Nobody wants to talk about Air Bud? Story of my life.

The most bizarre aspect of this trip so far is how my perception of time has warped. In my quotidian existence I’m used to a certain pace. The workweek comes with its own time markers. Toronto, like most big cities, is a time-poor location, in that people are typically in a rush. There’s so much to do, busy busy busy, etc. Taking a step away from that for a week has left me feeling marooned. With no agenda at times I’m left floating aimlessly, unsure of how to fill a whole day.

Typically I’ve been going to bed before 1am, waking up and getting out of the house before 10am. Then returning around midnight or so. This means I’m on the move for around 12-14 hours per day. I’ve been checking out different neighbourhoods, restaurants, quirky shops and generally looking at things. By the time Happy Hour rolls in, I’m usually ready to take a load off and grab drinks/vittles. I don’t know if I’d call it a schedule, per se, but it’s how things have played out over the past few days.

Maybe I’m old, but I’ve been getting weary. I got lost on a jog up a mountain a few days back, which ended up taking an hour+. After several hours walking each day, my right leg has basically given up. Big blisters on my pinky toe and heel made walking fraught and whatever path of least resistance this caused my leg to take, various muscles have tightened to the point where walking is pain. I’ve tried to stretch as I’ve gone, but today was the first time I settled down for a long stretch session. It definitely helped, but my body is still rotting, clearly. Wubbalubba dub dub.

Yesterday I mellowed out a lot. Ate ice cream, roamed the Mississippi and Alberta neighbourhoods and spent a bunch of time on my phone. A lack of abundant social contact has meant more Reddit/Facebook. It feels tacky on holiday, but self-care is self-care, right? A friend on Facebook recommended that I install Tinder as a way of meeting people. I hastily put together a profile:

“A New Zealand Chris Traeger. Begrudgingly adorkable. Your mum thinks I’m funny. Knows way too much about Air Bud. I’m here in Portland until September 13th. Come and be a tourist with me in your own city.

Mainly using this for friends/activity partners. Ethical Poly, etc, but really want to make friends while on holiday. We could chat about Air Bud, even.”

So far I’ve had one brief response and it went less than nowhere. I have zero expectations, but it so far hasn’t met those. I do think it’s absurdly fascinating though. I’m on it to look for friends, but I still find that I’m subconsciously super judgey about who I do and don’t match with. No profile? No match. Just Instagram? No match. I’m on it to make friends but if I don’t find someone attractive I swipe left. Then I’m all ‘hey, why should looks matter? You’re right internal monologue, they don’t’. Then I swipe left on another person I don’t find attractive. It’s fucking stupid. If I do find someone to be super attractive I swipe left thinking ‘they’re way out of my league and won’t respond anyway’. I’m sure they do alright and won’t mind. Self-defeating. I find a billion reasons as to why things won’t work with most everybody I see. It’s not like I don’t swipe right, but it’s also not surprising that I’m not drowning in matches. I’m the last one in the world to realise, I’m sure, but it’s crazy addictive getting a brief glimpse into strangers’ lives.

I went out to a Rick and Morty viewing party at a “weed bar” last night in the hopes of making like-minded friends. The “weed bar” was someone’s house. Most everyone was too high to follow a real conversation. The episode was brilliant, so at least I got that much out of it. As I went to leave the host said that $5 was her standard charge so I paid, having enjoyed the chance to watch the episode. After I left, I realised she thought I’d been smoking and the charge was for pot. Dumb.

I just installed the Couchsurfing App to find people to hang out with. Let’s see how this goes. If worst comes to worst, there’s a bar hosting Magic the Gathering tonight. I can find my tribe. Unless someone on Couchsurfing slits my throat and dumps me in a river somewhere. Then I won’t have to worry about it, I guess.

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If I cast far enough, shit might get reel.

Sometimes a moment of clarity will just strike you from out of nowhere. Like a bolt flung from the hands (or tentacles, let’s be real here) of a deity, an epiphany. While I was voicing yesterday, somebody from the station dropped into the studio to hang out. When I came out of the booth, she introduced herself. She asked me my background and what I wanted to do. Without skipping a beat, I replied.

“I want to make podcasts.” I said. “It’s something the opposition does, but we’re really lacking behind.” Someone else chipped in “We have them.” I nodded and replied “we do have them, but the breadth of subject matter is pretty limited, which seems weird considering the vast Intellectual Properties we have access to and our company’s push for consumer engagement. If having a social media presence is so important, why not offer them cause to spend time with us while they work? Give them even more reason to engage with our brands. It’s an intimate, personal medium. Selling the idea to consumers that we’re their friends? It’s hard to buy that kind of marketing. Why not do that?” I stopped ranting. All three people in the room were quiet, nodding.

Where the fuck did that confidence come from?

I’ve had vague ideas about professionally producing podcasts before, but haven’t given it a whole lot of serious consideration. Then all of a sudden that torrent came tumbling out of my mouth. Who would pay me to do it? Where would the funds come from? Today though, I’ve been thinking about it more. Who better than a large corporation? It’s not like they’d have to invest in infrastructure. They have the equipment, the hosting. They can handle traffic and would have umpteen ways to promote it. They have on-air talent. They have content that invites both discussion and promotion. We know that there’s a market for it, given the near ubiquity of podcasting. All it needs is someone to go to bat for it.

I’ve been struggling a bit lately in multiple areas. Aside from near constant impostor syndrome (though I assume this is a universal part of the human condition), I’ve been feeling really down on myself. For years I had a fire burning, mantra of Make it Happen running through my head. I felt indomitable and pushed forward constantly. The past few years have felt like a rut professionally and I’ve started to doubt whether or not I’m a capable person. It’s been harder to get motivated and excited about things. Self-esteem has given way to recursive negative self-talk and I’ve started to stop believing that I deserve opportunities.

This past weekend was spent in the constant company of friends. A couple of them were people I’m quite close with, but most were casual acquaintances. I had an amazing time, but one thing stuck out to me. Almost universally, people there saw me as quick witted and down for anything. They assumed I took chances and opportunities, that I was creative and hard working. Good-natured, compassionate and funny. They saw me as the kind of person I want to be, a person who boldly follows their desires and makes things happen.

I feel like I used to be him. That if circumstances align, I become him again. I realised just how much I want to be as my friends see me. I want to take risks and be okay with failing. I want to put in effort because a lesson learned is the worst outcome. I want so badly to believe in myself again.

If others do, what’s stopping me?

Feeling outclassed? Get your learn on!

If there’s one skill I’ve honed over my past 30 years on this planet, it’s building up an impressive flight response. My flight response is so swole it’s surprising that I haven’t ended up Forrest Gumping off into the wilderness, imbibing nourishment only from sunbeams I photosynthesise. If there’s one thing I love more than getting shit done, it’s finding any excuse not to get shit done. If I could be accountable to nobody, not even myself, that would be my ideal existence. Consequence feels so anathema to my being that getting up every day should be acknowledged as a much larger accomplishment than it is. If I’m scared of something, I’m highly adept at turning and running in lieu of facing those fears.

Which is why I guess it’s good that my friend couldn’t hang out tonight. I’ve been meaning to head along to drop-in improv classes for some time, but handy excuses have popped up without effort. It’s gotten to the point where I was aiming to work out tonight in an attempt to dodge improv class. After 15 years, working out remains something that I force myself to do day after day as opposed to gleefully anticipating it. Improv is something new, therefore terrifying. It’s a skill I struggle with and constantly makes me feel like I’m about to fail. Getting trapped in any kind of situation relying on improv is an anxious razor’s edge that I’m certain will cause me to plummet. Flashes of Carrie rotate in my brain. They are all gonna laugh at me. So I could just not.

I was a drama kid, so of course I faced improv on the regular. That didn’t mean I improv-ed. It’s always been a struggle, I get mentally choked up and it’s hard to go with my instinct when my instinct tells me I’m about to be impaled with negative reactions. My nerves get the better of me and my mind stutters, I choke (in a freestyle rap manner), feel sheepish and fail to deliver. The next time I get an opportunity to improvise, my mind casts back to the previous time I choked (whether it was three minutes or three years) and I follow suit. Unless puns are involved. I guess that’s my safety net.

Thing is, improvisational skills would help me out a bunch. First and foremost, this here piece that you’re reading right now? Improv. I’m putting to paper (metaphorically, of course) the thoughts that’re beamed from my brain to my fingers. If I had better control over how to structure or select from my available pool, wouldn’t that contribute to more enriched writing? What about the Pawdcast? It’s a wonder I manage to talk as much shit as I do bouncing off my co-host, but my ability to yes, and… is severely limited. Oh the places we’d go if only I could come along for the journey. Or my RPG playing. That’d certainly blossom from an increased ability to think on my feet (while I sat on my arse). My girlfriend is fantastic when it comes to improvisational character work and it’s awesome to see. I get mildly envious that I feel so green in comparison (yes, that was intentional) and I’d love to be able to go toe to toe with her and help lift my contribution to the campaign with it.

I’m tired of being scared and feel like it’s time to take action over it. If anything, at least I’ll raise the bar when it comes to making creative excuses.

Much as he would seem a southpaw, Buddy was a retriever, not a boxer.

If finding a copy of Monkey Up at Dollarama a couple of weeks back wasn’t a sign that we need to start the Pawdcast up again, then this definitely is. I’m starting a super low key grassroots campaign to see if we could host the event. Because what’s to lose? The Pawdcast might not be family friendly, but we’ve absorbed enough wholesome entertainment that I’m sure we could fake it. The concept is bonkers, of course, but just crazy enough to make sense. Imagine, my co-host and I standing in the Harbourfront Concert Stage introducing a film about a basketball playing pup to an audience of parents, children and oblivious stoners because one day two years ago I thought the concept of a golden retriever doing back handsprings ad infinitum was funny enough to record a friend and I chatting about its wider mythos for hours.

Buddy never did back handsprings, but he sure did capture our hearts.

It just dawned on me that it’s been almost five months since we last recorded an episode. That’s crazy. We resolved to come back once the weather was warmer and that’s barely been happening in the past couple of weeks. Five months. Fuck. I suppose in having some semblance of a social life again (or at least remembering what my girlfriend’s face looked like, rather than passing like ships in the night), it was too hard to track time as it zoomed past. Five months. I guess that makes sense. I own a beard now. Or maybe it owns me…

The Pawdcast was a lifesaver last year. Much as I dreaded being constantly busy. Much as I dreaded having to sit through children’s film after children’s film. Much as I dreaded having to think of how to fill an hour or more of podcast every two weeks, I needed it. Being stuck in a job that I wanted out of after six months, I had to have a solid creative outlet that would push me to branch out of my comfort zone. The Pawdcast provided that. Writing/voicing parody trailers was tough work at first, but I did it. Getting back into the grind of audio editing was slow going at first, but after a few episodes I got back up to speed. Building up chemistry with new guests week after week was daunting, but I had no choice, so I went with it. Doing these things helped re-awaken long dormant mental muscles and brought back a part of me I thought I’d lost to the daily grind. For all my talk of dreading the work involved, that’s just my natural response to being challenged. It’s not something I enjoy, but it’s something I know is essential for me to keep up momentum or elsewise collapse.

Unfortunately, much as I’m into forcing myself back into the magical world of the ABCU, it’s not on the cards right away. The Pawdcast is not just me, it’s a small team who are all vital to our little operation. Our producer has a sketch group she’s assistant producing. My co-host has jumped off the freelancing train and into full-time work that’s taking up more of his energy and time than he can spare for another project right now. We’re gonna have to stay on hiatus for at least another few months. So Monkey Up will elude me for a little while yet.

The question now becomes, what do I do with myself? I’m still in that dead end job, with no way out on the immediate horizon. It’s an energy vampire that gives me no creative outlet. If I don’t funnel intention into some new endeavour soon I’m gonna regress into going through the motions. I’ve been me long enough to understand these patterns and they don’t head to a desirable destination. I had a writing room I wanted to set up with friends, but people were too busy at the time. Maybe “now” aligns for everyone. I wonder if there are skills I could be upkeeping by giving myself little projects. More audio editing, perhaps? I’d been thinking of taking some improv classes to help foster that mental alacrity. Maybe it’s time to work at letting my brain keep up with my mouth. Or could I finally pick boxing back up after years and mould myself back into shape?

I need something, whatever it is. Because when I get bored, I stagnate. Which seems awfully unbecoming for one of Toronto’s foremost Air Bud enthusiasts. What Would Air Bud Do?

Van Dammed if you do…

Every now and again I’ll get some reference stuck in my head and want so badly to find it a home. Of course I’ve got a stable of references ready to saddle up at any time, but not all references are equal. Some are super niche, requiring either a certain unlikely scenario to come to fruition. Elsewise the reference itself might be from something esoteric or lost to the past. Quoting Captain America: The First Avenger isn’t tough, but pulling from the 1990 Captain America film takes some work for very little payoff.

The question is why any of this matters. Ultimately, like most of my content, it doesn’t. Of course I want my references to be out of control, but if I navigated my life without constant pop-cultural quotes, I’d be doing alright in my lil’ Maslow pyramid. I’d probably talk less though. Why I do chase the ‘rush’ of a solid reference is truthfully a matter of pride. It feels fantastic to toss out something obscure and have acknowledgement flow back. It’s like the full body hum of making a room erupt into laughter. There’s nothing quite like the idea that even for a second, you were capable of making people happy. Absolutely nailing a reference has that same sensation, but on a much smaller and more concentrated level. You feel in sync with someone else. There’s this communal feeling of goodwill that exists between you. You’ve called to something hidden in the depths of their memory and that discovery brings them involuntary joy. Then you get to feel special for putting them in touch with it. Like I said, it’s silly and ephemeral, but that doesn’t make it any less of a goddamn delight.

All of this is to say, for the last day or two I’ve been searching every single conversation to drop the “For me, it was Tuesday” bomb.

A friend once laid me low with that very quote and I felt tickled inside and out. It resonated in my heart and mind, both of which grew three sizes (as a side effect, I got smarter). In that moment I felt connection and a certain kind of bliss. I don’t know if I’d attain that same glorious sensation when I imparted it upon someone else, but until I know I’m gonna keep chasing that dragon.

There’s a documented moment of me experiencing this kind of euphoria. In episode 14 of the pawdcast I cast out my net with an “I am Queen’s Boulevard” pull (at least I got something from my love/hatewatch of Entourage) and catch a whale. You can hear the joy in my voice as I reel from a successful delve into the deep. Witnessing that, it’s no wonder that I chase that high any time I can.

Once again, it’s stupid, but I’d be a liar if I said it wasn’t one of my favourite little moments of rapture. Then again, this would be news to nobody who’s read at least one of these entries.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to return some videotapes.

See, reading this was time you will never get back. Lesson learned?

I’m having my 30th birthday party tonight, a few weeks early of my actual birthday. I thought I’d write something for the occasion.

Now that I’m approaching 30, I’ve had a lot of time to make mistakes. Nigh on three decades of fucking up, gathering the pieces and reforming opinions. I think that’s called learning (at least in the curriculum of the school of hard knocks). It might seem narcissistic and self-indulgent to write a speech for my 30th but you know what? I write every day. If it wasn’t this, it’d probably be a listicle of my top 7 shitting secrets to success. As the years have passed, the more I’ve grown, and the more years that pass, the more I realise I have left to learn. I swear it’s some kind of pyramid scheme, or at least can be blamed on the illuminati. As my body slowly degenerates, I hope I’m coming off on top trading youth for wisdom. So approaching 30, here’s some stuff that’s stuck with me. Let’s see if I can ace this without sounding like a “Live Laugh Love” Lululemon ad:

 

1. Time 

We trade so much of our time for money, but money will come and go. Time is the one thing we’ll never truly be able to get back. Aside from Georgie Pie that is. We’re all getting older and moving on with our lives. Some of us are getting married, having kids, buying homes and other stuff that’s supposed to be the domain of “adults”. We’re looking back at past years with a rosy fondness. Hitting peak nostalgia, which leads us to believe egregious things like Georgie Pie having had any semblance of quality. The ball pit was great, the pies were shit. Let it go already.

We’re not the only ones getting older. As we bring new life into the world, our parents are getting on too. Some of us have already said goodbye. It’s sad, but it’s also part of life. We can’t do anything about that. We can, however, spend time while we still have it. Time is the one thing we can’t take for granted. Please don’t add your loved ones to that list. It may sound cheesy, but cherish the people in your life while you have them. Nothing lasts forever, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give them what you have while you can. Which leads me on to the next item.

2. Pooping (and yes that was a pun)

Perhaps the most important lesson of them all. If you want to have easy, smooth poops, try raising your heels and bending over to grab your ankles. It’ll change your life.

3. Presence and intentionality

It’s so easy to be distracted. We carry around small beeping, flashing computers. Eye catching advertisements are everywhere. Our society is geared towards capitalising on all our mental stimuli at all times. There’s always something to do and being bored is a luxury left to eras long past. What’s harder these days is being present. Remember when I was talking about how important time was? (Hint, it was item number one on this speech) Well you only get the chance to live each moment once. Until we invent time travel and this whole speech becomes defunct, anyway. Over the past few years one of my most important discoveries was how my interactions grew with intentionality of presence. Putting the phone down, directing my focus.

Instead of using conversation as an excuse to say things and wait until I could say more things, I started asking questions and listening to responses. Authentically being with the person seated in front of me. The inverse of this sits too. If you’re not invested in the people around you, if you don’t care about them and aren’t interested in what they say or think, why are you with them? Be intentional and seek out the people who enrich your life. Then when you’re around them, be there. Save Twitter for when you’re on the toilet. You know that’s when you think of the wittiest tweets anyway.

4. Empathy

There’s nothing quite like having your opinion heard and respected. It feels great when people agree with you. Thing is, not everyone does. I know, for one, that there are people who got defensive when I shat on Georgie Pie earlier. That’s fine, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Even people who believe things that to you seem abhorrent. The world is made up of a spectrum of moral compasses and just because someone doesn’t agree with you, that doesn’t make them a monster. Your culture is the summation of the entirety of your lived experiences. Everything you’ve seen and done has in some little way shaped you towards the human you’ve become. It’s what makes you, you. It’s also why you see the world the way that you do. Nobody else has your distinct perspective, but that’s why the world is such a fascinating place full of myriad people. Do I sound patronising yet?

Here’s my point. If you truly believe that someone is behaving in a morally repugnant fashion, you cannot ever hope to change their perspective without first acknowledging it and seeing it from their point of view. If you start a conversation by telling they’re an asshole, they’re never gonna agree to anything but to disagree. It’s very rarely easy to put aside your views in order to understand someone (especially if they’re being a dickbag), but if the overarching hope is to be on the same side, it’s essential. Empathy. People are much more likely to be ignorant than malicious and they certainly haven’t lived your life. Consider others and it may change people in your mind from being “bad” to “different”.

5. Fulfillment

We all have needs and tending to each and every one feels almost impossible. Ask Maslow and his illuminati pyramid. Learn how you operate and it’ll do wonders to fix your mood. My girlfriend has helped me create a mental checklist that comes in handy if I’m ever grumpy.

  • Have I eaten recently?
  • Am I dehydrated?
  • When was the last time I was physically active?
  • Have I slept more than seven hours in the past three days?
  • Have I been able to switch off and decompress at all?

Or in IT speak, have you tried turning it off and on again? Learn what you need around you and life becomes easier to deal with. My biggest fulfillment lesson in recent years was how to find a creative outlet. I’m a creative person and it’s been a while since I’ve had a job that allows for creativity. Since I can’t exercise my creativity through my professional life, I’ve been leaning hard on external sources. I write every day for at least half an hour. It’s been massively helpful in expression and sometimes wrapping my head around difficult situations. It’s made it possible to cope at times where I would’ve otherwise crumbled. This last year I started a podcast (www.airbudpawdcast.com. Sign up for your free 30 day audible trial at audibletrial.comp/PAWD, that’s audibletrial.com/PAWD) and it’s allowed me to rediscover parts of myself I thought I’d lost. I feel more like myself than I have in years. I’m not telling you to start a podcast where you analyse the irreverent adventures of a sports playing dog and his incorrigible lineage (frankly we don’t need the competition), but have a think about what you need in order to be your best you. You won’t regret it.

6. Love

We don’t tell one another that we love each other enough. In western society we make the mistake of assuming love has to be romantic. If there’s someone in your life that gives more than they take, whose mere presence has made your life richer for having known them, isn’t that deserving of love? I’m so fortunate (#blessed) to be surrounded by people who inspire me. People funnier, smarter, more gracious, caring, witty and insightful than I am. I love that I can stand here talking to all of you, the people who shaped me and allowed me to be this person right here talking to you. I love you, sincerely, for having been part of my life.

Thank you. I love you.

Also thanks for indulging this extended wankfest of a monologue. Cheers to each and every one of you, you magnificent bastards.

As always, remember to buy the merchandising rights. That’s where the real money is.

2016 was A Tire Fire.

2016 was The Worst.

2016 was Literally Hitler.

2016 was a bad-ass mother who don’t take no crap off of nobody!

2016 was a lot of things to a lot of people. A lot of awful things did happen in 2016. Big political asteroids like Brexit and Trump left a crater in everything many of us believed possible. Our faith in others was shattered and the “Us vs Them” mentality crevasse widened to a gorge. A lot of people died. From the horrific deaths of Syrian refugees to the brutal violence committed on the black population of North America, 2016 was a pedestal for atrocities perpetrated through power imbalances. So many dead beloved celebrities. People who gave us hope and inspiration passing away in rapid-fire succession. So much grief, processing, acceptance.

2016 was also the opposite of doom and gloom in many ways. New discoveries, environmental reclamation, aid for those suffering. While there were infinite instances of sexism, racism and gender based conflicts both online and throughout society, isn’t it amazing that this discourse is finally making it to the mainstream? Five years ago did the vast majority of society even know of non-gender binary as a concept? Had “rape culture” joined our vocabulary? I’m not saying that we’re past any of this stuff. There’s a long road between awareness and acceptance. Many of the conversations we’re having now won’t pay off for years yet. Still, at least we’re having them. That’s gotta be worth something.

I wonder how much of 2016’s “worst-ness” was defined by social media. It feels uncommon to witness this much suffering in one rotation of the sun, but then again have we ever been this interconnected? The concept of online life as an echo chamber is not new. The notion of negative news drawing more attention than the alternative certainly isn’t either. Still, something’s gotta be up when we only hear that “world hunger reached its lowest point in 25 years” in an article basically telling us ‘not to jump’. In times of crisis, social media has become emotionally draining. It’s one thing to wallow in a puddle of grief, it’s quite another when you dive into an ocean of pooled tears. Fear, anxiety and sorrow amplified by a deafening chorus of voices. While it should be comforting that people share your views, it often instead doubles down on them, adding an inescapable weight. It’s hard to find hope when you’re surrounded by dense darkness. This isn’t to negate or downplay the seriousness and validity of people’s emotions at all. I have my doubts (shameless plug) over how much it helps.

For me, 2016 like most years had its ups and downs. Work was a low point. Still stuck in a job that feels menial and draining, things have only gotten worse. The defining factors of a job I could phone in (namely amazing benefits, supportive work culture, excellent location and a quick commute) have all taken a nosedive. No part of my job in 2016 has improved and everything has declined. Fingers crossed I get a new position in the new year. On the flip side of that, things with my girlfriend have been flowing along nicely. She moved in nine months ago and we haven’t looked back. Tomorrow we’re getting on a plane to travel half way across the world. She’ll meet my family, friends and see the country in which I was born. While my job has been a bust creatively, I finally took a leap I’d spent years pining for. As anyone who’s read at least one other entry this year will know, I started a podcast. A Pawdcast to be more exact. It’s been a learning curve, a lot of work and at times, trying. It’s also put me back in touch with my audio editing roots and made me approach the format from a number of different angles. It’s been my biggest accomplishment this year by a large margin and a journey I’m proud to have embarked upon.

If it’s any consolation, 2017 is bound to be far worse than 2016. The world may have voted in Brexit and Trump, but we haven’t begun to see what they can do when they’re actually in power. 2016 was the beginning of a dark trilogy. We’ve merely finished the First Act. Expect 2017 to drive us to the edge of extinction, with salvation coming in the dying hours of 2018. I don’t make the rules, just calls ’em like I sees ’em.

Optimistically Yours.
-Leon