Maybe I should’ve worn track pants instead?

Reporting back after Steel Rails 2017, “The Locomotion” was not played even once. A travesty if ever there was one. We did, however, get Vag Halen (the Toronto female rock cover band) busting out a series of rock anthems complete with the appropriate quantity of hip gyration. Let’s call it even.

Getting back on track after a year spent off the rails, Steel Rails 2017 was some kinda night. My girlfriend and I made a point to dress for the job we wanted (non-stop partying). She had a big fluffy red crinoline skirt, a lilac and black checkered bustier and her trusty kangaroo backpack. I was clad in my black/rainbow cyberdog leggings, a pink/purple zebra striped bra and my green smoker’s jacket (which I unfortunately discovered was not machine washable. Big time). Arriving at the party departure point, we realised very few others had put as much intention into their garb. We took this as a point of pride. It took a while to get picked up and we ended up leaving maybe half an hour after we’d expected. Of course, we had no idea where we were going, merely that a train would be nearby. Some folks were already tailgating in the parking lot. It was gonna be that kind of night.

We rode around in big yellow school buses and excitedly muttered about where we might go. Not knowing the area, it was anyone’s guess. We also played the traditional bus game of waving to bystanders in the hopes that they’d reciprocate. At some point a kid waved energetically at the bus, but nobody waved back at him. Not on my watch. I waved in an overly exaggerated manner. He saw, literally jumped with excitement and waved back. Five seconds of activity was a small price to pay for making a kid’s day. The bus turned into a parking lot next to a driving range and began to slow down. Okay, things were getting interesting. Next to the range was a large white dome. How enigmatic! We tittered and lined up to go inside. Even at the revolving door entrance, we still had no idea of what was five meters in front of us. It was time, we passed the threshold.

On the inside, the dome was massive. Carpeted in fake turf, there was so much for the eyes to take in. A miniature golf course to the left, a couple of projector screens, a bridge overhead stacked with instruments and audio equipment. There were bars set up around the space, plus a wrestling ring in the middle. A small performance space off to the right, a colourful triangle structure with pillows inside ahead. There was a witching tent and a wheel of fortune style “Find Your Apocalypse” scenario (my world will be destroyed by apes). Booze was by donation, as always. I dropped a $20 in the bucket and went hog wild. I also made sure I grabbed a boozy cherry bourbon sour ice block while I was at it. The food was tasty, but all very fast food. They had woodfire pizzas, a grilled cheese food truck and some legit fish and chips (though I swear we waited in line for 40 minutes to get them). Beer successfully soaked.

Then the train. THE TRAIN. We got on and found ourselves surrounded by Trump. We’d unintentionally settled into the Trump car. “Trump Dollars” taped around the place, dumb trump quotes suspended from the ceiling with his stupid fucking face on them. We were stuck there for a while as the train readied to leave. Plus there was a massive line to the bar in the next car, meaning we couldn’t go anywhere. It was strange, but somehow being a) boozed and b) surrounded by Trumpisms led to a rush of boorishness. A bunch of douches and douchebagguettes yelling. Some women started stuffing Trump Bucks into my bra and waistband. I wouldn’t have cared much if only they’d asked first. We got outta there as quickly as we could and checked out the rest.

Space Car was a welcome reprieve. The windows were all blacked out with tinfoil, then speckled with fairy lights and transparent black sheets to transport us to outer space. A musician created some kind of ambient dream pop sound as she plugged away at her effects machines. Space Car was relatively quiet and wound up being our favourite place to hang. Further on was a crown construction car that I didn’t visit, but my girlfriend came back with a nifty cereal box crown. Down the other end in the only carpeted car was the homecoming dance. A photographer had a wearable sash and led partygoers to pose for shots. The DJ was dropping some pretty great tunes, but shitting fuck was it ever sweaty in there. My girlfriend and I jumped into the “sleeper car” for some private time, only to find signs all over the room telling us we were being watched. I mounted her lap and gave them a show. Some dude walked in and slowly backed away. Damn straight.

We had a blast. The booze and food kept going (though having very few non-beer options this year meant we felt all sorts of bloated) all night. I found that as a guy, wearing a bra with no shirt meant people felt super comfortable coming up and grabbing me without consent. Like, I get that it’s unconventional and funny/weird to see a dude in a bra and it’s not like I was mega standoffish, but asking first would’ve gone a long way. It was a weird crowd all the way down. A bunch of magnanimous folks, some hyper normy spectators (in all likelihood, sponsors), performers, volunteers and others dressed in outlandish couture. There were more rad people than the alternative, but given the previous year I was surprised at how large that shitty minority was. At some point I was butt grinding up on my girlfriend and this woman I’d been chatting with earlier decided it was totally fine to insert herself between us. We both quirked our heads until she moved on, but it was a pretty weird moment.

The experience on the whole, though, was all kinds of choice. Tickets may sell out in an instant, but you can bet your arse I’ll be hitting those rails next year too.

STEEL RAILS FO LYFE.

Any excuse to shake my caboose.

I’m currently at work, but I’m not. Well I am, and aren’t. I took Schrödinger’s commute and logged into my work computer from home. Waking up at 8am, I was at work by 8.10am and ready to start. By merely clicking alt+tab I can zoom to and from my job through the information superhighway. The future is here, now and forever. It also means that as of about 9.30am I was 75% finished my day’s work. It’s so much faster to work without having to physically interact with my co-workers. The cat is my only vocal co-worker and to be honest, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about most of the time. So I’m free to plug away at schedules and log everything without background interference.

Why am I at home today?

Because for the second weekend in a row, I’m going out of town. Lucky me, right? The Earth has taken another lap around the sun and once again Steel Rails is upon us. Steel Rails is an amazing art party/fundraiser held annually by local paper The Community Edition. My girlfriend and I went with friends last year and had an amazing time. We were carted out to a mystery location that turned out to be an empty warehouse surrounded by steel containers. There were huge papier mâché creatures on stilts, people dressed in weird masks. Tons of interactive art exhibits such as styrofoam sculpting and celebrity/food portmanteau creations. Fortune tellers and storytelling events. Musical performances throughout the evening. Also food and drinks galore. Then we all piled back to Chainsaw in Waterloo, the archetypal small town Friday Night bar (with enough fluorescents to attract every barfly in town) and hung out with fun strangers we’d met throughout the event. It was a helluva time.

It was also an unconventional Steel Rails. The format in the past was always to load people onto a train and get them “loaded”. All booze is by donation, which means people get stupid drunk and have a riotous time. Creating a low commotion, if you will. This year, the train is back! So not only do we get to feel all manner of classy drinking on a train, but we also get Snowpiercer re-enactments. I’ll pack my hatchet. I wonder how the sushi is this year…

Because it’s a local community event and because it attracts creative types, the crowd are usually fun Fringe types. Despite the massive quantities of alcohol, I didn’t see much last year in the way of douchebaggery or douchebagguettery. People engaged in the spirit of the party and embraced the weirdness. Saying yes to adventure’s call and seeing where it could go. Last year rumours of a cult started spreading. There were printed pamphlets with trace amounts of info scattered around the event. Over the course of the evening, I not only had people ask me about my own affiliations, but giving impassioned monologues on theirs. The volunteers were all incredibly friendly and helpful and the effect was profound. I’m really excited and can’t wait for this workday to end.

But things could be worse than hanging out at home.

I also came up with the band name T’ronahsaurus Rex. Now I have only to come up with the musical talent to bring it into fruition.

I think I found my best self this weekend. Away at a friend’s cottage, far from responsibility, schedules and mandatory apparel. Bare-butted, whimsical and earnest, I came and went with warmth in my heart and joy in my soul. Also puns in my mouth.

The past two days were a whirlwind of future memories. Endless rolling in-jokes and riffing. Extended bits about Guy Fieri that morphed and evolved over hours. I for one can’t wait for his cinematic debut, Mad Max: Fieri Road. With everyone in varying states of dress, somehow I became the Token Naked Guy. Others dressed to the nines, big fuzzy coats, scarves, fluffy pink slippers and glittery face paint. Constant snacking and drink top ups. Hedonism incarnate.

There was a defining element of commitment to the call to adventure. One of my favourite extended excursions centered around a Polaroid camera that was lying around. I was strolling the place garbed in an open green smoking jacket and zebra patterned boxer briefs. Very Hugh Hefner. My friend saw me standing next to a bar stacked with assorted trinkets and baubles. She told me to strike a pose and I gave her an “oh, I didn’t see you there” smise. She snapped it at the perfect moment. We watched the Polaroid develop in real time and realised the permanence of each shot. We had one take and everything needed to align. We walked downstairs into the plush 70s style basement (complete with orange shag carpet) that we’d dubbed the “Fuck Den” (because of The Implication) and found our canvas.

We began a series of 70s Playboy style shoot, each more extravagant than the last. We’d arrange the scene, finding our vision, then I’d direct the talent and create our perfect moment. There was our friend splayed seductively across the table (bowl of keys tucked in the corner of the shot). Other friends dressed in tiger and ringleader garb, her crawling predatorily up the stairs as he leashed her back. Another draped herself over the couch, covered in constellations of fairy lights. One straddling a fireplace with a fire extinguisher and logs in the foreground, cigarette hanging from her lips, lighter aflame. The shots stacked up one by one until we had a portfolio of absurdism as a reward for our efforts. A fun, manic night of revelry and delight.

I can’t hope to capture in words how much I needed this weekend, mind, heart, body and soul. Spending times awash in the giving nature and wit of close friends lightened a burden I’d been carrying for some time. In finding my best self, I hope I can find an ongoing way to represent the aspects I’d come to value over the past 48 hours. I’ve earned it.

Crossroads didn’t work out for Britney, why should I expect better?

To what extent do you define yourself by your occupation? Is the way you pay your rent aligned with the values you hold dear? When people ask you what you “do”, is your reaction to lead with your profession or hobbies? Or are you so disenchanted with your career that you respond with “lots of things” in order to pad for time (while you try to spin some scenario in which the world benefits from you waking up each day)?

It’s no secret that I’ve been having doubts (I mean, it’s in the fucking title, right?) about my career path for some time. For years I thought audio editing was my calling. Then after stepping off the path for the sake of a relationship and leaving the hellhole of Rotorua, I had to look for something else. I grasped around and in lieu of a career, I found jobs to fill the void. After the relationship imploded I bought a ticket to Canada ostensibly to start anew, but realistically to stave off asking the big questions for a few years. I surmised that the city of Toronto would offer a world of opportunity, and it has. Not necessarily in every capacity I’d hoped. After tripping over my feet for a year, I found them lodged in the door of a prominent media company. A promising path on which to find momentum if ever there was one.

The problem is, I haven’t budged. Despite desire and skills to move onwards, I feel firmly lodged where I stand. I can’t help but feel it’s a combination of naivety, inflexibility, laziness and indecision. I’m not well connected here in Toronto like I was back home. The industry tends to grow from student internships. They’ll typically do an internship as part of their education, which will flow into connections and/or gainful employment. I’m not blaming this system, it’s what got me my first real job back home. What this means for a 30 year old foreigner, however, is I’m battling against a well-cemented structure. The jobs that would let me move up the ranks are either going to kids in their early 20s or popping up in small towns. Here we come to inflexibility. I love Toronto. I cherish the friendships I’ve made here and the communities I’ve joined. There’s so much going on and the city genuinely feels like a part of me. I’m in a stable long-term relationship with a live-in partner.

If I want to move forward on this path, there’s a large chance I’d need to leave that behind.

That’s a hard sell, especially because it’d be re-treading ground I covered in my early 20s. I’ve done all this before. I honed my skills as one of those kids in my early 20s. I moved away to a small town and put in the hard yards. It sucked. At the age of 30, doing that again would be heartbreaking. It’s not impossible to see this as an option, but to uproot now that I’ve gotten settled would be a sacrifice of some magnitude. I’m quite unsure whether I’ve got the fortitude of will to keep my spirit intact over that kind of transition.

The only alternative I can think of requires an immense amount of hard work.

Which is where we come to laziness and indecision. If I want to get anywhere, I need to upskill. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of capacity for me to do that at work, which means it’s something to be done in my free time. Here we come to the hard part: deciding what I want to do. Do I want to work with audio? Learn video editing? Write commercials/promos? Scenes? Comedy? Reviews? Am I interested in performance? Storytelling? Or a form of content creation that utilises all of the above? Unless I can decide what I want to focus on, it’ll be impossible to gain ground in any particular direction. In a city that values exceptionalism, journeymen aren’t employable.

So how do I pick a path?

I’d call mine Gilbert Goattfried if it’s any consolation.

Great day. Intense day. It’s no longer day and I’m scrambling to get this entry out so I can finally go to sleep. 1am on a “school night” seems an appropriate time as any to start, n’est-ce pas?

So.

Work got busy right at the end. I was feeling mildly unwell (with the portent of future ailment tomorrow) so I tried to cram a bunch of work in today. You know, ease the strain on the rest of the department in case I do call in sick tomorrow. There was a bunch of stuff I needed in order to finish my work and my manager was not forthcoming with it. Then my manager delivered. Being the grand ol’ chap that he is, he also delivered the news that one of our shows had been pulled and subsequently any sign of it needed to vanish across the network. Prime 4pm news, right? I’d been trying to organise a bunch of people on the side for tonight’s dinner/comedy shows. When the work rolled in I forgot about those plans and took care of business. Subsequently my phone died. When 5.30pm rolled around I checked it for a heartbeat. None. Murdered. Shit. I’d made 6pm dinner plans that were 50 minutes away via public transit.

Time to call an Uber.

Or not, because I’m an idiot and my phone was dead. I flagged down a taxi and asked for a fare estimate to The Royal Cinema. $15-20 he said. I jumped in and we hit the road. I asked if I could borrow his charger for my cellular corpse, but try as I might it’d been slapped with a DNR order. It was my turn to die a little on the inside. Rush hour traffic was predictably grim and during my journey I spent $3 cold hard cash moving 100m. I should’ve walked part way. I made it no more than five minutes late, a small wonder, in the hopes that everyone had gotten the messages I’d sent before my phone kicked the bucket. I waited for another five or so minutes and my friend walked in. I’ve rarely known relief to be such a tactile sensation. My girlfriend arrived, we had an awesome dinner and lined up for Chris Gethard’s live Beautiful/Anonymous podcast taping.

The show was fun, but also a transcendent trash fire that made me question everything I knew about probability. A quick rundown of the show: Comedian Chris Gethard talks to an anonymous caller for an hour. He has a talent for asking the right questions and whittling away the artifice to find the true story beneath the call. Tonight? Tonight was a weird night. Tonight’s hashtag for audience members with questions was #lowrystrong, which would’ve been great if I had a phone that didn’t hate living. We were warned that it could get weird. Like the manic caller the night before. The only thing Chris had been able to glean in an hour was that he owned two goats, one of which was adorably named OKGoat. I’m ’bout it.

The caller wasn’t weird, so much as avoidant. Obviously a fan of the show, it sounded more like he wanted to chat with Gethard, but not about anything in particular. Was he in love with his ex-girlfriend/best friend? Why did he feel so listless? What was his issue with revealing his age? Try as Chris might to delve into this dude’s deal, it felt a little flat. The connection was spotty and whenever Chris really seemed on the mark with a great point, the call would cut out and our caller wouldn’t hear it. With 25 minutes left on the clock, we had a Beautiful/Anonymous first: We took another call. This caller got straight into it and called her ex-boss a cunt right off the bat. The crowed roared, baying for blood. She was a sympathetic character and we all latched onto her. The more details that emerged, however, something seemed off. Were we really getting the whole story? Why had her boss and close personal friend made steps to remove our caller from her family? With seven minutes remaining on the clock, the call dropped. Fuck. Chris took another call, who turned out to be… THE FIRST FUCKING CALLER. 7700 CALLS AND HE GOT THROUGH? WHAT ARE THE CHANCES OF THAT? UN FUCKING REAL. Things were intense. Chris took him to task and laid straight into him, stringing everything we’d heard into deduction, outlining this guy but good. AND THE CALL DROPPED. FUCK. He took ANOTHER call, which wasn’t the second caller back with some answers.

IT WAS THE FUCKING GOAT GUY FROM THE NIGHT BEFORE. WHY DO WE EVEN HAVE PROBABILITY IF IT’S NOT GONNA DO ITS JOB?

Oh, and my phone rose from the grave, in case you were worried.

Good things happen to those who… wait…

I need to start writing now, otherwise I know how the next half hour will play out. I’ll tab between Facebook, Reddit and Twitter, ostensibly looking for something to write about. Realistically, it’ll be procrastination by any other name. I’ll go to the toilet even if I have no need. Maybe stand there and shake it in case something comes out. I’ll refill my water bottle, even if I’m not thirsty. You can never be too sure. Plus if I have water to drink, that’d justify future procrastibatory toilet trips. I can’t forget the kitchen, because that’d be on the menu big time. There’s nothing like opening a fridge to forage for snacks, finding nothing, then checking the pantry to no avail. Lather, rinse, repeat. Maybe I’d be lucky and find a pickle or something. Cheese would also be a hot ticket item. Realistically I know I’m more likely to leave having consumed a spoon of some spread (be it peanut butter, cottage cheese, honey or marmite). Having completed that noble quest, I’d return to the keyboard and continue refreshing Facebook.

As always, it’s a challenge to put words on the page when there’s nothing urgent or exciting going on. It’s a Friday night and I’m at home with no immediate plans. I’d tried to set up hang out time with friends, but with that having fallen through, the amount of energy I want to put into shaping tonight is minimal. I’m helping friends move a ton of stuff into storage tomorrow, so a big night is less desirable. Plus I’m not drinking until Tough Mudder. Oh, and I’m cutting out bread-y things and most sweets too. Why? Because having fun clearly was overrated. It might seem overkill, but I’ve forever been dreadful at moderation. Saying no in an absolute sense makes it a lot easier than falling prey to my ability to justify eating delicious things purely because they’re delicious. I’m not demonising sugary or fatty foods, just my ability to consistently eat things that aren’t them. SUMMER OF NO FUN IT IS.

Alternatively I could put together a list of things I’d like to do in lieu of “anything fun”. Considering the money I’ll save by not drinking, I could do some rad stuff. A bucket list for the next two and a half months before Tough Mudder, eh? Let’s see what I could get up to…

  • Sleep in a tent. I’ve got a cottage weekend away with friends planned, which’d be a good chance to knock this one off.
  • Go for a long bike ride. I don’t own a bike, but I’d sure they’re easy enough to borrow or rent. I’ve always been interested in biking through the Don Valley parkway. It was a nice walk that looked way more enjoyable on wheels.
  • Flying trapeze. I used to love flying trapeze. The only place I know that offers drop in classes offers them on Fridays at 7pm. It’s a bit of a hike and with work finishing at 5pm, it’d be tight getting there in time. We’ve got summer hours at the moment, which means we can leave early on a Friday. Why not take advantage of it and give it a swing?
  • Improv classes. Well this one’s cheating, ’cause I signed up the other day. I’m taking a weekly class for two months in the hopes that it’ll help me brush up on my front-of-brain skills. I’ve got no illusions of becoming a performer, but there are myriad ways improv skills could help in my everyday life.
  • Cook something special. I have no idea what yet, but this summer is the perfect time to flex my culinary muscles and try a dish I’ve never done before. Something that intimidates me. I could try home made sushi, fresh laksa, make my own ice cream, some kind of extravagant mushroom pasta.
  • Get back into indoor Rock Climbing.
  • Try an epic hike with friends.
  • Rent a car and visit a small town with my girlfriend. Stay in a cute little B&B owned by lovely old people. Desecrate the room with filthy sex.
  • Finally get around to re-watching There Will Be Blood.

Endless opportunity abounds if only I put my mind to it. Or more accurately, if I can stop procrastinating for once.

A signal change at track level.

I’m wracking my brain at this second to bring forth anything that isn’t bitching about work, because it wouldn’t be the first or last time. Also nobody wants to hear that. Today’s entry is gonna pull on the true nature of stream of consciousness in the hopes that the flow will steer me towards something more productive, provocative or produce. Do we need fruit and veggies at home?

I’m on the train and everyone is on their phones. Naturally. It feels so commonplace for people to grumble about a generation glued to their phones, but this has always felt a little odd to me. It’s not like everything a phone does is a waste of time. I’m sure some passengers are playing games, scrolling through Instagram or visiting a Tumblr that posts nothing but the same picture of Dave Coulier every day. That’s fine, right? Strangers can use their time as they see fit. What gives us the right to police or judge that? I often hear the argument that it creates a barrier between you and others. Isn’t that the point? How is it not justifiable that when you’re en route from location A to B that you’d rather be in your head than engaging with others? Social energy isn’t a limitless resource for everyone. What if you spend your days dealing with entitled pricks or judgemental bigots and just want to escape into a world where you can mindlessly crush candy/jelly/soda with a cutesy soundtrack and imagery? Also what is this supposed alternative to intentional isolation? Should we all be engaging in meaningful dialogue with random bystanders? I do that every so often and occasionally it results in people asking if they can light my beard on fire. Is that the goal? I mean, I’ve certainly had interesting conversations but not always fulfilling. It’s not communication we’re being spurred towards by putting down the phone, is there some other purpose? Or is it for the sake of some outmoded notion of manners? Being polite to others by not intentionally ignoring them? ‘Cause I’m pretty sure travelers have been sucked away into fantasy worlds for many years now. Discmans? Gameboys? Crossword puzzles? Books? Pencils and paper? We’ve long sought distraction from the time transit takes. At what age did passengers on public transportation amuse themselves with polite conversation or a simple admiration of their surroundings? Most likely longer ago than anyone complaining about excessive phone use has been alive.

Then again, this is all straw man supposition about whispers I may have heard on the wind. I can’t cite specific examples of times I’ve heard people complain about this behaviour. I’m pretty sure it happens on the regular, but I’ve got no way to log it in APA style. I’m not even saying there’s no issue with how often we’re absorbed by our screens. As a heavy user (I mean, right now for instance), I often feel like there are many occasions in which I could be more present. Are there people who I’ve missed meeting because I’ve been too engaged in gifs of kids falling over or videos of shiba inu underscored by the intro of The Smith’s’ “This Charming Man”? On the other hand, I could be learning about world news or local events. I could be engaging in meaningful online dialogue or connecting with friends. I could even be writing about rampant smart phone use on my phone itself.

I don’t think there’s a point to any of this little treatise, if but to say that like Transformers there’s often a lot more going on in any scenario than meets the eye. We’re all multi-faceted beings that are all too quick to judge others for their actions while excusing our own. It’s easy enough to show self-compassion, but empathy is all too rare. Maybe next time you’re throwing a stranger some stink eye, think about the best case scenario of their intentions instead of instantly labelling them as a buttmunch. Or don’t, I’m not your dad.