What if I’m actually an 8 year old automaton with imprinted memories?

A lot can happen in 28 years. Funny thing is, because of the effects of recency it feels like I’ve only really done anything in the past 8. Uprooting myself and planting my feet in Canadian soil means that outside of the past 2 years, life has this fuzzy tinge to it. This all came to the fore the other day when I sat through my first therapy session. Describing how one thing had occurred meant sprawling backwards through events interlinked not directly, but thematically. Maybe it’s just my middling obsession with cohesive narrative structure forcing me to match otherwise unrelated events and the causality that ignited a specific frame of mind, influencing certain behaviours. Does this make sense to you? Maybe it doesn’t make sense. Maybe this is why I’m seeing a therapist after all.

Okay, so when she asked me “How did you meet your girlfriend?” it made sense to reply “We met at an event.” It’s true, but a moment of disconnect prompted me to go further. “But that was kind of a meeting, fascination occurred and we didn’t see or hear from each other for about 3 months.” With no prompting, I felt like I had to fill in the gaps. All of a sudden I was jumping back to the emotionally trying, fast burning relationship that happened in the middle of those two meetings. I tried giving a few key points in that relationship before acknowledging out loud that I probably needed a few sessions on the baggage from that relationship alone. But it was important, because otherwise the baggage that caused a certain emotional state probably wouldn’t have aided me as it did in taking my time slowly with this new relationship. Odd as it was, I might have jumped ship sooner were I in a “healthier” mind state, but as it was, I gave it time and it blossomed into something beautiful. One question encompassed over a year of real-life time and maybe 30 minutes of therapy time. A lot can happen, right?

Delving back through all of that takes time, which is why I’ve opted to take the offer of going through a questionnaire that covers a lot of this stuff in depth. At least that way she can get the basic outline and not have to spend 3 or 4 sessions getting an idea of who I am. It seems fitting that I’m seeing a therapist focussed on interpersonal relationships, because, well, have you read this site before? When I think back through time, my mind immediately resorts to who I was with, either intimately or just through infatuation. It’s strange that so much of my self perception is tied up in my relationships with others. As someone who craves personal connection, it still feels weird to define myself with other people in my mind’s eye. I’ve got a certain amount of self-awareness, so why is it that I’m having to reflect off others in order to see myself?

The recurring conversation seems to be the question of when we become adults or if we ever consider it an apt label. I’m not sure where I fit on that scale, but if society’s perception of adulthood is being self-reliant, then it wasn’t until I became an adult that I started dating. 8 years, that’s it. 8 years I’ve been exchanging thoughts, words and fluids with women in an intimate fashion. Once again, a lot can happen in 28 years, but I seem to define myself so much by those past 8. It’s one of the reasons that this therapy is so important. I may define myself by the last 8 years, the years when I had the autonomy and felt the agency to decide who I was, but so many aspects of my personality were in place before that. Without the right questions I seem to haze over exactly what it was that informed burgeoning traits and views. I can look back and examine my past, but I don’t know what to seek. I’ve got those past 8 years blocking my sight. Where do I even start? A lot’s happened, y’know.

I didn’t mention the destination, so the journey’s all we’ve got.

We’re taking this show on the road, or taking this page on public transport in any case. Writing and walking and sitting and moving in large contraptions that propel many people towards their destination simultaneously. There’s some guy rocking the Canadian tuxedo, cap turned backwards, denim shirt hanging open expose a ratty t-shirt underneath. His facial expression says people pay me to put paint on their things. There’s a girl up the back of the bus (oh, we’re on a bus now by the way) with short blonde bleached hair, those lip stud things that go underneath your lips on both sides. Also cat ears. The largest part of me (my brain) hopes that there’s no occasion prompting the feline affectation, that it’s just something she wanted to do. What better justification is there?

Holy shit, a girl just walked in with so many different things going on. Hair cascading with purple, red and straw coloured hues (notable because of the contrast with her delicate Asiatic features. Quite probably not her naturally occurring shade). She’s wearing large red and black headphones with a red cord. A white and black striped crop top, pearl necklace, short shorts and a brown leather jacket. Her leg tattoo is a bare chested, tattooed mermaid with a lavishly detailed tail, bespeckled fin running down its back. Now that she’s taken off her jacket, I can see she has a tattoo of a Spanish galleon on her left bicep, roses flanking it on all sides. Jesus, that’s a compelling character.

Stop. Coffee break at Crafted Cafe. I can’t type well with one hand occupied. Okay, back. Though to you it seems no time has passed. That’s where a better writer would’ve employed convincing literary techniques to reflect the temporal displacement. Seriously, it would’ve been as simple as:

[10 minutes later]

There, done. Satisfied? I hope so, because I don’t know if I have anything else in this bag o’ tricks. I’m not Felix the Cat. Anyway, that drink was strange. A coffee version of the dark and stormy. Half a glass of ginger ale topped with an espresso shot. With a touch of showmanship, the barista told me to heed the process. Upon pouring the shot, the crema formed a murky brown cloud. Dark tendrils of espresso reached down, shadowy and ponderous towards the ice at the bottom. Sinister. Tasted weird though. The cloying taste of soft drink didn’t mesh with the smooth, slightly bitter espresso flavour. Happy to try new stuff, but it’s not gonna land a place on my regular rotation.

Oh, by the way we’re on a street car now.

Oh, by the way, we’re about to jump off a street car now. Don’t worry, it wasn’t particularly notable. Possibly because I didn’t look up from my phone, but what would I really have missed out on? Casting a parting glance, there were maybe 6 or 7 people of differing ages, ethnicities and genders with canes. Is there a grouping happening? A cane-vention? Don’t worry, I high fived myself. And with that I’m out, destination and mic drop reached. Later skaters.

Shooting the shit and hitting those targets.

This online dating thing really hasn’t been doing much to accelerate my foray into polyamory. In the 5 or 6 months since I started venturing down this path, I’ve met a grand total of zero women who have been interested enough in the concept of dating someone who has a girlfriend. Well, that’s not entirely true. I had a date all ready and scheduled, but it fell through several times. I figured if she was that busy, it probably wasn’t worth the effort. I’ve sent out numerous messages that either weren’t received well or maybe didn’t even get perused in the first place. The less my actions garner responses, the less inclined I am to keep chipping away. The incentive dies down when the feeling is an inevitable lack of equivocal attention. It’s ok, I’m not letting it get to me. It’s pretty hard getting down in the dumps when you’ve got the backing of a supportive partner in a great relationship.

The thing that online dating has helped with is finding friends. My favourite ex-girlfriend was a gal I met online. We still hang out and come together over our mutual love of excessive eating and vegetative viewing habits. She’s an excellent person that I’m lucky to still have in my life. Most of the community I’ve met in Toronto, including some of my closest friends (involving my afore/oft-mentioned girlfriend) stemmed from my date with this girl. If it wasn’t for our shared sense of humour and love of puns, it’s likely I wouldn’t have been brought into such a tightly knit community who enrich my Toronto existence. That one gal, aside from being one of the strongest, hardworking, clever and spirited people I know, helped me more than either of us ever would’ve expected from a once off meeting.

Today I met yet another person physically who was previously an online dating presence. Our personalities seemed to gel, but she wasn’t into the idea of poly dating. I resolved to just be friends because finding a good connection doesn’t have to be a sexual thing. Finally having our schedules align today, we gave it a shot. I meet a ton of people and instantly try to push towards a rapport, but it’s rare for that rapport to open so quickly into a constant barrage of riffing bits. Arriving to see her in the park lying down with a potted plant by her side, she didn’t even turn her head to face me. She spoke “I can’t tell if I just have bad luck and happen to accidentally interrupt fly orgies, or if they actively seek me out just to fuck above my head.” A small swarm buzzed about, zipping back and forth above her. The more we spoke the increasingly irreverent the conversation began.

We contemplated potential new flashy Japanese toilet ideas. Like “what if we constructed a gyno table at a 45″ angle solely for pooping?” “What if it had an enema attached for a total clean?” “Well this is Japanese, right? Surely after the enema had finished pushing out water there’d be a vacuum to make the process super efficient?” We moved on to more artistically inclined topics, such as her idea of trying to poop out a rainbow. “What if you spaced it out perfectly, eating only a single thing that would turn your poop a certain colour, trying for the whole spectrum to do one large multicoloured poop”? “Wouldn’t it be more effective and collaborative to have 7 people focusing on a different colour?” “I guess, but you might need to stagger ingestion times in order to have people poop around the same time. You don’t want the cabbage pooper to drop prematurely.” We ate her abundant scones left over from a cancelled house warming party and discussed inequalities inherent to power struggles, cultural inheritance of indigenous culture and brutal outdated societal norms. Also how great Louie is. In short, it was easily the best friend date I’ve had in some time. All thanks to online dating. Maybe it’s not worth giving up the ghost just yet.

Or how to find yourself no closer to an answer.

I’m expecting this to be an absolute mess, so if I somehow glean any kernel of truth or insight, I’ve both won and failed. As ever t’were best said by Alien vs Predator: Whoever wins… We lose.

I think somewhere in my head I had the notion of mentioning a trigger warning about the discussion of trigger warnings before I realised how glib and self-fellating that was. I mention this only because it’s driving me further into confusion, increasingly complicating a dense topic I’m nowhere erudite enough to cover. Since when has that stopped me? Ever wanted to see someone dig their own grave?

Trigger warnings. They’re a thing. They’re a thing I can understand the existence of and see value in, but they’re a thing I have difficulty wrestling with theoretically. I get on board when I know that the subject matter is of a particularly traumatic topic, but my conviction wavers at the range of topics I see labelled with them. Obviously rape content is one I can easily understand. It’s horrifyingly personal in scope. My difficulty comes in with potentially wider ranging ideas that pervade our society.

The following are trigger warnings I’ve come across:

Illness, war, anxiety, fear, drugs, nuclear, alcohol, violence, racism, antisemitism, food, fascism, sociopathy, gambling, magic, zombies, colonialism, murder, pornography, calories.

Frankly it’s tough even knowing if any of these are tongue in cheek. How are you supposed to read a newspaper or history book? I get on board the trigger warning idea to a point, but where does that sliding scale end? How far do we go? How do we decide what the line is and which content is in need of a safeguard?

Concurrently, I know that trigger warnings something I have trouble championing because I’m fully aware that I’m not someone who needs them. I’m no survivor and I don’t wish to take anything away from others who are. I’m fortunate enough to be able to navigate the world without fear of setting off inner emotional turmoil or past trauma and this puts me in a privileged position. This privileged view isn’t a thing to hold in esteem, it’s something that makes me fundamentally selfish and lacking in empathy. I understand that. I’m not gonna make any excuses for myself here, I’m very likely in the wrong. I feel nothing but regret that there are people out there who have suffered because of others. It’s something that I’ve heard takes immense amounts of sustained mental and emotional fortitude to overcome. It’s a process, not an easy fix. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have so many stimuli that can cross your path from out of nowhere that leave you feeling like a crumpled heap. That’s beyond rotten.

From where I’m standing, it seems problematic and potentially damaging to instil the use of trigger warnings as a permanent solution. As far as I can see, they’re damage control and are intended as thus. Is it even possible for me to stumble any more than I currently am in this paragraph? Let’s see… I think ultimately trigger warnings could create more harm than good. There’s a massive world out there with a whole host of scary things. It’s true. Despite your best efforts, there’s still gonna be stuff that crosses your radar. As someone who’s spent a great deal of time on internet sites with potentially dark content, there’s rough stuff afoot, much of it unexpected. By all means, steer clear of things that are troubling for you when you can, but despite best efforts accidents will happen. If you’re expending so much energy avoiding them, it’s not gonna make it any easier to handle them. Erecting walls between yourself and everything you find distasteful only seeks to grow the looming shadow of those monsters behind said wall. I’m surprised Black Mirror hasn’t already gone there, but if you increase the amount of censorship in your online life aren’t you leading yourself (perhaps willingly) into false expectations of what the world is? What happens when it’s apparent that outside society isn’t shielded like those more personally catered online experiences? Will it be any easier to handle things out on the street? Or will temptation lead you to retract from the physical plane in deference to the cosier surrounds of ones and zeroes?

It’s a tricky idea and as anyone could see from the above, I haven’t quite worked out where I stand. I want everyone to be able to tolerate, nay enjoy everything around us, but it’s very apparent that’s not always possible. I fall back on ideals of people just being better, but we all know that doesn’t just happen. I strongly support people standing up and challenging oppressive power structures and dynamics. I love the notion of educating people on why the way they operate is problematic, why things don’t have to be a certain way just because they always have. I’m more than happy to have my position (whatever that is) challenged and for people to inform me, not just that I’m bad, but on why there is an issue with how I’m thinking and ways I could look to improve. Please, tell me. I don’t want people to suffer, but am I naive to think that this isn’t getting us further? I have no solutions, but fucking hell I would love some.

The irony of writing this before my first therapy session isn’t lost on me. Christ, I sincerely hope nobody “like”s this. It’s a shitshow.

I mean, I guess we learned our lesson: Don’t get caught.

I’m a slack piece of poo and it’s my fault. Coming back into Canada from NYC, I was travelling on my New Zealand passport and forgot to bring my Canadian citizenship certificate. You’d think my citizenship status might be in the system, but apparently it isn’t. I didn’t want to bring my certificate because it’s a thin cardboard certificate and I have no wish to mangle an official document by leaving it in my bag. So I couldn’t enter Canada as a citizen/resident (my Ontario photo ID and health card didn’t help me at all) and had to wait in the immigration line for an hour. I sighed and asked if any of the staff could give me a helpful suggestion or anything, but they said there was nothing they could do to get me out of line. “Why didn’t you just travel on your Canadian passport?” I was asked by a manager. “Because I’m slack. Even though I’ve been here for nearly 2 years and am fully eligible for one, I haven’t gotten off my arse to do it yet.” She smiled, shook her head and scoffed “Christ, what an idiot.” “Thanks Mum.” I replied. So I waited and waited. Once I got to the front I told the border guard my case. “Well you’re not in the system, but this happens to me all the time. You should probably just get your passport already.” She smiled and stamped my passport, putting a note in that informed potential future border guards of my citizenship. I guess it pays to be polite.

Speaking of being polite, holy shit that didn’t help in resolving our tickets for drinking in public. I hate to pull the race/gender card, but everyone we dealt with who wasn’t a white male was really polite. What was it about those fucking aggressive, entitled white male cops? Black cops who stopped us? Friendly guys, not rude even once. Female cops we talked to after the asshole white male? Couldn’t have been more helpful and accommodating. The black female security guard who greeted us each time we walked in the building? Absolutely lovely and made an effort to be gentle with us after we were getting visibly frustrated and feeling helpless. The problem was this: Our tickets hadn’t actually been processed yet, so the response was to come back in a week once they had been. I explained that we couldn’t do that, we lived in Toronto, Canada. Another country. It was impossible for us to come back. Their response? Just come back next week. I replied that I was sorry if I was being difficult, but there really was no way we could. We were happy to plead guilty and pay the fine, was there not some way we could resolve this now or have it noted down in the system that we’d already paid? No, just come back then. I tried asking if there was anything else we could do, seeing as sending in the form in from another country was subject to delays and potentially lost mail. It placed an unnecessary hazard on something we were willing to own up to.

“It’s not my problem. NEXT.”

We were understandably stressed, but the security guard calmed us down and told us what to do. She said that everyone was away at lunch, that guy was a jerk. Come back in 30 minutes and there would be someone more reasonable around who could help us out. You know what? After that it got much easier. Two female cops took us aside and showed us where to go, told us exactly what to do and helped us resolve the issue. It was a problem with a very easy solution and these shitty dudes added nothing but grief to the pile. I don’t really like the idea that cops are bad. I think some people can be shit, but most are probably in the force for the right reasons. It seemed in this moment that the issues we faced were more systematic than individualistic at heart. The thing that shits me though? We were a young white couple in our 20s, what would’ve happened if we were of a visible minority? I have no doubt that the system would be a lot stricter on us if we were in any way outside the dominant cultural paradigm and that fucking shits me. Standing in front of the window, having the white cop yelling at me like I was a brainless piece of human scum felt dehumanising.

As shitty as I felt, he was way ruder to everybody else in line and I knew I got off lightly. Knowing how helpless I felt, I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be treated as lesser just because of the way you look, because of traits you were born with. I don’t want to jump straight on the easy anarchist fuck the system rhetoric that so many call on. Seeing the system for the first time though, Jesus there are a heap of fundamental issues and biases that require massive overhaul. A structure has been created with the intention of helping to keep us all doing our best, but it’s very apparent that we’re so far away from the ideals that started this all. I have no knowledge that would make me any kind of authority and even I can see this. Surely someone with the power and potential to do good could work towards finding a way to make the system protect and serve? Because that wasn’t what I saw.

Russell Crowe’s band TOFOG wrote a song called Memorial Day. It was tonally different from our experience.

In previous installments we’d learned that our heroes had faced a tough time finding good, honest, delicious and affordable grub. They’d come up against franchise after franchise serving bland, uninspiring fare unfit for a metropolitan hub such as Manhattan. This, however, was due for a change. For our heroes had a secret weapon up their sleeves reserved for such an occasion: The Reddit NYC food guide. Through the use of this bible and a honed sense of intuition, fortunes looked up. In fact, in just one day, these persevering protagonists turned things right around. If you plan on roaming New York at all and you’re looking for some choice places to eat and drink, here are some verified eateries and drinkeries:

Daily Press Coffee: Bedstuy.

Delicious espresso drinks, both hot and chilled. I always love a good mocha, which they made wonderfully. Not cloyingly sweet, but successfully staving off an abundance of bitterness. The iced espresso with coconut water really whipped the llama’s ass and the iced hazelnut latte cinched the sweat on a sweltering day. Helpful staff who recommended some places/attractions around town. Good music pumping instore, which doesn’t get enough mention in most reviews. Atmosphere is something worth knowing.

Vanessa’s Dumplings: Williamsburg.

$1.50 for 4 fried pork and chive dumplings. How can you go wrong (okay, Prospect Dumplings in Chinatown had 5 for $1, but these might have been slightly better dumplings. I feel like at that cost you can be discerning)? They had a host of pancakes and other dishes we didn’t bother trying and beers went for as low as $2.50. Cheap, tasty and filling.

Turkey’s Nest Tavern: Williamsburg.

A dingy place offering boozy, boozy margarita slushies. $7 for a 16oz or $13 for 32 oz. We shared the latter between us, played some pool, marvelled at the old Buck Hunter arcade machine and chatted with the locals. There was a super fluffy 10 week old Bermese puppy named Odin we immediately sought to kidnap, love and care for back in Toronto. One of the regulars stocked the bar with some sliced sausage from a local butchery, with horseradish and rye bread on the side for everyone to enjoy. We did, immensely.

The Charleston: Williamsburg.

A happy hour from 12pm-8pm with $1 off all (already cheap) draft and well drinks. Both of the above also came with a free pizza, with additional toppings available for $1. For $14 we sat in the shaded street front with cool beer/cider and a personal pizza each while we watched the Williamsburgians (Williamsburgers?) go by. Skee Ball and a phone charging station filled out the back of the bar. Nothing faulting this place.

Blue and Gold Tavern: East Village/Ukranian Village

The perfect dive bar, or my happiest place on earth. Owned by an old Ukranian dude for over 30 years, it was a place of hope and wonder. Beer and shot specials for $5, or top shelf liquor for the same. Glenfiddich, Glenmorangie, Laphroaig, etc, all $5, as well as virtually any liquor you could think of. Small booths with inlaid chessboards, a jukebox with classic rock, soul, Motown and the Hot Tub Time Machine (a classic?) soundtrack. Board games available, plus a pool table. We left around 1.30am when it started getting busy (on a school night no less. Won’t somebody please think of the children?). I can’t emphasise how much this place made my trip, which means either I’m terrifyingly enthusiastic about a good bar or I might be an alcoholic. Let’s see how my next few months without alcohol go (Tough Mudder training) before clinging to that last idea.

Paul’s Da Burger Joint: East Village/Ukranian Village.

Holy shit, this was the epitome of the greasy spoon diner. A recommendation from the kindly bartender at Blue and Gold. I had a sumptuous 1/2lb turkey burger for $8.90 (pre-tax) that blew my previous turkey burger from Bills Burgers out of the fucking grill. A burger isn’t a tricky recipe, it doesn’t need to be an artisan product. These guys did it right and did it with a smile. My girlfriend had the bunless burger with a healthy side of cottage cheese for $8.10 (pre-tax). It didn’t include cheese on top, but with nothing more than her dazzling smile and dewey doe eyes they were kind enough to slather it in a marvellously melty slice. If you’re in the Lower East Side and want an unparalleled, simple honest burger, come here. Then give my main man at the Blue and Gold tavern some love. If someone’s doing it right, they deserve the recognition.

For a Memorial Day, it was pretty fucking memorable.

That’s a ten four, loko. Geez, is that the only thing we did in NYC?

So the last time I drank Four Loko in New York it resulted in a drunken lurch through the Lower East side, culminating in an emotional breakdown in Katz Deli. This time, the cops got involved.

It’s only fair to Four Loko in all its wondrous, innocent trashiness that we lay the blame elsewhere. Four Loko does not suffer fools, but it makes them. In deference to the malty beverage, while it was illegal for us to drink a can in a Chinatown parkette, this was not the cause of our dalliance with The Law. Yet again, I’m not gonna say that Four Loko made us do it, but The Butterfly Effect being what it is, things may have transpired differently if that sweet malty mistress with the brutal aftertaste didn’t line our bellies.

In all honesty, it wasn’t a big deal. We got caught brown bagging singles we bought from a bodega on our way home. The Mrs had a blood orange flavoured beer, while I opted for a scrumptious trappist style belgian dark ale. We were strolling along, having taken a sip or two when my lady turned to me. “Kiss me, now.” She commanded. Not one to be irked by forward women, I complied. “We’re being followed by a cop car.” She whispered. “Hide your drink.” She’d done it. Unbeknownst to her, the turn and kiss me to avoid police trope was one more thing to tick off my bucket list. She’s one dynamite gal.

Unfortunately these cops had seen that movie too. We tried turning down a side street, but they followed. One of the officers called out. “Hey, would you mind stepping over to the car please?” I complied and they asked me about what I had in the bag. “You know it’s illegal to drink alcohol in public, right?” I sighed and did the line “oh, we’re just visiting from out of town. We were on our way back to the house and thought it’d be nice to sip a beer on the walk.” He sighed back and asked us to step back to the wall while he and his partner chatted. They asked for our IDs and tried to decipher our foreign IDs. Knowing I was guilty and that there were rules about these kind of things, I just took it on the chin and politely cooperated. Unbeknownst to me, my girlfriend was seeing if she could summon tears to try and get them to look the other way. Clever girl.

They gave us back our bottles. “Look, it kind of sucks that you got caught, but the least we can do is let you finish your beers.” They started chatting, asking about Toronto and why I’d leave New Zealand to land in a frozen wilderness. They finished writing the tickets and gave us the spiel. “Okay, so it’s a $25 fine to be caught drinking in public. If you’re not planning on coming back to New York any time soon, to be honest I don’t know if you need to worry about it. Your court date will come up and you’ll be deemed as out of the jurisdiction. You’ll get a strike against you for missing court, which means that if you’re caught doing criminal activity again, you might spend a night in jail. It’s your call. They wished us well for the rest of our vacation and went on their way.

The guy was right, it kind of sucks that we were unlucky enough to have been caught. Really though, it’s rare that we hear about cops being reasonable and friendly. It never felt like we were being talked down to, there was no show of force or throwing their weight around. No unnecessary intimidation, it was just two guys doing their job. I understand why the laws are there and even though we probably weren’t gonna be causing any problems, it’s not the worst thing that could’ve happened on our trip.

Especially because they never caught us the other two times.