OffSpring are in the air. I gotta keep me separated.

Because I’m not a fully functional human being, I sometimes have strange responses to things. It’s fine, I’ve existed up to this point idiosyncratically and I’ll likely continue along the same path until I no longer exist. We all work with a range of people. Some co-workers grow to become friends. Sometimes with others water cooler talk drags on uncomfortably long (an important part of adapting to a workplace is learning who you can make flippant asides to (that won’t result in a conversation you weren’t looking for)).  The vast majority of them are simply people who do the same thing as you do, or inhabit a similar office space. As someone who has a lot of acquaintances, some of whom I’m pretty close with, co-workers who qualify as friends are a huge anomaly in my life. I make friendly conversation with most people, since the alternative would be either not talking with them or making unfriendly conversation. Neither seem to be great options. What I’m getting around to is this: I really hate the co-worker on maternal leave bringing in their infant thing.

In no way am I saying that there’s anything remotely wrong with bringing your kid in to work in order to parade them around. You do you, and other people enjoy it. Totally fine. When it happens though, I have to be elsewhere. I just don’t have that kind of relationship with the people on my team. If I was on some kind of parental leave, my co-workers would see me no sooner than 365 days post-pregnancy. Every single time that someone brings a kid in, I don’t know what to say.

I still haven’t evolved to the point where I find babies interesting. They make shitty conversation, are pretty bad at doing anything and don’t understand my pop cultural references. So there’s no attraction in getting to hangout with an infant. I too lack the knowledge about child-rearing that gives me conversational ammo for their parents. They’re obviously gonna want to talk about their baby, who I know nothing about. Outside of that, there are the usual assortment of questions about what life is like with a baby that I’m not interested in. If I wouldn’t have chatted with the parent about non-work subjects while they were still working in the office, how would them having a kid change that?

It feels like a social obligation. I don’t want to pretend that this person is suddenly interesting because they reproduced, that’s disingenuous. While they’re in the office though, it can be hard to avoid them if they’re conversing with people in the middle of a main thoroughfare. There’s no way to get to the kitchen for more water without bypassing them, so I get stuck parched at my desk hoping they’ll just leave without noticing me.

Maybe I need to work out strategies around this. I could just pretend in my head that they don’t have a baby, and ask them questions that I’d usually ask them as if they didn’t. “So, what’ve you been doing these days?” “How’ve things been lately?” “That Toronto weather, eh?” “Trump right? So crazy right now.” (then launch into the Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh, oh, no, nos from Beyonce (feat Jay Z)’s 2003 single “Crazy in Love”) Then again, people like talking about their kids. So as an addendum to that, I could totally splice in some throwaway about the baby to my previous plan. “So what’ve you been doing these days [with the baby]?” “How’ve things been lately [with the baby]?” “That Toronto weather [with the baby], eh?” “Trump right? So crazy right now [with the baby]. Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh, oh, no, no.”

Conversely, the underside of my desk is very spacious and I get a WiFi signal there. I could hide from my problems instead.

I will not bow to any sponsor.

Wow, for an ad about solving protests peacefully by offering diabetes in a can, Pepsi sure shot themselves in the face. I’d link the ad, but it’s bound to be taken down most everywhere by the time anyone would read this. If you somehow missed the “Joy of Now” ad in all of its Kendall Jenner whitewashed glory, the whole thing was a cynical cringe-fest aimed at co-opting the spirit of unrest that’s been rife in the past few years. I don’t know which brilliant internal ad exec thought going for the Bad Taste of a New Generation route would yield newfound cultural capital to coke’s attic dwelling doppelgänger. Possibly a now ex-internal ad exec.

The ad revolves around some manner of unspoken political protest. “Join The Conversation” proclaim the smiling, photogenic protester’s placards. Unfortunately for Pepsi Co, a vast many online commenters did join the conversation, quick to point out the utter absurdity of jumping on board the rebellion bandwagon by kickin’ it with a global corporation. The ad featured artists from different walks of life – A musician, photographer, model (Jenner) all noticing the protest and joining in. Whatever undefined issue was at hand when Jenner strolled past the protesting lines, a can of Pepsi awkwardly clutched between thumb and forefinger as one might hold something smelly or contagious (so as not to obscure the label, in this case), and handed it to a cop. The cop took a sip and the crowd behind erupted into cheers. Yeah, it was that fellowkids. Oh well, even if the seemingly universal condemnation did stem the rollout of their campaign, at least it’s given us countless memes that will surely entertain us all for the next week.

Pepsi Co is no stranger to misguided marketing attempts. Surely we all remember the infamous “Dub the Dew” promotion, resulting in “Hitler did nothing wrong” and “Gushing Granny” leading the pack for suggested new “Mtn Dew” flavour names? In a perfect world…

It must be pretty hard to be a marketer these days. Snark has always been in vogue, but with increasingly interconnected online communities, it’s more readily available than ever before. Unless you’re Oreos, according to a recent Google poll. I’ve read the report and still struggle to see why they’re something teens hold in such high regard. Seriously though, is a survey of 1000 teens really a valid cross-section? It’s weird, but people these days seem to be both more gullible and skeptical than ever. People are more likely to believe things if they coincide with their previously held convictions, so on one hand I kind of understand why Pepsi would’ve lunged into such a massive misstep. On the other hand, those who’re can see through marketing bullshit are able to exponentially amplify their voices in ways the 90s never offered. The notion of “cool” has always held ties to a lack of effort. It’s something you are rather than something you try to acquire.

Just ask Justin Timberlake. Drop the “The” already, Pepsi.

Sure, I’m a Boy Who Lived, but at what cost?

I spent last night tossing, turning and sweating in bed. In honour of this, I’m gonna think back on some peculiar ailments and injuries I’ve had over the years.

  • To make this easy, I just accidentally elbowed the toilet roll holder at work. Sounds silly, but it’s a firm metal structure with sharp corners. My accidental elbow drove the fleshy part of my left tricep just above the elbow directly into that corner. Now I’ve got a tiny, but persistent dot of blood that I’ve been dabbing at with a tissue. Out, out damned spot.
  • Speaking of damn spots and dabbing at dots of blood, there was that whole pilonidal cyst thing. It’s easy to throw out that polysyllabic word after having gone through it a bunch of times, but the first time was an odd sensation. I was working 11pm to 6am as a desk jockey at a talk radio station. Driving the levels, taking calls, making sure we stayed on air and timed out to the hour. I was sitting a bunch, but found it painful at a certain angle. Peculiar. As the night went on, it hurt more and more. I went to the bathroom and sitting on the seat was a literal pain in the ass. When I wiped, there was a mixture of blood and some translucent cream coloured substance. It was all kinds of gross and alarming. I didn’t know what to do, so I went back to work. By the end of the shift, I could feel a sizeable lump, about the size of a small pear. Given that I felt normal that afternoon, I assumed I had an alien host growing in my butt and was suitably shitting myself. I went straight to the A&E, who gave me amoxicillin/clavulanic acid tablets, which reduced the swelling within 24 hours. It was a terrifying ordeal, with flare ups every three months or so. They never stopped taking me by surprise. Eventually I had the thing surgically removed and I’ve been okay ever since. I still feel a little low level trauma and wipe with trepidation. I also now have a Harry Potter scar just above my butt cleft.
  • While teaching me about the functions of a car under the hood, my dad accidentally sprayed me in the eye with radiator fluid once. My knowledge of car mechanics is still pretty narrow, but I definitely learned one lesson that day.
  • I awoke one day with severe tooth pain. I found this odd, considering I’d had my wisdom teeth removed already and hadn’t felt gradually encroaching sensitivity like I’d imagined a cavity would feel. Being more than marginally worried (and armed with benefits) I went straight to the dentist. They took a bunch of x-rays, but couldn’t find a thing. The doctor pointed out how congested I sounded. He suggested that my nose was so stuffed that it was interacting with nerves in my teeth. On his advice, I bought a bunch of extra strength cold and flu meds, which took care of “both birds” handily.
  • I drunkenly did a handstand and fell out of it, dislocating my finger. This unfortunate incident led to a profitable understanding of how amazing my company’s unlimited physio plan was. No pain, no gain, eh?
  • I once asked my mum if something was herpes, worried that I’d caught it from a girl I was seeing. She pointed out the idiocy of asking if a bump on the inside of my mouth was herpes. Rightfully, I felt like an idiot.
  • I used a stubbed toe that bled for five days as an excuse to go to the doctor and ask for a shit ton of subsidised meds. We were leaving on a U.S. road trip and I wanted contingency supplies. She loaded me up with a ton of ibuprofen, a anti-diarrhoea and anti-nausea meds. I can thankfully report that we did not need any of the anti-diarrhoea meds.

In the greater scheme of things, a little tossing and turning wasn’t so bad.

Cloth and greed.

I was lucky, with my gym membership, to scoop up a friends/family discount. Bringing the cost of a year’s membership down to $280 odd was outstanding, making it easier to put more money away for holidays, etc. When I signed up they asked me whether or not I wanted towel service. “How much would it cost?” I asked. They replied that it would only be $5 bi-weekly. So that would be $10 a month? $120 for the entire year? Did that include tax? Apparently not. $140 odd including tax. On a $280 membership? It didn’t seem worth it. I’d spent years bringing my own towel. Why start splurging now? I said thanks but no thanks and made a mental note to bring towels with me.

A funny thing happened the next time I visited the gym. It was rush hour and there was a line at the entrance. As I walked past to scan my card, the person behind the desk handed me a towel. I blinked and almost thought to say something but instead thought again. The towel was warm, soft, soothing. It was larger than the one I’d brought, so I held onto it and used it for my workout. What a nice treat, I thought. The next time I returned, the same thing happened. And again. Again. Time and time again, they’d just give me towels without a word. This was fantastic. I hadn’t paid a cent but I was getting all the benefits. I felt crafty, wiley, clever. Like I was getting away with… money laundering… or something.

Then I went on a weekend and was still handed a towel. And again. Again. Or there was a pile of towels and I took one. Nobody noticed or cared. Every once in a while sometime would mention to me that my membership didn’t include towel service. “Oh really?” I’d feign shock. “Sorry about that”. I wasn’t sorry and they knew it. No worries, they were just doing their job and they were right, it wasn’t a service I was entitled to. I’ll tell you what, I still felt pretty goddamned entitled. Because of course I would, I’m a straight white cis male. Thing is, they’d usually leave a stack of towels at one end of the front desk, so I’d go get changed, then come back and grab one. If worst came to worst, I’d just ask the person at the counter for one. They didn’t remember me. I don’t know if they even really cared. I justified it to myself as some kind of political move. A strike against Globo Gyms everywhere.

Yesterday they didn’t give me a towel. They also didn’t have the pile over the other side of the counter. I wasn’t keen on going into an RPM class and dripping everywhere. Still, no towel, what could I do? I did the class and wound up soaked, sweaty hands slipping all over the handlebars. Still, I resolved, I’d go back upstairs after the class finished, grab a towel and have a shower. I was going out straight from the gym after all. There was no choice in whether or not I’d be showering. Cloaked in hubris I walked upstairs to the counter in order to get the towel I was, by some divine providence, owed. Nothing. No towels to be had. I slunk back to the changing room feeling the weight of my arrogance. As I disrobed and plodded towards the showers I scrambled to think of any solution. Could I towel off with my used clothing? I thought again, the drenched stuff? Yeah right. I stepped into the shower and turned on the water. What about shaking off like a dog? Drip drying? Had my idiocy ever sunk in so deeply before?

I finished in the shower and tried to shake/swipe away as many droplets as I could. Very little difference, I was still sopping. I trudged out of the shower reigned to the idea that I knew was stupidly incarnate. Naked and dripping in full view of the changing room, I navigated the hair dryer down from my face and across my body. Another guy walked up to use the hair dryer beside me. He gave me a much deserved confused side-eye. “I’m an idiot and forgot a towel. This is my penance.” He chuckled loudly. “Dude, I have a spare towel. Wait here a moment.” He vanished for a second and brought back a fresh gym towel. My saviour. I gratefully clutched it close as he handed it to me, thanking him profusely. My day was saved.

This is the part where I learn a lesson, right? It should be. Really though, what did I learn? How did I suffer for my arrogance? I didn’t. I got bailed out. Being truly sorry involves a certain amount of contrition, and we both know I’m gonna try get free towels every goddamn time I can. I’m too addicted to the thrill, the idea that I’m somehow profiting. The tragedy of this whole exercise being that if there were actually real stakes to the equation (let’s face it, free towels aren’t the biggest social issue we have) I genuinely don’t know if I’d react through anything but stubbornness again. It sucks and it’s the response of all too many people in our day to day. If the system lets me take advantage of it, I probably will. Maybe though, just maybe, I’ll bring a backup towel for emergency circumstances.

I’m not a complete idiot.

Another life, a lifetime ago.

There’s this radio ad I keep hearing (given that the radio is played in the kitchen and toilets (ya rly) at work). It’s terrible. It’s one of those client voiced ads and every time I hear it, I cringe a little harder. It’s the sound of a production engineer giving zero fucks and wanting to be finished by 5pm. “Here at [insert disability lawyer’s name here] we ONLY GET PAID. when you get paaaaid.” Weird fucking line reads with emphasis erratically sprinkled throughout as if by some darkest timeline Salt Bae. It’s not Prod’s fault that the ad turned out awful. They no doubt got press-ganged into it. Some sales rep with no regard for the on air result wanted an easy sale. I get it. I know how these things happen because I’ve had it happen to me time and time again.

Why is a client voicing at all? Because it’s an easy sales pitch. Appealing to the ego is the lowest common denominator of pitches, it’s pretty gross shit. “Oh, you’d be great. You’re such a big personality and you’d sound amazing on the airwaves. Just think of how much new customers will love walking in and meeting that celebrity they’d heard on air.” Vomit. The only thing more disgusting is how easily it works. Then you as a production engineer have to deal with the fallout.

Sales rep walks into your studio at 4pm telling you that a client is coming in to voice. Notice the lack of the word “ask” anywhere in that sentence? Typically this “conversation” happens ten minutes before this client is due in the studio. You ask them why a client is voicing again. Was it really necessary for the script to have it client voiced? Of course, they assure you. You tell them they’re lying. They reassure you that you just haven’t met this person yet. They’re hilarious, they’ll be fantastic. You tell them they’re lying, that they’re always lying and that they’re scum. Scum who makes three times as much as you do. You tell them (notice the lack of the word “ask” anywhere in that sentence?) to leave your studio, that you have rules about Sales Reptiles leaving their slime around. Tell them it’s bad for the equipment. They leave and you briefly consider self-mutilation as a less painful experience than the one you’re about to undergo.

After they leave, creative (the writers) walk in to apologise. They assure you they ripped out 70% of the copy to make it workable. They said the original script they were given was abysmally overwritten. Also it made no sense, mentioning a plethora of irrelevant details, but the sales rep told the client it was fantastic, so they felt chuffed. Creative apologises, but you’re not gonna shoot the messenger. You briefly regret that it’s illegal to shoot sales. As you do every day.

Sales arrives at the door with the client. “I leave them in your capable hands.” You look down at your “capable” hands and wonder how quickly they could strangle the life out of the reptilian shapeshifter standing outside the door. You invite the client in. Sales thankfully stays behind the door frame. Outside arm’s reach. Next time.

You get them in the booth and give them a couple of notes:

  • Stand up straight, but relax your shoulders.
  • Smile as you talk, it comes through in the voice.
  • Don’t stress about getting it on the first try, we have the technology.
  • Don’t just read the words, think about what they mean.

They may get one or two of the four things, but three or four requires some arcane planetary alignment. Usually they mumble, slouch, emphasise the wrong parts, speak too quickly or slowly. You reassure them not to worry, that it’s going great. You look over at the pile of work already sitting in your In Progress tray and cry on the inside. After 15 minutes of audio for a 30 second ad, you tell them they nailed it. Good job. You know you’ll fix it in post. You take them back out to reception. Two minutes later Sales comes in to say thanks. You tell them to fuck right off. You mean it. Five minutes later Creative walks in, apologises. Asks you if you want to grab a beer after you’re finished.

You say sure. Tell them you’ll be finished by 5pm.

The ad is in the client’s inbox before they arrive back at the office.

It’s a foregone conclusion that I don’t trust myself, but others are pretty reliable.

It feels like an age since I’ve “done” anything. I don’t mean like I’ve been frozen in carbonite. I’ve been out and about, though rarely after dark because it’s cold and I’ve kind of had enough of winter by now. I mean I’ve been unproductive. I’ve had spare time, which has virtually all been sunk into this ridiculous early 90s Magic the Gathering game. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been enjoying the down time, but something inside me is itching, telling me I need to create or perish. I mean, look at my writing lately, with the exception of that Clickhole style piece I put together it’s basically been LivejournalLite around here. Things have been calm, and I’ve been self-taught (by my own neuroses) to believe that if I don’t make a storm of my own, I won’t like the one that inevitably comes in its place.

I’ve potentially got an interview on Sunday with one of my favourite bands. A band I’ve been following for years. They’re bloody prolific and lyrically dense. I’m kind of low-key terrified of this whole shebang. I’m certain it’s gonna be a don’t meet your heroes situation, that either they’ll prove to be dicks or I’ll be shamefully unprepared and feel like a bag of dicks. In this scenario I’m the bag holding the dicks, not having a craving that only a bag sized quantity of dicks can satisfy. I’m trying to think of interview questions, but it’s like butting my head against a wall repeatedly.

What can I ask them that will actually engage them, that won’t make me appear a total twat? Questions that aren’t the same stock ones interviewers throw at them every time. What angle can I take? I’m not a particularly cerebral fellow so it would be downright odd to try and approach them on that kind of conceptual level. I’m certain that they’re smarter than me, so it’ll be all I can do to not just nod repeatedly while trying to bite my own tongue out of mortification. Moreover, I know that being terrified to do it is all the more reason I should, so next time it’ll be one millimetre less frightening.  I need to do the things I’m not good at to get better, right? That’s how upskilling works?

The other tumbleweed rolling around in my head gathering bracken is about a sitcom idea. I had a dream the other night about writing a show. It felt so possible, but with work required that when I woke up, I went back to dream and made my brain keep working on the elevator pitch. I don’t want to talk about the specifics here, but I mentioned it on Facebook and developed traction with a friend about potential plot lines. The more we talked about it, the more realised it felt.

My first reaction to anything like this is always to dismiss it, because the thought of how much work it would take makes me want to never think about the idea again. Yet again though, it’s something that scares me, which means I should likely be running at it headfirst. It’s not something I could do alone. I’m far enough removed from the subject matter that I’d need to work with people who’ve lived elements of the experience. If I could help facilitate that though, I know so many funny, creative people who would knock this concept out of the park. What would be the harm in getting together in a room for a day and sharpen the soft edges? Maybe put together a basic outline that could be honed into a tighter script? If time is the big cost, is that really such a loss?

What have I got to fear?

I’ll be honest, this blows.

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

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

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

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

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