Still Crazy After All These Days
I'm doing the Limbo.
I left Prishtina without seeing my show, which opened the day after I departed. No word from Jeton yet on how it went, but the "general" (i.e. dress rehearsal) was visually spectacular. Thank you, Lord, for the invention of the smoke machine.
Within the day I was discovering my theatre keys were still in my pocket. Mailed them from Budapest. Don't know if they got there, yet - they're in limbo, too.
Two and a half days in Buda and Pest with my excellent friends Sebastien and Jason, then we wedged Sebastien onto the train without a ticket and crossed to Deb City. That's where all the debutantes in Hungary go for their coming out party, known as the Canada in the European Mind Conference, hosted by the Central European Association for Canadian Studies. The Ambassador and his minions show up. He pretended to recognise me from the last conference in Deb City two years ago...more Limbo. So what's my name, dude?
I wrote a wee 5000 word paper in one day in B-pest. After Aritha Van Herk gives a cringe-inducing plenary speech and slide show extolling the virtues of poor under-appreciated Calgary, Alberta (Stampede photos included) I decide to re-write my paper to expunge any references to western Canada, disavowing any connection between the Hinterland and the civilised part of the nation (sorry, Marina). Fortunately I find no references. So instead I re-write it to make it sound more academic. This involves lengthening a lot of vowel sounds and introducing multiple prefixes and suffixes to otherwise harmless words, such as "pre-post-modern-hybridised-interculturality-roto-rooterness". As you can see, I'm quite good at this.
Sebastien possesses astounding skills in this area, except that he does it in French. His paper on the circumference of Celine Dion's left pectoralis muscle in relation to the tightening of Gilles Duceppe's sphincter was a masterpiece of circumlocution, or Cirque du Soleil, or Circle Jerk (the rock band, silly), or something...I'm confused...evidently. Jason gave a paper on hockey. In so doing he apparently accumulated vast political capital, as he was elected to the Executive Council shortly thereafter. (Actually it was a very good paper.)
Jason works, kind of, at a university in Slovenija. You might remember him from my earlier entries. He is a disturbingly happy fellow, married to a foxy woman with a beautiful daughter. He speaks four languages and somehow has found a recreational hockey league there. He purchases heavy tomes like "Boy at the Leafs Camp" via the internet. For research. For which he is paid. Money. He smiles a lot.
Sebastien speaks perfect French and English in a deep baritone voice. His head is shaven to conceal the telltale pattern baldness of the Quebec male. He even moved to France and lowered himself to taking a job at the Sorbonne to cover his tracks...which lead all the way back to Gatineau, more or less EXACTLY across the river from the point at Acadia Ave. and the Mile Circle where I used to run to in Ottawa, stopping to gaze across at the mysterious province across the fervid Ottawa River, the province of lumberjacks who wears brassieres, sleep all night and work all day... No, I'm getting confused again. Sebastien has an eye-poppingly beautiful Slavic girlfriend, Goshia, who works for the OECD in Paris, so she's obviously a trophy-girlfriend.
The conference was full of foreigners, like me. There were Bulgars, Croats, Romanians and ex-pats, Magyars, Polskas, Serbians and Czechs. There were old guys, fat guys, reasons for and reasons why, everyone at CEACS wondering what was next. That's a complete annihilation of Killegrew's Soiree for you non-Newfoundlanders, in case you didn't know.
They didn't plan for a vegetarian. At one lunch I sat beside a tray of meat sandswiches and systematically picked off the lettuce and tomato and cucumber slices from twelve sandwiches. I thought I was being pretty subtle until I noticed all the waiters staring at me. They cleared my plate away pretty quickly, I must say. I found my jacket behind the hotel main counter. OK, OK, I get it!
Deb City is always an interesting psychic place for me. I fell in love ten years ago there, wangled a second gig and returned, only to find the girl had gotten sensible and re-married to a local. Limbo. This time the theatre performance - directed by Szabolcs, the interpreter for that first production ten years before - took place in the Vojtina Babszinhaz, a puppet theatre I worked at that second year. I spent the entire pre-show reception in a corner chatting with Seb and Jason and some honcho from ICCS, completely ignorant of the fact that there were two pictures of me on the wall right behind my fat head. Acadia students would find them familiar. In one of them I'm doing that weird thing I do with my legs that looks like I'm going to do the splits...or the Limbo. In the other I'm gesturing with one arm extended, looking Intense. Likely constipation.
It was a notable performance. A guy one row over from me had a heart attack. The lights went up after the show and they thought he was sleeping. He was OK; he actually walked out of the theatre, but if I was in that show I'd be second-guessing those sudden bursts of emotion, right now.
Then it was over. Out of Debrecen with Jason, two and a half hours by train to Budapest, a great meal together, then the night train to Belgrade, seven and a half hours. No one took my ticket in the sleeper car, so I ended up terrifying this nice Austrian guy and his son, barging into the cabin and lying on my bunk covered by my jacket for a very, very long time. The deaf and dumb fellow who collects the sheets in the morning signaled me for a 2 Euro tip. Sorry pal...no sheet-o, no tip-o. Her grinned and rubbed my head instead. He sure showed ME.
One hour in Belgrade and then the four hour train to Nis. Fourteen hours of rail-riding on three trains in eighteen hours. No problem! I'm now ensconced in one of my favourite hotels in beautiful Nis, waiting for a meeting at the theatre tomorrow where I will wow them with my latest crackpot proposal, a brilliant re-working of the Cyrano story. Then - guess what - I go straight to the iron wheel station and hop the rail to Sofija.
Limbo. Glad you're with me.