Monthly Archives: August 2010

29 9/12: The Rocker

Music has always been a big part of my life, so it’s strange to con­sid­er the fact that I only seri­ous­ly took up an instru­ment the year I’m turn­ing 30, which I gen­er­al­ly con­sid­er late to be start­ing any­thing new.

I used to play piano and flute, but that was nev­er real­ly my choice. For the for­mer, it was more of my mom want­i­ng me to be a good Chinese boy, and me not want­i­ng to let her down. When it came to the lat­ter, my school had a strong empha­sis on arts, and either visu­al arts or music were manda­to­ry. I chose music1, and played the flute; far from ide­al for a teenag­er going through puber­ty and an iden­ti­ty cri­sis.

I bought my first ukulele a few months ago, and I don’t think I’ve stopped play­ing since.

Self portrait at 29 9/12

Jammin’ in my jam­mies. With what may pos­si­bly be an erec­tion.

Photo by Jess.

So much of my life has been filled by those four lit­tle strings. It’s an entire­ly new medi­um I’m still explor­ing, a mus­cle I’d yet to flex, a way of express­ing myself that’s so unlike any of my oth­er out­lets.

I get pains in my fin­gers and wrists from play­ing too much, so I struc­ture my life around the breaks; doing laun­dry, writ­ing, clean­ing my room, sort­ing my paper­work until the tin­gling or pinch­ing goes away. The pads of my fin­gers are dead. I used to fall asleep think­ing of her — now I work out scale pat­terns and chords across the fret­board in my head until I pass out. I even decid­ed to make the ulti­mate com­mit­ment and grow out the nails on my strum­ming hand because the longer they get, the more pleased I am with the sound (and I find both long nails and asym­me­try absolute­ly dis­gust­ing).

It’s come to the point where I’d rather play ukulele than play games, or go out, or talk to peo­ple. I love play­ing so much that I enjoy it even though I’m still no good at it.

I turn 30 in three months, and music is my hot hot bath, my dead end, and my girl­friend.

The Turning 30 Series

  1. Ironic that I’m so much more of a visu­al artist now. []

second show

I was sup­posed to hang out with Jesse last week­end. We were going to jam and talk and throw around ideas, and I was real­ly look­ing for­ward to it because we always seem to be doing some­thing when we’re togeth­er instead of just chill­in.

See, it’s right here on his sched­ule, between Floors and Dinner.

Jesse's schedule

Unfortunately, I devel­oped my annu­al case of strep throat that day and had to stay away from every­one.

Then, on Friday as I was going back through our e‑mail cor­re­spon­dence, I real­ized that Jesse invit­ing me to play ukulele meant play­ing a house par­ty on Saturday. We met up about two hours before we were on and had a very quick rehearsal to work out some parts with­out Nic being able to back us up, as well as extra bits and pieces of songs I fig­ured out over the week. Being so rushed was prob­a­bly a good thing; it kept my mind off the ner­vous­ness.

Turns out it was an out­door gig play­ing to a group of hip­sters at a bar­be­cue, and we were open­ing. It did­n’t go ter­ri­bly well. At one point in the mid­dle of Write Protected I screwed up the strum­ming so bad­ly that we had to stop the song and restart, but we quick­ly picked up on a count of four and went on with­out anoth­er hitch. Jesse remarked that it was good prac­tice for next time, because prob­lems come up that you nev­er think of when you’re in a new envi­ron­ment.

This time it was a tun­ing peg that some­how got knocked in the mid­dle of the set. I only dis­cov­ered this once the song had start­ed — and I was the only one play­ing so I could­n’t stop. It must have been off by an entire semi-tone cause it total­ly messed up my sens­es and I had a hard time telling if I was even play­ing the right chords. It was also night by the time our set end­ed, and I had a hard time see­ing the frets, which only added to the con­fu­sion.

Note to self: strum once to before each song to make sure the instru­ment is in tune.

I did, how­ev­er, learn from the last show to bring a side-table to use as a step­ping stool. Usually, I sit when prac­tic­ing, but at the 160 Workshops show I had to stand; not being used to the pos­ture meant I was con­stant­ly adjust­ing the uke in the arm between vers­es and com­ing in late in the bar as a result. I brought a lit­tle Ikea side-table this time, and it worked real­ly well.

Even with all the glitch­es, as rushed and under-rehearsed as we were, it was a fan­tas­tic time and a great expe­ri­ence.

The next set was in the base­ment, with a girl and guy look­ing like they were kids dressed up and pre­tend­ing to be Ziggy Stardust, singing to gener­ic elec­tron­i­ca. And peo­ple were lov­ing it in their slow-nod­ding, hip­ster kind of way, although the weed and booze may have helped (Audra would lat­er remark to me that it was hard to tell how into it peo­ple were cause of how cool every­one was try­ing to act).

I also missed see­ing a very drunk Tina cor­ner Jesse. I could total­ly see this being her scene.

Pizza with girls

Check out Audra sport­ing her styl­ish Hurley cap.

Jesse was being inter­viewed lat­er that night and also want­ed to stay to see Matt play, so the girls and I head­ed to grab a bite to eat. Audra bought us all piz­za and drinks at a near­by pizze­ria, which had the BEST CRUST I’ve ever tast­ed.

Before the end of the night, in a good mood and feel­ing safe, I admit­ted to Em my crush on her boyfriend. She took it well.

Friends from France

Frédéric and Misun were briefly in Canada. They went on a short cruise with Misun’s par­ents and made a quick stop in Ottawa so nat­u­ral­ly I took the chance to see them. It was a love­ly evening for a bar­be­cue and eat­ing out in the sun.

It’s so inter­est­ing to hear about every­thing they’re doing with their lit­tle art gallery stu­dio, adding to my excite­ment of vis­it­ing them in a few months.


Seeing the new baby. Mommy bare­ly looks like she was preg­nant, and Frédéric looks like he’s been eat­ing well in France.

watching Miric

Miric tests out the paper air­plane launch­er I bought the boys. It was one of the few non-vio­lent toys I could find in Toys R Us.

Continue read­ing “Friends from France”…


My lack of writ­ing about her late­ly has­n’t been an avoid­ance of the sub­ject, or an attempt to feign some kind of detach­ment. It’s because my thoughts about her nev­er ful­ly form any­more. Or they come in lit­tle bits and pieces, lin­ger­ing mem­o­ries in an off-guard moment.

The care­ful steps I took to avoid the loose tile on the path to her house, so as not to wake any­one when leav­ing let­ters in her mail­box. Her sac­cha­rine voice when she’d ask what I was think­ing, and the first time I could­n’t lie (I’m think­ing about how in love with you I am). A tear we shared, as it rolled from my eye to hers. I’ll even catch that uncon­trolled gig­gle of hers in the melody of a song that drifts in the air. So many details found in the sub­lim­i­ty of our time togeth­er that I told myself nev­er to for­get.

Maybe that’s why it’s still hard not to think about her. Nothing was ever ordi­nary when she was involved. I don’t talk to my friends about it any­more; there’s noth­ing left to say. Only mem­o­ries that fol­low me like a shad­ow. I won­der if they avoid bring­ing up the sub­ject with me any­way.

Sometimes, I still sec­ond-guess myself. Could I have saved us in some way? Would things be any dif­fer­ent if I had let her heal, or shared more of myself, or giv­en her more time, or been a stronger per­son? If only vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty or infat­u­a­tion or hope­less roman­ti­cism was con­sid­ered charm­ing. If only love or desire was enough to win some­one over.

Maybe I’m just cling­ing to the fact that I believe she tru­ly loved me back. It was one of the only things in this world I knew was real, and it made my heart swell every time she was next to me. The world made sense, if only for a moment now lost to the past. Or maybe I’m scared I’ll nev­er feel this way about some­one again because she was every­thing I ever want­ed, even flawed in all the right ways.

I’ve been ruined, and I don’t mind. Not any­more, at least.

I’d rather be alone than with any­one else. I can’t tell if it’s because I’m stub­born­ly try­ing to hon­our what we had, or a sub­con­scious part of me is wait­ing for her to come back because my heart can’t give up on some­one who made me feel so much. After all, she became my life, and to give up on her would be to give up on myself.

I know I’m not the only one who’s ever gone through this. Fate has proven fore­sight to be in vain for many a mice and men. Some peo­ple lose their spous­es — the per­son they expect to be with for the rest of their lives — and pick them­selves up. There’s no rea­son I can’t do the same.

But I’ve already picked myself up, and I’m hap­py. It does­n’t mat­ter that she’s not with me now, or that I haven’t stopped lov­ing her, or that she prob­a­bly does­n’t even think of me any­more. The expe­ri­ences have left me sat­is­fied and ful­filled. Our rela­tion­ship may have last­ed only a few sea­sons, but in that time I loved and was loved enough to be con­tent with what I had for the rest of my life.