The brick and cement dark alley and upstairs...I was kinda scared.
This was the first bar I worked at in Edmonton, except I was there in its second iteration as Lush/The Rev Cabaret and I was nowhere near as cool as the people who frequented it or who worked there but somehow I drifted in among the outsiders, geeks and nerds with all my 19-year old awkwardness in tow.
It's hard to believe that I would have been so naive to the absolute debauchery that was going on around me but as I discovered in fragmented stories and conversations over the years, it was as if I kept getting invited to Andy Warhol parties except the guests were far less glamorous and the drugs and sex were somehow dirtier and I didn't notice all the glitter and glam.
I truly viewed this as a job that I came to on time and left when I was done. I didn't participate because I wasn't interested. My life didn't include drugs of any flavour or variety, it certainly did not allow for promiscuous sex and I didn't like the idea of parties where that's all people were doing. I left that place unscathed by 'the industry' and all its vile ways. Although, as I watched over the years, the same people I worked with there never seemed to get out of that life or maybe they never wanted to but I do recall seeing one or two of them in my last months in Edmonton (more than a decade later and coincidentally, one of them was ex-wife of the man from The Vanishing Point) and feeling so thankful for my naivety all those years ago. But maybe it wasn't that at all. I can say with certainty that even if I did know the details or had ever been offered a taste of that lifestyle I would have easily, comfortably said no and went home to bed.
I guess I just thought that more people were like me and totally loved it when the Backstreet Boys came on the radio (it was the late 90s, ok!?!). But I learned one night, driving two co-workers home that I most certainly was on my own on this one. I turned the radio up and started singing. They both giggled and asked who the fuck this was. I remember not feeling embarrassed at all but just understanding that I would simply never fit in to that world. The girl I was driving home that night now works as a cabaret dancer in Berlin and the guy I was driving is some kind of amateur boxer or something.
And it was going back to my own life, outside of the brick walls of The Rev, that I also never quite felt I fit in. The Backstreet Boys were never a band I even liked (I swear have never owned an album but they were pretty fun to sing along to on the radio and sadly (?) they still are) but they were what my world consisted of — all that they represented. I worked in this sort of underground bar where the girls wore torn fishnets and red lips and the men wore chains for belts and bullets for earrings and I, sweet, naive me from North Edmonton, had waist long blonde hair extensions (thank you Rachel and Monica for the inspiration), floral tanks with sequins from the Gap and platform sandals from Aldo.
I was so drawn to this gritty world because I didn't feel like I fit into the world I knew and yet, it turns out, I didn't fit into any world at the time. I wanted to be grittier but didn't know how. I wanted to fit into my world but didn't feel inspired by it or in any way comfortable (hair extensions are about as comfortable as wearing jeans a size too small). It wasn't until a few years later that I found the courage to get gritty when I moved to Calgary to go to ACAD (art college), got some tattoos and a nose piercing, shaved my head (done by the hands of The Bamboo Mat) and wore a calf-length white lace skirt with all kinds of crinoline and only white booty shorts under it to the bars almost every weekend. I suppose my grit came a few years too late for The Rev.
The pendulum has swung far left and far right and perhaps now, after fifteen years far from that dark alley, the pendulum is moving slightly more towards centre. I feel I've found the almost-perfect balance of grit and glam and girl-next-door. Or at least I'm trying.
I didn't mean to share this little story when I found this video. I really just wanted to applaud The Dead Venues Project a testament to the character of Edmonton and its people. It's place where anyone, from any place can come and find a place to fit or at least, a place where they feel like they belong. It's a city driven by community and for all the slack it gets from outsiders and insiders alike (and for it's harsh winters), it is a fucking badass city. You will never know this unless you have a chance to actually live there but let it be known that this town is made of pure gold. It is full of amazing people who want to see Edmonton thrive and succeed, who build community, engage each other on important issues, celebrate together, work together and live together in bloody cold temperatures for more months that seems right.
Edmonton is The Breakfast Club of cities and having lived in a city that is more Saved By The Bell for almost two years, I miss the grit.
It is unlikely I will ever call Edmonton home again but my love for it only grows and grows. I am so excited to see these films the DVP are creating!