A good head on my shul-ders.

Just For Laughs is about to begin and thrust my life into chaos. For a basis of comparison, where’s my life at now? Is it any more stable?

Of course not. That was a bullshit premise concocted in order to excuse any bollocks I wrote afterwards. For some reason this morning a memory popped into my head. It was high school. I was running for deputy head boy. Yes, really, I ran on a platform of ‘let’s not shit ourselves. We all know who’s going to win.’ He did, after all. In any case, I knew I was really in the running when my best friend showed up at my front door in the morning before school. “So I put up your campaign posters” he proudly exclaimed. “Campaign posters?” I queried, expecting the worst. He pulled out a stack of papers emblazoned with the image of a rabbi, yarmulke and all. Plastered above the image were the words “I’d vote for a Jew. Wouldn’t you?” Below read “Vote Leon for Deputy Head Boy.” I literally facepalmed, IRL, etc. He’d stapled them up all around the school. I was a relatively known person anyway, but given that nobody else had the audacity (I guess I should include myself in that group) to put together a campaign whatsoever, it gave me a short burst of limited popularity.

In the lead up to the “election” students excitedly came up to me. “Are you the Jew?” They asked gleefully. I’d sigh and shake their outstretched hands. I guess I had a platform. It was silly and didn’t matter. I think I went for it primarily because I thought it’d help my chances of university acceptance. Maybe I’d get inducted into a fancy illuminati cult or something. Also I dug the fuck out of public speaking and wanted an excuse to write a speech. Speeches have always been one of my favourite things to do. Don’t ask me why. Narcissism and a captive audience, probably. Anyway. I treated the speech like stand up. It was likely pretty dumb. The only line I remember was “well as my campaign posters indicated, I am a Jew (break for laughs). So I guess I lost all the Nazi votes out there.” I got an applause break and everything. I guess we were easily entertained back then. These days losing the Nazi votes is apparently a deal breaker. It was all pretty tame. As I said, the guy who we expected to win did. I didn’t, but I got some Arts and Cultural Captain role as a consolation. It’s fine, I didn’t need the extra responsibilities. I had a lot of anime to watch and video games to play in those days. Priorities.

Ugh, remember feeling like you were heading somewhere in your life? When Nazis were these extinct concepts we warned our kids about like the black plague? I guess that’s due for a comeback some time soon. Can hope be too?

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Even with eight legs you can’t outrun death.

Yesterday I encountered an event so momentous that it must be celebrated. The environs were innocent enough, with no warning of the epic occasion to follow. Merely my girlfriend and I eating a meal together. A simple meal, too (she’d snacked earlier, so wasn’t into anything grand) of steamed veggies, eggs and cottage cheese. Everything was prepped, we sat down with an assortment of condiments (the most vital part of any meal. I’ll fight you on that. Physically. Has grudge, will travel) when it happened. The words tumbled out of her mouth and I knew right away. I was telling my girlfriend a story she hadn’t heard.

This isn’t an everyday occurrence and I’m not even sure if it’d happen each week. So here goes.

Do you know how to catch common houseflies? I do. You’d think it’d be a matter of speed, slamming an enclosure down upon them before they could react. Nope, fuck right off. Ain’t no way you can react before a fly does. They’re not only quick, but they can detect movement in the air and act accordingly. Speed’s surprisingly the opposite of what you need. Catching a fly is about patience.

The way that we were taught involved a shot glass. You can use anything small, but it’s handy to be able to see right through it. You want the fly on a flat surface like a tabletop or bench. Position the shot glass directly above them. Slowly lower the glass. When I say slowly I mean glacial. Give paint drying a run for its money. One millimetre at a time. Show Heinz who’s boss. The secret? Keep going. You’ll think that the best call is to slam it down when you’re close, but you’d be wrong. Once again, flies are faster than you, but they’re not smarter than you. Well, maybe. I haven’t met all of you. Keep going slowly right to the bottom. That’s it, you have your own pet house fly.

Why do I know this? It’s certainly not because I had pet house flies of my own. That’d be preposterous. No, I had pet house spiders. Kinda. Our flat shared them. Well, a flat I used to live in before moving away. I’d stop back in most weeks when I was in town. Anyway. We noticed a decently sized spider in our kitchen one day and our friend taught us the fly catching trick. She informed us that spiders won’t eat pre-deceased flies, only ones they’ve killed themselves. So to feed them, you’ve gotta catch flies and release them into the web. The spider will notice the fly struggling by reading the vibrations on its web and come out to feast. It’s vicious too. You see its little mandibles chomping away on the squishy, crunchy fly. Gory as all get out. We named our spider Venom, after my favorite childhood comic character.

As we fed Venom it grew and grew until it was twice, three times its initial size. Then Venom had babies. One in particular survived and we named it Baby. Baby was a voracious little fucker and didn’t mess around at dinner time. It grew rapidly and soon was even bigger than Venom. We treasured our little arach-kids and continued to feed them for around eight or nine months, I’d help out whenever I was in town.

Then disaster struck. One of the flatmates, somehow not knowing that we’d been harboring pet spiders for the larger part of a year, freaked out at this so called “infestation”. It was a massacre. These little life forms we’d fed from infancy utterly obliterated. We were devastated and, despite the ludicrous situation, it caused a pretty significant rift for a while. We got over it enough to preserve the friendship, but the memory of our eight legged darlings has never left my heart.

So that sucked, but on the bright side here in Toronto we don’t get enough insects that we’d be able to keep spiders fed in the first place. I’ll miss Venom and Baby, but not as much as I love living in a relatively pest free environment.

Relatively. A cat lives here after all. At least the spiders were quiet.

Can I get a head start if my head’s in the clouds?

I don’t know why I ever set an alarm on Tough Mudder day. It’s like the night before a flight. The chances of actually getting a full night’s sleep are zero. Of course I’m gonna wake up hours beforehand too excited to rest. I hate resting on the best of days, let alone a day when I’m gonna run up and down a mountain and climb things. I was in bed at 9:11pm (never forget), but as soon as the clock struck 2am I bolted upright and that was it. I tried getting back to sleep for the next hour or so, but it was painfully apparent that I was too awake.

What was on my mind? EVERYTHING. The cosmos seemed to explode behind my eyelids and Ariel Pink’s “Round and Round” played on repeat. I’ve never been great at falling asleep, but this was Sisyphean. I tried to block out all thought, to think of nothing but black. This worked for a second before I just started thinking of different things that were black. My mind started questioning whether I needed to think of pitch black or if other shades were alright too. What about charcoal? I tried blocking things out with the mental image of a white void. Then my brain complained that black was more fitting, given it was the middle of the night, fundamentally a darker time. NO BUENO.

A friend told me that she gets to sleep by imagining a mundane task and going through it in detail. Dishwashing is her favourite. I tried, I really did. In my mind’s eye I put the plug into the sink, turned the tap to hot and squiggled a little detergent in. I put a plug into the second sink and waited. It was taking a while to fill. Isn’t this all in my head? I thought. Can’t I make it go faster? It sped up. That’s not the point, brain. It’s not meant to be objective focused, it’s meant to be dreary and boring. The sped up water flow stopped and went in reverse, back to the level it was at before the speed increase. I tapped my finger on the counter. I looked at the dishes stacked up. I don’t remember pre-rinsing these. Shouldn’t I do that before putting the soapy water in? But then I’ll have to run the water again and that’s a waste of detergent. Wait, this detergent doesn’t actually exist. These dishes don’t actually exist. Let’s just pretend that they’re already pre-rinsed. But that’s disingenuous, I never did that. STOP BEING SO FUCKING LITERAL. I got bored of arguing with myself and went back to filling the sink, but at least let myself speed it up this time. Then I figured since I was making this up I could just somehow run the tap in both sinks simultaneously. I started washing plates, holding them up to the light and checking for any residue. I saw a spot or two glinting. Should’ve pre-rinsed. FUCK YOU BRAIN.

I opened my eyes. 2:10am. Fuck.

I tried re-tracing my lunchtime jogging path. I ran all the way there and all the way back. The other joggers/cyclists/dog walkers in my brain still refused to wave and smile back.

2:30am.

I jumped back into my memory and drew on a long journey I used to take. Back when I lived in small town New Zealand, I’d drive to and from Rotorua each week to visit friends in Auckland. I sped through the route in accelerated time, seeing how much was still entrenched in my head. It was amazing how vivid my recall was, all these years later.

2:50am.

I felt hungry and maybe like I needed to poop. Why were my knees sore? One was digging into the other while stacked on top of it. How did I usually arrange my knees while I slept? Wasn’t it normally like this? What about the rest of my posture? Did I want my arms folded? Or did I want my hand under my head? Should the blanket be pulled this far up to my neck? Was I sweating? Did my girlfriend just sleep-laugh? Why was my phone blinking? Was that a message from a team mate saying that they were injured and couldn’t go? Had my ride fallen through? Well there’s no point in looking at the phone now. The blue light would prevent me from getting back to sleep. Would I be able to sleep in any case? Should I get up and start stretching? Had I overstretched already? What was the weather gonna be like? Would today bring injury? Was my meal plan solid? Or had I eaten too much roughage? Should I have carbo loaded? If I don’t sleep, am I gonna be too tired on the course? Or would I be wired regardless? Could an unsafe level of pre-workout solve all of my fatigue issues? When was I gonna find time to write today? I could just get up and take care of it before my day started.

3am.

Turn on computer. Pour a bowl of cereal. Poop. Load up “Round and Round” to get it out of my head. Start writing.

Today’s gonna be a good day.

That’s one way to put a bounce in your step.

 

I was thinking about this game Ricochet today. Despite the title of this clip, it was a piece of shit and I loved it in a weird way. A Half-Life mod, two friends and I tried it out to see how bad it could be. It was terrible. Bouncing from pod to pod in outer space, aiming to knock one another off balance. The controls were clunky and awkward. The gameplay was repetitive and stilted. It probably took longer to program than the entire time players spent in game. It’s questionable how gaming powerhouse Valve could’ve thought it had the potential to catch on, but life’s about taking chances. I remember this one afternoon where the three of us had nothing much to do. I mean, we were teenagers. There’s jerking off, video games, angst and little else. Anime, probably. So we spent this particular afternoon racing to try and be the first to 100 kills. We all had our particular gaming skills, and while I was likely the least competent FPS player, this was new territory. None of us had spent time on this game, because we were too busy doing things like trying to beat Final Fantasy 7 in a weekend. Y’know, trendy shit. We didn’t give a freak.

So we played this game. I don’t know how long it took. Hours, I’m guessing. We were learning as we went. At first we’d get killed rapidly. We’d catch each other unawares and knock one another off with these silly discs. Then power ups started to come into play. If you hit someone, instead of knocking them off, you’d decapitate them. Points had an ebb and flow. Someone would streak ahead, then the others would catch up and overtake. Kills were racked up. Then muscle memory kicked in. We’d learn how to anticipate attacks, read opponents strategies. Lives began to last longer. The slog from 70-100 was probably longer than 0-70. Because it wasn’t a well designed game, I don’t know if any of us were even enjoying it. Why would that matter though? We were in for the points. For bragging rights on something with no real stakes. The whole time we were yelling to each other “why are we doing this?” “Does anyone even care?” “Is anyone having fun?” Our cries were in vain. We didn’t stop.

I didn’t win, but I also didn’t take umbrage with that. In the end it was within 10 points. While it wasn’t that enjoyable, for some reason it created a kind of bond. Every once in a while we’d mention “hey, you guys wanna go for a Ricochet rematch so I can finally get my title?” The answer was a resounding “no” every time. Still, we talked about it far more often than you’d expect. From time to time the game still pops into my head and I wonder if anyone still plays it. Was there ever a Ricochet community? Is there some dude all lonely waiting out there in space in the hopes that someone will play with him? Did Ricochet actually mean a great deal to anyone, and if so, why? I’m not often 100% sincere, but I really hope there’s love for the game out there. Not everything has to be a success and Ricochet obviously wasn’t. At the end of the day though, it left me with a mostly positive memory that ties me to these two specific friends. I hope I’m not the only one.

I wonder if anyone’s done a 4K port…

It is only August, but I could go for a 2.5 month nap right about now.

I had this thought today of how audacious it would’ve been for Microsoft back in the 90s to licence The Rolling Stones’ “Start Me Up” in order to advertise Windows 95. Seriously, right? How on the nose and garish. “The baby boomers will SHIT THEMSELVES.” Wouldn’t that have been fucking dumb?

Turns out that was a memory, not a thought. The 90s was a silly time.

In other news, looks like Seeso’s dead. That’s a real pity. It was fantastic to see yet another streaming platform putting money in the hands of creators to go out and do what they do best: create original and well produced content. I certainly didn’t see all their originals, but loved the shit out of MBMBAM, Harmonquest and Take my Wife. They also had a back catalogue of years worth of quality comedy. Decades of SNL, all the Monty Python stuff, tons of stand up specials. It’s the kind of service I would’ve happily shelled out to support. Too bad that they never branched outside of the US. I’m sure it had to do with all manner of rights and distribution contracts, but I know I’m not the only one who actively wanted to push money into their hands. When you’ve got a heap of consumers keen to throw dollar bills at you, wouldn’t you want to pull out all the stops to make that a reality? Yet again, I’m certain it’s far more complicated than I’m making it out to be. Thankfully a bunch of their shows found a home on the VRV platform. Another platform that’s still not available in Canada…

Speaking of American Idiots (I kid, but I needed the segue), I listened to the 2004  zeitgeist album on my run today. At the age of 17, that album was gargantuan. In the context of 2004, Green Day’s popularity was waning hard. To give further context, in 2002 they’d co-headlined with Blink 182 (as opposed to sitting atop that throne as you’d expect). American Idiot came out of nowhere and suddenly was everywhere. Each subsequent single utterly dominated the airwaves. We threw it on at every party, road trip and holiday weekend away. To us, “Jesus of Suburbia” was a sprawling epic. The album had punch, flair and the most relevant social commentary 17 year olds could imagine possible.

As a 30 year old, it’s a neat listen. Like a grand ol’ rock opera. It’s still catchy and tons of fun, but it also sounds like clever pop punk juggernauts capitalising on a movement. Sweet to run to. In the era of Trump, the anti-authoritarian sentiment feels mellow and wholesome. Equal parts melodramatic and innocent. The title track would probably have hit just as hard had it been released in 2017, but would’ve taken on an entirely new level of meaning. Maybe it’s my inherent nostalgia, but I’d say the album holds up to the fanfare 13 years later. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” may drip a little saccharine, but the tracks have an excellent ebb and flow, coming together as a cohesive record. If you were a fan at the time, try dipping your toes back into that water.

You watch. In five years I’ll book a vacation from an ad that features Green Day’s “Holiday”.

When cutting corners isn’t gouda-nuff.

It’s time for a confession. I’ve been writing these entries for long enough and if you’ve been following, you’ve earned this much. I’ve definitely told this to some people before. I’ve possibly even written about it here before and simply don’t know how to use the site’s search function effectively. In any case, time to be out with it.

When I was a kid, I did something weird. That’s not unusual. Well, it was unusual, but it’s not unusual (to be loved by anyone) for kids to do weird things. That comes part and parcel with learning boundaries. It’s a rite of passage that I took as my goddamn right. I was a little weirdo and now I’m slightly bigger. Little else has changed.

One day (no idea how old I was) I had a very specific craving. The craving itself wasn’t odd in the slightest. I wanted cheese. The quantity that I wanted wasn’t strange either. I wanted lots. How I went about it was where things took a turn. See, we had a stocked kitchen. This kitchen had not only food, but utensils. Even specific cheese utensils. There was a cheese knife that was handy for brie-esque cheeses. We had a cheese grater, perfect for those moments where you wanted your cheese divided into many small portions. A cheese slicer, for thin, flat segments of cheese. Plus my own personal favourite, the other cheese slicer, but with wire. It could also make thin, flat segments of cheese OR fat, flat segments of cheese. I LIKED MY CHEESE SEGMENTED, OKAY? Or, y’know, I could’ve just used a knife.

What I’m saying is, I had options. I used none of them.

Instead I tip toed near the kitchen and perked up my ears (security footage from the day). I couldn’t hear anyone or anything but my own heartbeat. Good. I advanced slowly around our kitchen table towards the fridge. Still no alarming sounds. I grasped the handle of the fridge (it was one of those flat panels with a small indent for a grip) and gently applied pressure. We kept a glass bottle of water in the fridge door and I didn’t want it rattling. I reached up to the dairy conditioner and quietly wedged it open, grabbing the large block of Tasty cheese.

I stared at the chilled block of gold in my hands, wondering how they’d managed to name it so aptly. I peeled back the wrapper and marvelled at its smooth edges, how the sides dropped so sharply from the flat top. It was so orderly and perfect. I couldn’t have that. For some reason I felt compelled to disrupt it. To this day, I couldn’t tell you why. I raised the block to my mouth and took a large bite out of the corner. The pleasantly sharp taste flooded into my mouth and I sighed with relief. I looked back at the cheese brick and simultaneously felt pride and shame. I hurriedly covered it in the wrapper and shoved it back into the dairy conditioner. There was a felt tension between silence and speed, but I knew I had to be far away from what I’d done. I completed my mission without notice or consequence and got back to my room.

Later that evening, I was walking down the hallway and heard my parents talk.

“It’s just so weird, who would do that?”
“They could’ve just cut off a piece. Why would they take a bite and leave the evidence?”
“Sometimes honey, I have no idea.”

I crept back to my room, holding my secret close to my chest. They never asked, I never told.

Until now that is…

Happy T’ronahversary to me.

Happy Toronto Birthday to me. Four years to the day where I first wondered if I was walking into a hotbed of authoritarian surveillance. Four fantastic years where I’ve borderline Eat Pray Love‘d myself into a journey of self-discovery. I ate and had sex a bunch, anyway (though sadly never simultaneously), plus adopted a wide enough smile to make Julia Roberts frown with envy.

My path to Toronto wasn’t straight or direct. In fact it took many years before I even thought of it as a destination. Age five I decided that when I grew up I’d harness my citizenship and live in Canada. They say the grass is always greener on the other side, but with New Zealand’s famed agricultural economy, it was ironic I was so avid to head somewhere US adjacent. It seemed different and exotic, plus they sounded like people in the movies. At age 20 I begun to give it more thought. I’d recently watched Juno and fallen head-over-heels for the idea of Ellen Page. I decided I’d move to Halifax and miraculously stumble into some kind of meet cute. Roll the credits (complete with Hand Drawn Block Letters). Why not? It was a quietly hip port town with a ton of breweries. Sure, I wasn’t into anything quiet or port, but things would work out. Remember the meet cute I probably told myself every night before going to bed.

Then it was Vancouver. I had family in Vancouver and the transition would be easy. I’d lodge somewhere then make my mark on the city. It was a city, right? With my generic media aspirations, I’d slot in just fine. I’d be close to Whistler in case I wanted to… wait, I didn’t really like outdoorsy stuff. What would I do in Whistler? I’d work out the details later, that’s what I’d do. I told some dude at a party just that once and he shook his head. “Toronto is where you want to be, man.” Toronto? I hadn’t really heard of Toronto. “It’s the biggest city in Canada and if you want to get into the media, there’s no better place in the country.” This wasn’t some good friend, just some dude I talked to a handful of times. I’ve got no idea if he has any concept of how much that conversation shaped my life. In the few minutes we talked, my totally vague plans became slightly less vague.

***Several Years Later***

I was 26 years old and I’d just been through the biggest breakup of my life. I was on a short term contract with the local university and it was coming to a close. There was funding for an interesting new contract, but I thought again. I’d never put down the torch I was holding for moving away. It’d been a not-insignificant part of the breakup. As soon as it ended, things fell into place. I bought a one way ticket to Vancouver (with the goal of heading to Toronto via Montreal) a few weeks later. I’ve never looked back.

Starting anew in Toronto was both hard and not. Picking up the pieces is always gonna be tricky, but Toronto kept throwing opportunity after opportunity at me. I hit the ground and started getting out to all kinds of events. I needed people in my life and I found them with ease. Walking back from a concert, running from a bus, OkCupid dates, movie screenings and Magic the Gathering games. Employment was less forthcoming, but I took whatever came my way and rolled with it. I tried and learned things I never imagined: Teaching gymnastics, feeding kids in schools, being a test subject, working the election polling booth, trying my hand as a barista. Toronto meant discovery, excitement and eventually community.

Perhaps it was a matter of getting out what I put in. Reaping the rewards of saying yes to the call of adventure. Maybe I lucked out, or learned to see the potential in coincidence. Toronto has given me so much, including a new lease on life. Over the past few years I’ve changed in ways that I’m still realising from day to day. I hear people talk about how cold Toronto is and possibly I missed out on that because of Accent Privilege. In my time here though, I’ve learned something about this city.

Toronto’s heart beats in its inhabitants, who create something larger than their sum. Toronto is discovering just how much people can surprise and impress you. Toronto is about learning the importance of saying yes, because opportunity is waiting for you to find it. Opportunity might not look like an Ellen Page meet cute, but that’s not to say that your wildest dreams are out of reach.

I mean, The Pink Ranger lives here you guise.