When I was a teenager, my high school band went on an “Open House Canada” exchange with a high school band in Fort McMurray, Alberta. One of the events scheduled for our visit to Alberta was a special high school dance.
At that dance I had the unfortunate, unprovoked opportunity of being thrown up against a set of lockers by a raging drunken Albertan student against a pulsing backdrop of Duran Duran, Toto and Culture Club.
I wasn’t hurt, but the shock and shame of being the weakling aggressee, combined with the ignominy of having my only dance of the night being with the the elderly french horn playing math teacher cum chaperon, left me with ill feelings about anything remotely related to alcohol. A feeling that remains, at least somewhere in the background, to this day.
I didn’t take a drink myself for the first time for another eight years. I still get nervous in crowded bars and parties.
Which explains, at least in part, why New Years Levees are such a delight for me: it’s drinking, but with rules.
Enter, hand calling card, shake hands, have a drink and a sandwich or a brownie, have a chat, on to the next stop, repeat. For an alcophobe, and a shy one at that, the structure of the levee is paradise: you get to drink, you get to socialize, but the fact that the aides-de-camp are standing ready eliminates the possibility of anything but polite discourse.
This year, like last year, I was accompanied by G, J, and P. This year I also had the pleasure of exposing Catherine, my parents, and Johnny and Jodi to the leveeosphere. I think we all had a good time.
Random notes about our journey this year:
- Andrew Sprague was nowhere to be seen. Rumour was that he was at home with the flu. Best wishes for a speedy recovery, Andrew.
- The Premier’s levee had the best food: everything from bacon-wrapped scallops to chocolate chip brownies. And, odd for a public event, very, very good tea.
- HMCS Queen Charlotte, which was a new stop for us this year, is really quite beautiful inside, a fact not belied by its somewhat austere exterior. They seem quite insistent on maintaining the conceit that the building is a ship: the washrooms are labeled “heads.”
- The Bishop was looking resplendent in his fuschia robes. There was general concensus among the family that his levee should be awarded “best overall.”
- If you show up 30 minutes early for the Premier’s levee, you don’t have to wait in line for two hours. You still have to wait in line, just not for two hours.
- The Masons might be opening themselves up to public view, but if they want to be fully embraced, they’re going to have to do something about the creepy chamber hall: it’s power-packed with really, really disturbing vibes. They did serve very tasty punch, however.
- The band at the Queen Charlotte Armories is absolutely crackerjack. And if you ever get the opportunity, you should check out the Regimental Museum in the back.
- Reminder to J for next year: wear better shoes.
We’ll be back next year. In the meantime, if I look a little skittish when you hand me a Tom Collins, you’ll know why. If I look really bad, just shake my hand and wish me a Happy New Year and I’ll snap out of it.