It’s My Party (and I’ll cry if I want to)

The day after 29

The last time I worked on my birthday, I was rescued by three of the loveliest girlfriends a girl could ask for. They showed up, whisked me off for aperitifs at Bo’s and peanut butter afters at Pan de Manila, talking till the sun came up. Yes, we were classy like that. It’s been a decade and a hell of a lot of life changes since that night, but it also feels like only yesterday; even if we don’t get to hang the way we used to, I will cherish them forever.

I like to think of myself as someone who has grit enough to face reality. This is apparently a lie and utter bullshit, because I have somehow turned into someone who runs away from her birthday by literally running away. But not this year. Not by the dictates of this, the year of our Lord, 2020, a hellscape designed to push everyone to very limits of sanity. Not with lockdowns, masks, nasal swabs, temp-checks, quarantine, self-isolation, all these brand spanking new ribbons of red tape strewn across the path of normal movement. So, in place of the usual, this year I have to work. Because of course. Of course. Why deviate from being a shitty year through and through? It’s November, we may as well see this whole thing through to December. And onward. Forever and ever, world without end, ad infinitum, amen.

I don’t normally do this.

Blog on a weekday.

Dig up memories mid-week.

Spend my birthday at work.

It’s been a while. I’ve come to realize taking birthdays off has not only spoiled me rotten, but has also been medication of sorts. It keeps me on an even keel, like my very own annual Rumspringa. So this year, since I have no idea what to do with myself, maybe it’s a good thing I’m working. At least I’m doing something. A very depressing something, but it’s something, which is better than nothing at all. What’s the alternative? Boxed wine and take-out? Crying in the shower?

Still, it’s by no means the worst birthday I’ve ever had. No, the worst birthday I ever had was when I ended up eating torta for three days straight because my mother had bought too much and no one showed up to the party. What a bunch of dicks. LOL. I don’t remember why no one showed up; had I saved the invite till the very the last minute? I think I may have. Did I do it on purpose so I could have all the torta to myself? Who knows? I was eight. The whole thing is a blur. All I remember is the torta. So good. All that sugar. In hindsight, I regret nothing.

Damnit, now I want torta.

The Best Values are Addams Family Values

The Best Values are Addams Family Values

Today being October the 31st, I rewatched Addams Family Values because I wanted to do a Debbie Jellinsky appreciation post. I ended up appreciating the whole movie instead. I couldn’t help it. I loved it then, and I love it now, and really, how could you not?

They know what they like (and say it) –

They know what they don’t like (and say it).

They face disappointment (like a dead, fully baked stripper in a cake) –

And move on with grace and humour.

They never lose sight of who they are –

And revel in it;

They sympathize…

… but not excessively,

and they’re honest.

Maybe a little too honest.

We could do worse than emulate the Addams Family and their values. Addams Family Values is a theatrical gem of the highest caliber. It’s also a searing treatise on societal norms, but that’s a post for another day. Happy Halloween, trick-or-treaters!

Rolling on the River

Rolling on the River

I spent the summer cooped up, trapped by a scorching summer that seemed to make it its goal to burn people alive, and a virus that wants to enter you every which way it can, like some horrible tentacle porn monster.  I had already moved all the way up north to escape the heat, so having a summer that felt just about as bad as it can and does get in the Philippines was a new and frustrating one for me. Fall couldn’t come fast enough.

Fall is my favourite time of the year. The trees are aflame, the weather is mild and the sun is gentle. I didn’t have any specific place in mind, but I knew I needed to escape. Somewhere I was near  water,  could bury my face in a book, watch the leaves turn, have grilled meat,  and avoid people. I found all that in spades in Bobcaygeon.

Bobcaygeon is the hub of the Kawarthas, about two and a half hours away from the GTA. It could be the timing of our visit, but it was refreshingly deserted; I assume it hums a lot more in the summer, when folk escape the city for the gleaming lakes and rivers Ontario is so blessed with.

I loved it up there. Le Hubs says he saw mostly older folks, and that’s okay with me. My zest for partying and clubbing has kind  of petered out, anyway.  I think I’m mentally psyching myself up for bingo halls and cribbage and whatever else it is that older people do for fun up in those parts. I’m kidding. I know what they do up in those parts. They fish. They fish a LOT. Everyone who’s anyone has a boat. And anyone who’s anyone who enjoys fishing knows that Bobcaygeon is the place to start.

I can’t say I fish, but I enjoy being by the water. It’s calming. Maybe there’s an intrinsic part of me, some basic building block that still remembers how good life was before deciding to crawl on dry land and adapt to oxygen. Maybe we all have it, I don’t know. Maybe it’s the nine months we spent swimming in amniotic soup. Whatever it is, when I’m feeling stressed I always feel the need to be around water.

It was only happy chance that led me to stumble upon Gordon’s River Bunkies. The selfish part of me doesn’t want to recommend it to anyone or even mention it, because I want it all for myself, but I don’t think it matters; whether or not I say anything about it, anyone else who’s been here is bound to share how beautiful the experience is. It’s just too pretty not to share.

How could anyone say no?

Picture a one-bedroom floating home on the Bobcaygeon River, close to the oldest lock on the Trent-Severn waterway. Moored on the marina, the river is right at your doorstep; slide the living room doors open, and it’s a hop, skip and a jump away.  Add an interior of pine and cedar, large windows that fill the little cabin with light, an electric fireplace for chilly nights, an upper bedroom with a roomy queen-size bed, one and a half bathrooms, a full-service kitchen with all the accoutrements, a small backyard with a grill, and you’ll get the river bunkie you never knew you wanted. It’s a fantastic engineering marvel, and I love it. It’s gorgeous.  I spent all my time watching the water, reading, and getting in a little bit of the French Open – because it came with a flatscreen and satellite television, for those who might miss the world beyond Bobcaygeon. (Doubtful, but it’s always better to be prepared.)

Grinning like a (very happy) maniac

It was everything I needed for a little bit of a breather, before heading back to the big bad city. I loved it so much, I actually felt like I could live there. Given the chance, I would (and Le Hubs agrees!). It feels like a nice retreat. And it’s perfect – not too many people, but still enough around for you not to feel like you’re on a deserted island.

I’ve never had a dream home before, but if you asked me now, I would tell you my dream home is  a cozy floating cabin on the banks of the Bobcaygeon River, the river rushing by, never still,  lights glimmering on it at night, like flickering candles. Oh Bobcaygeon. I miss it already!

Feat of Clay

Tennis is a solitary sport when you’re playing it. Watching it however, is a different story – whether you’re in the stadium or on your couch, there’s a feeling of camaraderie, of union when you see a packed stadium. Seeing players running around on Philippe Chatrier, a court made five times larger by the absence of people, throws a body slightly off-kilter. It’s weird. It’s lonely. There is no wall of sound. The communal gasps and cries of excitement and groans of exasperation are gone, replaced by the silent nods and occasional clapping of physios and coaches – the only ones allowed to watch – and masked ballboys and ballgirls, linesmen and the referee. It’s weird, and it’s sad, and it’s all my fault.

I jinxed Paris, because I broke my own rules.

I try never to tell anyone about my plans. At most I will be vague about it, because I believe aspirations can be ill-wished by a malevolent wind. You don’t have to tell me how batty that sounds, Le Hubs says it often enough. Still, I’m weirdly superstitious about some things, so I play my cards close to my chest, and only let on what I’m about when it’s all a fait accompli.

But early this year, I told Paulie I was going to France.

The words “I’ll be in Paris in May!” flew out of my wayward mouth. I couldn’t help myself, I was too excited. The airfare had been booked and paid for, Le Hubs had been suitably convinced it was a good idea to tag along with a tennis-mad, Rafael Nadal fangirl of a wife, and this was to be the year I would finally get to stalk see the Raging Bull on the terre battue of Roland Garros. Getting to meet with Paulie, who lives a stone’s throw away from Paris (Switzerland, but what’s one train ride) after a decade would’ve been the cherry on top.

So I blabbed about it. And the universe heard me.

The universe heard, the gates of hell opened, and in clopped the first donkey of the apocalypse, braying for all it was worth. Hello, Covid-19! I am an idiot.

And that was how I ended up in a Bobcaygeon river bunkie, watching the 2020 French Open on TSN.

Internet Sausage Links

They say yesterday’s news is today’s chip paper, but we live in a digital age where peen pictures never die. Chris Evans, who usually features his dog Dodger on his socials, inadvertently featured his todger instead, which explains the rapturous squealing you heard all day Saturday. Christmas come early! Yes, I peeked. Please, like you wouldn’t – Page Six

Speaking of wouldn’t, one thing I wouldn’t do is pay to watch the live-action version of Mulan, Disney’s latest attempt at a cash grab. Not because I’m political, but because I’ve given Disney so much of my income over the past decade, being asked for an extra $30 on top of my current Disney Plus membership for “Premium Access” was grating. I predicted it wasn’t going to end well, and it didn’t, but not for the reasons I thought. Not that I care how it came about, that combination of creative bankruptcy and soulless greed deserved its comeuppance, in whatever shape or form it took – Foreign Policy

While we’re on the topic of soulless greed, blowing up ancient Aboriginal cave sites that date back to the Ice Age is beyond reprehensible. Today’s businesspeople operate on forging ahead first and asking for forgiveness later, and that needs to stop. (Move fast and break things is a horrible mantra.) Unlike Disney with Mulan, the comeuppance is not nearly enough to pay for this disgusting display of horrible decision making, all in the name of profit – BBC

I get it and would never knock anyone’s barely legal hustle, but really, how badly do we need strip clubs to stay open these days? – CBC

Getting to travel is a privilege, but this is not the best time to do so. Countries are struggling to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, and international travel has been so dicey this year. We aren’t out of the woods just yet. It seems selfish to me to want to traipse all over the world right now. Not that it’s stopped some travel “influencers” from trying to hold on to their gigs. Reading about self-entitled jerks struggling to get out of sticky situations they’ve willingly put themselves in for clout is so satisfying – The Independent

Internet Sausage Links

It’s been a minute since I’ve done one of these! Trolling for headlines used to be a lot more fun than it is these days, what with the news being constantly depressing, but I am slowly pulling myself out of the fug I’ve allowed myself to wallow in.

So. Apologies for the heaviness of the past couple posts, I don’t normally let the defeatist, depressive side of me out for all and sundry to gawk at. I have stuffed all that back into the airtight, multi-locked box that only I can crawl into whenever I’m feeling self-indulgent, or like a repressed fifties housewife. I’ll admit, it’s a tempting prospect whenever I see that sheer ridiculousness that goes down online, but sometimes, certain current events help when it comes to gaining perspective. If there’s anything that can help a body stay sane, no matter how hard things (like this year-from-hell) try to rock the boat, it’s finding perspective.

Like how you never really realize what feeling old truly means until you find out Aaron Carter fapped for money online, guaranteeing we will never see the words “Aaron’s Party (Come Get It)” the same way ever again. Someone save this child – Dlisted

Great news (for me, at least)! Fall temperatures are just around the corner, after a summer that felt like a series of never-ending heatwaves crashing into each other, which is encouraging (for me at least) – CTV

Not so great news (for one guy at least)! I’ve seen worse things happen to linespeople – based off of video evidence this didn’t seem all that egregious – but Novak Djokovich got defaulted out of the 2020 US Open for accidentally hitting a lineswoman in the throat with a tennis ball – BBC Sport

Speaking of egregious, presenting further proof (as if we needed more) that over-the-top gender reveal parties aren’t just ridiculous and stupid, they’re ridiculous, stupid and dangerous – ABC7

Speaking of ridiculous, stupid and dangerous, let’s add reckless and entitled to this thick adjective stew for people who do fucked up things – New York Post

Let’s close out this bit of perspective-finding with the perspective of one Mariah Carey, which is a pretty timely one for the group-think of our era: a tad delusional, a tad self-aggrandizing, fragile as a house of cards, but entertaining anyway – Vulture

Another Visit to the Whinery

I think I’m slowly going insane.

Oh, I joke about it.  But, what if? What if I’m actually nuts and I just don’t know it because… gasp…  I can’t hear the voices? (All I hear is tinnitus.)

Hey, at least I would be something. Not just an automaton going through the motions. I don’t even have drama.  Which is… good? 

It’s good. I know it’s good. You don’t know how good you’ve had it until it runs straight into a telephone pole and explodes, which is pretty much everyone says about 2020. It’s good. I’m just bored.

There. I said it. I am bored. I hate admitting it, because the adage is that only boring people get bored, which makes me, by extension, boring. Which is a horrible thing to be.  Not that I aspire to be an unstoppable whirlwind of constant activity, but slowly  a miasma of sameness has somehow settled onto everything like dust, the way soot from a firewood stove gets burned so indelibly into the bottom of a pan, no amount of scouring will ever  fully take it away.  My summer has consisted of grocery store runs and a road trip for ice cream in a heatwave so intense, I tried writing about it and stopped midway because I got dehydrated.  (We went to Picton, a picturesque little town in Prince Edward County, which has a lot going for it – wines, gourmet food, art, and the best ice cream you will ever find in the province. This is ice cream so good you will willingly suffer a two and a half hour drive both ways just to go and have it; this time around, suffer was the operative word.)

I’m just going to have to accept that I am not the right audience for road trips. I’ve only ever had three that will live on in memory: the first, a late October journey into the mountainous heart of Alberta with my friend Karen, right before she gave birth and I lost her forever to a precocious little girl; the second, a June trip to the tip of Tobermory and the crystal blue waters of the Georgian Bay; the last, a Holy Week escape to Bantayan Island as the token girl in an all-male training team. Everything else has been meh.

I can’t bear having yet another visit to the grocery store double for an escape, I just can’t. The constant heatwaves aren’t helping. Last week, I made a quick run to the neighbouring Filo store for victuals and broke out in a heat rash. I was barely out for more than fifteen minutes! It’s bad. It isn’t just the virus that’s kept me indoors, it’s our closest star, too.  The heatwaves have driven me indoors (and driven me mad) since July.  Sunlight, blech. What can I say, I was a naked mole rat in my past life.

It’s all this hideous ennui – which frustrates me, because how dare I succumb to something as innocuous as ennui? This is not my usual time for clawing at the walls. No, I save this build-up of quiet, semi-hysterical sort of swirling, inner insanity for the last days of winter, when I’m feeling trapped by all the enforced hibernation, but we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto. We’ve left Kansas so far behind it’s barely a blip. The “new normal,” according to my friend Gail. They should just call it new. There’s nothing normal about it. 

 

In Which I Think I’ve Finally Had It

In Which I Think I’ve Finally Had It

The bestie is going to Rhode Island next week for a friend’s birthday trip. There’s a part of me that’s happy for him, for managing to carpe the diem despite living in a country that is burning down around his ears. And there’s a part of me that’s envious. I’m envious of his ability to throw caution to the wind. I’m envious because I can’t seem to.

I am angry with myself for being such a scaredy cat. It’s like I woke up one day, realized that a.) this virus isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, b.) it may not be all that easy to shake off for my demographic and c.) have hobbled myself ever since by restricting my movements mostly to work and home because I can’t seem to silence the inner voice that keeps screaming “I don’t wanna die! I don’t wanna die! I don’t wanna die!”

I’ve spent the night in a haunted jail. I’ve slept with a dinner knife under my pillow after booking a $25/night bed in what, in hindsight, was surely a borderline illegal hostel. I’ve taken numerous walks in the dead of night, under questionable lighting, from my place to the main road so I could catch a jeepney to work. I’ve travelled solo. So why can I not do this? Why am I so cowed? Why can’t I bring myself to take up the reins of my normal life and take the risk? 

I’m tired of doing my part. I’m tired of staying in. I’m tired of avoiding crowds, tired of avoiding people, tired of wearing a mask in public. I’m tired of hand sanitizers. I’m tired of keeping my distance.

I’m tired of following instructions.

I’m tired of this heat.

I’m tired of streaming shows. 

I’m tired of numbing my feelings with food. 

I’m tired of avoiding most of the news cycle. I’m exhausted. Every time I think we’ve done it – eating Tide Pods? Gender reveal parties? Humanity finally hits rock bottom! – the news comes on and I realize that noooo, we are not done. Not by a long shot. There are still new depths to plumb.  I’m tired of reading about selfish, uneducated assholes who believe Covid-19 is a hoax. I’m tired of protesters who think mandatory mask-wearing is detrimental to their health and an assault on their freedoms, tired of idiots who think “it’s over” and have illegal bonfire parties at the beach with crappy music, tired of people who walk around thinking “well, I already have it anyway, so I may as well be out.”

I’m tired of borders. I’m tired of feeling hemmed in. Tired of the 9-to-5. I’m tired of watching people act like it’s fine to carry on the way we used to, and I’m tired of being in survival mode all the time.

I’m tired of all the politics. I’m tired of sexism. Of racism. Of victimhood. I’m tired of clapbacks. I’m tired of cancel culture. I’m tired of illiteracy. I’m tired of stupidity. I’m tired of social media. I’m tired of YouTube drama. I’m tired of the incessant Twitter pile-ons on the cause du jour of the day. I’m tired of the desperation, of the incessant grabs for the spotlight, of all the stunting people think they need to put online to grab attention. To grab validation. I’m tired of the hate. I’m tired of Tik-Tok.

I’m tired. I’ve spent the last few months using work to distract myself from the apocalyptic hellscape that is 2020, and you know what? I think this is it. I’ve finally hit a wall. I’ve run out of gas. I’ve had it. I am going to have to get over myself and this ridiculous fear sometime. 

My grandmother walked to school in the middle of World War II, and would hide in ditches whenever planes flew overhead. Compared to that, this is nothing. Besides, I’m tired of being afraid. I’m definitely tired of complaining. I’m tired of being tired. I will find that fine line between bravery and foolhardiness, and I will walk it – I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, but I will. 

A Bad Gay and Other Stories: A Mini-Review of The Bone Clocks / Less

A Bad Gay and Other Stories: A Mini-Review of The Bone Clocks / Less

I finally finished The Bone Clocks. I kept putting it off to do other things; I’d read a chapter and fall down the rabbit hole for an hour, and then get distracted again. It’s not the book’s fault, I don’t think. I just couldn’t focus. Scratch that, maybe it’s the book’s fault. Just a little. It’s told in five sections, by four different points of view. Although David Mitchell is clearly intellectual and formidably well-read, the narration was random and rambling and I would catch myself wondering – what was the point of all this? Why should I care about this or that protagonist? What’s around the riverbend? He answers my questions in the last third. My only conclusion is that David Mitchell may written it while on an acid trip, because the shit that goes down is so bonkers, so weird, and so out there, I had to reread some sentences just to try and piece it all out in my head. That’s what happens when words like psychodecanter, neurobola, ingress, scansion, etc. are thrown at you out of nowhere like a barrage of psychic projectiles. It kind of reminds me of that Brampton video that went viral last week – just another a lovely summer day in a nice, quiet suburban neighbourhood, then a car comes careening in out of nowhere, smashing into everything like it’s a scene out of a Fast and the Furious franchise.

#

Unlike The Bone Clocks, I had no problem finishing Less. It’s an easier read. If there’s any takeaway I have from it, it’s that Andrew Sean Greer is a masterful storyteller.

Nothing seems to go right for Arthur Less; absurdity is so much a part of his life story, it is his life story. It is, in parts, hilariously tragicomic. I laughed like a loon when he gets told to his face that the reason his work hasn’t been accepted into the gay canon is because he is a “bad gay” for focusing too much on the sads and never giving his protagonists a happy ending (“But Odysseus returns to Penelope!”). I also giggled at his dogged determination to get his VAT back, no matter what it takes, because he’s American, dammit all to hell.

I envy Greer his control. He repeats the use of certain words or phrases (“They are not kidding”, “An Evening With Arthur Less”, “Why?”) to add levity, and rein in the constant flashbacks and it’s like watching an expert puppeteer at work, tongue firmly embedded in cheek.

Not that I agree with how it all went down. I don’t feel the ending was deserved, but (here be spoilers!) that is probably because I have very little patience for aimlessly frivolous people who seem to think it’s okay to ask their friends to Save the Date, then go through with the whole kit-and-boodle, only to turn around after a scant twenty-four hours of being married and say, um, I don’t think I should have done this…? Yes, Britney Spears did it too, but she was drunk and in Vegas. In Less, it turns out to be an utterly premeditated, lousy, wasteful, overly dramatic attempt to get attention. It’s like Sally Rooney’s Normal People – if they had just talked it out, they would’ve been fine. Why do they never talk it out? Also, why do they always say what they don’t mean? I get that Arthur Less is emotionally scarred because he was unceremoniously dumped by the poet/genius/asshole he gave his youth to, which is why he pushes everyone who gets close to him away, but really, fifteen years of stewing in his own drama? Please.

Still, if the end goal was to give a gay protagonist a happy ending in order to get included in the gay canon, Mission Accomplished. I can almost hear Andrew Greer muttering “am I a good gay now?” to his critics. I will give him this: he is a very good gay. They were not kidding.

A Quickie Escape

Dear Elly G,

While you were ogling handsome men queueing up for some patio action, I was ogling people and places, period. My adventures these past few months have become even tamer than usual; this morning we spent a couple of hours going for gas and a car wash, with a quick stop for coffee and empanadas. I know, exhilarating. I’d been meaning to visit  Super Bakers, a place that makes Filipino empanadas, but never got around to it because it’s rather far from the city core and would’ve entailed at least an hour on public transit. But now, with the car (which I have christened “Car”, I still don’t really know what to call it… Carolyn? Carlos? Carson Daly? Carmi Martin?) it’s accessible. And it being two minutes away from where we get gas doesn’t hurt. It was worth it. The empanadas were deelish – flaky, tasty, stuffed with goodness and not mystery meat. At $21 a dozen they don’t come cheap, but they’re a nice size so it’s fairly good bang for your buck.

The store signage made me giggle. No, it didn’t say “home of the original” or anything like that, it said “Super Bakers” in giant text, and went on to proclaim “Finest Empanadas, Hopia, and More!” underneath. I don’t know what they mean by “more!”, unless they’re talking about the lone cabinet that held UFC tomato sauce pouches, bihon and a collection of Mama Sita’s sauce mixes. All they sell are empanadas and hopia. That is all. There is no “and more!”. False advertising! But I won’t hate because it made me laugh and because they weren’t lying about their empanada being the finest. Not that I’ve tried all that many over here, but so far, I’ll give them the crown and intend to be a repeat customer – if they’ll have me, given all the shade I’ve just thrown.

I wanted to try out an automated car wash because I am an ignoramus and when someone says car wash, this is what I expect:

angels car wash

Which of course didn’t happen, because in the car wash of my dreams, I am Drew Barrymore as a Charlie’s Angel. This was the reality:

real car wash.gif

Two minutes tops, in and out. Very clinical, totally anti-climactic, but I had fun anyway. Like I said to a beloved professor two years ago: I’ll take it!

We decided not to take the expressway home and ended up driving through the Junction, a neighbourhood of Toronto I’d really only seen the tip (yes, just the tip) of before. It felt like the old Honda 50 days, driving around exploring the backroads of Batinguel to Valencia whenever Noreco II went on the fritz.

You really can’t keep a good Canadian in on a hot summer day, because people were strutting their stuff with no masks on, just shopping or walking about, or lining up at the LCBO. It almost felt normal again. Quarantine? What quarantine? COVID who?

It was nice to observe it all and feel like I was oot and aboot again, without truly being oot. I don’t think I’m ready to risk that just yet.

Not oot, just aboot,
Nikka