Red Deer, Alberta
I am in Alberta, and a friend (an acquaintance, really) is playing in a band at a stand-up comedy show in Red Deer. While I could spend a day, doing the typical touristy things in Calgary, I choose to become part of the band entourage.
As we arrive to Red Deer, we drop by a local Starbucks. The t-shirt of an older gentleman in front of me says “Fuck gas”.
With our dresses, heels and bright lips we are sticking out like sore thumbs among worn jeans, t-shirts, fake eyelashes, glitter, and an incredible amount of black eyeliner.
“How’s life in the city?”, cashier asks my friend, as she pays for a magazine.
The gig takes place in a local bar, Fratters Speakeasy venue. For some mysterious reason, the bar staff is sporting outfits with the 1920s flair.
Anna is our waitress. Her rendition of 1920s flair includes an animal print beach dress, black ballet flats and gold jewellery. I’m tempted to make an Office Space reference.
The table next to us features large backs, large tummies, large tattoos, and plethora of baseball caps.
“He quit smoking”, shrugs a wide-shouldered guy with long shaggy hair at the next table. His neighbour clarifies: “He quit smoking? Or SMOKING-smoking?” adding just a slight raise of an eyebrow for emphasis. Then the conversation shifts to strippers.
Small town entertainment at its finest.
Is this real Canada? How much more real is this than a swanky bar downtown Toronto? The only thing that seems fake about these women is their nails. The only thing that seems fake about these men is the cheese on their nachos.
The stand-up comedian is feeling nervous (or so we are told) and the act is stalled. When he finally makes it, the humour is heavily Tim Hortons-based, with a generous dash of Edmonton vs. Calgary rivalry, and many mentions of lack of sex after marriage. Apparently, there is such a thing as a birthday blow job? The things I learn. Toronto’s infamous mayor Rob Ford is not forgotten. The crowd guffaws.
During an intermission, the unmistakeable scent of marijuana (I almost said aroma) drifts across the tables. The drinks are as stiff as they come. In fact, Birthday Blowjob should be a cocktail. Ahahahah… I said cocktail. Get it? Me so funny.
Two drinks into the night, I realize that I’m really getting off writing in a bar with a drink in hand. I’m pretty sure that makes me a writer. Or a freak. Both?
“Our” band is finally on stage. The lead singer Maria is a striking woman in her 40s. She’s wearing a long black gothic dress with mesh sleeves and laced up leather corset. Flowing fabric down each sleeve. Her skirt with high slits is reminiscent of my striped thigh highs. She snorts through her nose, when she laughs.
Comedy and rock’n’roll.
So what if both are mediocre? It’s like finding a perfect batch of soggy fries. There is just absolutely nothing remarkable about them, and that, in turn, makes them remarkable.
I am happy. A little drunk. With a best friend next to me. Writing.
Maria is bellowing a country tune from stage. I am sipping on a lichee martini that is too much martini, and not enough lichee. I get a weird deja vu, watching her.
She is rocking out. She is having fun. She is in her element.
Where have I seen this before? This carefree rocking out expression?
Then it hits me. I have seen this goofy smile on my own face!
This is what I’m like when I’m at a gym. In the forest. On race course. Crewing for others. Dancing at Burning Man. I AM that rocker chick. Smiling. Joking. In a sports bra, instead of leather corset.
It’s not easy being a groupie. The night is long, and this is the first time I’ve ever had to eat two separate meals at a bar. Holy cow.
After “our” band disassembles and packs up equipment, we are the last ones to leave. The ride back is long and cold. I’m exhausted.
Being a groupie is hard work. How do they do it?
YOUR TURN: What is your favorite way to rock out? Do you rock out on stage? At the gym? In the horse stable?
Liked this post? Read more about my love-hate relationship with airports and about my life on a tropical island.
[This essay was written in the spring of 2014].