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.

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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!

And my gal? She’s a right ol’ bird eh geezer?

The first thing I noticed this morning were the birds. Gleeful chirps from a summery sympony. Then cicadas, I think. I can’t remember the last time I heard cicadas. Toronto’s been steadfastly locked into its wintery apocalypse for so many years now that Spring seems a fictional concept created to ideologically imprison the proletariat. In London, however, cicadas join in the chirping.

Of course, looking out the window, London’s as dreary as ever. If Toronto has eternal snow, banking on grey Londony skies is a safe bet.

Have I fulfilled my weather quotient yet? Great. We’re in London! It’s the morning of our first full day and I’ve got no idea what it’ll bring. Yesterday felt like a murky dream where we put a couple of foundations down. Namely, we spent around 40 hours awake with only an hour or two of slumber tossed in there. It was like a big ol’ lucid dream where we had to mind the gap. It took longer than we expected to sort out transit and phone details, so we didn’t get to our friend’s place until at least three hours post tarmac. My friend was working from home, so we got welcomed in and shown to the spare room. Last time I stayed here there was basically a floor, ironing board and boxes. This time there’s a queen sized bed, book shelves and tasteful wall-art. The morning after, I’m stoked to say that the bed is comfy as fuck. We made good on our sleep deprivation and dived deep into slumber.

Of course, London is more than a plush spare room. We were gonna meet old friends for curry at Brick Lane, so we took the tube to Liverpool street and wandered a bit. As an aside, I forget how wonderful the London Underground is. From it’s perfect iconic signage to the intuitive flow of its subway network, the lines intersect in what seems to be a haphazard assortment, but also just kind of makes sense. The maps are easy to follow, people seem to be generally respectful of not wasting one another’s time (or rather, openly disdainful of those who do) and getting from A to B with a stop off at Q and Y is all too doable.

After some recalibration, I found my bearings and worked out my internal compass. After wandering into Brick Lane earlier than expected, I realised my internal compass was a couple of years out of date and surrendered to my own ignorance. We strolled around looking at the endless vintage stores and markets. We took in the street art, plus both the hustle and bustle. It drizzled a bit too. London, y’know? The one thing that we discovered was that we were 100% exhausted. We sat down at a hookah lounge for a beer and some specialty tea as we let the waves of fatigue wash over us. I found a chair with a back and had all I needed. I fretted over dinner choices. I knew the idea had been to join in the raucous curry haggling of Brick Lane, but neither of us had the energy. It’d be uncharitble to our friends if we collapsed at the table. Friends don’t make friends drag their unconscious saag stained bodies out of an establishment. I looked up a bunch of Reddit suggestions for the best curry place on Brick Lane and 99% of them suggested “just don’t”. They listed a couple of decent places all of ten minutes’ walk away, so we skipped the streetside kerfuffle and went to Lahore’s Kebab House instead.

It was a little grimy, but the smells wafting from the active kitchen promised something far greater than generic tourist trap fare. They didn’t lie. The curries were rich and flavourful. Mostly mild, but one chicken dish had a nice kick on the aftertaste. We got a butter naan and some kind of dessert-y pistachio one to soak up the abundant sauces. We ordered too much and compensated by stuffing ourselves silly. It was awesome to catch up with old friends and hear how they’ve blossomed throughout their EU experiences. By the sounds of it, they’d been travelling to a new country or two every fortnight. With everything so accessible, they’d often book a cheap Ryanair flight, then figure out transit and accommodation on the eve of their trip. They said often the price of a bus between countries and the Uber once they got there was comparable. With the cost of exploration being so low, what reason did they have to not take advantage of it?
We tapped out of dinner earlier than we normally would, but with the proviso that if we didn’t sleep, we’d quite likely just die. After almost falling asleep on the train several times, we found an umbrella and walked back to our friends’ place, brushed our teeth then collapsed into bed.

Then this morning, grey skies and birds. We’re in London proper, kids.

Have any puppet films won best picture?

I went to a kids’ play today. One of my pals wears many dramatic hats. One of them is as a playwright/puppet god. Let me clarify, he’s not a puppet, but he builds them from scratch. I don’t know if they worship him, but they probably should. He’s that proficient. The play was called Princess Knight. If you’re in Toronto, enjoy theatre, have kids and/or are somehow a ghoul in thrall to my every command, go see it. It was a truly superb experience. Now, it’s not my first experience with children’s theatre. I used to act in local community plays. In my 20s, friends and I would often laugh our way through kids’ shows, mocking how bad the kids acted. It was a time.

The difference today was I went with a friend and her son. I had an actual child with us and it kinda helped to see it through his eyes. Let’s be clear, I enjoyed the play regardless, but understanding his perspective a little better lifted the experience. It was neat to see what lit him up (fart jokes, obviously. Silly names), ’cause it was so removed from how I normally engage with shows (except for the potty humour. That’s not going away any time soon). It was cool seeing how shy he got when the actors offered a Q&A at the end, or showed the kids all the props. It reminded me of being that young, before I’d heard the word “cynical”. When the world was a sensory explosion at every step. When I could count on one hand the plays I’d watched, where the scale seemed so much greater. I felt the same way about community plays as I’d probably now feel about large scale concerts. They felt larger than life and I got transported with them. I wasn’t thinking about the layers or themes, I was just along for the ride. Stories at their purest form.

It’s been winter for what feels like a decade. In reality, January wasn’t that bad. I’ve been through a cluster of Toronto winters now and the novelty has pretty much fallen away. Still though, there was this nice moment today that stuck with me. It was a clear day and it’d warmed from around -11 to 3 above. The footpaths I walked across were near endless lines of locals getting out to shovel. Everyone was in pleasant spirits, taking advantage of the slushiness that simplified the job. People were chipper, smiling and chatting. A diverse range of people, all smiling and getting down to business. It was like a community. It made me feel like joining in the action. I looked at our footpath and I probably could’ve gotten away with doing nothing. Instead I fetched the shovel and left a respectable looking footpath for anyone passing by.

We watched I, Tonya tonight. Spoilers likely to follow.

The movie was medium at best. Maybe a B/10? It seemed like needless Oscar bait. Margot Robbie was pretty decent, Allison Janney was outstanding (not like that’s out of the norm). It had its moments. The first third was tight, then it seemed to hit a wall. The pacing slowed and it all felt tedious. It was flippant and trashy, which I’m not putting out as detractors. It was fun how they played with the fourth wall. It just sort of felt like it was flashy without being fleshed out. There wasn’t a ton of substance. They didn’t shy away from the systematic abuse she was put through (though at times it took on an almost alarmingly slapstick tone). My issue was more that with all the polish, dynamic shots and Rashomon narrative style, it still felt kind of stock and laid it on way too thick. C’mon, “Spirit in the Sky”? Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain”? Supertramp’s “Goodbye Stranger”? Nothing stood out as exemplary enough for the film to be considered Best Picture material. Certainly entertaining, but nothing that’ll be remembered in two years. Remember when the category only had four films? Let’s bring that back.

Or like, nominate my friend’s play for one. I dunno.

Rice rice baby 12 rolls, 12 rolls.

A Sunday with almost zero plans. I was all set to be a good boy and get to a gym class, but I was thwarted by uncooperative buses. Bambuszled? The wheels on the bus went ’round and ’round too slowly for my tastes, so I changed it up for a run instead.

It’s great that Toronto seems to have noped out so far on snow, but winter running still ain’t the greatest. Inhaling too sharply sends daggers down your throat. It may just be the ravages of old ages, but joints tend to be less lubricated than usual. Your nose drips uncontrollably, then your snot gets cold against your upper lip (or in the case that you’re mustachioed, it nestles into the foliage and chills away). Knuckles may be the worst part. They get all dry, cracked and sore. Then you’ve gotta work at controlling your body temperature. Too many layers and you’ll drench your way through them all. Insufficient layers mean you won’t even sweat. Until you come back inside, that is, then your pores become waterfalls. I’m sure there are valid solutions to every one of these issues, but I have yet to find them.

I did say I had almost zero plans today. A friend of mine posted the other day looking for people to All You Can Eat Sushi with. Each sunset has brought me closer to that moment and since I’ve risen, I’ve thought of little else. All You Can Eat Sushi is both ascension to the divine and an abomination most foul. It’s the epitome of North American culture, to take a delicate flower and add flamethrowers. In my mind, sushi is an example of grace and craft. Everything is just so. I think of beautiful presentation, finely sliced sashimi, and a balance of flavours. All You Can Eat Sushi asks the question that if a small amount of something is pleasant, wouldn’t having all of it be an orgasm on a plate?

All You Can Eat Sushi charges extra for any unfinished food, which is entirely fair. The other side of this is that people drastically over-order, then struggle to wolf down everything in front of them. There’s no time limit, but you can be assured that most anyone going for All You Can Eat Sushi has mildly starved themselves to get the most “value” out of their meal (I mean, regardless of quantity wouldn’t “value” mean enjoying your food until you’d had enough?). As soon as it starts, people go ballistic and order five of everything. Then when it comes they start eating and order more so they’ll never have to take a break. Then the second lot comes and they realise they might be full. But it’s not like you can go out for All You Can Eat Sushi and not get dessert, right? Stuffed as they are, they shovel more until their stomach bulges like they’re smuggling several kilos of coke. Wait, why am I talking in the third person like this isn’t exactly what I do every time? Because of course it is. I can’t wait.

I’ll have to though, which is life’s most cruel betrayal.

If you love weddings so much, why don’t you marry them?

Ah Wedding Season. Flowers in bloom. Sunlight descending like a halo to crest atop the domes of young lovers. Warmth radiating outwards from the heart to find kinship in the air around. Oh wait, we’re in North America? November weddings be cold as shit.

Only physically, of course. I’m a sucker for weddings. Shall I count the ways?

  1. Celebrating anything is totally my jam.
  2. Giving an ode to future happiness, struggles and connection is also up my alley.
  3. Hearing people give heartfelt personal vows rocks my socks too.
  4. Any excuse to dress up fancy is one worth taking.
  5. Food is basically my favourite thing and I haven’t yet been to a wedding that didn’t impress me much in that regard.
  6. Open bars.
  7. Dancing after experiencing the open bars.
  8. The gooey/mushy declarations of adoration that come about after dancing after experiencing the open bars.
  9. The fact that practically everyone’s in a great mood, because who wouldn’t be happy about two people coming together?

Last night’s wedding didn’t disappoint. It was a couple who I’ve never known super well and always wanted to get to know better. Seeing the people they brought around them to celebrate, witnessing their vows, hearing how others talked of them together, I’ve only got more reason to want to get closer. My girlfriend and I had some other close friends going, plus it turned out there were a bunch more people from around the community we knew. We mostly hung around the friends we knew well, but getting to chat about Magic the Gathering at a wedding was icing on the cake. Speaking of which, there was no cake. There were however stacks and stacks of donuts. Salted caramel, sticky toffee, chocolate pudding, toasted butter (?), pumpkin pie. Aside from the chill in the air, it was the most Canadian thing ever.

While we’re on the topic of food, let’s stay there. After the ceremony (which was lovely. The bride walked the aisle to an instrumental version of “Where Is My Mind?” The vows and celebrant’s speech were liberally peppered with nerdy accoutrements), out came the charcuterie, vegetables and hummus. I stacked up a plate and walked away to eat, well satisfied. Then the hors d’oeuvres started coming out and continued for hours. Corn on a stick, delicious pork and pineapple skewers, chicken and mango skewers, balsamic marinated tomato and mozzarella skewers, tiny taco cones (tacones, obviously), risotto croquette things, stuffed mushrooms and battered sweet potato fries (in adorable little Chinese takeaway boxes). While we were at first at the back of the room, we realised that the dishes had spawning points and the people camped around them got all the good stuff. It became a matter of darting in and out to make sure you got the good stuff before it all went. Plates were sometimes being emptied in 30 seconds or less. I’ll put it lightly: I did not leave hungry.

I’ve been to three weddings this year and I couldn’t be happier about them. They’ve all been entirely different occasions, but no less fantastic. Having left New Zealand, I went years without any invites. All of my good friends were across the other side of the world. I hadn’t made enough close friends to be considered invite-able. Having been here a few years, it’s pretty gratifying to have developed the kind of friendships where I’m seen as a viable guest. It’s great to dress up and my girlfriend’s always a fun wedding partner.

Even when it’s zero degrees outside.