A brush with coat-dependence.

I’m an everyday illusionist. I wrap myself in layers of mystique set to misdirect and confuse those who cross my path. I carry with me a halo of competency that causes many to assume I’m a capable, competent individual. If they were to look closer they’d discover how very wrong their assumptions were. I run on a fake it till you make it platform. In truth, I don’t have a great many practical skills. If I were to find myself stuck in a forest alone I’d likely just wander around for a short while until I died, moaning about the lack of local pho restaurants. If anything goes wrong in the house, my default response is to wonder who I could convince through friendship or money to fix it. I’ve never had to do much in the way of manual labour, so the sight of me trying to accomplish anything constructive is laughable at best.

Which is why it was so odd for me to offer my services to friends with an overwhelming amount of home reno work to do. They’re moving soon and need all the help they can get making it look spiffy for potential buyers.

Truly I meant best, blindly flinging myself into their home before thinking of the havoc I could wreak. When my girlfriend and I arrived, I offered explicit instructions as to my use:

  • I don’t know how to do many things.
  • I will ask silly questions.
  • I will be incredibly slow at first.
  • By the time I’ve finished I will have gained some competency.
  • You will seriously wonder how I’ve survived life thus far.

My girlfriend is not an incompetent person. She’s done a ton of stuff before, so she was a lot easier to manage. They had a ton of projects for her, like sanding down a door, dusting its grooves and spray painting it. Useful stuff. Me on the other hand, they dumped on the floor and set to work. They were gonna paint the base boards/quarter rounds and needed it taped off. I also learned what base boards and quarter rounds were. Looking around my house now, I can see that they’re everywhere. I set to work right away applying masking tape to the floor and walls. At first it was significantly slow going. I was so set on getting everything tight up against the base boards/quarter rounds that I was taking an age to set anything down. I’d do small bits at a time, afraid of having even a speck exposed to potential paint. Or what if I left a smidgen of the baseboard covered? It’d never get painted and I’d no longer be trusted to help with anything, banished from their friendship for all eternity. THE WORST PUNISHMENT.

I got faster. After I’d done one corner I realised I’d need to start moving things out to get access. Their TV cabinet? Right in the middle of the floor. All those carefully wired speaker cords? GONE. I pulled out the nails they’d used to keep the cords in place, undoing all their hard work. In my head I told myself all this stuff needed to get done eventually, but it was hard to shake the idea that I was committing minor vandalism at a friend’s place. I moved around the living room putting tape down at the top and bottom of the baseboards/quarter rounds. My friend started following my work around the room, painting as she went. Eventually I finished up my taping and wanted more work to do. She instructed me to remove these box shelves on the wall then pull out the plastic screw covers drilled into the wall. There I was, balanced on a chair holding this shelf with one arm, cordless drill between my neck and left shoulder, holding a plastic zip lock bag in my left hand while carefully trying to drop the loose screw into the bag. As I said, I’m not a competent person. Though I did manage to pick up the drill between my big and index toe. That should count for something.

She had to leave to have lunch with her boyfriend, so told me to take over the painting that she’d started. Painting her house? She was trusting me? The only painting I’d done was as a child in school. I painted many shit things, the only highlights being a taniwha and myself as a werewolf. I reluctantly took up the call to adventure as she assuaged my fears. It was only the first coating, I couldn’t fuck up too bad. Had she met me? To be honest though, it wasn’t too difficult. I’m sure I wasn’t doing an amazing job, crawling on my side, but as a first attempt I think it was only slightly shabby.

Riding high on my relative success, I taped off another window alcove and set to painting. I tried to make sure I got all the corners, then got in there with a paint roller. After the handheld brush, the roller was a revelation. I made sure not to lay the paint on too thick and aimed for an even spread. By the time I’d finished, exhausted as I was, I had no concept of whether or not I’d done a good job. Then I thought hey wait a minute, this morning I didn’t know how to do any of this. The fact that I’ve done a job at all is progress enough. By the time I’d left, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction and pride.

So maybe there’s something lurking behind my illusion of competence after all.

Okay, so I looked up the word “irascible”. Get off my back. And lawn.

I’ve spent enough days staring at this blank page blankly to know that the best way to steer out of it is to merely start. I know that addressing a central theme is the easiest way to burst out of the gates exuding chutzpah, but when all else fails, simply taking the lead until an idea forms can suffice. By this point, four years in, I expected that daily writing would’ve gotten easier. Half the point of this exercise was to stimulate that forebrain and jog my front of mind-ed-ness. Given the past sentence, you can see that it hasn’t been a total success. Yes, I’ve written each day, but I’d hoped by now I would’ve found more improvement with the 1400+ entries I’ve committed to the page. That’s a lot of words, though how many of those are unique is another question entirely. I’ve written a lot, but my skills haven’t risen with the word count quite like I’d expected.

Of course, I’ve always fallen into the trap of expectations. As a kid I rarely had to struggle through work, which in turn failed to develop a backbone of discipline and effort in order to overcome tricky situations. Things kind of came naturally to me and even if I didn’t put in a heap of hard work, I’d usually do okay. As the years progressed life got more challenging and as a recurring theme, I stopped putting in effort. If I couldn’t simply roll up and do it, was it actually something I wanted to do? I’m not saying that I’m lazy in every aspect, but often when the going gets tough, I go elsewhere.

At the moment I feel like I’m stuck in some form of rut. This ain’t a unique moment. Rather, it seems like this vague ennui rolls around multiple times per year. My mindset right now is creatively, professionally, interpersonally and motivationally mired. While my job isn’t a shitshow, it’s very unfulfilling and easy to phone in because I’ve been doing it for so long. This results in a slog of a workday that feels like it’s chipping away at something inside. How long before I give up, buy a TV and watch reruns of Last Man Standing (too soon?)? Work bumming me out overflows insidiously into other areas of my life. The lack of creativity in what I do affects how I see myself represented. This digs at my self-confidence, skimming away at my seminal (screw me, I was looking for a synonym for “creative”) energy (plus “seminal energy” is fun to say. This is my circus and I’ll let it run rampant as I see fit). If I’m feeling shitty about how others may see me, I’m not raring to put myself out there for others to see. I withdraw from social obligations and turn into a irascible old hermit. I GET OLD SOMEHOW, YOU GUISE.

I always surface from this rut, but through distraction rather than progression. I’ve been trying to move into other avenues of work, potentially more fulfilling jobs. These attempts have come with multiple disheartening rejections. While my mind is screaming that I’m at an impasse, I’m sure this isn’t the case. I am however unsure of what to do. The answer is most likely to dig in and upskill, or put myself out there in my own time. The problem though is that these ideas smack of good honest hard work and that makes my brain crave familiar and safe spaces. Effort is difficult and failure is terrifying. Improvement doesn’t come easily, but continuing to go through the motions isn’t sending me anywhere help. Is this why people get life coaches? So someone else can do the hard yards of telling them what to do?

OH WAIT GUISE. WHAT IF I BECAME A LIFE COACH? THEN I COULD FEEL FULFILLED TELLING OTHER PEOPLE WHAT TO DO WHILE NOT HAVING TO MAKE ANY PROGRESS MYSELF.

I’m certain tomorrow will be better. I get to eat a sandwich on a bus.

I’ve been in a grouchy mood most of the day. Primarily because the cat decided to be a furry anus and yowl constantly outside the bedroom at 5.30am, stopping only to jump at the handle or barge into the door. This went on until 7am, at which point I figured I’d been fully conscious for an hour and a half, I was unlikely to get back to sleep. Today’s been a day that’s delivered both the good and the bad. You know what that means… BULLET POINT ENTRY:

  • Bad: Even in her sleepy state, my girlfriend refused my offer to dip the cat in a bucket of carbonite.
  • Bad: Upon waking and checking Facebook, I read of Chris Cornell’s death. While my tastes over the years have mostly shifted away from grunge, metal and most things prog, grunge was essential in sparking my interest in music. When I deep dived into the annals of rock at age 14, I was pulled instantly into the music my brothers had listened to at the same age. This basically consisted of Seattle’s big four and Tool. While I’d always like “Black Hole Sun”, hearing Superunknown in full was a revelation. I mean COME ON. Chris Cornell’s range blew me away and I needed more. I devoured the remainder of their back catalogue, Temple of the Dog, and adored both his solo work and Audioslave side project. Hearing his capability to turn on a dime from bestial growl to soft crooning meant that virtually every cd, mini disc mix and iPod playlist I put together over the next five or six years featured something Cornell. Seattle’s lost one more of it’s favourite sons.
  • Good: I woke up before my alarm.
  • Bad: If I’d had my choice, I would’ve chosen the alarm.
  • Good: I got out of the house earlier than the norm, allowing me to go to a sweet little neighbourhood coffee joint.
  • Good: On my way there, a little girl on a pink bike with streamers zoomed past. She was trying so hard that she started getting speed wobbles. Nostalgia washed over me.
  • Good: The coffee at Contra Café was its usual pleasant self. Gotta love them Social beans.
  • Bad: Getting to the bus, there was a massive line. It looked like it was time to stand in a cramped bus on a hot day.
  • Good: A bus arrived as the prior one filled up. I waited 20 seconds and boarded an empty bus.
  • Good: I was on time for work.
  • Bad: Because of my pending holiday weekend, work was busy.
  • Good: A holiday weekend was coming up?
  • Bad: They’d booked an hour long team meeting on a busy day before said holiday weekend.
  • Good: The meeting had cookies.
  • Bad: The peanut butter ones were down the other end of a long table.
  • Good: I had to “suffer” through oatmeal chocolate chip and double chocolate. Life is tough.
  • Bad: I was slammed with a shit ton of administrative shit getting in the way of completing my work.
  • Good: I don’t have work tomorrow.
  • Bad: I had to do all my tomorrow work today anyway.
  • Good: I got to try my new pre-workout before the gym.
  • Good: I didn’t suffer immediate heart palpitations. Workout was swell.
  • Bad: Toronto was apparently in for heavy thunderstorms.
  • Good: I dodged all of them.
  • Good: My girlfriend made gazpacho.
  • Good: The gazpacho was goddamn delicious.
  • Good: I’m now on holiday.
  • Good: I’ve finished my writing for the day.
  • Bad: Tomorrow is another day.

Foie grasshole.

I’ve never claimed to be a good person and anyone assuming the best of me would be left poorly shortchanged. Today I’ve been in a shifty mood, no idea why. In honour of this, I’m devoting today’s entry to the many petty moments I’ve had since rising.

  • This morning when I was readying to board the bus, there was a dude walking slowly with a cane. There was a line, but he was at the front just to the side of the queue. I saw him approaching as the bus was pulling up and decided to wait, to let him get on before anyone else. I noticed a woman in a yellow sweater approaching quickly from behind. She was walking around the line and barging anyone whose shoulders were too close. So I deliberately stepped out to the side and in her way, giving the man time to board. I could tell she was antsy but I was wearing headphones and pretending to be oblivious. I could sense her fuming from behind me. I felt immensely satisfied.
  • The entry to our bathrooms at work involve a double door system. There’s a door that leads into an intermediary room with a bin and hand sanitiser. This room has a door that leads you into the bathroom. Because the air gets pressurised in the little mid-room, you can hear when someone’s coming out from the bathroom. People are either oblivious to this air pressure thing, or don’t care. The result is usually walking into the mid room and both people getting spooked. So instead when I heard someone opening the door to the mid-room this morning, I stood stock still at the entrance to the mid-room without opening the door. When I say standing at the entrance, I was practically perpendicular to the door frame. The guy walked out and almost shot into the air Hanna-Barbera style. I refused to acknowledge his surprise and walked past him into the bathroom without saying a word. I smiled inwardly to myself.
  • My girlfriend and I are going to Montreal this weekend and we’ve been scouting for recommendations. A friend told us about a place with great brunches. When I was chatting to her later about unrelated stuff, she mentioned how excellent their menu was, making particular note of the foie gras. I’ve never had foie gras. It’s not because of anything ethical, I just haven’t had a ton of high end French cuisine. I thought about foie gras a little. I thought of how lucky I was to not have any dietary restrictions. Then my mind drifted to the notion that not only would it involve something dying for my meal, but suffering too. Then I was filled with this intense feeling of relief and satisfaction from having been born pretty high up on the food chain. If that has you riled up, keep in mind that if there’s an afterlife, I won’t feel so smug then.
  • I was first to the donut box at work today and had my pick. I quickly nabbed the only sour cream glazed donuts. I don’t particularly like donuts, primarily because of their soft, airy texture. The sour cream glazed variety are one of the few dense donuts that Tim Hortons stocks. I took a certain glee in thinking only of myself.
  • Two and a half weeks ago, an acquaintance had asked if she could leave two pieces of furniture at our place overnight. They were moving and needed to store it somewhere that it wouldn’t get rained out. I said that was fine. A few days later it hadn’t been picked up, so I sent her a message to remind her. She didn’t respond. Another few days passed. I sent another message. She said she had plans to get it picked up and that she’d sort it. A few days later, I messaged again to check the status of it being picked up. This was a far cry from an overnight thing, which felt like I was being saddled with something because it wasn’t a priority to her. She didn’t respond. I messaged her again a day later. No response. I messaged her a day later and said that if she didn’t want it I was happy to put it curbside. She messaged back saying that her plans had fallen through and she had plans to pick it up. Finally today I messaged and asked her when it was getting sorted. She said she’d pick it up tonight. I said great and offered to help carry the stuff if she needed it. She arrived earlier than she’d said, which coincided with my dinner being plated. I took certain delight in sitting down for my meal, not coming out to help or even saying hello. I simply sat there enjoying my meal, satisfied that I didn’t have to lift a finger. It’s the little things, y’know?

And now that this entry is done with, I can go back to idly not giving a shit. Some days are better than others.

Would you rather a bin ate it? You wouldn’t believe how difficult it is to give away food these days.

With social decorum being what it is, by living in society you make a tacit contract to “not be a dick” as best you can. Some people commit harder than others. Some people succeed harder than others. Some people get hard in an unwanted capacity in front of others and succeed in being committed to a facility. There are tiny little arrangements we all agree to on a regular basis. Sometimes they’re just out of perceived politeness. It doesn’t stop me from thinking of exactly which unspoken contracts I’d like to break.

  • Riding in shopping carts: It’s okay when you’re a kid, but for some reason when you’re big enough to push one, cramming yourself into a cart and getting pushed around seems the height of malarkey. BUT IT’S SO FUN. Nobody is getting hurt (except maybe me when my bulk tips the thing right over). Furthermore, by virtue of being alongside the produce we’d load into the cart, it’d be less likely for any of the shopping to escape. I’d guard it with my life (precariously hanging in the balance of, well, my ability to balance in the cart). Is having a good time not a good enough excuse? It’s not even at the expense of others for once.
  • Eating leftover food in public: This one seems more symptomatic of inoculating ourselves against the unknown. A fear of germs or other contagion that strangers could be carrying. Or even worse, a fear of being caught taking other people’s leftovers. Shock horror. We buy leftover furniture and clothes. Why not chomp down on that plate of chips at a food court? Just because they’re cold, doesn’t mean they’re infected. Just remove the bit of that Big Mac they’ve bitten into. Safe as houses. Get a different spoon for that uneaten curry or soup. Why not? Because we’re afraid of looking poor or desperate? Check your ego at the door and enjoy free chow. It’s already been paid for, so it’s not like you’re taking money away from the business. What’s the worst that could happen? We already got rid of the black plague.
  • Everyday costumes: I don’t know why corporate stiffwads decided that eccentric clothing would adversely affect performance. Why can’t I dress like a knight every day without the expectation that I’m not capable of my job? What you’re wearing is no indication of competence, unless it’s your competence at conforming. If I was dressed like Wolverine, you can bet your sweet ass I’d feel confidence and capable. How would that not significantly increase the quality of my work? Plus maybe if I could brandish razor sharp claws at a moment’s notice, annoying people from other departments would leave me the fuck alone to get my work done. Who am I kidding? They’d just email instead.
  • No shoes, yes service: I get that this is more of a safety liability thing, but I love being barefoot. I can only imagine how much more relaxed I’d feel eating a burger and sipping a sweet brew if my toes were free to wiggle away in the open air. Why deny them that freedom? Maybe let me know that glassware could potentially break and cutting myself would be a possibility. Or let me wear jandals and I’ll slip them off when I get to my table. No harm, no foul. Only the foul stench rising from between my toes.

Don’t worry folks, I get it. I understand that these rules were created to try and keep everyone happy. Still, can’t we find a little wriggle room? For my toes at least?

Can we go back to the ones where I have super powers?

Like most every other human around, work sucks at the moment. Day after day it feels like death by a thousand cuts. The thing I always respected about my job was that it was something I could ignore. Punch in, do the work, punch out and go home. It was breezy and stress free. I knew full well my job didn’t matter and I’d be replaced by machines in sub five years, but that was fine, I’d be gone by then. Increasingly since the merger, more systems and procedures have been put in place that’ve micromanaged my day to day and needlessly complicated things. With dwindling autonomy, I’m beyond ready to leave the job I already wanted to leave two years back. So far the opportunities I’ve gone for have all come back blank. I know things will get better eventually, but for now it feels like I’m gonna be here in ten years with every day being that same shade of mediocre or worse. Barrel of monkeys, it ain’t.

The last job I had before leaving home was as part of a fascinating project. I was digitising and cataloguing a massive archive of National Radio content. It’d all been recorded onto open reel tape and cassette. I’d port the content into a computer, then go through and export each individual show as a separate file. While the duties of the job itself remained the same, the material would vary wildly. Recordings would differ in audio quality and clarity of content. Early recordings were some professor recording the radio haphazardly and left no record of what was on each tape. So I’d have to sleuth them. Going to the library and looking up old radio schedules. Listening out for snippets of time checks, familiar hosts’ voices, or world events we’d be able to date by pouring over Google News archives from the 60s forward. Even when it was difficult, it was fascinating. My boss was this lovely old guy who’d dedicated his life to audio technology and preservation techniques. He was so patient and wise, always happy to explain something no matter how many times it took to sink in. Very sharp thinker. He was the life of that archive and so passionate about what he did. I remember him sadly remarking to me once that he couldn’t bring himself to retire, since there were very few people in the country who’d be knowledgeable enough to continue his work after he’d gone. He wanted to hold on long enough to do everything he possibly could so future generations would have access to the wealth of material.

I had this dream last night that felt all too real. Like, nobody had the head of a fish or overabundant limbs or anything. I’d left my job and returned home to New Zealand, tail (metaphorical only) between my legs. Rather than spending time with friends or loved ones, I went straight out to find a new job, picking up where I left off. I went straight to my old boss to see if there were any projects he’d need a hand with. He told me that once I’d left they couldn’t find anyone to take on the VCR project he’d hoped I would’ve picked up, so he’d be able to put me straight on that. I gratefully took him up on the offer and started straight away. I got into a rhythm and soon enough months had passed and my old normal became my new normal. I’d always liked the job and time away hadn’t diminished it at all. My boss though, seemed less animated than he had last time around. Less passion and more feverish working late into the night. I became worried that he wasn’t doing so well and made a point of checking in on him regularly. He said he was fine, but things really seemed off. I continued plugging away at my work, but with a nagging feeling at the base of my brain.

I looked up an old co-worker who’d helped us out on the project. Wonderful older woman who’d had endless amazing, fascinating life experiences. She said that a week after I’d left, my boss’s​ wife had passed away without warning. He’d taken it hard and his grief had transitioned to workaholism. He’d been throwing himself into trying to finish whatever he could before he too passed and his knowledge died with him. He hadn’t even been leaving the office recently. I went back to work, took one step in the door and begun sobbing uncontrollably. I woke up trembling and all day I’ve been unable to shake it from my mind. I know it was just a dream, but I can’t get rid of this sense that it wasn’t.

Much as he would seem a southpaw, Buddy was a retriever, not a boxer.

If finding a copy of Monkey Up at Dollarama a couple of weeks back wasn’t a sign that we need to start the Pawdcast up again, then this definitely is. I’m starting a super low key grassroots campaign to see if we could host the event. Because what’s to lose? The Pawdcast might not be family friendly, but we’ve absorbed enough wholesome entertainment that I’m sure we could fake it. The concept is bonkers, of course, but just crazy enough to make sense. Imagine, my co-host and I standing in the Harbourfront Concert Stage introducing a film about a basketball playing pup to an audience of parents, children and oblivious stoners because one day two years ago I thought the concept of a golden retriever doing back handsprings ad infinitum was funny enough to record a friend and I chatting about its wider mythos for hours.

Buddy never did back handsprings, but he sure did capture our hearts.

It just dawned on me that it’s been almost five months since we last recorded an episode. That’s crazy. We resolved to come back once the weather was warmer and that’s barely been happening in the past couple of weeks. Five months. Fuck. I suppose in having some semblance of a social life again (or at least remembering what my girlfriend’s face looked like, rather than passing like ships in the night), it was too hard to track time as it zoomed past. Five months. I guess that makes sense. I own a beard now. Or maybe it owns me…

The Pawdcast was a lifesaver last year. Much as I dreaded being constantly busy. Much as I dreaded having to sit through children’s film after children’s film. Much as I dreaded having to think of how to fill an hour or more of podcast every two weeks, I needed it. Being stuck in a job that I wanted out of after six months, I had to have a solid creative outlet that would push me to branch out of my comfort zone. The Pawdcast provided that. Writing/voicing parody trailers was tough work at first, but I did it. Getting back into the grind of audio editing was slow going at first, but after a few episodes I got back up to speed. Building up chemistry with new guests week after week was daunting, but I had no choice, so I went with it. Doing these things helped re-awaken long dormant mental muscles and brought back a part of me I thought I’d lost to the daily grind. For all my talk of dreading the work involved, that’s just my natural response to being challenged. It’s not something I enjoy, but it’s something I know is essential for me to keep up momentum or elsewise collapse.

Unfortunately, much as I’m into forcing myself back into the magical world of the ABCU, it’s not on the cards right away. The Pawdcast is not just me, it’s a small team who are all vital to our little operation. Our producer has a sketch group she’s assistant producing. My co-host has jumped off the freelancing train and into full-time work that’s taking up more of his energy and time than he can spare for another project right now. We’re gonna have to stay on hiatus for at least another few months. So Monkey Up will elude me for a little while yet.

The question now becomes, what do I do with myself? I’m still in that dead end job, with no way out on the immediate horizon. It’s an energy vampire that gives me no creative outlet. If I don’t funnel intention into some new endeavour soon I’m gonna regress into going through the motions. I’ve been me long enough to understand these patterns and they don’t head to a desirable destination. I had a writing room I wanted to set up with friends, but people were too busy at the time. Maybe “now” aligns for everyone. I wonder if there are skills I could be upkeeping by giving myself little projects. More audio editing, perhaps? I’d been thinking of taking some improv classes to help foster that mental alacrity. Maybe it’s time to work at letting my brain keep up with my mouth. Or could I finally pick boxing back up after years and mould myself back into shape?

I need something, whatever it is. Because when I get bored, I stagnate. Which seems awfully unbecoming for one of Toronto’s foremost Air Bud enthusiasts. What Would Air Bud Do?