We all need tomboy-dy to love.

Another day, another weird subway experience. I’ve made a policy as of late that if people are gonna talk to me, I might as well listen. Unless I’m really focused on what I’m doing, too tired to be disturbed or generally don’t think I’m gonna have the peace of mind to be respectful and receptive, in any case. Who knows? I might learn something from the experience, even if it’s merely to not talk to strangers on the subway. I could be privy to a new outlook I’d never considered. I could form a strong connection. Hell, if it wasn’t for random people conversing with me in public when I arrived in Toronto, I probably wouldn’t have met a bunch of my close friends. The idea, in my head, is more of facilitating what they’re saying. If it’s anything particularly egregious, I’ll be fine stepping in and saying something. If not, why not let them talk? I figure most people starting up conversation in public are venting for the most part.

Today I hurried into crammed subway car. Relieved I’d made it in on my first try, I exhaled deeply. I heard a loud voice (I was wearing headphones, it must’ve hit a certain volume threshold) from behind me.

Voice: FUCKING FUCK. GEEZ.

I turned around and looked. I caught this dude’s eye. Reasonably tall, black, bushy beard and a cap. Missing a tooth or two in the front.

Dude: What the fuck is this all about, eh?
Me: Like, why is everyone here?
Dude: It’s all fucked. Why we here, man?
Me: Capitalism? You’re not wrong.
Dude: FUCKED FUCKED FUCKED. WHY FLYING FUCK? WE ALL FLY, WE ALL FUCK. FLYING FUCK. FLY AND FUCK.

At this point I figured maybe he wasn’t making some larger statement about society, so I let him ramble. It was basically more of this for a while. I didn’t really know what to say.

Dude: Do you know _________? (I had no idea who he mentioned. Some famous person, presumably).
Me: No idea who that is.
Dude: What about ________? _________? ________?
Me: No, sorry. I don’t know these people.
Dude: They’re all fucked man. Ugly fucking dude, dumb fuck.
Me: Okay…
Dude: Well what you think about that?
Me: I don’t know these people. How am I meant to have an opinion on any of this?
Dude: Sheesh, opinions? Why’d we need opinions?
Me: You asked me what I thought. I said I didn’t know these people. I’m not sure how to have a conversation about things I don’t know.

At this point we hit Yonge. Most people filtered out. Some woman told me she liked my accent. I said thanks. I still had no idea what was happening, so I figured I’d lean in.

Dude: You know what a tomboy is?
Me: Uh, it’s what people call girls who dress boyish, right?
Dude: Naaaah, it’s women who really like men.
Me: (for a second, entertaining the notion that he was broaching some larger point about the irrelevance of gender) I don’t think that’s true.
Dude: They wanna fuck men so they dress like ’em.
Me: I don’t think that has anything to do with it.
Dude: I like tomboys man, they’re sexy. Fuck.
Me: Great.
Dude: Yeah man (notices my bag on the ground. Puts his foot on the top (there was very little in there. It’s not like he was squashing anything and I was curious about what he was doing). Hey, put your foot up and I’ll kick this up.
Me: What?
Dude: I’ll pole vault it.
Me: Pole vault it?
Dude: Pole vault it. Pole vaulting.
Me: Isn’t that where you vault yourself over a bar by pushing with a pole?
Dude: What?
Me: With a pole. That’s pole vaulting, right? That’s what you’re talking about, right?
Dude: What?
Me: (Grabbing back the bag) It’s funny, we’re trying to have a conversation but we’re talking past each other.
Dude: What?
Me: Exactly.
Dude: (pulls out a lighter) Can I use this on your beard.
Me: No. Not at all.
Dude: Why?
Me: Do I really need to give you an answer for that?
Dude: Why not?
Me: If I say no, I don’t need a reason. The answer is no.
Dude: You can do it to me.
Me: I don’t want to do it to you.
Dude: Why?
Me: If you’re on fire it’ll probably hurt you. I don’t want to hurt you.

We got off the subway.

Dude: (tries to pull me towards convenience hole in the wall) You got some change.
Me: No. I use debit.
Dude: C’mon man.
Me: No. Anyway, I’m going to the bus. I don’t know where you’re going.
Dude: (follows onto escalator. Stops walking) Let’s go to TD.
Me: I’m not going to TD. I’m going to work.
Dude: Let’s go to TD man, I need to buy a bottle.
Me: That’s cool, but I’m not doing that. I’m also not gonna stop people from walking through.
Dude: Man, you’re no fun.
Me: You’re actually not wrong.

I do it to myself.

My takeaway? I need to make Egg McMutton a thing.

Had an odd encounter on the subway yesterday. As I sat down, I noticed an older man practically barking at a younger woman. He was sitting in the blue priority seats right next to the door. Usually I’d have my headphones on but after a gruelling gym session that made walking difficult, I was deeply craving a calm head-space. By the sounds of it, this wasn’t what I was in for. The man began going off at anyone in earshot (so namely, the whole car). Everyone was doing the Toronto shuffle (looking down at their feet, pretending not to pay attention while their ears pricked up).

I was busy chasing the dragon in Bejeweled, but I heard his voice directed my way. “So people don’t give a fuck about cripples now? Is that it?” I looked up and we exchanged glances. He talked at me “people too selfish to give a shit?” I thought for a second and replied “I dunno. That could be it, though usually I find people are more often ignorant than malicious.” His brow furrowed “people are fucking stupid, that’s what they are.” I paused for a second. “Do you really think that? Maybe they just didn’t realise.” “Not every cripple is visible” he countered. Excellent point. “Not getting out of the fucking way. Inconsiderate teenagers.”

I laughed “since when have teenagers ever been considerate? They’re still learning what being a person is.” He shook his head and replied, still angry “We were made to respect our elders. I never would’ve gotten away with this shit.” I nodded. I thought for a second. This was a voice I rarely ever heard and it sounded like he needed to vent. I could do worse than giving him my ear for ten minutes. “Things probably were different in your days.” “How do you know?” He barked “you weren’t there.” I shrugged. He continued “I fought two wars for this country, I have trouble walking and nobody gives a damn. You say people are ignorant, but they can’t leave these seats empty just in case someone needs them? Fuck ’em.”

He paused. “You’re not from here” he exclaimed “what part of the Commonwealth are you from?” “New Zealand” I replied. “New Zealand, eh? D’ya hear that at McDonalds you guys have got the Egg McMutton?” I laughed then sighed “I wish. I’d order it every day.” He looked up and noticed the station “Oh, Spadina? I’m getting off here.” He stood up and shouted “EXCUSE ME”. Nobody moved. “HEY. GIMP COMING THROUGH.” Still, nobody moved. The car wasn’t packed, but a guy was standing in the middle of the doors. They opened and the guy didn’t get out. People started walking in. The old dude pushed a man to the side and barged out the door “MAYBE FUCKING LET PEOPLE OUT BEFORE YOU GET IN” he screamed.

He had a point.

Weight and see.

I could write up a snazzy preamble slowly working into the topic, but frankly it’s better to put it out there. I’ve gained weight recently and it’s bumming me out. Eight kilos altogether. I’m the heaviest I’ve been in years and I can feel it, you know? It’s there when I see myself in a mirror. I see it in my face, a softness there. When I’m clothed, there are bulges I haven’t seen in years. When I’m not, curves have replaced definition I worked pretty hard for. I feel it at all times. Not just emotionally (I mean, that’s present too), but physically. My pants are tighter, less comfortable. Before I left, I bought a larger belt than normal because it was all they had close to my size. It fits pretty snugly now.

Emotionally I’m coping. Handling it. I’m not happy with how things have turned out, but I’m not letting it consume me either. Credit to my therapist, she coached me a little in case this came up. Yes, I’m in a situation I have control over. No, my identity is not tied to the way I look. Yes, my friends and family still love me as much as they did before. No, this one thing will not drag down every other aspect of my life. Sound melodramatic? That’s just how my thoughts manifest. You try telling your brain not to think like it does.

Now the why. Diet and exercise. End of year celebrations always involve a cluster of celebrations and I’ve rarely been one to shy away from celebrating. Due to barely taking a holiday in the past few years, I had to burn through a ton of vacation time. From the start of November to the end of January, I was away for five weeks. Five weeks of travelling, dining and drinking. I’ve found that a huge part of maintaining healthy habits is routine. It’s a lot easier to keep plugging away if the pieces are close at hand. The less effort you need to put into making more informed choices, the harder it is to fall back on excuses. Do you have healthy food in the cupboard or accessible at work? Whatever your fitness plans, are they close to your usual route? It’s hard to be as consistently active when you’re overseas. Between that we had Christmas in all of its splendour. Much feasting and revelry. I had a great time and even now I don’t regret it. Just keep breathing.

What now? First, compassion. A big thing I’ve learned in struggling with weight is to forgive myself for slip ups and deviations. At the same time, it’s important to recognise that this is nobody else’s issue to bear. They have their own trials. I’m not a robot, and to err is to be human. Letting go every once in a while stops me from fetishising unhealthy food. If I use it to reward myself, then I’m setting up an unhealthy relationship with my consumption. Casting rich cuisine as a “treat” ascribes a correlation of ethics to food. Food is neutral, it’s inanimate. If I give it a moral compass, that effects my relationship with it. If I feel guilty for having “bad” food, what is that gonna do to the way I feel about myself? It’ll set up a self-perpetuating cycle where I consume because I’m unhappy and I’m unhappy because of how much I’m consuming. Compassion is important.

Next, adherence. Routines. Simpler, healthy foods. More basic proteins and green/fibrous vegetables. Fruit instead of baked goods. Dropping alcohol consumption for a while (and when I do, moderation). Physical activity at least three times per week (cutting alcohol makes it a lot easier to get in for weekend workouts). More of a reliance on cardio (such a pity it’s winter, making outdoor running pretty tough). Maybe putting the money saved on alcohol into fun rewarding physical activities like indoor parkour, rock climbing or obstacle courses. There’s a non-zero chance that I’ll start to shed the first few kilos simply by being back to a regular routine. As always though, moving ever forward. Not beating myself up for what’s happened, but looking towards a solution and not at myself as a problem.

And now? Patience. With myself mostly.

Let’s Face facts and noun a verb.

Having returned to Toronto, it’d be all too easy to post a diary style update of my first day back. Hell, it worked for most of the trip. Instead I want to spend some time thinking about one of the biggest (currently) lasting changes of my holiday. I made a decision early on that if I was gonna be back home in New Zealand I wanted to really be there. Presence and all that. I wanted to ensure that spending time meant getting the most out of my journey. To leave most of Toronto where it was and focus while I could on those in my proximity. A side effect of this was dropping Facebook.

It started as less of a decision and more as a matter of pragmatism.. I’d always been a heavy user. At work my phone sat in front of me, so any flashing notifications would cause me to reflexively pick it up and log on. Checking one notification could mean losing anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. Often multiple times per hour without thinking about it. This was fine while I had Wi-Fi or unlimited data, neither being constantly within reach on vacation. When I visited London back in November, I switched off all Facebook notifications, opting for direct Messenger notes only. I was on holiday anyway, it’s not like I wanted to be constantly logged in while a new city stood around me. It worked, and I had a great time looking in the spirit of the late Kim Jong-Il. When I returned to Toronto, I kept notifications off. It helped more than I thought. I was still an active Facebooknik, but it was less intrusive, more on my terms.

A few days after arriving back home, I opted in for logging out. I spent more time with people or out and about. Most of my (reduced) online time was spent pouring over new Magic the Gathering spoilers. It was noteworthy how little I missed it. As I noted recently, it started having a real effect on me. I was more present, yes, but I also felt better in general. No small part of that could be attributed to being on holiday. I mean, geez, spending time with my closest friends, seeing the country and gorging on all the rich food NZ had to offer. It’s not like I was in any danger of feeling shit anyway. More than that, though, avoiding Facebook lifted a burden I was unaware to be shouldering. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my News Feed a lot. I love absorbing the general wittiness of my friends and clicking dumb links. People share a shit ton of interesting or thought provoking articles.

People also share a lot of themselves, which isn’t inherently a big deal. If I didn’t like these people and want to know more about them, why would I have them as friends? The other side of this is that a lot of people I know have a lot of feelings. Yet again, I want to know when my friends are doing well. I also want to know when they’re having a hard time so I can either help or understand better how to be considerate of them. There are a lot of people in my feed and a lot of these people have a lot of feelings. It’s great that people feel safe enough to share. That’s something special.

The other side of this is a form of mass emotional shift similar to hysteria (which I hope I can say without belittling or minimising the relevance of these feelings). It may be a cognitive bias of sorts, but it feels like bad news is shared a ton more than its positive counterpart. The more that people share these stories and air their grievances (once again, better to be talking about these things than not), the more opaque things seem. If negativity is everywhere, it feeds into itself. The dying few months of 2016 held an unprecedented pervasive despair online that didn’t quite match up to its offline counterpart. As “Fuck 2016” gained meme status, people gave it more and more credence until everything was 2016’s fault à la The Fat Boy. It’s a lot for anyone to take in. Seeing these sentiments amplified and magnified, day in day out, hour after hour was tough to bear.

While on holiday, I knew that Trump was gonna cause a lot of anxiety for many people. With good reason, too. A lot of very valid fears, instability in the air. Self-care being one of 2016’s big buzz words, I thought it best to keep my distance from repeated sharing of awful news, hurt feelings and inner pain. I’m sure the time offline helped more than it hindered my experiences.

Returning home to Toronto, I’m conflicted. I feel better having moved away from the deluge of emotions Facebook pushes my way. At the same time, I’m loathe to admit that it’s the core of my social existence. It’s how I communicate with the multitudes of friends I’m often too busy to meet in person. It’s how I get the invitations to spend time with those who I am lucky enough to see. It’s how I’m kept abreast of what’s going on not only in Toronto, but in the wider world. Hell, it’s where I created a group to organise Magic games on the fly. It’s even where I promote the Pawdcast (aside from here. That was pretty sneaky, right?). If I don’t go back to Facebook, will I lose touch with a ton of people? I love these friends and having constant contact and online engagement is a big part of my life. That’s a big cost to pay for emotional stability.

As it stands, there are pros and cons in each camp. One day in, I haven’t checked in. I might see if I can last the week and chart how I feel on the other side. I’m sure there’s a balance to be struck, but damn if I don’t have enough unpacking, shopping and washing to do for the moment. Maybe I should get my life in order before prying into anyone else’s.

What’s the use in complane-ing?

Maybe I shouldn’t have regretted my Toronto homecoming so much. Circumstances are conspiring to make my wishes come through. First our flights changed (without any email confirmation) to redirect through Chicago instead of New York. Then we spent over 40 minutes on the tarmac at San Francisco waiting to take off. We initially had under half an hour from deplaning to boarding for our ORD-YYZ flight, but as “luck” would have it, our flight was delayed by half an hour (all adding to bed time back in Toronto before work tomorrow morning). We boarded the plane, sat down, then things got fun.

Our pilot got on the intercom. Apparently United airlines commanded all currently grounded flights to stay grounded and await further instructions. Our pilot said instructions would likely take at least another hour. Apparently it was only United wide, so if we wanted we could go and try book on another airline. He then suggested that anyone was welcome to leave the plane, but anyone who did would need to take their baggage, boarding pass and passport. A few people bee-lined it towards the door. I looked at my girlfriend who suggested getting actual food (rather than the delicious but ultimately empty crackers and cheese we’d eaten today). We grabbed our things and walked up the flight tunnel, only to be stopped at the entrance.

A cluster of passengers stood around as airport staff held the front. They said they hadn’t heard anything about us being allowed to leave and we were to stay put. Some Bro-y McBroseph behind me chimed in with some smart ass comment about the staff’s lack of knowledge. I turned to him and politely said “honestly, this is probably as weird for them as it is for us.” He replied “yeah, you’re right” and piped down for a solid ten seconds. He walked back down the hall and his booming voice could be heard proclaiming top notch bro science “it’s not like we’d stay sitting. They’ve done studies, sitting is literally the worst thing you can be doing. Office jobs are basically killing us.” Somebody get that dude a Brobel Prize. In any case, we were soon informed that the pilot had no idea what he was talking about, that we were to return to the plane right away. We stood on the flight bridge, waiting to hear word back. I noticed one of the first class passengers had already tumbled into a restful sleep. The flight bridge staff told us to hold tight, that really nobody knew anything for sure.

A minute later, they told us to hurry up and get on the plane, that they’d found a loophole to let us fly. We rapidly waddled back to our seats, bags in hand. The pilot came back on the intercom, stating that since we were an international flight, technically we didn’t have to stand by the grounding order. He and the co-pilot had manually programmed in a course for Toronto and we’d be ready to leave as soon as everyone’s bags were stowed and people had found their seats. Cheer abounded, the engines roared to life and the flight attendants performed the safety briefing. We were off…

… Except for one thing. That’s when I started writing this entry. We’ve been sitting on the tarmac for the past half hour just idling. I’m pretty sure we’re gonna die here in this aeroplane.

At least I won’t have to worry about the morning commute.

I’m sitting in transit writing this. Seems apt enough.

It’s hard to gauge how I feel right now. Having just come off an 11.5 hour fight and still coming down off of sleep meds, my mind’s a bit woozy. It’s tricky to grasp on to solid trains of thought and there are a bunch of elusive ones slip n’ sliding around my brain box. I just realised that I need to do an entry for NZ’s 22nd of January, but also Canada’s 22nd of January. It’ll be two entries in one day for me, but should square things with you. With my current mind state it’s hard to figure out why, but all I know is that I need to, so let’s do that.

The one thought that’s making itself a constant is that I’m far more disheartened to be returning home to Toronto than I expected to be. Mum asked me on the way to the airport what big things I had planned for 2017. Right now, it feels like finding an answer to the above may be a large part of that. It’s strange, because I know that I love Toronto. I know that being home in Toronto I find constant reminders that make me grateful to have left in the first place.

Being back in NZ, however, I noticed the same phenomenon. It’s easy to find small things to tie the sentiment to: I think New Zealanders are generally a more pleasant and sincere people, less beholden to the strange artifice of implied social niceties. In Toronto, it feels like people act the way they act because of how they’d like to be perceived. On the flip side of that is accent privilege. I’m pretty fortunate to be living in Toronto with all the rights of a Canadian, but with the accent of a New Zealander. People straight up treat me nicer. People will go out of their way to help me out, in a way people back home wouldn’t. Without a doubt, it works to my advantage.

Whatever 2017 holds, I know I need for it to hold a big change I haven’t yet discovered. I’ve passed the “making it work” stage of my immigration. I’m settled, I have a place to live, diverse groups of good friends, local communities, custom Toronto coffee map, stupid but fun podcast, loving girlfriend and salaried position. I still have yet to find my why. I don’t know if it’s enough to straight up say that I “hate” my job, so it may be better to note that it’s a necessity that brings me no end of dread. There are places that this job could lead, but if it doesn’t at some point I’ll get more satisfaction from bashing my head into a wall continually. I don’t think this point is terribly far off.

I need a new job and I need that job to give back as well as taking. Something either creative or involved in the creative process. I need to be able to look back on a week and see things that were accomplished in making something happen. Going into the office every day to do the equivalent of drag and drop data entry would’ve felt beneath me at the age of 24, let alone 30. Despite the mitigating circumstances (having your company sold and trying to hold on to everything while hiring freezes and mass layoffs explode around you do factor in. At least a little), I’m disappointed in myself for having been stagnant for so long. It’s not why I left and it’s not where I want to be.

Most of all, 2017 is gonna be spent examining the above and working towards a solution. Why did I leave a situation where nothing was wrong outside of complacency? What can I do to justify my decision, preventing the same from happening again? I need to fall in love with Toronto all over again and I need to start making my life not the life I want right now, but the life I’ll want to continue building for years to come.

Snapping back to reality for a second, Mum never made spaghetti this whole trip.

With my birthday pilgrimage back home in its twilight hours (under 24 hours to go until we’re back on a plane to the Northern Hemisphere), it’s time to reflect on a few things. In the time I’d been living in Canada, The distance between expectations and reality had widened to a chasm. Back in New Zealand x or y, or this would’ve been better back home. Comparisons became a part of everyday life, but with a decreasingly firm grip on how things in Aotearoa actually were. I hyped up a hell of a lot to my girlfriend, who’d developed a well practiced (and likely well deserved) eye roll. New Zealand has long held the nickname Godzone (God’s Own), but I’d given my rosy view a radiant aura. Making it all the way back home, however, allowed us to hold a magnifying glass up to read the small print of my bold claims. Let’s have a look see, then, at my ostentatious proclamations and see how they matched up:

  • Chocolate: Without a doubt, much better. A lot of North American style of chocolate comes from the Hershey’s school of lowest common denominator. The rich dairy in NZ made for creamier, sweeter chocolate. Anything from Whittaker’s was top notch. Anything from their premium range was a step again above that.
  • Cheese: Continuing with the dairy theme, NZ cheese beats the snot out of its Canadian counterpart, shits all over them and wipes the floor with their limp, stinky corpse for good measure. I’m not saying there’s no good Canadian cheese, I’m just saying there’s not remotely a contest between the basic supermarket brands.
  • Coffee: Once again, no contest. Possibly because of its adherence to espresso as standard, the quality of NZ coffee is much higher than a Canadian cup. Brew coffee doesn’t have a strong foothold here, the closest things being cold brew or French press. Knowing that there are a few Toronto cafes I quite like, I don’t think it’s unfair to say that your average barista made NZ cup of coffee is better than 70% of all Toronto cafes. A good NZ cafe is better than 90% of Toronto cafes. This is only anecdotal, but I’ve got a pretty deep sample base.
  • Apples: This might come down to taste, so it’s probably better to clarify. The things I like about a good apple are thus: Sweetness/tart balance (I prefer super sweet apples with maybe a slightly tart aftertaste). Crispness (nothing worse than biting into a mushy apple or having your bite leave tooth tracks. I want to bite and have a chunk snap off) and density. Macintosh apples can go fuck themselves and most apples I’ve tended to find in Toronto haven’t scratched that itch. The apples here in NZ, whether Pacific Rose or Jazz, even Braeburn have been the real deal. Yet again, if you have different apple metrics, I’m not gonna hold that against you.
  • Cookie Time: My favourite cookie brand from NZ. Big chunky cookies with big chocolate chunks. I was apprehensive to try a Cookie Time, assuming they’d never hold up to the standards I’d set. I was wonderfully surprised. Biting into a Cookie Time cookie was like biting off a chunk of history. They tasted exactly the same as I always had. No disappointment to be had. Also visiting the Queenstown Cookie Bar (complete with merch) was a tiny slice of paradise.
  • Lamb: No complaints. A big leg up from Canadian lamb. Shanks for the memories, NZ. Succulent and tasty. After the meat was gone, I grabbed the bone and pried every spec of flesh from that fucker Glorious, especially bundled with great roast veggies for accompaniment, which brings me to…
  • Kumara Fries: The one big let down were Burger Fuel kumara fries. Maybe we got a bad batch, who knows? They were slightly undercooked and firm. Also kind of bland. I always remembered kumara fries to be bursting with flavour. What they’d lack in crispness they made up for with sweetness. These fries though didn’t make the cut. Sad times.
  • Roasted Kumara: On the other side of the equation, kumara did live up to the pressure I’d placed on it. I like sweet potato/yam, but noxiously yellow kumara was all that I wanted. Flanked by pumpkin and potato they bolstered an already fantastic roast.
  • Service: I actually hadn’t expected much from NZ service staff, considering they didn’t work for tips. Surprisingly though, they were mostly really pleasant and rarely was anything a big deal for them. Kindness felt natural, rather than artificially inflated due to their wages relying on them. Bonus!
  • South Island scenery: Holy shit, was the South Island ever majestic! Even with shitty weather, it was unbelievable. Blowing the North Island right out of the water, the huge mountain passes and almost alien flora were breathtaking. Mental postcards and gorgeous landscapes everywhere. If you’re coming to NZ, I can’t recommend enough how worth it escaping the cities is. Treat yourself, make the trek.
  • Friends and Family: The big one. I’d been apprehensive that time may have proven a barrier, that distance could’ve made things awful. Across the board this was proven absurd. Everyone was as warm, welcoming, witty and wicked as I’d remembered. I grew up around the best people and nothing has stopped that from remaining so. I know I said the same thing when I left NZ first time around, but out of everything I love here, I’ll miss the people the most. To hang about just talking shit has trumped everything else I’ve done on this holiday.

I may be leaving tomorrow, but part of my heart will always remain in New Zealand.

It’s a horcrux i case of my untimely death.