Success or phalanx?

I have exactly nothing to talk about today. So let’s see how this plays out.

My left thumb is sore, because I’m a dumbass who doesn’t know how to properly wrap his hands before boxing. You’d think this’d make typing insufferable, but I don’t type using a structured Mavis Beacon style touch typing approach. So while my left thumb rests right by the spacebar, it never really sets print on the keyboard. “Sets print”? I wasn’t sure either. My thumb’s hardly gonna set foot, but I’m not entirely sure what that part of my thumb is called. The pad perhaps? What does Google say? Obviously I was indicating the second phalanx (duh. it’s not like we’re talking about metacarpals like some AMATEUR FUCKING MORONS AMIRITE?), but the fleshy part rather than the nail. “Print” will have to do for now. Anyway, it’s sore. Not prohibitively so, but just enough to justify complaining. Since this is my space and I can do what I want, that’s exactly what I’m gonna do.

Waah, my thumb hurts. I wish it felt pain free as per the norm, but it doesn’t.

Done.

Clearly you’re all here for these breaking stories. Hope you’re getting all you wanted. Frankly, I’m not sure why most if any of you are reading this. It’s been some time since anything interesting went on around these parts. I apologise for my lack of compelling life changes. I guess going to Portland was fun. Remember when I metaphorically took you on a trip with me? That was exciting. People were smiling in the streets. I drank a lot of beer. I had coffee in a reclaimed bus. Marijuana was legal to purchase. It was like being in another world. Maybe my life is feeling worn in right now because I’m not trying many new things. Perhaps I need more hobbies, or some kind of way of sampling novel experiences on a regular basis. Anything can get boring if it becomes overly repetitive. That’s how relationships find slumps. Perhaps I need to spice up my relationship with myself.

What could I do?

I could force myself to go somewhere new every week. It could be a new bar or restaurant. It could be exploring a new neighbourhood just to look at things. Or perhaps jog in a new environment (though to be honest, when I’m jogging I’m paying more attention to the music in my ears than my surroundings). Maybe I need to find books to read that challenge me in some way. Frankly, I barely read at all any more, so simply adhering to flipping pages in my leisure time would be challenge enough. What if I went to a library and got a book out on some new skill, then worked on that skill? I don’t know if I’ve made something out of wood since I was sub ten years old. What if I messed around with audio editing again? I’m a mic away from recording things. They’re easy enough to find.

I guess the unspoken truth here is that there are infinite things I could do to work out of this rut. The difference is whether or not I do them. I’m so used to reacting to change, having it forced upon me and adapting. Enacting change from within requires discipline, motivation and the endurance to carry on past obstacles. Where does that come from? What drives me and how can I harness that in order to regain momentum? It makes sense that the hardest time to see the road ahead is when you’re down a hole. At the same time, it’s the most crucial juncture in which to launch yourself back to that path. If I’m struggling at harnessing that will, is it time yet to ask for help?

It’s a pity my thumb is sore, I could’ve used it to hitchhike somewhere new.

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Counterpoint: The world is a genuinely shitty place for many, many people.

In a truly unexpected turn of events, it was harder returning to Toronto than I thought. Emotionally, that is. It’s not like I got held up at customs for excessive contraband suppositories or anything. It was strange, because I genuinely love this city. Toronto has a capacity to surprise me. It often takes a lot to deal with living in a busy city, but Toronto often gives more than it takes. So after all that fellation, what’s my deal? I’ve had one large gripe, with no idea how to structure it. I’ve been searching for a way to lay it out that doesn’t make me sound whiny, entitled, or privileged to the brim. It’s been hard to succinctly state it and still come off as a reasonable person. So instead I’m gonna own that fact that I often live in a cartoon world of whimsy and barrel through it. Here goes.

People in Toronto don’t smile.

It sucks, and makes a wonderful city feel oppressive and unfriendly. You can see how this reads, right? Straight white cis dude upset that his path isn’t paved with yellow bricks? I expect people to smile because it makes me feel better? I’m expecting strangers, irrespective of the machinations of their life, to cast off their frowns and bring my Toontown fantasy land into reality? To serve my interests because I don’t want to admit that there’s darkness, inequality and suffering in these streets? Or am I just one more dick in a landfill of bros telling women they should smile more?

I’m not an idiot, I get how this sounds.

It’s such a contrast from Portland, where almost everyone I smiled at on the street would smile back. If I saw someone heading out of a cafe, I’d smile and they’d nod or wave. Drivers that stopped so I could cross the road would smile at me. People walking past would wish me a good day. Kids would beam at everyone who crossed their paths. It was unreal. The more smiles I’d see, the more I’d give, until we were all swapping sunshine and joy like Oddbodz cards. There was this alluring small town charm that was impossible to resist. Would you stand in the way of strangers spreading happiness?

In Toronto if you smile people automatically assume ill intent. It’s a time poor city and everyone’s in a hurry. If you’re smiling and making eye contact, it probably means you want something from them. They’re late for a very important date and you could be an unwelcome distraction that digs them in deeper. Or you could be a legitimate threat in a physical or emotional manner. I’m by no means mitigating this. Just because I rarely have to put up with harassment, that doesn’t change that fact that it’s rampant. If I smile at a child, parents often assume I’m bad news. Like I want to molest their kid instead of just thinking kids are funny and cute sometimes. If I smile at a woman, I’m sure it triggers a response built up over years of encountering unwelcome encounters. If I smile at a guy, I dunno, he thinks I’m into him, which makes me unwanted detritus. If I smile at most anyone they think I’m unstable in some fashion.

Please understand, my disappointment isn’t with the people who don’t reciprocate. It’s a systemic issue. The structure of our society tells us that we need to be cautious of those around us. That people have the capacity to harm or threaten us. That if we’re not vigilant we’ll be punished for our carelessness. We’ve been enculturated into a mentality of fear that tells us not to let our guard down. It sucks. I don’t know how to let people know that I’m harmless, that I come bearing no ill will. I wish there were a way to salve those rampant worries and culture of defensive behaviour. I wish that Toronto’s denizens had good reason to assume the best rather than the worst. Most of all I wish that people wouldn’t have to feel the way they do, because mostly it’s likely a learned response to past shitty experiences. I want to let go of all of this and smile, but Toronto isn’t giving me much reason to.

Can’t everyone just chill out and buy a coke?

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.

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.

It was, in short, a magic gathering.

I think yesterday was the kind of day I’d come to Portland for. A day spent going with the flow and enjoying where it took me.

In a weird coincidence, The Smiths played at least once in every establishment I set foot into yesterday. Which is even weirder because last night I dreamed that somebody loved me.

The last day or two had me feeling a little lonely and isolated. I wasn’t getting a whole lot of social interaction and the connections I hoped I’d find didn’t eventuate. When travelling, connecting with strangers and interacting with people outside of my usual experience keeps me going. What you see when going from place to place makes for a great backdrop, but the characters you meet provide the flavour. Tinder has proven to be a dead end. Without any matches it’s more a time sink where I get to judge a portfolio of people and marvel at what a terrible human being I am. What did work out though, was Couchsurfing. I was terrified of ending up in another meet up where people said “schwag” on repeat for 20 minutes, but I downloaded the app to try the “hangout” function. Simple but effective, it lists people who are actively seeking others to hang out with. It’ll say what they’re looking for (coffee/tea, drinks, lunch), have a link to their bio and show approximately how far they are from you. I saw that some dude within a 3km radius was looking to grab coffee. He was an aspiring audiophile and well travelled guy. I figured I lost nothing by opting in for a hangout. I sent a message and within minutes he accepted. He said it’d take him about half an hour to get ready and suggested a cafe about half an hour from where I was. What could go wrong?

Nothing, apparently. He was a nice bloke in his late 30s. He’d been constantly on the move for the past nine years or so, periodically coming back to Portland between journeys. He’d taught English in Korea, Japan, backpacked around South America and Columbia. Used to work in PR for tech companies, but got wanderlust and had to sate his thirst. We talked about cultural differences in the places he’d visited and how his language acquisition had gradually increased. I mentioned how I’d had trouble pushing myself to meet people. How I’d felt that I’d be interrupting or forcing myself on others who were just looking for their own space. He said not to worry, that if you’re not being a dick the worst they’re gonna say is “no thanks”. He said that oftentimes he’ll just chat with the bartender if they’re not that busy, which creates the opportunity for others to join in on the dialogue if they’re feeling it. He mentioned the difference smartphones have made over the years. How on one hand they’d made it harder to spontaneously connect with the people around you, as everyone was plugged in. At the same time, they were infinitely useful when travelling alone in order to find your way around a new city, figure out events to check out or make online connections for meet ups. I asked him, with all his travelling, what was the first thing he’d do when arriving in a new place? He said that he wasn’t much of an insta-traveller, that he often stayed somewhere for a few weeks to a few months. He said that establishing a routine made him feel more comfortable, he’d check out coffee shops and local bars. Once he felt settled, he’d engage more with connecting to others. We chatted about music, how we sourced new artists and how our relationship with music had formed and changed over time. We talked podcasts, TV and films. He suggested a few places for me to check out around town, some particularly choice food cart pods. After our coffee he took me around the corner to a pod (that’s what they call clusters of food carts, if that wasn’t immediately obvious) and introduced me to a delicious korean pork belly lettuce wrap. It was the size of a burrito, with a delicious spicy sauce. Food carts are so good here. The quality and prices are both unbelievable. Social batteries recharge, I ventured out to Happy Hour with a renewed vigour.

I stopped back into The Hungry Tiger and sat at the bar. Sipping on a whiskey & coke, I noticed someone looking at her phone and picking at a macaroni & cheese. I thought ‘here goes nothing’ and thought of what the Couchsurfing guy said. If the worst was gonna be “no thanks” I could always just go back to playing on my phone. “How’s the mac here?” I asked. She looked up. “It’s vegan and I’m vegan so it’s pretty good. They use better “cheese” than some other places.” That wasn’t so bad. We talked for a while. She’d been looking to move to this part of the country to do her masters in photography. She’d checked out San Fran and was leaving Portland in a few hours. The cost of living here was lower and she was strongly considering it. She asked me if I watched Game of Thrones and lit up once I said yes, so we talked the ins and outs of Westeros for an hour or so. She was 25 and not the sort that I’d usually hang out with, but that didn’t make her a bad person by any means. Frankly, it was just nice to talk about a mutual interest with someone and kill an hour. I guess the Couchsurfing dude was right.

The only thing I’d actually planned on doing yesterday was checking out Tonic Lounge. A bar on the North East side, it hosted a weekly Monday night Magic event. Given my lack of success with events over the past week, I expected to walk in and find the place empty. Instead there were around 20 or so players by the time I arrived. Everyone was playing, sipping on pints and eating bar snacks. The music was great and they had old episodes of Robotech playing on the projector. Since most of the staff were Magic players themselves, the bar extended the Happy Hour specials all night for anyone who was there to game. I had a great chocolatey stout and ordered a $6 plate of pulled pork nachos. I couldn’t believe how good they were. The pulled pork was sweet and tangy. Super cheesy, there was a dollop of sour cream in the middle, fresh bruschetta on the left and picked carrots/jalapenos on the right. Everyone was really friendly and, while experience levels varied, nobody seemed to be outright cutthroat. It was an amazing space to enjoy the game, see some great plays and have fun hanging out. I had such a fantastic time and only regretted not being able to become a regular.

With one and a half days left here, I haven’t got a lot left to cross off my list. How much debauchery can I get up to before I leave?

Nobody wants to talk about Air Bud? Story of my life.

The most bizarre aspect of this trip so far is how my perception of time has warped. In my quotidian existence I’m used to a certain pace. The workweek comes with its own time markers. Toronto, like most big cities, is a time-poor location, in that people are typically in a rush. There’s so much to do, busy busy busy, etc. Taking a step away from that for a week has left me feeling marooned. With no agenda at times I’m left floating aimlessly, unsure of how to fill a whole day.

Typically I’ve been going to bed before 1am, waking up and getting out of the house before 10am. Then returning around midnight or so. This means I’m on the move for around 12-14 hours per day. I’ve been checking out different neighbourhoods, restaurants, quirky shops and generally looking at things. By the time Happy Hour rolls in, I’m usually ready to take a load off and grab drinks/vittles. I don’t know if I’d call it a schedule, per se, but it’s how things have played out over the past few days.

Maybe I’m old, but I’ve been getting weary. I got lost on a jog up a mountain a few days back, which ended up taking an hour+. After several hours walking each day, my right leg has basically given up. Big blisters on my pinky toe and heel made walking fraught and whatever path of least resistance this caused my leg to take, various muscles have tightened to the point where walking is pain. I’ve tried to stretch as I’ve gone, but today was the first time I settled down for a long stretch session. It definitely helped, but my body is still rotting, clearly. Wubbalubba dub dub.

Yesterday I mellowed out a lot. Ate ice cream, roamed the Mississippi and Alberta neighbourhoods and spent a bunch of time on my phone. A lack of abundant social contact has meant more Reddit/Facebook. It feels tacky on holiday, but self-care is self-care, right? A friend on Facebook recommended that I install Tinder as a way of meeting people. I hastily put together a profile:

“A New Zealand Chris Traeger. Begrudgingly adorkable. Your mum thinks I’m funny. Knows way too much about Air Bud. I’m here in Portland until September 13th. Come and be a tourist with me in your own city.

Mainly using this for friends/activity partners. Ethical Poly, etc, but really want to make friends while on holiday. We could chat about Air Bud, even.”

So far I’ve had one brief response and it went less than nowhere. I have zero expectations, but it so far hasn’t met those. I do think it’s absurdly fascinating though. I’m on it to look for friends, but I still find that I’m subconsciously super judgey about who I do and don’t match with. No profile? No match. Just Instagram? No match. I’m on it to make friends but if I don’t find someone attractive I swipe left. Then I’m all ‘hey, why should looks matter? You’re right internal monologue, they don’t’. Then I swipe left on another person I don’t find attractive. It’s fucking stupid. If I do find someone to be super attractive I swipe left thinking ‘they’re way out of my league and won’t respond anyway’. I’m sure they do alright and won’t mind. Self-defeating. I find a billion reasons as to why things won’t work with most everybody I see. It’s not like I don’t swipe right, but it’s also not surprising that I’m not drowning in matches. I’m the last one in the world to realise, I’m sure, but it’s crazy addictive getting a brief glimpse into strangers’ lives.

I went out to a Rick and Morty viewing party at a “weed bar” last night in the hopes of making like-minded friends. The “weed bar” was someone’s house. Most everyone was too high to follow a real conversation. The episode was brilliant, so at least I got that much out of it. As I went to leave the host said that $5 was her standard charge so I paid, having enjoyed the chance to watch the episode. After I left, I realised she thought I’d been smoking and the charge was for pot. Dumb.

I just installed the Couchsurfing App to find people to hang out with. Let’s see how this goes. If worst comes to worst, there’s a bar hosting Magic the Gathering tonight. I can find my tribe. Unless someone on Couchsurfing slits my throat and dumps me in a river somewhere. Then I won’t have to worry about it, I guess.

Schwankers, the lot of ’em.

At this stage of my journey, I should be scheduled for a meeting with the goddess anytime now. I need some reason to overcome adversity having learned from my travels. Otherwise what was the point? To become a beer bellied hedonist filled with hollow experiences? Not on my watch!

The biggest trial so far has been loneliness. Not a soul-crushing, reaching out from the void, swathed in darkness and despair kind of loneliness, but more of an ‘I’d be having more fun right now if I was bouncing stuff off someone else’ kind of loneliness. Some activities are just more enjoyable shared. Like the Japanese Garden yesterday. It was all well and good to look at curated horticulture, sculpted zen gardens and those little bamboo shoots that drip water. But as someone who doesn’t get much of a kick taking photos of stuff (I’ve done it on trips before and I never look at it after, so why pull myself out of the moment?), it was a serene yet dull time. I could only repeat “how ’bout that serenity” so many times in my head before the reference lost its lustre. It was very pretty and aptly quiet. Once or twice I sat down on a bench, and tried to map out the sound. It’s something I started doing a while back when I used to produce audio. To close my eyes and open my ears. To listen and imagine the waveforms rebounding and refracting off one another. To conceptualise panning and balance in relation to my position. It’s a centering exercise that helps settle me. I stopped thinking about my desire for social contact and instead tried to be present with my surroundings. That being said, I could only pretend to be super impressed for so long before cutting my losses and checking out the neighbouring rose garden. It also was pretty and I huffed a rose or two. That’s the stuff.

I checked out a couple of happy hours. Ash Street Saloon had $2.75 microbrews and $4.50 burgers, so regardless of how out of place I looked in the borderline biker bar, I enjoyed my DJ Jazzy Hef jasmine wheat beer while looking at the leaderboard for Buck Hunter. Finished, I moved onto Rontoms, a classy place with vast amounts of space, comfy chairs and a cool vibe. I was still a little peckish and I had no idea what jackfruit was (the connotations are menacing enough), so I ordered jackfruit tacos and a whiskey & coke. The bartender gave an absurdly strong pour which pushed me further than I’d expected. Bored and internetting, I resigned myself to drink in lieu of having company. I could bring my own cheer right? RIGHT? I had another whiskey and thought of how I’d successfully used Couchsurfing in Montreal to meet people. I looked up local events and discovered a Portland meetup three minutes walk away from Rontoms. This was my meeting with the goddess, my turning point!

I arrived with five minutes left in happy hour, so got myself a Full Monty, a delicious concoction of ketel one, local ginger beer, lime and some kind of syrup, served in a copper mug. Things were looking up! I sat down with the group and introduced myself. ‘Look at all of these fellow travelers’, I thought.I thought wrong.

They were awful. Like, all of them individually. Or moreso just socially awkward and super fucking basic. Plus none of them were traveling, they were all hosts. I don’t know why that distinction mattered, but it did somehow. There was the California transplant who couldn’t stop talking about the features of different aircraft. There was his friend who kept on asking the group if anyone partook of certain hobbies (photography, video editing, running, rock climbing), saying he’d been looking at getting into them. It was like he was reading from cue cards on how to hold a conversation. There was the gal who kept steering the conversation back towards hookah bars (she eventually left to go to a hookah bar). There was the old guy who just sounded like he didn’t have many friends. There was the 20 or so year old guy who’d brought his girlfriend (maybe who was in from out of town) seemingly to show her off? He kept pawing at her or lying on her shoulder when she was just trying to make conversation with people. It was awkward and cringeworthy. Then there was the super frequent flyer guy who brought a bunch of his trophies from having flown so much. There was a scale airplane model, a thank you card from the airline, a small triangular medal thing and some earbuds. He passed these around like show and tell, gloating about all the “swag” he was getting, but pronouncing it “schwag”. “Schwag” he kept saying. It was the fucking worst. Then others passed the stuff around, saying “schwag” as they did. It was like walking into a cult ritual. By the 20th or so time someone said “schwag” I had to leave before I lost my cool. Where the fuck had these Cronenbergian nightmares crawled out from?

Maybe I’d make more friends if I wasn’t so judgemental, but hell, a guy has to have standards, right?