Saturday, July 28, 2007

On grabbing life by the short hairs

Several weeks after the event, I must admit that life has felt pretty anticlimactic since meeting Manu Chao. Some days I miss him like an old friend, which is bizarre to say the least, since I don’t know the guy on even a casual acquaintance level. Some days I wonder if anything exciting will ever happen to me again. And then I stop and reflect on what an absolutely ludicrous thought that is.

Meeting my muse has taught me that I’m not powerless. To put it another way, The Night of Manu happened because I set a goal and followed through. Exciting events had certainly happened in my life prior to that night, but for the most part, they’d happened to me and not because of me. Now that I’m gleaning a sense of my own fortitude, it strikes me that the future can be almost anything I choose to make it.

I’ve decided, after years of half-assed efforts, I’m going to become fluent en espaƱol before the next time G-man and I find ourselves in a Latin American country. You may think this seems like a great deal of work for a warm climate holiday in February, and I agree. Thing is, we’ve set our sights further afield, both literally and figuratively.

G-man and I are exploring possibilities to actually spend part of the year living in Mexico, or maybe even as far south as Panama. Because we work in communications and virtually all our client contact happens via the internet, partial relocation is quite feasible. However the adventure plays out though, I absolutely refuse to be one of those ex-pats.

You know the ones. These are the folks who love the climate and affordable real estate but have no interest in local culture, language or people. These are the folks who spend their time hanging out only with “their own kind”, becoming alcoholics and bitching about how hard it is to find good help. Nope. Not going there. I approach life the way I approach scuba diving: give it the thumbs up and submerge with a smile on my face – tough while chomping on a regulator, but not impossible!

BTW, if the Manu post (Cruising on Exhaustion & Martinis) doesn’t convince you I’m one empowered (if a tad thick) dame these days, check this out:

Wednesday, July 25, 2007. G-man, LittleMiss, Yellowbeard and I, having arrived early enough to stake out a premium spot, lean against the railing of Soho Pub’s deck to watch Spain’s fireworks display, the first of this year’s festival. We’ve been here for hours; we’ve got our drink on; and the uber-trippy fireworks render us all big-eyed like little kids in an ice cream shop. “Shiiiiny!” we opine in unison.

For all the visual opulence, however, the music is, well, meh. I mean, Vangelis? Enya? How many times have we all been there, done those? And this from the country that gave us flamenco! Come on.

Still, a minor complaint on such a fantastic night.

One of the highlights actually happens for me early on, while it’s still light out. LittleMiss and I are in the can and there’s this woman rolling a joint. She seems pretty cool and we strike up a conversation. Her name is Amanda. (No, not really.) LittleMiss leaves to rejoin the guys, but when Amanda invites me to join her for a toke outside, I say yes, thank you. Yeah, I know – you can barely contain your astonishment.

So out we go, round the corner into the alley. We spark up the doob and talk. Turns out she’s 38 years old, although she could easily pass for ten years younger than that. Because I can be more than a little obtuse when I drink, I manage to get it into my swirling vortex of a brain that Amanda is right wing. (The Papillon flies a little left of center.) I find out (and subsequently forget) a mere few minutes later that Amanda isn't in fact right wing or left, but rather identifies as a libertarian.

Amanda and I smoke about half the joint before deciding we’ve both had enough. Just as she puts it out, I happen to glance over at Denman Street, and I see three cops heading towards us, so naturally I say “Dude. Cops.” The cops come over before she has a chance to drop the joint.

And it’s “Were you smoking marijuana here, m’am?” (Cue confiscation here.) Amanda admits that we were, but that the one joint was all she’d had on her. The cops search her purse, and sure enough (thank God), there’s no more weed to be found. They do, however, find a can of pepper spray and confiscate it. At this point, Amanda starts to go off on them a bit. I assume (wrongly) that she's had too much to drink because, erm, I've had too much to drink. Be that as it may...

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now: small, stupid shit can set me off and I over-react, but put me in a serious situation, and I know how to behave. I go into survival mode. So I’m patting Amanda on the back, saying “C’mon, sweetie. It looks like they’re gonna go easy on you, so just relax.”

Then I look at the cops, my eyes like dinner plates, voice like honey, and say something to the effect of “Hey, I live in the West End too, and I’m pretty curious as to what our rights are when it comes to self-protection. You guys know that every so often there are media reports of some psycho out there attacking women. Frankly, I could see myself carrying pepper spray just to feel a little safer.” And yes, I'm working them, but I also mean every word I'm saying.

The cops are youngish and pretty nice, as cops go. The one guy explains that normally pepper spray would not be an issue, but with a big crowd event such as the fireworks, it’s a different story. The concern is that it could be misused. What if someone, let’s say a pick pocket, got a hold of it?

Well, this all seems a little far-fetched to me, but I’m totally playing the respectful, “law abiding” citizen, which is pretty hilarious as it’s obvious that I’ve just smoked a joint with this girl. At any rate, they check her ID and let her know that she can come to the PD to reclaim her pepper spray. All this time, Amanda is quite grateful that I’ve stuck around, which I continue to do until I feel confident that they’re not going to bust her.

I talk her up to the cops:

“Look, she’s a really nice girl. She’s just a little frazzled right now.”

“Why is she frazzled, m’am?”

Cue Papillon’s best disarming smile. “Why is she frazzled? C’mon, you’re cops. You’re intimidating.” Blink.

But the best part is my farewell to them.

Just as I’m about to head back upstairs, I look at the three officers, smile again warmly and say “Thank you for not being dicks.”

Amanda doesn’t get busted. I know this for a fact because she makes a point of finding me a few minutes later to let me know it's all good. She also makes a point of explaining again that's she's a libertarian, knowing we'd both been a tad distracted earlier by the presence of Vancouver's Finest, and that I'd missed her germane words at that time. Astonishingly, even the second time, those words just manage to fly off into the booze-induced ether around my head. (Thank you, Amanda, for taking me to task for my careless account; I hope this edit makes up for it.)

I introduce the delightful libertarian to my peeps and offer to buy her a drink, but her husband and friends are waiting outside for her.

We exchange email addies and hug good-bye.

1 comment:

The Hibernation and Awakenings of Gene Pizzly said...

I still can't believe you met Manu Chao. I want to touch you in hopes that some of the magic rubs off on me. I'm always so surprised to hear that you have reservations about your own abilities. I look at you and G-man and am in awe of youse guys. I wish I were half as with it as I perceive you guys to be.

I'm glad you didn't get busted by Vancouver's fine-est. That could've ruined the fireworks. I know what you mean about the Vangelis and Enya. Same with that overdone dance mix of O Fortuna. Sometimes I want to mail those fireworks guys a new eight-track tape.