Adulthood: It’s less fun when you’re paying for it.

In a bout of chronic bad timing, I feel like I’m starting to come down with some form of flu variant. Pressure at the back of my throat, occasional throbbing right ear, vague dizziness. It’s fine, I have drugs. I’m not here to complain (for once). I more wanted to remark that whenever I start to feel unwell, my mind ticks back to thoughts of being at home. I recall my old blue bedroom with the cutesy carousel curtains. I’m reminded of comforts and that inimitable feeling of safety in being taken care of.

In the past four and a half years, it’s been rare for homesickness to rear its head. It’s still not the case this time either. That being said, it’s possible to cast your mind back and be appreciative of what you had without pangs of regret setting in. For me, a big part of what I enjoyed came from ritual. Little conventions that gave me structure, familiarity, security. Today, couched in mental convalescence, I recalled a two things I do miss from being home.

First up, grocery shopping with my mum. There was something both cathartic and fun about the experience. No matter what age, I loved getting to drive the cart. It was fun to check how each store’s trolleys handled (except those shit ones that for some cursed reason had a singular wheel that got stuck). One important detail to note is that money was always off the table. I wasn’t one of the main household providers, so I didn’t pay for a thing. It’s not like I got to demand everything I wanted, but I got to window shop and sometimes open said window to grasp my desires firsthand.

The aisles held an array of colours and shapes. Food being one of my favourite things (past, present and future tense), trying new varieties and flavours was a grand experiment. Mum would send me on missions to pick up certain items, so I got to zip around and accomplish tasks. Sometimes I’d get to request all new food to fold into the routine. Perhaps I’d get to search through produce for perfect looking fruit. Mum and I would play the guessing game at the register about the final total. Oh, and if it was a shopping night you could be damn sure that we’d pick up a rotisserie chicken, bread rolls and coleslaw for an easy dinner.

That conveniently segued into the next one. Family dinners. I had two older brothers (seven and nine years, respectively) and, for the most part, conversation would be blood-from-a-stone. How were our days? Fine. How was school? Fine. What did our parents expect? Aside from that, there was still conversation. We’d talk about movies or TV we’d seen. I’d hear about my brothers’ experiences at school (I can still remember having my mind blown by my brother talking about CD Rom technology). It forced us to spend time with each other, which was something I think we all secretly appreciated. Once again, there was ritual, structure and inherent comfort. We didn’t lack for our needs. We were fortunate to always have food on the table.

Our parents gave us responsibilities in stages. Tasks to be accomplished were setting the table, clearing the table, loading the dishwasher, and taking care of pots & pans/condiments. The three of us would take turns. There’d be arguments and fights, sure, but the work would get done. Mum was a good cook and we’d be encouraged at helping out with the meal for lenience in the chore department. Maybe if we made a salad, we wouldn’t have to be on pots & pans (the worst and most arduous job). As my brothers aged, they both took interest in cooking. One of my brothers eventually went on to become a chef. Being the little brother, if they thought cooking was cool, of course I wanted in too.

I guess the unifying factor is that both experiences taught me important life skills. In shopping I learned all about nutrition, fiscal responsibility and being critical of what I purchase. Evening dinners taught me meal prep, cleaning up after myself and the joy of a table full of people. Really, they were important stepping stones in how to adult. While on one hand they’re things I miss about being at home, they also helped form the blueprint of what I’d like my home life to be.

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At precisely 3:06, I danced myself clean.

This is and isn’t a review for LCD Soundsystem at Air Canada Centre. If it is, it’s a sloppy one, lacking in objective perspective and proper cohesive structure. Primarily because there was nothing cohesive about my experience. It was weird and nostalgic and present and emotional. I was there in one sense and ten years back in another. TL;DR: I experienced liminal time.

Having never gone to the ACC for a gig before (I went to a Raptors game once) I didn’t quite know what to expect. As I said yesterday, I’ve shied away from stadium concerts for a while now. They’re so often this overblown experience where showboating is a matter of course. It’s less the artists’ fault and more in tune with societal expectations. If they’ve shelled out $100+ for a ticket, there’s the assumption that there’ll be a commensurate level of panache. I think. I dunno. I want to be close enough to the stage that I can see artists spit (Salive music?). Sure that’s doable at a gig with a few hundred others. Air Canada Centre fits over 19,000 people. I didn’t know what time I’d need to be there to have my desired spitting image.

Doors opened at 6pm. I was there at 5.50pm. I’m no stranger to being prompt and since this was the first gig I’d paid for in far too long, I resolved that I’d get my money’s worth. Whatever that odd concept of “value” means anyway. At worst I’d play on my phone and see the opener. Doors at 6pm would mean an opener at 7pm. I could wait an hour. I did. I wasn’t right up against the bar in front of the stage, but I was behind the guy who was. There was a rubber pad running along the floor at the front. It was flat, then sloped off. I stood firmly on the slope. My view of the stage was uninterrupted. I was stoked. I waited my hour, messed around on the internet and learned all about Cicada 3301 and weird hacker subcultures. It was creepy and fascinating. It was a good use of my time by any stretch of the imagination. At 7pm a DJ started playing to zero fanfare. She didn’t give a shit, she kept doing her thing and doing it well. I realised that in character for my withering physical detritus of a body, I was getting a little achy. I’d been staring down at my phone and my feet had been flexed on an angle for an hour. I shifted a bunch, but primarily ached more. Ageing is as ageing does.

8.30pm ticked by and the band finally took the stage. Any physical pain subsided due to pure ecstasy. I wasn’t drugged, but I may well have been. A smile crept across my face and refused to leave for the next two or so hours. By the end, I ached from grinning too. The stage looked like a cross between a disco and a submarine. Weird old electrical boards flanked the back, with wires patched in all over the show. A disco ball hung from the ceiling and lights were everywhere. Three drum kits, numerous keyboards and synths plus massive speakers. An impressive haul for any band.

James Murphy was like a large child starved for attention. The few times he wasn’t singing (and half the time he was), he’d get distracted and go play. Whether it was disassembling other people’s drum kits, hitting things or prodding himself with his own sticks or using the mic cord as a whip, he was rarely bored. Sometimes he mounted the speakers and turned his back on the crowd, like some kind of crazed conductor. He was glib and sarcastic, but there was no denying that the band were having a great time.

They weren’t the only ones. Everyone in my radius (who were, I guess, people that bothered showing up two hours early) were losing their minds. A constant series of gyrations, jumping, twisting and, I dunno, flicking, spinning and anything else Bop It does. We were all singing along and celebrating anything they threw our way. The setlist was a fantastic spread of their career, with a couple of great early pulls and a hugely crowd friendly assortment all around. I couldn’t have been more in my element.

Here’s the interesting thing about being right up the front at the ACC. You have no idea of scale. It was impossible to see much of the stands, or far behind me. My scope was no different than being at The Horseshoe Tavern. Because of this limited vantage, it changed my perspective entirely. These songs were broadly popular, sure, but they’d always been personal to me. LCD Soundsystem was the music of my 20s. “All My Friends” is nostalgic for too many reasons to count. From where I was standing, it was like I was seeing a band play with complete abandon in their garage. Despite the mammoth gig, it felt intensely intimate and special. At more than one occasion I teared up at how overwhelming it all was. In those moments I was there, but I was also travelling in an RV late at night after getting lost for ten hours. I was partying in the basement of my friend’s house with rainbow lights everywhere. I was running in the streets where I grew up. I was on a plane heading to Canada for my brother’s wedding. I was dancing with friends at a packed out warehouse party. I was living and re-living so many simultaneous moments that it didn’t matter where I was, I was happy.

If that ain’t value, I don’t know what is.

Don’t get old, get even?

The time has come. The time has come. The time has come today. For the first time in four and a half years of consistent concert-going I’m having to head to the Air Canada Centre for a gig. It had to happen eventually. I couldn’t just keep skirting the small, intimate venues forever. Eventually an band/artist of a certain magnitude would tour and that would be it. I’d have to face the music literally and metaphorically. I thought maybe St Vincent would break my stadium vir-gig-nity, but this evening’s entertainment is LCD Soundsystem. Not too shabby.

I’m getting to that stage in my life where I seem to be seeing most artists for the second or third time around. It happens. In my early 20s I was going out to a gig most weeks. I saw a shit ton of live music. Many of the artists I was into circa 2008-2010 are still putting out new albums. My appetite for seeing these folks live hasn’t really abated and financially, I’m in a much better spot to do it. Win win, right? LCD Soundsystem were one of the many bands I got to experience as part of The Big Day Out, New Zealand’s largest annual music festival. It always lay on or within a day or two of my birthday, so naturally my birthday gift was sorted each year. Over the nine simultaneous years I went, I saw so many bands that were integral to my music identity. Tool, Metallica, Muse, System of a Down, Bjork, Rage Against the Machine, Arcade Fire, Hot Chip, Foo Fighters, Girl Talk, TV on the Radio, etc etc and so on. It was a big highlight each year.

LCD Soundsystem’s set was outstanding. They were in The Boiler Room, which was essentially a big sweaty tent for ravers. As a veteran of the festival, I knew if I wanted a shot at seeing their whole set with a great view, I had to start waiting halfway through the set of the preceding artist. I can’t remember who they were, but it was worth the effort. Throughout their set I gradually wormed my way further ahead and by the time LCD Soundsystem started, I was in prime position. This was 2011, so I’d totally thrashed “This is Happening”. From the top to tail of their set, I was gripped. James Murphy was a bizarre, eccentric but profoundly gifted showman. Dressed in a bold white suit, he was a constant ball of energy. There was a looseness to the live performance that fit the band so well. A nice break in a time where it felt like everything in music was so calculated and tight.

It’s been years and LCD Soundsystem have remained in fairly constant rotation. If anything, the music has resounded with me a little more as I’ve aged. I don’t know that I really understood the concepts of fading relevance, losing potential and gripping fiercely to youth as I do now. I get the feeling that they’re the kind of band who’ll become more profound to me over the next ten years. A band I adore without really understanding how they become such a monstrous commercial force. Maybe these are evergreen topics and we all feel a little bit tired sometimes. Perhaps putting a record on and shaking it all out is the best we can do sometimes.

Or, y’know, buying an absurdly priced ticket and heading to the ACC.

To know him is to love him. No question.

My dreams have been an orgy of starfucking lately. Not sure why. Perhaps innate delusions of grandeur or my subconsciousness compensating for my pervasive dour mood. Whatever it is, in moments of reverie I’ve been partying with the rich and famous. The weird thing is, it’s all been tied into this idea that I’m back home in New Zealand. I haven’t lived there in over four years. Why now?

The other night I dreamt that Harmontown was on another tour, except this time it was a world tour. They were travelling around the globe on a combination of flights and tour buses. Thing was, with such a lengthy trip, they wanted all the comforts of home. Accordingly, they were making stops along the route to sleep over at fans’ houses. In the dream it made sense. They wanted hot meals, soft beds and showers. It was part outreach, but mostly for comfort’s sake. I’d volunteered my parents’ place, since it had gratuitous bedrooms and more than all of the comforts of home. Dan, Jeff, Spencer et al drove the bus down their long, steep driveway and somehow parked on that slanty bastard of a hill.

It was a dream come true (in the dream, at least). We all sat around the table, wolfing down pancakes and orange juice. Somehow in my dream I knew it was dinner time, which only made it better. Why not breakfast for dinner when you’re hosting company? There was an amicable, familial atmosphere and nothing performative. I didn’t feel nervous, there was no status imbalance, nothing. Just a nice meal around the table. Then one of my friends (a fellow fan) came around to join in and I started waking up. As I roused from rest, I blamed her for bringing me back to this harsh, unforgiving reality. Several days later, I still do.

Last night I dreamt that I had a decent part in The Big Sick, the Kumail Nanjiani/Emily V. Gordon romantic comedy. As a fan of their previous work, it was gratifying to be able to not only meet them, but have an active role in bringing the story of their relationship to light. They were warm and friendly on-set and off. Enough that once the job was over, we still kept in touch.

Not only that, but I had an unexpected and newfound celebrity in public. The kind that rarely exists in real life, but dream logic had no issue spoon feeding me. I did talk shows, podcasts, etc. People on the street would say hi, but not be pushy demanding my time. The role hadn’t been big enough to warrant it, after all. It was nice to feel respected and admired, but I didn’t feel like my privacy was being compromised. Lucky, eh?

I awoke from the dream, went to the bathroom and fell back asleep. The next dream retained my dream logic from the previous one. In this dream, however, I met Jeff Goldblum. Kind of. In this dream I’d supposedly always known Jeff Goldblum. I was walking past the Bridgeway Theatre in Northcote Point and Jeff waved at me. “Hey bud, remember me?” He asked. I paused for a second. Did we meet on set somewhere? I thought. How would I know Jeff Goldblum? He’s many rungs above my level. He did my job for me. “Don’t you remember the time you went for a bike ride and got locked out?” He inquired.

I thought to myself for a second and it sprang to mind. Of course, I was a little kid and I’d whipped out on my BMX to bike under the bridge. I had a great ride around The Point, but when I arrived back nobody was home. I didn’t have my key on me and this was a pre-cellphone time. I’d knocked on the door of my mysterious new neighbour to ask if they could help me out. A tall man welcomed me in (zero fear of stranger danger) and I used his phone to ring my parents at the office. My mum came to pick me up and Jeff became a close family friend. It was mega weird that I’d forgotten all that history with someone I’d grown up around. I chastised myself and my poor memory.

Even as I woke, the dream logic still seemed so real. I’ve thought to myself a bunch of times today did I really not know Goldblum?

Though that begs the question, can anyone really know Jeff Goldblum?

As you would expect, I give waiters TMI every single time.

When I was a kid, my favourite egg dish by far was Eggs with Soldiers. Called dippy eggs by some (we in the biz call them “Dip-Shits”), they still remain a wondrous combination of ovum and military imagery.

Eggs and Soldiers were no mere dish, they were an event. Not only did I get to eat them from my top notch Bunnykins egg cups, but there was process and tradition. When I was small enough to fit into a high chair, mum would scoop out the egg’s viscera and tip it into the cup. She’d mix it together and create a homogeneous warm savoury mush, just like I loved it. I had one piece of toast that she’d mix-spread. One half would have plain margarine, the other would have vegemite (back when I was subjected to the tyranny of living in a vegemite household). She’d then cut it into strips for my dipping pleasure. The crusts were straightforward, I’d dunk ’em and munch ’em. The in between parts were more of a challenge. I tried dunking them like the crusts, but they’d bend and fold uselessly. How was I meant to get adequate coverage with such flimsy materials? I wasn’t gonna risk scalding my fingers in the lava-like egg innards. Eventually I figured out a plan. I’d take the floppy strip and fold it in half, thus reinforcing its stability. Then I could dunk away and what was more, I could get a double dose of margarine goodness in each bite. Flawless.

As I aged, techniques changed. I moved up to a two toast man. No longer did a slice of heat-forged bread have to face its own duality, each piece had its individuality intact. Moreover, I now had access to a spoon of my own. By this point my mum couldn’t be bothered scooping and mixing, figuring I was old enough to dunk within the fragile exoskeleton of the egg. She’d lop off the top and leave the rest in place. This was a new obstacle to work around. I still folded the middle pieces, but now in lieu of dunking them, I’d spoon some of the eggy flesh into the sling-like apparatus I’d constructed. With poise and balance, I’d navigate the faux dumpling towards my mouth and devour the package, leaving only the small crust pieces to reckon with. With age had come dexterity and I could deftly descend the delicate dough-debris into the desired detritus.

We all need to grow up at some point. The time came when I learned to soft boil my own eggs. Also my parents recognised my needs as a marmite muncher and began to stock a small jar just for me. My hunger for bread transformed me into a three toast teenager (like my dad had been). We all know that teenagers love excess and I’d become an avatar of appetites. My hubris had become such that I’d take one middle piece of margarine toast, one piece of marmite and smoosh them together, then dunk as one. I’d flown too close to the sun and I loved it. I had become the master of my own destiny, met with the goddess and atoned with the father having changed. This was some Campbellian shit. I felt reborn. My own man.

And now I know what I’m having for dinner tonight.

Does a regular crastinator do things on time?

After yesterday’s pity party, did I crumble into an ashen powder? I did not. I went out there and did what I did best: Forget about my problems with some good ol’ fashioned escapism. With the present looking grim, I took a time machine back to a time when I felt like I still had potential. Before work ended I went to the LCBO and looked around until I found something to make me feel twenty again. As soon as it caught my eye, I knew I needed it as the bedrock of my evening.

I bought a bottle of Jägermeister.

It made sense in my head. Back when I drank Jäeger, the future seemed so bright and rosy. You’ve gotta understand, this was back in the day when the world’s virulent undercurrent of racism was still spoken about in whispers around the family table. After 9/11, but before the U.S. had a president who mixed up 9/11 and 7/11. The days when I hosted a meme party, but meme’s weren’t at a high enough societal concentration, so the whole thing ended being an exercise in Too Soon. A period in which we had an ice luge and would keenly do chilled Jäeger shots down it. When my friend’s younger brother instilled mass cringe by wearing a custom “shot belt” made to house a ton of mini Jäeger bottles.

Simpler times.

It gets better. To really bring those years flooding back, I paired the Jäeger with an equally fratty mixer. Jäeger and Mountain Dew, a combination friends described as “surprisingly non-offensive” and “better than it was worse”. It was great. The perfect beverage to toss back while hanging out at a legit house party. I knew a handful of people, but everyone was ultra friendly. Even the bros present were quite benign. Nothing got broken or trashed. At some point there was a push up competition in the kitchen (because it was a house party), the winner of which did 42 push ups. A random guy and I looked at each other and cocked our heads simultaneously as if to say just 42? The fact that I had that thought and realised how important it was not to engage it solidified the wisdom age has brought. Even with a few JäegerDews in me, I knew nothing good would come of boastful feats of strength. I had nobody I needed to impress and for the kinds of people I’d be interested in impressing, those aren’t the sort of shenanigans that’d cut it.

I felt older than a bunch of the attendees and for some reason this imbued me with a sense of responsibility. A couple of younger party-goers had clearly hit the sauce too quickly. I made sure their friends were aware of the signs, got them water and helped a couple of people out to cars. It was an instinctive response. I remember so clearly being in my early 20s and getting totally blasted off my face. I remember the help friends gave me. Accordingly, I had this “pay it forward” mentality etched in my brain. I wanted everyone to have a good night and part of that was trying to ensure they had a good morning too.

Most of all, it was a blast getting to meet a bunch of new people. I learned about small town Nova Scotia and the abundance of “Arsenaults” who live there. One of the birthday hosts had flown in from The Dominican Republic and we talked about our respective countries a bunch. The guy was an architect by trade, but had always been obsessed with movies. He told me his dream would be to plan out film sets, but the industry in DR wasn’t big enough for it to be a viable career. There was great music, a bunch of cuddle puddles and low key hangs that lasted until I left at 6am. I’m not narcissistic enough to assume they dissolved once I departed, though I also have no evidence that this wasn’t the case…

Escapism: Because facing your problems is for future you.

What’s left to leave?

Sooo, impromptu borderline mandatory holiday. I’ve got seven days of leave remaining (notice how I skirted over saying “leave left”? I didn’t really. I just deleted it once I typed it. Then I thought I’d be all ironic pointing out how dumb that’d be. Then I lost all manner of credibility by explaining exactly what happened and how ironically unironic this whole uninspired mess was. This is why most of the time I just hit the backspace key a bunch of times and move on. Speaking of which, how about we move on?) and only five days I’m allowed to transfer to next year. Thus I have the next two Mondays off. I would’ve chosen more opportune days and planned things out, but with two people leaving the team, I’m gonna have to shoulder a ton of extra work. Considering we need to do the majority of our work in advance, if I didn’t take a holiday RIGHT NOW, it’d be more work to take the holiday than it’d be worth.

I certainly didn’t need to have any more excuses to hate my job right now, so let’s table that for some other time. Relentless negativity feels cliché in a world that seems to be fuelled by it.

Unfortunately, I don’t see this holiday coming together. It’s short notice and I don’t have a car. People are too busy for last minute excursions and I wouldn’t expect anyone to just drop their shit and go. A friend actually offered her car for Monday if I want it which is lovely, but the point isn’t just to get away. I’m looking to share experiences with people. If she wanted to go on an adventure I’d be all for it. I’m tired of travelling alone. I want to do dumb shit with friends. I want to check out small towns. Go to diners, local bars, thrift shops. Adopt my bullshit elitist big city persona and laugh with someone about how quaint and adorable everything is. Imagine an alternate existence where I grew up in a small town and getting drunk at the dilapidated skate park was the highlight of my week. Think about how it felt to have dreams of getting out of that podunk town and just drive until I saw the lights.

Then I could marvel to myself that everything worked out in reality. That this timeline is the one where I got out. That I live dwarfed by cityscapes and feel comfort in my own insignificance. Where opportunity is around every corner and all I need to do is ask around. Where it’s possible to be cynically optimistic, because even if things seem shit now they could all turn on a dime.

That had I stayed home things would’ve stayed fine but unexciting. That eventually I’ll learn to push myself and make it happen. That I will find a breaking point because I have to. Because otherwise I’ll spend the rest of my life telling myself stories of what it’d be like to escape and find myself. Because otherwise I’ll never really feel at home.

For these next two weekends, however, I’m on vacation. So fuck “home”.