In 2017 I saw Roger Waters live for the first time and vowed to not miss another show if he came around again. Typically I prefer the intimacy of a small venue, but there are performers and stages that are meant for big crowds, the genius behind Pink Floyd is one of those. It was the best live show I had ever seen, and not just because the stage and lights were phenomenal. Back in 1979, when I was just seven, The Wall initiated me into the art of sound. Beyond the lyrics, each song pulled me along complex threads of emotion and roused something familiar inside of me.
Once or twice a year, my family would pile into our wood panelled 1978 Chrysler LeBaron station wagon and drive eight hours along the 401 to visit the grandparents. Because I was the youngest and smallest of three kids, I got put in the back with the luggage, where I could spread out and be alone. The only rule was that I must not cover the speaker. This is how The Wall got into me: uninterrupted, from start to finish somewhere along the stretch of highway between the east and southwest of Ontario. Unaccompanied, I was seduced into the theatrics of fever dreams, rock star insecurity, self-deprecation, overdose, grief and hope. I grew alongside the albums of Pink Floyd, transported by the sound of paddles through water, the thumping of a heart, the plucking of acoustic strings—quite possibly my favourite vibration—I resonated deeply with the undercurrent of whatever this meloncholy was attempting to right.
The show was scheduled for the summer of 2020. When I selected my seats nearly a year earlier, none of us knew what was heading our way. I hadn’t yet thought of who might accompany me, but it didn’t matter, I wasn’t missing this show. I passed the time writhing around in the messiness of my emotional existence—see any post written between March 2020 and July 2022 for a tiny sample of that. The short story is that I outgrew my old self, which was spectacularly painful and breathtakingly rich. After a couple of sleepy corona-style attempts at changing the scenery of my day-to-day through road trips and restaurants, I made the decision to spend the night alone with Roger (and about twenty thousand other fans.)
This would be my first trip to Montréal since I had lived there fourteen years earlier. I took the train and stayed in an Airbnb close to my old neighbourhood. I packed a small bag of my best styles, remembering how much cooler Montréal fashion is than me. Spontaneously on my first eve in the city, I met up with an acquaintance from 17 years (and another city) prior. As great connections do, we picked up as if we had just seen one another last week. The next morning I had coffee at one of my old haunts with a blogger I have recently been enjoying. She and I practiced yoga in the same room some time ago—I have to credit social media for giving me these moments. I knocked on the door of some old friends but they weren’t home. I luxuriated in my boredom for a bit— glad I didn’t pre-plan any of my encounters, or misses…
I turn fifty this year. The date belonged to my mother first—maybe that’s the root of my life-long struggle with the 12th of August. More than a decade ago as our relationship was fixing to end, I did not hear from my mother on our birthday. I agonized over what I could possibly have done wrong. When her call finally came and I worked up the courage to ask, she claimed to have simply forgotten. There is no argument that will have me believe that this was not a deliberate move to hurt me. I digress, but the point is that my birthday has always been wrapped up in an unpalatably sweet package of person-pleasing, and rejection. Over the years I have tried to communicate my birthday needs but the truth is, I didn’t know what I needed. I would arrange plans for myself with the hope of mitigating the inevitable feeling of blah. There have been some great celebrations, thanks to my soul-friends, but this year is different (see all of the aforementioned angsty pandemic posts). My birthday is the day I feel the most unloved. Does anyone else feel this? I realize now, after half-a-fucking-century of birthdays, no one can fill this emptiness other than me. The concert is one month before my day, but whatever. It starts here…
I reserve a single bar stool at a nice place not far from where I’m staying. After changing my clothes a couple of times (I haven’t much to choose from), I decide on a black LOVE t-shirt (spelled out in a square), my camo green slim fit tapered cargo pants, large silver hoop earrings and my well loved Roots leather fanny pack, worn diagonally across my chest. Satisfied with my look, I slip on the ballerina Camper shoes I bought the day before. I walk an extra two blocks because I’m embarrassed to show up right on time for my reso, which is exactly the time the place opens. When I arrive, I’m the only non-staff to be seen (probably didn’t need that reservation).
Before greeting me, the bartender huddles up with the wait staff to review the specials. He pours me a Pino Noir that has been chilled to precisely the right temperature. I remark on this, silently pleased that I have landed here as opposed to one of the other dozens of places on this block. I begin with the crudo of the day. It’s salmon that has been lightly torched and served on a green purée with salsa made from Swiss chard stems. The garnish is the finest sliced radish with tiny acorn-like nuts and edible flowers. The whole thing is blowing my mind. I order a second glass of wine, a plate of calamari and a bowl of salad greens. The bartender is attentive but he’s giving me space. I comment on the work of art he has made of a bloody caesar, and we strike up a conversation. I tell him that I’m celebrating (early) my 50th with this dinner and a ticket to Roger Waters later. Does he know who that is? He’s not a genXer, but he’s proud to say he does. At this he pours two shots of liquor. The caesar gets delivered across the restaurant as he pushes one shot towards me, taking the other to his lips. His french accent has me leaning in a little closer, “You are going to make a beautiful fifty years old woman.” And we drink.
I’m enjoying myself just the right amount. As I gather my bill and prepare to head off on the second leg of this eve, I make a decision that feels right for the moment. His fedora, tattoos, rings, and facial hair are small clues to an artistic foundation that becomes more obvious when he’s caught concentrating on the meticulous preparation of a caesar; he’s going to appreciate Roger Waters live. I transfer my second ticket to his phone while a colleague pours three shots, not knowing whether the dinner rush will set him free in time, we clink glasses and drink.
The show does not disappoint. The stage is a massive 360 degree experience of this rock star’s journey, to the backdrop of sound and written excerpts of an old band’s history—visuals that hold us captive as they scroll across the screens. The music is gripping the seven-year-old in the back of the station wagon, and I feel so grounded in sound. Just past the halfway mark, the two men beside me shuffle about to make space for the bartender who’s inching toward me with a cup of beer in each hand. In the pause between Brain Damage and Eclipse he turns to me with a great big grin and says, “I’ve got chills.”
The show closes with the song that ended the album I became acquainted with 43 years earlier. Roger’s last words are together we stand, divided we fall. There’s no encore. I feel both comforted and mournful as we head for the door.
As I veer toward the restroom, the bartender suggests we continue on for drinks. I don’t spot him right away as I emerge, giving him time to see me fully as I falter in a moment of vulnerability, knowing I’m being watched while self-consciously searching the crowd. Rescuing me with a smile he says, “I like your style, by the way.”
The night goes on like this, platonic but sexy.
We visit two different bars and through the volume our conversations are mutually interesting and interested. More than anything, I am enjoying the reciprocity of our exchange and it’s completely organic. By the time the Uber drops me at my Airbnb, it’s well past 5am.
I sleep most of the way home on the train, snoring myself awake at least once. Floyd the cat greets me at the door, yelping as though he hasn’t seen me in a month. Later that eve he pees in the tub, just to be sure I know how he really feels about my out-of-town escapade.