Give ’em the good new fashioned

My girlfriend had been telling me for months that there was something secret and special planned for the wedding.

“Is it a flashmob?” I asked. “It’s probably a flashmob.”
“A secret is what it is.” She replied.
It was a flashmob.

As the years have passed, I’ve naturally attended more weddings. Each a little different, each their own. What I’ve come to appreciate the most is how each couple tailors their marital unity to their distinct personalities. It’s neat to see all the little touches they add, whether in presentation, vows, even food. This wedding was entirely the summation of these two individuals tying the knot together.

The vows were incredibly sincere, and made absolute sense for a couple who’ve been together for the past 15 years. While distinct people, they’ve grown together in many ways. A myriad of nicknames and bits found their way into the vows, while I didn’t know the couple well enough to be in on them, I still got the gist. I don’t know that I managed to straight up cry, but there were definitely a bunch of moments that yanked on the ol’ heart strings. The vows made sense in a modern context, talking in a wider sense of trust and understanding, a desire to grow together, work as a team and see the best intentions in one another. I mean, they were worded much more sweetly than that, but the gist is there.

Everyone involved in the running of the wedding was absurdly pleasant. Nothing close to any drama. There was the wedding party (denoted by their silly tiny hats), helping out with little tasks around the place. Making sure the bridegroom ate, drank and had anything they needed.  The servers taking around finger foods were lovely, incredibly friendly and super helpful. The bar staff were great, and the DJ kept things rolling on. I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a wedding where both the Tetris theme and Die Antwoord have played, but it was that kind of wedding. Get on board already, geez.

The food was excellent. Instead of a personal meal, they had servers coming around with all sorts of hors d’oeuvres. The bride assured us all that nobody would go hungry. She was right. The hors d’oeuvres did not stop coming. There were calamari sticks, meat and veggie skewers, potato cake things, mushroom risotto, pad thai in takeout containers, these amazing fig and blue cheese concoctions, warm pumpkin soup in little shot glasses, and my favourite, the seared tuna. Even with my reduced appetite, I still managed to try everything. Except maybe the desserts. There was a literal wall of desserts, and I had no hope in trying more than three or four things.

We had such a great time. The music kept going until the early hours of the morning, and the dance floor stayed full the entire time. All of the couple’s friends were great, very easy to get along with. There was nothing contentious whatsoever, just a wonderful night of excellent people getting hitched. And a flash mob.

If you have to ask, it’s probably a flash mob. And it was a fun one.

Was cleaning afterwards considered a dust-y dust?

Welp. I just hosted my dream funeral.

To be clear, I had no idea how the event would go. It was uncharted territory. An attempt to celebrate life, and explore the mix of darkness, humour and sincerity that keep me going. The basic conceit was that the party was a mix of funeral and wake. There was a bell anyone could ring. If they rung the bell, it was their turn to give a eulogy for me. Whatever they chose to say. In an attempt to give a modicum of respect for the dead, I also kept the floor available for anyone who chose to share a eulogy for someone they’d once loved, or a memory from their lives. Nobody took that option, but it was there just in case. Who knew if it would be a farce, or incredibly sombre. Knowing my friends, I assumed the former,but I would’ve accepted the latter. It was in every part, the former.

My girlfriend and I had done some last minute prep. We hung black streamers from the centre to the corners of the room, draped like the roof of a tent. We put a black foil curtain over the entrance to the living (/dying) room. We made charcuterie. We had havarti, gouda and aged cheddar. We bought chorizo, maple smoked ham and sliced salami. We had crackers, pickles and olives. As a birthday present my girlfriend had ordered me a ton of Cookie Time snacks for sharing. As always, I love being able to share my favourite foods with people, and invite them to try things I grew up with. They were just as delicious as I remembered. Friends brought with them a heap of snacks, and ultimately we have more snacks left than we started the party with.

It took a long time for people to show up. I got antsy. Had the theme kept friends away? We had a start time of 7:30pm, in the hopes that it’d get people arriving closer to 9pm. A friend arrived just before 9. By 9.30pm, another friend arrived. I was nervous. At around 9.40pm, some more friends arrived. Then more, and more. The living room was thriving with conversation. Suddenly, I heard the bell ring. My friend stood on the table and gave her eulogy to The Bone King. As my mortal enemy, Wingding, she lorded her victory for all to hear. She stood in exultation and beamed with pride that she had finally conquered her arch nemesis. It was wonderful. Soon afterwards, another friend gave a heartfelt eulogy extolling my virtues. Mostly though, he wanted to shoehorn in a pun. It seemed only fitting.

One of my good friends stole the show. He’d prepared a written eulogy based on absurd and notorious injokes. Our shared love of Manischewitz (a bit that keeps on giving) and my well-known hatred of Marmaduke. He (lying), talked about our ritual of “Mani and Marm Mondays”, where we’d get together to drink Manischewitz and read Marmaduke comics. He then explained in excruciating detail, a Marmaduke comic from panel to panel. Egads I hate Marmaduke, and I love my friend for digging in so deep.

Just after midnight, when the party was in full flow, I gave my own eulogy. It was fucking great. Every joke landed just as I’d hoped they would. It’d been so long since I’d last done a speech, and I forgot just how much I love the process. Understanding how to read the room and deliver words for maximum impact. I got to share personal bits with friends who understood and appreciated them. I had my moments of sincerity, and got to truly thank everyone for being there. There was a point where I looked around the room. It was filled with people I cared for so deeply. They were all shooting the shit, chatting or playing games. Everyone was well-fed, and we had abundant drinks for anyone who needed them. I was so happy with how it went, and if my real funeral is anything like it, I’m gonna die a very lucky man.

As for now, I’ll just have to settle for living a very lucky life.

Ya googly

It’s my birthday and I’m hosting my own funeral to celebrate. What follows is my personal eulogy.

I believe it was Des’ree who once said:

“I don’t want to see a ghost,
It’s a sight that I fear most
I’d rather have a piece of toast
And watch the evening news
Life, oh life, oh life, oh life,
Doo, doot doot dooo.
Life, oh life, oh life, oh life,
Doo, doot doot dooo.”

I think those words speak a little louder for us all on this day.

We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Leon. His cause of death is currently unknown. Given the amount of tuna he consumed, mercury poisoning is probably a safe bet.

Leon was survived by his beloved girlfriend Julia, and his rival, Mr. Smashmouth. Turns out at some point the years stop coming. Check and mate, Mr. Smashmouth.

Leon was born on January 17th in Auckland, New Zealand, at approximately 3pm. To whom it may concern, Capricorn, Leo rising. I know, it sounds weird. He was.

Leon was known primarily for his predilection for puns, Paddington, pooping and polysyllabic words. He fathered no children, but sired sigh-ers and grown groaners. He gave a wide berth to Birthers. He knew this would make no sense to you in audio form, but maybe not everything is about you. Jeez.

Leon was an ambitious child. When he grew up he wanted to be a voice actor, Jim Carrey, or a Street Shark. Instead of growing into a mutant fusion of shark and teenager with large teeth and killer attitude, he grew old. It was considerably less jawsome.

At the age of eight, Leon had a dream that he would die at 33. Given that being right was one of his favourite things, he at least died doing what he loved.

Leon was many things; a living cartoon character, a wholesome pervert, strangely particular about apples. He loved monologues, being the centre of attention, and breaking the fourth wall [what, too meta?]. Unbeknownst to many, he did not love Air Bud movies, but that didn’t stop Netflix algorithms from recommending every single talking animal movie it could.

Things weren’t always easy for Leon. Many times he wasn’t totally in love with living. For him, sadness was a big part of life, and he’d made peace with it. He figured it was entirely normal to not feel okay a lot of the time. He often resonated with those who understood. Sharing struggles with those close was important, and he always wished to be there for friends when he could. If anything, knowing that he could make others feel more comfortable, known or seen was one of his guiding principles. He knew first-hand it wasn’t easy to ask for help, but resolved to do what he could when he could.

Friends were what mattered most to Leon. When he found good ones, they were friends for life. There was a special kind of love Leon reserved for his friends. People he could lose time with, sharing vulnerabilities, stories, and secret pettiness. Those who bought into his endless bullshit, hijinks and the weird way he just assumed everyone understood his niche references. His favourite feeling in the world was the comedown after a room full of laughter. By this metric, he lived a pretty good life.

I guess you could say, the real life he lived was the friends he made along the way.

And now I invite you to lift your glasses. As the Black Eyed Peas said in their Grammy Award winning song, “I Gotta Feeling”: L’chaim.

The neighbourhood watchman

I think it’s dawned on me that I’m actually moving out.

I’ve been at the same apartment since I arrived in Toronto. It was a Craigslist find, a stranger looking for a flatmate. The rent was a steal, and I lucked into a great place. Utilities included, on-site washer/dryer. Central heating/AC. Close to a 24 hour bus route and supermarket. Quiet neighborhood. At street level. Eventually my flatmate moved out, I stayed on and a friend moved in. After a year or so, he bought a condo and moved out. I got a new flatmate off Craigslist. She was lovely, but eventually moved in with her girlfriend. My own girlfriend moved in, and we’ve lived there together ever since.

There’s a sense of loss in moving. I’ve grown so comfortable here. The proximity to friends and amenities is amazing. It has everything we need at a price we’ve been able to afford. Toronto isn’t a cheap city, and Ontario laws abolishing rent caps for recently built homes means things are likely to get worse. It’s not like the place we’re currently in (until April 1st) is perfect, but I know that a certain fear has kept me from the thought of moving. Whatever the rest of Toronto holds, at least I know where I stand with this current place. I’m not worried about accidentally scratching the walls or chipping paint. It’s comfortable specifically because it’s so worn.

There’s a realisation that leaving means saying goodbye to a time in my life. I’m almost 33, I’m not “young” anymore. The years I’ve had at this house have been emblematic of an exploratory period. I arrived in this country and got to know this city. I met so many people and established community. Trying to find my place. It’s not a revelation that I’m easing into a new stage of my existence. I’m in an established long-term relationship. I have an interesting job that pays me what I’m worth. Like it or not, my girlfriend and I are adults who have to make adult decisions. I don’t know what the next few years will bring, but I imagine there’ll be a certain amount of stability.

Altogether it’s bittersweet. While we obviously would’ve preferred to have the choice to move out, that doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have done it. Maybe it just would’ve been on a longer timeline. It’s the first time we’ve moved together. I had this place before my girlfriend joined me. As much as we’ve made it ours, there was a base structure that was mine, with her things slotted in around it. This time we’ll make the choices. We’ll find something that fits our needs, as a collaborative process. We’ll build a home together, with new locales and neighborhood based traditions. That is something I’m looking forward to. Putting that kind of intentionally of teamwork into the hunt. Helping each other out, easing the burden.

Even if it’s not the primary way I’m looking at it, this is an opportunity. It’s so easy to get stuck in your ways or develop habits based around how things have always been. The smallest difference can spark huge change, and there are likely to be a lot of big differences. I’m sure there are a myriad of features in a house I’ve never experienced, and didn’t know I wanted. I can’t imagine how many workarounds I’ve created that I’ve stopped noticing. There must be detractors of my current abode that I regularly blank out. What will I discover in this new place that I’ll grow to love? Only time will tell.

And the hundreds of listings we’ll have to pore through. Pray for Mojo.

Hear today, gone tomorrow

I had the best New Years.

It’s a declarative statement, and I’ll stand by it. My New Years featured nothing but fun, excess, and comfort. I basked in the warmth of intimate friendships, easily digestible films, and digesting food easily. At around 5am, after a kick ass costume party, I headed off to another friend’s penthouse apartment downtown. She has a massive deck, open plan lounge, and lots of sheets/mattresses in front of a big bedroom TV. There was ample food, booze and weed. Whatever needs I had, they were simple to tend to. Lots of cuddles and even more laughter. My girlfriend and I could nap haphazardly, or join in conversations as we pleased. We stuck around watching movies and getting collectively H O R N Y over Brendan Fraser in George of the Jungle. We continued the Fraser Festivities with Blast from the Past, and tossed on Mulan for good measure.

I couldn’t get over how many conversations I had about music. There was a tablet hooked up to speakers/Spotify, so all day we shared tracks and playlists. It made me remember how integral music used to be in my life. I was constantly searching out new artists and albums. I’d see live concerts all the time, and a significant portion of my income went into maintaining that. I had nuanced opinions on what my most treasured songs meant to me, and considered it important that I did. Friends shared some of their favourites from the past decade, and I felt a longing to jump head first back into caring about music like I once did.

It makes sense. Last year my iPod broke. I didn’t replace it for months, which meant less music and more podcasts/DJ sets. I moved away from keeping up, and disregarded a ton of new releases. The fact that both Vampire Weekend and Tool released albums last year I barely touched should be more personally significant than it was. Even having my new mp3 player, I just loaded all my old music on. While it’s been nice diving back into the vast back catalogue I have, I’m still thirsty to refresh what I listen to while out and about. It’s time to download the albums I’ve accumulated on my Deezer shortlist. It’s also the start of the year, an ideal period to comb through critics’ Best Of lists in a hunt for new favourites. While I hate New Years resolutions, I would like to see more live music in 2020 than I did in 2019. It enables parts of my personality that feel lost, awaiting reawakening.

I also realised how important it is to me that people are comfortable in my presence. At the New Years party I was chatting with someone in a hallway (prime party hangout spaces second only to kitchens), and I mentioned that I just want people to feel comfy always. I didn’t realise at the time that it applies a ton to how I conduct myself. I’m always trying to do things for others, take care of people in their own homes, etc. Later in that party, I saw one of my friends getting buffed across the room. I was sitting on a couch chatting to people. Concurrently, part of my brain was wanting to help her get the best out of her experience. She was sitting up, the sheet that was used to create a barrier between buffer and skin was being poorly applied. I was ready to shout out and give guidance, and I stopped myself. My friend is an intelligent, grown woman with agency. She was free to do whatever she wanted. While my intentions were good (knowing she has back problems, I wanted her to feel as good as possible), I wasn’t doing anything for anyone with my interference. I was needlessly getting involved in a scenario that had nothing to do with me, and distracting my brain from its current conversation in the mean time. Of course it’s great to take care of people when that’s desired, but I think I’d be wise to pull back a bit. Maybe it’s time to learn when my help is actually desired, and stop wasting so much brain space on pointless involvement.

NYE 2020 stuck the landing. Let’s see how the year measures up.

When there’s Big Willie, there’s a way

Greetings from Will2K20. We survived the second decade of this new Willenium not unscathed, but forged. Despite the ravages of an increasingly divisive reality, the Wild Wild Western world may have undergone a seismic shift. Y’know what? In 2020 I’m Getting Jiggy With It.

I feel like the night never ended. It’s midday on the first and sleep is still a few hours away. Thank the Gods, but mostly caffeine. It’s been a remarkably sound way to ring in a new decade. There was one thing I wanted out of a NYE bash, and I did the fuck out of it. My simple wish was to lean against a kitchen counter and talk absolute nonsense with new friends. Achievement goddamn unlocked. I don’t know how many hours I spent trying to unlock why I just can’t find the vibe with Lana Del Rey. Verdict: Still no fucking idea when or where to listen to her and get it. Who cares? I’ve got Joni Mitchell. Some dude talked my ear off about toffefe and, most pertinently, when did toffefe become a thing that everyone just knew? Someone at the party was like “my friend’s boyfriend is coming. He’s a magician. He has never had a career outside of being a magician. He hasn’t earned a cent outside of illusions. Isn’t that fucking insane? Wouldn’t you want to know absolutely fucking everything about this man’s existence? I sure did. I was so psyched for him to turn up. Then I got to the afterparty and I talked about it with someone. She was like “oh year, he was there. His name was ____”. And I realised I’d met the magician. He was really swell. I gave him pineapple faygo to mix with his gin. AND I NEVER REALISED I WAS SHARING LOW RENT PINEAPPLE POP WITH A GODDAMN MAGICIAN. Egads. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing me to share my faygo without revealing he was a BLOODY MAGICIAN. And like, can you, verging on 33, change what your favourite pokémon is? To which a friend later remarked “dude, you’re poly, you can have any number of favourite pokémon”.

I met someone called Adrian, and it reminded me that back in high school I had a friend called Adrian. I didn’t call him Adrian, however. I instead greeted him as Adrian The German Who Throws Apples At Policemen Out Of Buses. One breath, of course. Why? Well I feel like it’s self explanatory. I related this story to my girlfriend later in the evening, and remembered that Adrian The German Who Throws Apples At Policemen Out Of Buses wasn’t the worst of it. One of my friends Mike I instead knew as Robot Communist From The 1940s Russia Who Was Created As The Ultimate Weapon But Then They Figured Out Nuclear Warheads Were More Powerful So They Scrapped The Project And He Was Brought Back As A Sixteen Year Old Nowadays After Being Put In Cryostasis. The nickname didn’t start out so convoluted, but hell if I have any idea how it got there. I was a weird teenager. Fuck it was funny to remember it out of nowhere.

Of course, I’m not even at that party now. For the past five or so hours, I’ve been surrounded by my favourite goddamn people. At an afterparty where I can just be naked, and nobody gives a shit. Where I can go for a polar bear vape, nude but for socks. I’m not a monster, eh? Ringing in the new year with great tunes from decades past. Having a big brunch cookup. Spiked coffees. Endless bullshit and love.

Just like Big Willie intended.

Three more years on here until I get tenure

I’m sure this deserves a little more pomp and a lot more circumstance than I’m giving it, but 2019 is coming to an end. A decade closing out. For all I know I could be talking out of my arse, but I’d be surprised if this doesn’t end up being the best decade of my life. From 22 to 32, it’s been ten years of freedom and exploration. I came into 2010 an apple cheeked dreamer, and I’m signing out 2019 with saggier cheeks. I think the dream, miraculously, may still be alive. It was a tumultuous time, searching for meaning, passion and connection. I jumped between jobs, industries and countries. I fell in love, experienced heartbreak, fell in love again and again. Sharp and pointed intelligence gave way to wisdom and understanding. I made more than my fair share of mistakes, and tried to learn from them. I’m beyond a doubt a more compassionate, empathetic person than I was. I’ve met so many people who have shaped the person I’ve become, and I’m so thankful to have had them in my life.

A decade is a ton to cover. So here are some loose things that happened:

  • Friends and I went to New York for New Years. I met Four Loko and begun a long term tryst. I got beyond drunk and was almost kicked out from Katz’s Deli for crying too loudly and being a menace.
  • People I went to high school with began getting married and having kids. I’m still yet to check off either of those marks.
  • I started drinking coffee, which may have been my first step down a long dark path.
  • I worked in a university radio archive. We digitized National Radio shows spanning 1960-1999. I got 1-4 emails per month and listened to hundreds of podcasts.
  • I went to Lollapalooza with a friend, then zig-zagged over to my brother’s wedding in Whistler.
  • I had my first adult relationship with a wonderful woman. Our breakup was the catalyst for my life-changing move from New Zealand to Canada.
  • I started this project back in 2013, just to get better at writing. The jury’s still out on whether that happened.
  • I taught children gymnastics, in a weird part time job. At this job I also fell through a roof, and fed lizards.
  • I took on writing opportunities to see if I could expand into that professionally. I wrote live music reviews and had a brief stint as a ghost writer for a food blog. Turns out it wasn’t my calling.
  • I started dating here in Toronto. A couple of those dates ended up introducing me to communities that defined my life here, and ultimately led me towards meeting my girlfriend of 5+ years.
  • We’re still together, we live together, and I grow more in love with her with each passing year. We’ve helped each other grow, been supportive during difficult times, and approached new life challenges as a team. She’s fostered a kind of communication I haven’t found with anyone else. Instead of things blowing up, we talk through them and look for compromise. I’ve never harboured the illusion that things in a long term relationship have to be rosy all the time, but we’ve got an eerily solid track record. I don’t think a good relationship just happens, it’s maintained. Some people make that easier than others, and it’s hard to imagine waking up next to anyone else day after day.
  • I launched the Air Bud Pawdcast with a friend, and it’s possibly the most work I’ve put into something dumb in my entire time breathing.
  • I met so many amazing friends who have become integral to my life. I love them utterly, and my Toronto friend circles have become family. We’ve had weeeeird experiences together, but by GOD have we experienced things.
  • I became an uncle. MULTIPLE times.
  • After years of death by a thousand cuts, I became depressed and totally lost my will to live. I started taking anti-depressants, and they entirely turned my life around.
  • I saw Cats (2019).
  • I once found Waldo in the world of Waldos.

Mostly though, I say “y’all” now. What a world.

See y’all on the other side.