Saturday, December 7, 2013

creating a/broad, December 7, 2013

Home: A Place Called Montreal (for now...)
by Cameryn Moore

I get the bureaucratic side-eye every time I cross the border into Canada. Every time. I’ve learned to accept it. I don’t fit into an easy demographic, as an American spending half of my time in Canada, and the rest of the time on the road, no fixed address. And my activities are also hard to pin down: Festivals. Shows. What kind of shows? Solo shows. What does that mean? One-woman plays. Just you? In their eyes is the question: is that even a thing? They don’t say it out loud, but that’s what they’re thinking. 

Neither do I say out loud what I’m thinking in response: Come on. It’s hard enough sometimes for me to justify this life in my own head, are you really going to make me defend it to a uniformed, uninformed immigration officer? At that point I just usually hand them an old postcard that’s been floating around on my dashboard, and hope that either my tits or the award laurels will distract them enough to just move on with the paperwork.

Isn’t writing just one of those things that takes you out of yourself

This time around was extra special, because I was not entering the country to perform. This time I told them that I was taking a self-imposed sabbatical to write. This is true. Next year I am touring my trilogy again, but on the creative side of things, I’m just working on Nerdfucker for a 2015 Canadian tour. Not releasing anything new in 2014. I need to focus on the UK tour and the workshops and the Sidewalk Smut. It’s actually going to be quite relaxing, or it would be, if I could just get the border people on my side.

The customs folks conducted an interested but oddly spotty search of my car—opening up my phone-sex index card box and personal bag holding my dirty underwear, but not digging deep into the back seat, which was piled high with randomly filled reusable grocery bags. And the immigration lady asked me a question that still echoes a little in my head: “Why do you need to be in Montreal to write?”

That felt both personal and existential, a strange but salient one-two punch.

Why does anyone need to be anywhere specific to write, really? Can’t you write just anywhere? Isn’t that one of the things that technology has done for us, enabled us to just plop down our laptops and our hot-spot devices anywhere? Haven’t writers done this long before the advent of computers, just picked up a pen and paper and jotted down notes, and scribbled away in notebooks, at the office during lunch, up in a drafty garret, at coffee shops, anywhere, anywhere? Isn’t writing just one of those things that takes you out of yourself, renders time and space meaningless, if you’re in it and it’s going well, why does it matter where you, physically, are?

That’s what I heard, anyway.

She lifted her eyebrows and waited. I lifted my eyebrows defensively and remembered the reasons I had rehearsed in my head during the 45 minutes it had taken to creep the last ¾ of a mile up to the border: my director for the next play is in Montreal and is willing to work with me on the script; I have other people I want to collaborate with up here; I am working out a workshop and want to test-drive it here, where a good fraction of my friends and fan base are.

These are all true, too. It felt like a lie when I said it because it was incomplete, it didn’t answer the question that I imagined she was really asking, the underlying question that a lot of people have when they learn that I am now, routinely, spending my winters in Montreal. Why do you need to be there to write?

There’s a history of performance that I don’t really have in any other city.

Sorry, Montrealers, what follows is not going to be a golden paean to our fair city, because winter can feel really shitty up here, and that border official’s incredulity is actually well founded in a cold and gritty reality, because WEATHER and PARKING and short, grey days and long, cold nights (especially with expensive electric heating, guh), and yes, I get that. I get it. Every place has its shittiness, but if you love it there, for whatever ineffable reasons, you will figure out a way to articulate those reasons for yourself, and you will struggle to find a way make those reasons coherent for anyone else who really wants to know.

I do have my director here, and a fan base, that much is true. But there’s so much more. There is a high concentration of people who are ready to look out for me. There’s a history of performance that I don’t really have in any other city. There is cheap rent, even for the urban hipster neighborhood where I have found myself this time around. And because this is an urban hipster neighborhood, there are grocery stores and second-hand stores and cafes, more than in any other city that I know, all walkable. There is a bookstore literally around the corner from me where Margaret Atwood spoke last Wednesday. Around the corner. 

I don’t have to write in Montreal, lady behind the immigration counter. I just like to. A lot. And as long as I manage to scrape together the money to keep myself afloat, I’m going to.

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