Chatting: with The Basement Geographer

Å (Norway) to Zzyzx (California)
Anyone who's been here more than one or two times has read a post or two about interesting places in the world. There aren't many subjects from my school days that I look back on with fondness but geography is one of them. Any geographic magazine, National Geographic, Canadian Geographic, Equinox, would have me absorbed for hours and when I found the internet? Well, I could get lost for days.

And you've heard about the Lad. We share a curiosity about the world, who lives in it and how their cultures differ, often in unusual ways and sometimes better ways. We have a plan to visit Ireland and Iceland and Faroe Islands if I have my way. We are not tropical island people.

The Lad and geography are the two factors that led to me finding The Basement Geographer. Yes there are other geography blogs (not to be confused with travel blogs) but TBG was the only one who had thought to post about this:

It had never occurred to me before but the Lad wondered if I knew how drivers transitioned between right-hand-drive countries to left-hand-drive countries and back. So we googled it. Getting the key words was the hardest thing but no matter, the only real information we found on the subject came from TBG and that's how I found his blog. I wrote the post, returned to TBG and didn't resurface for quite some time.

Interestingly, of all the places on the planet that a fellow blogger can be from, TBG is the closest to me geographically speaking. A fellow Canadian from my area of the country with a view of The Rockies that mirrors mine. He took some time to answer the Frimmy's Questionnaire.

How do you feel knowing I have your fate in my hands?

Surprisingly comfortable, as if it's the Internet version of trust-falling. If I metaphorically slam my head off the floor, however, I blame you!

Why are you here today?

Well, back in the seventies, my future mother moved into one half of a duplex in which my future dad was renting the other half, and - oh, why am I doing this interview? Because you asked, and this site is awesome!

Describe yourself in two words.

Nonchalant, non-adherent.

What is your idea of fun?

Exploring. Whether physical or metaphorical, just exploring things. Wandering through a city you've never been in. Picking someone's brain for an hour. Listening to an album you haven't heard before. Going for a day-long hike. Reading a good book. It's all exploring.

What items do you have within reach at this moment?

Computer mouse, wallet, water bottle, digital camera, vacuum, a bookshelf with a few hundred books on it, a souvenir puck from a 1984 Montreal Canadiens alumni game, 20-year-old ski boots, a Granville Island Brewing frisbee, a world globe from 1984, a Slushie Express machine, a pen-and-ink drawing of Nelson, BC's Streetcar #23 I received from the wife of the late, great man I succeeded at the archives I work at.

This is Nelson, BC.
Roxanne (1986) with Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah was filmed here

This is Nelson's streetcar #23

Do you carry anything on you that someone else would find unusual?

Not really. Just my wallet. I don't wear necklaces or any other type of adornment.

[Really, no heavy gold chains and diamond pinky rings? How could I have been so wrong...]

What is your favorite color?

Was this one of the questions that came from a 12-year-old? In all seriousness, as an adult male, my brain can't even comprehend the concept of a favourite colour anymore. One of those relics from a more innocent period of childhood that gets destroyed the first time you get dumped after a bad date or something, perhaps.

[Chartreuse would have been the acceptable answer here. Actually yes! That was one of the stupid questions and I should have taken it out]

What are your most favorite and least favorite foods?

I found a local place that has a brisket, bacon, and mushroom barbecue pizza. It's every bit as obscene as it sounds. Holy shit, is it ever brilliant! One slice and you're content; two slices and you're done; three slices and they bring the ambulance right to the front door. Snackwise, my love of frozen beverages is well known. It all goes back to my university days when I was a broke teenager far from home and all I could afford to eat or drink I had to buy in bulk to make it last. Filling up a Double Gulp with 2 litres of Slurpee for 99 cents seemed a reasonable economic decision at the time. I could milk that thing for hours and stave off the hunger pangs. These days, I can afford iced capps, which do far less damage and taste much better. A nice reward after a long hike or walkabout. Although I saw one of these for the first time today at a gas station in Coldstream, BC and had to buy it. I haven't even opened it yet. I may just spend a few days just looking at it. I'm afraid, quite honestly. Seriously, a chocolate chip cookie, M&M's and an Oreo glued to a peanut butter cup? That peanut butter cup better be filled with insulin.
Least favourite food? It may actually be the simple tomato. I can eat pasta sauce just fine, but if it's just a tomato, I'm done. Very weird because I love vegetables.

Do you have any phobias?

Cold calling. I simply can't do it. Heights? Pfft. Roller coasters? Nothing to 'em. Needles? Easy peasy. But you couldn't pay me a million dollars to phone somebody up if they're not expecting it.

[Haha! I love this question, the answers have been extremely gratifying. Excellent...*taps fingertips together a la Mr. Burns*]

What is the weirdest thing you have ever eaten?

I'm not much a risktaker with foods. I can't think of anything really 'weird' per se. I did once grab a random bag of Sweet Texas Heat Doritos that were lying opened and exposed in the middle of the street once and eat the whole thing while I was with a group of friends. Freaked them out pretty good, but the chips were fine. What I still want to know after all these years is who just opens up a bag of chips and then leaves the bag in the middle of the street?

[Yea, verily, a person can't do that and expect someone NOT to eat them]

Have you been told, you look like someone famous?

No, thank God. It's bad enough being told I look more and more like my dad all the time. Actually, I look more like one of my uncles, which is actually opening up a lot of questions in my head as I type this sentence. What the hell, Mom?

[Confession: I have an image of you looking like John Malkovich's character Marvin Boggs in RED only younger]

Note: TBG does not look like Marvin. That was just me being whatever it is that I am.

What is that one thing which makes you different?

Among my friends, they'd say two things: 1) I walk everywhere. I've walked across entire major cities from the train station with my luggage rather than call a cab or take the bus. I've walked 12 km just to get to hockey. I've walked entire marathons on multiple occasions. 2) I've never done a drug and I've never been drunk. I grew up with plenty of stoner friends (many of whom are still stoner friends) and pretty much everyone has a drink at least now and then. I just have no interest in that stuff, and they're actually pretty cool about it (even if they're still amazed I've held out all this time).
I should mentions here I am also like Briezy in that you can't offend me. I love dark humour at inappropriate times. In the early days of cable, I would stay up all night to watch whatever stand-up comedy I could find. I'm always up for a good laugh or a bad joke or both.

If you could eliminate one thing from your daily schedule, what would it be and why?

Sleep. I love sleep, but I'm not very good at it. These days if I can go to bed at midnight, fall asleep by 2 am, and get four or five hours before work without waking up in the middle of the night three or four times, it's a success. I'd rather just be done with it than lie in bed all those hours getting mad that I can't fall asleep.

Did you ever run away from home? Why/ why not?

Why would I run away from home? That's where the TV was! My youngest sister had a funny habit, however: when she was a toddler, she'd run down the street, taking her clothes off as she went. Whenever she went missing wed just look down the street and follow the trail of clothes. We'd find her two or three blocks down the way stark naked with a giant grin on her face. Good thing she doesn't do that 26 years later.

Have you ever done a good deed in secret?

I cure all manner of infectious diseases in my spare time. For example, here's a tip: when eating Fun Dip, don't share your candy dipping stick with your friends. You could catch Lik'm'AIDS.

[I can only hope that's a uniquely Canadian reference or my blog's cool cred has been lowered to depths from which I'll never recover]

Name one funny trait you have, that you would like others to know

I can touch my bottom lip to the tip of my nose. I can also raise my tongue OVER the top of my nose. Completely useless talent, but for some reason when I do it, it actually will make other people mad that they can't, and they'll spend the next 15 seconds trying before giving up in frustration.

If you turn into your partner for a day, what would you do?

Leave me, because I only learn from example! *rimshot*

[Sorry, what? I was trying to raise my tongue over the top of my nose]

Share one truth and one lie about your personality and let us guess which is what

I don't see what's so great about pets. I'm pretty good with kids.

Tell us something you hate doing. Why?

If there's something I hate more than hanging out with drunk people, it's hanging out with people who won't shut up about sci-fi/fantasy. I have a couple of friends (grown-ass men with spouses and kids at that) who get into this stuff way too much. I tried watching the first Star Wars movie about 20 years ago once, I fell asleep less than a half-hour in. Just stultifying. (And if there's something my friends would hate about me, it's that I use words like 'stultifying' in casual conversation.) That said - and I say this as a major, major sports fan - people who get way into fantasy sports piss me off just as much. NOBODY ELSE CARES ABOUT YOUR STUPID FAKE IMAGINARY TEAM THAT ISN'T REAL AND DOESN'T EXIST. There's a thin line between fantasy sports and Dungeons and Dragons.I miss the days of regular office pools back when it was just about straight-up gambling.

[*stares pointedly at readers and barely resists urge to make another Star Wars reference*]

What's your pet peeve?

When people have an unwillingness to learn about something before they start knocking it. It's always better to have a open mind and question things reasonably.

Have you even been in jail?

I've seen some at historical sites. Does that count?

[Yes! Goderich, Ontario's 'gaol' was cool as hell. Lunenburg NS has a cool one too]

Name one thing that drives you crazy.

That fact that I couldn't narrow this answer down to one things and spent the past ten minutes re-typing the answer before I just gave up.

What's the one thing, you can't live without?

Oxygen. I'd say that's pretty important. Barring that, I'm pretty adaptable. There's are things I'd rather not have to live without. but you could remove any one of them and I'd get used to it.

What's your motto in life?

If you can't actually plan your life around a short sentence, then you're probably doing it wrong. No mottoes.

[What's a motto? Nothing. What's a motto with you?]

If you could have an unlimited storage of one thing, what would it be?

Confidence. I'm generally easygoing but I also have a chronic inability to compromise, and those two traits conflict a lot. With unlimited confidence comes the ability to DESTROY EVERYONE IN MY PATH WITHOUT REMORSE! DIE, PUNY HUMANS, DIE! Okay, motivation. Maybe motivation, instead. Too much confidence might be bad.

What technological wonder would you like to see in the future?

Long-distance telepathy. It'd cut down on phone bills, for sure.

[And eliminate the cold-calling thing]

What do you do in your free time?

Besides hanging out with friends? I listen to absurd amounts of music (around 100 to 150 songs per day, every day). Read, walk, hike, surf the Internet, watch sports, docs & comedy, watch Russian dashcam videos on YouTube, read more.

What is your all time favorite comedy movie?

Good question. I guess I've always had a soft spot for Slap Shot (and it holds up on multiple viewings 37 years after its release, which is fantastic for an of-its-time comedy). As far as recent films go, Punching the Clown is just fantastic. If you've never heard of Henry Phillips, go out of your way to do so.

This is the only thing that could get me to watch Slap Shot,
but if there was a movie called Euthanization of Kittens and he was in it? I'd be in

Which was the last movie you've watched?

As far as fiction? I finally got around to watching Ted, which was pretty funny. I watched two documentaries this weekend: DPRK: The Land of Whispers (I'm a sucker for documentaries on North Korea) and Heroes of World Class, the incredibly fascinating-but-depressing tale of World Class Championship Wrestling (The moral of the story? Lots of wrestlers did lots of drugs and then died really young). The whole reality of professional wrestling, how it evolved, and how it operated/operates is utterly fascinating to me. It's just such a weird, unique being unto itself.

What country you would like to visit most and why?

Iceland. I'm a cold-weather person and a sucker for remote, windswept places. Especially remote, windswept places with really good music scenes.

[Do you hear that Southern people?? Someone else who likes cold weather! I'm not the only one. I told you I wasn't.]

What music do you like listening to?

At this point in my life, that question is impossible to answer. The best I can do is refer you to the page where I track my listening habits (even more detail here). Let's just say I listen to A LOT. I will say, however, that the music I listen to has actually tended to get louder and more extreme as I get older instead of quieter. According to, the top two bands on my all-time (since 2005) playlist are Big Black and the Beatles, and over the past three months it's been Scott Walker, Dr. Dog, and Sutcliffe Jugend. That pretty well sums it up. There's no such thing as a bad genre of music; only bad music within that genre. I can listen to Death Grips and Beach Boys back-to-back. I can follow up Kate Bush with Jedi Mind Tricks. A Gary Wilson sandwich with Wolf Eyes in the middle topped with some Bo Diddley? Awesome. The only challenge is that there's so much out there that I can't possibly listen to it all. It won't stop me from trying, however.

Has any movie, music or book made a big impact on you?

That's the thing: it all has. Your life is informed by everything you do and see. If I named one thing, I'd have to name one hundred, and I do have to try to go to bed sometime tonight.


TBG is an actual geographer as opposed to me, a hobby geographer. In his words, a brief bio:
Born and raised in Nakusp, BC, went away to university, stayed in university for a million years and couple of geography degrees, somehow wound up back home to make a radio documentary which led to me sticking around to take over the community radio station which led to me getting a dream job at the local historical archives.

In addition to his real work, the blog and several other things of which I am not privy, TBG also writes for Google Sightseeing. One of the things he includes in his blog are links to the actual location in the world where the subject can be found. With this information you can virtually travel and explore the place in question. I admit I checked out Stonehenge extensively. As well as the nearby village. And the sheep in the pastures around it. I'm a total creep, apparently.

I know from reading your blog that your love of geography started very young. This means you're one of the rare people who get to work in the field you love so am I right to assume it's not really work?

Alright, lunch break! Answering the rest of this will help it go by pretty quickly, I imagine. That's how I know it's a dream job: I hate taking lunch breaks because it takes times away from work. How often does one get to say that about their job? Also, I should point out here that I definitely do not look like John Malkovich!

No. You certainly do not. Can you remember any one thing that sparked the chain of events that lead you to where you are now?

Coming back home. It started this weird, roundabout path that took me to where I am now. Most small-town people spend years trying to get out. Turns out things only worked out for me once I fought my way back in. 

When I think of someone going to university and taking geography my first thought is they're headed for teaching. Then I realize it really is more about exploring and you have already talked about that a little. Where were you hoping your education would take you?

I didn't care where, honestly. I just wanted the degrees. I had no big, overarching plans beyond that. I DEFINITELY wasn't going to teach. TA-ing was bad enough. I had no problem getting up and spouting off in front of people, but all that bloody marking. I just liked learning about stuff.

How does geography relate to the dream job at the local historical archives? That sounds more history-related.

It's history, certainly, but all history is tied to place. Knowing where things are and where things were is huge part of that. If someone gives you a stack of 75 photos of buildings in your town from 1923 with no identifying information, you better know what your surroundings look like.

Are you still at this job? If not what are you doing now? 

Yep, sure am. Let's hope it lasts!

Has your career path taken you in unexpected directions?

That goes without saying. I never thought I'd spend years programming a community radio station, that's for sure. It was a fun novelty gig, and it kept me in town long enough to be in the right place at the right time when the archives came calling.

What have been some of the most unusual encounters? Highlights? Any disappointments?

Playing artists on the radio and then those same artists playing a gig in your random small town only to find that 1) your town has a radio station and 2) they've been played on it already for months. That was always gratifying. the archives are the highlight, for sure. Only disappointment is that I didn't get involved sooner, in retrospect.

Curling Stones: A Precious Resource, Counting Down the Ten Largest Empires, Aokigahara: The Suicide Forest, are a scant few of my favourite posts on TBG. What are yours?

The Sad Saga of Equatorial Guinea was a big one. Took a long time to write, but it was worth it. Zzyzx: The Last Name in Toponymy was a fun post right out of the gate. in the first week of the website. Fly Geyser was the coolest-looking article, and the map in Professional Wrestling Territories of North America actually wound up being published in Paul 'Butcher' Vachon's autobiography!

Having something you have created being used in a book must be very validating. Also, Fly Geyser is on the bucket list, actually. IF I'm allowed in. One of the biggest surprises recently was checking out your latest post and reading you were retiring the blog. It was a charming story about coming full circle from the little boy who entertained his Aunt and Uncle with "geography parlour tricks". You had exciting prospects ahead and it would be selfish to be unhappy about something in that light. However, you've mentioned recently in comments here that the blog might be making a return. Can you tell us more about that?

Well, I was never retiring the blog, just going on hiatus. I did need a sabbatical, however. I was all set to embark on a giant new web project that was going to consume my free time, but just as my buddy Stefan and I were going to start on the design, I happened to take a trip back up to UNBC where I went to grad school, and when the topic of the site came up, everyone asked me the same thing: why would you give that up? The audience the site has built up over the past not-quite-three years is incredible and it'd be a shame to quite right when the site was at its height. So, I came back home, mulled it over for a couple weeks, and went ahead with the decision to rebuild TBG into something even bigger. Stef (plug 1, plug 2) was kind enough to work with me on this instead, and when the site relaunches in June at, it'll be pretty awesome looking.

That's true you specifically used the word "hiatus" but it seemed so...vague! Hi Stef! (You know five people read this blog, right?) And thanks for the new link. What does the future hold for TBG?

That's the thing; it's the future. Who knows? I know I don't. Just keeping reading, and I'll keep writing. Thanks for this, Frimmy!

No, a sincere thanks to you for taking the time. I will keep reading. It's part of the journey. I know I'm not alone in telling you I look forward to the new site.

See? So much awesome out little time


kuschk said...

Oh, God, I just ate those Megaload peanut butter cups. I had no idea 'thick' could be a taste.

Frimmy said...

"Thick" sounds like it tastes like how a brick would feel in your stomach.

kuschk said...

They're actually quite snack-sized. And they're legit (the two topped with cookies employed Famous Amos cookies). It's just very decadent and kind of surreal to take in all at once. Probably won't buy them again for that reason. Very good, though.

Unknown said...

This was quite awesome to read!

Frimmy said...

...haven't I been saying?!


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