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.

Core blimey, that’s a hell of an apple

Greetings from Simcoe County!

Today here at I Have My Doubts, we’ve gone rural. Small town edition. There’s a Giant Tiger here and everything.

Months ago, a friend was attending a Stag and Doe here, and invited me along. It was a swell day away. I met her parents and kicked stones, dawdling around the quiet streets. I had a great time, so I jumped at the chance for another visit. This time the county fair was on, and I figured that was excuse enough. We Go Train-ed here and I, in a dastardly fit of unintentional malice, forgot to tap on at Union Station. Don’t dob on me, but I didn’t tap at the other side either. It was a genuine mistake not tapping on, but there was gonna be an $85 fine if I got caught. We actually tried scoping out spots along the line, but we didn’t have time to jump off the train, tap, and get back on without missing our connecting bus in Aldershot. No conductors came past to check, so I ended up getting a free ride. I feel like an outlaw CoolGuy right now, so I’m basking in it. I rarely get to feel so Devil May Care.

Part of the selling point of the fair was an AC/DC cover band. My friend and I tried to work out if we knew ten AC/DC songs. I listed the ones I knew: Back in Black, Thunderstruck, Highway to Hell, You Shook Me All Night Long, Rock & Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution, Whole Lotta Rosie, Hell’s Bells. That was it. Seven songs. The gig was fun. They were aggressively just okay, which is what made it so fun. I was filled to the brim with sarcasm, and I thought about it. What was I gaining from that? I had nothing to prove. Putting distance between myself and what I was watching made no sense. Why not be participatory, and enjoy it for what it was? It’s not like I’d be seeing the real band any time soon. So the lead singer wasn’t quite nailing his impression, he was impassioned. The band were putting their all in, and that was well worth celebrating. Also I’d forgotten just how much I love th track “Hell’s Bells”. Its effortlessly cool. The guitar line is so subtly sinister without trying. The chorus is almost throwaway. Like they’re don’t give a shit, but somehow put together this atmospheric experience. It’s a rad track. ACaDaCa have a bunch of goodies, when you think about it. There are also a ton of formulaic tracks, but honestly who gives a shit? I danced a bunch with my friend and her mum. We had a fucking great time.

The show finished at 9.30pm. NINE THIRTY PEE EM. We still had hours to wander the fair.

There were food stalls, midway rides and games. I knew one thing, I wanted a candy apple. It’d been literal decades. I remembered really enjoying one as a kid, and for years I’d been wanting to relive that experience. I mentioned it to my friend and her family. Her mum immediately noped out. “Only if you want to say goodbye to your teeth.” I laughed, but honestly didn’t really get what she meant. Ten seconds after purchasing a candy apple, I entirely got what she meant. Firstly, getting through that candy exoskeleton was a chore and a half. Just physically demanding. The initial bite was legit work, pushing hard with my clearly underutilised jaw. I’m a chatterbox, I thought I had jaw strength on lockdown. Apparently a candy apple is a big ol’ challenge. Once I managed to push through however, the candy stuck straight to my teeth. Like a ginormous K-Bar (for my Kiwi readers). Half the practice of eating the apple was peeling layers of candy from my teeth, to enable another bite. A trying experience, though overall I liked it. I think. Maybe this isn’t the first time in decades I’ve had one, but I keep forgetting what a trial it is, then get coerced back into it by innate goodwill towards candy apples. Who knows? I also had a bacon battered corn dog, which may actually have been keto. A Lot, is what it was. Just pork wrapped in saltier pork. I don’t regret having tried the experience, but I didn’t drink nearly enough water to compensate. At the rate I’m going today, I could drink The Nile.

We played Skee-Ball and won zero prizes. We went on The Musiq Express, a little sloped rail ride playing music. The cars bobbed up and down, while ascending and descending a small slope. They went pretty quick, enough that my friend pointedly sat on the inside so I didn’t squish her through centrifugal force. Then they went backwards. It was a neat, simple pleasure, and we had a goddamn blast.

I’ve never been to the CNE. It seems obnoxious and overblown. A county fair though? Just my speed. The right amount of tacky and fun, with goofy lights and silly stuffed animal prizes. A++, would visit again.

May as well say the same for the rest of the world

I’m seeing AC/DC on Friday.

Well, an AC/DC cover band, at the Norfolk County Fair and Horse Show. I’m taking a day trip with a friend. I’ll jump on most any excuse to go exploring, and our last trip there was tons of fun. Then the next day, I get to have Thanksgiving lunch with her family. Bonus. I remember when I arrived in Toronto, I had these grand designs of travelling all over Canada. I made it as far as a few cottage trips with friends, and one or two day trips. Having access to a car would make this all the more accessible, but I can’t afford the cost of owning a car in Toronto. Insurance alone is upwards of $2.5K per year. Owning a bike is quite frankly enough responsibility for me right now. So the GO train it is!

In coincidental preparation for Friday, I watched Detroit Rock City with friends. They used the excuse to psyche themselves up for an impending Detroit trip. My plans were somewhat less thrilling. The film was fun and dumb. Set in 1978, it followed four boys on a road trip, desperate to see their favourite band Kiss perform in Detroit. It was ludicrous, totally over the top. At the same time, if I’d discovered it at age 16 it would’ve been my absolute favourite thing. It has not aged well (especially considering it was released in 1999 “the same year as The Matrix” a fellow viewer kept repeating). It’s equally homophobic and sexist, filmed entirely through the male gaze. The kids get into some serious shit, and the last third of the movie grows pretty damn dark. The depths to which the kids sink in order to get to their concert defy reason. At the same time, it was a neat, forgettable movie to watch on a lazy night. We all snuggled up and passed bowls of home flavoured popcorn. Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday.

After most people left, a few of us stuck around awaiting a second movie. As we tried to figure out what to watch next, I noticed two attendees stretching deeply. One did a lotus pose, and folded their legs into their chest. The flexibility was unreal. We all tried, but few of us succeeded. Someone ran me through the motions, then pointed out how tight my left glute was. So I stretched as we waited. I spent the next half hour, under their advice, stretching my glute out. They told me to pulse: Push the stretch with medium strength for seven seconds, then release, wait, and repeat. I tried this off and on, and couldn’t believe how much extra flexibility I gained. I tried stretching my posterior chain. One of the attendees helped me with my stretch. They were a shiatsu practitioner, and guided the flow of my back, neck, and hips. I felt the strain slowly drift away. By the end of it, I was doubled over neatly, hands wrapped around the backs of my ankles. I felt so fucking good. It made me realise just how tight I’m normally wound. How it’s possible to stretch passively while watching a show, or waiting. I understood the capacity I held to feel so much better in my body, if I just spent the time. I considered how a more robust stretching schedule would fit into my life. I went home feeling great, passing out soon after my head hit the pillow.

Then this morning I biked hard, tightening my posterior chain all the more. There goes progress.

Hustle, bustle, and bike trouble

Is it like this every year? It’s like this every year.

JFL42 has a habit of striking at the busiest time. Or maybe it becomes the busiest time whenever JFL42 strikes. Likely the latter There’s been a pile of dry washing sitting on the kitchen table for the past two days. You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. I’ve had to hold onto all of my available hours for other purposes. I’m zigging and zagging everywhere. Yesterday morning, for example, I went to a live Why Won’t You Date Me? podcast with Nicole Byer. I left, biked home and did some small work making my bike better for night time. Then I did my writing, while waiting for a call about the internet.

I hummed and hawed over whether to start something. I wanted to do an instant pot dish so I’d have easy grab and go dinners for the next few days. But the internet guy was supposed to a) call and b) arrive, in that order. What was the point in starting when I had no idea if this bloke was coming or not? As his scheduled time rolled by, I started putting together a chilli. I chopped the veggies and defrosted the meat in the pot. As the meat was defrosting, the dude arrived. I had to abandon my meal and give this guy a hand. I remembered that we were supposed to try cable instead of DSL once before, but the Rogers employee said they couldn’t do it, since the cable was cut. Yesterday’s bloke took one look and said “that guy obviously didn’t want to do the work, and made up an excuse. Let’s do it now.” I helped him access the cable from the inside, and pulled it out. He widened the hole and fed me a new cable through it. I pulled it in and up to my computer. We cable tied it up to the exterior of the house. I looked at the clock, antsy about my instant pot meal that I’d timed around my 7pm show. It was 6.05pm when he left. I had to be at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre at 7pm, and that was a 20+ minute bike. I finished up the prep and tossed everything in. The meat was already overcooked, and I crossed my fingers it’d turn out in the end. No time for a shower before I left. On the way down, my chain slipped off and I arrived at the venue with greasy hands.

I just made the 7pm Comedy Bang Bang show, because they were slow loading everyone in. It was great, but I felt exhausted after not really eating dinner. My energy faded, and I felt myself losing touch with the last ten minutes of the show. It ran long, until 8.30pm. I had a 9pm show at Comedy Bar, up the hill. I biked back there and made it at 8.59pm. Aisha Brown, the comic, was awesome. I’d heard a bunch of her bits before, but they’ve never failed to hit their mark. She had a bunch of salient Justin Trudeau blackface bits, which I’m sure are gonna be a dime a dozen over the next week. Rarely that well executed though. Fantastic set, stoked I finally saw a full hour out of Aisha. She’s a local treasure. The show finished 10.05pm and I had an 11pm show to see at The Rivoli. But Comedy Bar was close to home and I had work early in the morning. I thought about sequencing. I thought about the instant pot. I thought about how exhausted I’d be after my 11pm show, and how little I’d want to package the chilli into containers, load it into the freezer and clean the instant pot. I biked home, did all the aforementioned tasks, made myself a bowl and it was very, very spicy. I tossed a couple of TUMS down my gullet, and got on my bike. My chain slipped off again, and my hands got caked in grease.

I made it to Esther Povitsky just in time. She did a great set, with a fun character. She closed by looking through the bag of an audience volunteer. “What do you do?” She asked. “I work for the government”, he replied. “Oh, well I guess security isn’t a governmental strong suit,” she replied. I’d happily see her perform again. She’s got something going. I biked home, uphill once more, and sweat in bed until I fell asleep.

Today hasn’t been any slower, and it’s only 8pm. Every damn year.

I kinda love it though.

A wheely good time

To everyone who said I’d love having a bike, fine. You were right.

It’s not like I didn’t know I’d get into it, but it took some time to get there. Thing is, getting a bike is a process. It sounds simple on the surface: Give money to a retailer, receive bicycle. In reality, there are far more steps. What kind of bike do you want? Something racey and road-ish? A hybrid? A commuter cycle? What size are you? What frame fits your body? Do you need gears? If so, how many? How heavy do you want your bike to be? Something that’s easy to lift? Or one that sits more firmly on the road? These are all questions to think of before you even get the bike. Oh, and a helmet is super important too. Gotta protect your bike purchasing brain, otherwise how will you decide what you need?

Once you have one, there’s nigh endless customisation to think of. What extra gear will help you? What kind of handlebars are comfortable? Do you need some form of basket to ferry stuff around? Keep in mind that everything you get adds to your weight. Are you ever planning to cycle at night? Because that’s something to consider. Better get a headlight and rear light. Maybe some reflective gear so you don’t get sideswiped out of nowhere. You don’t want to be another statistic, right?

Are you looking to take your bike out in public? Because theft is sadly a thing. You need a lock. What kind of lock? There are U locks and chain locks and cable locks and Irish lochs. Teensy joke. But a lock is no joke, seriously. People will steal anything that’s not fixed, apparently. Friends have told me to remove anything that could be stolen, even my lights. Theft is supposedly rife in Toronto, so I was advised to get a U lock and loop it through both my frame and back wheel simultaneously. Also to get a cable lock for the front wheel. I finally ordered a substantial, fuck-off-sized New York Kryptonite lock, which has enabled me to actually take my bike out with me. Before that, I was hesitant to ride it anywhere I couldn’t safely store it. I spent $500+ on this bike. It would’ve broken my heart to lose it so quickly.

With that out of the way, I love it. I’m biking to and from work when weather permits. We have bike storage in our work basement, so it’s safe there. It’s wild doing an uphill ride home after midnight, but it’s kind of exhilarating. I may need new quad-forward jeans soon. Zipping around is making me feel like a kid again. I’m doing dumb little jumps over curbs, weaving between tight turns, speeding to make lights. I even do that silly low centre of gravity speedy bike squat thing when I’m going downhill. I’m really into gaining momentum, then letting my weight carry me. I get to choose my path through the city, doing creative problem solving on the fly to arrive at my destination faster. It’s neat.

Of course, it turns out drivers are a big obstacle. I’ve been fine so far, but there’s something about zooming past parked cars that makes me anxious. It’s only a matter of time until I get doored hard. I’ve been fully utilising my bell to keep cars abreast of my location. It’s a hella cute way to be passive aggressive. It’s kinda funny that, getting my bike so late in the season, I only have a few months before it’s over and I’m back to public transit.

Until then though, I’m gonna have my fun.

Cryogenically frozen in time

Story time, friends.

Earlier this year I started taking anti-depressants. Great decision. Should’ve done it years back. Changes have been fantastic across the board. I’ve regained my ability to establish boundaries, be assertive, be supportive, and make space for others. I even use the Oxford comma now. Instead of being tossed to the gutter for days by one stray thought, I can look at that thought, say “yep, that’s a thought”, and keep walking. I don’t speak lightly when I say that this decision in many ways gave me my life back.

One catch. Since I started on the meds, there’s been one side effect. I can’t cry. No dice. I’ve been safe behind a synthetic wall. I didn’t want to lose touch with those too human feelings, but it’s been a worthy trade-off. What I’ve gained is so much greater than what I’ve given up. No question.

This past weekend, I cottaged with friends. COTTAGED. The place had a dock atop a large, still, lake. In the early hours, I crept out to see how sunrise was doing. Early Hours, I said. A burgeoning golden crown in the sky. Curious, I walked down to the dock. As the path wound through the trees, I caught glimpses of the lake. It looked purple. I took off the literal rose-coloured glasses I wore, and saw a bold baby blue. I was intrigued. As the trees parted, they gave way to an unreal sight. Fog rolled off the shore, where it coalesced at the lake’s centre. I donned the glasses, and saw hues of candy colours blend with the sky. It was truly phenomenal.

I hurried to the lounge, where people chatted quietly. I caught everyone’s attention and said, “Listen folks, please trust me. Grab warm clothes and come down to the dock now. Something magical is happening.”

I stood at the dock’s edge and waited. One by one they walked down. One by one, they were rendered speechless. Jaws dropped all around. “Right?” I whispered. My photographer friend arrived, turned, and ran off for his camera. We marvelled at this utterly unearthly scene. I walked onto the dock for a closer look. I took it all in again. Awareness came to me. I spoke, “I’ve never thought to check before, but this must be what the other side of sunrise looks like.” I felt something stirring. My eyes twitched and my throat tightened. It was all too beautiful, and I didn’t know how to process my awe. I wept. The floodgates opened, and I felt tears coming hot and fast. I gasped for air and doubled over.

My girlfriend noticed, and realisation spread across her face. She wrapped me in a hug. She called to our friends, “Leon’s crying.” Concern warped their expressions. She continued “He hasn’t been able to cry for six months.” Realisation spread further. I felt myself enveloped in my friends’ arms. I kept bawling. A few lingered for solo hugs, and I came back to my breath. I felt open, awake. It’s a memory I’m sure I’ll keep close for years.

So it turns out Mr. Photographer didn’t realise what was happening, and snapped his shot. It’s raw, and such a perfect moment. It takes me right back, to feel that weight and release again. I’m sure memories all fade eventually, but this one carries a whole story.

A cotton candy world sounds pretty sweet

I’m still thinking about that weekend.

I’m still thinking about that weekend because it was so unbelievably stuffed with treasured moments. There was something about being sequestered away from society, from societal pressures like time and propriety, that opened up some mental headroom. I could be as goofy as I liked, without fear of judgement. Whether I was doing absurd extended bits, ruminating and contemplating, or sharing genuine heartfelt talks with close friends, it all felt like each moment was bigger than itself. Each day as I sat down to write I tried to think of what was worth scribing, and felt weirdly overwhelmed. It’s not that everything needed to make it to the page, but that there were too many great jokes, observations and lessons that deserved a wider audience.

Though when I talk about this first joke, forget everything I said about deserving a wider audience.

I had this dumb recurring bit going on about the opening three seconds of Limp Bizkit’s “My Generation”.

Fred Durst, when his tour bus is stuck in traffic: “IF ONLY WE COULD FLYYYYYYY”
Fred Durst watching Liar Liar, and voicing his concern over the lead character’s predicament: “IF ONLY HE COULD LIIIIIIIE.”

It’s a relatively versatile setup, as long as you can keep finding words that rhyme with “fly”.

I made a number of stupid jokes, come to think of it. Like, “What would you call a dance popularised by the U.S. Boxing team for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics? The Haymaker-ena.”

I also had some pretty lovely moments. It was late (or early, depending on your time perspective), and I started giggling uncontrollably. My girlfriend asked me what was so funny, and I replied that I was so excited about a compliment that I was gonna give one of our friends, because I knew just how happy it would make her. She entered the room a little while later and I told her that I had a compliment for her, and I was biding my time for the right moment, but I knew it would make her day. As a comic, who rarely wants to be the butt of a joke, she got on edge a little. I knew that like comedy, I had to use timing and delivery to really nail it so she could get the most out of it. It was like a little mini-game. I waited for hours, and in the cool blue light of pre-dawn, while the two of us were in the kitchen, I pounced. Gently, of course. I turned to her and quietly said “I was thinking about the meal last night, and I’m already nostalgic for it. Everything was so delicious, and made it larger than life. I was also thinking about how you brought such clear intentions towards making it happen, how you asked people to take care of certain parts, and inspired others to bring their flare into it. When I sat down at the table I looked around and realised that everyone sitting there had contributed somehow, that it was a real communal effort and we were sharing in the bountiful results. Then I looked at you, and thought how you’d drawn us together for the meal. I sat in that moment and appreciated the hand you’d put in, knowing we wouldn’t be there without you.” She turned to me, overwhelmed, and gave me a hug, saying how nice that was. I pulled her close and whispered in her ear. And that’s the compliment I knew would make you happy. It was a very sweet moment.

Another amazing moment came a few hours later. For some context, in the evening a few of us had walked down to the dock in the middle of the night. Fog was everywhere, rising as mist from the warm water into the cool air. It rolled off the banks to coalesce in the centre of the lake. It looked ghostly and spectral, these rolling hazy waves above the water. I walked back down at the first traces of sunlight to have a look. As I descended through the tree cover, I saw the surface of the lake as a gentle, purple pastel. I arrived at the dock, and took in a magical sight. Cotton candy pastel hues lit the sky and illuminated the rising fog. I realised, this was the other side of sunrise. While warm colours lit the rising sun, the shadows it cast across the sky left a glorious soft residue. I pulled everyone down, and we stood there speechless. I was overcome, and I cried from joy. Since I’d begun taking anti-depressants back in February, I’d been incapable of crying. No matter what happened, I just couldn’t shed a tear. Yet this sight stirred something in me, and I doubled over, gasping. It was literally breathtaking, like we’d ascended to a different plane of existence.

Come to think of it, maybe we did.