22.9.08

Newfoundland is Full of Long Uphills

One of my beloved friends asked me what I am doing at grad school. I ask myself that same question constantly. Even moreso on nights like this:

There was to be a conference. And for this conference there was to be a welcome to a conference potluck at the conference organizers home on the eve of the conference. It was mostly students from my program (there are like 13 of us, most of them were there) and a few professors and a couple of conference presenters and a few people I had no idea who they were or what they were doing there. Everyone apparently knew everyone, except for Kristie and I, who knew no one. So we were kind of outsiders. Which was kind of lame. We spoke with two people from my program awkwardly for a few minutes and then sat alone in a big empty living room while the entire party was crowded into the tiny dining room. Even if we were best buds with everyone there wasn't any room for anyone else in the dining room.

Any way, at one point, this older professorial lady comes and sits down next to us and we start to make small talk. It is standard stuff, la dee da dee da, and then she mentions that she spent the last year at the Banff Centre. So I ask what she was doing there. Then she went in this 20 minute revelation and in-depth explanation of this alternate universe she has created of half-deer half-human creatures called Deerdactordons or something, and when the earth cools and they can no longer harvest the peat they use to build and heat their homes they decide to move and they sense the creation of the Rockies with some sort of 6th sense in their hooves so the migrate to the Rockies and live happily ever after. It was bizarre. So very bizarre. We were stunned.

Then, as we were reeling from the revelation that the woman on our right is J.R.R Tolkein, a professorial looking older man takes a seat on our left. He is wearing a bow-tie and a vest and pants that don't match and shoes that look like slippers or slippers that look like shoes. He sets upon the coffee table a glass of wine and a mug of beer, which he takes alternating drinks from, and has this maniacal hyper-active giggle completely out of sorts with his drunken British stodginess. It's the sort of laugh that is so disconcerting that you have no other choice but to laugh with equal vigour right back at him for fear that he might have some sixth hoof sense and can smell your fear and would do something dreadful that only a double-fisting, bow-tied, professor with an evil hyper-giggle could do.

With a new member our conversation returns to small talk, who we are, where we are from, what we do, yadda, yadda. At some point the deer-man lady asks the double-fisting giggly professor man if certain types of mushrooms are required to be successful in The Program (everyone calls it "The Program" as if it were some official Big Brother policy ala 1984). This is followed by an evil hyper maniacal giggle and some sort of slurred explanation that while mushrooms in particular are not a requirement some relaxants of some sort are highly recommended, as he takes a swig of beer then wine, or wine then beer.

Around this time a younger professorial type in loose fitting clothes and a leather hat with a brim that defies categorization and gets lost somewhere between cowboy hat and outback hat and looks decidedly home made, or perhaps made in the woods on some sort of spirit quest, taps the older professorial type on the shoulder in mid-hyper maniacal giggle, waves a marijuana cigarette like a magic wand and says something a kin to a chain smoking dishwasher at a diner asking the other chain smoking dishwasher at the diner if they wish to take a smoke break. The mad man giggles and says he'll be right there. He isn't finished with us yet. So in the mean time he takes an apparatus out of his pocket and begins to roll his own normal cigarette while he tells us that smoking doesn't always mean smoking and we are welcome to partake should we wish and he can't smoke normal store bought cigarettes because he used to roll his own in Liverpool because they were cheaper and now he is hopelessly addicted to rolling his own and now they aren't any cheaper because the haughty elites are trying to punish the working class for their vices and boy he likes snuff.

Do you know what snuff is? I thought it was chewing tobacco. I think I even so much as uttered the words "prevalent" and "prairies" in the same sentence. To my horror. But I was wrong. Snuff is ground tobacco gentlemen from the olden days carried around in beautifully ornate boxes. And when decorum dictated that the smoking a cigarette from different ornate boxes was not appropriate the olden days gentleman would simply take out his beautifully ornate snuff box and snort some tobacco straight up his nose and be as good as new and as right as rain. Professor Giggles has one of these beautifully ornate boxes he tells us. He loves it. He loves it especially on planes where smoking is not permitted. He even relates a story of how he was an esteemed guest at an esteemed conference in Ottawa and in the evening, over drinks (two at a time to be sure) with his esteemed colleagues he took out his snuff box and shared a snort around. Witnessing this a student reported to the higher-ups that so-and-so professor was publicly partaking in the snorting and sharing of what appeared to be cocaine in the pub the previous night. Oh the outrage! Those uptight Ontarians! Who think that if they eat organic vegtables and don't smoke they'll live forever! Foos! No one carries cocaine in a beautifully ornate box! If only it went before some authority, our professor tells us, he'd be overjoyed to show off his beautifully ornate snuff box and quote reams of literature of all the upstanding olden days gentlemen who carried the same. He then, upon finishing rolling his cigarette and stuffing it into a slightly more masculine version of those long tube things that Cruella Deville smoked her smokes with, excused himself, his smoke, his beer, and his wine to go partake in whatever other relaxants his colleague might be enjoying on the back step.

Unable in a million years to top that we packed up our veggies and dip and headed for home. Newfoundland is full of long up-hills.

2 comments:

Tricia said...

OMG, I still love it. I have one piece of advice for you in grad school: take up smoking a corncob pipe.

jillian said...

I've been trying to think of something in response to this , but like you said, who can top that? I'm sure you guys will find your own alternate universe soon. With or without mushrooms.

I really want to know what the conference was on.

I also want a mailing address. Are ya'll settled yet?