Friday, 25 July 2014

Getting Any Younger...

Hello Friends.

There's a funny quirk with two gay bars in this city, which is that one sits on top of the other. The top has a bigger bar, pool tables, places to sit, and tv screens projecting images of hot dudes. The bottom features a dance floor, a smaller bar, dance music, and real-life hot dudes. In terms of which bar attracts which crowd, the tops are older, the bottoms younger (and if there's a joke there, I don't know what it is).

I bring up this homosexual geography because I visited these two bars in one the other weekend preferred the ease of the top to the pain of the bottom. The top bar has an ATM and so required a cursory visit, where I was approached by two (2!) older men on two occasions and complimented! One of them said, "Don't listen to what anyone says, I think you have a nice body!" in a compliment so expertly backhanded he should play in Wimbledon. Once I got to the bottom, though, with its dancefloor, poor lighting, and young clientele, I was completely ignored. One guy did say, "Hey hon?" but then added, "You need to move, you're blocking the bar." Blocking the bar. Like I'm a beached whale. Like walking around  me to get to the bar would require a GPS and a tranquilizer gun.

The point is, though the compliments were nice, I felt too young to be among the older gays, yet I also felt way too old to be with the 18 year olds (18 is the drinking age here) that populated the dancefloor. Really, I suppose I should have taken up residency on the stairs or something, but the point is moot since I don't go to any bars very often anyway and was only there this particular night because a celebration at a friend's house moved to the bar.

I have no desire to be any younger than I presently am. If you're only as old as you feel, I've been a divorced father of two since I was 17. But sometimes I wonder if I'm not shuffling too quickly toward the retirement home.

Dream: Stop acting my age.

Goal: Unachievable. I talked about this a few weeks ago and took the opposite point of view, which is probably the correct one. I'm a big boy now with big boy responsibilities and his own bus pass that says Adult. There's something so sad about someone clinging desperately to their youth, especially when they still have so much life left (despite my whining, I'm only 31 and haven't even been to Dallas yet!). But there are a few things I wish I could get back from my younger days.

Plan: Seek to avoid these small but significant indicators of just how old I am.

Hangovers. I finally know what we talk about when we talk about hangovers. I'd always thought I had suffered them in my younger days-- that persistent headache that only seems to go away with eggs, bacon, and a post-breakfast nap. How foolish I was to think that was the extent of it. After this ill-advised club night, I was out of commission for the entire next day except to shiver, moan, replenish fluids, throw up, and replenish those fluids. The thing is, I didn't even drink that much, but I completely ignored my patented "Pace and Replace" system (copyright Big City James Industries, 2014). No matter what I drink, I tend to have a drink, wait at least a half hour, and drink an equal to greater amount of water per beverage. Failsafe. Yes, I pee all night, but I am more or less daisy fresh the next day. Going from a party to a club didn't find me drinking much more, but I was drinking so fast and barely watering. Bars are often accused of watering down the drinks like it's a bad thing, but in my case, it's preferable.

Back problems. What the hell, spine? I can't believe years of hunching over a computer desk and walking around in ill-fitting shoes has caught up with me. Now I have to do core-strengthening exercises (spoiler alert: I have a softer core than Showcase at 10 pm when we were kids, remember that? Sometimes boobs?) and sleep with a firm pillow.

Works of fiction. I've always been a reader, and assumed the great works I consumed as a youngster would always maintain their stellar reputations. Most have, but I recently discovered after a half-hearted re-read that On The Road really speaks to you if you're young and an asshole. Similarly, I used to so admire The Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield, with his hatred of phonies and his brazen disregard for authority, and now I can sympathize, certainly, but I pity him more than anything. When he buys that record for his sister, and on the way home it breaks (a scene that held no resonance for me as a younger reader), I am completely heartbroken. His one unselfish action, his clumsy gesture of love to the only person who understands him, and he can't even get that right. Unlike On The Road, Catcher still reads great for me, but in a completely different way.

Music. What is music? What is turn down for what? What is Ariana Grande if not a drink order?

I can't sit down after standing a long time without going, "Ohhhhh!" I can't interact with a baby without going, "Awww!"

The news. I don't know if this speaks to greater emotionally maturity or its exact opposite because the news is harder to watch now. The Israeli/Palestine conflict is really murky to me, I can't claim to understand the particulars, but I feel a responsibility to watch and learn what I can. Hearing about kids dying in accidents or cops shooting an unarmed citizen make me feel as if like I have to make a donation or sign a petition or tell a friend. I wonder, is that "we are all global neighbours" maturity kicking in, or "the world revolves around me!" narcissism?

Friends. I forgive more, and expect less, and am somehow just as fulfilled. As a younger person, I expected friends a fill voids in my life that were really my ducks that I needed to put in a row. An unreturned phone call or canceled plans were always taken personally and catalogued for future ammunition. Now, friends matter less and more at the same time. I don't need to surround myself with company every day or join the party every weekend to feel like my friends are important to me. They are a precious resource and the older I get, the more I realize making new friends isn't always as simple as pulling up a chair to a conversation you weren't invited to join.

If I seem preoccupied with getting older, it's because everyone around me is doing the same thing, yet some people get the raw deal of suddenly and cruelly being taken out of the rotation. There has been a recent string of acquaintances, former contemporaries and classmates, who are suddenly gone. I can't claim to have known them intimately, but it's weird to know that I'll never have the chance. To think that someone you saw every day is someone you'll never see again is truly humbling, and in a terrible way. None of us is owed anything, not even time, so best to take the compliments, enjoy your bottoms and tops, and never block the bar.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Perfect Storm...

Hello Friends.

As I write this on Wednesday night, it has been very hot for days and we are under a severe thunderstorm warning. Such a warning would worry me if I were flying anywhere, had uncovered tomatoes outside, or lived in a house with basement and/or roof. Since none of these conditions currently apply to me, I keep watching the weather reports and checking out the window in awesome anticipation. I love a storm and, with any luck, this could be a big one.

Dream: Experience a huge thunderstorm in ideal conditions.

Goal: Achievable. I should preface this by saying I know that storms have the potential to escalate, thereby devastating communities. I don't mean to make light of the hurricanes and other severe weather tearing through the Midwest and threatening Atlantic Canada. I by no means want to experience the fear and pain that those people are going through. Just give me thunder, lightning, and a break in the heat.

Plan: Determine the ideal conditions that must come to pass for me to experience this storm in the best possible way. For me to relish this experience, I must have the following things:

Food. And I don't mean the stupid bullshit food I buy on a full stomach at the grocery store, like baby carrots and almonds. I mean real garbage food like pizza with beef on it and Dr. Pepper (or in a pinch, off-brand Doctors Zip, Skipper, or Zazz). I don't know if it's survivalist instinct kicking in, or if I'm just a fatty fat fat, but storms make me ravenous.

Storm story. I am in my very first apartment, a one-bedroom that I lived in alone. Being in a new city and single, I had time to spare and even a little extra money lying around (Sidebar: even though I was only working at a video store, my rent was a paltry $435/month! Can you imagine?). Like young, single people do, I became convinced that the way handle crushing loneliness was to change everything about myself and that involved reading more, exercising more (or if I'm honest, exercising), and eating fish. Fish, though bland, scaly, and full of bones, supposedly has a lot of protein and very little fat. While I love fish that has been smoked, breaded, or tuna-fied, I knew that to truly improve myself meant eating a steamed fillet with lemon like a svelte, lean, well-read homosexual. Anyway, on this particular night, I am surfing the web for the most healthful fish recipe while alternately doing pilates from a DVD that came with a box of Special K, which isn't even a joke. I am compiling a list of ingredients for this surely disgusting culinary venture when a lightning strike and thunder clap knocks my internet out. I've lost my recipe, but I figure I can still make it to the store before it starts to really rain, get my ingredients, and improvise how it will all come together. I head out towards the store in a light rain that quickly turns into a downpour. I realize I cannot make it to the grocery store and instead, run into the KFC that is just behind my apartment building. Five minutes later, I am back in my apartment, eating fried chicken, watching Sex & the City on DVD (a good early episode, too, the one where Carrie goes to Yankee stadium in a full-length fur coat and gets drunk), enjoying the storm as it slashes my window. I am soaked, and truly satiated.

Music. Storms are only as good as their soundtracks. A big fan of Joni Mitchell and Sade, I never feel truly depressed or sultry if it's not raining when I listen to them. My friend Dan MacRae, a hilarious and well-versed writer put his ipod on shuffle and wrote down his findings about ten songs for this Tumblr entry. I don't have nearly the frame of reference that Dan does, but he asked me to do one myself, so I will put the pod on shuffle here and pick five songs and random to determine their storm suitability. 

Jeru - Miles Davis. For all his jazzy be-boppin', Miles Davis is someone I only put on when I'm working and need something in the background. I've always longed to be really into jazz music, and I can certainly appreciate that it's tuneful and must be difficult to perform, but I don't melt into it the way that some people do. I took a class in Jazz Appreciation once because I'm a huge fan of wasting my parents' money, and the professor was a brash eccentric who seemed to live for the form. He would put music on and just react to horn blasts, and bass noodling, and improvisational flute like someone was taking him places sexually. He also called Diana Krall and Norah Jones musical wallpaper, so I didn't put my hand up to offer opinions after that. However, for storm suitability, Miles scores a 8/10.

Uncharted - Sara Bareilles. Sara Bareilles is like Sheryl Crow or Ben Harper to me. I want to like these people so much. I hear singles and I think, "Yeah yeah yeah!" But then I listen to a whole album and think, "Nope!". Uncharted was a "Yeah yeah yeah!" song that they used to pump over the loudspeakers when I worked in a drug store. Twas a fine hook with simple, plonky piano. I couldn't even get through listening to it today for the purposes of this exercise. Sara Bareilles is apparently a judge on a singing competition show alongside Ben Folds, which is exquisite casting, because they are both supposed industry talismans. People who like these guys LOVE them and I just can't get on that train. Ben Folds, what are you so worked up about? It's working out for you. Anyway, Sara Bareilles storm suitability 4/10.

Somebody That I Used to Know - Gotye. I'm glad I'm not a betting man, for I would have lost thousands of dollars betting on the follow-up success of Gotye. To me, he sounds like a cool Sting, a Police-era Sting without all the harps and tin flutes and lengthy coitus. And his other songs are better than this one, his only hit! I liked Eyes Wide Open and In Your Light a whole heck of a lot. I hope Gotye gets a least one more hit song so he can be cautious with his money when it comes in, buy a modest property, and live comfortably forever. That's all I want for him. Storm suitability: 6/10.

Buzz - L1ef. L1ef is so cool! I don't know anything about rap music, but I know I've never seen a gay rapper before and this guy seems to be about so much more than that. He can do that super-fast Busta Rhymes thing and his song Wut predates Macklemore's Thrift Shop by a whole year, and I think it's a far superior version that sounds much better. Seems to me Macklemore stole these horns outright and got tons of airplay. For shame. These hot L1ef jams are great for thinking about possibly going to the gym at some point, and would be great for running from the bus to your house during a storm, so 8/10.

Partition - Beyonce. Come on James, really? Yeah. I was one of those toolboxes that downloaded the secret Beyonce album as soon as it "dropped". I think she's the closest thing we have in 2014 to a Madonna or a Michael Jackson in terms of fame and units sold. Her presence is ubiquitous in pop culture, and even if you don't love her songs, you know them. And some of the videos on this release were great! I particularly like Ghosts that goes into Haunted (or Haunted that goes into Ghosts). It looks all avant-garde and macabre and I like the vocals-over-a-heartbeat or whatever it is. And Partition is a good song. But I think the thing that will keep Beyonce from becoming the Queen of Pop she wants to be is that her catalogue in general isn't especially memorable. Single Ladies and Crazy in Love are great songs, but are they Like A Prayer and Vogue? Are they even Push It and Shoop? Time will tell, I suppose. The thing is, Beyonce is exhausting to watch. She's singin' and dancin' and runnin' and posin' and I just want to take a nap. Have some fun, Beyonce! Rihanna has fun, I think. Her songs aren't memorable either, but she doesn't seem like a calculating wunderkind, just a fun girl smoking weed and rocking out. Anyway, Partition has storm suitability of 5/10.

A companion. I'm all over the place with this entry, mainly because it was written during a bunch of different times and I am finishing it post-work on Thursday. It rained a little this morning, but the darkening skies still threaten to really hit us later, and I'm hoping it can wait until I get home. Really, what a makes a storm truly memorable is who you ride it out with, and the Doc and I are great stormchasers together. When I was paying $435/month on rent and learning pilates from a cereal box, I wish I would have known that trying to be something that you're not ends up attracting dates you just don't want. I remember, instead, dropping the act quickly when I met Jon, and not looking back. I remember early on, texting him to hurry over because a storm was brewing and I didn't want him to get caught in it. He texted back, "I'm at the store, what kind of chips do you want?" I mean, how perfect is that? 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

May It Please the Court...

Hello Friends.

Every time summer rolls around, I forget just how hard it is to be stuck inside working. No matter how lovely the air conditioning, no matter how many polo shirts I can bust out in July, being inside is always trumped by being outside. That is, unless, what's inside is more compelling, interesting, entertaining, appealing than what's outside.

There are very few options of things I'd stay inside for when it's this gorgeous out, but among them are delicious meals, sex parties, animal husbandry, delicious animals, meal parties, and sex husbandry. God knows those don't happen every day, plus I can't really leave my job to do them. Seems to me when it comes to staying indoors but away from work but not getting fired, there's really only one solution.

Dream: Get called for jury duty.

Goal: Achievable, I think. I'm almost a million percent certain that I am eligible for jury duty. I'm a Canadian citizen, I've never been arrested, I'm not an invalid, and I haven't been officially diagnosed as incompetent by any authority besides my Dad (you try making pancakes without getting batter everywhere, Pops!). By my basic understanding of Canada's judicial system, I think I'm ready to watch the live Dateline episode that is jury duty.

Plan: Remain a healthy, ordinary citizen and hope to be selected when the following events unfold:

For this to work out and be any fun, I cannot serve on a jury for something boring. Apparently in this country, you can be called to serve on a jury for a non-criminal cases. What the hell is that? How incredibly frustrating would it be to pass the selection process, get ushered into the courtroom, and then hear a stream of legalese about a potential copyright violation at an international conference of graham cracker suppliers? I'll answer for you: Very frustrating! For my trial, I want a murder, and the victim can't be someone too appealing. Here are some possible victim and suspect scenarios:

1) Wealthy businessman who has been cheating on his wife is murdered in cold blood by his mistress' brother, who (we found out later) has been involved with the wife! Criss-cross!     

2) Cult leader who runs depraved sex farm is murdered by either his most devoted follower (or is he?) or possibly a hunky farmhand who just comes by to milk the cows and not have sex with anyone (except for juror number 8 what WHAT!)

3) Dr. Oz is murdered by Dr. Phil

4) Dr. Phil is murdered by Dr. Oz

5) Doctors Phil and Oz are murdered by the nameless panel of Doctors on The Doctors

6) A scheming blonde socialite is murdered by her social-climbing best friend who had plastic surgery to look like Kate Winslet. If we are a hung jury (I can't speak for the rest, but #8 sure is what WHAT!) the headline might read, "Nobody Winslet!"

7) The guy who invented Crocs is murdered by the guy who invented drop crotch jeans (whatever we have to do to get both things off the market).

There are several more possible iterations, but it has to be sensational and both lawyers will have to work their butts off to make me feel sympathy for both the murderer and the murdered. As horrific as many of their profiled crimes are, I notice that Dateline and shows of that ilk tend to stop short or the truly devastating. Cases involving murdered children are almost never aired, for example, because such brutality is so senseless that you can't spend an hour with it on a Friday night. Similarly, I don't think I could listen to the facts of a case of that nature and remain impartial until all the information is presented. Give me a soapy, intriguing murder trial, however, and I'll relish my time in the jury box.

I don't want a lot of medical jargon and technical mumbo-jumbo. For that matter, keep away expertise of any kind. Show me a drawing of a bullet riddled body and say, "The bullets came from a gun and went into the body and that's how he died." DONE! No information about point of entry, blood-spatter, shell casings or anything else will take up space in my brain. It's like how, even though I'm a nervous flier who worries about every little bump on a plane, the minute someone tries to explain the phenomenon to me, I'm incredibly bored and irritated ("It's just responding to different air pockets that form over high and low pressures systems which..." "OH MY GOD STOP TALKING TO ME, PILOT!").

I want a reckless, devil-may-care lawyer who plays by his or her own rules. The other lawyer has to scream "Objection!" and the judge will have to shake their head and say, "I'm warning you, counsellor!" Also, if the lawyer or witness says something so potentially incendiary that the judge says, "The jury is instructed to disregard that last remark," guess what? I'm not disregarding shit! If it's so potentially damning that I have to disregard, it's probably one of the most important facts of the case!

I don't want to be the Foreperson, but I need to sit close enough to an entrance or exit of the jury box so I can get to the bathroom. My bladder has shrunk with age and I plan to bring a milkshake in every morning so I can do that "Shkshkshkkk!" thing during some emotional testimony, so I'll need also to be able to easily access the facilities throughout the trial.

The bailiff has to do something. Maybe he restrains the victim's family from physically attacking the suspect, maybe he helps me to and from the bathroom, I don't know.

Finally, the trial itself can't go on too long. I definitely want to take advantage of a hotel stay and free meals, but summer is such a short time, especially here in Edmonton. I'm taking no more vacation days until a wedding in September and by then it's sure to be wintry and gross, and busier at work, and I won't have time to determine the fate of another human being. Right now though, when work is slow and my appetite for a good story is growing, put me in that box, legal system, and tell me a really good story.