Wait, how much potato are we talking here?

Do you ever remember a dream several days later?

A friend of mine (I’m not being intentionally vague, I feel like it was some homogeneous mash of people I know and love) and I were being billeted by some Texas family. Guns and trucks style Texans. Every single stereotype you can imagine rolled into one. Details are a little bit foggy, but I remember them living in this colossal house. I also know that we seemed to ideologically clash on virtually everything, to the point where staying with them got a bit tense. The house was riddled with guns. I mean, it was all a dream, so it’s only fitting that it got farcical. Still, wall mounted guns, gun cabinets in the lounge. I remember several guns leaning against the corner of the wall in the bathroom. This is clearly what my subconsciousness thinks of Texans.

They had several large gas guzzlers, but the kids had taken them for the weekend. The only vehicle left was my mum’s minivan she’d lent me for the trip. In reality, my mum doesn’t have a minivan. In this dream however, she had a huge pink van tricked out with all sorts of snazzy contraptions. My host dad was mortified and refused to drive it. Said it was the un-manliest vehicle ever to grace the Earth and he wouldn’t be caught dead being seen in it. Also, we needed (does anyone ever *need*?) to go to Costco for supplies. To assuage his fragile masculinity, the car had a device like that dumb Tomorrow Never Dies BMW Ericsson remote control. So this grown man slunk down in the back seat away from prying eyes and drove a large vehicle through the city streets via remote control. He’d periodically peek out the window to make sure nobody he knew was seeing him. He commanded his wife to do the same. We sat up tall and straight, all too happy to be seated in the lap of gaudiness.

Costco was a trip and a half. It was enormous and felt like a city in itself. The aisles were absurdly wide and the products went far beyond buying 12 packs of peanut butter. You could buy cars and shit. Those Tiny Houses you see in all those niche reno shows. I think I saw someone bringing a pony up to the cash register. I don’t remember much of what we bought, aside from the mum grabbing a 24 pack of pre-made pumpkin pies. We stopped off at the Costco café post shop to grab some grub. Notable was the $68 meal deal for two, which came with a mountain of mashed spuds, gravy, two substantial rib-eyes and a pair of rifles.

I’m not entirely sure how removed from reality this all is. Austin was nothing like this, but then again Austin is a weird liberal jewel in whatever four letter word we want to call Texas. Bigg? It’s funny to me that my brain looks at the state as a pair of truck nuts given geographical land mass. I was talking with someone about how much work this next generation is gonna have to put in to make life work. It’s obvious that even without being a part of the political divide in America, I’ve entirely built up such a strong series of prejudices. With the increasing divide in the world, what needs to happen in order for people to come together in a basic human capacity? Jesus, are we gonna need a Watchmen style universal villain to enter the fray and unite us? Hell, is there anything more 2018 than the Korean war possibly ending and a united Korea to be potentially more cohesive than the United States?

We’re living in a world far beyond the purview of dreams.

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Wolfe of Wall Street would’ve been a far more infuriating film

Here’s what’s going on in today’s entry. I’ve just come back from holiday a changed person. You know how vacations are meant to leave you rejuvenated and ready to attack life head on? That’s me right now. I’ve hoisted my metaphorical battle axe in preparation for whatever life throws at me and I’m ready to hew. While I’m riding this high, I want to have a pseudo state of the nation with myself. The idea is to look at what I’ve got going on and recognise how much of it is truly fantastic. Then maybe when I’m feebly struggling to claw my out of a rut I can look back at this list and get a little boost. Like a motivational jet pack. So what neat things are going on in my waking hours?

  • My relationship. I’ve got an incredibly supportive partner. She’s switched on and we complement (and compliment) each other wonderfully. We’re in a non-monogamous situation and while neither of us has really acted on it much, it’s nice knowing that we have the emotional wherewithal to own our feelings and support one another. It feels like we’re a team and I can’t overstate how gratifying and secure that feels. Also she’s super cute, y’all (after Austin, y’all is a thing I say now).
  • My friends. Both in Toronto and abroad, I have a ludicrous and possibly undeserved number of amazing people I’ve connected with. Seriously, so many of my friends are people I adore and/or admire. They’re creative, talented, funny, clever, sweet, thoughtful and they tolerate all my eccentricities. Back home I have the kind of lifelong friends that make time and place irrelevant. I have utter confidence that they have my back and that’s a pretty lucky position to be in. In Toronto it’s rare that I need to feel lonely, because my friends here do a phenomenal job of making space available. I have a deep, abiding love for my close friends and it’s unfair how many close friends I have. I feel selfish.
  • My family. I talk to them all too rarely, if only because I know they’re still supporting me whatever I’m up to. That’s unbelievable, right? Some people can’t talk to their parents or have contentious relationships based on their family’s innate bigotry. I have a wonderful family who cares. I am who I am because of how they raised me and honestly, it’s fucking hard to find fault with their methods. Despite how infrequently we chat, I tend to enjoy it when we do. If I ever got into serious trouble, I know they’d be there for me. How did I get so fortunate?
  • My Toronto communities. Doubling down on the talented, smart, excellent people around me, these talented, smart, excellent people form a number of local communities. So many individuals who create events, art and support for people across the spectrum. They’re welcoming of all sexual, gender and cultural orientations. Even New Zealanders. It’s because of all the awesome people that I managed to fall in love with Toronto at all. They make a potentially cold city shine bright and add colour even in its darkest days. Toronto may be humdrum to some, but to me it just hums.
  • My health. It’s the epitome of privilege. I’m physically fit and have access to a multitude of resources thanks to both Canadian health care and my work benefits. As far as I know I don’t have much in the way of mental health challenges to deal with. I’ve been fortunate to have access to education on healthy eating and as such, learned over time how to take care of myself. I’ve also after many years gotten to a point where physical activity is more of a joy than it is a drag.
  • My employment. I may bitch about my job a fair amount. I may feel creatively unfulfilled, stunted and at times downright miserable. In the end though, even if my job is a phone it in home by five sort of ordeal, it still pays the bills. I’m fortunate to a) be employed and b) be employed at a workplace that for the most part really tries its best. It strives to be anti-harassment and progressive. There are all kinds of perks. Things could be so much worse and I want to recognise that I’m all kinds of lucky that even my lows are pretty damn high. I might not be raking it in, but I’m also not in a position where I need to worry about money. That’s a hell of a privilege. I realise too that if I were just doing a job that I cared about, things would go from sub-optimal to goddamn ideal overnight.

So Future Leon, unless the rapture happens and you’re left on this earth surrounded by people who repost David Avocado Wolfe, chances are you’re doing alright. Chill and be zen, things will work out.

Skeletons of memories.

I’m starting this by saying that this entry won’t be me at my top of my game. It’s been a long day. I went maybe 6 hours without drinking water and now my brain is all backed up. My phone is stuck on some booting loop and the suggested solutions from the internet aren’t working. It’s 10.30pm and I’ve just eaten dinner. You know what that means, right? LIST TIME.

While I was prepping dinner, the phrase (or combination of two words. Not 100% sure it’s a “phrase”) “Remember When” popped into my head. That’s enough of a writing prompt for me to go go gadget bulletpoint:

  • Remember when buying candy was super exciting? When you’d go to the corner store and they’d have something like pop rocks that came in a little plastic toilet? You’d lose your mind at the novelty of it all, even when it was just sugar at the end of the day. Or that tongue colour changing technology? You’d walk up to some adult and they’d be all “what’s going on you young whipper snappin’ youngin’?” and you’d be all “BLARGH. LOOK AT MY TONGUE” and it’d be blue and you thought they’d be like “WOAH, THIS KID MUST BE PART GIRAFFE” but instead they were like “have you been hitting the jenkum too hard again? I had a storied childhood.
  • Remember when it was totally acceptable for someone’s gender identity to be the butt of a joke? When TV execs thought it’d be hilarious to make a dating show like The Bachelorette then be all whoopsie, she’s trans like that was some hilarious switcheroo instead of reducing someone’s very being into a joke? Then the contestants had the gall to try and sue for psychological damages? Is there a better illustration of gay panic lying around?
  • Remember when you were a kid and your friend’s parents would have one of those rotary telephones sitting in the corner of a room and you’d play with it as if it never had a tacit practical use? Then the parent would be like “well in my day” and you’d be all “your day is past. Hurry up and expire you sack of dry bones so we can inherit the earth.” Then we did inherit the earth and phones hardly have physical buttons let alone some rotating finger trap, yet we still have the audacity to use the word “dial” when we talk about calling someone.
  • Remember when Robbie Williams tore off his skin and we found out he was actually a skeleton in disguise the whole time? That was pretty trippy.
  • Remember when Pokémon hospitalised a bunch of kids in Japan and you were all “holy shit, a cartoon killed people?” but also those monster things look kind of cool. I wonder when this show will make it over to New Zealand?
  • Remember when coffee, alcohol and avocado were gross and now they’re the only things that sustain your boney old bones?
  • Remember when Bone Thugs N Harmony hung out at public transit buildings with Phil Collins and he looked into the camera all staunch? Then he’d loosen up when the chorus came around?
  • Remember when people would use the word “bones” in lieu of a currency? Like “How much for a night in your fine inn?” “three bones, goodsir and I’ll toss in a bowl of soup with a heel of crusty bread”? Me niether, but I’d like to live in that world.
  • Remember when you got your first bra and you were a 30 year old male? Then you went to a drunken art party on a train wearing said bra and drunken people were like “I guess it’s fine to shove fake money into your bra and that bit will never get old” and you sorta adopted a grin and bear it approach and you weren’t so much offended by people’s ownership of your body autonomy as you were that they failed to realise how hack and uninspiring the joke was. Then an all female Van Halen cover band played and that was kinda cool.
  • Remember when your parents got you a subscription to the Delta Airlines kids travel magazine and it had stories/comics with the characters? Plus it’d showcase the kids meals which looked super exciting? Then you got to fly with Delta Air and were super pumped, but it was a mediocre airline and the kids meals fucking sucked and your dreams died with your mortal shell soon to follow?
  • Remember when petrol broke $1/L back in the 90s? Then by the time you had a car you were paying $2.20/L and it cost over $120 to fill your tank?

I had a time. No bones about it.

Should I rename myself NapoLeon?

It’s weird when old memories pop into your head. I was just recounting the “cheese block incident” on some Facebook page. The conceit of the thread was about old stories that you got away with as a kid. Now that we’re (ostensibly) adults, we could tell our parents because none of it matters any more. What would they do? I was a pretty well behaved child. I had no interest in drugs or alcohol for the most part (though teenage binge drinking was a) something I did and b) something they knew about. Not supported, but more of a *sigh* boys will be boys kind of thing). I got good marks and most of my friends were the same. In short, we were nerds. My older brothers were the opposite. They’ve grown into upstanding adults with kids of their own, but it took a while to get there. Nothing that ruined their lives, but they have great stories. Mine are just medium. I was precocious more than anything.

Which is why this following story is more for me than it is for you.

My parents were having a party, as they often did. They’d constantly invite their friends around for big barbecues or dinners. The adults would put on music, drink and chat. They’d bring their kids and we’d have a little cluster of sub-adults. Usually there’d be more kids my older brothers’ ages (7-9 years older), but I’d invite a friend to keep me company. The older kids would usually mess with us. They weren’t cruel, but the games we’d play would usually cast us in the losing role. “Chasies” was a popular one. Kind of a “Hide and Go Seek” variant. The little kids would hide while the big kids counted down. If we were discovered, we’d have to run and avoid tackling. If we whined or cried, they’d tag instead. The unique aspect of “Chasies” is that the little kids were armed. We had a collection of toy weapons (a plastic bat we called “The Magic Bat”, swords, etc) that we could fight back with. If we fought them off again, it would give us space to run away more. I don’t know if we realised what a losing game it was, we’d be caught eventually. Seriously though, we were allowed to wail on the big kids. Given the age difference, our damage potential was limited only by our shrimpy bodies.

This particular night, we weren’t doing well. I had one friend, this fiery little guy with a bright red afro. I got tackled hard at some point and started crying. I sulked and ran off to my room, real worked up. I pulled out one of my dinosaur books and showed my friend these dinosaurs that slammed heads together (Pachycephalosaurus, according to wikipedia). This, I told him, would be our winning tactic. One of the big kids came into the room and I screamed at him to get out. I got my felt pens out and starting writing “Leon’s Private Room” on the door so they’d know. One of my parents caught me and told me to cut it out, that I should know better than drawing on my door. I don’t know how many years it lasted, but for maybe a decade “Leon’s Priv” stood boldly in the centre of my door.

Anyway, where it gets good is that my parents forced us to suck it up, go out and get playing again (I don’t blame them, they wanted to get back to the party). I’d kind of forgotten about my whole Sun Tzu monologue from earlier. My friend hadn’t. I was hidden in a bamboo bush, Magic Bat at the ready, when I heard an older kid shout out in pain. I rushed out of my hiding spot and the game was called off. My friend had headbutted one of the big kids right in the fucking face. A big bruise was on its way. The adults chastised the older kids for riling us up and the game was over for the night. For once, we’d won.

Come to think of it, maybe I missed my calling as a legendary general.

Favourite Christmas movie? Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, hands down.

Merry Happy, everyone. I’m in jovial spirits on this Eve of Christmas. I’ve had a hashtagblessedly slow paced day. Got to the gym, did a little food shopping and I’ve been relaxing in front of the computer. No stresses or responsibilities, just “me” time. Plans for the next few days are constantly in flux and I couldn’t be more pleased. Well, that’s a lie. I’d be chuffed if I got a Turbo Man doll for Christmas, but peace and quiet is some consolation. Why is any of this notable at all? Because it’s all a departure from the norm and shows character development. What am I talking about? Let’s harken back a few years.

Christmas wasn’t always the easiest time as a kid. Yes, it was nice that classes often devolved into watching The Santa Clause, but it was also an emotionally difficult period. I grew up Jewish in New Zealand. Do you know how many Jews NZ had in the 90s? Roughly 8,000 or so. It was a “menorah-ty” as one of my friends oft’ said. Christmas in my eyes was like cruel window shopping. All the kids around me had a great time, getting big gifts, new toys and the like. It wasn’t all a wash. We had close family friends and we’d go around there for a barbecue every Christmas. Their family business was holiday/party supplies, so accordingly they cranked (but not Kranked, thankfully) Christmas up to 11. It’d be bacon, eggs and sausages, plus beer once we got old enough. We’d go over there for a few hours, then in the afternoon I’d call up all of my friends to hear what they got for Christmas. Vicarious enjoyment was half as good as the real thing. There was no disguising the fact that I felt kind of left out. It sucked, which led to a general contrarian approach to the season. I’d pride myself on “sticking it to the man” and giving Christmas the middle finger. The Grinch became my patronus and I’d wallow in negative feelings for the holiday period.

As I entered my early 20s and our close family friends moved away, Christmas fell apart. I had nothing to do, so I’d hang around on my own and drink. This morning I was checking my Facebook memories and it was one drunken lonely Christmas after another. It wasn’t all bad. While I was flatting with friends, for instance, I’d start drinking in the morning and in the afternoon they’d come home and join in. One year we created a Community drinking game, then discovered the joys of live heckling Jersey Shore while devouring our friend’s gingerbread house (he was there, it wasn’t a rogue demolition). Or even better was the year at Sky TV I managed to work during Christmas. I got time and a half and a day in lieu. They fed us, gave us a bottle of champagne and movie tickets for coming in on Christmas. It was all sorts of great.

After I moved to Canada, things shifted yet again. My flatmate at the time had family across the other side of the country. We had a few other friends who were transplants, so we started doing Orphan’s Christmas. It was messy, wacky and a total blast. It quickly became a tradition that outlasted that flatmate. It’s now become a valued part of the holiday season each year. A few weeks beforehand we’ll put out a message welcoming anyone without family or friends around to join our table. Everyone brings food or drink and we get merry to our hearts’ and stomachs’ content.

This year it didn’t happen. We put out the offer, but everyone seemed to have plans, which left us marooned without any. As it stands, we’re still not sure. A couple of things are floating, but with zero urgency it’s kind of nice. Friends are hosting a casual Christmas Eve get together today. We’ve got some ribs defrosting that we’ll toss in the slow cooker tomorrow. A friend who lives close by is also unoccupied so we’ll probably head around there for some cheer. Other friends are keen to do a movie night later on. We’ll probably go see a Star War on boxing day. The greatest part is, we’re free and flexible to follow our own schedule. Look at me, I’m having an afternoon beer simply because it’s a nice idea.

Maybe I haven’t changed that much from my early 20s. At least I’m not drunk before midday.

Adulthood: It’s less fun when you’re paying for it.

In a bout of chronic bad timing, I feel like I’m starting to come down with some form of flu variant. Pressure at the back of my throat, occasional throbbing right ear, vague dizziness. It’s fine, I have drugs. I’m not here to complain (for once). I more wanted to remark that whenever I start to feel unwell, my mind ticks back to thoughts of being at home. I recall my old blue bedroom with the cutesy carousel curtains. I’m reminded of comforts and that inimitable feeling of safety in being taken care of.

In the past four and a half years, it’s been rare for homesickness to rear its head. It’s still not the case this time either. That being said, it’s possible to cast your mind back and be appreciative of what you had without pangs of regret setting in. For me, a big part of what I enjoyed came from ritual. Little conventions that gave me structure, familiarity, security. Today, couched in mental convalescence, I recalled a two things I do miss from being home.

First up, grocery shopping with my mum. There was something both cathartic and fun about the experience. No matter what age, I loved getting to drive the cart. It was fun to check how each store’s trolleys handled (except those shit ones that for some cursed reason had a singular wheel that got stuck). One important detail to note is that money was always off the table. I wasn’t one of the main household providers, so I didn’t pay for a thing. It’s not like I got to demand everything I wanted, but I got to window shop and sometimes open said window to grasp my desires firsthand.

The aisles held an array of colours and shapes. Food being one of my favourite things (past, present and future tense), trying new varieties and flavours was a grand experiment. Mum would send me on missions to pick up certain items, so I got to zip around and accomplish tasks. Sometimes I’d get to request all new food to fold into the routine. Perhaps I’d get to search through produce for perfect looking fruit. Mum and I would play the guessing game at the register about the final total. Oh, and if it was a shopping night you could be damn sure that we’d pick up a rotisserie chicken, bread rolls and coleslaw for an easy dinner.

That conveniently segued into the next one. Family dinners. I had two older brothers (seven and nine years, respectively) and, for the most part, conversation would be blood-from-a-stone. How were our days? Fine. How was school? Fine. What did our parents expect? Aside from that, there was still conversation. We’d talk about movies or TV we’d seen. I’d hear about my brothers’ experiences at school (I can still remember having my mind blown by my brother talking about CD Rom technology). It forced us to spend time with each other, which was something I think we all secretly appreciated. Once again, there was ritual, structure and inherent comfort. We didn’t lack for our needs. We were fortunate to always have food on the table.

Our parents gave us responsibilities in stages. Tasks to be accomplished were setting the table, clearing the table, loading the dishwasher, and taking care of pots & pans/condiments. The three of us would take turns. There’d be arguments and fights, sure, but the work would get done. Mum was a good cook and we’d be encouraged at helping out with the meal for lenience in the chore department. Maybe if we made a salad, we wouldn’t have to be on pots & pans (the worst and most arduous job). As my brothers aged, they both took interest in cooking. One of my brothers eventually went on to become a chef. Being the little brother, if they thought cooking was cool, of course I wanted in too.

I guess the unifying factor is that both experiences taught me important life skills. In shopping I learned all about nutrition, fiscal responsibility and being critical of what I purchase. Evening dinners taught me meal prep, cleaning up after myself and the joy of a table full of people. Really, they were important stepping stones in how to adult. While on one hand they’re things I miss about being at home, they also helped form the blueprint of what I’d like my home life to be.

More like Artifice & Wankery.

Late night eats. They’re an important part of any good Friday, Saturday or any day ending with a sizeable quantity of alcohol. I didn’t even drink much last night, but after a $14 food truck sandwich filled with sadness and disappointment, I needed a mulligan. My girlfriend and I grabbed a ride home with friends that involved not one, but three fast food stops. Firstly, at Burger King for my friend to grab a veggie burger. Secondly, at Five Guys for a burger, fries and a shake. Lastly at A&W for onion rings. We got dropped home to feast and watch American Vandal until we got sleepy. A good night by any metric.

A&W was confounding though. In their desire to be a wholesome family restaurant, they’ve ascribed familial nomenclature to their nom nom noms. Frankly, their mythos is all over the fucking place.

It goes like this. There’s a Baby burger which has a patty and ketchup. Cute, it’s a basic burger. That tracks so far. The Buddy burger adds grilled onions, mustard and “teen” sauce. It’s odd that it’s not a familial relation, but clearly it’s a friend of teenage descent, right? However, by A&W’s metrics a Teen burger has onion, but it’s not grilled. It has the teen sauce, but also throws in pickles, lettuce, tomato, cheese and pork. If we’re delineating between the two, does this imply that Buddy is some kind of adolescent? Maybe a tween? Buddy’s puberty is in its infancy, but hasn’t fully blossomed into a hormone bound (though according to the byline, the beef patty is hormone and steroid free. How do you get a Teen burger without hormones? Is it grown in a vat?) burger?

Then we start getting into the adults. A Papa burger has two patties, onion, pickles, no tomato or lettuce, but still has teen sauce. Why would an adult burger have teen sauce? There’s some kind of disturbing connotation I’m not comfortable with here. So Papa has no bacon, but double patties. Are we to then draw the inference that extra meat is equivalent to age? But double Teen burgers exist that have two patties. So clearly the quantity of beef doesn’t have those connotations. Also why is a Papa less equipped with a toolbox of delectable toppings? Are we to assume that a Teen is young and passionate, full of potential, whereas a Papa has become resigned, old and tired. Straightforward and linear in his inexorable march towards the grave? But the Uncle burger has all the trimmings of the Teen burger (no teen sauce though), but with upgraded cheese and red onion in lieu of white. What are we supposed to glean from that? The burden of child rearing has quashed Papa’s spirit, but the fun Uncle gets to be fancy and carefree? We have to presume that the Uncle has no kids, because otherwise it would still be a Papa burger (and have two patties, duh). Or is this a way of A&W saying that your perspective (this burger being avuncular to you establishes this as his sole identity) overrules all else?

Hold on though, because there’s a Mama burger. The Mama burger is basically a one patty Papa burger. Why is that a gender dichotomy that’s being drawn? Is there an inverse correlation between the quantity of patties and x chromosomes? Would that mean that the Teen burger is female while the double teen is male? Hold on now A&W, that’s a political, sexist stance to take. If you’re adhering to the rules of your own goddamn mythos, it’s up to you to play within that structure elsewise fall on your sword and admit it’s all bullshit. Why do males inherently have more beef? Are you creating a very visible calf ceiling causing women to inherently limit their own potential?

Wait though. We have the Grandpa burger to contend with. The Grandpa burger is a Mama burger with three patties. Where the fuck did the extra patty come from and what does it symbolise? We’ve already walked through the notion that age and number of patties do not correlate. This is too much. The Grandpa burger collapses under the weight of its own senselessness. What the fuck are you trying to sell here A&W? The notion of a whitewashed nuclear family prescribing to outdated heteronormative ideals? How am I supposed to buy your burgers if I can’t even buy into their expanded universe? It makes no fucking sense and I can’t condone supporting this bollocks financially.

Furthermore who the fuck is Mozza? Why does putting an egg between English muffins suddenly make it an “egger”? Why are chickens exempt from familial hierarchical structures?