Well it ain’t sham-dalar

I’m swimming in spare time, but I did also drink a ton of coffee, so I’m very distractible (for a change). I want to get this done, so it’s a regular ol’ stream of consciousness deal.

Yesterday was great, today’s been great. I guess it’s hard to have a shitty time when you have regular four day weekends, but I haven’t gotten bored yet. Turns out there are other people with non-standard schedules. A bunch of them are my friends, too. It’s neat. I met a writer friend for brunch. We hadn’t caught up in ages, and tend to do a lot of JFL42 stuff together. She’s always a blast to hang with, and it was worthwhile comparing JFL42 must sees, etc. More importantly (because let’s be real), the food was awesome. As soon as I mentioned brunch she was like LEON WE’RE GOING TO DONNA’S FOR ROAST BEEF SANDWICHES. I didn’t argue. It worked out. The sandwich was incredible. The meat was succulent, and a lovely jalapeño spice pervaded each bite. There were crispy onions and soft, thinly sliced wedges of parsnip. It looked like cheese, but the texture was awesome. We had a pea salad on the side, which also featured solid quotients of both crunch and spice.

Then it turned out I was around the corner from another friend who I was gonna have a late lunch with. I biked a literal two minutes, and hung out at hers. We put on sunscreen, then headed out to walk the streets. Our goal was to hang in a park, and we did errands while we walked. She’s trying to learn Latin, so she picked up a copy of Winnie Ille Pu she’d booked from the library. I stopped by CAFE (a local pot shop) who’s been forced into weird sidewalk sales stuff by archaic provincial laws. I put an order in for a gram of indica (it’s been great for powering down and getting rest after late night work shifts) that I’d be able to pick up half an hour later, then we kept walking. I got some cash out, my friend bought a spinach pastry, she got a “Fat Mac” slice from Apiecalypse Now, and we lazed in Christie Pitts park. It was fucking great.

I have the rest of the day off, with zero commitments. I’m realistically gonna get pulled back into the world of Shandalar, a 1997 Magic the Gathering game that to this day is still the best MtG video game ever created. One of my favourite streamers Gaby Spartz plays it periodically, and it whets my appetite. The system is so old and clunky, and it features rules that’ve been long since updated in the card game. I’ve played the game so much that it’s a total nostalgia blast. It’s a fun RPG where you wandering the land trying to take down evil wizards and their cronies by battling them in a card game. There are elusive mythical cards you can find out of nowhere, and old ante rules means you can lose your top cards suddenly. It’s exciting, and a weirdly compelling game to view on Twitch.

Oh shit, she’s playing right now. I think I know what I’m doing this evening. See ya.

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Cryogenically frozen in time

Story time, friends.

Earlier this year I started taking anti-depressants. Great decision. Should’ve done it years back. Changes have been fantastic across the board. I’ve regained my ability to establish boundaries, be assertive, be supportive, and make space for others. I even use the Oxford comma now. Instead of being tossed to the gutter for days by one stray thought, I can look at that thought, say “yep, that’s a thought”, and keep walking. I don’t speak lightly when I say that this decision in many ways gave me my life back.

One catch. Since I started on the meds, there’s been one side effect. I can’t cry. No dice. I’ve been safe behind a synthetic wall. I didn’t want to lose touch with those too human feelings, but it’s been a worthy trade-off. What I’ve gained is so much greater than what I’ve given up. No question.

This past weekend, I cottaged with friends. COTTAGED. The place had a dock atop a large, still, lake. In the early hours, I crept out to see how sunrise was doing. Early Hours, I said. A burgeoning golden crown in the sky. Curious, I walked down to the dock. As the path wound through the trees, I caught glimpses of the lake. It looked purple. I took off the literal rose-coloured glasses I wore, and saw a bold baby blue. I was intrigued. As the trees parted, they gave way to an unreal sight. Fog rolled off the shore, where it coalesced at the lake’s centre. I donned the glasses, and saw hues of candy colours blend with the sky. It was truly phenomenal.

I hurried to the lounge, where people chatted quietly. I caught everyone’s attention and said, “Listen folks, please trust me. Grab warm clothes and come down to the dock now. Something magical is happening.”

I stood at the dock’s edge and waited. One by one they walked down. One by one, they were rendered speechless. Jaws dropped all around. “Right?” I whispered. My photographer friend arrived, turned, and ran off for his camera. We marvelled at this utterly unearthly scene. I walked onto the dock for a closer look. I took it all in again. Awareness came to me. I spoke, “I’ve never thought to check before, but this must be what the other side of sunrise looks like.” I felt something stirring. My eyes twitched and my throat tightened. It was all too beautiful, and I didn’t know how to process my awe. I wept. The floodgates opened, and I felt tears coming hot and fast. I gasped for air and doubled over.

My girlfriend noticed, and realisation spread across her face. She wrapped me in a hug. She called to our friends, “Leon’s crying.” Concern warped their expressions. She continued “He hasn’t been able to cry for six months.” Realisation spread further. I felt myself enveloped in my friends’ arms. I kept bawling. A few lingered for solo hugs, and I came back to my breath. I felt open, awake. It’s a memory I’m sure I’ll keep close for years.

So it turns out Mr. Photographer didn’t realise what was happening, and snapped his shot. It’s raw, and such a perfect moment. It takes me right back, to feel that weight and release again. I’m sure memories all fade eventually, but this one carries a whole story.

A cotton candy world sounds pretty sweet

I’m still thinking about that weekend.

I’m still thinking about that weekend because it was so unbelievably stuffed with treasured moments. There was something about being sequestered away from society, from societal pressures like time and propriety, that opened up some mental headroom. I could be as goofy as I liked, without fear of judgement. Whether I was doing absurd extended bits, ruminating and contemplating, or sharing genuine heartfelt talks with close friends, it all felt like each moment was bigger than itself. Each day as I sat down to write I tried to think of what was worth scribing, and felt weirdly overwhelmed. It’s not that everything needed to make it to the page, but that there were too many great jokes, observations and lessons that deserved a wider audience.

Though when I talk about this first joke, forget everything I said about deserving a wider audience.

I had this dumb recurring bit going on about the opening three seconds of Limp Bizkit’s “My Generation”.

Fred Durst, when his tour bus is stuck in traffic: “IF ONLY WE COULD FLYYYYYYY”
Fred Durst watching Liar Liar, and voicing his concern over the lead character’s predicament: “IF ONLY HE COULD LIIIIIIIE.”

It’s a relatively versatile setup, as long as you can keep finding words that rhyme with “fly”.

I made a number of stupid jokes, come to think of it. Like, “What would you call a dance popularised by the U.S. Boxing team for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics? The Haymaker-ena.”

I also had some pretty lovely moments. It was late (or early, depending on your time perspective), and I started giggling uncontrollably. My girlfriend asked me what was so funny, and I replied that I was so excited about a compliment that I was gonna give one of our friends, because I knew just how happy it would make her. She entered the room a little while later and I told her that I had a compliment for her, and I was biding my time for the right moment, but I knew it would make her day. As a comic, who rarely wants to be the butt of a joke, she got on edge a little. I knew that like comedy, I had to use timing and delivery to really nail it so she could get the most out of it. It was like a little mini-game. I waited for hours, and in the cool blue light of pre-dawn, while the two of us were in the kitchen, I pounced. Gently, of course. I turned to her and quietly said “I was thinking about the meal last night, and I’m already nostalgic for it. Everything was so delicious, and made it larger than life. I was also thinking about how you brought such clear intentions towards making it happen, how you asked people to take care of certain parts, and inspired others to bring their flare into it. When I sat down at the table I looked around and realised that everyone sitting there had contributed somehow, that it was a real communal effort and we were sharing in the bountiful results. Then I looked at you, and thought how you’d drawn us together for the meal. I sat in that moment and appreciated the hand you’d put in, knowing we wouldn’t be there without you.” She turned to me, overwhelmed, and gave me a hug, saying how nice that was. I pulled her close and whispered in her ear. And that’s the compliment I knew would make you happy. It was a very sweet moment.

Another amazing moment came a few hours later. For some context, in the evening a few of us had walked down to the dock in the middle of the night. Fog was everywhere, rising as mist from the warm water into the cool air. It rolled off the banks to coalesce in the centre of the lake. It looked ghostly and spectral, these rolling hazy waves above the water. I walked back down at the first traces of sunlight to have a look. As I descended through the tree cover, I saw the surface of the lake as a gentle, purple pastel. I arrived at the dock, and took in a magical sight. Cotton candy pastel hues lit the sky and illuminated the rising fog. I realised, this was the other side of sunrise. While warm colours lit the rising sun, the shadows it cast across the sky left a glorious soft residue. I pulled everyone down, and we stood there speechless. I was overcome, and I cried from joy. Since I’d begun taking anti-depressants back in February, I’d been incapable of crying. No matter what happened, I just couldn’t shed a tear. Yet this sight stirred something in me, and I doubled over, gasping. It was literally breathtaking, like we’d ascended to a different plane of existence.

Come to think of it, maybe we did.

Just call me Tim the Toolshed Taylor

And so this cottage weekend has come to an end.

I’m sitting here at a table loosely populated by leftovers. A box of peaches with two remaining. The remnants of a smores kit. Half consumed cans of drink, and a breakfast plate that’s been picked at, but still has a sausage and eggs left to give. We’re in the process of tying things together. The floor has been swept, dishes drying, bags of rubbish sit outside the front door, read for their trip to the tip. Our first carload have left, bound by timelines. We’re the cleanup crew.

It’s been a stellar weekend. I think this is the closest I’ve ever felt to living in a commune. Everyone doing their part, helping out. We’ve had amazing meals, and I think it’s because people have been taking care of side dishes, doing their little specialties to enhance the meals. There’s been bountiful food, and I’ve eaten beyond my needs day by day. Outstanding. Cleanup has been effortless, with people tagging in on dishes, drying, setting the table, all without being asked. Stress hasn’t made itself known, and it’s testament to the people who’ve made this weekend what it became.

My friend and I had a fun experience last night with the new Tool album. We’d both been psyched to listen to it, and wanted to make it into an event. It’d personally been so long since I’d made a big deal of an album release, and it was neat to bring outselves back to a place that we used to inhabit. We went out to a little shed, put two speakers equidistant to get proper soundstaging. We turned off the lights, except for a small string of fairy lights. We both lay down side by side on the bed, closed our lines and listened. It brought me right back to being a teen again, taking in an experience with wide eyed enthusiasm. We lay there and took it all in, wordless expressions of interest. Heads banging, toes tapping. There were one or two moments where we both gasped with surprise at certain riffs and sounds. It didn’t instantly stand out as a classic album, but having that experience really shaped how I took it all in. I’d previously listened to a few of the tracks at work, real secondary or tertiary listening. By giving it my primary attention, I noticed so much more. I think without the listening party, I possibly would’ve heard the album a couple more times, then given up the ghost. Now, I think I’ll pay closer attention, and dig for those things that really stood out in the shed. Or “Tool Shed”, as our friend dubbed it.

This weekend has amassed so many experiences I didn’t know I’d appreciate as I did. We canoed out to a little island, made smores around a fire, shared heartfelt moments stacked atop one another. It’s been top to bottom wonderful. Everything I needed and thensome.

It might be coming to an end, but definitely a case of gone, not forgotten.

Lesson’s more sometimes

I swear this weekend has added years to my life.

It’s hard to express how great it feels to be away with a group where everyone is looking out for one another. Prolix. We’ve all been on vacation with friends before. You’re all low key monitoring each other, gauging whether everyone’s helping out or doing their fair share. Maybe it’s because most of us have crested 30, but there have been no conflicts so far. People just get stuff done to make things easier. Whether it’s lending a hand with food prep, taking care of dishes, cleaning as they go, making snacks or keeping a steady supply of cool drinks in the fridge for everyone, it’s been bliss. There’s been constant support and validation. Comfort both physical and emotional. We’re all taking care of one another, trying to look out for the best interests of others. Is this how a commune starts? Are we a cult yet?

I’m having the best time, simultaneously taking everything in and nothing for granted. It’s been so nice to disengage from time. I realise how much stress on a daily basis comes from time anxiety. Busy busy busy, eh Vonnegut? Being here, I’m okay missing out on experiences, because I know they’re plentiful. Take yesterday evening, for example. A bunch of friends were down at the dock, chilling out. I wanted to be there, but I also realised that earlier I’d thought about picking up this dirty bin I saw on the property, cleaning it up and having it available as an outdoor recycle bin so people didn’t have to go inside to put away empties. I considered how long the process would take, but didn’t really think twice about doing it. This was something I wanted to take care of in order to craft a better experience for everyone on a micro level. The dock could wait. I could also go there after I was done, and if people left, I’d just have a different experience that’d also be great.

Cleaning the bin was kinda funny. I picked it up, but it was covered in forest needles and spider webs. I brought it out to the deck, placed it down and grabbed a few paper towels. I methodically went through and cleaned all its surfaces. I wiped and pulled away chunks of the aforementioned needles and webs. I turned it upside down and cleared off the bottom. It had these ridges running all the way around the edges. I dug in and pulled out the detritus crammed in there. Altogether it took maybe 10 minutes of cleaning. At each stage I was like y’know, this is probably good enough. Then thought is good enough all I want? Or do I want to do a great job? I realised that there was no shortcut. If I wanted my friends to get the best out of the experience (dumb as it sounds when all I was doing was setting up an outdoor bin). I had this moment thinking this is actually a valuable life lesson I’m taking in. Sometimes you need to do things the long way, skip the shortcuts. There’s no substitute for hard work and you have to respect the process. It’s gonna mean a much more impressive result. It felt satisfying, a level up opportunity. This was gonna be great, not merely good enough. An awesome solution to a problem we didn’t know we had. It was all cleaned up, so I lined it with the blue recycling bag. Or rather, I tried. The bag wasn’t big enough to fit the bin. After all that work, I’d fucked up on the sizing and we didn’t have a bigger, suitable bag to use. Well I thought, it’s good enough. Immediately undercutting the “lesson” I’d taught myself. It’s fine, I can still have learned the lesson of respecting the process, while also learning another lesson concurrently: There’s power in understanding when you’ve done as much as you can.

In any case, I still got down to the dock and it was lovely.

Hark, the Bone King cometh

What’s in a name? I’m Leon. I’ve always been Leon. Nicknames slough off me like water from a duck. They don’t hold or stick fast. Not sure why.

I’ve always been one to strip bones bare. Sounds like a red flag tinder profile, but really it means that I love BBQ ribs a whole bunch. Last night we had a big communal cook-up. Ribs on the BBQ, grilled mushrooms, corn, hot dogs, peaches, and a simple side salad. We sat around and had our bellies filled by the work we’d all pitched in. Everyone at the table had helped out somehow, and the rewards were bounteous. It turned out I had different standards than everyone for when a rib was considered “finished”. My friends’ bones piled up, and I flayed them one by one. I finished with a stack high to the heavens. Like a throne. A throne of bones. I was the Bone King.

Of course, this happened in my head. Nobody else had picked up on my clever moniker. So it was my duty to bring them onboard. This was a nickname that could stick. I tried incidentally sprinkling it a few times into conversation. Y’know, “hey, mind passing the chips over here to the Bone King?” They were all “wait, who’s the Bone King?” I was like “thats me, I’m the Bone King. Y’know, all those dinner bones?” My friends exchanged uneasy looks. I tried it once or twice more. It didn’t land. After a particularly egregious one my girlfriend gave me a sidebar. “I’m not sure this Bone King thing is landing. Maybe it’s not happening.” I looked in my heart of hearts and stood firm. “I know this can work, I just haven’t found my moment. By the end of the night, I’ll have it.”

It was evening. There’d been a bunch of pot going around. We were all quite high. We’d all slid into colourful, comfy clothing. I wore my lion onesie, with these dainty rose tinted glasses; gold chain draping from either arm across the back of my neck. People commented on the aesthetics of my attire. I shrugged and said something to the effect of “that’s how the Bone King rolls”. Gentle chuckling ensued. I stepped outside to a spritely bonfine. We played around, making smores. Some tended the fire. I grabbed a bold stick and struck a pose. I referred to myself once or twice as the Bone King. Still not a whole lot of rececption.

Hours passed. I’d put down my rose tinted glasses, and they’d become absorbed into a silly joke about a toy car wearing them. People were still laughing about Lightning McQueen in his rose tinted glasses. I grabbed the glasses, unaware I was cutting off their joke. Someone started to protest my theft of Lightning McQueen’s apparel, and I realised the only choice was to commit to the bit. I methodically applied the glasses, draping the chain over the back of my neck to the sound of the room’s protests. A friend called out “are you challenging Lightning McQueen?” I pushed the glasses to the bridge of my nose, squared off against Mr. McQueen and exclaimed “Hey Lightning McQueen, you come at the Bone King, you best not miss.” Rapturous applause exploded as I walked out the door for a smoke. Thus began the legend of the Bone King.

And I finally made that goofy nickname stick.

You ain’t seen nothin’ jetty

Greetings from cottage country. I’m splayed out on my belly, lying atop a dock. Or is it a jetty? What’s the difference? Is it a matter of protrusion? It’s certainly a matter of confusion. Who cares? I’m on holiday.

I’ve got a writing partner here with me today. She’s working on some comedy bits while I type. We’re chatting, discussing, thinking about wording and intonation. Well, she’s bouncing ideas off me anyway. It’s beyond idyllic here. This dock/jetty (I looked it up, I think it’s a dock rather than a jetty. I also learned that jetties are used to disperse currents and create a safe harbour for seafaring vessels (or since they need to disperse currents, maybe they’re sea fearing)) is idly rocking, and it’s absurdly pleasant. Our neighbours are whipping out on their stand up paddleboards, having a great time. We can see right across, it’s a gorgeous view.

Okay, cut to an hour and a half later. I didn’t get my writing done, ’cause we chatted a bunch instead. Now we’re back in the house, it’s a hive of activity. People are walking around clothed, in their undies or nothing at all. One of our pals walked in from the bunkie. There’s a great flow. People are chopping potatoes for some kind of hash. Someone else is frying stuff up in a pan. There’s some Big Chill style motown bursting out from a portable speaker. I’m getting repeatedly distracted, but I think that’s part of the process. Who knows? We’re on cottage time now, baby. Today’s writing has been a slog, not because I’m not enjoying it, but I’m having a hard time with stimulation overload.

We had a great night yesterday. We arrived, and the group who got there earlier were already a bunch of drinks in. I played catchup rather adroitly, and played darts at the same time. I won, somehow. The game itself wasn’t the hard part. See, I’m not a competitive person. I love cheerleading my opponent when they make good plays, but my opponent asked me specifically to trash talk her. I was puzzled, because I’m ever aware of the difficult line to walk when it becomes mean. I don’t like being mean. I tried, and I think managed to not destroy her very being. I did destroy her in the game though. This place is super stocked with board games, etc. Someone found a card game that was basically a forum to encourage intimate conversations, so we talked deep into the morning. I was somehow drunk enough for a nice deep sleep, and woke up grinning.

But now? Now it’s time for lunch. Catch y’all on the flipside!