Ask Uncle Dave

I'm Coveting My Neighbour's Life. What Should I Do?

Words Dave Tolnai
Date Mar 12, 2017

Uncle Dave:

I just read a wonderful story of a married couple that travel around the world, stay outside, ride bikes and take amazing pictures. I used to get inspired by these stories accompanied by absolutely wonderful pictures, but the older I get (and I am only 35) the sadder I get. I actually felt depressed. I have a great wife, smart, energetic healthy children. People like to talk to me, girls laugh at my jokes, random folks call me to have beer with them. People at work appreciate what I do and how I do it, clients seem to like me, tell me I am good. I have a great bike, I consider myself as a relatively good rider and when the seasons kicks in I ride at least 3 times a week. I keep up with fastest dudes in town, I am always at the head of the pack on group rides. Some people ask me to come and ride with them. But… that article just killed my self-esteem and made me hate all of the life choices I have made and put me where I am with whom I am. What should I do? Should I quit internet to avoid exposure to such painful stuff? Should I watch a lot of videos where bad riders crash in an embarrassing manner? Or is that normal and it will go away? Or should I leave my family, go on a 5 year long roam, get an expensive camera and take a lot of pictures?

Filled With Doubt


Dear Fildo:

Oh man. Here comes a real crowd pleaser. Thanks a lot.

I remember a few years ago, I was sitting in front of a computer reading BoingBoing. I can’t remember what the story was, and it probably doesn’t really matter, but I remember that it made me incredibly excited. The initial story had run, and then within a few minutes, somebody with first-hand knowledge of the situation got involved, and the story kept just getting better, deeper, more interesting and closer to the truth. I started thinking about how great a world it was going to be that we would have such free access to “the truth” and that felt pretty great. All hail the Internet.

Not to be too crude, but what a fucking idiot I was. This tool, this beautiful object that could and does create so much good…fuck. I mean, just look at where we’re at. Of course something that widely disseminates information instantaneously can be used by the forces of evil. Of course it can be used by people trying to sell us oodles of shit that we don’t really need. Of course these downfalls should/would/could have been obvious.

Now, I know this sounds more like a derision of our alternative fact based present, but just think for a minute about how all of this is related. Really, how different is a story about Obama wire-tapping Trump Tower, from your friend posting that one cherry-picked image of their vacation on Instagram?  We’re learning that through careful curation, or through outright lies, we can use the Internet to create just about any picture of ourselves, or the world, that we want. And we read these highly sanitized accounts of the best selves of other people and we assume there is nothing more to it. It’s nothing but vacations and fantastic meals and happy kids and people living life better than we are and what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-me?

Right after I read your e-mail, I stumbled upon this piece by Brent Sopel in the Player’s Tribune, which everybody should definitely take the time to read. It talks about how his entire life as a professional hockey player covered up his challenges with alcoholism and dyslexia. And the bottom of that story linked to a piece by Corey Hirsch about how his entire life as a professional hockey player covered up his challenges with OCD.*

Now, I’m not in any way trying to suggest that the happy couple in your story are hiding a depressed, substance abusing side, and warrant our pity and derision (they seem like wonderful people with very fulfilling lives). I’m just trying to suggest that there is probably more to those lives than can be presented in one article, and if somebody were to cherry-pick your greatest events and achievements and cram them into one place complete with a dozen professionally taken photographs, shit, people might be pretty jealous of what you have going on. Because even those that are wealthy, famous and “living the dream” have things that they have to deal with. The majority of the people that you admire and envy, probably have a lot of things within their own lives that they wish were different (and if they don’t…there’s probably something wrong with them and they shouldn’t be trusted).

There was a comment at the bottom of my tubeless tire inflator article, expressing gratitude for presenting the issues that I faced while building the stupid thing. And all I could think was “well what good would it be if I didn’t tell people about what I actually faced?”  And I’m thinking now that we really need to start extending this further. What good is a story if it only talks about the good parts of what happened?  What good is it if we turn people’s stories into impossible-to-obtain myths?  Our obsessively curated social media feeds probably aren’t helping our own mental health, and are certainly causing a mild amounts of consternation and grief to those on the other end of it. Life is not only about bicycles that are too expensive for the regular person to buy, or globetrotters strutting around the world without a care in the world. Life is challenges. Life is ugly. We need to embrace that ugliness. We need to get into the gutters and start seeing and showing the parts that people don’t want to see. We’re all flawed and we need to stop convincing ourselves that life would be great if only…

And that's not even considering the billions of people living in poverty under repressive regimes that would probably be pretty happy living through your worst day. But that makes for a terrible Instagram feed, and should probably be saved as a topic for another day.


Uncle Dave

*Maybe this is some sort of weird schadenfreude that I have, but I love seeing people’s flaws. During his years as a Canuck, Brent Sopel was just the weird looking guy with the mullet. Once I read his story though…man. What an amazing person. If only I’d known this about him back in the day, he’d have been my favourite player. Flaws are endearing. Flaws are interesting. Flaws are human.

Uncle Dave's Music Club

I've been protecting you guys for a while now. But I think it is time to start exposing you to some weird shit. And there aren't many weirder than where I am going today.

I can't actually remember who the Fiery Furnaces were opening for when I first saw them, but my memory is still fresh of Eleanor sauntering out, messing around with her microphone and taping down her set list. She oozed an effortless hipster cool, and was the kind of girl that you would never approach, and assume had something exciting at some place you had never heard of planned for the rest of the evening. And they played and the music was good enough that I paid attention. This was a couple of weeks before the release of Blueberry Boat. So when that was finally released, I strolled down to Zulu and picked up a copy.

Let me tell you, this release is not for the faint of heart. It's a commitment. An adventure. You absolutely will not like it the first time you hear it. That would be impossible. It's just too weird.

But then maybe 5 or 10 listens in (I had way more free time and patience in my youth) it starts to grow on you. It burrows in and starts to make a lot of sense. Well, as much as it can.

But we're not there yet. We'll start with some Eleanor Friedberger/Fiery Furnaces songs that you can actually listen to.

"He didn't mention his mother" is some pretty straight-forward, catchy stuff from Eleanor.

"When I knew" is kind of like above. Which suggests that Eleanor had the "catchy" genes in the family.

Okay. Enough of that. Let's get to the weird shit.

"Tropical Ice-land" - There is a video for this, but I much prefer the album version. It's a bit slow, sad, and kind of pretty. Like they're holding something back.

And it's even better when you flow it into "Rub Alcohol Blues", as happens on the album. "The only thing I've surely owned is a worried and troubled mind."  Amen.

And now we're in to Blueberry Boat.

"Chief Inspector Brancheflower" is like a novel for a crazy person who can't read and takes all their information in via song. So many transitions, like six songs jammed into one...there's something for everybody, really. Wonderful.

And then, finally, we're in to "Blueberry Boat". Man. I love this bloody song. It's just so weird and epic and poetic.

Honestly, just put the whole damn album on some time when you're feeling a bit weird and not paying a lot of attention. There's just so many magical moments scattered about, and so much work required to find them, it feels special once you do. I'm not even going to tell you guys about the album they made with their grandmother.

Congratulations, Fildo, Dave has bestowed an NSMB Loam Ranger upon you.  It may not cure your FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), but it will help you jazz up a few of your Instagram posts. Now go chop some wood and slug some maple syrup in your new North Shore Dinner Jacket.


Our special edition Loam Ranger jackets (by Race Face) are the perfect thing for Fall or Spring. Toss it on after a ride and it'll keep you warm while you dangle your legs off the tailgate and lie to your buddies about not casing any doubles on the jump line.

Trending on NSMB


+5 Garrett Thibault natbrown DMVancouver Merwinn mtnfriend
Dave Tolnai  - March 13, 2017, 6:11 p.m.

I'm just so happy that somebody finally wrote about the Fiery Furnaces.  Even if it was me.


+2 Pete Roggeman mtnfriend
Garrett Thibault  - March 13, 2017, 6:46 p.m.

I'm just so happy there's still ask uncle dave articles.

The music club section of this article has some odd spacing for me. There's about a video's height worth of blank space below every video.


Dave Tolnai  - March 13, 2017, 7:31 p.m.

That's just a test to see if people are reading that far.  But honestly, it looks fine to me.  Browser?


+1 Pete Roggeman
Garrett Thibault  - March 14, 2017, 12:19 a.m.

Firefox on Windows 10

I also don't have an avatar when commenting on posts but did add one to my profile.


+1 natbrown
Luix  - March 14, 2017, 4:51 a.m.

I'm having the same issue. Chromium and Chrome Version 56.0.2924.76 on Ubuntu Linux 16.04.

Now, going back on track, it feels great when someone finds the real shit which makes us what we are. Not in the sense of digging in the dirt to expose it and shame on it, but to find that very imperfect string which ties us all as mere humans. 

And you are right about curation and cherry picking. I watched "Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck" the other day (watch it if you haven't done it yet), and the first thing which stroke me is how much the filmmakers could tell with just a few super 8 movies, a good soundtrack and a careful edition. 

Again, time for that old saying we have down here: "I might not have everything I like, but I like everything I have". The feeling we must do the absolutely very best with our lives could lead us to a very lonely place...


norman  - March 14, 2017, 12:46 p.m.

Hi Garrett (and others),

It's being caused by your ad-block adding things into our page. Would you please consider white-listing our site? We depend on it to keep the lights on.

Thank you


Garrett Thibault  - March 14, 2017, 10:26 p.m.



+1 mtnfriend
WNCmotard  - March 14, 2017, 6:44 a.m.

Chrome on Windows 10 64 is doing it here as well. 

For me, I'm sure it would be easy to be envious of somebody else most times. But what I did was changes jobs last year, which afforded me more off call time, and my weekends are back to being mine all the time. Lots of slow days the boss lets me get away to ride the local (lame, but better than nothing) trails here in town as well. Lots of weekend travel rides on the calendar this year also. It's been a really good change for me, and I'm much happier overall.


+2 Pete Roggeman mtnfriend
Bogdan M  - March 14, 2017, 7:12 a.m.

Wow ... the "I'm coveting my neighbour's life ..." Q/A come at an opportune time ... thank you for the awesome answer, needed it this morning, also read the article about Brent Sopel too ... wow. Thank you!


Dave Tolnai  - March 14, 2017, 8:55 a.m.

I really can't get over that Brent Sopel piece.  Watching his entire life unfold, the good and the bad, due to undiagnosed dyslexia...it's crazy.


+2 Henry Chinaski WNCmotard
Mic  - March 14, 2017, 11:16 a.m.

Thank you for that piece, Fildo and Dave. 

Coincidentally, that was exactly what I was needing. Have been needing for a few months, to be honest. 

Long story, short version: Sabbatical until end of August this year, but due to unforeseen circumstances my private life took a very painful direction. 

All the time prior to the Sabbatical I have had dreams about once again coming to BC for some riding, the road trips in Europe with my son, the places we as a family always wanted to go. 

Unfortunately my son's mother decided to call it quits, so I had to fibd a new place to stay, some new furniture and the like. 

After almost a year I am right now in the situation of still having a lot of time off. I can go riding when I want to, spend as much time in local bike parks as possible, do great stuff with my son who I can basically see when I want. 

All those great places, Vancouver, the Island and the Sea to Sky, Kamloops and Haida Gwaii will be there in the years to come. 

Just because I planned on it this year does not mean I am missing something.

I just need to readjust my perspective and outlook. 

Thanks again for reminding me of that.


+2 natbrown Ziga K
Henry Chinaski  - March 14, 2017, 2:01 p.m.

I love the Uncle Dave contributions and as usual I think the content was on point.  However, I think you let Fildo off easy.  Dude sends you a note about how he has a great wife and smart kids.  Fildo suggests that he is very funny, a great employee, with a nice sense of humor.  I’m thinking to myself, this has to be sarcasm, right?  Then he cites his riding prowess .  Fildo deserves a cast for the broken arm he suffered while patting himself on the back, but instead you’ve promptly rewarded him with a Loam Ranger jacket that is bound to be the envy of his riding group.  Uncle Dave nailed the following:

> Life is challenges. Life is ugly. We need to embrace that ugliness. We need to get into the gutters and start seeing and showing the parts that people don’t want to see.

As a point of clarification, I think the important verb here is showing.  Before recognizing imperfection in others, it’s probably more important to identify our own.  If you’re in a position where your envy of travel photographers is causing you to question your choices, another trip to the Chilcotins with an expensive camera (to fill your Instagram with beauties) is not going to solve your problem.

Fildo, if you’re riding 3 days a week and still whooping everybody’s ass down the hill, why not drop a day and volunteer some time?


natbrown  - March 15, 2017, 11:39 a.m.

I've seen many people, some very close to me, suffer so much by comparing their existence to that of others. I can't help but think it's the wrong track. It's not like there's a flipside that might potentially justify that way of thinking, like where some people feel great by convincing themselves they're awesome compared to others. That would be detestable. It sounds to me like Fildo should appreciate and take enjoyment in the the things he does and those around him, and perhaps consider the value of any contributions he might make to society, be that through his work or anything else. Failing that, there's always drugs.


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