How would I line my insides with silver? I’ll make any excuse to find the doctor from Face/Off.

My girlfriend is listening to a 2000s music mix on her phone as I write. Since I’ve got nothing more interesting to blab about (which should highlight how little is floating through my head right now), let’s jump in. I’ll write about each song as it plays and anything that comes to mind. Fingers crossed we hear some Duffy. Warwick Avenue was a rad song.

  • R-Kelly “Ignition Remix”. Song is just finishing. The only notable thing about this track is that for the longest time (woah-oh) I thought the line was “mama rolling dead bodies, got every man in here wishing”. Upon further listening the song isn’t about some serial killer matriarch. Bummer.
  • Beyonce “Irreplacable”. The number of times I quote “to the left, to the left” while giving any type of directions is… well not staggering, but not insignificant either. I feel like this song came out while Beyonce was still ‘twixt her metamorphosis from post Destiny’s Child pop diva who bought her own shoes to Yaaasss Queen Bee.
  • K.T. Tunstall “Suddenly I See”. Aww, good song. It’s catchy as hell and I’m borderline gutted she never got bigger. The follow-up, “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” was a sweet track too. Upbeat as hell, with a voice that wasn’t syrupy, a style that wasn’t sexualised at a time where that was virtually all we were being fed.
  • Joss Stone “Fell in Love with a Boy”. Is she still a person? I mean, of course she’s a person, but is she still an entity in the music biz? Apparently so, she put out a record in 2015. This track, a cover of a White Stripes song, seems particularly apt for a 2000s playlist when it’s been covered by another quintessential 2000s artist. Quintessential? Am I using that word right or laying it on a bit thick? She might not be the perfect embodiment of the oughts, but when I think of her I think of them.
  • Ingrid Michaelson “The Way I Am”. I don’t know this song. I don’t think I’ve heard this song. I heard a Nerdist podcast with her a while back and she seemed pretty rad. Clever and funny. This track is simple, pleasant, enjoyable. Did I just sound like a robot describing music?
  • Alicia Keys “Falling”. Oh wow, she was everywhere now she’s… Well… Not. When I think of this track, I think of her playing a piano. For some reason though when I hear her name immediately I see her surrounded by fire. Have I awakened some latent spiritual ability to read auras? Or was that just from some music video she did? I guess I also automatically associate her with New York, because that song played like 20 times when we visited New York back in 2011.
  • Nelly “Hot in Herre”. Some kid at my school started wearing band aids on his face when this track came out, since Nelly made it all the rage. It’s a curious fashion statement, likely a reflection of education in the school of hard knocks. I never got the appeal of the chorus. Like, the call and response of “It’s getting hot in herre, take off all your clothes off” and “I am getting so hot, I will take my clothes off” always creeped me out. Like, why does the female chorus singer sound so robotic? What’s with the clipped way she talks? Is she a robotic sex slave? Why is she doing what he says? He didn’t even ask nicely. The amount of duress loaded into this track is borderline menacing.
  • Feist “1, 2, 3, 4”. Neat track. There was an adorable Sesame Street cover of this that involved counting penguins. I’ve seen this live a few times and it’s always a blast. She’s a stellar performer who knows how to work a crowd. Now I’m just wondering how long it is until Broken Social Scene get back together and break up again. Fingers crossed. 1, 2, 3, 4 of them.
  • Rilo Kiley “Silver Lining”. I know nothing about this song or band. Really, I’m struggling to come up with anything inventive. Silver Lining… What would happen if a werewolf bit someone whose insides were lined with silver? Like, would the teeth get all the way through? Would the silver insulate the victim from the werewolf curse? Would the werewolf die or just be wounded? In my head I guess this is just a silver version of Wolverine. Way less indestructible, but also with added anti-werewolf antibodies. Handy for niche situations. Like, werewolf ones.
  • Destiny’s Child “Say My Name”. Was this when Destiny’s Child had someone else? Taking a quick peek through wikipedia it looks like Beyonce’s dad managed the band and was holding money back from some of the other members. They asked for more money and instead got replaced without consent. That’s kind of shitty. Also the replaced members’ vocals are still on the track, but not on the video. Looks like the band was the one acting kinda shady. The moar you know!

I hope you all enjoyed that romp into recent history as much as I did. I’m gonna stop writing before I feel old, dig a hole in the ground and shove my head into it while singing The Smiths’ “I Know it’s Over”.

E noho rā.

Post-match analysis.

I was having dinner and drinks with My Favourite Ex last night. As always, we had a great time. Things may not have worked out between us (over two years ago, I might add), but any reasons why we broke up had nothing to do with our friendship. She always was and emphatically is a lovely, generous, giving, fun and self-assured person who stands as one of my most beloved people in this city.

Some things haven’t changed. She recalled how slow I was to make a move. As the running theme tends to go (judging by commentary from every female I’ve ever dated) she had no idea that I was interested until she basically asked point blank. As soon as I knew she was both consenting and enthusiastic I jumped right in. One sweet thing she reminded me of last night was that she stands as the only person I’ve ever asked out via postcard…

It went like this: I was starting to feel things towards her, but didn’t know how to ask someone to go out with me. By that stage it’d been almost a year since I’d been in a relationship and I was feeling rusty. My Favourite Ex had mentioned her love of postcards, how postcards felt like such a lovely present to receive, how her wall of postcards was one of her treasured possessions. My dilemma and her love of postcards seemed a perfect convergence. I bought a tacky, touristy Toronto postcard and wrote something to this extent:

“Dear My Favourite Ex.

I’ve been having real fun hanging out with you lately. I like how we share tastes in shows to binge watch. You’re probably the best person I know at snack selection, plus I think you’re really pretty. I’d love to date you. If you’d also like to date me, please get in touch on 647-(REDACTED) and let me know.

Cheers
-Leon”

Though I did my best, my handwriting was shaky and messy out of nerves. I spent days looking repeatedly at my phone. I had to play it cool talking with her in the mean time while I waited for snail mail to catch up. She still has the postcard, but now it stands as a pleasant relic of good times we shared.

Thing is, we don’t have the kind of chemistry that’d cause dating again to make sense. In fact, one of the ideas that arose last night was how different we both are now compared with when we dated. If we’d instead met as we are, it’s doubtful that we ever would’ve dated. The postcard then, stands as the physical embodiment of a memory. It’s who we were and why we worked. Who we’ve become will never invalidate that.

A renewed sense of self doubt.

Today in bureaucracy, my afternoon was spent at the Toronto passport office. In true Canadian style, it couldn’t have been more pleasant an atmosphere if they’d installed a chocolate fountain. When I walked in, all the moisture in my mouth took a hike and I was left with nothing but desert. I was nervous, for the same reasons your knuckles whiten when you see a cop. Regardless of whether or not you’ve done anything wrong, being in the vicinity of authority has a visceral effect. In this case it was wholly unwarranted. There was a line to check that you’d brought all of the necessary documentation. The woman at the counter was friendly and helpful, going through each item of identification in order to make sure I wasn’t wasting my time. I got my number and sat down. The passport centre had around 10 desks and rolling screens with service numbers listed. Your number came up, you went to the corresponding desk. It was an efficient system. There were probably about 30 people waiting by the time I arrived and I sat for no more than 20 minutes myself. The woman who served me went through my entire application and made sure I had all the correct details. She said their number one priority was to do their best to ensure applicants wouldn’t get refused once they’d paid. She pointed out a detail or two I could’ve clarified better and we corrected them. Two weeks, she said, and I’d finally have my Canadian passport. I’ve been here for over two years and I’ll finally feel like a true Canuck.

This brings me to a point of contemplation. My New Zealand passport will expire next year. Do I renew it? If I have my Canadian passport, do I really need a New Zealand one too? Aside from New Zealand, where am I gonna travel that’d justify official Kiwi documentation? How often am I likely to go home over the course of the five years validity the passport comes with? Is it worth paying the $200 or so to ease my entry once or twice? Or is something larger at play here? I guess it’s a personal issue, but how would I feel about not having a passport from my home country? Yeah, I live here now, but I’m still a New Zealander. There’s a stab of emotion that I can’t quite describe coming into play when I imagine not having identification from my own country. Having both passports doesn’t mean that either is invalidated, so what do I have to lose other than a little bit of money and time in renewing it?

Okay, it’s easy to see that from a practical standpoint it’s a bit of a no-brainer. I’ll renew my passport when I need to. Done. What I’m more curious about is my personal identity. I know that I’m a Canadian. The law says it and I have a big piece of paper with a vicious unicorn that qualifies this. I’ve lived in Toronto long enough to be considered a local. You know what though? More often than not I still consider myself an outsider. It’s not a lack of familiarity with my environment, but a lack of intuitive cultural understanding. I haven’t grown up with TVO, I still call it “ice hockey” (as opposed to Canadians who use the simplified moniker “hockey”) and I don’t get how Tim Hortons is anything but shit coffee. I may know a few go to Canadian Heritage Moments quotes, but if people reference important historical and cultural touchstones they fly well over my head. Every time someone is surprised by my accent, despite their polite and friendly intentions, it makes me feel separate. Othered. It’s not a major qualm. I’m not crying myself to sleep over it. All I’m saying is that I’m in a curious state of limbo that’s mildly unsettling. I’m not saying I need to forget where I came from and become a whole new person. I’m just wondering when this state of equilibrium balances out and I understand my place in the world. I want to know what my cultural identity means to me and furthermore, what I want it to mean.

Matrimoaning.

I got a wedding invitation in my inbox today. It’s a phenomenon that brings with it both excitement and a shade of melancholy. I love going to weddings. I have no shame about this. If I know the couple intimately it warms my heart to see them coming together in their chosen fashion. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big wedding, a small wedding, with lavish food or a modest selection. There’s an attraction to seeing how two people decide to celebrate their union. I’ve seen massive, almost architecturally designed cakes, smaller cake pops and artisan cupcakes. I’ve seen potluck affairs and a la carte meals. I’ve seen aisle songs played over speakers and guitar strumming singers. I’ve seen professional wedding photographers and the excited auntie with a camera. I’ve seen so many of my friends sculpt an atmosphere of joy around them and it’s been achieved in an assortment of ways.

I’m not going to RSVP to this wedding, however. It arrived today for a wedding this Sunday. Also it’s in New Zealand, which is more than a few hours away. Maybe give more notice next time.

I’ll put this out there too. I’m not gonna come out and say that marriage is for everyone. If you don’t like it and have your reasons, that’s great. If you think it’s unnecessary, impractical, or a relic of simpler times with shorter lives and more rigid social structures.. Well I can’t fault you. Don’t get married, live your life in whatever way that makes you happy. I see a lot of familial pressure on couples to tie the knot and I think it’s really shitty. It’s bullying, in many ways. Despite the often well meaning intentions behind the nudges, prods and insistence, they’re almost universally done in favour to the self-interests of the inquirer rather than the inquiree. It’s putting your desires above theirs, in a situation that’s really none of your business. There could be a myriad of reasons that the couple mightn’t want to get married yet, or even at all. Developments outside the scope of your knowledge that’re intruding into the scenario. How often does this consideration come into play though? Because the askee is more concerned with their lineage or legacy, they’re disregarding the comfort and boundaries the couple may have established. It’s seen as such an innocent inquiry because of preordained societal constructs, when in fact it’s boorish and classless. Let them tell you if and when they’re ready.

So anyway, despite my reservations (but lack of response) about attending this particular wedding, it’s reignited my desire to attend another wedding. I got stuck in this awkward spot. See, all of my Christian friends from high school got married in their early 20s. I don’t blame them, I’d have gotten tired of whatever notion of abstinence they’d practised too. The other people in this group were high school sweethearts who’d been together for 5+ years already and the marriage was just a formality. They were nice weddings, but they dried up after a few years. The rest of my friends were dating around, discovering what they wanted out of relationships before settling down with someone who fulfilled that criteria. I figure that usually takes some time, right? If you’re in your mid 20s how long do you date a partner before deciding that you wanted the partnership to last a lot longer? Life, even? Just as the second wave was cresting, I left the country. I missed that peak, leaving behind the established couples who took the next step. Weddings I would’ve loved to have witnessed. Lifelong, beloved friends whose union would’ve melted my stone heart (by adding ice?). The people who’re getting married here in Toronto? Well I haven’t known them long enough to expect an invitation. I’ve nary been here three years, how would I expect to make the attendee list?

So what I’m saying is, if you happen to be getting hitched any time soon, possibly slip an invite my way. I don’t even need to know you, but I’m a great guest at parties and tear up the dance floor. If you give me more than five days notice, I may actually be able to make it.

No pressure or anything though.

I really need more exciting hobbies.

It’s Spring, I tell myself. I look up to see a dense grey blanket spread overhead. The sun is tired, that’s all. It’s a mantra that gets harder to buy into as the days pass. I’ve found myself donning my puffy winter jacket for the past few days. The weather hath given and taken away and like Veruca Salt (on that note, I’ve always wanted to create a metal band called Varruk Assault) I’m getting petulant. I WANT AN OOMPA LOOMPA NOW, DADDY. I also want to get outside and shove air down my lungs. Perhaps in a more comfortable way than that sounds.

The biggest spur in my ass right now is the thrill of discovery. While grabbing a sub-par coffee from Field Trip Cafe I spied a shiny metallic glint across the road. A closer look found the Salem Parkette. I’m sure most of you are all “great, so there’s some grass and a bench and stuff. Knock yourself out…” You are right. It has both of those things. It also has a bunch of bark and an assortment of sturdy metal fitness equipment. Two sets of pull up bars, bars for horizontal push and pull, a long bench and a set of parallel bars. All within five minutes’ jog from my house. Back when I couldn’t afford a gym membership I would’ve done more for these than I would’ve for a Klondike bar. Don’t get me wrong, I love ice cream in a thin chocolate shell, but not as much as I love the capacity for free fitness in the neighbourhood.

Right now, this equipment isn’t at its peak usefulness. It’s hard to do safe pull/pull uppy things on slippery metal bars. Hell, I’ve wiped out on a set of wooden parallel bars with safety mats everywhere. That put my neck slightly out for several months. I can’t imagine wearing my puffy jacket is gonna be enough security to justify pushing myself to swing away.

“That’s great, Leon, have fun” I hear you think (oh, haven’t I mentioned my latent psychic powers before?). Have your fun and do workout-y things. Why do we care?

Firstly, I actually don’t know. I don’t even know why people read the shit I write here in the first place, let alone the many self-indulgent topics I pursue.

Secondly, this isn’t just about myself for once. Fitness has been a pretty helpful thing to have around me. It’s been difficult getting to where I am and I know that had to start somewhere. I don’t believe by any stretch of the imagination that an interest in fitness is a fundamental part of human existence. I do however think that it’s pretty damn important for us to upkeep our ability to move so that our muscles and joints can keep on keeping on. Finances can be such an unnecessary barrier to physical liveliness. People assume that they’re not gonna get anywhere if they don’t have a gym membership or a sports team to join. These things cost money. A lot of money in many cases. I’m well aware that money isn’t something everyone has in abundance. The other big cost when it comes to fitness is motivation, another resource that’s often in short supply. Having encouragement from a friend goes a long way towards mitigating this deficit and helping those close to you to get out and amongst it.

What this parkette allows me to do is to encourage friends to come with me and get active in a space that’s made for it. I want to put together regular outdoor fitness sessions with my mates. I want to encourage an environment where we’re celebrating everyone’s successes without basing our own standards on what others are capable of. I want to host dynamic workouts that are challenging for all levels, while remaining accessible. If I can get things like boxes for stepping up, resistance bands and skipping ropes, I’ll be able to put together routines based on bodyweight exercises with options for people of differing experience. I want my friends to be proud of their accomplishments and growth because I know how important it is to still be able to surprise yourself. I want to bring everyone up together and most of all to have fun with it. If they enjoy what they’re doing, maybe they’ll stick with it.

Plus I want everyone to hate burpees for a good reason. Isn’t that motivation enough?

What is life without vittle-ity?

That was a decadent weekend. Yesterday involved pumping my body full of as many delicious carbs as I could. It was insane in the best kind of way. My girlfriend started the day off with some home made French toast. I’d never swirled cinnamon into my egg mix before, but it makes so much sense. Served with a side of sweet fried bananas (they caramelise like crazy) and a few fresh strawberries, drowned in classic Canadian maple syrup. All served with a glass of O.J. Mmmm. Eggs are healthy, right? The incredible, edible egg, cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast? We kind of killed it on everything else, but why else does Sunday morning exist??

A couple of hours later our bodies needed coffee, but not before stopping in at Bakerbots (that video is unintentionally terrifying) for cookie ice cream sandwiches. Yet again, it was Sunday, right? Not that I need justification to devour orange cardamom ice cream between an “everything” cookie. How they managed to perfectly infuse the meringue flavour into my girlfriend’s lemon meringue ice cream was a thing of wonder. The taste was all the necessary justification we needed. Walking in sunshine happily chomping away at a cool, sweet treat filled was a kind of transcendence the religiously inclined probably get from their Sunday mass. We were working on a different kind of mass altogether.

Later on we spent time with her family. For dinner we all piled over to East Side Mario’s for some family style dining. When I say family style, I mean it was the kind of place I would’ve flipped my shit over as a kid. The same sort of restaurant where you’d find traffic light coloured mocktails. It was an all you can eat pasta/pizza/salad/garlic bread kind of place, which invited the kind of gorging you’d expect. If you weren’t eating all you could, were you really getting your money’s worth? Are you some kind of chump? Are you gonna let The System beat you like that? As someone who loves, but rarely eats pasta I doubled down on the carbiness. Fettuccine Alfredo with chicken breast and doused with cheese. It wasn’t haute cuisine, but my “delicate” taste buds weren’t revolting either.

Today I thought back on everything I’d digested and it gave me pause. It wasn’t my consumption, but everything going on in my brain while I ate away that really set me back. When did the scales tip in a way that society decided we should both crave indulgence and feel like villains for doing so? The goal is to be healthy, right? But why is it that taking breaks from generally healthy patterns is held with such disdain? Yeah, I loved gorging myself because it tasted great, but I also felt guilty the whole day with a ton of self-auditing judgements. “Am I really allowed a treat? I just had one.” “Why am I chowing down when I’m just gonna feel shitty about this later?” “Have I done enough to deserve all these pasta based carbs?” “Why am I giving my body this if it’s not healthy?” “Have I had enough protein?” “Does I really need all this sugar?” “How have I been feeling about looking in the mirror lately?” “I’ve gotta be careful not to overdo it.” “Is this experience worth the calories?” “Am I acting against my goals and best interests here?”

The answer is, it’s just food. There’s a balance and it all comes out in the wash. The notion of attaching value and self worth to consumption patterns is fucking absurd. We’re more than what we eat and holding the two in parallel is reductive as shit (which is kind of the reductive form of food, so if the shoe fits…). What kind of joyless existence would be worth constant paralytic self-surveillance? Do I really need to feel guilty about eating pasta? Or are there bigger, more important existential crises to be had? Qualms of self-expression and discovery whose absence leaves me a lesser person?

I mean, I’ve never even been to Medieval Times. How do I live with myself?

Play on, words.

I was thinking back last night to my teenage self, who I saw myself as, how I imagined others saw me. I knew who I was and I wanted everyone else to know it too. Identity was something substantive, sculpted, rigid. I unabashedly loved anime, video games and angry music. I dived head first into fandoms as an easy way to find “my people”, but also for instant self-classification. Acting was one of my passions and, buoyed by a bunch of other drama aligned friends, pushed myself to get involved wherever possible. I knew I wasn’t a sportsperson, I never owned a modicum of “cool”, so I didn’t try. I defined myself by my intelligence and wanted others to see it. I was the loud guy, centre of attention. I had that kind of rigid conviction only the young possess. The manner of being so entrenched in your opinions that anything outside them is not only flagrantly wrong, but basically shouldn’t exist. I’d shoot my mouth off and not even ask forgiveness later, I’d just double down and stick with my position long after it was impossible to see it as anything but misguided. My identity was this fixed point and god forbid I’d stray from it for even a second. That’d be like admitting like I’d made a mistake with my tunnel vision and, as we know, I’d never admit a mistake.

Obviously with the gift of reflection, it’s easy to see all of this laid bare. I was desperate to secure my place in the world because I couldn’t admit I was lost and seeking security. If I knew who I was then I’d know how to handle everything that came my way. Simple. Flawed.

I look back at how I defined myself all those years ago and see so little of it reflected in the mirror. I haven’t watched anime in ages, I hardly make the time for video games and the music I listen to has broadened dramatically. I still love being the centre of attention (some things don’t change), but I don’t push for it so desperately. I’ve relaxed with time and I care less about how others see me and even how I define myself. Conversely, the thought of being easily labelled frightens me now. To be seen so narrowly based on a few interests seems like a disservice to everything I’ve lived to this point. The thought of putting myself out there as an authority on any topic is horrifying. The recurring realisation as I grow is how little I really know about anything. Rather than instilling hopelessness, it’s become comforting to know how infinite the possibility of learning and developing is.

The one aspect that sticks out from my recollection is how performance no longer plays a part of my day to day. Ask anyone in my life right now and it’ll be the last thing they’d mention. I feel that, the void of something that once held so much importance. There’s a wick that goes unlit awaiting that spark to catch once more. For a while I thought stand up could fill that hole until I gave up at the first hurdle. I’m getting the creative outlet I need from simply writing here, but there’s no vessel for the restless energy that goes beyond the keys. It’s a tangible need that’s not being fed and it seems nocuous to let that build up.

I may not desire to define my identity, but that doesn’t mean I should stifle it.