Preface, past

Growing up, I was never one to cave into societal pressures, be it partying, drinking, dating, keeping up with fashion trends, or trying to fit in. It just wasn’t up my alley. Instead, my energy had been dedicated to working on creative projects behind closed doors. With the explosion of ideas in my mind, I felt most fulfilled when I was drawing theoretical and visual connections, and transferring them into tangible projects. Thus began my all-nighters at a young and tender age.

Yet, however exhausted I might’ve been, I felt a deep sense of contentment. I had a vision, I had a purpose. I answered to my own inner guidance. It felt liberating to work with my own schedule and with my own set of rules, and to be accountable only to myself. Even today, the prospect of settling into a path where there’s no room for creativity, autonomy, purpose, self-mastery, and growth, is enough to send shivers down my spine.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

— Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

Specialization is for insects. I choose breadth over depth, and to utilize all my faculties. A robotic existence in which a human being is reduced to a mere machine is stifling for the soul — it’s moral and spiritual decay. The modern man and woman — what fascinating creatures. Bellies full of food, a comfortable home, experts in their field. Yet lacking self-knowledge and lacking in spirit. Estranged from each other, estranged from nature, estranged from their essence. The walking dead.

When I first began blogging on Tumblr in 2010, I’d stumbled upon a quote that touched me deeply. It said the following:

I am one of the searchers. There are, I believe, millions of us. We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. We continue to explore life, hoping to uncover its ultimate secret. We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach, we are drawn by the ocean, taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know – unless it be to share our laughter. We searchers are ambitious only for life itself, for everything beautiful it can provide. Most of all we love and want to be loved. We want to live in a relationship that will not impede our wandering, nor prevent our search, nor lock us in prison walls; that will take us for what little we have to give. We do not want to prove ourselves to another or compete for love.

For wanderers, dreamers, and lovers, for lonely men and women who dare to ask of life everything good and beautiful. It is for those who are too gentle to live among wolves.

— James Kavanaugh, There Are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves

I’m one of the searchers. I speak of the solitary men and women sitting on the outskirts of society. Not to be shaped or boxed, they’re the eccentric revolutionaries, the wild dreamers, the restless adventurers. Always searching, always longing for a different horizon. Their hearts beat a rhythm that can’t be uttered.

Taking notice of their suffering is like trying to notice a newborn’s heartbeat. You’d have to plant your ear next to their hearts and concentrate with your whole being so as not to miss a single sound. That’s the cry of their souls — subtle, tranquil, evasive. It takes no outward form and leaves no perceivable traces. Yet it’s powerful enough to penetrate the core of their bones, leaving them feeble and gasping for air.

It’s not enough to describe or verbalize it either, for what’s true and authentic is never named, but only experienced. It’s excruciating, it’s unbearable. And until one experiences it, one can’t grasp it. Empathy and compassion is one thing, but to live it deeply and utterly — that’s another story. Wide awake until the early hours of the morning, only the moon bears witness to their souls — a most loyal companion who lives to tell the tale.

These are individuals of principle and integrity. If they judge rules to be appropriate, they’ll humbly nod and adhere; otherwise, they’ll relinquish them. They’re no marionettes. They are those who dare to stand erect and speak with unswerving conviction even if their hands tremble. They’re free because deep within them is a steady awareness that they alone are responsible for all that they are and all that they become.

They’re the creators and the created. They’re the sole masters of their lives. They have no fear of death, for to fear death is to fear life. They live for something, whatever that something is, which keeps them standing when the ground beneath their feet begins to falter and break apart. In the midst of adversity and defeat, it is that which keeps them moving forward while gritting their teeth and clenching their fists.

They’re the men and women of solitary thought. They live to exercise the faculty of the mind. They seek refuge in their storehouse of knowledge, while being deeply aware of its limitations. They live to learn, to discover, to explore. They’re the skeptics who seek to challenge, to be challenged, to stir, to expose, to subvert. Cold, calculating, ruthless. They walk the streets with impenetrable armours.

But they’re soft. Oh so soft. For the bold who dare to penetrate the minefield around their hearts, beneath the sticks and stones are beds of flowers. Supple and sweet, their hearts are a sea of hopes, dreams, passion, love. These are hearts imbued with innocence and optimism — no, not a child’s naiveté — but an innocence seasoned and enriched by the perils of life. Hearts filled with loving kindness and compassion, and large enough to set the world ablaze.

Their task isn’t to compete with fellow mates. Their task is merely to overcome themselves. To tackle their own inner demons. To free themselves from their chains and from all preconceived notions and identities. To remain firm in the midst of disorder. To sink to the depths of despair, only to rise again, with a passion for life. To rise above and with humanity. To live an authentic life. And above all, to love.

They wish to love deeply, wholeheartedly, and unconditionally. When they dive, they dive deep — to the depths of the sea. They give without want, without expectation. They don’t seek to own, to impede, to cage, for they understand that each individual is an inherently whole and autonomous being. Thus, they grant the other the utmost freedom — the freedom to grow, the freedom to achieve their heart’s greatest hopes and dreams. They wish only to stand in the distance and be a pillar of strength and source of inspiration and protection.

They ask for very little. They ask that they’re not handled roughly or gripped or chained, for they’ll slip away like water. Handle them gently, and they’re yours for the keeping. However, make no mistake — they don’t belong to anyone. Not now, not ever. There’s no mine and thine in love. Love knows no possession. If they love, they love also the moon, the stars, the earth, and all the beings that tread this fine universe. For love, the highest and purest love, does not discriminate.

Atlantic City, New Jersey: Know thy geography

Recently, I went on a road trip to Atlantic City, New Jersey with my brother and his family. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision that resulted in me packing my bags in only minutes. But I appreciate spontaneity — it adds some spice to life.

Although we hit the road in the early hours of the morning, it took us the whole day to arrive at our destination since, besides taking a few breaks along the way, at one point, we got lost — and miserably so. Thus, by the time we arrived at our hotel, it was almost midnight. But I was glad the kids were still up, because the hotel lights from afar were splendid when we were driving in.

The day after our arrival, rather than relaxing on the beach with my family, I decided to take a stroll alone along the boardwalk strip instead, capturing photos and exploring food venues. Initially, I was on the hunt for an ice cream cone, but then I stumbled upon Boardwalk Cupcakes, a cute-as-a-button cupcake shop, whose colourful banner was enough to tickle my curiosity and lure me in.

Given all the time in the world, I would’ve spent the day sampling all the flavours on the menu, for they looked tummy-satisfying. But because I had kids to entertain, I left my wild cupcake fantasies aside and headed over to the beach, where I surprised my nieces with a box of Oreo and strawberry cupcakes. The munchkins screamed in excitement.

My brother and sister-in-law, who aren’t big dessert eaters, thought these cupcakes were divine and not overly sweet. They also laughed at the fact that I kept appearing at the beach with food and then disappearing, only to reappear with more food and then disappear again. I don’t deny my strangeness but I figured they’d be hungry since they were at the beach all day.

I wish I’d taken a walk along the strip our final night there and witnessed the spectacular views, especially when A was kind enough to invite me out. Instead, because my batteries had reached complete depletion after a long day of exploring, I fell asleep like a baby. Not to mention I felt psychologically exhausted.

On our way home, we took a final stop at the Woodbury outlet in Central Valley, NY. Exploring and people-watching was pleasant, but part of me still couldn’t wrap my head around the hype surrounding designer clothes, shoes, cosmetics, and handbags. Go figure. The only item I’d purchased was pizza. A whole box of it. And it was amazing.

Looking in retrospect, getting lost was quite an adventure. It was an experience where, not only did I trust my intuition and take initiative, but also one in which, despite the external conditions surrounding me, I made a conscious decision to maintain a healthy internal landscape, watering only the seeds of trust, compassion, patience, and perseverance. Lessons in challenges. Always.

Ray Donovan’s doppelgänger


Cacao 70 @ 2087 Rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest, Montréal, QC

After having dinner with our cousin S, M and I had a date night at Cacao 70, a dessert haven for all the chocolate (and sweets) lovers. I heard of Cacao 70 only after stumbling upon reviews of it here on WordPress, and ever since then, it became the first contender to occupy my list of dessert joints to visit in Montreal.

As anticipated, because it’s a popular late night dessert venue in the downtown area, it was packed. However, it was precisely the sight of young adult couples and friends around the room laughing and having a good time, that gave the atmosphere a vivacious and heart-warming touch. It’s no secret that each one of us share a weakness for sweets, and therefore, I think it’s safe to say, an unbreakable soul-to-soul understanding of each other’s life longings.

Scanning the shop, I couldn’t help but eyeball other people’s plates of delicious goodies. Classic chocolate fondue, chocolate marshmallow pizza, Nutella and fruit crepe, Tutti-Frutti waffle, raspberry brownie parfait — you name it, everything was on the menu. Although M likes crepes and I like waffles, we decided to share a plate of dessert as we were still recuperating from dinner, and together we compromised on a selection that could be said to have fallen from the heavens: the banana split waffle.

Topped with caramelized bananas, drizzled with melted milk chocolate, and served with a side of vanilla ice cream, chocolate-coated cereal, and chocolate melt, this plate was divine. The waffle was warm, soft, and fluffy; the caramelized bananas were sweet and crunchy from the coat of caramel; and the melted chocolate spelled heaven on earth for the chocolate fans.

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It was a breezy summer evening, and instead of heading straight home, M gave me a tour around Mount Royal knowing that I’ve been longing to visit the site again, as it’s been years since I’ve last stepped foot there. The site was beautiful — just as I remember it. In fact, sanding atop the mountain overlooking the mesmerizing city lights made me long for my childhood days.


Meet Pepé Le Pew

Raccoons at Mount Royal! There were so many of them that everywhere I stepped, I could almost feel a little furry body brushing up against my legs. At first, I wasn’t sure if I should be running for the hills like my life depended on it, wrapping my limbs around a stranger’s back like a koala bear, or simply relaxing and befriending these raccoons.

Everywhere around me, visitors were petting, feeding, and playing with these wild raccoons without the slightest fear. In fact, one gent rolled on the ground next to a raccoon just to take a selfie. I couldn’t help but laugh, because one thing’s certain: Montrealers are hilarious and crazy. Especially crazy. I know because they’re my people.

Apparently, these raccoons are harmless because they’re already used to having human interaction, so it’s normal to feed and play with them. M told me that they can even be selective about what food they eat; that is, between regular chips and ketchup chips, they prefer the latter. I thought this was pretty funny.

Mother, father, babies — they were all so fluffy and chubbs that my inner Agnes was about to manifest itself. I even entertained the idea of kidnapping them and bringing them home with me. So adorable!