2016

I’ve always believed that I’m prescient. I know what’s coming down the pike, even if I don’t necessarily know exactly when or the future’s finer details. All I gotta do is imagine the least desirable outcome in any given scenario 🙂

I knew there was no way I was going to end up in a relationship with Keira. I knew exactly how the situation was going to pan out. I knew that I’d frantically check my phone for texts from her, scan her social media for hints of other guys in her life, and spend days thinking about what she was doing.

I knew all that was coming and I still fully deluded myself into pretending that it would be different.

January was fine. We met again for a few photo shoots around the city, and I got to know her ultra-hip Queen Street West posse. We made up extensive plans for our own YouTube channel and sketch comedy series along the lines of her favorite show Broad City. I played it cool this whole time- until the night she met my parents and I saw them giving each other mental high fives. They just seemed so proud of me.

So I decided to make my romantic interest known and asked her to hang out in a non-creative setting, with no camera. And we totally would have ended up together, but she suddenly got really busy and stopped seeing my texts, and sometimes accidentally forgetting to hit “send”.

I knew it was only a matter of time until this sort of thing would happen, but that didn’t make the heartache any easier to get through. Even having a video go viral on Instagram wasn’t the salve I thought it would be.

It didn’t help that my brand new car’s battery decided to conk out and add another $500 to my loan. A hit to the wallet for sure, but one I could handle with my new concert photography gigs.

“Just a handful of these and I’ll cover the cost of the battery,” I thought as I switched lenses on my camera at The Phoenix Concert Theatre. The band that night were Canadian classic rock stalwarts Goddo, who have very rambunctious fans that like to drunkenly stumble around and knock camera lenses out of people’s hands.

A solid tax return softened that blow a bit, allowing me to bring the lens to a repair shop. Walking back to Union station, I decided to take a detour and found myself on one of my now-common thinking walks. It was an especially long one, and afterwards I somehow ended up sitting at Union for almost three hours listening to my “Best of the 80s” playlist and being very existential.

I finally decided to go home at some point towards the end of the day, but before I boarded the bus I walked over to Brookfield Place – the same location that had fatefully connected me and Keira back in December – for a little social media browsing thanks to their free and open WiFi.

“Why is everyone so boring?” I thought to myself. “I need better, more interesting people in my life.” Who was better and more interesting that wasn’t already in my circle of acquaintances and colleagues? A name popped up in my head, and in that moment outside a sushi restaurant I irrevocably changed my life when I hit “Follow” on Selene’s account.

Selene.

Selene was a friend of my sister’s who I’d heard about for years and years beforehand, a mention of her always prefaced with “look at this hilarious comment or insight”. I’d wrestled with the idea of connecting with her a few times in the past, reticent to reach out even though my sister had told me that Selene did think positively of me. Each time I lingered a little longer, but would ultimately close the browser window and go on with my life. It wasn’t until this moment that I decided to see if the admiration was indeed mutual.

To my surprise she messaged me soon after and wasn’t sketched out, which I considered a win. I took a peek at her feed and found that she seemed to be involved with someone already, so any romantic overtures were out of the question, but I was satisfied that I’d finally made the connection.

We talked online over the next few weeks, and I slowly managed to get over Keira (who at this point had suddenly gotten a fancy app-developer boyfriend with a loft and tech startups and hip ironic online content). Selene was a lot different than I thought she’d be, but in a good way. Our conversations flowed naturally, and I considered asking her to meet me, just to see what she was like in person. But then right before Easter one of my jokes fell flat and she didn’t reply, and I held off.

For a week.

On March 30th, I stood at the corner of Ossington and College and sent Selene a message asking if she’d like to do a photo shoot on the Toronto Islands. It’s important to note here that I did this before I headed down the street to the Mod Club, because if I’d waited until after the Lumineers show that night I would likely not have sent her that message. Crammed into the back of the venue and denied access to the VIP employees only area after a scornful look from the Edge’s program director, my self-esteem plummeted to subterranean levels. Of course Keira would opt for a dude with a tech-startup over a dude who can’t even take proper pictures of the band he’s been sent to cover. There’s no way Selene would meet up with a nobody like me.

But she said yes and I grew cautiously optimistic. Was Life really going to let me meet the quasi-mythical Selene after all these years? I watched the weather forecast like a hawk, biting my lip every time it called for rain on the day I’d scheduled the meeting for. Weeks passed, and suddenly it was the night before and the forecast looked good and I was packing all my camera equipment into my satchel. Once I was set I grabbed a Nature Valley bar from the kitchen and kicked back in my chair, taking a bite and chipping my tooth.

I spent the next two hours frantically looking for quick fixes and stories on how long it was possible to live with a chipped tooth. Luckily it was just a molar so it wasn’t visible, but I didn’t want to risk an infection. My research showed that I was in the clear, and as long as I kept my tongue from constantly probing the area I could continue living as usual.

Sunday, April 17th. My heart pausing every time I passed a blonde-haired girl, I walked up Yonge Street towards the Starbucks at King Street. I stood at the intersection dizzy with anticipation, then made a hard left turn and went to sit in some nearby city square filled with bronze statues of cows. After a few minutes of awkwardly pretending to fiddle with my camera settings I made a lap around the block and approached the Starbucks from the other side. I opened the door, and there was Selene, one of the most important people I have ever met. The one-in-a-million kindred spirit I never thought I’d connect with.

To this day Selene is the only person I’ve never had any sort of awkward silence with. A wonderful, brilliant person with whom I could talk about nearly anything with. Within minutes of meeting we were in full conversation, as if we’d known each other for years. After a perfect day on the island I pushed my luck and after leaving the ferry terminal I asked her if she wanted to grab a bite to eat. She agreed and I got to check “have a drinks on a patio” off my bucket list. Selene would in fact end up introducing me to many very basic first time experiences, like a few weeks later when she was the very first girl I’d ever had as a passenger in my car.

It was at this point that Life laughed evilly and made May 2016 a very bad, no-good month on par with previous trying times. Having no insurance, I had to pay out of pocket to fix my chipped tooth. My closest friend Benji moved away to work with the Canadian military. I went to a media networking event that crushed my self-esteem as I encountered peers who were much more accomplished than I was and were acting as mentors at a place where I was someone looking for help.

The truth was I was already getting restless in my roles on the promo team and as a concert photographer. I wanted to create content, but also I wanted to make more money to pay off my car loan. But also I wanted a little more respect, a little prestige to impress girls like Keira- who had just broken up with her boyfriend. I wanted to have something to offer the world.

So I applied for some new jobs after that networking event, only to have some decidedly uncomfortable experiences. Like when I applied for a “film assistant” position, only to be asked if I knew how to properly apply plastic film to machinery. Or when I was mercilessly grilled by an art gallery owner for not listing my whole life story on my resume.

Realizing I needed to grow my audience for the video content I’d been making since September, I took a little bit of a risk at one of the Raptors playoffs promo shifts outside the Air Canada Centre: I posted a video I’d made for my own account under the Edge’s account. Luckily I did this a week before I accidentally got the station temporarily banned from the premises for distributing competing branding to Raptors fans.

My birthday was terrible, as usual. The afternoon after was a similar ordeal, with me taking part in a largely pointless community betterment campaign. “What a waste of time,” I thought to myself as I put away station signage in the studio.

“Hey, you’re the guy who put up that hilarious basketball video, right?” said the Edge’s midday host behind me. “Email me, I want to talk to you about something”. I told her I would and left the station to meet Selene, who had agreed to meet with me for a belated birthday lunch. Of course I messed it all up and made a fool of myself by talking about all my woes.

The first week of June was probably the worst of the year. I emailed Midday Host and heard nothing back. I’d made things awkward between Selene and myself. I tried to reconnect with Keira only to have her repeat the exact same runaround from earlier in the year. One night while walking downtown I took a detour and ended up on a trail next to the Don River. Totally defeated, I somehow I spent two hours just sitting on a grassy clearing and staring at my surroundings.

Things slowly picked up in the second week of June. I finally met with Midday Host and she told me about her plans to create videos for the Edge’s social media, striking up a partnership with me. Summer concert season also started, and it would end up being the best concert season ever. I also started editing sports reels at Rogers a lot more often, and started making more money and chipping away at my car loan.

At one of these concerts I ran into Pauline, the Molson girl who I’d chatted up a few times in 2015. I talked about my girl issues – albeit in a more lighthearted way than I had with Selene – and she tried to reassure me by saying that if she were single she would have dated me. Whether or not that was true I’ll never know, but it was more frustrating than helpful. Another missed opportunity, wahoo. And then Keira got another boyfriend, this time some German skateboarder who kickflipped his way onto the scene out of nowhere.

Bestival 2016 legitimately cheered me up. Grimes was terrific, as was The Cure, and all the ravers zonked out on MDMA at the techno castle were hilarious to watch.

The rest of June continued on this pleasant track. Tons of great concerts, making videos with my new creative partner, and fantastic weather made for a solid introduction to summer.

And then it kept going upwards. I’m not joking here, I am for real. Everything just continued to be good but in an even better way. I don’t know how to properly explain this in a way that isn’t silly, but basically everything just got exponentially nicer. I made more intricate and higher quality videos with Midday Host that got more attention from management and online audiences. The concerts and weather got even more amazing.

I suppose my good mood gave me some sort of positive magnetic aura because in early July Keira asked me to meet up for some camera talk. She was still with her boyfriend at this point, but she seemed legitimately interested in all my recent adventures and we parted with the tiniest hint of potential.

That hint might have been because at that point I had returned to being casual around her; my crush on her had almost entirely dissipated and I was actually able to talk normal again. In fact I was a few days out from falling head over heels for Selene.

Up until this point I’d never fallen for a girl who was already in a relationship, but the feeling Selene gave me when I visited her at her job at the combination coffee shop/book store was unlike any feeling I’d ever gotten from a girl. My presence was actually a welcome surprise? I was not some nuisance unnecessarily taking up time and space? Selene’s expression of bright-eyed joy reeled me in effortlessly. It also almost made me forget I had a Weezer concert to cover that night, forcing me to bolt out of the coffee shop and drive to the train station like a maniac.

I would talk to Selene nearly every single day that summer, and that rocky patch in late May became a distant memory. Our message history grew to novel length as I’d give her live updates from concerts and festivals like WayHome, which was one of the highlights of……..my life.

I spent the entire three days of WayHome 2016 running from the front of one stage to another with full control over my schedule and content. Sixteen hours a day of grabbing pictures and videos of incredible acts (including once again…The Killers) was an exhausting endeavour, but I loved every second. And all of it was made even better by regular correspondence with Selene.

Also I got the lead singer of Third Eye Blind mad at me.

The concerts in the weeks that followed weren’t as huge, or even ones I particularly wanted to attend (Lumineers….again), but I’d send Selene live updates throughout the shows and she’d offer her hilarious commentary.

I’d repeat this hilarious commentary when I recapped my nights to Midday Host, something she wasn’t too enthused about. This jealousy didn’t affect our video productions right away, and throughout August she stuck to mild barbs anytime I’d talk at length about my crush on Selene.

On August 20th I watched a broadcast of the Tragically Hip’s final concert at the CNE fairgrounds during what would be a 22-hour workday. The crowd was exactly the one you’d expect at a city carnival, but I felt strangely connected to the Barbs and the Franks of the world at that moment.

I’d return to the fairgrounds soon when Keira once again reached out to me and proposed a photoshoot there. At this point I had fully moved on from the romantic feelings I’d had for her but the lure of making a sappy music montage was too great. I recalled that almost exactly a year earlier I’d made those small decisions that had led to me to this moment and the existential nerd in me agreed: make that video. And it was fine. A nice night that led to a nice video and a full-circle culmination of my 2015 summer’s end resolution.


Icarus flew higher and higher, until he felt the heat of the sun grow stronger upon his back and began to falter, losing altitude. His flight became uneven, and every few feet he dipped a little closer to the ocean.


September started what would be a wildly uneven four months that would hold some of the best moments of a year that had already been stellar. Wedged in between those moments, however, were small instances of frustrating circumstance. On their own they weren’t particularly horrible, but they presaged some very bad times further down the road. They were little hints of inevitability, seeds that would bloom into monstrous, suffocating tendrils later on.

Concert season typically wanes after August, but that year was plentiful right up until the very end. That extra bit of income allowed me to pay off my car loan and become debt free once again.

TURF was the year’s final festival, and I spent the weekend acting as the Edge’s sole correspondent at Fort York. Just like WayHome, I had free reign over posting content and the responsibility of delivering quality shots worked just fine for me. Also I got to see the Big Bang Theory theme song played live, which was ironic gold. As far as sincerely enjoying something- Jimmy Eat World played their 7-minute epic “23”, a song I never thought I would see performed live.

Despite a soggy Saturday it was another memorable weekend- up until Sunday evening when Midday Host showed up drunk and started posting blurry, amateur pictures to social media. After finding her on the grounds we had a brief argument, and I didn’t end up enjoying Death Cab’s set as much as I thought I would.

That argument was the first major crack in our video productions, and while the quality of our work only grew better, the frequency it was made grew much smaller. She flaked out constantly, and our output diminished tenfold.

It was also around this time that Selene entered into a some sort of state of availability. Potentially single? I had no idea, but I once again embarked into that cycle of anxious hope as I parsed every text and social media post for hints of a green light.

We met up regularly throughout the fall. The first time I ever made dinner for a girl would be during one of these times. Coincidentally, also the first time I ever made dessert for a girl. That October evening was full of singular, perfect moments- from the golden sunset walk in the forest to the kitchen conversation over some poorly made tea to the video shoot I just had to throw in there.

A few weeks after that we met up at her university and for the first time in my life I got to experience what I’d always wanted to- campus life. I’d never gotten to explore and walk around the city when I was in university, and Selene gave me all that. I got to eat in a small diner and go to Honest Ed’s and just take in life like a student would in movies and shows and songs.

The warm glow after these times and others would last about a day or so before my heart seized up and through clenched teeth I’d analyze every moment I’d spent with her. I had no idea if I was just a friend or potentially more. A hug that lasted a little longer than usual? Well that could be construed as romantic interest. But no, girls give their friends long hugs all the time.

These were the thoughts I had on a dark November night as I walked down Ossington to a tiny venue called The Garrison, and as I passed that street corner where I’d first sent the message asking Selene to meet me I felt lightheaded thinking about the monumental amount of events that had happened since March. How had nearly six months come and gone so rapidly?

Also weighing heavily on my mind was my dog’s health, which had begun its long journey downward. The good days were still more plentiful than the bad ones, but the changes were now irreversible and the fear of loss once again dug its claws into my brain. Time was moving a little too quick for my liking.

The final month of the year kept my brain occupied. Midday Host and I developed a new video idea: a festive parody of six artists that the Edge had featured heavily over the past. It would hit the sweet spot of being on brand and extremely relevant, an ideal capstone to the year.

The end of December brought with it Q107’s annual Christmas event, which for me meant three 18-hour days in a row. It was the end of the second day that caused me the most grief. I had returned home for a quick nap before heading back to the bus station at midnight, only to find no bus waiting for me. Frantically checking the schedule, I thought I’d slept too long and missed it. I drove over to the carpool lot thinking maybe I’d catch up with the bus on the way, and found nothing there either. I’ve always dreaded driving downtown but I had no other choice and made the trek downtown (with the belated bus passing me on the way).

I parked in the underground work lot and went upstairs to find a spot to rest before the event’s start at 4:00am, only to find that all the spots had already been taking by my colleagues who had gotten there earlier. I went back down to my car and took a swig of hot tea out of my thermos, which wasn’t sealed properly and left me with a soaked hoodie. Annoyed, I made a makeshift cot out of my winter jacket and several custard buns as pillows. It was surprisingly effective and I started to drift off when I heard yelling and running in the garage. Terrified, I shifted my fake cot down and ended up falling asleep in the trunk of my car.

The Christmas event went well; I got to act as lead photographer for it and no major issues arose during it. As we were wrapping up though, I noticed that there were sheets of paper posted on the walls that hadn’t been there before. Turns out there was a stalker loose in the building who had broken in the night before…in the garage.

Maybe I could have been murdered by a crazy guy? Who knows? I forgot about it as I finished and posted that video which Midday Host and I had been working on for the past month to amazing reception.

The following night I was covering The Strumbellas at the Danforth Music Hall, waiting for the band to play “Spirits” so I could grab the video and get home. That’s when I got a text from Midday Host telling me to look at our video on the Edge’s Instagram. There was a comment from the singer of July Talk that apparently stood out. I gave it a look but saw little more than the words “so much this”. Consulting my friend beside me I was told that the phrase was good, it meant yes, this content is so much good.

Midday Host texted me again and told me to look at the post on a device that actually displayed emoji properly. So I did and saw a little hand, assuming that the finger was the index finger, pointing at the many positive comments on the post. Again, Midday Host texted me and told me to look at the emoji closely. When I realized it was the middle finger, all hell broke loose. Midday Host tried to call me, texted me nonstop, all while I continued to wait for the Strumbellas to play their one big song.

We had to take the video down from the station’s social media, and Midday Host sent the singer an apology that seemed to tide her over. Crisis averted just in time for Christmas.

A few days later I was in the office and one of the new media staff guys asked me what had happened to the video. After I explained the fiasco he said

“That’s a shame, it was a good one. You’re really good at this video stuff, you should apply for my job after I leave.”

That same night Selene posted a tweet that indirectly referenced me in a romantic context and I finally saw the green light I’d been waiting for.

Two major opportunities right there. The job application would have to wait until the new year began, but it was time for me to make my move in regards to Selene.

On New Year’s Eve I headed to Honest Ed’s before they closed their doors for good, grabbing some memorabilia for Selene. I had also planned to try the adjoining Hero Burger’s vegetarian burger while there, but found that location had already shut down. Doing some research I discovered another Hero Burger, and managed to get in before they closed. Then I got on the subway, on the exact car and at the exact time that Midday Host was there. We chatted and wished each other a happy new year, after which I managed to catch the train home right before the doors shut and got back in town right before the grocery store closed to grab some New Year’s Eve snacks.

All of these were tiny, insignificant events. But I live for this, you know, “things happen for a reason” sort of stuff. This was a whole host of ~totally meaningful coincidences~ which bolstered my faith in a universe with purpose. The fact that everything worked out so ideally was the universe giving me a massive thumbs-up. I was smiling big when the Times Square fireworks went off, smiling real big.

Real big and wide, with all my teeth showing, and my heart beating double time, and my breath getting faster, and my mind filled with the unshakable feeling that things were about to fall apart.

I told you, I’m prescient.