Levi’t to beaver.

I was sitting on the train yesterday, hurriedly doing my daily writing. I’d hoped to squeeze maybe 15 minutes of writing time out of my transit between the gym and a volunteer meeting for this large scale game my friend is running (a meeting I arrived on time for (at the wrong location. In more realistic terms I was late)). I was somewhat distracted, but still trying to focus. All of a sudden I heard a voice pipe up next to me.

“They look like jeans, but what are they really made of?”

My head darted towards the source of the noise. The guy next to me was looking intently at my jeans. The jeans in question are yellow, mildly stretchy. They’re comfy and snug and best of all were all of $15 from H&M. After teen years spent draped solely in black, I’ve made an effort to widen my colour palette. Now dressing is a matter of picking a plain coloured top and a coloured pair of pants. Occasionally there’s a malfunction and I end up mono-coloured like I’m wearing pyjamas. Most of the time it lets me hide in plain sight (or remain camouflaged outside of a McDonalds with a red top and said yellow pants). With this guy next to me, not so much.

I replied that I had no idea what they were made of. Denim perhaps? Oh no, he assured me, that wasn’t denim. He knew his jeans and what I was wearing was no denim he knew. He asked me if they stretched much. I paused and wondered what would be the more practical use of my time, writing my entry or discussing something I knew nothing about with someone I’d never met. I put away my phone.

“So are jeans your thing?” I asked, genuinely curious. “Oh yeah.” He replied. “I got all sorts of jeans. I always liked to dress stylish. Back in school they’d call me ‘Pretty Boy’. Even the teachers.” I nodded. “Right on.” He smiled “yeah man. I got heaps of jeans. I buy good ones, y’know?” [He rattled off some brands that I’m pretty sure I’ve heard before, but can’t remember] “They get expensive though.” “Oh? What’s the most expensive pair you bought?” I asked. He paused for effect. $700 was his answer. My eyes widened. “$700? What kind of jeans do you get for $700? Well, aside from ‘good ones’, I guess. Do they have special jean technology like Bluetooth? Do they glow in the dark? Contain Kevlar? I’m not knocking it, but what do you need to justify a $700 pair?” He looked almost confused “Well they look good and people know they look good.”

I took a moment and tried a different tack. “So if you’ve bought a $700 pair of jeans, is there any special prep you’ve gotta do? That’s a major investment and surely you want to take care of it? I remember reading something about putting new jeans in the freezer or wearing them into the bath for a couple of hours. Are those the kind of jeans you own?” He looked put off. “I don’t do any of that gay shit. I don’t want tight jeans. I’m all about that straight cut.” “Wait” I responded “what’s with the ‘gay’ stuff? How does wearing any kind of clothing make you gay? If it’s vanity you have a problem with, you just mentioned how much you spent on clothes.” “Yeah but” he sputtered. “I dunno, maybe you’re right. Anyway, if you’re making money you might as well put it into shit you like.” I nodded. “Yeah, that works.” He looked down at my jeans again. “So are you a jeans guy?” I burst out laughing. “Nope nope. I buy $10 H&M ones when they’re on sale. I’m not really a clothing person. It’s cool that you are though. It’s nice to have things to care about.” I heard the robot voice in the train announce Spadina coming up. “This is my stop, but it’s been nice chatting with you. You’re really a Jean-ius.” “A genius?” He asked “I just know stuff about jeans.” I fought every internal urge telling me to point it out. “Have a good night bud.” “Yeah, you too.”

It was either that or calling him a de-nimrod.

Possibly more of a double-edged fork.

The Easter weekend has been a double-edged sword for friend hosting purposes. On the basest level, it’s meant that I’ve been around while she has. Having Friday and today free has allowed me to spend tons of time with her. We’ve been able to venture across Toronto together, with my limited knowledge and expertise at her disposal. It’s dawned on me over the past couple of days that without guidance or navigation, Toronto could be a pretty boring place. The best parts of Toronto are festival and event related. The food rocks, but if you’re stuck in the city centre it can be tricky to source great meals from interesting, innovative restaurants. It’s lousy with chain stores and a big part of escaping their clutches involves being in the right areas. My friend is well travelled, I’m sure she would’ve been fine otherwise. There is however a very visceral alternate reality where she came to Toronto and missed all the good bits. Instead she wandered the downtown core, got coffee at Aroma, Tim Hortons donuts, and the culinary highlight of her trip was trying Swiss Chalet sauce for the first time. Bleak.

The double-edge of the Easter holiday was a bunch of great places being closed. Bakerbots for ice cream cookie sandwiches? Nope. The Big Mac pizza slice at Apiecalypse Now? Closed. No vegetarian poutine from Poutini’s for her. Disappointment abounded! Tacos El Astador was open, but totally rammed. The dude assured us a table would be available soon enough, but looking around the restaurant, 90% of tables hadn’t been served yet. We’d be able to sit, but eating would no doubt be off the menu for a while. We resigned ourselves to Sky Blue Sky, the Wilco themed sandwich restaurant. I mean, it wasn’t colossal resignation, their sandwiches are fucking awesome. We’d just been hoping for Mexican after vegan pizza was a no go. TOO BAD proclaimed the door, or said as much. They hadn’t been paying their rent and had been locked out. A big notice of termination on the front door. Fuck. According to the site they’re closed for renovations. I don’t know who to believe (but I know who I want to believe). Thankfully their King Street location is both a) still in operation and b) closer to my work.

We were bummed and while we didn’t feel hopeless, it seemed like potential was slipping away from us. FEAR NOT, DEAR READER, things turn out alright for your heroes. Just east of Bathurst lay the constant unobtainable jewel of brunch. Insomnia. Known also for their excellent pizzas and late night eats, Insomnia’s been a jewel in the heart of The Annex for years. On multiple occasions my girlfriend and I had tried to get in on some brunch action. Each time we were famished and couldn’t stomach the 20-30 minute wait for a table. Being a Monday and in the 1pm time range (brunch went till 3pm) we slipped in and found a table easily. Leafing through the menu, it was easy to see why they’d been so prized. An assortment of dishes across the spectrum of brunchdom. A variety of sweet options, sandwiches, two rancheros options and the bennies. As a gluten free option they had these delicious rice curry cakes that had a croquette-ish texture and a not-overpowering, but excellent curry taste. My pulled pork benny was a cavalcade of flavours. So decadent. The “legendary” home fries sauce had a real bbq taste, and the consistency was almost candied. Plus they had La Fin Du Monde on tap, always a sign of a venue with impeccable class. We may never manage to get a table for brunch again, but my heart will haunt that menu for years to come.

It’s been delightful being a tourist in my own city. Using my visiting friend as an excuse to gorge myself meal after meal. As a last hurrah, it’s time to ice that cake with comfort food. Onwards to Disgraceland!

Each child a different variety of Eldritch nightmare fuel. HOW ARE ALL OF THEIR PROPORTIONS UNIQUELY WRONG?

It’s pretty awesome having a good friend in town. An excuse to show off city pride and all that. I cleared off my whole weekend to be malleable around what she’s looking to get up to. She’s independent, but also looking for a simple time away hanging out, looking at things, eating delicious meals and drinking. So all the things I’d be doing in a foreign country too. As a result, I’ve taken Easter weekend as a holiday in Toronto. She’s on vacation and I’m riding that vibe alongside her. She’ll tell me the kind of things she’s looking to get up to and I’ll help facilitate them. What kind of stuff do you want to eat? What sort of sights are you aiming to see? Let me shape the holiday you seek kind of stuff.

It’s interesting putting myself into the role of a tourist in my own city, cause it’s making me look at it in another light. It’s been years since I was a Toronto newcomer and I’ve kind of forgotten what it was like to roam the streets seeking out potential. When I leave the house these days there’s often a vague intentionality to my movement. I’ll go out to pick something up, eat at specific restaurants, etc. This weekend however, I’m wandering the streets, stopping when the mood strikes my friend or I. As a result I tried out Duggan’s brewery for the first time, nabbing myself a delicious chocolate ale. I stopped into a few vintage and boutique stores I never would’ve set foot inside, because they’re her kinds of places. You know what? They had neat stuff and may well be my kind of places. Knowledge is power and I’m powering up my Toronto experience.

I’m also soaking up her #views. She lives in London and was a New Yorker for some time. Wandering the streets, she couldn’t believe how hard it was to find a bar open on a sunny afternoon. 2pm beers didn’t seem to exist outside of restaurants or late brunches. I’d never really thought about it. How often do I roam around looking for an afternoon beer on a weekend? Yet again, it comes back to purpose. When I’m out during the day, I’m not often trying to grab a beer. You know what though? When we did stop off for afternoon drinks, it was fucking great. Why the hell don’t I roam around aimlessly with mates on the weekend? Instead of being so driven by specifics, we could surf that holiday wave any week. Summer’s coming up and patio season will be upon us. I better start training.

Much as I’m “on vacation”, I’m coming to a realisation. A few times in the past couple of days I’ve helped out strangers looking for advice or guidance. Toronto has felt like home for some time. The creeping awareness that’s dawned on me this weekend is not only do I call Toronto home in the heart sense, but I really do feel like a local. This is my backyard now. A corner of my mind holds mental maps of the city, restaurants and stores, parks and where the closest LCBOs are. Not merely static information, it’s coloured by emotion. Places I love, small corners that freak me out or have an unspoken here be dragons clipped on. This city is a part of my life and this weekend I get to share that with someone who’s been part of my life for years. It’s several shades of radness.

The other side of sharing my city is holding a strange personal sense of responsibility. If my city doesn’t deliver, it feels like I’m not delivering. I love this city, if she doesn’t, does that mean I’ve misplaced my affections? What if I’ve latched onto a minefield and looked past the flags strewn about? What have I walked into?

Ultimately, I know that’s dumb. She was looking to chill out and she’s getting to do just that. Toronto will deliver, because it doesn’t have to be London or New York. It’s got its own flavour and that’s made of people like me who love it. Whether we’re conscious of it, we’re shaping the space we live in so that when friends visit, they’ll see why we’re proud of it.

Certainly not the Ossington Childcare mural. That thing is a fucking horror show.

Tour on TO.

I heard from a friend today that she’s thinking of stopping off in Toronto for a couple of days. Naturally, this is fantastic news. It’s always excellent to see good friends from far and away. Even better when you have the home court advantage. If she does come, it’ll be over Easter weekend, which has its pros and cons. I didn’t have any big plans over the weekend, so spending quality time with a good mate trumps anything else. It’s also during a time where I naturally have time off. Another plus. On the other side, I’m worried that Toronto may slow down over Zombie Jesus’ Cave Time. What if nothing’s on? How am I supposed to show her the best that Toronto has going for it, if there’s nothing going on? She’s coming from London (the good one) for fuck’s sake. How am I supposed to one up that?

Let’s work on a wish list. What ideally would I love to show her about Toronto?

  • Weird movie screening: Maybe something at The Royal, The Carlton or The Revue. Local cinemas working together with niche community groups to give the public access to lesser known filmic works. If there’s anything by Exploding Zebra or The Midnight Society, The MUFF Society, etc. Perhaps some horror film fest or an interesting TIFF screening/Q&A session.
  • Food: Always food. Toronto has several cities’ fair share of brunch spots with a ton of options for all diets. She’s vegetarian and Toronto will provide. Failing anything, it’s another excuse to get Ethiopean, as if I ever need one. Spring will come with a ton of pop-ups. There are also the regular spots like Bang Bang/Bakerbots, Sweet Jesus (thematic) and everything Kensington has to offer. Oh wait, how could I forget poutine? It’s Canadian food incarnate.
  • Bars: So many theme bars here, and surprisingly few I’ve checked out. As a local, you rarely explore your own backyard much. Why not put paid to that idea and dig around? I’ve never been to Eat My Martini or Nightowl. The hubbub surrounding “Harry Potter Bar” The Lockhart has probably died down by now. Get Well is always the best and I haven’t been in aaaages. the Get Well owned bar Greater Good has opened up close to me and I’ve still not stopped in for a pint. Not to mention great local breweries like Blood Brothers and Bellwoods. There’s so much excellent alcohol on offer.
  • Shows: There’s always some type of performance going on in Toronto. There’s a vibrant art scene between the visual arts, theatre, dance and more abstract stuff. Could she be interested in a themed burlesque show? Comedy gigs, whether improv or sketch? An offering from one of the many talented local theatre companies? An exhibition or gallery? Art battles or cooking competitions?
  • Dance: The anachronistic charms of Chronologic? Disco vibes of Beam Me Up? Guilty pleasure pop? K-POP? Queer femme hip hop? MTV Throwback? Whatever she’s into, like good beer, it’s probably on tap.
  • Funtivities: Escape rooms? Axe throwing? The Rage Room? Archery Tag? An escape event at Casa Loma?
  • Oh the Places to go: Toronto Island/Hanlans, The Beaches, Trinity Bellwoods, The Distillery District, Evergreen Brick Works.

Really though, it’s not about what I want to show her, but what she’s into seeing. First and foremost, is she even coming? If not, nothing’s stopping me from doing any of this stuff.

Y’know, Toronto’s quite something when you think about it.

Never never? Call me JaPeter JaPan.

Hi there. I’ve got no idea where this is going, so keep your hands inside the cart and let’s all enjoy the ride.

I haven’t been to an amusement park in longer than I’d like. Last time I went was to Canada’s Wonderland. The weather was borderline scummy, which was great. The park was sparsely attended through threat of rain. My cousin and I cleared every ride in under two hours. At one point they closed the rides for all of 15 minutes, so we got lunch. The rest of the afternoon was spent doubling/tripling back on all the rides we loved (I got to take Behemoth six times!). Pretty much ideal. I’m a big fan of roller coasters or basically anything that allows me to get as close to g-force in my extremities as possible. I don’t typically get scared on rides. It’s no brag, but a faith in rigorous safety testing and statistics. Discounting that horrific freak accident at Dream World (on a fucking benign river ride of all things), large scale amusement parks tend to be pretty safe. If I feel like I’m not in any danger, extreme rides feel fun, not frightening.

It makes sense for me to be thinking about amusement parks. A friend of mine just came back from a holiday to LA, which naturally involved a trip to Disneyland. I did the Disney parks in Orlando as a kid and had the time of my life. When I think of stuff I’d like to do on vacation, going to a bunch of theme parks would be right up there. I’m still a child (with larger limbs) and the thrill of going on a bunch of rides, but with the executive decisions and flexibility of being an adult, is palpable.

Good thing, because once again I’ve got vacation I need to use.

I don’t know how I ended up with another five days. It looks like I miscalculated my vacation days over the past six months and I still had a few to take. They allowed me to roll over the five days on the proviso that I use them up over the next few months. So once more I’m in the enviable position of having to decide where I’d like to travel.

To be honest, I’ve always wanted to travel to Japan. Since being a child obsessed with anime, Disney and video games, it’s been top of my list. As kids, we had a succession of Japanese au pair who stayed with our family. It was a pretty neat cultural influence that left me with fond memories. Visiting Japan has been a dream of mine ever since. Financially I haven’t been in the position to follow through, but I’m fortunate for that now to be a reality. For the next two months it’ll be Spring there, which seems the perfect time to visit. I could do a Tokyo trip, visit Disneyland, check out some beautiful old temples and finally tick it off the bucket list. There’ll be sake and sakura and everything. What’ve I got holding me back?

Right now? Logistics and planning. I’d love to do the trip with a friend, to have someone I can bounce ideas off in a foreign country. I don’t speak or read the language (though I’m sure that hasn’t stopped others before). I don’t know my way around Toyko, the transport system, the best spots to visit and how much things should generally cost. Trip planning has never been a strong skill of mine. As always, there are endless resources on the internet and I definitely have friends who’ve been there. So really, it’s on me to get off my arse and look into it. Dreams rarely come true without a lot of hard work.

Still, that’d be one hell of a ride.

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.