When Karen’s at yoga, Aaron and I take turns cooking dinner and playing with Ryan and Ruby (read: keeping them occupied and out of trouble). Then we gingerly convince them to eat what they can (good days involve utensils), make sure they’re bathed, and put into bed with a story if they’ve been good. Everything is manageable as one but easier with two, especially when the simple act of getting rice into a child’s mouth can turn into an ordeal.
This is when I get to experience the joys of having children in manageable doses. That means not having to deal with diaper changes, and reading the same 30-word book only four times instead of 400.
The new laptops were presents from Nana and Papa at Christmas. Now they can send/receive e-mails, and blog about the awesome poop they just took.
Ryan used to be particularly excited to see his Uncle Jeff, leaving Aaron and Karen to wonder what got into him when I was around. Now that he’s a bit older, his face doesn’t carry the same glow when I arrive anymore, and he’s happier to see the marbles I brought. But Ruby is beginning that phase of enamour, and constantly clambering into my lap to involve herself in what I’m doing. Recently she started asking me to carry her (which I’m told means membership in an exclusive club consisting of her parents and me), even though she’s just learned to manage stairs by herself.
They seem to grow by inches every week, and they’ll soon be old enough to take care of themselves. I’ve learned to appreciate the little chances I have to be truly part of a family like this, especially after deciding last year against ever having kids of my own. And I don’t feel the need for children anymore cause this will always be enough.
Heather made reservations for us (and Sergey) at the Back Lane Café last week. We hadn’t seen each other since the summer, before they were homeless 1 and I started recovering. Last time I saw her, she left me with a takeout Hintonburger and a meditation audiobook that she hoped would help me feel better. It was so sweet that she didn’t understand at all what I was going through, but tried so hard to help with very thoughtful gifts anyway.
This time, she wouldn’t let me pay, even though she treated me last time as well, and she said please with such heartfelt intent that I knew she’d be hurt if I didn’t give her the honour. We’d been playing phone tag for weeks up to that point, and between their careers and camping, they could only spare themselves for a meal sans tea or dessert. It made me realize how precious their time is nowadays, and the fact that they made the time to see me meant so much more than the two hours we spent catching up over a great food and conversation.
Poached shrimp salad, with Niagara nectarines, bibb lettuce (for it’s tender texture), endive, lime, and hazelnut dressing. An appetizer good enough for a main.
They got evicted due to an unsympathetic landlord, couldn’t find a suitable place to stay, and ended up putting as many of their possessions as possible in storage and selling the rest. Luckily, one of their friends needed a house-sitter, and it gave them enough time to find a place. [↩]
Filmed a great wedding yesterday, one that left me tired and sore and much deserving of a break. It’s a hazy Sunday morning, and another day that it’ll feel like it’s above 40°C with the humidity. Working nearly 13 hours and turning into a little puddle of Asian man means I’m consciously avoiding the outdoors today. I’ll be content to sip my coffee and peer out the window at the gently sunlit trees.
Majel helps us taste-test cocktails for the reception.
Even though it’s getting ever closer to her wedding, and Lisa has an increasing number of things to get done, we’ve been able to see each other more lately. I’ve realized that it’s not good enough to have her meet my needs. I have to fill a certain role in her life too. That’s what brings meaning to the relationship, cause it means she appreciates me the way I want to be appreciated. So often, it feels like that’s all I’ve ever wanted.
I’m glad to have developed a ritual get-together with Aaron too. When we don’t see each other one week, it feels like a year the next time we catch up. Tonight I’m heading over to his house for the start of bachelor week, something we’ve been excitedly planning for a while now. It’s the first time he’s had the house to himself since the kids were born, so I’ll be staying there for a few days of games, movies, barbecue, and general guy stuff, coming back home to feed the kitties every now and then. We’re doing a six person Magic tourney tomorrow, my first in the Constructed format, and everyone’s making new decks for the chance to open some M13 boosters. I think my deck concept is BRILLIANT and I can’t wait to try it out.
Chet Atkins has also been keeping me company lately. I’m so glad to have found his instructional DVD, where he talks with his old man charm about what he likes in each song and how to play them, phrase by phrase. I grew my thumbnail out nice and long for nearly two months, cut it off for practicality’s sake during wedding season, then immediately regretted the decision. The electric strings I’ve been using have a really flat, dull tone in the lower register, and since the bass line is so important in Chet’s arrangements, it’s like an entire part is missing from any song I try to learn. I’m going to try learning with a thumb pick, which is something I’ve been avoiding for a while now cause I hate the loss of sensitivity (like a condom on your thumb), but hopefully the compromise is worth it.
I have things to organize, chores to do, errands to run, and a house to clean before I leave. For now, I’ll enjoy the rest of the morning, wasting time.
The summer started uneventfully, with a mix of rainy weather and cold nights. I long for afternoons in the bright sun, Lou Reed during his Velvet Underground years crooning to me over small speakers, with nothing better to do than wiping the condensation off a cold drink. It’s a life that doesn’t seem far away, and yet a life I never imagine making for myself. I always think it’ll just happen some day, that things will fall into place if I can take care of everything else.
It’s okay to be OCD about how your cards are organized as long as everyone else is.
Aaron has me over for dinner every week with Karen and the two kids. It’s a ritual he has yet to break, even though he told me he didn’t want it to be a calendar event when I asked him if we could do something on a regular basis1. Every Wednesday he leaves work early to let me in the house, and makes up the time by working longer hours on other days, a sacrifice that means more to me than he’ll ever understand, and something I never had to ask him to do. It’s nice to be able to look forward to regular plans, and something I share only with him that makes me feel like I belong.
About as often are Magic nights with Trolley and Steph, and these invariably include something delicious for dinner, when Steph takes the culinary arts to a whole new level. They take care of me with food and conversation and booster packs that they never let me pay for. I’m sure I owe a great deal of my sanity to them, when Magic was the only thing that took my mind off the fact that everything fell apart.
Nobody fucks Pretty Wolf.
In between are things less frequent, but no less important. Musical projects with Jesse or Seth that give me the kind of goals and purpose I’ve been looking for. Sessions with Lisa, when we get to share the things we don’t share with anyone else. Hangouts with Tiana to debrief on our ever-changing lives, and to give each other advice or a pair of ears. Dinners with Heather when I need my dose of optimism and adventurism. Not to mention the people who send me messages of check up on how I’m doing when they can’t be here for me physically.
It feels strange to be busy again. To be productive, and social, and to need days off when I’m not even employed.
Not that it’s been an attempt to stay occupied; more like making sure my needs are being met. That I have fulfilling relationships that provide me with what I need, involving people who make me feel hopeful and worthwhile and connected and nurtured and protected and satisfied and accepted and understood and validated and loved and confident and safe and in control.
Only because it’s something he wanted to keep casual, where neither person felt any pressure. [↩]
Today, I got to introduce some very good friends to each other. Everyone got along famously, although it couldn’t have gone any other way with these guys.
It was the first booster draft for three of us. I was massacred in every game, and didn’t have any less fun losing to such great sports.
Two Innistrad and two Dark Ascension. Oh what glittering golden symbols lie beneath these wrappers.
Unfortunately, nothing interested me when we were picking out rares1, so I got nothing for the deck I’m currently building, and no direction for a second deck. But as Aaron said, even if you lose, it’s cheaper than a night of poker. Sometimes you lose it on the river, sometimes you draw 13 consecutive lands, and sometimes you OHGODWHYAREMYCREATURESDEADARGHGHHGHGHLETSPLAYAGAIN.
And there wasn’t a single green rare — exactly what I was looking for — out of 17 rares. I have no idea what the chances are on that, but I know they’re not big. [↩]
We cover a lot of ground on the drive, stuff I wouldn’t admit to just anyone. It’s good to have a set amount of time for some one on one. We see each other at parties, but it’s never time by ourselves.
We get there a few hours early because it isn’t so much about the game as hanging out with the two friends I don’t see enough. There’s a cooler full of snow and beer, and the food is coming in protein; pigs-in-blankets, ground beef nachos, chicken fingers, crab dip, meat balls.
For a night, I’m with guys who punch arms, exchange verbal jabs, and laugh at blue collar jokes. Two little girls run around, and no one ever lets that change them. Now they’re fathers, but they’ll always be real men.
A video I shot as a Christmas present for Aaron and Karen. This was the first day I tried my “poor man’s steadycam”, and aside from a few shaky shots from fiddling around while trying to capture everything, the panning works very well.
I was thinking about saving the video for when Ryan gets married, but figured I may be dead before that happens, so I decided to give it to them now. There are so many notes in the production of the video that I feel like I need a 10-minute directors commentary to cover all the details. Alas, I’ll leave the insight up to the viewer.
How can so many people love one little boy? It seems almost impossible.
I probably looked like this the whole weekend, cause it was non-stop awesomeness.
The Japanese Village
Last week, Aaron asked me if I wanted to go to The Japanese Village. I thought it was just to hang out, since we hadn’t had a guy’s night in a while, so I didn’t clue in that it was for my birthday until the day of. Aaron told me I could order anything I want, as it was his treat, but I ordered the only thing I ever get when I’m there; the filet mignon cooked medium rare, which I think is the best in the city. It was good to hang out with him and Trolley again.
And, of course, silliness is always present with these guys around.
John in town
John’s been working two straight months, without a weekend off. The last time was when he came to Ottawa to visit. Between all the activities, we only had enough time to watch one movie — American Graffiti — and between the two of us, we could sing every song that came from this film based in the 60s (me covering The Platters, him covering everything else).
I usually only get to see him once a year, so twice in two months was a special treat.
I’d love to do games nights on a regular basis, but people aren’t available on the same days, so I used my birthday as an excuse to get as many people as possible together for a giant Cranium party. I told them that instead of giving me a present, they should just come to the party. It worked, and we had enough for four teams of three. Some people also brought snacks, like honey mustard pretzels, carrot cupcakes, and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies.
It was the highlight of the weekend.
Dim sum with my dad
On Friday, my dad called me to wish me a happy birthday, and told me he was in town for 10 days. We made plans to have dim sum. John came too, which is always interesting to see his reactions to what food is as the token white guy. I had a phoenix talons for the first time1, because I was feeling adventurous, and I have to say that they weren’t bad, but I didn’t care for them either. They’re too hard to eat, and the sauce wasn’t to my taste. It was strange to see both John and my dad at the same place, and in Ottawa instead of Toronto.
I told my dad he could probably sit and observe one of my Tai Chi classes, so he could see what I do, but he wasn’t interested, and I’ll admit that the indifference hurt a bit. Afterward, I asked John what he thought as a 3rd party observer, and he told me I had a good relationship with my dad. I’ll take his word for it.
I needed this
I needed this weekend so much. To recharge. To stop thinking about things. To get completely wasted. It felt like it was my birthday the whole weekend, and I wondered what I did to deserve it all.
It wasn’t the taste, but the look that has always prevented me from trying them. [↩]
(This is how behind I am on posting my pictures.)
Canada Day is always a way for us to catch up with each other once a year (for those from out of town), to see how everyone is doing over some barbecue and baked goods. There are always new faces, familiar faces, and this time, it was a little different, with three babies that weren’t there last year. My friends are starting to have kids.
Sometimes it’s strange to see Aaron with a baby. He’s what we consider an adult now, a grown-up, a father. Yet he’s still the same Aaron (which is a good thing), with the same stylish clothes, the same interests, the same ebullient attitude, except he’s holding a piece of himself.
That was also the day and time that it hailed for about an hour — in late spring. And on taking a turn, the hail made Aaron lose his traction. Both him, and the person driving behind him, spun out of control. The person behind hit a guard rail. Aaron went into a ditch.
The impact on the rocks was on the passenger side. Where I was going to be sitting. And it was strong enough to shatter the back windshield.
Thankfully, Aaron is alright, with the x-rays showing that he only has tissue damage. I may not have been so lucky.
Introducing Ryan Kevin Gensey, Aaron’s new baby boy, delivered right on the projected date. I bought him the turtle you see in the corner of his basket there.
I had the chance to hold him before he was a day old in the hospital. At first, I approached this idea with some trepidation, seeing as how I carry the preconceived notion of how fragile baby’s necks are, but I couldn’t resist. He’s a lot lighter than Dolly, but somehow just as warm.
Aaron has always wanted a boy first and a girl second — so the older brother can take care of the younger sister — and it looks like everything is falling into the plan.
Even the times when I know I’m stupid or illogical. Especially those times, I just want someone to listen and agree.
I remember Aaron going through a rough patch a couple years ago. He told me he couldn’t let Rob know, because Rob would have jumped in his car and busted open some heads. Aaron confided in me because he needed an objective opinion to work through the situation, whereas Rob may have hurt more than help.
Even though I agreed, I felt like Rob’s ardent personality was a sign of true brotherhood. It doesn’t matter what the logic is, it doesn’t matter what the reasons are, your enemies are his enemies. It’s almost like he’s blinded by his love.
And as much as there are times when Aaron doesn’t tell Rob something, I’m sure there are times when doesn’t tell me things either because he needs an fervent friend. He needs someone who will take his side no matter what. I know I do.
Don’t get me wrong; I have plenty of friends I can go to for an honest opinion. In fact, I go to them more often than not. John’s always there to contradict me and keep me in check, Pat’s there to rationalize the situation, and Aaron’s there to help me find a solution. But every now and then, the unconditional support of an ardent friend gives me strength and courage more than anything else.
Everyone should have such security. To be able to call someone at any time of day who’ll be there in a heartbeat1. Everyone should have a friend like Rob in their lives.
The ardent friends are just as important as the objective ones.
Of course, you have to earn that kind of respect from Rob, because he doesn’t give it to just anyone. [↩]
At the rehearsal dinner I was lucky enough to meet Dennis, Aaron’s older cousin from Edinburgh, Scotland, and we immediately hit it off. Some people don’t so much talk with you as at you, whereas talking to others can be like dragging a stick through the mud, but for us it was the perfect balance. The art of conversation is dead, we agreed, and finding each other was like two Masonic brothers from different lodges meeting for the first time.
Pat later told me that, on arriving, he didn’t say hi to me for fear of interrupting us. Our faces were so intense, focused on each other, he said. Dennis and I exchanged contact info, and he offered me a place to stay if I ever went to Scotland. Normally, I’d brush off such an invitation as a glib pleasantry, if it weren’t for the fact that he repeated it five or six times over both nights. In return, I offered him a place to stay if he ever wanted to give Nana and Popa (whom he calls June and Vic) a break. It’s funny, I never knew their names until then.
I also had a good talk with Rob while Aaron and Chris were outside smoking cigars that night (which turned into the morning) before the wedding. We bonded over our love of Aaron, and I got to probe Rob, who’s deep enough for an entire entry I’ll be posting soon.
This is the Story of Aaron and Karen
Before I gave my speech, I showed this video as a way for everyone, but most importantly Aaron and Karen, to know how the groom’s side felt. Notice the keg-can of Heineken in Trolley’s shots.
I learned a lot about being an interviewer, about asking the right questions, about trying not to laugh at funny stories. You can hear in the way I ask Jay (yellow shirt), “In what way?”, that my cheeks are tightened in a big smile. I also realized that I shouldn’t finish other peoples thoughts, which is a bad habit of mine. The interviewer shouldn’t present any bias.
Everyone told me afterward that they were touched by how Aaron spoke from the heart. The interesting thing is that people were laughing at parts I didn’t expect them to laugh at. In my speech too. I don’t write to be funny; I can’t be a funny person why I try. It happens rather accidentally.
The speech did go well. I like how people started saying, “Woo hoo!” and “Cheers to that!” for the toast. If you listen closely after I give my thanks, there’s one person who claps well before anyone else, and I’ll forever be wondering who it was and why they were clapping with such vigor.
The ceremony was short and sweet, though it was a little cold. The Prince Charlie jacket doesn’t breathe, so the groomsmen were warm for most of it. I felt bad for the bridesmaids though, who wore backless, sleeveless dresses.
I caught up with Nick and Alison, whom I hope to see for a few photo projects down in that area at some point during the summer (I wish I was able to bring my camera to the wedding though). I got to know Steph a little better, and you could tell from the way she talks that she really cares about Trolley, which was important for me to find out. Hanging out with Jay was a blast too; he’s a really fun, easy-going guy, and I can totally see why he’s such good friends with Aaron. Pat did some robotics for us to the Scottish dance music, and I had the opportunity to introduce him to Dennis, hoping that both conversationalists would hit it off.
We danced, we mingled, we ate, we laughed. Weddings always offer great opportunities for such things. What other chance would I have to wear something as fun as the Scottish regalia (although Dennis explained to me that Ontario and Canada have their own tartans, and that I’d have the right to wear one if I wanted).