Give ’em the good new fashioned

My girlfriend had been telling me for months that there was something secret and special planned for the wedding.

“Is it a flashmob?” I asked. “It’s probably a flashmob.”
“A secret is what it is.” She replied.
It was a flashmob.

As the years have passed, I’ve naturally attended more weddings. Each a little different, each their own. What I’ve come to appreciate the most is how each couple tailors their marital unity to their distinct personalities. It’s neat to see all the little touches they add, whether in presentation, vows, even food. This wedding was entirely the summation of these two individuals tying the knot together.

The vows were incredibly sincere, and made absolute sense for a couple who’ve been together for the past 15 years. While distinct people, they’ve grown together in many ways. A myriad of nicknames and bits found their way into the vows, while I didn’t know the couple well enough to be in on them, I still got the gist. I don’t know that I managed to straight up cry, but there were definitely a bunch of moments that yanked on the ol’ heart strings. The vows made sense in a modern context, talking in a wider sense of trust and understanding, a desire to grow together, work as a team and see the best intentions in one another. I mean, they were worded much more sweetly than that, but the gist is there.

Everyone involved in the running of the wedding was absurdly pleasant. Nothing close to any drama. There was the wedding party (denoted by their silly tiny hats), helping out with little tasks around the place. Making sure the bridegroom ate, drank and had anything they needed.  The servers taking around finger foods were lovely, incredibly friendly and super helpful. The bar staff were great, and the DJ kept things rolling on. I don’t know that I’ve ever been to a wedding where both the Tetris theme and Die Antwoord have played, but it was that kind of wedding. Get on board already, geez.

The food was excellent. Instead of a personal meal, they had servers coming around with all sorts of hors d’oeuvres. The bride assured us all that nobody would go hungry. She was right. The hors d’oeuvres did not stop coming. There were calamari sticks, meat and veggie skewers, potato cake things, mushroom risotto, pad thai in takeout containers, these amazing fig and blue cheese concoctions, warm pumpkin soup in little shot glasses, and my favourite, the seared tuna. Even with my reduced appetite, I still managed to try everything. Except maybe the desserts. There was a literal wall of desserts, and I had no hope in trying more than three or four things.

We had such a great time. The music kept going until the early hours of the morning, and the dance floor stayed full the entire time. All of the couple’s friends were great, very easy to get along with. There was nothing contentious whatsoever, just a wonderful night of excellent people getting hitched. And a flash mob.

If you have to ask, it’s probably a flash mob. And it was a fun one.

Was cleaning afterwards considered a dust-y dust?

Welp. I just hosted my dream funeral.

To be clear, I had no idea how the event would go. It was uncharted territory. An attempt to celebrate life, and explore the mix of darkness, humour and sincerity that keep me going. The basic conceit was that the party was a mix of funeral and wake. There was a bell anyone could ring. If they rung the bell, it was their turn to give a eulogy for me. Whatever they chose to say. In an attempt to give a modicum of respect for the dead, I also kept the floor available for anyone who chose to share a eulogy for someone they’d once loved, or a memory from their lives. Nobody took that option, but it was there just in case. Who knew if it would be a farce, or incredibly sombre. Knowing my friends, I assumed the former,but I would’ve accepted the latter. It was in every part, the former.

My girlfriend and I had done some last minute prep. We hung black streamers from the centre to the corners of the room, draped like the roof of a tent. We put a black foil curtain over the entrance to the living (/dying) room. We made charcuterie. We had havarti, gouda and aged cheddar. We bought chorizo, maple smoked ham and sliced salami. We had crackers, pickles and olives. As a birthday present my girlfriend had ordered me a ton of Cookie Time snacks for sharing. As always, I love being able to share my favourite foods with people, and invite them to try things I grew up with. They were just as delicious as I remembered. Friends brought with them a heap of snacks, and ultimately we have more snacks left than we started the party with.

It took a long time for people to show up. I got antsy. Had the theme kept friends away? We had a start time of 7:30pm, in the hopes that it’d get people arriving closer to 9pm. A friend arrived just before 9. By 9.30pm, another friend arrived. I was nervous. At around 9.40pm, some more friends arrived. Then more, and more. The living room was thriving with conversation. Suddenly, I heard the bell ring. My friend stood on the table and gave her eulogy to The Bone King. As my mortal enemy, Wingding, she lorded her victory for all to hear. She stood in exultation and beamed with pride that she had finally conquered her arch nemesis. It was wonderful. Soon afterwards, another friend gave a heartfelt eulogy extolling my virtues. Mostly though, he wanted to shoehorn in a pun. It seemed only fitting.

One of my good friends stole the show. He’d prepared a written eulogy based on absurd and notorious injokes. Our shared love of Manischewitz (a bit that keeps on giving) and my well-known hatred of Marmaduke. He (lying), talked about our ritual of “Mani and Marm Mondays”, where we’d get together to drink Manischewitz and read Marmaduke comics. He then explained in excruciating detail, a Marmaduke comic from panel to panel. Egads I hate Marmaduke, and I love my friend for digging in so deep.

Just after midnight, when the party was in full flow, I gave my own eulogy. It was fucking great. Every joke landed just as I’d hoped they would. It’d been so long since I’d last done a speech, and I forgot just how much I love the process. Understanding how to read the room and deliver words for maximum impact. I got to share personal bits with friends who understood and appreciated them. I had my moments of sincerity, and got to truly thank everyone for being there. There was a point where I looked around the room. It was filled with people I cared for so deeply. They were all shooting the shit, chatting or playing games. Everyone was well-fed, and we had abundant drinks for anyone who needed them. I was so happy with how it went, and if my real funeral is anything like it, I’m gonna die a very lucky man.

As for now, I’ll just have to settle for living a very lucky life.

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.

Is “I watch too much TV to watch TV” a real issue?

I watch more and less TV than ever.

Most of it isn’t elective viewing. Given that I’m working in Described Video, my job literally requires me to watch TV for eight or so hours per shift. I have very little control over what I watch. Sometimes it’s good, most of the time it ain’t. Whatever, that’s my job. I’m not complaining. It still boggles my mind how dominant reality TV is after all these years. Entertainment is entertainment, and I judge nobody for what they choose to watch. That said, egads these shows are fucking garbage, and I’m sure that’s part of the attraction. Rich white women with manufactured conflict and unrelatable issues. I’m sure it’s part train wreck, part vicarious. What would it be like to have all that money, and such simple problems? Hell, I see these dating shows and mentally insert myself into the situation. What would I say? How would I react? I get that. What I don’t get is how, in the Golden Age of Content, we’ve placed the mundane on such a pedestal and made stars out of unremarkable nobodies. Things like Bravocon freak me out. I don’t know at what stage people go from mocking to idolising these figures. It’s beyond weird. Celebrity is fucked up, but that’s nothing new. I mean, it gave us Trump, right? That played out well…

I don’t know what the point of that preamble was, if not to say that I’m watching TV all day at work. When I get home, it’s hard to sit down and get invested in a narrative. My stack of TV I meant to watch has grown out of control. I never got around to Chernobyl, which I’ve only heard amazing (and bleak) things about. I think I’m a series behind in Killing Eve, which feels like a travesty. That show is a goddamn marvel. Excessive critical response to Succession tells me that I’m far overdue to watch and catch up. Search Party is one of the most original shows I’ve seen in years, and my girlfriend and I have been at the start of season 2 for yonks. I don’t know what, aside from discomfort maybe, has kept me from diving deeper into Baskets. It’s as funny as it is cringeworthy. I have yet to finish Hannibal, a show that I can’t believe ever made it to network television. Still haven’t finished Legion, something I would’ve chastised myself for a year ago. I loved True Detective season one so much, and while season two was a shitshow, I’ve heard overwhelmingly good things about season three. The Americans is apparently impeccable, but the amount of seasons feels daunting when my list is already so long. It’s part of nobody’s water cooler talk, so I think I’m safe for now. Speaking of which, when am I gonna start Deadwood? Will I ever get far enough into Lodge 49 that I understand the widespread adoration people feel for it? Then again, Fosse/Verdon is supposed to be fantastic and the people involved are amazing. But what of Watchmen? It’s been so high on critics’ lists and makes sense given all of my tastes. It feels like if there’s a time to start, it’s now. But Kumail/Emily’s Little America is only a week or two away. When am I gonna find the time for that?

All of which is to say that I started Ramy last night at around 2am and instantly fell in love. While I’m not and have never been religious, I really appreciate media that depicts religion as an everyday part of normal people’s lives without being preachy. It’s something that’s integral to so many, and in the kind of narratives I watch it’s usually some kind of boogie man or metaphor for a system of control. Thing is, belief is something we all have whether religious, spiritual or systemic. While much of the cultural climate depicts faith as an outmoded concept, for so many it isn’t. Ramy, from the one episode I saw, manages to depict the struggles of living a modern Western life, balanced with the demands of personal faith. Specifically with the Muslim faith, I’m so naive as to what it means in a mundane context. How does it change dating? Work? Social interactions? Does it even affect those things? Is it possible to package all that into a hilarious, heartfelt show that’s immensely accessible? It looks like Ramy may well have those answers.

So I guess that other stack can wait.

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.

How does this thing work again?

Let’s face it, I’ve lost track of how to keep this place neat and tidy. I’ve been writing for years, and at first there was some semblance of organisation. I did a catch up every 100 posts. I’d do a NYE round up of the previous 365. It’s not the 31st of December, but I can’t be bothered waiting. I used to be considerably more strict about order, and it was likely for the better. I’m not saying that I Have My Doubts has dissolved into a flagrant dung pile, but that I’ve steadily lost interest as the years have continued. I’m honestly toying with the idea of closing up shop at some point in 2020, unless sentimentality takes over. This project has been by my side through the wonderful, weird and woeful, and I regularly question whether I still need it. Who’s to say? But that’s not anything I need to decide today.

Today is about getting the band back together and reliving a tradition that dissipated years ago. 2019 has been a mixed bag of mostly highlights. While many suffered heavily this year, I found myself buoyed by some life changing upswings. Let’s get into those topics.

Career:

Egads, things turned around. I had a bunch more disappointment flow through from 2018. Application after application gave me rejection after rejection. I did interviews and came away with good impressions, which failed to materialise. So of course the one job I didn’t interview for was the one I got. It involved a bunch of last minute hustle, which all came up Milhouse. Now I work in Described Video. I love my job. I’m happy to go into the office. I get to be creative all day long. It’s a combination of writing, performance and audio production that seems to be at a crux of every skill I wanted to harness. What a weirdly fitting position to be in. The pay is excellent, and the work life balance of four days on/four days off is unbelievable. After struggling for years, the gratitude I have for this role is staggering. If anyone expresses the slightest curiosity for my work, I’ll gladly talk their ear off. I’m passionate about it, I love the craft and I’m so happy to finally be doing something that helps others. It’s Ikigai pure and simple, and I still can’t believe I’ve found it.

Health:

This was a big one. After years, maybe decades, of suffering through undiagnosed depression, I finally got a diagnosis. Turns out all that time I thought I was depressed, I was. Getting my diagnosis was a cluster of factors. Firstly, a couple of friends posted openly about their experiences with medication. On some small level, I had a personal stigma against trying it. I’ve long carried a deep seated mantra that if I can’t do something on my own, I don’t deserve to have it. Stupidly, mental health got sucked into that moronic morass. Secondly, I’d been seeing an OHIP sponsored therapist, and we weren’t clicking. We’d been looking into Cognitive Behavioural Therapy as a method, and the results were minimal. During one session, the therapist talked candidly. She said that I was entirely understanding CBD and using elements of it myself, but the methods weren’t helping. She said that there’d be nothing wrong with bouncing between therapists, but I’d be wise to consider that maybe medication was the way to go.

I talked to my GP, and she was amazing. She consulted me on every decision, carefully taking the time to explain anything and everything I could want clarified. She gave advice, but ultimately left choices up to me. Together we worked out which medication would be best, and it worked. My bioaccumulation period was mercifully gentle, and the medication did what it needed to. It softened sharp edges. It froze spiralling thoughts quickly enough that I could work out what was worth caring about, rather than getting overwhelmed. It helped me take stock of my life, and turn things around. I’m not gonna say the power of positivity was my saviour, but releasing the constant tension in my brain did wonders for me. I worked through my issues slowly and methodically. I came to terms with what I had the power to change, and things that weren’t worth the significance I gave them. In no small terms, it turned my life around. It was the best decision I’ve made in years.

Comedy:

I know “less is more” is a common enough expression, but it sounds like quitting talk. In 2019 I did very little comedy, and mostly gave up. The desperate creativity my depression forged fell away with the medication. My thoughts are less jagged, but my mind feels less sharp. It’s been a worthy sacrifice, but it has driven away my thirst to do comedy. I’d wager that while I became happier, 2019 has been a low point for my writing in general. It’s felt obligatory to an extent that it hadn’t in previous years. The saving grace, I guess, is that I’m producing a friend’s podcast at the moment. Perhaps that’ll ignite something, or at least I’ll get the joy of enabling someone else.

Relationships:

2019 felt like the first year that poly paid off for me. I’ve been able to more adroitly narrow down what I’m wanting out of it, and that’s really helped. I’ve realised that I don’t have a ton of bandwidth for full on relationships. What I’ve been seeking are close friendships that may or may not involve sex/romance. To that end, 2019 has been a resounding success. I’m going into these connections without expectations. Some of these people I’ve kissed, some I haven’t. Some I’ve gone further with than others. They remain in flux. Just because I’ve shared romance or sexual activity with someone, it doesn’t mean that’s a mainstay of our friendship. Maybe we’ll do it again, maybe we won’t. In either case, it doesn’t change the friendship. I’ve been enjoying that kind of intimate entanglement with others, to whatever extent it encompasses. Finally, after years of instability, it’s felt like I’m starting to understand how poly fits into my lifestyle. All good things.

Pop Culture:

Look, I’ve watched a fair bit in 2019, but most of it was Pre Cats. Cats was an insane fever dream that should not have happened, but defined the laws of nature and decency to exist in abundance. The screening was unreal, a collapse of order in the highest level. It was thrilling and unexpected at every turn. This film is unquestionably abysmal, and I will see it again in theatres. I cannot wait for it to become a mainstay of midnight screenings, in the vein of The Room and Rocky Horror. Also I think I made a personal pact not to see Disney movies in theatres anymore. We’ll see how long it takes me to break that oath. I’m fucking tired of big tentpole franchise films. It’s cool that they exist, but I’m okay with Marvel sitting a few years out. These live action Disney remakes are needless nonsense, and Star Wars films have stopped being special.

It’s almost 2020. I ordered a nice new cheese slicer. Things are looking up.

What is life, if not the ultimate procrastination?

I have been procrastinating for the past hour, and I don’t know how to start, so that’s my entry point now.

My procrastination has been varied. I’ve gotten up to eat at least three times. The first time I chopped up some cabbage, plucked cauliflower, grabbed cherry tomatoes and squirted some QP mayo. A quick snack was born. I returned to the fridge soon afterwards for a top up of something. I drank some flat coke zero and cut a thick slice of mozzarella. All of ten minutes later, I took to some leftover rice with sauce, armed with a teaspoon. Oddly enough, I’m still hungry. Maybe part of that whole arrangement was meant to involve real food. Protein, even? Alas, it didn’t, so I’ll likely get up halfway through this entry to eat more.

I’ve looked outside. Really, my girlfriend and I went for a coffee walk earlier. I should understand what’s going on outside. The thing is, outside is always in flux. I’ve stood and looked out the window a few times. At one point, the garbage bins were full. Soon afterwards, the garbage guys were picking up our neighbour’s excessively full bin. I looked again recently, the street’s bins are open/empty. Like I said, in flux. Who knows what I’ll see if I look out again. Maybe a car will drive past, or a person could be dog walking. The wonders and excitement never cease outside these four walls.

You know what CrAazY shenanigans we got up to? Well we went to a new place to get coffee, but the cafe was closed. What a riot, right? We were across the street from an LCBO, and my girlfriend asked if we should get more mocha kahlua for special coffees. We entered, and ZOMG it was on clearance. We bought the last two bottles for $4 off!!! The zaniness never ceases around here. Not only that, but at the supermarket bananas were fifty six cents per pound. Just utter lunacy.

The walk also reminded me that while I’ve been in the area for six years, my memory of the wider zone has holes like Swiss cheese. I don’t know the names of side streets. I’m not even sure how they all interconnect. I feel like, despite the fact that I’ve walked, jogged and biked through my surrounding streets, I still don’t know them like the backs of my hands (which frankly I’m not certain I could pick from a line up). I’ve been recently looking at the area in different way. We’re being booted from this place in the Spring. I’ve never rented another place in Toronto. What we have is a great deal, and I know we won’t find its like in a fiscal sense. I still love where we are in Toronto. On my walks, I see a ton of renovations, building permits, etc. I keep my eyes peeled for any “For Rent” signs around. I’m not against living in a different part of Toronto, for sure. It’s just nice to have friends and amenities so close. Like a little community.

While it sucks to be giving the apartment up, it is kinda exciting to be able to have new features in a different place. For instance, our water. It takes a while to heat up, and once it gets past a certain warmth, it accelerates to scalding almost instantly. We’ve become hyper aware of how we use the water around here. If I’m in the shower and I accidentally tap the handle with my arm, I press myself flat against the opposite wall as a survival technique. If not, I could be standing under a cascade of boiling water. Filling the sink to do dishes is like threading a needle. Moving the tap back and forth every so slightly to get the water just so. Or elsewise deglove our hands as soon as we reach in. Having to walk through the gauntlet of discarded detergent bottles, dryer fluff and questionable mystery objects beside the laundry and turn on the heater once per year.

Just think of the possibilities. Or is that a topic for a different day?