So we part-y-ed ways?

A night of fitful sleep meant I had a cluster of bizarre dreams. It’s not uncommon for me(as you probably know by now), but it’s weird for me to have dreams so obviously steeped in purpose. It is uncommon for me to believe in messages from dreams (cut to the anthropomorphic evocation of my subconscious shaking its fist at the sky and muttering under its breath). I’m still not sure where last night’s visions sit on the scale. Maybe that’ll click once they’re down on the page.

The main dream I remember involved being at work. Do I get overtime for this? There was some kind of company-wide festival going on. Tons of departments were hosting their own little soirees. I was walking around the building with my boss, working our way around the different parties. Totally innocent, we just wanted to scavenge food and drinks. Totally just scabbing. Between his rank and my bullshitting over-friendliness, we were playing a good game. After scoffing and scarfing (oh wow, I didn’t realise that had a different meaning) all we could, it was time to go back to work. Neither of us really felt like it, so said I could skive off work all I liked as long as I stayed in the building.

I stopped off at my friend’s desk to see if he had anything fun to do (dream logic, it was a friend I grew up with. In reality this person doesn’t even live in Canada). He said that he was throwing a party for a mutual friend of mine (also doesn’t live in Canada) and he was getting overloaded with actual work as well. He asked if I could help by inflating a bunch of balloons. I said sure and followed him into a small party room. All the decorations and the cake were in place, there was a helium tank, some ribbon and a bunch of uninflated balloons. I attached the helium canister’s nozzle and got to work.

While I was in university I worked at a party store part time. Dream me obviously remembered this. I checked the balloons to see what kind of quality they were. They weren’t great. I tried stretching them out a bit and it only helped so much. I pulled my ribbon close and cut off a bunch of strands. With my little battlestation set up, I started filling. They were a cluster of different patterns, but it was bugging me that I wasn’t getting the pleasant lightbulb shape into these shitty balloons. Still, I persisted. I blew them up, knotted them and tied the ribbon on the end. It took a while, but I was finally getting down to the last few balloons when my friend whose party it was walked in.

The party guy barely said hi and started calling the shots. He looked at the balloons and said they were bullshit and looked lame. He ridiculed them, which I felt sort of bummed about because of some vague (misguided. I was never that great at the job IRL) professional pride. Also the fact that I’d been helping out of my own generousity. He said the balloons had to go and they’d get some better ones instead. He told me they’d go off to pick them up and I could fill them when he got back.

I’d had it. I told my friend to fuck off and shove the helium canister up his ass. I told him that he was always like this, ever since we were kids. That he constantly mooched off others and took advantage of any generousity he could. I told him that’s why we’d stopped spending much time around each other as we grew older and grew apart. I told him that we were through. I meant it. I walked out and met my other friend. We left work and went fishing with a six pack of beer.

It’s weird, because I basically have cut ties with this friend outside my dreams. The scenario in my dream was simultaneously more farcical and dramatic than what happened. As I grew up he stopped being a relevant person in my life. I wanted to hang around him less and less. He only got in touch when he wanted something and never reciprocated. It’s odd that my brain has held onto this for so long, considering I haven’t thought of him in ages.

Why now?

Advertisements

As soon as I fell out I was all “put me back in, coach”.

I had a dream last night about going away to a holiday home with a bunch of old friends. It was a dream, so things were temporally and physically jumbled. I felt like we were in Ohakune, where my family had our old ski batch. However, the home didn’t resemble my family property at all. It was massive, with a pool and everything. We sat on the deck and drank beer. We all caught up on what we’d been up to over the years, scattered around the world. It was comforting to be surrounded by so much love. I’m not maudlin about it, but clearly deep down I miss all these people. They were a part of my life for some time and those experiences are all a part of me.

In the dream I stayed at the home while everyone else went back to work. I discovered that another friend had a home nearby. Since the rental period was up, I crashed at her place. We were awoken one night by a massive storm. Gusts buffeted the house as rain fell in sheets. It got worse. The winds howled like a beast possessed and I started to feel uneasy. The house felt like it was lurching to the side. The section of roof above my bed flew off into the night. I realised just how bad things were and ran into my friend’s bedroom. She was hanging onto a beam, being pulled into an enormous tornado. I grabbed a rope, tied myself to a foundation and jumped up to grab her. Our combined weight brought us both down to the ground. We huddled together and waited for the storm to abate. At some point the winds died out and the sun came up. At some point I fell asleep.

Over the next while I stayed behind to help with renovations. I have zero skill at building anything, so my brain did its best to fill in the dream gaps. I’m pretty sure there was some kind of musical montage. In any case, it seemed like I was being useful, if I needed a clear indication that this was a dream. We were up on the roof trying to fix the missing panels, when we felt wind on the horizon. We clung together, but the winds didn’t amount to much. We looked into each other’s eyes and kissed. It was brief, then we sort of shifted apart and continued to work, saying nothing. Days passed and we didn’t talk much. I remember furtively glancing at her to see if she was looking back. Real high school shit. Disappointed, I assumed it meant nothing and went on with the work. Eventually she turned to me and asked “hey, that thing the other day. Are we gonna talk about it? Like, is that something you’d want to do again?” I grinned and nodded. I turned to face her and… woke up.

I looked at my clock. I still had 20 minutes before I had to be awake. I willed myself to go back to sleep. I tried not to think, but in doing so kept thinking about it. I managed to get back to sleep, but landed somewhere else, rather than back where I was. I woke to my alarm unfulfilled, wanting. She’d always been a close friend and nothing more. Being honest with myself, I’m pretty sure I always had feelings for her, but I’d quashed them because the friendship was more important. I figured that was that, but my subconscious clearly had other ideas. It stayed with me this morning and I thought about it a little more. To be clear, none of this is a resurgence of some melancholic heartbreak. There wasn’t any of that. My heart didn’t pine for her whenever I saw her face. We had a close friendship that I’m pretty sure was mutually fulfilling. It also has no relevance to my current life. I’m in a wonderful relationship with a woman who really gets me. This dream felt more whimsical, really. My mind delving into the past, bringing someone I hadn’t thought of for years to the fore. Revisiting her even in a dreamscape was a pleasant surprise, even if I know that in reality we wouldn’t make any sense for each other at 30.

We’d make about as much sense as my subconscious brain thinking I have any building skills. If anything, that was the biggest flight of fancy.

Wet feet, cold feet, I’d take it.

A combination of dairy before bed last night meant weird dreams to follow. How weird? You tell me.

The first dream is a little hazy in my mind. I remember my girlfriend and I going to an Amanda Palmer concert. We were right up the front, right in “mosh central”. I shouted out a song request that got cheers from people around me. Amanda couldn’t quite hear it, so she thrust the mic my way. I got nervous and screwed up the word order. It made very little sense. The rest of the crowd booed. I shouted out “wait, I got nervous and messed that up. I’ll do better this time.” Strangely, Palmer complied and put the mic in front of me once more. I said it again, the way I’d intended. She nodded and the crowd roared in approval. She launched into whatever song it was I’d requested. I felt vindicated and the rest of the concert was great. My girlfriend and I came home and crashed in bed.

Then I woke up in the real world and went to the bathroom. I was floppy from the melatonin, so I stumbled around a little as I remembered how my limbs worked. I did my bathroom thing, then fell back into bed, finding sleep once more.

I found myself on the way to a job interview at some boutique advertising agency. I was dressed in a fancy suit, though in retrospect maybe too fancy for a job interview. It was shiny and gold, like something I’d imagine Elton John wearing in his prime. Oddly though, I’d decided to pair it with open toed sandals. I think I was on my way from the airport. I didn’t know it for sure, but I was in a shuttle van and had luggage with me. I arrived and looked at the agency from the outside. To be honest, it looked kind of like they’d converted an old bungalow into a funeral parlour. Large vases with ornate flower displays stood inside bay windows. A red carpet extended from the porch into the front door. The carpet was a shade of baby blue and the walls were a darker sapphire. I shrugged, grabbed my bags and walked inside.

I was greeted by a woman in her 30s. Hair pulled up into a bun. Bulky square glasses. Flowing floral dress. She was barefoot. The soles of her feet were covered in baby blue paint, her hands with sapphire. Odd, I thought. I shook her hand. Mine came away sapphire. She brought me over to a bar style desk in the centre of the room, where another associate was standing. “Are you ready to begin?” She asked. I nodded. She clicked the play button on a boom box and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” began playing. She and her associate started to dance. Her eyebrow rose. It felt like she was implying I should dance along. I started moving, then noticed that my suit was ripped from my elbow all the way down the side. It must’ve been from the Amanda Palmer concert last night. I thought. I took off my suit jacket and continued dancing. My interviewer nodded and the music ceased. I looked down at her bare feet. Her associate also had bare feet. I kicked off my sandals and stood on the carpet. My feet felt wet. I realised that the carpet and walls were covered in wet paint. Everyone around the office had feet stained baby blue and hands stained sapphire.

My interviewer and her associate told me that they’d been watching me for some time and liked my work. They appreciated my attitude, but that there was a final test I needed to pass. They invited me into a boardroom with a vast table in the centre. An intricate and complicated board game covered the table, pieces lining the side. It looked like the entire company was there. Everyone was high-fiving everyone else. It seemed bizarre and cultish. I felt immediately uncomfortable. We took turns choosing tokens, but I couldn’t escape the notion that everyone was judging me. It was too much, I had to leave. I excused myself and walked out the door.

I realised that I’d left my luggage inside and returned. The interviewer was standing in the doorway. “You had your chance.” She spat venomously. Her face split apart into a sharp toothed grin, a snake’s tongue flicking in and out of her mouth. Lightning surged around her fists. I looked down and fire erupted from my palms, enveloping my hands in a burning aura. I charged at her headfirst…

…and heard the quiet tones of my alarm. I know, I’m as disappointed as you. I wanna know how that ended.

I mean, did I get the job or not?

I guess you could say that it’s my cup of tea.

I wish someone would bottle the feeling of a long anticipated experience paying off. There’s something so satisfying about having hopes come to fruition, so gratifying to have adroitly placed your faith. While so many dreams never grow legs, seeing those that do gives birth to the notion that they can.

Let’s bring the grandeur down a notch. I played a video game and it delivered on everything it promised.

For context, let’s jump back a bit. Last year I was dating this gal who was a professional artist. Her current project was doing watercolour backgrounds for this video game called Cuphead. A side scrolling platformer modelled in the manner of Gunstar Heroes, Contra, etc etc. Stylistically it was taking its cues from early Fleischer Brothers cartoons, Steamboat Mickey, and Betty Boop. It looked awesome. I was floored. This was exactly the kind of game I loved playing as a kid. Fast twitch style gameplay, power ups and two player co-op. I was excited right from the start. As we dated, I saw so much of the work she and her partner were putting in. Modelling props for a combination of CG and video, endless watercolour world maps, shop backgrounds. So much creativity going into each frame. She took me through a bunch of the animation influences. We watched classic Popeye and Bimbo. I learned about the techniques used, and how Fleischer Studios invented rotoscoping. I saw little Easter Eggs strewn around the game. I never saw gameplay or got hands on experience, but watching everything come together was such a thrill, imagining how the final product would look.

The game was getting a lot of press. She showed me fan art that people had submitted an entire year before the game was even released. Whenever I mentioned the game around game dev friends they’d perk up. The trailer was released. I saw international gaming sites talking about it. Conan O’Brien featured it on his Clueless Gamer segment. I realised that this game was a Big Deal.

Cuphead was released and the reviews were great. It sounded like the difficulty level was right where it needed to be. People were digging the art direction, the soundtrack and all the love that’d gone into curating the experience. I was pumped to play. I wanted to find a gaming friend who’d commit to playing through this thing. I wondered who of my friends had the controllers and wanted to invest the time. I asked around and got some vaguely interested parties, but I never followed up or went through and bought the game. It’s been out for a month (exactly) and I still hadn’t played it. Note the change of tenses? It was intentional, I’m not that shitty a writer.

I had lunch with my friend today. We hadn’t hung out in a while so catching up was très nécessaire. While we were eating, I asked about the game and how she’d enjoyed playing, how the controls worked out and whether it’d fulfilled all of her expectations. She was over the moon with it and so pleased that everything had come together. She asked if I wanted to come over and play. I did. We did. It was exactly what I’d hoped for. The controls were fluid and intuitive. The animation followed suit. The world was gorgeously colourful, cute with hints of menace. The soundtrack was perfect, evoking the moods of the era. The gameplay was hard. Very hard.

At the same time it never felt too much. Dying happened frequently, but wasn’t oppressive. The levels weren’t too long, so restarting never set you back to the point of frustration. Power ups helped so much. The boss fights were fun and involved several transformations, so once you got used to a certain attack pattern they changed up. It felt dynamic and exciting, fast paced without being overwhelming. Even in the midst of battle, little details really stuck out. The enemies were incredibly creative and so well tied to the theme of their levels. Playing with her was a blast, as she’d explain cool behind the scenes tidbits as we advanced. I’m so excited to get the game myself, buy a controller and get stuck in.

Let the games begin.

Hold on to your butts, we’ve got some probing to do.

Magic the Gathering related post. Some people won’t be into that, I’m sure. If so, come back tomorrow. If you’re sticking around, AutocardAnywhere would sure be handy.

ALL HAIL IXALAN, BRINGER OF DINOS TO THE WORLD OF MAGIC. Sure, dinosaurs have been around since Ice Age, but only because of soon to arrive errata. I’ve been waiting for dinosaurs in Magic the Gathering for years. I’ve always had a love of those big scaley/feathery lézards terribles and the notion of using them to smash face in one of my favourite games is too much to ignore. So I’m gonna start brewing already.

Let’s get some mood music.

Back when Ixalan spoilers were leaked, we got a glimpse of the lizard commander himself: Gishath, Sun’s Avatar. Gishath’s pretty neat, but everyone’s gonna be brewing that style of dinosaur deck. You know the one that clears the way, stacks the top of the library with something like Scroll Rack. Seems too easy. I wanna go for something that really lets me BE, AGGRESSIVE, BE, BE, AGGRESSIVE. Where’s my homeboy Marath at? It’s fight club time, baby.

Enrage is the new dinosaur keyword and it’s a doozy. [Whenever ~ is dealt damage, x] One of the prime examples is this fella here: Ripjaw Raptor. So you’ve got a stack of big lizards ready to rumble. They’re fine tanking a bunch of hits for profit, so let’s ring in some damage. Another (untranslated, as of the time I’m writing this) neat critter is this Ankylosaurus. It’s gonna pump the rest of the team when it takes a hit, which is handy because it lets our team take more hits, ya dig? Sun-Crowned Hunters lets us ping other players 3 damage at a time. I’m sure there are more Enrage creatures left to be revealed, but this is our rag tag starting line-up. We can round out the rest of the crew with perennial favourites like Boros Reckoner, Spitemare, Phytohydra and Stuffy Doll.

So how do we start dealing damage to our own creatures? Why not start thematically. Aether Flash (the 7th edition art in particular) starts the value train rolling in as soon as we play our pals. It also hoses opposing token strategies. To be honest, they’re gonna be having a bad time all over. Let’s throw in Powerstone Minefield and Lightmine Field to discourage opponents attacking, but also to let us clothesline any poor bastards with a field of weenies. To give us a bit more control over the board, lets harness the colour-shifted Pestilence, Pyrohemia. It means we can take into consideration our own creatures with lower toughness, making sure we’re only dealing a small amount each turn. Plus it’s pretty damn baller with the aforementioned Ankylosaurus and the enchantment Fungusaur: Rite of Passage. This means our dinos will be legit monsters by the time it gets back to our turn. I don’t think Subterranean Spirit has aged well, but I’m sure it can find a place in our little brew.

Let’s get some more brawlers in on this action. Gruul Ragebeast never says no to a fight. Triskelion likes getting frisky, as does its little cousin Walking Ballista. Foe-Razer Regent likes our creatures getting into boxing matches. Dromoka’s Command is super versatile, as is Boros Charm (that has the super valuable indestructibility we’re looking for. We should probably chuck in Heroic Intervention and Dauntless Escort while we’re there). Setessan Tactics can work as a one-sided board wipe, while Vicious Shadows can profit from the endless death happening all around us. Also Blasphemous Act, because we’re playing EDH, aren’t we?

The set isn’t even out and we’re already ahead of the curve. I knew life would find a way!

Does it have to be arrogance if I’m Onan it?

It’s that time of year again. Tough Mudder is a mere five days away. I’m on the last leg of prep and those legs are predictably sore. For several months now I’ve been training hard. I’ve sworn off alcohol and bread (not through any anti-yeast sentiment, I’m just aware of how I love to overindulge in those two delectable consumables). I’ve been training hard at the gym, working through dedicated upper and lower body split days. Three times a week I’ve gone for lunchtime runs along the waterfront. It’s been sweaty and taxing, but I’ve seen tangible results.

Was all of this necessary to complete the course? Not in the least. Some of my team members last year crossed the finish line with zero training under their belts. All the hard tack I’ve been devoting each week could easily be seen as overkill. Without putting in the extra yards I could likely still zip through the event without dying halfway through. In previous years however, I’ve been thankful for the extra grit in the tank. Instead of slogging up and down the mountain, I’ve bounced through with the gusto of the Energizer Bunny on coke. It’s turned an endurance race into a celebration of my body’s capabilities. Instead of thanking the fates for my survival, I can thank my limbs, muscles, heart and mind for pulling me through each day with aplomb.

The event has become less of an annual task, and more emblematic of how I tie my own self-worth to discipline. Seeing my body change, feeling renewed energy and acknowledging the strength of my resolve brings me pride. Amongst the multitude of challenges that’re out of my control, I’m emboldened to rediscover each year that not all of them are. As someone who’s struggled with issues of body image and associated feelings of inadequacy, this provides me with fuel to see the best in myself.

At this point, five days away, it’s more important than ever to practice self-love. Masturbatory as this entry is, I mean compassion, rather than anything titillating. I’m not gonna be hitting any new peaks over the next couple of days. The benefits of pushing hard are by far outweighed by the risk of injury. For the rest of the week, I’m focusing on tapering down. Any workouts will be focused more on keeping myself limber. Maybe a short run on Wednesday. Mobility and stretching will be a priority. I’m gonna be eating well and aiming for eight hours of sleep per night. Cutting down the caffeine and quaffing down my greens. With the end in sight, it’s so important that I get there safely with respect for my body.

Feeling present in my skin has given me a vitality I treasure. I’m content when I look in the mirror and give thanks rather than seeking flaws. I feel confidence resonating through my core and that in itself is worth all of the effort. Tough Mudder may still be a few days away, but I’m happy to linger in this for as long as it lasts.

Happy T’ronahversary to me.

Happy Toronto Birthday to me. Four years to the day where I first wondered if I was walking into a hotbed of authoritarian surveillance. Four fantastic years where I’ve borderline Eat Pray Love‘d myself into a journey of self-discovery. I ate and had sex a bunch, anyway (though sadly never simultaneously), plus adopted a wide enough smile to make Julia Roberts frown with envy.

My path to Toronto wasn’t straight or direct. In fact it took many years before I even thought of it as a destination. Age five I decided that when I grew up I’d harness my citizenship and live in Canada. They say the grass is always greener on the other side, but with New Zealand’s famed agricultural economy, it was ironic I was so avid to head somewhere US adjacent. It seemed different and exotic, plus they sounded like people in the movies. At age 20 I begun to give it more thought. I’d recently watched Juno and fallen head-over-heels for the idea of Ellen Page. I decided I’d move to Halifax and miraculously stumble into some kind of meet cute. Roll the credits (complete with Hand Drawn Block Letters). Why not? It was a quietly hip port town with a ton of breweries. Sure, I wasn’t into anything quiet or port, but things would work out. Remember the meet cute I probably told myself every night before going to bed.

Then it was Vancouver. I had family in Vancouver and the transition would be easy. I’d lodge somewhere then make my mark on the city. It was a city, right? With my generic media aspirations, I’d slot in just fine. I’d be close to Whistler in case I wanted to… wait, I didn’t really like outdoorsy stuff. What would I do in Whistler? I’d work out the details later, that’s what I’d do. I told some dude at a party just that once and he shook his head. “Toronto is where you want to be, man.” Toronto? I hadn’t really heard of Toronto. “It’s the biggest city in Canada and if you want to get into the media, there’s no better place in the country.” This wasn’t some good friend, just some dude I talked to a handful of times. I’ve got no idea if he has any concept of how much that conversation shaped my life. In the few minutes we talked, my totally vague plans became slightly less vague.

***Several Years Later***

I was 26 years old and I’d just been through the biggest breakup of my life. I was on a short term contract with the local university and it was coming to a close. There was funding for an interesting new contract, but I thought again. I’d never put down the torch I was holding for moving away. It’d been a not-insignificant part of the breakup. As soon as it ended, things fell into place. I bought a one way ticket to Vancouver (with the goal of heading to Toronto via Montreal) a few weeks later. I’ve never looked back.

Starting anew in Toronto was both hard and not. Picking up the pieces is always gonna be tricky, but Toronto kept throwing opportunity after opportunity at me. I hit the ground and started getting out to all kinds of events. I needed people in my life and I found them with ease. Walking back from a concert, running from a bus, OkCupid dates, movie screenings and Magic the Gathering games. Employment was less forthcoming, but I took whatever came my way and rolled with it. I tried and learned things I never imagined: Teaching gymnastics, feeding kids in schools, being a test subject, working the election polling booth, trying my hand as a barista. Toronto meant discovery, excitement and eventually community.

Perhaps it was a matter of getting out what I put in. Reaping the rewards of saying yes to the call of adventure. Maybe I lucked out, or learned to see the potential in coincidence. Toronto has given me so much, including a new lease on life. Over the past few years I’ve changed in ways that I’m still realising from day to day. I hear people talk about how cold Toronto is and possibly I missed out on that because of Accent Privilege. In my time here though, I’ve learned something about this city.

Toronto’s heart beats in its inhabitants, who create something larger than their sum. Toronto is discovering just how much people can surprise and impress you. Toronto is about learning the importance of saying yes, because opportunity is waiting for you to find it. Opportunity might not look like an Ellen Page meet cute, but that’s not to say that your wildest dreams are out of reach.

I mean, The Pink Ranger lives here you guise.