Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Finally! MPFH Presents:

Part 1 of Andrew's Big Concert Road Trip Weekend Extravaganza: On New Music, Memory Lapses, and Snow Storms

My lovely girlfriend Stacey and I love traveling. It gives us a spark and makes us feel alive. We need to experience new things and explore new places, hitting the road with a back seat full of candy, caffeine, and bags upon bags of chips and a glove box full of CD cases.

Living the grey-cubicle and laptop-screen-squinting life drags after a few months. This being said, Stacey and I haven't been on a trip since July, a span of time that, by all rational forms of measurement, is a crime against humanity. Well, at least a crime against our humanity.

Moving dominated most of our time and energies over that period, but since we moved in and settled, we found ourselves slowly de-evolving into gelatinous lumps. Lumps which slouch their way out to the bus stop and into the office every morning and slouch their way back into the house to gaze mindlessly at the chattering light-box in our living room until it was time to slouch up to bed.

At the same time, I have discovered a true treasure trove of new music. Thanks to contributions from my friends and family, my musical horizons have been expanding to the bursting point on a nearly daily basis.

I am quickly becoming obsessed with random bands from around the world, bands whose names would have been nothing more than strings of meaningless words to me not more than a month ago. Just when I felt like I was becoming a true adult, doomed to purchase only new CD's released by now long-in-the-tooth bands that I enjoyed in my youth, I have advanced to a state of near new-music-nirvana, and I'm loving every minute of it.

One of these bands that have reached near God-like status with me in the past three weeks has been a UK band called Saint Etienne. They're been around since the very early 1990's, they've had a pile of hits in the UK, and they're considered one of the first founding groups of the "Britpop" sound. Yet, for whatever reason, despite my greater-than-average exposure to cutting-edge music, I'd never heard of them.

One mp3 and a double-disc greatest hits set (called Smash the System) later, I had fallen in love. What's more, I found out that they were playing in Toronto at the end of the month. It felt like fate. I was already planning to visit my high school friends in Toronto that weekend, and this more than sealed the deal. Stacey and I decided to pack up the car and make the trek down the 401.

Of course, we live busy lives. Stacey couldn't really commit to it for sure until the night before we were supposed to leave. I'd already bought the tickets and made other arrangements, and I was going, regardless, but the last minute logistics still hadn't been taken care of.

The Friday afternoon, Stacey was scrambling to get her work done so she could go. With an hour to spare before we had to hit the road, she closed down her laptop and started packing while I ran around the house in a panic, thrusting food supplies and bedding into plastic bags.

I made check-lists in my head and arranged everything neatly on the bed as I was packing. Phone numbers for people I was visiting? Check. Bathroom supplies? Check. Disposable camera, in case there was a picture I had to take? Check. Cell phone re-charger? Check. In mid-check, Stacey jumped on top of me and showered me with kisses. Hey, I wasn't going to complain about a distraction like that! After a quick packing-break, I zippered up the bags and took a quick look outside.

Total white-out.

In the first case of the Weather Network completely screwing us over, there was a blizzard in full-swing outside the house. I ran downstairs to check the Weather Network again, to make sure they hadn't changed their forecast. Nope, they were still reporting a light frosting 3 cm of snow in Ottawa. "What do you want to do?" Stacey asked me. "They say it's only going to be 3 cm. It'll probably stop any minute," I replied, optimistically.

We cleared off the car, and cleared it again, and again, and finally finished packing the car. There was already a good 10 cm or so on the ground when we pulled out of our driveway. As we were crawling along the Queensway on our way out of the city, Stacey turned to me. "Do you have the telephone numbers?" she asked. "Of course I do!" I replied, "but now you're making me doubt myself..." I checked the plastic bag where I kept all the car stuff, leafed through a few pages of maps and directions and things and found the telephone numbers. "Got it."

We got a bit further along the road. Traffic was very, very slow, and it took us almost an hour to scrape by a distance that we can normally make in fifteen minutes. To while away the time, we decide to pump some tunes, and what better choice than the band we're going to see, Saint Etienne?

The band we're going to see. We listen to a few songs, and suddenly a breaker clicks over in my head.

I forgot the tickets.

"I forgot the tickets" I said quietly.


"You're JOKING, right? This is a 'ha-ha, let's fool Stacey' joke, isn't it?"


"You're sure? You're sure you don't have them in that bag? TELL ME THEY'RE IN THE BAG." I leaf through the papers again, just to make sure, but I already knew the answer to her question. "They're not there," I replied.

Stacey was amazingly calm. I mean, she wasn't a saint or anything, possibly saying "there, there, it's okay, you made a mistake," but in the middle of a snow storm under those conditions, who really can be? I'm surprised she didn't kick me out of the car to drive away and leave me standing in a snow bank at the side of the road. We toyed with a number of different ideas, including keeping going and buying more tickets when we get to Toronto, but fearing that the show would be sold out, we took the next exit and turned back.

Another hour, one massive detour, two wrong turns, another 10 cm of snow, and two tickets held firmly in both hands, where we both could see them later and we were back to where we began when we discovered we didn't have the tickets.

After we got out of Ottawa, the snow miraculously stopped and it was pretty smooth sailing the rest of the way to Toronto. We didn't arrive until after midnight, but we got there. And Matt had a cold beer waiting for me when we arrived. You've gotta love a host that understands.

The rest of the weekend, Stacey jokingly asked me almost every 15 minutes if I still had the tickets. And asked me when we were leaving the house if I still had my pants on. And other related jokes. I fully deserved it, I admit it. The pitfalls of having a witty girlfriend and the joys of having a forgiving one, I guess.

Part 2: On Older Crowds, Dance Caves, and Hobbits,” will be posted soon!


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