LaRae has popped back up on the radar a few times over the past few days. I was fortunate enough to have seen her a couple times, and sitting her reflecting on that a bit right now I kinda feel like this really overdue.
I usually write things in their own time without much thought. Get hit by something, sit down and write it! Just like that. I don't even read or go through half the shit I write. I just fire it off in one shot and move on. This one feels different though, and I feel kinda shitty for taking so long.
LaRae is fuckin' something maaaan!
It's really hard to encapsulate how she came into my life...and maybe that's why it has taken me so long to do this.
A couple years ago, I stood on a stage with tears rolling down my face in front of about 200 people when I was at a cancer fundraiser. Listening to the speech being given, I kinda just broke down.
While I was standing there with those tears, some girl came up to me and took my hand in one of hers, and then wrapped her other arm around me...and squeezed. I didn't even flinch to look and see who it was because all my attention was for the person speaking on stage.
This mystery person completely latched onto me in a very loving way. She gave me a kiss on the cheek a few different times while holding tight the entire time.
Even though I didn't even look at her, and had no idea who she was, I got filled with this deeply profound feeling of love for another human being coming from her. At times, in that moment on that stage, all I could see was that love she was expressing. It was unreal! Whoever it was, you could tell she just cared, and she really, really fuckin' meant it! A complete stranger to a complete stranger in a crazy moment. It was actually quite overwhelming.
When the speech was over, she gave me the biggest hug ever...I mean, loooong hug! Squeezing real fuckin' tight! This person crammed an eternity of love in a moment, and then with one last little kiss on the cheek, vanished back into the crowd...
Just like that!
She came outta nowhere, created this unreal amount of love, and then vanished.
I don't know why I didn't look at her in that moment, but I fully engrossed in the emotion she was sharing. I've never experienced anything like it, and given the levity of all that night entailed, I know I'll never experience anything like that again. I knew it at the time too, and I savoured in it. The weight of it all did not escape me. I was in the midst of something special and I reveled in it...even in tears in front of a couple hundred people.
I found out who LaRae was a couple days later. I had just met her cousin about month earlier, and I asked her who that person was, because she was really nice to me, and I just wanted to say thanks.
That's how I met LaRae!
She will forever be one of the most special people to me in my entire life because of how we met. Even if we had never seen each other again that would still hold true.
I've been very blessed with a lot of really good people in my life. No matter where I go, they just keep appearing. LaRae is something else though. Getting to know her since, everything about the way we met just made sense.
Crystal. Fuckin'. Clear!
The vibrancy of this woman is insane! She is like walking sunshine! It doesn't matter what you're going through, her presence just fills everything with life, love, radiance her profound, profound vibrancy!
LaRae has this thirst for life, and goes right the fuck after it! She is a mountain top standing, laketime kayaking, waterfall finding, snowboard riding, festival going, pure love creating absolutely gorgeous soul! She is one of the good ones.
If you're lucky enough to have LaRae come anywhere near your life, count your blessings because she is an angel sent from the divine of whatever your trip is. A true gift of everything that is good in life!
I hardly ever see her, but she makes every single moment seem like a life time. She appears...and disappears! Appears...and disappears...but leaves you totally blown away every time! If only everyone let their vibrancy shine like she does, I can guarantee a lotta hurt in this world would be mended.
I love the special soul that LaRae is. I love knowing that someone like her exists. She put the truth of the humanity in her heart on full display standing next to that stranger on that stage, and it's the only thing I'll ever see in her.
The word 'astonishing' should be reserved solely for LaRae because she is everything that word dreams to become!
LaRae = Best! Hugs! Everrrr!
From September 18, 2018
When I was on my way to the Okanagan for the last of my three triathlon trips this summer I hit a deer just before I got into Grand Forks. I was absolutely horrified by the accident as it was a little spotted fawn. I'll save that story for another time.
I stopped in town to assess the damage before I kept rolling down the road, especially since it was somewhere between 3:00 -4:00am.
There was only some minor damage to my front driver side light and signal light that I was gonna need to get sorted, but nothing serious, so I kept on my way. When I got home from the weekend I got in touch with Joe & Al to set up an appointment to get some lovin’ for my van.
When I pulled up to their shop at Steel Toe Joe’s in Krestova I was greeted by Rosie in the driveway as soon as I got outta my van. She saw my dogs, and had to immediately 'cess the situation with who these fuckers were at her place. (I had Paul's doggie, Cecelia, while he was away at Red Rocks in Colorado for a Greensky Bluegrass show).
Rosie the shop dawg!
Rosie is pretty excellent. As Fennario is my work's hotel doggie, Rosie is the shop doggie at Steel Toe Joe's! She even has her own seat that she seems to have taken complete ownership of.
My appointment was at 2:00pm, and I guess I rolled in at 1:58pm. I knew this because they were half shocked about it.
Porter: "Who in the Kootenays is ever on time?!"
(Jon) Porter works for Joe in the shop. He is a super good guy. He just grinds away at what he's doin', and then every-so-often you'll hear him start gigglin' at our meandering conversations.
As casual as I am, and as much as I don’t like to hurry for pretty much anything, I do try to be on time for appointments as I find it prudent to be considerate of those who may be in front or behind me.
Joe was out test driving some guy's pick-up truck when it was my turn, so Porter hopped right in my van, drove it into the shop, and got right at it. Pronto service!
It wasn't too hard for him to figure out what headlight was messed up from the little deer because as soon as he popped the hood and lifted it up, the light fell right out.
He started laughing, “Found it!”
I got Porter to put on my snow tires while I was there too.
Joe came and went, working on this and that, and searching through the computer for parts while Al did her desk-y work. Al is the duty manager...also Joe's wife.
Joe and Al are amazing. Just really, really great people! I've known them for 15 years now, and they have become some of my closest friends.
First photo is Al trying to act angry that I took her photo. Second one is when I called bullshit on her being angry.
Over the years I have watched Joe's whole progression towards someday having his own shop at his home. While doing his apprenticeship, he had to go away to Cranbrook for school, and then to Kelowna over a period of four years. It was a bummer having to be away from his wife and kids, but it was all a part of the grander vision and he was doing what he had to do.
Joe worked, and worked, and just ground it out...even towing truck for three or four years. He would be in the shop from 8am - 5pm, and then be on call for the rest of the 24 hours...often being called out in the middle of the night. He did all this while having a family with Al and their three young children!
A family affair! Ollie (their youngest) helping mom and dad.
Joe is the epitome of a hard worker. On top of that, he is as solid as they come. When I think of what a good human is, he is one of the first people who comes to mind. In an industry that is widely known to have scammers and just a lotta shittiness, Joe is the one who stands out above the rest. There is no one more honest than him, and there is nothing he can't fix.
When I say there is nothing he can’t fix, I’m talking far beyond just vehicles. I once had a problem with my bike that no local bike shops could fix, nor could bike shops in Calgary and the Okanagan. It was a loose rivet that was the issue. I was sent to the riveting specialist in Nelson and even he couldn't do it, so I took it to Joe. He was working at Western Auto Wreckers at the time. I dropped off my bike, came back in a couple days, and it was good to go! Back racing triathlons again! (When I dropped it off, Corey and Perry came out and slobbered over the awesomeness of it.)
(Clint, Corey and the rest of the boys at Western Auto had always been real good to me. It always felt like they would give me a tad bit of special treatment there. With the exhaustion so deep in my body, there had even been times when I would pass out on their desk in the office, and they didn't mind. They were always into and entertained by what I was doing. They even used to sponsor me when I raced hard years ago.)
In a way I was a bit sad to see Joe leave Western because I liked the guys there, but when he told me he was finally goin' for it with his shop I was super psyched for him. Nothing in the past mattered at that point, because I was aware of the whole journey and what it truly meant to him to finally arrive at the foot of his dream.
Although the road to that whole dream of the home-based shop was not always an easy one, it came together real fast when Joe and Al found the amazing new home they bought in June of 2015. It is in Krestova on several acres of land, and had a shop on it.
For the first couple years the shop was designated as their social hangout. It was great for that! They had Thanksgiving in it in 2015 and called it, "Shopsgiving." They also had Christmas there one year and called it, "Shopsmas." I mean, how good is that?!
Joe's dream of his home shop persisted though, but it always seemed like a bit of a distant thing even though they had most of the pieces in place. Then, just like that, one day he said, "Fuck it!" and went for it.
Talking with him about it, it was all just the whole concept of having the courage to just dive into the unknown and go.
He had to do some reno's to his shop to get it full business ready, but nothing too crazy. He ripped out a small couple walls, raised a section in the roof so he could put in a lift, and put in a bigger sliding door on the front. Just like that, he was ready to go!
After the school year was done at the end of this past June, Al finished up with her old job that she had been doing for many years, and joined Joe in the shop as the Duty Manager.
In all the 15 years I have known them, and all the fun and shenanigans we have had together, Joe said my favourite thing I have ever heard him say at an annual party they had on the second weekend of August.
Deep into the night he and I were talking a bit about the shop, and I asked him how it was with Al there...how she liked it, how they flowed together in a working environment, etc.
Joe said, "It's great! I love my wife, and she loves me! We get along so well, and all day long we get to see each other. I love it!"
I don't really need to say how amazing that is, do I?! It was definitely one of those moments where you just get happy for other people's happiness.
I've seen Joe and Al in the serious grind of some of the earlier years just trying to make it all work, and now, without exception, every time I am here I just get happy for them because they are both truly living their dream. There is not a time that I go to their place that that thought does not enter my mind…regardless of why I am there.
The environment they have created in their Steel Toe Joe's Automotive shop is warm, inviting, friendly, yet very professional. They are both the kindest people ever, and absolutely freakin' hilarious too!
I know that sometimes women can feel intimidated at automotive shops. I’ve seen that kind of thing through advertisements and such of the rare auto shop that is owned and operated by women…where part of their advertising pitch is about their shop being a place where women can feel safe and comfortable.
I’m not gonna get into what I think of all that here, but what I will say is that no woman will ever feel that at Steel Toe Joe’s. Ever! It doesn’t matter who you are, when you are at their shop they will make you feel at ease. As I eluded to above, Joe is one of the first people who comes to mind when I think of what a good human is, and Al…shiiit…I don’t think there is a more caring person on this planet, not that I have ever come across anyway!
It just feels like home, like you’re hanging out with good friends while Joe and Porter take care of your vehicles and Al takes care of you personally. I’m not just saying that because I am their friend, but because I am very observant towards who they are. (I’m only their friend because of the good people they are.)
There is no way I could possibly recommend anyone higher if you are in the area from Nelson to Castlegar and the lower Slocan Valley. If you don't live in this area and you have car problems, it totally sucks to be you! I kinda feel sorry for you!
Steel Toe Joe's staff...some of the best people you will ever meet!
Left to right: Joe & Al Shaw, Jon Porter
Steel Toe Joe's Automotive is the shit! The best of the best! Honest, reliable, and the ass-whuppin'est car fixin'est mutha-fuckas there are!
You leave there happy, entertained, and with your car all patched up.
You can find them at:
3804 Pine Road
On Facebook at: www.facebook.com/Steel-Toe-Joes-Automotive-Repair-587555518068314/
Google Maps Link:
Stuff Writin' About Kinda Guy
I am a simple guy who likes to dream of the impossible and go after it. I have found fun in writing about my journey as well as other things that inspire me too.