Many of us have things that keep us -- arguably -- sane. For my friend Nicole, it's nature. For me, it's music. (Spotify Premium may be the best ten bucks a month I've ever spent.)
For Eva, it's comedy.
From the very beginning, comedy was a backbone of our relationship. You will recall Eva hired me, and for the first four months we were strictly boss-employee. Sometime in the spring of 1999 she gave me a ride home and sang a snippet of a Maclean and Maclean ditty entitled I've Seen Pubic Hair. My eyebrows widened a little: this is clearly not boss-employee music. We weren't boss/employee much longer. I was quired. (Ever been quired? That's when they come to you and say, "either you quit, or we'll fire you".) I'd like to say it was because Eva wanted to date me....in reality it was because I sucked at the job. But it did free her up, so to speak.
One of the things we bonded over is an extremely obscure CBC radio play that dates to the late eighties. It's called Six Days That Shook The Walt. My friend Kieron and I would sit by the radio, listening to this thing and damn near pissing ourselves laughing.
I've tried to introduce it to a number of people I thought might like it. Most don't last five minutes. Eva's pretty much got the damned thing memorized, and we pepper our interactions with Walt references that are bizarre out of context and only slightly less bizarre IN context. Walter Goodman, you see, is a staple salesman (yes, staple as in staplers) for the firm Mega-Omniworld and Sons. They've come up with a new slogan: "Two Plus Two Equals...Five!" and they insist that Walt adopt this wholeheartedly. He refuses to do so, and the insistence all around him that yes, two plus two equals five causes Walt to go insane. He quits his job, which sets in motion a spiritual quest taking him to, among many other places, a grocery store organized according to the periodic table, a meat market where people are literally hanging on hooks, and Humpville On-Or-By-The-Fjord. (I've lost you, haven't I?)
It's hysterical if you're in the target demographic, which seems to consist of Kieron, Eva, and myself.
You have to understand. We have a subscription to Sirius satellite radio in the car. More than two hundred channels, and only seven are ever played. Six of them are comedy. The seventh is channel 76, "Symphony", which I switch to the instant Eva leaves me in the car. Those comedy channels were an actual lifeline for Eva when she was commuting to and from her last job: it's fair enough to say that in her final months there, Raw Dog Comedy and Laugh Out Loud USA were her only chance at even cracking a smile most days.
Oh, and Jeff (Foxworthy) and Larry ("the Cable Guy")'s Comedy Roundup. That one's vital.
But we do have more than a few loves in common. Seth MacFarlane has a direct pipeline into our shared sense of humour. And we have a largish number of stand-up funnymen and women we both love.
We've seen our share. Nikki Payne, Ron James, Derek Edwards, Stuart Maclean (to be fair, his Vinyl Cafe was more of a variety show, but the Dave and Morley stories have accompanied us along many a road trip, and we got to see his Christmas show here in town a few years back). Eva got us George Carlin tickets, but chose to give her ticket to my friend Jason who was in town. That's Eva for you.
John Pinette, another favourite who is regrettably gone now. Last year, Lewis Black and Kathleen Madigan.
Back in August, she announced that Bill Engvall was coming to Casino Rama, his only Canadian stop of the tour. The ladyboner was quite noticeable. I may have stiffened a wee bit myself. Bill Engvall is one of Jeff Foxworthy's friends, and joined with him on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. He's a storyteller comedian, and a very good one. It's fair to say that he was at the top of the list for us. Late anniversary present, booked. And unlike last year's Black and Madigan extravaganza, we would stay over in Orillia so that Eva wouldn't have to drive the two and a half hours back.
We left at 1:00, ran a few errands, and then hit the highway. Normally, if we're headed to Barrie or points north, we go the back way, through Elora, Fergus, Orangeville and Alliston. This time we chose to take the 401/400, figuring we'd get through Toronto before rush hour started.
Rush hour in Toronto never stops. It took us an hour extra to get to the Best Western Plus in Orillia.
The room was...nice. I mean, hotel rooms are like shopping centres, right? Once you've seen one, you've seen a mall. This one was a fair bit larger than most. The pillows on the bed were just my preferred level of squishiness (i.e., SQUISHY). Open the bathroom door and use the facilities and what's that clump down there on the floor, right behind the bathroom door?
I’ve seen pubic hair, man
I’ve never liked’em bare, man
I’ve even got my share, man
Beneath my underwear, man
Stickin' out here and there, man
I’ve seen pubic hair.
Nice. We relayed this information to Paul at the front desk as we went to catch our shuttle bus to the casino. We would come back hours later to find the pubic hair gone and replaced with a bottle of wine and two wine glasses. An improvement.
The shuttle was a school bus. I haven't been on a school bus in a long time. The last time I was on a school bus, I fit, both in the seat and in the aisle...
Here we are at Casino Rama, billed as "The Great Indoors". Eva says the only thing Vegas has that this place doesn't is go-go dancers. Dinner was at Cedar--prime rib for me. Delicious...much better than the buffet over at Couchiching Court we had last year. I surprised myself and had a Rickard's Red. Then we hit the casino for a little while.
I'd like to tell you I'm rich now, but of course I'm not. The trick in casinos is to go in with an amount of money you are okay with losing, and once it's gone, so are you. (If I ever triple my money, I'll cash out as well.) I had twenty bucks I briefly turned into forty before I went broke. Still, it was fun.
The Entertainment Centre at Rama holds 5,000 people. We were sitting not too far from where we'd been last year, about a third of the way back, extreme stage left. Close enough to see Engvall without looking at the big screens.
Bill's material had the crowd in stitches. He spent a goodish long time talking about his wife, Gail,going through menopause. "I can't help but notice that word's got two words in it," he said. "Men...and pause. As in, MEN, you want to PAUSE before you say or do ANYTHING around her." Something that had me elbowing Eva:"Our bedroom is like the movie Poltergeist. At some point in the middle of the night, the sheets are going to levitate off the bed. I'M HOT."
He finished up with a couple of his trademark "Here's Your Sign" bits. In case you don't know Engvall at all, he thinks that stupid people should have to carry around signs saying, simply, "I'm stupid." That way, you'd know to expect things like these:
Engvall's related to his wife how his plane hit a deer.
Gail: "wait a minute. Was it on the ground?"
Bill: "Nope! Santa was doing one more run! Here's your sign!"
Bill, looking up at a power line worker whose bucket had become entangled in the power lines:
"Did you get your bucket stuck?"
Power line worker: "Nope! Truck battery died and I'm using the bucket to charge it! Here's your sign!"
(Incidentally, questions like that have always driven me nuts. My favourite from my retail career has to be "where is aisle six?"
"Right between aisles two and three, where else would it be? Here's...")
Funny night. A much needed funny night.
Back to the hotel in time to see the Leafs win the late game in overtime while noshing on red wine and dill pickle chips (don't ask)...and then to sleep on one of the comfier beds I've slept in outside my own home.
The new work schedule meant that we had to be up and out earlier than we would have liked. Add to that the sore throat I woke up with, and one of my favourite hotel experiences, the hotel shower, was almost lost on me this time around. Almost.
Hotel showers, you have to love them. The water pressure in most hotels is apt to knock you though the back wall of the bathtub. It's awesome. But I still stumbled out of it half asleep.
The hot buffet breakfast provided was quite good, if a bit peppery. I would recommend Best Western Plus (pubic hair and all), with the caveat that any hotel around Casino Rama is about seventy five bucks a night over what I'd generally be willing to pay.
I missed the trip home -- sleeping some more, and I feel guilty for that. I am the designated Keeper-Awake-Of-The-Eva, and I was completely unable to stay awake myself. If I'm like that in something moving, you know I'm bushed. My bed doesn't move. I usually can't sleep in anything that does. I'm sure Eva had her comedy cranked. There was probably some Bill Engvall!
Thank you, Eva-love, for a wonderful time. Happy anniversary (again). Keep on laughing. I love you.