By Heather Lowe
This is the twelfth of many excerpts from Heather Lowe’s novella titled Catharine. It explores her love affair with downtown St. Catharines through a series of shamelessly exaggerated vignettes.
By the time I reached a quarter of a century, I found myself gainfully employed at an artsy little cafe in the downtown core of the Garden City. Day in and day out, I would serve feminist and fair trade coffee, artisan sandwiches named after downtown celebrities and enormously addictive chocolate chip cookies that were, I kid you not, the size of your very head. At that time in my life, I was still very new to this tight knit and seemingly exclusive downtown community and working at the cafe allowed me to meet the real faces of the Garden City: Professors, business owners, authors, rockstars, journalists, thespians, philosophers, mad scientists and many more. I am not at all ashamed to say that after a long day of serving the lunch rush at this charming little cafe I would head home, change my clothing and head right back to enjoy four dollar beers, listen to local music and experience the little cafe at night. After nightfall the cafe seemed to become a cultural hub, a grand collective of emerging beatniks and revolutionaries, and a dream clubhouse for any and all blossoming artists. I always knew in my heart that my time spent in this little cafe would eventually lead me to something significant and maybe even great but I never dreamed that it would allow me to encounter the most important and influential people of my twenties.
The Garden City and particularly the downtown core was home to a hilariously current and relevant theatre company that was cleverly named after a piece of luggage. I had spent many years admiring the original and comedic pieces that this group created and thanks to the charming little cafe, I found myself face to face with several of The Luggage Company members on a daily basis. Soon, before I even realized how it had happened, I was suddenly writing and performing with the very people I had secretly idolized for so long. In a quaint, orange apartment that was morphed into a rehearsal space we worked tirelessly and we played. We sweat our asses off and we laughed our asses off. Suddenly, years of working with the Luggage Company seemed to melt away and I lost track of how much I’d learned from each of them as it seemed to be far too great to keep count.
When the new space was finally completed, The Luggage Company became one of the first local acts to grace its shiny new stage. At first it felt strange and unfamiliar, we had become so traditionally accustomed to performing at the wooden pub that the shiny new space felt like the Palace of Versailles and we felt shamelessly spoiled. Even the dressing rooms felt extra fancy with the cheese plates and light bulb framed mirrors. As I sat in the change room and listened to my fellow company members belt out a ballad at the top of their lungs, I couldn’t help but feel happy, content and appreciative of how The Luggage Company had unknowingly but completely changed my life forever. The very people who I admired years ago had quickly become some of my dearest friends and then eventually became my creative family. As we took the stage at the brand new space, I was absolutely blown away by how much had changed in the Garden City, on the face of the downtown core and in my own life as well. I smiled with the realization that The Luggage Company had been there every step of the journey and for that, I would always be eternally grateful. [S]