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a : the fact or state of being prepared; b : a measure taken to deal with a need (Stocking up in life, Los Angeles, and Utah, lately)
One thing I really pride myself on, to a smug degree, is provisioning. Going out and stocking up. It works best when you know what’s on the way, which probably counts me out as a doomsday prepper, because I mostly got good at it through hangovers. Making a point to go in the evening of what would become the night before and buy Gatorades and Vitamin Waters and something fizzy and several kinds of iced teas for myself and my roommates. When I lived with Greg and Julian, a block from arguably the best beverage-forward convenience store in the city (the Bloor and Dovercourt Mini Mart), Greg and I would go in and spend an inordinate amount of time getting ourselves stocked up for the next day in a kind of hallowed anticipation of pain, yes, but also in service to our future selves. For how hard we were on ourselves in those years — physically, emotionally — we were so gentle, so carefully kind, to the person who’d be waking up groaning 14 hours later.
There have been plenty of times when I called in sick to whatever job I had, and in that shaky two hour window before what’s settling in your body levels you made a scramble to Shoppers Drug Mart to stock up on painkillers and childhood holdovers, then hurry it all home so I’d be in bed and ready when it hit. With Covid, I only had the window after getting my vaccinations, but I’d polled so many American friends who got theirs in the weeks before Canada did on what it was like that I knew there was a chance I’d be lost in the desert levels thirsty that I came home with two straining plastic bags of drinks from the dep at the end of our old block, grinning like a maniac. When I actually got Covid I was completely laid out, but Dylan has been watching me giddily perform this sicko behaviour for years and knew what to do.
Where provisioning has taken an indulgent turn has been when I have a place to myself. I’ll approach it less with the zeroed-in focus of knowing I’m going to be spending the next 48-72 hours feeling bad than ensconcing myself in favourites and small pleasures to really lean into the opposite. I’ve started doing this at NBA events because comforts are grounding, and because chugging a green juice after getting four hours of sleep can be a propulsive delusion. At All-Star Chicago there was a Trader Joe’s a couple blocks from the hotel and I only came back with what I could jam around the contents of the room’s pre-stocked mini fridge. In Salt Lake it turned out the TJ’s was across from the shop I got my tattoo in, and knowing I had an empty fridge and two more full days of weekend waiting for me, I went a bit nuts. I used to just do CVS runs at Summer League, but this past year the Raptors practiced at a high school way out in the desert and I, waiting for my ride back to the hotel post practice, mapped the nearest TJs (now nearer) and rerouted.
I wind up, in any instance, giving a lot of it away. Which goes back to how happy it made me to be the one handing someone a Vitamin Water (remember when we thought those were healthy?), now a juice shot or infused seltzer, and see a measure of relief flood their faces. Provisioning, by extension, an amenable act of gentling. A way I can be tender with everybody.
The spoiled, sullen glutton in me exposed when I qualify two hours with Rob as “only”, to Shanon. That’s a great hang, she says. She’s sitting cross-legged on the floor at her coffee table, writing in a notebook, up before me like she is everyday I’m visiting, 7 AM sun slanting drowsily off everything in the room. The dogs swirl in a waking jumble around my feet, happy for the extra pair of hands and the attention they divvy up.
She’s right, I know, but the concession sets me in a tender roil of replay, putting all the moments of the last few days together in gauzy golden echoes for myself. Indulgent, as always, in the tapering time with people, especially out here under the kind of light that works its way in from my chest up.
Shanon with a towering aluminum rod under the heavy boughs of her backyard lemon tree. Jutting the end with its wire basket to pluck citrus as big as the dogs’ heads as the dogs, running manic laps around the fence line, kick up sage dust and littered lemons and key limes down in the dirt. She comes out covered in leaf litter and spider webs then pushes back into another section, eyes up at the highest branches sagging with fruit puckeringly yellow against a squinting backdrop of blue.
Days earlier, she’s taking a drag with her back to Sunset Boulevard at golden hour. The tall, skinny palms lining the street stoic to the light slinking down on them. She smirks, gas station straw cowboy hat pulled down over her brow. That night I’ll choke up making a point to tell her something that stubbornly buried itself into my chest as her car climbs up the canyon hill in the dark, lights of the houses below winking through the overgrown wild cacti and tall grass. The next morning she makes a point to thank me for saying so, tells me she loves me, and we hug over the gearshift. We’ve always been easy with each other, but something in aging and the absence of the last few years — between us, also lost from the world — makes us softer. I hear it in her voice, her questions, see it in her expressions when her eyes crinkle as she tracks the dogs and me.
Joey crossing York Street, walking up the sidewalk to where I’m sitting outside the coffee shop, leaning back on the big smooth trunk of the giant ficus they’ve built a bench around. How long have I pictured this, I think, the way you wonder how you’ll know people well before you do. To meet here, squinting under the sun, easy as anything.
Driving down Sunset, he dutifully points out the saddest landmarks — a statue of Lemmy that looks like Colonel Sanders, clubs that are supposed to be cool made out like cartoon cowboy saloons. Car crawling to find a plaque announcing Bukowski’s apartment set somewhere behind the sidewalk gates and bare bougainvillea. We both admit how we once might’ve marvelled at the sight, now find it grimacing, depressing. Make a Bukowski should’ve hooped instead of being an asshole joke because there’s a portable basketball hoop in front of one of the houses, maybe his old one. We cut up to Hollywood, its power-washed sidewalk stars, the quieting lawns of Los Feliz and mountains in the distance so clear we can make out the dots of trees on the bright white snow-capped peaks. The majesty of that, then the everyday out the rolled down windows, and us in the middle tuned to a soft between.
I see Rob get out of the car in front as my own pulls up behind it. Take a minute to sit, watch his long legs cut the dark clean and sure. On the way, towers of downtown pulling closer, down in the valleys falling away from the freeway the shadows of palms and in my gut, the knock of distance and time as something grinning — all teeth. Ravenous.
There are some people you have to brace yourself for. For how happy the sight of them, unassuming and a little wide-eyed looking around the room of a tiny mezcal bar where all the seats are taken but nobody’s in them because everybody’s dancing to reggaeton, makes you.
Pulled up to lean together on the bar, the sudden exposure under very clear eyes taking you in, a jolt. I picture big sky, bank towers, live oak and backs of cabs. I come to and let my eyes make halos of the multicolour strings of miniature Christmas lights running the ceiling around Rob’s head as I catch stray elbows in the ribs from people crowded close, dancing. My spine, pulled straight. There’s a digital clock just above the bar and it glares in unflinching electric blue.
It isn’t the place to lay anything bare, but I try anyway. Too tired from being at the end of four days feeling my pulse slow and ratchet, repeat; passing under citrus and palm, jacaranda and eucalyptus trees with my eyes rolled placidly up like Eve in Rubens Fall of Man to the heat spectrum of colours there and hawks overhead, wheeling. Too tired from turning over the dormant, dark-tucked parts of myself here in the dusky bright and exhaust tinged air. Too tired from the glut of early mornings with their honey-smeared light, how a different animal in me comes awake to thump its tail in them. Too tired but trying to explain everything as it comes in tripping bursts and broken tangents as it always seems to, something of a confessional quality in him.
I think how three out of five of our goodbyes thus far have been in backseats, and the other two in light showing up like a feral thing tearing alongside and squeezing greedy at our softer parts. Mine, anyway. The outlines that I know myself best between dissolving.
Outside, in the street, I spin the disposable’s rough little wheel and take several steps back to get Rob’s whole frame in the tiny finder. He shakes his head. I say it’s the same camera from Summer League, I’ve been alternatingly so precious and forgetful about it. The backseat sunrise picture, he asks, is it on there? My face must reflect my confusion. You said the light was crazy, he says. Instantly, I can see it. Know that whatever develops, whenever I do it, isn’t going to look the same as the Vegas sunrise conjured up there a couple blocks from Skid Row in the waxing night of Super Bowl Sunday.
I am doing it all weekend in Utah, I know. Provisioning. Even and especially the times I’m uncomfortable, jammed up in holding areas beside players with the broadcast cameras two feet away from us and about to go live, or in basement clubs beside GMs dancing badly in the dark. Falling into armchairs beside superstars and grinning conspiratorially like I would at friends, like I do at Seerat when she comes to borrow face cream once we’ve washed the night off our faces after 3 AM and sit on either bed to talk through the weekend, its people.
It’s not false familiarity as much as it is finding myself back in rhythm impossible to explain when out from the tangled, dizzying step of it. More myself here, alone, without references to place or person, confidence on overdrive as autopilot and no time to overthink a thing. Trying my best to catalogue the easy and sure feel of it so I can conjure it up when I need it over dull days and bouts of doubt. Trying my best to stockpile sensory memories and cues as instructional. Impossible. The best thing I can do is remember I did it, not try to culvert each moment into some tailing pond of the heart.
Sitting in Mac McClung’s post Dunk Contest presser, Taylor and Holland told me as I passed them on the way in to ask a question if I thought of a good one, knowing they’re recording the whole thing for their series. But as the seats filled up and Mac stepped onto the podium, smiling softly out to the room, all I could do was sit there and smile dumbly back. And the questions asked of him — fine. All fine. How’s it feel, how’d you do it, what’s next. All as best as I could’ve come up with in the moment, all skipping like stones on water, none sinking past the surface. But then, what’s to say? I think that’s where I settled. Buzzing in the moment along with him.
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