Surprise Me, I say

I fucking love surprises. That’s not so surprising though, is it?

I attack any gift I’m ever given with feverish glee, clawing off tuffs of wrapping paper with brute efficiency. I can sport a genuine look of jaw-dropped surprise like nobody’s business. And I’m a goldmine of reactions, too. Some people shrink away from surprises, or rejoice inwardly instead. Which isn’t always the most satisfying experience for the person who planned the surprise. But not me, man. I don’t shy away, I embrace it with every fibre of my being. I steer straight into that skid, full speed ahead!

I wish I could gift unto my dear friend The IPC the excited reaction I had to the surprise he sent me just today. But sadly, this thankful post will have to suffice.

Last year, I won this cool thing called Shitfest that he hosted on his site and got a badass trophy to show for it. People ask about it when they see it sitting there on my shelf, and I positively brim with pride when I tell them all about the great Shitfest adventure I had. Well, another Shitfest term has recently come to an end, and a new winner has been crowned. Cara over at Silver Screen Serenade has taken up the mantle of Shitfest Champion, and she’s wearing it well. She posted an acceptance piece about her trophy too, and it was delightful. But I will admit to having felt a slight twinge of jealousy when she revealed that the package containing her trophy also included a handwritten note from The IPC himself and cool IPC swag.

So I did what comes so naturally to me, I berated him about it. Like the ungrateful heathen that I am.

And it worked! That damn squeaky wheel, it always gets the grease.

poster package

WAAAHOOOOOOOOO! SMASH LOVES SURPRISES!

I got my very own bundle of fucking sa-weeet IPC swag, and more importantly, the handwritten note I had coveted so fiercely.

handwritten note

And stickers, too. I fucking love stickers.

ipc stickers

I’m going to have to find four very precious places in my life for the sticking of these stickers. I’ve scoped out a couple of locations already, but nothing that feels special enough yet. I’ll find the perfect spot for each of them though, I know I will.

I also got some business cards with a custom IPC logo on them. And a ring! One ring to rule them all.

death metal ring

I’m going to go right ahead and assume that this ring bestows upon me the power and privilege of Official IPC Enforcer. I’ll enforce the shit out of life in the name of your blog, dude. I won’t dishonour this self-granted title, I swear it. The ring is a little bit way too big for my nimble enforcer’s fingers though, so I’m probably gunna pop it on a chain and wear it around my neck with my newly discovered sense of menace.

But wait, there’s more!

He also included this:

cool poster

A beauty of a poster created by none other than our blogger friend, Mojo. Who can be found showcasing his enormous talent over on his site Mojo’s Work. If you’re interested in purchasing some wonderfully original artwork, then you should check out his site. I’ve sent a bunch of wishes out into the universe for a mysterious windfall that will allow me to go on a wild spending binge one day, scooping up all sorts of treasures that he’s created. It’s going to happen, you mark my words. It’s going to happen and you’ll be reading all about it on my blog and saying to yourself, “that Smash, she sure is something else. And I wish I’d beaten her to the punch on that goddamn rad water-colour of an apple hanging dong out of his underpants.”

Truly, an incredible surprise from my weirdo internet friend, The IPC. And I say that with indescribable measures of affection. You’re my weird internet friend, and I’m so happy that you’re in my life. Someday, we’ll beer and nacho it up together real good. I’ve got a hunch about it.

And hey, if this post of thanks isn’t enough to tickle your fancy maybe you’d trust me to send a surprise your way? I sure would love to pay this kindness back to the friend I so admire.

Holiday Review

Well, there’s another Christmas come and gone. And a new year will dawn in a couple of days. I hope you kissed someone special under the mistletoe, ate entirely too much, and maybe even made an ass of yourself at a large family gathering. That’s what the holidays are there for, after all.

My holidays were fun, even though they veered off course a time or two.

The holidays started with the launching of a new tradition. My sister arranged a “Cousin’s Cocktail Christmas Party” and it was a great success. We got together with our cousins and their spouses/partners for some drinks, snacks, and general merriment. We then went to a comedy club to yuk it up. It was fun. Some of my best memories of Christmases past are of playing with my cousins. Our parents would get us all done up in fancy little outfits and try to impress upon us the importance of “behaving ourselves” at the dinner.

cousins at christmas

And obviously we’ve all grown up a whole lot since those days, but one thing that hasn’t changed is how much fun I still have with my cousins.

cousins christmas

Overnight we were harassed by an ice storm of disastrous proportions. We woke up to a world that had been completely consumed by ice.

ice storm

ice storm 2

ice storm 3

The storm took down countless trees and power lines. Over 250,000 homes in the city were without power for anywhere from 24 hours to a week. My cousin Ryan slept over at my sister’s place after the Christmas party, and awoke the next morning to find a tree had fallen onto his girlfriend’s car.

tree on car

The storm wreaked absolute havoc on the city, and I was glad to head north and out of the icy mess for a few days. But the fun just didn’t stop coming. On Christmas Eve I got sick. Really sick. Feverish, coughing, totally congested. I felt like a bag of assholes. My dad cooked up a feast and I barely even nibbled at it. My appetite was nowhere to be found. We then went to my mom’s for drinks and board games, which I normally really enjoy. But instead of having a bunch of Christmas fun with my family, I sat on the sidelines bundled in blankets, sweating buckets while a perpetual coughing fit racked my body. I was one pathetic sight.

On Christmas day, I was supposed to accompany D to his family get together. But I felt so goddamned shitty I couldn’t even get up off the couch without draining the last vestiges of my strength completely. I had to choose my battles wisely. D went on without me, and I stayed home. I laid on the couch and watched the entire 6 hours of The Stand miniseries on DVD. I had just finished the book, and my mom had the DVDs of the miniseries, so she let me borrow them. And they came in handy, that’s for damn sure.

The following day I felt well enough to go to lunch with D and his dad. At least I could be a part of some of his family celebrations, for his sake. But we didn’t do a lick of Boxing Day shopping. I usually love getting out there with all the other crazies, ripping shirts off of shelves like a maniac and bitching about getting cut off in the parking lot by some asshole who isn’t even looking. Jesus, he isn’t even looking! What is he, BLIND OR SOMETHING?

But even though I wasn’t in peak physical condition for enjoying the food, the shopping, or the gatherings, I was still plenty good at enjoying presents. And you know Smash loves presents. Just a recap for anyone who may not be familiar with this facet of my personality: I FUCKING LOVE OPENING PRESENTS. I can’t stand unopened presents. They make me insane. My fingers positively itch with the desire to rip and tear if they get within five feet of something that’s been wrapped up. It’s a compulsion.

I opened a lot of great gifts this year.

presents

Some of the gift highlights:

Star Wars Salt n Pepper Shakers!

star wars salt and pepper

Enormous Batman Mug!

batman mug

New Hobo Mittens!

mittens

Bitchin’ New Watch!

watch

A Big Bottle of Booze!

booze

His and Hers Robot Pillowcases! (My friend The Magpie embroidered these for me and they are absolutely stunning, I fucking love them to bits.)

pillowcases

And A Shitload of Chocolate!

chocolate

And I got tons of other great stuff too. I’m lucky. I have a lots of people in my life who love me and want to give me things that I love for christmas. Things that make me squeal with delight like a little kid. I’m probably the easiest person on the planet to buy gifts for. I’m easily pleased and I’m not picky. If I can have a thrilling time shredding a gift of its wrapping, I’m set. And as much as I love tearing into a pile of presents, I love giving great presents too. I know that everything I picked out for my loved ones this year was well received and will be cherished forevermore.

Even though the weather was truly frightful and my immune system totally flaked out on me, I managed to find some enjoyment in the holidays this year. Got some fantastic gifts, started a fabulous new tradition, and I took some time to plan my next big moves for the upcoming year. I’m really looking forward to the new year. I’ve got big plans brewing for 2014. It’s going to be my year. I’ve got a list of goals a mile long and I am going to be dogged in my pursuit of every single one.

Peace out 2013, it’s been a slice.

Bound for the Sound

Finally.

We’ve been saying this for so long. For years, even. We’ve exclaimed it with unfettered excitement, we’ve shouted it with glee. We’ve clinked our glasses and chugged our tallboys after many a heartfelt expression of it. That wonderful little rhyming phrase that carries so much promise, Bound for the Sound!

It feels like we’ve been saying it every time that we’ve gotten together with our chums Shan-Wow and Hoben since they moved to Owen Sound a couple of years ago. Every time. We talk about how drunk we’ll get. We talk about the laughs we’ll have. We delight at the thought of the memories we’ll make, the shenanigans that will ensue. Bound for the Sound is all about going nuts, enjoying a classically debauched night much like those of our misspent youth. It’s all about recapturing that young and dumb magic. But we’ve never made good on it. Not once, not ever. Until now.

Hoben is one of my best drinking buddies from long ago. He coined my colourful nickname. He started the proud tradition of deckers. He introduced me to D and forever changed my life. He’s good people. And Shan-Wow is his equally awesome lady-love. She’s hilarious and amazing and you can’t not love her to bits. Hell, she’s a founding member of the Top-Secret-Euchre-Club and a Dumb & Dumber Enthusiast. So you can trust me when I tell you that these two know how to party.

shanny and hobs

Owen Sound is a good long boot northwest of Toronto, a two and a half hour drive on a “making great time” kinda run. So D and I had to rent a car to drive our asses up there. We splurged and signed up for the “Intermediate” level car, which is usually something nice and hefty, with lots of trunk space in case we need to transport a body on sudden notice. Which happens to us more than you’d think… What we wound up with was a mint 2014 Dodge Charger with only 60km on it. It was black and shiny, it looked like the fucking Batmobile for Christsakes. D was excited about it until he realized it was front-wheel drive. That made for some interesting moments tearing through the snowstorm that was pounding down on the city just as we got going.

It was a long drive, getting there. Our nice spacious 4-lane highways quickly petered out into 1-lane rural roads. We saw a spectacular amount of farms, barns, crumbled barns, horses, cows, and snow-covered hay bales whizz by our windows. And wind turbines too. There’s a shit-ton of those all over the place. It was pretty cool, actually. It felt like we were driving through some secret alien place. An abduction zone, or something like that.

wind turbines

We also drove through a town called Flesherton. I shit you not, reader. If I ever find out that there isn’t a spooky group of ritualistic killing machines who feast on human flesh living in that town then I am going to be majorly disappointed. It would be such a waste of that town name not to have a few resident cannibals at least. We drove through Flesherton super fast and with intensity so it felt like we were escaping it. It was great fun!

Also great fun was stopping at the Six ‘n’ Ten Minimart for our booze. Look at that fucking place. It’s incredible!

six n ten

Booze sales in Ontario are government regulated, so you can’t just buy it anywhere. It typically has to be from an L.C.B.O. store (which stands for Liquor Control Board of Ontario) or at a store that is aptly named The Beer Store. But there are exceptions. There are Agency stores in small towns like Owen Sound that are able to sell liquor. Which, to us, seemed kind of like an urban legend because we’ve never actually seen any before. It was an exciting novelty.

We got stuck behind some over-cautious and tediously slow geezers, and then a snow-plow for a while too. I thought D was going to road rage us right into a ditch with all of his impatience. But we made it eventually, taking about an hour longer than expected. And when we finally did get there, it was time to fuckin’ draaaaannk.

Hobs and Shan had tickets to the OHL game that night, and not to keep sounding so ridiculously Canadian here, but that stands for Ontario Hockey League and is a Junior hockey league for kids ages 15-20. Lots of the kids in the league aspire to NHL greatness, so they always play their asses off. Small-town hockey and cheap drinks on a Saturday night. Man alive, my inner hoser was busting at the seams.

me n cubby

We mixed up a bunch of rye ‘n’ gingers in some ginger-ale bottles for stealthy drinking out in the parking lot during intermissions, and pounded beers during the game when we were inside the stadium. We got right fuckin’ tuned.

IMG_2457

me n shanny

the group

Pretty much everyone in town comes to the Saturday night games. It’s a small ass town and there ain’t that much to do, so it makes for some good times. We hung back a bit after the game was over to let the overcrowded parking lot clear out. We’d gotten there about 10 minutes after the puck drop, so we parked at the end of a very long row of cars. By the time we left the game and came out into the parking lot, our park job wound up being incredibly inconvenient for everybody else trying to leave the rink. It was hilarious.

our car

Yep, that’s our ride. It’s doing a damn fine job making all those other cars go around it to get out. This is not the Charger by the way. Shannon drove her car because the Charger would have been absolutely worthless in an unplowed lot like this with its fucking crazy front-wheel drive. We polished off a few more drinks in the car, then left it there for the night. It could be picked up in the cold, sober light of dawn. We walked to a bar to continue the fun. D had a little bit too much fun at the game though, and wound up spending most of his time at the bar puking it up in the bathroom. But I guess that’s bound to happen when you skip over dinner in favour of rye.

I fared much better because I enjoyed a bunch of delicious arena snacks with my drinks. It was the smart play.

my snacks

I was going to share my pretzel with D, so it could help soak up some of the booze rolling around in his belly, but he fucked off and I couldn’t find him. I waited so long that the pretzel got cold, and as a result, really goddamned hard. A would-be-delicious treat turned inedible by the passage of time. But the popcorn was still quite tasty, as arena popcorn tends to be. Turns out D was standing around chirping some local dudes in their mid-40’s because they were drinking Bacardi Breezers. Time well spent, indeed.

We had to leave pretty early the next morning to make sure we’d get the rental car returned on time. Hungover and exhausted from a night of raucous drinking, we were daunted by another long trip in the car. But with mile-wide Canadian grins spread across our glowing hearts we did alright. We saw thee rise. We made good time and we enjoyed the quiet ride home.

It was a great fucking weekend. Once in a while I need to go all hoser berserker on life. It just feels good. Based on the smashing success of our inaugural journey, I can safely say that we will return. We will be Bound for the Sound yet again.

Best Laid Plans

Sometimes the universe just gets in your way. It doesn’t always play fair, and there’s no way of knowing when it’s going to whip a hardball at you. There’s nothing you can do to stop it, all you can do is roll with it. This is an account of how I had to roll with the giant shitball life chucked at me last week.

Some of you know that I write another blog, The Kingdom, and that I had some wicked plans for Halloween night. This old theatre in my city was going to be screening The Shining on Halloween night and I was not going to miss it for anything. I’ve never seen that movie all the way through before, and what better way to experience it for the first time than on the big screen, right?

Well, I’m still feeling intense disappointment because that didn’t happen. Thanks a lot universe.

Thanks for compelling Harvey to jump up onto the kitchen table, where he knows he isn’t allowed to be putting his furry cat ass. Thanks for making it cold enough in my apartment to necessitate the use of a space heater. Thanks for making me buy a space heater that’s only effective when it’s placed right in the middle of the fucking room. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to trip over it right after I’d picked Harvey’s chunky monkey butt up off the table where he’s not supposed to be. But I’d most especially like to thank you for causing me to fall directly onto my elbow so I could have the exquisite pleasure of fracturing it.

Thank you for gifting me this giant shitball of an injury on the Sunday before Halloween. An injury that prevented me from living my Halloween dream this year.

I get why you did it, universe. That fall must have been something truly spectacular to behold. When I stumbled, with a bundle of squirming cat in my arms mind you, and flailed around in a futile attempt at balancing while simultaneously scalding my bare feet on that goddamned heater, you probably had yourself a grand old chuckle at my expense. People falling can be hilarious, I get it. And I’ve given you many a laugh over the years with my clumsy antics, I know. I’m happy to do that for you from time to time, provided I don’t get too dinged up. But this time was too much, you were too rough with me. When I hit the ground and a thousand burning hot spears of pain shot through my arm I hope you felt like a total dick for doing that to me. Partly because you hurt me, but mostly because you took away my dream.

I can’t always get what I want, I know. But why, universe, why? Why did you have to take this from me?

When D asked if we were still going to go to the movie I heaved a heavy sigh of infinite sadness. I had to concede that sitting in an old ass movie theatre at the opposite end of the city for close to three hours was going to be too uncomfortable for me to bear. Defeated, I was ready to give up on the dream completely.

But D smartly reminded me about the video store down the street where I’d just recently become a member. Surely they’d have a few copies. And it’s an old movie, probably not as in demand. Plus, who the fuck still rents movies anyway, aside from us? He was right. I started to get excited again. We could rent it to watch at home, make an obscene amount of popcorn in the air popper we have, shut off all the lights and snuggle together on the couch. This Plan B of ours really started to grow on me. Sure, it wasn’t what I had planned, but we could make it great just the same.

We made our way over to the video store and eagerly scanned the racks for a DVD of The Shining. I was starting to think that maybe they didn’t have it, and as you’d expect that was the exact moment my eyes located it amidst the Kubrick Classics. I grasped the DVD with my good hand and slid it off the shelf. I turned the front of the case toward me, searching for the little velcro flap that indicates availability.

MOTHERFUCKER!!!!

It was rented. Halloween dream dashed for the second time that week. Fuck this, you guys, really. Fuck it.

At that point, there was no recovering from the disastrous tailspin I was in. I stomped home from the video store and fumed all night long about what a prick the universe can be sometimes.

And then because I was really feeling sorry for myself, I laid on the couch in my $10 Wal-Mart sweatpants and watched fucking Richie Rich on Teletoon Retro from beginning to end. Yeah, that super corny family friendly movie about a billionaire kid played by Macaulay Culkin at the absolute pinnacle of his fifteen minutes of fame. It was a new low for me.

richie rich

I was upset about missing my chance to see The Shining for the first time on the big screen, but after I calmed down I was able to make peace with it. I’m going to wait. I’m going to bury the tiniest little hope in my heart that another old theatre in the city will screen that movie at some point next October. It’s a classic, and October is a month for endless viewings of the scary classics that we all love. I’m going to cultivate my hope over the course of this year. I’m going to make it flourish, because despite what an asshole the universe has been to me lately, I still believe that it can be every bit as great as it can be cruel. My arm will heal, I’ll maintain a sensible wariness of the space heater, and the universe will take care of me in the end like it always has before.

No matter how many bones of mine the universe intends to shatter, I’ll just roll with it. Because I know that it’ll never be able to shatter my hopeful spirit.

Getting My Fest On

I mentioned how rad October is already, yeah? It’s a fucking great month as is. But it is nothing short of spectacular when you get your ass to some Oktoberfesting festivities. And that’s exactly what I did last weekend. I Oktoberfested my ass off.

We stayed at D’s cousin’s house for the weekend. They live a stone’s throw away from Kitchener/Waterloo where the bulk of the Oktoberfest action takes place. They love getting out to the events every year, and we had a great time partying it up with them. We road-tripped up there with another one of D’s cousins and her boyfriend, which made our party 6 in total. We were ramped up for an excellent adventure that night.

For any party rubes out there, this post is a blueprint on how to get the most mileage possible out of a night at Oktoberfest. I’m providing a service here. You know, for a well-rounded night of Oktoberfest debauchery.

1) Look The Part

I love themes. A theme automatically gives your night of drunken fun a memorable edge over all those other nights of sad, themeless drinking in your dingy basement. You may not think it at first, but the theme “German” totally rules. You’ve got a fun colour palette to work with, steins of beer, delicious schnapps and jägermeister to shoot, archaic looking hats, all kinds of lederhosen, hot fräuleins in beer wench getups, polka, and lots of sexy accordion music. Embrace all of it. I have a hat that I’ve worn faithfully to ever Oktoberfest I’ve ever been to, and every year I treat it to some new pins. You’ve got to keep that hat current, so make sure one of the pins has the year on it. That big blue pin on my hat with Onkel Hans playing the tuba is from Oktoberfest 2010. Good times, bro. Every time I look at that pin the fun times come flooding back to mind. Oktoberfest and nostalgia are one hot couple. I’ll also try to wear either black, red, or yellow. Well, usually never yellow because I look like day-old vomit in yellow.

Oktoberfest look

It’s Oktoberfest 2013 haute couture

2) Get Your Gamble On

There are always plenty of black jack tables and Crown/Anchor wheels (which D affectionately dubbed Boats & Hoes many a fest ago) to be played at any event you attend. Benders are so much more fun when you throw gambling and counting into the mix. I know D just loves it when I sit there counting on my fingers to see if he got 21 or not. Or when I jump up and down yelling excitedly to strangers when I make four bucks on one epic spin of the old gambling wheel. Shake that shit up son! Get to the table and plonk down a whopper of a bet so the dealer knows you’re a power playyaa. Or stretch that five bucks out for miles making penny bets over at the wiener tables. There’s no wrong way, you can gamble however your heart tells you to. Even if you’re not really into gambling, the tables are a great place to meet people and watch as they spend their dolla dolla bills.

Oktoberfest gamble

The faces of winners

3) Drink As Much As Possible

This is why 95% of the people are here, after all. They want to get loose and go nuts, relive old times and recapture their youth. They want to drink as magically as they did the last time they were able to get to an Oktoberfest event, which may have been a long time ago. We always go to the more mature night, the one that attracts the 25-50 demographic. Don’t make the mistake of going to an event marketed to students. Waterloo has two universities and one college, so the student night draws an enormous crowd. The student night is sloppier, angrier, ruder, and more immature. Don’t get me wrong, that’s excellent fun when you’re in that sweet 19-23 year-old zone. But once you’ve outgrown that part of your life, you don’t need the bullshit anymore. The “real grown-ups” are a frigging hoot, and they like to get their drink on. If someone offers you a shot, you do it and then join them for another. When you’re in line for beer tickets, buy a couple more than you think you’ll need, just in case. You can never have too much beer at Oktoberfest. You’ll probably barf the next day, but barfing is part of it.

Oktoberfest chug

Double-fisting like I invented it

4) Enjoy the Band/D-Floor

Parties need killer music to thrive. I can think of nothing more killer than accordion based rock ‘n’ roll covers with a pinch of chicken dance thrown in for good measure. The dance floor at Oktoberfest is hopping with fun-loving peeps who can bust sick moves. I’m incredibly uncoordinated and prone to mock intensity when I dance. Anyone who has had the exquisite pleasure of sharing the d-floor with me knows that I’m all bouncing energy and limbs akimbo. I cannot be led, and my impulses cannot be tamed. But dancing and music are in my heart, so I get out there and just fucking giv’r til I can’t giv’r no more. This year, I even jumped up on one of the picnic tables to shake my butt. Security didn’t like that very much though. So try to keep it on the d-floor. Unless of course an irresistible urge arises. Then I say, go forth and table dance!

Oktoberfest dance

Rockin’ ‘n’ rollin’ all night long

5) Hoover Some Delicious Drunk Eats

There is plenty of food to feed any fancy at Oktoberfest. Schnitzel, sauerkraut, wursts, cheeses, pretzels, baked goods, chips. You name it, they got it. And after all the drinking you’ve done, you’re going to need something hearty to settle it all down. Before our cab got in, I raced over to the concession and grabbed myself a hefty german sausage on a bun. I slathered that shit in the fanciest mustard I could find and dug in. I also grabbed some chips with the spoils of my gambling. D hates mustard, but he was hungry so his hatred was forgotten and I shared a few bites with him. We mowed down the chips while we walked to the cab, took in the beautiful starry night, and felt divine. We ate in a frenzy though, so I don’t have any pictures of the sausage. But I do have a great drunk picture of D!

Oktoberfest D

I love drunk D!

We had ourselves quite the time. I won four bucks gambling, I danced on a table, I stole some guy’s beer, I gave an Irish dude a fake number (good luck with that follow-up homie), I pissed off a security guard, I got some sweet new pins, I ate delicious food, then I passed out in drunken oblivion when we got home. A surefire recipe for a memorable Oktoberfest experience.

The following day I barfed in the car on our ride home. There was a bag, but it had the tiniest little hole in it and leaked ever so slightly on the car seat. The bag-o-puke got chucked out the window onto the shoulder of the highway as we were driving. I imagine it to have been quite a sight for other motorists. But like I said, barfing is part of it. I feel terribly about that, and I will make reparations to the driver, but a great night of boozing doesn’t go unpunished.

And Oktoberfest 2013 is definitely one for the boozing books.

New Project!

Hey dudes, I’m very excited to announce that I have started a new project. This is something that I’ve been working on for a little while now, and I’m ready to launch.

The Kingdom

So head on over to The Kingdom to check it out.

Basically, I’m just working my way through the entire Stephen King library, reading and reviewing it all. And hey, maybe we’ll even watch a couple of the movies and T.V. shows too. My hope is that this project will accomplish two things:

1) I’ll have a shitload of fun

and

2) I’ll actually start using my brain cells again instead of drowning them in booze

So if you decide to come along for the journey, you’re super awesome and I dig your style, man.

A Surprise

When was the last time you did something truly kind or generous for another person? Something that wasn’t done out of obligation like a birthday, holiday or anniversary. Something you just felt like you wanted to do because the surprise and happiness registered on the recipient’s face is more than enough payoff.

It’s probably been a very long time since I last did something for another purely out of kindness and affection. Sadly, I can’t even remember what it would have been. A couple of months ago I bought a new set of headphones for The Magpie because she kept forgetting hers at home and not having tunes at work is balls. But they weren’t special or anything, like six bucks total, so that doesn’t really count.

It’s shameful really. I have so many wonderful people in my life that I fucking treasure the shit out of and they deserve to feel the full magnitude of my adoration more often. People are precious and they don’t last forever so give as much love as you can while you can.

It’s been a bit crappy lately. There have been plenty of nights in the last week and a half when I’ve come home from work in an absolutely abysmal mood. High-strung and super irritable, melting the faces off of my fellow commuters on the subway ride home with withering looks of derision cast their way at the slightest provocation. I feel bad for D for having to deal with it all. I imagine that interacting with me the past while has been a lot like trying to force a meaningful relationship with a rabid wolverine. It ain’t been no picnic, that’s for damn sure.

I was thinking about him Friday afternoon. Thinking about how strong and patient he is. How often he probably bites his tongue. All the little things he does just so I’ll be happy. One night last week he ate all of the burnt perogis so I only had to suffer the slightly singed ones. He let me stay up, reading in bed with the lights on while he tried to sleep because I was at a scary part in The Shining and just needed to have him close. He sends my food back at restaurants when something is wrong with it because I’m too embarrassed to do it myself. When we rent a car for the weekend to go see our families he lets me control the radio and CD choices for the whole trip, even though we have majorly opposing tastes in music with very minimal overlap. When his boss rewarded him with concert tickets to any show of his choosing in Toronto because he’d been killing it at work, he used them to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams instead of choosing to see a band that he likes. And he’s able to do these things with such ease because my happiness matters to him.

The BNL concert was unreal. I can’t say enough how much it meant to me. It was amazing how selfless D was about using his reward on me. He’s the real deal alright.

I started to have this urge, while I was thinking about D and how great he is, to do something. A compulsion to demonstrate the depth of my admiration for D. I just had to do something. Something kind and generous because he hasn’t been getting the very best of me lately. And I was struck once again by how remarkable it was that he gave me the BNL concert. I remembered him telling me a few days after the BNL concert that his favourite band Killswitch Engage had just announced a show in Toronto for a date in October, and how much he would have loved to go. Hmm, that could work.

I was almost ready to pack up and leave the office on Friday when I decided to hang back a minute and see if tickets for the Killswitch Engage show were still available. Unfortunately for me, the show was already sold out. However, because of how quickly the show sold out they’d decided to do another show the next night and tickets were still on sale. Fuck yeah, just my luck! So I immediately decided that I was going to buy him two tickets for that concert. Yes, I’m going to give D what he gave up for me. And the look on his face is going to be worth every penny. I bought the tickets, printed them off and stuffed them in my bag. I was buzzing with excitement the whole way home just dying to spring my surprise on D.

Killswitch Engage is the first concert we ever went to as a couple. They played a show in Waterloo on Mother’s Day 2008. I actually still have the ticket stubs.

ticket stubs

It was a great show. They were promoting their latest album As Daylight Dies and Howard Jones was the lead vocalist at that time. I’d never even heard of the band until I started dating D, but that album stayed in the CD player in his car for about three straight months and I really came to love it. I especially love Howard. He’s got such a killer voice and he’s an amazing performer. He’s magnetic on stage; captivating and astounding the listeners by perfectly blending his melodic singing with bone-shattering metal screams. It’s so much fun to watch him work. Listening to that album is so enjoyable. The music is phenomenal, undoubtedly. But it also takes me back to that summer when we started dating. When I hear the opening bars of My Curse I feel like I’m in D’s old sunfire again. Driving around with the windows down, D hammering his thumbs on the steering wheel in time with the drums,  butterflies in my stomach and not a care in the world.

D was going to fucking love this, and I couldn’t wait to see his reaction.

I got home on Friday, grabbed the tickets from my bag and tossed them at D. He looked at them puzzled for a moment and then unfolded them.

“Whaaaaat?? What is this all about?” he asked. I told him that I loved him and I appreciate how awesome he is and that he deserves it. “Fuck yeah! This is so awesome, thank you!” was his response. Huge smile on his face, eyes gleaming with happiness and surprise. Exactly the look I was going for. It was even better when I told him that the second ticket isn’t for me. I told him to take anybody he wants, ideally one of his metal-head cronies. And he loved that even more.

D was ecstatic, still is actually. And I felt amazing too. It was just what I needed, that boost of extraordinary, something to banish the gloom of last week. I may not have all of my problems licked, but at least I still have it within me to make someone else happy. D is so goddamned precious to me. And treating him to a night of ear bud busting metal fury is the best possible way that I can express that to him.

Rock on D, you skiddy metal-head weirdo.

Pinch Me

I got to live one of my dreams last week.

I have a lot of them, actually. I’ve always got my sights set on something, so there’s no shortage of dreams in my life. And I would say that I’m living them constantly. Because I have a wide range of dreams. From things that are very easily achievable, like eating at Wendy’s twice in one day or starting up a colony of sea monkeys for my desk at work. Then there are dreams of a more complex nature. For instance, having a freak accident that transforms me into a super-powered mutant or time travelling to 1968 to dry hump a young Charlton Heston in his mega-hunk days. And there are tons and tons of dreams that fall between the foolishly simple and absurdly impossible ends of my dream spectrum.

And that’s really the key to achieving your dreams. Make sure you have a shit-ton of them, all of varying degrees of difficulty. Then when you achieve a bunch of the smaller ones you’ll feel fucking amazing, and the big ones won’t seem so daunting. Now I know that some of my dreams might not ever come true, I accept that. But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t keep having them.

Dreaming is fun. It’s my most cherished pastime. And once in a while I get some seriously awesome results…

Barenaked Ladies concert. The dream I’ve held onto the longest and treasured the most. I’ve wanted this so badly, with an aching pain, from the very instant I first heard Steven Page’s dulcet tones and Ed Robertson’s gorgeous harmonies. Their voices floated through the speakers and found their way to my grateful ears. By the time I’d completed my first full listening of Gordon the band had already claimed a permanent residence in my heart.

Now this dream may seem like it fits into the easily achievable category given that I’m Canadian and the band lives in Toronto, but it hasn’t been easy at all. Circumstances beyond my control have thus far prevented me from ever being able to see them live. But I always promised myself that the very second the opportunity arose, I would pounce on it.

And pounce I did! D won a contest at work because he’s such an industrious fellow. His reward was 2 concert tickets to any event in Toronto this year. Because he’s such a wonderful boyfriend, we had ourselves some freaking Barenaked Ladies concert tickets lickety-split! That, or I was just forceful enough in my insistence that the tickets be used to accomplish one of my most treasured life long dreams that he couldn’t turn me down.

Actually, I believe it was the lack of any upcoming concerts for any of his favourite groups that saved the day. But that’s just a minor detail.

I could have bought the tickets, like a normal person, sure. But I’d just shelled out a wad of cash back in April for me and D to see Muse. And there’s something about seeing one of my all-time favourite bands for free that just feels so right. We were able to save our cash for more noble pursuits once we got to the concert. Like multiple bubbas of beer!

It was a beautiful night for a concert, a perfect night for dream fulfilment.

walk to concert

We met up for dinner after work and then walked to the Molson Amphitheatre. We got there with plenty of time to spare, so I immediately made my way over the concession stand so I could grab myself a t-shirt. You have to, it’s just one of those things that’s non-negotiable. It’s your favourite band, you’ve never seen them live before, you better buy yourself a fucking t-shirt. The dude who sold me the shirt told us that Ed Robertson was actually down on the pavilion just playing some tunes for the onlookers. It was awesome. I couldn’t see him that well because word had gotten out and he obviously started drawing a crowd. But what a rad dude! He could have just been hanging out backstage getting wasted before the show, but instead he chooses to give the early bird fans a rare treat.

And then, because he’s even more awesome than that, Ed also made an appearance on stage to play with Boothby Graffoe, who was on deck first. Accompanied by the immaculate Jim Creeggan as well I might add. I love him so much more now because of that. Thanks Ed!

Ed on stage

The opening act, Guster, I had never even heard of before. But they blew me away. I’ve been listening to them incessantly via the internet ever since that night. But I will definitely be picking up some of their CD’s on my next stop off at HMV. Because I’m the only person on the planet that still listens to actual CDs obviously. I love when that happens, a solid opening act that you can enjoy exploring afterwards. I’d always wanted to see Ben Folds live too, so it was an added bonus that he was part of the tour. It was fascinating to watch him work those deft fingers of his along the keys. He was truly captivating. And when he closed the show with “Song for the Dumped” and threw his stool at the piano, I thought the crowd was going to riot. He worked us up to such dizzying heights. Truly, we were enraptured by his greatness.

Ben Folds

I was drinking a lot of beer. It was starting to worry me that I was going to miss the start of the main event because I kept rushing off to piss so often. But luckily I had good timing. The tell-tale reverence that washed over the boisterous crowd announced the start of the main event. This is it. This is what I’ve been waiting half of my life for. The moment of truth so to speak.

Barenaked Ladies took the stage and started playing “Limits”, the opening track of their new album. That nervous lump of anticipation in my throat quickly gave way to feverish excitement. This is it, and its so surreal. I let myself get lost in it.

BNL

BNL2

It was everything I’ve always been dreaming about. When they played “Brian Wilson” my heart felt so full. Like a tiny little piece of it had been missing this whole time and had finally been filled. I gushed and sighed and exclaimed how truly happy I was to D.

And I wasn’t the only one feeling the magic that night. There were TONS of drunk people! I saw a guy walk right into a wall. I saw a guy being escorted out before the show was over with puke all down the front of himself. I saw a girl passed out on the lawn outside the stadium, who refused to walk any farther and insisted to her friends that she just needed a little nap. I overheard this really drunk guy telling a girl he just met how truly beautiful she was and that he hoped they’d meet again one day in a pasture. It was incredible.

I know that my photos of the concert are super crappy. Not even close to capturing how fucking awesome it was. If you want to check out some really stunning pics from the show, you can see them here courtesy of Aesthetic Magazine Toronto

It ended too suddenly for me though. I wish it could have gone on forever. But that’s not how dreams work. They’re fleeting, and therein lies the magic. When you’re lucky enough to achieve those dreams you hold most dear, you can’t quibble over the details. You have to be thankful, so that your other dreams can come true too.

Thank you dreams. Thank you for coming true.

Summer Reading Roundup

I fucking love reading. I love it so goddamn much.

When I was younger I practically consumed books. The newest R.L. Stein was lapped up hungrily, then washed down with a healthy double digest of Archie. When I wasn’t acting a total nuisance to my parents, wreaking havoc on the household with my sisters, I was quietly stowed away in some corner of the house with my nose buried in a book. You name it, I read it. Dr. Seuss, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley Kids, Roald Dahl, Goosebumps, Tales of Redwall, Hardy Boys, Pippi Longstocking, and The Chronicles of Narnia. All present and accounted for.

I especially loved books in which teachers were aliens, people turned into animals, or ventriloquist dummies came to life at night. Those were the best books. Filling my head with fantastical stuff of that variety is probably why I’m such a weirdo today…

I’d even read at night, when I was supposed to be sleeping. It was stealth reading. I’d stand by the window, balancing precariously on the nightstand, and push the blinds aside. I pinned them against the glass with my shoulder to keep them out of my way. Then I’d tilt my book in just the right way, letting the glow from the streetlights outside illuminate the pages. And I’d stand there reading until I was tired. I’d have to be careful not to lose myself completely in my book, otherwise I might not hear my parents checking up. I couldn’t get caught, that would be big trouble. But it was worth the risk, and I loved every minute of it because I was greedy for reading.

And to this day my greed for reading has not yet abated.

I tend to read a lot more in the summer. Seems odd, I know. But there’s something about a spectacularly hot summer day that drives me to read. Summer is hardly even underway, but I’ve already burned through a bunch of awesome shit on my summer reading docket. The stuff I’ve been reading lately has been so fucking rad. So good that I’m reading on the subway to and from work. Which I normally wouldn’t do because its not enough time to really immerse yourself in the story. And you always get cut off, having to leave the train, at the most ill-timed moments. But I can’t help myself! The stuff I’m reading is too good. I just can’t wait another second to get back into the thick of it.

I have to share it. I can’t keep all this goodness to myself, that just wouldn’t be right. So if you’re looking for something really rad to read this summer, then I’ve got just the thing for you. Providing your tastes run a little oddball like mine, naturally.

SMASH’S SUMMER READING ROUNDUP

1) American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods

American Gods

This one is going to take you for a wild ride. It’s the story of Shadow, a man whose life is irrevocably changed by a chance meeting with a mysterious stranger. A stranger who introduces him to a motley assortment of Gods who were brought to America by the immigrants of our history books. Belief in these archaic gods has dwindled dangerously, putting them at odds with the gods of our present day. A war of epic proportions is brewing, the outcome of which could be catastrophic.

It’s riveting. Written in such a way that reader is directly deposited into Shadow’s shoes from the start. We meet our protagonist, and we immediately sympathize with his plight. When his journey begins, it’s confusing and weird at first. You’re confronted and confounded by a number of strange characters. You’re not sure what’s happening or why, but you know that all of it is totally illogical, nonsensical. Through the myths, legends, and tales of the immigrants that brought their gods to America which are interspersed with Shadow’s narrative, you begin to see. You’re awakened. Things start to click, and you start to believe. You see, you experience, you learn, and discover the power of faith right along with Shadow.

It’s strange and quirky, brimming with intrigue. It keeps you hanging on, worrying and wondering how it will play out. Simultaneously surprising and amusing, it’s worth your time. Gaiman is a masterful storyteller, and if you’re not familiar with his work then you need to get familiar.

I loved it. I give it a 9/10.

2) Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game

Ender’s Game

Ender Wiggin is taken from his home and all that he knows at the tender age of six. Because it is believed that he is the militaristic genius who can save earth from impending doom. He’s taken to battle school where he is mercilessly trained by his superiors in the art of war. The world government believes that they need to groom remarkably bright and capable children for a life of military success to protect earth from alien invasion and the subsequent domination or annihilation of the human race that is sure to follow. And they are coming, it’s irrefutable. A child of staggering strategic genius is our last resort. Will he rise to the occasion or get crushed by the onslaught of challenges heaped upon him at battle school?

I mean, come on. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? This is the quintessential work of science-fiction. Space travel, aliens, intergalactic war, cutting edge weaponry, null gravity fight sequences, and more! This book has got it all. It’s fast paced and exciting. Ender is an awe-inspiring character. His brilliance knows no bounds. But for every soaring success he experiences, Ender is met with shattering lows. His success comes at the cost of his innocence. Earth’s safety is insured through the manipulation and exploitation of a little boy whose been robbed of his youth, forced to grow up way too fast. Literally, the weight of the world is on his shoulders. You want him to succeed, but you pity him. And you’re appalled by the measures taken by the commanders to groom Ender to perfection.

I simply could not put this book down, it is an absolute treasure. And I’m really looking forward to the movie adaptation later this year. Perfect score, 10/10.

3) Desperation by Stephen King

Desperation

Desperation

There’s something evil afoot in Desperation, a small town in Nevada. More evil than you could possibly imagine. One by one, road weary travellers are picked up on interstate 50, just outside of town, and taken into the custody of the town sheriff. A family on vacation, a young married couple, an aging writer, and the town drunk are tossed into jail cells and terrorized by the maniac sheriff. But little do they know, he’s the least of their worries.

It’s everything you’d expect of a King novel. Grisly and gripping, sparing not a single gory detail. It’s frightening, but you can’t stop reading. There’s a creepiness about it that really burrows into you. I read this book over the course of two weeks. I do the bulk of my reading at night before bed. Which probably isn’t wise with horror fiction, but I couldn’t stop myself. And it had an impact, that’s for sure. Every night for the two weeks that I was reading this book, I had nighttime episodes, completely unbeknownst to me. It was only when D commented on it that I found out it was happening. He asked me what was up, said I’d been weird at night lately. When I asked him weird how, he told me a number of bizarre things. I was screaming bloody murder in my sleep, flailing my arms wildly. A couple of times I also leapt out of bed in a panic, pulling back the curtains and screaming at the bedroom window. I’d have a total freak out and then go back to sleep like nothing had happened. It was Stephen King, working his creepy magic on me. As soon as I finished the book, the nighttime episodes stopped.

It’s thrilling, it’s chilling, it’ll literally get inside of you. It’s not my favourite work by King, a little too heavy-handed on the God and prayer stuff, but it was a worthwhile read. If you can stomach horror fiction, then go for it. I’d say it gets a 7.5/10.

BONUS: D and I watched the made for T.V. movie version once I’d finished the book. It was spectacularly cheesy. The only real scares coming in the form of creepy crawlies. Snakes, tarantulas and scorpions. Watching that shit wriggle around on-screen scares the bejesus out of me!

4) Batman: Haunted Knight by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

Batman: Haunted Knight

Batman: Haunted Knight

This is a compilation of three Batman Halloween Specials written and presented by the iconic Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. While working on these three tales of Halloween in Gotham City, Loeb and Sale were inspired to create The Long Halloween, which is my favourite Batman story to date and one of the most beloved works in the Batman canon. My favourite of these three stories is the second one, “Madness”, in which Batman squares off with The Mad Hatter, a psychopath whose moniker is derived from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He’s a challenging enemy for Batman because the reference to Carroll reminds him of his mother. Fighting Mad Hatter dredges up painful memories. The flashback sequence of Bruce reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with his mother just hours before her untimely death is gut-wrenching. We see the charming and precocious Bruce interacting freely with his mother, the emotional barriers we are accustomed to with Bruce Wayne have yet to be constructed. It makes you wonder what might have been, and if you love Batman as much as I do, it tears at your heart.

The artwork is sublime, and the stories are highly enjoyable. Easily, 8.5/10.

5) Y: The Last Man Vol. 1 Unmanned by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, and Jose Marzan Jr.

Y: The Last Man Vol. 1 Unmanned

Y: The Last Man Vol. 1 Unmanned

A mysterious plague has wiped out every single mammal with a Y chromosome on the planet. All of the men and male animals, dead. All of them except two. A young man named Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand. For some reason they survived, as did all of the females. Yorick is now the last man on earth, and that is some serious shit to deal with. He’s got to keep his ass safe while trying to figure out what happened. It’s not exactly the repopulation fantasy some would think. It’s a hellish nightmare, every day a struggle to survive in an unfamiliar world. A world overrun by unruly, grieving, angry females trying to cope with what happened. Feminist extremists, power-hungry female politicians, and deadly secret services agents are engaged in a power struggle of epic proportions. And word’s just gotten out that there is a live human male roaming around…

This is a newly discovered series for me. I had been hearing nothing but good things about it, and I can happily say that all of the praise is warranted. It’s original and unique. The first volume in the series setting up what’s sure to be a remarkable adventure.

I can’t wait to rush out and grab the remaining volumes! Undoubtedly, 9/10.

So there you have it. The best of what I’ve been reading this summer. I can only hope that maybe there’s something there that piques your interest. Or maybe you’ve already read some of these titles. That would be even more rad because if you have we can chat all about it!

Or maybe you’ve got some totally awesome recommendations of your own that I can add to my list?

The Telltale Spring

There’s a familiar golden glow creeping through the curtains. No, actually. Not creeping. It’s been creeping the past few days, but today is different. It’s not glowing anymore. Today the sunlight is bursting through the  infinitesimal parting of the curtains. Proudly casting the full power of its rays upon the carpet.

I smile broadly into the pillow and stretch. Inhaling deeply, basking in the comfort of the crisp sheets. Dressing the bed in light breezy linens was the right thing to do. I feel validated.

Following the subtle leads and piecing together the slight clues of the universe, I was able to cement my case for the changing of the sheets.

Let’s review, shall we?

1) An insatiable desire to eat food on a bun

During the weekly grocery shop D grabbed a bag of buns and threw them into the cart without a second thought. “Let’s do stuff with these this week”, he suggested. Hmmm, maybe. That’s warm weather food though, I don’t think it’s time for that. I gave one of the buns a tentative squeeze with forefinger and thumb. Ooo, that’s good stuff. Fluffy. Fresh. It feels so right. I will do stuff with these buns. I’m going to get them home pronto and do terrible things with them. Terribly delicious things.

meatball subs

Meatball subs, drenched in marinara sauce and cheese.

Jumbo honey garlic sausage dogs.

Jumbo honey garlic sausage dogs.

The ambitious use of mustard is not to be overlooked. It’s a critical piece of evidence in itself. The stomach just wants what it wants. Foods shipped daily to tummy via bun.

2) The bike rack, in use!

A cold, shitty day in February while walking home from work. All of sudden, I’m face to face with what has to be the world’s longest bike rack. Enormous, and appearing out of nowhere, it caught me off guard. Seriously, it can fit like 20 bikes! No, actually, it can fit like 30. This rack can take a whole lot of bike. It was all D and I talked about over dinner that night. The mysterious new bike rack. Now a very major part of our lives. Who put it there? Why was it so big? Why couldn’t it wait until April to be installed? What was this urgent need for an extra-large bike rack in February, and why weren’t we aware of it? Then, we started betting on when we’d see the first bike. Surely it’ll go unused for months! We both wagered on dates in April. Logical, sensible dates in April.

The first recorded appearance of a bike on the new bike rack was Tuesday March 5th.

March Madness

March Madness.

The biker struck again on Friday March 8th.

A presumably happy customer.

A presumably happy customer.

Looking back now, I can’t believe how young and naive we were. Those were the days. The long forgotten days of weeks past, when a much younger Smash could not possibly fathom bikers in March.

Whoever you are, random biker, I commend you.

3) Sudden boom in street performance

D and I pass through Yonge-Dundas Square quite frequently on the weekends. To and from various activities and adventures. It’s very hectic. There’s always a lot going on there. It’s a very popular area for street performance and entertainment. However, winter can be quite discouraging to the performers. It’s cold, wet, and dark out. The people on the street are hurrying about, with very little desire to stop for an extended period of time. Seeking the warmth and comfort of the indoors, they speed through the square.

Friday night, D and I are strolling along Yonge. Hand-in-hand, we’re leisurely. It’s sort of warm out. It’s nice. As we approach the Yonge-Dundas Square, it starts to feel quite crowded on the sidewalk. Large clumps of people are gathering, watching something.

The closer we get, the more we can make out.

A man, covered from head to toe in golden makeup. A golden hat. A golden suit. A golden face. He’s a living breathing Oscar! His movements are robotic and strange. We can’t look away.

Eventually, we do pull ourselves away. Only to stumble upon another performer! A young dude, with a glass crystal ball. He’s moving it deftly from hand to hand. Rolling it across his fingers, gliding it up his arms and across his wrists. Every twist and turn of his limb a wonder. It’s as if he doesn’t have bones. So cool!

But we have to keep moving. We walk another couple of steps, and suddenly a catch in my throat. It is the most breathtakingly awesome sight I’ve ever beheld.

"You underestimate the power of the dark side"

“You underestimate the power of the dark side”

It’s freaking Darth Vader, holy shit, this is so awesome!

A new performer every couple of steps. The streets are crawling with them, and people are taking the time to enjoy it. Because it’s warm out. Because it’s Friday. And because you never turn your back on the dark lord.

4) Harvey hunts

My loveable little dude Harvey, suddenly has an abundance of visitors to stalk from afar. Big chubby city pigeons are stopping for a rest on our balcony. And Harvey has been very interested in monitoring their visits. Most likely to ensure that the pigeons don’t breach the indoor perimeter. He’s doing an excellent job protecting us from unwanted intruders.

He’s been listless lately. I’m happy that the pigeons are here. They keep him alert. He’ll go from blissed out napping to fighting fury in 5 seconds flat the instant he catches a glimpse of pigeon!

Based on these four facts, I made the decision to switch over my bed linens. I ditched the heavy-duty flannels for breezy cottons. The universe wants me to be ready. Spring is coming. And I have to be prepared to make it feel welcome.

It wants me to eat foods served on buns. It wants me to use the bike rack. It wants me to applaud the street performers. It wants me to clean the windows so Harvey can have the clearest possible pigeon viewing experience.

By logical assumption, it also wants me to change the sheets.

I’m ready for you Spring. Let me know if there’s anything else I can do to speed your impending arrival.

Shine!

Shine!