Next time I go, I’m packing an Escape Rope.

Is there anywhere more depressing than the Dufferin (read: Sufferin) Mall? Sure, the Dufferin Grove Mall looks like the post apocalyptic survivor of an 80s zombie apocalpyse, forever frozen in remembrance. Still as one can see from the car park, at least you go there without expectations. Sufferin Mall has a unique soul numbing terror of its own, that sets in steadily with each step. Perhaps it’s the harsh fluorescent lighting, violently expelling the sight of the all too present shadows like some twisted Dorian Gray made brick and mortar. When the automatic doors reluctantly open before me, I swear I can hear the car park seagulls chanting “you were warned”.

It has a multi-level Wallmart. That should’ve been the first clue to run from the hills. Why do I know? I went there in a desperate search for some kind of protein bar my girlfriend and I could split (after an hour of searching left our spirits sapped). Nutrition is as sparse around Sufferin Mall as real value. Cheap prices are merely a Faustian pact in the form of numbers. The true cost goes unsaid. Approaching a free sample kiosk for kinder bueno minis, the lady behind accosted me desperately, resting her hand on my arm. Holding a camera in her other hand, she pleaded “sir, could you take a photo with us? We need to take photos with samplers, otherwise we don’t get paid.” Soul bleeding away into the aether, I numbly agreed, clutching the sample betwixt my thumb and forefinger. I dropped it, then scuffled around on the ground, where I’d left my dignity. I smiled as best I could, a mournful grimace trapped behind my eyes. If I didn’t escape soon, I never would.

Here’s the thing. Being in Sufferin Mall demands every sliver of your metaphysical vis. No matter how frequently you’ve fed and watered prior to entering, you’ll feel drained within twenty minutes. Endless empty promises of sales and values take more from you than they could ever give. There’s nothing of substance to be found in the food court and there’s no way this wasn’t done purposefully. With no reserves in your body, it’s impossible to navigate the endless storefronts without giving in out of desperation. You think that maybe by purchasing something, you’ll be allowed to leave. Your mission accomplished, you can slip away and preserve some semblance of sanity. The divine joke is that you came away with anything at all.

Things look and feel different there, it’s a palpable vibe. Children eschew their cherubim features for demonic visages. As if like moonlight in Pirates of the Caribbean, the fluorescent bulbs show the evil lurking beneath the skin. Shrieking and bawling endlessly, there is no appeasing a toddler in Sufferin Mall. The Escherian architecture too much for their sub-formed minds, letting all hell spew forth from tiny lips, lungs audibly agape. It’s graft vs host on a primal level, sub-human shells not fit to repel the venue’s demonic siren call. So they embody it, miniature vessels of horror forced to contend with forces of a magnitude beyond their comprehension. I mean, how is it possible to be miserable in a dinosaur cart for fuck’s sake?

Did I get what I came for? Would I ever have? There’s a reason the attached Beer Store sells Four Loko. Clinging to sanity by a thread, would the desperate few managing to emerge from Sufferin Mall’s predatory maw have the willpower to resist this modern day wormwood? As someone who’s somehow lived to tell the tale, it takes all you have and more.

Sufferin Mall: Just because you’ve abandoned all hope, it doesn’t mean you’re without anything to lose.

How far do I want to push this metaphor? If I tried hard enough, could I cash in on the lucrative key ring sponsorship market?

At what point do you decide that something has given you all it ever will?

Okay, that’s way too wide a question. I’m not sure how you’d define that into a focused answer. So I’ll start rambling instead. We had two bands play short two song sets at work today. The New Pornographers and Cold War Kids. Both are bands that I used to listen to with some regularity. I had TNP’s Mass Romantic and Electric Version on repeat for months. Fun, poppy hits with excellent harmonies and toe tappin’ tunes. I listened to Twin Cinema and Challengers, but neither impacted me as much as their initial albums had. When Together failed to deliver, my enthusiasm for the band petered out (a phrase which I only just read may date back to the depletion of mineral refinery. The mORE you know, eh?). I haven’t as of yet listened to their 2014 release Brill Bruisers and it’s unlikely I’ll hear the follow up in two weeks. I got from this band what I wanted, which has served me well. No regrets, but neither am I mining their subsequent albums for new, fresh material. In my mind, they’re petered out.

Even if you weren’t, I was pretty impressed with how I turned that etymology around. Self love, people.

New Pornographers were a band I enjoyed. Cold War kids were a band I adored. I thrashed Robbers and Cowards. A distinct vocal sound combined with innovative production and refreshing songwriting. “Hospital Beds” (which has an excellent Florence and the Machine cover), “St John”, “We Used to Vacation”- fuck, I’ve gotta stop or I’d be quicker to say “the whole album”- hit me hard. I fell in love with all of these tracks and they found their way to every contemporary mix tape I made for years. Loyalty to Loyalty had a couple of neat songs too. The ones I liked worked into my constant rotation. “Mine is Yours” bombed hard for me. The sound, more stadium oriented, was no longer what I wanted from them. Much like The New Pornographers, it wasn’t for me, so I stopped cold (War Kids?). So it goes.

I could name a stream of bands who followed a similar pattern for me. The aforementioned Florence, my almost eponymous Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, TV on the Radio. I don’t know if this is more a comment on the effects of wider audience reception, fame and success, or that I have specific tastes. All I do know is that at some point, these bands have taken a fork in the road where I’ve refused to follow. The journey to that tangent was fantastic, but we’re clearly not meant to go down every road we see.

Seeing Cold War Kids in particular today, the band sounded great. Previewing new material off their forthcoming album, the experience of seeing them live (and shaking the lead singer’s hand. They awkwardly didn’t know what to do after the short set. He’d seen me kneeling on the ground during the performance, walked over and extended his hand) still had a stirring effect on me. While things may have changed, the seeds of that which had called to me were rooted fast. I don’t know how I feel about the new tracks, but I loved them in that context. Would I feel the same with the mixed versions? I’ve got no idea. Are there gems hidden in their past two albums I ignored? There may well be.

There are some messages in here about persistence, trust and faith. Like Cold War Kids’ past two albums, I haven’t decided if I’ve got the energy to search for them right now. Maybe though, just because I’ve pushed a door close, it doesn’t mean I need to lock it.

I want to eat cheese and never stop.

Tired. Brain dead. Not to be confused with the 1992 Peter Jackson splatterfest renamed Dead Alive for the North American market. You know, the one with the karate master priest who exclaims “I KICK ASS FOR THE LORD!” Also a dude walking into a room full of zombies holding a sideways lawnmower. Great film. I didn’t walk into a room full of zombies carrying a sideways lawnmower. It just felt like it.

I had a run during lunchtime today though, that was a bright spot. Being able to get out of the office and jog across the waterfront was pretty fucking great. Fresh air in the face of Toronto’s recent jigsaw weather (today had a high of 10°C. Tomorrow’s is -2°C) meant I could attack the afternoon without feeling dried out. Instead I was achy and hungry. So my normal state of being, anyway. I protest too much. It really was awesome not only having the opportunity to run in the middle of the day, but to be capable of walking out the front door at work and jogging almost 6km. With Spring quickly approaching (yesterday, apparently), I want to get fitter again. I’ve been keeping active, but haven’t done the cardio I’ve desired. I’d say I’ve been itching for it, but realistically that’s just the beta alanine in my bloodstream. Tossing Girl Talk’s 2014 Coachella performance on my headphones, I put my legs through a decent pace. Tons of people were taking advantage of the weather and hitting the pavement. I’m not gonna lie, whenever I saw someone jogging on the bike path ahead of me, if I saw them slowly getting closer I made it my low key mission to overtake them. Because what else was I gonna do? I’d left my cellphone (Pokémon Go portal) back at work. Whenever I saw somebody jogging in the opposite direction I did that little bus driver wave. Nobody waved back. Maybe Toronto is as unfriendly as everyone says.

After eating everything in sight (and taking a walk to eat the things that were out of my sight), I was exhausted. Then realised I had a job interview in a few hours and being stuffed would be a sub-optimal strategy. So I did all of the things you typically do when you’re that special combination of nervous and anxious. Nervious? I re-read the job application to search for scraps of handy ideas to prepare. What kind of questions would the interviewer ask? Could I use an old list of questions to ask in an interview again? Oh shit, I’d already spent ten minutes picking the guy’s brain about the position a month back. Had I asked those questions then? Would he remember? Did my breath smell too much like tuna? Should I brush my teeth? Did I need to shit? Why was my mouth dry? Should I drink more water? Was I wary of drinking too much and having to pee during the interview? Could I just bring a drink bottle into the interview anyway? How many copies of my CV did I need to print out? What if there was someone with him in the interview? Wait, what did he actually mention when I talked to him a month back? Were there any things I felt I should take heed of from that previous meeting? Who schedules an interview for 4.15pm?

Interview went fine. It was also a minute’s walk away from my desk, so that was handy. I had decent answers for all of his questions. I didn’t oversell myself, but confidently stated my abilities and admitted faults (that honestly did fit the role). I talked about previous positions and how they’d help. I asked about what he was seeking from an employee and felt I represented the answers he gave. I asked a couple of questions he had to think about, which prompted further discussion. All in all, I think I did as well as I could. Whether or not I get a follow up interview will depend on whether I match what he’s looking for.

Then with ten minutes left in the workday, I messed around on the internet then left.

I’m still messing around on the internet.

C’est la vie? More like sa-lie-va.

A use the urinal often. For peeing, obviously. It’s also one of the select few places (aside from the shower and my hope basin) that I spit. Sometimes if I’m really congested I’ll spit into a gutter or drain outside, but I’m sheepish about it. Spitting in public feels like a gross thing to put into others’ view. The urinal doesn’t feel so bad, provided nobody else is there. It’s not a private shame or anything, but maybe it would really put someone else off. Who knows? In short, what I’m really trying to say is how surprised I am that I only just spit on my dick.

I’ve been alive for 30 years. How did it take so long?

It’s not like I was aiming for it, but neither was I intentionally trying to avoid it. I always assumed it wouldn’t happen. As always, my arrogance was my downfall.

After it happened I froze for a second, unsure as of how to handle this bizarre circumstance. Usually at the urinal liquid comes out of my dick, but doesn’t loop back onto it. It’s not like I pee on my self on the reg, so I was ill equipped for this eventuality. Though I knew I was alone, I looked around just in case before reaching behind me. There’s a paper towel machine behind us with a sensor. I waved my hand underneath and hastily dabbed at it, then tossed it into the bin. Problem solved, right?

But what of my confidence? I’ve used the urinal since and I was a tad shaky (like, before peeing, not in the post pee shakedown). Is this something I’ll need to be cognisant of from here on out? Or can I chalk this down to a one off anomaly? It’s taken this many years, I could rest on my laurels and tag it as a statistical blip in the radar. What if it wasn’t though? What if this is a new trend? Should I be spitting pre/post-pee? Should I skip the spitting altogether? But what will I do when I have excess phlegm? Will I ever even learn how to spell “phlegm” without spellcheck coming in to save my arse? Did I just learn it by having to re-type it?

So many questions and for all I know, the answer is that I’m living a lie.

Things used to be so easy. Ignorance was bliss before fear entered the equation. Now it appears that my ignorance was piss and the harrowing outcome of my wilful recklessness. I’ve been hanging fast and loose (and ten) and my rule has come to an end in the form of drool. I guess the girls on the playground were correct with their astute gender dichotomy.

Heavy lies the crown too large for the head.

Gland to be of some use.

I think the most exciting thing I’ve done in the past hour was get up to go to the toilet. Bleak. This isn’t the life I yearned for as a child. Then again, as a child I wanted to grow up to be a dinosaur or Wolverine. Hell, I probably would’ve settled for becoming a wolverine. I could go for having potent anal scent glands used for marking territory and sexual signaling. I’m sure it’d be preferable to this dim office job. I can blame the weather all I like, but truthfully not a day passes that I don’t rue my lack of a special upper molar in the back of the mouth that is rotated 90 degrees, towards the inside of the mouth. Now THAT’s something that’d make my CV pop.

As a kid though, outside of the desire to inhabit every pop cultural IP I could easily obsess over (and there were so many), I found it hard to latch on a Stanislavski style through-line of action with which to be guided. In short, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. Furthermore, I didn’t know what was within my reach. My parents were always encouraging, but grounded. Reach for that rainbow, but don’t expect the pot o’ gold to be waiting for you without working for it. For years I decided that I was gonna be an actor, almost purely because I shared a birthday with my favourite actor; Jim Carrey. At this advanced age of eight I hadn’t pursued acting with any zeal. I just thought it’d be fun. People would give you lines and you’d say them. Then you could play superheroes as a job and all would be right with the world.

I didn’t actually start drama until age 13 or so, and even then it was a pretty tepid toe in the water. For something I’d supposedly wanted to do my whole life (five years basically being that at 13), I kept myself from launching headfirst. To be honest, I was fine. Totally unremarkable. I could act, but without the spark of greatness that eludes 99% or people who truly believe they’ll make it. I knew it, and so the dream passed me by without any particular feelings of loss. It didn’t matter, I had potential. I could do anything. As the years went on, I did a ton more and my expectations of what the future held widened. I’d write a book, or articles, or a comic, or speeches. I’d act in movies, TV shows, voice act. I’d edit video, audio, music. I’d do something in media. Surely that was a more defined dream?

I hope nobody is expecting some profound discovery or declaration here. I have worked in media for going on ten years now. I’ve had a plethora of jobs that’ve certainly varied in satisfaction levels. Even if the only constant in my future careers is uncertainly, I know at least that I’m in the right industry. I am the very model of middle class angst. Having your life struggle surrounding the fact that you’re fine, but have yet to excel is the kind of privilege so many would adore to suffer.

I may not be Wolverine, but when the right costume party strikes there’s nothing stopping me. I might not have found my niche in media, but it’s better than clawing at the industry from the outside. Taking a shit might be the highlight of some days, but give me a cup of coffee or two and that’s one thing I do excel at.

Or I could open thirty more Chrome tabs. Possibility is everywhere!

If I don’t start this now, I never will. Time for some straight up stream of consciousness bollocks. It’s been one of those days where I’ve had next to nothing to do. It’s not a bad thing per se, to have nowhere to be and zero obligations. Sometimes it’s downright luxurious. Today however it’s manifested in an almost paralytic listlessness. I can do almost anything I want (short of activities involving high level reality warping), all I need is direction and motivation. The two things I’ve lacked thus far. It’s so cold. SO GODDAMN COLD that even at home, my fingers are chilly. The tiny muscles surrounding my knuckles need to thaw before working. Right now my typing is clunky, blocky. It feels unnatural moving at a pace beyond lethargy but if I don’t, this will never get done. My one job today was to try and get the right handle for our shower. Ours falls off periodically. We have a hex key close by in case it needs to be tightened (which it does, all too often). By this point, the screw’s thread is damn near stripped right through. I’ll turn the hex key and it’ll just rotate in the hole, finding little in the way of purchase. My girlfriend and I got a replacement a month or so ago, which turned out to be the wrong type. I was to bring back the one we bought and get the right one. A mission.

Still, that would involve leaving the house and simply being helpful wasn’t quite enough motivation for me. I needed something else. By midday I still hadn’t eaten, showered or coffee’d (holding out hope for someone being keen for brunch/lunch somewhere). I realised that if I left the house I could get coffee, catch a pokémon or two and feel like I’d accomplished something today. I went back to the store with backup. Not only did I take photos of the shower set up sans handle, I brought the handle with me. The sales assistant took one look at it and noped out, handing it off to his manager. His manager said they’d possibly have what I was looking for, but more likely I’d have to go elsewhere. We looked, but couldn’t find anything that fit the particular set up. Trust my landlord to grab something difficult to replace. One refund later, I came home with no new handle, no new pokémon (it wouldn’t even log in) and a stomach merely containing caffeine. At least I tried, goddammit.

With nobody taking up my offer for lunch, I was forced to take matters into my own hands. Sandwich time. Hearty multi-grain bread. Mushrooms, cheese, sundried tomatoes, sliced turkey, shredded cabbage (for texture), mayo, sriracha and tabasco all grilled in the George Foreman. It feels peculiar to name a sandwich the high point of my day, but frankly it was a big bastard of a sandwich. I watched an episode of MBMBAM, played some Shandalar and flicked through my comics library in case anything caught my eye. No surprise, it didn’t.

Surely those can’t be helped moods are something that everyone experiences, right? Even with myriad options, it’s impossible to find something that really catches your fancy because you’re so conditioned to saying no to things. Nothing will work out because in your head, you’ve got this preconceived notion of being inconsolable. You’re not miserable or depressed, just indecisive to the extreme. Perhaps it’s loneliness or a desire for company in disguise. Maybe I was actually clinging onto hope that someone else would grab on to the olive branch I was putting out, then take all decisions off my hands. My indecisiveness would be solved out of a lack of needing to make plans. I could latch on for the ride and simply be a passenger. Go to a restaurant or bar, have the burden of cooking, mixing taken away. Really relax, letting my tired bones, muscles and frozen fingers hang back to thaw out.

Then again, the day isn’t over. There’s still time for hours of possibility. Even a second sandwich.

Well I’ve got enough acid for the recipe, clearly.

I’m pretty wiped right now, so in lieu of anything insightful (as if that were the norm or something) or interesting, here are a few words in certain arrangements:

  • My legs are shot. I’m undecided whether this is a positive development or not. Positive, because I worked them pretty hard on Monday. If my body manages to regenerate the damaged tissue, I’ll no doubt be hefty enough to juggle cars. If I’m in this much pain, I obviously worked to a super human degree. If my *walking* is reduced to a slow shuffle, it must be because the muscles have retreated to chrysalis-esque pods, hiding their eventual potential. They’ll burst out when I need them most for some feat of heroism. It’ll be worth the borderline limp I’m rocking at present. Why I flopped around a Body Attack class trying in vain to look competent. My butt feels like it’s gonna collapse, these buns of steel underneath proving too much for my feeble skin sacs to contain. It can only be a great thing, definitely. There’s no other reason I’d be suffering. It has been ordained. Just you wait.
  • I got my Fleet Foxes ticket today through a pre-sale. It’s great news, it really is. While ordering though, I couldn’t believe how quickly available seats had been snapped up. I’ve heard rumblings that Toronto is plagued by virulent scalping bots, but until today I didn’t understand the magnitude (Pop Pop) of the issue. I ordered perhaps 20 minutes after they’d become available and options were pretty slim. After being allocated tickets far back and hugging the left side of Massey Hall, I took another spin on the “best available” selector and was very luckily given a prime location (ordering a single ticket does have its advantages). It’s a bummer. It’s not good enough that I’ll be fine, what about all the big fans (it’s been six years since “Helplessness Blues”) that’ll likely be singing their own helplessness blues) who’ll miss out? All because a few shitlords want to take advantage of the system? I don’t know what the answer is. Do more Toronto ticket sites need captcha? A four ticket limit per order? A vial of blood extracted from each purchaser? Hopefully this survey garners helpful tips.
  • It may well have hit nine degrees today. I saw some dude on the subway in jandals. I wish I had that much confidence about anything in my life.
  • During today’s Body Attack class we did a bunch of squats. Thing is, I really needed to fart. It unfortunately wasn’t as simple as being ashamed of releasing gas. These were farts barely discernible from the next stage of evolution. I was mortified that if I gave them the credence to run free, I’d free the runs. So not only was I hobbling around with my chrysalis stumps, but I was striving to hold in my lunch. “Body Attack” could not have been a more apt name.
  • For the first time in mind-bogglingly long, I’ve assembled a fresh salad for dinner tonight. I’m ashamed to admit I don’t know how to make a simple olive oil vinaigrette salad dressing by heart. Sure, Google is quick and easy, but isn’t there merit in knowing things without the need to look them up? I bet Jandals in Nine Degrees Dude knows how to make one from memory. Dick. I bet he scalps tickets too.