Beer and breaststroke seems like a lesson in drowning

I feel crispy and sun baked. Let’s work with this hazy day’s daze.

I finally joined in my first ever Run TO Beer. If you’re too lazy to click the link, I’ve got you. It’s a local Toronto running group that does weekly planned routes to breweries across Toronto. You run, then head to a brewery and get a free beer in exchange for an instagram photo or equivalent social media promotion. They do 10km, 5km and 3km runs that go in waves. The neat part is, they run as a homogeneous blob of activity. Like a Katamari of athletic folk, the 10km loops around to pick up the 5km runners, then the 3km runners join in the fun. There are pacekeepers who ensure nobody gets left behind (Ohana, etc) and it’s open to enthusiasts irrespective of speed or skill level. Also “skill level” sounds like an odd combination of words when you’re talking about moving forward at an advanced pace. I guess there’s a lot of technique when it comes to high level running, but the more skilled you are, I’m sure the more effortless it all looks. I still don’t really consider myself a runner. It’s just something I do for fitness sake, without being a hobbyist. I know that posture and knee driving helps with speed. Beyond that, I swing my arms and move my legs like everyone else.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I often have trouble meeting active friends. It just so happens that a lot of the people I gravitate towards don’t necessarily care much for running, lifting or climbing things. At least, not to the same extent that I do. I never hold this against people, because imagine that being a dealbreaker in your life. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like more of it in my social circles. I tried to put together a summer activity/open source fitness group on Facebook, but it never really took off. I think people had the best of intentions, but when I fractured my wrist and spiralled out of commission, I think I took their incentive with me. I get it. Motivation is hard to find and harder still when it comes bundled with buckets of sweat.

I didn’t socialise a whole lot today, but it was neat to meet habitual runners and hear about what it meant to them. Over our beers (and as today was a huge run, 250 odd people in comparison to the usual 30-40), we chatted about distances, times, wear and tear and whatnot. Marathon runners discussed the differences between race lengths. Apparently a full marathon feels around four times harder than a half. A few of them mentioned just how challenging it gets close to the 30km mark. Your body shuts down in a big way and motivation is difficult to come by. They said 37km is where it tends to pick back up. With the end in sight you think it’s only 5km. I can run 5km. Then they run 5km to the finish. C’est tout.

I thought about running some more. Aside from Tough Mudder, I’ve never really trained for a big event. Most years I tend to overdo the Mudder training, then end up in a group with people who didn’t train. It’s meant previously that I find the course pretty easy, since I don’t have to push the pace. This year because of my wrist I’ve undertrained. I also purposefully wanted to let myself have patio beers, etc, this time around. I’m doing it with friends who’re Mudder veterans and we’re planning on trying to jog most of it. I’m hopefully gonna find the challenge level this year that I’ve been searching for. If that’s too easy, what’s next? Do I finally do a half marathon and train incrementally? Do I consider a mini triathlon for something all new? Or is there something else out there that could take my fancy? Circus? Rock climbing? Finally learning how to swim Butterfly?

If they involve more sweet ass beer, sign me up.

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If that makes me a group-ie, so be it.

I’ve been procrastinating for long enough about doing this that I’m now procrastinating from procrastinating.

This may well be the final entry written with my Infirmary Gauntlet. This colourful, waterproof, fibreglass mitt has adorned my arm for the better (or worse) part of six weeks. It’s been a pain, sometimes literally as well as figuratively. I’ll begrudgingly accept, however, that it’s helped keep my fingers out of troublesome pies. I don’t know with all certainty that the wrist is better It’s still sore in a few positions, but I’m not sure if that’s ’cause the cast itself is pushing against problem spots. My guess is that the bones might be in better condition, but a litany of ligaments are liable to languish for a little while longer. Still, rehab is gonna be a lot simpler once I can see my arm. I won’t have to worry about leaking sweat from my cast on hot days. I’ll be able to sleep without struggling to find a viable position. Showering will no longer be such an ordeal. It’ll be just what the doctor ordered, provided that the doctor doesn’t take one look at it and call for another cast. Talk about a bait and switch.

I had the thought the other day of just how heavily Facebook has invaded my life. I’m always online. If I’m out and about or at work, I’m just a notification away. At home it’s a permanent tab hanging up at the top of the screen. It’s the portal through which all of my social existence is made accessible. Parties, dinners, games of Magic, catching movies or going for drinks. It’s all through Facebook. It’s now very bizarre to text or call anyone, there’s the (usually safe) assumption they’ll be on Messenger. I post dumb jokes and puns for validation. I have discussions or run odd little threads. I share silly links and read articles that friends post. I follow humour pages like Shit Towns of New Zealand or any number of groups. GROUPS. I use groups. One group in particular has been the subject of conversation lately. I praise it as having greatly improved my life, which garners a fair quantity of side eye.

Without mentioning the name, it’s a Toronto based group that was formed to encourage social plans. At its essence, that’s it. It began with a couple of friends who worked together but wanted to plan hang outs after hours. Let’s go bowling or how about a rock climbing night? That kinda stuff. Over time it expanded based primarily on nepotism. Good people beget good people, so with a simple vouch, friends could introduce other friends to the group. IT SOUNDS LIKE A CULT, RIGHT? Thing is, aside from a handful of dicey swerves, it’s mostly been a clear run. It turns out that if you get on well with a friend, chances are you’ll get on with theirs too. It’s up to 180 people (or rather, down. There was a large scale culling), so it’s not like everyone is your cup of tea. That said, it has a remarkably high batting average. It often feels safe to blanket invite people to the beach or park, without fear of douchebags turning up. I’ve met some of my most treasured people through the group and had unbelievable experiences. It has, in no small way, changed my life here in Toronto.

You know what else is gonna change my life? Having my hand back within the next 24 hours.

Two thumbs up!

Is it ironic to be so vocal about it?

Let’s talk about new experiences.

A friend of mine posted her report card for swimming lessons. To be clear, I don’t tend to make friends with children. She’s in her twenties and learning to swim for the first time. I saw the picture of her report card and felt, I dunno, proud? Is it possible to say that without being remotely patronising? As adults, it’s very easy to get stuck in our ways. We’ve spent years divining how to navigate the world, forming our views and values. It’s the easiest thing to be complacent and rest on whatever laurels you’ve accumulated. The antithesis of this is to acknowledge that you can be better, more. It takes a shit ton of courage to admit that you’re not a finished, complete human. The trait of admitting what you don’t know is massive. It takes a big person to be that humble. So many times I’ve seen someone paint or something and thought I’m just not that kind of person. The barrier between myself and being that kind of person is trying. I remember when I taught myself super basic picture editing. I was cowed by whatever potential that’d been there untapped. It made me so curious to know what else I could do that I’d always shunned. The too hard basket is too easy to fill.

Swimming? Learning to swim as an adult is incredible. You’re put into a potentially lethal situation and told “hey, learn not to drown”. Not only that, you need to come to terms with unfamiliar body movement. It’s totally unintuitive. Without having stepped into water, how would you really understand the physics of propelling yourself? How to pull your body through the water? The difficulty difference between kicking and arm strokes. Forward strokes, back strokes, butterfly, breath stroked, porpoise. It’s all goddamn alien technique. The timing of breathing is really bloody tricky to figure out. Knowing how to trust your body’s buoyancy must be terrifying if you haven’t had to. Back home, most everyone knew how to swim. New Zealand is such a coastal city. Beaches everywhere. Water safety is paramount. We’re taught to swim in school. We learn about kayaking and piloting Optimists (small dinghys, if that clarifies it for anyone). We learn about tides and winds because the alternative can be death. How else are we supposed to do bombs off the wharf in good conscience?

In short, I think my friend is super fucking cool.

I had a new experience last night. My first ever silent disco.

The concept wasn’t novel to me, but I’d never given it a try. At Post Script, the Toronto Fringe Festival after party, they had stacks and stacks of light up headphones. You’d hand over a piece of ID and they’d give you a pair. No cost. Also, the entire event was free. The headphones had three different channels, which had a corresponding colour. Blue, Red and Green all linked up to three different DJs on stage mixing distinct sets. Without headphones it was a little bizarre. Hordes of dancers doing their thing with only ambient background noise. There was an audio-visual disconnect. It was fascinating to watch the variation in styles of dance, depending on headphone colour. Occasionally an obvious massive song would drop on one channel and say, blue headphoners, would sing along or do a call and response. Popular colours came in waves. You’d look up and 92% of the dance floor would be blue. Then small pockets of green would open up and gradually expand. Maybe people were looking out for attractive folks and following their choices. Who knows? What an unusual phenomena to behold.

Getting my own pair changed the game. I’d be listening to a mix, then see other dancers change colour. I’d try it out and think wait, *this* is what they’re going hog wild over? Sometimes I’d see a dancer doing wicked moves and get the impulse to try out their wavelength. I was mostly doing my own thing, changing channels on personal whims. Looking around, I tended to see the same people matching my choices. Not intentionally, I’m sure, but kinship of tastes was really flowing. It was almost tribal, smiles all around. After having been so strict about post sprain ankle activity, it was incredibly freeing to let loose and shake myself sweaty. Goddamn I missed it. I can’t recommend the silent disco enough. It made the word Experience into a proper noun.

I’m not gonna be able to shut up about it for a while.

In another five years, maybe I’ll have this semicolon thing down pat

Five years ago I followed through on one of the most impactful decisions of my life.

I boarded a plane and flew halfway across the world. I had no friends or job waiting on the other end. I left everything I knew in the hopes that a sea change would inspire personal growth. I felt stagnant, stifled. It felt like the world was changing and my change lay elsewhere within it. I wasn’t unhappy, but on some level I understood my threshold for happiness could be higher. I’d plateaued at 26. I didn’t know who I wanted to be, but I knew I wasn’t him yet. Clothes, my desktop computer, and 10kg of Magic cards were piled into a bag and ventred across seas with me. In search of, well, I had no real idea.

This day is a strange time every year. I reminisce about the people I left behind. I think back to my journey from Vancouver to Toronto. I recall what it felt like establishing a life out of nothing. I picture all the new friends I’ve met across the years. I get Jebediah’s “Leaving Home” stuck in my head for 24 hours straight. Facebook memories pop up with a whistful ode to my childhood pissing tree atop Church Street, Northcote. There’s a lot swirling around in my brain.

I often cast my mind back to who I was before I left. I’ve always been pretty authentically “me”, but that’s shifted over the years. I think that, much as I marched to the beat of my own drum, the pace was dictated by established social circles. My life was flooded with friends I’d accumulated over the years. From kindergarten all the way up to university, I kept good company. This good company stuck around and it shaped who I’d become. They say that we’re all a combination of the five people we spend the most time with. I was the most “me” I could be, given my constant close company. I’d never really given myself time to breathe and understand who I was when I zoomed out. I had views, but without perspective.

For the first time in my life, I stepped onto that plane and found my own cadence. I shaped my life anew, deciding without exterior input as to how I wanted it to look. Everything that happened was something I did. I threw myself at the mercy of my own adaptibility. It was a trial by fire that sculpted who it was I’d become. Rolling with the punches of each new challenge forced me to find my independence. I found what I sought and discarded what I didn’t.

Over those five years I’d come to face my fears. I met my tribe through openness to new experiences. I challenged my own preconceptions of body image and sexuality. I learned important distinctions between “fuck yes” and “no”, following and trusting in my bliss. I allowed myself to make mistakes and be fallible. I discovered my potential in ways I never had. I found heartbreak, love, and learned more about the capacity of friendship. I came to understand how to love myself, and the value of self-compassion.

Over the past five years, I’ve found the blueprints for my place in the world. I’ve crafted the foundations and gathered all the materials I need. I have the werewithal and support, now all I need is time.

Time to make this house a home.

So I sat on every fence imaginable. Is that a crime?

Last weekend the subject of comfort level with group size came up.

I thought it was interesting, given that it’s such a personal relationship with interpersonal dynamics. Rather than being some prescriptivist introvert v extrovert bullshit, people added depth as to why it was they felt so. I posed the question on Facebook today and it resulted in a wonderful thread. Everyone chimed in at length. Individuals found resonance and kinship with those who felt similarly. Some loved a 1:1 ratio because it was low stress/attention. Others enjoyed being able to passively listen and occasionally chime in with a group of 6-10. A few were just big party people. I gleaned insight into certain friends and how best to accommodate their needs/desires. Altogether an excellent experience/resource.

The one thing I didn’t do was comment with my own favourite dynamic. With reason. The thing is, when it comes to this game I’m a shameless cheater. I love all of them with different caveats.

  • Aside from hanging out alone, one of my favourite hidden dynamics is listening to a group of friends riffing on a podcast. It’s a one way medium where I feel like I’m part of a bunch of in-jokes. It’s weird how inclusive it can seem. It’s why I tend to listen to conversational podcasts rather than storytelling or informative ones. It’s like being in good company while on my own.
  • I love one to one hangouts. I love dates, heart to hearts with good friends or non-stop banter with buddies who’re on my wavelength. A good one to one session makes my heart feel full, which is a gift I then pay forward to everyone who crosses my path. Plus it very often involves eating, and anything gets better with food. Prove me wrong.
  • With the caveat that there needs to be a strong emotional or comedic resonance, I adore spending time with a couple. Usually it’ll be a matter of a longtime friend finding a partner who suits them impeccably. In this scenario I can often interplay with each partner. If there are any sticking points I get to mediate (and it’s rare I’m on anyone’s side in particular). Best of all, it allows me to sit there and soak in the affection they have for one another. A++.
  • “Double dates” are tons of fun. They don’t even need to be romantically based, but if there are interlinked relationships of any variety it’s neat to swim in those waters.
  • Groups of 6-10 are awesome for dinner parties or low key hangs. It’s uncommon for conversation to not be readily flowing. I’m naturally attention seeking, which means I get validation whenever I tell a poignant story. It also means that sometimes I can sit back and chime in with an incisive pun or joke, then bask in the reception it gets. These are the kinds of groups where someone will tell a killer joke and you all get to slowly come down from the shared peals of laughter. Alternatively, someone might be incredibly emotionally vulnerable and warmed by the support channelled back to them.
  • Gatherings of 10+ are usually when you’re getting into party terrain. If it’s among close friends, it’s wicked to end the night having had 6+ decent conversations with people I haven’t seen in ages. This is all kinds of gratifying. The types of evenings where I get to come home glowing, thinking about the wonderful people in my life.
  • Once you get over 20, I’d consider that a bonafide free for all party. To be honest, this is also one of my favourite dynamics. ESPECIALLY when I get to meet new people. Interacting with strangers is a big upper for me. I get to tell road-tested anecdotes, create new connections and be generally spontaneous. I flit in and out like some MPDG, or just hang out in the kitchen. I’m a total ham and setting a circle alight with laughter is genuinely my favourite sensation bar none. A bunch of my favourite friends were people I met at parties and decided to escalate into one on one hangouts. This one (like all of them, to be honest) is totally my jam.

Was that a cop out? Maybe I just like people, okay? Get off my back, Jack.

Or hang out with me one on one so we can eat pork bone soup and humanise each other.

Was that a toe-tal recall?

If I needed an antidote to Cabana Pool Bar, Hanlans Point was my sweet, sweet panacea.

It’s been literal years since I last went. Toronto has the most beautiful, accessible island a short ferry ride away and I rarely ever go. Why? It Is A Mission. Here’s how you get to Hanlans from my house:

  • It’s an island, so price gouging is in full effect. BRING EVERYTHING.
  • Plan out what you’re gonna want to eat/drink. In group picnics, sharing is caring.
  • Buy ferry tickets in advance (VERY IMPORTANT).
  • Grocery store run for aforementioned snacks and infinite liquids.
  • Gather towels, beach blankets, sunscreen, hat, jandals and bags to fit all of this.
  • Pack the chilly bin full of liquids and meats.
  • Apply sunscreen for the journey.
  • Get ice and last minute forgotten snacks from the grocery store.
  • Catch a bus to the subway, hauling all of your gear.
  • Transfer to the subway, gear in tow.
  • Transfer to the southern line, taking care not to trample open toed feet under the oppressive wheels of your chilly bin.
  • Transfer to the ferry bound streetcar, continuing not to maim strangers’ toes.
  • Arrive at the terminal. Wait in the long (but much faster moving) line for pre-purchased tickets.
  • Wait in a long line for the Hanlans ferry to come in (it’s merely a 15-20 minute walk from arrival to the beach instead of 40).
  • Board the boat and take deep breaths. Not too far now.
  • Be herded like cattle in the cramped offloading.
  • Still resist crushing toes with your chilly bin.
  • Walk the 15 or so minute walk to the beach, gear in tow.
  • Find your group on the crowded, colourful beach.
  • Drop off your gear. Allow your muscles to remember how it feels to be unburdened.
  • Set up your blanket to maximise collapsing space.
  • Shed your clothes. All of them. If it’s hot enough, take cues from Robbie Williams in “Rock DJ”.
  • Relax and enjoy the ambience.
  • Watch out for your toes on the hot sand.

Once you’re there though, Hanlans is bliss. The beach is flat and broad. The crowd is, for the most part, pretty chill. Clothing optional is taken very literally. Some choose to disrobe, others don’t. In my experience at least, I haven’t seen much of a fuss about it. I’m sure there’s aberrant behaviour towards women, because people = shit. I’m hoping it’s in the minority. Most beach-goers seem friendly. There’s a lot of lounging, splashing in the cool waters, and tossing of frisbees. Some bring cute lil’ pups. Most people drink and lax out. There’s rarely drunken hoodlum-ism. People have private speakers, inflatables, shade tents. The group next to us even had a hookah set up. There’s a gorgeous view of Toronto that peaks at sunset. It’s a special place that, despite the hurdles, is well worth the journey.

I’ve never been one for the outdoors, but contrarily, I’ve always felt strong ties to the beach. It’s a New Zealand thing. When the coast is a stone’s throw away at all times, you sort of accidentally find yourself skipping stones. I grew up body surfing and downing post-sand ice cream cones. The beach was a large part of quality time with my grandparents. It was so ever-present that I couldn’t understand why it was so revered in books and movies. It was something I continually took for granted and continually do. Yet, it’s a part of me.

Hanlans seems the perfect fusion of who I was and have become. It lets its freak flag fly, comfortable in itself.

Also if a woman comes by offering freezies, say yes. Trust me.

To be fair, the song would be drastically improved by changing everything about it

Getting my skates on, because I need to roll out of here in like 35 minutes.

I went for a jog today. This was a fucking stupid idea because it’s 29°C and my flesh is now melting from my bones. I’m going out to a pool bar for friend based lounging this afternoon and I’m not sure if this is their target demo. To be entirely honest, I’m not sure that I’m their target demo. This is how they advertise, so I should rephrase. I’m entirely sure that I’m not their target demo. It looks like a Hot Chicks With Douchebags entry, a snarky page I used to frequent in my early 20s. I feel like my sense of humour has shifted. My distaste for triple popped collar outfits has not. In short, Cabana has always made my douche senses vibrate, turning me into some kind of Tickle Me Elmo. I guess If you rearrange the letters of “Elmo” you get “Leom” which is close enough. Still, it should be nice to hang around with friends, inwardly mock the vibe by making continuous snarky comments, and make use of my waterproof colourful arm cast.

Oh, I’ve decided to use the Oxford comma sometimes, by the way.

I’ve also told myself that this year is the year when I’ll finally work up the courage to almost use semicolons, then back down at the last minute and use full stops instead; I used one the other day and I’ve been feeling low key dread ever since. Oh fuck, that just slipped out. So now I’ve gotta spend the rest of my life wondering if I made a mistake. Were those two clauses independent? Did they buy the shoes on their feet? What if they were a present from a cherished friend? Does that invalidate their independence? Is the price relevant? Like, if they bought their shoes because they got them at a steal, is that also showing their financial independence? Or frugal smarts? That seems pretty independent. Is the purchase itself necessary? What if they literally stole them? That takes gumption, planning and/or quick thinking. Should I have used an Oxford comma there? Argh *throws his hands up*.

I’ve packed (lie, I haven’t packed yet. That’s what the spare five minutes after this entry is for) a towel, togs, sunscreen, and a hat. Am I gonna need anything else? Did I write that list just to practice the Oxford comma? Only time will tell. Because I’m kind of staring at the clock on this one. Five minutes to go. Time flies when you’re scanning the internet for apt hyperlinks. To be transparent, I originally wrote “appropriate”, then changed it to “apt”. Then I changed out the word “clear” for the word “transparent”. It’s called editing, folks. Look it up.

My girlfriend and I decided half an hour ago that it’d be funnier in the Santana/Rob Thomas monster hit “Smooth”, if the lyric “My muñequita, my Spanish Harlem, Mona Lisa” was instead “I own a keytar: My Spanish Harlem, Mona Lisa.” It’d be even better if he then started wailing on the keytar, jamming out one of those colossal keytar solos for which Santana gained his notoriety.

But instead Rob just said “barrio” for no good reason and the world was a darker place.

I’m going now.
Yours Sincerely
Leom