Every Two Weeks.
Partly, I use the fringe circuit as a way to live different lives.
To test out different parallel universe Andrews, if you will.
For most of the year, there is a routine. Living in the suburb I grew up in. I have my day jobs. The occasional play. Family members to visit, old friends to chat with. My solitary home to go back to, maybe watch a show on my computer. Most of the year is caked, coated, overgrown with my personal history. That isn’t a bad thing, per say. It’s what I have made of my life.
But then there’s Fringe. Every two weeks, a new location, a new living situation, a new family, if you will. From seeing what life would be like were I the child of a retired military family who dine on exotic meats and wine in Regina, to sharing a living space with a nineteen-year-old drag queen in Toronto. And I get to be different, too. I have never been a bar hopper, but what the hey, why not head to the beer tents every night this time? Or use this free time to become a bookworm for a few days. Or struggle dearly to be a streetside salesman, pitching my fringey wares. To be the kind of fellow who has a one night stand, or the kind of person who shares in a week-long relationship, seeing a person you care for every single day.
Those aren’t the Andrews I am back in Richmond. I’m not that guy. But on the road, I am. And I am. And I am.
I dubbed this season, ‘the summer Andrew sorts out his stuff’. With a hashtag. And it’s not just the shows I’m performing. In The Most Honest Man In The World, I really am onstage trying to sort through the neuroses I held four years ago about relationships. Every performance, I want that epiphany, that moment, that ‘aha’ that spurs me forward in my personal growth. The show doesn’t work unless it’s equal parts hope and regret.
As The Most Honest Man In The World, I have to face the truth. Who am I? Well, when it comes to relationships, in Richmond, I am a 28 year old man who lives alone with a minifridge and a single bed who doesn’t know how to offer up enough of his life to make a relationship work. He knows what he knows and he is who he is. That man, The Most Honest Man In The World from the play, me at 24, I’m still mostly him. Less neurotic, less nervous, far more centred, but still mostly him. I’m just used to how I life my life.
But this summer, each summer, every two weeks, I get a glimpse of what it would be like if I lived differently. If I were someone else. Or someone else. Or someone else. Or someone else. Every ‘else’ as someone almost me, but in different circumstances, a different city, with different people.
Adulthood is partly the realization that you don’t get to be someone ‘when you grow up’. You are what you choose to focus on. In Richmond, there is an inertia to where I devote my focus. But on the road, with Fringe festivals and non-fringe stops inbetween, every two weeks I get to adopt a new and different focus. And a new and different focus. And a new and different focus. What would it be like if I DID devote more attention to this, or that, or this, or that? From Toronto to Ann Arbor to Saskatoon to Nanaimo to Victoria to Vancouver, with everything I own – the artifacts that describe who I am – packed up into boxes, crates, bags, and a lone travelling suitcase.
I don’t know which me is going to come home in the end. But I hope that he’s…
I don’t know. I don’t know what I hope for.
I hope that he learns how to focus.
How to focus better on what’s important in life.
Once he figures out what actually is important in life. For him. For me. Once I do. If I do.
Or I don’t.
There is so much left in this summer.
Saskatoon Fringe: https://www.facebook.com/events/1102726283074871/
Nanaimo Fringe: https://www.facebook.com/events/1597063170563617/
Victoria Fringe: https://www.facebook.com/events/1193881917293983/
Vancouver Fringe: https://www.facebook.com/events/1633245323584144/
A month ago, my personal story, My Honey Bottle Valentine, was posted over at West of West. Thought I would post it here as well. Enjoy it if you haven’t already read it!
My Honey Bottle Valentine
My dating history is storied with many first dates of the quietly-watch-a-movie-together-and-then-part-ways-when-the-bus-or-parent-arrives-to-pick-them-up variety. Missed conversations, failed-to-ask questions, and a general lack of self-confidence. I felt like girls were doing me a favour by going out with me, rather than that (heaven forbid) them being with me might actually improve their lives. So, until the age of 24, I had only really ever had one girlfriend. For a month and a half. When I was 17. We kissed once, after wrestling over air-hockey paddles. Then she dumped me over the phone.
I had never had a Valentine’s Day date before. Or a Valentine’s Day girlfriend. But I had given a Valentine’s Day gift. Once. Unintentionally.
(This excludes those Valentine’s Day cards everyone gives out in elementary school to classmates, dreading that their popularity pile will be smaller than everyone else’s popularity pile. But I digress.)
Envision 20-year-old Andrew Wade. Unable to grow anything much in the way of facial hair (and what little there was, was inexplicably blond), he seemingly exclusively owned sets of blue jeans and stacks of geeky t-shirts emblazoned with twenty-sided dice or goopy minibosses. A large backpack turtled him. Bike helmet in hand. Oh, and a repurposed plastic honey bottle in his hand, functioning as his oh-so-hilariously-quirky water bottle.
This was in that far-back time of 2007, an age before plastic water bottles had been denounced from the pulpits as cancerous cannisters seeping toxic chemicals into our bloodstreams. That in mind, the strange thick plastics the honey bottle was made of must still be swimming about inside of me to this day… and that’s without mentioning the disturbing black gunk that would inexplicably accumulate within the hard-to-clean confines of the bright yellow squeeze-top lid. Gunk, I might add, which all the water filtered through every time I took a sip.
So yes, 20-year-old Andrew walks into a writing workshop filled with the usual variety of writing students – poetry naturalists from Saskatchewan, balding twenty-something screenwriters from Vancouver, wine-drinking Saltspring Islanders, refugees from Calgary. Thirteen other students, in all. Including her. Let’s call her ‘Emily’ for the sake of this story.
Honesty time: when I first met Emily, the words that immediately passed through my mind were, ‘awkwardly mannish’. Why? Clearly because I’m an awful, insensitive person. Well, I suppose a person’s only insensitive if they voice such thoughts.
So, I suppose I’m only insensitive now.
Anyway, the question of her gender was legitimately in the air for the first little while after I met her. She was taller than me. Wider-shouldered. But thin. Some muscle to her arms. That ambiguous bangs-y short haircut associated with emo-rockers. And strangely thick eyebrows for a white girl. But when she smiled…
Oh, when she smiled, she was the picture of feminine beauty, mixed with a hint of stubborn vulnerability behind her eyes. I admired her writing. Quirky sense of humour. And the clincher, the one thing that made me know I wanted to become her friend: she drank from a repurposed honey water bottle.
I know. Meant to be, right?
Anyway, we had been in weekly writing workshops together for just over a term, meeting in class for three hours, every Wednesday. We hadn’t really connected or shared a good conversation together, but our classroom discussions were collegial enough. Then, on January 31st (remember the date), she arrived to class in disarray, afluster, unsettled. She’d lost her honey bottle.
In the classroom, Emily apologized for her lateness. In my mind, proud bugles resounded with triumphant, soaring blasts! Banners billowed in great shimmers of sunlight! A knight on horseback raised his sword to meet the brilliant dawn! And I was that knight, because back in my room, carefully packed away, waiting, was my spare honey water bottle. Untouched. No teeth marks or gouges. No black gunk. Just waiting for a chance to replace my current bottle, the moment I decided that the black goop grossed me out too much.
But now it had another purpose. Another life. It had to be hers. Or else what would we have in common, other than a workshop table?
That class, I said nothing, but vowed to surprise her with the bottle the very next time we met. Later that evening, I placed the bottle in my backpack, and waited. Didn’t see her on Thursday. On Friday, I spotted her across the quad on campus, but I was in a rush to get to a class. Didn’t see her on Monday. Or Tuesday. And Tuesday nights inevitably involved a stack of workshop edits that took me through the night. All-nighters were not uncommon.
So, sleep-deprived but academically accomplished with several comprehensively edited works in hand, I made it to class, that next Wednesday. And somehow stayed awake through all three hours. Only to rediscover that bottle in my backpack an hour later. Dagnammit.
Next time, I told myself. The next time I saw her, I’d give it to her, she’d be grateful yet puzzled, and it’d spark a conversation. Maybe we’d grab something to eat. Chat. Like friends do. I hoped?
The next time I saw her was the following Wednesday, the following workshop. Gave it to her just before class began, as people were settling in their seats. No time for a proper conversation beyond a puzzled thank you. And all through class, as other classmates read out scripts from yet others, Emily would occasionally glance over at me with a look that was glad and grateful, but above all else, quizzical, as though I were a strange and peculiar puzzle. Gave me a half-smile.
Which was the reaction I was going for. And I got it. Not the food afterwards, mind. I was still too timid in those days. And it wasn’t until my walk back from class until it hit me. The day. The day was February the 14th. The day when countless millions of men were offering their sweeties flowers or chocolate as expressions of their appreciation, affection, lust, love. On the day of highly marketed love, I gave this woman a repurposed, reused, empty honey water bottle.
And as for the gal and I, well, nothing became of it. Some friendly conversations over the course of a couple of years, and then she moved away to distant climes.
And so, it took a two-week-long accident of timing and twenty years of failed first dates for me to offer even the slightest sign of appreciation to a woman on the day devoted to such acts. All rather sad, really. But a good story. And in the telling of it, hopefully, I’m learning to grow beyond it.
But for all my improved confidence and ambition, I will spend this year’s Valentine’s Day at work. After work, I will order a sandwich to go and rush to a theatre for a cue-to-cue technical rehearsal. And after that, I will head home to the single room office I live in, where I will undress, flick off the buzzing fluorescent overheads, crawl into my small bed, and hope that the world has had a happy, lovely day.
Hope you enjoyed it!
- My Honey Bottle Valentine – at West of West (adewade.wordpress.com)
Following along with my healthy compulsion toward understanding myself, I have written up a story, My Honey Bottle Valentine, about the first Valentine’s Day gift I’ve ever given. You can find it on my brilliant friend Tom Stuart’s web showcase of Vancouver Island writings at WestofWest.ca .
Last month he also posted my short story, A Journey of Barren Landscapes, which won the 2010 Martlet Short Fiction competition.
I am proud of them both. Well, not so much proud of my own actions in the first story, per say. I’ve never been as forthcoming or adventurous in my social/relational life as would be good for me. But it is a window into who I am.
And as for Barren Landscapes? Originally written as part of a workshop at UVic, it’s one of those pieces where each time I look back at it, I am dumbfoundedly surprised to see my name up there as the author. It’s a genuinely good piece; I just can’t believe that I was the person who wrote it. An adventurous road trip relationship story from a person who, at that point, had barely been on a road trip and never been in a relationship. And yet, while it is a story about someone getting swept away by an unpredictable, charismatic woman… it’s not merely me penning a personal fantasy. If anything, it might be more of a warning.
I have several blog articles in the works, but until then, I wanted to share with you my very first published piece of fiction, my short story, ‘A Journey of Barren Landscapes’.
To prepare this story (originally written for a workshop a couple of years ago) for submission, I had to edit it down from 3200+ words to under 2000, which I did… shockingly easily, mostly just with line edits and the elimination of ineffective description. I did drop two half-scenes, one for not being very good, and the other, for being a darling that I loved, but that didn’t push the plot forward in any real way.
It has been printed in the August 2010 edition of The Martlet, my university’s school newspaper, as the winner of their annual fiction competition. The paper version has some excellent art to go alongside it, but the text can also be found in EASY-2-READ WEB FORMAT here:
http://martlet.ca/article/21729-a-journey-of-barren-landscapes . To be honest, though, the web version doesn’t have any of the proper section breaks, so it may become difficult to read.
Enjoy! I would love to read some comments on what you think of it.
The speaker in a poem is rarely ever the author themself. Poems are spoken by characters formed by the author, often exaggerations of some element within the author, who often share the same soul as the author, but they are set apart.
And good thing too, for poets are not nearly as articulate as their characters.
Why we’re not together
I envisioned love at first glance:
a daylight dazzle
of truth and beauty and expanse and awe,
so that if our first moment was not perfect,
I could dismiss
the chance of any future flirtation.
I composed courtly love
so I could pursue women like you
as one would pursue the moon, the sun
and the stars,
without any danger
of catching them.
I birthed loving like a brother
to make you my sister,
to surround myself with incestous impossibility.
I chose a career that travels
and breaks us apart with oceans,
that severs us with uncertain years.
I compared you to my failures,
my never-weres, never-to-bes,
shot you with pessimism,
let you down
led you away
turned my head
turned my heart
I miss you.
by Andrew Wade.
To be honest, 2009 wasn’t a great year for me. Summed up in a sentence, 2009 was the year I relearned what I had already known, but not taken to heart.
I’m a smart fellow. I figure things out – like what I need to work on as an actor and as a writer, like what I want from a relationship and the right way to pursue one, like what I need to do each week, each day, to stay happy and perky and committed and feeling awesome, like how to eat right, like what I shouldn’t be spending my time on, like how to be who I want to be – like who I am, sometimes. But only sometimes.
And I can think of ways this past year I have disregarded everything in that paragraph. I still jumped into acting roles without taking the time and effort to really turn the words on the page into a living person – to be these characters as full-angled people, with all the subtlety that involves. I didn’t write a single thing of note, all calendar year. Seriously. I didn’t focus enough on why I want to spend time with the people I want to spend time with. I didn’t exercise enough, outside of the summer of hour-long bike rides to and from work. I lost sleep, I didn’t take the time to… well… meditate and pray, and I ate A LOT of free bread. I mean, I cut out the dried banana chips once I found out they were deep fried, but with what we’ve been up to in movement class, etcetera, there is no reason why I shouldn’t be moving toward a body image I’m happier with. Instead, I’m nigh-identical to a year ago. I spent a lot of time completing tasks for the sake of competing them, losing out on why I wanted to accomplish them in the first place.
So yeah, I’m kicking myself.
The year also had its positives. Movement class has been a great challenge for me, and one I knew I needed if I was to gain the confidence to be a strong actor. I have a fantastic, supportive group of people around me and I’ve had the joy of fostering some of those friendships further. I’ve helped people – through peer helping, through roommate-ship, through dramaturgy, through making gifts for no reason whatsoever other than that I got the idea to make them. I’ve had the opportunity to act with some wonderful people, to bring delight to children’s faces and, through Voice class and other opportunities, to internally explore. I got to work with a fantastic group up at The Centre Of The Universe. I’ve performed Improv for audiences on numerous occasions – something I’ve wanted to do since high school. I’ve seen just how much some people care about me. Most of the time, I was happy. And when I needed to be sad, I could darn well be sad. As someone who really worries about how to access deeper, stronger, fiercer emotion, I feel I made some progress there. Still a ways to go.
2010 will be the last full calendar year I’m in school (at least, unless I decide to go back for a teaching certificate), and I still have so much more to learn. I know I’ll be learning all my life, but I need to stop ignoring what I already know. To intelligently live as a whole being, all the time, soul, body, mind, heart, as one ineffably connected being, uncompartmentalized. Unboxed.
This year, any time you see me falling back, please do me a favour and pull me up, set me straight – I’m always up for a pep talk, my friends. I will always appreciate your support.
I wasn’t going to write one of these year-wrap-ups. Thank you for reading this.