I wonder how they were preserved. For-mole-dehyde perhaps?

You know what sucks? Being sick on holiday. It’s lousy. You’re raring to get out and see the sights, experience all the hope and wonder of being in an unfamiliar place. Instead you feel drained, cloudy and frustrated. It’s hard to have the same kind of mobility when your limbs are sore or your brain is foggy. Being sick on holiday can downright ruin a holiday.

Fortunately, my holiday is far from ruined. I’ve developed some kind of low level sniffly thing. My nose is a little leaky and I get off and on headaches. I’m assuming it was the same affliction I successfully warded off before the flight, but eating bread for every meal and not exercising is taking its toll. My body wants real food and I need to remember to stretch. I’m An Old now, which means I can’t just bounce back at the flick of a switch. Powerade isn’t the magical panacea it was at age 20.

It’s also difficult to feel truly grumpy when there’s so much goddamn excellent stuff to see. One of my favourite things about London is their ardent commitment to making knowledge accessible. Universities and organisations have all kinds of collections freely available to the public. Like they’ve decided that the people have the right to learn. Last time I was here, I profusely enjoyed seeing the Huntarian collection in the London College of Surgeons. Tons of body parts/foetuses preserved in jars. It was gross and fascinating and a sight I never would’ve been able to see otherwise. This time around we went to the Grant College of Zoology and saw their collection. It was basically the Huntarian, but for animals. There was almost too much stuff to see, but it looked as if it’d been curated by scientists rather than an actual museum curator. I guess part of that was the fact that it was very much still a working part of the university. There was nothing in the way of museum staff, just employees sitting around doing their research. The collection was endlessly intriguing. A ton of skeletons and preserved critters. My personal favourite (and I think the most popular “attraction” in general) was the Jar of Moles. It was precisely what it said it was: 17 moles preserved in a jar together. I don’t know what I expected.

They had way more than just a jar of moles (wait, did I really write the sentence “just a jar of moles”, as if that’s some regular quotidean happenstance?). All manner of mammal, reptile and aquatic life were represented. It was so cool being able to compare the size and scale of rhino, elephant and hippo skulls in real time. The differences between lions and tigers (and bears, oh my!) weren’t always apparent to me. Hell, I didn’t even know that tigers were larger. They had kiwis and other Australasian critters. There was even a cast of a plesiosaur, a dinosaur I had no idea was basically the size of a human being. Like a long necked turtle, as my girlfriend pointed out. They had walls of microbes and tiny bone fragments. Something that I found really interesting was noticing how similar a lot of the mammal skeletons were. That without muscle, skin and fur, they were all vaguely analogous. A rhino, for instance, actually has a pretty long neck. They look way more fragile when you take away everything but their frame. Obviously the neck (with seven vertebrae just like a human/giraffe) is covered in muscle, which innoculates them against the shock of their ramming. It was so cool to look at all these animals and imagine how their structure informed their movement.

It was doubly handy seeing all this, because it gave extra emphasis as to why The Lion King on the West End was so great. After waiting for about 45 minutes, we got our £20 tickets (second floor balcony, 4th and 5th row from the front) and had a fantastic time. I’m not gonna delve into a bunch of the stuff that made the show so great, ’cause I still have hope that y’all will get out to see it (only took me 10+ years). Suffice to say the puppets and representations of animal movement were oustanding. The choreographer had obviously earned their salt, varying so succinctly how each species moved. The giraffes, hyenas and elephant in particular were astounding. The scale was enormous and I can’t fathom how one would bring together all those moving parts to form one well-oiled machine. 100% worth the wait.

Being sick might suck, but at least I’m having a wicked sick time.

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And my gal? She’s a right ol’ bird eh geezer?

The first thing I noticed this morning were the birds. Gleeful chirps from a summery sympony. Then cicadas, I think. I can’t remember the last time I heard cicadas. Toronto’s been steadfastly locked into its wintery apocalypse for so many years now that Spring seems a fictional concept created to ideologically imprison the proletariat. In London, however, cicadas join in the chirping.

Of course, looking out the window, London’s as dreary as ever. If Toronto has eternal snow, banking on grey Londony skies is a safe bet.

Have I fulfilled my weather quotient yet? Great. We’re in London! It’s the morning of our first full day and I’ve got no idea what it’ll bring. Yesterday felt like a murky dream where we put a couple of foundations down. Namely, we spent around 40 hours awake with only an hour or two of slumber tossed in there. It was like a big ol’ lucid dream where we had to mind the gap. It took longer than we expected to sort out transit and phone details, so we didn’t get to our friend’s place until at least three hours post tarmac. My friend was working from home, so we got welcomed in and shown to the spare room. Last time I stayed here there was basically a floor, ironing board and boxes. This time there’s a queen sized bed, book shelves and tasteful wall-art. The morning after, I’m stoked to say that the bed is comfy as fuck. We made good on our sleep deprivation and dived deep into slumber.

Of course, London is more than a plush spare room. We were gonna meet old friends for curry at Brick Lane, so we took the tube to Liverpool street and wandered a bit. As an aside, I forget how wonderful the London Underground is. From it’s perfect iconic signage to the intuitive flow of its subway network, the lines intersect in what seems to be a haphazard assortment, but also just kind of makes sense. The maps are easy to follow, people seem to be generally respectful of not wasting one another’s time (or rather, openly disdainful of those who do) and getting from A to B with a stop off at Q and Y is all too doable.

After some recalibration, I found my bearings and worked out my internal compass. After wandering into Brick Lane earlier than expected, I realised my internal compass was a couple of years out of date and surrendered to my own ignorance. We strolled around looking at the endless vintage stores and markets. We took in the street art, plus both the hustle and bustle. It drizzled a bit too. London, y’know? The one thing that we discovered was that we were 100% exhausted. We sat down at a hookah lounge for a beer and some specialty tea as we let the waves of fatigue wash over us. I found a chair with a back and had all I needed. I fretted over dinner choices. I knew the idea had been to join in the raucous curry haggling of Brick Lane, but neither of us had the energy. It’d be uncharitble to our friends if we collapsed at the table. Friends don’t make friends drag their unconscious saag stained bodies out of an establishment. I looked up a bunch of Reddit suggestions for the best curry place on Brick Lane and 99% of them suggested “just don’t”. They listed a couple of decent places all of ten minutes’ walk away, so we skipped the streetside kerfuffle and went to Lahore’s Kebab House instead.

It was a little grimy, but the smells wafting from the active kitchen promised something far greater than generic tourist trap fare. They didn’t lie. The curries were rich and flavourful. Mostly mild, but one chicken dish had a nice kick on the aftertaste. We got a butter naan and some kind of dessert-y pistachio one to soak up the abundant sauces. We ordered too much and compensated by stuffing ourselves silly. It was awesome to catch up with old friends and hear how they’ve blossomed throughout their EU experiences. By the sounds of it, they’d been travelling to a new country or two every fortnight. With everything so accessible, they’d often book a cheap Ryanair flight, then figure out transit and accommodation on the eve of their trip. They said often the price of a bus between countries and the Uber once they got there was comparable. With the cost of exploration being so low, what reason did they have to not take advantage of it?
We tapped out of dinner earlier than we normally would, but with the proviso that if we didn’t sleep, we’d quite likely just die. After almost falling asleep on the train several times, we found an umbrella and walked back to our friends’ place, brushed our teeth then collapsed into bed.

Then this morning, grey skies and birds. We’re in London proper, kids.

More like Artifice & Wankery.

Late night eats. They’re an important part of any good Friday, Saturday or any day ending with a sizeable quantity of alcohol. I didn’t even drink much last night, but after a $14 food truck sandwich filled with sadness and disappointment, I needed a mulligan. My girlfriend and I grabbed a ride home with friends that involved not one, but three fast food stops. Firstly, at Burger King for my friend to grab a veggie burger. Secondly, at Five Guys for a burger, fries and a shake. Lastly at A&W for onion rings. We got dropped home to feast and watch American Vandal until we got sleepy. A good night by any metric.

A&W was confounding though. In their desire to be a wholesome family restaurant, they’ve ascribed familial nomenclature to their nom nom noms. Frankly, their mythos is all over the fucking place.

It goes like this. There’s a Baby burger which has a patty and ketchup. Cute, it’s a basic burger. That tracks so far. The Buddy burger adds grilled onions, mustard and “teen” sauce. It’s odd that it’s not a familial relation, but clearly it’s a friend of teenage descent, right? However, by A&W’s metrics a Teen burger has onion, but it’s not grilled. It has the teen sauce, but also throws in pickles, lettuce, tomato, cheese and pork. If we’re delineating between the two, does this imply that Buddy is some kind of adolescent? Maybe a tween? Buddy’s puberty is in its infancy, but hasn’t fully blossomed into a hormone bound (though according to the byline, the beef patty is hormone and steroid free. How do you get a Teen burger without hormones? Is it grown in a vat?) burger?

Then we start getting into the adults. A Papa burger has two patties, onion, pickles, no tomato or lettuce, but still has teen sauce. Why would an adult burger have teen sauce? There’s some kind of disturbing connotation I’m not comfortable with here. So Papa has no bacon, but double patties. Are we to then draw the inference that extra meat is equivalent to age? But double Teen burgers exist that have two patties. So clearly the quantity of beef doesn’t have those connotations. Also why is a Papa less equipped with a toolbox of delectable toppings? Are we to assume that a Teen is young and passionate, full of potential, whereas a Papa has become resigned, old and tired. Straightforward and linear in his inexorable march towards the grave? But the Uncle burger has all the trimmings of the Teen burger (no teen sauce though), but with upgraded cheese and red onion in lieu of white. What are we supposed to glean from that? The burden of child rearing has quashed Papa’s spirit, but the fun Uncle gets to be fancy and carefree? We have to presume that the Uncle has no kids, because otherwise it would still be a Papa burger (and have two patties, duh). Or is this a way of A&W saying that your perspective (this burger being avuncular to you establishes this as his sole identity) overrules all else?

Hold on though, because there’s a Mama burger. The Mama burger is basically a one patty Papa burger. Why is that a gender dichotomy that’s being drawn? Is there an inverse correlation between the quantity of patties and x chromosomes? Would that mean that the Teen burger is female while the double teen is male? Hold on now A&W, that’s a political, sexist stance to take. If you’re adhering to the rules of your own goddamn mythos, it’s up to you to play within that structure elsewise fall on your sword and admit it’s all bullshit. Why do males inherently have more beef? Are you creating a very visible calf ceiling causing women to inherently limit their own potential?

Wait though. We have the Grandpa burger to contend with. The Grandpa burger is a Mama burger with three patties. Where the fuck did the extra patty come from and what does it symbolise? We’ve already walked through the notion that age and number of patties do not correlate. This is too much. The Grandpa burger collapses under the weight of its own senselessness. What the fuck are you trying to sell here A&W? The notion of a whitewashed nuclear family prescribing to outdated heteronormative ideals? How am I supposed to buy your burgers if I can’t even buy into their expanded universe? It makes no fucking sense and I can’t condone supporting this bollocks financially.

Furthermore who the fuck is Mozza? Why does putting an egg between English muffins suddenly make it an “egger”? Why are chickens exempt from familial hierarchical structures?

My brain, too, feels like it’s floating.

This is gonna be a messy one. It’s been a while since I’ve had a decent sleep. For the past couple of months the cat has been noisy at night most evenings. Over the past few days it’s gotten ridiculous. I’m a light sleeper. Last night I probably got woken up around once an hour and, because it was a sweaty night, often found it hard to get back to sleep. Here’s an example of how nuts it’s been: We went to bed just before 11pm last night. Between 11pm and 11.30pm (when I finally came out to spray it with a mist bottle- our discipline method) it intermittently yowled six or seven times. It’s a catch 22. It’s gotten to the point where it’s obviously doing it for the attention (we feed it before bed) and while coming out to spray it obviously gives it the attention it wants, spraying it is the only thing that stops it from yowling.

My girlfriend, of course, sleeps like a rock and doesn’t notice any of it.

It’s becoming too much for me. I’m at the point where if it goes on for another night or two I’m seriously considering trying to find a friend’s house where I could crash for a couple of days. Just to sleep and recharge. To put that into context, I’m considering leaving my own house because of the cat that moved in. In short, if this is a war of attrition, the cat is winning. It probably doesn’t even know anything’s up. It’s dire. Things are starting to get a little The Shining around here. I haven’t started hallucinating yet, but it can’t be far off. I’m coming apart mentally. I feel hollow and ephemeral. I’ve started trying to calculate in my head how long it’ll be until natural causes take their toll. I’m not sure whether that’ll be on me or the cat.

For some reprieve, in any case, my girlfriend and I are seeing It tonight. I’m sure the film will be tame compared to the thoughts circulating around my noggin. I like horror films and the miniseries was pleasant, innocent fun. Hopefully the movie has benefited from time and increased SFX technology. I’m not one who usually gets scared in films, but perhaps there’ll be more affecting body horror than telescopic shower faucets. We can only hope. I’ve also got my fingers crossed that the repeated catchphrase “you’ll float too” will have more relevance. We saw far fewer floating bodies than balloons in the original. Also insufficient bodies floating in balloons. Has Pennywise ever considered investing in a hot air balloon company?

In other news, our newly elected Prime Minister just publicly laid the smackdown to capitalism. Maybe she’s afraid the dollar will float too. I’m just stoked to finally be hopeful about politics again. Make us proud, Jacinda!

Please do it before I lose my mind.

Even with eight legs you can’t outrun death.

Yesterday I encountered an event so momentous that it must be celebrated. The environs were innocent enough, with no warning of the epic occasion to follow. Merely my girlfriend and I eating a meal together. A simple meal, too (she’d snacked earlier, so wasn’t into anything grand) of steamed veggies, eggs and cottage cheese. Everything was prepped, we sat down with an assortment of condiments (the most vital part of any meal. I’ll fight you on that. Physically. Has grudge, will travel) when it happened. The words tumbled out of her mouth and I knew right away. I was telling my girlfriend a story she hadn’t heard.

This isn’t an everyday occurrence and I’m not even sure if it’d happen each week. So here goes.

Do you know how to catch common houseflies? I do. You’d think it’d be a matter of speed, slamming an enclosure down upon them before they could react. Nope, fuck right off. Ain’t no way you can react before a fly does. They’re not only quick, but they can detect movement in the air and act accordingly. Speed’s surprisingly the opposite of what you need. Catching a fly is about patience.

The way that we were taught involved a shot glass. You can use anything small, but it’s handy to be able to see right through it. You want the fly on a flat surface like a tabletop or bench. Position the shot glass directly above them. Slowly lower the glass. When I say slowly I mean glacial. Give paint drying a run for its money. One millimetre at a time. Show Heinz who’s boss. The secret? Keep going. You’ll think that the best call is to slam it down when you’re close, but you’d be wrong. Once again, flies are faster than you, but they’re not smarter than you. Well, maybe. I haven’t met all of you. Keep going slowly right to the bottom. That’s it, you have your own pet house fly.

Why do I know this? It’s certainly not because I had pet house flies of my own. That’d be preposterous. No, I had pet house spiders. Kinda. Our flat shared them. Well, a flat I used to live in before moving away. I’d stop back in most weeks when I was in town. Anyway. We noticed a decently sized spider in our kitchen one day and our friend taught us the fly catching trick. She informed us that spiders won’t eat pre-deceased flies, only ones they’ve killed themselves. So to feed them, you’ve gotta catch flies and release them into the web. The spider will notice the fly struggling by reading the vibrations on its web and come out to feast. It’s vicious too. You see its little mandibles chomping away on the squishy, crunchy fly. Gory as all get out. We named our spider Venom, after my favorite childhood comic character.

As we fed Venom it grew and grew until it was twice, three times its initial size. Then Venom had babies. One in particular survived and we named it Baby. Baby was a voracious little fucker and didn’t mess around at dinner time. It grew rapidly and soon was even bigger than Venom. We treasured our little arach-kids and continued to feed them for around eight or nine months, I’d help out whenever I was in town.

Then disaster struck. One of the flatmates, somehow not knowing that we’d been harboring pet spiders for the larger part of a year, freaked out at this so called “infestation”. It was a massacre. These little life forms we’d fed from infancy utterly obliterated. We were devastated and, despite the ludicrous situation, it caused a pretty significant rift for a while. We got over it enough to preserve the friendship, but the memory of our eight legged darlings has never left my heart.

So that sucked, but on the bright side here in Toronto we don’t get enough insects that we’d be able to keep spiders fed in the first place. I’ll miss Venom and Baby, but not as much as I love living in a relatively pest free environment.

Relatively. A cat lives here after all. At least the spiders were quiet.

Alanis, you of all people oughta know what irony is.

In today’s entry, we’re gonna talk things, whatnots and somesuches. Cool? Cool!

Today I tried my first ever Fawaffle cone, a dish after my own heart. It was exactly what it sounded like and as delicious as the portmanteau was adorable. A waffle cone made of falafel. It’s a rad gluten-free option that gets protein into a come shaped format. Ever since the “meats in cones” discussion from There’s Something About Mary, I’ve been longing to sink my teeth into a crunchy waffly exterior to taste umami goodness within. It was like a savoury ice cream. Shredded chicken, cherry tomatoes, mint, avocado and spicy sauce. I’m sure it had way more calories than I was expecting, but boy oh boy did it fill a) my wish for a meaty cone and b) my stomach. I’m going out for tacos tonight. I can only imagine the salsa party in my belly.

There are so many things that I don’t know. 99% of these are not what I consider worth googling. If that’s not an entitled mindset, I don’t know what is. All sorts of stuff. Why do cyclists wear that lycra/spandex get up? Does it cut down on wind resistance? Is it super breathable? Does it dry quickly? Are there compression elements to it? Do people just think it looks cool? Or does it come with an aura of legitimacy? Do you feel like you ride faster if your top and bottom halves look thematically similar?

Releasing an album seems like a massive labour of love. Hundreds of hours of songwriting, practicing, performing, recording, mixing and all sorts of other stuff I’m sure I haven’t considered. I was listening to Basia Bulat’s most recent album, Good Advice. Her previous album, Tall Tall Shadow was fantastic. Emotionally stirring ballads, good danceable pop and an engaging through-line. I don’t feel the same way about Good Advice. Most critics didn’t feel the same way about Good Advice. My question is that when an album is to be released, how much disconnect is there between an artist and public perception? In this situation, how often does the artist genuinely believe that they’re putting out their best possible material? Do they phone it in just to get the album finished in time? Is there pressure from the record company to push it out and start selling? Could it be a matter of incorrectly gauging what it was about their previous music that people loved? Or pinning it down to certain elements and myopically assuming they needed to double or triple down on that kind of thing? At the end of the day, it could 100% be that it didn’t appeal to me, but everyone else loved it? I’m (thankfully) very far from the only person out there. I don’t really know if there is an easy answer to this. I certainly don’t think I could google it. I’m sure NPR probably has a podcast on your very subject.

This one’s embarrassing. I actually don’t know how bees make honey. I know they collect pollen on their little hairy legs and bring it back to the beehive. Is this a tribute for the queen? Does the queen squirt honey out like soft-serve? Do bees then organise this honey into neat little honeycombs? Then apiarists in faux hazmat suits steal their delicious output and take all the credit? Where does Seinfeld come in?

The ironic part is I was a B science student at best.

There were, too, people doing parkour. Seemed apt.

I’ve never been great at relaxing. Something about the idea of sitting and doing nothing stresses me out. If I’m not thinking, why am I awake? I have a constant need to be engaged in an activity, even if that activity is merely hanging out and chatting with others. Given this borderline anxiety over relaxation, the beginning of my weekend was going pretty damn well. Friday I was home sick, learning the intricacies of Watch the Skies‘ ruleset as best I could. Saturday I was constantly on my feet, putting the ruleset into motion for paying customers. By the time the game had wrapped up I wasn’t far from falling into bed. If I was at all afraid of getting appropriate amounts of sleep however, our cat has been going apeshit for the past week or so. As such, it’s been a while since I slept well.

Whatever my feelings on relaxation, both my brain and body needed a break.

Cue the perfect summer day, but in spring. Temperatures going up to the high 20s. A cloudless sky and light breeze blowing through. After a morning spent lugging a microwave around Koreatown, my girlfriend and I decided a park day was not only desirable, but necessary. We put the call out, but didn’t get much back in the way of responses. A few hours later the temperature had dipped to an ideal mid-20s. Some friends posted about hang outs in Trinity Bellwoods. Deal. We strapped on shoes and hit the road.

First stop was Bakerbots. I’m always loathe to mention Bakerbots too much, but figure my readership is small enough that this won’t spread the secret too far. Bakerbots is a boutique bakery that partners with the outrageously popular Bang Bang Icecream. In a one-two punch operation, Bakerbots make the cookies and Bang Bang cream the ice. Bang Bang routinely has a 30+ minute wait time in the summer. Bakerbots takes five minutes at a stretch. Same ice cream, but a slightly smaller range of flavours. I had a cone of burnt toffee and double chocolate, while my girlfriend grabbed burnt toffee and Sam James espresso. Holding the napkin-less cone and feeling drops of delicious dairy melting onto my hands brought me back to childhood beach trips. We’d hang out in the sand and sea for a few hours, then nana and papa would take us to grab massive ice creams. Hokey Pokey and Goody Goody Gumdrops, always. On a sunny Sunday in Toronto, a cone was no less of a treat.

We wandered down to Bellwoods, noticing just how many people were out and about. Over the winter months, Toronto can seem like a ghost town at times. Strange, for a city. Spring typically has more hours of rain than sun, as locals chomp at the bit for patios to open. As soon as they do, the floodgates open and if the patios are full, everyone under 40 goes to one of the many, many parks (seen here in green). Bellwoods is a great spot for dog watching, slack lining, capoeira, calisthenics, frisbee, a few local beers on the down low and assorted musical jams.

We laid our blanket down with friends and watched the world go by. Everything mentioned above and then some. There was a good nature in the air (and obviously all around, trees softly swaying in the breeze). One of our friends had a Hang, which he proceeded to play for us. I’d never seen or heard a Hang before. It looks like an inverted Steel Drum, but could also pass for a large viking shield. It’s gentle and melodious, a sound akin to wind chimes or the motion of a waterfall. Gentle, soothing and tough to play well. Lying back in the evening warmth, listening to the symphony of life going on all around, relaxing started to make more than a little sense.