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♪ Don’t Blame It On The Sunshine ♫

“To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development.
When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so.  Now that I am fifty I read them openly.
When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
~ C.S. Lewis

I recall with clarity the day they arrived, in a plain brown box with my mother’s name typed on the bill of lading.  I knew what the box held; I’d been waiting with barely suppressed anticipation for weeks.  Though I knew the contents, when it came time to open the package, my heart was beating a mile a minute.  I dug through the crumpled, buff-coloured packing paper, and there they were: my new Dominion roller skates.

I spent the first hour half-skating, half-clumping around the apartment, which had laminate in the kitchen but was otherwise carpeted in a durable berber.  I didn’t know at the time that my skates would leave black scuff marks all over the kitchen floor, and I sure as heck wasn’t yet at a point in my life where I knew how to get them off, either.  Caught hell for that, if memory serves.

Funnily enough, I can’t seem to bring to relief the memory of my first visit to Roller Gardens, the local rink, with the new skates.  I must have been bursting at the seams, standing in the line up waiting to hand over my $3.00 to while away the afternoon, when the other suckers renting their skates had to pay $4.00.  I must have had them bump into my shoulder as I carried them,  laces tied together, toward the lockers.  I must have thrilled to the feel of them  on my feet as I did them up (only halfway, which was de rigueur), sitting on the bench with my friends.  But for whatever reason, I cannot compel the mental images to come back to me.  Perhaps, like so many other special events in our lives, the time was so exciting that I simply lost myself in the moment.

I remember so many other things, though; the smell of the popcorn wafting from the snack bar, the brick walls in the bathroom, the rough feel of the carpeted floors, benches and half-walls, the latter on which my friends and I slouched while we waited for the next song, or flew into when we found we didn’t have time to stop.  I remember the music very well; Grandmaster Flash, Michael Jackson, Styx, The Clash, The Oak Ridge Boys, Chicago, Pat Benatar, Kim Cairnes, Blondie, Men At Work, Toni Basil.  I could go on, but you must have your own memories to draw from.

I remember the clothes I’d wear – the Gypsy Jeans (later replaced by Angels Wing) that had an embroidered roller skate on the back pocket.  I loved the t-shirt transfer kiosk at the mall, and with my birthday and Christmas cash bought myself both a lippy Rocky Horror Picture Show tee and one that featured a traffic light and the words “I May Turn Red, But Don’t Stop,” the ultimate meaning of which was lost on me until an older boy named Sam tested the theory and was promptly and indignantly rebuffed.  I also remember that once, while frantically ironing one of the two shirts in the minutes before I had to leave for the rink, I made an ill-timed swoop, and scarred my unprotected belly with the hot metal.

There were a lot of people I knew who went to Roller Gardens, and because we weren’t indoctrinated into the high school clique mentality as yet, groups were fluid and friendly.  I also met a ton of kids from the local Catholic school, and crushed on a few of the boys; I recall one of them looking exactly like Chico Tyrell from The Lords of Flatbush, which I would have found hilariously funny, had I known at the time.  (I doubt he’s aged as well as Perry King, mind.)

The main pal I attended these marathon skates with was Tracy.  I loved hanging out with her.  We’d sit in her room getting ready, generously applying our Faces #65 frosted pink lipstick that we all carried at the time.  She was the one who’d introduced me to the B-side of Terry Jacks’ Seasons In The Sun.  “You have to hear this!” she’d squealed, pulling me in to her room and closing the door.  I still remember the first line: “Put the bone in, she asked him, at the store…”  The song was, ostensibly, about a girl who goes to the butcher, asking for a bone for her dog, who’s just been hit by a car, but Tracy had clued in to the double meaning.  She was always on the lookout for comedy, that girl, and readily found new material.  She was a treasured friend.

I can’t pinpoint when the allure of the rink began to wane, although it must have been before the end of grade nine.  I was mad for J., who was a year older than I, and starting to discover high school social life, and I suppose roller skating every weekend eventually ceased to be ‘cool’ for me.  The once-revered skates found themselves back in a box.

Cut to 1989.  I’d been living in Toronto for a couple of years, and was putting my tiny apartment through a well-needed purging.  During the process, I’d found my Dominion roller skates, in the bottom of a bin, smushed and stale.  Later that day, I stopped off at the local Goodwill and unceremoniously dropped them down the donation chute.

I think about that day, and wonder if I were uncharacteristically unsentimental at the time, or if perhaps, much like the day I first took the skates to Roller Gardens, life had swept me up and made it difficult to focus on important moments.  Or maybe (and most likely), now in my forties, I am attaching significance to an event that had none, for me, at the time.  But I can’t help but feel that by casually discarding the skates, I missed the opportunity to commemorate three important epochs: first, my carefree and joyous Roller Gardens years; second, my transition from child to adolescent when I moved on to more teenager-ish activities, and third, the moment as a young adult that I’d felt I had to ‘let go of childish things.’

How hasty we are, when young, to cast away all that identifies us as being young!  So eager to prove ourselves worthy of the perceived seriousness of grown up life.  Makes me chuckle, now.  I’m sure that the nineteen-year-old me would be mortified to know that older me, the homeowner, the mother, the grocery shopper, would be all too delighted to have those Dominion skates back today, and, euphoric and unashamed, skate up and down my street all the day long.

__________________________________________________

“Put the bone in,”
She asked him at the store
“‘Cause my doggy’s been hit by a car
And I do want to bring him home something.”
“Put the bone in,”
She begged him once more

“The meat from the pork is sweet
Give the bone from the pork meat to me.”
“Put the bone in,” she begged him
As she paced around the floor
“Put the bone in,” she yelled out once more

“Put the bone in,”
She asked him at the store
“‘Cause my doggie’s been hit by a car
And I do want to bring him home something.”
“Put the bone in,”
She begged him…once more.

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Filed under Canadiana, Ephemera, Nostalgia

Mr. Hoffman and The Fire Dwellers

For I am not Emily Kimberly, the daughter of Dwayne and Alma Kimberly. No, I'm not. [in a deep voice, pulling off the wig] I'm Edward Kimberly, the recluse brother of my sister Anthea. Edward Kimberly, who has finally vindicated his sister's good name. I am Edward Kimberly. Edward Kimberly. And I'm not mentally ill, but proud, and lucky, and strong enough to be the woman that was the best part of my manhood. The best part of myself.

I’m not mentally ill, but proud, and lucky, and strong enough
to be the woman that was the best part of my manhood.
The best part of myself.


As I listened to Mr. Hoffman speak in the video below, I recalled a passage from Margaret Laurence’s “The Fire Dwellers” when Stacy MacAindra (née Cameron), a 40-ish housewife, is riding the bus.  A lovely teen sits down next to her, and Stacy wonders to herself, “What’s she seeing? Housewife, mother of four, this slightly too short and too amply-rumped woman with coat of yesteryear, hemlines all the wrong length….lipstick wrong color, and crowning comic touch, the hat…”   But as only Stacy knows, “under this chapeau lurks…a tigress.”

As does within us all, no matter what the veneer may indicate to the contrary.

If only everyone could have this kind of epiphany.

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Filed under Film, Life In General, The Mama Goddess, Uncategorized

The Tao Of Charlie (Life Lessons From “So I Married An Axe Murderer”)

The film So I Married An Axe Murderer , starring the inimitable Mike Myers, is a work of pure genius, combining physical and cerebral comedy with exemplary instruction in navigating this mortal coil.

You may be thinking whaaaaaat? but hear me out, okay?  Okay?   Okay.

Warning: Here there be spoilers.

1. Trust Your First Impressions
Case in point: Charlie meets Rose.
Can anyone play nutjob better than Amanda Plummer?  I think not.

Quotes:
Charlie: (as Rose attempts to hit him with an axe) What the FUCK?!

Life Lesson: So many of us take pains to ignore our gut instincts when we meet someone.  We’re told it’s not fair to pigeon hole others (at least not before getting to know them better).  However, there’s a damn good reason we have gut instincts to begin with, so by all means keep an open mind, but when your first impression screams ‘this person is batshit crazy!’ trust that you could be on to something.

You are a total nutcase, completely deranged, delusional, paranoid. Your thought process is all fucked up. Your information train is jammed, man!

2. TV and Movies Are Better Than Real Life
Case in point:  Tony.  Poor Tony.  He became a cop with visions of chasing guys across a crowded city square, hanging on to that part of a helicopter. (You know that part? Underneath the thing that it lands? Do you, do you know that part?)  And he’s never even commandeered a vehicle.

Quotes:
Tony Giardino: Excuse me sir, I’m with the San Francisco police department, this is official police business. I would like to commandeer this vehicle!
Commandeered Driver: No.

Life Lesson: Watch movies constantly.  Avoid real life whenever possible, it’s bound to disappoint.

No. No, there’s not.

3. Relationships Are Hard
Case in point: Charlie and Harriet.  Charlie is a commitmentphobe.  Harriet is possibly Mrs. X., who kills off her husbands.
It’s a match made in Heaven, obviously.

Quotes:
Charlie Mackenzie: I’m afraid you’re gonna ki – leave me.
Harriet Michaels: That I’m gonna cleave you?

Life Lesson: Oftentimes in life, people need to step back and get their shit together before they can make a relationship work.  At least, this is how it pretty much works in the movies: good times, followed by conflict, followed by conflict resolution = better times.  No guarantees, though (refer to Life Lesson #2).

4. The Unknown Is Usually Best Left That Way
Case in point: haggis.
Exception: Paul Haggis.

Quotes:
Harriet Michaels: Do you actually like haggis?
Charlie Mackenzie: No, I think it’s repellent in every way. In fact, I think most Scottish cuisine is based on a dare.

Life Lesson: Avoid the unfamiliar.  Nothing good can come from eating food simmered in an animal’s stomach.

5. Be Honest
Case in point:  Tony the cop, attempting to go undercover

Quotes:
Charlie Mackenzie: So Tony, what’s the deal with your clothes?
Tony Giardino: What do ya mean?
Charlie Mackenzie: You look like Huggy Bear from Starsky and Hutch.

Life lesson: No matter how it may hurt their feelings, never let a friend go out looking like a 1970s pimp.

6. Coffee.Is.The.Best.Thing.Ever

Case in point: Scene 1, Charlie being served at Cafe Roads.

Quotes:
Charlie Mackenzie: Excuse me, miss? There seems to be a mistake. I believe I ordered the *large* cappuccino. *Hello!* Look at the size of this thing.
Tony Giardino: It’s practically a bowl.
Charlie Mackenzie: It’s like Campbell’s Cup-O’-ccino!
Charlie Mackenzie: [laughing at his Campbell’s joke and wiping his tears] Oh, My sides. Please. Aidez-moi.

Life Lesson: No amount of coffee is too much.
MM Coffee

7. Poetry And Alliteration Go A Long Way When Wooing
Case in point: Charlie attempts (and succeeds) in getting Harriet back

Quotes:
Charlie Mackenzie: Harriet. Harry-ette. Hard-hearted harbinger of haggis. Beautiful, bemuse-ed, bellicose butcher. Un-trust… ing. Un-know… ing. Un-love… ed? “He wants you back,” he screamed into the night air like a fireman going to a window that has no fire… except the passion of his heart. I am lonely. It’s really hard. This poem… sucks.

Life Lesson: Learn to rhyme, or at least put together some interesting stream-of-consciousness prose. Ya never know.

MM Poetry

8. Things Can Always Be Worse

Case in point:  Stuart’s anniversary speech to May.

Quotes:
Stuart Mackenzie: Thirty years ago today, May and I were married. Some of you were there, some of you weren’t born, and some of you are now DEED! But, we both said “I do,” and we haven’t agreed on a single thing since.
May Mackenzie: That’s true!
Stuart Mackenzie: But I’m glad I married you, May, because hey, could’ve been worse.

Life Lesson: Groove on what you got, not what you don’t, because it could really suck more.  Really.

May, shut it!  Turn off the Bay City Rollers! The soccer game's about to start!

May, shut it! Turn off the Bay City Rollers! The soccer game’s about to start!

9. The Scottish Are The Undisputed Extreme Party Champions Of  The Universe

Case in point: Stuart Mackenzie

Quotes:
Stuart Mackenzie: [after Charlie and Harriet have been married] Let’s get pissed!
_______________
Stuart Mackenzie: [after exhausting a bagpipe player at Charlie and Harriet’s wedding]
We have a piper who’s down! Repeat, Piper Down!

Life lesson:  Don’t try to outdo ’em.  Just sit back and admire.

Why,  yes, yes I *am* Scottish.

Why, yes, yes I *am* Scottish.

10. And last but not leastSometimes The Conspiracy Theorists Are Right
Case in point: Stuart conveys his unique worldview to Tony.

Quotes:


It’s a well-known fact, Sonny Jim!

Life Lesson:  Listen to the crazy people.

And here’s The La’s to sing us out with There She Goes:

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Filed under Advice and How To, Film, Life In General

♥ Love Letter To Canada ♥

Happy Canada Day, all!  It’s our nation’s 146th birthday, and my 46th blog post (I’d like to claim I’d planned that).

When I was an elementary school student, one of my favourite assignments was geographic research.  I recall penning (penciling?) compositions on San Salvador, Florida and Rome, however the ones that gently squeezed my little Canuck heart were inevitably about Timmins, British Columbia and Toronto, among others.  I remember happily flipping through encyclopedias in the school library, eager to gaze upon grainy 1970s photographs like this one:

ontario-place-mr

Ontario Place, Toronto

or this…

St. John, New Brunswick

St. John, New Brunswick

or this…

Swartz Bay, Britisih Columbia

Swartz Bay, British Columbia

In the years since, I have travelled to the West Coast numerous times, and have spent time in Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.  Six out of ten ain’t bad, but I do palpably feel the absence of the midwestern provinces, and what I wouldn’t do to get to Nunavut, NWT and the Yukon.
One day, I whisper to myself, one day.

I have fundamentally Canadian images burned forever into my brain, that give me a little tingle every time they rise, unbidden.   A photograph of a grain elevator in Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan.  Nighttime pub crawling in Montreal with my friend Andy.  Sprinting down an eastern provincial park beach, tearing off my clothes (bathing suit conveniently underneath), and jumping into the salty Atlantic for the first time.  Strolling through Stanley Park in Vancouver, on a warm yet soggy March day, almost having the place to myself, and spotting an immature eagle, perched majestically in a tree, watching me.  Just missing my PEI friends as I arrived in Kensington, yet because of that, having the most beautiful night camping by the water.  Listening in awe as my cousin in Moore’s Mills, New Brunswich spoke fluent French and English to her children.  And, of course, years of memories from hometown Ontario, like watching the CN Tower being built (on my first visit I bought a pen, which had a picture of the tower and a little elevator that moved up and down as you tilted it).

Other memories from my Book Of Canadian Recollections include:

  • Getting all excited about traversing the then 5-year-old Confederation Bridge spanning NB and PEI, almost 13 kilometers long (that’s 8 miles for Americans, y’all).  Realizing immediately that they’ve built the barriers so that drivers can’t see over them and get distracted.
    Experience rating: meh.
  • Ordering a ‘Relic’ burger at Molly’s Reach restaurant in Gibson’s, British Columbia.  Bruno Gerussi, FTW.
  • Hearing Stan Rogers for the first time.  ‘Nuff said.
  • Buying a beautiful print of A.Y. Jackson’s Yellowknife, Northwest Territories from a woman who had originally purchased it because it brought to mind her days there as camp cook for a group of geologists. I sat contentedly for the next hour as she regaled me with stories.
  • Heading to the Canadian National Exhibition every year with my father, whose commitment to procuring a Shopsy’s corned beef sandwich each and every visit bordered on the religious.
  • Breaking down en route from Montreal to Lac-des-Seize-Îles in a torrential rainstorm, and proceeding to travel with the French CAA guy and his girlfriend, windows rolled up, them smoking cigarette after cigarette, as we communicated directions in Franglaise.  Good times.
  • Canada Vignettes.  ‘Nuff said.
  • Stepping into the narthex of Notre Dame cathedral in Montreal for the first time.  Words cannot express.
  • Living through ten (count ’em, ten) London, Ontario winters.
    Snow.  Oh God, the snow.
  • Meeting fascinating people:
    Gordie Tapp of Hee Haw fame in the waiting room of my optometrist’s office (circa 1978).
    Bill Lawrence, former host of Tiny Talent Time, who became the perpetually cheery weather guy at CBC.
    Guy Paul Morin (acquitted of murder in 1995), in a CBC elevator, where it took me about 30 seconds to connect the face to the name.  Suddenly overcome with the enormity of what he must have gone through, feeling  I had to say something, I turned and offered a simple ‘Congratulations,’ to which he humbly replied a quiet ‘Thank you.’
    Ken Bell, WWII photographer, at his home in Gibson’s Landing.  What an honour.
    There are more, but I don’t want to make you jealous.
  • Dating a Francophone separatist in the early 90s and realizing in my Ontarioan ignorance that we still have a long way to go in that department.
  • Each and every summer from time immemorial, having at least one opportunity to float on my back in one of our beautiful fresh water lakes, my heart filled to overflowing with gratitude.
  • Richard Condie.  ‘Nuff said.
  • 1992: The Tragically Hip releasing Looking For A Place To Happen, because any band that can somehow fit Jacques Cartier into a  tune is well, the coolest ever.
  • Having it slowly dawn on me that every other white clapboard Catholic church on the East Coast is named St. Peter’s.
  • Standing under two-hundred-foot trees in Capilano, British Columbia, and being reminded of my smallness in the world.

20080706123845_single red maple leaf

The ties I have to this place are not the silken, tenuous kind; no, these are most surely comprised of diamond-encrusted titanium links. And though enormously strong, they are neither awkward nor heavy, and provide a centering and stability I can’t imagine getting from anything (or anywhere) else.

And with that, I will leave you with Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s The Log Driver’s Waltz, 1979, Canada Vignettes.

Happy Birthday, Canada.  I love you.

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Filed under Music, Nostalgia, Uncategorized, Wanderings