Register Tuesday | June 18 | 2019

Blue Metropolis day 1

You know those times you toke up a little to get a little relaxed, only once it’s done you realize you’re a bit higher than you planned to be? Well, it was one of those times—this, on the opening night of Blue Metropolis.

Maybe not the best way to introduce myself, nor the blog for that matter. Then again, maybe it is. In any case, allow me to contextualize.

I returned from the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad & Tobago late Sunday night and the next morning began a filmmaking contest whereby I have 100 hours to conceive, write, shoot, and edit a film – complete with 4 a.m. wakeups and a Mr. Bean mentor. (For the record, there’s about 45 hours left.) Today had been a particularly exhausting day and, as I drove a fellow group member home following a grueling drive from Laval, I took her up on the offer for a few puffs.

As a result, I finally make it to the opening ceremony of the Blue Metropolis festival— but an hour late and having initially gone to the wrong downtown hotel.

I went up to the hotel’s fifth floor, getting my accreditation badge sorted out. Up there, they told me the opening ceremony was sold out—sorry, no dice. I went down to the ticket pickup counter, where upon inquiring I was told exactly the opposite, and was promptly handed one from a stack of at least fifty.

I head downstairs to the ballroom, where festival founder Linda Leith is introducing this year’s Grand Prix winner, A.S. Hyatt.

Hyatt, a British writer, is wooing the crowd with her plausible French. “Mais c’est difficile – les anglais sont pas très fort en français.” Hee, hee, replies the crowd, as she suddenly swaps it for a thick Judy Dench-style accented English, one that would make the Queen herself proud.

Soon A.S. Byatt is reading a long text in her thick Yorkshire dialect at a wooden podium—is it roasting hot in here?--while everyone listens attentively, chuckling occasionally, and I’m scribbling this down lightheadedly into a brand new Mead notepad and feeling my body temperature rise. My wrist is also cramped.

Her voice is relaxing, I must say. If I wasn’t so tired, I might consider falling asleep…

“How are the Habs doing?” I wonder.

And: “One more little reading?” Byatt asks.

You bet!

“I’m grateful to get this award and so happy to be dans ce pays où on parle toujours les deux langues,” she concludes. A standing ovation.

Rendez-vous outside for a cocktail and a cheese-crackers-and-celery-combo assiette. People holding their white wine, schmoozing; and the eats do look pretty good. I peruse the floor: Crunch, crunch, chew, chew.

* * *

I snap some photos of the bartender pouring some wine. The patron looks at mine, humourously puzzled: “How is that newsworthy? Some dude getting two glasses of wine!”

“Well, if it happened, it’s the truth,” I reply dryly, an attempt at a corny journalist’s pun.

I approach Linda Leith, only I’m not yet sure that it’s her. “Excuse me,” and I introduce myself. “I didn’t fully catch your introduction. May I ask your name?”

“I’m Linda Leith,” she says. “The festival’s founder.”

Smooth one, journalist.

There’s no time for an interview, but I’m not interested anyway. “Can I just ask you: if you could sum up your feelings at this very moment, what would you say?”

She pauses for brief reflection and soon offers up, “It’s a party. It’s a five-day party. And the most important thing is that everyone has fun.”

Thanks, and I walk away. Pick up a festival program, and open to a random page. Page 60. “Drawing with Yayo” reads the event description – an event, no less, for children.

Alright, Linda. Let’s see where these next five days take us, then…

* * *

As I make my exit, a man stops me in my tracks.

Damn. So close.

”Sorry,” he begins. “You’re the stepson of Marianne Ackerman, aren’t ya?”

Umm. Well, I could pretend to be.