dearly beloved

As we age, we’re starting to come to terms with our mortality. Verdict: it sucks. After a conversation in which our Friend Collective all admitted to not having any sort of formal will or care documents, we decided to dedicate one of our Dinner Club evenings to doing exactly that: writing up our wills and dictating what we want to happen should we be faced with an end-of-life situation. It’s easy to say “I don’t want to live hooked up to machines”, but unless that’s actually written down and notorized somewhere, you too could become the subject of an invasive national debate regarding gawd’s great plan vs your own bodily autonomy. It’s no secret that I long for my 15 minutes, but not like this. Never like this.

So, armed with laptops and Indian take-out, we started writing up our wills. That was the easy part. Everything goes to our spouses to deal with (sorry Ed). All of my belongings are truly awesome, but I can’t think of anything in particular that anyone else would like to own over my literal dead body. This is your cue, by the way: if you want any of my junk, let me know. I will gladly bequeath the World’s Dirtiest Smutton (or any other specific item I own) to a random internet person – one less thing for Ed (or his cousin: sorry, Cliff) to deal with.

The living will portion of the night was more difficult. I don’t talk about it often because a girl’s gotta have SOME secrets, but I am terrified of death and all associated topics. I can very easily work myself up into a complete state of panic by thinking about Ed or myself being all dead and shit. Hell, even writing that out was difficult. I’m grateful that we wrote the documents as a group, because I wouldn’t have been able to get a single paragraph in before I dissolved into a weepy mess. It also helped that Shan, who is clearly a more advanced adult than the rest of us, already had her living will written up and notorized, so we could cannibalize some of the wording when it got too difficult to be auto-eloquent.

Unfortunately, a living will is a document with words .. and I am 100% unable to be reverent in any situation, ESPECIALLY ones where I am scared and awkward as fuck. I started out with good intentions, borrowing the Official Death Wording in Shan’s legal document so I had a base to work from (the end-of-life documentation I am more familiar with is not applicable in this situation, unfortunately). Then .. well, it all went to hell. It didn’t help that the others assured me that this is a legal document dictating my wishes should the unforeseen become seen, no one but me can write it, and what I say goes.

My living will is mostly normal. Some parts of it are not. If nothing else, I hope that my executor (which is not pronounced like “executioner”, I learned) will smile through the inevitable tears (because they are required to be devastated, it’s in the documentation) when they look into my final wishes, only to have to read through the long-winded and spectacularly-Kimli section on the state of bionic technology and cryogenics and the possibility of turning me into a slightly-less-evil version of GLaDOS. I should probably tone down some of the sarcasm in the document overall, but this is my one chance to do it my way. If I’m already picky and weird about how I do things, it’s only natural that it carry through to the very end. If that means someone is going to be tasked with making me a fabulous glitter death mask, so be it. These are my final wishes. Ignore them, and I will haunt the shit out of you.

I’m still not okay with any of this, but if I have to go, I hope I’ll be remembered as someone who tried to make it all fun.

bless the rains

Ever since my friend Lani told me about a whirlwind trip to Marrakech, it’s been on my mind. Last year, when I learned we (well, Ed) would be going to Barcelona for the conference, I put on my planning hat and did what I do moderately well: start planning a complicated trip. I like planning things. When I don’t have any plans brewing, I get anxious and cranky.

Several spreadsheets later, I had drawn up a couple of different itineraries that would take us to Marrakech. Going to Madrid was sort of an afterthought – as we’d already done Barcelona, I really wanted to go somewhere new. It was also cheaper to fly to Morocco from Madrid than it was from Barcelona, AND we’d get to take the train. It was a solid, if somewhat convuluted, plan.

On Monday, Ed and I woke up early to grab some breakfast and get to the airport. The flight to Marrakech was only two hours or so, and it went by fairly quickly. Our flight landed on the tarmac, so when I tripped down the stairs I got my very first view of an entirely new place:

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i never said it was a GOOD first view

I had been worried (because it’s what I do) about two specific things when landing in Marrakech: how do I get money, and how do I get internet. These two things were literally addressed within the first ten feet after exiting passport control: there were two booths set up with girls offering free SIM cards, and data at about €1/GB. €20 later, Ed and I were armed with 10GB of internet each for three days, which is probably enough.

Getting cash was simple, as well. The Moroccan currency is the dirham, 1 of which is around $0.14 CDN/$0.10 USD. Two large kiosks were set up in the airport: one for cash exchanges, and one for credit cards. A short queue later, we were on our way to the taxi stand with a fistful of dirham so Ed could try to haggle his way into town (it didn’t work – taxis are pretty much the only way out of the airport, so they’re pretty firm on the price. Getting back to the airport cost a great deal less.).

Because this was our first trip into new territory, we didn’t have any grand plans to explore outside of the Red City. Our taxi dropped us off outside the medina, and gave us vague directions to our riad – most of the hotels and inns in the centre of Marrakech are within the cramped, twisty walls of the old city, and cabs cannot get you there. It wasn’t a far walk, and it gave us some ample gawking time at the activity buzzing all around us.

We reached Riad Jona (picked at random) around 3pm, and I was delighted to see that the riad closely resembled my only previous experience with Moroccan architecture – the second level of the video game No One Lives Forever. The staff sat us down in the lounge, and prepared Moroccan mint tea and cookies for us to enjoy while we filled out some paperwork:

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just like the videogame!

We got a full tour of the riad while our bags were taken to our room, then were given some tips on how to navigate Marrakech. This was super useful and provided the answers to a lot of questions that we had, so we really appreciated it. It was also explained to us that meals were available in the riad, but dinner had to be requested several hours in advance so they could prepare it. We scanned the menu, and ordered several things for dinner that night – never having had Moroccan food before, we really didn’t know what to expect so we choose what looked interesting and hoped for the best.

Okay, that’s all the boring logistical stuff – now for the reactions.

You guuuuys, Marrakech is FUCKING AMAZING.

The food – especially the meals we had at the riad – was incredible. We ate dinner there every night, because the food was so good there was no reason to go elsewhere. Our favourites were this chicken, almond and cinnamon pie thing that tasted like a sweet, savoury, flaky, cripsy miracle, and a stew baked in a tajine with monkfish and other things that weren’t monkfish but crazy delicious. Both of those were ordered twice during our stay. The riad also served breakfast each morning, full of fruit and tea and delicious crepe things with homemade yogurt and jams. In the afternoon after walking our feet off, we’d find a random cafe in the souk and have a snack while people watching. We ate SO WELL in Marrakech, and everything we had was incredible.

The market in the centre of old Marrakech was enormous and beautiful and chaotic. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of colourful displays of pottery, leather goods, fabrics, and spices – oh god, the spices. Everything smelled so good, thanks to the incense burned at various stalls. I could have happily spent a week getting lost in the winding, twisting streets of the souk, finding stray cats and narrowly avoiding the donkey-pulled carts and scooters coming from both directions. It was amazing. Both Ed and I agreed that between Madrid and Marrakech, this was the best and most exciting vacation we’d ever had.

I had a done a lot of reading on Moroccan culture and the things to do and not do, so armed with that knowledge and the information given to guests at the riad, we were fairly well suited for our trip. I had done a lot of worrying (again, because me) about my wardrobe – I didn’t want to call attention to myself and I definitely didn’t want to offend anyone with my tendency to wear clothing cut nipple-low, so I had purposefully chosen dresses that were long enough to cover my knees, high enough to hide my huge rack, and light enough for the weather (which was sunny and hovering around 24C/75F the entire time). It was cooler in the evenings, but the clothing we both packed was perfect for the environment.

Haggling was interesting. It was the thing I was least looking forward to, because I am very bad at talking to people. Ed handled most of it, but I was starting to feel comfortable going back and forth towards the end of our trip and even attempted to haggle for myself a few times (but likely still paid way too much for things because I don’t want to insult anyone or not give them what the item is worth). Many of the shops in the souk sell identical items, so it’s easy to find something you love, not come to an agreement on the price, then find it elsewhere with someone more willing to bargain. We walked away from several places, and were either convinced to return or simply found the item somewhere else.

Shopping in the souk was so much fun. Everything is bright and colourful and smells good. I wanted to bring so much stuff home with me, but I was limited by the size of our carry-on bags and Ed’s watchful eye. I still brought home a lot of cool stuff and gifts for friends, but had to acquiesce on things I logicistally could not manage: gorgeous brass lamps, tajines for Moroccan cooking, tea sets, donkeys. Luckily, the internet is beautiful thing, and after we returned home I was able to find several Moroccan websites that would ship the things I couldn’t bring home with me. Take that, wallet!

We did have a couple of small run-ins with really aggressive people in the marketplace. We had been warned about the Henna Ladies, and the only one that managed to get close to us had an iron fucking grip on my hand that required both Ed and I to free myself from. The Henna Ladies will trap you by applying henna to your hand unasked, then extort money from you. Ed still has a smudge of henna on his hand from where he intercepted her brush on its way to my skin, but we got away relatively unscathed. The other incident was an overly friendly shopkeep who kept hugging me, calling me princess, begging for a photo, and ultimately kissed my neck – all of which I was/am HELLA UNCOMFORTABLE WITH. Ed once again ran interferance for me, and afterward I needed a stiff drink (of orange juice) to calm my nerves. Did not like. F—–, would not be mauled by strangers again.

However, the rest of our time in Marrakech was lovely as fuck. Ed describes it as “relaxing chaos”, which it really was. If you ever get a chance to go to Morocco, I highly recommend it – I’m already planning another visit to see Fes and Casablanca in the future. As much as I loved it there, it’s probably not a place I’d go to on my own .. I’m sure I could manage, but I don’t wanna. So I won’t. And it gives me an excuse to plan another magical trip, which is always a great thing.

Also I didn’t see a single fucking Tropius so clearly I need to go back to Africa.

 

an inconvenient floof

Lemon has never been the most affectionate of cats. It took almost 7 years before we got purrs out of him, and to this day they can only be heard if you press your ear up against his belly. He’s also a grumpy pain in the ass who hates almost everything, but does – albeit somewhat reluctantly – at least tolerate us.

Most of the year, Lemon finds somewhere comfortable in the house to sleep and everything is fine. In the winter, however, he apparently cannot sleep without being in total contact with me at all times – and he is the worst person I’ve ever shared a bed with. Basically, it looks like this:

Lemon insists on sleeping on my legs. He is a great big fat potato – I actually can’t move him when he’s in brick mode – and he radiates the heat of a thousand suns. I spend every night either squished up in a ball in the 1/4 of the bed alloted to me while Lemon takes over the entire bottom of the bed, or fighting him for leg room. On the rare occasion I fall asleep untethered, he’ll come to bed and take up his usual spot which means I wake up completely dehydrated, drenched with sweat, with cramped legs because they’ve been held in one position all night, and with an aching back because I couldn’t roll over.

These days, I’m getting three to four hours of sleep a night, and they’re not exactly comfortable. As a result, my brains are foggy, I can’t get my day started, I obviously feel like crap, and I am very grumpy towards the huge pile of bricks that refuses to sleep anywhere else on the bed. Look how much room there is! Dilly is in the corner, sleeping by Ed’s feet away from him. Hobbz isn’t even shown, because he is a pretty princess who sleeps on the armchair next to the bed. Lemon’s love and weight is reserved for me alone, and while on some level I appreciate whatever affection he throws my way, I am fucking exhausted. And sore. Is it summer yet?

My mother is coming to visit Halfwack today for the first time. Ed is frantically vacuuming the stairs, I’ve hidden most of the gay porn, and I have no idea what to do with her for the next three days. Wish me luck.

I am so tired.

“New series, coming soon: Coroner! They investigate the dead and solve their crimes!”

.. that’s not how it works. It’s not how CSI works, or Bones, or Criminal Minds, or any other of the hundreds upon hundreds of procedural TV shows in which the protagonists do every step of investigation, up to and including the persecution (and sometimes beyond! Why are you undercover in Rikers, forensic podiatrist? Get back to feet!). Don’t get me wrong – I love good crime TV as much as anyone else, but I often wonder how many people went into forensic science because they wanted to catch bad guys by looking at blood splatter or saying “enhance” at your computer to figure out license plate details from a 3 pixel traffic camera photo taken with the best technology 1994 had to offer.

I started to wonder if, as a technical writer, I could also start solving crime. The writer angle has been done of course, but they weren’t technical writers. Why couldn’t I work in a coroner’s office, documenting procedure or writing up instructions, but also have a knack for finding clues overlooked by actual professionals? It could happen. It doesn’t have to be my specific profession, either – a traveling salesperson peddles knives – and crackpot motives! A plumber, always in the right place – at the wrong time! Social Media Rockstar tweets as the voice of your brand – and of the newly deceased! Oh, yes. All of these are excellent ideas.

crimes were did

.. by me. what a twist!

I’m gonna start asking my boss for crimes to solve. Crimes other than the criminal lack of punctuation and grammar in my work, that is.

it was the blurst of times

In just over 12 hours, we will officially stick a fork in 2018 and call it done. This is a good thing. This has been one of the most difficult years in recent history, and I am more than ready to wipe the slate clean and enter 2019 full of hope and Diet Coke and big dick energy.

That’s not to say 2018 was all bad, though. There were a lot of really neat things up in here, like:

  • Finally moving into our new home
  • Visiting Hong Kong just because
  • Not one but two trips to New York, again just because
  • London/Lille/Brussels
  • We really love our new home

It is amusing to me that my two recurring themes are at war with one another: travel and being at home.

Anyway. We had a lot of fun with friends and family, most of our cats are mostly healthy, and we are both gainfully employed. Really, what more could we ask for?

I could use a win or two in the health column, if I’m being truthful. For some weird reason, being stressed out for 10 straight months is somewhat detrimental to good health. While the stress has been temporarily resolved, I’m still dealing with the fallout in terms of anxiety, sleeplessness, and existential dread. And did I mention the temporary resolution? The whole thing will start all over again in a few months, and I already want to cry. But! Tonight is New Year’s Eve. The tears can wait. I have friends to party with, an outfit that requires multiple battery packs, and 4 litres of Diet Coke. Frankly, I have everything I need.

Regardless of how your 2018 played out, I hope tonight is everything you need and you enter 2019 full of wonder at the unspoiled potential stretched out ahead of you. Be safe, don’t forget to hydrate, and do you as only you can.

2018top9

a step forward

Still trying to stay positive. Last couple of days were really rough, but I’m still here so I guess that’s a win.

Today I donated money to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank in the name of my endless angst. I am grateful that I still have the means to do that, as I enjoy being able to help people without having to actually talk to them.

Want to know something funny? The entire reason I am so freaked out about not being able to find a job is that once, 16 years ago, I couldn’t find a job after a round of layoffs. It took 9 months for me to find any kind of work whatsoever, and it was a soul-crushingly horrible job that I still have nightmares about. I’m terrified of that happening again, even though I have no real reason to be.

No, YOU’RE irrational.