I came to Toronto thinking that because I’d be living in a new city, hopefully having fun, enjoying working on the book, that it would mean I’d have a lot to blog about. I don’t keep a diary, so if I don’t do this, it’ll be tough to remember the sort of stuff I got up to. Obviously, I decided to have a break a couple of months ago. And it was nice to not think about it; just throw a few drawings up now and again. But I’m wanting to make notes again, and I seem not to be able to do that unless they are here. Wonder why that is. Truth be told, part of the reason that I decided on the break was because of the situation when I moved the blog from using Blogger to WordPress. Blogger decided to stop doing FTP support, I started the process of changing, decided to do it later, then found myself unable to get back into where the original stuff was. So when I finally moved to WordPress, there was no way of doing an RSS note to let people know it was moving. A very large proportion of readers used that RSS feed, so without being able to tell them that the blog was moving and they should change the RSS feed, the blog’s readership plummeted. My ego started pouting, and continued to pout until it decided to have a break. Sometimes I wish I had the nerve to turn commenting off. Then I’d not be checking every ten minutes to see if anybody has left a comment about the latest post. But my ego likes comments. My ego is a dick.
Last night I chipped a tooth. Just a tiny bit, a couple of millimetres in length, of what the Internet tells me is called my left mandibular central incisor. I’d been drinking at my local bar, Squirly’s, and was planning on getting some food on the way home. It was around 10pm, thought it’d be a civilised evening, a few beers, some Thai food or something. I walked right past the Thai place, and instead of turning around, I kept on walking to see if something else took my fancy. I kept walking and walking, and about 20 minutes later I was a fair few blocks away from home. So I decided to go have a beer somewhere else. On my way there, I was biting one of my finger nails and got a tiny piece of nail lodged between my teeth. I tried to poke it free with my tongue. I tried to suck it out, too. Then I put my thumb nail in there and tried to root it out that way. I obviously have very strong thumbnails, cos that’s how I chipped a bit of my tooth off. I sat in the bar, watching sports scores scroll across the bottom of an ESPN Classic boxing match, got slowly drunker, smiled at the pretty barmaid, and kept tonguing the sharp edge of my tooth. I drank some more. I eventually did eat something, but it was at the end of a long night’s solo drinking. And it was from McDonald’s. I rounded off the evening by falling over on the stairs when I went down to get a glass of water. I didn’t turn the light on, and thought I had reached the bottom, but there was still one stair to go. I’ve got a nice raw red mark on my knee now. When I woke up this morning, though, I remembered that I’d kept the tooth chip in my back pocket. Aquí:
I’ve been drinking too much since I’ve been here. Way exceeding those recommended limits. And it’s not really a cheap hobby, either. For one thing, buying a six-pack is a pain in the arse. The Ontario government runs things. You can’t just go to a corner store and buy a beer. You have to go to something called, rather matter-of-fact-ly, The Beer Store. If you want anything harder than beer, you’ve gotta go to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO). If I, for example, wanna buy some vodka, I’ve gotta trudge over to the LCBO. You want some vodka after 9pm? Fuck you, buddy. Same deal at The Beer Store. And they just have pictures of the labels and the prices in tiny numbers on the wall. It’s like Soviet China or somefink, I tells ya.
While we’re on the topic of stuff that fucks you up, and while I know the majority of you don’t care about cigarette prices, this has been an interesting quirk. They’re not cheap here either, but that’s kinda the same everywhere in the Western World these days, I guess. But one thing that seems consistent in other countries is that cigarettes are pretty much exactly the same price in every store (unless you’re trying to buy them in central London after midnight). When I bought a pack in Berlin, they were €4.90 in every store. In the three corner stores that are within five minutes walk from where I’m living here, one store charges $9.15, another charges $9.50, and the third charges $10.50. The guy in the cheapest store always seems surprised that right behind him, there are racks of cigarettes, like he’s never heard of such a thing before or like they crept up on him. The second cheapest store has a really chirpy friendly guy, and a woman who always seems to be eating and tells me the price with her mouth full of food which makes me want to pull out a machete and chop off her head. The most expensive store has the most miserable shopkeeper I’ve ever seen. The look of disgust on his face when I asked for Camel Lights, interrupting him eating a Danish pastry, was the look I would normally reserve for seeing a dog eating human vomit off the street. (But not as bad as the look of disgust I’d have if I saw a human eating dog vomit off the street.) Without wiping the sticky off his hands, he grabbed the cigarettes and flung them across the counter at me. He wears a green waistcoat, though, which suits him. But being a complete fucking psychopath, I’ve been back in there a couple of drunken times specifically to ask for cigarettes, watch him get them, listen to him tell me they are $10.50, and then tell him that they are too expensive, and go to the cheap store like I’d planned all along. It’s a shitty game, but it’s a game that makes me grin like I’m wearing an Aphex Twin mask.
I’ve been working on my book. It’s more-or-less finished now. Still gotta do the cover, and I’m currently up to my neck changing every hyphen in the graphics to an en dash or em dash. Oh how I wish I knew the correct usage before I’d begun the book. The tentative title is “Flip Flop Fly Ball: An Infographic Baseball Adventure.” It’s been hard work, it’s driven me a wee bit insane, but it’s been a lot of fun, too. Especially because my editor Pete and I get along really well, and spend every day chatting over email about all sorts of baseball-y crap. And from my bedroom window, I can see the garages out of the back of all the houses on the street, the garages which grey and black squirrels scamper across. Late at night, there are often racoons on the roofs, too. I can face to face with a few of them last night actually. A mama and three kids were rooting through a neighbour’s bins. I wouldn’t like to get too close, but they really are cute-looking creatures.
I’m still pronouncing the name of this city with two Ts. Toronto. Everyone else says Toronno, or ever Tronno. I feel self-consciously English when I hear the word coming out of my mouth. I don’t have the same thing, though, when I say Atlanna if I’m talking about Atlanta.
Things that are in no way connected plopped into a paragraph: The electricity lines buzz a lot here. I’ve never seen as many people on motorised wheelchairs as I have in this city. Most of the beggars here have “funny” signs. They’re not funny. Yesterday, I saw a blind man with a woman. She sniffing a menu/flyer she’d been by a Chinese man on the street. Nothing spectacular about that, but it was just an interesting thing to see happening. No matter what time of day it is, the Canadian coffee/restaurant chain Tim Hortons always seems to be packed. I’ve not eaten anything from there, but should you ever be visiting Canada and want to drink some coffee, I’d recommend not going to Tim Hortons. It is quite the most horrible coffee this side of McDonald’s. I wonder what it is about the human brain that compels us to pluck a leaf from a hedge when we walk by one. While we’re on the topic of hedges, the older I get, the more I like watching old men trimming their hedges. And I mean their hedges; it’s not a pubic hair euphemism. A guy around the corner has been painting the wood columns and other bits on his porch recently. He was painting them white, he highlighted bits in a rather nice dark green. When I walked by today, he was painting the stone squares at the bottom of the columns silver. Metallic silver. A bold choice. Same journey, I was walking on the kerbside of the pavement, walking along walking along. Woman, mid-twenties, huge sunglasses, deliberately walked diagonally across the pavement so she was right in front of me. Being vaguely gentlemanly, I moved aside as she kinda started me out. I turned my head to kinda just take the weirdness in, and she’d instantly returned to the side of the pavement farthest from the kerb. On the way back from Starbucks, a guy probably late teens, surf-y shorts, mirrored shades was sauntering in a vague diagonal. Was the same thing gonna happen again? I behaved like a twat: I put my head down and walked in a completely straight line. Fuck you, mirror boy. But he’d already crossed the street before could collide. I really like potato salad. I always feel disgusted with myself after eating potato salad. I’ve considered getting a tattoo once again, and once again decided against it. Something that I liked on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast today: “If I can get to the point where I’m actually pursuing happiness as opposed to relief, that would be the next phase.” That sounds like good advice to me.
Same again, but going through my Twitter to see if anything of interest needs writing down in longer form since last we spoke: I would like to go up to employees at American Apparel and tell them, “It really is okay to enjoy life. You don’t have to look so bored. Eat an apple. Pull a silly face. There’s more to life than The XX album.” The World Cup was excellent in Toronto. I’d kind of anticipated the interest here being minimal, but the internationalism of the city made it utterly fantastic. Supporters of more or less all the teams around. I’d vowed to myself not to care about England, but damn those roots, they dragged me back in. I was kind of glad they got knocked out though (although I’d much rather it had not been done by the Germans), cos that meant I could just enjoy the rest of the football. Frank Sidebottom‘s creator Chris Sievey died which made me really really really sad. I received a spam email which said, “LOL if you see someone drowning in bacon.” The Queen came to visit Canada but didn’t drop by to say hello, sadly. I’d assumed all Britishers living abroad would get a visit when she was in town. I’ve fallen in love with the Canadian national anthem. It’s a very beautiful song. And I’ve seen a crapload of baseball: 23 Blue Jays games and a massive 73 home runs (52 by the Jays, 21 by the visitors).
Oh, something of interest did happen. Somebody alerted me to this article in the Winston-Salem Journal titled “Book, in error, got judged by its cover.” Apparently a library staff member picked up nine copies of my Atlas, Schmatlas book to give as gifts to children. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know there’s quite a liberal smattering of curse words in the book. Full article here.
Kraig my friend from Portland came to visit three weeks ago, which was nice. I’d been saving up tourist-y stuff to do. We went up the CN Tower which is very high indeed. There’s a bit with a glass floor. There were kids and adults all milling around. I took a tentative step onto the glass, took a photo, felt incredibly queasy, and walked away.
And we rented a car and took a day trip to Niagara Falls. The falls themselves are excellent. Really quite beautiful. Lots of people, not sure why I wasn’t anticipating that. I was as close to the United States as their immigration people would let me be, too. So I paid tribute to their decision-making process in the only way I could:
Once you move away from the falls, though, the town is nuts. For some reason, when people had told me that it was a bit tacky, I was envisaging “English seaside” not “low rent Vegas.” It’s all well and good, but the experience of the falls was kinda blunted by the crassness of the town’s touristy main drag. It was like drinking a really nice glass of wine and washing it down with a pint of ketchup.
Anyway, next month I will be celebrating (…?) my 40th birthday. I’m not in the market for a Harley Davidson, but I am considering something a bit life changing. I’m seriously thinking about getting contact lenses. I’ve worn glasses since I was in junior school, so I kinda fancy a change. I keep taking photos of myself without my specs on so I can try and get used to what I will look like (being short-sighted means that I can’t really see myself properly in a mirror unless I get pimple-squeezingly close). So, what do you think? Specs or contacts? (Yes, I have a lazy eye. Bone idle, in fact.)
Right, time to kick off my flip-flops, fire up Good Will Hunting (never seen it before), and eat some tamari almonds cos they are fucking delicious.