All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…

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July 2000: Garabaldi, British Columbia

For those of you who missed out on my stream of consciousness last night, I shall recap. The last few weeks have not been the easiest in recent memory. A lot of painful memories have been triggered that threaten to send me back into a depressive episode, and with the encroaching anniversary of a day I refer to as ‘the day I should have died’ (October 11) I’ve been left a bit nervous about this week.

It brings to mind an old saying:

I’ve never liked how my mind throws me back into the events of five years ago during this time of year and I’ve always pushed hard to not allow those events to destroy me, which leaves only strength. And the only way to strengthen myself against the memories that are flooding me is to try trick my mind into thinking about other things instead.

Given I’ve never been one who likes to ‘force happiness’ (I much prefer people being honest about their emotions) I’m not sure how my decision to write about things that make me smile will work. But if it helps dissipate the approaching dark cloud, I’m willing to give it a shot. After all, the only things better than pain are pleasure and walking the tightrope between the two.

When I look back on my life one of the happiest periods was my time backpacking in Canada. For three glorious months in 2000 I travelled the breadth of this great land and experienced many things I’d never tried before; I ate strawberries for the first time, allowed a tarantula to crawl over my hand, purchased my first book of naughty fiction from an amused woman in a Halifax adult store and, in a slightly odd moment of my life when I bent down to cuddle a rabbit in a petting zoo, a goat mistook my muscular back for a rocky outcrop and leapt on top of it – much to the hilarity of a friend who was with me.

Another of the ‘first time’ things I did in Canada was sleep in a tent with a beautiful woman beside me. In fact this happened on three separate occasions in Canada, which may not sound like much, but for the socially-anxious panic strewn man I was at the time (wow, how things have changed!) this was a major happy-dance worthy breakthrough.

The third of these occasions was with Annie during the final weekend I spent with her. Eager to show me some of the more breathtaking parts of British Columbia she took me on a weekend to Whistler where we camped for two nights.

The first night there we had dinner at a restaurant in town, where I sampled Beaver Tails for the first (and only) time whilst bitching about the grotesque cigar smoke an American was suffocating us with. Upon returning to the tent I was ordered to avert my eyes whilst she stripped down into her pyjamas and however much I would like to admit to a naughty glance, I was a dutiful gentleman and didn’t peek until she informed me it was safe to do so.

The next morning we woke early, packed up the equipment we’d need (cameras, energy food, day packs, pants that made our asses look spectacular) and headed off for the Garibaldi Lake Trail.

Arriving mid-morning we parked the car and thanked the heavens for providing us with such a perfect day. The sun beat down on us from a bright blue sky devoid of even a single wispy cloud. Birds frolicked and sang in the forest around us and, although I didn’t spot any, I’m sure the odd bear was loping around in blissful ignorance of the two (frankly) hot people about to stroll up the mountain.

Black Tusk © Addy

My overriding memories of the day are four-fold:

1) How stunning the scenery was. It would not be an understatement to describe the vistas I saw during this hike as the most beautiful I have ever seen. In fact, I would recommend you add this hike to your list of things to do before you tumble off the mortal coil.

2) The fear that overcame us when we noticed a trail of red leading through the snow. It seriously looked like a vicious animal – possibly a bear, possibly an abominable snowman – had attacked some unsuspecting hiker and then dragged their prey through the snow for a late afternoon snack. Of course, we found out later that it was in fact a fungal growth and not blood at all, but believe me, it seriously looked like blood!

Garabaldi Lake Trail © Addy

3) Upon reaching Garibaldi Lake I had decided to hurl myself into the waters to continue my rather odd campaign of swimming in every body of water I visited in Canada. In fact, for the week prior to this, I had stripped down for oceans, lakes, rivers and bathtubs whenever the opportunity had arisen.

However, upon inspection of the lake it was concluded if I did take a dip it would most likely had led to pneumonia and/or immediate death considering it was sub-zero in temperature, so I didn’t. Though I still protest it wasn’t as cold as Loch Sheil or Loch Ness!

4) How comfortable I was in Annie’s company. Again, this may sound a bit pathetic to most, but through my life I have always felt heightened anxiety around women – especially those I fancy. In fact the only thing worse than my anxiety around women is my anxiety around men!

The moment I met Annie I was enamored with her; but for the first time in my life I felt virtually no anxiety around her. And the more time I spent with her, the more comfortable I became. Even when massaging sun-tan lotion onto her bikini clad body or cuddling under a blanket listening to the Vancouver Folk Festival (too situations that always lead to anxiety and panic because of the intimacy involved) I felt nothing but an overwhelming sense of awesomeness.

So to on that day; from waking up to her sleeping face centimeters from my own, through the playful slaps she’d give me in the car if I told a terrible joke, to the ongoing conversation through the hike, being around her – for the first time in my life – felt like the most natural thing in the world. A feeling I have only felt twice since.

By the time we returned to the campsite we were both exhausted. Struggling to ignite the fire I decided to use the socks I’d been wearing all day; an action that made me realize rancid socks are quite possibly the most flammable substance known to humankind! And after chilling in front of the fire for a short while we retired to the tent where, after being a gentleman once again, we began a random – somewhat flirtatious – game of I went to Women’s Ware (an adult store near where she lived) and bought… (i.e. you said this sentence and then added an item, then the next person said the same sentence, the item said, and then added another, and then you continued until the list is so long someone forgets and the other person wins!) So I went to sleep dreaming of strawberry scented lube, vibrators, lingerie, ribbed condoms, handcuffs, paddles and the beautiful woman sleeping beside me.

I still dream of that weekend to this day. Three days jam-packed with laughter, smiles, happiness, intelligent, playful conversation and a sense of bliss I’ve barely been able to replicate since :)

Annie and I, July 2000 © Addy (edited to protect identities)

Movies that make me smile #1: Strange Brew

“This movie was shot in 3B – three beers – and it looks good, eh?”

When I arrived in Vancouver to spend the week with Annie she was having a particularly tough day. Her friend had gone into labor the evening before, her boyfriend was leaving for a few days and she was busy preparing for a move to Seattle. As such, the first day I was at her house she was elsewhere, leaving me to entertain myself with a video she owned and recommended; an odd little Canadian comedy I had never in my life heard of. A movie that I absolutely laughed my ass off over!

It’s been a while since I saw this movie (not the easiest title to find in Australia) but just thinking about it breaks me into a random giggling fit.

Books that make me smile #1: The Hotel New Hampshire (John Irving)

“Human beings are remarkable – at what we can learn to live with. If we couldn’t get strong from what we lose, and what we miss, and what we want and can’t have, then we couldn’t ever get strong enough, could we?”

Throughout my blog, I have written at length of my deep affection for this book. From the moment I read it I adored it and every subsequent read since has only strengthened my love for this majestic novel. Annie, the week I first met her, was the person who brought it to my attention and I picked it up in a second-hand bookshop in Edmonton to read on the long train journey across the prairies to Toronto. It’s a book that’s locked in a time and place; whenever I think about it, I remember Annie, and Canada, and how happy I was during that time of my life.

Songs that make me smile #1: Little Plastic Castle (Ani DiFranco)

“They say goldfish have no memory, I guess their lives are much like mine, and the little plastic castle is a surprise every time. And it’s hard to say if they’re happy but they don’t seem much to mind,”

I’d never heard of Ani DiFranco until Annie played one of her CDs whilst we were driving around the back roads of Alberta. Since then I have listened to every one of her albums, memorized half a dozen songs and introduced this fantastic musician to dozens of Di Franco virgins. If you have yet to encounter her, you really should listen to this; if you’re already a fan, just kick back and enjoy a song that always puts a smile on my face.

“Keep passing the open windows,”