Go East, Young Man (Part 1)

The year is 1987, and NASA launches the last of America’s deep space probes. In a freak mishap, Ranger 3 and…

Oh, wait… I was thinking of something else. Sorry.

Today’s story is about the year 1995, and I was experiencing a phenomenon that would later become known as a “quarter-life crisis.” Four years out of school, I had built up a respectable portfolio of writing as a regular contributor to The Spill Magazine and What’s On Queen, as well as my writing and photographic contributions to What’s Up Toronto. Still, I couldn’t get a paid writing gig to save my life. I applied to every writing job I saw posted to no avail. I even experienced the most frustrating thing a young freelance writer trying to break into the business can face: meeting with editors to pitch articles only to be rejected and then read the articles I had pitched written by someone else. Tougher still was the fact that I was paying the bills by working in a call centre pushing insurance scams that made me feel dirty. Things needed to change.

And change, they did. Those early days of the Internet were also days of a low Canadian dollar compared to US currency. I was lucky enough to get a job creating a gateway from the then-powerful Prodigy Online service to some of the World Wide Web’s burgeoning music services. For about three hours of work a week, I was paid US$500 a month — an amount that translated into between $800 and $850 a month in Canuck bucks. It wasn’t enough cash to survive on in Toronto, but I was convinced that there was somewhere in the country where my new online life could work.

The mid 1990s also saw the rise of the Halifax music scene. Bands like Sloan, Jale, Thrush Hermit and Eric’s Trip were replacing Seattle bands on the radio waves. It occurred to me that if there were that many independent bands rockin’ on through the night, there must be some independent media outlets looking for writers. I quit my job, pared my possessions down to two duffel bags and a knapsack (including the heartbreaking sale or give-away of over 300 CDs), bought a train ticket and headed east.

To be continued…