If The Gang started a church would they Cultivate Mass?

Is it possible to have watched five seasons of show and still feel like a filthy casual? I certainly did last night at my friend’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia party. I watched the show years back and always enjoyed it, but had trouble bingeing episodes. The characters were such terrible, sociopathic human beings that I found it taxing to spend too much time with them. I thought it was hilarious and novel, pushing episodes into constantly unpredictable territory. Even so, it took me an age to get as far as I did. At some point I meandered off into other fictional worlds and never came back. Leaving me totally blindsided by the fact that there are now 12 seasons with a few more on the way. Insane. As a huge fan of FX Network’s support for creator driven content (Louie, Legion, Better Things, You’re the Worst, etc), I feel kind of indebted to IASIP for trailblazing and making it all possible.

I’d been catching up on important episodes using this handy dandy guide, but I’d only managed to get through five or so in the past week or two. Meaning that walking into the party was like taking a running leap into a bizarre wonderland. A couple of concepts seemed vaguely familiar, but for the most part it seemed an unreal mockery of the outside world. My friend always cranks her theme parties up to 11 and this was no exception. She’d decorated all the rooms with artwork from the series and imagery from various episodes. The “Pepe Silvia” and “Carol” conspiracy was strewn across the wall and the “Nightman” sun lit up the lounge. The playlist for the evening was composed purely of songs used in the show and there were games. OH, there were games.

What kind of Always Sunny party would it have been without “Chardee MacDennis: The Game of Games? The contest of strength was a game of twister, albeit with the various colours switched for iconic IASIP imagery. Denim Chicken, Original Hitler, Green Man and Rum Ham proved the battleground for drunken twisting. I took part in the contest of spirit, in a game that I understood zero percent. It was a four part contest whereby we had to “huff glue” (or rather, hyperventilate into a paper bag ten times), skull a beer then eat “cat food” (potato salad in gold painted cans) and “fall asleep” (lie down) before the “cats” (everyone else at the party) began to meow. Don’t ask me, but I’m sure it’s relevant. All I know is after years of negligence, skulling a beer is much harder than it used to be. I did most of it in one go, with a tiny sip left at the end. One of the contestants wasn’t so lucky, as she daintily sipped away while a catcophony surrounded her.

I’d planned to be sooo clever by bringing canned spaghetti in ziplock bags for people to snack on. Turns out I’d bought fucking Spaghettios by mistake. Curse this damned country and its novelty shaped foods. Fortunately the host had made her own real spaghetti for guests’ convenience. A partygoer had enough foresight to make an actual rum ham. It was surprisingly delicious. Suitably drenched and well roasted in rum. I felt well roasted after eating some anyway. I bought some “Milk Snacks” which I’d hastily written over in vivid to say “Milk Steaks” (though in my oversight I’d forgotten to bring jelly beans – raw). Someone even filled a large jug with “Riot Punch”, which made its way around most of the party. Glorious commitment to the theme all around.

If anything after the party I still feel like just as much of a damn dirty amateur. Though now with an insatiable thirst to learn more. Also for Fight Milk.

More like pizzazz party, amirite?

We played Boggle Pizza Party last night. Boggle Pizza Party is a subset of a regular pizza party, whereby the goal is to encourage innovative and unintuitive pizza creations. I’ve always loved Make Your Own style meals. We did it a ton growing up. A typical MYO night was Mexican. We’d have a selection of basic ingredients on the table (grated cheese, red onion, diced tomatoes, salsa, guacamole, mince) and a combination of hard and soft shelled tacos. It was fun assembling meals in different combos, or testing assorted structural arrangements (what happens if the mince is on the bottom? Or perhaps setting a bed of cheese first to soak up any juices and keep the taco crispy?). We had sushi nights where we’d make all sorts of rolls. Then we’d do pizzas. It’s hard not to enjoy pizzas.

Boggle Pizza Night differs with the idea of “points” as incentive. Much like Whose Line, the points don’t matter for much more than bragging rights. If you somehow haven’t played Boggle (I hadn’t until 2013), the goal is to find as many words as you can in a block of letters (“super” in this instance) in a limited amount of time. Once the round is over everyone runs through the words they found. If anyone had the same words as someone else, nobody gets points for those words. Unique words only. Like Scattergories, really. This way people are encouraged to think outside the box and bring creative toppings. We supplied the basics. We had gluten-free tortillas to use as bases (my GF is GF, geddit?), which surprisingly worked gangbusters. We put two together with a thin layer of cheese between for adhesion purposes. They came out crispy and thin, which also meant we could make/eat a ton of them without getting instantly full from the dough. We had cheddar and an assortment of pizza sauces (tomato and garlic, hot and spicy and “authentic”, which low key sets up a classist divide between pizza sauces that I never expected to see). From there, we set sail with others’ creativity.

One of the couples was really late, so they just brought pizza with them. No points awarded (until later when we cut up chunks of the cheese pizza to use as meta toppings). We had ham (because of course we did), pineapple, mushrooms (a friend brought more. NO POINTS), cranberry sauce (in case anyone wanted to try a Thanksgiving pizza), garlic slices and, well, a fridge worth of backups (like pickles, etc). Our other friends won by a one-two punch of sheer quantity and ingenuity. Sundried tomatoes, regular tomatoes, mozzarella, olives, artichokes, salami, baby eggplants, brussels sprouts, broccoli and potatoes. Their choices were mind Boggling.

Then creation happened. We chopped and sautéed up the eggplant (because we didn’t want it going in raw) and put it together with olives, thin potato slices, salami and artichokes. We had a Canadian special with ham, pineapple, mushrooms and garlic. A vegetarian sundried tomato, broccoli, olive, artichoke and mozzarella special. The mandolin was pulled out for more potato work and my friend assembled a pizza base from thinly sliced spuds that looked a little like a scalloped potato mandala. It could’ve used a little bit longer to crisp up but it was surprisingly excellent. Will try again.

The wine kept flowing, which kept the conversation going. We had a constant production line of pizzas baking, topping assemblage and base prepping. Boggle Pizza Night was tons of fun for the whole family.

Next time, Scattergories Pizza Party.

Possibly more of a double-edged fork.

The Easter weekend has been a double-edged sword for friend hosting purposes. On the basest level, it’s meant that I’ve been around while she has. Having Friday and today free has allowed me to spend tons of time with her. We’ve been able to venture across Toronto together, with my limited knowledge and expertise at her disposal. It’s dawned on me over the past couple of days that without guidance or navigation, Toronto could be a pretty boring place. The best parts of Toronto are festival and event related. The food rocks, but if you’re stuck in the city centre it can be tricky to source great meals from interesting, innovative restaurants. It’s lousy with chain stores and a big part of escaping their clutches involves being in the right areas. My friend is well travelled, I’m sure she would’ve been fine otherwise. There is however a very visceral alternate reality where she came to Toronto and missed all the good bits. Instead she wandered the downtown core, got coffee at Aroma, Tim Hortons donuts, and the culinary highlight of her trip was trying Swiss Chalet sauce for the first time. Bleak.

The double-edge of the Easter holiday was a bunch of great places being closed. Bakerbots for ice cream cookie sandwiches? Nope. The Big Mac pizza slice at Apiecalypse Now? Closed. No vegetarian poutine from Poutini’s for her. Disappointment abounded! Tacos El Astador was open, but totally rammed. The dude assured us a table would be available soon enough, but looking around the restaurant, 90% of tables hadn’t been served yet. We’d be able to sit, but eating would no doubt be off the menu for a while. We resigned ourselves to Sky Blue Sky, the Wilco themed sandwich restaurant. I mean, it wasn’t colossal resignation, their sandwiches are fucking awesome. We’d just been hoping for Mexican after vegan pizza was a no go. TOO BAD proclaimed the door, or said as much. They hadn’t been paying their rent and had been locked out. A big notice of termination on the front door. Fuck. According to the site they’re closed for renovations. I don’t know who to believe (but I know who I want to believe). Thankfully their King Street location is both a) still in operation and b) closer to my work.

We were bummed and while we didn’t feel hopeless, it seemed like potential was slipping away from us. FEAR NOT, DEAR READER, things turn out alright for your heroes. Just east of Bathurst lay the constant unobtainable jewel of brunch. Insomnia. Known also for their excellent pizzas and late night eats, Insomnia’s been a jewel in the heart of The Annex for years. On multiple occasions my girlfriend and I had tried to get in on some brunch action. Each time we were famished and couldn’t stomach the 20-30 minute wait for a table. Being a Monday and in the 1pm time range (brunch went till 3pm) we slipped in and found a table easily. Leafing through the menu, it was easy to see why they’d been so prized. An assortment of dishes across the spectrum of brunchdom. A variety of sweet options, sandwiches, two rancheros options and the bennies. As a gluten free option they had these delicious rice curry cakes that had a croquette-ish texture and a not-overpowering, but excellent curry taste. My pulled pork benny was a cavalcade of flavours. So decadent. The “legendary” home fries sauce had a real bbq taste, and the consistency was almost candied. Plus they had La Fin Du Monde on tap, always a sign of a venue with impeccable class. We may never manage to get a table for brunch again, but my heart will haunt that menu for years to come.

It’s been delightful being a tourist in my own city. Using my visiting friend as an excuse to gorge myself meal after meal. As a last hurrah, it’s time to ice that cake with comfort food. Onwards to Disgraceland!

Each child a different variety of Eldritch nightmare fuel. HOW ARE ALL OF THEIR PROPORTIONS UNIQUELY WRONG?

It’s pretty awesome having a good friend in town. An excuse to show off city pride and all that. I cleared off my whole weekend to be malleable around what she’s looking to get up to. She’s independent, but also looking for a simple time away hanging out, looking at things, eating delicious meals and drinking. So all the things I’d be doing in a foreign country too. As a result, I’ve taken Easter weekend as a holiday in Toronto. She’s on vacation and I’m riding that vibe alongside her. She’ll tell me the kind of things she’s looking to get up to and I’ll help facilitate them. What kind of stuff do you want to eat? What sort of sights are you aiming to see? Let me shape the holiday you seek kind of stuff.

It’s interesting putting myself into the role of a tourist in my own city, cause it’s making me look at it in another light. It’s been years since I was a Toronto newcomer and I’ve kind of forgotten what it was like to roam the streets seeking out potential. When I leave the house these days there’s often a vague intentionality to my movement. I’ll go out to pick something up, eat at specific restaurants, etc. This weekend however, I’m wandering the streets, stopping when the mood strikes my friend or I. As a result I tried out Duggan’s brewery for the first time, nabbing myself a delicious chocolate ale. I stopped into a few vintage and boutique stores I never would’ve set foot inside, because they’re her kinds of places. You know what? They had neat stuff and may well be my kind of places. Knowledge is power and I’m powering up my Toronto experience.

I’m also soaking up her #views. She lives in London and was a New Yorker for some time. Wandering the streets, she couldn’t believe how hard it was to find a bar open on a sunny afternoon. 2pm beers didn’t seem to exist outside of restaurants or late brunches. I’d never really thought about it. How often do I roam around looking for an afternoon beer on a weekend? Yet again, it comes back to purpose. When I’m out during the day, I’m not often trying to grab a beer. You know what though? When we did stop off for afternoon drinks, it was fucking great. Why the hell don’t I roam around aimlessly with mates on the weekend? Instead of being so driven by specifics, we could surf that holiday wave any week. Summer’s coming up and patio season will be upon us. I better start training.

Much as I’m “on vacation”, I’m coming to a realisation. A few times in the past couple of days I’ve helped out strangers looking for advice or guidance. Toronto has felt like home for some time. The creeping awareness that’s dawned on me this weekend is not only do I call Toronto home in the heart sense, but I really do feel like a local. This is my backyard now. A corner of my mind holds mental maps of the city, restaurants and stores, parks and where the closest LCBOs are. Not merely static information, it’s coloured by emotion. Places I love, small corners that freak me out or have an unspoken here be dragons clipped on. This city is a part of my life and this weekend I get to share that with someone who’s been part of my life for years. It’s several shades of radness.

The other side of sharing my city is holding a strange personal sense of responsibility. If my city doesn’t deliver, it feels like I’m not delivering. I love this city, if she doesn’t, does that mean I’ve misplaced my affections? What if I’ve latched onto a minefield and looked past the flags strewn about? What have I walked into?

Ultimately, I know that’s dumb. She was looking to chill out and she’s getting to do just that. Toronto will deliver, because it doesn’t have to be London or New York. It’s got its own flavour and that’s made of people like me who love it. Whether we’re conscious of it, we’re shaping the space we live in so that when friends visit, they’ll see why we’re proud of it.

Certainly not the Ossington Childcare mural. That thing is a fucking horror show.

OffSpring are in the air. I gotta keep me separated.

Because I’m not a fully functional human being, I sometimes have strange responses to things. It’s fine, I’ve existed up to this point idiosyncratically and I’ll likely continue along the same path until I no longer exist. We all work with a range of people. Some co-workers grow to become friends. Sometimes with others water cooler talk drags on uncomfortably long (an important part of adapting to a workplace is learning who you can make flippant asides to (that won’t result in a conversation you weren’t looking for)).  The vast majority of them are simply people who do the same thing as you do, or inhabit a similar office space. As someone who has a lot of acquaintances, some of whom I’m pretty close with, co-workers who qualify as friends are a huge anomaly in my life. I make friendly conversation with most people, since the alternative would be either not talking with them or making unfriendly conversation. Neither seem to be great options. What I’m getting around to is this: I really hate the co-worker on maternal leave bringing in their infant thing.

In no way am I saying that there’s anything remotely wrong with bringing your kid in to work in order to parade them around. You do you, and other people enjoy it. Totally fine. When it happens though, I have to be elsewhere. I just don’t have that kind of relationship with the people on my team. If I was on some kind of parental leave, my co-workers would see me no sooner than 365 days post-pregnancy. Every single time that someone brings a kid in, I don’t know what to say.

I still haven’t evolved to the point where I find babies interesting. They make shitty conversation, are pretty bad at doing anything and don’t understand my pop cultural references. So there’s no attraction in getting to hangout with an infant. I too lack the knowledge about child-rearing that gives me conversational ammo for their parents. They’re obviously gonna want to talk about their baby, who I know nothing about. Outside of that, there are the usual assortment of questions about what life is like with a baby that I’m not interested in. If I wouldn’t have chatted with the parent about non-work subjects while they were still working in the office, how would them having a kid change that?

It feels like a social obligation. I don’t want to pretend that this person is suddenly interesting because they reproduced, that’s disingenuous. While they’re in the office though, it can be hard to avoid them if they’re conversing with people in the middle of a main thoroughfare. There’s no way to get to the kitchen for more water without bypassing them, so I get stuck parched at my desk hoping they’ll just leave without noticing me.

Maybe I need to work out strategies around this. I could just pretend in my head that they don’t have a baby, and ask them questions that I’d usually ask them as if they didn’t. “So, what’ve you been doing these days?” “How’ve things been lately?” “That Toronto weather, eh?” “Trump right? So crazy right now.” (then launch into the Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh, oh, no, nos from Beyonce (feat Jay Z)’s 2003 single “Crazy in Love”) Then again, people like talking about their kids. So as an addendum to that, I could totally splice in some throwaway about the baby to my previous plan. “So what’ve you been doing these days [with the baby]?” “How’ve things been lately [with the baby]?” “That Toronto weather [with the baby], eh?” “Trump right? So crazy right now [with the baby]. Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh, oh, no, no.”

Conversely, the underside of my desk is very spacious and I get a WiFi signal there. I could hide from my problems instead.

Tour on TO.

I heard from a friend today that she’s thinking of stopping off in Toronto for a couple of days. Naturally, this is fantastic news. It’s always excellent to see good friends from far and away. Even better when you have the home court advantage. If she does come, it’ll be over Easter weekend, which has its pros and cons. I didn’t have any big plans over the weekend, so spending quality time with a good mate trumps anything else. It’s also during a time where I naturally have time off. Another plus. On the other side, I’m worried that Toronto may slow down over Zombie Jesus’ Cave Time. What if nothing’s on? How am I supposed to show her the best that Toronto has going for it, if there’s nothing going on? She’s coming from London (the good one) for fuck’s sake. How am I supposed to one up that?

Let’s work on a wish list. What ideally would I love to show her about Toronto?

  • Weird movie screening: Maybe something at The Royal, The Carlton or The Revue. Local cinemas working together with niche community groups to give the public access to lesser known filmic works. If there’s anything by Exploding Zebra or The Midnight Society, The MUFF Society, etc. Perhaps some horror film fest or an interesting TIFF screening/Q&A session.
  • Food: Always food. Toronto has several cities’ fair share of brunch spots with a ton of options for all diets. She’s vegetarian and Toronto will provide. Failing anything, it’s another excuse to get Ethiopean, as if I ever need one. Spring will come with a ton of pop-ups. There are also the regular spots like Bang Bang/Bakerbots, Sweet Jesus (thematic) and everything Kensington has to offer. Oh wait, how could I forget poutine? It’s Canadian food incarnate.
  • Bars: So many theme bars here, and surprisingly few I’ve checked out. As a local, you rarely explore your own backyard much. Why not put paid to that idea and dig around? I’ve never been to Eat My Martini or Nightowl. The hubbub surrounding “Harry Potter Bar” The Lockhart has probably died down by now. Get Well is always the best and I haven’t been in aaaages. the Get Well owned bar Greater Good has opened up close to me and I’ve still not stopped in for a pint. Not to mention great local breweries like Blood Brothers and Bellwoods. There’s so much excellent alcohol on offer.
  • Shows: There’s always some type of performance going on in Toronto. There’s a vibrant art scene between the visual arts, theatre, dance and more abstract stuff. Could she be interested in a themed burlesque show? Comedy gigs, whether improv or sketch? An offering from one of the many talented local theatre companies? An exhibition or gallery? Art battles or cooking competitions?
  • Dance: The anachronistic charms of Chronologic? Disco vibes of Beam Me Up? Guilty pleasure pop? K-POP? Queer femme hip hop? MTV Throwback? Whatever she’s into, like good beer, it’s probably on tap.
  • Funtivities: Escape rooms? Axe throwing? The Rage Room? Archery Tag? An escape event at Casa Loma?
  • Oh the Places to go: Toronto Island/Hanlans, The Beaches, Trinity Bellwoods, The Distillery District, Evergreen Brick Works.

Really though, it’s not about what I want to show her, but what she’s into seeing. First and foremost, is she even coming? If not, nothing’s stopping me from doing any of this stuff.

Y’know, Toronto’s quite something when you think about it.

Oddly enough, I feel pretty dirty today.

I stayed out late last night (for a decrepit senior like me, anyway) and didn’t get to bed until around 3.30am. Since the weather jumped about ten degrees yesterday, the bedroom was sticky with heat. Great sleep was not acquired. Even with an hour and a half nap this afternoon (I mentioned the decrepit senior thing, right?) I’m still catching up mentally. What I’m saying here is don’t expect Shakespeare in this entry.

Anyway, I was thinking today about mercy and how unstrained it is as a quality.

Dumb.

A friend and I went out to Dance Yourself Clean. It’s an indie music dance party (named after the LCD Soundsystem song. You’d be forgiven for assuming it was an alcohol/drug free gig). Basically a DJ going off a playlist of popular indie tunes both classic and contemporary (the idea of classic indie seems strange to toss around in my head). Throwing out crossfades and unnecessary flange, etc. At some point later in every event they’ll throw on Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” and the crowd will go nuts. It’s a commodified experience being packaged and sold, but I’m pretty okay with that. If I get to come to an event, hear the kind of music I enjoy dancing to and have others on a similar wavelength, I figure I’m in for a good night. It’s not about pushing boundaries and discovering new things, but rather getting that reaffirming tingle from waves of nostalgia all evening. Last night’s event was less grand than the previous one. I dunno, fewer tunes my friend and I knew. I mean, she kept on pulling out Soundhound for evidence. Once again the label throwing the event had their own artist performing live, which felt a little tone deaf. If people were coming for that specific purpose of essentially listening to a playlist, why put live performance in front of them? That’s not what they’re looking for. As with the last DYC, the live performances worked gangbusters to clear the dance floor. Who knows? Maybe it was done specifically to drive people to the bar. Help out the venue a little. In any case, if a night ends with a friend and I going for 2am korean food, it’s been decent enough.

Meeting at the Crafty Coyote was a fun choice. Sitting next to the bar, the fellow behind the bar couldn’t stop plying us with sample tasters. It’s nice when you find someone with a passion for their craft (pun kind of intended). As soon as we described the kind of tastes we enjoyed, he’d fill a bunch of sample glasses and push them our way. I think at one point I had four sample glasses sitting in front of me. One or two of them though, he really stuck the landing and nailed what I was looking for. One cider he picked out for my friend was amazing. If we weren’t heading off we would’ve downed a few pints of it. It was nice too that after an evening of arguing with people on Facebook about connotations of certain gendered terms, the barman called both of us “friend”. An unexpected, but delightful gesture that took the edge off a frustrating evening. It was really great to catch up with my friend. She’d gone through a bunch of stuff in the last while and we’d been to busy to catch up.

It was amusing, then, that some old guy at the bar kept making conversation with me. He must’ve been lonely and he was super friendly/respectful, but also wasn’t catching the social clues that I was really there to hang out with my mate. It was more funny than annoying. Thing was, the conversation got kind of interesting. He was talking about how Toronto has a bunch of remote spots that are really picturesque, but also happen to be sewerage outputs. At some point he started talking about Ghost in the Shell and Akira and it pained me to turn away from the conversation. What part of me didn’t want to talk about vintage anime with some 60+ year old stranger? I had to tell him in all honesty that I was enjoying chatting with him, but I really wanted to talk with my friend. I thanked him for his time and turned around. Once more, unexpected but delightful.

That’s my time, which means I now get to leave and eat (drink?) pea soup with my main squeeze. May you all be so lucky.