Be careful what you wish, Thor

“Thunderbolt and lightning very very frightening me” – Gallileo

Massive thunderstorm last night. The sky was alight with shock. The rumbling shook our house. It was awesome. We were wrapped in blankets, watching a film as the rain beat down outside. Ideal circumstances for nature to throw a tantrum. Every now and again we’d count the beats between light and sound. Noticing a flash, we’d take stock of how long it took for the crack of thunder to kick in. It was far away, but still overwhelmingly vicious. Removed as we were from the effects, it was still quite the marvel.

I so desperately want the experience of living through awe inspiring weather conditions. I’m not asking for a plague of biblical proportions. I don’t want anyone to be hurt, or people to be displaced because of my fanciful whims. I just want to know how it feels to witness nature at its most majestic and terrifying. I’m thinking something like seeing a tornado rush by within direct and actionable line of sight, but to surface unharmed. I want to know what it is to have lightning crackle and light up the ground within my proximity. To come so close to death, but emerge unscathed. Yeah, this is bucket list stuff, and I’m sure once it was over I’d question why I ever sought it in the first place.

The closest I’ve ever been to extreme weather was during an American road trip. A group of friends and I had rented an RV. We were driving from place to place, staying for a night or two, then moving on. Lots of highways. A large portion of our funds were going to gas. The driving itself was mostly non-eventful. We had this system going whereby someone would drive, whoever was in shotgun would navigate and do music. Everyone else got to relax in the back. At the time I was navigating, but ostensibly just trying to find apt tunes. Like I said, it was a highway. Should’ve chucked on some Cochrane. It started getting a little bit windy, which wasn’t hugely noticable. Wind happened, and our RV was stacked tall like a double-decker. It didn’t seem worth any worry.

The wind picked up and suddenly it was noticable. Our friends in the back chimed in, saying that this seemed abnormal. In the front, our centre of gravity was probably more aligned with having a horizontal view of the road. Things seemed slightly strange, but not altogether untoward. The wind kicked up another notch. Our vision of the road ahead became limited. It felt like anything could happen. Suddenly even in the front we felt alarmed. I don’t know how often you’ve driven and felt like your vehicle was in danger of tipping, but it’s even more concerning when you’re driving a small bus. It felt like the entire thing was lurching to the side. We were unsure how well we were sticking to the road. People in the back were actively and vocally alarmed. My friend was handling as best he could, but even he felt unsafe. We all agreed to pull off at the next exit and take a break.

Winds had picked up to a full scale maelstrom as we approached the exit, and we took it with the utmost caution. Nobody seemed to be behind us, and we slowly drove around the turn off and took refuge at a nearby Wendys. I had a frosty dairy dessert, I did the chip dip thing. It was great. After an hour the weather had settled down. We felt less spooked and more capable of jumping back on the highway without fear. We took the onramp and hit the road. No more than a few minutes had passed, than we found ourselves slowing down. There had been an accident, and it was taking time to move past it. Of course we rubbernecked, and saw a 12 car pile up at the next exit. Chances are, if we’d kept driving we would’ve been part of it. We were all a little shaky, and absurdly thankful to settle into the RV park that night.

Lighning though, lightning would be hella cool. Even if Gallileo’s a bit of a wuss.

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Well lit, son

I think I’m relatively smart. I also think I can be a full blown idiot left to my own means.

Take last night for instance. I’d mixed up the date of the concert I was seeing. It turned out to be a Monday, not a Tuesday show. No biggie, my social life is mostly pretty sparse these days. I’d been planning to go to the gym and hell, I still could. Great. I let my girlfriend know, and she asked me if there was anything I wanted for the concert. I had a think, and said it’d be great if she could pile some leftovers into a container for dinner, so I didn’t have to eat out. Also some weed would be neat, just to enjoy the gig all the more. Because she’s lovely, she said yes and delivered.

I went to the gym, showered up and stepped out into the evening. It was a pleasantly mild evening, a fantastic departure from the Smarch-iness that’s followed us into April. I had about two hours to spare before the gig. It was perfect. I could have a smoke, find a park somewhere and eat my chicken/kimchi with a gentle breeze for company. Then if I had to kill time, get a quiet drink. Simple, but pleasant.

I sat down in an empty courtyard, put a small bud into the pipe and inhaled. The teensiest bit came through. I tried again, but it was pretty clogged. Weird. I let it cool down, unscrewed the pipe and had a look. Gross. Real gross. It was like something out of an 80s anti-drug PSA cartoon. I swear Hexxus from Ferngully had taken up residence in the pipe. Crammed full of thick black tar, the residue from months of use without a cleaning. It was heinous to say the least. It needed a clean before use, and I had time on my side. Activities are fun, right? And my reward would be having an easy drag without inhaling gross toxins. Win win.

I had some q-tips I’d taken from the gym, just in case I needed them on the go for any reason (my backpack is basically Batman‘s utility belt). I got one and twirled it into the underside of the pipe’s bowl. It did very little. In fact, it just of just made it worse. Instead of getting rid of the tar, I just had remnants of white cotton stuck to where the tar resided. Like a medieval torture scene. I tried ripping off the cotton top, but the results were similarly lacklustre. It wasn’t long enough to pass through the length of the pipe. Back to the drawing board. I went to a coffee shop to pick up a stir stick, but it was too thick to fit in the pipe. I then remembered that there are very specific products for cleaning pipes, that are also available at most any craft store. Pipe clearers. Y’know, those fuzzy sticks people make into all manner of shapes? All I needed was a Dollarama or something. Turns out, there were none in the near vicinity.

I stopped at a park to see if I had anything in my bag that could help. Wait, what about that thin bit inside a pen? I was sure it could push out the gunk, and I had spare pens. Easy. I unscrewed the pen, took out the ink tube and pushed it in. I felt it moving the gunk around, which was great. Oh shit, it still wasn’t long enough, and it didn’t have a flared base. Ruh roh. I tried to pull it out, but with a mere small nub poking out, I only succeded in pulling off the cap. Shit. Ink spilled out onto my fingers. I grabbed napkins from my pocket in an attempt to create friction. No friction was forthcoming, only more ink. Curses. I had a stupid thought, thought again, then re-thought the initial dumb thought. I opened my mouth and bit down on the end of the ink tube, hoping my teeth’s superior grip strength could pull it out. Instead, I just got ink on my teeth. Double curses. I wiped it off with the napkin, and felt the inimitible sensation of textured paper rubbing across teeth. Triple curses. At this point I was almost ready to pack it in, but I’d figured I’d already tried so hard. Sunken cost falacy in full bloom.

I looked up local Dollaramas on a map, and saw one within a kilometre’s walk. Time to take care of business. I bought a small craft pack, which means I now have emergency googly eyes in my Batpack. I sat down at the porch of some apartment block with my pipe and fuzzy cleaners in hand, and went to work. The cleaners weren’t perfect. I thought they’d be more rigid than they were. They did, however, help clean out the blockage that was there. I used the cleaner (which kept bending) and pulled a bunch out. I then peeled back the filter that’d branded itself to the bowl, and cleared that all out too. I hastily bent the filter back in shape as best I could and looked at what I’d done. The filter was still charred black. My fingers were stained black and blue. The lip of the pipe had ink all over it. What a fucking mess. I used my remaining napkin and a bottle of water to clear off the ink and soot, then took a tentative inhalation. It was clear.

I was in the clear.

With that done, I put on some tunes, had a smoke, found a park, sat on a bench and ate my chicken/kimchi in bliss, stoked that I’d accomplished something despite my own ineptitude.

All things considered, a fun night.

A big ol’ cold pool

It’s snowing again. Like, a lot.

It’s weird to look outside and see the sheer volume of snow. If it were warmer, the snow would all be rain. Casting my eyes across the front yard- stacked maybe a metre high in places- it’s basically just a ton of water waiting for the sun, so it can piss off elsewhere. Until then, it’s just stuck there. So in some ways it’s almost like I have a temporary pool, albeit with fluffy water. Sure, it’s a pain in the arse that has little benefit and means I’ve got shovelling work to do, but also it’s kind of pretty. Then again, a ton of people who own pools don’t even use them. They just lounge around their expensive status symbol. Maybe there’s some way to make a yard full of snow cool. Could I get a couple of mates to bring loungers over, wrap up in snow gear, then sit around drinking spiked hot chocolate while we listen to chillwave? We could sit out on the porch, with the contents of a two-four submerged in the snowy yard. Oooh, we could even have one of those outdoor heaters and watch the world go by.

I think when I imagined coming to Canada, I expected I’d interact with snow a ton more. Realistically, it’s mostly an imposition. It makes walking more arduous. It’s occasionally cause for accidents. It’s ruined two of our doors so far this winter. It necessitates bringing cumbersome extra layers that are fine while outside, but as soon as you get on the subway or into the office they’re just sweat traps. Not to mention having to bring extra shoes with me everywhere because I don’t want to wear chunky boots for casual indoor strolling. Look. I know I’m never not advocating for everyone to adopt cheesy 80s futuristic style silver bodysuits, but hear me out. Slap some nanobots in those badboys, and create some kind of adaptive temperature control. No matter where you go you’re always at your ideal body temp, AND if you get abducted and forced into some kind of intergalactic adventure you’re already dressed for it.

You know, as a kid I had this deep seated belief that at any moment I could be whisked away to a fantasy world. It sounds silly, but so many of the shows/movies I watched had that whole “Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” thing going on. I wasn’t physically prepared, but you better believe that I wouldn’t have batted an eye if some portal opened out of nowhere. I’d jump in head first. My brain had sponged up these infinite storylines to the point where part of me still thinks it’s weird that it’s never happened. Like, deep down maybe this is why I’ve never really fit in anywhere. Because there’s a place I’m supposed to be and it’s just a quick alternate dimension away. Give me all the shit you want for this, but really it’s no less silly than a lot of societal beliefs. Is the idea that I’m meant to be battling dragons or something in a mirror universe really dumber than all this anti-vaxxer wank? Or like, all that anti-abortion rhetoric? What’s more likely, that I’m destined to lead the kingdom out of darkness and into salvation? Or that scientifically proven eradication of preventable diseases is actually giving our kids autism, when the guy who claimed that has since been very debunked?

I think you all know the answer.

And I’ve got the bones to prove it!

Hi friends. Toronto’s in the middle of a snowy shitstorm. I haven’t left the house in two days. I can remote into work, and the good coffee is better at home, so it’s all been for the best. I figure I should get some air, so I’m going out to the gym and I’ll grab Korean after Why don’t you come with me?

I still haven’t shovelled and I still kinda feel stink about it. The snow hasn’t ceased and my neighbour broke the back door off its bottom hinges. That’s two doors slain by this ceaseless sleet. Bummer. I noticed that the postal worker stepped through the shovelled path, only to deliver junk mail. Poor postie, wasn’t worth their effort.

I’m on the bus and three separate passengers are eating chips. Every once in a while their chip rotations sync up and they cronch in unison. It’s kinda creepy. One of them has a sneaky ziplock in her purse like it’s contraband, and her eyes are darting around with suspicion. Maybe she has a shit flavour and she’s trying to hide it. Wise.

On the subway and I’m listening to the sniffs sync up. I just did with the guy next to me. It’s rush hour, but going against the traffic. Everyone’s tired of course, but it’s different. There are seats. People seem happier, even the standing ones. There’s no desperation. I even feel refreshed. I guess it’s nice to go against the tide sometimes.

No sooner had I said that, of course, than I hit the transfer station and the train got instantly flooded. Oh yeah, and the next stop was mine. Not ideal, Neil. When we hit the station, I resignedly announced that I had to get off and, well, the waves parted. “No problem man” said a cheerful onlooker. UNDERSTANDING AND EMPATHY? ON MY TTC? What weird world was this? Going against the tide was like entering The Upside Down. Anyway, gym time.

Aaaaand done. Off to grab some veggies on my way to dinner. With all this snowfall, I’ve been reticent to leave the house. Wait, was that meant to be a euphemism for lazy? I haven’t seen daylight. My supplies of greenery have dwindled. A few more days and they’ll find me lying dead, clutching my bloated stomach stuffed full of meat and bagels. Honestly, doesn’t sound like a bad way to go…

… And wasn’t that just a comedy of errors? Like a goddamn pratfalling clown, I was a whirling dervish of clumsy. Limbs akimbo, constantly in everyone’s way. I went off to the local apple section, and in doing so, my massive bag closed in a couple looking for Ontario produce. Sometime else had to get past, so I pivoted in the hopes she could slide past. She did, but once I turned back she had to get out again. I’d become a turnstile. Then sheet taking a futile age to try cram a too-large cabbage in a bag, I found myself blocking someone from passing. With a sigh, I left the store to get a basket and allay the madness. I re-entered and noticed my shoelace was untied. I knelt down in an opening to fix it, and my new basket blocked no fewer than three people. THIS WAS WHY I HADN’T LEFT THE HOUSE. GAWRSH.

But I made it. I just ordered pork bone stew. We did it, team. Adversity overcome. Wasn’t that fun?

Here’s the scoop

I’m not good at shovelling snow.

It’s not that I can’t shovel snow, but I don’t have solid technique. After a brief skim read of some snow shovelling tutorial, I definitely have terrible technique. It’s like “don’t lift with your lower back” and “resist the urge to twist your back hand. Instead pivot from the waist and depost the snow to the side.” NOPE. I’m all about getting the chore out of the way as quickly as possible, which means I’ve got massive knots on the left side of my back today. I did find a good level up technique, where I can essentially plow areas that have had the bulk lifted off. It doesn’t get everything, but it gets most of it. If, instead of pointing the edge of the shovel right at the ground, I lift it slightly above, I can push with both hands on the handle and amass a bunch at one time. It makes it much easier if you’re clearing a big path.

Yesterday I’ve got no idea how much snow there was. A lot. There was enough snow that I can basically only see the lids of my big outdoor recycling/rubbish bins. I don’t know why I’m talking in past tense, most of the snow is still there. I managed to work from home, which meant I felt responsible for clearing the walkway (so postal workers could get through), and a path in the back (so people living in our building could get through). I don’t have good warm gloves, so once it gets below -20 I can only shovel for so long before I need to go inside and warm them up. Thus the rushed lack of technique. I also got a bit too eager trying to open the shed door to get the shovel out. There was some snow in the way, but my excessive zeal led me to not only open the door, but also tear it off its lower hinges. It still closes, mostly. Whoops. Fortunately we keep nothing of value in there.

I remember being a kid and hearing stories of my mum growing up in Montreal. She said sometimes there’d be so much snow they couldn’t open the door. It sounded like she was making up fibs. From little ol’ NZ, snow almost seemed like a fictional concept. Having grown up and moved to Canada, it’s all too real. I also don’t own waterproof pants/gloves, so it’s not like I can go out and play in it either. I’ve had this thing that I’ve kinda wanted to do for some time, whereby I fill balloons with water, then drop food colouring into them and tie them off. Then leave them outside to freeze, and when they unfreeze I’ll hypothetically have a bunch of coloured ice orbs. What would I do with them then? Who knows? I guess you could also fill ten empty coke bottles with coloured water and freeze them to make pins, then bowl. It’d involve cutting off the bottle afterwards, but if you had the tools it shouldn’t be too hard. Who knows? I’m a theory, not a practice kind of fella.

I’m getting ahead of myself. You might as well call me Anne Bowlin’.

s’now day like today.

It’s a Snow Day, so I’m getting lazy.

I’m at home with a mug o’ broth turned soup. I’m writing this in a half screen while mostly watching a Magic stream. It’s a snow day, I get to do what I want. Snow day didn’t mean a whole lot in the grand scheme of today. I got to leave work two hours early and went to the gym. Overall I guess it gave me my evening back. I dreamed of snow days as a kid. The idea of wagging school because of lots of cold, fluffy water seemed like a miracle. Rain never got cold enough back home. These days, a snow day means I can’t see Lake Ontario from my work (which sits right next to it). Today was basically a white out.

Soooo I’m being lazy here. I’ve been watching the stream and hardly writing at all. Oh man, buying kimchi the other day was a genius level IQ move. Now I can eat kimchi every time I’m home. Firstly, kimchi is delicious. Secondly, kimchi is very healthy. Thirdly, it doesn’t even need to be cooked. I can get right in there with a fork, spoon, or just my bare fucking hands. It’s a game changer, and I don’t know why I wasn’t this smart earlier. Sometimes you’re not ready, I guess.

I got around to watching the Fyre documentary. Egads it was satisfying. Firstly, it was interesting to see the depths to which that Billy McFarland would sink to make a quick buck. Always a scheme, one after another. At some level, despite how nefarious it all was, it was also impressive. I didn’t follow any of the influencer people, so the first I heard of Fyre Festival was when it all went down in flames. What a colossal clusterfuck. Basically orchestrating a massive exercise in fraud so he could live out a party lifestyle. I just wish we got to see more of young rich kids suffering. When it hit peak Lord of the Flies it was great, but why couldn’t we stay in those glorious moments for longer? Of course nobody really suffered too much, they were cheated and scammed, but nobody died. They just had to endure shitty sandwiches. It was a real shame that the island’s inhabitants bore the real brunt of McFarland’s ruse. I hope they get their justice. The thing that stuck with me, was how the underlying Fyre app wasn’t a bad idea. It looked like they were gonna pivot into a new evolution of it, but perhaps disrupting the system with an app like that could bring down concert costs. Bah, who am I kidding? People will ever want to make a quick buck. Everyone knows that Ticketmaster are scum, but nothing has and will be done. We’re stuck with this system until some revolution comes our way.

Y’know, it’s still a snow day and I’m still feeling lazy. I think it’s time I call this entry done and get back to my night. I’ve got so much kimchi to eat and snow little time.

Don’t think too hard, it actually didn’t make sense. Bye bye.

Talking about burying the load

Back to life, back to reality.

Like the denizen of any decent narrative, I’ve grown and changed. No longer am I the cherubim innocent, the Sweet Summer Child unversed in the ways of winter. Montreal sprouted hair on my chest, calloused my hands and hardened my heart. No longer do Winter winds howl at my sanity, reducing resolve to rubble. I arrived at Union Station last night with jacket open, gloveless and without the safety of a touque to shield my ears. To be clear, I had these things, they just seemed unnecessary. Montreal was cold, put lightly. One of those nebulous records held Sunday as the most snow and coldest day Montreal had seen since 1920. Two years shy of a century. Cars were buried in snow, large white lumps lining the sidewalk. Toronto has a little slush. C’est tout. No match for my brand new Winter boots and je ne sais quoi.

Tonight I’m going to eat some vegetables. I know this doesn’t sound like anything of consequence, but it is. I devoured my way around Montreal, but in a city of bread I ate virtually nothing green. Oh, I forgot to mention. The foie gras was unreal. Imagine if liver, instead of being a weird, squishy, almost faux meat mess, was delicious. Lightly pan fried and crispy, with a soft, buttery interior. The umami was through the roof, while the texture melded perfectly with its accoutrements. It sat atop gorgeously fluffy brioche, soaked in a creamy foie gras sauce, sherry and all. Caramelised onions flanked gooey poached eggs, tied together with delectably salty pancetta chips. The meal was so damn sensual that I swear I’m still erect several days later. It’s made being back in the office quite awkward.

Oh, I had pastries, jerk pork, poutine and French onion soup. What I did not have, was fibre. I tried coffee from local cafes and even bought my own beans. I ate naught in the way of legumes. We had cheese and surveilled the vibrant French-Canadian culture. I’m not sure that my stomach absorbed any probiotics. My girlfriend baked me some homemade Ginger Crunch, my favourite slice from back in New Zealand. It’s fantastic, but the nominal amount of ginger in the dish doesn’t count for real roughage. I haven’t spent much time ridding myself of the abundant riches I devoured eagerly on holiday. I’m not on holiday anymore. I’ve left Montreal and its steamies behind. For the next week, any steamies I’m having are steamed vegetables. I’ll eat my damn vegetables tonight.

I need to poop sometime, people.