I Love Happy Girls (Who Are Also Hot)

I keep thinking that I’m squandering my life by working day and night, cycling and dog sitting on the weekends. I keep thinking that I’m not dating nearly enough for someone my age, for someone in this particular city, for someone with my storied experiences and love for dating.

But then I read shit like the last post and realize that I went through seven fucking girls in six goddamn weeks, not including the ones that rolled over from 2016, the Comedian and the Girl with the Extraordinary Face and the Car Factory’s Daughter and the girl with the rose tattoo and alien face – (the latter three who probably don’t count since they’ve been relegated to messaging apps only, but probably do because while they live all the way over in Bangkok, I’m pretty fucking sure I’ll end up back there shortly and will date all of them).

So I’m okay and I can relax. I’m not squandering anything. Except 10 hours of my life everyday at this job that I sort of like because of the capacity at which I’m designing shit, but then sort of despise for the incapacity to write.

Anyway, so all of those girls, some overlapping but barely (I can’t date more than one girl at a time). Some were promising, some weren’t; some are lingering in the background and some already fell off the planet and are dead to me. (What’s up, Wine Girl – what happened to taking me to the Huntington Library, you lying fuck?)

That’s what I do, I bump around around women like a fucking pin ball until a clear victor emerges, and one might have, finally, after six excruciating weeks since the Comedian left my Whatsapp conversation.

This girl, I liked her slowly and then didn’t and then did and then didn’t and then suddenly, in one night of talking on the fucking phone, I fell in and cleared my headspace of all the others. That’s a first, to teeter on the edge of liking a girl – normally if there’s any teetering at all – any indecision on my part – I’ll immediately bail. I don’t want to end up with a girl that I had to consciously decide to like, you know? That’s fucking bullshit.

This girl, I met her a few months ago in a different city. After mere minutes – minutes! – I thought, “Where do I find a woman like this? How come I’ve never found a woman like this?” Then I left and she left and we were left separated until a few weeks ago when I finally found her on Instagram.

Our rapport was still there and our conversation picked up where we left it some three thousand miles away. But all of her stories seemed sad. All of her topics were heavy, these balls of lead that weighed her down in life, that weighed me down while I messaged with her. She was still beautiful and smart and clever and charming – but I didn’t know why I would like her so much at first. What was it, what did it for me back then? What was she wearing, what did the shape of her breast look like, for me to want her so badly?

And so that’s where the phone conversation came in. We messaged for weeks while I lay in bed rolling my eyes or sighing while answering her question of my Top 10 Biggest Heartbreaks. But once we got onto the phone, holy fucking shit, it was me reading her messages wrong! It was me that misconstrued lighthearted subjects for heavy topics!

We talked and she laughed heartily, spoke rapidly. Her sunshine demeanor spilled through the phone and into my fucking apartment. Her happiness and cheerfulness was just so fucking infectious – through only her voice! Even without the assistance of her beautiful face and hourglass body! Even with the help of her smooth hair and deep tan! I would marry that goddamn voice. Also: breasts.

(What is it with 29 year olds? So many 29 year olds in my life, and they’re all so different from each other, at incredibly varying degrees of maturity. [I just realized the last long-term girlfriend I had was 29 when we started to date.]

Is this a thing, for 29 year old girls to date a man nine fucking years older? I mean, I get freaked out that they’re not freaking out. What’s wrong with them? What sort of daddy issues do they possess?)

She does this, she does that.

She sells wine. Sometimes a bottle at a time, to her wealthy Chinese clients. Sometimes they would ask her to locate a particular vintage and she would get on the phone and feel out her network, see if anyone was up for letting go of their bottle for a princely sum.

Other times, she would buy a small crate of a limited edition, mark up the prices and find a buyer, perhaps one of her existing wealthy Chinese clients, perhaps one of their friends.

***

She works for “the largest OEM factory in the world” and it turned out to be FoxConn. “You know FoxConn?” she asked. I know everything, I replied. Because I do, because I’m interested in everything, which has become an incredible benefit in my life because it gives me the ability to talk about nearly everything, with anyone, in any situation.

She didn’t work for the sexy part of FoxConn, the part that makes the nightly news, the stories about the suicides, the dire conditions of the workers assembling iPhones and Samsung TVs. She worked for a small division that put “microchips into small appliances and motors, like a lawn mower.”

***

She’s a creative director for Korean hip hop groups. Her brother lives in Seoul and is somehow involved in the music industry, but doesn’t know anything about hip hop. He began to get inquiries from hip hop groups – “How should we dress? What should our logo be? How are our beats?” – and he didn’t know so deferred to his sister, this girl with shoulder-length hair, longer in the front than in the back.

She’ll help to produce the music, curate a look for the group, sometimes assist in booking them tours in America.

When she’s not doing this, she’s at school working on her PhD in fine arts. “I want to turn the art world on it’s stupid motherfucking head,” she said, disgusted by the pretention of the world of fine arts. (“I don’t think you can change the industry,” I told her. “It’s pretentious for a reason.” “I don’t give a fuck what you think,” she replied.

***

She styles hair for Hollywood. She used to do high fashion but it was too … I forgot. Now she does painfully long shoots on location throughout Los Angeles, eager to finish the day to get home to her one-year old son. She’s Japanese and 5’9” and that’s all that I know about her.

***

She’s an orthodontist. She wakes up at 6am and hits the gym. Sometimes I’ll catch her at the tail-end of her workout, back in the days when I was there at 7:30am. Then she goes home, showers, and makes the drive to Santa Monica.

***

She’s a teacher at a private school. The head of the language department, even at her tender young age. She’s ambitious – highly ambitious – and gorgeous, so gorgeous that it’s actually a detriment, you know? She’s been told that her wardrobe isn’t appropriate, her turtleneck sweaters and slacks. I rolled my eyes at the incendiary comments of her fellow female teachers, obviously envious of her youthful beauty.

But then one day she sent me a photo of what she was wearing. Her dress was loose, yeah, but because she was so curvy where it counts – breasts, hips, ass – you could still imagine the shape of her naked body underneath her clothes. It was indeed too sexy for the workplace, although admittedly I don’t see how she could hide her body any more.

***

She works at a facial skin care company. I think something to do with lasers. She’s tall.

August 2015, Belgrade, Serbia. Part 3 (Why? Why oh god, why?)

Seriously? Three days of writing about my two nights in Belgrade where I did nothing? Nothing?!

Okay.

At night, I went to scope out another gym: XL Fitness Factory. I usually turned left out of my hotel – to where the tourists were – but this gym made me turn right and cross a busy intersection and walk a few blocks where it was becoming noticeably more local. Not scuzzy-dangerous like the area around the train station, just less pristine, white-brick houses that looked like gingerbread, and more pharmacies and used furniture stores.

I almost passed it, this stairwell that led between two tall buildings. It had an iron handrail with ivy twisting through its spokes. It was arcane and rustic and authentically beautiful, but so was the entire city – the entire fucking region – and so I still wonder how it caught my eye.

I made my way down the stairs as it curved left and then right. At the bottom in opened up to a cobblestone road lined with lanterns and restaurants and locals wearing all-white clothing, fedoras and dresses, canes and umbrellas. I slowly meandered down one side of the street and back up the other, and then once more down the center to get a holistic view.

I only felt lonely in times like these, when I would see people eating together. 95% of my meals were now taken alone, with my iPad mini in one hand and Imgur in the other. So I did what I always did when struck with loneliness while traveling: I messaged Vietnamese Zoe Saldana.

“Look! I found a magical land of grilled meats and ice cream,” I said, while uploading a photo.

“Oh wow, so cool!” She probably replied with the emoji that has hearts for eyes.

“Why aren’t you here with me? We should be doing this together,” I bullshitted.

“I knowwww, I really wish I was,” she bullshitted back. And that was it, we went back to our lives, waiting for the next time one of us felt alone.

August, 2015: Belgrade, Serbia. Part 2

My short trip to Belgrade was an accurate sampling of my short trip to anywhere, whether it’s an city I’ve frequented before or a brand new joint – like Belgrade. I found out what happens when I strip life of all schedules and responsibilities, of all external suggestions and coercion: nothing. Nothing happens. I did absolutely nothing, and I loved every fucking second of it.

Well, not nothing:

I woke up and got a SIM card from Telekom Srbija, then scouted two gyms a few kilometers away. That’s my routine in a new city, to GoogleMap gyms in the area and scout them out and inquire about prices and then choose the best one and then go back and work out for three fucking hours.

This is boring, but just let me write my way out of it.

I talked to the girl at the gym who was working the desk alone. It was just me and her, there was nobody else in the building, a low-rise on the corner. She was in her mid-20s, blonde with blue eyes. Her English was good like English is in Eastern Europe –

In Western Europe, the general population doesn’t speak English, which was startling. But the more I traveled the region, the more I realized that they don’t need to. They don’t give a shit about English because they don’t need to give a shit; they don’t watch English TV, they don’t read English newspapers, they don’t have English friends. So the woman working the deli of the SPAR supermarket in Cologne couldn’t give a fuck that I didn’t know the German word for “sandwich” and kept ignoring me until I put some effort into ordering one.

In Eastern Europe, everyone speaks English, and I suspect it’s because they despise living where they were born, in a former Soviet country with hearty infrastructure but no real heart. So they go about their day, working hard and smiling little, waiting to die. They all want to get out, so they all learn English in hopes of traveling to the prosperous West where happiness waits for them – especially the women

So the girl at the gym spoke perfect English and so I stood there and talked to her for awhile before heading downstairs to do squats. When I came back up – three hours later – she had a list of restaurants for me to try, all in the area, the Northeast section of Belgrade, Serbia.

I had a tiny inkling that she wanted to hang out. Maybe in a romantic manner but mostly to practice her English, I think. Or, scratch that, mostly because she was bored because Belgrade seemed to be dead at the end of August. I roamed the entire city and saw only a handful of people, mostly tourists in the tourist sector (though granted, my awake hours were mostly 7am to 10pm and then I’d retreat back to my hotel with 3 cans of beer and a Netflix queue).

I was in a funk, though. Or the opposite of a funk – 99% of my life, I like to spend alone. So I suppose the other 1% that I actually feel down to socialize is “the funk.” I took her list, thanked her, then walked out of the gym and down the street (I remember it was an incline and I remember the large wall that ran alongside the sidewalk and the flora that was growing on it – how is my memory so clear?).

I went to the first restaurant on her list, Loki, because it was a dive bar with purportedly killer Pljeskavica, or Serbian hamburger. I walked one block north and three blocks east and there it was, a shitty shack across from a park.

I sat at the bar and ordered a Pljeskavica and a diet coke, shock that they offered it in tall cans. It was beautiful, the Serbian hamburger. It tasted astoundingly like my favorite hamburger in the world, in my life, from Johnny’s Hamburgers at Victoria Park and Sheppard in Scarborough, Ontario. It tasted astoundingly like it but even better – simply because it was 3 times the fucking size while being a third of the goddamn price.

Value is delicious.

 

August, 2015. Belgrade, Serbia.

(I hardly wrote during my jaunt through Europe and need to get these memories down, even if it’s been nearly 20 months since. What the fuck, 20 months?)

The train from Budapest to Belgrade was late. It was the beginning of the end of civilized Western Europe and into the savage bleakness of the former Soviet east. I didn’t eat that day, as I tend to do on day-long trips. I’d rather eat nothing than to eat shitty train food, you know? Save the calories for something good on the other side, like a McDonald’s. But I didn’t expect that long of a delay at the border. I didn’t count on the two travelers who were pulled off of the train and into the Serbian immigration for hours. So my purposeful 24-hour fast turned into an accidental 36-hour one.

On the train there was another backpacker, a young European kid, probably in his late-teens. We were the only ones close in age so glanced in each other’s direction a few times on the day-long trip. I was about to chat with him – where you from, where you going, where you been – but then the immigration officer came around handing out arrival cards to fill out for Serbian customs. I took out my Uniball Micro 0.7mm pen and filled in the boxes; I looked over at Euro Kid and he was using the ink refill of a ballpoint to fill in his. The ink refill of a cheap Bic ballpoint pen.

Get it? He held that flimsy, tiny tube that’s usually surrounded by hard plastic – the pen – in-between his forefinger and thumb while hunched over and using his shaky knee as a flat surface to write on. The whole scene was a disaster and from then on, when he would glance my way, I would look away.

Not because I’m a rich snob (well…) but because I’m not a backpacker anymore – if I ever even was one. I work while I travel, so while this fucker was writing with LITERALLY A PIECE OF GARBAGE, everything that I owned was on that train, some $10K worth of cash and tailored clothes and office equipment – and I couldn’t risk befriending someone who would want some of it.

(This is very short-sighted, in that there are many, many people – and especially Europeans – I’ve met that looked impoverished but were in fact way more wealthier than me. Because I come from the West, I show my value in what I wear and how I conduct myself; the vast majority of well-to-do Europeans keep their value buried under a rock in the backyard.)

Anyway.

The train pulled into Belgrade just after midnight. I’m a seasoned traveler, this shit doesn’t phase me – but it does when I’m in a brand new non-Asian country where I stick out like a, well, Asian in a non-Asian country. So I left the train with my $10K-worth-of-shit in a small backpack on my front, a large backpack on my back and a side bag full of miscellaneous travel shit like my iPad mini and mints.

It was the standard ensemble for leaving any train station in the world, but the second I stepped outside into Belgrade, I added an accessory: I took out my cheap, two-step waiter’s corkscrew and clutched it in my right hand, in case I would have to plunge it into the neck of a vagrant who unwisely (or, actually, probably very wisely) targeted a slow-moving, solo-traveling Asian tourist carrying 100lbs of shit in bags all over his body, thus unable to make fast movements, also walking on a steep incline in a dark alleyway with GoogleMaps on his iPhone in his left hand and a stupid little fucking corkscrew for defense in his right.

I would duck into a doorway and under an awning and memorize the next few turns on GoogleMaps, then conceal iPhone back in my pocket. A sound strategy, if Belgrade wasn’t made up of a thousand tiny alleyways with no signage. Eventually I made it out of the train station proper – always a magnet for the poor and degenerate make-up of the population – and hit a nice, wide, brightly-lit boulevard. I followed that for another half kilometer until I was in the apex of the tourist centre of Belgrade, Knez Mihailova, or Walking Street, where my small hotel was located.

“Where can I get some food?” I asked the super friendly, English-speaking host at the check-in window. I was 36-hours hungry.

“If you turn left on walking street, you’ll find a restaurant with a green awning. They’re open for another hour.”

“What do they have?”

“Very nice Serbian food. Very authentic and hearty. Fair prices. You must try the savijača there, it is very nice. The pljeskavica is good too, although there are better places for it. It is our version of a hamburger steak, with lots of paprika.”

“That sounds so good,” I said. I walked out of the hotel and made a right, back to where I saw a McDonald’s near the dodgy train station. They made me pay extra for ketchup packets that weren’t even Heinz.

Jeannie the Hawaiian and the Case of the Broken Tulip

In 1998, I came to LA for the second time, but my first without parental supervision. I was 19 years old and in South Korea on their version of the infamous Taiwanese Love Boat, where the Korean government subsidized a program to fly in Korean expats from around the world.

It was on this trip that I met Jeannie the Hawaiian. I met her on the first night of the trip. Everyone quickly cliqued up and I was lucky that she fell into our group made up of me, three others from Toronto, a dude from Vancouver and a girl from Atlanta.

Shit, I was 19 years old. That was exactly half of my life ago. Jesus fucking Christ, that was the halfway point of my entire existence on this planet…

Agh, I’m out of steam.

State of the Union

The Comedian is (probably) out. We’ll pass messages back and forth – yesterday was her birthday so I messaged Happy Birthday! I just took edibles for the first time and nearly died! – but the disparity of the quality of conversation we have now compared to just 50 days ago is just too massive.

It’s terrible but at last we didn’t go down in flames (which I normally prefer) and any shot at romance dissolved and melted away and now we’re primed for being friends. Not bad, not bad at all.

 

The Most Beautiful Girl in the Universe (yet another one) is still around and I just need to ask her out. We talk back and forth and she hints at it: This is the best you’ve ever looked, you need to take a picture of yourself today; and: You owe me for helping you out; and also: There’s this restaurant that we should go to for lunch…

I mean, she’s practically set up all of the fucking pieces, but I’m so fucking terrified of her perfectly contoured face, her exceptionally manicured aesthetic. I’m scared of her youth and her energy and I become paralyzed with the fear of, “What does she want from me, what if she finds out that I’m old and boring?” I’m frightened of her strong eye contact and her powerful voice and her history of dating semi-celebrities.

And I’m petrified that she doesn’t drink, that I have to somehow be interesting during lunch – during the daytime – while eating Cobb salad with a Diet Coke and maybe just a mimosa to calm the nerves. Just fucking do it, you piece of shit. Jesus fucking Christ.

 

The Super Dream Girl, I chat with daily. I met her a few months ago, the girlfriend of an acquaintance, of mine and we got along incredibly well and I would look at her and think, “How do I meet someone like this?” Dream girl because she’s beautiful and has distinctive abdominal muscles and wears night time clothes during the day and has smooth hair and good skin and a wide, triangular smile. She’s highly intelligent for her age and wishes for more. She asks questions about everything and sucks up all of the answers, filing them away for future use. She’s a fucking peach.

So we message daily but we don’t flirt (well…); we skirt around any danger, yet – of course – we’re aware of the obvious danger, the overarching danger of just having daily conversation with someone who we are not dating. But we also don’t feel the danger because we live in different countries and have absolutely no connection, no mutual friends aside from the acquaintance that she’s dating. No one would ever suspect because no one could even think that Super Dream Girl and I occupy the same universe.

 

The Bad Girl, whom I just met online. She wears girly clothes – dresses and lace tops – and wears a spiky bracelet and rock concert t-shirts and her hair trimmed short. She smiles out of the side of her mouth, like a smirk, and she has a giant Korean head, which is the first thing I remarked: I like your Lollipop Ratio head. She drives a very expensive car but dresses down, almost hipster-hobo, and has a job creatively directing Korean hip hop bands, which is wonderfully weird as fuck.

She might hate too much. She might be too hard on people, on the general public at large, calling them dumb and stupid. She might have been hurt and that’s why she’s like this. But then again, she might be right and who cares? Like the Comedian, she also quit drinking a massive amount of alcohol to smoking an enormous amount of pot (“I had to quit, it was life or death,” she said). She can’t even have a drop, you know? So there we go, we have to navigate dating each other while abusing opposing substances, which might be the worst trait that I’m compatible with but let’s see, let’s fucking see because what else are you doing?

The Nurse

There was that girl in San Francisco, the nurse who lived in Napa with a fluffy gray cat and didn’t lock her doors at night.

I was there to suffer, or to get over the suffering of the Perfect Teeth Pothead who just weeks ago had flown back to Vancouver from Toronto, straight from St. Michael’s Hospital. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia – later downgraded to bipolar disorder – and her mother and sister flew to Toronto to retrieve her.

The last time I talked to her, she phoned me as she escaped the hospital yet again. She called me to warn me of the zombies, of the ghosts of still-living celebrities, and then her teenaged sister grabbed the phone and said, “Alex, she’s going crazy again, she –“ and then the phone cut off and I sighed and slumped my shoulders and didn’t call them back because I was fucking tired.

Then I went back to my ex-girlfriend and her comfortable condo in North York, where we spooned on her couch in the perfect way that we always spooned. But, you see, my mind was still on the Pothead with the Perfect Teeth.

Holy fucking tangent.

So I had to get out of Toronto where I was fending off daily reminders of the Perfect Teeth Pothead while also trying to dodge the guilt of having lured my ex-girlfriend back into my web of lust and lies in order to build back the self-worth that I lost while dealing with Perfect Teeth Pothead.

I met the nurse at a Dueling Pianos bar that was close to Union Square.

Actually, first:

We went to a bar called Vesuvio in North Beach because I wanted to drink where Jack Kerouac did. Back then, I was still into reading heavily, reading Beat writers and their closely-related San Francisco counterparts (Dave Eggers, etc.) before my late-20s when I sacrificed everything to make money and read shit like Pocket MBA and Good To Great and Fortune Magazine.

We were at Vesuvio and it was cold and the 6 of us huddled around a table on the second floor. The waitress/bartender was this super cute, super mean-looking Asian girl with bangs and tattoos, obviously grown up and manicured by white people and not Asians.

I felt something for her, one of those things where there’s a spark and you think, “We’re meant to be something,” but she saw me with my Asian friends and thought, “Fuck that guy,” and took our orders with snark and fetched our beers. She came back and spilled mine on me, just a little, and said Sorry, sorry I’m so sorry and grabbed a rag and paper towels and cleaned up the table in front of me and I thought, She did that on purpose to meet me.

Nothing happened.

So then we went to the Dueling Pianos bar on the basement level of a bar on a corner in North Beach. It was cold outside but a sauna in here, the people and mugs and windows all wet with sweat and dripping dew. Two grand pianos were setup on makeshift stages 10 feet from each other and people cheered them on, the musicians playing their fucking fingers off, playing at each other, with each other.

The four of us drank in the corner. The nurse was a friend of a friend’s friend who I’d just met that night. We went out to smoke in the cold and she would bum a cigarette from me each time, indicating that she wasn’t actually a smoker but just out there to keep me company. The last time we went out to smoke, I wrapped her in my coat while I was still wearing it, held her close and then kissed her. We kissed and kissed on the patio of the Dueling Pianos bar, the patio furniture tied up and folded on the side because it was too cold to use it.

The other two friends left and I got into Nurse’s car, a white, beat-up Volkswagen or something. Honda Civic? The windows might’ve been broken but I didn’t care. It was 2am and she drove us north over the Golden Gate bridge, and I remarked that it was my first time on this bridge because I never had a reason to drive over it in the past. I never had a nurse take me in her car from a Dueling Pianos bar to her home in Napa where we would have casual sex and then never see each other again.

She parked her car and we walked into her one-room house, a small white cabin on a hill in Napa. She closed the door behind me and there was no lock. “If someone comes all the way here to steal whatever trinkets I have, they need it more than I do,” she said. That’s the general personality on this coast, on this side of the world: a bit of hippie, a bit socialist, and I liked her for it. I liked her for her compassion and for the freckles that dotted her breasts and her stomach and her thighs.

And so we had casual sex, a legitimate one-night-stand, and in the morning I woke up with her black cat on my pillow, watching me curiously. She drove me back over the Golden Gate bridge and dropped me off where I was staying in the city and I never saw her again.

Perfect Teeth Pothead and The Glare Of Doom And Gloom

My life is back to vacation within North America, road trips and domestic flights where I don’t need to pass through customs or have to exchange currency or get to eat street food on the other side.

This weekend in San Francisco will be about renting cars and packing duffels and booking hotels in the 3-figure price range (ugh). Eating at restaurants with tablecloths and probably shop during the day, not because San Francisco has shops that Los Angeles doesn’t, but because we will be in Vacation Mode and that’s what you do in Vacation Mode – you spend money.

(This sounds like I’m complaining, like I prefer my life in Southeast Asia where vacationing is less about spending money and more about collecting experiences – but I’m not. I love spending money, I fucking love the fucking shit out of it, which is why I go out and make it.

While living in Southeast Asia, the act of not making a shitload of money was an enormous stressor; I don’t mean not making enough to get by – which I did – but I mean making such an extravagant amount of money that I couldn’t possibly spend it all and so it went to my stock trading account where it would make even more fucking money. I also miss having 23 pairs of shoes.)

***

The last time I was in San Francisco was during New Year’s Eve 2007. I went through two breakups in one month, and this is how.

The first breakup was this girl with perfect teeth. She was a dental hygienist – one of the three I’ve dated, I don’t know why this occupation is trending for me – and so teeth was a priority for her. She wore invisalign when she didn’t have to and the result was her perfect teeth that matched the rest of her perfect face with sharp angles and deep tan.

Holy fucking shit, her face. Her outstanding Laotian face coupled with blunt bangs and large breasts and skinny legs and perfect teeth. Anyway, she cracked up on drugs and was sent to the mental hospital and shortly afterwards left Toronto back for Vancouver and I never saw her again.

I liked her so much. I liked her for so long, months before she even knew that I existed, from seeing her photos first. So although we dated for a short 3 months, I had maybe 8 months invested into her, 8 months of dreaming up the future with her, as I normally fucking do, like some goddamn teenager lying on her bed staring at the glow-in-the-dark star stickers affixed to her ceiling.

So I liked her so much but we were the worst match ever – she was a pothead, I was an alcoholic, which is also the dynamic of me and The Comedian, which is why we probably won’t work – and we had an explosive break up in a public park in Toronto’s Chinatown.

We were walking south on Spadina, holding hands. At this point I was already fed up with her, those selfish antics of most potheads. You know? Their brain is focused on one thing: finding somewhere to sit, getting stoned and eating chips. We had met up around the corner where she lived because I was on my way to run errands on Queen West. I called her up, asked if she wanted to come along.

Perfect Teeth Pothead showed up wearing dark sunglasses and a hoodie wrapped tightly around her face. She was obviously hungover and I was immediately irritated, knowing that she would slow me down, drag me with her into her black hole of marijuana-induced unproductivity.

“Stop walking so fast,” she said. I was walking so fast. “Where are we going, anyway?”

“I told you, I have to go to Queen West. I have to return a shirt at Zara and get some gear on John.”

“Wait, no. I just want to chill. Why can’t we just chill. Why can’t you just relax?”

“Because I told you I was running errands,” I said, pissed. “You don’t have to come. You can just go home now.”

“Ugh, you’re so by the book. You have so many fucking rules. Why can’t you just lighten up and …”

There’s this glare that I do when I’m exceptionally pissed. I don’t do it on purpose – my brain just tells my face to move this muscle here and this muscle there – so I have no idea what it looks like. But in the three times that I’ve ever done it in my life I can remember, because whichever girlfriend was arguing with me (and it was always girlfriends) would look at my face, widen and then divert her eyes from mine, and immediately shut up. All three times it would frighten the girl to shut the fuck up and take two steps back – and the girls I date are usually these loud, sassy and fearless girls who never back down. Except to this glare that I don’t know because I’m too pissed to register what my face is doing.

So I glared and we broke up and I got to finish running my errands.

 

Valentine’s in Vietnam

Last year on Valentine’s Day, I was on the island of Phu Quoc off the southern tip of Vietnam. I was in Saigon for 6 weeks at this point, every day writing my book, the collection of short stories that’s almost finished – like 85% — and remains open in the Scrivener app on my laptop screen.

The app’s been open for over a year now, but I haven’t touched the fucking thing since last June when I was back in Saigon. I got writer’s block trying to piece together the story of Tall French from the scribbles I had here and there. The plan was to combine them all into one long narrative, and then split them up where logical and scatter them throughout the entire collection of short stories.

So I found everything I ever wrote about her, copy and pasted it into a Word doc with some small semblance of an order, then went to a local print shop and printed it out, which was like 16 pages and cost $8. (These 750 word entries seem small, but man, I must’ve written four fucking novels by now.)

It was a good plan, but I get writer’s block when trying to write long stories (like I had for the past decade) and realized I’m a short-story guy. So although I was on a streak, writing 8 hours a day for months, the tale of Tall French fucked me up and now it’s 6 months later and I’m still fucked up.

But last year on Valentine’s Day, I was recovering from the most recent breakup, who is now, like, 6 girls back. It was a breakup that I didn’t agree with and so went down fighting – scowling – and I keep dating more and more girls just to push the experience even further back into my history until it’s a miniscule fucking dot on the horizon (done).

So I didn’t want to be in civilization in Saigon and so I jumped on a $30 plane ride to Phu Quoc because I needed a beach but didn’t want to leave Vietnam. For a week, I wrote every day, designed and illustrated for other clients, and stayed on different parts of the island. Every few days I would strap my backpack to my motorbike and drive down the dirt streets and check into another hotel in a dark corner where no one would find me.

(It’s absurd how good my memory is these days. If I just focus on any day in the past few years of traveling, my brain will go to the back room and access the necessary files in order to relive that particular day.)

One hotel in particular, north of the city center, I remember vividly. It was a shitty two-story walk-up. Upon entering the room I was underwhelmed. It was the standard shitty hotel, damp and dark with the showerhead over the toilet. But it had a small window that was perfectly aimed at the sun at a that perfect time of day, and a ray of light bounced off the shitty wooden end table and to the floor, creating an environment that looked underwater.

You know?

So I stayed for a few days. I went downstairs and found a collapsible table and asked if I could bring it up, and I brought it up and put it under that small window and used it as my desk. I switched between working an illustration project on that desk and writing at a local outdoor eatery across the street, where I’d point at the meats I wanted and they’d stack them on a plate for me.

The women working at the eatery wanted me to marry one of the workers. They teased at her, trying to get her to join me at my red plastic table. She blushed and continued washing the dishes in a large paint bucket filled with suds. Everyday this would happen; I would show up at 1pm and point at food and they would give it to me and then harass the worker that she should marry me.

And then I would walk across to the giant outdoor café and drink Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk and write my daily 750 words here and then work on my collection of short stories until the sun set. I’d motorbike somewhere for dinner, sometimes eating local com suon and other times inhaling an entire pepperoni and sausage pizza. Three beers and I’d head back and fall asleep under my small window.