That only took 46 years

For the first time in my life I’ve bought a car. I managed without one for a very long time — always living downtown, usually near wherever I worked, taking transit and ubers and using autoshare and otherwise walking everywhere. But now I have a job that will take me to Mississauga (!) a couple times a week starting in January, and to the Niagara Peninsula every so often, so it was time.

I settled on a BMW X3 plug-in hybrid, and I’m picking it up today. We did test-drive it, and it barely fits in the garage, so parking could be a pain. I guess I should get used to parking generally being a pain from here on out.

It was a valiant effort, I guess.

9/11/21

It’s kind of hard to believe it’s been twenty years. Really intense, indelible memories have a way of shortening time, I guess.

I still remember my colleague Dom standing up on his chair and telling us planes had hit the World Trade Center. I remember there was no TV in the office, and all the news sites we visited were overloaded so we ended up using Ananova, and going downstairs to the Radio Shack to watch the news through the window. I remember everyone going home early when the banks evacuated the big towers downtown. I remember stopping at the McDonald’s at Bloor & Avenue for some lunch, back when TIFF was centered in and around Yorkville, and hearing several American film industry people on their phones trying to figure out how to get home. I remember meeting my friend Jane on the patio at Hemingway’s (I was there yesterday for the first time in years, weirdly enough) that night as we tried to reconcile what had happened, gazing at it through the bottom of pint glasses. I even remember going to a Sigur Ros concert at Massey Hall nine days later (documented here, in what would end up being my first blog post, before I even knew the word blog I think) and everything still felt fuzzy and surreal.

It was an event born from decades of tragedy and violence, and begat decades more. It seemed trite and overblown to say it at the time, but with so many years of hindsight it really does seem one of the defining moments of history as I know it.

Cover photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

Time for a change

I don’t talk much about work on here, but it’s not really a secret that I’ve spent my entire career — save a two-year stint in software which ended not long before the beta version of this blog was born, in 2001 — in banking. Next week, that changes.

I never really expected to work for a bank, despite having a business degree. I was recruited out of university by a very large one where I spent two years, then went to the afore-mentioned software company for a couple years, before returning to the same large bank for (*checks notes*) twelve years. In 2013 I switched to a much smaller bank, and did some cool stuff there, but about two weeks ago I gave my notice. I wasn’t looking to leave, but an opportunity came up, and when I sat back and looked at it, I decided 22 years in banking was enough. (And about 20 more than I ever thought I’d last.)

The opportunity that came up is actually in the wine world, so I’ll be excited to marry up my professional background with a personal passion. My current company didn’t even get that mad when I told them — they know how into wine I am, and how infrequently an opportunity like this would come along. I’ll have lots to learn in a new industry, but hopefully lots to offer as well. The only downside I can think of right now is that I’ll have to commute to Mississauga, which means I’ll have to own a car for the first time in my life.

So next week is my last week, and the rush is on to get everything wrapped up & squared away. I’m taking the final week of June off, to give my brain a bit of a break. I considered getting out of town, but between this final sprint and a huge deliverable that Lindsay’s working on, I think I might just spend those days lying on the couch, or sitting in the backyard, or maybe going to a patio. (Speaking of which: I went to Chez Nous on Monday, my first patio in…I literally don’t even remember how long.)

Anyway, I’m excited. It’s a little scary, but good scary. And I’m ready.

.:.

Cover photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

Cover photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash

Comparing my discretionary spending pre- and post-COVID

[Cross-posted from LinkedIn, with some revisions]

Prompted by my colleague Kat’s post “How COVID-19 changed my spending habits“, I decided to piggyback on her idea. Here’s what I found.

[But first, the mechanics: I analyzed my spending by week, and the dividing line I chose for pre/post-COVID was the end of week 12 — March 21. I worked my last day in the office earlier that week, and that’s pretty much when my spending habits changed. Also, I have to acknowledge how lucky I am that my income was unaffected by COVID-19, so I had the luxury of keeping my spending the same if I wanted to.]

Overall, my spending stayed mostly flat. Week over week my spending was only 2.2% higher post-COVID. I actually expected it to be more than that; not sure why. Maybe it’s all the boxes showing up at my house.

A few expenses, unsurprisingly, stopped dead. I’ve not been to the office since March, so my transit expense ended abruptly. Working from home also meant no more dry cleaning bills – you don’t need to dry clean t-shirts, right? – and I stopped buying lunches around the office. I’d also used a house cleaning service prior to COVID, but in a pandemic that’s a no-go, so apart from a one-time clean I had them do on the new house before I moved in, that expense also went to $0.

My Uber spending dropped more than I would have thought. That’s Uber ride share, mind you, not Uber Eats. Very, very different story there. Anyway, I guess I just had nowhere to go, so this (relatively small) expense line dropped 72%.

Oh, hello Peloton. I am charging, I can charge, I will charge, I do charge. Monthly, since May, when I got my bike.

The main event: food & drink. All told, this top-levelcategory was up ~12.5%, but there were several puts and takes in there:

  • Dining out at restaurants dropped by 92%, and I’m pretty sure all that’s left in that category is the odd visit to a coffee shop.
  • Ordering in / picking up food jumped plenty though, up 109%.
  • My weekly spending on groceries (including Goodfood boxes) doubled. Like, exactly doubled.
  • Spending on alcohol tripled post-COVID. *cough cough* Sorry mom. Now, I should qualify this: in raw numbers, alcohol spending increased just less than my combined dining (restaurants + ordering in) expense decreased. So I’m probably drinking more wine, but paying less restaurant markup.

Cash is effectively dead to me. Since mid-March I have used ATMs exactly twice, both times to withdraw cash in scenarios where I knew I’d need to tip people on the spot. Otherwise I’d be perfectly happy never to visit another ATM. (Again, I have that luxury. A cashless existence is, at the moment, more available to affluent segments than lower-income; in a world where we’re suddenly very aware of how germ-ridden physical cash is, we need accessible alternatives.)

And now for the completely obvious: I did not travel. Since writing this for LinkedIn I realized I missed one major category, largely because I budget for it separately: travel. That expense went down 89% in 2020. The only trip I took was to Madrid & Cairo in January. Other than that we had a single weekend away in Elora this summer. C’est tout. Pretty safe to say all that money went straight into the new house, as the back yard is as exotic a locale as I’ll see for the foreseeable future.

.:.

Cover photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash

Cover photo from LeslievilleMural.com. Mural by Elicser Elliot.

Riverside → Leslieville

A couple months ago I wrote about buying a house. It had a sixty day close, so the math says we’re moving this week.

The sale officially closed Monday, and I picked up the keys that night. People are coming tomorrow to pack our stuff, and the movers come Friday. At some point we’ll have to move Kramer. We’re dreading that.

The loft we’re in now was a perfect fit when I bought it back in 2017. I’d always wanted a hard loft, and it was in an exciting new (to me) part of the city. But now, in COVID times, with no return-to-the-office seeming imminent, the openness that once made the loft charming now makes it stifling, as does the lack of outdoor space. That said, I like the loft and the building so much I’ve decided to hold on to it and rent it out — a pain in the ass I do not need, but I was loathe to part with the place, especially in this market.

I remain very excited (if a little apprehensive) about the house. It has four bedrooms, which — after having only an open loft with no walls for 3.5 years, might have been an over-vector — and a beautiful back yard. It’s on a street which has always been one of my favourites in the city. It’s only ten minutes’ walk from where we live now (though if Google Maps is to be believed, once one crosses East under the train tracks, one lives in Leslieville) which means many of our neighbourhood favourites — I’m looking at you, Chez Nous and Boxcar Social — will remain.

Wish us luck over the next few days. Especially with Kramer.

.:.

Cover photo from LeslievilleMural.com. Mural by Elicser Elliot.

The ‘ton

It’s been nearly five months since I got the Peloton. I mentioned a week after getting it that I was worried I’d get bored of it, but I haven’t yet.

Far from it, in fact. I’m closing in on two hundred rides. My average outputs keep climbing, and I keep breaking my own personal records. I’m by no means elite level — I can usually only just crack the top decile on the toughest rides — but I can feel myself getting stronger.

I do need a padded bike seat for those 45+ minute rides though, Lord have mercy.

Cover photo by Dustin Tramel on Unsplash

Ausgang

This week saw more excursions, including our first visit to a patio — Chez Nous, to be specific. It was nice to finally sit outside, sip some cool wine, and…talk to people.

Let’s see, what else? Watched Midsommar (imdb | rotten tomatoes) which was weird and scary but beautiful and excellent. Had a sudden, happy memory of a mixed CD called This One’s Worth Saving given out by Dalhousie radio station CKDU in my third year of undergrad. Protested some police bullshit.

.:.

Cover photo by Dustin Tramel on Unsplash

Cover photo by Andre Mohamed on Unsplash

Baby steps

Slowly, I am re-entering the world outside the loft. Last Saturday we walked into the east to meet a friend and drink Rorschach beers in a (very brown) Woodbine Park. Two days ago I went to the dentist (a new one; no need to get on transit to visit my old one) after a long wait — my last appointment had been scheduled for March 14 but was obviously cancelled.

I still haven’t been on a patio. I think I’m ready, but Lindsay isn’t quite yet. No matter; we have plenty of wine to keep us company right here in the loft.

We’ve watched some rough documentaries over the past week: first the documentary series Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich (imdb | rotten tomatoes), then Athlete A (imdb | rotten tomatoes). The latter was exceptional — just extremely well done, thoughtful, well-constructed, and responsible in execution and scope. Still, between that and occasionally dabbling in the Waco miniseries, we’ve needed some light palate-cleansers as well, tossing in episodes of New Girl and The Good Place here and there as needed.

Maybe once this crazy heat wave (which, as I type this, has been temporarily replaced with rain at last) subsides we might attempt a patio. Until then: baby steps.

.:.

Cover photo by Andre Mohamed on Unsplash

Cover photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

The News

Growing up we had at least three (maybe more?) newspaper subscriptions. We got the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, the Amherst Daily News, and the local weekly, the Citizen. This last is obviously gone, and I’m pretty sure the Amherst News is just a section of the Saltwire site now.

When I moved to Toronto I eventually subscribed to the Globe and Mail, then The Toronto Star, then both at once. (I loved newspapers and might have subscribed to more, but you couldn’t have paid me to read the National Post, and I don’t even consider The Sun to be a news source.) Reading my weekend paper(s) used to be a treasured Saturday morning ritual, but I let my both subscriptions lapse many years ago. I couldn’t really justify the paper usage or the cost versus free, high-quality, online alternatives.

Over time the thought of losing good journalism began weighing on me though, so I opened an online subscription. Granted it was the early days of the big media sources figuring out paywalls, but man was it clunky. I had a paid Globe subscription that never actually let me read pay-walled stories, so I gave up.

I’d always been more ideologically aligned to The Star than the others, and recently considered trying an online subscription again, but then they were purchased by a private equity firm. So we’ll see whether that ideological alignment lasts. In the meantime, I’ve hung fire on re-subscribing.

What I have begun paying for is newer, independent media, which doesn’t (as far as I know; I’m not invested enough to dig too hard) receive government funding for a dying business model (as opposed to receiving funding for journalism, which I would support). I have subscriptions to The Logic (for Canadian tech/innovation news) and The Athletic (for sports news), and have recently signed up for the West End Phoenix. I haven’t received my first issue yet, but I’m psyched. And while I don’t live in Nova Scotia anymore, much of my family does, so I might just sign up for the Halifax Examiner too.

It creates more things to manage, but I feel like my dollar goes further this way, and more directly to the people doing the work.

.:.

Cover photo by AbsolutVision on Unsplash

COVID-19: Part the Last (for now)

So yeah: not to jinx anything, but just as life is slowly returning to a semblance of normal, so shall my posts. Or at least my post titles.

Patios are opening in Toronto, though I haven’t been on one yet. Friends are coming over to hang out with Lindsay today. My family back in NS had a get-together last night to celebrate my niece’s graduation. People at work are thinking about going back to the office, though I’m not quite there yet. I grabbed takeout for lunch yesterday, a delicious fried chicken sandwich from The Cider House.

I don’t know if I’m feeling hopeful about this…but I guess I feel like we’re all a little better prepared? Lots of people still aren’t wearing masks when they ought to be, but I can’t control that. And social distancing seems to be taking hold: even the drunk guy ahead of me in line at the LCBO yesterday stayed 6 feet from everybody.

Fingers crossed, I guess.