Hirsute Yourself 13: The right to beard alms.

Bye bye beardy, I’m gonna miss you so. For the past three and a half months I’ve been cultivating a lush (read: scraggly and unkempt) head of hair on my chin and cheeks. I use the word “cultivating” loosely, ’cause that sounds like effort was involved. It was more a lack of effort. There was no conscious action that went into this face fuzz. It happened through a combination of time and neglect. I wasn’t aiming for any goals, I simply didn’t bother shaving for a while.

It’s been weird having a beard. Not that I’ve been particularly bothered, but people feel super entitled to just come up and manhandle your chin. As if they’re patting a puppy or something. I guess others flat out assume that you’re used to it and grab a handful. Who do they think they are, former NZ Prime Minister John Key? There’s this pre-existing connotation that if you don’t look like you skin people professionally, then you must be a jolly bloke if you own a beard. Some kind of Boisterous Bruiser type, most likely.

Tonight though, it’s getting the chop. Mother Earth got the hint and finally showed Toronto a crack of light. It’s gonna be the sweaty season soon and there’s no fucking way I’m dealing with a chin carpet in the sun. I’m going to a wedding in a few weeks, so it makes no sense to hold on to it. Also to be honest, I’m sorta tired of accidental water reservoirs dribbling down and staining my shirts. It looks silly (because of the aforementioned lack of styling) and doesn’t really suit my face. On one hand it instantly makes me “that guy” at a social event, but on the other, it means that people are super keen to talk about my beard, something of which I have little to no opinion.

My one regret about dropping the beard is missed costume opportunities. I mean, tonight the costume I’m doing looks better without a beard, which is contributing more than a little to the shearing. Come Halloween though? I’ve always wanted to do a good Wolverine costume and Logan has made the whole look a shit ton easier. It wouldn’t be a stretch to look haggard and decrepit for a change. Much like the beard, it’d be as easy as putting in no effort.

I will miss a thing or two about it. Last night I discovered that if a pen is small enough I can hold it in my beard Pebbles style. It’s a great thinking aid when I’m pondering the mysteries of the universe (when am I not?). Most of all it’s nice to know that I can grow a beard if I want to. Not that I often will, but at least it’s an option.

If only I could donate it to someone in need. Like people shaving their long locks and giving them to cancer sufferers. To use my powers for good. Clearly I’m no hero.

 

Much as he would seem a southpaw, Buddy was a retriever, not a boxer.

If finding a copy of Monkey Up at Dollarama a couple of weeks back wasn’t a sign that we need to start the Pawdcast up again, then this definitely is. I’m starting a super low key grassroots campaign to see if we could host the event. Because what’s to lose? The Pawdcast might not be family friendly, but we’ve absorbed enough wholesome entertainment that I’m sure we could fake it. The concept is bonkers, of course, but just crazy enough to make sense. Imagine, my co-host and I standing in the Harbourfront Concert Stage introducing a film about a basketball playing pup to an audience of parents, children and oblivious stoners because one day two years ago I thought the concept of a golden retriever doing back handsprings ad infinitum was funny enough to record a friend and I chatting about its wider mythos for hours.

Buddy never did back handsprings, but he sure did capture our hearts.

It just dawned on me that it’s been almost five months since we last recorded an episode. That’s crazy. We resolved to come back once the weather was warmer and that’s barely been happening in the past couple of weeks. Five months. Fuck. I suppose in having some semblance of a social life again (or at least remembering what my girlfriend’s face looked like, rather than passing like ships in the night), it was too hard to track time as it zoomed past. Five months. I guess that makes sense. I own a beard now. Or maybe it owns me…

The Pawdcast was a lifesaver last year. Much as I dreaded being constantly busy. Much as I dreaded having to sit through children’s film after children’s film. Much as I dreaded having to think of how to fill an hour or more of podcast every two weeks, I needed it. Being stuck in a job that I wanted out of after six months, I had to have a solid creative outlet that would push me to branch out of my comfort zone. The Pawdcast provided that. Writing/voicing parody trailers was tough work at first, but I did it. Getting back into the grind of audio editing was slow going at first, but after a few episodes I got back up to speed. Building up chemistry with new guests week after week was daunting, but I had no choice, so I went with it. Doing these things helped re-awaken long dormant mental muscles and brought back a part of me I thought I’d lost to the daily grind. For all my talk of dreading the work involved, that’s just my natural response to being challenged. It’s not something I enjoy, but it’s something I know is essential for me to keep up momentum or elsewise collapse.

Unfortunately, much as I’m into forcing myself back into the magical world of the ABCU, it’s not on the cards right away. The Pawdcast is not just me, it’s a small team who are all vital to our little operation. Our producer has a sketch group she’s assistant producing. My co-host has jumped off the freelancing train and into full-time work that’s taking up more of his energy and time than he can spare for another project right now. We’re gonna have to stay on hiatus for at least another few months. So Monkey Up will elude me for a little while yet.

The question now becomes, what do I do with myself? I’m still in that dead end job, with no way out on the immediate horizon. It’s an energy vampire that gives me no creative outlet. If I don’t funnel intention into some new endeavour soon I’m gonna regress into going through the motions. I’ve been me long enough to understand these patterns and they don’t head to a desirable destination. I had a writing room I wanted to set up with friends, but people were too busy at the time. Maybe “now” aligns for everyone. I wonder if there are skills I could be upkeeping by giving myself little projects. More audio editing, perhaps? I’d been thinking of taking some improv classes to help foster that mental alacrity. Maybe it’s time to work at letting my brain keep up with my mouth. Or could I finally pick boxing back up after years and mould myself back into shape?

I need something, whatever it is. Because when I get bored, I stagnate. Which seems awfully unbecoming for one of Toronto’s foremost Air Bud enthusiasts. What Would Air Bud Do?

Résistance banned.

I broke a piece of gym equipment yesterday. I felt immediately bad, but also unsure as to what my next course of action was to be. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I knew the right course of action was to fess up and bring the evidence to the front desk, but the seven year old in my head told me that I’d get in trouble and suffer repercussions. What if they took away my computer privileges for the week (as an aside, when I was a kid we had TV weeks and non-TV weeks that alternated. One week we’d be able to watch TV, the other there was no TV to be had. I fucking hated it then, but I’m kind of stoked now. It forced me to find other sources of entertainment like playing with my toys, reading books, drawing. As an adult I no longer have non-TV weeks. I’m tuned in all the time and as a result, it’s rare for me to engage in a ton of creative endeavours. There’s no argument I’d be significantly more productive if I wasn’t so concerned with missing a moment of the internet. That was all)? Bummertown USA.

I wasn’t even doing anything egregious when it broke. It was one of those rubber tube things for resistance work. As it turns out, it couldn’t resist my pure herculean strength. Or else I wasn’t using it correctly. I guess we’ll never know. I have no earthly idea what the exercise I was doing is called. I learned it while I was in physio and it always kicked my arse back then. You get the tubing (in retrospect, I’d probably previously used one of those more solid black bands) and place it on the ground. Next, stand on top of the tubing, feet about shoulder width apart. Pick up the handles in the opposite hands so that the band makes a kind of ‘x’ shape in the middle. Then raise your arms above your shoulders, ensuring that they’re extended straight. Then hinge at your hips while keeping your arms straight, very similar to the mid position of an overhead squat. From there it’s a matter of crab walking with arms held high. Take care to keep your body aligned (rather than leaning to one side), in order to prevent work going into your back. Crab (verb) in one direction for 8-12 decently sized steps, then crab back still facing the same way to work the other side. It’ll burn your glutes to bits and with the arms raised, becomes a great full body exercise (though keep your neutral spine as best you can to once again prevent back pain).

I kept up my side of the bargain, but the tubing couldn’t keep up its side. I felt gutted and thought about the other members who’d want to use a piece of equipment that was no longer available. It wasn’t the only one there, but who knows how often they replace their gear? In the end I took it up to the front desk and awaited my reprimand. By reflex I almost put my hand out for a slap on the wrist, but no rebuke was forthcoming. They thanked me for bringing it in and the only sore part was my butt after two and a half sets.

Maybe it doesn’t always hurt to do the right thing. Maybe this is a lesson to quash my constant flight response in favour of crusading for justice. Will I suddenly no longer be a bystander at heart? Will I turn over a new leaf towards bold new growth?

Of course not. They might take away my TV privileges.

Is it possible to exercise demons? Smite them with treadmills and shit?

This post is gonna be a hard slog. I’m operating at 25% capacity today.

I feel swampy right now. In my effort to shunt back to healthier habits, I’ve taken the cold bucket o’ water approach to a couple of things. No coffee today. The duelling tensions of sleep vs activities, artificial vs naturally produced energy, have meant that my coffee use has escalated as of late. It’s been none-too irregular for me to have four or five cups a day. Considering that all bar one of those are shitty brew coffee that I don’t even like, begs the question as to why I’d go there in the first place. Pretty sure it’s a combo of boredom consumption and habitual addiction. Too much coffee has meant flailing afternoons, which have led to crashing in the evening, no energy to get out and do things. I’ve been way less social than I’d like, unless prodded by alcohol. Not the place I want to be.

Drinking a ton of coffee is symptomatic of a larger addiction to consumption. It’s both because of this addiction and a cause of this condition. I feel a need to consume, which extends to filling a cup of coffee. The more I drink, the more my inhibitions are lowered. My sometimes foods, while usually during outside meal times, have become a larger part of my daily intake. I’ll make an exception for something I wouldn’t usually have, then make that same exception the next day “because it was okay yesterday”. Then I feel grumpy and bummed out that I’d veered so widely, leading to eating my feelings later on in the evening. At work our new-ish boss always has a well stocked treat table. If I had the discipline to not be treating myself constantly, I’d exercise it. With the way things have been, it wouldn’t surprise me if a caloric consumption (not that I’ve been counting) of one and a half to two times my normal intake has been the rule, rather than exception.

It’s a dumb, but understandable pattern to fall back into and it’s been throwing my mood way out of whack. I’ve been alternating between extreme grumpiness and fatigue. I’m distractible all the time. It’s shitting on my ability to concentrate on work, turning me into a home-bound mope and making me feel shitty about my body. It sucks. It’s also something that nobody else can really help me with. Sure, there’s emotional support, but emotional support is not habit forming and won’t help me get anywhere. It’s something I need to take care of on my own, because it’s not something I’m doing for anyone else. It’s also far from the first time I’ve hoisted this bugbear atop my shoulders and I’m sure it won’t be the last. As always, a long term view, self-compassion and hard work will be lead me in the right direction. Right now though, it’s slow going.

One foot in front of the other. Again and again.

How far do I want to push this metaphor? If I tried hard enough, could I cash in on the lucrative key ring sponsorship market?

At what point do you decide that something has given you all it ever will?

Okay, that’s way too wide a question. I’m not sure how you’d define that into a focused answer. So I’ll start rambling instead. We had two bands play short two song sets at work today. The New Pornographers and Cold War Kids. Both are bands that I used to listen to with some regularity. I had TNP’s Mass Romantic and Electric Version on repeat for months. Fun, poppy hits with excellent harmonies and toe tappin’ tunes. I listened to Twin Cinema and Challengers, but neither impacted me as much as their initial albums had. When Together failed to deliver, my enthusiasm for the band petered out (a phrase which I only just read may date back to the depletion of mineral refinery. The mORE you know, eh?). I haven’t as of yet listened to their 2014 release Brill Bruisers and it’s unlikely I’ll hear the follow up in two weeks. I got from this band what I wanted, which has served me well. No regrets, but neither am I mining their subsequent albums for new, fresh material. In my mind, they’re petered out.

Even if you weren’t, I was pretty impressed with how I turned that etymology around. Self love, people.

New Pornographers were a band I enjoyed. Cold War kids were a band I adored. I thrashed Robbers and Cowards. A distinct vocal sound combined with innovative production and refreshing songwriting. “Hospital Beds” (which has an excellent Florence and the Machine cover), “St John”, “We Used to Vacation”- fuck, I’ve gotta stop or I’d be quicker to say “the whole album”- hit me hard. I fell in love with all of these tracks and they found their way to every contemporary mix tape I made for years. Loyalty to Loyalty had a couple of neat songs too. The ones I liked worked into my constant rotation. “Mine is Yours” bombed hard for me. The sound, more stadium oriented, was no longer what I wanted from them. Much like The New Pornographers, it wasn’t for me, so I stopped cold (War Kids?). So it goes.

I could name a stream of bands who followed a similar pattern for me. The aforementioned Florence, my almost eponymous Kings of Leon, Arctic Monkeys, TV on the Radio. I don’t know if this is more a comment on the effects of wider audience reception, fame and success, or that I have specific tastes. All I do know is that at some point, these bands have taken a fork in the road where I’ve refused to follow. The journey to that tangent was fantastic, but we’re clearly not meant to go down every road we see.

Seeing Cold War Kids in particular today, the band sounded great. Previewing new material off their forthcoming album, the experience of seeing them live (and shaking the lead singer’s hand. They awkwardly didn’t know what to do after the short set. He’d seen me kneeling on the ground during the performance, walked over and extended his hand) still had a stirring effect on me. While things may have changed, the seeds of that which had called to me were rooted fast. I don’t know how I feel about the new tracks, but I loved them in that context. Would I feel the same with the mixed versions? I’ve got no idea. Are there gems hidden in their past two albums I ignored? There may well be.

There are some messages in here about persistence, trust and faith. Like Cold War Kids’ past two albums, I haven’t decided if I’ve got the energy to search for them right now. Maybe though, just because I’ve pushed a door close, it doesn’t mean I need to lock it.

Gland to be of some use.

I think the most exciting thing I’ve done in the past hour was get up to go to the toilet. Bleak. This isn’t the life I yearned for as a child. Then again, as a child I wanted to grow up to be a dinosaur or Wolverine. Hell, I probably would’ve settled for becoming a wolverine. I could go for having potent anal scent glands used for marking territory and sexual signaling. I’m sure it’d be preferable to this dim office job. I can blame the weather all I like, but truthfully not a day passes that I don’t rue my lack of a special upper molar in the back of the mouth that is rotated 90 degrees, towards the inside of the mouth. Now THAT’s something that’d make my CV pop.

As a kid though, outside of the desire to inhabit every pop cultural IP I could easily obsess over (and there were so many), I found it hard to latch on a Stanislavski style through-line of action with which to be guided. In short, I didn’t know what I wanted to be. Furthermore, I didn’t know what was within my reach. My parents were always encouraging, but grounded. Reach for that rainbow, but don’t expect the pot o’ gold to be waiting for you without working for it. For years I decided that I was gonna be an actor, almost purely because I shared a birthday with my favourite actor; Jim Carrey. At this advanced age of eight I hadn’t pursued acting with any zeal. I just thought it’d be fun. People would give you lines and you’d say them. Then you could play superheroes as a job and all would be right with the world.

I didn’t actually start drama until age 13 or so, and even then it was a pretty tepid toe in the water. For something I’d supposedly wanted to do my whole life (five years basically being that at 13), I kept myself from launching headfirst. To be honest, I was fine. Totally unremarkable. I could act, but without the spark of greatness that eludes 99% or people who truly believe they’ll make it. I knew it, and so the dream passed me by without any particular feelings of loss. It didn’t matter, I had potential. I could do anything. As the years went on, I did a ton more and my expectations of what the future held widened. I’d write a book, or articles, or a comic, or speeches. I’d act in movies, TV shows, voice act. I’d edit video, audio, music. I’d do something in media. Surely that was a more defined dream?

I hope nobody is expecting some profound discovery or declaration here. I have worked in media for going on ten years now. I’ve had a plethora of jobs that’ve certainly varied in satisfaction levels. Even if the only constant in my future careers is uncertainly, I know at least that I’m in the right industry. I am the very model of middle class angst. Having your life struggle surrounding the fact that you’re fine, but have yet to excel is the kind of privilege so many would adore to suffer.

I may not be Wolverine, but when the right costume party strikes there’s nothing stopping me. I might not have found my niche in media, but it’s better than clawing at the industry from the outside. Taking a shit might be the highlight of some days, but give me a cup of coffee or two and that’s one thing I do excel at.

It’s a foregone conclusion that I don’t trust myself, but others are pretty reliable.

It feels like an age since I’ve “done” anything. I don’t mean like I’ve been frozen in carbonite. I’ve been out and about, though rarely after dark because it’s cold and I’ve kind of had enough of winter by now. I mean I’ve been unproductive. I’ve had spare time, which has virtually all been sunk into this ridiculous early 90s Magic the Gathering game. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been enjoying the down time, but something inside me is itching, telling me I need to create or perish. I mean, look at my writing lately, with the exception of that Clickhole style piece I put together it’s basically been LivejournalLite around here. Things have been calm, and I’ve been self-taught (by my own neuroses) to believe that if I don’t make a storm of my own, I won’t like the one that inevitably comes in its place.

I’ve potentially got an interview on Sunday with one of my favourite bands. A band I’ve been following for years. They’re bloody prolific and lyrically dense. I’m kind of low-key terrified of this whole shebang. I’m certain it’s gonna be a don’t meet your heroes situation, that either they’ll prove to be dicks or I’ll be shamefully unprepared and feel like a bag of dicks. In this scenario I’m the bag holding the dicks, not having a craving that only a bag sized quantity of dicks can satisfy. I’m trying to think of interview questions, but it’s like butting my head against a wall repeatedly.

What can I ask them that will actually engage them, that won’t make me appear a total twat? Questions that aren’t the same stock ones interviewers throw at them every time. What angle can I take? I’m not a particularly cerebral fellow so it would be downright odd to try and approach them on that kind of conceptual level. I’m certain that they’re smarter than me, so it’ll be all I can do to not just nod repeatedly while trying to bite my own tongue out of mortification. Moreover, I know that being terrified to do it is all the more reason I should, so next time it’ll be one millimetre less frightening.  I need to do the things I’m not good at to get better, right? That’s how upskilling works?

The other tumbleweed rolling around in my head gathering bracken is about a sitcom idea. I had a dream the other night about writing a show. It felt so possible, but with work required that when I woke up, I went back to dream and made my brain keep working on the elevator pitch. I don’t want to talk about the specifics here, but I mentioned it on Facebook and developed traction with a friend about potential plot lines. The more we talked about it, the more realised it felt.

My first reaction to anything like this is always to dismiss it, because the thought of how much work it would take makes me want to never think about the idea again. Yet again though, it’s something that scares me, which means I should likely be running at it headfirst. It’s not something I could do alone. I’m far enough removed from the subject matter that I’d need to work with people who’ve lived elements of the experience. If I could help facilitate that though, I know so many funny, creative people who would knock this concept out of the park. What would be the harm in getting together in a room for a day and sharpen the soft edges? Maybe put together a basic outline that could be honed into a tighter script? If time is the big cost, is that really such a loss?

What have I got to fear?