BON VIVANT, BAD VIVANT: All Watched Ogre By Machines Of Loving Grace



(Our author surveys the now-closed Bridgewater Cineplex in May 2024. Photo: Julie Boucher)

I pull up to Issie’s, my Prius blasting All Star, thinking about the Stupid Sexy Shrek Rave with Renee and Connor last year – getting out of the way of a chokeslam from a professional wrestler as Shrek throwing Lord Farquaad on a table at Halifax’s Marquee, the pair fighting over three repeat plays of Bad Reputation.

Remembering Lucas’ Shrek Spa Night two years ago – applying the I’m The Real Shrek Clay Mask Pack his friend brought back from South Korea, painting our toenails green.

Two months earlier, Issie and Christina’s Shrek Murder Mystery Party, sweating in my balaclava as Thelonius The Executioner over an evening that proved formative to The Barnacle.

I could go on. This ogre follows me everywhere.

I decide to see the final film to play at the Bridgewater Cineplex on April 29.

When I see it will be a special 20th anniversary screening of Shrek 2, I know it would be impossible for it to be anything else.

At least forty other people have the same idea as us. Shortly after the projector lights up for the last time at the South Shore’s only dedicated movie theatre, I realise this is my first time seeing Shrek 2. What I thought years ago was Shrek 2 was Shrek The Third. Characters in sequels never mention which one they’re in – watch out, you might be in one right now.

Shrek 2 is great. I smile from start to finish, Issie and I laugh out loud. Credits, post-credits scene introducing the dronkeys, credits, lights. Families, friends, couples, people alone leave. Two teenagers near the front in full tuxedos, bowties, sitting like volunteers going down on the Titanic. The kids are alright.

The biggest mistake you can make is not showing love when it’s important. And it’s always important to show love or else the market takes over completely.

If 40 people regularly came to that theatre for 7 p.m. screenings of Shrek 2 on Monday nights, not only would our Cineplex have stayed in business, Cineplex researchers would determine how to make the rest of Canada more like Bridgewater.

It’s a law easy to ignore in the era of the infinitely-changing, digitally reproducible image, which tricks us into believing we are post-scarcity: if you do not align your actions with what you need and care about, you’ll only get what you need or care about by luck.

Then, unfortunately, your efforts matter little if your goal is supporting a publicly-traded company in a weak market for its product. So the big theatre closes. People have less money, less time, more hyperindividualized interests or more interest in hyperlocal community. Empire retreats further.

As Cineplex shuts its Lunenburg County doors, it’s a sign to show up for the local culture and community we value. There are so many interesting, hard-working people around us – let’s celebrate our talents, make our arts scene possible, and collaborate as much as possible.

Shrek is everywhere because millennials favour him as a totem representing our first forbidden apple bite of irony. His pop-culture-skewering fairy tale world introduced deep sarcasm to the traditional stories we grew up with – the start of a specific type of innocence lost to all future generations, preceding our complete submission to the global digital market.

But I feel Shrek fading far, far away. And beyond his swamp, there’s a beautiful world to embrace.

Early April, I sat at the back of Lunenburg’s St. John’s Anglican Church, taking in as much of the awe-inspiring hall as possible to the glorious sound of Handel in an event by Musique Royale.

Two weeks ago, I saw author Daphna Levit in a well-attended talk at Lunenburg Bound for her book Wrestling With Zionism. She shared a story of her time as a Press Liaison officer in the Israel Defense Forces in the 60s. After the talk, I crossed Montague to Elizabeth’s Books to say hi to Chris and review May’s Picks. We talked about the book event and he told me about what it was like in Djibouti during the Six-Day War.

Two days later, I attended a learn and work party with with Ne’ata’q, The Food Forest at Bluenose Academy. I lifted hay bales and learned about composting alongside local folks of all ages. The impressive progress the Ne’ata’q team have made with their regenerative space over the last year – where once was unused grass, now the community can access free herbs – shows how much you can accomplish in a short period of time with teamwork, a vision and sincere effort.

The week after, I was in conversation with Alex Pugsley and an engaged audience at Block Shop Books for his new funny, nostalgic novel of punk Canadiana, The Education of Aubrey McKee.

That Saturday, I improvised with familiar, energetic locals in Mahone Bay’s Trinity United Church, auditioning with the South Shore Players. That night, I saw poets Michael Goodfellow, Natalie Rice and Colleen Coco Collins back at Lunenburg Bound, Collins’ ouroboric wordplay staying with me like not much else.

In all these situations, I meet people who humble me with their talent, motivate my curiosity with their experiences, and inspire me to do my best to build up our community together.

We almost never have the means or energy to show up the way we want, but we have to do what we can. You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s ogre.


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