1. BUS FROM BEELZEBUB
So I'm invited to perform with Forced Entertainment in their show "Quizoola!", and I accept, even though I have little idea what that entails. Although I've acted, I'm not sure I really consider myself an actor, although I do usually enjoy it. (People tell me I'm pretty good as well, which sometimes makes me think I've pursued the wrong artistic endeavor, but anyway.)
I buy a round-trip train ticket. I'm not sure I've ever been on a train in the U.S. -- trains make me think of the U.K., and, well, Forced Entertainment. I kinda like trains, although I imagine if I had to ride them every damn day, that tune would change. But I'm looking forward to this train ride: not that long, I got the laptop and some Netflix movies, a NaNoWriMo that's two months overdue, a book to read... I'm set.
Two days before my departue, Amtrak calls. The train has been "disrupted". No train. No train, cheeps. I mean, bus.
I hate buses. I've done very long trips in buses, and it sucks. Hardcore.
But there's nothing to be done, and I arrive at the train station at 7:30 in the morning to get on a freakin' bus. The bus is not even half-full, and I cynically wonder if the train thing is a ruse, that there weren't enough tickets so they threw us on a big ugly bus. (I relate this to Robin of Forced Entertainment later that evening, and he replies, without missng a beat, "You fell for it!! There is no train. No one's ran a train since 1890.")
So I settle down for a four-hour bus ride, and I eat my snacks that I bring along, including the first half of a sandwich. Then, I need to go to the bathroom, so I get into the tiny, tiny compartment and pee. I go to wash my hands... but there's no sink. Just a small bottle of anti-bacterial lotion. That's it. I use it, return to my seat, and look upon my unfinished sandwich, annoyed, because no way in fucking hell am I touching any food, anti-bacterial or not.
Relief comes at the border, when i get a chance to use the bathroom at the customs station. But before that happens, I get the same treatment that Michael Sincinski did in Toronto -- customs agents that take their cue from Atom Egoyan's Ararat.
"I'm going to a theater festival in Vancouver."
(Suspicious) "What's a theater festival?"
(A: it's a small intimate gathering of terrorists and subversives, of course. What do you think it is, moron?)
"Are you renting a car?"
"Well, how are you getting there?"
"...Taxi...?" (They do have those there, right?)
I'm not giving the right answers or something, and she pawns me off onto Immigration. That goes a little smoother, and then I'm back on the bus.
2. GRAND THEFT GRANVILLE
Finally, I get to Vancouver, hop in a taxi, and get to the hotel on Granville Island, where the entirety of PuSh is located.
Granville Island is kind of weird.
First off, it's not an island. It's clearly connected to the land. Here's a Google map. See? Not an island.
Next, it used to be an industrial district, but in the seventies (I'm told) was changed into a arts community. Now, that's cool. All the warehouses and industrial buildings have been converted into theaters, artists' studios, shops... there's even an arts school (the Emily Carr Institute) that I'm told is quite good.
Unfortunately, though, these kind of spaces weren't intended for pedestrians. There's usually one walkway for the pedestrians on one side of the road, but that will quickly end with a line of parked cars blocking your way. You have to cross the street to continue, and there's always cars driving down the street. And not really slow, either. But the space itself, the way it's been appropriated, seems to scream that, yes, this is a place where you can walk down the middle of the street. You know, because we're all about the arts. I constantly found myself imperceptibly wandering into the street, only to realize that I was going to get my ass run over real quick if I didn't get over to the other side, pronto.
Later, when Cathy and I went to find the Quizoola! space (more on that later), I hit upon what Granville Island was like. We were wandering the streets, and a cement truck drove past and out of sight. And then a minute later, another one drove past. Then another. Was this the same freakin' cement truck? Where were they coming from? I looked around and saw the other cars that were always there, seeming to enter Granville Island and circle it endlessly, always in your way.
Oh my god.
They're spawning, just out of visual range. Ever play GTA: San Andreas, and been to that industrial section of Faux Angeles, the one that sits out on the ocean? That's where I was. I was in Grand Theft Auto.
3. I SUCK
I check into the hotel. I can see the condominium-bedecked skyline across the river from my room, confriming that I was indeed in GTA. I felt like I was on the first island in the first game, trying to escape from the mob to the bright neon of the Yakuza, and separated from it by a impassable stretch of water.
(Well, admittedly, it's not that far across at all, but for GTA's mute hero, it may as well be infinity.)
The room was advertised as having free internet access. But, to my surprise, it isn't wireless. It's an ethernet cord. That seemed strange -- isn't this the 21st century? -- but I go with it. I plug it in. Doesn't work. I open some system configuration panels, but since I suck, I have no idea what to do. There's a 1-800 help number, so I swallow my pride and call it. I get a guy named Kevin. Now, Kevin's helpful, but there's this odd tension between his natural personality and his job as a faceless support tech. Early on, I suggest that maybe I'm having trouble because I'm using an American computer in Canada, and he makes a crack about how there isn't a draft yet. But the rest of conversation, he starts every answer with a very long pause and a "Yes, sir" or "No,sir". I sense that Kevin wants to break out of this formality, but can't, because of training or fear or a fat, balding, cigar-smoking boss breathing down his neck. I try to respond to this humanity, but the formality that he broke through in the beginning returns and locks him down. You could practically hear the clichéd "ka-clank!" sound.
He tells me to try something. I do it. Doesn't work.
He tells me to try something else. I do it. Still doesn't work.
I make self-deprecating comments. Long pauses on the other end that never culminate into a reply.
This goes on for at least fifteen minutes. I'm about ready to give up. I don't really need the internet access. I can make do without it.
There's another long pause, and I'm about to hang up. It feels like a problem that just can't be solved, and I feel silly talking to this guy, sitting on the floor of my hotel room, with a piece of machinery that I clearly don't understand.
Then he asks a real simple question. Is this one checkbox clicked on in the systems preference panel?
Why yes. Yes it is.
Click it off. Can you access the internet now?
Why yes. Yes I can.
There's another moment of silence, but I can pretty much hear his thoughts through the phone, because they're the same as mine.
They go: Oh, you're fucking kidding me.
I thank him and hang up. I suck.Where we saw it: general | We deign to rate it: outta 100