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.

Any child who hates burritos hates freedom and must be destroyed.

After harping on about how much I loved seeing movies on my own, I went back out last night to watch Baby Driver with company. While I’d been severely tempted to sneak into Baby Driver after my screening of The Big Sick I held off. I’d promised my girlfriend I’d see one of them with her and, much as I love the cinematic experience, I love her more. Well, it’s a different kind of love. Like comparing the love you harbour for a child and how much you cherish burritos. It’s the gun-to-your-head choice that’s easy enough, but loving one doesn’t invalidate your love for the other. That being said, if your child gives you an ultimatum between them and eating burritos ever again, dump that child in a river and find yourself a sweet as fuck burrito.

If I didn’t mention it, the “company” was my girlfriend.

Zero spoilers, Baby Driver was exactly the film I wanted. Hugely stylised, slick and immaculately crafted. The rhythm of the film was in no way limited to the soundtrack (which has already soared up the iTunes charts, of course). It twisted and turned to its own beat. The choreography extended beyond action scenes to give the whole movie a glorious sense of harmony. When (not if) you see it, you’ll understand what I mean, but it’s been so meticulously composed that it’s hard not to walk away slack jawed in awe. Perfect performances all around with a cast of both old favourites and up-and-comers. It’s a film that’ll have you alternating between fits of laughter and white-knuckled clutching at the seat while you wait for your heart to catch up.

One amazing experience wasn’t enough, so my girlfriend and I sneakily crept into The Big Sick while nobody was looking.

I’d already seen it, but I knew it’d be a perfect fit for her tastes. Plus then I’d finally have someone to talk to about it. I usually have no qualms about sneaking into something, but the particular cinema we visited had small theatres that filled up quickly. My sympathy was somewhat mitigated by the fact that they’d dedicated two rows to “prime seating”, exclusive seats that cost another $2 or so per ticket. They’d also crammed an extra row at ground level where there’s usually space for thoroughfare in front of the seating. You know what? Fuck those guys. No regrets.

Once again, zero spoilers. The film was fantastic, even second time around. It gave me a deeper appreciation for structure, how the scenes stacked together. Taking a more analytical approach, it was nice to note how earned all the relationships were. Pay-offs came after trials and actions had consequences. There were nuances to dialogue with a lack of black and white villains. Even smaller characters felt fleshed out in a manner that’s all too rare. A lot of niche, but familiar faces had roles amongst big names and heritage performers. In the second screening there was an obviously Pakistani viewer who got some of the cultural jokes that everyone else missed, which was such a boon to experience. That sensation of understanding that not everything is for me, that there can be neat little jokes hidden for particular audiences, was so refreshing. It reminded me of the experience of seeing Hasan Minhaj perform Homecoming King live (which is also on Netflix now, I believe). That’s pretty high praise, trust me.

If you can, go out and support innovative, original cinema. We’re spoiled rotten having two such quality films getting summer play. Ditch the sun and enjoy the air conditioning, all while talking in a superb flick.

Or two.

Does this make me The Big Sycophant?

Friday night. Taking myself out to see an early showing of The Big Sick because I forgot how much I love seeing movies alone. It’s such an honest experience. I don’t know about others, but when I watch films in company I’m not able to fully let go. I feel this bizarre compulsion to mask my reactions. To, I dunno, hide weakness? It’s primal ape type shit and probably symptomatic of a culture where toxic masculinity still holds sway. As if losing control would make me inherently less dominant. It’s weird and makes no fucking sense in not only 2017, but especially with my own personal values and politics. If I were really secure in myself I wouldn’t give two asses for friends (who were obviously close enough to me that I invited them out) seeing my vulnerability. Idiocy most profound. So I’m gonna enjoy The Big Sick in an entirely unfiltered fashion on my own.

Also because I clearly have no friends.

This is one of those films that means a bunch to me. Starring Kumail Nanjiani in a movie co-written with his wife Emily V. Gordon, it’s the story of how they met, loosely adjusted for slightly more dramatic effect. I say slightly, ’cause their story was pretty fucking dramatic. Why do I feel attached? Why do I care? Because they co-hosted an outstanding video game podcast called The Indoor Kids. Podcasting is such an intimate (admittedly one way) medium that it was hard not to fall for them. They’re a brilliant, supportive couple who are equal parts adorable and awe inspiring (why not “awww inspiring?” -ed). Over the years they’ve climbed the rungs of the Hollywood career ladder. His comedy career has taken off, which in turn lifted his film and television portfolio. She’s a former therapist for at-risk teens who’s folded that talent into managing the egos of fragile comedians. She’s also a super talented writer and really fucking funny herself. They’re dynamic, inspiring and deserve every success.

Okay. Waiting for the film now. Observations:

Every old person in Toronto is at this 7pm movie. This is 30.

They’re calling their kids and shit. It’s like being in another world.

An old couple of staring at their phones, not talking to one another. OLD PEOPLE ARE JUST LIKE US YOU GUISE.

Everyone’s wearing glasses and it’s not even a 3D film. I missed the memo.

Dude behind me doesn’t realise he’s eating popcorn with his mouth open like a fucking sociopath because he’s too old to hear a goddamn thing.

There’s an Inconvenient Truth sequel. Everyone around me has an aura of “not my problem”.

To be fair, Al Gore is everyone’s problem.

Oh, movie’s starting. I’m looking forward to the couple next to me repeating all the jokes one second later.

In Big Willie World, is marriage outlawed in favour of getting Hitched?

I wonder if there’s an alternate reality where The Willenium happened instead. A reality where, on that dark morning of September Willeventh 200w, the world was reeling from the premiere of Wild Wild West 2. If instead of picking fights with major news outlets and condoning sexual harassment, the Will House’s POTUS spent his time angling for the Rubik’s Cube to become a major plot point of The Pursuit of Happyness. Imagine a world where Suicide Squad never happened. Political rallies where cries of “WOO. HAHA HAHA” fill the air. It’s there and I like it.

All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I get distracted easily. While my brain is most certainly tethered to this reality, that has no bearing on how freely it wanders. I’m constantly thinking about all kinds of inane or absurd ephemera. Thoughts come and go. It can appear that I’m concentrating intently, but I could be a world away. I remember one of the many times I took my driver’s licensing test, paying attention but also not being able to shake thoughts of Slith Predator. It’s a Magic the Gathering card. It’s not (and never was) particularly good. I liked the art and, as a green player, wanted it to be as good as Slith Firewalker. I was paying attention to the road, certainly. I was also trying to think of how the card could be utilised if I so wished. What if it had haste? What if I had a whole deck of green beaters who had haste? Some kind of mono green beatdown deck that leveraged Concordant Crossroads for the advantage. Was my indicator on? I could throw in cards with heavy green costs like Fangren Firstborn. Oh, and maybe that would’ve been a good opportunity to turn onto the main road, but that car was coming on my right pretty quickly. What about a beast synergy with Ravenous Baloth? How do I handle issues of redundancy. Okay, time to turn. But if I throw in the Baloth, is there any point in using the Slith Predator at all? The licensing tester doesn’t look pleased. Shit, did I just fail? Also wasn’t getting to play the Slith Predator the whole point of the deck?

I did fail, by the way. That’s not the point. The point is that weirdly now when I’m driving I think of Slith Predator. Still. I made that deck, by the way. The Predator was great in there. The deck probably sucks now. I still get distracted by something from years ago. I also get distracted by things that don’t exist and other things that will happen in the future. With a brain that’s obsessed with being anywhere else, presence is kind of difficult to cultivate. Of course I can concentrate when I need to. I don’t suffer from leaving tasks undone. It’s just that I’m not giving my everything at all times.

Yesterday was my three year anniversary with my girlfriend. We’d planned out a big day of spending time with one another. I’ve also been recently preoccupied with something big on the horizon. It’s hard not to be constantly turning it over in my head. It’s a breeding ground for anxiety and a lot of hard work, but it could turn out to be a very positive step. I’m not ready to talk about it yet. That didn’t stop it from creeping into every waking (and attempted sleeping) moment. I realised that while this future endeavour was important to me, if I didn’t push it out of my mind, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy our anniversary.

Presence.

Presence is so important. To live in the moment and enjoy experiences as they come, not to spend time stressing about things outside your control.  I’m not saying to ignore the future, but there’s a balance. If you’re not authentically within your experiences, why are you doing them? Why half ass something you’re doing for pleasure? Why rob yourself of that joy? Why, on a day devoted to something my partner and I have created and nurtured together, would I be anywhere else? It wouldn’t be fair to her or me. So I focused on investing in the moment, spending time well and truly finding fulfilment in her company. It was the best decision I could’ve made. We had an amazing day together, reminding me just how lucky I am to be able to spend my life with her.

Good thing the Willenium never happened. If, by government mandate, we’d been forced to spend the day watching Hancock on repeat, my brain would’ve been a universe away.

This might take longer to write than the next Game of Thrones book, but I’m in.

This was a lot easier two years ago. Last year, even. That was all different, but familiar territory. This year marks a new milestone. I’m three years into the longest romantic relationship in my life.

There’s no caveat. I’m not gonna get your hopes up then turn around and be all “KIDDING. I had a longer relationship, but the romance was dead.” I haven’t been together with a partner for three years, period. What’s more, it is still romantic after all this time. I’d say that I love you as much as the day I met you, but that would be a fallacy. I didn’t love you when I met you, I didn’t know you. After three years, I feel like I know you. At least a little. You’ve heard movie characters stating that they can “read [insert person] like a book”? I get it. I finally know how that feels. When we’re together there’s a tacit language beneath the words and expressions. I understand what you’re saying, or when there’s something you’re not saying. When something’s off, it echoes through my bones. Subtext has become natural. I’m not bragging, I know you can see through me too.

The most exciting part is that this in no way means that you’ve run out of surprises. Have you ever found a book that appeals so much that you think it was written with you in mind? A book so rich in character that something new jumps off the page with every skim? It might be a peculiar sentence structure, a bold idea from out of nowhere. The vivid imagery with which its memories are etched. As new chapters appear every day, it’s no wonder you can’t put it down. You crack its spine each chance you get, even if only for minutes at a time. Like the most beguiling contraband. A page or two when the sun wrests open your eyes. A chapter before bed. A few clandestine sentences by moonlight. It’s intoxicating. You can’t wait to have read it in its entirety, but couldn’t bear for it to be over.

If our relationship began in its infancy, it would be talking by now. Growing and maturing, understanding the world around it. The recognition that as old as we felt before, there was so much yet to come. That we’d barely scratched the surface. There is so much yet to come and as each year passes, I appreciate and love you all the more. How adventurous your soul is, game for anything. How your gorgeous visage hides exponential beauty beneath. How boldly you embrace what the world throws your way and smile as it comes. How deep and fierce your emotions run, pulsing through the veins of every direction you take. How sincerely and openly you love, giving of yourself without barriers. How much you care for anything you can. You embrace life with an envious passion and I feel honoured to bask in your warmth.

I cherish writing our story together for this year and many more.

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.

We all knew that was coming, right?

A while back a friend told me of a Vonnegut quote that I think of constantly. I’ve definitely mentioned it on here before, but if my worst case scenario is reminding you, I’m willing to take the consequences. It reads:

“And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

I wrote earlier that I think of it constantly, when really I should’ve instead admitted that I couldn’t think of it often enough. It’s easy to get bogged down by anything that irks you. Every day is a series of microaggressions and interactions that could’ve gone better. Living is anxiety, in that if we had to stop and consider every infraction, we’d find the nearest bridge and a pair of concrete boots.

Conversely, we don’t give enough credit to moments that lift us. Negativity is far easier to feed than the alternative and feeling petty is exponentially more satisfying than contentment. I wonder though, if that’s a function of how much energy we give to that which doesn’t go our way. If we spent more time acknowledging pleasant moments, to carve out those few seconds each time, if we’d notice the difference in our lives.

Take today for instance. Today wasn’t remarkable in any way, but it hasn’t given me anything to complain about. If someone tomorow were to ask me how my weekend was, today would’ve likely factor into my recount. Still, when I think harder about it, I’d almost say it was a perfect Sunday.

I woke next to my girlfriend and we snuggled for a bit. I got up, breezed through public transit and headed for the gym. Without immediate engagements, I didn’t feel remotely rushed. I took my time between sets and really considered which muscle groups I was hitting. While normally I’m bound by evening events or exhausted from work, today I got to spend as long as I wanted without trying to get in and out in about an hour. I left the gym and dawdled around a few shops, then checked out a new Japanese restaurant that opened in Koreatown. It was great, the yakiniku beef was incredibly flavourful, the salad was much more than the usual iceberg lettuce drenched in (admittedly delicious) salad dressing. There was some kind of dried vegetable on the side and the miso soup tasted unusually vibrant. I left satisfied, without a bulging stomach.

I did some fruit and vegetable shopping on my way home. Ten minutes after I arrived, friends came over to play some Magic. We played for hours, the games were interactive with shifting status and tensions. There weren’t huge stalemates, play was fluid and dynamic. We had discussions about the wider metagame and format, then they left and I had the house to myself.

I’ve got a bolognese sauce on the stove which is minutes away. I spent time prepping, listening to music and took advantage of the fresh ingredients I bought earlier. Having tasted it already, it’s gonna be piquant as fuck. Plus the satisfaction of having cooked it myself is an entirely salient taste.

I don’t know what else to say, If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.