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Oh, Canada!

For approximately three minutes, I reveled in the low cost of Joanna’s first boarding experience. But then the intake technician returned from the back and said that the doctor would like to chat with me about JoJo’s stay, adding quickly that everything was fine. After retrieving the lil bean and hearing about her explosive diarrhea and vomiting that morning– and watching my bill double from her antibiotics and an injection–I scooped her up and took her home.

Following two unsuccessful attempts at hiding her antibiotic in treats, I finally smeared enough of the smelly prescribed food over the pill for her to stomach it. Seated at the kitchen table, I barely reached my tea before she jumped up and burrowed into the knitted blanket covering my lap.

As I felt her little body rise and fall under the blanket and scratched between her ears, she poked her head out, looked up lovingly, and waited until we were nose-to-nose to burp in my face. A few minutes later, I had to surrender all motion as her series of snores grew louder, an occasional fart interjected for good measure.

Outside, the cloud-cluttered sky did its best to obscure the fragments of bright blue behind them. The heater clicked on, and I let the steam from my tea writhe up under my glasses, fogging them slightly. On the last day of my vacation, I looked forward to nothing more than a quiet day at home. I hadn’t had a true vacation since my honeymoon, and I’d forgotten how cathartic it could be. Albeit just a few days in Canada, this mini-vacation was just what I’d needed.

***

As I stood about 250 feet in the air, the Capilano Suspension Bridge began swaying from the tourists herding onto it like fleets of cattle. I clutched the thick cable railings and figured that I’d plunge to my death screaming, “I KNEW THIS WOULD HAPPEN!”

Capilano Bridge. It's only slightly (terrifyingly) high.
Capilano Bridge. It’s only slightly (terrifyingly) high.

I’ve never been comfortable with heights, but my friends had been very persuasive in selling this particular excursion. Despite my expectation of a horrific death by falling, I took heart in knowing that, at the very least, on my way down I’d have a great view of the beautiful scenery.

Ah, the cathartic sounds of a waterfall.
Ah, the cathartic sounds of a waterfall.

After traipsing across tree house-style catwalks and chatting about the sexual promiscuity of middle-schoolers, we scampered along a few more cantilevered walkways. Soon enough, we were in the gift shop, and I capitalized on my adrenaline rush by consuming a hearty supply of fudge.

Like the evening before, that night’s dinner was filled with laughter and conversation, and more than a few drinks. Feeling heady from all the booze, I happened to look over at a nearby table where a bromance was unfolding with every pint they knocked back. The more vocal one put his arm around his girlfriend’s shoulders, but didn’t break his gaze from watching his single friend’s Adam’s apple rock up and down with every gulp. After they returned from one of their multiple bathroom visits together, I happened to catch the eye of the single guy. The “family” resemblance was instant—as it often is—and his gaze quickly ricocheted off of me to settle on my friend seated beside me. Had this happened a decade ago, I’d have quietly cried into my cocktail. Instead, I chuckled to myself and tipped my glass ever so slightly in his direction before whispering to my friend that he had an admirer.

Self-acceptance isn’t an easy thing—but with the past year’s revelations, I’ve found that having a sense of humor is vitally important in propelling me forward. I don’t know what’ll unfold in the coming years, or where I’ll be or with whom—if anyone—but no matter what, I intend to keep on laughing.

***

On the ride back home, I melted into a playlist of Radiohead and David Bowie and Brandi Carlile, and absorbed the passing landscapes—letting the welcomed sun warm my arms and face.

About an hour outside of Seattle, the sky darkened and hail began raining down. I slowed and watched a few cars pull off under bridge overpasses. Instead of joining them, I putted along and kept myself focused on the brightening road ahead. Before long, sun enveloped the car and Seattle’s skyline came into view.

Sitting at traffic lights, I rolled around sea glass collected from Stanley Park’s shorelines, feeling the worn surfaces abrading my palms; tossed and turned through tumultuous currents, their jagged edges had softened into something timeless.

I felt revived—like I had the necessary confidence and fortitude to push ahead. Like the beginning of a love story, not every vacation needs to be a lengthy sonnet. Sometimes, a haiku will capture it all.

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Learning Curves

I’ll just go ahead and write it. Put it out there. Feel the weight of a lackadaisical writing mantle be lifted off of me and onto the shoulders of some other, more resolute writerlyish person. Deep breath.

Using a limited vocabulary to convey just how life-changing a trip can be is, well, limiting.

(See?!)

Just kidding! I’ll never shut up, nor will I ever stop using words incorrectly.

So, here we go. The first (but definitely not last) post since the cross country road trip came to its conclusion Sunday night.

***
Like I was writing, a road trip of this scale can leave much more in its wake than an ear infection and six cavities. Because there’re certain things we learned along the way that’ll have long-lasting implications for every single thing we do from here on out.
Such as:

1. Never substitute anything for your favorite vodka. Dirty, dry martinis just aren’t the same without Grey Goose.

2. You should get drunk and watch The Muppet Show on mute in a trashy gay bar at least once. And appreciate how well their mouthing syncs with Rihanna’s music.

3. French toast will never be the same after eating at Olea’s in San Francisco.

The best French toast EVER4.  When faded and tattered, Hampton Inn signage is incredibly disturbing.

5.  When all else fails, and you have no idea of a city’s sketchiness factor, plug the local  Whole Foods address into the GPS. You may have to fight over the last of the vegan gummy bears, but at least you won’t get knifed. And you might even see Jake Gyllenhaal.

6.  If you have a visible tattoo, use it to your advantage in Bubba Land while doing your best to engage in overly butch behavior. (Yes, even in a line at a gas station Subway. Especially in a line at a gas station Subway.)

7.  Celebrities are much shorter in real life. But they still sort of shine.

8.  Coffee is a necessity. If trying to travel cheaply, just skip lunch. Your partner will thank you for it.
Who loves coffee? (Who clearly needs coffee?) I DO!9.  Always tip the silver fox valet. Well.

10.  Los Angeles has a lot of charm if you’re willing to wade through some muck first.

11.  Don’t ever discount a city or state without first visiting it. Almost every state has something amazing hidden away. Except Mississippi.

12. Only stop at Mississippi’s visitor’s center if you want to be offered apple cider laced with Jesus.

13.  A peanut butter and jelly sandwich is always a good default. Culinary safety blankets should never be underestimated.

14.  If you want a primer on what’s wrong with America, spend approximately six minutes at Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco.

15.  Alabama’s red clay has restorative properties.

16.  Traipse around the woods and talk about life. It’s incredibly freeing. Even if you’re not talking to anyone.

17.  Daydreaming is the basis for action and change.

18.  Frustration and borderline migraines will dispel after the first bite of well-cooked chow mein. Even at 11:00 PM. On Christmas.

Chow mein: the Christmas savior.19.  Always carry an umbrella in San Francisco. And remember it may not always fit between construction scaffolding.

20.  Strong drinks and antiquing should almost always be coupled.

21.  Silence can be just as meaningful as conversation.

22.  Brandi Carlile should be on every traveler’s playlist.

23.  Wait for that overnighted fleece. You will reap the rewards your entire trip. Even if you have to admit that he was right.

24.  Never eat at a Vegas casino. It’ll just make you sad inside. And your insides sad.

Not a restaurant...comfy room, though.25.  Sometimes, you just have to quiet that inner food critic and eat something because, as Andy says, “It’s warm. And you can chew it.”

26.  The Grand Canyon will take your breathe away. (Or is that the 14 degree weather?)

Breathtaking...and cold.27.  A Post It that reads “Duvet covers & sheets are clean for your arrival” probably means exactly the opposite. And that a porno was just shot there.

Clean? Doubtful.28.  The comfort of holding hands in silence cannot be overstated.

Warmth29.  Deciding that you can’t grow anymore in a place you love means it’s time to move on. Not that you’ve failed.

30.  Revel in the ambiguity, for it’s all that we know.

***

I know what you’re thinking. Chow mein, really?

Alright.

But at least a few of them are serious and slightly sentimental. (Or are you crying because you have a wicked New Year’s hangover? At least now you know Point 1 is valid. Booyah.)

So, while I’m downing medication for my agitated ear and sinuses, and Andy and I are setting our sights on the future, there’s plenty more to figure out.

One fork-full of chow mein at a time.

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Two Gays, a Prius, and a Powerpointed Plan

Finding someone who tolerates my quirks and finds most of them endearing was hard enough.

Combining households, thus subjecting him to my neurotic OCD-ADD-informed organizational structures and unyielding design aesthetics, was fraught with the usual hiccups when any two people move in together.

(Okay, so not everyone has to deal with a partner who has OCD or ADD or both or squirrel!)

So. Deciding to drive across the country together hasn’t really seemed like a big deal.

I mean, sure. It’s across the country. Like, from here to there.

Here to there and back again...

Over mountains, through woods, to a rusted-out bus in the middle of the Alaskan tundra.

Kidding!

At least about the bus.

***

We’ll have ups and downs and plenty of turnarounds and screaming matches with the GPS and little spats and possible tears as we pass through Oklahoma and Texas to New Mexico without Starbucks.

Still, we’ll have an amazing adventure. Something we’ve both wanted to do individually, but are now fortunate enough to do together.

And while I know that we’ll have plenty of moments that’ll make others pale in comparison, I’ll still savor the quiet moments, no matter how brief they’ll be.

Like the sun slowly warming the car.

Like me reaching over to rest my hand on his.

Like the exhilaration of passing into another state we’ve never visited.

Like eating great food at random holes-in-the-wall.

Like catching up with far-flung friends.

Like laughing at our fleabag accommodations along the way, and dreaming of the amazingly beautiful, swanky California hotel rooms that await us.

Like making a peanut butter sandwich on the side of the road while contemplating a visit to the Grand Canyon.

Like making macabre references to Thelma & Louise.

Like forgetting all of the work-related bullshit that’s been weighing us down.

Like sleeping in until 7.

Like a threesome in The Standard’s rooftop pool with Joseph Gordon-Levitt or Ashton Kutcher. (Hey, it could happen!)

Like enjoying life a little bit.

***

Maybe I’m less concerned about the what-ifs because I’ll have a copilot.

A copilot with a printed Powerpoint presentation of our trip.

(Yes, I’m a lucky bastard.)

Regardless, I know we’ll be fine. We’ll make it work. Because we’ve made far more stressful things work before.

And this time around, we’ll have the wind behind us, the music blaring, and the knowledge that we’ll be free for a few weeks calming our nerves like a vodka tonic.

With nothing but open road ahead of us and a dust cloud in the Prius’s rear-view.