There were bunk beds and gipsy caravan lights. There was a disco ball and coconuts full of rum and pineapple juice. We watched Georg ask his Von Trapp children What’s the matter with all you gloomy pussies, then we watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show. We ate bratwurst and sauerkraut buns with Dijon and drank beer. I had some mint tea and sewed lavender into sachets of old lace and gave them to other slumberers to put under their pillows. I met a woman who visits a bit of wild land reclaimed by an apiary-maker every summer day, and a vagabond marine carpenter who is transcribing hundreds of maps and stories of Nunavut elders.
I have been to Sherwin Tjia’s strip spelling bees and slow dance nights (see other posts), and this was another of his events. Sherwin creates events the way I like to create my stories: make something you wish already existed.
This was at Bunk Bed City in Montreal's Clark Gallery. It took me awhile to find out the beds and the magic kitchen were an installation by Dean Baldwin. Dean and his assistants made everyone French toast in the morning, with coffee, melons and fruit.
It's not often I invite my 21-year-old daughter to an event that scares her. But it is risky, to have a sleepover with people who don't know each other. "Sometimes in Montreal," she said, "there are weird sex parties." So she didn't go, and I wondered, as I was packing my red nightie and zipping up the sequined gown I wore to Giller night, if I was being foolhardy. My mother's maiden name is Hardy and my favourite Tarot card is the Fool.
"Sherwin's events have clear rules," I told her. "At this one, there's a no fucking rule."
Rye, the vagabond marine carpenter and transcriber of Nunavut maps, had recently tramped through Cornwall and seen Gypsy caravans in the fields, painted pink and lime. Ali, the apiary girl, is going to have a day of making things with me. Each person who spent the night in Bunk Bed City had the same raw, quivering vulnerability just for that one night in which Sherwin and Dean permitted us all to take the risk that we might have a night of living among the fireflies and the music of the planets. So many things are the same every day. So many shells, like the shells around the elements in the periodic table my younger daughter brought home from school this week. Someone takes a risk and builds transient beds around a magic kitchen as temporary as a fire on the beach, and things happen that would not otherwise find an opening. The French toast plates were tiny plates that you could put in a doll house, but they worked. My husband's aunt Clothilde (see earlier post) is a person who uses an umbrella in the snow. The flimsiest tools, like Dr. Who's sonic screwdriver, hold the most power. The gentlest night; a gathering of pilgrims and strangers; inclusive and respectful under the gentle coloured lights. It seems unusual before you do it, but as with many of these things I do in my year of daily new actions, once you go through that enchanted tent flap, it's not unusual at all - you have come to your spiritual nomad home. There are lanterns. There is music. There is a heart full of love.