If I was to put together a personal ad, “Miserly, loves company” would be my tagline.

And reality comes crashing back in. While it’s tempting to grumble about how returning to work makes me want to walk out a window, we’re only five stories up. That’s more trouble than it’s worth. So let’s try and figure out positive things about being back home.

  • Life is cheaper. Do you know how goddamn expensive it was to go away for a week? I’m sure if I wasn’t such a lazy mook I could’ve put effort into keeping my costs down, but you can clearly see my use of the conditional above. I spent a fuckton. Close to $100 USD per day, which is absurd. Let’s not forget that I was spending at least $10 a day on coffee, let alone booze, food and whatever activities floated my boat (or submarine, as the case may have been. Now that I’m home, I can scrimp and save and be as miserly as I desire.
  • Friends. Miserly loves company (see what I did there?). I had a great time in Portland, but there’s no skirting around the fact that for significant portions of the week I felt lonely as shit. I thrive on human connection and the absence took its toll. A big part of what keeps my running is feeling fulfilled by my close relationships (whether romantic or otherwise). Now that I’m home, I can reconnect with everyone I missed on my date with the Northwest.
  • Girlfriend. Yes, we’re nuanced autonomous people with lives of our own, but we’re also a massive part of each other’s lives. She’s the last person I see before I go to bed and the first person I see in the morning. We share food, cat feeding responsibilities and naked body heat. She tolerates all my dumb jokes and touches my butt. These are vital components of being human, people. While I had a blast checking out Portland, I also missed the fuck out of her. When you get so used to sharing space and skin with someone, it’s hard being without them for too long.
  • Other Magic Decks. I was so stoked to have brought my Chainer, Dementia Master deck on holiday with me. It gave me an excuse to meet people while travelling. I stopped in at a few local game stores and had an amazing night at Tonic Lounge’s “Monday the Gathering” evening. The deck over-performed, exceeding my expectations. It was reactive and surprisingly resilient, with the capacity to win out of nowhere. I also have a ton of other decks, none of which got to come on vacation. Hazezon, my pride and joy. Ruric Thar, the deck that still hasn’t found its potential. Hapatra, which is proving to be scarily formidable. I miss my playgroup, where the meta has evolved to reward tight plays while still being fun and friendly.
  • Being active again. After blisters created a pincer formation on my right foot, I started walking funny (not silly. It’s an important distinction) to avoid the pain. I guess it engaged the wrong muscles, because I pulled something. I developed a limp, stifling my speed and hindering my progress in navigating Portland on foot. it also meant my plans of jogging to keep active and work off the beer went unfulfilled. I felt slow and bloated, which didn’t help my mood. I’ve found in recent years that my state of mind is often contingent on a certain amount of physical activity. Not getting that meant I moped around more than would’ve been ideal. Towards the end of the trip I managed to locate the stretched muscle and rehabilitate it myself, but I wasn’t instantly better. It’s finally sorted itself out enough for me to get back to the gym. Maybe I’ll skip the weigh in today though. Baby steps.
  • Toronto Events. Competitive Erotic Fanfiction tonight. Father John Misty is on Monday. JFL42 begins on Thursday. Life in Toronto is constantly moving at a rapid pace and it runs in tandem with my heartbeat. It’s great to be away on holiday, but Toronto is home. That sure counts for something.

Most importantly, it’s the end of a Friday workday and I won’t have to think about being miserable at my job for another two days. Life is pretty sweet, when you think about it.

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The treehouse thing is legit. You can look it up on Air BnB Portland.

And so the adventure comes full circle. I return home, but have I changed? Have I grown? I’m not just talking about my midsection here. Did I face trials and adapt to them, learning more about myself in the process? I mean, I discovered that PBR (while not the vanguard of quality) isn’t intolerable for $2 a pop. If nothing else, that’s something.

I woke up yesterday knowing that I wanted to get to Pok Pok. A vietnamese restaurant frequented by chefs, Pok Pok is the sister restaurant of Whiskey Soda Lounge, where I’d gotten those wings on my first night in town. I got in touch with my friend and asked him if he wanted to go there for a late lunch (thereby avoiding the absurd lines). We got there for 2pm and were seated immediately. I’m not a good enough writer to do the meal justice, but it was fantastic across the board. We had grilled chicken skewers, which had a tiny morsel of pork belly at the bottom of the skewer to add a little fatty flavour. There was a beautiful coconut milk based pork curry. It was so sweet and thick, with succulent chunks of pork. Then of course we ordered the wings, because if a dish is the best of its type you’ve ever tried, going for another round is hardly an imposition.

Stuffed and sanctified, we went for a walk in a nearby park. There was a great off-leash, some dude who sounded Johnny Cash-esque playing to himself and some spritely old woman walking her dog. She told us about the Air BnB she’d built. She’d taken the old frame of a tree house in her backyard and solidified everything. She’d created a cute little two person domicile that people could rent for $23 per night. She said it had her art over the walls “and I’m a good artist” and had been booked solidly since she’d opened. We walked around a bunch and talked to more dog owners/dogs. Then shuffled off for late afternoon coffee. I took my buddy to Tov, my favourite cafe in the city. It’s the transformed bus with a passionate barista doing all manner of delectable creations. My friend is lactose intolerant, so he ordered a chilled coconut milk vanilla/reduced rum latte. The barista measured each and every ingredient to ensure perfection. He went into his freezer and pulled out a block of frozen coconut milk. “This way the drink is chilled, but doesn’t dilute the flavour”. It’s the little touches, you know? I got a wine mocha because if this guy could nail such a bizarre high-wire act, he deserved all the acclaim I could give him. I took a sip, it was wonderful. I asked him how he managed to make everything work together so well. “It’s ratios, for sure. The other part is using the highest quality ingredients across the board. Fine chocolate, fine wine, fine coffee.” I couldn’t argue with success. We chatted about cafes in town and we both agreed on which places were great and which were overrated. He suggested a cafe downtown, which I might try to get to today.

I wanted to check out a Magic night at a local game store, so my friend gave me a ride. He told me that if I wasn’t busy later, he was going to a Burner meet up at a local. I figured I’d get a couple of games in then meet him there. It went exactly like that. The store was a friendly place open to all manner of games. A group next to us was playing Pathfinder, while a couple of tables played board games. There was a nice community focus. One wall had a sign that said “what would you tell someone being bullied?” Kids had given their answers, which were surprisingly mature. A noticeboard said that house rules were to be respectful, friendly, to watch your language and take care of your hygiene. I enjoyed a few games (the deck I brought has been on a hot streak. I’ve won maybe 8 of the 10 games I’ve played), then left for the burner meet up.

It was exactly what I’d wanted. Meeting and chatting with open, welcoming people. We talked about their burn experiences and travel they’d done. I got mistaken for some French UFC dude from Montreal and pulled into a group to hang out regardless. One of my friend’s camp-mates played Magic with her boyfriend, so we chatted about the game, long term relationships, etc. As always, anyone who found out I was from New Zealand and had visited wanted to talk about their experiences there. An adamant “I’m just passionate” Mexican woman ranted about what good Mexican food really was and accosted my friend into a future trip to her favourite restaurant in town. “You’ve gotta work for it” she said. “I’m not just giving you the address. You have to wear a blindfold and everything. I’m serious.” It was a great cap to my trip, my last night ending on a high note. My friend and I got late night tacos and he dropped me off at home. I told him sincerely that if he and his wife ever wanted to come to Toronto, we had a spare bed for them.

The big question, with three days left before the event. Have I learned enough about myself to write the greatest Beth/Bojack crossover erotic fanfic the world has ever seen? Stay tuned to find out.

Did I waste all my luck on getting free corn today? I’m not saying it wasn’t worth it.

My brain is gone, so it seems a fitting time to go on vacation. A week without responsibilities sounds ideal. I’ve finished a hectic day of work spent covering my ass and making it possible for others to also cover my ass while I’m away. I’m not sure that I’ve experienced anything quite so cathartic as clicking “OK” on my Out Of Office auto reply. My only regret was leaving my sunglasses at home. What efficacy could blowing that popsicle stand really have without stylish ocular UV protection?

Now all I need to do is withdraw US funds, pack my bags and make it to the airport on time. I’ve checked in online, set an alarm and have all the necessary electronics charging. What else is there to flying these days? The weather looks pretty warm, possibly due to the smoke and ash in the air from nearby forest fires. Where’s that old SARS mask when I need it? Tomorrow’s gonna be a shit day of traveling. I chose flights that’d get me there in the early evening at the expense of my entire day. I’ve got a six hour flight to LAX, a three hour wait once I arrive then another three hour flight. If that ain’t enough time to write my epic erotic horse doctor fanfic, it may never get done. Worst of all, I need to deal with a 4.30am alarm and the night bus (since my flight is apparently too early for the subway system to deal with its bullshit). To add to all that bollocks, I’m quite likely getting sick. I feel the familiar scratching at the back of my throat indicating that my body is also tired of my bullshit. Perfect. If I chug an oil of oregano bottle will that make it all go away? What if I eat “a garlic” (embarrassing as it is, at this moment I can’t remember the collective noun for garlic cloves)? Or just devour an entire orange tree, branches and all? Any other miracle naturopathic remedies out there? I’m desperate.

I could do with a shamefully early rest tonight. Exhausted, I slept a bunch last night, but fitfully and with weird dreams. I dreamt that I was still in bed, but my girlfriend was getting up irrationally early. Like, the kind of time I’m getting up tomorrow. These bells started chiming that woke me from my slumber. I looked out our open window to see shadowy figures patrolling the neighborhood. I was creeped out and took evasive measures. I rolled backwards and landed on the floor with a thump, but at least I was out of these shadows’ lines of sight. My girlfriend came back from the bathroom and I hissed at her to hit the ground. She ignored me, instead walking to the window to see what was up. The bells continued. I peeked out over the bed and saw that not only had the shadowy figures come closer, one was looking through the window directly at me. I ducked back down, but thought back to what I’d seen in that split second. It was a person. An old person. My girlfriend walked across the room and handed me a brochure. These old people had created their own artisan cider and this was their marketing push. Disgusted, I thought about telling them to get off my lawn, before realising I was still creeped right the fuck out. “You didn’t buy any, did you?” I asked. “Of course not.” She replied “they didn’t take debit.”

Oh, and it sounds like Portland is currently engulfed in thick, dense smoke. People are advised against going outdoors if possible. This trip is gonna be greeeat.

I might not be a vampire, but that was a steak to the heart.

I lived a pretty damn fortunate childhood. While we weren’t filthy rich (in anything but love. Say it with me: “awww”), we never wanted for anything that mattered. My parents didn’t care much for us having the newest flash toys, but we had a solid roof over our head, a stocked kitchen and clothes to keep us warm. Of course, being a child I bristled seeing what some kids got, but it’s not like nuance is easy to understand without a fully formed brain. As time passed, I stopped seeing the value in ostentatious material goods. I grew to enjoy experiential gifts and quality excursions. We were, however, spoiled for food. We got good home cooked tucker and had more than our fair share of nice meals out.

To this day I don’t place a ton of stock in fine restaurants. Not that there’s anything wrong with them, but the food here in Toronto is good enough that few occasions merit the higher price tag. I think back to my childhood with wonder, when we used to get entrees, mains and desserts, then leave the establishment clutching our bellies. I’ve gotten old(/boring) enough that I’m not really into that amount of excess anymore. I can’t fathom having three course meals when the portions are so plentiful over this side of the world. In the rare event that I go out for a decadent dinner, I savour it more than I used to. The cynic in me says that’s just ’cause I’m holding the price tag this time around. Or perhaps that’s what maturity does.

Yesterday was my girlfriend’s birthday. A couple of weeks back we realised we’d never been out for a nice steak since we’d been in the city. Her escape from the 27 Club seemed like the perfect excuse. Polling friends, Barberian’s had a solid reputation so we booked in. Dreams of sumptuously cooked slabs of meat floating through our dreams.

Barberian’s is a heritage steakhouse in Toronto that’s remained in the same building for the past 40 years. It’s high-end, with steaks averaging $50 or more a pop. Definitely a step up from the dilapidated soon-to-expire meat chunks I’d buy in my early 20s. Barberian’s is known both for their expertly prepared food and extensive wine cellar. If the steak weighed half as much as their wine list booklet, we were in for a feast.

It couldn’t be understated how different the service was at an establishment like this, verses some kind of chain restaurant. Our server was both extremely personable and knowledgeable. He seemed to be serving only a handful of tables and always managed to appear when a question popped into our heads. We admitted our ignorance when it came to high quality cuts of meat, so he took us slowly through the difference between each cut, how good marbling would change the overall taste. We queried about the optional extras and not once did he attempt to upsell or steer us towards more expensive choices. Instead he asked what kind of experience we were looking to have and offered suggestions on what he thought we might enjoy. While we walked in determined to stick with the steak, he made such a good case for the rack of lamb that it was hard to refuse. We ordered the 16oz Rib Steak and the full rack, with a side of baked potatoes and fries. He said it was no trouble at all to arrange the meal in a sharing platter so we both had easy access. He took the time to take us through wine options that would complement the meal, with generous sampling glasses to help us make the right choice.

Everything was lavishly presented and perfectly cooked. I mean everything, right from the iced pickled vegetables and bread at the start. I didn’t know it was possible for butter to have quality gradients, but that was some damn fine butter. The rack of lamb was a dream, with sumptuous medallions and adroitly seared exterior. The steak was perfectly textured, knives deftly sliding through. The contrast with your garden variety restaurant steak was staggering. The two of us blissed out as we took our time absorbing the myriad of tastes arising from the meal.

My girlfriend went to the bathroom and I took the chance to pay for our fare. I thanked our server for making the night as special as it could be. I explained how we’d been relishing the chance to finally enjoy a nice steak and her birthday had been the perfect opportunity. “Oh geez, why didn’t you tell me?” He asked. He grabbed our box of leftovers and remarked “pretend you haven’t paid yet. Does she like chocolate?” I nodded and he disappeared in a flash. She came back and we basked in the afterglow of a wonderful meal. Several minutes later our server arrived with an immaculately constructed plate. A small moulded white chocolate house sat in the centre, with a milk chocolate roof and mousse filling. It was flanked by a pile of fresh berries and mound of fresh cream with a single candle sticking out. Along the side in artful chocolate penmanship read “Happy Birthday”. It was a lovely (and delicious, I might add) touch to what’d already been a remarkable night out. We walked out the door filled to the brim with cheer, so thankful that the experience was everything we’d hoped for.

Sometimes nice things are just that.

I guess you could say I was paste off.

I have a headache right now, which thankfully has been a rare occurrence in adulthood. So this entry is likely gonna be disparate thoughts stitched together. It’s odd, because I used to get headaches all the time as a kid. Maybe I wasn’t drinking enough water or there was something iffy in my diet, but it was a nigh daily happening. I became used to having painkillers on hand as a matter of course. That dried up close to 20 years back though and it’s not something I think about until I feel that familiar pressure in my brain.

I put a status up on both my Facebook news feed and in a private puns group. “What’s it called when you find the sound of people sipping miso soup triggering?” I’d thought to myself that it was a fun little joke. I expected I’d garner a couple of likes, maybe a few comments of people who didn’t get that it was a “misophonia” joke. In both cases, someone made the misophonia connection early on and commented. Others went for plays on “misanthrope” and “misogyny”, which was neat. As I’d expected, some people just didn’t get it. A few dumb comments with people making unrelated puns like “miso hungry”, which reflects on the “miso” aspect but completely misses the set up. I don’t really know what I’m trying to say here, except that it was a pretty simple reminder that as soon as your message enters a public space, its meaning is up to others to determine. In a way it’s stopped being yours. I think about musicians and other artists whose texts are open to interpretation. It’s always seemed weird to me that they rarely come out and say “well this is what I intended to say with this song” or whatever. They often prefer to stay enigmatic and distance themselves from semiotic analysis. In this case I wondered if coming out and saying “welp, it was a basic misophonia joke that didn’t really need commentary” would serve any purpose. Was I better to step back and let it be its own thing? It was the path of least effort, in any case.

I was folding washing today and found myself messing up the folding of one of my girlfriend’s spaghetti strap tank tops. I looked at the misshapen lump and had a real “Once in a Lifetime” moment. How did I get here? I was co-habiting with someone else. Sharing a bed with them. Our lives intertwined. Hell, sharing food even. Flashes of memory: I thought back to how we’d met, our early dates, milestones, holidays, time with family. I flashed forward to future time with family, holidays, milestones, telling our kids about our early dates, how we’d met. At that moment it seemed simultaneously the weirdest fucking thing in the world that five years past I was half-way across the world with no idea who she was, but also the most natural thing in the world to be spending my life with her. In this moment between moments, the bizarre and wonderful duality of existing at all, of circumstance and co-incidence, of taking chances and following through, all flickered in and out of my mind, too quick to catalogue. What would my life be/have been without her? Isn’t it weird to have all of this inside of you at every moment and not constantly unravel?

To that end, isn’t it weirder that I’m not having headaches every day?

Not that the word “flaccid” was important. I just wanted to add texture.

It’s been some time since I’ve talked about anything polyamory and that’s likely because it’s been some time since polyamory was relevant in my day to day. Neither my partner nor I have had much interest in dating other people, so neither of us have. When enough’s going on in your life that you’re having difficulty spending time with those you love, it’s hard to muster up enthusiasm for getting to know even more people you’ll eventually have to cancel on. Hell, it’s hard enough failing at re-working a sentence not to end on a preposition.

I figure that still being relatively new to the practice of extending romantic connection beyond monogamous commitment, there are muscles to be worked. It’s not like those muscles atrophy without use, but have you tried going for a run after a weeks spent marathoning The Wire? One of these things is only an exercise in patience. I haven’t had to think about romantic/sexual connections with others in yonks. Nor have I put myself through the mental gymnastics of working around the abundant social programming of a largely monogamous society. I haven’t been considering my anchor partner meeting others and how my brain reacts to that idea. She hasn’t dated anyone in an age. The last time I dated anyone was maybe ten months ago. It ended amicably enough, but I also didn’t yearn to get back out there. So we’ve been nesting comfortably.

My girlfriend and I went to a party the other night. I noticed she was getting close to a guy there. Nothing remotely explicit. A light brush here, a hand on the upper arm or waist. My immediate response wasn’t anything apocalyptic, but more aw geez, now I’m gonna have to do the work of mental unpacking. I was bracing myself for the thought of dealing with feelings that could potentially be challenging at some point. Like standing behind a wall holding a shield encased in a suit of armour. Are feelings that monstrous?

I tried poking and prodding at them a little. I’d met this dude a couple of times before. He’s always been a friendly, welcoming fellow. He’s open and honest, fun to be around and a warm soul. He’s a tall, good looking guy, so I understand her attraction. It’s not like I harbour any ill will for him, so why would I bristle at the thought of my girlfriend wanting to spend time with him? Because my italicised counter-thoughts chimed in, if she thinks he’s attractive, then she doesn’t think you are. That was silly. I find other women attractive, does that mean I don’t consider my girlfriend to be a knockout? Hell no. She’ll get infatuated with him and you’ll feel lonely, sad, holding your flaccid dick in your hand. I mean, this was getting to the heart of it. I didn’t want to be left behind or put out. The assumption that she’d no longer want me was ridiculous. I went off and had another relationship while living with her. Did I desire her less? Hell no. It made me appreciate even deeper all the things that made her special. But she’s a hyper-desirable person. She’ll be constantly out at parties finding people to fuck while you circle the snack table and talk to people about Air Bud like a child or adult with severe arrested development issues. Like a textbook narcissist, this was all a big plea of “what about me?”

I’m sure I sell myself short, but my base assumption is that nobody is interested ever. Straight up, my brain tells me that nobody wants to fuck me. The fact that a) I’m not a virgin and b) don’t think I have it in me to coerce anyone, should contradict this all to hell. It’s a worthless mental affirmation that I constructed years before I’d ever had sex. I don’t know why I’m still holding onto it. I’ve got a strong conviction against making anyone feel unwelcome or uncomfortable and it’s really hard to shirk the notion that my advances would cause discomfort. To be thought of as That Creepy Dude is anathema to my M.O. My involuntary response is to never hit on anyone at a party ever. Then I feel like a fucking child as people are getting frisky around me. It’s not that I don’t get hot under the collar when I meet someone sexy at a party. It’s more akin to having a mental collar that threatens to blow my brain to giblets if I were to act on that. I’ve conditioned myself to be harmless and in so, severely damaged my self-esteem.

I’ve got work to do. I need to train those mental muscles to relax and chill out. I need to accept that my partner will be attracted to others and it’s fine for her to act on that attraction. If this relationship is to have the sustainability we both desire, then I need to work on compersion, to be happy for her finding connection. But also that it’s okay for me to do the same. I also need to understand that I’m not a burden or continually unwanted, that sending out flirty vibes is not the same thing as assuming the woman I’m talking to has no agency or choice in the matter. That it’s possible for someone to look at me and think I want to put my lips on his and maybe touch his butt.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

If I didn’t wake up tomorrow, I could hardly be that angry.

Oy vey, if the point of life is to live, then today was a fulfilment of my true prerogative. What a full day. Stacked to the brim with bustling activity, decadent consumption and love all around.

I woke up with plans to meet friends for lunch. Headed to my local for a coffee, which delivered on everything a decent coffee should. Why else would the place be my local? Do you think my standards are low enough to settle for shit in a mug? Fuck no. The baristas are super consistent and the beans are smooth and aromatic. I walked out of there with a mocha in hand and sunshine in my heart.

BRUNCH. Brunch plans came together hurriedly late last night. I basically got tacked onto a friend’s already scheduled brunch engagement. There was very little planning or discussion, but I figured I’d go with it and see how it turned out. As it happened, the brunch skewed more towards fine dining at Globe Bistro. It’d been yonks since I last visited a fine dining establishment (maybe Liverpool House in Montreal?) and was more than up for it. Even better, Summerlicious happened to be on. Summerlicious is a period of prix fixe menus, often experimental. A $23 three course meal at 11am? Why the fuck not? I call that a Saturday.

I started off with the Dry-Aged Steak Tartare. I’d never had Steak Tartare before. I’d been yearning to give it a try ever since hearing a story of my dad on his first date at a fancy French restaurant and ordering the steak. The Tartare wasn’t what he expected. It was, however, what my body wanted this morning. A little pool of miso aioli sat to the side, with a sprinkling of toasted hazelnuts, mustard greens and rice chips planted in a nicely sized circle of minced beef. It was so goddamn rich and all the flavours alley ooped one another like fucking champs.

For my main, I went for the Lake Trout. Served on a corn sake kasu broth, with Norther Woods oyster mushrooms, baby bok choy and scallions. Bloody divine. Soft and flakey, with crispy seared skin running along the top. I’d never imagined corn and mushrooms complementing one another, but somehow the textures meshed. Perhaps soaking in the sake broth mellowed them out. An A+ success.

The dessert was a Milk Chocolate Pannacotta. Soft and smooth, with a hazelnut meringue, Chantilly cream and salted caramel sauce. Decadent enough to melt my tastebuds to blissful numbness.

Then with a stomach fit to bursting, I met my girlfriend for rock climbing. I hadn’t climbed in some time and I think all the rich vittles were dragging down my centre of gravity. I did a bunch of climbs and to be honest, they weren’t too shabby. I got up those walls, I had a couple of well executed foot placements. I made it up a few walls easier than I’d expected. Defeated an overhang or two. Sure, I was still lunging for more holds than I would’ve liked, but having not climbed for aaaaaaages, I did pretty damn well. I also went upstairs to try out some stuff on the rings and it turns out my muscle ups are still solid. Stoked to bits.

We walked down the hill to Christie Pitts park and met up with a bunch of friends we hadn’t seen in far longer than was cool. All of us had been somewhat reclusive and had sorely missed one another. We snacked on cheese, fruit, popcorn and chips (because I hadn’t eaten enough already). We unleashed pun after pun. I got to try out handstands and round-offs after what’d felt like forever. All of which turned out really bloody great. We felt full of food and love, content with a day well spent.

Then went home to spend some quality time without clothing. Because there’s no such thing as too much love.