Buckling under pressure.

Do you ever get these minuscule moments of panic, even when you know everything will be fine? Logic sits there flailing its arms while emotion runs in the room and starts shitting all over the walls? I had one of these moments all of five minutes ago.

I was in the bathroom having just finished peeing. I went to go and buckle up my belt and noticed how it could do with another hole punched into it. This wasn’t news, I’d bought an oversized belt because I needed one urgently. I’d recently put on weight and thought it’d be nice not pinching my midsection for a while. It was. I’ve dumped most of that weight, meaning the belt now feels more oversized than it did. The pants I’m wearing were also a purchase of necessity. I was running out of pants and needed something to wear to work (elsewise cycle between two pairs of pants on alternating weeks). I got something that fit, even if it wasn’t a snug fit. I figured they were cheap enough that I could always replace them later and/or not cry if they died.

Combined, this meant the belt and pants could both be significantly tightened. I grabbed my belt by the end and pulled hard. The buckle bypassed the first belt loop and tightly locked in behind. Now I had a bunch of pant waist and belt loop firmly wedged in front of the metal buckle. I tried to pull it back through. It wasn’t budging. Shit.

As I pushed, a bunch of scenarios flashed into my head. Coworkers walking in and pointing, laughing. My boss opening the door and quirking an eyebrow. Ritual tarring/feathering as a shaming technique. Dumb, dumb, dumb my brain shouted, but the buckle wouldn’t budge. I looked at the mirror’s reflection and saw feet in a stall behind me. Shit. I pushed at the mass of metal, leather and cotton, but it wouldn’t move an inch or centimetre (it did move a couple of millimetres though). I tried twisting and pulling, but it was steadfastly squished in place. I poked at it in the hopes that by magic it would unravel. It didn’t.

This was my life now. In the ten seconds that’d passed, I’d resigned myself to my fate. Everything was fine. I’d walk back to my desk and for the rest of my existence, I’d be wearing these pants. Guess I had wedding day attire sorted. If I was going out dancing I could affix little LEDs to the waistband. Maybe I’d get them treated with some kind of waterproof spray. Turn them into chaps for ventilation. Or perhaps I could find a friendly neighbourhood firefighter with a spare pair of Jaws of Life to come to my aid. Leave those godforsaken leg traps behind.

Then the magical science of physics came to my aid and the buckle popped out. My new life flashed before my eyes and vanished into the aether. I was free. I questioned why I’d ever doubted myself. I realised that I could do with both a new belt and pair of pants. I then realised that yes, I could get new whatever I wanted, but did I need it? Was this just capitalistic imprinting worming its way to the surface? Or a valid understanding of my own ability to get myself into clothing related mishaps and shenanigans?

It’ll be like my teenage years all over again (except for the angst and random boners that is).

It’s getting late and I don’t know what to write. Part of the trouble is that I want to have direction. If I start with a good enough prompt, it’ll give me somewhere to go. Another issue tonight is that I keep stumbling over my own fingers. Seriously, I do this every day. Why am I having such difficulty typing? Of course you’re not gonna see that outcome, since I’ll tidy it all up for you. Just know that it took two minutes to get this far into my entry. I was so bogged down by the trail of typos, scattered like bones amongst sand in the vast desert wastelands.

My improv teacher said one of the biggest issues that people face when they start out is trying to be funny. If you’re trying too hard to be funny, you’re fishing for the right answer, when you should ideally be going with your instinct. The right answer is often the simplest one. If you want to be spontaneous you don’t want to overthink it. When I think back to the origins of this project, that was the point. I wanted to find the creativity in lucid thought. Non-linear ideas were fine. As time evolved, I found that the entries where I had a theme to work turned out to be more cohesive. Restriction breeds creativity, right? At the same time, once in a blue, green or velvet moon I’ll flick back through my archives (they’re vast and mostly incomprehensible) and find some mental tangents. They’re weird, wonderful and yet cosy. I’m not sure how they feel to others. Having written them myself, they feel intimately familiar, like pulling a long forgotten hoodie out of your closet. While I rarely remember the day they were written, I’m sucked straight back into that frame of mind. I can follow the flow of thoughts from one point to another, understanding how connections were made. Of course I would say that though, wouldn’t I?

It’s funny, but as I’m writing this out, I’m having a concurrent conversation with a friend about my aversion to making plans. I used to plan ahead all the time. In recent years I’ve cooled off that kind of proactive plotting. I’ve become more enamoured with the convergence of spontaneity. Toronto’s a big city and there’s always something on. I think in a way it’s been a matter of keeping options open. Rampant FOMO, y’know Joe? While that sounds innately selfish, there’s actually a different reasoning behind it. If I’m really looking forward to an event, I get totally gutted if my activity partner cancels on me. I understand, because everyone’s time poor and has limited spoons, etc. That doesn’t stop me from feeling like I’ve been left in the lurch. More disappointed than Kevin Sorbo, even. Reflexively, I hate committing to anything if I might not be able to deliver. I abhor the idea of making others suffer those Kevin Sorbo disappointments. I wouldn’t want it done to me, so why do it to others? Subconsciously, I often take the path where this eventuality would rarely be a reality.

This mentality frequently pushes me away from relying on others. If my brain tells me it’ll likely end in disappointment, why bother? I’ll get concert tickets on my own. If it turns out another friend happens to be going, fantastic! Most often I’ll just go and chat to randoms while I’m there. Every once in a while I’ll make a new friend. I’ve realised lately though, that I’ve pushed myself into shitty patterns. I value spontaneity, but not everyone does. This means I’ll be continuously reaching out for companionship last minute and come back with nothing. I’ve been doing this for years and my success rate has gotten so bad, I’ve found myself refraining from asking instead. Obviously the lesson is here is to either conform to planning as others do, or get used to feeling let down. The latter seems a less rosy preposition. In any case, giving up on rampant spontaneity seems like admitting that the world isn’t a magical place. That too seems to be a shitty option.

Maybe the right answer is somewhere in the middle. Make plans, but loose ones. Book out time to be present with someone, but don’t sketch in the details too finely. Do x activity then get food. Be in this part of town and see what happens. Jeez, I can’t remember the last time I “hung out” with someone at their place. No agenda outside of experiencing one another’s company. Could that be the answer? Walk that tightrope between certainty and the unknown?

Or is it as simple as using Google Calendar again?

Because of course I’d have no skin. I don’t know how you do it.

I wouldn’t bet on any cohesion today. So with that out of the way, let’s get into it.

As a teenager I resented that I wasn’t a good enough artist to masturbate to my own sketches (oh, and if you’re reading this mum, hi!). I’d look at boobs in T-shirts and think that doesn’t seem so complicated. IT WAS. My first mistake would always be starting with circles. Silly teenager, boobs look like teardrops, not circles. There was also that thing where boobs in a tight shirt would have these three or four parallel lines. Never in my teen years (or let’s face it, still) could I figure out how those lines sat. Was it something to do with nipples? Or certain shapes of bra? No fucking idea. I didn’t even bother trying to draw labia. I’d have as much luck as if I were blindfolded sketching an Escher. I persisted with my drawings of women and consistently had no idea of proportions. I’d scribble away on little pads, pages ripped from books. Then I’d get shitty that I wasn’t better, scrunch my drawings into paper balls and aim for three-pointers into the rubbish. This was a two step process, since I was about as skilled at basketball as I was with a pencil. I’m probably lucky I couldn’t free my own porn. What reason then would I have to leave my room? Once they pried open the sticky cumwebs sealing the door, they’d see a skeleton amongst pages of lewd, oddly proportioned drawings of Cameroon Diaz. Nobody deserves to walk in on that.

Listening to The Strokes today cast my mind back to one of my university projects. We had sub ten minute mini-docos to make. Our group went with my idea to look at online gaming and the rise of virtual communities. I remember so clearly believing that I wasn’t going in with an agenda, but with the benefit of retrospection it’s easy to see just how biased I was. I think the big pull to make the video in the first place was this short montage I’d envisioned in my brain based on The Strokes’ “The Modern Age”. I had a friend who played World of Warcraft. There’d be a side shot of him sitting down at his computer, a shot from behind as he switched on the screen. There’d be an overhead shot of the CD drive opening and his hand putting in the WoW CD, a shot of the screen opening the game then one from behind of him with the title menu. Then a couple of in-game action shots.

The funny part was how little of it came together. We couldn’t get the top down shot of the CD drive that I wanted, which was my favourite part of the montage. I think we did it at some dumb angle instead. Even sillier was that the game was loaded to his computer. He only needed the CD for installation. The camera also wasn’t configured to tape screens. It recorded those horizontal lines continually scrolling down the screen. Bullheaded, I wasn’t ready to give up on my vision. We made it work and I told myself I’d shot what I’d wanted to shoot.

Then came the bias. A couple of us in the group were gamers and we clearly had an agenda. At this point, online gaming still carried a bunch of stigma. We wanted to put forth that the interaction and camaraderie within online communities helped form meaningful friendships. That while most saw these games as antisocial loner behaviour, they were anything but. We interviewed two of my friends. Our central character played a ton. He had regularly scheduled raids and a bunch of friends in game. Our other character had stopped playing a while back. Thing was, once we’d done our interviews we discovered that the guy who’d quit actually had a much healthier outlook on the game. He’d gotten out because it stopped being fun. He found that a lot of his time involved logging in to mine gold. Not super interactive or exciting, but the economy was important to his ability to play. What was the point in playing a game he didn’t enjoy? He had more than enough other ways to kill time. Our central character, on the other hand, was addicted. He’d forgo other social engagements to log in and leave his character performing mundane activities. He admitted that he wasn’t enjoying the experience as much as he used to, but that he’d sunk so much time and money into it that he felt obligated to keep playing. This really didn’t gel with our hypothesis.

So we took creative license and selectively edited the footage to make it look like the roles were reversed. We “proved” our theory by creating our own truth and in doing so, learned the most important lesson of all: You’re not wrong if it looks like you’re right.

The CRA just paid me $9. I’mma go hogwild!

Do you ever have those days almost entirely spent waiting to hear back from other people? Where you’ve made plans contingent on forces outside your control? You can’t make x move until y condition is met, etc? Friends of mine just sold their house, so I know they have explicit understanding of my situation. I finally got my confirmation, which is excellent. It would’ve been double-plus excellent if it came through before 5pm instead of spending the whole day stressing. I’ve unlocked the ability to move onto the next stages of my balancing act, at least for one of my many spinning plates. Enough about all that. Venting about stress is only fun for so long. On a long enough timeline, ranting about it’s gonna make me sound like a legit grown up. I don’t want to accidentally stress you all out in my stead.

Toronto Fringe has started, which means I’m girlfriendless for the next two weeks. No doubt the plot of every 90s bloke comedy has led to to believe it’ll be non-stop testosterone fuelled shenanigans from here to fortnight’s end. Since I’m not drinking right now, my guess is that rediscovering video games is about as lewd and raucous as it’s gonna get. Grab meals and catch up with my long neglected friends. I might even hang out and watch movies with friends. Not even porn, just gruesome horror (the line between is infinitely slim though), if I get my way. Possibly venture out of the house to see some theeeeuhtuuuuuh. No orgies, bar brawls, drug benders or world domination on the docket. How many nights in a row do you think hookers and blow stay fun? At some point you’re gonna want to watch Netflix and come down. Maybe eat some cheese.

The honest truth of my disinterest in rocking out with my proverbial (or literal) cock out is that I don’t feel like I’m being liberated from anything. I’m not stuck in some stifling relationship with a “ball and chain”. We’re a couple of individuals smushed together in a relationship. We have our own hobbies and friends. Given our already split schedules, it’s not like we’re seeing a ton of each other as it is. I love hanging out with her and adventuring together, but I’m also just as happy doing my own thing. I’ve got more than enough ways to kill time and frankly, not having to factor someone else into my plans makes it a lot easier to get shit done.

Plus it’s way easier going to sleep alone. Perhaps I can start catching up on my twenties’ worth of sleep that I skipped.

I’m a long way from Tipperary.

I miss how I used to listen to music. Anyone who knows my burning hatred of physical media should understand that I’m not directly talking about the little red My First Sony Walkman I got for my 6th birthday with a “Simpsons Sing the Blues” cassette (though that was several layers of bitchin’). The way I miss music listening is on a more abstract level. I miss how personal music listening used to feel.

Music hasn’t changed, I have. The distribution methods have. Perhaps it could simply be a case of scarcity. With the advent, nay proliferation, of streaming technology there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be listening to whatever you want whenever you desire it. The sheer quantity of music is limitless. Artists’ entire discographies within a few clicks. You can go from never having heard of a musician to devouring everything they ever produced in a number of hours. The framework now gives you more music than you have time to absorb. It’s easier than ever to explore new music, but if you’re anything like me, that brings with it guilt over repeated listens in order to know a new album inside and out. I’m willing to admit this is most likely a personal rather than widespread issue. I’m not even sure it’s an issue in the first place.

At age 14 I “discovered” music listening and it awakened something in me. Imagine one day discovering that eating was something humans did and becoming instantly famished. I was ravenous and desperate. These were the days of Napster, so I begun downloading tracks like crazy. I’d latch onto bands I liked and seek out others with a similar sound. I made mix CDs with pretentious names and had them on constant rotation. I knew track orders by heart. I experimented with sculpting  ebbs and flows. Making tracks together shape moods. I got into albums, enjoying the cohesion of tracks stacked in a deliberate fashion, as to curate a listening experience. Through rote, I knew every single track by heart in order, knew all the lyrics. I devoted so much of my brain to music archiving that I’m surprised I had any room left for school work.

This issue has less to do with the availability of music than it does an economy of scale. Let’s not pretend that I committed all 60GB of my first iPod to memory. You could just as easily tie it to shifting values with age too. At 30 the social capital of encyclopedic music knowledge has plummeted, especially when we all have pocket computers. I’d kill for that earnest enthusiasm though. The excitement that came with a new album release, dissecting and analysing the song composition, lyrics, track structure. These days there are several new bands each week, plus 2018 seems to be when all my favourite 2008-2010 acts are putting out new albums. It’s not possible to keep up and the thought of doing so is so daunting that it doesn’t feel worth trying. How did I have the time? I kept up with TV shows, video games and was always on top of the freshest music. What didn’t I have in my life then that I do now?

Oh, that’s right. I was single and barely slept for most of my early 20s. That’d do it.

If my arm falls off I’m getting a robot one.

My brain feels dead. After two days of constant stimulation, sun and very little sleep, I need to recover from my holiday. I slept for almost 11 hours last night and woke up achy and shambling. There’s a non-zero chance that I’m now a zombie, but I can’t confirm. My skin doesn’t seem necrotic and I haven’t consumed any human flesh, but all body sensations point to the idea that I’m rotting away. I just sniffed myself and it wasn’t pleasant. If I begin compulsively itching, I may just have to find a personal guillotine.

Speaking of which, I just had the idea for a cheese guillotine and I’m happy to report that it already exists. Good thing, as I lack every skill required to birth a product into existence. I have no design or construction skills, I couldn’t begin to understand the physical requirements of such a utensil (what kind of pressure would it have to be able to withstand? Would it cut hard and soft cheeses alike? For thematic reasons, would it be necessary for it to work on head cheese too?). I have very limited marketing skills, and distribution networks are a mystery to me.

I’ve been having issues with reality today. I’ve been having trouble with telekinesis. For some reason I’m always very empowered while dreaming. Telekinesis is a constant, but flying and Spider Man powers are pretty frequent too. At breakfast this morning I legit tried to invoke telekinesis but to no avail. I wish I was joking, but waking up was a shock to the system. I’m not sure I’ve recovered yet. I was checking the microwave and gestured to a spoon on the other side of the room. For a full second I was confused when it didn’t fly towards my grip. My regret (not at attempting, but failing) lasted thrice that. I begun to consider just how much easier life would be if unbound by the need to physically interact with objects. Cooking, for one, would be tons simpler. There’d be no fear of hot objects. Imagine, I could fry bacon naked with no fear. Cut onions with no tears. I’d have no need for oven mitts. Think of the savings!

I’ve often wondered if possessing telekinesis would mean you could fly. I guess it’d depend on your weight capacity. If you were able to levitate large objects, why not yourself? Or if for some reason you couldn’t move yourself, could you make a physical platform big enough to stand on and levitate that? Or a seat?

Ugh, my mind feels like sludge right now. Maybe it’s the necrosis setting in. Perhaps I need to eat someone else’s brain to augment my own ailing intelligence. Yes. Brains. Mmmmm.

I also came up with the band name T’ronahsaurus Rex. Now I have only to come up with the musical talent to bring it into fruition.

I think I found my best self this weekend. Away at a friend’s cottage, far from responsibility, schedules and mandatory apparel. Bare-butted, whimsical and earnest, I came and went with warmth in my heart and joy in my soul. Also puns in my mouth.

The past two days were a whirlwind of future memories. Endless rolling in-jokes and riffing. Extended bits about Guy Fieri that morphed and evolved over hours. I for one can’t wait for his cinematic debut, Mad Max: Fieri Road. With everyone in varying states of dress, somehow I became the Token Naked Guy. Others dressed to the nines, big fuzzy coats, scarves, fluffy pink slippers and glittery face paint. Constant snacking and drink top ups. Hedonism incarnate.

There was a defining element of commitment to the call to adventure. One of my favourite extended excursions centered around a Polaroid camera that was lying around. I was strolling the place garbed in an open green smoking jacket and zebra patterned boxer briefs. Very Hugh Hefner. My friend saw me standing next to a bar stacked with assorted trinkets and baubles. She told me to strike a pose and I gave her an “oh, I didn’t see you there” smise. She snapped it at the perfect moment. We watched the Polaroid develop in real time and realised the permanence of each shot. We had one take and everything needed to align. We walked downstairs into the plush 70s style basement (complete with orange shag carpet) that we’d dubbed the “Fuck Den” (because of The Implication) and found our canvas.

We began a series of 70s Playboy style shoot, each more extravagant than the last. We’d arrange the scene, finding our vision, then I’d direct the talent and create our perfect moment. There was our friend splayed seductively across the table (bowl of keys tucked in the corner of the shot). Other friends dressed in tiger and ringleader garb, her crawling predatorily up the stairs as he leashed her back. Another draped herself over the couch, covered in constellations of fairy lights. One straddling a fireplace with a fire extinguisher and logs in the foreground, cigarette hanging from her lips, lighter aflame. The shots stacked up one by one until we had a portfolio of absurdism as a reward for our efforts. A fun, manic night of revelry and delight.

I can’t hope to capture in words how much I needed this weekend, mind, heart, body and soul. Spending times awash in the giving nature and wit of close friends lightened a burden I’d been carrying for some time. In finding my best self, I hope I can find an ongoing way to represent the aspects I’d come to value over the past 48 hours. I’ve earned it.