Thus far my favourite use of the “Personal Growth” category.

People sometimes ask me
“bro, do you work out?”
and I’m all “yeah man, course I do. Can’t you tell?”
(they look at my beer belly and their eyebrow climbs up to their forehead with suspicion)
“Oh yeah?” they reply “what gym do you go to?”
“I don’t” I say “I’m working out all the time and I don’t even need to pay a membership fee.”
(their other eyebrow pulls itself up to hang out with the first one)
“How does that work?” they ask.
“Kegels.” I reply.

If you’re not laughing then I’m probably gonna blow your mind. Kegels are like yoga for your genitals.
To do kegels you basically just have to squeeze the muscles around your sexy bits and it’ll do wonders to help you get even sexier bits.
That’s about it. If you’re a guy you’ll enjoy longer lasting erections, if you’re a gal it’ll help tighten up everything down there and just give better muscle control in general.

I’m basically unemployed, so I’ve been doing lots of clinical trials lately. Thanks to kegels, you wouldn’t believe how good I’ve become at peeing into a cup without spilling a drop. New key skills for my resume, all thanks to kegels!
What’s that? You think it’s stupid? I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you over my incrementally increasing virility.
So if you wanna enjoy some awesome downward facing doggystyle, here’s a new workout tool to work out your tool.

One of the best ads I’ve ever seen was on one of those One Day Deal sites. Simple, elegant, subtle. It was just a picture of two laughing mothers pushing prams in a sunny park. Underneath were three words:
“Kegel Balls. $8”
Is that not the most socially acceptable way to call someone out on a loose vagina?
It’s like calling a boring person “nice” or a dumb person ”bubbly”.
Not enough people know about kegels and I feel like it’s calling out for its own infomercial:

Guys, there comes a point in every healthy relationship where she’s gonna say those three words and you might not be prepared.
You’re naked together in bed, looking into her eyes, basking in the glow of lavender scented tealight candles purchased last minute from the dollar store, with the sultry sounds of Boyz II Men’s “I’ll make love to you” pumping out on repeat from the tinny speaker of your off-brand iPod dock when she says it. Those three little words.
What will you do when she says them with dewy eyes, softly, slowly: “Is it in?”

If you plan on having good sex you have no excuse to not be doing kegels.
Have problems being premature? Surely you’re not a selfish prick with a… selfish prick.
Do kegels to get more grow out of your show, get more firm out of your worm.
Want to really blow her mi… uh, vagina, I guess. Kegels!
You know how ladies love diamonds, right? Give her something even harder, kegels!
After doing kegels, my erections are now so strong that half of the women in the audience are now pregnant and I don’t even have a semi.
Ladies, you’re not exempt from this sexercise thing. Kegels are for everyone.
Why settle for a wussy pussy? Even if you’re single at the moment, what happens if you’re trapped on a desert island with a bunch of walnuts and no nutcracker? Kegels, that’s what.

Kegels! Because I’m working out right now and you didn’t even know it.

Thankfully there’s an app to tell me how awful I am.

Our fridge seems to exist beyond time and space. The Bermuda Triangle has relocated to a unit of whiteware in our kitchen. Things enter and seem to stop, frozen as they were before they entered. It could be that they’re actually freezing, but who knows? Broccoli, kale, apples, carrots (which is basically all I keep in our vegetable crisper, kind of boring) never seem to wilt or decay, staying fresh as the day I bought them. It’s marvelous, actually, given that I haven’t honed down on a specific shopping day to replenish supplies. My schedule is so random (ZOMG, random lol) at the moment, shopping with regularity would be counter-productive to finishing what’s in there (and still fresh). I swear (not gonna pull the Boyz II Men reference, I’ve dropped that one before) that I’ve got carrots that’ve been living in there since before Thanksgiving. I’d still use ’em too. I don’t know if that speaks more to their freshness or my scavenger nature. The people upstairs are moving out and had a box of stuff at the kerb. I looked through and swiped a bunch of canned goods, some of which had passed their use-by date. What kind of things last? It’s something I have no knowledge of. Kidney beans, how far past expiration would they still be good for? Spaghetti sauce? Tinned corn? Does pasta ever go off? I guess I’ll find out by whatever contagion grips my body over the next few weeks. Leprosy may be a sign that the pineapple might’ve been past it.

Pineapple’s interesting actually. I read a week or so ago that if you left a slice of fresh pineapple in your mouth for long enough it’d start eating away at the interior of your mouth, like some ravenous zombie fruit. I don’t know how truthful this is, but apparently there’s an enzyme in fresh (not tinned or cooked, heat kills off the enzyme) pineapple that breaks down proteins. It’s called Bromelain and evidence points to it possibly having anti-inflammatory effects. Regardless of that it works fantastically as a meat tenderiser and goes gangbusters with pork (as most sweet things tend to). I could go for some sweet, sweet pineapple and pork right now. *Drools*

I won’t though, because I’m back on the calorie counting wagon. Something I both love and loathe in close measures. Of course I hate being restricted in what I eat. I love food. I love flavours and how they mix, the joyous union of peanut butter and, well, anything. Chocolate and mint, cheese and, once again, everything. I enjoy the sensation of chewing, the wonderful feeling of biting into a dense substance, the satisfaction of swallowing a well masticated morsel. I love it so much. Too much, really. My lack of control is astounding, I’m sure that I’d be capable of eating 4000 calories in a day easily if not for deep-seated Jewish Mother’s Guilt. I don’t have self-discipline so much as my mother’s voice quietly asking me “do you really need that?” It’s not her fault, I was a fat kid. She did what she could. The thing is, with the lack of intense physical fitness that I’d been participating in back home, I can’t burn off nearly as much as I was. Steps had to be taken (literally and figuratively).

Enter calorie counting. I do it every once in a while when I’m starting some new eating phase. If I try to structure a regular diet I’ll work at a certain caloric base. At the moment I’m going for 1400 calories a day. Yes I’m aware that’s really low for a guy, but I’m living a very sedentary lifestyle at the moment. My decision to cut booze until I have a full-time job (and consequently will be able to afford a gym membership again) happens to work pretty well into it. As it stands my daily intake usually consists of porridge for breakfast with a banana and 12 almonds, lunch is an apple and a tin of tuna, dinner is usually 2 eggs, a large carrot, a mashed sweet-potato and a metric fuckton of broccoli or kale. It doesn’t sound like much because it’s not. I’m well aware though, that sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the things we want. I want to not have to go through the shame of replacing clothes that are too small, so I’m watching what I eat. Calorie counting seems to be even more effective than my inner mother voice at making me really question if I want to eat something. I’d say a psychiatrist would have a field-day with my multitude of body/food issues, but that seems trite. If you’ve been reading this project with any consistency, you’ve probably realised that I could break a psychiatrist with the sheer weight of work that needs to be done piecing together (what could affectionately be known as) my sanity. Run on sentence.

At least my produce isn’t spoiling though.

About that time I saw a person being in a park. It’s about as remarkable as it sounds.

Mood music supplied by CHVRCHES newish album The Bones Of What You Believe. Hopefully the delightful synthpop will influence a cheerier post than yesterday’s introspective sobfest. It happened, these things do. I’m not gonna pretend I don’t get down in the dumps from time to time. Yesterday, for instance, I saw Donald Glover in person. I’m not gonna go so far as to make up some kind of story about having met him, but I still saw him and heard him speak in public. I’m imbued with mixed feelings on the experience. I saw an r/toronto link to the Childish Gambino twitter, announcing a public preview of the new album at 5pm in Trinity Bellwoods. Reading the message at 4pm I figured, why not? That happened.

It was odd coming into the park and seeing disparate clusters of people congregating around a small park table with a dude on it. He was flanked by two speakers, but there was little else. Everyone seemed vaguely cagey, as if sure that they’d been had. Spoiler, he showed up. Not for a while though, about 20 minutes later. No biggie, it was interesting to see everyone cluster around the table. Not too much pushing, but neither did we have respect for personal space bubbles. It was cold, I was kind of glad for the additional body heat. People started climbing trees to get a better view, some local news crews turned up with a cameras and mics. He eventually showed up, going full Moses on the sea of people (obviously not the plague of locusts or death of the first-born) and sat down on the table. He plugged his mp3 player or phone (semantics) in and just started playing the album. It wasn’t nearly loud enough, which was a pity since I actually was keen to hear it. People kept talking and mumbling about possibly being able to catch a glimpse of him, which made it harder to hear anything. It only reinforced my innate misanthropy. A few choice things I heard said:

  • “He won’t come here man, how could he come without heavy security?”
  • “Oh man, I think I got at least 2 instagrammable pics from that.”
  • “Troy and Abed in the moooooorning.” “He mustn’t have heard you man, say it again.” *shouting* “TROY AND ABED IN THE MOOOOOOORNING.”
  • “Hashtag Bass Baptism. Hey guys, Hashtag Bass Baptism, right? That bass.”
  • [in reference to a lyric I can’t remember. Something implying pedophilia] “Holy shit did he just say that? You can’t say that man. You just can’t say that. How did he say that?”
  • “I need a smart question to ask him, I just want him to look at me.” “Ask him how he’s enjoying Toronto.” “OMG, that’s amazing.” *Puts hand up*
  • “Are you still in Community?”
  • “This is literally the best thing that could ever happen. He totally just looked in my direction.”
  • “I wish everyone would stop talking, I can’t hear him at all.”

So many phones, so much recording, so many people taking a photo per second of him just turning his head. I saw people making recordings of other peoples’ phones taking photos of him. What ever happened to just enjoying an experience for what it is? Why does everything have to be documented? Is the validation and jealousy of your peers worth enough to deprive yourself of really feeling something organic? I’m not gonna make a damning statement on the nature of celebrity and the way in which people flock to prostrate themselves in front of the rich, famous and successful, because hey, I was there too. I wanted to hear the album, I’m a fan of the guy from Community as I’m sure many others were too. Just because I’m a misanthropic curmudgeon who despises the overly overenthusiastic, it doesn’t mean there was anything wrong with these people. That likely reflects worse on me than it does on them. Let them have their filtered existence, re-framed through any number of social media outlets (says the guy writing on a public WordPress page, Ed). I’m sure there are other types of interaction it opens up that we never had at their age. I’m just assuming that they were all younger. Must’ve been, or maybe enthusiasm and joy shave off the years. My penchant for drinking the tears of others isn’t exactly like taking a sip from the Fountain of Youth.

As for Donald himself, I was pretty impressed. He stood up once or twice through the album and quietly said a few words, no microphone or anything. Said he wanted the focus to be on the album, thanks to everyone for coming out. After it finished he stayed for about half an hour just answering questions from the audience. He never refused a question, even if it’d already been asked. He just kind of smiled apologetically and repeated a similar answer to earlier with a sorry you couldn’t hear kind of vibe. He answered inane questions with the same weight as more serious ones, most of which I missed the answer to (because people were too busy talking about how they couldn’t hear. Go figure). He honoured someone’s request for a Troy and Abed handshake, which he totally didn’t need to do. Who knows if it was a calculated genial appearance? But he seemed like a genuinely nice, polite dude who was pretty thankful of what he’d achieved (while still aware that he’d worked to get there).

So that was a thing that happened. Am I any closer to having met Dan Harmon yet? Is that how this works?

Let off some steam, Bennett!

Weird mood. Weird mood. I’ve been in a strange, drifting, pseudo melancholy type mood all day and I’ve had trouble shaking it. It’s that sort of existential state where you’ll see things and not react to them, but continually swirl them around in your brain without release. Other thoughts get added to the mix and they all swirl around together, still without release. They build and build, then compound one another, exacerbating the problem. One of my possible outcomes is to purge them in burst of frustration. This might be verbally or physically, exploding in someone’s face or finding some kind of outlet through fitness related means. Hopefully this doesn’t involve hurting anyone emotionally (or physically, obviously), but it can often be a side effect, which is why this kind of emotional damming (it’s emotionally damning too) is hugely unhealthy. So yeah, that’s one outcome. The other (more likely) outcome is to absorb it all and walk around like the undead. Either I stumble around in a generally uncommunicative state or float about lost to the world, errant thoughts popping out without warning. Woe betide anyone who tries to conduct meaningful repartee when I’m like this. The result will usually be a stream of disconnected emotions or self-analyses that few would have a luck unpacking.

I listened to Harmontown today, as I usually do as soon as it’s available, and they were having a discussion about personal motivations and expectations of how people view you. It made me start to think about myself objectively, as a character. I looked into how I function, what I desire out of life and how I go about gathering these things. It’s a disconcerting experience and I still feel a bit jaded having gone there. I figure that like most people (though how do we know how “most people” conduct themselves when they’re realistically a closed off entity, thoughts contained in the inner-sanctum of their mind?) I want love, appreciation, respect and admiration. I feel uncharismatic even admitting these things, but I’m digging this hole, let’s not put away that shovel yet. I’ve spent life gathering people around me, people who have qualities that I seek in myself. I’ve also removed myself from their lives and to a degree, themselves from my life. If love and affection are things that I desire from others, why do I find it so difficult to give them back?

Logically I know that it’s unrealistic to expect these things from others if you’re not willing to reciprocate, but lately I find it so hard to even try. I’ve been feeling like people give so much of themselves to me and I have trouble responding in kind. When someone makes a genuine offer I push them away. I’ve long known that I’m a shitty family member, uncaring and uncommunicative. I don’t know when the last time I spoke to anyone back home was. I’ve been withdrawing again lately and it’s getting harder to want to come back to people. I haven’t made the effort to keep up with friends and family back home and to be entirely honest and candid I haven’t really been missing people. I don’t know how much of this is my cold robot brain kicking in or something else entirely. I get the feeling like without trying, I’ve started to use my reclusive nature as a defence mechanism, a way of pushing people away because I feel incapable of returning the warmth they send towards me. I feel like if I can’t live up to what people provide for me, why try at all? Why do I deserve these people if I’m not willing to at least offer commensurate love? Then this follows down the rabbit hole of why people even take to me at all? What is it that I give people that make them want me in their lives? Whatever it is, I can’t see it.

What have I done to find myself worthy of the appreciation, respect and admiration that I so desire? I look at this comedy thing for instance. The whole idea behind it revolves around a combination of expression and narcissism. I want to get myself out there because I want my voice to be heard. I want my voice to be heard because at some level I must think that I have things worth saying. I must think I have things worth saying because I think highly of myself. I’ve known for a long time that I think I have a sense of humour, yet I find it so difficult to find people on board with my particular brand of weird. Whenever someone “doesn’t get it”, I place the burden on them rather than myself. Justifying my inability to connect as a problem of theirs. Maybe it’s me, you know? Where did this idea that I was ever funny come from? Why did I get the idea that I have things worth saying that others might enjoy? If I even feel these things, why do I seem incapable of getting off my ass and putting myself out there? Money where my mouth is, skin in the game. Excuses are good for nothing but self-deception. If I really feel like I’m worth any of the validation that I so clearly crave, there’s nothing to be done but to do it. Yet knowing this doesn’t move me in the way that it should. I’m fully aware of my own ineptitude in making things happen, where does the motivation come from to push myself out there? How low do I have to sink before I have no choice but to start rushing for the surface? I’ve been low before, I don’t want to have to hit the bottom again and have to come all the way back up.

I don’t even know to what degree these are real, heartfelt feelings or just my perception of how I “must” be feeling. If anyone knows, shouldn’t I? There’s no one more versed in my own isms, affectations and inadequacies, no one more qualified to really pick me apart. Is this just an offshoot of something I’m feeling lately in not having accomplished anything since I got to Toronto? I knew it wouldn’t be a cakewalk, but it feels like the most draining thing to come to terms with is how demotivated I feel and how hard I haven’t been trying to make things happen. What ever happened to my younger self who just wanted to extricate himself from Rotorua? That young twenty-something who was just tired of being alone, so made it happen? That same guy who had a goal to shed the weight that’d burdened him for his entire life, then did it and started to be happy with himself for possibly the first time ever? What happened to the fearlessness of buying a one way ticket and making a life for himself away from everything that had once defined him? How did all of that lead to this? Why, rather than a sense of adventure, do I just feel this intense dissatisfaction with myself? Nothing and nobody else is to blame for the choices I make, so why is my current motivation nothing more than to make excuses and shift the blame?

This is only touching the surface, really. One day, weird mood. I’m sure on the morrow I’ll be back to whatever normalcy feels like. I guess I’d been feeling unfulfilled in not having used the “Self-Loathing” category for a while, so that’ll make me happy. I think I’m fine, really you guys. Perhaps I just needed a chance to vent. Or more likely small neuroticisms built into bigger ones and combined with a number of annoying people throughout my day, which triggered my latent misanthropy and reminded me, for the first time in ages, how little I like most of humanity. Or maybe I’m just cranky because I’ve started calorie counting again. Probably the latter.

What was the name of this project again?

I don’t care if it’s easier to just buy candy. If I haven’t dressed as a sexy pencil sharpener what’s the point?

Halloween was never a big thing back in New Zealand, which sucked for me. I’ve always loved it. I don’t know if it was just a childhood love of all things teeth and claws, superhero and candy, but Halloween seemed everything that all other mainstream holidays failed to do. Not celebrating Christmas, Easter or Hanukkah in a big way, Halloween was the only thing left for me. I guess I could’ve dressed however I wanted any day of the week, but having a socially acceptable chance to mug strangers for lollies was all my Christmases come at once. Primarily because of the previously implied unorthodox Judaism. I wonder if there’s a higher incidence of burglaries on Halloween, it seems so much easier. Just disappear into the crowds and ditch the costume. It seems the best time to re-enact the Dead President robbery from Point Break. Next year, Leon. We’ll see if I’m starved enough for cash by then. Though I think I’d resort to call centre work before I’d stoop to armed theft. Not to disparage gun wielding criminals, I’m sure it’s a career path that requires guts, dedication and a strength of spirit that call centre work just can’t match. Never again (cue being employed in one within 3 months. Karma police no doubt punishing me for my lighthearted support of illegal activity), never again.

I used to roam the neighbourhood with my best friend and come back with shopping bags full of sweets. It never lasted half as long as you’d think it would, half of it consumed on Halloween night en route to getting more. My friend’s family had a massive sack of dress-up stuff and we’d usually just raid the collection and amass some monstrosity out of whatever took our fancy. Like Voltron, but with an unfortunate lack of cat robots. Some strange concoctions we constructed over the years, mine usually involved this coarse fabric Hulk mask that typically lasted about 30 minutes before my saliva stain on the mouth of the mask and inefficient breathing holes became a legitimate concern. When my little Hulk knight spaceman vampire frame started swaying from side to side, oxygen deprivation taking its toll, it was time to shed the hood. Also it was pretty tough to eat any treats under it, a dealbreaker for the ages.

It’s been a pleasure to see just how seriously they take All Hallows’ Eve here in North America. In suburbia, lawns are littered with carved pumpkins, ghouls, gravestones, skeletons climbing out of burial mounds and an array of spooky decorations. We haven’t even had Halloween night itself, but 2 weeks prior everyone started decking out their houses with horror ornaments and trinkets. It’s one of the best things I’ve seen since I’ve been here. So far, here are my favourite costumes:

  • A little girl dressed as a firefighter. She was wearing a helmet and cape, absolutely buzzing. Running down the sidewalk hollering out her best fire-truck alarm. It epitomised so much of what I love about the holiday. She was so wrapped to have the chance to be whatever she wanted and she chose a costume normally laden with gendered overtones. Oblivious to this, she was having the time of her life.
  • Some woman on the TTC in what I can only describe as a literal embodiment of the word “zap”. Bright green hair, plastic neon adornments, oversized lightning bolt earrings. Rad to the max.
  • A bottle of Sriracha sauce, complete with nutritional information on the back.
  • Boo from Monsters Inc. A great slapdash effort that multiplied the coolness of her hoodie by a factor of ten.
  • Sharknado (which had me yearning for a Ghost Shark 2: Urban Jaws outfit. Next year, Leon), festooned with mini plastic sharks.

In a related note, I still have yet to see a great Sharktopus costume. Halloween isn’t over yet.

I went as Al Borland (a quick googling of the correct spelling reveals the greatest horror of all: that there’s a Home Improvement wiki. It was updated a mere 4 days ago. Fuck everything forever.) simply because I’m currently 2 weeks into a 3 week beard and I didn’t want to shave prematurely. Hence my previous Ron Swanson idea kind of died (faced its Ron Swan-song, if you will). Still, I’ve got another Halloween party on Thursday. I could well find a moustache and a meat tornado to breathe some life back into everyone’s favourite libertarian. I wonder if I can find a circular desk at short notice.

Cashmere: The paid paper (find the right accent. It’ll make sense).

My new favourite toilet paper brand is called Cashmere. It’s soft, absorbent and of an alabaster shade. That’s fine, whatever. The thing I really like is the tagline: Nothing feels like Cashmere. It’s an amazing exercise in ambiguity. On one hand I think they’re probably shooting to convey the idea that the brand has a unique texture, a softness that’s all its own. While others may seek to imitate its luxurious weaves, they’ll only fall by the wayside. Imitators all come and go, their worthless frames piled in the nether reaches of supermarket aisles, while Cashmere reigns supreme.

On the other hand that uniqueness works as an insulation against potential complaints. Just in case the feeling is so jarring, so distant from learned consumer expectations of their shit sheets. “What do you mean it didn’t feel like toilet paper? We told you that Nothing feels like Cashmere. What business do you have in bringing your expectations from other brands to the table?” Consumers getting served. Yo.

I also like the eventual movement (heh, movement. It’s funny because poop) into a defeatist stream of thinking. Cashmere as a material has a reputation to uphold. It’s instantly known as a fabric that brings absolute comfort and softness. The phrase Nothing feels like Cashmere seems like an honest cynic’s way of looking at it. “Well of course we realise that it doesn’t feel like Cashmere. You’re talking about a fabric, we’re using the name Cashmere as an evocative statement as to the comfort and quality of our brand. It’s deliberate associative hyperbole and it’s a pervasive advertising technique. We know that Nothing feels like Cashmere, we’re just trying to say something that speaks to the perceived qualities of our brand.”

Then again, in the right light it can also be seen as an existential outlook over the comfort within the absence of feelings. Nothing feels like Cashmere. In giving yourself to the void known as “nothing” you’re allowing yourself to be enveloped by a softness that mutes all other sensation. The lack of existence is welcoming in a way that the daily tedium is not. Life sometimes beats you down. You can find yourself putting everything you have into the aether and getting back nothing in return. Or worse, you give of your soul to the world and it comes back in tatters. Escaping all can inoculate you from the festering poison of life, slowly worming its way through your psyche. They might as well have written Cashmere, life hurts, death is painless. Wait, did I just conflate toilet paper with suicide? At least it’d be absorbent.

Bleak.

An argument for or against electronic music?

I don’t think the doctor expected me to exclaim the word “terrific” when he asked how I was post MRI. I don’t think I did either. Going in without really knowing what it entailed beyond “sitting still”, I was pretty unsure as to what I should expect. I thought it’d just be a boring experience where I lay prostrate and waited for it to be over.

Right from the start it put me in a strange place. First off I got to wear those nifty hospital gowns where your bum hangs out, but with the added bonus of wearing pants. +1 already. Secondly they offered me the chance to “double bag it”, chucking on two gowns, one to hide my bum and the other to hide my front bum. I went for the classic number instead, choosing for the more aerated option that left me with a breezy back. I sat down and she asked me some questions, then stuck Vitamin E capsules to multiple points on my head with crazy glue. Apparently it gives them good points of reference for alignment or something. “Don’t worry, it’ll all come off with crazy glue” she assured me. “If it doesn’t, I guess I’ve got a free Hellraiser costume for Halloween tonight, then” I replied.

They brought me to the MRI room, now that I was stripped of metal objects and items vulnerable to Fucken’ Magnets. I was asked a series of questions for the second time to ensure that this massive magnet wasn’t gonna kill me. “Any metal implants?” They asked. “In your eye?” I was gripped with a brief moment of horror as I imagined a shard of shrapnel coming loose and ripping through my eyeball, only to hold fast against the inside of an MRI. Eye violence, not even once. They lay me down and aligned me with the head cradle. I was given earplugs and a bunch of padding to ensure my head didn’t move, then they gave me a blanket and tucked me in nicely. “It’ll be pretty loud and you might feel some vibrations. Some people even manage to fall asleep, so you could just take a nap if you want.” The bed/tray thing I was on retracted into the machine and I was snugly tucked in, much like a bug in a rug (which I’m assuming to be bug sized in this scenario. Just because the two rhyme, that doesn’t mean a literal fit for a miniature insect). “Cosy eh?” he asked/remarked (I’m still not sure if “eh” necessitates a statement or question here) “just imagine if you were 300 pounds.”

I examined my surroundings, as Dungeons and Dragons has taught me well. I was enclosed on all sides to about my waist. Looking directly upwards there was a small mirror that showed the world outside my feet. The longer I looked, the more constricted I felt. The world seemed to close in around me and my heart started to beat. So, I thought, this is what claustrophobia feels like. I felt trapped and more than a little antsy. I closed my eyes, which made me feel instantly better. I heard a voice on the intercomm “we’re just gonna run a short test, you’ll hear some loud noises. It’ll be done in 30 seconds.” The speaker blared a bunch of beeps and buzzes. The closer I listened, the more each buzz seemed to warp and shift. My mind started to drift, then almost as soon as it started, it had ended.

What followed were a number of short tests that ranged from 6-9 minutes in length. Some might feel bored, or that the noises and vibrations were intrusive in such a confined space. To me it sounded like a Dan Deacon concert. I found myself mentally drifting off, withdrawing into my subconscious. The padding keeping my head in place was a godsend, otherwise I likely would’ve been bobbing and nodding my head in time to the beat my mind had constructed from the dissonant beats and blips. My body started to feel fuzzy and I straddled the border between dreams and wakefulness. I saw flashes and lines of colour, strange shapes formed in front of my eyes. My latent synaesthesia started to kick in as it occasionally does. I remember being vaguely conscious of my surroundings, knowing where I was enough to not move, but exploring the space beyond the physical realm. I think I might have started to lucid dream, exploring the solar system, orbiting the planets and star clusters. I was gone far from the place we inhabit, until the feeling of light beat down upon my eyes. I’d been pulled out.

I felt superb, like when you’ve just woken from an amazing sleep. My body was humming and my mind started darting around like an eager pup. “How are you feeling?” the doctor asked. “Terrific” I exclaimed. I meant it. I practically floated out of there and was brought back down to earth as the study leader began to pluck vitamin capsules from off my face, erasing the evidence with alcoholic wet wipes. “How was it?” she asked. “Unexpected” I replied.

I left the hospital, put on some Dan Deacon and started feeling aftershocks.

Evildoers beware, urine for a scare! Okay, that could’ve sounded less like I’m gonna pee on trick or treaters.

My biggest sigh of relief today came when I discovered my ineligibility for the Ontario Works living cost budget. Given that I was sniffing around for the benefit as a pre-requisite to getting a job, my motivation didn’t really revolve around depriving others of a vital resource.  Much as yesterday’s entry was spent convincing myself that I had some claim to the funds, that didn’t erode the deep seated feeling that I was trying to access something I really didn’t deserve. Thus the wave of relief that washed over me when she said that my assets (savings) made me ineligible. Totally fine with that, it makes sense. Something’s gonna come along eventually and it’ll relieve the need for any assistance. Also I’ll get to not feel like a rusty scumbucket for stealing from the poor, like some self-centred inverse Robin Hood. Not that there’s any shame in grasping a helping hand, but I haven’t had to rely on social support before and if I never need to, that’s even better.

It’d be nice to have something new come along that doesn’t involve attaching an EEG to my head or getting an MRI scan (though I am doing the latter tomorrow and I’m kind of excited. They even say I get to keep a copy of my scan, like some kind of mental finger painting to stick on the fridge). At some stage I’ll no longer have to pee in cups on a regular basis (though coupled with my regular kegels I’m getting very precise at peeing. It’s a legit skill, guys. Gives new meaning to the phrase “stream of consciousness. Soon enough it’ll be like having a urine laser in my pants, accurate to the millimetre. I’ll douse villains in liquid waste, soaking them in hot, steaming retribution. Gross, but it probably would cut down rates of recidivism) or stare at blank spots on a wall for long stretches of time without falling asleep.

I feel like I’ve been doing the latter lately when I’ve been trying to write comedy bits. I assembled a bunch of stuff that I’d written and to be honest I’m not hot on much of it. There’s a kegels bit that I want to keep working on, flexing my creative pubococcygeus muscle. That has legs, I’ve just gotta keep going at it. I’m finding that rather than observational pieces, I’ve probably got more basis in basic set up/punch-line stuff. I mean, I’m obsessed enough with puns that I should really explore the area with impunity. I’m sure you all know that I love words, how they play together gracefully and the joy in ambiguity. There’s been something lodged in my brain for years that I’ve wanted to properly put into words. It revolves around my desire to have  a photo of a carnivorous plant in a jug of water owned by someone who throws baseballs from the mound sold by someone who makes convincing spiels. A.K.A. a picture of a pitcher of a pitcher of a pitcher of a pitcher. Neat. They’re tough to write, but I’d probably have more success bludgeoning my audience to death with a barrage of wordplay than hearing my observations about poop and sex (but not together).

And with that note, I’m off. I’ve got a big day of MRI-ing and attempting to assemble a passable Al Borland costume, all because I feel like keeping my beard for another week. Nightie night (unless you’re a flannel PJs person).

T-1000 still haunts my dreams. It usually doesn’t cook through.

Well first off I watched the first episode of Community Season 4. Holeeeeeeeeeeey shit. That was awful, that was Arrested Development Season 4 episode 1 awful. That twisted up my insides and felt physically oppressive. The characters looked the same, but were missing the heart that made them so endearing in the first place. The jokes were flat and lifeless, the show called on editing techniques that felt entirely out of place. All of the plots felt less than B-plots, I don’t think the English alphabet has enough letters to denote how lowly ranked they were. I had to have someone basically hold my hand through the whole episode. I’m not even making that up. When she got up to check on dinner I was wringing my blanket in my hands, clutched under white knuckles.

I felt so wretched, like I was in the midst of a messy, emotional breakup. It was like having a loved one gracefully pass away from this world, then one day wandering into the kitchen to find them there. “I’m making your favourite, my home made chicken soup” they say. Something’s not right though, the smell is off. You notice a can of Watties Country Style Chicken Soup in the recyclable bin. There’s a strange smell, like the interior of a new car. You turn back towards your loved one and they don’t look right. Their skin sags in places that it never did. Patches of flesh coloured gloop start dripping away and landing on the ground with a dull splat. Where their face used to be you can only see a cold, robotic visage staring back at you, its artificial death grimace mocking the life it was made to represent. You pass out from shock and wake up back in your bed, relieved that it was only a dream (because who doesn’t love a dream ending?).

But it wasn’t. This season still exists and I’m dreading watching any more of it. Seriously. I’m not dipping into hyperbole, I actually feel tangible revulsion from what I’ve just watched. I want so badly for Season 5 to be amazing and justify everything that happened to the show I love so much. I’m more than tempted to pick up a synopsis and skip the season, but if Dan Harmon can watch something he birthed and raised be pulled through the grinder, I should be able to bring myself to it. So I have to watch the whole way through to be able to fully appreciate what comes next. No joy without suffering, it’s always darkest before the dawn, right? Man, imagine what I’d be like as a person if I put this amount of my heart into anything that mattered. I might even have a job by now.

I might try getting on some kind of benefit. Not even lying. At the moment my gymnastic endeavors probably bring in around $600 a month. With rent of $625, plus transport and food costs, I’m not close to breaking even. I’ve got savings to last me, but I’d like to not have to burn through everything I have because of stubbornness or principle. I’ve got another job lined up that I can potentially get more hours with (at an organisation that sources furniture and ships it to less fortunate households. Valuable work), but they need me to have come from some kind of benefit. The guy who works there suggested that I try to qualify for something, since I would likely be eligible. I looked it up and I might be qualified to receive close to $600 a month in financial aid. That’d almost sort rent and give me a bit of room to breathe. Do I feel kind of guilty trying to get financial support? Yeah, a little. There are people out there who really need the help. As it stands though, I kind of do too, just for a little bit. I worked for years back in New Zealand and never once relied on The Dole. If I get this leg up now, it’ll help out so much. Once I get a fulltime job and I start to hit the ground running, I’ve got no intention of going back for more aid. I’ll then be able to spend years paying back my debt to taxpayers everywhere. For a short time though it’s worth pushing aside my pride and taking help when it’s offered. That’s why the system is there.

So the benefit thing isn’t great. Community hurts me more. I don’t know if I’ll ever really be in a place where I can handle the clusterfuck of Season 4 without getting hurt. I’ll just have to keep a tight hold on my friend’s hand, get a tub of Ben & Jerry’s and prepare for the emotional shitstorm that I’ll have to wade through. I hope to God they have a peanut butter chocolate flavour, because eating your feelings is healthy, right?

Commune it, tea!

Community. If you don’t care about the show, I’d give this entry a miss. I mean, it’s stream of consciousness, so I may descend into a nuanced discussion of the cultural efficacy of baggy pants on public transportation, but I’m pretty sure I can do 30 minutes on the aforementioned series. Given the number of name drops that Dan Harmon gets in this project, I’m sure I could do 30 minutes on the man himself. So if this opening paragraph essentially means nothing to you, I suggest packing your bags and moving on. There’s nothing for you here.

Community was something I flocked to from an early point. I think around episode 2 or 3. A friend of mine suggested that I check it out, that it was kind of unconventional and I might like the writing. So I did. I thought it was good, so I kept watching and thought nothing of it. Then episode 12 finished and I discovered that the show was on mid-season break. I realised that it was something I’d tangibly miss and felt strange not having another episode to tuck into a week later. Season 1 had been good, and continued on to hit its stride. I loved the homages, the quick banter, Jeff’s motivational speeches, the willingness to just give itself into an idea and the humanity and fallibility (same thing) behind the characters. By the end of the first season I was hooked. Season 2 ramped up even more and by the time we collectively found it difficult as a flat to hold off watching the penultimate episode (so as to view the double paintball episodes back to back), I came to terms with just how much the show meant to me. I rewatched many episodes many times. I think by this point I started to become aware of Dan Harmon and his influence over the show. I poured over articles, interviews, reddit threads, AV Club articles, podcasts. Anything that could give me more background on this pop-cultural pipe bomb that’d gripped me so fiercely. Either I was geeking out or becoming obsessed (the latter, definitely the latter), but I had found something to care about, something to which I could feel a sense of belonging. Some sense of (wait for it)… Community.

Dumb. Just dumb.

Season 3 happened. Things were stepped up a notch. Instead of just watching the episode once a week, I started watching it several. I’d typically watch it as soon as I arrived home from work, because the prospect of having to wait a few hours for everyone to arrive seemed unbearable. Once they did though, I’d watch it again with them. Then once my girlfriend got back from work after midnight, I’d see it with her too. Then one more morning after viewing just to make sure that it was in fact a decent episode. I had started to get invested beyond reasonable means. The show resonated with me. I wanted so much for it to be everything I desired and often it was. Sometimes it wasn’t quite what I wanted. This hurt. It hurt in a way that allegiance to a network television show shouldn’t. It’s a pop cultural artifact. It’s something that was produced as a means to sell advertising, but I saw too much in it. I saw elements of myself and people around me in the characters I viewed. I felt the truth and honesty behind the writing. I loved the character arcs happening within each episode and over multiple seasons. It was like being wrapped up in a great book. An exceptional or poor episode could literally make or break my week. If it was bad I’d have a series of internal dialogues trying to justify decisions made in the episode. I’d often decide that failings were with me rather than the show. I’d skip anger and wallow in sorrow. I’d second guess my responses, try to dig deeper into jokes to see if there was something I missed several levels of meta underneath. In allowing myself to love it so much I also allowed myself to be hurt by it. A fair exchange, I thought. I still do.

So part way through Season 3 there was a hiatus. Because the show wasn’t as commercially successful as it was critically. Turns out that just because I love something dearly, that doesn’t mean the rest of the world does. I could accept that. It was harder to accept the notion of the show no longer being around. It was like the Season 1 hiatus, but now I cared too much. I don’t know how many times I’ve mentioned those words “I care too much” in reference to Community. Probably more times than I’ve used them in reference to other people. That’s sad, but a much larger reflection of my own heart being 2 sizes too small than an issue with the shining bastions of humanity I somehow surrounded myself with. That wasn’t even sarcasm. I know better people than I deserve to. They know who they are. If they don’t, it’s probably my fault for caring too much about a group of fictional study partners at Greendale Community College.

So the lack of episodes, with an indefinite return date hit me hard. As the show itself entered a dark period, I fell into one of my own. I can jokingly say it was a dark time, but there’s more truth to that than I care to admit. I feel like my relationships with others suffered, as I used almost any conversation as an excuse to talk about something that mattered a lot less than the life that was going on around me. I repeated episodes, commiserated with fellow fans over ones that didn’t hit the impossibly high benchmark I’d set for the show. I overanalysed every bit of minutiae I could on existing episodes and pined for any scrap I could find on the show.

Then the show returned and things got good again. Most of the episodes really hit their mark, the back 9 delivered. Really delivered. The season came to a great ending point and despite the fact that nobody expected any more episodes, it’d been left at a great point. Characters had grown and changed, thanks to Harmon’s slavish adherence to his adapted Joseph Campbell story circle. I was obviously upset that the show had finished, but at peace with how it did. Wistful is a word that works here. Still, there was a Community shaped hole in my heart and I struggled to find things that would fit into its eccentric contours.

Then I discovered Harmontown.

To be continued…

(at some point. I just wanted to write those words for once)