is a very funny thing.
Last night, I was one of sic graduate students who got the opportunity to go to the WordFeast fudnraising gala at the Palliser. WordFest, a huge literary festival going on in Calgary and Banff this week, had set up this night so that corporate folks could fork over some ridiculous sum to sit at a table with a pair of the writers performing over the weekend, eat some crazy good dinner, and generally hobnob. One very, very kind investment broker decided to donate a whole table to the graduate students at the English department. It was magical.
When Assist, Weaver, K-Foil and I arrived at the Palliser (one of those hotels where the valets wear tophats), we strolled up to the information desk with a great deal of ablomb and confidence (I thought), and asked about the gala. We were eyeballed suspiciously, then suddenly the fellow's face cleared and he said: "Ah, you must be the stuidents to fill the donated table. Right up the elevator, penthouse."
Well, that dashed my notions of my air of sophistication. Ah well. Canoe Lady showed up shortly after we did. We got to meet our kind benefactor, the Arts Director from the Banff Centre, and I got to sip some gin and tonic.
Dinner was amazing. Assist thought the soup was spicy. The beef I had was tender beyond explanation, and the little baby desserts from the buffet...wow. Perhaps five was a little much, but they were bite-sized. And contained vanilla bean.
Melanie Little and Susan Duby were the writers at our table, who were lovely and gregarious, and we all seemed to get on famously. Melanie is the markin-Flanagan Writer-in-Residence in out department this year, and it was great to chat with her for a good chunk of the night. I think she was an excellent choice for the positions and seems like a heck of a lot of fun.
Just as we were finsihing dessert, our benefactor returned; apparently he'd heard some of us at the tabel were poets, and so he had a poet at his table he wanted to introduce to us: Dionne Brand. Assist blurted out "Oh, my God!", giving the rest of the table a moment to recovere from our overjoyed stupefaction and introduce ourselves wth some modicum of restraint, then mock Assist for the favour later. She sat at our table for the rest of the dinner, then joined us at this unbelieveably swank resto-bar called Belvedere afterwards. She is wonderful, and talks about books so tenderly, and was immediately open and giving.
It was a lovely experience. There is no way I would have been able to afford it on my own; which is funny, because it wasn't really the place or the food that was truly valuable, but the conversation and the company. I think our sponsor knew that. I think that makes me even more grateful.