Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Wednesday Date Night Series: October 13th

Part 1: The Arena

So Brian and I have started a new tradition, at least until he goes back to shift work. Every Wednesday we now go out on the town to explore, all in the name of our newish 'Date Night'. The routine's been dragging on us and we've heard that Date Nights are effective in shaking up routine, so we hoped on board. And it's been really great! We take turns planning something new and interesting for the two of us to do (within a tight budget), and try to keep what we've planned as much of a suprise as possible from the other until the dates actually start to unfold.

Last night was Brian's turn. He had our outting mostly planned but was obviously grappling with what to do about dinner. We don't always eat out on Date Night, but Brian wanted a beer before the 'show' and neither of us felt like cooking. So I said to him, "Okay, let's just park near the place you're taking me and we'll find something in the vicinity." Brian looked a little dubious but agreed and we both jumped into the car and off we went. We didn't go far. Rather he suprised me when he turned to go towards the university on Gordon St. instead of turning uptown, as I'd expected, seeing as uptown is where the action generally is. Another immediate right turn took us into the parking lot of the strip mall on the corner of Wellington and Gordon. In that strip mall there are only two resturants. A new Fish and Chip place that's already gained a negative reputation (Isn't that a shame? Gosh, you finally get a fish and chip place in the neighbourhood and it stinks! Bummer!) and The Arena. I gulp.

I'm no snob, don't get me wrong, but...The Arena? I turn to look at Brian. He looks back and shrugs, "You're the one who said we'd eat in the vicinity..." "I did," I say. And so we slide off our seatbelts, get out of the car, and head for the door. I suddenly feel shy. The Arena is a sports pub (pretty obvious by the name) and it's, well, kind of seedy looking. And definatley a 'guys' domain. I can see through the window that the bar is lined with a few middle aged men chatting each other up and nursing beers. There must be 8 televisions in there. The Leafs pregame programming, a baseball game and CNN light up the place like a roman candle. I don't belong here. I hesitate at the inside door and Brian, sensing my discomfort, asks me if I want to go back home and quickly pull something together instead?

I give my head a shake. What are these thoughts I'm thinking? So what if I'm a woman, that certainly doesn't mean I don't belong! This bar is a part of my community; we could've walked there had the drizzle let up. And I've made a committment to get to know the neighbourhood better. Sure, it pays homage to hockey, it's full of men in baseball caps and leather jackets, there's nothing fancy about the place or even remotely 'cozy', but we're here now and we're not turning around, damnit. Besides, it's not a franchise, Brian's a hockey-guy and it's just one beer...maybe they'll have pub fare...I swing open the door and step inside.

Along the front are multiple rickety tables and straight backed chairs (the kind you know will make your ass ache within the first five minutes) set in two's and fours. In the middle of the room, adjoined to the kitchen in the back is the big square bar, lined with about 30 barstools. To the left are dart boards and a pool table. To the right are three tall tables in a row with cushy black barstools seated at them, we decide to sit at the tall table furthest to the back. The walls are filled with hockey memorabilia and autographed pictures and Brian comments on every one. He is comfortable here. I relax.

The bartender brings us menus and rambles off what's on tap. Okanagan Spring...very nice. Two, please. The glasses are chilled, the beer is frosty cold. Yummy. We open our menus and are pleasantly suprised! It's the typical Canadian fare, but there's lots to choose from and the prices are right. We both decide that Halibut and chips with our beers would go down just fine. The bartender assures us we've made the right choice. And wouldn't you know it? At The Ward's own Arena Bar and Grill we have discovered the very best fish and chips (not to mention gravy) in town! Huh.

We stay for an hour and a half. We chat off and on about our day. More and more men pour into the bar. Two women also come with their partners. Brian gets to watch most of the first period. I witness Chilean miners number 28 and 29 of 33 emerge from a capsule that had travelled through a wormhole from thousands of feet below the surface of the Earth and embrace their loved ones and those who've worked relentlessly over 70 days to keep them alive. It is moving and horrifying. If someone put me in that thing and sent me through a few of kilometers of rock in the pitch black I'd burst out frothing at the mouth. I feel clausterphobic with every view the capsule-cam affords us. Then it is a quarter to eight and time for us to get to the next gig, folks. It's been a slice.

Part 2: The Boathouse

We walk out the door of the Arena and I say to Brian, "So now we're walking over to the Boathouse?" Brian grins. "I knew you knew," he says. "How could I not know? All summer long I've said time and again that we should go to storytelling at the Boathouse. This is going to be really cool." "I thought you'd like it."

Once a month, on a Wednesday, Guelph's Storytelling Guild get a few of their members together and they gather in the very cozy tea room at the Boathouse. The Boathouse is actually really well known for it's ice cream parlour and it's ideal setting at the forks of the Eramosa and Speed Rivers. The trail runs right up to it, they rent canoes all summer and the lawn bowling club is their closest neighbour. In the summer they are hopping! It's a very quaint setting, actually...perfect for storytelling.

There were 6 storytellers in all, one a Nigerian PhD student who came for the open mic portion. Four of the others are in the photo above. They shared tales based on the evenings theme of  'Spoiling the Broth', and every one was fascinating! We heard a Norwegian tale about why the sea is salty; two British-Canadian tales, one starring a Guelph native; two Scottish tales; and, of course, a Nigerian moral story...all amazing! It's a mesmerizing experience, really, because these tellers tell only from memory, there is no story reading. They are immersed in their expression and connection with the audience. Some wrote their stories themselves, others borrowed from folklore, all were expressive, animated and captivating! I had a wonderful time!  

Part 3: Conclusion

"Did you have a good time tonight, love?" Brian asks me when we're back in the car. "I feel like the entire night was a pleasant suprise. I'm glad we stuck it out and went into the Arena... the food was actually really, really good! However, I love that they do take out!" We laugh. "And the storytelling was such an excellent way to spend an evening, Brian. I didn't know there would be such a wonderful assortment of stories and storytellers. We were there for an hour and a half! For donation! That's amazing!" "I'm liking this Date Night arrangement," Brian says. "Yeah, me too," I agree.

We pull back into traffic. The lights glow on the wet pavement and the tires slip a little when Brian gives it the gas. I feel good that we've ventured out on this soggy fall evening...good that we've supported local talent, a local business, too...and especially good that we've done it for us, all in the name of Date Night.