Wednesday, November 28, 2012

We have some fairly significant news.

We've decided to spend the better part of next year traveling the world.  In July we'll celebrate 10 years together and what better (or more romantic!) way to ring it in than by traipsing all over the planet? We always said we'd do a trip like this, and it's time to get. it. done.

Around the world in 80 gays. Or more like 300.

So it's official. Jeff resigned from his job this week and we sold our apartment. With a quick 30-day closing just around the corner, there's lots to be done. We'll store some stuff, purge lots, and leave the delicate bits and bobs with friends. After Christmas we'll head to Fort Lauderdale for a few weeks, where we'll narrow our focus, research like mad, and plot the details.

One thing we have in mind is the Star Alliance Program, a network of airlines which offer round-the-world flights. Within one year you can fly as many as 39 000 miles (or 16 times, whichever comes first) at considerably lower rates. You must travel in one direction without backtracking. When you land at each hub you're free to roam regionally using other planes, trains, boats, and buses which you book separately. This will give our journey a good dose of structure, which will be nice for our mental health, with so many uncertainties sure to crop up. But other than knowing our major stops, I like the idea of keeping things loose. Australian escapades in February, India by April and an anniversary dinner in Paris by July. 

The world is a much smaller place these days, so be sure to stay tuned to Twitter and Instagram for up-to-the-minute stories and pictures. And I'll be blogging a lot. Over the next several weeks, as we begin to create our itinerary, I'll post our plans and very much encourage you to chime in and tell us what we must see and do at each stop along the way. Wish us luck.

(Only our potential itinerary. This is for illustrative purposes only.)

Illustration by the brilliantly talented Paul Dotey. Maps are his jam.

THE BUSINESS END: If you edit/operate a travel or food publication, I will happily make myself available for interesting jobs as we make our way around the world. I can be reached via email at

Friday, November 9, 2012

While Toronto hasn't seen the wild weather of, say, New York City, we are moving swiftly toward the dark and cold misery of the months to come. And so this week has seen pasta, chili, and  most-recently a thick, gravy-laden beef stew.

Hearty Beef Stew

2lbs stewing beef, cut into large hunks
A large onion, roughly chopped
Approximately 2 cups of red wine
Approximately 2 cups of beef stock
2 large carrots, roughly chopped
3 or 4 stalks of celery, roughly chopped
3 potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
12-15 pearl onions, peeled but left whole
A few bay leaves
A handful or two of fresh thyme leaves
A tablespoon of rough-chopped rosemary
A cup of peas, frozen
1 tablespoon of cornstarch + cold water

On medium-high, heat a splash of vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven. Season your meat with salt and pepper, lightly dredge in flour and brown thoroughly in batches. Remove the meat and set aside. Deglaze the pan with a quarter cup of red wine for a moment before tossing in your vegetables. Return the meat to the pan and cover with the rest of the wine and the beef broth. Add the herbs, but reserve the peas. Jack up your heat and burn off some of the alcohol in the wine before leaving it to a gentle simmer. Allow to cook for an hour and a half (or so) until the meat is tender and the vegetables are cooked through. Add a few handfuls of peas and a standard cornstarch slurry, increase your heat and allow your stew to thicken-up for a few minutes. Season as you see fit and serve with way too much bread and butter. 

Presto, It's Pesto (April 2012)
Chickening Out (March 2012)
Cumin & Brown Sugar-Crusted Pork Tenderloin w/ Cognac Cream Sauce (February 2012)
Beef Ragu with Maccheroni (March 2012)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I've written about love and friendship, coming out, gay marriage, my relationship with my Dad. About risking every ounce of affection that surrounds you in the slim chance you'll be cast out. I've covered a lot of territory, but I hadn't necessarily realized how much has been steeped in one sort of notion. The idea that maybe today is the day they'll stop loving me. 

Even for a Canadian with all the rights he deserves, today's U.S. Presidential election feels like dead man walking. For 1000 noble reasons, the United States is the Holy Grail. It might be 300 years of clever PR or just folklore run amok, but if it sticks in America, it feels like the world is a better place. And so if equality, tolerance, simple love doesn't exist there, it might as well not exist anywhere.

Needless to say, this election is bringing up my deep-seated rejection issues. And the socio-political sort don't feel all that different than the tiny ones of childhood.

Anna was an inordinately-beautiful 9 year old girl from the former Yugoslavia. My best friend Ryan and I plucked her and the other new girl that first day of 4th grade. Our teachers called us the Four Musketeers and we were inseparable.

As is often the case in these mixed, pre-pubescent circles, puppy love bubbled up. I was infatuated with Anna. For months (then years) I adored her. She knew this, everyone did. On one of those first days of Spring, when, to avoid wearing it, you strap your winter coat between your back and your knapsack, we were all walking home together. Anna asked me if I wanted a kiss and led me from the group, a few meters away. When I leaned in to kiss her, she kicked me, very hard, in the balls.

Later that night I told Ryan that I was upset. I told him, inexplicably, that I had just cried in the bathtub. I see now that I was an easy target with my wide-eyed vulnerability, but I was who I was. The next day everyone knew I was kicked in the balls, sure, but they also knew I'd cried about it.

It was something like friendly fire, I guess. I'm not sure I've figured out (even 20 years later) why I let my friends be so cruel to me. But they were, more often than not. Ryan was mean to me in groups, but kind and sweet when we were alone. He was a bit of a ragamuffin; giant oversized t-shirts, pant legs that always dragged, the toes of his socks long and limp out in front of him. He was funny and wild and had a water bed. His room was a wreck and he swore like a sailor. I can still smell him if I try hard enough. He was intoxicating when he wasn't hanging me out to dry.

I met Aaron in seventh grade. He lived around the corner, but attended another elementary school, so none of us knew him. I don't remember how we met, exactly, but I remember how he made me feel. He was strong and muscled, a good-looking kid. He played competitive baseball. He was decidedly boyish, but also bookish and well-behaved. His family was Christian.

And for some reason he liked me, this scrawny, mincing, unathletic boy. He was always kind to me. I didn't have to fight for his affection. We became fast friends that year; I'd hurry home from school so I could hang out with him.

He replaced my friends completely that spring, 1994.

I went to Ryan's house to explain that I didn't want to be friends anymore. He had removed the screen on his bedroom window and sat six or seven feet above the ground on the sill, those pants and socks dangling.  I remember looking up at him from the front lawn; he was sad. He was being rejected, by me.

And I was smug. For the first time, I was bolstered by the affection of a thoughtful friend. I was Tina Turner at the end of What's Love Got to Do With It. And I hurt Ryan's feelings with that newfound confidence. We decided to go play in the forest nearby. It was spring and there was water everywhere, big, swampy pools of it. We played and jumped and balanced each other on fallen tree trunks. I remember all of this under a weird John Hughes haze. Breakup sex for 12 year old boys.

Soon we'd go to different high schools and lose touch altogether. Sometimes I'd encourage my Mom to drive through our subdivision another way, so we could pass his house. I'd casually crane my neck to peer into that bedroom window, or into the yard where he and his brother might be playing in the pool. I never stopped wishing he'd been nicer to me.

I'm not suggesting we vote based on the heartbreak of little boys, but if we spent a few minutes thinking on the feelings we felt when they were pure and unfettered, we might begin to see things differently. We might be able to clear away the chattels of adulthood and think feel clearly with our hearts.

A Republican would call me sentimental at best, and a namby-pamby, anti-American, bleeding heart-Socialist at worst. But, that's okay, I've been called more terrible things by my very best friends.