equivocality — Jeff Ngan's collection of thoughts, experiences, and projects, inspired by pretty much everything
20 Jun 14

make the road by walking

I can tell I’m get­ting over­whelmed cause of the mis­takes I’m mak­ing. Fruit is going bad on the counter before I have a chance to eat/cook it, a dose of med­ica­tion is for­got­ten here and there, missed pay­ments lead to inter­est fees; I’m los­ing con­trol of lit­tle details that are nor­mally sim­ple mat­ters for me.

sushi

 

Maybe it’s cause I’m con­stantly try­ing to catch up. On projects I keep putting off cause of my respon­si­bil­i­ties. On life after los­ing the last two years to a depres­sion that left me cry­ing more often than not. On top of all that, I’m try­ing to jug­gle a job, a rela­tion­ship, and the energy it takes for me to heal, while enjoy­ing every moment as it comes. Even though I’m in a safe and sta­ble place now, I still strug­gle to cope with how quickly things are chang­ing. I miss being able to record my thoughts and expe­ri­ences here, but I can’t afford the time it takes to get into that zone.1

The hard­est part is explain­ing to peo­ple why I’ve been out of touch for so long. It means going into a painful (and recent) his­tory, and it’s not easy to get into that emo­tional space, let alone think about things that are dif­fi­cult to relive, let alone open up to some­one, let alone worry about how they’re going to react.

  1. I’m try­ing to accept that it’s okay to wait before writ­ing about cer­tain ideas. It took me seven years before I could fig­ure out how to write about my mom, and that meant a lot of grow­ing before I could under­stand the whole sit­u­a­tion and finally put the sub­ject to rest. There’s so much more I still have to say, about things both good and bad. It’s just hard to get used to the idea that this will become a jour­nal of the past instead of a diary of the present. []
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30 Sep 13

slow plays and hybrid strains

Darren stopped by for a stay on the way to Montreal for his first multi-day hol­dem tour­na­ment. The first and last nights ended up being the only ones we had to our­selves. Otherwise, it was a mix of friends and strangers, sati­vas and inci­das, com­ing and going through the house each day. I’m glad he was along for the ride, even though I’m always up far too late when we’re together, and it’s get­ting harder on my body as I get older.

Theros draft

Theros draft at my place on release day. I walked away with 1st, but it was off a missed rules call (by me) in my match against Shawn, one that would have made a sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence on the tiebreaker. I’ll always remem­ber the night I won Xenagos and a Thoughtseize (which cov­ers both my entry fee along with Darren’s), but the vic­tory will for­ever be tainted.

It’s feels like I’m a dif­fer­ent per­son, liv­ing a dif­fer­ent life, every time we hang out. The dis­tance between us means the change we expe­ri­ence is always sig­nif­i­cant enough to notice. This time my rela­tion­ships have changed the most cause I’ve started com­part­men­tal­iz­ing peo­ple, appre­ci­at­ing them for their strengths instead of expect­ing every­one to live up to some lofty set of expec­ta­tions. My needs have always been the same, but I’m get­ting bet­ter at mak­ing sure they’re met after finally fig­ur­ing out what they are. I’m also bet­ter at read­ing peo­ple, detect­ing under­tone, and under­stand­ing social inter­ac­tions, thanks to Shawn’s exper­tise rub­bing off on me.

In terms of self-improvement, I’m try­ing to be more under­stand­ing of the world at large, while reduc­ing my hate and increas­ing my patience. I’ve also started to ana­lyze and resolve the trig­gers that keep me from being the per­son I was meant to be. The strug­gles I used to have only a few years ago seem so ado­les­cent in com­par­i­son to the things I’m work­ing on now. My pri­or­i­ties have matured, or I’ve grown in ways that have made old issues obsolete.

I’d never have real­ized any of this if Darren hadn’t showed up to pull me so far out of my reg­u­lar life that I lost track of what day it was and the women I’d loved and the feel­ing of cold. I learn as much about myself as I do about him when we’re catch­ing up.

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30 Aug 13

not ready to stop

I take care of this moment by tak­ing care of myself. That means nour­ish­ing my sense of well-being by spend­ing time with peo­ple who:

Normally, the goal is to use the pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences from these rela­tion­ships to buffer my emo­tional resilience when things get rough, but right now I’m just try­ing to get to the point most peo­ple con­sider nor­mal.

It helps when peo­ple make me things like this. I had a Google search box as my browser start page for as long as I can remem­ber, until pre­sented with this board full of hap­pi­ness, where every update is rel­e­vant to my inter­ests. Tiana and Genevieve secretly col­lected cats for months before giv­ing it to me just because, and some­how there were 91 fol­low­ers before I even made a Pinterest account to fol­low this name­sake board. These are peo­ple who truly under­stand me, and make me feel con­nected even when I’m not with them. This is what I need more of in my life.

sitting in a cafe

We’ll get there some­day, cuz.

I’ve also been reach­ing into my past and search­ing for clo­sure, whether that means giv­ing or receiv­ing for­give­ness. It’s hum­bling to own up to my role in someone’s pain with­out mak­ing excuses or lay­ing blame to pro­tect my pride, but being able to do so has given me more amour de soi. Mistakes will be made on my jour­ney, but it doesn’t mean I’m a bad per­son, and it won’t stop me from becom­ing better.

Seeking res­o­lu­tion doesn’t always end well though. I’m try­ing to under­stand each response as a mes­sage about the true nature of someone’s role in my life, with­out being caught up in anger. It’s so much eas­ier to for­give or accept some­one when I start to under­stand their real­ity, even if they’ve hurt me rather unde­serv­ingly. I finally feel like I’m get­ting a han­dle on my inter­ac­tions with peo­ple, instead of con­stantly being at the whim of their behaviour.

dog by the door

 

It’s been a period of such tremen­dous growth in myself and devel­op­ment in my rela­tion­ships that it feels like I’ve been given a reprieve. I’ve been work­ing on all the lit­tle things I said I’d take care of when I was bet­ter, one day at a time. Just know­ing that I’m improv­ing in some small way is often enough to keep me going by itself.

I still occa­sion­ally get caught up on the idea that I need to be per­fect before start­ing down a new path, but Lisa always reminds me that the per­son I am already isn’t so bad. Growing is a grad­ual and life­long process. I can do the best with the per­son I am, and that’ll always be good enough.

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01 Oct 12

I'm happy to report that my blood does clot

The best time of the year to make the drive to Darren’s house is in the Autumn. It’s about five hours door-to-door — bar­ring any traf­fic or con­struc­tion — so there’s a good chance I’ll catch a sun­rise or sun­set no mat­ter when I leave. It’s par­tic­u­larly beau­ti­ful when the leaves are chang­ing and the colours are at their rich­est along the stretches of the 401.

Sometimes I’ll turn on a stand-up com­edy sta­tion instead of music, and it helps take my mind off the drea­ri­ness of the less scenic parts1. It’s like hav­ing another per­son to talk to, except the con­ver­sa­tion goes one way, and they tend to be funny when not overly polit­i­cal2 or Andrew Dice Clay.

Chinese dishes

Zhaliang and clas­sic Cantonese noo­dles. #thingsIcouldeateveryday

I still think of mov­ing back to Toronto, where there’s every­thing that isn’t avail­able to me in Ottawa. But I hate all the things that come with such an unwieldy and poorly amal­ga­mated city. At my age, I value com­fort over excite­ment, and Toronto has become a city that’s bet­ter to visit than to stay.

After meet­ing Mike in London, I knew that’s where I was meant to live, with Bloc Party and Monty Python and The Underground and rainy weather and Portishead and a bil­lion accents and Only Fools and Horses and that stoic British men­tal­ity and Paris just a train ride away. But that wasn’t my fate, and the dirty streets of Toronto are the clos­est I’ll ever get to that.

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  1. Usually the small towns with no charm or per­son­al­ity. []
  2. Cause I never get it. []
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01 Jul 11

Protected: round my hometown memories are fresh

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23 May 11

short exile on a long weekend

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When you no longer work in an office, some­times you don’t find out it’s a long week­end until the Friday of. My friends have also replaced their rit­ual bar­be­cues with babies and play dates, so no invi­ta­tions were sent out that may have noti­fied me of the holiday.

Toronto Lake Shore

A quiet moment among vol­ley­ball tour­na­ments and beach goers in a calm area of the Lake Shore.

I wanted to get away cause I’ve been dread­ing any time alone. Loneliness hits me hard­est when I’m sit­ting at home won­der­ing what every­one else is doing. A road trip to Toronto was the best way I could avoid that. Unfortunately, the only peo­ple I can drop in on with such short notice hap­pen to be five hun­dred kilo­me­tres away.

The truth is I never watch sun­sets any­more. I’m usu­ally too caught up in my projects cause I’m wor­ried about being left with noth­ing but the thoughts I’ve try­ing to put in the back of my head. That’s why I don’t mind the five-hour drive at this time of year; it gives me an excuse to see what I never make time to do. When I leave at a quar­ter to seven, I hit the rich­est1 part of the sun­set halfway through the 401. For a glo­ri­ous stretch, there’s noth­ing con­crete curves and crim­son colours bleed­ing through the trees.

CN Tower sushi

The “CN Tower” sushi plat­ter, with tem­pura obser­va­tion deck.

All I wanted was a quite time with the right com­pany, no heavy plans or per­son­al­i­ties. I’d be kick­ing myself for all the shots I missed cause I was too com­fort­able to pull out my cam­era, but I know that’s what those moments are about.

To lose your­self in the haze and sum­mer heat finally upon us is to live like a child again with­out a worry or thought of any­thing beyond the next five min­utes. Regression is embrac­ing the itchy sweat break­ing out on your face, as your fin­ger­tips mash the ice into slush in a white cream soda freezie.

grocery store

Feeling lit, feel­ing light,
2 a.m., sum­mer night.

I’m always fight­ing exhaus­tion on these trips cause I don’t get enough sleep. There’s too much to do. It’s a test of con­sti­tu­tion to be dri­ving in the dark­ness and city lights, won­der­ing if I’m too tired to be dri­ving, let alone nav­i­gat­ing the infu­ri­at­ing con­struc­tion and traf­fic of down­town Toronto. When I sur­vive another day, it’s a reminder that not every­thing has to be per­fect, that the world still turns no mat­ter the state of my heart or mind.

Over a par­tic­u­larly heavy blend, I was asked what it would take for me to go all out, to say fuck it and lose con­trol. It made me real­ize I’m already there, sid­ing with indul­gence over mod­er­a­tion, try­ing to break myself down so I can rebuild myself again. That’s why I always lose myself on those warm sum­mer nights, when I tell myself I’ll be in bed by 10 every night, but the com­pany keeps me up till 3.

cat and human

Dexter is now too fat and lazy to fight off my cud­dly advances.

I have such a mixed past with Toronto. It was such a chaotic time in my life when I lived there. I was crip­plingly unde­vel­oped, but that also meant I still had the inno­cence none of us ever return to once we hit adult­hood. Much like those mem­o­ries, this city will always be a part of me.

Now I’m back in Ottawa, returned to the lit­tle things that make it home like a famil­iar pil­low and a cat’s par­tic­u­lar purr. In my case, the exile is always self-imposed, a con­trolled escape, and I always won­der if any­one would care or miss me if I never came back.

  1. The time when it just starts to get dark, a bal­ance between the rich colours and bril­liance of light, since they both com­pose. []
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13 Sep 10

Protected: thanks and appreciation

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23 Aug 10

My cousin Chris

I’ve only shared about two con­ver­sa­tions in my life with Chris — the last of which was about seven years ago — owing to the fact that we live on oppo­site coasts of the coun­try. But Darren and I rec­og­nized him as one of us: some­one who thinks for him­self and doesn’t buy into the whole Chinese cul­ture unques­tion­ingly. This is in con­trast to many of our other cousins, who seem to love their par­ents sim­ply because they were birthed by them, not nec­es­sar­ily because their par­ents are good people.

Chris hap­pened to be pass­ing by for a wed­ding, so I hosted him for two days. It was inter­est­ing to meet him at this point in our lives. I won­der if I’m actu­ally more sim­i­lar to Chris than I am to Darren, mainly because of how our cre­ativ­ity defines us. It was so easy for me to relate and talk to him. And as with Darren, I actu­ally felt like Chris was fam­ily, closer to a brother than a cousin, which is all too rare among my blood.

As an indus­trial designer he does amaz­ing draw­ings, full of vibrant colours that pop-off the page. I asked him to draw some­thing on my dry erase board because draw­ing is a cre­ative abil­ity not in my pos­ses­sion, and I find the process fas­ci­nat­ing. It was a logis­ti­cal chal­lenge because he would smear his exist­ing work every time he rested his hand on the board for stability.

He’s my exact oppo­site when it comes to health. He’s a vegan, while I’d find it impos­si­ble to give up meat, let alone but­ter and ice cream. He just lit­er­ally biked 100km a day across Canada, while my lifestyle could be con­sid­ered seden­tary at best, with only Tai Chi and some mild cal­is­then­ics in my exer­cise rou­tine. And yet we’re the same weight and shape. It’s sort of eerie to see him draw­ing in this video; aside from a shorter hair­cut, it’s almost like I’m watch­ing myself.

The time he spent here passed quickly, as I intro­duced him to the ukulele. Aside from catch­ing up and learn­ing about each other, most of the two days were spent exper­i­ment­ing and play­ing together. Eventually, we went to a music store and bought him his own Mahalo ukulele, which filled my heart with glee. Darren and Jeff are com­ing up for a visit next week, and hope­fully Chris will be able to hitch a ride with them for our ukulele band before we all head back to Toronto for Crystal’s wedding.

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24 May 10

life being what it is

Darren came up from Toronto for a visit over the long weekend.

These ses­sions always ful­fill my quota of rela­tion­ship talk. When one admits to not want­ing to be in a rela­tion­ship, this is fol­lowed nat­u­rally by the ques­tion, “Would you go for it if you found the per­fect one right now?” from the other. Then in return, “If she came back to you and said she wanted to try again, but you only had a 50–50 per­cent chance of suc­cess, would you go for it?”

In our lit­tle duet, our philo­soph­i­cal col­lab­o­ra­tion, love is always a theme. No one else chal­lenges our psy­ches in this regard.

Trivial Pursuit night

 

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24 Jan 10

Oh my fuck

Remember how I was all like I can’t stop lis­ten­ing to Love and Greed, and it’s not even the best song on the album? But I never men­tioned the best song on the album, which is Violet’s Constellations, here:

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So Darren sent me this e-mail today:

from: Darren
to: Jeff
sub­ject: i don’t really know

he says whereeeeee where are you­u­u­u­u­u­u­uuu he says where are you goooooo-annnnnn!!!!!!!!!!

sheet

I’m gonna go see Magneta Lane with Jeff on Feb. 12 ion toronto
COME COME COME!!

CF a lit­tle later? I’m wait­ing for some guy to release some shares online

And the sub­ject + first line are the lyrics in the best part of Violet’s Constellations in the last verse, when Lexi is singing as the key­board kicks in again.

This is how in tune I am with Darren.

And then news of them IN CONCERT, when I had to miss the Blonde Redhead con­cert in Toronto last time to take part in Pat and Jen’s wed­ding rehearsal. I’ll def­i­nitely be tak­ing the day off to join them this time around. Maybe visit my dad too, since that’s his birthday.

(Isn’t it insane that out of 2384 posts I have right now, I can remem­ber the entries for these spe­cific events?)

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20 Dec 09

Magneta Lane and my Cousin Darren

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There’s been a smat­ter­ing of good music lately, but this is the song that haunts me; Love and Greed by Magneta Lane. I added it to my col­lec­tion on the 12th of October, and it’s already in my Top 20 Most Played. By no means is it the best song on the album; it’s just the one that hit me the hard­est.

To hear it as a track by itself is a lit­tle out of con­text. It comes as 7 of 10 off Gambling With God, their lat­est album, and the songs lead­ing up to it charge at a much faster pace. The dra­matic change of tone between the verses and the cho­rus are effec­tive in sub­tly draw­ing you in, against lyrics that should be screamed more than any­thing else.

My favourite part is when Lexi says, “I don’t want recy­cled love / if I did I’d pour wine in a cup / and get all liquored up / and fuck­ing crawl in front of you” when the gui­tar and bass stop, and it’s just Nadia doing the bum-ba-da-bum-ba-da-bum-ba-da-bum under­neath on her toms.

With the way she says fuck­ing with such sac­cha­rine soft­ness, one can’t help but won­der what intense sor­row could have caused this sullen, hon­eyed voice to spit such profanity.

It’s stuff like this that makes rather plain look­ing Lexi Valentine so god­dam attrac­tive, very much in a Karen O kind of way. I guess you could say I have a fas­ci­na­tion with Lexi swear­ing, because she does it so infrequently.

So...

I gave this song to Darren, and he sent me back this reply:

shit this song is on auto-repeat right now.… ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Darren’s the only per­son in the world who sees love the way I do. John knows me in every other way — logic, mind­set, emo­tion, per­son­al­ity, habits, taste — but he doesn’t under­stand my love, which is a big part of me. The only one who under­stands is Darren1 because we share the same quixotic ideas about it. It’s as if we devel­oped this roman­tic atti­tude as a back­lash to how our fathers (broth­ers, who also look the same) raised us with such aloof­ness. This ideal is how we bond.

One time he told me he can’t wait for the day when we’re at his house with our girl­friends, and we’re play­ing Cranium, and we’re just…happy.

This is how I know he’s the only per­son who hears this song the same way too.

  1. Not even my girl­friends have come close to under­stand­ing, aside from Bronwen. []
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29 Nov 08

Dexter the Cat

Named after Dexter the ser­ial killer. You can’t keep this cat down. If you leave any­thing lying around that’s not more than 25 pounds, he’ll play with it. This usu­ally involves bat­ting, scratch­ing, knock­ing it off a table, or chew­ing it.

I sus­pect this is why Darren keeps his house so clean.

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25 Jun 08

Home Free

Thumbnail: Darren outside
Thumbnail: Tazo Berryblossom white tea
Thumbnail: Sausages, egg, and toast
Thumbnail: Dexter
Thumbnail: Bubble tea parlour
Thumbnail: Bubble tea
Thumbnail: Cigars
Thumbnail: Korean soup
Thumbnail: Dexter the cat in window
Thumbnail: Mall people
Thumbnail: Tempura roll
Thumbnail: Teriyaki beef
Thumbnail: Sliced orange
 

I left when the sun was set­ting. Along the way, the road stretched out infi­nitely before me, as if to say that I can always get away, and there is always more to go. The tree line danced and waved across the hori­zon, even­tu­ally dis­ap­pear­ing with the sun. Then the lines of red and white in each direc­tion guided me all the way to Darren’s house.

In it are lit­tle things from the house I grew up in — some can­dles here, some cab­i­nets there — that my par­ents didn’t want after the divorce. So strange to see innocu­ous objects from my child­hood in a dif­fer­ent setting.

It was the first time we’ve been com­pletely sober together since we were kids. No alco­hol, no weed.

I found out a cou­ple things I wouldn’t have known otherwise:

A week­end of sweet indul­gence, late nights, and inti­mate con­ver­sa­tion. No one under­stands my rela­tion­ships the way Darren does, because we both share these quixotic ideas about love. It was so com­fort­ing to be able to express myself on these things with­out hav­ing to explain my under­ly­ing feel­ings, as if some­one could truly under­stand me, espe­cially impor­tant in this cur­rent phase of my life.

It made me real­ize that home isn’t where the par­ents are, some­thing I used to believe1. It’s an idea.

A com­fort­ing place you can go to get away, where you’re com­pletely accepted for who you are.

  1. I’m not sure exactly when I stopped believ­ing this, but it was prob­a­bly some­where between the time my par­ents got divorced and I stopped talk­ing to my mom. []
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20 Jun 08

Road Trip

Two in one day…you know it’s serious.

I’m dri­ving out to see Darren for the week­end. He’s five hours away, and it’ll be my first trip out of the city in the car. My car.

There’s a cer­tain sat­is­fac­tion to fill­ing my trunk with odds and ends — tri­pod, san­dals, snacks — that I couldn’t have car­ried on a Greyhound bus. Got my GPS and a full tank of gas.

I had Summer Sun by Ellen ten Damme play­ing here.

I can’t wait to drive with the win­dows down while the sun is set­ting along the hori­zon, Summer Sun play­ing on the stereo. To be going some­where by myself.

Free.

Killed my top rated playlist at work. Even have all the songs burned to sev­eral CDs for the trip. My head is filled with lyrics. I may also begin my audio­book of Carson McCullers’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.

I’m going through some hyper­ac­tive eupho­ria again, this con­tra­dic­tory feel­ing of the scary and excit­ing unknown. The best part about hang­ing out with Darren is that each of us under­stands exactly how the other feels, even though we may not under­stand it in our­selves. Something which is espe­cially impor­tant right now, even though I’m pretty sure I’ll be okay.

I just need to get away for a while.

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30 May 07

A Weekend with Darren

I had Darren over from Toronto for the week­end. We were going to do a movie marathon at the the­atre — three in a day — but the movies all sucked. Disturbia? Georgia Rule? Please. Instead, I bought the first sea­son of Six Feet Under, and we fin­ished the roughly 11 hour sea­son over two days. Now I can re-watch it with Bronwen and lend it to Pat. To be hon­est, I’d seen up to the sec­ond sea­son before, but I was too stoned to remem­ber most of it.

Thumbnail: Air-tight tea container

Thumbnail: Chai tea

Darren also gave me a nice tea con­tainer. It’s rather large, since I buy my tea 50mg at a time, but bet­ter too big than too small. He also got me some chai tea, con­sid­ered a well­ness blend. When I asked him what for, he couldn’t give me a rea­son. I love gifts for no reason.


We shared our tat­too ideas, and his was the Chinese char­ac­ter for love on his back. Darren and Bronwen are the some of the few peo­ple I can talk openly with about love. We’re such hope­less roman­tics. We tell each other that we’ll never be mar­ried, not to be self-depracating, but to be hon­est with our­selves. We have our ideals, and we’ll never set­tle for any­thing less. It’s com­fort­ing to know that we’re not alone in our quixotic beliefs.

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