Saturday, March 21, 2020

Record your memories now: what were you doing when the world ended?

So different people have different ideas about when this all will end.

The Cinematheque, for example, has announced that it is in the midst of a "temporary closure" from March 16th to April 15th, which leaves a slim hope that my Clearcut screening on April 22nd will go ahead... except, given rising numbers of infected and dead - 77 new cases today in BC, with a province-wide ban going into place on dining in in restaurants as of today - and scary stories about people who are relatively young and healthy dying, this seems wildly optimistic. While I am not entirely glum, wild optimism about the future is not my current state of mind - more like "mildly panicked but holding the fort." I've been indoors all day today. I ventured out briefly for some essentials yesterday, but even picking up a shopping basket that had been handled by others at Walmart was kind of freaking me out (no one was thinking to sanitize them, though a cashier was kind enough to give me a pump from her jumbo squirt-bottle when I was done). And I am as worried about passing on contagion as I am about receiving it: as a tutor at a college with a dental program, which had people at the conference that someone with COVID-19 attended, it is easy to imagine that I have been exposed to the virus, though I have no reason to think so, am at this point entirely asymptomatic. I may be fine - I am not taking pains to sanitize everything I touch, because if I do, we'll be out of sani-wipes in a week; and if I do have the virus (or if Erika does), we've probably already given it to each other... but (unlike the five kids playing basketball happily tomorrow on the court outside my window) I am not kidding myself that this is all going to be over soon.

This makes me want to record a few things, for posterity, and for entertainment, and to urge other people to do the same, so if and when they get a chance to look back on their lives, they will have a record. Here, therefore, are some questions you can answer, if you like. No doubt most of this will take place on an ephemeral forum like Facebook, but me, for vanity, because I think someday somebody might care, I'm starting it out on my blog.

Here are the questions so far. There may be other good ones. I'll answer my own questions below.

What was the last meal you ate at a restaurant?  
What was the last concert you saw? (Or what were the last few concerts, if you're a music fan and want to record more than one).  
What was the last movie you saw in a theatre? 
If you have been told to stay home, what was your last day at your workplace? 
What was the last deliberate physical contact you had with someone who does not live with you? 
What was the last big trip to a store, to shop for something frivolous?  
What plans have you cancelled, because of COVID-19?
And now, here are my answers.

What was the last meal you ate at a restaurant? 

I am not entirely sure, but the last real "eating out" kinda restaurant experience I had was Erika Lax and I going to Mr. Ho's in Burnaby for wonton soup and a shared dish of green beans and chicken in black bean sauce, served with rice. That was Saturday, March 14th, and we loved it. While being nothing fancy, they've been our local, reliable Chinese restaurant for a few years now.

But there have been a couple of other occasions besides that which may count: I've also eaten, since then, at the cafeteria at the college where I work, on Monday the 16th - which seems a long time ago, since the school was still holding physical classes, with face-to-face tutoring, and an open cafeteria. That was at the "Asian kitchen" there, where the school's culinary students served me noodles, broccoli, and decent but not exceptional Chinese dishes involving beef and pork (Mr. Ho's is better). The cafeteria had, at that point, replaced the long tables, which sat about ten, with small, one-person-sized tables - something done at the last minute, maybe that very morning - but even that wasn't measure enough; I went to school the next day, on the understanding that I would still be tutoring students from my computer at the Learning Centre, but face-to-face tutoring would be suspended, to discover that the cafeteria was closed, with no plans to reopen anytime soon. Since I had to commute between campuses to attend an emergency meeting about changed circumstances - this Tuesday, which also ended up being the day of my emergency root canal, more on which below - I took advantage of my proximity to the Commercial Skytrain to grab two slices of Megabite pizza. Erika and I also had some takeout since (a Hawaiian pizza again), but I'm guessing sitting across from each other at a restaurant is not an experience we'll be having for a few months, or maybe ever again. So that last one at Ho's, I guess, is the moment to remember. (We couldn't sit down in there now if we wanted to, I'm sure they're shuttered to all but takeout).

What was the last concert you saw? (Or what were the last few concerts, if you're a music fan and want to record more than one...). 

I'm gonna mention three that I saw before things started shutting down: Doug Andrew and the Circus in Flames, the Graham Brown Band, and EddyD and the Sex Bombs at the Fairview on my 52nd birthday on March 7th. Doug got everyone to sing Happy Birthday To You to me (thanks, Doug!). Preoccupied with the birthday boy stuff, I didn't actually shoot any video of him, but I enjoyed the few new songs he debuted, and I shared cake that Erika had bought with a bunch of my friends (including Doug and Eddy and Shelley Preston and a few other people). I chatted with Scott McLeod, Jack "Fucking" Keating (who I guess will have to postpone his Mayday fuck band celebration), and my friends Tom Charity and Fiona Morrow, Bob and Beth Hanham, John Werner, Ed Hurrell, and the famed DOA colouring book/ NO FUN cassette-cover artist ARGH! (Nick Mitchum on Facebook - he gave me a Chewbacca-themed birthday card). Erika and I left a bit early, despite Eddy having listed us, because it was well past midnight, and Erika had a Weight Watchers meeting to attend the next morning, which involved waking up at 8am (it also has turned out to be Erika's final non-virtual Weight Watchers). I was given a gift by Ed Hurrell of music he and Nick Mitchum (real name Ken) had recorded, but I have no idea where that got to, actually! I also bought a Graham Brown CD, and have listened to it since - it's good! And John Werner is on it! Check it out here...

By the way, I did shoot video of Graham Brown, and another of Eddy D. and the Sex Bombs. Great bands. Thanks to everyone who came out (missing the Lou Reed tribute at Lanalou's - it was nice to have a gathering of friends before all this went down).

After that, I went to see Coco Montoya with Paul Pigat, at the Rickshaw on March 8th. There was a weirdly expressive and slightly drunk woman who tried to get friendly with Erika Lax, who is more sociable than I am, but she quickly irritated me, doing things like grabbing my backpack (which she insisted stay on a seat she wasn't sitting in, so it could reserve the seat, even though she'd piled her sweater and such on top of it and wasn't sitting anyways); at one point, when I went to move it, she - assuming I was doing it for her benefit, but really because I would rather have my pack between my legs than on a seat beside me -  grabbed my arm with both her bare hands to stop me - which is something I don't care for even if there isn't a virus scare about. I actually shouted at her to get her hands off me, but strangely enough, neither she nor my wife seemed to hear me - it's like my reaction was so outside the realm of expected behaviour it was invisible.

Anyhow, Pigat blew Erika and I away, and I excitedly bought a Boxcar Campfire CD off him, and got him to sign it to Erika and myself. Oddly enough, Paul trotted up beside me on the street the next day as I was walking to work. He said Coco was really sweet to hang out with. I told him that he blew Coco off the stage the other night. He's a pretty humble guy, I think - or quiet in his pride? - but goddamn, his guitar work that night shone. We only chatted for a minute, but we were both looking ahead to Billy Bragg at that point. Was that really only a week ago?

Finally, on March 11th, I went to see The Imperial - the new group with Scott McLeod, Cam Alexander, Rich Katynski, and Michael Nathanson, whom I interviewed for the Straight; Nathanson was also drumming for Betty Bathory's band Paranoid Romantic. Video of The Imperial here and here, and Paranoid Romantic here. Before arriving, I had grabbed a Chinese dinner after work at a Taiwanese beef noodle place, which was spicy but not really my thing, and checked in with Bob Hanham, to look through a GG Allin book he'd given me for my birthday (!) - he had gotten a copy for himself, but hadn't cracked it open yet, and I thought he'd be curious, so I opened mine (later, it would prompt Betty Bathory to tell the story of the time she had worn a t-shirt that had been drawn on and worn by GG Allin himself. She made the obvious joke - she's immune to Coronavirus because she wore a t-shirt once worn by GG). I had never been at the Roxy before, and hadn't seen either of the bands playing before, so it was really fun; my friend Judith Beeman popped up, and I got a handshake from Cam and a hug from Betty (and maybe Judith), all of which may be things people won't do so much anymore. (Bob also reluctantly shook my hand but suggested we stick to elbow bumps thereafter).

What was the last movie you saw in a theatre? 

Easy: A day or two before my birthday, at Cineplex International Village, with Erika: Disappearance at Clifton Hill. Which is interesting and fresh but ultimately one of those kind of quirky Canadian thrillers that takes a page from arthouse and independent cinema and leaves you with more questions than answers, at first (though I think enough pieces are there that you can sort things out.) It wasn't great. David Cronenberg was in it. He was better as Dekker. I like seeing him act, but this role wasn't entirely the right one, let's put it that way (he plays a conspiracy-minded Niagra Falls blogger who dives for stuff lost to the falls). Movie is worth checking out if it pops up on Netflix or something, not bad - unique - but also not great.

If you have been told to stay home, what was your last day at your workplace?

Last day I was told to go in was Tuesday the 17th. The morning when I was told I didn't have to - that I could work from home - was Wednesday the 18th. I went in that day, anyhow, in order to get a few things; almost no one was on the Skytrain that day, despite it having been standing room only for a good part of the ride the previous two days. I would say March 18th was the day we got serious about social distancing. Oddly, it was also my third anniversary with Erika.

Spent most of Thursday and Friday training on software we'll need to tutor online and hold virtual meetings and such. Today, we were told, basically, not to come in to even pick up stuff, unless we cleared it ahead of time.

I am kind of coveting an office chair from the Learning Centre, actually. If I'm going to be tutoring from home, I might as well be seated comfortably.

What was the last deliberate physical contact you had with someone who does not live with you?

Tuesday, I ended up discovering that the dental appointment I thought I was having the coming Saturday - ie., tomorrow, as I write this - had been cancelled, and a new appointment could be scheduled with an endodontist, but only if I went that afternoon, because all dental clinics were closing down. I think I told this story above already, but I had a very fast and almost painless root canal in a front tooth, which left me broke, but also without pain, which had been getting intense. (It was not one of those "infected tooth" scenarios; I'd bitten something the wrong way, which compromised a filling, which in turn caused my nerve to get inflamed and, according to my dentist, start dying. By Tuesday afternoon, if I had anything hot or cold or put pressure on the tooth, it led to an explosion of agony that I could feel throughout my skull. It needed dealing with. Thank you, Drs. Shuen, Alblans,and Hafezi, for your work here! (Dr. Hafezi was the guy who finally got'er done).

Anyhow, on the way to the root canal, a high school English teacher I had when I was sixteen beelined for me on Broadway street and presented his fist for a fist bump. I did not want to fist bump anyone at that point, but I obliged him, then made apologies - "I'm just rushing off for a last minute root canal." I mean, he's a bit of a character, I guess, but he introduced me to the music of Phil Ochs when I was young, so there's that.

In any event, in terms of last physical contact with a stranger, I guess it is either said former high school teacher, or my dentist. The dentist wore gloves, though, so...

What was the last big trip to a store, to shop for something frivolous?  

On payday, March 13th - which I had off - before everything shut down and I realized I would need emergency root canal surgery from a specialist (thus not covered fully by our dental plans, costing me around four hundred un-planned for and un-reimbursable dollars, on March 16th, the day most dental offices shut down), I dragged about 70 CDs and five or ten LPs to Sunrise Records for a trade in. They had Church of Misery's Master of Brutality, which their manager - an affable chap who worked briefly at Red Cat, and before that at the Robson HMV - had special ordered initially for himself. Having seen their show here a couple weeks ago, I was totally gung-ho to own their smokin' cover of "Cities on Flame" on vinyl. But it turned out that I got about $150 for that trade in, so I splurged on Todd Haynes' new film Dark Waters, which Erika and I kind of loved - it's not as morally complex or intellectually challenging as Safe, which is still Haynes' masterpiece, but it surprised me in that it actually turned out to be a keeper. I also upgraded my copy of Bug! (the William Castle production about fire-starting cockroaches, directed by sometimes-Vancouver resident Jeannot Swarcz, of Jaws II fame, and adapted from Thomas Page's novel The Haephestus Plague, which I read as a teen and loved.

Oh, on my big trade in, I grabbed The Deer Hunter and Fifteen Days, the latter because Bob Hanham had likened our current situation to the Cuban Missile Crisis. And the Beastie Boys Ill Communication on vinyl (we've been doing a bit of hip hop, here).

The next day - Saturday the 14th - I made a trip to Videomatica, and grabbed another horror movie based on a novel that I read as a teen, Nightwing, on blu-ray from Mill Creek with a Daryl-Duke co-directed film called Shadow of the Hawk, which I have not seen. Actually, I had never seen the film of Nightwing, either - I missed it as a kid, so I have wanted to see it for something like 40 years. Scratch that itch! Both are horror movies set within First Nations communities, and both star non-First Nations actors as supposed aboriginals. As far as Italian-American actors go, Nick Mancuso in Nightwing makes a far better native than Armand Assante in Prophecy. 

Anyhow, the timeline is all tangled now, since this wasn't meant to be in sequence, but I had consulted with my second-to-last dentist that day, and made an appointment that got cancelled for root canal surgery the following week, which ended up getting cancelled - hence the scramble for someone who could handle me on the 16th. I thought, at that point, that I had a lot more money to tide me over than I turned out to... a Videomatica run seemed excusable. By Tuesday, having paid for that endodontist, such things were out of the question.

I've been to the local Walmart and a couple of other places since, but not for non-essentials (unless you count the tulips I bought for my wife yesterday, when getting groceries).

By the way, I got to meet and chat with Church of Misery (that's a vid I shot that night), and loved their Vancouver show, not too too long ago. Really glad I got to see Eugene Chadbourne one more time, too (especially his cover of "Eight Miles High!"). That's one of two vids I shot that night that I posted... touring rock and roll bands... hope you've seen plenty of them, enough to make the memories last. It's like someday grandparents will be telling their grandkids about the good 'ol days when people gathered in the hundreds just to have fun!

What plans have you cancelled, because of COVID-19?

Well, I have stopped thinking I will rush to transcribe my Ryszard Bugajski interview, apropos of the Clearcut screening that I assume will be cancelled, and I had to cancel an interview that I had set up with Seattle stoner doom duo Year of the Cobra, who had been planning to play Pub 340 in April. With the border and Pub 340 both closed, that interview has been put on indefinite hiatus. (Good, apocalyptic heaviness with a female vocalist; they take a page from bass-and-drum duos like Om, but I actually like them better).

I had also thought I would write, as time allowed, about storc, Eddy D, Betty Bathory, the SLIP~ons, Fu Manchu, Martin Barre, Vile Creature, and Satanic doo-wop band Twin Temple, who were going to open for Tiger Army. And I was looking forward to seeing all of said people play. While I realize all these people/ bands exist, still, and that some will be shifting to alternate modes of delivery like livestreamed concerts you can pay for, I think I am better off focusing my energies and monies on surviving the apparent end of the world, or whatever this is. If you thought it was tough getting by as a musician before the world ended...

Tonight, Erika and I watched Shaun of the Dead, at least until she fell asleep beside me on the couch. I am thinking we will try Juan of the Dead and maybe the remake of Dawn of the Dead, neither of which she has seen (I tried the Romero Dawn with her but she fell asleep both times we started it).

I'm so glad we're together. I did a Happy Anniversary post for us on Facebook, but not here. Life would be kind of unthinkable if I were single, right now.

I turn my questions over to the rest of you - document the moment for posterity, maybe? Maybe it will be interesting for people to look back on how life was pre-COVID-19 (or maybe I'm being too dramatic?)

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