The look on your face wasn’t of surprise or remorse, but of exhaustion. It read of a long day that just stretched another mile. And as the pint of beer I had ordered tipped over from its perch on your serving tray and splashed its entire contents onto my younger brother, it was as if you’d reached an oasis to find a mirage. You apologized profusely and cleaned him up as best you could. We joked that you’d probably get a ticket for splashing alcohol on a minor. You tried hard to smile, then let us know that all of our meals would be on the house. Fruit flies began circling my brother thanks to the sweet IPA and we thanked him for dinner.
Portrait by Maya Guilin for #POBEshow 2014
Days after you signed the secretive trade treaty with China I continued to wonder if you were responsible for any other recent clandestine changes to the lives of Canadians. It seemed possible that in your quest to water down our heritage that you’d called for the end of Canadian Tire Money or brokered the deal between Burger King and Tim Horton’s. It seems obvious that you split up our royal couple, Chad and Avril, who were invaluable beacons of hope in such dark times. I know they’re not Canadian but it has been bothering me – are you behind the steadily inflating prices at Value Village as well? And it’s probably also your fault that the Toronto Maple Leafs were voted North America’s worst sports franchise of 2014. Actually, that’s pretty funny. Kudos on that one.
Portrait by David Roth for #POBEshow 2014
Every morning was the same. You’d greet the class, do attendance and call us all by the wrong names even though they were on the sheet of paper in front of your increasingly infuriating bespectacled face. Cody? Corey? Carl? None of those were me, none of the fourteen of us in the program were named that, and after six-weeks of instruction I was torn between being concerned about your mental faculties and wanting to pour epoxy in your ears to keep whatever dregs of memory were left safe in your head.
Samantha? Sarah? Sasha? Those weren’t even close to Michelle’s name. Chris? Lenny? Robert? It seemed like you were just plain making fun of Raj. Eventually I stopped correcting and responding to your “Cody’s” and “Carl’s” and only grit my teeth at each attempt to correctly guess my name. I took your ineptitude as a lack of respect. The rising anger I felt probably connected to my bruises pride – how could you not remember my name? I wanted to raise my hand: “Hey Linda? Tom? George? Lucy? Asshole? I have a question.”
Portrait by Natalie Tusznio for #POBEshow 2014
It wasn’t that I didn’t believe you but when you eventually showed us the grainy brown and grey aerial shot taken from the plane of you and three others skydiving into a Supertramp concert at Empire stadium in the seventies, there was a feeling of confirmation: you were cooler than all of us.
Now only weeks away from your sixtieth birthday, you told us how the four of you had veered off target and dangerously close to the roller coaster at the PNE while trying to get into formation. It was your last minute decision to pull right that saved your team and brought you to safety on the large white “X” painted onto the field amongst the thousands of cheering concert goers.
The faint pink highlights in your bright white hair bounced as you laughed it off as an everyday near-miss. But what really got to me as I looked at the photo was not your casual recall of a harrowing tale or your unassuming penchant for danger and adrenaline; what really took me by surprise was how many people actually went to a Supertramp concert.
Portrait by Andrew Pommier for #POBEshow 2014
Over two-weeks and two return visits and they were all still hard. My judgement was off, like I had been trying to guess my way through a cup and ball trick. I was missing whichever days their flesh would be soft enough to spread over a bagel and consume. I squeezed my hand through the pile of rock hard avocados as if it were earthquake rubble – hoping, praying that my fingers touched tender skin. Multiple people stopped beside me and then promptly left, sighs trailing behind them, seeing what I was doing as time better spent poking the brown spots on bananas or reading the cover of People magazine while in line for the till.
Then you squatted next to me and dove your hand into the mess. I let you know the situation and we commiserated momentarily but you kept on digging. What made you so resilient even after I cut the head off of any chance of success? There’s no doubt that I also love guacamole but at this point we were just fishing for ghosts. I wished you luck as I finally caved and got up to leave. You thanked me and I saw determination burn in your eyes as your hand continued to root deeper and deeper, and your large, sagging breasts draped themselves over the fruit.
Portrait by Brett Barmby for #POBEshow 2014