Time for a getaway. My tréat.

Welp, I decided to bite the bullet and take a vacation of sorts. Call it a holdover from living in a country that was a day’s travel from almost anywhere else, but if I have time off work I feel guilty spending it at home. There’s so much world to explore out there and it’s considerably closer than a day away. In fact, one of the most appealing things about coming to live in Toronto was its proximity to other big, exciting cities. Boston, Chicago and New York are a mere hour’s flight from home. It’s silly that I don’t take more advantage of it.

Big American cities aren’t the only things that’re close by either. It’s easy to forget when you’re nestled in the extensive boundaries of the GTA, but there are a bunch of places not too far from Toronto. Cottage Country is only a couple of hours away. I’ve been meaning to check out Ottawa for some time. Also who can forget that we’re a hop, skip, jump and a small car ride away from one of the natural wonders of the world: Niagara Falls. So why do I keep going back to Montréal?

Montréal has an allure I find hard to resist. It’s effortlessly cool, incredibly pretty and unflinchingly debaucherous. The fact that most denizens speak French makes it feel like you’re in a different country (I’m sure that was the point). That’s an adventure in itself, considering how abysmal my French is. Then there’s the food. A fascinating combination of haute cuisine and lowbrow fare. I can’t think of a better way to describe my tastes. I can get decent coffee, fancy brunches and buy 11% Four Loko from a depanneur. Paradise.

Why this weekend? There’s a Python programming conference (coding, but not of the genetic kind) going on and I’ve got a bunch of friends attending. Hell, I think one of them might be helping to organise the whole thing. When I suggested that I could come to Montréal for the weekend they immediately offered lodgings. I’m crashing with a friend in his hotel room tonight and tomorrow a bunch of friends have space in their Air BnB. I’m pretty lucky and can’t wait to see them. They’ll all be busy during the day, so I’ll use the time to explore the city. Maybe I’ll check in with my family who live there. Then once they’re finished we can all hang out and get messy. Oddly enough, one of the things I’m most excited about is introduce my hotel friend to the others. I think they’ll click immediately.

Now all that’s standing between me and a weekend of urban exploration is getting there. Canada has this rideshare system called Kangaride. You basically book a seat in a stranger’s car. It’s costing me $80 total for a return trip, which seems pretty reasonable. I’ll also acknowledge that it’s a total roulette spin. I could be trapped in a car full of blood obsessed cultists or Big Bang Theory fanatics. It could also be a really enjoyable, fulfilling experience spending time with friendly strangers. The last time my girlfriend and I used the service we had a fantastic time having all manner of discussions with lovely talkative and intelligent passengers. So let’s spin that wheel. What’s the worst that could happen?

If you never hear from me again, tell my girlfriend I loved Her. The Spike Jonze film, that is.

Advertisements

What’s left to leave?

Sooo, impromptu borderline mandatory holiday. I’ve got seven days of leave remaining (notice how I skirted over saying “leave left”? I didn’t really. I just deleted it once I typed it. Then I thought I’d be all ironic pointing out how dumb that’d be. Then I lost all manner of credibility by explaining exactly what happened and how ironically unironic this whole uninspired mess was. This is why most of the time I just hit the backspace key a bunch of times and move on. Speaking of which, how about we move on?) and only five days I’m allowed to transfer to next year. Thus I have the next two Mondays off. I would’ve chosen more opportune days and planned things out, but with two people leaving the team, I’m gonna have to shoulder a ton of extra work. Considering we need to do the majority of our work in advance, if I didn’t take a holiday RIGHT NOW, it’d be more work to take the holiday than it’d be worth.

I certainly didn’t need to have any more excuses to hate my job right now, so let’s table that for some other time. Relentless negativity feels cliché in a world that seems to be fuelled by it.

Unfortunately, I don’t see this holiday coming together. It’s short notice and I don’t have a car. People are too busy for last minute excursions and I wouldn’t expect anyone to just drop their shit and go. A friend actually offered her car for Monday if I want it which is lovely, but the point isn’t just to get away. I’m looking to share experiences with people. If she wanted to go on an adventure I’d be all for it. I’m tired of travelling alone. I want to do dumb shit with friends. I want to check out small towns. Go to diners, local bars, thrift shops. Adopt my bullshit elitist big city persona and laugh with someone about how quaint and adorable everything is. Imagine an alternate existence where I grew up in a small town and getting drunk at the dilapidated skate park was the highlight of my week. Think about how it felt to have dreams of getting out of that podunk town and just drive until I saw the lights.

Then I could marvel to myself that everything worked out in reality. That this timeline is the one where I got out. That I live dwarfed by cityscapes and feel comfort in my own insignificance. Where opportunity is around every corner and all I need to do is ask around. Where it’s possible to be cynically optimistic, because even if things seem shit now they could all turn on a dime.

That had I stayed home things would’ve stayed fine but unexciting. That eventually I’ll learn to push myself and make it happen. That I will find a breaking point because I have to. Because otherwise I’ll spend the rest of my life telling myself stories of what it’d be like to escape and find myself. Because otherwise I’ll never really feel at home.

For these next two weekends, however, I’m on vacation. So fuck “home”.

So we part-y-ed ways?

A night of fitful sleep meant I had a cluster of bizarre dreams. It’s not uncommon for me(as you probably know by now), but it’s weird for me to have dreams so obviously steeped in purpose. It is uncommon for me to believe in messages from dreams (cut to the anthropomorphic evocation of my subconscious shaking its fist at the sky and muttering under its breath). I’m still not sure where last night’s visions sit on the scale. Maybe that’ll click once they’re down on the page.

The main dream I remember involved being at work. Do I get overtime for this? There was some kind of company-wide festival going on. Tons of departments were hosting their own little soirees. I was walking around the building with my boss, working our way around the different parties. Totally innocent, we just wanted to scavenge food and drinks. Totally just scabbing. Between his rank and my bullshitting over-friendliness, we were playing a good game. After scoffing and scarfing (oh wow, I didn’t realise that had a different meaning) all we could, it was time to go back to work. Neither of us really felt like it, so said I could skive off work all I liked as long as I stayed in the building.

I stopped off at my friend’s desk to see if he had anything fun to do (dream logic, it was a friend I grew up with. In reality this person doesn’t even live in Canada). He said that he was throwing a party for a mutual friend of mine (also doesn’t live in Canada) and he was getting overloaded with actual work as well. He asked if I could help by inflating a bunch of balloons. I said sure and followed him into a small party room. All the decorations and the cake were in place, there was a helium tank, some ribbon and a bunch of uninflated balloons. I attached the helium canister’s nozzle and got to work.

While I was in university I worked at a party store part time. Dream me obviously remembered this. I checked the balloons to see what kind of quality they were. They weren’t great. I tried stretching them out a bit and it only helped so much. I pulled my ribbon close and cut off a bunch of strands. With my little battlestation set up, I started filling. They were a cluster of different patterns, but it was bugging me that I wasn’t getting the pleasant lightbulb shape into these shitty balloons. Still, I persisted. I blew them up, knotted them and tied the ribbon on the end. It took a while, but I was finally getting down to the last few balloons when my friend whose party it was walked in.

The party guy barely said hi and started calling the shots. He looked at the balloons and said they were bullshit and looked lame. He ridiculed them, which I felt sort of bummed about because of some vague (misguided. I was never that great at the job IRL) professional pride. Also the fact that I’d been helping out of my own generousity. He said the balloons had to go and they’d get some better ones instead. He told me they’d go off to pick them up and I could fill them when he got back.

I’d had it. I told my friend to fuck off and shove the helium canister up his ass. I told him that he was always like this, ever since we were kids. That he constantly mooched off others and took advantage of any generousity he could. I told him that’s why we’d stopped spending much time around each other as we grew older and grew apart. I told him that we were through. I meant it. I walked out and met my other friend. We left work and went fishing with a six pack of beer.

It’s weird, because I basically have cut ties with this friend outside my dreams. The scenario in my dream was simultaneously more farcical and dramatic than what happened. As I grew up he stopped being a relevant person in my life. I wanted to hang around him less and less. He only got in touch when he wanted something and never reciprocated. It’s odd that my brain has held onto this for so long, considering I haven’t thought of him in ages.

Why now?

Let’s call it PUP-y love.

It’s been a long workday and I’ve got very little gas left in my brain. Let’s find out what it wants to talk about today.

I’ve never been hugely into punk. Even in my teens I veered hard into metal territory and didn’t look back until I hit age 20. Emo surged into popularity during my time in high school and by association, punk lost its lustre. The closest I came to punk fandom would’ve been my appreciation for Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come and anything by At The Drive In. If there’s any point to my preamble it’s this; I’m no authority on punk music.

That being said, yesterday I finally listened to PUP’s The Dream is Over and it has to be the finest punk album I’ve heard in years. Toronto hometown heroes kicked the shit out of their sophomore slump. Discounting the fact that it’s the only punk album I’ve heard in years, I’m still of the opinion that it’s a remarkable showcase of what the genre embodies. It’s punchy and energetic. The riffs are explosive and the growls are backed by short sharp harmonies. The lyrics are wry and aggressive, cheekiness to the core. The whole album clocks in at 30 minutes and, in my experience prompts an instant replay. I’ve listened about 12 times since yesterday morning. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long and I’m gutted as shit that, seeing as they’re Toronto locals, I’ve missed so many live performances over the years.

Once again, I’m taking a weird unearned amount of glee at hearing that another DCEU film is an expensive, bloated, tedious poorly directed piece of shit. Justice League sounds like its tagline should be “Better than Suicide Squad at least.” I’ll call my reaction exactly what it is: A holdover from the 90s where fandom came with this bizarre sense of tribalism attached. I was always a Marvel kid and now as an adult, it feels like my faith was justified. I can’t speak for my ardent defence of the Sega Saturn though. Surely I should want everyone to get great superhero films that showcase all the wonderful facets of their favourite childhood characters. Really though, I’m a petty, snide asshole who’s still rooting for the downfall of DC comics. Boring heroes who’re for the most part too pious for my tastes.

It’s like dumping on the newest DCEU film has become a sport and the winners are the readers.

From The AV Club:
“Don’t let the slick, well-chosen production stills fool you: This is for the most part a cramped and cheaply ugly movie, with crappy special effects. The nicest thing that can be said is that the producers have made it impossible for viewers to tell what is and isn’t a reshoot; a significant part of the movie is set in cramped, windowless rooms or in front of obvious green screens.”

From Variety, on Whedon’s late game additions:
“Whedon’s humor is grafted on in too-obvious ways; it sticks out incongruously amid all the stilted mechanics of this alarmingly basic movie. All these Whedonisms have the opposite of the intended effect. They give off a strenuous hum, the desperate sound of a turd polished in vain.”

From The Hollywood Reporter:
“Fatigue, repetition and a laborious approach to exposition are the keynotes of this affair, which is also notable for how Ben Affleck, donning the bat suit for the second time, looks like he’d rather be almost anywhere else but here”

Metacritic has it at a 51%, which is actually remarkably respectable for DC’s hit rate. I was probably never gonna see it anyway, I’m really only here for the reviews.

Anyway, I’m out. See you tomorrow, same Bat Channel.

#juststrangerthings

I’ve lived a life. Most living people have. I’ve met many people in those years I’ve spent alive. Some I’ve been fortunate to keep around me and get to know better. Others have passed through like, well, people who are no longer living. I hope they’re still living though. A few people in particular really livened up the time I spent with them. Some left a hefty impression. In fact, there are a handful I think of on the regular. I wonder what they’ve done with their lives, where they are, who they are now. Let’s meet some. Story time, starting with the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me.

Some context. I was a chubby 11 year old at the Takapuna Normal Intermediate School social. If you needed to guess the year, I was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and zip off khakis with at least six pockets (think 90s proto Guy Fieri). One of the most exciting features of the night was a potluck snack table. It was in the music room, around the corner from the school hall. I had a bunch of friends, but I was far from one of the cool kids. The teacher chaperone announced that if we wanted to go to the potluck room, we’d have to ask someone of the opposite gender (I repeat, it was the 90s) to link arms with us and walk there side by side. In short, we needed a date. I was excited about the snacks, but really nervous to ask anyone. I asked three or four girls, who all turned their nose up and said they were taken already. I felt awful, shaken and on the verge of tears.

Then this girl walked up to me. We weren’t super close friends, but I’d always thought she was really smart and cool. “Hey” she said “I don’t know about you, but I really wanna go pig out. I’d be so happy if you’d join me.” She offered her arm. My heart swelled and my smile went full on Julia Roberts. I think it’s the most mature thing I’ve ever seen a kid do. It totally made my night. It’s not like we grew into best friends after that or anything, but I always appreciated what she’d done. I swear I’ve thought about that moment every week for my life thus far. I don’t even remember her full name, but every time I think of it, I’m so hopeful she’s gone on to have a wonderful life.

I was once at McDonalds at around 3am. Some drunk dude was having a riot of a time with the self service kiosk. He figured out that if you ordered a sundae, you could keep adding crushed peanuts for no additional cost. He said his goal was 100 packets. My order came and I really wanted to get the hell out of there. When I last saw him he was up to 53 additional packets. I have no idea what happened, but my sincere wish is that he walked out that door with a sealed box full of peanuts and a sundae as the cherry on top.

When I was in Thailand with friends, we visited a small town called Krabi. We were keen to go out and get buckets. I noticed a sign for a place that was advertising buckets, but they were way over the normal market price. Surprised at the audacity, I popped in and asked what it was that made their buckets so special. The guy behind the counter, a French dude, shrugged. He thought for a second and pulled out a bottle of Sangsom from under the counter. He exclaimed “with my buckets, you do your own pouring.” *It was unanimous, we were in. What followed was a debaucherous night of drinking. The guy, François, had been through hell (largely due to his own idiocy) getting to Krabi.

Three times he hired sex workers, then kept falling asleep and they kept taking large sums of money from his wallet (he’d lost $4000 combined from the three times). He’d injured his leg during his travels, then the bus he was on in Cambodia (they managed to evacuate first) had burned down, taking his baggage with it. He’d gotten in touch with a friend who said he could come manage this bar in Krabi. All he wanted was to hear hip hop from around the world and play bingo with pocket change. The next morning may have been the roughest hangover I’ve had in my life, but it was entirely worth it after the preceding night. Every once in a while I think back to that night and wonder what François is up to now.

Thing is, I must be this person for a bunch of people. I wonder at times what random encounters people have had with me over the years. Is there any chance I treated someone with the kindness that this girl did for me? Am I someone’s mysterious stranger?

If you love weddings so much, why don’t you marry them?

Ah Wedding Season. Flowers in bloom. Sunlight descending like a halo to crest atop the domes of young lovers. Warmth radiating outwards from the heart to find kinship in the air around. Oh wait, we’re in North America? November weddings be cold as shit.

Only physically, of course. I’m a sucker for weddings. Shall I count the ways?

  1. Celebrating anything is totally my jam.
  2. Giving an ode to future happiness, struggles and connection is also up my alley.
  3. Hearing people give heartfelt personal vows rocks my socks too.
  4. Any excuse to dress up fancy is one worth taking.
  5. Food is basically my favourite thing and I haven’t yet been to a wedding that didn’t impress me much in that regard.
  6. Open bars.
  7. Dancing after experiencing the open bars.
  8. The gooey/mushy declarations of adoration that come about after dancing after experiencing the open bars.
  9. The fact that practically everyone’s in a great mood, because who wouldn’t be happy about two people coming together?

Last night’s wedding didn’t disappoint. It was a couple who I’ve never known super well and always wanted to get to know better. Seeing the people they brought around them to celebrate, witnessing their vows, hearing how others talked of them together, I’ve only got more reason to want to get closer. My girlfriend and I had some other close friends going, plus it turned out there were a bunch more people from around the community we knew. We mostly hung around the friends we knew well, but getting to chat about Magic the Gathering at a wedding was icing on the cake. Speaking of which, there was no cake. There were however stacks and stacks of donuts. Salted caramel, sticky toffee, chocolate pudding, toasted butter (?), pumpkin pie. Aside from the chill in the air, it was the most Canadian thing ever.

While we’re on the topic of food, let’s stay there. After the ceremony (which was lovely. The bride walked the aisle to an instrumental version of “Where Is My Mind?” The vows and celebrant’s speech were liberally peppered with nerdy accoutrements), out came the charcuterie, vegetables and hummus. I stacked up a plate and walked away to eat, well satisfied. Then the hors d’oeuvres started coming out and continued for hours. Corn on a stick, delicious pork and pineapple skewers, chicken and mango skewers, balsamic marinated tomato and mozzarella skewers, tiny taco cones (tacones, obviously), risotto croquette things, stuffed mushrooms and battered sweet potato fries (in adorable little Chinese takeaway boxes). While we were at first at the back of the room, we realised that the dishes had spawning points and the people camped around them got all the good stuff. It became a matter of darting in and out to make sure you got the good stuff before it all went. Plates were sometimes being emptied in 30 seconds or less. I’ll put it lightly: I did not leave hungry.

I’ve been to three weddings this year and I couldn’t be happier about them. They’ve all been entirely different occasions, but no less fantastic. Having left New Zealand, I went years without any invites. All of my good friends were across the other side of the world. I hadn’t made enough close friends to be considered invite-able. Having been here a few years, it’s pretty gratifying to have developed the kind of friendships where I’m seen as a viable guest. It’s great to dress up and my girlfriend’s always a fun wedding partner.

Even when it’s zero degrees outside.

A plea for coffee more than anything else.

I went out for dinner with family last night. It was nice and some parts of it have stayed with me. Namely the parts blocking up my digestive tract. We ate a lot of meat. More than that, it was a good chance to catch up and chat extensively. EXTENSIVELY I say. We all got there earlier than our 7pm reservation and left at 10:30pm. Then we did late night ice cream for dessert. I think the only reason we ceased our catching up and extensive chatting was that the ice cream joint was shutting down and my girlfriend needed to use the bathroom.

I’d say shit happens, but I’m gonna need a coffee before anything’s happening in my system.

Anyway, we shot the shit, chewed the fat and talked ourselves to death. It was a great chance to discuss all manner of issues with people at a different stage of life than us, who have experienced the world in a different manner. I don’t want to make it sound like they’re eternal vampires who’ve witnessed the turn of many centuries. They’re not that old, but I’d wager being on the other side of having borderline adult children gives you a different perspective from disillusioned avocado toast munching snake people who’ve abandoned this cesspool of a world in favour of retiring to Never Never Land.

I dunno. I got worked up and ranted a little bit. Not like this is a huge deviation from the norm. At one stage I was asked something about coping mechanisms. In short, if everything seems dark out, how do you lighten up? I thought about it for a while, then went to the domain of thought: the bathroom. I certainly wasn’t doing much else there, the dinner had been lacking in dietary fibre (though overflowing with some manner of moral fibre). I considered it and later reflected. Escapism was my answer. Drinking, eating, watching endless TV shows, deep diving into video games. Many hours of mindless internet perusing. Basically all numbing behaviour. The response to a world in which seems to be circling the drain.

I posited that this kind of mentality had coloured the humour of this generation. I thought back to Generation X and the rise of sarcasm as humour in response to feelings of discontent. I considered this generation’s reliance on memes. Sarcasm, irony, meta narratives where the joke is on larger structures that society enables. Nihilism as common parlance. An understanding that we’re all fucked and if we don’t laugh about it, we’ll have no recourse but to cry. Frankly, we can only cry so much in a day.

I wanna point out that I’m not naive or ignorant enough to steadfastly believe that absolutely everything in the world is on fire. Small victories exist all over the place, it’s frankly just hard to see them through the smoke sometimes. Of course social media and groupthink play a big part in it. Disasters draw more notice than wins. We have rubbernecking on a global scale at a frequency that’s causing whiplash. I’m sure there are amazing scientific discoveries and advancements occurring every day. I’m sure that there’s probably more good in the world than bad. Thing is, you can only walk two steps forward, one step back for so long before you start focusing on how much further ahead you could be.

I mean, didn’t we all think we beat the Nazis over 70 years ago?