I guess I should get one thing straight immediately; I haven’t quit drinking. Not even close. My habitual booze habits have done nothing if not steadily increase as the years of my adult life have been knocked back, one jigger at a time.

But I’ve recently seen a lot of articles and blogs being shared around that have gotten me thinking. Stories from people who have given up their hard drinking ways, and the inspiring recounts of how much their lives have changed for the better. And so I sit here, glassy-eyed and unable to distinguish whether I need to throw up or sneeze twelve times in a row but confident I’ll pee unchecked if I do either, and I wonder, why not me?

And that’s led me to this point. A year from now I could be telling the world my interminable story of sobriety that no one really wants to hear but everyone has to pretend to show support for. A little glimpse into my teetotaling future that will lend me support when I’m tempted and will, most importantly, get me guilt-driven Facebook likes. If you’ll indulge me here, like I indulged the other night in half a bottle of vermouth with orange peel twists because I ran out of gin, imagine for a moment it’s one year in the future.

A year without drinking a drop of alcohol. Wow. That’s a long time sober. Who would’ve thought I could have made it this far? Certainly I had my doubts. Probably more than anyone. But here I stand, a breathing testament to willpower and committment. A heavily laboured breathing testament, to be sure, but that’s only because of the gross amount of weight I’ve put on in the last year from swapping my compulsion to drink and socialize with one to eat my feelings away while shut from the outside world in a curtained apartment. The feelings I had previously banished through a level of liquor consumption which could bring shame to a family name.

So, let’s take a look at some of the ways my life has improved since I decided to quit the bottle. First of all, the obvious one: no more hangovers. I used to view hangovers as this inevitable part of life, the flip side of the coin that I would have to deal with to keep living the wild party lifestyle I thought I needed. Headaches and nausea in the mornings are a thing of the past, though, and now my hours upon waking are filled with good old fashioned crippling anxiety, depression, and a healthy terror of interacting with anyone outside my bedroom door.

Speaking of interacting with people, the change in my relationships in the last year has been marked. At work I’ve noticed a shift in my co-workers’ behaviour toward a much more cool and detached attitude, which I attribute to my newfound focus on professionalism. Though I’m starting to think my visible shaking and inability to make eye contact or hold a conversation without fighting back tears might have a little bit to do with it. One big plus is the recent friendship that’s struck up between me and my HR representative at our weekly mandatory case meetings, which began only a few short weeks after I stopped drinking.

Family engagements have changed drastically, too. Without the hazy cloud of alcohol, I’m able to really connect with my relatives in a way I’ve never been able to before. Never have the innumerable nuances that my uncle Marty so painstakingly details about his job at the car rental outlet been so vivid to me. The holidays are no longer just an excuse to get tipsy in celebration, but a time to reflect on what’s important and find new ways of winning internal struggles with thoughts of suicide.

And let’s not ignore the impact that this has all had on my romantic life. Dating used to be a heady blur of glasses of wine gulped back to calm fluttering nerves, flushed faces and dreamy eyes longing from across a table in candlelight exchanging naughty secrets. Now it’s much more straightforward and efficient. Dates are a lot quicker. Usually within the first ten minutes I’ve abruptly blurted out any and every embarrassing secret or story that pops into my head, and then I can’t think of anything to say for the rest of the evening except to constantly have my date reassure me that she’s having a good time. Often these dates end with her excusing herself to use the restroom and then leaving having paid the bill for both of us because she’s either afraid of or for me. It’s for the best, though, because without the calming warmth of a few glasses of scotch or cognac I would probably be too nervous to get an erection anyway.

One year. It’s amazing how much can change in such a short period of time. Maybe this has even inspired some people out there to start their own journey. I hope you can look to my story for strength, like I’ll look to it myself, whenever you feel like the urge is too strong. Yes, it’s truly incredible what the human spirit can accomplish when we set out to do something, and the first step begins now.

Well, like, soon probably. I mean, I’m going to have another few drinks today, but we’ll see tomorrow. Oh, wait, I’ve got that thing tomorrow night. Well, sometime next week for sure. Or by the end of the month. Though, there’s a lot going on this summer. Maybe if I just try to cut down on the amount I drink. That’ll probably work, right? Like, I don’t need to quit entirely, the point is I could quit whenever.

 

Photo by Travis S. via Flickr

Our entire lives we’re taught a lot of things about what’s healthy and what’s not. It comes flying at us from all directions, and it’s hard to keep track of it all. From the internet and television, gossip and conjecture, doctors and pharmacists even. But how often do you hear some fact about some thing being good for you, only to find out a year later that now people are saying it’s bad for you? All the time. Or at least you would if you hadn’t lost your hearing back in 2009 during that ear-augering trend everyone was going on about.

There’s all these questions that seem to constantly flop back and forth. Am I supposed to eat lots of eggs or no eggs? Should I be worried about this skin cancer or just power through it to get that perfectly bronzed tone? How many glasses of wine should I give my children per day? We may never get a straight answer out of the so-called “experts” about a lot of these questions. But here are three long-standing beliefs that I happen to know* are full of as much crap as the big adult diaper-mulching craze of summer 2011.

Marijuana smoke is less harmful than cigarette smoke

This is a doozy. Weed activists love to tout this one out at every turn, but the simple fact is it’s untrue. Just look at the evidence; you look way cooler smoking a cigarette than you do smoking pot in any form. The act of lighting a cigarette alone is one of the coolest looking things a person can do. Compare that to the chimp-like awkwardness of someone trying to smoke from a water-based “bong” device, and suddenly that cigarette is infused with an even more urbane elegance.

Just look at the historical figures we associate with smoking marijuana. People like Bob Marley and John Lennon; unbathed musicians who beat their wives. Do they have the same class and sex appeal as the likes of Audrey Hepburn or that one guy from The X-Files?

Cholesterol is bad for you

If you eat a lot of fatty foods, cholesterol can build up in grimy deposits in your arteries, and for that reason has been vilified not only by the healthing community but by society at large. But, really, are huge lumps of grease in your arteries such a bad thing? The answer is no. And here’s why. As cholesterol buildup erects monuments to indulgence at various points in your blood stream, it is at precisely these points that a bottleneck is created and the blood flow is forced to push through at a much faster rate. The result is that the pressure of the flowing blood, or “blood pressure” as I’ve named it, is significantly increased.

Now, how can this increase in “blood pressure” benefit us, you ask? Simple. Look no further than one of nature’s simplest and most widespread creations, the garden hose. Even with the water cranked all the way to the max, the slow, lazy arc of the hose’s discharge will take a long time to wear down and wash off that hardened-on muck from the side of your filthy automobile. But, were you to slide the edge of your thumb over the nozzle, say a third or half of the way, the water would be forced out at a much faster velocity, tearing up that gunk in a matter of moments and leaving the rest of your day free to do whatever it is you like to do with a free afternoon and a length of hose.

So, naturally, the same is true with your arteries and blood. The more of these cholesterol points there are along the arterial highway from your heart to your various extremities, the faster the abundance of functions your body needs to perform will be done. And all the more efficiently. So keep piling in those processed meats and cheeses, and just remember that chest pains and shortness of breath are signs that your body is operating at its fullest capacity.

Condoms are an important part of a safe and healthy sex life

Sex doesn’t feel as good with a condom.

*Johnny Scott holds no licences or credentials in medicine or nutrition. He does, however, own a comprehensive book on cat anatomy, and is pretty sure that’s enough that he can just go from there.

Photo by kokopinto via Flickr

 

There are two kinds of guys: guys who watch pornography and guys who say they don’t watch pornography. Or, more accurately put; guys who watch pornography, and guys who watch a lot of pornography. It’s nothing to be ashamed about, it’s perfectly natural. Or, at least as natural as getting off from watching multiple women fart on one chocolate cake at the same time can be.

But it’s important to realize that everybody’s porn habits are different, and there should be no judgement when it comes to someone else’s preferences. In fact, a quick scroll through a man’s sordid browser history can tell you a lot more about him than you might realize. Here’s a short guide to what your porno penchant says about you.

If you pretty much stick to the straight ahead, heterosexual, no-fetish-attached, boy parts in girl parts brand of porn, you’re a pretty common personality type. You’re the person who eats their toast with only low fat margarine, and sticks to one or lower on the spiciness scale when you go out for Thai.

Your girlfriend has cheated on you at least twice, and your friends only hang out with you because you have a car. But grudgingly, because it’s a Ford Focus. You work in a bank or an insurance agency, and you named your dog a person name, like Dennis or Sheila. You get indignant when the wait for a table at the Olive Garden is too long, and then go next door to wait just as long at Red Lobster.

Maybe your tastes are a little bolder than that. You know, you’re not a freak or anything, but you like to get a bit wild. Perhaps you enjoy some action with toys, or light fetishism like mild S&M or foot play. Well, if that’s the case, then congratulations, you’re a total scumbag. Yes, it’s true. You may not realize it, but you’re occupying the sleazy, sticky limbo between guys who watch vanilla porn to match their vanilla lifestyle, and guys who watch bizarre extreme porn in a direct reaction to their vanilla lifestyle.

You’ve bought an El Camino through Kijiji. You consider tequila a sipping drink. You own multiple cats, and they’re all named after well-known literary heroines, though the only book you’ve ever read all the way through is Catcher In the Rye. Eight times. You trim your moustache to specific measurements. You vehemently defend your tattoo sleeves when no one’s said anything about them. Your vinyl collection is organized according to mood. You claim to have a deep appreciation for the films of Stanley Kubrick, but have only ever seen the ones with nudity in them. You play bass guitar.

If you’re mainly into gay porn, you’re most likely a gay dude, and you’re not ashamed of who you are. Or maybe you’ve watched a little because you’re writing an article about pornography, and you needed to do a bit of research. It doesn’t mean anything. So what? So you’ve done it a few times? Well, you’re just being thorough, right? You don’t have to explain yourself to anyone, it’s nobody’s business anyway.

Look, just because your ex-roommate walked in on you five years ago and thought he caught you watching something, doesn’t mean he should’ve went around telling everybody. Besides, you totally just accidentally clicked on the wrong link. That’s what you keep telling everyone.

If anime porn or cosplay is your thing, you need to get a better grip on things than you think you have. You live in a relative’s basement and work part time at a grocery store, but only until you get your dream job at the comic shop. You wear cargo shorts more than three hundred days of the year, and you’ve been hosting a self-produced, twice-per-week podcast since 2011 that’s up to 19 subscribers now.

What you’re most proud of in life are your internet rants, and you’ve alienated every woman you’ve ever gotten slightly close with by projecting onto her an unrealistic ideal that you’ve composited from the love interest in every superhero movie you’ve got entirely committed to memory. You non-ironically use the term “friend zone.”

Now, if you’re all about the big butt porn, then I’ve only got one thing to say about that; stay the course, friend, you know what’s up! High five!

Speaking of which… uh, gotta go.

 

Photo by Rilind Hoxha via Flickr

The zombie apocalypse is upon us. People said it wouldn’t happen. Sane, rational, reasonable people. But they were wrong. It just didn’t come in the way we were told it would come in the movies. It came, not in the form of ragged reanimated corpses shuffling up and down the city streets crying out for brains, but in the inane dinner party discussion, in the impassioned jabbering of the late-night cocktail hour, in the insipid silence-filler of the office break room at lunchtime. Yes, the zombie apocalypse is here, and it’s far more horrifying than anything George Romero could have ever imagined.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when the zombie invasion went from threat to full-on takeover, but we’re in the thick of it now. Where once zombies roamed only in the niche realm of gruesome horror shlock and the warped minds that brought it to the screen, now they’ve chewed through the fleshy bounds of genre film and burst into the mainstream with a bloody spray. With the course we’re on, we’re about eight months away from the first zombie Disney sidekick, and word has it that the cast of How I Met Your Dad will consist mainly of undead characters.

It’s a wasteland out there. Where simply having zombies in something lets it pass as entertainment. Did the love story in the last romantic comedy you saw fail to capture that certain spark you’re looking for? Try this one instead, one of the characters is a zombie. Now the lack of that spark can be chalked up to irony. Did you try to get through a Jane Austen novel, but found it too dry and uneventful? Well lucky for you and your pea-brain, someone “wrote” a rehash of it with a bunch of zombie stuff tossed in, and for only 21 of your dollars this glorified sheaf of toilet paper can fill the void left in you from trying to understand subtle meaningful prose.

The plague is spreading. Rapidly. Just walking down the street earlier this week I encountered several clusters of people—or what may have at some point been people—talking vacantly about how great the latest episode of The Walking Dead was. It’s getting frightening out there. No one who hasn’t been reduced to a barely functional husk with only enough brain power for the most basic motor skills would see an episode of that show and react that way.

It’s getting to the point that I’ve had to start defending myself. At a party this weekend I was cornered by two such creatures. One kept grunting about how much of a badass Carl has become. “You should see him in the graphic novels,” the other kept shouting. I had to break the leg off of a nearby coffee table and cave in both of their skulls to get away. I was chased for blocks by other ghoulish party-goers who wouldn’t stop moaning about how “the show really hits its stride midway through season three, though!” After taking out several more of them they became too overwhelming and I had to hide until dawn in a stairwell.

I made it home, and now I’m holed up here, the doors and windows boarded up, anything that could be used as a weapon within arms’ reach. It’s only a matter of time, though. Before too long I’ll run out of food and have to venture out again. But even more pressing is that the threat looms over me within these very walls. Each time I turn on the television or sit at my computer, looking for brief diversion from the horrors around me, I’m assaulted by more TV shows, movie trailers, articles discussing TV shows and movie trailers, and TV shows discussing other TV shows. And I’m beginning to fear it’s already happening. That I, too, through sheer amount of exposure, am becoming one of them.

Maybe it won’t be so bad. Maybe it’ll be a relief, not to have to fight so hard anymore, to just accept it. To shut down my higher thought processes, and live out the rest of my life and beyond as a mindless drooling zombie fan. It could be worse, I suppose. I could’ve been gotten by the vampire fans.

 

Photo by Victor Savio via Flickr

The priest is going on about water. At length. Namely, he’s going on about the presence and abundance, vs. absence and shortage, of it in our lives, in our regions, where we’re from and live, where our souls linger. He’s pretty boring with the words.

You can tell by the variety this congregation attracts that there ain’t any overwhelming pressure for this priest to deliver. Downtown New Orleans, Sunday, 11 a.m. He’s softly going on about water to folks from Des Moines, Birmingham, Chippewa, Cleveland. A mother and a son from Montréal. A family of six khaki-short wearers in front of us. A bunch of Asian folks from down the road across from us.

He, they and we are placeholder for all of our routine Christian brethren. We’ve come to be together and remind ourselves how lucky we are. How much water we have in our lives—how much more we can get. How God is to thank for it. My mother and I are just tourists waiting for lunch. The little, thickly bespectacled priest is going on about drought in California. We listen politely.

But then he starts in about a different kind of water. That deep kind of thirst only God can deliver on. That God nectar for our souls. “Only God can quench that thirst,” he says, and folks seem to believe him.

He has us rise, and he has us sit. He has us rise again. A couple of things are constant, though: the remnants of a speech impediment, and the word “quench.” And whether he’s talking about Arkansas spring water, fire in Colorado, or that all important soul water (though he absolutely does not use any term even remotely as evocative as “soul water”), God’s got the stuff, and has and will provide, as long as we let him and are thankful.

Like, the priest goes on, when all those Jews newly freed of bondage were complaining to Moses about how wretchedly un-quenching the desert is, bemoaning how they’d likely croak of thirst because of the damn freedom they’d newly acquired at his behest. How God talked some nice talk about water that came true, water gushing from rock struck, saving Moses’ flock. And how we, too, listening to this boring, old, swagger-free sermon, should also be reminded of the oldest bit of jive in the book: have faith and God will provide.

Amidst all this—with all the “let us pray” moments, and believer hands firmly forward in abandon, and individual thirsts right ready for the communal quenching, the sermon meandering dangerously close to Gatorade-commercial territory—I start assuming it’s like this every Sunday. Folks in from partying on Bourbon Street, working up to brunch, praying meekly in the one proper shirt they packed. Another Sunday in a big, easy port city. Immaculate Christ as usual.

When collection rolls around its wicker baskets—outstretched by local parishioners holding them out on broomsticks—I tell my mother 2000 years of empire is enough. When the priest has us kneel, I tell her we will not. There’s something admirable about all these folks apart yet here, together, liturgically bound in some form of equality. A classically, ruling-class trained, lovely mezzo-soprano entrances all into one quenched body. But she and I won’t pretend we’re buying in. It’s inevitably heavy stuff, I guess.

But meanwhile, the kids in the flock seem to have the right idea. I’m parsing arguments for fate vs. particularism, confining the great swindle of illusory, sentimental equality, framing the classist irony of liturgical musicianship, of its fine, aristocratic affectations—but the kids have other worries to focus on.

The number of stars in the glasswork, for instance, seems to be on several little guys and gals minds. You can see them gazing up, counting with tiny pointing index fingers, mumbling arithmetic. The number of crosses in the wrought-ironwork decorating the benches, also, attracts the attention of more than a few. And plenty of them are just worried about staying still too long, fidgeting and congregating with, like, the world. All of them chock full of water. These young folks are still on the right track, me thinks.

Finally, a little boy to our left points a sermon program at my mother and blows her away with what I assume is a machine gun. He smirks and breezily moves on to his next victim. The music is still so lovely, gladly, and makes for a nice segue as we subtly avoid communion. We come out onto Baronne Street so hungry. It’s catfish po-boys time, and all is well in the world.

St. Patrick’s Day is one of the biggest bar holidays of the year. It’s a celebration of all things Irish, and everything the Irish have contributed to modern society. And by that I mean it’s been stripped of any real cultural significance it once may have had and is an excuse for hordes of non-Irish people who can’t hold their liquor to go out for one of the three nights of the year that they party, put on an abundance of cheap gaudy green clothing and accessories that an actual Irish person wouldn’t wear for a barrel full of Guinness, and puke up so much green food colouring-drenched Bud Light that any given bar bathroom looks like a crime scene Agent Mulder would soil his suit pants over.

So, in the spirit of the day, here are a few fun St. Paddy’s Day activities that you might enjoy trying. Because, remember, today everyone is a little bit Irish! Except, of course, the Irish, who are a lot Irish, and who are probably downplaying it as much as they can to disassociate themselves from the monstrosity that this holiday has become.

The first activity of the night involves shots. Because we all know the best way to kickstart an extended night of dangerous levels of alcohol consumption is to do shots. Specifically, see how many Jameson shots you can force into your “Rock out with your shamrock out” t-shirt clad stomach and still make it out your front door. This is a good game to start with, because it gauges how prepared you are for the rest of the night. If you can make it off your couch and get past the door frame without concussing yourself, you might be ready for round two.

If you do end up making it out, another fun thing to do is see how many people you can get to kiss you by claiming you’re Irish. This is a competitive game that you can get a few friends involved in, or even just compete with yourself to beat last year’s record. Either way, you’ve got to play to win, so you’ll need to dress the part. Make sure you’re wearing one of those tall green dollar store hats (which also doubles as an emergency puke collector), and four-leaf-clover-shaped sunglasses. I can’t stress enough how important the clover-shaped sunglasses are. No one is going to take you seriously on St. Patrick’s Day if you’re not wearing clover-shaped sunglasses. The bigger the better, too. Oh, and be sure not to forget the old Irish custom of wearing leftover green Mardi Gras beads.

Now, the goal here is to try to get more and more people to kiss you the drunker you get. The rules are pretty simple; walk up to someone, preferably interrupting any conversation they might be having, and shout “kiss me, I’m Irish” at them. Then, when they look at you disgustedly and refuse, try to force them to until you get kicked out of the bar. Then move on to the next bar. You get bonus points for each time you get pepper sprayed. The trick to winning this game is that the more slurred your speech gets and the more vomit crusts the front of your clever green novelty shirt, the harder you have to try to insist yourself upon people. The game ends when all participants are either unconscious in an alley or in police custody for assault.

Another fun game, though this one is for more advanced players, is to shit your pants and try to make it home to pass out in your bathtub. This can be a challenging one. The way it works is that you shit yourself, ideally while you’re trying to make someone kiss you or when you’re getting belligerent with bar security or the police, and you try to remember A) where you are, and B) where you live, then figure out how to get from A to B. Taxis and buses won’t let you in because your leprechaun pants are clearly filled with enough green-stained poop to fill the pot at the end of the world’s most disgusting rainbow, and who knows if you’ll survive the walk, so you have to get creative. Bonus points if you can convince a drunk ex to drive you in their car and make them kiss you but then be unable to perform sexually.

Finally, the most difficult St. Patrick’s Day challenge of all; convincing your friends and significant other to forgive you the next afternoon when you wake up. As far as I know, to this date, no one has successfully won this challenge, so godspeed and get texting.

This should provide you with enough exciting fun to make your St. Patrick’s Day celebration the best you’ve had yet. Be sure to proudly post on social media about how aggressively drunk you are so I can see how well you do on each game, because god knows I won’t be setting foot outside my apartment to interact with you morons until this travesty of a holiday is long over.

 

Photo by afagen via Flickr

We’re all getting older. There’s no escaping it. But it’s not all bad. In fact, there are a lot of advantages to getting on in years that you may not even think of. Like anything, it’s got its pros and cons, but with the right attitude the good can definitely outweigh the bad. Let’s look at a few examples.

Sleep. Boy oh boy, when I was in my early to mid twenties I hardly slept at all. Between bars and parties and drugs and hanging out with all my cool friends and all the anonymous unprotected sex I was having, I just didn’t have time for it. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” I’d proclaim to the universe at 6pm, starry-eyed on ‘ludes and 56 hours since my last rest, from the sunroof of a limousine while raining champagne upon all the poor chumps on their way home from work to eat dinner and fall asleep reading at 9 o’clock.

Well, I’ve hit 30, and I’m still breathing, but maybe all that partying made me die inside, because now I sleep all the time. Not even intentionally a lot of the time. I’ll fall asleep watching TV or at the movies or on a bus bench. I’ve taken impromptu naps in restaurant washroom stalls, during job interviews, and while driving. And you know what? I’m okay with it. More than okay. I’ve realized that I’ve been missing out all these years. Sleep is the best. Hell, I just slept for five hours between writing that last sentence and this one. And I’m thinking of sleeping for a few more before the next paragraph.

Music is another thing that changes drastically as you age. Or, more accurately, your reaction to music. I remember the days when I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the latest albums from the popular music groups of the era. The days when I wanted more than anything to shock those around me with the edgy sounds that I was hip enough to be into. Going to concerts, the louder the better, and leaving with ringing ears and spattered with every manner of bodily fluid. Nowadays, though, things are different. I don’t care much for the new music of today. If you can call it music. Sounds more like a lot of noise to me.Nope, I’m pretty set in my ways now. I’ve even begun to regress, I think. Some of the stuff I used to love to listen to is a little too rowdy for my current tastes. Just set me in my recliner with my slippers and put on a little Chicago and I’ll be perfectly content. If I’m feeling particularly exuberant I might switch it up to some Steely Dan. As far as live music goes, my criteria haven’t changed much. All I really look for in a venue these days is if it has a comfy corner somewhere where I can nod off for a couple hours during the show.

Of course, one of the biggest things that changes as you get older is sex. Gone are my days of hitting the scene in search of scandalous one night stands, of blurry cavalcades of so many nameless women, of being able to achieve or maintain an erection without pharmaceutical aid. No, I’ve slowed down as time’s gone by, but what time has taken away from me in quantity, experience has bestowed upon me in quality, if you know what I mean. What I mean, of course, is that if I can make it through even six minutes of semi-vigorous intercourse, afterwards I’ll be down for a good nine hours of solid, quality slumber.

What else? Hmm, my eyesight’s getting pretty bad, and I can’t really remember how much of I’ve said about… whatever it was I was talking about. My memory isn’t so good these days either. Oh yeah! I was telling you about the time I ran for office and was beat by a golden retriever. No. I was telling you my secret steak marinade recipe. Or, was it… well, it’ll come back to me. Just give me a little while to rest.   Photo by Jyle Dupuis via Flickr

In light of the continual push-and-pull-and-fuck-about us Wertern millenials call “being an artist,” I present an abridged list of procrastinations here on my side of Freelance Arsehole blvd.:

1- A relatively lucrative week among the shills down here means that while writing should follow an afternoon of catching up on my more quixotic reading pursuits, I end up inevitably down at Simons looking at their latest cotton knit collection and buying a comfy, blindingly orange sweater.

2- The issue with the hustle and bustle of being boss No.1 in one’s working life—i.e., being entirely reliant on one’s own motivation to get shit done and mo’ money sans mo’ problems—is that something like Instagram, a very recently disdained and ignored network in the ether, suddenly becomes a “creative outlet” for a “constructive” “presence. In light of sweater guilt, I take the following pic and compose the following Insta-poem: “Everything is starting to look like Chandler…” It is liked by strangers, which only further serves to reinforce the time-suckiness of “presence.”

chandler

3- While there’s nothing quite as refreshing as waking up to a warm, svelte body, being woken up by one at 8AM and spending the rest of the pre-dusk day delving deeper into it’s most naked of hyperrealist nuances, and breaking only for bacon and eggs and Nutella pancakes, is by no means a way to “hit the books” and/or “make literary history.” It’s fun, though—so duh.

4- Friday: 1AM. In a much avoidable attempt to foul my own sleep before a 7AM photo shoot that may lead to some paid writing work, I mentally argue the pros and cons of using the word “bitch.”While I find no more qualms with the gendered nature of the expression as I do with that of “asshole” or “motherfucker,” I find it is undeniable that when used as a blanket term for women—outside of a self-aware, ironical context—it is indefensible. For illustrative purposes only, consider: “Don’t be such a little bitch about it.” Ew. Of course, I write none of this untimely mental practicum down, which I totally could have made into something (still trying, but failing, apparently).

5- While binge watching, the former 8-hour daily scourge of my writerly existence, has finally, I think, been gotten out of my system, the sudden return to form of Frasier in the second half of season 10 does threaten with the possibility of a relapse. For those interested who have access to American Netflix (a binger must-have): S10e11, titled Door Jam, is a Niles-and-Frasier dandyism must-watch hoot!

6- Irony alert: Internet articles. Though I’m aware there are remaining vestiges of qualified and worthwhile reading on the web (interlocutor clears throat), the vast majority of what is posted, shared and indeed trafficked shadily online is so foul and indicative of a devolution of any kind of journalistic or editorial standard that I’ve basically stopped reading anything unrelated to clothing, art and/or kittens that appears on the Internet. That being said, some time this past Sunday afternoon, I read an ill-informed FB post about the alleged “content-less” nature of Gravity that drove me up the wall, comment-reading as I went. Before I knew it, I’d commented on it, and read five unrelated, un-researched articles, and looked over the Internet edge to see how deep its shit-maelstrom now went, and I’d ranted to my naked lover about the antagonism of this “democratization of ‘information’” and the general misinformation most Web 3.0 dwellers feel entitled to spew in light of our socially networked era and how PEOPLE’S OPINIONS ARE SUDDENLY JUSTIFIED BY THEIR ABILITY TO CLICK ‘POST.’ By the time I had come up from the void of my own melancholy, and though my lover seemed oddly charmed by the haughty rant, I thought to myself what a waste of bile. I felt like an angry tween with all the shoulder chips that might, at its worst, suggest, and I had nothing constructive to show for it. Oh well. The Internet can be depressing. If you allow it to be. I cuddled it out, for shame.

7- Though I’ve been good enough to eradicate most shit-maelstrom bound WWW tangents, I still fall into the perhaps twice-weekly concussive wormhole of clothes creeping. One minute I’m exploring the edge of some polemical creative spurt against mass dysfunction, or reading something ingeniously printed on paper—the other I’m creeping agatine eyelets, ravello cordovan leather, and alpaca insoles, wondering if I’ll ever see the last two hours again. Short answer: I will not. I’ve killed them.

8- Work. This one is tricky and entitlement-drenched and gross. I like work. But I like it best when I get sent a 600-word, $150 translation that takes up an hour and then I can call it a day at noon. Sure, I love the final product of the odd $1000 week, especially in the aftermath of a $1000 month, but then I’m also left with embarrassment and the faint, sustained sting of what seems to be my own hackishness: a non-reading, non-writing and non-anything-prioritized kind of week. Hence the sweaters, the Instagrams, the lovers, and, again, the rants. MUST RUGGEDIZE 4 REAL WORLD.

9- Taking pictures of my cat . . .

catpic

10- Myself. Let’s not dwell on this one. A catchall term, let’s face it. Own worst enemy, the lot of us.

Can you believe how much money the Russian government put into the Sochi Olympics? Like, do you even know how much money that was? I mean, I don’t know exactly, but it was like billions of dollars, I heard. And where do you think that money comes from?

It’s not just sitting there, waiting to be spent on hockey games. It came from killing dogs, you guys. You people need to know that. You should know it, I posted a Huffington Post piece about it. Maybe if people stopped caring so much about what medal their country got in the skeleton or whatever and read the internet for once, they’d see what’s really going on.

The president of Russia killed a guy because he didn’t get a medal in figure skating. It’s true. I read an article about it. Well, I read the headline and the first two paragraphs, but that’s what it said. And there’s all this stuff happening in Ukraine, you guys. Like, really bad stuff. I don’t think you realize how bad it is, but it’s bad. You want to know how bad? I’ll tell you exactly what’s happening there; there are so many news articles about it online, on CNN.com and stuff you can go read. I posted a bunch of them yesterday on Facebook, so just check out my profile to see them.

See, maybe I just care too much about what’s going on in the world or something, but I can’t help feeling that I’m doing so much more than my part to make a difference. If more people read these articles, maybe they’d see that something has to be done. We can’t just keep sitting around doing nothing, we have to get engaged and make a real difference. That’s why I hit “share” on so many of these links. If no one else is willing to do it, how will we ever make any progress?

In fact, just earlier today I posted a status admonishing people for caring so much about a hockey game, even if it was the gold medal one, and expressing my hope that now that it’s done, maybe they can take a look at what’s going on in the world around them. And you know what? That status update got several likes. Now that’s what I’m talking about when I say making a real difference. The world needs more people to spread awareness like that. It’s called having an impact, and most people just don’t seem to have the guts to do it.

I watched a bit of this TED Talk the other week, and the guy in it was saying something about how nowadays with the internet and social media we’re all more connected than ever before, but at the same time we’ve never been so distant from each other. Was “distant” the word he used? Whatever, something like that. Like, he was saying that even though we’re all communicating with each other all the time, we’re not, like, really saying anything, or anything. Y’know? I posted the link, you should check it out.

“Disconnected!” That’s the word he used, not “distant.”

Anyhow, I guess I can sort of understand why so many people don’t care enough to get involved. It can be hard work a lot of the time. I’ve spent so much of my time the last couple weeks telling people why they shouldn’t be paying so much attention to what’s going on in Sochi when there’s so much terrible stuff happening outside Sochi. It’s been exhausting. And that came right on the heels of me spending weeks telling people why they shouldn’t be paying so much attention to what Justin Bieber is doing, but should be outraged by what’s happening in Sochi! It can be overwhelming.

If you’ve read this far, you’re obviously someone who’s concerned with what’s happening, and wants to make a difference. Or if you’ve just skipped to the last couple paragraphs to see what the point of the whole article is, which is what I usually do. So I encourage you to share this with your friends. And not just this, but every link you come across that talks about important stuff. Without people like you and me to take the problem into our own hands and make a difference, nothing will ever change.

We need to get the message out. That someone needs to do something. We have a voice. And we owe it to ourselves, and to the world, to use that voice to make it clear to everyone we know that we’re serious about this change. And we need to do it with the smallest possible amount of effort from ourselves. So, please, click “share.”

 

Photo by jcburns via Flickr

Heed my story. A story of a once vibrant past, a bleak present, and a hope for the future.

Once I was a fresh, baby-faced young lad, with nary a care in the world. I had a nice apartment that I shared with my beautiful girlfriend, I had a great job, and I was going to be happy for the rest of my life. It was a good time for just about everyone in the whole country, as a matter of fact, and for people all over the world. Our cares seemed so far away. Looking back now it’s easy to see it as the calm before the storm. This was ten years ago. This was before the Beards came.

It started to happen here and there, to people you knew. Suddenly your cousin showed up to Easter dinner with a Beard, or one of your co-workers came back from a long weekend with one. Then, soon, they were popping up on the face of nearly every man you’d see. The Beards’ takeover was as meticulously planned and expertly cultivated as the thickets upon the chins of the growing multitudes were not.

I was one of those early casualties. My story, at least its beginning, is like most others’. Leaving a friend’s place one Friday evening after some pleasant after-work drinks, I was approached from a dimly lit alleyway by a mysterious yet authoritative figure. A description of him would have been next to impossible, except to say he seemed to consist only of a long coat, a wide-brimmed hat, and a mane of tangled hair sprouting from between them.

That description proved to be more accurate than I could have possibly imagined, for once he had drawn me into the alley, the coat and hat dropped to the ground, and all that remained was a detached, floating Beard. I tried to scream, but it was already upon my face.

Over the next few months, my life as I knew it began to dissolve. People at my workplace treated me differently, and I was made aware of a strict no facial hair policy that until then I hadn’t known existed. Maybe it didn’t exist until then. The nascent dread of these horrible beings was causing the first hints of what would become a wider-spread panic.

After I lost my job and began walking the streets in search of a new one, I was often mistaken for a homeless man. Which I very nearly became, after the pressure put on my home life reached fever pitch. When my long-time girlfriend left me after I started wearing vests all the time and constantly listened to banjo music.

But, for me to be writing this now, I’ve obviously gotten out from under the Beards’ control. The Beard remained, but control was reversed. I don’t know how or why it happened; if it was through sheer force of will, or that the soul of the Beard inhabiting me withered from lack of attention after I consistently refused to join one of the many facial hair clubs that were now springing up in pubs on every street corner, but suddenly I found myself free.

And what I discovered horrified me. In just a short couple years, the Beards had completely taken over. Lines of bearded men marched the streets and took over parties. The number of outdoor music festivals had exploded exponentially. Wool knit cap and conditioning wax had become the cornerstones of the economy. Craft beer breweries had replaced churches and temples as the premier place of worship. I had awoken in a hairy dystopia.

I was chosen, for whatever reason, to be bearded salvation. To walk the streets among the Beards, unnoticed. To take action against them and all that they’ve come to stand for. A brush-faced vigilante, my beard the feared symbol of the fight against unchecked corruption in the same manner as Gotham’s Bat Signal or McDonaldland’s Grimace Beacon.

So, if you’re reading this and you’d like to join the revolution, look to my Beard. The Beard of the underground, the Beard of the people. Know that together we can lead ourselves out of this dark time, right our path, and send the Beards back to where they belong; the lazy, the unemployed, and the lazy unemployed struggling artist.

Do your part, punch the next guy you see. Punch him right in the Beard.

 

Photo by Johnny Scott

vintage_valentine-1When Chaucher first wrote, and I’m paraphrasing into modern English here, “For this was on St. Valentine’s Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate,” I’m sure he could have never envisioned the red, glittery madness that would descend upon the shelves of the Dollarama for the six weeks between Christmas and the middle of February.

Whether you love it, hate it or you’re just plain indifferent, Valentine’s Day is here again. It’s a strange little “holiday” that gives sitcoms and romantic comedies an excuse for setting up the most unlikely of pairs. It also puts pressure on existing couples to spend the right amount of money to translate their affections while bringing out the cynicism of their single counterparts.

It turns out that so-called “right” amount of money is twice as high for men as it is for women. According to Wisebread.com, the average man spends around $150 while women shell out around $85. Maybe it’s because those men were shelling out for that most cliché of hot ticket romantic items, a dozen long-stemmed red roses – florists have been known to nearly double their prices during this time, one of their busiest seasons of the year. Try a pair of Gerber daisies in your partner’s favorite color or a luscious houseplant that will live on longer than flowers.

Another of the most common Valentine’s Day gifts is the quintessential heart-shaped box of chocolates. About.com reports that a stunning 36 million of them will be sold this year, making that one of the most popular gifts behind the standard greeting card.

Speaking of tasty treats, there are two particular types of candies that make an appearance only on Valentine’s Day and unsurprisingly, they’re both heart-shaped: cinnamon hearts and conversation hearts. While cinnamon hearts are my favorite, they aren’t quite as iconic as those little pastel-colored sugar cakes bearing witty messages like “Be Mine” and “Email Me.” It takes candy manufacturers nearly eleven months of the year to make the 8 billion candy hearts that are consumed during the short six week season when they’re on the market.

v-day

For many, a good Valentine’s date will lead to a happy ending. Condom sales are 20-30% higher than usual around Valentine’s Day, according to condom manufacturer Durex. A word of warning about the sexy, sugar-high bedroom shenanigans: more at-home pregnancy tests are sold in the month of March than any other month of the year.

Finally, Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to alienate single people. As a society, we focus almost exclusively on the romantic type of love that we almost forgot to acknowledge other types of love that may be as important to us. Why should we be limiting ourselves to that one version of love? No one is ever truly alone on Valentine’s Day when they’re surrounded by family and friends. And remember the ultimate joy of the holiday: once it’s over anyone can reap the rewards of half price chocolate on February 15th.

 

 Photo Credits:
1 – WikiMedia Commons
2- Someecards.com
3- Tumblr: vintagevvaalleennttiinneess

Hey, guys, I’m ordering some pizzas. Guys. Hey! I’m ordering us some pizzas. How many people are here? Five? Six? Wait, who’s out smoking? Okay, what, nine? Well, are Ross and Shelly coming? So, what, like four pizzas should be good, right? Five? No, I think four is good. Okay, Wendy, we’ll get five.

Okay, what kind does everybody want? Pep and bacon? That’s a classic, we’ll get one of those. Yeah, Terry, I know you don’t eat meat, we’ll get a veggie one too. Oh, but Marcie doesn’t like onions, can we get something other than onions on it? We could do green pepper and mushroom? No mushrooms either? Well what then? Tomatoes? There’s already tomato sauce on a pizza. Okay, okay, green pepper and tomato.

What? Avocado? I don’t know if they even have avocado, I’ll have to ask. Well, if they don’t have avocado, are you fine with just green pepper and tomato? Kale? If they don’t have avocado I don’t think they’ll have kale either. How about spinach? Okay, green pepper, tomato, and avocado, and if they don’t have avocado, then spinach.

Sue wants a Greek. How about a Greek? Is anyone else interested in getting a Greek pizza? Okay, good, we’ll do a Greek too. Wait, what? No, of course we’re not going to get no olives on a Greek pizza. I don’t care if you don’t like olives, Mark. If you don’t like olives then don’t eat a Greek pizza. Because that’s what a Greek pizza is, Mark. It has olives and feta cheese on it. Well, pick the olives off then if you like feta so much, we’re not getting two pizzas with feta on them.

Well, fine, if that’s what everybody else wants, then we will. Okay, show of hands, who wants to get two pizzas with feta cheese on them? … Anyone? Last chance. No, okay, that’s it, no one else wants feta on another pizza, if you want feta you’ll just have to deal with the olives. Well, if the olives “taint the whole pizza with their olive taste,” then just have a slice of something else, Mark. Jesus, I’m sure this isn’t the last time you’re ever going to have a fucking pizza, take a look at yourself!

I’m sorry, Mark. Mark. Mark, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. No, I know you’re not fat. I got a little irritated and I said something I didn’t mean. Are we cool, Mark? Really? Yes, okay, we’ll get another one with feta. Feta and what, Mark? Feta and eggplant? No, yeah, that sounds really good. Doesn’t that sound really good everybody? See, everybody says it sounds good. Feta and eggplant, I can’t wait to try that one.

Okay, what about a Hawaiian? That’s my favourite. Is everyone alright with the last pizza being a Hawaiian? What? It’s ham and pineapple, how do you not know that? No, it’s not “gross,” it’s really good. Well have you ever tried it? Then you don’t know, Gord. Is anyone else interested in a ham and pineapple? No one? Really? Oh, Ted, you’d be down? One slice? No, no, it’s all good, it’s fine. I’m not going to order it if I’m going to be the only one eating it. It’s okay, really. I’ll share the eggplant one with Mark.

I’m going to call the order in now. Does everybody have a bit of cash to chip in? All you have is a fifty, Terry? Okay, well give me the fifty and everyone else chip in a bit and we’ll give that to Terry. Okay, a five, you’ve got a ten. $2.75, Ted? Really? Well, fine, just give it to Terry. What about you four? You all only have debit cards? Fantastic. No, we’re not going to be able to split the whole order up between cash and four debit cards. Whatever, I’ll cover it and you can owe me. No, it’s no problem.

Okay, everyone, I just got off the phone with the pizza place, and they won’t deliver here this late. I know a good Chinese place that will, so what do you all want? Everybody’s good with Chow mein, right? What else?

 

Photo by nettsu via Flickr

Success is measured in many different ways by many different people. What some might consider being successful, others may view as trifling. It’s all a matter of setting goals and achieving them, and being content with how far you’ve come in your journey.

I’m standing in the kitchen of my one bedroom apartment, eating a can of Chef Boyardee ravioli, over the sink, right out of the can. And you know what? I’m feeling pretty successful right now. Oh sure, other people might scoff; there are people out there with houses and jobs and families, there are people who have prestigious awards on their shelves and diplomas on their walls from Ivy League institutions.

And I’m standing here, in a small apartment, in my underpants, eating canned food over a sink, thinking I’m successful. What could possibly be considered successful about that? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s not so much the destination, which I’ll admit falls a little short of a lot of other people’s achievements, but the road taken. I’ve had a lot to overcome in my life, a lot more than most people. So the fact that I’m here doing this right now is a testament to my sheer force of will and ability to overcome obstacles.

From the moment I was born, there were major obstructions in my path to any kind of success. I couldn’t walk or talk, I couldn’t even sit up. It’s embarrassing to admit, but I was often unable for several years of my life to go even a day without uncontrollably vomiting. Often onto other people. It doesn’t seem like such a minor accomplishment to be standing here, eating canned pasta over the sink, now does it? Or that so far I’m managing to do it without smearing the tomato sauce all over my face and head?

Do you think many CEOs of multimillion dollar companies had to go for years of their lives needing help just to burp properly after a meal? Let’s not kid ourselves. How many Pulitzer Prize-winning authors do you think had to struggle for years to learn even one language? I didn’t know how to speak any languages when I was born. It’s no easy task to try to work your way up the social ladder when you can’t express to someone that you’re terribly sorry, but you need to be excused for a moment without resorting to urgently shouting about how much poo is in your butt.

Now, I’m not trying to say that no one else has suffered setbacks or hardships, but to be besotted with so many from such an early age must be fairly unique to my experience. I know that many great minds have struggled with substance abuse and addiction, often for many years. I experienced this as well. Until I was forced to wean off it, I was nursing a breast milk habit that took root and didn’t let go from day one.

Think about that. From the day I was born until the last drop I drank a couple years later, I didn’t go one day without the stuff. Now talk to me about habitual substance use. And just because I quit, doesn’t mean the experience had no lasting effect on me. To this day I think about breasts several times in any given hour. How many successful men can you say that about?

The picture is starting to come together now, isn’t it? Standing at the sink in an apartment I rent myself, eating a can of Chef Boyardee. A man who once could not even get onto his own two feet under his own power, now maintaining that stance for minutes at a time; A man who once could not go for mere moments without supervision, now living alone in a sensible apartment. A man who was, at one time, unable to eat solid food, now feeding himself mid-priced brand name processed canned foods with a fork.

With all that information, my accomplishments seem a lot more remarkable now, don’t they? I thought so. And I’d really like to flesh out the background story even a little more for you, but I went poop in my pants from eating so much Chef Boyardee and now I have to go wash up and put myself down for a nap. The road goes ever on.

 

Photo by Johnny Scott

There’s this thing I do the second I get in the door: as soon as I’ve removed my shoes, be they oiled leather boots or burnished tan calfskin wingtips, I pull out the large Moneysworth 100% horsehair shoe brush I keep by the door especially for these routine instances and I vigorously, smartly, swiftly give my shoes a no-nonsense brushing.

Now, this, to the connoisseur, is a matter of simple maintenance. A properly patina-ed dress shoe or boot will shine back to life as dust and pedestrian hazards are effortlessly swept off the upper; the general muck, calcium or unmentionable whatever will part with a well-oiled shit-kicker with miraculous ease under a brisk hand. Every proper clotheshorse will tell you this simple bit of care will add years to quality shoes, whether they be dainty or heavy duty.

But everyone else—and there’s a lot of everyone-elses—will first wonder if I’m endearingly fastidious, or just compulsively weird. Never, though, will they doubt I’m being peculiar. And with those for whom the sight of the brush in my hand has become an expected one, I am more than a little familiar with the recurring eye-roll or sigh, not to mention the not-too-occasional snigger or scoff.

I don’t mind, of course. This isn’t ninth grade; I have no desire to pretend I don’t know better. But I wonder how they don’t realize I’m just efficiently ruggedizing for the vortex. If maybe they don’t realize their own spirit animals could use a little winter shellac. This wind-chilled port city of ours is a case study in emotional and physical decay a full five months a year, and surely you’ve noticed the signs yourself. It runs deeper than potholes—marks every foot, colours every bit of skin.

You may, for instance, have a friend, as I do, who schedules morning baths of Vitamin D light in his kitchen. He’s got a lamp for that; they have a spiritual bond, he and it.

You may, say, have spent all of December wrapped in blankets bingeing on Frasier. I know I did, with all of House of Cards, and Arrow’s heavy-handedness, too, for good measure. Lots of peanut butter cookies, for shame, and lots of late-night squats to repent (my ass got to hurting from all the sitting).

Needless to say, we all fall into and try to strike out of all that—me included, thankfully. Now, I’m braving the slush and black ice and anti-freeze-laced salt the city sprinkles over everything. And you know what makes it easier on the soul? Footwear that doesn’t look like it belongs in second grade, and leather that doesn’t look like gluttonous deposits are trying to eat their way through to the toes.

And so, shoe care is the balm to the well-prepared wintering soul, keeping winter’s teeth out where possible. A step-by-step meditation, you might say, with clear results.

Take a cold solemn night, for one, where I can literally see the heavy cold ghosting off the school across the way. Then, there’s nothing like a good shoe-shining session to keep the lid on the old mind. Imagine a little Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee for warmth, a little Trophy Wife, guilt-free, in the background. Picture those formerly calcium-eaten boots then sheening like big Blistex-ed lips, or a fine pebble grain cap-toe resplendently reflecting your silhouette. Take it in. Keep it with you.

My back always hurts a tad by the time I’m done shining, but I’m always greatly relieved knowing my feet’ll be ready for the upswing, the storm, the mess. I look over at a healthy-looking pair or two and I know they’ll get me wherever. I know ecstasy could indeed swell from the ground up, even on the cold front. And the elements can go screw themselves.

And the brush is a big help.

Look, I’m not judging anyone here, but the world is made up of all kinds of people, and not everyone is, let’s say, at home when attending some of the fancier events the world has to offer. That’s okay, though. Symphonies and lavish galas aren’t for everyone. But even those on the lowest rung of decent society have to climb up a few steps and try to keep their filthy pants on for a few hours to be part of one classy affair now and then.

It can be overwhelming if you’re not used to it, and frankly a little bit intimidating. But don’t you worry your pretty little tiara-topped head, because I’m here to give you all the advice you’ll ever need to be a bona fide smash at your next formal shindig. If you follow my guidelines, you can transform yourself from the crudest of turds to the hottest of shit.

Let’s start with the upscale dinner. Now, I’m not talking anywhere with unlimited breadsticks and bottomless pasta bowls here, you barn-raised cretin. The thing about real fancy restaurants is you pay more money for less food. The fancier the restaurant, the more expensive the entrée and the less meal on the plate. Most high-end eateries have very few buckets of anything on the menu.

Start by ordering the third most expensive wine on the list. That shows you have good taste, but you’re not a sucker. Make a comment about how whatever year it’s from was a good year for grapes. Wait, is wine made from grapes? That doesn’t sound right. Anyhow, say that it was a good year for grapes or potatoes or limestone or whatever wine is made from.

And don’t call the waiter “waiter.” Fancy restaurants don’t have waiters. They have concierges and maitre d’s, which I think are French for janitor and maybe blacksmith? Anyway, the proper way to address a server is “madam” if she’s a woman, which is French for “madam,” or “garçon” for a man, which is French for “dude” and is pronounced gherkin, like the pickle.

Another event many of you unwashed plebians might have trouble with is going to an art gallery, perhaps for an opening or a reception. Now, nothing says “class” like art, so it makes a great impression if you know a little about it. First off, there will probably be people serving wine or champagne, so snag some from the first one that passes you. Make sure to grab a couple glasses until you’ve got a handle on how fast they circulate. Once you’ve gotten a few drinks down your greasy philistine trap, you’ll be ready to look at some art.

Most art is kind of bullshit, actually, but just pretend for ten minutes that you don’t still stink like whatever gross cave you just crawled out of and that you understand it. It’s pretty easy. You don’t even have to say much. Act like you’re really contemplating it for a couple minutes, then say that you admire the artist’s bold brush strokes and gesture towards the dick. There’s always a dick in art. Talk a lot about the dick part of the piece and how viscerally it impacted you. Dick talk really gives the impression that you get art.

Finally, we have the opera. This one can be tough. There’s a lot going on at an opera. And they’re long, too. And in a lot of operas everybody sings everything. I guess that’s how they do things in Europe. There’s usually an intermission, and a reception after the thing, and you’re expected to talk about the opera. It can be done, though. Drop names of famous opera composers like Verdi or Gandolfini.

Make a big scene about how much you wept when Mimi died in Rodolfo’s arms, or when José killed Carmen, or when Aida died, or Violetta or Nedda or Antonia. Operas are all about women dying. Really you could just talk about how much it moved you when the lady died, and play Candy Crush through the whole thing.

That should pretty much do it. If you’ve managed to pull yourself out of your own filth for long enough to read this far, then you should be in for a resoundingly successful night. Just remember everything I taught you, and don’t forget to have fun! Have fun for me too, I can’t go. I’m not allowed back to the concert hall. Or the art gallery. Or any restaurant that isn’t Arby’s.

 

Photo by Beraldo Leal via Flickr

Like most men of art in this au courant city, I feel an overwhelming urge to let my facial hair grow out as winter settles in. It’s a rather invigorating show of machismo, a throwback to the golden age of manhood, and a new dandy object to dote on—a velvety pet to stroke into regal submission. It keeps my face warm and it ensures brawn and I’m still keeping it brushed by New Year’s (I suggest a bore head brush, for best results).

But then, of course, the whole ordeal comes with a stack of pitiful worries as well. For one, soup will indeed be strained, as will my patience with every soup, coffee and over-easy egg sandwich gooping my mustachios in its ooze. Napkins are suddenly unrecognizable by the end of meals, and I’m catching myself licking hair, on my face, all the time.

What’s more, while some dames will go weak at the knees and pouty at the lips at the sight of a fine bristly face-scape (and some at the site of a not-so-fine one, too), quite a few more will wonder if a bearded man even has cheek bones and a jaw under there—or worse, they’ll assume he most obviously doesn’t. I do not like being thoughtlessly discarded, or ignored.

These (rather ridiculous) concerns—coupled with (even more ridiculous) the fact that I look like more and more of a shoo-in, with every quarter inch of dark growth, for some Homeland extra work—have me, almost every time, reaching vainly for the trimmer after a few months.

And so, this brave new year, newly single, dates scheduled, I most recently did just that. The beard will have me think myself into the dumbest of corners if I let it, and I’m most willing to buzz my way out of it if I do. I combed the cordless Philips through the shag and my face, chiseled real-life bones and all, emerged from under every stroke. And though I was a little sad about giving up (sadder about my reasons), and none too thrilled about the cold I’d be inflicting upon my cheeks, I was happy to retrieve the resplendence of that old visage of mine.

Then, I came to the moustache.

The moustache is a funny thing. As I trimmed away my best-to-date, sveltest Nation-of-Islam look, I narrowed in on the stache, and started to look more and more like a younger, fitter, fewer chinned, more dapper Juan Valdez, a Colombian bean wrangler for the new world. I looked like there are things I know—sensitive, mysterious, darkly things.

And so, as last year it was the Prince moustache, this year, wax out on a Thursday morning in January, I twisted at the very tips of my luxuriant manifest destiny. It twirled up and stayed, just so, on each side, and suddenly I looked like a million sleazy bucks, and felt like it.

In that moment, I wasn’t Tom Selleck, or even Roger Murtaugh; I was Dali, Bill the freakin’ Butcher—I was the goddamn Soup Nazi. By the time I left the house, I was a regular old first-grade hipster douche in my R.M. Williams Chelsea boots and selvedge jeans and 32 oz. dark navy pea coat, stache readied for any obscure reference, but I didn’t even give a care, because I felt and looked like greatness, and that fateful Thursday was the first day of the rest of my mustachioed life.

Everyone—on the bus, on the street, hustle to hustle—seemed to notice. A moustache that’s required some time and energy does not a frivolous gentleman make. I met smiles, I met wide eyes, I met nervous starers, and even the guy at Café Resonance was noticing.

For instance, I know that when he said “I really dig your half-sleeve, too” he was, beyond his control, referring by omission to my whiskers, who loomed boldly without needing a mention, friscalating face wings soaring right into the westerly sun-drenched glory of that afternoon. And it felt lovely on my face, that sun: bones rekindled in the luminous vitamin, upper lip refracting, a solar panel to the smithy of my soul. It was a mixed metaphor kind of ecstasy, and no one could take it away from me.

In that moment, I would be a man with a moustache forever—outside of race, beyond time, everlastingly beeswax-ed. It lasted straight through Saturday. And it was good.