It’s not like fire doesn’t cut down on humidity.

I’m a huge fan of garage sales. Even if everyone else here seems to pronounce them “guh-raj sales” instead of the obviously correct “garridge sales”. I love finding affordable (dirt cheap) pre-loved (used) goods that hopefully still work. Hell, free shit is some of my top tier favourite stuff in the multiverse. It doesn’t always pan out (the broken microwave I carried about a kilometre that had a working light, but no heat, comes to mind), but sometimes it pans out entirely literally (the curbside cast iron frying pan for instance. Spent some time scrubbing off the rust and now it’s A+. Not even a nuke could ruin one of those babies). Throwing a few bucks on top of that can come with massive rewards. I had a $2 backpack that I used for about a year, some $4 pants that got a couple of years’ use. I mean, our bedside lamp, blender, large pan and food processor (to back up the blender’s blind spots) collectively cost us under $50. So much value I was in total Rapture.

Yesterday I found a great buy at a local (in direct line of sight from our place) garage sale. I mean, the place was swarming with neat stuff. There was a preserved scorpion paperweight, tons of old cameras and camera technology, clothes and books, etc. Then I saw an item I’d been thinking about for some time: A dehumidifier. We always grew up with one. It was a sturdy machine with a computerised display on the top. My favourite feature hands down of this old dehumidifier was the whale on the computerised display. A goddamn whale. This animated whale was an indicator of the humidity levels of the surroundings. If it was too humid, the whale made a frowny face with “x” eyes. If it was neutral, it had dot eyes and its mouth was pulled into a tight line (like thus: “-“). If the area was at low humidity, the whale would be stoked, mouth pulled into a huge smile with big smiley eyes. PLUS A BIG FUCKEN SPOUT OF WATER ON ITS BACK. I loved this whale possibly more than I loved the dehumidifier itself, even if the logic of it was pretty peculiar. Shouldn’t the whale be stoked with humidity? It lives in the ocean, basically the most humid place there is. I don’t know if this is one of those great white voluntary sand whales I’ve often heard tale of. Whatever it was, it liked its atmosphere like I like my gingerale: dry. Also maybe with whiskey, I’m not sure. It was a two dimensional whale, whatever its liquor preferences were, it was tight lipped.

This garridge sale didn’t have a whaleriffic dehumidifier, but it did have a $10 one. A bargain by any other name wouldn’t smell as cheap. Metaphorically. This thing had no particular odour. Frankly with a dehumidifier I’d take that as a warning sign. I asked the guy holding fat stacks of cash in his hand (I assumed he was one of the people running the sale) if there was anything wrong with it. According to him (and who wouldn’t trust a white male flashing large quantities of dollars?) it worked fine, they just upgraded to a bigger model for the family home. He said he was so sure that it worked that if I took it home and it didn’t work, I could bring it back and he’d swap it for his other one. Sounded completely un-suspicious. I bought it and carried it the 20 metres or so to our front door.

It worked. I plugged it in and it happily (I can only assume. No whale, remember?) did its thing. Within an hour or two, the humidity was down to the requisite level. Soothing. Later that evening I looked up the manual online to see if there was anything I needed to know about the unit. Googling the model number, the first couple of results were the same. PRODUCT RECALL. The model number was one of the many models recalled for potential fire risk. They’d apparently had some cases of the dehumidifier super-heating and exploding. DOUBLE PLUS UNGOOD. I wondered to myself, was it worth still running it? I asked my girlfriend, who was fine with taking a chance (humidity being the moral enemy of virtue, of course). I also thought, how much would they pay for a recalled unit? I had no proof of purchase and the recall was a few years ago. Still, could I get more than the $10 I paid for it? Would this be one of my many lucrative get rich quick schemes that didn’t pan out (curbside cast iron pan notwithstanding)? Or was the best option to keep using my cheap dehumidifier and turning it off once nobody was in the house? Thus preventing it from overheating after, I dunno, 24 hour use or something? Would you dice with the devil? Or go for the Faustian recall deal? The devil you know or the one you don’t?

Sounds like what we bought was really… a dehumidifire.

If we did crash, I would have been most useful as kindling.

Oh wow, is going on holiday ever a reminder of how miserable my job makes me? Screw that, let’s pretend even if for only one more day that I’m not getting my soul systematically sucked away in a cubicle.

Our last day in Montreal was basically set to be a wrap up day. Were there any spots we had yet to hit? Was there anywhere we needed to give a second glance? What did we have yet to eat? Could we accomplish all of this before our 4pm departure? First off, we didn’t leave the house until just before midday, so the answer to most of the above was a resounding NOPE. We shouldered our bags, packed up the pork leftovers from Friday night’s Liverpool House experience and hit the road.

My girlfriend had hoped to get back to a certain boutique, so we opted to get back to Le Plateau-Mont-Royal one last time. First up though, we stopped off at a heavily recommended patisserie: Pâtisserie Au Kouign Amann. Thing was, a few friends had steered us towards it, but hadn’t mentioned what exactly we were supposed to try. They didn’t offer a ton and their house special (the Kouign Amann for which they’re named) was half an hour from being ready. I’ve never been hugely into buttery pastries, so instead I grabbed a small blueberry cake. It was soft and sweet, with a faint trace of almond paste (like you’d find in an almond croissant) inside. It was… fine I guess? I dunno, I love baked goods, but found myself kind of underwhelmed. Perhaps the place had been built up too much. It was reasonably priced and I’d happily eat something like it again, but wouldn’t go out of my way for it.

We wandered the area seeing if anything would newly catch our eyes. A café, Dispatch Coffee had previously stuck out with its stark, minimalist interior. Very European, seating was a bizarre assortment of tiered concrete steps and flat wooden benches. The staff seemed to really know their shit, calmly measuring out each shot and composing each drink in a way that skewed both mechanical and artful. Using a mocha as my common litmus test, it was decent but not spectacular. Perhaps on the fluffier side than I’m used to for a latte style drink, but the coffee itself was nice.

My girlfriend popped into her boutiques and I walked around a little. I circumnavigated the block, making a point of checking out the alleyway behind. As I’d suspected, there was a ton of awesome street art. My girlfriend disappointingly didn’t have a ton of luck in finding anything new. Liking the clothes, but not loving the fit, she resolved to only get something she fell in love with. Marie Kondo would be proud. She salved the sting by getting a delicious and moist balsamic chocolate brownie and a hot chocolate (that ended up being literal melted chocolate. Holy shit the small size was a self-contained heart attack).

The time had come to transit further out of town and meet our rideshare. We hopped on the metro and arrived at the Harveys parking lot right by the Namur station. Realising time was rapidly dwindling, we bathroomed in that same Harveys, then pulled our leftover pork in the parking lot. There we were, scoffing down the leftovers of a $68 pork dish in a parking lot that seagulls used as a toilet. If a trip needs a signal that the holiday is over, that was ours. We awaited our ride home, hoping that our driver wasn’t a murder enthusiast.

As luck would have it, she turned out to be great. She had a roomy SUV and was fine with us eating our leftovers en route. She’d been in town visiting her long distance boyfriend. Oddly enough, our fellow passenger was visiting his long distance partner too. My girlfriend and I felt so left out of the club. She was a Toronto based teacher and our other passenger was a traffic engineer. More than once I wondered how we’d fare if our car crashed in the wilderness and had to survive through a combination of shared skills and teamwork. The drive back was great. Everyone was friendly and open. We had in depth chats about all manner of subjects: Society and privilege, changing generations, concepts of gender and sexuality, global acculturation, plus a ton more. By the time we’d arrived home in Toronto, it almost seemed like we’d made new friends.

So the holiday may be over, but at least we’ll always have memories of snarfing down expensive leftovers in the parking lot of a strip mall. Montreal, it’s what you make it.

They don’t call them cocktails for nothing.

Bounjour tout le monde et bienvenue à Montreal! I apologise to the nation of France and province of Quebec for the atrocities of grammar committed in the preceding sentence. Just be thankful I didn’t say it in my atrocious accent. You know those old Animorphs covers? My French accent is one of those unholy middle transition stages between my New Zealand accent and how French should actually sound. You know the bit on that link when her head starts looking conical? That’s how I sound when I try speaking French. My accent comes straight from the Uncanny Valley region.

Being in Montreal means I get to torment my girlfriend with one of my favourite bits. Intentional mis-translation and fake facts. It’s a wonder I didn’t awake to find myself hanging from the ceiling by my open entrails. Fortunately she doesn’t seem to wear long socks, otherwise she’d have my guts for garters. It’s the best (worst/blurst) bit. We’ll arrive at Bonaventure station and I’ll proclaim “ah, that means ‘good adventure’.” Major side-eye follows. “Oh, we’ve arrived at Vendôme station. Named after the famed action hero Jean Claude VenDome.” I become relieved she’s not holding any sharp objects. “Plamondon station? It’s so huge, much like its namesake, the ancient French dinosaur: The Plamondon.” I think the only reason she hasn’t left me for some handsome Québécois is that I hold the only house key.

Before we left we took recommendations from friends on places to eat/drink. Why else would we be on holiday but to eat or drink as many delicious things as possible? Last night we began making good on those recommendations. Turns out people know what they’re talking about. Our first stop was Bar Le Mal Nécessaire: a Chinatown tiki bar. Sold to us as ‘a place where you can get flaming pineapple cocktails’. What part of that doesn’t sound amazing? Turns out the place was a rock solid call. A super loungey basement vibe with big cushy seating lining the sides of the room. Pineapple (this shit was ananas) imagery everywhere. There were literal pineapples hanging in cradles from the ceiling, pictures of pineapples about the place and ceramic pineapples (one in a cage) above the seating area. We were seated and handed thick tomes containing a ton of cocktails with an ingredients list, pricing and a picture of the style of glasses in which they’d be served. The set up behind the bar was rad. There were platforms suspended from the ceiling containing all the bottles, with garnishes and syrups on the bar. The bartenders seamlessly moved between the upper and lower levels to create these amazing cocktails, often with three or four drinks on the go simultaneously. It was rad to watch.

Me: Look at these guys shaking all these cocktails. You’d get super jacked doing that all the time.
GF: Oh yeah. Like a shakeweight. I bet you’d get really efficient at jacking off.
Me: I’m not sure about that. I feel like the range of motion they’re using wouldn’t help for personal use.
GF: I guess that’s true.
Me: But they’d for sure be able to jerk off like three or four dudes at once. Skills for sure.

I got their signature cocktail, Le Mal Nécessaire, while my girlfriend had… geez, something else. They were heaps boozy and halfway through our first drink we both realised they were hitting pretty hard. The music was great and the vibe was awesome. It made me rue (it means “road” in French) the fact that I’d never a) lived in Montreal for a period and b) that my parents didn’t have a sleazy 70s basement with shag carpet. We paid up and headed off for our 9.30pm dinner reservation at Liverpool House.

Liverpool House seems to be the sister restaurant of an ultra decadent French restaurant named (believe it or not) Joe Beef. Joe Beef is the kind of place where you need to grab reservations months in advance. Liverpool House we booked hours beforehand. It was sold to us as a cute, romantic little place with excellent food. It made bank on every one of those attributes. I can say hands down that it was one of the best meals I’ve had in my life. Everything that came out from the kitchen smelled amazing and had immaculate presentation. Their lobster spaghetti seemed to be a signature dish, but we saw plenty of oyster plates, deep fried clams and steaks making the rounds. Upon heavy recommendation from our server, we ordered one of their specials, a shareable pork plate for two. It was gargantuan. We were hungry after cocktails and the repeated delectable scents wafting around the restaurant. We still only finished maybe half of it. We decided it could’ve easily been a three person meal and possibly even four. Unbelievably succulent. The tender flesh melded perfectly with the soft marbled fat. Served in a shallow pool of rich jus and draped in a flavourful parsley and olive medley. The polenta on the side was admittedly a bit dry and gritty for our tastes, but drastically improved with a healthy dose of jus. Our server recommended a lovely wine on the side that tied it all together. She seemed genuinely pleased with how much we were enjoying our meal. As she said, it was an amazing dish made from the restaurant’s personal farm stock. They were grain fed to be extra fatty and, for some reason, people rarely ever ordered it.

There was this nice moment towards the end of the meal when my girlfriend and I recognised that it was okay to have nice things sometimes. Both of us make a point of trying to live within our means, enjoying experiences for what they are, knowing that we’re pretty fucking lucky to have each other and the lives that we lead. We don’t have room or tastes for a ton of extravagance in our lives, which means that when we do something nice, it’s wholly appreciated. Liverpool House was one of those experiences that will stay with us for a while. The staff were warm and welcoming. The food was phenomenal. The atmosphere was upbeat and enveloping. Plus we may not have a literal ton of leftovers, but we may have a pound.

Au revoir.

More like Megabutts. Because of that fecal thing I mentioned below? Oh wait, you haven’t read that bit yet?

We’re trapped in a moving metal oblong. A three dimensional one, that is. It seems to be hurtling along the road at a moderate pace. The scenery seems to be of a rustic countryside arrangement. So if we’re imprisoned, at least our captors are showing mercy. Half mercy. Like John Stamos when he’s unwilling to fully commit. We’ve run out of things to drink. I forgot to fill up my bottle before getting on, so all that was left at the bottom was a solitary drop of water, tainted by encrusted crystals from past pre-workout concoctions. It tasted noxious, because of course I went there. We’re resorting to harvesting the few oranges we brought for their moisture. Also pre-emptive scurvy protection.

More accurately we’re on a bus en route to Montreal. We left at 7.30am and we’re on hour five of our six hour trip. In order to keep to our tight schedule, the bus driver has refused to let anyone get off the bus temporarily. If you step off the bus you’ve stepped out of line and you’re out of luck. Okay, she didn’t say it as sassily as that, but she outright refused my request to refill our water bottle with tap water. The sass was imaginary. Mostly. I had one good shit earlier in the trip, but the bathroom has since run out of toilet paper. Supposedly two rolls was supposed to be enough for upwards of 100+ people on a six hour trip. Or suppoosedly, I should say. The toilet is cramped, preventing me from doing my usual poo maneuver. Or manpoover, as I should never say (or think) again. There’s a door where my head would usually be and it’s impo(o)ssible for me to reach my ankles. What’s a guy to do? Moreover, how’s a guy to poo?

After such an early morning (for me, anyway) departure, we were unsurprisingly some of the few passengers conscious throughout the trip. This was our design. I’d been chomping at the bit to watch the Master of None season finale and, after bugging my girlfriend for days, we finally had a spare half hour (or twelve) to watch. After finishing, we still had at least ten half hours to go, so we jumped back into a show we’d abandoned some time back: The Good Place. It’s a show most everyone seems to have slept on. We’re screening it at work and it recently got picked up for another season, so at least we’re not shit out of luck. The basic premise is that Kristen Bell’s character died and was mistakenly sent to The Good Place (heaven) instead of The Bad Place. She’s ended up with someone else’s soulmate and they’re trying to figure out how to teach her to be a good person (in an effort to keep her from being jettisoned downstairs). It sounds dry, I know, but the writing is shit hot. It’s quick and clever with fun plot lines. The concept of The Good Place as a large computational engine capable of creating anything is a fun world to play around in. In addition to Bell, Ted Danson shines as the architect trying to keep the Place running, despite Bell’s creating large scale catastrophe with her mere presence. The whole cast is rock solid and, in easily digestible 22 minute chunks with cliffhanger endings, we’ve watched eight episodes in the past few hours. Go out and get some.

The ride is almost over and (aside from dehydration) it’s been mostly clear of catastrophes. The real exception being when country music begun randomly playing out over the personal intercoms. Panicked passengers began looking around for a solution, with many jamming the emergency stop button above their seat. It stopped shortly after. If we can survive that, we can survive anything. Even dehydration while holding in a shit.

Montreal: It only goes up from here.

I’m certain tomorrow will be better. I get to eat a sandwich on a bus.

I’ve been in a grouchy mood most of the day. Primarily because the cat decided to be a furry anus and yowl constantly outside the bedroom at 5.30am, stopping only to jump at the handle or barge into the door. This went on until 7am, at which point I figured I’d been fully conscious for an hour and a half, I was unlikely to get back to sleep. Today’s been a day that’s delivered both the good and the bad. You know what that means… BULLET POINT ENTRY:

  • Bad: Even in her sleepy state, my girlfriend refused my offer to dip the cat in a bucket of carbonite.
  • Bad: Upon waking and checking Facebook, I read of Chris Cornell’s death. While my tastes over the years have mostly shifted away from grunge, metal and most things prog, grunge was essential in sparking my interest in music. When I deep dived into the annals of rock at age 14, I was pulled instantly into the music my brothers had listened to at the same age. This basically consisted of Seattle’s big four and Tool. While I’d always like “Black Hole Sun”, hearing Superunknown in full was a revelation. I mean COME ON. Chris Cornell’s range blew me away and I needed more. I devoured the remainder of their back catalogue, Temple of the Dog, and adored both his solo work and Audioslave side project. Hearing his capability to turn on a dime from bestial growl to soft crooning meant that virtually every cd, mini disc mix and iPod playlist I put together over the next five or six years featured something Cornell. Seattle’s lost one more of it’s favourite sons.
  • Good: I woke up before my alarm.
  • Bad: If I’d had my choice, I would’ve chosen the alarm.
  • Good: I got out of the house earlier than the norm, allowing me to go to a sweet little neighbourhood coffee joint.
  • Good: On my way there, a little girl on a pink bike with streamers zoomed past. She was trying so hard that she started getting speed wobbles. Nostalgia washed over me.
  • Good: The coffee at Contra Café was its usual pleasant self. Gotta love them Social beans.
  • Bad: Getting to the bus, there was a massive line. It looked like it was time to stand in a cramped bus on a hot day.
  • Good: A bus arrived as the prior one filled up. I waited 20 seconds and boarded an empty bus.
  • Good: I was on time for work.
  • Bad: Because of my pending holiday weekend, work was busy.
  • Good: A holiday weekend was coming up?
  • Bad: They’d booked an hour long team meeting on a busy day before said holiday weekend.
  • Good: The meeting had cookies.
  • Bad: The peanut butter ones were down the other end of a long table.
  • Good: I had to “suffer” through oatmeal chocolate chip and double chocolate. Life is tough.
  • Bad: I was slammed with a shit ton of administrative shit getting in the way of completing my work.
  • Good: I don’t have work tomorrow.
  • Bad: I had to do all my tomorrow work today anyway.
  • Good: I got to try my new pre-workout before the gym.
  • Good: I didn’t suffer immediate heart palpitations. Workout was swell.
  • Bad: Toronto was apparently in for heavy thunderstorms.
  • Good: I dodged all of them.
  • Good: My girlfriend made gazpacho.
  • Good: The gazpacho was goddamn delicious.
  • Good: I’m now on holiday.
  • Good: I’ve finished my writing for the day.
  • Bad: Tomorrow is another day.

More like nostaljerk.

Why is familiarity so comforting? I’ve been on a nostalgia kick lately (primarily because I’ve deep dived back into the Laser Time archive for my workplace listening enjoyment) and it’s been delightfully tickling my brain. I listened back to the early 90s “Mortal Kombat: The Album” (you’ll surprise yourself by remembering the absurd hit “Techno Syndrome“. The rest of the album is, if possible, even more cheesy. It features songs about the various characters (or in Sonya Blade’s case, a ballad she apparently sings about herself? And she’s been outfitted with a British accent?). The best part is how token most of the lyrics are. The Immortals were never given comprehensive background information about each character, so they had to write about what they know from playing the game. The result is a bunch of songs about assorted special moves each character uses, or in the case of Sub Zero…

“Whoah, Chinese ninja warrior
With your heart so cold sub zero
Whoah, your life is a mystery
Why you wear the mask? Sub zero”

Also a blatant rip off of Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations”, but instead with the dubious line “Freezing Vibrations” (which makes no fucking sense, but I’ll go with it). AllMusic gives it a grand two star rating. It’s a festering piece of shit. Stock 90s techno coupled with the aforementioned flaccid lyrics. It should be a pain to endure, but instead it’s so fucking bonkers that it comes 180° to being a blast to hear. It’s not even a guilty pleasure for me and the only downside is that “Mortal Kombat: The Album” isn’t on Spotify, making me realise what a colossal waste my $9.99 each month is. If I can’t groove out to dancefloor suicide, what am I paying for?

It’s not new to me how much I adore nostalgia, but what is a recent revelation is how much I want the sensation without doing the work. Anime is a great example. I think so fondly of my years spent watching anime. I’d lounge around with friends into the early hours of the weekend and try to marathon an entire show. So many goddamn series. Casting my mind back to those days warms my heart, but whenever I think about getting back into anime, I realise how little I actually want to watch it. I’m way more critical than I was and getting into a new 24 episode series is a hard sell. I don’t have the time I once did. Much like video games, theory wins out over practice 80% of the time. Even knowing that, I still yearn for the underlying emotions they brought. The excitement of experiencing a whole new fictional world. Or in games, of facing and overcoming challenges coming my way.

Both industries were way smaller back then and I honestly think that was a large part of the attraction. Back in high school, anime and video games were super niche interests. We were the nerds and belonging to rare fandoms made it feel like we were venturing into unknown territory. We’d talk about them constantly, but they seemed like conversation topics only for our little group. When we found anyone else with similar interests, sharing those interests was a revelation, like we were sharing a central part of ourselves. We felt special somehow, because we were different. It may have been an illusion, but we clung to it tenaciously. These days fandom is all too easy to find. Hyperconnectivity means that others like you are only a few clicks away. Neither video games nor anime are particularly esoteric these days, they’ve expanded into normalcy. As dumb as it is, inside me there’s the sense that the experience is now cheapened. There’s nothing unique about them and with that gone, this remote concept of being special has dissipated. What’s more, the plots and character progression don’t feel like they’d live up to other available content. There are way too many clever shows to watch now, so why would I spend time on anything flimsy?

Wait, so I think I’m too cool for school now? That gives me freezing vibrations all over.

If I don’t emerge for a few weeks, does that make the game aptly named?

My teen years were filled to the brim with the obligatory angst and unrequited amorous desire. Time and time again I’d decide on the basis of one interaction that I’d found my soul mate. Confirmation bias would only affirm this belief. Then I’d find out she was into someone else and repeat the process all over. In all my time at high school, only one of my great loves ever gave back: Diablo 2.

I sunk hours into that game night by night. I was exceedingly more studious about it than French, without a doubt (c’est vrai). It took years of my life, until the expansion pack came out and that took the rest. I played the campaign again and again, trying out all of the characters, teaming up with friends late into school nights to crawl dungeons, hopeful for rare or unique treasures. It was a blast and, as with most games, way more fun before we got into any of that min/maxing shit.

After a conversation with some brunch ambushing friends (they keep turning up randomly at spots my girlfriend and I drop into), I remembered that Diablo 2‘s spiritual successor (which surprisingly wasn’t Diablo 3) existed. Path of Exile. It’s a hack and slash RPG made by an independent NZ game studio. It’s totally free to play, with optional micro-transactions that’re only cosmetic. Say you want a little dragon that walks behind you (but doesn’t influence the game state at all?) or your armour to glow bright pink? That can happen for a tiny fee, but none of this play to win shit.

Path of Exile has a monstrous amount of depth, even ignoring the “for a free to play game” addendum. It’s a mash up of game mechanics that’ve worked in the past, smooshed into an intuitive yet complex amalgam. You choose a character, which is basically picking a character skin and being placed at a certain point on the passive skills tree (which is basically the junction system from Final Fantasy X). So you’d have your Marauder (Strength), Ranger (Dexterity) and Witch (Intelligence), then hybrid classes that bridge the gaps. You can follow the passive tree any way you want, offering huge flexibility. Active skills are conferred by gems, that gain experience as you do. All items have coloured sockets that will hold corresponding gem colours. Sometimes sockets will link, allowing you to slot in support gems, that buff the active gems in the same item. It sounds very complicated, but makes a ton of sense as you play.

When you do start playing, it’s a shit ton of fun. Being made in New Zealand, the voice actors all have NZ accents (though varying in severity). Elements of Maori culture have been incorporated, which feels wicked to see represented onscreen. The game can be both serious and goofy as fuck. The character I put together, a summoner, runs around using necrotic magic. She raises zombies and skeletons. There’s a spell that summons Nic Cage as Ghost Rider style floating flaming heads and another that animates weapons to fight for me. A typical battle involves a couple of undead bros flanked by flying flaming heads and hovering dirks, clubs and polearms battering down my foes. I’m sure the game will get a lot harder soon, but for now it’s a riot.

Speaking of which, I’ve gotta go. In the spirit of Diablo 2, I’m gonna raise some hell.