Saturday, February 7, 2009

Beautiful British Columbia

Back when M and I were Seattle-dwellers, we'd cross the border to Canada anytime we needed a breath of Europea on a day-jobber's budget. Vancouver B.C. felt so . . . international. That was the word we always used, and that one word seemed to contain everything we couldn't find back in Seattle: rapid mass transit, enormous Hong Kong-styled dim sum eateries, a legal drinking age of 18, French, strip clubs that were more sexy than sleazy, foreign currency, and daily newspapers that would print the word "fuck."

We never performed there, but we always wanted to, and on the last trip we took there, back at the tail end of 2000, we spent the whole train ride home hatching a vivid and fanciful plan for our triumphant return.

Cut to nine years later, and we're performing in Portland, Oregon at the T:BA Festival, when a man who runs a performing arts festival in Vancouver comes to see our show. He really responds to the work, but of course it's too late to book us for this year's festival, and next year the city will be hosting the Olympics, which means that maybe we can talk about a booking for 2011?

And here's what I love about my M. He knows that 2011 is a lifetime away. Who knows where we'll be by then, or if we'll even be at all. He also knows we're already going to be in the Northwest for a different gig at the same time as the festival is happening. So really, there must be a way to make this work, right? And indeed, there was.

But it involved a number of compromises. The presenter told us that the space wasn't ideal. All the theaters were booked, so we'd be in their after-hours club. Also, we'd have no idea what our audience numbers would be like as there'd be no advance sales. We were told several times that this new club space was a big "experiment."

I read between the lines and told M we should expect about 30 in a house that could comfortably fit over 200. We put out 50 chairs and held our breath.

But they came! All these beautiful, smart, good-looking Canadians showed up and filled up all the seats we'd put out and more. We used up all the chairs, and filled up the cabaret tables and bar with standing room. The audience got Mike's humor immediately, and when the story demanded quiet, they quickly supplied it. It was a great night for live performance.

Afterwards, we caught up with an old friend, Dennis, who left the States after Bush was elected in 2000, married a nice Canadian girl, and is now a proud and happy father and game designer.

And the next morning, Mike did a live interview with a local television show. The host had actually watched a tape of Mike's performance in advance and then talked to him about his work for almost twenty minutes. This is notable because where we come from, artists are rarely treated as people who might have something to say that might be of interest to the general public. It was strange and wonderful and sad and nice all at the same time.

Then Mike delivered a fiery and funny and passionate and moving manifesto to the festival attendees. (Again, unusual to hear a keynote from an artist. O Canada, is all of you so wonderful?) And then we ate a bunch more food from the outstanding Granville Island Market: smoked Polish sausage and savory crepes and apples and Indian food and doughnuts and strawberries that we dipped into maple yogurt as we sat admiring the spectacular view.

On Monday, M leaves for his amazing island adventure, so it was nice to spend this time together in this place we'd always wanted to return to.

We will be back.


Lou said...

JM - I love your blog. LOVE it. And I'm so glad you both got to do the show in Canada and had a wonderful experience. I know Mike is the resident storyteller, but I have to say that you give him a run for his money. I enjoy reading your words so much!

JM said...

Thanks, Betsy! I also have enjoyed your blog--and the ant entry in particular--but when I go back for more I keep seeing the ants.

More stories, please!

NancyBlog said...

I know it's not really the point of the post, but... they print "fuck" in the newspapers? Really? Truly, an inspiring and alluring description of the land up-over!

JM said...

In a way, it kind of *is* the point of the post. That's what's interesting to me about Canada: Everything seems almost exactly like it is at home. Almost. And then, all of a sudden, you run into something like this. And you think, huh. What else am I not seeing?