Barry Smith: Irrelativity
EDMONTON, Canada – My week:
Sunday – Finished writing a column about living in a small town, emailed it in to the paper, then got in the van to start my 24-hour drive to Edmonton, where I’ll be performing my “Jesus in Montana” show.
Now, in case you’re thinking, “Oh, great, Mr. Show Business is going to tell us all about his glamorous life on the road,” well … around 10 o’clock this evening I pulled into a rest area just north of Salt Lake City, where I sat in the back of the van, in my underwear (very hot out), in the dark (so nobody could see that I was in my underwear – it’s Utah!) ate chips and hummus for dinner then fell asleep for the night.
Granted, it was organic hummus, but still … very light on the glamour.
Monday – Drove. All. Day. Long.
Because I’m going there to work, I can’t just breeze through the Canadian border, I always have to go inside and talk to “the guy.” My papers are in order, I have an official invitation letter from the festival where I’m performing, and I’m legally allowed to work in Canada, but you just never know what could happen. So it’s professional best-behavior time. This particular guy read my letter of invitation and said, “‘Jesus in Montana?’ I just had to send a guy back into Montana because he told me he was Jesus.”
And I’m thinking, wow – THAT’S commitment! To be so convinced you’re Jesus that you tell the border guard!? That’s hard-core Jesus-ing. I wanted to ask so many questions about this, and make an equal number of comments, but it’s the border, and you just have to keep your mouth shut. In the end all I said was, “It happens.” And even that was probably too much. Still, I was cleared to enter.
I crossed the border here last year, and I notice they’ve put up a very large new road sign since then. It reads, “Speed limits in Alberta are posted in kilometers per hour.”
Kilometers? So you mean the speed limit isn’t 110 MILES per hour?
Tuesday – Some more driving. Canada is a big place, especially when you have to drive so SLOW!
Wednesday – I load my stuff into my performance space, which is in the basement of a church. Yes, you heard right. I’m performing in a church basement. See glamour comment above. Actually, it’s quite a nice little space, seats about 150 people, not bad, not bad. And since it’s in the basement there’s no stained glass to distract the audience.
Thursday – I have an entire day to kill before my performance run starts tomorrow. This means handing out flyers. It’s been a while since I’ve had to hand strangers a piece of paper with the word “Jesus” written on it, but I warm up quickly, and soon I’m back in the self-promotion saddle. When I finish each pitch by telling the people that my show is being performed in a church, they always say, “Well, that’s ironic.” And then they laugh heartily.
I laugh with them, but it’s a forced, fake laugh. For while it is noteworthy that I’m performing a show about being in a religious cult in the church, I don’t think it’s actually ironic. Not any more than, say, rain on your wedding day. Maybe it’s a Canadian thing?
Now, it WOULD be ironic is my show was titled, “Burn Down all Churches,” or “I Will Never Perform This Show in a Church.” But it isn’t. And you can’t really have these highfalutin discussions with the people you’re desperately trying to convince to come and see your show. No, you smile and nod and be friendly, and if people say something they think is funny and you think is borderline ignorant, DO NOT mention it. Just play along. See, I’ve learned a thing or two about promotion over the years.
Friday – Opening night. All goes well. A nice-sized crowd who seemed to enjoy the show. Whew…
Saturday – Another show tonight, and lots of seats to fill, so I spend the day doing more flyering. I have a new spiel: “I’m doing a show about being in a cult, and I’m performing it in a church! Isn’t that ironic?” Then we all share a good laugh and they race off to buy tickets to my show.
Adapt or starve.
Sunday – Finish writing a column about a week of life on the road, then email it off to the paper. I have another show later tonight. In a church. On Sunday!
I know, I know … totally ironic, right?
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