Saturday 09.14.2013

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I made it back safely from Toronto early yesterday morning.
Despite sleeping once Julia went to work I feel like I hit the ground running and am still trying to find my bearings being back home. Not in a bad way; the trip was cathartic to say the least and I’m in a much better place about Josh (and indirectly, Shannon) than when I left but I’m just feeling like I’m playing catchup with the real world. Catchup on sleep, on getting some time with my love and with work. It’ll all balance out in time and before I know it, Julia and I will be taking our first real couples adventure to Austin Texas for Halloween.

Until then: Toronto.

1235878_10201679923387359_1911299204_nToronto played a pretty major part in my life during the late 1990s all the way through the mid 2000s. With BME being based out of the city, I was up there a few times a year for event planning with Shannon, Modcons, Suscons, BMEfests, ModProms and just visiting I considered it a second home. As the years passed after Shannon sold BME I stopped traveling there and a city who’s streets I took for granted became somewhere I used to visit way back when. The decision to visit again was precipitated by making a last minute bus trip to the city to see a showing of Frank Pavich’s film JODOROWSKY’S DUNE at the Toronto International Film Festival. When I said I was going, I was mostly kidding; even though I love adventure the prospect of a 22hr round trip bus ride was daunting (Not as young as I used to be after all) and verging on irresponsible financially.

I’m not sure why I decided to go ahead and do it, but several hours after the trip was booked I was told about Josh’s passing. So soon after Shannon and I didn’t know what to think or feel. I rode down to pay my respects with Kathleen, Atom and Essie but was still left in a bit of a funk. Getting on a bus with no agenda other than seeing a movie and some old friends was the perfect way to clear my head. And it turned out to be much more than that. The city that was so familiar to me had changed; stores that I always stopped at were gone, replaced by chain monstrosities and thanks to my lack of data on the iPhone I discovered that there are 151 Starbucks locations in Toronto. I stopped at a fair number of them to be able to get on KIK or Facebook to chat with Julia, who’s presence I was sorely missing.

I spent more at Starbucks in three days than I have in my previous 39 years. Towards the end of my trip I finally stopped buying hot chocolates, chai teas or bottled waters; I became ‘that guy’ and just walked in, sat down, got online and chatted up my lady, made plans with friends and suckled the teat of tethered smart devices for a spell. Instead of asking me to leave the friendly kids who worked there often approached me with a cup of icewater and a smile, completing my theory that they may be Disney-made drones incapable of any disharmony.

The movie was AMAZING. Capital AH. Mazing. I have mixed feelings about the potential of a DUNE directed by Jodorowsky (admittedly my favorite filmmaker) but the documentary on it’s attempt earned a spot in my 2013 top five (more documentaries. Weird.) and absolutely justified the time I spent on a bus to see it. Synchronicity- my old friend- was with me, placing me behind the film’s director for the screening. After it ended I introduced myself and told him about my insane busride to catch his flick. He was elated- calling me out from the stage and asking me to stay after the screening to say hello. Which we did, shooting the breeze about my interactions with Jodo (coincidentally enough based on Shannon asking me to contact him about documenting ModCon) and our love of his films and life.

Things just worked organically for me the whole trip; walking down the street to see a smiling Phil Barbosa waiting for me by the theater, catching up with Evan and his friend for the documentary, seeing Jason and Silas, being hosted by the kindest personal assistant I’ve ever had and finally a full day catching up with Badur; who’s company and conversation really gave me some much needed perspective on loss, change and being the people we were meant to be.  I spent my days wandering the city, taking pictures of graffiti, eating poutine, revisiting old haunts that held memories good and bad and even visiting Shannon’s old Bathurst house and getting a little closure on his suicide. Instead of the home away from home that Toronto used to be, I blissfully found myself a tourist, free of the weight on my psyche that I brought up with me. My BME years are finished, that chapter closed. I met some of the best and worst people in my life through it and while I’ll continue the friendships I made through it and possibly keep up writing about Body Modification for Modblog (or not) or other Body Mod publications I feel like I can finally say goodbye to that part of my life.

1240303_10201679969388509_715786015_nI’m not the me I was the last time I walked down Bathurst street. I’m not even sure I’m the me I was when I got on the bus headed North. I’m happy to be in flux, always learning better ways to deal with things- even when those things are the suicides of people I love- always learning about who I am and who I want to be. Through it all I kept feeling like something was missing and as I sucked down one more Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate at the interchangeable Starbucks location I was sitting in at any given time I realized that what I was missing was home.

Home is Julia with her sly smile and heart full of unconditional love. Home is Mr. Bailey Papers, tail wagging and snaggletooth snaggling. Home is where I go when bad things happen, when people I thought were tougher than me ended up being twice as fragile and who did something I’ll never understand. I realized that I don’t have to have an adventure to have an adventure; that clearing my head can be attained with talking to Julia instead of holding it in and waiting for my next bus, plane or cab.  As my bus rolled into Philadelphia I was glad that I made the trip but I was even happier to be home.

A very special thanks to Sarah, Badur, Phil, Evan, Frank and Jason for putting me up, and putting up with me.  I’m very lucky to have the people in my life that I do and the next time I find myself in Toronto it will be just because; not as an escape, but to see the family that I have waiting up there.

 

 

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Monday 09.09.2013

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The Toronto/TIFF trip couldn’t have been better timed.
Since finding out about Josh last week I’ve (understandably) been in a weird mood and the idea of just disappearing into adventure is a really welcome thought. Julia has been amazing and supportive; Kathleen, Atom and Essie were great travel companions to his visitation and Katie a welcome shoulder to lean on but I need to step out of my head for a few days and worry about bus schedules, customs visits, getting around in a city without GPS and the prospect of disregarding all of my planning and just letting the trip organically evolve into something really rad. I’m not sure I’ll ever make sense of the whole situation, but I’m ok with not having to. Josh loved me with all of my flaws, and I’ll pay him the same respect by being able to get past his.

jodogunsWhen I booked the ticket I didn’t really have much planned aside from seeing JODOROWSKY’S DUNE, but looking at the TIFF schedule I might try to catch a few more films, time constraints and budget considered. There are a lot of stellar movies being screened, though I’ll miss most of them due to scheduling. Still though, there are some ones worth seeing so I hope it all works out. Same with seeing friends; Toronto used to be such a big part of my life when Shannon was still doing events up there. Brian, Bucket, Scot… we’d jump in the car, on a plane, didn’t matter how but we’d get there for some party, any party. Surgical events, suspension meetups, modification proms, bbqs and a few just because trips, we were up there a few times a year for a few years and then things just sort of shifted. It’ll be weird to wander down Bathurst and not swing by to see Shannon but the friendships I made through him include more than a few locals who I’ll be very happy to spend some time with.

Life is so surreal and strange and beautiful.

I always promise to try to update from the road, but this time I’m not going to bother. I hope to have a new collection of stories when I return; of conversations with strangers on an 11hr busride, of getting lost then found again in Toronto, of visions of DUNE, poutine and Tim Hortons…

See you when I get back, Internet.

Photos: Main- Canadian Currency with Emperor Palpatine, El Topo (inset)

Monday 09.02.2013

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It’s really easy for me to be super PMA when everything in my life is going well; to say that life will be full of ups and downs and you have to take them both as they come, accepting the hardships with the wins and trying to remain graceful regardless of what life hands you. But when they hand you something so heartbreaking.. what do you do?

A friend of mine, someone who’s been a presence in my life for going on 20 years, died on Sunday. I spoke to a mutual friend around midnight and then started the all too familiar process of getting in touch with people who I didn’t want to read about it second hand on Facebook when they woke up this morning. That’s been such a weird side effect of social networking; using the deceased’s wall to post farewells often before relatives and close friends even know that the person has passed away. I didn’t want people who knew and loved him to log on and just see it there in black and white, so I made the calls I needed to make, hugged Julia tight and let the reality sink in that another friend, another old friend, is no longer with us.

obmf1When I woke up this morning, there it was. Sometimes you have to take the bad with the good. Sometimes no matter how heartbreaking you have to count your blessings, accept that you can’t change it and be thankful for what you have. In this case, I have my health. I have an amazing partner who supports me, loves me unconditionally and who always knows just what to say to make things better. I have a friendship that lasted decades with an amazing man who had a capacity to love that was unrivaled. And while he’s no longer with us… I’m very thankful that I got to spend the time with him that I did and for the memories of him that I’ll carry with me.

I wrote a little piece about him for Modblog; if you feel like checking it out, please do.

“i had a dream a while back. in it, i met myself. the me that i met greeted the dream me in a way that i often greet people, with hands raised together as if in prayer, a sign of coming in peace. in this dream, the other me had scars shaped like arrows on the heels of his hands. one pointing up, one pointing down. i woke from the dream with this image burned into my mind. over time, the symbolism became clear to me…

as above, so below. the sacred and the profane. heaven and earth. good and evil. black and white. brain and body. what goes up, must come down. there are a million examples and ways to describe the idea, but it all comes back to balance. none of these things would exist without the other. they may occupy opposite ends of a spectrum, but they are inextricably linked to each other. my goal is to maintain that balance in my life. to have one foot in each world. these scars will remind me of that.

I’ve tried, all day, to practice what I preach. I’ve been mostly successful, thanks to texts, emails and messages from friends who miss him as much as I do, who are as confused and as sad as I am. Seeing an outpouring of love- local news in DC doing stories on him, twitter and facebook abuzz… showed me just how much of an impact he made on so many people’s lives. He lived a life worth living, a genuine life, and while I’m heartbroken that it was cut so short, I’ll always be thankful that he was my friend.

I’ve been crazing another adventure; Vegas for APP, San Diego for Comic Con, San Fran just because.. I’ve been lucky this year to be able to travel, to get on the road and to give in to synchronicity again…  so I decided on a whim to take a bus ride to Toronto next week to see a movie. 22hrs on a bus, 1000 miles round trip to see a two hour movie. Nonsensical and impractical, just for the sake of ADVENTURE. I booked it several hours before being told about Josh’s passing and it couldn’t have come at a better time. A backpack, a passport and no agenda other than seeing a documentary means three days in one of my favorite cities, means seeing old friends who I don’t see nearly enough, means taking that even when things seem so dark you can make your own light.

“Life is short, Break the Rules.
Forgive quickly, Kiss SLOWLY.
Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably
And never regret ANYTHING
That makes you smile.” – Mark Twain

Photo: Altar at Julia’s.