Sunday, May 31, 2015

Blog #30: Pouring Rain

I was out running an errand yesterday. I was picking something up from the store. When I left the apartment I looked at the clouds, noted that it had rained earlier, but decided I would risking going now anyways. I brought a bag to keep my item dry but I figured it would all be ok. I am only four blocks from the store. How bad could the weather get in four blocks? I made it to the store unscathed, then started to head back. I made it about three blocks when the rain started.

Yesterday was Saturday and it was mid afternoon. So when the rain started, instead of running to their destination, everyone started congregating under the nearest awning or overhang. Wherever you were when the rain started, that was where you stayed. With a few exceptions (a girl in a raincoat who couldn't even be bothered to walk faster in the rain) most people quit what they were doing in hopes of waiting out the rain. I stopped at a bank not too far from home. Three other people were under their with me. From where we were you could see six people in front of a Tim Horton's, three inside a subway station, and another two tucked into the leeward side of a building.

I think it is tempting to become constantly busy, and I myself find myself tempted by this. You develop a task list and then you're always doing something on that list or you are procrastinating.I say tempting because when you get so busy that you don't have time to think about anything but yourself, then you have a problem. Everyone I was out doing errands with was "busy". Pretty much every single person stopped and waited for at least ten minutes in hopes the rain would stop. It's possible to take some time out of the day. Indeed, it is necessary to take some time out of the day.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Blog #29: Destiny

I started playing Destiny again a few days ago. I've had it for almost a year. I played it a bit last Spring but then the internet at camp exploded and it only works when you're connected, so I quit. A new expansion just came out for it though and so one night while I was humming and hawing about what to do, I pulled Destiny off the shelf and figured I would get back into it. I was only a few levels away from the main story mission anyways. I would just jump in and level my way back up. I think I played for two hours that first night, another hour last night, another hour this morning. I think it's back in my rotation for the time being.

I find it hard to get excited about things as I get older. I see other people get excited about things (Amanda, Jason, Victoria, my parents, my sisters, etc.) but I just don't feel that level of enthusiasm about much. So when it happens (and it's usually about a video game...) I tend to just go for it. Am I alone in this complete lack of excitement? Am I the only person who just sort of cruises along with moderate levels of up and down activity? Probably not, but it feels like it sometimes.

In some ways it's good. I don't have the lows that I watch a lot of other people experience. Things are pretty okay most of the time, even when they are tough. It also means it's easier to take things in stride. When stuff happens I'm usually the one sitting back and watching things unfold instead of peeing myself with excitement. It's definitely less exciting though. I think I kill the mood at times with my heavy sense of restraint. Since I recognize that problem, I like to compensate by getting really excited about things when they do come up.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Blog #28: T-Shirts

We needed to do laundry. I packed up all the darks (all I could fit in the laundry basket) and started the trek to the basement. I wonder why I don't ever see more people down there. I think maybe they have laundry in their units. I supposed that's probably what it is. I find out later in the day that this is in fact true as a woman in our building tells me she is moving and she is selling her washer and dryer.

Later in the day I need to go outside to send a package to my dad (he left some stuff in the car this weekend). I haven't showered yet and so I am still wearing my shirt from the day before (the pink one from floor hockey). I go to the drawer to pick out a shirt. It's hot today so all of my black shirts are out. That means I'm digging to the bottom of my shirt pile where I keep all of my camp t-shirts. When it's laundry day this is about all that's left. My clothing-based record of my time of service at camp. 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014. I am missing a few. 2007 disappeared sometime in the summer of 2009. 2009 had to be given to someone who needed a shirt. 2013 was ugly so I gave it away. As I look at all of these shirts I pause for a moment.

This is the first summer in a decade that I will not receive a camp t-shirt. When I left camp in November it felt a bit strange because I felt like I had invested a lot of my life into that place. Looking at these shirts I realize that it's true. That was ten years of my life where I was at least passingly concerned with that place. Now I'm in a position where I still care about the people that I met there, but I don't have a direct association with that place. My summer is not centered around spending as much time there as possible. I will not work fourteen hour days each day of the summer. I am not sure how to process this new identity. I think for a long time I defined myself as a camp guy. To a certain extent that is still a part of my identity. But it is different now. I won't get a camp shirt this year and that's a sign that I've moved on to a new stage of life.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Blog #27: Vacation? But why?

We try to have dinner with Jason and Victoria every week. It doesn't always work out because we all have wildly different schedules. Amanda and I have night class. Jason works 9-5. Tori is on shifts that change from week to week. This week it didn't work out to have everyone over at the same time so Jay came over for hamburgers while Tori was at work. We haven't had dinner with Tori in two weeks so I figured a visit at work was in order if she wasn't to be present at supper. I hopped on the subway in the afternoon.

I arrived, purchased a beverage, and then we sat and caught up for the fifteen minutes she was able to get away for. It's amazing how much you can cover in fifteen minutes. I was telling her how I finished at Westport on Sunday and how I'm waiting and discerning where I'm supposed to be next. I'm still in school over the summer but the older I get, the less stressful school becomes. I still have five days a week with no commitments. That's a lot of spare time. I mentioned this to Tori because we used to work together and compared to what life was like when I worked, I felt lazy and I felt guilty about that.
"It's your vacation" she said.

I guess it's true. Whatever I end up doing next, I'll be investing a significant amount of time and energy into that. I really ought to take advantage of the current lull in activity. I've been trying. Amanda and I have been getting out to do things we don't normally have a chance to do. I'm writing more. I get up early and read the paper. I try and get in touch with people who've fallen off my radar. I clean the apartment from top to bottom. It's just hard for me because I don't know what to do with myself when I'm not constantly supposed to be doing something. I'll take the current "vacation" but it still feels weird.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Blog #26: Movie Shoots

The weather was perfect last night. It was humid but not so hot as to be uncomfortable. Amanda came and picked me up from school and before we left we walked around the school grounds for a bit. I showed her the huge ravine on the back of the property and we discovered a police car down there (for what reason I do not know). It was the kind of weather that makes you want to sit on a bench and stare out at the world. It was pretty late though so we got back in the car and started to drive home.

On our way back Amanda was telling me about the traffic on the way there and how they had close off parts of Yonge Street.
"Maybe it's for filming" I said. They are filming the movie "Suicide Squad" in Toronto right now and it appears they're using lots of practical effects because every day or two there are photos of plane wreckage spread across Yonge Street or what looks like a helicopter crash. On our drive home we got stuck in traffic and discovered that, yes, they were filming that night. It also looked to be pretty close to our apartment. So we parked the car and headed over.


What we saw when we arrived was very cool. We had come at the perfect time. They had covered Yonge street in water to make it look cool. As we approached, a production assistant called out to clear the road. Then a pickup sped down the road with what looked like a flamethrower (it was a smoke machine). Then cars with what I think were Louisiana license plates came down at high speed. And then we saw the camera rig mounted on a pickup truck (it looked to be computer controlled so it was waving around all over the place) followed by a hot pink Ferrari with what we assumed were the Joker and Harley Quinn. That was pretty much the end of the action. They ran all the cars back up Yonge street and started to reset so we walked away. Once again though Toronto showed that it always has interesting stuff going on.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Blog #25: Two Hundred and Eighty Hours

Yesterday was my last Sunday as an intern at Westport Free Methodist Church. I preached, they sent me out with a prayer, and then we had cake afterwards. It was a bittersweet ending because I feel like I just got started and finally have a feel for the people and the community that they have going there and now I've got to start the process all over again. At the beginning of my time there, I knew it would be temporary but that's easier to work through at the beginning than it is at the end.

I spent two hundred and eighty hours in the car over the last five months. That's enough for driving to have been my part time job. I can honestly say that I don't mind driving much now. Obviously I would rather do less of it, but the last five months helped me to learn how to make good use of the time with my hands on the steering wheel. I would use the time to listen to podcasts, discover new music, and think about what was going on during a given week. I'll have to find time to do those things in other places now, but I don't think that will be a problem.

Since I moved away from my parents house in Kingston, I've always struggled a little bit to find a good sense of home. I had one for a time when I lived on Princess Street, and Amanda and I had it at Davisville a few months ago, but I feel it really strongly about our current place because of all of the driving I have done. As we were driving back last night, we were talking about being excited to be home. We were excited to see the cat and relax on the couch and enjoy our apartment. I was excited for familiar scenery and familiar rituals (the newspaper, coffee in the morning, the sound of the air conditioner). Oddly enough being away from home so much has given me a much stronger sense of home in our apartment on St. Patrick Street. I look forward to enjoying that over the next couple of months.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Blog #24: Airplanes

At 6 PM on Friday night, my dad called me while I was driving. He said
"Would you like to go on an airplane tomorrow. You don't have to answer now". I called him back immediately and told him yes. At 5:30 on Saturday morning I was up and headed to the Smith Falls airport (yes, Smith Falls has an airport) where we hopped in a four seater plane and took a drive over to Gatineau. I have never been in a plane that small so it was a new experience for me. I had to wear a headset because you couldn't hear yourself over the engine noise. You could see how many people in a neighbourhood had pools. We flew over some property with a pretty extensive hedge maze. It was a lot of fun.

Then we arrived in Gatineau and I learned that we were there for a breakfast and a display of vintage RCAF aircraft. They had a bunch of planes from World War 2 and the Korean war that had all been restored to flying condition and painted in the colours of a given pilot. Because it was a fly-in event, you were able to go right up and touch the planes and look closely inside them. I stood there and admired them with my dad as we inspected all of the angles and instruments. He told me a little bit about each one and we read some of the placards. I'm not exactly an aviation buff but I can recognize a famous airplane when I see it. Looking at all of these aircraft made me think about World War 2 and we had some discussion about it later.

As I looked at these planes, I lamented the loss of a grand story. During World War 2 everyone was operating from the same narrative. The Germans and the Japanese were bad. The Americans were good. Anyone who said otherwise was a traitor. I can't think of another conflict after that (with the possible exception of the Korean war) where everyone was on the same page like that. Nevermind wars, I can't think of a single thing in Canada where everyone agrees on something like that. Sure people would say something like "Canada is great" and we could agree on that, but there's nothing to build an identity around that. There's no story to tie people together the way a common story does. I wonder if we'll ever have a common story again.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Blog #23: Good Neighbours (Rant)

I don't unfollow people anymore. When I disagree with someone on Twitter, I sit there and think about why it bothers me instead of automatically blocking me. So I have lots of people on Twitter that I have nothing in common with. Sometimes this shows. Yesterday, someone I follow was talking about their summer plans and saying "All summer I either want to be drunk and on the beach". I read it and then went and walked a lap around the school. It bothered me for two reasons. One because I used to enjoy this person's company and I'm reasonably sure that they would have nothing to do with me now. Two, because that comment communicates such a distinct lack of concern for anyone else in the universe.

A little while ago I wrote this long rant about door holding and people driving by students walking to the bust stop. My point was basically that people are so fucking selfish that they can't even be bothered to hold the elevator for someone. All of this comes down to a distinct lack of neighbourliness. Everyone gets so fixated on themselves and their own personal enjoyment or entertainment that they can't be bothered to get any sense of participating in a larger system with neighbours. As soon as I wrote it, a few people at school talked to me about it. I couldn't tell if there was an undercurrent of anger about it or what. Their conversations with me made me realize I was stuck in the same trap though.

So here I am angry about this tweet and realizing that I'm just as un-neighbourly as this person (although I don't have the gall to post about it on Twitter). This whole exercise means I'll be instituting some changes. I don't know what those are yet. I don't know how to be neighbourly to the people in my condo building. I don't know how to be neighbourly to the people driving on the streets of Toronto. But if I find myself becoming another person who cares only about themselves, I might just have to move to a desert island because I can't think of anything more useless.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Blog #22: Why Bother

Yesterday, amongst much work at home, I had to go outside to take a trip to Lululemon. My parents were in town a few weeks ago and they discovered that Lululemon repairs old clothing items that they have sold if they break. They gave me the jacket last time I was home and yesterday was the first time I worked up the inertia to go to the story and ask for a repair. It was slightly chilly, but I enjoyed the brisk walk over to Queen Street. I passed an assortment of colourful characters and rehearsed what I was going to say in my head. Retail experiences can be a challenge for me. I'll get to why in a second.

Upon entering the store, my first thought is that I am immediately being judged. There's a gaggle of salespeople near the front of the door talking animatedly to each other. There are two or three other people wandering the merchandise trying to avoid eye contact. One woman stands in line waiting to pay. Another is have a protracted discussion with the girl behind the counter about a tank top and whether or not it has sufficient mesh available. At first I was reminded of my thoughts on not being marketable. Then I immediately felt judged. When I say I felt judged, I mean to say that I detected an overwhelming sense that no one wanted me there.

Oddly enough, it is probably my own thoughts which make me feel judged in stores like this. For a long time I have looked at people and make positive and negative evaluations of them based solely on their appearance. When I step outside of myself, I find myself making judgements about myself from the perspective of others. My trip to the store made me feel unwelcome which is partly a valid point (there were some missteps in my experience), but also just a comment on my attitude toward others which I project on myself. I really hope people aren't as mean as I think they are, but sometimes I really wonder.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Blog #21: Celebrity Sighting

Last night I got my butt out of the apartment and went over to the Hot Docs Cinema on Bloor street. This is the same cinema that once screened "Attack of the 50 ft Woman" which my dad has told me several times (he did not tell me if he actually saw it). Amanda was there with me, but we were not there to see a documentary. We were there to see a live taping of Canadaland. I listen to it fairly regularly (I had to do something every week on the drive to and from Westport) and Jesse Brown announced a few weeks ago that they were doing this live show so we got tickets. It was cheap, it seemed like it would be fun, and Jesse had Jay Baruchel on to talk about Canadian film and television. It was quite an event and I'm sure you'll be able to listen to it in a few days if you want to hear the conversation.

Amanda and I took our seats in the front row of the balcony about ten minutes before show time. The place was starting to fill up and we were seated next to a couple on our left and the rest of our row was also quite full. I had a beer, Amanda had some popcorn that we were sharing, I felt super uncool considering the general vibe of the crowd. As we sat there waiting, a guy who went to Queen's at the same time Amanda and I did approached with his wife and said hello to the couple on our left. They exchanged pleasantries as Amanda I looked at each other with a nod of recognition and giggled slightly. I say it's a guy who went to Queen's at the same time as us because aside from a few comments over Twitter, I don't think I have ever spoken to him. We did not break that trend and he walked away to find a seat for the show.

I don't know if this is a problem. I mean if you start a conversation with someone who you know a lot about and they don't know you at all, usually you would be a stalker. However, "Celebrities" (of the large and small scale) create these kinds of unbalanced relationships and it's supposed to be okay for strangers to talk to them? Should I have talked to him? Are you the kind of person who likes to stand in autograph lines? What the fuck do you say in those things? Educate me people, because if I run into this guy again, I should really say something.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Blog #20: A Cinder Block

(Note: I changed the layout for regular and mobile browsing. I also updated the links at the side so they all should like to interesting stuff. Things changed. It's going to be okay)

Jason wanted to see Mad Max. Sometimes Jason's enthusiasm for stuff catches me. This was one of those times. He included me in his plans to go see the movie today. We were going to go at 5:30. As I thought over my plans for the day, I remembered that Jason was going to try and play tennis with someone else earlier in the day. I thought it might be good to get in on this. I asked Jason. He obliged. We set a 1 PM tennis date at Trinity Bellwoods park.

It was beautiful in Toronto yesterday. I had to put on sunscreen and shorts. My ride to the park was a beautiful cruise down Queen Street. I didn't get doored or tracked. I arrived at the park and it was a happening place. It wasn't busy like the beach on a hot summer's day, but there were a lot of people about. I took a look around the tennis courts for Jason but didn't see him there. I paused and let the sun heat up the sunscreen on my skin. I felt the slight breeze coming in off the lake. Then my phone buzzed. It was Jason, saying he had a problem with his bike lock and asked if I could come help. I hopped on my bike hoping I could.

When I got there I learned what the problem was. Jason had a lock that had seen better days. The locking mechanism had jammed and there was no way to get the key in or get the lock apart. Unfortunately this had happened while his bike was attached to the post. I assessed the situation. Jason had done most of the hard work already. There was a tiny sliver of metal holding the lock together and preventing us from playing some tennis. "Sliver of metal" I said "You will not prevent tennis". I looked around for an appropriate tool. I found a cinder block nearby (because these things are just laying around everywhere in Toronto). I brought it over and showed Jason what I was trying to do. He wedged the lock against the bike and the post with his foot. Once it was solidly in place I took three good swings worth of cinder. Voila! Tennis.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Blog #19: Marketable

Sometimes I go outside of the apartment, and each time I do I put my judgement hat on. It is a bad hat to wear. I should not wear it, but I do. I am learning how to stop wearing it. For the moment though, I can learn things from my judgement hat. The judgement hat means I am watching the people around me and making evaluations about their behaviour. Would I do what they are doing? Why are they making me uncomfortable? What is going on? Being outside leaves me feeling out of place, so observing other people helps to take my mind off of that.

At this point in my life, I think it's safe to say that I am immune to most overt forms of marketing. If you want to sell something to me, you have to make me believe that I decided I wanted it. It has to catch me in just the right way or something like that. A print ad will not impress me. Your upselling strategies will fail miserably. You can approach me on the street for a "conversation" but I'm walking away no matter how much you try to convince me otherwise. Companies can still get me on the sly, but any time I catch that someone is trying to sell me something, I am immediately not interested.

I was outside at McDonald's the other day, and as I was waiting in line quietly evaluating the situation, these girls came up behind me with their mom. One of them implied that they had some kind of food allergy, and then the other one started gushing over a print ad for an Oreo Red Velvet McFlurry. The second girl was so excited about what I had already decided was a lame attempt at dessert. I hadn't even noticed the ad was there and this girl was extremely excited about it. It was at this moment that I realized that I am an anomaly. Kids and teenagers are still easy targets for marketers. Not everyone is as resistant to advertisement as I am. Advertising works because people listen. I thought about this for a moment and it made me sad.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Blog #18: Making Plans

Yesterday Amanda's birthday was celebrated with a bunch of her friends at a birthday party at a friends house. We made food, and there were decorations. It turned out to be a lovely time. We ate outside because the weather was beautiful. We sat and talked and enjoyed each others company. It was a really great time and I'm glad we did it. There was one problem though. We were expecting about twice as many people.

That's not actually quite accurate. We made a Facebook event for the party and invited a bunch of Amanda's friends. This is what you do most of the time. It's the easiest way to tell people that something is happening. The problem with this is that people don't really make good decisions on Facebook events. They respond as a maybe or they say they are going to come without really committing to the event itself. It's just the wrong kind of environment for inviting people. There's no direct confrontation or face-to-face commitment. Just a checkbox on an event page. If you're going to invite people to something and you want to know who's actually coming, you almost have to invite them in person. This climate meant that we had no idea when people were going to show up or exactly who was going to show up.

Like I said, the party was great, except that we planned for twice as many people as actually appeared. This meant we had a lot of leftover food. As I carted the leftovers back to the car that night, I reflected on this. There are several parties where this has happened. I have made plans for a certain number of people to show up but then that is totally not what happens. It seems that I am always planning a party where half of the guests never arrive. How foolish. In the future I'll change how I invite people to things, but I'll also appreciate the people who show up a lot more.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Blog #17: Live Music

When I was 5 years old, this family moved in across the street from us. They had two sons and a daughter. One of the sons was significantly older than me (by about eight years) and one was only a little bit older than me (by four years). I played in the neighborhood with the younger one and the older one was my babysitter a few times. Last night the older one (who is now a working musician) came to Toronto to play a show not to far from where we live. I used to listen to him play at this bar in Kingston and always enjoyed his stuff so I asked Amanda if she wanted to go. She said yes so off we went.

John (my former baby-sitter and also former guitar teacher) was good. He plays lots of covers but has just the right mix of blues and jazz in each one. He's also a fantastic improviser and always seems to surround himself with other great musicians. He had a full band up there with him (including a bass clarinet). Amanda and I just say there enjoying the music and talking occasionally. It was a great way to spend a night and makes me wish I knew of more live acts to go see.

Actually that's a lie. There's a jazz and blues bar down the street from me and they always have great live music and we never go. It is not because I don't know where there is good stuff, it is because on any given night the thought of going outside just seems exhausting. I feel perpetually tired no matter what I do on any given day. Last night made me think that I'm missing out on some enjoyable experiences because I'm letting a little drowsiness and fear of the outside world keep me indoors. I think I should get out more.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Blog #16: Costco

I meant to write this morning, but then we had to go to Costco. Amanda is having a birthday party this weekend and today was set aside to gather the food (hence the Costco run). I've been psyching myself up for it all week because I have a particular aversion to Costco in Toronto. In this case it was unavoidable, but wherever possible I like to avoid it. Shopping at Costco in Toronto isn't like grocery shopping. You can't saunter through the aisles deciding what to take and deviating from what you came there to buy. It does not matter which Costco you visit in Toronto or when you go. They all have two things in common. 1) They are rammed full of people and 2) None of those people care about you.

When you are shopping, you have to think of it more like strafing runs in a fighter plane. You charge down the aisle with the flow of traffic and grab everything without stopping to look. Then you get to the end where there is a little more room to maneuver before turning around to mop up whatever you forgot. If you stop moving someone will run into you. If you try to go around someone, someone will run into you. If you leave your cart to walk across the aisle someone will run into you or narrowly avoid doing so and give you a glare so disapproving you might just die right there. The entire time I am there, all I can think about is how I want to get everything and get out.

As we reached the checkout today, two employees helped us sort our stuff out on the belt. As I showed my "gold star" card to the girl at the register she told me that I could upgrade to an Executive membership and get cash back on every purchase.

"I only shop her twice a year" I said. "Even that's too much" I thought.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Blog #15: Computer Naked

After spending eight four days on the coastal dunes of California, I took a chunk of the money I earned there and bought a new computer. I wanted to use it to play games so I souped it up as much as possible and ordered all the parts from Toronto. At this point (in 2015), it is four years old and it still runs just as well as it did the day that I bought it four years ago. I don't know why but I have a feeling that if this was a mac, I would be eyeing something new, shiny, and expensive. With this thing though, I'm a quick part swap away from having it last another four years. Amazing.

Things are not always so great though. It's been doing some wacky things lately. It seems to dislike internet browsing and often tells me so by freezing at random times. I had to use different internet browsers for different functions because none of them were working for any one purpose. It was getting to me. When that happens (and I'm not incredibly busy) that means its time to reformat. Take everything off the computer, wipe it clean, and start over again. I spent most of yesterday working on that. It made for a pretty boring and unproductive day, but now I feel "good" knowing that my computer is free.

As the whole process was happening I felt odd and....naked. Naked is not the right word, but it is the feeling you get when you don't have your wallet or your cell phone. You are missing something and you can't help but wonder what will happen if a moment comes and you happen to need that thing for some reason. In moments like these I am reminded that it's important to know how to live life without these things should you ever need to do so. I'm not particularly good at it right now, but I still think people should know how.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Blog #14: The Zoo

When you live somewhere, it's easy to forget about all of the things that people come to your city to see. I lived in Kingston for twenty one years and Kingston has this UNESCO world heritage site called Fort Henry. They do tours and have ceremonial changes of the guard. It's a really interesting place where you can learn a lot of different things and have a great time. In the twenty one years I lived in Kingston, I went to Fort Henry once. I was three years old. I do not remember it at all. When I thought about going there, my reaction was "why would I go there...that's tourist thing to do". When you live somewhere, so many things blend into the background that you just completely forget about them.

Yesterday Amanda and I went to the Toronto zoo. It was overcast, it was a Tuesday afternoon, and it was cold. No one was there. We probably saw the same twenty people everywhere we went there. We had a fantastic time. We got to see so many animals, it was a comfortable temperature, we got to enjoy the day. We saw the Giant Pandas with no waiting. We saw some Grizzly Bears fight each other. We saw a Red Panda foraging in the grass. The Toronto Zoo is a pretty amazing place with some really interesting animals and great environments to see those animals in. Both Amanda and I said we would gladly go back another time.

I've lived in Toronto for three years now and when Amanda asked me about going to the zoo, it was the first time either of us had brought it up. Here is a fantastic place right on our front door and we waited three years to consider going. This experience tied to my memories of Fort Henry has made me wonder what else I am missing in Toronto that is right in my backyard. There are probably tons of place that I overlook because they are "for tourists". That's a silly excuse. If there are cool things in your city, go check them out.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Blog #13: The National Broadband Network

I've been trying to get up early lately. Every morning my alarm is set for 5 AM and some mornings I am up then. Some mornings I sleep through it. I really try though. I have coffee ready to go, I have a routine, I get my clothes ready for the next day. I try to get up early because I like to play games with a friend who lives on the other side of the world and this is one of the times I can do it. It's worth it because I enjoy his company and his commentary immensely, but the time difference makes it difficult to enjoy our friendship. And this is only one of the challenges of maintaining this game playing friendship.

Then there's the internet connection. When I lived in Westport, I would often drop from games or just miss him completely because the connection on my end was terrible I thought things would be better when I moved to Toronto. Our internet is better here, but now the problem is on the other side of the trans-Pacific cable. Connections get dropped or the delay is so bad and the audio so unreliable that we don't get to talk much. There is a fix for this. Australia has something called the National Broadband Network which is a government supported internet upgrade across most of the country. It's meant to fix problems with unstable internet connections. It's supposed to make it possible for us to communicate more consistently and more reliably. Outside my friend's house is a box with the NBN logo on it. He says it's been there for a while. He's just waiting for it to be hooked up.


I am too.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Blog #12: New Church

Yesterday, Amanda and I went to a new church for Sunday worship. You see, now that my internship is nearly over at Westport, I have to figure out where I am going next. Finding a place in Toronto to serve makes the most sense because this is where we live and I would like to avoid repeating the 4 hour weekend commute in the future. Luckily there are many churches in Toronto, so I am exploring and trying to discern where is the best place to go from here. It's not exactly like there is a sign outside or anything so I'm mostly taking suggestions from other pastors I know.

When you are choosing a new church, there is always a tension. You are not shopping. Church is not a consumer product. They are not obligated to do everything you like because church is not about making you happy, it's about worship and teaching. So when you visit a new church, it's not like you are going to make a list of all of the pros and cons and then if there are too many negatives you are going to move on to somewhere easier. At the same time, you don't want to set yourself up for failure. I don't know what that part means but I always imagine there is a church that is just too different from me to be a place where I can belong. I supposed that if I tried to join a church that worshiped in another language, that would probably be too great an obstacle.


Fortunately for us, our church experience this Sunday was great. Had I not forgotten about the 10 K race that was going on, I would have gotten us there on time, but as it stood we arrived and worshiped with this community and it was good. That is about all that can be said for now.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Blog #11: Food

I haven't been cooking at home lately. Because of my schedule last semester, I was away from home four to five nights a week. That doesn't leave a lot of time for grocery shopping and cooking so Amanda and I just ate out a lot and accepted the fact that cooking would come back in the summer when we were together more. This past week we had more time but I didn't do a whole lot more cooking that I would have usually. It's hard to change habits that are so easy to maintain.

Yesterday we bought a juicer. It was at Amanda's suggestion, and she had saved some money from an art sale for the purchase of one. I agreed because I am a sucker for kitchen gadgets (even though we have no room for them). We brought it home and immediately started looking for things to juice in the fridge. We had a whole bag of beets! I juiced them and watched as the machine separated the pulp from the red juice. It was so satisfying to press these hard vegetables down and get an easily digestible liquid. I drank all of the beet juice. Several hours later, Amanda showed me a video making fun of people's reactions to what beets do to your stool and urine. I was amused.

Last night before we went to sit outside, Amanda started watching the documentary series "Chef's Table" on Netflix. From the bit I overheard (my back was turned...) it sounds very interesting and from the bit that I watched it is beautifully shot. As we sat there and stared at this incredibly beautifully plated food that appeared to be delicious, we both immediately thought about cooking. Much of our discussion later that night revolved around how to make better food instead of just eating crap all of the time. I think we're in for some better meals in the near future.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Blog #10: Happy Hour

When I was in California hanging out on the coastal dunes, I got some marriage advice from the Biology professor who was supervising the project. He was talking about a couple he knew, and he said how every day after work, the husband would come home and the wife would have dinner in the oven and she would pour him a scotch and she would have a martini and the two of them would sit and talk for an hour. He said it saved their marriage because they always kept in contact through their "cocktail hour". I can't imagine how that would go today. An hour of time interrupted by nothing but a few sips of alcohol. It sounded very romantic to me.

The weather has been getting warmer lately. It's hot enough that we resent our condo board for not turning on the air conditioning. I awoke this morning at 3:30 AM only to find myself unable to go back to sleep. Nicer weather means its time to start enjoying the outdoors. We are apartment dwellers, so we don't have a yard, but we do have a sweet balcony just big enough to fit Amanda and I on it. Two days ago I suggested we hang out on it before bed just to enjoy the outside and get ready for sleep.

We've done it twice now and because there's nothing out there except us and our drinks (an a surprisingly psychotic cat) it has matched my professor's description of cocktail hour so far. I know that there won't always be time, and I know it's only the second time so maybe we'll abandon it and you can laugh at me for being a quitter, but for the moment it's really good.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Blog #9: Green Space

The school where I go (Tyndale Seminary) recently moved about five blocks. They were in some kind of old converted health care centre before with lots of character. When I lived in residence there, the heating was so bad and the insulation through the windows so poor that if you complained of being cold, they came and duct-taped your window shut. The sad thing is that it made a really significant difference. Thank goodness we've moved to a new location.

Yesterday I went to school early to get some studying done. This is new for me. I am in school a lot but I'm not a very good student. I am in between jobs right now though and I feel the need to keep busy with something. There's really no excuse for me not crushing this Hebrew course right now. So I studied. I folded up the Hebrew alphabet and all of its vowels and rammed them into my brain. I had it down cold by the time 5:45 PM came around. I felt good.

Yesterday smelt of summer so I went outside after I was done studying. One of the side-benefits of the new campus is a wealth of green space. The lot it's on backs into a ravine and so the whole property is like a valley sloping into a creek as it goes. I found a spot on a hill with a tree that was just out of the sun. I propped myself up and pulled out a book. I was there for half an hour. It was just enough time to get a rash from the dirt I was resting my arms on, but also just enough time to recognize the joy of summer school. I'll probably never read inside again.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Blog #7: A Bike Ride

Starting sometime in Grade 11, I began to feel like my knees were on crooked. You know that feeling when you get air in your joints or you sit crooked for too long? That kind of feeling. It wasn't bad, but they didn't feel quite right and there was nothing I could pin it on. The part where they hurt is sort of bony and I've never bothered to go to a doctor because the last thing I want to do is say "my knees hurt. What can you do about it?" I feel like my doctor would just shake his head and walk out of the room.

I try to experiment with things to make it better. Exercise seems to help so I make a point of exercising when they feel bad. Over the winter I tried some squatting and that seemed to help, but I don't always feel motivated to life weights (my kettlebells have been sitting in the car for three weeks waiting for me to retrieve them). Now that the weather is nicer, I have been thinking about biking more. I went for a ride once last week when it was really sunny. I decided to go again today and ride a little further.

Because we live a few blocks away from the lake and because that is where all of the bike paths are, I have been riding along the waterfront. I usually get tired of riding somewhere around Mimico. This is nice because the waterfront curves around there so you can look out across the lake and see the CN tower and all the other nondescript buildings that make up downtown Toronto and feel a sense of accomplishment as you see how far you have come. Today I ended up in a park where there were geese everywhere. A man walked along the shore as his dog darted between the rocks exploring the space between them. The dog spotted a goose and the man warned the dog not to pick a fight. The dog did the wise thing and listened. As crazy as things get here sometimes (and they got crazy today) it is so good to find moments like that in Toronto which are only a short bike ride away.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Blog #6: Embarassment

Yesterday I was riding the bus to school for my first day of Hebrew class. I was listening to Canadaland and some music I had. I was staring out the window and noting all the sights on the new-ish way to get to school (Tyndale moved its campus two blocks over so I take a different bus to school now). My mind started to wander back to Grade 9.

I'm sitting in the English room at the old campus of my High School on Pinnacle Street in Belleville. I remember everything about this room. The awkwardly shaped desks with a chair attached to them. The walls lined with standard high school English books like Fahrenheit 451 and A Tale of Two Cities. The carpet is this ugly orange colour. Everything smells musty because of the carpet. Out the windows on either side of the chalkboard, all you can see is the scrub forest that lies behind the school. The vice principal is giving a talk about dress code. She is talking about frayed clothing and how you can't wear things that are excessively worn or frayed. I stick my hand up. I require clarification. I show her a spot on my pants and ask if this is ok. She says yes.

At the time it felt pretty natural, but as I sit there on the bus and relive this memory I am embarrassed for myself. I am sitting in my own desk, but I'm also sitting in the back of the room observing and judging with my 25 year old self's sensibilities. Back on the bus in Toronto I turn red and shake my head to move on to another memory. I am on a bus in Toronto, but I am just as embarrassed as if I was still in that English class.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Blog #5: Driving

I have a timer in the car that keeps track of how many hours the engine has been running. It's a good estimate of how much time I have spent in the car. Since the beginning of January, I have spent 250 hours in the car. I signed up for this back in January when I decided to go back to school while also doing an internship in Westport (4 hours away). If I had to do it again, I would still make the same choice but I would prepare better for all of that time in the car.

Yesterday I was in the car for six hours (out to Ottawa, back to Westport, back to Toronto) and it was a nice trip. The sun was out, and the grass is unbelievably green everywhere you go. Spring takes its time and at this point in the year all the beauty I can handle is in the green grass along the highway. It is so incredibly green. It's emerald city in The Wizard of Oz green.

I usually drive alone. My dad came with me for part of my drive yesterday and that was nice (we had some good chats) but I usually think of myself as a single person totally alone on the road. Yesterday while I was driving I noticed that there were other people in the cars around me. Can you believe it? People! In cars! I know it's silly but I spend most of my time trying not to look at people in other cars. Yesterday I looked at them.

I drove by an SUV at one point and looked in my mirror to check for passing and saw two people in the front laughing and smiling together. As I saw this, I immediately noticed I had mirrored their smile. I don't know what they were laughing about or what kind of people they are, but seeing someone else experience joy while I was driving by myself immediately made me happy.

I resolve in the future to pay more attention to people in cars around me. Hopefully it won't appear creepy to anyone.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Blog #4: Cooking Food

There was a summer in University where I didn't want to work at camp (I felt I wasn't supposed to) but I also couldn't find a job. I ended up working at camp but I ended up doing a job that I never would have applied for. I became a kitchen shift supervisor. On days when one of the two full time cooks were away, I would cover their shifts. I worked Wednesday to Sunday. It was the most consistent work I had ever had up til that point.

I had a lot of experience in the kitchen and I knew I could manage stress well, but throwing a 20 year old into a kitchen and having them cook for 250 people can be a little stressful. I learned from each week. I was a mess during the first week. I was a rock during the last week. When it was all over I had learned a lot of important lessons about how to run the kitchen and how to manage staff. I felt competent.

Today I went back for a few hours. There's a men's group that comes to camp every year and they always request this outrageous prime rib dinner and we oblige (they are nice people and business is business). They asked me to help because I am in town and because I helped with it last year. I thought it would be good.

Going back in was strange. I walked in (remember, I haven't worked there in five months) and it was like I never left. I knew where things were and how the flow worked. I could do things without asking for instructions. I felt competent. It was weird. It felt good.

I know I won't be going back to work at camp for the foreseeable future, but that feeling of competence will stick with me no matter what job I go to. There is little else as satisfying as knowing what you are doing.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Blog #3: Binbrook

I've been busy. I've been working at a church in Westport on the weekends. I've been taking classes at Tyndale in Toronto through the week. This schedule means that I can see people occasionally, but anyone outside of Westport or Toronto gets left out. Since school ended, I scheduled many visits with people so that I could make up for be absent for the last few months. Tonight was my last function before I have to go back to school. A new schedule means I'll be able to do more of this in the future. I like that. Visits are my favourite.

We had to drive to Binbrook which is a small town just outside of Hamilton. Sara tells me it is a part of Hamilton now. It's probably Mike Harris's fault. That guy was way too short sighted for my liking.

We had to drive through Hamilton on the QEW. Say what you will about Hamilton, but I think it has some of the nicest freeways in Ontario. It has the 403 which runs up and down the mountain which is really part of the Niagara Escarpment. It has the QEW which runs into this massive bridge at Burlington and it's along the lake so you see the city and the lake and all the steel mills. I almost don't like driving down there because I don't get to see all of the scenery.

We had a great visit. It is good to see friends after you have been away for a while. I missed it. We missed Sara.

Westport tomorrow.