But when do we get teleportation?

I think I took on too many gigs. This is so far from my best work it’s almost embarrassing. Stressing right now. Need to remember to breathe at some point. I’ll schedule that in for tomorrow morning:

There’s something to be said for a live performance that takes you somewhere, transports you to a place beyond the stage, the crowd. When a performance really resonates with you it shifts space and time to move you mentally and emotionally. This may sound like woo-woo rhetoric, but try witnessing Edinburgh blokes We Were Promised Jetpacks live and not get carried away.

It was hard to look past the fact that there were four guitarists on stage. Four guitarists standing side by side. It’s easy to imagine what it’s like to stare up at four guitarists, but imagination has nothing on the experience. When the guitarists of We Were Promised Jetpacks stared down at you, it transcended being something you heard and became something you felt. It hit you like a literal wall of sound.

There was real enthusiasm here and it showed. Watching lead guitarist Michael Palmer bent over, shredding, shaking with exertion. Catching the smile splitting bassist Sean Smith’s face from side to side as he strummed along. Seeing the sweat drip from lead singer Adam Thompson’s brow as he played face to face with keyboard/backing guitarist Stuart McGachan, there was no question that they were giving it their all. The fervour was infectious and the crowd backed them every step of the way. There was a contingent of Scottish boys cheering along. You couldn’t help but ride the energy they exuded. You became part of it and it filled you with a joy that was impossible to quash.

It was that energy that really brought their performance to life. Watching the band play, there was a sense of strong connection. A familial quality reminiscent of brothers jamming out in the family tree house, enhanced by the practiced fluidity of musicians who knew their craft. It felt somehow intimate, yet triumphant. Slow building anthem Keeping Warm was overwhelmingly enthralling, while the punchy It’s Thunder and It’s Lightning would’ve scored a standing ovation had the crowd not already been on its feet. They may’ve been denied the jetpacks they were promised, but their performance took off all the same.

If time is money then where’s my change?

Okay, here we go. Micromanagement time. I’m en route from work to get home, have dinner and grab a few writing supplies. I’m gonna try and see how it feels to type up a review on the bus with the random laptop someone left at our place when they moved out. If I’m lucky I might be able to squeak out 25 minutes on the way to my event, 25 minutes on the way back. That’ll probably be enough to get the bare bones sorted, which I can finish up tomorrow to and from work. Then off to another gig tomorrow night, the review of which I can do Wednesday. Also in between my bus writing tonight, I’ve got an event to attend that may involve some primary research for an article I’ve got in the works. Thankfully I’ve got the time now to get this nugget of daily writing sussed. Wheuf.

Time is currency though, right? In this age of instant connection, it seems so rare to have the abundant spare time I recall from some past life. Or perhaps it’s that we so saturate ourselves with stimuli that even if we’re following leisure pursuits, we still feel drained. I mean, I’m so obsessed with constantly being busy that I forsake sleep just to be able to continue consuming as much information or entertainment as I can. Forget sanity, proper personal recharging or anything. If I only give another hour of myself here I might be able to keep up with the pop cultural water cooler talk circulating around Facebook. It’s gotten to the point that I feel guilty being on public transport and not using that unoccupied time for something productive. I’ve got an hour each way each day. If you had 2 spare hours in a day, wouldn’t you strive to squeeze out any precious juicy minutes you could? I mean hell, the fact that I’m currently walking with head bowed through the Bloor/Yonge station means I might almost get 6 hours sleep tonight. Isn’t that worth the sacrifice? I don’t even have a gym membership right now. If I was working out that’d be an extra 2 hours of my day once transport and showering came into play. I feel guilty, physical activity is a pretty necessary component of my life. How am I not finding the time? Why can’t I do everything?

That’s the problem though, we’re told that we should be able to. We have the technology. Where there’s a will, there’s wi-fi. For everything else there’s an overwhelming sense of ennui and inadequacy. Everyone we know is just killing it in all aspects of their lives, right? Social media depicts the gloss without the dross. We see the successes without the 9 failures preceding them. Twitter brings us close to those exceptional individuals who’ve found fame through their hard work and diligence. We start comparing ourselves to them and expect the same of ourselves. If they can do it, what’s our problem? Once again, we’re seeing the outcome without the years it took to get them there. Coupled with our expectations that life, like technology, should grant us instant results and it’s easy to see how we feel constant, crushing inadequacy. It’s understandable that we’re stressing that each hour of each day doesn’t last for an hour longer. How else are we supposed to embody everything that we’re told we should? At what point do our unrealistic expectations become reality? If we burn ourselves out, how are we supposed to keep stoking that fire? What happens when the appeal of this life we’ve made for ourselves loses its spark?

I’ve got no answer, but it looks like I’m just about home. Time for this night to get busy.

The next big fashion trend? Fluoro garbage worker outfits. Just you wait.

Today marks the first time I’ve gone to a department store to try on, then purchase an item of women’s clothing. An auspicious occasion to be certain. The story, however, begins not there, but at the racks of the Kensington Army Surplus Store. I’d been rifling through the racks looking for a military flight suit to set up my Halloween costume. My companions were an older woman and a creepy sales rep who wouldn’t quit (it dawns on me that with his uneven gait, bloodshot eyes and seemingly vacant expression he was most likely a returned serviceman. The respect I had for him didn’t diminish is overwhelming creepitude). I flicked between flight suits, $80, $80, $80, $70, $60. A $50 XXL suit came up, trampling my hopes further into the ground. The twin pressures of sleep-deprivation induced fatigue and the overly insistent sales rep didn’t help my frustration. After 4 or 5 attempts to ask me if I needed help (I must’ve looked as inept as I felt), “Igor” slunk off, leaving the woman and I alone to contemplate the selection in front of us.

“Well he was determined.” I muttered quietly to the woman next to me.
“Yeah.” She replied. “If only he could do something about these prices.”
“Halloween?” I enquired.
“Halloween.” She echoed. “The worst part” she continued “is that this isn’t even for me. I’m already sorted, my husband is the one who needs it.”
I let out a short snort. She whipped her head around to look me up and down.
“Wait, weird question. How big are you?”
She was right. It was a weird question. Had I just met Buffalo Belle?
“That is a weird question. Small to medium I think, depends on the cut.”
I didn’t dare ask why.
“Okay, this could work.”
I gulped, despite myself. I did so enjoy my skin remaining attached to the rest of my frame.
“This didn’t make any sense to me, but flight suits are actually in right now. H&M sells them for $19.95.”
“Oh?” My eyes widened.
“Yeah. The catch is that they’re only in for women. You look like you’d be small enough to fit into women’s clothing.
I smirked. “Thanks, I guess?”
“Well if you could save $60 on a Halloween costume, wouldn’t you?”
I would. I did.

Which is how I found myself outside H&M in Yonge and Dundas square, looking up at a large poster for a flight suit garbed model mid-stride on an air strip.

I went to the racks and found a sales attendant who, thankfully, gave off a more normal vibe. She said they were in stock, but the largest size they had was an 8. She said I could use either the men’s changing rooms downstairs or the women’s on the same floor. A changing room by any other gender would look the same, I figured. I was right.

Putting on women’s clothing is a strange affair. There are some parts that fit well enough, others didn’t. I didn’t expect the foot holes to be so much tighter. I had to finagle my heel through, but once it was in it wasn’t going anywhere. The legs were fine, hips were easy, roomy, comfortable even. The waist wasn’t. The suit was crimped around the waist, I assume to show off some kind of hourglass I don’t have. Thankfully it was elasticated. The chest was super roomy, for obvious reasons. My mannories didn’t have quite the bust to fill it out. The shoulders were tight, leading to taught arms, but that’s workable. The strangest part was doing up the buttons. Given that men and women’s buttons are on opposing sides of shirts, I was fumbling as if it was my first time. It didn’t help that this thing had a million (minus 999988 or so) buttons and they were tiny. Still, it fit and despite the awkward tightness in some parts (I might need to find something to wear over my pelvis. Camel tail is a thing), it’s exactly what I need to make the costume work.

And now I know that I’m roughly a women’s size 8, which is not something I thought I’d learn before arriving back home this evening. Life is magical and full of surprises sometimes.

If my parents were giant robot technicians, my dad would officially be cooler than yours.

I’ve been trying to call my parents for the last few days. Once it gets to about midnight or 1am I load up Skype and give ‘em a ring. Nothing. Call failed or endless ringing. You have no idea what a sense of self-satisfaction this gives me. For once I’m not the person exhibiting shitty communication skills. I’ve been ceaselessly trying, but to no avail. Blame the massive down-under time difference. They’re 7 hours behind, a day ahead, so unless I choose not to sleep it’s tricky at best to get them on the line before work the next day. But I’ve been trying, so go me. I don’t know why I’m busting my chops so hard (“busting my chops” he says. It’s literally just loading up an app and ringing a few times. Zero point five effort required) to speak to them. If you’ve been following my writing closely over the past month you’ll realise that nothing of importance has happened in my life. It’s not like I’ve done anything noteworthy or had any powerful revelations worth reporting back to my parentals. Yet still I persist. I don’t want to call it “obligation”, because that removes the obvious love involved in the connection. I just don’t know why we really need to speak. I mean, they raised me for most of my life, one call per month is hardly a great expense on my behalf (and even phrasing it like that makes it sound like a chore to call them). We get on pretty well, the calls are enjoyable and it’s nice just to hear their voices. I realised the other day that it’s been over a year since I last saw them. It wasn’t a bombshell moment, no earth-shattering epiphany. More like when you look in your cupboard and notice you accidentally bought an extra can of tomatoes. An occurrence of no consequence, just mildly interesting to note. It would be swell to see the family again, but there’s no real sense of longing pulling me back. It’ll happen when it happens.

It must be gnawing at me somewhere though. Last night I dreamt I was at some huge office block party and my parents were there. They kept trying to score acid off my friends. My dad was so excited. When I tried to tell them I was leaving it took 13 times of telling him to actually get the message through, for him to acknowledge my existence. I hope my dream parents had a great acid trip, wherever it took them. In the dream I got contracted by a special police division to try and discover who was importing loads of super strong hallucinogens into the party. They thought they’d made a massive bust and got me to organise it. I was bored with the clerical work, so I broke off a piece of this large slab of dream-drug and chewed it in the hopes of livening up the sorting. No effect, also it was goddamn delicious. “Guys, you haven’t cracked anything. You’ve just confiscated stacks of large white cookies.” I was both congratulated on my sluthery and reprimanded for attempting to eat police property. They decided to just let me go back to the party rather than leaving a liability like me on the police team. I went off in search of my parents and found them in a large gazebo, tripping out while lounging back on cushions. I figured they were off on their own adventures and I’d only be a buzzkill if I interrupted.

Maybe something deeper afoot is happening. In the hidden reserves of my subconscious I must be concocting some kind of elaborate narrative whereby my parents have way too much going on in their busy lives to have time for me. They’re skipping out on Skype shenanigans because they’ve discovered some great new hobby. Perhaps they’ve finally started playing videogames and are too busy trawling dungeons for sick loot. Perhaps they’ve become reformed swingers and just can’t seem to find their keys in that large fishbowl. They could be on a secret mission to topple the leaders of ISIS or concocting a cure for ingrown hairs. They could be building a giant anime style robot to defend the earth from extra-terrestrial forces. I can’t discount the notion that they ran away to join the circus, or a weird amphibian sex cult. Maybe they’ve just ascended their physical bodies and are finding the internet too enticing to float around to shift back to reality.

Or maybe they’re just like me. They don’t have anything to talk about either and figure it’ll happen when it happens. The apple doesn’t fall far, right?

Fundamentally bankrupt.

I just found $10 on the ground (I was once told that the perfect way to end any anecdote if you don’t have an “out” is to end with “and then I found $5″. It’s the perfect amount, because it’s always a nice surprise, but not so large that it’s unbelievable. In this instance I used my newfound riches as an opener instead. Its like I prematurely shot my wad (of cash, being double the usual $5 amount), but the ends (or beginnings in this case) justify the means). True story. Walking home because the bus was at least 20 minutes away, I looked down at a shiny reflection that caught my eye. Go go gadget Canada and its plastic currency. I’m now $10 richer than I would’ve been were I a tad lazier. I feel like this should be motivation for putting myself out there. It’s effectively the same as telling myself there’s a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow, enticing myself to go off chasing promising opportunities. Then again, motivational schtick only holds up for so long with me. Also a lot of rainbows are created in waterfalls and TLC warned me against chasing them. Therefore the answer is “never try”. Words we can all live by.

I feel like I have an irrationally quick response to finding money on the floor. With zero hesitation I reach down and pick it up, crack open my wallet and place the cash inside. I’d imagine most people might look around carefully, take stock of their surroundings and do a quick ethical cost:benefit check. I have no such qualms. As soon as it’s in my sight, it’s in my grasp. I do a cursory glance around, as if checking for oncoming traffic while jaywalking, then I own it. It’s my possession from that point on. From the moment it touches my fingers, I’ve already started making plans for the bounty of bills gracing my wallet. Grand designs that’ll never be fully realised through lack of ambition or motivation. My lofty plans for this $10 is to sink it into obtaining drink vessels from dollarama for my flatwarming. The theme is Anything But Cups and I’m so excited to see what people will bring. I was wondering if a frisbee turned upside down would hold enough liquid. My boss suggested to have a Monopoly thimble on hand in case someone forgets their own cup. If they can’t provide something to consume fluid from (wow, “fluid” makes things sound), the state will. I’d just prefer nobody was left out.

My eyes are drooping and I’m feeling the effects of not having coffee. Does anyone else out there get sleepy sometimes? We should take a stand and do something about it. I for one am not gonna stand for it and choose to lie supine instead. In my bed. Pillow ‘neath my head. Dreams of wonderful events. Like remember that time I found $10?

Or else I just said a load of bollocks. Comes with the territory, I guess.

Once in a while I ponder what it is to be a man. Usually after being prompted by some article refuting narrow minded gender dichotomies. Like this one I read the other day. I won’t attempt to repackage what this guy wrote, because he did such an excellent job of it. I will use it as a springboard for some stream of consciousness musing on the nature of gender construction. I mean, it is a construct. You know that, right? There are certain undeniable biological differences, but those differences do far less to define us as individuals than society’s perceptions of those variances. We so readily seek to ascribe gender values to activities, actions and opinions. It’s all kinds of absurd and damaging. We build up these unobtainable paragons of masculinity/femininity that we’re meant to follow avidly. We’re told that certain values will endear us to our gender representations. As a guy I need to be dominant, forceful and powerful. I must lead unflinchingly or swallow cinder blocks and ask for seconds. Showing weakness is more than frowned upon, it’s seen as a betrayal of the rigid gender stereotypes that society has formed. You’re not just letting yourself down, you’re letting the team down.

Rarely has this been more prevalent than in New Zealand male culture. Growing up through the kiwi bloke mentality means there are several ways to show your manliness:

  • Sports – The playing of, the watching of and the speaking of. They’re an outlet for aggression or vicariously experiencing the action through watching. Sports talk is water cooler talk. Our national game revolves around throwing people to the ground to steal their MacGuffin. If you tackle well or walk off the field with debilitating injuries, you’ve played like a man. If you don’t, what are you? A pussy?
  • Drinking – Drink big or go home. It’s how we’re raised. You drink till you throw up, then grab another 6-pack. When I went down to Dunedin with a mate I saw three shirtless dudes skulling flavoured milk then vomiting on the sidewalk just to see what it would look like. Regular nights in the city meant seeing people lying on sidewalks wasted, or throwing up in gutters. On ya, mate.
  • Male camaraderie. But not in “that” way – Back slaps and arm punches, aggression as affection. Affection however, invites aggression. Feelings are “gay”, plain and simple. Which is, of course verboten.
  • Sex – The quest of, the glory of conquest. Women as objects, men as righteous victors winning out over the opposition of consent. Basically any regressive misogynist shit you can think of and it’ll be part of the lexicon.

The language in particular echoes overseas trends. Anything bent out of shape is tarred with a feminine brush. Transgressions are seen as unmanly, thus unworthy. You clearly don’t wanna be a soft, wimpy, gay, pussy, do you? I’m not the first to suggest that values of weakness, timidness or fragility that we ascribe to femininity are hurtled as insults towards males, shepherding conformity through verbal abuse. Far be it for guys to act anywhere outside of the myopic spectrum of male behaviour. What would my bros think?

Since it always comes back to me, it should be fairly obvious where I stand on the issue. I mean, I left. From a young age I felt like I didn’t fit in back home. I didn’t like sports (which already discredited my status as a New Zealander, let alone a male) and had little interest in typical male activities. I was a bookish nerd. I liked playing with toys and constructing elaborate adventure scenarios. I loved videogames and comic books. As a child I developed romantic affections for fictional characters at a young age. Princess Allura from Voltron, the Pink Ranger from Power Rangers, every Disney Princess. I developed crushes on girls in class from age 6-7. As a child I knew I wanted something, innocent as it would’ve been. To hold hands or kiss. To play together. Nothing more than that. Still, to feel this kind of affectionate pull as a young male New Zealander would’ve been frowned upon as “girly”, thus I rarely expressed it. I was always a sensitive and emotional kid. I was overweight and unfit. A terrible combination, because it put me in a prime position for bullying. I’d been taught not to fight back, so I never did. I just kind of took the abuse and cried about it later. I decided at around age 5 or so that New Zealand wasn’t the place for me. Took about 21 years to make good on that choice.

I mean, don’t worry guys, I turned out ok. I developed a rhino’s thick hide, jeers and taunts fall off me like rainwater. My young affections blossomed into genuine affection and appreciation for women. I think my backlash to the national masculine consciousness forced me towards feminism as a way to deal with the pervasive misogyny. Despite whatever words were used to describe my dalliances from male stereotypical values, it’s done little to affect my sexual orientation. If it did and I found myself interested in something outside of the mainstream, that’d be fine too. I’ve got no doubt that my cultural upbringing helped me become more empathic and accepting towards those who find themselves outside of rigid gender dichotomies.

So what does it mean to be a man in 2014? Very little. Be who you want to be as long as your actions won’t harm others. Don’t define yourself by the way others see you. Live your life in a way that befits you becoming your greatest self possible. You owe yourself that much.

TL;DR: Be a male, whatever that means to you. Just don’t be a dick.

This is the reason I never went to circus school, despite my love of trapeze.

Uncharismatic as it is, I like to think that I’ve got a relatively conflict free life. Mo money, mo problems they say. Seeing as I’m not exactly rolling in it, I’m more problem free than Jay-Z. Surely though, I must have worries, apprehensions, fears? Sure, I’m only human (and part salamander, but don’t tell anyone. I don’t want to violate the NDA I have with CAMH after doing all that medical testing. Not too many biological changes occurred, except for the fact that when I poop I now lay adorable little eggs in lieu of poop. I mean, they’re totally filled with poop, but it’s slightly more demure (and painful) than the alternative. Is this TMI yet?), so naturally there must be things that chill me at night.

Obviously there’s the coulrophobia. I wish this was “a bit”. It’s not like I’m gonna run screaming if I see a clown, but I legitimately and truthfully feel an unsettling clenching around my heart when I see a garishly painted white face. Like most phobias, it’s irrational. Researchers have predicted that it may have something to do with the “uncanny valley” concept, the creepy juxtaposition of human and non-human characteristics that leaves some mildly distressed. I think mine started when my brothers brought home the Killer Klowns from Outer Space VHS. Those terrifying space “klowns” with blade-like teeth and ill intent cemented something raw and enduring in me. I mean, I’ve seen the movie since. It’s campy and dumb. It’s not frightening, but it’s imprinted me with something that leaves me reeling from a clown encounter. An enclownter, if you will. Still totally serious, if my flippant mood made you think otherwise. At Nuit Blanche last year there was some float populated by clowns. My heart froze and I had to back up. I nearly shat tiny salamander eggs everywhere. At a sexual story telling evenings earlier this year one of the judges was dressed as a clown. I had to look away from his face as I told him about my coulrophobia. I instead looked down. At his crotch. Which was covered by a light switch. Really, not making this up. Though I can’t resist implying that the switch was probably there to indicated when people turned him on. Dumb. It was probably there to indicate that he identified as a switch sexually. Anyway, clowns. Creepy.

I guess it’s fair to say I’m afraid of being alone. Not in some needy relationship kind of thing, but as an extroverted introvert, I start to crave human interaction once I tire of my own company (takes quite a while, as the narcissist thing ensures). Where the fear stems from is the notion that I could be enough of an asshole to people that they’d no longer want me around. The idea that I’d say enough things that’d rub people the wrong way and they’d simply stop answering messages. I fear burning bridges, putting out unanswered olive branches until my arm droops from exhaustion. I’m terrified by the concept that people wouldn’t want me in my life. Inevitably this extends into my romantic relationships, manifesting in my deep seated habit of cutting things off with people before they realise there’s very little of worth at my core and dropping me like a tonne of clichés. It’s a form of counterattack. If I get rid of people before they can see that they won out by ridding themselves of me, I can fool myself into thinking I won the exchange. It’s idiotic, but inevitably the path I end up taking almost every time.

I guess most of all I fear being ineffectual. This isn’t an economic thing, rather if I’m not seen as contributing to the world around me at all, then why would I exist? I’m not talking massive world scale events, but I want to know that I can make people happy, that I can contribute to a situation that’s improved by my involvement. I want to know that my presence has a ripple effect of some variety. Can I change things? Will my words affect others at all? Make them consider things differently? Will my actions draw tears? Laughs? Smiles? If I can interact with someone and make their day, that makes me feel useful. If I can end a relationship and leave someone better than I found them, that in itself justifies the relationship. I guess it’s no different than this human compulsion to leave a legacy, to know that you graced the world with your presence and left a lasting impression. The opposite seems too much to bear, that I’d no longer be capable of influencing matters within my orbit. I fear the day when my life becomes obsolete. Isn’t that the fear of growing old? Fear of irrelevance? That the world has passed you by? Bleak.

At least when I age I’ll be able to console myself with the regrowth of lost limbs. Thanks CAMH and salamander DNA!