Thursday, November 30, 2006

Compulsive, Unqualified Editor
Ummmmm..... You mightn't have noticed by the quality of the grammar/sentence structure/word choices/punctuation in my blogs, but I am, in fact, a compulsive editor. I've always read the newspaper with a pencil in my hand and have one eye on the content and another on the syntax. I admit to feeling a smug little thrill whenever I catch the media in an embarassing misspelling. A) Yes, I am that dorky, thanks for asking, B) Yes, I see how this could be considered hypocritical, thanks for asking, and C) No, I don't read the Toronto Sun anymore because there just aren't enough pencils, are there?

Anyway, lately I've been editing a translation of a book on the Mayan calandar written by my fa-bu-lous friend, Magda. As far as reasons go for not regularly posting dross to this site, that's the best one I've got. Been busy. Editing. Very Busy.

Anyway, the translation is done and the book will be on a bookseller shelf near you within the year. I *probably* won't run into you there however, as my 'fee' for editing services is a few copies of the final version.

Ok, now that I've said all that, I have to admit one niggling insecurity: It's my use of commas. (Ahhhhh, we were hoping you'd bring that up at some point, you're thinking). See, although I've edited an ENTIRE text that will be published for HUMAN CONSUMPTION, I have to admit that I'm not completely certain that I've put the commas in the right places. I know there are rules governing when to use and not use them -- I've not only read the rules, but I've read books about comma rules (notably "Eats, Shoots, and Leaves), and they still don't stick. This is not a good blind spot for any respectable editor to have.
Ok, on this subject, sort of, but jumping a bit to the right of center.... Andre sent me a song he wrote while in Belgium. He had been working out a beautiful melody and a pretty amazing poem while here and, although it's not completely finished, it's nearly ready to be recorded. The lyrics, which start out simply and become more complex over the course of the song, are beautiful and quite heady. There's just this one thing... (no, it's not his commas)... it's his word choice in the 1st verse. It goes:
The love from the morning
has lingered till noon
The memory of our moving
swells up the room

See, I think "swells up the room" makes us seem all bloated and gassy. Why would morning love swell up a room? How would this be possible? Anyway, I'd like to suggest "still in the room", or "remains in the room" or "smokes a fag in the room" --- ANYTHING but "swells up the room".

Yikes! Late for work... must dash...

Ok, so I have two questions: 1) Is it horrible to edit a love poem that someone writes for you -- even if that poem will become a recorded song heard, potentially, by 10's of people?, and 2) If not, does anyone have suggestions for replacing "swells up the room"?

Monday, November 27, 2006

It is a Gift to you from the Belgian Government , that you are nonetheless obliged to accept.

On my 9th Christmas, I got a dress from my Grandma. She made it herself, despite not having seen me in person the 12 months preceding her Christmas visit. Opening the box, hoping for books, I was momentarily puzzled by what instead appeared to be a flattened purple and brown stuffed animal. “Had Grandma bought me a crazy stuffed flounder”? I thought as I gingerly lifted it from the box.

Iiiiiiisn’t that adorable”, shrieked my mother snatching it out of my hands and holding the fuzzy fabric against my little 9-year old body. “Oh Colleen, look at the beautiful dress Grandma made for you (me: that's a dress???). Try it ooon”….

“uhhhhrrrmmm…” I said, looking helplessly at all of the beaming, nodding adult faces. Help was not to be found in any one of them. The closest I got was a barely perceptible wince from my Father… but it could have been the Christmas morning breakfast scotch, as he did absolutely nothing to prevent the fashion atrocity about to play itself out.

I was jammed. Not only did I have to wear the dress for my adoring family that Christmas morning (the photographic evidence of which was nearly completely destroyed in a highly improbable garburetor ‘accident’ in 1986), I was obliged to publicly display my transformation into a Muppet Show monster later that morning at Church.

Walking into Ste. Anne’s I heared the collective intake of breath from my schoolfriends like a flock of startled doves taking to the rafters. From my 9 year old perspective, there was snickering, there was pointing, young mothers clutched their babies to their breasts as I walked by. Only from one of my friends was there any sympathy. Wilhelmina Devoy met my misery-filled gaze with a sadness that first acknowledged and then exceeded it. Wilhelmina and I locked eyes as I walked past her in slow motion. Wilhelmina was seated next to her purple-clad Grandmother wearing a child-sized but otherwise identical purple polyester pantsuit with matching pillbox hat.

Today I went to the Onthaalbureau, in response to the nasty Welcome Letter I received from the Burgermeester-Meesterburger advising me that I had to register to be "integrated" or else I would be "punished with a money fine".

The nice lady at the Onthaalbureau told me that the integration lessons are "a gift to you from the Government of Belgium. A gift that you, nonetheless, are obliged to accept".

That is now my new all-time favorite line (replacing “Fuck you girlfriend, thanks for the canal tour") and you should, henceforth, expect to hear me refer to it often.

For example, as in:
Belgium: Hey Colleen. I knit you this ugly brown and purple sweater!
Colleen: Ermmmm.... Uhhh...
Belgium: I see from your reaction that you do not love the gift to you from me. It is a gift that you, nonetheless, are obliged to accept [delivers karate chop to the neck and wrestles sweater over Colleen's semi-conscious torso]

It turns out that the integration lessons, involve such riveting and pertinent subjects as:
- How to ride the bus!
- How to get a job!
- How to avoid getting impaled on a razor wire barrier during a political demonstration!
... classes are three times a week for 3 hours/session (6:30-9:45pm) for 4 months!

Oh, and on top of that, there are mandatory "non-intensive" Dutch lessons twice a week, 3 hours/session for 5 months (hmmm….I don't think they are using this word correctly).

In a world where I can't even get my laundry done, I have a hard time seeing how I'd make time for this. When I expressed this to the woman at the Onthaalbureau, she looked at me sympathetically and delivered a karate chop to my neck. I woke up in my car clutching a new letter, stamped and signed, that simply reads:
Geboren in Canada die woont in Overijse, Zich heeft aangemeld op het onthaalbureau.

I suspect that my Kafka-esque nightmare has only just begun.
Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

You can be punished with a Money Fine
-- or: "The Belgian Welcome Wagon"

There have been many moments since arriving in Belgium when I've felt less than welcome. There was that night that I tried to go for dinner and all around me shopkeepers and restaurant owners were slamming their windows shut and barring their doors. I skirted around a paddy wagon bursting with flak-jacketed soldiers that barred the streets with Razor Wire barriers. I didn't know anything about the annual political march where left-crazies meet right-crazies in the center square. All night I was in a bad Apocolypse-Now meets Westside Story mashup with black helicopters circling around and loudspeakers blaring music and anger.

There was the night when I, settled in my livingroom and enjoying yet another lonely Friday night reading a book, listened for hours to the party throbbing next door. A group of young partiers climbed out onto the roof and peeped in my window... squeeling in surprise and amazement that someone was actually inside the apartment.

There is the constant lack of eye contact or smiling -- even amongst my colleagues -- that makes me feel like I'm on another planet, and not just in a foreign country.

And so on...

But I have just received the most unwelcoming letter from my local commune. For those of you lucky enough to not have to know what a commune is (or if you are super lucky and think it's a place where like-minded, life-loving weavers/organic food growers live together in harmony), let me give you a little background...

When you move to Belgium you have to register with a townhall -- or commune -- that governs every beurocratic aspect of one's Belgian existence, and then some. Think Kafka novel. I'm sure that I don't know the half of what they do, but I do know that it's the government's way of knowing who is living where. If you do not register with a commune, you will be located and ejected from the country. The commune verifies that you are, in fact living in their zone (and, I guess, not just pretending to) by sending the police to your house. All the police really do is check that your name is on the mailbox, but still. Once you are registered they make sure that all is in order. For foreigners, they make sure that you are assimilated. Oh, sorry, I mean "integrated".

I recently received the following letter, signed by my commune's Burgermeester. The original is in Flemish, so I've used on online translation app which gives it, in my estimation, an appropriate amount of creepiness...

Dear Ms,
Regardng your duty to integration
You have just arrived in our country. The Flemish government reminds you with this letter to your duty to following an integration route. You get the chance Dutch learn and a lot of useful matter concerning the Flemish society come to be possible.

Your duty implies among other things that you must submit an application rapidly on the onthaalbureau. At registration in the onthaalbureau with you a contract is established. Stands which lessons must follow you. If you do not submit an application within the three months after registration in the municipality on the onthaalbureau or you your contract do not comply with, you can be punished with a money fine.

Since you are registered already longer than three months in the municipality, to insist we that you submit an application rapidly on the onthaalbureau.

With most the hoogachting.
Dirk B.,

Most of the hoogachting??? That's about as much of the hoogachting as I need thanks. You can keep the rest of your funky-ass hoogachting to yourself.

The last thing I need right about now is to be punished with anything else Belgian. Just being here is punishing enough, thanks. I'm already living in a place with live wires sticking out of walls where light fixtures should be, a shower that tries daily to kill me, and a low-frequency hum whose source cannot be located and is driving me incrementally mad. I'm already punished by a Belgian society that closes their stores at 6pm so I never have groceries, and who thinks whenever I smile that I'm the anti-social one. I'm already reminded every day that my sense of humor does-not-work within a 900km radius of anywhere I happen to be standing, and I'm already certain that if I really needed assistance in the case of an emergency, that I wouldn't get it.

As much as I would loooove to be integrated into your obviously warm and highly desirable Flemish culture (for one thing, I'd like to be able to go around threatening people with moneyfines), I'm pretty sure that I'm going to be pretty hard to convince at this point... best you keep your threats of a moneyfine punishment to your burger-eating self, meester.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pines for You

I haven't been online much lately. It's Andre's last week here, so he and I have been exploring Luxembourg and "spending time together" (nudge, nudge). He left today to go back to Canada via Paris and London.

This morning we woke up at 5:30, "spent some time together", and said goodbyes over coffee. I had to leave early to bring the car in to the detailer to get rid of traces of the you-know-what.

Tonight when I got home from work, the housekey was in the secret key spot. For a moment I couldn't locate it. For a moment, I believed he had changed his mind about leaving and that he was inside. Yet, all of the lights were off. I found the key. When I opened the door, of course, noone was home. Noone was playing guitar. Noone was making me field mushrooms on toast or waiting to talk to and play with me. My retro brown leather jacket that Andre has been wearing for 3 weeks was hanging off the back of an empty chair.

We took a walk last night on a castle grounds. The mist and twilight red sky imbued the setting with a dreamlike quality. With a sense of peace it occured to me that, as a final scene, one could do far worse. Yet, today in the bold light of day (or at least, the bold murk of a Belgian winter Monday) I admit that I believe he has made a mistake in leaving. And perhaps I've made one in letting him leave. Alas, the thing is done.

His presence though has been an unexected pleasure and I am going to miss him.

Oh, he left his mittens behind in the pocket of my leather jacket -- a fabulous parting gift at the end of a well-told story.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Remembrance Day

Fear not, this is not another throwing up story.

But I must warn you that it, unfortunately, has some elements of nose picking.

Believe me, I’m not any happier about that than you are, but I thought it was only right to warn you.

This Remembrance Day Andre and I went to Ieper (Ypres). Most Canadians know it as Flanders Fields – the place where the poppies blow between the crosses row on row.

Most poignant moment: The Canadian War Memorial. The Memorial is a grand marble column, the topmost part of which is the carved bust of a soldier, head bent in solemn acknowledgement. Maple trees grow on the grounds and autumn leaves, golden and red, blow gently about.

There is a little bench recessed into a well-kept hedge where I sat and phoned Don so that we could connect for a while. Don is like my grandfather, but moreso my friend. We kind of adopted each other some years ago and he’s been a central figure in my life ever since. When Don’s wife Emma died 5 years ago it looked as though he would have to move into a home for the elderly. Not an attractive proposition for him. And then a miracle presented itself -- as miracles are wont to do -- in the form of small-town whispers that the house 4 houses down from my mom’s might be for sale. It was and, on the day I signed the mortgage, I handed the keys to Don and asked him to take care of it for me. And he has been. Don is now 83 and a WWII vet having served in the US navy amphibious forces (now called the Navy Seals) aboard the USS James O’Hara. Don was at Iwo Jima. He is, in a word, awesome.

I call him regularly to check in and chat about life and to heckle CNN, but there are 4 days in the year I never fail to call him:

His birthday
The anniversary of the day Emma died
And Remembrance Day, when I thank him for things that I’m sure I know very little about. We always get a bit mushy on Remembrance Day. This year was no exception and I know that it means a lot to him that ‘the young people’ don’t forget. That I called him from Flanders where no small number of his buddies died, meant something to him.

Flash to the end of the evening, Andre and I attended the moving “The Last Post” ceremony at the Menin Gate Memorial which is a tribute to the fallen soldier. Favorite moment there: We’re inside the Memorial where the names of 55,000 unburied soldiers are inscribed. There are about 1,000 people in the crowd, yet the Memorial Hall is silent. Two Irish violinists begin to play “Danny Boy”. The crowd begins to hum softly, becoming gradually louder. The crowd starts to sing the last verse. Many are moved to tears. Few are able to sing the last line.

It almost seems awful to start into a description of the middle of the evening, but there was one, so here goes. It should have been really incredible – and parts of it were – there was just this one little thing that rather ruined it: The nose picker.

Andre and I bought 2 of the 7 remaining tickets to “The Great War Remembered” Concert in the Cathedral of Saint Martin and Saint Nicholas. Picture a majestic cathedral, the Band of the Belgian Royal Navy, the Choir of the Holy Trinity Church, The Saint Nicolas Male Voice Choir, The Devon Ceremonial Unit pipers, fiddlers from Ireland and Maori singers and dancers. And then imagine you are seated next to the world’s most relentless nosepicker. The man I sat next to – no word of a lie – picked his nose throughout the entire concert. 20 minutes into it, I actually wondered if he was doing some performance art reenactment of all of the major battles. He continued to wage his particular version of trench warfare for almost 2 hours… At one point, he was so deep in that I thought he might lose his arm at the elbow. Trying to earn a purple heart, I guess. Anyway, it was grotesque. As the concert was completely sold out, there was nowhere to go… to cope I unapologetically held my mercifully full-sized programme to the side of my face and held it there as a shield for almost 2 hours lest I get hit by flying shrapnel.

And I know that this is really off the topic of Remembrance Day, which I take really seriously, but I can’t help but wonder aloud what the fuck could be so wrong with someone that they would attend a beautiful symphony – and then pick their nose feverishly through the whole thing. I’m not exaggerating either.
This is an action shot I took about an hour and a half into the concert.

The nosepicker picked his nose through “It’s a long way to Tipperary”, and "Pack up your Troubles, and all through “Roses of Picardy” (which, ok, maybe I can see), but to pick ones nose during “Danny Boy” and “God Save the Queen”, I mean, my God man. What is on your mind? Perhaps you sustained a closed head injury from a prior nose-picking marathon. Last Christmas with the family perhaps? Maybe you forgot you still had the turkey carving knife in your hand?

Anyway, I’m going to try to forget it. It would be a shame to have THAT be my Remembrance Day memory.

Friday, November 10, 2006

This one's for the Girls

This blog is for all you women out there are having a bad Friday night... you may right now be stuck in an elevator... you may be on the blind date from hell and he's only half-way through touring you through his peanut brittle collection.... or you may be 3 acryclic nails away from losing your grip of your mobile home roof-top tv antennae and Earl Jr. is passed out on the sofa and can't hear your hollerin'... Sistas, this one goes out especially to you.

Before we get settled in however, I must advise any of you with a hairtrigger gag reflex that you might not want to read any further. Anyone with kids, or who can gut a fish, or clean their drain with their bare hands will probably be ok. The rest of you SCAT!

Ok girls, now that we're alone, let me tell you a little story. I'm going to be drinking a bit here, so I hope you'll excuse the spelling and grammer mistakes along the way...

So tonight, Andre and I had a lovely dinner date with my former roommate Yoka, her boyfriend Will, and some other faboo friends. I brought home a projection unit from work so that we could backdrop Baraka on one of her walls after the lovely dinner we were planning to make together. Andre was to meet me at the office at 5 so that Yoka and I could shop and then make the meal together. When, by 5 I realized Andre would be late, I called Yoka to apologize and to say that she would have to shop solo. Andre arrived at the office at, oh about 6 o'clock. He was wearing such a groovy outfit ladies... faded jeans, a circa 1985 adidas pullover and my retro brown leather waist coat... mmmmm ladies, yummy yum yum.

But other than the mod getup, he was looking not so good. Something was off. When I asked, he said he had a headache. He wasn't feeling too good he said.

Flashback to last night: I stayed in last night while Andre went out-on-the-town to the African lounge to have "oh, about 3 beers". I went to bed and could hear him stumbling around downstairs around midnight. 'hmmmm....' I thought 'he's just not used to being in a place without proper electricity'. This morning when we woke up he was lying in bed muttering something about feeling like he was a small forest unit. Not being karmically connected with small forest units myself, I asked him wtf he might be talking about. He said 'oh you know and then provided a description that would have brought a tear to Jack Keroac's eye. When I came downstairs, I found his belt on the kitchen counter. Ladies, I'm a working girl and don't have the luxury to spend my days pondering such existential subjects, so I left.

Ok, flash forward to 6 o'clock again. Andre is at my work, I give him a tour, he seems somewhat interested but also a little sick. He says he has been feeling lousy all day. He slept until 12:30 he said. He's probably just going to be a little quiet tonight. My mind races forward in time to when we are at Yoka's... I am with my friends: super wonderul International PhD students, archaeologists, cave divers, and water engineers -- everyone is laughing and interesting. I am coaxing Andre out of the corner of the sofa with a tea biscuit and interjecting interesting Andre-facts into the conversation at appropriate places to include him in the dialogue. In my mind it goes something like this:

Marwa: "the recent elections help reframe the old concensus on US-Israeli relations and possible the whole middle east. It's a popular acknowledgement that..."
Me: "Oh, did I mention that Andre is from the East... uh, the East coast of Canada actually".
Andre: Nods as though underwater

I shake off the thought and decide that all will be well. It has to be. Except that it isn't.

Andre and I drive towards Yoka's. It is clear that he's a bit out of it. I suggest stopping at a bakery to get him something to eat to settle his stomach. He buys a V8 and some Belgian doughball thing with some kind of meat in it. I don't know. I don't care. He also stops at the pharmacy to buy asprin and takes one when he gets back in the car washing it down with the V8. We drive off. I wonder out loud if we should be going to Yoka's. He wants to go he says. But he'll probably be quiet, he says.

My mind flash-forwards... we are at Yokas. People are talking, laughing. Andre is gesturing in weak handsignals to me that cast crazy shadow puppets on Yoka's wall.

I shake off the thought and signal to turn onto the onramp. Picking up speed an focused on merging I hear Andre say "uh, I don't feel well". My left eye darts to the 18 wheeler. My right eye darts to look at Andre. He's not kidding. Neither is the 18 wheeler. I'm stuck. I know what will happen beore it happens. Andre slow motion projectile vomits all over my car. I slam the brake, jerk the car to the right shoulder and hit the 4-way flashers. The contents of Andre's stomach have hit the dashboard, his whole body, my leather jacket and my Kate Spade NY purse. The contents of Andre's stomach are dripping off the passenger window that he didn't know how to open. The fetid vomit smell fills the car and I slam open the windows. Blessed diesel-exhaust highway air streams in and cleanses it. I stick my head out my window, breath in deeply, hold this breath and, not breathing, say to Andre. "It's ok. Everything is ok". He is apologizing. I have decided to appear calm, supportive and gentle. This is not how I am feeling inside. I am a shoe-in for an Oscar for best supporting actor in the barf-in-the-car-scene category. I steal a glimpse at Andre. He is covered in barf. He looks like a pedestrian who has been sprayed by a mean driver who soaked him with a mud puddle... except Andre is not covered with muddy water. Andre is covered with, well, chunks of Andre. I start to gag. I look away and put my scarf over my nose and mouth. I decide that if I can just get us home, I won't barf. It is -2 degrees. We drive 35km at 140km/hr with the windows open and me trying to think of puppies and butterflys and trying not to look at Andre. I imagine that the front seat is empty.... la la la, I am alone in the car. I am praying little prayers to God for traffic-free highways. The sound of the wind and the cars I whiz by roars luxuriously in my ears. I suddenly realize I have been driving this whole time in 3rd gear. I try to gear up and cannot. My barf-covered Audi is redlining and smells like vomit and gear dust smoke.

A miracle happens and my gearshift slides into 4th and then 5th. I relax a little.

There is nothing at home to clean this up with. As I pull off the highway, I say calmly to Andre "this will be uncomfortable and I'm sorry, but we have no cleaning supplies (OR WINE AND I'M PRETTYCERTAIN THATI'MGONNANEEDONE, MAYBE TWO, BOTTLESOFWINETONIGHT) and I need to stop for some papertowels". I pull into the convenience store parking lot, turn off the car and look at Andre under the florescent lights. He is completely covered in vomit.

I will stop describing this.

As I'm writing this, he's outside cleaning the car. I'm drinking wine. It's going to be a long night.

So ladies, whatcha wanna do tomorrow?
Open letter to my bathroom:

Dear Bathroom:

Listen, I only have a minute to write this as I'm late for work -- as you already know.

What I want to know, bathroom is, Why?

Why do you hate me so much? Why do you try to hurt me? What have I done to make you want to torment me with your alternating frigid and scalding shower water that makes showering every day resemble an olympic demonstration sport? Have I offended you? I know that I reported to the landlord that you have 4 cracked tiles -- I hope you know that it wasn't meant to embarass you. I was hoping he'd fix them, but we both know he won't.

And why, bathroom, does the shower head have to be attached to the low hanging beam on the angled ceiling like it is? Do you enjoy knowing that I have to crouch down a little and lean to the outside of the tub in order to shower? Do you rejoice when I crack my head on the beam every few days? I sense your gleeful anticipation of the day, that I lose my balance and perform a wild, naked uncontrolled falling arabesque for your amusement. Maybe I'll grab the shower curtain so that it crashes down on me as a finale? We both know it's just a matter of time.

But it's not my fault, bathroom. It's not my fault that your lightswitch doesn't work and that you have live wires hanging over the mirror where a light really should be. It's Belgium's fault. Yes, Belgium's fault. Belgium makes people take their lights with them when they leave apartments and not replace them with anything. Belgium makes light fixture store people close all the light fixture stores at 5pm so that nice people like me with jobs can't get to them. And it's Belgium, not me, that forces the electricians to work the same hours as the light fixture people.

Besides bathroom, don't you like the candlelight? I mean, don't we have a good time putting on my makeup oldschool... like 1886 oldschool. Besides bathroom, if we installed lights at this point, it might be too much of a shock for both of us, what with my having to clean you by candlelight -- God only knows what kind of a mess you really are. Maybe that's why you hate me? Maybe that's why your toilet runs for 9 to 10 minutes with every flush... maybe that's why your window won't open, maybe that's why the tap in your sink drips. I'll try to do better bathroom. Please just give me a 2nd chance. You are a very nice bathroom, and we both know that you are in an extremely expensive apartment that neither one of us can really afford to live in or to move out of. Besides, bathroom, we have the 9 year lease to think of. 9 years, bathroom. It's a long time.

We need to figure out how to get along.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Andre and I have been peripherally in each others' world for a few years.

Having different friends and being different people, we knew each other to see one another... but I think it's fair to say that neither of us felt any great urge toward the other.

If anything, when we would meet, I would find him curious. A bit random-seeming. Not attractive, but there was always... something.

In a word, our relationship is unlikely. Definitely it's greater than the sum total of what we put into it... in early 2000 I would sometimes be where he was playing guitar, in 2002 he stumbled up the church steps where I was sitting with a friend and kissed me hard on the mouth, later that summer, while walking to the postoffice I ran into him while he was packing to go to Louisiana the next day -- he gave me a bottle of red wine. Later still that summer I bought a copy of his poetry book and sat in a gazebo by the beach for an entire day reading it and writing him a letter that he never responded to. I never expected him to. Every year I would see him during the festival in our hometown. We'd say hello and have a brief conversation, I would see him play guitar, and that would be it.

This summer when I saw him at the festival, I knew he looked familiar, but I didn't immediately recognize him. He was wearing a white shirt, and nice jeans and I remember thinking that he could possibly be some better looking older brother of the Andre I knew. The Andre I knew looked like Bob Dylan on a particularly scruffy day. Careless comfy, to be kind. I walked past him to get a better look and realized that it was Andre, having returned from his Masters studies in Lafayette and cleanly scrubbed.

And so we connected.

It's odd to be dating someone from my hometown. I never have. I go back there every year and always feel a bit relieved to be able to visit anyones house and not have to have thoughts like "Sue is so nice... but I sure hope she doesn't find out I bonked her husband in highschool... and her brother... and her other brother".

So now Andre is in Belgium with me for a month and I'm sure we're the talk of the town.

I'm tired at the mo, so I'll stop here.

And that concludes another rivetting entry.

Yawn. zzzzzzzzzzzz....

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Meanest Thing

Tonight driving home from work I listened to a live REM recording from a concert they recorded somewhere in England. The venue was obviously really small and I can only imagine that the audience felt pretty damned lucky to be there. The recording was pretty rough and picked up a lot of the audience's chit-chat. It struck me as odd that there would be any chatter at all -- given that it's not every day one might find themselves as a member of a nearly private audience with REM and that it seems like the kind of thing one might give their full attention to. Why would Suzy and Mary, for example, be overheard blah-blahing about snorkeling in Cuba when, say, REM is in the room singing for them.

And then I remembered Warren Zevon. And I cringed.

A few years ago I went to one of the last Warren Zevon concerts in Toronto. It was at The Horseshoe, a funky Toronto landmark and home to some of the best music ever played in the city. Tickets were impossible to get, owing to Warren Zevon's somewhat inexplicable cult following who had hungrily bought every available ticket. My friends, a small cabal of urban hipsters working as graphic artists for Eye -- one of the city's avante garde street-level publications -- had scored comps.

I remember standing next to Will, who, in addition to being a dickhead as you will soon see, is very tall, broadshouldered, and strong. In front of me was some Joe Average guy in an office shirt who obviously had come straight from work and was probably really excited to be seeing Warren.

Warren Zevon's cult was something that, until attending the concert, I was completely unaware of. Joe Whiteshirt was definitely a member. He had had a couple of beers by the time we arrived, but he probably got there before the doors even opened. The concert was something he had probably looked forward to for weeks before the show. He probably planned his whole day around making sure he got there early to get a good view of the stage. He probably left work early. A real fan. As more and more people arrived, the room got tighter and Joe took a step back. I put my hand on his back to let him know he was backing into me. He turned around and smiled.

Will caught this exchange, took me lightly by the shoulders and switched places with me so that he was then standing directly behind Joe. I watched, slightly amused, as Will took a step forward making Joe think that the girl behind him was making a bold move in a crowded room. Joe responded by leaning slightly back into Will, thinking he was rubbing up against the curly-haired girl. This went on for a minute or two and when the guy turned around, probably to introduce himself, he was staring, not at me, but into Will's barrel chest. The next few things happened in slow motion: Joe focused his eyes on Will's chest, as his brain slowly registered that something was amiss, and then looked uuuuuup into Will's broadsmiling face. Will leaned slightly forward and kissed Joe on the forehead, which for the briefest of moments, was quite funny. Joe bristled, formed a fist and took a half-drunken swing at Will that missed him by half a kilometer. Things were moving in slo-mo, so Will lazily sidestepped the punch. That's when the movie picked up in real time. Will fixed his gaze on Joe and delivered a crunching punch to his face. Pow! Then things sped up to doublespeed and got confusing, there was some pushing and jostling and things ended up with the bouncer grabbing Joe and kicking him out of the Horseshoe. He never got to see the show.

Driving home, listening to REM, it occurred to me that this was the meanest thing I've ever been a part of. I just watched without telling Will to stop being such a dick. Warren Zevon has since died and I have to wonder if Joe ever got another chance to see him. Probably not. I wish I could hit the undo key on that one.

Later that night during the concert, Jill and I were blah-blahing about work or some documentary we'd seen when we realized that the atmosphere in the room had suddenly shifted. Warren Zevon had been playing for a while and the noise level was quite high, so we were talking quite loudly. Except that now Warren wasn't playing, and the noise level was no longer high, and people were no longer looking at the stage... they were looking at us. From every direction. Warren Zevon, who I guess was trying to share some quiet time with his diehard fanbase, was looking at us. Warren Zevon was patiently waiting for us to shut the fuck up. And then we got shushhh-ed. At a Warren Zevon concert. Completely missing the significance of the intimate Warren Zevon moment, Jill said sweepingly to the crowd "uh... this is a fucking bar people, not church. Get a life". At which point the crowd actually growled, the fast-mo kicked back in and Jill and I were airlifted by Will and Gord and whisked out of the club before we could be torn apart.