A plague

Few in the gay community know who Larry Kramer is. It’s a shame that each new generation is learning less and less about an era that decimated our community and the individuals who worked tirelessly to find a cure.

Not just a playwright, Kramer continues to be one of our most effective activists. In 1978 he published a controversial novel called Faggots. The book received emphatic denunciations from elements within the gay community for his one-sided portrayal of shallow, promiscuous gay relationships in the 1970s. His main thesis begged the question: How can a gay man possibly find love when he’s more concerned with having lots of anonymous sex?

For a long time Kramer was shunned by one-time supporters who found his account of their lives distasteful. Kramer said about his inspiration for the novel: “I wanted to be in love. Almost everybody I knew felt the same way. I think most people, at some level, wanted what I was looking for, whether they pooh-poohed it or said that we can’t live like the straight people or whatever excuses they gave.”

Kramer researched the book by talking with many men, and visiting various establishments. As he interviewed people, he heard a common question: “Are you writing a negative book? Are you going to make it positive? … I began to think, ‘My God, people must really be conflicted about the lives they’re leading.’ And that was true. I think people were guilty about all the promiscuity and all the partying.”

After the backlash Kramer said, “The straight world thought I was repulsive, and the gay world treated me like a traitor. People would literally turn their back when I walked by. You know what my real crime was? I put the truth in writing. That’s what I do: I have told the fucking truth to everyone I have ever met.” Despite its negative response Faggots became one of the best-selling gay novels of all time and is taught in universities.

There’s no denying that gay men can be promiscuous. Not all of them of course, but there is a section of our community that is obsessed with appearances, money, drugs and sex. In that way they are no different from many straight people.

One of the biggest arguments I have with gay men is the idea of body image. Almost every gay guy I speak to strives to look like a specific type of man and it typically involves a muscular, well sculpted body. These men often resort to talking about health to justify their obsession with their bodies, but then you observe them smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol excessively and indulging in promiscuous sexual behaviour and you think otherwise. Clearly health is not a motivating factor in their lives, but vanity is.

And that’s okay as long they’re honest about it. But why lie? Possibly because they feel there is something wrong with being vain. Being self-critical is a skill that not everyone develops. But all of us should challenge the behaviours that we consider acceptable and how they contribute to the world, either good or bad.

I’ve had many long talks with gay men who will defend their sexual freedom at any cost, even if it means putting their health in jeopardy. Many young gay men are without fear of contracting HIV. They now look at it as a chronic disease that is treatable with medication. It doesn’t take much research to find that most people who contract HIV age at a significantly higher rate than most healthy people.

We have not only a responsibility to our own health, but to the health of those whom we have sex with. If we’re having sex with many different people who are also having sex with many different people, chances are that we’ll get a disease. It might not be anything as earth shattering as HIV, but that’s not much consolation.

I’m firmly aware, to this day, that sexual freedom does not equate liberation. In fact, it can rob us of our lives in ways we never thought possible.

I’m not really interested in shaming people for choosing to live their lives however they please, but I do support responsible choices to ensure the health of everyone.

Kramer saw first hand the ravages of AIDS, and Faggots foretold an impending catastrophe that crippled our community. It would be a shame if we made the same mistakes that can lead to another inevitable plague. HIV and AIDS has already taken so many innocent lives.

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Are you suffering from allergies? Me too!

This dead spider probably feels better than I do right now

This dead spider probably feels better than I do right now

Because I haven’t already shared enough with all of you, my allergies are sucking my will to live. I’d rather be dead right now! Okay, not really, but sweet Jesus, this is horrible.

My right eye continually leaks fluid, to the point that I can’t see anything out of it. Literally, I’m almost blind from the build-up of mucous. When I awake in the morning I have to pry my eyelids open with my fingers because the gunk has closed them shut.

My nose runs, my throat tickles, I have a constant headache but on the bright side I have energy! I can walk, run, lift weights, make dinner, those kinds of things. So I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m functional despite the fact that my face is bloated and my one eye is constantly weeping.

Last night I tried to drink white wine but it tasted like gasoline. This morning I ran 10K with a pocket stuffed with tissues to wipe away the liquid running from my eye down my cheek.

I don’t even know what these prescribed steroids are supposed to do. Sounds like the side effects are atrocious. I might end up looking like someone who’s had too much Botox. They’re supposed to reduce inflammation by inflaming the size of my face!

Such is life. The worst part is I don’t know what’s causing my allergies, nor how long this is going to last. The good news is that so far I have vision in my left eye. Until that goes too, I’m in good shape.

Allergies are the devil

BA tree

My allergies are so bad that my doctor has prescribed a steroid that I must take two times a day. The side effects are a bloated, swollen face, and shrunken balls. All in time for Toronto World Pride! I can’t wait. The joys of aging.

So that’s why I’m posting too much today. I can’t do anything else! The last post about the cottage tree reminded me of this monstrosity in Recoleta, Buenos Aires. LOOK AT IT!

OMG: Did you hear about…

Toronto Island 6

A few weeks ago I was enjoying some patio drinks when I was distracted by the chatter behind me. A young woman, maybe in her early thirties, who was accompanied by a male friend, was talking incessantly about the lives of her friends.

No topic was off limits, and she had no shame revealing the most intimate, personal details of their lives, all laced with callous judgment. I couldn’t help but eavesdrop, from time to time I had to nod my head at her immodesty. She seemed to have friends with enormous issues. According to her though, she was perfect.

Of course, her stories were embellished, exaggerated and maybe not entirely accurate, if at all. I wanted to find out who her friends were so that I could warn them about the Judas in their midst. I would shout, “Don’t tell her anything!” Then I remembered that it didn’t matter what they told her, she would weave a narrative from whatever information she could get about their lives, whether it came from them personally, or a friend, relative, their body language, the way they danced, what have you.

We’ve all been this person at some time in our lives. We’ve also all been a victim of it. I can tell you from personal experience that when I have gossiped about a friend, or spread rumours about them in the past, none of what I thought I knew, was accurate. A lot of what I bitched about was laced with emotion, resentment and simple mean-spiritedness.

I also know from first hand experience what it’s like to have friends gossip about me, my life, my other friends, my relationship, my family, my personality, my everything! And I know how much it can hurt.

When I lived in England I became desensitized to gossip. It’s so ingrained in the fabric of English society to gossip about people. When I started to work as an educator, on my very first day, one of my colleagues introduced herself to me, then proceeded to complain, rather viciously, about almost every other staff member. I was like, “Lady, I don’t even know you, and you have no idea what my relationship is like with some of these people.” Didn’t faze her, she just continued on. After a while I learned to ignore her.

Even now, work is like that. I simply try not to have any part of it. I will get up and walk out of the room when I start to hear people gossip. There have also been occasions when a friend is talking very candidly about someone’s relationship where I’ve had to stop the conversation and say, “This is really none of my business.” And really it isn’t, this personal information does nothing to improve my life. I don’t need to hear it.

Of course, to this day, there are times when I need to vent about something, so I usually try to find one trustworthy person to confide in, but then again, that too has backfired on me in completely unpredictable, and unsettling ways.

If you have a friend who routinely gossips about the people you know in common, chances are pretty high that he or she is doing the same thing about you when you’re not in the room.

I’ve since weeded these types of individuals from my life, choosing to have a small group of intimate confidants who I trust. Though, to be fair, there have still been times where I’ve been surprised at how even when I think I’ve made good selections, people can still disappoint me.

My rule of thumb is to reveal nothing, and when I do, to muddle the facts a bit. This is the method I’ve used in the past to see what a suspicious friend is saying about me behind my back. If I hear it regurgitated by someone else in the group, I know the source immediately.

Underhanded of me I suppose, but my instincts rarely fail me. This young woman on the patio reminded me how two-faced people can be. Not that I really forgot. I’m sure when her friends are confiding in her she’s all smiles, sympathetic, warm, encouraging, but then when they’re gone, she’s all judgment.

It’s really her problem though. It’s more a testament of her own insecurities than her friends’ flaws. However, it’s a reflection of our culture right now as it stands. I hate to always bring it back to celebrity, but it’s important to note how many people of this generation have become famous not because of talent but how much of their own personal lives they’ve been able to pimp out to get some attention. We don’t even criticize it anymore, we have learned to accept, and embrace it.

If the message we keep receiving from our media is that it’s okay to gossip about one another, no matter how destructive it can be, than it’s no wonder why and how we so readily engage in such behaviour.

I know some will argue that it’s natural for the human species to gossip, and everyone has their own definition of what gossip means, and it’s not necessarily negative. Personally I try my hardest to mind my own business and to worry about myself, and my own life.

Call me crazy! Does anyone disagree?

A small introduction to Canada’s health care system

A lot of traffic to my blog comes from the United States. I love Americans, but as many of you have probably noticed I’m a little critical of your government and the corporations that run your government. Nothing frustrates me more about America than their views on universal health care.

30 million Americans do not have health insurance, which means they have to pay out-of-pocket when they get sick, and it is costly. The population of Canada is 34 million. Each citizen of our country, and some non-citizens, are entitled to receive service from our public health care system. Canadians believe strongly in supporting one another. We believe that everyone deserves basic human rights, including free health care. Also, new mothers in Canada get 1 year of maternity leave. Because how can the government encourage people to have families and not give them the means to do it properly?

If I am laid off from my job I am entitled to unemployment insurance from the government until I am able to find new employment, at which time the insurance will terminate payment. But not before my first day of work.

I write these to point out that though Canadians pay higher taxes, it’s to ensure that no one is left behind. That everyone is given the opportunity to live their lives to the fullest no matter how much money they make. We complain, of course, but the average middle-class Canadian makes more money than the average middle-class American, so there’s something to be said about our sound-er economy.

Critics of Obamacare often point towards Canada as evidence of universal health care’s flaws. I’ve always wanted to write a post about what it’s like to be a Canadian who benefits from “socialized” medicine, so here goes.

I belong to a holistic Family Health Team. This is exactly what it means. My health care involves a team of professionals. A Family Health Team brings family physicians together with interdisciplinary health care professionals — including a nurse practitioner, registered nurses, a social worker, and diabetes nurse/dietitian educators. They work as a team to provide their patients with the best patient care possible.

I have a yearly physical, and when I am sick I can see my doctor right away, or if she’s busy, the following day. When I arrive at my doctor’s office I hand the receptionist my health card, she takes my information, and directs me to a room where I wait for the doctor to arrive and examine me. If blood work is needed my doctor prints off the necessary tests and I take it to the lab where the ladies there prick me with a needle and off I go. Simple. Electronic health records ensure that I get my results in a day or two.

I do not pay for anything. If I am sick and it’s after-hours, I am free to walk into any hospital’s emergency room, or a walk-in clinic. All they require is my health card. I do not pay for anything.

In the event that I need to see a specialist, my doctor will select the appropriate physician and I’ll set up an appointment. They triage all of this of course. So for example, once I was on a plane from New York to Toronto and I broke out in hives all over my body. My GP recommended a specialist, and because the condition was of unknown causes, I was in his office the next day where he examined me.

Americans love to say that our wait times are extremely long, but that has never been my experience. In some cases, I have heard of patients waiting months for surgery. But again, this is triaged, and reserved for elective surgeries. For example, if you require a minor surgery on your wrist, but are able to function without it, your surgery will be scheduled in a priority sequence.

Each province is different though. Ontario used to cover ambulance transfers, but now they don’t. If you call 911 and are taken to the hospital by paramedics, you will be charged $50 out-of-pocket. Most work insurance plans pick up the cost. This is only in Ontario. Other provinces cover the charge.

Education and information is good, but could be better. Hospitals focus a lot on preventative medicine, that’s why my health team includes a dietitian/nutritionist and social worker. They help patients build a plan to adopt healthier lifestyle habits and they monitor your progress. You will actually get a call from your doctor to ensure you’re well.

Now I worked in health care for three years, so I know from experience that it’s not perfect. There’s a lot of bureaucratic waste, that’s for sure, and if we could save money, I’d say decrease the salaries of hospital CEOs.

The important part is that everyone is covered under our plan, and no one is uninsured. And we have a longer life expectancy than any other country in the Americas. Just so you know. Oh and fewer of us are living with chronic disease than in the States, where chronic disease is rampant.

So that’s it. Any questions? I’d be happy to answer them.

Oh and here’s a Canadian health care executive owning a U.S. Senator and his misinformed propoganda.

Vanishing of the Bees trailer

In more HOLY SHIT news honey bees all over the world are dying and that means we’re going to die. Don’t panic! It’s just another doomsday prediction.

Vanishing of the Bees is a 2009 documentary currently on Netflix that centres around the sudden disappearance of honey bees from beehives around the world, caused by a rare phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD. The film does not draw any firm scientific conclusions as to the precise cause of CCD, but it does suggest a link between neonicotinoid pesticides.

Honey bees are essential for us to eat people! Without them our food won’t grow. And we’ll die! Bees are an indicator of environmental quality. By dying, they’re saying that something is super wrong with our environment.

Just in case you’re not worried enough about climate change, the New York Times published an article on the weekend that reports the damage we’ve done to our planet is so severe it’s irreversible.

Within 30 years, Manhattan and Florida will be under water. But why care about that when Kim Kardashian is in the news!? Oh and of course, don’t forget to buy buy buy all those products that have led to this catastrophic problem. Why have children, I mean really, why?

I’m kinda joking, but just kinda.

Shaming the offensive: The “I’m offended” culture has run amock

Long and winding road

If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love anybody else?

Is it just me or is everyone and their grandmother ‘offended’ these days? This culture of feigned ‘concern’ is, well, concerning me.

Okay, I get it, I too am offended by the word choices that I hear now and again. I guess the difference is that I wouldn’t try to silence or censor anyone. Well, I’d probably yell at them, or try to make them feel small, but that’s par for the course.

“Retarded”

When I was younger I really hated when people said the word ‘retarded’. Like, it really angered me. Finally one day, as I was ostracizing one of my friends, she stopped and asked me, “Am I bad person for casually using that word?”

I had to take a step back and check myself. Of course the answer was no. What I understood from her question was that my self-righteous reaction was a little over the top. There was an opportunity to begin a dialogue, but I closed the door right on its ass.

What I knew for certain was that my friend was not a bad person. She was a person expressing herself. Sure it might offend some people, but it did not mean that she was incapable of acknowledging that fact.

Years later I started working for children with special educational needs and every six months I would meet with the parents to assess their little darlings progress. More than one parent made an offhanded joke about their child being ‘retarded’. I was taken aback at first, then I realized that it was all in good fun, a coping mechanism that they needed deeply.

Bad mommy

Cut to more years later, when our culture of “I’m offended” began to really concern me. My friend, who has two adopted little girls was hosting her annual holiday party. She made a joke about how sometimes her children drive her so crazy that she wants to kill them. We all laughed, but some “mother of the year” was so offended by my friend’s remarks that she reported her to Toronto’s child protective services.

My friend’s competence as a loving mother was investigated, her colleagues, family and friends interviewed, because some asshole took issue with her JOKE!

Keep in mind I get the difference between a real concern for a child’s safety and a hateful one. When my sister, who was a single-mother, came out of the closet as a lesbian, my mother called child protective services. She didn’t believe that it was right for my lesbian sister, her daughter, to raise a child, and asked that my sister’s son be removed from her custody. Yep. Now, that’s insane. So to repeat, I get the difference.

Wait, why the hell did I bring that last point up? I need a bridge somewhere.

Rape jokes

Much to my dismay, I often read the website Jezebel. For the most part it’s a good read. What irks me a little is how offended the writers are, by every single little thing.

I understand that it’s their job to find grievances in our ridiculous obsession with celebrity and pop-culture, but for people who are offended all the time, they don’t seem to have a hell of a lot of problems offending the people they find offensive. This sort of attitude leads to credibility issues.

A while ago I watched a video with Jezebel writer Lindy West, who was debating stand-up comic Jim Norton about rape jokes. Keep in mind that I am not a fan of rape jokes, it’s easy, lazy humour and everyone knows it. The problem I found with their discussion is that Lindy appears to play the role of word police. She wants to restrict what people say and do because what they say makes her, and others, uncomfortable.

She acquiesced to a degree when she states that it’s okay for Jim and other comics to make rape jokes but she has the right to call them “dicks” if they do. Yep, she’s totally right, she does. To be honest, I couldn’t quite understand what her point was. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Seemed like at the end of the day her objective was to have all male comics conform to her standards of morality.

I guess the only thing I can say in her defence is that I’ve been there. I’ve been that guy. I’m always THAT GUY. But I have to remind myself, before I vilify a perfectly fine, decent person like Jim, that his words, or the words that he supports, or the jokes that he supports, do not define him as a whole person.

Of course I want women who have been victims of sexual abuse to enjoy a comedy show without their trauma being made light of, for it not to be taken seriously. As a survivor of abuse, I hear this kind of humour all the time, I’ve learned to live with it, and I get that it’s a part of life.

We can’t control every word that is spoken by every person on this planet. We’re always going to be offended, on any given day, or minute, hour, week, by someone with a mouth. When I say I’m offended, and then try to control the person who has uttered the said offensive comment, I’m unconsciously acknowledging that I can’t emotionally deal with the topic, and therefore, would rather control the offending party than resolve my own issues.

“Faggot”

When I was growing up I remember watching Eddie Murphy’s stand-up comedy show Delirious. It appalled me for its shameless homophobia. What threw me even more for a loop were my friends who thought he was funny. He uses the word “faggot” over 100 times, in some instances he incites violence towards gays.

To be honest, I still don’t know what’s worse, his jokes, or the fact that his audience was delighted by what he was saying. Yeah, as a gay guy, it really sucks to hear this, but I get that it was filmed in the 1980s, when gay people were still considered lecherous jokes to be shunned by all of society.

Of course I was hurt and insulted by his complete lack of sensitivity. Here I was this young gay guy, struggling with my sexuality and this jerk, who is in reality mirroring the social norms of his time, is making my life worse by telling the whole world that people like me, gay people, are gross, sick, diseased and wrong. It wasn’t a good feeling.

Did Eddie Murphy affect my life as an adult? No. Was I able to resolve my issues surrounding his jokes with time? Yes. Do I support his right to say what it is that he wants? Yes. It brought me much solace when I read years later that Murphy was arrested for soliciting the services of a transgendered prostitute. His career faltered, and guess what? Without his offensive humour, it was determined by audiences everywhere that he didn’t have that much talent.

To this day, celebrities like Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan have heaped controversy because of their anti-gay jokes. I’m often criticized by my own people because I have defended these celebrities by verbalizing my sincere belief that they’re not actually homophobic. I’m considered an outsider, there’s no question, but then these members of my own community have absolutely no problem with personally attacking me behind my back. To be honest, I don’t know what’s more damaging, Alec Baldwin calling a Starbucks’ barista a “queen”, me defending him, or those who oppose both of us taking to social media to attack our characters.

Fat-shaming

But that’s not all that Jezebel does that irritates me. A couple of weeks ago I read an article about fat-shaming that one of their writers was incensed about. I’ve tried to find a link but can’t, sorry! If I do, I’ll embed it here later. Again, I get it, I’ve written countless angry tweets and blog posts about issues that matter to me. But the more I read about ‘slut and fat-shaming’ as well as this thing called ‘rape-culture’ the more I’m certain they’re not real things.

The purpose of the Jezebel article was to address the documentary Fed Up, narrated by Katie Couric. It explains how, since the U.S. government issued its first dietary guidelines 30 years ago, the rate of obesity has skyrocketed. Generations of kids will live shorter lives than their parents.

Jezebel argued that people were not fat because of excessive eating and lack of exercise, rather it was the government who was at fault for making them addicted to sugar. What the article lacked was any semblance of personal responsibility. And anyone who attempted to broach this particular topic in the comments forum was routinely shut down by the author’s defenders.

Although I’m well aware that the U.S. government and its dependence on corporate America has made a lot of people fat, there is still countless studies and articles available at a person’s finger tips about the dangers of a sugar-based diet and the importance of eating fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, as well as physical exercise.

What I found detestable about the Jezebel article was the complete lack of personal accountability. If you know it’s bad for you, and that you’re going to have medical problems as a result, try, even if it’s on an hour by hour basis, to switch the potato chips and fizzy drinks for an avocado and bottled water.

By 2050, one in three Canadians will develop type II diabetes, which is a chronic disease that is entirely preventable. All it takes is exercise and a good diet. This is publicly available knowledge. At this rate, our universal health care system will collapse. And yet, Jezebel is telling its readers that there is absolutely nothing they can personally do because the government has made them addicted to sugar. So stick a sock in it, fat-shamers!

Oh my. It’s becoming increasingly impossible to criticize obesity in this country now, because it’s considered ‘fat-shaming’ and how we combat anyone who has the indignity to call someone fat, or to suggest they adopt healthier lifestyle habits, is to shame them into silence.

Opponents to my article argue that the emphasis is on unhealthy fat people, and that there are plenty of unhealthy thin people. No doubt, that is true. But I’m talking about obesity, which is as dangerous for a person’s health as anorexia.

Expressing opinion

I don’t want to live in a world where we can’t freely express these ideas and thoughts. Of course, many people are ignorant assholes who simply hate fat people. That’s obvious, our culture is obsessed with a narrowed made up idea of what beauty is, and for women, it’s thinness, at all costs.

But when does it stop? When do we stop shaming people from speaking their minds? How have we created a society where people are ostracized for merely expressing an idea, or a word that others find distasteful?

Hate speech is one thing, a joke, or an opinion is another. Clearly I wish we lived in a world where everyone was sensitive to the feelings of their peers. But, even despite our greatest efforts we’re all bound to put our foot in our mouths at some point in our lives. It happens to me everyday!

And you know what, if you happen to speak your mind and it turns out to be horribly thoughtless, and offensive to a group of people, hopefully it’s a lesson learned! We’ve reached a point where we think that everyone should be like us, but the reality is that we’re not even close to being the person we all think we are.

And if you happen to make a mistake, to utter an offensive comment, it’s not okay to then be shamed and ridiculed by opponents for the rest of your life. If you learned your lesson, you should be able to move on with your life without harassment from others. It’s in this left-wing, misguided liberal mindset that so many of us fail to notice how conservative and unforgiving we have become.

I’m going to close this really long blog post with a quote from RuPaul that I found enlightening:

“If your idea of happiness has to do with someone else changing what they say, what they do, you are in for a fucking hard-ass road…”

Missing Argentina

Reserva Ecológica de Buenos Aires

There are days when I’m sitting alone somewhere in Toronto watching ordinary people rushing to work, oblivious to their surroundings, attached to their cell phones, thoughtlessly mulling about, that I long for Argentina again.

I lived there for a year, and though admittedly it is not a perfect society — corruption looms large in daily life, and the citizens aren’t necessarily wise to a life outside of sex and clubbing — I miss it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Toronto, but I can become disappointed with it too. It’s a strangely apathetic, yet entitled society. Not only that, but we form attachments to electronics, like cell phones, that we pathetically convince ourselves we need.

Just this past weekend I was sitting at a Tim Horton’s in cottage country with three individuals who were each on their phones, texting, emailing, tweeting like it was as important to them as breathing.

Reserva Ecológica de Buenos Aires 9

On the old-fashioned land-line telephone, I rarely speak with someone who is not multitasking. They’re always frenzied by something, whether it’s washing the dishes, or checking email, or mopping the floor. Getting someone’s undivided attention in Toronto is almost impossible, they’re easily distracted by things that are not important. We’ve become so obsessed with occupying our time that we rarely sit to enjoy the grace that belongs to being still.

Now I’m not saying that people in Buenos Aires aren’t similar. I guess for me, when I lived there, when I left all the attachments that I coveted for myself here in Toronto, I realized how unimportant they actually were. Well, it’s not that I wasn’t aware of this, but it’s easy to fall into the traps of doing what everybody else is doing. What’s expected of us, is not necessarily what is right for us.

I’ve always prided myself on getting up and looking up — at the sky, the trees, the flowers, whatever it is, I observe. I don’t own a cell phone, I refuse to. And you know what, my life is not negatively impacted by this omission. In fact, my social life is busy and friends have a tendency to show up on time at agreed destinations, because they can’t send me a text cancelling, or postponing. They can’t be late, because I am waiting. I was able to make it without the assistance of a phone. What is their excuse?

Kel Books Buenos Aires

This past Toronto winter was brutal. It reminded me of the sunny skies of Argentina. Beautiful clear days at the park in Palermo, sitting on a patio enjoying a cup of coffee, or long walks through tree-lined streets on a quiet Sunday morning.

It’s a metropolis of 14 million hard-working people. Yet every night, after a long day at the office, the people of Buenos Aires are out and about, into the early hours of the morning, and they don’t need alcohol to enjoy their lives or their time together.

I remember taking the train to San Isidro for work, waiting on the platform, observing porteños, impeccably dressed, affectionate, calm, serene, not a worry to be had.

Torontonians can behave terribly, caught up in this absurd, invented rat-race, tripping over each other, stressed out of their minds, self-medicating, isolating themselves at night by sitting on their couches watching too much television. There’s gotta be more than this I think.

San Pedro

In Argentina, unlike here in Toronto, conversations are not inundated with topics like television shows, movies, music, or other people whom they do not know. They talk about things that matter, like their lives, family, friends and not in a negative way either. At least, those were my experiences.

Of course there are a lot of problems with Argentine life. The government is morbidly corrupt, the economy unstable, crime abundant and the people are pretty slutty. But they’re also shamelessly emotional, lacking the WASPy culture that is prevalent in North American society. They say what they think, resolve conflicts as they happen, and frankly, I found them to be generally more happy than Torontonians.

Saying all this though I do love the cynicism of Toronto, the intellectual curiosity, the fact that there is so much to do on any given day and of course, the bars and restaurants are top-notch.

I wish though, that we could bring some of South America’s sensibility here, just enough so that we stopped from time to time to appreciate the value in stillness.

Belgrano

My strange dream with Miss Claudette

BA street art

By 10 p.m. I was safely tucked away in bed. I took some Melatonin to help me sleep. As I age the sweet nectar of sleep eludes me more and more. Unfortunately though Melatonin is effective in guiding me into sleep, it does very little in keeping me there.

At some point in my restlessness, as I stirred from lucidity to unconsciousness I had the strangest dream. I was collecting clothes to send to the laundromat, and as I was leaving the front door I noticed several people waiting for the elevator. Clumsily I dropped my tattered trousers on the floor and had to bend down to collect them. The corridor was decorated in all sorts of graffiti, which I felt uneasy about.

The elevator door opened and we got in. A woman who bore a resemblance to Miss Claudette from Orange Is the New Black asked me several bizarre questions, none of which I can remember now. She was accompanied by a tall black man with an aura of wisdom. Not sure how else to describe him.

I observed that they were not the same people whom I waited for the elevator with. We engaged in some small talk and then Miss Claudette faced me, placed her thumbs at the base of my neck and asked me several more bizarre questions, each time I answered I could feel her pressure to my neck increasing.

There came a point when I began to fight her, with much effort, to no avail. Then, out of no where, the man told her to stop, and she did. The scene quickly changed from the elevator to some other random room with more graffiti. Miss Claudette and her husband (the wise guy who I’m now assuming was her husband) then brought with them a case of balloons that they began to rip, maybe tear, in front of me, encouraging me to do the same. When I did, my body began to levitate until I hovered above the room, and that is when I woke up.

I could still feel the pressure of her thumbs on my neck and for a brief moment I believed that the incident had actually occurred.

Dreams can be disturbing.

My personal brand is crazy

Crazy

Crazy!

Working in corporate culture for this long I’ve often heard people refer to their personal brand. This is the method in which they conduct themselves so as to be viewed in a specific, calculated light.

I have to be frank, I think it’s a crock of shit. Everything about our society has been built around being as fake as we can possibly be. It’s about betraying who we are for the sake of who others want us to be. The goal is inclusion in a world that doesn’t respect us, not if it consistently encourages that we change.

Advertising for instance works tirelessly to make us feel insecure to sell their products. Look at how women are portrayed, their limited definition of beauty, or their depiction of men who are valued for being emotionally constipated because it’s considered weak for them to feel anything.

This demand of us is established to make others more comfortable. These individuals don’t like anything outside of the box, it makes them scared, uncertain and incapable of understanding the world, because they believe that those who do not adhere to a social construct are promoting unruly behaviour.

That’s also why we live in a culture that instantly categorizes people. The reason for this is as I stated before, to make the world digestible. If we archetype our peers, our colleagues, our friends, we don’t have to think so much about how diverse and complicated this world really is.

Personally I’ve never given much thought about what other people think of me despite society imploring that I do so. In most cases I don’t care until I receive a judgment that feeds my insecurity.

The unhealthy obsession over our personal brand is again one of those things that is considered normal in our work-crazed society.

Our occupation demands that we erase any part of our own personality in the pursuit of professionalism.

I’ve been told by employers in the past that they don’t like it when I tell jokes in meetings, that I am too much of a free-thinker (yes someone pejoratively said this to me) and that they don’t appreciate my mocking sense of humour.

Just last week I was told that a former colleague referred to me as a “fucking idiot”. That stung a bit, I’ll have to admit.

I guess life would be simpler if I was constantly worried about how others viewed me. First of all, each and every one of us is going to have an enemy at some point in our lives.

The moment you stand up for yourself, or are vocal about your opinions, there are dozens of people who are going to hate you immediately. In fact, you’ll lose about 50% of your audience.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t fight for the things that you believe in.

For me I believe strongly in animal rights. I’m one of those vegetarians that people hate. I can be preachy, in your face and “emotional.” This leads some to question my sanity, or to discredit my message.

You see the problem here. One is an attack on mental illness, the other on that person’s clear, intelligent and thoughtful response to unimaginable horror.

Conversely I am also capable of a robust, respectful dialogue, but there are many times when I can’t tolerate the blatant disregard for the well-being, safety and lives of animals. Especially when such brutality is conducted as a result of the human pursuit of status. Or worse, mindless self-gratification.

It’s in these moments where my passion gets the best of me and when people start believing that I’m crazy. Animal rights’ activists are used to this type of attack, it’s been successful in undermining the good work we do in speaking up on behalf of the voiceless.

I guess I just look at this differently. To me apathy is crazy. Not caring is crazy. Being morbidly obsessed with appearance is crazy. Not caring about other people, animals, the planet because it’s considered uncool to be emotionally invested in something is crazy. Caring more about fitting into a hipster lifestyle than being brave enough to be opinionated is crazy. Taking a dozen selfies a day is crazy.

I guess it would make these people comfortable if I were to restrict my feelings from the equation of animal rights, but that’s impossible. I feel strongly about their suffering and I cannot detach my emotions from the reality of their plight.

Again another problem: Divorcing our emotions from serious issues because emotion is considered ‘weak’ and ‘embarrassing.’

Maybe my tweets, and my blog posts could be more carefully crafted to appeal to a wider audience. But why? Either way, apathetic people, who have made the choice to be that way, will ignore my message anyway. They already think that expressing an opinion makes a person crazy, so in that way, they’re the ones who are insane, or the very least, sociopathic.

A personal brand just makes me laugh. Restricting your own personal freedom for the benefit of others is beyond comprehension to me. It’s so absurd that it doesn’t warrant any serious consideration.

Whatever happened to accepting people for being themselves? Or learning to work in the confines of a diverse group of individuals with differing opinions and a myriad of ways of expressing themselves?

Doesn’t it make more sense to accept people for their originality than forcing a homogenized culture of conformity? In the end this type of constraint makes people miserable and leads to a distorted life perspective.

And while we’re at it, a large number of us will experience some level of mental illness at some point in our lives. That includes you, my readers. Should I discredit you as a result of your depression, which does not by definition make you of unsound mind?

Just something to consider.