Category Archives: Lifestyle

A Walk Through Winnipeg

By Matt Harrison

I skulked through the back alleys and side streets of the Exchange District one sunny May afternoon, smoking half a joint as I went. I crossed some street and came head on with a middle-aged man coming toward me. Judging by the state of his eyes and the tatters his clothes had long since become, I knew he wouldn’t mind the smell.

I popped the latter half of the joint into my backpack and carried on. I crossed Ellice Avenue, heading toward downtown Winnipeg. As I started across a mostly filled parking lot, I was stopped by a woman who looked to be somewhere in her 40’s, though she may have been a rough 30-something. Her skin was worn deep by whatever it was that brought her here. She was missing most, if not all, of her top teeth.

“Excuse me, sir,” she began as I slowed to look at her. “Maybe you can help me. I’m new to the city and I’m not getting assistance cheques for another week. I’m not asking for money, but I need someone to come with me to the store.”

“Why do you need somebody to come with you?” I thought aloud.

“I need baby formula.”

“You need somebody to buy baby formula for you?”

“For my three-month old” she nodded.

“Shit,” I said to myself. “I can’t go with you” I told her after a moment, “but I have a bit of money. Just a couple bucks.”

I dug through my right pocket and gave her the ten quarters I brought for a cup of coffee. “I don’t know what baby formula costs, but I hope this helps.”

“It’s 15 dollars” she said as she slowly shook her head, looking off, down the street.

Her shoulders fell into a slouch that showed the truth of her situation. But there is an infinite chasm between what I felt in that moment and what I knew. If this was a ploy to lure me deeper into this rough slice of Winnipeg, toward some person hidden away, waiting for me, she certainly wold not have told me so.

We each turned our separate ways, and I continued through the parking lot, steering away from downtown and wandering toward Winnipeg’s Central Park.

It was a short time getting there. As I wandered the sidewalk perimeter of the park, I looked across the street at two massive, heaving apartment complexes. I thought of the single mother I met one morning at the breakfast table who lived in one of those buildings with her daughter. She told me about her time spent as a cocaine dealer and the deep anxiety she felt about former clients coming to rob her of money and blow she no longer had. I wondered if she was still in there, if her nightmares had ever come true.

I don’t recall the turns I took, if I took any at all. Nevertheless, I had wandered through a business district and into a residential area. Up ahead, standing on a front lawn, was a young black man with a smoking something in his hand. He reached the joint out to a round headed, bald, white man walking 15 or so strides ahead of me. The man leaned away, bringing his hand up to say no. As I walked past, the same smoking gesture came my way.

”I’m good” I said as politely as I could.

“It’s weed” he said, confused at my response.

“Oh, uh, well, I had already some this morning, man.”

That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” he yelled through a laugh and a smile. I pointed a finger gun in his direction, bringing my thumb down as a mock hammer as I went by.

I wished I could have taken a hit of the thing, even just for the sanctity of the moment. I’m sure it was just weed, but I’d rather never know than learn it was a lie.

Hours passed and still I wandered on. I smoked again as I came over a long, busy bridge. I came to pass a mother pushing a stroller toward me with a toddler walking by her side. I butted the joint out, putting the rest away. She scowled at me as I came by, seeing me as just another shit head, stinking of drugs around her kids. A title I deserved as that’s precisely what I was doing.

I eventually found my way back to Central Park, six or so hours after I’d first come through. An older man with a grey ponytail stood tall ahead of me. I felt a thin, pot scented paranoia that he might be a cop so I gave him a silent nod as I came by.

“Nice day, huh?” he said as I walked by.

Beautiful day” I said, turning to face him with a full smile.

We both lived through the same miserable winter and, chances are, we were both going to sit through the next one to come. Those long, frozen days aren’t a problem for today, or tomorrow, or any sun shining days between here and that icy flipside. We talked and laughed about things of no real importance before we wished each other well and I carried on.

I smoked again as I came over a long, busy bridge.”

I walked on for only a few minutes before I came by two Jehovah’s Witnesses. I glanced over at the booklets they were giving away and it seemed they still had every booklet they brought with them that morning. I thought of what I would say to them but said nothing as I passed.

“They’re free” said the lady next to the very full brochure stand. She was a mid-30’s white woman, with a mother’s love in her eyes. Her smile reminded me of someone I’d known long ago.

I stood and talked with her for 20 or so minutes. She agreed, emphasized, even, the existence of literalities as well as metaphors throughout the old, Good Book. I asked her to state one literal truth which acts as a major pillar of the free literature beside her.

“There will come a day when Jesus comes back and returns the power of the earth to the meek. All evil will be removed from the earth and the meek shall inherit it.”

“And this will literally occur?” I asked.

“Yup,” she said enthusiastically, relieved at my understanding. “Isn’t it great?”

I said something about evil being inseparable from humanity and that acts of evil will always exist. To think there will literally come a day where all the evil in the world ceases to exist is impossible to believe. A thought which later occurred to me pertains to the fluidity of definitions. Even if the Lord were to rid this plane of all evil, there would soon be a modified definition of Evil within the newfound Eutopia. Whatever is believed to be out of line with the contemporary religiosity will decidedly be labelled an act of evil, and the concept shall survive.

The conversation ended with smiles and handshakes. As I turned to leave, I stepped into a pothole and stumbled onward. Perhaps the hole had been dug by the Lord Himself as a mechanism of correcting my misguided ways, though I suspect it was more a result of the nearly finished joint that stunk a hole in my pocket.

The heat of the day clung to the evening. I met a brother of mine at the University of Winnipeg and the two of us went for a walk-through East Gate, an historically rich neighbourhood. We drooled over the castles standing on each side of us, wondering what could be used to fill these many rooms.

I turned us off the main stretch of this Yellow Brick Road, down a brief street that ended at a dumpster, behind which was a small bit of bush line and the Assiniboine River.

We walked into the trees, through which there was a short dirt path that we followed down hill. I saw people standing in a clearing that lay ahead of us. As we approached, we were welcomed with a waving hand through the foliage.

“Greetings!” yelled the man beyond the bush.

“Hi there” I said as the two of us walked up to the two of them. He wore a jean jacket and black cargo shorts, while her hair erupted in a vibrant, sunrise-shade of purple that poured out of her black hoodie. They were sitting on a log, each drinking a Pilsner.

“You can walk right down to the edge of the water if you wanna,” the fella said after a bit of small talk. “Especially you,” he pointed toward my feet “with your fancy-camo-hikin’ boots.”

I told a story about going halfway to my knee in mud at the edge of this very same river in these very same boots.

“You’ll catch more than just fish in that water” I said, and we all laughed at the murky, rotten joke of it.

We talked another few minutes before my brother and I went back on our way. We headed back toward nowhere in particular, back through this big small town called Winnipeg.

More by Matt Harrison:

Another Day on the Road

Aimlessly Wandering Through Chicago

Ever Since I Lost My Mind – SUSTO

Ai-Kon Presents: Winterfest 2019

By Samuel Stevens

On Saturday February 23, 2019 a few conventions, which included the eighth annual Winterfest presented by Ai-Kon, kept the whole RBC Convention Centre quite full all afternoon and evening. Ai-Kon’s yearly attraction, Winterfest originally started as a 10th anniversary event in February 2011, but two years later became an annual event for all Anime/Pop culture fans to scratch their itch waiting for July to come around to attend the full 3-day extravaganza that is Ai-Kon.

K-Pop Dance Showcase - A.C.E.
A.C.E. – K-Pop Dance Group. Photo by Samuel Stevens Photography.

Winterfest had a lot for con-goers to keep busy throughout the entire day and evening. Between the screening room to watch episodes of popular anime or anime movies, the panel room, Maid Cafe, game room/game tournaments, cosplay hallway, the market place to purchase numerous items, art, etc. Even Nintendo of Canada set up a booth near the market place in the main hallway to let con-goers play/test out brand new Nintendo Switch games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu! and Pokemon: Let’s Go, Eevee! I should not forget about Winterfest’s dance corner in the main entrance area of the convention centre where many con-goers danced along side the Winnipeg based 10-member dance cover group, Nonets and others, throughout the entire con. Lastly, the main stage that saw performances from the Anime theme song cover band, Party Punch, a K-pop dance showcase, and a performance by the j-Rock idol unit, Seishun Youth Academy.

Winterfest 2019 - K/DA Cosplay
K/DA Cosplay. Photo by Samuel Stevens Photography.

There was a plethora of con-goers who dressed up as their favourite anime or pop culture characters at Winterfest, as many do at most cons, for those who are unfamiliar. A noticeable favourite this year was both various characters from the anime, My Hero Academia and Riot Games’ League of Legends pop group, K/DA. K/DA are a K-pop group collaboration between K-pop artists Soyeon and Miyeon of K-pop group, (G)I-dle and american pop artists, Madison Beer and Jaira Burns.

I was able to catch up with a few of these cosplayers and grab a photo or two of their cosplay to show off their hard word and dedication they put into their cosplays for this years Winterfest. (The full photo gallery including the cosplay photos is available here).


Music video for K/DA’s song, “Pop/Stars”

Seishun Youth Academy - Panel/Q&A
Seishun Youth Academy – Q&A and Panel.
Photo by Samuel Stevens Photography.

The convention organizers brought the Vancouver based Japanese rock idol unit, Seishun Youth Academy to the con as the guests of honor. Seishun Youth Academy are the sister sub-group of the Japanese based pop group, SeiSHUN Gakuen. They are the first ever North American based Japanese rock idol unit. Throughout the day, the members of Seishun Youth Academy, Sally (class representative/leader), Ally (Sally’s twin sister, sub-leader), Yayoi, and Stella Han participated in a Q&A panel, a pre-performance and post-performance merchandise time, where con-goers were able to interact with the girls, buy their merch and have the chance to take a cheki (the Japanese word for a Polaroid photo) with your favourite member or a group cheki with all four of the members.

Seishun Youth Academy - Sally

Seishun Youth Academy closed out their time at the convention with a stellar performance of their original music for a large number of con-goers at the main stage. Winterfest marked the units very first time performing out of Vancouver and it was actually also their first ever appearance at an anime convention. They themselves, many others, and myself who was made a fan by their performance, hope to see the girls return to the city again in the future. I hope the group fulfils their dream of performing all over the world in the years to come. Seishun Youth Academy are hosting a free show at the Biltmore Cabaret on March 2, 2019 in Vancouver, BC. They hope to have a new original song out sometime in the following month as well. Make sure to keep a look out on their socials for that.

Check out Seishun Youth Academy at:

https://www.facebook.com/seishunya/

https://www.instagram.com/seishunya/

https://twitter.com/seishunya

Check out Ai-Kon at:

http://ai-kon.org/

https://www.facebook.com/aikonwpg/

https://twitter.com/aikonwinnipeg

Another Day on the Road

By Matt Harrison

December 10th, 2018

9:46 am

Mobile, Alabama

Today marks the fifth day I’ve been on the road with Justin Osborne, Jordan Igoe, and Van ‘The Good’ Robinson. Myself included, this stretch of acoustic performances has the SUSTO crew slimmed down to four. The purpose of my being here is to act as a weed smoking, van packing, fly on the wall tasked with writing about the experience of being on the road. While here I’ve been helping load and unload the van before and after shows in exchange for my meals which allows me to save my dollars and cents for more pressing issues like records, state shaped key chains, and when the weed and cigarettes run too low to manage.

A very good question was asked last night while the four of us sat in the van beside the hotel, passing around two joints that Jah had provided. “Matt Harrison,” Justin said to me over the music and through a laugh, “how did you get here?”

Shit, I thought, unable to keep a straight face, that’s a good question.

It wasn’t all that long ago I saw SUSTO perform for the first time during spring in Winnipeg while they were on tour with the Lumineers. A few months later, in August of 2017, I finagled -lied- my way into an interview with Justin. I pitched the idea of coming on the road with him as a writer in a letter I gave him along with a copy of an article I’d written about & I’m Fine Today. I signed off the letter with my contact information and the lines I cost nothing and I stow anywhere.

I saw Justin and a few members of the band standing outside the venue after the show that night. I thought of going up to say hi but I felt there was a good chance we’d meet again some other time. A premonition or perhaps something much less, you be the judge. It’s just a thought I had as the car pulled away down Osborne Street.

Conversations from last night come back in random spurts. “I don’t know how you did it,” Justin laughed, his eyes lost in a smile, “but you’re part of the SUSTO family, now.”


“How was the Charlie Horse Doctor?” I asked Jordan once I’d crawled into the van and thrown my bag in the back.

“It was a very passive approach but it was very relaxing” she said through sunglasses in the rearview mirror.

“How do you feel?” I replied, curious about what exactly she meant.

“Very hungover” was all she said.

That checks out, I thought to myself, looking back to last night when her and Justin had two shots and a half empty bottle of booze -tequila for him, whiskey for her- sat in front each of them. Times this good are sure to come at a price. It’s a good thing they’re professionals.


December 15th, 2018

East 16, Mile 121, Georgia

3:42 pm

We met in Chicago, the centre point between our two cities. Everything between there and here has been about good music, good people, and guten tag. At every stop is another beautiful or deeply historic venue and another group of interesting, unique, and open minded people. I’m lucky to be chillin’ in the van, singing along to the tune of the day or makin’ one up as we go.

There’s nothing I can point to that shows the moment I became just another buddy on the road. What I have instead are the pieces of a picture painted in words. Moments caught in the moment. 10 days of rolling into somewhere and out to anywhere with my shithead friends.


December 10th, 2018

12:46 pm

Mobile, Alabama

The operating strategy for the day is to smoke a joint and make friends with the local wildlife. Luckily, there’s a nearby park with a tribe of obese squirrels who can be hand fed. “I’ll run to the bank while y’all are connectin’ with the squirrels,” Jordan says as we pile out of the van, armed with saltines and wonder. Just another day on the road with Justin, Jordan, and Van the Good.

Aimlessly Wandering Through Chicago

By Matt Harrison

Click the authors name to find their archive of work

With one hour of sleep in the last 40 hours and eyes heavier than the gates of Hell I wandered around downtown Chicago, staring ever skyward. The stars haven’t been seen from these streets in at least a hundred years and they won’t be seen again for a few centuries to come. The buildings towering over the Chicago river are each more impressive than the last. The only name among them that hung on to a shred of memory -for reasons unrelated to the shoreline view and tangled in more shameful exploits than anything architecture alone could manage- was Trump.

After an hour or so of staring at that unforgettable skyline from the river’s shore, I found myself lost. I’d spent some time wandering downtown during 8 hours I’d been in Chicago and had come to know the top of a particular bridge well in the daylight. It was a cleaned up area with high value cars pulling out from every street along the way.

Under the bridge was different. Immediately after walking down a flight of cement stairs I looked to my left and saw five homeless men standing around a makeshift tent in the middle of a sidewalk. The road here was more worn than above. Instead of turning around and walking back, I turned away from the five individuals and carried on walking.

You’re not at home, said one particularly cold streak of thought. You’re in a city that saw more homicides committed last year than in Canada. You don’t know anyone and no one here is looking out for you. I continued to wander as these silent fears nipped at my heels.

In a matter of one block I’d gone from tourist to profiler. I’d decided each face I walked by was twisted with malcontent waiting to be unleashed on the next unsuspecting fool. I wandered in what seemed to be the correct direction to no avail.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a beaming tower, hundreds of feet tall, with a deep blue light shining from the top floors. I don’t know why this deep blue was there, perhaps some religiously ambiguous celebration of the holiday season. Either way, I saw it and realized it wasn’t the first time I’d seen it that day. In fact, I’d seen it around the areas I’d been walking to buy cigarettes or sandwiches. I’d seen it over and over and over, never really taking into account what or where it was. Still, it’s familiarity pierced the darkness. I’d found my North Star for the night. Still, I wasn’t sure where I was, but I now had something to lead the way.

I turned around and took a left that brought me to a dead end and an ascending flight of stairs. None of the storefronts seemed at all familiar by name, logo, building design, nothing. I took the steps two at a time as I went.

When I came out at the top of those steps, I had the faint recognition of a building in the distance. I took a turn and headed in what felt to be the correct way with this newly rediscovered building kept on my right side -where it had been all day. Soon enough I was back in familiar territory.

“Chin Up, Lowly Liquor-Pig, You’re Doing Just Fine.”

I Didn’t Have in Mind to Meet You

By Matt Harrison

Originally published October 22nd, 2015

Listening to the hollow clicks of another passing train, I can’t help peering through a half cracked window out into the darkness. Nothing to be seen save the street lights working at half power and a car with a fresh coat of frost. My own breath hangs high on the wind for only a moment before it’s taken out of sight. Another quiet night in the deep end of a shallow city. I see a spark out of the corner of my eye signifying the last porch light dying for the night a few houses down. Under the light of day these streets have a certain charming aura to them. Rustic and homely, these are the alleys and roads of a humble childhood. All charm is lost under the beaming moon and instead the desperation can be seen looming over each household. Chipped paint and cracked windows seem highlighted in the foggy night. With no one in sight these crumbling shacks have no veil left to hide behind.

In the near distance a few drunkards can be heard squabbling over what can only be assumed to be some petty disagreement. Surely only the worst can come of such nonsense. One can’t help but recall being in that exact situation too many times to count. So many nights lost, wasted. All the money, all the chaos. Was it worth it? I wouldn’t say so, but there’s not too much that can be done about it now. Just avoid the same messiness from whence you came, admit defeat and find your way back to the Yellow Brick Road. It’s out there somewhere, hidden on the far side of your mountain of empties. It’s best for all that we see no return to the pinnacle of this fabled copy of Everest as it too often precedes a jarring fall back to earth. Chin up, lowly liquor-pig, you’re doing just fine.

The last cars have long since come to this end of a tired city called home by so many through forced smiles. Approaching another few months of rosey cheeks and frozen toes puts most in a bitter mood. Those who don’t thrive on ice skates or skis either wait inside or suffer, the choice is theirs. We freeze for a few months until it all melts and we’re up to our knees in muddy water and lawn clippings that we’d forgotten in our backyards. Before you know it the sun’s back, the water’s warm and the campfire’s cooking. Get it while you can because the leaves are primed to fall the minute your sandals come out of the closet. Just like that another winter will be inching it’s way closer to your front door. You’ll be another year older, another year farther from your dreams or closer to grabbing them out of thin air. That much is up to you. It’s a long year yet to come, but it will find a way to slip through your hands and have you wondering where the time went. Then again, what am I even talking about?