Monthly Archives: June 2011

No you may not bum a cigarette

Fewer people smoke now than ever, which means way more people bum cigarettes. No one buys packs of their own. They just get a whiff of tobacco and go, “Hey! Smoking! I want to smoke, too!” Most of the time they offer to buy the cigarette, but they know I’m not going to accept their money. What’s the point? Stores don’t sell cigarette singles. If they did, the bummers wouldn’t have to bum.

If I walk past a guy with a nice-smelling burrito, I don’t stop and say, “Hey, could I buy a bite off you?” If I really want a burrito, I’ll buy my own goddamn burrito. I know what you’re thinking: what if I don’t want a whole burrito? Well, then I’m shit out of luck, because everyone is not required to share with me.

If a friend had a nice-smelling burrito, I might ask for a bite. That’s because friends are required to share with me, and vice versa. Likewise, I will gladly offer a friend a cigarette. I’ll even cut some slack to non-friends who I’m talking to in a friendly way. Stray cigarettes are for people I like, not for goony strangers with gingerly affectations.

If you are a bummer, you should know that acting shy and apologetic about the whole thing actually makes you more annoying. You come up to us, pause like a nerd, smile like a jerk, then say “Excuse me… could I… buy a cigarette off you?” as though the smoker stands to gain from the transaction. Then you stand around thanking us and sometimes even try to make conversation. Don’t do that. Get the cigarette and leave.

But actually don’t get the cigarette. Here’s the thing: I smoke because I am addicted to smoking. Being addicted to smoking is not a good thing. It is costing me a lot of money and hastening my death. Everyone knows this about smoking addiction and that’s why few people in this city are addicted anymore. Those of us who are still addicted enjoy just two benefits: solidarity with one another, and the pleasure of smoking. We shouldn’t have to share them with pink-lunged gawkers.

Bummers, if you must smoke, either bum from a friend or buy your own pack. I know you’re afraid that if you buy a pack for social occasions only, you might find yourself smoking during non-social times. But that’s the risk you run when you smoke.

If you think it’s too risky, don’t smoke. You shouldn’t smoke anyway.

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Cliques, a series

I have always liked the idea of belonging to a clique, but, truth be told, I don’t think it’s the life for me. I can’t really explain why, except to say that any time I have belonged to a clique, or tried to belong to a clique, it hasn’t worked out.

Here is an ongoing series about cliques I have belonged to and how they went wrong. Maybe it’s kind of gimmicky, but it’s fun for me at least.

Part One: Stoners
Age: 14
Hub: The Green Room
Routine: Getting stoned; taping ourselves getting stoned; lying on the Green Room couches until they kicked us out

Admission standards for this clique were pretty lax, possibly too lax. You could be the worst person in the world who killed small animals for fun, and if you sidled up during pot smoking time, you were in.

At least a couple of people we hung out with seemed to be seriously psychotic. One guy, who I think was homeless, talked gibberish all the time and had a really intense stare. There was a guy who sold pot out of the Green Room (which was a bar, not someone’s bedroom) and got kicked out one night after he flipped his lid and started throwing chairs around. After that, he told us he didn’t sell pot anymore because he had become a bassist.

But mostly, we were just stoners. It’s amazing how uniform high school stoners are. We were pretty much exactly like the Freaks in Freaks and Geeks, except that The Doors existed for us, and most of us weren’t terribly good-looking at the time.

It was fun while it lasted, but eventually people started doing acid all the time and getting loopy. It got to the point where every time I smoked pot I sat and ruminated about how my life was going down the toilet. So I stopped.

Lesson Learned: The Wall is a piece of shit.

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A short rant about when people have sex in bathroom stalls

I’m all for people getting their jollies, but there is one thing that bothers me: when people get their jollies in bathroom stalls while I am trying to pee.

Here’s something you should know about me: I am pee shy. “Should” is a strong word. Anyway, I have a really hard time peeing in public bathrooms. It’s a serious problem and creates a great deal of pain when I really have to pee but can’t because there are people horsing around in the stall next door.

This has happened a few times. And you know what? Each time I thought, How are you guys even having fun? The stall you’re in is cramped and damp and smells like pee. I don’t even know how you go about doing it in a stall. I have only ever done it in a one-personer, and even then it was awkward and didn’t end the way sex should ideally end, or even hopefully end.

I think that having sex in a bathroom stall is less about sex and more about alerting other people to the fact that you’re having it. That’s all well and good, but couldn’t you just write about it on the stall with a Sharpie? That might be a fun thing to do with a partner.

In the hierarchy of human needs, peeing trumps fucking.

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How younger people are different than older people

When I was younger I hung out mostly with people older than me. Now the tables have turned, and I hang out mostly with people my own age. I am in the sweet spot where I actually like people my own age. It rules because people my age are starting do things, and so a lot of what’s big right now is geared toward our nostalgia.

When that’s over, maybe I will start trying to hang out with younger people.

What’s funny is that people my age and people even ten years older than me are fairly different. I guess everyone knows that. I didn’t. Mostly this is because of the internet, which is both the truest and most boring explanation for everything in the world.

As always, I can only describe the view from Planet Me. But if you are ten years older than I am–that is to say, if you are thirty-five–here are some things about people ten years younger than you.

We don’t know what you mean by “privacy.” Do you mean like when you go to the bathroom or undress before bed? That’s what privacy means to me, so I don’t worry about Facebook interfering with it. But older people have a much more expansive definition of privacy and they are freaked out by the idea of strangers knowing about their lives. Younger people don’t really understand that fear. We grew up having cybersex and keeping Livejournals.

We can have careers and also be terrible at life. My university friends and I worried like hell about what we were going to do immediately after graduation. (We also took a million years to graduate because we were so afraid of what would happen to us afterward.) When we graduated, many of us moved back in with our parents and tried to find jobs.

My older friends prioritized not living with their parents over finding jobs. They figured they’d find jobs after they got better at life. So they did things like move to Europe to find themselves, which is another term people my age don’t really understand.

Irony isn’t mean and nasty. In the ’80s, it was probably hard to like both Crass and Steely Dan. If you were into Crass and you sang a Steely Dan song, you would be doing it ironically, but in a nasty way. Now it’s totally fine to like both. Of course, you can like Steely Dan and still think they’re corny for all the reasons a Crass fan in the ’80s would. So you kind of like them and disavow what they stand for at the same time, perhaps by making a little joke out of the fact that you like them. That’s what irony is to us. A way to like everything.

We don’t really talk about the music we like. At least not in a meaningful way. More in a jokey way. Everyone likes all music, so it means much less to like one kind in particular.

But, at the end of the day, we like the same music as you. Young-person culture is kind of conservative, when you get right down to it. We grew up on Sonic Youth and Pavement and Bikini Kill and Danzig and Nick Cave, plus a few other bands that didn’t exist when you were growing up. We are especially psyched about those bands because they are only ours.

Some of them are pretty silly, but that’s where irony is useful. Right now me and some friends have a great thing going about At the Drive-In.

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The evil in my heart

When I was nine, my downstairs neighbours had a hamster. Whenever I held him, I would turn him onto his back, because he clearly hated it and he looked so adorable when he squirmed. I have always been very ashamed of this.

I suppose in the grand scheme of things to be ashamed of, it’s not really that bad. Some kids might have stuck needles in the hamster. Probably not kids who grew up to be people I know, but who knows, really? Most well-adjusted people don’t talk about the fact that there is evil in their hearts.

Well, let me tell it to you straight: there is a little bit of evil in my heart. A fair amount of good, I think, but definitely some evil. By “evil,” I don’t mean selfishness or hatred, both of which I have some of as well. I mean the capacity to enjoy other people’s suffering.

Because I grew up to not be a sociopath, most of my personal evil is visited upon people I know and care about.

If you are not a sociopath, evil can’t get too far on its own, so it works by sidling up to other intentions. In friendships, evil is fairly easy to manage, because your minds aren’t usually tangled up in a rat king of intentions. Usually you both intend simple things like having fun. Evil and fun are like peanut butter and chocolate, as long as evil doesn’t get out of hand.

In romantic or familial relationships, though, there are a million intentions for evil to sidle up to, including defence, offence, and the venting of anger or sadness. Oh, and sexual enjoyment. There are enough intentions that you don’t always notice when evil has sidled up to one of them. Relationships are like a game of murder handshake for evil.

I think the trick to evil is to acknowledge that it exists. That way you can recognize it and tell it to bug off when it starts harassing the other intentions. That’s easy enough to do for yourself, but harder to do in relationships. People find it freaky to look upon evil in the heart of someone they love.

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The hippie–hater continuum

This weekend, some friends and I went to the nude beach at Hanlan’s Point. We sat on the sand and watched the nude people mill about. Close to us was a nude man, telling a nude woman about some clothed girls who had taken pictures of his “bum” while he was bent over. I didn’t want to be one of those girls. I wanted to be nude.

I took off my shirt. Eventually, I took off my skirt. More friends arrived and we sat in a circle. I said, “Guys, I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna get nude.” They said, “OK.” I said, “Will you get nude, too?” They said, “No.” I said, “K, I’m gonna do it now.” They said, “Go right ahead.” Then I waited until no one was looking and took off my bra.

Everyone acted casual about it, but they seemed uncomfortable. They had never seen me topless before and they were probably worried that I was going to take off my underwear. So I asked my friend “Samantha” to come for a walk with me. She wasn’t comfortable getting nude, so she kept all her clothes on. But once we were out of our friends’ sightline, I did it. I got nude.

It was the best.

You should know that my friends and I are not, by and large, nude people. We are not sandals people, or nice-is-good-enough people, or play-any-kind-of-instrument-in-public people. I am not necessarily proud of this, just stating a fact. Wherever we go, we are kind of the peanut gallery.

Being a hater is good in some situations. Like if a stranger tries to butt into a conversation with whatever is on their mind, because they come from a world where everyone is friends no matter how irrelevant their observations are. That’s rude. Or when a band is super lousy and keeps imploring the audience to do things for them, like wave their hands in the air like they just don’t care. I’m not going to do that. Not for you guys.

But if you spend too much time hating, you start to feel like life is passing you by. At the end of the day, what do we haters do for fun? Mostly, we stand around and drink. Meanwhile, there are all sorts of hippies out there doing novel things for fun.

Sometimes I wish I could join them, but usually I can’t. Occasionally I walk by people doing outdoor puppet theatre and think, Wow, look at what they’re doing. I want to stay and watch, but then I see some grinning middle-aged woman with a camera and it just feels too goofy. I think people who do renaissance stuff are really cool, but if I joined in I would probably start giggling and ruin their whole suspension of disbelief thing. I know people who play in percussion ensembles, and I think it’s great that they do that. The rhythm really gets into your bones. But when they play in Kensington Market and I see all those people in Tevas dancing in the street to no rhythm in particular, I have to get out of there.

I have a lot of shame, and I am easily bothered by people and the foolish things they do, such as have a party in the middle of Kensington Avenue when I’m trying to get groceries. But, at the end of the day, I think life is awesome, and I would like to enjoy it as much as possible.

The urge to enjoy life sometimes conquers the shame, and I find myself doing minor hippie things like letting my armpit hair grow, or owning a singing saw, or sitting around half naked in a group of people who have kept all their clothes on. Maybe, even though I pretend to be a hater, I am secretly a hippie.

The day after we went to the nude beach, I asked Samantha if this was so. “We all are,” she said. “I like pooing in the woods.”

I could never be comfortable doing that.

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My fear of alien abduction

My ex-boyfriend, “Charlie,” once had a strange roommate. He was a music maker and a drummer of drums at 11 pm. One morning I went outside and found him eating a giant bowl of what appeared to be chickpeas floating in balsamic vinegar. Let’s call him “Abe.”

One day, Charlie delivered some news. The night before, Abe had told him, a UFO had flown up to their porch. The news wasn’t that a UFO had flown up to their porch, but that Abe believed a UFO had flown up to their porch.

Later that day, I saw Abe on that very same porch. I said, “Abe, I heard you saw a UFO.” Abe got really excited. As he told me the story, he paced back and forth. His retelling was brisk, but systematic. Here is the gist: while up late making music, he saw a bright light from outside his window. He went to find out what it was. Guess what? It was a giant spaceship.

“I immediately felt a voice, as if from inside me, telling me to come no further,” Abe said. (I have formalized his speech for effect.) “It wasn’t me they had come for. So I went back inside.”

Abe was an avid Coast to Coast listener, so he knew the spaceship’s deal. “It was a Grey ship,” he continued. “Greys are nasty characters. They’re the ones who abduct people and experiment on them.”

I asked if he was concerned.

“No,” he said. “They mostly come after women in their early-to-mid twenties.”

That wasn’t very nice, Abe.

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