I guess normalised nudity is in my rear-view too

All good things come to an end. I mean, shit things do too, but that’s beside the point. We’re on the road, leaving an unforgettable weekend behind. Taking nothing but the memories and excessive quantities of snacks we brought. So long, and thanks for all the MOOP.

It’s hard to succinctly summarise such an expansive, weekend of endless experiences. I don’t have the wherewithal to explain the complicated feelings of sadness over leaving it all behind, while craving so much the touch of my partner and the four walls in which we’ve made our lives. Can someone make me a German compound word for it? I think there’s beauty in the transitory nature of such a vibrant ecosystem. I woke up this morning and looked across the vast fields of tents and structures. In eight hours it’d all be gone, the Leave No Trace team doing their damnedest to preserve the land that’d given us so much.

Hyperborea was like altered reality. An extended weekend with no egregious interactions. Everyone greeted me with a smile or a hug. Their generousity was bountiful, encouraging sincere reciprocation. Any time I could help a stranger or do a favour felt like a gift. Like called to like and I loved being able to give of myself. There was nothing but greenlighting. The principle of radical self-expression wholly invited offers of creativity without judgement. If someone was to strip naked and dance around the fire, cheers would erupt. If one was to start singing, others would join. A vibrant celebration of individuality and reminder that none of us are truly alone. An overabundance of affection and faith in the human spirit. How do I not embrace total strangers with a consensual hug and a peck on the cheek?

I don’t know how I’m supposed to sit in a cubicle tomorrow. What does it feel like to not live communally? To hold in thoughts and not speak your mind liberally? To be so bound by social conventions and polite niceties? To have to wear clothes at all times? To hide your individuality behind the shell of who people want you to be? Who am I when I’m not being me? Or is the real question, how do I be the most me I can be while playing inside the structures of others? I was wrestling with identity while staring into the burning effigy. Now I’m contemplating what parts of me were sparked by the events of Hyperborea. What path will this take me down? Are there lessons to take away in order to enrich my life?

The trip isn’t far enough in my rear-view for me to see how I’ve changed, but I know for sure that I have. As we watched the temple burn last night I looked around the circle. The air was still and quiet. I traced the faces of all assembled, diving back into endless transient memories. Conversations and meals shared. Dance and massage partners. Experiences both ephemeral and lasting. As I gave of myself, so too did they leave part of themselves with me. Much as this all sounds like nonsense, I did preface it by saying it was hard to explain. If this is my self-expression, I don’t want it to be anything less than radical.

‘Cause Hyperborea surely wasn’t.


Good ol’ fashioned effigyniality

I’m not entirely sure what I expected out of a Burn, but I don’t think I could’ve planned for any of it.

It’s been so interesting entering wildly different spaces. No matter the theme camp, the unifying factor seems to be an overwhelming generousity of spirit. An excess of gifting, both emotional and of tangible goods. Walking through the grounds, I find myself hustled over by well meaning folk. “We’re having a bacon party” they’ll say. An array of treats greet your eyes. Bacon wrapped marshmallows smothered in chocolate. Cream cheese bacon dip, chocolate covered bacon bit shot glasses filled with vanilla and apple whiskey. An angel stops by the camp every morning with home baked cookies. A cornucopia of culinary delights. Spicy tequila shots, distilled spirits, sangria, midnight poutine, crepes, cold brew and that’s just the fucking tip of the iceberg. Oh, and iceberg lettuce in the free salad bar. My stomach and heart have been so gosh darn replete.

The generousity of activities are a marvel too. Octomassage was something else. Eight people rotating giving the person in the centre a simultaneous massage. Eight sets of hands on your body was an enveloping sensory experience. Everything was consent based, with participants aiming to give the massagee their desired physical release. Having hands on your shoulders, upper back, feet and butt at the same time was unreal. There was such a sense of goodwill, with no ulterior motive outside of making the face down participant feel as great as possible. Especially after having received such a boon, it was gratifying to be able to give back and help others access the same joy.

The most intense experience, however, was the burning of the effigy. I came in cynical about city hippies coming out to the country to set shit on fire. When it came time for the effigy to burn, I was taken in completely. Seeing ashes blow into the night sky, strata falling apart, all consumed by the encroaching flame, it stirred something inside. I began to question the person I needed to become and what I’d have to give up in order to get there. The pain of separation a thousand times over. A life of constant death and rebirth, finding myself again and again. One of our blissful connections, a French Canadian dude, came over to talk to me about the Maori gods. It brought up feelings of regret, guilt. Had I abandoned my homeland? What had I taken with me? Was I too proud to admit the pain of separation? Had my resolution in leaving been the right path? I stared into the flames and wept uncontrollably, wondering when it was I’d find my path in life, instead of the purgatory of aimless drifitng. I found comfort in the arms of my friends as I sobbed into their shoulders. I unravelled, cut open to the world with a vulnerablity I’m not sure I’ve ever felt.

Something in me shifted, and I’ve got no idea how it’s settled. I feel different this morning, attuned with my body and trusting that my mind will follow. I spent time in the sauna, sweat dripping out of my pores. As my bodily fluids drained, I felt something leave me, as if a possession had lifted. I’ve remained naked throughout the day. I joined friends in the field doing naked yoga. I lay bare underneath the sun to feel connected. I’m starting to feel centred. As if I’m coming back to rediscover who it is I am. I’ve got no idea what it is I’ll find beneath the surface, but I know I’m ready for something different.

With no concept of what’s burned away, I’m excited and scared to know what’s left.

I too had an emotional experience in Katz’s Deli

Little known fact about me. I love romantic comedies. I also hate poorly made movies. I’m bothered by flimsy narratives, bland chemistry, unnatural dialogue, unearned connection and low stakes. I very much don’t think two people should be together purely because they’re both attractive. It may sound like I don’t like romantic comedies after all, but I certainly do. It’s about finding the right ones.

I’m not gonna get a medal for saying When Harry Met Sally is great. It’s the genre’s worst kept secret. It turns out that in real life, relationships often come together after years of friendship. That the aspects you look for in a partner emulate those you want in a friend: Emotional honesty, an ability to bring effortless joy into the most mundane of activities, caring about your struggles, because their happiness swells when yours does. Much as the logline of men and women can’t be friends because sex gets in the way is a relic of times gone past, the film holds up incredibly well. Firstly, let’s look at what could be better.

Times have changed and the whole binary Men/Women:Mars/Venus mentality is all too outdated. The film deals in constant generalisations that simply don’t hold weight. Now, the strength of this movie is that it doesn’t get bogged down by it. As the characters grow, they mature. Their core tenets remain, but their emotional aptitude and ability to empathise ages with them. They do see the failings of prior values and course correct. Both characters were immature in their 20s (Harry more so, but the point still stands). By the end of the film, Harry has reached a place where Sally’s emotional distress is enough for him to put aside his feelings for her and simply give her the comfort he knows she needs. The fact that it ended up being the catalyst for them getting together is irrelevant. That wasn’t why he was there, which is the important part.

All those sticking points with romantic comedies that I mentioned back at the start? This movie does a tremendous job of sidestepping them. The narrative isn’t convoluted or overly simplistic. It’s well constructed and weaves the years without getting bogged down with unnecessary detail. The film covers 12 years in just over an hour and a half and none of it feels rushed or slow. The chemistry is palpable, built off numerous encounters that grow to a solid connection. The fights they have and obstacles they face aren’t clumsy or shoehorned, their reactions are congruent with their personalities. We’ve all had those will they/won’t they friends where the window never comes, right? Where it seems bizarre that nothing has ever happened between you? The thing I love about Harry and Sally’s burgeoning relationship is that at the start, they wouldn’t have been right for each other. They needed to evolve in order to come to a place where it made sense. If it didn’t, they probably wouldn’t have.

Most of all though, it’s well written. The dialogue is fantastic and even now rings true. The two leads inhabit the characters in a way that feels lived in. They obviously did a bunch of work together re-working the script to make it seem natural. There are more than a handful of line reads and shots that tear me up. Harry’s front porch apology, the shot where they’re both slow dancing at New Years and realise the depth of their feelings, the “I love/I hate” monologues when they actually get together. It’s a wonder what great writing can do, embodied by actors who get it. The film has such a salient beating heart that it’s impossible not to feel it resonate in your own.

If you like romantic comedies and haven’t seen it, give it a watch. If you haven’t seen it in years, give it a watch. If you think you don’t like romantic comedies, I challenge you, give it a watch.

Maybe you like them after all, you just don’t like shitty movies.

It’s not like they’re both immensely busy touring artists or anything, right?

My concert bucket list has been dwindling year by year. As I’m ageing and settling into my ways, new acts are being added at a much less frequent rate than they were at age 20. The past few years have really only tossed Run the Jewels, Lorde (both of whom I could’ve crossed off on their recent double header tour), SZA and Courtney Barnett in. Maybe there are more, but I can’t think of them presently. This is notable only ’cause one of my longstanding bucket list acts is about to be plucked from the bucket and onto the Toronto stage.

Janelle Monáe has been one of the most captivating acts of the past decade. Unwavering in her devotion to creative concepts without compromising pure catchiness. I caught onto Janelle’s The Archandroid after a friend’s recommendation back in 2010 and it’s been on rotation ever since. What can I say? She’s musically ambitious, blending a wonderful melange of genres and excellent storytelling. After absorbing Archandroid I went back for Metropolis: The Chase Suite and was immediately charmed. There’s this fantastically campy time travelling Android tale underlying so much of her early work and it’s a fucking blast. The central character, Cindy Mayweather, falls in love with a human and bounty hunters set out to destroy her. There’s a lot more to it, but that’s as good a starting point as you’ll need. Her follow up to Archandroid, Electric Lady, looks at that same society but from the perspective of a niche radio station. It’s oozing with afrofuturism goodness while remaining irresistibly danceable.

The other aspect of Monáe’s oeuvre that took me a while to approach were the videos. Frankly, I didn’t realise she had this phenomenal visual aesthetic underlying her work. You can see the inklings of this in her video for “Q.U.E.E.N.” For her upcoming album she stomped the pedal way to the fucking floor and put together an overarching “Emotion Picture”. Each single she’s put out not only has its own distinctly different sound, but has a video dripping with gorgeous motifs and subtext. I’m not even a super visual person, but when something is so beautifully composed, it’s impossible not to be. I fell in love with “Make Me Feel” and had the video on constant replay. Need proof? She’s also put out “Django Jane“, “PYNK” and today dropped the video for “I Like That“. If you’re not excited, I think I’d have a hard time empathising with your worldview in a holistic sense.

You know where this is going, right? This morning she announced her tour dates in support of her upcoming release and I couldn’t be more chipper about it. Posting the link on Facebook opened up an excited tittering with a bunch of my mates. I’ve heard she’s phenomenal live and I’d believe it. Seeing an artist in concert is exciting at the best of times, but someone with such a curated visual aesthetic will only lift the game. For all the shit I give to REBEL as a venue, they definitely get it right when it comes to lighting up the room. The question, I guess, is whether she’ll bring out her past hits or stick to putting together a tailored album experience. To be honest, I’d be more than fine with either. If the floor is seeing an immensely talented individual bring their craft to an adoring crowd, it’s hard to be disappointed.

Now if she’ll just do me the solid of collaborating with St Vincent, all my musical dreams will have come true.

Why sleep when I could feel subhuman instead?

Is reverse jetlag a thing? I haven’t even left for the airport, but my sleep schedule is already neatly fucked up. I’m going back to my traditional cellphone finger typing, non bluetooth keyboard fashion? Why? Because it’s just struck 6am and I want my girlfriend to have some chance of sleeping until 8. The clicking and clacking of my rhythmic typing would not be conducive to good ol’ shut eye.

Let’s be real. I could spend the rest of the entry complaining about my lack of sleep, how sick I am and the fact that I’m on the verge of returning to a city that, in spring, has been struck by a left field ice storm. None of that sounds fun though, does it? Where else can I go with this?

My girlfriend and I went out for cocktails in Shoreditch last night. Disregarding how touristy 101 that plan is, it proved to be a pretty fun night. Most places do happy hour two cocktails for £10. We hopped around a bunch trying all manner of assorted cocktails of varying quality in varying glasses. One venue was pumping, a blues house with live music every night. We’d stumbled across a day where they had not only £5 cocktails, but £10 stacked plates of ribs. I stumbled upon three other Kiwis there, so you know the booze was both cheap and effective. The next place we tried was a quieter venue who made their own infused spirits. Prague bar or something. The bartender was heavy handed and the “Gingerbread” cocktail we both order came loaded with liquored up prunes. It was a great place to unwind and sink into our phones while we de-stressed and chilled on a comfy couch. It was neat to be somewhere that wasn’t playing any music in English. The playlist was all manner of pop/rock, none of which we could understand. In a simple way, it helped us zone out to The Max (do people do stuff to The Max anymore? Or was that purely a 90s thing?). Then in a misguided move we checked out a bar whose happy hour ran until 9.30. It was dead. Nobody else was in there when we entered. The cocktails took ages and it felt so oppressive to be in there that when they finally did arrive, we chugged them and went back to the blues house to share a plate of ribs.

We were talking about different cities we’d visited and whether or not we’d want to live there. My mind went to Portland, Austin, New York and now London. I realised that a lot of the time I innately travel to places I’d consider as potential homes. It’s baked into the way I travel too. I hate feeling like a tourist. When I visit a new city, I want to have an experience that’s representative of how life there would be. I check out local recommendations of restaurants and cafes (Reddit has been a massive help in this department). I try to find the sites of local papers or blogs to search for events.  I want to meet locals when I travel and try my best to see what their home looks like through their own eyes. It’s what I’d recommend for anyone visiting Toronto. I love Toronto to bits, but it’s not because of the CN Tower or waterfront. A friend of mine visited last year during Easter and the city was dead. I was mortified. Sure, places were open, but nothing was happening. No good events or parties. Zero.

You could treat Toronto like any other sizeable city, but I think you’d just come out the other end disappointed. It’s not as big as New York. It doesn’t have the history of London. Its public transit, while not as terrible as locals think it is, doesn’t stack up to either. Toronto is a city built in an inferiority complex, which is why locals bizarrely celebrate insane shit like Cheesecake Factory style American franchises step over the border. The heart of Toronto that I’ve found beats in its people, the weirdos who somehow never listened when the world told them to stop dreaming. These weirdos make and do ridiculous stuff as a way of finding their tribe. Best of all, it works. A friend of mine decided that Toronto needed a True Crime festival just cause she was really getting into the genre. So she made one. A bunch of my friends run comedy rooms or storytelling events. Toronto is home to darling independent cinemas that screen all kinds of cult films or run strange movie events. There are regular dance nights in bars for disco, guilty pleasures and chronological pop from the medieval era to the modern day. There’s even a party that plays Ginuwine’s “Pony” on the hour every hour. Experimental local theatre is always on. The music scene is fantastic, with cheap gigs constantly rolling through a vast range of venues. Toronto may not be New York or London, but squint a little and you may not see much difference.

You may just hear “sorry” a little more often.

In Britain, “fancy” means to like someone, eh?

Well that was the only, but most, British wedding I’ve ever attended. As soon as the word “Vintner” is included in the name of the venue, you know some fancy ass bullshit is going down.

I’m being crass only to levy the sincere grandiose nature of the wedding. Stately would also be an appropriate word. Please don’t confuse that for pomposity, because that really wasn’t an issue. That kind of mentality wouldn’t gel with the bride/groom, who had a literal cheese cake (stacks of cheese rounds) for their wedding cake. It was delightfully gluten-free too. I couldn’t believe how many moving parts the wedding had. The ceremony was in a room downstairs, guests were then escourted upstairs to a courtyard and introduced one by one to the couple (by this amazing ex-navy dude). Then there was the reception, during which attendents were on hand roughly every 90 seconds to top up champagne. It was nuts. I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a situation before where I had to say “no thanks” so often to free champers. “Champers”. Listen to me. I’ve nary been here a week and I’m already picking up the lingo. The place also had a super exclusive (it could only safely hold 25 people) rooftop patio that we visited in turns via elevator. Then after the reception, we were ushered into the dining hall by our favourite ex-navy MC announcing “ladies and gentlemen, dinner is served.”

Dinner was a riot. One of my favourite things about the event (which was stacked with a lot of my favourite kind of things. I mentioned the cake o’ cheese, right?) was that we got set up on the table with a ton of old uni friends/collegues. I knew the groom from uni/work/living together for several years. Naturally this meant a stack of radio people present. Getting to catch up, hear where they’d all gotten to in their lives and just hang out with old friends was almost a gift. I’d suspected one person who might be there, then another three or so unexpected guests ended up being placed on my table. It was fucking great. It was also surreal to see friends who, maybe I’d stalked on Facebook once in a while, in the flesh ten years later. Thing is, people are doing really cool shit. Some are still in the industry, doing audio work and/or DJing. Others have gone freelance. One pal is licensing films for Amazon Video. They’ve all travelled and moved up in the world. Some are married, have kids and all that etc. It was so fuckin neat to enjoy a bunch of drinks and fine food in their company.

After dinner, we were shepherded off to a (predictably, I guess) fancy bar. Everything looked like it was tailor made for maximum instagrammage. There was a bar tab in place, which I hadn’t expected. This was the second wedding the couple had gone through (which I guess is an option when the groom is a New Zealander and the bride is from Oxford), so I kind of thought they might look for the cheap option. I mean, you’ve probably read the entry thus far. That clearly didn’t happen. I had a few drinks, but also felt like it’d be shitty to take advantage of generousity, so started paying after my first bunch. The music was all Cheesy Wedding 101, in that it could’ve been lifted straight from a Spotify playlist. I mean this only as a compliment. My girlfriend and I tore up the fucking dance floor. Naturally, her and I are both total hams. So there was impromptu Macarena-ing (which the DJ endorsed by actually playing the track) and all kinds of silly interpretive dance. It’s who we are and I wouldn’t change a thing. Most importanly it was wonderful to see the bride and groom having such an excellent time. It was her birthday the day after, so the groom planned with the DJ to play the cheesiest birthday song he could at exatly midnight. We all blew up balloons in secret and cheered once it came on. Drenched in sweat, my girlfriend and I peaced out just after midnight. I mean, we’d been drinking and dancing for hours by that point. We caught the tube, got a ginormous kebab and settled into bed around 2am like boring old people.

Fantastic company, awesome wedding. I don’t know about their bedding, but for us crashing hard felt pretty damn great.

Do you think Grimace is secretly deeply unhappy?

Mostly it feels good to laugh. Sometimes it hurts. Not in an emotionally draining sense, but in a “my cheeks feel like they’ve been pulled into a Clockwork Orange style contraption and was it possible for my eyebrows to feel pain?” sort of manner.

We’re staying with old friends of mine at the moment. Last night was the only evening this week where we were all free. I posited that instead of going out to a bar, we could just grab a few drinks, order take out and chill in the lounge. We did just that. It may well have been my favourite experience we’ve had here so far. It’s easy to forget the depth and breadth of experiences we had together. Never the cool kids, nor were we losers. We floated around in clique limbo long enough that we eventually amassed a cluster of weird mongrels. We were nerds, but not maligned as 80s teen films would have us believe. We did a lot of bizarre stuff, made insane bets and travelled across New Zealand and the world at large.

Last night we sat around the lounge and reminded ourselves how far we’d come. Having lived in big cities across the globe, progressed from our admittedly awkward early twentysomething phases. The world around us had changed and we’d changed with it. Still, we’d somehow not lost sight of who we’d been. Wait, am I writing about us? Or have I somehow transitioned to a longform rendition of J.Lo’s “Jenny from the Block”?

I’m not sure about J.Lo’s history of drunken shenanigans, but we had more than a few. Whether it was minor vandalism, regrettable hook-ups, regrettable relationships or odd experimental phases, we’d done it all with the grace of teens/early twentysomethings. Is this what getting old is all about? Revisiting your greatest hits of fuckups as validation of the notion that you’ve become better people? Will the stories we’re telling now be the same stories we tell for the next 30 years. I hope so, because they’re good ones. We were animals, but at the very least animals who knew some solid tricks.

Years back, while on holiday, we mocked up a loose draft of our own sitcom. “A Shore Thing”, we dubbed it, given most of us were kids from Auckland’s North Shore. It was insane the number of ridiculous scenarios we had that could’ve been self-contained episodes in their own right. So many different partners, whether short or long term. Certain character arcs or narrative feints. Sometimes an actor would leave for a season or two then come back, being audience favourites and all. It was nothing more than a farcical thought experiment, but it really was humbling to look back at how long some of us had been friends. Friendships since kindergarten stretching all the way through university and beyond.

If anything could be more emblamatic of “friends for life”, it’d be the fact that we’re staying gratis with friends in London and that if the tables were turned, we wouldn’t think twice about offering our spare room back in Toronto. I woke up in a comfortable bed and felt fully refreshed. Maybe because of the nine hour sleep. More likely on account of the massive cardiovascular workout of laughing so hard my face felt pain.