Maybe I should’ve worn track pants instead?

Reporting back after Steel Rails 2017, “The Locomotion” was not played even once. A travesty if ever there was one. We did, however, get Vag Halen (the Toronto female rock cover band) busting out a series of rock anthems complete with the appropriate quantity of hip gyration. Let’s call it even.

Getting back on track after a year spent off the rails, Steel Rails 2017 was some kinda night. My girlfriend and I made a point to dress for the job we wanted (non-stop partying). She had a big fluffy red crinoline skirt, a lilac and black checkered bustier and her trusty kangaroo backpack. I was clad in my black/rainbow cyberdog leggings, a pink/purple zebra striped bra and my green smoker’s jacket (which I unfortunately discovered was not machine washable. Big time). Arriving at the party departure point, we realised very few others had put as much intention into their garb. We took this as a point of pride. It took a while to get picked up and we ended up leaving maybe half an hour after we’d expected. Of course, we had no idea where we were going, merely that a train would be nearby. Some folks were already tailgating in the parking lot. It was gonna be that kind of night.

We rode around in big yellow school buses and excitedly muttered about where we might go. Not knowing the area, it was anyone’s guess. We also played the traditional bus game of waving to bystanders in the hopes that they’d reciprocate. At some point a kid waved energetically at the bus, but nobody waved back at him. Not on my watch. I waved in an overly exaggerated manner. He saw, literally jumped with excitement and waved back. Five seconds of activity was a small price to pay for making a kid’s day. The bus turned into a parking lot next to a driving range and began to slow down. Okay, things were getting interesting. Next to the range was a large white dome. How enigmatic! We tittered and lined up to go inside. Even at the revolving door entrance, we still had no idea of what was five meters in front of us. It was time, we passed the threshold.

On the inside, the dome was massive. Carpeted in fake turf, there was so much for the eyes to take in. A miniature golf course to the left, a couple of projector screens, a bridge overhead stacked with instruments and audio equipment. There were bars set up around the space, plus a wrestling ring in the middle. A small performance space off to the right, a colourful triangle structure with pillows inside ahead. There was a witching tent and a wheel of fortune style “Find Your Apocalypse” scenario (my world will be destroyed by apes). Booze was by donation, as always. I dropped a $20 in the bucket and went hog wild. I also made sure I grabbed a boozy cherry bourbon sour ice block while I was at it. The food was tasty, but all very fast food. They had woodfire pizzas, a grilled cheese food truck and some legit fish and chips (though I swear we waited in line for 40 minutes to get them). Beer successfully soaked.

Then the train. THE TRAIN. We got on and found ourselves surrounded by Trump. We’d unintentionally settled into the Trump car. “Trump Dollars” taped around the place, dumb trump quotes suspended from the ceiling with his stupid fucking face on them. We were stuck there for a while as the train readied to leave. Plus there was a massive line to the bar in the next car, meaning we couldn’t go anywhere. It was strange, but somehow being a) boozed and b) surrounded by Trumpisms led to a rush of boorishness. A bunch of douches and douchebagguettes yelling. Some women started stuffing Trump Bucks into my bra and waistband. I wouldn’t have cared much if only they’d asked first. We got outta there as quickly as we could and checked out the rest.

Space Car was a welcome reprieve. The windows were all blacked out with tinfoil, then speckled with fairy lights and transparent black sheets to transport us to outer space. A musician created some kind of ambient dream pop sound as she plugged away at her effects machines. Space Car was relatively quiet and wound up being our favourite place to hang. Further on was a crown construction car that I didn’t visit, but my girlfriend came back with a nifty cereal box crown. Down the other end in the only carpeted car was the homecoming dance. A photographer had a wearable sash and led partygoers to pose for shots. The DJ was dropping some pretty great tunes, but shitting fuck was it ever sweaty in there. My girlfriend and I jumped into the “sleeper car” for some private time, only to find signs all over the room telling us we were being watched. I mounted her lap and gave them a show. Some dude walked in and slowly backed away. Damn straight.

We had a blast. The booze and food kept going (though having very few non-beer options this year meant we felt all sorts of bloated) all night. I found that as a guy, wearing a bra with no shirt meant people felt super comfortable coming up and grabbing me without consent. Like, I get that it’s unconventional and funny/weird to see a dude in a bra and it’s not like I was mega standoffish, but asking first would’ve gone a long way. It was a weird crowd all the way down. A bunch of magnanimous folks, some hyper normy spectators (in all likelihood, sponsors), performers, volunteers and others dressed in outlandish couture. There were more rad people than the alternative, but given the previous year I was surprised at how large that shitty minority was. At some point I was butt grinding up on my girlfriend and this woman I’d been chatting with earlier decided it was totally fine to insert herself between us. We both quirked our heads until she moved on, but it was a pretty weird moment.

The experience on the whole, though, was all kinds of choice. Tickets may sell out in an instant, but you can bet your arse I’ll be hitting those rails next year too.

STEEL RAILS FO LYFE.

You know who knew a thing or two about comedy? Dante.

I remember exactly when I decided I had to be funny. I was nine years old. My best friend was moving on from primary school into intermediate. My best friend was the funniest person I knew. I was not. I don’t know if I’d channelled the latent spirit of Miller, but I knew that I was liked, while my friend was well-liked. Something deep in my core told me that being liked wasn’t enough. I needed to be well-liked, as my friend was. I also knew innately that my friend leaving would throw off some integral balance in the schoolyard. We needed joy, but with him gone, that got a little bit harder. Someone needed to fill that void. My precious nine year old brain volunteered as tribute. Heavy lay the crown, but I’d worn a kippah, it couldn’t be that different.

I still feel like a fraud. Playing a role with wit coming from the head, not the heart. I’m don’t worry whether or not I’m funny, I worry about the distance between my humour and myself. All these years I’ve been searching for the kind of jokes that fit me, that feel natural. Comedy that tumbles out out my mouth without a second thought. I latch on to puns and word play because they feel safe. I love words and how they intermingle. Snide or sarcastic commentary feels safe. Using intellectualism as a stand-in for wit, because keeping the joke at arm’s length means I have time to back down from it. If I it doesn’t land and I haven’t fully committed, it lessens the sting. It minimises both negative consequences and potential.

I’ve started taking beginner improv lessons as a way to understand how to be present. I want to get more in touch with where my humour comes from and how it takes shape. Improv flies in the face of my instincts. Instead of keeping a safe distance, it forces me to jump in and commit. Instead of comparing and contrasting five different thoughts, gauging how any audience would receive them and ultimately wait for a better time to yield higher impact, improv tells me to grab the first thought and run with it. Instead of sifting through ideas for whatever makes me sound smarter, improv tells me to jump in and make it work. To trust my instincts and not back down. To listen to others and work with them. That creating harmony is a tacit contract that requires teamwork.

Our teacher told us last night, if a scene breaks up, if someone fumbles a line, take a second and get back to it. Don’t remove yourself to comment on it. You’re shifting the onus off yourself to instead point the blame somewhere else. You’re not being accountable, you’re immediately jumping off a sinking ship instead of trusting one another to fix the leak. It resonated. I immediately thought of my propensity for commenting from a safe distance. How on one hand an arm’s reach feels comforting, but also isolating. Being unwilling to fully embrace often means standing alone.

It’s easy to live a life without taking risks. Just don’t complain when things don’t get better. That needs to be earned.

There must be Venn intersections between Subway and the PUA community.

Ever have those days where some spectre from the past looms unexpectedly in front of you? You’d forgotten it existed until a comment or sight causes memories to rush back? We all have regrets, whether mild or severe, but without a time machine it’s impossible to erase the past. Today I remembered that pick up artists existed.

I remember reading Neil Strauss’ The Game with rapt attention. In whatever pale defence I can muster, I was all of twenty years old, virginity firmly intact. Not to shit on virgins whatsoever, but when life around you seems to echo that your manhood is defined by your ability to make yourself desirable, it’s hard not to drink the Kool-Aid. I supped from that well heavily and as such, the notion of finding a way to easily relate to women was not only enticing, but enthralling. This book was saying that I could finally explore the connection I’d been seeking? I could be in a relationship, despite crippling anxiety of putting myself out there in a sexual capacity? It wouldn’t even cost me five easy payments of $49.95? Given that I didn’t even pay for the book, this was all icing on the cake.

So I read and was absorbed. Not least because Strauss painted himself well as the protagonist going through his own Pygmalion transformation. It was hard not to identify with the elements of self-improvement (and despite all the toxic shit in there, it wasn’t 100% without merit. There were a cluster of positive messages about respect for your own self-identity and the path to self-confidence). I can’t look back and say how well written it was (and I’d find it hard to burden myself with a re-read), but at the time the story had me hooked. It had clear antagonists and a journey following a steady through-line. Nuggets of development came to Strauss throughout the plot and, as someone down on myself, it was enough to make me take notice. To think that if only I worked at it, I’d be able to find someone out there looking to get to know me intimately. For a lonely guy, the promises of abundant emotional riches felt impossible to ignore.

Of course, by the end of the book I found it hard to endorse Pick Up Artist techniques. They were heartless and manipulative, reducing women to physical attributes and stats rather than three dimensional humans with their own motivations and personalities. The numbers game of running the same routines again and again took any kind of organic element out of meeting someone. The idea of throwing “negs” (backhanded compliments) to weaken their defences and play with status, peacocking, or that stupid fucking “C or U shaped smile” bit to make yourself seem interesting held zero appeal. If you were trying to get a girl’s number, would any part of the exchange consider her agency? Or was it just about finding any cute face to lie next to you for a night? Lonely as I was, I never wanted to “trick” someone into liking me. Plus why the fuck would I want to be going out clubbing?

I’m not remotely knocking people who just want to go out and let their slut flag fly. If that’s what you’re into, you’re getting zero shame from me. My big issue, as someone with a propensity for long term connection, was with the sustainability of PUA sparked relationships. At its core, Pick Up “Artistry” is about trying to pretend to be someone you’re not. You’re running pre-written scenarios and inserting this new person as the second character. Any creativity you’re exhibiting is someone else’s, like a comedian stealing jokes. What would you think the outcome would be? What happens down the line when they discover your wittiness starts to run out? That you’re not the cocky dude you’re putting out there? Would you expect them to fall so deeply for “This Charming Man” that they’d forgive you down the line for being a different person altogether? Why represent yourself as something that you’re not in order to use somebody like that? Because every part of this equation seems to be about what you want and zero about her needs.

This kind of mentality seems to be endemic to the dating culture at large, the idea that representing a persona is the key to having people like you. To pique their interest then trap them into loving you. It’s fucked up. The hard truth is that if someone wouldn’t like who you really are, then they’re not right for you. Don’t delude yourself into chasing after people who like the person you are. That’s a dip into an ocean of misery. I’m not breaking ground telling people to be themselves, but if you’re in search of long term happiness there’s no other valid path. Maybe instead of working the numbers game with verbal trickery, take that time to work on yourself. Become an interesting person who’s interested in others. Treat people with kindness, respect and humour. Find what it is that fascinates you about the world and dive in deep. It may sound intimidating, but working on yourself is way more effective and rewarding than working on others.

Then maybe I can finally forget that this PUA bullshit exists for once and for all.

Okay, so I looked up the word “irascible”. Get off my back. And lawn.

I’ve spent enough days staring at this blank page blankly to know that the best way to steer out of it is to merely start. I know that addressing a central theme is the easiest way to burst out of the gates exuding chutzpah, but when all else fails, simply taking the lead until an idea forms can suffice. By this point, four years in, I expected that daily writing would’ve gotten easier. Half the point of this exercise was to stimulate that forebrain and jog my front of mind-ed-ness. Given the past sentence, you can see that it hasn’t been a total success. Yes, I’ve written each day, but I’d hoped by now I would’ve found more improvement with the 1400+ entries I’ve committed to the page. That’s a lot of words, though how many of those are unique is another question entirely. I’ve written a lot, but my skills haven’t risen with the word count quite like I’d expected.

Of course, I’ve always fallen into the trap of expectations. As a kid I rarely had to struggle through work, which in turn failed to develop a backbone of discipline and effort in order to overcome tricky situations. Things kind of came naturally to me and even if I didn’t put in a heap of hard work, I’d usually do okay. As the years progressed life got more challenging and as a recurring theme, I stopped putting in effort. If I couldn’t simply roll up and do it, was it actually something I wanted to do? I’m not saying that I’m lazy in every aspect, but often when the going gets tough, I go elsewhere.

At the moment I feel like I’m stuck in some form of rut. This ain’t a unique moment. Rather, it seems like this vague ennui rolls around multiple times per year. My mindset right now is creatively, professionally, interpersonally and motivationally mired. While my job isn’t a shitshow, it’s very unfulfilling and easy to phone in because I’ve been doing it for so long. This results in a slog of a workday that feels like it’s chipping away at something inside. How long before I give up, buy a TV and watch reruns of Last Man Standing (too soon?)? Work bumming me out overflows insidiously into other areas of my life. The lack of creativity in what I do affects how I see myself represented. This digs at my self-confidence, skimming away at my seminal (screw me, I was looking for a synonym for “creative”) energy (plus “seminal energy” is fun to say. This is my circus and I’ll let it run rampant as I see fit). If I’m feeling shitty about how others may see me, I’m not raring to put myself out there for others to see. I withdraw from social obligations and turn into a irascible old hermit. I GET OLD SOMEHOW, YOU GUISE.

I always surface from this rut, but through distraction rather than progression. I’ve been trying to move into other avenues of work, potentially more fulfilling jobs. These attempts have come with multiple disheartening rejections. While my mind is screaming that I’m at an impasse, I’m sure this isn’t the case. I am however unsure of what to do. The answer is most likely to dig in and upskill, or put myself out there in my own time. The problem though is that these ideas smack of good honest hard work and that makes my brain crave familiar and safe spaces. Effort is difficult and failure is terrifying. Improvement doesn’t come easily, but continuing to go through the motions isn’t sending me anywhere help. Is this why people get life coaches? So someone else can do the hard yards of telling them what to do?

OH WAIT GUISE. WHAT IF I BECAME A LIFE COACH? THEN I COULD FEEL FULFILLED TELLING OTHER PEOPLE WHAT TO DO WHILE NOT HAVING TO MAKE ANY PROGRESS MYSELF.

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.

If I travel and eat enough, my blob dreams could be manifested in reality.

I do love going on holiday, but holy shit do I ever hate getting there. Being somewhere outside your norm is amazing. Exploring new territory is exciting and makes you feel like you’re expanding your boundaries. Not gonna lie, I primarily enjoy being somewhere else because it allows me to eat from areas beyond my favourite restaurants. Maybe I should forego vacations and instead look for a good restaurant at every Toronto subway stop.

When I’m on “tour”, I don’t want to have to make hard decisions. Neither though, do I want to be mentally pressed in the lead up. So in simpler terms, I wish everything could just be organised for me in accordance with my wishes. Oh, and let it be dirt cheap too, of course. It’s dumb, shitty and entitled, but undeniably true. I can tell that when I grow up, I’ll be the kind of person who’d gladly put money into other people’s if it made my experiences all the more convenient. For the first time since the 90s, I understand why travel agents exist.

I mean, it’s not the 90s. There’s still no fucking way I’d use a travel agent, but I get how it could be a viable option for old people.

Ugh, can’t I just develop teleportation powers already? That way I’d never have to book flights or any other transportation. Dealing with additional insurance costs for car rentals, delivering them to specific locations and shopping around Google for promo codes would be a thing of the past. Accommodation wouldn’t be a necessity, but if I wanted to stay somewhere different it’d still be an option. I just want to appear in an area and start ravenously devouring local cuisine. Like the sudden appearance of a B movie blob, devouring innocent passers by. I’m sure French people would taste dainty and delicious.

The reality of the situation is that life doesn’t happen like that. If you want nice things, you need to work towards them in one way or another. People don’t rush to prostrate themselves at your feet and do things for you. Unless you’re part Veela anyway. If you don’t want to think about the minutiae, then you pay for the privilege of not having to do so. If you don’t want to windmill slam fat stacks of cash onto someone’s desk, then you need to pick through travel forums, Facebook threads and RetailMeNot for inevitably outdated or invalid promo codes. Or happen to be travelling with a mega type A saint who gets off on that kind of thing. Sometimes they accept gratitude as payment.

None of this is news for anyone, but sometimes I like to use my space here to whinge profusely (read: every single day). A holiday is supposed to be relaxing. So why can’t I earn enough to do that windmill fat stacks move? You there. Person reading. Can you cause me to become a viral sensation somehow? I could use the sponsorship money for all of my dreams of laziness. It’s a worthy cause, at least from where I’m sitting.

Which is on the internet. Co-incidentally the right place to find all the info I need. Dammit. I was looking for excuses, not solutions.

I considered making this a Hirsute Yourself entry, but it was a bit on the fringe.

I don’t know how much further procrastination I can do. It’s 10:20pm and I obviously haven’t finished today’s writing yet. In fact, I’m about as far as you’ve currently read. I’ve been meaning to get around to it for the past three or so hours, but each time I find another excuse to not get around to it. First it was dinner, then watching Fargo, then dishes, etc. The internet itself was pretty damn distracting, whether it was random Magic the Gathering content, Facebook or AV Club reviews. By now though, I’ve run out of those meagre excuses and anything further would be tantamount to self-sabotage. With no pressing subject matter on my mind, it’s gonna be a bullet point kind of entry:

  • I got a mediocre haircut today. My usual salon (oh, we fancy) was closed so I roamed Bloor St in search of anywhere that was open. I’ve got a wedding coming up next weekend and I wanted to make sure I got it clipped by then. I figured I had spare time and it’d free up the pressure to get it done during the week. I ended up in a barber shop close to Bathurst. My barber had started his shift while I was waiting and I was his first cut of the day. If he had any fucks to give yet, he certainly wasn’t wearing them on his sleeves. It was a pretty basic cut. The guy I normally go to does all kinds of fancy texturing and whatnot, plus he knows how I like my fringe. This guy did not. He seemed pretty chuffed with the job he’d done and I’ve always had a hard time bucking up and asking hairdressers to fix things. The cut was surprisingly four dollars more expensive than my usual one. Plus the fringe was noticeably cringeworthy. It’s basically the most noticeable thing about hair on a face. I guess it’s kind of a big deal. Hours later I stood looking at myself in the mirror, not stoked with how things looked. Against my better judgement, I reached into the bathroom drawer and pulled out a pair of small hair scissors. I have no experience cutting my own hair. I’m not aesthetically gifted in basically any fashion. Knowing these things, I decided that it looked terrible enough to take action. He’d cut my fringe in a straight line on an angle, so it looked like a weird, flat, lopsided ‘U’. I took the scissors and started making small snips to break up the strange curve. Give it a bit of texture, y’know? With each cut, I felt less confident about what I was doing. Still, I made sure to keep things asymmetrical. Then after a few more cuts I began feeling incrementally more confident. I put the scissors down and took a look. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better. Easy to ignore. I’d said fie to my worries and come out on top. Also I learned my lesson to never again take chances in my life. Or at least my hair. It turns out shitty most every time.
  • As always, I had a weird dream last night. I remember none of it except for giving my girlfriend this sage advice: “Well if you like farting and sitting then maybe you’d be into pooping.” True wisdom.
  • Saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 yesterday. Without any spoilers, it was an incredibly enjoyable film. The kind of film where you don’t want it to end because one scene after another you’re having such a blast. The soundtrack was awesome (having become such an integral part of the film), the colour palette was gorgeous, the battle scenes were fantastically set out. Really, really funny. Concurrently, I’m not sure it was a ‘good’ movie per se. It didn’t do a ton to advance the overall narrative or characters. That being said, I love that they made the decision to create a wonderfully engaging movie experience instead of leaning hard into the Marvel Infinity War through line. It’s also hard to feel like this criticism meant that the film didn’t succeed at everything it set out to do. So many fun character moments and sequences. I had a great time seeing a big budget blockbuster. I don’t know that I expected them to deliver anything more than that.

There, finished. Now I can finally get around to procrastinating about going to bed.