Tuesday, 17 May 2011

You're Going To Have To Work For Your Presents

Once again, I have fallen behind in blog posting. I'll spare you any of my excuses and just say that I have been very busy and not particularly inspired lately. Don't misunderstand me, my life in London is going quite well. Although Richard and I are having a lovely time, we are not exactly having mind-bending supernatural adventures here in Britain - the kind of thing that lends itself well to storytelling:

Our real adventures are something more along the lines of this:

It is absolutely thrilling, edge-of-your-seat kind of drama, I know.

And so it goes that inspiration doesn't come to me on any set schedule. In between stories of mild interest from my life, I'll just take to using this blog as a dumping ground for short, weird little cartoons that I dream up from time to time. I plan for them to be one-panelled affairs that take far less time than these all-consuming monster posts.

Nevertheless, this particular story of mild interest took place last month. It was Richard's 25th birthday on Friday, April 15th and I had set out to do something he'd truly appreciate. Richard took the day off work, and I spent the week getting all my ducks in a row for what I hoped would be an unforgettable day. I planned to start the morning with a wonderful surprise, followed by a trip to the zoo, then a delicious home-made dinner and, last, going to see a movie. To sum it all up: a day of pleasant memories. I spent most of the week purchasing Richard's presents and trekking across London to obtain obscure German ingredients from equally obscure German delis for the home-made dinner.

As it turned out, Richard had an errand to run the day of his birthday, so that managed to get him out of the apartment in the morning. Richard wanted me to meet up with him out-and-about in the city when he was done, therefore I had to let it slip to him that I had something special planned for when he got back from his errand. I hated to have to give up even that much information, but it couldn't be helped.

You must be wondering: what was this surprise? Surely, it must have pertained to the relevant themes of this blog like "Gay" and "British"... so, perhaps the surprise was tickets to some sort of very British drag show. Yes?

No. In fact, I'm being stupid in fostering some sort of guessing game on your part. At some point in any guessing game, the guesses overshoot the reality in terms of wonder and excitement -- thus making the actual surprise seem disappointing in comparison.

So, before my surprise gets outclassed by the realm of fantasy, I'll continue the story. Richard woke up early on his birthday in order to head into town. When he shut the door behind him, I immediately hopped out of bed and set about arranging everything for his return. I had to make a mad dash to a department store that was just one Tube stop away from where Richard was headed in order to make the last-minute purchase of a picnic blanket. Then I stopped in at Le Pain Quotidien to pick up freshly-baked almond croissants -- those wonderful things that angels eat when they come home after a long, hard day of telling God how great he is.

I rushed home, and reached the door right as the house phone was ringing. I ran inside, picked it up, and breathlessly said hello to Richard who had called to notify me that he was done and on his way home. I had half an hour to put everything into place.

When I was finished setting up, I vacated the apartment and went off to wait nervously in my hiding place.

A half hour later, Richard strolled in through the door, shouting a greeting to me as he entered. He was met by nothing but pleasant music playing from the sound system and this:

He didn't know what to make of my absence and the strange plate of candles in the living room. First, he needed to pee. Then, just to be safe, he ran around the apartment searching various closets and cabinets to see if I was hiding. He knew that he should just read the note on the plate of candles, but his curiosity couldn't resist looking for me. Had I actually been in the apartment at that point, I would've been found, ruining the surprise -- impatient bastard... ANYWAY, failing to find me, he went to the plate.

The note was for "Cuddlefish" - one of the nicknames I have for Richard that is, I assure you, 80% joke and 20% affection.

He opened it up to read:

If it's presents you want and gifts you seek,
lift up the covers and take a peek.

I will now take this time to remind you that I am an illustrator and not a poet. Anyway, Richard was delighted. He loves scavenger hunts -- as it turns out, far more than I ever imagined. He ate the gummy bears that came with the note and went into the bedroom.

He pulled back the covers to find this:

Now, platypus is not a nickname I have for Richard, I just decided to draw a series of cute animals beyond the initial card. He opened the note while eating more gummy bears:

Not one present,
fancy that!
Try a small metal chamber,
dripping with fat.

An odd clue, I know. However, we take great pride in the rarely-cleaned grilling oven in our kitchen. Many a dead farm animal has left its oily mark on that grill and Richard knew exactly where to look.

Obviously, there would be no gummy bears with this fat-soaked clue.

I must pause this little first-person point-of-view ride around our apartment to tell you the backstory for the upcoming clue. In March, Richard and I went to Manchester for our friend Liam's birthday party. Near the start of the night, everyone sat around playing drinking games. We eventually came to the game Never-Have-I-Ever. One party guest, a very beautiful but somewhat severe Polish girl named Dorota, could not comprehend the mechanics of the game. Maybe it was cultural, but she could not grasp the fun-way-to-make-your-friends-admit-embarrassing-facts-about-themselves philosophy that is Never-Have-I-Ever. She was almost hostile in her defiance of the game's logic, and that (coupled with her no-nonsense Eastern European accent) led to this rather memorable exchange:

It is best to imagine Natasha's voice from the Rocky & Bullwinkle show for this -- the statements being made are very "moose and squirrel" in their cadence and sound.

Anyway, Richard and I were quite tickled by her statement, and have bandied it about with one another ever since. Therefore, the oven clue read:

I know you expected a shiny, wrapped box,
but never have I ever kicked fox.

I was referencing the little wooden statue of a fox that we have on the highest shelf in our living room, however, Richard had some sort of mind block concerning that particular item. He rushed around --the excitement of the hunt really getting to him-- trying to think what I meant by fox. He even entertained the notion of leaving to have a look outside, since we often see foxes running up our street at night. Fortunately, he spotted the wooden fox --dislodging the boulder in his mind that seemed to be blocking the memory that he had bought it in honor of our anniversary-- and found the next clue.

The fox revealed that:

When you have your gifts, you'll know bliss,
perhaps they're hiding behind a kiss.

With this clue I was referencing a portrait that I had made of us for Richard's last birthday. We had been apart that year, therefore I sent him a pastel artwork of our kissing one another. I expect most of you are rolling your eyes at that little fact, but Richard and I are young and in love, we do that kind of shit. 

At this point, Richard was in a heightened state of frantic -- something akin to searching for your lost wallet on the floor of a crowded night club, but replace that sinking feeling of dread with sheer delight. He couldn't quite think straight and since the clue had to do with a kiss, he was bounding from room to room in our tiny apartment looking for something to do with lips. Not getting anywhere, he stopped in the bedroom and just scanned his field of vision as though he were a robot. Finally, upon spotting the framed image on the fireplace, some meaning broke through the clamor of excitement in his brain. The kiss!

He turned the frame over, and found the next clue.

It said:

Your gifts are stealthy and don't make a peep,
maybe they find comfort where our guests sleep.

Alright, no big mystery there. He went to the living room to open up the sofa bed.

Perhaps it was cruel to force my boyfriend to go through the trouble of unfurling a clunky sofa bed on his birthday, but he was rewarded with the satisfaction of a good hunt -- and gummy bears!

My next clue required a little more detective work:

Thanks for being patient,
you're showing real class.
You must now take a trip,
through the looking glass.

We have a few mirrors in our place, so Richard set about examining each one. Unfortunately, or fortunately since Richard was downright wallowing in the thrill of the scavenger hunt, he found the clue behind the last mirror he checked -- the one attached to the ceiling over our bed, KIDDING! Although it did turn out to be in the bedroom, just on the closet, though.

Richard had to take the mirror down off the wall in order to get to the clue.

Your presents are nearby,
they are in range.
The game is close to ending,
so the GAME must CHANGE.

Richard didn't need that fancypants degree of his from Oxford to know where to look next. He went to the book shelf.

The future is hidden and not for us to know,
but onward we're heading and UPWARD we go.

And with that obvious clue that nearly clunked Richard in the head, he bolted up the two flights of stairs to the roof of our building. Where this awaited him:

Ok, that quasi-real cartoon version of me is downright creepy, but it was a magical sight for Richard at the time.

Richard promptly got showered in gifts and almond croissants. He also received his birthday card. At this point, I need to divulge that the gummy bears that were scattered with the clues were an allusion to the fact that my joke-slash-real-slash-SHUT-UP nickname is "Snuggle Bear"... to Richard's "Cuddlefish"... yes, yes, vomit, I know.

I swear that this was the real birthday card, and not some ironic creation made to deflect embarrassment when recounting the story. 

Anyway, I was SO relieved it had worked. Richard was over the moon and displaying signs of being momentously excited that I had only ever seen once, when we were riding ten-foot high man-made waves in the Canary Islands. Apparently, I had triggered some deep childhood memory he had of going on scavenger hunts in his grandparents' garden. I knew it would be a fun idea to do this hunt, but I didn't realize he would have such a great time. I'm not going to deny that this post is one big, sloppy self-congratulation for the cute idea that I had for my boyfriend's birthday. What else would you expect? I mean, this is a blog after all. It may as well be called TheDailyStudyInNarcissism, if we're being honest -- and it needs to lose the word Daily if we're being really honest.

The whole day was one big success and Richard was so kind to tell me that the scavenger hunt was a memory that will last a lifetime. See, that's why I keep him around. As I write this, I'm in the kitchen having a lunch of leftover fish from last night and I nearly got a spiny little bone stuck in my throat. Don't worry, I performed some very graceful retching and hacking-up to solve the problem. Needless to say, Richard is lucky he didn't come home to another startling surprise:

Until next time for more gay, yuppy fun! From all of us here at The Daily Shim Sham (um... me... ) thanks for reading, internet people! Now get back to the Bible and Ayn Rand, you crazy kids!


  1. Despite having to take several breaks to clean up the copious amounts of vomit I spewed on myself, my keyboard, my lunch, and monitor, I found this entry highly adorable. <3

  2. Probably one of your funniest ones yet, although I love them all. I particularly like the angels on the couch followed by Booty Clench! I can't stop laughing! You are definitely good for the soul.

  3. Is it wrong that this gave me a craving for gummy bears?

    Cute cartoons as ever.