Monday, 21 July 2014

"Packing", and other such Expletives.


“Packing” is a dirty, dirty word.

I have long since suspected as much.

This word encapsulates many horrible unmentionables, which I shall mention for you now. 

One of these involves something called “Stripping the Bed," which loosely translates as “an action that removes any possible feeling of homeliness from your room."

One is called “Emptying Drawers," which often goes hand in hand with a rising feeling of nausea and dread.

Another involves placing suitcases around willy-nilly, and staring at them mournfully.

Many people play up-tempo music while Packing in an attempt to disguise its repulsive nature. This never works, and often results in a lasting hatred for the music itself.

I have noticed this word used in tandem with another equally dirty phrase, that being “Saying Goodbye."

Saying Goodbye is an action very similar to leaping off a very tall diving board into a pool, if that pool was actually a 3inch thick sheet of ice and not a pool at all.

I have found that Saying Goodbye often leaves me depleted of sodium; it all tends to run down my face.

This is very inconvenient when you have a beard, mostly because it contradicts any form of masculinity that you may have been giving off up until that point.

Saying Goodbye is something I try to do as infrequently as possible. Though for some reason, it keeps happening to me.

I don’t like it very much. It makes my heart feel like someone is trying to make freshly squeezed orange juice out of it.  

Packing and Saying Goodbye both fall under an extremely slippery category called “Change."

Change is apparently extremely necessary for “Growth” and is even considered good for you in some cultures.

I find Growth to be overrated, and think that Change tastes like dirty pennies, which is ironic, don’t you think?

After all, it’s because of Growth that I no longer fit into the clothes at "Please Mum Inc." which is very inconvenient for me and also very sad.

However, all of these stupid, smelly words are apparently necessary if you want to do things like “Have a Career” and “Someday Support a Family” and my personal favorite, “Do What You Love."

And if you never Say Goodbye, you never get to have adventures.

And if you don’t Pack before you Say Goodbye, then you won’t be fully prepared for all your adventures and you might forget things like your hat with flowers on it or your toothbrush or your Winnie the Pooh blanket.

These are all important things.

If I’d never Said Goodbye because I was afraid of Change and didn’t like Growth, then I’d be a very short, boring person who’d never even seen what New York City looks like.

And I never would have met you, which would be very sad indeed.

So I guess I’ll just have to keep using all of these words. 




Friday, 11 October 2013

I won't grow up

I won’t grow up, don’t make me
I don’t want to say goodbye to people I love and get on a plane that takes me far, far away

I won’t grow up, don’t make me
I don’t want to have to make the brave choice or the right choice or whatever fucking choice it is that makes my heart hurt.

I won’t grow up, don’t make me
I don’t want to get up early or pound the pavement or go the extra mile to make it in a cruel and unforgiving world

I won’t grow up, don’t make me
I don’t want to pay bills and work part-time jobs that involve carrying trays or handing drinks to lifeless people in dresses that leave nothing to the imagination in places that blare music too loud

I won’t grow up, don’t make me
I don’t want to feel guilty or responsible or any feeling that does not come from having books read to me on a sunny couch in a house far away

But I will grow up, and no one will make me
because I made the decision to get on that plane and will make it time and time again

But I will grow up, and no one will make me
because I’m smart enough to know that what feels good right now won’t always feel good in the long run

But I will grow up, and no one will make me
because this is what I love to do and the only things worth pursuing are those things that challenge every fibre of your being

But I will grow up, and no one will make me
because I will not be a parasite and I will accept those jobs as a toll to be paid on the road to success or I will be innovative and find others

But I will grow up and no one will make me because
I am strong and smart and resilient and determined and I have already been given all the tools that I need to overcome the challenges in my life

I have grown up
But sometimes I will dress up as Peter Pan and pretend I never will


Sunday, 29 September 2013

Adventures in Personal Hygiene

Upon returning home two summers past, I made a startling revelation.
My sisters go to the spa a lot.

Now I mean no disrespect to my beautiful sisters, nor do I aim to embarrass them in any way. It is a simple and plain fact that women must attend the spa with a certain regularity in order to maintain their polished appearance (or so I understand). I suppose in past visits, I had never really noticed that that they popped out of the house so frequently, returning with skin aglow or eyebrows finely sculpted. Indeed, whenever conversation tended towards Latin American countries and their waxing practices, I had quietly excused myself from the room, preferring instead to remain blissfully ignorant. However, for whatever reason, this visit was different and I became increasingly aware that the spa (and I italicize here in order to properly convey the gravitas associated with this sacred institution), was the place to be.

In the days following, I started to question my sisters with some intensity, as to whether a visit to the spa could be appropriate for male clientele as well. Now before I continue, I should probably provide those of you who do not know me on a deeply personal level with some background information.

I happen to be a fairly hirsute man. My dear father passed down many complimentary genes to his son, though the one that compels patches of hair to grow on my back at will, I probably could have done without. Now we're not talking a Steve Carrell in "the 40 Year Old Virgin" level of hair coverage, but I do boast my fair share of raven-black manly trappings.

All things considered, I decided it perhaps wouldn't be such a bad thing if I did away with some of the more unsightly weeds running down my spine. Two weeks previous to this, the little girl to whom I was teaching swimming lessons had asked me why I was so hairy, with such astonishment in her eyes that according to her mother, I visibly blushed. It was time to take some drastic action. And so I found myself on a sunny Vancouver day bouncing off to the spa with great trepidation and tremors of excitement in my belly, mother in tow. (You didn't think I'd go by myself did you?)

My youngest sister had booked the appointment and I was all set for my waxing experience. I entered the glass doors to the oasis of hair removal and was immediately greeted with the gloriously peaceful sound of cascading fountains, the perfumed air gently welcoming me.  A stunningly gorgeous receptionist sat at the marble covered desk and though she appeared not to acknowledge my existence, I was entranced nonetheless. This was a magical place.

My mother checked me in and after various urgent whispers between several more (?!) beautiful women in white, I was ushered into a tiny room about the dimensions of a queen sized bed. A slightly frumpy, broad shouldered aesthetician entered moments afterwards. I was simultaneously relieved and disappointed that I would not be having my back waxed by any of the celestial beings that had graced the lobby.

She introduced herself by name and title (see previous paragraph), busying about with opaque liquids of strange consistencies and what appeared to be a jar of tongue depressors. Calming my palpitating heart, I thought on the encouraging words of the females of my family, who had assured me that although the experience would hurt, I was unlikely to actually pass out from the pain. However, instead of instructing me to remove my garments and lay prone, my stocky friend instead asked me to sit down. I can only describe the expression on her face as one of pity.

"I wanted to have a quick talk with you before we start," she began, a queer little half-smile on her lips. "Have you ever done this before?"

"No," I replied.

"Ok, well the area we're going to be working with is rather sensitive, so I just wanted to be sure you were fully comfortable."

Up until this point, I had been under the impression that the back is one of the least sensitive parts of the body, and I felt panic beginning to rise in my chest.

"Ummm, sure. I'm comfortable..."

"Alright, well, Sofia at the front desk has informed me that you've requested a male bikini wax, so before I begin-"

I nearly leaped off the table in alarm.

"Hold on, I didn't request a BIKINI WAX!" I shrieked.

"You didn't?" she said,  her left eyebrow rising like a stupid, perfectly manicured caterpillar. "But you brought your mom with you for moral support and the ladies at the desk-"

"The ladies at the desk are WRONG. I do not want a male bikini wax. I only want my back waxed."

"Please." I added, my face probably the shade of an heirloom tomato at this point.

"Well, whoever called definitely requested a male bikini!" she said cheerfully, "But no worries. I'd be happy to just do your back today!"

Needless to say the actual hair removal process was nowhere near as painful as the pointed look the receptionist gave me as I walked out those glorious front doors.

"How'd it go?" she asked me, perfectly tanned skin gleaming.

"Fine, thank you." I replied through gritted teeth, trudging off with my mother into the parking lot, making a mental note never to ask my sister to book anything for me again.

I enjoyed the smooth-skinned fruit of this traumatic experience for a grand total of two weeks, before breaking out into a wonderful constellation of red spots that lasted for several months. When asked by curious bystanders at the pool what had attacked my back I would decline to answer, swimming away hurriedly and vowing silently never again to return to the spa. After all, there are worse things in life then a little bit of body hair.



Wednesday, 28 August 2013

A Man of Two Hearts.


I sit overlooking the quiet of a misty street. It’s rain-soaked trees call to me, calming me.

You’re safe, you’re happy.

They whisper to me slowly, softly. They speak of a life I once had and the promise of one I may have again.

Don’t ever leave this place.

Salty breezes nip through the window lapping at my face. The wind kisses me and my heart soars.

Come back to us.

The ever burning fire of family warms me, glows first in my stomach, spreading to my hands, cheeks, scalp, chest.

Why do you always leave?

Outside, I gulp at the fresh air, frantically dispelling those thoughts that come fast and sharp. They beg me to change course, to raise a different flag.

Stay here forever.

My heart palpitates, then splits in two. I see my roads clear as day in front of me.

Think of what you leave behind.

I tell the birds, the leaves and the purpley seas that I will return soon. Perhaps one day for good.

Selfish.

I am a man of two hearts, I say. I am equally bound to both.

Liar.

It is not the time for me to stay. Adventure and the thrill of challenge call me east.

Why?

I do not know why, but I know that their call is strong and true.

So you will leave us again?

Yes.

But you will be back?

Of course.

Do you promise?

My love for you is too strong never to return.

Good.

And the voices floated away on the breeze, and I was calm.



Saturday, 13 July 2013

Gay Men and Tigers and Bears-A Straight Man's Tale

Hi, I'm Aidan Sank.

You might remember  me from such blogs as "The Internet Generation" and "Girls and Postwar Prosperity". These blogs are thoughtful commentaries on the effects of smartphones on our work ethic and communication skills.

This blog is a little different.

 This blog is the story of my experiences at a bar that I will call for the purposes of this post "Tiger Bar".

And so begins the slippery descent into the tale I'm about to tell you...



A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine made a very innocent facebook post that went something like this:

Any actor friends of mine looking to work a coat check job at Tiger Bar during Pride week? $300-$600.

Being an actor friend looking to make $300-$600, I messaged him back, expressing my interest. As we began to chat back and forth discussing details, I thought I might as well google "Tiger Bar", as I was unfamiliar with it. I soon came across three rather interesting revelations.

1) Tiger Bar is a gay bar.
2) Tiger Bar is a gay leather bar.
3) Tiger Bar is a gay leather bar specializing in older, larger, hairy men (henceforth to be termed "bears").

It was at the moment that I made this third and most startling discovery that my friend offered to bequeath me the pleather shorts that he had received to work his first shift at this bar.

What did I just sign up for? I typed, anxiety rising in my throat.

To which my friend responded,

It's just coat check. You'll be in a "cage" so you're protected, it's a chain link fence. If you're uncomfortable then don't do it. But have fun.

Looking back now, I'm not quite sure why he put the word "cage" in quotation marks. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

After some hemming and hawing, I accepted the job offer, as I decided that turning down that much money just because I might be working in a new, slightly uncomfortable environment would be foolish. After all, I'd be in a "cage" so I'd be protected...right?

The next week, I arrived nervously at the job, and was shown around by a friendly security guard, meeting all the shirtless bartenders and getting the lay of the land. He kindly pointed out the upstairs roof deck, which, he proudly stated, Tiger Bar is famous for. This was the area where men can reportedly come for a cheeky blowjob (or two). Though "beware of pickpockets" he said, pointing to a large sign on the wall demarcating just that. Apparently "some people don't pay attention to their surroundings when they're receiving oral sex" he cautioned, shaking his head sadly. It was at this moment that one of the bar-backs walked by me, clad in leather pants, harness and belts. He limped slightly as he passed.

"Oh, and we have porn!" Smiled the security guard enthusiastically, pointing up to two T.V. screens depicting what seemed to be one man giving another man a rather aggressive colonoscopy.

I just barely resisted the urge to bolt out the door as my imagination began to get the better of me.

*Let me take a moment to add a quick disclaimer by mentioning that I am no stranger to gay bars. As the majority of my male friends are gay, I have accompanied them on many a jaunt to their preferred clubs. I have danced in the vicinity of many a sweaty, scantily clad man (often in a much closer vicinity than I would prefer), and I have visited suspiciously slippery darkened bathrooms where the urinals are so close to one another they are practically designed for "accidental" contact.

The Tiger is a whole new level of gay bar. Coat-check was truly located in a long, tall chain-link cage, facing a wall depicting leather clad men in various stages of undress.  Hairy fellows in harnesses traipsed up and down the bar, stomachs spilling over their shorts or veins bulging from their muscular bare biceps. I quickly took up my post and nervously looked back and forth, making a mental note of the security guard's names just in case I had to scream them out in terror while a large bearded man thrust himself in my direction.

My first two hours passed rather un-eventfully as I found that I was beginning to rather enjoy this job. The methodical nature of checking people's belongings was soothing and everyone so far was friendly and only mildly flirtatious. Then along came the manager.

A broad chested, dark haired man wearing a small black tanktop, with an almost inscrutable Spanish accent, he had wandered over in order to offer some advice.

"You should take your top off."

I gazed it him in sheer horror. He continued.

"Listen mang, I don't want to see you naked," (I gave silent thanks for this) "but you will make more tips if you do. I'm straight, the bartenders are straight. We all do it. Get shirtless."

And off he went in a flurry of stocky strides.

I was now faced with quite a quandary. It looked like it was going to be a slower than expected night, which meant a lot less money. Apparently, taking off the button-down I was wearing would guarantee a lot more money. Yet...there was my dignity at stake.

So I texted two trusty friends who had this to offer:

Why not? What do you have to lose?

My sense of self respect! I replied indignantly, Compromising what I'm comfortable with!

You're in a cage, at a bear bar, in Chelsea...compromise is a moot point. replied one pithy friend.

She was right.

And so I peeled off my shirt, placing a backwards yankees cap on my head in a vain attempt to balance out my current circumstances with an emblem of hetro-sexuality. I stood at attention, chest hair wafting slightly in tandem with the air conditioning. Almost immediately, I began to notice a marked difference in how much money I was making. People were dropping tips left and right, smiling from ear to ear. I think they all felt much more comfortable now that the coat-check guy was playing along; most of the patrons and service staff were in someway exposed, why shouldn't he be?

The compliments also began to flow more frequently. Never mind that I lept back into my cage as if struck by a hot poker when an older gentleman pawed my chest hair, cooing softly like a dove. I was confident, comfortable in my sexuality and dammit I was a straight man standing shirtless in a gay bar. I could do anything!

I didn't give a second glance to those wearing only jockey straps and didn't bat an eyelash at the man who came and left in 5 min saying he was just there for "a quickie". There was even a fellow who immediately upon arrival pronounced me as "Sweet, but straight as anything!" I was beaming, proud that my hetro-sexuality was shining through the haze of fairy-winged masculine chaos.

Then a 76 year old man in glittery white translucent briefs walked by, signifying the beginning of the end. He struck up a conversation with me, which gave confidence to a few other men and all of sudden I had a couple of propositions. They were fairly harmless, one coming from a bespectacled man in a full pleather body suit who liked to read scholarly articles. Another came from a short latino fellow who incorrectly assumed I didn't understand the Spanish he chattered away in to his friends.

 However, all of a sudden I had to start making excuses that I was straight and my magical tip streak began to dry up. By 12:30am there were less and less customers and the freezing cold air had forced me to reclothe myself, much to the dismay of the few stragglers leaving the bar. I finally settled down to finish reading the 6th instalment of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the rest of the night passed uneventfully.

By the time I had reached the end of my evening, I'd made a few important realizations.

1) The amount of anxiety I experienced leading up to this event was disproportionate to the circumstances I actually faced. After all, no one attacked me with their pubic hair or tried to drag me screaming into a bathroom.

2) The most traumatic part of the night was when I innocently asked a very large, very moustachioed man if I could "give him a hand with anything". The answer I received is not appropriate for me to put in this blog, which is saying something seeing as I've already referred to an agressive colonoscopy.

3) The 6th instalment of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is quite excellent.

4) I actually enjoyed working at Tiger Bar, especially in comparison to my time doing coat check at my former place of employment, an upscale restaurant also named for an animal. At the latter, people looked right through me and I was handling coats that cost thousands of dollars for people who were reticent to tip. At Tiger Bar, I had more than my fair share of smiles and almost everyone left a dollar.

5) I had to turn this evening into a blog...



Well, now I have.

I hope you've enjoyed my tale.

And if you're ever in Chelsea and looking for a gay leather bar specializing in "bears" or if you simply don't believe that such a place exits...Call me up.

I'll give you the tour.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

"Girls" and Postwar Prosperity

Recently, there has been a lot of bandying about of the concept that the "American Dream" is dead. The intersection of growing income disparity and reduced educational opportunities, coupled with crippling student debt no longer allows someone in the lower 5th of income distribution to rise to its upper echelons. Social mobility seems to be on the decline as it is harder and harder for the 21st century "little guy" to work his way up the ladder. This is even more starkly noticeable juxtaposed with the age of Postwar Prosperity, pegged between 1945-73.

 Now all thoughts and opinions on socio-economics and capitalism aside, and certainly assuring all those concerned that I do not profess to be any sort of expert on the economy, let's focus for a moment on this time period. More specifically, l'd like to examine another important contributing factor to the successful upward mobility of the American middle-class, before globalization really began to take effect and certainly before the prime of the internet era. In this follow up to my previous blog post, I will briefly discuss work ethic, and how it relates to the generation of the iPhone.

Being careful not to lose ourselves in the heady fragrance that is Golden Age Nostalgia, let's harken back to a different time. I have often caught myself marvelling at the single mindedness of the American middle-class following the Second World War. Many veterans returning home immediately looked for ways to keep busy and stay busy, building businesses and driving the economy forward. People were content with spending 12-14 hr days doing backbreaking work, all in the name of the "American Dream" and for the financial stability of their family. Once you found a career, you rode it all the way to retirement, regardless of how dull or stimulating it was. They found fulfilment in their occupations and in the steady daily grind of their jobs. Procrastination must have still been prevalent in many young recent graduates, though it seemed as though a premium was placed on finishing school and getting straight to work.

Of course, those people still exist today and in fact can be found all across the world. I do not doubt the work ethic of the present day middle-class. Instead, a prime example of what I refer to can be found in on the HBO show Girls, which I will admit I have followed very closely, though perhaps without the somewhat religious fervor that is attached to it. Girls tracks a group of  twenty-somethings as they trek through the wilderness of living as relatively unemployed recent graduates in New York City. This is a territory I am quite familiar with, though I tend to be fully clothed more often than Lena Dunham is. Decidedly so. But I digress...

One of the salient traits found in each character on the show is that they all expect things to come easily to them. Hannah whines to her parents to support her indefinitely. Marnie wants a boyfriend she spurned to come running back to her, while Jessa demands a free pass for her erratic and destructive behaviour. Even the successful one of the bunch, Charlie, falls ass-first into prosperity by developing a wildly popular iPhone app. My point here is not to criticize the TV show, but instead to allow it be the commentary it is on my generation.

We who have touch-phones and constantly accessible 3 or 4G service expect things to happen quickly, experiencing maximum outcome for minimum effort. If a video doesn't load, we click the play button over and over again until it does. When Wi-Fi conks out or is unavailable, we throw up our hands in frustration. We want things fast, we want them now and we don't want to work for them. Therefore the shock of graduation and the threat of growing up becomes even more pronounced. Why should we be inspired to pull our own weight or make overarching sacrifices of personal comforts when we are conditioned not to have to in our every day lives? Instead of travelling to visit someone we can text them. Instead of renting a book from the library we can pull up an article in 3 seconds. Instant fame seems to effortlessly find You-Tubers. Sometimes, it seems as though what is more important than finding a solid job or working hard for our goals is perpetuating an image on Instagram. It's certainly easier.

 Perhaps one of the reasons that American social mobility falters today is because our work ethic is not up to standard. It only takes one look at Japan or China to see our shortcomings in that area. They share the same single-minded drive that those middle-class Americans did during the age of Postwar Prosperity. For before  cellphones were a staple in everyone's hands, what did people do? They worked. Towards something, for someone. They struggled. They strove. They built the United States of America into the country that it is. As part of the next generation responsible for this economy, we  must take example from the working middle-class of the 1940's-70's.

In fact, it is their attitude that is in direct correlation with one of the reasons why I love New York. There's a saying that it will still cost you $40 just to stay at home all day in Manhattan. It's an expensive, fast-paced city and if you don't work hard you will not keep up. Especially in the entertainment business, you have to put procrastination aside and pound the pavement. However, the only way that we can do that, is if we really retrain ourselves not to yearn for what is easy. Instead, we have to search for the challenge and embrace what is uncomfortable. I'm proud to say that I pumped out this blog in a single 90 minute sitting, after turing my phone off and closing all forms of social media. We are all capable of reaching our goals, but only if we alter our mindset, turning away from the comfortable and looking instead to the earnest development of a strong work ethic. It is a long road to true diligence but it is certainly one worth travelling.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Internet Generation


Sitting on my bed at the end of the night or first thing in the morning, I perform a familiar ritual. For one or ten or twenty-five minutes, I cycle between Facebook and Instagram,  Gmail and Twitter,  until I have truly exhausted every form of social media. No matter how tired I am at night, nor how late I am to rise, this frenetic flipping between apps always exists  In fact, I can't seem to put my mind to bed or start the day without it. This cycle also manifests itself when I am waiting for a train or bored at work or having a tiresome conversation or walking the distance from 125th street to 121st street. My eyes lock to the screen as I frantically search for some content that applies to me, that will lift me from my present state. When there is no WiFi  and my 4G coverage conks out leaving me a alone with my thoughts, I panic, fidgeting in my seat and tapping my foot like a pre-teen boy with ADD. Perhaps my only comfort in these times is that seemingly every person who surrounds me suffers from the same addiction. For it is an addiction, this fixation that we have with our smartphones and even more specifically, the internet. These two things serve as our greatest form of procrastination and the largest subconscious manifestation of our fear of being alone. 

In the world today, a premium is placed on instant gratification and constant virtual communication, as we update and message our way to oblivion. Gone are long walks without electronic stimulation and reading books made out of paper takes a distant backseat to streaming TV shows or indulging in the latest Huffpost Entertainment News. We expect to receive things as fast as possible with the least amount of effort required.

 Now please don't get me wrong. I'm not some harbinger of doom preaching a message of electronic abstinence from my pulpit high above. I consider myself an active part of a problem that is completely fixable. Therefore, over a series of blogposts, I'd like to discuss some of the core issues that face our generation, we that have experienced the internet. More importantly though, I'd like to explore how we may positively alter our trajectory.

So where does that itch to pick up our phones come from? That desire to stop working and check our messages or delay our bedtimes by hours simply to watch movie trailers on Youtube? Logically, it seems to stem from two things. The first being a desire to escape our immediate circumstances. When there is a readily available way to avoid the minor stresses and anxieties connected with our work and daily communications, it's difficult not to exercise that option. We are not forced to face difficult realities and tackle workloads when looking at Rihanna's Instagram.

The second cause of our need to constantly utilize our electronic devices is our fear of being alone. The anxiety that stems from a culture obsessed with online connection is inevitable.  However by sending a text message or commenting on a photo, we can feel as though we are linked to something other than ourselves. By extension, we are also able to dull the murmur of thoughts and insecurities that arise when left alone.

One could conversely argue that sometimes the subject matter on our smartphones can be more stressful than our everyday life and more destructive than our regular internal monologue. This is especially true when one considers the feelings of rejection, resentment, anxiety, jealousy and guilt often experienced when browsing other peoples profiles or interacting via messenger.

 Subsequently, I feel as though I exist in a strange daily paradox. I enjoy being alone, and experience a sharp increase in focus, productivity and creativity, coupled with a significant decrease in stress and mental clutter when I am. On the other hand, I've barely been able to stop checking Twitter while writing about this very issue. It's a a perfect example of an all too familiar personal hypocrisy.

Our generation is faced with a societally pervasive addiction to the internet. We exist in a world that seems to only be moving further in the direction of electronic dependance. Every smartphone  commercial boasts greater, more inventive ways to remove ourselves from our immediate surroundings and become more fully immersed in a virtual world. How can we therefore hope to combat the rising tide of short attention spans, lack of basic social skills and cultural procrastination? It seems like a futile fight, but it is one that I am willing to commit to. Over the next few posts I will continue to discuss these issues and document my personal struggles with them. If we can start a dialogue of solutions and set a precedent of positive communication habits, following fast on their heels will be the inception of clear, creative, diligent, and socially conscious minds.

Until next time...

Aidan Sank

*Let it be known that the irony of posting this blog straight onto Facebook is not lost on me.