Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Messieurs et dames!"

Quebec City is a very charming place, particularly the area known as Old Quebec. A year ago this weekend my friend Chris and I visited the province of Quebec on vacation. We spent a few days in Montreal before moving on to Quebec City. We stayed at a bed and breakfast in Old Quebec and I quickly fell in love. A month later I had submitted my application to enroll in graduate school here and in January Chris and I moved. On July 1st we both moved from out less than satisfactory apartments in different parts of the city to neighboring apartments in Old Quebec. I'm absolutely in love with my new locale and apartment.

One of the charming aspects of Old Quebec is its street performers. The city has dozens of designated areas where you can see everything from circus acts to musicians to that one lady who does a whole lot of nothing and then claps for herself before showing pictures of her twelve children and requesting your money.

Street performers are part of daily life for Chris and me, but we've been paying closer attention lately as we discuss the possibility of a joint magic and ventriloquism show for next summer. Just an idea at this point, but a fun one.

Tonight we stopped to watch an act we hadn't seen before. I immediately suspected that it would be just like 75% of the other street acts when the performer pulled out his unicycle and juggling batons. Yet we stayed. Why? Because the guy helping the performer set up was hunky and I was hoping he'd be part of the act. He was not...but I was.

The performer started by asking who in the audience spoke only French and a handful of people raised their hands. He then said that he would do his show in English. I presumed this meant he didn't like French-speakers but then he did the whole show in terrible French anyway. He had an accent in both French and English so I guessed perhaps his native language was portuguese. Then he said he was American. Huh?

The first ten minutes of the show were comprised of juggling balls. Over and over and over. I should mention that performers have a strict time limit of 30 minutes for set-up, their performance, and then tear down. He then juggled five bowling pins. That mildly impressed me. Then he juggled seven balls which might have been neat if he hadn't dropped them repeatedly.

Then...THEN...he juggled flaming batons...AND DROPPED ONE ON HIMSELF. He cried out in pain and I begged Chris to leave, but he wanted to see the whole train wreck unfold.

Between his various acts he would ask the people in the audience where they are from. One family said that they were from Connecticut.

"Oh, gay marriage!" he said with a smile. "What else do they have there?" His priorities were clear.

Then he asked an asian man the same question and the man responded that he was from Quebec City. "Oh, I love my Quebec Chinese!" I hope to God the guy was indeed Chinese. Not that it isn't still offensive.

He then moved his unicycle to the center of the square, picked up four large knives, and extended his hand to me.

"Will you help me?"

My instincts screamed, "NO!" but my parents raised me to be polite so I gave in.

The performer took my hand  and asked where I was from. I told him that I live in Quebec but am from Wisconsin. He then butchered French (RIP) in an attempt to convey that idea to the audience (the same audience he had promised to perform in English for).  This whole time he was holding my hand. I'm as gay as the next guy, but c'mon! LET ME GO!

He then grabbed another poor soul from the audience and instructed us to hold up his extra tall unicycle. The performer walked away and the other victim volunteer whispered, "This isn't going to go well." Truth.

So me and this other guy are holding up the unicycle. We each have a foot either in front of or behind the wheel--the poor other guy was wearing sandals--and the performer steps onto the wheel and then sits on the seat and yells directions for us to move our hands to different positions. I've seen this done many times in this city and there is a reason you don't pick a little guy like me! The other volunteer and I had a hard time steadying the unicycle and the performer ended up rolling on top of my foot (and staying there) while he attempted not to fall. He then rolled back and forth over my foot and eventually untied my shoe and the lace became trapped under the tire.

At the same time he has put his full force on my head to aid his balance. At this point he decides to tell the audience how nice my hair is ("What conditioner do you use?") and to give me a head massage. So this stranger spends the next two minutes running his fingers through my hair as he continues to occasionally run over my foot while telling the audience that the city doesn't pay him to be there, "Believe it or not." Oh, I believe it! 

He then put the other guy's hat on my head and I was just about ready to let him fall off the damn unicycle. When the show was finally over I told Chris I had to go home and shower immediately. In bleach.

FINALLY he tells us we can go and I run for my life as he prepares to juggle knives. At this point I'm sure he's going to accidentally remove one of his nipples. He juggled the knives for 3 seconds (though he was 45 minutes into his 30-minute time slot) and then the show was finally over.

After the show Chris asked the performer where he was from.

"The East Village." Clearly. Also? His accent in English was gone now. His brain was NOT made to be bilingual.

My right foot and neck are sore, but at least I got a blog post out of it? And in case you don't believe me, Chris got a video while trying not to get an aneurism from containing his laughter.

My back is to the camera in the beginning. I'm wearing a grey hoodie.

1 comment:

  1. You need more therapy than the province can afford after that experience. I lost 6 pounds laughing at it all.