by Jarrett Rusnak
TORONTO – When Serendipity comes knocking, you simply must follow it. No questions. No hesitations. It just doesn’t come around that often, and there’s no knowing when it’ll be back.
One thing’s for certain however – it’ll always lead you down a good path.
“I think the best way for us to know for certain if we can work together, is to maybe create some kind of short project together.”
Kunle spoke those words to me shortly after we finished off the business portion of our meeting. We’re both filmmakers. He was keenly interested in the the 3D technique I’d been on about in my work. We met randomly, five days previous at Pride.
Two million people (or two Saskatchewans) crammed into a 10 square block area of Toronto’s downtown, all of them colourful, all of them celebrating equality, sexuality, and freedom of expression – a movement borne out of oppression to emerge as a social triumph unheard of even 20 years ago.
I was there with my friend Maggie gawking at chicks.
After wandering aimlessly through the mass of humanity for a few hours, we went looking for a quiet place to sit and people watch. It was there on the stairs of 519 Church Street that she recognized Kunle from some friends they have in common.
Among the many flamboyant costumes we saw that day, Kunle’s ranked up there. Lace pantyhose and a top made from a single blue rope, bound and knotted in such a way that it formed a web over his bare skin.
I couldn’t help but look at the many elegant knots and think about my couch sitting out on my deck under a tarp, waiting to be hoisted up to my balcony.
So there we all were, in that cornucopia of vibrant humanity, talking shop – 3D techniques, film financing, industry politics, etc. Surreal conversation given the surroundings. We could have had that very same conversation in a boardroom, or an elevator, or a coffee shop – anywhere but Pride.
Five days later, I made a point of following up on that conversation. I was sitting in a boardroom in his office. Just finished showing him my demo reel, as well as other examples of my work. These types of meetings usually only take 20 minutes or so, but there was something about the vibe. Less formal, more collaborative.
He suggested making some kind of short project together, so I pulled out my camera and began immediately (my camera goes everywhere with me).
In an hour’s time, I was planning to be in a pub somewhere, with a pint in my hand, watching the Roughriders’ home opener in Regina. In six day’s time, those same Roughriders were going to be in Toronto to take on the Argonauts.
We took turns filming each other, talking about what that chain of events meant to us.
For me the Roughriders are more than just a football team – they are a symbol of who I am and where I come from. They are a powerful emotional connection that unifies a whole mass of people together. They are a religious experience. They are who we are, the people of Saskatchewan.
There is no other singular entity that can reach across a vast swath of land and people to move us, in quite the same way as the Roughriders do.
There is no other singular entity in Toronto that can reach across the city to move people the way the Roughriders move the people of Saskatchewan.
Pride brought two Saskatchewan’s worth of humanity together in one small dot of Toronto – and it was glorious, but there remained four million people across the GTA who remained completely uninterested in those goings on.
The Argonauts remain my second-favourite team in the CFL. The front office staff, the business operations, the players and coaches are all excellent human beings – as good as any you’ll find anywhere. The Argos are my home away from home. It fills me with pride to represent the team in the blogoshpere.
The team draws respectable crowds – 30,000 for the home opener, 50,000 for the Grey Cup parade, several hundred thousand watching on television. Hard core Argo fans are as passionate and knowledgeable as any hard core Rider fan. Impressive numbers, but still only a small fraction of the population.
The thing I miss the most about being away from Saskatchewan, is that sense of being connected to something much bigger than myself – something that connects me to everyone else in my community.
Kunle has no such emotional association to the Argonauts or the CFL, or to any other singular, all-unifying entity in the city. Born and raised in Toronto, he came to know the city as a vibrant mosaic of diversity. There are a million different scenes in TO – rich communities waiting and welcoming all like-minded individuals. So much is going on everywhere, all the time, that it’s impossible to keep track of it all.
I’ve been in Toronto 21 months, and I STILL can’t get a handle on this kind of diversity. I can understand it on a cerebral level, but I can’t feel it in my bones.
For his part, Kunle has no comprehension of what it is like to be connected to an entity of one.
So there we were, sitting in a booth in Shoeless Joe’s on King Street West, watching the Roughriders’ home opener. There was Regina on TV. There were my people.
Kunle stared at the screen, wide-eyed, watching his very first football game on TV – watching the green painted faces, the costumes, the passion, and the diversity within all of it – young faces, old faces, faces from all walks of life. It looked sort of like Toronto Pride, except is was Rider Pride.
“I want to be there,” he said simply. “I need to experience that for myself.”
Shortly afterwards, the Riders scored a touchdown and cheering erupted from a booth down from us. Kunle went over to talk to them. Three guys from Moose Jaw.
This pride is contagious it seems. Kunle said he’d be cheering for the Riders next Thursday at Rogers Centre.
“You can’t,” I said simply. “You’re from Toronto. You need to cheer for the Argos.”
“Nope,” he shot back. “I want to be connected to something like what I’m seeing on TV.”
It seems Thursday will be an opportunity to introduce Kunle to some Argo fans I know. All that blue and green in the stands will be something to behold. Part II of our little documentary together.