Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

Sep­tem­ber has always been my favourite month of the year, and not only because it is the month of my birth. When I lived in the North­east, it was always the time of lots of blue skies, crisp, cool air, and that spec­tac­u­lar fall foliage. It was always a seri­ous month, deal­ing with the end of things, and per­haps even thoughts of mor­tal­i­ty. My moth­er has always vehe­ment­ly been a Spring per­son, asso­ci­at­ing her birth month with rebirth, new blooms, the end of win­ter, more com­fort­able weath­er (although often not quite yet), and longer days. Nope, not for me. I’ll take a Fall walk in Ver­mont with the smell of wood fires over a mud­dy trek through a gar­den that’s maybe get­ting ready to get going.

These days, I can’t say that I love Sep­tem­ber quite as much. Van­cou­ver doesn’t get those flash­es of col­or in the trees and the air isn’t all that dif­fer­ent, although you do have to start wear­ing a coat again. Instead, what’s in evi­dence is the switch back to the city of the mind from the city of the body. I’ve talked about Vancouver’s year­ly pen­du­lum swing between the hedo­nism of the spring and sum­mer months and intel­lec­tu­al and artis­tic pur­suits of the fall and win­ter months. This is not unique to Van­cou­ver; my par­ents, who spend a lot of time in Paris, talk about ‘la rentrée’ (From the web site

For the French, the year does not begin Jan­u­ary 1st! It begins in Sep­tem­ber and the begin­ning of the year is so unpleas­ant that it ruins the Sum­mer vaca­tions (no won­der the French need so much vaca­tion dur­ing the rest of the year). It is called “la rentrée”, like in schools. Just imag­ine : in Sep­tem­ber, you receive the tax bill, kids start school and it is the peri­od of the year where, tra­di­tion­al­ly, many strikes take place, par­tic­u­lar­ly trans­port strikes (train, metro, etc.). It takes a few months to recov­er, then Christ­mas comes (noth­ing spec­tac­u­lar) then the “sol­des” (sales, more inter­est­ing), then Feb­ru­ary vaca­tion (very appre­ci­at­ed), then East­er vaca­tion and the won­der­ful month of May, with its “bridges”. Then it is time to plan Sum­mer vacation.

I’d say for Van­cou­ver, it’s more like ‘le réveil’ (the reawak­en­ing); a time when you no longer spend the long after­noons that stretch into the evening at the beach or sit­ting in the park (or hik­ing up Grouse). Even though the sum­mer did have some the­atre, includ­ing the suc­cess­ful ‘Bard on the Beach’, there are now sev­er­al fes­ti­vals and con­cert sea­sons that are all set to begin. This past week­end, we made anoth­er short vis­it to the PNE (hard­ly big brain food, but after all, we were just get­ting start­ed). I think I’ll always think of the PNE as a sort of farewell, to sum­mer. After that, The Van­cou­ver Fringe Fes­ti­val, which includes 10 days of enter­tain­ing and some­times chal­leng­ing evenings of the­atre, most­ly on Granville Island stages, starts in 3 days. Just 11 days after that, the 25th Annu­al Van­cou­ver Inter­na­tion­al Film fes­ti­val, includ­ing some 300 shorts and fea­tures from over fifty coun­tries (and a quar­ter of the films this year are non-fic­tion — which I guess means Doc­u­men­taries in most cas­es). At the end of the month, the Van­cou­ver Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra opens their sea­son with Strauss’s Ein Helden­leben. So as you can see, every­thing starts up, and not quite in the way that the French do it.

I’m a big cul­ture vul­ture, so I’m thrilled that this is all hap­pen­ing, and if it is in part because it’s not going to be so nice out and the sun is going to set ear­li­er and ear­li­er, then, so be it. My mind is tired of being on vacation.