The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, November 30, 2006

QWF Awards Gala [insert year here]

By Anne Chudobiak

We were told to get to the Gala early: “For the champagne,” said one advisor; “And the tickets,” said another.

The Lion d’Or. Art deco, 1930’s restored. Empty, when we arrived. Black tables with red cloths. L’embarras du choix.

I wanted to be able to see (the audience and the stage). My friend the poetess wanted to be able to hide. We took a table beside the pillar, out of the light. The champagne did not materialize, but there were canapés: asperge en filo, little vol-aux-vents.

“There’s Melissa,” said my friend. “And Jon. You’ll know people.”

I did see one guy I recognized. From yoga. And the café. And the cinema. I hoped that nobody would ask me what I did for a living. If I was smarter, I would lie. “I’m with McDermid,” “I’m here from New York.”

My friend said hello to the table behind us: Jeff, poetry, and Harold, prose. I spinal twisted towards them, maintaining our claim on our table with my sequined clutch. There were latecomers, lots of them, circling. “Is that taken?” they would ask in a not entirely friendly manner.

I picked Angela’s purse off the floor and put it beside mine. Reinforcement. For a while, it worked, but when Angela got up to mingle, a white-haired woman and her companion, a man with wobbly legs, moved right in.

What could I do? I helped them.

I didn’t see them for what they were: strategists of the highest order, clearing the path for younger, more able-bodied Greek soldiers who would soon force their way past me in my new seat at Jeff and Harold’s lesser table.

When the ceremony finally began, I was in the aisle. My only consolation was that the waiter was always close. First dibs on the chicken with gravy. I didn’t have to wave my arms. I didn’t even have to stretch.

At one point, Jeff cleared the canapé tray so that there would be nothing left for the Greeks. Being petty alone is sad, but being petty together is uplifting, all the more so when you are at an event sponsored by a brewery, which, in any case, is a lot like going back in time to whatever year you were last in high school. Flattering, no, but not altogether unpleasant.

When one of the Greeks--the one I thought of as the brains behind the brawn--turned out to be a guest of honour, I had to laugh. Who cared about the pillar, the light, the audience, the stage? A silent feud with oblivious strangers was definitely worth ten dollars and a metro ticket--if done right.

At the end of the evening, Angela approached our honoured friend with shy and sincere congratulations. The Greek responded by pulling out a cell phone, and dialing.

“So you see,” said Harold in a confessional mood, “how someone my age might still essentially be a child.”

“Don’t worry,” I thought. “You’re not alone. Far from it.”

Angela suggested that we walk home through the park. I said yes, because I was feeling young and foolish and saw no reason to change. We said goodnight to Jeff and Harold. It was the next day before I realized that I had both of them at home--in anthology. Funny how sometimes you know more than you let on, even to yourself.


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

What nerve, those Greeks! How did they manage to get the entire table away from you when you were sitting there? Thanks for taking us to the gala, Anne. I like vol au vents.

Thu Nov 30, 04:32:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger tamara said...

Tee hee. This makes me laugh. Galas make me laugh, in general. You get all dressed up like big people and spend the rest of the evening acting small, or trying not to. I've only been to a couple of literary galas, but film galas are especially bad. Sounds like you had fun, though!

Mon Dec 04, 03:19:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Anne C. said...

I would go to a gala every night if I could.

Mon Dec 04, 03:22:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger moonlight ambulette said...

"I said yes, because I was feeling young and foolish and saw no reason to change."

This is why I do anything, I think!

Thu Dec 07, 05:11:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Anne C. said...

So, Moonlight. I hear you're just in from New York...

Thu Dec 07, 05:38:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

I'm sorry I never got around to commenting here Anne, at first i didn't realize this was in the past! And I have to admit I was wondering how it was you got out to galas these days. Great story.

Fri Dec 08, 06:59:00 pm GMT-5  

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