Monday, October 31, 2005
So, last night I watched the first half of Breaking Point: The 1995 Referendum. The Referendum is one of those moments in Canadian history that you look back on and say “I was at this location doing bla bla bla when the ‘non’ side won.” There are a few other moments like that for me. When Pierre Trudeau died, when Mike Harris was elected for the second time in Ontario (who says you can’t buy votes?), when Mitsu topped the charts with “Bye Bye Mon Cowboy.”
I remember that night of the referendum and the news leading up to it. I was in my second year at university and the film department was playing Babettte’s Feast as part of a festival about food (the same festival featured Delicatessen – excellent film). To be honest, Babette’s Feast bored me to tears. Or, more accurately, it couldn’t hold my attention and I kept slipping out of the cinema to run up to the Grad student’s pub to see what the latest count was from the referendum. Really, I saw more referendum than movie
I remember leaning against the door jam at the entrance of the pub and noticing the TA from the anthropology class I dropped in my first year, Roy. Roy was a rocker extrodinare and he either had several pairs of skin-tight black jeans or he wore the same pair every day. He also wore a Metallica t-shirt, but that could be a figment of my imagination, because, it completes the look far too perfectly.
I really liked Roy. He was hilarious. Even after I dropped my anthropology course, he’d talk to me in the halls. In my second year when I told him that I enrolled in another anthropology course, “Power and Politics” with Malcolm Blinkow, he raised both fists in the air and roared like a rock star before playing some air guitar. Yeah, Roy was a good time.
On the night of the referendum he was particularly engaged with the reporting on the small TV that teetered over the bar beside the pre-packaged snacks. He griped his pool cue and shouted comments in response to Parizeau, Bouchard, or Charest, whoever was giving a speech. He hopped around the pool table playing a few chords of air guitar here and there flicking his long dark hair around pointing at the TV or his imaginary crowd.
No one in the pub believed the vote was going to be as close as it was. No one except Roy it seemed. He faced every result like the count was following the numbers that he had placed his winning bet on (there was a oui/non betting pool at the pub, but I think the participants were being sickly morbid to bet on the break-up of our country). At a table close to the juke box three or four Poly-Sci students, thinking is was their time to shine, pontificated loudly on what a “oui” or “non” would really mean and how the discursive strategy of each side effected the symbolic imaginings of the nation state bla bla bla. I guess everyone deals with a break-up differently.
Finally, everyone held their breath and the final numbers were in. Not even 51% for the “non” side but that was enough. People cheered, but remained uneasy, more nervous that at the start of the night, actually. Pretending to be blown away Roy leaned back. Then bent over the table ready to take a shot. Before he slid the cue through his left hand he popped his head up and said, “It’s a non victory, but it’s no victory.” He missed his shot and for the rest of the time I spent standing in the doorway there was no air guitar no hoots or hollers.
Ah Roy, where are ya now?