fox in your box
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    hot holiday mess

    photo by joanna staniszewski. vancouver, 2010.It is only the second week of December and I have already had to file a temporary restraining order against red wine. For the next twenty-fours, no box, bottle or magnum of vino rosso is allowed within sipping distance of my mouth. Hence why I need to stop at 33 Acres to pick up beer on the way home.

    This last week at the restaurant has been one never-ending Christmas party. Every night begins the exact same with champagne flutes and Christmas carols and ends with broken shot glasses and Justin Bieber. By midnight, the only glimpse of civilization that can be gleaned from the dining room floor is the sight of me at the back server station, rolling my eyes and drinking a cappuccino.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I am certainly no stranger when it comes to being the drunkest girl at the party. The last holiday jam I attended, I put back two bottles of Pinot Grigio right out of the gate and woke up the next morning lying naked beside a straight man. Meryl Streep forbid, I should ever bring home a man interested in the same sex. That would be much too complicated.

    For the first string of holiday parties, I was honestly maintaining a steady foothold on Santa’s “Nice” list. Like a good boy, I was coming home right after work, putting my tips in a jar, and capping myself at two glasses of wine with Lisa LaFlamme and the team at CTV National News. I was even making it to the gym first thing each morning which is pretty much unheard of in serving life. However, after service ended last Sunday night, Fox got naughty.

    Breaking my lifetime ban from gin, I sat down after work for a negroni, which I then proceeded to follow-up with approximately two litres of red wine upon returning home. I would describe the first 750mls of vino as “holiday cheer,” but every ounce after that was a new chapter from Misery. I admit it was all my fault. I should have kept the channel tuned to Fallon but instead I made the gigantic mistake of watching Love Actually.

    I have no idea why I insist on doing this to myself each year! Every time I begin the film I feel as confident and handsome as Hugh Grant ripping up the dining room floor at 10 Downing. However, as soon as Walking Dead guy runs away from Kiera Knightley while Dido plays in the background, I have passed the point of no return. By the time, Emma Thompson realizes she has been foiled by Professor Snape and presses play on Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now,” I am rolling around the floor in hysterics.

    There is nothing like a holiday film that can truly make a single, childless gay man feel all alone in this life. Once the final credits rolled, it was quarter passed three in the morning and I was determined not to go to bed alone. Stumbling into my bedroom, I dusted off ye old iPad, and pressed open on an app I hadn’t visited in months: Grindr.    

    “Don’t do it Fox!” I reasoned with myself as each face began to load and shuffle around like playing cards. “Nothing good will come from this!”

    In ten seconds, I received my very first message. Could this be my husband? I teased myself with possibility. Crafting my own Christmas story I could see the illustrations and words unfolding on imaginary pages before me. “Two lonely souls joined in the middle of the night,” the words scrawl over the painted image of a gentleman caller knocking on the door of a basement apartment to find a Rugged Fox waiting inside.

    Clicking open the message to see what my future had in store, I screamed when a photo of an erect penis popped up wrapped around with a mistletoe! Underneath the image, two words instructed: kiss me.

    “Ugh!” I gasped, trying to regain some sense of sensibility. Dramatically, I placed the iPad gently back down on my bedroom floor and returned to the living room to reclaim my glass of wine.

    Less than a minute later, I found myself down on my knees but not as you would expect.

    Kneeling in front of my roommate’s Superstore Christmas tree, I watched the lights blend together and began to slur, “Dear Santa. I know it has been seventeen years since we last talked, but I have something to ask you for. This year, I would like to meet a man who leads with “hello” and “how are you?” instead of “sup?” and “dude I’m horny.” I promise that with the exception of tonight and early tomorrow morning, I will be less ‘hot holiday mess’ and more ‘put-together bachelor.’ All I want for Christmas is…”  

    Six hours later I woke up on the living room floor to the slobbery tongue of my roommate’s dog making love to my dehyrdated face. Rubbing my temples, I got up to make a cup of coffee and whispered under my breath, “I can’t wait till this season is over.”

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    the man in the wooden bow tie

    playwright dave mackenzie deveau with rugged fox at zee zee theatre fundraiser. photo by pauline o'malley.

    I have a story to tell you that involves $5 red wine and a room filled with power gays; but first I must confide to you that after months of searching, I have settled on a coffee shop. Designated by myself, I have officially become the writer-in-residence at Café Artigiano on the corner of Main Street and King Ed. Any day I am not hungover, you can find me here, sipping on dark roast and seated next to the first available outlet.

    As I have always said, "home is where the coffee shop is." It has not been since my fellowship at the Starbucks on the corner of River and Osborne in Winnipeg that I have felt this connected to Vancouver. Who would have thought it would take me six years, four postal codes and one major wardrobe change before I felt like I was finally at home?

    Out of all the obstacles this city has presented me with - managing to feel settled has no doubt been one of the most difficult. Now please knock on wood so i don't set off an earthquake with this post.

    Now on to the story about the cheap red wine and attractive gays.

    Two weeks ago, I received a delightful Facebook message from the Patron Saint of the West End inviting me to a fundraiser for a local queer theatre company, Zee Zee. Saint West (for short) is the club owner of two of the hottest gay bars in town: 1181 and XY. As if strobe lights were not enough, she also plays host and sponsor to a number of VIP community events including fundraisers, improv nights, talent shows and just this past summer, my 30th birthday party.

    After begging Hot Ryan at the restaurant to cover my shift, I happily RSVP’d and purchased my ticket to the event.

    Fast-forward to 6:30pm last Wednesday and you will find me at home in a pair of Joe Fresh sweatpants and a Winnipeg Jets t-shirt. Standing in front of my closet with a tuna sandwich on multigrain and a glass of red wine, I debated which outfit I was going to wear to the event. 

    No problem Rugged, I thought to myself, now that you are a new man who has exchanged surface values for deeper principles, you will simply wear your plaid shirt and blue jeans and trust that people will see the real you.

    Finishing the last bite of crust, I changed into the same outfit I wore at the restaurant the previous night. Doing up the top button, I noticed a tomato stain on my right sleeve (some things never change) and suddenly remembered that I had RSVP'd to a first class fundraiser and not trivia night on Main Street.

    As CBC radio played in my bedroom, I glanced at my alarm clock and noticed that I was running short on time. Sifting through all of my dress shirts, vests and blazers, I pulled out my go-to outfit for A-List events in the city: a black collar shirt with black, dress pants, shoes, socks and a belt. Rugged! My neurons fired, you are not working the event, you are a guest at it!  

    After three additional outfit changes that ranged in temperature from butch lumberjack to flaming queen, I finally decided on a semi-formal ensemble that simmered on a medium heat. 

    At 7:42PM, I arrived fashionably late for the main event. Unzipping my jacket, I revealed a pistaschio dress-shirt that popped out from underneath a forest green sweater. Pulling the two layers together was a wooden bowtie that I purchased from a local designer. La pièce de résistance suggested that not only was I dressed-up strong and silent like a tree but also that I like wood. From beneath my belt a pair of dark denim blue jeans casually cascaded into brown leather boots. 

    Strutting down the hall and into the main room, I visually checked off a guest list that was signed by the city's most attractive people under the rainbow. Ready to get set and network, I placed one foot in front of the other, but then -! without warning -! I was struck by a tidal wave of anxiety! Frozen at the starting gate, I inhaled one deep breath, slowly turned around and sought refuge in the gender-neutral washroom.  

    Locked inside the centre stall, I cursed myself for forgetting one major weakness that I learned years ago when I first started managing the Meatball Hut: I am terrible at networking! Blast! When it comes to social events like this calibre, I only feel comfortable when I am walking around with a tray of canapes in my left hand and stack of cocktail napkins in my right. When I am left on my own accord, I typically enter a revolving line-up to the bar that ends with me drunk and talking to a flower-pot outside. 

    Rugged, I reasoned with myself from inside the stall. It is ten to eight, which means it is time to get your shit together. Now unless you are going to toe-tap your way out of here, you are going to have to find another way out. Here is the game plan. First, you think of every mantra from every sports film you have ever seen. Second, you put yourself in front of that mirror on the other side of this door and recite the heck out of them. For the final play, you get your ginger ass back out there and crush it! 

    Opening up the door, I caught glimpse of my reflection in the mirror and started to whisper, "I see pride. I see power." Crescendoing into a double fortissimo I belted, "I SEE A BAD-ASS MOTHER WHO DON'T TAKE NO CRAP OFF ANYBODY."

    Bouncing up and down, I came to a full-stop when another man walked in the door and then slipped out casually behind him. From there, I made a b-line for the bar.

    Three glasses of $5 red wine and one temporary ban from all cell phone privileges later, I was finally ready to interact with another human being. By the grace of Meryl Streep I did not have to look far because as soon as I stood up, a lady appeared with shoulder length blonde hair and a 5-gallon black top hat.

    “Do I know you?” she asked, extending her free hand to shake.

    “No, I don’t think so,” I replied, clearing my throat.

    “You remind me of a movie star.” She continued, taking a sip of white wine.

    “You must be able to see in the future then," I grinned. "My name is Rugged, Rugged Fox.”

    In the next half-hour, this wonderful angel in a top hat introduced me to all the major players at the fundraiser. First I met the owners of the Elbow Room Café, a restaurant insitutiton in downtown Vancouver and the inspiration behind one the theatre company's upcoming plays. Next, I was swept into an introduction with the company's charasmatic artistic director as well as his husband, a distinguished playwright. Following that, I proceeded to meet a whole cast of well-dressed characters who shared an interest in theatre and a passion for supporting local art.

    "I don't know how to thank you," I said to the magical lady in the top hat. She had saved me from drowning in a plastic cup of red wine.

    "Just pay it forward," she said, tipping her hat and disappearing into the crowd.

    When the night ended, I stepped outside on to West 8th avenue and hailed a cab with a happy buzz and three business cards in my right jean pocket. Seeing my breath plume into the frosty air, I started singing the words, "Nuff people say, you know they can't believe, Jamaica we have a bobsled team."




    @1181Lounge - Vancouver's Top Boutique Lounge. 1181 Davie Street.
    @XYYVR -  Jaw-Dropping Nightclub in heart of Davie Village. 1216 Bute Street.


    @getyourbo - BÖ by Mansouri - Local designer, exquisite wooden bow ties.


    @zeezeetheatre - Check out the upcoming works at the 2016 Push Festival in January.