Tour on TO.

I heard from a friend today that she’s thinking of stopping off in Toronto for a couple of days. Naturally, this is fantastic news. It’s always excellent to see good friends from far and away. Even better when you have the home court advantage. If she does come, it’ll be over Easter weekend, which has its pros and cons. I didn’t have any big plans over the weekend, so spending quality time with a good mate trumps anything else. It’s also during a time where I naturally have time off. Another plus. On the other side, I’m worried that Toronto may slow down over Zombie Jesus’ Cave Time. What if nothing’s on? How am I supposed to show her the best that Toronto has going for it, if there’s nothing going on? She’s coming from London (the good one) for fuck’s sake. How am I supposed to one up that?

Let’s work on a wish list. What ideally would I love to show her about Toronto?

  • Weird movie screening: Maybe something at The Royal, The Carlton or The Revue. Local cinemas working together with niche community groups to give the public access to lesser known filmic works. If there’s anything by Exploding Zebra or The Midnight Society, The MUFF Society, etc. Perhaps some horror film fest or an interesting TIFF screening/Q&A session.
  • Food: Always food. Toronto has several cities’ fair share of brunch spots with a ton of options for all diets. She’s vegetarian and Toronto will provide. Failing anything, it’s another excuse to get Ethiopean, as if I ever need one. Spring will come with a ton of pop-ups. There are also the regular spots like Bang Bang/Bakerbots, Sweet Jesus (thematic) and everything Kensington has to offer. Oh wait, how could I forget poutine? It’s Canadian food incarnate.
  • Bars: So many theme bars here, and surprisingly few I’ve checked out. As a local, you rarely explore your own backyard much. Why not put paid to that idea and dig around? I’ve never been to Eat My Martini or Nightowl. The hubbub surrounding “Harry Potter Bar” The Lockhart has probably died down by now. Get Well is always the best and I haven’t been in aaaages. the Get Well owned bar Greater Good has opened up close to me and I’ve still not stopped in for a pint. Not to mention great local breweries like Blood Brothers and Bellwoods. There’s so much excellent alcohol on offer.
  • Shows: There’s always some type of performance going on in Toronto. There’s a vibrant art scene between the visual arts, theatre, dance and more abstract stuff. Could she be interested in a themed burlesque show? Comedy gigs, whether improv or sketch? An offering from one of the many talented local theatre companies? An exhibition or gallery? Art battles or cooking competitions?
  • Dance: The anachronistic charms of Chronologic? Disco vibes of Beam Me Up? Guilty pleasure pop? K-POP? Queer femme hip hop? MTV Throwback? Whatever she’s into, like good beer, it’s probably on tap.
  • Funtivities: Escape rooms? Axe throwing? The Rage Room? Archery Tag? An escape event at Casa Loma?
  • Oh the Places to go: Toronto Island/Hanlans, The Beaches, Trinity Bellwoods, The Distillery District, Evergreen Brick Works.

Really though, it’s not about what I want to show her, but what she’s into seeing. First and foremost, is she even coming? If not, nothing’s stopping me from doing any of this stuff.

Y’know, Toronto’s quite something when you think about it.

Never never? Call me JaPeter JaPan.

Hi there. I’ve got no idea where this is going, so keep your hands inside the cart and let’s all enjoy the ride.

I haven’t been to an amusement park in longer than I’d like. Last time I went was to Canada’s Wonderland. The weather was borderline scummy, which was great. The park was sparsely attended through threat of rain. My cousin and I cleared every ride in under two hours. At one point they closed the rides for all of 15 minutes, so we got lunch. The rest of the afternoon was spent doubling/tripling back on all the rides we loved (I got to take Behemoth six times!). Pretty much ideal. I’m a big fan of roller coasters or basically anything that allows me to get as close to g-force in my extremities as possible. I don’t typically get scared on rides. It’s no brag, but a faith in rigorous safety testing and statistics. Discounting that horrific freak accident at Dream World (on a fucking benign river ride of all things), large scale amusement parks tend to be pretty safe. If I feel like I’m not in any danger, extreme rides feel fun, not frightening.

It makes sense for me to be thinking about amusement parks. A friend of mine just came back from a holiday to LA, which naturally involved a trip to Disneyland. I did the Disney parks in Orlando as a kid and had the time of my life. When I think of stuff I’d like to do on vacation, going to a bunch of theme parks would be right up there. I’m still a child (with larger limbs) and the thrill of going on a bunch of rides, but with the executive decisions and flexibility of being an adult, is palpable.

Good thing, because once again I’ve got vacation I need to use.

I don’t know how I ended up with another five days. It looks like I miscalculated my vacation days over the past six months and I still had a few to take. They allowed me to roll over the five days on the proviso that I use them up over the next few months. So once more I’m in the enviable position of having to decide where I’d like to travel.

To be honest, I’ve always wanted to travel to Japan. Since being a child obsessed with anime, Disney and video games, it’s been top of my list. As kids, we had a succession of Japanese au pair who stayed with our family. It was a pretty neat cultural influence that left me with fond memories. Visiting Japan has been a dream of mine ever since. Financially I haven’t been in the position to follow through, but I’m fortunate for that now to be a reality. For the next two months it’ll be Spring there, which seems the perfect time to visit. I could do a Tokyo trip, visit Disneyland, check out some beautiful old temples and finally tick it off the bucket list. There’ll be sake and sakura and everything. What’ve I got holding me back?

Right now? Logistics and planning. I’d love to do the trip with a friend, to have someone I can bounce ideas off in a foreign country. I don’t speak or read the language (though I’m sure that hasn’t stopped others before). I don’t know my way around Toyko, the transport system, the best spots to visit and how much things should generally cost. Trip planning has never been a strong skill of mine. As always, there are endless resources on the internet and I definitely have friends who’ve been there. So really, it’s on me to get off my arse and look into it. Dreams rarely come true without a lot of hard work.

Still, that’d be one hell of a ride.

Next time I go, I’m packing an Escape Rope.

Is there anywhere more depressing than the Dufferin (read: Sufferin) Mall? Sure, the Dufferin Grove Mall looks like the post apocalyptic survivor of an 80s zombie apocalpyse, forever frozen in remembrance. Still as one can see from the car park, at least you go there without expectations. Sufferin Mall has a unique soul numbing terror of its own, that sets in steadily with each step. Perhaps it’s the harsh fluorescent lighting, violently expelling the sight of the all too present shadows like some twisted Dorian Gray made brick and mortar. When the automatic doors reluctantly open before me, I swear I can hear the car park seagulls chanting “you were warned”.

It has a multi-level Wallmart. That should’ve been the first clue to run from the hills. Why do I know? I went there in a desperate search for some kind of protein bar my girlfriend and I could split (after an hour of searching left our spirits sapped). Nutrition is as sparse around Sufferin Mall as real value. Cheap prices are merely a Faustian pact in the form of numbers. The true cost goes unsaid. Approaching a free sample kiosk for kinder bueno minis, the lady behind accosted me desperately, resting her hand on my arm. Holding a camera in her other hand, she pleaded “sir, could you take a photo with us? We need to take photos with samplers, otherwise we don’t get paid.” Soul bleeding away into the aether, I numbly agreed, clutching the sample betwixt my thumb and forefinger. I dropped it, then scuffled around on the ground, where I’d left my dignity. I smiled as best I could, a mournful grimace trapped behind my eyes. If I didn’t escape soon, I never would.

Here’s the thing. Being in Sufferin Mall demands every sliver of your metaphysical vis. No matter how frequently you’ve fed and watered prior to entering, you’ll feel drained within twenty minutes. Endless empty promises of sales and values take more from you than they could ever give. There’s nothing of substance to be found in the food court and there’s no way this wasn’t done purposefully. With no reserves in your body, it’s impossible to navigate the endless storefronts without giving in out of desperation. You think that maybe by purchasing something, you’ll be allowed to leave. Your mission accomplished, you can slip away and preserve some semblance of sanity. The divine joke is that you came away with anything at all.

Things look and feel different there, it’s a palpable vibe. Children eschew their cherubim features for demonic visages. As if like moonlight in Pirates of the Caribbean, the fluorescent bulbs show the evil lurking beneath the skin. Shrieking and bawling endlessly, there is no appeasing a toddler in Sufferin Mall. The Escherian architecture too much for their sub-formed minds, letting all hell spew forth from tiny lips, lungs audibly agape. It’s graft vs host on a primal level, sub-human shells not fit to repel the venue’s demonic siren call. So they embody it, miniature vessels of horror forced to contend with forces of a magnitude beyond their comprehension. I mean, how is it possible to be miserable in a dinosaur cart for fuck’s sake?

Did I get what I came for? Would I ever have? There’s a reason the attached Beer Store sells Four Loko. Clinging to sanity by a thread, would the desperate few managing to emerge from Sufferin Mall’s predatory maw have the willpower to resist this modern day wormwood? As someone who’s somehow lived to tell the tale, it takes all you have and more.

Sufferin Mall: Just because you’ve abandoned all hope, it doesn’t mean you’re without anything to lose.

Oddly enough, I feel pretty dirty today.

I stayed out late last night (for a decrepit senior like me, anyway) and didn’t get to bed until around 3.30am. Since the weather jumped about ten degrees yesterday, the bedroom was sticky with heat. Great sleep was not acquired. Even with an hour and a half nap this afternoon (I mentioned the decrepit senior thing, right?) I’m still catching up mentally. What I’m saying here is don’t expect Shakespeare in this entry.

Anyway, I was thinking today about mercy and how unstrained it is as a quality.

Dumb.

A friend and I went out to Dance Yourself Clean. It’s an indie music dance party (named after the LCD Soundsystem song. You’d be forgiven for assuming it was an alcohol/drug free gig). Basically a DJ going off a playlist of popular indie tunes both classic and contemporary (the idea of classic indie seems strange to toss around in my head). Throwing out crossfades and unnecessary flange, etc. At some point later in every event they’ll throw on Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” and the crowd will go nuts. It’s a commodified experience being packaged and sold, but I’m pretty okay with that. If I get to come to an event, hear the kind of music I enjoy dancing to and have others on a similar wavelength, I figure I’m in for a good night. It’s not about pushing boundaries and discovering new things, but rather getting that reaffirming tingle from waves of nostalgia all evening. Last night’s event was less grand than the previous one. I dunno, fewer tunes my friend and I knew. I mean, she kept on pulling out Soundhound for evidence. Once again the label throwing the event had their own artist performing live, which felt a little tone deaf. If people were coming for that specific purpose of essentially listening to a playlist, why put live performance in front of them? That’s not what they’re looking for. As with the last DYC, the live performances worked gangbusters to clear the dance floor. Who knows? Maybe it was done specifically to drive people to the bar. Help out the venue a little. In any case, if a night ends with a friend and I going for 2am korean food, it’s been decent enough.

Meeting at the Crafty Coyote was a fun choice. Sitting next to the bar, the fellow behind the bar couldn’t stop plying us with sample tasters. It’s nice when you find someone with a passion for their craft (pun kind of intended). As soon as we described the kind of tastes we enjoyed, he’d fill a bunch of sample glasses and push them our way. I think at one point I had four sample glasses sitting in front of me. One or two of them though, he really stuck the landing and nailed what I was looking for. One cider he picked out for my friend was amazing. If we weren’t heading off we would’ve downed a few pints of it. It was nice too that after an evening of arguing with people on Facebook about connotations of certain gendered terms, the barman called both of us “friend”. An unexpected, but delightful gesture that took the edge off a frustrating evening. It was really great to catch up with my friend. She’d gone through a bunch of stuff in the last while and we’d been to busy to catch up.

It was amusing, then, that some old guy at the bar kept making conversation with me. He must’ve been lonely and he was super friendly/respectful, but also wasn’t catching the social clues that I was really there to hang out with my mate. It was more funny than annoying. Thing was, the conversation got kind of interesting. He was talking about how Toronto has a bunch of remote spots that are really picturesque, but also happen to be sewerage outputs. At some point he started talking about Ghost in the Shell and Akira and it pained me to turn away from the conversation. What part of me didn’t want to talk about vintage anime with some 60+ year old stranger? I had to tell him in all honesty that I was enjoying chatting with him, but I really wanted to talk with my friend. I thanked him for his time and turned around. Once more, unexpected but delightful.

That’s my time, which means I now get to leave and eat (drink?) pea soup with my main squeeze. May you all be so lucky.

Is it possible to exercise demons? Smite them with treadmills and shit?

This post is gonna be a hard slog. I’m operating at 25% capacity today.

I feel swampy right now. In my effort to shunt back to healthier habits, I’ve taken the cold bucket o’ water approach to a couple of things. No coffee today. The duelling tensions of sleep vs activities, artificial vs naturally produced energy, have meant that my coffee use has escalated as of late. It’s been none-too irregular for me to have four or five cups a day. Considering that all bar one of those are shitty brew coffee that I don’t even like, begs the question as to why I’d go there in the first place. Pretty sure it’s a combo of boredom consumption and habitual addiction. Too much coffee has meant flailing afternoons, which have led to crashing in the evening, no energy to get out and do things. I’ve been way less social than I’d like, unless prodded by alcohol. Not the place I want to be.

Drinking a ton of coffee is symptomatic of a larger addiction to consumption. It’s both because of this addiction and a cause of this condition. I feel a need to consume, which extends to filling a cup of coffee. The more I drink, the more my inhibitions are lowered. My sometimes foods, while usually during outside meal times, have become a larger part of my daily intake. I’ll make an exception for something I wouldn’t usually have, then make that same exception the next day “because it was okay yesterday”. Then I feel grumpy and bummed out that I’d veered so widely, leading to eating my feelings later on in the evening. At work our new-ish boss always has a well stocked treat table. If I had the discipline to not be treating myself constantly, I’d exercise it. With the way things have been, it wouldn’t surprise me if a caloric consumption (not that I’ve been counting) of one and a half to two times my normal intake has been the rule, rather than exception.

It’s a dumb, but understandable pattern to fall back into and it’s been throwing my mood way out of whack. I’ve been alternating between extreme grumpiness and fatigue. I’m distractible all the time. It’s shitting on my ability to concentrate on work, turning me into a home-bound mope and making me feel shitty about my body. It sucks. It’s also something that nobody else can really help me with. Sure, there’s emotional support, but emotional support is not habit forming and won’t help me get anywhere. It’s something I need to take care of on my own, because it’s not something I’m doing for anyone else. It’s also far from the first time I’ve hoisted this bugbear atop my shoulders and I’m sure it won’t be the last. As always, a long term view, self-compassion and hard work will be lead me in the right direction. Right now though, it’s slow going.

One foot in front of the other. Again and again.

How far do I want to push this metaphor? If I tried hard enough, could I cash in on the lucrative key ring sponsorship market?

At what point do you decide that something has given you all it ever will?

Okay, that’s way too wide a question. I’m not sure how you’d define that into a focused answer. So I’ll start rambling instead. We had two bands play short two song sets at work today. The New Pornographers and Cold War Kids. Both are bands that I used to listen to with some regularity. I had TNP’s Mass Romantic and Electric Version on repeat for months. Fun, poppy hits with excellent harmonies and toe tappin’ tunes. I listened to Twin Cinema and Challengers, but neither impacted me as much as their initial albums had. When Together failed to deliver, my enthusiasm for the band petered out (a phrase which I only just read may date back to the depletion of mineral refinery. The mORE you know, eh?). I haven’t as of yet listened to their 2014 release Brill Bruisers and it’s unlikely I’ll hear the follow up in two weeks. I got from this band what I wanted, which has served me well. No regrets, but neither am I mining their subsequent albums for new, fresh material. In my mind, they’re petered out.

Even if you weren’t, I was pretty impressed with how I turned that etymology around. Self love, people.

New Pornographers were a band I enjoyed. Cold War kids were a band I adored. I thrashed Robbers and Cowards. A distinct vocal sound combined with innovative production and refreshing songwriting. “Hospital Beds” (which has an excellent Florence and the Machine cover), “St John”, “We Used to Vacation”- fuck, I’ve gotta stop or I’d be quicker to say “the whole album”- hit me hard. I fell in love with all of these tracks and they found their way to every contemporary mix tape I made for years. Loyalty to Loyalty had a couple of neat songs too. The ones I liked worked into my constant rotation. “Mine is Yours” bombed hard for me. The sound, more stadium oriented, was no longer what I wanted from them. Much like The New Pornographers, it wasn’t for me, so I stopped cold (War Kids?). So it goes.

I could name a stream of bands who followed a similar pattern for me. The aforementioned Florence, my almost eponymous Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, TV on the Radio. I don’t know if this is more a comment on the effects of wider audience reception, fame and success, or that I have specific tastes. All I do know is that at some point, these bands have taken a fork in the road where I’ve refused to follow. The journey to that tangent was fantastic, but we’re clearly not meant to go down every road we see.

Seeing Cold War Kids in particular today, the band sounded great. Previewing new material off their forthcoming album, the experience of seeing them live (and shaking the lead singer’s hand. They awkwardly didn’t know what to do after the short set. He’d seen me kneeling on the ground during the performance, walked over and extended his hand) still had a stirring effect on me. While things may have changed, the seeds of that which had called to me were rooted fast. I don’t know how I feel about the new tracks, but I loved them in that context. Would I feel the same with the mixed versions? I’ve got no idea. Are there gems hidden in their past two albums I ignored? There may well be.

There are some messages in here about persistence, trust and faith. Like Cold War Kids’ past two albums, I haven’t decided if I’ve got the energy to search for them right now. Maybe though, just because I’ve pushed a door close, it doesn’t mean I need to lock it.

I want to eat cheese and never stop.

Tired. Brain dead. Not to be confused with the 1992 Peter Jackson splatterfest renamed Dead Alive for the North American market. You know, the one with the karate master priest who exclaims “I KICK ASS FOR THE LORD!” Also a dude walking into a room full of zombies holding a sideways lawnmower. Great film. I didn’t walk into a room full of zombies carrying a sideways lawnmower. It just felt like it.

I had a run during lunchtime today though, that was a bright spot. Being able to get out of the office and jog across the waterfront was pretty fucking great. Fresh air in the face of Toronto’s recent jigsaw weather (today had a high of 10°C. Tomorrow’s is -2°C) meant I could attack the afternoon without feeling dried out. Instead I was achy and hungry. So my normal state of being, anyway. I protest too much. It really was awesome not only having the opportunity to run in the middle of the day, but to be capable of walking out the front door at work and jogging almost 6km. With Spring quickly approaching (yesterday, apparently), I want to get fitter again. I’ve been keeping active, but haven’t done the cardio I’ve desired. I’d say I’ve been itching for it, but realistically that’s just the beta alanine in my bloodstream. Tossing Girl Talk’s 2014 Coachella performance on my headphones, I put my legs through a decent pace. Tons of people were taking advantage of the weather and hitting the pavement. I’m not gonna lie, whenever I saw someone jogging on the bike path ahead of me, if I saw them slowly getting closer I made it my low key mission to overtake them. Because what else was I gonna do? I’d left my cellphone (Pokémon Go portal) back at work. Whenever I saw somebody jogging in the opposite direction I did that little bus driver wave. Nobody waved back. Maybe Toronto is as unfriendly as everyone says.

After eating everything in sight (and taking a walk to eat the things that were out of my sight), I was exhausted. Then realised I had a job interview in a few hours and being stuffed would be a sub-optimal strategy. So I did all of the things you typically do when you’re that special combination of nervous and anxious. Nervious? I re-read the job application to search for scraps of handy ideas to prepare. What kind of questions would the interviewer ask? Could I use an old list of questions to ask in an interview again? Oh shit, I’d already spent ten minutes picking the guy’s brain about the position a month back. Had I asked those questions then? Would he remember? Did my breath smell too much like tuna? Should I brush my teeth? Did I need to shit? Why was my mouth dry? Should I drink more water? Was I wary of drinking too much and having to pee during the interview? Could I just bring a drink bottle into the interview anyway? How many copies of my CV did I need to print out? What if there was someone with him in the interview? Wait, what did he actually mention when I talked to him a month back? Were there any things I felt I should take heed of from that previous meeting? Who schedules an interview for 4.15pm?

Interview went fine. It was also a minute’s walk away from my desk, so that was handy. I had decent answers for all of his questions. I didn’t oversell myself, but confidently stated my abilities and admitted faults (that honestly did fit the role). I talked about previous positions and how they’d help. I asked about what he was seeking from an employee and felt I represented the answers he gave. I asked a couple of questions he had to think about, which prompted further discussion. All in all, I think I did as well as I could. Whether or not I get a follow up interview will depend on whether I match what he’s looking for.

Then with ten minutes left in the workday, I messed around on the internet then left.

I’m still messing around on the internet.