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. 

Wanted: Fairly Decent Jalopy

Wanted: Fairly Decent Jalopy

We’ve been stressing out about getting a car.

I know, I know, I was supposed to learn how to drive a couple years ago, but that kind of fell by the wayside. Parking in Toronto is expensive, insurance even more so, and a subway stop is an easy block and a half away from us. It’s easy to just depend on public transportation if you live in the downtown core. Before this whole COVID-19 thing descended on us like the pale horseman of the apocalypse, it was pretty easy to get around.

But now, with homeless shelters being pushed to the limit, the mostly ignored underclass of humanity that generally skates on by unnoticed/ignored in normal times has started to take over the subway. And it’s April. In Toronto. Think April means winter has come and gone? We were at -10C windchill last week. So no, I can’t blame people who just want some shelter. We’re all just trying our best to survive and stay warm for a minute.

The downside is, well… they’re homeless. They have more issues to worry about than health, or hygiene. It’s more worrying about where to take a dump, how to get the next big high, where the free soup stands are. They’re now taking advantage of the subway system, nesting in a bajillion trash bags full of god knows what, sore-infested legs bared, smelling like urine, taking up three seats  and sleeping their way from Kennedy to Kipling station.

The places the hubs and I work for were declared essential, which is both blessing and curse. On the one hand, something to take our minds off the current pandemic is always nice. On the other, the act of getting to work means exposure, which means risk, which means what used to feel like a harmless, non-eventful commute now feels like playing Russian Roulette.

So yes. We need a car. And so far, it’s been a trip.

You see, we’re in the market for a beater. The kind of car that can stop running and you can leave at the side of the road and never look back, hello-goodbye. But it can’t be any old beater. It has to at least run for a few months before giving up the ghost. I’m not just a beggar, I’m a chooser to boot and to top it all off, neither he nor I know shit about cars. I’m in hell.

The paranoia is draining. Cars on AutoTrader and Kijiji  look so good, but then the doubts start tumbling in… will this certify? What’s wrong with this car? Why is it so cheap? Is it too cheap? Will we get mugged? Is it a bait and switch? Are there liens? Is the transmission off? Is that too much rust?

It’s so bad, we’ve contemplated just buying a new one and driving it off the car lot, warranty and all, everything in good working order, but along come the questions again. Is it worth the depreciation? How much will insurance be? Do we really want to spend the next seven years of our lives paying through the nose?

When will all this end? Will it even end?  

It’s exhausting. I’m tired.  I want to stop and get off the crazy train, but I can’t seem to help myself. So I just have to square my shoulders, take a deep breath, and summon the memory of what the immortal JZ always says when it comes to things like these: get a grip. Because what else is there to do? 

Eat. Yes, eating sounds good.

I think I’ll go eat my feelings for a minute. If you’ll excuse me.

 

ps. And then you get the guys who have an ad put up but won’t answer. I mean, fine. If it’s sold, it’s sold, but DON’T LEAVE THE BLOODY AD UP.

An Abundance of Caution

Welp, it looks like we finally got the fallout of cancel culture: everything is now cancelled. Ya happy? All this cancel him, cancel her bullshit going out into the ether, and now nothing is playing, no one is meeting up, all the toilet paper is gone and we’re all holed up working from home, praying to high heaven we don’t get so much as a cough. Yeah. Thoughts and prayers that.

Because panic buying is the latest thing to do and I’m reading about people running around like chickens with their heads cut off, prioritizing the stupidest things (really, toilet paper?), here is a list of other things I would get (everyone knows cans, jars and anything with a long shelf life is essential) in the mad scramble of panic buying:

Twinkies. I’d hoard Twinkies like the Gulf states hoard oil. Every post-apocalyptic work states unequivocally that Twinkies will never go bad, and the currency of the future post fall-out could very well be Twinkies and toilet paper.

Machetes. If this is really going to all go down and we’re headed to the wilderness to fend for ourselves like extras in The Walking Dead, a few machetes would come in mighty handy. A little chopping for firewood, a little slicing for meat, a bit of hacking through the underbrush, a good machete goes a long way.

Aquatabs. Or, really, anything that has to do with potable drinking water. For obvious reasons. I stopped drinking from the tap years ago, because I couldn’t trust it, and once again, if we are pushed to the brink and forced to source water from rivers, lakes and waterfalls we aren’t supposed to be chasing, dying from dysentery is just as bad as dying from COVID-19.

Ibuprofen. Let’s see, you’re on the run (or you’re locked down for an inordinate amount of time). Your hygiene is shit. There are no willowbark trees anywhere in the vicinity, and you wouldn’t know a willowbark tree if you saw one anyway, so what’s the point? You develop the worst migraines because your body is crying out for food and water. Hoard the painkillers. Guard them with your life.

UPDATE: not sure how accurate the reports are re ibuprofen as a possible aggravator for COVID-19, so… grain of salt and all that.

Duct Tape. I don’t know about you, but duct tape is this magical stuff that is supposed to fix anything and everything, with the exception of a broken marriage, so yes, maybe a few rolls of that stuff might come in handy in my new life as a vagabond.

Clearly, I am a red shirt and these things aren’t going to be worth shit and my survival skills are all from the school of pop culture, which means I’ll be the one who thinks survival is curling up in the body of a dead tauntaun. That said, to be honest it’s kind of hard to make light of these things, when you’re facing the reality of empty shelves and fruit bins. I went for apples yesterday, and it looked like a plague of locusts had swept through our local No Frills:

I have NEVER seen these shelves be empty before. Ever. It is weird, and not a little eerie.

Also this, at the local Canadian Tire:

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The future is here, and it is bleak.

The Hungry and the Fat

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Ladies and gentlemen: my autobiography.*

I have, apparently, become a Chihuahua with the appetite of a St. Bernard. Or so my family doctor tells me. I’m paraphrasing. Of course that wasn’t a direct quote, no doctor would be so blunt, especially not in today’s extremely sensitive (and litigious) atmosphere, but that was pretty much my takeaway. I had asked him to please, for the love of all that was holy, give me something – gastric bypass, lobotomy – anything, to take away my horrible lack of self control when it comes to food in the pursuit of the ideal BMI. But all he would recommend was just to eat less. That is what he said. “Eat less.” And then he made me step on the scale and, having dispensed with that particular slap in the face, reminded me once again by measuring my height that I stopped growing right before I hit five feet. Dear United American Tiki-Tiki: my mother would like her money back.

Annual physical exams are excruciating. The results are fine when you’re in your twenties, a nubile sylph made of Teflon. Otherwise, to paraphrase Samantha Irby (I am paraphrasing a lot today, aren’t I?) we are all sacks of meat that are slowly beginning to rot. Notice I say slowly; the bloodwork and the cholesterol results, the heart rate and lungs and all that, came back okay. Which is something to be glad about. But, to paraphrase Lady Gaga (here we go again) there could be a hundred good results on a lab report…

There isn’t a  lot of wiggle room when you are short. “Small,” says my doctor, an adjective which, in any other circumstance, I would be fine with, but not in this instance because we are now talking about me growing vertically as opposed to horizontally. He went on to remind me that it’s just like overfeeding a pet – you can’t stuff your cat full of lasagna if you don’t want it to be Garfield, yes thank you, Captain Obvious, why did I have to go and pick such an implacable doctor – all I really wanted was some wonder drug or other, but the only drug being prescribed that day was common sense. I have no self control, goddamnit, but really who else do I have to blame? I should’ve just gotten pregnant. At least I could’ve blamed weight gain on the baby and coasted on into my forties overweight but with a lot less self-loathing. Maybe I should take up cigarettes? Hypnosis? A political cause like Gandhi?

Whatever it takes, I acknowledge that my doctor is right about the only way to go about reversing the effect of the past few years. I do not want to enter my forties as a Hindenburg impersonation. I may not be the nubile Teflon sylph I used to be – and likely never will be again – but I took a little heart from noting the weight gain didn’t just happen overnight. In comparison it should be faster to erase it than it took to gain it. Your thoughts and prayers would be much appreciated, and see you in the produce section.

* no it isn’t

We’re Fine, We’re Fine, We’re Fine

We’re Fine, We’re Fine, We’re Fine

I’ve been on straight OT the past two weeks, and it’s starting to show. Some days, I feel worn-out and miserable, so I’ve been cheering myself up by looking forward to another adventure.

If only finding a hotel was like playing pin the tail on the donkey; just slap a blindfold on and aim at whatever. Sometimes it feels like that. But hotels cost money, and spending it on a less than desirable one is like throwing your money away. And I’m poor. I’m not in a position to just blow it on whatever. So I end up obsessing about finding the perfect hotel – strategic location, non-shady area, decent digs, affordable price, you know the drill. If there’s anything agonizing about planning a trip, it’s always trying to find the best place to stay.

Lord, here I go again.

What a whiny, privileged post. Who has time to complain about work and how hard it is to find a place to stay, when people are dropping like flies over in China? I guess I do? I mean, what else do I have to write about? How I had sudden onset vertigo two Saturdays ago, and it freaked me out so much, I went to the clinic and ended up side-eying everyone with even the slightest hint of a cough, twitchy as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs? How I watched at least two people drop in to help themselves from the free surgical masks out of the courtesy box right beside a giant bottle of hand sanitizer, and scurry away without so much as a thank you? How it made me have to tamp down a bout of slightly hysterical giggles, the same way I did seeing Rexall’s “SORRY, OUT OF SURGICAL MASKS” sign, because what is this, a Gwyneth Paltrow movie?

I stopped checking my Facebook feed even more than usual. For a while there, it was nothing but arguments as to the correct way to wear a surgical mask (blue out/white in? white out/blue in? Jesus.), self-righteous, virtue signalling reminders not be racist in Chinatown and elsewhere, ridiculous articles seeking to pinpoint where the virus possibly originated (civet cats? rats? pangolins? bats?), and just fear, fear and fear. It’s only February! What is happening?

It’s never been easier to fall victim to mass hysteria than now, when we are all connected and hearsay is a tap and a swipe away.  Sometimes it’s best to rely on common sense. Observe proper hygiene. Eat well.  Don’t be a slob, wash your hands before eating, or rubbing your eyes, or picking your nose, or sticking your fingers in your mouth. Disinfect your phone. Take precautions. Don’t cough or sneeze on people. Wear masks if needed in public areas (who cares if it isn’t Hong Kong, this thing is potent). Common sense may only go so far in the face of what looks like a literally virulent sickness, but hey. Anything is better than being careless. (And, from the looks of it, being in Wuhan. I know, I know. Too soon.)

It wasn’t the best time to be at the clinic, that’s for sure. Not when the headlines were – and are – all about some worse-than-SARS virus that’s ripping through mankind like wildfire. Not when one of your closest buds is busy telling you how she’s made sure to Lysol everything including the kitchen sink, and you’re all agreeing that it’s best school stay suspended and keep the kids home – better safe than sorry- and all of a sudden you’ve taken a hard left into absurd territory by  swapping selfies of yourselves wearing masks, because apparently, that’s the takeaway. The world may be ending, but Hello Kitty masks will always be cute.

Be safe out there, you guys.

Toronto the Good

Toronto the Good

The best kind of meet-ups are the serendipitous ones, the kind that just fall into your lap one day like a gift from on high. It’s not every day I hear from people who take the time to read things my crazy self says online, so when Miiesche of Soulstriptease reached out, wanting to know what it is like living in Toronto, it really made my day.  And reader, I did get to meet Miiesche last month and it was fun seeing Toronto  again through the eyes of a newcomer.

Although I grouse about living here, especially in the winter, the truth is I do love Canada, and Toronto, the city I now call home. Here, I’m sharing my answers to Miiesche’s questions about Canada, in the hope that it’ll convince others to either visit, or at least consider it as a place to live. The caveat is after a one-year stint in the GTA, I’ve really only lived in Toronto, so a lot of my answers are based on this one city!

What’s it like living in Canada?

My favourite thing about Canada is the quality of their public libraries – access is free, the advantages are legion and one of the first things I did when I moved here was get myself a library card because I am a nerd like that. The minimum wage in Ontario (the province I live in) is $14, which is decent. Over here, anyway. Food staples are affordable, and it’s manageable for as long as you’re not off drinking away your money on the weekends, or have any expensive vices like smoking. Cigarettes are costly, beer, not so much. If there’s anything that’s true about Canadian stereotypes, it’s that Canadians love beer, barbecues and hockey.

Officially, Canada has two languages: English and French. It’s why you’ll see both languages on labelling everywhere, even if most of the Francophones are based in Quebec, a province that spends a lot of its energy trying to ensure everything is in French. They got stymied when they tried to Frenchify the word “pasta”. Truth. They’re nuts. Lol. Most of the rest of Canada speaks English. Toronto, while not actually the capital of Canada (that honour goes to Ottawa), has so much swagger it may as well be the capital. It’s been said that Toronto is like New York City if it was run by the Swiss. I don’t really know what that means, but if it means cleaner and has less crime, then that is true! Rent here is kind of high especially in the downtown area. You’d be lucky to get a one bedroom with utilities included for about $1K a month (this may not be THAT expensive UK-wise, but I’m not too savvy about the rent over there). I would consider the east end the most affordable area rent-wise. Not to worry though, the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) is pretty solid, so you’re covered if you don’t drive. That said, one of the favourite things Torontonians like to do is complain about our public transit; some say TTC stands for Take The Car, and there are days when it’s true.

What about taxes?

Each province has a different sales tax rate. Alberta for example, has the lowest at 5%. Here in Ontario, it’s 13% 😭. It could be worse, it’s 15% in Newfoundland and Labrador and some other provinces.

Work, the weather, different neighbourhoods…

Work is plentiful, if you’re willing to work hard and aren’t choosy. There’s a lot of opportunities in the city, and also in the Greater Toronto Area. The drawback is really just that a lot of employers try and use contract work (i.e. hire you for just a year or a few months) to try and get out of paying your insurance coverage, dental, paid days off and so on. I do think that depends though, it’s not always true. There’s a lot of opportunity in the engineering, tech, finance and medical sectors.

Toronto is an amazing city for neighbourhoods – it’s the kind of place where you turn a corner and suddenly you’re in a whole different place. All the cultures and nationalities are well represented – the food scene is vibrant (if you’re into trying out different kinds of cuisine) and I love the diversity over here. It does kind of suck, curfew-wise if you like to party/drink. Last call is at 2AM (ridiculous) and it’s a bit of a challenge to find quality restos that are open around that time. There’s always Chinatown. It’s also a very supportive environment for artists, and very LGBTQ friendly. One of my favourite neighbourhoods is Church Street (I like to call it “the corner of gay and gay”) which has a very active and welcoming LGBTQ community. It’s a madhouse each year when Pride comes around. 

And finally, the weather. I both love and hate the weather over here. Winter unofficially starts about late November, and finally peters out in mid-April, even if that’s supposed to be spring. Winter takes up about a third of the calendar year, and it can be very bitter. Toronto is right next to a lake, and the lake effect causes our winters to be relatively humid (compared to the dry winters in, say, Manitoba or Saskatchewan). It just feels colder, is all. If there’s anything I’ve learned about winter here, it’s that it’s never over until it’s over so I’ve learned never to let my hopes up. The upside though, is that it’s glorious in the summer. Sunshine and cool breezes and all that lovely stuff. Except for the folks in British Columbia (the Canadian version of the West Coast), we have such long winters that when summer comes around, it’s cause to celebrate. That’s why Canadians love to barbecue so much. Fall is my favourite, because it’s beautiful and just the right temperature for me.

I know this got long, and I also liberally name-dropped some Canadian provinces, which might not be familiar. If you have a chance, take a peek on Google maps and see how crazy large the Great White North really is – there’s literally room for everyone, including you! 

The Belgian chocolates I brought home are all gone and now I’m sad

The Belgian chocolates I brought home are all gone and now I’m sad

Things that are worth it are very often fleeting. I think it’s because they’re fleeting that they are worthwhile, because that sense of impermanence, of the ephemeral, is what gives it meaning. So we assign importance to things we know won’t last. Things like laughter. Fresh bedsheets. Life itself. Or, that very last piece of DelRey chocolate, studded with four different kinds of nuts and and a raisin’s fruity kiss. What a slice of absolute heaven on earth.

Smack in the middle of Antwerp’s Diamond District, DelRey is a posh little chocolate shop  whose pralines, truffles and chocolate confections glow almost as brightly as the diamonds in the other store windows. They’re almost as expensive, and goddamnit, I know should’ve gotten more.

This isn’t meant to be a puff piece for DelRey, as much as it may sound like it, but I’m writing about them because their chocolate is exquisite and their shop is native to Antwerp. Belgium is home to a lot of luxury chocolatiers with global reach, so it was still nice to feel as if we were supporting a local business. A very successful business whose flagship store  looks very much like a high-end jewelry shop, but a local business all the same.

So why was a not-so little girl like me being all gross and bougie, spending my time contemplating premium, rich bitch chocolat belge?

The answer is, I sold a kidney.

(No, I didn’t.)

The answer is, I leased my womb to a very kindly gay couple.

(Still no. But hey, make me an offer.)

The answer is, I am a scion of a powerful Philippine political family living high on the hog on the government’s dime,  laughing as we watch the common people suffer.

(Ha! No. But wouldn’t life have been interesting?)

The answer is, I was in Belgium for the first time, and not getting chocolates in Belgium is like going to Italy and never trying the pasta. The country is the birthplace of the praline as we know it today and they take chocolate making so seriously, its composition has been regulated by law for over a century (it must contain at least 35% cocoa fat, and be refined and moulded in Belgium), so I’d have been a fool to miss out on a taste, however pricey.

I know I should’ve just closed my eyes and ignored the price, but it’s hard. It’s hard, no matter how much you try and shove those thoughts away and remind yourself that you’re only on vacation once. It’s hard to,  when a small box of their chocolate costs as much as, say, a Swiss Chalet dinner for two – complete with sides and a drink – and I’m someone who is more than capable of finding happiness in a handful of Ricoa Curly Tops. 

It was worth every penny though, I’ll give them that. I’ve never been partial to chocolate, both as candy or as ice cream, but there’s a reason Belgium is known for their chocolate because the taste was exquisite. So smooth, so rich, none of that weirdly acidic aftertaste from a Hershey bar. I’m sure I’ve had Belgian chocolate before, but never fresh from the source, so this was a nice little return on investment for me.

Gun to my head, I’m still iffy about spending all that much on candy, but I wouldn’t mind a box or two every so often, and while Antwerp gave me a lot of good reasons to revisit it again, this one is as good an excuse as any!

Organs

Organs

“… people often have a strong sense of ownership when it comes to their bodies. Even tiny scraps of them.”
– Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

I have mixed feelings about becoming an organ donor.   On the one hand, it’s good to know my organs would go to benefit someone else when I’m long gone; on the other, some latent, buried part of my psyche rebels at the idea of being plundered and reduced to a husk when I go. True, I won’t need my kidneys, or my liver, my corneas or my heart and lungs wherever I may end up. And it won’t matter because I’d rather be cremated than buried. But all that said, the idea still repels me somehow. And I wish it didn’t. I wish I could just be selfless and say  anyone is welcome to use whichever of my innards are still feasible just like that, but the truth is I can’t. Not without really considering how I feel about it. And right now, I have very mixed feelings. I know it makes me sound like a terrible person.

I think about the fact that due to a combination of personal preference and the vagaries of age, I am probably never going to have children. Donating my organs would be the best, most selfless and cost-efficient way for me to live on in someone else. It’s a lovely thought, a beautiful one, the idea that part of me will help give another human being a new lease on life.

Maybe I just don’t want to think of myself in death as something that’s been reduced to nothing but spare parts, like a bicycle that has outlived its shelf life and is now being taken apart to fix another bicycle that might still be worth saving.

I wonder why I feel this way. What intrinsic part of me is holding back? I think a large part of it is rooted in my belief in pre-emption or jinxing things, as if saying yes to offering up my remains accelerates the day of my demise.  I’m weird about death. I still don’t know how to deal with it, and this is an idea too close for comfort. I feel almost as if the action of signing a document that says I’m donating my organs will initiate a countdown clock that the universe will enforce, making me pay up before I can renege on the deal.

Nova Scotia is the first province in North America with presumed consent for organ donation. Like France and Spain, among other countries, this means unless a person opts-out, their willingness to donate their organs upon their demise is assumed. Now that consent is presumed in Nova Scotia, a province that by the numbers, already has the highest rate of organ donors, it’s only a matter of time until the concept ripples across the rest of Canada. It’s a sticky issue because ideally, giving is based on free will, not coerced through legislation. True, one can always opt-out, but not without feeling like a heel.  Whatever the outcome, I’m pretty sure I’ll eventually come to terms with the issues I have about it, however petty they may seem. 

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.

giphy
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.