BLOG-Bits: A Man

BLOG-Bits

A MAN

4.13.21Vision “Vision without action is a dream.”

Why don’t I have a vision? Something that guides me, and motivates me along the way? I can envision so many great things, almost will them into being. But by own future moves along a different timeline. I can open the door to my mind, yet have no access my future. Even a hazy vision would be fine; it doesn’t have to be crystal clear. When I close my eyes, all I see nothing but darkness, still I can hear the voices sneering and snickering hiding in the corners of my mind. I suppose that’s what therapists are for. Wait a second – my vision is to have a vision. Eureka, I’ve got it! Time to get to work. What is my vision? Why don’t I…

3.04.21 – Cog in The Machine

Most men are simply a cog in the machine… In that they, no matter how integral, are just part of what makes the whole contraption run. But they, too, will be replaced after churning out their best work, put through the grind, worn and abraded, a thick layer of elbow grease, blood, sweat and tears, with another just like him but at cheaper cost. None the matter; as long as this thing keeps running. Now go back to work!

3.03.21A Man

What is a man, if not his word? A man is his promise. And I cannot keep promises. In fact, anything I’ve “promised” you before this very writing could not and should not be counted on. And for that, I apologize. I am human, but I feel more like a scrapped blueprint for one. “I am my thoughts,” and my thoughts are made of shame and regret. Shame and regret for what? For letting myself down; for I know what a man is – sense one when he is in my presence – and I am not that, although it is what I strive to be: to finally become A Man.

FreeStyle – Do You Think I’m Soxy?

FreeStyle

Do You Think I’m Soxy?

written by Cameron Brtnik for ContentDistribution.com

    Do you remember a time, long ago, when socks weren’t sexy? When they were just something you put on your feet if only for comfort, only to be tossed with disgust into the laundry bin at the end of the day. When they were just an extra in a Tide commercial, or something you “hung with care” over the fireplace on Christmas eve. Flash forward to 2014 when a couple of brothers, Albert and Boris Vaisman, started to think about socks differently, and built a little business called Soxy. 

    The trend has caught on – just inconspicuously check out your cubicle mate’s ankles, or lower your gaze next time you’re at a hobnob at your local haunt – and you’ll be sure to see metrosexual men sporting funky socks, a new form of “podiatry peacocking.” My best friend wears fashionable men’s socks and I feel it says a lot about his personality: quirky, charming, trendy. At first I didn’t understand it: why wear something fashionable that’s basically ninety percent covered up? Then I caught the “foot affliction” and began sporting my own pairs of fashionable foot covers. In high school all we wore were plain ol’ sweat socks. But now a fancy pair of socks has become a conversation starter, a snazzy accessory you can actually give more than a modicum of thought to, much like a fashionable fedora or flashy new kicks. Of course it’s always best to wear a pair of fashionable socks with an equally styling pair of shoes – and fortunately Soxy offers both!

Are You Ready To Look Cool?

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Try These On For Size!

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Mens Blue Big Stripes Bundle

    Whether you’re into striped, checkered, or funky patterns, Soxy has a line of sultry socks for everyone. The great thing is they can be worn in all sock-wearing seasons. We love the Mens Blue Big Stripes (https://www.soxy.com/collections/mens-striped-socks/products/mens-blue-big-stripes-bundle ) for their vibrant colors and bold statement. And really, stripes go with any outfit or occasion. Choose from other styles on their website such as Purple Camouflage and Autism for something really mind-bending.

Why Socks Are Fashionable:

  • They pair well with almost any wardrobe
  • They’re fun to mix and match with pants, shirts, and suits
  • They’re conversation starters
  • They show your uniqueness and originality

“But what can I wear with my funky new foot fashion?” The answer is: pretty much anything.

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What Color Pants With What Shoes?

    First off, you have to know what pants you’re wearing with what shoes before deciding on which socks. Here’s a few pairings we recommend for the more sartorially savvy.

THE BASICS

What Color Pants Should I Wear With Black Shoes?

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Black On Black

    The traditional answer is: black. It’s got a classic, professional look that’s never out of style, whether or not you’re wearing a suit. If you’re in the office or out on the town, you can’t go wrong with black on black. You’ve seen Orange Is The New Black? Well, Black is The New… Orange. Check out Fashion Beans for some great advice on black shoes (https://www.fashionbeans.com/article/best-shoe-colour-combinations-men/)

For The More Fashionable Fellows Among Us

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White Pants With Brown Shoes

    Want to make a statement? Go out and buy yourself a pair of skinny fit white pants and wear them with your swankiest pair of brown leather shoes. You will stand out like a Gucci model at state fair. Warning: you must be in decent physical condition to pull this one off.  All those who care more about ice cream than ice skating beware. For a perfect set of luxurious leathers check out Soxy’s Mens Brown & Blue Leather Wingtip Dress Shoes (https://www.soxy.com/collections/mens-wingtip-shoes/products/mens-brown-leather-wingtip-dress-shoes)

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White Pants With Black Shoes

    For something just as stylish with a more classic appeal, try pairing those tighty-whities with pair of black shoes. You’ll still stand out – but more like Picasso among plebeians. Just be careful you don’t sit on any freshly-painted benches. Try adding an extra touch with Soxy’s Mens Purple Camouflage Socks (https://www.soxy.com/products/mens-purple-camoflouge-socks?pr_prod_strat=description&pr_rec_pid=2665183051894&pr_ref_pid=2654572707958&pr_seq=uniform) and emulating Elvis wish their Mens Black & Blue Suede Driving Loafers (https://www.soxy.com/collections/mens-loafers/products/mens-black-and-blue-suede-driving-loafers).

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Black Pants With White Shoes

    Crisp, clean and summery – no I’m not talking about some new kale crazy. I’m talking about skinny black pants paired with plain old white sneakers. You’ll look hip, fresh, and cool in this aesthetic ensemble. Even cooler, complete this outstanding outfit with a crisp white t-shirt or button down. Pick up a pair of white runners with Soxy’s very own Mens White Leather Sneakers (https://www.soxy.com/collections/mens-sneakers/products/mens-white-leather-sneakers).

“But What About My Upper Half?”

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Black Shirt With White Shoes

    For something more subdued but still stylish, throw on a black blouse buttoned up to the top. This speaks “fashion conscious” without overstating it. Elegant and smart, you’re sure to draw attention from the cool crowd. Here’s a great article from our friends down at Outfit Trends on white shoes. Now study up. (https://www.outfittrends.com/men-outfit-with-white-shoes/)

REFRESHER

Wear Your Snazzy New Socks With:

  • Black pants + black shoes
  • White pants + brown or black shoes
  • Black pants + white shoes
  • Black shirt + white shoes
  • Naked (*remain indoors)

Still not sure what pants to pair with what shoes? Check out this chart

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Pant And Shoe Color Chart

Don’t worry ladies – we didn’t forget you!

    As you can tell, this article was written for men. But that doesn’t mean you’re not a significant other looking for a snazzy pair of stockings for the love of your life. Soxy makes some great gift ideas, and they’ve made it easy for you by putting together special packages. Try these out and we’re sure your beautiful beau will smother you with delectable kisses. Mens Autism Sock Bundle (https://www.soxy.com/products/mens-puzzlemania-bundle?pr_prod_strat=copurchase&pr_rec_pid=2654572773494&pr_ref_pid=2654572707958&pr_seq=uniform)

    Whether you’re looking to update your style or add to your already quirky collection of feet cozies, designer socks are in – and Soxy just made them sexy.

Follow Soxy on IG @soxy

Cameron Brtnik is a freelance writer living in Toronto. He now owns twelve pairs of Soxys, none of them matching

BLOG-Bits: Ramblings of a Madman – The Pub

BLOG-Bits
Ramblings of a Madman
the-flask
The Pub
10.23.19
    Nothing like a cool pint on a cold day… Sitting in a warm, dimly lit pub, in prohibition era red velvet chairs. With the first sip you can forget your worries… And the pub suddenly becomes your home: the dirty table, the stained chair, the dusty lamp. You could live here. The waiter is suddenly your best friend. The previously loud and annoying resident is suddenly a friendly neighbour. The loud noises are suddenly welcome. The smell of chicken wings is suddenly akin to the feeling of an organism. An overall sense of elation comes over you like there’s not a thing wrong in the world. All you worries, anxiety, depression – poof – gone. I could kiss my neighbour right now: a bearded hipster. This feeling feels like it could last forever. Is this how men become alcoholics? Did it all start with good intentions – a stress relief, a therapy, something to set the world straight? If I were dying I’d like to got out after a few pints. I wouldn’t be afraid of death. I would welcome it with open arms, like my mustachioed companion. Why can’t I always feel like this? I never want this feeling to end. Weed is good too. Why don’t they serve weed-infused beer pints? They’re missing a good business opportunity. Maybe I should start one: a pub that sells weed pints. I’d make a ton of money. Then I could buy as many pints as I like.

10P 10: How To Throw a GOOD Party This Summer

10P 10:

How To Throw a Good Party This Summer

written by Cameron Brtnik

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“Make it a Potluck”
    We’re finally into the summer party season, and you’ll no doubt be celebrating at your cottage up North, hitting a patio downtown, or throwing a backyard BBQ. You will surely be stocked with cold beers, coolers, freshly rolled joints and other party favours to help keep your guests inebriated. And let’s not forget the staples: juicy burgers, sausages, and some unidentifiable vegan choice. You’ll probably have a couple card games on hand like Cards Against Humanity, or Uno. And this would all seem like enough..but often, it’s not – not if you want to make your party memorable. Here are some ideas to add some originality, fun and excitement to your shindig, and ensure your parties will be the most talked about this summer!
1. Get Decor – Buy some decor at a store. I know it seems tacky, but it’s better than nothing! Eg: Streamers, balloons, and other party favours. Tip: These can all be bought at Dollarama.
2. Plan Some Games – This may seem childish, but as I’m sure you’re well aware, a drunken crowd is a childish crowd. Some ideas: Pin the Tail On the Donkey, Twister (this will turn x-rated pretty quick, unless it’s a family function), Truth or Dare, Card Drinking Games like Kings Cup
3. Have Prizes – Don’t forget to have prizes for the winners. I usually like to have cheesy prizes ie. stuff you can get from the dollar bin, as it makes it funnier, promotes good sportsmanship, and will ultimately save some $. Some favourites: Bag-o-nuts, a pair of socks, or some kind of childish toy. It’s probably good to have a real prize for the harder games like Trivia. For this you can have nicer items like a bottle of Tequila or a movie Gift Certificate. Tip: For a great prize (and to save you more $) you could make a “Dinner for two with Me and You” gift card where you invite that guest and a plus one for a dinner night. They will love it cause they’ll get to spend more time with you!
4. Host a Trivia Game – Everyone likes to play trivia at the pub, but how about in your own living room? And have guests answering questions you designed yourself? Tip: Make it theme related ie. On a trip to Chicago you could include trivia about that city, or for a birthday you can find out trivia about the birthday boy (ask his girlfriend the answers beforehand so it makes it super subjective!)
5. Play Kings Cup – I mentioned this in #2, but I felt this game needed a whole category in itself. You know it – it’s that game you played in college where, by the end, you were either throwing up in the bathroom or making out with a stranger. Kings Cup is still the king of drinking games (see what I did there?) and what I love about it is that you can tweak the rules or even make up new ones along the way. “Kings! From now on no one can use the word ‘drink’ during the game.” Good luck with that one.
6. Entertain Your Guests – Invite at least one talented friend. This could be a musician, a dancer, a clown, or even a chef. It doesn’t matter, as long as they’re prepared to be put on the spot at some point in the night to put on a show. It’s a win-win: They entertain your crowd for free and they get invited to the next party.
7. Play Match-Maker – Know a couple of stand-up individuals in your circle of friends who haven’t found the right one (yet)? Perfect! Act as matchmaker. Whether or not they hit it off by the end of the night, they’ll thank you for your well-meaning efforts. You never know – they may just name their baby after you.
8. Throw a Dance Party – Halfway into the night guests will be chilling on the patio, deck, or huddled inside if the weather’s chilly… That’s when you ask Alexa to throw on some party tunes! Watch as your normally shy friends bust out the Floss. Ah DMX never sounded so good.
9. Make It a Potluck – Make the party a Potluck Party and that will certainly take a lot of the stress off of hosting. You can designate one cook, or guests may use the grill to cook their own food (this comes with an obvious warning).
10. BYOB – Ask guests to “Bring Your Own Booze.” This seems evident but it’s worth mentioning. Imagine the PR nightmare if you ran out of booze halfway through the event – apocalyptic. If everyone brings their own booze, you can relax knowing there’ll be plenty to gulp down for the duration of the event (and even leftovers for dinner the next day!). Oh the joys of hosting. Tip: To make the party amusing put out a bowl of edibles. WARNING: Make sure your guests know they’re edibles! If they’ve never tried them advise doing just a little so your guests don’t disappear halfway through the night. I recommend gummy bears, but just the head.

Cameron is a freelance writer based in Toronto and part-time party planner cbrtnik.com

Poetry Corner – Starbucks

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Starbucks

I don’t even recognize this world around me. How am I supposed to be productive? Maneuvering on an unstable rock, an unknown planet, through an ever-evolving galaxy… Staring at the unfamiliar person across from me at a Starbucks, one of many, not special, drinking brown water, trying to find the inspiration at the bottom of the cup…

Multiple unimportant conversations fill the space around me, fleeting moments in a day that blends into the next, any other day really, not special, they’ve all been repeated before... People pretending to be busy, all the while thinking the same thoughts as me, feeling the same feelings, experiencing the same sense of dread…

Some people staring off into the distance, waiting for a reply on their phone, waiting for their partner to join them, waiting for an email, for a response, any response, waiting, always waiting… We are our gadgets and our gadgets are us. Coffee, Cappuccino, Americano, Chai Latte, Cold Brew, Iced Tea, Frappuccino, down the hatch, feeling wired, feeling tired, feeling happy, feeling sad, feeling hope, feeling hopeless...

Just another day at Starbucks.

SpotLight: Divine Light Wellness – Holistic Healing

SpotLight: Divine Light Wellness – Holistic Healing

Shannon Soules – Life Coach

Spiritual coaching and energy healing for personal growth and wellness

This was my first experience with meditation and Reiki. This is a true testimonial I wrote for her website. She is also the first to be featured in my new SpotLight series. If you are suffering from depression, anxiety or any mental or physical disorder, I sincerely recommend you try out her services. It really did work for me!

I’ve had two sessions with Shannon and…wow. It’s made a huge difference in my overall mood and mental state, and I’ve been much more clear-headed and focused. This year I’ve taken positive steps to get my life in order – mental health, career path, personal growth – by hiring a Life Coach and a Spiritual Coach and have been making incremental, yet great strides, in all three areas. I like the practical, straightforward advice from my life coach gives me which have produced immediate and perceptible results. To be honest, I was more skeptical of working with a “spiritual” coach, but at this point I was open to trying anything…

Shannon made the trip to Toronto for our first, in-person session. She has a nifty “mobile office” complete with massage table, sage and Tibetan bowls, so if you can’t make the trip to her in Georgetown she can come to you! She offered the whole gambit: guided meditation, Reiki and the mystical Tibetan Bowls, all of which were a first experience for me. If you’re a naturally skeptical person like me, right now you are probably saying to yourself, “Reiki? What the hell is that? Sounds like a Naruto jutsu.” But I knew that if I fully gave myself over to Shannon’s guidance and suggestions, I won’t regret it; it all works if you let your guard down and open yourself up to new experiences

One facet from our sessions I really appreciated was that Shannon took the time to transcribe everything I said and, more importantly, read them back to me; the strange thing is that it didn’t even sound like me! They were truly insightful reflections, all from deep within my own mind – if only we took time out of our “busy schedules” of watching Netflix and checking Instagram to meditate and do some self-reflection. If you have trouble focusing and meditating on your own like I do, booking a session with Shannon is the best way to begin! My ultimate goal is to eventually be able to do this on my own – but working with Shannon will inspire and get you motivated to start.

I had many insights in just two sessions – my second session was over Skype (this was “pre-zoom” era) as we couldn’t schedule a meetup that week. Yet surprisingly I was able to go into a meditative state as she guided me through our session over the screen. It was an equally gratifying session, although I still preferred our in-person session. I have since booked weekly sessions with Shannon, and I’m already looking forward to our next one. She has taught me that it’s possible to be still, even for just a moment, in this constantly engaging world and to start looking within.

Shannon also practices Poi and if you ask nicely, she may teach you! Check our her website here: http://www.divinelightwellness.com

Cameron is a freelance writer, blogger, and spiritual being based in Toronto. ***For your very own “SpotLight” just send me an email at cbrtnik@gmail.com or PM me on Instagram @instacam81

Upfront Reviews: Float Toronto

Upfront Reviews: Float Toronto

by Cameron Brtnik

    When you enter into Float Toronto, you’re entering into another world… If you haven’t “floated” yet, do yourself a favour and get buoyant! 

    If you haven’t tried it, you’ve most likely heard of it: known as “float pods,” “isolation tanks” or the more ominous sounding “sensory deprivation tanks,” they’ve started to amass a cult following amongst its practitioners. It has also been called “floatation therapy,” and is anecdotally said to cure a multitude of ailments. Joe Rogan claims he sleeps in one every night. As Float Toronto – one of the few venues that carry float tanks in Toronto – say in their promotional video, “Your experience in a float tank is about everything you won’t be doing.” I personally always go in with some intent: think on my goals, focus my energy, reflect on my actions or simply to meditate.

Welcome to Float Toronto!

    You are greeted by a chill receptionist who is more than happy to give you a tour of the spa. In fact, it’s more of a “do it yourself spa.” What comes to mind when you think of the word “spa?” Relaxation, meditation, and healing – and that’s exactly what you’ll get during your float. In fact, I’ve found floating to be far more relaxing than a traditional massage. I believe it’s because your body actually relaxes, I mean fully relaxes, without friction against your body, and your muscles for the first time can fully relax. That’s the problem with traditional massage: your body is still lying against another surface so it’s impossible for your body to completely relax. Because the water is heated to the same temperature as your body, you don’t really feel it after a while and your mind becomes “untethered” from the rest of you. As Joe Rogan says, “Your body is a distraction.” Now it’s time to travel to the centre of consciousness…

    As you enter your own private room complete with personal bench, tiled shower and your very own float pod, you’re overcome with a sense of relaxation before even stepping into the glimmering abyss… The dim lights and their sapphire glow make it feel as if you’re stepping into a spacecraft – and that’s exactly what you’re doing. After a soothing shower (there’s no rush as you have a whole hour to float), you step into your personal pod and it feels ethereal. At first you’ll feel slightly nervous to lie down on a bed of water. Don’t worry: each tank has a thousand pounds of epsom salt which gives the water a buoyancy akin to the Dead Sea. You fully lie back – yes you can even rest your head on the surface of the water – or you have the option of using the provided halo cushion for your neck. You have the option of earplugs if you get swimmer’s ear, soothing body cream to rub on your skin after your session, and your very own robe; you’ll feel like you’re staying at the Hilton. If you are claustrophobic, not to worry; the tanks are easy to exit at all times by just pushing up on the pod door. But don’t fret: Float Toronto’s tanks are much larger and voluminous than most, so even the most claustrophobic guest should’ve have a panic attack.

    There is heavenly zen music playing as you enter the glowing hull. As you descend into the warm glow of the lights, it’s nice to just lie in it for ten minutes to get fully immersed into the experience. You can control the settings from inside the tank if you want to control the lights and music, but this floater recommends trying the full experience: FULL SENSORY DEPRIVATION. Oh, and one very important tip: never rub your eyes! Don’t put your hands even near your eyes. Doing so will result in a disruption of your meditative state and quickly propel you back to reality. In case of this scenario, there is spray and a towel provided in the tank which will quickly remedy the situation. As you’re in a “sensory deprivation” tank, after about ten minutes you’re encouraged to turn all these distractions off…so you’re floating in pure blackness, like the blackness of space, the thick water fully supporting your weightless body. At first you may feel helpless, anxious, or even nervous…but slowly a relaxing feeling encompasses you like a warm blanket. As you lay there naked – oh yes, I forgot to mention you are encouraged to go “au naturel” to get the full experience – typically your mind will start racing to all the things you have to do that day: go to work, pick up milk, take the dog out, watch the season finale of Game of Thrones. In today’s age you may even have a full-on panic attack that you can’t whip out your phone to check your notifications and like your favourite insta posts. But eventually these thoughts fade and suddenly, for the first time in forever, your mind becomes empty…or at least void of any trivial thoughts. You begin noticing your environment and because there’s no light to “influence” your vision, you may even start hallucinating. I have envisioned that I am floating in space with stars hovering above me (these experiences are heightened by a quick hit on the ol’ vape before floating. I feel this enhances the experience but is not necessary.)

Top 5 Things I Like To Do While In The Tank 

  1. Listen to my knuckles crack underwater
  2. Hum and chant underwater. Your voice is intensified so that it sounds like it could fill a stadium. (One time floating with a friend he heard me chanting from an adjoining room. He thought he was hearing things in the tank!)
  3. Force myself to be creative. If I have an upcoming project that I haven’t reflected on yet, I simply focus on that one thing and – boom – ideas come streaming in
  4. Pretend I’m a frog swimming around in my own private pond
  5. Massage my body. The salty, viscous fluid helps with this

    Because you won’t be “fighting gravity,” it’s hard to tell where the water ends and your body begins… You became “one” with the water and the space around you, as if you’re a naked astronaut floating through space. I am usually fully relaxed halfway through the float, and that’s when my mind starts being creative. I like to use the tank time to think, create and brainstorm ideas – like a literal think tank! But each person’s experience is subjective, and you may prefer to just relax and enjoy the experience. With around twenty minutes to go, I often pass out due to feeling so relaxed. You may call that a waste of a float, but trust me when I say when you wake up you will feel like a new person, and I guarantee you will have never slept like that in a bed before. The music comes on again at the end, sort of like a heavenly alarm clock, to wake you. But if you find it hard to snap out of the trance you’re in, the water will start gushing around the tank to “nudge” you awake. You’ll want to take another shower to wash all that salt off your body. One thing you’ll notice is how smooth your skin feels: “Like a baby’s bottom,” is the best way to describe it. Another thing I find is that, ironically, my muscles are sore, almost like I just ran a marathon. I think it’s because they’ve never fully relaxed before. But it’s in a good way, like that feeling after a good workout at the gym.

    After getting dressed, you can enjoy some hot herbal tea in the lounge and share your experience with the staff. They even provide a journal where you can share your experience by writing a poem, drawing your visions, or writing a short diary of your experience. I’ve heard from people who have had very visual hallucinations (particularly one guy who did mushrooms in the tank. But I don’t recommend that, at least on your first float!), to those who have none and just find it to be a therapeutic experience. I recommend you book a float to find out what you’ll experience. They also sell bags of epsom salt in the lobby so you can enjoy the health benefits in the comfort of your own bath. Whatever your reasons for trying it are – therapeutic, spiritual or psychedelic – I believe floating is the best way to achieve it. Bon voyage!

Book your float here: https://float-toronto.com/ and use their online calendar

Recommendation: Book a package of ten floats and it’s almost half price! Tuesdays are “clean for float” days where you can volunteer to come in and clean for a few hours in exchange for a float! 

Float Toronto on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=3nHbY3lNOJI

Post-float reactions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jI_EL3IvmKQ

Joe Rogan on Sensory Deprivation Tanks https://player.vimeo.com/video/97880537

Cameron Brtnik is a freelance writer and blogger based in Toronto, and a practicing “floater”

BLOGasides: “Not Very Bunny” (An Easter Story)

BLOGasides

“Not Very Bunny”

(An Easter Story)


Preface: During our Easter brunch this year at the prestigious The Doctor’s House in Kleinburg, as I prepared to delight the family with some “Easter entertainment” during brunch, I magically disappeared before the show even began, leaving my family to think I’d dashed on the bill or ran off with the Easter Bunny. Now to “eggsplain” the mystery behind my unplanned disappearance…


     I was all prepared to give my best 5 minutes as the Easter Bunny, but of course my laptop crashed that morning, so I had no way of playing the audio file. It was at that point I made up my mind: I would find some living soul in Kleinburg that could help me. I ventured out into the attractive yet unknown terrain of Kleinburg Village, popping into every store along the way hoping to find a working computer. Alas, shop after shop, the townsfolk had never heard of a “computer.” Finally, glimmering in the distance like a mirage, was a Flower Shop with a flickering red light that read: “Open.”


I ventured in and the proprietor, an old Korean woman, tried her best to help me by plugging in my usb stick into what looked like Bill Gate’s first prototype of a “computer” to no avail. Now in full-on panic mode – all the while knowing I was missing out on a succulent 5 star buffet – the singular customer in the shop, a lovely lady with with her son, noticed my predicament (I had been joking around with her son: “Are you buying flowers for your girlfriend? Did you meet the Easter Bunny this morning? Etc”). She said, out loud, likely much to her chagrin, “We have a computer at home. We live close by!” After the shock of hearing one of the local residents actually owned a computer died down, I said, “Let’s do it!” and then she said, “Follow me!” to which I replied, “I actually don’t have a car!” to which she then retorted, “We don’t live that close…” Then she said, “What the heck, jump in!” and she, Cecelia, I learned after a hurried handshake, introduced me to her husband Michael; driver, and her four cute kids sitting in the back.


After a fun name game along the way where I purposely mixed up all the kids’ names much to their delight, we pulled into the driveway of what must’ve been the nicest house in Kleinburg. I started guessing what Michael must do for a living: doctor? Lawyer? Arms dealer?? As I walked into the front lobby, there was a single painting hanging on the wall, clearly depicted by one of their kids, but it wasn’t the painting itself that caught my attention; it’s what was scrawled on it: “Make Magic.” I stopped in my tracks and exclaimed, “This is a sign.” Despite it technically being a “sign,” I couldn’t help but think I was on the right track. I followed the sign further into their beautiful, sprawling home and then into Michael’s office. I made quick work: I inserted my usb stick into the computer (even the computer was big), pulled up my file, emailed it to myself, and confidently said, “It is done.” By now I was sure an hour had passed.

My intention was to bolt back up the road to the Doctor’s House, but Michael offered to take me back as he knew the predicament I was in. James joined us (“James Cameron”, another sign?) We sped up the winding road back to the D.H., and I jumped out and thanked them. Michael handed me his business card and I assured him I would contact them. After a friendly farewell, I sauntered in, clearly having been lost in the labyrinthine buffet, and the rest is as you remember it: At some point in all the craziness, the Easter Bunny made his debut, told some “not so bunny jokes”, scared a baby or two, delivered some hastily dyed hard boiled eggs, hugged a few people he hadn’t seen in years, then hopped off into some distant meadow where he’s happily hibernating till next year (mistakenly next to some hungry bears). And it struck me that that is what Easter is truly about; it’s about gathering together with family, sharing laughs, tears, and lots of chocolate; and about helping out a random stranger in need.

Happy Easter to all my lovely followers! – Cameron

Watch my “Not Very Bunny” Easter Bunny standup act: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=8zDIcGLgxJI

Travel-ogue: Reel Vietnam – Ninh Binh Family Homestay “Home From Home”

Travel-ogue: Reel Vietnam

Ninh Binh Family Homestay 

“Home From Home”

SO YOU’RE TRAVELING in Vietnam: You’ve been to the South and navigated the dizzying traffic of Ho Chi Minh City (still referred to by its original name Saigon), visited the amazing Cu Chi Tunnels, and took some selfies in front of the magnificent Notre-Dame Cathedral. Perhaps you worked on your tan on the pristinely white sand of Phu Quoc. You certainly explored the luminous and magical Ancient Town in Hoi An, and definitely visited the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, walking through the bustling Old Quarter, strolling around the beautiful West Lake, and stopping by some historical temples where you can even view Ho Chi Minh’s embalmed body at his mausoleum (which amusingly was named the world’s sixth ugliest building in 2012). And of course, no Vietnam trip is complete without a boat cruise through the hauntingly beautiful Halong Bay. But, perhaps towards the end of your trip, you’re ready for some peace and quiet away form the hustle and bustle and all the tourists… That’s when you open your Lonely Planet and discover the small city of Ninh Binh. Located in northern Vietnam, and the capital of Ninh Binh Province, the area is best known for its largest nature reserve, Cuc Phuong National Park. “But why travel to Ninh Binh?”, you ask. To stay at the Ninh Binh Family Homestay, of course!

Run by a young, lovely Vietnamese couple, Mr. Nguyen Thanh – or Scott as his guests call him – and his wife Mrs. Tran Hang, along with their two adorable children Bo and Min, the Ninh Binh Family Homestay really is, as their motto says, “Home From Home” (mind the endearing grammatical error). And I should know; I’ve been here for one week! I discovered the NBFH on the Southeast Asia Backpacker Facebook page, advertising that they were looking for a “volunteer English teacher,” and that they provided free accommodation, food, as well as a motorbike! I was traveling through Southeast Asia at the time and couldn’t resist; a chance to do what I love – teaching children, a profession I’ve been working in for the past five years in Taiwan – and explore a remote and authentic region of Vietnam.

I was welcomed graciously by Scott and his family, and on the first evening we enjoyed a delicious traditional dinner on a rug shared by other homestay guests from Australia, and the States, with a hearty chicken and vegetable soup, crispy spring rolls Vietnamese style (both Family Homestay specialties), and homemade “happy water” – you’ll find out what makes it “happy” once you try it So far I’ve taken my motorbike out on day-long excursions, exploring the countryside, and generally getting lost – the best way to figure out your bearings! It’s not unusual to encounter a herd cows blocking the road, free range chickens frantically scurrying about, and “goat traffic” which, instead of being gridlocked behind a line of cars, you’ll find yourself stuck behind a traffic jam of goats! We also take morning bike riding excursions with the guests – and there are plenty of guests to keep me company during my stay as the the Homestay is always at 75% occupancy – through the peaceful rice fields, admiring the local farmers as they plant all the rice seeds by hand, and the abundant livestock as you’re sure see some intimidating but friendly oxen lazing along the dirt roads, gaggles of garrulous geese (sorry for the cheesy use of alliteration), as well as a wide array of other farm animals grazing in the grasslands.

There are of course some excellent local tourist destinations you can visit just a bike-ride away: Ninh Binh City contains the impressive Bai Dinh Pagoda, the largest pagoda in Vietnam, as well as the biggest bronze Buddha statue in Southeast Asia! For a unique excursion, you can take the Trang An boat tour, winding through the Song Sao River and breathtaking mountains made entirely of limestone, and even passing through natural cave – but just a “heads up,” you’ll have to duck your head! Cool fact: Trang An is the site where they filmed the new King Kong film “Kong: Skull Island!” Scott also offers his own unique tours, scenic bike rides through the countryside, and his “special tour” designed only for the bravest guests with a sense of adventure, and danger… I have posted some photos, but pictures cannot do justice to what you’ll see when you explore Ninh Binh yourself. I’ll be updating you again soon, and posting photos daily on their Instagram account “Ninhbinhadventure.”

So stay tuned, and when visit the Ninh Binh Family Homestay, remember to say, “Mot hai ba zho!” as you down your first, but certainly not last, shot of happy water. Cheers!

-Cameron
Ninh Binh, January 26, 2017

Cameron is a freelance writer and blogger, and currently works as a tour guide in Hanoi, Vietnam. He now enjoys happy water on a weekly basis

BLOGasides: On Being 29

BLOGasides

On Being 29

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by Cameron Brtnik

4/15/11

     Getting older is not fun.

    NOW I’M THAT GUY: the one who I always despised. The guy who goes out to dinner with his wife or girlfriend of three years and asks the young looking waiter how old the he is. Upon proudly asserting he is only 19, his wife/girlfriend replies (with just a hint of flirtation): “Oh, you’re just a baby.” For some reason I always thought that was lame. I always thought I would stay that baby. But now, now I’m that guy…

No matter what anyone says, getting older sucks. Nothing is as good as it once was. I just don’t buy when (old) people say, “Getting older is great! With more experience comes greater wisdom!” Not to mention with more birthdays comes greater joint pain. I think the best part of life is attaining that wisdom; “The journey not the destination” and all that. Sure it’s great to give it, your wisdom, passing it on to the youth who will surely ignore it as you once did because you needed to learn it for yourself. And what would be the fun in following it? Sure you’d stay out of trouble, but you’d miss out on the best part of growing up! Wisdom, therefore, is contradictory, an oxymoron if you will…

     I feel shame.

I am no longer proud of my accomplishments. Possibly because I have not made any in a long time. I think the last time I felt good about anything I did was at age eighteen, the first time I traveled – to British Columbia, Canada – and made something of myself; I became a ski bum. I got a job at a ski resort and fell in love with snowboarding. I felt liberated, absolute freedom in the mountains, and felt like I could conquer the world… Since then, I haven’t felt quite as high: L.A., Carnival Cruises, China, all great challenges and experiences, yet not the same feeling of accomplishment…

     I feel off.

It may be a chemical imbalance; my family is evidence that this is probably the case. Or it could just be me. Or maybe it’s something I could adjust if I just changed my thinking. But that’s just it: No matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to change my thinking. I’ve become stuck in a rut, and I’ve been here, or there, for years. I’m not sure what I can do…

     I feel helpless.

Perhaps it doesn’t help, not having any family around. I hole up deeper inside myself, and it becomes a self-perpetuating emotion, a form of self-sabotage, and it’s something that I can’t shake. When I return back home, I should seek help. I just hope it’s not too late. Like Saito recited in the movie Inception, I don’t want to “become an old man, filled with regret.”.

     I feel lost.

I’m sick of not knowing what I’m supposed to do in life. It seems as though everyone else has figured it out by the age of twenty five and set their lives on course to reach their goals. I feel like I was born with the career-oriented portion of my brain missing. I can’t figure out what exactly it is I want to do. I suppose there may be many other people out there who don’t know what they want to do either. But they decide on something: Something that they could be happy doing, not ever fully knowing if that’s what they were destined to do, if they will ever reach their full potential, both creatively and emotionally…

   I’m a teacher. 

I truly enjoy teaching, but sometimes lack the patience it takes to make sure every student reaches their full potential. I believe in helping each child individually, no matter how dumb he is or hopeless it seems. I think I should focus on teaching, but…

     I’m a writer.

     I think I really want to be a writer. I’d like to write for a magazine, sharing stories about my travels and experiences, or even write fictional short stories that I could submit weekly to a publication just to get by, and one day write that deceivingly simple word “book,” expecting my life will have been interesting enough by then for anyone to want to read about. But… 

 I’m a family businessman.

Deep down, even though I left the family business a decade ago, I’d  like to make sure my family’s restaurant continues on and remains a mogul in Toronto. I know we have a good thing, and I want to be involved in continuing its success, ensuring its reputation lives on throughout future generations. But I feel like…

     I’m a prostitute.

On prostituting yourself (Bruce Lee quote): “I realize that if you prostitute yourself in anyway, it won’t make you happy. That means anything; Don’t give anything for free!” This doesn’t mean you can’t be charitable, I’m all for that. But you must feel like it is a good deal for you. If you are giving for the betterment of the community or for children, that’s a good thing. But if you feel you are doing something for free, against your will, DON’T DO IT! It’s not worth it, I know. I’ve prostituted myself, and lost myself, my self-worth, along the way…

    I can’t remember what I wanted… I can’t remember what my morals were…I can’t remember where I was supposed to go…. It’s time to remember.

Cameron is a regular Blogger, Writer, self-styled Psychologist cbrtnik.com