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.

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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?

When do we get Just For Lives and Just For Loves?

That’s over. Around 4.30am I put my half-finished Guinness down on the Comedy Bar counter, content with ten days well spent. 33 shows between seven venues. So many performers and differing comedic styles. Late night beer, burritos and Uber rides. Half-dead days at work spent replacing bodily fluids with caffeine. Looking at leftover wrist stamps from the previous night’s shows and wondering how long a stamp has to last until it’s officially a tattoo. Plotting, scheming and general sneaky tactics trying to contort my schedule to see everyone I could. Running into friends constantly, or making new acquaintances that I’d constantly see at gigs across the festival. The highs and lows of those ten days, getting to a point of exhaustion and finding my second, third and sixth winds. Straining humour muscles to the point where I wondered if I knew how to laugh anymore. It was a period almost removed from reality, surreal, even.

I remember my initial reaction to this year’s lineup being pretty lukewarm. The last few years have had such big names, that it felt sort of underwhelming. Much smaller acts, lesser known comics this time around. The ratio of female comics however, was a vast improvement. While the 42 in past may have had around 12 or 13 women, this year it was closer to 20. There’s still work to be done, but it’s something. Instead of looking at a colour chart filled with white male comics, JFL42 this year had an array of diverse voices. We got to hear from comics who are known, but not massive. Hari Kondabolu was fantastic, with clever structures and punch lines. I had high hopes for Shasheer Zamata and she fulfilled all of them, adroitly skewering societal stereotypes. Liza Treyger was amazingly sex positive and smartly crude. Keith Pedro, a local doing opening sets, totally crushed it. Gina Yashere had used her awesome niche perspective to bring insightful comedy to her act. Ali Siddiq was a compelling storyteller, offering experiences so far from my own that it was hard not to get pulled in. Morgan Murphy had maybe my favourite joke of the festival. Insanely tight joke structure that began “my doctor told me I can’t have kids”. Outstanding stuff.

As JFL42’s biggest fan, it was hugely gratifying to see the festival go from strength to strength. The app this year for the most part did was it was supposed to. Getting rid of the GPS function and need to check in at venues streamlined the process significantly. Occasionally one of your credits would get stuck in the aether, but it was the exception to prove that the app ruled. The reward tiers for those who went hard were a nice touch. The Master level reward was actually a huge boon. Being able to skip the line at venues was a massive privilege. Earning the reward four days in meant the rest of my festival was a total breeze. It may have encouraged a bizarre (and frankly worrying) burgeoning megalomania, but now that the fest is over I can revert to my plebeian ways once more.

Some thoughts: I know it’s an institution, but is Second City the most frustrating comedy venue in Toronto? Uncomfortable, dinky little chairs at tiny tables in a venue where comedy is leveraged to encourage table service. Having servers constantly moving around (and it’s not their fault, it’s their job) is almost as distracting as hearing the constant beep of debit machines as the show winds to a close. The whole structure does wonders to undo the magic of being sucked into a performance. Can we please find somewhere else to put the Alt Show next year? On a more positive note, opening up Comedy Con to all passholders was magic. The In Conversation chats were like Inside the Actor’s Studio without James Lipton’s ego. Some fans got weirdly entitled during the Q&A segments (sorry Birbiglia), but there were also incisive questions that opened up amazing responses. The Toronto comics absolutely shone alongside their international counterparts. Whether performing opening sets or headlining slots, it proved how lucky we are to have them on tap all year round. If you’re a local comedy fan and still haven’t seen Chris Locke do a longform set, you’ve got work to do.

A huge thank you needs to go out to everyone involved. From JFL42 programming staff for putting together a fantastic diverse lineup, to customer service who were always quick to respond and pleasant to deal with. To ticketing staff and volunteers, putting in late nights and taking everything in stride. We’ve sincerely got something special going on here. See you next year!

Someone in Toronto has the tagger handle Faygo Freak. Hey, if you know what you like…

Day three of JFL42 and the past 24 hours have been, in the words of the great philosophers Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent Jay, pure motherfucking magic. In all my plotting and planning pre-fest, the constant back and forth with PR, my anxiety over seeing all the acts I wanted to see, I think I lost sight of the quintessential truth: I love to laugh.

I know it sounds ripped from a terrible dating profile. Who doesn’t enjoy laughter? Really though, being totally enmeshed in stand up comedy does something fundamentally good for my heart. I remember being on a cruise once and going to a seminar held by a comedian on the importance of laughter. He said something about one minute of intense laughter being equivalent to 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise. I’m sure that’s bro science more than anything, but he led the entire crowd on joined, sustained laughter for a minute. It started out fake, but soon enough the small giggles became real laughter. Roaring laughter. By the end of the minute, I was sweaty and tuckered out. Maybe there was something to this.

When I get stuck into stand up that resonates with me, I’m a sweaty laugh-er. I’ll rock back and forth, I’ll shake uncontrollably and sometimes just vibrate, my body humming as I gasp for air. It actually helped me meet some good friends on my way to Toronto. I saw this couple taking a selfie and asked them if they wanted me to take a nice photo for them instead. I took the photo and they asked me “were you just in Pete Holmes’ podcast recording?” I replied in the affirmative. “Thought so, we noticed how hard you were laughing and thought this guy gets it.” I haven’t seen those two in ages, but they’re awesome people who I’m so stoked to know.

Chris Locke induced that kind of laughter in me last night. He’s a Toronto local with a rambling style. Brilliantly scatterbrained, he has structured material, but also is content to follow random thought patterns to find the funny. He’s a total gem and well worth checking out. Morgan Murphy also had a bunch of great bits. I was impressed by her ability to put jokes together and subvert audience expectations. One of her jokes started “My doctor told me I can’t have kids” and followed it through to a great punchline without denigrating the medical profession, pregnancy or parenting, all through the magic of clever wordplay. She had this great bit about how we tend to judge people with voices we’d deem stupid (say Vocal Fry or Valley Girl kind of stuff) when it has no bearing whatsoever on their intelligence. It’s so true and can easily be seen in those who treat non-native English speakers like idiots. Of course they’re not stupid, they just have a whole different hurdle to reframe their thoughts through than you do.

This morning I had the pleasure of seeing an In Conversation session with Jenny Slate. She was a wonderful guest, thankful for her success while giving rambling heartfelt answers that obviously weren’t pre-written soundbites. She was candid and it was fascinating listening to her chart how her career had changed as she’d aged, the environment in which her standup flourished (I had no idea she was a contemporary of Aziz, Mulaney, etc) and how she found herself actually having a voice in her work. A great way to spend an early Saturday morning.

I’ve also been appreciating seeing so many of my festival friends. Going to a gig and discovering someone I know is there too. Catching up and hanging out, comparing festival experiences. As always, when I go alone I love talking to strangers about their perspectives on comics they’ve seen. This year has been no exception. It’s such a pleasure making acquaintances that I see throughout the rest of the fest. It’s my favourite time of the year for a reason, after all. For all the stress getting here, it’s been well worth it.

A good head on my shul-ders.

Just For Laughs is about to begin and thrust my life into chaos. For a basis of comparison, where’s my life at now? Is it any more stable?

Of course not. That was a bullshit premise concocted in order to excuse any bollocks I wrote afterwards. For some reason this morning a memory popped into my head. It was high school. I was running for deputy head boy. Yes, really, I ran on a platform of ‘let’s not shit ourselves. We all know who’s going to win.’ He did, after all. In any case, I knew I was really in the running when my best friend showed up at my front door in the morning before school. “So I put up your campaign posters” he proudly exclaimed. “Campaign posters?” I queried, expecting the worst. He pulled out a stack of papers emblazoned with the image of a rabbi, yarmulke and all. Plastered above the image were the words “I’d vote for a Jew. Wouldn’t you?” Below read “Vote Leon for Deputy Head Boy.” I literally facepalmed, IRL, etc. He’d stapled them up all around the school. I was a relatively known person anyway, but given that nobody else had the audacity (I guess I should include myself in that group) to put together a campaign whatsoever, it gave me a short burst of limited popularity.

In the lead up to the “election” students excitedly came up to me. “Are you the Jew?” They asked gleefully. I’d sigh and shake their outstretched hands. I guess I had a platform. It was silly and didn’t matter. I think I went for it primarily because I thought it’d help my chances of university acceptance. Maybe I’d get inducted into a fancy illuminati cult or something. Also I dug the fuck out of public speaking and wanted an excuse to write a speech. Speeches have always been one of my favourite things to do. Don’t ask me why. Narcissism and a captive audience, probably. Anyway. I treated the speech like stand up. It was likely pretty dumb. The only line I remember was “well as my campaign posters indicated, I am a Jew (break for laughs). So I guess I lost all the Nazi votes out there.” I got an applause break and everything. I guess we were easily entertained back then. These days losing the Nazi votes is apparently a deal breaker. It was all pretty tame. As I said, the guy who we expected to win did. I didn’t, but I got some Arts and Cultural Captain role as a consolation. It’s fine, I didn’t need the extra responsibilities. I had a lot of anime to watch and video games to play in those days. Priorities.

Ugh, remember feeling like you were heading somewhere in your life? When Nazis were these extinct concepts we warned our kids about like the black plague? I guess that’s due for a comeback some time soon. Can hope be too?

If I was to put together a personal ad, “Miserly, loves company” would be my tagline.

And reality comes crashing back in. While it’s tempting to grumble about how returning to work makes me want to walk out a window, we’re only five stories up. That’s more trouble than it’s worth. So let’s try and figure out positive things about being back home.

  • Life is cheaper. Do you know how goddamn expensive it was to go away for a week? I’m sure if I wasn’t such a lazy mook I could’ve put effort into keeping my costs down, but you can clearly see my use of the conditional above. I spent a fuckton. Close to $100 USD per day, which is absurd. Let’s not forget that I was spending at least $10 a day on coffee, let alone booze, food and whatever activities floated my boat (or submarine, as the case may have been. Now that I’m home, I can scrimp and save and be as miserly as I desire.
  • Friends. Miserly loves company (see what I did there?). I had a great time in Portland, but there’s no skirting around the fact that for significant portions of the week I felt lonely as shit. I thrive on human connection and the absence took its toll. A big part of what keeps my running is feeling fulfilled by my close relationships (whether romantic or otherwise). Now that I’m home, I can reconnect with everyone I missed on my date with the Northwest.
  • Girlfriend. Yes, we’re nuanced autonomous people with lives of our own, but we’re also a massive part of each other’s lives. She’s the last person I see before I go to bed and the first person I see in the morning. We share food, cat feeding responsibilities and naked body heat. She tolerates all my dumb jokes and touches my butt. These are vital components of being human, people. While I had a blast checking out Portland, I also missed the fuck out of her. When you get so used to sharing space and skin with someone, it’s hard being without them for too long.
  • Other Magic Decks. I was so stoked to have brought my Chainer, Dementia Master deck on holiday with me. It gave me an excuse to meet people while travelling. I stopped in at a few local game stores and had an amazing night at Tonic Lounge’s “Monday the Gathering” evening. The deck over-performed, exceeding my expectations. It was reactive and surprisingly resilient, with the capacity to win out of nowhere. I also have a ton of other decks, none of which got to come on vacation. Hazezon, my pride and joy. Ruric Thar, the deck that still hasn’t found its potential. Hapatra, which is proving to be scarily formidable. I miss my playgroup, where the meta has evolved to reward tight plays while still being fun and friendly.
  • Being active again. After blisters created a pincer formation on my right foot, I started walking funny (not silly. It’s an important distinction) to avoid the pain. I guess it engaged the wrong muscles, because I pulled something. I developed a limp, stifling my speed and hindering my progress in navigating Portland on foot. it also meant my plans of jogging to keep active and work off the beer went unfulfilled. I felt slow and bloated, which didn’t help my mood. I’ve found in recent years that my state of mind is often contingent on a certain amount of physical activity. Not getting that meant I moped around more than would’ve been ideal. Towards the end of the trip I managed to locate the stretched muscle and rehabilitate it myself, but I wasn’t instantly better. It’s finally sorted itself out enough for me to get back to the gym. Maybe I’ll skip the weigh in today though. Baby steps.
  • Toronto Events. Competitive Erotic Fanfiction tonight. Father John Misty is on Monday. JFL42 begins on Thursday. Life in Toronto is constantly moving at a rapid pace and it runs in tandem with my heartbeat. It’s great to be away on holiday, but Toronto is home. That sure counts for something.

Most importantly, it’s the end of a Friday workday and I won’t have to think about being miserable at my job for another two days. Life is pretty sweet, when you think about it.

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.