The song ended with the chorus from Edwin Starr’s “War”, sending mixed signals

When I was ten years old and away at camp, our cabin gave ourselves a military theme.

Why? I dunno. We were kids and thought guns were cool as hell. Like I said, we were kids. I guess I’d already said “when I was ten”, so I may have underlined it one too many times. Who knows though? Maybe you assumed I was some boy genius rooming with a bunch of teens. I don’t know how your brain works. Probably because I’m not a boy genius, a boy or a genius. As always, I digress. We gave ourselves a military theme. To be clear, “gave ourselves” means exactly what you think it does. We weren’t assigned themes arbitrarily. We weren’t assigned themes whatsoever. Cabins didn’t evenĀ have themes. That wasn’t part of the deal. Our cabin just decided that a) themes were cool and b) ours was gonna be military.

Cabins didn’t have themes, but at some stage we made theme songs. I think it was for some kind of activity or competition. Ours went “Cabin 14 likes the wars. If you slit our throat we’ll slit yours.” Verging on 32, I still think that line’s hilarious. We really committed to our arbitrary theme. We got hyper competitive and tried to win everything. We aced the talent show. Though we weren’t super physical, we still tried our hardest at sport type activities. When it came time for a campwide game of capture the flag, we got ultra serious. We dressed in all black for camouflage, made rambo style headbands by tying t-shirts around our foreheads and made lines on our face with mud. We tried to be strategic, choosing lesser travelled paths over the river, taking the backways wherever possible. We posted lookouts and sent members on reconnaissance missions. We got the flag and crept in behind home base. Once we were close enough, we made a run for it, evading the cabin leaders and winning the prize. I can’t remember if that was the time my best bud and I won Most Spirited Campers, but it felt like we were kings. It’s one of my many treasured childhood memories.

The youthful naivety still gives me a kick. War was this totally foreign concept. We grew up in New Zealand. It was a world away from any real conflict. Ideas of compulsory military service was unheard of. It’s not like the military even held any cultural relevance. New Zealanders aren’t big into war. Gallipoli was the only major campaign our country was involved in. Waaay back in 1915 and we still mourn every year. My brothers thought war was awesome. I didn’t quite get the military bug. If it wasn’t about dinosaurs, robots, medieval or superheroes, I wasn’t interested. Still though, I thought tanks were pretty cool, and I always wanted to fire guns like people on TV. Whenever I fired a gun at targets, I loved it. I’m not gonna lie, I still think it’s cool and fun to fire guns. Weapons still seem rad to me. I’m almost 32 and I’m just a big kid.

I’ve always drawn the line at actual violence, and that line has stayed firm. We all contain multitudes, right? We can hold many simultaneous views. Honestly, I think the machines of war are mostly pretty cool. Bombs, guns, vehicles, advanced surveillance technology. It’s all neat as shit. At the same time, I 100% wish they’d never be used against other humans. I consider war to be a total atrocity. So many needless deaths, tossed away for a cause that wasn’t theirs. So many kids who never got to grow up and out of that reckless mentality. The fantasy of renegades taking justice by force. Who could they have become if not for war? If that energy and passion were directed elsewhere? It’s fanciful to the extreme. We’re gonna continue to kill each other one way or another. Let’s be real. I’m not serving hot takes here. We all know war is bad, etc etc etc. I think I’m just getting whimsical and carried away. I can’t imagine my 16 year old self being dropped into a warzone. I’d be in no way equipped. Regardless of my “training” back in cabin 14, I would have died. Without question. I don’t have the mettle for warfare and I never did. They’d fly me back in a coffin, having accomplished nothing. Like so goddamn many others.

It was nice to be a kid. I wish everyone got to do it.


An absolutely zensational outcome

I came into this weekend with only one expectation. It didn’t happen.

Consequently, or maybe distinctly in spite of that, it’s been a wonderful weekend. Wait, “consequently” doesn’t really work, because it was a thing I really wanted to do, and not doing it cleared the way for other things I wanted to do. The only plan I had for this weekend was to go with friends out to Pursuit OCR and play. We decided to head along on Saturday. I’d thought ahead about how my body would feel and set this as my weekend centrepiece. Friends from home wanted to get brunch, so I deliberately moved it to today, as a nice, relaxing option after exhausting my body. Even my gym workout, that usually would be a Friday activity, was moved. If I was going Saturday, I wouldn’t want to be exhausted from a workout one day prior. So it was sorted. Saturday play at Pursuit, Sunday brunch with friends, open plan around that.

Then I stumbled into Friday night’s date. It kinda came together organically. So I got a surprise evening with a lovely individual. I’d figured I didn’t want to drink too much and affect my Pursuit times, which helped me reign in the amount I drank on the date. Then after the date, having not re-confirmed plans, chatted with my Pursuit friends and discovered it’d be more convenient for them to shift it a day. They had busy plans Saturday morning that’d tire them out. I got my Saturday back. With total freedom, I decided to have an easy morning, go to the gym in the afternoon (since it’d been a number of days since I’d been active), then cook a nice meal with my girlfriend in the evening. As I tumbled through the day’s motions, plans eventually came together for one of our friend couples to come over and try edibles for their first time.

It was a swell night. Since it was a pretty new experience for them, we took things slow, little pieces at a time. Mostly we just hung around and chatted, ate snacks. We gauged how the effects were coming in for them and encouraged them to speak up if they’d had any concerns or worries. With all our needs within reach, it was a really sweet time. We played music and made up for the fact that we’d all gotten overloaded and busy towards the end of 2018. It gave me this appreciation for a certain spectrum of adulthood: This notion that we were in control of a situation, and had the resources to take care of others. If our friends got into enough of a weird headspace that getting home would be too difficult, we had a spare bed. If people were hungry, we had ample food. Whatever needs required meeting, we had them. We could put those worries out of our minds and just revel in each other’s company. It was a chill way to spend the night, knowing that today’s plans were to brunch, then go out to play at Pursuit.

I woke up sore from the gym, and ready to chow down. Brunch was fantastic. The couple we met, one of them was a good high school friend. His partner came onto the scene almost a decade ago and I’d taken an instant like to her. She grew up in Toronto, so we get to catch up with them periodically. It’s always a delight. We went to my favourite neighbourhood dive and scarfed up big plates of egg dishes. We drank too much coffee and swam back through nostalgic conversation. We listened to them talk on their travels, experiences and food. It was also just great shooting the shit. They’re good people and it feels pretty fortunate to see them whenever they shoot through town.

Getting home laden with a full belly (and a head jammed with coffee), I checked up with my friends about Pursuit. It got to 2pm, the pickup time we agreed upon. No sign of them. I messaged them. They’d just gotten up. They called, and hadn’t realised it was so far out of town. Also they were exhausted from the previous day’s activities. I thought back to the Mulaney bit about “cancelling plans” being this generation’s heroin. “We mainly wanted to make plans as an excuse to hang out” my friend admitted “do you just wanna come over tomorrow night for dinner?” My body racked with DOMS, I immediately relinquished the one plan I’d made, and I’ve spent the afternoon relaxing. It’s kind of amazing what you achieve when you put expectations out of the way.

Is this how I discover Buddhism?

If that’s not a mantra to live by, do I really want to live?

2018 wasn’t all bad.

For most people, that’s a given. I’m not most people. I live in an echo chamber that amplifies all of the worst things happening and broadcasts them on a constant stream. The Internet is a lot, folks. 2018 was a rough year for me. It seemed to be a year in which failure climbed atop failure in a shit heap of failures, odious and all-consuming. I weathered some of the worst depression I have thus far. 2018 has been a year in which I’ve put out a ton of energy and gotten little but exhaustion back. It’s sucked. It’s also, as the trope has gone, felt like a decade crammed into 365 days.

That said.

Not everything was an implosion. Of course I’m trending towards the dramatic, a) because it’s more interesting and b) it’s what I’ve learned from my online peers. 2018 had its good points too. There were a bunch of moments that made me truly happy. Since I’m trying to put myself into a positive mood for tonight’s celebrations, I might as well look back at them. Bullet (point) Time:

  • Austin. Going to Austin this year was one of the best holidays I’ve taken in my life. I’ve talked at length about it, so why not talk more? I went with a couple, two good friends. We found a wavelength and rode it all the way. We spent the whole time having great conversations and amassing a ton of running jokes. There was an abundance of tasty things to eat and drink. Booze was incredibly cheap, being the US, so we took advantage. We saw sights, met locals and I got to get up early to write every day. I also, with the help of a friend, was encouraged to give stand up another try and it made my holiday. I returned from the trip glowing, filled with a new sense of purpose and perspective that 2018 quickly crushed to dust.
  • Baby’s First Burn. Don’t worry, they’re not all gonna be holidays. Aside from Austin, the other big trip I took was considerably closer to home. I went to Hyperborea, a regional Burn and my first ever. When I say “Burn”, it’s basically Burning Man on a small scale. Going to Hyperborea meant spending a critical mass of time with close friends. I deepened pre-existing connections andĀ met a ton of new people. Campers were so generous with time and resources. Disengaging from a workplace schedule meant everyone was more present than they would be in the city. I got to throw flame tipped darts at kerosene filled balloons, participate in a live dating show, try infused spirits from an apothecary and dance my ever lovin’ footsies off. I felt able to be so authentically me, and left the camp with a new sense of purpose that 2018 once again obliterated.
  • Asking For Help. I hate asking for help. Always have, hopefully won’t always. This year though, I had no choice. I could either reach out or wither completely. I managed to find my way into OHIP sponsored therapy, which is unbelievably lucky. I laid things out honestly for my boss and told her my needs. I wanted to be able to disappear for therapy when I needed and work from home if I was having a rough day. She was on board, providing my work wouldn’t suffer. I’ve been there for long enough that I could probably do the work in my sleep, so that has yet to be an issue. It helped. Taking ownership of what I was going through and finding resources to mediate my experiences was a big fucking deal. I’m still here, and that counts for a bunch.
  • Magic Arena: Wizards’ latest foray into the digital world was a colossal success. I’m not sure how many hundreds of hours I’ve logged on this game, but I know I’ve spent a grand total of $5USD. I’ve entirely stopped buying physical cards and I’m likely saving a bunch accordingly. For the first time in my life, it’s let me draft consistently. Also, for the first time in years, I may actually be spending more time playing Magic than reading about it. Will the wonders never cease?
  • Five Years Writing. I hit my five year mark at this here project. While in abstract the five year milestone told me I could actually commit to something and see it through, it was a little more than that on an emotional level. I hosted an intimate night with friends where we did readings of our favourite entries. Yes, it was the most narcissistic thing I’ve ever done, but it was also hugely affirming. People reading stuff I’d written and long forgotten felt great. Hearing my words through the mouths of friends made me realise that I’ve actually done some pretty great stuff here. Sure, I might phone it in 99% of the time, but I haven’t called it quits. Every now and again I bang something out and feel great about it, which means there’s still a point to this whole arrangement. Regardless of what happened in 2018, this was an accomplishment.

I’d say that 2019 is going to be my year, but I feel like I say that every year and it rarely is. So here’s to low expectations.

When trees ask other trees out on dates are they going out on a limb?

It’s hard to believe that I sometimes forget I’m 31, not 25. If I’m ever in doubt, however, my body is quick to remind me.

Today it’s screaming. Muscles and ligaments alike are all howling in displeasure. It’s like my body is trying to morse code “mercy” to my brain, but with twitches and twinges of pain. My legs feel static and worn, muscles in my back I didn’t realise I had are making themselves known through soreness. My lower back is stiff and inflexible. Even my left thumb has given up the ghost for greener pastures. Still, I wouldn’t trade it for the fun I had. Why? ‘Cause I finally got to road test the new Pursuit OCR location.

I’ve been a fan of Pursuit OCR for some time. When I first heard one of my friends was working on assembling an indoor obstacle course race, it hit all of my boxes: Friends, running/climbing things, zero chance of sunburn. It lived up to all my expectations and over time, surpassed them. The obstacles all offered a variety of solutions. There were chances to go over, under, or even around most of them. The attitude was as supportive as possible. People were encouraged to play and not to stress about winning. There was an onus on accessibility for people of all fitness levels, a principle close to my heart. There were killer classes for a wide variety of athletic interests. It’s where I tried my first acro yoga class. They continued to evolve, adding new obstacles or changing up existing ones. Most importantly, it was fun as hell. The environment naturally fostered the kind of community who naturally bolstered others. I can’t count how many times I saw strangers cheering on other strangers. There was no coercion, just empathy. Pursuit OCR even had non-gendered bathrooms before it was commonplace. Effortlessly with its heart in the right place.

Then it happened. The ideal downtown Toronto location on Dufferin by Queen closed down. A new, much larger location was found, but these things take time. I waited. And waited.

Until yesterday, when I stopped waiting and finally got out there. At 75 Westmore Ave, it’s not in downtown Toronto, but still accessible by TTC. It does take a while to get there, so if you’re travelling via public transit, make a day of it.

It’s SO much bigger. From what I last heard, about three times the size. From the moment you enter, it’s wall to wall aesthetics. Aside from being a fun place bounce around, it was definitely designed for endless Instagram opportunities. If that’s not your think, you’ll just have to “suffer” through the fact that everything looks cool as hell. Shifting mood lighting in bold pinks, blues and greens, graffiti art walls, stacks of climbable pseudo Tetris blocks. The course has a ton of wicked spots to goof around and take great pictures. I’m not saying by any means that’s all it’s for, but it’s definitely an option and I know a lot of people like that.

Me? I just wanted to put the place through its paces. Thing is, even after stretching my dry old bones, I was pooped halfway through the course. We took it at a leisurely speed, trying obstacles multiple ways. Right at the start there are a series of blocks that are climbable, parkour-able and duck-able. My friend and I looked for a bunch of ways to traverse them. Then after spending five to ten minutes working over those, we found a neat three walled jungle gym. Solid pipes lined an overhead and two side walls in an array of directions. It was like putting together a puzzle, but one that played hacky sack with your lats. I felt attuned with my inner chimp as I crawled up the pipes, hung down, and walked sideways across the walls. My friend and I tried a couple of poses, giving a metaphorical middle finger to gravity. How often do you get that chance?

Look, I’ve described two, maybe three obstacles. There are a ton. They take inspiration from pop-culture as diverse as American Gladiators and Die Hard. There are ersatz vents to climb and slide through, complete with little fans at the back (purely for atmosphere, of course). The horizontal netting is exhausting to cross, but if you’re feeling frisky you can slackline the entire way. There are heaps of hanging obstacles, which explains why my upper body has given up the ghost today. The ring swings returned from the past course, over a sea of foam this time. There’s a room filled to the brim with swiss balls. I had a great time trying to walk only on balls without touching the ground. The bouldering wall is exhausting, and offers a bunch of creative solutions. The ball pit in this new location is enormous and deceivingly tiring. It’s right at the end, and takes everything in the tank to traverse. Of course, it’s so deep that you could spend your time doing cannonballs into it instead.

I haven’t even mentioned the drift trikes. This time around, there’s a fun drift trike course that weaves below the obstacles. The trikes have log handles and two big wheels in the back. They peddle exactly as you’d expect, but if you sharp turn the handles, you can drift around corners. It’s entirely like real life Mario Kart. It’s a simple enough course, but mastering the handling of such a dinky little three-wheeler takes an age. For the most part if you try to drift too hard you’ll just harmlessly turn in a circle. Maybe you’ll gently bump into the wall behind you. We had a goddamn riot trying to synch up our turns and go up the skate bowl style corner. We tried the bikes almost as an afterthought and they were a total blast.

I may be a slowly withering skin sack of bones, but sometimes I get to feel like a kid again. If that’s something you want in your life instead of just hate-scrolling Twitter (you can still do that too) check out Pursuit OCR.

Even with a sore left thumb, I’ll give it two thumbs up.

I don’t care how many Air Bud Christmas films there are (technically four, if you count the Christmas segment of the first), we’re watching anything else

Merry Christmas in whatever that means to you.

I’m still figuring that one out. After a lifetime of hijacking/third wheeling other people’s Christmases, I’m in the process of working out what mine resembles. My childhood patterns brought out my inner Grinch for years, but as a fully fledged adult I’m left wondering why be a martyr instead of merry-er? Over the past few years, my girlfriend and I have been practicing traditions to check which we like. We’ve held a bunch of Orphan’s/Misfit’s Christmases, bringing friends together at the table for abundant food, drink and warmth. Subsequent years after the stress of hosting, we’ve tended to pull back and try our own thing. Our last attempt at Jewish Christmas (Chinese takeout and movies) got hijacked by friends’ dietary restrictions (turnabout is fair play, I guess). This holiday cycle we’re trying it again. We have the house to ourselves (upstairs and downstairs neighbours absent) and no need to leave at all. We have a house full of food, an internet full of movies and a bunch of legal weed. We’re gonna get an excessive amount of takeout and pig out, like the Good Lord intended.

Still, it’s the afternoon. How did I get through Christmas morning? Well of course I woke up unceremoniously early. I played (lost) Magic for a while, brewed up some coffee and went for a run. It was blissfully still out on those roads. The footpaths were clear, save the occasional jogger or dog walker. Everyone smiled and waved back. The cheer was subtle, but pervasive. The roads were empty but for a smattering of cars. It was mildly chilly, but the ground was dry. A few errant snowflakes drifted down, but the concrete under my feet felt like a Christmas miracle. Aside from my creaky, ancient bones and joints, everything aligned perfectly. It was a swell way to start off a prime indoor day.

We group chatted with my girlfriend’s family (complete with the traditional holiday technical difficulties) and cooked up a big breakfast. Applewood smoked sausages, hearty toast and maple bacon marmalade. A vegetable medley with onions, mushrooms, capsicum and garlic, and two eggs once over easy. It’s quiet, but comfortable. Not traditional, but it could be. The lights are on, the mood is calm. There’s a peace to this kind of routine that’d sit well with me for the future.

Traditions need to start somewhere, don’t they?

Speaking of starting, what’re we gonna watch first?

I will bend over backwards to defend this argument

I have a request for the guys out there.

It’s less a request than a consideration. Simply, I want you to consider buying women’s clothes sometimes. It’s both more and less specific than that, so I’ll speak plainly. Last year I bought a pair of women’s yoga pants. It was the best decision I made all year. A Joe Fresh across the road from work was having an end of year clear out. I’d seen my girlfriend and other gals wearing yoga pants and they looked snug as fuck. I’d heard them all say how comfy they were. I saw butts and the butts looked good. I noticed that Joe Fresh had pairs of women’s yoga pants for $10, and I wondered what would stop me from getting some. I mean, they technically were women’s clothing. Was that an issue?

I ran it through my head. Why is clothing gendered. Does it make sense? Are there arguments on both sides? I figured, yes. There’s context and it wholly depends on the item. In terms of pants, cis men straight up have a longer crotch. There’s more outward machinery going on down there that requires extra room. I know this because I once accidentally put on my female friend’s jeans and discovered a total lack of consideration for my aforementioned machinery. Some shapes and curves aren’t commonly replicated between the genders. I get that. At the same time, there are a bunch of clothing types for which it really doesn’t matter. Footwear, for instance, is about 1.5 sizes different. If you’re a 7 in men’s shoes, you’ll be an 8.5 in women’s shoes. I think. I once bought some jandals and the 12 was a perfect fit. I bought a women’s flight suit for a costume once and, apparently I’m a women’s size 8. Thing was, it was very roomy around the chest and tight around the waist. So no, it’s not perfect all the time.

My request, consideration or whatever you call it, is that if you’re a cis dude, to get yourself a goddamn pair of women’s yoga pants. I only mention cis dudes, because I feel/would hope that people outside of cis dudes would have the good sense to know that prescribed gender to clothing is mostly total nonsense. There’s no reason for something like yoga pants to be gendered. I LOVE my yoga pants. 99% of the time I change into them within five minutes of walking in the front door. They’re snug and comfy. I feel like I’m wearing a hug at all times. Plus they make my butt look fucking ace. There’s no reason why they wouldn’t be appropriate for anyone. They’ll conform to whatever shape you have, and make that shape feel great. Do yourself a favour and get yourself a pair.

Mine even have a tiny pocket in the front. Literally what more could you want?

We can’t forget the horse porn. ESPECIALLY the horse porn

If anything, yesterday felt like a day for drinking, so drinking was done.

What a baffling, frustrating work week. Everything seemed Sisyphean. I’d finish work and immediately have to change it because of delayed deliverables. Just top to bottom nonsense. I was more than over it by 11am yesterday and still had hours yet to go. You know that old cowboy adage of (and I’m paraphrasing here) ‘I’m falling out of my saddle and still have miles to go before I sleep’? That’s how I felt, but with alcohol. I needed an outlet, some drinks and dancing.

So I did what any delinquent would do and schemed a couple of Jack O’ Blast mixes. If I haven’t mentioned Jack O’ Blast before (I’m sure I have) it’s a seasonal Captain Morgan pumpkin spiced liqueur that tastes infinitely better than it has any right to. I don’t even like pumpkin as a sweet taste. To this day I’m unsure if I even like pumpkin pie, but for some reason Jack O’ Blast just works. There’s a clutch cinnamon hint on the back end that really ties the drink together. For some absurd reason it seems to go with most everything. I tried apple/lime juice, which worked like a charm and also gave me instant heartburn (because I’m over 30. That’s just life). Next up was gingerale and a splash of lime juice. Great, just great. I stacked up a bunch of drinks as I “pregamed” my intended dance party. Really, this just meant I got to stay home and be a menace on the internet. I referred to horse porn as “Hot Mane on Mane Action” and plastered inappropriate Bitmoji around Facebook. It was exactly what a Friday night needed to be.

Then I went out to dance. Goddamn what a carefree, vibrant energy that place had. Maybe I’d just sequenced my drinks right and found that perfect intoxication level, but I was having the time of my bloody life. I got there around 11.30pm and danced straight until I left just before 2am. Big bounce and some fancy footwork. I was more sweat than man, knowing full well just how overworked my body was gonna feel the following day. I had a bunch of friends on the dance floor and quickly made new ones. Some dude came over just to talk for a solid two minutes about how great my chest hair was. It was the nicest fucking compliment I could’ve gotten. When I stopped for water some guy came over to say how much he liked my dancing, and where did I get my “M” from? I told him I was unfortunately just drinking, but good luck. By the time I left I was dripping with sweat, totally exhausted and really bloody hungry. So I figured I’d give my body all the calories it’d lost.

Handily I was five minutes’ walk from my favourite Chinatown place, and of course it was still bustling at 2am. I ordered the usual: A bowl of wonton noodle soup with flat rice noodles and bbq pork on top. This place does unbelievable soup. I’ve heard that they employ someone just to tend the broth all day. It’s bursting with flavour and, with a dash of chilli and soy sauce, totally lifts the flavour profile of everything else in it. It was a decent, hearty meal with big ol’ squishy noodles. A total boon at 2am. Then after making my way up to Bloor and calling an Uber, I used the eight minute wait time to grab a slice of pizza just for extra packing. It was shitty pizza and it still perfectly fit the pizza shaped hole in my stomach.

There you have it. All the ingredients for an ideal Friday night.