A gift from the goddess

I'm feeling rather sober this morning.

Double entendre intended. I am of course not drunk. It's before 9 o'clock. I'm not even hung over. But last night I was not sober. I went to a club. I had a couple of drinks. I purposely stopped drinking well before I left the club and got in my car. I felt fine. My head was clear. I had no trouble driving.

It's funny how choices work. I always say that my goddess is metaphorical, but sometimes I wonder.

There are a few ways I could have driven from the club to the highway. My favourite was not really available because a large section of road is under construction to the point of being closed. I might have gone around the closed section and still joined the highway at the usual spot. That's a favourite route (at least when the road is open all the way) not only because there are few traffic lights but also because it's very unlikely that I would encounter a roadblock. Think about that reasoning.

I could also have driven the way I would have if I had been going around the closed road, and then instead of turning to get back on the open section I had just kept going. There are a lot of traffic lights in that direction, but it was late, and I wasn't in any big hurry. There probably wouldn't have been a roadblock in that direction either.

Instead of those two choices, I cut across Chinatown and took a route that zigs and zags a bit but is normally a pretty efficient way to get onto the highway. There are also a few service stations along that route, and I stopped to top up the tank at one of them. Gas prices are hitting record highs in these parts, and this one had a slightly lower price, so I took advantage of that.

By the time I reached the on-ramp to the highway, it had probably been at least an hour and a half since I'd had a drink, maybe more. Certainly not less. I noticed that traffic was backed up on the ramp. I thought about going straight, which is a slightly slower but reasonable alternative when there's a hold-up on the highway. I thought the backup was due to construction, which has continued on some nights well past when it was supposed to have been completed. I joined the lineup, thinking I wouldn't remain stuck for long.

I didn't recognize it for what it was—an RCMP roadblock—until I was committed.

They weren't letting anyone through without a stop. A member told me to pull over. She asked where I had been, and I told her. She asked if I had been drinking, and I told the truth, including the timing. She demanded my licence and then told me to get out of the car and walk to a point behind a police vehicle. There, she read a formal statement about suspicion of drinking and driving and then explained how the breathalyzer worked. I blew. We waited for the number.

We both saw the number come up. She told me what the legal limit was. My number was a fraction over that. But then she said that she was satisfied that I was fit to drive. I was surprised, but I wasn't going to go checking out the dental work of that gift horse. I got back into my car and drove away.

Just so you know, the cop was unfailingly polite through this whole thing. Firm, but polite. There is a reason that we respect the Mounties, despite some recent incidents. For the most part, they are consummate professionals. Maybe that was one reason why I remained curiously calm through the entire procedure.

If, if, if. If I had had my last drink a bit later, if I had left the club a little sooner, maybe even if I hadn't stopped for gas, my weekend might have been very different. The penalty for blowing over the limit when it's your first offence (as it would have been) is a roadside suspension. They would have impounded my car and taken my licence for 24 hours. I would not now be preparing to drive to the farmers market, the first stop in my usual Saturday morning routine.

If I had driven either of the other ways toward the highway, I would not have encountered the roadblock, and I doubt there was another in the area. You might think that would have been a happier outcome. I was calm during the ordeal, but it was still stressful. And yet, let's just call it what it is: a wake-up call. And a gift, not just from the Mountie, but from the goddess.

Decades ago, before I moved to Vancouver, a guy with whom I'd played in a band got busted for drinking and driving. He had to go to "drunk school"—mandatory classes. That was an early wake-up call. I changed my behaviour. I became more cautious. But not cautious enough. I knew it. I knew I had been on the road when I could easily have blown over the limit, with no margin for error. And however you feel about cops, I think we can all agree that operating a vehicle when you're not really in shape to do so can have tragic consequences, all too often for innocent parties. I never want to cause harm to anyone, myself included, because my judgment and reaction time are impaired by alcohol.

I already take transit when I know I will want to drink more than would be safe for driving. But clearly my calculations of safety have been a bit off. I'm still not likely to go completely sober even when I have to drive home, but I will need to drink less, or allow more time, or a combination of the two. I might still drive the route out of town that is less likely to have a roadblock because it's a good way to go. But if I am pulled over again, I am going to make sure I know that I will pass the test. And we'll all be safer for that. I was given a second chance. I don't expect a third.


Femme-tastic choir

Well, what do you know, I have a blog. I hadn't forgotten about it, but I wouldn't blame you if you thought I had. Just not feeling blog writing lately, I guess. I've never gone in for those "post something every day for a month" things. I don't always have something to say. But if I don't write every day, maybe that means I'm not a writer.

I have been writing though. Songs for V+T, sometimes in collaboration with my drummer T, which is a cool new experience. Poetry (more or less) for a project of which I am a part. I would say emails, but I don't think those count. Twitter?

At any rate, I hope this is the first of a few entries about Femme City Choir and what it means to me. Have I told you about Femme City Choir? I thought for sure I had, but I can't find evidence of having done so.

Last autumn, when it became clear that Lisa's Hotcakes wouldn't be playing as much as I wanted to (and before V+T got started), I joined a choir. A choir of femme-identified people of all genders.

I showed up the first week, and I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. I'm used to hanging around with people younger than myself. But here I was surrounded by women (mostly) in the their mid-20s (mostly). I was very conscious of being the granny. I also didn't know anyone there, although some of us had friends in common. The first hour was taken up by an explanation of the choir and the vision of the two directors as well as by introductions of ourselves. Then we started singing.

And a funny thing happened. I kind of fell in love. Not so much with the music, although I found I could enjoy singing even material that I wouldn't normally listen to, but with the people and the space we all created. I have known plenty of femme lesbians and bisexuals, but I think this was the first time I had ever been in a room in which everyone considered themselves femme--including one guy. It was a beautiful space! It felt very special. I realized that I wanted--nay, needed--this choir in my life.

I went to rehearsals. Slowly, I got to know the others. We gathered material. Sometimes I loved the songs, sometimes not so much, but singing was always fun and challenging. I found it was good for my voice and my range. Over the course of the fall there was some attrition, and those of us who stayed started to feel like a unit. We had a great December social. In January we had another intake. By that time a lot more people had heard about us. The group got large for a while, which felt a bit confusing at first, but slowly I got to know the new people, or at least their names. Again there was some attrition, as expected. About 30 of us stuck it out.

We had a mini-debut in February with a small group made up of those of us who had been there from the start. Eleven of us did extra rehearsals with the music director and sometimes an accompanist so that we could perform two songs at a benefit. The benefit performance went very well. It helped create a buzz in anticipation for our full debut.

That full choir debut happened last Saturday, June 7, at the Wise Hall in East Vancouver. We called it Femmestravaganza. We had four guest artists, and we performed two short sets ourselves. It was a fantastic night! We did a performance that was better than any of the rehearsals, which is what you hope for. The audience response was very gratifying. Femme City Choir has arrived!

Being part of the choir has given me a lot to think about, and now that we're on a summer break, I have time for reflection. I plan to write about those reflections. Meanwhile, here's a video that an audience member shot and posted, and hopefully an official video soon. We're proud of what we have created and especially proud of our fearless (truly) leaders, Kate Monstrr and Lau Sequins.

See you at New West Pride!