Friday, March 25, 2005

Culture Costs

We had our Tristan and Iseult show this evening and it was a beautiful night of storytelling. Melanie Ray was outstanding and mesmerizing as she told this story of action, adventure, and tragic romance. I had never heard the story in its entirety before, so this was a real treat.

The story of Tristan and Iseult has, over the years, been broken down into shorter individual stories and I recognized quite a few of them. It was great hearing them all linked together as a single epic telling.

However, we needed 60 people to attend to make ends meet. I had received 40 RSVPs and I had hope that the remaining 20+ people would just show up, but in the end, we only had 25 people in attendance. The missing 15 people either cancelled at the last minute or just never showed up. Drat.

I'd like to say that this will be the last big show we're putting on, but we have a largish charity concert taking place mid-May (for the Montreal Children's Hospital). After that, I think we need to focus our efforts on smaller, less expensive venues. We can't afford to keep running these shows at our own expense.

We need Canada Council monies to make this work. It's unfortunate to say, but promoting culture is not a money-making venture. To keep English storytelling alive, we need government support.

The grant applications are being filled out as we speak. Keep your fingers crossed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The Principal's Office

I've been taking business trips back to my home town lately and, filled with nostalgia, I've strolled the halls of my old edumacational institutions. My first stop was to CEGEP St. Lawrence (Champlain Regional College) and I stopped in to visit some of my old teachers. Surprisingly, many of them were still there and have become slightly greyer in the foliciles than I am now (which isn't saying much really because the men in my family always grey prematurely).

My second stop was mostly for business: St. Vincent's Elementary. I was hoping to meet with the principal and try to get a few storytelling gigs at my old Alma Mater. I hadn't made an appointment, so the secretary said if I was willing to wait 15 minutes, the principal would be willing to meet with me.

Sitting just outside of the principal's office, I was momentarily overwhelmed with anxiety. I was taken back to a dark day in Grade 2 (1976) when the teacher caught me in some kind of misdeed (I can't remember what exactly), so I was sent to see the principal.

I remember feeling like I was walking the Green Mile, each step taking me closer to my doom. My mind was racing with excuses that would miraculously save me from the dire punishment that awaited me, but nothing was really coming to mind. I briefly considered hiding out by the jungle gym in the recess yard and hoped that the teacher would forget all about the transgression, but (fortunately) I didn't take the flight option.

I finally arrived to the secretary's office and said with a squeak "I'm here to see Mr. O'Connor". The secretary clicked her tongue, rolled her eyes, and gave me a firm look. "Sit over there and wait. You should be ashamed."

From my perspective as a 7 year old, Mr. O'Connor was a giant man. Tall, thin, unforgiving. These were the days when the principal's had the power to spank children and Mr. O'Connor had huge, paddle-like hands. Just the thought of this man rearing back to spank me was (usually) enough to keep me on the straight-and-narrow.

But in the end, I was spared a spanking from Big Bird (as we called him). He gave me a lecture in that booming voice of his and he bent down to give me a stern look in the eye. Extra homework and a call to my parents was my punishment.

And I was thinking about that day as I sat in the same seat just outside the principal's office. Sure, I was wearing a suit and tie and Mr. O'Connor had long-since retired. But I couldn't help but smile as I watched the kids march past me on their way to gym or for their drink of water, whispering to each other, hoping the teacher didn't catch them. Things haven't changed that much.

My meeting with the principal did bear fruit though. They've agreed to buy a few copies of the book for their library and I'm writing a proposal to do a few shows for the kids in April. It'll be great to stroll through those halls again and maybe...

I'll be able to stay for recess.

Saturday, March 19, 2005


Whenever I get frustrated with seeing too many Beautiful People(tm) with their shiny cars, toned and buffed bodies, designer clothes, and rich lifestyle (where nothing seems to go wrong), I just head down to the Old Port of Montreal and watch these Beautiful People try rollerblading for the first time.

With newfound wheels on their feet, their balance, poise, and confidence goes skidding out the window. Hands outstretched and legs rigidly propelling them upward then downward, the blades are a great equalizer.

I laugh myself silly and feel no guilt. I may pop the occasional gummy worm in my mouth while I watch them make their wobbly way down the sidewalk, but that's the extent of it.

If that's wrong, I don't want to be right. Is it summer yet?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Happy Parade Day!

I feel so weird celebrating St. Patrick's Day on the 13th when the 20th is the Sunday closest to the actual St. Patrick's Day. Don't these people believe in tradition?

I'm told the reason behind it is that next Sunday is Palm Sunday, so that wouldn't have worked out. I'm not sure I'm comfortable mixing religion in with St. Patrick's day...

*waggling eyebrows in a sarcastic way*

So enjoy yourselves on this day where everyone can be as Irish as they'd like to be. I really hope that the clouds part and let a little sunshine in before the parade starts today. It really makes St. Patrick's Day feel like the first day of spring and I think we all really need to feel that nowadays.

And for your amusement, here's a little video that Aengus sent me. Please don't bother soapboxing me on how Guinness has commercialized this holiday: I've already heard it.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Same-sex Storytelling

We're starting to get calls by people interested in the Tristan & Iseult show being held on March 24th. I've faxed flyers to all the local media, but I need to follow up with some phone calls. We need to get at least 60 people in those seats to make ends meet, so I really hope we get a good turn out.

I got a call today by a fella who said he was very interested in the show, but wanted to know if the only show being done was at the Unitarian Church. I told him it was a one-night only show, so he replied he wasn't interested because "I find that the banner they have is in poor taste."

Puzzled, I asked what he meant by that, and he replied "They have a banner out front that says that they support same-sex marriages and I find that is in poor taste."

"It's not the Unitarian Church that is putting on the show," I replied. "We're just renting the hall for the show."

"That doesn't matter," he returned. "I don't want people like that making money if they support such a thing."

Wow. I've never... just... Wow.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Houston: The Book Has Been Launched

We had our book launch last night at Hurley's pub and it was a tremendous success. Our rough head counts came up with a crowd of 50 people and the room was filled to capacity (with about a dozen people sitting in the room next door). We even managed to sell a few books and made some interesting contacts for future storytelling gigs. Fingers are being crossed as we speak.

Aside from the bagpipe player not showing up, the night went without a hitch. Our invited tellers held the crowd spellbound (when Mike Burns was telling his stories, I remember thinking that I had so far to go before I attained his level of skill) and they were a great addition to the evening.

Zimmerman and I performed admirably, although I found the strength of our performance increased as the night progressed. Zimmerman told the story of Hodja and the Sack (my request) and he was dead on. When I told the story of The Hall of Wonders (Zimmerman's request), I tapped into something that I always quest for, but rarely attain: being in The Zone. If I haven't blogged about The Zone yet, I really need to.

The crowd was fantastic too. They were with us every step of the way, present for every detail in the stories. It's a storyteller's dream to have a crowd like that and I'll remember that night with great affection.

So I must offer heartfelt gratitude to everyone who showed up and shared the evening with us. You all made that evening special.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Recycle Rage

PSA: Make sure you get your recycling out on time so that the recycle guy doesn't have to deal with you personally.

I just missed the recycling truck the other day, so I had to jog up the street to catch him. When I gave him my bin, he snarled at me that I hadn't sorted the recyclables properly. Then he blasted me for trying to slip a cardboard box into the recycling. With the look he gave me, I was sure he was about to clock me for it. He ranted and raved for a few seconds about how stupid people are with their recycling as he smashedg the bottles and tossed the cardboard box at my head.

I'm sorting my recycling better now and trying not to put things that don't belong. But if you cross the recycling guy, watch out: he's liable to take every frustration about every irresponsible recycler out on you.


Kudos to Stephanie for providing us with mucho gusto information on Montreal's recycling guidelines (comments can be edumacational!). BTW, Stephanie is a freelance journalist whose articles regularly appear in Hour:

    Pamphlets on how to recycle are available at your local Eco-quartier or at the Coop La Maison Verte on Sherbrooke St. W. If you're not sure what gets recycled, call Access Montreal or your local Eco-quartier.

    The rules are simple. Paper and smaller cardboard boxes on one side; milk cartons, juice boxes, metal and glass containers on the other. They accept every kind of plastic with a number on it except number 6. They also accept bread bags and plastic grocery bags. They love it if you put bread bags in plastic grocery bags. A good idea on windy days: load the heavier stuff on top of the lighter stuff - for instance put the plastics/metal/glass etc. stuff on top of newspapers and cardboard.

    Containers should be rinsed so there's no food or other residue and so they don't smell.

    For a list of Montreal recycling guidelines on the City's Web site, see: http:// servicesenligne.ville.mon...yclablesAng.jsp

    What I don't understand is the pamphlet I have says they don't accept aluminum foil but take cans, pie plates etc. The French section of the Web site says they do, so long as it's clean.

    Big cardboard boxes are supposed to folded down, tied with string and placed next to your bin.

    The guys picking up the recycling are subcontractors and the trucks are set up so they put paper/carton on one side, glass/plastic/metal on the other. I understand they're paid per pickup.

    Recycling from the Island of Montreal ends up at a sorting centre at the Complexe Environnementale St-Michel. It looks like a factory - the materials are dumped on the floor, machines sort them first then they whizz along on conveyor belts for hand sorting by employees. Forklifts push materials into bales.

    What gets recycled depends on the market for materials.Recyc-Qu├ębec, the Quebec government department handling this, offers plenty of info (in French) on their Web site

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Weird Dreams with Pincers

This morning, I woke up feeling guilty. I couldn't shake this horrible feeling of guilt, even after the dream was done and I realized it was a dream.

Last night, I dreamt that my friend Ceri had been magically transformed into a lobster and tossed into the river. Someone else had saved her from the river, gave her to me for safe-keeping, and said "Just hang onto her until we find the right spell to change her back."

For some reason, Ceri the Lobster was partially frozen, so I had to keep her in my breast pocket (she was a tiny lobster) so she would thaw out. Passer-bys would inquire as to how my friend Ceri the Lobster was doing and I would reply indignantly "She's a crustacean, I'll have you know!"

I went home to my apartment and put her in a bowl of warm water to thaw her out, but my mother had a bag of lobsters and she was preparing to cook them for supper. Even though I explained to my mother that this was really Ceri and not a lobster to be cooked, she kept trying to toss Ceri the Lobster into her pot. I re-pocketed Ceri and headed out to the park.

Once I got to the park, a friend invited me to play soccer, so I did. I figured some exercise would help raise my body temperature and help thaw out the lobster in my pocket. However, at the end of the game, I looked into my pocket and Ceri the Lobster was gone!

I searched all over the park, but I couldn't find her. Then her husband started phoning me and mutual friends started popping up all over, asking me if I had seen her lately. Just as I thought I couldn't take the guilt anymore...

... I woke up.