Wednesday: I go to PaintNite
Last Wednesday, I went with a group of people from work to something called “PaintNite”. If you’ve never been to one of these, you HAVE to do it. You get sent a link to a painting, and then you go to a bar and everyone has to recreate the same painting. While drinking. It’s the most fun I’ve had in a while. Our painting was called “Caribbean Cove” or something like that—it was a painting of a tranquil tropical sea with a beach in the foreground, seen through the opening of a cave. Initially, I wasn’t going to go, even though I’d already paid—in fact, I thought it was the night before, and I was lying on my couch happily wrapped in a blanket, watching an episode of Brooklyn 99 that I’d PVR’d, drinking wine and eating chicken wings. I felt bad about missing it, but I’d been really sick, like ‘coughing up a lung’ sick, and I didn’t want to go ANYWHERE. As a side note, I hope that the walls to my condo are actually soundproof because I was barking like a seal all night long for a week, and spending a long time in the morning trying to clear my lungs in the bathroom. If you were my neighbour, you might have thought an eighty year-old, emphysemic man had moved in next door. And that’s pretty much how I felt. So when I woke up on Wednesday morning and saw an email from PaintNite telling me that it was only “hours away”, I realized that I hadn’t missed it at all. But I still didn’t want to go. At the end of the day at work, though, I was talking to one of my colleagues—the same one that I went to the Toronto Circus with in Week 53, and he said that he wanted to go too, and that he was willing to meet me at my condo and go on the subway with me, etc. And that relieved my underlying fears: First, that I would have to traverse the streets of downtown alone. This might sound paranoid, but I should mention at this point that, right before Christmas, there was a string of random stabbings in my neighbourhood, including a man who lived in my building, who was stabbed to death two blocks away. He was very nice—we would say hello to each other in the elevator, and he would hold the door for me, so it was pretty upsetting. It was described by the police as “a random crime of opportunity”, although I’m not sure what kind of “opportunity” you get from killing someone—perhaps fulfilling your dream of living the rest of your life in maximum security? At any rate, I was happy to have someone to walk with. I mean, I HAVE pepper spray, but I’m terrified that if I ever had to use it, I’d point in the wrong way and shoot myself in the face with it. I’m a total klutz, for the record—in fact, just this past week, I slammed my bathroom door into my own face hard enough to take the wind out of myself, and give myself a huge bruise. When I called Ken and tried to recreate the moment so I could understand how the f*ck I had managed to do it, I almost did it again. Second, (and I realize that it’s taken a while to get to “Second”, sorry about that) was that I would show up to PaintNite and feel awkward and weird because the rest of the people there were mostly math types, and they can be very intimidating, what with their knowledge of numbers, and pi, and sh*t like that.
So we arrived at the place, and headed for an area of long tables covered with plastic dropcloths, set up with easels. As we put our coats down, a young woman ran over. “No!!” she exclaimed. “I’m not done setting up yet! You can’t sit here!” She was obviously a little high strung, so I reacted like I would to a toddler throwing a tantrum, and said, very slowly and calmly, “It’s OK, dear. We’ll go over there and wait until you’re done.” Then I turned around and laughed. (This is exactly what I did to K on the single occasion that she threw a sh*tfit at the age of 2. She never did it again, innately understanding that I would just find her amusing rather than upsetting.) The PaintNite was at a bar/restaurant called “Poutineville”, whose claim to fame was the numerous types of poutine on the menu. If you don’t know what poutine is, it’s a Canadian delicacy consisting of French fries topped with cheese and smothered with gravy. I suppose ‘delicacy’ isn’t quite the word, but that’s Canada for you. Our delicacies are more ironic than ‘delicate’—they consist of hearty things like back bacon, beer, big-ass doughnuts called “beaver tails”, and maple syrup, which is made from TREES. I ordered the pulled pork poutine, expecting a heap of savoury pulled pork IN BETWEEN the fries, cheese, and gravy, but what I got was sadly disappointing—the fries were overcooked and the pork was neither pulled nor savoury, and was just tossed on top of the gravy in big chunks. For a restaurant that’s named AFTER poutine, it was crappy poutine. In fact, I’ve had better poutine from Kentucky Fried Chicken. (By the way, Ken and I just had dinner at a local fish restaurant—they were out of perch, chicken wings, AND white wine, but they had fries and gravy on the menu. I asked the waitress if they could toss some cheese on top. “Oh, like poutine,” she answered. “Sure thing.” It tasted better than Poutineville and was a third of the cost.) My disappointment didn’t last long though, because then it was FINALLY time to come to the back tables and get ready to paint. Our instructor, Rachel, was calmer now, much like toddlers get after you leave them alone for a while, and we took our places in front of our canvases. Then we had to take an oath, mostly consisting of not drinking from the paint water or dipping our brushes in our drinks. This sounds quite ridiculous, but trust me—after an hour of drinking and painting, it became clear just how easy it would be to actually do either of those. Rachel was a pretty good instructor, although she had to scream over the rest of the bar crowd, who were drinking but NOT participating. She WAS a little off-putting at the end, when she announced that, because our group had paid with a Groupon, she wasn’t getting as much money, so she held up a clear, plastic pitcher and yelled, “This is the tip jug! Don’t leave without giving me a tip!” She claimed she was a ‘starving artist’, but she looked pretty well-fed to me. My painting ultimately came out a little different from the tranquil beach scene we were SUPPOSED to painting. I know people assumed I was expressing my inner artist, or maybe I was just having a bad day, but the fact is that, when I was painting my lovely blue sky, I accidentally got a little black on the brush, and suddenly my blue sky was threatening rain. I decided to go with it, and added dangerously high breakers, dark clouds, and a stormy beach.
My colleagues, on the other hand, had these gorgeous, turquoise seascapes, some adding sailboats and seashells. I felt a bit “the odd man out” so to speak, and worried that my unplanned non-conformity might raise some eyebrows, especially since we were all told to bring our paintings to work the next day for a “fun” competition. I must have hit a chord with other storm-loving people though, because after all the ballots were cast, my artistic endeavour placed in the top three and was given a place on the wall. That makes me sound so braggy, but honestly, I don’t win many competitions, and certainly not for my artwork. Best of all, our CEO came by to congratulate me and the other two “winners”. I hope he doesn’t think my painting represents any deep-seated anxiety. Because I sure don’t want him to know about THAT.
Saturday: Reality TV
Ken and I were watching TV last night, and a commercial came on for Oka cheese, which is a particular kind of cheese that you get in Quebec. The couple in the commercial were trying to smuggle some Oka through customs, and while I don’t really understand the point of them doing that, I was up in arms immediately.
Me: God, Ken—that’s so unrealistic. Look at that couple. She’s young, thin, and blonde, and he looks like he’s about 60. His hair is thinning, he’s pudgy—there’s no way they’re a real life couple. And he’s so cheap that he’s trying to smuggle cheese under his jacket, so he’s obviously NOT her sugar daddy.
Ken: It could happen.
Me: Not as often as it does on TV. Commercials are so clearly written by men. How many times have we seen a young pretty woman with an old pudgy guy and we’re supposed to believe she’s more than happy to deal with his “sudden onset vomiting”, which, by the way, isn’t even a THING. You ALWAYS know when you’re going to vomit. This is just male fantasizing.
Ken: About the women or the vomiting?
Me: Both. TV is so unrealistic.
Ken: Gosh, you think?
Now, I don’t want to come off as critical of older, pudgy, balding men because that’s not the point. Just once though, I’d like to see a commercial where a hot, young guy is married to an older, dumpy, gray-haired woman. But as Ken and I agreed (well, I think we agreed, but it’s hard to tell when Ken’s being sarcastic or not), TV has no connection to reality. Then again, if the American election campaign is any indication, REALITY has no connection to reality. Who other than Donald Trump could threaten on public television to randomly shoot someone on the street and NOT get arrested? What’s next? Hilary Clinton threatening to ‘cut’ Anderson Cooper? Bernie Sanders making crank calls and having pizzas delivered to Megyn Kelly’s house? Anyway, when I was 5, I was on a reality TV show called “Romper Room.” It was one of the most popular shows on Ontario television, and it consisted of a different group of children each week just playing and doing activities under the supervision of a kindly, teacher-type lady. At the end of each show, Miss____ (there were several women who played the role—mine was Miss Grace) would hold up a magic mirror, and say, “I can see Johnny, and Sarah, and Ian, and….” Kids across the province would sit fixated, desperately hoping to hear their name. I don’t know why my parents decided to put me on the show, but two incidents cemented for me the fact that TV was not grounded in reality. First, I kept jumping up and down, prompting the director to tell me to stop. “You’re TOO excited,” he said. But I was excited. A SUPER f*cking excited 5 year-old, and I had to stifle my enthusiasm because it was TV. Second, they taped all five episodes for the week on one Saturday, and I kept getting into sh*t for contradicting Miss Grace when she would start the next segment with “What day is it today, boys and girls?” Everyone was supposed to say ‘Tuesday’ or whatever, but I yelled “Saturday!!” every time. Once again, the director had to talk to me about how we were only “pretending” and to just play along. Yep, that’s me—a non-conformist pain-in-the-ass from an early age.