Monday, March 17, 2008

The Last 24 Hours

No I'm not being stylistic, I just can't bring myself to write this in "prose" (which requires some sense of meaning, direction, and endings).

* Greyhound bus terminal, standing in the cold, wondering why bus drivers only arrive at the last minute. This route to Toronto is the "molasses" run, which stops at all of Guelph's most picturesque locations along the way. The 130-minute trip should give me lots of time to find an iPod soundtrack but for some reason I can't choose one.

* I have decided at the last minute to bring Thomas Pynchon's novel "Mason & Dixon" with me, because I am so involved with it that I can't picture myself reading anything else. But it weighs at least ten pounds and is huge and unwieldy, and difficult to concentrate on when the guy in the seat behind you is talking about his favourite "keggers." "Dude, Cathy was GREEN, man. I mean GREEN. What? Like, she was SICK, man, Cathy was GREEN."

* At the Toronto Bay Street terminal I pile up all my luggage and begin the trip to Chez J&C. It is very cold, Sunday afternoon, downtown Toronto relatively unpopulated. In the lobby of J&C's apartment, two parents are trying to wrangle a stroller, an infant, and a toddler into the elevator, meanwhile retrieving the mitten that a man had dropped while exiting. Their hands full and their baby-equipment blocking access to all but the smallest person, they send the toddler in to find the mitten, which he is unable to do. The doors keep closing, the parents lunging in to knock the doors open again, the man with one mitten stands with me and we watch the show.

* Jason greets me and we begin the relatively mechanical process of getting into drag. Fortunately the Chez has two bathrooms. Both have been newly renovated in honour of the night, and the hard-working renovator -- Craig -- soon joins us to mix the cocktails. Craig doesn't fool around with cocktails. When Craig makes a cocktail, it is "a glass of vodka with a shot of Diet Pepsi." This explains why, when we leave the apartment, I tell the cab driver to take us to "Queen on Play."

* At Play on Queen -- the venue for the night -- I make myself comfortable in the change room and re-meet both Teran Blake and Fahrenheit. Not only do I not instantly recognize Fahrenheit, but I happily tell her that she "made fun of me once," failing to provide context or explain that I wasn't lodging a complaint with her. This is why my Facebook "agreeableness" score is at 25%. Setting up a sort of Marx Brothers situation, the bar staff begin to pile tables and chairs within the change room. Soon the room contains two small islands, each with a mirror, tenuously connected by a narrow path. When the flock of hispanic queens arrive this becomes particularly surreal.

* Still coming out of a week of insecurity and general "off-ness," I perform two shoe-in numbers that I know I can ALWAYS do well: "Don't Tell Mama" and "Love and Truth." The response is good, as far as I can tell through the blazing spotlight, though the crowd is hardly demonstrative. I make the silly move of trying to pick up tips while wearing well-worn gloves, which results in a spray of coins on stage. Craig cheerfully documents this with his video camera.

* As a whole, we raise a substantial amount of money for the TICOT charities. This is a good feeling indeed. My blood sugar has remained PERFECT all night. Plus, through some accident, I get not one but TWO free drinks. My good feeling knows no bounds.

* After the wonderfully-brief show I begin to understand the bar dynamic a bit more: at 11pm the TICOT performers are followed by a regular show put on by 10,000-volt hispanic queens, a subculture notorious for its crowd loyalty. While watching their show I have my second great bar-stranger conversation of the night, followed finally -- on the way out -- with a nice chat with Michelle DuBarry, who recommends that I improve my diet.

* Back at Chez J&C we review the night's documentary evidence, and Jason informs me that I do a trademarked maneuver with my bum but I'm not sure yet exactly what that is yet. Pizza at 1am. The John Barrowman Experience. A tranquil sleep only once interrupted by the garbage man.

* 8:30am, I assess the situation; Jason has gone to work and Craig is still asleep. I suffer typical morning restlessness and decide I should at least transport my luggage to the Greyhound station, leaving all future possibilities open. As usual when I visit J&C, I exit the apartment with more things than I came with. It's like magic!

* Another cold walk with lots of luggage. A suitcase full of feathers is surprisingly heavy. At the bus station I realize the only "good" breakfast option is an eggs & bacon thing at "Kramden's Kitchen," which I'm sure Michelle DuBarry would berate me for. Nevertheless it is good. My bus will not arrive for ninety minutes.

* I sit and read "Mason & Dixon." This book, along with the constant lifting and pulling of my luggage, is turning my hand into a burning witch's claw. The old lady beside me is very angry about the pigeons, which appear to spend their entire lives inside the terminal. Pigeons are very individualistic. They make coordinated "sweeps" periodically across the floor, and though they look intelligent they keep pecking away at the same specks of indigestible dirt.

* I decide to find a bathroom so I can get some paper towels to wipe my nose with. I take the elevator down to the terminal basement and discover that the bathroom there is a "closed for cleaning." A sign directs me to use the bathrooms in the adjacent Ainsley terminal. I take the elevator back up and pull my luggage across to Ainsley -- which is always deserted, disgusting, and post-apocalyptic -- and discover that the bathrooms there can only be reached by going downstairs. I will not carry my luggage down and then up again. My hand would not survive. Instead, my nose must drip.

* My iPod soundtrack is easier to choose for the ride home: The Fall's "Infotainment Scan." The bus takes a strange and unexplained detour through Mississauga via the mostly-vacant toll roads. The outskirts of Mississauga are surrounded by lakes, barely frozen with patches of rotten ice. These lakes are everywhere and they do not look natural or healthy. Trees are buried within them, their branches poking out. Beyond the lakes, the biggest and most generic suburb of semi-detached houses I have ever seen. I suspect that the lakes are just house foundations waiting to sprout.

* As always when I drive past the Niagara escarpment, I wonder what that huge gouge in the rock is, which you can see going west on the 401 past Halton Hills. Some sort of footpath appears to cross the vast canyon, but it's so far away that you can't see what's really happening. I vow that when I get a car I will investigate this.

* Home. A feeling of goodness, both from the going away and the coming back. My hand will ache for days, burning while I work. The cat is aloof at first, punishing me for leaving her alone for the night, but soon she has come around and we are watching "Constantine." Even she dislikes Keanu Reeves, but she's too polite to complain.


The Vicar of VHS said...

Congrats on the show, and on being such a trouper. When I was in high school my older brother was quite involved in drag pageants and shows in Little Rock (hard to believe, but yes, we have drag shows and pageants here), but on the promotion/organizational side--not as a performer. Still, as I got older and our relationship matured from sibling rivalry to brotherly acceptance and friendship, he and I spent quite a bit of time together, and he used to take me out to see the shows every now and then. I was always amazed at the artistry and difficulty of it all, and also moved by the spirit of community and all-around agreeableness of everything. (Keeping in mind that I was an Arkansas kid raised as a Southern Baptist--though luckily for me I got over that fairly early.) Of course there were always the feuds and rivalries going on, and a few performers who were not fun for anybody to work with, but all in all those are good memories of good times, experiences which probably none of my peers shared.

I couldn't help noticing your mention of your blood sugar--are you a diabetic? I am, and I'm always interested by meeting other fascinating people who also are. Not that it's a club, or anything but...

morgan james said...

alas, I forgot to mention that the recycling is picked up on Monday mornings. I'm usually gone to the gym & work before they do so.

and people should realize that we give you things to take back with you. i wouldn't want someone thinking you were a pizza eating klepto!

Kimber said...

I don't mean to sound naive, but is it proper to throw tips on stage? I've only been to one drag show in Montreal, and now I'm wondering if I was horribly gauche in not throwing tips at les femmes after their show...

Muffy St. Bernard said...

I bet that "Little Rock" is a mecca for SOME drag queens, thanks to the "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" movie!

There certainly can be an artistry to it; there are different ways of approaching a drag show performance, and though a small number of the performers are damaged, wanky hacks, most of them surely put their heart, soul, and pocketbook into it!

Yup, I'm a Type I diabetic...are you type I or type II?

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Didn't you realize, Morgan? I AM a pizza-eating klepto! Check to make sure that your "What's Happening??" DVDs are still there.

Everybody, Morgan and Craig are the best hosts ever. I encourage you ALL to just drop in, any time.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

In my experience it is acceptable (and more than welcome) to give a tip during a show; if other people are doing it, you can too. The only time I know it is improper to do so is during a competition of some sort...then it's strictly forbidden.

The accepted procedure seems to be to approach the front of the stage and stand there until the king/queen comes over to you, and then hand the tip to them...that gives them time to finish whatever routine they're doing at the time.

The only thing you should throw is probably vegetables (or kisses!)

The Vicar of VHS said...

Yup, type 1 ever since I was 16 (which has been quite some time now...)

Actually, I think we had a Miss Gay America pageant in Little Rock at least brother designed the programs.

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Greetings, fellow type-I-er! I've had mine since I was five...and yes, that's a very long time too!

Beware the A1C...