Wednesday, 27 July 2011

A Word From Our Sponsors...

Hello Friends.

For the most part, Dr. Jon and I don't appreciate the finer things. He will (I swear to God) drink half a glass of milk and put the other half in the fridge for DAYS! And then drink the other half of the glass! And he makes fun of me because I will wear clothes literally out. Before he threw them out, I had a pair of black shoes where the sole detached so I used duct tape and the laces broke so I used the drawstring on my fat pants (because you don't need a drawstring on your fat pants). And we stay in most nights and eat too much cheap food and drink shitty off-brand pop with names like Dr. Zipper and Sproute. But the one thing we do not skimp out on, m'friends, is television.

Our tv is an embarrassment, the way that I'd imagine having super rich parents is embarrassing or admitting to getting your roots done every three days by a Polynesian woman whose house is the size of your garage. I mean it is a fancy-ass tv and it's the centrepiece of our apartment. I never thought I'd be that guy, I always pictured a bookshelf would be the focal point of where I would live, nothing so ostentatious and gauche as a television set. But here we are. When we moved, Jon shelled out $700 for our top of the line, flat-panel, hi-def tv. When I heard what he had done (I was still in the prairies, squinting at our old tv, he moved before I did), I feigned anger at him having spent that much, but inwardly rejoiced. It's a glorious machine. I wish I could tell you how big it was, but I can't calculate such things. I think the box said 37 inches or something, but wouldn't that make it a six foot tv? It's not that. I tried getting an exact measurement by walking paces in front of it with my dick in my hand but results were inconclusive.

We also have PVR, which means we can record shows to watch back later AND (this is the awesome part), fast-forward through all the commercials. This means when an announcer taunts, “Find out the results... after the break” that we can find out the results in SECONDS! Commercial-skipping is an amazing privilege, but not having commercials means that I miss all the commercials (duh), and consequently, learn nothing from them anymore. And I know most ads are insipid, unrealistic examples of greed and materialism in society, but without them, how would we know what flavour of Mini Wheats they have now? Or when The Brick was having a sale (seems like there's one EVERY DAY with these people!) There's a lot that can be learned from commercials besides products and dates, however, and I'm going to have to catalogue these findings lest I forget them forever thanks to a short attention s

Dream: Glean life lessons from tv commercials.

Goal: Achievable. Were it not for tv commercials, I wouldn't know that my hair needs both shampoo and conditioner, that the purple stuff in your fridge is often ignored in favour of Sunny D, and that women's eyelashes can be an unbelievable 33 percent fucking longer!

Plan: Write down what I have learned from tv ads in order to preserve it on the internet, a vast resource on unlimited space that will be around forever. Such nuggets as:

Blue liquid is an acceptable substitute for any liquid that can drop, seep, or gush out of a human. Blue liquid fills baby diapers, tests the absorbency of paper towels, and gets injected by a syringe into a sanitary napkin. That last one seems the most bizarre, but also the most necessary. I consider myself a progressive guy, and when the women of write pieces about how ridiculous tampon and maxi pad commercials are, I sympathize and agree with them. But then they gleefully showed a print ad where the syringe filled with blue liquid was replaced by a small red dot at the centre of a maxi pad and, I'm embarrassed to say, I almost passed out. There was nothing wrong with it, but my reaction was so instantly and violently averse that I can see why blue liquid is as popular in ads as it is.

Sensitive teeth is the worst affliction to befall man. Not to get Seinfeldian but can you believe these people? “I bit into the ice cream cone and felt a sharp coldness, and... well, maybe tomorrow will be a better day.” You think I'm exaggerating but I swear to God there used to be an ad where somebody had an episode of sensitive teeth and said, “Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.” I don't mean to minimize people with genuine oral sensitivity, I guess it would be a real bummer, but don't we all have some degree of that anyway? I mean it's hard to just chug ice cold water or boiling hot tea without feeling that uncomfortable tooth zing but do we have to doubt tomorrow's existence as a better day? And if you bite into an ice cream cone (a treat traditionally licked) then you're a fucking moron anyway!

Speaking of fucking morons, old men like to have sex even when it's no longer a physical option for them. It really gets to me, those cutesy Viagra ads that are either inappropriately unfunny, like a guy skipping to work, or super creepy, like those old couples dancing or walking along a beach. That really kills me, the old couples. I'm not saying older folks don't deserve a satisfying sex life, of course they do, but imagine being with the same man for thirty years, you both age and grow comfortable with each other. Your sex life ebbs and flows and ebbs and flows until it tapers off, which you accept with some resignation, but then he starts taking these drugs that give him this filthy old man boner that you're just expected to deal with! And isn't it scary that arousal can just be chemically created? A process that once involved romance and sensuality, or even just titillation and pornography, either way both methods involved intense mind-body connection that apparently, we don't even need. And yes, I suppose people can use whatever means they'd like if they have an unsatisfying sex life, but you know who else I heard has an unsatisfying sex life? Everyone!

Blankets are better with sleeves. I had a life before my Snuggie, but I don't like to think about it. Sometimes I would be cold, so I would put a blanket on, but then I'd want to hold stuff, and... and I just couldn't! It's like my arms were trapped somehow and... I can't go on. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

Bears use toilet paper.

You can have just cereal for breakfast, but if you don't have it with two pieces of toast and a glass of orange juice, you're not having a complete breakfast.

If you make frozen pizza, people will think you had pizza delivered to your house. If you correct them, they will often not believe you and ask again.

Women can't drive cars, but they can sit in the passenger seat sexily while their husbands shift gears or drive along a wet street at night.

Beyonce, Gwen Stefani, and Sarah Jessica Parker all get their hair colour from a box which costs seven dollars.

If you don't install an alarm system, you or a loved one will be murdered in your home tonight.

If you come home to find your loved one dead, spray a fabric refreshing spray or air freshener, and blindfold yourself. You will forget there is a corpse in your living room and think you are in a meadow.

Beer turns men into heroes and women into sluts.

If you eat a cookie, you are “indulging.” If you eat some ice cream you're being “naughty.” If you are fat, you are lacking in self-control, discipline, and intelligence.

Patrick took out life insurance.

Advertising makes a sport of manipulation in which we all participate. We can pretend, claim, and even believe we are not swayed by tv commercials, but when we go to the store and we see two competing products side by side on the shelf, we have to pick one over the other. If we do not automatically choose the cheapest one, we are banking on the idea of a perceived quality, which is an impression we get, like it or not, from those damn interruptions to our shows.

Really the thing I secretly love about commercials is the one thing they all have in common: without this product, your life is incomplete, but with it, you will be forever content. The more clear cut they make this idea, the happier I am. I love those black and white Rice Krispies commercials where a bratty kid is soothed by a cereal blended with marshmallows, or the smug satisfaction of the woman whose clothes, sheets and towels smell so fresh because she just washed them... five days ago! Because the message is, total contentment is possible. Happiness is attainable and just around the corner, as long as you pick this up next time you're at the store. Your life is good now, but it could be perfect! We'll tell you how... after the break.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Getting Hot in Here...

Hello Friends.

It's very nearly too hot to blog this Thursday. In fact, the Big City might go in the record books today as being the hottest place in Canada. As I write this, it is 37 degrees with a humidex (sort of reverse-windchill thing) which makes it feel like 49 degrees. I'm pretty conflicted about complaining about this heat, though, as these are the days I dream about when it's minus 49.

Now I am writing the next day (Friday). It really was too hot to blog. It's not the heat that gets me so much as the sweat! As I sat and typed, sweat poured off me onto the monitor, the keyboard, and the sweat-collecting bowl I always carry around with me so I can send vials of it to my admirers. As I mentioned, I don't like complaining about the heat because I'd much rather complain about the cold when it's cold. Let me go on internet record as saying I'd prefer to suffer through the heat of summer than put two pairs of socks on in the winter like a fucking moron.

But I know temperatures like these can seem unendurable and with the increasingly popularity of this blog (I just found out the most popular girl's name of 2010 was Pizza Gut!), I feel compelled to offer this public service.

Dream: Find a myriad of ways to beat the heat.

Goal: Achievable. It was this hot last summer and the summer before that and in both cases, I missed it when it was gone, so it couldn't have been insufferable, like many are suggesting.

Plan: Share learned and invented methods to stay cool, like:

Air conditioning. If you have air conditioning and you're complaining about the heat, I cordially invite you to stop reading now, as these tips ain't for you, and also kick yourself in the nards.

Drink plenty of fluids. I would, but “fluids” is such a gross term. I mean, yes, I keep cold water running through me with occasional shots of vodka for variety, but fluids? Not on my watch.

Cold showers. If Jon and I are ever murdered in our apartments, don't count on any of our neighbours reporting it. This is because, despite voluntarily indulging in cold showers, we both scream bloody murder from start to finish, and nobody in the surrounding apartments seems bothered by this. It also suggests we wouldn't hold up well under torture if, when it's 37 degrees out and we step into a cold shower we scream, “OH GOD! WHAT'S HAPPENING!! AAAGH! NOOOO!”

Embrace your inner whore. Any prudishness I once had about my body or behaviour is long gone thanks to this heat wave. When this temperature first started climbing up there, I'd make sure something was obscuring the window and sit demurely on the futon in my underpants, with a towel around my waist. Now the windows are all open and I'm naked-ass naked and sprawled all over. As I take a soaked washcloth over my sweaty nether-regions, I feel like a porn star in between scenes. Plus I'm sipping from this tall glasses of water filled to the brim with ice in an image so simultaneously filthy and elegant that I feel like a Tennessee Williams heroine.

Finally, consider the alternative. By this, I don't mean consider a cold snap lasting this long, or consider living in a home smaller and less ventilated than your own. I mean think about not having a home at all. Heatwaves like this must be the worst for homeless people. It only just occurred to me the other day that homeless people wear layers of clothes all year round not because they're crazy, but because they've got nowhere else to put their other clothes! It's not as if they can just drop their weird trench coat off in a closet somewhere; as soon as they take it off, they risk a craftier homeless person stealing it and using it as a tarp. Plus, they must theorize, “Well I'm baking here in the summer, but come winter I'll be glad to have this weird trench coat.” And nobody must give them change because everyone, across the board, is sweaty and irritable in this heat and not about to give up the change they were saving for fluids. So the next time you're running a cold shower or unsticking your ass from a kitchen chair, take a moment to be grateful that you can. Take the heat for what it's worth.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Tips for the Scales...

Hello Friends.

Well, it's mid-July, so I guess it's time to start shaping up for summer. I'm not a fat person, but I don't carry my extra weight well. Do you remember that children's toy that was like a beachball that was half-filled with water? So it never bounced or travelled properly? That's how I move/feel with these extra lbs weighing me down; if I descend stairs too quickly, my pizza gut accrues too much forward momentum and I somersault downwards with such velocity that Harrison Ford keeps trying to outrun me Indiana Jones-style.

Dream: Drop ten pounds by 2014.

Goal: Achievable. The key to weight-loss is realistic expectations and I think if I really work at it and eat one less order of fries a day for three years, a new, slightly less fat shape will emerge. By the way, I'm kidding about the fries per day thing, but apparently not so out of line! According to that smug punk Eric Schlosser in his book Fast Food Nation (written high above us a tower built of hemp and holier-than-thouness), the average American eats four orders of fries a week! Thank goodness I'm Canadian so I don't have to feel guilty about my four order of fries per week. If I knew I was on the average, I'd just hate myself.

Plan: I've skimmed a lot of women's magazines while waiting to buy ice cream at the convenience store, and they all have some great tips on how to drop those pesky ten pounds. I plan to distill their advice into a few helpful hints to put you on the road to thinness! I know weight-loss is a multi-million dollar industry, so I really should charge you to keep reading this, but what I'd rather is for you to take the amount of fat you lose, put it in a red wagon, and wheel it out on television. Oprah could cure AIDS at this point and she'll always be remembered for that self-important stunt.

Tip the First: Eat less. Sounds fine in theory, but have you tried less? It's awful! I'm not a good cook, but every time I attempt cookery, I forget that I'm cooking for just me, or sometimes me and Jon. I end up following the idiot proof recipes from cooking shows or the back of the macaroni box, but I forget that I'm not a stressed out mom of four who wants to whip up something quick! Instead, Jon and I end up slogging through casseroles or pasta dishes with insane enthusiasm because we made it ourselves, dammit! Alternatively, especially when I'm working throughout the dining hour, I'll under-make food and hope to be all virtuous about it. Packing a tuna fish sandwich and a handful of baby carrots makes you seem all health-conscious to your co-workers in the break room, but not if they could see you hours later pouring Doritos from the sack directly into your mouth.

Tip the Second: Exercise more. More than what? If I don't exercise at all, how the hell am I supposed to do it more? The only thing I do is walk, and I do try to do that a lot. I figured out, for instance, that my walk to work is four kilometres so now that it's summer, I walk to work all the time. I suppose I could jog, but I'm not sure I know how. It's like a slow run, I guess, but my fast run is super slow! And I certainly don't have the measured, comfortable gait of a jogger. I'm all sweaty and panicked looking and get this weird sweat-pile atop my gut and below my rib cage that becomes kind of an ink blot test. I can't tell if this sweat stain is the Republic of China, or two chickens fucking.

Tip the Third: Stop eating out. Oh man. Again, this would be easier if eating in wasn't such a trial (if you don't know what I'm referencing here, skip back two paragraphs and take a serious look at your reading comprehension skills). I know fast food is bad for me, but dine-in establishments can be just as dicey. There's just so much damn food! I was out for lunch with an actress once who, midway through her meal, unscrewed the cap on the salt-shaker and coated the rest of her food in the salt. A tip she learned from a dancer, she explained (because they all have fabulous relationships with food). If you make your food inedible when you're no longer hungry, you may be tempted to continue to eat, but you can't because the food is ruined. I haven't tried that yet because not only does it seem pretty fucked up, but I know that a salted mound of food might actually seem triple delicious to me and an ineffective deterrent. And it's expensive to eat out, but not always. There are so many hole-in-wall eateries here desperate for my business that will bankrupt themselves to make yummy for my tummy. A Jamaican place near my house makes the only and therefore best jerk chicken I've ever had in my life on a giant bed of rice with tons of sauce. It makes me wish I were an old black man so I could sit among the other old black men and stare out the window and not feel so weird. Just down the street from there is a tiny shawarma place that fills you the fuck up! Shawarma is a Turkish word meaning “giant pita filled with lamb fat and happiness.” You get this icing-bag style pita filled with lamb and hummus and vegetables, an extra thing of hummus and fresh pitas in a sack and a giant salad thing for like six dollars. That's easily three meals! If you can ignore the grimy floors and the grandchildren of the proprietors doing old timey kid things like playing marbles or pick-pocketing, you can eat out of the cheap in this big city. There's a Thai place nearby that has a wonton soup so cheap I think it's negative money. You get soup and a dollar for only thirty cents.

The last and most important thing, of course, is commitment to change. Like a budget or masturbation schedule, a diet has to be stuck to in order to work. This is where I fall the shortest. I can get behind healthy lifestyle changes, but a reward/punishment relationship with food seems really dangerous to me. I've known people who have limited their food intake, exercised obsessively, and abused themselves terribly for “slipping” off their diets and consequently have weight issues, poor self-worth, and no food when I come over. Self-indulgence is bad, but self-denial is worse. I'd rather be a fat ball of fun rolling down the stairs then a skinny bundle of anxiety worrying about the calories in toothpaste. So the next time we go out to dinner, let's keep our entrees salt-free and save room for dessert since I'm having my cake and eating it too.

Friday, 1 July 2011

The Gay Canadian...

Hello Friends.

There's no excuse for a blog this late, but let me offer one anyway. Earlier this week, a cashier at work quit unexpectedly. This is not to say she offered two weeks notice and left us in a bit of a jam, but rather called fifteen minutes before her shift was going to start to say she wouldn't be coming in that day, or ever again. This left the rest of us scrambling, begging other part-timers to come in, and pulling double-shifts just to keep everything going. Such was the case these last few days, and the late nights/early mornings have meant I haven't had time to write. And this week of all weeks, where Canada Day celebrations and Gay Pride are combined and celebrations for both happen simultaneously, that really warrants a thoughtful entry. There's no excuse for not writing about that this week, but let me offer one anyway.

On the one hand, I am very proud to be Canadian, but I worry that the current political structure doesn't represent the best interests of this country. I am also proud to be gay, but I worry that catty drag queens and Grindr don't represent the best interests of my sexuality. I wrestle with these questions of pride and... to borrow from the Simpsons, what's the opposite of pride? Shame? Not quite shame. Less pride. I wrestle with these questions of pride and less pride on weekends like this, and wonder where I fit.

Dream: Determine my level of pride in Canada and gayness.

Goal: Achievable. The average Canadian may not know how much he or she takes pride in their country, but we've all heard stories of chaos and unrest across the world (and especially in that country to the south of us) and said, “At least I don't live there.” Similarly, not every gay will wave a flag and march in a parade, but every gay has a series of coming out or coming to terms with stories that they will share at a party when they're well-lit and convinced they have the attention of everyone in the room. So determining a level of pride shouldn't be that hard.

Plan: Look back on my gay Canadian life and recall when I had pride, or less pride, in being Canadian or gay.

I remember realizing I was Canadian on this weekend some twenty-odd years ago. When I lived here in this Big City as a young, young kid, my family would sometimes make the five hour drive to Detroit to visit my mother's cousins. My first memory of this was a trip on the 4th of July weekend. It seems like we were outside that whole weekend, barbecuing, swimming, Frisbee-ing, etc., and the evening of July 4th made me see that Americans do patriotism right! The fireworks were unbelievable, as was the completely heartfelt, not ironic, singing of the Star-Spangled Banner by everyone in attendance that night. I remembering hearing throughout my childhood from various members of my family that at every school day, every sporting event, every conceivable occasion, “Americans put their hands on their hearts and sang in praise of their country, gawdammit!” Can we say that about ourselves as Canadians? I can't remember the last time I sung O Canada, or the last time I did with any genuine pride or emotion. So, less pride there.

I remember realizing I was gay probably in the seventh or eighth grade. I wish I could link it to some significant event, like watching a rugged marlboro man dive into a lake, or realizing I knew the entire score of Annie, but there was no such realization. And unlike so many other thirteen year olds who seem absolutely tortured by this obvious-to-everyone-else idea, I can't say knowing I was probably gay caused me any real strife. I had not been indoctrinated to believe that a wife and kids were my expected path, nor do I come from a particularly religious family, so I didn't feel like a vengeful God was wringing His hands and wondering what was to be done with me. Add to that the fact that I did community theatre as a kid and community theatre is filled to the brim with doctors, lawyers, teachers, businesspeople, and parents who take a few nights off a week to be in a play and also happen to be gay. Not that I knew they were gay at the time, but in hindsight, the women who were “roommates” and helped build the set together, or the guy who wore a scarf with his leotard to dance rehearsal, they probably weren't on the Anita Bryant mailing list. So I can't say figuring out I was gay lead to a swell of pride, or less pride. It just was the way it was.

When I was nineteen or so, my parents became Canadian. My mother and father, born in the States and UK, respectively, had long put getting their citizenship on the Someday List. Whether it was a disinterest in paperwork, or fear of jury duty, they just never took the necessary steps to become Canadians. Finally, though, they both put the wheels in motion and applied for the various meetings and tests that were required. I wish I knew what prompted this call to action. Perhaps it was the fact that many of the American and British relatives of my parents had passed away, or that my brother and I (Canadians) were becoming adults and voting in elections, so maybe they should too, I couldn't say. Anyway, they were embarrassed that it had taken them this long to finally become citizens, and hoped to keep everything pretty quiet. However, when a coworker of my mother's heard that they were applying for citizenship, he made the necessary calls and arranged for the official “Becoming Canadian” ceremony to take place at my mother's school, at an assembly, in front of the entire student body. I think my brother was still at a student at the school when this was going on, so we joked that I should have come to the ceremony too, and brought the dog, just to fully embarrass everyone. And of course at the time, I would have been mortified to sit through such a thing. But now I sort of wish I had been there. Someone at the newspaper heard that a local schoolteacher (my mom) was becoming a Canadian in front of all her students, so there was a picture of my mother, and my mortified father, on the third page of the newspaper with the headline, “Ostimes Now Proud Canadians.” And I think we all were.

It was around that time that I (finally) came out to family and friends. The whole coming-out thing is such an embarrassing experience. You're basically volunteering information about your sex life to your family, which is always fun. I'm not sure why I waited so long, but I think part of the reason was that I didn't have a boyfriend, or even any dates, so it wasn't as if I was sneaking around, leading some kind of sexy double-life. But I did feel like my reluctance to come out probably had something to do with shame. If it wasn't a big deal, why couldn't I just say it? I did what I think is typical of a lot of gay people, which is to test the waters with people who have no stake in the matter. My best friend lived a few hours away and I would visit him often. He'd known I was gay for ages, and nobody else knew me there, so I started just being the gay guy among his friends, or at parties or whatever. I didn't know most of these people, and they certainly didn't know me, so it was a very risk-free way of trying that hat on for awhile. I did the same thing once I got to university, not being dramatic about it or anything, but just having it be known. It was comfortable and freeing, but I started to get the gnawing feeling that I was being really dishonest to the people I cared about the most, my close friends and family. I wasn't doing anything sexy, but this was a double-life, and I didn't like it much anymore. Then I was a Christmas party with a bunch of university friends, to whom I was (one of) the gay guys. Then a girl walked in who was the sister of my close friend Mike and was also the daughter of coworkers of my mother's. I said hello to her and then got the hell out of there. That was too close, I thought, any slip-up and the worlds would have collided. Shortly thereafter, I was talking to Mike on MSN (remember when MSN was a thing?) and he said, “Uh... I was talking to my sister, and she was at this party and she was talking to the girl who's party it was and... uh...” and there it was. Having circumstances be such that I was forced to finally talk about it to friends and family was actually the greatest thing. So of course I did and OF COURSE everybody was fine with it. Nobody seemed surprised either, which was also, the greatest thing. Not to speak for all gay people, but I think, at a certain point, a gay person just wants to be asked. The awkwardness isn't around people knowing that you're gay, its having to sit them down and tell them, which is the worst (even in best-case-scenarios, like the one I just described). Now I bring Jon around to those same friends and family, who treat him like they would anyone else's partner, which gives me tremendous pride indeed.

I have today (Canada Day) and Sunday (the Pride Parade) off this weekend, in between long work shifts, and I'm so glad. I may have conflicting feelings sometimes about what it means to be Canadian and gay, and while I don't think either of these things define me as a person, I am proud to live in a country which, among other things, makes it okay to be both.