Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A great new excuse for not writing

I keep meaning to post, but the fact is, all my spare time (the time I don't waste, that is) is being spent learning español, which would be so much easier if not for stupid, annoying verbs.

Verbs. Why necessary? Conjugate this, mofo. ;^)

Oh yeah... G-man and I are going to Colombia in February. Yaaay!

Pues, hasta luego todos.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

F#%@ing Insomnia

Can anyone relate to this?

It’s just past one a.m. on a Monday night and you’re finally sleepy enough to put down the compelling novel you’ve been reading and turn off the bedside lamp. Time to visit dreamy places. Smoosh your face into the pillow just so. Close your eyes. Ahh…

But no! You’re suddenly aware of being awkwardly sandwiched between The Life Partner and The Dog. (In theory, you could push an 8-pound dog off the bed, but in reality, you’re the pushover.) The Life Partner is snoring like a Havana Chevy and The Dog’s breath stinks. The Life Partner is 18 feet tall and sleeps on his side, taking up two-thirds of the bed and poking his bony knees into your back. The Dog kisses your face, and you just know she’s been eating “cat cookies” again.

In desperation, you get up from your warm comfy bed and relocate to the much less inviting rock-like couch in the office. Try some deep-breathing relaxation techniques. These merely bore and frustrate you. But although you’re not sleepy enough to sleep, you don’t have the energy to actually do anything.

The computers hum and their various lights glow, reminding you that you could get off your ass and write. Maybe continue transcribing the journal you kept on a trip to Cuba ten years ago. But that’s not very appealing at all – the whole process to date has been like pulling your own teeth. Without anesthetic. When you read certain stuff you’ve written in the past, it’s so fucking banal you could just slap yourself senseless. Which would arguably be one way to bring on sleep.

So you get off the couch and blog about insomnia. And it’s two a.m. now. You recall The Life Partner saying to you recently “I can tell when you’ve taken a sleeping pill – you always snore.” D’accord, he nudges you when this happens, thereby waking you up, and you feel, shall we say, pretty strongly about being awake when you want to be asleep.

The blogging, like the deep breathing, eventually starts to bore and frustrate you, because it isn’t sleep. Finally, you decide to take a pill and go back to your warm comfy bed. You may not be 18 feet tall, but you’ve got knees of your very own. :^)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A girl, a cigar, a disgraced president

How's that for a working title?

I'm starting a piece right now based on some journaling I did during the trip G-man and I took to Cuba in January of 1998. Think of the working title as a sort of – what? Milieu? Tableau? Socio-political backdrop? Let's just pick the most pretentious of those and go with it. Anyway, A girl, a cigar, a disgraced president is the [Place pretentious term here} against which our trip was set. Even the historic papal visit to Cuba didn't warrant as much media attention as the torrid saga of Ms. L and Pres. C.

As you've probably gathered by the dearth of recent posts, I haven't had time to blog. That whole *making a living* thing, you know how it is. Still, I wanted to check in and let y'all know that babblings are brewing and will be posted soon(ish).

Virtual Hugs,


Monday, September 17, 2007

Guess who's running for office?

No one in this picture, that's for sure. But feel the gin, er, I mean love!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Playa Mafia 3: Hellgas’s Finest Hour

Playa Mafia 2
Playa Mafia 1

Five or six days into our stay at La Iguanita, Sven asks us “So, you guys have been here, what, three weeks?” G-man and I choose to take this as a compliment. I guess we do have a knack for becoming watering hole regulars. Even Hellga treats us as such.

Having learned how to read Her Ladyship’s ever-fluctuating Moodometer, I now know when to avoid her and when to sit back and enjoy her life-of-the-party ways.

Tonight she’s particularly got her charm on, dazzling locals and visitors alike with her pearly, for the moment non-psychotic smile and her quick wit. Apparently oblivious to the notion that she’d hated my guts a mere few days prior, she now addresses me like I’m a fun new pal.

Sven regales us with an account of the time he and Hellga attended a Rolling Stones concert with only 998 other people. It had been a VIP sort of show, and the band played old blues and other classics. Sven raves, whereas Hellga’s take on the event can perhaps be best described with a shrug and a “meh.”

We’re seated at the big round table drinking with “the Mafia”, a few of whom start to head home from about 7:30 onward. As usual, New York Pete is the first to leave; as usual, the others try to tease out of him who he’s off to see. Some hopelessly smitten young thing from Nebraska, I imagine. One of the bartenders, Carmen, can’t seem to help turning roja whenever she’s near Pete. Poor thing! For his part, Pete could do a whole lot worse, IMHO – Carmen’s a very sweet girl and a major hottie. Plus she knows how to pour a Margarita.

Later-ish in the evening; we return from having some Thai food (go figure) across the street and settle in with the gang once more. The table is festive, and remarkably, Hellga still looks happy.

Her seat and mine both face the sidewalk and street beyond, so we both notice when a 60-something gentleman rolls up to the bar entrance in his wheelchair. Hellga jumps up, runs to the man’s side and proclaims, at considerable volume, “No, no, no, no! You’re not coming in here!”

For a millisecond I’m horrified, but I quickly (well, quickly in an after-4-Dos-Equis sort of way) relax when the two of them laugh heartily. Whew, it’s all good – they’re friends. Indeed, Hellga wheels the guy over next to me and introduces us with utmost affability.

Jim, it turns out, is a retiree from Minneapolis (if memory serves), now Living The Dream in one of the many places so prolifically labeled Paradise. I don’t know what sort of physical/physiological/neurological/whatever condition Jim has, but it renders his speech garbled, slow, and rather difficult for a tipsy dame in a loud bar to understand. I do my best though, without getting too much and too literally in the man’s face.

Hellga appears amused by our laboured efforts to communicate and decides to join in on the fun. She graces me with a mischievous, conspiratorial grin and says “Watch this!” just before she leans in towards Jim. She asks him something; I forget what exactly, but it’s something requiring a lengthy reply. I’m thinking something along the lines of “Tell us about that marlin your brother caught. How big was that thing, anyway?”

As Jim begins to answer (“Thaaaaaaaaat… ffffiiiiiishhh… waaas sooooh bbbiiiiggg…”), Hellga winks at me, and, as my jaw does everything in its recently broken (I’ll tell ya another time) power to keep from dropping to the floor, SHE PROCEEDS TO MIMICK A DISABLED MAN in front of my bleary red eyes. She’s making little fish-speak shapes with her mouth, puckery O’s. Slowly and with considerable showmanship, she flings Jim’s words back at him.

I’m momentarily hypnotized. It’s like witnessing a train wreck – unbelievably horrible, yet I can’t look away. Jim appears saddened, but not shocked. He stops speaking. Around us, people are engaged in their own conversations, so no one else has seen or heard the debacle.

“Aw, Jim!” Hellga laughs. “You are so fucked up, man! How fucked up is Jim?”

And it’s this poetic little gem that snaps me out of my catatonic state and provides me with the perfect opening to maybe help salvage what’s left of Jim’s morale and pride.

“Well, Jim,” I pipe up a mite too jovially, “if by ‘fucked up’ Hellga means ‘having had too much to drink’, then you’re in good company, because I’m pretty damn fucked up myself.” Jim smiles and we clink glasses.

It takes a minute, but eventually Hellga’s penny drops and she’s cognizant of the fact that I’ve yet again broken her cardinal, if unspoken, rule: I’ve shown sympathy for someone she’s abused. ¡A ella no le gusta eso!

As she gives me the stink eye, I can see her struggling for a well-worded reprimand to hurl at me, but the best she can come up with – and this I remember clear as day – is “And who are you to say whatever?” Instinctively I know how to work it without turning the situation into something uglier than it already is.

I play dumb.

“Hmm, dunno what it is I said, but who am I? I’m no one, really, and if there’s one thing you should know about me by now, it’s that I AM UTTERLY FULL OF SHIT.” Cue innocent little smile.

Satisfied with my self-deprecatory and agreeably stupid response, Hellga gives Jim and me a slightly uneasy smile and whooshes off to the bar.

Me, I introduce Jim to G-man. The three of us chat for a while, and then I excuse myself to retire somewhat early. I am, after all, pretty fucked up. ;-)

Friday, September 14, 2007

¡Hola Corazones!

Just a little note to say thanks for all the support and warm fuzzies. I'm feeling waaaay the hell better these days and I'm well into a draft of Playa Mafia 3: Hellga's Finest Hour.

This past week has found G-man and me enjoying a bit of Septemberish compensation for The Summer That Never Was. It's been gorgeous out and every day 5 pm has equalled Chicken Wings & Lager Time on some sun-drenched deck or another.

Pues, it's Friday afternoon now. We've just returned from a 2-cocktail lunch. I'm about to roll a pinner (oh screw that, I mean a fattie, of course) and see where the rest of the day takes me.

Hedonistically yours,


PS Happy Weekend!!

Friday, August 24, 2007

¡Ahora con mas cojones!

Well peeps, this post is long overdue. Think of it as a sort of addendum to my profile. It’s not that I was holding out on you before; it’s more that I was, in a sense, holding out on me. I don’t want to use the word denial because it’s so cliché, but alas, I can’t think of a better one.

In the introductory part of my profile, I make it sound as though I’m a bit vulnerable to the blues and all it takes is a daily hit of The Simpsons to keep me smiling. Ah, if only it were that simple.

Here’s how it really is:

In my experience, clinical depression (like various cancers) isn’t “cured” – it goes into remission. I guess at the time I wrote that profile, I’d been in remission for so long, it was all too easy to forget what a real depressive episode can be like. Guess what? I’ve recently been reminded.

It took about a week of living in hell before I had to admit defeat and realize I couldn’t “tough it out” on my own, so I finally made an appointment with my therapist. I guess this would be as appropriate a juncture as any to give my non-Canadian readers a little primer on staying well in the Great White North.

Canada has socialized healthcare, a source of national pride here, and a blessing for which I’m very grateful. Were it not for socialized healthcare, for instance, my younger brother would have to pay for his leukemia meds out-of-pocket – pretty tough on a construction worker’s salary. These are not cheap drugs, and my heart goes out to people burdened by this (or any other) disease and lack of access to treatment.

As far as mental health is concerned, medicare will cover sessions with a psychiatrist, but not a psychologist. Also, psychologists aren’t licensed to dispense meds, but psychiatrists (trained as medical doctors) are. Sessions with psychiatric nurses are also covered.

So who am I talking about when I refer to my “therapist”? You’ve probably figured by now that G-man and I are by no means affluent, and the smart money would say I need meds (yeah, I take antidepressants), so clearly a psychiatrist is in charge of my case. But I don’t think of him as my therapist. He’s the shrink who dispenses my meds.

I actually see two people, both of whom work at a teaching hospital.

My therapist is B, a psychiatric nurse I see for “talking therapy.” If there were a Nobel Prize for the Mental/Emotional Healing Arts, I would nominate B. I trust her implicitly. I tell her almost everything.

My psychiatrist – let’s call him Dr. Clueless – sees me to review my meds and show me off to his interns as a Great Success Story. I tell him almost nothing.

It took nearly two years before the Doc even got my name right. He has never been on time for an appointment, and always shows up with interns or psych students in tow to sit in during my sessions. Put me on the spot much? “Oh, I hope you don’t mind if Becky and Steve sit in with us today.” Like I’m supposed to say “Yeah, I do mind” when the people are standing right there. Okay, Becky and Steve, watch the lab rat do her thing now. Wonder if she’ll cry?

When it became clear to me this last bout of Darkness would not go away of its own accord, I got together with B first so I could vent and tell her all the self-destructive shit that had been on my mind. That session helped to a degree, but B knew (and I had suspected) that my meds would have to be tweaked, so natch, I had to make an appointment with the Doc. At least I was assertive enough this time to ask for a one-on-one appointment.

To the Doc’s credit, he respected my wishes and showed up (half an hour late) alone. I also appreciate that he didn’t try to over-medicate me. He raised my anti-depressant dosage slightly, but it remains low. I had a follow-up appointment with him a few days ago – again sans interns – and that went quite well. It went quite well, that is, until he started up with all this weird shit about how not everyone is meant to write and that perhaps I should pick up a flute and take beginner’s lessons. Beginner’s flute lessons? He might as well have said “basket weaving,” the condescending fucker.

The implication here is that I’m just too fragile to do what I’m doing right this minute, and I should be prepared to choose between happiness and creativity. I should be willing to settle for a state of emotional flatlining (that passes for happiness by Doc’s standards) and “get a hobby.”

And he actually brought up Kurt Cobain and Ernest-fucking-Hemingway, like these damaged icons are in any way pertinent. For starters, I’m not suicidally depressed, nor do I have that sort of history. But more to the point, I don’t write with an agenda to become rich and/or famous. I write because writing is my passion, and if passion is a “symptom” to be treated in pursuit of “normalcy”, then I’d rather be mental, thank you.

I’m on the waiting list now for a new shrink. He has an excellent reputation and apparently sees people as more than a sum of their disorders. I’m thinking he won’t automatically equate “creative” with “troubled”, although yeah, I admit the two sometimes go hand in hand. It’ll be a few weeks before I’ll get to see this guy, and switching shrinks will mean giving up B, who is considered (not by me) an adjunct to the Doc. I’ll miss her a lot, but she agrees I need a shrink who’s on the same page as me and doesn’t show up with an entourage.

The good news is that the meds, and my B appointments, have “kicked in” and I’m feeling better. I’ve been working out for the past few days and listening to guess what? Yeah, I know – you would think happy-clappy Manu Chao or crazy-good-time Gogol Bordello, but you’d be wrong. This depression has been a job for Nine Inch Nails! (Do ya’ think maybe Trent Reznor has some issues?) I guess angry just feels better than sad. For sure it burns more calories! Anyway, both anger and sadness are (*knocking wood*) out of my system now.

Amor, esperanza y paz,


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Rainbow Boys

Floats just don't get much better than this, do they?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Depression? Existential Crisis? Or just a really shitty week?

Okay, I know it’s not my job here to be Madame Bring-Down, but some of you may be wondering why I haven’t posted in a while. You know who you are – I pay you well to read this shit. ;-)

Last weekend I fucked up pretty badly, and my fuck-up triggered days of waterworks alternated with excessive sleep. Couldn’t concentrate on anything more demanding than loading the dishwasher and folding a couple of t-shirts. Assume the fetal position, Papillon, and stay there until the self-hatred stops.

It was the day of the Gay Pride parade, which ranks above Christmas as being one of my favorite days of the year. G-man, LittleMiss, Yellowbeard, S-Monkey and I started the day in fine form here at our place with champagne and orange juice. We floated down to Beach Avenue to watch the parade, which was, as it is every year, a kaleidoscope of rainbow colored balloons and beautiful people. LittleMiss had even made rainbow fairy wings for Stella out of shiny pipe cleaners. Absurdly cute!

After the parade and in keeping with tradition, we took Stella home then wondered up to the Jupiter Café, which has two great decks and throws the best post-parade party in the neighborhood. What a stellar afternoon! Caught up with several friends and made a couple of new ones, all the while pacing myself (or so I thought) vis á vis booze consumption. I drank tall gin and sodas with lots of soda, and had an occasional bottle of Heineken. The Jupiter was offering bbq’d food, so I also ate well. Hours into the party, while I certainly wasn’t sober, neither was I a mess. I was pretty much on par with our whole group.

Eventually a democratic vote took place and a bunch of us decided we’d go continue the party in the outdoor pool at LittleMiss’s and YellowBeard’s building. I had even packed a bikini and sarong for just such an eventuality. It doesn’t take much effort to get me in, on, or under water, even if there’s no life to look at except peoples’ butts. (Depantsing attempts were made, but unsuccessfully. And not by me. I wouldn’t get depressed for a whole week about pulling someone’s Speedos down – hell, I’d still be laughing about it and hoping someone had caught it on camera.)

Of course ours wasn’t the only party group down at the pool, and the ambience was festive indeed. When I’m in the sort of euphoric state I was in that evening, it doesn’t occur to me to mistrust anyone, because of course everyone is sooh awesome; everyone is just a treasure from the universe. None of these fine folks would think to steal my purse, my Panama hat, and even my cheap-ass fucking flip-flops. Why would they? These things had been set down on the grass; obviously they belonged to someone.

Thank God for small mercies, I guess, because at least the fuckers were thoughtful enough to leave my dress and underthings so I didn’t have to take the elevator to our friends’ apartment half-naked. I didn’t notice at the time that my things were missing. We kept on drinking, taking goofy pictures of each other and dancing around LM’s and YB’s living room to loud crunchy music. J-poo and I both sort of melted on the couch eventually, and since G-man couldn’t have gotten either of us to move if he’d had a crane, we stayed.

I awoke the next morning on a surprisingly comfortable mat on the living room floor, and I even managed a bit of a smile. Feeling pretty good, all things considered. When LittleMiss got up, I asked her if G-man seemed pissed at me when he left. “Oh no, it’s all good,” she assured me. I’m happy to hear that. So happy that what I want to do now is wash my face, brush my teeth, put on some lipstick and say the word “breakfast” to everyone. And where would my toothbrush and lipstick be if they were? C’mon, what does the smart money say? That’s right. Those items would be in my purse, and if my purse were in my friends’ apartment, all would have been fine. But all was not fine. No purse. And I don’t care too much about the purse – it’s just a cheap little canvas thing – but it contained house keys, an ATM card, a Visa card, a cell phone AND (this one hurts the most) brand new prescription glasses that made both the world and my face just a tiny bit prettier.

After a thorough search of the apartment, Yellowbeard and I high-tailed it to the pool area and scoured every square inch of the surrounding garden. No purse. No flip-flops. No Panama hat – however, the multi-coloured bandana that was wrapped around it was floating aimlessly at the bottom of the pool. YellowBeard fished it out for me and I will treasure it always. It probably cost about 5 pesos.

Naturally we proceeded to make all the necessary phone calls like building management and the Jupiter, but to no avail. Yesterday I filed a police report online in the hopes that someone had turned my purse in, but I’m not too optimistic.

I want to be clear at this point that my depression has not been about the stuff. I mean, stuff is stuff, and stuff like glasses is essential stuff, and it all costs money, and we’re (like most people) forever balancing financial issues. Okay, I guess it is partly about the stuff. In my darker moments I’ve referred to myself as a “waste of space”, but this week I’ve come to realize that’s not fair, because I’m so much more than that. I’m a fucking LIABILITY. I think my lowest point came yesterday (the day before? It’s all kind of a miserable blur) when I said to G-man that I thought he’d be way better off without me. He looked at me like I’d just arrived from Neptune and said, in his own loving, inimitable way, that it was way past time for me to get a grip now and stop punishing myself. Well. You can take the girl out of the Catholic Church…

I think the crux of the matter comes down to this:

I lost control of a situation and I fucking hate that. It makes me feel powerless and stupid, and it's been happening entirely too often. I would also do well to acknowledge some absolutely-no-fun truths. Truth: I've lost a significant amount of weight since my jaw surgery, therefore I should drink less (if at all) to compensate. Truth: I take a medication (small dose, but still) that doesn't necessarily play well with booze. Truth: Drinking can be rather high-risk behavior for a depressive. (D-uh!)

* * * *

Anyway, the above paragraphs were written several days ago, and I still haven’t quite clawed my way out of the pit, but at least a bit of sunshine's getting in. I’m feeling moderately better. I managed to put a hold on the Visa card before any damage could be done, and my dear friend K-Belle informed me that Visa insures lost or stolen purchases, so I should be able to replace my glasses and stop stumbling around pretending I can see without them.

Tomorrow night we’re off with the usual suspects to go see Clutch at The Commodore. I think I’ll just watch the others drink, maybe try to catch a contact buzz if I can. Tequila, anyone? ;-)

Apropos of nothing – I will get around to Playa Mafia: Part 3. Soon-ish. I hope.

Vancouver Gay Pride Weekend '07

G-man, Papillon & Stella – proudest dog in the 'hood!

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Okay, this is a bit of a cop-out, cut n' pasting other people's writing, but this joke (emailed to me by the lovely J-poo) made me laugh so hard I almost forgot about my ongoing tiny existential crisis for a minute. Hope it makes you happy too:

How To Come Home Drunk and Still Get a Hot Breakfast

Jack wakes up with a huge hangover the night after a
business function.

Cloudy-headed and in pain, he forces himself to open
his eyes and the first thing he sees is a couple of
aspirins next to a glass of water on the side table.
Next to the aspirin and water stands a single red

He sits up in bed and sees his clothing in front of
him, all clean and pressed.

Jack looks around the room and sees that it is in
perfect order, spotlessly clean. He takes the
aspirins, cringes as he turns on the bathroom light
and notices a Post-it on the mirror: "Honey, breakfast
is on the stove, I left early to go shopping - Love

He stumbles to the kitchen and sure enough, there is
hot breakfast and the morning newspaper.

His son is also at the table, eating. Sheepishly, Jack
asks, "Son...what happened last night?"

"Well, you came home after 3 am, drunk and out of your
mind. You broke the coffee table, puked in the hallway
and almost broke your nose when you ran into the
bedroom door."

"Okay...so, why is everything in such perfect order,
so clean, I have a rose and breakfast is on the table
waiting for me?"

His son replies, "Oh, THAT!...Mom dragged you to the
bedroom and when she tried to take your pants off, you

...'Leave me alone, bitch, I'm married!'".

Broken table - $200
Hot breakfast - $5
Red Rose bud - $3
Two aspirins - $0.25

Saying the right thing, at the right time... PRICELESS

Monday, July 30, 2007

This wing, that wing

In typical backpedaling, wishy-washy Libra fashion:

When I stated in my last post that “Papillon flies left of center”, I neglected to mention that I’m not, nor have ever been, a card-carrying anything, although I am at heart a socialist in certain respects. I believe in accessible healthcare and education. I believe in affordable (subsidized if need be) housing. I believe in equality amongst genders, races, ages and sexual persuasions. I believe that it’s critical we do not fuck with human rights or the environment.

Speaking of the environment and left-wing politics, here’s another little tidbit that might piss some people off:

G-man and I are, generally speaking, pro-union. Neither of us would ever cross a picket line. Having said that, an event resulting from Vancouver’s ongoing civic workers’ strike definitely ruffled our feathers.

The morning after last week’s fireworks display a group of volunteers – I’ll just repeat that word now: volunteers – showed up at the beach, which was thick with garbage, and set about making it pristine again. I applaud those people, and I think the picketers who harassed them were way out of line. Sorry, “brothers and sisters”, but environmental concerns trump your bargaining position. No one wants to see our city, our beloved jewel, over-run by rats. And come on, we just had oil spill into the Burrard Inlet – enough is enough.

It’s not like any of those people were getting paid to clean the beach, so hey, CUPE, why don’t you STFU on this one? (What a dumb-ass PR move, anyway.) I wish I had gone there to help out, truth be told, and if the strike isn’t over by this Thursday morning, you’ll be able to find me down at English Bay, doing my bit to reclaim its glory after Wednesday night’s fireworks. Incidentally, if I do take one of my “little walks” before China’s display, I’ll be sure to stroll a bit further than Amanda and I did last week – like out of view from major the major thoroughfare that is Denman Street. We were just a tad brazen, weren’t we? ;-)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

On grabbing life by the short hairs

Several weeks after the event, I must admit that life has felt pretty anticlimactic since meeting Manu Chao. Some days I miss him like an old friend, which is bizarre to say the least, since I don’t know the guy on even a casual acquaintance level. Some days I wonder if anything exciting will ever happen to me again. And then I stop and reflect on what an absolutely ludicrous thought that is.

Meeting my muse has taught me that I’m not powerless. To put it another way, The Night of Manu happened because I set a goal and followed through. Exciting events had certainly happened in my life prior to that night, but for the most part, they’d happened to me and not because of me. Now that I’m gleaning a sense of my own fortitude, it strikes me that the future can be almost anything I choose to make it.

I’ve decided, after years of half-assed efforts, I’m going to become fluent en español before the next time G-man and I find ourselves in a Latin American country. You may think this seems like a great deal of work for a warm climate holiday in February, and I agree. Thing is, we’ve set our sights further afield, both literally and figuratively.

G-man and I are exploring possibilities to actually spend part of the year living in Mexico, or maybe even as far south as Panama. Because we work in communications and virtually all our client contact happens via the internet, partial relocation is quite feasible. However the adventure plays out though, I absolutely refuse to be one of those ex-pats.

You know the ones. These are the folks who love the climate and affordable real estate but have no interest in local culture, language or people. These are the folks who spend their time hanging out only with “their own kind”, becoming alcoholics and bitching about how hard it is to find good help. Nope. Not going there. I approach life the way I approach scuba diving: give it the thumbs up and submerge with a smile on my face – tough while chomping on a regulator, but not impossible!

BTW, if the Manu post (Cruising on Exhaustion & Martinis) doesn’t convince you I’m one empowered (if a tad thick) dame these days, check this out:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007. G-man, LittleMiss, Yellowbeard and I, having arrived early enough to stake out a premium spot, lean against the railing of Soho Pub’s deck to watch Spain’s fireworks display, the first of this year’s festival. We’ve been here for hours; we’ve got our drink on; and the uber-trippy fireworks render us all big-eyed like little kids in an ice cream shop. “Shiiiiny!” we opine in unison.

For all the visual opulence, however, the music is, well, meh. I mean, Vangelis? Enya? How many times have we all been there, done those? And this from the country that gave us flamenco! Come on.

Still, a minor complaint on such a fantastic night.

One of the highlights actually happens for me early on, while it’s still light out. LittleMiss and I are in the can and there’s this woman rolling a joint. She seems pretty cool and we strike up a conversation. Her name is Amanda. (No, not really.) LittleMiss leaves to rejoin the guys, but when Amanda invites me to join her for a toke outside, I say yes, thank you. Yeah, I know – you can barely contain your astonishment.

So out we go, round the corner into the alley. We spark up the doob and talk. Turns out she’s 38 years old, although she could easily pass for ten years younger than that. Because I can be more than a little obtuse when I drink, I manage to get it into my swirling vortex of a brain that Amanda is right wing. (The Papillon flies a little left of center.) I find out (and subsequently forget) a mere few minutes later that Amanda isn't in fact right wing or left, but rather identifies as a libertarian.

Amanda and I smoke about half the joint before deciding we’ve both had enough. Just as she puts it out, I happen to glance over at Denman Street, and I see three cops heading towards us, so naturally I say “Dude. Cops.” The cops come over before she has a chance to drop the joint.

And it’s “Were you smoking marijuana here, m’am?” (Cue confiscation here.) Amanda admits that we were, but that the one joint was all she’d had on her. The cops search her purse, and sure enough (thank God), there’s no more weed to be found. They do, however, find a can of pepper spray and confiscate it. At this point, Amanda starts to go off on them a bit. I assume (wrongly) that she's had too much to drink because, erm, I've had too much to drink. Be that as it may...

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now: small, stupid shit can set me off and I over-react, but put me in a serious situation, and I know how to behave. I go into survival mode. So I’m patting Amanda on the back, saying “C’mon, sweetie. It looks like they’re gonna go easy on you, so just relax.”

Then I look at the cops, my eyes like dinner plates, voice like honey, and say something to the effect of “Hey, I live in the West End too, and I’m pretty curious as to what our rights are when it comes to self-protection. You guys know that every so often there are media reports of some psycho out there attacking women. Frankly, I could see myself carrying pepper spray just to feel a little safer.” And yes, I'm working them, but I also mean every word I'm saying.

The cops are youngish and pretty nice, as cops go. The one guy explains that normally pepper spray would not be an issue, but with a big crowd event such as the fireworks, it’s a different story. The concern is that it could be misused. What if someone, let’s say a pick pocket, got a hold of it?

Well, this all seems a little far-fetched to me, but I’m totally playing the respectful, “law abiding” citizen, which is pretty hilarious as it’s obvious that I’ve just smoked a joint with this girl. At any rate, they check her ID and let her know that she can come to the PD to reclaim her pepper spray. All this time, Amanda is quite grateful that I’ve stuck around, which I continue to do until I feel confident that they’re not going to bust her.

I talk her up to the cops:

“Look, she’s a really nice girl. She’s just a little frazzled right now.”

“Why is she frazzled, m’am?”

Cue Papillon’s best disarming smile. “Why is she frazzled? C’mon, you’re cops. You’re intimidating.” Blink.

But the best part is my farewell to them.

Just as I’m about to head back upstairs, I look at the three officers, smile again warmly and say “Thank you for not being dicks.”

Amanda doesn’t get busted. I know this for a fact because she makes a point of finding me a few minutes later to let me know it's all good. She also makes a point of explaining again that's she's a libertarian, knowing we'd both been a tad distracted earlier by the presence of Vancouver's Finest, and that I'd missed her germane words at that time. Astonishingly, even the second time, those words just manage to fly off into the booze-induced ether around my head. (Thank you, Amanda, for taking me to task for my careless account; I hope this edit makes up for it.)

I introduce the delightful libertarian to my peeps and offer to buy her a drink, but her husband and friends are waiting outside for her.

We exchange email addies and hug good-bye.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Shit happens in the jungle

Warning: this post contains oblique references to poo.

An April day in 2006 finds G-man and Papillon hiking through old-growth rainforest in Peninsula de Osa, Costa Rica. We’re with 8 other people, including our guide, Pedro, whose English is impeccable, charm irresistible, and knowledge of jungle life comprehensive.

But this isn’t an intricate tale of the jungle. It’s a very short story about a very painful bowel cramp.

Knowing that my gastro-intestinal system can be a little, shall we say, sensitive, I’d eaten a bland breakfast of scrambled eggs and white toast. I’ve even chewed on a proactive (and hitherto reliable) Imodium tab. But wouldn’t you know, an hour into the hike and that very special pain kicks in anyway. You know the pain I’m talking about. The pain for which there’s only one cure, and that cure should ideally include access to modern plumbing. I break into a cold sweat. G-man sees my face turn several shades of green and says “Uh-oh,” to which I reply “Yup.”

I hang back and let the other hikers get ahead of me, then I sit on a log, doubled over in agony. G-man knows exactly what I’m doing and why. Sitting down sometimes takes care of the problem, and I’m still praying for that mofo traitor of an Imodium to kick in. When the cramping finally eases up a bit, I stand and try to walk. I’m okay for a minute or two, but then I know there’s one and only one course of action available to me now.

Pedro has the group gathered around his telescope checking out a sloth up high in the leafy canopy when I gingerly touch his shoulder.

Tap tap tap. “Um, Pedro? I’m afraid I really need to do something. Ahora.”

He nods with instant understanding and points towards a tree just off the trail. “Over there.”

Bursting with gratitude (and very nearly something else) I scramble to the “facilities” and do what I so desperately need to do. I’m way beyond embarrassment by now, but I figure I’ve gotten away unnoticed by the others. Wrong!

“Watch out for that anaconda!” one of my fellow hikers calls out.

No, man. The anaconda should watch out for me.

NOTE: That's a sarong around my head. Dropping my knickers in the jungle may not embarrass me, but bad hair does.

* * * *

Okay, peeps – now it’s your turn:

Anyone who’s traveled outside of North America or Europe has in all likelihood dealt with the old 'Gringo Guts' syndrome. Rare (and damn lucky) is the traveler who doesn’t have a story like mine.

I know my dear friend K-Belle has one that starts with “One time in India…”

Some of the best ones I’ve heard start with “One time in Guatemala…”

Doesn't matter which "end" was affected, either – I mean, projectile vomit is inherently hilarious, n'est ce pas? (Maybe not so much for the person it lands on, though.) So tell me all about Montezuma exacting his revenge on you – or “someone you know”.

C’mon! You can laugh about it now, right?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Playa Mafia, Part 2

The Playa Mafia, Part 1 was posted on Saturday, June 30, 2007.

If this story had a soundtrack, it would feature the Godfather theme music – done on marimba.

It takes me a few days (fast study that I am) to figure out that several of La Iguanita’s regulars are Playa’s movers and shakers. The people that make things happen. The people G-man and I affectionately call (behind their backs, of course) The Playa Mafia. Incidentally, this is risky behavior, this writing. I could get Sopranoed! So if my posts stop out of the blue, you’ll know the Witness Protection people have relocated me to some depressing little suburb. When I weigh the pros and cons, I think I’d rather be taken out.

It also takes me a few days to catch on that Hurricane Hellga is a nightly performance, likely to occur anytime after 9 pm. The day after Hellga tears poor Mike a new one, G-man and I wake up to face the Angry Hangover Gods. I (sort of) open my eyes and utter the words “Please kill me now.” But Ibuprofen soon works its magic, we shower and hit Java Jack’s for coffee, y todo está bien. We spend the day chillin’ at the beach and make arrangements for an early dive the following day. I’m not going to tell you about the beach – Yucatan Peninsula beaches are postcard material. You can Google about a million pictures if you like.

Oh, and somewhere in there, I have ceviché for lunch. I love ceviché. Kind of like the Mexican version of sushi, isn’t it? I love sushi too. Was I perhaps a seagull in some past incarnation? Okay, stay on topic now, Papillon.

We walk into La Iguanita for a couple of early evening cervezas. The place is busy, but we manage to find a spot over in the corner where Marta had lost her fight with verticality the night before. There’s a canvas beach bag, momentarily abandoned, sitting on the coffee table in front of us.

Sitting at the bar are a cute Mexican guy, 30-ish, and a very striking dark-haired woman, whose voice carries and drifts our way. Apparently, she’s an actress, visiting from LA. She’s frustrated about the competition for TV show guest roles, the kind of roles that were her bread and butter until people like Brad Pitt started appearing in shows like Will & Grace. G-man and I comment that she seems interesting, and then get into our own conversation. Being Scuba Whores, we’re stoked about the dive tomorrow. We’ve been assured we’ll see lots of giant turtles and maybe even a manta ray or two. Me, I’m just jonesing for that floaty, weightless feeling, the sensation of flying – Waterworld's answer to crack.

“Hey, I couldn’t help but overhear you guys talking about diving. Are you going with Paulo?” Suddenly the dark-haired woman is standing next to our table.

Yup, we are, we confirm. Two-tank dive with Paulo tomorrow.

“I’m Megan,” the woman says. “Paulo is a good friend of mine and an excellent dive master. I’m sure you guys will have a great time. By the way, sorry about leaving my beach bag on your table. And thank you for not stealing it, although there's only some sunscreen and a paperback in there.”

Yeah, stealing. Not so much our thing, really. Karma and all that.

We introduce ourselves and invite Megan to sit down. She turns back to the cute Mexican guy at the bar and says, “See, honey – I told you they wouldn’t mind.” The guy rolls his eyes and sighs indulgently.

“That’s my fiancé, Diego.” Megan explains. “He keeps telling me not to bug people. He figures you guys are honeymooning and want to be left alone.”

I’m kind of tickled that G-man and I still give off that new couple vibe, but I laugh and assure Megan that we’ve been married “for about 200 years” and we actually enjoy meeting new people. This is a fact. Others may climb pyramids when they travel, take shitloads of pictures and gather memorabilia. We’ve done those things too, but me, I’m primarily about collecting people. And I can tell already I’ll want to add Megan and Diego to my collection.

Megan’s is an exotic sort of beauty, at least to my esthetic. She’s got long, dark wavy hair pulled away from her face, and cheekbones that deserve to be sculpted in alabaster. She’s wearing the funkiest cat-eyed glasses. And she’s not a stick insect.

When she finds out we’re from Vancouver, she calls to Diego again. “Hon, they’re from Vancouver. I love them!”

Diego smiles and nods at us. We smile and nod back.

“Oh for God’s sake,” Megan continues. “Why don’t you just come over here already?”

It turns out that Megan grew up in Vancouver and began her acting career there. She moved to LA a couple of years ago and has had a fairly successful TV show guest role kind of career in both cities. These days, she spends her time mostly between LA and Playa. LA is all about acting, of course, and Playa is about Diego and learning Spanish. (Her Spanish puts mine to shame. But then, so does the average fajita’s.)

Diego runs an internet café. He used to act as well, and his English is flawless. He’s charming and killingly funny. He misuses the word “literally” almost literally in every second sentence, but I don’t correct him – no one likes a Language Nazi.

We don’t know it just yet, but the four of us will end up spending many hours here over the next 10 days, getting to know each other, getting our drink on, and gossiping about the locals.

Eventually we go our separate ways to grab some dinner. Megan and Diego go home to cook; G-man and I hunt down some fajitas. We come back to La Iguanita for a nightcap (honestly, just one tonight); it’s early and Hellga is still pleasant. (Read: sober.) After wetting our whistles, we head back to our room to get some decent sleep before the dive. Sleep proves to be a bit of a challenge, however, as there’s a big group of English guys loudly singing Oasis songs in the bar. What is it with traveling English guys and Oasis songs, anyway? Thank God for ear plugs.

The next day we do indeed dive the perfect dives. We see giant lobsters, giant-er turtles and a truly big-ass manta ray – wingspan on it like a parking lot. Our dive master, Paulo, is enthusiastic and attentive, which we appreciate a great deal, since, with only 30 dives each “under our belts”, we’re not very experienced. There’s only one other person diving with us, and that’s Alex from Colombia, who’s only been under five times before. Small groups and patient dive masters really make all the difference in the world. There’s nothing more frustrating than ten people in diving gear, bumping into each other as they float around some paranoid sea creature, trying to get a closer look.

After the second dive, we’re sitting on the boat, free of soggy wetsuits, all of us drinking water out of these little plastic glasses. Tank oxygen makes me pretty thirsty, so my glass is empty in no time. And then it’s not empty. “Oh, good,” I think, “there is another sip left after all.” Can you guess where this is going?

Ptuuii! (*Spits overboard*) It turns out, of course, sea water had splashed into my glass and I hadn’t noticed. Everyone offers me sips of their own water to rinse out the salt taste, but we’re close to shore and cold cervezas. Sharing post-dive cervezas with your group is de rigeur.

* * * *

Back at La Iguanita, we’re so buoyed (sorry, I couldn’t resist) by our diving experience that we’re definitely in the mood to celebrate. We get some take-out to bring back to the bar, because it's cheap, everyone does it, and we’ve pretty much determined that for now, this place is home.

Jack and Stella (the coffee shop owners) are sitting with us, as are Hellga and Sven. Hellga delights us with her good mood and unexpected charm. She overhears me telling Sven that I’m a huge Tom Waits fan and chimes in with “Oooh, I love Tom Waits too!” Well, now – this is more like it! Ever ready to give people a second chance, I decide that although our hostess had made a grown man cry the other night, well, maybe the guy had it coming. And if Hellga’s a Tom Waits fan, she can’t be all bad, can she?

Also around this time, as the beer and margaritas flow freely, Keith (the hotel manager) and I establish our own little Mutual Admiration Society. The conversation goes something like this:

Darling, you look just fabulous in that little black dress!” (Are you imagining a 44-year old English guy in a little black dress? I know I am.)

“Why, thank you Keith. And you look so cute in your little ball cap. Hey, were you by any chance a Clash fan in your younger days?”

“Fuck yeah, I loved the Clash!”

“Yessh, me too!”

“You’re awesome, mate!”

“No, you’re awesome!”

“No, you’re–"

Well, I think I've painted a broad-brushstroke picture here.

We segue to some impromptu Monty Python banter. My demand for a shrubbery is met with the response “And I guess you want a nice one? And not too expensive?” Hugs ensue.

The evening rolls along very pleasantly in this fashion, until Oscar, the bartender/waiter approaches Sven and whispers something in his ear.

Sven looks out at the street where his vehicle is parked, and suddenly he’s up and out there like a shot.

All of us at the table (which is right alongside the street) look out to see what’s going on. Sven opens his car door and drags out a very drunk and terrified Mexican guy who’d either been trying to steal the vehicle or was merely looking for a place to pass out.

The next thing we know, Sven’s got el hombre pinned to the ground, and though he doesn’t actually hit him, he’s shouting and he’s very, very angry. The poor Mexican is scared shitless and whimpering “Lo siento! Lo siento!" Finally, Sven lets him go, and the guy goes stumbling down the street. The car hasn’t been damaged, and I don’t think anyone even called the cops. Sven just wanted to give the troublemaker a good scare, and he succeeded.

The excitement dies down eventually, and we’re all kind of sitting around with these stunned “Good thing that’s over” looks on our faces. We’re relaxed again. Or at least I am. I’m relaxed enough to say to Hellga, in the way that one does to demonstrate empathy, “You know, car vandalism is a big problem in Vancouver.”

That's all I say. And that's all it takes. Cue The Hurricane.

“I don’t give a flying fuck about Vancouver! I live here, not fucking Vancouver!”

“Um, I’m sorry, I –“

“Why don’t you just shut the fuck up?!!

I make a zipping motion across my mouth. “Shutting up now…”

“Fuck you!”


G-man comes to my rescue. “Oh, look, honey – there’s Mike at the bar. He seems like he could use some company. Wanna go over there with me?”

“Um, yeah.

En route to the bar, I intercept Oscar who’s just bringing drinks to our table. Deftly I take my margarita from his tray, whispering. “I’ll take that off your hands. She’s in a really bad mood.” Oscar rolls his eyes and nods understandingly.

G-man insists that I shouldn’t take The Hurricane personally, and I assure him that I don’t. Soon enough, we’re engaged in conversation with other, less volatile people and I feel fine.

And what of Hellga? Does she storm off in a fury or pass out in her chair? God, no!

Not 15 minutes after G-man and I relocate, I look across the circular bar, and there’s Hellga, holding court and smiling her blinding white smile, waving at me like I’m a long-lost friend.

CAVEAT: I know that what I’m about to say exemplifies weak and lazy writing, but damn, I’m truly at a loss for other words, so for now, at least, the moral of this story is:

Unbefuckinglievable! Sometimes you just gotta shake your head.

Playa 3: Hellga's Finest Hour

Saturday, July 14, 2007

G-man Gems 2

On local cocktail waitress who knows how to wear a pair of jeans, but not, alas, how to smile:

Hmm... warm and fuzzy like cactus.


G-man Gems 1

Okay, so I'm ostensibly the wordmeister in this household, but I gotta tell you, my guy makes me just about pee myself laughing at least once a day. Check this one out:

We're watching TV news the other night (I know, I know – almost always a misguided activity) and the top story's about (what else) Dubya's continued, mystifying instistence that the troops in Iraq should "stay the course."

Papillon: Oh, for the love of God!

G-man: George Bush Senior should have pulled out earlier.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Metaphoric Sympathy Fuck

Papillon: 1
Google: 0

The title words speak to me of attempting to boost someone's self esteem without actually believing in them. Is that wrong, though? Meh.

What, if anything, does Metaphoric Sympathy Fuck mean to you?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Famous Libra Tigers

When Googled, the statement yields only two hits, but confirms my knowledge that Oscar Wilde was one of these astrological hybrids.

This makes me unexplicably happy.

NOTE TO SELF: Don't fall ill in a wallpapered room.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Will I become a statistic?

Right about now is the point at which most people give up. Right here. Right now. About a month into the Blogosphere journey. Personal journal-esque sites like mine are particularly vulnerable.

So where do I go from here? Forward, I say. Detours that lead to curling up in the fetal position and whimpering are allowed, but they have a 5-minute time limit and must be accompanied by a small dog.

If I don’t post for a while it’s because it’s hot and I’m spending every spare minute staring at the sea.

Laptops and sand don't play nicely together. Notebooks work just fine, though, and can easily be transcribed when the inevitable heat-generated insomnia kicks in at night.

Gotta love summer!

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Muse and Me

Photos taken by the lovely Tanya and posted with her permission. Muchas gracias, mi amiga!

These images are a follow-up to the post Cruising on Exhaustion and Martinis, published Wednesday, June 27, 2007.

Tanya y Papillon

Papillon (left) y Tanya (right) Salud!

This image is a follow-up to the post Cruising on Exhaustion and Martinis, published Wednesday, June 27, 2007.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Never Fails to Make Me Laugh 3

"All this because I rolled around in some bird shit? You people suck."

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Roll on, July 10th

Gogol Bordello's new album Super Taranta will be in stores!

Good thing too, because I need new Stoner Workout material.

Also a good thing because I've got an orthodontist's appointment that day, and I know for sure the mofo braces aren't scheduled to come off, so having something to look forward to will make me less likely to strangle my orthodontist. (*Sighing*) I know it's not his fault, but goddamn.

Stoli. Precision-crafted needle-nosed pliers. Bring 'em on!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Scuba Whores 2

La Tortuga

La Tortuga: Does this shell make me look fat?

La Mariposa: Not at all, chica. Oh shit – what about this wetsuit?

Scuba Whores 1

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Third World of Creativity

Another one with ZERO Google hits!

Guess who feels a little disillusioned with writing some days? Not today, though.

Today the short posts are because it's hot and I'm melting. (Please note that this is no way a complaint – summer has finally hugged Vancouver, and I, for one, won't be struggling away from its embrace.)

Then there's the whole work thing, of course. Feh!

Stupid mortgage. ;-)

Being the Switzerland of Emotional States

It’s not exactly the same as Emotional Flatlining – which I would define as the absence of feeling – although it’s not exactly different.

I visit this metaphoric neutral zone when people/situations/self/life threaten to kick my ass to the middle of next week. It’s essentially a “Don’t freak out and it’ll all be good” mode, and I’ve become adept at switching it on as needed. Very self-preservationy.

BTW, the statement “Emotional Flatlining,” when Googled, gets 99 hits. "Switzerland of Emotional States", on the other hand, gets ZERO. This leads me to believe one of two things are true:

Either I’m a bigger freak than even I imagined, or

(*Gasps*) I’ve just had an Original Thought!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Never Fails to Make Me Laugh 2

"How did some slip of a girly boy from communist East Berlin become the internationally ignored song stylist barely standing before you?" – The lovably broken Hedwig of Hedwig & The Angry Inch.

Monday, July 2, 2007


Saturday night, June 30, 2007. G-man and I are at 1181, a fabulously chi-chi gay bar about 10 minutes’ walking distance from our place. Although we’re still a bit spent from Friday night and making an appearance solely to buy our friend David a couple of birthday drinks, we end up having great fun.

David introduces us to his friend, neighbor and trustworthy dog-sitter, Harald, who proceeds to play the starring role of my evening. In a room full of Adonis-like men clad in check-out-my-pecs T-shirts, here’s this guy sporting a look I can only describe as Grunge-meets-cowboy-meets-irony. Black and white checked flannel shirt, raggedy blue jeans and a huge silver belt buckle with the word “redneck” embossed on it. I like him instantly!

“Pleased to meet you, Harald.” I say. “I’m loving that belt buckle!”

Some time later, G-man and I are sitting on a couch by the window, and I say to him “That Harald seems like a cool guy.” No sooner do those words come out of my mouth then who should walk over from across the room and sit down next to me…

“Hey there,” I say, “I was just saying to my husband that you seem like a cool guy, and now here you are!”

Harald smiles and explains that he's only here for David's birthday; he doesn’t usually come here. Neither do G-man and I – 1181 is a nice enough place, but definitely an S & M (*Stand & Model*) bar, a little too scenesy for us.

I ask Harald what he does, and he tells me he’s just quit his 18-year retail management job and plans to get in his car very soon to drive across Canada. “OMG,” I say, “where’s your drink so we can toast to you?” Harald explains that he doesn’t drink, but he’s a major pothead. “I’d much rather be sitting around a campfire smoking a doob with my friends.” I enjoy that kind of scenario myself, but I’m also enjoying this.

We talk about writing and travel and travel and writing. Harald says he plans to journal his coast-to-coast journey, and I really, really hope he does. I write down my blog URL for him on a bar napkin and encourage him to visit and leave comments. After all, I enjoy blogging, but I don’t want to be out here singing my little one-note song to nobody. I ask Harald’s permission to write about him on planetpapillon, and he says “Sure!”

Eventually I excuse my self to visit the loo, and after that decide to step outside for a smoke. A minute later, Harald and his friend Joey come out.

Harald smiles at me and says “Hey darling! Wanna come for a little walk with us?”

“Fuck yeah!”

So the three of us walk around the block, enjoying the herbal enhancements and almost-warm evening.

We talk about everything: How most families are fucked-up in one way or another, but we love them and need them just the same. Harald tells me he no longer speaks to his father; I say I’m sorry to hear that. “Don’t be sorry,” Harald shrugs. “It was my choice. Everything in life is a choice. The man had every opportunity to give me what I needed, but he didn’t step up. So now I choose not to include him in my life.” Harald’s mother sounds awesome, though. Basically has the attitude “Be as gay as you like. Live your life. Just don’t share details I don’t need to hear!”

We talk about how I wrote 150 pages of a novel 2 years ago and one day simply couldn’t do it any more. I realize now, I explain, that I’d lost interest in writing that book because (as I once told someone) “I was pulling it out of my ass instead of my heart.” I explain that my motivation had been all wrong. “I was trying too hard to be marketable, trying to capitalize on the whole Chick-Lit publishing sensation started by Bridget Jones’s Diary and the like.”

Back in the bar, David and his partner Blair are just leaving to go dance. Harald, G-man and I talk a while longer and then say goodnight as well.

On our way home, G-man and I stop at The Soho, a very festive beachfront pub. We enjoy a nightcap and laugh our asses off because the DJ is playing Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline, and the crowd is actually singing – no, shouting – along. So cheesy, you can’t not love it!

Then we go home, spark up a pinner, hit the couches and listen to Dead Can Dance. Fall asleep with clothes on. S’alright.

I wake up on the couch around 8 and can’t get back to sleep, so I write about my new friend.

Safe and happy travels, sweet Harald...

Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Stoner Workout

Understand first of all that this is coming from a woman who’s despised almost any form of exercise (except dancing, swimming and sex) for most of her life. And sure, pas de problème when I was in my 20s and had the metabolism of a hummingbird.

These days, however, I need to make an effort in order to be the Papillon, and not the Planet. (This girl likes her pasta and wine!)

I enjoy walking just to chill, but in order to burn some serious calories (and stress), I get on my elliptical cross-trainer, choose a kicky playlist on the iPod and go like a crazed hamster for an hour. Oh, and on weekends, I smoke a little weed first – just a little, mind you. This be Vancouver weed, yo, and more than a couple of tokes could result in me falling off the machine. Not a very graceful scenario.

Gogol Bordello’s Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike album rates *high* on my list of Stoner Workout musical choices.

Amadou & Mariam’s album Dimanche à Bamako also works, but in an entirely different way. If you like Talking Timbuktu by Ali Farka Touré and Ry Cooder, these guys will rock your world.

Peace out & Happy Sweating. ;-)

The Playa Mafia, Part 1

G-man and I arrive in Playa del Carmen mid-afternoon on Saturday, just after Semana Santa. We prefer to travel in February (an excellent time to leave Vancouver), but business has been slow, so we assume we’re SOL as far as travel plans go.

Then I find a cheapo flight to Cancun from Seattle, so we take a shuttle bus down a few hours prior to flight time, enjoy dinner with a friend and catch a southbound red-eye that brings us to Cancun around noon the following day. We clear customs, grab our luggage, and high-tail it (as one does) out of Cancun on the first collectivo heading to Playa.

We check into our beachfront hotel, Costa del Mar, peel off our jeans and get into tropic-wear, although it’s actually kind of cold and windy out. Next stop, beach pallapa and several margaritas. Then we float around town a bit, soaking in the festive Saturday night vibe. There’s live music everywhere, and I’m all abuzz with a deliriously tired sort of excitement.

We hear intriguing reports of a reggae band that’s to play on the beach at our hotel, and being an irie sort of chick, I’m pretty stoked. And exhausted. And not exactly sober. Realizing suddenly that we’ve been up for about 36 hours, we go back to the room for “a little lie-down.” There goes Saturday night. We hear the reggae band start up outside, and they sound amazing, but I turn to G-Man with my eyes half-shut and say “Not if the room was on fire.” We fall asleep fully clothed and wake up that way the following morning.

Well-rested and showered, we go and scope out our situation at the reception desk. As is our habit, we’ve only booked a room for our first night, because it’s pretty reassuring to know for sure we’ll have a place to crash. We’ve stayed at C del M on a couple of previous visits, and found it charming and reasonably priced. It’s still charming.

Upon hearing what we owe for the night, G-man and I give each other the look unequivocally signifying “Fuck this”, pay up, and check out. Then we wonder a couple of blocks up and away from the beach and stumble across the quaintest place – La Iguanita. It’s perfect – big trees, beautiful little garden courtyard with a u-shaped, adobe-esque hotel set around it. There’s an outdoor communal kitchen and a really cute little bar. Hammocks everywhere. We’re intrigued and decide to check it out.

Standing behind the reception desk are a thin, ball cap-wearing English guy about my age (Keith, the hotel manager) and an even thinner blonde woman Hellga, the co-owner) who looks very chic, but also – I know instinctively – like someone you absolutely do not want to fuck with. She’s dressed all in white, which offsets her very dark tan.

We inquire about room availability. Keith and Hellga are both friendly (Keith especially), but they inform us all the rooms are full until this afternoon. A large group of people is checking out though, and if we’re interested, we should come back later.

Hmm… “How much per night?”

“Depends on what you want,” Keith explains. “Basic room with a ceiling fan is 400 pesos a night, with air-con it’s quite a bit more.”

“Oh, we’re fine with just a ceiling fan,” G-man says. “Other than that, all we really want is a comfortable bed and hot water.”

“No hot water. In fact no cold water, the plumbing is broken,” Keith says, winking. “And we have Attack Iguanas.”

Attack Iguanas? We’re sold!

Keith and Hellga tell us we can leave our luggage behind the desk, so G-man and I take them up on that and go off to Java Jack’s next door for some of the best coffee in town and a bite to eat. Then we go for a long walk down la playa.

We come back to the La Iguanita around 1 p.m., but our room isn’t ready. We’re okay with that. We sit around in the lobby playing Dice and Backgammon. There’s a gaggle of Mexican university kids waiting to check out. I don’t know what those ninas pack in their suitcases for a spring break trip, but this luggage is huuge! Eventually, the kids that had been staying in our room clear out, the maid cleans it, and we haul our stuff in. The room is just what we’d hoped for – high ceiling with a skylight and a kick-ass fan, colorful Mexican blankets and folk art. And hot water. No sign of iguanas. We get into our beach gear and head back down to the sea.

After a swim in the liquid silk known as the Caribbean and a couple of requisite cervezas, we return to La Iguanita at sunset. We shower, dress, come out of our room, and what do you know, the little bar is open! Not only that, it’s festooned with multi-colored balloons and the floor is covered in rose petals. (I later figured out they weren’t rose petals at all, but bits of flowers that had fallen from the Bougainvillea tree that canopies the bar.) G-man and I exchange the look meaning “Let’s go check it out” and proceed to sit ourselves down in a couple of comfy wicker chairs.

A long-haired, bearded man in a Panama hat (we’d noticed him wondering around earlier) walks over and introduces himself. This turns out to be Sven, Hellga’s business and life partner. He explains that there’s a going-away party tonight for Marta, his bar manager, who’s off to Europe within the next few days. “You must stay and meet her,” he says, “and sign her book. She’s coming in tonight expecting to work her last shift, but the new manager is here. So please, stay and enjoy yourselves – it’s gonna be a fun party.”

Understatement? Yeah, I would say. The bar starts to fill up with Marta’s friends, and eventually, the lady herself shows up. She’s breathtakingly gorgeous – I mean, this girl looks like (pre-pregnant) Salma Hayek. And she’s charming. Sven introduces us; we wish her bon voyage and ask if we can buy her a tequila shot. “Why not?” she laughs. “Everyone else is!”

She holds her nose as she downs the shot, and I can’t resist teasing her. “Holding your nose? What kind of Mexican girl are you, anyway?” Marta shrugs and smiles. “This is how my mother taught me to drink tequila.” BTW, the tequila in question, Sven informs us, is primo stuff. Clase Azul, the Cadillac of agave products. Nicer than any single-malt scotch I’ve ever had. Anyway…

G-man and I are getting our drink on, and Sven is spending most of his time hanging with us, despite the fact that it’s his bar and he knows everyone in the room. G-man is a drummer; we’re both music-loving freaks; Sven used to be a band manager back in Sweden, so the three of us have lots to talk about.

Hellga and her dazzling white smile make an entrance. Hellga is clearly the kind of woman who never just walks into a place – she makes an entrance. She’s looking very elegant in a white linen pantsuit and fedora. She comes over to say hello, chats pleasantly enough for a few minutes and then takes off to Work The Room. This may be Marta’s party, but it’s most definitely Hellga’s place. She holds court at the bar, glass of white wine in one hand, cigarette in the other, a group of adoring folk hanging on her every word.

Later it occurs to us that maybe Sven spent a great deal of time at our table partly because we were a Safe (read: Hellga-free) Zone. You’ll understand.

Meanwhile, Marta’s over in a corner of the bar, dancing with a group of her friends, blissed out as can be. But she’s a little girl, and she’s consumed a lot of tequila, so you can guess what’s coming next.

G-man comes back to our table from el bano at one point and tells me that Marta is no longer dancing in that corner, but rather, tossing her tacos all over the floor. Poor thing!

Marta’s friends carry her to the lobby to lay on the couch. I employ one of my best-developed skills – taking care of drunk people – and get a cold, wet hand towel from our room. I apply the towel to Marta’s forehead; she smiles gratefully, and then, a skinny, suntanned, manicured, jewel-encrusted hand reaches around me and takes the towel away.

“She doesn’t need that,” Hellga growls. “She’s gonna be fine.”

Okaaaay. (Here’s a good opportunity to share one of my favorite quotes: No good deed goes unpunished, Clare Booth Luce)

I shrug and go back to our table, where G-man and Sven are engaged in lively music-oriented conversation, and some of the regulars have joined us. Keith is there, as is Jack from Java Jack’s next door and his wife, Stella. Jack puts on a good tough-ass from Brooklyn kind of show, but he’s hilarious and friendly. Stella’s a chain-smoking sweetheart of a woman, the kind of person who wakes up smiling. Keith totally cracks me up – Attack Iguanas! He tells G-man and me that he and Hellga had instantly liked us when we’d first arrived that morning. I’m flattered. And drunk.

G-man seems to be feeling no pain either, but it’s nearly 9 p.m. and I realize we haven’t eaten since lunchtime at the beach. “Weesh’ g’get some food,” I suggest. “Yeshh,” my man agrees.

Sven recommends a nearby restaurant owned by his friend Kristoff and swears that if we’re disappointed, he’ll buy us drinks for the rest of the night.

“Order the Arrachera.” he says. “It’s fantastic!”

“Arra what?”

“It’s a type of marinated steak that melts in your mouth.”

“How do you say it again? Arra..”


“And the restaurant is where?”

“Oh come on, I’ll just take you guys.”

Sven walks to the restaurant with us and introduces us to Kristoff, a genteel and hospitable man. Kristoff actually kisses my hand! You just don’t find that kind of old-world charm very often.

We’re seated at a table along the patio railing. Sven wishes us bon appetit and starts walking back to La Iguanita.

Halfway down the block, he turns around, walks back to our table and whispers, “Arrachera.”

G-man and I proceed to consume the best meal we’ve ever had. Kristoff gives us the royal treatment, and the Arrachera is arra-fucking-amazing! It really does melt in your mouth. My taste buds have an orgasm.

Tummies full and brain cells ready for killing, we return to La Iguanita for more drinks. The party’s still in full swing. Marta’s still passed out on the couch in the lobby.

Sven immediately wants to know how dinner was, and feeling like a bad little monkey, I can’t resist saying “Dude, that totally sucked. I’ll have a margarita, please.”

But the millisecond I see his face drop, I say “I’m joking, of course! Best meal we’ve ever had. Thank you so much for the recommendation.” And I hug him.

More people have joined our table (it’s a big round table), and Keith introduces us to another Englishman, his friend Mike. Mike seems like a decent guy, soft-spoken and kind. He warns us not to drink the tap water. (Thanks Mike, we’ve been to Mexico before!) G-man and I are both pleasantly buzzed, drifting in and out of different conversations with different people.

At one point, I overhear Mike talking about his wife, and it sounds as though some horrible accident has occurred, or even something as tragic as suicide. He’s talking to Keith, who looks all concerned and sympathetic.

I certainly don’t want to intrude though, so I get back to my conversation with whoever I was conversing with at the time. Memory’s a little foggy, you know?

Next thing I know, Hellga’s sitting next to Mike. She’s enraged. And she’s loud.

“Whatever, sorry about what happened, but fuck you, Mike.”

“But Hellga…”

“No, fuck you, Mike!”

“I’m really sorry.”

Fuck you, Mike!!”

Hellga waltzes off to the bar, and Mike is in tears.

He looks my way and knows that I’ve seen (and heard) what had gone down, so I go sit next to him and say something to the effect of “Wow, that seemed pretty harsh.”

“Oh, she’s a good lady. Just got a bit of a temper when she drinks.”

A bit?

Soon enough, we move on to light topics and I manage to cheer him up.

And this is my first mistake, I realize, as I see Hellga glaring at me from across the room...

Ready for Part 2?

Never Fails to Make Me Laugh 1

"Fetchez la vache."
"Fetchez la vache!"

(From Monty Python & The Holy Grail) Pauvre vache!

Can you guess who's actively procrasting writing a real post this morning? ;-)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hurricane Hellga

Swedish expat and enchanting co-owner of *La Iguanita* Hotel & Bar in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Just posting her as a little teaser for my upcoming story, THE PLAYA MAFIA, in which G-man and I fall in with the Iguanita denizens – locals, expats and occasional curious travelers looking for that "authentic" experience. Let me tell you, it just doesn't get any more authentic than Hellga.

Gogol Bordello to play Vancouver!

Yay! The “gypsy punks” are scheduled to play at Richard’s on Richards (fondly known in Vancouver as “Dicks on Dicks”) on September 2, 2007 – the night before G-man’s 40th birthday! AND it’s on the Sunday of Labour Day long weekend.

I see big-crazy-fun times ahead!

Plus, it’s probably a good idea for me to hear some live music I’m not so, shall I say, emotionally invested in. I don’t know enough about GB to consider them *muse material*, but I know I’m gonna DANCE MY ASS OFF!

Tix go on sale tomorrow. (Friday, June 29, 2007).

Who’s with me?


Keep the faith, baby

I often vacillate between hope and a kind of watered-down despair.

Gotta tell you, I highly recommend the hope option. It burns way more calories!

Scuba Whores

The G-man and I live to travel, but because our time and budget (like those of most people) are limited, it seems that every trip we plan has to include a coastal destination providing us with the opportunity to submerge. Not only do we both dream in colour, we dream in underwater colour.

So what prompted this little diversion, hot on the tail of a teaser like “I want to BE the muse”? Easy enough to explain, my friends.

When the sun refuses to come out here in Vancouver, I miss Mexico, and when I miss Mexico, part of what I miss is diving. There’s a stellar pic of a tortuga and me on our last dive. (My last dive, that is, not the tortuga’s.) I’ll find it and post it later.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cruising on Exhaustion and Martinis

A couple of my friends affectionately refer to this as The Groupie Story, but I have to say, I’m not a big fan of the term “groupie” – primarily because I’m not a slut. Then again, as my friend David points out, “It all depends on your definition of 'groupie'. For instance, I consider myself a huge Tina Turner groupie, but I wouldn’t *do* her.” (The fact that David is gay is immaterial, it really is.)

Several weeks ago, G-man, two dear friends and I saw Manu Chao and Radio Bemba Sound System at the Sasquatch Festival in central Washington. The band had played here in Vancouver the previous night, but we (much to my dismay) hadn’t been able to get tickets, so off to the south we drove. The band’s set at the festival began around sunset, and in some barely explicable way, the experience changed my life.

I knew that Manu – compassionate, warm, energetic and FUN – was my muse and I had to see him again.

To that end, I managed to contact some people – people I can’t name out of respect for their privacy. Long story short, I got put on the guest list for the band’s upcoming show at Koolhaus in Toronto. (BTW, the short part refers exlusively to this paragraph. The full story is a bit of a commitment, so go pour yourself a stiff one, smoke if you got 'em, and settle in comfortably.)

Once assured I was on the Toronto guestlist, I went on to do the most impulsive (some would say stupidest) thing I’ve ever done in my life:


Most of the names in my story have been changed to protect the innocent. And the guilty.

I was to fly out at the ungodly hour of 7 a.m. on Thursday, June 21, 2007, the day of the gig. Found out, however, after having made my travel arrangements, that my good friends Blair and David were flying out at 11 p.m. on the previous evening. They were heading to TO to celebrate Gay Pride with some friends out there.

When fortune smiles upon me, it smiles big. I manage to switch flights (with a penalty fee, but who cares) and travel with the boys.

We arrive in TO around about, oh, the crack of dawn, but the boys’ friend Robert comes to pick us up, the dear man. Blair, David and I had all taken a chill pill at the start of the flight, and although they’d slept, the best I’d managed was a state of semi-consciousness.

Robert drops us off at his boyfriend Kevin’s apartment, right smack in the middle of the vibrant and colourful Gay Village. I fall in buddy-love with Kevin instantly, and how could I not? He hugs me hello and welcome, and has a fresh pot of coffee waiting. Robert goes off to work at a Gay Archives facility he oversees, while the four of us hang around Kevin’s apartment, drink coffee and visit. The check-in time for my nearby hotel is at 4 pm. 4 p.m., for God’s sake! I have all day to kill, and I’m comatose.

Eventually we make our way out for breakfast, and I treat, by way of saying thank you. Anyway, it’s cheap – Blair and I both have a bit of nervous tummy and all I can manage is toast. Dry toast.

After breakfast, we walk around the village for a while, check out some funky little shops, admire the architecture, and that kind of thing. Just before lunchtime, we visit Robert at the Gay Archives and are graciously offered a tour. Truly fascinating stuff, everything from artwork to personal correspondence to journalism.

Robert goes back to work, so we leave him to it and make our way to – where else? – a pub. We sit out on the deck, chat, smoke and drink several girlie martinis. My 18th wind kicks in, fatigue no longer an issue. Kevin and I hit it off like the proverbial house on fire. He says the best thing a gay man (or maybe anyone) has ever said to me:

I love a woman with a potty mouth and a great rack.
(Thanks, Kev-man! I like that type of woman too.)

(Papillon & Kevin. The slogan on Kevin's T-shirt didn't even make a blip on my radar that day. It certainly does now.)

Eventually, my exhaustion returns, and David is by now feeling it too, so Kevin gives us his apartment keys. We walk back there and both lay down for a nap. I set my travel alarm to wake me in time to go check in, but I manage to fuck up the am/pm thing, so it doesn’t go off and I sleep till 4:30. Bleary-eyed, I chug down a Red Bull and pull myself together. David gets up about the same time and walks me over to the hotel.

Once there, I enjoy a very long and much-needed shower, and then proceed to get myself ready. And I mean, I go to town! The hair, the makeup – I even cut the power-chain off my wretched braces. If there’s the remotest possibility I’ll meet my muse tonight, I’m pretty fucking determined to look as fetching as I possibly can. Little do I know how much this effort will pay off later tonight – I’ve never flirted with so many security guys!

Although the doors at Koolhaus aren’t to open until 8 pm, I taxi my way there by 7:30, having anticipated (correctly) that there’d be a line-up of keeners well in advance of the actual event. I wasn’t about to take any chances!

The queue itself is quite enjoyable. The promoter (I assume) has set up a sound system outside, and everyone’s groovin’ to recorded Manu. Because this is an all-ages gig, a security guard bearing white wrist bands announces to people that we’ll need to wear these in order to drink inside. He asks me for ID. I thank him.

About 15 minutes into the wait, I notice an attractive blond man walking around the periphery, talking to security guards and other gig-related folks. He’s wearing an appealingly rumpled linen pants n’ shirt outfit, and appears to be someone very much involved with the show. Click! I’m convinced that this is my contact, Joe Blow – I’d google-imaged him, and the look was right. I manage to flag the guy down and motion him over to where I’m waiting in line. “Hey,” I venture, my face no doubt all abeam, “Are you Joe?” The attractive man smiles warmly “Yes, I am,” he says.

I shake his hand and introduce myself “I’m Papillon,” I practically sing, “and I’m so happy to meet you. If you do have a few seconds later, I would love to buy you a drink.” “Ohh, absolutely,” Joe replies, clearly delighted. This is going so well! “Later then, Joe – you rock!” I wave as he heads back to his crew.

Right about here, however, things start to run a little less smoothly. It’s nearly 8 pm, and all of us waiting outside are becoming oh-so-eager to get into the venue. The line-up (as they often do) wends along an infrastructure of walls and fences.

Security guards mill about, and eventually, of course, the brusque directing begins. “Ticket holders – everyone with a ticket in hand, line up along the railing and head to the doors. The rest of you – will-calls, box office ticket buyers, and guest list people, line up against the wall and wait.” And wait. And wait. And wait.

It’s nothing short of painful to watch as every single last one of the people with tickets in hand waltz their way into the club before I can get in there and stake out my coveted spot – center, front, mosh pit.

Eventually it’s my turn at the box office window. I hand the lady my passport and announce, with utmost aplomb, “Here you go. I’m on the guest list.” Flippita, flippita, flippita, goes the lady through her stack of papers. She’s wearing that squinty expression – the one that never means good news – and she says the dreaded words “I’m sorry, m’am. I can’t find you on any of the lists here.” (Lists, like plural?) “Whose list are you on?,” she asks. “Joe Blow’s.” I say, a little bit of confidence regained.

“Who’s Joe Blow?”

“You know, Joe Blow of Joe Blow & Associates. Listen, he’s just there in the parking lot. If I bring him back to vouch for me, would that be okay?”

“Sure, that would be fine.”

I approach the fence separating me from the parking lot and Joe. So many walls and fences to negotiate that night! I attempt, in vain, to wave Joe over; he’s occupied and doesn’t see me. There’s a security guard standing near me though, and he kindly agrees to go get Joe for me and bring him over.

Joe comes to the fence where I’m standing, and he’s charming as charming can be. Gentle smile. “Joe,” I say, “I don’t want to be a pain in the butt, but there seems to have been a bit of a mix-up. The lady at the box office says I’m not on the guest list.”

Joe puzzles for a second. “Hmm… who put you on the guest list?”

“Well, you did, Joe. We emailed back and forth several times, and you confirmed that I’d be on.”

Now Joe really puzzles. “No…” he shakes his head slowly, “That wasn’t me.”

My first thought, as I stand there chain-smoking and fighting back tears, is “Why are you fucking with me, Joe? You seemed like such a nice guy when we were emailing.”

And then… click. “You are, “ I posit, “Joe Blow of Joe Blow & Associates?”

And I see “Joe” experience a click of his own. “No, no I’m not. My first name is Joe, but I’m not the guy you’re looking for.”

What he must have been thinking 20 minutes prior! Woman in a low-cut dress approaches him, introduces herself, gushes, and offers to buy him a drink later. “Absolutely,” indeed! So, Joe-not-Joe and I take our leave, and back I go to the lady at the box office window – oh no, of course I mean to the back of the line again to wait for another chance to plead my case.

And it’s finally my turn again. “Hey,” I say to Box Office Lady, “can you please try to contact Joe Blow backstage so he can vouch for me?”

(*Lady looking a tad annoyed*) “I thought you said you’d bring him back here.”

“Yeah, sorry about that – turned out to be the wrong Joe. So can you please contact backstage? Take my passport with you if you want.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t leave here.”

“Can you please send someone else back then? Please. I’ve flown all the way out here from Vancouver. Can you please do that for me?”

Box Office Lady softens. “Okay. Just go wait over by the fence and we’ll do what we can for you.”

I thank her, breathe deeply, and go stand by the fence.

At this point, I meet a girl in a blue Manu Chao T-shirt. She too appears to be on her own and ticketless. We strike up a conversation, and I tell her all about the screwy guest list situation. She asks (poor dear thing) if they’d set me up so I could bring in a guest. Just me, I reply apologetically. And even that isn’t looking too promising at the moment.

A few minutes later, I hear someone call my name from the box office window. I leap back over there, and sure enough, Box Office Lady hands me my passport with a ticket tucked inside. Yes! I thank her again and head to the doors.

No trouble getting in. Now, the only slightly worrisome issue peeing on my proverbial Cornflakes is this: Upon examining the ticket I’d been given, I see no mention of words like “guest” or “backstage” or “after-event.” Rather, I see the painfully banal and non-inspiring words “General Admission.”

I firmly insist, however, that I will not screw myself out of enjoying the gig. I hit the bar immediately and inhale a double gin & soda. Thus fortified, I make my way – against all odds – to the very front of the mosh pit, just slightly right of center stage, eye-contact distance from band members. There are only a few tiny Latinas around me and in front of me, and I’m poised to have a really, really, really good time.

And I do!! Manu and Radio Bemba Sound System open with El Hoyo, as they’d done at Sasquatch, as they’d done, I imagine, for all the preceding shows. They put on a high-energy, dance-your-ass-off, grin-till-your-face-hurts set that must have been close to three hours long.

Gotta tell you, as someone who’s always envied cute little women, tonight I’m glad to be tall and in reasonably good physical shape. For most of the show, the crowd is pretty gentle, but inevitably, a couple of big wasted guys begin to slam their way to the front, and then the Domino effect takes hold. Girls are glaring at each other and at me, wearing “WTF?” expressions, and those of us at the receiving end are shrugging and gesturing towards the assholes, as if to say “Sorry, dude – I didn’t start the shoving. It was them.”

Then, to add insult to injury, some little chick behind me taps me on the shoulder, and when I turn around, she’s all pissy because my hair is flicking beads of sweat on her. Fine, I admit that’s kind of disgusting, but look, princess, it’s a hot, sweaty mosh pit. What do you want me to do? I guess you want me to stand dead fucking still.

At this point, my mind goes to dark places and I nearly cry. The vibe has turned ugly for me once again. “Look how close you’ve come to getting fucked over tonight!” I despair. “And you imagine there’s a snowball’s chance in hell you’ll get to meet him?!”

Eventually the crowd around me thins out a bit (after the second encore?), so I’m able to breathe and move again. I feel better and re-focus my energy on the rest of the show. Manu talks about the futility of fighting violence with violence and does the whole pounding-on-his-heart thing that made me fall in a platonic sort of love with him at Sasquatch. Actually, I’m relieved to see that it is, after all, a bit of a routine. A beautiful routine, but a routine nonetheless. And that’s okay, because no one can be original all the time, and I need to learn that the guy is no more, and no less, than human.

The boys finally play their last song, and I have to admit, that’s kind of a relief. I’m so spent at this point, I’m about ready to puke up the tuna sandwich I’d barely managed to force down myself a few hours earlier.

The lights go on. People start milling towards the exit, security guards at the ready to herd them (us) like cattle. I’m milling slower than anyone. Doggedly holding on to hope, I approach a slit in the curtains, off to the left side of the stage, en route to the exit. Mais naturellement, there’s a security guard standing there, shaking his head “no” at me. “Look,” I say, holding out my passport, “can I just give this to one of the guys backstage to see if he can contact Joe Blow for me? I just want to thank him for putting me on the guest list.” Amazingly, the guy allows it, and I manage to plead my case and hand my passport to one of the roadies. This guy is nice enough to go look for Joe, who is, d’accord, nowhere to be found.

At this point, I notice a small group of people hanging around off to one side. There’s a security guard standing next to them. I approach him and ask “If I understand correctly, there IS an after-event that people on the guest list can attend?” He replies (and I love this), “If you understand correctly, you should stay right here.” Best words I’ve heard all evening. I don’t leave the man’s side for a second.

Meanwhile, there’s a female security guard doing the whole “ROUST!” bit, trying to get everyone to fuck off and go outside. She’s all in “How many times do I have to tell you people?!” mode, and although she’s mostly addressing the main crowd, she eventually starts in on our little side group. Some brave white guy with dreadlocks (Jeff, I later learned) pipes up with “But this security guard told us to wait here.”

Eventually the staff works out its miscommunications, and we (I’m feeling all warm and part of the little group now) are left in peace. And suddenly there’s this unassuming looking guy walking around, and people are hugging him! And then it’s MY TURN. “Manu,” I say, “I just want to thank you for being my muse.” Because I just want to thank him for being my muse.

Manu looks a tiny bit puzzled, but smiles warmly and hugs me. As I back away (and didn’t that take some effort) within a respectful few seconds, I say, “By the way, I’m Papillon. Did you get my letter?” Now his face lights up with smiling recognition and he says “Yeah!” I’m completely blissed out, but it’s time to let others connect, so that’s that. For now.

I overhear people wishing him a happy birthday – I hadn’t known about that.

There’s still the question of, the logistics of, the after-party. I notice, with growing unease, that the Little Group with whom I’d come to identify are all wearing Day-glo green wrist bands. Fuck.This can’t be good.

But I’ve come so far and I have nothing to lose but a little more pride and some sleep. I stick with my buddy the security guard and The Little Group until another security guard hits the scene and explains that we’re all to follow him outside, around the building, and to another entrance leading to the separate venue where the after-party would be held.

Exuding a self-assurance I definitely didn’t feel, I walk along with the Little Group, discreetly draping a silk shawl over my green-free wrist.

We reach this other entrance, and there’s the usual line-up rope and, you guessed it… a great big bouncer at the door.

Let me tell you, I’ve not been at an airport where I’ve whipped out my passport more than I did on this night. When it’s my turn at the door, I sigh, but by now my spiel is so well-rehearsed, it takes no time at all to work it for my newest pal, ImAn:

“So, do you think you could please go back there and find Joe Blow for me?”

“Well, first of all, I can’t leave here. And second of all, I don’t know who he is or what he looks like.”

(*Paplllon experiencing moment of brilliance*) “Wait, you could ask Manu. He knows my name as well.”

“Look, the band isn’t even in there yet. You’ll just have to wait and we’ll see what we can do for you.”

I thank ImAn for his patience and flirt with him shamelessly. I offer him a cigarette. He says, thanks, he doesn’t smoke. I say “Good for you, ImAn.” And I chain-smoke.

Meanwhile, there’s a small group of young girls, wearing green wristbands, but one of them is SOL, poor thing, cuz it’s a 19+ event and she’s only 18. I lean over to ImAn and whisper, jokingly yet not, “Can I have her wrist band?” Sweet ImAn, I can see him trying not to laugh and he gives me this stern-but-friendly “Smarten up, you!” kind of look.

Finally, finally, finally… word comes that Manu insists “Let them all in. Doesn’t matter about the green wristbands.”

I beam irrepressibly at my big pal ImAn. “I guess that would mean me too?”

ImAn smiles and nods. I limbo under the velvet rope, and I’m standing in front of him. “May I hug you?” I ask. ImAn obliges. I offer to buy him a drink, and he says he’ll take me up on that later, when he’s off shift.

So I’m in! I’m in! I’m in! I’m in!

And the first person I see is the blue Manu T-shirt girl I’d met outside earlier. Turns out she’d JUST managed to buy a ticket from someone after the box office had sold out. “Hey,” I say, giving her the thumbs-up, “you got in too!”

We’re glowing with happiness, the two of us, so I introduce myself and buy her a beer. She’s also on her own, and we pretty much hang out for the evening.

Tanya, it turns out, is a lovely girl from Mexico City, currently living in Toronto to study English. So the two of us are sitting on a comfy couch, drinking beer, marveling at our good fortune, and keeping our eyes on the door for obvious reasons.

A sudden chorus of Happy Birthday, however, alerts us to the fact that Manu is, in fact, in the room. Tanya and I beeline our way over to where a small crowd is gathered. And there’s the man, smiling, warm and modest as you could possibly imagine. He’s happily accepting birthday wishes and hugs from anyone dispensing them, so I, being the huggy person I am anyway, and being in the presence of my muse, gingerly approach.

“Happy birthday, Manu.” (Hug.)

“Thank you, Papillon.”

“Aww, you remembered my name!”

“Of course.”

“You’re so sweet.”

He really is. And so is his birthday cake. A rich, dark chocolate mousse kind of thing. (*Drooling*)

That day a few weeks back, when I first saw Manu on stage at the Sasquatch festival, his energy, humour, compassion and total lack of artifice affected me in a way I still can’t explain rationally. Manu’s spirit got into my heart and released something long-neglected that it had found there.

I thought to myself, “Okay, Mr. Chao. You’re either The Real Thing, or you’re the most gifted bullshitter I’ve ever seen.” Well, Manu really didn’t strike me as a bullshitter, and I spent several weeks after Sasquatch jonesing to see him again.

Fast-forwward to Toronto.

I’m lucky enough to speak with Manu a few more times the night of his birthday. He writes something incredibly sweet on my Esperanza CD liner and kindly allows Tanya to take some pictures of us together – I may post them if I can PhotoShop the me out of me.

So that’s the story, boys and girls. I’ve written, at least in journal form, every day since then, sustained by the knowledge that my muse is very much FOR REAL.

Coming soon: I want to be a muse in my own right. Is that too much to hope for?

Pics of The Muse & Me