attitudes discover what’s the same.
High school Dan Savage had exceptionally poofy hair
“I WAS A LITTLE GAY KID AND I REMEMBER WATCHING AND GOING, ‘OH MY GOD.’ STRAIGHT SEX WAS EVEN LESS APPEALING THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE.”
THE FINAL 15 PER CENT Notes from the Grade 11 frontier words by summer bilsky art by chelsea o’byrne
One of the things that I absolutely love about my school is the fact that there is no such thing as bullying. People are accepting of you no matter where you came from or what your gender is. We’re all just human beings, after all. Some of my best experiences have been at social gatherings; it is always so fun to start a weekend with good laughs with friends. I also have unlimited creativity in my schoolwork inside and outside of art classes. I find my strengths being pulled out of me and poured into my work day after day. And hey, I’m not going to lie: yeah, I get bad scores sometimes or hand in work late, but it’s just more opportunity for me to grow and get feedback from my teachers in order to get up to date.
My high school experience hasn’t really been what most consider typical or normal. For a long time I was tempted to try a public school to see what kind of experience I could have there, but if you have been in the same class as long as I have, you don’t really want to leave after a while. Most schools contain around 1,000 students who have lockers, eat in a cafeteria, and have a social large environment where there is lots of opportunity to talk to new people. For me, this is not really the case. My school has about 50 to
“We have one floor with about six rooms. Everyone knows everyone, and even if that may seem weird and strange, it’s not.”
I have never felt as at home at a school as I feel at mine. I am constantly surrounded by great people who are always inspiring me and changing me each day. I’m not a straight-A student or anything like that, and I don’t want to sound like some over-achieving student or anything, but this is just the way I feel about my high school. And I can’t really see my life any other way. Since I am in Grade 11, I really only have a year and a bit left of school, and I feel like I’m 85% prepared for what’s to come at me in life.
60 people, give or take. We have one floor with about six rooms. Everyone knows everyone, and even if that may seem weird and strange, it’s not. I get to spend each school day with amazing friends and teachers who actually care whether I fail or not.
BOLITA UÑITA Definitely not “Beverly Hills, 90210” words by joanna riquett illustration by cole nowicki
I grew up in a small city called Barranquilla, on the Caribbean coast of Colombia. In a class of 16 people—13 girls and three boys—the rules were different. The perfect blonde prom queen driving a convertible to school and dating the handsome football quarterback couldn’t have been further from my reality.
permission to go to the bathroom but your teacher kept ignoring you, so you kind of peed on your seat. (It wasn’t me!)
I took the public bus to school at six in the morning every day; I had braces, my uniform was two sizes bigger than it should have been, and I had a continuous eyebrow. The closest thing we had to an athletic team was the group of kids that gathered every break to play marbles—or bolita uñita, as we call it—in the hallways.
We didn’t have prom dances, but we did have prom trips; we spent the last year of school saving money and organizing bazaars where we sold our parents’ homecooked meals to raise funds. In the end we didn’t make enough to go on the week-long trip to the far away island of San Andrés like other prom classes in the city, so we booked an all-inclusive hotel on an island close to the neighboring city of Cartagena for two nights and annoyed the shit out of every couple that had gone there for their honeymoon.
In Colombia, you choose one place for your entire education, from elementary to high school, so you spend every year with the same group of students. (We had more men in our class at one point, but they dropped out.) The only problem with living your entire school career with the same people is that everyone remembers when you used to hide behind the doors to pick your nose, or that time when you raised your hand to ask for
High school was fun. We had our dramas, of course—when you’re 13 years old, nothing is more important than you—but our lives were not nearly as theatrical as the ones on the American TV we had access to, like Beverly Hills, 90210. The only thing I still envy from those shows is the convertible in the parking lot. But what the hell—in my school, we didn’t even have a place to park our bikes.
“ The perfect blonde prom queen driving a convertible to school and dating the handsome football quarterback couldn’t have been further from my reality.”
DISPATCHES A look into high schools today illustrations by alice clair
SAM UE L ROBE RTSON T E C H N I CA L S E C O N D A RY S C H O O L My greatest struggle in high school has been having to accept the fact that not everyone will want the help I try to give them; in contrast, not everyone who needs help will ever receive any. I have gotten pretty good at going through the routine of having friends reject my attempted advice, of sitting back as the predicted shit hits the fan, and biting my tongue to prevent an “I told you so” from slipping out as I watch tears erupt out of some of the saddest eyes I have ever seen. This routine became very regular with one friend and her boyfriend. It is difficult—torture, really—to say nothing about a clearly toxic relationship and watch someone you care about be constantly hurt. Then there is the moment of watching somebody’s face as her heart essentially breaks in front of me and I can’t take it anymore. This moment resulted in punching a 6'2" guy in front of 30-plus people. I am not exactly sure what possessed me to do such a thing, but it felt good. She stayed with him through many more getting-punched-in-the-face-worthy moments and we slowly drifted to the point of me only using past tense when talking about her. I can’t force anyone to grow; I can only hope that they can. In the end, they have to first help themselves, before they can allow help from others. —sabrina jay, grade 10
M A P L E R I D G E S E C O N D A RY S C H O O L High school. Aren’t those wonderful words? For adults, you might look back on it as a fine memory: five years that witness a child’s loss of innocence, replaced by the more realistic maturity of an adult. Being somewhere in the often uncomfortable grey area between being legally allowed to vote and still needing a ride from my mom, I find that high school is similar to that old wooden roller coaster we’ve all been on at one point or another. It’s either going too fast or too slow, but is certainly never comfortable. As dismal as that sounds, this is not a recounting of regrets or of warnings to those in Grade 8 about how fast the years will go by or how painful it will be; I’m not quite that old or quite that cynical. No, high school isn’t quite that awful for me. It has been, and continues to be, an unbelievable journey. Along this roller coaster, I’ve been made to look in the mirror and ask myself, “Who am I? Am I who I want to be? Am I on the right path?” There’s the beauty of these five years of secondary education. As I look past all the drama, angst, cliques, pain, and heartbreak, what I see is the formation of people. Opinions, beliefs, morals—adults start in high school and children end.There is so much more than just a handful of subjects learned. Love it or hate it, it's undeniable that high school is formative. —nick scott, grade 12
M A P L E R I D G E S E C O N D A RY S C H O O L From the very beginning, high school was not what I thought it would be. I thought good things would find their way to me—but instead, I realized that high school is about searching for that goodness, passion, and happiness. It’s about finding yourself and where you belong. On a school day just like any other, I was sitting beside my best friend, Rachel, in our English Honours 11 classroom. It was the first day of our presentations—the theme was power—and everyone was hanging off the edges of their seats in anticipation and anxiety. Our teacher plunged her hand into the bowl of names that would determine our destinies. We held our breath. “Alex,” our teacher smiled. The rest of us breathed out a collective sigh of relief, while our unlucky classmate made her way to the front of the room. She began her presentation. I had no idea what to expect, but I could not squelch the excitement zipping through my veins as she introduced her topic: the power of gender. She was talking about gender equality! My internal feminist was clapping her hands with joy. Alex announced that she’d be leading us in a feminist rally around the school, if we cared to join her. “When your rights are under attack,” she chanted, “Stand up! Fight back!” We chorused as we followed her down the halls. Students’ heads popped out of classroom doors. We, the protesters, were all smiling, and soon so were the teachers and peers that we passed. I’d never felt so much pride.
LANG LEY FI N E ARTS SCHOOL The buzz of the led lights over my head vibrates into my ear canals, along with the beep, beep, beep of the groceries being scanned and the whirring of the conveyor belt. I drag the fruit onto the scale.
Until that point, high school had just been a place of learning, and I’d been a bit of an outcast. But in that moment, I belonged. —alyssa day, grade 12
4011. Bananas. My fingers tap in the code and I wait for the machine to weigh the fruit, then push the bananas into the bag. I reach for the next item. 4094. Corn. Half a dozen. I drop them into the plastic grocery bag. Next. 4060. Broccoli. I can smell the next item before I reach for it. The tomatoes are fat and plump in my hand, and I think about squeezing them until the juice squishes between my fingers. But I don’t. I tap out the code instead. 4664. I place the tomatoes on top of the corn, beside the broccoli. I glance towards the assembly line: empty. I read out the customer’s total. She pulls out a plastic card. “Credit or debit?” I ask. “Credit, I think.” She pauses. “No, debit. I can’t tell.” I sigh. She holds the card up to my face and I lean back a bit before it slices my nose. Visa is printed on the bottom left, but below it: Debit. “Debit, ma’am.” I tap a button. “Go ahead.” She plugs the card into the machine and waits for the beep that signals acceptance. The receipt chugs out of its printer and I tear it off before handing it to the customer. “Have a nice day,” I say, but I don’t really mean it. I don’t care if her day is nice. Nice is boring, and this job is nice. The next customer walks up, her grey hair spun in quivering coils, dull against her bright red mouth. Her eyes are like plastic—everybody’s are. I paint a smile onto my face, say, “Hello, how are you?” She doesn’t smile back—they never do—so I proceed to scan her groceries. —taylor testini, grade 12
CENTRE STAGE Non-binary drag performer Rose Butch takes the art in a new direction words by kristine sostar mclellan photography by matthew burditt
We spend our time in high school trying to figure out not just who we are, but where and how we fit into this world. While we do this, the world continues to change. For Rae Takei, a local non-binary drag performer whose stage persona, Rose Butch, recently became the first to win the Cobalt’s Mr/ Miss Cobalt drag competition and retain both titles, this time-old story is a little more layered. Non-binary gender describes a person who does But luckily, before college, Takei found a space to not fit within the typical male and female categories. begin exploring and experimenting. “In high school The way non-binary folks describe themselves can I did a lot of acting,” they say. “And there was a vary, but many, Takei included, use the gender- shortage of guys who wanted to do theatre, so I neutral “they” instead of “him” or “her.” Takei grew would do a lot of men’s parts.” up in a religious household in suburban British Columbia—an environment that wasn’t exactly Though they don’t regret their religious conducive to discovering this information. “My upbringing, Takei had left the church by their high school experience was, well, I hated myself early 20s. It simply no longer felt like the and I loved Jesus,” Takei says. “Gender was not a right community; instead, theatre became an topic of conversation at all. I knew I was queer, and environment where they could be themselves. It one of my close friends had said she liked girls and was in a post-secondary acting program that they that was a big deal, but that was it. There were no first formally came out as non-binary. “I actually conversations about gender, no support for queer wrote letters to the faculty at my theatre school kids in high school—so it was isolating. I wasn’t explaining that I was non-binary,” they recall. really thinking about gender until I was in college.” “Before, what I had been saying was, ‘I am not a girl. You may think that I am, but I’m not.’” Today, In a sentiment most of us can relate to, Takei Takei’s drag community is a clear extension of describes their teenage self as a little strange and their theatre background. “Rose Butch is a nonawkward; they were into drawing, and wrote fan binary drag thing,” Takei explains. “I wouldn’t call fiction about X-Men at a time when everyone else myself a drag king because my stuff is not super was watching The O.C. “I was against the grain,” masculine. I am a non-binary individual, and my they say. “In December of Grade 8, I shaved my drag is also a gender outside of the male/female head for charity. I was this bald kid with braces binary. It ends up being both of those things and and these boys’ pants, all like, ‘I’m going to wear also neither of those things at the same time. A lot a tanktop today.’ I had no idea what I was doing.” of florals and glitter, and leather and spice.”
This past summer, Rose Butch performed at Mr/ Miss Cobalt, a competition to showcase emerging drag artists in East Vancouver, and won. As any tightknit community would have it, the competition was a communal event, adjudicated by the crowd with judge feedback. There is something significant to be said for being immersed in a circle where you can be yourself. Theatre continues to be a fixture in their life, too—only now, it’s with the next generation of high-schoolers. “I still do some work in theatre, and I’ve been working on a project where we go to youth around BC,” says Takei. “I get to meet these teens who are out as trans and out as queer, and hear about the support systems that are available to them in high school now: the resources around gender identity. They have so much access to resources I never could have dreamed of, and it shows so much progress. It makes it a less isolating experience. It’s still isolating and hard as a teenager, especially if you are queer or gender variant, but people can learn more about themselves now. It’s a lot easier to put those pieces together now. You can discover those things about yourself.”
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Ideal Mini School
THE PERKS OF BEING A MINI SCHOOLER A case for alternative education words by genevieve anne michaels photography by ryan ming
IDEAL MINI SCHOOL
location: marpole grades: 8-12 students: 120 When Ideal Mini School was founded in 1972, a call for teachers promised its future staff “freedom, fascination, and abject poverty.” I’ll admit my bias upfront. Ideal is close to my heart; it’s where I spent the full five years of my high school experience. Having been raised in the suburbs, I was desperate to escape the Wonderbread blandness of South Delta. The atmosphere at Ideal is relaxed, welcoming, and informal. Teachers are addressed by their first names, and every school year starts off by painting your locker with colourful designs. In tenth grade, I covered mine with chalkboard paint, to be decorated all year with hearts, flowers, and
questionable messages to and from friends. The students of Ideal worship the flat heater in the school entryway, sitting on and clustering around it on cold winter mornings. Lunchtime trips to “The Chevron” for junk food and gas station coffee are another daily practice.
reason. It’s not that they need to be here, necessarily, but they’re able to flourish here in a way that they wouldn’t in a big school.” Projects that involve the whole school are important, such as staging a play or putting on a science fair. Every year, the whole student body attends a weekend-long camp together.
Former head teacher Jim King describes Ideal students as “well-rounded kids.” Housed a few blocks away
“It attracts a certain kind of teacher, even if they don’t know they’re that kind of teacher yet,” King explains.
“You hesitate to say something like, ‘It’s a family,’ but in a weird way, that’s what it is.” from massive Churchill Secondary, the comfortable environment Ideal offers is cherished by many. “I think you always need some kind of system for kids that will just drown in a big school,” says King. “There are lots of kids like that at Ideal, but there are also lots of kids that aren’t. They choose to go for a specific
“You’re all discussing kids’ problems and stuff, which is almost like what counsellors do. You hesitate to say something like, ‘It’s a family,’ but in a weird way, that’s what it is.” And Ideal is not the only one of its kind in Vancouver.
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WINDSOR HOUSE SCHOOL
location: north vancouver grades: k–12 secondary students: 60 Windsor House is a school built on respect and selfdetermination—a place where no one has to go to any class they don’t find useful, and teachers address students with the same respect they would another adult. A publicly-funded satellite of the Gulf Islands School District, Windsor House ensures decisions are made democratically, and every member of the community has a vote. “I think it’s the only school in the Lower Mainland that gives students a similar level of autonomy as a university,” says principal Meghan Carrico. “We give them a voice—in how they want to run this school, how they want to treat each other, and how they want to deal with problems.” Classes at Windsor House are conducted four days a week, with initiatives including an outdoor
leadership program that combines physical education, visual arts, English, and sustainable resources. The school also offers a film, English, social studies, and arts program that runs one day a week and is accessible to both teens and middle schoolers. Learning at Windsor House is done in multi-age groups driven by interest rather than predetermined grades, and progress is continuously tracked by a personal portfolio instead of traditional report cards. It would be easy to question just how much the students get done with all this freedom. Can you really count on kids to take charge of their own education? “Of course there are kids who go to school here to graduate, and they don’t love everything they’re doing,” Carrico says. “But it’s always on the table: ‘Why are you doing this if you don’t want to be here?’” In every case, the interests and aptitudes of each individual student are the central concern.
Windsor House School
What the students of Windsor House do with their freedom is vast. Currently, a 14-year-old student is writing a play “loosely inspired” by Buffy the Vampire Slayer that the whole school will work together to stage. Other students are actually teaching classes: one 17-year-old wrote the entire curriculum for a post-secondary level course on the history of Western philosophy, and another is teaming up with a staff member to offer Comparative Civilizations 12. “It feels a lot like a home,” says Carrico. “Everyone’s on a first-name basis. There’s a community kitchen where you can go make yourself a cup of tea. You can wander down the hall and sit in the library, have a conversation with a friend. We even have couches in the halls, and we’ll have people lounging, playing the guitar. You’ll see parents sitting there, having little meetings with the staff. One of our teachers brings out a thermos of coffee and has his break in the hall with the kids. It doesn’t feel institutional.”
S T R E E T F R O N T A LT E R N AT I V E
location: downtown eastside grades: 8–10 students: 22 Streetfront Alternative is billed by the Vancouver School Board as a program for students who are “capable of age-appropriate work, but are not succeeding due to a myriad of issues.” At Streetfront— housed in a portable on the Britannia Secondary School campus—snacks are provided and running is a daily practice. “A lot of our students have quite an aversion to authority figures. My job is to sort of break that edifice and try to get them into a situation where we’re not seen as foes, but as allies,” says teacher Trevor Stokes. “They are quite often pretty dismayed with the educational system, and they haven’t been very successful. It’s our job to
Streetfront Alternative School
re-energize and re-motivate those kids to find their strengths.” He describes typical students as “hyperactive boys”; to accommodate their impressive energy level, days are made up of 60% core academics and 40% intense physical activity. That includes daily runs, marathon
students to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. While that might seem like an impressive achievement, Stokes and his students are just getting started. Street2Peak was the first installment of a project that plans to take Streetfront kids to five continents over a decade; the next stop is South America in 2017. “It isn’t like St. George’s or Crofton House pulled this off,”
“Sometimes, people lower the standards for kids that enter into my program. I think that’s absolutely unacceptable.” training, and excursions including camping and hiking. Every year, groups from Streetfront participate in the Vancouver Sun Run, BMO Vancouver Marathon, and Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. Streetfront has recently found itself in the news because of Street2Peak, an initiative that took 15 inner-city
says Stokes. “It was a little school in the Downtown Eastside. I’m pretty proud of that. It gives the kids a real opportunity to be participants on the vanguard of something, rather than being people that watch the parade go by.” He adds: “Sometimes, people lower the standards for kids that enter into my program. I think that’s absolutely unacceptable.”
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location: west end grades: 10–12 students: 25–30 Vancouver’s longest-running alternative program, City School, was founded in 1971. Described as a non-graded, continuous progress approach to education, its founding objectives included community involvement, social justice, and participation on an equal basis from both students and teachers. There are no formal classes held at City School. Instead, each student starts the day with a halfhour meeting with their chosen advisor, who provides guidance and assistance with their personal educational goals. Next there is the fullschool, half-hour Context period, where discussion of current events and social issues lends relevance
to material being learned. Every second day there is a Fundamentals period set aside for graduation essentials including math, but otherwise, learning is completely self-directed. Students are free to sign up for courses, offered through the school or distance education, or pursue their goals in other ways, such as research, volunteer work, and job shadowing. Evaluation styles differ from topic to topic, with graded quizzes and tests for math, and ongoing selfevaluation in English. In particular, what sets City School apart from a traditional education is its mandate to “use the city as a classroom.” Out of a 159-day academic year, City School students spend an average of 65 days attending events around the city, including films, theatre performances, full-day conferences, and guest speaker lectures. This past year, the school also participated as a whole in four extended projects, each lasting three weeks or more. One of these
Britannia High where Streefront run their PE program
involved working with an architect to design and build a new quiet study space within the school.
“[It’s] for open minded people doing open-ended things.” In another project, students researched the history of five downtown neighbourhoods to create walking tours meant to transport participants back to 1915. If they have an idea for a course, field trip, or activity that’s not offered, students and staff are welcome to bring it to the table at a general meeting. Staff member Sal Robinson describes the school’s atmosphere as “welcoming and definitely noninstitutional. It can be messy, loud, and chaotic, but solemn and respectful when necessary.” In the words of one student, “City School is for open-minded people doing open-ended things.”
R E M E M B E R H O W W E F E LT A B O U T A R T AT S I X T E E N
by esther mcphee
art by amelia garvin
Ten years out of high school, I watch six seasons of Glee in three months. It’s embarrassing to admit this but when they burst into song I got that shining feeling again. You know, that cocktail of conviction and desperation that insists something inside of you is important enough to become a poem. If graduation was when I wedded myself to real life (rent, grocery bills, the kind of heartbreak that makes you sober and cautious), then I’m on my tin anniversary, year of brittle metal. I remember high school pretty well and I’m sure it was neither as cruel nor as gay as it is on TV. I’m sure I spent whole semesters dreaming of a kiss that would shock my fist open the way Kurt’s hand uncurls when Blaine falls onto his mouth that first time, like water finally after a long thirst. I cried after that scene the way I cried when I found out a senior had killed himself over spring break. I knew he was gay even though I’d only talked to him twice in the hallway. We all knew he was perfect. In a building made of pretending no one else existed, he met your eyes whenever he walked past. There was no song for how immediately he disappeared. Just static. Everything is pain and magic when your dreams are as big as stadiums. Once in a while I want to remember how completely I believed art could save anything —anyone—when I was sixteen.
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ALL THAT GLITTERS High school is where this artist cut his teeth. Literally words by jean paul langlois photography by jennifer truong
I have gold fronts. That means gold front teeth. Most people think it’s a grill but it’s not. It’s a bridge: four teeth all connected that bridge a gap where a tooth has been lost. The reason I lost a tooth is because of high school. Actually, to be precise, it is because I dropped out of high school. Like most adolescents, I spent my formative years trying on different identities—nerd, stoner, bmxer, heavy metal rocker—but I never felt like I fit in until I discovered punk. I was crazy for it. Geeked out on it. Double mohawk, jean vest covered in anarchy symbols and punk logos, combat boots. I even had a safety pin in my ear for a while. The full cliché. I started hanging downtown with the real punks at “Piss Alley” on the mean streets of Victoria, Canada’s “Garden City.” I learned to panhandle for money, drink in public, take acid, and sniff glue. If someone said it was punk, I would do it. A lot of our time was spent at McDonald’s. We’d buy a coffee or fries and then hang out for hours, smoking cigarettes and making crucifixes by melting stir sticks together. We thought it was hilarious.
Needless to say, the staff and patrons hated us. They tried hard to evict us, played Muzak, and occasionally called the police, but mostly they put up with us because we were, after all, customers. The last straw came about on a late Friday night. I had been drinking heavily with some bums in a parkade; some punk chicks that I knew were drunk and taking turns vomiting and holding each other’s hair in the handicap bathroom at McDonald’s. When I arrived, they had been in there for hours. The manager was at his wit’s end. He used the key to open the door and physically threw them out in the street. I was indignant, furious at the injustice I had witnessed. Two upstanding young women being unceremoniously evicted from the restaurant that we had been so loyal to? How dare he. My sense of chivalry demanded that I defend their honour, so I decided to let the manager know my feelings on the matter. I drunkenly staggered through the lineup to his till and delivered an array of insults and expletives, punctuated by spitting on him. I immediately turned on my heel, satisfied with my heroic behaviour. Every man has a breaking point, and apparently the manager’s is being spat on.
He leapt over the counter in a single bound and before I could grasp what was happening, he was upon me, in his brown uniform, cap, name tag and all. He reigned down blows, delivering punch after punch, bloodying my nose, and knocking out my tooth. As the curtain fell on my consciousness, he was being pulled off of me. The last thing I remember was the flashing lights of the ambulance. I woke up in the hospital to my crying mother and livid father. I tried to come out with some excuses and threats of litigation, but when I went to speak, only blood and gauze came out of my mouth. My parents were mortified; no lawsuit came. The manager was transferred to another location. After that we didn’t hang out there anymore, anyway. My parents paid for a porcelain bridge. The dentist must have done a good job, because it lasted for 30 years. Last winter it finally gave out and I had it replaced with a gold one. I love it. It makes people happy when I smile. It makes me appear successful and gangster-ish. So kids, if you wanna be cool like me, drop out of high school. It was the best decision I ever made. Or maybe I should have tried harder with bmx.
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GHOST WORLD Dead Ghosts: alive and well words & photography by pamela rounis
Vancouver garage-rock group Dead Ghosts went from high school jam band to full-fledged gang with three albums, the latest of which is Love, Death and All the Rest. After a rotating roster, the band is back together with its original lineup: brothers Andrew (Drew) and Mike Wilkinson, Bryan Nicol, and Maurizio (Mo) Chiumento. Fresh off their latest tour in Europe, they are tight as ever. pamela rounis: So you guys started playing music together when you were in high school?
bryan nicol: Kind of. andrew wilkinson: We weren’t friends in high school.
bn: No, that’s not true. We started playing together in high school. I didn’t know Mike that well in high school, but I knew Drew. We were cool with each
other, but we weren’t really friends until we started talking about music. I think we both started playing bass around the same time, so we started talking about that.
dw: Two bassists. The band was sweet. bn: No, it wasn’t. Drew was in a totally different band. dw: Tabitha. We played a Radiohead cover at a fashion show.
bn: I remember we used to make fun of your band all the time.
dw: I would, too. (laughs) pr: So Drew’s band was called Tabitha. What was your band called, Bryan?
bn: We didn’t have a name. We would just jam. I wanted to be in a pop-punk band, but let’s just say I’m glad that didn’t transpire. Then we graduated and
Fuji Superia 400
Pictured below: Drew, Mo, Mike & Bryan on the set of their trippy music video Drink it Dry
Mike was in a band called Danger Danger … One of the first times I met Mike, he was wearing all white: white shirt, white denim pants. He was playing Twister with some girls in the basement and he was really drunk, and he had a bottle of red wine and had spilled it all over his white shirt and pants.
pr: When did you start playing shows for people other
bn: This guy had put out some punk upstart garage
bn: He only put out debut singles. It actually worked
pr: Oh no.
pr: Then how did you go from there to three full-
stuff. It was basically the worst record label name. The label is called Milk n Herpes.
bn: From Iowa.
dw: We were like, “We put out a single. I guess we
than at fashion shows?
dw: Des Moines.
dw: Our first show was 2008, the first week
bn: He wanted to put out a 45 and I was like, “What
pr: Who came up with the band name Dead Ghosts? bn: I did. We had recorded a couple songs and we
put one on Myspace and this guy was like, “I want to put out a single,” within a week of us uploading it to Myspace. We were like, “Whoa, we’re going to have a fucking vinyl single?”
pr: Oh wow. bn: We never thought we’d ever fucking get anything. dw: Playing in my parents’ basement in Surrey.
out perfectly. I don’t think we would have done anything if he didn’t put it out.
should probably play a show.”
do you think? Should we do it?” And Drew was like, “Fuck, yeah!” so into it like, “Oh yeah, we’re doing it. That’s the worst name I’ve ever heard. We’re doing it.”
pr: Did it happen? bn: Yeah, it happened, and it was sweet because
the guy was super connected. He was trading with all these other labels that we liked, so other distros who’d buy records from him would have our record. It would be reviewed on blogs, so that’s how it all started.
pr: You didn’t do anything else with this Milk n Herpes guy?
bn: We recorded that single and then it was just
the three of us, me, Drew, and Mike in his parents’ basement in Surrey and we were like, “Well, we should get a bass player.” We took Mo to our jam space in Gastown and he had the nicest bass and liked all the same music we liked. We were like, “Oh, this is awesome.” Then we tried to play a song with him that was two notes and Mo couldn’t play it. We seriously loved him and decided, “Okay, we’ll just teach him the songs. It might be hard, but we’ll teach him the songs.”
pr: Where was your first show? bn: It was at the Astoria with Defectors and The Green Hour.
pr: Did it go well? bn: Yeah. I think so. dw: We were scared shitless. bn: I remember my knees were shaking. pr: You guys have been to Europe a couple of times. What was special about this recent European tour?
bn: The previous times, we couldn’t get the full band
because these guys were working and couldn’t get time off. This time we had everyone that had played on every record, so someone could call a song out and we could play it. It was really fun, it was way easier.
dw: Except we got a flat tire and the spare was also flat. So we got the old Spanish tow.
pr: What is that?
mw: No. I just listen. Listen to the songs and then I just play them.
mc: On tour, Mike was so reluctant to give set lists out
to people. He was so pissed. He was like, “Somebody just took my list!” (laughs)
mw: I remember there was one show where there was
so much smoke that I couldn’t read the set list, so I had to put it up to my face and then I could finally read. You guys were like, “What’s the song?” You guys were yelling at me, and I was like, “I can’t read the set list.”
dw: That’s what you want. You want even more smoke than that.
mw: We played the Rickshaw and the guy came up to us
were setting up, and it completely switched the mood. By the time we were about to start there were just 12 people left up front, all, “Do you have merch for sale?” They were fans, they were there for us. Then it started filling up as we were playing, and by the end of it, people were rushing the stage and there was this crazy old Portuguese dude in what looked like a Nazi/ Stalin-type costume, just full-on buttoned up, the hat, everything.
dw: The Colonel. mc: He jumped on stage and put his hat on Bryan’s
head and it was awesome, he just kept on playing. Bouncers were kicking everybody off.
mw: There were probably 1,500 or 2,000 people.
like, “So what are you guys thinking for, lights and, you know, stage tech stuff?” And we’re like, “Whoa, no one’s
dw: We were kind of not the band that would fit that
ever asked us this before,” so we were like, “As much smoke as possible. Like as much as you can possibly do.”
mw: They loved us, though. There were so many
festival at all.
dw: It’s just a tow by a Spanish dude. I remember on our first tour you guys were like, “You’ve got to sleep in the car because all the gear’s in here,” so I slept in the car. Then I woke up and you guys had already started driving again, so I was in the car for 20 hours straight.
maurizio chiumento: It was terrible. pr: When did you all learn your respective instruments? dw: We all learnt on the bass … It forces you to learn
a lot of basics like chord structure, or pentatonic scales, or major scales. That’s what bass is: it’s all the patterns, so you have to learn those patterns, which is good for when you play guitar.
bn: Also when you go to play guitar, your hands are way
stronger, so it’s easier to pick up a guitar after your hands are adapted to holding a bass. I found it way easier to pick up a guitar, to play power chords and do all that right away.
pr: Mike, how did you learn how to drum? mw: I used my allowance and rented a drum kit. I just started hammering away on that thing. It was really loud. I taught myself for a while and then I took some lessons for a couple of years just for fun. My parents weren’t too stoked on the noise the drums created.
pr: When did you get your own drums? mw: I bought a 10-piece drum kit off of Craigslist—
mc: And blinding lights. mw: I was shrouded in smoke. The next day I went
to work and people were like, “What happened to you? What happened to your voice?” For a week I couldn’t talk properly. I had the hoarsest sounding voice. I sounded like I was on a 10-day bender or something.
pr: What’s the best show you’ve ever played?
it was silver and it was really big, and it went from the littlest toms all the way to the biggest toms. The first song I learned on that drum kit was “Wipeout.”
mc: Our Portugal show on this tour was pretty fucking
dw: Mike goes through songs like a drummer. He’ll
pr: You went on at 3:30am?
go, “So it’s like ba-doo-choo-doo, ch-ch-boom-boomboom-choo?”
mc: Mike doesn’t remember any of the names of the songs.
great. We played the Reverence Festival at 3:30 in the morning. We’d been driving for nine or 10 hours.
doom-ish type music. Super heavy, just bass and really distorted guitars, super slow. We got the sound guy to play “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” while we
dw: I bet you there were more than 50 people on the stage. pr: You Pied Piper-ed them. mc: What’s even crazier was the hotel we stayed in. We talked to the owner when we checked in—
dw: He was like, 72. mc: He was in his 70s. He was at the show at 3:30 in the morning.
dw: Then we got up in the morning and they were all awake.
mc: Yeah. The band before us was playing this
people on stage I couldn’t even see you guys when we were playing our last song.
mc: Yeah, literally he and his wife had partied till 7:00 in the morning. It was a nice change. People just wanted to have fun. This interview has been edited and condensed.
Blue Nails, oil on canvas
: Art ——Andres Kal
THE PARENT TRAP Reflecting on your high school self —with your parents words by ljudmila petrovic illustration by lisa nakamura
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Charles Dickens once wrote. I remember high school as exactly that. On the one hand, high school and adolescence are a time of freedom, where you can live in a sort of whimsical space free from real responsibilities or consequences, where you feel untouchable and immortal. On the other hand, I remember it as turbulent, confusing, stifling, and often dark.
to see if everything was okay. Sometimes you just wouldn’t be there, so I’d call you. Sometimes you’d answer. Or one of your friends would call us saying you were drunk or something else, or a few times it was calls from the hospital.
b: Sometimes it would be a work day, you’d stay out
all night, and there were a few times I would stay up all night waiting for you and wouldn’t go to work the next day.
I hardly remember my first three years of high school, to be honest. It was a blur of drugs, alcohol, angsty poems in my journal, sketchy stick-and-poke tattoos, and questionable makeup choices. Then, at some point, I just poured all of my energy into studying, neurotically and with an immediacy of someone trying to make up for lost time. There was nothing balanced or moderate about my adolescence.
k: There were a lot of situations like that. That was
Around a table set with wine and rotisserie chicken, I sat down with the two people who got the full brunt of the shit-show that was my high school experience: my parents, Katarina and Bojan.
k: Well, what was going to happen to you.
ljudmila: So, high school. That must have been a tough time for you.
bojan: There were a number of emergencies. It’s
a Friday night, you know, or a Saturday night, and something had happened.
katarina: Or we just didn’t know where you were.
I couldn’t even sleep at that time; I would always wake up around 2:00 or 3:00am, completely automatically,
the hardest thing for me: your safety and wondering what was going to happen to you. I couldn’t sleep at night.
l: What were you the most worried about?
b: Your future. What are you going to do if you’re
b: I was thinking, “If we’re going to lose our child in
Canada, then we might as well get the hell out and go back to Serbia. If this life here is going to destroy us, we’ll pick up and leave.”
k: I don’t think there was anything exciting or
glamorous about your adolescence. I just remember it as, “Oh my God.” There were actually times that it was completely dysfunctional.
l: I think we still had a good relationship, though. Even then. I don’t think we had a bad relationship.
k: No, we didn’t have a bad relationship. I still
tried to do things together, have family activities together. We would all go for dinner and it would be a total debacle. It was just that I often felt your anger. Whatever I would say to you would immediately spark an argument. I couldn’t say anything to you.
on drugs? You’re not going to be studying. What are you going to do with your life?
l: Okay, what about positive things? Do you have any
k: And what was going to happen to your health? And your safety. We had a plan. If that continued and you couldn’t clean up, to Belgrade [Serbia]!
k: Well, somewhere around Grade 11 or 12, you
b: To Belgrade!
l: And before that, no?
k: We were going to pack all our bags and go back
k: Not that it wasn’t positive, it was just a lot of stress.
positive memories of me in high school?
cleaned up and you started to study hard and to think about your future, and that was positive.
That was a huge stressor for me.
l: I can believe that. k: I think the summer we went to Belgrade, though, you came back changed.
l: When I was 15? k: Yes. After that, you changed. l: Why do you think that is? The fact that we went
somewhere together and had a chance to bond, or that we went back home? We also went to Rajac [a mountain in Serbia where my grandparents have a summer home]. I do actually remember we spent a lot of time together. There was nothing to do there—there wasn’t even running water. I had to go to the well in the morning.
k: Oh, that’s right. You made a lot of jam, and you two would chop wood.
l (to b): And you taught me to throw knives that summer. We spent all this time practicing throwing knives. I mean, I wouldn’t say that suddenly everything changed…
k: But things were different. When you were in
Grade 8, you would wear really heavy makeup, just layers of makeup.
b: And all that black stuff on your eyes. l: Eyeliner?
b: And to some degree, a process of individualizing,
of gaining independence and an identity of your own, distancing yourself from your parents and their identities, looking for who you are. And looking for that, in part, through confrontation. Which is to some extent healthy, but, you know, when safety is an issue, then the question arises of how valuable that process really is and what we have to sacrifice in that whole process. But, in theory, that’s a process that is important and healthy, where you’re exploring who you are, what your values are.
l: Absolutely. And I still to this day can’t explain why
it got so extreme. I guess I’ve always been an extreme person. It all depends on what I channel my energy into. It could be work or school or creative projects, which is good, but that extreme personality can also be dangerous. The only difference is that right now I invest my energy into work, which is constructive and socially acceptable.
k: I would be thinking, “Holy shit, she’s actually
k: Well, I wouldn’t say it was positive versus negative.
k: Well, I didn’t like it. You looked vulgar. b: You didn’t look like yourself at all. l: I did feel guilty about all of that. I didn’t like it. B: And yet, you still did it?
l: Well, yeah. b: How do you explain that? l: I think I did all that because that was the first time
that I felt real anxiety and depression, and I was a kid. I didn’t know what it was, or how to cope with it in a healthy way. I had no idea. Ever since I was little, I’ve been someone who wanted to be liked by teachers and parents and authorities. So, having always been that person, and now being in a situation where I felt like I was doing bad things, was a huge cognitive dissonance for me. I wasn’t used to it, to being this antisocial person, not acting in a way that people wanted me to. At that time, I felt very guilty about all that I was doing, but it was something that was larger than me. The only way I can explain it is that all these things were coping mechanisms for me.
b: I honestly don’t see what we could have done differently.
k: No, I don’t see anything that could have been
different. You just were the way you were and we just had to accept that and make sure you were safe. For me, in that time, I put in a lot of energy into trying to understand, to show love and support, and to stay connected despite the fact that it created a lot of stress for me.
b: Things felt out of our control. k: I took all of that day by day. That was the only way I could deal.
There was a part of me that was imagining a different conversation. Maybe I watch too much Netflix, or maybe I just hadn’t been lucid enough at the time to look beyond North America. myself and see the effect that all of this had on the people Side note: My family likes to talk about capitalism at the around me, but I was waiting for a happy ending. It’s true, everything ended up fine. I’m a grad student with dinner table. A lot. a job I love, and I have retired the safety pins and black l: Exactly, but it’s still a similar compulsion that drives it. eyeliner. Still, I expected something along the lines of, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Instead, I just b: You’re probably right. It’s the way that it manifests heard pain caused by years of stress and apprehension— something that my parents could have done without. itself, the way that you channel it.
l: Okay, so, any other positive notes we can focus on?
l: Hey! What, you were embarrassed by me?
l: Would you have done anything differently in retrospect?
k: Yes, absolutely. Productivity is valued in
b: Yes. And all those black, ripped clothes. going out into the street like this. People know she’s my daughter.”
when you were a toddler, we would ask for your opinion on things. We never decided things for you.
It was just like that. That was just life.
l: Do you think it strengthened our relationship, going through all that?
k: I don’t think our current relationship has anything to do with that. We always had a good relationship.
l: But I think that when I was a teenager, it forced you
very early on to distance yourself from the role of a parent and become more my friend.
k: It was always like that—that was always my parenting style.
b: We always talked things through with you; you called us by our first names instead of Mom and Dad.
k: Because we didn’t want to put ourselves in those roles.
b: We just wanted the three of us to have an authentic relationship, authentic roles where we nurture and care for you—
l: You’re such a bunch of hippies. k: What I’m trying to say is that we didn’t take on
that parenting style as a result of you acting out as a teenager; it was like that from the beginning. Even
This interview has been edited and condensed.
S A D
M A G
L U CDKE Y CCE AM T B C AEL R E N D A R
2 01 5
ILLUS TR ATIO N
PA M E L A
R O U N I S
T H E VA L E D WORDS BY A PR I L T H O M P SO N
PH OTOG RAPH Y
An interview with pop musician Shamir In the green room of Fortune Sound Club in Vancouver’s Chinatown, Shamir Bailey reclines languidly on a black sofa as he waits for the conjuring of a towel. Having arrived straight from Portland, he has been on the road for quite some time, which makes it all the more impressive that he is able to consistently deliver such soulful and energetic concerts. On first impression Shamir seems soft spoken: his presence in the room is calm and gentle. Despite declaring the need for a shower, he looks effortlessly cool with his hair down and his Velvet Underground–imprinted denim jacket. In high school he hated trigonometry (but charmed his way to good grades) and was something like Brian from The Breakfast Club: “not a nerd, but nervous and adorable.” Now barely out of his teenage years, Shamir went to high school in North Las Vegas, the idea of which seems glitzy and eccentric—but he says that the actuality of it was a youth carried out in your run-of-the mill American town. He lived across the street from a farm, and his school was filled with the average high school typology carved out in American movies like Mean Girls (freshmen, jocks, art kids, sexually-active band geeks).
Shamir: It was very important for me because music helped me escape and create my own little diverse musical universe. My musical curiosity intensified when I started to make my own music because I could draw from all those different influences, from country, to punk, to pop, to hip-hop.
Shamir’s pop vocals will stop you in your tracks as they either trickle out in wistful delicacy or move into punchy and confident lines extolled from the gut. Part of his pull is this ability to switch between gendered expectations of vocal sound. Shamir suspends assumptions through his polished countertenor voice—a range equivalent to the female contralto. Yet, for all of his high-charged femme appeal, he also possesses a cocky masculinity and will interchangeably address his songs to girls or boys. Perhaps this refreshing combination is a marker of Shamir’s generation—a generation that is less concerned with gender “bending” and more so with gender transcendence. Shamir himself seems puzzled at the public preoccupation with defining his gender, given that he orientates himself more toward being genderless. Within the industry, he is an artist who sits somewhere along the lines of the newly graduated valedictorian: at that emerging threshold of his career with a lush future ahead.
AT: Are you actively trying to dismantle gendered stereotypes when you are creating your music?
S: Being exposed to a lot of music inspired me so much, which made me want to try everything instead of picking just one genre and sticking to it. I like to try to blend everything I love to listen to, which has in turn created my own style. AT: Do you feel like growing up in North Las Vegas holds a big part of your identity as a singer? S: Yes, totally. Because I grew up in a somewhat culturally barren place, it forced me to go out of my way to find artistic inspiration. I learned to do my own thing, which has definitely influenced my music.
S: I don’t think I actively try to—I just think me being honest and true to my art automatically does that. AT: Do you think it’s important that you’re a selftaught musician, versus going down any kind of institutionalized music education route? S: Yes, I think me being self-taught definitely helped with me kind of creating my own music path and ideas. But I can’t lie: sometimes I wish I was a little more classically trained at playing something. AT: What are your next goals as an artist and performer? S: I think my goal is just to continue to create original content that my fans and I can be proud of and excited about. This interview has been edited and condensed.
CLOT H ING CO U RT ESY O F F AS IN F RA NK , 8 TH & M A IN
April Thompson: How important do you think it was to remain musically curious in your younger years (when you were singing country songs and going to punk concerts)?
AT: How has your musical curiosity informed your idiosyncratic musical style?
DICTORIAN BY SA MUEL O L S E N
ST Y L I N G BY A LYS SA R E E S E
Lomography Color Negative 400
Ivan Coyote on storytelling in high schools WORDS BY SHANNON TIEN LETTERING BY KENNETH ORMANDY PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOURDAN TYMKOW
“I HAVE ABOUT 45 SECONDS FOR 700 KIDS TO DECIDE WHETHER THEY LIKE ME OR NOT, OR WHETHER THEY’RE GOING TO LISTEN TO ME FOR THE NEXT HOUR OR NOT.”
That’s how many books transgender activist, performer, and award- me about the work they do in high schools, performing their one-person show winning author Ivan E. Coyote has written in the last 17 years. “Ivan in Schools”. “It’s basically designed for the awful world of presenting arts in Three is the number of times Boys Like Her (Raincoast Books, high school, which is the most bang for your buck that the school can get,” they 2002), one of the most notable contributions to Canada’s dialogue explain. “So it’s presented in a high school gymnasium with an echo-y cordless on gender and sexuality, sold out. Seven hundred is, on average, the microphone and terrible lighting, and they file all the kids in there and there’s number of kids that fill the high school gymnasiums Coyote has an awkward introduction by the principal or counsellor or whoever.” Coyote been speaking at for over 10 years, working to free students from a culture of starts the show with stories about growing up broke in the Yukon. A member of bullying, homophobia, and transphobia. One hour is how long their show, “Ivan a big family and a die-hard tomboy, they admit that they didn’t come out until in Schools”, generally lasts. Nine thousand is the estimated number of times after high school—a time that was rife with confusing feelings surrounding their Coyote’s heart has been broken during the question-and-answer period. And female-assigned gender. 9,000 is also the estimated number of times Coyote has been inspired during the question-and-answer period. Their newest book, co-authored by Canadian “I wasn’t out as trans; I had never heard the word before. Although I definitely trans musician Rae Spoon, is called Gender Failure, and has over 1,000 likes knew something was going on, I didn’t know what, and I definitely didn’t have that language at all,” explains Coyote. “I struggled more in my gender box on Facebook. than anything and I got bullied, but it was honestly more for being a tomboy It’s difficult to quantify the effect of art on culture, especially when that culture than anything else. It was more for not fitting into a gender box than it was for resists change, actively working to sweep certain realities under the rug. Who being queer.” and what should we be counting? The number of teenagers who commit suicide due to bullying? Or the number of teenagers who, though bullied, go on to lead In high school, they did a fairly good job of feigning heterosexuality, even to successful and fulfilling lives after high school? Coyote doesn’t attempt to answer themselves. “Once, I had a bad experience with this guy who I was on a date these questions for me during our 45-minute phone conversation, which on my with,” they recall. “Looking back, I would definitely call it a date rape, but again, end takes place in my partner’s childhood bedroom, relics of high school in I didn’t have that language. I never went to the authorities. I never told my South Delta eerily lining the walls. They use a lot of numbers in our conversation, parents what happened. I sort of kept it to myself, but I think he knew that he however: 700 kids, 45 seconds, 18 years old, 36 tattoos. I find myself replicating had done something wrong and his answer was to exclude me.” The girl that the logic in my own speech—when did you know? How many books? How long Coyote’s assaulter dated after them would continue to bully them throughout does it take?—and I wonder what mystery we are trying to get to the bottom of, the rest of their time in high school—an experience which makes up the bulk of with our impossible counting and calculations. I can almost picture flowcharts, the forward to One in Every Crowd (Arsenal Pulp, 2012), a collection of some of their young-adult oriented, previously-published short stories. Still, in regards though we are primarily speaking of feelings. to their own high school experience, Coyote insists that they “didn’t have it as “I have about 45 seconds for 700 kids to decide whether they like me or not, or bad as other kids that come to mind.” One kid that comes to mind is Coyote’s whether they’re going to listen to me for the next hour or not,” Coyote says. “It’s cousin Christopher, the subject of one of the heart-wrenching stories that make not for the faint of heart. I call it storytelling on the edge.” I’ve asked them to tell up the “Ivan in Schools” show.
Kodak Tri-X TX400
They recount the story: “I go to the Salvation Army thrift store with my grandmother and she buys us all roller skates … but there are no roller skates for my cousin Christopher who was a super awkward, tall, picked-on, gangly kid who had these gigantic feet. He had these weird looked-like-he-was-wearingclown-shoes feet. So there were no roller skates for him, and we had to go to the Bay on the bus and buy him those crappy, buckle-on metal ones, and he wipes out and shits his pants.” Christopher’s pant-shitting saga is usually Coyote’s first story of the presentation, their go-to attention getter and crowd leveller. “I don’t care how old you are or who you are: everyone loves a great poop-your-pants story,” they say. The anecdote is also designed to get kids in an empathetic mood, so that Coyote can start tackling more serious issues in the stories that follow— issues like gender, sexuality, misogyny, and homophobia. And that’s not to say that Christopher’s story isn’t serious. Students find out later, usually during the question-and-answer period, that Christopher committed suicide at the age of 21. “Unless we’ve gone way over time and the lunch bell’s about to ring, [the students] always ask me, ‘Where’s Christopher?’” Coyote says. “And I say, ‘Everybody always asks me where Christopher is. And I know what you want me to tell you. I know you want me to tell you he grew up into his gigantic hands and feet and that he’s a handsome tall man who married a handsome tall lady and they have two happy, heterosexual children. And I’ll tell you I’ll make up that Disney ending for you or I’ll tell you the truth. It’s up to you guys.’” When Coyote reveals the true ending of Christopher’s sobering tale, they offer a glimpse of what fuels their passion for this work, which often involves visiting three or four schools a day, and over 11,000 students a week. That leaves only minutes for eating, and when you factor in driving long distances to remote communities in Northern BC and Manitoba, only minutes for sleeping, too. “[Christopher] is why I come into public high schools,” they say. “I want to talk about school culture. I know that part of his story was that he was brutally, brutally bullied in school to the point where he almost couldn’t stay in school. And even though he came from this gigantic tightknit family, we couldn’t protect
him all the time. He carried those lessons about not being as worthy as the rest of us into his adult life, and it became a burden that he could not bear at some point.” They add that getting all students to think about their own social power, and how they wield that power in school, is the most important endgame in telling Christopher’s story. “I often meet with the GSA [Gay Straight Alliance] personally, but I still think it’s important for me to address and engage as much of the school body as possible, because the ‘Wendy Tracy Sandra Jeans’ of the world are the ones that we actually have to resonate with on some level if we’re going to put a dent in homophobic and transphobic school culture, right?” Students, though the main focus of Coyote’s talks, are not even the whole of their intended audience; they often lead workshops with teachers and school staff, as well. “I remember this janitor coming up one time and he couldn’t even talk,” they recall. “And he was just this big, huge guy wearing green Dickies and a work shirt: your archetypal janitor guy. He just hugged me and said, ‘Oh, I wish you would have been here when I was here. I went to this school.’” Often parents end up being an unintended audience for Coyote’s talks, too. A few years ago, when they toured schools in Eugene, Oregon, a large group of fundamentalist Christian parents protested Coyote’s arrival, believing that the content of their talk would be too mature and too controversial for the middle school–aged kids. In Coyote’s words, the parents caused a “big fuckin’ furor.” The school board was called in to attend the show, and some GSA kids who felt they were being censored wore rainbow flags twice the size of their own bodies. After the show, a father approached Coyote in tears, saying, “I came here to find a problem with you. How old was your cousin when he committed suicide? I was 19 the first time I tried.” These are the kinds of moments that Coyote has trouble quantifying. Nine thousand is not the actual number of times their heart has been split out of their chest on the job—rather it is a number that represents the uselessness of numbers in this line of work. What is the difference between 9,000 heartbreaks and 10,000 heartbreaks? That’s still thousands too many.
SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELLING DIARY One journal shared by three teen girls words by meredyth cole
The month I turned 15 I went to boarding school, a decision largely based on descriptions I read in young adult novels. I went there hoping that my personal diary would start to resemble the books I loved to read—books about private school intrigue and forbidden romance. Keeping a journal turns life into a story, and when you write this story as a young person, melodrama is the natural genre. In high school, there is no more pitiable state than being alone. I remember staring in awe at the renegade spirits who could eat at an empty cafeteria table. For me, togetherness was so attractive that even my diary was shared. My two best friends and I all kept our secrets written down in the same notebook, expressing our most private thoughts and communicating obsessively with each other, even when circumstances kept us apart. Lately, the world seems bent on making me remember what I was like at that age. All the trappings of the early 2000s—the guilty pleasure music and the American Eagle sweatshirts—have transitioned out of the immediate past and into a more distant place: somewhere that evokes nostalgia. Things that used to remind me of my past now appear poised to re-enter the present. Juicy Couture tracksuits are hovering on the edge of throwback irony, and The O.C. is a time capsule of dated hairstyles, almost ready to be revisited. My high school years aren’t just over—they are an inch away from retro. The journals that I kept with my friends are a whirlpool of adolescence, and reading them sucks me under every time. There are four diaries, dating from roughly 2006 to 2010. The mood to read them strikes me surprisingly often; I usually work through them all in one ecstatic, squirmy sitting. When I do this, I am forced to confront the person I was back then—a person who actually wrote in gel pen. Reading your adolescent writing as an adult is undeniably painful. Worse than my bad prose was my outright plagiarism: sections of my diary were freely lifted from Sylvia Plath’s poetry (sections, for instance, that describe my visits to the orthodontist). Revisiting these passages is also difficult because the pain we felt as teenagers, however ridiculous, was undeniably real. The combination of selfridicule and remembered suffering is the special mortification of reading a teenage diary. The desire to preserve adolescent thoughts is a powerful and, sometimes, regrettable one. On my first day of boarding school, I was assigned a house, and the girls who lived in my hallway were automatically earmarked for inseparable friendship. The humid, heady atmosphere of the school was like a greenhouse, a place where friendship and dislike could flourish with equal ferocity. Two girls who lived a few doors down from me became my closest friends. None of us remember exactly how it started, but the three of us began keeping a shared journal. We wrote in colourcoded ink. I was purple; my friends were black and blue. The diary came with us to classes, assemblies, the cafeteria, and bed; the idea was to keep it for a week each and then pass it along the line, to share an uncensored glimpse of our thoughts and give the next girl a chance to do the same. It was not the most literary exercise— the majority of the pages are hysterical recountings of our brushes with the boys’ rugby team, preserved notes we passed in class, and copies of our “Valentine Matchmaker” results. It may not be a masterpiece, but as a time capsule and an unfiltered shot of adolescence, the journal was undeniably successful.
Keeping a diary together heightened our closeness. At times our thoughts and syntax and handwriting grew so similar that, were it not for the different-coloured ink, distinguishing between our entries would be impossible. The journal, which started as an exercise in collective girl consciousness, not only preserved our states of mind as teenagers, but also shaped my thinking as an adult. In teenage years, identity formation is a group project. Establishing who you are in high school is as much a process of declaring who you aren’t. All of the surrounding people provide the outlines of your identity, allowing you to sketch out the basics of your personhood by bumping up against the borders of theirs. For me, the diary I shared with my best friends was leather-bound proof of this. To be friends with these girls, to be cushioned by their personas, was a huge part of my character. I was not either of my friends, but the blurring of our identities when we wrote in the journal was the perfect way to understand which parts of myself were immovable and which were in flux. When I look back at the way we complemented each other, the way we were distinct but deeply co-dependent, I see very clearly the reasons we choose certain people to be our friends. There must be something inside us that searches for those who will abet our sense of self, who will allow us the most unencumbered growth. As sweet and funny as the diary is, it is also deeply mortifying. I suppose I was a typical teenager, but I had lived my years since high school graduation in a delusional bubble; I imagined myself above the embarrassments of youth. The diary made it impossible to pretend anymore. At least I have the comfort of knowing that my best friends were just the same: both of them turned into women I admire, and reading their teenage histrionics was a deep relief. Sharing the journal with each other lessened the difficulty of consuming it. Exploring something discomforting is liberating, distancing you from the person who endured that humiliation and asserting yourself as someone who has moved on. There is a compulsion to share the wince-worthy relics from the past. Whether they are school photos or Myspace bios, it is comforting to check in and make sure you weren’t that bad, that you were one of many. There is also a desire to throw away the things that cause humiliation, but because most of my journals weren’t mine alone, I couldn’t just make them disappear. I will always be stuck with the evidence of my most awkward years, and lately I’ve been grateful for the connection. Perhaps the thing that makes adolescent journals so endearing is the realization that they are essential. The person who wrote pages of prose dedicated to angst and awkwardness is a necessary part of the person I am now. The relationship between my best friends and me has long since mellowed. We are still close, but deprived of the suffocating proximity of boarding school and the hormonal volatility of youth, we no longer feel the intimacy we did back then. Reading over our journal made me realize how far we had drifted. The passage of time is the unavoidable subtext of any object from the past. In my case, this distance was great comfort as well as sadness. When I start to feel pangs of nostalgia, reading my diaries brings me closer to teenagehood than anything else—closer than watching re-runs of Gossip Girl or listening to Flo Rida, closer even than slipping my feet into a pair of Uggs. The farther away those years become, the more I crave this closeness, and I have to thank my teenage self for keeping a journal and making it possible, if uncomfortable, to revisit who I was.
: Photography ——Gloria Wong, Pacific Academy
Ilford XP2 400
: Photography ——Gloria Wong, Pacific Academy
Ilford XP2 400
HAVE A GOOD LIFE Contemplating the 10-year high school reunion words by devon murphy art by justin ogilvie
The 10-Year Reunion Facebook Group became a game, and I was addicted. I stayed up late seeking out photos, racking my brain for anything I might remember about whoever I was investigating. And wondering what they might remember about me.
I spent a lot of time in high school wishing that I was somewhere else. It wasn’t because I didn’t like class—I was on the student council, in the drama club, and even spent one semester with the curling team (the un-bullied end of the nerd spectrum). It was because I loathed the small town I lived in: a place bisected by a picturesque river, where the Chinese restaurant mainly served fried chicken balls in red sauce. I wanted to leave that place from the minute I learned that cities existed.
Then, I started to think about my elevator pitch: how I would sum up my life in a casual sentence or two while being handed business cards and photos of new babies. I’m not married; I don’t have kids or own property. I move a lot, either for work or a need to just be somewhere else every now and then. But I have a good job. I have a long-term partner. I’ve lived on other continents and travelled by myself. I feel accomplished (some days), and I think I’ve lived an interesting enough life. But when faced with the prospect of going back to a hometown’s worth of faces I barely recognized, I began to wonder if they would think it was all enough.
Earlier this year, while living thousands of miles away in Alberta, I was invited to a 10-year high school reunion Facebook group—one of the most macabre things I can imagine. I laughed out loud, and then became obsessed with the lives of the people who I had left behind.
I grew up in small-town Ontario, with one central school for all the surrounding farm areas. It’s postcard-pretty, with a downtown so cute it was often co-opted by low-budget film crews and turned into America for the day. Lots of people’s If I can’t remember some of them, it’s fair to assume that my face is forgettable, parents met at the one high school, then married and had kids who did the same. too. That people don’t spend their days reading the things I write and thinking, Everybody knew everybody’s business: who got pregnant, whose mom had an “I knew she’d make it!” like I kind of hoped they would. affair, who went to rehab for a tune-up. I asked a former classmate what appealed to her about a reunion. She still lives in I was not popular, but not unpopular. I wasn’t voted most or least likely to do town, and sees the same people at the grocery store and the post office. Mainly, anything, but I didn’t really care—I had long before decided, in my teen wisdom, she seemed interested in reminding people she wasn’t just the “fat humorous girl” that the school, the town, the people were too small for me. I knew one day anymore. No one in high school knew who they were—this was the chance to I’d move somewhere better and become sophisticated and cool; simply leaving show everyone who they’d become. would mean that I’d made it, which meant, to me, that everyone who stayed Talking to her did dilute some of my venomous feelings, and I’m probably had failed. overthinking what would, in reality, be an evening of awkward hugs and small It turned out that most of the people I went to school with settled in our talk—nothing more. It might even be fun. But the fact that it’s been a decade hometown. They’ve celebrated weddings, pregnancies, second children (some since we graduated doesn’t make me want to celebrate. More important things have happened since. My world got bigger, just like I planned. The only difference now is that I’m wise enough to know that moving away doesn’t mean I’m smarter or better.
“I knew one day I’d move somewhere better and become sophisticated and cool; simply leaving would mean that I’d made it, which meant, to me, that everyone who stayed had failed.”
The Facebook group had 217 members, most of whom I hadn’t seen or even thought about in over a decade. Scrolling through the list of inscrutable married names, and names that hadn’t changed but didn’t conjure a face, I had that same tightening in my chest that I always did when someone suggested I move closer to home.
Even though the first look through my classmates’ accounts was callous, I eventually went back and dove deeper. Most of them seem happy—or at least that’s what their pictures told me—and I’m happy for them. They built families, and stayed in the community because that’s where they felt comfortable. They probably don’t care what I think about them, or about the painfully ordinary town in which we all grew up. I don’t even really know these people anymore—only their online personas, which are the best versions of the people we grew up to be, anyway.
I spent my initial profile perusal getting my bearings, but that soon bore pure, disgusting judgement. She married him? Someone let him have a kid? Something came over me, and with every click I was mocking odd-looking babies and tuttutting bad career moves, sneering at stay-at-home moms with their minivans and unstylish haircuts. How could they have never left?
The group never came to a consensus on the date and place for the reunion. The conversation petered out after a suggestion to recreate the after-prom party (which I did not attend). But there’s always the grocery store, the post office, and newsfeeds full of filtered photos of our shiniest selves—just friendly strangers hitting “like” then getting back to life.
even third children), new homes, and promotions—all in the same 15 square kilometres (more, if you count the long dirt trails with names like “Sideroad 13”).
Sealed with a word, oil on canvas
MASTER CHEF This 15-year-old cooks a whole lot more than mac and cheese by stephanie orford photography by jordan houston
Victor Mangas must not have been much more than one year old when his proud father, my violin teacher, held him beside me in front of a large French-language map of Europe in the hallway of their family home.
an ‘E’ vowel—a sharper sound,” Mangas says. “It helps me think about the flavours. If I taste a stew that has a lot of balance of the flavour, I think of the sound ‘O,’ because I think it’s a really interesting vowel sound, a lot more well balanced and mellow.”
“Victor, where’s France?” he asked, and Victor’s stubby baby finger pointed at France.
Mangas’ father is a violinist and his mother is a pianist. Both have busy professional careers teaching and performing, so Mangas and his older sister Cosette grew up in the midst of a busy house full of music, with a deep curiosity for history and culture.
“Where’s Germany?” Victor craned toward Allemagne. This summer—14 years later—Victor made a seven-course meal inspired by George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period for me and seven friends at his family’s house in Vancouver, in the same room where I took my lessons. The contrasting upbeat and blues-inflected sounds of Gershwin were the stimulus for a meal that combined unexpected flavours in a way that might not seem intuitive, but was oddly delicious—the sousvide rib-eye steak with black-tea-blackcurrant and chimichuri sauces, for example. This synaesthesia between sound and flavour is present in every meal Mangas makes. “When I taste acidity, I think of
tchotchkes in his bedroom: rock specimens, Doctor Who paperbacks, a collection of circuit boards. For several years now, he and his father have been going sky watching with fellow astronomy enthusiasts, driving to remote places and staying up late with their telescopes pointed at the sky. When this family wants to do things, they go all-in. Over the last two years, Mangas’ obsession has turned to cooking, and staff at the Gourmet Warehouse know him by name. Mangas grew up
“He was a picky eater until he was in Grade 6 (which, as a reminder, was only four years ago).” Their early 1920s Craftsman home’s living room is stacked with books on art and history. Mangas has been playing the clarinet since he was 10, when he inherited his grandmother’s instrument, but science also enthralled him from a young age. It remains one of his passions, as evidenced by the explosion of science-related books, contraptions, and
exercising his curiosity, tinkering and trying new things. Now the 15-year-old tests out new recipes and techniques in the kitchen almost every day, after coming home from school, clarinet lessons, and rehearsal for one of the five orchestras he’s a part of. “Usually I have very, very packed days. Full of everything,” he admits. “I don’t play video games and I don’t really watch that much TV or anything,
Fuji Superia 400
so I have a lot more free time, I guess, which I cram with all of these activities.”
and his team won for their creative beets, the floodgates of Mangas’ culinary ambitions opened, and so did his palate.
Despite his current love of food, he was a picky eater until he was in Grade 6 (which, as a reminder, was Now he’ll try pretty much anything. only four years ago). “I’d be like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll have some salt and pepper on my hamburger,’” he recalls. During European travels with his family, he has The turning point came in his tastes when his teacher taken on his parents’ tradition of stopping at held an Iron Chef competition for the class. “We had regions and restaurants known for their specialty an ingredient—beets—and we had to use it in three dishes. In Edinburgh it was haggis, which was different dishes,” he says. “That was pretty scary for “very umami-ish.” In Berlin it was eisbein—pork me, because I had no experience with cooking at knuckles, brined and served chilled. He once the time. I got into my group, and the other group made seared Rocky Mountain oysters (bull members were like, ‘You can cook,’ which I very testicles). In Modena, Mangas and his mother went to Osteria Francescana, a world-famous much could not.” restaurant run by chef Massimo Bottura, to scope But Mangas sunk his teeth in, did his research, out the operation on the off-chance there might and pulled off three creative dishes: a beet bundt be a table for them, despite a three-month waitlist. cake, a pickled beet salad, and spiced, shaved There wasn’t, but after Mangas’ mother showed beets with lime zest. The culinary research the host photographs of his culinary creations, twigged something in him. “There’s a lot of room they got a tour of the kitchen instead. “It was for creativity and finding the history of it and the really cool to see because they had a whole bakery science of it and how different things combine in one building, an experimental kitchen in one and how that combination of food works,” he building, then in another their day-of and prep explains. Fuelled by the second-place prize he cooking stations,” Mangas recalls.
Back home, he has started making some of his own artisanal products and staples, including bread and pastries. The family keeps a hive of honeybees in the backyard, and Mangas extracts the honey himself. Just before I spoke with him, he had made a large batch of cheeses, experimenting over three intensive days to make brie, gouda, valencay, camembert, and blue. Although Mangas’ days are shoehorned with activities, he still makes time for friends, and is OK with the fact that not all of them are composing symphonies, learning five languages, or making their own cheeses. “I haven’t really found many people that are as persistent in their interests as I am,” he says. “My friend Jimmy is the best person ever at martial arts, but then some of my other friends are just really, really good people.” When we talk, he’s about to go for a sleepover with a friend from elementary school—a “regular” kid activity if there ever was one. “We both really like the show Rick and Morty, so we might watch that,” Mangas says. “And also we really like card games. Just general stuff that you do at sleepovers.”
ADVENTURES IN CATHOLICISM Attending a religious high school words by katie stewart artwork by joelle gebhardt
I hate Jesus. Or maybe I just strongly disapprove of what Jesus does to people. Why does even writing that give me such violent pangs of guilt? I’m sure after years of overpriced psychotherapy I’ll be able to write those words with the conviction of a full-blown atheist. Growing up in a staunchly Catholic household was far from fabulous. I recall feeling left out when all of my childhood friends were riding bikes up and down my street while my sister and I were praying the Rosary to the three-foot Virgin Mary statue in our living room. At first I thought my mother put
screaming, “Praise the Lord!” at the end of every sentence: it was like she was trying to out-Jesus them. And between her overzealous Bible quoting and the giant Mary statue glaring at the intruders, she always won. Don’t get me wrong—I think for the majority of my childhood I had a fairly stable upbringing, and I don’t recall being bombarded with strange Catholic rituals. But for one miraculous reason or another, by the time I turned 13, 4:30pm suddenly became our household’s communal repentance hour.
detaching my attention completely—I can be asleep with my eyes open—an indispensable skill for painstakingly boring Sunday sermons. I remember one particularly embarrassing situation when I was completely in the “church zone” during a high school safety presentation. When the presentation ended with applause, I “woke up” and automatically made the sign of the cross. My classmates thought I was really into safety. Excuse me. Back to the praying.
Wednesdays were especially exciting because our daily Rosary praying was relocated to the Bartholomew house, another profoundly Catholic family that didn’t believe
“Michael, Anthony, Jacob, Noah, Daniel, and Joseph ( what? No Abrahams? ).” this life-sized religious doll in front of the biggest window in our Chilliwack home so that my “pagan” friends could see my angry little face as I spat out my Hail Marys, but later I realized it was part of her ploy to intimidate the Jehovah’s Witnesses that had the misfortune of being assigned to convert the residents of 5695 Janis Street.
in contraception. They had six pimple-faced boys, all about 11 months apart: Michael, Anthony, Jacob, Noah, Daniel, and Joseph (what? No Abrahams?). Throughout the 53 Hail Marys, I would stare at the boys and do rough calculations as to how many days Mr. Bartholomew allowed between the birth of his first child and the conception of the next one.
On those rather dismal Saturdays, when little old ladies came a-knockin’ with their copies of The Watchtower, you could almost hear my mother
Granted, I didn’t really mind these one-hour chanting sessions. Not only did my math skills improve, but I was able to perfect my talent for
As far as I could gather, the prayer group was a relatively elite assemblage of Catholic fanatics headed by Joe Wittick, the resident Chilliwack visionary. A man with only five front teeth, he was regular celebrity among lonely Catholic housewives thanks to his ability to have little chats with God. After a Rosary session one evening, Wittick told us about his most recent vision, in which he was escorted to Heaven and driven around in a stylish white Cadillac. In this holy Hollywood, each saint was given a Beverly Hills-style mansion nice enough to make Lindsay Lohan a convert. The sun always shone, palm trees lined the streets, and I’m sure Jesus and his gang of sun-kissed apostles roamed the sands of Venice beach looking for water to turn into wine. I suddenly wanted to thrust my hands in the air and voice my enthusiastic approval of this star-studded heaven. Really, if praying in someone’s living room could bring me one step closer to my own celebrity villa in the sky, get me some knee pads—I’m in.
H O W CAT H O L I C H I G H S C H O O L I S D I FFE R E NT FR OM P U B L I C H I G H S C H O O L
In Catholic school you are required to wear extremely unflattering uniforms that typically involve plaid. Contrary to popular belief, the Catholic school population is not necessarily just comprised of overly sheltered, Jesus-loving, Bible trivia masters. When extremely violent students are removed from the public school system, it is common practice to give the kid the option between juvenile detention centres or private school. The majority choose private school. Similarly, if someone in the public school system is caught dealing drugs, the student is kicked out of the entire district. Catholic schools are outside of the district. And regardless of religion, all kids like drugs. In Catholic school, once a month the entire student body files into the gymnasium for an impromptu church service. Confession—the opportunity to be absolved from your sins—occurs between a priest and a student alone in a darkened sports equipment room. As the Catholic Church regards premarital sex, birth control, condoms, and any type of contraception as a mortal sin (the worst, most horrible kind of sin there is), there are absolutely no sex education classes in Catholic school. Instead, the entire school is periodically shown grotesque videos about abortion procedures. In Catholic school, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution is not taught in biology class. It is only a “theory.”
K I LT S H O R T E N I N G 1 0 1
DISCLAIMER STEP ONE
This technique may not be appropriate or successful for all students. In
Purchase one, and only one, overpriced tartan skirt.
fact, the only experience I have had with this technique ended rather poorly. Once my mother recognized that my kilt was beyond repair, she confiscated my uniform and forced me to wear my older sister’s
conservatively long kilt. One day, a few months later, I managed to steal
At the seamstress, pull the kilt down as far as you can while your
my kilt back from my mother’s closet. Balancing my textbooks on my
conservative mother indicates the “proper” length of the skirt
lap to cover my exposed thighs, I survived the car ride to the bus stop
(approximately no more than two inches above the knee, lest you
without her noticing. However, as soon as I dashed out of the car I must
be instantly impregnated—God knows how, we didn’t have sex-
have flashed her my underwear, because I could hear her yelling as
education, after all).
the bus pulled away. As soon as I arrived at school, the secretary was waiting for me: “Miss Stewart?” “Yes?” I replied, while readujsting my kilt.
“I just received a call from your mother,” she said. “I believe the principal
Once you’ve picked up your modest-length skirt from the
would like to speak with you in his office.”
seamstress, reset the waist buttons so that the waistline is as high
In order for the principal to make an accurate measurement of my
as your grandmother’s stylish polyester pants. End product: you
skirt-length violation, I was asked to kneel on the floor so the length
have effectively converted your uniform into an overpriced plaid
of exposed thigh could be measured with a ruler. The rest of the year
I wore pants.
Even as a freckle-faced, Jesus-lovin’ kid, I had the distinct impression that not everything that I heard in Church was to be taken literally. I wasn’t actually eating little pieces of a holy guy who died 2,000 years ago, nor was I sipping his grape juice-flavoured blood. Still, some people took this shit seriously. I recall being particularly troubled by the Bible story regarding Abraham and his attempted sacrifice of his “beloved” son Isaac. I was horrified by the image of poor, little Isaac lugging bundles of wood up a mountainside to build a sacrificial fire that would essentially be his personal tanning booth. But Abraham loved God so much that he happily strapped his kid to a ready-made barbeque and pulled out a shiny blade to finish off the job. And while I’m sure all the churchgoers were inspired
just rub a scented dryer sheet over your uniform. Done. The battle of expression, or simply setting yourself apart from the colony of uniformed drones, was particularly difficult. The focus shifted to bizarre and unflattering hairstyles and experimental footwear. Of course, modifications to the actual uniform itself were encouraged, and for me it was all about the kilt. By the end of my high-school career, I stopped going to Church and started dating a Mormon. In my mother’s profoundly Catholic opinion, this was equivalent to selling pornography to children and using opiates. I was kicked out of the house in Grade 12 because I was too “sinful” to live in the same house as “real” Catholics. Considering
I kept the card for years because I thought it was totally ridiculous, but also because I thought that it might come in handy one day. A few years ago, I wrapped it up and gave it to my mother for Christmas. I think she was so excited that she cried. Since I stopped going to Church eight years ago, my family life has been a constant battle against Jesus. Most ex-Catholics will probably say the same thing. I truly wish that somehow I could control my gag reflex when I see energetic, newly “born again” young people running around town proclaiming the “truth.” I feel like a Pavlovian experiment gone wrong, but instead of bells and drooling, it’s Jesus and anger. It’s something in the back of my throat that could be bile and something in my chest that could be grief. It’s like Jesus was my flawless older brother who died too young in a horrible car
“Considering the emotional pain religion has caused me in my uneventful life, perhaps it is understandable why I have inadvertently become obsessed with it.” by Abraham’s selfless obedience, I couldn’t help feeling a little worried that our church was filled with equally sadistic parents who would heartlessly butcher their children just because some giant voice in the sky thought it’d be fun to see if they would actually do it. Usually the Abraham and Isaac story would be read during Sunday mass at least once a year, which gave me about 365 days to forget about how great God’s sense of humour was. One Sunday after having the pleasure of hearing my favorite Bible story, I made an enormous mistake. On the car ride home from church I interrupted the flood of inspirational Praise 106.5 FM music that pumped through our minivan speakers: “If the pope asked you to wear polka-dots to church every Sunday, would you do it?” With a slight chuckle, my mother answered, “Yes, but I’m sure he’d have a good reason for it.” I continued: “And what if God asked you to sacrifice me, would you do that, too?” And with the same unwavering devotion, she replied, “Yes, I would.” Lesson learned. Never ask your parents questions that you don’t want to know the answers to. When you have to wear a uniform every day, it makes getting up in the morning significantly less stressful. Your options are simple: plaid with a bright red V-neck or just plaid. People can’t judge you if you can’t afford the latest pair of super-low-rise Mavi jeans, nor can they make fun of your ugly stained polo shirts—everyone is wearing ugly stained polo shirts. In fact, laundry is practically non-existent:
the emotional pain religion has caused me in my uneventful life, perhaps it is understandable why I have inadvertently become obsessed with it. I am completely fascinated with how ridiculous it all is: I love the corny plastic Rosaries, the gold-framed holographic pictures of Jesus (when slightly angled turns into Mary), and my personal favourite—the handy-dandy pocket-sized Jesus. While in Spain a few years ago, I realized I was in a Jesus Mecca. Beautiful, handcrafted four-inch Jesus statues (made in China) were conveniently sold for less than two Euros. I couldn’t resist. The mini Jesus and I had a wonderful European vacation together, and despite the frowns I received from other tourists as I posed with my holy companion in front of the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben, I felt like I finally understood the old Christian saying, “Always have Jesus in your heart.” He fits nicely in a handbag as well. One of the best things I ever got out of nine years of Catholic education was a laminated “Admit One” card for Heaven. I earned the card from being involved in a travelling Bible trivia group that competed against other Catholic poindexters from around the globe. It was kind of like Jesus Jeopardy: Q: This is the rite performed by a priest whereby evil spirits are driven out of a person’s body in the name of Christ.
accident; I feel a connection to him, but it’s bitter and angry and I am constantly competing with him for the affection of my mother. There are pictures of him all over the house to remind me that I can never be loved as much as he is. I want to think religion is a wonderful thing for humanity—and when it doesn’t inspire us to murder one another in an endless bloodbath, it really can give meaning to our lives. Looking back, I can see why the brutalities of the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition were omitted from our religion class curriculum. I sincerely want to believe in God the Father Almighty, the creator of Heaven and Earth. I sincerely want to believe that there might be a mansion in Heaven waiting for me if I follow 10 easy guidelines that were handed down to a crotchety old man thousands of years ago; I also want to believe that a yellow, laminated card might help me get there. I want to believe that when my parents die, they will go somewhere meaningful and beautiful that has no pain. I want to believe that after I die, my soul will continue living somewhere much nicer than a one-bedroom apartment in East Vancouver. I want to believe that praying in my living room, holding a necklace of plastic beads, will somehow cure the sick, feed the poor, and clothe the naked. But I can’t.
(Insert buzzer sound) A version of this piece was originally published in W49 magazine, volume 13.
A: What is exorcism?
THE OUTSIDERS What high school was like for a mother and son by sierra skye gemma & liam lindley art by sherri rogers
h.p. baldwin high school, wailuku, maui, hawaii, usa, 1993 I almost kiss Petia from Bulgaria. Just before I leave home in California to live with my older sister in Maui, Petia and I spend the day sitting on my bed with the sun streaming in on us, highlighting her rose-coloured freckles. It’s probably the most romantic moment of my life. Now, things are not so romantic. It’s hot in the stuffy, small, cluttered office on the periphery of Baldwin High School. The school counselor studies me from across from her desk. “I know just where you’ll fit in,” she says, standing. She leads me across dead patches of lawn to an open-air corridor that runs along Baldwin’s main building. The school is massive. Two thousand kids. The counselor takes me to the theatre, interrupts the class, and introduces me to the drama teacher. Miss Louden asks me a few questions before giving me the role of “the boyfriend” in a short skit the class is working on. Miss Louden introduces me to my co-star, “the girlfriend”, who is the second most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. She has tilted green eyes, skin like polished milk quartz, tiny dark freckles, and straight, silky black hair. She says she is part Eskimo. I think that, maybe, she’s even prettier than Petia. We spend every lunch working on the skit together. I can’t believe how lucky I am to be playing this beauty’s boyfriend—until lunchtime on the day of the performance, when my co-star grabs my arm, which is slung over her shoulders, and throws it off
of her. “What is wrong with you?” she screams at me. The other actors in the skit stiffen. Some kids hanging around the theatre look over at our group. I flush in embarrassment. “What are you talking about?” I try to sound annoyed. I want her to seem like the crazy one. “You’re taking this too seriously. It’s like you think we’re actually boyfriend and girlfriend. It’s creepy.” Everyone is staring now. “Whatever,” I say. I’m horrified, but act casual. We perform the skit. My co-star seems to forget about my enthusiasm. I get an A. For two years, I spend lunch with the boys. I hide the secret that I like girls. —sierra skye gemma
“Would it be alright if I hung out with you and your friends?” I ask. Katie takes me to a part of the school that I never thought was used as a hangout spot and introduces me to her friends. I sit in the corner, the only empty space, and don’t say much. The next few days are the same: I meet up with them, eat my lunch, and then sit quietly until the bell rings. While eating lunch one day, I overhear two of Katie’s friends talking about the upcoming auditions for the school’s annual junior play. “I think you should audition!” one of them says to me.
“I’ve never been in a play before. I don’t think I’d do that good,” I say, even though I’m secretly interested. A week after auditioning with a monologue, a small bit from To Kill a Mockingbird, I run down the hallways of the school trying to get kitsilano secondary school, vancouver, to the drama studio, but it is surrounded. Taped to the door is the list of the people who got a role. british columbia, canada, 2015 I squeeze my way through the crowd till I can see the paper, and my name on it. It’s just one day after Eleanor became my ex-friend and, already, lunchtime is no longer the same. I walk Now it’s only two more days until the first showing into the Hideaway, the school’s tiny market that of the play and I’m getting frustrated with having sells snacks and supplies, and there are my two best to say the same lines over and over, so I make my friends. For the first few minutes, everything seems way to the exit for some fresh air. One of Katie’s regular, but then it starts to feel different. My friends friends follows me outside. We talk about the play are also friends of Eleanor, and it’s weird now. for a while, then our love lives. To my surprise, he’s I spend the next lunch alone—and the one after that, not straight. This gets me thinking about my own sexuality and I slowly realize that I’m bisexual. I and the one after that. I sit in an empty hallway, leaning join the lgbt club and it seems like my whole on a locker, while eating a PB & J sandwich that doesn’t taste all that great. Then one day, I hear footsteps and life changes. Everything is different now, just see Katie coming down the hallway. She sits beside me because my friendship with Eleanor ended. If it and I tell her the whole story, about Eleanor and the wasn’t for her, lunchtime would be totally different. friend break-up, and about how lonely I feel. —liam lindley
ELECTION How high school student council is like real-world politics—and why that might not be a good thing words by roland campbell illustration by courtney garvin
I was reflecting upon my time on my high school’s student council recently and found a layer of soot on my finger after tracing it across my memory. There are things that now (and at that time, on some occasions) appear to have had the tinge of corruption, the ring of unscrupulous process, and the whiff of pungent air from the shadows. Now, with greater objectivity allowed by hindsight, I can examine certain experiences and critique my actions, as well as those of others around me at the time. How much does human behaviour evolve between high school and the adult world,
and had one of the best academic records in the city. I remember overhearing a teacher complain once that the principal had said, unequivocally: “Our students go to university.”
I was called out of my Grade 11 English class in the afternoon by the voice over the P.A. and told to come down to the Student Activity Council (sac) office. It was there, packed into the small room with the rest
“How much does human behaviour evolve between high school and the adult world, between student council and city council?” between student council and city council? How much do social conditions change between the micro and macro scale, between school assemblies and media conglomerates?
I went to a public high school in the suburbs of Toronto. It served a middle-to-upper-middle class income bracket, as well as some students from lowincome housing, and spots were in high demand. The school was a collegiate containing a smaller arts school,
of the eager candidates, that I learned I had been elected the Student Organization for the Promotion of School Spirit (sopss) representative. I was elated, and my steps felt lighter as I wandered the halls after the announcements were made to the rest of the school. I only ran because Violet didn’t run. My position historically went to an arts student, and Violet was a drama major in my grade, a friend. She had leading roles in school shows, was popular and smart. She
decided not to run for sopss rep so that she could focus on her academics and have time for the lead part in the upcoming year’s show. We had discussions about the situation and, although at the time this might not have been completely conscious to me, we made a political deal. She agreed to throw me the arts vote if I made her vice president of sopss, which I did. My steps led me that afternoon to the hallway where the drama majors had their lockers. I was approached by a couple of fellas in the grade above; they were a bit of a tandem, music majors, and good friends with Violet. They came up to me, nice and close, and said in the same breath as “Congratulations” that the only reason they voted for me was because Violet hadn’t run. I wasn’t fazed by it at the time, but in retrospect it seems like a couple of teamsters telling me to remember who gave me my crown.
selecting new candidates
I remember the request being last minute. It was second half of my Grade 12 year and my tenure on student council. The sac president asked me if I would meet with her, the faculty advisor, some of the VPs, and the principal. The president told me that they, the adults,
wanted me to join them in a meeting for selecting candidates (they wanted me over the media master, who had become quite vocal and active on the council; they expected him to be too combative and boisterous and me reasonable and accommodating, or complacent). The meeting was after school, in a boardroom that had windows looking out onto the sports field. I had never been in the room before, but recall wondering, when out in the field, what was on the other side of the glass, obscured by blinds. We sat at a long table: the president and I at one end, the principal at the other, and the faculty advisor in between. The faculty advisor had all of the applications in a stack, and we dissected each one. The name of one girl was read out loud and the principal asked me if I thought she would be appropriate, especially because she was only in Grade 10. I did not know who she was, really, and as I peered back at the principal, the table seemed to stretch out between us, pushing us farther apart, her face and voice becoming distant and hollow. I turned to the president for help; she nodded her head slightly and widened her eyes, indicating she wanted me to say yes. I began to nod my head hesitantly and then the president piped up and said, “Yes, we like her.” This process continued for a good while. For some applicants, the faculty advisor and administration would immediately approve or disapprove themselves; for the rest, they would ask us. I suppose I was selected as a character witness, someone who would be honest and true. Still, I felt like I was swept up in process I didn’t want to be in on—like giving an expert opinion on something I was new to, nodding along, all the while side-eyeing to see if anyone noticed that I didn’t know what I was talking about. They didn’t, of course—or perhaps they didn’t care. The process was an opportunity for friends to help friends, not like good neighbours, but as cronies, acting out the most natural of human tendencies: nepotism. I remember feeling uncomfortable and that there was something wrong with what I was doing, but I complied, just to get it over with.
counting votes, fixing the ballot
Like many other fascinating political moments, this one happened in a back room. It was mid-afternoon, and the blinds were drawn, letting in a dim, grey light. We were sitting in a circle on chairs, and the ballots were in piles on the floor in the middle. As the incumbent council, we were charged with running the election for the incoming sac, and part of that duty was tallying the votes. We had finished counting most of the ballots for the different positions and were expected to share results before the end of the day. With one position, though, the race was quite close: we counted twice, both times to different results. We counted a third time and could still find no conclusive winner. The feeling in the room was one of fatigue and frustration. We began to discuss what might be done. Recount? But there wasn’t enough time, and we were tired and frustrated by this process, perhaps even uninterested. Then someone suggested we just choose
a winner. The moral implications were discussed, but not for long; we arrived at a unanimous decision quickly, agreeing it would stay in the room. The choice was not motivated by a desire to favour anyone, and it was not motivated by a want to appoint who we thought should be in power or to extend our own reach of influence by sending in a puppet like Medvedev or Mubarak. It was the child of laziness, motivated by a lack of caring or maturity to tell those who needed the results—the adults—that we needed more time. When all was said and done, more than anything, it was a relief. Our choice was not a superficial popularity contest, either; we did take time to deliberate who we thought would be best at the job. At least, in our complete undermining of this democratic process, we were thorough in considering our appointee: “But we thought about it before we appointed the Manchurian candidate!” At least we were unified in our affront of democracy. What do they say about solidarity? I think that our faculty advisor and the administration left alone us alone in order to have us maintain some political independence. It was ethical on their part, but perhaps they gave us too much responsibility to our pubescent pedigree. We were 90% democratic, which is worth a consolation prize, but I wonder if a little bit more coaching might have led to a different result.
Monday afternoon sac meetings were a slaw of junk food and apathy for me. I remember having enthusiasm about the voting process and council decision-making at the beginning of the year, but that didn’t last long. I resorted to leaning my head on the table and raising and dropping my arm when prompted, like I was part of a production line. It did not take long for the self-interest of sac politics to show, and I didn’t want anything to do with it.
Assemblies were a big deal and a large part of our school culture—even students who didn’t like our school, or school in general, would go to see a friend perform. I remember being excited and inspired by the assemblies in Grade 9, which made me want to be in them, to have an audience. And, in the following three years, I was. It was electric, with a screaming crowd and roaring cheers if you did it right. I relished the experience: it was a venue to create fame, notoriety, and adolescent celebrity. Choosing the different acts gave me influence over the cultural flow. This was a particularly striking insight for me at the time, when I started thinking about the videos we made, the statements, the risks and norms we presented, and I took the responsibility seriously. How many other 17-year-olds can put a video on a 30-foot screen and show it to 2,000 people? Not many, and especially not repeatedly to a captive audience. I knew I had the media cornered. Of course now, a 17-year-old can have millions of views online. I might have been naive to recognize it as power, but it makes sense if you think of a high school as a contained subculture, with a large portion of its population being exposed to the influence of assemblies and other events.
high school and the rest
Looking back on the decision-making and the inclusion and exclusion that my position inevitably created, I am reminded of an idea in media theory: agenda setting. It is not that some evil overlord is conspiring to affect and control the message, but rather is the cumulative effect of many people making decisions, each with their own prejudices, which limit and shape what people consume—or at least, what is presented for consumption. In other words, of course people are deliberately silencing certain voices and ideas, but a lot of the time it’s just part of an automatic or less conscious process for individuals who, inevitably, cannot see all of their biases. It’s in the spirit of this idea that I begin to question my time deciding on content for our school: as a white male, how well did I represent diversity?
I was told early on by the president that I could do pretty much whatever I wanted, and get what I needed (larger projects approved, like budgeting for events and sound system rentals). I remember feeling like an autonomous autocratic actor on a democratic council, and for the most part, I was. I chose the members of my organization, the acts in the assemblies, and so long as I kept it good with the lighting crew, they gave me what I needed on the technical side. I was even allowed into the lighting booth, a notorious place that most outsiders were barked out of. After winning the election, I remember exclaiming to people that I would have minions, or rather, friends and admirers. A regrettable thing to say, in retrospect.
I did make an effort for inclusion, but I can only imagine that my blind spots created lacks in representation. The performers during my year in power included people of colour, persons with disabilities, and queer youth, so perhaps it wasn’t so bad after all. Still, the decision-making was in the hands of a white male, much like with the networks, production houses, publications, and websites that curate our broader cultural content.
I was in charge of school assemblies, which included dancers, bands, and other musical acts, a video or two, and miscellaneous performances such as beat-boxers and comedians. Each time, I would hold auditions. I had my VP, Violet, of course, but ultimately I decided who was in or out. Like it or not, I had control of the message—or at least a large part of it. Through these assemblies, I had an impact on the cultural messages emanating through our school. It’s not easy to say this, and perhaps my teenaged brain was self-aggrandizing, but I’m not so sure.
Our contemporary political system is not operating beyond the emotional and intellectual capacity of high school students. The same concentration of power in the hands of media elites and white males can exist in our high schools, too, thus making privilege in choice and questions of diversity in exposure as important at this micro scale as they are at the macro. On the bright side, a young person’s mind is more malleable than an adult’s, and they still have a chance to learn better. There is a stark difference between adolescent fraud and robo-calls.
P R D I R EN N OV ICTION SUITE
POSTA P O CA LYPTIC H E L L SCAPE
D OG PARK FORT
INTE NTIO NAL CO MMUNIT Y (WITH WI-F I)
It’s a game we all loved to play in school: Mansion Apartment Shack House. After all, what could be more fun than deciding your entire future (home, lover, job, children) through a game of counting and chance? But this classic pastime was due for a modern day upgrade. Will you fall in love with a brand whisperer or a negativity exorcist? Only PRDICTFY can, well, predict. BY R AC H E L B U R N S
YOUR FUTURE PARTNER’S OCCUPATION B RA N D W H I S PER ER CAT B E H AVI O R CO NSULTAN T F R E E L A N C E S PER M/ EGG D O N OR
how to :
N EGAT I VI T Y E XORC IST R E TA I L J E D I
lose your eyes while making C a spiral in the center of the circle and count how many times you went around.
tart going around each S option, counting out your number. Starting from the “P” in “PRDICTFY.”
CO N VE R SAT I O N A RC H ITECT T H O UGH T L E A D E R L IAISON
C T F Y CONDOOOOOO!
TENT IN SUCC E S S FUL O L D E R B ROT H E R’S CHILDHOOD B E D RO O M
FOOD TR UC K MIC RO LOF T
Y YOG A C H AN G E ROOM LOC K ER
THE KIDS YOU’LL HAVE MIN I AUSTRAL IAN SH EPH E RDS IN STAG RAM-FAMOUS R ESCUE K IT TEN S
N EPH E WS IN TH E SUBURBS T WO MASTER’S D EG R EES, ON E PH D YOUR COL L EG E ROOMMATE’S ABAN D ON ED L IZ AR D T WIN S
YOUR VEHICLE D ELUXE SMAR T CAR H YBR ID ROAD BIK E (STOL EN SIX TIMES) H OV ER BOAR D MOM’S OL D SEDAN UN D ERG ROUN D UBER 03
ross off each item you land C on at the end of counting out your number.
eep going around the paper K and skip over crossed off items.
ircle your final choices in C each category.
TESL A PAR KOUR ON LY
Share your future with us — #prdictfy
YOUR PAR TN ER’S IMPROV TRO UPE
SCHOOL D A Z E PHOTOGRAPHY STYLING
C L O T H I N G
F R A N K
Kodak Portra 400
Kodak Portra 400
Kodak Portra 400
Glee Club, Collage
: Art ——Kyle Buds
YOUâ€™VE GOT THE
WEâ€™VE GOT YOUR
Pamela E. Sheppard Barrister & Solicitor
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