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?

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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.

Is the gras always greener?

This is not my first time in Montreal. Far from it. This might even be the fourth in the past two years. Each time, I’ve had this one bucket list restaurant: Le Passé Composé, a lavish French brunch spot. There’s even been a bucket list dish: Foie gras eggs Benedict. Each time I’ve visited, I’ve had my heart set on a Sunday brunch there. Each time it hasn’t worked out. I woke this morning with a dream in my heart and the will to make it happen, no matter the cost.

After a late, late evening partying in our post New Year’s celebration, I awoke around 10.30pm. I knew what I wanted and I was ready to hit the pavement, accompanied or alone. It did not matter, as long as the day ended with foie gras benny in my belly. But my companions were into it. I had an adventuring party at my back. We resolved to get dressed and get out into the world. It. Took. Some. Time. People had to get ready, movement was slow. By the time we left, it was already almost 1pm. Oh also there was a goddamn blizzard outside. The sidewalks were piled high with snow. In Montreal, everyone seems to have a dainty little staircase and safe passage is hardly something they offer. This snow was so intense that sidewalk benches were totally covered. Our friends spent half an hour digging out their car. It was unreal. But I wanted my benny and I was not willing to back down. We called an Uber, and it was a slow, steady journey. When there’s that much snow, you can’t speed. It’s razor’s edge sorta stuff. The trip was taking a long time, which I chalked down to the snow. We arrived, got out and looked around as our driver disappeared off into the distance. We weren’t at Le Passé Composé, we were at a passport office. My friend had accidentally keyed in the wrong address.

It was almost 1.30pm, orders ceased at 2.30pm. The line was typically right out the door and down the street. Would there be a line in a blizzard? Could we make it in time? I felt my dreams slipping through my fingers like sand. BUT NO. I made my mind a fist and grasped my resolve. We could and would make it. This would happen. I was gonna have that foie gras, brah. My friend ordered another Uber and it arrived tout de suite. The driver was friendly. He spoke eight languages, but I’m not sure he ever learned how to give a straight answer in English. I asked how long he’d lived in Montreal. “Guess” he said. So we took guesses. Ten years, 11, 25. “Take 25 and add ten” he replied. He looked kind of chuffed, we all looked sorta bemused. Why was he making this into a game? Did he feel like he was dropping a bombshell on us? People live in places, it’s not exactly remarkable.

He asked where we were from, and when we mentioned Toronto he asked which part. We replied, and he didn’t super acknowledge our answers. “So, do you know what the most liveable city in the world is?” We all looked at each other. This was not emotionally getting me closer to foie gras benny. We chimed in. Melbourne? Amsterdam? Copenhagen? He shook his head. “I’ll give you a clue: Walking.” None of us could muster up an answer. “You’re breaking my heart.” He pleaded. We threw out a few cursory guesses, but it was quite clear to is that he was the only one who remotely cared about this. We were basically like “dude, we give up.” He nodded sagely. “Oakville.” He did not elaborate. He didn’t say why it was so great, he didn’t reveal his sources. He just dropped it. We responded with as much enthusiasm as it deserved. Then we got stuck going uphill. We were very close to our destination and we said we could just walk. The benny was so close. “Could you please give me a push?” He asked. As an excuse to leave the car, we took it and pushed.

We were in sight of the place. No line. This was incredible. Usually it stretches down the street. We opened the door and walked into a sardine can situation. It was rammed. We managed to squeeze in. Everyone banded together to pull us in from the cold. We were all here for the same reason. It felt weirdly like we’d all gone through Hell. We wondered how long the wait would be. Would we all get in? Time was ticking away, where was the cut off? The weird part was that there really weren’t stakes, but it felt like there were. I had a sudden thought. After all this lead up, what if it turned out I didn’t even like fois gras? If I ordered it, looked at the immaculate presentation and delicacy of this delicacy, then took one bite and was like NOPE. What then? I chatted with people in line and made a couple of new friends while we waited. More people entered and we ushered them in from the cold. The line got shorter and shorter. We were told that we would be served. We were given menus to peruse and every dish sounded like a dream incarnate. Then suddenly, we were ushered to a table…

I wonder when I’ll next be in Montreal.

Time for another Gourd Idea, Bad Idea

I had the dumbest idea for a weird little video series.

So I mentioned the other day that I found my new workmate, Pumplestiltskin. For a quick recap, I was bored and walked the floors at work. I used to work on the 5th floor and people have a habit of leaving free food in the kitchen. Seemed like as good a time as any to leave my desk, so I climbed two flights of stairs in the hopes that a mid-afternoon snack was waiting for me. Pumplestiltskin to be didn’t look like a snack, but that could change, given the right makeover. I drew some eyes, a little nose, a big beard and some eyebrows. With the addition of a promotional Guinness trilby a co-worker had lying around, Pumplestiltskin was complete. I’m not an artist.

I was sitting at my desk, looking at Pumplestiltskin. I started thinking of how satisfying it’d be to see a pumpkin splatter on the ground from a great height. To clarify, I’ve had Pumplestiltskin for a handful of days and I’m already plotting its murder. Maybe don’t leave me in charge of infants. To me it almost seemed like a symbol that Fall was coming to an end. I googled the dates at which seasons in Canada changed. Despite the occasional snowfall, The 21st of December would mark true Winter. This meant it’d be just under a month until, if everything came to fruition, I’d be able to toss Pumplestiltskin from the eighth floor balcony of the office.

The next question was how I’d get permission to do so.

I was chatting with one of the radio program directors downstairs after my last job application. She said that maybe in the future she could get me involved in some content creation for the station. I’m 99% sure it was just a kind, polite rejection, but could there be something behind it? I feel like I’d get reprimanded for just tossing a rotund pumpkin off a building, but if it were part of marketing and promotion? Would that give me the leeway to fulfil a momentary desire? Moreover, how would I pivot Pumplestiltskin into some kind of content (for the protracted excuse of watching it splatter utterly)? Maybe a daily social clip called something like “The Gourd Word with Pumplestiltskin”. I could make a silly intro song with dumb Saved By The Bell style visuals. A real cheesy vibe, flippant and overly long. Then cut to a short video of Pumplestiltskin in some location, with me giving a voice over. My VO could be anything from a stupid pun, a brief reference to a contemporary news story, an old one-liner cribbed from an obvious source (like Mitch Hedberg’s “escalators don’t break” one), or trenchant political commentary. We could vary the location or add props to push the scenes in new directions. Over time they could become more and more elaborate. Then, of course, the outro song (same as the intro) could play and the clip would be over. I’d imagine the whole thing would be 30 seconds, with the Pumplestiltskin clip only 5-8 seconds long. The timing would all be part of the joke.

Wait. Would a pumpkin even last for another month? It’d already been around for at least one. 8-12 weeks, apparently. It was risky, but 8-12 weeks probably left me with the appropriate amount of time to do this.

Hold on, could that be my hook? The gears in my brain started turning over.

Pumplestiltskin is ostensibly aged between 25-35 human years. Over the course of the next month, it’ll age (rot) dramatically. Was there potential for a story arc? Maybe start out with the more absurd, random humour and slowly gravitate towards poignant ruminations on life? As it became clear that Pumplestiltskin was slowly dying, it could dispense pearls of wisdom or hopes for future generations. This, of course, would be punctuated some days by more of random humour or dumb puns. There’d be a real balance to strike. Humans identify with antropomorphic objects surprisingly quickly. Could Pumplestiltskin become a beloved character in under a month? How would we draw people in, making Pumplestiltskin likeable enough that viewers would mourn its death? Do we even have any brands at work that’d suit this kind of abstract humour? Or are they all a bit too stuffy and self-serious?

Pumplestiltskin may not have legs, but this idea might.

Snow point in complaining

I’ve had “Beyond the Sea” stuck in my head for days.

This is not me complaining whatsoever. I’ve had an extra jaunty little skip to my step. I’ve felt the need (though barely resisted) to take diagonal cross-steps, twirling my chain as I walk. Maybe a fedora (not trilby) on my noggin, waistcoat clad. What? It’s a living. Instead today I’ve basically worn my giraffe onesie and watched/played Magic all day. While snow drifts down across Toronto, it’s been a good use of my waking hours. I had loose notions of cobbling together soup, but any motivation died at the feet of leisure. There is no work, only pleasure.

I don’t think I’m ready just yet for snow, but Winter waits for no man. The central zipper on my winter jacket is still busted. All hope is not lost. My jacket has two layers and, instead of zipping them together, I can independently zip them. It’s surviving, not thriving. My winter boots are also in a state. The fabric on the inner heel has been torn up for the past few seasons. The laces are mostly ripped apart and the eyelets on one side of each shoe are holding on by a… well… you get the idea.

Is it time to dump a bunch of money on new accessories? I guess we gotta do a cost:benefit analysis. I could probably make it through Winter without getting new boots, but it’d be in unnecessary discomfort. To be clear, I’m not worried about getting value from these items. Combined I spent about $200 on the two. One was a super lucky out of season find on clearance, the other I also lucked into through the store having insufficient stock. I think I may have spent more on replacing lost hats/gloves in the past five years than I have on boots/jacket. The boots, as I said, could survive, but they’ve also done enough. I think I’ve come to terms with the idea that I should let them rest in peace. The jacket still works fine, but it is getting worn out. I’ve already replaced the zipper twice. I think to get a high quality zipper and have my alterations lady take care of it would probably cost around $30. If it’s gonna bust again quickly, that’d be a shitter. If I got another two seasons out of that $30, it’d be a bargain instead. It’s probably worth getting it fixed. It’s a warm jacket that still serves a purpose. I mean, even if I got a new jacket I’d still have the old layers that function independently. Is this boring anyone else as much as it’s boring me? Let’s try something different.

Oh, I finally had time and finished The Killing Eve. I don’t know how to say this without it sounding like total hyperbole, but The Killing Eve season one is one of the best seasons of dramatic television I’ve seen in years. It’s slickly filmed. So much money has gone into the production and you can’t help but notice. The sets and costumes are lavish. The plot spans cities and countries, which all carry their own lived flavour. The writing is sharp, provocative and unexpectedly funny. I’m pretty sure that no matter what future projects Phoebe-Waller Bridge took on, I’d make sure I watched. The characters are all given a ton of moments in which to really breathe. Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer play a captivating game of cat and mouse that pulls you along with every step. There are unexpected twists and turns galore. The final scene had me actively yelling, both with laughter and surprise. It’s just utterly enthralling. It’s eight episodes long. Your mediocre Netflix originals will still be there after you mainline the series in a day. Do yourself a favour and get it in front of you.

If you’re still bored, try playing “Beyond the Sea” on repeat for days. See how jaunty you feel then.