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.

I wonder if Shirley Manson ever did turn the tables.

Did anyone else realise that Frances Bean Cobain was not only not a child, but an actual adult? And an artist? That by the age of 24 she was (past tense intens-ional) married? I only know this because of some headline about her getting a court order to have her father’s acoustic guitar (from the MTV Unplugged performance) returned from her ex-husband. Fancy that, Kurt’s little girl is a person now. For all I know she’s been a person for years, but like Macaulay Culkin and Hayley Joel Osment the world will always think of her as a child. Wait, in the case of those last two, maybe it’s that the world would prefer them to still be children. I kid. The Pizza Underground are a slice of good ol’ American national treasure.

There’s probably some internet neologism akin to sonder about children we once knew/knew of who grew up. It shouldn’t be weird or unexpected, I mean, that’s what time does after all. Still, it gets me whenever I’m faced with an adult I used to know as a child. Hell, I’m sure I’d feel the same about old friends of mine I only knew as children. As if I needed yet another surefire sign I was ageing into irrelevance. My vacation back home was a lesson in the aforementioned as yet unnamed internet neologism (see how much cleaner it could’ve made that sentence?). Not only my two and a half year old niece (who I last saw at four months), but younger cousins (I’d guessed they were about seven and nine by now, not 11 and 13) too.

We’re all too aware of how we grow as we age, but with someone who’s been out of sight it seems crazy. I can wank on endlessly about my mental and emotional progression from 16-30. Concurrently there’s this dumb lizard part of my brain that doesn’t extend the same courtesy to those who I’m rarely near. It’s like my internal logic imagines some Schrödinger-esque quark-y existence whereby they could be any type of person in the time between our last contact. It’s only my proximity that solidifies their personality, before that they’re a jumble of potential, positive or sub-optimal. I’m clearly an idiot and a narcissistic one at that. It’s fine.

Kids’ll often grow up to surprise you. Who knew my niece would be so goddamn intelligent and perceptive for a two and a half year old? Seriously, you’ve gotta watch your mouth around that gal. She’ll pick up any conversational scraps left behind. Who knew my cousins would have their own interests and passions that they’d ardently stuck with? Who knew cute lil’ Hayley Joel Osment could be utterly reprehensible in the equally reprehensible Entourage movie (I mean, Entourage being a odious shitpile surprised nobody)?

I guess it’s just weird to think of somebody else for a change. When I grow up maybe I’ll get better at it.

I’m sitting in transit writing this. Seems apt enough.

It’s hard to gauge how I feel right now. Having just come off an 11.5 hour fight and still coming down off of sleep meds, my mind’s a bit woozy. It’s tricky to grasp on to solid trains of thought and there are a bunch of elusive ones slip n’ sliding around my brain box. I just realised that I need to do an entry for NZ’s 22nd of January, but also Canada’s 22nd of January. It’ll be two entries in one day for me, but should square things with you. With my current mind state it’s hard to figure out why, but all I know is that I need to, so let’s do that.

The one thought that’s making itself a constant is that I’m far more disheartened to be returning home to Toronto than I expected to be. Mum asked me on the way to the airport what big things I had planned for 2017. Right now, it feels like finding an answer to the above may be a large part of that. It’s strange, because I know that I love Toronto. I know that being home in Toronto I find constant reminders that make me grateful to have left in the first place.

Being back in NZ, however, I noticed the same phenomenon. It’s easy to find small things to tie the sentiment to: I think New Zealanders are generally a more pleasant and sincere people, less beholden to the strange artifice of implied social niceties. In Toronto, it feels like people act the way they act because of how they’d like to be perceived. On the flip side of that is accent privilege. I’m pretty fortunate to be living in Toronto with all the rights of a Canadian, but with the accent of a New Zealander. People straight up treat me nicer. People will go out of their way to help me out, in a way people back home wouldn’t. Without a doubt, it works to my advantage.

Whatever 2017 holds, I know I need for it to hold a big change I haven’t yet discovered. I’ve passed the “making it work” stage of my immigration. I’m settled, I have a place to live, diverse groups of good friends, local communities, custom Toronto coffee map, stupid but fun podcast, loving girlfriend and salaried position. I still have yet to find my why. I don’t know if it’s enough to straight up say that I “hate” my job, so it may be better to note that it’s a necessity that brings me no end of dread. There are places that this job could lead, but if it doesn’t at some point I’ll get more satisfaction from bashing my head into a wall continually. I don’t think this point is terribly far off.

I need a new job and I need that job to give back as well as taking. Something either creative or involved in the creative process. I need to be able to look back on a week and see things that were accomplished in making something happen. Going into the office every day to do the equivalent of drag and drop data entry would’ve felt beneath me at the age of 24, let alone 30. Despite the mitigating circumstances (having your company sold and trying to hold on to everything while hiring freezes and mass layoffs explode around you do factor in. At least a little), I’m disappointed in myself for having been stagnant for so long. It’s not why I left and it’s not where I want to be.

Most of all, 2017 is gonna be spent examining the above and working towards a solution. Why did I leave a situation where nothing was wrong outside of complacency? What can I do to justify my decision, preventing the same from happening again? I need to fall in love with Toronto all over again and I need to start making my life not the life I want right now, but the life I’ll want to continue building for years to come.