It was hard work changing the world. If I wasn’t running in an election I was helping out in an election or preparing for an election or cleaning up after an election. Most of the time it was at the party’s headquarters on Yonge Street. One Friday night, at one of those helping out in an election meetings, we were folding pamphlets and doing what we liked to do best, arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. It was a working meeting to prepare for a by-election, the political equivalent of a pop quiz in high school. In the parliamentary system, when a seat is vacated for whatever reason, a special election is held to fill the seat and return a member to parliament. So we were all working for the one campaign. We were folding pamphlets that we were going to distribute the next day, and we were assigning ourselves teams. The fellow across the table assigned him and me to a team of two that would drop pamphlets at one of the high-rise apartment buildings in the district. As we were calling it a night and leaving, the fellow asked me if I wanted to meet up for breakfast at a restaurant the next day before we headed out on the job. After he left, I asked my girlfriend Linda what she knew about him, and her one piece of advice was, “Don’t bother getting to the restaurant early, he’s always late.” So I didn’t go early, but Dennis did, and had already finished his first cup of coffee by the time I got there. That turned out to be our first date. Our second one was dinner that night. Two years later we were married. And wouldn’t you know, he liked Van.
Which was a good thing, because through those years, Dennis got to listen to a lot of Van. With no Van shows to go to, I contented myself with listening to his albums. There’d be weekends when I would get home on Friday night, go down to the basement and spend a lost couple of days lying on the couch, listening to one Van album after another. Luckily for Dennis, I would usually time those Van-fests to coincide with him being out of town on a business trip. Much as he liked Van, the thought of 48 hours straight was about 46 hours on the excessive side. But when he called home, he knew enough not to ask why. It was the Monday mornings, when I’d get into work and the staff was comparing weekends over coffee, that the questions came.
“You did what?”
“I listened to Van.”
“Yah, but what else did you do?”
“That was it.”
“Are you serious? Isn’t he dead?”
“No, that would be Jim Morrison. This is Van.”
“Never heard of him.”
Needless to say, my coworkers thought it was all pretty strange and that I really ought to seriously consider getting myself a life.
It’s spring 1985 by this time.
I had a dilemma on my hands – here was Van coming to town, finally, and I didn’t have a ticket. One half of me said, “Well, that’s the breaks; no tickee, no launlee” while the other said, “How can Van be coming to town and I’m not going to be there?” When the May 16 rolled around, Dennis and I found ourselves out to dinner at a local restaurant with friends of his, a couple who lived a few streets away from us in the east end of Toronto. The little community we lived in was called The Beach, which was the name given to it in the 1870s by the city folk who came out by horse and buggy to get away from the city for the weekend. Their cottages soon sprinkled the landscape. A hundred years later, there wasn’t a square inch left to build on and every square of them was all filled with trendy people. Dennis and I, although not quite so trendy, had bought our little square.
It was a very pleasant dinner, made more pleasant by a round of martinis to start the meal off. I was fully aware of what this night was: this was me sitting in a restaurant instead of sitting in a seat a few miles down the road watching Van Morrison. And feeling very sorry for myself. But I was being very mature about it, consoling myself that life was like this sometimes. I chewed on my olives in stoic despair. About halfway through dinner I looked down at my watch. 7:15. Wait a minute…if we finished eating at 7:30, we could have coffee and be out the door by 7:45. The show didn’t start until 8:00. I could do this. The key was not to order dessert.
As far as plans go, it wasn’t much of one after the no dessert step. But it did involve a lot of rushing around. We’d walked up to the restaurant, and as Dennis and I said goodbye to our dinner companions outside the door, I laid out my plan to him, but if I was going to do this, I was going to have to run. See you back at the house!
I flew home and was out of my clothes and into my jeans and sneakers before my dress could hit the floor. I passed Dennis coming in the door on my way out, just enough time to say, “I’ll see you later; wish me luck!”
I was going to need it. What exactly did I think was going to happen when I showed up outside the venue without a ticket? I had no idea – my plan didn’t go that far.