A goth damn delight.

Turns out social contact was the best remedy medical science had in its arsenal. For the first time in many moons, I left home after the cover of darkness in order to be conversational. My girlfriend’s mate was throwing a goth themed 28th birthday. It was foolproof. If at worst I ended up wallowing in a corner over social paralysis, at least I’d be on theme.

I pulled (literally) on some pleather pants I’d found at a costume sale and a black long sleeved shirt. Dabbed gel in my hair for the best imitation of an emo fringe I could manage (working with limited resources here) and got my girlfriend to apply some serious eye liner. She dolled up with all black finery, a grey cincher with purple highlights and pitch perfect makeup. Some, in her words, “skull contouring” was dead on brand. One Instagram later, we were ready to leave.

Arriving, it was obvious what a goofy application of theme it was. Marilyn Manson videos on the TV, tea light candles and black balloons everywhere. The catering was delightfully all kid’s party food: Cheetos, chips, faux marshmallow bananas, pretzels and taffy filled candy cones. I grabbed a beer and took a seat, squeaking as I did. I had a non-zero fear of self-combustion, the inner thighs of my pleather pants rubbing back and forth against each other loudly. Once again, dying at a goth party would only increase my street cred.

It was the kind of company you want at a party. Easy conversationalists, never strained or awkward. Everyone was friendly and seemed genuinely inquisitive. I chatted with a dude who’d just moved into the city about the struggles of getting settled. A gal educated me about the horrific treatment of the native population and how it hasn’t yet been put in the past. Did you know that medical professionals have been trying to coerce native women into forced sterilisation? Not 20 years ago, but as recent as 2013? I chatted about accents and cultural differences, the strange approach and almost blind acceptance of celebrity spokespeople. I leaned about demands placed on teachers these days, how smart phones in class not only hinder, but often aid learning. There was fluid back and forth and it was a total joy just to enjoy conversations with strangers.

Then the night hit its peak with a rousing game of Pass the Parcel. If you somehow had a shit childhood and never played, Pass the Parcel involves some small token wrapped in 10+ layers of gift wrapping. À la Musical Chairs, music starts and you Pass the Parcel around until it stops. When it does, the person holding it unwraps a layer. If this sounds trite, sometimes there are trinkets or booby prizes between layers. It’s more fun than I’ve let on. In last night’s incarnation there were Kings style mini games. Make a Rule, Wink Murder, Categories, freestyle rap (wrap?) about death. With the right crowd, it was a blast. The lesson to learn is that we’d likely severely improve all of our parties by a factor of 12 if we included the party games of our childhood, yet adapted them for adults. Bobbing for vodka infused apples? Fluffy Bunnies with sips of coolers? I’m sure I’m not the first to think of a Pin the Tail variant with one of those horse hair butt plugs… Consent being the main ingredient of course.

Or does the last sentence prove that I probably have no place hanging around with proper adults?

It’s dark outside. I am likely to be eaten by a grue.

I need to get out of the house. With the exception of the hour and a half I spent going to and from my doctor’s appointment yesterday, I haven’t left the house in over 24 hours. I’m getting bored of myself. I’ve had my butt pretty firmly glued to my computer chair (save getting up for food, water, or drugs), clad in slovenly sweatpants. Feet stuffed in slippers, wearing a bright yellow sweatshirt. I’ve been the perfect picture of comfort, but also the perfect picture of indecision. With the entire information superhighway at my disposal, I could be anywhere doing anything just by surfing the web. Instead I’ve found myself clicking around the same couple of sites, playing Shandalar and flicking through Netflix without watching much of anything. I repeat, I need to get out of the house.

I’m less sick than I was. The constant pressure of my headache has subsided. My throat no longer burns. My nose is still pretty congested, but how’s that different from any other day? It’s past 6pm and I haven’t taken any meds since this morning. Maybe I am on the mend after all. I really should go, even if it’s cold outside. I do weird things when I’m home alone. I pace back and forth from the office and the kitchen without purpose. Scan the fridge or pantry for something to eat, find nothing that I can be bothered making, go back to the office and feel hungry (or bored. Same difference). Occasionally I’ll feel guilty for not having been active, so I’ll try a few handstand push ups. I maybe get to three or so, then lose my balance and guide myself back to the ground. Feeling accomplished, I’ll usually go straight back to being inactive (realising as I do, that this small amount of work doesn’t constitute a workout. I won’t follow it up with more work).

Indoor kid as I am, I’m finding myself longing for spring. Toronto had an oh so brief flirtation with temperatures over zero. Remember last week or so when I got to jog? That was amazing. There are all these new pokémon to catch. So many unused patios citywide that would be ideal for enjoying a beer. Hell, I miss beer. It’s been about five weeks or so since I last drank and I think I’m ready to open up the La Fin Du Monde sitting in the bedroom. I need human connection. The cat may be talkative, but she speaks a lot of garbage. I love my girlfriend, but I don’t want to wear her out. I realised the other day that most of my friends haven’t seen me with a beard, which has been slowly accumulating over the past five weeks. It’s time to put on real clothes and make elaborate hand gestures while conversing.

I didn’t get the interview with Los Campesinos tomorrow, which is both a bummer and a relief at once. I’ve been raring to see this band live since they dropped two outstanding albums in 2008. Getting the chance to meet and chat with a member or two would be amazing. On the other side, I felt a massive amount of dread that I was walking into some kind of trap. What would I be able to say to people I’d respected and looked up to? I was intimidated, as if I’d say a bunch of dumb things and be treated either patronisingly or like I wasn’t worth their time. I was sure they wouldn’t be rude, but that any amount of prep I’d done wouldn’t be enough to, I dunno, have them like me? Don’t meet your heroes encapsulated. It’s silly. I should really have enough self-respect to know that I’d be fine, that I could hold me own, that they’re just Welsh thirtysomethings and I’d probably have fun in the end. Sorry, *would’ve* had more fun in the end. Still, I get to review their sold out show that I’d forgotten to nab tickets for, so all is not lost.

Enough of this whole “typing” thing. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna shower and see what the outside world has to offer.

I’ll be honest, this blows.

Honest Ed’s has closed its doors to the public for the last time. Non-Torontonians would find it hard to understand why the locals are finding it difficult to let go of a run down cheap department store. Hell, by now I’d be considered a local and frankly I’m not entirely sure what I saw in the place. Honest Ed’s was a landmark, not least because of it’s garish, carnival-esque signage. Orange, yellow and white, festooned with an array of flickering light bulbs. Honest Ed’s mantra seemed to be cheap goods at prices to fit. By no means was this a dollar store style enterprise, Honest Ed’s was slightly higher in price and doubtfully higher in quality. It also seemed to be the kind of place that was a rite of passage. No doubt if you were moving out of home for the first time, you’d get your mop, kettle or meat tenderiser from Ed’s. Then the summation of this rite of passage occurred if you managed to find your way out of its labyrinthine corridors. The place was like something out of Greek Mythology, wherein the terror of being trapped was enough to turn your heart to stone. It was enormous and comprised of so many sections. Dinky tourist stuff, kitchen utensils and appliances, children’s toys, exercise equipment, tools and cosmetics. Untrendy clothing galore. Legend says that if you ventured far enough in, there was a hair “salon” hiding out somewhere. There’s nothing you could tell me about the place I wouldn’t believe. Especially if it involved a real life minotaur.

Ed’s didn’t play a large role in my life, but for all the sub-ten times I went, it was memorable. I picked up a handful of things; a vegetable steamer I use most evenings, a sewing kit with a now broken zipper that has become a total nightmare in my ‘assorted’ drawer. The needles have spilled out everywhere and magnetised. The amount of times I’ve pricked myself trying to grab a hammer or Allen key are innumerable. There was the one time my ex and I bought adult diapers from Ed’s, but that’s a whole entry in itself.

This weekend has become a celebratory funeral for the store. A festival of art and local culture winding through the expansive lot. Friday evening held a craft beer guided tour. There have been farmers markets and trade bazaars going on over the past couple of days. Last night was the much anticipated closing party, complete with a mass of DJs, lighting and decoration. I’m not sure how that went, it sold the fuck out and last minute tickets could scarcely be found. I’m not bitter. Much.

My girlfriend and I explored the art maze yesterday, which was stupendous fun. Ranging from the pretentious to the weird, funny and stunning, it was an awesome send-off. As huge as I always thought the complex was, having the back rooms and offices open really helped widen my eyes to its gargantuan presence. Two separate buildings, four floors each, none of which seemed to link in a coherent fashion. Having a critical mass of art around helped disguise the fact that you were really just wandering blindly until you emerged into sunlight. Graffiti was openly encouraged and a ton of the pieces were interactive (like the light harp, an instrument you placed by running your hands through beams of light. As nifty as it sounds). A few exhibits involved creepy dolls, some of which were animatronic. Music, dance, scripted performance (including a fun piece about the last standing employee, written by a friend of mine). An array of kitch, as well as heartfelt tribute., To top it all off, it was catered by Collective Arts Brewing.

Soon the space will all be torn down for condos and another weird bump in Toronto’s history will be beaten into conformity. The Annex is being annexed. So it goes. Anyway, I’m off to go steam some veggies.

If I had one hand in my pocket, I wouldn’t have been in this mess.

I got this new shirt type thing. It’s great. I don’t know how to classify it, but sometimes neat things are beyond clarification. It’s long sleeved. Too thin to be considered thermals, but warm enough. At the same time it’s incredibly well ventilated. Merino. Seems tailor made for outdoorsy pursuits like hiking or jogging. It has a zipped pocket, something I’m always keen on. Weird thing though, the zip is on the back of the shirt. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no loon. I know how shirts work. I’m also savvy on the front to back orientation of how  labels in the neck area work. With the label on the back on my neck, the pocket is still on the back of the right hand side of the shirt. It’s odd. As it happens, it’s also useful for things like hiking or jogging. Over the past two days, weather in Toronto jumped from minus ten to ten above zero. Jogging was a viable pastime, and with the Pokémon Go update, I had more reason, if ever I needed any, to get out and jog. That and using the shirt.
Turns out the pocket was perfectly suited to a house key and debit card. Despite running at speed, I never felt them bouncing against my back, the pocket held them fast. I zipped around, catching new Pokémon and rebooting the app every couple of minutes, just like last summer. It felt freeing to get out and remember what outdoor cardio was like. An unusual scenario for mid February in Toronto, but so welcome. I was stoked for my feet to be hitting the pavement, to build up a sweat, controlling my breathing as my heart rate rose. My muscles pushing, pulsing to keep up speed.
Still tired from yesterday, this morning’s jog was cut short. I was tired and jogging seemed more something to work back into than hit the ground… jogging? I got maybe twenty minutes in and began to make a bee-line for home. I noticed a large cardboard box that someone had left outside their home. It was filled with used pans, baking trays and chopping boards. I’d been looking for a sturdy plastic board so I snatched it up and headed home. Walking the steps to my front door, I reached around for my pocket. It was open. I put my hand in to check. Debit card? Still there. Front door key? Absent. Bummer. I could hardly blame the pocket, could I? I sighed and mentally retraced my steps. Friends were coming over in an hour to play Magic. At least I had my phone, but with no access to my house, I’d find it hard to invite them inside. I sighed again and physically retraced my steps.
I walked slowly, casting my gaze around. I thought positively. The key was gaudily leopard patterned, something I thought was dumb when my friend had it carved, by turned out to be a great way to find it in a cluster of silver keys. Or, y’know, the footpath. I thought negatively. What if I’d already passed it and the further I walked, the more distant I was getting? I crossed the street from my house, turned a corner, crossed another street, turned another corner, crossed another street. I began to despair before chastising myself. The worst that could happen would be going to a friend’s house sweaty and waiting for my girlfriend to finish work. Really nothing worth being worried over. Plus I had a phone, debit card and shoes. Also my shirt had a pocket! I was set. I lifted my head to see my key right in the middle of a busy intersection. Perfect.
So I ended the day with a new chopping board, a pretty roughed up house key and a valuable lesson on how not to use the pocket on my weird shirt type thing. All before lunch time.

In other words, failing to work against type.

I’ve spent the last half hour staring at my screen, finding nothing but weak excuses not to write. I could’ve spent that half hour writing about weak excuses not to write and then I’d have the next half hour to do whatever I wanted. So for the next half hour, I’m gonna list weak excuses not to write:

  • I need to find things other than the Guardians of the Galaxy 2 villain that look like Cee Lo’s grammy outfit.
  • 11 minutes having passed since I last opened the fridge, looked around, was tempted by a swig of pineapple juice but instead closed the door and walked back to my computer. I mean, I could’ve at least picked up some water or something. I should probably go check again in case something has changed.
  • Combing through GP Pittsburgh’s top 32 to find at least one deck that wasn’t BG Constrictor, Mardu Vehicles or Copy Cat combo. Whoops, not gonna happen (though seeing Gonti get its time in the sun was some good time).
  • Ignoring the terrible dialogue and gratuitous CW style cheesecake to watch what’s quickly becoming a pretty well crafted teen drama; Riverdale. Oh wait, no new episode until next Friday.
  • Scrolling through Twitter to see people talk about The Grammys, so I can get worked up about an increasingly irrelevant award ceremony that may as well be called the Golden Lobes, vestigial as they are. Also I’m the asshole here. They’re not targeted towards me, why should I give a shit?
  • Meowing back at the cat, who keeps meowing loudly at me like I understand what she’s saying. C’mon cat, can’t you just speak human like the rest of us? Such an intolerant animal.
  • Reading Clickhole headlines out loud at my girlfriend, who’s trying to do her own mindless internet browsing. Then when she’s finally focused in on what she was reading before I so rudely interrupted with my emotional bid, read another one at her.
  • Checking on the pantry, in case it held something alluring that the fridge couldn’t match. Do I ever really need to have something to put marmite on? Or can spoons suffice?
  • Looking around at the many projects I said I’d start before getting distracted. Procrastinating through procrastinating about things I’ll inevitably procrastinate about again? Maybe later.
  • Buying Hindenburg Journalist recording software (tailor made for podcasting) for no good reason other than it’s absurdly cheap right now ($1.90 for World Radio Day instead of $80+). I have Pro Tools. Why would I ever need this?
  • Checking to see if any of my Facebook comments got more likes (even though I have the tab open and I can clearly see that they haven’t).
  • Trying to figure out a wittily worded Facebook post about Cee Lo’s GotG2 Grammy’s outfit.
  • Seeing others do it better.
  • Crying about it.
  • Cheering up once I realised half an hour had passed and so had my daily writing.
  • Finishing without so much as a snappy conclusion.

Why do they call it an ice axe and not a chillax?

It’s finally happened. The ground is covered in layer upon layer of super cold water, drifting down from the sky for hours on end. For what feels like the first time this year, we have a bonafide blanket of snow. This early in the season there’s a novelty that overstays its welcome a few months down the line. The footpath is soft and crunchy. There’s a peculiar density that also gives in a comfortable way. It’s my fourth Canadian winter, but the freshness hasn’t quite left. Yet again, I’ll give it some time. Come February I’ll be baying for spring rains. Welcoming snow into my day to day was a massive change in perspective. There was a bunch to relearn about logistics and the navigation. Context being that I hadn’t dealt with a frozen winter for the first 26 years of my life. For anyone who still doesn’t, here are a few things:

  • Snowfall varies just like rain. Light snow is pleasant. It almost bounces off you. There’s little trouble in simply brushing it off your shoulders. It gets heavy and when it does you’ll know it. Walking becomes more of a trek and you’ve gotta make sure your feet are finding purchase. Snow falls at an annoying angle. I don’t know how it feels for other people, but it seems to zero in on my eye level when looking straight ahead. Even in moderate snowfalls I find myself staring downwards, so as not not to cop eyes full of it.
  • Snow is lovely and fills the streets with a unique wonderment. Ice is a bastard and a half. Remember what I said about feet finding purchase? There’s no easier way to crack your tailbone than by not paying attention to where you’re walking. I figure I’m lucky, but so far I’m batting around one slip per season. It’s pretty fucking dangerous and bizarre to think that the simple act of strolling down the street could quite easily injure you. Bruises for days.
  • Because of the above, shovelling snow is more important than you’d think. I’m not sure about other cities, but in Toronto it’s the duty of the resident to keep their footpaths clear. We got a warning notice from the council last year because we hadn’t shovelled our footpath for a day or two. In theory I support this. In practice I’d been at my girlfriend’s for a day and a half. I couldn’t do anything without being there, y’know? You want to have a decent shovel. We have some bent, beaten up old piece of shit that lives in our shed. Every year I think of replacing it. Every year I get no further towards action. Thankfully we have a bag full of salt to help out where the shovel fails.
  • I thought salt was curious when I first got here. At supermarkets, etc, they have big ten kilo bags. You cover the footpath and it’ll melt the ice. Works pretty quickly. In the off season you’re assured your daily sodium quota. Or not, it’s in these massive granules, I’m guessing it’s not suitable for cooking.
  • Layering. When it gets cold you’ll start loading on layers. Hat, scarf, gloves. When it gets really cold you’ll add another layer underneath your clothes. Thermal underwear feels like you’re wearing a hug. Then you get to work where there’s central heating. Suddenly you feel like you’re wearing a sauna. Layering. Like John Romero, it’s about to make you its bitch. Commuting is miserable. Wonderful Christmastime, eh?
  • Speaking of which, there’s a magic quality to a winter’s Christmas. Colourful lights dancing off the snowy ground. It has to be seen in person to be felt. As a lifelong curmudgeonly humbugger, Christmas in the cold ain’t so bad. I guess there’s a reason why I’m onto my fourth one.

Avoiding any Schwepping generalisations.

I guess I’ve committed to glitter for the next few weeks. After two showers I managed to de-glamour my skin. A big shave helped clear my fabulous, lush beard and the solid line where my sparklestache used to be. Thankfully most of it was mixed with hair gel, so water was super effective. My body was restored to its natural state, devoid of flair. My clothes on the other hand are still littered with glitter. The inner lapel of my coat ensuring that any beard I grow will attract effervescence like gin seeking Schweppes. Wait, that’s Schweppervescence. My insoles are a canopy of wonder, ready to spread their flashy parasites to socks and floors across Toronto.
Obviously last night was German Sparkle Party. The most magical night of the year, where ravers hole up in a warehouse, garbed in their shiniest apparel. Based on a viral video from 2009, the event poses several questions: Do you German Sparkle Party? Do you like to dancey dance? Do you wear your rubber boots? Have you got your party pants? If the answer to any/all of these questions is a resounding yes, there’s no better place to be. Costumes are an exercise in excess. I’d kitted myself out in some rainbow blacklight leggings I bought in the UK, plus a glittery silver bodysuit I found at H&M. I’d rubbed the hair gel glitter mix all down my arms and through my beard, with a few sparkles around my eyes for good measure. Most attendees rode the spectrum between ridiculous and absurd. Simply walking around the event to look at people’s get ups was a blast. So much shiny wear, sequins and clothing fit for an ice skating routine. Blacklight duds out in full force. Body paint, LEDs and glitter over everything. It’s as much farcical as it is fantastic in every sense of the word.
As with all events thrown by the I Love Promise group, the douchebag quotient is bordering on zero. Everyone seems to be pretty friendly, there for the experience, not to make a dick of themselves. There was the essential photo booth, vendors with home made trinkets and jewellery, smoothie and food stands (with free dates/goldenberries) and a cash bar. One of the surprising winners on the night came from MiniPong. They’d set up a bunch of tiny ping pong tables, all with a stack of lollipops lying around the net. If anyone wanted to take a break from dancing to go pong (verbing it) some balls around, they could. My girlfriend and I had a blast trying to maintain some semblance of a good volley, failing 90% of the time. It brought up the very serious question of whether we’re willing to take this to the next level? Could we commit to getting a net and paddles to convert our kitchen table? God only knows. It was a neat side event at a huge sensory experience.
Having done my fair share of dancing at the work party one day prior, I dabbled with dancing for short periods. To be honest, the first two DJs weren’t quite hitting the right beat for me. Super bassy, but lacking many interesting flourishes or samples. By the time the third DJ kicked off at 1.30am, who really did pick up the slack, I was already pretty bushed. Having had a stellar night hanging out with friends (and a surprising number of peripherally attached mates from other communities), my girlfriend and I gapped it around 2.30am or so. Awesome night with lovely people at a grand event.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I need to try exorcise some of my more spirited clothing.