Just a bunch of haw-seplay.

In attempt to warm up my mojo and finally get down to business, I’ve garbed myself in my new donkey onesie and chunky slipper boots. It’s almost 9pm and I have no good reason to not’ve written. I mean well, but it’s all too easy to get distracted by shiny things and when there’s a task at hand, everything but that task glistens alluringly. I wrote the word “alluringly” assuming it wasn’t a real word and I’m kind of disappointed to discover that it is. It sounds clunky, which is peculiar for a modifier to “alluring”. “Alluring” is such an enigmatic and exotic word. It’s shiny, shimmering, splendid. It holds a kind of taboo promise. Seems that little bit naughty. If “alluring” was the suave dude you went home with, “alluringly” would be his Ed Hardy laden wardrobe. Those two letters do nothing but taint the potential of all that came before. “Alluringly” are The Matrix sequels. “Alluringly” is realising 16 years later that Lucas was actually a pretty shit director. Jar Jar Binks is the poster child of “alluringly”.

“Alluringly” was the rigid side dish regime at The Rooster Rotisserie and Grill on Bloor. Don’t get me wrong, the portions were gargantuan. The food was delicious. Service (though pushy for a bewildered newbie) was quick and the prices were good for the meal size. There are a heap of side dishes, but their policy is so inflexible. You get two side dishes with a combo, no complaints there. I saw the beetroot and thought how my poop hadn’t been noxiously red in a while, so I picked it. As the woman behind the counter started heaping it on, I realised just what a commitment that much beetroot was. I asked if she could possibly give me a third of that and a small amount of broccoli instead of what had amounted to around three large beetroots. Nope. No way. Two side dishes, no mixing. I’m not blaming them, I’m just complaining because I’ve built my own soapbox here. I understand their policy in theory, but they’ve also opted for a separatist movement between foods. You get two mammoth amounts (in that they’d each feed a mammoth) of individual vegetables. There is no “steamed vegetables” option or selection based on rough grouping. So I had a generously sized pork chop flanked by mountains of potatoes and beetroot. “Alluring” was the sight of the plate beforehand. “Alluringly” is my body figuring out how to process all that starch.

If I wasn’t entirely explicit, I’d still fully recommend this place if you have a massive appetite and want to eat a lot of a few things.

On the contrary, I don’t have a large appetite right now, but that isn’t stopping me from wanting to eat a lot of a lot of things. Due to insufficient planning, it’s one of those Friday nights where I’m tooling around on the internet in lieu of meaningful human interaction. Please don’t think I’m complaining. You wouldn’t believe how much stuff there is to do on the ‘net (as kids these days call it. In my day we just said Information Superhighway for short). I’ve got Netflix, a ton of games and so many unread stories on r/NoSleep. While I’m doing all this (ALL OF IT) though, I want stuff to nibble on. Something cold like ice cream or maybe wobbly like jelly. There’s chocolate around the house, but I’ve got this sneaking suspicion that if I have some of the chocolate there’ll be less in the house once I’ve finished. What if I want chocolate another time and there’s none to be had? I don’t think I wanna live that kind of dystopian existence. So the idea of eating chocolate, while alluring, is appearing more alluringly by the second.

Because of course I’d have no skin. I don’t know how you do it.

I wouldn’t bet on any cohesion today. So with that out of the way, let’s get into it.

As a teenager I resented that I wasn’t a good enough artist to masturbate to my own sketches (oh, and if you’re reading this mum, hi!). I’d look at boobs in T-shirts and think that doesn’t seem so complicated. IT WAS. My first mistake would always be starting with circles. Silly teenager, boobs look like teardrops, not circles. There was also that thing where boobs in a tight shirt would have these three or four parallel lines. Never in my teen years (or let’s face it, still) could I figure out how those lines sat. Was it something to do with nipples? Or certain shapes of bra? No fucking idea. I didn’t even bother trying to draw labia. I’d have as much luck as if I were blindfolded sketching an Escher. I persisted with my drawings of women and consistently had no idea of proportions. I’d scribble away on little pads, pages ripped from books. Then I’d get shitty that I wasn’t better, scrunch my drawings into paper balls and aim for three-pointers into the rubbish. This was a two step process, since I was about as skilled at basketball as I was with a pencil. I’m probably lucky I couldn’t free my own porn. What reason then would I have to leave my room? Once they pried open the sticky cumwebs sealing the door, they’d see a skeleton amongst pages of lewd, oddly proportioned drawings of Cameroon Diaz. Nobody deserves to walk in on that.

Listening to The Strokes today cast my mind back to one of my university projects. We had sub ten minute mini-docos to make. Our group went with my idea to look at online gaming and the rise of virtual communities. I remember so clearly believing that I wasn’t going in with an agenda, but with the benefit of retrospection it’s easy to see just how biased I was. I think the big pull to make the video in the first place was this short montage I’d envisioned in my brain based on The Strokes’ “The Modern Age”. I had a friend who played World of Warcraft. There’d be a side shot of him sitting down at his computer, a shot from behind as he switched on the screen. There’d be an overhead shot of the CD drive opening and his hand putting in the WoW CD, a shot of the screen opening the game then one from behind of him with the title menu. Then a couple of in-game action shots.

The funny part was how little of it came together. We couldn’t get the top down shot of the CD drive that I wanted, which was my favourite part of the montage. I think we did it at some dumb angle instead. Even sillier was that the game was loaded to his computer. He only needed the CD for installation. The camera also wasn’t configured to tape screens. It recorded those horizontal lines continually scrolling down the screen. Bullheaded, I wasn’t ready to give up on my vision. We made it work and I told myself I’d shot what I’d wanted to shoot.

Then came the bias. A couple of us in the group were gamers and we clearly had an agenda. At this point, online gaming still carried a bunch of stigma. We wanted to put forth that the interaction and camaraderie within online communities helped form meaningful friendships. That while most saw these games as antisocial loner behaviour, they were anything but. We interviewed two of my friends. Our central character played a ton. He had regularly scheduled raids and a bunch of friends in game. Our other character had stopped playing a while back. Thing was, once we’d done our interviews we discovered that the guy who’d quit actually had a much healthier outlook on the game. He’d gotten out because it stopped being fun. He found that a lot of his time involved logging in to mine gold. Not super interactive or exciting, but the economy was important to his ability to play. What was the point in playing a game he didn’t enjoy? He had more than enough other ways to kill time. Our central character, on the other hand, was addicted. He’d forgo other social engagements to log in and leave his character performing mundane activities. He admitted that he wasn’t enjoying the experience as much as he used to, but that he’d sunk so much time and money into it that he felt obligated to keep playing. This really didn’t gel with our hypothesis.

So we took creative license and selectively edited the footage to make it look like the roles were reversed. We “proved” our theory by creating our own truth and in doing so, learned the most important lesson of all: You’re not wrong if it looks like you’re right.

Would Clark Kent drink Supermanischewitz?

It seems that every time I get in touch with friends these days, I’m greeted with an “I haven’t seen you in ages. What is your life now?” It leaves an impression. It’s dawned on me just how much I’ve been withdrawing from so many of my friend groups. If everyone hasn’t seen me, who have I been spending time with? I’m a social guy, it’s somewhat alarming to come to the realisation that I’ve built my own fortress of solitude. Like the theme song of Scrubs, I’m no Superman. I’m also no scrub. What happened?

I’m not drinking at the moment and there’s an easy straight line to draw between the two. Anyone who knows me understands that I have no issue with people drinking. Even while I’m not drinking I have no issue with friends around me imbibing either. Why would I? It does mean that I end up leaving parties a few hours earlier than I would otherwise. The tricky thing is realising the extent of the correlation between fun and alcohol that my mind has constructed. If there’s a promising event coming up that leans heavily upon drinking, it’s hard for my brain to see an outcome where I don’t feel like I’m missing out on 80% of the point. Like watching a film in a foreign language without subtitles So no, I don’t care if my friends are drinking and having a great time, but clearing the obstacle of sobriety out at a public event is commonly too much of a hurdle. Whether or not it’d be necessary to drink, I tell myself it is. So I stay home.

It’s a common cycle that I find myself in every time I cut booze for a while. At some point in the cycle I end up making social contact again (where my friends regard how long it’s been since we last saw each other) and I realise how dumb withdrawing is. Today for instance. It’s Canada Day and it started out with park hangouts. Sneaky drinks in the park got quickly rained out and we headed back to a friend’s place. At first I felt pretty low energy. Sobriety wasn’t the issue. At the start they hadn’t drunk much. It was that my social mechanisms felt rusty. As people settled into a fun day drunk vibe, it oiled my gears and I remembered why I loved hanging out with those folks. It helped too that the group was small. It was manageable. I didn’t have to strain to shout over others or compete with intense energy. It was really pleasant and fun as fuck.

I more recently heard the term misophonia. It’s essentially when particular noises or types of sound work as psychological tics. I have a hard time not listening to everything around me almost all of the time. Little noises pull at my focus and some noises grate on me in a tangible physical manner. Open mouth chewing, for instance. Lip smacking. Cutlery scratching on plates. They’re not just annoying, but mentally intrusive. How is this not off topic? Because noise is a big factor in my sober withdrawal from social spaces. When I’m at a party, I struggle to not listen to multiple conversations at once. When I drink, it numbs this aural hyper-vigilance. It surprisingly becomes easier to focus (as counter-productive as that sounds). Sober, as the hours tick on and everyone rises to a drunken din, I need to tap out at a certain threshold. Drunken, I have a great time being a part of it, no longer susceptible to my audiological encumbrance.

So what’s the answer? Hang out with a few friends at a time? Do short but sweet check ins? Or create social engagements that specifically don’t tie into drinking? Go to museums or something? Or do I source whatever the opposite of a hearing aid is? Wear permanent earplugs? Or cave and develop a coke habit?

Good things happen to those who… wait…

I need to start writing now, otherwise I know how the next half hour will play out. I’ll tab between Facebook, Reddit and Twitter, ostensibly looking for something to write about. Realistically, it’ll be procrastination by any other name. I’ll go to the toilet even if I have no need. Maybe stand there and shake it in case something comes out. I’ll refill my water bottle, even if I’m not thirsty. You can never be too sure. Plus if I have water to drink, that’d justify future procrastibatory toilet trips. I can’t forget the kitchen, because that’d be on the menu big time. There’s nothing like opening a fridge to forage for snacks, finding nothing, then checking the pantry to no avail. Lather, rinse, repeat. Maybe I’d be lucky and find a pickle or something. Cheese would also be a hot ticket item. Realistically I know I’m more likely to leave having consumed a spoon of some spread (be it peanut butter, cottage cheese, honey or marmite). Having completed that noble quest, I’d return to the keyboard and continue refreshing Facebook.

As always, it’s a challenge to put words on the page when there’s nothing urgent or exciting going on. It’s a Friday night and I’m at home with no immediate plans. I’d tried to set up hang out time with friends, but with that having fallen through, the amount of energy I want to put into shaping tonight is minimal. I’m helping friends move a ton of stuff into storage tomorrow, so a big night is less desirable. Plus I’m not drinking until Tough Mudder. Oh, and I’m cutting out bread-y things and most sweets too. Why? Because having fun clearly was overrated. It might seem overkill, but I’ve forever been dreadful at moderation. Saying no in an absolute sense makes it a lot easier than falling prey to my ability to justify eating delicious things purely because they’re delicious. I’m not demonising sugary or fatty foods, just my ability to consistently eat things that aren’t them. SUMMER OF NO FUN IT IS.

Alternatively I could put together a list of things I’d like to do in lieu of “anything fun”. Considering the money I’ll save by not drinking, I could do some rad stuff. A bucket list for the next two and a half months before Tough Mudder, eh? Let’s see what I could get up to…

  • Sleep in a tent. I’ve got a cottage weekend away with friends planned, which’d be a good chance to knock this one off.
  • Go for a long bike ride. I don’t own a bike, but I’d sure they’re easy enough to borrow or rent. I’ve always been interested in biking through the Don Valley parkway. It was a nice walk that looked way more enjoyable on wheels.
  • Flying trapeze. I used to love flying trapeze. The only place I know that offers drop in classes offers them on Fridays at 7pm. It’s a bit of a hike and with work finishing at 5pm, it’d be tight getting there in time. We’ve got summer hours at the moment, which means we can leave early on a Friday. Why not take advantage of it and give it a swing?
  • Improv classes. Well this one’s cheating, ’cause I signed up the other day. I’m taking a weekly class for two months in the hopes that it’ll help me brush up on my front-of-brain skills. I’ve got no illusions of becoming a performer, but there are myriad ways improv skills could help in my everyday life.
  • Cook something special. I have no idea what yet, but this summer is the perfect time to flex my culinary muscles and try a dish I’ve never done before. Something that intimidates me. I could try home made sushi, fresh laksa, make my own ice cream, some kind of extravagant mushroom pasta.
  • Get back into indoor Rock Climbing.
  • Try an epic hike with friends.
  • Rent a car and visit a small town with my girlfriend. Stay in a cute little B&B owned by lovely old people. Desecrate the room with filthy sex.
  • Finally get around to re-watching There Will Be Blood.

Endless opportunity abounds if only I put my mind to it. Or more accurately, if I can stop procrastinating for once.

Creatine? The container is round. They should’ve called it Roundtine!

I remember first hearing about supplement use for fitness. One of my friends was talking up these creatine pills he’d started taking for his workouts. At the time, “creatine” sounded like the purest marketing term that existed. What does it do? IT’S A CONDUIT FOR CREATION. Or something of the like. In whatever his science speak translated to in the mind of my 20 year old self, it sounded like creatine enabled his body to be able to push 10% beyond its normal limits. It sounded like a super power. It also sounded like cheating. I let him have his fun with his expensive products and bro science while I continued working out normally. At my first Tough Mudder (eight years later, for anyone counting), one of the samples was a Cellucor C4 branded pre-workout. I didn’t really know what it was, but with my novice powers of deduction, I presumed it was for consumption before a workout. I mentally shrugged and gave it a go. Here’s how that went.

In my lead up to Tough Mudder last year, I saw some pre-workout on sale. I thought back to the ludicrous experience of pre-workout and thought it could be fun to aid my Tough Mudder prep. Hell, if anything was gonna make working out more enjoyable, it’d be getting borderline high beforehand. The pre-workout helped and I had a great training season. A couple of months ago I saw some cheap pre-workout at Walmart and decided that I might as well. At that price I was practically losing money by not buying it.

This is the logic that gets me into these situations.

It helped. My workouts have been great and the extra push has really helped. I noticed last week that I was running out and contemplated what brand to try next. Some dude at a health product store gave me a sample from behind the counter. He said that the packet had two servings, but if I’d been using pre-workout regularly I’d have no issue taking both.”Mr Hyde” it was called.

[I swear, the fucking branding on fitness products is so goddamn douchey. It’s like real life Powerthirst. Back in 2007 I was embarrassed to admit I liked nerdy shit and wished I was more into fitness. Now that it’s 2017, it’s cool to be a nerd and I’m almost ashamed that I like fitness stuff.]

I took the whole thing yesterday and had a very intense workout. I got a lot out of it and pushed myself further than I have in some time. It just felt like I had energy reserves where usually I only stocked self pity and a desire to cry. By the end of it I could only move slowly. My body felt used. I held no small satisfaction in that. This morning I was considering taking half of the other packet for a midday run. I looked at the ingredients, knowing full well that it’d basically be gibberish to me. Wait I thought I know what “caffeine” is. 400mg, apparently. I googled caffeine content of various things to get an idea of how much this was. A shot of espresso is 64mg. A small can of Red Bull is 77mg. Holy shit, 400mg per serve is a fuckton of caffeine. I’d taken two servings. That’s like nine Red Bulls. How did I manage to sleep last night? I’d no wonder my body had crashed so hard.

Thing is, I’d already ordered a container of Cellucor C4 pre-workout. Looking at the ingredients, I was relieved to see it was “only” 150mg per serving. While still a lot of caffeine (two and a half espresso shots), it was hopefully not gonna leave me hospitalised after prolonged use. It also has a bunch of other chemicals that I assume are leftover super soldier serum. If I’m not dead in a few months, I’m gonna be one Tough Mudder.

Buuuut I’ll likely just be dead in a few months.

Oh, and in retrospect it tasted great. Hope that allays any fears.

I’m not really big into pot. It’s the kind of thing I’ll smoke socially from time to time, but it’s far from a mainstay in my life. I rarely clean my bellybutton (which is probably why it smells more like a bellybutt), but I likely clean my bellybutton more than I smoke pot. My girlfriend is trying medical marijuana as an anxiety treatment and she’s been pretty pleased with the results. Occasionally I’ll join her if I have a free night where I don’t need to accomplish anything. Not often, but every once in a while it’s nice to coast for a stress free evening. When it comes to alcohol, I have a large tolerance. Weed on the other hand, hits me hard and fast. I like retaining a certain level of awareness and getting high throws that right out the window. I’ve always been a soft touch on it so I’m careful to have only small amounts at a time. One or two puffs is more than enough for a few hours worth of mellow and it’s rare that I imbibe more. Last night we were having a couple over for dinner who’d just moved to Toronto. We had a tiny toke maybe 15 minutes before they were set to arrive. I had a drag and a small puff. Five minutes before they were due to arrive I turned towards my partner in horror.

“Oh shit. I am way too stoned to host a dinner.”

She assured me that we were a team and we’d get through it together.

One of my issues when I smoke is that I have trouble parsing information. It’s not that I don’t take in information, but my usual subconscious filters come out to the fore. It makes almost everything a conceptual minefield. Furthermore, it certainly didn’t help me prepare dinner. We’d put roast veggies in the oven much earlier, so those were cooking away. We’d chopped up and salted eggplant to sweat out the excess moisture. All that we had left was to pan fry it and heat up our guests’ shepherd’s pie. I had two pans going with 1cm thick slices of eggplant. One was large and non-stick, the other was a cast iron grill pan. Outwardly my guests saw me cooking eggplant. Inwardly my dialogue was a little more like this…

When was the last time I cooked eggplant? Have I ever cooked eggplant in a pan? How long did the recipe say? Five to seven minutes per side? Does it change if one of the pans is flat and the other has a grill? Does that mean they need different cooking temperatures? How much oil do I need? Is this a light pan fry or something deeper? Does deep frying even happen in a grill pan? Won’t the oil get stuck in the grooves? What kind of texture does fried eggplant have? Do I want it to be soft and gooey or crispy? Or a combination of the two? I remember something in the recipe about eggplant being naturally bitter. Is that a flavour that subsides once it reaches a certain level of cook-ed-ness? Or is that something I need to counteract with spices/ingredients? Isn’t eggplant umami? How do I balance that flavour? Do I need to add lemon for acidic elements? Garlic? More oil? But doesn’t eggplant soak up a ton of oil? Does that mean I need more or less? It’s getting burnt, is it supposed to get burnt? Does that mean that I’m cooking it well or does that make me a bad chef? Am I a bad chef? I know that I like it when there’s a burn to things, but is that because my tastes are weird? Or is it a taste that people naturally enjoy when it comes to eggplant? Wait, am I trying to place my values when it comes to food over the preferences of others? How am I supposed to know how other people like it? There are three other people here. What if I cook it in a way that only one or two others enjoy? Does that make me a bad host? Or is it impossible to guess how others enjoy things and you just do your best? Is this subjective or objective? Are the darker bits the more or less cooked parts? Let’s have a taste of one. Hmm, is that what bitter tastes like? I’ve forgotten what a bitter taste is. I think I enjoy it, but it has a certain aftertaste. I’m pretty sure I like that aftertaste, but is that just because I’m stoned? What if others don’t like it? Does that mean I’m being shitty to them? How am I even supposed to know this? Would I understand better if I wasn’t stoned? Do I normally automatically know all of this stuff? Why am I thinking so hard about something that shouldn’t be challenging?

That was maybe a minute of internal dialogue.

The rest of the night was just as much of a maze. I felt like I was in some dinner party disaster movie and this was my subplot. I kept saying things, but not understanding why I was saying them or how I gauged whether or not things were appropriate. All I knew was that I somehow had to make it through the evening without our guests knowing that I was stoned. I don’t know why that was such an issue, but I think it had something to do with this lofty sense of social decorum (when in reality if I just said “sorry folks, but I’m really stoned right now, so if I’m acting weird that’s it”, they would’ve most likely been receptive to that). I’m pretty sure I enjoyed myself and the evening went by without any major hitches. Still, even today I still feel a little unhinged. I’m still piecing together how my brain works. Like, at brunch this morning I ate grilled plantain and didn’t realise I was eating the skin too. I ate maybe half a plantain skin.

Maybe I’ll wait a while before smoking again.

All You Can Eat sushi is a legit mercury poison hazard. Why would that stop me?

Started listening to the Doughboys podcast for the first time today. I’d heard mention of it as a totally dumb podcast where the laughs come hard, heavy and often. The basic premise involves two dudes reviewing fast food chains with a new guest each week. I don’t eat a ton of fast food (that’s not to say my diet is remotely clean), but the idea of ongoing inane delving into depravity and suffering obviously scores high with me. I jumped in at episode 100, their Nugget Power Hour. It’s silly as shit and one of those vital necessities when reading the news is a laundry list of bleakness. The Nugget Power Hour is a variant of what’s known in super classy circles as The Century- 100 shots of beer in 100 minutes (roughly seven beers or so)- but in this case they’re substituting 60 McDonalds nuggets in 60 minutes. The caveat is that at any minute they can swap a nugget for a chug of beer. There’s some preamble up top, but I’m about 40 minutes in and they’ve downed around 15 crispy golden chicken chunks. Things are going downhill fast.

There’s something I readily identify with in tales of ludicrous over-consumption. I’m a sucker for stories of people writing about ill-fated All You Can Eat experiences. Whether they’re shooting for the moon on mozzarella sticks, going for gold at The Mandarin or even trying to form every combination possible with In-N-Out’s secret menu, it’s like they’re committing my heart’s silent whispers to the page. I am them in an alternative reality and I know it. I enjoy the mock-horror and very real disgust (whether it’s at the food, themselves or both) because once again, I’ve been there. With so much talk of representation in the cultural discussion lately, this is how I’m represented: gratuitous overindulgence for comedic purposes. There’s no doubt whatsoever that the joke is on me in the end but if that’s the role I’ve been assigned, then you might as well start calling me the space cowboy.

At the moment, I’m fortunate to not have many enablers in my life. Not because I don’t love those people to bits, but because diving Scrooge McDuck style into an endless vat of chewing, sweating, weird poops and inevitable self-loathing is better reserved as a special treat. All You Can Eat sushi never needs to happen, but I’ve got my fair share of feelings to eat every once in a while. Why not add the above problems to the list? In the past I’ve had mates who’ve shared my enthusiasm for digesting as much as humanly possible until our true nihilism begins to shine through. We had our fun (until we didn’t) testing the limits of our stomachs and self-respect. Let’s be real here, as full as you get, it’s not like food stops tasting good. If it was about being satisfied we would’ve stopped well before our bellies resembled water-logged corpses. I live, I die, I live again.

I can’t remember a time I haven’t loved food. I feel like the back half of any meal is spent thinking about what I could have for the next one. While being one of my core joys in life, I’d be remiss in admitting that it’s a prime source of anxiety. Am I eating too much? Am I eating the right foods? Does this ever get easier? Will the concept of moderation one day feel natural? Or am I looking down the road at a constant tug of war hurling limited discipline at the omnipresent black hole of desire? Short lived bouts of healthy habits crumbling away to ingrained behaviour. Far from condemning people who enjoy what they eat, I’m saying I get the struggle. I’m not saying we should feel bad about enjoying ourselves, I just wish control was easier to access. Like any addictive routines, it’s all too easy to fall into sunken cost fallacy thinking and dig deeper because you’ve already started. Plus, as stated earlier, it’s not like food will stop tasting good.

None of this is to imply that Doughboys is anything but hilarious. If anything, it’s vicarious enjoyment served up with a side of dipping sauces. If only curbing cravings was as simple as listening to constant cautionary tales.