Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Pseudo Relationship for a Pseudo Age

As soon as I started my MBA and thusly became an impoverished student I began to cull eating out at restaurants. Resto-hopping was a nasty AND expensive habit that I had acquired during my carefree days as a 25 year-old YUPPIE. However, as I re-joined the proletariat it was time to cull restaurants and rediscover boxed pasta and pre-made Classico sauce. More often then not, and because I hate cooking for myself, I’d invite my fellow student and friend, Kenny, over for a cheap dinner; at the time his girlfriend lived in Vancouver and it was somehow more enjoyable to sit in silence, albeit together, reading different sections of the Globe and Mail, then to eat alone (obviously I read Sports while he read the then titled Review, or not). Our bromance became so domestic that at one point while my house was on the market and being shown to a prospective new owner, a real-estate agent, touring my apartment, turned to Kenny and asked: “so how long have you two been living here?”

Jokes aside, however, I soon graduated from quick pasta and meat sauce to more elaborate dinners. Wherein after cooking, I would set the dining room table, light a candle, poor (haha) myself a glass of wine and stare out my window.

Once, in a fit of boredom, I began talking to myself:

“How was your day?” I asked to no one in particular.

“Not too bad.” I responded, as I jabbed at my chicken.

“Did you get that thing done at work?” I asked back.

“No, oh didn’t I tell you? That whole project got delayed. We’re waiting on a new direction from the Power That Be.” I answered to myself, chuckling at those spirit-like bosses.

“No. You didn’t mention. That sucks.”

"Oh. Sorry. I meant to email…”

“Nah don’t worry about it.” Awkward silence as I swallowed, “Hey did you still want to have dinner this weekend with the Caplan’s?”

There are of course no Caplan’s. In fact the whole thing was made up and well… I guess a little depressing. Disheartening perhaps for my inability to find a dinner companion but also a bit sad for my perceived mundaneness of everyday conversation.

Two married friends invited me over for dinner a couple of months ago and when I voiced concern about intruding on their date the wife laughed and said, “honestly if you weren’t here we would probably sit in silence.”

I wouldn’t really know from such monotony. I am single. Generally I am always single. I wake up in the morning, shuffle about to work and go about my merry way, with nary a person to care about beside myself. Sometimes this bothers me, most of the time it doesn’t. Realistically I’m pretty sure that if I was ready to be with someone I’d find someone. For whatever reason I obviously prefer putting the mono in Jono.

Singlehood has made me an increasing anomaly amongst some of my friends, plenty of who are starting to shack up with members of the opposite (or same sex) and gasp, marry. A friend told me that since I was the only single one left in our group of friends it was up to me to bring home the gossip.

Being an outlier in the relationship bonanza doesn’t particularly bother me, however, what does worry me, and what worries my mother even more, is not my inherent singledom (as a wise friend once said: we could lock you in a box and the right person would still find you) but the ease at which I find myself in pseudo relationships.

What is a pseudo relationship? I’m assuming at some point almost everyone has been in a pseudo relationship and perhaps hasn’t realized it, so for the uninitiated a pseudo relationship is one that provides some of the emotional (or perhaps physical comforts) of a LTR but is not entirely real. And regardless of how comfortable it may feel at the time, a faux boy or girl friend is really just a relationship crutch on the road to nowheresville, population Norman Bates.

My experience with the pseudo goes back some years to the days immediately following my return from undergraduate. Armed with a BA from McGill and not much else I found myself a stranger in my hometown, sort of friendless, clutching an email address for a former flame who lived a couple of thousand of miles away (I’m actually pretty sure he had written his email address by hand on a piece of notebook paper as these were the days before smartphones). For months the former flame and I would email each other obsessively 3 times a day; we’d send long and lengthy tomes, passionately beaten out over keyboards and delivered to each other via our Hotmail addresses. Our relationship was not particularly real, and yet, a fresh email at breakfast, lunch and dinner somehow meant as much as a warm body in bed. Somewhere in the empty recesses of cyberspace is what amounted to a fake relationship between two dudes who both probably knew that it would never amount to anything beyond cyber-love.

My pseudo relationship history didn’t end there; I’ve done long-distance too, which as much as it is a relationship, has its moment of fakeness. I mean… sure its fun to fly into a foreign city, rush off to a romantic restaurant and screw for a weekend, but like… that’s it. All of those times when you’re standing at in baggage claim waiting for your luggage don’t really count in terms of the everyday reality of washing someone’s post-gym workout gear.

The pseudo relationships can be passive as well. For at least two months after I broke up with someone whom I had been dating long distance, I would use his characteristics to describe a boyfriend when I met people in bars. I mean… did my life really change now that we had broken up? Quite frankly, my life barely changed at all. And because I wasn’t ready to dip my toe into single life, the fake boyfriend worked better then no boyfriend at all.

While many of my friends are happily committed; others are clearly not. Many it appears are instead joining me on the pseudo relationship band-wagon. As one female friend noted, her friends actively replaced her need for a significant other. If she was bored on a Monday night there was one friend to go out to dinner with, Tuesday meant gallery hopping with a different friend and a third friend escorted her to work events. With the exception of sex, who needs a boyfriend?

In today’s hyper communicable world, where social networking has helped to redefine the concept of friend and wherein we manage to keep in constant contact with people via BBM, email, text, Facebook and gchat, the need for a significant other has declined. And for a generation that argues “if its not on Facebook it doesn’t exist” the cyber relationship, as per above, may not be that weird. While you can’t have sex on Facebook, you sure can communicate over and over again on Facebook; you can even declare a fake relationship status.

Of course I’m pretty sure the real reason for the pseudo relationship is that it allows you to select what you reveal and to whom. In some ways it is easier to get naked in front of someone you don’t care about, while spilling your emotional shit to someone who hasn’t seen your bits. Relationships are inherently intimate and perhaps for many of us in the twenty-something generation, it feels easier to reveal only part of ourselves to some people, while revealing other parts to others.

The irony of this, however, is that the pseudo relationship, predicated on an ability to reveal part of oneself, is a trend for a generation that has come of age in the voyeuristic age of Facebook where supposedly everything is shared.

But then again – Facebook is an edited version of real life anyway… and with that the pseudo relationship suddenly makes sense.

P.S. I’m pseudo registered at William Ashley China and Restoration Hardware.

Monday, December 27, 2010

What I Learned at Starbucks? Or How a 21 year-old JAP Taught Me a Life-Lesson…

In the olden days, during the period I consider my Faux Hillarian Era (2004-2006), I wrote a blog entitled: Confessions of a Faux Hiller. The tagline summed it up fairly succinctly: “So if you're like me you've graduated McGill and you've moved back into your parents' house and you're unemployed and sit in the Forest Hill Village Starbucks every day wondering why so many people wear Lululemon? Welcome to the Village, bitch. This is how it’s done in Forest Hill.” Why such anger? Well… I was 22, I lived at home, I was unemployed, and the OC was vaguely au currant. Obviously what else would I do with my life but sit in the Forest Hill Village Starbucks and sanguinely reflect over past decisions?

After a couple of years of the “live blog” I stopped habituating said Village Starbucks and was quickly dethroned as the Fresh Prince of Faux Hill. Why? I became employed and sadly working is to Faux Hill royalty as Wallace Simpson was to King Edward, abdication much.

Anyway - I happened to recently revisit my old haunt and as Bruce Willis will tell you: old habits Die Hard. As soon as I stepped foot into the old Starbucks I fell back into my old milieu of mocking the Village.

This past Tuesday I was lucky enough to sit next to a girl (let’s call her Jessica) and her father. Jessica was looking resplendent in her UGG, bejeweled hair band combination that screamed Blair Waldorf but alas this was no coronation for Little J. This was a “home for the holidays we need to talk about your spending habits” coffee with Dad.

Because I am a bad person (I believe someone once called me a class traitor) I spent the next hour of my life listening to Jessica and her father’s conversation (I know… I’m creepy); and because Sim Sim Sima has self-styled herself after Rob Ford, which has allowed her to declare that she has too has stopped the gravy train, i.e. no Hanukkah Gifts, I consider the following transcribed conversation my Chrismukkah miracle.

Dad: I feel bad for you because your flight to Cancun is so early.

Jessice: I feel bad for myself too. And everyone is complaining about how expensive the trip is. It wasn't that much. $1,000 for a week of vacation?

Dad: Well it was actually more.

Jessica: Ya it well was what, only $2,000 everyone can afford that. Like it wasn't that bad.

Dad: Well it was closer to $3,000 because you wanted a private room.

We then moved on from Christmas vacation to her work prospects once she completed her undergraduate degree in media studies at Western.

Jessica: OMG I did not do four years of a media degree to work at Aritzia, for ten dollars an hour. I'd rather not work.

I won’t lie – at first I contemplated not ‘publishing’ this girl’s conversation; I didn’t think it was right to entirely mock a conversation I snooped on (no matter how retarded it was). Obviously there are privacy issues and I am also sure that if anyone listened to some of the conversations I’ve had at Starbucks they’d conclude that I was a man-whore who has slept with half of the Upper East Side (I totally just wanted to say that and pretend like I was Serena VanDerWoodsen).

Certainly my first reaction to Jessica was: girl, shut the fuck up. But then I thought that maybe dearest Jessica had a point. Maybe Jessica was most brilliant person I had met of late. Maybe Jessica shouldn’t be working at Aritzia; maybe Jessica should be working at the Weitzman Institute! Maybe I’m being a bit overzealous.

Jessica truly raised the salient and pressing issue of: how do real people afford real lives?

All of Jessica’s life (mind you a protected Forest Hill existence) – a $3,000 vacation has been a fact. And to give her some credit – making ten bucks an hour at Aritzia isn’t going to pay for a week in Cancun; she’d have to work at least 300 hours not taking into account any taxes. Now… not everyone gets to go on a $3,000 vacation, but let’s be honest a two-week trip to Europe will probably set you back around $2,500 (that’s if you’re staying in hostels). And because I am a left-wing latte drinking downtown snob – I think going to Europe for two weeks is something that most people should have the opportunity to do (see my new charity called Birthright Europe) once every other year. And before people accuse me of being a snob… remember that George W. Bush was accused as being a simpleton because he had never left North America. In polite society we consider the Grand European Vacance a right of passage. And as much as $2,500 is, it’s not THAT crazy an amount of money. People who have to fly home to Vancouver at Christmas probably pay a grand just to go home and see their parents…

Being an intrepid reporter I decided to do some Statistics Canada research on Canadian spending habits. According to StatsCan the average individual in Canada spends around $38,000 a year. Of total expenses $6600 is taxes. Interestingly however, a Canadian who makes $37,000 should pay $7,400 in taxes (based on tax rates posted here). This actually means that the average Canadian individual pays $6,600 in taxes and therefore earns less then $37,000. No big surprise, but kind of awkward, right?

Interestingly in Stats Canada publications on spending patterns vacation expenses aren’t accounted or mentioned. Primary expenses are, no surprise, food and shelter, which accounts for almost 50% of spending (after taxes are taken into consideration). Leaving $16,000 to pay for clothes, car expenses etc… Suddenly that $3,000 is a lot of guerno.

All of this is to say that for someone to be in a position to afford a $3,000 vacation – they’re going to have to make significantly more then your typical Canadian. And so as much as it pains me to say this Jessica is “somewhat” right; she shouldn’t really work at Aritzia. And to empathize with Jessica’s frustration after four years at university she isn’t going to immediately make enough to “keep her in the style to which she’s been accustomed”. And while we can blame her parents, her friends, her neighbourhood, and society in general for creating out of whack expectations the ability to do some travel should be some sort of Canadian middle class right, no? Heck – you can’t visit this entire country without spending a couple of grand on airfare.

If anything Jessica, in her colloquial JAP twang, has identified the same thing that University of Toronto professors have spent years and probably thousands of dollars researching. Jessica’s Starbucks conclusion: Whither the middle class

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fact: Anal Sex Reduces the Risk of Prostate Cancer

Dear Hot Men Who Have Defiled Their Faces with Moustaches for All of Movember,

I know you thought that growing a moustache was helpful to raise awareness for prostate cancer and I admire all of you for your commitment to a cause (the prostate!) that is near and dear to my heart, even though your upper lip grew increasingly putrid as the month wore on. God-bless your commitment to your prostate, philanthropy and men’s health in general.

But boys I have bad news for you; actually really bad news: your moustache, shockingly, was doing nothing to prevent prostate cancer.

In fact recent research has shown that instead of fingering that itchy ‘stache, perhaps you should uhm… this is where it gets awkward… finger yourself.

Finger where exxactly? Down there.

The truth: you want to prevent prostate cancer? Lads - don’t defile your face, defile yourselves. Stop offering moustache rides to your girlfriend; tell your gay friend and or explorative girlfriend that you are willing to “take your own ride”…

I’m sure you’re wondering where I’m going with all of this so I’d like to draw your attention to a recent study done by the British Journal of Cancer which has concluded that men whose index finger is longer than their ring finger are one-third less likely to develop prostate cancer.

So what does this statistic have to do with homosexuality - the “lifestyle choice” that has been demonized throughout history and declared “unnatural” by homophobes throughout history?

Reading the BJC’s article about finger size jogged my memory about a study that was a done a couple of years ago which argued that men with bigger ring fingers were more likely to be straight, while dudes with a smaller ring finger were more likely to be gay.

So what exactly does this mean? Well… one could (and by one I mean me) extrapolate that a smaller "gay" ring finger means a larger index finger. Therefore dudes with larger index fingers are more likely to be gay AND as the British Journal of Cancer has proven men with larger index fingers are less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. (If you’re like you had to spend like an hour on the Google figuring out which was my index and which was my ring finger... so see the handy dandy image that I found…)

So to boil this down: larger index finger means gay and no prostate cancer!

So what do gay men do with their prostates that most straight men don’t?

If you answered anal sex oyu'd be right. Gay men are well known for having anal sex (or buggery) which according to wikipedia, can produce a pleasurable sensation due to the inserted penis rubbing or brushing against the prostate.


Could it be that anal sex, and prostate massaging, actually has health benefits unbeknownst to human-kind? Are gay men more likely to not be diagnosed with prostate cancer because they’ve been “massaging” their prostates? Perhaps buggery (the act of anal sex) isn’t actually unnatural, as homophobes would have you believe, but actually poses HEALTH BENEFITS to all men.


You want my “It gets better video”? Gays – because of our buggery we’re not going to get prostate cancer like the straights. Goeth and get diddled.

Can someone exhume people from ancient Greece, cross reference anal virginity with rates of prostate cancer to secure proof? Maybe we now know why the ancient Spartans were f’ing each other left, right and centre. The Spartans were smart - they didn’t want to get prostate cancer! Perhaps American soldiers who have been discharged from the military simply for “telling” about their sexuality can be re-purposed to complete the study, Lt. Dan Choi’s not doing anything – send him to Greece for some primary research.

And that is why for the month of January I will be spearheading my own anti-prostate cancer campaign; I now declare January shall be called: Anal Sexruary. Anal Sexuary is the time when men, both gay and straight, ensure that they are protecting their prostates from cancer by having copious amounts of (safe!) anal sex.

And so… Jake Gylenhaal ask yourself this one question: Who would you rather want helping you prevent prostate cancer, Jono Naymark, prostate professional, or TayTay Swift [although this does bring new credence to the line from her song You Belong With Me: “Standing By and waiting at your backdoor”]?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hug a Lesbian Day

For the past six months or so every Sunday morning I wake up, roll my ragged bones out of bed, kick out my flavour of the week (jokes) and peruse the NY Times Wedding section where I count the number of gay weddings versus the number of lesbian weddings. I then summarize the results like so: Brad and Brian for the win!! gays: 1, chicks who like chicks: zero. I then go to and plan my own wedding. See how fun Sunday's are Casa Nay?

While I know that not that everything in life is a competition, I like to judge other people’s weddings. Especially gay ones.

Anyway the topic of lesbians came up at a dinner party I recently hosted for a couple of my gay friends. At some point in the evening one of my gays excitedly told us that his law firm hired their second lesbian. The gaggle of gays that sat around the table grew excited with this news. “A lesbian! What is she like?”
From the content of the ensuing convo, it was almost as if were talking about some sort of endangered species...

In some ways the lesbian is truly a rarity. Although an equal slice of the LGBTQ community, lesbians are seemingly our inaudible partner in crime.

“Gays Parade,” my friend Caitlin is fond of saying, “Lesbians march.”

This may be a bit of an over-simplification of things. The truth is that I actually don’t know very many lesbians and neither do most of my gay friends. At said dinner party as we went around the table to count the lesbians in our lives it became clear that not one of us could name more than one (if even that) lesbian that they saw on a regular basis. The only exception was my friend Derek; however, in his defence, his boyfriend argued that Derek liked hockey, plaid shirts and playing pool… so of course he would know lesbians. Either that or he’s a hipster with an ironic taste for hockey.

Worrying that this may be a case of gays being gays [gays notoriously don’t like lesbians…] I started polling a bunch of my straight friends to see if I could mine their friend lists for some new lesbian action. No such luck as they were low on lesbian love as well. In fact when I asked my straight friends if they knew a lesbian most of them hemmed and hawed vaguely referring to someone they maybe thought was a lesbian in their constitutional law class. My fiend Karen told me she met a lesbian at a conference she facilitated, but I argued that that didn’t mean they were friends. The Sapphic ace up her sleeve is tht Karens landlady is a lesbian D; she DJ’s at a party called Sticky Fingers, I bedrugingly accepted that. While my friend Maggie let me know that the woman who threaded her eyebrows had once been a lesbian, but then reverted.

I still wasn’t sure if this was just one of those bubble things (like I don’t know anyone who voted for Rob Ford even though 380,000 Torontonians did…) and maybe all the lezzers lived in the suburbs? Or if the lack of lesbians in my life was part of a much larger phenomena.

When I thought about it – you rarely saw lesbians on Church Street or in Toronto’s defacto Queer West Village. In fact in both of Toronto’s queer hoods the largest bars and biggest queer themed nights have been started by and cater to an almost exclusively gay male clientele. The only Toronto exception that I can think of is the fun crew at Yes Yes Y’all, which was indeed started by a bunch of female DJ’s. But for every YYY there are countless gay nights which have been started by gay dudes and cater to a predominantly male crowd. The Village in and of itself, from its place in popular culture to its gay porn shops, gay bathouses, and gay bars, is a defacto male construct.

Wondering why there were so few lesbians – I hit the interweb to do some research. I soon discovered that one of the reasons why it may be hard to find lesbian friends is that there are statistically fewer homosexual women then there are gay men.

Most studies have actually concluded that there are half as many lesbians as there are gays! A recent study by Statistics Canada discovered that while about 1.3% of men polled considered themselves homosexual, only 0.7% of women considered themselves homosexual. Now any questionnaire that attempts to gauge the overall size of the LGBTQ population probably has more holes in it then Swiss cheese [what does gay mean along the spectrum of sexuality etc…], but almost all studies done since and including Kinsey’s work have concluded that gay incidence rates in the general population occur twice as often as lesbian incidence rates. There’s a good, albeit out of date, recap of statistical studies here.

I’m willing to buy the statistical conclusion that gays > lesbians, but it still doesn’t fully explain the lack of lesbians in my life. It also doesn’t explain why the Church-Wellesley Village is predominately male or why in popular culture lesbians (with the exception of the archetypical and probably not so typical “lipstick lesbian”) take a back-seat to the gays. The most successful movies with LGBTQ content (Milk, Philadelphia and Brokeback Mountain come to mind almost immediately) are about gay men and gay rights. I can’t think of a mainstream lesbian movie with the exception of Boys Don’t Cry. On TV gays similarly dominate. In GLAAD’s annual report on LGBTQ characters on the major networks there are 23 LGBTQ headlining or supporting characters. Of the 5 main LGBTQ characters 4 are men. Of the 18 supporting characters 11 are gay men, 2 are lesbians and 5 are bisexuals. In fact of all the major “coming out” plot lines I can think of (with the exception of Ellen’s original sitcom way back in the nineties) most of the characters are men. Coming out stories involving women, perhaps best personified by Willow’s lesbianism in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, have contrasted with TV coming out stories involving gay men, where the coming out is generally louder and angrier and more dramatic. Remember when Jack read his poem basically announcing his homosexuality on Dawson’s Creek? Retrospectively so awkward….

Gay’s have also used their sequined gay claws to help put their queer stamp on popular culture, less so for lesbians. Where would Madonna and Lady Gaga be without the gays? Why is there no counterpart to gay icons like Gaga, Lauper and their ilk? When I Googled lesbian icons all I came up with was Ellen Degeneres and Samantha Ronson… great people who both rock a pixi haircut, but neither of whom have the same pop-culture heft that their gay counterparts have had.

Again certainly I am willing to buy the statistical argument in the matter, but still, why are lesbians so demure compared to men?

The reality is that gay men have had a more public and cohesive identity then lesbians. Recent queer history has helped form this singular community identity. The HIV/AIDS crisis that galvanized the queer community in the 1980’s and 1990’s was central to constructing a gay civic identity. But the disease was much more a gay crisis then it was a lesbian one. Heck – even the fight to decriminalize homosexuality –was often fought via the fight against sodomy, which as far as I know really only pertains to gay men and perhaps women who peg other people. Interestingly, the final decriminalization of homosexuality in all US States was a Supreme Court challenge against Texas’s sodomy law. Couple sodomy laws, HIV/AIDS crisis and bathhouse raids it is clear that late twentieth century queer rallying cries were seemingly male dominated; it has only been queer marriage and queer adoption which have seemingly spanned both sides of the queer community.

Stereotypes also come into play of why perhaps homosexuality is more "mainstream" then "lesbiansim". Stereotypically gay men are more fun then lesbians. Gay men are sidekicks. Gay men offer fashion advice. Gay men can complain about boys with our girlfriends. Gay men can also give pointers on how best to deal with penis. For straight dudes, once they get over the gay thing [and no I don’t want to bang you…], gays can be awesome wingmen, as we’re not fishing in the same stream. When a male friend of mine started seeing his new girlfriend she suggested that the three of us go shopping together because obviously all gays like to shop. What’s the stereotypical comparison for lesbians: “I’d love to go play curling with you and your lesbian best friend?” Sure these are extremes of course and fairly stereotypical I also realize, but play word association with lesbian and gay – the pop-culture connotations are much more positive to be gays then lesbians.
To go back to my friends’ joke: dykes march, gays parade.

My friend Krista suggested that societal bias towards gays is similar to societal bias towards men. It may also be related to some sort of patriarchal fear of the lesbian. I’m willing to buy this argument. Sure straight men are fascinated by hot chicks making out, but skim the thin icing of faux-lesbianism off the multi-layered cake of sexuality, and Krista argues that straight men may actually feel threatened by the lack of cock in lesbian relationships. To the uninitiated lesbianism may seem emasculating.

Now all of this being said – and I hope this story is cohesive and not offensive to anyone who is a carpet muncher, I mean lesbian (that was a purposefully offensive joke inserted into a sentence about being non offensive), gays, the next time your law firm hires a lesbian, or the next time you find yourself at Slacks, or the next time you’re hanging out with your one lesbian friend, hug them; its high time we gays celebrate our other half. They may not be as flashy as we are, but they’re our people too.

Remember friends that for too long lesbians have been our quiet sister who has supportively stood in our shadows and watched us perform our sequined song and dance routine. Gays it’s time to share that stage.

It’s time for Hug a Lesbian Day.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On Becoming a Rugged Individualist...

Sarah Silverman has this great joke using the word scary. She literally just repeats the word scary over and over again in a disafected accent. There's something about it that makes me smile; this makes some sense, about 50% of my life revolves around cribbing Sarah Silverman jokes. In the best of times this leads to hilarity, and in the worst of times it leads to complete and utter embarrassment.

Take, for example, the time my marketing class was talking about the need to rebrand American Airlines. Old Jono thought he'd whip out Sarah's classic 9/11 joke: Ya know Sarah Sivlerman says that American Airlines should just re-brand itself with a more positive spin, "First Through the Towers".

I finished with a flourish and smirk - in my head I expected the class to burst out into laughter allowing me to reap the reward of comedy - instead, however, my smirk was met with defeaning silence interupted only by a gasp from the back of the room.

The silence was so great, it was almost as if I'd just admitted to my marketing class that I fuck goats on the weekend (which I don't).

Such joke #fail was indicative of my tenure at the Rotman School of Management. Sometimes I think that Rotman stole my youth; other times I'm concerned that it stole my joie de vivre; other times I'm just convinced Rotman spat on its hand and had its way with me just like Ennis Del Mar had his way with Jack Swift (that movie still holds up by the by - I recommend a re-watch and RIP Heath).

However the one thing I truly lost at Rotman, besides a computer cord and this really pretty cashmere scarf I bought in London (to whomever stole it I quote noted thespian Antoine Dodson: you are so dumb, you are really dumb, for real; you don't have to come and confess, we're looking for you, we gonna find you), was my ability to champion in group consensus.

What do I mean exactly? Well before Rotman I jokingly told a friend that if I ever got drafted into the army I'd be voted as most likely to organize a kumbaya circle in order to champion an Oprah-esque Remembering Your Spirit moment.

A year later? Fuck your feelings - lets talk about moi for a moment. I'm not sure where my love of other people's feelings has gone over the last two years - it may have been those lectures on the evil of group think - but I think Rotman has turned me into a rugged individualist.

I was recently at a strategic planning session for a non-profit I volunteer with. The organization, a group for up-and-coming professionals, is currently refining its strategic vision and mission statement and those of us in attendance were to construct a new vision statement.

As we broke off into small groups it became clear that there were two broad groups of people - in one corner you had those who felt the organization's mission was simply about city-building (the admirable ones), and in the other corner were the individualists who admitted that they were involved with said non-profit because they sought out personal growth would in turn allow them to support city-building initiatives.

There's a small but important distinction between these two positions. And aI left the meeting I surprised myself by being more supportive of the latter idea; isn't everyone furthering their own agenda all the time?

I'm pretty sure my change of heart isn't just a b-school thing. It may be a generational/state of life. As a friend of mine, who recently bought a house, admitted - the time was nigh to maximize his own personal earnings. If there was anytime to be now for one and one for now... it was in your late twenties and early thirties.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Individualism - especially of the rugged kind - is a defining myth of the American twentieth century. The myth goes that rugged individualists - from Daniel Boone to Henry Ford to Teddy Roosevelt - tamed the American frontier (of both the literal and figurative type) and then watched the country prosper because of it. It was in 1928 when Herbert Hoover coined the term, Rugged Individualist, proclaiming: "The American system.... It is founded upon the conception that only through ordered liberty, freedom and equal opportunity to the individual will his initiative and enterprise spur on the march of progress."

In a recent article in Time Magazine on the state of rugged individualism Roger Rosenblatt argues that the driving mythology of the Rugged Individualist is not necessarily a bad thing because the concept is not simple narcisism, as "The 'rugged' saves 'rugged individualism' from shabbiness by implying not merely solitary but courageous action." Rosenblatt further argues that as much as the concept of rugged individualism has shapped modern American culture, personal rugged individualism has been tempered by a collective sense of responsibility.

Therein, I think, lies the important point in all of this business - tis fine to segue into that of a rugged individualist (it also sounds really butch if you're gay) but never forget the bow)ties that bind us. That may be why the rugged individualist, such as myself, enjoys a good bow tie; as the NY Times noted: "A list of bow tie devotees reads like a Who's Who of rugged individualists."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Finding Your Happy in Gossip Girl

There are few things in life that bring me a considerable amount of joy. And most of what does lead to personal happiness is orally inclined: basically I'm talking about food and sex. And before you get all judgy and tell me that I am a dirty asshat for thinking about sex all the time le me remind you that the average male thinks about sex every 8 seconds and I'm going to assume that women think about it just as often as men do (cause we're equal y'all).

This means that while you were reading the above paragraph your mind probably wandered like at least twice (cock) to matters below the belt (blow job); who's the sick freak now (vagine)? The majority of my day is thusly spent eating, planning my next meal, and thinking about sex. Less time is actually spent doing the sex because well ya know... I'm single.

The other thing that truly, truly brings me joy, beyond my deep deep love for Gwyneth Paltrow (GP is the WASP girlfriend I've always wanted), is the blessed hour of television known as Gossip Girl. I'm going to assume that most people have watched or at least know about the scandalous lives of Manhattan's elite... Even my mother watches Gossip Girl; although in your defense she tapes it on her VCR, as if you think Sim Sim Sima would spring for PVR? What planet are you from?

The main criticism that people level at GG is that it is totally unrealistic. No shit Sherlock. If I wanted realism I'd watch a documentary about oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico or maybe I'd watch an inspired by true events docu-drama about Terry Fox. Realism = nihilism and my life is realistic enough. I watch GG so I can salivate over the sets, the parties, and the clothes. And also Chase Crawford. For one brief hour a week GG is a respite from the daily grind that is ma vie.

In fact I love Gossip Girl so much so that when I'm down or blue I sometimes YouTube short clips of GG and sing (to the tune of Julie Andrews):

Serena's Large Breasts and Nate Archibalds man bangs,
Crazy ex-boyfriends and Van der bilts named Tripp;
Charitable functions and masquerade parties with bling;
These are a few of my favourite Gossip Girl things.

When Little J is banished;
When Georgina is damaged;
When I'm feeling sad;
I simply remember my favourite epi's and then I don't feel so bad.

Anyway... I've gotten a bit off topic here - but because I love me sums Gossip Girl I mostly overlook the fact that it the show has almost zero tangible connection to reality. As a joke NYMagazine's blog Vulture does a Gossip Girl reality meter every week, but I mean whatever... why bother asking such salient questions like why is "Gossip Girl" cyber bullying Serena? Or ask even more nuanced questions like: how does Juliette's brother text her from prison? Or point out obvious plot holes like it would take Dan more then an hour to get dressed, and get from DUMBO to Lincoln Center. Whatever. Who cares, just look at Blake Lively's tits.

That being said there is a bit of moral issue I do wish the show would address on a somewhat more realistic basis.

What you may ask? Let's talk about sex baby. Let's talk about you and me. Let's talk about all the goods things and the bad things that may be.

Look, as a progressive person I'm fairly cool with everyone on Gossip Girl being a bit of a whore; its part of the fun and at least someone is getting some.

That being said - can the kids on Gossip Girl be whores who don't get STD's? At one point while watching an episode from last season I texted my friend Amy with the sad realization that almost all of the characters on GG were having more sex then I was but nary once had there been a mention about condoms or protection. And while I don't expect the Powers that Be to film an episode where Blair and Serena have to put a condom on a banana in their high school health class (something my friends Emily and Julia DID have to do) it would be nice if the show touched on issues of contraception and STI's. I'm assuming a lot of teenagers do watch the show; and heck even people my age need to be reminded that: no glove, no love [I just spent 30 minutes trying to find the youtube of that commercial that was on the TV when we were younger when there was that girl and her sister and the sister grabs her as she's running out the door to remind her: no glove no love and couldn't, sorry].

Its not the general promiscuity I worry about - its how our friends on the Upper East Side seemingly screw around with abandon at all times of day in almost any location; are they just always carrying around condoms? Take parts of Season 3 which found Serena and Nate f^cking each other across the Upper East Side. In one seminal (no pun intended) episode Nate pulls Serena into a coat closet for some afternoon delight. It would have been nice if someone mentioned the c-word, because lord knows Nate is too fucking stupid to carry around a condom with him.

Thankfully there has been a bit of a change in Season 4 in terms of promoting safer sex. Chuck actually mentioned buying condoms in one episode and there was a faux Gossip Girl blast insinuating that Serena had an STD. That being said Blair's insinuations that Serena is a whore who slept with "french waiters, bartenders, docents, anyone on a bicycle..." doesn't really bode well for her pelvic health... And while GG may finally be becoming a bit more realistic when it comes to contraception choice - the way that the show portrays women also leaves a bit to be desired.

This leads me to moral quandry numero duos.

Again - I realize Gossip Girl is not going to be my generations Mary Tyler Moore show but can it at least try and make its main female character, Serena Van Der Woodsen, less dependent on men for her own feelings of self worth? In the last episode (Juliette Doesn't Live Here Anymore) - heroine Serena pouted all the way to Bergdorfs because she was sad she couldn't show up the ballet opening on the arm of her sorta boyfriend, who was also her professor. Girl - don't value yourself by being someone's arm candy!

Anyway - there you have it folks I love Gossip Girl for its unrealistic amazingness - but maybe, just maybe the show could try and be a bit more realistic when it comes to addressing salient societal issues.

Ya know - it would be nice if we could somehow mix some Blake Lively side boob and Chase Crawford man bangs with some safe sex (and heck if that safe sex includes yours truly that is a price I am willing to pay for the sake of moral uplift).


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pity Toronto

Poor Toronto; we’re always never quite there, even though we try so hard. And by there I’m talking about our obsession with being a world-class city, whatever that connotes. The smell of our desperation is starting to get noticed though, which is worrisome for those of us who actually like Hogtown. Check out Gawker’s list of cities to move to when the Tea Party takes over America where Gawker astutely noted about our little hamlet: “there's a weird inferiority complex thing going on in Toronto that just gets a little sad after a while.”

Inferiority complex aside, however, there is something that sometimes seems a bit provincial about our beloved burg (take our reaction to Scott Conant HuffPo letter about his Scarpetta outpost at the Thomson).

Or remember when William Thorsell announced Daniel Libeskind was going to head up Renaissance ROM? At the time Libeskind with Da Shit; he had just designed the acclaimed Holocaust Musuem in Berlin AND had been hired to design the Freedom Tower which was to be built at Ground Zero. Take that New York – Toronto had him first (just like Susur Lee!). In our minds we had hit the starchitectural big leagues baby. So then we built our showy new Libeskind but then we all ended up hating it and more importantly everyone else hated it. For those with little short-term memory it was named the ugliest building of the decade by the Washington Post. To make matters even worse - by the time the ROM opened the era of starchitecture had died. The international financial crisis had led to an era architectural austerity yet there was Toronto holding the keys to an overpriced tin can.

Toronto is like that girl in your class who is the lamest member of the cool girl posse (think Gretchen in Mean Girls). True, she is still part of the cool posse, but barely so and bless her little heart – she’s always trying, clinging on to being invited to tag along. In fact she reeks of try. Toronto is like the last person to get UGGs and then proudly wears them the day Queen C declares UGGs are over. I mean – good for us, we got a Liebskind, but we opened our Libeskind the day the world zeitgeist decided that Daniel was démodé.

Le sigh for us.

Unlike for gays, however, it doesn’t get better for Toronto – first there was the whole Rob Ford thing, which I mean is sort of embarrassing from a macro-perspective, but then Roger Ebert had to pipe in with this tweet: “Toronto elects a mayor who doesn’t believe in public transit, arts funding, environment or homosexuality. Toronto?” I know most of us were hoping that we could keep a lid on the Ford thing for a bit longer, “maybe no one will notice that we, a self-proclaimed beacon of diversity, elected a Mayor who called Asian people Orientals and then made disparaging remarks about gay people?” When push comes to shove at least we could sort of gloss things over and boast about our Mayor-elect is so badass he got busted with marijuana! I know most of us were hoping that we would have at least until World Pride 2014 to deal with the issue had hand.

As if that isn’t bad enough – we’re about to become hit with “The Lake-Shore” some weird made-in Toronto reality show that features 8 of the worst (and I’m making a value judgement of these 8 people after watching their youtube auditions) people our fair city has to offer. The cast members are self-described in variants of: hardcore party animal, tease, fashionista etc… What’s even worse is they’re labelled as: the Jew, the Lebanese, the Turk, or the Italian. Just an FYI from his bio: our home-grown Italian loves to flash his hot Italian abs. Great – so not only are we going to be subjected by 8 idiots doing Jager Bombs to Shots Shots Shots by LMFAO and Lil John at Easy on the Fifth – we’re also going to be subjected by near racist epithets.

Awesome Toronto. Just f’ing awesome. And to take it up a notch – the international media is taking note: Gawker, NY Daily News, LA Times, Washington Post and Entertainment Tonight are all reporting about the Lake-Shore. One article was titled: “Canada's Lake Shore: It's Like Jersey Shore But Worse.” For a city that is constantly trying to join the big leagues of sophistication is this really what we need?

Look – I’d love a good Toronto-based reality TV show – maybe something Bay Street related? Or even a catty show about people who work in our burgeoning fashion industry – can’t someone give Robin Kay a show – that bitch would bring the CRAZY? Or what about a scripted show about rich Upper Canada boys and Branksome Hall girls – think Gossip Girl meets 90210: “Hey there Forest Hillary’s, guess who was spotted eating hummus at Mashu Mashu…”. Maybe the first episode can start with someone coming back from self-imposed exile from Lakefield or something… I don’t know… but like surely we can do something a bit cooler then copying a reality TV show based in New Jersey? I mean, really Toronto, really?

Last year I wrote that Toronto with our garbage strikes and socialites had finally become Manhattan. I take that back – Toronto has become New Jersey, the armpit of America, and quite frankly this is embarrassing for all of us. Instead of international media taking note of whatever it is we do best – we’ve taking photos of our warts and have tagged them on the Facebook that is the international news media.


File this one under: Nancy Drew and the case of Toronto needs a good PR person. Stat.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Toronto Not So Divided After All

Sometimes my crazyness gets published.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Flip Flopping Part Deux – the Rob Ford Edition:

A couple of months ago I wrote a piece mocking the McGuinty Liberal government for flip flopping over their sex ed policy. I mentioned that I much preferred bedroom flip-flopping to the political kind.

For the un-initiated: In the gay world flip-flopping is when two men (let’s assume they are partners, and maybe, depending on where they live in North America lucky enough to be considered husband and husband) take turns penetrating each other. This is what we gays like to call a flip flop f*ck and this versatility is one of the many reasons, of which sharing bow-ties and face-cream are others, that being gay is super awesome. And with that I just wrote the text to my own “It Gets Better Video.” Just think of the penetrative combinations the average gay couple’s sex life includes; while who's on first is NOT a common question being asked in gay bedrooms across the nation, we do get to ask: who's doing who first?

In politics, however, a flip-flop means something completely different, obviously; and furthermore, get that visual image of Dalton McGuinty and George Smitherman flip flopping on the health tax credit out of your head. Ew. In politics flip flopping refers to political leaders who approve a policy before clawing back on said policy; this claw back is often due to demands from special interest groups.

"Dalton really flip-flopped on Transit City," would be one example of a political flip flop. Occasional flip flopping on gay porn site Sean Cody would define the gay meaning.

While McGuinty probably knew about the gay kind of flip-flopping I'm pretty sure that Mayor-Elect Rob Ford doesn't. This is probaly because Rob Ford doesn't have very many gay friends. Or at least the type of bro-friendship that would lead to a bottle of wine and late night policy session where Dalton may ask, “So… uhm… George… I’ve always wondered how it actually works.” And if you don’t believe me – my first political campaign included a car ride wherein a straight friend actually asked: so how do you avoid getting beard burn on your thighs if a dude gives you a blow job. The reality of politics is that you spend a lot of time together and ya know… you exhaust a lot of topics.

Anyway… why am I so sure that Rob Ford doesn’t have a gay friend to enlighten about the intricacies of gay sex? If Rob Ford had a gay friend I'm sure said gay friend would help Rob with his style, be like look here’s my stylist at holts and maybe for Christmas purchase him an ab-roller and or P90X.

So subsequently and unlike McGuinty I'm pretty sure that Ford knows nothing about the intricacies of hard-core male on male action specifically flip flopping. This is of course a man who has said the following about gay people and HIV/AIDS: "If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably, that’s bottom line. These are the facts." More recently Ford referred to homosexuality as a lifestyle choice (via twitter).

Imagine the awkwardness rolling around FordHQ (which in my mind looks like Gargamel’s Castle) this morning as the Toronto Star published the following: Ford Won’t Ditch Streetcars. According to Doug Ford “that was a rumour from our competition,” even though a direct quote from Ford’s Transit Plan, A Transportation Plan that Makes Sense for Toronto, is: “We will improve traffic flow downtown by removing some streetcars. Streetcars on downtown arterial streets will be replaced with clean buses that provide the same capacity on the same routes.”

Rob Ford you old dog – you just flip-flopped. And to quote Matt Damon from the seminal movie Good Will Hunting: How do you like them apples?

Ford’s flip-flop on streetcar removal is of course no big surprise. Metrolinx, the regional transit agency, recently signed a $770 million streetcar contract with Bombardier; that is on top of a $1.22 billion purchase of 200 streetcars that the City made in 2009. Furthermore funding for Transit City, David Miller’s LRT (not streetcar) expansion project, has been committed to by the province (with a bit of help from Ford’s BFF Flaherty). Transit City routes will be owned by Metrolinx, NOT the City of Toronto. Metrolinx has a corporate Board of Directors, none of whom are politicians. For Ford to literally stop the supposed streetcar gravy train he’ll have to somehow weasel his way out these two contracts, and incur significant penalties from Bombardier, which as we all know is the Federal governments favourite Quebec-based company (oh and not to be too conspiracy crazy… but remember that Harper and the Conservative government needs all the help it can get in Quebec City…). Add all of that up together and it’s no wonder Ford has already flip-flopped on the streetcar issue. It was DOA to begin win.

That being said Torontonians do need to have a debate about streetcars, especially on King and Queen. I understand everyone’s frustrations with streetcars. As drivers they slow down through traffic, and as commuter’s they’re just not fast, flexible or big enough for our current transit needs.

Many people point to St. Clair West as an example of the failure of Miller’s Transit City potential. I beg to differ. St Clair is a failure because of significant cost over-runs (how it ballooned from a $48 million projection to $106 million project is a giant mystery) and a failure because it was sold as a transit time-saver, when in truth it only shaves 3 minutes in overall travel time. All of that being said St Clair isn’t a disaster, it was a PR misnomer.

The truth about St. Clair is that it actually facilitates cars as much if not more so then transit users.

Unlike Queen Street St. Clair now has dedicated left turning lanes. One of the big annoyances is being stuck behind a streetcar in either the centre lane or in the right lane and being unable to move as it offloads and on-loads users; this no longer happens on St. Clair. The reality is that now that construction is over – St. Clair is kind of a drivers paradise.

The other big fear mongering point that St. Clair detractors used in the recent election (especially in my Ward where pamphlets urged voters “Not to let what happened on St. Clair happen to Eglinton.” Have people lived anywhere near subway construction? [probably not… we haven’t built a subway in this city in like a decade]. If you thought St. Clair was ugly…. Try subway construction. Let’s not be so naïve as to think that an Eglinton Subway, for example, may not harm businesses along Eglinton. While tunnels can be bored using tunnel boring machines – most stations are built using cut-and cover techniques, which my dear friends means exactly like it sounds. They cut into the street, build and then cover it.
So let’s have a debate about streetcars, I’d love to see a study about having queen turn into an east only streetcar route and king westbound. Surely there are efficiencies that someone can find somewhere…

My long-winded point: the time is now for Torontonians need to have a debate about streetcars and maybe Mayor-elect Ford is winking at us gays with his latest flip-flop?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Please Don't Blame the Latte Drinkers...

Consider dearest friends, who’ve taken to Facebook and Twitter to express their outrage over Toronto’s 2010 municipal election, the reality that we’re going to have to live with Mayor Elect Rob Ford for the next four years. So the time is night to park our outrage on a colour coded sidewalk and learn to deal with apparent regime change.

The reality is that of the five main candidates for mayor (Ford, Smitherman, Rossi, Thompson and Pantelone) was there any one candidate that really excited anyone? In the ten months that we’ve had to deal with non-stop campaigning, breathless press-releases, doomsday warnings, endorsements, bad-advertising (Bocci Balls) and cock-a-many ideas (I’m looking at you Rossi) have you really been inspired by anyone’s vision for Toronto?

I ask that question even to Ford supporters (although I don’t really know any admitted Fordites); Ford’s vision consisted of stopping the quote un-quote gravy train and demanding respect for taxpayers. Anything beyond these mantra’s that was released by the Ford people was nebulous at best from a policy perspective. Destroying streetcar tracks, colour-coding sidewalks for parking purposes and slashing councillor budgets are probably not going to happen. So like Londoner’s during the Blitz – let us all keep calm and carry on.

In the ensuing cluster-fuck of post-election game playing I suspect that many people are going to argue that Toronto is now like London, England where a divided electorate oscillates between the musings of the inner city elite and demands of the exurb proletariat. We’ve already seen this supposed thesis from faux-Torontonian Richard Florida who tried to tie is aged creative class thesis to Toronto’s electoral map; the result was a downright intellectual #fail. Still the belief that a Ford win represents the triumph of the suburbs over the downtown elite will be propagated by all of us looking for answers over this undesired outcome.

Pish-posh people. The reality is that Ford polled decently well downtown; his message resonated even with us latte drinkers. You may not know of anyone who voted for Rob Ford, but almost 400,000 Torontonians did. Vote spread in the old city and suburbs hasn’t yet been published – but by my simple arithmetic (using a 64% eligibility factor) there were 440,000 eligible voters in the old City of Toronto versus 1.1 million in the inner suburbs (North York, Etobicoke, etc..); accounting for 52% turnout that means there were 220,000 votes cast in Toronto versus 550,000 thousand in the inner suburbs. Are we assuming that every voter that bothered to vote in the old city voted for George? Don’t think so… That $60 vehicle registration tax buys almost 15 grande latte’s at Starbucks. And that anti-immigrant stuff? I had a cab driver who immigrated to Toronto from Sri Lanka with a Ford sticker on his bumper… to quote Kevin O’Leary from Dragons’ Den – MONEY. Where is MY MONEY?

The reality is that people from St. Clair to Cityplace to Flemingdon Park to the Bluffs were pissed right off at City Hall. No foot in mouth antics from our fat fuck of a nearly mayor Ford was going to stop their support of him.

So anyway before we all start freaking out and drooling over Calgary’s hot young thing of a mayor, let’s pull up the bootstraps of our Hunter Wellies (for those who live downtown) and whatever it is people buy from payless (class-joke alert!) and assess what we should do next.

There are two main take-aways from last night's result:

1) Things Are Going to Be Fine – Look I will probably not be sharing bow-tie tying tips with our mayor-elect (“Rob, don’t you hate that final step when you have to make the final loop…” “I know Naymark, I find it easier with silk bow-ties versus cotton,” “oh Rob you are so right! <3”), but the man is our democratically elected Mayor and as much as I may find him distasteful he is only 1 vote on a dysfunctional council 45. His hands are somewhat tied by legalities of our provincial masters. Furthermore Toronto has a unique (I may say blessed) ability to do seemingly ok without a strong leader. We’ve kinda had mediocre mayors since the City was amalgamated (the first couple years of Miller’s regime showed promise). This may be a complacent attitude, but sometimes when I walk around downtown I can’t help but think that all of this talk of Toronto’s decline is well, a bit overwrought. If Toronto is the next Detroit – why is Cadillac Fairview spending $200 million dollars renovating the Eaton Centre and why is the Ritz Carlton opening their first Canadian hotel on Wellington, amongst other hundred of construction projects that are occurring downtown? In a sense, and this is why I don’t agree with the two Toronto thesis, Fords victory was an attempt to bridge the clear disconnect between our fiscally responsible and fairly successful corporate identity with our fiscally irresponsible and union-jammed City Hall.

2) The Lack of Leadership in this city needs to be addressed - As a city we seem to not attract the type of leadership some of us think we deserve. Why was there not a single credible candidate in the centre-left that was able to bring forth a vision of Toronto that resonated with Torontonians? Rocco Rossi’s vision (especially from his early days) never resonated with the broad public while George’s “man with a plan” was vague at best. Is the city so devoid of its own sense of self that the best and brightest in Toronto could not cobble together a single hope vision that countered Ford’s vision for a fiscally responsible municipality? Eek.

So there ya have it folks – Ford, built tough.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sliding into Real Life and Stealing Home…

There was a big NY Times magazine article a couple of weeks ago about how your late twenties is like [sic]the worst time to be alive. Sing it sister.

Captain Obvious, the NYT, portrays the latter twenties as a time of general generational fear. No shit NYT. For the past two nights I’ve had nightmares about being on a plane that crashes into a bunch of skyscrapers right after take-off and you’re telling me that I’m scared about something? What fancy Ivy League school granted you an MBO – a Master’s in the Business of Obviousness?

According to Dr. Google my dreams can be interpreted as follows: I have high expectations for myself and am concerned that they’re not going anywhere. I like to think that the plane is evocative of my career; I am psychologically afraid about failure to launch.

While I’m willing to chalk up such alarming and overly dramatic dreams to my own neuroses there is some circumstantial evidence that being late twenty-ish isn’t the walk in Central Perk that Friends made it seem.

Sometimes it feels like going from 22 to 28 is like crossing the Rubicon from a happy-go-lucky city-state that sniffs glue into full-blown Empire that has mortgage payments on its far-flung colonies AND has to deal with the Senate that is its student loan payments [that’s a reference to Caesar that doesn’t fully work, just go with it].

Now before I get heckled for being one of those bitchy people who says stuff like: “5 years is so much older; I’m so mature and wise” let me tap in to save myself and admit that yes, everyone looks at someone five years younger and says, wow I’ve grown up so much in the last five years, I was so immature then. Just ask my sister, Bold Sharon, who is seven years older than me. While I can be found nursing a hangover most Saturday mornings, she can be found nursing her two children. So when I ask her if she likes my new haircut, she genuinely closes her eyes, takes a moment to pause while probably thinking: my brother is so immature, why does he smell like gin?

Five years is major at 18 and you look back at your geeky bar-mitzvah photo’s. Those seminal five years probably included such important life stages such as pubic hair. And truthfully at 27 – am I really that mature compared to my 23 year-old self? Not really… I mean, throw me into an open bar reception and I’m liable to get the slurs before midnight.

But still there is something about being closer to 30 then not. And I realize of course that being 27 or 28 isn’t really old. 30 is old. Just joking! Neither is old [especially since we’re all going to live to like 110], and yet – I would be remiss to not notice that there are vast different between being fresh out of college grasping an undergraduate degree and being 28 and fresh out of grad school. Something happens in those five years which make life a little bit more serious.

I ran into the daughter of a family friend the other day who is 23. She’s moving to New York to take some classes in design and then start her career in fashion; this is after spending the year in between her philosophy degree and grad school picking fruit in Australia. What is she most looking forward to? “Beginning real life…”
And that’s the trick really… at 23 you can still get away with living at home and eating fruit that your parents purchased from Harvest Wagon. Heck at 23 maybe your mom still takes you to Club Monaco every once in a while and buys you a nice new outfit. Life can be that much more frivolous when you’re 23.

By 28 that shit is cut off. Suddenly you realize that most of the people who are winning Teen Choice awards aren’t your age; they’re younger then you and they’ve achieved more success then you have or probably ever will. Not to say that aging is really the problem per se. Its not like I’ve booked myself a botox appointment for my 28th birthday.
At 23 the world is sort of your oyster; but by 28 you’re expected to have it all figured out, even if you don’t. This sense of listlessness coupled with anxiety has been identified by psychologists as the new life stage of “emerging adulthood”. Thrust into the world with a graduate degree and supposed maturity a 28 year-old isn’t really that different from your typical 23 year-old, yet there’s a looming sense that we should be. Psychologist Jeffrey Arnett, who coined the term emerging adulthood, feels that twenty-something angst is deeply related to “the age 30 deadline.” That period is psychologically when we’re supposed to make life-altering choices about marriage, careers, babies etc...

I’m not sure this generational anxiety is simply about the age 30 deadline; rather it’s the fact that real life gets that much more complex as you wade through your twenties. I call this complexity the mail barometer. When I moved back home after university I cancelled my hydro, locked my apartment door for the last time and left the key in the mailbox. My most recent move required like twenty different address changes: OSAP, multiple banks, multiple visa cards, financial advisors, RRSP’s… I’m exhausted already; can’t I just watch Gossip Girl and eat pizza for dinner?

Remember when you were 8 and wondered when you were going to start getting mail like your mom and dad? That’s what being 28 is. You get mail. And most of that mail is money related.

But the root problem of being an emergent adult may be that you’re caught with one foot in the world of being a 23 year old who just wants to binge drink on weekends with another foot deeply entrenched into the mountain that is adulthood.

Straddling this chasm not only isn’t very fun; it is also exhausting. It may also lead to a groin injury and that is just simply bad for business.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sarah Palin Just Wants You to Like Her...

My good friend Kenny once advised me after I lamented the fact that I needed everyone like me, “Buddy,” He said, “you gotta grow a bit of a thicker skin. I used to want everyone to like me, and then I sort of realized that not everyone does. Then I just stuck with people who did.”

Wise words often go on deaf ears. But much to my own dismay I've rarely been able to take Kenny’s advice to heart.

And so just the other day as I walked out of Holt Renfrew, my hair freshly cut, happily frolicking along Bloor Street, minding my own business, whistling Dixie (or whatever the current alt-rock band du jour is that I should be listening to on my iPod), I caught of a whiff of my own reflection in the highly refractive glass of the Harry Rosen window display. It was there amidst the Canada Goose coats and cashmere sweaters that I realized, with about as much as OMG as I could muster, NAYMARK NOT EVERYONE LIKES YOU.

Yes. I know. That’s right friends, there are clearly some people, who shall remain nameless, who probably can’t stand the sight of my J. Crew clad ass.

With fear and self-loathing coating my stomach I didn’t know what to do but sit down and contemplate my own nihilism over a latte at Starbucks. Life was suddenly the opposite of Sally Field’s 1984 acceptance speech for Best Oscar. Life was suddenly so much more negative: “You hate me. You really really hate me.”

Depressed and despondent I turned to a newspaper seeking distraction only to find out that the peon of the people, Government House Leader John Baird, declared that he too hated me as he railed against those damned “Toronto elites” of which surely I am one. Size queen that he is Baird was angry that us Centre of the Universts, i.e. leaders of the Liberal and NDP parties, were going to vote against the Conservative bill to abolish the long-gun registry. Such government invasiveness was deemed treason for Herr Harper’s government of the people. Baird, as you may or may not know, is a homo-sapien [jokes!] and as such has a long history of distaste for Toronto; even if as Glen Murray noted in a tweet: “Funny Baird attacking Toronto elites. Who are they? I imagine given the # of cosmos I have had with Rusty @ Byzantium he qualifies.” For those with short memories Baird once told Mayor Miller to “Fuck-off”.

But the hating didn’t stop at that I realized. The threads of elitist animonsity run deeper then a streetcar ROW track in downtown Toronto and the fury is not just an Ottawa versus Toronto thing. Anger at everything that Miller Antoinette represents is tantamunt to civil war too. Toronto’s mayoral race has seen steamrolled by an everyman candidate from Etobicoke rallying against the violent elitist beast which threatens to ruin the good shop Tarawno.

So Wwho is this steamroller? While Furious George n’est pas.

Non non les incompetents, our everyman is not a former drug addict, turned provincial health minister, turned gay adoptive parent trailblazer. Apparently our everyman is a slightly obese, “fat-fuck” who inherited a family labelling company and has sat on Toronto council for the past 10 years; mesdames and messieurs: Le Roi Roberto Ford!

L'etat c'est moi! Non! L’Eclaire Est Vous!

For the uninitiated the entire Rob Ford juggernaut has been pitched towards the anti-Toronto-elite Torontonian. Ford, with almost 45% of the decided vote, has stayed on a dedicated message for the entire campaign, rallying the car-driving, hard-working, anti-politician, Torontonian who is fed up that his garbage not being collected on time and is sick of the fact that it takes the City of Toronto like ten years to build a stupid streetcar lane, when it probably should stop build streetcars altogether, because they disrupt the flow of traffic and cause pollution. GRRR.

"Save us Rob!" 45% of us non-elite elite Torontonians are apparently screaming. Ford isn’t speaking to me because I get my hair cut at Holts and I’m almost 100% sure Rob Ford does NOT get his hair cut at Holts.

In fact if Rob and I were stuck in an elevator together I’m not entirely sure what we’d talk about; I’m actually not even sure where Etobicoke is.

“I drove a Ford rental car once.”

“Different family.”

“Oh right, of course. You been to the ballet recently?”


But Ford’s brand of populism isn’t exactly new. Ford is stealing a page from the American politico populist playbook. A playbook so old that it can be traced beyond Brett Favre’s NFL career to the Rough Rider himself (if not earlier) and its latest incarnation is best personified by the elitist hating tsunami that is the Thrilla from Wasilla, the wise cracking Sarah Palin! Live from New York its Tina Fay!

Palin’s latest video: is simply entitled: Tea Party. It’s an ode to the Tea Party you betcha, but it also allows her nails on a chalkboard twang to yell at the public and let us know darn right just what exactly the Tea Party stands for.

And what does the Toilet Paper Party stand for? [Insert sort of violent, sort of patriotic crescendo] “It’s a ground-up call to action!” She screams. Sometimes I fucking love that bitch.

But the Tea Party has soul too, bitches: “The soul of this movement is the people; everyday American’s who grow our food, run our small businesses, teach our kids and fight our wars.” [note: if you’re gay you cannot be part of the Tea Party because you cannot fight America’s wars, because America doesn’t really allow gays in the military, unless you're gay but you don’t talk about it. ever… sawry]

And what’s the inspiration of this jizz-fest? “Real people, not politico’s, not inside the beltway professionals, speaking out for common sense conservative principles.”

But wait, there’s more: “Who can argue about a movement that is about the people that government is supposed to be working for the people; that is what this movement is about.”

Who can argue about a movement you ask SJP? Well actually I can. But first lets make fun of that last sentence for its damn good Palinsim. There are 3 that’s and 2 movements in one run-on sentence! Bless you and the monkey you rode in on.

In whatever world we now live in (perhaps it is post-September 11th, but that seems a bit démodé at this point, perhaps it is in the “web 2.0” sphere) it appears that politics is now repositioning itself around a new dichotomy. Whereas we used to have a fairly stagnant liberal versus conservative death fight, we now have segued into a contest between the “elites” and the “populists”.

But is this new reality so deceptively simple? Or are pseudo-populists simply framing the fight in their chosen language in order to discredit what they deem to be elitist progresivism?

In her book, the Armageddon Factor, Marci Macdonald describes the work of Frank Luntz an “uber strategist” in the American right wing who has become infamous for teaching Republicans how to pitch neo-conservative ideas simply by changing their verbiage. Luntz ensured that the less kooky sounding global warming became “Climate Change”, and the Democrat led estate-tax became known as a “Death Tax.” Never doubt the power of words in political discourse.

I fear that Palin’s Tea Party populism has simply replaced a different, much more dangerous vernacular. While populism sounds benign, the creeping social conservative values that Palin and her populist ilk preach are not so benevolent. Comparatively the framing of the anti-elitist mentality is a simple rebranding of the word progressive into a negatively positioned word: elite sounds bad, progressive sounds good.

Populism as I've noted isn’t entirely new to the political scene. Jean Chretien rode his pony to 24 Sussex championing “da cause of da lil guy from Shwangan” (the little guy from Shwanigan via your handy dandy JC-English dictionary); however, Chretien’s populist image was peppered with a socially progressive and fairly pro-business bent. Remember, It was Chretien and Martin who balanced the budget, cut transfer payments to provinces, cut social programs and also sliced personal and business taxes. Not exactly your Palin-esque Joe the Plumber Little Guy.

Rather, Chretien allowed us all to be “little guys” with him regardless of your geography; this, retrospectively, was the beauty of the then Big Tent Liberal Party of the late nineties. I could be a latte-drinking Toronto MBA but I could still invoke the little guy at heart.

Palin and Ford’s populism is not the same.

Da lil guy that Palin supports and her brand of populism is, to be frank, at its heart: bigoted. Beyond the small c conservative values Rob Ford is espousing in his campaign, the man is from all accounts a bigoted individual. Tossing Baird aside because he is an idiot [can I be sued for saying that?] and quite frankly an outlier (that shit wrote itself) in comparison to the much larger Tea Party and in terms of scale Ford movements, today’s new populist charge is made up of homophobic, small-minded, and anti-immigrant politicians whose world view is narrow-minded at best.

And so as progressives or elites or whomever the fuck we are I suggest that the time is nigh to beware and be aware of the so-called new-era populist, which has somehow made it shameful to be a progressively minded individual. This isn't a case of a populist revolt, or an attempt to make everyone like them; rather, it is a case of wolves in sheeps clothing. And that is dangerous, no matter what side of the fence you're sitting on.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What a Difference a Generation Makes?

I wrote this and forgot to post it... so its like a week old. Apologies, but hey... new content is new content and content is king.

I’m pretty sure we’ll never really know if the Highfield Road Gospel Hall was specifically targeting a gay couple’s house on Highfield Ave last Sunday as they went about their merry business preaching the Gospel of Jesus or whether they were just spreading the general love of Jesus to an entire street. In many ways it doesn’t matter. The ensuing cluster-fuck and viral sensation that their preaching has become has turned into a he-preached, he-said type of ordeal. At first the story heroicized the residents of Highfield Street for protecting their gay neighbours from an act of supposed homophobia; however, the story would soon morph into one of those freedom of speech nuggets people like to argue about: the Church goers were denied their god-given [sic] right to gather and sing. After all in Canada we have the right to assemble freely.

The video of the incident is available here for those who haven’t seen it.

I generally don’t like getting involved in tit-for-tat debates, or making blanket statements about how proselytisers of church doctrine are probably less down with the gay-gay than your average hip-hop rapper. In fact the actual event doesn’t interest me as much as everyone’s reaction to it. Divergent reactions to the posting of the video, I believe, have exposed enormous generational cleavages in Toronto’s gay community.

The video of the incident was filmed by a 29 year-old man by the name of Geoffrey Skelding. Skelding is gay. He posted his video on YouTube with the heading of: neighbourhood kicks out religious haters. From the outset the story was framed with this clichéd bias of religious people preaching against homosexuality. Frankly this was a fairly easy narrative to buy considering most religious group’s historical opposition to homosexuality and gay marriage.

Interestingly enough, the supposed targets of the attack, Blair Chiasson and his partner, Paul Collins, have eschewed the party line. They have refused to be victimized. In an interview with the Toronto Star, Chiasson declared, ““I don’t like how the whole issue is being distorted. Nothing happened. Nothing happened.” As Blair further noted about Skilding’s video: “They took a non-issue and turned it into an issue.” The Star article pointed out that Chiasson was 45 and for some reason his age (versus Skilling’s age) struck me as inherently connected to his distaste with the event.

To me the difference between Skilding and Chiasson’s reaction seems generational; and not just in its viral nature… which is very Gen Y in and of itself. Rather, Chiasson’s desire not to talk about what happened was, in my mind, and maybe I’m reading too much into the situation, a desire not to bring attention to his own homosexuality. Now it won’t be the first time that I’ve grossly misinterpreted something, but my honest interpretation of Chiasson’s remarks to the Star was: nothing to see here folks, we’re just two normal people living our lives. Thinking back to the Star article, which clearly states Chiasson’s age, I realized that Chiasson and his partner would have come of age in the eighties, a decade when queer bathhouses were frequently raided by Toronto’s police force, queer marriage was decades away and when the concept of a Pride Parade would have been fairly foreign to anyone. Sure there we’re gay people, but sadly 1985 Toronto was a very different place for gay men.

Chiasson’s interpretation of the incident seems to me as representative of his generation’s own struggle for queer rights. Most gay men I know in their forties or fifties fall into two categories: dudes who made the struggle for queer rights an integral part of their lives or men and women who tried to quietly go about their business, climb whatever ladder they were on, all the while hoping that no one would notice that they were gay.

Skelding, who is basically my age and who is only 16 years younger than Chiasson, would have come of age up in a very different Toronto. The Toronto of the late 1990’s and early 00’s was light years ahead in terms of its acceptance of homosexual citizens. And while Toronto’s queer community may have its struggles (as the most recent Pride debacle has shown), Toronto today is probably one of the most welcoming cities for LGBTQ people on the planet. I don’t even think I’m being hyperbolic about that. We have an out gay man, George Smitherman, running to be mayor and I can’t think of reading one snarky comment about his sexual preference. Over a million people attend our Pride Parade which features TD Bank as its lead sponsor. Almost every major company that I know of has a queer affinity group in order to make sure they’re diverse enough. In 2010 Toronto Police wouldn’t be caught dead raiding bath-houses; they’re too busy planning their Pride float.

This is not meant to be a damnation of Chiasson. Rather, I think it is interesting to see how far the queer community has come in Canada in a short period of time. Certainly the fact that an entire neighbourhood was so quick to react to perceived homophobia speaks quite impressively about how Torontonians are willing to accept gay men and women; although it may speak less of our city’s appreciation of the church and church groups.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Topic: Toronto is Not a Waterfront City and That’s Ok, Discuss

File this under blunt observations.

So Toronto City Council endorsed Waterfront Toronto’s latest land development this past week, a project known as Bayside. Bayside, located just east of the New Sherbourn Common park, is an $800 million residential, commercial and retail development that will include 1,700 condo units and space for almost 2,400 workers (if of course we can find them in what appears to be a double dip recession). $10 bucks there will also be at least one Starbucks. Any takers?

The entire development will be centered along a newish main street: Bonnycastle Street, which for some reason reminds me of pirates, although I’m not sure why. Bayside is currently the single largest land parcel that Waterfront Toronto has tendered, so far. The 10 acre project is dwarfed by Waterfront Toronto’s grandiose vision for the entire waterfront, which encompasses almost 2,00 acres and is projected to cost around $12 billion, approximate to the nearest billion (or two).

So I actually like the plans for Bayside. The drawings look nice and the rendered people look happy shopping along Bonnycastle Street. Plus I’m secretly hoping that the gay village moves to Bonnycastle Street because the name sounds kind of gay and we can call it Bornercastle.

[Also - I zeroed in on the rendering, but is that Bob Rae on the second floor smirking? Anyone think he’s planning a takeover of the Liberal Party of Canada circa 2014?]

But what I find most amusing about the saga of Bonnycastle Street, Bayside and Waterfront Toronto is how Torontonians become so weirdly passionate about our lack of a pedestrian friendly waterfront. Unlike other issues that wax and wane waterfront paranoia has been pretty constant. Here’s a fun game at your next dinner party; mention Toronto’s waterfront. Chances are at least 5 people will say: “It’s a disgrace.”

As my father is apt to note: “They’ve been talking about fixing up the waterfront since I moved here in the seventies; it still looks like shit.”
Most Torontonians are apoplectic about our shitty waterfront. And various levels of government have been trying to fix it up since the 1970’s when the Federal Liberals threw Toronto a bit of pork called the Harbourfront Centre in order to ensure election victory (classic). Brian Mulroney actually called a Royal Commission on the state of the Toronto waterfront at some point during his later years in office; because nothing says “let’s get things done” like a Royal Commission. Current Waterfront redevelopment began in 1999 when Mel Lastman, JC and Mike Harris announced the creation of the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Taskforce, now known as Waterfront Toronto. Still the Waterfront is a mixed bag that Torontonians love to debate and bemoan.

This is where it gets awkward, I think. As Torontonians we need to accept the fact that Toronto is and will never be a waterfront city. Our waterfront obsession is weird and we need to move on.

Why is Toronto a fake waterfront city? Look at its history of urban development as a centre of manufacturing and services. When former Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe laid out Yonge Street and Dundas Street as his two primary military roads, he created a central spine for the city that ran perpendicular to the lake. Yonge street didn’t even go as far as Lake Ontario, when it was laid out, in the late seventeen hundreds, Yonge ended at Bloor. It wasn’t extended south of Queen Street until after 1812. Initially a connector road linked up the muddy city of York to Yonge Street. Eventually Yonge would become the City of Toronto’s main drag and urban development mirrored traffic patterns, which by then weren’t so much about the lake but about Yonge Street. Because Toronto’s main streets were built with zero relationship to the lake as the city grew and developed around these arteries Toronto moved further and further away from being a lake-side city.

Toronto’s poor relationship with Lake Ontario is not because of the Gardiner Expressway or the rail lands, which many presume cut us off from our beloved waterfront, rather its historical.

Unlike Paris, which has grown up along the Seine, or other port city’s that are invariably connected to their water; Toronto actually grew up a couple kilometer’s north of the lake. The building on the Bloor subway cemented the fact that Toronto was no longer a lake-front city.

That being said, however, Toronto has been shaped by its natural environment. Just as Vancouver is shaped by False Creek and mountains, Toronto has had to bend to nature. However, in our case, nature isn’t our lakeside its our inland valleys.

And yet for some reason Torontonians are frantic about our waterfront, or lack there of.  Its another thing on the list of things that supposedly have to get down before our city can officially be declared “World Class”.  Toronto is like the girl who has pretty curly hair and desperately wants straight hair. Dear Toronto, not everyone has to have Frank Gerry designed straight hair along their waterfront, know what I mean? Talk to friends when they come back from Chicago and the first thing they’ll talk about is the waterfront; ditto for Barcelona. “Now that’s a city,” they’re likely to say. “A city with a waterfront.” What Harold Hill sold us the bill of goods that we couldn’t be a top-tier city unless we had a beautiful waterfront?

“You Got Trouble Toronto. And that starts with G and that rhymes with T and that stands for Gardiner.” (Stay tuned as I endeavor to re-write the entire lyrics of the Music Man about Toronto and its relationship to the lakefront!)

This is not to say that beautifying our waterfront should not be a priority for both Torontonians, and our elected officials (and by elected officials I’m talking about Mayor and by talking about anyone but Ford). Beautification should be important to us. And god bless any federal monies that actually flow into Toronto.  But a waterfront is not a panacea to Toronto’s ills; it isn’t some sort of steroid injection that will ultimately make Toronto be a better place for all of us.

Sadly our waterfront is a chimera for a city that is still trying to define itself. It is also a sad lament on the fact that in Toronto and in Canada we can talk about city-building initiatives for 40 years and still diddle about. What I find most disappointing about Toronto’s obsession with our waterfront is that Toronto is blessed with a unique geographic feature that you can’t find in most other cities; Toronto isn’t a waterfront city - it’s a ravine city. We may not have the Seine, but we have reams of emerald jewels that connect our disparate parts of urbanity together. It is this geography which has undoubtedly shaped Toronto and it is this topographical feature that we should in fact celebrate, protect and show off.

So just as we’re likely to deplane from our Porter Flight from Chicago and revel about Chicago’s Waterfront, why can’t Chicagonians return to Chicago and extol the virtues of Toronto’s ravines?

As with anything else in this world, Toronto just needs to shake what her mama gave her.