I had the chance to get away in November. Getting away is good for everyone, and I really needed it. My rock-solid friends, Amin and Gary, invited me to stay with them in Vancouver. And they gave me the grand tour. Food, hiking, biking, strolling, arts, cooking, shopping and exploring. We didn’t slow down but to sleep at night, and it was a magnificent gift. Following is Part 1 in a series of journal excerpts from the long weekend away.
Day 1. Midday on the West Coast. Lifting off the ground in Seattle, going up, up, up, the land spreads out beneath this tiny propeller plane into which I’m buckled, as if it would matter. Evergreen trees are everywhere. Enormous snow-capped mountains spike in the distance. It’s been so long since I’ve seen mountains. And, looking upon the green expanse of this coffee-grunge-granola-technology Mecca, the soundtrack in my head is na-na-na-na. na-na-na-na-na-na. (the theme from Singles, natch. Second favorite movie of my teenage years. Stealing Beauty was first. Laugh at me now.) I’m on my way to Vancouver, British Columbia, and into the arms of my friends, Amin and Gary.
Day 2. Early morning in Vancouver. The sky is gradually brightening out my floor-to-ceiling window and, from where I’m propped in this perfect, fluffy guestroom bed, I see the outline of the mountains slowly appearing against the sky. Vancouver is still mostly quiet.
I just meditated for nearly 45 minutes, which is rare for a mom of two who sleeps till the last possible moment before heaving out of bed to get the kids ready for school. Oh, how I adore the fact that, right now, I’m in a 24th floor palace of peace staring at mountains, twinkling city lights and Vancouver Bay, no one expecting me to do anything or be anywhere any time soon.
Inexplicably, I feel amazing, although I drank a strong cocktail and proceeded to eat so, so much Indian food at Vij’s that I couldn’t even finish off the most exquisite thing I may have ever put in my mouth: A masterfully seared lamb lollipop caramelized on the outside, only to reveal tender pink perfection to the tooth, all finished with a thick, homey sauce of spiced tomatoes, cream and magic.
Before dinner, Amin and I split a bottle of red while talking at his kitchen counter. I stood, he sat and we conversed from either side of his pristine granite island, sipping, sharing and laughing till we couldn’t breathe. What is it about kitchen counters? We stand around them for almost everything. Someone comes for tea; we perch on stools in my kitchen. There’s a sensitive story to tell; come on back to the kitchen. Charlie has homework; he does it in the kitchen. One kid has a meltdown; it starts in the kitchen. Parties congregate in the kitchen. The best smells in the house originate in the kitchen. A difficult conversation, it almost always unfolds in the kitchen.
Brian and I have been standing in the kitchen a lot lately. We’re connecting at a deeper, more authentic, more vulnerable level than in any year prior to this one, and a lot of it has happened in the kitchen. I’m grateful we have a kitchen because where else would we stand and talk and troubleshoot and sort and explain and ask and tell and share and hug and cry and laugh and make sense of things and make plans and feel all of it and be ok, if not better, afterward?
There’s the living room couch, I suppose. But couches feel so serious. If you’re asked to sit down so you can talk, it’s about to get real. The couch is for cutting to the chase. Couch conversations end with huge hugs, if you’re lucky, and swollen eyes either way. I prefer kitchens.
This trip was plotted so I could refortify. Gain some space from everyday life, get out into nature and somehow relight my pilot light. Amin’s kitchen counter was just the place to start.
Amin is a sociology professor and author of an acclaimed book, There Goes the Gayborhood?, for which he interviewed Brian and me years ago. It was our first meeting. We felt like we knew each other the moment we met and, in years since, we’ve grown close. He has a deliciously raucous past and a rich present, the balance of which make him ecumenical in word, thought and deed, erstwhile emotionally unattached to the words, thoughts and deeds of others. He has a lush inner life, a gorgeous way of seeing the world, a cunning sense of humor, intuitive knowing to beat the band, a cellular awareness of Spirit, killer dance moves, washboard abs and a fine talent for mixology.
Being with Amin is equal parts stimulating, relaxing, playful, easy and fun. We might jump—as we did while driving from his office at University of British Columbia to downtown Vancouver with his convertible top down in 40-degree temps because the sun was setting, the sky was huge, the air smelled like eucalyptus and he wanted me to take it all in—from discussing gender normative behaviors to cranking up dance club remixes and from geeking out about poutine to asking for each other’s insight on recent psychic visions. In the span of five minutes, we might cover 86 topics, and then linger a while longer on an entirely different topic before jumping to and from endless thought lily pads all over again.
Already, following an evening of eucalyptus air, beautiful food, awesome conversation, deep sleep and a sense of total acceptance, I can feel my bones draining of their heaviness, my heart relishing its new lightness, my personality remembering its playfulness. Vancouver medicine. Friend medicine. Oh, travel, I’ve missed you.