Community News, Human Interest, Published Articles

From pastor to comic

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

Going from pastor to comedian is quite the professional leap.

That’s the career trajectory of local comic and reigning Mad Hatter Comedy Club roast battle champion Troy Patterson, but he says the two career paths aren’t as different as you’d imagine.

“What I love about comedy isn’t any different than what I loved about the church – I get to address the issues but there’s no walls. There’s no boundaries I have to stay within. There’s no words I can’t say,” Patterson, 42, told the News.

“I still get my congregation every week. I still get my microphone and platform. I still get to tell a sermon.”

Religion is the family business for Patterson. His father and both grandfathers were pastors, and one of his great grandfathers taught Sunday school.

“To be that bright, shining star for my dad, I felt I had to go into the ministry,” he said, adding that religion is a subject he generally doesn’t broach with his family, with whom he’s on good terms, since leaving the church.

Patterson, who works by day as a house painter, began preparing to be a pastor when he was 16, a year after he gave his first sermon.

He describes his younger years as being the leader of a “tongue-talking devil-casting … hardcore evangelical, Pentecostal, charismatic movement.”

By 2012, he began having his doubts and started a three-year “deconstruction process.”

He began visiting other houses of worship – mosques and Catholic churches – and realized all religions fulfil the same social purpose.

“You see that in every religion. There’s some guy there who’s trying to represent love and peace,” said Patterson. “The other guy’s just selling religion. It’s the same people. It doesn’t matter what religion.”

If there’s a specific event that spurred his loss of faith, it was his divorce in 2007 and ensuing “spiritual abuse” he received from fellow congregants at his church in Calgary, who questioned his commitment to the faith.

“It was cold and when you go through a divorce, you don’t want cold. You want warmth,” Patterson said, adding that his ex-wife also left the church. “You don’t want all that extra guilt and shame.”

But, he adds, it wasn’t all dark and grey.

“The people that hurt me the most after my divorce were Christians, but also the people who helped me the most were Christians,” said Patterson.

He took the stage for the first time at a Calgary club in 2009, but moved back to the Hat – where he was born and raised – a couple years later.

In October 2014, after hitting the stage maybe six times since his debut, Patterson showed up to an open-mic night in Redcliff hosted by Stephanie Foley, who opened the Mad Hatter downtown last year, which is how he got his foot in the door of the local comedy scene.

“I had been writing in secret,” he said. “I had two chalk boards in my kitchen and that took up most of the walls, and I would sit there and write jokes. I loved writing jokes, (but) I was nervous about performing.”

He says comedy is like therapy for him.

“Pain keeps me on that stage,” said Patterson. “On the one hand, I am trying to make you laugh, but on the other hand I am in pain and I want that pain to be seen and validated by others.

“When I look inside myself I feel a deep sense of rejection and I feel lost. So making other people laugh, in turn, makes me feel accepted and found.”

Besides its therapeutic value, he also sees comedy as a sort of rebellion against his religious upbringing.

“If you were raised in the church, nothing’s more exciting than getting up on a comedy stage on talking about your dick.”

Community News, Published Articles

Waste challenge unveils recycling stockpile

Originally published in Medicine Hat News

Crystal Metz Insurance Agency has recently taken up the mantle of the Zero Waste Challenge and is looking for other local businesses to hop on board.

To that effect, owner Crystal Metz and account manager Mandy Friess went to the local CanPak recycling plant to see their options for reducing waste.

“The issue we’re dealing with really needs to come not just from consumers, but … a huge start would be with companies and businesses where they can make an impact,” said Metz.

They began their initiative on Aug. 27 after going to the CanPak plant on Aug. 24, where general manager Randy Wong took them on a tour of the facility.

“We wanted to go to CanPak just to see actually what happens,” Metz said. “When we’re doing recycling here at the office and our own homes, are we doing it properly? Is it going where we think it’s going?”

They learned many Hatters have been putting items in their blue bins that are not meant for recycling, a phenomenon Friess referred to as ‘wish-cycling.’

“When you put something in your blue bin it makes you feel good, because you’re doing good for the environment, but you don’t think about what’s happening to it at the end,” said Friess.

For example, they saw some old car parts at the plant.

“They’re metal, which is OK, but they’re not something that someone should be putting in their blue bin,” Friess said.

“You’re just wearing down the system,” added Metz. “You’re actually causing them more work and using more power.”

There’s also a surplus of recycled plastic the plant is having trouble selling, which Friess referred to as a nation-wide “crisis.”

Recycling is not a single magic bullet to reduce waste, as recycling plants only have a finite amount of space, Friess explained.

“It’s literally being bailed up and stored in the CanPak yard for potential future sales, because right now nobody wants it,” she said, adding that the plant is doing all it can to ensure the plastic isn’t taken to landfill.

“We all know that plastic does not biodegrade,” said Friess. “It just sits there underground … or it goes into our waterways.”

According to the Canadian Wildlife Federation, microplastics are increasingly becoming part of people’s drinking water and disturbing fish habitats.

The Zero Waste Challenge has five ‘R’s for reducing plastic consumption — refuse, reduce, re-use, recycle and rot.

“There are very, very small changes that everyone can make,” said Friess, such as composting food waste, or taking tupperware to a restaurant to package any leftovers, as opposed to using their styrofoam.

But ultimately companies must cut off the supply if they want to most effectively assist the planet.

“Our economy is based and has grown on supply and demand,” Metz said.

“If we demand products, then companies are going to supply them. And that’s why I want to get companies on board in Medicine Hat, so they will stop supplying it based on the knowledge of what it’s doing to our environment.”

Community News, Entertainment, Published Articles

Blues at the Bow celebrates 25 years

Originally published in the Bow Island Commentator

San Francisco-Bay area bluesman Roy Rogers made the trek up to Blues at the Bow to celebrate its 25th anniversary on May 12 in front of a sold out audience.
“It’s great to be back here. It’s one of my favourite places to play,” said Rogers. “I’m honoured … An anniversary gig like this, it’s an accomplishment to be recognized.”
This was his fourth time playing the Bow, which he said he loves playing due to its intimacy compared with clubs in bigger cities, like Calgary or Los Angeles.
“These are the kind of gigs where everybody’s just up close and personal, and as much as I play big cities, it’s fun to play for people who have their own community and there’s a different vibe about it,” he said.
“That vibe translates to the musicians on stage and you feel like you’re all part of it. Sometimes if you’re playing larger venues elsewhere, you can be kind of removed from the audience and you have to work a little harder to make it happen.”
Rogers says he got into the blues as a teenager, listening to B.B. King, and then he heard Robert Johnson’s slide guitar, which sealed the deal for him.
“That was it. When I heard slide guitar, that said it all for me,” he said.
“It’s a very expressive way to play and it’s become my signature way of playing.”
Rogers was attracted to the blues for its emotive potential.
“I want music to move me,” he said. “It’s not about how complex it is, necessarily, it’s if it moves you or it doesn’t.
“The blues moves me most of all, because you’re hearing the passion of someone … When you’re listening to a John Lee Hooker or a Howlin’ Wolf or somebody like that, if you’re not moved, there’s something wrong with you.”
Rogers has himself collaborated with John Lee Hooker and Sammy Hagar from Van Halen, as well as recording three albums with Ray Manzarek from The Doors.
He also worked on the soundtrack for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1976.
Steve Ell, Blues at the Bow’s business manager, has been involved with the venue since the beginning, first as a regular attendee and then as a board member since 2008.
“Who would have thought, right here in Bow Island, an old shut-down theatre? It was a whim of a couple guys who had a dream and believed in it.
“They went through and tried it, and they said, ‘Yeah, okay. This is cool, but it’s probably not going to last forever.’ But it just keeps going.”
Ell attributes this continuing success to Blues at the Bow having found a niche market in southern Alberta, attracting not just locals, but attendees from Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and Taber.
“We’re out here in the middle of nowhere with a dedication to the blues and it attracts people,” he said.
“The atmosphere is really good when this place fills up with people, it’s unique. I’m in this area and I come in here and it’s a little bit of escapism.
“I walk in and it’s like being in a downtown Vancouver nightclub, not little old Bow Island.”

Community News, Environment, Municipal Politics, Published Articles

Redcliff council narrowly rejects curbside recycling

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

Redcliff town council voted by a razor-thin margin at its Monday evening meeting to oppose a motion in favour of curbside recycling supported by Mayor Dwight Kilpatrick.

The 4-3 vote was also supported by councillors Cathy Crozier and Eric Solberg.

The contract negotiated with Can Pak to introduce curbside recycling and garbage collection would have saved the town 7.7 per cent in costs during its first year, raising to 22 per cent by 2028, according to figures provided by administration at the previous meeting.

Coun. Larry Leipert, who was the first to speak against the recycling proposal, dismissed these figures as “a lowball price.”

He said the vast majority of his constituents he spoke with wanted to retain the current system.

Coun. Chriz Czember, who told the News he was on the fence until Monday afternoon, said although he opposes this particular proposal, he wants to see recycling come to Redcliff sooner than later.

“A lot of residents tell me that they’re willing to spend a few more dollars for it,” he said. “If that makes more people happy, I’m fine with that too.”

Czember said his major concern with the contract was it didn’t sufficiently address the issue of composting, but also added that many of his constituents feared such a major change to trash collection.

“This is a big, drastic change real quick. (It was) very shocking to people,” he said. “If we can go about it more subtly, even in a few years go to this system, I’d be OK with that.”

Crozier said she used the opportunity at the previous Alberta Urban Municipalities Association meeting to speak with representatives from other municipalities on their experiences with introducing recycling.

All the other municipalities began with a centralized recycling depot, only to replace it with curbside at an increased cost.

“They started out with the depots and abandoned them, because to have recycling, you have to mail it, you have to store it, and then you have to try to sell it,” she said. “A lot of them were selling it, but at a loss.”

Solberg said he can relate to residents who are attached to their current back-alley garbage bins, but that it’s more important in the long term to modernize the system by adopting curbside recycling.

“I’m 100 per cent for recycling,” he said. “If the community, as it stands, wants to pay more to keep their waste bins and to not force people to recycle, it will have an impact.

“Our impact will be on the environment, will be on the community and will be on future residents.”

Canadian Politics (Provincial), Community News, Human Interest, Published Articles

Nuns welcomed home at St. Joseph’s

Originally published in the Medicine Hat News

Four nuns who worked at St. Joseph’s Home before 2012 made their return to the facility on Thursday.

Carmelite Sisters Gabriel John, Mary Peter, Mary Rita and Mary Regina were employed by St. Joseph’s Home prior to it being brought under the umbrella of Covenant Health.

They were accompanied by Fr. Frances Tran of the Diocese of Calgary, Covenant Health president and CEO Patrick Dumelie, former premier and chair of Covenant Health’s community board Ed Stelmach, and Covenant Care president Truman Severson.

Mary Rita, the home’s administrator for 17 years, said it feels great to be back.

“We feel right at home, just like we did when we were here,” she said.

“I am so grateful to Covenant Health for keeping it, inviting us back (and) making such a wonderful welcome at St. Joseph’s.”

Mary Rita said she got involved in seniors care for the same reason she joined the church.

“I was very interested in seniors care in helping people and making a change in their lives hopefully,” she said.

Stelmach, whose premiership from 2006 – 2011 gave birth to Alberta Health Services, said Covenant Health is looking to possibly open a new facility in town.

Covenant Health works in conjunction with AHS to deliver care in its facilities, offering seniors care through Covenant Care.

Dumelie said that although it’s a separate entity from the government, many of Covenant Health’s facilities are funded by AHS, like the Carmelite Hospice on the third floor of St. Joseph’s, named after the sisters.

“The sisters really started this in the ’50s and up until recently … they did it without any government support or funding,” he said, referring to the Carmelite Sisters broadly, rather than the specific nuns in attendance.

Stelmach said his experience with faith-based healthcare goes back to when he stayed in a Catholic Ukranian hospital in Andrew, Alta., after an injury when he was six.

“They taught me a lot about volunteerism and they taught me a lot about holistic healthcare — body, mind and soul,” he said.

“It’s got nothing to do with politics or religion. It’s about providing passionate care. The nuns’ doors are open to everybody.”