I rolled a 12 on my constitution check.

For my entire life, I’ve existed in spaces where Americans have been ridiculed constantly for being ignorant, aggressive gun toting simpletons. At the same time, whenever I’ve travelled to the U.S. I’ve found them to be primarily warm, friendly, good-hearted and well-intentioned people. Enough that my previous description defines the exception rather than the rule.

With my past few trips to the U.S. I’ve felt like most of my issues with America are systemic and the people inside those systems either don’t know any better or haven’t been given the capacity to learn differently. The messaging that’s being fed is so bombastic that it leaves little room for nuance. In short, these are mostly decent people within shitty systems.

An illustration:

I loathe what airport security has become. Leaving Austin yesterday I had to take off my shoes and put them in a bin with my windbreaker. In another bin I had to put my kindle, bluetooth keyboard, cellphone and headphones. In yet another I had to put a sandwich, a cookie and protein bar. My backpack went on the conveyor belt, then my carry on baggage. As an aside, it made me feel kind of ashamed to have so many material goods.

I was told to clear my pockets, so I asked what I should do with my passport, wallet and tissue. The guy told me I could just hold them in my hands. I approached the full body scanner, and the lady operating it told me I couldn’t have anything in my hands. I asked if that was true, because the guy told me to hold my passport, wallet and tissue in my hands rather than a bin and I thought it was sort of gross for me to be making any potential germs from my tissue into someone else’s problem. She thought for a second and acquiesced. I walked through the scanner with my arms held up then came out the other side. I was directed to stand on a mat with another chap, to spread my arms out so he could give a rigorous pat down to my stomach. I sighed and followed suit. He did his task and let me go.

I approached the conveyor belt and looked at my array of stuff. My carry on and snacks weren’t there. A guy looked over at my and told me to come over to him, there was something he needed to check out. I sighed again and asked if I could at least pack up my gear. He quirked his head, as if to say “why wouldn’t you be allowed to?”. I put on my shoes and windbreaker. I put most of my electronics back into my backpack and held onto the keyboard.

Look. I’m a white cis dude with a silly accent and generally pleasant demeanour. I felt frustrated, disheartened and a little dehumanised. I can only imagine how tense and emotionally charged these kind of situations must be for anybody outside of the extremely limited spectrum the system defines as “mainstream”. To feel so utterly powerless because I wanted to get on a plane from a holiday and go home? And for what? How many people do they really catch out with this kind of system? I’m absolutely sure that if anyone was planning on doing some serious criminal activity, they’d be smart enough to learn the system inside out to check for loopholes. I’m having a very hard time believing that the ends justify the means.

In any case, the guy with my carry on/lunch called me over, so I grabbed all my stuff and went to his area. He told me that by regulations, they have to scan basically anything that could imply organic material. He pointed to my Whole Foods bag and said “I scan a lot of Whole Foods stuff, but I’ve never gone in. What’s for lunch?” I told him I’d gotten a bison/arugula sandwich and was pretty excited for the Tollhouse cookie I’d gotten as a treat. “That sounds great man, I hope it’s as good as it sounds.”

I looked at my carry-on luggage. “Is it my Magic deck?” I asked. I brought a Magic the Gathering deck with me just in case I could find casual games while on the go. He nodded. “Yeah. These come up in the system as organic material for some reason and they’ve got an odd shape. We have to scan them.” He thought for a second and continued. “I used to work at a Tattoo shop and the guys there loved this game. I thought the art was cool, but I told ’em to stop it and play a real game. So we closed up shop that night. I bought a bunch of beers, grabbed some character sheets and played DnD. Had a hell of a time. Those were the days.” He finished up with the scanning, sent me on my way and told me to enjoy my lunch.

The whole experience had been one big emotional arc. None of these people were truly rude or unpleasant. They were all just doing their jobs. Over the holiday we talked in bars with locals a bunch. Even when we had fundamental ideological disagreements with them, it rarely seemed like they were truly mean-spirited or hateful. They’d just existed within a system that shaped them a certain way and as far as they knew, they were all killing it.

Seeing all of this made me thankful for my upbringing. For the cultures that raised me and guided me to question why, rather than pushing me in one direction. At the same time, I realised that there’s a certain amount of smugness in both New Zealand and Canadian culture that’s as uncharismatic as it is unearned. For any faults we’d assign to these myopic systems that run rampant within the US, goddamn if they’re not some of the friendliest people on the planet.

Advertisements

If you don’t stand for Summer, you’ll Fall for Winter. Spring back the clocks?

So here’s a thing. I’ve always desperately wanted to do stand-up. I did it a bunch before I left for Canada, then a couple of times while I was travelling through. I never did well. I got disheartened, then scared to get back up. The honest truth is I was going about it all wrong. The “way to do” stand-up is to write a couple of jokes and refine them, editing to find the funny in your concept and tweaking them over time as you work on the right delivery, wording, etc. Instead, I’d write five minutes, it wouldn’t work well (because I was trying it for the first-third time) and I’d discard it to write another five. Accordingly, I was getting the response I deserved. Eventually I threw in the towel. For years now I’ve been secretly ashamed and resentful of myself for giving up. I’ve felt cowardly and had a hard time reconciling that if I’d just stuck with it through the hard parts, by now I’d be better regardless. It’s been the kind of thing that with no exaggeration I’d think about at least once a week, going back to try again. Fear told me no and I believed it had my best interests at heart. Or it was easier to do nothing than to try, which is a whole different kind of seductive.

On this holiday, my comedian friend said she was curious about trying an open mic in a new city. I pondered out loud about whether I should give it a try. She and my other friend couldn’t have been more supportive. “Sure”, she said “go write some jokes”. Simple as that. It was weird too, but in her cavalier delivery of those words there was something I heard that may or may not have been intentional. She said it so matter of factly. It sounded like she didn’t for a second entertain the notion that I wasn’t fully capable of writing jokes. So I chose to believe her. I went off to write and wrote a ton. There was so much waffling. I knew though, that I had the kernels of some decent jokes once I cut out the chaff. Even better, I’d worked within a structure I’d always wanted to replicate, but never had. You know when a comedian does the punchline and the room laughs, then it goes quiet? It’s like “well, that was a funny joke”, then instead of moving onto the next joke they tag with the real punchline, which is even funnier because it defies the room’s expectations of structure? Well I wrote some of those, and if felt so goddamn good to finally be able to see how that worked as opposed to only reaching that first stage. I looked at my page. I had material. I got excited. I woke up at 6am the next morning, too excited and nervous to sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then as the night approached, fear crept back on in. I thought about how badly I’d feel if I tried and failed, See, until I did it I existed in this Schroedinger’s Cat style situation. I didn’t know that I could do it until I tried, but at the same time it wasn’t confirmed that I couldn’t do it. If I did it and sucked, that was it. If I never tried, in some twisted logic, I could never fail. I tried to make excuses and mentally talked myself out of it. I implored my friends to talk me out of it. They wouldn’t. We went.

I was nervous and shakey, which was only exacerbated when the host said sets were three minutes long. Back in Toronto most open mics have five minute sets. ‘That’s like one of my jokes’, I thought. I had three long jokes I wanted to try. I resolved not to rush, but to accept that I I would do the one joke and take my time with it, find the correct cadence.

Honestly, the set went better than I could’ve hoped. I was nervous, but my delivery felt natural and even. The structure and lead in felt right. They were laughing in the right places. It’s not like I ever expected I’d crush, but I had a bunch of big laughs and the joke I really liked got the whole room cracking up. They flashed the light at two minutes and I realised I was rounding off the end of my joke, that there was no way I could fit another one in. That felt good enough for me and I was stoked to get in the whole joke at an even pace, without rushing.

It felt so amazing to have faced my significant fears. I was proud of myself for getting up and overjoyed to have done it. Even now, the morning after, I still feel like I’m glowing. It’s probably just sunburn, but maybe I sunburned my heart, y’know? This holiday has been outstanding. I’ve enjoyed the pace, my friends and I have really complementary travel styles. We’ve done so much cool shit, but this is one of my favourite memories from it hands down.

The idea was to get intoxicated, not poisoned.

Oh what a night! Is what I’d say if we hadn’t all spent it writhing around with stomach pain. Our day was fantastic, the night was an exhibition in food poisoning 101. Our delicious streetside burgers from the suspiciously sparsely named “Burger Bar” got the better of us. Pity, ’cause they were both cheap and abundantly tasty. I guess the greater cost was unseen. Our reactions ranged from repeated vomiting, to sweating and cradling our bellies. I either spent the night sleeping or hallucinating. I’m not sure. In any case, I feel oddly refreshed this morning. Maybe it’s steadfast determination made manifest. Today we’ll bounce back. Today is Barbecue Day and by God I’m more hungry for ribs than Eve.

Yesterday was Day Drunk Day, a theme we Krushed, Killed ‘n’ Destroyed like a nice 90s video game. Starting in the Rainey Street district, everything looked oddly deserted. Another bar hop area, it was all patios and lawn games, The sky was overcast and grey, dampening the atmosphere. Still, drinking was our prerogative and we were gonna make it happen. As we walked further down the street, we noticed more people. We heard music, a jazzy ensemble playing popular covers. The place, Bangers, was pumping. The line stretched down the street. We joined, until a staff member told the line there was a three hour wait for brunch. Holy shit. Maybe we’d grab something quick elsewhere, then come back for the atmos. We picked up food truck barbecue sandwiches (mine was stacked with buttery fall-apart brisket and thick spicy sausage) then headed in.

Here’s the thing about Bangers, it was go big or go home. Their trademark was colossal brunch and Manmosas. A 1 litre mimosa containing an entire bottle of champagne. It was so potent that they refused to sell it to anyone who hadn’t ordered a full plate of food. They also had a tap wall of beer with a selection of around 60 or so beers. Crazy, creative beer catalogued into sections like “light and refreshing”, “dark and malty”, “Belgian and farmhouse” and “Nitro”. My friend grabbed a sake/pizza flavoured beer, which was oddly accurate though too savoury for my palate. Anything under 5.5% alcohol volume they’d also serve in a litre jug. Good times guaranteed. The band played and they were fucking fantastic. Lively and talented, neat twists on songs we all knew. There were bridal parties everywhere with themed shirts (which, I dunno, seems to be a Very Austin Thing). So many friendly dogs (I met a wonderfully docile and soft Great Dane called Nico). The sun came out and we had a blast dancing along. The Buzz was true and our moments felt full of love. After things quietened down, our stomachs full of beer, and hearts filled with joy, we headed out to see what the rest of day would bring.

We had a couple of impromptu photo shoots along the way, goofing about as was our way. I had my heart set on Easy Tiger Bakery, ’cause I love bakeries. I was hoping to find a cute little store with nice chocolate chip cookies or something. We wandered along to our map’s instructions and found the place. It was nothing we expected and everything we didn’t know we’d wanted. A big canal ran alongside an outdoor courtyard filled with ping pong tables. The bakery also had a full beer hall, and here I was just wanting a cookie. I ordered a chocolate chunk cookie and lost my mind. So, back home in New Zealand we have this cookie brand called Cookie Time. They’re large cookies with a crispy exterior, soft interior and big chunks of chocolate. They’re one of my all time top favourite things, and utterly remarkable for a mass produced product. This Chocolate Chunk cookie was a near perfect recreation of a Cookie Time, but also freshly baked. I found my bliss. There was no way the day could get better from there on out. I’d reached peak holiday.

Then we found our new plateau. We dithered around trying to figure out what to do, while overly accommodating one another. The result was us getting a little pissy and nothing getting done. One of us wanted to see the Capitol, but also get goofy tourist shirts. I wanted to find cheap drinks. My friend was saying we should get the drinks I wanted, while I wanted her to have her shirts and Capitol building experience. Canadian politeness, eh? We’d passed a bar earlier where everyone inside shouted at us to come inside. “TWO DOLLAR DRINKS” they’d yell. “COME ON IN”. We’d learned in school not to bow to peer pressure, so we told them maybe we’d come back later and walked on by. After my friend and I argued about why it was better to accommodate the other, our fellow friend took executive decision and walked back to the peer pressure bar. It was settled.

Turns out peer pressure was the best thing that could’ve happened to us. The $2.25 drinks were decided by big Wheel of Fortune style wheels above the bar. It cost money to spin the wheel, which would change the drink affected by the wheel. One wheel for beer, one for shots and one for cocktails. The cocktail on offer was a $2.25 Bacardi Mai Tai, so we figured there wasn’t a lot to lose. EXCEPT OUR MINDS, it turns out. The drinks were delicious and the bartender was a great bloke. He was this super down to earth guy and we all had a rad time chatting to him. One drink stretched into seven or eight as others flooded into the bar. The crowd were good hearted locals and it was interesting hearing their perspectives. The kind of people whose political views were so different to our own, but what was interesting was how little that got in the way of communication.

We really noticed that while people in America hold steadfastly different views, they steadfastly defend the right of everyone to have their own views. It’s such a staunchly individualist society where people care about their right to live or die by their own ability to take care of themselves. People loathe the concept of paying into a system of healthcare where your money goes to other people. It’s anethma to them because the belief is that if you can’t support yourself, you don’t deserve to be helped. The American Dream says that everyone is entitled to reach heaven if they can get themselves there. It’s embodied in tipping, for instance, which is predicated on the notion that the better you are at making people feel welcome, the more you deserve. The satisfaction isn’t in doing a job well, but in immediate gratification for your work.

To be clear, I couldn’t disagree more. The three of us listened to these views respectfully, then told them precisely how and why our more “socialist” society worked for us. How we felt okay about paying more in taxes so that everyone could access the system. That we earnestly believed that people’s lives shouldn’t be ruined or ended because of broken structures. The concept of someone needing to choose between going to the doctor or not leaving their family in debt was inhumane. I hope some of the message got through to them, but who knows. In any case, we were drunk as skunks when we followed one of our new friends to the fateful Bad End of Burger Bar. We all know how that turned out. Or at least, I did this morning.

Oh, and The Curse of Cookie Monster has finally worn off. I’m back to brown town. Barbecue Day is truly Hashtag Blessed.

If I had a dollar for someone to edit this shit…

Goddamn I’m having a riot here in Austin. I’m not entirely sure I want to leave. The food is amazing. The people are so unbelievably friendly and the vibe is off the charts. Today is designated for our day drinking experience. Gonna start with a boozy brunch and keep on rollin’, baby. I’m excited.

Today’s entry is gonna be a bit different. When I started this whole thing, the notion was that it’d be a great place to draft up a bunch of writing, works in progress, etc. Basically an open canvass for whatever writing style creativity went through my brain. I had some vain notion that maybe I’d write some jokes and do stand up sets. I gave that up for lent maybe four years ago, but here’s a thing. One of my friends I’m travelling with is a comic. She got excited by the notion of doing an open mic on Monday. I’ve been having an awesome time riffing with these folks in Austin and I woke up this morning thinking maybe I’d join her at the open mic. I don’t have “jokes” jokes, but I’ve got some sorta conversational bits that I think I could massage into something better. So today I’m gonna jot down some stuff, with the proviso that on the page it’ll look very different to how it’d present onstage. Also this’ll be totally unedited. Just getting ideas down on paper in order to cut them down and make them into something cohesive. On stage it’d need to be snappier. Tighter. Look, I’m trying to justify what I’m doing here. In short, be gentle. Baby don’t hurt me.

I’ve been having an amazing time here in Austin. I fucking adore food. I’ve been eating everything in sight and it’s been the best. I constantly wanna eat my way around the world, trying food from everywhere. Thing is, when I eat, it makes me aware of just how much of an asshole I am. A friend will be like “hey man, do you wanna grab some sushi for lunch?” And I’ll be all, “nah, I just had Japanese last week.” The horror, right? Having food from the same continent twice in two weeks? You know who’d have Japanese twice in two days? JAPANESE PEOPLE. Except they just call it dinner.

What’s worse though is how I so casually turn vast Pan Asian cuisines into one homogenous culture. A friend will be all “hey bud, wanna get Chinese takeout?” and I’ll be all “nah man, I just had Korean last week.” Discounting the fact that a) China is an enormous continent with a plethora of regional delicacies and variances, China and Korea are different fucking countries with diverse and vibrant cultures. The food is nothing alike aside from the fact that they both feature rice and noodles. It’s like someone being all “hey bud, want a bagel for breakfast?” and me being like “nah man, I just had a pizza last week. Wouldn’t wanna eat White Food that often. Plus I was planning on having a sandwich next week. Gotta slow my roll, ‘know?

This is also why I’m fucking useless at online dating. Nothing makes me feel more like a total garbage person. I’ll flick through these profiles treating women like menu items. I get so goddamn judgemental so quickly and like, where do I come off like I have the right to be picky? Here’s a thing though, and I wanna be real for a second. It’s 2018. We live in a progressive and technologically advanced society that gives people the freedom to be their authentic selves. Women, you can stop listing that you love to laugh. I never want to be presumptuous, but by virtue of being human I sort of took it as a given. Writing “I love to laugh” sounds like you’re a robot afraid of failing some Voight Kampff test. “I AM A HUMAN WOMAN OF VIABLE MATEABILITY. MY FAVOURITE ACTVITIES ARE CONSUMING OXYGEN AND LOVING TO LAUGHTER. I WOULD BE AN IDEAL CO-WORKER FOR THE TRANSACTION EXCHANGE OF REPRODUCTIVE SAUCES. ALSO I ENJOY BAGELS, PIZZA AND ALL OTHER WHITE CUISINES.” You love to laugh. Is that just shorthand for “I swear I’m not a sociopath.”?

I wanna take a minute to talk about one of my favourite people in the world. You might not think it to look at me, but I fucking ADORE 50 Cent. Or as we know him in Canada, .67 CAD. This dude is fascinating. I mean, I’m no economist, but watching the peaks and valleys of Fifty makes me understand why people get really into watching the Dow Jones. This guy’s like a cartoon character. As if he grew up watching Ritchie Rich. I’m not shitting on him or anything I have sincere affection for him. My favourite thing is how genuinely gleeful he looks so much of the time. Guy absolutely loves money. A massive part of this guy’s persona is his accumulation of worth. He’s always wearing expensive jewelery or like, lying on a bed of dollar bills. Thing is, despite the moniker, I’m not entirely sure that Fifty knows anything about money. I love the dude, but he doesn’t always seem like the smartest bloke. Here in the US, you guys have paper money. I get the feeling that to Fifty, paper and money are indistinguishable. Like, when he goes into the office at Fifty Cents Incorporated and instead of post it notes you just have these piles of dollar bills with rap lyrics scrawled all over them. But then he’ll go to the printer and see a stack of paper and be all “oh man, selfie time” He’s just like, throwing peace signs while fanning a chunk of printer paper “Hashtag eat your heart out Bill Gates.”

At some stage though, I legit thought the guy was wicked smart. Had that song Motherfucking P I M P. So the chorus goes “I don’t know what you heard about me, but bitch can’t get a dollar out of me.” I heard that and I was like “woah Fiddy, I needed to give you more credit, that’s pretty clever. Of course this “bitch” can’t get a dollar out of you. You’re 50 cent. That’s only half a dollar. 50 cents is not divisible by a dollar. Genius!

Then the penny dropped. Thing is, I realised that isn’t even the egregious part of the song. So he’s all “bitch can’t get a dollar out of me.” Then fiddy says “cause I’m a motherfucking P I M P.” He’s saying he’s a pimp, right? If Fifty IS a motherfucking PIMP he’s a motherfucking terrible one. By the very tenants of pimpdom, it has a transactional nature. Your employees provide a service to patrons and you facilitate these contracts by providing a business model. Then you pay your employees for their work. If bitch can’t get a dollar out of Fifty, then he’s not paying his workers. Fifty, you’re not a motherfucking PIMP, you’re an illegal sex trafficker.

Anyway, I guess his lack of a solid business model was his downfall. Fifty Cent filed for bankruptcy.

/done. Geez, that was a ton of mediocre slop. They can’t all be winners. I guess the real work is making it into something of worth. Oh well, first part is done. Time to get day drunk!

Austintinnabulation.

You know what? It IS a good morning. Thanks for asking. I’m fresh faced after a night out on the town. I can confidently say that I’m having a capitol time here in Austin. As soon as we stepped off the bus the smell of barbecue was both immediate and arresting. I think that’s what “living your best life” is. Everything here is enormous, both in value and impression. I’m sitting in Summer Moon cafe enjoying a colossal 20 oz Summermoon, their signature drink. It has a quad shot and it was all of $6. Ridiculous. It’s something I always forget about when in the states. Portions. We bought a couple of $5 happy hour “appies” and they were basically full meals. Two sliders and fries, a chunky slab of mixed cerviche/avocado with a side of nacho chips. Gargantuan. Food is abundant and inexpensive. Do I have to ever leave?

The drinks are STRONG too. I chatted with our server about them. I told her back in NZ, a double shot was standard. In Canada a single shot is the go-to. How was the US in this equation, I asked. “Oh, they’re single pours” she assured me. “Our barman just happens to have a heavy hand.” According to the rest of the night, Austinites just have heavy hands. We met many heavy handed bartenders, like the one making White Russians for my friend. “We’re out of cream” he said “so I’ll just use baileys instead if you don’t mind.” My friend very much did not mind, so the bartender handed him a cup of straight liquor. Yeah, we had a night. Happy Hour is a revelation here. Cheap mixed drinks EVERYWHERE. Lots of snacks and apps. The locals come out and they’re chatty. It’s the best. After some hectic afternoon drinking last night we settled in at The Ginger Man, a quiet and comfy craft beer bar. A huge variety of international beer, big leather couches and most importantly, a dart board. The three of us spent hours playing Around the World and getting to know whatever locals stuck around the bar. There was a dude on a date who started jokingly (but maybe not?) accusing me of stealing his date. Odd, I was chatting with the two of them, zero ulterior motive. I dunno, she seemed to be enjoying herself hanging out with the three of us, but he decided to call it and take her with him. There was some older British/American lady who ended up bringing over her entourage to all hang out. It was fantastic. They were all so friendly and she was a fun, punchy artist with a starfucker streak. She was telling us where to go to meet Mike Judge, his favourite bar wasn’t from our Air BnB. Then she casually mentioned knowing Richard Linklater and my brain kind of broke. She offered to take us all fo a drive out of Austin central if we wanted, to get barbecue at this great place just outside town. It felt like a super genuine offer. Her husband was super into architecture and told me about this place called Soane House to check out on my impending London holiday. We were having a fucking blast, then decided to hip hop on out of there and off to a dance night at a messy student bar. 10/10, exactly the kind of night I wanted.

I guess it’s worth mentioning my travel companions. They’re a couple and honestly, I fucking adore them. They’re excellent to travel with. We’re all pretty easy going and there’s a pervasive atmosphere of “greenlighting” going on. If anyone ever wants to have an experience, the rest of us do what we can to accommodate them and make that experience happen. We’re all close enough that we can speak honestly and bluntly if need be. We’re having good emotional check ins and helping to facilitate everyone enjoying their holiday to the max (like we used to back in the 90s. Remember taking things to the max? It was radical). They’re both sharp as a tack, witty and clever. He has this natural gift with words and they both have immense emotional aptitude. She’s a comic and they’re both unbelievably funny. We’re all just doing bits and callbacks constantly. It’s absurd. Tossing out malafors and messing with protracted idioms, it’s getting gloriously bizarre. Holy fuck am I ever happy right now.

More than anything, my stomach’s dreams are coming true constantly. Yesterday we had the best tacos I’ve had in my life. One was a shrimp taco slathered in proprietary fish sauce. The other was a diabolically hot jerk chicken and mango one. Here in Austin there’s a taco spot on every block. Some have several. Torchy’s Tacos have set a high bar. Let’s see if anything’s gonna clear it. I also think my central character development through the trip is gonna be understanding and setting my own limitations. I think I discovered one of those boundaries at a bakery yesterday. I was taken by this enormous and elaborate Cookie Monster concoction. It was constructed of two chocolate chip cookies with a large dollop of whipped cream in between. The top was adorned with what I assumed was some kind of blue fondant, but happened to be more whipped cream. Enough to make the word “excessive” an understatement. I assumed Cookie Monster’s eyes would be marshmallows or something. NOPE. More whipped cream. I was a whirling dervish of stray blue cream, which got fucking everywhere. My hands were stained, my teeth discoloured and my tongue looked like a giraffe’s. It was brutal. Blue-tal? I knew it was too much before I bought it. I was certain it was too much when I set it down in front of me. The first bite assured me I was making a mistake. The beard full of blue whipped cream only brought it home. Before I even finished the first cookie I knew I’d feel awful if I proceeded further. Not having anything to prove, I should’ve quit while I was ahead. Being me, of course I didn’t. I had so much fucking sugar that I felt like a total mess. Underslept, overfed and wired on coffee, I was trash incarnate. It was wonderful.

This morning my poo was a toxic forest green. I think Cookie Monster may have impregnated me with a weird alien foetus. Hey, we’re in Austin. The city motto is “Keep Austin Weird.” I’m only following the imperative.

Is a break up a kind of joy division

I do delcayur, we’re in Charlotte. More accurately we’re on the floor in the lobby of the Charlotte airport. Charlotte airport, as we discovered, is not a 24 hour airport (or what I just understood as An Airport). It shuts at 10pm-midnight and you’re left to your own devices until 4am. In short, we got booted from the terminal and back to the airport entrance. We’ll have to do security, etc, all over again. It’s 4.15am and after a short sleep, my own devices are apparently my cellphone and bluetooth keyboard. I’ve taken watch of our group and belongings while my co-adventurers are taking a nap. I got three or four hours lying on my back with a travel pillow, earplugs and a face mask. Frankly, that’s more than I expected. In an hour or so we’ll go back through security and maybe find some manner of amenities that’re more appealing than a 24 hour Starbucks.
Our first flight from Toronto was a fucking blast. What I thought would be around 2.5 hours took an hour and a half. We blitzed it. Strapped in, take-off, drinks service, rubbish collecting, landing. That was it. Aside from some charming sass from the service staff, that’s all we had time for. My neighbour was not a Chatty Cathy like I am. She sat down, plugged in her phone and listened to music. I sat there, put on some tunes and innately judged her. At some point she began taking photos of the skyline at night for Snapchat or something. I saw her workshopping captions. “#MYCITYISBETTERTHANYOURS” was apparently not good enough (and I’d agree, non-Cathy). “#CITYVIEWS” didn’t pass the muster either. Pretty sure she settled for “#LOVEMYCITY” or something equally uninspired. Ugh, more like #6IXHAPPENS, amirite? #NEWAYS, I was in a characteristically chipper mood and really found myself getting into a couple of albums.
For some unknown reason, The Wombats’ A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation has become my de-facto travel album. Not sure why. It’s an album I’ve always found juvenile and punchy. It’s inextricably tied to a previous relationship, but found new life beyond its passing. Maybe it’s ’cause in travelling, I unlock a certain childlike energy in myself. I’m embodied by a kind of bounciness that this album delivers and so, while it doesn’t reflect how I now see the world, The Wombats help me tap into a deep vein of rambunctious enthusiasm. Moreso there’s an attitude it embodies. The whole album may as well be called The Ones that Got Away. Each song is an ode to some great love or fixation, fictional or not. It’s silly, witty and no doubt problematic in today’s landscape, but that doesn’t retroactively negate all its value. On the contrary, it makes me remember what life used to be with a youthful outlook of love and romance. As the opening line of “Kill the Director” sounds “I’ve met someone who makes me feel seasick…”, that sensation becomes so intimately familiar. Lord, I can recall so clearly my head-over-heels infatuation with any girl who’d so much as look my way. A wind blowing was enough to give rise to a new crush or puppy love. A girl had the same coloured pencil case as I did? It was a sign. We both liked The Lion King? It was a sign. I heard her singing the chorus of Ace of Bace’s “The Sign”? It was a sign!
I’d fall in love every day with this unquashable energy. It’s not like this was just primary school. Intermediate, college, university. Every damn day there’d be another object of my affection and my heart would write a new song. She’d become my everything as I saw our lives playing out in tandem, then entwined. Hell, before I really knew what love was, I wanted it. I was a hyper-romantic kid with no idea of what that meant, but carried by the whims of my heart. These days, it doesn’t really happen. I don’t get crushes the way I used to. I love and adore my girlfriend and, oddly enough given the poly thing, it’s very rare for my heart to grab me by the eyes and yell “OI, LOOK AT HER OVER THERE. YOU COULD HAVE ANOTHER SOUL MATE.” Rational adult Leon just knows why it wouldn’t work out and shorrcuts to there. Excuses and logic are on hand and falling down the rabbit hole of “yeah, but what if?” is so much harder when you’re grounded. Listening to The Wombats, with their sing-song doo-wops and saccharine self-deprecation remind me of what was (and possibly what’s still lurking under a few crusty layers of cynicism).
The truth is, I have met someone who makes me feel seasick and I get to wake up beside her most every day. I don’t know if there’s much point in dreaming about what I already have. I think I just get to be happy and fortunate. Is there a lesson in any of this? Can I distill the sensation I get from listening to The Wombats, to tap into that giddy youthful energy and bring that back to the relationship? Could I put aside life’s stresses and remember to stay playful? To constantly crush on my girlfriend with intentionality? To keep that deep sense of loyalty, but also in ways bring it back to dating once more? To reinvigorate not just every time I hear this album, but every year from here to the end?
They say that absence makes a heart grow fonder. Let’s see what a week can do.

Wait, was EVERYONE hitting on me?

At the airport. Everyone seems to be super stressed or argumentative. I’ve heard yelling erupt from all around me since I’ve walked i the building. Some American dude grumbling about why he had to wait in line if he had a US passport, a bearded ponytail dude raising his voice at his adult bearded ponytail son, telling him never to ask him for money again. Some guy whining at his wife for bringing him the wrong sandwich. Man, people’s lives are tough.
Mine? Mine’s great. I have zero cares in the world. I’m characteristically too early for my flight. It’s farcical to the point where the flight before ours is still waiting to leave, yet here I sit in the gate. The seats are wide and comfy, what’s not to like? I think for many people travel’s a stressful experience. I guess I can understand why, but it rarely presents that way for me. I love travel. I love travel in the way I did as a child. When I used to be too excited to sleep the night before a flight. Let’s be clear, I’m still too excited to sleep the night before a flight, but the drugs have gotten better since I was a kid. I couldn’t just knock myself out with melatonin. I find it hard to be upset if I’m hours away to being in the air. There’s so much promise in my future that dampening it with a dour outlook seems absurd. Even if things aren’t 100% perfect, by the very nature of being in an abnormal series of events they may as well be.
I think perception colours more than we give it credit for. Here I am, having the time of my life. Maybe others in my position wouldn’t be. There were lines at customs. I waited. They abated. The lady in front of me used four plastic containers and I only had one. The rest were held up. It was fine. I put my bag on and waited for more to arrive for my electronics. The clerk took my boarding pass and I chilled. Things would happen when they needed to. How odd that most people’s stress central is my zen. I got stopped and patted down. It got frisky. tapped down all over, dude lifted my shirt and everything. The funny part was that I forgot to take off my belt before walking through the scanner. I walked through the scanner and it beeped. I asked the dude if I’d need to take off my belt. He nodded. I took it off and halfway through he was all “wait, not yet”. I figured I’d mostly taken it off by then, I may as well finish. Then he made me hold it in my hand while he continued the proceedings. I had to lift one foot at a time and turn around, all while holding this belt in my outstretched hand. It was all kinds of goofy. The dude who checked my bags was friendly and chatty. It went a long way. He noticed a condom on the floor and asked “yo dude, did you drop that?” I looked at it, looked back at him and quirked an eyebrow “nope. It’s not a magnum.” Good, honest, silly fun.
When I got into the declaration section, I got pulled aside for declaring nuts, meat, animal by-products, etc. All because I was declaring a chicken sandwich. Frankly after keto I’m excited enough about eating bread again that I’d declare “CHICKEEEEEN SAAAAANDWIIIIICH” from the rooftops if I had the chance. In line I met an Aussie dude who introduced himself. I don’t know how he knew, but to be honest I’m enough of a chatterbox that he probably heard me asking someone a question in another line. It took all of 20 seconds for us to discover a mutual friend. He was going to LA for a job interview. Then some dude up front asked if anyone was travelling on a US or Canadian passport and I put my hand up. I got pulled ahead of line and wished my brief friend good luck on his job interview.
My friends are on their way to the airport. The only reason I’m here so early is I got bored at work. I decided to just walk out the door without saying goodbye. Instantly I was on holiday. You know, I might be here early enough to have an airport beer. Yeah, that sounds nice.
It was swell chatting folks, I’m gonna grab a beer.