The CRA just paid me $9. I’mma go hogwild!

Do you ever have those days almost entirely spent waiting to hear back from other people? Where you’ve made plans contingent on forces outside your control? You can’t make x move until y condition is met, etc? Friends of mine just sold their house, so I know they have explicit understanding of my situation. I finally got my confirmation, which is excellent. It would’ve been double-plus excellent if it came through before 5pm instead of spending the whole day stressing. I’ve unlocked the ability to move onto the next stages of my balancing act, at least for one of my many spinning plates. Enough about all that. Venting about stress is only fun for so long. On a long enough timeline, ranting about it’s gonna make me sound like a legit grown up. I don’t want to accidentally stress you all out in my stead.

Toronto Fringe has started, which means I’m girlfriendless for the next two weeks. No doubt the plot of every 90s bloke comedy has led to to believe it’ll be non-stop testosterone fuelled shenanigans from here to fortnight’s end. Since I’m not drinking right now, my guess is that rediscovering video games is about as lewd and raucous as it’s gonna get. Grab meals and catch up with my long neglected friends. I might even hang out and watch movies with friends. Not even porn, just gruesome horror (the line between is infinitely slim though), if I get my way. Possibly venture out of the house to see some theeeeuhtuuuuuh. No orgies, bar brawls, drug benders or world domination on the docket. How many nights in a row do you think hookers and blow stay fun? At some point you’re gonna want to watch Netflix and come down. Maybe eat some cheese.

The honest truth of my disinterest in rocking out with my proverbial (or literal) cock out is that I don’t feel like I’m being liberated from anything. I’m not stuck in some stifling relationship with a “ball and chain”. We’re a couple of individuals smushed together in a relationship. We have our own hobbies and friends. Given our already split schedules, it’s not like we’re seeing a ton of each other as it is. I love hanging out with her and adventuring together, but I’m also just as happy doing my own thing. I’ve got more than enough ways to kill time and frankly, not having to factor someone else into my plans makes it a lot easier to get shit done.

Plus it’s way easier going to sleep alone. Perhaps I can start catching up on my twenties’ worth of sleep that I skipped.

Any child who hates burritos hates freedom and must be destroyed.

After harping on about how much I loved seeing movies on my own, I went back out last night to watch Baby Driver with company. While I’d been severely tempted to sneak into Baby Driver after my screening of The Big Sick I held off. I’d promised my girlfriend I’d see one of them with her and, much as I love the cinematic experience, I love her more. Well, it’s a different kind of love. Like comparing the love you harbour for a child and how much you cherish burritos. It’s the gun-to-your-head choice that’s easy enough, but loving one doesn’t invalidate your love for the other. That being said, if your child gives you an ultimatum between them and eating burritos ever again, dump that child in a river and find yourself a sweet as fuck burrito.

If I didn’t mention it, the “company” was my girlfriend.

Zero spoilers, Baby Driver was exactly the film I wanted. Hugely stylised, slick and immaculately crafted. The rhythm of the film was in no way limited to the soundtrack (which has already soared up the iTunes charts, of course). It twisted and turned to its own beat. The choreography extended beyond action scenes to give the whole movie a glorious sense of harmony. When (not if) you see it, you’ll understand what I mean, but it’s been so meticulously composed that it’s hard not to walk away slack jawed in awe. Perfect performances all around with a cast of both old favourites and up-and-comers. It’s a film that’ll have you alternating between fits of laughter and white-knuckled clutching at the seat while you wait for your heart to catch up.

One amazing experience wasn’t enough, so my girlfriend and I sneakily crept into The Big Sick while nobody was looking.

I’d already seen it, but I knew it’d be a perfect fit for her tastes. Plus then I’d finally have someone to talk to about it. I usually have no qualms about sneaking into something, but the particular cinema we visited had small theatres that filled up quickly. My sympathy was somewhat mitigated by the fact that they’d dedicated two rows to “prime seating”, exclusive seats that cost another $2 or so per ticket. They’d also crammed an extra row at ground level where there’s usually space for thoroughfare in front of the seating. You know what? Fuck those guys. No regrets.

Once again, zero spoilers. The film was fantastic, even second time around. It gave me a deeper appreciation for structure, how the scenes stacked together. Taking a more analytical approach, it was nice to note how earned all the relationships were. Pay-offs came after trials and actions had consequences. There were nuances to dialogue with a lack of black and white villains. Even smaller characters felt fleshed out in a manner that’s all too rare. A lot of niche, but familiar faces had roles amongst big names and heritage performers. In the second screening there was an obviously Pakistani viewer who got some of the cultural jokes that everyone else missed, which was such a boon to experience. That sensation of understanding that not everything is for me, that there can be neat little jokes hidden for particular audiences, was so refreshing. It reminded me of the experience of seeing Hasan Minhaj perform Homecoming King live (which is also on Netflix now, I believe). That’s pretty high praise, trust me.

If you can, go out and support innovative, original cinema. We’re spoiled rotten having two such quality films getting summer play. Ditch the sun and enjoy the air conditioning, all while talking in a superb flick.

Or two.

In Big Willie World, is marriage outlawed in favour of getting Hitched?

I wonder if there’s an alternate reality where The Willenium happened instead. A reality where, on that dark morning of September Willeventh 200w, the world was reeling from the premiere of Wild Wild West 2. If instead of picking fights with major news outlets and condoning sexual harassment, the Will House’s POTUS spent his time angling for the Rubik’s Cube to become a major plot point of The Pursuit of Happyness. Imagine a world where Suicide Squad never happened. Political rallies where cries of “WOO. HAHA HAHA” fill the air. It’s there and I like it.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I get distracted easily. While my brain is most certainly tethered to this reality, that has no bearing on how freely it wanders. I’m constantly thinking about all kinds of inane or absurd ephemera. Thoughts come and go. It can appear that I’m concentrating intently, but I could be a world away. I remember one of the many times I took my driver’s licensing test, paying attention but also not being able to shake thoughts of Slith Predator. It’s a Magic the Gathering card. It’s not (and never was) particularly good. I liked the art and, as a green player, wanted it to be as good as Slith Firewalker. I was paying attention to the road, certainly. I was also trying to think of how the card could be utilised if I so wished. What if it had haste? What if I had a whole deck of green beaters who had haste? Some kind of mono green beatdown deck that leveraged Concordant Crossroads for the advantage. Was my indicator on? I could throw in cards with heavy green costs like Fangren Firstborn. Oh, and maybe that would’ve been a good opportunity to turn onto the main road, but that car was coming on my right pretty quickly. What about a beast synergy with Ravenous Baloth? How do I handle issues of redundancy. Okay, time to turn. But if I throw in the Baloth, is there any point in using the Slith Predator at all? The licensing tester doesn’t look pleased. Shit, did I just fail? Also wasn’t getting to play the Slith Predator the whole point of the deck?

I did fail, by the way. That’s not the point. The point is that weirdly now when I’m driving I think of Slith Predator. Still. I made that deck, by the way. The Predator was great in there. The deck probably sucks now. I still get distracted by something from years ago. I also get distracted by things that don’t exist and other things that will happen in the future. With a brain that’s obsessed with being anywhere else, presence is kind of difficult to cultivate. Of course I can concentrate when I need to. I don’t suffer from leaving tasks undone. It’s just that I’m not giving my everything at all times.

Yesterday was my three year anniversary with my girlfriend. We’d planned out a big day of spending time with one another. I’ve also been recently preoccupied with something big on the horizon. It’s hard not to be constantly turning it over in my head. It’s a breeding ground for anxiety and a lot of hard work, but it could turn out to be a very positive step. I’m not ready to talk about it yet. That didn’t stop it from creeping into every waking (and attempted sleeping) moment. I realised that while this future endeavour was important to me, if I didn’t push it out of my mind, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy our anniversary.

Presence.

Presence is so important. To live in the moment and enjoy experiences as they come, not to spend time stressing about things outside your control.  I’m not saying to ignore the future, but there’s a balance. If you’re not authentically within your experiences, why are you doing them? Why half ass something you’re doing for pleasure? Why rob yourself of that joy? Why, on a day devoted to something my partner and I have created and nurtured together, would I be anywhere else? It wouldn’t be fair to her or me. So I focused on investing in the moment, spending time well and truly finding fulfilment in her company. It was the best decision I could’ve made. We had an amazing day together, reminding me just how lucky I am to be able to spend my life with her.

Good thing the Willenium never happened. If, by government mandate, we’d been forced to spend the day watching Hancock on repeat, my brain would’ve been a universe away.

This might take longer to write than the next Game of Thrones book, but I’m in.

This was a lot easier two years ago. Last year, even. That was all different, but familiar territory. This year marks a new milestone. I’m three years into the longest romantic relationship in my life.

There’s no caveat. I’m not gonna get your hopes up then turn around and be all “KIDDING. I had a longer relationship, but the romance was dead.” I haven’t been together with a partner for three years, period. What’s more, it is still romantic after all this time. I’d say that I love you as much as the day I met you, but that would be a fallacy. I didn’t love you when I met you, I didn’t know you. After three years, I feel like I know you. At least a little. You’ve heard movie characters stating that they can “read [insert person] like a book”? I get it. I finally know how that feels. When we’re together there’s a tacit language beneath the words and expressions. I understand what you’re saying, or when there’s something you’re not saying. When something’s off, it echoes through my bones. Subtext has become natural. I’m not bragging, I know you can see through me too.

The most exciting part is that this in no way means that you’ve run out of surprises. Have you ever found a book that appeals so much that you think it was written with you in mind? A book so rich in character that something new jumps off the page with every skim? It might be a peculiar sentence structure, a bold idea from out of nowhere. The vivid imagery with which its memories are etched. As new chapters appear every day, it’s no wonder you can’t put it down. You crack its spine each chance you get, even if only for minutes at a time. Like the most beguiling contraband. A page or two when the sun wrests open your eyes. A chapter before bed. A few clandestine sentences by moonlight. It’s intoxicating. You can’t wait to have read it in its entirety, but couldn’t bear for it to be over.

If our relationship began in its infancy, it would be talking by now. Growing and maturing, understanding the world around it. The recognition that as old as we felt before, there was so much yet to come. That we’d barely scratched the surface. There is so much yet to come and as each year passes, I appreciate and love you all the more. How adventurous your soul is, game for anything. How your gorgeous visage hides exponential beauty beneath. How boldly you embrace what the world throws your way and smile as it comes. How deep and fierce your emotions run, pulsing through the veins of every direction you take. How sincerely and openly you love, giving of yourself without barriers. How much you care for anything you can. You embrace life with an envious passion and I feel honoured to bask in your warmth.

I cherish writing our story together for this year and many more.

We all knew that was coming, right?

A while back a friend told me of a Vonnegut quote that I think of constantly. I’ve definitely mentioned it on here before, but if my worst case scenario is reminding you, I’m willing to take the consequences. It reads:

“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

I wrote earlier that I think of it constantly, when really I should’ve instead admitted that I couldn’t think of it often enough. It’s easy to get bogged down by anything that irks you. Every day is a series of microaggressions and interactions that could’ve gone better. Living is anxiety, in that if we had to stop and consider every infraction, we’d find the nearest bridge and a pair of concrete boots.

Conversely, we don’t give enough credit to moments that lift us. Negativity is far easier to feed than the alternative and feeling petty is exponentially more satisfying than contentment. I wonder though, if that’s a function of how much energy we give to that which doesn’t go our way. If we spent more time acknowledging pleasant moments, to carve out those few seconds each time, if we’d notice the difference in our lives.

Take today for instance. Today wasn’t remarkable in any way, but it hasn’t given me anything to complain about. If someone tomorow were to ask me how my weekend was, today would’ve likely factor into my recount. Still, when I think harder about it, I’d almost say it was a perfect Sunday.

I woke next to my girlfriend and we snuggled for a bit. I got up, breezed through public transit and headed for the gym. Without immediate engagements, I didn’t feel remotely rushed. I took my time between sets and really considered which muscle groups I was hitting. While normally I’m bound by evening events or exhausted from work, today I got to spend as long as I wanted without trying to get in and out in about an hour. I left the gym and dawdled around a few shops, then checked out a new Japanese restaurant that opened in Koreatown. It was great, the yakiniku beef was incredibly flavourful, the salad was much more than the usual iceberg lettuce drenched in (admittedly delicious) salad dressing. There was some kind of dried vegetable on the side and the miso soup tasted unusually vibrant. I left satisfied, without a bulging stomach.

I did some fruit and vegetable shopping on my way home. Ten minutes after I arrived, friends came over to play some Magic. We played for hours, the games were interactive with shifting status and tensions. There weren’t huge stalemates, play was fluid and dynamic. We had discussions about the wider metagame and format, then they left and I had the house to myself.

I’ve got a bolognese sauce on the stove which is minutes away. I spent time prepping, listening to music and took advantage of the fresh ingredients I bought earlier. Having tasted it already, it’s gonna be piquant as fuck. Plus the satisfaction of having cooked it myself is an entirely salient taste.

I don’t know what else to say, If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.

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.

Any excuse to shake my caboose.

I’m currently at work, but I’m not. Well I am, and aren’t. I took Schrödinger’s commute and logged into my work computer from home. Waking up at 8am, I was at work by 8.10am and ready to start. By merely clicking alt+tab I can zoom to and from my job through the information superhighway. The future is here, now and forever. It also means that as of about 9.30am I was 75% finished my day’s work. It’s so much faster to work without having to physically interact with my co-workers. The cat is my only vocal co-worker and to be honest, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about most of the time. So I’m free to plug away at schedules and log everything without background interference.

Why am I at home today?

Because for the second weekend in a row, I’m going out of town. Lucky me, right? The Earth has taken another lap around the sun and once again Steel Rails is upon us. Steel Rails is an amazing art party/fundraiser held annually by local paper The Community Edition. My girlfriend and I went with friends last year and had an amazing time. We were carted out to a mystery location that turned out to be an empty warehouse surrounded by steel containers. There were huge papier mâché creatures on stilts, people dressed in weird masks. Tons of interactive art exhibits such as styrofoam sculpting and celebrity/food portmanteau creations. Fortune tellers and storytelling events. Musical performances throughout the evening. Also food and drinks galore. Then we all piled back to Chainsaw in Waterloo, the archetypal small town Friday Night bar (with enough fluorescents to attract every barfly in town) and hung out with fun strangers we’d met throughout the event. It was a helluva time.

It was also an unconventional Steel Rails. The format in the past was always to load people onto a train and get them “loaded”. All booze is by donation, which means people get stupid drunk and have a riotous time. Creating a low commotion, if you will. This year, the train is back! So not only do we get to feel all manner of classy drinking on a train, but we also get Snowpiercer re-enactments. I’ll pack my hatchet. I wonder how the sushi is this year…

Because it’s a local community event and because it attracts creative types, the crowd are usually fun Fringe types. Despite the massive quantities of alcohol, I didn’t see much last year in the way of douchebaggery or douchebagguettery. People engaged in the spirit of the party and embraced the weirdness. Saying yes to adventure’s call and seeing where it could go. Last year rumours of a cult started spreading. There were printed pamphlets with trace amounts of info scattered around the event. Over the course of the evening, I not only had people ask me about my own affiliations, but giving impassioned monologues on theirs. The volunteers were all incredibly friendly and helpful and the effect was profound. I’m really excited and can’t wait for this workday to end.

But things could be worse than hanging out at home.