Cruel Cruel Summer: Part I

Sometimes I don’t know what to write, but I write anyway. This is because I know I should write. This leads to the more of a train-of-thought style blog entries that end up going wherever chaotic place my mind decides to take me.

Today is not one of those days…

So much has happened since my last post just under a month ago that my head is spinning and I’m not sure where to start. However, I guess I’ll just go in chronological order.

At the end of August, on the 26th, my abdominal pains problem reared its ugly head again. Sharp pain started in the left lower quadrant along with a burning inflamed feeling all throughout my lower abdomen. A bit of nausea and bloating were present as well, along with some diarrhea. Fun stuff!

So, after four days of it getting progressively worse to the point of not being able to sleep or work, I went back to the Urgent Care Centre. Fortunately, as is often the case at my town’s site, the wait was almost nil and I went right in.

Oddly enough, they put me on strict isolation precautions because of the diarrhea since this is a rare, but real, symptom of COVID-19. So, I got to wait with my eBook in my own private room.

They did blood work which proved infection, and decided that the previous suspicion of diverticulitis was still the likely cause. The difference is that now it’s not a one-off problem, but a reoccurring problem being that the flare-ups were only three months apart. With this, they decided that it was much more important to have a confirmed diagnosis. She sent me for an abdominal x-ray and handed me requisitions for an abdominal ultrasound on Monday and CT scan on Wednesday. Of course, I went home with a prescription of Cipro and Flagyl.

Twelve hours after the first antibiotics, I started to rapidly improve, but it still took about a week for the symptoms to completely go away.

On Monday I went for the abdominal ultrasound. It was easy peasy, but on the way home, they called me back since the radiologist wanted to see a few more things. This, of course, freaked me the fuck out! All sorts of crazy things went through my mind, but I just tried to keep my cool. The fortunate thing that came from this is that while the tech couldn’t tell me anything during the ultrasound, the radiologist who did the repeat scan could. She just wanted to take a closer look at the area that I was having pain. She said that what she saw is pretty consistent with diverticulitis, but that ultrasound isn’t a definitive tool for confirming this. However, those simple words really made a huge difference in my anxiety. I went from thoughts of giant tumors and perforated bowels to thinking that it’s probably just diverticulitis…not that that doesn’t come with its own set of problems.

So, after another couple days of recovery, it was time to head for my CT scan. They sent me out to the beautiful town of Canmore since apparently it’s faster and easier to get an appointment. This was definitely evidenced by the fact that I had an appointment four days later.

Having a CT was very strange. I have taken countless ICU patients for a CT scan, but have never had one myself. I was excited to find out what that hot flash feels like that they warn everyone about. I can confirm, it is HOT! It felt like I was stuck in a very hot dry sauna and breathing in the fiery air.

The plus side of having my CT scan in Canmore is that it is absolutely beautiful there! So, I spent some time being touristy. I wandered the streets, bought a new essential oil diffuser, and got myself a Sea-Monkeys kit. Of course, I enjoyed all the mountain views.

Later that night, my doctor called and said, “Yup, it looks like diverticulitis.” She said I should go see my family doctor immediately and get a consult for a gastroenterologist. The only problem with that is that I don’t have a family doctor.

So, I have been on a hunt for a family doctor. They are almost non-existent in my town, but I have been calling and putting myself on every waiting list I could find. I even started looking in the city. Finally I found one in town and have an appointment in a couple weeks.

In the meantime, I have been making lifestyle changes. I am working out 30-60 minutes a day and counting calories with a 1000 calorie deficit again. Even more importantly, I am counting my fiber intake. I always assumed that with all the vegetables I eat, I would get enough. Nope! Even with supplements, high fiber cereal, whole wheat breads/pasta etc., I still have to pay attention to make sure I make it. But on the plus side, my poops have never been healthier! All these measures should help prevent/improve flare ups.

Everything was going well until today when the abdominal pain and diarrhea returned.

Deep breath. Count to ten.

We will see what tomorrow will brings.

The hard truth is that this could end up in surgery sooner than later. Something I’m not interested in.

The 90’s

This post is meant to be written through my lens of experience as a gay man. I am here to speak of my own thoughts and feelings. I am in no way trying to speak for the experiences of you, the reader, or try to represent those of gay men as a whole.

Ok, that had to be said, because I think a lot of what I’m going to say in this post will be seen as very controversial.

I think being gay used to be way more fun in the 90’s and early 2000’s.

There! I said it. That felt good.

So, lets state some obvious things. I chose the words “fun” very purposely. I certainly don’t think it was easier, safer, simpler, or universally better. I should also note that I was young and enthusiastic then, with ample energy, hope, and a thirst for new experiences and adventures. Perhaps you could argue that I changed, and not gay culture. And lets take note of some of my privileges: I am a middle-aged white cis-gendered male. I’m not exactly what the world likes to attack these days, but I was.

The 90’s were a strange time of transition, with gay folks my age firmly stuck in between many experiences. We still had the hardship of being hated by the overwhelming majority of society, but still saw the hope of both young and old changing their attitudes and beliefs. We could see the future of acceptance and freedom approaching rapidly on the horizon. The AIDS epidemic was still ongoing, but the worst was behind us with new treatments, knowledge, and medications coming out every day. That dark cloud was starting to lighten a bit. Men with HIV were starting to live with it instead of die from it. We also had the pleasure of learning from and being with the older generations of activists who fought for us in the previous decades, but we still had a youthfulness in us that allowed us to free ourselves from those chains and just celebrate life.

It really was a time of intense celebration. Gay bars were in abundance in both big and little cities. The parties overflowed into the streets with revelers hooting and hollering with pure joy. These places came to life late at night and on the weekends with Dionysian excess that threatened to consume anyone who entered. It was as though a long winter was coming to a close, and the world had opened up to us on a warm spring breeze.

All of that gave us Community, and I miss being a part of a that the most. There was something amazing about walking into a bar, or a coffee shop, or a restaurant, and knowing everyone there. I wouldn’t have to gather friends to go somewhere, I would just go, and my friends would all be there. It was a beautiful thing. There were bears, and twinks, and muscle studs, but you still had friends from every walk of life and not just the narrow band of people you were sexually interested in. There was an intense feeling of togetherness for everyone involved.

And to anyone who says our generation wasn’t political or weren’t activists, well hey, fuck you! When we walked in a pride parade, it wasn’t a celebration or a party, it was an act of protest. We marched through protesters and haters. There were no politicians, sponsors, or celebrities in our parades. We were hated by everyone, not just the religious right. We were spat on and had bricks thrown at us. Back then we still dealt with bath house raids, indecency charges, and regular violence, and we fought against it with pride and power. However, we still knew how to put all that aside and occasionally just enjoy our lives of exuberance. We knew how to have fun just for the sake of having fun.

I remember the special moments too. For example, I remember just how powerful it was when Queer as Folk came out and there were actual gay people being portrayed on TV. It was a window into our crazy lives and we loved it. It extended our community from just our city, to the whole world, showing us that our secret society had members everywhere. It aired every Monday, which quickly became a special night at one of the bars. We would all gather, drink beer, eat popcorn and watch. We would cheer on every character’s achievements, and cry over their disasters.

Things really have changed in twenty years. And I think about it a lot. The next generation has taken the torch from us, but instead of passing on the culture of the previous generations, they did it with a resounding, “Fuck you! We want a blank slate. We’re doing this our way.” And I guess that’s their right.

Gay bars are closing at a record pace, gay ghettos are disappearing in all but the biggest cities, and even in those, they are being gutted. The gay community is disappearing. This generation doesn’t give a shit about safe places, choosing trendy hipster locales to go to with their straight friends, or hiding at home behind a dating app profile, instead of dancing all night at the gay bar. They are walking around life on the shoulders of giants, enjoying their safety, and a world filled with relatively little hate against them, but are seemingly oblivious to any of these privileges.

Everything has become incredibly serious, albeit, sometimes that’s for good reason. Activism and fighting against the world seems to be the only focus for gay youth in this day and age. It’s admirable, but not exactly fun. Everything is so black and white and devoid of the joys of being colourful. The ability to poke fun at ourselves and our quirky campy lives is now taboo. Each action, word, and thought has to be in service of changing the world. Rarely do people just sit back and enjoy life, instead choosing to wind themselves into epic states of anxiety.

Rarely does anything feel like a celebration anymore. In fact, In this day and age, I can’t imagine anybody celebrating successes such as Queer as Folk by going to the bar as a community and watching it together. Instead, we would just have to experience or participate in constant dry academic debate on why the character portrayals are “problematic.”

Excess and debauchery are gone, replaced by marriage, children, and being ever more mainstream, parades are sponsored by corporations to get our money, every television show and movie has token characters meant to exploit us and prove just how “woke” the writers are, and kids (kids!) are coming out of the closet with little fear at younger and younger ages. Much of this is fantastic, but it has also led to much of our culture, with its secret languages, rituals, symbols, and music disappearing, along with the feeling of being part of something special.

I know that there is power in being accepted and becoming mainstream. There is happiness in the safety. There is convenience to the technology. There is a peace in letting go of the old ways that were put in place to protect our lives.

But I just miss it. And sometimes I want it back. For better or for worse.

Gay men have it better than ever, and I wish they were better at celebrating it, rather than always searching for the next mountain to climb. I’m just saying: maybe take a little moment to enjoy the roses sometimes. There’s room in life for both.

Tofino

Today I’m drinking some homemade chai and listening to a synth-pop mix on Spotify. I made the chai myself using a selection of spices from my cupboard to as closely as possible simulate the proper thing. I think my only non-standard extra addition is a bit of tumeric, but it fits in well. I think it worked out quite fantastically!

Today I want to share my adventures in Tofino. I have no history with Tofino, so my ponderings won’t be quite as extensive. However, it has always been firmly positioned on my bucket list of places to go. The dreamy images of storms, waves, surfers, and log cabin quaintness that it stirs up have always been overwhelmingly appealing.

David wanted to see Tofino too, so it was an easy addition to our adventures. I actually had a really hard time planning the time there. Hotels are extremely expensive and fill up fast as it’s a very popular resort town undergoing a major boom in tourism. Our trip was also going to be during strict COVID times, with the hotels just barely opening up to visitors. Space was limited and restrictions were extensive. The supply and demand of it all made choosing a hotel tough.

In the end, I managed to find a really cool lodge-type experience right on the beach, quickly snagging the last available room. It would be small, lack internet and TV, and have no balcony, but it was reasonably priced and had a view of the ocean from the window.

We set out from Victoria to Tofino on a beautiful day. The road to Nanaimo had some really cool views of the ocean and rain forests, but the constant stop lights were maddening! This highway took us north, before turning west to cross the island. After turning west, the roads became much more interesting. There are mystical old growth forests, snowy mountains, hidden lakes, roads that twist and turn more than anything I’ve ever seen, and eventually the beautiful ocean with nothing between us and Japan.

Middle Beach Lodge was absolutely spectacular. It sat on top of a big stone cliff facing the ocean like a log version of a castle in a Gothic romance novel, surrounded by forests, rocks, and dark and stormy nights. It had a great room with cozy couches, a massive fireplace, floor to ceiling windows, and doors that led to outdoor balconies with Adirondack chairs to sit in and enjoy the absolutely stunning view of the water. It even came with a nice little breakfast to enjoy in the morning.

After settling into our quaint and tiny room, we drove into town to grab some groceries and drive around. With a bottle of wine and some sandwiches in hand, we made our way back to the lodge and had dinner overlooking the ocean.

The next day was a very simple day. We walked around the shops in town looking for souvenirs, had cocktails at a fancy place called Wolf in the Fog, walked through the rain forest to a little cove, and once again had dinner and wine on the balcony overlooking the ocean. This time it was fancy pizza and the pinot noir from Lang Vineyards in Naramata Bench (amazing wine!).

Clockwise from top left: Me enjoying a meal on the balcony at the lodge, Shopping around town, the rocky cliff our lodge sat on, the pathway through the rain forest to the beach x2

The next day was spent beach hopping. Tofino is famous for it’s beaches and cold water surfing. There are so many to explore and walk along, so we weren’t disappointed. We had a great time watching first time surfers who were having a blast despite their many crashes, and dreaming about living in one of the big houses right on the beach. Nothing feels quite as spiritually cleansing as dipping your feet right into the moving waves.

Also, I discovered banana slugs. Are they not just the coolest things ever?! I seem to have a knack for finding them.

The cool, grey, drizzly weather was right up my alley. Tofino is definitely a magical place. The idea of living there away from the world and reality makes me shiver with excitement. However, the isolation would be very difficult to swallow.

That being said, who cares if you’re isolated when you have all that beauty right there in front of you. Plus, the quirky people and shops of the town were delightful.

I wish I had discovered and moved to Tofino a decade ago. Now it is too expensive and overrun with tourists.

Hindsight is always 20/20

Erasure

erasure always has and always will be the soundtrack to my life. It may be shallow, simple, and campy, but Vince and Andy have always found a way to speak right to my soul.

The first album of their’s I ever heard was The Innocents around 1988 or 1989. I used to sneak into my sister’s room and steal CDs to listen to. I was in elementary school and worshiped her taste in music, clothes, movies, and everything, so I was frequently doing such things. On this occasion, when I saw the stained glass window CD cover and chose it as my loot, I had no idea how much one CD would change my life.

The Innocents was magic. My young self had no way of knowing that it was music for gay men. I had no idea how subversive and political it was to listen to their music. I just love the melodies and the fun electronic sounds.

I have never stopped listening to erasure, with my favorite albums being those of the mid-nineties. Even today, as I write, I am listening to their new singles from their upcoming album. The music has lost it’s magic and innovation, but has instead transformed into comfort food. It has become musical Kraft Dinner with Ketchup.

I haven’t been able to continue my vacation stories. I haven’t had time, or more accurately, I haven’t had the right kind of time. My journaling tends to be in the late morning after I have organized my day and carved out a little space. Unfortunately, work has been absolutely insane and unforgiving with not a minute to spare.

But there has also been the feeling of not wanting to journal. The last three weeks have been heavy and hard to talk about. The lingering soft breezy happiness of vacation with David quickly turned into anger, resentment, and struggle. We fought, broke up, fought, got back together, fought, broke up, and got back together over and over again. It was a time of misery.

He is having a stressful time at work and may lose his job. This led to him having a full mental breakdown and crisis. He went full self-destruct mode and I was directly in his warpath. His words destroyed me, and the harder I tried to support him and be there for him, the worse it got until I finally gave up and walked away.

It ended with tears, a long talk, apologies, forgiveness, and an attempt to move on and get back to the business of loving each other and dreaming of our future. Things are back to normal, but I’m still reeling a bit. I’m still not sure what the damage has been. I was hurt, deeply, and in so many ways.

All this pain made it difficult to continue writing about our happy times on vacation. However, as we heal, I’m hoping to get back to it and continue the story. The next place we went was Tofino, and I can’t wait to talk about it.

So, like I said, work has been crazy, but it has also been stable. There’s been no drama, trauma, or failures. It just keeps trucking on. There’s not much to say. I’m just hoping that it slows down a bit so I can smell the flowers a bit.

School is in vacation. I was supposed to spend August doing literature reviews and writing to professors with research ideas. None of that has happened. I need to get on it! at least I managed to send off a funding request to my employer. It a very modest amount, but worth the work of filling out the form.

I still need to complete and pay for my RN license renewal, something that feels more distant and unnecessary every year, but is so difficult to get back once it’s gone that it’s worth the time and money to keep it current. I also need to pay my property taxes and renew my vehicle license. August is always such a busy month of life maintenance.

I turned 42. How is that even possible?

I have done nothing with AODA. The drama of my life has been too much. I mean, I literally had days where I couldn’t get out of bed because I was crumbling under the weight of it all and had to hide. The thought of trying to create my own curriculum, get it approved, start studying, doing rituals, and spending purposeful time in nature was just too much. It was the first thing to be knocked off the list of priorities. Hopefully it will be back on it soon.

My friends have put Star Trek role-playing aside for some classic Dungeons and Dragons instead. I am a Dwarf Tempest Cleric and having the time of my life. I am slowly becoming Thor and smiting all the evils of the world with my magic hammer. Woot!

And that’s what’s going on with me. Hopefully I’ll write about Tofino in the next couple of days. Until then, many hugs and love to whomever may be reading (I assume just my future self).

LB

Victoria, BC

Victoria, BC is sometimes a very difficult place for me to talk about as it has a long and powerful history in my life that is filled with many mixed emotions. It is one of those places that could very well have been my home: part of an alternate timeline in which I am living a very different life. I sometimes wonder what life there is like, and whether or not I am happy.

As a child, my family went to Victoria just a couple of times, but I have no significant memories or sentimentality attached to these trips. It had just been a fun stop during our summer excursions. Oddly, my only memory seems to be of my sister chasing me around with seaweed on the beach while I screamed in fear.

The next time I went was in 2007. I had been house sitting for my parents and sister for years, but never got to go anywhere myself. I had been a student for a decade and was just in the process of graduating from nursing school. I was broke and in debt. My sister graciously bought me a gift certificate for an airline to help me go somewhere. I was with Richard at the time, so I bought us both a ticket to Victoria for the weekend. I have no memory of the rationale for why we chose Victoria. Why not Vancouver? Toronto? Montreal? San Francisco? This will have to remain a mystery.

However, that trip turned out to be very special for us. It was only for a long weekend, but the city captured our hearts with a powerful rigor, infecting us with a passion for it that has lasted to this day. In fact, as crazy as it sounds, in our short time there we made a firm decision to make it our new home. And we meant it. We loved the vibe, the weather, the history, the beaches, the people, and the forests. The fantasy of living there was very real and very achievable.

Upon our return home, we announced our decision to the world and started planning. I received the documents to apply for a BC nursing license and started looking at job boards. We chose the neighborhood we would live in and started looking for an apartment to rent, which was particularly arduous as we had Charlie who wasn’t even a year old yet. We began making lists of what needed to be done before we left. I even started doing a lot of cleaning and organizing of our apartment in preparation. This was absolutely going to happen.

And then I ruined it. After I graduated from nursing school, I decided that I was learning an incredible amount from the job I currently had on the general surgery unit, and that we should wait just a few more months before moving so I could soak it all up. This was sure to help me get a good job there. Then I started a new course in critical care nursing and got a job in the city’s biggest and best ICU, a place that provided much more experience than I could get in Victoria, a relatively small city. Then we started looking at condos and bought one, thinking that the quickly escalating real estate market would build us some instant equity to help us with the move. This turned out disastrous as we watched the economy tank and real estate crash right after we bought it. Eventually, the idea, passion, and ability to make such a big change slowly faded away and disappeared as other priorities took focus.

We went back in 2009 as it was “our” place and we were passionate about it. I remember waking up early in the morning, grabbing some Tim Horton’s and road snacks and doing the 14 hour drive/ferry in one day, listening to the Twilight series on audio book all the way there. On that trip, the love of the city was there, but the ability to move was gone. We had an amazing time, but our dreams had been destroyed without ceremony.

Six months after that trip, Richard and I were no longer together, the condo was still worthless, and any thought of living in Victoria was long buried beneath a million other changes and problems. I closed the book on that city indefinitely. This is a dream I still mourn to this day.

I was also briefly in Victoria in July of 2015. I was on an Alaskan cruise with my Australian friends. We were dropped off there with barely enough time to run up Government street and back down. I would say that it hardly counts.

So, when I was planning a trip with David, it was with many mixed emotions that I added it to our itinerary. I knew it would be somewhat difficult to see all the sites and sounds with so many happy memories attached, and the constant reminder of dreams that were allowed to die. But I was determined to visit one of my favorite places in the world

Our drive to Victoria started in Penticton where my last post left off. It was a quick and beautiful 4.5 hour drive to the ferry terminal. This drive was incredibly different than I remember. It was a new, clean, easy route to get there, which is in direct contrast to my memories of being lost on back roads desperately trying to find Tsawwassen. We arrived at the ferry terminal two hours early as I’m always a good boy when it comes to these things, so we entertained ourselves by browsing the shops, listening to music, and playing a bit of Pokemon Go.

As always, the 1.5 hour crossing was magical. You speed across a straight, and then start slowly weaving around little islands. I remember looking over to David at one point, who’s eyes hadn’t left his phone in 45 minutes and asking, “How are you looking at your phone when THIS is all in front of you?!” He begrudgingly got up and started soaking up the scenery with me.

Once in Victoria, I could feel everything around me change. My anxiety was lower, the air felt relaxing, and the trees seemed to soothe my weary soul. The drive to the hotel was beautiful as I witnessed all the changes that had occurred over the last decade. This mostly consisted of massive growth of new buildings and towering condos.

After checking into the hotel, which was right on the harbor, I was practically shaking like an excited puppy dog, bouncing up and down, and begging David to finish his quick nap and refresh so we could go for a walk on the inner harbor. I finally managed to drag him out, but it was just a quick trip as we were tired and hungry. Eventually, we made our way back to the hotel for some rest. The Empress Hotel, Parliament Building, and Harbor were as fantastic as I remembered.

The next day started with a great brunch and a walk up and down government street. We had a great time popping in and out of shops, looking at all the cool local treasures.

Everything felt different though. I can’t quite put a finger on it, but I compare it to Christmas morning. When you are a child, Christmas morning feels full of magic and wonder, filling your heart with joy. As an adult, you can spend a lifetime trying to recapture that feeling, but you never really do. This is how Government Street felt. The places that once awed me, like the tobacco shop, chocolate shop, Fan Tan Alley, or Murchie’s tea were all lovely, but they seemed to lack their usual “Je ne sais quoi”. Even Bastion square that I used to rush to in order to surround myself with all the ghostly history just felt flat. As we wandered to the end of the street and the quirky shops faded into boarded up buildings and a tent city full of homeless people, I knew that something was missing. I couldn’t help but think, “That’s it?”

Fan Tan Alley

In the afternoon we took a quick drive. We went to Mile Zero of the Trans Canada Highway, looked over the ocean to Port Angeles and Washington state, and drove around Beacon Hill Park a bit. This included peacocks, Alpaca, and a weird tweeked out bicyclist who kicked my car.

That night, we went down to Fisherman’s Wharf to get some fresh Fish and Chips. It was crowded as heck! You have to remember that the COVID pandemic was in full swing at this point. While the entire whole of Vancouver Island had two active cases, the lack of social distancing and hand hygiene opportunities was worrisome. It was probably the only time during our trip that I felt uncomfortable with the situation.

That being said, the houseboats were adorable, I got to see one seal poke his head above water, and the fish and chips were amazing. After a quick stop at the grocery store for some snacks, we went home to rest.

The next day, we decided to get out and about in the car. The first stop was The University of Victoria. I am a Master’s Degree student there, so I, of course, had to visit and buy some swag from their shop. I love how beautiful the UVic grounds are with its endless foliage and being only a couple blocks from the ocean.

Me at the University of Victoria Bookstore. I’m about to buy a whole lot of UVic memorabilia.

That afternoon was spent driving around exploring and checking out beaches. It was during this drive that David fell completely in love with Victoria. It was a feeling I know well. And trust me, once you experience it, it never truly goes away.

That evening we took one last walk up Government Street to meet a friend of David’s for a quick dinner. We had a great time, said our goodbye’s, and lingered on our walk back to the hotel. It was time to get ready for our trip to Tofino the next day.

Overall, Victoria was a spectacular highlight of our journey. The way that this city has of touching your soul and soothing everything that ails it still amazes me to this day. The sheer beauty of it can make the hardest man soft. I took to referring to it as Utopia by the end of our time there, and I stand by it.

Some of the emotions attached to the city were certainly difficult. At times it felt oddly like I was cheating on Richard. I had brought someone else to our special city and was doing the same things and seeing the same places that we loved and cherished. It felt wrong: as though it was forbidden. Part of me wonders if the reason some of the city’s magic felt gone was that the person I made that magic with wasn’t there.

But David and I made our own memories on this trip, and in many ways, we made our own magic. And just because the magic is different, doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

Victoria, I love you, and I hope to see you again soon.

The Okanagan

The Okanagan

At the end of the ice age, about 12,000 years ago (according to Wikipedia), the glaciers retreated and revealed a beautiful heaven on earth called The Okanagan. It is an area of low mountains and hills that surround a long, thin, and very deep lake. The scenery ranges from lush and green to dry and brown, and the temperature always seems hotter than everywhere else. At some point the indigenous tribes first claimed it as their home, and then so did some of my ancestors. Over many decades, my family made roots, lived their lives, had kids, and lived happily by the lake.

These were my Greek ancestors, of which I am very proud, but know very little about. What I do know is that they were kind of a big deal in Vernon, BC., a town on the northern tip of The Okanagan. Here they owned and operated a candy kitchen that was very popular with locals. I am related to the Nick Alexis in this picture below. He was, I believe, my Grandmother’s uncle. To this day there are parks, schools, and everything in between named after him.

My mother spent many fun afternoons during my childhood teaching me how to make candy: a skill she picked up from all her exposure to the freshly made treats that came from the family store. I cherish some of her recipes and make them frequently to this day.

Unfortunately, as often happens as the decades pass, the older generations of my family that lived their life in Vernon are dying off while the younger generations are spreading themselves around the world.

My Grandmother was a die-hard Vernon dweller after being raised there; however, She briefly moved to Calgary while married to my Grandfather. It was there that she raised my Mother, who married my father, and then had me, and thus my immediate family’s roots are in Calgary rather than Vernon. Despite this, my Grandmother was back in Vernon where she belonged as soon as possible.

This led to many of our family’s summer vacations (well, all our summer vacations) being spent in Vernon. My time there was spent either lounging on my Grandmother’s amazingly peaceful deck, or running around in the attached park with her beautiful border collie named Bridie. I knew it was a magical place, but it really never sank in just how beautiful the area was, and how much my spirit is attached to the area until I spent some time there on my recent vacation.

The two pictures on the left are from around 1990. One is Okanagan lake, and the other is my Mother, Grandmother, and myself on my Grandmother’s balcony overlooking Vernon. On the right is me on the same balcony in 2004.

This year, David and I decided to go on a road trip with Calgary as our home base. Our original plan was to head down to the Oregon coast, which is another beautiful location that has a lot of sentimental childhood value, but because of COVID-19, we were forced to change to an all Canadian route. As a result, we decided to do Banff, Penticton, Victoria, Tofino, Vancouver, and Three Valley Gap. I had been to all those places, except Tofino, which has always been a very bucket-list kind of place for me. David had never been west of Winnipeg, so it was all new to him.

Sadly, Vernon wasn’t on our list, but Penticton is very much a part of the Okanagan, being on the very southern tip of the lake versus Vernon’s northern location, and our drive there would take us right through Vernon.

The night before heading to The Okanagan was spent in Banff. In the morning we packed our bags and hit the road, stopping at Lake Louise for a quick picture first. The route over the mountains from Calgary to Vernon is so entirely burnt into my soul, that the drive felt as natural as can be. We enjoyed the fear-inducing twists into Golden, the magic of going up Roger’s Pass and down the other side, the tunnels where you just have to hold your breath as you go through them (a childhood game), the unreal beauty of the mountains, and the strange way that the terrain suddenly turns from giant lush mountains to nearly desert-like rolling hills. The day was rainy and misty, which at first made me sad that David wasn’t experiencing the full splendor of the mountains, but then made me happy as it was an entirely different way to experience their might.

As we entered The Okanagan area, I experienced an intense familiarity and feeling of belonging. As we drove right through Vernon, passing my Grandmother’s house only two blocks away (I still feel a bit guilty about not stopping), and seeing all the sites and sounds of that part of the Okanagan, I felt my entire body, mind, and spirit shift to a well-known place with a resounding “click.”

David seemed less impressed by me pointing out the park where I always went to feed the ducks, the road I walked down to go to the convenience store, the hospital my Grandmother worked at, and the cadet parade grounds where my Grandfather directed military bands. To me it was a magical place full of memories, but to him, it was likely just a small town with normal small town things.

The only other stop on the way was the Grey Monk winery, which is around the middle of The Okanagan near Kelowna. This was always a favorite place of my Mother’s, and I quite enjoy their wine as well, so I wanted to give it a try.

It was busy! However, it was Canada day so I think a lot of folks were out doing recreational activities. The line-up to get in was a bit long, especially with all the pandemic precautions. All the Staff were wearing face maks and face shields, and looked very run-down from their busy day.

We jumped in for a wine tasting. It was rushed and a bit unorganized, and the wine was mediocre. However, it was an absolutely beautiful location and a great break from all the driving, which was at about 6 hours by now.

Grey Monk Winery

We arrived at Penticton around dinner time and immediately started looking for dinner, which we found in a very expensive and slow sushi take out place, entertaining ourselves while we waited for our food by driving around town aimlessly.

As I mentioned, Okanagan lake is very long and skinny. Vernon is at the very top, Kelowna, a fairly large city, is right in the middle, and Penticton is at the southern tip. We chose to stay in Penticton for our trip as it is THE place to go for Okanagan wineries. David is a bit of a wine connoisseur and has somewhat passed this passion on to me. So, I knew we couldn’t do a trip through BC without some wine time.

The next two mornings, we woke up bright and early to start our winery tours. Well, I woke up early. David is a classic night owl, struggling to get up before noon no matter what time he fell asleep, and struggling to go to sleep before 3am no matter what time we woke up. A lot of our mornings were spent with me waking up early around 6am and waiting around till noon for David to get going, sometimes almost begging him to get out of bed and move faster. This is something that leads to a lot of bickering with us. On the flip side, he likes to stay awake all night while I’m trying to sleep, which is also something we bicker about.

The Wineries were amazing! We focused on an area named Naramata Bench, which has become the hot spot for Okanagan’s best wines. However, we also took a small trip south to see the winery for one of my favorite wines: Wild Goose. The views of the lake and rolling hillsides covered in grape vines were stunning. The wine was amazing too! I had to be careful about what I drank as I was driving. I generally let David do the wine tasting and had a sip of the one or two wines I was interested in. A lot of wine was bought and had. Relaxation was setting in.

A few pics from all the wineries. Clockwise starting at top left: Therapy, Serendipity, Lang, Nichol, Noble Ridge, Poplar Grove, Nichol.

Me at Therapy Winery

For the record, my favorite wine was at Lang Vineyards, especially their Pinot Noir and Marechal Foch, and my favorite experience was at Noble Ridge. Noble Ridge had a back yard filled with red picnic tables and a view of Vaseux lake that couldn’t be beat. We loaded up on charcuteries and a bottle of wine, and had a lovely picnic there.

It was during this picnic that we decided we wanted to live in Penticton. This felt very serious in the moment, but, to be clear, we ended up deciding to move to every city we visited on our trip.

On our final afternoon, we stopped by the beach at Skaha Lake. One of our main goals in Penticton was to spend an afternoon lazing on a beach. However, this plan never managed to materialize into reality, so we finally just stopped and dipped our toes.

The next morning, after a long night in which David managed to convince me that our hotel room was haunted, and I could no longer sleep (dammit David!), we picked up and left for our trek to Victoria.

I can’t express enough just how connected I felt to The Okanagan in those days. There is just something about the place that speaks to me. And to be honest, I didn’t even realize this until we were there and seeing it with our own eyes. I’m not necessarily one to claim such things, but it really did feel like my genetics belonged there–like the spirits of my Okanagan ancestors course through me and bring peace to me while I’m there. It’s too hot, too dry, too sunny, but it’s where I felt I was supposed to be.

It was almost like I was feeling my future, and that future was on the lake.

Down the Wave and then Back Up.

Well! It’s about time I did a little catch up! I can’t believe it has been more than a month since my last post. I’m sorry for the dry spell, but it has been for appropriate reasons. Plus, I have so many new stories to tell!

Firstly, the last two weeks of last month were absolute chaos. My coworker was on vacation, so I was all alone, and the workload reflected that. However, I think I did a fantastic job keeping up with everything that was thrown at me. Every time I thought it would be a quiet easy day, something big and new was thrown at me.

At the same time, I was madly trying to finish my final project for my class. And I did it! It was handed in June 26th. Four days early. Woo hoo! Not to mention, when my mark came back, it was a nice solid A+. I did good folks!

All that mad rush was in preparation for the main course, which was a three-week vacation to BC and the west coast with David. What an amazing trip! Magical even. As with any couple on vacation, there was some bickering and fighting, but we came through the other side just fine, and the good times were far more abundant. As they say, if your relationship can survive a vacation where you are together 24/7 in constant close quarters, it can survive anything.

I’m not sure where I will start, but over the next couple weeks I will be sharing pictures and stories from our trip. I’m excited to write down my thoughts for future reminiscing. For now though, David is back in Toronto and I am feeling utterly heartbroken and lonely over his absence.

In terms of AODA, I’ve done nothing. It very much got put on the back burner due to stress from work and school, and then vacation. Now the stress of returning to work and trying to catch up with the current onslaught of new projects will make it even more difficult. Then, in the coming weeks, I have my masters thesis to think about. I want to make a little bit of headway before September. Then school starts again….Ugh! I will try to find time as it is important to me. However, I have always found that when it comes to spiritual stuff, you just can’t force it.

More soon!

The Grandfather Tree

Back on the Barenaked Ladies theme for a quick moment, I had a listen of their 4th album Stunt for the first time in nearly 20 years. This is the album that basically destroyed my enjoyment of their music. The songs seem gimmicky and cheap to me, pandering to a desperate need to create fame, rather than just making good music. Sure, there’s a couple good songs, but “One Week” is a nightmare. A lot of the songs are silly or comical like that, and I hate it. They are at their absolute best when they write seriously.

This album is attached to a very specific memory as well. It is about 1998, and I live in an apartment building near the university with my cousin. I work a strange split shift as a waiter, going in from 17:00 to 20:00, and then from 00:00 to close. In this memory, I am driving my Ford Ranger at 23:30 on the way to the second part of my shift after relaxing for a couple hours at home. I cut through the university grounds, enjoying the grassy lawns and enormous trees in the dark. I am absolutely blasting the song “One Week” as I shout the lyrics and wiggle to the grooves. I guess I must have liked the song at some point.

This week has been fairly low-key. A lot of things have just become second nature. I’m starting to get a very Groundhog’s Day vibe in my life right now. Every morning I wake up, open my blinds, make my bed, check on my herbs outside, make coffee, and sit down at my desk to check my email. I find that I have to remind myself of the things that are different and unique about each day, or I just won’t notice.

Work is still underway on my school project. I have started putting pen to paper and forming my thoughts and intellect into words for someone else to judge. There are only two classes left but it’s hard to keep myself motivated. I am on the final project and it has nothing to do with the remaining lectures. However, I still show up and do my best to learn what I can.

I finally got my acceptance from AODA to join their organization as a candidate. I have already started reading through their welcome material. I haven’t had much time to properly dig in and start making plans, but I’m getting the big picture right now, and details will follow. The goal is to finish in a year. Can I do it?

The first task that I am tackling is the request to spend 15 minutes a week in nature. Last week I went to Ghost lake and sat and watched the water with the mountains in the distance. This week, I took a nature trek to the famous so-called Grandfather tree here in Cochrane.

It is a mystical and powerful tree that’s tucked in beside a creek and rules over all the other trees around it. Here are some pictures from that trek:

The amazing part of this is that it’s only a two minute drive to get to this pathway. The tree itself is utterly mystical. The feeling of power and beauty that you feel when you stand near it is palpable. Honestly, it may be the most druid-y tree I have ever experienced. I can only imagine the energy that would be experienced if one were to do ritual work near it.

Unfortunately, there was a group of ten children camped out at its base, radiating in its glory, and I didn’t feel I could really stop and enjoy it myself. No complaints as it will be there for another day. I simply gathered myself and continued along the path for the rest of my walk. I enjoyed the poplar trees, beaver dams, and cute bridges along the way. I think the next time I will go extra early in the morning. Perhaps this will be on the summer solstice around 06:00 to celebrate the day with a few minutes of meditation.

I have two rituals to prepare: my initiation ritual and the summer solstice ritual. These have been received as part of the AODA welcoming package, but I’d like to simplify and modify. For example, instead of seven multicoloured candles, I’d rather just use one white candle. I’m also not a strong believer in physical tools like wands, knives, and cauldron. I have always believed that the human body, as part of nature, is the best tool around. However, I may decide to stick to the book at first. We shall see!

That’s where I will leave you today. It has actually been a good week, and I hope for the rest to be good too.

Hugs all around!

Odds and Ends

I finally managed to put in some solid work on a school project this morning. This one is looking at ways to compare identical data from two different databases in an attempt to evaluate the quality of the data itself. Man, does that ever sound dry now that I’m typing it out, and the truth is that it is dry, but for some reason it keeps my attention. Our professor offered to review ideas before we really dive in, so I’m going to send off the few thoughts I have tomorrow. I just want to read one more journal article first. Once this project is done and handed in, I’m a free man till September, so I’m keen to get’er done.

I’m listening to the second Barenaked Ladies album called Maybe You Should Drive. I have had a bit of a resurgence in my love of their old music. Their music, and especially their first album Gordon, makes me think of road trips and summer days. I remember blasting the cassette tape on my Walkman during long family vacations traveling around Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest. I would beg my parents to put it on the car’s main stereo, swearing they would enjoy it too. I attempted to appeal to their love of a cappella music and vocal harmonies, but no luck. It remained my secret.

Their album Gordon came onto the scene in 1992 with their hit songs Enid and This is Me in Grade Nine, and I was utterly obsessed. It was particularly apropos as I was in grade nine at the time. Secretly though, it was the jazzy Hello City, and the heart-breaking Brian Wilson that really captured my heart. They still do to this day, and I often listen to it as a sentimental favourite. It grounds and centres me.

The second album brings back a memory of being on my bike with my best friend Stanley, riding around the neighborhood aimlessly, purposely doing nothing in particular. Perhaps I had it on my Walkman while we rode, and the memory stuck. That was 1994, and by that time I would have been working as a dishwasher, driving a car (or almost), and wishing I could be older. If only that younger me knew how much I would look back from my 40s and wish I could be younger.

Their later albums, and especially their newest albums without Steven Page, just don’t offer the same sentimental appeal. They really captured some magic during their genesis.

I digress! This is not a post meant to fall into a vivid memory, or describe a younger self. It’s just an update. So, I’ll move on.

My friends are planning something super fun. We will be doing a table top role playing game called Star Trek Adventures. I have wanted to play this for years. We tried to get it off the ground previously but couldn’t find enough interest. Frankly, it’s still hard to find interest, but we managed to gather about six folks.

What it involves is a game master who writes an outline of a Star Trek story, and then a crew of a Federation Star ship who act out and improvise the details of the story. It’s like an open-ended choose-your-own-adventure story, where successes and failures are based on rolling certain numbers on a die. I get to be commander Frank Middlesmith, First Officer. It’s nerdy and delicious, and I’m definitely excited. We begin our adventures in July.

I took a quick drive to Ghost Lake on Friday. It really is starting to feel like the world is waking up and getting back to normal. It’s a bit of a dangerous feeling since COVID-19 is still a real threat, but going to a beautiful reservoir on a warm day with the mountains in the background and people enjoying all different types of flotation devices brings a small sense of normality.

On the way home, I bought some wine to enjoy over the weekend. All of it was from Bread and Butter Winery: a chardonnay, a cabernet sauvignon, and a pinot noir. I’ve had the pinot noir a number of times and I know I love it. The chardonnay was amazing! It was the first chardonnay that I have ever enjoyed. Now I just have the Cab Sauv to try. I have high expectations! I will be opening that to enjoy while watching 90 Day Fiance and eating steak this evening.

Life just keeps on puttering by. Soon it will be time for David to arrive and for our big trip to start. The route is mapped out and the hotels booked. I can’t wait to hit the road with some good music, a handsome man I love, and nothing but freedom and time.

Here’s are planned stops:

  1. Banff
  2. Penticton
  3. Victoria
  4. Tofino
  5. Vancouver
  6. Three valley Gap
  7. Home

I can’t wait to show David around and experience the absolute beauty and ruggedness of Western Canada together. I am still a bit worried about COVID and people’s perceptions of Albertans in BC. There have been reports of vandalized cars, nasty notes, and altercations involving Albertans traveling to BC. However, I believe that at some point, we just have to get going and start enjoying life. The problem is that we won’t know when the correct point was until we have the power of hindsight to inform us.

Memory of Memory

I just wanted to poke my head in today. I haven’t written for a few days, and I don’t want the habit to die. However, the lull was really because my last post took a lot of creative writing energy and editing time out of me. It was all worth it though as I know in the future I will be extremely happy to have that story there to read.

Strangely though, a few bits of timeline don’t match up now that I have spent a few days pondering them. For example, I’m starting to remember being back in Vancouver with Ed after the events I described, knowing that he was leaving, and being despondent that it was the last time I would see him. But I am also absolutely certain that the relationship was over soon after my trip to Portland/Washington. It’s amazing how memory can play tricks on you. I’m also starting to think there was another trip across the border, and is actually when I got my iPad, but this thought is so vague and weak, and contrary to other thoughts, that I can’t confirm or deny. This is a prime example of why it’s better to get memories on paper right away, rather than ten years later. On the flip side, having ten years of reflection adds texture to the memories.

Overall, the story is the truth, even if a couple details may be inadvertently in the wrong place. And it was a great “proof of concept” for me. I have so many dating and relationship stories from the last ten years, and I truly can’t wait to get them onto paper. Please stay tuned!

Last night I had a big presentation in my class. We were presenting and defending our evaluation idea for an electronic health record alert. The presentation went well, and we stayed in the approximately 15 minute time limit. Our presentation was simple, with bullet points and the required information.

Of course, the other two groups immediately showed us up. They had professional looking hand-crafted graphic details, user interface mock-ups, visio diagrams, and many other assorted fancy details. Furthermore, both of the other groups took over 30 minutes to present. I think we are going to get a great mark since we had all the required content, but it was clear that the other groups put more effort in to their presentations. The advantage they have is in the nearly double amount of time they used. This means they were able to add much more detail and description. I hope the professor recognizes the time issue and marks accordingly. However, you never know: I’ve have professors that gave better marks for those that made their work way too long, and I’ve had professors that slashed their marks.

All that’s left in this course is a large paper that is written solo. It’s basically a repeat of the presentation, but in an academic written format. I look forward to writing about my own thoughts and ideas, and on my own time.

In 16 days (not that I’m counting…but of course I am) I will be done both school and work for three weeks. Bryon is flying in from Toronto and we will be hitting the road for a two week road trip around BC and some lazy time here at home. We will be doing nights in Banff, Kelowna, Penticton, Victoria, Tofino, Vancouver, and Three-Valley Gap. I am more than ready and excited to put the frustrations of my life aside for some fun time with Bryon. I think it will be a good mix of both adventure and relaxation, with equal parts exploring cities and sitting on beaches. There will be wineries, gondolas, ferry boats, and more! I can’t wait!

I sadly haven’t heard back from the AODA about my application. I’m kind of sad as I’m excited to dive in a bit and start looking at their program and curriculum. Normally I’d be more anxious and impatient, but I have been nearly too busy to even think about it. It will come when it comes, and if it doesn’t in another week or so, perhaps I’ll poke them to see what’s up.

Things are starting to open up here in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are about to go to stage 2 of reopening in light of the fact that new cases have drastically dwindled (though oddly bumped up a bit in the last couple days). Soon, movie theatres, gyms, and much more will be opening back up. I’m honestly a little sad to get back to normal. Specifically, I am dreading the day when I will need to start going back to the office instead of working from home. I have truly and deeply been enjoying my new reality and routine. My work-life balance, or at least my idea of it, has been amazing. I can take a break to write a journal, step outside and fuss over my herbs for a few minutes, make lunch instead of bringing it or finding it, take a bit of time to do some schoolwork, and best of all, there is no commute. I’m actually hoping that my organization will realize that having everyone work from home didn’t make the sky fall and support it a bit more.

Well, I think that mostly brings everything up to date. That can mean only one thing: it’s time to get to work.

Darn it!