Raw denim

I don't want to do posts that recount my days point by point, listing my accomplishments unless I'm doing it in some sort of splediforously absurd, creative or well-written manner. It feels too much like shouting into the void, and hoping someone shouts back saying, What you're doing matters.

Scratch that, it doesn't just feel like that, it is that (until the blog is read by a bunch of strangers. Right? Logic is a strange beast).

Dilemma: But even if it's pointless, I still want to shout.

I already started this post trying to validate it's existence by framing it as a war story, or at least a lesson in strategy, wherein I battled the dastardly forces arrayed against me. General Glumness and his army of sad faces had allied with Viscount Blaah and his hussars who were poking me with various sharp sticks. It was as good as it sounds, and yet right now you're reading something else. Odd.

We'll try this. I'll cut the pretense and just provide a list of what I did with a bit of exposition, writing more where the mood strikes.

Experiment COMMENCE!

Went to the Whodunit? Mystery art sale: a whole bunch of equally sized graphic art in various media gets put up around a room, with no names visible and people buy what they want at $75 a pop!

I bought number 57.
And number 705.
Obviously for very different reasons. Still need to get them framed and on a wall.

Afterwards, instead of the planned full on vintage shopping I just went to the Sally Anne, bought the first atlases in a while (nothing special) and a blazer, before biking to the first Border Patrol reading series event: one Canadian and one American author read their written words. It was nice. Pasha Malla's story, Dancing with my father (if memory serves), was great. Touching and evocative. Adam Levin (doesn't have a website) read excerpts from his novel, The Instructions. It was only okay. It seemed amusing, but wasn't doing it for me.

More excitingly I met Lida, an Iranian translator (literary and court). We had a nice chat and subsequently she sent me one of her translations for perusal. I like editing, probably for a similar reason Lida said she enjoys translating; it removes the looming violence of a blank page.

So that was Saturday. Welded to the couch that night. Sour about something most likely.

The next day I kept pushing the fake it 'til you make it strategy against the General and the Viscount. This time I made it to the vintage shops, and after a far longer time than expected, I successfully bought a shirt and tie at Badlands Vintage and a cardigan (I've been hunting one for a while) at the mysterious Penny Arcade.
Nice, huh? Talk about an outfit! I suppose I could put a body in the clothes for a picture, but it seems too much lake vanity and work. Pile is the new fashion.

And that sweater only cost me $4 000!
How the poor clerk rang in the 3 and 9 I don't know, but Visa was unimpressed. They were equally unimpressed with the actual $44 price we tried to ring in afterwards. So they called me. End result, after some button pushing and a brief chat I got the sweater for $20 because the lady felt bad about the whole incident. I found it amusing more than a bother but who am I to turn down a spur of the moment 1/2 off sale?

And then I even made it to meditation with Daydream. I recommend it whole heartedly. Silent meditation, some chanting and singing of ohms, and a brief walking meditation session all left me feeling fantastic. Followed by dumplings and two hours of writing? Well yikes! I also think meditation was responsible for leaving me lying awake in bed until 3, however. Just too pleased with the world.

And that's a weekend. There was also a book sale I went to on Monday at Knox College. I bought the biggest/heaviest atlas I've ever purchased there, and observed the vagaries of the book trade. To be a book dealer I need to be a man (check), have a few cardboard boxes (check), and be able to mumble Those are taken at people leering in my boxes as I rummage through more piles of books (seems doable).

But this post needs some thoughtful content, and...wait, what's the title? What could that possibly mean?

Well I'll tell you...creatively.

The store is new. Searching for its address online turns up a computer shop. The shelves at the front, the only ones I notice, are rough wood and layered with jeans. Grey, black and dark blue denim. A Japanese brand, something I've never heard of, is too expensive. Underneath it are jeans unmarked, only a blank leather patch on the waist. They are more my price range, but I'm not buying today regardless.

I select assorted of cuts and colours and move toward the change room, a heavy curtain that is untied and pulled around the circumference of its rope when needed. Removing my shoes and pants the gaps in the curtain become more apparent although being seen isn't a concern. Regret is. Fresh socks and underwear still lie, dismissed, on the floor at home, victims of their own preciousness. Wearing fresh seemed wrong that morning when I was only going out for a walk.

These jeans are heavy. The denim is thick and stiff, not hanging on my legs so much as undulating over them in a series of dunes. It scratches coming up and has little give beyond what the seams are set at. Unmarked jeans do not have one percent spandex.

The helpful woman outside the curtain peppers me with questions about the fit, how I'm doing and whether I need any sizes they might have in the back. She never says it, but I feel she wants me to open the curtain, so I do. They fit well apparently, told so quickly I assume she's selling. They fit exactly like a snug 32, with no room for error.

Those look great, she says. I think that's the size.
What about the hems? I ask. They are bunched around my ankles. Can I take them to a tailor?
She suggests putting on shoes. It will look better with shoes on, she assures me.

I ask for a 33 and return to my den to compare cuts, fits and sizes. I like mirrors. I turn and look over my shoulder repeatedly. Mostly right shoulder. Pulling on and taking off is no small task given the immalleability and fit. A moment of distress for my thighs as I pull the waist across them seems a small price for fashion. It will only happen twice a day, I tell my thighs. If that.

Outside a conversation has begun. A couple - possibly early thirties, but they carry themselves with mid to late wealth and dilemmas - come in to say hi to a man who'd been standing outside his curtain. The men are friends, but haven't seen each other in a while. The couple has been married since the last hello, a small ceremony followed by a bigger party. The solo man is also married.

The discussion is:

Solo talks about teaching, but does not have a job right now. He is qualified for high school history, and holds a Master's degree that lets him teach the same in college.

Couple man is excited to be working from home again soon. The commute to a east end studio has become a drag. He thinks he might be just as far ahead to live outside the city, in a small town or nearby city, and commute in. The prices for large Victorians in Hamilton relative to Toronto is mind-boggling.

Solo agrees. He's from Toronto, but has no connection to the city. He lived in Montreal for 10 years. He and wife have discussed smaller possibilities as well.

Their excitement for small town life amuses me. Not that they are misguided or wrong in their desires, but they simply don't know.

The discussion is abstract: laced with romance, tightly knit communities and a small, local bakery known for its delicious muffins on Tuesday.

The discussion is real: underlaid by marriage, careers, money and the ability to carry a mortgage.

The problems all 4 of us share are the same, just at different points along an axis. But one has to assume they're wearing fresh socks. Also wearing: thick-rimmed glasses, dark blue denim, checked shirts and a cool cap that covers a bald pate.

How are those? I have the curtain open to show her again.
Okay. A lot more room in the waist. I lift my shirt and pull the pants out to show her the room and my underwear band.
Are you a person who puts their jeans in the dryer? she asks.
Yes, I say.
Maybe you do need a 33 waist, she says, continuing the fold the shirt in her hands. Whatever I have on is the right pair.

I quickly change back to myself. I'm not mentally equipped to buy today, I assure her. But how much will they shrink? So I have a better idea when I come back.

It's now she informs me about some subtleties of raw denim; its sturdiness, need to be worn for three months before an initial wash to break it in, and the risk of shrinkage. She emphasizes the 100% cotton part of raw denim.

Doesn't washing break the denim in faster? She doesn't answer because it's a week later and I'm writing a blog post.
When you wear it in the denim adapts to your body, how it's shaped, it's temperature fluctuations. How you move and live in your skin, she says.
I nod.

If she's disappointed to not make a sale she doesn't show it. Still folding shirts, she is helpful but distracted to the end. I'm leaving. It doesn't matter.

I bought the cardigan on my way home, from Penny Arcade on Dundas, and meditated afterwards. Walking there I went through the new Dufferin underpass again. It's lights are bright.

Have I mentioned I like infrastructure?


concert review (question mark)

Despite the herds we run in that provide the sensation of small town Toronto - where you bump into someone ‘new’ but quickly discover they know someone who knows someone who ate someone’s lasagna while making out with your Uncle Bert - there are a lot of distinct communities in this city that have little or nothing to do with one another. Look at the recent municipal election map showing voter preferences. Talk to me about the number of poppies one sees riding the Jane bus around Remembrance day. Or heck, for me walking into the Eaton’s Centre after a long absence can feel as discombobulating as exiting a 10 hour flight. All I’m saying is that the city has lots of communities - religious, ethnic, economic, whatever - and although I obviously fit better into some than others I rarely feel completely settled. Undoubtedly this has something to do with my and everyone’s attempt at personal distinction, but I also suspect I am a weirdo.

But this post isn’t about that. This is my attempt at a concert review! Have you figured out that I’m not a music journalist yet?

I went to a show at the roundhouse beside the CN Tower last week. Maybe I should call it The Roundhouse because it’s a VENUE, but there’s only one down there so whatever. My intent was simply to take advantage of some face-dancing-off time, and although I planned to go alone a last second cancellation saw Fashion Friend make it a posse of two.

Now is probably a good time to re-emphasize that I don’t know how to write a concert review. I know I mentioned it a couple lines above, but still...

I’ll set the scene by saying the night was advertised as UNSIGNED artists doing their thing.

I’ll also set the scene by saying that I wear suspenders now. Not all the time, just every day since I bought them last Thursday. In I stroll, sweater comes off, sense of fashion is revealed, straight to the front to listen to the first band, DVAS. You can read about these guys on your own time but what I saw was one man on keys and one on drums.

The keyboard player/singer was of indeterminate age. He could have been a well preserved 35 year old, or just as easily a decade or more younger.I think his bone structure was throwing me; cheek bones that somehow seemed too sharp to belong to a younger man. Does that make sense? Does one find a keener edge on an aged cheek?

Here is a video I think is nice wherein none of the comments about his age bending appearance are substantiated.

I assume they played this song. Wasn’t paying attention. Just dancing. I was dancing reasonably aggressively so my “review” of this part of the concert is, the music must have been good!

I should clarify what I meant above by my sense of fashion. It’s one thing to rock up to a show in jeans, a tight green t-shirt and suspenders, but it’s slightly different to dress like that, push your way to the front of a staid crowd and dance in the manner I call dancing.

The crowd at this early stage of the evening was still filling in, sparse, towards the back, and in general swaying more than dancing. There were a few older people who I pegged as parents, but I wasn’t paying much attention to those around me yet. During this set Fashion Friend joined me and immediately after it is when I started text/emailing myself little notes and astute observations that inspired this post. Clever? Maybe.

In general terms the audience coalescing around me was “young professional.” I think this was the point of the prologue. I’m not a young professional. I don’t know what I am. Hipster? Bohemian artist? War monger? Why must I label everything I see, and yet am sadly left without a proper noun for myself? For the most part the crowd looked younger than me, had made a decision post university to get real jobs and buy condos downtown. Not real jobs that pay a gazillion bucks mind you. This was an inexpensive Friday night concert at a cool venue, featuring underground indie bands. Or that’s what the poster was trying to imply I think...I’m never sure how trustworthy posters are, or how each individual chooses to read them.

Reviewing things is tough, eh? I want to express opinions but don’t want to come off like the holier-than-thou snarky asshole I fear I must be. All these comments are aesthetic and personal though, and based on thoughts I had. Thinking about them that way means I get to say whatever I want because I'm just expressing opinions. Everything I say can also be dismissed of course. Good. As long as it starts a conversation wherein people call out my most egregious bullshits, start a debate and I become a wiser person. Hmmm? I’d best stop thinking lest I figure out the internet is full of windbags. Back the the concert!

So. There are young people there. They want to find something to do that makes them feel hip, happening and part of popular culture. Hey! This isn’t my crowd but they sound awfully familiar.

Scenes seen. Frozen in the concert’s lights.

Drunk dirty dancing. A boy and girl, (man and woman? When does that shift occur?) grinding and loving life. He is particularly happy, his face a lop-sided grin. So happy. Best night of my life the droopy smile whispers in her ear. Too bad I’m too drunk to enjoy it later.

The prettiest girl dances past, but her arms are dead. Limp eels hanging at her sides, flopping while the rest of her dances.

For sure that one is on M...maybe not. But the green LED, shooting up the pole, creating a pillar of light on wood. The light. The LIGHT. THE LIGHT! She is dancing with it, an intimate, inanimate stranger that gives her all the love she needs.

The second band, Young Empires, brought their own fans. I noticed them because they were taller lads, square of jaw and solid of back. Jocks I believe they’re called. They pushed to the front with their beautiful lasses and left me aghast, without much space in which to dance. It turns out, however, that if you dance in a spazmodic and aggressive fashion, where it looks like any one of your moves might result in a gouged eye or shattered nose, people move away, and I had more room to maneuver by the third song.

The band was okay. Once again my assessment of music scale based on dancing saw me dancing. Therefore, dancing. But this band needed drums. There were no drums. There was a drumline coming from the keyboard, but...I don’t know what it was exactly, just that having fleshy bits attached to sticks hitting drums makes a difference. Maybe there’s a very subtle off-beat rhythm that happens when a person is involved, no matter how good they are, that I was craving.

Members of Young Empires also LOOK like they are members of a band. When the guitarist strode on stage - and that’s the only word that can describe the movement of a man in black boots, tight black jeans, black tee and hair gelled up to frosted tips before a crowd - I noticed. I thought he was an amusing roadie. He was not. He was a rock star. The lead singer was also a lead singer, a wee bit too self aware. And the bassist, he was a bassist, ie in the background, just happy to be there.

The crowd had definitely filled out by the time YE took the stage. I didn't see how those behind me were grooving, but the jockish types in front were having a great time, judging by the fist pumping. It startled me to see this maneuver exist outside the television set, but the aggressiveness with which it was carried out and the apparent lack of movement anywhere on the other side of the shoulder joint left me entranced.

I then moved my feet extra fast, just to make a point.

No one noticed.

Then the last break and while standing around waiting for Rich Aucoin to take the stage I observed something interesting. Men were suddenly shorter and chins became softer. Is that how you know when a crowd’s indie? The change from rock hard jock fist pumping to the softer pudge that began crowding round was striking.

Before Rich - we’re friends online so I think it’s okay to use his first name - took the stage they needed to get some corporate stuff out of the way. I was worried about buzzkill, but they kept their thanks to whomever mercifully short and by the end I was very caught up in a fantasy wherein the corporate shill (but that’s a strong word, she seemed like a nice lady) was actually a world class beat-boxer and her speech was simply to lull us into a trance before she unleashed a violent tirade of dance into our very souls.

That didn’t happen, but Rich showed up and he did it instead.

What to say about Mr. Aucoin? Audience participation. Lots of visuals. Words on screens we are instructed to read (always a few read through practices before a song). Instructions on appropriate dance moves, often JUMP! JUMP! JUMP!

This video features one of Rich’s songs. It’s also a trailer for a movie featuring some pretty amusing people.

My personal highlight of the set came after a parachute was unfurled and he instructed people to join him and his strobe-light underneath. People must have missed the instruction because no one moved. Fools, I thought! And dove past the 3 people in front of me as he made the request a second time. Everyone else piled in then and the happiest, friendly and aggressive mosh pit took place underneath a brightly striped parachute that reminds everyone of elementary school gym class.

That’s the party Rich Aucoin provides. Good.

And then I wandered around the outdoor parts of the train museum for a while, jumped a couple of benches (learned some ninja kicks and spins) before calling it a night.


Now to wait for Rolling Stone to call with the job offer.


Things to do with your old ballrooms!

Check this out!
Build a house out of an old ballroom and you get this for a living room. Well done. The Guardian does a casual real estate section that I peruse from time to time and that's where this came from. Nice to know what my options are when the wealth arrives.

There's also a boat!


Holy jumpin'!

Just when the internet is getting you down it shoves something in your face.

Deconcrete, a blog far better designed and probably just plain better than mine, decided to show me this.

Talk about disassembling the urban!!!
I'm not going to repeat what they say so succinctly. Just suggest you have a look at the pictures, and the article they link to. It's in French, but it's time you learned.



Blog posts: easy. They flow off the keys to be released unto the internet, without a care in the world. What's the internet, but a place of noise, regardless of quality.

Also, I've assured myself this blog is an exercise in writing. More a matter of getting something done than doing it to perfection. Of course I edit and try to ensure some clarity but I don't hoard. Instead, writing gets released to the world and I get over my sense that it's too precious to be shown. Hold everything close, bide your time, and eventually sell it all for millions. I think that's how the logic went. (Past tense used in the most hopeful manner.)

Possible reasons for the dearth of posts of late:
-Shouting into the void was starting to wear.
-I simply wanted to escape my digital shackles. As a rule I'm in front of computers far more than I want to be.
-There's also the possibility that any benefit the blog as a writing exercise gave was being usurped by the less healthy blog as place to attempt expression of my personal value, self-worth and existence in the world. In short: self-worth defined via blogged experience and thoughts, where doing it counts for nothing until it has been shared.
(Note: I'm not commenting on blogging generally, just personal tendencies)

Forest for the trees kids! I never considered it consciously but maybe taking a step back from relating individual instances of being might allow the whole self to be revealed. Or something.

(Note: and after writing this post and re-reading it and editing it, maybe the effort I put into these doesn't match the reward, which I'm sure is directly tied in to what I consider the value of a blog post. Maybe because I dismiss my blog posts of holding any "real" value even before starting to write means the results will inevitably be dashed off and of lower quality? Heh, I'm going to stop thinking about the value of blog posts right now.)

Short stories: of late they're alright provided I sit down to do them. The ideas come and I write, but this is a recent phenomenon and it's pretty exhilarating. Instead of having to contemplate where everything is going before I start, I've started to just write. If the story takes a page, great. If it starts to grow, also great. Now that I have mostly removed the expectation of immensity these are more relaxing and fun. I can play around with words, narrative and narrator and lose nothing if it's a disaster.

I'm not churning them out every day, but I'm not a professional writer so whatever.

Poetry: I don't do this much and it's not a huge concern at the moment. I guess the odd tweet could still be considered poetic but I've certainly not made a concerted effort. There are a few I did write during the week of poems that I quite like. I've even had some feedback. What I haven't done is take that feedback and look at it alongside the poems in an attempt to improve and solidify my poetic chops. Eventually? Hope so, because poems are fun.

Non-fiction/essays: Eeeeeeeeee. As a recovering grad student there should be something more here. I guess this is what I was doing with some of my blog posts. Once or twice, not recently, I have tried to start a paper based on my thesis research. There has been no success on this front. Part of my dilemma is that I like to be right. If you put out an opinion, people might tell you that you're wrong. If you don't put out an opinion, there's no way to be wrong. Right?

I also like to take everything into account...read: EVERYTHING. If I start a position piece I often find myself wandering hither and yon, laying out opinions on too much. I also start to consider possible counter-arguments. Sometimes they make me doubt the entire premise I'm working from and other times I'm left with so many dragons to beat to death that any concision in what I was writing is lost. I guess my main problem with this type of writing is when I do do it I'm too scatty and unfocused, but that's indicative of my brain as a whole.

Personal essays from life are something I haven't done much of (certain blog posts, maybe?). Although I did write a piece while in France about a lady on plane. I talked to her in the most casual fashion and mulled over all sorts of tactics to further engage said lady in conversation. I didn't and in frustration wrote up the incident, with humourous asides and commentary, instead. That piece has subsequently been fictionalized and incorporated in the latest attempted novel.

Real life essays are something I'd like to try more of. The narrative and character(s) are already in place, so I'd get to invest all my energy into crafting words. That can only be good.

Scripts: I'm working on a short film. Not much to say about this. Periodically I find a story I think would be suited for such treatment but I haven't tried it enough to know where I'm at from a skillZ perspective.

Novels: SO BIG. I started writing this post because I had yesterday off. It was a good day. Arose at a reasonable hour, made breakfast and ate it while making soup (gingery butternut squash from Simply in Season for those interested). After lunch I proceeded to set up shop in U of T's Robarts Library to write the afternoon away. NOTHING HAPPENED. I wrote a little, but more importantly I sat a lot. I stared. I mulled. And slowly, over the course of the afternoon my mood became foul. There was also a nerd crush on a map librarian, but that was so clearly going to happen it barely warrants mention.

The day was still a good one. I'm always interested when I note a change in myself when it happens (mood, behaviour, etc.) because so often the changes pass me by. If I notice though, next time a similar situation yields similar results I'll know to avoid or enhance as required.

The personal personality puzzle, solvable one piece at a time.

And after the library some walking and talking with Daydream in the glorious night air cleansed my head and left me pleased again. Also, I rediscovered jumping over park benches. Hurdling is fine, but a two-footed leap, that is how we SOAR!!! The best is when the launch spot is slightly higher than the bench and the landing pad. When I do this at work over the rail fence while wearing my Inverness I feel like Batman.

But this is about writing, right? Novels!

Because a novel is substantial and has a long way to go, the characters' actions now will have repercussions down the line, everything I write feels weighted with meaning. Decisions on direction and scene crush my being and what ends up on page suffers as a result. I get too tired and frustrated before I get to the actual scene, then write something that skims and skips over what I'm trying to say as a result. The world I create is shallow and blah, not immersive and YAH!

I want to be able to write novels with the freedom I have when sending an email. Stream of consciousness wonder that is practically barfed from my fingertips. It's important to have goals, and mine happen to include fingers that puke.

But, at the same time, one must remain positive lest the darkness swallow you whole. A novel is a big thing and I'm learning to write the form while learning to write the write. Or learning to write as a writer more advanced than I might say. Slowly, creepily, things will get done and then I get to type it all up and commence the editing process. And that ladies and gentlemen is gravy, because even if you need to rewrite a whole scene, it's a whole scene in context of everything else, rather than the current case of scenes in a swirling void that contains only hints and intuitions of the universe I'm trying to create.

I've started novels before, but never finished. If I look back I probably stopped writing them around this stage of the process. The opening is there, the characters are fleshy, but the real guts of what needs to happen hasn't been dealt with yet. I'm at this wall again but pushing forward instead of wandering off.

I've been thinking of my thesis writing experience recently and how it compares to the novel process. That was a big thing. There were lots of ideas that I needed to pull together to lend coherence to a whole, and I got there. Eventually. When the writing was done I remember days of editing from printed sheets, rewriting sentences and whole paragraphs, rearranging the puzzle pieces until it all fit and made sense. To a degree of course.

A MASTER'S DEGREE. See what I did there? Without editing the world would have been worse for lacking that joke.

Writing, huzzah!

I could have written all this in a book and never revealed it, but if I did that chances are it never would have been finished.

Full circle: blog.