So we part-y-ed ways?

A night of fitful sleep meant I had a cluster of bizarre dreams. It’s not uncommon for me(as you probably know by now), but it’s weird for me to have dreams so obviously steeped in purpose. It is uncommon for me to believe in messages from dreams (cut to the anthropomorphic evocation of my subconscious shaking its fist at the sky and muttering under its breath). I’m still not sure where last night’s visions sit on the scale. Maybe that’ll click once they’re down on the page.

The main dream I remember involved being at work. Do I get overtime for this? There was some kind of company-wide festival going on. Tons of departments were hosting their own little soirees. I was walking around the building with my boss, working our way around the different parties. Totally innocent, we just wanted to scavenge food and drinks. Totally just scabbing. Between his rank and my bullshitting over-friendliness, we were playing a good game. After scoffing and scarfing (oh wow, I didn’t realise that had a different meaning) all we could, it was time to go back to work. Neither of us really felt like it, so said I could skive off work all I liked as long as I stayed in the building.

I stopped off at my friend’s desk to see if he had anything fun to do (dream logic, it was a friend I grew up with. In reality this person doesn’t even live in Canada). He said that he was throwing a party for a mutual friend of mine (also doesn’t live in Canada) and he was getting overloaded with actual work as well. He asked if I could help by inflating a bunch of balloons. I said sure and followed him into a small party room. All the decorations and the cake were in place, there was a helium tank, some ribbon and a bunch of uninflated balloons. I attached the helium canister’s nozzle and got to work.

While I was in university I worked at a party store part time. Dream me obviously remembered this. I checked the balloons to see what kind of quality they were. They weren’t great. I tried stretching them out a bit and it only helped so much. I pulled my ribbon close and cut off a bunch of strands. With my little battlestation set up, I started filling. They were a cluster of different patterns, but it was bugging me that I wasn’t getting the pleasant lightbulb shape into these shitty balloons. Still, I persisted. I blew them up, knotted them and tied the ribbon on the end. It took a while, but I was finally getting down to the last few balloons when my friend whose party it was walked in.

The party guy barely said hi and started calling the shots. He looked at the balloons and said they were bullshit and looked lame. He ridiculed them, which I felt sort of bummed about because of some vague (misguided. I was never that great at the job IRL) professional pride. Also the fact that I’d been helping out of my own generousity. He said the balloons had to go and they’d get some better ones instead. He told me they’d go off to pick them up and I could fill them when he got back.

I’d had it. I told my friend to fuck off and shove the helium canister up his ass. I told him that he was always like this, ever since we were kids. That he constantly mooched off others and took advantage of any generousity he could. I told him that’s why we’d stopped spending much time around each other as we grew older and grew apart. I told him that we were through. I meant it. I walked out and met my other friend. We left work and went fishing with a six pack of beer.

It’s weird, because I basically have cut ties with this friend outside my dreams. The scenario in my dream was simultaneously more farcical and dramatic than what happened. As I grew up he stopped being a relevant person in my life. I wanted to hang around him less and less. He only got in touch when he wanted something and never reciprocated. It’s odd that my brain has held onto this for so long, considering I haven’t thought of him in ages.

Why now?

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#juststrangerthings

I’ve lived a life. Most living people have. I’ve met many people in those years I’ve spent alive. Some I’ve been fortunate to keep around me and get to know better. Others have passed through like, well, people who are no longer living. I hope they’re still living though. A few people in particular really livened up the time I spent with them. Some left a hefty impression. In fact, there are a handful I think of on the regular. I wonder what they’ve done with their lives, where they are, who they are now. Let’s meet some. Story time, starting with the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me.

Some context. I was a chubby 11 year old at the Takapuna Normal Intermediate School social. If you needed to guess the year, I was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and zip off khakis with at least six pockets (think 90s proto Guy Fieri). One of the most exciting features of the night was a potluck snack table. It was in the music room, around the corner from the school hall. I had a bunch of friends, but I was far from one of the cool kids. The teacher chaperone announced that if we wanted to go to the potluck room, we’d have to ask someone of the opposite gender (I repeat, it was the 90s) to link arms with us and walk there side by side. In short, we needed a date. I was excited about the snacks, but really nervous to ask anyone. I asked three or four girls, who all turned their nose up and said they were taken already. I felt awful, shaken and on the verge of tears.

Then this girl walked up to me. We weren’t super close friends, but I’d always thought she was really smart and cool. “Hey” she said “I don’t know about you, but I really wanna go pig out. I’d be so happy if you’d join me.” She offered her arm. My heart swelled and my smile went full on Julia Roberts. I think it’s the most mature thing I’ve ever seen a kid do. It totally made my night. It’s not like we grew into best friends after that or anything, but I always appreciated what she’d done. I swear I’ve thought about that moment every week for my life thus far. I don’t even remember her full name, but every time I think of it, I’m so hopeful she’s gone on to have a wonderful life.

I was once at McDonalds at around 3am. Some drunk dude was having a riot of a time with the self service kiosk. He figured out that if you ordered a sundae, you could keep adding crushed peanuts for no additional cost. He said his goal was 100 packets. My order came and I really wanted to get the hell out of there. When I last saw him he was up to 53 additional packets. I have no idea what happened, but my sincere wish is that he walked out that door with a sealed box full of peanuts and a sundae as the cherry on top.

When I was in Thailand with friends, we visited a small town called Krabi. We were keen to go out and get buckets. I noticed a sign for a place that was advertising buckets, but they were way over the normal market price. Surprised at the audacity, I popped in and asked what it was that made their buckets so special. The guy behind the counter, a French dude, shrugged. He thought for a second and pulled out a bottle of Sangsom from under the counter. He exclaimed “with my buckets, you do your own pouring.” *It was unanimous, we were in. What followed was a debaucherous night of drinking. The guy, François, had been through hell (largely due to his own idiocy) getting to Krabi.

Three times he hired sex workers, then kept falling asleep and they kept taking large sums of money from his wallet (he’d lost $4000 combined from the three times). He’d injured his leg during his travels, then the bus he was on in Cambodia (they managed to evacuate first) had burned down, taking his baggage with it. He’d gotten in touch with a friend who said he could come manage this bar in Krabi. All he wanted was to hear hip hop from around the world and play bingo with pocket change. The next morning may have been the roughest hangover I’ve had in my life, but it was entirely worth it after the preceding night. Every once in a while I think back to that night and wonder what François is up to now.

Thing is, I must be this person for a bunch of people. I wonder at times what random encounters people have had with me over the years. Is there any chance I treated someone with the kindness that this girl did for me? Am I someone’s mysterious stranger?

As soon as I fell out I was all “put me back in, coach”.

I had a dream last night about going away to a holiday home with a bunch of old friends. It was a dream, so things were temporally and physically jumbled. I felt like we were in Ohakune, where my family had our old ski batch. However, the home didn’t resemble my family property at all. It was massive, with a pool and everything. We sat on the deck and drank beer. We all caught up on what we’d been up to over the years, scattered around the world. It was comforting to be surrounded by so much love. I’m not maudlin about it, but clearly deep down I miss all these people. They were a part of my life for some time and those experiences are all a part of me.

In the dream I stayed at the home while everyone else went back to work. I discovered that another friend had a home nearby. Since the rental period was up, I crashed at her place. We were awoken one night by a massive storm. Gusts buffeted the house as rain fell in sheets. It got worse. The winds howled like a beast possessed and I started to feel uneasy. The house felt like it was lurching to the side. The section of roof above my bed flew off into the night. I realised just how bad things were and ran into my friend’s bedroom. She was hanging onto a beam, being pulled into an enormous tornado. I grabbed a rope, tied myself to a foundation and jumped up to grab her. Our combined weight brought us both down to the ground. We huddled together and waited for the storm to abate. At some point the winds died out and the sun came up. At some point I fell asleep.

Over the next while I stayed behind to help with renovations. I have zero skill at building anything, so my brain did its best to fill in the dream gaps. I’m pretty sure there was some kind of musical montage. In any case, it seemed like I was being useful, if I needed a clear indication that this was a dream. We were up on the roof trying to fix the missing panels, when we felt wind on the horizon. We clung together, but the winds didn’t amount to much. We looked into each other’s eyes and kissed. It was brief, then we sort of shifted apart and continued to work, saying nothing. Days passed and we didn’t talk much. I remember furtively glancing at her to see if she was looking back. Real high school shit. Disappointed, I assumed it meant nothing and went on with the work. Eventually she turned to me and asked “hey, that thing the other day. Are we gonna talk about it? Like, is that something you’d want to do again?” I grinned and nodded. I turned to face her and… woke up.

I looked at my clock. I still had 20 minutes before I had to be awake. I willed myself to go back to sleep. I tried not to think, but in doing so kept thinking about it. I managed to get back to sleep, but landed somewhere else, rather than back where I was. I woke to my alarm unfulfilled, wanting. She’d always been a close friend and nothing more. Being honest with myself, I’m pretty sure I always had feelings for her, but I’d quashed them because the friendship was more important. I figured that was that, but my subconscious clearly had other ideas. It stayed with me this morning and I thought about it a little more. To be clear, none of this is a resurgence of some melancholic heartbreak. There wasn’t any of that. My heart didn’t pine for her whenever I saw her face. We had a close friendship that I’m pretty sure was mutually fulfilling. It also has no relevance to my current life. I’m in a wonderful relationship with a woman who really gets me. This dream felt more whimsical, really. My mind delving into the past, bringing someone I hadn’t thought of for years to the fore. Revisiting her even in a dreamscape was a pleasant surprise, even if I know that in reality we wouldn’t make any sense for each other at 30.

We’d make about as much sense as my subconscious brain thinking I have any building skills. If anything, that was the biggest flight of fancy.

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?

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…