April Fool's Day +3
I write this at 12:30 PM April Fool's Day + 4. I'm in the Fredericton Public Library, a boring red-brick building near the river, right next to a beautiful “Masonic Church” or something that should be the library. I'll have to run out and move the car in an hour or so. There's a 2 hour time limit on each parking place. It's a nasty little rule that prevents people from freely enjoying the library... But it's punishment for having a car, I guess. Something that needs to be punished, I guess. It's my fault the air is so foul... driving my rental car, I guess.
BACK TO YESTERDAY:
The hotel sleep is a good one. First time on this trip I sleep right through the night. Maybe it's that I only had one glass of the IPA. Despite the sleep, I feel groggy all day. I down a MOCA LOCA MONSTER (not my favorite-- too milky), but that doesn't help as much as it should.
On the three hour trip from Orono to Fredericton. NOTHING HAPPENS! Once, my MONSTER- induced hunger pangs become too much to bear. Can I find a decent place in small town Maine? Turning off the highway, I stop at the first restaurant I see. I long for a place to eat home cooked food.
Three hours later:
I'm a nervous customs passer. Strange since I've passed though so many customs so many times. Maybe not so strange. In any case, I know that if I'm a tourist coming for some stupid reason, I'm fine. If I want to do anything serious, I'm in trouble. Right now, there's a line of about 10 cars at the single open lane at Canadian border.
I've strewn the front seat with CDs and guidebooksbooks. The customs officer, a muscley crewcut guy in his 30s asks me where I was born.
“Noo Yawk,” I tell him.
“And what is the purpose of your visit to Canada?” he asks.
“I want to write, relax, visit local bookstores and see what I can find.” I tell him.
He repeats my words. I nod. “Okay, you can go,” he tells me.
“Ah, excuse me,” I say. “Would you mind stamping my passport? I collect the stamps and...”
“No problem,” he says with a smile. “Any particular page you'd like me to stamp?”
“Anywhere there's a space,” I say. He stamps the passport and waves me through.
From the border, it's about 45 minutes to Fredericton. The capital city of New Brunswick, it has about 140,000 people, none of whom has ever heard of me. (“Sorry, punk rock's gone from Fredericton,” says the owner of BACKSTREET RECORDS, where I try to peddle my CDs the next day. “I'll buy one from ya' for $7. Just to help you out.”)
I turn off the highway on the approach to Fredericton. It looks like one big strip mall from the highway as far as a drunk could stumble. I stop to call Sarah, my couch-surfing hostess. I want to let her know I'm in town.
“Where are you?” I ask.
“I'm at the mall,” I joke.
“Which mall?” she asks. “The one on the hill or the one up North?”
Holy Hicksville, Batman. Only two malls in the capital city? How do they know when one ends and the other begins?
First impressions are wrong. The ugly strip mall on the way in to town gives way a rustic houses, looking even nicer covered up to the pupik with fresh snow. A thick white comforter. Some places over my head. A joy to the eyes, even if it's a bit treacherous to the driving hands.
Sarah is a Fredericton native. An attractive twenty-something, she's set up a reading for me in the bar she works at. At the last minute, the reading was changed from Friday to Saturday. Something about Friday being too raucus for a reading. At her house is a pal (boyfriend?), Nathan. He's a tall skinny blond who's very friendly, but talks very little. He smokes-- usually a good sign.
Sarah knows everything there is about the city. She tells me about the two malls. She takes me on a driving/walking tour. She knows all the interesting statistics.
I ask her if there are Indians in town. She asks me what kind I mean.
“The feather,” I say, “not the turban.”
“Oh,” she says, “there's a reservation right in the middle of town. But there's been so much trouble here. We can't call them Indians. We have to say aboriginal people or Native Canadians.
“Oy vey. In Australia, aborigine's a taboo word,” I tell her. “How do you keep it straight?”
“We don't do straight here,” she says. “This year, Fredericton passed San Francisco as the city with the highest percent gay population in the world... well, in North America.”
“Does that include lesbians?” I eagerly ask.
“Everybody, gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual... you name it.”
I don't. Instead, I ask, “Where do they hang out? Is there a particularly homo part of town? Is there something in the water that turns people gay? Do you bottle it and ship it abroad?”
“Oh,” she says, “they hang out in the gay bar.”
“THE gay bar?” I say. “Homoville USA... er... CDA, and there's THE gay bar? I don't get it. Is that like THE Gambia?”
Or course, she doesn't get it. Who would?
“Well it's the right location,” she says. “It's on Queen Street. But EVERYTHING is on Queen Street. The gay bar is right down the street from THE sex shop...”
I don't ask.
“Hey,” she says. “We're right by the sex shop right now. You wanna go in?”
“Naw,” I say. “I don't like those kind of places.” Yeah, right, I say that. “You bet!” I tell her.
Inside there are a bunch of videos, dildoes, and a few magazines. No books. On a hook on the wall is the absolutely largest buttplug I've ever seen. It tapers outward from a point as wide as a ten year old's fist to a base the width of a pillar in the Greek Colosseum. It's about a two feet long and called THE CHALLENGER. I'll bet... but the real challenge is the price: $59.95.
“Excuse me,” I ask the bored-looking young man behind the cash register. “Can I return this if it doesn't fit?”
He doesn't even smile.
After leaving THE sex shop, we continue our tour.
“I bet there's a huge turnout for the gay parade every year,” I say.
“There is no gay parade,” Sara tells me. “It's illegal. It's the mayor of Fredericton. If some concerned Christian writes a letter, he passes a law. Somebody complained about gay parades destroying the character of THE CITY. He passed a law against gay parades. A couple years ago, a woman walking home from church was offended by someone walking down Queen Street with a snake. Now it's illegal to walk down Queen Street with a snake... on Sunday.”
“You're shittin' me!” I say, smelling a prank.
“No, it's true,” she says. “You can look it up.”
“I'm hungry,” I tell Sara. “And I could use a beer.”
“Sure,” says Sara, “let's go to...”
“Don't tell me,” I say. “THE restaurant.”
She laughs. (Great laugh, by the way: easy, friendly, showing lots of teeth.) “Nope,” she says. “It's an organic food bar. Best food in Fredericton... and the worst service. Molly's is the name. Molly is the owner.
Molly turns out to be a thin boomer woman, her long gray hair braided into Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm pigtails. She is not sunny.
From the cashier, a gray-haired man who should be Molly's husband, I place a beer order from an interesting beer menu. I order an Irish Red, made locally. Sarah and Nathan order herbal tea. Then we go to a table and sit down. We talk awhile. No one comes to take our order, or bring the beer and tea. Sarah goes off to have a word with Molly.
“Hi Molly,” I hear Sarah say. “Could we have a couple menus? We already ordered drinks.”
There's a grunt in reply. Sarah returns to her seat. The man behind the cash register brings the tea and the beer.
“Could we have some sugar and cream?” asks Sarah.
“Sugar and cream with herbal tea?” squints the server/cashier/husband. He speaks like a hoity toidy bartender might ask, “Pabst Blue Ribbon with Dom Pérignon?” But, much to his disgust, Sarah and Nathan insist. He goes off to get them.
Within the hour, Molly comes to our table with the menus. Looking at her features, seeing her personality, I then look at the menu. It's expensive. It's vegetarian, but considering the... er... company... I can't resist.
“I'll have the Mega-witch,” I say, maybe little too loudly. Molly nods grimly. Maybe she gets it. Sarah and Nathan order something slightly cheaper. Good thing too. I pay for the kit and caboodle. Couch-surfing guests should always buy a meal for their hosts. The same decade as the order, comes the actual food. Molly brings it.
“Thank you,” says Sara. Nathan and I echo.
Molly walks away.
“You're welcome. No problem. It's my pleasure.” says Sarah to the empty space where Molly stood.
I record Sarah actually talking about the place, but I don't yet have a program that can edit video so you'll have to wait to see it.
After we leave, we discuss the rest of the day. “I have to go to work,” says Sarah. “I work from ten to two in the morning.”
“Where do you work?” I ask.
“At the gaybar,” she says, “where you'll be reading tomorrow. Come and visit me tonight. So you can see what it's like.”
Of course, they have an amazing beer menu. I order a blueberry ale, and it's not bad. I settle back to watch the dancers, gyrating on the floor, in a box next to the bar, and on a stage. I can't say I feel comfortable in the place, however. A few things creep me out a bit.
Except for a silent skinny lesbo in a red wool sweater, I'm at least 3 times the age of the oldest person in there.
Except for a hugely fat, hugely entertaining Negress, throwing her body around like she doesn't give a shit, having a great time, (I'm in love!) everybody in the place is white.
Everybody except me, is fruging on the disco floor.
Among the dancers is a tall skinny guy barely twenty. From the neck up, he's a one of those nerdy-sexy guys, with glasses, blonde hair (dark roots), and an asymmetric emo haircut. From the neck down, he's wearing a narrow black top that reveals enough midriff to melt the heart and harden the cock of anybody but the most backward het. Plus: tight low rising jeans, and high heels. Yowsah! (I'm in love!)
Among the dancers, is a skinny girl in a loose t-shirt and Bermuda shorts. She wears a baseball hat and sunglasses. She dances just like a guy. Body and limbs flailing independently, her small breasts rebellious against her t-shirt and her butchitude. An air of coolness covers her self-assured body, like the Johnson's baby oil will cover my accompaniment to future fantasies of this goddess. (I'm in love!)
Needing to... er... adjust myself. I leave BOOM! And head back to Sarah's place. Tomorrow is the show.