My Dinner With Middlebrows

My friend Michael arrived for dinner last week carrying a case of imported beer and a digital video camera. “Hey, Bro’ what’s for dinner – lamb burgers? Artichoke hearts in basil vinaigrette?” he asks, setting the camera on a tripod and looking distractedly around the living room.

“Uh, no. I made a pizza.”

“Perfect, ‘Bro. Rustic Italian job, right? Goat chevre, pancetta? Recipe from Bon Appetit?”

“Pepperoni and mushroom. The Joy of Cooking.”

“Chanterelle? Shiitake?” He’s going through our magazine rack, pulling out old Gap and Restoration Hardware catalogues.

“Money’s. Look, is there something you want to tell me?”

“No, no. Nothing. Why? Hey, do you mind if I sort of videotape this little get together? You know, for posterity.”

“For posterity?”

“Yeah. Well, it’s sort of a class project? You know that course I’m taking at Vancouver Film School?”

“Uh huh.”

“Well, heh, heh, I’m working on this documentary. It’s worth fifty per cent of our final mark, so it’s pretty important, right? Well, it’s sort of a cinema verite thing, you know, a slice of life.”

Somehow, alarm bells are going off in my head. “Documentary. What’s it about? Just us having dinner?”

“Yeah, having dinner, sitting around talking…well, mostly you and Janice talking, I’ll sort of be behind the camera. Heineken?”

“And we’re supposed to talk about…what?”

“You know, what you normally talk about, I guess. Trendy restaurants, the latest big budget foreign film you’ve seen, Life of Pi, Kevin Spacey, the Chagall exhibit at the art gallery, the Canucks.”

Janice is setting out the silverware and watching us carefully. “Chagall. Right. And does this little ‘slice of life’ thing have a particular theme?”

“Hi Jan. Nice dress. Theme? Sort of…it’s really just developing in my mind right now.”

“Does it have a title?”

“Working title, yeah.”

“And that would be?”

He cough’s, mutters something unintelligible.

“What was that, Michael? Something about little cows?”

“Middlebrows. Invasion of the Neo-Liberal Middlebrows.”

“Oh.”

“You, know. The type of person who reads wine reviews and drinks organic chai mocha lattes and buys My Big Fat Greek Wedding on DVD.”

I brighten up. “Hey, wasn’t that a great film?” Janice shoots me a dark look.

“And isn’t that, perhaps, just a little bit condescending, Mike?” she asks. He doesn’t hear, though. He’s caught up in the creative vision now , really warming up to his subject…

“Visits to the opera once a year, ten dollars a month to Amnesty International, kitchen drawers full of over-priced strainers and garlic presses, listens to CBC, cell phone plays the theme from Masterpiece Theatre, always meaning to read Finnegan’s Wake but never getting past the first four pages, watches The Sopranos, eats gourmet potato chips, pretends to like Waiting for Godot…”

“Okay, we get the picture…”

“…film festival members (is that the White Stripes we’re listening to?), quotes Douglas Coupland, drops the phrase ‘post-modernism’…”

“The pizza”, says Janice, in a slightly dangerous voice, “is ready.”

“…coffee table books, Utne Reader, Svend Robinson’s autobiography, homemade hummus, chipotle peppers…”

A couple of hours later I’m walking him out to his truck. “Sorry about the camera, Mike. That Janice, heh, heh, some butterfingers huh?”

“No big deal. It’s insured through the school. If that footage of Jan does turn out, though, do you think she’ll mind me using it. Pretty intense. Sort of like Raging Bull meets Glengarry Glen Ross. I actually hadn’t heard some of those expressions before.”

“Well, maybe we should just not mention it, okay?”

“Yeah, good idea. Hey – you seen that new series about the funeral home?”

“Yeah, brilliant.”

“Absolutely brilliant.”

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