The Pink Panther

I’ve always been one for a good throwback. I don’t know about you, but Rafael Nadal going sans sleeves and all body-ody-ody at this year’s Australian Open is making me feel things. The last time he went sleeveless was in 2008, tearing through the men’s draw in that swashbuckling pirate look. No sleeves, long shorts, and somehow he made it work.

He still does.

Nike has our dear Rafa revisiting the sleeveless look but ditching the long shorts. It’s decidedly more mature but somehow more compelling because he’s all grown up and filled out and who cares what’s going down on the tennis court with biceps like that? 

I mean come ON.

When it's time to go to work @rafaelnadal #ausopen

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Sheht pare, hijo de. You can barely even notice that ungodly combination of dove gray and highlighter pink.

Today I have reduced my favourite tennis player from a hugely talented athlete to a walking piece of very meaty beef. But, eh. The best things in life are free.

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The Things We Leave Behind

Funerals make me feel awkward.

I have a chronic inability to deal with death, so I deflect. There are two ways I do this. Humour helps me deal with emotional upheaval because I find it goes a long way toward making the unbearable, bearable. My first step is to try and find a little levity. Note I say a little, because a funeral is obviously not the right time to be cheerful and gay and too much levity is disrespectful. There are other ways of processing trauma and my method may not be the most mature way of going through the stages of grief, so I can’t exactly recommend you kids do this at home. If it helps you with discomfort and pain, you’re welcome to try. Just remember to be appropriate about it. No one wants a crazy guest in the corner, pointing and laughing at a hearse.

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I blame Meryl Streep for my issues.

The second way I deal is to have takeaways. I note specific details to incorporate in my own funeral, i.e. open vs. closed casket, appropriate Biblical passages, whom I would want doing the eulogy, what to feed the guests. I never had plans for a dream wedding but it would seem I have plans for a dream funeral.

I met my aunt when I was much much younger, and I knew the basics: she was a nurse, had two boys, lived in Montreal. It wasn’t until her funeral that I found out she hadn’t just been a nurse, she’d been the head nurse of a prestigious hospital and a damn good one. So good, after she retired they named a hospital award after her. She was socially active, a woman who touched many, and had been, by all accounts, a pearl of a human being. For her funeral this week, I didn’t need very much levity. I am fortunate to have extended family in these parts and we were all together for the first time in a while, which meant stories of the misadventures of my aunts, uncles and cousins were shared to everyone’s delight. It also meant we were creating new memories just by being together again, catching up after a bit of time had passed. You can always make new friends and keep the old, but there’s nothing quite like the shared history unique to people related by blood. It seemed like a great way to honour her memory in a land far away from the place where she was born.

They say we take nothing with us when we die. I think we spend so much time making it a priority to enjoy the things we can’t bring with us, we forget to focus on what we actually leave behind. And this was my takeaway: while we take nothing with us when we pass on, we leave everything behind for others to deal with. And although we are by nature more forgiving when it comes to remembering someone who’s already dead, it does matter that we leave behind as many good memories of ourselves as possible because no one wants to be remembered as a jerk. It doesn’t matter if we’re no longer around to enjoy our own eulogies. It matters that others don’t struggle to write a decent one for us.

East, West and My Mom’s Macaroni Salad

I woke up with a clear desire to write about 2017 and what I’m going to do in 2018. In other words, to contribute just another post to a billion online posts about resolutions and what they mean and what I’ve broken and what I haven’t and how much weight I’m going to lose. Instead, I went down an inexplicable YouTube K-hole of Weird Al Yankovic’s best, culminating in at least five replays of White & Nerdy because sometimes, that’s just how I work. Or, as it turns out, don’t.

Today is going to be about prepping for the annual NYE dinner I make – a fusion (fusion! hah! #pretentious) of East meets West. It’s not as exotic as it sounds, it’s just me making enough food to feed a ton that will really only feed two and generate enough leftovers for a week, while ensuring both parties will be happy with all available nosh. So he gets his turkey, taters and stuffing, I get my macaroni salad, pancit and whatnot. Last year I came up with black sambo. This year, I’ve decided to cheat and get cheese tarts from Uncle Tetsu’s.

I make macaroni the way my mom does. It has mayo, shredded chicken and pineapple. My one substitution is craisins because I’ve never been a fan of sun-dried grapes. If it sounds weird, it is, and he doesn’t eat it so I tend to make enough just for me. But I make a point of having macaroni salad every New Year’s Eve because it tastes like home. It tastes like countless evenings spent ringing in the New Year with family, food on the table, twelve round fruits bursting out of a cornucopia, borderline illegal fireworks exploding throughout the night. It tastes like shaking my brothers awake at the stroke of midnight because they’ve fallen asleep. It tastes like the time my niece mistook a misplaced goblet of Tequila Rose for milk, drained it to the dregs and started walking sideways. She was two. I think.

I’ve seen posts reminding pet-owners to insulate their animals from the scariness of fireworks. Back home, no one gives a shit. We figure animals can take care of themselves to some extent without all the unnecessary mollycoddling, which is where the East really differs from the West. We haven’t got the time to worry about animal welfare when we’re too busy worrying about our own. It’s New Year’s Eve! We’re too busy trying to make sure humans don’t turn up in the ER with missing digits to worry about the mental state of the family cat.

But back to my preparations for NYE. I haven’t yet gone to get the traditional round fruits for the cornucopia. It’s believed that round fruits bring good luck for the coming year which is why one must have twelve – a different one for each month – but there’s only so many round fruits, so I end up with the odd banana, lemon and strawberry. To this day, the sight and scent of red apples reminds me of the holiday season. I delayed it as much as I could this year because putting so many fruits together  in one setting tends to ripen them all at once. It’s also something I do to remember my grandfather, who made it a point to have a massive mound of tropical fruits to ring in the New Year.

Le Hubs doesn’t really have NYE traditions other than eggnog and partying like a lush so he ends up having mine grafted onto his because we’re too old to party like lushes anymore. It’s why  every New Year you’ll find him absently clutching money at the stroke of midnight, the tryptophan kicking in, bemusedly watching his wife twirling around his living room, money in her own hands, windows all open, inviting in good luck and prosperity, as well as possible hypothermia because it’s -30C in Toronto and his wife is high on macaroni salad. But that’s New Year’s Eve. That’s New Year’s Eve, our style.

How my Grandma helped me jumpstart Christmas

I’ve finally gotten over my mental work/home torpor and kicked myself into high gear. When you’re in logistics, sometimes holidays stop having meaning beyond having to go through a bajillion things that Costco and Co need to keep consumers happy. Santa must have presents! Santa must have things! Santa needs the help of giant shipping containers filled with candy and random crap!

It starts with Halloween, of course. All that candy has to come from somewhere. And then Christmas, which bleeds into Valentine’s Day and then Easter and St. Patrick’s Day and somewhere along the lines I stopped seeing the meaning behind these days because all it meant to me was work. I couldn’t even get in the holiday frame of mind anymore, because come December, the powers that be (hi, Hershey’s!) are already working out what to ship for Valentine’s Day. That’s how far ahead they plan. It’s scary.

(Also, the amount of sweets people consume is staggering. No wonder diabetes is an industry.)

Last year, I trimmed the tree the day before Christmas. The year before that, we ended up in Dollarama because we were too lazy to haul everything out from storage. We should’ve done storage. We went a few days before Christmas eve and the shelves were bare. It was a Christmas of hastily cobbled together shit, featuring a truly sad plastic tablecloth that featured snowflakes and snowmen.*) This Christmas feels like more of the same, except we actually got the stuff out of storage, but now everything’s in disarray and my living room looks like a half-hearted Christmas explosion that started with a bang and ended with a whimper. There’s tinsel gathering dust in a corner.

I’ve even gotten to the point where I didn’t feel like sending out my usual Christmas cards. It’s an annual custom I started when I moved here, and I’ve been pretty faithful to it every year. But for the life of me I can’t remember if I sent anything out last year (damn you, logistics) and this year I had decided not to actually do it. Until I got a note from my Grandma for my birthday – she sent it late November, and I got it two days ago – and realized how meaningful things are when one actually takes the time.

Communication is cheap these days. A quick Happy Birthday on social media, a few sentences sent by e-mail. None of these compare to seeing my Grandma’s squiggly handwriting, and knowing that for a few moments on a particular day in November, I was all that she thought about, and took the time for. That means something.

So, a year without sending out Christmas cards? Preposterous! What’s Christmas for if not to send glittery notes with love and care to family and friends? I’ve just written my Grandma a long letter that I hope will not bore her to tears and now I’m off to see what I can score by way of Christmas cards (can’t be redundant, Christmas cards aren’t like Catherine Middleton’s favourite coats), and jumpstart the Christmas season. I am very firmly going to buy cards that say MERRY CHRISTMAS, and not that silly, politically correct, “Happy Holidays” bullshit. It’s freaking Christmas. If I find something that says MERRY F*CKING CHRISTMAS, all the better. Post office, here I come!

 

* Cobbled together decor, but truly awesome dinners.  I’m not big on decorating the space, but I will skimp on nothing when it comes to a Christmas/New Year’s Eve dinner. Nothing. Turkeys will cry.

The Blair Bitch Project

Sometimes we look back at the passage of months and wonder where time went. I started out wanting to tell a sort of story, and ended up with a mish-mash of moments randomly cut and pasted into what looks like an incoherent toddler’s nursery project. I don’t know about you, but my life sometimes feels that way. But who cares? Also, in the 21st century, if it isn’t captured (and shared, and retweeted), did it really happen?

The year is nearly over, and I’m glad for having gotten the chance to spend it with the people I love, and now for the chance to have a moment for a cheesy-ass retrospective. My shit resembles rejected footage for the Blair Witch Project, but that hasn’t stopped me from trying. Yes, I am that embarrassing friend who’ll whip out a GoPro and just stick it out while walking around in a foreign city. I’m a terrible videographer. Probably best to watch this on a mobile device; Vimeo wouldn’t take the full sized HD version. Ah well.

2017 from Nikkajow on Vimeo.

Brexit Through the Gift Shop

I kind of expected to come back home swathed in the Union Jack from head to toe,  but the only things that really caught my fancy were Harry Potter themed. Which is weird, because I’m not that big a Potterhead. Still, I’m pleased.

Platform 9 3/4 is the place to go for anything Potter-themed. There are wands to be had, stuffed owls, sweaters, shirts, scarves, toques, satchels, keyrings, socks and sweets, including Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. It’d be an absolute delight if it wasn’t swarming with people. Because it really is in King’s Cross Station, it’s a mecca for the fandom, and who hasn’t heard of Platform 9 3/4? There’s even a trolley that’s half disappeared into the wall where excited youngsters can have a photo snapped for a price. The queue is crazy. I don’t know if there are off peak hours, but we were there in the morning and it was already packed. (No, I didn’t pay for a photo, much to your relief.)

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I got this one for free. Wait, wrong platform…
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Here you go. Sorry, random Indian couple. The crazy queue I was talking about is to the right.

The House of MinaLima on 26 Greek Street in Soho is the place to go if you don’t want to be caught in a swarm of excited youngsters or do the (pricey) WB Studio Tour. It’s a shop run by Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima, the graphic artists behind all eight HP movies along with the newest one, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The windows are currently styled to look like Honeydukes Sweet Shop and there are Hogwarts acceptance letters all over the steps and floor. With four floors in total, the ground floor is the main shop where you can buy the actual goods. The other floors are purely for spectacle and Instagram. The second floor has copies of The Daily Prophet and The Quibbler (complete with giveaway spectrespecs) strewn about willy nilly, while the third floor boasts a huge Marauder’s Map underneath your feet and proclamations from Umbridge are on all the walls. The fourth is inspired by the Fantastic Beasts movie. It’s kitschy and bright and fun. Best of all,Read More »

Reykjavik

Dear Elly G,

It’s the ascent that gets me. Every time. That feeling when the giant metal tube you’re in careens down the runway and takes off, leaving your stomach somewhere between the earth and the sky and it feels like a lifetime of being at a 45-degree angle, just climbing. It’s always a while before I can breathe easy again.

Sometimes it’s easy. It’s smooth and uneventful, the plane cutting through clouds without resistance. Sometimes it’s hard. The ascent is choppy, like riding a skiff over rough waves, and I find myself wondering if that view of the city will be my last, wondering if maaaayyyybe I should’ve kept my shoes on in case the plane loses its battle with gravity and we plunge into the sea and I need to frog swim in the Arctic Ocean to save my life or at least prolong it, if only by a few minutes by finding a floating piece of wreckage and I won’t be able to do that if my feet are the first to go.

But I like ascents. I like the thrill. Humans weren’t meant to fly, and each time we take off, it almost feels like having a middle finger extended at the great wide cosmos: look at me now, Dad! I really should knock on wood thrice, because it feels like I’m mocking the fates. Unfortunately, there is nothing wooden to be found on the Airbus. I might try and find a catalogue to knock on, I suppose that will work. Paper coming from wood and all that.

There is a guy on this plane who seems to love that there is absolutely no wood to be found. A thinks he’s on something, very likely little purple party pills, because he keeps going up and down the aisles, just running his hands over everything. Everything. It’s weird. And gross – does he even realize how germy the interior of an airplane can be? He’s not running his hands over the passengers, at least. He’s doing it on all the surfaces of the plane he can touch, including the covers of the overhead luggage compartments. I’ve decided he’s some sort of shaman, blessing the plane’s interior with good juju. Between you and me, A is more likely to be right than I am, though.

Speaking of wood, we touched down in Reykjavik and the terminal is almost all wood. It’s warm, and cozy in that minimalist sort of Scandinavian way, all interesting angles and curves and mood lighting. I wasted no time heading for the mini grocery they had going on, to score some skyr. Passed a few displays of interesting salt. “Lava salt,” and all that, but I tasted it and it doesn’t taste like anything other than salt. Lies! I do have my eye on the cutest little figurine. It’s of a fat Viking, and it makes me happy to see it. We’re stopping over in Iceland again on the way back from England, so I’m sleeping on it for now. I didn’t get to buy the skyr, there were problems with my card or something. I’m hoping this is not a theme for when we get to England, because it is going to be annoying going around with le cash in le pockets. I have nightmares of a Dickensian London, with the Artful Dodger going around picking pockets willy nilly. Listen to me, sounding all first world Visa paywave and shit.

I could be a morning person in Iceland. It’s about 6:45 AM in Reyjkjavik, and it’s still black as night. We left at eight in the morning with no sunrise to be seen. I didn’t do a lot of reading up on Iceland, because it’s just a transit stop on the way to jolly old London, so that is going to have to be remedied.