Lox and keys

It turns out that at a point, you hit a wall with smoked salmon.

Let me elaborate. The morning after Saturday’s wedding (traditionally known as both Sunday Morning, and “easy like”), there was an arranged brunch at a nearby hotel. It was fantastic, and interesting. People who we’d previously seen at the wedding were visible in the light of day. That same assortment of characters, who had no other reason to ever be in the same room, filled a hotel banquet room. Naturally, for a hotel banquet. There were poached eggs with hollandaise, salads, bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs, bagels, fruit, pastries and, as mentioned, smoked salmon. Given the quantities of alcohol consumed the night prior, everyone was in mildly rough shape, and eager for a big feed. Having had virtually no appetite for the past few days due to sickness, I was in an ideal situation. I piled my plate high with meats and bread, packing my stomach like an apocalypse prepper before Y2K. While many cradled their heads in their hands, I bobbed up and down in my seat, happily chewing on animal, vegetable and dough based foods alike.

We had a five plus hour drive ahead of us post brunch. Our car was all packed up, we were going straight from the open buffet to the open road. I saw my friend/our driver lathering up a bagel with cream cheese. I thought, as is her style, that she was prepping a road meal. It made so much sense. We were at a buffet with gratuitous quantities of food. There was no way that they were in any danger of running out. Why not take some of the ample vittles on offer and make a lunch for the trip? When you thought hard about it, it was frankly wasteful and villainous to do anything but. I would do my solemn, heroic duty and prepare something to eat later. At the same time, I was gonna be subtle, low key and potentially surreptitious about it. For kicks, y’know?

I grabbed two bagel halves, a sachet of cream cheese and a stack of smoked salmon, capers & red onion. If I was to hazard a guess at how tall that salmon stood? Probably around five centimetres high stacked loosely. It might not have been a literal tonne, but it looked like one. I spread the sachet of cream cheese thickly, making sure every inch of each bagel face was covered. I layered the salmon, one sheet at a time. I wanted a tight operation, with a maximised salmon per bite ratio in place. I think I broke the scale. I also tossed two chocolate chip cookies into my lunch bag for a little treat. I wrapped the bagel in two napkins, and stowed it away in a plastic bag that I kept at the side of the table. 20 minutes later, the hotel brought out styrofoam containers for people to take home food. The food had all been paid for, and it was a common occurrence to offer leftovers in cases such as these. Clearly, my heroic and not at all self-interest based plan was nothing out of the ordinary.

We brunched around 11am. I think I finally got hungry just before 6pm. That’s how much I ate at brunch. I unwrapped the bagel and was hit with a salty scent. The bagel had heft, and the normally thin blanket of smoked salmon was instead a virtual steak. It was thick and substantial, having morphed into a solid brick. I took a bite and stopped for a second. I reeled. Amassed in such a quantity, it tasted like biting into pure brine. My body bristled. It’s not like the salmon wasn’t tasty, but holy hell it was intense. I think there’s a reason why it’s treated like a delicacy, because it’s meant to be delicately balanced. When it resembles a burger, there’s nothing delicate or balanced about smoked salmon. It’s an overpowering wall of taste. No room for nuance, it was like being slapped over the tongue with a whole fish. I powered through the entire sandwich, and I believe that my heart is now encased in a salty prison, preserved against the ravages of the elements. It’s what they call a “Love Lox-down”. My life has been divided into two periods, pre and post bagel. If I hear a word against my actions, I’ll decry it as a schmear campaign and deny everything. In my new life I’m emboldened an unrepentant. Born again under a pillar of salt. I am irrevocably changed, and the salmon is to blame.

I mean, mostly I’m to blame, but that doesn’t fit in with my new unrepentant personality, so the finger points to the salmon.

Diet ‘nother day

I ended up writing a novel on a friend’s Facebook post, and figured I might as well toss it up here in case it was useful for others.

I agree many times over with this post, and I have a lot of feelings about the subject.
 
I was a marshmallow of a kid, and it heavily impacted my upbringing. I was incredibly lucky to come from a loving, supportive family. At the same time, my mum had a lot of baggage from her own childhood experiences with weight loss, etc. While her methods at times- likely out of personal frustration- felt tantamount to bullying, that was never her intention. She encouraged me into trying a bunch of diets, sports, and eventually fitness. Most of them didn’t stick, and I’m sure that the issue felt really resonant for her. Fitness had totally changed her life and how she was able to navigate it. Overall she just wanted me to be happy, albeit through her own lens.
 
The thing is, even as a kid I wanted what she wanted, but it felt so out of my reach that it was a constant source of stress and anxiety for me. So many tears and a recurring cycle of self-doubt. You’re 1000% right that we’re inundated with these messages of what we “should” look like, etc, and it’s next to impossible to decipher what we actually want vs what society tells us that we want.
 
After a childhood of trying again and again, realistically exercise and a better understanding of nutrition didn’t really start to take for me until I was around 20. I get how hard all of this is, because it’s been such a focus and point of contention for my entire life. It impacted how I thought people saw me, and having been on both sides, it absolutely changes how people treat you.
 
That’s what I hate most about all of it. I’ve always been the same person, irrespective of what I looked like, but it’s unavoidable to say that people were a lot kinder to me once I lost weight. People who literally wouldn’t give me the time of day before would only be too happy to have a conversation. It’s fucking abysmal how society treats those who don’t fit into a myopic standard, and I don’t have words for how furious it still makes me. There’s no reason for this kind of othering. It’s fucking shameful how society not only tolerates it, but is also complicit in furthering this mentality.
 
In saying all of this, as much as I was dragged kicking and screaming into it, ultimately mum was right. Understanding more about nutrition, and keeping active, has changed my quality of life. Weight loss, personally, was a big part of this. Who am I kidding? Of course it’s been nice to be able to dress in certain ways that weren’t accessible otherwise. It has made being active a lot less of a burden than it had been. I’d grown up straight-up believing that nobody would ever be attracted to me, and it’s inextricable to discern whether this was from how I looked or the confidence the weight loss gave me. It hasn’t remotely made me a better person, or changed who I am inside, but it has allowed me to understand my body in ways I otherwise would not have.
 
I would hope that my achievements (and they have been achievements, because they’ve involved many years of hard work and personal intention) wouldn’t diminish others’. I would hate to think that people would feel bad because of self-motivated decisions I made. It also sucks to feel like I can’t talk about things that have been a massive part of my personal journey. I would hate to make people feel shitty and ultimately, if talking about it means that others would, it’s worth not talking about it every time.
 
I do not for a second believe that anyone’s value is tied to the way they look. I also know that it was incredibly difficult for me for a long time, and it’s only been the last couple of years that I’ve been able to learn that self-compassion and understanding is far more important than numbers, etc. The scale does not matter whatsoever, it’s how you feel in your body.
 
My biggest takeaway from all of my experiences is that they didn’t matter- and changes didn’t happen- until I decided that I was actually doing it for myself. That’s a really hard place to get to, and when people talk about their struggles, trust me I get it. Of course I only have my personal, able-bodied, cis male experiences to go on and I’m not professing to be an expert. Still, a lot of those feelings are universal. It beyond sucks to be made to feel negative about yourself because of others’ expectations. I wish so deeply that society would stop judging and punishing people for how they look, but I’m also realistic about how long it takes society to change. It’s probably not gonna happen in any of our lifetimes.

I’m sure Maurice is actually really nice in real life

I’ve been taking a week off weed.

It made sense to me. I don’t think weed has been causing serious issues in my life, but since legalisation I’ve definitely noticed my usage creeping up incrementally. Having a vape has made it far too convenient. If I can smoke inside (to avoid the wind chill), and have nothing important to do, it’s been hard to find an excuse not to. Watching a movie is great, but do you know what’s better? Watching a movie high. It’s been nice having a small smoke and going to the gym. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, it’s a swell way to get in touch with my body and figure out where certain exercises have an impact. If I’ve had a smoke I’ll always refrain from lifting heavy, and instead focus on movement standards. Is my form good? Where am I feeling muscle tension? Is that where I should be feeling it? If not, adjust. Stretching feels so much better, and I get less antsy about starting my workout. It makes me actually take the time to stretch properly, and refrain from injury. I love snacking, but it’s even better high. Playing Magic is fun, but drafting nonsense while high is also a ton of fun. Wanting to be social, but not keen on drinking a lot? Weed has definitely helped to cut down my consumption. I can’t remember the last hangover I had, and that gives me no small amount of joy.

So yeah, the above stuff is great, but I figure it’s quite alright taking a break from things you love. In the past I’ve done non-alcohol stretches. A month off here, three months off there. I even did a six month period without booze. I’m no stranger to cold turkey scenarios, and I kind of like testing my mettle to see how I do without certain substances. It means something to me knowing that I have the discipline to cut something out if it potentially could be problematic. So far, no weed has been easy. I did the simple task of taking my vape from the top of my dresser and putting it in a box where I keep my supplies. All of ten centimetres behind the vape’s usual resting spot. It was a tiny, but meaningful change. I look at it in the box and think I put it there for a reason, and the reason was not to. So I don’t. Simple as that. I’ve heard before that weed isn’t physically addictive, and I get it. Scenarios have come up where I’d rather be smoking, but it’s been nada big deal. The vape stays in the box.

Have I seen benefits yet?

It seems far too early to tell. Obviously if I’m not smoking, I’m mentally sharper. No question. That’s not to say that weed puts me into a state of idiocy, but I’d surprise nobody by saying that I’m more alert sober. I think I sleep better when I smoke, and wake up more refreshed. When I don’t, I dream far more intensely. They’re more evocative and narrative. I can remember them better. I’ve always been a vivid dreamer, and it’s nice to refresh my memory on what that feels like. Last night, for instance:

I dreamt that I was on Big Brother. I don’t watch Big Brother. There was some contest going, and I totally didn’t get the rules. Contestants were running around rugby fields with foam chunks strapped to them, holding either ducks or little pigs. The handlers were telling me to hurry up and join in, and I kept saying that I didn’t know how the game worked. Could someone explain it to me? They sighed, as if it was really fucking obvious, and showed me this video. It didn’t make sense to me. I had three choices, but I didn’t understand what the objective was. I could choose the duck, the pig or the third option. I was getting frustrated, and tearing up as they started yelling at me. “I don’t watch the show, it’s not my fault” I kept saying. “Just fucking choose one” the handler said. I thought for half a second and decided on the mystery option. Everyone gasped. “Why would you choose that?” The handler asked. “Well” I said “I’ve fed ducks before and they pecked really hard. I don’t want to run with something that might attack me. I’d feel really bad if I dropped a pig, and nobody seems to have chosen option three, so I will.” The handler nodded solemnly and told me to follow. “I guess you’re gonna meet Maurice then.” He said. I followed him into this dank barn. Rotten fruit and vegetables covered the ground. I felt something under my foot, and a lizard scuttled away. Flies were everywhere. Behind a gate was this raging bull, held back by a group of guys. “Uhh, isn’t this really dangerous for someone untrained?” I asked. The handler nodded. “Why do you think nobody ever picks it?” I felt entirely terrified, and suddenly everything cut away. A promo for the episode started playing. It talked all about the wacky hi-jinks of the other players, and a “heart-pounding, nail biting new experience for Leon.” I woke up having no idea what the game was, or how I did, but the worst thing was that I really wanted to watch the episode.

I dunno, I’ve seen a couple of Big Brother episodes for work. I don’t think even being high could make it an entertaining show.

Hear today, gone tomorrow

I had the best New Years.

It’s a declarative statement, and I’ll stand by it. My New Years featured nothing but fun, excess, and comfort. I basked in the warmth of intimate friendships, easily digestible films, and digesting food easily. At around 5am, after a kick ass costume party, I headed off to another friend’s penthouse apartment downtown. She has a massive deck, open plan lounge, and lots of sheets/mattresses in front of a big bedroom TV. There was ample food, booze and weed. Whatever needs I had, they were simple to tend to. Lots of cuddles and even more laughter. My girlfriend and I could nap haphazardly, or join in conversations as we pleased. We stuck around watching movies and getting collectively H O R N Y over Brendan Fraser in George of the Jungle. We continued the Fraser Festivities with Blast from the Past, and tossed on Mulan for good measure.

I couldn’t get over how many conversations I had about music. There was a tablet hooked up to speakers/Spotify, so all day we shared tracks and playlists. It made me remember how integral music used to be in my life. I was constantly searching out new artists and albums. I’d see live concerts all the time, and a significant portion of my income went into maintaining that. I had nuanced opinions on what my most treasured songs meant to me, and considered it important that I did. Friends shared some of their favourites from the past decade, and I felt a longing to jump head first back into caring about music like I once did.

It makes sense. Last year my iPod broke. I didn’t replace it for months, which meant less music and more podcasts/DJ sets. I moved away from keeping up, and disregarded a ton of new releases. The fact that both Vampire Weekend and Tool released albums last year I barely touched should be more personally significant than it was. Even having my new mp3 player, I just loaded all my old music on. While it’s been nice diving back into the vast back catalogue I have, I’m still thirsty to refresh what I listen to while out and about. It’s time to download the albums I’ve accumulated on my Deezer shortlist. It’s also the start of the year, an ideal period to comb through critics’ Best Of lists in a hunt for new favourites. While I hate New Years resolutions, I would like to see more live music in 2020 than I did in 2019. It enables parts of my personality that feel lost, awaiting reawakening.

I also realised how important it is to me that people are comfortable in my presence. At the New Years party I was chatting with someone in a hallway (prime party hangout spaces second only to kitchens), and I mentioned that I just want people to feel comfy always. I didn’t realise at the time that it applies a ton to how I conduct myself. I’m always trying to do things for others, take care of people in their own homes, etc. Later in that party, I saw one of my friends getting buffed across the room. I was sitting on a couch chatting to people. Concurrently, part of my brain was wanting to help her get the best out of her experience. She was sitting up, the sheet that was used to create a barrier between buffer and skin was being poorly applied. I was ready to shout out and give guidance, and I stopped myself. My friend is an intelligent, grown woman with agency. She was free to do whatever she wanted. While my intentions were good (knowing she has back problems, I wanted her to feel as good as possible), I wasn’t doing anything for anyone with my interference. I was needlessly getting involved in a scenario that had nothing to do with me, and distracting my brain from its current conversation in the mean time. Of course it’s great to take care of people when that’s desired, but I think I’d be wise to pull back a bit. Maybe it’s time to learn when my help is actually desired, and stop wasting so much brain space on pointless involvement.

NYE 2020 stuck the landing. Let’s see how the year measures up.

A capital idea, old chap

Black Friday is coming up on Friday, and I have nothing left to buy.

Don’t worry, I’m not posing this as a problem. I’m also not gloating. In the past few months, since I got my new job, I’ve been purchasing things almost non-stop. I’m earning more now, and part of that means I feel comfortable upgrading items that’ve languished over the years. I was doing fine before, I wasn’t suffering for income, but I wasn’t at a place where I felt okay about buying bigger ticket non-necessities. Let’s take my computer speakers for instance. A few years back they kind of stopped working. Like, they still produced sound, but the left speaker would cut out periodically. Sometimes for 10-15 minutes, sometimes for a few months. I could still hear audio, so technically they were running, but it was a disappointing way to experience all of my favourite media. Not a tragedy, but ultimately sub-optimal. It felt wasteful to buy something new unnecessarily, so I put up with them for literal years. When I got my first pay check, speakers were the first thing I bought. Decent ones. $200 or so speakers instead of the refurbished $30 I bought first time around. The idea was to get quality goods, treat them well and hopefully have products that would last for years. The “buy it once” policy. Of course that’s a pipe dream in today’s built to fail environment, but at least if I could get two channels of working audio (that sounded great), it’d be a vast improvement.

I bought a bike. That was a big cost. I didn’t realise that getting a bike committed me to buy so many other things. Once I had a bike I needed a helmet. I had to get a heavy duty lock to make sure nobody took it. I needed reflective patches. I needed a front and back light, one for vision, the other for visibility. Plus a tune up and other little trinkets. Getting the bike running was a serious investment (but then again, each month I don’t buy a TTC pass saves me $140 or so), and I was in a position where I could spend a little more on solid gear.

That wasn’t all. My beloved iPod broke a few months back (as they do. I think this was my fourth or fifth one in the past 12 years). It was gonna cost almost $500 to fix, which seemed unreasonable. So I was in the market for a new mp3 player. I did a ton of research, waffled between options and eventually got myself something decent. Once I had a new mp3 player however, it dawned on me that I could get a new earbud option in lieu of my wonderful m50x headphones. The headband had been broken for the better part of two years. Like the speakers, they still produced audio (and still do. Damn fine audio at that). Until I was earning more, it seemed wasteful to get something new when they were only an issue while I was being active. Sure, they’d slide down my face when I ran, or did pull ups, bench presses, deadlifts, squats, or anything where I wasn’t strictly vertical, but I could manually adjust them as I went. Why neglect something that mostly did its job? In the past week, I bought new bluetooth earbuds. They’re great for biking. They’re cordless, so they’ll be less intrusive at the gym or running. Their sound isn’t quite as great as the m50x, but those can be used while I’m stationary or in transit.

What I’ve realised now, is that I don’t need new stuff, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I still live in a capitalist society, and I’ve wondered what happens to all those other people who buy everything they need. I realised, it’s insidious. You don’t “need” new things, much like I didn’t “need” most of the things I bought, but you have the option of greater convenience and that’s where money goes. Money allows us to cast aside discomfort in favour of ease. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time until I get a new computer. That’s not ridiculous, it’s seven years old by this point. What comes next? Will I decide that it’s finally time to get a lounge television option? Or buy matching sets of plates/bowls/cups? Maybe we’ll get tired of the usable, but ratty couch. Or perhaps we’ll want nice art options for our walls. Would any of this stuff be necessary? Hell no, but that’s how capitalism works. If you’re not buying things for validation or comfort, what’s the point? What else am I supposed to do? Save so I can buy something bigger like a house? I’m a millenial. We both know that’s not gonna happen.

They don’t do Black Friday deals on those.

Technically is all of their meat blade steak?

I’ve got nothing, so let’s get it over with.

Unpopular opinion, I think macaroons are grossly more enjoyable than macarons. The texture has just the right combination of crunch and chewability. The chocolate bottom is a wonderful treat, and the cherry tops it all off. Macarons make me feel guilty for eating them, I feel like I’m engaging in some form of class betrayal, and there’s no way I can eat more than one or two without feeling like I’m somehow committing a social faux pas. Macaroons don’t judge, they’re just delicious and morish. In fact, they’re the kind of food that grandmothers demand you endlessly gorge on, which is even better. Macarons taste like condescension. I’ll still eat a macaron, but the experience is significantly less enjoyable than eating a macaroon.

I can’t believe discourse is still flying around on this “Ok Boomer” catchphrase. Lots of disgruntled tweets from incensed folks claiming it’s discrimination or ageism. Funnily enough, the people that are offended are probably likely offenders. As far as I understand, Ok Boomer isn’t about shitting on people older than you, it’s a response from generations of older folks who dismiss what younger folks say without actually listening to what they’re saying. Catchalls like “you’ll understand when you’re older” or whatnot. It’s weird, because Ok Boomer isn’t rallying against age, it’s rallying against ignorance. It’s about people blaming millennials for thing after thing, instead of taking a look at the legacy of their generations economic decisions and how they flowed down to following generations. It’s about people who hold rigidly to outmoded ideas of how the world once was, instead of actually considering that times have changed. It’s a response to endless comments beginning with “why don’t you just…” followed by unrealistic standards of how things work in 2019. “Pounding the pavement” in search of jobs isn’t a thing anymore outside of service industries, and not always in them either.

Tomorrow I’m going to a Brazilian steakhouse with friends to celebrate a birthday. My friend’s birthday, not mine. I’m pumped. I haven’t been out for a nice meal in a while, and too few of my restaurant meals involve meat on swords. In fact, people approaching me with meat on swords is damn near my ideal. Even if it were to result in me getting stabbed or murdered, if I got killed by something I dearly love, I think that’s a piece of humble pie I could swallow. Just think, a blade pierces your heart, while the scent of beautifully spiced meat wafts up to your nostrils. You slump forward, and your face lands on a tender portion of steak pushed right up to the hilt. Just saying, there’s not a 100% chance this won’t be the outcome of tomorrow’s meal. If that’s the case, I think I’ll go gently into that good night with a smile on my dial.

Someone told me their salad is typically really good too. Weird, but great.

A spoon full of sugar lacks caffeine

What weird things do you eat?

I ask this, having just cut off a slab of cheese and slathering Marmite all over it. NZ Marmite, the strong, sticky, tangy stuff. The best stuff. I do love bold flavours, and this informs my oft peculiar eating habits. It’s well known by this point that I love kimchi, and will eat it at most any juncture (writing this reminded me to stand up and get some from the fridge. Good zing in this batch. I’ve got this habit of keeping the liquid from one batch and tipping it into the next one. Like a sourdough starter. It’s paying off). I’ll have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, afternoon tea, pre or post dessert, pre or post drinking, pre or post workout, probably even pre or post nuptial agreement. I’m not saying there’ll be a kimchi cake at my wedding, but I’m also not not saying that.

I had a bunch of odd eating habits as a kid. I’ve mentioned peanut butter and cheese before, but I don’t think it’s possible to mention it enough. Texturally, it was this bizarre gummy and gooey delight. Savoury, salty flavours enmeshing in a strange almost taffy-like concoction. Peanut butter just goes with things. I used to have peanut butter on celery, which I later learned was almost Ants on a Log. When I got hungry around dinner, mum would often give me a salted, peeled carrot. I haven’t tried peanut butter and carrot, and I don’t know that I will any time soon. However, if someone happened to tell me it works (peanut butter and pickle anyone?) and ate it themselves, I’d maybe have a taste. Life’s too short not to try new things.

For a long time, I was very successful at keeping only trace amounts of snack food in the house. These days, I’m less successful. We have chips, chocolates, cookies and popcorn hanging around the house. I try. Oh my god do I try. I get real cravings for sweet stuff, and it’s a challenge not to give in. As an avoidance technique, peanut butter and jam on a rice cake has become my go-to non-kimchi late night snack. I know how bad it’s gotten when I’ve been desperate. Digging into jars of dulce de leche with spoons and shit. Eating fistfuls of chocolate chips. I think I’ve even dug into old, old cereal.

For a while, after purchasing a jar of crappy instant coffee and discovering that my plan of nutella based mochas wouldn’t work, I tried a different tack. I’d just cover a spoon in nutella, then dip it in the instant coffee. That was a punch to the brain. Sugar, caffeine and desperation make one hell of a combo.

Speaking of which, I think it’s time I visited the bathroom. I’ve got a lot swirling around in there.