Monthly Archives: April 2007

A Year Of Sobriety

It’s com­ing close to a year now that I end­ed my affair with mar­i­jua­na. As refresh­ing, pro­duc­tive, and lucid as it is to be sober, I’d be lying if I said that I did­n’t miss it.

THC has the delight­ful abil­i­ty to make every­thing bet­ter: music, food, girls, writ­ing, rid­ing the bus, doing the laun­dry. There are also things that can only be appre­ci­at­ed after a joint. You don’t see, hear, feel things the same way.

It turned into a lifestyle, a word I like to use because it sounds so much bet­ter than “addic­tion”.

Between 2004–2006, I’d only be sober for about nine hours on week­days.

Weekends were straight wake-and-bake, espe­cial­ly if there was a par­ty, a camp­ing trip, or some good old dim sum.

I was a com­plete light-weight too; it did­n’t take much to have me float­ing for a night. As a result, one ounce of BC hydro would last me more than a year. An added bonus was that I nev­er need­ed a deal­er; there was always some con­ve­nient source through a friend of a friend. O Canada, land of the free, the Inuit, and the plen­ti­ful bud. I’m sure that Pierre Burton would agree.

Sessions were a habit­u­al provider of great mem­o­ries (from what my brain was actu­al­ly able to retain). I still think of Darren at the wheel of the Civic, look­ing over at me and whis­per­ing “Vanilla Sky” as he’d taunt our mor­tal­i­ty by let­ting the wheel drift the car into the oncom­ing lane. It was at once ter­ri­fy­ing and invig­o­rat­ing, some­thing you could only feel after a ses­sion in the park. Even a few of my favourite entries were either inspired by weed or writ­ten under the influ­ence.

Food was also a big thing. Every meal was like nec­tar and ambrosia. I nev­er real­ly stopped eat­ing over the course of the day, as I’d have food around me at all times. Pretty soon, I hit a sat­is­fy­ing all-time high (no pun intend­ed) with my weight. Now that I’ve stopped, I lost it all. They won’t even let me donate blood any­more because I don’t meet the min­i­mum weight require­ments. This is what I looked like, cir­ca ear­ly 2005, and this is what I looked like cir­ca ear­ly week­end. How I miss the full­ness of my face.

Sobriety is dif­fer­ent. Everything is clear­er, but toned down. Life gets evened out.

As much as I miss it, I won’t go back to smok­ing weed again. I had a hard enough time stop­ping in the first place, and the risk of get­ting addict­ed again isn’t worth it.

Maybe I was just get­ting old­er, but near the end, the side-effects start­ed tak­ing their toll on me.

Instead of the rac­ing ideas and inspi­ra­tion from when I start­ed, I turned into a zoned-out waste. I’d be com­plete­ly use­less when it came to talk­ing or think­ing. I stopped lik­ing myself when I was stoned. My stom­ach felt like it was slow­ly digest­ing a sack of peb­bles, and my throat became sore and dry. Even now, I still come across the odd stash of hon­ey lozenges in the back of a draw­er.

It was espe­cial­ly scary in the last few months when I could feel my tol­er­ance build­ing up. I was con­stant­ly chas­ing after that head-trip­ping peak from the ear­ly days, smok­ing more and more, but it’d nev­er last longer than a half hour. The weed would help me sleep, and when I stopped I turned into an insom­ni­ac. For a while, the will to do any­thing elud­ed me because noth­ing was enter­tain­ing.

Now I’ve quit my vices alto­geth­er. No alco­hol, no caf­feine, noth­ing. Sobriety is under­rat­ed.

I know I’ll nev­er go back to that time in my life, but I sure do miss it.

Letters From A Prisoner

I’m not going to deny it any­more. It’s always been you. But I under­stand, you don’t need to explain, I get it. Work, our lives, we’re busy. You’re about to go off on a grand adven­ture. And I can see why you think that a rela­tion­ship with me and that adven­ture are mutu­al­ly exclu­sive but I just want to say my piece. Getting lost with each oth­er could be the great­est adven­ture we’ve yet to embark on and I just want to say that if you want to get lost with me I’ll always be here per­pet­u­al­ly lost with­out you.

I read his let­ters, some dat­ed, some titled with expres­sions of for­lorn hope. Familiar words that cut me to the bone.

They’re beau­ti­ful. I nev­er knew he was capa­ble of such poignan­cy, such emo­tion. It fills me with envy.

Sometimes I just want to be noticed. Not often, but some­times late at night when I’m think­ing about the “what-ifs” of the day. Being too obvi­ous would be dan­ger­ous though and so I slink away, back to my cave to think, rather than do. Such a cow­ard, I loathe myself. You’d say no, every ratio­nal sce­nario I’ve played out ends with that.

He’s trapped, per­pet­u­al­ly lost in the thought of anoth­er. This time, I’m on the out­side, look­ing in. It’s all new for him, and I can hear in his voice how much he detests it.

His angst is unbe­com­ing. He’s not a writer, but he writes these let­ters, hop­ing the cathar­sis will save him. I’ve been here enough times to know that it’ll be alright, but that there’s also noth­ing I can do to help, so I resign myself to help­less­ness.

And now I’ll be pre-occu­pied and jeal­ous for the rest of the week­end. Me, jeal­ous and not trust­ing myself to speak, me. Not me, any­more. This love is like lep­rosy, pieces of myself are falling away. It’s abla­tive.

Yet his tone is so unfa­mil­iar, so unlike him. Me, he writes, Not me, any­more. He does­n’t even believe it him­self. The san­guine friend, reduced to an enfee­bled state he wants des­per­ate­ly to cast aside. Even with the wis­dom I’ve gained, it still sur­pris­es me how attrac­tion, infat­u­a­tion, love can make one so irra­tional.

In these let­ters he shares his feel­ings, whol­ly, as if to say, “Here is my heart. Please hold it gen­tly”. The words would strip him bare if he spoke them to her, so he writes them where no one but me will read.

A pris­on­er, he lives in this cage, caught between the will and the risk of express­ing to her how he feels.

Weekends with Pat (and Jen)

Thumbnail: Marinating pork and lamb chops
Thumbnail: Pork and lamb chops, Vietnamese style
Thumbnail: Godiva hot chocolate
Thumbnail: A pasta dish
Thumbnail: Spice rack
Thumbnail: Steeping tea
Thumbnail: Woven trivet
Thumbnail: Woven trivet

A sense of hedo­nism has the bet­ter of me late­ly.

I remem­ber feel­ing this way once. It was about five years ago, soon after I lost my grand­moth­er and job in the same week. I’ve come to under­stand that such is a pass­ing phase, and that I should sim­ply enjoy such guilt-free things while it lasts.

As a result, I’ve been self­ish­ly monop­o­liz­ing Pat these last few week­ends.

An exor­bi­tant amount of plea­sure comes from the mot­ley assort­ment of foods he pre­pares.

A friend who cooks as a hob­by is up there with the oth­er friends with sim­i­lar sorts of prac­ti­cal, eso­teric knowl­edge: the lawyer friend, the car mechan­ic friend, the com­put­er geek friend (so I’m told).

Over the course of a few sum­mers he per­fect­ed his grilling tech­nique, and has now moved onto a mas­tery of cold sal­ads. We have an agree­ment when it comes to prac­tic­ing his cook­ing skills, where he gets a record of his con­sum­able accom­plish­ments, and in return I get a mem­o­rable meal and some great pho­tos. He often men­tions that he’ll have to join forces with Karen, an accom­plished bak­er, to pro­vide the desserts. Baking abil­i­ty is some­thing that’s admit­ted­ly elud­ed him, as he focus­es on entrées.

The oth­er, less tan­gi­ble yet tru­ly sub­lime form of plea­sure comes from our con­ver­sa­tions. Pat’s a per­son who lis­tens and con­tributes to a top­ic in equal mea­sure. Someone who does­n’t just wait for his turn to speak. As a result, I’m com­fort­able open­ing up to him, some­thing that I shy away from with most oth­er peo­ple.

Lately though, it’s clar­i­ty that I’ve been look­ing for. Too often, I over-ana­lyze my life, and it’s no secret that my emo­tions affect me more than I’d like.

When I need to sort out my life, Pat’s the per­son I turn to. I don’t seek guid­ance or coun­cil from him, only per­spec­tive.

In the end, noth­ing clar­i­fies and refresh­es like a cou­ple mugs of tea and some good con­ver­sa­tion.

I’ve been hog­ging Pat these last few week­ends, steal­ing him from the rest of his friends and fam­i­ly, but I don’t care.

Hedonism is the new rule, and I’m giv­ing in with caprice.

Lessons From a Childhood of Abuse

I often explain to peo­ple that Karaoke to the Chinese is like drink­ing to the British. We don’t pour pints at our par­ties, we sing. It’s part of the cul­ture. The Chinese-Canadian dream is a Toyota in every dri­ve­way and a Karaoke machine in every house.

My dad was no excep­tion. Like all his hob­bies, he took Karaoke seri­ous­ly. He had singing lessons from a famous teacher. Sometimes, he would record him­self and lis­ten to the tapes to ana­lyze his singing when dri­ving me to school. We would nev­er talk on those hour-long rides, I would only hear him singing, some­times along with his record­ed voice, some­times prac­tic­ing the parts that he did­n’t have quite right.

When I was young, about sev­en, I would sing one of the English songs from his col­lec­tion. I could­n’t tell you why. Karaoke did­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly inter­est me. Maybe it was a way for me to be a part of his life. He had noth­ing to do with me oth­er­wise.

Continue read­ing “Lessons From a Childhood of Abuse”…

First Photo Contest Win

Thumbnail: In A Flash Contest Results

Not the grand prize, but I won the por­trait cat­e­go­ry for my pic­tures of Chaos from Canada Day ’06, and Gerry from my Gerry Project.

Our judges had their hands full. With close to 100 entries, and pho­tos of every­thing from pen­guins to croc­o­diles to war vet­er­ans and oth­er UCC lumi­nar­ies, it was­n’t an easy deci­sion to com­pare these apples and oranges. Ultimately, the judges decid­ed that tech­nique and con­tent count­ed in equal mea­sure.

To cre­ate as fair a judg­ing process as pos­si­ble, names, grade, and grad­u­a­tion years were left off the pho­tos, and replaced by a num­ber. That way, cur­rent stu­dents and Old Boys all had an equal shot. (To ensure no judge was swayed by the opin­ion of anoth­er, each wrote down his or her favourite num­ber, with no pri­or dis­cus­sion.)

It was a blind judg­ing, and as a result, my two pho­tos tied with each oth­er for first place with­out the judges know­ing that they were both from one per­son. Not bad for the first pho­tog­ra­phy con­test I entered.

Seeing my pic­tures in print is great, but win­ning isn’t the impor­tant part.

The most sat­is­fac­tion comes from know­ing that I could step out of my com­fort zone to call a stranger and take pic­tures of him, which was the main goal of the Gerry Project.

Being rec­og­nized for the pic­tures was a nice lit­tle bonus.