Sunday 20 September 2009

Interlude VII

As is traditional on this blog, when I can't deliver up a steaming helping of fresh fiction to continue the current serial, I like to occasionally offer instead a brief window into the state of the author's life -- as harried as story-free, and there's usually a meaningful correlation there.

(If this sort of aside doesn't appeal to you, click away without another thought. The next installation of our current tale will be posted before too long. Check back soon. Meanwhile:)

The eldest and least wed of my she-siblings was married away on Talk Like A Pirate Day, 2009. Arrr!

The ceremony was distinguished by an extended reading of Hugh Grant from the Anglican officiant, which may well go down in my memory as the most savage internal struggle I have ever had to wage in order to stop myself from bursting out laughing in a house of worship. The officiant drew his quotation from a British romantic comedy in which Mr. Grant, playing the Prime Minister, muses on the twin classic evidences of love: reunions at airport gates and the way people tend not to take the time to send out hate mail when they've been caught in a nightmare of terrorist violence.

The officiant did not at any point talk like a pirate. It may have been his understanding that pirates were Catholics. I'm not sure. Keeping track of what's properly Anglican (or Episcopal, or whatnot) is a moving target these days. First it was that business with divorce five hundred years ago, and now they have deacons with boobs. What comes next is anybody's guess, but given recent evidence my money's on the unofficial beatification of Hugh Grant.

Also, I was chagrined at the desecration of the chancel.

For those of you who aren't deeply into the architecture of churches, the chancel is the bit at the end where all the really holy stuff goes on. The congregation seated in the nave faces the chancel, characterized by a platform or stage for the altar with a cavernous space over top of it. The back wall of the chancel is often decorated with stained glass, so that shafts of coloured volumetric light can penetrate the chancel and look very beautiful.

The very point of a chancel is that only ephemeral things like light can occupy that yawning space up there. It is space which, symbolically and psychologically, belongs to the divinity being addressed in the church. It is a contemplative aid, if nothing else. It is an architectural manifestation of the congregation's relationship to what the building embodies. Above the altar, the chancel is reserved for God.

And, apparently, microphone cables.

That's right: some technophilic lug had reckoned the best way to capture service audio for amplification was to hang black XLR cabling from the tip of the chancel to dangle over the platform, thereby bissecting the space vertically at random intervals and occluding the stained glass. Why, why, why would anyone disrespect a three hundred year old piece of architecture like that? There are so many creative ways to hide cables!

You see, North America? That's why we can't have nice stuff like Europe. We don't know how to treat it right.

Afterwards, standing on the boulevard at St. Clair, I smoked cigars with my kin and chatted, at which point it came to light that the groomsmen had received some special attention from the deacon before the ceremony. He had apparently subjected them to an extended reading from Four Weddings and a Funeral, pausing periodically to remark upon his admiration for Hugh Grant and also the purity of Christian matrimony.

"Where does this guy research his sermons?" exclaimed one of my brothers; "Blockbuster Video?"

The wedding photographer was a Nazi. She shouted at everyone until they did as they were told. She shouted at anyone else with a photographic device that they weren't allowed to take any pictures in her vicinity while she was taking pictures. She shouted at anyone with a flash that flashes weren't allowed. She shouted at people who stood too close to her, or who asked her any questions. She shouted at us all to look happy, so we did. Snap!

A priceless simulation of a happy moment, captured.

The crowd outside the church buzzed with the fake shutter snap sound bytes of photograhic telephones and walkmen. I'm pretty sure a lot of those people missed the entire ceremony on account of their squinting at the smeary, pixelated displays of their viewfinders rather than watching what was happening in real life. They might have had some engaging conversations with infrequently seen kin outside if they hadn't been so obsessed with photographing them, instead. In lieu of real memories, we all walk away with a thousand blurry pictures.

One of my young cousins is the spitting image of Matt Smith, the next star of Doctor Who, right down to the emo-hair. I gave him a cigar, but it failed to light his hanging bangs on fire. "I'm not sure I like the white framing on the windows of the new TARDIS," I told him.


We took the children downtown to my other sister's house, because there was a height minimum for admittance to the reception for some reason, then drove back to midtown in time for supper at the Eglinton Grand, which is a small private events venue renovated from an art-deco era cinema. It was strange to physically be within a space I had done stage design for so many times -- I maintain a virtual model of the venue's architecture on my computer at work, but had not personally been inside since the renovation. I immediately started mentally cataloguing all of the errors in my model.

The master of ceremonies was an obnoxious English disc jockey. Surprisingly, he failed to reference Hugh Grant.

For some unfathomable reason a significant minority of the younger guests thought it would be appropriate to attend the reception dressed as Russian prostitutes, which I suppose more than anything else simply speaks to my being out of touch with today's standards. Who am I to say when it is or is not appropriate for a lady to expose underwear whose very construction threatens the sanctity of her labia? Thankfully, all of our senior kin made it through the evening without a single incidence of cardiac arrest.

One young man had a very fashionable hat -- almost as nice as mine -- but spoiled the effect of class by failing to doff said hat indoors or when being introduced. Don't they teach kids anything in school these days?

The wait staff wore advertisements for the catering company on their lapels. Crass, in my estimation, but I suppose business is business. Their overlord had to hiss them into silence when they muttered during the speeches, threatening to besmirch the profundity of my sister's blonde stick-figure friends sobbing into the microphone as they extolled the virtues of their BFF. My other sister, who owes more allegiance to counter-culture than to the mainstream, wore an expression throughout that suggested the ingestion of a lemon, or the suppression of bile.

"BFFs forever!"

"That's a tautology."


My lovely wife and I could not stay on to dance into the night, however, as we were obliged to retrieve our children from my sister's sitter to begin the long drive out of the megalopolis and back to the countryside, with midnight as our goal. This goal seemed threatened as we drew into the neighbourhood of Little India, our destination, only to find the streets positively clogged from stem to stern with crawling cars and hooting people. The traffic signals were being ignored, crowds swelling into the road. Street performers were executing some sort of acrobatic derring-do at the curb, the sidewalks packed cheek by jowl with all manner of wallahs -- food and jewellery and trinkets and fashions. Various musics competed to shake the air.

We were jammed into the middle of Little India on Eid ul-Fitr, a night of celebration and revelry marking the end of Ramadan. I frowned. "Parking...may be a problem."

We got lucky with a spot, leaving the car perched on the apex of a speed bump and then slowly picking our way through the throng on foot. My wife was cold so I bought her a green pashmina with lovely, detailed embroidery from one of the wallahs (who had to call out his young daughter to operate the debit machine for him), and then we ran right into my sister. Her husband was still trying to find a parking spot, somewhere out in the sea merriment the road had devolved into. Together we inched our way to her door and then slipped inside to retrieve the children, both still awake. The sitter, charging city rates, was handed a modest dowry in cash.

"Is it a party outside?" asked my daughter, eyes wide.

My wife and I each took a child's hand and squeezed down the narrow stairway to the clogged streets once more. We were a matching quartet of black-and-white formalwear in an ocean of colourful saris and sequins and dishdashas. Everybody smiled at us. We watched henna artists paint intricate floral designs and arabesques on teenage girls' arms, and dodged a giant group portrait in the making of bearded gentlemen in robes and fez-like hats. The photographer kept imploring them to squeeze closer together and as I led my son around the scene they wanted to know how it looked to the camera. I gave them the A-OK, and then a bunch of the robed gentlemen gave me the A-OK back. The shutter tripped and the flash flashed, immortalizing our moment of cultural exchange.

I tipped my hat and moved on.

On the drive home my wife and I held hands. We discussed how we would compress a weekend's worth of chores into tomorrow. We're both involved in a museum exhibit going live in less than two weeks, and that's just one of the things jockeying for our attention and energies over the same span. Nobody's doing the dishes but we're each pulling off more than our share of little miracles to keep various sets of balls in the air...

In the rearview mirror the children's heads are slumped on their shoulders. Cherubs. Soon there are no more streetlights, and I can see Jupiter again.

"Where's the honeymoon?"



We cross the lawn to the Old Schoolhouse each saddled with a sleeping child. The air is crisp and autumnal. My wife remarks that she can see her breath and also Orion's Belt. Our steeple cuts the galaxy, the bell at Baade's Window.

"Are you going to write your chapter tomorrow?" whispers my wife, watching me watching the sky.

"Well, I'm going to write something."

And I have. Feeling the love of Hugh Grant shining down upon me, so help me I have.


Nick said...

Thanks for the update CBB. Sounds like things are going well, busy as times may be.

It was strange to physically be within a space I had done stage design for so many times -- I maintain a virtual model of the venue's architecture on my computer at work, but had not personally been inside since the renovation. I immediately started mentally cataloguing all of the errors in my model.
That is wonderfully fascinating, both the thought process and the concepts prompting it. Is there some sort of stage design modeling program out there?

Cheeseburger Brown said...


I use the Electric Image Animation System (EIAS), which is a general purpose cross-platform 3D imaging, animation and rendering package. It is one of the (if not the) fastest rendering engine out there, and was at one time the only commercial packages capable of handling film resolutions. Despite a long, storied and successful history, it remains one of the most obscure 3D packages in existence.

I build my virtual sets based on photographs and CAD floorplans provided by our technical director, a charming curmudgeon who rides a cool red 1961 Harley.

Cheeseburger Brown

Anonymous said...

An interesting paralell.

I also had a she-sibling (a younger version) wed her bloke on Talk Like a Pirate Day.

She too was wed in a church with some beautiful architecture. I was unable to resolve why, in what is billed as a house of God, there were hanging the flags of the nations armed forces. I gave up and chastised myself for my naitivety.

The minister gave a nice sermon. Then some other bloke got up (apparently because the minister wasn't entertaining enough to say some nice things) and indulged in some alarming public speaking. He was like a cross between the priest from The Princess Bride, and John Cleese in one of the skits in which he played a Schoolmaster of a boys boarding school. Self-serving and undignified.

I felt a bit uncomfortable; the only persons who seemed to share this feeling outside of some of my immediate family were old family friends, who could not make it to the reception as they were still observing Ramadan. I missed them at the reception (they are great company), but only a little. I was too busy spit roasting two pigs to enjoy much conversation anyway.

My brother made reference to the fact it was Talk Like A Pirate Day in his speech at the reception. I objected loudly; I shouted that he ought to be keelhauled.

I wore what I thought was a classy hat - I was for reasons of my own paying homage to Frank Sinatra. I must confess that I don't think I doffed it politely much at all. I will remember to do so in the future.

But all-in-all, fun was had, and I was glad to see the day go so well for my she-sibling. She is a great girl.

Mark said...

Enjoyed reading this story as much (but in different ways) as I do one of your fiction entries.

Eric said...

I was going to say the same thing as Mark. These interludes were a lot of fun.

I'm an avid church goer (yay! Jesus), and I've never really given all that much thought to the space over the pulpit. I just figured that it was big for acoustic reasons.

Wil said...

Oh thank goodness you're not dead

SaintPeter said...

The way you write your life is the way you write your stories, which manages to make even the most mundane aspects of your existence fascinating. One of my introductions to your writing were your various posts on Kuro5hin and elsewhere detailing your real life exploits, including the courting of your wife.

I frequently enjoy your digressions on HuSi as well.

It seems that you live in interesting times. I am sorry for the effect that may have on you personally, but I enjoy the results in your writing. Always an interesting tale.

Sheik Yerbouti said...

What Mark and SaintP said; beautiful telling. What a shame about the wires, though. And the Hugh Grant crap.

Once they start playing the newest stuff on BBC America, I think I will really miss David Tennant. Would it be too much to call him this generation's Tom Baker?

Those moments of spontaneous childlike wonder cannot be overvalued. Last night the sun was setting in a bath of flame-soaked clouds, and along with the rosy light bathing the tops of the trees, we found a giant rainbow spanning the entire eastern horizon. So worth the fifteen minutes of watching it fade with the last rays of the day.

Enjoy it while you have it, CBB; we'll be here when you get back.

Sheik Yerbouti said...

Also, "BFFs forever" is a redundancy, not a tautology (forgive me if I missed an obvious joke there).

Mark said...

Sheik - I found "tautology" defined as "useless repetition." Seems to fit.

Sheik Yerbouti said...

Huh. I learned that a tautology was tantamount to defining a thing by itself... which in itself could be considered redundant, but as a subset of redundancy.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

I believe our esteemed Sheik is technically correct which, when discussing fuzzy semantic boundaries, is one of the more useful forms of correctness.

Rhetoric is one of the classical branches of learning that is still employed as much as ever, but studied only by a narrow band of psycho-linguistic specialists instead being considered a core part of a general education. As such, the distinction between a tautology and a redundancy might now be harder to appreciate for most of us.

In this context, I thought the humour worked better by being flagged with academic language, even if imprecisely applied.

Apologies for my continued absence here, folks. 2009 is going down as a helluva year for me. I am starved for the opportunity to write. In the coming days my chance should come.

Cheeseburger Brown

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sheik Yerbouti said...

Congratulations, CBB -- you have filter-ducking comment spam!

Benjamin Geiger said...

"I withdrew some money from an automated ATM machine, then set off for my car, a GM Motors piece of POS." (:-P)

Does everyone suffer from PNS syndrome as much as I do?

Cheeseburger Brown said...

It took me a moment to parse Benjamin Geiger's statement, and I almost took it for another piece of robot nonsense to for setting up keywords (such as the deleted comment above -- hey, why don't Blogger comments have comment numbers?

We may be moving off of Blogger in the not-too-distant future, then maybe I can ask for numbered comments from the administrator fellow (because there will actually be an administrator fellow I can make my appeals to, unlike now). More on that as the situation evolves and plans solidify.


(That is not an emoticon, by the way -- it's just a bit of syntactic completiosity.)

Chapter 2 is happening. It's rocking. It's been delayed by assorted real life issues, but progress progresses. It's Thanksgiving here in Canada, so I've got a lot of obstacles to dodge if I want to finish the thing up. I'll be giving it the old college try, though.

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow Canuckustanis!

Cheeseburger Brown