It’s all fun and games until someone marries a cousin of a cousin

During the Vancouver Fringe Festival, I saw show called Feste at the Portuguese Club of Vancouver. I had heard about the show from my friend Morgan Brayton who learned about it at a festival media event; she also knows the actresses who wrote it.

My biggest concern about the show was it might be kind of “shrill” since Portuguese personalities tend to grate on your nerves (mine included). We’re not the most rational of European cultures.

Morgan and I went to the Feste, after she finished performing her own show Give It Up, (which I highly recommend). We were in line behind a three Portuguese women, all bottle-blondes that leaned closer to orange. 

One of them said, “There are seven more of us coming so don’t get upset when they bud in front of you.” 

This is a typical Portuguese pre-emptive move: preparing people disappointment. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought they were part of the show.

Morgan and I struck up a conversation with the women immediately. I told them I was Portuguese and we discussed what little theatre is about the Portuguese experience—aside from The Portuguese Kids.

One of them asked me if I “Spoke” — meaning Portuguese. When I told her I didn’t, she sighed and gave me that disappointed look all Portuguese people give you when you haven’t learned the language. 

I’ve been meaning to go to the PVOC for some time now. Friends have been telling me the food there is amazing. I just assumed it was a club where old Portuguese men go to get drunk and watch soccer

Morgan and I spilt  3-course meal for $25 and it was fucking amazing. I had the potato and kale soup and the rice pudding, or as Morgan put it, “Childhood in a bowl.”

The show itself was a collection of scenes from a Portuguese Feste—or festival. The ones I went to as a kid were always tied to the church that began with the parading of a statue of the local patron saint and ended with a banquet.

The show’s humour was very specific; I was worried Morgan wouldn’t be able to appreciate it. There were references only a Portuguese person would understand; like how Portuguese people refer to Canadians as “white” people; and how we’re expected to go the one Portuguese driving instructor; and that kale is a secret miracle food that “white” people are just discovering now. 

The reference that rocked my world was to these little tiny raffle tickets you used to get; if the ticket had a number on it you would get a corresponding prize. The prizes were always some piece of shit that someone didn’t want, like a chipped wine glass or an old ceramic plate.

The show did an excellent job of portraying Portuguese/Canadian culture. The performers summed things up best when they said Portuguese people come from a village from where they knew everyone and moved to a country where they knew no one. The instinct is to stick to your own. 

I called my sister the next day and told her about the show. We had a good laugh about the jokes, especially those damn raffle tickets. 

We talked about how spoiled we were as kids and we didn’t even know it. Our mom always made our meals from scratch and but we were so obsessed with assimilating, we often turned our nose up at it and asked for Hamburger Helper. 

We both regret we didn’t pay more attention to our parents in the kitchen and the garden because we would probably have our own businesses by now. “Mom is probably looking down on us and saying, I told you so.” 

And mom would be right. 

Growing up Portuguese was kind crazy, and a little embarrassing,  but you forget how much fun it actually was until someone rubs it in your face. 

Posted in Brampton, Commercial Drive, Memoir, Portuguesey, Vancouver | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Lady on the Train

I come from a large family, so I have a lot respect people’s personal space. If I’m you’re neighbour, I’ll try to keep the volume of my music and TV down. I don’t man-spread on public transit, and I take off my backpack on a crowded train. Living in a city, I feel the more space we can give each other, the better we’ll get along.

Last night I saw Stand by Me at The Rio Theatre. I hadn’t seen in the movie in decades, and I was really looking forward to it. I love  Stand by Me  because it reminds me of what it was like growing up in the Seventies;  it evokes memories of wide open spaces, train tracks, and hours long bike rides.

I’ve learned to show up at The Rio 30 minutes before a movie because you can never gauge how big the crowd is going to be. For example, the midnight screening for Saturday Night Fever was almost empty, but Escape from New York was two-thirds full.

I’m a curmudgeon, and I own that. I believe that movie theatres are sacred and that once the lights go down, you don’t talk, text, or take pictures of the screen. I also realize that when I see a movie at The Rio, I have to expect some people’s idea of the theatre-experience is more interactive than my own, that’s why I made ssure to find a seat as far away from anyone else as I could. 

It’s a little know fact, but generally, if I a person is sitting by themselves in a moderately empty theatre, they want some space. I for one, am glad to move over if the movie sells out, but otherwise, back off.

I found an aisle seat in almost empty row with five seats between me and the next person. The theatre was just over half full, but plenty of seats. 

The movie starts and this woman comes down the aisle stops dead in her tracks like she’s with someone in my row and then takes the seat one over for me, which is fine. Then she starts eating sushi with lots of ginger.

A couple of seconds of her taking her seat, I realize she’s an over-reactor. A hint of humour has her in stitches and she gasps at the tiniest turn for the worst. 

A few minutes go by, and her friend shows up and sits right next to me even though there is plenty of room between her friend and the next person over. She then spends the next five minutes talking to her friend and squirming in her seat.

Now I’m annoyed and not paying attention to the movie I paid $12 to see; which in the grand scheme of things, is not lot of money but still not free. 

I think to myself, maybe I should move, but it’s pretty dark in the theatre; I can’t tell if there are any good seats in front of behind me. I also think, “I got here on time to find a good seat, why should I move?” There’s is also there’s paranoid delusional part of me that feels, they’re action out to get me to move, to which I think, “Oh hell no.”

Then it gets worse. The woman sitting next to me has an even shorter response mechanism to humour. Her laugh is like Nineties-sitcom-laugh-track, and not that it’s dog-whistle shrill. And then they both start reciting lines from the movie at the top of their lungs. I was like, “Are you for fucking real?”

It’s moments like these where I have to analyze just how big of an asshole I really am. I love the sound of laughter, but not laughter for the sake of laughter. And if  you and you’re friend are going to interact with a movie, did you really need to sit by the guy sitting by himself to do that?

Louis CK does this great bit about a theatre student  practicing her vocal scales on a subway regardless of how annoying it might be to the nurse who just worked a 14 hour shift. While I’m no nurse, and I don’t it’s too much to ask to watch an old movie in peace at my local repertory theatre. 

After the film was over I called a friend and told him about what happened. “I hate it when people pull that shit,” he said. “They hijacked the movie!” 

He described it perfectly. Instead of paying attention to the movie, I was paying attention to them. I still enjoyed the movie, but what I remember most, is the women sitting next to me and not the film, and if you ask me, that’s bullshit.  

Posted in Brampton, Commercial Drive, Humor, Memoir, Movies, Rio Theatre, Vancouver | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eternal Garage Sale of the Spotless Apartment

Last Saturday a couple of friends and I had a garage sale. I came away from the experience learning two things:

  • I’m not cut out to work with the public.
  • Unless it’s signed by Picasso, you’re stuff ain’t worth shit.

I’ve been trying to purge my things for a couple of years now. The project has taken on more urgency ever since I came to the conclusion that my starter studio apartment will likely be my retirement property unless there’s a drastic correction in the Vancouver real estate market.

Friends have always admired my taste in objet d’art. Thanks to a series of boring jobs in the early Naughts, I had plenty of time to scour eBay for weird antiquities at great prices with the idea they would be worth something some day. 

Word of advice: if you are ever bidding on an eBay auction with the intention of making money in the future like it’s an RSP, don’t (unless you own an antiques shop). 

My intention going into the sale was to try and get rid of as much of the “good” stuff without having to bring it back to my apartment or donating it. I’ve had mixed results with eBay in the past; it’s definitely not what it used to be. More often than not, I’ve lost money on listing fees for auctions that didn’t sell; the ones that did, didn’t seem worth the money after eBay and PayPal took their cut.

I’ve had better luck with Craigslist, but items don’t move as quickly. Half the time selling your shit on Craiglist feels more like online dating; you’re constantly playing tag trying to connect with the person, then you never know who is going to show up at your door and when they do, they’re judging you.

The funny thing about advertising a garage sale on Craigslist is that you are bombarded with emails about what you’re selling and for how much. I’ve been trying to get rid of a bunch of Superman statues for years now and never had so much as a bite. Then I post pictures of them in my garage sale listing and every nerd comes out of the woodwork. It’s like, “Where were you people a year ago?”

After a while I just stopped replying to the emails. People were asking really specific questions about what was for sale despite the detailed list of items in the ad. While I can appreciate there is a market for vintage video games, if I were selling them, I would have listed them along with the DVDs, Vinyl, and CDs. At a certain point you just want to tell people, “It’s a garage sale, not Target.”

Despite my bitching, I actually took in a pretty good haul. Like I said, I had some pretty cool stuff to sell. But it was a lot of work. 

I was selling shit at bargain prices. I sold an R2D2 action figure for a $1. It wasn’t in great shape, and it wasn’t from the original film, but nonetheless a $1 for a Star Wars action figure is a great price, and still the asshole dad that bought it asked me if I would take 50 cents for it with his kid standing right there. I wanted to say, “Are you telling me you’re kid isn’t worth a fucking Loonie?” I didn’t budge on the price (because I didn’t have quarters) and then that fucker paid me in nickels and dimes. 

There was another guy who mulled over 2010 Olympic Cowichan sweater that was in near mint condition that I was selling for $10. TEN DOLLARS! But he wanted to wait for a second opinion because the sweater was made in China. Dude, the reason it’s $10 is because it’s made in China along with everything else you buy at Hudson Bay; not only that, you would never find that sweater in a second hand store or on eBay for that price. He ended up buying it.

What kills me about that sweater though is that this mom and her awkward teenage son tried it on earlier and he looked amazing in it. Then she put this buffalo plaid Vancouver Canucks cap on his head and it transformed this kid. I said I would throw in the hat for free if he bought the sweater, but for whatever reason, he wasn’t into it—probably because his mother loved how it looked on him. He ended up buying a DVD instead. Kids these days. 

My one regret about the day was that I didn’t flirt more. There were some really hot guys who bought shit I would have never thought I would sell, like my glow in the dark Madonna (the mother of Jesus, not the queen of pop). Had I more guts I would leered more and worked out a “deal” but that’s what comes from being a shy guy. 

 By the end of the sale I was so sick of answering mundane questions about my shit, I was ready to push people out of my way on the walk home. The straw that broke the camel’s back was this guy who was hanging out with his friends on the porch a couple doors down from my building.  

“Hey!” he shouted at me like I was hooker. “What’s in your suitcase?”

I was so close to yelling back, “What are you? The fucking porch police?” Instead, I blew him off and said, “Stuff.” If you ask me I was being too polite.


Posted in Buying, Commercial Drive, Humor, Memoir, Pop Culture, Sales nightmares, Uncategorized, Vancouver | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Through the Looking Glass: Looking back at Madonna’s Blonde Ambition Tour

Last week I saw Strike a Pose, the documentary about Madonna’s backup dancers for her Vogue video and 1990 Blonde Ambition tour. 

Madonna has always played a supporting role in the soap opera that is my big queer life. Into the Groove was the first song I danced to in a gay bar; Ray of Light got me through one of my darkest periods; and  Don’t Cry for Me Argentina was playing when I learned my dad died. 

More than anything, Strike a Pose, was an opportunity to reflect on who I was 25 years ago. To be honest, I feel a bit of solidarity with Madonna’s former dancers; like them I lived to tell (pun intended) the story of the AIDS crisis with my wits intact.

I was 25 when Madonna released Vogue. I couldn’t wait to dance to that song at The Odyssey. Then Truth or Dare hit the theatres ushering a sense of much needed optimism after 10 years of the AIDS crisis. Being gay suddenly wasn’t a death sentence; Madonna and her dancers were the guiding light.

Naturally, the film addresses the gay kiss in Truth or Dare, the law suit filed by three of the dancers, as well as Jose Gutierez Xtravaganza and Luis Camacho’s attempt at a singing career. As far as documentaries go, the film meandered a bit and was short on details about the dancers’ lives. I was in tears throughout the whole movie nonetheless.

What struck me was how the dancer’s journeys reminded me of so many gay men I knew in the 90’s. Their lives were like a template for a generation of queer men who didn’t know if they were going to live to see 30, so they partied their asses off. When they didn’t die, they faced the music and made the most of it.

Another revelation in the film is that the Vogue video is actually a portrait of HIV positive men. At least three of Madonna’s dancers were HIV and hiding it from each other. Instead of supporting one another, they lived in constant fear of being found out. Yet when you watch the Vogue video, it reenforces images of  Hollywood glamour, beauty, and fame.

During the Q&A after the film, Kevin Stea said the biggest lesson he learned from making the documentary was how to finally accept all the compliments paid to him while he was young. “I think I might actually die happy,” he said.

It’s a valuable lesson. One a lot of gay men my age need to learn. 


Posted in LGBT, Memoir, Movies, Music, The Nineties | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer of Love: Eighties Edition

The best part about living on The Drive is having the The Rio Theatre at my disposal. One of my favourite past-times is watching films from my youth on the big screen even though I could probably see them for free on Netflix.  

If I had to describe my movie aesthetic, it would be “Wes Anderson in Space.” I love cheesy sci-fi movies from the 70’s like Phantom of the Paradise, obscure art films from the 80’s like Letters to Brezhnev, with a smattering of Russia-baiting action movies from the 80’s like Red Dawn

To my delight, The Rio has been showing classic blockbusters from the 70’s and 80’s over the summer. The series reminds me of afternoon movies I used to watch on the local ABC affiliate out of Buffalo, NY—week-long Planet of the Apes and  Elvis Presley marathons that interfered with my homework. 

Last Saturday I went to see John Carpenter’s Escape From New York. No one speaks of Escape From New York anymore and that saddens me. For all it’s flaws, it’s still a fucking awesome movie.

Escape From New York has always held a special place in my heart for a variety of reasons, chief among them being Kurt Russell when he was transitioning out of live-action Disney flicks into raunchier adult roles. 

I first developed a crush on Kurt Russell when I saw him in The Strongest Man in the World, which in retrospect, was just a movie about steroids. But I was merely a child then, my attraction to him was innocent, the kind of  crush you have on your best-friend’s older sister—passionate but never meant to be.

Escape From New York marked a transition point in my emotional maturity. I was 14. I knew what sex was, and I was beginning grasp the fact that I was gay. 

When Kurt Russell appeared on the screen in Escape From New York, he was no longer a cherubic teen, but a whiskered man. It would take me a few years to realize it, but he was dressed like one of any number of men I would come to see in gay bars.

I had always been a timid kid that avoided horror movies and violent action films. When my best friend from kindergarten, Brad, called to ask if I wanted to see Escape From New York, I had to prepare myself emotionally. Brad still hadn’t forgotten that I freaked out when Darth Vader made his entrance in Star Wars.    

The movie was playing at the brand new multiplex  on Kennedy Road—Brampton’s first. It was Two-Dollar-Tuesday, back when you could pay for your ticket with a $2 bill. We both loved the movie so much that we went back and saw it again the next Tuesday. A few years later Brad and I came out to each other in the parking lot of the McDonald’s where I worked. Something tells me we both just wanted to see Kurt Russell without his shirt.

It’s been 35 years since I saw Escape From New York for the first time and I was amazed that a movie that played such an important part of youth had completely slipped from my memory.

I forgot how much of the movie revolved around the World Trade Center. The audience at The Rio that night was pretty rowdy, but the scene where Snake is flying a glider towards the Twin Towers managed to silence the crowd. The visuals took on a whole new meaning (for me at least); I wasn’t seeing the glider’s approach from Snake’s perspective but from Mohamad Atta’s

Despite that, the 20 minutes where Kurt Russell isn’t wearing a shirt, was as pleasing today as it was back then. Truth be told, with the exception of Snake fighting Ox Baker in the ring, and the president’s plane going down, the movie was completely new to me.

There was some great horrible acting in the film especially by Harry Dean Stanton. I completely forgot that Adrienne Barbeau and her big boobs were in it. When I saw the movie when I was 14, I never questioned where she got her high heels. And the scene where one of The Duke’s thugs gets a knife in the forehead was hilarious instead cringeworthy. 

I took the Eighties for granted when I was growing up. At the time I thought it was a bullshit decade that would never have a lasting impact on the culture the way the Sixties did, but thanks to shows like Stranger Things and movies at The Rio I have greater appreciation for them. 

The Eighties was a great time to be a teenager going to the movies and watching TV. We didn’t scrutinize the special effects and production design; plot holes were almost like a badge of honour. I don’t know if it’s a sign of age or if I have better taste in films, but I wish I wasn’t so cynical going to movies these days. Sometimes you need to see a piece of crap from your youth to remind yourself how to sit back and enjoy the ride, continuity flaws and all. 

Posted in Brampton, Commercial Drive, Memoir, Movies, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

American Pie in Celluloid Form

The FlickThe Flick by Annie Baker

A play that reads like a novel. The Flick by Annie Baker is a nice slice of Americana about the last 35mm movie theatre in Massachusetts going digital. The play centres around Sam, Avery, and Rose, who are damaged in their ways. The dialogue and the characters are believable and the set (as described in the stage notes) has a personality of its own. The play is character study about genuine people with simple ambitions who are trying to figure out who they are and their place in the world.

View all my reviews

Posted in Book Reviews, Humor, Plays, Pop Culture, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Secret Life of Douchebags and the Girls that Love Them

American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of TeenagersAmerican Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers by Nancy Jo Sales

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers is one of the most depressing books I have read in a long time but I couldn’t put it down. The interview subjects begin to sound exactly like each other whether they are 13 or 19 and the symptoms of “social media” addiction can be a little repetitive.

What’s really interesting about the book is how teenage boys are portrayed as dumb assholes; it made me want to slap them across the back of the head when I saw one on the train to work. After a while I began to wonder who the hell is raising these kids and do they have any interest in seeing them become healthy well-adjusted adults.

The one criticism I have about the book is that it makes it sound every kid is hooked on social media and addicted to porn. While I believe both are prevalent in teen life, I have a hard time believing this is the case in every case. It would have been nice if she had talked to a teen whose mom and dad monitored their social media use and paid attention to what was happening in their lives for contrast. It felt like most of the interview subjects are pretty shallow with or without social media.

It’s a great book; I would recommend it to anyone with a teenage son or daughter or an adult who is questioning their own relationship with social media and porn. I’m just really glad that I was a teenager in the Eighties when all you needed was a pair of high tops and Sony Walkman to fit in.

View all my reviews

Posted in Book Reviews, Current Events, Sociology | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Art of Living in the Present

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and OrganizingThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not a big fan of self-help books but this was exactly what I needed right now. At the risk of sounding maudlin, I’ve had to clean out friends’ apartments after they passed away and it was excruciating–half of me was looking at their belongings and thinking, “This was a person’s life” the other half was thinking, “This has to go.” I promised myself I would never do this to my friends after I pass away.

This book has been getting a lot of press lately, with it’s motto of only keep what sparks joy; however, I think the real message of this book is “Live your current life.” I’m not hoarder by any definition of the word, but I have been dragging books and mementoes around with me for nearly 30 years and it’s time to let go.

I got rid of a couple of bags of clothes and linens while I was reading the book, but I’m really looking forward to doing a deep dive into my belongings, taking stock of my possessions and keeping only what I need.

View all my reviews

Posted in Book Reviews, Buying, The Purge Report, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Where’d You Go Bernadette

Where'd You Go, BernadetteWhere’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was really looking forward to reading this book and ended up being disappointed by it. I had heard it was really funny, and it certainly had its moments; however, I had a hard time with the narrative, and the plot wasn’t nearly as slapstick as it people said it was going to be. That said, I had just read three books set in New York was and was more than happy to read something set closer to home (Seattle). I also really enjoyed all her pokes at Canadians (being one myself).

View all my reviews

Posted in Book Reviews, Humor, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sex and the ADHD City

Lust & WonderLust & Wonder by Augusten Burroughs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a nice companion piece/antidote to A Little Life (which I’m still working my way through). I have to admit to living vicariously through Augusten Burroughs, but without all the child abuse and alcoholism. I’ve always been impressed with Burroughs’ ability to capture those sudden bursts of anxiety and doubt that creep up out of nowhere. I felt a little uncomfortable reading about the end of his 10 year relationship since there are always two sides to every story and it’s not really fair when you can tell your side to a worldwide fan base. A quick, compulsive read; reminded me why I became a fan of Burroughs in the first place.

View all my reviews

Posted in Book Reviews, Humor, LGBT, Uncategorized | Leave a comment