You look like a teacher, says the young waitress in the very loud bar the night the Tiger Cats lose the Grey Cup game. She looks like your neighbour’s odd tweenage daughter who dresses like her big brother, a closet spoken word somebody or maybe even closet hip hop but white and really short. I don’t say any of that, though I’d noted these things earlier. Clearly she’d noticed my teacher-ness too, even though I’m pretty proficient at disappearing into the back of things while I write & watch football games. Yes, I know. I said. Three generations of my family are teachers – english teachers, even. I’m the only one who resisted that call but still I look like them. sigh.
Friendly electrician guy from Newfoundland via Calgary via Newfoundland with whom I’d shared my grey cup sadness and some bad pool already knows I’m an artist but I can feel him wondering about appearances too as we prepare to leave. This makes me think how little any of us actually knows about anyone, based on what they look like.
A philosophical pause with the young yellow-toqued waitress in the still loud bar. I’m glad she told me what she was thinking.
The next day on my walk I pass a makeshift mosque (closest parking spot to the door marked “Imam only”). A short older man shuffles out of the parking lot ahead of me, scarf-wrapped and slow, spitting onto the sidewalk like a ritual. As I pass him in my big black coat he looks sideways at me then calls out, Thankyou!!! two times, so I turn back and take his outstretched hand – “I am from SyrEEYAH”, then beams when I say Wow – Syria? Welcome! He has next to no English but a big smile tells me he understands goodwill & warmth from the fast walking Canadian lady. He grins then releases me back to the striding I learned from my dad, who grew up on these streets.
…appearances. Ru Paul says we’re all in drag but most of us don’t know it.
Music is not separate from life; it is everywhere, ubiquitous. Like water, it makes its own path, travels where it will, is both trickle and tsunami and everything in between. It invites following, collaboration. Interesting to me that my professional use of music in community has translated, for now, into visual arts and storytelling, with sound, music, community. It has moved me from a cabin in the woods to Hamilton ON, may take me to Estonia next summer, to amplify both cabin and Hamilton. Wherever it leads, I respect it, this music like water.
Laurie Anderson says stay fluid, don’t get pigeon holed, so does Sharon Louden – two artists for whom I have great respect.
I don’t look like who I am or what I do. Or do I? How can I know if I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing, yet. Maybe I taught waitress girl something she didn’t know. Maybe that’s what Anderson means.
…3:40pm, Tuesday November 26, at The Brain, writing at a round beside the open window facing the street. Good jazz playing. Alice Coltrane, it turns out.
So far, a spectacled, potato shaped man hiding underneath a massive huge curly blond wig, a many-layered homeless person pushing a loaded cart, a running woman dressed in black. Headphoned dude, then young woman with guitar, which makes sense since this is James Street and The Brain is owned by musicians. Ooop -there’s the furtive wig man again, going the other way.
There’s a satisfaction to this kind of expansion and experiment work in a new city I learn on foot and in moments like the too-noisy bar, in this quieter place with Coltrane’s wife playing and the couple in hot debate down the bench from me. Stories on top of stories woven through the one I’m following like water, like music.
Swans has now grown into a living breathing thing. I’m delighted to announce that Tessa Snider, Sandra Swannell (wow what a coincidence), david sereda and Terry Young will help me tell the story, along with whoever comes to join us at the Library on December 7. I’m honoured, too, that Owen Sound’s esteemed Poet Laureate will be there to grace the event with his well-crafted thoughts. Thank you, Richard Yves Sitoski.
Seven Swans is pay what you can, 6:30 – 9pm, Saturday December 7. There will be wine and nibbles and good rich community jam you’ll take home with you to spread on your toast and chew on whenever you like. That’s a metaphor, unless someone actually brings jam. Also a chance to reserve your copy of the book, and to contribute some thoughts of your own to it. Some drawings and paintings of swans, just because they’re beautiful and wild and were once on the brink of extinction in Ontario. See you there folks!