Ivan Returns


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I don't know if Ivan ever reads this blog -- I always had the feeling he didn't. Once, not long before he left for Europe, he sat next to me on the couch when I had Shobhit's laptop open to it, and he sort of eavesdrop-read it over my shoulder, making a comment about how he didn't know I did push-ups. ("There are things about me you don't know," I said. As if there are many things anyone in the world -- let alone him -- doesn't know about me.) In any case, the conversation seemed to strengthen my feeling on the matter.

Well, either he does occasionally, or an almost eerie coincidence occurred on Saturday morning, when he was still in Zagreb, Croatia. I had written in Friday's post about him sending me sixteen selfies, all taken at Plitviče Lakes National Park, about 80 miles southwest of Zagreb, asking me which I thought he should choose with which to update his Facebook profile pic. I mentioned in the post that as beautiful as his face is, I sure wished he had also sent some non-selfie shots of the park, because it was clearly among the most stunning natural scenery of all three months of his travels.

I then woke up the next morning to forty-five photos of Croatia in Facebook Messenger, none of them selfies, and thirty-four of them Plitviče Lakes National Park alone. It was almost like he was responding to the blog post: All right fine then, here you go! And the vast majority of these photos were truly, truly beautiful -- given that pictures rarely do true justice to such wonderful places, I can't imagine how stunning the place must have been in person. In any case, these three photos in today's DLU are from there.

In fact, this batch of photos he sent me were so numerous (probably the most he's ever sent me at one time in the entire past three months), it gave Croatia rather top-heavy representation in my most recent photo album of his pictures on Flickr. Before Saturday, the last two photo albums each represented two countries: Serbia and Bosnia; Slovenia and Croatia. I now had so many photos from Croatia, however, that it made more sense to even them out in terms of photo album size, and the collection of six photo albums now looks like this:

Spain and Morocco by Rail [from a two-week group tour of the two countries]: February 17 - March 5 (67 photos)
Greece: March 10-16 (47 photos)
Bulgaria [featuring a whole bunch of photos actually taken by his friend Evgenie who lives in Sofia]: March 21 - April 14 (68 photos)
Serbia, Bosnia and Slovenia: April 17 - May 5 (60 photos)
Croatia: May 9-12 (56 photos)
Ivan's Cats of the Mediterranean (12 photos)

A quick note on that last photo set. Obviously it's full of duplicates from the other five. But early on, he was sending me so many shots of stray cats he came across, I decided to put them into their own photo album. I honestly thought it would end up with many more pictures than just 12, he was sending me them so often early on, but after Bulgaria, the cat photos stopped. Either there weren't as many stray cats in other countries, or Ivan stopped paying attention; I don't know. In any case, of those 12 cat photos, three were Moroccon (actually featuring a total of six cats); six were Greek (15 cats); and two were Bulgiaran (two cats). You may notice that one of those photos was actually of a dog -- Ivan took that shot in Bulgaria, with a reference to a couple of other stray dogs he took a photo of in Thessaloniki, calling them "these brutes" after another Greek dog in the same city had attacked him. Anyway, the "Cats of the Mediterranean" photo album only covers between February 27 and March 31 -- basically a month -- but a lot of those shot are really cool.

And as for the photo album specific to Croatia, I'd say Plitviče Lakes National Park is by far the largest representation of a single location within one photo album (or one country, for that matter) -- counting the bunch of selfies, 43 of the 56 photos in the album (76.7%) are from there alone. And they are really, really pretty -- as you can see.

This also means he was rather close to Kornelija's family, by the way. A couple of times I joked to him, "Say hi to Kornelija's parents!" On Monday last week he actually messaged me, Message Cornelia [sic] and ask her what she know me about the Witch of Gric. And I was just like, Nope. After she and Gabriel separated last year, Kornelija un-friended pretty much everyone, in addition to Gabriel himself, and I have had really no contact with her whatsoever. Although I did discover recently that evidently we still follow each other on Instagram, which is odd. She may not even realize it, as she very rarely posts there and thus maybe doesn't see me on the off times that she opens that app. I don't especially wish her an ill will, but when it comes to Gabriel, he has always been and will always be where my loyalty lies -- something I don't think Gabriel feels he gets a whole lot. He breaks up with women and then their mutual friends tend to fall on the side of the wife or girlfriend, basically breaking ties with him. Not me! Not ever.

But, I digress. The point is, I sure was happy to get all those beautiful photos of Plitviče Lakes National Park.

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When Ivan arrived yesterday, he said he had been awake for 22 hours. He managed pretty well to stay awake until maybe around 11 pm -- rather early for him under normal circumstances, which these clearly were not. He was trying to re-set his clock and not go to bed too early -- although he was wide awake and up quite early this morning, around 6:45 or so, his bedroom door open and he was dressed and going through his backlog of mail at his bed.

His flight from Frankfurt, which he'd gone to for a four-hour layover from Zagreb, landed at SeaTac around 4:00. I actually considered offering to pick him up at the airport, and ultimately decided against it. Who else do I pick up at the airport, unless it's Shobhit? Pretty much no one. I then considered at least meeting him at Capitol Hill light rail station, but coordinating that would have been convoluted, not knowing exactly when the train would arrive. Also, in my opinion, it would have made more sense to transfer to a #11 downtown since that bus stops half a block from my building; instead, he walked the half mile from the Light Rail station, with a backpack and pulling two suitcases. But, whatever -- he can choose to do what he wants.

He arrived with a bit of unfortunate timing. I'm going to digress again for a minute here. Shobhit and I decided to re-pot the bamboo plant I've had in a glass square pot that's maybe 2' x 2' in one of the living room bay windows, for probably a decade. We did this on Saturday, and then did something very stupid: after spending an hour getting the dirt and really packed roots out of there, thinking (wrongly) that enough of it was taken out, we rinsed it out in the kitchen sink over the garbage disposal. Protip: don't try to grind soil in a garbage disposal. There was a loud pop! sound, and then -- no more working garbage disposal.

I got it into my head that maybe I could take the garbage disposal out of there, inspect it to see if there were some obstruction I could remove, and then re-attach to see if it would work. Not one part of this plan worked out, the only positive being that now Shobhit and I know very well how to un-install and re-install a garbage disposal. The problem with when we re-attached the one we absolutely know now we have to replace is that we could not, for the life of us, get it hooked back up tight enough so that water did not leak all over the cupboard under the sink when we ran the faucet. We think it may have to do with it being ten years old, and the portion attached to the sink on the upper side, inside the sink itself, is not tightly packed over the putty enough anymore. In any case, I spent a little over a hundred bucks to order a new garbage disposal of the same brand on Amazon, and it's set to arrive in the mail tomorrow. In the meantime, we have a large cooking pot in the kitchen sink, with a paper towel draped over it with large lettering I wrote, reading DO NOT RUN KITCHEN FAUCET. That's what Ivan came to see when he arrived. Any sink we want to use, for two days in the meantime, typically has to be the sink in the guest bathroom.

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So Ivan immediately poured himself a cup of water from the filter in the refrigerator -- he's a heavy water-drinking, always has been, always uses filtered water, and I just replaced the filter party for his sake -- and within minutes after arriving at our door, sat down at his usual spot at the dining room table and the three of us chatted for a while. At one point Ivan said, "Any questions?" But, he and I have been in such regular contact all the while that there weren't a great many things I had to ask, although I thought of a few over the course of the rest of the evening.

He did go out of his way to spend a little time with Shanti, who he missed very much. In sharp contrast to when he first moved back in back in late 2016, when Shanti took literally months to warm up to him, three months this time around was not enough to make her forget him. She seemed as comfortable with him as she's ever been. This was one of the things he mentioned about wanting to settle down in a place of his own, finally, in Vancouver -- so he could finally get a cat.

We made some chai, and Ivan asked for a cup without sugar, because the snack and meal offerings on the plane he said were not very good and too sugary. He wasn't in a huge hurry to go get pho' for dinner, which he had suggested we do when we exchanged messages about his arrival earlier in the weekend, but we left around maybe 8:00. He wanted to take a shower first, understandably. He also wanted to put in contacts. I actually noticed a difference in his eye color as we walked to Broadway -- they were less strikingly blue and had some green in them. I commented on it and he said he's now wearing clear contacts; his earlier ones were blue. I knew he had worn blue-tinted contacts but I had no idea what a striking difference they made. But, his recent birthday seems to have changed a few things about his attitude, and he said something to the effect of finally embracing his more natural self. That seems like a pretty good plan to me.

Shobhit opted not to join us for dinner, saying it would make it easier for Ivan and me to talk. I'm not sure that was really necessary -- we really didn't discuss anything especially secret that we would not have discussed with Shobhit there -- but I will admit to enjoying getting Ivan to myself for a couple of hours. Ivan reveled in his bowl of vegetarian pho', saying it had been three months since he'd been able to eat something he liked that much. His accommodations in Europe never lent themselves to much in the way of cooking the most basic occasional pasta dishes, he said, and there wasn't a lot of opportunity for eating out, at least not with other people. He met several friends, but he was still alone a lot of the time, and said he would be too self-conscious to eat out at sit-down restaurants by himself.

He always orders the large pho' and I get the small, which to me is still pretty large. After having leftovers from Saturday night's dinner with Shobhit at Wedgwood II for lunch and then eating maybe a few too many pita chips with hummus, I got full pretty quickly and could only eat about half my bowl. It was still otherwise very tasty. We just sat and chatted otherwise for roughly an hour and it was very pleasant. I told him about my plans for next year's Birth Week being contingent largely on a visit with him in Vancouver, which he seemed more than open to. I said that didn't mean I planned to wait clear until then to visit -- "I fully plan to visit sometime this year," I said, "but the timing of that is entirely up to you. I'm not going to press you on it." He gave a thumbs-up sign and then said it's just a matter of getting settled in Vancouver. He's got an Air B&B booked from tonight through the rest of May, during which he hopes to find someone to sublet a room from through the summer, during which time he hopes to find a job and a place of his own. When during that time I might go visit him is really anybody's guess, but my best guess would be around the end of that time or soon after -- so, perhaps, late summer or early fall.

Then, somewhat to my surprise, he asked if I'd like to take a walk with him. He took many "strolls," as he liked to call them, when we lived together, and when I once asked if he'd like company he said he preferred to go alone. So, I never asked again. This time I walked with him up Broadway, into Volunteer Park where we walked around the reservoir at dusk, then to 14th Avenue by which we walked to Safeway. They didn't have the shaving cream he uses and so we backtracked the black and a half or so to QFC on 15th, where he found what he needed.

He seemed quite unusually happy to be back in Seattle, which historically he's felt contempt for because of his bad romantic (and professional) experiences here. He even said before we left, in our living room, "Well I never thought I'd say this, but I sure am glad I'm back in the United States! Even if for one day." That was a funny thing to hear when, right before he left in February, all he could talk about was how done he was with Seattle and even "the fucking United States." But, this kind of experience changes perspectives, obviously. Also, it's not like he's going to be here long enough to rekindle his old resentments much. He's still on his way to the next major change of scenery in his life, this one hopefully more permanent. And I love the idea of having a friend to visit in Vancouver. I mean, Faitima from Trikone is there and we do see her when we can, but I have a much closer friendship with Ivan.

While we were talking though Volunteer Park, Ivan told me that he would never do travel like this again -- too much of a whirlwind, too short a time in too many different places. He made several friends, but every time that happened, by the time he finally started to get to know someone, and finally get the lay of the land and figure out where things were, it was time to move on again, and in most cases chances were he'd never see said friend again. He did extend stays in a couple of places, including Sarajevo where he met a hot young guy he really liked -- but even that guy was from a Muslim family and deeply closeted, and thus would not introduce Ivan to any of his other friends. He told me if he ever travels like this again, what he would do differently is just live in one place, like Sofia or Moscow, for a month or so. That does sound more in tune with his interests.

He needed to get a few things from his boxes in storage in the garage downstairs, but he wanted to go up to his room for a few minutes first. By this time it was just about 10:00 and I said I needed to go to bed soon. I got ready for bed while he did whatever he was doing, and after I sat with Shobhit in the living room for a few minutes (he was still watching old episodes of Reba -- frankly, a fundamentally dumb show, so far as I can tell), and then Ivan said he was ready to go down to storage. He ripped the tape off a couple of boxes and took some time to find a hoodie he was looking for; swapped one suitcase full of leather jackets for another he already had packed with lighter jackets; and found just a few other things he wanted to take. One moment rather surprised me: he held up a clear pump bottle of clear liquid and said, "Don't want to forget this!" It was personal lubricant.

So, in any case, he's still got most of his storage stuff down in that unit, which means I'll see him again in Seattle likely more than once before the year is over, as he gets steadily more settled in and comes to gather the rest of his things. I get the feeling now that I could easily see him another two or three times, maybe even four, before the year is out. Which makes me happy.

In the meantime, we went back upstairs, he told me to have a good night, and I went to bed. I saw him very briefly this morning, as I said, and since I woke up early enough, I was at work by about a quarter after 7:00 this morning. I plan to leave maybe 15 minutes earlier than usual from work this afternoon, so I can get home and have just a few minutes with Ivan again and can say another goodbye before he leaves for his 6:00 Bolt Bus to Vancouver. And this way I can lock the door behind him rather than have him take the spare keys off their ring and slide them under the door, like he did when he left in February.

I suppose it's good, in a way, that he's here so briefly for this visit. There won't be enough time to truly get used to having him around again, which makes saying goodbye again much easier. Besides, Uncle David and Mary Ann are staying over for two nights next weekend -- and will be using the guest room.

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Speaking of Uncle David and Mary Ann, I called Mom to wish her a Happy Mother's Day yesterday, and early on in the conversation she brought them up. "When you called before," she said, "I was so excited about David coming, and about you calling, that I forgot to mention something." I guess she's had bursitis "all up and down my left leg" for three months and is "basically bed ridden" -- she can neither stand up nor sit down for long periods of time, and is laying down most of the time. She can come visit in the living room while laying on the couch, so that's fine. But, she wants me to email Uncle David and Mary Ann that this means they won't be able to take them out. They'll just have to visit at the house, maybe order pizza or something. Which I'm sure will be fine. That's what Shobhit and I have to do more often than not as well. I told her I would email them to let them know.

She would never say "bursitis" correctly, by the way. She kept saying Brucitis -- which rather amused me.

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[posted 12:23 pm]