A plea for coffee more than anything else.

I went out for dinner with family last night. It was nice and some parts of it have stayed with me. Namely the parts blocking up my digestive tract. We ate a lot of meat. More than that, it was a good chance to catch up and chat extensively. EXTENSIVELY I say. We all got there earlier than our 7pm reservation and left at 10:30pm. Then we did late night ice cream for dessert. I think the only reason we ceased our catching up and extensive chatting was that the ice cream joint was shutting down and my girlfriend needed to use the bathroom.

I’d say shit happens, but I’m gonna need a coffee before anything’s happening in my system.

Anyway, we shot the shit, chewed the fat and talked ourselves to death. It was a great chance to discuss all manner of issues with people at a different stage of life than us, who have experienced the world in a different manner. I don’t want to make it sound like they’re eternal vampires who’ve witnessed the turn of many centuries. They’re not that old, but I’d wager being on the other side of having borderline adult children gives you a different perspective from disillusioned avocado toast munching snake people who’ve abandoned this cesspool of a world in favour of retiring to Never Never Land.

I dunno. I got worked up and ranted a little bit. Not like this is a huge deviation from the norm. At one stage I was asked something about coping mechanisms. In short, if everything seems dark out, how do you lighten up? I thought about it for a while, then went to the domain of thought: the bathroom. I certainly wasn’t doing much else there, the dinner had been lacking in dietary fibre (though overflowing with some manner of moral fibre). I considered it and later reflected. Escapism was my answer. Drinking, eating, watching endless TV shows, deep diving into video games. Many hours of mindless internet perusing. Basically all numbing behaviour. The response to a world in which seems to be circling the drain.

I posited that this kind of mentality had coloured the humour of this generation. I thought back to Generation X and the rise of sarcasm as humour in response to feelings of discontent. I considered this generation’s reliance on memes. Sarcasm, irony, meta narratives where the joke is on larger structures that society enables. Nihilism as common parlance. An understanding that we’re all fucked and if we don’t laugh about it, we’ll have no recourse but to cry. Frankly, we can only cry so much in a day.

I wanna point out that I’m not naive or ignorant enough to steadfastly believe that absolutely everything in the world is on fire. Small victories exist all over the place, it’s frankly just hard to see them through the smoke sometimes. Of course social media and groupthink play a big part in it. Disasters draw more notice than wins. We have rubbernecking on a global scale at a frequency that’s causing whiplash. I’m sure there are amazing scientific discoveries and advancements occurring every day. I’m sure that there’s probably more good in the world than bad. Thing is, you can only walk two steps forward, one step back for so long before you start focusing on how much further ahead you could be.

I mean, didn’t we all think we beat the Nazis over 70 years ago?

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I wish I had some kind of jean genie.

Welp, I did it. I cashed in any anti-consumerist cache I’d amassed over the years of rants and brand dodging. All of it down on credit at Lululemon.

I remember this slang term from my childhood. Being a “label basher”. A label basher was someone who prided themselves on being a head to toe brand ambassador. Maybe the term rose from the 90s anti-corporate cultural climate. People rallying against those buying into snug franchise affiliation. Maybe it was a mentality erected to oppose the Valley Girl movement. Whatever it was, it eventually all became meaningless as the style and fashions of the contrarian backlash were commodified and sold back to a willing consumer base. Pre-ripped jeans, big stompy Doc Martens and intentional safety pins. Hell, Hot Topic Mall Goth became a thing. Nirvana’s legacy of band tees probably outlived their music. Check and mate.

For years I’ve extolled how unnecessary branded fitness attire is. Wear whatever’s comfortable, but there’s no need to add a hefty price tag to something you’re gonna ruin with sweat. Get things that’ll be useful and ease the struggle of grueling workouts. Then my parents sent money over with my Big Sis for me to get some decent cold weather jogging legwear, since my shorts won’t cut it once the weather reaches five degrees or so. I’m not gonna say how much they sent, but it was more than I considered these things should cost. I’m sure the smart move would’ve been to buy something cheap and pocket the rest, but that didn’t feel like it inhabited the spirit of the arrangement. They’d sent me a generous amount, so why not get high quality clothes that would last. My mind went to Lululemon. They’re a premium brand, but they’re also certainly high quality. The only Lululemon clothes I’d previously owned were hand me downs. My dad had a pair of long pants that got a bit beaten up with time. He had them taken up and tailored into shorts. He used them for a bit, then offered them to me after a while. I used them consistently for around three years until finally they gave up. They were great. Sturdy construction with zippered pockets. Harder to find on pants than you’d think, but perfect for an iPod that bounced back and forth. In the hopes of something that’d last a similar amount of time, I decided to give Lululemon a shot.

A salesperson spotted me as soon as I walked in the door. I told her what I was looking for and she grabbed me a couple of styles, telling me the pros and cons for each. I found a decently priced pair of workout shorts on the sales rack and grabbed them to try on too. To be honest, the pants were really comfy, with a pleasant amount of compression. They stretched to allow for depth of moment, with a good weight. I don’t like it when pants are too light and hang loose. Then I tried the tights and discovered surprisingly they were even better. Solid compression with a pocket that would hold my iPod tight while I ran. Thick enough to keep me warm in the chilly lake air, but also protect against the all too real threat of camel tail that comes with male tights. Unexpectedly I walked out with the tights, paying far more than I ever would’ve expected. Plus the shorts, because they were somewhat reasonably priced. It’ll nice to have two pairs of workout shorts I can rotate.

In terms of my anti-consumerist bent, whatever. We all selectively decide when rules do and don’t apply to us, right? The concept of “selling out” is outmoded, especially as it pertains to fashion. I’m not remotely saying that protesting unfair sweatshop working conditions and the companies that employ them is a bad way to go. I’m also not gonna suddenly start outfitting my wardrobe with only the finest things. I’ve been looking for new jeans for a while. After I finished at Lululemon, I walked across the street to H&M and balked at the idea of paying $20 for a brand new pair of jeans.

So don’t worry, I’ll be fine.

Or not. Swallowing sadness feels like a valid survival strategy.

Maaayun, it was so nice having a long weekend to not be at work. Now I’ve gotta wait until the next one rolls around to once again get that level of fulfilment. I’ve got a whole three days time to bide and it’s gonna be a hard slog. My Big Sis (in law) will be in town on Friday and I’m taking the day off work so I can spend more than an hour in her presence. If she’s coming all the way from New Zealand, it seems worth loosing one vacation day from my holster. I mean, when do I ever take vacation anyway (he says having just returned from Portland a mere few weeks ago)? This Friday I do. Will, I mean. Anyway, October’s a big month full of things more exciting to go on about than my ever-mounting disillusionment about having achieved naught as I propel onwards towards irrelevance with each passing day. That’s not totally fair. At worst my rotting corpse will make for top notch worm food!

October! It’s grand! With the changing of the leaves comes a host of fun activities. Funtivities for short. Funtives for even shorter. I don’t know how you roll. This week involves Friday the 13th, which means I’m gonna catch up with my aforementioned Big Sis. That’s some excitement. In terms of local Toronto events there’s always Drunken Cinema’s Friday the 13th event. The last one I went to was bonkers. Absurd game rules that seem to openly encourage the pursuit of alcohol poisoning. I’ve always wondered what’s so sinister about Fridays? Why don’t we celebrate Saturday the 14th with the same cursed dread? It’s the weekEND, right? Endings are sinister. Or Thursday the 12th? You still have another day left in the workweek. Wouldn’t that feel like death for those who live for weekends? Why does Friday have such shitty PR? There’s just one restaurant chain that’s stoked about Fridays? One undead dude in a hockey mask has ruined them for the rest of us? On that note, does Jason even play hockey? What gives?

The following week is time to get fancy. Hush Hush Toronto is a library fundraiser that’s both hoity and toity. Last year I even bought a suit for it. This year I’ll most likely just re-wear the suit. I don’t bleed money or anything. I don’t know what the tagline “One night. No boundaries” means. It sounds sinister. Should I be packing a hockey mask in case things go down? Preparation in the event of a fight erupting over the last hors d’oeuvre? The theme is apparently “the beautiful landscapes we call home”. If anyone asks, my blue suit is specifically sky themed. I can pretend to have some modicum of class and that my life isn’t crumbling around me with every waking breath. I didn’t study acting in high school for nothing. Unless my inevitable career trajectory shoots towards becoming a super villain. In that case, my monologuing skills are on point.

Then in the final week of October, we have Halloween! The greatest holiday all year! A time when everyone looks as ghoulish on the outside as my life prospects are! I’m at least a little unsure why each of these sentences is ending in an exclamation mark! Can I escape the loop by asking a question? It seems so…

No, I still don’t know how I’m gonna dress for Halloween. Perhaps as the evocation of my constant dread? I’m sure that will make everything feel better!

On an unrelated note, maybe it’s time to go back to therapy.

Let’s get some gin and Jewice up in this bitch!

I just realised that we have guests arriving for Thanksgiving in 50 minutes. I’m currently in my underwear. I have my 30 minutes of writing to do, plus I need a shower. This is gonna be tighter than that time I tried to remove my polyprops after exercising in them. Serious graft vs host kind of stuff. I thought they were gonna melt back into milk bottles.

The turkey is in the oven! It’s been cooking away for a bunch of hours now. Turkey is my nemesis. This’ll be the third thanksgiving we’ve hosted and I’m crossing my fingers that this is the year we get it right. For two years we tried slow cooking it. It was decent, but not amazing. Last year we did our first oven turkey but it was pretty dry. DISSAPOINTED, as Kevin Sorbo might say. This year I’m taking a mixed approach. I’m pulling aspects of a bunch of different recipes in the hopes that it’ll all come together well. Conventional wisdom tells me that sticking with one method and following it to the letter is probably the smartest idea. Who am I to follow convention? We tried a dry brine, which was basically covering it in a combination of rock salt and baking powder. Here’s hoping it retains all the moisture. After 4.5 days in the fridge, the deepest cavities were still a little frosty. I pulled all the gizzards out, which felt like a daring dance with frostbite. I salted the interior then crammed it full of chopped onion, celery and garlic cloves. I zested a lemon (after years of lusting after a proper lemon zester, I finally got one in New Zealand earlier this year. Fuck all that microplane noise) and shoved it in the gap.

Next up, I got a stew going. Every turkey prep photo I saw from friends had the bird resting on a bed of chopped veggies. I followed suit, chopping carrots, celery and onions to make a nice little meal mattress. I covered it in chicken stock, assuming that the resulting medley would maybe resemble chicken soup at the end? Or at least give some flavour to the eventual gravy. I mixed crushed garlic with the residual lemon zest, pepper and olive oil, then got the gobblemonster all slicked up. Getting right underneath the skin and all around. This was gonna be some fragrantly pleasant poultry. I’m periodically basting it (around every 45 minutes or so) in the hopes that this year we’ll finally get that delicious moist turkey meat we’ve always dreamed of. At the last check (with 45 minutes of cooking left to go) the skin was golden brown. Internal temperature of the breast and outer thigh measured 165°, while the inner thigh was closer to 145°. Things are on track. As advised by the main recipe I’m following, since the breast is getting cooked quicker than everything else, I’ve loosely covered it in tin foil to disperse the heat. Are we on track for maximum moistness? God only knows.

It’s gonna be a more cosy affair than previous years. While in the past we’ve had unruly numbers, this year we’re down to a svelte ten people. My hope is that there’s still room to move in the kitchen. That we’ll be close enough to be able to hear one another talk over the din of dinner. That we won’t end up with a ridiculous overwhelming cacophony. That maybe we’ll create a space where people feel open to sharing intimate conversation. If the point of the evening is to bring together those who don’t have family around, what better than spreading warmth in bellies and hearts?

Plus it’s the best excuse for our traditional Manischewitz appreciation. Because what’s a celebration of rampant and brutal colonialism without a little bit of cultural appropriation?

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.

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…