Berlin and Back Again: a Comic’s Tale

As I write this I’m safely back in Montreal. The trip was amazing but I’m elated to be home and to quote Bilbo Baggins I was beginning to “feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread”. It’s strange leaving a lush warm climate like Lisbon to come to snowy Montreal, but I was excited to get back and even kind of giddy walking home from the metro, trudging through fresh snow. My apartment felt a tad off as my room was a mess from the friend who was staying in it, but it was such a relief to finally return to my own space.

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“Why is he referencing a book from 1954 that came out as a movie in 2001, either way it’s a dated reference” -Bilbo Baggins

When I wrote my last blog we were heading to a room to sublet for 3 weeks in Berlin. I found it though the cycle hosting website Warmshowers. We arrived on a Sunday evening. The streets were full and covered in graffiti and a little foreboding. At one point a man even got out of his car and beat another guy with a rolled up magazine. So Shannon and I were apprehensive about the neighbourhood we were about to stay in.

We had to climb 4 flights of stairs with our bags and bikes. Parking them in the entrance, and we began to look around the space that would be our home for the next 3 weeks. Elias, the young man who’s room we were subletting, had taken mediocre pictures. We thought we were renting just a wee bedroom, but to our chagrin we had a massive living room to ourselves as well. Our roommate for the stay was Christian, an astoundingly kind young German musician who was an absolute delight to live with. One night he took us to a crazy anarchist compound that was an abandoned building complex occupied by squatters, where we watched a live sludge metal show.

 

 

 

The Berlin arts scene and the city itself were incredibly vibrant. I hit up some “open mics” many of which that had 50 people eagerly in attendance. On one of the last days in Berlin my fiend from my home town Kevin produced a music show in an amazing venue that had almost a 1000 people show up!

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Kevin packed this place out, maybe there will even be a comedy show here in 2019?!?!

The city of Berlin is charming and gorgeous. It feels lived in but hospitable, with canal networks and a wealth of parks. One major highlight was the Russian WW2 monument. It was one of the most stunning parks I have ever seen. The massive statue of a Russian solder with a sword holding a child and crushing a Swastika was easily one of the most bad ass things I’ve seen. The symmetry and lay out of the park made it feel like a place you would acquire a new epic weapon in a video game.

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Doesn’t this look like an area you’d find some sweet loot?

In terms of cycling highlights, I built Kevin a bike using some abandoned parts and a local bike co-op. I also built a bike for Matt (a musician I met in Edinburgh and randomly ran into in Berlin) out of a pile of thrown out bicycles. We also had to leave our bikes in Berlin as it was no longer feasible to get to our future destinations by bike in the time period. Fortunately Kevin was kind enough to store them in his basement and I will be back next year to continue joke pedalling Europe!

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Bringing Kevin his new steed.

One of the few low points was when Shannon was pick pocketed by a child on a busy street while we were eating dinner. The weirdest part was when I suddenly realized I was profiling every immigrant child as a potential suspect. Conducting oneself like a racist police force over one incident is a horrible feeling.

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Are these kids running for fun? Or are they fleeing the scene of the crime, sometimes it’s hard to tell…

Our next stop was Bern, Switzerland where we stayed with my friend Alan. In a classic case of things coming full circle,  I hosted Alan a number of years ago while I was at university in British Columbia. Both of us suspected our paths would cross again. He was my first encounter with a truly passionate cyclist and I was his first encounter with a idealistic hippie. We ended up changing each others outlooks on life for the better and were excited to reunited after a number of years.

Alan’s home was nestled in the Swiss country side we had a stunning place to stay in a massive old farm house with a gorgeous view of the valley, surrounded by farm land and ponies.

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View from Alan and Tara’s

Alan and his wife Tara treated us to a big highlight meal raclette. Maybe the best meal of our trip. It involves an astounding amount of cheese, a huge variety of toppings and you get your own personal grill to melt the cheese on.

 

 

 

I had also lucked out with some great gigs in Switzerland as an Australian comic connected me with a small tour that was happening. Awesomely enough my friend Imaan (whom I also met in Edinburgh) was headlining. So I got to middle for him in Basal, Zurich and Bern. Imaan stayed with us one night in Bern and we all went to a fantastic short film festival which was some of the most moving and entertaining cinema I have ever seen.

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Downtown Bern

It was again time for us to move on. So we headed to Basal where our flight was weirdly actually out of France. After months of hearing German and Swiss German it was a delight to a hear a language I mostly understood, French!

Our next stop was Barcelona. While in Berlin I made a new friend in a fellow comic named Daniel. Daniel was someone Shannon and I both felt a kindred connection with. He helped me line up a few sweet gigs in Barcelona as he was one of the founding members of the English scene there. Shannon had lined us up a great Air BNB, we were the only ones in it for the first few nights but some Quebecers joined us for the last few nights and made the place feel significantly less haunted. Barcelona was wonderful, warm and tropical, with exotic birds hanging out in the palm trees.

We often walked through the Gothic District which is the city’s oldest district. The architecture/design is gorgeous, imposing and ancient, which is why we decided to stay in an air bnb there. As I am quite cheap I insisted we find a budget friendly place and Shannon scored us one, which unfortunately had no windows and was by far the worst place we stayed on the trip. We did however hike up to the castle to get a stunning view of the city.

 

 

 

Comedy wise I managed to jump on a number of shows, including my favourite show of the trip and where I felt I had my strongest set. Two comics run a show in an old bank that’s been converted into a bar. They sold out the show and had 120 people crammed into this great space with low ceilings and the crowd sitting around the stage. It was one of those sets where everything landed and each bit just seemed to flow together. I left feeling really good about how my comedy was progressing and being a “big fish in a small pond” tends to boost your confidence significantly. Lucy and Hannah (the show runners) were very cool and we all went out for tapas one evening a few days later.

 

 

 

 

On our last night in Barcelona we stayed with a local comic named Matt. He had booked me on two other shows. Matt and I really hit it off and Shannon and Matt’s partner Marion also got along swimmingly. We crashed in their spare room and it was a really nice last night in the city.

Both drained, we headed to our final stop Lisbon. I had two random shows lined up and I knew the comedy scene was very new there. However, everyone encouraged us to go and I would say that the Portuguese people were the kindest folks in Europe. Lisbon was another stunning city, being both lush and vibrant and we hiked up to the castle one afternoon.

 

 

 

I had such little juice left that sight seeing was a low priority for me. The first place we stayed was a gorgeous old manor house with 12-14 feet vaulted ceilings that was run as an air bnb. Unfortunately there were bars on the streets below so neither Shannon nor I slept well.

Tensions we’re building as we were both tired and getting a little frustrated. Her parents were going to join us for a few days and I was a tad apprehensive. They were treating us to a super nice three bedroom air bnb that had a view of the city. We had the place to ourselves the first two nights. And when Shannon’s parents arrived they were a bit of a god send.

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View from Air BnB

I adore Shannon. She is bright, beautiful and intelligent. She has a voice that will sometimes calm me even at my most restless moments. We had lots of laughs and good times, but two months traveling together 24/7 can wear on people.

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Shannon’s favourite thing in Lisbon— a giant outdoor escalator!

So Shannon’s parents gave us a bit of a buffer zone. One afternoon we all went to Sintra— a world heritage sight outside of Lisbon. It’s by far one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. Specifically we went to a place called Quinta da Regaleira where a millionaire with obsessions of masons, templars, symbology and potentially the occult had commissioned his massive property to be turned into what I can only describe as Rivendell the Elven city from Lord of the Rings.

 

 

 

Comedy wise I had two shows. The first was overall well run, and despite an undeveloped english scene it had lots of potential. I did 26 minutes to 100 people in a great little space. The second show was a few days later at the same venue and I encouraged people to check it out as I’d be doing 40 minutes for that one, the longest of my sets on the trip.

However, this one turned out to be a total shit show. Despite the organizers having the best intentions, it was impressively brutal. The host had almost no experience and there was 50 or so people in attendance including Shannon’s parents and a number of people from the previous show.

We had some jazz musicians who were great. They performed for 40 minutes, then a quick intermission. The host went up and said “now its time for comedy” and things immediately started to go off the rails. He then followed with some meandering material, zero crowd work and like 52 total seconds of being on stage. He’s new so it was fine. Then he brought up the first act who was doing slam poetry in Portuguese. The poet was charismatic and seemed like a nice fellow. Those who spoke Portuguese would offer the odd chuckle at the end of some of his versus. For whatever reason after he was done the host got up and said “hey you’re the only black guy in here, if it was 300 years ago you wouldn’t be performing on stage we would be auctioning you off” the audience and I were dumbfounded, then he just brought up the next act.

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Surely this will be the low point!

This is where things somehow got much worse. I had met the next comic outside and he seemed fine but this might be the worst set I can remember. There were no jokes, no laughs and tension that I found overwhelming. I flagged the producer and asked how long he was suppose to do “like 10 minutes” he replied. I suggested we get him off the stage but as the scene is super new they didn’t understand that you need a light to notify people to get the fuck off the stage. I gestured at the comic to get off and he gave us this look of “fuck off I’m doing my thing”. Unfortunately his “thing” was mostly rape jokes. It felt like an eternity though I would estimate it was in the 6-8 minutes range. Not a laugh was heard. This dude had the mic and the audience was in a hostage situation.

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This would have been a reasonable response from the audience

Rarely have I felt so uncomfortable. Shannon came and found me freaking out by the bar. The deafening silent and agonizing material was unbearable. I couldn’t watch him. I heard him try a joke that’s punchline was something like “then he slams his big black cock down”. He paused for laugher, which again there was none.

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this is fucking baaaaaddddd…….

When talking to Shannon’s mom after the show she said she wanted to boo at several points, but as she knew I was on the show she didn’t want to be rude. I discourage most heckling and often silence is enough for most comics to learn, however once in awhile folks your gut is going to tell you to boo someone and sometimes people might deserve it.

Some audience members rightly began to walk out. I was super anxious as this was my last set and the culmination of my last 3.5 months of work. Would it be fair to try and do 40 minutes of comedy to a group of severely traumatized people? The crowd members who were leaving came and said to me “dude we’ve seen you and we we’re excited but this is brutal”. I asked them to wait and that we would get this self indulgence unaware fuck wad off the stage. The host and producer were both new to comedy and trying to figure out how to make it work in a fledgling scene. We again motioned for him to get off the stage but he ignored us, I was so surprised that the audience had endured so much but everyone wanted this to end.

Then it hit me. I knew what to do to end this verbal diarrhoea. I began to clap. He looked at me with frustration and distain, but the whole audience quickly joined in. We triumphantly clapped him off stage.

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Yay his unbearable abomination of a set has ended because of our applause. He must realize it was a sign of discontent rather than support!

The host got back on stage and rather than address the horrendous mess we had all witnessed, he instead indulgently said “now it’s my turn” and began to try some of his material. I pulled the producer aside “dude I need to get up there”. He agreed and fortunately after a few minutes of zero laughs from the host he just randomly announced my name. I rushed to the mic and for some reason he continued introducing me while I was on stage trying to grab the mic.

I should add that the whole time the host was sitting in the FRONT row filming things on his phone. And the comic who had taken the biggest shit on stage I’ve ever seen was also still in the front row!

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I don’t always offend entire rooms but when I do I confidently sit in the front row…

I opened with “thanks for coming out people, and as from what you’ve seen so far comedy is hard” a laugh and little sigh of relief came from the shell shocked spectators. In the end I managed to do 41 minutes to an audience that had just seen some shit. Overall I was proud of what I was able to do. The guy continued to sit in the front row and after a few minutes I addressed him “dude you did 6 minutes of rape jokes, I’ve been doing this shit for 5 years now and you know how many I have in my set? None cause they are hard to write and can be traumatic.” I got a big applause from the audience.  I’m not going to censor anyone, but you’ve got to be aware, and this comic demonstrated a lack of awareness the likes I’ve never seen.

The level of the hosts incompetence and that comics bombing gave me so much stress that I mused to the audience that as a result of witnessing this “we would all collectively get diarrhoea”. In a bout of ludicrous irony when walking home with Shannon and her parents I had to dart into a bathroom as I almost shit myself somehow self fulfilling my diarrhoea prophecy.

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UH OH! I must have a severe intolerance to terrible comedy.

After the show there was a nice young man who watched the first show. He was from Edinburgh, Scotland, the very place my whole adventure started. He came up to me and said “hey man good work tonight. We’ve been to the Fringe and we’ve seen some shit. But I have never seen anything as bad as that first chunk. You handled yourself really well considering the hole you were in. That’s impressive”. That compliment meant a lot and it was an ideal book end to this whole crazy adventure.

This blog was a long one and I tried to cut it down. I really appreciate anyone who’s been reading this and I hope it’s been entertaining. The aim is for this to be funny and informative but it’s also a diary for me to look back on and relive the trip.

Thanks to all the people who helped me along the way. Especially to my lovely girlfriend Shannon who gets credit for all the photos. Despite numerous ups and downs she helped me grow in the last few months and I’m grateful to have her in my life.

I will 100% be back in Europe again next year. This is as confident and competent as I’ve ever felt as a comic. And to all my Canadian people keep your eyes peeled this spring as I am looking to bring a pretty sweet show across Canada. Currently trying hard to work out the logistics.

Thanks for reading,

Qapla,

Dion

Trains, Spills and Autobahns

We have arrived safely here in Berlin—the city that will be our base of operations for the next month. As it was Shannon’s first cycling tour it was a significant challenge for her, and in turn both of us. We ended up taking the train for the last leg of the trip so I could make my gig on the 27th and Shannon would have the stability to work on her current writing project.

 

I was very close to doing the last leg on my own as my ego was very against skipping a such a large leg of the Amsterdam to Berlin section. However, it was suppose to rain over the following days and it was convenient to arrive a day or two early while not being totally exhausted.

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A man with a large ego, reluctantly taking the convenient ass train!

On my own I am use to riding minimum 80kms and gorilla camping in a bush or making whatever distance was needed to reach my next host. Shannon however has a lot less experience in the saddle and was accustomed to a little more luxury. So each day we would ride anywhere from around 40-80kms. I found the slower pace very challenging and the ability to stay in Air Bnb’s and hotels unnervingly alien.

However with give and take we we’re able to do a number of good days of riding and lucked out with a number of fantastic hosts. And Shannon has agreed that staying with gracious hosts is a more pleasant and rewarding experience than staying in comfortable, but often sterile, paid accommodations.

During my last day in Amsterdam I went to a cricket tournament that Sam (my cousins husband) was playing at. It was a nice bike ride out with their kids and enjoyable to see such a bizarre british sport.

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Are they doing it right? Nobody knows and nobody cares!

Oddly enough there was a fellow comedian named Ken whom I had contacted through Facebook who was coincidentally also playing in the tournament. After hearing there was a comic from Canada around he tracked Shannon down, but I had just left to meet a friend for lunch. Fortunately Ken and I met up for beers at a bar called Check Point Charlie and we got along swimmingly. With the help of a few pints we shot the shit for a few hours. Ken’s been at the entertainment game a while longer than me so it was nice to get some perspective on things and I look forward to connecting with him the next time I am back in Amsterdam.

Our first day’s ride was probably our hardest as we had to do just over 80kms to make it to a room in a “castle” that Shannon had reserved for us. Turns out it was an old monastery but it was never the less stunning and it had it’s own moat. That day was a long days ride from about 1-9pm and we made one particular wrong turn into a farmers pasture and were promptly swarmed by the local bovines.

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Running with the cows, why not biking with the cows?! Am I right!??

The next day Shannon and I were both pretty drained so after some arguing we settled on doing a short ride to Zwolle, which turned out to be an absolutely stunning Dutch town that had a canal around it in the shape of a star.

 

I had confirmed a Warmshowers host for the following night so we had to push ourselves a little to make it, culminating in Shannon collapsing in the brush next to the bike path. A nice female german cyclist pulled over and assumed something terrible had happened. She looked at Shannon and asked “are you a alright” I responded “she’s good just super tired”, and the lady looked at me with a glance that said “no crazy looking bearded man, I’m going to confirm that you have not abducted this poor tired young lady.” So again she looked at Shannon and asked “are you ok?” to which Shannon sighed, laughed and said “she was fine, but thanks for checking.”

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The spot where Shannon could have been rescued from this adventure if only she had said she was not alright.

Poor Shannon had a number of spills while on the trip because she also was just getting use to using clip pedals. On one of her spills another kind german lady pulled over in a car this time to ensure everything was alright and a bruised, mildly bloody and aggravated Shannon again thanked her for her concern but said she was fine.

 
With our first Warmshowers host we lucked out. His name was Hans and he was located in the German country side, living in a gorgeous spacious house surrounded by ranches. Hans and his wife worked as translators for novels and his son Jacob was also around to host us. The first night they treated us to wonderful Chinese take out, wine and fresh grapes from vines in their back yard. In the morning we ate a wonderful breakfast in their garden and with warm hearts and full bellies continued on our trip.

Again because of how hard we had to push the night before Shannon elected to do a super short day of 36km. We took a small detour to a little swimming lake and got stuck on a sandy back road where Shannon took another spill and fell into some cursed stinging nettle. The lake looked nice but was not the best for swimming. Shannon described it as “I am with a mediocre man at this mediocre lake.” We had a room booked in a very small town, where when we called the phone number to get in no one spoke English, so we had a random stranger help us out.

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“A mediocre man at a mediocre lake.” -Shannon 2018

Much of the riding was quite the challenge for Shannon and it was hard to see her struggle through something I find so much joy in, but fortunately this was the first day she really enjoyed biking. We made good distance and had a nice tail wind all culminating in Shannon whizzing down a hill with a smile saying “I’m doing it, I’m doing it!” We stayed in another small hotel that night and both ate a full uncut pizza to ourselves! It should also be noted that every god damn place in Germany has carbonated water. I hated it so much but recently it’s beginning to grow on me.

The next days Shannon was really not feeling well and we had to cancel on the host I had confirmed. We ended up staying in a super expensive hotel that was bland a newly built, but it did have a fantastic continental breakfast. I will admit this was the most frustrated I had been on the trip, and I was really struggling with having to meet someone else’s needs. For me cycle touring is about pushing yourself, battling though the pain and doubt. And living on a shoe string budget. We were doing a much more lavish and leisurely trip and it was entirely not something I was use to.

 

 

But we persevered and the next day aimed to make it to Hannover. However, we got rained out 26km outside of the city and we opted to stay at a hotel that was close. The 4km to the hotel were the first bad biking conditions we had to face. We got stuck battling rain and a headwind but I feel it’s important to face adversity like this, it makes the nice days that much sweeter. I was also quite happy to only have to do a meagre 4km in these conditions.

We had an amazing meal that night at this little hotel run by a wonderful couple. I however ate too much and made myself sick. I woke up the next morning nauseous and with a throbbing headache so now the tables had turned. When Shannon was feeling unwell over the precious days I had really pushed her to keep peddling so now I was very sluggish and we limped into Hannover. We scored a wonderful host couple Alex and Nin through WarmShowers again. They had competed at 14 month 11,000km tour and were absolute dreams to stay with. We did pizza and beer in the night and then trained out the next day in the afternoon. It was nice to swap bike stories and they faced very similar struggles while biking together.

Here in Berlin we’ve lucked out again with a host named Stefanie who put us up for a total of 4 days including 2 days while she’s out of town. She made us a nice meal and breakfast on the days she was around and I cannot emphasize enough the generosity of our hosts. We also spent 2 days with a home town friend, Kevin, whom has been living in Berlin the last 10 years. Spending time with him felt like a nice dose of British Columbia and it all culminated in meeting his brother Eric who at the time was wearing jeans, plaid, a Calgary Stampeders hat and carrying a Tim Hortons cup.

 

 
I’ve already done 3 shows here in Berlin and tonight I get to headlined a super cool club called Cosmic Comedy Berlin. We have confirmed a room to sublet for 3 weeks from Oct 1st-21st and it will be a big relief to be able to leave my stuff in one place for an extended period of time.

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Cosmic Comedy a great little club that runs 4 packed shows each weed
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My first set in Berlin at Slingshot Comedy Show

That’s it for now, thanks for reading!

Quapla,

Dion

Houseboats, Horses and Headlining

I’m now in Amsterdam with my lovely girlfriend Shannon. Newcastle was my last stop in the UK and because the ferry’s were booked I had to stay there a few extra days.

During the visit I had a variety of hosts including Tim and Penny who had a lovely home overlooking the city park. I got my own loft room with a beautiful ensuite bathroom with a view of The Moors (the local green space). The couple were absolutely delightful people: well travelled, inspiring and full of thought provoking conversation. They grew a wealth of their own food which they were kind enough to share with me over wine and beers.

 

 

 


The vast majority of my afternoons in Newcastle were spent hanging out at The Cycle Hub, where my long meandering three mocha mornings quickly made me a regular. Eventually the staff would make me the odd mocha on the house. There was a cool fellow mechanic named Sarah who had recently done a bike tour that caused knee damage. She lived in a quaint home in the English country side, set in the middle of a stunning horse pasture. I stayed there for two nights.

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My daily routine in Newcastle

On Wednesday a comic I met in Edinburgh named Rahul hooked me up with a show and a place to stay. Fortunately for me the other comics decided to drive back home rather than stay at the shared comedian-apartment, so suddenly my shared accommodations were now my own king sized bed in a large suite overlooking the marina.

In a five day period I went from camping in a stinging nettle filled ditch, to the weirdest creepiest person I’ve ever stayed with, all the way to private rooms overlooking parks  and marinas. The spectrum of experiences you get while cycling on a budget is always invigorating and eye opening.

Sarah’s little home had me cycling twenty kms into town and back. One day I accidentally entered the finish line of a local marathon. I had forced my way through some blocked off streets in a cyclists endless desire to be a true anarchist.  Unfortunately I funnelled into a street surrounded by eager fans who were sorely let down to see a scruffy Canadian confusingly led off the track by local race officials.

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Reenactment of me wrecking a race

After my stay at Sarah’s in Newcastle it was time for me to make my way to Amsterdam by ferry. Just before arriving at the ferry security check point I remembered I had a tiny bit of pot in my saddle bags. Watching as security thoroughly inspected vehicles before letting them pass, I slowly began to panic… In my mind I figured “no one’s looking for someone bringing pot into the Netherlands…” and it was only half a gram, I can explain its for personal use and it would be fine. But I began fumbling through the toiletries pouch where it was sitting atop everything, unburied and foolishly unconcealed. I thought “Fuck it! I’m a comic, if you get in trouble these are great stories, and hey Tim Allen got caught actually trafficking cocaine and he’s had an illustrious career.”

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Cmon Im the voice of Buzz Lightyear, how could you arrest this voice!

However, the trepidation turned into dread. “Maybe if I find some trash in my bag I can casually walk it over to that garbage right beside the police and border guards.”

“But I’ve got nothing. Not a candy wrapper, old hummus containers.” For once a modern human was short on trash. Then I realized my vessel was at hand. A traffic cone was only a few feet away. So cautiously rolling The Enterprise forward I crammed the tiny amount of pot and little pipe into it’s new home.

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Not only Montreal’s mascot but a great place to stash small amounts of pretty much legal drugs!

I was relieved to have rid myself of the potential issue,  having done it discreetly enough that no sirens went off. The border guards flagged us forward and the fleet of motor bikes and cyclists rolled in. The agent looked at my passport and ticket and without a single question waved me through— my anxiety had been for nothing. When I got into the hull of the ship I realized that a slew of bikers we’re wearing Hell’s Angels (Amsterdam division) jackets and that some dirty Canadian hippie was the least of the border securities concerns!

The ferry itself was a glorified mall where at least I had my own sleeping room but they wanted to charge for everything. You weren’t allowed even eating your own food in the common areas, and look at what they charged for internet access!

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After arriving in the port, the border agent was laid back. When I told him I was meeting my girlfriend and cycling to Berlin he excitedly asked “is she Dutch?!” When I replied she was American/Canadian he was oddly disappointed and sighed “ok… I’ll get you a stamp,” and sent me on my way.

The hotel I was meeting Shannon at was about 30kms away from the terminal. The cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands is unbelievable. Bike lanes are everywhere, separated from cars and foot traffic, and it’s an astoundingly flat country.

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A Dutch parking lot

Unfortunately I have been getting significant knee pains while cycling almost any distance. Thus the ride was a bit on the painful side. Shannon and I spent the first three days in a lovely little hotel next to the Rijksmuseum. In a foolish attempt to culture me Shannon took me to the Rijks and Van Gogh museums, which despite my best efforts were both enjoyable experiences, especially the Rijksmuseum, which showed the rich Dutch history of arts and innovation that most people are unaware of.

For Shannon’s birthday I got us an Air BnB that was a 130 year-old sailboat located 16 kms outside of the city centre. Though mildly cramped, the boat and area were wonderful and enchanting.

 

 

 

The same night we stayed in the boat I had a spot at the Amsterdam Comedy Cafe—a gorgeous club located in the banking district. To my delight the 8-10 minute jump on spot turned into me getting a chance to headline. I don’t get as many chances to close shows as I would like, but hearing “your headliner Dion Owen” was a real treat and overall was very happy with my 17 minute set.

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Amsterdam Comedy Cafe

Shannon and I trained back to the boat as the hour bike ride there was a bit much at 12am. Accommodations in Amsterdam are absurd. We almost got stuck in a random van for 90$ a night! My cousin Roberta, despite being fresh off dental surgery and hosting other extended family offered to save us by hosting us for the last two nights we’re here.

Which means I get to hang with some great extended family and play the “uncle Dion” role. Today I picked up the kids from their school and I am currently writing my blog while the kids get swimming lessons from Roberta at the local pool.

We have two nights left here in Amsterdam and then we are off cycling to Berlin and giving ourselves 10 days to make it as I have a show on the 27th. Really hoping the knees hold out and we’re only aiming to do 60-70km a day which should be manageable. I’m elated for our Sunday Air BnB which is in an old castle. Shannon being a much better and more diligent photographer should ensure better pictures!

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Shannon’s photo work

It’s been great having Shannon here. We’ve had lots of laughs with the occasional spat. The next month and a half will be a challenge for us both. But with some give and take the results will hopefully be lots of love, smiles and stronger legs.

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More of Shannon’s excellent photo work

That’s it for now, further blogs will be just like life– erratic and unpredictable. I will try and get em out every 7-10 days, thanks for reading.

Qapla,

Dion

 

 

 

Terrified cows and tail winds

When I started writing this blog post I was tired, soar and had burns from stinging nettle. Now I am relaxed, rested, have a full belly and am in what is easily described as a Mecca for cyclist, The Cycle Hub in Newcastle. Oh the yin and yang of life.

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The Cycle Hub. A cafe in a bike shop that is a gathering place on the canal for all things cycling!

There were two other highlights I forgot to mention from the tail end of my adventures in Edinburg. We played a cool word game one of the the last nights with a bunch of comics and I was paired with one of my best friends Dave. I thought for sure with our intellects and decade long friendship we would achieve victory. However we were handily defeated by every other team. Many of whom barely knew each other.

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Dave is the guy on the right eating a banana, and it’s likely his fault we lost! By looking at him it all adds up though…

Also I co-hosted a crazy show that was a naked cabaret, where the audience and every performer was naked, things tend to get weird at The Fringe. The show starts with the Final Countdown being played and the audience and performers all simultaneously get naked. It’s very odd but was fun. On the show we had 2 naked comics, a hula hooper, a shakespearian satirist and it was all capped off by a naked unicyclist/juggler. Who’s final feat was carrying a random naked male audience member on his back as he unicycled. It was an impressive sight to behold. The set list was written on my bum, which is the final picture in this blog so only scroll to the very end if you want to see my butt.

Now to the cycling part of the blog. The first day of riding was straight forward I didn’t push myself hard and the scenery was wonderful winding along the north sea. I camped on the outskirts of town called Dunbar in some hidden bushes but didn’t sleep very well.

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The country side is lambasted with cool ruins like this.

The 2nd day of riding was very challenging and for the first time there was one point that was so steep I had to push my bike. However the route wound through country sides and estates that could have easily been the backdrop to the Netflix series The Crown. In certain sections you bike along the coast in pastures surrounded by livestock and once I accidentally scared a cow that abruptly jumped out of panic and confusion.

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Da fukkkk is that thing!

I stopped in Holy Island, which is a funky bastion that can only be accessed at low tide as the road disappears into the ocean during high tide. You aren’t suppose to camp on the island but I managed to sneak into a secluded flower garden across from the castle. In the morning I ate on oddly well priced breakfast at quiet cafe. The cafe and town was super peaceful but as soon as the road opens tourists literally “flood” in.

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My camp spot for the night
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The Enterprise in front of Holy Island Castle

The 3rd day I rode to Alnwick which was gorgeous but challenging, lots of climbing and headwinds. But the route rolled over pastures and was gorgeous. When I arrived I scampered over the walls of on old castle to camp. Only to realize that the ditch that functioned as a moat was filled with nettle, so I had nettle burns that kept me up most of the night. As well a dog sounded like it was being tortured howled all night. This was the 3rd night in a row I struggled to sleep, without proper sleep the muscles don’t get a chance to recuperate so the 2km ride to the McDonalds in the morning where I used internet felt almost impossible. I was exhausted so I reached out to a host that had an odd photo and a terrible write up. Plus no reviews this is word for word what was written in his description

“i like to offer some hot bath and a tea i process to feel comfortable and friendly with seen views . Honest and trustable person , loving nature and hoamn been contact ,As al;one many years some fun will be nice love lycra and the feeling up in the body when tired.”

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My feelings at the time

But I was tired it was raining and I am a smelly Canadians hippie. So I suspected I was unlikely to be murdered or forcibly seduced. It was by far the strangest host I’ve ever stayed with, he was just on odd person. English wasn’t his first language nor do I think human was his first species. He seemed like an alien wearing a human outfit trying to fit in. Highlight quotes were when he left for a few hours “don’t be naughty while I’m gone” and “don’t open any of the curtains cause the neighbours are nosey”. There were lots of baby wipes around his home and some lube on his kitchen counter. I chose to sleep on my camping matt on the floor.

Evidently I never felt totally comfortable and he seemed harmless but SOOOO creepy. I didn’t take him up on any of his offers to hang out. The scariest thing was in the middle of the night I heard some footsteps, and for the first time ever I experienced sleep paralysis. My brain was awake but my body wouldn’t move and in my mind I was like “this is it, this is how i die…” But I woke up the next morning murder free and he was kind enough to have bought me a chocolate bar for the road. On departing he said “I feel like I am loosing a close friend” while I hastily packed my gear and headed on my way.

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An accurate representation of my feelings during the night.

Fortunately the following days ride was wonderful with a tail wind. Numerous old castles, english countryside and easy riding. When I arrived in New Castle I had a lovely host name Laura whom was doing some painting with her mother. They we’re both kind and personable and we laughed about my previous nights experience. In the morning Laura and I had coffee and I biked to the ferry terminal to purchase my ticket.

I had intentions of leaving on the 7th, but the earliest ferry I could get was on the 9th. The stupid things is if you buy a ticket in person they charge you and extra 20pounds! I attempted to use my credit card and visa debit to buy online but banks don’t like to cooperate, so while I was trying to resolve the issue with one of my greatest foes, the bank! The lovely women working Judith waved the extra fee and just took my cash.

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“YOU STUPID FINANCIAL INSTITUTION YOU ARE A CANCER ON THE PLANET!!!!! THE BLIGHT THAT IS THE WORLD BANKING SYSTEM IS NOT LONG FOR THIS WORLD!%!$!!”

So that’s been my last week and a bit, I am 2 days late on this blog but that’s life. I have a great host Tim Owen tonight who is a retired doctor. I have already made some friends here in Newcastle and have a show tomorrow night. I’ve reached out to the local comedy clubs to try and score some more work, so should be a good few days here in Newcastle. Thanks for the read.

Qapla,

Dion

And as per my warning the last picture is of my butt so look at your own risk!

 

 

 

 

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Late blogs and late nights

It’s over, I’m tired but easily this has been one of the best months of my life. I managed to do 78 sets while here, Wassim was just shy of 100. We’ve performed to packed houses of enthusiastic festival goers and to drudgey dark rooms of surely drunk dim wits. I’ve watched comics crush in rooms I thought were lost causes and hacks flail about on stage with material that felt oder than any Scottish ruins.

I’ve made numerous new friends and am incredibly proud of the crew and what we’ve accomplished. All of it was capped off by watching my friend Jon spend nearly a month working his unique brand of material, watching it both fly and fail. All culminating in one of his last sets being a monster of confidence, charisma and constant laughs. Much like an athlete who spends time in the gym, on the track or in a training facility. Jon was in any rag tag room they could call a “fringe venue” from noon to 2 am and all his hard work come together in one set. It’s hard to gauge your own progress so to see someone else manifest it right in front of you gives you the feeling that, ideally you made similar growth.

We met a crew of comics from New Jersey who we hung out with a lot. We even got a game of cranium in that was the US vs Canada, unfortunately the yanks won!Cranium.jpg

(crushing defeat at the hands of the Americans!)

We made some friends with two comics who we’re a lot more seasoned. Evan had a showcase of Canadian comics that I was able to jump on a lot. It was nice to know that I regularly had a spot at a great room that was always a paid spot. I often flyered for Evan which he also reimbursed people for and it was an easy sale as it was always a great show.Evan.jpg

(Cameron and Evan our sweet Canadian prince of paying comics)

Through Evan we met a super cool Canadian comic Dana who now lives in London. She crushed every time we saw her and was kind enough to take myself and my crew of geeks to all the the nooks we wouldn’t have found on our own. She’s been slanging jokes for nearly 2 decades and reminds me a lot of Joey Elias, as she has a wealth of great and entertaining stories that less experience comics enjoyed being regaled by.

Last week I got to do a roast with Wassim. Cameron and I walked to our shows the night before and we got rolling on putting together some roast jokes for Wassim. Aided by Cameron I thought I had a good chance at winning but after a super strong start Wassim had a monster 3rd joke and a retort to my 4th joke, that insulted my mother and blew me out of the water. So even with Cameron’s help I lost a close battle to Wassim. Who only did an hour of last minute writing. Proving again why I think he’s easily one of the best comics coming out of Montreal.

Through Evan I was able to connect to a few other venues and managed to get some spots in a great room for Pick of the Fringe shows. My first set was really lukewarm but I managed to somehow snag 3 more spots with one on the last day of the festival, that was my strongest set of the month. I managed to record it on a used Iphone I bought and when leaving the show did a full 1980’s esque jumping fist pump.

 

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I haven’t been taking a lot of photos so going to use a bunch of Jon’s. And just recently I broke the camera on my recently purchased phone :/.

The festival has come to an end and I watched the closing fireworks on the Waverley Bridge. At one point it looked as though they set the castle on fire. I knew there was a group of comics climbing Arthurs Seat and watching the sunrise with the aid of some fun substances, I was however too tired and Wassim, Cameron and I called it an early night.

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(Edinburg knows how to party)
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(Really didn’t want to hike to the top of this at 3 am)

We went for a super nice late lunch at cafe called Cowan’s and Sons, which is my mothers maiden name. So it felt a little surreal and kind of meant to be. We get a few days of winding down and hanging out before we head our separate ways and I begin my bike trip.

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I’ll be meeting my girl friend Shannon in Amsterdam on the 10th, where we will be staying with my cousin before heading to Berlin. Everything worked out super well and I met a number of comics connected to the Berlin comedy scene so ideally I’ll get to put my comedy muscles I built here at the Fringe to good use in Germany!

That’s it for now, we’re trying to find some “supplies” before we head up Arthurs Seat for our own closing ceremonies. I’m incredibly proud of the crew and the work we did. I will try and get a regular blog posted Monday’s from this point forward. The Fringe had me too busy to prioritize it! But thanks for reading, and here are some random pictures from my adventures.

Qapla,

Dion