Wondering About Wanderlust.

Written July 13th, 2016, from Brenda Lake, B.C.

I’m sitting here, awake, and with a cup of coffee I have somehow crafted from crystals, propane, and sheer force of will. No coffee aficionado that I know would sit at the same table this would be served at, but as I made it with my own little paws, I’m rather pleased. Also, I have not had a proper coffee in two days, and I’m happy to have some form of caffeine injection.

I am up and about before my companions. While I have had trouble rising early and on the regular due to the work flow on this tour, I have always been the first one up. As a child, it was up before my parents, and it’s then I’d find pleasure in cleaning and dusting the house and possibly bringing them tea in the morning. Being in Brownies around that time (a precursor to Girl Guides) it was emphasized that Brownies, in the traditional fae sense, were kindly sprites who helped out household members while they slept. I adopted this to a very literal state, and it’s suited my early bird antics all of my life, even side-stepping the usual adolescent habit of sleeping late.

As an adult, when touring with BJB, I would often find myself awake and restless in the morning before anyone else. In order to avoid waking the others, I’d slip out and go running. It became my meditation, my time for morning reflection, and a point where if I had to organize my day, I could rally my thoughts into some semblance of order before having to open my mouth and talk to anyone. This has carried over into my home life, where with the birds I rise, and either jog, hit the gym before the Golden Agers descend on the equipment, or else hit up an early stretch session. These have all been positive things for both my bag of bones and my brain.

The coffee might be shitty instant, but I have sweetened it with maple syrup. Not the cheap kind that is corn syrup masquerading as authentic Canadian pancake topping, but refined sap from the heart of the maple tree. I love the slight sweet smell it invoked from my mug, that always vaguely reminds me of being on set at work, where there is a bloody scene being filmed. It’s weird to most, but when ever I have had a scene that requires me to be coated in faux blood, I always am over come with the urge to swab my body with pancakes and waffles. Such is the curse of being something of a contemporary scream queen.

It’s a bit dear to buy, but there are some luxuries that I feel you must give yourself when on extended leave from the comforts of hearth and home. I do miss having regular bathroom access and showers, but I’ve not fallen into myself under the weight of dirt. I have discovered the joys of dry shampoo, which make me wonder why I ever bothered with corn starch. When I’ve used it at home, it often times leaves my bathroom looking like the scene of a violent cocaine fight, or staging for some event guard Isadora Duncan-type dance piece. I have also given up on trying to have a regular routine. This has been the hardest thing, as a creature of habit, one of the biggest comforts I find is that in my being able to control events around me. Ritual is a mainstay of my personality, but given that since we arrived back in BC, we have had no such regular events.

After leaving Calgary, while we did have a break in, we also had a great show in the city with our horror friends (Visha, Dan, and Rolando) coming out to support us. Rolando and his lovely lady, Taylor, were good enough to let us use their bathrooms and gave us exceptional hospitality, and our busking on Canada Day was all I could hope for as a first-timer. But after swinging by Banff to pick up a passenger to Bass Coast, and stopping in Golden to get gas, that is when things took a slide for a push-me-pull-you turn for the strange.

We stopped at a Husky station in Golden, only to have our starter die on us. While we were able to get it fixed the next morning straight away, and for a very reasonable price, it meant missing out on a very fun and well-paying gig in Kelowna. We were all low in spirits – the loss of that gig with the added repair bill on top –  was not the kind of thing we were hoping for upon our return to the Rockies. However, we went into downtown Golden, and I had tried booking up a gig at the Rockwater Grill, where I had played often times before with BJB and with Sweet Soul, respectively. We had, oddly enough, tried for that very date, and upon conversing with the delightful barkeep found that the day was, indeed, open. When the bar manager arrived, he agreed to let us do a show for a percentage of the bar sales, given that the show was last minute, and their entertainment budget for the month was tapped out.

We got the jungle drums going, and thanks to our new 151-proof blowing bartender buddy and Burns’ old carny friend Pete (aka Carny Pete, aka Harmonica Pete) those jungle drums got a thrashing. We wound up doing two sets for all the awesome folks who came down on a Sunday long weekend, and through our tipping, staple money and bar sales, we were able to cover the cost of the repairs and set us on our merry way. The kicker to this was, despite having a killer last minute show, I got word from my sublet that she had left my bedroom window open and that my cat had gotten out. I have lost two cats already in this way – with someone letting them out when I was out of town – only to come home to dead cats each time. I was distraught, but put on my ‘happy face’. However, my family at home rallied and while he hasn’t been caught yet, he’s hanging around the backyard, and it’s believed he’ll come home soon.

Talk about weird ass, stressful luck.

Now we are camping at Brenda Lake, between Kelowna and Merritt. It’s beautiful, and free but I was a stressful mess driving here. The road was not paved, and I am not used to camping outside of a festival situation. I had all kinds of doom and gloom Cassandra-Like notions of the bus getting damaged or being unable to get though or get out given our recent situations and being stuck on a logging road with no power, no signal, and no hope. Call me a pessimist, but I’ve spent enough time on the side of roads throughout my life to want to be stuck in a forest corridor in the same fashion. I also have a bit of a fear of large land predators such as bears and cougars, so I felt just in being hesitant. But we made it, set up camp, and had a pleasant evening, even making friends with our neighbours and their dog, who were also on their way to Bass Coast, and just coming back from a season of mushroom picking. I won’t lie, given that my parents are cultivating truffles on their farm, I kind of am keen to go mushroom hunting myself for a season and experience the camping and foraging with Burns. I think it’d be a hoot and an interesting experience. Gathering mushrooms in the wilderness away from other humans sounds rather pleasurable to me.

I look forward to Bass Coast. This is my first year doing something other than performing and being something of a mangler. I’m excited to be doing the mermaid lagoon, but I’m also trepidatious. The process of getting the thing together has been fraught with red tape, and I worry about annoying the organizers.  I consider both Liz and Andrea friends, and didn’t want to fuck up this chance. Of course, in my mind, I had a huge set idea piece to rival Moon’s lagoon. Pride before the fall. Part of my artist’s grant package was two tickets to sell to bankroll it. To date, the tickets have not yet been sold, due to the nature of our installation, and I have paid for everything myself out of pocket. I feel like if I had not been required to pay the insurance on the van, I could have bought everything well in advance and not had to worry. But. given the scaling back of my vision, resourcefulness, and Burns and Vivienne’s willingness to make it all as awesome as possible, I still feel we will have a unique ‘habitat’ that people will enjoy.

A loon is singing her sad song on the lake. I’m the only human audience awake for the concert. I don’t mind. I saw earlier either an otter or a beaver at the other end of the lake. As soon as I looked in it’s direction, it ducked under the water. I rather like it here, however if it was just a smidgen warmer (i.e: my fingers weren’t about to fall off from cold) I’d like it even more. But it reminds me of my childhood on the San Juan Islands growing up, and I’m pleased for that experience. I actually wish we had a few more days here, but I know that Vivienne wants to get back to civilization to do laundry, German Phil wants to recharge his devices (I’m kind of on his side with that) and so on before we head to Bass Coast for set up.

I think that’s kind of the thing that is throwing me the most – the inconsistency. On tours I’ve done in the past, it’s shows every night with maybe a night off here and there or a day for driving. This tour feels like it’s been a lot of switching gears from performer, to carny, to busker, to mermaid. We haven’t had plans to stay longer than a night anywhere outside of the carnival, which wasn’t restful in the slightest with carnys coming and going at all hours, and where one couldn’t sit and have a peaceful morning reflection without some alcoholic barging in to buy beer and then sitting there to drink it before I had the chance to brush my teeth. So despite being chilly I am at least alone and undisturbed with my thoughts and my crappy McGuyver’d coffee.

I am grateful for both my burlesque and touring background, as well as my career as a writer and an actress. It makes me feel more like I’ve a tangible worth and better about being left out of tours and stuff. I am happy that I’ve begun to perform more as a circus/sideshow performer and that I have begun to refine and elaborate on my fire performances. These things all have been great at helping me cope with the ridiculous FOMO when I see all the amazing people in my newsfeed. However, the road dog, gypsy lifestyle has been good to humble me, it has strengthened my bond with Burns and Vivienne, and hopefully is earning me a bit of street credit by going on this three month adventure.

..But dammit, I could use a shower, a wall plug, and a wifi connection more regularly than what I’ve been getting now.

C’est la vie.

Little Miss Risk

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The Caravan Rumbles Forth…

Hello there, lovers and sinners!

The time has come again for me to take to the road. I’ll be a professional gypsy this summer, working the carnival, performing at three festivals, and a number of gigs in-between (and I think there might even be a film in there somewhere…) But the summer of 2016 has been declared The Summer Of The Creeps. Myself and my paramour, Burns the Dragon and our blade-swallowing babe Vivianne Oblivion. Along with our albino boa, Miss Lavendar, we will be travelling back and forth across Western Canada. My plan is to keep this blog as a record of our travels and shenanigans as we live the carny life of circus and sideshow performers, mobile mermaids, and let our wanderlust run rampant.

DSC_8236 copy2web

Photo by Shimona Henry, make up by Jennifer Little

Photo by Shimona Henry, make up by Jennifer Little

Vernon, BC – Fri June 10th – The Farm – 5454 Maddock rd

Nelson, BC – - Sat June 11th – The Royal on Baker - 

Winnipeg, MB – June 17 – 26, 2016 – Red River Ex
Winnipeg – June 18 – Zlatan – Club 3D – 3317 Portage Ave.

Calgary, AB – June 30th – Distortion

Calgary, AB – July 1st – Canada Day – Busking – watch for the silver statues!
Kelowna, BC – July 2nd – Co-motion @ the Mansion
Golden, BC – July 3rd – The Rockwater

Merritt, BC – July 7-11, – Bass Coast

Merritt, BC -Jully12 -Merrit Dessert Inn (Bass Coast Wind Down Party)

Enderby, BC – July 13th – Lorenzo’s Cafe-

Calgary, AB – July 12–17, 2016 – Calgary Stampede

Edmonton, AB – July 22-27, 2016 – K – Days

Edmonton, AB – July 21nd – The Brixx

Sylvan – July 28th – Hazzard County Bar

Artsewells Festival – Penticton, BC July 29 to Aug 1st

Leave for burning man Aug 24th
Burning Man, NV- Aug 28th – Sept 5 – (potentially booked)


Be sure to follow us here, on our Instagrams ( @littlemissrisk) or search #CaravanOfCreeps

Little Miss Risk


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The Happy Dance

I was searching through EDM mixes the other day on YouTube. Like flavours for the North American palate, we’ve become obsessed with combining things together. Our tastebuds are so used to getting assaulted with chemical combos that now there is such thing as honey dijon and poutine potato chips. Don’t take this for me complaining – far from it. But it extended into our music now, and I was dithering between ‘epic gaming glitch hop’ and ‘ultimate summer chill step 2016′. It was’t until I saw the Celtic gaming mixes that I saw my flavour of the day. I was pleasantly surprised.

I was practicing spinning my new fire fans in prep for Burning Man. I know that I’ve often said I’d never go, but I’m also fond of making a liar out of myself, and as a fire performer it’s the ONE PLACE you can go nuts and not have to worry about setting anything on fire unintentionally. This music was the perfect soundtrack to my practice and I almost start hopping around in a mock-Highland dance. Which got me to thinking about Highland dance and it’s origins, which bring me to the point of this post.

I took a lot of different dance classes in my formative years, but I seemed to escape tap and Highland dancing, whereas many of my friends did not. Highland dancing, if you’ve not seen it shows spritely young ladies dancing in formation over a pair of crossed sword. Modern Highland dance has many outside influences now – most notably ballet – but it is considered a sport, and is as competitive as gymnastics, skiing, and running. Like any other sport you train like crazy in your youth, do it as long as your body allows, and then are relegated, more or less, to teaching after your body can no long compete. The existential horrors of that aside, it’s the origins of Highland dance that got my wheels turning.

Ritualistic sword dances were all the rage in Europe back in the day. Earliest records of this preceded the 1500′s and was even used in assassination attempts when the killers insisted that the swords they danced over were part of their tradition, and when the time came they’d have their weapons close to dispatch their target. Not totally The Red Wedding of Game of Thrones, but you have to admire that kind of moxy. This was almost the case in 1573 when Scottish mercenaries were sent to slay Swedish King John III, but due to an agreement being signed, the hit never came to fruition. Most people know the legend of the origins of the dance from when Bonny Prince Charlie played his opponent, laid down is swords and did a victory dance over the body of his enemy.

This weekend is the Burlesque Hall Of Fame in Las Vegas. I just got word that our local homegrown crew, The Screaming Chicken Theatrical Society, who as been around as long as my own Sweet Soul Burlesque, won not only Best Large Group, but Most Comedic last night, further showing Vancouver’s homegrown talent is strong. As I reflect on the elements of striptease, the removal of layers, and laying them on the stage, I picture the laying down of swords. Ultimately, our victory dance comes not over the body of the enemy, but of the patriarchy. We do our naked victory dance over the death of body shaming, ageist thinking, and convention. Our audience applause is our war woops of joy on a battle long fought against the status quo.

We’ve still got a lot of battles ahead, but our sparkly army continues to grow.


Little Miss Risk

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Making Mermaiding Memories

People have to take a minute to digest my words when I tell them I’m a mermaid. In the age of Millennial ‘I’m a unicorn/princess/snowflake’ it’s rather easy to take this with a grain of salt. However, far from a flight of entitled whimsy, I do, in fact, work as a mermaid, and incorporate it into my stage and event performances. This isn’t some new thing to me, that overtook me in the night. I didn’t wake up one morning, seized with the need to wear clam shells on my chest, and wash my hair with sea water. The roots of this drive to swim more often than walk goes back deep into my childhood, and has been nurtured by my exceptional parents, if in odd ways.

I actually didn’t like The Little Mermaid when it first came out. My long-suffering babysitter, Allison, had taken me to our little one-screen shoe box theatre on a hot summer day to watch the film that would more or less kick start the Disney animation studio back up into something that earned it’s corn. I wasn’t moved by it. I can’t put my finger on it, but I remember not enjoying it. It was likely due to the fact that I resented having a babysitter (even though I was eight and not yet quite old enough to be solo the whole summer while my mom worked) and I took exception to going to a ‘kid’ movie. But something shifted in my psyche and I had always loved and enjoyed the other Disney film with mermaids, Splash. Seeing a realistic mermaid sparked the imagination, and gradually  I made room in my heart for Ariel.

Halloween came that year, and I remember my mother asking me what my plans were for a costume with some trepidation, as I was given to major flights of fancy as far as costumes were concerned. It’s not terribly surprising that I’d later go into a life as a showgirl, really. But as my mother was not a seamstress, she WAS crafty. She always swallowed her fear of my requests bravely and did her best to accommodate. So when I asked to be a mermaid, she asked what I had in mind. I said a tail like Madison (Splash’s title mermaid), and that my friends would pull me in a wagon, house to house, to trick or treat. My mother was highly skeptical of this plan for two reasons. The first being, the best trick or treating to be had was up a VERY steep hill that most eight year olds would be unwilling to lug anyone up in a wagon, unless some very heavy bribery was going to happen. The second being that while there was a puff of life in her lungs, there was no WAY I was leaving the house in a clamshell bra and a spandex fish tail I was unable to walk in, and that was beyond the scope of her skills of construction.

We were at something of a stalemate.

I do remember she said that I could be a mermaid, but there were going to have to be some concessions. What I wanted and what I wound up with are two very different things. But I will say that my mother poured her heart and creative soul into making that costume. A far cry from my original idea, what the final product was likely why I felt so at home in later life at raves. The outfit was a neon green tube dress, with painted on scales and belly button, in dark green, puffy fabric paint. The fins were two pieces of cardboard, painted green, then covered with spray glue with dark green glitter thrown onto them. My seashells were glued to the chest of the dress. Because it was rainy late October Wet Coast weather, my mother INSISTED my arms and shoulders were covered so despite my protests to the contrary, I wore a red cape and dark green evening gloves up to my armpits. my short bobbed hair was hair sprayed into a Flock Of Seagulls creation (this was the late 80s, I should ask you to keep in mind) and I had racing stripes of eyeshadow and blush for make up. Not really what I had in mind. But the choice between being allowed out in that and not going trick or treating at all, I chose to wear the garment. I’m glad I did, because now, in my adult years, I know how hard my mom worked on it, and I would hate to think how the rejection of it would have made her feel.

But when anyone asks me why I became a raver, I will forever reference the photos taken of me that year at Halloween.

Fast forward to Christmas time and my mother asking me what I wanted. The obvious answer being an Ariel doll. Back before Disney really had grasped the gold mine of marketing, there wasn’t a line of dolls ready to go with the release of the film. There were no mermaid dolls, period. No Esty, nothing of the sort. And of course the ONLY thing that now nine year old me wanted for Christmas was a Little Mermaid doll. My mother, bless her heart, had a friend who was going to Disneyland and taking her children, whom she begged to bring back an Ariel doll for me. Apparently, they were pretty hard to locate, and there was a modest display of Little Mermaid merchandise to help promote the new film. On that Christmas morning, every other thing fell away and paled in comparison to the doll which, by today’s standards wouldn’t have made it out of the prototype marketing meeting. But holy shit, did I ever love that I had a mermaid doll at that point. Major Mom points, right there.

I later got a few gigs in my early 20s in my really ghetto tail. It was made of one leg of an old pair of black tights, sewn into one piece with a silver lame fin, and silver scales spray painted onto it. It wasn’t such a far cry from the Halloween costume my Mom made for me, except that it was sans cape and evening gloves, and my hair was down to my waist. I wore it for a few events I was booked at for at the Vancouver Aquarium where I’d lounge on rocks in the Pacific Gallery, over the fish native to my own coastal habitat. I’ve been slowly upgrading since then, and continue to collect and curate tails with which to swim and perform in.

Nature and nurture both played a part here. My mother and father have always been so good to me in regards of support for my odd ideas. Despite never walking the safe road, they have not only been there and encouraged me, but delight to see the success that I’ve had over the years. I like to think that they share in those successes, because I couldn’t have done it a lot of the time without the love that they’ve offered me. It might take a village to raise a child, but this mermaid applauds the two people who levelled up to raise this weirdo.


Little Miss Risk

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Beauty Is In The Eye…

When on set, and indeed living away from the comforts of one’s own hearth and home, there are certain rituals one establishes. We put these in place to help give ourselves a sense of routine and grounding, which helps give a sense of order in an otherwise chaotic time. Times spent shooting out of town when I can’t sleep in my own bed seems to be the norm for me, with time passed in a series of rented accommodations.

I tend to bring little pieces of home with me that act as little luck charms. My double spider opal pendant crafted for me by Tessa Rand‘s loving hands on my Happy Place on the Sunshine Coast. My wire-wrapped heart made of a piece of sea glass, scavenged from the beach while on a walk with my lover and crafted by his hands. My favourite bandana from Puff that reminds me of Commercial Drive, East Vancouver and always kindles excitement for travel. These elements of juju calm my otherwise homesick mind when I am not close to my cats, serpents, and dragon.

But I have managed to establish a routine within our cast house. We have dubbed the living room ‘The Nook’. It’s where we gather with hot beverages, personal communication devices, and watch a collection of shark movies on Netflix. I’m uncertain how it was that we started with the film ‘Sharknado’, which if you aren’t au fait with the franchise, enters around a series of bizarre meteorological events that sucks up sharks and deposits them in urban centres. When viewing, reality needs to take a walk and it usually takes suspension of disbelief along with it for these films.  We followed the trilogy (yes, there’s three) up with the film Three Headed Shark, and then the film Shark Week. The latter has the dubious honour of being our least favourite on a technical basis, but has thus become the yardstick by which all terrible shark films are measured. I never thought I’d say I saw a shark film that made the production value of Sharknado shine brightly, but there you are. My judgement is as harsh as was the lighting.

Mindless escapism aside, it troubles me. Not the movies themselves, but the sentiment. I’m old enough to remember people being terrified of Jaws as a child. To even hum the refrain from the score was enough to make my friend’s younger siblings whine until they hit a fever pitch and would exit the kiddie pool, shrieking for their mother. I have no defence: I’m an only child and was intolerant of younger kids and a water hog at that. I very much doubt any kid can scare anyone by saying “Sharknado” and doing jazz hands these days. But the standard has become, once again, that sharks are reduced again to mindless killing machines, that relentlessly stalk and devour humans. As amusing as it is in film, I find it ultimately depressing.

In my time alone, I enjoy watching documentaries on a variety of topics. The ones featuring sharks are a personal favourite. Over the years I’ve amassed a sort of armchair education on the topic of shark behaviour as more and more research has begun to reveal, in complex habits. Michael Rutzen, an inspiration, frequently studies sharks, and does so without a cage. His reasoning being that you can’t learn and observe from the deck of a boat on the surface, or from behind the confines of a cage’s bars. He instead opts to swim in open ocean with one of the most feared organisms on the planet. My respect for him is as infinite as his experiences with these animals intimate. He has frequently been referred to as ‘Sharkman’, and his conservationist work to help preserve this apex predator has helped to act as field support for the Department of South African Environmental Affairs.

What all this has done is with a series of documentaries is expanded people’s perceptions of these fascinating animals. My own interest with sharks has been with me a lifetime, having spent a great deal of time sailing with my family throughout my childhood and teens. Some of my own experiences include observing a tiger shark in Fiji in 1999 on New Years Eve (talk about auspicious) and swimming in the presence of black-tipped reef sharks in Hawaii as a child at Molokini. In frequent visits to the Vancouver Aquarium, I’d spend half of the visit in the shark gallery, watching them swim in lazy circles. I wondered if they knew how close they were to an ocean on the peninsula point of Stanley Park, and the open ocean. Knowing now that these creatures are beyond a mouth and digestive tract,   I often speculate if with so many regular visits that they recognized and remembered me. I remembered them. To the point of being really excited watching the Canadian show The Beachcombers where an episode that took place in the Aquarium and shark tank. It was exciting as seeing an old friend guest star on a favourite show and feeling a strange secondhand pride at the fact, despite it having nothing to actually do with me personally. Our sharks were FAMOUS and starring alongside Bruno Gerussi, which before Vancouver became Hollywood North, was pretty damn cool.

The Sharkman and I aren’t alone in our adoration of our finned friends. I recently came across a photographer that shares our sentiment. George Probst has spent as much time photographing Great White sharks as Michael Rutzen has swimming with them. After his first trip to the Isla de Guadalupe in Mexico, he too broke free of the cage’s confines to better illustrate the true personality of these animals beyond automated predator. He was able to take note of details that gave the animals character, such as blue eyes, that meet your own when they pass by, and open jaw shots that while popular amongst people are about as threatening to his eye as the open mouth of a dog catching a ball or biscuit in midair. Like any and all large predatory animals, they have the ability to be dangerous, but also endearing as wolves, tigers, and bears, who are have YouTube videos of behaviour that causes a flurry of ‘awww’s and social media postings.

I wanted to post some of his works here to share, and to see some of these animals in all their glory. Hopefully an open mind looks to these creatures a hosting Cheshire cat grins rather than deadly grimaces. All photos taken by George Probst, and you can find more of his work at sharkpix.com


Little Miss Risk

Happy face

Happy face

Blue eyes

Blue eyes

Oh hai!

Oh hai!

Slender beauty

Slender beauty

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