I mean, I clean my house when I have guests, but every time she would visit, she could go over what I did and get things cleaner. Everything. Like hand-scrubbing the bathtub. Or washing the glass light-fixtures. Or maybe even to going through my freezer to throw out old frost-burned food and odd-looking, pungent-smelling dried herbs with red hairs in them, kept in an air-tight aluminum jar.
Herbs you could roll in cigarette fashion and smoke to alter your mood and change your perspective. About $70–$80 worth, kept in three different Ziploc bags, each with a different strain that I could choose when I felt that my tolerance to one was building up.
There was hydro from BC I bought off Matt. Some that John got for me, with a funny story behind how he acquired it. Some I don’t even remember who gave me.
I wonder what the expression was on her face if she smelled it, or how she would react if she ever found out that I did such things. I doubt she even knew what it was.
It was probably for the best. Even though I quit, I never threw it out.
More than a crazy week, I managed to survive a crazy fortnight. Something went wrong almost every day, from getting my hair highlighted, to almost getting killed in a near-miss car accident, to finding out that my company was bought out. On top of this, I kept losing sleep, which only exponentiated the stress. Now is the process of picking myself up and dusting myself off.
I still feel over-stimulated, so I’ve been hermitizing. Staying away from people for a while. I’m limiting myself to one social interaction or extra-curricular activity per week. It would actually be nothing if I had the option, but I keep getting pulled into things because of their annual exclusivity, such as Thanksgiving dinner at Louise’s.
I’ve cut off the woman who gave birth to me. There’s a tremendous feeling of relief, after having done it. I’m grateful for all the support that people are showing me, as well as the fact that none of them have given me advice as if they know more about the situation or have more wisdom than I do.
I hold Pat’s opinion in highest regard because he’s the only one who understands from both a cultural and first-hand point-of-view. He was also the only one who told me, “Good for you”. This, from one of the most forgiving, caring people that I know, confirmed to me that I made the right decision.
John offered a unique perspective too, since losing his mother at a tender age. “You only get one”, he said, although he never chided or judged me about it, perhaps because of the number of times I’ve called him up in tears because of her.
Of the last five times I’ve tried to play table tennis, things didn’t work out once. It certainly made the last two weeks a lot more difficult to handle.
Table tennis is the only thing that helps me sleep well, not to mention the fact exercise releases endorphines that fight the exact depression I was going through. I’m taking it as a sign that I’m not meant to play at the moment, so I’m giving it up until next year.
In the meantime, I’ve taken up Tai Chi. Through the last while, I went back to the Tao Te Ching looking for answers, and it renewed my interest in Tai Chi, which I see as a physical manifestation of the theory. I was also able to clarify a few of the concepts with my uncles while they were here, so I’m reading things over with a fresh perspective.
You didn’t know it, but for years I’ve come close to burning the bridge with you. It was a heavy step to take, because in doing so, I knew that I would never be able to go back on such a drastic decision.
I appreciate all the financial support you’ve provided. It’s been more than I can ask for. Unfortunately, what I wanted and needed the most was emotional support.
I’ve always played the role of the submissive son. Your boy who’s always done what you wanted and agreed with what you said. When we exchanged tears on the phone in August, I let you know how poorly I was treated growing up. I’ve always put up with it, but the way you acted last week was the straw that broke the camels back. I keep giving you a chance, over and over. Seeing you over those few days was the last one. Even if you say now that you can change, the risk isn’t worth it. The potential misery, frustration, and anguish you may cause me aren’t worth it.
Normally, I would be sensitive about the timing — the fresh divorce, the transition — but I don’t care anymore. I’ve put my feelings aside my whole life. You pushed me too far, and now I have to consider myself.
Don’t contact me again. Not even if someone dies. Any calls, messages, e-mails will be ignored. This is not an easy or a brash decision for me, a decision I’ve made after cooling off and calming down, but from my point of view it’s for the best.
You give me nothing but pain and money, and the money doesn’t mean a thing.
I’m already sobbing. The culmination of another week of stress and lack of sleep. One disappointment after another.
With the bowl of a porcelain Chinese soup spoon, he scrapes the muscles along the back of my neck.
This causes rupture of the small sub-dermal capillaries (petechia) and may result in sub-cutaneous bruising (ecchymosis).
According to Chinese medical practitioners, the internal toxins in the blood are released and circulation is improved.
Before continuing down my shoulders, he rubs on some Vic’s VapoRub. It lubricates the process, cools the skin to ease the burning discomfort, a mix of eastern and western techniques. The patch he rubs turns a muddy mix of red and garnet, and from this he tells me that I’m working too hard. I have to look after myself better. Relax every day. Take an hour to exercise or walk. The first step to a healthy mind is a healthy body. The colour indicates that I have a lot of toxins built up in my body.
The darker it is, the more it’s supposed to hurt, but I feel nothing.
I take a sip from the mug that he hands me, full of pale yellow liquid. It burns going down. Flavourless, but maybe that’s just the congestion.
“It’s spicy”, I mumble, no longer speaking Chinese. It’s too much on my mind. I need to express myself without limitations.
“It’s just ginger-water. If you can’t take it, you can add some sugar.”
I don’t reply. The unassuming consommé raises the internal temperature, killing the sick air. To quell the spasms in my chest, I take slower, deeper breaths. It doesn’t work.
“I admire you, uncle. One day I hope to be a father like you.”
He breathes a short but heavy sigh. I can tell that these words pain him more than anything else I’ve said. He tells me, in Chinese, “Uncle doesn’t make a lot of money. I make sure I spend a lot of time at home”.
“I like you, uncle. I hope that no matter what happens, we can still be friends.”
“No matter what happens, you’ll always have a place to stay with us in Hong Kong.”
Over ten years ago, I lived at my aunt’s house for about four months in the summer. Much of my maternal family was visiting from Hong Kong, so everyone stayed there as a central location.
One day my parents had a blow-out. It was trivial, as always. As a result, from my mom’s side of the story, he went out with another woman that night. From his side, my mom tried to kill him with a steak knife. It cut his finger to the bone when he was defending himself. The next day, with swollen eyes and a weak voice, my mom showed me the yellow bruises down her arm. They had to be photographed by the police as evidence before they healed. Two subpoena’s later and they were better than new, for the next few months at least until the next fight.
This is the last memory I have of my aunt’s house. I haven’t been back since. Not until this weekend.
Now everyone from my maternal side is here, all my mom’s siblings and their respective families. It started out as an act of commiseration, to help her out during the divorce. Aunt, uncle, and son, aunt, uncle, and son, aunt and uncle. And then there’s me, with my mom. Without father. The only broken family.
At first I think it’s just a coincidence. My aunt and uncle have the same vacuum cleaner that we had, the same piano, the same brown cowhide corner sofa. And then it clicks. Since the divorce, my mom sold the house after buying out my father of the contents. Everything is stored here until she moves into her new house, from the basement to the family room, from the kitchen to the bathroom.
My childhood is strewn across every floor. The family photos. My old finger-painted, artwork from elementary school. My dad didn’t want any of it.
300 km, Windsor to Kincardine, from the border of Detroit to the doorstep of the cottage. Due to the break-up, John was too jittery to drive. I took the wheel until he could compose himself.
This weekend was especially important for John; it was his birthday and an overwhelming number of families wanted to visit in celebration, including his father. Being the maternal cottage, Dr. Lea hasn’t been up since his wife died, and this was more important to John than anything else.
By May, the weekends are already booked past August at the cottage. It’s filled with rooms, beds, cots, couches that can accommodate more than a dozen people. Families come and go, and only Gramma Currie remains constant. For most of the year she lives in an apartment in town, but when it’s warm enough to live by the fire, the cottage is opened for lodging.
This time there was Ross, the cousin who’s since finished paying off his tattoo. There was Ray, husband of Fran, father of Heather, uncle of John, who eats his hard-boiled eggs by regimented routine: dash of salt, dash of pepper, scoop of margarine, scoop of yolk in sequence. There were all the associated families, about five in total, and even a few kids running around, making four generations of the Currie family.
I couldn’t even remember the last time I was here, but my last entry in the visitors log shows that it was three years ago.
The best cottages are off the beach, and the beginning of fall is the best time of year to appreciate such things. Even though the wind coming off the water keeps the area relatively cool, the summer heat can still overwhelm such delights.
There’s nowhere else like this.
My house was 650 km away, nine more hours on the road by car, bus, and taxi. On Sunday night, it was good to be home.
We met up with Sandra for dinner. Prior to this, I only knew Sandra as John’s “best friend from school”, the one he spends most his time with when he’s not with his girlfriend. On the drive up my curiosity was killing me. Was this Sandra person a threat to my friendship with John? Would she eventually replace me as the one he goes to with his problems, his insecurities, his excitements, and would I lose my best friend in return?
Social graces dictate that you don’t strike up a dinner conversation on which not everyone can opine, but when you get two legal-minded people together, there’s isn’t much non-law-student can do but listen and observe.
They got along well, but there’s a certain level of intimacy missing. They still feel each other out, whereas John and I have conversations with a single look. When we left, I was reassured of my position as best friend, and felt silly about how I could be so insecure about a bond so strong.
300 km, Hamilton to Windsor.
I had never been to Windsor before. It’s always remained a place in my head, never tangible, because it’s always John who visits me. Windsor is where he goes to law school, where he spends the majority of the year, and where he works. This was the first chance I had to submerge myself in his life and lifestyle.
I went to work with him at the community law office. It’s here that he shares an open office with a dozen other students, who defend clients from bad landlords, tenants, parents, children, shoplifters, or any other type of living thing.
Law students are a different breed. They’re people who have initiative, who can be extroverted at the right time. After work, they meet at a pub, sit on the patio, and talk about their cases, about the crown attorneys who have vendettas against them, about moronic clients who speak out of turn and plead guilty to a charge before a bargain can be reached.
I was a fish out of water.
Given a short tour of the University of Windsor, I took a few quick snaps.
The first night we arrived in Windsor, John noticed the window was open, with a note from his girlfriend about caring for the hibiscus just outside. He stuck his head out the window to see. “How fitting”, he said. “The plant has fallen over, and died”.
Minutes before leaving for the next part of our trip, they broke up.
Before leaving for the next part of our journey, John and I revisited our old stomping grounds: the high-school where we grew to be friends. We didn’t get to know each other until we had to share storage lockers in computer class, even though we had already met four years before that another elementary school. Everyone else paired up for the lockers, but being the loners that we were at the time, we had no one else with whom to share, so we resigned ourselves to being alone together.
Turns out things worked out for the best.
While we were there, we found a photo montage of a trip the band took to Hungary back when I was around 15 or 16, probably in ’95–’96, and not ’98 as I say in the video. They needed more flutes to fill out the wind ensemble, and there so I was invited to come along for the three week trip. The framed montage still hangs in the music room, next to the double basses.
We also visited his mother’s grave. It was fresh with flowers, laid there for the anniversary that week. We stood in the mild rain, and John told me the story of her death for the first time: how he cried, how it affected his father, and how long it took them to get over it. I had never brought it up until then; it took nearly ten years until I was comfortable enough to say anything.
John, coming from a weekend wedding, took a flight from Thunder Bay to pick me up. We spent the first three days at the house of John’s parents. Circumstances like these always put me on edge; with adults around, we tend to behave, and I’m generally obnoxious when I’m with John.
The step-mother rules the house with an iron fist. No noise after ten. No noise before seven. No using the guest towels or soap.
One morning, I was having toast with some marmalade when I realized that the orange, unlabeled spread in the back of the fridge had a rather sharp taste, signifying that it was either offal or expired. John stopped me as I opened the kitchen garbage bin.
“You can’t throw that out”
“It’s food. Food smells.” John pointed to the dish drying rack. It was filled with milk bags which were used, emptied, washed, and dried before being thrown out.
“What am I supposed to do with it?”
“We’ll throw it in the back yard for the birds”
“What if the birds won’t eat it? A piece of toast covered with marmalade would be harder to explain than food in the garbage.”
Eventually, we put the toast in a Zip-Loc bag and disposed of it in a public trash bin four blocks away from the house.
The beautiful garden in the back presented some great photo opportunities.
Toronto was our chance to relax. We just hung around and rented movies. When I’m with John I get to see the classics that I’ve missed — every time it’s mentioned that I haven’t seen a certain title in the store, it’s always met with his button-pushing, “You haven’t seen that?!”. He already has of course, but his memory is so bad that it’s like he never watched them in the first place. This time it was The Shawshank Redemption (very satisfying), Diner (a great coming-of-age film for guys), Four Weddings and a Funeral (ruined by Andie MacDowell’s delivery of “Is it raining — I hadn’t noticed”), and Sideways (fucking amazing). We also saw Out On Bail, which garned many an excruciating reaction.
Edit: Carlo has taken down his site. I’ve put up a cached version. Thanks to everyone for the support — goes to show that a voice can count for something on the internet.
Carlo, who lives somewhere in Metro Manila and sometimes, not most of the time, in Pangasinan, Philippines, has stolen from me. There are others who steal my work, but this is usually the pictures I take, which they use as backgrounds for their own sites (most commonly the starry sky at Bancroft). I try not to take offence to this; the file sizes are commonly small, so it doesn’t make much of a dent in my monthly bandwidth. There are also people like Sophia, who has made her presence known to me, and uses my words every so often in her own writing as a flattering gesture.
Carlo is different.
He’s taken one of my entries and passed it off as his own.
Word for word.
It saddens me to think not of how easily someone can steal things on the internet, but how willing they are to do it. I can only wonder how many other people have stolen from me. Lorelle, who offers some great points on what to do if someone steals your content, suggests open communication, in combination with as a letter of cease and decist. And while I’m in complete agreement with this, I felt that for the first time I should write about it instead, to make it public, so that others may be aware of their own works. There are people who will quote without referencing. There are people who will take without returning.
Because what’s the point of blogging, when one’s words aren’t one’s own?
Fall approaches. The trees have yet to shift their colours along the spectrum, but the temperature has begun to drop. Even when the air is calm it’s a playful shiver down the spine.
One of my favourite things to do around this time of year, before I quit, would be some wake and bake to start the day. After smoking a joint, I’d open the windows, turn up the music, and let the breeze drift inside. Sometimes I would go for a walk with my iPod before the sun fully showed itself. When the beat was right, the hardest thing to do was not to move my body to the music, to groove embarrasingly, and grind and sing and twirl.
With enough weed in the lungs, anyone will dance.
I won’t say that I don’t miss that lifestyle, because it was a way I could view things from a different perspective. My thoughts would run freely on those early autumn walks. Music would sound better. Girls, covering up in sweaters and long sleeves, would look nicer. It was a prescription I would need every week.
The experience isn’t the same until it’s this time of the year. Smothering summer heat dulls the senses. Winter overstimulates them into sobriety, and even after a full bowl, all one can feel is cold. It’s only in the fall, in the perfect weather, that brings one to ones’ senses. The green air, full of that cold concrete smell, gives a rush to the head.
Until I walked outside this morning, with !!! pounding in my ears, I never thought I could feel this way again.
All true tea lovers not only like their tea strong, but like it a little stronger with each year that passes.
On Saturday mornings I wake up a little past seven, no matter how late I was up on Friday. Get dressed, check the mail, read the news, go upstairs to cook breakfast in a pan of grease. Everything is timed perfectly. The toast is started two minutes before the eggs are broken into the pan, but only after the bacon is done. The tea starts steeping two minutes before that. Everything is ready and warm within 25 minutes.
Dolly gets a treat on the weekend mornings: a bit of Fancy Feast, or half-and-half mixed with water. Cats are lactose intolerant, so they can’t drink straight milk, but they’re drawn the fat that their noses can smell.
Bacon, bread, egg, bacon, bread, egg. I eat my breakfast in order, going clockwise around the plate, but I always save a few sips of tea for the end. Even though I’ve given up the Hong Kong style milk tea, Orange Pekeoe is an appropriate black leaf substitute, rounding out the meal.
It’s a little ritual that keeps me sane. At the end of breakfast, satisfied and full, I can reflect and recharge, down to the dregs.
Every year, as I grow older, I find that I let my tea steep a little longer. Maybe life has gotten a little too complicated, and I need the tea as a distraction, or perhaps life has become too simple, and I need the companionship of a rich mug to stimulate me.
Strange how a teapot can represent at the same time the comforts of solitude and the pleasures of company.
The first time we kissed. The first time we held each other. The first time we slept with arms entwined, bodies bare and buried under the covers.
It was before the snow melted on the verge of spring, when I would open the windows to dry the sweat from our skin.
I put on a song that made me cry, because she said that it turned her on, and with the tears welling up in my lids, we stared into each others’ eyes.
From the moment we touched, there was never any awkwardness. Only a complete trust, a comforting familiarity, as if we’d known each other for years, a gentle nuzzle of the nose from my baby-faced doll.
For years, I listened to music based on my mood. Playlists were well suited for this. I had one full of sad songs for my sad days, days that would last months at a time. I had one with only quick-paced, aggressive guitar riffs and lung-spitting screams, for the pockets of rage I’d encounter every now and then. One that was mostly electronic inspiration — songs that would move me when I needed to move. One for the particularly difficult days, consisting of stoic melodies that could fill me with grit determination. There was even one for the bittersweet moments, perfect for a post-show buzz. Every song served a particular purpose.
This motley grouping of single tracks may have been the result of the way I discovered new music. Tenaciously, with ears always open, I would record as much as I could that caught my fancy, jotting down any discernible lyrics I could use as a basis for a search, and never stopping until I could find the song. Hysteria, by Muse, is just one example, which I happened to discover while watching an awards show. For a long time, it remained a song I’ve enjoyed on my for it’s subtle build-up, and energetic, nearly chaotic, synth-inspired bass lines.
Things changed when I lived with Trolley. He exposed me to bands of different genres, and being a musical collector, this exposure took the form of complete albums. One of them happened to be Absolution.
Now that I have the entire album, Hysteria is known to me as track 7, coming after the pensive Interlude, but before the gentle, ethereal, Blackout. In this context, preceded and succeeded by two equally significant tracks, the song doesn’t sound the same.
Eventually, none of my playlists were appropriate for what I was feeling. At first, I thought that this was the result of increasingly subtle or complex emotions, but I’ve come to realize that it’s simply because I’ve matured, and as a result, my emotions have evened out. With the wisdom and serenity associated with growing older, came the loss of emotional highs and lows that would inspire me.
Now it’s become difficult to listen to a song in a playlist. Every album has an order. Every track has its place. Listening to a song out of its musical context may be hard, but listening to music without the rush of inspiration is harder.
A few portraits taken over the summer. Most are taken with the 24–70mm f2.8, which has come to be my main portrait lens, instead of a prime like the 50mm. I find that I can take advantage of the wide end of the lens to come up with some interesting distortion, such as the first one that really brings out Bronwen’s eyes. Unfortunately, it’s so heavy that it’s difficult to hand-hold steadily, so most pictures are taken with bright ambient light or a flash.