Munich House Parties and Thai Chili Paste

Czech Republic, I guess, is renown for beer. We drove to a few small villages, each one with its own brewery. Budweis and Pilsn — you can guess what were invented there.

Very fortunate that my Swiss friend was driving around. It’s moments like these, off the beaten track, that make you feel like you’re traveling. Cobblestone villages that weren’t bombed out during World War II, all with a giant public square in the center of the town, mostly with a cathedral in the middle.

The town of Pilsn blanketed the city with free Wi-Fi. That’s some civilized shit right there. Also, there was evidence of a high level of civilization:  pet stores, florists and joggers everywhere. These are things that are only in societies that have fulfilled the basic needs of survival and now want the flourishes: puppies; fresh flowers and abdominal muscles.

We did the Pilsner Urquell brewery tour which was half-interesting — because I never knew the intricacies of brewing beer from hops and barley to my stomach — and half-torture because I was day drinking before. Day drinking, meaning one beer, but in Czech Republic, meaning one enormous fucking stein of beer.

The next night we were aiming for a house party just north of Munich, back in Germany. We thought to buy beer in the Czech Republic and groceries back in Germany where it’s cheap (cheaper than Thailand, in fact).

Swiss guy said he doesn’t eat sausages or hamburger. Anything ground, he refuses. Back in high school he worked in a grocery store and they had all of the employees visit the — well, not the slaughterhouse, but where they grind the leftover meats into sausages and patties. Whatever he saw there still haunts him now, it’s in his eyes.

Who cares?

We got to the house party. Full of giant Germans and lots of caricatures.

There was the Balkan man with his salt and pepper hair cut short. Stocky, muscular, solid, with medium-sized hoop earrings. He had a foldable knife in his pocket that he would retract whenever he wanted to pick something off the barbeque grill. He taught metal shop as an apprenticeship and showed me a picture on his phone of a giant barbeque that he had his students make for a project.

His girlfriend was blonde with blue eyes. Very cute, but maybe because there was no one else there. I talked to her the most because she reminded me of America. I actually thought she was American because of her accent, and she profusely thanked me, taking it for the greatest compliment, like, ever. She worked as a waitress in Naples, Florida for a year or two, before getting kicked out when her visa was up.

The owner of the house — a giant, 2000 sqft mansion — was also a teacher. A pot-smoking, beer-swilling teacher (are there any other kinds?) who somehow bought this enormous house with an enormous yard for him and his girlfriend. He had a band room with Pink Floyd and Metallica posters on the walls.

There was a Thai woman there, a bit older than me, who was dating a German who was wearing a turban (or something). He was very spiritual -looking and -talking. I’m not sure how to describe it, something in the timbre of his voice. He sounded like John Lennon after a trip to India, after a visit to his guru. I talked to the Thai woman quite a bit, first practicing my Thai but then giving up once I discovered how much I’ve forgotten. She’s only been in Germany for 10 days out of a 2 month trip, and then they were moving to Bangkok or India (they hadn’t decided). We talked about how cheap groceries were in Germany, how cold as fuck it was, how we missed Thailand, how there’s a Thai food market in Berlin.

We started drinking and eating around 7pm and someone passed me a joint at one point, homemade schnapps at another point, and I woke up upstairs on a couch with my legs dangling off the end. There was a dog at my side, and I vaguely remember feeding him all night so I guess I was now the master.

I’m anti-social in the mornings so I took a walk, sat in the Swiss’ car, and generally stayed away from everyone. After lunch, Swiss dropped me off at the train station so I could make my way to Munich. He messaged me hours later saying that the Thai woman had brought me chili peppers and paste and was sad that she couldn’t say goodbye.

On There Are No Red Lights, Only Roundabouts

“The beer is pure here,” said the Swiss. “You can drink all night and wake up wanting another one.”

“Let’s find out.”

He’s right. It’s the next morning and I have no hangover. I woke up, meditated, stretched and did pushups and squats. And I could kind of use another beer. It wouldn’t hurt.

We drank from 7pm until just before midnight, hopping from bar-to-bar in Ceske Budejovice, mainly because places kept closing on us and kicking us out. Sometimes they’d be subtle and start stacking stools atop tables around us, but mostly they would tell us, “You leave now,” not to be rude but because they don’t know English participles. (I’m bullshitting — I have no idea what a participle is either, except that they have something to do with tenses. Who knows these things?)

You order beer by the percentage, from 8% to 18%. Swiss explained that it doesn’t denote the alcohol content but rather the amount of barley (or something). We stuck to 11% and they tasted like Budweiser, the American kind.

It might be because it’s a Wednesday, or it might be because it’s a small-ass town in Southern Bohemia, but the city’s empty. During the day time there were a few senior tourists and one huge group of Chinese — the tour guide who apologized to me in English because we had to walk around the circumference of the group to get by — but at night, they all disappeared. The bars we went to were mainly restaurants with people eating at 11pm. We were the odd ones out with mugs on our table.

We at from a take-out window. Baguette sandwiches. There were drunk girls standing around and waiting for their food. I looked at Swiss and Swiss looked at me, both waiting for the other to make a move. I’m not sure why I didn’t. At first I thought I was waiting for him to open them up since he spoke some Czech but when it was apparent that he wasn’t, that’s when I would usually blurt out something, anything — Hey, what’d you order? Is the salami good? You from around here?

It’s stupid. I feel I have this duty to have done that and failed my duty. Why do I feel like that? Like this guy’s job is to research hotels, that guy’s job is to find a good restaurant — my job is to talk to the girls. It’s not because I’m good at it, either. I’m terrible. I’ll say something random and pray to the gods that the girl has a good sense of humour. It’s all up to the girl. I’m basically sitting there poking her with a stick, and she could either say, “Hey!” or, “Please stop that,” and if it’s the latter, I’ll scram.

No, wait. Sometimes I’ll be persistent and keep going and going and going. But even then, I need to see a smile with that, “Stop with the fucking stick, dude.” I don’t need a green light, but I need an amber. A 4-way stop sign? A roundabout. I need a roundabout. That’s an apt description: there are no red lights, only roundabouts. Fuck, this is the shit a high school jock date-rapist says.

On My Ex-Girlfriend Haunts The Cobblestone In Prague

This fucking cobblestone.

I knew this would happen.

This fucking cobblestone has triggered loneliness. Stirred up feelings of want and desire and melancholy, shit I don’t get when I’m prancing around Asia.

I’ve avoided traveling to Europe for my entire life because I was saving it for a girlfriend or fiancé or wife. This is exactly what I told people when they asked, “You’ve never been to Europe?”

“I’m saving it for a girlfriend or fiancé or wife.”

Cobblestone is for couples. Everybody knows that. For couples and for fake Bavarian castles in amusement parks built for Disney princesses to dance around in until they’re rescued. And now that I’m in Eastern Europe, I guess real Bavarian castles, too. (They’re fucking spectacular.)

More than the general desire for female companionship, this fucking cobblestone reminded me of my ex-girlfriend. The enormous one, the one that I don’t want to be reminded of. The one that haunted me for years and then only sporadically but then came back today, a few hours ago when the toe of my sneaker hit a raised piece of brick and made me stumble and almost drop my empty bottle of Evian water that I bought for $3 because it had a sports cap and I could use it while running for the rest of the week.

How does a person who’s still alive haunt someone? Does she wake up in the middle of the night, twitch her nose, blink quickly twice and think, “I feel like I just saw Alex, like I flew over him in Prague, descended to his eye level, wafted the scent of my hair into his nose, grazed the hand I used to hold.”

Is she shopping for groceries and the cantaloupe suddenly falls from her hand and rolls down the aisle and an old woman asks Are you alright, sweetie but she stands there, frozen, stricken, in her mind’s eye seeing what her ghost is seeing, me walking and whistling happily on cobblestone, and she says, Ghost, put a stop to that fucking shit, he can’t be on cobblestone without remembering me, who’s that motherfucker think he is? And the old lady in the store is like, Whaaaaaaaat the fuck?

Is that how it happens?

In reality we never went to any place with cobblestone or Bavarian castles or cathedrals that are thousands of years old. I brought her to Southeast Asia, to South America and Mexico. Los Angeles and New York. So this is my brain fucking around and creating false memories.

Like I somehow remember us in Miami, on that shopping promenade with her wearing those large, round bug-eyed glasses and me carrying all of the shopping bags. I remember us motorbiking through the central highlands of Vietnam and she’s wearing a white semi-transparent t-shirt over a bright orange and pink bikini. None of these things happened; we weren’t at any of these places. She’s haunting me, again, triggered by the fucking asshole cobblestone.

Not only fake memories, but fake scenarios will play out in my head. I’ll notice an especially large piece of stone and think, That’s where she would trip and fall. The strap of her sandal would rip and I would kneel down to fix it while she kept her balance on my shoulder. I would fix her strap and tell her, ‘See, I told you that you should’ve replaced these last week in Ecuador. They’re just going to keep breaking, you know,’ and she would ignore me with this tra-la-la-la-la empty look in her eyes, ignoring my lecture. We would walk 20 feet and the strap of her sandal would rip out once more and she would look at me and smile and laugh and I would laugh and kiss her forehead and …”oh what the fuck am I doing.

So every day is like this. And every day will probably be like this: all of these romantic European things triggering fake, made up memories of the ex-girlfriend. So maybe I should leave. But you see, as soon as I thought that I should leave, I just became determined to stay. To beat back the memories, to wrestle her ghost, to win back Europe, a place neither of us have been.

On Potential of Love Reduced To 0%

I’m in Prague, Czech Republic. I suppose I’m officially out of Western Europe, or at least straddling the border between there and the uncivilized, undeveloped East. I can feel things becoming more desperate, more dangerous.

On the bus there was a cute girl in a blue and white striped shirt. The nautical shirt that everyone has these days – myself included – but that Europeans always had. She was wearing loose, light blue blue jeans way high up on her waist. She had curly strawberry-blond hair and very fair skin.

At the rest stop, we passed each other and smiled. She was traveling alone, although I couldn’t tell if she was a backpacker or a local going from Berlin to Prague, which is what I imagine to be a popular route.

I was going to say hi, break the ice, make small talk. We had 2.5 hours left on the bus ride and maybe both of us could use the break from our books and iPads. But then I thought: what if we got along? Then I’d have to talk to her for the 2.5 hours left on the bus ride and wouldn’t be able to read my book, my iPad.

So I didn’t.

You know, if you don’t do anything your potential reduces to 0%. If you do, there’s all the potential in the world for anything to happen. The difference between 0% and 1% is enormous. From certain nothing to potential something – that’s the biggest difference of anything in life. I learned this a long time ago and it became a mantra and that’s how I’m where I am, who I am.

So there was potential that we could’ve became friends. There was potential that we could’ve became lovers. Kissed on the upper berth of the bus, my fingers tangled in her strawberry-blond hair. At the Prague bus station, we could’ve walked off that bus together, exchanged our Euros at the counter, jumped on subway and walked to whoever’s hotel was bigger and better and could more comfortably hold us together. Finally, on a centuries-old European cobblestone street, I’d be holding a girl’s hand while carrying all of the bags, letting her marvel at the way the top of the towers cut into the bright blue sky.

But I didn’t, because I wanted to read the newest issue of GQ and Esquire on my iPad.

***

When I arrived in Prague, for the first time in my life, I was pickpocketed. Well, he didn’t get anything, but I caught him with his hand in my side bag as I was walking out of the train station. He looked like a well-to-do tourist, and I suppose that’s the best disguise a pickpocket could have: someone who looks like they don’t need to pickpocket.

I do this thing as I walk where I make abrupt turns and pivot my body left and right. I do this exactly for this reason, that this guy’s hand was somewhere on me and my movement startled him and he stumbled to reveal himself. I yelled, “What the fuck you motherfucker!” and he scampered off pretending to be deep in conversation with his friend, another well-to-do-tourist-looking guy. They looked like they were going from the office to the tennis court, in their knee-high sports socks and clean white shoes.

Anyway, what more could I do? I yelled and then went on my way.

What’s strange is that at some point I looked at my side bag and the zipper was wide open. I thought, How fucking stupid am I? and closed it. Then it was open again when that fucker’s grubby hand was in there. So I was almost pickpocketed twice in a 20 minute period.

That’s it, twice is enough. All bags are now locked up.

On Fuck This Entry

Deadline week in Berlin.

I wake up at 7am, hit the gym from 8am to 10am (at $70 per week, I need to go every day – even twice a day – to make it worth it). Then I come back to my hotel room and sit at my makeshift desk, a cubbyhole that I cleared of unnecessary things a kettle and tea cups and a very expensive bottle of mineral water that I’ll never open. There was no chair in the room so I’m using an end table from one side of my bed to sit on. It’s not ideal but nothing ever is because I don’t have an ideal anything anymore.

I’ll sit on this end table for 8, maybe 10 hours a day, converting a print magazine into an iPad magazine. It’s tremendous fun, a mixture of left- and right-brained skills that I’m best suited for. Sometimes I’m art directing, making enormous layout changes that the print art director should approve, but it’s in my trusted hands because I am a magnificent designer. Other times, I’m transferring files, fixing VPN connections, debugging the interactivity behind the app, because I am a brilliant logistician and programmer.

Something about these deadline weeks make me excruciatingly happy. Maybe because it’s the only routine I have in my life anymore, that once a week every month, I need to find a place with a fast Wi-Fi connection where I can work uninterrupted. It gives me something to aim for in an otherwise floaty life.

Life’s getting too floaty. I can feel it. I have nothing anchoring me down and this is a bad thing, I think. I have no anchor and I have unlimited choices and the sky’s the limit and all of this is crushing me. But I knew that this would happen, I knew the human condition was never about having this sort of freedom.

Well, this is something to look into later.

I like girls that know how to pose for pictures. It seems like I wouldn’t, but I do. I like it when I point a camera at a girl and she automatically whips out her camera smile, angling her face and straightening her smile and pushing her boobs in one direction and her hips in the other.

At my gym back in Toronto, I would work out at 7am and sometimes there was a man there. His name was also Alex and he was maybe 70 years old. Strong and muscular, but a very gentle demeanor and relaxed voice. We would talk now and then, first starting off with cursory hello’s, and then into our routines and finally what we did for a living.

He was a psychiatrist and so was interested in what was going in my life. I told him, I don’t know about this Toronto thing, I don’t know, I don’t know about staying put I feel like I need to get the fuck out.

He said, “You’re a designer, aren’t you? Well design your life.” That’s when I started to seriously entertain the thought of moving away.

But I didn’t follow his advice. I didn’t get out here by designing my life; what I’m doing out here wasn’t by design either. In fact, things are very different than what I imagined (lost a large client; gained a few small ones). So I didn’t need to design my life, I just needed to get up and go. So thanks for nothing, Alex, with that shit advice. You can design all you want, but life will through shit at you and give you too much freedom and you won’t know what to do with it and just hope that someone or something out there puts some rules and guidelines up in your face.

On Dive Bars and Open Mouth Kisses in Berlin

I kissed a girl last night in a dive bar in Berlin. I think we were somewhere in the northern part of the city, but I can’t be sure. I’m being led around by my friend who knows the city, so I’ve opted to turn my brain off and relax and follow him for the week. So I don’t have any bearings and have no idea what’s where in this city, except that there’s a Uniqlo and a McDonald’s if I exit my hotel and turn left and walk for 30 minutes.

The McDonald’s had an express kiosk where you order your food and pay with a credit card, and then pick up your food when your number is called. Very efficient, very German. What’s not very efficient, very German is the way the kiosk takes your credit card and holds onto it for the duration of the transaction– rather than the quick insert method – and doesn’t beep to remind you to take it after. So 24 hours later, I was frantically searching my room for my Visa, this current one a replacement for the one I lost in Bali, Indonesia a few months ago. I walked back to the McDonald’s devising all sorts of strategies to once again replace this credit card – have it delivered to my sister and have her courier it to … Prague? Krakow? – but when I meekly asked the cashier, he had it in the back office and I was elated and overjoyed that going back to a place to look for a lost credit card actually fucking worked.

The girl is a friend of my friend’s girlfriend. They grew up together in a small village somewhere in southwest Germany. They met when they drank together for the first time at 14 years old in the basement of my friend’s girlfriend. Then she moved to Washington D.C. for work.

She’s 28 years with a very pretty face. Does she look old for 28? Perhaps, but I’m still used to Asian female aging. Still, very pretty face. In the shadow of the bar, I couldn’t see her eyes, but at some point light hit them and I saw that they were gray or blue or green – whatever, they just weren’t dark pools of nothingness. She’s of mixed ethnicities, German and Iranian, I think.

She works for an NGO protecting cultural artifacts. Her head office is still in Washington D.C. so she works from home here in Berlin. It’s only her and her boss, so they cover everything from producing content to organizing events to, well, I’m not sure. She kept saying Kaiser or something like it, like, “I work for Kaiser and we protect Kaiser.” She finds it hard to discipline herself and thinks that she should work more than she does. I said I do fine and she gave me a look like, Oh, you’re one of these assholes, eh?

She had trust issues, if that’s what they were called. She just automatically wouldn’t believe anything that I said until I proved it. Things like, “Amazon never made a profit,” or, “I’m an illustrator for Godiva.” I had to jump onto my iPhone to qualify everything I said. Not in an irritating way – surprisingly – it was just part of the conversation.

She might’ve had dimples.

We drank gin and tonics for 3 or 4 hours until we were drunk. On the bar stools, our thighs would touch and she would keep moving hers away, and as the night went on, she stopped moving them and we just sat there, our thighs pressed together.

I kissed her when my friend went to the bathroom. I don’t know why I chose that particular time of the night to kiss her. I must’ve got some sort of hint, some sort of green light that it was okay to do. Maybe the thigh thing, but I’m sure there was something else, a look? A verbal hint?

I said something like, “There’s something on your face; close your eyes.” She closed her eyes and then I kissed her. It wasn’t smooth. It wasn’t meant to be. I like these abrupt, awkward moments. I don’t know why, I just like see shock and surprise. I kissed her for a medium length of time. I didn’t want to give her a peck and back away, I wanted to feel her reaction through my lips, you know? Feedback through the kiss.

Her mouth opened like she was going to object, but then she continued to kiss me back. Then we kissed harder and our mouths opened and our tongues wrestled and my hand went to the back of her head and her hand went to my neck. We sat making out like school kids inside of that dingy bar with the angry bartender from Hollywood — not LA — who was rude as fuck when we first arrived, but mysteriously warmed up to the point where he was giving us free Jagermeister shots. We suspected cocaine or speed.

We dropped her off at home and then I messaged Tom Boy Girly Girl.

On Imaginary Tomboy-Girly-Girl Wives

Suddenly, I’m interested in this girl that I met for a few hours in Hong Kong. We met briefly and afterwards she added me to Facebook and we messaged each other once a week or every few days and then we switched to Whatsapp and suddenly we’re messaging daily, hourly, only interrupted by the time zone difference when she has to sleep or when I have to sleep.

She was pretty and interesting and we laughed for a few hours, but I just wasn’t in the mood to sit there and to think things out (ie: I was drunk). I didn’t do that thing where I immediately fell in love with her and imagined the future and how we would get there:

After spending some time in Europe and Toronto, I would cut my trip-around-the-world short – because I’m only doing it out of not having someone in Asia to hold me back, anyway – and move to Hong Kong. I probably wouldn’t go back to being an employee, but I’d think about it because Hong Kong pays western rates for designers (I was offered 6-figures in Canadian dollars a few years ago when I was testing the waters). But I’d want to focus on writing books and she’d understand so she would work every day and let me write but I would pitch in 50% of everything anyway because I’m not a scrub–

— Did I actually use the fucking word scrub, like from TLC’s No Scrubs? How do I even remember that word? I’ve never, ever used that fucking word in my goddamn life and it pops out now? —

So I’d live in Hong Kong and would have my Hong Kong friends but I would live on the Kowloon side where things feel more foreign, where I could perhaps learn Mandarin, and I’d live with her and we would get married and we would have kids and move somewhere other than Hong Kong or Toronto to raise them. Oh, right, she’s American, so I would force her to move to LA so I could be with my friends and we could live my American dream life on the coast, Huntington Beach or Manhattan Beach or Long Beach.

Alright, fuck, so there it is, I just did that thing that I said I didn’t do with her and imagined the future and fell a few inches more.

What caught me about her first – when I thought, Oh, she’s super cool, we can be really good friends, is that she’s loud and brash. You can tell she farts of the first date. Maybe rubs feces on your hand after coming back from the bathroom during a movie. But as we added each other on social media, Facebook and Instagram, I began to see the other side of her (well, I would’ve saw this side if I weren’t blacked out all those times we had met in person). She’s girly. She’s girly girly. She wears these girly dresses and does her hair all girly and has long lashes and sometimes puts on bright red lipstick and puckers up for the camera.

In a lot of her photos, she’s doing that huge smile where she’s opening her mouth as wide as possible but it’s not just an O shape, it’s positive, it’s happy, it’s still a smile. Or she’ll do the big smile where it’s all teeth and her cheekbones are about to burst. These are huge, fun, loud smiles from a huge, fun, loud girl – but but fucking but – she’ll do it while wearing a prom dress, wearing a tiara and high heels and bangles and chunky necklaces.

I’ve never had this sort of girl before. The tomboyish girly-girl. Sometimes they were tomboys and sometimes they were girly-girls, and sometimes they were tomboys during the day and girly-girls at night – but this fucking girl is overloading all of my senses by being both at the same time, all of the time.

This fucking girl is confusing my brain who thought it already knew all the types of girls out there and from here on out, they’d be just repeated experiences (well, on a macro level).

So we were talking like acquaintances and then like friends and then one of us crossed that line (it was me) and mentioned that we should honeymoon in Switzerland and now we’re joking about marriage and kids and pets and how if we were on a deserted island, I’d have to go out and kill and cook animals and she would go nap because she can’t watch that shit happen, and she likes to nap.

And I thought, yeah, you should go nap, you work too hard.

On A Girl Who Makes Safe Decisions

Sometime in April or May, Blonde Yakuza Receptionist dyed her hair dark brown and cut it into a shapeless, medium-length, suburban wife bob. It was very unsettling to me the way that it changed her entire demeanor. The last time I saw her – on my last day in Thailand, before getting on a plane for Europe – she wore the same slinky black dress that she wore on our first date, but it was no longer sexy without the blond hair.

Can hair do that? Can one stupid haircut change everything about a woman and make a sexy body in a tight dress look normal and average and plain? I guess so, because it did.

The blonde hair in fact made the rest of her even hotter. She would wear these simple, unbranded, plain white canvas shoes, and on anyone else they would scream conventional and boring. Here’s a girl who makes safe decisions. Same with her white t-shirts and light-blue blue jeans. All very boring, very plain wardrobe choices. But when coupled with that defiant platinum blond hair, when combined with that attitude of I don’t give a fuck – then the shoes, the t-shirts, the light-blue blue jeans, the nerdy glasses, the cherry red lipstick all say something else, like they’re hiding something, like they have dirty, perverted secrets. They’re ordinary items but now lit on fire, you see?

Her simple, unbranded, plain white canvas shoes were now the sexy accoutrements of a rebellious blond Thai woman, saying, “I know something you don’t know.” I have something that you want.

Here’s a girl who makes safe decisions.

On my last day, I sat in the office of the apartment complex on the other side of the desk from her and another girl that worked administration. The other girl didn’t know what went happened between me and Blond Yakuza Receptionist. She didn’t know about the meals and the kissing and the time that I covertly picked her up on my motorcycle around the corner from the apartment, far from the CCTV cameras, and brought her to eat lunch at the supermarket down the street.

The other girl chatted and sang – Filipinos are always fucking singing – while shuffling around my papers, handing me back my deposit, checking me out of my home of 10 months. Blond Yakuza Receptionist sat there in her sad, sullen way, avoiding eye contact, maybe wondering what went wrong, why I suddenly stopped asking her to go out and eat. Why I suddenly stopped calling the office and asking for extra pillows or a kettle or just whatever excuse I could make for them to send her up to my room where we would pensively look at each other in the sexually-charged hallway but not make a move for fear that her boss would turn around the corner.

Whatever conclusions she came to, I bet none of them were It’s because I changed my hair.

Or maybe she didn’t give a shit. Maybe she was wondering what to eat for dinner. Actually, now that I think about it, this is the likeliest situation. She doesn’t give a shit.

When it was getting closer for me to checking out, she excused herself and went to the bathroom. I said goodbye to all the staff, giving out hugs and handshakes and waves. I lingered and stalled for time, waiting for Blond Yakuza Receptionist to come back out so I could give her a goodbye hug.

She never came back out and I left Thailand.

On Clingy Ribbed Wife Beater

Clingy Ribbed Wife Beater and I messaged back and forth between LA and Toronto. Nothing long-winded or significant, just these cursory messages so I wouldn’t be forgotten until the next time I was in LA.

The next time I was in LA, we set up a date. We went out on a Saturday or Sunday. I know this because I arrived on the Thursday or Friday and went on a drunken rampage with my LA friends who liked to torture me with vodka the second I would step off the plane, jet-lagged. We hopped from bar to bar, karaoke to karaoke, and somewhere along the way I lost my favourite hoodie, my thin, black G-Star hoodie that I used as a mid-layer between a white dress shirt and black blazer.

The next day, I drove around Los Angeles’ Koreantown, from this bar to that karaoke, banging on windows and doors in the stark, broad daylight, asking the proprietors to let me in so I could search from my beloved hoodie. Most looked at me, bleary-eyed, suspicious, and waved me off.

So I set up a date, but instead of eating at a restaurant or drinking coffee at a patio, we were going to run around the shopping district to find me a new favourite hoodie.

I usually rent a convertible in LA. An American muscle car like a Ford Mustang or Chevy Camaro. One year, they kept giving me a LeBaron. Another time, I got behind the wheel of an enormous Jeep Wrangler, which was at first exciting but turned out to be shit because manually removing the roof required two people so it stayed on the entire duration.

For some reason, on this trip I had a … Corolla? A Kia something? I can’t remember, some lame car that screamed “savings!” Everything was sold out or they overbooked the cars and I was stuck driving a Dodge Whatever.

I picked up Clingy Ribbed Wife Beater in West Hollywood. I arrived early so I could do a few laps on Sunset since I’m rarely in that neighborhood. I parked and bought random things at CVS for no reason. I pulled around to her building – a brown, blocky walk-up – and she climbed into my dorky car.

“Oh, by the way, I couldn’t get my regular U.S. SIM card working, so don’t save this number into your phone,” I said.

“Who said I’m saving it?” She smiled this mischievous smile, almost like she was being coy, flirty, but my brain told me she meant it and that she was smiling because she was embarrassed for me, this man with assumptions and hubris and a beige sedan.

We got to know each other as we drove and shopped. It was comfortable without awkwardness, just an easy, happy Saturday afternoon. We went to the Macy’s Men Store at the Beverly Centre, where I always stop by in LA but never seem to find anything to buy. This time was the same. We walked out empty handed and into Bloomindale’s where I found an adequate thin hoodie at the John Varvatos store-within-a-store, for $250. Back then I was a dick with money and clothes, and I wouldn’t flinch at spending $250 on a mid-layer (because $250 on outerwear or shoes or a bag would be okay).

Though I wasn’t trying to impress her, I wanted her to know that I was the type of guy that would pay a premium for quality and style (even though I’m not). Also, that I could fit a whopping $250 onto my credit card. I wasn’t showing off, but I wasn’t not. Somewhere in the middle. What the fuck am I talking about?

As we walked from the elevator to the car in the parking lot, she sang because she was good at singing.

Afterwards, we met our friends at a ramen joint. I paid for Clingy Ribbed Wife Beater. I remember that since we were on some weird half-date, I said aloud, “I’ll pay for you since you helped me find a hoodie.” I didn’t want to make anything real, but I wanted to pay for her since she came out for me. Whatever. I drove her hope at 10pm and then met the guys at a dive bar on Melrose.

It was one of those things that nothing came out of. Everything was pleasant, it just didn’t continue. Maybe it was the distance? Of course it was the distance.

On Wife-beaters, Blonde Bartenders and Celebrities

My friend and tour guide in London, I first met her in LA.

It was an early month, possibly the end of January. I think it was a month after my first trip to Asia, post-Nana –

I really don’t want to categorize my life into pre- and post-Nana splits, but that’s what’s happened: all of my memories are organized not alphabetically or by subject, but by Who I Was Dating At The Time. I was in college during Tracy; I began to travel after Angie, etc. I was very, very somber post-Nana, stuck in a dull, gray malaise, and remnants of that still follow me now. Anyway.

— and I missed LA and needed to get out of Toronto again. It was an uneventful weekend other than a birthday party/charity event for a friend of a friend. We all wore plain white t-shirts drew on each other at the party, held at a pub somewhere in West Hollywood. An artist friend of mine drew cutesy, anime Transformers with a Sharpie, and I was so impressed at his skills and envious of the female attention it was getting.

I left the party often to smoke outside, alone. The alcohol wasn’t hitting right. I was doing my best to take them down, but it wasn’t entering my bloodstream. I faked a smile and socialized.

She walked in with these loose blue jeans that hung off of her hips, just inches from slipping off a hip bone and crumpling to the ground. She might’ve been wearing a beanie. She definitely wore a clingy ribbed wife beater that cut short and showed off her flat stomach. She clomped in there, this 5’9” giant Chinese woman with a thug vibe, stark white face and dark red lipstick and sharp cheekbones and hair flying everywhere. Conventionally, objectively beautiful, the kind of beauty that everyone agrees on; there’s no, “Oh, she’s not my type of beautiful,” – she’s everyone’s fucking type of beautiful.

I saw her from across the room. I couldn’t not see her. I was devising a strategy to talk to her when all of that alcohol, all of those glasses of gin and shots of patron that I shotgunned to jumpstart my drunkenness, hit me all at once and I blacked out.

I don’t remember how we met or what we talked about. But I came back to the world in the passenger seat of her Mercedes in mid-conversation as she followed our friends ahead of us, headed for late night food at Hodori in LA’s Koreatown.

So I obviously said the right things in the right order – ending with “I’ll ride with you!” unless that was the first thing I ever said to her, which would be awesome – I just wish that I knew what those words were so I could say them again to someone else.

What was even more random at the party was that the bartender picked me up (or I inadvertently picked up the bartender) and I had no idea that it was happening. I was at the bar alone, frequently, in my introverted malaise, ordering gin rocks. I didn’t feel like socializing with a large group of people, so instead chatted with the blonde bartender and her friend who sat alone on a stool up at the bar. The friend was the comedian Retta who plays Donna on Parks & Rec. Though I’m a fan of the show now, I never watched the show back then.

“Oh, that’s the show with Rashida Jones on it, right? She’s so beautiful.”

“Yeah, yeah,” she said while rolling her eyes. “Rashida this, Rashida that. You think you’re the first one?”

The good thing about not knowing who a celebrity is, is that you treat them like a normal human being. So once in awhile, a drunken patron would approach her, say something drunken patronly and walk off. Then we would make fun of them together which worked out well because she’s a comedian and I’m funny as fucking fuck. So I sat there and talked to her because in my anti-social malaise, Retta was the most low-maintenance person in the room.

It gets hazy here, but I think she kept assisting conversation between the bartender and I, like, “Jane here also loves kimchi and other pickled, fermented vegetables.” I remember she was an aspiring comic, a member of the Groundlings troupe, and we talked about that, and comedy, and cracked jokes, and made fun of people at the party. But honest-to-god, I didn’t expect any of this to go anywhere. It’s a cute bartender’s job to be nice to you, to try to squeeze a larger tip from your pocket, and so I usually turn that side of my brain off and treat them like non-human beings, like animals.

Anyway, it went nowhere. I texted her See Ya the next morning on my way to the airport and she said to look her up the next time that I was in LA. A few months later I was back and texted her but got no response. Oh well.