I’m not like them, but I can pretend. A nice suit helps too.

Maybe rich people do have more fun.

A couple of friends and I got dolled up last night and attended a fancy party. I’m feeling pretty fragile today, so don’t expect me to write a masterpiece. But anyway, the party. A super glitzy affair, Hush Hush is an annual library fundraiser, which turns a local library into an all out barnburner. The tickets were super expensive, at $100 each, but the event was goddamn out of this world. Everyone was dressed to the nines and looked dynamite. The essence of cocktail chic. I feel like every time I turned a corner I’d walk into yet another unbelievable set piece, each of which could’ve been an event in themselves.

  • A GIF photobooth. A stack of props and a camera that took four consecutive photos that it then turned into a GIF, which they in turn emailed to you.
  • Two servers walking around with oyster utility belts. Chainmail gloves, a knife, A bucket of iced oysters, a selection of different sauces and a bucket for the empty shells. I’ve never really enjoyed oysters before and I was convinced I just hadn’t tried the right one yet. One server had East Coast oysters and the other had West Coast ones. I couldn’t taste the difference, but they were damn delectable. I tried a hot sauce version and a champagne vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was amazing.
  • A cartoonist who’d draw your portrait. The line was 40-50 minutes long, which seemed like a waste at a four hour event.
  • A robotic hockey game, with little car robots controlled by iPads.
  • Liquid nitrogen cooking. There were cheetos on sticks, which were crazy. When you bit in, you’d get a mouthful of chilly smoke. If you were an idiot and accidentally put the whole cheeto in, you’d get surprised as smoke shot out of your nose. They also did nitrogen infused coffee flavoured ice cream, with little syringes filled with maple syrup.
  • Three HTC Vive VR setups. I didn’t get around to playing, but it seemed pretty rad.
  • Open bars. They had about four different stations set up. Custom cocktails, a couple of Ontario craft beers or wine. There was even a Bloody Caesar bar going all night.
  • They kept the same DJ as the previous year and she fucking killed it again. They had a different spin (pun mostly intended) on it this year, as they’d pulled a bunch of vinyl from the library’s collection. They had them set up in crates by the DJ. You could leaf through them and find songs to request. Lots of old classics and deep cuts, mixed with a little low hanging fruit. It was great.

The event was absurd and a total blast. Servers were constantly coming around to take empty glasses/dishes and offer hors d’oeuvres. The crowd was surprisingly great. One or two finance bros, but mostly chill, friendly people. Everyone seemed to have come determined to enjoy themselves. Super low douchebag quotient. The event ended around 1am and a couple of us were still looking for something to do. Someone my friend and I met on the dancefloor invited us back to hers with a couple of others. I had no expectations or idea of where it was going, but it ended up being this mega wholesome gathering. Six or so of us in the basement listening to music, chatting and singing along as someone strummed on the guitar. I took an Uber home just before 5am, grin plastered on my face. Being rich wasn’t too shabby. Maybe that’s what I’ll do with my life.

When you’re rich, DJs don’t give you shit for requesting Wild Wild West.

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MMR is still probably a better political system than FPP.

I’m in the waiting room, but I’m waiting to leave. I had a quick appointment to renew my meds and ended up taking the chance to check out other stuff.

At some point (likely during Tough Mudder) I banged my toe. A small pool of dried blood accumulated under it. I told my doctor there had been no residual pain, but asked if it was worth checking out anyway. She said sure, so I pulled off my shoe and sock. I’d pulled out the wrong foot. “I did tell you there was no pain.” I remarked. She told me that it most likely would be benign and work its way out eventually. Sometimes though, there could be an unchecked melanoma under the toe. “If that happens” I asked “would they call it a ‘mela-toe-ma’?” She shook her head. “Bummer.” I replied. “The medical field needs snappier naming conventions. I guess they peaked at ‘Hepatyrex’.” (hepatitis and typhoid). She agreed, then pushed a stethoscope into my nostril.

She asked me about my immunisation history, since most of their records had come from my own verbal accounts. I don’t really know much about shipping medical histories. She mentioned that MMR vaccines were making the rounds again. She suggested that because of my age I’d likely had one booster shot, but they suggested two. I thought back to having mumps at age eight or nine. I don’t remember a ton of pain. I do recall my face bloating up chipmunk style. Really though, my prevailing memories are of renting a Sega Mega Drive with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Mortal Kombat 2. Those were the days. I also remember having being conscripted into some “Blue Beat” dance at school. I’d learned the song and choreography in order to perform it with a small group of kids at some stage show. Then I contracted the mumps and got to skip it. So oddly enough, most of my memories of having the mumps are pretty fond ones.

We were lucky to have a stack of leftovers after thanksgiving. We’ve been gorging for the past few days and our supplies still show no real signs of diminishing. It’s gotten to the point where we’ve started running out of plastic containers to house them. Because of my cavalier attitude and reckless disregard for freezer space, I decided to capitalise on all those great gooey veges, fats and juices we gathered from underneath our roasting turkey and make soup. It’s not like I’ve never made soup before, but normally it involves chucking in a decent amount of powdered stock, even when I’m using chicken frames. Not so this time. All the flavours coalesced into a fragrant and potent stock. Ace!

I figured it’d be a shame to enjoy this amazing soup alone, and since my girlfriend was away at work I invited over My Favourite Ex for a catch up and slurp down. Wait, that sounded unintentionally lewd. I was only trying to be cute about drinking soup. Also the Ex thing isn’t a contentious subject with my girlfriend. It was years ago and we’ve been hanging out periodically since. Like all great Toronto friendships though, periodically means not often enough. Months had passed, so over some soup, a dense egg bread and a bottle of red we filled each other in on what we’d been up to. Somehow it was the first time she’d been to my place since we dated (about four years back) and marveled at the lack of Love Dream Believe imagery on our walls (my flatmate four years back had a ‘particular’ aesthetic. We talked about work, family stuff, holidays and food. Always food with us.

And now? I’m in weekend mode. I’ve taken care of all my work week responsibilities. I got my meds, prepped food and finished up with the necessary odds and ends. Tonight I pick my Big Sis up from the airport and enjoy my day off work hanging out with her and my girlfriend.

As an added bonus, I won’t even get rubella.

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?

Before you ask, I would happily board a literal gravy train. I’ve dreamed of little else in my life.

WELL THAT WEEK IS OVER.

In a week I’ll get to write some silly Barenaked Ladies “One Week” cover. For now I’m focusing on moving forwards. Slowly though. My body has become wracked with pain post boxing. I woke up last night with a tightness in my core. It’s been tricky to straighten up my body. I guess that’s what I deserve for skipping abs over the past few years. Eight or so ab exercises in a row will do that to you. All these muscles in my back have activated. You know when you find old coins and stuff between couch cushions? I don’t, because I use debit cards like a goddamn human being, but a lifetime diet of TV has taught me that this is an issue some people face. Well my back is like that. I’d forgotten that holding up gloves and jabbing use certain muscles that’re rarely worked otherwise. My groin is super tight (did I mistake the class for dick-in-a-boxing?) and my calves too for good measure. It was silly of me to go back to the gym last night, but I’d just joined back up and needed to work off steam. I’d forgotten about the day after the day after pains. Well, I’m paying for it now.

It’s Friday night and to be honest, I’m big on the stay in plan. Unfortunately for me, I live a privileged life and sometimes opportunities get thrown at me. What I want to do is stay in and watch the Magic the Gathering World Championship stream. What I’m going to do instead is go out and watch Future Islands perform at Massey Hall. Yeah, it’s a band I’ve been looking to see since 2011. Yeah, Massey Hall is my favourite venue in the city. Plus it’s a seated gig, so any qualms I have over a stiff body fall flat. Still, I’m lazy both physically and intellectually today. But people would pay for this kind of experience and I’d be a dick to pass it up. Story is, I applied to review this gig last month at four in the morning while quite drunk. After not getting an email confirmation of my gigs for this month, I checked in with my editor. He said if I didn’t get an email, I didn’t have any gigs this month. Fine with me. After such an intense succession of JFL42 gigs last week, I’m quite alright staying in for a while. Then today I got a confirmation email on this gig and handily (or maybe not, in this case) didn’t have any alternate plans. It’s hard to argue with free (well, writing a review is a pretty small cost). I’m sure Future Islands will be amazing. We all saw that Letterman performance, right?

The rest of this weekend is fancy free fun. I’m gonna play some Magic the Gathering tomorrow, maybe head along to a Cthulhu/undersea themed rave tomorrow night. Sunday we’re going to a friend’s house for Thanksgiving. Then on Monday, we’re hosting our own Orphan’s Thanksgiving with friends who don’t have family close. I’ll take any excuse to gorge myself on gravy. Why not two days in a row?

Cause it’s been…

Personally I think I hit a house run.

Well folks, turns out I’m old. I had a spicy burrito and got heartburn, which was mildly irritating for the rest of the night. Alas, my youth has fled and with it, my innocence.

I swear I never used to get heartburn before I reached my late 20s. Perhaps New Zealand had a natural invisible barrier that protected me. Or maybe my body, before growing ancient and feeble, produced the necessary antacids on its own. Now we just have Tums, which honestly I’m kind of fine with. If my reward for suffering mild heartburn is to eat candy, then SEND ME THAT HEAT, BABY. However last night as I was out and about to watch comedy, I didn’t have Tums on me. I sort of wanted ice cream to combat the burn, then I started questioning a world where my desire for ice cream stemmed from anything but a desire to be eating ice cream. Ice cream is like frozen joy. It’s the laughter of a child distilled into a foodstuff. It tastes like refracted light, but also sometimes you get weird flavours like garlic. Ice cream should be the reason for anything, rather than needing a reason for ice cream.

N. E. Weigh.

If it wasn’t apparent by now, I’ve reached the point of the festival where my rational mind has fled. Perhaps due to sleep deprivation, alcohol or too much caffeine, last night I went on a dumb Full House joke tear. It started out so simply:

Already reached the point of the festival where I’m doing bits in regular conversation. May Stamos have mercy on my soul.

Cute, right? Because Stamos’ catchphrase is “Have mercy”? I thought so. Primarily I just liked the idea that Stamos would be so method that to this day he still said his catchphrase in everyday life. Don’t worry, things got worse:

At Thanksgiving is John Stamos all “Have Merci”?

Do you think if Dave Coulier had a tumour he’d go to the specialist and be all “cut it out”?

If John Stamos was a Colosseum editor, would his judgement be “Half Mercy”?

To be honest, I had to do a little bit of research for that one. I didn’t really know the veracity of the film Gladiator and whether or not the emperor would judge the games. Turns out the title was called “editor”. The moar you know, eh?

Do you think if Mary Kate/Ashley Olsen were Westworld hosts working at the brothel and a guest asked for A Sex they’d be all “You got it, dude”?

I’d always remembered that Dude Ranches existed, but I had no idea what Dude really meant in this context. Was it just a cowboy? Once again, I did some more research (okay, so I went on Wikipedia) and discovered that Dude is another name for city slickers. So then I needed to figure out some kind of scenario where MK&A would not only be in the (wiki wiki) Wild Wild West, but in some kind of service position. I’m watching Westworld at the moment and it clicked. Then I realised that despite them being fully formed adults with realised existences, the world might cringe a little at the idea of former child stars being sex workers. Which is stupid, of course, sex work is real work and people are overly too averse to sexuality. So I softened the language to the childish “A Sex”. Also because it sounded funny to me.

Do you think if Jodie Sweetin asked some guy for his daughter’s hand in marriage and he said no she’d be all “How Rude” and marry her anyway?

I just wanted an excuse to think about this sublimely written article about why that song is such a pile of fuck.

Also maybe I need to go get ice cream now.

The treehouse thing is legit. You can look it up on Air BnB Portland.

And so the adventure comes full circle. I return home, but have I changed? Have I grown? I’m not just talking about my midsection here. Did I face trials and adapt to them, learning more about myself in the process? I mean, I discovered that PBR (while not the vanguard of quality) isn’t intolerable for $2 a pop. If nothing else, that’s something.

I woke up yesterday knowing that I wanted to get to Pok Pok. A vietnamese restaurant frequented by chefs, Pok Pok is the sister restaurant of Whiskey Soda Lounge, where I’d gotten those wings on my first night in town. I got in touch with my friend and asked him if he wanted to go there for a late lunch (thereby avoiding the absurd lines). We got there for 2pm and were seated immediately. I’m not a good enough writer to do the meal justice, but it was fantastic across the board. We had grilled chicken skewers, which had a tiny morsel of pork belly at the bottom of the skewer to add a little fatty flavour. There was a beautiful coconut milk based pork curry. It was so sweet and thick, with succulent chunks of pork. Then of course we ordered the wings, because if a dish is the best of its type you’ve ever tried, going for another round is hardly an imposition.

Stuffed and sanctified, we went for a walk in a nearby park. There was a great off-leash, some dude who sounded Johnny Cash-esque playing to himself and some spritely old woman walking her dog. She told us about the Air BnB she’d built. She’d taken the old frame of a tree house in her backyard and solidified everything. She’d created a cute little two person domicile that people could rent for $23 per night. She said it had her art over the walls “and I’m a good artist” and had been booked solidly since she’d opened. We walked around a bunch and talked to more dog owners/dogs. Then shuffled off for late afternoon coffee. I took my buddy to Tov, my favourite cafe in the city. It’s the transformed bus with a passionate barista doing all manner of delectable creations. My friend is lactose intolerant, so he ordered a chilled coconut milk vanilla/reduced rum latte. The barista measured each and every ingredient to ensure perfection. He went into his freezer and pulled out a block of frozen coconut milk. “This way the drink is chilled, but doesn’t dilute the flavour”. It’s the little touches, you know? I got a wine mocha because if this guy could nail such a bizarre high-wire act, he deserved all the acclaim I could give him. I took a sip, it was wonderful. I asked him how he managed to make everything work together so well. “It’s ratios, for sure. The other part is using the highest quality ingredients across the board. Fine chocolate, fine wine, fine coffee.” I couldn’t argue with success. We chatted about cafes in town and we both agreed on which places were great and which were overrated. He suggested a cafe downtown, which I might try to get to today.

I wanted to check out a Magic night at a local game store, so my friend gave me a ride. He told me that if I wasn’t busy later, he was going to a Burner meet up at a local. I figured I’d get a couple of games in then meet him there. It went exactly like that. The store was a friendly place open to all manner of games. A group next to us was playing Pathfinder, while a couple of tables played board games. There was a nice community focus. One wall had a sign that said “what would you tell someone being bullied?” Kids had given their answers, which were surprisingly mature. A noticeboard said that house rules were to be respectful, friendly, to watch your language and take care of your hygiene. I enjoyed a few games (the deck I brought has been on a hot streak. I’ve won maybe 8 of the 10 games I’ve played), then left for the burner meet up.

It was exactly what I’d wanted. Meeting and chatting with open, welcoming people. We talked about their burn experiences and travel they’d done. I got mistaken for some French UFC dude from Montreal and pulled into a group to hang out regardless. One of my friend’s camp-mates played Magic with her boyfriend, so we chatted about the game, long term relationships, etc. As always, anyone who found out I was from New Zealand and had visited wanted to talk about their experiences there. An adamant “I’m just passionate” Mexican woman ranted about what good Mexican food really was and accosted my friend into a future trip to her favourite restaurant in town. “You’ve gotta work for it” she said. “I’m not just giving you the address. You have to wear a blindfold and everything. I’m serious.” It was a great cap to my trip, my last night ending on a high note. My friend and I got late night tacos and he dropped me off at home. I told him sincerely that if he and his wife ever wanted to come to Toronto, we had a spare bed for them.

The big question, with three days left before the event. Have I learned enough about myself to write the greatest Beth/Bojack crossover erotic fanfic the world has ever seen? Stay tuned to find out.

It was, in short, a magic gathering.

I think yesterday was the kind of day I’d come to Portland for. A day spent going with the flow and enjoying where it took me.

In a weird coincidence, The Smiths played at least once in every establishment I set foot into yesterday. Which is even weirder because last night I dreamed that somebody loved me.

The last day or two had me feeling a little lonely and isolated. I wasn’t getting a whole lot of social interaction and the connections I hoped I’d find didn’t eventuate. When travelling, connecting with strangers and interacting with people outside of my usual experience keeps me going. What you see when going from place to place makes for a great backdrop, but the characters you meet provide the flavour. Tinder has proven to be a dead end. Without any matches it’s more a time sink where I get to judge a portfolio of people and marvel at what a terrible human being I am. What did work out though, was Couchsurfing. I was terrified of ending up in another meet up where people said “schwag” on repeat for 20 minutes, but I downloaded the app to try the “hangout” function. Simple but effective, it lists people who are actively seeking others to hang out with. It’ll say what they’re looking for (coffee/tea, drinks, lunch), have a link to their bio and show approximately how far they are from you. I saw that some dude within a 3km radius was looking to grab coffee. He was an aspiring audiophile and well travelled guy. I figured I lost nothing by opting in for a hangout. I sent a message and within minutes he accepted. He said it’d take him about half an hour to get ready and suggested a cafe about half an hour from where I was. What could go wrong?

Nothing, apparently. He was a nice bloke in his late 30s. He’d been constantly on the move for the past nine years or so, periodically coming back to Portland between journeys. He’d taught English in Korea, Japan, backpacked around South America and Columbia. Used to work in PR for tech companies, but got wanderlust and had to sate his thirst. We talked about cultural differences in the places he’d visited and how his language acquisition had gradually increased. I mentioned how I’d had trouble pushing myself to meet people. How I’d felt that I’d be interrupting or forcing myself on others who were just looking for their own space. He said not to worry, that if you’re not being a dick the worst they’re gonna say is “no thanks”. He said that oftentimes he’ll just chat with the bartender if they’re not that busy, which creates the opportunity for others to join in on the dialogue if they’re feeling it. He mentioned the difference smartphones have made over the years. How on one hand they’d made it harder to spontaneously connect with the people around you, as everyone was plugged in. At the same time, they were infinitely useful when travelling alone in order to find your way around a new city, figure out events to check out or make online connections for meet ups. I asked him, with all his travelling, what was the first thing he’d do when arriving in a new place? He said that he wasn’t much of an insta-traveller, that he often stayed somewhere for a few weeks to a few months. He said that establishing a routine made him feel more comfortable, he’d check out coffee shops and local bars. Once he felt settled, he’d engage more with connecting to others. We chatted about music, how we sourced new artists and how our relationship with music had formed and changed over time. We talked podcasts, TV and films. He suggested a few places for me to check out around town, some particularly choice food cart pods. After our coffee he took me around the corner to a pod (that’s what they call clusters of food carts, if that wasn’t immediately obvious) and introduced me to a delicious korean pork belly lettuce wrap. It was the size of a burrito, with a delicious spicy sauce. Food carts are so good here. The quality and prices are both unbelievable. Social batteries recharge, I ventured out to Happy Hour with a renewed vigour.

I stopped back into The Hungry Tiger and sat at the bar. Sipping on a whiskey & coke, I noticed someone looking at her phone and picking at a macaroni & cheese. I thought ‘here goes nothing’ and thought of what the Couchsurfing guy said. If the worst was gonna be “no thanks” I could always just go back to playing on my phone. “How’s the mac here?” I asked. She looked up. “It’s vegan and I’m vegan so it’s pretty good. They use better “cheese” than some other places.” That wasn’t so bad. We talked for a while. She’d been looking to move to this part of the country to do her masters in photography. She’d checked out San Fran and was leaving Portland in a few hours. The cost of living here was lower and she was strongly considering it. She asked me if I watched Game of Thrones and lit up once I said yes, so we talked the ins and outs of Westeros for an hour or so. She was 25 and not the sort that I’d usually hang out with, but that didn’t make her a bad person by any means. Frankly, it was just nice to talk about a mutual interest with someone and kill an hour. I guess the Couchsurfing dude was right.

The only thing I’d actually planned on doing yesterday was checking out Tonic Lounge. A bar on the North East side, it hosted a weekly Monday night Magic event. Given my lack of success with events over the past week, I expected to walk in and find the place empty. Instead there were around 20 or so players by the time I arrived. Everyone was playing, sipping on pints and eating bar snacks. The music was great and they had old episodes of Robotech playing on the projector. Since most of the staff were Magic players themselves, the bar extended the Happy Hour specials all night for anyone who was there to game. I had a great chocolatey stout and ordered a $6 plate of pulled pork nachos. I couldn’t believe how good they were. The pulled pork was sweet and tangy. Super cheesy, there was a dollop of sour cream in the middle, fresh bruschetta on the left and picked carrots/jalapenos on the right. Everyone was really friendly and, while experience levels varied, nobody seemed to be outright cutthroat. It was an amazing space to enjoy the game, see some great plays and have fun hanging out. I had such a fantastic time and only regretted not being able to become a regular.

With one and a half days left here, I haven’t got a lot left to cross off my list. How much debauchery can I get up to before I leave?