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...