Tuesday, May 26, 2015


Things (still) go better with Coke!
  1. The very first 10 seconds on the bike!
  2. First bite of pizza
  3. Favourite song on the radio
  4. Wife saying "thank you for doing the dishes"
  5. People who say "I’m sorry"
  6. Anything Ottawa
  7. Coke, nerds and salt and vinegar chips
  8. 1 Corinthians 13
  9. Sunrise in Oro
  10. When ticketmaster says "Scott, you’re going!"
  11. When I come home and the grass is cut
  12. "Jet"
  13. When my magazine subscription comes in the mail
  14. Green grapes
  15. Radio t-shirts
  16. Dogs
  17. Making Travel Agendas for the band
  18. Le Chateau and Zara
  19. People who want to be mentored
  20. The head and headphones gift from my son

  1. Ordering Coke and getting Pepsi
  2. People who say, "Do you know what your tattoo will look like in 20 years?"
  3. Movies with Will Ferrell, Jason Stratham or Adam Sandler
  4. Election commercials
  5. A neglected Canadian flag
  6. Strikes
  7. People who screen my text messages
  8. High winds
  9. Burnt out light bulbs
  10. Pot luck lunches
  11. Radio t-shirts that don't fit anymore
  12. Unpolished shoes
  13. When my computer asks me, "Do you want to save this password" and I say "ok" - and it doesn't.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


This is a first for me. I’ve never known anyone who’s been to jail. I guess there’s a first for everything.

For the last couple of months I’ve been to visit my friend at the Central North Correctional Facility. It is hard to describe, but for the next few paragraphs I’ll try to put my feelings and observations into words.

My friend did something he shouldn’t have done. He knows that. He made a couple of bad choices and now his life is in limbo in jail as he waits for sentencing at a hearing that has already been remanded four times over the last 9 months.

Upon arrival at the jail, I am required to remove everything metal and anything sharp. No cell phone, no camera, no pens, no keys, no coat, no necklace. Nothing. I’m given a key to a locker to hold my stuff during my visit and I exchange my driver’s license for a visitor pass.

Inmates get two non-family visitors a week. And each visit is 20 minutes. That’s it. They’re not made aware of a scheduled visit until two minutes before.

From the waiting room I’m buzzed through a heavy iron door and it closes behind me with a deep thud that echos a few seconds in the acoustically poor cement room. I’m brought to a screening room where I walk through an airport-like metal detector. Fortunately I don’t have to remove my shoes. While I’m being searched by the screener, a second employee is watching from behind glass in the adjacent room.

The screener buzzes the second door open but there's no directions given and it’s a bit confusing because the unit number where I’m headed does not match the floor number and there is no escort. I’m on my own.

From the elevator I’m expected to follow the numbers posted on the walls to my destination. It sounds simple but the long beige corridors are maze-like and I wonder what would happen if I got lost with no visible guards to ask for directions. I notice the eye-in-the-sky cameras - ah... "somebody will find me", I think. Sunlight comes into the corridors but since the windows are just above the 6-foot level, I can’t even get a perspective of where I’m headed.

Once I arrive at the door of the visitation room, still without an escort, I’m buzzed in and my friend is escorted from somewhere I can’t see. I walk in and take a seat on a round, cold metal stool. There’s 12 of them but I’m the only visitor.

There’s glass between us. We can’t touch, hug or shake hands. My friend puts his hand up to the glass to touch mine. I remember thinking, "They actually do this just like in the movies". The first visit was ok - a bit surreal and trying to process everything took my mind off my emotions.

The twenty minutes blew by in five.

My friend is wearing an orange jumpsuit with no logos or words. And there isn’t a personal number either. Under the jumpsuit is a matching orange t-shirt. His hair is messy. His black running shoes are plain. He’s permitted to exchange the t-shirt and underwear every couple of days but I notice the jumpsuit hasn’t been washed yet, and he’s been there two months.

He motions to me to pick up the phone so we can chat. Just like in the movies.

He is allowed $60 for the canteen each week, if someone drops off money. His weekly allowance cannot exceed $60. Because my friend has not been sentenced, he is not entitled to Coke. Apparently, inmates will smuggle stuff in a Coke bottle or Coke can while travelling between court and jail while the sentencing is happening but after they are sentenced, they can have Coke.

My friend buys chocolate bars, a deck of cards and a magazine. There are no Christian books. There was no Bible. I called the Chaplain and asked that one be delivered. It was.

The meals sound ok. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’m not sure about the quality of the meals. All I know is that inmates are overfed in calories to plump them up, because many who arrive have drug addictions and are underweight. My friend was never keen to workouts, but his cellmate has encouraged him and they invented a daily cardio and weight routine, using each other’s body weight for resistance. In the visitation room today, he demonstrated standing-on-your-head pushups. Not bad from a guy who never worked out.

He has no TV or radio or newspaper. He has no idea what’s going on in the world, so I share some news with him. He hears no new music. He doesn’t know who is in the NHL playoffs. Every day is the same. Eat, workout, read a magazine or his Bible, and once a week see a visitor for 20 minutes. (More if a family member shows up.) He gets 30 minutes of fresh air every other day but is still surrounded by walls so all he really sees of the outdoors is the sky.

During my visits I bring in photos of stuff - my dog, the band, my bike, etc. As we do the show and tell, he looks through the window and listens to my stories.

Beep. That’s the three minute warning.

We talk about the sentencing. The "what-ifs." We talk about how it all happened and how it can be avoided when he’s released.

Through this I have learned the definition of remorse. I hear his words and I see it in his eyes. To me, that’s the first part of the fruit.

Through this experience I have begun to learn the definition of boredom. Sleep, eat, work out, read, repeat. Fortunately he has another Christian cell-mate to pass the time with.

Through the visit I am faced with the incredible reality of how lucky and blessed I am. Today, on the way home, I will pick up dinner at a drive-thru wherever I choose. I’ll run an errand at the mall, then go home, take the dog for a walk and flip on the TV. My friend will be led by a guard to his cell, locked in, without a TV and without any food choices. He’ll wear orange again tomorrow, eat when he’s told, shower every second day at the time he’s told. He has zero responsibility. He makes no decisions.

Beep. That’s the two minute warning.

I haven’t even seen the cell so I’m connecting his words with scenes from the "Prison Break" TV show. (I’m trying to find a shred of humour.) His bunk bed is metal. The table is metal. There is a toilet and sink. He cleans his own cell. He and his cell-mate hang a "sh*t sheet" for privacy when they want to use the toilet.

Every day he waits for a social worker or the chaplain to visit - which is unlikely. Or, the phone to be brought to the cell so he can call his lawyer for an update. Sometimes he calls me.

Beep. One minute.

We look at each other, wondering if there’s a point to starting a new sentence when the phone is about to be shut off.

We chat about my upcoming plans for the weekend. At first I thought it would be cruel to share with him all the fun stuff I’m doing while he sits in the hole, but he wants to know. He’s happy for me, and he longs to join in once he’s released. Generally, he’s upbeat and happy. I thought he’d be a wreck. The boredom alone would wreck me.

The phone goes dead. He pushes the "repeat" button for an extra 20 minutes. Sometimes it’s granted but not this time. Sadly, we hang up the receiver under the table and try to use hand signals to communicate but after a few seconds we give up. There’s an uncomfortable moment of realization that he’s staying in his cement room while I go back to freedom. We wave, push our palms on the glass and then I head for the door as he watches. He smiles until I’m out of sight.

I brought nothing in and I take nothing. I have no recent photo of my friend. No souvenir to show where I’ve been.

How easy it is for us to live our busy, wonderful lives while other people, who may have made bad choices, are locked in a cement room, away from us. Out of sight and out of mind, because we choose to not inconvenience ourselves because we have better things to do.

In the parking lot before the hour-long drive back to the city, I snap a photo of the outside of the facility and post it. Almost immediately a Facebook friend throws up his comment.

It says, "Matthew 25:36". What is that? I google it. "I was in jail and you visited me".


Tuesday, May 19, 2015


A month ago, AFT performed their 100th show, (not including the previous version of the band, before me, with a different lead singer) and 100 shows feels like a bookmark in my life.
Ready to unload

I can't believe we've done this 100 times.  One week before a show, I do, what we call, "the advance work", where I phone the promoter and we go over all the rider details and iron out the changes to the show. The promoter confirms the overnight accommodation and street addresses and how to get hotel keys.  The promoter will confirm the specific meal, which is when I often say, "Please, no lasagna". Haha!  Lasagna seems to be the easy-to-make meal and if I don't speak up, we'll be fed that at every show.

Advancing also includes the confirmation of a local crew to help unload and keep things moving and if we are not bringing production (sound and lights), then I'll connect with the local soundman about our stage requirements.  The end of the advancing concludes with, "If the stage is clear when we get there and dinner is on time", the entire show will run like clockwork.

Unloading into the venue
Here is a typical schedule:
  • drive many hours to the show
  • 2:20 - Arrive at venue
  • 2:30 - Unload
  • 3pm - Set up sound
  • 4:15 - Set up lights
  • 5pm - Soundcheck
  • 6pm - Dinner
  • 7pm - Devotion and prepare
  • 7:45 - On stage
  • 8:45 - Hang out at the merch booth
  • 9:15 - Backstage debrief and snack
  • 9:45 - Teardown
  • 11:15 -Loadout
  • Davey setting up lights on trusses
  • More driving many hours....
The schedule is consistent, although often we run ahead of schedule if there is load-in help from a local crew provided by the promoter. It's a contract requirement but less than half of the churches actually provide help.

As the various vehicles carrying the band arrives, the boys all pile into one vehicle to chat while I enter the venue to meet the promoter and do a walk through. This is one of my favourite parts of the show.

Evan Duran - Front Of House sound
One promoter looked at the checklist on my clipboard and joked, "The guy with the clipboard has all the power".  It's at that specific moment, I feel invincible. Throughout the show, (and I say this humorously)  - "the power" moves from person to person depending on the moment in question. 

Setting up the lighting trees
With the mighty clipboard in hand, the promoter and I discuss the various need-to-know details - location of the power panel, dressing room, meal room, washroom, approval to use fog (so we don't set off fire alarms), projection system, house lights, etc. With all of this information, I become the "411 guy" and we save the promoter from answering "where's the washroom" from 7 visitors.

Outside the venue, Robbert Vander Grift is unloading the trailer into the hands of the local crew. Robbert can lift an insane amount of gear, and I'm sure if the trailer ever gets a flat tire, Robbert will skip jacking it up and just lift it himself.

Front of house sound and lights - ready
Inside the venue, Pip Lucas is directing the local crew as to where to unload each piece of gear and dropping cables.  Assuming the stage is clear and there isn't left over music stands and Sunday service stuff lying around, the unload takes about 15 minutes.

Once the gear is in the venue, the six boys (band and soundman) work in silence. You'd think someone would turn on a boombox and blast a tune, but there's no music and not much talk. Things move orderly.

GI Holm sets up the backline (guitar amps), Evan Duran sets up the mixing board, Davey Hooper sets up guitars and lighting, Jordan and the local crew assemble the components of the drum riser that we bring to each show - and set up the kit.  In the lobby, I'm setting up the merch booth with a local crew member.

The guest list is given to the promoter and a local crew member will move the suitcases with all the stage clothes to the dressing room.
Robbert programming the angle of the lights

All of this happens in 2.5 hours before soundchecking, but with the help of the local crew, and if there's no crazy flight of stairs making load-in awkward, and we don't have to clear off a messy stage, we can be ready for soundcheck in 1.5 hours.

Often the youth pastor (who handles the booking and acts as the promoter) has said to the band during load-in, "You guys are really organized". I smile and say, "Ya, we've done this before". The promoter usually gets my sarcasm. Honestly, when the promoter commends the band for being organized, it sets the tone for a really positive night.

Going home.

Before soundcheck, a couple of local guys are recruited to help launch the Kabuki Rocket Launchers. These streamers will blow over the stage and shower the first few rows of the audience. The recruits are assigned a stage position, which they scramble to in the dark between songs.  We do a run through with unloaded cartridges and briefed on the musical cue. Usually the local guys are excited to participate in a part of the show that is ... well... explosive.

About this time, GI is usually asking for food. "When's dinner, Dad?" he'll ask.

The soundcheck scheduled for 5pm often comes early, allowing the band time to relax and talk to the local crew. If there is an opening act, we spend more time with them. Sometimes the auditorium presents unique issues with feedback and extra time is spent trying to locate the source of feedback.
As per the plan, dinner arrives at 6pm, we do devotions together and pray for the show, and the rest of the night unfolds like clockwork. Unless there's a technical problem, which is what makes every show - unique and memorable.

For another perspective on "behind the scenes", read the blog by LIFE 100.3's Program Director Steve Jones who joined the crew for a day.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


I just celebrated my 34th wedding anniversary. Hard to believe, it’s 34 years. And, we lived together for two years before that. Actually, we dated all through high school, and met in Junior High. We’ve been best friends since grade 7.

In Grade 7. She coloured my geography maps so I didn’t have to.

Our first date was seeing the Osmonds at the CNE.

We sat in the Gold section, row 8, seats 9 and 10 at Maple Leaf Gardens for dozens and dozens of concerts.

We hung out at Center Island and went to hundreds of movies.

During summer vacation, I lived at the cottage for the summer, and Janice would drive to visit on weekends.

When my Dad told her to stay away, she didn’t give up.

When her parents weren’t nuts about me, she didn’t give up.

She encouraged my little high school radio show.

We dissected a snake.

We produced 8mm movies for Theatre Arts.

She is a co-creator of "Okay Then Dort"

She is Big Chief How.

She likes the band KISS.

She drove with me to my radio job interview in Kingston.

When I moved to Kingston she took the bus to see me every weekend.

She moved in with me. She married me.

She hung in while I was a selfish husband.

Together, we took our kids to the Yellow Slide Park and The All-New Yellow Slide Park.

She relocated her life to support my radio career to Saskatchewan, Kapuskasing, Pembroke, North Bay, Sudbury, Nashville and Barrie. And she arranged all the moves.

She supported my dream to work in Nashville.

She cried with me when I got fired.

She rejoiced with me when we got the license for LIFE 100.3

She grieved with me when we lost parents.

She cried buckets with me when our dogs died.

She encourages me in my hobby to tour with Anthem For Today.

We hang out in our day-bed by the water.

We BBQ chicken-ka-bobs.

We soak in the hot tub.

We ride our bikes along Orillia waterfront.

We cruise the Caribbean, lots.

We take the dog for walks together.

When I get depressed, she stays out of my way.

When I clean the house, she appreciates me.

When I write a memo or speech, she proofreads it to remove my stupid comments.

When I want to hang out with the boys, she understands.

When she wants to hang out with the girls, I understand.

When we have big decisions to make, we agree or we don’t do it.

I let her choose our car purchases. She makes good choices.

I let her seek out our homes. She finds the perfect homes.

My best friends come and go. Janice and I are one.

My best friends say they will be there when I need them, but if they feel tired they don't bother. But, Janice is always there for me.

My best friends ignore my texts - Janice answers attention.

When I share my troubles, my best friends pretend to listen but Janice listens and responds.

My best friends commit to hanging out, unless they get a better offer. Janice doesn’t look for better offers.

Janice is my only best friend. She is my life. She is my wife.

I am blessed.

You should be as lucky as me.