Sweater weather

Well I feel like wet garbage.

I don’t know what exactly has me down, but I feel cold and flu-esque. My skin is ultra sensitive, my muscles ache, I’m mega congested. I spent most of last night in bed just tossing and turning around. It felt like purgatory. I’d turn one way, settle in, then feel uncomfortable and turn the other way. I don’t know how much sleep I actually got, but I imagine it was in the realms of 4-5 hours if even. According to this article I read yesterday, that ain’t enough. The article says eight hours or bust, basically. That while we think we’re doing fine on fewer, we ain’t. That the cumulative effect of losing an hour daily can be tantamount to feeling drunk. Maybe 2020 is the year I finally tackle my dislike of slumber. Much as I don’t want to be sleeping that much, if it’s the healthy and responsible choice, I’m getting too old not to make those. It only gets worse from here on out, and the undesirable task of mitigating that falls to me. Gross. Is that what growing old is all about?

I’m honestly kind of gutted to be missing work today. It’s my first sick day as an independent contractor. Without paid sick leave, there’s a very real cost to being sick. I’m impressed that this is the first time since I started in September that I’ve had to stay home. Still, I could use the funds. We’re going to Montreal over the weekend for a wedding. So yes, money could be handy (as if it’s ever not), but I think it’s more important to take the time and heal up, rather than potentially ruining a trip. I’ve got a few days to right myself, or at least to get to a place where meds can do the heavy lifting. It’s gonna be cold and snowy no doubt. Montreal in January tends to be. Last year when we walked down the road in Montreal, cars were entirely covered by snow. It was nuts, and felt like we’d strolled through a blizzard. If I don’t get healthy soon, I really will be under the weather. Pun 1000% intended.

I’m actually pretty excited for this trip. I love weddings, and while I don’t know this couple super well, I do know them as abundantly loving, creative people. I’m sure it’s gonna be a fantastic ceremony, but moreso it’s gonna be a great crowd to spend time with. As far as I understand, there are a few group activities, and the wedding itself has involved a lot of communal work. The bridal party is quite extensive and close-knit. My girlfriend is part of it. I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ve cooked up, and the special touches that the ceremony will exhibit.

Right now though, I’m looking forward to kicking this flu to the curb.

A Leonardo original

Last night I left the house only to shovel the footpath. I returned over two hours later.

Yesterday was a total whiteout. It snowed all day long. The streets were covered. Some dude in our neighbourhood was going double time with his machine, doing his self-imposed duty to keep the footpaths clear. At some point I looked out and realised our footpath was still snowed over. Snow was still falling. I thought if I at least shovelled, it’d make things easier to work on later. I wrapped up and grabbed the shovel. I put on some music and went to town. The show was so soft. I found that in lieu of shovelling, I could kind of just push the shovel and send snow flying. It was less intense on my back/forearms, and made quick work of the task. Our neighbours are older, so I thought it’d be a nice deed to shovel their footpath too. Satisfied with a job well done, I walked out back to return the shovel. I looked at the picnic table sitting in our backyard. It was totally covered with snow. Maybe I could use that snow to make a lil’ snowman.

I’d never really done a lot of snow sculpting before. I scooped snow together and tried to make the ball base. It wasn’t coming together quite like I hoped. It was too difficult to roll the snow on the table, so what I had was more of a mound than a ball. I stopped and thought, wouldn’t it be funny to make a massive penis? Give the upstairs and downstairs neighbours a good chuckle when they came home? I worked on the balls, set up good foundations. I wanted the sculpture to top out around head height (pun surprisingly unintentional), so I could work on it from the ground. I realised that if it was gonna be a truly impressive sight, I had to establish some solid girth.

Having not done much snow sculpture, I totally loved it. I’m not a big visual art guy. I had a blast when my girlfriend and I had a modelling clay evening, but that was a specific style of sculpture. With the right consistency, snow sculpting is amazing. Last night’s snow was so soft. Unlike other mediums, I had basically unlimited materials. It was easy to pick up (and if I ever needed more, I could just shovel and dump the pile on the table) and shape. I realised that there were all kinds of techniques. If I was shaping vertically, I could shave away with firm downwards karate chops. It worked really well. If I wanted smooth surfaces, I could polish with my gloves. My fingers don’t go right to the end of my gloves, so there’s always a little tip at the ends. I found that I used these tips to do most of my line work or whittling. If I rapidly rotated my wrist, I could get a real Edward Scissorhands thing going on. If I made a mistake or wanted to change something, I could just pack more snow on, then whittle away at it to get the shape just right.

Hours passed and I lost myself in my task. I started really getting into the shaping. It was cool to be able to look at it from all angles, consider proportions, etc. I knew I wouldn’t quite get the girth to length ratio exactly as I wanted because of the height limitations, so I tried to decrease the size of the balls to help my shaft perspective. I stood on the table and looked down. Was it even on all sides? What kind of gradient did I want for the head? Were all sides even? What did I want the ridges to look like? Was I gonna do veins? I decided it could use little a frenulum, as a treat. My girlfriend came out at some point, worried I’d slipped and hurt myself. She offered hot cocoa when I finished. I had such a blast, and it might finally be time for me to own some waterproof pants so I can try again.

Anyway, here’s what you came for, in all its glory.

Climate change is scary enough, Halloween needs headroom

I walked out of work and into a warzone.

It was awesome. Wind whipped wildly in a wicked whirl. I zipped up my coat, and was buffeted back. Branches from tall trees lay strewn across the path. Leaves covered the ground. The construction fence had collapsed on one side, exposing a muddy yard. Traffic lights thrashed from side to side. A bushy tree damn near bent sideways. I struggled to keep my feet. The lake was tempestuous, waves dotted by oddly calm ducks. When the lights changed, I bolted across the street, achieving no more than my normal walking speed. It was madness. It was beautiful.

Unfortunately for my sense of wonder, things calmed down once I moved away from the lake. I expected to come home to crushed cars parked streetside. Power outages, chaos. Instead there was just a mild breeze. Things were oddly calm for 1am on Halloween. I saw only two Joker costumes on my way home. Quelle surprise. It was kind of gutting that the weather dumped down so much. Think of all those kids who were so excited to dress up in pursuit of candy. Hell, Montreal postponed Halloween. Can a city do that? Well they did.

Neither my girlfriend nor I were home to hand out treats to kids. Maybe it was some form of mercy. Making small talk with kids is a legit skill, and I don’t have it. I’ve never really learned to talk to kids like kids, and so I’m just at a loss for words. What am I supposed to ask? So what do you do? Been on any cool holidays lately? What’s been lighting you up lately? My usual mingling tactics are useless here. Last year Halloween came a few weeks after weed legalisation. My girlfriend and I were a little stoned, and it all became a minefield. For the first time in years, Halloween was legit spooky. We were both almost afraid to approach the door, unsure of how to handle these innocuous interactions. Small mercy then, that our area doesn’t get much trick or treater traffic.

I wonder what a loot bag looks like here. Back home, it was a bizarre hodgepodge of things. Sometimes people forgot it was Halloween and grabbed random things from their pantry. Otherwise it’d be a cornucopia of off-brand lollies. Over this side of the world, Halloween is much more of an expected quantity, so people buy in bulk. The easiest way to do so is to grab one of these huge boxes from a supermarket. All the big candy companies put out packs with 70 pieces, 100 pieces, 200 pieces. Fun size candy that’s limited in variety. I can’t imagine how many multiples kids will get of the same stuff. Like, 20 mini Kit Kats and some Swedish Fish?

I saw some police PSA on the TV. It gave out helpful hints like “don’t let kids try any candy before you check it first”. Really? Is that where we’re at? I’m definitely not someone who’s all ugh, PC Culture, etc etc. This seems like overreach. What do people think is gonna happen? Are we still on that whole train of people spiking chocolate with drugs and razor blades? In this economy? It’s 2019, people can hardy afford that stuff for themselves, let alone give it out for free. How many kids are hospitalised because of eating something they’ve been given? Especially with these sanitised bulk boxes being circulated so heavily. Most everything is individually wrapped and sealed. It’d be an absurd amount of effort to poison things, and for what payoff? Surely this is a culture of fear talking, that expects people to want to do malicious things to kids. Is there data to back that up? Or just empty rhetoric?

The craziest thing I saw last night was nature. Halloween, keep up.

Why I oughtumn

First day of Fall and it’s raining ornamentally.

A smidgen. Just enough droplets to be like “welp. I guess there’s a change in the air”. Mostly it’s nominal though. I don’t care. I’m all about Fall. I can wear unzipped hoodies again, Halloween is creeping around the corner, and Thanksgiving happens at some point. You’d think after six years in a country, I’d know the exact date of it’s biggest food holiday. I like to think I just enjoy the surprise. Every year I run into the “oh shit, Thanksgiving is next week” scenario. Never a bad surprise, always a bonus. I wonder if I’ll finally make a good turkey this year. Every year it’s been too dry. This year is my year. I hope.

I went to a party last night, and the view was unbelievable. Right on King St, the 40th floor. Unreal. From that height, people are reduced to figures. No distinguishing features. There’s something about that kind of distance that makes you feel removed. As if you’re different. I kind of get why the excessively wealthy look down on everyone. I don’t agree with it, but I do understand. That’s a wholly different perspective. You know what I’d never seen before? The top of a streetcar. It’s not astounding. It’s all dark, with the arm things connecting to their power lines. The more interesting thing about watching a streetcar from above, is seeing the process of people boarding. I’ve seen it from ground level, of course. It’s very different from up high. Very mechanical. The streetcar stops, the lights come on, the doors open, little people dots exit while other people dots wait their turn, then the patient people dots enter.

That kind of height is all kinds of dehumanising. It was also pretty neat to see all new rooftops. I mean, it’s not like the rooftops just popped up, but they may as well have been imaginary to me. There was one with a bunch of fairy lights that led from all corners to the centre. Looked like a lanky glowing spider. Aren’t most spiders lanky? Well this one probably had a bunch of people partying under it. I noticed another alley all lit up with multicolored lights. It was also strange looking out to the harbour. During the day, the view extends as far as your eyes can see. Likely because of the light pollution, past a certain point it just stopped. Like there was lag and they’d failed to load the data. Nothing but a big blue wall. Windows has performed an illegal operation.

I’m tired enough this morning that lag makes a ton of sense. Oh well, time to start work.

Happy Sunday everyone.

Cryogenically frozen in time

Story time, friends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look, that poison craving/Every Rose link wasn’t intentional, but I’ll take it

I think there’s a lot of power to the phrase “Holding resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it kills the other person.” It’s pretty valid.

But also, who’s to say I don’t sometimes have a craving that only poison can satisfy?

Case in point, my girlfriend and I were walking down to some thrift stores to see if I could scope out a potential costume piece for Halloween. I stepped out the front door to check the weather. It was sunny, but there was also this massive dark grey cloud blanketing the sky. I heard the rumble of thunder. Now, I don’t mean I heard one big crack, the rumbling was pervasive. It went on and on in a way I haven’t known thunder to act. Minutes and minutes of low level rumbling. I went back inside to assess if I needed to bring my big floppy sun hat.

I was in a kind of pissy mood for… reasons, and for me this translated into a singleminded problem solving mode. The walk was meant to be a lackadaisical traipse through neighbourhoods, stopping to smell each and every rose. Because of my mood, that faded into the background. I imagine “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” was playing low level in my brain. I didn’t want to bring contingency plans for rain. I had my keys, wallet, cellphone and sunnies. Still, the thunder rumbled along. The dark clouds clawed for real estate, and pulled themselves across the sky. I turned to my girlfriend and commented something to the effect of “It’s like we’re in a horror movie, and there was a sign saying “Beware all who enter here”, but we ignored it. Then there was another sign saying “Hey, didn’t you read the sign before this one? Turn back.” But we didn’t. Then another sign cropped up that said “Hey idiot, turn the fuck around already” and we were like hmm, I guess the sign making industry is really booming around here. Then we were likely to be eaten by a grue.” [Okay, the gist was there, but I definitely punched it up in post – Ed]. My girlfriend asked if I wanted to stop in to get a second coffee of the day. I looked at Wallace Espresso, looked up at the sky, and thought out loud. It’s probably gonna take about four minutes to get a coffee, but we might be 10 minutes from a torrential downpour. If we walk instead, we can get to Value Village and be there when it rains. I did not get my second coffee, we crossed the road, and the heavens opened.

Here we were, hiding in the little nook of someone’s front door, and things got biblical. Surprisedpikachu.bmp. Massive gobstopper drops of rain thudding constantly on the ground everywhere. Cars slowed, people frantically ran for cover. Folks shielded from the rain all pulled out their cellphones to film. Keep in mind that it’s been blindingly sunny for the past few weeks. This was out of nowhere. Well, excessive thunder warnings notwithstanding. In my pissy mood, I looked around in a huff and was like well, what did I expect?

I started to think on what we could do. We didn’t have umbrellas, coats, anything. We would just get totally soaked if we tried to make a run for it. The thrift shopping wasn’t especially useful or necessary, it was just something to do. Were we at the ridiculous point of evolution where, if the rain didn’t let up, the logical course of action was to go on our phones, locate a stranger with a car, get in said car and have them drive us home? We were maybe a four minute ride away from our front door. Everything about it was totally absurd. Then my girlfriend turned to me and asked “so how long do we wait until we just call an Uber and go home?” We waited maybe a minute.

So we went home, had a big difficult talk about important relationship stuff, and I felt less pissy. The weather let up and it turned into a surprisingly nice day.

I didn’t come here to write a big ol’ metaphor, but sometimes they write themselves.

To ront o’ not To ront? There’s no question

Hey frands. I’m going camping this weekend and there’s a good chance I’ll be out of service range. I’ll be writing daily entries, but I might not get to post them until Monday evening. I don’t imagine I have many white-knuckle diehards waiting on my every word, but there are also people who’d maybe assume I was dead if I didn’t post for three days. I’m probably not going to die in the next three days. Probably. No promises. Anyway, it’s my sixth Torontoversary today.

I love my Toronto.

I love my Toronto in the Summer. I love the cavalcade of camping, cottages and concerts, getting out of town in a borrowed car. I love seeing parks come alive with aimless relaxing. I love seeing slackliners taking their daredevil balance bollocks to stupid new heights in Christie Pitts. I love clicking “going” to park movie screenings I’ll never attend. I love that I’ll always see someone with a bespoke hula hoop. I love saying “y’know, this is the year I’ll finally get a bike”. I still don’t have a bike. I love the literal one time I get out to Hanlans each year. I love the precious angel woman who sells boozy freezies. I love how strong they are. I love seeing the Toronto skyline in the dusk, while I’m wearing nothing. I love seeing Pride come alive. I love those nights that never end, warm as the day. I love my lunchtime Harbourfront runs. I love seeing a plethora of dogs as I zoom past. I love it when a fellow jogger waves back. I love trying to race the streetcar, and mostly losing, but sometimes not. I love messing around on the Salem Avenue Parkette outdoor gym equipment. I love watching enormous lines at Bang Bang, knowing full well there are other easier places to get the same thing. I love keeping that a secret. I love seeing kids so buzzed to be out in the sun. I love all the burner fundraisers, dancing around crazy art cars. I love Peach Season. I love celebrating my anniversary with my girlfriend.

I love my Toronto in the Fall. I love looking at the weird ornamental gourds in corner stores. I love avoiding the madness of TIFF, but seeing how it lights the city up. I love JFL42. I love seeing upwards of 20+ comics in 10 days. I love planning and plotting for maximum efficiency. I love waiting until the last moment to buy cheap turkey for Thanksgiving. Walking that line until it’s under $1 per pound. I love forgetting to pull out the same cans of cranberry sauce and gravy I bought at Loblaws for 20 cents a few years ago. Does that stuff ever really die? I love the commercial real estate place at Dupont and Christie that just gives out a shit ton of free pumpkins every year. I love Fall fashion, long coats and sweaters. I love drinking beer in the Fall. I love seeing whatever crazy Autumnal concoctions Blood Brothers comes up with. I love pretending that humans hibernate, and eating my bodyweight in hearty fare. I love Fall apples.

I love my Toronto in the Winter. I love seeing Christmas lights coruscate in the snow. I love crunching across the ground in my big boots, feeling invulnerable. I love those clear days before the endless darkness of February. I love watching it all from indoors with a “special” hot chocolate. I love getting weekly Pork Bone Stew in Koreatown, at my secret favourite place. I love the genuine kindness that emerges in people. I love seeing people knit for the homeless, leaving new touques out in public with a caring note. I love New Years house parties, surrounded by the people who make Toronto feel like home. I love cosy movie nights with friends and thai food. I love getting my hermit on, staying in and playing Magic. I love complaining about Lousy Smarch Weather that lasts for months. I love it when Winter ends, every year.

I love my Toronto in the Spring. I love that it only takes single digit temperatures for a starved patio crowd to get back out there. I love seeing the city wake up and emerge. I love seeing people line up for pop up gimmicks. I love getting back out for brunch. I love remembering what air tastes like. I love how excited everyone gets about sports, as I watch from a detached distance.I love going out for drinks and dancing, shaking off memories of ice. I love feeling alive and renewed. I love how full of promise the upcoming year seems. I love thinking about the upcoming cavalcade of camping, cottages and concerts.

Mostly though, I love that I’m here, and that this was a choice. I love that I made the right one.