Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Soft Goodbye...

This morning I stood alone in an empty warehouse and my heart broke just a little.

We, Sheree and I, started our special events company in 1983. The province was in the midst of a recession in the oil patch. Many people thought we were nuts offering a luxury product at a time when most companies were cutting back. But we didn’t know how to spell “impossible,” and so we forged ahead, leaving our secure jobs as radio reporters to start our little company.

In 1983, when we opened our doors, the Police were on the charts with “Every Breath You Take.” Hardly anyone had even heard of the internet and I knew everything worth knowing because I was 25. Sheree and I envisioned an office building perched on some prime real estate with a statue of a unicorn in the courtyard.

That was thousands – literally thousands – of shows ago. We did murder mystery weekends and ran the first murder mystery clubs in four locations over Alberta. We did game shows and medieval feasts and children’s theater. We were courted by Edmonton’s elite. We did casinos and conventions and corporate events. Hundreds of creative people (actors, writers and set designers) have passed through our lives – sometimes reappearing and sometimes sliding off into the abyss of the world, never to be heard from again.

Show business isn’t all that glamorous. Not when you boil it down its essence of the nuts and bolts of details. The audience sees the show. They don’t see the hours of planning and casting, driving and packing, setting up and taking down. They don’t see the late nights or hear the conversations in the van after the show on a long starlit road trip. They don’t know that a cast of performers is always an outsider and that winning the audience over becomes a dance you do over and over again.

The audience doesn’t know that sometimes casts that go out to event after event become tighter than family – and that other casts break apart like a glass ornament on concrete because there is nothing at all holding them together. The great performer’s secret? The audience holds the ultimate power. They can make the performer’s spirit sing with a standing ovation or break you into a thousand pieces that require hasty re-assembly before the next show.

They don’t know that sometimes, after a grueling Christmas season – or a convention where everything has to be PERFECT, that we go into a state that is way beyond tired and is impossible to define other than to say that our spirits ache and throb with complete emptiness because there is absolutely nothing left to give. The stress does damage that requires a literal healing. I guess you’ll either understand that…or you won’t.

So after all these years, Sheree and I decided to cut back on the scope of what we did at our little company. We shut our office, cleared out our warehouse and re-opened in a much smaller place. We kiss high rent, property taxes, soaring insurance bills and killer utility costs goodbye.

We want to travel more. Photograph more. Spend more time together…because who knows when will be the Last Time with the Precious Other?


As I stood in that empty warehouse, listening to echoes of 15+ frantic Christmas seasons and hearing whispers from the hundreds of people who crossed our paths – I felt my heart break just a little.

Sheree, in typical Sheree fashion, capped our time in our suddenly empty office/warehouse by shooting a stunning image. It seemed fitting somehow that she would end our time here this way, with something creative, sparkly, intelligent and beautiful. (I simply can’t look at it without a lump of an indefinable “something” forming in my throat.) It appears at the top of this blog with her permission. Wonderful, huh?

I just watched her work, very much unable to speak because I had no idea at all what to say. So there I stood with my hands in my pockets, fighting a nasty cold, trying hard to keep out of her way, but wanting so much to be close to her.

“It is just a building,” I tell myself. “It isn’t who you are. It’s just a place where you’ve spent a lot of time.”


It feels a little bit like a death. And, truth be told, a little like a betrayal, although I would be hard pressed to express who or what I have betrayed. It is a building…only a building. The future looks bright and intensely foggy at the same time.

We’re booked for lots of events right now. We have money in the bank. But what does the future hold?

When I thought about how I would visually portray this mish-mash of feelings right now – I thought of an image I took on Coney Island in New York some years ago.

It is one of my favorites – and I took it on the fly. It spoke immediately to my heart and it whispers softly to me now. There is the aspect of walking away; of being alone and not alone at the same time. I love that the man is old – and still wants to go out on the beach by himself to have a look around.

I hope that will be me: always wanting to have a look…always open to seeing something beautiful and hopefully seeing something remarkable.

And that is what I think about, standing in an empty warehouse, with a heart that is breaking just a little.