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.

Thunderbolts and lightning, very very bright rain

I hate being up past the sunrise.

I just hate it. I don’t like the weird vampiric notion that everyone’s starting their days as I’m ending mine. The next day always becomes a total shitshow, it complicates bedtimes for the following evening. Frankly it means I miss out on most of the daylight hours. It’s very rare that I’m looking to have an all-nighter, and I usually regret doing so. Of course this means I had an all-nighter last night. Do I regret it? No. No I don’t.

Yesterday was a weirdly balmy, tempestuous day. Heat warning, storm warning. Entirely at the mercy of the elements. A burner event was on at Allen Gardens. Tarna’s art car, a giant metal jackalope, was making a public appearance in a final fundraising push before Burning Man. The idea was a big sunshiney event with music running from 3pm to 11pm. Right next to the botanical gardens, guests were encouraged to enjoy the beautiful greenhouse full of colourful plant life. As it was a public space, the tickets were suggested donation, but a bunch of strangers showed up and had a great time. There were blankets, snacks, dogs, mist machines, and a collection of ace DJs.

I came prepared. We’re talking boy scout level here. I had a costume with various layers I could strip as things heated up. I brought my backpack and filled it with supplies. A couple of bottles of water in case friends needed them. I had chewing gum, granola and nut snack mix (which proved to be a terrible, dry snack choice), my knee brace, a poncho, several packets of earplugs, an umbrella, and a big black garbage bag in case the inevitable downpour arrived. I also had my seemingly iconic yellow wide-brimmed sunhat. I was sorted. I got to take off my shoes and dance, feeling the grass and dirt beneath my feet. Around 8pm it started to lightly drizzle, but we were all so covered in sweat it barely registered. An hour later the heavens opened and it fell in sheets. The music shut down. I had my umbrella and wide brimmed hat as protection. My friends and I regrouped. Did we want to head off to our friend’s place nearby? We could get out of the torrent, warm up and chill out. Or we could wait and see if things kicked back in. We decided to wait it out, as people marvelled at the ludicrous amount of lightning in the sky. Several bolts struck straight down at the CN tower as we watched nature in full fury.

15 minutes later, the music kicked back in, rain still cascading from the sky. The atmosphere was electric, and everyone got into it. We were all totally soaked and loving it, the rain refreshing our sweaty, aching bodies. I danced so goddamn much my feet were on fire. I must’ve stopped my withered old bones at least six times to stretch my legs, and the poor, overworked soles of my feet. The number of times I wiped my chest clean of moisture, only to realise the pointlessness of my endeavours. Rain was still bucketing down, I was just gonna get instantly wet again. What did it matter?

Then after it all finished at 11pm, we got to retire to our friend’s place anyway, a gorgeous penthouse apartment downtown. I took a shower and got cleaned up, then we lounged around until the wee, wee hours of the morning. When I could see the building peaks lighting up with the first hints of morning sun, I knew it was time to call it. Or an Uber at least. I felt a weird kind of guilt that I’d thrown away my next day in service of the night.

Then I slept in, hung out with my girlfriend and grabbed brunch. It was fucking excellent and I regret nothing. I still hate sunrise evenings, but it seems the exception proves the rule.

And last night ruled.

A truly leg-endary day

Shorts shorts shorts shorts shorts shorts/
Shorts shorts shorts shorts shorts/
Shorts shorts shorts shorts shorts/

Today’s Toronto is a Shorts Day. There’s a low of 14 and high of 22. The epitome of shorts weather. Trousers have no place in an environment where leg hairs can roam bravely free in the breeze. Hell, my skin keeps tingling to the extent that I briefly thought I had ticks, before realising that I’m so unused to my hair being exposed to the open air. Hooray for Shorts Day. Hooray for sunny-but-not-overwhelming weather. Hooray for not having ticks. I was gonna say I’ve carried the joy of Shorts Day around with me since I awoke, but really it’s carried me.

Today has had no place for negativity. I’m positive about that. Shorts Day has attuned me to the inextricable web of connection inherent to humanity. We’re all just vibrating molecules tossed around in this swirling maelstrom of causality. It just turns out that some of us are showing off more molecules than others. A.K.A. Shorts Day. I’ve been brimming so sunnily that it’s been infectious. I went for a run at lunch and not only did quite a few strangers smile and wave back, but for the first time ever a fellow jogger enthusiastically returned a thumbs up. It was unreal. I was sweating, beaming, breathing deep and feeling the freedom of movement in my bones. I was wearing different shorts at that point, but shorts nonetheless. Shorts Day does not discriminate.

Here are some great things that’ve happened, likely entirely because it’s Shorts Day:

  • Bong Joon Ho’s new film, Parasite, won the Palme D’Or at Cannes.
  • The World Health Organisation finally removed transgender (ism?) as a listed mental disorder.
  • Doug Ford backed down on the brutal Ontario budget cuts to public health, EMS and child care (though no word yet on education). I guess that 31,000 strong official petition did something.
  • I had an apple and it was really tasty.

See? The magic of Shorts Day really is everywhere.

And to be truly thematic, this entry is short as, bro.

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.

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.