And she’s alllllllllllll mine.
After four months, I finally have the perfect picture for my frame. Ordered a 12x18 print that should be in next week.
When I read the order of play to Norm, he laughed. The first grouping was against Hit-And-Miss, and being such an active member in the community, Norm knew them well. Against this team of three middle-aged, white metrosexuals and their buddy Chinese captain, we fared what can only be described as holocaustic. They wore tight-fitting shirts, stylish tearaway pants, and had the strength, and speed to match.
Except for the Chinese guy. He had a bit of a pot belly, a bit of a scruff, and a very feared, well-balanced, pen-holders grip. And he spoke great English.
It was a pleasure to lose to such nice guys.
I asked them about the next team we were up against, and they told us that they trashed the two little guys at the last league meet. Little guys? Kids. But I can already tell that both have improved since last month, the capain told me.
No challenge for four fit men in their thirties plus one Chinese guy (40 give or take 10 years). A little more difficult for me and my teammates, Norm, a calmly passionate Chinese guy in his 50’s, and Andrzej, a Polish man who picked up table tennis this year after a 40 year break, both of whom are better than I am.
I never would have believed that an 11-year-old and his seven-year-old brother could be so intimidating, a very FRENCH Olivier and Laurent. As captain, I had the decision to make as to who was playing first.
In table tennis, as with chess, the strongest player on the team is usually signed to the first match so that the matches may end before the weaker players have to play. Captain 1 signs the play sheet for the order of play for his team, and hands the sheet folded in half to Captain 2 so he can’t see, and use such information to his advantage by pairing up opponent styles against their weaknesses. Out of five matches, there are two singles at the start, a doubles in the middle, and two more singles at the end between the first singles opponents reversed, for best out of five matches.
Before I signed the play sheet, Norm let me in on a little secret; when Olivier was 10 last year, Norm beat him in the league. Gambling that this would still hold true, and our opponents would follow form, I put Norm first, me second, and Andrew with Norm as doubles. That way Norm had the best chance at beating the older brother, I would have a chance at beating the younger brother, they would win doubles, and that would be it.
Unfortunately, they decided to play the younger brother, Laurent, first. He could only see about a foot over the table, and I could tell his movements were strained from the height disadvantage. He spoke no English, except for the phrase “Backhand?” during warm-ups, and “One mo!” when he was at 10 points. Sometimes he would mimic the table tennis pros with little grunts of satisfaction when he got a point. Eventually, he lost to Norm graciously (for a seven-year-old).
Then I was up against the Olivier, the older brother. Believing that a pair of descended testicles to be my only advantage, I played with a lump in my throat, and he returned like a machine, surprising me at every point. I could never keep him off balance, or run him around the table. He just kept landing the ball on my side.
I lost. Then we lost at doubles, a tremendous upset. My mind was out, and I was forced to play the younger brother next. I lost again, although I won one set after Norm told me to serve to the far side of his stance (they had a time-out and easily adjusted for the next set). By that time, we lost three out of five matches, and they were determined to be the winning team, but Olivier asked to play Norm for the final match anyway. When Oliver won, he walked over and shook Norm’s hand, a look of proud accomplishment on his face.
And this is what Norm loves the most. To see those younger players grow up and improve and become national team players.
I’ve been a jumble of emotions lately. A mix of excitement and worry, fun and stress, unsettling uncertainty and crossed-signals. On top of it all I keep getting all sorts of BULLSHIT from people, when it’s the last thing I need.
I generally don’t like this feeling. To grow, and this is especially true for me, one needs a foundation of stability. Once the basic things are constant, there can be changes and adjustments made to improve. Now I find myself struggling to keep the simplest things under control.
It’s certainly been an interesting year so far.
We move in circles
Balanced all the while
On a gleaming razor’s edge
A perfect sphere
Colliding with our fate
This story ends where it began
—Dream Theater, Octavarium
Back to this.
So much has passed, yet nothing seems to have changed. I’ve never gone this long without writing an entry. For a while there, I didn’t mind. Didn’t mind not forcing myself to sit and write at every free moment. Didn’t mind my life not being taken over by this.
Now it feels like I’m in the middle of a transition. So much is happening around me, with so much to do, while my emotions remain neutral as if I don’t know what to think. There’s hasn’t been enough stability yet, or perhaps I haven’t been able to sit down to write and think about what’s going on. I’m ready now.
It’s been 33 days.
I definitely missed this.
You can’t be a proper writer without a touch of madness, can you?
—Madeleine LeClerc, Quills
Has this become my only refuge?
No. Not even this.
Got a new pair of specs. I wanted either thicker rims, for a bolder look, or handles screwed into the glass without rims, for an even simpler look than what I have now. After trying on both styles, I decided on the thicker rims. Since these aren’t titanium, they’re several times heavier than my old pair, so I keep the old pair around for when I’m relaxing or doing sports. The funny thing is that this is one of the least expensive pairs of glasses I’ve ever purchased, yet they’re D&G made.
But if, like Queequeg and me in the bed, the tip of your nose or the crown of your head be slightly chilled, why then, indeed in the general consciousness you feel most delightfully and unmistakably warm.
I save the window-opening ritual for Friday nights, after a long, tiring week, when the sweaters are all folded, and the shirts all ironed. Before I go to bed, I turn off the lights, square off my desk, and turn the window crank 220 degrees clockwise. Even though the thermostat is at 23°C, it’s anywhere from –16°C to 5°C outside these nights.
When I wake up at 5:00 a.m., as I usually do, my room is filled with the chilly, snow-smelling air.
I do this only once a week to appreciate it.
I do it on Fridays to enjoy it.
Here I am, in a cabin in the middle of the woods, 160 km away for two short days and a night in Tremblent. Today, we drove the winding roads lined with pine trees and settled in. By tomorrow morning, the 10 beds and mattresses are going to be filled with 16 people, all-round exhausted, cramming in as much sleep as they can before the hills open.
In between, Aaron finds a Bubbles action figure that looks just like Karen. Phil is dealt a royal flush, which we’ll probably never see again in our lives, during the second game of poker. For this, we drink, and I’m asked to make a print of the photo for everyone present to sign.
I’m not here to ski, or snowboard, or party, I’m just here to observe. Nick gave me the use of his lenses, including a 200mm prime L, but it was the 15mm fish-eye Sigma that I grew to love. How strange it is to be recording my memories with someone else’s glass.
This weekend it feels like I’m running. I’m looking for something, but I don’t know what it is or where to find it.
Sometimes, after pulling yourself out of bed instead of calling in late because there’s too much to do, when the walk to work is through ankle-deep snow which is coming down in sheets, you give up on avoiding the puddles because your socks are already soaked through after five minutes, you can barely keep your eyes open from the precipitation and the exhaustion, the cold is giving you a splitting headache, and the only thing keeping you stoic is to concentrate on the music in your ears but your iPod runs out of batteries and this is the start of your week, you have no other choice but to laugh.
Aaron and Karen’s annual New Years party was a fun time in a relaxing sense, much lower-key than last year, with fewer people and casual clothes. I don’t believe there was anyone who felt out-of-place, which meant that one could easily move from group to group without any feelings of intrusion. So that I didn’t have to worry about catching a bus home early, they lent me the use of their SUV for me to drive home.
I’m especially pleased with this set of photos. I think I was able to show the mood appropriately, without over-exposing the flash too much. My two favourite are with Sarah in her scarf and with Aaron handing the lowball to Rob. The former because of the pure chance that worked out in capturing the moment along with the wonderful texture of her scarf, and the latter because of how strong the two sets of hands look, like a firm handshake without touching.
I’m finally in my own house again. Going to Toronto means I give up the comfort of my kitty, my computer, and my enveloping duvet for a few days of authentic Chinese food, real Chinese kung fu movies, silkworm sheets, and a few moments of family dysfunction every now and then.
Time at home left me drained. Turns out that I had an extra party to go to, and this year, I pulled myself up to go boxing day shopping. It was killer on five hours of sleep, but definitely worth it, my best score of clothes in years. Mom was running around every spare moment, preparing food for over 40 people for the New Years Party, while dad practiced his karaoke between runs for groceries. There were two nights that I sat by myself and enjoyed the new projector, and it was the most relaxing time I had during my stay.
As nice as it is to get away, I’m glad this only comes around once a year.
Stepping back to the 25th, I awoke to the sounds of ebullient whispers coming from downstairs as I lie in Julia’s bed, which she’d carefully made for me. I checked my watch, noticed that it was 6:40 a.m., and remembered that Shirley put her foot down about not opening any presents until seven. The kids were already up, of course, their internal alarm clocks set to spring in anticipation, even after we stayed up late the night before, playing wrestling games until the threat of Santa not coming put them to bed.
Instead, Santa went all out this year, from Nintendo DS, to mp3 players, to boxes on boxes of clothes, to DDR dance pads, to portable DVD players, to games for every system. He also left me a mini remote-control Mercedes SLK, and I’d normally say that he shouldn’t have so he could spend more on the kids, but he also left Braden and Bill a mini Hummer and mini Mustang GT respectively, so I had to accept the gift in order to race them.
Just being there was enough of a gift. As the kids ran around, unable to decide what to play with first, I started to consider staying so I could spend the day, but the responsibility of prior engagements and time with the parents kept me in check. We had a big greasy breakfast of bacon and eggs, but John was there to pick me up for the four hour drive home before the turkey dinner.
Next year, I decided.