It’s a long way from Toronto to St. John’s.
Especially if you go to Ottawa and Halifax first. I have both seats to myself the entire flight and spend most of the trip playing chess with my computer. I didn’t have the foresight to bring a movie or a magazine… Flying Porter was a decision that certainly rewarded my bank account, but failed to provide me with any assistance filling the 6 hour flight with the means to relieve my nervous energy. I haven’t played chess in a long time. I am made aware of this by my worthy opponent. I lose every game, but get better each time. I’ve always believed that you perform best against the strongest competition.
A big flight of stairs lead you down to the waiting area at St. John’s International Airport and right at the bottom, as he usually is when I walk down those stairs, is my great friend Jason. We march outside into the strangely warm winter wind.
Straight to The Duke for a pint and impromptu reunions with friends that are speckled in corners around the pub. It’s not unlike my little neighbourhood in Toronto… you know you’ll always find a friendly and familiar face. I think maybe that’s why I like my little neighbourhood in Toronto so much. I feel like it has the same reunion ratio as downtown St. John’s does. Maybe it helps that it’s crawling with Newfoundlanders.
And onwards to the Gut.
Jason has a beautiful little house right on the road in a little village called Quidi Vidi, specifically a part of Quidi Vidi Village known as ‘The Gut”. His house is warm and bright, filled with local art and soft, homemade blankets. Jason bought the house a few years ago and renovated it entirely with his father. The house is a labor of love. And Jason is the kindest person I know. We eat moose stew and go to bed. We stretch out under the weight of the layers of knit blankets and recount the time he pushed me out of the twin bed we were forced to share one night when we worked at the theatre festival.
Long story short, a fiasco involving cat piss and wall to wall carpeting rendered some fellow actors homeless for a night or two, which forced us into my twin bed to give them lodging. That is the simplest explanation possible.
Jason was dreaming he was pushing against a wall. And push he did. I flew out of bed, catching some air, and my eyes opened before my jaw hit the floor. He felt terrible and was too afraid to tell me about the dream until a while later. He pretended he didn’t know what happened. I couldn’t hold it against him, he is too kind to hurt a fly, but I think I fully forgave him later that summer when he forced me to stop plucking my eyebrows so thin. I have mentioned this before. It was one of the best gifts anyone ever gave me. A sign of a true blue friend.
The next day is Jasons Favourite Day of the Year. The Annual Quidi Vidi Village Christmas Tree Lighting, followed by Jasons Annual Christmas Party. Friends begin to congregate at Jasons and by 7 o’clock, we are bundled up and galloping down the hill to the Tree Lighting. We sing Christmas Carols from a huge book filled with many songs for many a Newfoundland Celebration. We stick exclusively to Christmas ones. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Frosty the Snowman. We Wish you a Merry Christmas.
Small huddles of friends and neighbours jumping up and down to heat the cold, singing… no, screaming the songs and kids and dogs running in circles until the countdown. 10, 9, 8… sips of wine and cameras out. 2,1.
Laughter. 10, 9, 8, 7…
A spirited kitchen party follows. So many old and new friends. Laughs and dancing and a styrofoam snowball fight. Babies and grannies and puppies. Moose stew and white rum punch. Nobody throws a party like Jason. Nobody knows how to make every moment special like Jason.
Set the night on fire.