For years I’ve been bugging friends to go rock climbing. YEARS. On the surface it seems like a perfectly enjoyable activity. It’s like the days of climbing trees in the old schoolyard but with more skill (remember the days in the old schoolyard? We used to laugh a lot. I don’t know about you. A significant part of me hopes you laughed a little bit less, to make my childhood shine that little bit brighter). I did it back in high school but never really had the strength to body weight ratio to make a go of it. I had fun, did it with friends, but never really progressed beyond simple climbs. My enthusiasm waned and I gave it up. Over the years I grew up (physically and metaphorically) and started to really get into climbing things. In a bizarre turn, the more I grew up the less I regressed to a state of rapture over childlike activities. When I drank I often found myself atop structures, having pawed and clawed my way up. I began to relish the notion of climbing, as if projecting my dominance over these edifices as a way of metaphorically taking control over the helplessness they afflicted on my psyche as a minor. Too bad it couldn’t get me over the hurdle of rampant prolix.
The more I enjoyed climbing, the greater my urge to get out there and jump indoors. For climbing, that was. None of my friends were remotely interested though. It just wasn’t their thing, so I continued climbing playgrounds and lifeguard towers while under the influence. I hoped to find a partner who wanted to go climbing. Something we could do together. I’ve always wanted a physical activity to do in a relationship. Something to connect with my partner over. To share time while taxing our bodies, ending up messy puddles of fatigue on the ground. Nobody was into it. Somehow that image never held positive connotations in their mind. For some reason.
So it was a delight, this morning, when my lady friend announced she was going rock climbing this afternoon. Immediately I latched on to the idea (is that a nice way of saying “invited myself”?) and followed it through full steam ahead. When we got to the venue it looked massive. There were a ton of tracks, heaps of bouldering sections, bouncy floors, gymnastic rings and a curved ladder condemning the use of feet. I’d found my place. The staff, however, couldn’t be less helpful. Handing me a harness that was completely undone, they begrudgingly instructed me (after a prompt at each step) on how to put it on. Next came the liability check to see if I knew how to tie my knots and belay people. I told them I hadn’t climbed in about 13 years, that they’d have to show me how to do it and I’d be fine. No go. If I didn’t know how to do it, I couldn’t belay others this time. Okay, I asked, what if you teach me and I prove that I’ve learned how to do so? Still no go. I’d have to sign a blue form and have the others take responsibility for my belaying. My lady friend showed me how to tie the knot. I did it and proved I could tie it. Now if only she showed me how to belay? Still no go.
I get that they have a certain amount of liability, but how is someone gonna learn these skills without being shown? The answer was to take a $35, 3 hour intro session. Lessons learned included putting on a harness, tying the figure of eight knot and correctly belaying. 3 hours. 35 dollars. If this seems like a cattle-car cynically exploitative tactic to anyone else, I’m on your side. I get that people need to be safe, but is casual or recreational climbing not a thing? Looking at locations back home, these restrictions don’t apply. It’s also cheaper than it is here. $30 seems a bit steep for a casual climb, but maybe that’s just me.
Anyway, the rock climbing itself was a blast. Not knowing technique, I resorted to pure brute strength to pull myself up. Consequently at the end of a track I was totally gassed. My breath came in ragged gasps after speeding my way to the top. Leisure activity? Yeah, but it’s a tough one. Muscles already aching from physical work over the last few days, it was still outstanding having to force parts of my body that stay forever unused to kick into gear. As I ascended the difficulty levels it became apparent that skill was required. Those tiny little rocks were used as footholds, while the most efficient path was hidden in plain sight. Fingers trembling, I found the correct level of challenge in the 5.10- difficulty. It meant I needed to take a break or two to reconsider my course and I couldn’t rely on just pulling myself up on a font of enthusiasm. It helped that a member of our group was a former rock climbing teacher. Technique comes a lot easier when there’s someone willing to impart their knowledge. Unlike the staff and Kelis, he didn’t have to charge to do so. After 5 or so climbs, I was done, exhausted. The lady friend and I flopped down on the ground, messy puddles of fatigue. Mischief managed, my friends. Mischief managed.
I think I just became a veritable baller. If we’re holding my Toronto life as the standard, my income has won the high jump, leaping above what it ever dreamed possible. Okay, that’s turning hyperbole into superbole. My coffers, however, have vaulted in a positively progressing gradient. It’s strange to think that when I arrived, I wasn’t making enough to pay rent. I had to scrimp and save on everything. Now I spend frivolously and still have more left in a week than I would in a month. It shows how little we really need to live and how we can adapt to make do with our circumstances. Eventually I got more hours and found myself capable of paying for rent and transport without dipping into savings. I even had about $30 per week for food. Now I spend twice that in an evening out with friends. Perspective. It’s sad how wasteful we can become, but with recognition of where we’ve come from there’s at least a tacit understanding of our situation. In simpler terms, despite the deceiving geological formations I own, I remain Leon from The Shore.
I managed to o’erleap the bare minimum through hard work and dedication though. We remember the days (because I won’t shut up about them, most likely) of gymnastics coaching schoolkid feeding focus grouping medical experimenting, don’t we? I had a diverse palette of jobs and finally managed have a little bit of a slush fund. Slush in this case being alcohol, which I started drinking again. A sign that I was finally living within my means. It was a good time, I had all my extra curricular needs met by the writing I did for online publications. I attained culinary decadence through the food blog writing and artistic sustenance from Live in Limbo. Things reached an equilibrium. I found balance between work and play and learned to breathe.
Then came the cafe work. A new skill, regular hours and the security that came with that arrangement. Security often has a correlation with happiness and in this case it did. I still wasn’t where I wanted to be, but I was somewhere I enjoyed. Even that was enough. This was the point where I started feeling like I could not only treat myself, but others. It meant I could confer my income into happiness for my loved ones. This in turn flowed back to personal enrichment. It was a good place. Rather than just finding balance, a level of satisfaction was within reach. I’d always felt justified in leaving home, but at least at this point I knew that regardless of what happened, I’d manage somehow.
Things continued flowing upwards and I arrived where I’d wanted to be all along. It was an uphill battle, but being hard won, it felt earned. I’m somewhere that makes me happy to wake up in the morning. I don’t know the extent to which I’ll claim this in a few months, but while it’s crisp and sweet I’ll stick by it. Security is in my rear view, with the dangers of complacency on the horizon. I got paid today. My pay for the week was about $200 less than I was compensated by the cafe for 2 weeks work. I’ve got enough to waste, while still saving. I’ve reached the level where I can have a bit of fun, but still need to keep my eyes affixed on that dangerous potential smugness that looms ahead. My 12 second rule needs to be fine tuned so I can steer clear. Money isn’t a concern, but my attitude is. One more step up, eh Maslow? Can I finally start to put some work into myself so that I can work towards becoming the Leon I set out to be when I left? Is self actualisation on the menu? If I work hard enough, can I order it?
More than anything, can I decide on one metaphor for the entry and stick with it?
I’d like to think of myself as intelligent. Conditional. I occasionally say things that sound smart amongst the torrents of verbal excrement that flows freely from my maw. As evinced by that last sentence though, they’re few and far between. So while I want to think that I’m a learned bloke, it’s not always the easiest task. I don’t learn, that’s an issue. Seriously, some mistakes I just keep making. I’m happy to spout rhetoric that I do make mistakes and that’s what prevents me from repeating them. My actions refuse to follow suit. I’m not talking about the bodies hidden under the floor boards. That was intentional. I mean, my human taxidermy career isn’t gonna stitch itself together. I’ve been trying to create a scale replica of The Human Centipede ever since I first laid eyes on it and my heart grew four sizes. When I say scale, I’m thinking 4:1 of the original one, which means the sheer amount of skin I’ll need is staggering. The things you can find in Chinatown if you look hard enough…
I’m gonna abort that train of thought (oh shit, that wasn’t intentional) before someone puts in an anonymous tip to the po-lease (I might even star in Serial season 2 if this keeps up). I must be watching too much Hannibal. Do I need to buy a skin suit for work? Rather than racking up unavoidable murders, my mistakes tend to revolve around headphone purchases. It should come as no surprise that I can quite enjoy my creature comforts. When my flatmate is home, it takes me about 30 seconds to go from fully dressed to pyjama garbed. When he isn’t, I’m naked in 5. Though I love trying new things, the snugness of habitual traits fits me like a suit made from the skin of formerly living hitchhikers. Did I say hitchhikers? I meant to say cotton plants. So I take comfort in familiarity, we’ve sorted that. I also love my music. You may have seen me write about it once or twice, but often I’ll listen to pre-recorded tunes too. When I want a cool new toy my for my noggin I’ll do my research. I find out the kind of ‘cans’ within my price range that’ll give me the sound I want. Value for money and all that. I’m no audiophile, but here are a few brands I’ve tried over the years:
Koss KSC75: Excellent sound quality for clip on headphones. Inexpensive and reasonably durable. They pass the treadmill test, so they’re great for running and workouts. The clip thing gets painful after an hour or so, but for their price point they’re a bargain.
Sennheiser PX 100-II: Stunning sound. The bass response is unbelievably high for open headphones and they’re comfortable to wear. They’re pitiful for any kind of physical work, falling off at the slightest provocation. Still one of my favourites though.
Koss PortaPro: Legendary headphones. They haven’t changed the design since the 80s. Other replications have come and go. Inevitably they’re not a patch on the originals. Excellent sound, but they do look dorky as shit. I’m ok with this, I’m not wearing headphones for how they look. It’s notable though. Also the metal band pinches your hair constantly. Comfortable on the ears though. Would recommend.
So what was with that random informative tangent? Was I just biding for time? Or am I gonna have some kind of way to swing it back around? Ya got me. I keep fucking up and buying these again. I’ve owned at least 2 copies of each of those headphones in the last 6 years. They keep dying on me. It’s the same issue every time. The headphone jack shits itself and cuts out the left hand channel of audio. Frustrating, but with loveable headphones like these, I can’t stay mad at them. Each time the warranty is too cumbersome to evoke. I tried sending my last PortaPros back to the US from Canada and it was gonna cost more to ship them than the headphones cost in the first place (the amount they were gonna change me for sending a $10 note with the headphones, as per the Koss service standards). I’ve had two KSC75s, the Sennheiser PX 100 (and the 100-II model) and two lots of PortaPros. The corpse of the 2nd one is still sitting in my bottom drawer, alongside some errant hitchhiker body parts. I just bought another set. It was Black Friday, I couldn’t help it. They were 40% off. I was practically losing money by not buying them (also now that I’ve got a real job I’m finally buying all of those unnecessary things I’ve wanted for some time. Now maybe it’s time for a phone that has enough memory to install basic Google apps). It’ll be fine this time, right? I’m an intelligent fellow.
I just learned that Black Friday is a thing in my life now if I so desire. In a hopeless attempt to retain Canadian dollars, retailers are now attempting to compete with American franchises in their door-crashing deals. I don’t know that they’re particularly good at it though. Blame my Jewish heritage, but I can’t be the only one to be consistently underwhelmed by sales I see. I know marking up to mark down is a thing, but if I’m looking for a non-essential, unless something has a discount of larger than 40% I usually won’t even consider it. I don’t really have any concept of how much things should cost either. I was at Winners yesterday looking for some work shirts (spoiler: I failed. Today (day 3 of employment) I’d run out of nice shirts to wear, so I resorted to cannibalising an old Captain Mal Reynolds Halloween costume for its red buttoned shirt. Tomorrow I think I resort to wearing a nice woolen sweatshirt to hide the fact that I don’t know how to dress like an adult). Most of them were around the $30 price point, which I considered expensive. Looking at the price tags, I saw they’d all been reduced from around $80+, which seems like a good deal. It made me realise that I just don’t know what I should be paying at all. In my head I guess I’d considered shirts costing $15-20, but if I’ll pay $15 for a meal, surely paying twice that for something I’d wear once a week seems only fair?
This ignorance of price extends to shoes, pants and wallets. What do these things cost? I think my reasoning is stuck 30 years in the past from some mythical past life of mine. My last leather wallet (bought in Melbourne) cost $10. I’d always had issues with it being too bulky. It’d mean that whenever I went out I’d have a large square of fabric sticking out of my leg. If I was wearing tight jeans, I’d have to ditch the wallet and grab only essential cards to keep myself from looking absurd. Now the back pocket has torn, flapping open and leaving my small change at the mercy of quick fingered passers by. It’s evident that I need a new wallet. If only I wasn’t so picky. On the surface it seems like my demands are simple. I want something that is slim, sturdy, but allows me to carry coins. Let’s say 6 cards, 8 notes and a collection of small change. Is it asking too much to have all of this in a package less than 1cm thick? Is it too much for this to be black/brown and bi-fold? Am I being overly demanding wanting this for $30 or less? I want it to hold money while being convenient and non-intrusive. I don’t need screeds of sleeves, extra card pockets or transparent panels. If only Canada wasn’t still a cash economy, I wouldn’t even need the room for coins. But it is, so this is a concern.
I guess what I really want in a wallet is an assurance that I don’t need to withdraw money in case of going out for a meal or a drink at a bar. I think this wallet needs the innate ability to shift Canadian currency habits. Is tipping still a thing? I guess small change will be too. All I’m wanting from a wallet is a small bit of change of a country’s major physical fiscal fiasco. If it could appear at will, summoned like Iron Man‘s armour, that would be handy. Does this need to be a bio-hack? Maybe some kind of RFID implant in my fingerprints, password as a vocal cue. A digital transaction (if this were a joke, I’d consider it bitcoin)? Would I need to start wearing gloves? Would the gloves themselves function as a type of wallet, unsheathing my currency? Fingerprints are already digitally scanned at US immigration, is the notion really so far fetched? They’ve got paywave, why not indexchange?
Yeah, this was kind of clumsy. The interviewer was pretty awful, but still better than the clusterfuck of controversy that would’ve overshadowed the event had Ghomeshi still been attached. I think I still enjoy AFP as an artist from time to time, but I have trouble retaining that enthusiasm when she tries to speak on difficult and nuanced topics. As the years progress I’m finding myself shifting away. Her fanbase seem to be as blindly sycophantic of her as I am of Dan Harmon, so I’m not any better. As she admitted herself, best she stays away from politics. I think I butchered this review, but I do tend to think that every time.
After all this time striving to get back into the media world, I finally started a swanky new job at Shaw Media/Global TV today. I’m no stranger to a corporate atmosphere, but after time spent absent from boardrooms and common areas it was almost surreal to be back there. Here are a few first impressions:
- Clothing. It’s a casual dress theme, which is great, but people still wear button up shirts. I can wear nice jeans, but I’ll likely still have to iron shirts on the regular unless I can find button up shirts that don’t crease. Find being the right word, because I certainly don’t have them. Looking at my wardrobe, I literally don’t have enough acceptable shirts to last my first week. Can I cover my arse (or torso, rather) by wearing a T-shirt under a nice sweater that I co-incidentally never remove? My attire is my biggest issue, meaning everything else is going pretty sweet.
- Emails. That’s a thing that happens, right? That hasn’t been relevant in years. Even when I worked at the university I was on a tiny team. I’d get one actionable email a month if things got hectic. That really wasn’t an exaggeration. They created my account last Wednesday and 230 emails were sitting in my account when I logged in for the first time. I spent much of my spare time today creating sub folders and auto-delivery commands.
- Meetings. Oh, there were meetings. Being at the intersection of multiple departments, there are regular weekly meetings to attend. Marketing, promotions and scheduling all have regular meetings we’re expected to attend. Plus the 90 minute quarterly conference meeting that happened to be on the day I arrived. Something I haven’t missed about corporate work. Apparently I missed the one where they served beer and poutine. That’s not a joke.
- I’m an office drone. I’m in a cubicle, but there’s a fair bit of space and we’re encouraged to customise them as much as we like. Wow, that sounds like I drank the corporate Kool Aid with an eager maw. I figure any way to make the most of working in a cubicle is worth doing. Now, how am I supposed to decorate without my coworkers realising that a large child has been employed in their midst?
- Nice facilities. The common room is massive. Probably 3 or 4 times the size of my apartment. There’s free tea, drip coffee, hot chocolate/vanilla and an espresso machine. The views are quite stunning, looking East/West down Bloor or a lovely suburban Toronto vista. A passable flat white in hand, I surveyed the landscape (complete with rainbow) and smiled.
- Friendly staff. Everyone seemed to be happy, not much in the way of grumbling as I’d expect. The company treats them pretty well (unless they’ve cultivated a cunning facade) and there’s a decent amount of job satisfaction. Most of the departments we visited had people sitting around in adjoining cubicles chatting or joking, not overly stressed.
- Benefits. As well as corporate discounts for various services or companies, there’s a decent benefit plan in place. It’s flexible based on your needs and allows for things such as therapy, physio, eyewear, medicine and any other health concerns to be addressed. There’s also a personal healthcare expense account. Maybe most legitimate adults have gotten used to benefits packages, but it’s still quite the pleasant surprise for me.
- Opportunities abound. A few of the departments offered to let me sit in on meetings they had if I wanted. If I wanted to learn about upcoming technological developments (which are usually catered meetings) I’d be welcome to join. The promo department suggested I offer my voice as a new potential voice over for the specialty channels. It could be quite lucrative, they said.
- A great team. My team has a great attitude. There’s a jovial atmosphere, everyone seems to be chummy. Because of meetings and system maintenance interfering with my training, the only task I was assigned for the day was one that’d been embarked upon by the rest of the team: Picking my spirit dog. Yes, embarked was an intentional pun. After much searching, I found it. Of course it was a Leonberger. I think it’s apt.