13 May 2005

Farewell to Montreal (catch-up)

Farewell to . . . ? What the . . . ?

Yes, we are about to leave Montreal tomorrow morning, heading to Saint John, NB. I just took a Tylenol PM, so I may fall headfirst on the keys before this post is done; but let's back it up a little.

We left Toronto feeling great, after the successful performance at Fort York described below. Never did the road from Toronto to Ottawa -- well known to both Dave and me since we could drive -- seem shorter! It was a happy homecoming. On Sunday we had the Ottawa performance, in the afternoon at the theatre in the Public Library.

[taking questions after the Ottawa show]

The show went quite well indeed, I may say: a good-sized audience of 55, and I was pumped up. Not only was the show on Mother's Day (with our dear mother in attendance), but it was also the 60th anniversary of VE Day. Very nice to see many friends in the audience; Christina Leadlay took a number of pictures of the show, and will be writing it up in Embassy magazine.

A minor note on VE coverage these last two weeks: while often very moving, the various specials on TV could have used a bit more hard fact, IMHO. It is extremely important that we remember our soldiers' sacrifices, but somehow the purpose of the sacrifice was always glossed as "defending freedom," "liberating Europe," etc. This is quite true, but the sacrifices were also for things like: taking the last bridge; cutting the German resupply line; securing the hilltop; etc. Perhaps TV commentators think this sort of thing is boring or somehow requires more knowledge on the part of viewers than they possess; but that's a self-fulfilling logic if there ever was one. I get the impression that the Canadian army never once doubted that it was freeing Holland from brutal tyranny, and that this idea was always a sustaining factor through those last few months; but that idea is easily grasped today. What is more difficult for us, in our peaceful era, to imagine is that a man could be blown to smithereens with the single idea on his mind that he would shortly have to advance across a small field and find cover in the next hedge. Or that this was the last machine-gun nest his company would have to clear out that day. Or what have you. But this is not an opinion blog, so I move on.

Ah yes, Ottawa. Having spent a good deal of time praising other cities, I deserve a few sentences on my hometown. How perfectly Ottawa in the summer expresses my idea of the good life! The cafes are full of people; the food is affordable but well cooked; the conversation is heavily political (as it was in Athens, Rome, 17th century London); no one spends any time whining at the federal government. People are bilingual; no one flinches when you resort to a French expression. It is taken for granted that relaxed civilisation is the foundation of true friendship.

Okay, back to the diary. This Monday I had my only Ottawa school visit, at York Street Elementary -- just a few blocks from our house there. Though it was only one school, I performed it six times in one day: twice in the morning and four times straight in the afternoon (with just enough time to glut my thirst between classrooms). I'm not sure this is the most effective economy of performance, but I was glad I made it; admittedly, the shows were only 20-25 minutes long. Still, by way of endurance epic, this must be some kind of record.

That evening, after a nice farewell dinner at Chez Lucien (terrific pub, I must say), I drove to Montreal; Dave stayed for a couple days as he had a couple eye-doctor appointments to take care of (he had the laser eye surgery a couple of months ago). Rolled onto the Island with "White Rabbit" playing off the iPod; some David Bowie, too, IIRC. How strange to be passing in the car, and visiting on foot, all these places I know so well after so long being unfamiliar with my surroundings!

Yes, we have no passed the 1 month mark in terms of the Tour -- yesterday, in fact. Should have blogged it, but I'm staving off a cold (whence the Tylenol PM; it hasn't kicked in yet). I had two school shows here, on Tuesday at Options II High School in St. Henri, and then on Wednesday at Lower Canada College in NDG. They both went quite well, though I kept to 30 minutes for both. Once again, it was shown that socio-economic status has absolutely zero to do with aesthetic response to epic poetry; not that the LCC students were less interested than the Options II students, but I become more and more aware that Plato was entirely right about the ethical bond between performer and audience. And philosophical ethics of this sort are non-cultural.

Well, maybe the Tylenol is kicking in after all.

[music, passion, and Portuguese soccer are always in fashion here]

In summa: I visited the Copacabana bar on the Main, that perfect establishment, on Tuesday, seeing my old friends Michel and Quinlan, and supped chez Q the following night. All my old friends here now have beautiful and accomplished francophone girlfriends. Dave got in that night too, and we had a pleasant day off yesterday. Woohoo! He is reading about the Spanish Civil War; in between bouts with the ancient Homerist named Aristonicus, I'm reading Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror, about the end of the Middle Ages. Much recommended. We've had such pleasure just walking around; the weather has generally been wonderful here (26 on Wednesday), releasing legions of Montreal women onto the streets after a long winter. One formulates a new theory about their collective beauty every time one comes here.

Tonight was the public show in Montreal, at the Stewart Museum on Ile Ste.-Helene
(specifically in the Large Powder Arsenal). It went quite well: I started weakly, without much passion, but by the time I reached the deaths of the two characters I was doing my best impersonations yet by quite a bit. It's curious how the feeling of imminent doom prior to performance is crucial. This was the epicentre of Fraser Highlander activity in North America, site of the original garrison: Bruce Bolton of the Stewart Museum was most welcoming and helpful, and I got to meet the OC, a fine gentleman just back from Holland: he had been at Juno Beach. My great aunt Jean was also there.

I have a lot more to write, but I can feel the medicine spreading past my kneecaps. Or is that the effect of reading too much Minority Government Gossip in the papers? Dave and I are working up a Star Wars: Episode III allegory for it all; we note that holding the budget vote on May 19th, which just so happens to be the release date of the final movie, may be the most underhanded parliamentary ploy yet.


Anonymous said...

Good to catch up. Safe journey to Saint John!

Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed your show! Good luck with the rest of your trip!

Anonymous said...

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