I’m a husk of my garden variety self

“Mambo No.5” describes my T-shirt drawer at age 8.

I ate too much candy corn from a cone this afternoon, so I’m feeling more than mildly ill. No regrets. I had a craving for something sweet and there it was, a transparent cone of multicoloured candy corn. Had I known it was probably laced with SARS… well I would’ve likely still eaten it anyway. My gluttony is a stronger force driving me than my sense of self-preservation. My way to a heart attack will certainly be through my stomach. It’s fine, I’ll go out doing what I loved. I mean, hopefully this isn’t what kills me. If I’m eating myself to death, I at least want the final blow to come via barbecued ribs. I’m adamant about that. Get it, Adam-ant? I’m sure you can’t Eve-n right now.

Remember back in the 90s when they used to make Loonie Tunes basketball shirts with aggressive statements? Stuff like Taz wearing a backwards baseball cap with the words “Bad Attitude”. Or Daffy skateboarding saying “You Won’t Like Me When I’m Angry”? I thought of the audacity of those fucking things today and couldn’t stop laughing. I was cracking up at my desk, cradling my face in my hands. My coworkers were a little disturbed. It was unsettling to say the least. Has anyone on the net updated those for a modern framework? Like, Lola Bunny in Crocs and a denim vest saying “This Bitch Bites”? The face that launched a thousand furries giving voice to disenfranchised mall goths everywhere? Hot Topic could launch it as its new Summer line.

I dunno, I’m feeling very creatively bankrupt at the moment. I even feel like a pun run would be a tall order right now. Oh, speaking of running, I went for a jog today and got to half hang out with the cutest fucking puppy. It was teensy as shit, trotting around in a basket mounted on the rear of its owner’s bike. The cyclist went slightly faster than I did, but for maybe two kilometres it’d pull ahead, then I’d catch up when they stopped at a light. It was basically sentient fluff with eyes and what I presume was a diminutive bark. I was listening to music and it wasn’t loud enough to be heard above it. I was tempted to pat it, but given that the owner was facing the opposite direction, that seemed a little creepy and impolite. So I started it down, patting it with my gaze. I’m not sure that was any less creepy. I mean, it barked, so I’m not certain it was on board.

I’m sorry, but this is all I have today. It’s raining heavily in the middle of a heatwave. It’s humid enough that we might as well be 20,000 leagues under the sea. My mind decided to stop working. Believe me, it’s been over half an hour. I’ve just forgotten how to think.

Or the slow acting poison from the candy corn has finally reached my brain.

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Was that a toe-tal recall?

If I needed an antidote to Cabana Pool Bar, Hanlans Point was my sweet, sweet panacea.

It’s been literal years since I last went. Toronto has the most beautiful, accessible island a short ferry ride away and I rarely ever go. Why? It Is A Mission. Here’s how you get to Hanlans from my house:

  • It’s an island, so price gouging is in full effect. BRING EVERYTHING.
  • Plan out what you’re gonna want to eat/drink. In group picnics, sharing is caring.
  • Buy ferry tickets in advance (VERY IMPORTANT).
  • Grocery store run for aforementioned snacks and infinite liquids.
  • Gather towels, beach blankets, sunscreen, hat, jandals and bags to fit all of this.
  • Pack the chilly bin full of liquids and meats.
  • Apply sunscreen for the journey.
  • Get ice and last minute forgotten snacks from the grocery store.
  • Catch a bus to the subway, hauling all of your gear.
  • Transfer to the subway, gear in tow.
  • Transfer to the southern line, taking care not to trample open toed feet under the oppressive wheels of your chilly bin.
  • Transfer to the ferry bound streetcar, continuing not to maim strangers’ toes.
  • Arrive at the terminal. Wait in the long (but much faster moving) line for pre-purchased tickets.
  • Wait in a long line for the Hanlans ferry to come in (it’s merely a 15-20 minute walk from arrival to the beach instead of 40).
  • Board the boat and take deep breaths. Not too far now.
  • Be herded like cattle in the cramped offloading.
  • Still resist crushing toes with your chilly bin.
  • Walk the 15 or so minute walk to the beach, gear in tow.
  • Find your group on the crowded, colourful beach.
  • Drop off your gear. Allow your muscles to remember how it feels to be unburdened.
  • Set up your blanket to maximise collapsing space.
  • Shed your clothes. All of them. If it’s hot enough, take cues from Robbie Williams in “Rock DJ”.
  • Relax and enjoy the ambience.
  • Watch out for your toes on the hot sand.

Once you’re there though, Hanlans is bliss. The beach is flat and broad. The crowd is, for the most part, pretty chill. Clothing optional is taken very literally. Some choose to disrobe, others don’t. In my experience at least, I haven’t seen much of a fuss about it. I’m sure there’s aberrant behaviour towards women, because people = shit. I’m hoping it’s in the minority. Most beach-goers seem friendly. There’s a lot of lounging, splashing in the cool waters, and tossing of frisbees. Some bring cute lil’ pups. Most people drink and lax out. There’s rarely drunken hoodlum-ism. People have private speakers, inflatables, shade tents. The group next to us even had a hookah set up. There’s a gorgeous view of Toronto that peaks at sunset. It’s a special place that, despite the hurdles, is well worth the journey.

I’ve never been one for the outdoors, but contrarily, I’ve always felt strong ties to the beach. It’s a New Zealand thing. When the coast is a stone’s throw away at all times, you sort of accidentally find yourself skipping stones. I grew up body surfing and downing post-sand ice cream cones. The beach was a large part of quality time with my grandparents. It was so ever-present that I couldn’t understand why it was so revered in books and movies. It was something I continually took for granted and continually do. Yet, it’s a part of me.

Hanlans seems the perfect fusion of who I was and have become. It lets its freak flag fly, comfortable in itself.

Also if a woman comes by offering freezies, say yes. Trust me.

More like Ca-bummer

After 30.5 years on this earth, I feel like I’ve found my place in it. Cabana Pool Bar is not that place.

Until yesterday I’m not sure I’d ever been somewhere that made me feel so vestigial. It was like stepping into another dimension where all common sense inverted. Everything had a price and that wasn’t merely financial. Seriously, everything cost. All the shaded tables were reservation only. The deck was littered with unpopulated but inaccessible tables. If we sat down, security was quick to let us know that we needed to move. The area around the pool had a $20 paywall for men. Once you were in there, however, you couldn’t sit at any of the cabanas without paying. Minimum spend to rent a cabana was $1000. We luckily had a tangential friend who had other tangential friends who’d rented a cabana. It was fucking sardined with people. After the guys in our group paid $20 each to get in, we crammed in on the edge. We stood on the precipice of an unused cabana; An unused cabana in which we were not allowed to sit or stand.

Frankly, the experience was baffling. We found the type of people for whom Cabana Pool Bar was their place in the world. They were instagram model types, dudebros with rippling abs and older men with a lot of money. A friend remarked that she probably had more body hair than all the regulars combined. Status and hierarchy oozed out of every interaction like low level rot. Us average, everyday dudes, we were twos on a scale of ten. I’ve never before set foot in a place where security’s first recourse was to physically shove me out of the way instead of using their words. I felt like an oil spill in the sun. A weird, colourful blight in a foreign environment. I’m sure you all have an image of what this place looked like by this point. Now imagine me – an overly smiley dude in a floppy yellow wide brimmed hat, a Where’s Waldo Chameleon shirt, and a rainbow coloured arm cast – where would I fit in?

Simply put, it felt like a total erasure of my existence. I talk to strangers in public fairly regularly. Their usual responses are one of three: 1) we’ll start chatting, 2) they might give a polite laugh or nod, end of interaction, 3) they’ll be a little weirded out, but give some kind of acknowledgement and maybe turn their head. I was in the pool and had some dumb observation, I turned to two women standing beside me. Almost as soon as I started talking, they looked at me, quirked an eyebrow, laughed and turned to each other to chat. The look was entirely where does this guy get off thinking he can talk to us? I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so dismissed as a human being.

It was surreal to think that if you had vast sums of money, this is how you’d choose to spend it. From top to bottom, the experience seemed a total commodification of women. Men were sold the idea of tanned, toned young women who’d give them attention. Women were sold the allure of being a glamorous object of attention, to be admired and treated. Everything was designed to be a spectacle and had its cost. Bottle service was commonplace. In the lowest tier, two bikini clad servers would march over to the cabana and present bottles. The next tier up, a team of bikini clad servers would march up, holding letters to spell out some kind of message. Wanted more? How about an extra bunch of dollars to get a fucking marching band to parade around for you? I think there was someone on stilts. I commented on the bizarre class politics at play to a friend. Was this what the upper class wanted? “Upper middle class” she replied. “If they were upper class, they’d have their own private boat. They’d tour the Caymans or something. This is what happens when the upper middle class wants the illusion of punching above their weight.”

The thing is, I don’t feel envy. I’m not even disdainful. Sure, I’d love to be a sun soaked Adonis, showered in attention. I’d love to not have financial qualms or concerns. I’d love the kind of abandon that throws caution to the wind. Really though, it’s not the life I want. You know what? These people had all the money and status they’d need, but they weren’t happy. The number of people I saw crammed into cabanas with dour expressions, so committed to being fucking grumps. It was unreal. Like they had a need that would never be filled. It wasn’t enough. Nothing was. Once they had what they thought they wanted, they needed the next thing. I lead an abundant life filled with people I adore. I’m part of a community where everyone supports one another because they want to foster joy. We all have struggles and we’re there for each other. It’s based on compassion, not competition. It was one thing to be a tourist in another culture, but holy hell I’m thankful for the lovely fucking bubble I’ve found myself in.

So fuck it. Today I’m going to Hanlans for a nude picnic with My People. That’s my place.

To be fair, the song would be drastically improved by changing everything about it

Getting my skates on, because I need to roll out of here in like 35 minutes.

I went for a jog today. This was a fucking stupid idea because it’s 29°C and my flesh is now melting from my bones. I’m going out to a pool bar for friend based lounging this afternoon and I’m not sure if this is their target demo. To be entirely honest, I’m not sure that I’m their target demo. This is how they advertise, so I should rephrase. I’m entirely sure that I’m not their target demo. It looks like a Hot Chicks With Douchebags entry, a snarky page I used to frequent in my early 20s. I feel like my sense of humour has shifted. My distaste for triple popped collar outfits has not. In short, Cabana has always made my douche senses vibrate, turning me into some kind of Tickle Me Elmo. I guess If you rearrange the letters of “Elmo” you get “Leom” which is close enough. Still, it should be nice to hang around with friends, inwardly mock the vibe by making continuous snarky comments, and make use of my waterproof colourful arm cast.

Oh, I’ve decided to use the Oxford comma sometimes, by the way.

I’ve also told myself that this year is the year when I’ll finally work up the courage to almost use semicolons, then back down at the last minute and use full stops instead; I used one the other day and I’ve been feeling low key dread ever since. Oh fuck, that just slipped out. So now I’ve gotta spend the rest of my life wondering if I made a mistake. Were those two clauses independent? Did they buy the shoes on their feet? What if they were a present from a cherished friend? Does that invalidate their independence? Is the price relevant? Like, if they bought their shoes because they got them at a steal, is that also showing their financial independence? Or frugal smarts? That seems pretty independent. Is the purchase itself necessary? What if they literally stole them? That takes gumption, planning and/or quick thinking. Should I have used an Oxford comma there? Argh *throws his hands up*.

I’ve packed (lie, I haven’t packed yet. That’s what the spare five minutes after this entry is for) a towel, togs, sunscreen, and a hat. Am I gonna need anything else? Did I write that list just to practice the Oxford comma? Only time will tell. Because I’m kind of staring at the clock on this one. Five minutes to go. Time flies when you’re scanning the internet for apt hyperlinks. To be transparent, I originally wrote “appropriate”, then changed it to “apt”. Then I changed out the word “clear” for the word “transparent”. It’s called editing, folks. Look it up.

My girlfriend and I decided half an hour ago that it’d be funnier in the Santana/Rob Thomas monster hit “Smooth”, if the lyric “My muñequita, my Spanish Harlem, Mona Lisa” was instead “I own a keytar: My Spanish Harlem, Mona Lisa.” It’d be even better if he then started wailing on the keytar, jamming out one of those colossal keytar solos for which Santana gained his notoriety.

But instead Rob just said “barrio” for no good reason and the world was a darker place.

I’m going now.
Yours Sincerely
Leom

For future reference, the correct answer is Bulbasaur

So far camping has gotten better.

After yesterday’s morning grumpfest and sleep deprivation, I was in a dark place. My mattress deflating, tent collapsing, entrapping me in a tomb of poles and canvas. I took in the panorama of joy around me and felt very alone. It was not an ideal start to the trip.

I willed myself to move through the negativity and into a place of nihilistic humour. We’re all gonna die someday, so hey, I’m on track. Then community came to the rescue. I felt shitty that I’d offered a friend both space on my mattress and in my tent. Circumstances had forced me to forfeit both. It was like I’d promised the Earth and arrived with a handful of ashes. My friends took stock and little by little, we worked together to bring me back to the fold. My friend was driving up, so I got her to grab an air mattress en route. Another friend offered us the plounge tent to sleep in. My friend arrived with a small tent which we used to store our gear (and presently, my “office”). We set everything up and the weight lifted. I looked around to see the abundant sun and colours in all directions. I let go of resentment and fear to just be present. Then I spent six hours doing my sanctuary shift. Six hours was a long time to sit there without anyone coming to us for help, but I guess overall it was for the greater good that we weren’t needed? It was great that nobody was having a bad time, but it sure would’ve been nice to help someone.

Then my shift ended and so did my need to be sober. I had a couple of drinks and went adventuring with friends. There’s a massive metal polyhedron that you can climb. It rolls around, so part of the fun is trying to hold on. I did all sorts of hanging shenanigans and pull up-y tricks. Then I met my friends who were experienced hoop artists and we mucked around some more. My arms are certainly feeling it today. We looked around at some of the camps. I did axe throwing, choosing from their array of 72 (!) weapons. I was a contestant on the Trash Fence TV Dating Game. The potential date was kind of uncharismatic, but the two other contestants were friends. We riffed with each other and wondered out loud why we didn’t all just go on a date. The only question I can remember answering was “What pop culture character would you describe yourself as and why?” I don’t know where I pulled this from, but I responded immediately with “Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors. Because my hunger is insatiable.” The crowd went wild. When it came time for each of the contestants to ask the potential date a question, I posited “What pokémon did you start with?” She responded “Uh, I didn’t play Pokémon, so I don’t know?” Straight away I put my hands up, yelled “I’m out!” and faux walked off the stage. When it came time for her to choose which suitor to date, the crowd was cheering my name. She did not choose me. I’d had such a blast that I didn’t care one iota. Then post show a bunch of people came up to give me hugs. My heart swelled three sizes.

We spent a couple of hours dancing up a frenzy, then chilled way out. Our friends had procured a magnum of champagne, so we settled into a plounge and formed a big cuddle puddle until the wee small hours. It was such a lovely night, and I even managed to get a good sleep this morning.

I think I’m getting a hang of this camping thing, guys.

So it begins with a blank canvas

So far camping could be better.

Call it a lack of prep, but I feel pretty unprepared. It’s very cold and windy. Right now I’m wrapped in a duvet inside a sleeping bag. I’m also wearing a onesie with a T shirt and sweatshirt underneath. It’s fine for being inside my tent (which provides no real warmth, on account of all its walls being glorified open air. I’m sure I’d be lauding that fact in the deepest summer), but that wind is a motherfucker. Speaking of my tent, it spent the night collapsed in a heap. We set out from Toronto far later than I’d expected, which meant we were setting up tents in the dark. I’ve tried a couple of times to set it back up, but the wind keeps bending its poles. I’m sitting up to write this and the roof is sitting on my head. I’ve used it before without issue, but this time the tent is pulling rank and having none of it. The bright side, I guess, is that after I push the poles back into place I can see how spacious it all is, until it collapses in on itself again a minute later anyway. Small mercy.

I’m tired. I had less than the prescribed fourty winks. Probably closer to eight. Aside from my tent imploding, the air mattress gave out almost immediately. I’ve been sleeping on a glorified lump of plastic and a couple of pillows my friend lent me. Yet again, sleeping is a strong word. I’m equal amounts of tired and grumpy this morning, which isn’t helped by the dull but persistent headache that’s hanging around. Like I said, so far, camping could be better.

The camp itself however is very cool. People went all out in decorating. So many tents are festooned with colourful light displays. It makes sense. Being far away from the city, at night the only light found is the light people bring. Also, I mean, they’re burners. It kind of comes with the territory. It’s still very early in the festival and it’s half full. There’s still a lot more to come. That being said, there’s already a lot here. In this chill, I’ve been looking enviously at the purpose built sauna that’s been brought. It looks like a large wooden cabin, but promises hot, sweaty warmth. Speaking of hot, I got to try the fiery lawn darts last night. They’ve arranged a wall of balloons filled with propane. When it’s your turn they dip the tip of a dart in kerosene and light it up. The goal is not to hit the balloon itself, because that’d just pop with little payoff. Instead you want to hit just below so the flame from the dart ignites the balloon and it explodes. I had a go last night and demolished a cute lil’ balloon dog. It caught a chain reaction and set of a bunch of other balloons, lighting up a huge swath of the wall. Just call me Dartanian.

Ugh. It’s 7.30am. Let’s see if I can get any sleep this morning.

When I’m there, it’ll be more like “The Puns of Brixton”

One day left in London. One and done. Lon and Don? We’ve migrated to South London. I think. Croydon. It sounds like the name of a pokemon, so honestly I couldn’t be happier.

We’re staying with a friend in her actual very own (very owned) place. Like in any city of size, to have any change of owning property you have to move way the fuck out in London. Also like any city of size, most every formerly rough area is on the crest of gentrification. Croydon has its own Boxpark, for instance. A structure composed mostly of 20ft containers, which each serve as stores. It’s both trendy and very cheap real estate. Win win. Also, wings, if you go to the barbecue place. I did, which is how I ended up with a beef rib roughly the size of my forearm. If only I’d been forewarned. Was it good though? Foresure! The “revitilisation” of Croydon has been contentious for some. It’s basically involved trendy spots like Boxpark moving in and formerly historic pubs reforming to grab a hold of that sweet, sweet yuppy gold. Then they get to charge central London prices too. There is a bunch of really neat street art and brutalist architecture, so it’s not like ol’ Croydon doesn’t have the chance of going in a direction that’d actually be all sorts of rad. On the other hand, the Tescos Express we visited last night was in the remnants of a pub from 1896. It’s a coin flip right now. Only time will tell if it’ll come up heads. Or tails. What’d we call?

We’re checking out Brixton today and I have no idea what to expect. When you think about it, that was a bloody silly way to start a paragraph. I didn’t come on this trip with a solid grasp of London geography and socio-political climate. All I know about Brixton is that someone wrote a song called “Guns of Brixton” and Nouvelle Vague covered it. I’m not even sure enough that I’ve listened closely enough to the lyrics to understand what it was about. Street gangs maybe? So I’m guessing it’s a formerly rough and tumble area. Maybe some kind of epicentre for the 70s punk movement? Our friends told us it has a nice market, so that should be a jolly ol’ time. Who knows? Toronto has been dumped on by a massive ice storm. It’s covered in snow, homes without power. Typical Toronto spring, eh? All I know is it makes a dreary day spent exploring the mysteries of Brixton sound righteously exciting.

Also I’m fighting my keyboard something fierce right now. While travelling I use this excellent Logitech bluetooth keyboard.  It’s battery powered. This might be the third or fourth holiday I’ve spent using it for my daily writing. Today it’s sluggish in response, it sometimes skips keystrokes or randomly inserts excessive amounts of certain letters. It’s making writing a total pain. Realistically, the batteries are probably just running low. Let’s try an unedited example of a sentence and see if it’ll act up:

The quick bbrown fox jumps ovvvver the lazy dog.

So imagine that, but for a whole entry.  Grossness. By now I’ve struggled with to enough to happily sign off.

Also I’ve totally run out of anything interesting to say. Ciao!