Three cheers for everyone’s favourite Coppola.

Sometimes life is stranger than fiction. Like in that Will Ferrell movie. Or when you find yourself in a situation you’d merely dreamed of. Dreams, however, could not come close to the reality I was lucky enough to experience. It was all too brief, as only the best things are. Last night I went to (beat) a Nicolas Cage party.

How many films has Nic Cage been in? Many times more than enough. Accordingly there were beyond ample costume opportunities. While I’d initially conspired to go as Cowboy Pachinko Nic Cage, I left it way too late and didn’t want to have to track down a close-enough shirt and other costume accessories. At some point it gets expensive to put together costumes. The hope is that eventually you’ll have enough items in your closet/tickle trunk that you can assemble a costume from things that are lying around the house.

But I said “fuck it” anyway and went out to buy the necessary bits for a Con Air Nic Cage. I was surprised I didn’t already own a white singlet. It strangely took many hours to find one. The other necessary props were a small cardboard box and a soft toy bunny to put in said box. Then for extra marks I wrote a couple of letters from his daughter all written in coloured felt tip pens with a child’s scrawl. The first I took straight from the film. Things got weird immediately:

“My Daddy is coming home on July 14th. My Birthday is July 14th. I’m going to see my Daddy for the first time on July 14th.”

“I love my Daddy lots I think. I dunno. I’m sorta just a plot device.”

“Hey Daddy. Didn’t you think the use of Sweet Home Alabama in this film was a bit egregious? Or was that the point?”

“Hey Daddy. This film didn’t deserve the stacked cast it had. I mean, Cage, Malkovich, Cusack, Buschemi, fucken Chapelle, man?”

“Hey Daddy. Real Eyes. Realize. Real Lies.”

I was ready.

Could anyone really be ready for such a soirée? There was a clothes line in the kitchen, with a ton of hanging Nicolas Cage masks to choose from. A playlist of Nic Cage movies played all night long on the TV. There were tacos (not thematic), a plounge (also not thematic) and a car buffer people were using for quick low key massages (maybe thematic? Who knows? Cage is a sensual fellow). There were cheeses and nice fudges. Tons of mixers. A polaroid camera and endless enthusiasm. My friend’s place is in a converted factory and it’s made for a wonderful home overflowing with character. She has unbelievable amounts of awesome colourful art she’s both purchased and created. Soft toys, dioramas and colourful displays were everywhere. Colour changing mood lights in each room of the house. It was like being transported to a fantasy world. A monument to absurdity and whimsy, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect environment in which to erect a shrine for the OneTrueGod.

As for today, I’m coming out of my Cage and I’ve been doing just fine.

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More like sigh-napses.

So here’s a thing about me. I love stand up comedy, but I really don’t enjoy watching recorded stand up specials. Without being there live and feeling the collective energy in the room, the visual aspect adds nothing and I get bored. Love listening to recorded stand up, don’t like watching it. I’ve had Netflix for a while and seen a bunch of promising specials stack up on my potential view list. I’ve tried, but usually get about five minutes in before calling it quits. Yesterday I cracked the code (remembered my password) so I can put Netflix on in the background at work for listening purposes. It was great. Watched Rory Scovel’s special. Loved it. Patton Oswalt’s Annihiliation. Excellent. Judd Apatow’s special. Maybe he should stick with the film thing. So I put the question out to my friends on Facebook. “People who understand the kind of stuff I find funny, would you mind recommending specials that I’d very likely enjoy?”

Then something that I expected would happen, happened. People just chimed in with things they liked. On one hand, it was nice that people were weighing in and suggesting things. On the other hand, they also weren’t answering the question. The question wasn’t what they’d like, it was essentially “friends, do you know my sense of humour? If so, what stuff do you like that would fit in with that?” Blindly knowing what they liked didn’t help, because humour is such a personal thing and the question hinged on a kind of personal familiarity that many acquaintances (let’s be real, most Facebook friends aren’t particularly close friends) wouldn’t have. I was asking a lot. I thought for a second whether or not it was worth re-clarifying the question. Would people think it rude to do so? Was it rude for them to have asserted their opinion without having read and consisted the full question in the first place? I figured it all came out neutral I’m the wash. So I did, and a friend asked for me to further quality the kind of stuff I enjoyed so she could give more accurate representations. So I responded.

“Sure. It’s really difficult to pin down (cause we’re all complex humans, right?). I like a lot of the alt/meta stuff, but particularly the kind of stuff that points to structures that exist and question why those structures exist. Really, pointing the finger at structures is basically my favourite thing about the medium.

I’m really not into silly humour unless it’s silly humour wrapped under a couple of layers of irony (Andy Kindler sort of thing). Otherwise it’s silly for the sake of silly which, meh. Same with vulgar stuff. It’s fine, but not when it’s trying to get laughs because it’s vulgar. Vulgar pointing to clever observations about the human condition and our shame surrounding this kind of thing are great (Ali Wong’s stuff was great for this).

Dark stuff falls under a similar umbrella. Borderline nihilism is fun to play with because yes humans are terrible and fundamentally do more harm then good. We’re silly creatures who trick one another into thinking we have more significance than we do and there’s a lot of humour in the baggage we give ourselves. Blatant edgelord negativity for nothing other than trying to push the envelope, however, can go suck an egg. Bo Burnham’s one of my kind of peeps for this. Also because he’s horrifyingly talented.

I like it when comics play with the format (Neal Brennan’s 3 Mics, etc), I love one person shows (Chris Gethard – Career Suicide/Hasan Minhaj – Homecoming King), great storytelling (most anything Jen Kirkman or Mike Birbiglia) and I do like wholesome stuff a bunch too, but it’s hard to quantify which wholesome stuff I like and why (Pete Holmes and Gary Gulman would be good examples of this).”

In sending this response, however, I realised it was still hopelessly ineffective. They were thin outlines and try as I may have to thicken them or add colour, there was little opacity. The breadth and depth of what I enjoy in comedy and why was hastily sketched. When I thought more, even I don’t fully understand what it is that lights up my synapses. If I couldn’t articulate my preferences with precision, how dare I expect that from others?

There’s a humbling loneliness to this pattern of thought that’s left me hanging a little low. I thought to some degree I knew myself better than this. It should be exciting that I’ve got so much left to learn about how I tick, that I have a lifetime to figure it out. At the same time, it’s kind of isolating. It makes me question how close the friendships I have are, what sort of connections I assumed were there, but may not be as solid as I’d thought.

Then the other side of me thinks I should just lighten up. Maybe listen to some comedy or something.

I would also accept a Cranston and Zilla buddy cop film.

I’ve got nothing in particular on my mind, so I can’t conceive of a better time to get into it. Let’s get messy!

Sometimes I think I have worms, but then I remember I ate corn recently.

My girlfriend and I watched Godzilla (2014. Definitely not 1998) and I couldn’t help but think what right does this movie have to make me feel so goddamn emotional? Bryan Cranston killed it as per usual. Ridiculous. I’d be all well, I could do with a colossal spined lizard causing mass property damage and suddenly Cranston would show up and do his dead wife speech and I’d think why am I crying right now? He was too good an actor for that kind of flick. Then Elizabeth Olsen showed up and I was left wondering why she got so few scenes that accomplished anything. Then the movie finished and I realised that the human characters aren’t meant to matter and I cared a little less. About everyone but Zilly, Mothster and Cranston anyway. Would’ve been a much better in a cinema. The audio especially was stupendous.

I can’t remember my dream last night, but I know it involved some kind of corporate espionage or money laundering and I’ve been feeling mildly responsible all day. It reinforced that I’d have no place in any major fraud operation. Sure, if I found a $5 bill on the floor at work I’d pocket it. I’m unsure what my peak number would be though. $20 I’d maybe leave it on my desk and see if anyone came to claim it. $50 probably the same. Once I got to $100 however, I’d probably send an email out and ask if anyone was missing something. If a co-worker felt okay about lying to that extent, I’d hardly feel bad about losing something that was never truly mine and entirely okay with them facing their conscience.

This is why I’m not good at competitive board games.

I read today that the most brutal monopoly strategy is to race to complete sets and start buying up all the houses. I’m sure this sounds obvious, but the less obvious part is that there’s a finite supply of houses. If you get the majority, other players will be incapable of completing sets and upgrading to hotels. It’ll create tiers and force your opponents out of the game. It’s known as the Elfer strategy and you can read about it here. I’m quite fine giving this away to anyone who’ll read it, because I will never again play Monopoly in my life. There’s zero fun to be garnered and only active fury. I would rather physically spar with friends and, if you know me at all, you know how much this would tear me apart. Monopoly is worse.

Cue a dream tonight where I go feral and rend my friends limb from limb.

At precisely 3:06, I danced myself clean.

This is and isn’t a review for LCD Soundsystem at Air Canada Centre. If it is, it’s a sloppy one, lacking in objective perspective and proper cohesive structure. Primarily because there was nothing cohesive about my experience. It was weird and nostalgic and present and emotional. I was there in one sense and ten years back in another. TL;DR: I experienced liminal time.

Having never gone to the ACC for a gig before (I went to a Raptors game once) I didn’t quite know what to expect. As I said yesterday, I’ve shied away from stadium concerts for a while now. They’re so often this overblown experience where showboating is a matter of course. It’s less the artists’ fault and more in tune with societal expectations. If they’ve shelled out $100+ for a ticket, there’s the assumption that there’ll be a commensurate level of panache. I think. I dunno. I want to be close enough to the stage that I can see artists spit (Salive music?). Sure that’s doable at a gig with a few hundred others. Air Canada Centre fits over 19,000 people. I didn’t know what time I’d need to be there to have my desired spitting image.

Doors opened at 6pm. I was there at 5.50pm. I’m no stranger to being prompt and since this was the first gig I’d paid for in far too long, I resolved that I’d get my money’s worth. Whatever that odd concept of “value” means anyway. At worst I’d play on my phone and see the opener. Doors at 6pm would mean an opener at 7pm. I could wait an hour. I did. I wasn’t right up against the bar in front of the stage, but I was behind the guy who was. There was a rubber pad running along the floor at the front. It was flat, then sloped off. I stood firmly on the slope. My view of the stage was uninterrupted. I was stoked. I waited my hour, messed around on the internet and learned all about Cicada 3301 and weird hacker subcultures. It was creepy and fascinating. It was a good use of my time by any stretch of the imagination. At 7pm a DJ started playing to zero fanfare. She didn’t give a shit, she kept doing her thing and doing it well. I realised that in character for my withering physical detritus of a body, I was getting a little achy. I’d been staring down at my phone and my feet had been flexed on an angle for an hour. I shifted a bunch, but primarily ached more. Ageing is as ageing does.

8.30pm ticked by and the band finally took the stage. Any physical pain subsided due to pure ecstasy. I wasn’t drugged, but I may well have been. A smile crept across my face and refused to leave for the next two or so hours. By the end, I ached from grinning too. The stage looked like a cross between a disco and a submarine. Weird old electrical boards flanked the back, with wires patched in all over the show. A disco ball hung from the ceiling and lights were everywhere. Three drum kits, numerous keyboards and synths plus massive speakers. An impressive haul for any band.

James Murphy was like a large child starved for attention. The few times he wasn’t singing (and half the time he was), he’d get distracted and go play. Whether it was disassembling other people’s drum kits, hitting things or prodding himself with his own sticks or using the mic cord as a whip, he was rarely bored. Sometimes he mounted the speakers and turned his back on the crowd, like some kind of crazed conductor. He was glib and sarcastic, but there was no denying that the band were having a great time.

They weren’t the only ones. Everyone in my radius (who were, I guess, people that bothered showing up two hours early) were losing their minds. A constant series of gyrations, jumping, twisting and, I dunno, flicking, spinning and anything else Bop It does. We were all singing along and celebrating anything they threw our way. The setlist was a fantastic spread of their career, with a couple of great early pulls and a hugely crowd friendly assortment all around. I couldn’t have been more in my element.

Here’s the interesting thing about being right up the front at the ACC. You have no idea of scale. It was impossible to see much of the stands, or far behind me. My scope was no different than being at The Horseshoe Tavern. Because of this limited vantage, it changed my perspective entirely. These songs were broadly popular, sure, but they’d always been personal to me. LCD Soundsystem was the music of my 20s. “All My Friends” is nostalgic for too many reasons to count. From where I was standing, it was like I was seeing a band play with complete abandon in their garage. Despite the mammoth gig, it felt intensely intimate and special. At more than one occasion I teared up at how overwhelming it all was. In those moments I was there, but I was also travelling in an RV late at night after getting lost for ten hours. I was partying in the basement of my friend’s house with rainbow lights everywhere. I was running in the streets where I grew up. I was on a plane heading to Canada for my brother’s wedding. I was dancing with friends at a packed out warehouse party. I was living and re-living so many simultaneous moments that it didn’t matter where I was, I was happy.

If that ain’t value, I don’t know what is.

Does a regular crastinator do things on time?

After yesterday’s pity party, did I crumble into an ashen powder? I did not. I went out there and did what I did best: Forget about my problems with some good ol’ fashioned escapism. With the present looking grim, I took a time machine back to a time when I felt like I still had potential. Before work ended I went to the LCBO and looked around until I found something to make me feel twenty again. As soon as it caught my eye, I knew I needed it as the bedrock of my evening.

I bought a bottle of Jägermeister.

It made sense in my head. Back when I drank Jäeger, the future seemed so bright and rosy. You’ve gotta understand, this was back in the day when the world’s virulent undercurrent of racism was still spoken about in whispers around the family table. After 9/11, but before the U.S. had a president who mixed up 9/11 and 7/11. The days when I hosted a meme party, but meme’s weren’t at a high enough societal concentration, so the whole thing ended being an exercise in Too Soon. A period in which we had an ice luge and would keenly do chilled Jäeger shots down it. When my friend’s younger brother instilled mass cringe by wearing a custom “shot belt” made to house a ton of mini Jäeger bottles.

Simpler times.

It gets better. To really bring those years flooding back, I paired the Jäeger with an equally fratty mixer. Jäeger and Mountain Dew, a combination friends described as “surprisingly non-offensive” and “better than it was worse”. It was great. The perfect beverage to toss back while hanging out at a legit house party. I knew a handful of people, but everyone was ultra friendly. Even the bros present were quite benign. Nothing got broken or trashed. At some point there was a push up competition in the kitchen (because it was a house party), the winner of which did 42 push ups. A random guy and I looked at each other and cocked our heads simultaneously as if to say just 42? The fact that I had that thought and realised how important it was not to engage it solidified the wisdom age has brought. Even with a few JäegerDews in me, I knew nothing good would come of boastful feats of strength. I had nobody I needed to impress and for the kinds of people I’d be interested in impressing, those aren’t the sort of shenanigans that’d cut it.

I felt older than a bunch of the attendees and for some reason this imbued me with a sense of responsibility. A couple of younger party-goers had clearly hit the sauce too quickly. I made sure their friends were aware of the signs, got them water and helped a couple of people out to cars. It was an instinctive response. I remember so clearly being in my early 20s and getting totally blasted off my face. I remember the help friends gave me. Accordingly, I had this “pay it forward” mentality etched in my brain. I wanted everyone to have a good night and part of that was trying to ensure they had a good morning too.

Most of all, it was a blast getting to meet a bunch of new people. I learned about small town Nova Scotia and the abundance of “Arsenaults” who live there. One of the birthday hosts had flown in from The Dominican Republic and we talked about our respective countries a bunch. The guy was an architect by trade, but had always been obsessed with movies. He told me his dream would be to plan out film sets, but the industry in DR wasn’t big enough for it to be a viable career. There was great music, a bunch of cuddle puddles and low key hangs that lasted until I left at 6am. I’m not narcissistic enough to assume they dissolved once I departed, though I also have no evidence that this wasn’t the case…

Escapism: Because facing your problems is for future you.

Turns out making bacon is not how you win the game. My childhood was a lie!

Bonjour tout le monde.

Turns out I didn’t get moidered en route (that’s French for “on the way”. I’m all fancy and French now). My fellow travel pals were friendly, though the front seat passenger didn’t talk much. She kept sipping from a mysterious pink thermos. I think it’s reasonable to assume it was straight peppermint schnapps. The driver was a nice guy, though I was more than mildly concerned about the massive crack cutting a right angle through his front windscreen. My fellow backseat bud was this chipper French Canadian dude who’d just returned from a couple of months travelling abroad. We chatted for most of the journey about all matter of ephemera. Sweet guy. The journey was mostly uneventful, aside from running into a massive two hour delay caused by construction on the highway, but after seven hours in a car, I was too stoked to be in Montreal to care.

My friend wasn’t getting out of Pycon until 6.30pm, so I had time to kill. The guy from the backseat was hungry and had spent the trip whetting my appetite for gorgeously excessive poutine. I asked him to lead the way. He was a chef by trade, so I asked him what it was that really stuck out about this particular place La Poule Mouillée. He said it was a Portugese joint across from the most popular poutinerie in Montreal: La Banquise. Banquise has been an institution for years, but Poule Mouillée had perfected their production process, taking care to spice at every point. The fries were crunchy, the gravy was rich, fatty and spicy, the chicken was cooked over a rotisserie, the curds were squeaky and it was all topped with sliced chorizo. Everything he said was true. The composite parts tasted fantastic on their own, but combined became something greater. It was by far the best poutine I’ve ever eaten. The portion was so massive that I got a doggy bag (and handily had half left for a hungover breakfast. He asked for my number so we could keep in touch back in Toronto and we parted ways. I was off to explore Montreal!

It’s funny, but after having been to Montreal a few times now I’ve got vague bearings on the place. I kind of know where things are, but it’s not till I walk the streets that it really comes back to me. In a rare form of smart thinking, I downloaded the Montreal map for offline use. It’s been a godsend. I don’t have internet here and with an offline map you can still search things up. Very handy. Before I left, my friend gave me a large list of recommendations. The map’s helping me snipe them off one by one. Honestly, I’m not sure that I’ll see much more than the Plateau and Mile End while I’m here, but honestly that doesn’t seem like a big issue. There’s a ton to see here.

I met up with my friend, dropped off my stuff in the hotel room and grabbed dinner (well, he did. After that 5pm half-portion of poutine I wasn’t gonna be eating for the rest of the night). We had a pretty handy and honest conversation about work progression that I think I really needed. Spirits lifted, we headed to the nearest depanneur to seek out our treasured trash juice: Four Loko. Unlike conservative Ontario, the Four Loko in Montreal is 11.9% rather than a feeble 8%. It’s deviance in a can. We bought two (or approximately eight Montreal Loko (a single Montreal Loko is 3.9% more potent of the equivalent serving of Toronto Loko)) and went off to meet some of my friends. They’d rented an Air BnB and said it was really flash. It exceeded expectations by several kilometres. Three large bedrooms (one with its own walk in closet), all with plush memory foam queen beds. A long lounge/kitchen with art hung everywhere. Very tastefully designed and decorated. The bathroom looked like it belonged in a high class hotel. The place was insane and apparently $250 or so per night. Split between six people, it was crazy affordable. Cosy and full of cheer, we drank.

Everyone was super friendly and I had a riot of a time. With just the right amount of Loko and some delicious unibroue beers, I was in the mood to party. Someone pulled out Pass the Pigs (a game I hadn’t played since I was a kid. I also don’t know if I ever really knew the rules) and I slaughtered everyone. After four rounds I think I had 99 points, the next closest was about 60 or so. It was ridiculous. Everyone was some shade of programming geek and one of my other friends was unexpectedly there too. It was awesome seeing my one friend get on so well with the others and it sounds like they’ll keep hanging out back in Toronto. Things went really late and since they ended up having an entirely spare queen bed, I crashed at the Air BnB and left my friend the hotel room to himself. It’s 1pm and I think my body has finally worked off the poutine. Sounds like it’s time to put it back to work and grab some lunch.

Au revoir!

Time for a getaway. My tréat.

Welp, I decided to bite the bullet and take a vacation of sorts. Call it a holdover from living in a country that was a day’s travel from almost anywhere else, but if I have time off work I feel guilty spending it at home. There’s so much world to explore out there and it’s considerably closer than a day away. In fact, one of the most appealing things about coming to live in Toronto was its proximity to other big, exciting cities. Boston, Chicago and New York are a mere hour’s flight from home. It’s silly that I don’t take more advantage of it.

Big American cities aren’t the only things that’re close by either. It’s easy to forget when you’re nestled in the extensive boundaries of the GTA, but there are a bunch of places not too far from Toronto. Cottage Country is only a couple of hours away. I’ve been meaning to check out Ottawa for some time. Also who can forget that we’re a hop, skip, jump and a small car ride away from one of the natural wonders of the world: Niagara Falls. So why do I keep going back to Montréal?

Montréal has an allure I find hard to resist. It’s effortlessly cool, incredibly pretty and unflinchingly debaucherous. The fact that most denizens speak French makes it feel like you’re in a different country (I’m sure that was the point). That’s an adventure in itself, considering how abysmal my French is. Then there’s the food. A fascinating combination of haute cuisine and lowbrow fare. I can’t think of a better way to describe my tastes. I can get decent coffee, fancy brunches and buy 11% Four Loko from a depanneur. Paradise.

Why this weekend? There’s a Python programming conference (coding, but not of the genetic kind) going on and I’ve got a bunch of friends attending. Hell, I think one of them might be helping to organise the whole thing. When I suggested that I could come to Montréal for the weekend they immediately offered lodgings. I’m crashing with a friend in his hotel room tonight and tomorrow a bunch of friends have space in their Air BnB. I’m pretty lucky and can’t wait to see them. They’ll all be busy during the day, so I’ll use the time to explore the city. Maybe I’ll check in with my family who live there. Then once they’re finished we can all hang out and get messy. Oddly enough, one of the things I’m most excited about is introduce my hotel friend to the others. I think they’ll click immediately.

Now all that’s standing between me and a weekend of urban exploration is getting there. Canada has this rideshare system called Kangaride. You basically book a seat in a stranger’s car. It’s costing me $80 total for a return trip, which seems pretty reasonable. I’ll also acknowledge that it’s a total roulette spin. I could be trapped in a car full of blood obsessed cultists or Big Bang Theory fanatics. It could also be a really enjoyable, fulfilling experience spending time with friendly strangers. The last time my girlfriend and I used the service we had a fantastic time having all manner of discussions with lovely talkative and intelligent passengers. So let’s spin that wheel. What’s the worst that could happen?

If you never hear from me again, tell my girlfriend I loved Her. The Spike Jonze film, that is.