This year the DIY section featured a wide cast of guest columnists. The mission was simple: Teach us one thing you know how to do well. The topics weren’t always practical, but certainly amusing. Holes were dug, fires were lit, drag queen makeup was applied, and stairs were built.
Bryhanna Greenough looks back at the year of D.I.Y.
Right in time for Valentine’s Day, Berni Stapleton and Diane Weston share how they escape the tyranny of coupledom. They have married themselves.
“I hardly ever quarrel with myself, have only had to have couples counselling once, never take myself for granted, and I always buy myself gifts on special occasions,” say Berni Stapleton.
We caught up with Diane while she was preparing a special dinner for herself. Her reasoning was simple: “If it makes you happy doing it for someone else, why not make yourself happy doing it for yourself?”
Bend circuits, make noise
Craig Squires of local music improv group The Black Auks cracks apart Speak and Spells and other secondhand electronics and modifies the circuitry in an attempt to make weird new sounds. In our session we encountered the dreaded ‘black blob’ and triggered a mechanical bend (ie. Furby went crazy.)
Go on a fast
Meranda Squires talks about giving the body a rest from digestion so it can clean and repair itself. At the Lotus Centre, she leads groups on three day fasts. “For me there is hardly a difference between eating and not eating,” she says. But fasting can be pretty intense for some, she says. She calls it a “food addiction.”
Laugh in the face of winter by growing alfalfa, clover, radish, kamut, canola, sunflower, adzuki, fenugreek, and broccoli raab in countertop mason jars. Jars of green nibbles and bobbly bits will be popping apart like mad, their mass doubling every couple days.
We all have our strategies for getting around this one.
“Wait for someone to use it aloud in conversation, discreetly ask someone else, go through their mail and look for anything not addressed ‘occupant,’ or give them a nickname so you don’t need to remember their real name.” Wise words from Geoff Younghusband.
Make a time capsule
Sherri Levesque reminisces on the buried cookie tin filled with New Kids on the Block trading cards, grocery flyers, letters from Grade 5, and the reunion that resulted ten years later to dig it all up.
Extract lead from soil
Much of the downtown core exceeds the Canadian ‘safe’ level of lead in our soil by eight times. Alison Dyer talks about detoxifying with plants and building raised beds.
Make a podcast
Local podcasting hero Wankergirl (aka Dana Hawco) teaches some basic life skills to the 21st Century non-geek. On Podcasting: “All I know was that I had some stupid things to say and I needed somewhere to say them.”
Run a road race
Sarah Smellie trains for the infamous ten mile running race from Octagon Pond to Bannerman Park. “You’ll get to the point where, after you’re all warmed up, you can think about something other than your burning leg muscles, like the music you’re listening to, or the book you’re reading, or whether or not today is the day you’ll ask that special someone to try and bounce a quarter off your arse.”
Tour by hitchhiking
Forget a van. Two-man music act Ghosts of the Highway use only their thumbs to tour across the country. Words of wisdom: “Never under any circumstances accept a ride to the following places: Wawa, Ontario; Keremeos, BC; or Sintaluta, Saskatchewan. They’re on the shit list for being notorious dead zones.”
Set up a micro radio station
Eastern Edge Gallery becomes the site of a temporary radio station emitting live sonic montage.
“When radio was first invented,” says Kristen Roos, “it was in the hands of the people, there were no laws governing how it could be used. Pirate radio movements, which focus on putting radio back into the hands of the people, first sprung up in response to this control in the sixties and seventies.”
Make an ugly stick
“What if you are like me and can’t fiddle, or whistle, or rock? We are people known for being as musical as we are handsome, and I don’t want to be overlooked,” writes Jason Sellars. His solution: “Get noticed getting ugly… by rocking out on an ugly stick.”
Make a backyard garden
Jason Sellars produced his own produce by nailing containers to a salvaged door, filling them with soil and seeds. “This year I’ve grown myself an edible door,” he writes.
Promote your music
“The world is a sprawling maze of opportunities and dead ends,” says musician Neil Conway. The best way to do anything is to consider things carefully. “There’s no limit to what you could be doing right now, but before you do anything, think about it, talk about it, argue about it, sleep on it, and then think about it some more.”
Dave Sullivan teaches us how to build a set of stairs and revises some definitions along the way…
“Nosing: That part of the stair you trip up on when you come home loaded at your mudders. It pokes out like a big old snotbox.”
Be a drag idol
“You’re also gonna wanna add some knockers to your outfit. Every queen has her own size and substance—I like socks. They give me about a C cup and are guaranteed to stay perky. But not too perky,” writes Matthew Sheppard aka Lola Lucci. Other wise words: “In drag world, more is more, so keep caking on the blush and eye shadow.”
Find vintage chic
“If you find the perfect leather jacket for ten dollars, your life might change: your co-workers might respect you, and that cute barista may slip you extra foam—at no charge,” pines Jill Butler.
Dave Sullivan on how to get ready for a rockin’ 80s tribute show: “Ladies? Yeah, I’m talking to you. I hope you’re in shape. ‘Cause I got three words for you: tease, tease, tease. Get those biceps flexin’ and get that hair higher than Atlantic Place. I want that hair so high planes are going to have to radio in to ask for permission to go around it. I want that hair so high that Google Earth can pick up each and every one of you at that concert.”
Tell stories to kids
“Tell more stories to kids,” says Kevin MacKenzie. “Whenever a storyteller gives a story, a different illustration appears between every pair of ears in the room.”
Winterize your bike
On days where 40cm of white stuff dumps all over the city, “making roads into one lane quagmires of cars and pedestrians” you can find Rob Sexton riding around Quidi Vidi Lake or Mundy Pond on the fresh white snow. One of his favourite tricks? “Carry a lighter. You can use it to unfreeze parts. Just don’t melt anything.”
Burn mp3s to tape
“Like stuff you see in infomercials, my ‘tape burner’ is based on cutting edge, space age technology,” writes Kerri Breen. “Or conversely, ancient wisdom kept secret for years and not available in stores.” Kerri takes the digital and makes it anolog, all in the name of having a great cassette for a trip in an older car.
Light a fire
Paul Warford teaches us how to build a fire, have fun, influence friends, and impress lovers. While researching wood what doesn’t burn here, he talks about something called ‘old var.’ “I’m not sure what that may be, but if you ever encounter someone selling it by the cord for a price that seems too good to be true, move on.”
Illustration by Kira Sheppard.