Archive for January, 2022

A New Friend

Posted in Production updates on January 31, 2022 by cegatchalian

I’ve begun to befriend sadness.

Yesterday morning I went downtown, for no reason other than cabin fever. The cabin fever that sets in, with ruthless regularity, at exactly 9 every morning.

9 am to 3 pm (in other words, the lion’s share of what is normatively most people’s workday) are a tough time of the day for me – or at least, it’s become that during COVID. A time when I have to remind myself to breathe through the heaviness.

I shouldn’t feel this way, I tell myself. I shouldn’t need to have meetings, I shouldn’t need to have places to go in order to feel semi-whole. Aren’t I well-read on Buddhism? Don’t I meditate regularly?

I should be okay with emptiness. Even welcome it, invite it in.

I never thought emptiness could feel this heavy.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about my teenage infatuation with Ayn Rand and how deeply some of her ideas, despite myself, have stuck with me – especially her dictum that the “natural” state of life is constant motion and activity, and that to deviate from this state (save to sleep, which presumably even the Goddess of the Market deemed necessary) is to embrace death and stagnation.

My sadness, I can assume, is because my subconscious holds that premise. And it holds another, even more horrible, premise: that I’m only as good as what I produce.

Of course, every public utterance I can remember making on this issue has preached the exact opposite. I’m known publicly as a good lefty and among friends as compassionate and easygoing. But what I preach and believe to be true for others, I’ve never believed for myself. I don’t honestly believe I’m worth more than what I produce (the subject of another entry).

Long story short: the sadness has been immense.

Last week I saw the sadness, acknowledged its presence and named it. And I began to feel less empty because I realized I was never empty at all.

Coz there’s nothing empty about sadness. It’s replete with love and passion and values.

I’m sad because the hustle and bustle I love about urban life is on hiatus.

I’m sad because the live plays, dance performances, readings and concerts I love are on hiatus.

I’m sad because I miss sex, the giving and taking of physical affirmation.

I’m sad that I hate the city I love because I’ve been stuck here the last two years.

I’m sad that our current public health crisis is being turned into a fascist shit-show by a denialist, retrograde, white supremacist fringe.

I’m sad about the sadness emanating from virtually everyone around me.

So sadness is not emptiness. It’s profound proof that we’re alive.

I’ve not been in right relationship with sadness, never properly honoured its presence in my life. I find it easier to talk about my struggles with anxiety and OCD, but depression – whether clinical or situational – has been like Voldemort: mention it, and danger will follow.

In this case, the danger of feeling like you have nothing to live for.

I guess I’m gun shy. I’ve had two major mental crashes in my life – both triggered by anxiety but spilling over into depression, exacerbated by fear and loathing of what I was feeling.

I’ve since realized it wasn’t the feeling itself, but my take on the feeling, that careened me into despair.

I’m not supposed to feel this. I was born to create, produce, do.

Sadness is anything but empty. It’s an organic response to values we need to either affirm or rethink.

Sadness can motor us to clarify what we want from the world and what we can give it.

Sadness can be spiritual fuel. Sadness can be bread.

So, since last week, the emptiness has dissipated. While I still have my moments, I’m breathing easier and feeling lighter – lifted, edified and mentored. By sadness.

The Lone Chinese Restaurant on the Drive

Posted in Food with tags , , , , on January 3, 2022 by cegatchalian

Commercial Drive – the too-cool-for-school neighbourhood where I live in Vancouver – has an almost limitless array of culturally diverse – and relatively affordable – restaurants and eateries: Ethiopian, Jamaican, Japanese, Italian, South Asian, Mexican, Lebanese, Palestinian, Filipinx. Strangely enough, for a city known to have – arguably – the best Chinese cuisine outside of Hong Kong and China, there is – if I have counted correctly – all of one Chinese restaurant in the 22 blocks that comprise the Drive. The only possible reason I can think of is the relatively (compared to the rest of the city) small percentage of Chinese folx living in the neighbourhood (and it’s a weak reason, given how popular Chinese food is with, well, virtually everyone).

As a down-to-earth (read: non-affluent) foodie and lover of Chinese food, then, and as someone too lazy to cross neighbourhoods to where there are more Chinese restaurants (all right, I should avoid the rightist strategy of blaming the individual and be a proper lefty and focus on the system – in this case, Vancouver’s transit system, which does a poor job, I think, of linking the city’s neighbourhoods together), you’ll likely find me at Chongqing Restaurant at least once or twice a week, usually around noon, indulging in either dim sum or a lunch special.

When I was a kid, my mother told me that the fastest way of gauging whether a Chinese restaurant is any good (by which she meant “authentically Chinese”) is by the number of non-Chinese people (by which she meant “white”) who patronize it. The correlation was an inverse one: the fewer the number of non-Chinese/white customers, the better, probably, the food – a theory later backed by many of my Chinese friends. If you go by this metric, the Drive’s lone Chinese restaurant must be lacking; its customer base, as far as I can tell, is majority non-Chinese.

(Note: knowing how to evaluate Chinese food is is as integral to being a good Vancouverite as loving weed and suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.)

In any event, for what it’s worth, I very much enjoy the food at Chonqing. While dim sum is on the menu (mostly a Cantonese offering), it is best known for its Szechuan dishes, which are marked by their spiciness and bold, pungent flavours. As an inveterate spice-hound, I was made for Szechuan; so their Diced Chicken in Chilli, Sour & Garlic Sauce with Spinach – my favourite of their dishes – is right up my gastronomical alley. Served as a lunch special, it comes with rice and, for an additional charge, a small soup, a side dish, and a beverage. It all comes out to about $17 before tax and tip.

A word about spicy foods: I am reclaiming my love of it. The shift happened a few years ago when a European sophisticate I had fallen for admonished me for dipping everything I ate in hot sauce. “You’re destroying your taste buds,” he said. “You’re missing out on a whole spectrum of flavours.” Desperate to impress (colonized mentality), and of course convinced he knew better, I cut down on the spice and ate plainly for a few years. Perhaps my frequent patronage of Chongqing is, at least subconsciously, part of the larger journey back to myself.

ADDENDUM: My ex – and a fellow Drive resident – just pointed out to me that there is technically another Chinese restaurant on the Drive: Kyle’s. I guess these things are, to paraphrase Kant, in the eye of the beholder; for I would consider Kyle’s to be Chinese Canadian, which is not the same as Chinese, as they serve breakfast and tons of Western food alongside their Chinese offerings. For better or worse, it’s a distinction my mother taught me, and I can’t shake it off.