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 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

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:

20200314_1211015059387455030293876.jpg

The future is here, and it is bleak.

The Hungry and the Fat

Screen Shot 2020-03-01 at 4.27.40 AM
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

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!

You, Me, and a Little Yellow Ball

You, Me, and a Little Yellow Ball

“Tennis is the sport in which you talk to yourself. No athletes talk to themselves like tennis players. Pitchers, golfers, goalkeepers, they mutter to themselves, of course, but tennis players talk to themselves – and answer. In the heat of a match, tennis players look like lunatics in a public square, ranting and swearing and conducting Lincoln-Douglas debates with their alter egos. Why? Because tennis is so damned lonely.”
– Andre Agassi, Open

Someone once told me she thought tennis was a boring sport. While tennis may very well look like giant ping-pong from a beginner’s point of view, to fully appreciate the game – any game, really – one simply needs to understand how it works. That’s the great thing about tennis. Like basketball, it’s ridiculously simple.

So, the basics.

The rules: the ball cannot bounce more than once. The ball must stay inside the lines. When serving, the ball must bounce within the specified service box, and the server is only given two chances to get it right (three, if the ball clips the top of the net). A point is won if:

– the ball goes out of bounds
– the ball goes into the net
– the ball bounces twice, or
– the player cannot return the ball.

The surfaces: tennis has three. Grass, clay, and hardcourt. Each surface impacts ball striking, movement and ball bounce differently, requiring the player to make adjustments to his or her technique. It also necessitates the use of warm-up events, called tournaments, that lead up to major tournaments (majors), which are also called Grand Slams.

The majors: tennis has four. The Australian Open (Asia-Pacific/hardcourt), The French Open (Europe/clay), Wimbledon (Europe/grass) and the US Open (America/hardcourt). A player’s ranking depends on the number of tournaments he/she wins. The bigger the tournament, the bigger the prize money and the number of ranking points earned. To defend their ranking, players must  either have the same results that they had the previous year, or earn more points than they did, for a higher ranking.

Game, set, match: a game is three points and a set has six games. The first player to win six games wins the set, provided the opponent is two games behind (i.e., 6-4). If both players win six games apiece with neither two games behind, the set is decided by a tie-break. A match, for men, requires best of three sets at the ATP 250 and Masters 1000 level. For Grand Slams, they play best of five. A match for women, regardless of tour level, is always best of three.

Best of all, in tennis, there is no team to rely on. There is no one else to pass a ball, a baton, a pigskin, or a puck to. There is no safety net. Boxing may be as solitary, but even in boxing, you have people in your corner, the guys who bring you water and wipe you down,  smear ointment on your lacerations, push you back into the centre of the ring, reminding you it’s not over until it’s over. You don’t get that in professional tennis. It’s a mostly solitary sport that demands utmost accountability. In tennis, if you fail, it is through no one’s fault but your own.

Tennis requires focus, willpower, courage and stamina. Most of all, it is a sport that requires control. Control of yourself, of your body, of your mind, and control of the ball. The player who controls the ball the best, is the one who wins the most. Think of the myriad different ways you can flick your wrist or twist your arm, rotate your torso, angle your body, stretch your legs. All of this in the quest to direct that little yellow orb. Where do you want it to go? What do you want it to do? What do you intend to create? Carve a laser down the line? Blast an explosion cross court? Draw a graceful arc in the sky to push an opponent back? Pull him forward with a short ball? Go right when he expects you to go left? The possibilities are endless.

There is nothing quite like watching two tennis players striving to out-think, outdo and outlast each other across the net, in a physically punishing environment, stopping short of actually drawing blood. When tennis is played by the best of the best, it is breathtaking. Suspenseful, Exciting. Brutal. Merciless. Graceful. Magical. Nuanced. And yet, at the end of it all, the players are expected to meet each other across the net, and shake hands civilly, to pretend they didn’t just spend the last few hours trying to grind each other into the dust – because yes, in tennis, your behaviour matters too. Players have gotten fined for bad behaviour, for smashing their rackets, for using foul language and abusing the referees.

There is so much more to tennis than running from side to side trying to hit a ball across the net. Tennis, boring? Not on your young, beautiful life.