Picture the summer of 2005.
Where were you? What were you doing? What were your passions? Your obsessions?
Who did you love?
Who did you love?
I was twenty years old, fresh out of my second year of university, and living in Halifax.
Marc and I had been dating (and living together) for just under two years. Knowing that I would be spending the next four months across the country away from the small little home we were building together had left me heartbroken. Although looking back, I am confident that on some subconscious level we both knew that it was these long stretches of time apart that was keeping our young love alive.
Having just applied to (and been accepted by) the Creative Writing program at UBC, I felt like my whole life was falling into place.
I was reading everything I could get my hands on, exercising too much, and working two fantastic jobs.
The first was at a fair-trade coffee shop where I made adequate espressos and sold delicious pakoras. The second was at a local bar where I worked the door Wednesday through Saturday nights. Basically my job was to flirt or strike up conversations with individuals as they entered the establishment, in the hopes of convincing them that they really did want to pay the cover charge, when really they probably just wanted a drink or dinner. My take-home was determined by how many people I got through the door.
And I was really, really good at this job.
Can you imagine? I was getting paid to talk to people and listen to great music. It was my dream job, incarnate.
I witnessed a lot of really weird things during those four months. There was the man who unscrewed the light bulb from the fixture over his table, placed the bulb in his briefcase, and then lit up the giant candle he had brought from home.
A man once tried to pay me to steal one of the bar’s paintings for him, and even left a twenty dollar “deposit” wrapped around the stem of the white wine glass he had ordered for me on his way out the door.
A young man once careened in the bar and breathlessly asked if he could hide out in our restrooms. After about half an hour he emerged, only to tell me that he had been evading two bike cops who had caught him and his friends drinking up at the Citadel.
Gordie Sampson hit on my underage sister, and I learned that Gordie Sampson is a tool.
I also saw some of the most incredible live performances from some of the East Coast’s most wonderful performers.
Ron Hynes played a beautiful, intimate set, and everyone in the bar sang along to Sonny’s Dream. When he died last year I cried remembering the magic of that evening.
Jeff Goodspeed was always a treat and the week that we played home to the Halifax Jazz Festival’s “late-night venue”, the proverbial roof was blown away each and every night.
But my most favourite part of working this job was Wednesday nights.
Because Wednesday nights meant Matt Andersen.
And Matt Andersen always meant a huge crowd of people who really, really wanted to pay the five-dollar cover.
But even better than that, Matt Andersen meant the most beautiful blues.
I would have worked at that bar for free as long as it meant that I was allowed to sit there for three hours and listen to him play.
Every night, during his cover of Bruce Springsteen’s ‘I’m on Fire’, I would walk over to the end of the bar and lean against one of the pillars that framed the entrance to the dining room. Just closing my eyes now, I can remember so clearly how the music would wash over me.
Run through me.
How the hairs on my arms would stand on end, and my eyes would tear up, and how part of me wanted that moment to last forever but how the other feared that if it did my little heart might crack in two.
Matt was also a gentle giant, who would pick me up and drive me to the bar if he’d see me walking on my way downtown. He would ask me about the books that I was reading and the subjects that I was studying in school.
It never occurred to me to stop and think how that summer was real life (and not the undergraduate make-believe in which I was firmly ensconced). Now I wish I had the foresight to tell Matt how much I loved his music and made the effort to stay in touch.
Tonight my parents-in-law are at Matt’s concert at the Vogue downtown. Marc and I bought them tickets for Christmas and I am so incredibly excited for them to experience his music for the first time. I can only imagine what an amazing show it will be.
For me – I am wrapped in warm blankets and sipping tea, listening to Youtube compilations remembering those make-believe days and warm summer nights.
And I hope I can introduce you to Matt.
And that you will love him. Wednesday nights, and every night.