Ya googly

It’s my birthday and I’m hosting my own funeral to celebrate. What follows is my personal eulogy.

I believe it was Des’ree who once said:

“I don’t want to see a ghost,
It’s a sight that I fear most
I’d rather have a piece of toast
And watch the evening news
Life, oh life, oh life, oh life,
Doo, doot doot dooo.
Life, oh life, oh life, oh life,
Doo, doot doot dooo.”

I think those words speak a little louder for us all on this day.

We are gathered here today to mourn the loss of Leon. His cause of death is currently unknown. Given the amount of tuna he consumed, mercury poisoning is probably a safe bet.

Leon was survived by his beloved girlfriend Julia, and his rival, Mr. Smashmouth. Turns out at some point the years stop coming. Check and mate, Mr. Smashmouth.

Leon was born on January 17th in Auckland, New Zealand, at approximately 3pm. To whom it may concern, Capricorn, Leo rising. I know, it sounds weird. He was.

Leon was known primarily for his predilection for puns, Paddington, pooping and polysyllabic words. He fathered no children, but sired sigh-ers and grown groaners. He gave a wide berth to Birthers. He knew this would make no sense to you in audio form, but maybe not everything is about you. Jeez.

Leon was an ambitious child. When he grew up he wanted to be a voice actor, Jim Carrey, or a Street Shark. Instead of growing into a mutant fusion of shark and teenager with large teeth and killer attitude, he grew old. It was considerably less jawsome.

At the age of eight, Leon had a dream that he would die at 33. Given that being right was one of his favourite things, he at least died doing what he loved.

Leon was many things; a living cartoon character, a wholesome pervert, strangely particular about apples. He loved monologues, being the centre of attention, and breaking the fourth wall [what, too meta?]. Unbeknownst to many, he did not love Air Bud movies, but that didn’t stop Netflix algorithms from recommending every single talking animal movie it could.

Things weren’t always easy for Leon. Many times he wasn’t totally in love with living. For him, sadness was a big part of life, and he’d made peace with it. He figured it was entirely normal to not feel okay a lot of the time. He often resonated with those who understood. Sharing struggles with those close was important, and he always wished to be there for friends when he could. If anything, knowing that he could make others feel more comfortable, known or seen was one of his guiding principles. He knew first-hand it wasn’t easy to ask for help, but resolved to do what he could when he could.

Friends were what mattered most to Leon. When he found good ones, they were friends for life. There was a special kind of love Leon reserved for his friends. People he could lose time with, sharing vulnerabilities, stories, and secret pettiness. Those who bought into his endless bullshit, hijinks and the weird way he just assumed everyone understood his niche references. His favourite feeling in the world was the comedown after a room full of laughter. By this metric, he lived a pretty good life.

I guess you could say, the real life he lived was the friends he made along the way.

And now I invite you to lift your glasses. As the Black Eyed Peas said in their Grammy Award winning song, “I Gotta Feeling”: L’chaim.

Three more years on here until I get tenure

I’m sure this deserves a little more pomp and a lot more circumstance than I’m giving it, but 2019 is coming to an end. A decade closing out. For all I know I could be talking out of my arse, but I’d be surprised if this doesn’t end up being the best decade of my life. From 22 to 32, it’s been ten years of freedom and exploration. I came into 2010 an apple cheeked dreamer, and I’m signing out 2019 with saggier cheeks. I think the dream, miraculously, may still be alive. It was a tumultuous time, searching for meaning, passion and connection. I jumped between jobs, industries and countries. I fell in love, experienced heartbreak, fell in love again and again. Sharp and pointed intelligence gave way to wisdom and understanding. I made more than my fair share of mistakes, and tried to learn from them. I’m beyond a doubt a more compassionate, empathetic person than I was. I’ve met so many people who have shaped the person I’ve become, and I’m so thankful to have had them in my life.

A decade is a ton to cover. So here are some loose things that happened:

  • Friends and I went to New York for New Years. I met Four Loko and begun a long term tryst. I got beyond drunk and was almost kicked out from Katz’s Deli for crying too loudly and being a menace.
  • People I went to high school with began getting married and having kids. I’m still yet to check off either of those marks.
  • I started drinking coffee, which may have been my first step down a long dark path.
  • I worked in a university radio archive. We digitized National Radio shows spanning 1960-1999. I got 1-4 emails per month and listened to hundreds of podcasts.
  • I went to Lollapalooza with a friend, then zig-zagged over to my brother’s wedding in Whistler.
  • I had my first adult relationship with a wonderful woman. Our breakup was the catalyst for my life-changing move from New Zealand to Canada.
  • I started this project back in 2013, just to get better at writing. The jury’s still out on whether that happened.
  • I taught children gymnastics, in a weird part time job. At this job I also fell through a roof, and fed lizards.
  • I took on writing opportunities to see if I could expand into that professionally. I wrote live music reviews and had a brief stint as a ghost writer for a food blog. Turns out it wasn’t my calling.
  • I started dating here in Toronto. A couple of those dates ended up introducing me to communities that defined my life here, and ultimately led me towards meeting my girlfriend of 5+ years.
  • We’re still together, we live together, and I grow more in love with her with each passing year. We’ve helped each other grow, been supportive during difficult times, and approached new life challenges as a team. She’s fostered a kind of communication I haven’t found with anyone else. Instead of things blowing up, we talk through them and look for compromise. I’ve never harboured the illusion that things in a long term relationship have to be rosy all the time, but we’ve got an eerily solid track record. I don’t think a good relationship just happens, it’s maintained. Some people make that easier than others, and it’s hard to imagine waking up next to anyone else day after day.
  • I launched the Air Bud Pawdcast with a friend, and it’s possibly the most work I’ve put into something dumb in my entire time breathing.
  • I met so many amazing friends who have become integral to my life. I love them utterly, and my Toronto friend circles have become family. We’ve had weeeeird experiences together, but by GOD have we experienced things.
  • I became an uncle. MULTIPLE times.
  • After years of death by a thousand cuts, I became depressed and totally lost my will to live. I started taking anti-depressants, and they entirely turned my life around.
  • I saw Cats (2019).
  • I once found Waldo in the world of Waldos.

Mostly though, I say “y’all” now. What a world.

See y’all on the other side.

If you vomit up a meringue, is that a boomeringue?

Today I have not left the property. I certainly haven’t put on outside clothing. If this entry comes of as convoluted cabin fever incarnate, we both know why.

On the subway yesterday, I sat opposite someone who reminded me of some kid from high school. Weird dude. He was both intelligent and socially incompetent. I don’t know that he ever really did anything menacing, but boy howdy was he watchlist-able. He’d constantly tell us how much he wanted to kill us or wish for our deaths (in more of a cartoon villain Mojo Jojo manner than actual threats). He’d make devices, often weapons, and bring them to school. There was the home made taser, some chemical (which may have and/or probably was chloroform), and the miniature rail gun he brought in for science class show and tell. It wasn’t deadly, but could fire a piece of paper clip from one side of the room to the other in a straight line. He had some little notebook that he wrote in a cipher. One of our friends managed to swipe it and decode it eventually. Nothing super incriminating, I feel like it was more the kind of thing he made to try and get attention. He was probably more lonely than legit evil, and I think that’s why we always gave him a pass. If he’s not an engineer by now, he’s probably a super villain.

I need to cut my toenails today. It’s been so long since I last cut my toenails, that my fingernails are probably ready for a chop. I’ve missed a whole cycle. It’s just that when I cut my fingernails it’s easy. I have two nail clippers at my desk (I brought my work one home and it hasn’t moved), and I can do it while passively watching something. Toenails are harder to remember. I’m often wearing slippers or something. Even if I’m passively watching something, I need to not be wearing anything on my feet, then bring my knee one at a time to my chin and often end up cutting on an angle, leaving me with mangled toenails. Then I need to ensure that a rubbish bin is wedged beneath my foot to catch the nail shards. Whether it’s a science or an art, it’s excessively not my forte. Which is why my big toe looks like it’s being forcibly cornered by a crescent moon.

I’ve been staring at this page (and, to be fair, procrastinating by looking at other pages) long enough that I think I’m done for the day. My brain has gone and I’m gonna commit to this toenail chopping business.

See you on the clipside, folks.

After a while, the Stone Cold Stunner lost its efficacy

What did you do on Y2K?

We had our work Christmas party yesterday, 1999 was the theme. It became a fun and easy conversation starter to ask people the question above. What was Y2K for them? How was their evening? What did they do? I got a whole host of answers back. Some of my old co-workers were literal toddlers, so they had no stories to tell, just stories to make me feel old. Others went to house parties. Someone invited a bunch of friends over to drink and listen to REM’s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” on repeat for the evening. Another wandered into his old high school with mates and drank a mickey. For most it was a massive disappointment. For some, it felt like the dawning of a new age. For me?

I was 12. I had this weird, voracious skin condition. I don’t know what it was, but it grew like a weed and spread like wildfire. I had to rub this lotion all over myself a few times per day. I think it was itchy too, so that was frustrating. It wasn’t infectious, thank Christ, so I could have a friend over. I think my parents took pity on me and let us rent an N64 from the video store (egads, that sentence is a time capsule). My friend and I played Super Smash Bros until late in the evening. I got to drink a can of energy drink, and we went down to the Auckland Viaduct to watch fireworks. They got rained out, and it all felt anticlimactic.

Y2K is seen as a joke now. It’s obvious to see why. We all thought that everything would end because computers wouldn’t know how to count the new year. Or was it some type of virus? The Y2K bug? The banks were gonna crumble and the world would fall into disrepair. Chaos would reign, people would loot, and we’d end up in some post-apocalyptic debacle. I was 12. I didn’t know any better, so I sort of assumed this was all within the realm of possibility. I don’t know that we did much in the way of prep. I think my parents bought a couple of large water jugs or something, but that was it. I got the feeling that for adults, it was mostly laughable. The notion that everything would end because of computers. They’d lived for decades, I’m sure it wasn’t their first foray into widespread nonsense.

I think that’s why, when December 21st 2012 rolled around, we all had a laugh. I made an End of the World playlist with most any apocalyptic song I could find. I think I even threw inĀ “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” since it was in the Armageddon soundtrack. Friends came over to my parents’ place and we looked out over the harbour, drinking. If we were gonna see things end, we had the perfect view.

It’s weird that growing up, we had this background notion that Armageddon was coming. I wonder if that’s why there’s been so much post-apocalyptic material over the past decade. This stuff has a way of worming into your subconscious. I mean, of course a bunch of tent pole movies and shows catapulted the idea into the public consciousness. The Walking Dead, Fury Road, 28 Days Later. They all captured this zeitgeist of catastrophe. Arguably now, the world is in worse shape than it was ten years ago. Climate change and incredible wealth inequalities are on the tips of our tongues. Brash demagogues have soared into positions of influence and power. We’ve all lost count of how many mass shootings America has had in the past year.

Holy shit. I just went down a wiki rabbit hole. There have been 370 mass shootings in America in 2019 (as of today). That’s 1.22 mass shootings per day. It’s gotten to the point where we just tune them out. I looked at this number and thought oh well, that’s really sad. But that’s how things have always been there. I checked 2018, 321 mass shootings. Yep. I guess it’s always been that way in the USA. IT HAS NOT ALWAYS BEEN THAT WAY. In 2009 there were six. In 2008 there were five. In 2007 there were five. In 2006 there were four. In 2005 there were three. In 2004 there were three. In 2003 there were three. In 2002 there were three. In 2001 there were two. In 2000 there were three. Three hundred and seventy mass shootings is NOT NORMAL. How have we gotten to a point where we’ve normalised this figure in our heads? I can’t be the only one.

That is stone cold sobering. E fucking Gads.

Get fucked, Jack Astors. That was my main point

I read this article today.

If you’re too lazy to click, it details how an immigrant family moved to Toronto 50 years ago with $48 in their pockets. They just made the single biggest donation to Scarborough Health Networks in their history. I technically saved you the click, but the first paragraph spells all that out in a more concise and orderly fashion. Weirdly, my first thought went to anti-immigrant sentiment. Very little makes my blood boil like anti-immigrant rhetoric. Most of us immigrated at some stage along our family’s history. At what point does “I got mine” and refusing new entrants become acceptable? In my mind, it doesn’t. Look, I openly admit that I know nothing about managing immigration on a national scale, but I will go to my grave convinced that inviting a myriad of cultures into the fold always does more good than harm.

Sure, I have Canadian citizenship, but for all intents and purposes, I may as well be an immigrant. I came from another country never having lived here before. I’ve gone through my share of culture shock. There have been things I’ve acclimated to, and others I’ve shunned in favour of preferred practices I came with. I’ve shared elements of my country’s culture with others. Mostly, like Marmite and Pineapple Lumps, they’ve been middling successes. Still, I love inviting others to enjoy the things I adored about my upbringing. I’ve been working, and contributing to the economy. I’m now in a position where I feel like I’m providing a service that helps people, and that makes me happy. There are a ton of misgivings I do have about Canada. It’s very conservative and stuffy in a lot of ways. There seem to be layers of needless bureaucracy in many areas. Banking lags considerably behind the systems back home. It’s insane that we’re still in a First Past the Post system in 2019, and the political system seems shambolic, ripe for the populist style of right wing government that’s been plaguing the world in recent years. There’s a weird reverence that people seem to have for big box US stores and chains, which is kind of worrying. Toronto’s gentrification is accelerating at a rapid rate, with the youth and artists being pushed out of the city. Things are becoming homogeneous, safe and boring.

At the same time, imagine how this place would be without immigration. One of the best things about Toronto is that it’s rife with wonderful cultural neighbourhoods. If I want to get Ethiopian (and when do I not?), there are 3-5 places within a 15 minute walk of me. There are Greek, Italian, Portugese, Indian, Korean and Chinese clusters of places, which all have their own delights. People care about their culture, and it’s awesome to see/explore. If not for immigration over the years, I imagine Toronto would be all glass towers, Jack Astors and Second Cups. It would be the soulless mire that Tory/Ford seem so intent on fostering.

Immigrants bring innovation. They have new, refreshing ideas. Everyone has different ways of doing things, and that’s a help, not a hindrance. Learning more about other cultures only strengthens us all. It’s not just about trying delicious food (though personally, that’s huge for me), we’re far better off with diversity. Sometimes immigrants feel lonely, and seek to maintain their own culture. It makes them feel safe and secure. I’ve heard a lot of bullshit when in Rome rhetoric from people saying they should just acclimate to the Canadian way of life. Are the people saying this making an effort to welcome these newcomers? Make them feel like they belong? Are they trying to explore these new cultures? Or are they entrenched in the misguided idea of their own cultural superiority, and refusing to look outside it?

We all have so much to learn from one another, and hate cannot survive empathy. Diversity has only ever enriched my life, and I implore everyone to seek it out where they can.

Your regularly scheduled reminder that polar bears are black with clear fur. Definitely not green

It’s been over six years since I’ve been to the zoo.

I know this, because the last time I went to the zoo it was for a specific event. My friend’s birthday to be exact. It wasn’t long before I left New Zealand for good, and I figured it’d be nice to take the day off to spend it with her. Flashback to two weeks earlier, when I found $70 lying on the ground outside a masonic temple. I then decided to use the money to make pot baking, and take it to the zoo for my friend’s birthday. Flash forward to the day before. Someone who won’t be named helped me buy it (I’ve never in my life bought pot from a dealer. As a 32 year old, I still wouldn’t know how and it’s my secret shame), and someone else who won’t be named helped me make a delicious infused chocolate caramel slice. We took a whole clip container full of the slices, brought a picnic lunch and had a marvellous day getting buzzed watching animals’ natural splendour in artificial habitats. It was an A+ experience, would do again.

I used to love the Auckland Zoo. I went there a ton of times. We’d go on class field trips maybe once every few years. My grandparents would take my best friend and I there each summer. I once helped out a crew for the 48 hour film competition, and we got special permission to film a bunch of scenes there for free. I’ve been here in Toronto for over six years now, and I still haven’t visited. Let’s see, what do I remember about the Auckland Zoo? Bullet Point Time:

  • I went there once for an intermediate school trip. I bought a cookie from the cafe. It cost $3, which at the time seemed OUTRAGEOUS for a cookie. It was marbled, chocolate and vanilla. The cookie had a similar consistency to short bread. You know the kind where you take a gentle bite and a piece crumbles off into your mouth? I really loved the cookie, despite its high price, and vowed to get one the next time I visited as a special treat. Unfortunately, enough time had passed between visits that the cafe no longer sold said cookie.
  • The playground had this really cool Chinese dragon. It got a bunch of facelifts and new coats of paint over the years, but it was always hugely popular. I remember being surprised at just how spiky its back was. Like, that thing was solid concrete. It’s probably why it’s lasted so many decades, but I’m sure it led to a bunch of bumps and scrapes.
  • The polar bears. I used to love seeing the polar bears, but their history is kind of sad. The zoo could never really get the enclosure right, and the bears suffered. One drowned, another got shot trying to escape years back. A ton of them developed skin lesions and died. I remember being surprised to see green polar bears, but that was apparently part of their affliction. They phased them out in 1995, after realising they couldn’t give them a humane home.
  • The aviary was amazing. It was this big enclosure with mesh fencing stretching in an arc above. The birds were free to fly in the space, and there were pathways that took visitors around. It wasn’t uncommon for a bird to land in a tree not far from you, so you could get a good look at them. They all had (comparatively, if we’re talking about cages as the alternative) a lot of room to fly, and it was neat to see them interact.
  • Eventually they made an ape enclosure that was relatively similar. The various monkeys all had a ton of space to move, swing and interact. There were water features and cool stuff to do for them. They had a ton of facts about the different species, and it was awesome to be able to see the size/scale first hand.
  • I always thought it was cool to see the lions being fed. They’d toss the lions these absolutely massive steaks. I definitely had my eye on those steaks. I wonder if I could actually eat one as an adult. I doubt it, but I wouldn’t say no if someone offered me one.

The Toronto Zoo is technically accessible, it’s just really far away. Once the weather warms up, I might take myself there on a day off. I’ve heard they have polar bears and everything.

More like vent-y two, amirite?

There’s a trend happening on social media at the moment, where people will post side by side photos of themselves from 2009 and 2019.

I thought I’d give it a try.

Since navel gazing is one my my favourite hobbies, I thought I’d cast my brain back a decade. Who was I? Where was I at in life? What guided me?

In 2009 I was living and working in Rotorua. After lingering in Auckland post radio internship, I got sent off to “the regions” to level up. I brought all my worldly possessions, a lack of worldly knowledge and an shit ton of entitlement. I was an Aucklander, from the Big City, why was I tarrying with these common folk in a dead arse tourist town? Those weren’t my words verbatim, but they probably weren’t far off. I thought I knew everything. I mean, I was 22, of course I did. It was my first time moving out of town, and I had more than my fair share of baggage. I saw it as a temporary displacement. I needed to earn my stripes, do some good work and get back to where I knew I belonged. Really what I needed was a dose of growing the fuck up, but you’ve seen the picture. Don’t worry, I got there.

The whole experience shook me to my core. I was so used to things just happening for me. I was smart and things came easily. I’d enjoyed school and university, and managed to get through both without too much struggle. It’s not that I didn’t work hard, it’s that I saw myself as constantly deserving of success. It made sense with the way things had gone. I had this innate feeling that I was gonna do well, and evidence hadn’t presented otherwise. I’d hit a bump post university where I was stuck working my government call centre job full time for five months. I naively thought that was rock bottom, then a scholarship came my way and I got catapulted to a position of privilege. I worked hard, people in the industry with Names started to know who I was and what I did. In my head, it was just a matter of time.

Maybe it was, but I was 22. My perception of time was very different than it is at 32. I expected I’d be down in Rotorua for maybe six months, a year tops. I’d be back in the big leagues before I knew it. That was where I was meant to be. At 22 I’d drive back from Rotorua to Auckland maybe once a week. Sometimes more, depending if there was a concert mid-week. Two and a half hours’ drive, I’d sometimes do it closer to two. At the time I’d memorised the entire trip, and could visually recall every single intersection in my brain. At 22 I devoured content voraciously. Every week I’d download several albums and listen through them. It was of the utmost important that I was at the forefront of indie music developments. It was imperative that I had an opinion, because I was 22. I had an opinion on everything. I was always online (before that was the norm), and most of my nights in Rotorua were spent drunk in front of the internet.

At 22 I loved drinking. It was at the uncomfortable point between an interest and a hobby. I drank desperately. Desperate to escape fears that maybe I wasn’t going somewhere. I was “stuck” in a small town and the only friend I’d made there was off 4chan. I had no luck with women, and I was at the stage of life where I thought that defined me. I was incredibly insecure, and I have no doubt that I carried the stink of it. I felt lonely, isolated, and- once again- entitled. I didn’t want to be a Nice Guy, so I was an edgelord instead. It’s the kind of mind frame that’s a roadmap to incel culture. At my core, I just wanted to be wanted. But I looked past my lack of real confidence and blamed external sources. I had so much potential, and somewhere in there I had the potential to become a real piece of shit. Like so much of my life, I was lucky to be surrounded by people who thought when I didn’t, and weren’t afraid to speak up. I had friends who’d known me since age 1, and they course corrected where I wouldn’t.

At 22 I clearly thought I was the protagonist, years before realising we’re all here to help each other. I was deserving of far less than I had, and I wanted so much more. At 32, I’ve earned the lines in my face. I’ve started to realise what’s important in life, and what’s fine to let go of. Some might say I got bailed out again by stumbling into a job I love, and that’d be fair. The difference a decade makes is that I’m now humbled, not emboldened. I’m no longer lonely or isolated. I’ve found so many connections that I deeply treasure. I look for opportunities to help, rather than take. I’m thankful rather than expectant. I love where I’ve ended up, instead of feeling inadequate for not being somewhere else. It took ten years, but those were ten years well spent.

Egads though, I miss having 22 year old joints.