March 06, 2008

Can't take me anywhere

Shortly before Christmas, when Scott saw an ad for an upcoming Chick Corea performance at Massey Hall, he murmured, "Sounds like it would be okay." That monotone mumbling is about as excited as Scott ever gets about things, so his unsolicited comment caught my attention. I was aware that Scott might have been trying to gauge my reaction to see if a pair of tickets would be a suitable Christmas present for me. As I was short on gift ideas, however, I decided to keep silent while I made a mental note to order a pair of decent floor-level seats for him. "He'll like it," I thought. "Jazz can be upbeat and funky and energizing. He'll like it. He will." I ordered the tickets before considering the facts that a) the show was on a Wednesday night, when Scott would be exhausted from work, and b) this was not a hoppin' jazz orchestra performance, but a solo show.

When you attend a solo acoustic piano performance at a venue such as Toronto's historic Massey Hall, sound carries. The audience can hear a muffled sneeze, a quiet snore or the unwrapping of a cough drop. Thankfully Scott and I were responsible for none of those noises. Another sound that travels well is that of suppressed giggles building up until they erupt into an utterly inappropriate snort of laughter.

Scott and I took in Chick Corea's performance this past Wednesday evening. Partway through the show, I noticed movement in the left balcony (dead centre in the photo above). I glanced up and saw a man waving frantically. I figured that he was trying to get the attention of a friend on the opposite side of the hall. As I watched, however, his waving changed, and changed again. And again. He looked as though he were drowning, then as though he were shooing away a cloud of gnats, then as though he were enthusiastically blessing a congregation. When his movements resembled those of someone either conducting an orchestra or playing air-piano, I figured it out. Balcony Man was enjoying the subdued performance in a positively unrestrained manner. I was rivited.

I elbowed Scott and tilted my chin toward the balcony. He watched the flailing arms for a few moments before giving me a look that said, What the heck?? Throughout the performance I spotted more and more people noticing Balcony Man and doing just as I had done, nudging their companions and silently directing their gazes upward. Before long, a healthy portion of our fellow patrons were either entranced or amused by Balcony Man's display.

I examined the woman in the aisle seat next to Balcony Man. Her long-suffering expression suggested that she was with him, but not necessarily by choice. I suspect she was a paid caregiver of some sort. She was leaning as far away as she could from Balcony Man, her elbow on the armrest and her chin in her hand. She wasn't watching the stage, she wasn't looking at Balcony Man, and she certainly wasn't meeting the stares of the people nearby. I reflected on how tough her job must be. Then I mentally patted myself on the back for not laughing.

At intermission I asked Scott if he wished to leave, as I was concerned that his frequent yawning indicated boredom. "No," he insisted, "I'm tired, but this is entertaining." We visited the lounge, where he had a Guinness and I enjoyed Kahlua on the rocks. I forgot about Balcony Man. I looked around at all the adults in the lounge and suddenly I noticed that Scott and I - gasp - fit in! I realized that it had been a very long time since we had been to any sort of grown-up event without being surrounded by youthful friends who make us feel like teenagers. I felt... sophisticated. I felt mature. It wouldn't last.

We soon settled back into our seats to await the second half of the show. That's when it happened. We watched three unsuspecting women, who were either seriously late or simply relocating from another section, shuffle into the row behind Balcony Man. As the lights dimmed the woman aiming for the farthest seat lost her footing and cartwheeled into the aisle. She vanished from sight with a very loud ka-thump (ka-thump being another sound that carries well in Massey Hall). All eyes were on the woman as she reappeared and hastily took a seat directly behind Balcony Man. It wasn't long before she and her companions realized their mistake, as the flailing resumed as soon as Chick Corea began tickling the ivories again. The trio quickly moved to a different section.

Slapstick really tickles my funnybone. I feel heartless, but I simply cannot control myself after witnessing a quality act of clumsiness. Graceless accidents, so long as they don't involve blood, crack me up. I had to clamp my hands over my mouth and silently remind myself that I am mature. I am mature. I am mature. I tried to focus on the wonderful piano music, but all I could do was mentally replay the woman's tumble over and over again, and it became funnier each time. When I spotted the lady on the other side of Scott hiding her face in her hands, shoulders shaking with silent laughter, my own pent-up mirth nearly got the better of me. And when a man hurriedly exited the hall and Scott whispered, "His clamp must have failed," I was done for.

So, so sorry, Mr. Corea.


Anonymous said...

MY clamp failed when I read your story. Excellent writing. Thanks for sharing.
Kelvin's BFF

HAR said...

I feel as if I was there with you. Balcony Man would sit directly in front of me if I were attending. Happens every time.

Heather said...

LOL Awesome post!!! So funny!!

Rob K said...

This was funnier than hell; you guys clearly know how to have a good time.

I love that bit about your brief attack of maturity. I'm glad it passed quickly.

Maybe Balcony Man should get a gig on stage at Massey Hall.

The tumbling lady can do the back-up and the failing-clamp man can run out on stage at the climax--you should pardon the expression.

Now that's entertainment.

ryssee said...

I love it when there are many avenues of entertainment all in the same place! LOL, great post!