I finally have some time for another update on my Canada travels, so here goes…
I really enjoyed my stay in Montreal, which I found to be a very sensuous city. There’s so much to take in with the senses, including much beauty to behold (some natural, some manmade), delicious foods to enjoy, and music to experience. Montreal has a certain joie de vivre that’s very captivating. I don’t think I’d want to live there, but it was a fun place to visit.
Montreal is especially active at night. Many restaurants line the streets, and their outdoor patios are filled with patrons even well after midnight. Late into the night the streets are filled with people, some of them sober. Crowds of twenty-somethings form staggered queues outside loud but tiny dance clubs (tiny by Las Vegas standards at least).
On Friday, Rachelle and I took the the Metro (Montreal’s subway) to the Jardin Botanique. The subway was very fast and efficient and much cleaner looking than New York City’s. All the signs are in French, and the subway stops are announced in French too. I picked up a few more words to help me improve my Franglais.
The Jardin Botanique was huge — much larger than I expected. We walked through sprawling greenhouses filled with a variety of plants — everything from tropical rainforest flowers to spice plants to desert cacti. Then we went outside and walked through massive veggie gardens. And finally we strolled through the beautifully sculpted Japanese and Chinese gardens.
In the Chinese gardens near the water, there were lots of tiny frogs on the walkway. Each frog was only about the size of a housefly. We had to step carefully along the path to avoid squishing them. Along the way we noticed one frog that didn’t appear so lucky.
As we left the gardens, we also saw the Parc Olympique, a huge stadium built for the 1976 Olympics at a cost of more than $1 billion. Apparently it was a big embarrassment for the city since the project went way over budget, and the retractable roof never worked properly. The place looked deserted when we were there, but supposedly it’s still used to host various events.
Montreal to London
Rachelle’s final show in Montreal was at 11pm Friday night, ending at midnight. She had a tech setup in London the very next day at 11am. So we had 11 hours total to take down the set, pack up, get some sleep, clean up the apartment we were staying in, catch a cab to the airport, fly to Toronto, pick up a rental car, drive from Toronto to London, and reach the theater in downtown London.
That was quite a night. I managed to get about 90 minutes of sleep, and Rachelle got about 10 minutes. The cab we arranged to pick us up at 5:15am didn’t show up, but fortunately an empty cab happened down the street just as I was about to call for another one, so I flagged it down, and he was happy to take us to the airport. We got through airport security and made it to the terminal about 10 minutes before our flight began boarding.
The flight from Montreal to London, Ontario, only took an hour. We picked up our rental car, and we were on the road by 10am and made it to the theater at about 11:20am. That still left enough time for Rachelle to complete her tech setup. Then we grabbed some lunch, and she did her first London show at 4:30pm that day.
After Rachelle’s first London show, which went great, we popped over to the home of our friend Karen Bell, who graciously invited us to stay with her while we’re in London. As it turned out, her neighbors recently sold their home, and they were willing to let us stay in the empty house before the new owners moved in, which will happen later this week. The house has no furniture, but Karen provided us with a bed and some other necessities.
When we first got to Karen’s, she offered us some dinner, but Rachelle and I were both pretty tired and didn’t feel like eating just yet, so we decided to unpack our suitcases and rest a bit first. Around 7:30pm we lied down on the bed just to see what it felt like, and we ended up falling asleep almost instantly and sleeping for a couple hours. Shortly before 10pm, we went back to Karen’s house, knocked on the door, and after getting past her two playful greyhounds, we said, “We’re hungry!”
Karen fed us raw zucchini pasta with marinara, some raw dehydrated bread, raw lime pie, and licorice-mint tea. It was quite delicious, especially after such a long day. Then Karen’s husband Darryl introduced us to his classic arcade machine, and we played arcade games such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Street Fighter II, and Tetris until after midnight. Then Rachelle and I returned to the house next door and slept for many hours, finally getting up just before noon. (I expect I’ll soon be ready to write “How to Become a Late Riser.”)
On Sunday we had lunch with Karen, Darryl, and Karen’s parents, which was very nice. I also video-Skyped with Erin and the kids, since my kids wanted to wish me a happy Father’s Day. They showed me a couple artistic gifts they made me, which were really cute to see.
Obviously part of this experiment involves seeing how it feels (for all involved) if I’m away from my kids for an extended period of time. It’s one thing to guess about it, but I prefer to see how it goes by diving in and testing. At this point I don’t have anything significant to report, but I will note that video-Skyping is a great way to keep in touch from the road, and best of all, it’s free.
Rachelle has performed her Fringe show, unADULTeRATED me, 3 times in London so far, and she has 3 more to go, including one later today. I’ve seen all of her London shows so far (and one in Montreal). They come out differently every time since her show relies heavily on audience participation. Her second show here got the best reception, after which she received a standing ovation. That show went really well, so the standing-O didn’t surprise me. Interestingly that was the show in which her main audience volunteer was a woman.
Rachelle’s show is about a woman who’s rehearsing a date with the man of her dreams, so having a woman volunteer for the man’s role created a whole different energy. The audience loved it, and Rachelle did a great job of adding in lots of extra humor to play off the female-female interaction.
Since I never participated in drama when I was in school, I’m enjoying learning about theater in such a hands-on way. I’ve been helping Rachelle promote her show locally by putting up fliers and posters, and I’ve helped her set up and take down her sets before and after each show. I’ve also enjoyed chatting with people after the show. For the past two shows, members from the discussion forums have been in the audience too.
After each show, I help Rachelle do a postmortem on how it went. She’s constantly tweaking things from one show to the next, so I give her feedback on what worked well, what could be improved, and how the audience reacted to each part. This is tricky because every audience is different, so sometimes ideas that were a hit with one audience may not work as well with another.
Helping out behind the scenes is a different experience for me since I’m used to being the guy on stage. I think I get more nervous for Rachelle doing her shows than I ever did before doing a speech or a workshop.
If you happen to be in the London area and want to see Rachelle’s show, you’re welcome to come. Just be aware that it includes sexually oriented content and nudity, so please leave the kids at home, and bring a playful attitude.
More About London
Before visiting London, a few previous London inhabitants warned me that it isn’t necessarily a place I’d enjoy visiting for an entire week. I see what they mean. There doesn’t seem to be all that much to do here, especially late at night. Rachelle and I had a hard time finding places to get vegan food after her shows. As far as we can tell, there’s only one all-vegan restaurant in the city, Veg Out. We’ve eaten there twice so far. The food is pretty good, but the service is very slow — nowhere close to the speedy service I’m accustomed to in Las Vegas. Both times it took more than 30 minutes for us to get our food, and the restaurant wasn’t full either time.
Another restaurant we found was Zen Garden. It’s a vegetarian restaurant downtown with a lot of vegan options. We’ve only eaten there once, but the atmosphere was nice, the service speedy, and the food good. We ate there just before closing though, so we were the only customers at the time. I wouldn’t mind eating there at least once more before we leave for Toronto.
So far though, I think the best place to get raw/vegan food in London has been Chez Karen.
One thing I noticed about the restaurants here is that many of them bring portable electronic devices to the table when I opt to pay with a credit card. I punch in the tip amount, or push a button to tip 15% by default, and push a few more buttons, and it prints out a receipt right at the table. I’ve never seen these devices in the USA. Rachelle tells me they’re common in Canada though, perhaps because paying for meals with debit cards is more common than using credit cards. I always use credit cards though. Why are debit cards more popular in Canada? I don’t see the advantage if you pay off your credit card balance in full each month, so there’s no interest to pay.
I’m not planning to do a special London meet-up (mainly since there hasn’t been much interest in one), but if you’re in the area and want to say hi, it should be easy to catch me after one of Rachelle’s shows. I’ll be hanging out after the show to help Rachelle take down the set. That only takes about 15-20 minutes usually, after which we can chat in the art gallery area outside the theater.
Time to leave now for another of Rachelle’s shows…