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.

Ya googly

It’s my birthday and I’m hosting my own funeral to celebrate. What follows is my personal eulogy.

I believe it was Des’ree who once said:

“I don’t want to see a ghost,
It’s a sight that I fear most
I’d rather have a piece of toast
And watch the evening news
Life, oh life, oh life, oh life,
Doo, doot doot dooo.
Life, oh life, oh life, oh life,
Doo, doot doot dooo.”

I think those words speak a little louder for us all on this day.

We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Leon. His cause of death is currently unknown. Given the amount of tuna he consumed, mercury poisoning is probably a safe bet.

Leon was survived by his beloved girlfriend Julia, and his rival, Mr. Smashmouth. Turns out at some point the years stop coming. Check and mate, Mr. Smashmouth.

Leon was born on January 17th in Auckland, New Zealand, at approximately 3pm. To whom it may concern, Capricorn, Leo rising. I know, it sounds weird. He was.

Leon was known primarily for his predilection for puns, Paddington, pooping and polysyllabic words. He fathered no children, but sired sigh-ers and grown groaners. He gave a wide berth to Birthers. He knew this would make no sense to you in audio form, but maybe not everything is about you. Jeez.

Leon was an ambitious child. When he grew up he wanted to be a voice actor, Jim Carrey, or a Street Shark. Instead of growing into a mutant fusion of shark and teenager with large teeth and killer attitude, he grew old. It was considerably less jawsome.

At the age of eight, Leon had a dream that he would die at 33. Given that being right was one of his favourite things, he at least died doing what he loved.

Leon was many things; a living cartoon character, a wholesome pervert, strangely particular about apples. He loved monologues, being the centre of attention, and breaking the fourth wall [what, too meta?]. Unbeknownst to many, he did not love Air Bud movies, but that didn’t stop Netflix algorithms from recommending every single talking animal movie it could.

Things weren’t always easy for Leon. Many times he wasn’t totally in love with living. For him, sadness was a big part of life, and he’d made peace with it. He figured it was entirely normal to not feel okay a lot of the time. He often resonated with those who understood. Sharing struggles with those close was important, and he always wished to be there for friends when he could. If anything, knowing that he could make others feel more comfortable, known or seen was one of his guiding principles. He knew first-hand it wasn’t easy to ask for help, but resolved to do what he could when he could.

Friends were what mattered most to Leon. When he found good ones, they were friends for life. There was a special kind of love Leon reserved for his friends. People he could lose time with, sharing vulnerabilities, stories, and secret pettiness. Those who bought into his endless bullshit, hijinks and the weird way he just assumed everyone understood his niche references. His favourite feeling in the world was the comedown after a room full of laughter. By this metric, he lived a pretty good life.

I guess you could say, the real life he lived was the friends he made along the way.

And now I invite you to lift your glasses. As the Black Eyed Peas said in their Grammy Award winning song, “I Gotta Feeling”: L’chaim.

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.

Hear today, gone tomorrow

I had the best New Years.

It’s a declarative statement, and I’ll stand by it. My New Years featured nothing but fun, excess, and comfort. I basked in the warmth of intimate friendships, easily digestible films, and digesting food easily. At around 5am, after a kick ass costume party, I headed off to another friend’s penthouse apartment downtown. She has a massive deck, open plan lounge, and lots of sheets/mattresses in front of a big bedroom TV. There was ample food, booze and weed. Whatever needs I had, they were simple to tend to. Lots of cuddles and even more laughter. My girlfriend and I could nap haphazardly, or join in conversations as we pleased. We stuck around watching movies and getting collectively H O R N Y over Brendan Fraser in George of the Jungle. We continued the Fraser Festivities with Blast from the Past, and tossed on Mulan for good measure.

I couldn’t get over how many conversations I had about music. There was a tablet hooked up to speakers/Spotify, so all day we shared tracks and playlists. It made me remember how integral music used to be in my life. I was constantly searching out new artists and albums. I’d see live concerts all the time, and a significant portion of my income went into maintaining that. I had nuanced opinions on what my most treasured songs meant to me, and considered it important that I did. Friends shared some of their favourites from the past decade, and I felt a longing to jump head first back into caring about music like I once did.

It makes sense. Last year my iPod broke. I didn’t replace it for months, which meant less music and more podcasts/DJ sets. I moved away from keeping up, and disregarded a ton of new releases. The fact that both Vampire Weekend and Tool released albums last year I barely touched should be more personally significant than it was. Even having my new mp3 player, I just loaded all my old music on. While it’s been nice diving back into the vast back catalogue I have, I’m still thirsty to refresh what I listen to while out and about. It’s time to download the albums I’ve accumulated on my Deezer shortlist. It’s also the start of the year, an ideal period to comb through critics’ Best Of lists in a hunt for new favourites. While I hate New Years resolutions, I would like to see more live music in 2020 than I did in 2019. It enables parts of my personality that feel lost, awaiting reawakening.

I also realised how important it is to me that people are comfortable in my presence. At the New Years party I was chatting with someone in a hallway (prime party hangout spaces second only to kitchens), and I mentioned that I just want people to feel comfy always. I didn’t realise at the time that it applies a ton to how I conduct myself. I’m always trying to do things for others, take care of people in their own homes, etc. Later in that party, I saw one of my friends getting buffed across the room. I was sitting on a couch chatting to people. Concurrently, part of my brain was wanting to help her get the best out of her experience. She was sitting up, the sheet that was used to create a barrier between buffer and skin was being poorly applied. I was ready to shout out and give guidance, and I stopped myself. My friend is an intelligent, grown woman with agency. She was free to do whatever she wanted. While my intentions were good (knowing she has back problems, I wanted her to feel as good as possible), I wasn’t doing anything for anyone with my interference. I was needlessly getting involved in a scenario that had nothing to do with me, and distracting my brain from its current conversation in the mean time. Of course it’s great to take care of people when that’s desired, but I think I’d be wise to pull back a bit. Maybe it’s time to learn when my help is actually desired, and stop wasting so much brain space on pointless involvement.

NYE 2020 stuck the landing. Let’s see how the year measures up.

Three more years on here until I get tenure

I’m sure this deserves a little more pomp and a lot more circumstance than I’m giving it, but 2019 is coming to an end. A decade closing out. For all I know I could be talking out of my arse, but I’d be surprised if this doesn’t end up being the best decade of my life. From 22 to 32, it’s been ten years of freedom and exploration. I came into 2010 an apple cheeked dreamer, and I’m signing out 2019 with saggier cheeks. I think the dream, miraculously, may still be alive. It was a tumultuous time, searching for meaning, passion and connection. I jumped between jobs, industries and countries. I fell in love, experienced heartbreak, fell in love again and again. Sharp and pointed intelligence gave way to wisdom and understanding. I made more than my fair share of mistakes, and tried to learn from them. I’m beyond a doubt a more compassionate, empathetic person than I was. I’ve met so many people who have shaped the person I’ve become, and I’m so thankful to have had them in my life.

A decade is a ton to cover. So here are some loose things that happened:

  • Friends and I went to New York for New Years. I met Four Loko and begun a long term tryst. I got beyond drunk and was almost kicked out from Katz’s Deli for crying too loudly and being a menace.
  • People I went to high school with began getting married and having kids. I’m still yet to check off either of those marks.
  • I started drinking coffee, which may have been my first step down a long dark path.
  • I worked in a university radio archive. We digitized National Radio shows spanning 1960-1999. I got 1-4 emails per month and listened to hundreds of podcasts.
  • I went to Lollapalooza with a friend, then zig-zagged over to my brother’s wedding in Whistler.
  • I had my first adult relationship with a wonderful woman. Our breakup was the catalyst for my life-changing move from New Zealand to Canada.
  • I started this project back in 2013, just to get better at writing. The jury’s still out on whether that happened.
  • I taught children gymnastics, in a weird part time job. At this job I also fell through a roof, and fed lizards.
  • I took on writing opportunities to see if I could expand into that professionally. I wrote live music reviews and had a brief stint as a ghost writer for a food blog. Turns out it wasn’t my calling.
  • I started dating here in Toronto. A couple of those dates ended up introducing me to communities that defined my life here, and ultimately led me towards meeting my girlfriend of 5+ years.
  • We’re still together, we live together, and I grow more in love with her with each passing year. We’ve helped each other grow, been supportive during difficult times, and approached new life challenges as a team. She’s fostered a kind of communication I haven’t found with anyone else. Instead of things blowing up, we talk through them and look for compromise. I’ve never harboured the illusion that things in a long term relationship have to be rosy all the time, but we’ve got an eerily solid track record. I don’t think a good relationship just happens, it’s maintained. Some people make that easier than others, and it’s hard to imagine waking up next to anyone else day after day.
  • I launched the Air Bud Pawdcast with a friend, and it’s possibly the most work I’ve put into something dumb in my entire time breathing.
  • I met so many amazing friends who have become integral to my life. I love them utterly, and my Toronto friend circles have become family. We’ve had weeeeird experiences together, but by GOD have we experienced things.
  • I became an uncle. MULTIPLE times.
  • After years of death by a thousand cuts, I became depressed and totally lost my will to live. I started taking anti-depressants, and they entirely turned my life around.
  • I saw Cats (2019).
  • I once found Waldo in the world of Waldos.

Mostly though, I say “y’all” now. What a world.

See y’all on the other side.

And to Al, a good night

I know that Amazon works as a fiscal enterprise, because yesterday I bought an $80 mouse to save $5 shipping on a $20 cheese slicer.

I decided to get myself a Christmas present, and buy a good quality cheese slicer. We’ve had a hand me down for years. People had been raving about this Boska Holland model, and I figured for $20, I was practically losing money by not having one. The only thing I love more than a good slice of cheese is a great slice, and ease in slicing it. I’ve been into a Buy It Once model of purchasing lately, and what’s $20 in the grand scheme of things? Pretty damn reasonable, in my mind. But I didn’t want to pay shipping, of course. Hence the $80 computer mouse.  I wanted a new mouse for work, and knew I’d buy one eventually. Knowing how I deal with analysis paralysis however, I understood that I’d probably spend so long thinking of pros and cons that six months would pass, and I’d miss out on all that extra productivity. I figured that while $80 wasn’t cheap for a mouse, it was still a lot less than a day’s wage. That seemed an acceptable cost for something I’d be using for eight hours in a row, day in day out. Everyone else in my studio uses a track ball, and I can’t be bothered learning one.

I dunno. I’ve got a weird relationship with capitalism right now. I’ve had a bump in earnings since taking this new job, so things are easier to buy. I’ve been buying a lot more, upgrading items that’ve gone neglected for a while. New mp3 player to replace the broken iPod. New speakers to replace the dilapidated ones I’d had for five years. A bike, lock, helmet, lights. Bluetooth earbuds. So quite a few big purchases. At the same time, I’ve stopped participating in fast fashion. I’ve bought very few clothes in the past six plus months. I’m hoping my shopping list will dry up, and I can just bank money for a rainy day. My girlfriend and I have had a recent Christmas gift buying tradition, and I’m hoping that’ll stand strong. Instead of buying big gifts, we each buy a nice foodstuff for the house. Something we wouldn’t buy on the regular, because it’s a tad more expensive than our budget calls for. This year my girlfriend bought a ton of lovely fresh garlic that someone at her work had farmed herself. I got some classic Kewpie mayonnaise and a French fruit spread that I think is basically ritzy jam. I’m looking forward to all the treat meals we’ll be able to have, enjoying the extra bounty of taste our Christmas presents have brought.

I mean, they’re already helping. This morning we had our own Christmas breakfast. Eggs/tofu on toast with smoked salmon, cream cheese, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms and grated mozzarella. Kewpie on the side for some yummy mushroom dip. My girlfriend put together snazzy coffees. Hot chocolate and concentrated French Press, with a dollop of whiskey. If there’s anything to bring on the spirit, it’s a great feast. Later on (post my lone hour of work today), we have friends coming over for Chinese takeout. A true Jewish Christmas. I’m sure the holiday means something different for everyone. For me, it’s rapidly become a time for chosen family, and new friends of friends. Also, liquid merriment.

So I say, Merry Christmas to Al.

Nonsense and sensibility

Mistoffelees Navidad, motherfuckers.

Was that aggressive? Aggressively horny? Who cares? All that matters is that I’m seeing Cats tonight and will subsequently lose my mind in a swirling eddy of randiness. From what I’ve heard, this film is alarmingly sexual and terrifying, which is a Venn diagram of my interests. I’m in. I’m all in.

It’s weird how this film has already created a mythos of its own. I can’t imagine many things more 2019 then people coming out of their internet holes to celebrate mainstream Hollywood crashing and burning. If there’s one thing I love more than big corporations failing, it’s big corporations failing big. It sounds like Cats was an unintentional abyss, and anyone conspiracy theorising that it was an intentional bleeding discharge is too high on their revisionist history. They tried, and created a monster. Accept it. Love it.

Mostly, it feels like getting in on the ground floor of a cult film. From what people have been saying, it’s madness wrapped ribbon-like around a visceral erection. I’m absolutely sure that Cats (2019) will find its way into midnight screenings/frenzied orgies. I’m ready to able to say “I just finished watching Cats and boy are my arms tired.” My friends and I are all super thirsty for the unedited version. Oh wait, let’s jump back a tad. So one of the big calling cards of this film is that it made it to the cinema unfinished. They didn’t nail all the CGI in their haste, and the studio is sending out updated versions to theatres. We’re taking Judi Dench’s human hand, ring and all. We’re walking a grey humanoid statue they forgot to add the cat layer to in post. An old man walking around in a scarf and hat. The movie already had suspension of disbelief issues with their unstable ratio of scale, and this only adds to the maelstrom. Supposedly big chains will have the updated version, but we have hopes it’s coming Tuesday. None of the smaller Toronto chains are carrying the film, so we have fingers crossed. We’re ready to be horrified, and positively randy.

We will not be sober. Edibles are legal here now, and we’re all prepared to embrace the clusterfuck. When Jason Derulo sprays milk in a radius at the summation of his song, we will lap it up metaphorically (and maybe literally, if the edibles are strong enough). I’m hoping the will be live sing-a-longs. I’ll scan the lyrics to Mr Mistoffelees just in case. Our memories in the moonlight will not be alone. We’ll have others to hold us in the theatre. I may have to refer to my life in BC/AC, for pre and post the screening. I’m prepared, but still not quite H O R N Y for this film. I have a few hours. I’ll get there.

See you in the AC, pals.