Distractions

Distractions

I haven’t been as regular with this blog lately. What have I been up to, you ask? Today, I got caught in a vortex of cake-decorating videos. You know the ones. Three minute, sped-up clips of anonymous hands handling colourful fondants, expertly piping frosting, spinning cake turntables and chirpy music.

It’s like magic. And they make it look easy. Plus it’s cake. And I like cake. I like cake very much.

Maybe a little too much, truth be told.

I wish I wrote as much as I used to. Le Hubs and I sometimes talk about growing up in the old days. We were a generation with one foot in the past and the other in the future, growing up with dial-up modems, pagers, not-so-smart phones and VHS. Man, the late nineties were fun. There was a purity in having to work harder to get the things that mattered, entertainment-wise. Like listening to DYGB-FM with a finger poised on the record button, hoping against hope the DJ would play something by the Backstreet Boys.

We used to create so much more back then. The hubs is an artist (my blog header graphic is thanks to him!) although like me, he hasn’t made his passion a day job, and he too feels the constant pull of consuming rather than creating. Because that’s what today’s reality is like. It’s become so much easier to consume than create, thanks to the onslaught of the internet and the convenience of having almost everything at our fingertips. And, like cake, that’s not really a good thing.

It is so easy to be distracted. I sometimes wake up telling myself to write more, that I need to put down something, anything, and then I pick up my phone to check the weather and all of a sudden an hour has rushed by and I know a lot more about the Toronto Raptors than I really needed to.

You know what I need? The cone of shame. It’s not really a cone of shame (thanks, Up), it’s just something to keep spayed pets from licking their healing bits. It would be nice to have something like that when it comes to technology, wouldn’t it? Something to help us focus, to remind us that too much time spent online is hazardous to our health. The thing is, I don’t think a cone of shame would be enough. Nothing short of an EMP-triggered shutdown would be enough.

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via Giphy

If I want to be distracted, I will be. And the truth is, after a long day at work and a stressful commute, a lot of the time I actually want to be. I’m not proud of it, but most days I just want to lie on the couch and bask in the UV rays bouncing off of my TV screen.

The internet has been reverse-engineered into a time suck on purpose. It is to the advantage of the puppet masters that be to keep us all occupied, the way parents hope toys will keep their children from throwing tantrums. While that is not fine, it is what it is, and the only advantage we have is that we can still recognize the trap for what it is. I can choose to buckle down, zone everyone and everything out, and just write. Easier said than done, but baby steps. And I’m doing this post today, so yay for progress!

A Really Really Late and Frankly Kind of Shallow Post

A Really Really Late and Frankly Kind of Shallow Post

Last month, the management cut the power to our high-rise.

The reason lay in January of this year, when the residential building across from us experienced a complete breakdown of power and heating when a burst pipe flooded the building’s electrical room with water. They never really stated what caused the pipe to burst, but in particularly harsh winters, extreme cold can cause water in the pipes to freeze. The resulting ice expansion puts pressure on the pipes, which eventually crack, or burst, if the build-up becomes too much for it to contain.

A burst pipe is enough of a potential catastrophe when it happens in a single residence. It’s a harbinger of the end of the world when it happens to a 33-storey residential apartment building that houses about 1200 residents. They had to shut all essential services down while they investigated the extent of the damage to avoid possible electrical mishaps – or worse, a fire.

Imagine what that must have been like. No power, no heat, no light and no running water for three straight days in January, which is the absolute dead of winter.  That means no heat in sub-zero temps and no working elevators, which would necessesitate going up numerous flights of steps if you live on a higher floor. It’s particularly inconvenient for children, the elderly and the disabled.  It wasn’t pretty.  There were fire crews, ambulances, and police cars all surrounding the building to make sure no one emergencies could be dealt with as they worked to restore power to the building. It must’ve been a complete nightmare for the residents of that place.

With all that in the rearview mirror, the management of our building decided some preventative maintenance was in order to avoid the same thing happening to us. Which is how we came to be without power or water for 24 hours.

I suppose it’s nothing to me, a veteran of Noreco II’s regular brown-outs, to amuse myself for the day and find some way to be occupied. I’m easy. Something to read, something to eat, some water stockpiled. But power outages are rare to non-existent in this part of the world, especially with Niagara Falls providing hydro-electric power not too far away from us. Unlike me, Le Hubs doesn’t find escape in books, and his preferred pursuits involve the use of electricity – music, podcasts, and video games – and he was pacing around like a caged thing, utterly annoyed by his regular routine getting upended, which struck me as absurdly funny.

I spent a good while ribbing him about being completely unprepared for the apocalypse, my lack of empathy an unfortunate (?) side-effect of being Filipino. In the Philippines, our matters of life and death are considerably a lot more serious than the loss of power and access to TV or computers for 24 hours. He was justifiably angry with our building’s management for letting things slide so much they ended up having to deal with it by inconveniencing us all, but it was still funny to me. Only those of us who have ever been held hostage by Noreco II will ever have the fortitude.

That said, his reaction to the lack of power was my reaction to the lack of water. I suppose I should’ve expected that the water would be shut off as well – to test heating? – but I am used to constant access to running water. In the unlikely event we would have no water in the pipes, my childhood home has a manual pitcher pump out back and yes, I’ve had mornings when I used to go out back, pump enough water to fill a pail, and lug the whole thing back inside the house just to shower before school.

I had two buckets of water set aside for washing and the water was ice cold, enough to chill the blood. In the Philippines, our water is sometimes warmed by pipes exposed to the sun, and even when it isn’t, the temperature of our regular running water is not hard to adjust to. In Canada, cold water is cold. Bone-chillingly, horribly, uncomfortably cold. I couldn’t  really appreciate the convenience of having both hot and cold water running until all I had to wash with was cold water. This was just before spring came on and the weather had a high of 5C; having a normal shower was out of the question.

I have come to realize that should the apocalypse come, I am capable of living without power for a while. I can live with walking up seventeen flights of stairs even if it really truly sucks and I had a moment where I truly considered living in the tenth stairwell. I can deal with being unplugged. No, should the apocalypse come, true suffering for me would be the inability to take a decent shower, as shallow as that sounds. (And, I suppose, access to the warmth whenever winter comes.) Even us hardened veterans of Noreco II are helpless when it comes to the ice cold waters of the Great White North.

A Less Wasteful Kind of Joy

A Less Wasteful Kind of Joy

 

Marie Kondo is a sweet little bird of a woman. I had somehow imagined that the best-selling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing was a Michiko Kakutani of sorts. I expected her to look stringy, rigid and exacting, not be a tiny slip of a girl with a smile that stretches from ear to ear, who wears prim, feminine outfits and seems to be the human embodiment of the sunshine emoji.

Marie Kondo is the celebrity of tidying, hired to make sense of one’s life by helping one weed out, sort and organize the detritus that can accumulate simply through existing. She currently has a TV show on Netflix, where she helps people decide what to keep and what to throw out, and teaches them how to arrange the things they have decided to keep to spark the maximum amount of joy. Joy is her raison d’etre. The gist of her method, called KonMari, is to keep only the things that give you joy, and to honour the things that no longer do before casting them aside and donating them to charity.

What makes the KonMari method special is that she believes each item that you have in your home should bring you joy. She also believes that every sentimental item has a sort of life, one that needs to be respected. It sounds ridiculous and I suppose on the surface, it is. Inanimate objects are just that, objects. Because I subscribe to the notion that my things turn into the cast of Toy Story whenever I’m not looking (which is why one moment they’re missing  and the next, they’re lying under my nose waiting to be picked up) the KonMari method and the philosophy behind it doesn’t strike me as particularly outlandish.

I like her philosophy on tidying up. One of the things Le Hubs does that drives me up the wall is whenever he forgets to put a thing back where he got it. (He does this fairly often. It’s a source of everlasting frustration.) The control freak in me loves the idea of organization, of knowing what goes where, the empowerment of knowing where everything and anything is at any given time.

The method may seem simple, but it is devilishly tricky and in some cases, unrealistic. Book lovers in particular, myself included, bristle at the notion of only keeping the books I am likely to re-read (she recommends having no more than thirty) and giving the rest – the unread ones, or ones I’ll never read again – away, as the KonMari method says to do. Please keep your happy, well-meaning paws off my books, Marie Kondo. All my books bring me joy. Everything else but the books!

It’s impossible to only keep the things that spark joy. Not everything I own does. Not everything has to, and that’s okay. I may not have a meaningful relationship with my spatula, but it’s not getting thrown out anytime soon.

To be fair, I don’t believe she means for people  to start throwing everything out willy nilly in the pursuit of carving out a space in which to breathe. If anything, I see the KonMari  method as a good way to re-evaluate the reasons we have for buying the things we do.

It’s helpful to have perspective when buying things, something that, in our mad dash to accrue, very often gets muddled. Sometimes we find ourselves buying things for the sake of buying things, stripping them of their meaning in the process, and the cycle of going out to buy things simply because it feels good to buy things becomes a vicious one that’s hard to break. Before you know it you’re surrounded by things  that have no meaning beyond the initial impulse you had to buy them in the first place.

When it comes to acquiring movies and books in particular, I like to make sure the ones I get are ones I really enjoy. Either I’ve seen it at a theatre and loved it, or I’ve borrowed the digital version of a book from the library and have decided it deserves a spot on my bookshelf. This way I know I’m almost never going to throw it out, and they will never go unwatched or unread. Be selective. Aside from asking if something you already own brings you joy, it’s also a good idea to ask if something you want to own will bring you joy. It’ll help you ensure you’ll never have to throw anything out.

 

No means no, Gender Reveal parties are for assholes, and please think long and hard about what to name your child

It’s been quite a few days. I spent a lot of it under a rock (i.e. catching up on my reading backlog) and now that I’ve emerged for some air… nope. The world’s just as hopeless as it was ten days ago.

Like this guy. This guy is an idiot.

Sorry.

Was an idiot.

There’s not taking no for an answer, and then there’s this. Voluntarily signing up to break the law in favour of handing out free King James Bibles to hostile tribespeople who have proven time and again that they don’t like strangers and will kill them on sight. Yay? It didn’t work for Magellan. No means no.

I identify as Baptist – I know, shocker – and am very good friends with a lapsed Jehovah’s Witness as well as a Mormon, so I see no problem with the idea of going out to spread the good word. I also see no problem with living and think people should go out of the way to avoid dying stupid, unnecessary deaths.

Or causing stupid, unnecessary fires.

In one of the best episodes of Netflix’s Grace and Frankie, Grace decides to down all the vodka so she can function at a gender reveal party held by one of Frankie’s kids. My guess is that’s probably what everyone involved at this party was doing.

I used to get really annoyed seeing people I knew sharing their ultrasounds and fresh pee sticks on social media, but that pales in comparison to going out of your way to fire a gun at a target rigged to blow up with either pink or blue powder to celebrate and starting a wildfire in the process. I’m dating myself here, but I remember when gender reveals happened when the baby slipped out of its mother’s birth canal and plopped into the waiting hands of the OB-GYN. It’s a boy! Can we please just go back to doing that and stop making humanity look like such idiots who keep making questionable decisions?

Speaking of questionable decisions,

Is it the impending weight of becoming responsible for another human being? Is it the realization of how much time, money and effort it’s going to involve? Is that what caused this bit of mental gymnastics? Help me. Help me understand why someone would name a child Abcde and insist it’s pronounced “Ab-city,” when really, it’s pronounced “my mother is a dumbass”?

I don’t care what people say, giving a child a name composed of the first five letters of the alphabet is cruelty and endangerment when you know what life has in store. Writing Kick Me with a sharpie and slapping it on your child’s back before he/she goes to school is merciful by comparison. At least it wouldn’t be something they’re stuck with for life. And flight attendants wouldn’t make fun of your offspring.

Not that the flight attendant was any better. While I thank her for taking the very courageous, and yet horribly unprofessional step of posting private flight passenger information on Facebook so we could all share in the experience, that was completely  disrespectful and unprofessional. No one won this thing.

No one won the other things up in this post either.

Except the internet.

The Day Before 37

The Day Before 37

This entry is borne along the strains of RuPaul’s Glamazon, the soundtrack to my weekend thanks to Netflix acquiring all the older seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race and successfully roping me back into the world of wigs, catty bitchfests, cinchers, blending and peanut butter peanut butter peanut butter, all the things my life never really was and definitely wasn’t this weekend.

While I wish my life was that of a glamazon, all makeup and sky high heels stomping around like I rule the world, those days are long behind me. I spent the last day being thirty-six doing laundry. It’s decidedly unglamorous, instead of doing what I’ve made a point of doing on my birthday for the past six years, which is be somewhere else. I usually snap up fall flight sales in August, but this year I spent part of August in the Philippines and the beginning of September in Hong Kong, so I blew my wad too soon.

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Japan.

The tradition started a few years ago, when we ended up with an unexpected overnight layover on our flight back to Toronto due to the mechanical shenanigans of Delta Airlines. I never really mind airline schedule changes, for as long as I get to wangle a free night’s stay and a meal out of it. Anyway, there I was. Pensive on the morning of my birthday, staring moodily out the window at a particularly depressing Japanese landscape somewhere in the industrial wilds of Narita when I realized I liked it. I liked the idea of being somewhere else on my birthday. I’ve since spent birthdays in other places. I think a big part of it is the unconscious urge to escape reality, to run away from facing the fact that I have another year behind me, that I’m not getting any younger and sometimes feel directionless, the usual frustrations that come with getting older, the biggest being the fear of being stuck in a rut, feeling like life is quicksand dragging you down and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s melodramatic and self-indulgent, things I rarely allow myself to be, but it’s my birthday goddamnit. I am entitled to feel this way because once upon a time on this very day, I was happily suspended in amniotic fluid minding my own business, when all of a sudden I was very unceremoniously evicted from my comfortable, rent-controlled apartment, dragged out into the light of day, naked, wet, and forced to start living. I didn’t ask for any of this! I was fine!

So anyway, I spent my last day being thirty-six doing laundry, and online shopping for robotic vacuums. Yes. This is what my life has come to, researching the merits of robotic vacuums and spending time actually reading what people say about Roombas.

This somehow led to an argument with Le Hubs about habits, which turned into an argument about the merits of letting robotic things into the household and the possibility of Skynet and ridiculous bullshit that happens when you’re up at three in the morning, which ultimately got resolved by hugging it out, which I promise is not a euphemism for anything. It’s hard to stay mad at him, he’s a giant cuddly teddy bear.  I hug him a lot.

We then ended up talking about going somewhere for breakfast and a birthday cake. If I can’t travel, I absolutely insist on having cake. It was a tossup between Dufflet, La Rocca, or something from Costco, which sounds ghetto, but isn’t. You haven’t lived until you’ve had cake from Costco, hunty.

We found Betty’s, a dive bar that does Sunday brunch buffets. It sounds a bit grimy and shady – and it is – but Betty’s has a character that makes you want to return. The walls are peppered with random posters and framed photos, the floors are dark and encrusted with decades of dirt, the lighting sketchy and the wall sconces are the metal halves of discarded colanders. It looks and feels like the shanty all the villains in Shrek hung out in to sadly play piano and stare moodily into beer pints that haven’t been thoroughly cleaned. It’s like the place hipsters emulate except it has zero pretension for anything other than what it is. That appeals to me. I wasn’t that big a fan of the brunch buffet – regular faves, eggs, bacon, benny, a make-your-own waffle corner, a carving area for ham and a smattering of fruit and what-have-you, nothing to write home about – but Betty’s is the kind of place I see myself hanging out in, playing a board game, nursing a beer (or some other drink because I don’t like beer) and just talking. Or not. Someone on Google reviews called it his own personal Cheers bar and I can see why. When we walked in, the barkeep greeted us with the warmest, most welcoming smile like a scene out of a movie. The servers were lovely and knew just when to leave us alone. None of that smarmy bullshit at most restaurants, the obvious drive-by with an “Everything okay?” that sometimes feels forced, or rote, or worse, disinterested in the actual answer.

I like Betty’s. So did Le Hubs, who said he would be back. I probably will tag along, but not for brunch. I’m trying the nachos.

Waddling out of Betty’s, we eventually picked up my cake (La Rocca, Cookie Butter) and parted ways because I wanted to see The Crimes of Grindelwald. I ended up not seeing the movie but came home with some Christmassy scented candles (White Pine! Juniper!), this years cards for my annual Christmas mailing list (want to be on it? Let me know!) and some loot from Sephora because it was a treat  yo-self kind of day and they were celebrating Black Friday week with a 20% off discount on everything.

And that was how I spent my last day being thirty-six. Just being my regular self, trying a new place to eat, a bit of QT with Le Hubs. All very low-key and pared down. I can’t say I won’t overcompensate next year with a jaunt somewhere, but I feel thankful to have reached thirty-seven. I spent the day trying to confront my issues with aging and adulting and I’m not sure I’ve really looked it straight in the eye, but I came out of it feeling like I’m okay. I think I really am. I may not be stomping around like a panther on the runway, but I’m still wild and still an animal, even if it’s more in spirit than in body. And that’s okay. I am thirty-seven. I came through the last year unscathed, I got to make more memories worth remembering with the people I care about the most,  and that is a phenomenon worth celebrating and being thankful for, sashay, chante!

The One Constant

The One Constant

“You can’t beat death. It’s un-fucking-defeated. And if you fight it, it will humiliate you. It’ll chain you to a bed and make someone have to wipe your shitty ass. It’ll make you forget who your own fucking kids are. It takes your dignity and it whips its’ dick out and pisses on it. When you’re younger and it comes for you, it’s worth it to fight it and suffer through the humiliation. When you’re older, what the fuck does it get you to go through that?”

Justin Halpern, All That’s Left When You Die

My Grandma’s been reminding me she’s ready every chance she gets, and has done so for the better part of the last fifteen years. She’d probably have put it this way if she was a grumpy old coot with a gutter mouth and absolutely no filter, but she’s a retired teacher and a dignified lady, so she settles for “I’m already eighty-seven, you know.”

They say the best guests know exactly when to leave the party.  If that’s true and life is a party, then you’re looking at the worst party guest ever because I would be the weirdo peeling herself off the wreckage on the floor of your apartment the morning after, helping herself to whatever is left in your refrigerator.

Being absolute crap at math worked in my favour a few days ago. I’d just come from one of Toronto’s many downtown parks, having taken a few prerequisite selfies and was in the process of deciding whether or not to share them on Instagram, when the reality of it all hit me. I would never be as young again as I was in that photograph. November is looming, and with it my birthday, and the number thirty-eight was flashing on and off. Illi, who is better at math than I am (and actually used his phone to ensure accurate calculations), said the number was thirty-seven. I felt slightly better. Like a stay of execution had been granted. I then realized I’d been living this past year thinking I was older than I really was, which is complete bonkers.

Still, forty is now within shouting distance which is such an intimidating idea. I always thought that I would, I don’t know, be a confident, self-assured other person I wouldn’t recognize. But the truth is, I feel like I am fundamentally the same person I was at sixteen. I might have a bit more experience and have picked up some emotional bruises and scars along the way, but why don’t I feel any different?

Maybe it takes having children – a step I never took – to become someone else, to be different, to evolve. But this isn’t about biological urges and my strange lack of them; this is about death and my strange inability to face it head on.

As each year passes, and a layer of cynicism (and fat, shut up) gets added to my slight and dainty frame, I can see how some have gotten to the point where they’re so sick of humans and the sick, sad world we’ve created, they’re willing to cast off this mortal coil. Not that  everyone who’s ready to go is sick of humanity. They could also just be sick and tired of being sick and tired. Or they could also be graceful about the whole thing, acknowledging they’ve lived a full life and are ready to get off the train whenever. Whatever the reason,  I think a person needs to be at a certain age and a certain point in life to really hunker down and accept the inevitable.

So here I am, still clinging tightly to life the way Kate clung to Leo in the middle of the Arctic. Although some days are darker than others, the world isn’t nearly sick or sad enough yet for me to want to leave it for the great unknown, not even if it sometimes feels like common sense doesn’t exist and humanity is a ball of entitlement and fakery. Living still feels good. I’m still aging disgracefully, and this whole breathing thing beats the not knowing.

 

Weed the North

So pot is legal in Canada now. Yay? It feels like a foregone conclusion. Kind of like Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn; they’ve been together for so long, if they ever got married, it would be anticlimactic (and about damn time). That’s pot in Canada.

A major peeve of mine is following behind someone who happens to be walking while smoking like a chimney, the human traffic equivalent of being stuck behind a car smoking black exhaust. Gross. I have an extremely sensitive sense of smell, so anything from a cigarette to B.O. is capable of causing a splitting headache. (Axe Body Spray is nasal assault and battery. Please stop.)  So my main gripe about smoking in general is that it literally stinks. It sticks to clothes and hair. It’s also kind of like fireworks – lit up for a brief moment of enjoyment and gone forever. It’s burning money, which to me is  the definition of absolute lunacy.

Anyway, I girded my mental loins as I exited the subway, expecting hordes of long-suppressed smokers toking up all over in joyous celebration, enveloping Toronto in a big, stinky mushroom cloud of weed smoke. Didn’t happen. There was a bud drop, and they went a bit nuts in the Bellwoods yesterday, but at least they weren’t spilling out into the streets smoking like there’s no tomorrow. Again, yay?

In Ontario, storefronts have yet to launch and legal weed is only available for sale online but Canada Post is threatening to strike, etc, so people may not yet have gotten the weed they ordered.  I don’t smoke, but I know people who do and appreciate the ones who make an effort to ensure their smoking doesn’t affect other people. It’s too soon to tell how this is gonna go, it’s only been a day. Here’s hoping Canadians live up to their rep of being polite, well-mannered and considerate. If not, it’s time to consider investing in face masks.