I wish I had some kind of jean genie.

Welp, I did it. I cashed in any anti-consumerist cache I’d amassed over the years of rants and brand dodging. All of it down on credit at Lululemon.

I remember this slang term from my childhood. Being a “label basher”. A label basher was someone who prided themselves on being a head to toe brand ambassador. Maybe the term rose from the 90s anti-corporate cultural climate. People rallying against those buying into snug franchise affiliation. Maybe it was a mentality erected to oppose the Valley Girl movement. Whatever it was, it eventually all became meaningless as the style and fashions of the contrarian backlash were commodified and sold back to a willing consumer base. Pre-ripped jeans, big stompy Doc Martens and intentional safety pins. Hell, Hot Topic Mall Goth became a thing. Nirvana’s legacy of band tees probably outlived their music. Check and mate.

For years I’ve extolled how unnecessary branded fitness attire is. Wear whatever’s comfortable, but there’s no need to add a hefty price tag to something you’re gonna ruin with sweat. Get things that’ll be useful and ease the struggle of grueling workouts. Then my parents sent money over with my Big Sis for me to get some decent cold weather jogging legwear, since my shorts won’t cut it once the weather reaches five degrees or so. I’m not gonna say how much they sent, but it was more than I considered these things should cost. I’m sure the smart move would’ve been to buy something cheap and pocket the rest, but that didn’t feel like it inhabited the spirit of the arrangement. They’d sent me a generous amount, so why not get high quality clothes that would last. My mind went to Lululemon. They’re a premium brand, but they’re also certainly high quality. The only Lululemon clothes I’d previously owned were hand me downs. My dad had a pair of long pants that got a bit beaten up with time. He had them taken up and tailored into shorts. He used them for a bit, then offered them to me after a while. I used them consistently for around three years until finally they gave up. They were great. Sturdy construction with zippered pockets. Harder to find on pants than you’d think, but perfect for an iPod that bounced back and forth. In the hopes of something that’d last a similar amount of time, I decided to give Lululemon a shot.

A salesperson spotted me as soon as I walked in the door. I told her what I was looking for and she grabbed me a couple of styles, telling me the pros and cons for each. I found a decently priced pair of workout shorts on the sales rack and grabbed them to try on too. To be honest, the pants were really comfy, with a pleasant amount of compression. They stretched to allow for depth of moment, with a good weight. I don’t like it when pants are too light and hang loose. Then I tried the tights and discovered surprisingly they were even better. Solid compression with a pocket that would hold my iPod tight while I ran. Thick enough to keep me warm in the chilly lake air, but also protect against the all too real threat of camel tail that comes with male tights. Unexpectedly I walked out with the tights, paying far more than I ever would’ve expected. Plus the shorts, because they were somewhat reasonably priced. It’ll nice to have two pairs of workout shorts I can rotate.

In terms of my anti-consumerist bent, whatever. We all selectively decide when rules do and don’t apply to us, right? The concept of “selling out” is outmoded, especially as it pertains to fashion. I’m not remotely saying that protesting unfair sweatshop working conditions and the companies that employ them is a bad way to go. I’m also not gonna suddenly start outfitting my wardrobe with only the finest things. I’ve been looking for new jeans for a while. After I finished at Lululemon, I walked across the street to H&M and balked at the idea of paying $20 for a brand new pair of jeans.

So don’t worry, I’ll be fine.

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Or not. Swallowing sadness feels like a valid survival strategy.

Maaayun, it was so nice having a long weekend to not be at work. Now I’ve gotta wait until the next one rolls around to once again get that level of fulfilment. I’ve got a whole three days time to bide and it’s gonna be a hard slog. My Big Sis (in law) will be in town on Friday and I’m taking the day off work so I can spend more than an hour in her presence. If she’s coming all the way from New Zealand, it seems worth loosing one vacation day from my holster. I mean, when do I ever take vacation anyway (he says having just returned from Portland a mere few weeks ago)? This Friday I do. Will, I mean. Anyway, October’s a big month full of things more exciting to go on about than my ever-mounting disillusionment about having achieved naught as I propel onwards towards irrelevance with each passing day. That’s not totally fair. At worst my rotting corpse will make for top notch worm food!

October! It’s grand! With the changing of the leaves comes a host of fun activities. Funtivities for short. Funtives for even shorter. I don’t know how you roll. This week involves Friday the 13th, which means I’m gonna catch up with my aforementioned Big Sis. That’s some excitement. In terms of local Toronto events there’s always Drunken Cinema’s Friday the 13th event. The last one I went to was bonkers. Absurd game rules that seem to openly encourage the pursuit of alcohol poisoning. I’ve always wondered what’s so sinister about Fridays? Why don’t we celebrate Saturday the 14th with the same cursed dread? It’s the weekEND, right? Endings are sinister. Or Thursday the 12th? You still have another day left in the workweek. Wouldn’t that feel like death for those who live for weekends? Why does Friday have such shitty PR? There’s just one restaurant chain that’s stoked about Fridays? One undead dude in a hockey mask has ruined them for the rest of us? On that note, does Jason even play hockey? What gives?

The following week is time to get fancy. Hush Hush Toronto is a library fundraiser that’s both hoity and toity. Last year I even bought a suit for it. This year I’ll most likely just re-wear the suit. I don’t bleed money or anything. I don’t know what the tagline “One night. No boundaries” means. It sounds sinister. Should I be packing a hockey mask in case things go down? Preparation in the event of a fight erupting over the last hors d’oeuvre? The theme is apparently “the beautiful landscapes we call home”. If anyone asks, my blue suit is specifically sky themed. I can pretend to have some modicum of class and that my life isn’t crumbling around me with every waking breath. I didn’t study acting in high school for nothing. Unless my inevitable career trajectory shoots towards becoming a super villain. In that case, my monologuing skills are on point.

Then in the final week of October, we have Halloween! The greatest holiday all year! A time when everyone looks as ghoulish on the outside as my life prospects are! I’m at least a little unsure why each of these sentences is ending in an exclamation mark! Can I escape the loop by asking a question? It seems so…

No, I still don’t know how I’m gonna dress for Halloween. Perhaps as the evocation of my constant dread? I’m sure that will make everything feel better!

On an unrelated note, maybe it’s time to go back to therapy.

Let’s get some gin and Jewice up in this bitch!

I just realised that we have guests arriving for Thanksgiving in 50 minutes. I’m currently in my underwear. I have my 30 minutes of writing to do, plus I need a shower. This is gonna be tighter than that time I tried to remove my polyprops after exercising in them. Serious graft vs host kind of stuff. I thought they were gonna melt back into milk bottles.

The turkey is in the oven! It’s been cooking away for a bunch of hours now. Turkey is my nemesis. This’ll be the third thanksgiving we’ve hosted and I’m crossing my fingers that this is the year we get it right. For two years we tried slow cooking it. It was decent, but not amazing. Last year we did our first oven turkey but it was pretty dry. DISSAPOINTED, as Kevin Sorbo might say. This year I’m taking a mixed approach. I’m pulling aspects of a bunch of different recipes in the hopes that it’ll all come together well. Conventional wisdom tells me that sticking with one method and following it to the letter is probably the smartest idea. Who am I to follow convention? We tried a dry brine, which was basically covering it in a combination of rock salt and baking powder. Here’s hoping it retains all the moisture. After 4.5 days in the fridge, the deepest cavities were still a little frosty. I pulled all the gizzards out, which felt like a daring dance with frostbite. I salted the interior then crammed it full of chopped onion, celery and garlic cloves. I zested a lemon (after years of lusting after a proper lemon zester, I finally got one in New Zealand earlier this year. Fuck all that microplane noise) and shoved it in the gap.

Next up, I got a stew going. Every turkey prep photo I saw from friends had the bird resting on a bed of chopped veggies. I followed suit, chopping carrots, celery and onions to make a nice little meal mattress. I covered it in chicken stock, assuming that the resulting medley would maybe resemble chicken soup at the end? Or at least give some flavour to the eventual gravy. I mixed crushed garlic with the residual lemon zest, pepper and olive oil, then got the gobblemonster all slicked up. Getting right underneath the skin and all around. This was gonna be some fragrantly pleasant poultry. I’m periodically basting it (around every 45 minutes or so) in the hopes that this year we’ll finally get that delicious moist turkey meat we’ve always dreamed of. At the last check (with 45 minutes of cooking left to go) the skin was golden brown. Internal temperature of the breast and outer thigh measured 165°, while the inner thigh was closer to 145°. Things are on track. As advised by the main recipe I’m following, since the breast is getting cooked quicker than everything else, I’ve loosely covered it in tin foil to disperse the heat. Are we on track for maximum moistness? God only knows.

It’s gonna be a more cosy affair than previous years. While in the past we’ve had unruly numbers, this year we’re down to a svelte ten people. My hope is that there’s still room to move in the kitchen. That we’ll be close enough to be able to hear one another talk over the din of dinner. That we won’t end up with a ridiculous overwhelming cacophony. That maybe we’ll create a space where people feel open to sharing intimate conversation. If the point of the evening is to bring together those who don’t have family around, what better than spreading warmth in bellies and hearts?

Plus it’s the best excuse for our traditional Manischewitz appreciation. Because what’s a celebration of rampant and brutal colonialism without a little bit of cultural appropriation?

After plundering my future happiness, I guess pirates were on theme.

Hey team, I made an adult decision today. This past week I’ve basically been following my cravings. With dwindling sanity, my capacity to refuse urges has been at an all-time low. Is there something delicious I could eat? In my mouth immediately. Could I go for a drink? Why not several? Do I have the chance to go home and get some sleep or stay out for one more show? Meh, who needs to rest and regenerate? YOLO and FOMO combined to create a disgusting cocktail of consumption.

Today though, with five hours between the end of Jen Kirkman’s podcast recording and my next show, I had decisions to make. I’ve had very little downtime in the past week. My body is way beyond the point of crying out for it and has instead resigned itself to blindly follow all of my brain’s baser impulses. I’ve been needing a haircut for ages. I’m back to my default Lego man locks. My beard is haggard and overgrown, to the point where it’s begun annexing my neck. The adult thing to do would be to get a haircut, then go home and relax before my late (inevitably) drunken night tonight.

What I wanted to do, however, was to go out and play Magic. A new set was released last week, so this week a local store is doing $10 draft till you drop sessions. It’s $10 to draft and the winner gets their next draft free. It often ends up with players splitting in round two and going off to play another draft for $5. I figured it might be tight, but I could get one draft in, race home and do a drive by before heading to my 7pm show. Not ideal to set me up for a long night, but more fun for sure.

I thought long and hard and decided to do the responsible adult thing. I was shaggy (it wasn’t me) inside and out, but with a quick chop I could be Mr Bombastic. I descended into the warren of pathways where my hairdresser worked and walked in the door. He was clearly very busy and told me to either come back in two hours or on Tuesday. I tried to do the responsible thing and it blew up in my face.

So I cut my losses (a.k.a my loss of a cut) and went to draft Magic instead. I DIDN’T LIE! I told you all that I made an adult decision. I may not have mentioned that after the adult decision didn’t work out, I reverted back to my hedonistic, devil may care, laissez-faire, debonair affairs. It was just up the road, so I strode up there and registered tout de suite. It was fun. My deck was hot garbage. After first picking a Deadeye Trackers, I ended up grabbing a bunch of grixis coloured pirates. I planned to get a ton of Pirate’s Cutlass and Siren’s Lookout and going HAM. Things were a little iffy and a Lurking Chupacabra came my way. There was nothing else in the pack, so I picked it mostly jokingly. I found another one in the next pack and wondered if I could grab a stack of explore creatures. I got one or two sub par ones to go along with my Tracker and Sirens. It was a mess. I had a Siren’s Ruse for pirate/explore ETB shenanigans. My two Chupacabras did good work if they could stick on the board, but I failed to draw adequate mana most of the time. It was fun, but I got totally stomped by a similar but better deck. I guess that’s what I get for making the adult decision.

Wait, did that sound like a massive consequence? I had fun. I’ve effectively learned nothing. HEDONISM ALL THE WAY.

Now let’s see how I feel at 11pm.

Well I certainly won’t be motherbored.

At the moment life looks like a bunch of pixels. My brain is unravelling and I can see The Matrix. It’s not bad enough for my vision to have devolved into binary, but I could be in need of a graphics card upgrade. RAM’s usually pretty cheap. Let’s toss some more in there too. I don’t know if that ol’ 512MB of DDR RAM can keep up any more. It’s been a decade since I last knew anything about computers and it seems like my mind is similarly outmoded. Oh well, it’s not like overclocking could have any severe ramifications…

I still haven’t caught up from my holiday hangover. I caught a cold and instead of shirking it off, I spread it to my girlfriend who begrudgingly held up her end of keeping the contagion going. Thanks honey. So I spent the weekend soaking in the festering putrescence. I’m still congested and my squishy think-y bits are accordingly dealing with my internal traffic jam. Everything’s taking a while to process. Pity, because returning from holiday has meant a significant backlog at work. We’re ramping up to the busiest time of the year, which co-incidentally coincides with the colossal comedy festival, which I’m covering. Cool. Cool cool cool.

Buuuuut, my accreditation hasn’t yet been sorted. Normally I’m all geared up a week or two ahead of time. This year, a combination of poor communication and a new PR firm covering the festival has meant that three days out I still haven’t been told the status or extent of my accreditation. They want me to submit my requests, but they haven’t told me what level of shows I get access to. This means I have to put together requests with contingencies. I usually plan pretty carefully to maximise what I’m able to see. Some comics stay for a couple of nights, others pop in for a night or two. This makes the festival into an elaborate puzzle.

This puzzle is further compounded by travel times. It’s all well and good to book a 7pm show and 9pm show, but if the 7pm show is at the Sony Center and the 9pm show is at Comedy Bar, it can be pretty fucking tricky to make it from the first show to the second in time. Sometimes shows run long. Furthermore, now that they’ve included Yuk Yuks in the venue list for midnight shows, it’s damn near impossible to get from a 10.30pm show to the midnight show in time, even after taking an Uber (RIP the novel experience that is Andy Kindler’s Alternative Show).

So one axis is timing and venue distance, the other is headliner access. If I can see headliners, it’ll change which shows I prioritise. If I don’t, that’ll change the shape of my festival. Without knowing whether or not I get headliners then, will affect the structure of my schedule. If I get Mulaney on Thursday night, for instance, it won’t only change what I see on Friday night, but could affect which shows I opt in for on Friday, Saturday and Sunday too. Which means I need to submit multiple contingencies based on what access I will get, without knowing how this will play out. Anyone else confused?

Then while all this is happening I’ll also have daily coverage, a full time job (which could be in another department with later hours if I get the job (it’s a six month assignment that would start over the next week or two. Fingers crossed) and the necessity of keeping up physical activity (or otherwise truly go insane). Sleep comes in there somewhere too. Is caffeine more effective if I shelve it?

The scary part is, this is what I do for leisure. I think I need to learn what priorities are.

Schwankers, the lot of ’em.

At this stage of my journey, I should be scheduled for a meeting with the goddess anytime now. I need some reason to overcome adversity having learned from my travels. Otherwise what was the point? To become a beer bellied hedonist filled with hollow experiences? Not on my watch!

The biggest trial so far has been loneliness. Not a soul-crushing, reaching out from the void, swathed in darkness and despair kind of loneliness, but more of an ‘I’d be having more fun right now if I was bouncing stuff off someone else’ kind of loneliness. Some activities are just more enjoyable shared. Like the Japanese Garden yesterday. It was all well and good to look at curated horticulture, sculpted zen gardens and those little bamboo shoots that drip water. But as someone who doesn’t get much of a kick taking photos of stuff (I’ve done it on trips before and I never look at it after, so why pull myself out of the moment?), it was a serene yet dull time. I could only repeat “how ’bout that serenity” so many times in my head before the reference lost its lustre. It was very pretty and aptly quiet. Once or twice I sat down on a bench, and tried to map out the sound. It’s something I started doing a while back when I used to produce audio. To close my eyes and open my ears. To listen and imagine the waveforms rebounding and refracting off one another. To conceptualise panning and balance in relation to my position. It’s a centering exercise that helps settle me. I stopped thinking about my desire for social contact and instead tried to be present with my surroundings. That being said, I could only pretend to be super impressed for so long before cutting my losses and checking out the neighbouring rose garden. It also was pretty and I huffed a rose or two. That’s the stuff.

I checked out a couple of happy hours. Ash Street Saloon had $2.75 microbrews and $4.50 burgers, so regardless of how out of place I looked in the borderline biker bar, I enjoyed my DJ Jazzy Hef jasmine wheat beer while looking at the leaderboard for Buck Hunter. Finished, I moved onto Rontoms, a classy place with vast amounts of space, comfy chairs and a cool vibe. I was still a little peckish and I had no idea what jackfruit was (the connotations are menacing enough), so I ordered jackfruit tacos and a whiskey & coke. The bartender gave an absurdly strong pour which pushed me further than I’d expected. Bored and internetting, I resigned myself to drink in lieu of having company. I could bring my own cheer right? RIGHT? I had another whiskey and thought of how I’d successfully used Couchsurfing in Montreal to meet people. I looked up local events and discovered a Portland meetup three minutes walk away from Rontoms. This was my meeting with the goddess, my turning point!

I arrived with five minutes left in happy hour, so got myself a Full Monty, a delicious concoction of ketel one, local ginger beer, lime and some kind of syrup, served in a copper mug. Things were looking up! I sat down with the group and introduced myself. ‘Look at all of these fellow travelers’, I thought.I thought wrong.

They were awful. Like, all of them individually. Or moreso just socially awkward and super fucking basic. Plus none of them were traveling, they were all hosts. I don’t know why that distinction mattered, but it did somehow. There was the California transplant who couldn’t stop talking about the features of different aircraft. There was his friend who kept on asking the group if anyone partook of certain hobbies (photography, video editing, running, rock climbing), saying he’d been looking at getting into them. It was like he was reading from cue cards on how to hold a conversation. There was the gal who kept steering the conversation back towards hookah bars (she eventually left to go to a hookah bar). There was the old guy who just sounded like he didn’t have many friends. There was the 20 or so year old guy who’d brought his girlfriend (maybe who was in from out of town) seemingly to show her off? He kept pawing at her or lying on her shoulder when she was just trying to make conversation with people. It was awkward and cringeworthy. Then there was the super frequent flyer guy who brought a bunch of his trophies from having flown so much. There was a scale airplane model, a thank you card from the airline, a small triangular medal thing and some earbuds. He passed these around like show and tell, gloating about all the “swag” he was getting, but pronouncing it “schwag”. “Schwag” he kept saying. It was the fucking worst. Then others passed the stuff around, saying “schwag” as they did. It was like walking into a cult ritual. By the 20th or so time someone said “schwag” I had to leave before I lost my cool. Where the fuck had these Cronenbergian nightmares crawled out from?

Maybe I’d make more friends if I wasn’t so judgemental, but hell, a guy has to have standards, right?

I’m some sorta Cherishire Cat.

Gee willikers. What an ardently enjoyable weekend. After months of training, disengaging from social contact and staunchly monitoring my consumption, letting go has been such a release. Since Friday I’ve spent so much time in the company of others, appreciating delicious food and refusing to stress about most anything. I think my soul needed that.

Yesterday I put a Facebook call out to see if anyone wanted to join me for lunch. I was severely hungover and figured the best cure for what ailed me was a metric fuckton of meat, broth and rice. Pork Bone soup would be my saviour. I often post last minute plans to grab food and virtually never get anyone taking me up on the offer. It’s often a deluge of “wish I’d seen this earlier” or “just ate, sorry”. Yesterday, however, I had three people opt in. Plus it turned out that my girlfriend’s shift (a block away from the restaurant) finished up right as we’d planned to meet. It was a diverse group. One of my Magic buddies and two acquaintances I know through general community. Having this range of people opened the door for fun, varied conversations (with people offering viewpoints others wouldn’t have considered). We ate excessively with a lunch that ran for around two hours. Nobody was in a rush, we all just enjoyed being present and spending the time.

Our plans for the evening involved an Alice in Wonderland themed backyard bash. Costumes were mandatory and nobody disappointed. An array of colours and choices. Some went for specific characters, others took general inspiration from story themes. There were long dresses, corsets and bonnets. Most eschewed pants for leggings. Some opted for creative makeup or little accessories. Most of us ended up strangely flammable, which became all the more pronounced when we realised just how many tea light candles there were. The backyard had been wonderfully dressed, with fairy lights, deco light, little butterflies, streamers and an array of colourful accoutrements. Everyone brought treats of all shapes and sizes: Fruit, candy, chips, cookies, juices and soft drink. Peppermint tea in a big carafe. We came bearing blankets and pillows. The host had crafted a great playlist that lasted the entire night. It was a joy to settle in such a curated space.

Best of all, the social atmosphere was ideal. You know the feeling of walking into a room where the temperature has been perfectly set? It felt like that, but with mood and attitude. We were all there to enjoy one another’s company, to lift up rather than tear down. No aggression or bitchiness, just friendly positivity and joking around. As with the lunch earlier, I had a blast having the platform to just be funny. It’s understated, but being surrounded by people who’d yes, and… was bliss incarnate. Having that wavelength sustained through close friendships meant I could read the room well enough to know how to throw out good lines and bits to hearty group laughter. A night filled with solid pulls, deep cuts and callbacks. It also helped being surrounded by a bunch of clever, funny people who’d dish it back. My heart felt a warm tingle being surrounded by such a great crowd.

The misguided sentiment to pull from this weekend would be oh, I guess I just have more fun when I drink. That’d be missing the deeper message. The greater realisation is that it’s more about not feeling guarded. Back when I was monitoring my intake, I had to be hyper-aware all the time. I was thinking about calorie consumption, the ratio of exercise to downtime, whether I was keeping limber and stretched. Then if I was in a social space, being sober around those who weren’t meant that I’d notice too much. I’d see how people’s behaviour would change after a drink or two. I’d hear the noise level creep up. It’d be too much to take in and make relaxing impossible. What a relief then to let go of that and go with the flow. To not have to be so rigid all the time.

Golly gosh, it does lighten the load.