Another year older but I still haven’t grown up.

Twenty-six was never an age that I was excited for growing up. You know how certain ones are ones you look at with excitement? Sixteen for driving, nineteen for drinking, twenty-one for the trip to Vegas you won’t take? Those are the ones you get all hyped up for. Twenty-five was one of those too.

It’s a 25th anniversary! That’s the silver one. Treat yourself to some silver because gosh darn you made it to twenty-five. Know what twenty-six feels a bit like?

Silver with a lil’ bit of rust.

I worked out on the last day of being twenty-five and felt pain in my knee. I could feel age and lack of exercise slowing my body down as I struggled to get through a YouTube circuit workout (spoiler alert: I didn’t make it). In 25 years, my body has cared for me and given me many things, and I’ve given nothing back to it but two-a-day visits to McDonalds.

Sorry, body. I’ll try to do better.

I still feel like a big kid even now.

My office is a reflection of that. There are wrestling action figures on a shelf, but notes for a potential masters in my desk. I still only drink hot chocolate and hate coffee. And I’ve learned that professionalism at work doesn’t necessarily lay in how you’re dressed and how your office looks, but in the level at which you care about your work.

The spot I’m in, being on the back nine of my 20s but the front nine of life still, feels good. I no longer look at it as age, but as experience. 25 was a year of experience for me. I moved across province, travelled more and farther than I ever have in my life, and began to recognize the important relationships I have. I’m more isolated than ever up here in the wild north west, but feel more connected to the people in my life.

There are no songs about turning 26, and that’s okay. I danced enough to 22 to annoy my friends for lifetimes over. The song for 26 is going to have to be one that I make up and sing to myself as I go about my every day.

Twenty-five was absolutely silver. It was an amazing year, but I need to believe it to be silver. It can be the second best to whatever comes next.

Fun birthday anecdote to end on – when I was growing up my mom would bring in packs of pudding to share with my class instead of birthday cake because I didn’t like the texture of cake. What kind of child was I.

Last Day in Washington & New Years Alternatives

A recap of the end of my DC trip, plus some alternatives to those phrases you hear every New Years.

I’m back in the land of Tim Hortons and constant World Juniors coverage. My trip to Washington D.C. is done, 2017 is in it’s final moments, so some final thoughts on my trip and some alternatives to things you’ll hear on New Years.

  • Last full day of the trip involved a walk through the National Mall (all the monuments and memorials). I met Karen, a super sweet Jehovah’s Witness giving away literature. When I mentioned being from Northern Ontario, she remembered visiting a nice town up there called “Saint Soo Marie.” This of course is my hometown, Sault Ste. Marie, which lead to a big hug from a stranger.
  • While taking photos, I wondered how many backgrounds of other people’s photos I’m in. Not just from this trip, but in general.
  • There were such different levels of noise on the National Mall. Some places were loud and busy (Lincoln Memorial) while some were peaceful and quiet (MLK Memorial).
  • There is beauty in finding a gallery room empty in a busy museum.
  • The Lincoln Memorial was overwhelming in size and beauty.
  • You know the joke about there being Starbucks on every corner in America. It’s true and I’m so thankful. I could use them to get wifi to call Ubers, take a break from the chill outside, and have delicious hot chocolate.
  • There was snow on my way out of town at 4 am. People were losing their minds. It was great.
  • I slipped through Virginia on my way out of town. Number of states visited going into 2017: 1. Going into 2018: 8.

    Myself & my DC friends Shaun & Wayne
  • Five of those states were on route to airports or airports, but who is counting?
  • So thankful to my home base while in DC – Brick Lane. Delicious food, good service from my main man Omar (who gave me a bear hug on my way out the door Friday) and fun conversations.

New Years Alternatives

To ring in the new year, you’re going to hear a lot of these two phrases: “New Year, New Me” and “New Years Resolutions.” Instead, I’ll offer some alternatives:

Instead of “New Year, New Me”:

  • New Year, Newsies – just keep watching the musical.
  • New Year, Nutella – an easy and delicious decision.
  • New Year, New Memes – what weird crap will we turn into memes while waiting for the world to end? It’s an exciting thing to look forward to.
  • New Year, New York – or replaced with your other favourite “new” state.
  • New Year, New Meek – he’s responded from catching that L from Drake.
  • New Year, New Kids on the Block – they had a bunch of hits, and Chinese food makes me sick.

Instead of “New Years Resolutions”:

  • New Years Reservations – at your favourite restaurant.
  • New Years Renovations – finally fix up that half-bath.
  • New Years Relocations – get out of there!
  • New Years Rejuvenations – face mask, cleanse, whatever it looks like.
  • New Years Ratatouille – the movie or the meal.

Just a way to switch it up heading into 2018. Happy New Years everyone!

Washington Days 2 & 3

The food of DC, a love of museums, and a connection with an Uber driver while sober.

It’s cold here in Washington. Not “question why you live where the wind hurts your face” cold like it is in Canada, but it’s been cold. However, my spirits have been warmed by the wonderful sights and sounds of Washington, D.C.

In those two days, I’ve seen the American History Museum, Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, a Georgetown Hoyas Basketball game, the American Museum of Natural History, American Art Museum & Portrait Gallery. During these fun-filled two days, I’ve seen some things.

  • In the hall of inauguration dresses worn by First Ladies, the sign says “What will happen WHEN the President is a woman?” Bless that sign.
  • There was also a girl, probably around six years old, who lit up when her mom told her that one day she could be President. Absolutely beaming.
  • Soft pretzels may be the tastiest thing in the world?
  • On that note, I’ve yet to have a bad bite to eat here in D.C., but I did do a super-touristy thing and eat at a Hard Rock Cafe for the first time in my life.
  • Museums are wonderful things just for the transfer of knowledge. Seeing kids wide-eyed, learning from their parents about hydroelectricity or orangutans or who Rosa Parks was, is a treat always.
  • I saw pieces of the wreckage from ground zero on 9/11, and can’t place that feeling of weight and sadness. It was entirely new, and hugely moving.
  • I’ve had quite a few Uber drivers, but Shahouz has been my favourite. He moved to America five years ago from Pakistan and told me all about the poor reception he received because of his poor English. After him and his wife were married, she worked with him on his English every night for an hour and now it’s fantastic. His whole family (brother, sister-in-law, & mother) have all now made it into the United States. It was a great story to hear, and I hope things turn out well for him.
  • The U.S. asks you how you want your burger done. I forgot that this meant medium rare, or medium, or whatever. So I said on a bun.
  • Madame Tussaud’s is straight-up not worth the price of admission.
  • I am in love with the architecture of this city. Tall buildings, neon lights, hidden shops, and Starbucks on every corner (though I miss Tim Hortons hot chocolates).
  • College athletics in America is a big money industry and the games are nuts. I picked a good one (double overtime, Georgetown lost by 2) but it was more of a spectacle than a contest.
  • The American Art Museum & Portrait Gallery is officially in my top ten places of all time. Lock me in there, but give me snacks.

I still have major monuments to hit tomorrow, like the Lincoln Memorial and Capitol Hill, but it should be warmer. I’ll pack as much as I can into the one day I have left, but so far Washington has not disappointed.

What a way to end 2017.

Also Trump’s tweet about global warming today was trash. Not a hot take, but still. Come on now.

Peace and blessings!

Traveling to Washington & Day 1

Where I was adopted by a gay couple, nearly cried on an airplane, and found jazz on NW 14th st.

It’s day one in Washington and I’ve been up since 4:45 am. Lots has happened in that time, and I felt that after seven beers was an appropriate time to fill all y’all in on my travels to America and my first night in the other nation’s capital.

  • I somewhat lost my phone on the flight from Sault Ste. Marie to Toronto (which was 2.5 hours delayed). The absolute nicest people were on the flight and helped me look for it. Of course, it was in the front pocket of my carry on. Because why wouldn’t it be?
  • One of my favourite things was hearing an elderly lady talk about how much she loved and preferred WestJet TO one of the Porter flight attendants. Just… why?
  • There was a grandpa sticking a baby blue balloon to the cabin ceiling, much to the delight of his grandchild. Things like that fill me with so much glee.
  • There was a weird swelling of emotion that came from having done something plainly for myself. This trip is really just for me, and it’s a foreign feeling. I think the fact that I was listing to Sam Smith didn’t help with the high emotions.
  • To the guy who waited 0.1 seconds after the wheels touched down in Washington to open Grindr, I salute you and your commitment.
  • There was tremendous timing as I finished my book about Richard Nixon as my shuttle guide pointed out Watergate hotel to my left.
  • I appreciate Marty the shuttle driver. He drives like a maniac, but he was funny.
  • A couple of people from Capitol Hill were intrigued by my lack of “Canadian accent.” I did not know what they were talking aboot.
  • Shout out to Omar from Brick Lane in Washington – one of the best three course meals of my life, plus a “welcome to D.C.” brew. I will have dreams of that chocolate lava cake for the next while.
  • The couple of people from earlier? Wayne and Sean, a gay couple who adopted me for the evening and brought me to two D.C. gay bars. According to Wayne, Washington is the gayest city per capita in America, and who am I to google stats. They treated me to beers and told me all about D.C., and I am so grateful to my two new tour guides.
  • They also invited me to drinks on Capitol Hill on Friday with people who are apparently very important? Neat. Very neat.
  • Wayne & Sean also guided me to the last stop of my evening – Sotto, a jazz speakeasy which provided the perfect end to a perfect day. I don’t remember ever feeling so relaxed.

So that was day one! What will day two hold? Who knows, but once I do I’ll let all of you know. To all those I haven’t talked to, Happy Holidays! Talk to you soon.

Meeting Ann

How a chance meeting with a nice old lady has put me in the holiday spirit.

Sometimes it can be hard to practice what you preach. In a time where a lot of us are go-go-go, it can be hard to do the things we really pride ourselves on doing.

I talk a lot on this site about the importance of the human connection. Being nice to people and going out of your way, doing things to just connect with and support others. Tonight I caught myself shying away from that and I’m glad that I caught myself.

I was off to McDonalds for chicken nuggets, as so many of my stories seem to start. I decided to go in and eat before heading off to pick up some groceries. I’ve been taught that it’s a lot smarter to shop on a full stomach (so I don’t buy everything under the sun).

Inside, I saw an older lady seated in a walker talking to a man who was about my age. She was asking about a way to get to Wal-Mart, just across the road. She turned to me and asked me if I was heading in that direction, and if I could just give her a lift.

”No, I’m not heading that way. Sorry.”

That’s what I said. To a sweet, nice lady who was very clearly struggling. A moment of clarity washed over me – what if this was my grandmother? What if it was me? Just because it changes my plans ever so slightly, I can’t help her? Isn’t that what I talk about all the damn time?

I went back to her and said that I could definitely drop her off. Her name is Ann, and she’s 88 years old and sweet as sugar. While I waited for my food, we chatted. She had over-estimated how tiring getting groceries would be, and she just needed a lift. Ann has heart problems, and the cold was really effecting her.

Eventually she mentioned living in a condo – one that is right across the street from the university I work at. So instead, I drove her to her condo and she talked about the importance of giving back. “I used to give rides and help out when I was younger, knowing God would let it come back around. Eventually, it will come back to you too.”

She talked about moving to a new home in January, and we talked about the cold and the Christmas holidays. Once Ann was situated at the front of her condo with her walker & McDonalds coffee, she reached out and shook my hand. I could feel the gratitude from this woman fill my heart, Grinch-style.

”Merry Christmas, God bless you, and Happy New Years. Good things will come to you,” Ann said before walking inside.

Just like that, I am filled with the spirit of the season. I had been missing what the holidays are meant to be about. Not two weeks earlier, I was stressing about what to get people for Christmas presents. I had forgotten that people don’t like you because of the gifts you give; they like the gifts because they like you.

The holidays are meant for spreading good cheer, good will, and reflecting on all that we have to be thankful and grateful for. Ann mentioned being the last one of her family left – both sisters and her parents are gone. Yet every week she treats herself to some fast food because she’s earned it. That’s a little thing we all can learn to do.

This isn’t meant to be a “look what I did” story, but instead the message is that it’s okay if sometimes we lose track of the things that matter and the big picture. It happens to me, and I think it happens to everyone. Sometimes though, little moments will be able restore your faith and clear up a picture for you.

I’m thankful for Ann, and for the fact that I decided to get McDonalds for the second time in a weekend (no judgement please). I hope she, and all of you, have a wonderful holiday season.

To the Window: A Love Letter to the Wall

To the first bar I ever thought of as “our bar.”

It’s a weird thing to go to a bar for the first time. How do you act? What do you do? What’s the etiquette here? It’s hard to understand and learn based just on movies or what your older siblings tell you, which can make for a difficult transition into the world of social drinking.

That transition was made infinitely easier at Nipissing because of a wonderful place known as the Wall.

The Wall is closed now, but during my five years there are a student was one of the most important intsitutions for a number of reasons. It’s gone and been replaced, but I felt the need to write about my appreciation for the first bar I ever called “our bar.”

As I mentioned, it can be hard to know what to do at a bar. How do I get a drink? What are bars even like? The Wall gave me and other students the opportunity to learn that etiquette and experience social drinking in a safe space that was predominantly students.

Instead of going out into the vast unknown (at the time) of North Bay, we could stay on campus. A quick walk down allowed students in for wet/dry or all ages nights to experience first hand what a bar and nightclub is. There were no (or at least very few) older strangers; it was just students like us out to have a good time.

Spinny Hat

My very first night at the Wall, I wore a hat with a propellor on it because of course I did. Proof of my stellar fashion sense can be seen left. It was stolen by another student in an act I consider unforgivable to this day. Yet I love that first night because after that, it was never considered for me a scary place.

They had theme nights, celebrating Hallowe’en and New Years. There were nights to go out with friends to celebrate or relax after a long week. There were pub nights on Tuesdays to celebrate or relax after a long half week.

They had the best concerts. My first year alone saw Down With Webster, Steve Aoki, Alexisonfire, Bedouin Soundclash, Lights (who seemed to come every year) & Mother Mother all come to rock a small stage in a little bar in the middle of Northern Ontario. I would have never seen these artists without the Wall.

It also hosted other events. Charitable groups could run coffee houses to support awesome causes like Relay for Life or Movember. We once had Verne Troyer come in and do a Q & A. Yes, Mini-Me from Austin Powers just hung out at our campus bar. How cool is that?!

The Wall was the first place my Nipissing friends ever saw me do stand-up. I asked how long I was allowed to go on for, as up until then I’d only done five minutes.

“You’ll get the same as all the musicians, so you get 20.”

I then proceeded to go home and write about ten minutes of new stuff. Gotta fill the time, right? After that night, I felt like I really had the ability to be a comedian.

The Wall was shut down for a time in my fourth & fifth years at school, but did open back up. This elated me and my friends, who had been going to the Wall for so long and felt a gap when it had shut down. The Wall had been a huge part of our socialization as students. When we lived nearby, we could pop by the bar for a 1 am walk around, grab a pita from Pita Pizza upstairs and head back home without ever having to pay for coat check, even in winter.

When it opened back up, it became the place for myself and my education classmates to unwind after all of our classes. It was the spot to celebrate getting our education, finishing a long road and looking back on what we accomplished.

The first day it was opened in fifth year, I clearly was going to attend. I got there and the line was already pretty large. I saw a bouncer I knew only as MoFo (I assume it was not his birth name) wave at me and tell me to get on up to the front. He said it was good to see me and asked how I was doing, when I was graduating, things like that. This proved me two things:

1. The Wall staff really did care and remember

2. I may have gone to the Wall too frequently.

It was run with faces we recognized. My friends were the bartenders, the bouncers, taking coats. It was an operation built on the backs of students to give students a place to unwind and socialize on campus, with alcohol or without.

The Wall, as I mentioned is now closed. It absolutely breaks my heart because I know I was not alone in loving that bar. I am not the only person whose friends thought of it as “our bar.” It was an integral part of growing up at Nipissing for me, and I’m sad that part is lost on future students.

I hope that another campus pub or bar can fill that void left in the student experience. It can, and it will. I’ll forever be partial to the brick walls, the dancing on the speakers, and the genuine atmosphere of fun that the Wall provided to me.

If you ever worked at the Wall, or also shared in it’s wonderful experience, thank you for making it such a great place and a big part of our campus. I’m glad we all got to see it together. Now, cue up Closing Time.

Three Weeks With Sampson

Carrying a plant around for three weeks, almost killing it, and attempting to be a good #PlantDaddy.

Normally my relationships with plants I own go the same way as all of my Snapchat streaks: they die, and it’s usually my fault. So when one of my best friends asked me to be a part of an experiment where I carry a plant everywhere with me for three weeks, I had one thought:

Oh crap, I’m gonna kill it.

The general idea was this: carry a plant everywhere on your person for three weeks. Plant goes to work with you, the grocery store with you, an *NSYNC concert with you (I wish) but you get the idea. The point is to see if you get more environmentally conscious and spoilers, I did.

On the first day, I picked up a succulent because they are apparently super hard to kill. I named him Sampson, and immediately became a plant dad. Fatherhood was in full swing.

At first I got really tired of explaining the same thing over and over again. “Yeah, it’s for an experiment.” “It lasts three weeks.” Eventually though, people came around to it.

I grew weirdly attached to Sampson. We would have conversations that were pretty ones-sided. He got a hallowe’en costume (a pineapple). He became my phone background (a photo of him in a pumpkin patch). I love being able to interact with people which makes living alone difficult sometimes, but Sampson filled that void.

Some of it was difficult, like going to a bar. Having to stuff Sampson in my fanny pack made me feel guilty. It also made me go to the bar with a fanny pack on, which is a plus in my books. Still, it was awkward to not have a hand to use while walking around.

It was not all amazing, as evidenced by the event. I was picking up some groceries with Sampson (who made zero dent on my food bill, the little angel) and I dropped him in the parking lot. It was in slow motion, and he cracked right in half. I proceeded to panic, drive him home as quick as possible and maybe bend some traffic laws to get him in a new pot.

I had to un-pot another plant to put Sampson in his new mug, but these are the tough decisions parents have to make I suppose. That plant didn’t have a name, so it was a relatively easy call. Sampson lived on to the rest of the three weeks and beyond.

I really did become more environmentally conscious, because I became aware of changes in how Sampson looked. He went from green (the right colour) to purple (not quite right) and I had to work to keep him alive. Now I have a real connection to a plant, as opposed to just having plants as decoration.

Sampson now lives on my end table, with two yet-to-be-named other succulents. It’s pretty obvious that I have a favourite kid, but that’s to be expected when you carry them around for so long.

In the future though, I’ll keep my plants at home. Sampson is my first favourite plant, which is an exciting thing. And frankly, I think I’m ready to upgrade. Bring on the goldfish!