It’s also National Homeownership Month, in case any middle class baby boomers were feeling left out

Pride Month started today. I did a small post on Facebook for friends and I thought I’d expand on it here. You know, for extra credit?

“Hey friends. It’s Pride Month. This isn’t a coming out post as such, because for me specifically it seems redundant. I’m still figuring a bunch of that stuff out (and certain scenarios have indicated that there’s definitely stuff to figure out).

What I’d rather mention is how proud and privileged I am to have such a wealth of supportive community around me. The fact of the matter is, I’m not worried about rushing into labels because I’m unbelievably fortunate for it not to matter. I have all the time in the world to test the waters and see what it is that I’m drawn to across romantic and sexual spectrums.

I know that I have all the time in the world entirely because I’m surrounded by so many wonderful people with a myriad of sexual and gender identities. If I did decide to start identifying in any new way, I know that I’d be greeted by nothing but love. I feel like that’s really something to celebrate. Not everyone has access to the same freedoms and support networks, which is heartbreaking. I wish that wasn’t the case, but I’ll do my damnedest to try and make space for anyone I can to do so.

Happy Pride Month everyone. I sincerely hope that wherever you are, you feel pride in whoever you are, even if you’re still figuring that out.”

I’ve never really been one to care for labels or identity. My sexual identity is no different. Frankly, playing Magic takes up more of my mental and emotional energy than thinking about whatever genders I’m attracted to. It just hasn’t been an important factor in my life. As far as I figure, putting a name to it only seeks to neatly put myself in a box for the sake of others. This isn’t about them, so why should it matter? That’s not to say that identity isn’t an important thing full stop. I’m not knocking it. A lot of people find comfort in how they see themselves. Identity politics can help them gather like-minded individuals and seek out community. I think that’s wonderful. I just don’t think it’s super relevant for me.

Maybe I’ll get there one day. In as far as my sexuality goes, I find myself occasionally attracted to other men. It’s not often though, that this translates into sexual interest or desire. I’ve had a handful of intimate encounters with male identifying people. So far they’ve all been mediocre or bust. Nothing’s particularly grabbed me and encouraged me to seek more out en masse. Then again, I didn’t like oysters for the longest time. I’ve had good oysters once or twice, so who knows? Maybe I’ll meet a good one and they’ll grow on me. Whether it takes further hold or not, I don’t really see the sense in denying myself any burgeoning desires. I know for certain that emotional intimacy with other men holds great importance to me. I’m very fortunate to have a lot of close, supportive friendships with other guys. Tender hugs have become pretty standard. Occasionally we’ll kiss hello or goodbye. It’s stopped holding any kind of weirdness for me. It’s just an expression of compassion.

It’s not like these feelings have come out of nowhere. They’ve been growing slowly over years, discarding outdated societal norms because they no longer make sense in my life. It’s at the point where, irrespective of gender, if I can’t be honest and vulnerable with a friend I start to question the point of that friendship. It’s precisely because of these vulnerable and honest friendships that I feel entirely comfortable taking my time to work it out. I have an overwhelming amount of love in my life. If I did suddenly discover a queer identity that fit me to a T, I know I’d be able to adopt it without fear of persecution or ridicule. I’m pretty fucking lucky. I have a supportive and loving community, a wonderful family that I assume (Mum? Dad? It hasn’t come up, but I kind of figured you wouldn’t care. You’ve always just wanted me to be happy) has my back no matter what. If I came out at work, I doubt anyone would care. Society (and in particular, Toronto) has reached a place where sexual identity isn’t cause for concern. I sweat privilege, and it’s because of the sacrifices and principles of years worth of brave individuals that I don’t have to put a label on anything. It’s evolved to a point where I don’t have to care about it. If that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is.

But I’m certainly proud that we’re getting there.

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Sets and Reps and Boots and Cats

Another post for my local Toronto fitness group. If anyone else gets use out of it, that’s gravy!

There are more ways than one to get your sweat on. Once you get past the myriad of activities and exercises, there’s still variation up the wazoo. I’d wager there are almost as many workouts as there are videos of that one dude smoking different pipes in assorted clothing.

I have a poorly kept secret. I once did crossfit. That may read like I went to a singular class, but the fact is at one stage of my life I was doing crossfit habitually. I realise again my phrasing could be better. As stated, it sounds like some kind of illicit drug. The words “Crossfit Kool-Aid” have oft been spoken, especially by me and at many points while I was doing crossfit. Crossfit tends to get a bad rap amongst athletes, but there are a bunch of things that crossfit is really good at. If you want to push your limits and/or develop debilitating long-term injuries, crossfit is amazing.

It’s also, sarcasm aside, a lot of fun. There’s a big challenge aspect to it, the atmosphere is absurdly supportive and participants non-stop encourage everyone to do their best. Aside from the nigh-constant injuries (that part was in no way sarcastic), it really does get unbelievable results. You feel like you’re part of a team and regularly overcome what you thought possible. Most importantly, it’s a hugely varied program that staves off boredom.

A normal lifting routine will often look a lot like this:

Superset A
3×8 Exercise 1
3×8 Exercise 2

Superset B
3×8 Exercise 1
3×8 Exercise 2

Superset C
3×8 Exercise 1
3×8 Exercise 2

Superset D
3×8 Exercise 1
3×8 Exercise 2

To break that down, you’re doing four different couplets of complimentary exercises. In each of those couplets, you’re doing three rounds of eight reps (repetitions). Sometimes people will add in warm up sets outside of those, but that’s the basic outline. It’s simple. It works. Another common variant would be 5×5 (should be self-explanatory) or some kind of pyramid structure (increasing the weight each set. Then after you’ve reached your peak, descending back down the weights (which should feel lighter after your peak)).

Crossfit says “fuck that”, then makes up acronyms like AMRAP, which funnily enough sounds like a pyramid scheme. AMRAP stands for As Many Rounds As Possible, which gives a time limit and gets you to push yourself to see just how much you can do. An example of a basic AMRAP workout would be:

“Cindy” (they all have names, much like Pokémon, which is cute):

20 minutes
5 Pull Ups
10 Push Ups
15 Air Squats

So the idea is that it starts off simple, but with each progressive round the exercises get harder. After 20 minutes (let’s be real, after 5 minutes) you’re totally gassed and done for the day. BAM, 20 minute workout (plus stretching, etc). If you’re looking for a good, high intensity workout, I strongly encourage you to try out different combinations. This isn’t the only neat set/rep structure we did in crossfit. Here are some others that I liked:

Working down: Pick a few exercises and choose a starting number. Do reps of each exercise equivalent to that number, then for the next round take the number down by one. The fun part with this method is the rounds get shorter and shorter. As you get tired and the exercises get harder, there are fewer of them to do. It’s kind of a bell curve since the middle rounds are really tough, then in the last few rounds you get your mojo back (since you might only have two or three reps in that round). A workout structured this way may look a little something like:

10x Pull Ups
10x Burpees
10x Squat Jacks
10x Dips
9x Pull Ups
9x Burpees
9x Squat Jacks
9x Dips
8x Pull Ups
8x Burpees
8x Squat Jacks
8x Dips

…and so on. For an extra challenge you can also start small and work your way up.

X Gon’ Give It to Ya: I don’t really know what the name is for this one, but it uses the principles of both the above exercises to make something different. You’ll often get two opposing exercises, then start one at low reps while the other is at high reps. So one gets easier as the other gets harder. It doesn’t even have to be entirely number’s game. I really enjoy using this one for working on my hill sprints:

Hill Sprint
10x Tuck Jumps
Walk back to the start
Hill Sprint
8x Tuck Jumps
Walk back to the start
Hill Sprint
7x Tuck Jumps
Walk back to the start

What ends up happening is that the tuck jumps, while active, become a rest from the sprinting. You get increasingly tired from the sprints and as the tuck jumps decrease, you have less time to rest before you’re sprinting again. This one in particular is fantastic for encouraging Fast-Twitch muscle fibers (ones used for explosive movements). If Tuck Jumps are too easy, Burpees are an excellent substitute (or addition).

Keeping Things Interesting: I’m gonna leave you with one more workout. Sometimes it’s just fun having different reps for each exercise based on difficulty. Variety is the sixth Spice Girl, and all. Here’s an easy workout that you can tailor to your level by altering the number of rounds:

10x Push Ups
15x Lunges (each leg)
20x Squat Jumps
30x Mountain Climbers
40x High Knees
50x Bicycle Crunches

Beginner: 2 rounds
Intermediate: 3-4 rounds
Advanced: 5-7 rounds

If you want to gauge personal progression, do it regularly and try timing yourself.

Have fun out there, stay safe and don’t drink the Crossfit Kool-Aid.

Is this how I finally start a cult?

A few years ago, fresh to Toronto, I was looking for a job. For convoluted reasons, with no prior experience, I became a children’s gymnastics instructor.

When I say “no prior experience” I mean that I’d never worked with kids before. Or done gymnastics. Or taught anything professionally. You do the math. Truth is, while it wasn’t my favourite thing to do, I wasn’t terrible at it. I also learned a bunch about gymnastic technique and how to do a couple of things. My handstand walking got much better. My cartwheels and round-offs came a long way. My split front lever was actually pretty reasonable. I never learned to do back handsprings, but it’s not like I expected 2BA Master in a year or so’s time. One trick that I didn’t manage to land, however, was my one-handed cartwheel. It seemed within reach, but I couldn’t quite get there. I trained at it, but face planted more than my fair share of times. Eventually my drive to get there wilted and I forgot about it.

Yesterday a bunch of friends and I were goofing around at the park. One of them was doing one-handed cartwheels and I got wistful. With more than a little Dutch courage, I decided to give them a crack. It’d been years since I last tried and in that time I’d trained not one iota. Nevertheless, I did my best. Turns out my best was good enough. I landed the trick easier than I’d expected. It just felt natural. I was stoked, but also kind of stunned. Without practice, how had I landed it? I gave it more thought and realised that the accumulation of my assorted physical training over the past few years had put me in a position where it was possible.

The lesson being, we’re so often goal oriented. It can be incredibly frustrating when you’re putting so much effort and intention towards something that doesn’t materialise. It’s easy to beat yourself up over your inability to rise to the challenge. That’s not a failing on your behalf. We all have so much potential. Maybe it’s just not the right time for you. All you can really do is focus on being the best you can, but giving yourself enough leeway to understand that being the best you can be doesn’t mean that you have to hit your peak potential right away. We don’t blame saplings for not being towering oaks. Like Mainland Cheese, good things take time. Take heed, shitty Canadian cheese.

I’m an active guy and a lot of my friends know it. I hear so many frustrations from mates who don’t think they’re good enough, fit enough, strong enough. It breaks my fucking heart every time and I’ve had enough of it. The thing is, we all need to start somewhere. My journey through fitness has taken sixteen years so far. I vomited at my first personal training session. It probably took three or four years before I really started seeing active results. I quit and restarted and cried out of frustration umpteen times. It was too hard, it felt like I’d never get anywhere. Whenever I took a break, starting again felt like climbing a mountain. I forced myself again and again to get back to the gym. I hated it and hated myself for my inability to commit. After a while I took away the option of being inactive. Without giving myself compassion, it was a rough road that was all kinds of emotionally damaging. What I gained in discipline, I paid for in therapy both cognitive and physical. I have permanent injuries that won’t ever 100% heal.

What I’m saying is, while I got to a place of progress eventually, I can’t in good faith recommend my path. If I’d been kinder to myself, maybe I’d still have an untarnished PCL or rotator cuffs that don’t click. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s important to listen to yourself, to give yourself the space to not be at 100 all the time. I can say without question that I’ve progressed exponentially since then. Some quick things I’ve taken to heart:

  • If it hurts, stop. No question.
  • There is no such thing as too much mobility.
  • Active stretching beforehand. Passive stretching afterwards.
  • Progress is not linear.
  • Just because you could lift it last time, that doesn’t mean you will today.
  • Form>everything. No goal weight is worth the risk of long term injury. I will regularly drop 10-20kg off an exercise if I feel my form is suffering.
  • Don’t look at the scale. Those numbers mean nothing. Instead, take measure of how your body feels. Are you a little less puffed post-jog than you were a year ago? That’s massive progress.
  • Your body has muscle memory. It’s a lot easier to get back to somewhere than it was to get there in the first place. If you’re not there right now, that doesn’t mean you won’t be again.
  • If your body doesn’t feel ready to be as active as you want, don’t force it. Do something lower impact or save it for tomorrow.
  • No More Zero Days.
  • Forgiveness is a longer road than pressure, but a much safer one.

Take care of yourself if you want to get there in one piece. You’re the only you you’ve got.

If looks could skill

How did you spend your Saturday morning? If you answered “mildly hungover I half-assedly taught myself super basic photoshop” then we’re probably twins and we should go out into the world and play twin pranks.

Because my body told me five hours was ample sleep for a weekend (they don’t call ’em “sleepends”), I woke up with purpose. I was gonna try to learn how to make my Doug Loves Movies poster goddammit. I had my idea, I had paint.net (basically a freeware low-rent photoshop. I can’t recommend it enough) and I had nothing else valuable to do with my time. The perfect recipe for creativity. I started by finding a high res image of the original film poster. Then to get it out of the way, removed the “N” from the title and copied the “E” to make an “L”. I fine tuned the edges by alternating between the dropper tool and small tipped paintbrush. This was some serious pixel shit. I trawled Facebook for a useable photo of me (the only one where I’m not copping a big dumb smile) and got to work. I added my face as a layer and sized it with her normal face. I drew corresponding white lines to those of the poster and trimmed off the sides of my face that would otherwise be out of bounds. For far too long I did this using the “overwrite” function on the paintbrush, before remembering that the best way to erase was just using the “erase” tool like any non-insane person. With my head sized right, I trimmed right around the edges to keep it as flush as possible with her face.

Then came the interesting part, with the face layer completed, I wanted to try and recreate the key lighting effect from the poster. I made a new layer to create a gradient of red/purple from the top left (getting the specific colours with the dropper tool). It took a bit of tooling around with hues, but eventually I had it figured out. I made yet another gradient layer to get light on my face from the bottom right. It wasn’t nearly the same as the gorgeous saturated light effect, but it was something. Then came the pedantic bit. I got the eraser tool out and went all the way around my face on the first gradient layer, basically separating the gradient that was on my face to that outside of it. I did the same on the next gradient layer, so I had my facial gradients and all the wasted stuff on the outline. Then came the fun part, where I got to increase the eraser footprint to the size of a fucking tree and clear off all the unnecessary gradients, so I just had the light on my face. I then went into the layer options for each gradient and put them to “glow”.

Voila, I was done!

Now if I had any standards, I’d put more work in. I feel like I didn’t really understand the layer opacity functions until after I’d done all the incredibly finicky outlining. By that point I flat out couldn’t be bothered going back to set a new gradient, because I’d have to do all the outlining again. If I’d done it I would’ve cranked the colour saturation right to the brink and softened the layer opacity to compensate. Maybe I’d use the lasso select to give myself purple eyeliner and make my features pop a little more instead of blandly sitting under the layer. Maybe I’d even do work on my lips to make them stand out. I dunno, as someone who knows nothing, the concept of digitally giving myself makeup is a little intimidating. I’ve got so many plans in the next 24 hours, I barely have time to print it. Still, for two or so hours of my life, I’m happy enough with the outcome. It’s a lot better than the cut/paste job I was planning on doing initially.

I certainly didn’t expect to end today with a whole new skill.

Definitely lower case on that whole “skill” word.

I guess normalised nudity is in my rear-view too

All good things come to an end. I mean, shit things do too, but that’s beside the point. We’re on the road, leaving an unforgettable weekend behind. Taking nothing but the memories and excessive quantities of snacks we brought. So long, and thanks for all the MOOP.

It’s hard to succinctly summarise such an expansive, weekend of endless experiences. I don’t have the wherewithal to explain the complicated feelings of sadness over leaving it all behind, while craving so much the touch of my partner and the four walls in which we’ve made our lives. Can someone make me a German compound word for it? I think there’s beauty in the transitory nature of such a vibrant ecosystem. I woke up this morning and looked across the vast fields of tents and structures. In eight hours it’d all be gone, the Leave No Trace team doing their damnedest to preserve the land that’d given us so much.

Hyperborea was like altered reality. An extended weekend with no egregious interactions. Everyone greeted me with a smile or a hug. Their generousity was bountiful, encouraging sincere reciprocation. Any time I could help a stranger or do a favour felt like a gift. Like called to like and I loved being able to give of myself. There was nothing but greenlighting. The principle of radical self-expression wholly invited offers of creativity without judgement. If someone was to strip naked and dance around the fire, cheers would erupt. If one was to start singing, others would join. A vibrant celebration of individuality and reminder that none of us are truly alone. An overabundance of affection and faith in the human spirit. How do I not embrace total strangers with a consensual hug and a peck on the cheek?

I don’t know how I’m supposed to sit in a cubicle tomorrow. What does it feel like to not live communally? To hold in thoughts and not speak your mind liberally? To be so bound by social conventions and polite niceties? To have to wear clothes at all times? To hide your individuality behind the shell of who people want you to be? Who am I when I’m not being me? Or is the real question, how do I be the most me I can be while playing inside the structures of others? I was wrestling with identity while staring into the burning effigy. Now I’m contemplating what parts of me were sparked by the events of Hyperborea. What path will this take me down? Are there lessons to take away in order to enrich my life?

The trip isn’t far enough in my rear-view for me to see how I’ve changed, but I know for sure that I have. As we watched the temple burn last night I looked around the circle. The air was still and quiet. I traced the faces of all assembled, diving back into endless transient memories. Conversations and meals shared. Dance and massage partners. Experiences both ephemeral and lasting. As I gave of myself, so too did they leave part of themselves with me. Much as this all sounds like nonsense, I did preface it by saying it was hard to explain. If this is my self-expression, I don’t want it to be anything less than radical.

‘Cause Hyperborea surely wasn’t.

Good ol’ fashioned effigyniality

I’m not entirely sure what I expected out of a Burn, but I don’t think I could’ve planned for any of it.

It’s been so interesting entering wildly different spaces. No matter the theme camp, the unifying factor seems to be an overwhelming generousity of spirit. An excess of gifting, both emotional and of tangible goods. Walking through the grounds, I find myself hustled over by well meaning folk. “We’re having a bacon party” they’ll say. An array of treats greet your eyes. Bacon wrapped marshmallows smothered in chocolate. Cream cheese bacon dip, chocolate covered bacon bit shot glasses filled with vanilla and apple whiskey. An angel stops by the camp every morning with home baked cookies. A cornucopia of culinary delights. Spicy tequila shots, distilled spirits, sangria, midnight poutine, crepes, cold brew and that’s just the fucking tip of the iceberg. Oh, and iceberg lettuce in the free salad bar. My stomach and heart have been so gosh darn replete.

The generousity of activities are a marvel too. Octomassage was something else. Eight people rotating giving the person in the centre a simultaneous massage. Eight sets of hands on your body was an enveloping sensory experience. Everything was consent based, with participants aiming to give the massagee their desired physical release. Having hands on your shoulders, upper back, feet and butt at the same time was unreal. There was such a sense of goodwill, with no ulterior motive outside of making the face down participant feel as great as possible. Especially after having received such a boon, it was gratifying to be able to give back and help others access the same joy.

The most intense experience, however, was the burning of the effigy. I came in cynical about city hippies coming out to the country to set shit on fire. When it came time for the effigy to burn, I was taken in completely. Seeing ashes blow into the night sky, strata falling apart, all consumed by the encroaching flame, it stirred something inside. I began to question the person I needed to become and what I’d have to give up in order to get there. The pain of separation a thousand times over. A life of constant death and rebirth, finding myself again and again. One of our blissful connections, a French Canadian dude, came over to talk to me about the Maori gods. It brought up feelings of regret, guilt. Had I abandoned my homeland? What had I taken with me? Was I too proud to admit the pain of separation? Had my resolution in leaving been the right path? I stared into the flames and wept uncontrollably, wondering when it was I’d find my path in life, instead of the purgatory of aimless drifitng. I found comfort in the arms of my friends as I sobbed into their shoulders. I unravelled, cut open to the world with a vulnerablity I’m not sure I’ve ever felt.

Something in me shifted, and I’ve got no idea how it’s settled. I feel different this morning, attuned with my body and trusting that my mind will follow. I spent time in the sauna, sweat dripping out of my pores. As my bodily fluids drained, I felt something leave me, as if a possession had lifted. I’ve remained naked throughout the day. I joined friends in the field doing naked yoga. I lay bare underneath the sun to feel connected. I’m starting to feel centred. As if I’m coming back to rediscover who it is I am. I’ve got no idea what it is I’ll find beneath the surface, but I know I’m ready for something different.

With no concept of what’s burned away, I’m excited and scared to know what’s left.

The bar has never been this low

I’m going to be very distracted right now. My favourite streamer is doing charity streams and it’s top notch entertainment.

Gaby Spartz is streaming Magic while soliciting donations for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. She’s getting people to put in song requests for $5 a pop. Chat is trolling quite severely. There was a request for John Cage’s 4’33”, which was sublime. Secondly, she’s brought back #winesday. At this stage she’s maybe half a bottle in and getting mildly belligerent. I think she just threw some gang signs. She’s also wearing a chicken onesie. Even better, her and LSV have been taking donations all week for a corn-dog-athon. Because they got to about $2,500, LSV has to eat 10 corn dogs.

Compounding the whole thing is the fact that I’m now officially on holiday and have shit to do. Yet I’m watching a grown man eating 10 corn dogs live. This is why the internet exists.

Goddamn I want corn dogs now.

I should be finishing packing, but he’s already downed one and I can’t turn away.

I had to dash out earlier to pick up 1 ply toilet paper. He just finished the second and I can’t stop thinking about how hard it’s gonna be for him to shit tomorrow.

I’m 100% sober, but geez it feels like I’m drunk. He’s four corn dogs down, holy fuck. He just inhaled that last one. I haven’t had a corn dog for years. Goddamn. I’m so distracted, he’s finished six. Jesus.

I got last minute snacks on the way home from work. I’m still worried I have insufficient snackage. Now I wish I had some way of bringing corn dogs. He’s 9 down. What a machine. He’s not even slowing down.

“What are we doing for dinner?” He asks.

I’m glad he at least has a variety of condiments. Am I gonna bring condiments with my to the burn?

He’s finished all ten. Now they’re soliciting donations to make him eat more. Now drunken Gaby is trying to peer pressure him into it. “DO YOU EVEN CARE ABOUT THE KIDS??” This Is Entertainment. It looks like they ordered enough corn dogs that the restaurant gave them full sized bottles of mustard and ketchup.

I can only imagine the kind of ridiculous stuff that’s about to go down this weekend. One of the defining philosophies of the burn is that of immediacy. To stay in the moment. Can I say that watching this ludicrous display is me practicing my immediacy? Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned in all of this and I’m gonna try to pull it out of my arse.

Maybe it’s about putting myself up against challenges that seem indomitable to understand my own competence. Maybe it’s about finding hidden talents. Perhaps discovering that even if I think I’m in the wrong place, maybe I’m already where I need to be.

Or maybe, just maybe, it means I’m gonna leave the house at 9pm and go off in search of corn dogs.