Let’s bacon cake!

It’s mah gurlfrand’s burfday.

Geez, that was unnecessary, but who are we if we don’t admit to our mistakes? Despite the misguided pronunciation, it is indeed my girlfriend’s birthday. I had this idea of surprising her with breakfast in bed, but things hadn’t quite panned out as I’d imagined. I had friends over last night and knew she’d be going to bed early (since she was on the opening shift at work). I thought I’d be super sneaky and sneak out after she’d gone to bed. I’d go to our handy 24 hour supermarket and pick up hash browns, eggs, bacon and orange juice for a hearty birthday breakfast.

Problem was, when my friends left I was tired enough to crawl into bed beside her. I didn’t want her to get wind of anything, so I had no idea how I’d wake up in time to cook for her. I thought about setting an alarm, but heavy sleeper as she is, I was doubtful she’d sleep through that. Plus she’d question why I was getting up so early (earlier than usual, even) on a weekend. NO BUENO. So I nixed all these plans and hoped I’d wake up early or something.

GOOD NEWS EVERYONE. I woke up around 5.30am, which was the perfect time to hatch my scheme. Her alarm was set for 7am, giving me ample opportunity to get to the supermarket, shop for essentials, come back, cook and plate. I snuck out of bed, grabbed some of yesterday’s clothing, my wallet and keys. Strapped jandals on my feet and set off to the supermarket. I came back and started to work out what this meal would look like (usually a good idea before shopping), the cooking order, etc etc. I prepped some kale, crushed garlic and set a large pan to a medium heat. I switched the oven to 150°F in case warming was needed. The pan had heated up, so I tossed a couple of hash browns in there to sizzle away. I put a smaller pan on a low heat. Oiling it up, I threw in the garlic, some cumin and smothered it in kale. Flipped the now golden hash browns and let them be. I wondered about how to present it. Breakfast in bed? But what if she didn’t want to be woken up with food shoved in her face? I cleared a tray just in case I felt like it, then felt the kitchen calling me again. Shuffled the kale in the pan, it was slowly wilting nicely. Moved the hash browns into the oven and turned the pan to high, then laid a bunch of bacon in the now greasy pan. Two slices of toast in the toaster oven meant it was all smooth sailing from this point on.

Shit, I heard stirring. Looking up, the clock had hit 7am. Fingers crossed she’d be a little groggy when she woke. I hoped my absence in bed would confuse her just enough to let me present. Placemats, cutlery, orange juice in wine glasses. I’d just started to plate it when she came out to the kitchen, obviously startled (as much as one is when seeing a naked man frying bacon). She went to freshen up and I finished setting everything.

I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoy being able to do nice things for the ones I love, but sharing a leisurely birthday breakfast with my girlfriend pre-work felt like a bonus. We sat, chatted and had time that would’ve otherwise been lost to slumber. Oddly enough, since moving it, it feels like it’s been harder to find quiet intentional space just for the two of us. I guess the difference is putting in the effort to make that space. When better to find that than a birthday?

Plus now I have an excuse to drink my body weight in caffeine. It’s her birthday, but I get the presents!

Straight from the top of my dome.

I’m thinking of a toy. I’ve got no idea what it was called. Some kind of rubber dome. Usually fluoro coloured, or at the very least a “cosmic” shade. The kind of thing they’d give away at Pizza Hut. You’d push the middle and turn them inside out, then place them on the ground. You’d stand there, wait. Wait. Wait. POP! Out of nowhere they’d launch into the air, surprising anyone staunchly anticipating their ascension. You’d tell yourself again and again, “I’ll be expecting it this time”. Never. Like a pop up toaster, this inanimate object had a level of calculating self awareness usually the domain of sociopaths. It would bide its time until the moment you got complacent, then ruin any sense of security you’d cultivated. They were awesome.

I’m thinking of a tree. A Christmas tree. Artificial, no more than a metre tall. Unadorned. We were a Jewish family, unorthodox, which basically meant our parents picked and chose which traditions we’d follow. We didn’t celebrate Christmas. We didn’t do presents at Hanukkah either. I say this not as a cry for me plea. We weren’t hard done by. We had abundant love and never wanted for anything we really needed. As a child I hated Christmas. Christmas was other children bragging about what Santa brought them. Finding connection in a holiday I felt isolated from. The envy I felt for their experiences eventually turned to resentment. I doubled down. Fuck Christmas and its corporate bullshit became the mantra. It’s easy to find justification if you seek it.

Still, there was this one small tree. My mother owned a second hand toy store and she’d occasionally bring things home. I asked for this tree and requested that it be put up in my room for my January birthday. I wanted to wake up in the morning, birthday present underneath the tree. It was a strange request for a Jewish family, but my parents did it. That morning was strange, mixed. There was a joy in finally discovering what I’d missed all these years. At the same time, there was an absence, a hollowness. Where was this spirit I’d seen played out in every holiday special? Wasn’t the spirit of Christmas supposed to infuse my being, resulting in goodwill for all humanity? I’m sure I got a great gift that I loved, but why wasn’t the tree lifting me up to where I expected it to?

Isn’t it odd how much power we give to objects? How we expect them to envelop us in meaning? Why don’t they confirm to our intentions? What’s with this inverse correlation between expectations and results? Furthermore, if we know we’ll crush things under the baggage of these expectations, why, time and time again, do we repeat the same patterns and expect another outcome?

Also what the fuck were those rubber dome things called? I wonder if they’re still fun…

That was nothing if not a cheap shot.

There was a crossbow killing today in Toronto. Let’s file this one under bizarre, fucked up and more than a little bit compelling. I mean, this is Toronto, not the city Chester in northwestern England. What sounds like a family dispute (that police are linking to a mysterious box) ended up with someone going medieval on three people. That’s horrifying. It’s also not the only awful thing going on in our fair city. A former Degrassi High actor (minor part) was found guilty of child pornography and animal abuse offences. Jeeeeysus. A pretty rotten day. Also it rained briefly and my bus didn’t stop, meaning I had to wait for several minutes more than I would’ve otherwise. Things are clearly going from bad to worse.

Obviously I’m jesting mostly. These two news items, while being terrible, are so far out of my sphere of influence that it’s hard for them to rise beyond macabre oddities into something tangible. I had a mild headache and iffy throat most of the day, which left my evening plans of podcast editing feeling rather undesirable. I did it, because if I don’t keep up I’m gonna fall behind deadlines and release dates. We’re starting to stack up guests and getting ready for the madness of September. TIFF, Tough Mudder and JFL42? Plus we’re front-loading the month with podcast recordings so we don’t need to record during JFL42 (though I guess that means I’ve got a week of double edit duty somewhere in there? Egads). The episodes are getting sillier as we’re going along. As the films become less palatable, our attention shortens and the hour increasingly becomes a series of tangents. It’s as if we’re trying to distract ourselves from the sad reality that we’ve committed a serious number of hours to a meaningless project revolving around kids’ movies. This is our life now. Oh, did I mention that I co-host an Air Bud Pawdcast? I assumed I’d ranted about it enough by now, but if you’re curious, airbudpawdcast.com was somehow not taken.

I dunno. Today’s been lost to a funk of some kind. My juju has been off. Feng shui all akimbo. I’ve been putting out energy, intent or what have you, but it’s been falling flat. Take these two posts:

“Do you think in England they grow up watching Bill Nighy the Science Gighy?”

and

“I’ve realised that I say “No Worries” very often, but “Hakuna Matata” very rarely. I think I might have commitment issues.”

I thought they were pretty funny. I wrote them in my head and had a sensible chuckle to myself. I let them spill to Facebook and got slightly more than zero response. Am I bitter and resentful that these obviously half-baked jokes didn’t land? Maybe a little. Is it a big deal? Not in the slightest. Was it straight up that they weren’t that good? It’s not like they were particularly clever or anything. Was it a matter of poor wording? Or not posting them at the right time? Or maybe I needed to workshop them a little more. Do some punch-up. Perhaps fix them with some ADR?

Or just, y’know, make better ones? If I want to kill, my jokes need to be a lot sharper.

What else am I gonna do? Resort to a crossbow?

Soft service with a smile.

Free ice cream day at work. An email made the rounds yesterday that to help us cool down, the company would be hiring an ice cream truck to serve us for an hour. Immediately I got excited, memories of Mr Whippy and its twinkling Greensleeves theme song rolling through my head. What did I want? A fruit boat? One of those duck ones where they use two chocolate discs to make a beak? A sherbet dunk? One big flake shoved into the middle? The possibilities mere myriad and infinitely enticing.

I wanted dessert last night and eyed up the ice cream my girlfriend had bought. No, I relented, it’s free ice cream day tomorrow at work. I steeled my resolve and waited, not wanting to sully the high of this pure experience coming my way. I had some yoghurt with frozen berries and it was fine, honestly. Just fine. It was no ice cream though.

Today came and I sprung out of the house with the promise of a frozen treat on my mind (and soon enough, on my tongue). Most of today has been sweet frosty dreams interspersed with short bursts of work. How was I meant to focus on something as insubstantial as on air promotions when there was the very real promise of silky soft serve mere hours away?Today’s marketing meeting was spent trying to remind people that the department head saying “that’s the scoop” was a pun since ice cream was coming. Remind me why I’m still employed, please.

Then I had the thought. If ice cream was that magical and could bring me that much delight, why not just buy some? I was losing my shit over what I assume unicorns poop, when a whole tub was entirely within my capabilities. I’m an adult. I have income. Some of that income is disposable. Why not dispose of it in reserves of cool soft serve? I could cut out the middle man of waiting and instead indulge my every desire.

I thought again. That wasn’t the point, right? This wasn’t about the ice cream, it was about having a treat. A treat being something I hadn’t sought out, but had instead been a nice, unprompted gesture from someone who thought I’d enjoy it. When you’re not bogged down by expectations, it’s easy for the simplest action to come along and blow those lack of expectations away.

It’s very rare that I expect anyone to do things for me. I don’t think that’s fair. When it happens though, when someone makes a lovely gesture or act of generosity it makes me glow. My girlfriend does it all the time. She’ll go out of her way to make my day brighter. It might even just be a household thing that I’d usually do myself. At first it was hard not to feel guilty about someone else picking up my slack, but instead I’ve learned to just appreciate when it happens and return the favour as much as I can. It feels gratifying to make someone’s day, whether it’s picking up the bill when you’re out for a meal with a friend or doing something you know they’d love (because they mentioned it in passing conversation a year or so ago). Making people happy is the most underrated thing and if it’s within your reach without straining yourself, why wouldn’t you?

In case anyone really wanted to know, a co-worker gave me his unwanted ice cream ticket. I had two cones. In a most surprising turn of events, the sprinkle cone was way better than the chocolate dip. Today is surely a day for the ages.

Then again, I did once wake him up by dropping trou and farting in his face. I think we’re even.

I was the most gullible child. It makes sense, I was an innocent, trusting child who assumed everyone knew a lot more about the world at large than I did. Fantasy was my domain. I’d watch cartoon and play video games. I’d dream of what I wished existence to be, but neglect the reality of what it was. Frankly, childhood was stimulation overload. Everything was so big, bright and new. Cynicism wasn’t a word in my vocabulary until at least age 10 and it would’ve been at least another year or two before I actively exhibited signs of it. I believed most things that people would tell me. I took things at face value because what was the alternative? Accepting that others would deliberately mislead or deceive me? What kind of life would that be?

I believed in ghosts, aliens and monsters for long enough, not least because of some intentional self-fulfilling prophecy. If my conviction was strong enough, maybe this stuff would flicker to life. Awesome, right? I still never got on the Santa Claus sleigh, perhaps because of the whole Judaism thing. Religion didn’t make sense to me as a kid, considering a bunch of my friends followed different theologies. The idea that they were all wrong but our family was right seemed strange. The notion that one religion being true invalidated the others smelled a bit fishy to me. See, I was never an idiot, just trusting. Still, all of this talk belies the dumbest thing I ever believed.

Firstly you need to understand the kind of people I had around me. I had big brothers feeding me bollocks time and time again. A bunch of my friends were older and had a bit more nouse knocking around in their noggins. A gullible kid is the most fun to tease or joke with, because it extends the value and life of the joke. My best friend, in particular, has always been quick witted. He’s a joker by nature and improvisational by trade. He’d lead and I’d willingly follow. For years I followed in his shadow, with time eventually being an equaliser. We’ve gone on to live different lives, but time and space has been no barrier to that rapport. It’s not something we need to upkeep, because it’s only ever a Skype away. Anyway, you get the point. Best buds fo lyfe, yo. So naturally as a kid when he told me something, I’d listen and believe. The dumbest thing he told me?

You know that “Egyptian walk”? The one I assume The Bangles sung about? Arms at right angles, one pointing in front, the other behind. This one. He told me that everyone in Egypt walked that way. Not only did they walk that way, but walking that way was mandated by law. It was illegal to walk as most do, arms by sides or in pockets. Who was I to judge? I’d never been to Egypt. I’d never met anyone from Egypt. I hadn’t read books on Egypt.

As soon as he told me, I accepted and absorbed it. I don’t know why I didn’t think to ask an adult or teacher. I have some shady recollection of bringing it up in the middle of class, stating it matter of factly. I’m sure the teacher’s response was vaguely along the lines of “that’s simply not true”. I’m sure teasing followed. Whatever, I was a kid, that kind of thing rolled off my back. You know what? I still haven’t been to Egypt. I can neither confirm nor deny.

Though I think I just got an idea for my Autumn vacation.

Taco my word for it.

We had Taco Night the other evening and I’m still thinking about it. On one hand, my gratuitous fanboyism for corn didn’t hurt. On the other hand, corn was the limiting factor preventing my enjoyment of the meal from slipping into utter adoration.

I’ll explain.

Firm corn tortillas can go and fuck themselves. I’ve said and I’ll fervently stand by it. They’re a disaster waiting to happen. Do you know anyone who can eat firm corn tacos without making a mess? They’re the kind of people who get straight A’s throughout schooling, dominate sports and play 12 instruments. They’re irritatingly perfect plastic people and they go on to be utterly successful in life. In short, if you can eat tacos neatly you’re infuriating and maybe can you restructure my life in some sweeping pygmalion makeover? Please and thank you.

There’s no winning with a firm corn taco. Bite the thing up top and the two dimetrodon style spines will snap in twain, causing fillings to tumble everywhere. You can crunch down the bottom, the sturdiest part of the structure. Inevitably though, that leads to a cascade of upper toppings making acquaintances with your eyes. You can try to split the difference and go for the median, but being one degree off will lead to utter ruin. Furthermore, you can’t even hold a taco flat. Otherwise any fluctuations can cause meat juices to slide back to the plate. So you have to angle it like a slide towards your gaping maw, causing you to tilt your head like you’re drinking from one of those school fountains.

Then there’s the distribution issue. If it were an item that fit neatly into your mouth, there wouldn’t be an issue. Burritos being case in point. You lie everything side by side and the meal is hunky dory. With a taco, because of the aforementioned structural weakness you need to eat procedurally. Bottom, then middle, then top. Is that how you construct a taco though? NO. You do layers from the bottom to top. You have your meat/beans, then cheese, then tomato, then lettuce. This means you can’t get a bite of all flavours running naturally together. It’s like having a salad, but segmenting everything out and eating from each section one after another. What kind of sociopath does that? Look, this dude may be talking about a burrito, but the notion is the same.

Flour tortillas? You get a pass. You’re soft enough to not suffer the structural issues of your fuck up (but still terrifyingly common) brother.

Also we made mexican beans. They were super easy and crazy delicious. The next time I have a taco night you’re invited, you fetching fibrous fellows. Flour tortillas can come too. Corn tacos once again can stay home and go fuck themselves. Stick to the cobs, you non-miraculous fucks.

People on streets. It was just like Under Pressure predicted.

Every once in a while you get to experience a perspective shift. It may be simple or drastic, but it’s always interesting to find yourself in that position. Being made to question the status quo is a novel chance to contemplate the hows and whys of societal norms.

All of which is simply to say that I had a fun time at Open Streets TO.

Established to encourage physical activity and alternative modes of transportation, Open Streets TO is in its second year. Bloor from Dufferin to Parliament and Yonge to Queen were traffic free. There were activities and performances scattered along the path. Whatever your take on movement, if you buy into the rationale or not, it’s hard to argue with the results. It may have been relatively lean on programming and vendors (in comparison to the length of road available), but there was something strangely awe inspiring about the freedom to roam the streets without fear of oncoming traffic. Hell, I got to run straight down the middle of the road unencumbered by the sense of peril that’d otherwise evoke. Despite the people flowing every which way- walking, running, roller blading, biking, skateboarding- it felt calming to not be dwarfed by vehicles. Taking in the moment to capture a 360° view of your surroundings was almost surreal in a way. As if this was a way things could eventually pan out.

Which, in a way, it could. If massive adherence to public transport was taken,  things could be shifted under or overhead. Subways, monorails, those Chinese straddling buses. Think about the space that would create within a city. Effectively you’re removing activity from one spacial level and replacing it on another. If there were no cars, buses or trucks, we could walk down the road. We could bike, skateboard. We could use that space for events all the more readily. Maybe that’s even what the event was intending to put forward.

It’s not like this notion of traffic free streets is revolutionary. Here in Toronto, Kensington Markets have summer Pedestrian Sundays. I’ve been in numerous other cities where dining areas will have open courtyards spilling out onto the street. The effect, though, when applied to the central city is something else. Surrounded by massive structures for once felt comforting, secure, peculiar as that sounds. While the buildings seemed like walls, concurrently they weren’t encumbered by the same inaccessibility. I guess this wholly depends on your feelings surrounding large cities. I feel at home in environments of scale. The magnitude to me represents possiblity, potential. In my heart a city is a place that expands the limits of my capability. Opening up the streets, to me, feels like a widening of those limits in ways I did not expect.

Or maybe I’m secretly on the straddling bus agenda.