Parts Unknown

Sometimes I avoid news. Not that I can avoid it entirely, but the general predilection of today’s news to be inflammatory – because that’s what sells – is exhausting. It’s issues, issues and even more issues, some of it real, a lot of it manufactured by people who seem to have made it their business to go through life with a gigantic chip on their shoulder.  Still, this past week or so, with that kiss (why does he make it so hard?) and she-who-shall-not-be-named invoking the memory of her dead parents yet again, it’s easy to see why people contemplate offing themselves.

Melodrama aside, suicide is no laughing matter. And it’s trending again. A couple of months ago, it was Avicii. Just recently, Kate Spade – she of the eponymous line of bags, shoes and accessories – and now Anthony Bourdain, celebrity chef, globe-trotter and highly esteemed food writer. All were highly successful and wealthy, all were living the kind of accomplished, jet-set lives the rest of us can only dream of having. None of it was enough to make them want to go on living. You know it’s serious when you wake up one day at the top of your game, and decide you can’t be bothered to keep breathing. Is it really that empty up there in the atmosphere of the one percent? Is it really that bleak? If having all that isn’t enough, then what is?

Although the stigma of depression is slowly being chipped away, no one ever talks about it very much. It’s a mysterious illness, easily dismissed, something only understood by those going through it and those who’ve gone through it and made it to the other side. My mother used to tell me stories of what it was like for her, after she had my brothers. She said it was a very scary, very weird headspace to be in. I was a child back then, so the only things that stood out were these strange roots suspended in jars of orange liquid, infusions of ginger root and tree bark she used to take, and the word bughat, something that, to a nine year old, was both riddle and an answer, all at once.

It takes a lot of strength to get through something like that, a lot of fortitude and a very strong will. My mother was one of the fortunate ones, able to emerge from the darkness of post-partum depression. I do remember one thing she always made an effort to do whenever she felt particularly low: she talked about it. Doing so helped in many ways – it helped me understand a little bit of what she was going through, even if I was only nine. And I think it helped her to know that we may not have fully understood, but that we were going to be there for her all the same. Talking about it helps. It’s particularly hard on us Filipinos, who for the most part, either think psychotherapy and the drugs that can come with it are for the weak, or believe in it but can’t afford it. Talking is cheap and effective, and there’s no shame in struggling. Depression doesn’t discriminate.

If we’re to go by the examples of successful people who’ve killed themselves (Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Robin Williams, Alexander McQueen, etc), all the money, success, fame and glamour in the world aren’t enough.  But does that  make life not worth living? I refuse to believe that. I still want to know  what it’s like to be so rich, I can use dollar bills to wipe my behind.  I’m not convinced that life isn’t worth it, just yet. I think breathing is sweet, and I still want to win the lottery. If it’s all downhill from there, then that’s as it may be, but at least I’d have gotten to try being on top of the world.

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Excuses and Alibis

Due to an ever so unique combination of exhaustion and distraction, I’ve been struggling to write regularly of late. I’m mentally and emotionally drained by the time I’m done with work, so when I get home the last thing I want to do is think. Or talk. Or even do. Because work is nuts. My brain has to go in so many different directions in any given time and sometimes the volume of what I’m processing bogs me down and takes its toll. My thoughts mostly resemble scared mice scurrying away whenever I try to cobble them together, which is probably my cue to go to my family doctor and ask for drugs. Pharmaceuticals: today’s answer to everything!

But, no. Like most everything else, I will bend over and take this current exhausting adult phase like a champ, even if work sometimes feels like a fat dick shoved up my ass with no lube, because this too shall pass. It may pass the way a particularly jagged calcium deposit shreds your  urethra on its way to sweet freedom, but it will pass. Please pass. Please?

So I’ve been making it a lousy excuse not to write because by the time I get home I don’t feel like writing anymore. I’ve been reading or watching Netflix while stuffing my face. I really should try to cut down the stuffing of the face, but I don’t seem to have any self control these days.

Still, I’ve come out of temporary hiding to say I’ve had it with this whole royal wedding. If I never see another post about Meghan Markle again, it won’t come soon enough. With my luck, and because people need to sell newspapers, it will be full court press coverage  of Harry and Meghan for the next few months, at least, while I twiddle my thumbs and wait for the inevitable stink piece on how the Duchess of Cambridge is jealous about all the attention being showered on the Duchess of Sussex.

Am I the only one who doesn’t give a shit about this? My feeds have been crammed with the dress, and the kiss, the guests (Amal Clooney in mustard yellow, making up for the ridiculous getup she wore to the Met Gala) and all the ooh-ing and they’re-oh-so-in-love-ing.  Have we forgotten the mess that was the Charles/Diana union? That started out just as romantic as this one did, with all the cute smiles and the shy glances and the photo-ops and gown reveals. For all the magic of that wedding day, they ended up at each other’s throats. Two people from different backgrounds getting married and trying to fashion a life together? It’s work. So I’m here watching them go by, giving them five years at most before it all goes to shit because I’m a bitter, overworked peon and I’m sick of having someone’s extravagant romance being shoved in my face. Also when the mention of a British-American wedding comes up, my brain goes straight to Four Weddings and a Funeral, the gold standard for English romance (no, it isn’t but I love it anyway).  Also, because this is me at weddings:

big meringue.gif

Who am I kidding, this is everyone at weddings. Everyone I know, anyway.

Try watching Four Weddings and a Funeral on mute some time. It’s just as hilarious.

 

Sharing is caring, and I apparently don’t

For anyone who cares to  follow, the perfectly curated lives of a lot of my friends are laid out online like a visual feast. On Instagram, some have over two thousand posts and are capable of sharing ten to twenty carefully selected shots of whatever adventure they’re having on any given day regardless if it’s the same adventure over and over. Adventures in parenting. Adventures in Taiwan. Adventures in bad haircuts, random non sequiturs, shared cooking videos, memes, trailers, jokes, and Throwback Thursdays.

I used to be a lot more active when Facebook was new.  A cursory sweep of my social media activities has made me realize I’m failing at life. Online life, that is. My Instagram has less than three hundred posts. My account is private, and whoever follows me gets the privilege of an exclusive peek at two different pictures of castaway shoes, a random cannoli, some guy at the summer barbecue fest and a little bit of me sprinkled here and there. My posts are fragmented and infrequent and I have never featured a single “story.” To the casual observer, it would seem like I really can’t be bothered to share.

If you’ve visited this blog every so often, it’s a very strange thing for me to say.

There is a dichotomy to my online self. In an online environment where I actually have a web of friends who will see pieces of my life without the need to ask for it, I barely share anything. And yet, I’m an open book to whomever cares to come here, to read a blog, which, unlike my IG, is full of verbal diarrhea and is actually open to whoever cares to find it. I do most of my sharing here, because I figure if someone wants to find about me, I’m around.

I don’t take online personality tests. I don’t pipe up about loving Jesus. I don’t share what I’d look like if I’m male, what my eye colour says about me, or what my mother’s maiden name is (lord knows my mother has no qualms about it) because here’s the thing. No one cares. And anyway, it has nothing to do with who I really am.

No one cares what your personality is based on your favourite salad, or what Disney princess you are based on a few questions off of a personality test. No one cares. The person clicking “Like” is on auto-pilot. It’s like replying with “LOL” to a text message, but not actually laughing out loud. It’s polite, it shows positivity, but ultimately? It’s an empty gesture. I like to save ‘likes’ for something actually worth liking. Like a particularly funny quote. Or a particularly unique snapshot. Something honest, and frank, and real.

No one cares. And also, engaging in these stupid little tests is like signing up to get phished. I feel like this cannot be stressed enough. People should not be giving out sensitive information, like birthdays or maiden names. That fun little game where you come up with your catchphrase by pairing the month you were born with the date of your birth? Phishing. That cute little test that says they’ll tell you what your mother’s maiden name means in a foreign language? Phishing. Think about it. People are lazy. Trying to remember a password is annoying, so we birthdays, or a combination of numbers that mean something to us, catchphrase, favourite vacation, movie, quote, something.

Cambridge Analytica aside, I’m not quitting Facebook. Not that I’m a diehard fan, but I’ve always said trainwrecks are interesting. Somehow, without knowing it, I seem to have retreated. I’m not hiding, I just don’t feel the need to be the kid in class who’s constantly raising her hand. Now, I’m just the kid in class watching the other kids make complete prats of themselves, wondering  if their inner Disney Princess is really reflective of what they’re like on the inside.

Image borrowed from Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator

Bring me the Chianti

This triggered me today.

I don’t usually like using the word ‘triggered’ because it brings to mind the ridiculous slang that’s considered hip these days, like bae. Or shookt. Woke. Ship. Cray. Having a tiny computer in our pocket 24/7 has  apparently given us all ADHD and no one has the time for syllables, or a proper vocabulary. Don’t get me started on the egregious abuse of the word iconic.

However ‘triggered’, in this particular situation, is an apt word for me to describe the way I’m feeling. Because #affected!

TL;DR: vegans organized a protest against Antler, a Toronto restaurant that boasts wild game as a big part of their menu; as they waved murder signs outside, the owner proceeded to (expertly, from the looks of it) butcher a leg of deer in plain sight.  Shock, horror and injured feelings ensue.

So, I was there for the comments, and ended up down a rabbit hole of commentary, which is par for the course when it comes to a topic as polarizing as vegans versus the world. Sometimes it seems like there’s a chapter somewhere in the militant vegan gospel that says if they won’t eat animals, woe to the rest of us who insist on doing so.

This is why I have a problem with militant anything. Militant vegans. Militant feminists. Militant racists. Militant religionists. Militant cyclists. They’re always free to believe what they believe in, but disagree with them and all of a sudden they’re the victims. It’s always their way or the highway, conveniently sidestepping the fact that having an opinion is a right that belongs to everyone. It leaves a sour, angry feeling in the pit of my stomach, which is how  I feel when it comes to people who claim to educate, but are actually intent on ramming their own beliefs down your throat.

At its core, my problem with militant anything is that it’s sanctimonious, it’s preachy, and it’s rude. If you’re okay with voicing your opinion that meat-eating is wrong, you should be okay with others who think otherwise and have the nerve to say so. I would like to think not all vegans have such a warped, blinkered worldview. There is a difference between education and straight out indoctrination.

So I am standing up and giving  Team Antler a slow clap for this masterful move. First of all, it’s his restaurant. If he wants to butcher a leg of deer in front of all and sundry, that’s his prerogative, the same way it was the protesters’ prerogative to gang up on a local business and wave meat-is-murder signs in front of paying customers. If he wants to have a menu that’s mostly ethically raised, locally sourced meat, that’s his choice. Don’t force a restaurant to add vegan friendly items to the menu just because you think animals have feelings and humans shouldn’t eat meat. The solution is simple: if you want vegan food, eat somewhere else. Why is that concept so hard to grasp? It’s Toronto, is there a dearth of choices? If there’s anything there’s a dearth of, it’s common sense. The word of the day is dearth. Scorched dearth. Dearth Vader. Dearth Becomes Her. Dearth, dearth, dearth.

Clearly, I’m raving and now need food. I think I’ll eat at Antler soon. I like meat, but you knew that already, didn’t you?

 

Yes We Can

I’d heard of the Peabody Awards, but had never dug deep enough about its origins. Yesterday, George Peabody was the Google Doodle. The original billionaire philanthropist, old George gave over half of his money away and was so thrifty, he still took the bus. His only indulgence was an apple a day and he turned down a baronetcy offered by Queen Victoria, which tells us he had a set of brass balls as large as the state of Texas.

I like successful people who haven’t let their money change who they are. In my cursory research of interesting factoids related to George Peabody,  a list of billionaires who still do real things crossed my radar. If anything, I’ve always thought the family behind Wal-mart are a bunch of awful people, but knowing one of them drives a fifteen year old rustbucket was a nice surprise. Granted, rich people aren’t always angels sent from above. They are first and foremost all about business, which is a cold mother, especially when it comes to profit.

For all we know, George Peabody was closer to a crabby, tightfisted miser than Santa Claus. Even so, his kind of realness is the kind that I respect. Don’t get me wrong, at the end of the day money is for spending and all the accoutrements are great, but I’ve always been at home with the idea that you don’t have to have something. You just have to know you can get it if you want to.

Like I want to know I can own a Ferrari if I want to, I just don’t need to have one. Or I want to know I can buy an island if I want to, but I’m not going to bother. And I want to know I can get a reservation at the world’s most exclusive restaurant if I want to, but I don’t have to go because I’d rather have Popeye’s chicken. Or I want to know that I can stay out until four in the morning and get shitfaced, but I don’t really need to. That’s it, really. Just knowing you can.

There’s no need for bullshit mega-mansion swag with the fast Italian cars and the private jets and bespoke clothing. They’re fun, and if I was a billionaire I would probably have bigger indulgences than George Peabody’s apple, but I want to think I wouldn’t be what Migos calls bad and boujee. I want to think I would be like Bill Gates, who still rocks a $10 Casio even if he has more money than the GDP of certain developing countries. I want to be a billionaire who still eats tempura at the boulevard because it’s yummy. And because I can. No need to show it, just have to know it. There’s freedom in that.

 

Image from Mental Floss

I hope Jane Fonda adopts me

When you grow up in a small town and cut your teeth on the Disney renaissance, getting out is always the goal. Not that getting out was never the goal, but all those songs about being part of some other world, there being more than a provincial life, a whole new world, going the distance while the wolf cries to the blue corn moon because it’s the circle of life? Come on. I was practically being programmed to leave.

At nineteen, itching to go out and explore the world, the sight of  four privileged women running around in expensive outfits, living out their thirties in the playground of New York City was an eye-opener. What the Golden Girls is to some people, Sex and the City is to me. Until then, the longing to leave was just that. A longing. Some sort of nebulous desire to go out and somehow, have the adventure of a lifetime. There was a goal but it wasn’t exactly defined, until SATC came along and defined it.

Living in New York City was not my goal. Neither was it to be a part of a fab foursome (I would be Miranda). But what I wanted was to be an adult with people who gave me understanding and acceptance, to have my own place, to explore the idea of brunch, buy whatever caught my fancy and do whatever and whomever I wanted to do, whenever and wherever I felt like it. Sure, in my fantasy world I also weighed less than a hundred pounds and there was little to no Netflix, but that benchmark aside, I think I got what I wanted.

So here I am, the same age Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte were, and I realize adulting is fun. It’s also a horrible ball of crap. You can’t just ignore the price of living on your own, blithely going through life and ten different credit cards in the hope of landing a job at Vogue as well as the eligible bachelor you’ve had your eye on since day one. Work has to be done. Bills have to be paid.

So what happens when you get what you want and all of a sudden realize you want even more because humans are never satisfied? You find something new to aspire to. And now, this is my new fantasy:

Yes, I know, another fab foursome of privileged white ladies swilling pinot and enjoying their hard-earned comforts, maybe I’m just too colonized for my own good. But hey, I’m with it.

Skin colour aside, what I really want is to be best friends with Jane Fonda, who is my current guru and life coach, although she really should lose that janky-ass wig… no. Skin colour aside, what I really want is to be with people I’m comfortable with, who I like, and respect, who love books, and reading, and who haven’t lost their zest to learn and discover new things, despite probably taking ten separate medications for ten separate ailments. It’s vital to still have enough joy and verve left to strap on the world’s most ridiculous push up bra, go out there and really grab life by the balls. So yes. Yes. This movie will be my Waiting to Exhale. And yes, I’m going to watch it. When it comes out. In theatres. And if I don’t, on Netflix. I think. Oh sod it all, I’ll set a reminder.

 

Image borrowed from The Mighty

Kicking Some Ice

At a glance, luge is sort of boring. Get on a sled, zoom down a track, try not to crash. Before Pyeongychang 2018, I always felt luge was the equivalent of getting into an inflatable tube and launching yourself down a frozen water slide. It was the kind of sport that made me scratch my head and wonder about the lengths very rich, very bored and very winter-bound people will go to enjoy a season that isn’t always kind to humans. But that was then, and this is now, thanks to CBC’s livestream of the Winter Olympics and my recent acquisition of a foldable, amplified, indoor antenna (Philips, $19.99 + tax. Cheap!).

I am neither rich nor very bored (this part is debatable), but I am definitely very winter-bound right now. My way of coping with the weather is the way almost everyone born in the tropics does it: pure avoidance. Oh sure, I’ll do an occasional bit of ice skating and maybe even do a little sidewalk shovelling, but actually playing in the snow day in and day out and going as far as saying I love winter? Nope. When forced to confront it, I will dress like the Michelin Man. Judge all you want, when it comes to snow, I’ve long since given up style over substance because I like having ten fingers and ten toes.

Anyway.

Thanks to the wonders of free TV channels and closed captions, I’ve been getting a crash course on winter sports for the past fortnight. Prior to this year, the most attention I’ve ever paid to the Winter Olympics is to watch figure skating, I’ve learned that the Dutch dominate long distance speed skating, the Germans are lugers par excellence, the Norwegians own skiing, and Canadians claim hockey as a matter of course (although the USA always begs to differ).

I also learned that lugers use their shoulders, calves and tightly controlled shifts of body weight to control a sled that’s speeding down a track going at least 120 km/h, a helmet their only protection from a tremendous amount of g-force, fast reflexes the only thing standing between success and total annihilation. I’ve been on the freeway, clutching my seat at a lesser speed than that, and that’s riding in a car with airbags. Definitely not like a waterslide. Luge is a badass discipline.

I’ve gotten emotional watching lugers lately. Hell, I’ve been getting emotional watching Olympians lately. There’s something about watching people get recognition for years of hard work and discipline, in an arena where only the best of the best get to compete. It’s hard not to get emotionally affected by their obvious pride and joy when they know they’ve done a good job, and represented themselves, their sport and their own countries as well as they ever could have in a sport that’s already difficult to master on its own, not to mention it being set in the harshest season of all.

Compared to the online Olympics we all live through these days, a steady onslaught of one-upmanship to see who has the most perfect life, Pyeongchang 2018 is something I can get behind a hundred percent. I like watching these athletes succeed. It’s great to see people overcoming the sheer adversity of winter. To turn a season that is at best uncomfortable and at worst, deadly, into an opportunity to have fun is something I find inspiring. And I don’t usually gush, but it’s been such a crappy winter, I think I needed to be reminded that fun can be had no matter how harsh the conditions, and that the harder the struggle, the sweeter the reward. That’s true #goals.