If I was a contender, I’d go by the name MeLeeon.

When I was around seven or eight years old, I thought medieval stuff was the coolest. I still loved super heroes and transformers, dinosaurs were right up there, but medieval anything was a newfound obsession. It started exactly where you’d expect: Reading King Arthur. Here was a person who came to rule through exceptional circumstance. He started with nothing and ended up a king. If that wasn’t enough, he surrounded himself with a bunch of badass knights who all had their unique skills and attributes. To an eight year old, Arthur was pretty rad, but Lancelot was where it was at. The greatest swordsman in the land, but not an infallible hero. Even at that age I was drawn to characters with flaws, anti-heroes or those whose moral compass veered slightly off due north. I thought the whole affair with Guinevere thing was a bit shit, but created an interesting conflict. Then along came Galahad, who seemed too righteous to be any fun.

Finishing the book caused me to dive deep into fantasy novels. Courageous heroes wielding swords, shields and axes. Grizzly monsters and fire-breathing dragons. Magic and back-stabbery galore. I fucking ate it up. I fell hard for Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf series and its diverse skillsets of magika and mental abilities. I loved Diablo and Warcraft, tried Dungeons and Dragons. I devoured Song of Ice and Fire, which went on to become the biggest fucking thing in the world. To this day I still play Magic the Gathering heavily. As it stands though, there’s still one thing I have yet to do to really harness my love of fantasy. In three hours, there won’t be.

I’ve never visited Medieval Times.

I first saw it on the 1996 Jim Carrey film The Cable Guy. It looked amazing, but also didn’t seem real. I was convinced that it was just invented for the film. Keep in mind that this was pre-internet and I lived across the other side of the world where it certainly didn’t exist. A friend and I took a trip to Chicago once and found out they had one. Without a car though, it would’ve been way too far out of the way. Disappointed. We then did a road trip across America, but still didn’t come close enough to one. Then I moved to Toronto and discovered that not only was there a Medieval Times, but they did birthday discounts. HOLY SHIT.

Three years have passed since then and I still have yet to go. Tonight however, tonight is the knight. I get a 45% discount through work, which makes it pretty damn reasonable for a night out. I’m pumped. It’s not logical how stoked I am right now. Friends are coming over, we’re gonna have drinks then go out to see the fantasy world of my childhood come to life. You know those moments where you’re reduced to that state of youthful wonder? I feel like that already and I’m not even dressed yet. Thing is, I don’t even know what I’m in for. It sounds dumb, but I’m not actually sure what the show contains. I assume jousting and sword fights. People have said you get a crown. I know that one of my co-workers used to play the executioner as a part time job back in college. We’re gonna get a big meal and drink beer. I may go hoarse from cheering on our very own Lancelot. I’ll likely be amped up from a little pre-drink before we go.

Goddamn I’m excited and the more I talk about it, the more excited I’m getting. Is this how normal people feel about watching sports? Why don’t we go out to watch athletes joust and melee any more?

Who cares? I WILL TONIGHT!

Wait, I’m a “snowflake”? Have you looked outside?

With Toronto covered in a gentle blanket of snowfall, there’s very little that holds allure other than keeping cozied up inside. Retreat sounds like a fantastic word right now, seclusion from the world around. It’s a shitshow out there, but being holed up at home with central heating, food and internet is nothing of the sort. I’ve been thinking of the concept of retreat a lot lately, but divested of the notion of defeat. Retreat as a pre-emptive measure, taking time to reassess and recuperate. Seeking simple comforts, a luxury in this world where some people have so little. When comfort comes to my mind, however, there’s one sensation that rises to the top. Nostalgia.

As I’ve mentioned over the past few weeks, I’ve been falling back into old habits. Playing more Magic, listening to some of my more formative musical fixations. I’ve been thinking fondly of the video games/systems I so obsessed over as a kid. Sega Mega Drive, N64, old MAME style fighting games and side scrolling beat ’em ups. This regression feels symptomatic of a subconscious sense of loss, longing even. I’m casting my mind back to a time where I felt overwhelmed by the world around me, but excited rather than weary. Before cynicism kicked in. The future seemed so far away, but shiny and hopeful. Now that we’re in a future, it’s hard to look past how far the world has slipped. It’s hard to hold an unfettered hope for continual progress when the Netflix release of a Dear White People series prompts a #whitegenocide response. I guess nobody said we’d all evolve in the same direction.

My desire to reengage interests from when I last felt the world held nothing but promise makes sense, much as it disappoints me. I should be moving forwards instead of looking back. The answers aren’t gonna come from hiding away from the world. Still, this is why YA fiction has a massive adult fan base. It’s why we continue to watch shows with twentysomethings playing 16 year olds. A longing for a time when things were different, when responsibility meant that at the end of the day, your parents had your back. When the world was unfair because you might get roped into a family dinner instead of hanging out with friends. Seems leagues better than the potential of being refused entry to the U.S. because you won’t hand over your social media passwords.

I’ve been reading Max Landis’ leaked Power Rangers film script. It’s not perfect, but seems the natural evolution of the 90s franchise. It’s PG-13 material while still having an edge. It’s got humour and creativity while still paying homage to the goofy mess of camp that Power Rangers once was. It has unexpected twists and more characterisation than we’re likely to see from this solemn blockbuster treatment. I’m happy to be proven wrong (and they’ll still probably get my fucking money. Bastards), but outlook not so good. Reading the script of an IP I adored as a kid felt neat. I didn’t feel totally pandered to, more that I’d consumed a script written with deep enthusiasm for the subject matter. Landis may act a little entitled at times, but when he nails it he nails it.

I’m sure we could chalk this one up to SAD and leave it at that. At the same time there’s an obvious correlation between lack of direction and seeking out our anchors. What last made me happy? How do I bring that feeling back? How do I head towards it while still moving forwards? We live in that future now, surely we can bring the past along with us.

Maybe hum along, just tune out the lyrics.

How’s February going? Good ol’ Frosty February, Toronto’s equivalent of frigid fallout. Long weeks at work with nary a beam of sunlight. How is one supposed to bask? It’s not like there’s even reflected glory on hand, ’cause everyone’s so gorram miserable. Things so far have been pretty mild, which is to say that yesterday everything was covered in a slippery sheet of ice. One wrong step and your ass was glass (fragile, not transparent). Could we have a moment of silence for tailbones across the city?

Thank you.

I wouldn’t say I’ve been wallowing, but I’ve certainly been retreating into die hard creature comforts. Frankly I’m surprised I haven’t yet devoured the Goosebumps omnibus. Instead I’ve been spending late nights working on Magic decks that’ve been sorely missing some TLC. It’s been nice to ratchet down the amount of time planted in front of a computer, even if it’s for another sedentary hobby. What else am I supposed to be doing? The streets are ice!

Musically I’ve also regressed. Nostalgia’s tough to beat when things around you seem cold. Over the past week I’ve delved into Tool’s discography. It’s comforting to know that while I’m not chaffing for a brand new release from the band, I can still have a pretty good time cranking them up. The fervour is gone, the rabid enthusiasm of a teenager has long departed. That being said, it’s been a hell of a while since I last heard “Sober” or “Prison Sex”. It’s pretty fun charting the evolution of the band from the spark of their prog metal roots to the goliath stadium band they became. Plus metal is a real good time when the sky turns dark. I’m plummeted right back to late high school, early university. Moshing is suddenly covered in this shiny veneer, somehow forgetting that the shiny veneer in any mosh is other people’s sweat. It’s a little nudge in my side reminding me that even though I don’t seek it out, when I feel like hearing metal it’s a helluva itch to scratch. I know what you’re all saying, seek it out, right? Maybe I will. Maybe. I. Will.

We both know I won’t. Who do you take me for? George Washington?

I also took a deep dive this morning back into Sublime. Sublime’s an odd one for me. At age 12 you’d probably catch me listening to them for upwards of three hours a day. At age 30 it’s pretty tough to identify with their particular brand of West Coast bro ska culture. In that typical 90s way, the band had zero room for nuance (did the word “problematic” exist back then? Surely that word couldn’t co-exist with the board game Dream Phone). Still, it’s hard for a bunch of the tracks to not resonate, given the deep groves they’ve etched into my brain. Bradley James Nowell had one hell of a sweet voice (apparently he inherited perfect pitch from his mother, but that could just be internet rumblings) and it really shines on Sublime Acoustic: Bradley Nowell & Friends. The recordings are messy, assorted bar performances with background chatter/yelling. His voice, however, shines through. Tracks like “Boss DJ” or “Don’t Push” are reinvigorated, while “Pool Shark” is a whole new beast. Like Cobain, I’m not sure how gracefully Nowell would’ve aged culturally, but I’m hard pressed to not smother those years of listening in fondness. I know that every summer I’ll crank out their self-titled at least once.

Maybe summer will come early this year. Right in the cold, dead heart of Toronto winter.

Maybe I did and this is what heaven feels like. Can you get sinus congestion in heaven?

I could’ve died.

Out of happiness, that is. Surrounded by friends accumulated through the first twenty or so years of my life. My best bud, who I met at age one. He pulled me out of a rip once. A smattering of kindergarten mates. Friends from New Entrants and primary school. My friend whose Malaysian family practically adopted me ages 11 through 17. Community theatre friends. The gal who’s tying the knot tomorrow. Close university friends. The guys I flatted with, three doors down from my parents’ place. My Magic/board gaming buddies. Old high school friends I hadn’t seen in years. Friends’ new boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives. A table covered in salads, deliciously marinated chicken, a delectably charred side of barbecued beef. Endlessly flowing wine, beer, cider and spirits. One room crammed with my favourite people in the world.

I could’ve died happy right then.

There was a sensation that’s hard to describe and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt it so acutely. Standing in the kitchen having fixed a drink, I looked around and was stunned, deer-in-headlights-style. I didn’t know where to go. I could take a step in any direction and be engrossed in conversation with anybody in that room. Every single person there was someone I could’ve eagerly spent hours talking to. The fact that I couldn’t have dense quality time with had me almost paralytic. Fear Of Missing Out in its most profound. A special concoction of anxiety interleaved with high-octane bliss. I was having trouble functioning because I was so monstrously enraptured. Whittling away the moments I had by mourning the time I never would.

So I flitted around, airborne on whimsy. I stopped haphazardly, in love with every conversation I had no matter how short. I got distracted and jumped from friend to friend, like a frog adrift in a pond covered with lush lily pads. I breathed in the most exquisite snuff of old memories. Had I the chance to relive that night ad infinitum, I could have never lived another and died happy.

I decided not to read my speech, ill-content to cause anything that could jostle the evening’s calm sailing. Until I was press ganged into it. Decades worth of goodwill led attendees to sit through my sub-ten minute speech. It was heartfelt, earnest and surprisingly well received. Then the music came back on and I was shaking with something resembling eternal contentment. Hashtag blissed.

If fate deigned a moment for me to go, it could nary choose better.

This post leaves me with a pineapple lump in my throat.

It’s weird the way that homesickness can manifest. I can’t say with confidence that I’ve felt full blown homesickness since I left. With my impending trip all of four days away, however, there’s a familiar itching not in my throat, but in my belly. Of course I’m looking forward to reuniting with family and friends. I’m no monster. Truthfully though, my heart is flooded with a hitlist of foods I miss. Most of them won’t make sense to non-Kiwis, I’m sure. Let’s take a look. What exactly am I craving?

  • Pineapple Lumps: Pineapple flavoured marshmallow covered in a thin layer of chocolate. If that sounds bizarre, have you never dipped pineapple in chocolate fondue? Have you never truly lived? Oddly enough, they’re fantastic after being chilled in the freezer. Gives them a pleasant snap when you bite into them, but the marshmallow becomes far chewier.
  • Whittakers Peanut Slab: Whittakers’ chocolate blocks are floating around in Canadian stores. They’re expensive as all hell though. The peanut slab is a solid little block of chocolate with peanuts. Sounds simple, but the texture is hard to describe. They’re chunky enough that you couldn’t talk with a bite in your mouth.
  • Cookie Time: Third chocolate adjacent item in a row on this list. Cookie Time cookies are large and crispy, but with a soft enough centre without entirely giving way under a bite. It’s hella specific, I know. Once again, you’d understand if you had one.
  • Lewis Road Creamery Chocolate Milk: Why not add one more to the pile? There was enough of a national craze over these that they had to impose purchase limits. Years later the desire has died down, but I still have yet to partake in said craze. Why not get on the bandwagon, even a few years later?
  • Apples: Some kind of Pacific or Rose or Pacific Rose variety. Pacific Queen, even. Dense, crisp and sweet, but with a slightly tart edge. The perfect apples, in my opinion, are like candy from the tree. New Zealand does them well and I can’t wait to grab a bag.
  • Feijoas: Strange sour-sweet little green orbs. They ripen in bunches, enough that when they do you’re usually eating nothing else for a week. It’s been too long.
  • Kumara: Think sweet potato, but sweeter. A purple skin with a noxious yellow interior. I like my sweet potatoes, but they ain’t a patch on a good kumara.
  • Lamb: Canada does excellent pork and its beef is decent. The difference between Canadian and New Zealand lamb is equivalent to the distance between both countries. A big roast lamb leg or a few racks wouldn’t go amiss.
  • Cheese: We’re a dairy oriented country and our cheese is pretty fucking good. It’s at least good enough that I’ve had trouble finding basic cheese blocks here that remotely compare to our classic “tasty” (cheddar) cheese. There’s a sharpness you don’t find in stock standard supermarket brands and it’s a sharpness I sorely miss. Even with Extra Old, it pales in the face of the cheese I grew up with. This isn’t simply the rose coloured glasses of nostalgia, I know it in my heart of hearts.
  • Marmite: Speaking of my heart of hearts, I’ve been longing tubs of this thick, salty nectar since I ran out. Not to be confused with the tamer Aussie and British varieties. Goes great with the aforementioned cheese on a cracker and I can’t wait to chomp down on that little piece of paradise.
  • Coffee: Kiwis love their coffee. Toronto has its fair share of decent cafés, but your benchmark in New Zealand is a lot higher than Toronto. Drip coffee doesn’t exist, most people will get their daily flat white or at worst, french press. Me, I’m all about the mochas. Let it rain sweet hot caffeine all over me. The third degree burns will all be worth it.
  • Pies: If you’d thought I had my fill of pies for life working back at Wisey’s, you’d be wrong. I’ll hardly copy my brother, who had six pies in the first few days of being back Down Under. Still though, I’m missing a mince and cheese something fierce.

If the key to my heart is in my stomach, then I left my heart locked up back home. Soon to be reunited and it’ll feel so good.

I’m sure they all wondered why they stayed so long. Then they read the poop jokes.

Do you ever look up your exes on Facebook? I certainly do. From time to time my mind will wander and my fingers will follow suit. Usually following an old “On This Day” post, I’ll get curious. What are they up to? Where do they live? Can I somehow contrive to have “won the breakup”? I’m petty like that occasionally. Most of the time when this trope comes up in movies, TV shows, it’s accompanied by strong pangs of longing. Pining for days long past when you were last happy. In moments of relationship strife, it seems easier to romanticise what you left behind. Yeah nah bro. I can’t think of a single ex I’d want to get back together with. Communication, empathy and sex with my girlfriend are leagues better than they had been. So many of my past relationships fit the period of my life when they occurred. I’m not sure that they could’ve withstood the person I am. Then again, who would I be if I were still with them?

To be honest, I primarily hope to see that they’re doing well. I’m lucky, in that none of my past relationships were spectacular tire fires. One came close, but with the benefit of hindsight it’s easy not to hold a grudge. In the end, things just failed to work out. They weren’t bad people. I don’t think I was. I don’t doubt that we all said or did stupid things, but I was fortunate enough not to have left the encounters with deep scars (he says, until he’s ten gins deep). I’ve moved on and I assume they have. Still, what’s better than assuming? Knowing.

There are all these loose threads left when a relationship bites the dust. Did they finish their degree? Are they working in the fields that they sought? Did they travel like they wanted to? Have they found someone who complements them in ways I never could? Have they maintained a good support network? Those friends of theirs I grew close to, are they still kicking around? What about their families? After they were so welcoming, it was kind of shitty to flat out never see them again.

I’m happy to report, most everyone I’ve snooped on is doing fine. Some have ended up in places I never expected. Others followed their plan to the letter. It may just be the way that people use Facebook, to showcase the rose tinted view of their lives. It could be that internally they’re struggling, but don’t want to subject their friends and family to their hidden torment. The messy ones are probably still messy, but from the outside, it looks like I didn’t leave any wrecks in my wake. Does this leave me pining? Is it possible to triple underline NOPE?

The thing is, I’ve played the “what if” game and the results are never satisfying. I follow the threads and I’m disappointed, then remember why we broke up in the first place. Perhaps it’s symptomatic of how I date. I rarely go looking for drama or intrigue, because I’m kinda boring. I tend to end up with nice people who rarely fuck me around and I try to return the favour. I haven’t maintained many exes as friends, barring one notable exception. It’d be easy to make the argument that being in different countries makes it tricky. More often though, it’s that behind the attraction, there wasn’t much of a friendship to fall back on.

Thanks for the memories, I guess.

I’m an outlaw! A calligraphiend!

How often do you offhandedly mention something to friends only to be met with a resounding “wait, WHAT?” It could be something long forgotten to you, something you took for granted. Perhaps you just assumed that everyone had the same experience. Very quickly though, it becomes apparent it wasn’t common to sleep suspended in a birdcage hanging from your ceiling.

I’ll put it this way. Did you ever get your pen licence?

I casually threw out the words “pen licence” at a party last night and the room collectively lost its shit. “What do you mean, pen licence?” “what were the penalties for unlicenced pen usage? Probation? Incarceration?” “did they put it on your permanent record?” “did each new teacher check your documentation before entering the classroom?”

See, at primary back home we had a graduated handwriting system. Yes, now that I type those words I feel a little dumb. As a method of teaching good technique and adherence to form, we would follow certain restrictions. The end result was a bizarre tier system that made sense at the time, but now seems amazingly arbitrary. In essence, it was the summation of our entire system of teaching handwriting.

The default was to start with pencil, printing. We’d do lines and lines of the same letter and upon filling up a whole page, bring them up to the teacher to get marked. If it was deemed unsatisfactory, we’d have to stay back into recess until we’d improved. This sounds barbaric and felt so at the time, but really teachers aren’t idiots. They could see who wasn’t putting effort in and/or tried to blitz through to get it over with. My handwriting has always been borderline illegible (I once did a letter that looked neat and happened to be tiny, so from then on I wrote in miniature font. Took me years to cast off that terrible habit.

After a steady series of well done printing, you’d be ushered into the next tier. Cursive. I feel like the only reason I graduated to cursive was out of pity. See, my writing was disjointed enough that linking together letters made them look like new unknown characters. Those poor old teachers who had to deal with my sanskrit-esque scrawls. Thing was, all the other kids were doing it and the teachers felt bad for me. Is that the definition of selflessness? None of it was to their benefit, but it made me happy and I felt accomplished.

The weird part here is I feel like this graduated licensing spanned multiple year levels and I have no idea of how they kept track of each student’s progress. As an adult, the idea of auditing kids’ writing talent systematically seems really peculiar. If we moved from one teacher in one year level to another, what happened? Did they actually chart our skill? Or did they rely on honesty from the kids?

In any case, much like cursive, I never actually achieved my pen licence. Here I am, having spent years illegally and illegibly spreading my dastardly scribbles. You know what though? The mainstream adoption of typing was one of the best things to happen to me (and even then I don’t have regimented touch typing technique). Now I can put word after word on page with digital ink for the world to consume. Just think, if I actually got my pen licence, would I have ended up becoming this prolific? Or would my love of handwriting kept me in the paper age?

What a shame that would’ve been.