Lox and keys

It turns out that at a point, you hit a wall with smoked salmon.

Let me elaborate. The morning after Saturday’s wedding (traditionally known as both Sunday Morning, and “easy like”), there was an arranged brunch at a nearby hotel. It was fantastic, and interesting. People who we’d previously seen at the wedding were visible in the light of day. That same assortment of characters, who had no other reason to ever be in the same room, filled a hotel banquet room. Naturally, for a hotel banquet. There were poached eggs with hollandaise, salads, bacon, sausages, scrambled eggs, bagels, fruit, pastries and, as mentioned, smoked salmon. Given the quantities of alcohol consumed the night prior, everyone was in mildly rough shape, and eager for a big feed. Having had virtually no appetite for the past few days due to sickness, I was in an ideal situation. I piled my plate high with meats and bread, packing my stomach like an apocalypse prepper before Y2K. While many cradled their heads in their hands, I bobbed up and down in my seat, happily chewing on animal, vegetable and dough based foods alike.

We had a five plus hour drive ahead of us post brunch. Our car was all packed up, we were going straight from the open buffet to the open road. I saw my friend/our driver lathering up a bagel with cream cheese. I thought, as is her style, that she was prepping a road meal. It made so much sense. We were at a buffet with gratuitous quantities of food. There was no way that they were in any danger of running out. Why not take some of the ample vittles on offer and make a lunch for the trip? When you thought hard about it, it was frankly wasteful and villainous to do anything but. I would do my solemn, heroic duty and prepare something to eat later. At the same time, I was gonna be subtle, low key and potentially surreptitious about it. For kicks, y’know?

I grabbed two bagel halves, a sachet of cream cheese and a stack of smoked salmon, capers & red onion. If I was to hazard a guess at how tall that salmon stood? Probably around five centimetres high stacked loosely. It might not have been a literal tonne, but it looked like one. I spread the sachet of cream cheese thickly, making sure every inch of each bagel face was covered. I layered the salmon, one sheet at a time. I wanted a tight operation, with a maximised salmon per bite ratio in place. I think I broke the scale. I also tossed two chocolate chip cookies into my lunch bag for a little treat. I wrapped the bagel in two napkins, and stowed it away in a plastic bag that I kept at the side of the table. 20 minutes later, the hotel brought out styrofoam containers for people to take home food. The food had all been paid for, and it was a common occurrence to offer leftovers in cases such as these. Clearly, my heroic and not at all self-interest based plan was nothing out of the ordinary.

We brunched around 11am. I think I finally got hungry just before 6pm. That’s how much I ate at brunch. I unwrapped the bagel and was hit with a salty scent. The bagel had heft, and the normally thin blanket of smoked salmon was instead a virtual steak. It was thick and substantial, having morphed into a solid brick. I took a bite and stopped for a second. I reeled. Amassed in such a quantity, it tasted like biting into pure brine. My body bristled. It’s not like the salmon wasn’t tasty, but holy hell it was intense. I think there’s a reason why it’s treated like a delicacy, because it’s meant to be delicately balanced. When it resembles a burger, there’s nothing delicate or balanced about smoked salmon. It’s an overpowering wall of taste. No room for nuance, it was like being slapped over the tongue with a whole fish. I powered through the entire sandwich, and I believe that my heart is now encased in a salty prison, preserved against the ravages of the elements. It’s what they call a “Love Lox-down”. My life has been divided into two periods, pre and post bagel. If I hear a word against my actions, I’ll decry it as a schmear campaign and deny everything. In my new life I’m emboldened an unrepentant. Born again under a pillar of salt. I am irrevocably changed, and the salmon is to blame.

I mean, mostly I’m to blame, but that doesn’t fit in with my new unrepentant personality, so the finger points to the salmon.

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.

Good ol’ fashioned jean therapy

Oh Jeans Jeans Jeans.

Never change. I mean, do change, that’s half the point. The changing rooms specifically are the focal area of Jeans Jeans Jeans. I’ve written about Jeans Jeans Jeans before, but rarely do I run out of things to say about Jeans Jeans Jeans. Okay, I’m likely to type that many times today. Let’s stick with the acronym JJJ for now.

If you haven’t read one of my many other experiences at JJJ, let’s boil this down. JJJ is a big underground warehouse. Jeans cover the walls. Not just errant pairs, but cascading styles and sizes of brands. The different coloured hangers on each pair denote the size, to easily pick them out. There are tons of new seasons jeans, and just as many old seasons pairs for 50% off. Very nice jeans at affordable prices. If there’s something you want, they probably have it. If they don’t, maybe come back in a few weeks. If it doesn’t look like they have what you’re looking for, you probably haven’t asked.

Customers and staff alike stand around the changing rooms. Customers go in, try things, then come out wearing them. There are mirrors everywhere for customers to check their fit. Staff are on the lookout to ascertain how good they look, and to pin up for alterations. Alterations are free, and take 5-10 minutes in store. If they pairs don’t look so great, staff will call around the store for certain styles, sizes, brands, etc. More accurately, Leroy does.

Egads, Leroy gets his own paragraph. Leroy is the engine that keeps JJJ running. He’s a whirling dervish, weaving between customers, making things tick over. He’ll peek at customers looking in mirrors and give suggestions. He’ll get back to customers he dealt with earlier, offering them alternatives. He’ll bark around the store “Harry, get me a 410 in Sierra on a grey hanger”. Half a minute later, a pair of jeans will fly through the air, Leroy catches them and hands them to the customer. He’ll stop and pin up hemlines in 5 seconds flat. A guy waiting around was like “is he going to pin me up?” His friends looked down “he already did” they said. Every now and again, while dealing with one customer, he’ll toss a pair of jeans into another changing room. “Oh, thanks” you’ll hear, surprised as they are by the impromptu delivery. Other staff consult with Leroy and he’ll give them snappy and seemingly accurate suggestions. Then he’ll hurl a pair of jeans halfway across the store to another staff member walking through. It’s Leroy’s circus.

I walked in today looking to pick up a few pairs. I love all the jeans I grabbed two years ago. Some of them are starting to show wear and tear. One pair in particular, I adore. Every time I “get” to wear them, I’m bowled over by how comfortable they are, how smooth the fit is and the flexibility in them. I can walk up big stairs without worry. Without looking at any jeans, I walked right up to the changing rooms. I found Leroy and showed him the jeans I was wearing. “I got these here last time. They’re my absolute favourite pair. If I could wear them every single day, I would. What do you have that fit like these, but in some interesting, outrageous colours?” He directed me towards a changing room. A minute later, he trust eight pairs of colourful jeans on hangers into the room. He picked my size exactly. A lot of the legs were a little long, but they got pinned back easily. The fit was astounding. Each pair I tried, I loved. I picked three pairs with colours that would complement my wardrobe: A soft grey, the colour of shark skin. A shade of green slightly lighter than olive. Finally, a gentle sky blue. I spent all of 20 minutes between the front door and having three pairs. I spent almost $300 once I added a belt. I’m banking these pairs because I know some of mine are wearing down and I want to future proof myself. Maybe soon it’ll feel like I’m wearing my favourite pair every day.

JJJ doesn’t just sell jeans, but by God does it ever sell jeans well.

Something something tying the snot

Forgive me if this is somehow less coherent than usual.

Whatever sickness I’m down with is kicking my ass. At the very least it’s deeply inhibiting my ability to sleep. Over the past few days, every few hours while in bed I’ll wake for some indeterminate amount of time. Always it feels like hours slip away. I’ll roll over, turn to my back, rotate my head, then turn the whole way ad infinitum. Despite not having had strenuous activity afoot, my brain feels messy. You know those old scrambled egg brain on drug PSAs? It’s like that, but someone has wedged a big block of cheese into the middle and it’s slowly dissipating through my mind. I think they call that melting, and I certainly feel like I am. With another hour left before my alarm went off, I figured I’d be better to get up and take writing out of the way for today. It sucks, I haven’t had coffee for the past three days, and I’d hoped it’d aid my sleep. Not so, apparently. I can’t tell if I’d feel more or less strung out if I’d been drinking it.

I’m gonna be in a car for five to six hours today. Will I perhaps manage to car sleep? Cram my body full of meds and conk out? Here’s hoping. We’re driving to Montreal, which seems like a shitty city to be sick in. Firstly, it’s bound to be snowy. Secondly, Montreal has all the best things to see, experience and eat. Thirdly, I’m going there for a wedding, and who wants to be sick at a wedding? Not this guy, that’s for sure. I’m there to eat, drink, and probably cry once or twice. While it’s true that being sick does not explicitly prevent any of these activities, I’d prefer not to leak mucus while shedding tears. There’s graceful wedding crying, and there’s whatever shit show I’m likely to be.

I also feel incredibly unprepared. I shouldn’t. We’re going to Montreal, it’s not a different country or anything. I shop in the same currency, there’s nothing fancy I need to enable for my phone, I don’t need a visa or even a passport. We have the Air BnB all booked, and it’s close to the venue. My bag is packed, but yet again I feel like there’s something that isn’t. I’ve got my clothes, still need to fold my dress shirt. I packed toiletries, my meds are ready to roll, I have comfy clothes for the drive. I could do well to put together some snacks for the trip. We have an abundant pile on the kitchen table. We also have things in the fridge I want to eat before they go off. I guess that means cutting that big chunk of ham into more tactile fry shaped strips. Do I need to shave? If so, it’d be so much quicker at home rather than at the Air BnB. Is that something I need to factor into my morning? Do I need to download some podcasts to zone out to in the back seat?

I think what I need is breakfast, to at least put myself into a place where I can make decisions. Oatmeal here I come!

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.

To be clear, it’s been snowing for one day and this is where my thoughts go

I have so little to talk about right now. For a change?

I was talking with a friend about travel the other day. My work schedule both does and doesn’t feed into doing more travel. On one hand, I get big chunks of days off at a time. If I were to take four days off, I’d effectively have a block of 12 days free. That’s a ton. At the same time, I’m not on salary. Whenever I don’t work, I don’t get paid. I haven’t talked to my bosses about what holidays would entail for them in terms of freelancers or sending work to external clients, but I’m sure it’s very doable. So here come the fun questions:

Where would I want to go and what would I want to do? I’ve heard unlimited great things about Berlin, and I haven’t travelled through Europe at all. Exploring ancient towns and cities, learning about crazy historical happenings and finding myself in pubs older than my country, that all sounds great. I’d love to meet locals and eat hearty food. To try all new experiences with new friends sounds right up my alley. I feel like whenever I see movies based in Europe it’s all about enjoying the wonder in simple things. I don’t know that I’ve ever celebrated the simple, and maybe if I felt more cinematic doing it, I’d be more inclined to. Also Berlin would obviously be party central. Enough friends have raved about the scene there, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t fold that into a trip. People have said Amsterdam is lovely and picturesque. Having good coffee, biking around, taking canal rides and looking oh so quaint would be right up there on my list.

I have this feeling that I’d really enjoy Russia if done right. At least, I think I’d really enjoy the food. There’s something about stodgy cuisine that really sets my heart aflutter. Russia, Poland, Hungary, I feel like I’d have a great time eating my body weight (probably one serving) of pierogies and borscht. There’s something about Russian people that I find super curious. I get this sense that people would appear standoffish, and on a dime try to give you the shirt off their back. Very solemn, stoic people until the veneer is lifted and they become a bunch of goofs. Who knows?

People have said wonderful things about Portugal. I’m not the biggest sunshine fella, but I can imagine how blissful it’d feel to be wandering beach side towns eating fresh seafood in the sun. Lots of water, drinks, good times and friendly folks. I think, because of my lack of languages other than English, I’ve felt sheepish about travelling to places where that’d slow me down. Really though, I’m sure I could get by for the most part wherever I went. Cultural imperialism makes it so. There’s so much world out there, and the older I get the more I understand the importance of empathy. It’s so much easier to see someone’s point of view if you’ve experienced aspects of their life first hand. We can all assume, but that’s a world away from witnessing. Seeing others’ way of life is a pathway to opening yourself up. There’s a lot I know, and there’s a lot more I don’t. I’ve never thought of ignorance as an aspirational trait. With the way the world is going, it seems like a conscious decision. I’d prefer a different option.

Will I go out and immediately book myself a European holiday after writing this? No I won’t. But thoughts are percolating, and that’s a good way as any to start my day.

Braking it down

My bike is back, baybee!

At least this song gets me. My bike, Grimsby, is back in my arms. After three long weeks of separation, we’re reunited and it feels so good. I took him to a friend for a tune up and things went southwards. The gears got all messed up, and my friend had to temporarily adjust Grimsby into a fixie. I went a few weeks riding without gears, and the squeaky brakes I’d hoped to get fixed still squealed away. I took my bike back to my friend, unaware that I’d dumped it on my pal at a time where a lot was going on in his life. Now we’re on the other side of that. I picked Grimsby up and got him a new, sturdy kickstand. I had the brake rollers greased, and he’s running better than ever. The gear transitions are so smooth. Braking is noiseless. He’s a dream to ride, and I’m so happy to have him back in my life. I’d forgotten just how easily spontaneous having a bike makes you. It’s so simple to do errands quickly. There’s room to carry stuff, and it’s incidental fitness. It may have taken me years to finally get a bike, but it took three mere weeks to long for my bike back.

In those three weeks, I took a lot of public transit. It was mostly less great than riding, but the one saving grace was getting back to podcasts. I don’t listen to audio while riding, I just don’t think it’s super safe. So having the space to zone out to a podcast was heavily appreciated. During this time, I got big into All Fantasy Everything. The basic premise is simple. It’s a bunch of comic friends and guest comics fantasy drafting any topic they come up with. Ostensibly the draft portion means trying to get the best picks before anyone else can choose them, but really it’s a format for hilarious folks to chat about stuff they like, do bits and tell stories. I realised the other day, that the real reason the show appeals so much to me is that it’s a spectacular forum for non-toxic masculinity. The core group consists of three friends: Ian Karmel, Sean Jordan and David Gborie. They’re so close, and their friendship is incredibly endearing. They’re all immensely funny, quick witted, and excellent entertainers. They bring a lot of good mates on, and the banter flows so smoothly. A bunch of the podcast involves them hyping each other up, with earnest expressions of love and affection. They regularly tell each other how much they love one another, how attractive they are, and how important they are in each others’ lives. There’s a bunch of teasing, but it never crosses into actual meanness. It’s such a warm atmosphere to tap into, and listening makes you feel like you’re a part of it. I can’t promote this podcast enough, but if you want an excellent example of the experience they cultivate, this live episode brings it all together.

Wait, I have a bike. Why am I sitting around inside?

Time to roll out, homies.