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Jason Toews and fifi (the band)

School 04, June 2014


Anyone who has met me – even briefly, in passing – has probably been regaled with the story of the Worst Concert Ever. To recap for everyone else:

As teenagers, Eric Creery and I lied to our parents and hitched a ride to a city an hour away, to stand in line for three days at the Tacoma Dome, so that we could be first in line to see the Police. Rainstorms, plunging nighttime temperatures, non-waterproof sleeping bags, and inadequate clothing led to illness, exhaustion, and desperation. We were saving a place in line for our friends, who couldn’t get there until the last day. Sadly, they showed up after line passes had been distributed, and had to go to the very end of the line – a turn of events for which they inexplicably blamed us. Eric and I got to the front, all right, but in our weakened state, we were ripe pickings for a gang of steroid-and-alcohol-enhanced jocks, who mercilessly punched us in the kidneys until we gave up our spots. During one of the opening acts, we conceded defeat, climbed over the barrier, and were escorted by security to the very back of the auditorium, where we sat for the rest of the show, nodding off and coughing wetly. When the show was over, our petulant friends informed us that – seeing as how we had screwed them out of a place in line (?) – they were not giving us a ride home. Eric and I had no choice but to call my dad, fess up to our web of deceit, and beg him to drive for an hour to pick us up. Which he did. At 2AM. In his bathrobe.

Here’s the punchline: When I woke up the next morning, head pounding, sinuses bleeding, lungs collapsing, I looked on the calendar and realized that I had tickets for another concert that night. I spent most of the Supertramp concert trying not to fall asleep or sneeze on Matt.

I was thinking about this story a couple of weekends ago, for reasons which will shortly become obvious. After driving nine hours each way to see a train graveyard, I got up the next morning at 4AM and drove five hours each way to visit Hospital 09. This would have been more than enough to land me in the sick bay, but then I woke up on Monday and remembered that we had an appointment to shoot this location: School 04.

As you can see from the photos, this school is in pretty good shape. It hasn’t been closed that long, and the city plans to re-use it. So there’s none of that peeling paint or Tarkovsky-esque decay that I crave. On the other hand, there is something poignant and evocative about an empty school which has been tightly sealed – “See you next year!” notes on the whiteboard, outdated textbooks piled in a closet, beakers in the Science Lab encrusted with unknown (but perfectly safe, I’m sure) chemicals, leftovers from a book sale in the library, kettle drums in the Music room…

Back to that concert story: I should also mention Eric’s ill-conceived plan to sleep in a Porta-Potty (seriously, don’t even try it), and maybe even the moment when Alannah Currie of the Thompson Twins used her xylophone mallet to fling a banana peel right back at the asshole who threw it at her.

Enjoy the pictures.

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