Good Girl Gabby, Part: Um, Last?

(After a month of not writing, I can’t write for shit. Excuse me as I shake out the bullshit.)

I flew from Hong Kong to Bangkok on Monday evening. I took a taxi from the airport to Lat Phrao, a suburb north of the city where I rent my motorbikes from an Englishman named Ben and his Thai wife.

The traffic was crawling and I kept messaging him to stay open, that I was right around the corner. If he closed, I’d have to make the journey back up to Lat Phrao the next day, which would’ve killed precious hours that I didn’t have. But I’ve been renting from Ben intermittently for the past three years – which also means the money I spent in rentals could’ve purchased a new bike – so he bends for my antics.

I hadn’t been in Bangkok since March, but it felt the same, comfortable. I strapped my bags to the back of the Honda Click using three well-placed bungee cords, donned my battered blue and white, full-face helmet and raced down the street, dodging bikes and zig-zagging through cars.

Motorbiking is my favorite fucking thing to do, hands down, and it’s been six months since I’d been on one.

I got lost. I got so lost and no matter how many times I trace the route in my head, I have no idea how it happened. I somehow ended up way west of where I was supposed to be. I knew this because I hit the freeway that I always try to avoid, the one that’s always grid-locked from the city center to the old airport. I took that freeway south, missed an exit and got even more lost – again, not knowing how I could lose my way in a city I spent three fucking years in.

I finally checked into my hotel three hours after I left Ben. The sun had set and I was exhausted from the heat and the fumes of a city my body was no longer used to. I cancelled plans to meet a friend for drinks, bought some cans of Singha Light beer, took a bath and went to bed.

The next morning I hit the excellent gym attached to my apartment – the reason I always choose this apartment. Then I did this and that, rode around on my bike and ran errands and ate Thai food for the first time in months (at the food court in the grocery store – it’s not stellar food, but it’s my old haunt and that was the point).

At 6pm I walked to Phrom Phong BTS subway station and took it three stops into the shopping district. At the station Good Girl Gabby was waiting for me.

We hugged. Maybe we kissed? Maybe it was on the cheek? Probably, probably on the cheek. We have a weird relationship, now. Three years ago, we started off legitimately dating and then became more friends. Then another few weeks of dating and then it would fall off again. We just meet up with each other and have no expectations: sometimes we’d say hi and kiss on the lips and end the night with sex; other times we’d go see a movie, eat ice cream and then go our separate ways.

Maybe we knew we weren’t for each other, but since we were comfortable we just spent our time together while waiting for the ones that we were meant for. Yeah, that makes sense. Why wait for our soul mates alone?

Good Girl Gabby was taller than usual. More beautiful, too. I met her when she was 23. At 26 years old, she’s more mature with sharper features. With her new office job in the city core, she wears subtle, grown-up makeup and sophisticated outfits.

We went to CentralWorld and ate at a shitty Thai restaurant. She knows my preference for street food, but Jesus fucking Christ, Bangkok has restricted street food vendors to clean up the streets, especially in this high-end shopping mall district. So we begrudgingly ate at a shitty Thai restaurant before I dragged her to Bershka because we don’t have that store in North America, and then she dragged me to have her favorite panna cotta from a Japanese café on the third floor.

Afterwards, we walked through Siam Square and failed to find an open massage parlor on a Tuesday at 10pm (illegitimate massage parlors, however, were open everywhere), so jumped onto the SkyTrain for Terminal 21 mall at Asok where we knew there was a Relax.

First Thai massage in six months and it was overpriced ($24) and underwhelming. Fuck off.

I needed more food so we walked outside and down Soi 17 where I knew there was a Pad Thai stand. She was apparently swept up in the Clean Up The Streets! fuckery so we ate noodle soup at a stand outside of 7-Eleven. Then we back to my apartment where she was crashing for the night so she could have an easy commute to work the next morning, a mere 20 minutes away compared to her usual 2-hours on a bus from a small town up north.

It was one of those times when we wouldn’t have sex.

The next morning, I woke up at 7am and nudged her to wake up. She scrunched up her face and grunted like a disobedient child who didn’t want to go to school. It was at this precise moment that I knew that I would never see her again. Not because of the scrunching or grunts or any other concrete reason. I looked at her face and thought, That’s enough. I kissed her on the forehead and she scrunched and grunted some more.

I left for the gym and when I came back she was gone, this time for good.

Hong Kong Pocahontas, Part: Um, Last?

I had a date with Hong Kong Pocahontas on Sunday night, my third night in Asia. We planned it weeks before while I was still in Los Angeles, starved of sex and attention and the general mild-adulation that I receive from females in Asia. So I called an Uber and left Quarter Moon Eyes at the massive oak door at the entrance of her apartment, took the tacky-Chinese-opulent elevator down to the grandiose lobby where the doorman opened the door with one hand and made a fancy swaying gesture with the other, like I was some important dignitary who was abandoning his mistress for another day.

You know, the way we kissed was so passionate. I don’t know why it was like that with her. I’d cradle her face with both of my hands and she’d roll her eyes back. When I released her lips of mine, she’d stand there where her eyes half open, unmoving, like something in her brain short-circuited, like she was ecstatic. It was cool as fuck.

Back at my friend’s apartment where I was staying in the Soho District of Hong Kong, I showered and changed clothes, from a white button down to a blue, then went right back out the door, down the escalators and to Central MTR station where I took the train three stops east to Causeway Bay. I sat on the edge of the giant fountain outside of Times Square mall and texted Hong Kong Pocahontas.
“I’m here sitting on the edge of the giant fountain.”

“Be right there.”

She showed up looking thinner than before – she was muscular months prior, on her quest to become stronger – but wore the same type of outfit: a fashionable top with an indigenous-patterned skirt, probably procured in Peru or Bali or her recent trip to Spain. We hugged like friends so I kissed her on the cheek so she knew that we weren’t.

This was the fourth or fifth (or sixth or seventh) date I’ve had with Hong Kong Pocahontas since our first almost a year ago last March. By now she knows what I like to eat and more importantly how I like to eat it, so she led me away from the razzle dazzle of Causeway Bay, away from the hip and trendy, away from the crowds of locals and foreigners. She led me through a few small, dark streets until we were in front of two large open-air restaurants with packed tables and no signs of English. Perfect.

We sat at the first restaurant and ordered four dishes. Too much for the both of us, but she knew I’d always opt for variety and to waste food afterwards (also: no shellfish). The restaurant had stark lighting. No ambience, no fuss, no white faces. We caught up as we drank beer and picked at our shared plates.

Hong Kong Pocahontas was adventurous, and about to sell everything and become a nomad, then at some point land in Spain. She asked me for advice and I waved it off with, “You know how it is, you’ll pick it up,” and she nodded, knowing I was right, that you can’t really prepare for something like this. You can only do it. You can only go.
She told me about who she called her fake-boyfriend, a banker from Switzerland who lived in Central, whose condo she was currently cohabitating. He was quite older, had considerable wealth, and had a life of playboy-dom of which he wouldn’t be giving up soon.

“So is it serious? Or will it be serious?” I asked.

“He never wants to get married,” she said. “He doesn’t want kids. He’s not adventurous, either. He just wants to stay at home and drink his expensive scotch.” This is the best virtue of Hong Kong Pocahontas: she doesn’t care about that shit. She’s this flower child, born of the earth who knows she’s going right back into it in a few short decades. She doesn’t care about wealth, she cares about living. She cares about love.

“He’s not adventurous like you,” she said, while looking directly into my eyes.

“Oh,” I said, while looking down at my plate. I can’t do it. It’s just not meant to be.

Afterwards, we walked into the Causeway Bay MTR Station and got ice cream, used the washroom.
“What do you want to do now?” I asked, wondering if – no, assuming, expecting that this night would end in us having sex as it did every single time previously.

“I’m going to meet up with my fake-boyfriend,” she said, with a guilty smile, knowing exactly what I was expecting.

“Ah no worries,” I said. We hugged goodbye and I kissed her on the cheek, to once again illustrate that we weren’t friends. “I’ll see you soon,” I lied, wondering what Quarter Moon Eyes was doing.

Quarter Moon Eyes

I met her years ago, the girl whose eyes turned into quarter moons when she smiled. The deep tan, the slender body, the long legs. I met her at her condo on my short stay in Hong Kong, when I was on my way to Europe from Bangkok. (What kind of life is this?) She felt like California, like her skin would taste of sweat, like kissing her would taste like the ocean.

(Oh wait, it’s all here.)

I didn’t think that I would see her again. We were too many social circles apart and she lived in Hong Kong and I lived Nowhere. So Quarter Moon Eyes was a one-off, the girl that I talked to for 10 minutes at her house party in her opulent, two-storey condominium somewhere up near the Chinese border north of Hong Kong. I told her I liked her place, she told me where the washroom was, I got drunk off of 11 beers, blacked out, stumbled home.

But I did see her again, on my second night in Asia, again in Hong Kong. After three long and lonely months in Los Angeles, after countless rejections and battering and bruising to my ego, she sat in a stool at a popular pool hall / dance club in her tight black dress and her dirty blond hair tousled into a messy / hot ponytail.

Previously, we were at a house party. Maybe twenty of us, gorging ourselves on food and drinks, watching the Victoria Secret Fashion Show. I was so, so happy to be back in Asia, to be back with my friends in Asia, all of us ex-patriates of Western countries. We had all left one country to live in another, and if we had nothing else in common except for that, it would’ve nonetheless bonded us together. That’s all you need sometimes, the same history and migration pattern, not the same fucking hobbies.

We were drunk and left the house party and went to the popular pool hall / dance club. Almost immediately inside, my friend whispered to me, “Remember Quarter Moon Eyes? We went to her barbeque and…”

“Yeah, I remember, of course I remember,” I interrupted.

“She’s sitting over there at the bar. Can you go entertain her, she’s bored and…” I interrupted once more by bolting over to her, reintroducing myself and then sitting next to her for the remainder of the night.

See, I don’t do that. I don’t find one girl and then give her all of my attention. I’m always trying to be slick and sly by pulling away, by dangling the carrot, by doing my rounds and talking to multiple girls in order to build demand. You know? I don’t do it purposely, it’s just reflex now. Social reflex.
But on this night, I sat next to Quarter Moon Eyes and we talked intently and I don’t know why. I don’t why it was specifically her that calmed me, that made me forget that there was anyone else in the room. I stared nowhere else but right into her eyes and was fascinated by everything that she said. And so we talked and eventually held hands and eventually kissed, messy and drunkenly even though neither of us were messy or drunk (I switched to drinking water in order to match her sobriety).

Then we got into her car and we went back to her opulent, two-storey condominium somewhere up near the Chinese border north of Hong Kong. “I never do this,” she said. “I sort of kind of don’t either, “I replied.

She cautiously opened her heavy oak door and we tip-toed up the stairs so we wouldn’t wake up her maid, unaccustomed to Quarter Moon Eyes bringing strange men home at 4am. Three months of fighting in Los Angeles for nothing, I swear to fucking god.

The next morning we had sex again, on her fluffy white duvet, bathed in the stark sunlight that poured in from her floor-to-ceiling windows. We lay together tangled on her bed, our dark skin tones blending together. Her long legs wrapped with mine, her back muscles from years of swimming during her high school years in South Carolina, her hip bones, her tight stomach her dirty fucking blonde hair spilled out onto her white pillow, Jesus fucking Christ.

And then we hiked and ate dumplings and I took an Uber back into the city because I had a date that I no longer cared about.

Not Trying to be Negative, but Los Angeles Sucks

But I’m not trying to be negative, because that shit will consume me like it did this fall, September to December, the worst 3 months of my fucking life.

Don’t let it in don’t let it in don’t let it in.

This will suck, because I haven’t typed anything long-form in an entire month, an entire month of gallivanting through Southeast Asia, of living my old life and it was good. It was incredibly good and happy and solid and it felt like home.

You know, I thought it was in my head, that I’m 1000% happier out there than here. But it’s not in my head, it’s an irrefutable, concrete fact: I am 1000% happier out there than I am here, and it doesn’t have to do with subjective, changeable things like my “attitude” or “outlook” or “viewpoint.” It’s not internal, it’s external, it’s the world around me, the heat and the value and the quality of people.

It’s the people. My friends out there – the thousands I knew before and the thousands I met on this trip – are transients, like me. We’re expats from another country, and so when we walk up to each other and ask, “Where you from?” we mean it and we really want to hear the answer and they mean it and they really want to hear our answer.

And then we’ll scamper off on motorbikes to the Tiger Temple at the top of 1000 stairs; to the hot springs and waterfall and shit with names like “The Emerald Pool.” And then we’ll end the day at a night market over beers and weak Thai weed. And then we’ll be best friends.

That’s the thing about the people in Southeast Asia, they’re open. They’re wide fucking open and ready for anything. That’s the thing about the people in Los Angeles, they’re closed and they don’t want anything new.

This isn’t true. It’s probably like, 30% true. But it’s not entirely true and I’m projecting and angry at the rejection I experienced in this city.

Don’t let it in don’t let it in don’t let it in.

Alright, this is going nowhere.


Return to Asia, Week One

I land in Hong Kong on Friday at 8:50am.

The airport is super efficient, so from my seat on the plane to baggage claim will take 20 minutes (there’s always a line at customs now; not so 4 years ago). I’ll buy my Airport Express Round Trip ticket at the self-serve machine, use the rest room and then hop on the 20-minute train ride to Central station.

It’s December so the weather will be cool enough to hump my 20kg backpack up the escalators to Mid-Levels to my friend’s apartment where I’ll be staying. Impossible to do in the summer. By then it’ll be around 10:30am and I’ll be refreshed from a Xanax-induced slumber on the red-eye flight and work until evening. I don’t need to see Hong Kong.

Friday night, Christmas party that my friend’s throwing at his place. I have to attend because it’s the friend that I’m staying with.
Saturday night, another Christmas party with a big, fancy dinner, open bar and a gift exchange. This is great because this is where I’ll see everyone in a single night and be good for another year. But I can’t drink too heavily because of Sunday.

Sunday, I’m meeting Hong Kong Pocahontas, who I haven’t seen since the last time I was in Hong Kong on May 9th (thank you, Apple Calendar, and thank me for being a nazi about scheduling). She’ll inevitably want to do something active, hike to the other side of the island or something. And I’ll do it because I haven’t had sex since mid-October.

Sunday night, we’ll (probably) have sex.

Monday, I fly to Bankgok.

Tuesday, after picking up my motorbike and trusty full-face helmet, I’ll fly around the city and re-explore my old adopted hometown. It’ll be boring shit like getting a massage, eating krapow moo and going to the grocery store. When she gets off work, I’ll meet up with Good Girl Gabby, probably in the shopping mall district like we always do, munching on Japanese snacks and Korean desserts. She’ll (probably) sleep over as she works close to my hotel – there’s no point of her going all the way back home to the suburbs, you know? I know, she knows.

Wednesday, I’ll finally meet that Girl With The Perfect Face, a title bestowed upon her from the previous Girl With The Perfect Face, my ex-girlfriend, not that she no longer has a perfect face but because eh, you gotta move on with perfect faces.

We’ll go eat something delicious at a trendy place with dim lighting. I’m wondering if she’ll finally tell me that she has a boyfriend, because while I know that she does, she has not mentioned him to me yet, and I’m not going to bring him up if she doesn’t. I mean, she could be shopping for someone new, right? Maybe he’s emotionally abusive? Maybe he’s a cheating pervert? Maybe he’s not good to her and I am so none of this is really cheating or anything bad at all because everyone can win at the end.

Thursday is empty so far. I’m trying to get Rose Tattoo Alien Face to come out, but she seems pissed at me, since we reconnected a few months ago (after a few years of missing each other). I think it’s because she expected us to jump into some daily texting relationship back in September until my return to Bangkok. I think this because when I said, “Hey, I’ll be in Bangkok in a few weeks!” she responded with, “So? You don’t even talk to me anymore.” Of course now that I’m T-minus 3 days from Bangkok, I’m desperately trying to get her out – I’m bringing a goddamn souvenir – and if I can, this is the night to do it.

Or, that ladyboy. That tall, buxom ladyboy with the sharp features. Seriously.

Friday is for this girl that I met on Tinder during my first or second month of living in Bangkok. Actually, she might’ve been the first or second girl I met on Tinder Thailand in general. Very beautiful and high-society, it doesn’t appear that she needs to work but does anyway. Her parents own a factory that manufactures auto parts, and she went to some school in Hamilton, Ontario when she was younger, something like The Canadian College or equally bizarre.

We would talk on Line and comment on each other’s Instagrams, but that’s as far as it went for three fucking years. Three fucking years to get her out now. That’s what it took. So Friday is important because there’s a terrible amount of sunken cost fallacy going on here. If it’s a bust, that’s three wasted years. If it’s good, then, well, it better be because it took three fucking years.

And I’ll do all of this while messaging with The Comedienne back home in Miami, because she’s tops. Aces.

Oh, I Did It.

The past four years of my life seem unpredictable and random, like I left Toronto with three bags to see where the wind would take me – but that’s wrong, I knew it would end up exactly like this, exactly what I’m about to do in a month: move indefinitely to Los Angeles.

I knew it, and I knew that I had to move from Toronto to anywhere first, and then from there I would move to LA. Because relocating from Toronto directly to Los Angeles would’ve meant that I’d need to secure employment somehow, and back then (well, and now, I suppose) I absolutely despised working as a full-time salaried employee.

So I refused before I even broke ground on the relocation project: I could never, ever move from Toronto to Los Angeles because it would require me to be a fucking asshole working stiff motherfucker.

But I knew that if I moved first to Hong Kong, to Bangkok and Saigon and Bali and Taipei – I knew that if I first did that for a few years, I would exhaust myself with all of that fun and adventure and happiness and meaning and I’d once more would want to be living some agonizing, stupid and boring life for a few years, in order to be able to escape it again.

You see, because I know myself, and while I intellectually know that fun and adventure and happiness and meaning are good things to have, I’m only content when chasing these things, but not actually possessing them. I’m comfortable when happiness is fleeting, not when it is something solid and foundational. Boring.

I need shit to escape. And then I’ll escape it and find something else to escape. It’s the funnest thing in the world, to kill yourself and rise again.

So I did that: I moved from Toronto to Asia and bits of Eastern Europe. I went out there and I lived the fuck out of life for 3 years. And here I am now, exactly where I knew I would be, bored of happiness, bored of adventure, ready to hunker down and buy a couch and a car and an umbrella and pots and pans and spatulas. Nothing about this was unpredictable. In fact, it all went so according to plan that I’m stunned that it may be the most closely I’ve ever followed a plan for such a long duration.

The plan doesn’t end in Los Angeles, however.

The rest of the plan was to find someone here, get married, rescue a dog, have kids. Then move to the coast, maybe Huntington Beach, maybe Redondo. Somewhere where there’s salt in the air and the scent of coconut sunscreen. Where children drag their surfboards barefoot across the hot asphalt to the ocean where they can catch a few waves before school.

It’s not so much a plan as it is an image in my head that’ll (probably) come true, like the images of Phuket and Los Angeles and that small shitty island outside of Saigon. Images of places and experiences I never had, but once I was there I was hit with a certain déjà vu and thought, Oh, I did it. Oh.

The Comedienne

The Comedienne could be possibly the most compatible person I’ve ever met, in the decades of dating and meeting girls domestic and internationally, from the high school girls in Scarborough to the clubbing girls in downtown Toronto to the Type-A ex-pats in Hong Kong to the models in Malaysia and the socialites of Singapore and the fashionistas of Taipei and that café owner in Saigon.

From the girls I met online on AsianAvenue and Friendster and (well, only the one Indian girl) and Tinder and OKCupid and all of that fucking shit. Out of all of those women from varying and diversified sources, The Comedienne, goddamnit, it’s her, she comes out at the top.

We met in the most unlikely of places, on Instagram, where I stumbled onto her account and left a funny comment, funny enough for her to browse through my feed and leave comments, each comment appearing on an older and older post until she couldn’t take it and finally sent me a direct message to see who the fuck I was, to see if my captions directly correlated to my conversation – who sends direct messages on Instagram, anyway? – and we switched to Whatsapp after a quick 5 messages.

So there, that’s another magnificent quality: she doesn’t do the hard-to-get thing; she doesn’t play coy. She just says, “Hey, who are you and what’s your deal and do you wanna help me write sketches for this thing that I have with CBS” and then sends me messages when she wants, even if I hadn’t yet responded to her previous message. She’ll just up and send another one right on top, no biggie.

(I just realized how stupid this is, that the “game” of dating has now shifted to fucking text messages. This is how it’s been the past year, me trying to decipher girls’ messages – their choice of words, the timing, the rhythm and cadence, the selected emoji – and I don’t have to do that with her.)

The Comedienne is a comedian with a moderate level of fame, not enough to have her own TV show but enough to guest star on sitcoms and sell out her stand up show at the Apollo and have stalkers (though as an attractive Asian woman, it’s not hard to amass a stable of stalkers). I don’t know the extent of her fame or funniness because I refuse to look her up and consume the plethora of videos and podcasts and tweets and shit that she has out there, documenting her life of running around the country with other comedians of moderate fame.

This has resulted in us talking normally, rather than whatever would happen if I discovered her to be famous (I’d probably be intimidated and try to hard) or even worse – funnier than me (I’d probably be intimidated and try to hard). I’m bad with this, when I feel like I need to impress a person, to a mortifying degree. So this is probably the best move I could make, to treat her like a normal girl and to talk to her about normal things and ignore every minute detail of what she does for a living.

But we’re not compatible because she’s funny. Well, it’s that. It’s that she’s funny but it’s also that she’s professionally funny, which means she doesn’t do that thing that unfunny people do where if she gets a laugh out of one of her jokes, she’ll reuse it a million fucking times. She doesn’t squeeze her jokes. She makes me laugh, then discards the joke, because she knows that there’ll always be other jokes.

(I do the same thing, because I’m funny as fuck.)

So I like The Comedienne because she’s funny, but I like her more because she’s sporadically funny. I like her judgment and choices in which she outputs the funny, if that makes any fucking sense. Like she’s not desperate or needy for the laugh. She just floats around the world, saying and doing what she wants, and coincidentally it’s all shit that people would pay to see her do on a stage at a comedy club.

Also, she’s hot as fuck.

The Producer Part 1

I met The Producer in Santa Monica, at a large outdoor patio whose name I should remember but can’t remember. It was the trip where I spent the longest in LA – a full week – and rented a one-room house in Venice and a cherry red convertible. It was a precursor to my nomadic life – I was on my monthly break from art directing the magazine, so took off south with my laptop to finish up work for other clients.

I never saw a house so small; I didn’t know that they existed. I didn’t think that anyone would waste a prime plot of land in Venice Beach – or anywhere, for that matter – on a one-story, one-room house. But there you go, it existed and I rented it for $700/week from some Jewish girl off of Craigslist because AirBNB didn’t exist yet.

So I was staying at this tiny house and running on the beach every morning and jumping rope on the sidewalk out front in the late-afternoon. Then I designed soccer balls and packaging on a white table in her cubby hole, the wooden walls painted with thick layers of white paint over and over again that it all seemed blobby and plastic. At night I would meet friends. I would drive my red Mustang convertible to Westside or more likely Koreatown, get drunk and drive all the way back, down Venice Blvd. and onto Washington, then a right on Abbot Kinney and a left down the small street to my small house. Parking was always a pain in the ass during the daylight hours; not so at 4:30am.

I went to the famous Gold’s Gym Venice and inquired about a weekly rate. “It’s $50 per month or $20 per day,” said the skinny kid working reception.

“Do you have a weekly rate?”

“No, just the two.”

“Well, can I just pay you something for the week?”

“No, there’s no button on the cash register for that,” he said. He didn’t care but I’ll make him care, I thought.

“I mean, can I just, pay, you, you know what I mean?”

“No, it does not matter to me at all if you get to work out or not,” he said, to paraphrase.

One day, I went for a run. I ran up to the Venice Beach boardwalk and to a convenience store where I bought an expensive bottle of water, solely because it came with a squeeze cap. I bought it and scowled and sulked, then ran to Santa Monica Pier and back. I walked up to my door and fetched the key from my pocket, but it wasn’t there. It wasn’t anywhere. I went back to the store thinking it fell out when I paid for the expensive water, but it wasn’t on the floor and the cashier did not give a fuck.

I went back to the house and climbed through an open window in the laundry room – thank fucking god I kept that window open – and in my remaining days in that house, that’s how I got in, after lunch or workouts or running or slobbering and clumsy-drunk: through the laundry room window.

So the night that I met her, we were all in Santa Monica, at a large outdoor patio whose name I should remember but can’t remember. It was the first or second night of my week in LA so I was still excited and hopeful. It was a record launch party, or a film festival after party, or a bespoke sake brand party. Something very Los Angeles and taking place under palm trees and purple lights and maybe a swimming pool in the middle.

My friend wanted a woman there. A slim Asian with breast implants, blonde hair and blue eyes. I was his wingman who was to distract her friend, The Producer. With this friend, there were no options: I would be his wingman and I would talk to and distract The Producer — whether I wanted to or not — as he would attempt to gain the affections of Asian Barbie (he did). The four of us sat on a couch facing what was probably a swimming pool, the two girls in the middle and my friend and I flanking them.

I was drunk – perhaps blacked out? – so we spoke briefly, made plans to meet later in the week, and then I flittered off to catch up with the friends I hadn’t seen in a good quarter-year, and then we all went to Big Tomy’s where I ate pastrami chili cheese fries for the first (but not last) time in my life.

The next day I added The Producer to Facebook and saw what she used to look like — deep tan, massive breasts, slim waist, toned abdominals and a huge, toothy smile with slightly buck teeth — and immediately messaged to see when we could get that first date in.

San Diego: Portly Mexicans and Thick Lashes

Downtown San Diego felt like Toronto back in the early 2000s when the entertainment district was thriving and all you’d have to do is walk from University Ave to Spadina to find a place to party.

I checked into my hotel in the Gaslamp District, which miraculously felt more like an east coast downtown than the west coast counterpart. Narrow streets made for pedestrians (or horses) instead of cars, brick buildings, large neon signs and gaslamps. There weren’t many big brand stores, but if there were they were embedded into centuries-old building with wrought-iron gates.

Hobos. Lots and lots of hobos. Like I said, it felt like a bona fide downtown.

My friend Rugby – whom I met in Hong Kong who now lives in San Francisco and is visiting his parents in San Diego for the holidays – met me in the lobby of my hotel at 10pm, while I was watching Days of Thunder and incredibly – incredibly – not tired or hurting from the 12-hour bike ride earlier that day.

We went around the corner to a 10-person bar (it could only fit 10 people) and had a few drinks as we caught up. Once slightly drunk, we went to the bar next door, a joint with a Western theme complete with a bull-riding machine in the corner. We stood at the corner of the bar, talking and drinking and buying shots for whichever girls were around us.

Girls in San Diego are friendly. Some would take the drink, excuse themselves and leave – but most would stick around and chat, telling us where we should eat and which bars we should hit next. Rugby entertained two large Mexican women (one was drunk and the other was suspicious) as I talked to an older white woman who was between the ages of 27 to 55. I can’t tell with these women, man.

When 27 to 55 excused herself and left, I tried to talk to the bartender who couldn’t accept drinks (!?) so instead broke my way into Rugby’s Mexican threesome. Once the second girl went from suspicious to drunk, we left the Western bar and headed to a lounge on the corner. Rugby paid the cover charge and I got the first round.

In the back of the bar was a stairwell, innocuous but brightly lit. We ambled down the stairs and at the bottom was – holy fucking shit! – a dimly lit club, crammed with young people dancing to old school hip hop! We made our way to the other side where there was a platform, and I danced with my squat Mexican girl while she stood on the stage and I stood on the floor.

I wrapped my arms around the circumference of her large waist and I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t fucking do it, man, there wasn’t enough substances in the world for me to abuse in order to get to the mental state to even want to see the hefty mounds of her flesh under her billowy white shirt and red jeans. I mean, it was like, stiff fat, you know? Like she was one giant piece of cartilage. I would almost prefer jiggly. (No, I wouldn’t).

We went to the bar and beside me was a super cute girl of mixed ethnicity. Asian was definitely in there, and maybe some sort of Latina? Mediterranean? She was wearing a simple white t-shirt with a pocket and had small eyes with long, thick lashes. “You girls want a shot” I asked her and her white friend with the cleavage shirt. They looked at each other with absolute glee, and even made a sound: eeeeeeeeeee! Yes we do! Yes yes yes!

It was like this was their first ever free drink bought for them by a stranger at a bar. Could it be? Could it really be? I mean, Mixed Ethnicity was cute as fuck, surely she would be used to leaving her money at home on the weekends, confident that the boys would come through for her. But, nope, they congratulated each other, took the shots with big grins, then insisted on taking a selfie with me on her iPhone, eager to capture this milestone in her life.

Some Asian girl – young, but not as young-looking as Mixed Ethnicity (who could’ve been, like fucking 17) – came up behind us and whispered something into her ear with a stern look on her face. I feel like she was the babysitter, warning her to calm down or we’re going home and I’m tellin’ mom! I offered her a drink to which she waved off with a scowl.

I went back to Rugby and The Rotund Mexicans and we shot our tequila and went upstairs. As we went up the stairs, I put my hand on the small of Red Jeans’ back (for whatever fucking reason) and she turned and said, “But you were talking to that other girl…” with sad, pensive eyes, like we were once something and now we’re not. What?

As we were leaving the lounge, they went to the washroom and Rugby said that it was best that we disappeared on them, and I agreed.

Mi Young

It was a chilly night in Los Angeles so we met at a place renown for its budae chigae, Korean Army Stew, a pot of leftover meats and vegetables that the American and South Korean army were reputed to cook in the days of the Korean war. Usually, the restaurant would fill the skillet with old cabbage and kimchi and spam and toss in a pack of Maruchan instant noodles and call it a day – but this joint did it right and added salami and rice cakes and white Korean sausages into the bright red broth.

When I arrived at the restaurant, I walked in and saw her sitting in the back. Immediately I noted that she didn’t look like her photos on the dating app on which we met. She was fair-skinned and 5’9” but that’s where the similarities ended. Her pointy chin, her slender legs, her shiny hair, her youthful vibrancy – those were all absent in person.

Nonetheless, not being one to turn away a random night of budae chigae and beer, I approached her. “Hi, are you Mi Young? I’m Alex. It’s nice to meet you.”

I sat down and asked her simple questions: Did you just get off work? How long did you work for? Did you drive here? What car do you drive? And she nodded or shook her head, or spoke in one word answers.

“Mi Young, I can understand Korean,” I said, in my shitty Korean. “I just can’t speak it. So go ahead and speak Korean.”

She brightened up to this and said, “Oh, you don’t know how relieved I am to hear that. I’m so shy when I have to speak English.” She said this six times in Korean because it took me six times to fully comprehend what the fuck she was saying.

“How long have you been in LA?” I asked Mi Young.

“Six years, already. I started in San Francisco, but I didn’t know English and there weren’t any Korean people there so I had a very hard time. So I came to LA. But now I want to practice my English but there are too many Korean people here, so I think I’ll have to move elsewhere.”

“Peace,” I said.

So we ate budae chigae and the restaurant’s famed kimchi pancake (too soggy) while drinking four giant bottles of Korean beer. She drank faster than me, chugging glass after glass and making me catch up.

“What do you like to drink?” she asked.

“Usually, gin.” She stared at me, blank. “You know? Martini? It’s like vodka…”

“I never tried vodka.”

“You never tried vodka? What about gin? Whiskey? Tequila?”

“No, I only drink beer and soju.”

“How is this possible? How are you a 34-year old drinker who has never tried liquor?”

“I don’t like the smell of it,” said Mi Young. “Whenever I get close to drinking it, the smell puts me off and I just can’t do it.”

“Jesus fucking Christ, so you’ve never been drunk before?”

“Of course I’ve been drunk.”

“No, I mean drunk drunk. Beer- and soju-drunk don’t count. You have to be in pain on top of the bloating.” She went to the washroom and I tried to look at her ass.

There’s this thing that happens as I get more and more drunk: the girl’s looks fade and her personality begins to reflect on her face. Mi Young’s warmth and humility (“I’m in America because I’m just an old, single woman in Korea”) brought out her eyelashes, the creases of her lips, the baby hairs brushing her forehead.

“My neighbor has an old dog that he keeps outside. Every night, he’ll start crying because I think he’s in pain. I think the cold makes him hurt more. So he’ll cry all night and I won’t sleep.

“My client at work, she works for a place that rescues dogs like this. So I told her about this old dog and she came by a few days later. For months this dog was crying and I was crying, and the day my client comes to rescue the dog, he’s no longer there. The dog died outside the night before, in the cold.”

“Too bad,” I said. “Let’s go drink more at another place.”

She knew of a place around the corner, called Second Floor because it was on the second floor. We shared a pitcher of beer and she ordered takoyaki. I ordered spam musubi, then looked at the time – 11:30pm – and then canceled my order.