Archive for the 'sometimes I freak myself out' Category

01
Apr
13

The theatre saved my life

We had been chatting in animated fashion for almost an hour, my arms no doubt flapping wildly as I described my love for certain productions I had seen over the past year or so. If this had been a date, instead of a marketing discussion about the theatre-going choices of Torontonians (or non-theatre-going choices, as it is for so many), it would have been one of the better ones I had been on lately. I was in theatre-junkie heaven, comparing notes with two like-minded individuals who worked in the industry and who seemed a little perplexed by my unbridled exuberance – I imagine it’s probably rare to meet a middle-aged financial services executive who attends 50+ theatre productions in a single year. To them, I was like a unicorn that had wandered into their midst, requiring careful study.

Non-date #1 shakes his head slightly with humour and disbelief, signalling the question I knew would eventually arise. “But what is it is it that is driving your interest? Did you grow up attending the theatre?”

“No, not really. It still amazes one of my best friends that I only first attended a Stratford show a few years ago. I had never gone until then, not in school, not once.”

I suddenly feel as though I have to provide a more fulsome response to the puzzled looks on the faces around the table, and yet I know the answer I have isn’t one that I feel I should share with people I’ve known only for an hour, and with whom I would like to engage in a professional relationship.

“A few years ago, I decided that I should take advantage of the arts that we have available in the city, and so, I did.”  The words are uncomfortable coming out of my mouth, because although they are technically true, they don’t feel honest. I sip my coffee and smile. Both non-dates smile and I know they are picking up on my discomfort. They nod, murmur, “that’s great” and move on.

As I walk home from the coffee shop, I wonder what would have happened if I had told them that the theatre saved my life.

No, really, it’s true.

The theatre saved my life.

I’ll try to explain.

I went on a blind date a number of years ago, very shortly after I split with The Ex, and although the date* was utterly forgettable and we were a terrible match, I had an epiphany during the date that ultimately changed the course of my life.

I realized that I was a horribly boring and shallow person. Or, that I was actually an interesting person, but leading a horribly boring and shallow life.

“I like to play tennis, ski, draft contracts and count my mountain of gold,” my date said. “What do you like to do?”**

In the harsh light of day (or, rather, the harsh light of the PATH), I discovered that I didn’t have much to say, or much that I wanted to say out loud.

“I have an active social life.”

“I go out and drink wine with my friends. A lot.”

“I like to write.”

“I used to write.  Sometimes, these days, I get ambitious and send regrettable texts after I drink the wine.”

“I like yoga.”

“Everyone says they like yoga, so if I say it, he’ll probably believe it.”

I was sitting and sipping tea with someone who practically had “DUD” stamped directly into his DNA, but at least he was doing something.  Tennis.  Skiing. Stuff that Rich Guys do. All of my energy was being poured (literally sometimes) into treading water on a never-ending sea of regret and bitterness, clinging helplessly to one rapidly deflating rubber dinghy after another.

I said that I would go places I had never been, but I didn’t go anywhere.

I said that I would experience new things that I had always wanted to try, but I didn’t do anything new.

I realized in that moment that all I had to do was stop kicking, open my eyes, and look around. This is why I say that the theatre saved my life. It was the beacon of light that led me out of the dark and turbulent emotional waters and gave me new territory to explore.  Today I know that as I discovered words and characters and performances I loved, I was really re-discovering myself.  One experience led to another, and another, and…well, you get the picture. My world instantly expanded, and I was hooked. I wanted more.

“Everything is new to me,” I tried to explain to a friend. “I was born yesterday, so just assume I haven’t seen it before.”  That’s how I felt, as though I had just been born. Or re-born, perhaps.  And now I want to see it all.

* The “Date” took place at 10:30 a.m. at the Starbucks in the PATH/foodcourt underneath Brookfield Place. Let’s face it, the only good morning dates are the ones that continue from the night before.

** Note: I may be paraphrasing. But he did like to play tennis.

***

Legoland by Atomic Vaudeville starts this week at Theatre Passe Muraille!  Legoland is the prequel to Ride the Cyclone – one of my all-time favourite musicals featuring a dead glee club contemplating the afterlife.  Here’s a little taste of RTC:

04
Jan
11

Now I know why Van Gogh Went Crazy and Cut off his Own Ear

Do paint fumes kill brain cells?

All signs point to yes.

In my infinite wisdom, I decided that I would use a portion of my first real vacation of 2010 (from December 23rd to January 4, 2011)* to paint my new** condo. 

Why did I choose to paint it myself instead of hiring a painter?

a) I am a go-getter with moxie and energy to spare.

b)  I want to experience the pride that comes with engaging in a  DIY project (and anything involving a drill is still out of the question).

c)  I was gouged the last time I hired painters, but was so afraid that they would come back and break my legs with the illegal key copy they undoubtedly made that I agreed to their terms.

d)  I am a $%^&! moron.***

Armed with this logic, I pranced off to my local Canadian Tire to choose my weapons of mass destruction.   All of the walls would be painted a very trendy grey colour named “Veil”.  The accent walls would be painted a very warm and jaunty colour named “Bonnie Bell”.  One cab ride and a glass of red wine later, I was ready to attack.

Now, the first roll of the brush onto a stark white wall is always a bit of a shock.   But Bonnie turned out to be less of a burnt…something and a bit more…well…bright LEGO orange…than I thought.

It was now evening .  “I’ll paint the whole wall and see what it looks like in the morning”.

That night, when the clock struck midnight, I was visited by two ghosts.

"Naeeeeee!!! Ya canna paeeent a wall orrrrrange, ya wee chickeee!"

The ghosts of Colin and Justin roused me from my slumber, and dragged me out into the living room to look at what I had wrought.  

The wall was like the giant monolith from 2001, except that it was orange.

“What have I done, Colin and Justin?!?” I howled, “WHAT HAVE I DONE?!?”  I began sweating profusely.  “Is it too late for me?”

They pointed with cold, yet fabulously manicured hands at the receipt on the dining room table.

“Are you trying to tell me that I have to go back?  Back to the store?”

A paint chip lay next to the receipt.   I knew what I had to do.

The next morning, I trundled off to the Canadian Tire and bought a gallon of “Downing Street”.  Brick red, and very dignified.  Very Churchillian.

*  I am planning on taking my 2011 vacation on or about 2020.

**  Yes, I moved in at the end of April.  Keep in mind that it took me THREE YEARS from move in date to paint a previous condo.  This is relatively quick by comparison.

***  DING DING DING!  We have a winner.

03
May
10

And Everything is Going Fine

It occurred to me as I was viewing “And Everything is Going Fine” – a documentary by Steven Soderbergh about his friend Spalding Gray – that Gray may have in fact been the very first blogger.*

The late (great?) Spalding Gray

This is probably not an original thought.  But it was the first time it had occurred to me.

I was not a huge Gray fan, as most of his famous monologues had been delivered while I was still a child.   But in 2004, when he was declared missing and presumed dead, I was intrigued.  Soderbergh thankfully did not venture into this dark territory, although it was hinted at throughout the film. 

Hindsight is always 20/20, but the moments of thoughtful sadness, the shy vulnerability, and the raw fear of slipping into the same suicidal tendencies of his mother were plainly evident behind the witty veil of neurotic humour.

At one point, as Gray described his art as a kind of “reliving” of his life experiences, I found myself almost yelling at the screen.  “That’s not good for you, Spud!  No one should dwell so long on his or her own life.”

“I guess you’re right, it’s good to let things go,” my companion responded when I made this exclamation outside the Bloor Cinema after the film.

But it’s not just about letting things go.  That answer is too simple.

Writing can be cathartic.  It can be a kind of release, a way of spilling forth words and ideas and feelings that cannot stay contained.

As I’ve said in the past, it can also feel as though one is bleeding onto the page.  There is a fine line between the healthy release and the flow of words that once started, cannot be stopped, cannot be staunched, leaving the writer feeling shaky and weak. 

For years, Gray bled his life onto the stage for the audiences.   He was the story, and the story was him.  His life was his source of inspiration, in a blurring of life and art that is likely very familiar to many bloggers (or at least the good ones – you know who you are).   The writer gives a piece of himself to the reader, cuts himself in the process of sharing an intimate, sometimes terrible life experience.  “Look at me,” the writer says.  “I am bleeding.” 

“I have also had that experience,” the reader says.  “I am bleeding, too.  We share these wounds.  We bleed together.”

The moment of connection between writer and the audience is powerful, humbling, sometimes healing, but it takes the toll on the writer who uses himself as a source of material.  In my opinion, it cannot be sustained for any length of time without causing serious damage to the writer.

After Gray’s accident in 2001 left him with terrible neurological trauma, he was unable to tell the story.

“If you knew that you would only degenerate and would never again be able to pursue your life’s passion, would you end it?” I asked my companion. 

That is a question that can’t be answered in the hypothetical.  The answer will only come in the moment of clarity.

***

It is in moments of illness that we are compelled to recognize that we live not alone but chained to a creature of a different kingdom, whole worlds apart, who has no knowledge of us and by whom it is impossible to make ourselves understood: our body.

Marcel Proust

* There is still time to attend a documentary at the Hot Docs festival in Toronto – running until May 9th.

07
Sep
09

Gotham at Night

I am a city person.  I feel nervous in the country, where no one can hear you scream.  I feel nervous in the suburbs, where people can hear you scream, but will likely ignore it.

I rarely feel unsafe in Toronto.  Wary, sometimes vigilant, often annoyed.  Never unsafe.

And then I hear them.

Three distinct gunshots.  Nearby.  Perhaps in that alleyway.

The first time I’ve heard the gunshots, although I’m sure that they’ve been fired nearby before.  I want to go to the window to look, and I want to huddle under the blankets.  My heart is pounding.

“I’m such a lightweight”, I think to myself.

There are no other sounds, no yelling, no screaming, no sirens.  I hear movement upstairs, and I realize I’m not the only one who has been disturbed.

I look out the window.  A man walking a dog through the alleyway.  A man loading stock into the store across the street.  A white limo pulls up in front of my building, and the driver and a man in a tuxedo get out and begin unloading bags.  A bride in full wedding gown gingerly climbs out of the back, attempting to keep the white material from brushing the ground.

Just another night.