Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Oh Mon Dieu, Zut Alors - Ou Est la Croix du Mont-Royal?!

At the tippy top of Montreal’s Mount Royal, there’s supposed to be a massive cross, quite possibly impressive enough to temporarily wipe the sneer off the most diehard non-believer’s face. I hazily recall marching up toward it when I was eight or nine years old, and I wanted to recreate that trek when I was back in town, as an adult, this past weekend.

Never did. Just walked around in circles for 90 minutes, following signs (about the cross always being a mere .8 km or 1.3 km away) that led to nowhere. I know it’s still there, because I saw it from the car, while driving around another part of the city.

The smug and dismissive security guards or park rangers, or whatever it’s politically correct to call them, vaguely pointed in the cross’s general direction. I was getting more riled up by the second. I told them that none of the signs and arrows made any sense.

“Ignore the signs and arrows,” they said. “They’re wrong.”

Wow, damn! Never heard that one before.

It felt like being in one of the dreams I sometimes get after having had a few too many glasses of red wine on an insufficiently full stomach. The hot pursuit of an illusion.

When I got back home last night, I called my dad and asked if he remembers approaching that cross on foot with the rest of our family in the late 1980s. He didn’t know what I was talking about. His chief memory of our time spent on that “mountain” is of getting pulled over and being ticketed after making an illegal left turn. And I didn’t know what he was talking about.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The After-Show

At the end of any Broadway show, I usually try to get out of the theater district as quickly as possible. But the other night, I was determined to wait around outside for the cast members to make their grand exits, no matter how long it took.

First, Samuel L. Jackson strutted out into the night, smirking and snatching playbills out of the outstretched hands. After I snatched mine back (and he didn’t acknowledge my “thank you”), I kind of forgot about him, as I began texting people and thinking about the apple-picking I was going to be doing out in the country the next day.

A few minutes later, someone yelled out: “When are you doing your next movie?”

“Around January 15th,” Jackson said.

“What’s it called?”

“Around January 15th,” he said, still snatching and smirking.

What was he still doing there? I had assumed he and his driver had already sped off to see if the Kangol cap store was still open. The SUV he had yet to get into was blocking Angela Bassett’s, and she’s the one I was really waiting for.

When Bassett came out, there was no strutting or smirking. She looked me in the eye and warmly smiled when she took my playbill and when she handed it back, as we small-talked. Not too long after she moved a bit farther down the barricaded line, she suddenly turned back and studied me, as if there was a lot more we had to discuss.

There was.

If those other groupies hadn’t been distracting us, we could have exchanged contact info and she could have helped me land a new job - as her bodyguard. The little guy in charge of protecting her looked like he needed some physical-safety protection himself. I doubt I’d have that hard of a time picking him up and doing 5 reps of bicep curls. She needs fearless ferocity, not frailty - someone who’s not afraid to start slapping people who say or do something too stupid, the way my family’s cat used to bitch-slap the dog when he came too close to her for comfort.

Nothing that happens on stage is ever as interesting as what goes on off stage.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Aliyyah

While rushing uptown this morning, I flew into my neighborhood’s most popular bakery to get a spot of coffee. The line was three times longer than I thought it would be. Everyone was ordering bagfuls of overpriced cupcakes that taste as dry and flavorless as something I would bake.

On the weekends, I’m not usually awake and out in public this early. I’ve been known to boycott brunches that are scheduled before noon. Whenever I do have to walk the streets at this hour on a Saturday or Sunday, it’s alarming to see how many young people are doing the same, only looking as though they’ve happily been fucking around town since the sun came up.

When you’re inching through a line like this, you have oodles of time to look around. It wasn’t long before I spied the displays of coffee mugs, lunchboxes, and other paraphernalia featuring the bakery’s trademark logo - a drawing of a cleavage-baring, bowling-ball-breasted, huge-caboosed black woman with big lips, fake eyelashes, an apron with “Aliyyah” written in at the bottom, and a droopy chef’s hat that reads: “I Love Cake.” The candle I think she’s trying to blow out (atop the jumbo-sized cake she loves) looks like a flask. This work of fine art also appears on all the pink plastic bags that the customers’ baked goods are packed into. Pink is my second-favorite color, and the first time I bought cupcakes there I was more excited about the color of the bag than the Red Velvet violence that lurked inside of it. Before I saw exactly what was on it, I planned to reuse that bag for weeks to come. When I used it as a trash bag later that night, I kept it turned around and on the side of my body that was farthest away from the neighbor I passed on the way to the garbage chute.

Aliyyah’s probably a real person who’s either an owner of the bakery or the inspiration behind it, but I know she doesn’t look like the lady on the logo – nobody does. I’m the only one who seems to find this image offensive. Not offensive enough to stop making emergency coffee runs there, but enough to gape at the gimmick whenever it’s nearby. Everyone else in line this morning only gaped at the cupcakes and my henna tattoo.