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TTC STRIKE: Walking Nirvana

So Last Friday came. I was out running one of my events at the Raq N’ Waq on Queen Street near Bathurst. Everything was going well, the weather was warm and cooperating, people were friendly, conversing and the drinks had flowing freely. I had even managed to get a few free from our nice brunette waitress for our group. Still don’t know why though. Then at 11:45pm, my friend Kristina text messages me “Hi. Don’t know if you know, the TTC is going on strike at midnight. You may want to let your members know.” Damn.

I passed on the bad news. As fate would have it almost everyone lived downtown. Phew. Well except for two of us. A member, Reggie lived in Scarborough, I lived near High Park. Both quite far for walking, specially after midnight. As such Reggie paid and made a quick dash, in the hopes of catching a lingering street car or a snaring a cab before the frenzy home began. As the organizer, I am always one of the last ones to leave any event so I stayed until everyone was ready, that was at around 1:15am.

Once outside, most managed to squeeze into taxis. I unfortunately was heading the other way. Thought of catching a taxi –each one I saw however was bursting with passengers– so much of that idea. So I decide to walk… at least part of the way. “It would be good for me,” I sold the idea to myself, ignoring the fact I could just as easily get mugged too.

After deciding on a safe route, backtracking Queen towards Bathurst, then north until Bloor and then west until Dundas West seemed like the better way. As you can imagine, Bathurst was surprisingly busy with cars and people cursing the TTC as they did the same thing I was doing: Getting home. Needless to say, the animosity was quite palatable. It tasted like burnt BBQ chicken.

You will be surprised what comes into your mind when you are walking by yourself for a few hours. Recently I have started looking for a job. ‘Did I say everything I could in those last three cover letters? Was I straight forward enough? When will they call?’ Then once that fades, you start thinking about more meaningful things. ‘Is that where I want my career to go? I don’t want to end up like those people who work for a company for eighteen years, look like zombies and are only going through the motions until quittin’ time!’ By the time a got to Bloor St. existential questions started creeping up and questioning a lot of life decisions. ‘Why am I not married yet? Are you sure?’

Existential questions after only two drinks? Impossible. I thought it silly. It wasn’t the alcohol, that’s for sure.

Then again, it could just be that I had the time and place to think. After all, It was beautiful night. Serene.

As I begun rushing west, I began feeling quite lonely as most people stayed near the beehive that’s the Annex in order to catch speeding cabs. I called another friend, Matty who was surprising awake and gave me much needed company for almost forty five minutes before succumbing to her illness: She had the flu and she just went off to bed. Nothing serious! She told me about her week, her trials and tribulations. I was very lucky to have her to chat. When the streets are almost deserted, having someone speaking to you through a phone gives the feeling of walking through an ocean with one long line tethered to the outside world. Funny. Whenever you feel alone is great to just listen to someone who really wants to share her mind with you. In the end, it felt like I had walked for only thirty five minutes. In reality it was almost an hour and half.

Made it home at about 3:00am. My feet hurt, badly, my heels in particular. Kids, don’t ever walk with dress shoes for two hours straight. Is that how women feel after a night with high heels? I felt sorry for female social standards and the obliged footwear. The silly things that come into your mind when you walk for a few hours. I made some choices regarding the jobs I would apply to in the future. I also had a quick reminder of just who my real friends are. The ones who will text message in the middle of the night, warning you about something just because they know out and about. Or who will keep you company at 2:00m, even though they are sick just because they do not want you to walk all alone. Including some realizations of the direction I want my life to go and the fact that I decided to kill myself a little by buying some McDonald’s near my place at that unholy hour.

But you know that, hurting feet aside, I think we should all do these more often. Take the long way. You never know the things you might think of when you make the time.
I am sure I will be one of the few to say this, but thanks TTC for your last minute strike.
Just don’t do it too often.

Adventuras De Un Organizador (Part IV)

As some of you may already know, I run two social groups in Toronto with a combined membership of 1230+ members and hosted a total 133 events, not too shabby for a hobby. However I have been thinking of going back to the original reason why I joined meetup.com: To learn Spanish.

You see, I first joined meetup a few years ago due to my slowly disappearing Spanish skills. I had moved to Canada 15 years before and was loosing it. Loosing sucha beautiful language is like loosing a part of your past, a part of your being. As I had no one to practice with, I decided to google a way to do so in Toronto.

To make a long story short, I found myself at the front door of The Toronto Spanish Language Meetup Group–or something named like that– about three years ago. Soon, I was helping run it although in the end I simply did not have the time, so I relinquished control to someone named John and that was that.

Fast forward two years. The group still existed however now in a moribund shadow of its former self. Even though it was one of the larger groups (850+ members) in Toronto, the number of events had crawled to about one every seven months. Can you imagine that? Yeah… I know, party time!

The organizer at the time, the one who is supposed to post and host events was MIA for months. Apparently, saving the whales or whatever may entail a seven month sabbatical. So after finding his email address, I offered to take it over. He refused. Sadly the reason was not very clear to me, something to to with the previous organizer not wanting for him to give up his organizer responsibilities. Okay. So two weeks later, he gave up the position on his own. Go figure.

I immediately jumped at the chance. Annexed, revamped it and decided to make it not only a tool for me to learn but to anyone and everyone else. It’s all about the good Karma, right? I was a bit worried the group was beyond repair, but there is nothing that can be achieved without some elbow grease. Thus so far, it seems to be working, my first event had 27 members show up! Second? 38! Third? 44!

What is it that we do, you ask? Primarily we chat. Somewhat anticlimactic since there is only one rule in the group: You can and must only communicate in Spanish. But our repertoire of types of events is growing, watching some Spanish movies and some dancing. Indeed it may seem daunting to those who are learning the language and are on their way in. However I have found one the best ways to learn any language is to simply immerse in such environment where you are forced to use it as often as possible. Whether you like it or not! Call it conversational sink or swim or the Spanish mother of invention or my personal favourite: Linguistic Darwinism. I baptize thy and copyright thy too.

If you would like to learn and more importantly practice your Spanish then come out. Not only you practice another language, meet new friends. Events are held at least on a bi-weekly basis if not weekly. You cannot loose! To start, click here: Toronto’s Spanish Group.

A hablar Español se a dicho!

Holy Book Inc. (Part I)

Someone close to me bought me a book entitled “The Year of Living Biblically,” ironically, as a Christmas present. At first, when you crack the sucker open it is hard not to feel comfortable as you sail past the first few pages. A. J. Jacobs, a self-described agnostic-Jew who takes pride in his generally God-less existence, is a fun, if a little neurotic scribe. He guides you quite easily through the origins and the concept of his project: To live one year as literally conscious of the Bible as possible –and yes, also book contract. So far, he hasn’t let that one veer to far out of his peripheral sight. As much as he may want to learn more about the insights of living a non-secular life style, so far he has made note of his book contract about five times into the read. You need to work on that one A.J.

I am not going to lie to you, I haven’t finished the book yet, as I am only on page 108 out of 332. So far he has read the bible(s) as there are countless versions –some experts count them well into over a thousand– and pointed out many of the pseudo-forgotten rules within the ‘book of all books.’ Down to the downright obscure: “Kill all magicians!”or the rule disallowing men –and some women– from “trimming the ends of your beard.” Which by proxy includes skipping on shaving altogether, hence his Tres-homeless chic look. Or my personal favourite: If in the scene on an unresolved crime, you must break the neck of a cow as sacrifice. Can you imagine that?

‘Honey, what happened to the $5 I left on the coffee table?’
‘I don’t know. I didn’t take it though.’
‘That’s alright, I have a cow right here. Hi cow.’
‘Moo?’
SNAAPPPPPP!!
‘That’s okay honey! I took care of it.’

There are also some other strange ones, like not touching women… specially if menstruating. In fact not only you ladies are unclean but everything you touch, including me, a chair or a bench becomes unclean as per Leviticus 15:20: “everything upon which she lies during her impurity shall be unclean; everything also upon which she sits shall be unclean.” And you thought being a leper was bad enough. At least we have found a cure for that one.

With such truck-load worth of idiosyncrasies, I cannot help enjoying the book so far. Hearing some of the most ludicrous and forgotten rules from the Bible, as they themselves are presented as proverbs and parables from A.J.’s current day life in New York city make for quite the funny read. However it makes me realize two things. First, –and this is my own personal choice– as someone raised in a Catholic household who has read the New Testament, the Torah (parts of the Talmud) and the Koran: Holy books should never be taken completely literally, as they simple contradict themselves way too much. This is how political agendas are fueled and wars started.

The “Give the other cheek…” argument VS. “Eye for an eye.”
…”Stone all gays.” VS. “Let he without sin cast the first stone.”
…”Kill magicians\ stone sinners, and non-believers!” VS. The *Don’t do onto others what you would not like done to you,* Golden Rule.

The list goes on and on… for centuries. Secondly, as easygoing as A.J. is, ultimately he is praying –pun intended– on a gimmick to make money. A stunt, a piece of chicanery that although amusing never relents its true intentions: Sell books. Make money. So, the questioned begged here at the end of the day is: How Christian/Jewish/Muslin/Hindu/Scientology?/*insert next religion here* is that?

I find it amusing that as I read this book, I am getting stopped on cafes, buses, subways and well, anywhere I like to read–9+ times so far– about this book. Mostly because they have seen the author getting interviewed on CNN, or some morning show. Guess the advertising budget is working its magic. Pretty sharp A.J. Pretty sharp.

I will post more once I finish the book.

Online Dating: Where do we go from here, Darwin?

Many years ago I ran into a High School friend at a comedy show after party with his ‘new’ girlfriend in hand. Seven years had gone by since we last chatted and I felt the need to say hello. After a cordial if brief re-acquaintance and a polite introduction to his lovely girlfriend, I asked how they had met. They looked at each other, smiled, as if sharing some dark secret before admitting, ‘We met online.’ Then they smiled to each other some more. As if somehow by dating they have breached a rare social contract where it is stated people must meet by having one partner pick up the other while participating in some sort of mysterious community-based liturgy.

During this time sites like Lava Life and Plenty of Fish had just begun to flourish and meeting over the web was still not quite in vogue. It is amazing what a difference a few years make. These days, it is not only socially acceptable but if you dare denounce online-dating, you risk the chance of on-lookers to well, look at you as an archaic individual more at home at a cave with only dial-up than a citizen of the new millennium.

Indeed, the search for the perfect partner is now hotter and easier than ever! As online dating is now not only considered normal but is in fact one of the fastest growing ways to chat, meet and bed members of the opposite sex since the invention of the mini-skit and the sport convertible. So… now that it has gotten this far, where do we from here?

Sure if you are hot, you can post a picture, toss some lines on your profile and sit back, sip on a glass of wine and let the matches pile up. Although just like in a club, you are bound to get a plethora of ‘undesirables.’ Both men and women vying for your attention, with their funny quips and insights and claims of how they are different than those who just posted funny quips and insights on how they are different then the first people who posted something about just how different they are. It is like the bar scene just set to fast forward. You can do three weekends of bar-hoping without leaving the comfort of your living room. No dancing, drinking, friends or fresh air required. Anyone can see the advantages in that.


But now what? How can they this fun be taken to the next level? Well, some enterprising people have. At first I thought it was a joke but I recently found out about this site called Darwin Dating. A dating site which only accepts ‘HOT’ people. People with genetics south of Homo Sapiens need not apply! So now you can reject hot jerks as well!

Enjoy the snobbery of clubs in the comfort of your own home! But there is more! Have you ever wondered if you are a chimp? Now you can find out using their questionnaire!

Not sure if you are hot? They are more than willing to let you know through their easy to follow 41 point check list. Obviously not only they think you are ugly but not very smart as well. ‘Lack of visible skin between eyebrows? Pocket protectors? Crooked or webbed toes?’ Damn! So close!

Since the service is free, they surely make some of their expenses through distinctive and well placed ads. Which by the way point to other more idiotic dating services such as ‘mate1.com’ and the more ludicrous sounding sugardaddie.com where their tag line is ‘Where the classy, attractive and affluent can meet.’ Followed by the ever affluent statement ‘As seen on Dr. Phil, Richard and Judy and WB11 WPIX News TV!’ Since when do we take dating advise from news shows? Or a pseudo-crackpot, pop-psychology who found fame at the fancy of Oprah? And who abused the practice and ended up pay $10 million in a class action suit because he told people if they bought his weight loss supplements they would ‘help you change your behavior to take control of your weight.’

Food does that? How come McDonald’s have not put some of that magic pixie ingredient on their burgers. Oh, yeah, the $10 million class action suit. But Dr. Phil can’t be wrong!

My God, and I have been meeting women through face to face encounters all these years? How retro am I? Don’t get me wrong, online dating has its advantages. They do help to plow through the profiles of jerks, assholes and psychotic-rabbit-loving women who litter the path to the perfect partner. In the end I can’t help wondering if we are transcending and complicating what started off as a good idea to the point of lunacy. What is next? Marry an Ugly Millionaire Online service?