Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

"FAAAG!" Of Barrie, Lit Readings + Oven Mitts...

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I was recently honored with an invitation to take part in the monthly gathering of the Society of the Spoken Word in Barrie, Ontario, as their spotlight guest. The organizer, Jon Eskedjian, was very gracious and those on hand were attentive and very flattering. It was a bit strange doing a show in a café for the first time (I usually do my thing in bars) but it turned out very well. I even got paid. I’d originally been put in touch with Jon by my old school mate, Professor Bruce Meyers, who has mentored many a writer while teaching at Georgian College. It was a pleasant evening all round.

Things had wound down by around midnight and Bruce walked me over to my motorcycle, parked a couple blocks away. There was a little bit of rain and the temperature had dropped but I had a rain suit and figured it should be an easy run back into the vast Toronto sprawl.
But shortly after suiting up and hitting the 6-lane Highway 400, the high winds that night began to bat me around and my thin rain gloves left my hands freezing. I pulled off at the first exit and began to look for somewhere to buy thicker gloves, maybe fleece lined work-gloves. After about half an hour of wandering through the southern outskirts of Barrie, I ran across a large 24-hour grocery and general store. The parking spots right in front of the place were on a downward grade so I backed the bike in and turned it off. One of the local denizens, who was much more than half in the bag, held himself up by a post and yabbered at me: “Hey, buddy, nice bike!”
It was a baffed out 27 year-old Honda but what the hell, it was dark and he was probably seeing double.
“Thanks,” I replied and went inside.
Going through the store’s very limited hardware section, I couldn’t find any work gloves. But I did manage to procure a pair of oven mitts. There were several colorful designs so I took the most low-key; a beige and green combo. The fabric’s pattern featured a drawing of an olive oil bottle, a bunch of grapes and a wedge of cheese. The gloves also came with a matching dish towel and small square pot holder.
I was the only customer and the lady at the cash register gave me a strange look. I felt like saying: Yes, ma’am, when a man needs oven mitts, a man must have oven mitts. Thank the gods my quest has been fulfilled and I have you, kind lady, to thank. I offer effusive praise to your finely honed entrepreneurial instincts in foreseeing my dire but unexpected need! Even at more than eleven dollars for the set, I was feeling pretty optimistic. The thick oven mitts might actually offer some real protection from the cold wind.

When I approached my bike, the drunk was still there but his attitude had changed dramatically. He’d gone from nodding moto-brother to scowling and sneering moto-enemy. Perhaps he was a died-in-the-wool Harley-Davidson fanatic and had finally realized I was riding a Honda. Then it occurred to me he might have noticed the rainbow-colored Diversity Sticker prominently displayed on the rear license plate. His face screwed up into an even more ferocious mien as he watched me pull on the oven mitts over my rain gloves. I heard him growl behind me and thought I should beat a hasty retreat. It wouldn’t be a great idea to begin grappling with an enraged drunk in an empty parking lot at midnight in Barrie while wearing brand spanking new oven mitts. What would my public think?

So with oven mitts secured, I mounted my iron steed and put the bike in gear. As I rode off, the perturbed fellow hauled in a mighty breath and bellowed: “FAAAG!”
Without turning I waved happily with my left oven-mitted hand. He replied: “You’re DEAD, you fucking FAGGOT!
I waved again while exiting the parking lot then heard only a pained and garbled cry somewhere behind me. Avoiding the gale force crosswinds on Hwy 400, I decided to take a secondary, two-lane road for the trip home and lo and behold, the oven mitts kept my digits nice and warm. It turned out to be a very pleasant ride; up and down the hills and dales of York Region, watching the stars disappear as the lights of Toronto’s poisonous urban wasteland gradually illuminated all...

1 comment

Good story, Baz. Reminded me of when I was in Boulder, Colorado attending summer writing school. As I walked along one of its wide streets, a guy in a passing pick-up truck leaned out the window to holler "Hey, faggot!" At first I couldn't figure out why... I was not holding hands with another guy, wearing a pink shirt, or rainbow logo. Then I realized that it was my shoulder bag that I used as an easy way to carry books and paper to classes... guess I should have added oven mitts to the ensemble!

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

Basil Papademos

Basil Papademos is the author of MOUNT ROYAL: There's Nothing Harder Than Love, published in the spring of 2012 by Tightrope Books, also available as an ebook in all formats from all digital retailers. His earlier novel, The Hook of it is, was published by Emergency Press. His upcoming novel, How To **** Your Psychiatrist, will be published in the fall of 2013.

Go to Basil Papademos’s Author Page