New(ter)castle

Posted by jswt | Posted in Australia - Newcastle, General | Posted on 23-07-2011

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Newcastle, Australia is an industrial town where the industry has left. It rained hard the whole time. There’s a pretty ocean pool that’s not pretty in the rain. There’s a godawful gay bar where one of the drag queens cramped up and collapsed in the middle of karioke, which was the highlight of the week. It was a good week for getting over jetlag and catching up on work. That’s the only nice thing I have to say about it.

(Bad enough, I didn’t even take any photos this week)

The highlight of the city was un-city related in that I got a ride here from Sydney from Chris’ sister L… we had a lovely visit, i got schooled on modern coffee, and had a great jetlaggy chat the whole way. Looking fwd to seeing her the next few weeks while we’re in Sydney, almost as much as I’m looking fwd to getting my train out of here in a couple hours…

Stag Party – Round 2: NYC

Posted by jswt | Posted in General, USA - New York - NYC | Posted on 12-07-2011

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A few weeks prior, my old friend P had given me a bit of a heads up only to the extent that I needed to have my passport on hand and to keep the weekend free. So after a week of letting my liver relax and recover back in Vancouver, I did as I was told and on Thursday night I found myself alone and boarding a plane bound for New York City.

I arrived in Newark, and texted for my next instruction which got me on the train to Penn Station. I exited the station about 11pm and was greeted by a mischievous smirk from my buddy A who’d been at my stag in Vancouver the weekend before and I had no idea he had any involvement with this weekend’s plans. He took me up the escalator, outside into the hustle and bustle of NYC at night, when I was surrounded by hugs from all side. TA was there from the interior of BC, MW was there from Kitchner, PR and CG had strategized this ordeal from Vancouver, and most surprisingly, my buddy DC had flown in from Austin, Texas for a weekend break from biking around the world. For those who don’t know them, these are some of the best bad influences a guy could ever have (Also of amusing note is that I was the only fag/fudgepacker/homo/cocksmoker/etc in the group).

Within 2 seconds, I was being force fed 4Loco energydrink/12% malt liquor/candy hell in a can.

Within 3 minutes of arriving in NYC we were having our ID taken away by the NYPD.

They checked us for warrants, gave us our ID back, told us not to drink in the streets anymore and laughed as they told us to have a good weekend.

A quick cab to the hotel, a change into something more NYC appropriate, and we were rolling out into the night which became a wickedly hazy blur of rounds in dive bars, shots, sex shop VCR cleaning, afghani delis with salad crotches and stupidhotpeppers, gracious burner hippies from Maui, and sleazy gay bars in the village before we ended up back at the hotel crashing out around 6am.

Around noon on Friday morning we all met up and wandered off for some touristy wanderings and Central Park chillout before afternoon snacks of empanadas and sangria. Rainclouds had unleashed a full on thunderstorm, so we cabbed back to the hotel for a siesta. Around 10 we suited up in full force, had a few rounds and rolled out for our reservations at Buddakan for an over the top fantastic tasting menu in a gorgeous room. Around 2 when we finished up, we wandered around looking for some action (“7 dudes can’t get into a club in NYC on a Friday night without paying for table service? who’d have thought!”) before hitting the fallback dive bars, and being somewhat let down that “the city that never sleeps” does actually seem to shut down about 4am [Really NYC? C’mon now]. Unpublishable street antics led us back to the hotel where we had a few rounds before heading to bed about 6.

Saturday afternoon there were some varied plans, so we split into easier to travel groups and me and some boys rolled down to ground zero and soho for a bit. I ended up getting a text from my buddy M who’d been in Vancouver a few months back – ends up him and his bf M were in NYC for the weekend as well, so I left my buddies to shop for their wives in soho and met up with M&M for a few drinks at a kickass whisky bar (Appetizer of the Decade: Bowl of Bacon w/ side of maple syrup and ranch dressing). I’d never had the chance to meet M, but we caught up real fast, and it was a great hangout before they headed off to catch some theatrics.

I caught up with some of the guys back at the hotel, and we headed towards Central Park where a dj we liked was scheduled to play a free festival/show. The police were in the process of shutting it down as we walked up [Really NYC? C’mon now], so we talked our way into some wristbands for the after-party later that night and wandered off to a dive bar for rounds of PBR, popper pool and fat-retarded-hipster-hunting(™). The rest of the guys met up with us as it was getting dark, so we had some greasy deli grub and headed back to the hotel for a quick change and a few bottles, and as a full crew we rolled out…

Rather than heading for an uppity club with a moody lineup and stupid table service fees, we went straight to the heart of the matter and ended up on the rooftop of the seedy homo-haunt staple The Eagle just as it was starting to fill up. M&M came down to meet us, and while some of the guys sat with their backsides safely up against the wall, the locals were friendly, chatty and good-naturedly grabby. My guys had worked out that since I’d already thrown so much non-refundable cash into the wedding that if my fiance were to suddenly die, I’d still have to have the wedding, and they were incredibly helpful in their efforts to find an understudy. Unfortunately though, no one quite compared, and the search proved in vain.

After a head on encounter with a light post, dumpster Alize, convenience store barrages, crackhead punch-ups and some demonstrations of lack of street smarts, we ended up at the after-hours for the afternoon party and rocked out some decent house music in a little loft space. Lost most of the guys along the way, but had a great post-bar walk and talk with C thru Union Square till we found a diner and loaded up on waffles and vitamin B(acon). Crawled into bed around 6, woke up at 9:30 (thanks redbull!) and went out by myself and just grabbed some breakfast and hung out in Times Square for a few hours before it was time to bid some very very fond farewells, and head for the airport for the flights home.



Looking forward to returning to NYC for a more civilized and under the hood visit one day, but as far as good ole’ piss-ups with the boys go, that was one of the finer weekends I may ever experience.

My friends are grown up and scattered across the globe. Our lives don’t overlap very often. I’m on the road 70% of the year, and friendships are no longer maintained by accident or for the sake of convenience. But there’s friendships that don’t turn off, no matter where the bodies go. I’ll say again the lesson gleaned these past couple weekends about how much I feel blessed to have such seriously good friends in my life, and how much it means to have them put in the effort to celebrate past and futures together. Well, that, and the lesson that I owe my liver some downtime 😉

[Addendum in retrospect: Neither of these stags ever entered the usual realm of “the sendoff” – you know that one big final hurrah before the deathveil of marriage lands upon the groom… Instead they were both presented as a celebration of the past, and what’s to come. I think they all clued into what I’ve been feeling in my heart which isn’t really nervousness at all – just a excited and contented sense that things are as they should be.]

Stag Party – Round 1: Vancouver

Posted by jswt | Posted in Canada - Vancouer | Posted on 02-07-2011

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This post is the first in a combination of two events from the past couple weekends that fit together and are somewhat inseparable: my stag. I’m getting married in September, and have been blessed enough to have such wonderfully thoughtful friends (or just a bunch of drunk lushes looking for any excuse to party) that there were two parties organized: one at home, and one destination/kidnapping.

The first weekend happened in Vancouver, and I was picked up the day after Canada Day about noon with a mystery bag of tricks bag packed for me by my partner, a rental vehicle, and zero knowledge of what was to come. We made the rounds and picked up more friends along the way until the car was packed with me and 5 familiar faces that I’ve known for many years. The laughs started immediately, and I mentioned that even if the day were to consist of nothing more than us driving around, it would’ve been perfect. This was echoed by icy stares and the ominous statement that “you have no idea”.

It’d been a long cold spring, and July 2nd was the first day of the year in Vancouver where the sun had come out in full force, and we weren’t alone as the boys brought me to our first stop: Vancouver’s legendary clothing optional Wreck Beach. We lugged a bbq and supplies down the stairs, found an amazing spot with some shade under some trees, and got into the spirit of the day. Not long after settling in, C decided to reveal the 20lb weight attached to a metal chain and a vicious metal gauntlet, which was quickly clasped to my leg, locked, and the key thrown into the ocean. I may not have been the first impending bachelor to have this strapped on, but I was the first to have it done while not wearing pants. It didn’t take long to remove a good layer of skin, but luckily the boys had thought ahead to bring enough libations to numb the pain. At 2pm hippy-time (see: 3pm-‘ish’) some of us joined in for the “world’s largest skinny dip” attempt, which I have to recommend against while wearing a 20lb weight. After a few hours on the beach full of laughter, bacon, an unsafe bbq fire (the paint was flammable? made in china? who guessed?), and maybe some possibly illicit explosive charges planted in watermelons, it was time for us to climb back up the stairs (again – yay 20lb weight!) and continue on with the adventure.

We drove to Kits beach and had a quick rinse and cleanup at the pool, some additional friends showed up and joined us for a kickass japanese tapas meal at Hapa Izikayah. We laughed, had unexpectedly highbrow conversation, ate horse tartare, and drank the perfect amount of shots and Hello Kitty drinks (which put a decided low end twist to the highbrow chatter). At one point, I looked around the table and realized that I’d known every one of those guys for at least 10 years (most more than 15) and heartfeltedly toasted the fact that I’m lucky to have so many damn good friends/drunken bastards in my life.

After dinner, the clouds had rolled in and a light rain had begun when we moved across the street to the beach, had another friend show up, and the martini shakers start up for a waterfront cocktail party as the sun faded away and the night lit up.

Back in the car (yes – the driver was well designated) we were heading downtown when my buddy B, who was sitting beside me on the middle bench, said that he needed to hit a gas station to grab something. He hopped out of the vehicle, and we continued the buoyant banter while he was inside. When the door opened and he got back in, I looked over to say something to B, and realized that he was no longer quite himself, but had taken the form of a mime gesturing into a banana. My intoxicated friends continued on with our conversation without so much as a stutter, and I was doing my best to process this strange state of mimeness when B hopped back in the vehicle on the other side of the black and white addition. B told the driver we were good to go downtown, that he’d gotten what he needed, and continued our conversation where we had left off, but I was rather distracted.

For the next few hours, the 8 of us continued to drink heavily and enjoy some of Gastown’s finest offerings, while my friends continued to make absolutely no mention of the very mimelike mime swimming on the hood of our vehicle while using his umbrella as a snorkel, dancing on lampposts, fake-peeing in alleys with us… Zero. Mention. At. All. They didn’t miss a beat. The only recurring question was along the lines of “why are you so distracted? I’m talking to you!”, which does tend to happen when you’re constantly looking over your shoulder watching a mime and beginning to question reality, your sanity, and maybe what your friends may have slipped in your drink at the beach.

The mime did suddenly disappear during the hazy course of the memories that followed: Gastown drinking, tapas bars in Blood Alley, lovely australians, choreographed backup dancing for a woman singing about the unfortunate overlap of cunnilingus and spearmint gum… all while still carrying that goddamn 20lb weight.

Sometime around 2am, we were at another bar when we hit the inevitable point of the “last wise drink” when my friends made a call that clinched the night: a limo arrived to take me home, and we ended the night not with a fizzle, but on the perfect high note.

Gentlemen, to you I tip my hats for that, and the entire rest of a perfect celebratory day in Vancouver.