Monday, May 17, 2010

Explorations of Intensity

This has been, without a doubt, one of the most intense 24 hours of my entire life up to this point. I barely know where to begin—perhaps because I am barely coherent right now. No doubt a contributing factor is that I think I’m still a little drunk at 10:30 in the morning (sorry, Mom).
But that’s more about how my night ended, so already, I’m ahead of myself.
Yesterday, the first day I woke up in Vienna, began early. We began to stir around 5am, despite the fact that, at least two of us had only around 5 hours of sleep (as previously mentioned in my last entry). After breakfast, we set off on our first Viennese adventure with one goal: get lost in the city, and what better goal could we have had?
We hopped on a subway, our method for choosing which one went something like this:
Ian (far left): Which one should we take?
(shrugs all around)
Me: The sign for that line is purple. I like purple.
Off we went, picking a station at random to get off at. And we struck gold. When we ventured up from the underground, the first thing we saw was an enormous enclosed wooden ferris wheel, which we promptly headed for.
We discovered that this was part of an amusement park—mostly closed because it was quite early on a chilly, rainy Sunday morning—which we explored like little children without adult supervision. We went on the ferris wheel, and it was extremely worth the 7.50€ student rate for the amazing view of the city. We then located a kids playground, which was actually quite cool.
We had to meet the full group at noon, so we returned to the pensione, taking a slightly different route, and a detour through Rathaus station, just to have a photo op with the train station sign (it’s probably not even pronounced this way, but we thought it was entertaining that it looked like rat-house).
The full group of us headed off to our first theatre experience of the trip, which took us to MuseumsQuartier, an enormous district of museums and theatres. We were at MQ to see Lipsynch, written by Canadian playwright Robert Lepage.
There is no way to prepare for the intensity of this experience. It is, no lie, 8 hours long, taking place in at least five languages, with an ensemble cast of characters who are all connected in different, striking ways.
The longest plays I can remember seeing were perhaps just over 3 hours, because, honestly, not only should most actors have trouble remembering more material than that, but most audiences aren’t willing to invest more than that. But I have to say that, while it was a significant investment—one I probably wouldn’t have risked without the impetus this course provided—it paid off. Sure, there were moments, like the portion right before the final intermission, which was mainly in French (with German subtitles on screens around the stage), where I flagged, and nearly passed out because I was running on such little sleep. Even under the best circumstances, it’s remarkably hard to pay attention to rapid-fire foreign language you can only hope to catch every fifth word of, subtitled with a language that is completely alien to you.
But there were more moments where I laughed aloud, or viscerally shivered with the weight of a realization, and it was also extremely rewarding to know that I can understand more French, Spanish, Italian and even German than I realized, enough that I followed a play that was, perhaps, one fourth English, without much help. It was also amazing to see such an extreme piece of theatre, because I can’t imagine what could be more extreme than this piece. It was certainly like being thrown into the deep end without knowing how to swim, but I didn’t drown, and that’s amazing to consider.
Of course, that was only the beginning.
When Lypsynch let out, after the triumph of something like eight standing ovations (I’m quite serious, the crowd would not stop clapping and shouting for the actors to return to the stage. I doubt I’ll ever see anything like it again), we stopped at the pensione, then headed out with a similar goal to the morning’s explorations: lose ourselves in the city.
Mom and/or Dad and/or anyone who has any kind of respect for me, you can (in fact, I beg of you) stop reading here, and just know that we met and exceeded our goals, and enjoyed ourselves immensely, and absolutely nobody died or ended up in hospital.

If you’re still reading (which I sort of wish you wouldn’t, but I want this experience recorded and I’m still compulsively honest), then I suppose you’re determined? Just don’t say I didn’t warn you. You are warned.
We hopped a train, and wandered one of the apparent club districts, first finding an “American bar” the size of a shoebox, packed shoulder to shoulder, so tight we decided we couldn’t stay, then an Australian bar which we closed down after two rounds. There, we met a group of young Brit boys, and got a recommendation for another bar. We set off, promising to meet the Brits at the other bar, but we came upon two open bars across the street from one another—one, probably the one recommended to us, which only had a few people in it, and the other, a loud, crowded brewhouse called 1516, where a huge table of Irish guys celebrated a birthday by sitting on the bar and singing...something.
We sat at a table, the four of us getting into tipsy territory, before we talked Ian into inviting a cute boy alone at the bar over to our table. As luck would have it, he spoke English, and when Ian told him there was a table with three women who all wanted him to join us, he did.
And we drank. And caroused. And flirted. And bantered. And drank. And drank. And drank.
Most people who know me, know that I don’t drink beer. I find it quite disgusting, and I’m a Canadian, for god’s sake. But after a few Radlers (basically half beer, half lemonade)—which went quickly from drinkable, but not my favourite thing, to easier to drink than water—my glass started getting refilled with beer, and I neither complained, nor even noticed, really.
Our new table mate turned out to be Frank, from Holland, but living in Vienna for several months now. We talked about Canada and Europe (and I’m sure than more than once I exclaimed that I’m moving to Europe because, while I love Canada, I don’t want to live there anymore), and a bunch of topics, most of which I don’t remember at all now. There was much double entendre, and a bit of exploration on the apparently Canadian fascination with “breaking the seal,” something I can’t say I’ve ever understood as a subject for jeering about.
Eventually we were also joined by Salim from Algeria, also living in Vienna, who joined us at that time of night when conversations turn to philosophical non-sequiturs, which always seem really profound at the time, but in my opinion, rarely remain that way by morning.
By this point, there’s no delicate way to say it (or rather, there is, but I’m not interested in them), we were positively sloshed. There was a round of “water” courtesy of Frank, which looked an awful lot like vodka shots, and amped up my level of intoxication from probably a mild ‘drunk’ to ‘pretty wasted.’ We were into slurring, tipping off our stools, giggling like sugar-filled children territory by then, well after last call with a full pitcher still on the table. I have never, ever drank so much in my entire life.
When we finally neared the bottom of the pitcher, by about 4:30 in the morning, we decided it was probably time to call it a night, so after a pitstop where one of our comrades may have gotten rid of some of his alcohol content in the time-honoured ceremony of porcelain worship, we began the walk home. Yes, we tried to walk home after 4am in a brand new city. No, we did not know where we were going. Yes, we did get lost almost immediately.
Eventually, when we realized the futility of our wandering, we found a cab to pour us back to the pensione. It was after 5am by then, 24 hours since we woke up, and the four of us piled into our room, despite the fact that one of us was technically stationed elsewhere, and (I’m editing slightly because it’s the fair thing to do) promptly went to sleep.
Did I mention we had a 9am breakfast meeting to discuss the play?
And I’m proud to say, we made it, because we’re troopers like that (and we didn’t have much choice in the matter). So, in about (it’s hard to say because of the time shift between continents) 4 days, I’ve had 14 hours of sleep. I’m going for a nap now because I am crashing hard. I’ll be back soon with more.
I promised you stories. How’d I do?

"We were born to sin/We were born to sin!/We don't think we're special, sir/We know everybody is/We built too many walls/Yeah, we built too many walls!/And now we gotta run/A giant fist is out to crush us"
-"A Pillar of Salt" by The Thermals

1 comment:

  1. Well, I'd say you're doing well on the stories front. Can't wait to hear the rest.


    PS. I think it's great that your approach is to just explore by getting lost in the city. So jealous!