Is it time to give in and join a Bingo club?

Am I 30 going on 40 yet? Here I am on a Saturday morning garbed in my dressing gown and slippers. I got up bright and early just after 7am, had a bowl of oatmeal and tooled around on the internet watching Magic the Gathering draft recaps and Grand Prix Turin event footage. It’s basically the equivalent of a bloke in his 40s waking up with the sun to watch cricket reruns.

I think it was last night that truly did it. We went out to have dinner with old friends of my dad. One of his childhood mates was in town and he invited my girlfriend and I along to a family barbecue with some of his buds. It was like stepping into someone else’s life, and I mean that in the best way. I’d known my father’s good friend, but nobody else. He’d spent treasured years in Toronto back in his early 20s, before spending time with my dad in Montreal. I met my father’s friend’s partner (oh geez, just describing who these people are in relation to me is gonna take 500 words) for the first time, which blew me away. I couldn’t believe that in all these years she’d somehow never come into the picture. I mean, she knew me as a small child and my dad’s mate had come back to NZ a bunch of times. Odd that we’d never crossed paths once I was an adult. She was lovely and obviously knew my family pretty well. The rest of the table was (so much pipe to lay here) two more friends of my dad, one of whom owned the house. The house owning guy’s ex-wife (they’d divorced 30+ years ago but were still amicable. They had kids together), their daughter and her partner, plus their unfairly adorable three year old daughter (who instantly became BFFs with my girlfriend). We were ushered in the door for introductions, hugs and drinks. We perfectly timed our arrival (*cough*, accidental lateness) with the barbecue food being dished up, so we got to tuck right in.

A table full of cheer and delicious food. Lemon chicken, halibut skewers, teriyaki chicken, salmon skewers and prawn skewers. A big salad and corn cobbs (complete with those little corn forks). The food was great and the company was friendly all around. It was so interesting essentially being shoved into an unfamiliar but amicable situation and piecing together who everyone was from drips and drabs of information. That may have unintentionally rhymed. There were people who hadn’t seen one another in decades, there was the young family adding the generational component and, well, whatever my girlfriend and I were. By some stroke of magic, the conversation never really dipped into uncomfortable territory (as is almost always the case with disparate groupings) and instead just felt warm. We heard about how life was for these guys in 70s Toronto. Of old musical talents, with the home owner guy having written and performed a song for his wedding to his (present) ex wife. Of his daughter (who was big into choirs and musical theatre) then performing a song with her father at her own wedding.

After dinner was finished, the daughter and grand-daughter went off to hunt for her grandfather’s guitar (with her new BFF in tow – my girlfriend said the girl must’ve been enchanted by her long pink and green hair. Also she’s all kinds of nifty) for some post meal music. He performed a song, did another one with his daughter and the table all came together for The Beatles’ “Yesterday”. There was this open dynamic that welcomed participation. It also shone a light on what must’ve been a frequent ritual for this family in years past. It was so charming seeing all these threads from throughout the years come together across one table. The guitar was put away as the three year old was shuffled off home. Another guest took his leave and after a few rounds of hugs we followed soon afterwards (with leftovers thrust into our arms). Even TTCing back, we were home by 9pm on a Friday. It was early enough to go out for the night. Instead, as born again old folks, my girlfriend and I watched some TV in our spare room, falling asleep by 11pm or so.

It’s a long weekend. What’s on the docket? Well we might go grocery shopping tonight. Y’know, a little bit of excitement for a Saturday.

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The Dido song was probably queued up next.

Some thoughts:

As I was walking to the gym (the gym is wholly irrelevant to this anecdote. I don’t know why I chose to include that detail) some dude slowly drove past. His car was low to the ground, LED lit, essentially the baby boomer stereotype of everything wrong with our generation (I bet his passenger seat was filled with avocado toast for good measure). The car was kitted out with an absurd sound system. Bass to the nines. You could hear the vibrations as the car struggled to understand what he was trying to prove (as I’m sure the rest of the city block was). Thing is, he was cranking Eminem’s “Toy Soldiers”, a song known for its tinny, child sung chorus. I was baffled, bemused and altogether befuddled. Was this low level performance art? Or was he simply in a forlorn mood, seeking out the more sombre spectrum of ‘Nem’s opus? I cast my mind back to the days when I used to drive. We’d do this thing when rolling through small, quiet towns. We’d crank down our windows, jut our elbows out, turn the stereo up and crank out Peaches’ “Fuck the Pain Away”. Was it immature? Yes. Did we delight in it? Yes. Is it because we were immature? Without a doubt. I don’t know what the point of any of this is, other to say that whenever in my life it is that I next own a car, I’ll look forward to rolling down the windows, adopting a stern facade and blasting something absurd like the Sesame Street theme song.

The floor I work on has two sets of toilets. One for each side of the floor (it’s a large floor. Big building). The male toilet that’s usually within ten metres walk from me was closed for repairs today. I swear today was the most exercise I’ve ever done. I didn’t realise just how many times per day I went to the bathroom.

Went to a family gathering last night. I’m lucky that my family here in Toronto are pretty politically aligned. It makes for fewer awkward dinner table arguments. We were all taking about Trump last night and eye rolls abounded. It was a congregation of preaching to the converted. Except for an elderly, well, I can’t quite figure out what relation she is to me (if any). Every now and again she’d chime in with something outmoded or missing nuance of the discussion going on around her. I thought about whether to seriously engage or not and decided it wasn’t worth it. She wasn’t looking for a discussion or debate, she just wanted to be heard (which we weren’t really giving her either). I’ve heard post U.S. Election talk of similar thought, but it’s the first time I’ve seen it play out in front of me. I understood a little more how a ton of people in the other camp felt, why Trump had any basis of power in the first place. Anti-intellectualism kind of made sense if people felt tired of being ignored by a system that saw them as brainless statistics.

The removal of Confederate monuments came up and most everyone was in agreement in one way or another. Someone brought up the point that they should be removed from public places, but it made sense to put them in some kind of museum. The idea was that instead of celebrating them, to treat them as learning opportunities condemning their actions, but not forgetting them. The older woman commented that there was no point getting rid of them, because history couldn’t be changed. She mentioned how students now are rising up against their institutions, giving no respect to the system they resided in. I countered that this was a healthy thing and also wasn’t an anomaly. The youth had always rebelled, it was part of discovering and shifting boundaries. She asked what the point was, as things would never change. Hatred had always existed for Jews and minorities. I remarked that the mentality she exhibited was exactly the point, that younger progressive people weren’t content to resign themselves to that future. That while it might not happen in their lifetime, if they didn’t push as people before them did, nothing would ever change. Inwardly I was thankful that her views were a generational thing, that they’d eventually die out (THE VIEWS, NOT HER) and we’d stand a chance of nudging further towards equality. There’s still a long road, but at least we’re walking it.

I mean, yes, she will eventually die too. We all do.

When cutting corners isn’t gouda-nuff.

It’s time for a confession. I’ve been writing these entries for long enough and if you’ve been following, you’ve earned this much. I’ve definitely told this to some people before. I’ve possibly even written about it here before and simply don’t know how to use the site’s search function effectively. In any case, time to be out with it.

When I was a kid, I did something weird. That’s not unusual. Well, it was unusual, but it’s not unusual (to be loved by anyone) for kids to do weird things. That comes part and parcel with learning boundaries. It’s a rite of passage that I took as my goddamn right. I was a little weirdo and now I’m slightly bigger. Little else has changed.

One day (no idea how old I was) I had a very specific craving. The craving itself wasn’t odd in the slightest. I wanted cheese. The quantity that I wanted wasn’t strange either. I wanted lots. How I went about it was where things took a turn. See, we had a stocked kitchen. This kitchen had not only food, but utensils. Even specific cheese utensils. There was a cheese knife that was handy for brie-esque cheeses. We had a cheese grater, perfect for those moments where you wanted your cheese divided into many small portions. A cheese slicer, for thin, flat segments of cheese. Plus my own personal favourite, the other cheese slicer, but with wire. It could also make thin, flat segments of cheese OR fat, flat segments of cheese. I LIKED MY CHEESE SEGMENTED, OKAY? Or, y’know, I could’ve just used a knife.

What I’m saying is, I had options. I used none of them.

Instead I tip toed near the kitchen and perked up my ears (security footage from the day). I couldn’t hear anyone or anything but my own heartbeat. Good. I advanced slowly around our kitchen table towards the fridge. Still no alarming sounds. I grasped the handle of the fridge (it was one of those flat panels with a small indent for a grip) and gently applied pressure. We kept a glass bottle of water in the fridge door and I didn’t want it rattling. I reached up to the dairy conditioner and quietly wedged it open, grabbing the large block of Tasty cheese.

I stared at the chilled block of gold in my hands, wondering how they’d managed to name it so aptly. I peeled back the wrapper and marvelled at its smooth edges, how the sides dropped so sharply from the flat top. It was so orderly and perfect. I couldn’t have that. For some reason I felt compelled to disrupt it. To this day, I couldn’t tell you why. I raised the block to my mouth and took a large bite out of the corner. The pleasantly sharp taste flooded into my mouth and I sighed with relief. I looked back at the cheese brick and simultaneously felt pride and shame. I hurriedly covered it in the wrapper and shoved it back into the dairy conditioner. There was a felt tension between silence and speed, but I knew I had to be far away from what I’d done. I completed my mission without notice or consequence and got back to my room.

Later that evening, I was walking down the hallway and heard my parents talk.

“It’s just so weird, who would do that?”
“They could’ve just cut off a piece. Why would they take a bite and leave the evidence?”
“Sometimes honey, I have no idea.”

I crept back to my room, holding my secret close to my chest. They never asked, I never told.

Until now that is…

Is there anything mo 90s than Space Jam Pogs?

I had Pogs as a kid, but I didn’t really know why. I think I primarily just wanted to order from Consumers Distributing. I may have been living halfway across the world, but how would a spread like this ever not be enticing? There was some kind of cheap multi pack of pogs complete with a slammer, special mat and some shiny ones.

I may have had Pogs, but I’m not gonna say that I got Pogs. Understood the ethos, anyway. Pogs didn’t make a dent in New Zealand. Ostensibly they had something to do with milk bottle tops? I had my set of ten, but nobody to battle with. I think I tried to figure out how to play solitaire. So mostly, they sat there, destiny unfulfilled. I probably threw them out, eventually. It’s weird, but even at the age of eight, I saw them as a thinly veiled marketing tool. This is saying something, I wasn’t a savvy kid. If it weren’t for my more pragmatic parents I probably would’ve been shaped into the perfect little consumer. I’d read Toyworld brochures for fun. I knew what I was getting into, but I jumped in with both feet anyway, because I wanted to know what it felt like to get a package in the mail. Shit, imagine if we’d had Amazon at that age. I would’ve never left the house.

I remember so badly wanting to get mail. My parents would get letters constantly while I stared with wide-eyed envy. “They’re all bills.” They’d say. “Trust me, when you’re my age you’re not gonna want this mail.” I didn’t care, in a way I think I just wanted to be surprised. When I mentioned how badly I wanted to get letters (it happened in movies and cartoons all the time), my mum turned it back on me. “You want to get letters, but how often do you send anyone letters?” I shook my head “no, I don’t want to send letters. I want to get them.” With the patience of an adult, she explained “but if you never send anyone letters, why would they send them back to you? If you send one of your friends a letter with a question, maybe they’ll send you a response.”

It was a light bulb moment. My bulb switched on. Dimly.

A friend was having a birthday and I saw my chance. I got a birthday card and wrote the following message:

Dear ______

Happy Birthday!

Is today Thursday?

Love Leon

Keep in mind these were pre-internet times, otherwise I’d obviously check out isitthursday.org. I gave him the card. He responded “no, today is Saturday.” I had my answer, but I was in no way satisfied. It wasn’t about the question. Over time, I’d get letters here and there. Our former Japanese au pair girls were lovely and sent the most beautiful letters. Invariably they were on cutesy cartoon themed stationary (Disney was a hot favourite), written with delicate penmanship. They became cherished possessions, tucked away in a special drawer for nice things I liked looking at (as well as many Christmas cards I never looked at again. I didn’t think I was allowed to throw away anything that had intended sentimental value. Once I learned that wasn’t true, I threw out almost everything of intended sentimental value).

I haven’t yet reached the age Mum was when she told me that bills sucked, but I’m old enough to have caught her drift. It’s rare to get anything great in the mail these days (whether E or IRL). A couple of times a year I’ll get a tax return slip that puts a smile on my face (last time I got a whole nine dollars!).

If only Consumers Distributing still existed.

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.