I just wanna know if Bran was that horse

I. AM. BUSHED.

Throw your expectations out the window. Let’s see, what expectations can I give you here? We just got back from our cottage, so I might go on about that. Game of Thrones just ended, so I will talk about that [consider this entry to be a big ol’ spoiler. You’ve been warned]. Who knows what else? I’m making it up as I go along, as per usual.

It was bittersweet to say goodbye to the palatial country home that’d become our abode over the weekend. Frankly, I think we were all tired enough that we just wanted to get home. At the same time, getting into a car was a curtain call to vacation. Work was on the horizon (and still is, so you’re not worried about tenses here), and traffic came first. We spent the morning in varying states of busy-ness. The gals all went out on a horse ride with the onsite saddle club. They learned to ride, had a brush up on techniques, then had a little trail walk. As the three guys left at home, we fixed drinks, snacked and generally cleaned as we went. Unloading the dishwasher, clearing people’s stuff out of the various areas, sweeping for anything left behind. We did dishes, took stock of the fridge inventory and also lay back checking out Game of Thrones memes. We had a late checkout and the time to do things at our own pace. As far as cleanups go, it was pretty damn effortless.

Okay, Game of Thrones finale time. It happened, it’s done. We got a lot of contemplative shots of Tyrion walking around the rubble of the city. He also got to have an extensive monologue that seemed built from the cutting room of The Quality of Mercy and any number of wedding speeches that started “Websters dictionary defines _________ as…”. It felt lazy, plodding and overly indulgent. What was up with all the time jumps, going instantly from Jon killing Dany to the small council. You’d think such an action would’ve thrust the remainder of Dany’s forces into some kind of civil war or upheaval. Was it just too hard to write that conflict? It was all a little convenient. With no remaining Westerosi leadership from Dany’s advisors, how did they gather all the leaders? Would the unsullied have wanted to negotiate? Did Grey Worm really have an agenda beyond Jon being punished? All interesting questions that probably got cut through time and budget concerns. What narrative purpose did Arya really serve post Night King assassination? Was it just so her arc of revenge could close with The Hound’s arc coming full circle?

Why Bran as king? Are we to believe that he has any desires and motivation? Didn’t he leave that all behind as the The Eyed Raven? Wouldn’t it make more sense to install someone with the qualities of a leader, and for Bran to provide assistance? Wouldn’t Sansa have made an exponentially better ruler? Or are we supposed to believe that Bran specifically played the game, orchestrating events subtly to bring himself to that position? My thought is that if they wanted the Bran storyline to be truly convincing, they could’ve given him some barely noticable tell when he was warg-ed. Maybe uniquely coloured eyes or something. Then eagle eyed viewers could’ve noticed that he’d been subtly influencing outcomes in the background of the series, and actioning his own ascendance. But the show made him out to be overly passive and dismissive. If the thought was that he’d learned how to climb the ladder of chaos, the writers didn’t make this terribly apparent.

Oh well, it’s over, and we can all fixate on something else now. Failing anything, that’s some small mercy. Perhaps we’ll see Hollywood take a chance on other beloved fantasy franchises. Maybe they’ll finally adapt Wheel of Time and discover the horror of their hubris. Give the nerds (myself included, obviously) something else to complain about. Oh yeah, did you hear the Game of Thrones writers are tackling Star Wars next? This is perfect. I’m sure there’s bound to be no backlash at all.

Wait, so is Arya a WesterWesterosi now?

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Ice cream and granola is my ascendance to divinity

Oh, don’t mind me. Just testing the limits of hedonism here.

I’m on vacation, and apparently that means I’m inhabiting my trashbag persona to the max. I’ve been downing Maple Bacon Moonshine Caesars and Jaegar/Mountain Dew all weekend. Coffee has come spiked with Butterscotch Schnapps. Yesterday I lay on my back outside with my eyes closed, listening to the natural soundscape play scenes around me, enjoying a gentle pull of CBD weed from my vape. This morning I had ice cream and granola for breakfast. This weekend is defined by “what do I want?” and “when do I want it?” Without time constraints, I’ve been able to drift as I desire, doing what I want and enjoying the inherent freedom. My vacation, apparently, is from any stress. Who knew that I had any?

By our second morning here, the place has found a sense of equilibrium. None of us are 20 years old, we generally clean up after ourselves. At intervals throughout the night, people go around and pick up empty cans. We’re running the dishwasher once or twice a day, making sure we have enough plates and cutlery. Or, more realistically, cups. There’s a loose notion of “tidy as you go”, or “last up cleans up”, that means we’re not stewing in our own filth. I’m a trashbag, but a responsible one. It’s kinda nice to be at this point of life, where we can all party without instantly creating a hovel.

It’s been awesome to have such a mix of personalities, and flowing between activities. There’s usually someone hanging outside by the stream, or having a smoke. The gaming room has a big ol’ comfy couch, where people hang out. The kitchen lounge has a table with people clacking away at their keyboards, taking care of errant work with a drink by their side. Someone is usually preparing a shareable snack of some variety. There’s often leftover food that people offer up to others. There’s abundance everywhere, and it’s amazing to be able to offer and share. Oh, and the hens lay fresh eggs we’re able to take and eat. All needs being met at all times.

Speaking of which, it’s about time I started with an afternoon drink. Hedonism demands that I finish up and sit back.

Sorry, them’s the rules.

Goat see, goat do

Oh hi there. I’m currently in vacation mode, which is basically my Fun Dad setting. Won’t you come and join me?

The first thing you’ll notice upon arriving at the property is that yes, this very much is a Saddle Club. You’re in horse country now, buddy. Passing through the lengthy driveway you’ll see that you’re flanked by large fields. Large horse fields, to be more precise. Horse fields with real, bona fide horses roaming around, eating hay mostly. At the top of the driveway sits a large barn, smaller barn, little red cottage and enormous house. There are fields stretching on as far as the eye can see. More pens with an assortment of animals. Goats, a pig, two sheep and three alpacas. Chickens, rabbits and ducks, oh my. There’s a small pond with a few geese loaming closeby. The property backs onto a tiny trickling stream complete with rock features. It’s eerily idyllic. The stage set for a horror film. Act 1 begins.

Entering the house, you’ll notice that when they said it was horse country, they weren’t fucking around. There’s a photogenic horse on the front door, horse wallpaper, paintings of horses, a horse towel holder. The children’s bedroom on the ground floor has no less than four horse toys. They committed hard to the theme. It’s hard to really fathom just how huge this house is. Lofty ceilings grace every room on the ground floor. It seems they had too much space, and made any number of lounges with variations on a theme. There’s the smoking room up the front, with leather chairs of a rich mahogany, fireplace along the wall. Another fireplace sits at the centre of the kitchen lounge, which not only has a couch and chairs, but a little table complete with pew style seating. This will not be the last table you see, ’cause there’s also a dining room (with additional lounge) and gaming room. Air Hockey, Croconole, PS3, dartboard, karaoke machine and Beer Pong table. The listing specifically said this was not a party house.

Look, it’s a fucking mansion. It’s ridiculous. The rooms all have 2-3 beds, and they’re spacious. Ammenities plus, a fridge with all the extra settings. There’s a Google Home (which paranoid ol’ me just instantly disconnected), all the kitchen gadgets, central heating, large clawfoot bath. We can actually go right up to the animals and hang out. There are staff on the wider property during the day If they’re around, we can go into the animals’ pens and pat them. Do you know how goddamn fluffy an alpaca is? I do, because I went right up and pet one. It quickly retaliated by kicking my leg, but it was worth it. I spent a long time hanging out with the horses, and they’re all super friendly. I got to feel a goat’s goatee, and look directly into the weird sauron’s eye that is a goat asshole. I cradled a bunny in my arms. This place is magic incarnate and everything I needed.

I hope the takeaway here isn’t that I needed to peer into a goat’s asshole.

Imagination, life is your creation

Oh, I am well off my rocker today.

I woke up too early, started working from home, took my meds, ate not a lot, drank lots of coffee, and now my brain is being pulled in at least 11 directions at once. So let’s go with that. We’re leaving for the cottage in roughly 150 minutes, and neither my girlfriend nor I have packed. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve intermittently walked around the house ranting about irreverent things, and every once in a while I’ve dropped clothing onto a pile on my bed. It’s kind of packing. But also I’ve been working at the same time. And planning logistics with my girlfriend. And digging into old Ricky Gervais 80s popstar clips. And contemplating what I need to pack to go to a farm, when we’re probably gonna be stymied by shitty weather, spending most of it inside. Also it’s a working farm with animals. I’ll get to meet my first alpaca. So I possibly need to consider packing extra undies lest I shit my pants out of excitement.

It’s gonna be a full on weekend.

We’re driving down in my friend’s adorable pink VW convertible. It’s the epitome of a Barbie car, and it’s awesome. There’s also limited space, so that’s a concern. I might not be able to fit my 1kg tub of kimchi, which is where most of the concern kicks in. What happens when I get a craving that only fermented cabbage can satisfy? At this point in my life, I’m eating irresponsible quantities of it daily. Perhaps a weekend intervention is wise. If the weather is nice and we get to roll down the roof of the Barbie car, maybe that’ll make up for it. If nothing else, the rush of wind through my hair, communing with nature at its most spirited, will remind me that there’s life beyond impeccably spiced vinegary deliciousness. Mostly. I’ll still want kimchi, obviously. I have a problem and I’m not convinced I can stop any time.

The cottage has WiFi, so while I’m not gonna be spending a ton of time on the internet, rest assured that my entries will be coming hot and fast off the press with their usual lackadaisical timeliness. Expect very little from them, because I’m likely to be hungover, immensely tired or having my arteries filled to the brim with complex carbohydrates. I might even let loose, eat granola for breakfast, y’know? Get a little crazy. I don’t think we’ll approach Montreal levels of bread toxicity, but it’s not outside the realms of possibility.

More than anything, I’m tremendously excited for a weekend of unplugging from routine and spending intimate time with friends. There’s an element of headroom, where without having to think about scheduling, transit needs and all those other tethers keeping me locked down, I get a bit of my brain back. It sounds lofty, I know, but I always notice it when I’m on holiday or unencumbered by timelines. I feel more free to be myself (which says something, coming from my usual manic personality), and generally inhabit my mind more consciously. Three whole days of it. I can’t wait.

And I won’t have to for long, because I’ve been fucking around a bunch while writing this. Crunch time, see y’all.

I wish S-Club wasn’t stuck in my head

For the first time in a while, I’ve been feeling consistently okay about being.

Not “being” anything in particular, just being. I exist, I wake up every day and have a plethora of interactions. I learn more about the world around me. I’m finding it easier to put intention towards areas of choice. As if empowered somehow to rediscover who I am and who I want to be. It feels like a gift of sorts, standing in stark contrast to most of the past few years. The joy in simplicity isn’t hidden under layers of emotional debris. It’s sitting right there. At worst, I dig a little to find deeper meaning, or the inane complications hiding amongst the mundane. It’s not a struggle to look at the expanse of years ahead of me and crumble under their weight. Yep, pretty okay.

One of the defining harbingers of this mindset has been the ability to redefine my lens. When something goes wrong, if I can’t simply brush it off I’ll balance it out. Sure, I may have an initial negative response, but I cast my net a little wider to examine why that’s happening. Is there something about the situation that’s conflicting with my values? Are my values relevant in the given scenario? Or is it worth shifting my expectations, giving more leeway to the notion that things don’t have to work out in my favour? That people are more often ignorant than malicious, and being generous towards their intentions helps both of us cope? Assuming more of others, that things are less likely to be about me than I think? In short, the hallowed advice of “don’t take it personally”. It’s helping.

Coupled with the above mentality has been a willingness to accept that there’s probably more to everything than I see. That opening myself to opportunities instead of hiding behind a pre-generated negative mindset is helping more than it’s hurting. That things are scary/challenging sometimes, and that’s part of the process. As Chris Gethard reiterated many times in his book “Lose Well” (I’m shilling hard for it, but it gave me a lot. The only good thing to do is pay it forward), nothing will replace hard work. There’s no shortcut or quick fix, and things won’t come to you without it. Sometimes, even with it.

I’m sure this all sounds very lofty, but in so many words I’m on an upswing. I’m doing exponentially better than I was. Taking medication for my depression has lifted a lot of the strain and allowed me to take my life back. I stepped away from it for a while, and I’m uncovering so much that I left behind when I did so. I have a back catalogue of catch-ups that’ll see me through to next year. I have places to go, things to see, people to hold closely. I have stories to live and all the time in the world to tell them. I have another shot, and that didn’t seem like an option a few months back.

So I’ve got a lot to feel okay about.

Do they greet everyone at the door with a “Well Met”?

Did you realise the the only things standing between me and the Met Gala are the $30,000 ticket price, my share of the $275,000 table costs, the acknowledgement of Fashion maven Anna Wintour, any semblance of celebrity or notoriety, a publicist willing to shill on my behalf, travel funds, a haute couture costume and any knowledge of the industry whatsoever? I’m just a stone’s throw away from being best buds with Rihanna (who I think we can all agree would be a blast to hang out with. She seems neat). Sometimes dreams really are within a hug’s reach.

It was nice enough outside to go for a run at lunch today. It’s one of the few boons of where I work, not only having access to the waterfront, but a basement shower so I’m not a sweaty mess at my desk. Mostly when it’s swell out and I’m running, it loads a full-time smile on my dial. I can’t help it. Something about breaking free from the monotony of an air conditioned office and stale lighting makes me come alive. I look around at all the tourists taking photos, young families going for strolls and dogs out strutting their stuff. What else would I do but crack a grin? Whenever I cross paths with another runner or cyclist, I smile and give a little wave. I figure it’s a pretty universal signal that “oh, isn’t it great that we can get out and test out our lungs?” Turns out it’s not universal. Very few people wave or smile back. There’s one dude I cross paths with in the summer, he’s always got one locked and loaded. It’s nice taking any form of connection I can get. We’re not alone, even if it can somehow feel that way in a city of skyscrapers. One of my favourite things though, is when one of my smiles not only catches, but sticks around. If spy a dour look, make eye contact and see the person turning away with a goofy grin. That’s the good stuff.

Maybe if I spread my smile to enough people, I’ll make new friends. If I make enough friends, perhaps one of them would know Anna Wintour and be able to put in a good word. Then I could crowdfund through the others to earn ample dough for a ticket, table and flights. I have friends who know fashion, and a couple who are handy with a needle and thread. Y’know, this whole Met Gala pipe dream might not be that far off, and I could be chums with Rihanna in no time. Then I could use my high powered influence to bring my other dreams to light. You know what that means, 2019 ALF revival, baby!

Shoot for the stars, friends. But like, literal celebrities, not celestial bodies. You may just be a short jog away.

You may ask yourself, where does that highway go to?

How often do you live an alternate existence?

In peak “Once in a Lifetime”, I took in my surroundings and wondered how did I get here? I did a macro level zoom out and rewind. My friend and I were lying on wooden benches in a homey log cabin sauna. The sauna was inside an idyllic Russian bathhouse facility. Said facility was inside a larger warehouse. The warehouse was down a sketchy alleyway behind a block of strip mall shopping. The strip mall was in the middle of nowhere (Mississauga). The path to get there was strange and meandering. We’d smoked a joint in the parking lot, after having taken the local bus system from Islington station, near the end of the western subway line. I’d written on the subway heading out there, using my time efficiently. Before we got on the subway, we stopped off at a local weed store and grabbed the aforementioned joint. This coming after we ducked into my friend’s childhood home so she could grab a swimsuit. I’d been looking for one out and about, but no dice. We even checked Dollarama, where a homeless dude sweetly asked if we’d mind buying him a drink. We said sure, so he came with us and chose a pepsi from the fridge, mildly asking if we’d mind getting him some granola bars too. No swimsuit, but it was nice to do something for a stranger in need of help. This entire adventure, of course, was inspired by lying around on couches at a tea room and spontaneously deciding to try something different.

What a novel, stimulating and grossly ideal evening. The Russian bathhouse was a wholly different experience for me. I have so much trouble relaxing and taking time to chill out. At this place, there was literally nothing else to do. It was an extravagant night where I put a fear of costs aside in lieu of soaking up everything sensory. We were already relaxed from our trashy parking lot joint, and checked in at the counter. They gave us each locker RFID armbands, a towel and a bathrobe. I didn’t have any togs, but the lady behind the counter said there was a big basket of clean ones I could borrow from. We changed into our fluffy robes, then made a beeline for the restaurant.

The food was hearty and warming. We each ordered a bowl of borscht and split a plate of dumplings. The borscht was warming with a tingling sour nature. The dumplings were teensy meat pockets covered in sour cream. We dropped a couple into the soup and stirred in the cream, thickening it up. The combo was a real dream team. Even better, my friend suggested pairing it with Kvas, a Russian drink made from fermented rye bread. It was crisp and refreshing. Like a cider without that weird saccharine aftertaste. They added the bill to our RFID bracelets and, with full bellies, we set out to enjoy the bathhouse’s delights.

First was the sauna, a wooden room styled after a country log cabin. At the front was a big oven contraption. A ladle hung next to a bowl of water. To head the place up, all one needed to do was open the oven and spoon in some water. It was warm without threat of suffocation. We lay down, stretched a bit, and eavesdropped on most everyone hanging out there. Outside the sauna was a small courtyard. In one corner were chairs for people to lounge on at room temperature. A freestanding shower stood in another corner, and a chilled pool was inlaid outside the sauna. It was bitingly cold. We went in for maybe 10 seconds, then came out freezing. We let our bodies acclimate, then went back in for longer. Maybe 30 seconds the second time. It was such a strange and electrifying feeling, bodies adjusting to the polarised temperatures. It felt like a pleasant prickling sensation spreading throughout my extremities. Little spots of cold manifesting, warming gradually. We next tried the steam room, a beautifully tiled spot with a lovely blue hue. It was pretty damn hot, contrasting hugely with the chilled pool we’d just escaped. We took turns filling a bowl with cold water from a basin, then trickled the water over each other’s head and back. It was oddly almost sensual, incredibly calming. We bounced around between the cool pool, the sauna, steam room and dry sauna, taking in the sensations of heat fluctuation on our bodies. It was unbelievably relaxing, perfect after a bunch of late nights in a row.

After we’d had our fill and midnight was fast approaching, we showered up to rest in the lounge. Still clad in our robes, we lay down on the plush leather couches and drank peppermint tea. It was like all our stresses had dissipated, floating off into the aether. Midnight struck, and we gathered our things, heading back to the city together. Sleepily sitting side by side on the subway, we shared a set of earbuds and made a playlist on the fly, alternating tracks. Now we have a wonderful night to remember, and a playlist to remember it by. The whole evening felt like a dream, as if we’d gone on vacation together to someone else’s life. An entirely organic, spontaneous adventure to put us outside common routines.

Why settle for “same as it ever was”?