Lox and keys

It turns out that at a point, you hit a wall with smoked salmon.

Let me elaborate. The morning after Saturday’s wedding (traditionally known as both Sunday Morning, and “easy like”), there was an arranged brunch at a nearby hotel. It was fantastic, and interesting. People who we’d previously seen at the wedding were visible in the light of day. That same assortment of characters, who had no other reason to ever be in the same room, filled a hotel banquet room. Naturally, for a hotel banquet. There were poached eggs with hollandaise, salads, bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs, bagels, fruit, pastries and, as mentioned, smoked salmon. Given the quantities of alcohol consumed the night prior, everyone was in mildly rough shape, and eager for a big feed. Having had virtually no appetite for the past few days due to sickness, I was in an ideal situation. I piled my plate high with meats and bread, packing my stomach like an apocalypse prepper before Y2K. While many cradled their heads in their hands, I bobbed up and down in my seat, happily chewing on animal, vegetable and dough based foods alike.

We had a five plus hour drive ahead of us post brunch. Our car was all packed up, we were going straight from the open buffet to the open road. I saw my friend/our driver lathering up a bagel with cream cheese. I thought, as is her style, that she was prepping a road meal. It made so much sense. We were at a buffet with gratuitous quantities of food. There was no way that they were in any danger of running out. Why not take some of the ample vittles on offer and make a lunch for the trip? When you thought hard about it, it was frankly wasteful and villainous to do anything but. I would do my solemn, heroic duty and prepare something to eat later. At the same time, I was gonna be subtle, low key and potentially surreptitious about it. For kicks, y’know?

I grabbed two bagel halves, a sachet of cream cheese and a stack of smoked salmon, capers & red onion. If I was to hazard a guess at how tall that salmon stood? Probably around five centimetres high stacked loosely. It might not have been a literal tonne, but it looked like one. I spread the sachet of cream cheese thickly, making sure every inch of each bagel face was covered. I layered the salmon, one sheet at a time. I wanted a tight operation, with a maximised salmon per bite ratio in place. I think I broke the scale. I also tossed two chocolate chip cookies into my lunch bag for a little treat. I wrapped the bagel in two napkins, and stowed it away in a plastic bag that I kept at the side of the table. 20 minutes later, the hotel brought out styrofoam containers for people to take home food. The food had all been paid for, and it was a common occurrence to offer leftovers in cases such as these. Clearly, my heroic and not at all self-interest based plan was nothing out of the ordinary.

We brunched around 11am. I think I finally got hungry just before 6pm. That’s how much I ate at brunch. I unwrapped the bagel and was hit with a salty scent. The bagel had heft, and the normally thin blanket of smoked salmon was instead a virtual steak. It was thick and substantial, having morphed into a solid brick. I took a bite and stopped for a second. I reeled. Amassed in such a quantity, it tasted like biting into pure brine. My body bristled. It’s not like the salmon wasn’t tasty, but holy hell it was intense. I think there’s a reason why it’s treated like a delicacy, because it’s meant to be delicately balanced. When it resembles a burger, there’s nothing delicate or balanced about smoked salmon. It’s an overpowering wall of taste. No room for nuance, it was like being slapped over the tongue with a whole fish. I powered through the entire sandwich, and I believe that my heart is now encased in a salty prison, preserved against the ravages of the elements. It’s what they call a “Love Lox-down”. My life has been divided into two periods, pre and post bagel. If I hear a word against my actions, I’ll decry it as a schmear campaign and deny everything. In my new life I’m emboldened an unrepentant. Born again under a pillar of salt. I am irrevocably changed, and the salmon is to blame.

I mean, mostly I’m to blame, but that doesn’t fit in with my new unrepentant personality, so the finger points to the salmon.

Give ’em the good new fashioned

My girlfriend had been telling me for months that there was something secret and special planned for the wedding.

“Is it a flashmob?” I asked. “It’s probably a flashmob.”
“A secret is what it is.” She replied.
It was a flashmob.

As the years have passed, I’ve naturally attended more weddings. Each a little different, each their own. What I’ve come to appreciate the most is how each couple tailors their marital unity to their distinct personalities. It’s neat to see all the little touches they add, whether in presentation, vows, even food. This wedding was entirely the summation of these two individuals tying the knot together.

The vows were incredibly sincere, and made absolute sense for a couple who’ve been together for the past 15 years. While distinct people, they’ve grown together in many ways. A myriad of nicknames and bits found their way into the vows, while I didn’t know the couple well enough to be in on them, I still got the gist. I don’t know that I managed to straight up cry, but there were definitely a bunch of moments that yanked on the ol’ heart strings. The vows made sense in a modern context, talking in a wider sense of trust and understanding, a desire to grow together, work as a team and see the best intentions in one another. I mean, they were worded much more sweetly than that, but the gist is there.

Everyone involved in the running of the wedding was absurdly pleasant. Nothing close to any drama. There was the wedding party (denoted by their silly tiny hats), helping out with little tasks around the place. Making sure the bridegroom ate, drank and had anything they needed.  The servers taking around finger foods were lovely, incredibly friendly and super helpful. The bar staff were great, and the DJ kept things rolling on. I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a wedding where both the Tetris theme and Die Antwoord have played, but it was that kind of wedding. Get on board already, geez.

The food was excellent. Instead of a personal meal, they had servers coming around with all sorts of hors d’oeuvres. The bride assured us all that nobody would go hungry. She was right. The hors d’oeuvres did not stop coming. There were calamari sticks, meat and veggie skewers, potato cake things, mushroom risotto, pad thai in takeout containers, these amazing fig and blue cheese concoctions, warm pumpkin soup in little shot glasses, and my favourite, the seared tuna. Even with my reduced appetite, I still managed to try everything. Except maybe the desserts. There was a literal wall of desserts, and I had no hope in trying more than three or four things.

We had such a great time. The music kept going until the early hours of the morning, and the dance floor stayed full the entire time. All of the couple’s friends were great, very easy to get along with. There was nothing contentious whatsoever, just a wonderful night of excellent people getting hitched. And a flash mob.

If you have to ask, it’s probably a flash mob. And it was a fun one.

Something something tying the snot

Forgive me if this is somehow less coherent than usual.

Whatever sickness I’m down with is kicking my ass. At the very least it’s deeply inhibiting my ability to sleep. Over the past few days, every few hours while in bed I’ll wake for some indeterminate amount of time. Always it feels like hours slip away. I’ll roll over, turn to my back, rotate my head, then turn the whole way ad infinitum. Despite not having had strenuous activity afoot, my brain feels messy. You know those old scrambled egg brain on drug PSAs? It’s like that, but someone has wedged a big block of cheese into the middle and it’s slowly dissipating through my mind. I think they call that melting, and I certainly feel like I am. With another hour left before my alarm went off, I figured I’d be better to get up and take writing out of the way for today. It sucks, I haven’t had coffee for the past three days, and I’d hoped it’d aid my sleep. Not so, apparently. I can’t tell if I’d feel more or less strung out if I’d been drinking it.

I’m gonna be in a car for five to six hours today. Will I perhaps manage to car sleep? Cram my body full of meds and conk out? Here’s hoping. We’re driving to Montreal, which seems like a shitty city to be sick in. Firstly, it’s bound to be snowy. Secondly, Montreal has all the best things to see, experience and eat. Thirdly, I’m going there for a wedding, and who wants to be sick at a wedding? Not this guy, that’s for sure. I’m there to eat, drink, and probably cry once or twice. While it’s true that being sick does not explicitly prevent any of these activities, I’d prefer not to leak mucus while shedding tears. There’s graceful wedding crying, and there’s whatever shit show I’m likely to be.

I also feel incredibly unprepared. I shouldn’t. We’re going to Montreal, it’s not a different country or anything. I shop in the same currency, there’s nothing fancy I need to enable for my phone, I don’t need a visa or even a passport. We have the Air BnB all booked, and it’s close to the venue. My bag is packed, but yet again I feel like there’s something that isn’t. I’ve got my clothes, still need to fold my dress shirt. I packed toiletries, my meds are ready to roll, I have comfy clothes for the drive. I could do well to put together some snacks for the trip. We have an abundant pile on the kitchen table. We also have things in the fridge I want to eat before they go off. I guess that means cutting that big chunk of ham into more tactile fry shaped strips. Do I need to shave? If so, it’d be so much quicker at home rather than at the Air BnB. Is that something I need to factor into my morning? Do I need to download some podcasts to zone out to in the back seat?

I think what I need is breakfast, to at least put myself into a place where I can make decisions. Oatmeal here I come!

Lookin’ like a pile o’ snacks

I have a problem right now.

It’s not a big problem, or an urgent problem, but it is a problem at the moment. There are too many snacks in this house. We hosted a party the other night, and ended up with more snacks than we had at the start of the night. It’s hard not to overdo it. Just because they’re there, it doesn’t mean that I have to eat them. Thing is, I do want to eat them eventually. Most of them are sealed, so they’ll keep. We have biscuits, candy, chips, crackers, popcorn. All yummy stuff. We also have charcuterie remnants in the fridge: Cheeses, meats, pickled goods. I’m having top tier sandwiches these days, and it’s fantastic. My problem-that’s-not-a-problem will sort itself out eventually. We’ll spend time with friends, bring snacks over to watch movies. Share the love. At the moment though, the snacks are just sitting there on our table. We don’t have the cupboard space to fit them, so they’re watching us. My girlfriend thankfully took the mini cupcakes to share with her co-workers. That still leaves a veritable pile, and I don’t just want to give it all away.

If I had to estimate, I’d say we have maybe 2-3 weeks worth of snacks. I’d rather that they were 3-4 weeks worth, but I know our nature. We’ll haphazardly open a bag, then feel obliged to finish it. Snacks are insidious like that. To compound the non-problem-problem, my girlfriend got me a heap of delicious cookies from back home as a birthday gift. They’re EVEN BETTER snacks than anything sitting on the table. I want to spread them out over time, but that would take the kind of willpower I rarely come by. These can’t all end up in my body. Maybe we’ll have to pointedly invite people over to share the load.

Underlying all of this faux woe, is the fact that I’ve gained weight recently. Much like the aforementioned munchery menace, it’s not truly a big deal. I’m in a great place with body image. It’s not the sort of thing that throws me for a loop anymore. A few days back, I stepped on the scale. It’d been a long long time, and the weight I’d gained was understandable. There’s been a lot of revelry over the Christmas and New Year period. I’ve supped and sipped with a lack of concern. It’s been fantastic. I’ve definitely overdone it, but I don’t feel terrible about it. Where in previous years I’d be pulled into this negative spiral, now I can look back at the past month or so and see very obvious causality. That doesn’t mean I’m stoked, but neither am I torn up. I just understand, is all.

While I may have surpassed the worst of my anxiety around my body, I can see that I want to do something about it. My clothes aren’t ill-fitting, but some are perhaps more snug than I’d like. The winter months are hard for keeping active in any case, and I’m sure a bunch of this weight will dissipate when I don’t have to contend with snow. At the moment though, a literal pile of snacks aren’t the first thing I want to see when I enter the kitchen. It seems the solution to my not-quite-problem is that I need to learn moderation. I can have little a cookie, as a treat. I don’t need to resort to demonising less healthy foods, but it’s worth taking into account what I’m taking into my mouth. Irregular schedules have meant that eating habits have been uneven, and I’d be well served to figure out how to work around these patterns. If that means just chowing down on cabbage on main, I can do that. I can always eat more cabbage.

As ever, kimchi can be a snack too.

Was cleaning afterwards considered a dust-y dust?

Welp. I just hosted my dream funeral.

To be clear, I had no idea how the event would go. It was uncharted territory. An attempt to celebrate life, and explore the mix of darkness, humour and sincerity that keep me going. The basic conceit was that the party was a mix of funeral and wake. There was a bell anyone could ring. If they rung the bell, it was their turn to give a eulogy for me. Whatever they chose to say. In an attempt to give a modicum of respect for the dead, I also kept the floor available for anyone who chose to share a eulogy for someone they’d once loved, or a memory from their lives. Nobody took that option, but it was there just in case. Who knew if it would be a farce, or incredibly sombre. Knowing my friends, I assumed the former,but I would’ve accepted the latter. It was in every part, the former.

My girlfriend and I had done some last minute prep. We hung black streamers from the centre to the corners of the room, draped like the roof of a tent. We put a black foil curtain over the entrance to the living (/dying) room. We made charcuterie. We had havarti, gouda and aged cheddar. We bought chorizo, maple smoked ham and sliced salami. We had crackers, pickles and olives. As a birthday present my girlfriend had ordered me a ton of Cookie Time snacks for sharing. As always, I love being able to share my favourite foods with people, and invite them to try things I grew up with. They were just as delicious as I remembered. Friends brought with them a heap of snacks, and ultimately we have more snacks left than we started the party with.

It took a long time for people to show up. I got antsy. Had the theme kept friends away? We had a start time of 7:30pm, in the hopes that it’d get people arriving closer to 9pm. A friend arrived just before 9. By 9.30pm, another friend arrived. I was nervous. At around 9.40pm, some more friends arrived. Then more, and more. The living room was thriving with conversation. Suddenly, I heard the bell ring. My friend stood on the table and gave her eulogy to The Bone King. As my mortal enemy, Wingding, she lorded her victory for all to hear. She stood in exultation and beamed with pride that she had finally conquered her arch nemesis. It was wonderful. Soon afterwards, another friend gave a heartfelt eulogy extolling my virtues. Mostly though, he wanted to shoehorn in a pun. It seemed only fitting.

One of my good friends stole the show. He’d prepared a written eulogy based on absurd and notorious injokes. Our shared love of Manischewitz (a bit that keeps on giving) and my well-known hatred of Marmaduke. He (lying), talked about our ritual of “Mani and Marm Mondays”, where we’d get together to drink Manischewitz and read Marmaduke comics. He then explained in excruciating detail, a Marmaduke comic from panel to panel. Egads I hate Marmaduke, and I love my friend for digging in so deep.

Just after midnight, when the party was in full flow, I gave my own eulogy. It was fucking great. Every joke landed just as I’d hoped they would. It’d been so long since I’d last done a speech, and I forgot just how much I love the process. Understanding how to read the room and deliver words for maximum impact. I got to share personal bits with friends who understood and appreciated them. I had my moments of sincerity, and got to truly thank everyone for being there. There was a point where I looked around the room. It was filled with people I cared for so deeply. They were all shooting the shit, chatting or playing games. Everyone was well-fed, and we had abundant drinks for anyone who needed them. I was so happy with how it went, and if my real funeral is anything like it, I’m gonna die a very lucky man.

As for now, I’ll just have to settle for living a very lucky life.

Wrack some racks son

I have eaten very little today.

I’ve had no room. Yesterday was my friend’s birthday, and I did not stop eating. It’s like it was my birthday or something. Firstly, we went to Cats. A bunch of us. Upon viewing it for a second time, slightly less high than the first, I had a revelation. On my first viewing I was so high, and I don’t think I heard almost any song lyrics. I didn’t follow along, I garnered meaning like an animal. I was all facial expressions and intonations. Naturally, I was terrified. Why were so many inexplicably senseless things happening, and why was it all permeated with an aura of menace? This time, I actually heard the lyrics. Turns out, the nightmare was real. It’s still a terrible movie even if you’re following. Maybe worse. I still have more questions. Like, it’s ostensibly they’re in a human’s London, but they’re scurrying around. Why then, do the humans have so many cat pun based stores? Why do they go to the Catsino, not a casino? Are the Cats held in a venerated position? They shouldn’t be. Jellicle cats are a plague, of a lower caste than normal cats. They seek only to sew misery and do the bidding of Eros. That Skimbleshanks song though? It’s a banger. This screening was far more intimate, and invited a bunch of interaction. We did drum roles, heckled, and did a full theatre sing-a-long to Mr Mistoffelees. I might wait a while for my third viewing.

After the film we piled back to my birthday friend’s house, and her boyfriend started serving up snacks. He’s a chef, and he’d relished a chance to make some great meals for us all. We started with smoked oka, sharp cheddar, challah bread and raspberry jam. There were barbecued chicken chunks, a mac & cheese pie, and home made fried chicken. A rack of lamb draped with pomegranate seeds and pistachios, flanked by a balsamic reduction. Buttered cod with chilli slices. He even made mini sunny side up crostini with spiced sausage, quail eggs and chilli rinds. Oh, and for dessert we had strawberries covered with frozen nutella, speckles of some ground nut over the top. Ice cream for good measure. I earned my keep as The Bone King and demolished many a bone. My friends paid homage, and gifted me their lamb bones to strip. I spent almost the entire night eating, and it was divine.

Today? I’ve eaten a protein bar and a sandwich. It’s 6pm. I’m anything but hungry.

Diet ‘nother day

I ended up writing a novel on a friend’s Facebook post, and figured I might as well toss it up here in case it was useful for others.

I agree many times over with this post, and I have a lot of feelings about the subject.
 
I was a marshmallow of a kid, and it heavily impacted my upbringing. I was incredibly lucky to come from a loving, supportive family. At the same time, my mum had a lot of baggage from her own childhood experiences with weight loss, etc. While her methods at times- likely out of personal frustration- felt tantamount to bullying, that was never her intention. She encouraged me into trying a bunch of diets, sports, and eventually fitness. Most of them didn’t stick, and I’m sure that the issue felt really resonant for her. Fitness had totally changed her life and how she was able to navigate it. Overall she just wanted me to be happy, albeit through her own lens.
 
The thing is, even as a kid I wanted what she wanted, but it felt so out of my reach that it was a constant source of stress and anxiety for me. So many tears and a recurring cycle of self-doubt. You’re 1000% right that we’re inundated with these messages of what we “should” look like, etc, and it’s next to impossible to decipher what we actually want vs what society tells us that we want.
 
After a childhood of trying again and again, realistically exercise and a better understanding of nutrition didn’t really start to take for me until I was around 20. I get how hard all of this is, because it’s been such a focus and point of contention for my entire life. It impacted how I thought people saw me, and having been on both sides, it absolutely changes how people treat you.
 
That’s what I hate most about all of it. I’ve always been the same person, irrespective of what I looked like, but it’s unavoidable to say that people were a lot kinder to me once I lost weight. People who literally wouldn’t give me the time of day before would only be too happy to have a conversation. It’s fucking abysmal how society treats those who don’t fit into a myopic standard, and I don’t have words for how furious it still makes me. There’s no reason for this kind of othering. It’s fucking shameful how society not only tolerates it, but is also complicit in furthering this mentality.
 
In saying all of this, as much as I was dragged kicking and screaming into it, ultimately mum was right. Understanding more about nutrition, and keeping active, has changed my quality of life. Weight loss, personally, was a big part of this. Who am I kidding? Of course it’s been nice to be able to dress in certain ways that weren’t accessible otherwise. It has made being active a lot less of a burden than it had been. I’d grown up straight-up believing that nobody would ever be attracted to me, and it’s inextricable to discern whether this was from how I looked or the confidence the weight loss gave me. It hasn’t remotely made me a better person, or changed who I am inside, but it has allowed me to understand my body in ways I otherwise would not have.
 
I would hope that my achievements (and they have been achievements, because they’ve involved many years of hard work and personal intention) wouldn’t diminish others’. I would hate to think that people would feel bad because of self-motivated decisions I made. It also sucks to feel like I can’t talk about things that have been a massive part of my personal journey. I would hate to make people feel shitty and ultimately, if talking about it means that others would, it’s worth not talking about it every time.
 
I do not for a second believe that anyone’s value is tied to the way they look. I also know that it was incredibly difficult for me for a long time, and it’s only been the last couple of years that I’ve been able to learn that self-compassion and understanding is far more important than numbers, etc. The scale does not matter whatsoever, it’s how you feel in your body.
 
My biggest takeaway from all of my experiences is that they didn’t matter- and changes didn’t happen- until I decided that I was actually doing it for myself. That’s a really hard place to get to, and when people talk about their struggles, trust me I get it. Of course I only have my personal, able-bodied, cis male experiences to go on and I’m not professing to be an expert. Still, a lot of those feelings are universal. It beyond sucks to be made to feel negative about yourself because of others’ expectations. I wish so deeply that society would stop judging and punishing people for how they look, but I’m also realistic about how long it takes society to change. It’s probably not gonna happen in any of our lifetimes.