Recycling’s gotta get us a few kudos, surely?

Hey friends. Because today is crammed with meetings, work and extra-curricular activities, I’m stuffing writing into my morning commute. Expect messiness, a lack of class and, frankly, some altogether unbecoming behaviour. Like this fucker clipping his nails at the bus stop. Aw gross, he’s just leaving them on the ground. Tiny bits of body detritus that’re other people’s problem now. Public space is his space too, I guess. I do envy the confidence emboldened by apathy of an old man. He’s given the world his youth and now feels compelled to take whatever space he wants. Though was his youth that different? I may have just described “being male”. I should look into that. It’s a hell of a union with a highly competitive benefits plan.

There’s an ad opposite me on the subway that reads “What do you call a Muslim woman flying a plane? A pilot.” I’ll admit that I first read it as “what do you call a woman flying a plane?” Accordingly, I didn’t get it. I was all hooray for gender equality branding, but didn’t understand what stereotype it was battling against. Then upon re-reading it and finding the word “Muslim” I thought, what does her religion have to do with anything? Then the pin dropped and I felt dumb for not getting it. But also kind of stoked I guess? Oh, so you just thought I’d assume she was a terrorist? Fuck you, buddy. I can only imagine how that sort of ad would age out of relevance with coming generations. How long until equality messaging becomes a relic? The hope is that kids today are​ bombarded with enough of it that it becomes matter of fact. Like drink driving ads in our youth. I’ve often talked about the brutal drink driving ads back home. The fact of the matter was that years before I even had keys put into my hands, I innately knew that “if you drink then drive, then you’re a bloody idiot.” How many generations are we from kids who grow up without preconceived notions predicated on skin colour, ethnicity or religion? Will this be something I get to see in my lifetime?

I often wonder, on a long enough timeline do people just get better? As society progresses do people continue to improve on the mistakes of their forebearers? I’m sure it’s not that simple. I’m sure there’s a give and take, that while we move forward in some areas, we also lose more than we notice. I know for a fact that I straight up don’t have many of the practical skills that my parents’ generation leaned as a matter of course. There was a necessary self-reliance that our generation simply doesn’t need. The time I could spend levelling up in any number of trades and skills, I can simply offset the work to qualified professionals and focus on what I do best. Capitalism has meant that we don’t need to be well rounded if we can excel at “our thing” instead. I also have my doubts over whether or not I’m kinder than the average so and so of my parents’ generation. I’m certainly more aware of the world at large. I have a more nuanced and considerate understanding of the socio-cultural makeup of those around me and how to be respectful of that. On the flip side, I’m leagues more entitled than they were. Because I know the world is out there and the internet tells me it’s at my doorstop, I expect to fling open those doors and take what I want. I wonder how much of my life I take for granted. Furthermore, just how much I have because of my parents’ struggles and how rarely I acknowledge that. Hell, I haven’t spoken to them for months (not intentionally. It’s up the top of my list). How entitled is that?

I don’t usually think this much before 10am. It’s like mental stretching. Maybe I’ll actually make it through today’s clusterfuck onslaught after all.

Number one on that list is swimming in jelly. What else would it be?

You know what? I like being an adult. I was primed to abhor all the responsibilities and stress of taking care of myself, but on the whole it’s better than it isn’t. I get to make up my own bedtime, eat whatever I want, manage my money on a larger scale and pay the consequences of failing all of the above. What’s not to love? Being a kid was rad too though. Even the ‘oft maligned’ school wasn’t a big deal for me. I got to see friends, sometimes we did field trips and failing anything else I had a jawsome lunchbox with segmented spaces for different kind of foods. Every day was basically a low key bento day.

I dunno, maybe I’m just a happy person?

I’m not one of those peaked-at-12 adults whose lives I assume consist of leaning on one elbow, looking to the upper left and sighing loudly ad infinitum. I don’t see the point in wistfully wishing for another era. I’m one of those fortunate snake people born without the spectre of military conscription on the horizon. Our forebearers died for just that reason. I make a point of going out and doing things that I enjoy. I try to spend time with friends when I can. I may have less of that time to go around, but I’ve got a shit ton of freedom to shape my meagre waking hours as I see fit.

Well, almost. If I truly had my way I’d spend more time playing Magic than reading about it.

I’m not a robot though. I can’t emphasise enough the extent to which I adored being a kid. I wouldn’t be the oversized child I am today without yearning for past experiences. Nigh universally it’s a lack of time that’s the issue. I’m sure if I had less of a life I’d find more space for excellent, intentional goofing around. What things did I do before adulthood that I wish I still did?

  • Reading. This has to be number one on the list. As a kid I’d read voraciously. I had a minimum wakeup time of 6am and I remember staring down the clock from 5am onwards so I could flick my light on and read. After discovering Roald Dahl I’d walk the half hour or so to school with my face buried in James and the Giant Peach or Danny, Champion of the World. I devoured generic fantasy novels. Anything with swords/dragons/magic really. These days I’ll read a book or two per year, that’s it. I get these brief resurgences of reading from time to time, but unless something really catches me I break from the fever dream.
  • Video Games. The hobby that defined so many of my childhood friendships. If they liked “spacies” then I liked them. Back when Sega/Nintendo were practically gang affiliations, I straddled the fence, playing anything I could get my hands on. At a time when the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis was all the rage, I still wouldn’t look past the simplistic Smurfs on ColecoVision. Ironically at a time when online gaming is gargantuan, I don’t have the time to get good at anything, so instead I skip it entirely.
  • Sports. Oh how I hated running at age eight. Now that I’m actually fit, I can’t find room in my life to join a league. I don’t have the gear to get casual games together. Plus I’m oh so much better at making excuses than I was as a child. In a truly dumb situation, the time I would spend playing sports is devoted to maintaining fitness instead. It costs money to join a league and the emotional energy of organisation to mobilise friends outdoors. I can’t just get my parents to pay for my entry into a space where everything’s sorted for me these days. Then again, I’m in Toronto now. People here love sports and probably own enough gear to get a pick up baseball game going. If I build it…
  • Being carried home from parents’ friends’ places. Of course these ran well past bedtime. It’s hard to forget the feelings of total safety and love that came with that floating sensation. I’d wake up somewhere between the house and car, barely conscious of anything but the knowledge I was cared for. I probably could’ve gotten up and walked myself, but why mess with serene catharsis? André the Giant is long gone, so I’m way too big for anyone to carry me like this. If anyone decides to make a functional shrink ray, a re-enactment of this will be on my shortlist.

As I write this there’s an adult diaper ad on TV. Clearly other people are already up on this reliving your childhood play.

A more accurate summation of our time here would be “Porkfest”.

Our third day in Montreal was, well, halved. We didn’t wake up till at least 11:30am. Our plans for the day were to check out this NDG Porchfest near Monkland Village. First though, we had to clear the hurdle of getting out of bed.

Monkland Village itself was quaint but not altogether exciting. We were on the lookout for coffee and options were abundant. There was a Second Cup on the corner across from a Starbucks. Any number of pâtisseries, bakeries, frozen yoghurt/soft serve stores or cafés offering free flowing caffeine. In terms of viable, good options however, there were very few. We found a little Korean dessert place that seemed like they might know how to make an alright latte which turned out fine. They had Propeller beans, the benchmark for reasonable coffee.

We quickly realised that we were a bit far from the real action at Porchfest, so we tried a side street. There were ~20 people standing on the sidewalk, parents with their toddlers, watching a cute three piece indie band playing a couple of tunes. A couple of kids were selling lemonade and there was a garage sale down the road. It was swell and 100% suburbia. A noticeable element (once we logged into the handy Google map) was the distance they’d put between all the acts. It was a rad way to combat noise pollution, increase the spread of the event and get more of the community involved. We followed our ears down to Sherbrooke Rd where there was some neat gypsy style band performing. Lots of audience participation, vocal percussion, clapping, dancing and stomping around. There were little kids going hard and people all around really getting into it. We caught a couple of tracks before their set finished, then wandered the area.

For all our intentions of trying to get around and catch various bands (a vocal pop ensemble, Radiohead tribute band, all kinds of Klezmer groups), we ended up mainly checking out local stores and foraging for vittles, as is our way when on holiday. I’d been pretty tempted to grab a beer from a depanneur and drink while watching a local band. After our experience getting ticketed in New York last year however, I wasn’t too confident. We devised a scheme whereby I’d purchase one of those insulated coffee cups from Dollarama and fill it with delicious craft beer. We stopped off at a little vegan co-op where my girlfriend got an affogato. I found a fruity dark ale I’d had my eyes on earlier. All I needed was some way to open the beer.

Thing was, we were hungry. Beer could wait. As we walked around looking for a BBQ place we’d seen earlier, I noticed the number of people either unsubtly cradling drinks inside plastic bags or even brazenly chugging back cans of Steamwhistle on the street. My high level deception was unnecessary. I decided to drink after lunch. I had a succulent beef brisket sandwich loaded with all the fixings, a side of baked beans. Jeez those beans were sweet and tasty. Loaded with spices, I’d never tried any of their like. My girlfriend had ribs and fries, slathered in Texas barbecue sauce. After such a massive meal, I didn’t really have the stomach for my beer. My girlfriend still had her eyes on ice cream, so we went across the road and she picked up Kahlúa flavoured soft serve with a cherry dip. Being on holiday has no time for trifling moderation.

A mere few hours later (after stubbornly drinking my beer out of the sippy cup at home), we went out for Lebanese with my Aunt. I don’t know if either of us were that hungry, but the food was delicious. A platter of skewers, baba ghanoush, hummus, fatoush salad, fries and rice. There was more than too much to eat, so we did as well as we could. More importantly it was a nice way of saying thanks to my Aunt for hosting us and an excellent way of learning more about her. It’s a change I’ve noticed in recent years, that meeting relatives who were always adults while I was sub ten years old is now interesting. Being an adult (kind of) myself, learning about their upbringing and lifestyle through different decades is fascinating. Hearing first hand ruminations on a world I never experienced allows me to get a better idea of not only how things have changed, but how it felt at the time. I had a top notch time being present with her and, fat and happy after a solid meal, my girlfriend and I had our first early night since we’d been in Montreal.

Last day. I wonder just how much we can eat before 4pm.

If flowers are thanks then I’m A Bouquet right now.

*** Possible Master of None season two spoilers to follow. Proceed with caution and I’ll try to signpost as best I can.***

In solidarity with the new Facebook flower “like”, I’d “like” (in a flowery fashion) to talk about some things I’m thankful for in this moment.

***Master of None season two is one of my favourite things this week. I feel in love with the first season instantly. Funny, sweet and intimately relevant to modern life as a twenty-to-thirty-something, it handled its subject matter with care, insight, nuanced characters and excellent production design. So well put together, relatable and surprisingly insightful for what seemed on the surface to be just another vehicle for a stand up comic (not as if that isn’t directly in my wheelhouse anyway). I’m only four episodes into season two, but in the least spoilery manner I can manage, here’s some stuff I’ve enjoyed:

  • Giving development to Arnold’s character: Most of the friends in the first season weren’t simple caricatures, but neither were they well fleshed out. I’m hoping to see the rest of the gang given similar treatment, but it was wonderful to look under the hood a little with Arnold and see him as more than just a big loveable goof.
  • The use of Italian: It wasn’t something that seemed shoehorned in. Rather it felt pretty natural, especially the flow between the two languages.
  • The flow of episode four was really compelling and superbly executed. A total joy to watch.
  • The treatment/representation​ of religiously conservative characters in episode three was outstanding: Hollywood has this habit of resorting to simplistic and reductive stereotypes that presuppose that deep religious belief invalidates the ability to also have a personality. Faith as a plot point so often results in one dimensional characterisation as a boring cardboard person, which is stupid. A belief in a higher power is not mutually exclusive with being interesting or inquisitive in other areas of your life. As someone not remotely religious, it’s still of importance to me that characters aren’t reduced to stale strawmen. Thanks Master of None.

My girlfriend and I made late game plans to go to Montreal this upcoming weekend. I’d put a hopeful enquiry out to an auntie to see if we could stay with her to cut down on costs. She’s a lovely woman who put me up on my way through Canada first time around. She’s one of those “take my key and come and go as you please” kind of people, understanding that being on holiday means being out and about constantly. Ironically, this kind of attitude makes me more likely to want to spend time with her. I’ve felt guilty for a while over not keeping in touch, because to me that seems mercenary, as if I’m using her for what she can give me instead of the wonderful person she is. So of course when we sent out our last minute request to lodge with her, she agreed without question. Because that’s who she is. It’s gonna be a busy weekend, but I’m really looking forward to my girlfriend getting to meet my dad’s sister for the first time. I’ve always had a lot of affection for her and it means a ton for my girlfriend to see why she’s so special to me.

The weather today was a godsend. It’s been a lacklustre Spring to say the least. Cloudy, cold and rainy with patchy sunshine. Today couldn’t possibly have been a more archetypal Spring day. A sunny, cloudless sky with a light breeze rolling through. I took a waterfront run at lunchtime in an ideal 16 degrees. I wasn’t sweating profusely, but neither was I chilly. The waterfront was stuffed with bikes, dogs and other runners all making the most of what’s been a desperate rarity for the past few months. My feet pounding the footpath filled my body with a sense of completion and a lightness of being. As if a missing puzzle piece clicked into place, creating a greater whole. It may sound like flimsy bollocks, but trust me when I say the words are coming from a mouth that was split wide in an involuntary grin.

I’m a bad son and a worse sun.

It’s Earth Day tomorrow! Don’t let the exclamation mark fool you, I’m having trouble mustering up enthusiasm for the holiday. It’s not that I don’t care about our dear Mother Earth, but I’m unused to offering her much thought in my day to day (I’m sure my blood mother probably feels the same). I mean, it’s also the National Day of Puppetry, which is neat. Plus International Marconi Day, which feels far more important. He did pioneer long distance radio transmission, which ties directly into the career I loved the most. Why isn’t International Marconi Day a bigger deal? Does the Earth think the universe revolves around it or something? So how to celebrate…

How about a playlist?

  • Ben Harper – “Ground on Down”
  • Pink Floyd – “Mother”
  • David Bowie – “Dust to Dust”
  • Foo Fighters – “Enough Space”
  • The Beatles – “Revolution 9”
  • Joy Division – “Atmosphere”
  • Grizzly Bear – “Deep Blue Sea”
  • Animal Collective – “Grass”
  • The Flaming Lips – “Do You Realize??”

Well that would fill all of 40 minutes. How else could I celebrate? I could…

  • Plant a tree.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Uproot those annoying plants in my backyard.
  • Stare once again at the pile of dead trees that’s been amassing for years in my carport, gradually forcing the fence to budge. Do nothing about it for another year.
  • Sow salt in the shape of a penis on my neighbour’s lawn.
  • Make a mudcake.
  • Marathon the BBC series Planet Earth.
  • Repeatedly hit the sidewalk with a sledgehammer as vengeance for the planet.
  • Think twice about reducing the rubbish I output on a daily basis. Fail to think a third time.
  • Reuse a single tissue 17 times.
  • Recycle any Earth Hour jokes I made last year.
  • Shed a tear thinking of the musician Seal trapped in one of those plastic six pack rings. A tear of laughter.

But instead I’m gonna play Call of Cthulhu and maybe listen to the radio instead. Sorry Mum.

Why do they call it horseradish and not foaliage?

I think my stomach is hungover from Passover. Why is this night not like any other? Because the pendulum swings wildly from starvation to overindulgence. It feels like years since I last took part in some semblance of a service. As kids (and while we still had grandparents) my parents put some effort into engaging us with our cultural heritage. Once we were old enough for the afikomen to skew gimmicky (as much as a treasure hunt can be), our family experience evolved into something more along the lines of “Baruch atah Adonai. Let’s eat.” The horseradish, parsley and salty eggs ended up as dishes on the table rather than items of religious significance. Once my grandparents passed, the holiday sort of died out with them.

Here in Toronto, I have extended family, who invite me along to their gatherings. North America being significantly more Jew-esque than New Zealand, it’s a significant larger affair. It’s a full table and, now that there are younger kids, the family leans into the holiday with a tad more fervour. As with my family growing up, it’s more for the kids than anything else. We were seated with little booklets we could read along with. The songs all had transliterations and the “service” even had a simple ten minute play in the middle. It was kind of neat.

The other side of this was being bound from eating by tradition. Offerings during the service were piecemeal and followed ceremonial moments. A sliver of pickle here, a sprig of parsley there. The one-two punch of a potato chunk and half a hard boiled egg only whet the anticipation for the real meal to begin. I’m not implying we were hard done by, I’d just been deliberately under-eating all day. Anyway, you read the intro. You know I don’t starve. Also there were three occasions when we were supposed to down our wine glasses. I only counted three.

Once the meal came though, holy shit did they ever make it rain. Big fluffy matzoh balls in chicken soup. Maple pecan salmon and chunky lemon chicken. Sweet potato, spinach and quinoa casserole. Ratatouille and green beans with slivered almonds. I knew my stomach only had so much room and I ate twice that much. Then came the dessert. Cheesecake and decadent pavlova draped in berry sauce. Brownies and double chocolate meringues. A huge stack of fresh fruit and chocolate matzoh bark to top it off. The Jews may be experts in suffering, but they’re no slouches in making up for lost time.

I, of course, tried every single thing on the table. In direct violation of the holiday, there was not one dish I passed over.

My breaking point will be when they tell me I can’t eat tinned tuna any more. Sorry oceans.

My girlfriend and I have the house to ourselves tonight. Her mum was staying with us for a few days, which has felt like a significant departure from the norm. It’s weird how that happens, you get so locked into patterns and habits that one little tweak upends the natural state of being. Don’t get me wrong, having her mum lodge with us for two nights was not a big deal. She’s friendly and easy going, so it’s not stressful. It’s just different. The guest bedroom is where my computer lives, so I can’t stay up late on the internet. Suddenly we need to be conscious of whether or not we’re wearing clothes. Normally it’s laissez faire. We ask ourselves do I feel like being dressed now? The answer may vary. If we’re going for an early morning dash to the bathroom, the last thing we’re gonna worry about is showing some skin. When another human’s in the house, they may not want to see genitals in contact with the open air. It’s understandable and not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. What it does do is make you have to consciously think about how you’re acting.

It’s the kind of “problem” that you can’t really grumble about, because as I said, it’s not a big deal. Most people, when it comes down to it, are probably pretty reasonable people. I don’t think people walk our their doors deliberately wanting to hurt or offend others. It happens, but I’d assume more out of ignorance than maliciousness. I’ve said a ton of ignorant things in my life and I’ll probably continue to do so. Because I’m not always aware of the implications my words could have to people whose life experiences are removed from my own. I’d hope that if I erred, I’d show remorse, apologise, learn and try to do better next time. I’m sure that more than once I’ve made the same mistake again and again without learning. My enduring wish would be that one day I’d finally learn.

As I get older, I feel encroaching resistance to new ideas. Not massively, but in small ways. Like my resistance to 3D movies (needless cash grab), looking at iPads for the first time and thinking so we’re buying half a laptop now? Why did that need to happen? It sucks, because I’ve always wanted to be progressive, looking forward instead of clutching old notions close to my heart. I still think 3D movies don’t add enough for the extra cost, we just get more clumsy scenes where objects hurtle towards the screen for poorly justified reasons. At times I’ll hear an idea that challenges my previously held ways of thinking and internally my neck hairs stand on end for all of five seconds before realising wait, this isn’t a big deal.

When I was entering university, I couldn’t understand why there was a generational bias to political leanings. If someone has always held liberal values, why would they ever become conservative? Did something happen and they took an instant 180 to hating those less well-off than them? As I’m getting older, I can start to see how it happens. I’ve always held the view that progress is important, that one of the most dangerous ideas is we’ve always done it this way, why would we change? I can also see how enticing the notion of security is. How at some point your mind could hear an idea that would require you to act or think differently than you have your whole life and you think NO! I don’t want to have to change. I’ve changed enough. Can’t I just be good enough as I am for once? Not that the opposing idea was really asking for too much, but that the effort it would take to make a conscious decision to monitor your actions/words until the habit stuck would seem more than you had the capacity for at that time. That by hearing the way you’d always done something was wrong, was like hearing that you were an asshole for being that way. That instead of showing remorse, apologising, learning and trying to do better next time, you got angry for what felt like you being told that you were a bad person. Regardless if that were the intent of the other person, that was how you heard it. Your hackles were raised and you dug your heels in, refusing to back down.

I’m not saying that’s right. I’m saying that I understand how that could happen.

So no, having my girlfriend’s mum staying was not a big deal at all. It is nice to be pantsless in front of my computer again though.