For the last few years I’ve been leading a double life. I work on my novel, then I head off to work. When I finish work I go back home, and dive back into my novel.
It may not sound all that crazy, I know. But occasionally, the contrasts can get extreme.
Take last week. In addition to my regular job, and working on a new novel, I also went on a bunch of school visits. Oh my gosh, I had SOOOO much fun at those schools. It’s a real gift to be invited into classrooms, and to share my craziest running stories with hilarious and talented young people. I love their thoughtful and pointed questions. For example:
“Is Kneecap based on a real person?”
(Kneecap is a character in my novel, Ultra).
“Yes,” I answer. “She’s based on Jennifer Roy. Jennifer was my best friend in grade seven. She really did tell me to ‘throw away my weird pills.’“
“Was there really a Urinal Hockey League?”
“You bet,” I explain. “At Dalewood Public School in St. Catharines. But you can’t play Urinal Hockey at this school. You’ve got the wrong kind of urinal. I already checked.”
The kids treat me like I’m a rock star. You’d think my head would swell with all that attention. But don’t worry. My day job keeps me humble.
The same week I visited all those schools, I helped to produce a special tribute show to the late musician, Lou Reed. The concert was held at the Glenn Gould Theatre in Toronto, and all sorts of real rock stars came out to perform. Gordon Downie of the Tragically Hip, Emily Haines of Metric, a bunch of Barenaked Ladies, Carole Pope of Rough Trade, opera singer Measha Brueggergosman, Commander Chris Hadfield, etc. Just when I felt faint from all the glitter, Kim Cattral walked in (she played Samantha on Sex and the City). Then Ron Sexsmith and Kevin Drew appeared. Then someone introduced me to Lou Reed’s actual band!
It was all kinda dizzying. I mean, these weren’t just rock stars, these were rock icons. These were the people who wrote half the songs on my iPod; the people who wrote the songs that carried me through my toughest road races (Carole Pope’s All Touch, the Hip’s Courage, Metric’s Gimme Sympathy, Hawksley Workman’s Autumn’s Here).
Since I’d helped to write the script for the concert, it was my job to make sure the celebrities got on and off stage at the right moments. But as the show progressed things got emotional. Most of the performers had been friends with Lou Reed, and there were plenty of tears, and I had to run back and forth with Kleenex boxes. Nonetheless, the show rocked. Chantale Kreviazuk did a blistering performance of “All Tomorrow’s Parties.” Commander Hadfield (who, in case you were wondering, has the strongest handshake of anyone I’ve ever met) brought the house down with his version of “Satellite of Love.”
I enjoyed the music, and I loved hanging out backstage with those celebrities, but I kept thinking about the kids I’d met earlier in the week. Many of them had dreams of writing and singing songs too, and some had even shown me the lyrics they’d written. I thought about this as I watched the show, and I wondered if, one day, their songs would wind up on my iPod too.
As I mulled this over, Hawksley Workman appeared. His song was up next, and he was about to take the stage. But then he suddenly stopped and looked at me. He peeled off his sunglasses. He said: “You’re David, right?”
I looked up. I’d met Hawksley – very briefly – once before. I was shocked that he’d remember.
“Hi Hawksley,” I said.
“You wrote that book!” he said. “The one about the kid who runs that race. I heard you on Shelagh Rogers’ show. You were terrific!”
We all have a little bit of rock star inside us. We just need to be reminded sometimes.
NOTE: You can watch a killer song from that concert (including a cameo by everyone’s favourite Canadian astronaut) HERE