Can this just be life now?

Do you ever find yourself surrounded by such a beauteous vista that you question what you’d done in life to deserve it? I’m lounging on a comfortable chair on a subdued, but clear day. Chirps, warbles and soft buzzing unfold from the surrounding vegetation. I’m on an expansive deck overlooking a gently sloped clearing, leading down to a still pond. We’re flanked on all sides by verdancy, swaying idly in a light breeze. A nearby lamppost adorned with bird feeders is seeing regular use. It’s humid, but the wind kissing my naked skin feels like a gentle embrace. It’s idyllic to a tee. Did I somehow leave reality and land smack bang in the middle of a fairy tale?

I’m away with friends at a batch. Or cottage, as they say here in Canada. It’s so far exceeded every expectation. I’m used to modest accommodations, not sprawling mansions with every amenity and then some. I say this after a night spent popping in and out of the hot tub. We’re a group of 15 or so and it’s never once felt cramped. Multiple lounge spaces (including a bona fide 70s porno room, shag carpet et al). A fully functional (far more so than ours at home) kitchen and enough bathrooms to prevent long waiting periods (plus, y’know, the outdoors for any overflow).
I can’t overstate what a relief it was just getting out of the city limits. A weight lifted thinking of the release inherent to leaving a time obsessed metropolis for a weekend. Schedules tossed out in favour of a more laissez-faire arrangement. There’s nowhere we need to be until we return home, we can do as much or as little as we want. It’s a wonderful group of open, accepting individuals. It’s a clothing optional weekend, which I’m taking full advantage of (don’t worry, there’s copious bug spray). There’s something so comforting in optional nudity. Don’t get me wrong, I like clothes, but the choice to be settled in my own skin without the fear of isolating or infringing on the boundaries of others is liberating. I’ve also developed a new appreciation for shirt-cocking (business on top, nothing on the bottom). It’s so affirming having nudity de-sexualised, around a group that implicitly understands that.

Our hosts have been pulling out all the stops to make us feel at home. After we settled in and had a few drinks, they gathered us together. We were to put drinks in a cooler, get some light coverage in case of rain, grab a torch and suit up for a ten minute walk into the forest. We were led down a track, sky blotted out by trees. The way was lantern-lit (which they obviously did painstakingly by hand. Jeezus), with strings of coloured fairy lights draped periodically overhead. Magical Stranger Things vibes. After a short downhill walk, we arrived at a snug little cabin. Chairs and pillows everywhere, an inset bar, fireplace and dance floor at the ready. I already used the word “idyllic”, right?

This place is paradise. Surrounded by warmth, unshackled from any expectations. Is this what a holiday feels like?

There were, too, people doing parkour. Seemed apt.

I’ve never been great at relaxing. Something about the idea of sitting and doing nothing stresses me out. If I’m not thinking, why am I awake? I have a constant need to be engaged in an activity, even if that activity is merely hanging out and chatting with others. Given this borderline anxiety over relaxation, the beginning of my weekend was going pretty damn well. Friday I was home sick, learning the intricacies of Watch the Skies‘ ruleset as best I could. Saturday I was constantly on my feet, putting the ruleset into motion for paying customers. By the time the game had wrapped up I wasn’t far from falling into bed. If I was at all afraid of getting appropriate amounts of sleep however, our cat has been going apeshit for the past week or so. As such, it’s been a while since I slept well.

Whatever my feelings on relaxation, both my brain and body needed a break.

Cue the perfect summer day, but in spring. Temperatures going up to the high 20s. A cloudless sky and light breeze blowing through. After a morning spent lugging a microwave around Koreatown, my girlfriend and I decided a park day was not only desirable, but necessary. We put the call out, but didn’t get much back in the way of responses. A few hours later the temperature had dipped to an ideal mid-20s. Some friends posted about hang outs in Trinity Bellwoods. Deal. We strapped on shoes and hit the road.

First stop was Bakerbots. I’m always loathe to mention Bakerbots too much, but figure my readership is small enough that this won’t spread the secret too far. Bakerbots is a boutique bakery that partners with the outrageously popular Bang Bang Icecream. In a one-two punch operation, Bakerbots make the cookies and Bang Bang cream the ice. Bang Bang routinely has a 30+ minute wait time in the summer. Bakerbots takes five minutes at a stretch. Same ice cream, but a slightly smaller range of flavours. I had a cone of burnt toffee and double chocolate, while my girlfriend grabbed burnt toffee and Sam James espresso. Holding the napkin-less cone and feeling drops of delicious dairy melting onto my hands brought me back to childhood beach trips. We’d hang out in the sand and sea for a few hours, then nana and papa would take us to grab massive ice creams. Hokey Pokey and Goody Goody Gumdrops, always. On a sunny Sunday in Toronto, a cone was no less of a treat.

We wandered down to Bellwoods, noticing just how many people were out and about. Over the winter months, Toronto can seem like a ghost town at times. Strange, for a city. Spring typically has more hours of rain than sun, as locals chomp at the bit for patios to open. As soon as they do, the floodgates open and if the patios are full, everyone under 40 goes to one of the many, many parks (seen here in green). Bellwoods is a great spot for dog watching, slack lining, capoeira, calisthenics, frisbee, a few local beers on the down low and assorted musical jams.

We laid our blanket down with friends and watched the world go by. Everything mentioned above and then some. There was a good nature in the air (and obviously all around, trees softly swaying in the breeze). One of our friends had a Hang, which he proceeded to play for us. I’d never seen or heard a Hang before. It looks like an inverted Steel Drum, but could also pass for a large viking shield. It’s gentle and melodious, a sound akin to wind chimes or the motion of a waterfall. Gentle, soothing and tough to play well. Lying back in the evening warmth, listening to the symphony of life going on all around, relaxing started to make more than a little sense.

I’m a bad son and a worse sun.

It’s Earth Day tomorrow! Don’t let the exclamation mark fool you, I’m having trouble mustering up enthusiasm for the holiday. It’s not that I don’t care about our dear Mother Earth, but I’m unused to offering her much thought in my day to day (I’m sure my blood mother probably feels the same). I mean, it’s also the National Day of Puppetry, which is neat. Plus International Marconi Day, which feels far more important. He did pioneer long distance radio transmission, which ties directly into the career I loved the most. Why isn’t International Marconi Day a bigger deal? Does the Earth think the universe revolves around it or something? So how to celebrate…

How about a playlist?

  • Ben Harper – “Ground on Down”
  • Pink Floyd – “Mother”
  • David Bowie – “Dust to Dust”
  • Foo Fighters – “Enough Space”
  • The Beatles – “Revolution 9”
  • Joy Division – “Atmosphere”
  • Grizzly Bear – “Deep Blue Sea”
  • Animal Collective – “Grass”
  • The Flaming Lips – “Do You Realize??”

Well that would fill all of 40 minutes. How else could I celebrate? I could…

  • Plant a tree.
  • Mow the lawn.
  • Uproot those annoying plants in my backyard.
  • Stare once again at the pile of dead trees that’s been amassing for years in my carport, gradually forcing the fence to budge. Do nothing about it for another year.
  • Sow salt in the shape of a penis on my neighbour’s lawn.
  • Make a mudcake.
  • Marathon the BBC series Planet Earth.
  • Repeatedly hit the sidewalk with a sledgehammer as vengeance for the planet.
  • Think twice about reducing the rubbish I output on a daily basis. Fail to think a third time.
  • Reuse a single tissue 17 times.
  • Recycle any Earth Hour jokes I made last year.
  • Shed a tear thinking of the musician Seal trapped in one of those plastic six pack rings. A tear of laughter.

But instead I’m gonna play Call of Cthulhu and maybe listen to the radio instead. Sorry Mum.

I’ll slice you in a minute, random office sociopath. Wait, is that a firing offence? Or a social good?

It snowed this morning. The rest of the day has been bright, with mild clouds. I don’t understand this country. Maybe I was never meant to. Maybe this reality is a simulation and someone’s messing with the Danger Room controls. If sentinels descend and begin rounding up the mutants, it’ll either be a sign that something’s off or that all of my dreams are about to come true. Then again, I don’t know if I’ve ever really imagined being a helpless normie in any superhero stories that were to come true. Is that emblematic of privilege? Or the way that these stories are designed? That naturally since you identify with the empowered central characters, you feel like you’re inhabiting that role? You wouldn’t imagine yourself as your normal self, because what would be the point of your normal self being in that universe?

I’ve been wearing my newest pair of pants this week. I had a gap in my wardrobe that required something burgandy-ish to go with my assorted plain coloured shirts. Having previously experimented with jeans, I bought a pair closer in line with trousers. They’re soft, which is nice, but by fair the most pleasing feature is the zipper. It’s unusually long. I don’t know why it has such an impact when I’m zipping them back up, but it’s hugely noticeable. More leverage and easier to grip without fumbling. It couldn’t be more than 5mm larger than a normal zipper, but so far it’s elevating these pants from tolerable to enjoyable.

I was pretty stoked to walk into the work kitchen to see pizza on the counter. While it was no gin tasting like yesterday, free pizza still has abundant charms. There’s an armistice zone where up-for-grabs food goes to linger. Reaching the box, however, I found it to be empty. What kind of sociopath does that? Look, if I see an empty box in the garbage, I think oh, that would’ve been yummy. Maybe I’ll stow that thought in my brain for some other time when I’m considering snackage. However, the concept of having taken part in its deliciousness never really crossed my mind. When an empty box is there, for an all too brief moment my brain gets flooded with hope. The trials of my monotonous trudge through quotidian existence fade as my vision haloes around this pending treat. To discover that someone has not only dashed my hopes, but desecrated the corpse of said dashed hopes by ensnaring them in some inhumane trap feels like a brutal betrayal. IF YOU TAKE THE LAST SLICE/PIECE/ONE, THROW THE BOX OUT. Monsters.

Ugh, I’m too disgusted to go on. Fuck this noise, I’m off to get my own pizza.

It’s dark outside. I am likely to be eaten by a grue.

I need to get out of the house. With the exception of the hour and a half I spent going to and from my doctor’s appointment yesterday, I haven’t left the house in over 24 hours. I’m getting bored of myself. I’ve had my butt pretty firmly glued to my computer chair (save getting up for food, water, or drugs), clad in slovenly sweatpants. Feet stuffed in slippers, wearing a bright yellow sweatshirt. I’ve been the perfect picture of comfort, but also the perfect picture of indecision. With the entire information superhighway at my disposal, I could be anywhere doing anything just by surfing the web. Instead I’ve found myself clicking around the same couple of sites, playing Shandalar and flicking through Netflix without watching much of anything. I repeat, I need to get out of the house.

I’m less sick than I was. The constant pressure of my headache has subsided. My throat no longer burns. My nose is still pretty congested, but how’s that different from any other day? It’s past 6pm and I haven’t taken any meds since this morning. Maybe I am on the mend after all. I really should go, even if it’s cold outside. I do weird things when I’m home alone. I pace back and forth from the office and the kitchen without purpose. Scan the fridge or pantry for something to eat, find nothing that I can be bothered making, go back to the office and feel hungry (or bored. Same difference). Occasionally I’ll feel guilty for not having been active, so I’ll try a few handstand push ups. I maybe get to three or so, then lose my balance and guide myself back to the ground. Feeling accomplished, I’ll usually go straight back to being inactive (realising as I do, that this small amount of work doesn’t constitute a workout. I won’t follow it up with more work).

Indoor kid as I am, I’m finding myself longing for spring. Toronto had an oh so brief flirtation with temperatures over zero. Remember last week or so when I got to jog? That was amazing. There are all these new pokémon to catch. So many unused patios citywide that would be ideal for enjoying a beer. Hell, I miss beer. It’s been about five weeks or so since I last drank and I think I’m ready to open up the La Fin Du Monde sitting in the bedroom. I need human connection. The cat may be talkative, but she speaks a lot of garbage. I love my girlfriend, but I don’t want to wear her out. I realised the other day that most of my friends haven’t seen me with a beard, which has been slowly accumulating over the past five weeks. It’s time to put on real clothes and make elaborate hand gestures while conversing.

I didn’t get the interview with Los Campesinos tomorrow, which is both a bummer and a relief at once. I’ve been raring to see this band live since they dropped two outstanding albums in 2008. Getting the chance to meet and chat with a member or two would be amazing. On the other side, I felt a massive amount of dread that I was walking into some kind of trap. What would I be able to say to people I’d respected and looked up to? I was intimidated, as if I’d say a bunch of dumb things and be treated either patronisingly or like I wasn’t worth their time. I was sure they wouldn’t be rude, but that any amount of prep I’d done wouldn’t be enough to, I dunno, have them like me? Don’t meet your heroes encapsulated. It’s silly. I should really have enough self-respect to know that I’d be fine, that I could hold me own, that they’re just Welsh thirtysomethings and I’d probably have fun in the end. Sorry, *would’ve* had more fun in the end. Still, I get to review their sold out show that I’d forgotten to nab tickets for, so all is not lost.

Enough of this whole “typing” thing. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna shower and see what the outside world has to offer.

So far away that a flock of seagulls couldn’t catch me.

A good day at work for once? How does that even happen? Most likely a decent sleep and great weather rubbed off on me. In truth, work has been unremarkable, but if the alternative is a clusterfuck, then unremarkable is excellent. It’s all relative. Like grandparents. Relatives.

The best part of the day was being able to get out and go for a run. “Whaaaaat?”, you might gasp and sputter. I ran. In Toronto. On my lunch break. Because today had a high of 14 fucking degrees. Fahrenheit? NO. CELSIUS, BITCHEZZZ.

*Ahem* Let’s try that again, but without the flagrant over-enthusiasm.

Today’s weather has been swell. Jolly. Righteous and filled to the brim with spiffiness. Being able to leave the building and go for a 5km jog was a highlight. Breathing in the air coming off the lake (except for the godawful smell of burning sugar from the refinery next door. How does a scent so innocuous sounding end up smelling like carrion?), feeling the sun soaking into my skin. My heart was thumping in my chest comfortably, a reassuring swell indicating that not only am I alive, but I’m really living. It’s like that primal sensation of having cut wood or the like. Calloused hands, worked muscles humming. You might be tired, but there’s an assurance that what you did was working towards a purpose. Going for a run made me feel lighter, like a gazelle leaping along the grizzled “urban jungle” of Toronto’s waterfront. Any lions dumb enough to chase me down would have to earn their meal. Dripping sweat in a light breeze gave me a sense of indomitably. Blame endorphins, but nothing was gonna bring me down.

Of course, nothing goes quite so hand in hand (or phone in hand, rather) with running as Pokémon Go. Continuing the theme of today being a great day, the app delivered with panache. Which is to say it still crashed every few minutes and immense tasks such as clicking on a pokestop was enough to throw the system into chaos and lag. Does everyone struggle like this? Maybe I need a new phone. Still, running along the waterfront was the perfect way to look out for rare pokémon, or at the very least trawl for Magikarp.

I found a super low cp one, but figured Magikarp candy is Magikarp candy. I threw pokeball after pokeball, but nothing was sticking. Maybe eight wasted pokeballs later, this was getting farcical. The thing had 49 cp for fucks sake. It was silly, more than anything. I figured why the hell not? It was giving me enough trouble that I wanted it all the more. I tossed a berry its way, then grabbed an ultraballs and tested the waters. One wobble. Two. Three. Settled. Finally. Then the screen darkened and the centre glowed white. What the hell was happening? I just wanted to get it appraised in case it was somehow special. As the screen came back to focus, I discovered it was special. In fact it wasn’t even a Magikarp. I’d finally caught the elusive Ditto. Surprise!

If that wasn’t neato enough, my 10k egg hatched me a Larvitar with decent stats. They’ve been pretty elusive so far, bring the initial component of 2nd gen’s rival to Dragonite. Speaking of which, I picked up a good Dratini today too. Maybe I’ll finally get that Dragonite I’ve been looking for. Do I really see myself getting competitive enough to start attacking gyms again? Who knows? I’ve got enough candy to evolve a Gyarados now, maybe I’m moving towards a workable team. Which in the end is silly, because if I really cared about decent battling I’d get the Game Boy game instead.

Who cares? The sun is setting on a brilliant day. I’ve got no responsibilities left before bed tonight. Hakuna Matata and all that jazz.

If I had one hand in my pocket, I wouldn’t have been in this mess.

I got this new shirt type thing. It’s great. I don’t know how to classify it, but sometimes neat things are beyond clarification. It’s long sleeved. Too thin to be considered thermals, but warm enough. At the same time it’s incredibly well ventilated. Merino. Seems tailor made for outdoorsy pursuits like hiking or jogging. It has a zipped pocket, something I’m always keen on. Weird thing though, the zip is on the back of the shirt. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no loon. I know how shirts work. I’m also savvy on the front to back orientation of how  labels in the neck area work. With the label on the back on my neck, the pocket is still on the back of the right hand side of the shirt. It’s odd. As it happens, it’s also useful for things like hiking or jogging. Over the past two days, weather in Toronto jumped from minus ten to ten above zero. Jogging was a viable pastime, and with the Pokémon Go update, I had more reason, if ever I needed any, to get out and jog. That and using the shirt.
Turns out the pocket was perfectly suited to a house key and debit card. Despite running at speed, I never felt them bouncing against my back, the pocket held them fast. I zipped around, catching new Pokémon and rebooting the app every couple of minutes, just like last summer. It felt freeing to get out and remember what outdoor cardio was like. An unusual scenario for mid February in Toronto, but so welcome. I was stoked for my feet to be hitting the pavement, to build up a sweat, controlling my breathing as my heart rate rose. My muscles pushing, pulsing to keep up speed.
Still tired from yesterday, this morning’s jog was cut short. I was tired and jogging seemed more something to work back into than hit the ground… jogging? I got maybe twenty minutes in and began to make a bee-line for home. I noticed a large cardboard box that someone had left outside their home. It was filled with used pans, baking trays and chopping boards. I’d been looking for a sturdy plastic board so I snatched it up and headed home. Walking the steps to my front door, I reached around for my pocket. It was open. I put my hand in to check. Debit card? Still there. Front door key? Absent. Bummer. I could hardly blame the pocket, could I? I sighed and mentally retraced my steps. Friends were coming over in an hour to play Magic. At least I had my phone, but with no access to my house, I’d find it hard to invite them inside. I sighed again and physically retraced my steps.
I walked slowly, casting my gaze around. I thought positively. The key was gaudily leopard patterned, something I thought was dumb when my friend had it carved, by turned out to be a great way to find it in a cluster of silver keys. Or, y’know, the footpath. I thought negatively. What if I’d already passed it and the further I walked, the more distant I was getting? I crossed the street from my house, turned a corner, crossed another street, turned another corner, crossed another street. I began to despair before chastising myself. The worst that could happen would be going to a friend’s house sweaty and waiting for my girlfriend to finish work. Really nothing worth being worried over. Plus I had a phone, debit card and shoes. Also my shirt had a pocket! I was set. I lifted my head to see my key right in the middle of a busy intersection. Perfect.
So I ended the day with a new chopping board, a pretty roughed up house key and a valuable lesson on how not to use the pocket on my weird shirt type thing. All before lunch time.