Thursday, 28 June 2012

Breaking All the Rules...

Hello Friends.

It all happened so fast. I had just come from the gym and walked into the nearby drugstore, thirsty and looking for a transit pass. I grabbed one of those small, store brand bottles of water, cracked it open, drank deeply, and looked for an available cashier. Both registers had lines halfway down the aisles, so I went to the cosmetics counter, and she told me she didn't sell transit passes at her till, but I could try the Photo department if I didn't want to wait. I went to the Photo department and waited behind a lady who was mad because they didn't have the film she needed for her ancient camera. "You could try, like, a camera store" the guy said, helpfully, and the old lady just exploded, "A CAMERA store!" It was like he suggested she go a sex dungeon ("You really think I've got time in my busy day to go to a SEX DUNGEON!?"). Anyway, she finally left, I finally got to the counter, the Photo guy told me he didn't sell transit passes, but he hollered at the still busy cashiers, who both said sorry, but they were all out. I thanked him for saving me the time of waiting in line for ten minutes, and left the store. I left the store. It wasn't until I was out on the street, about to descend into the subway that I realized the bottle of water was still in my hand. I hadn't paid for it. I stopped dead in my tracks.

Dream: Pursue a life of petty crime.

Goal: Achievable. Though I didn't steal the small bottle of water intentionally, it was so easy! And though I was shocked at my behaviour, I immediately began to rationalize it. It was only sixty-nine cents, after all. I took it from a cooler full of dozens of bottles just like it. They'd never miss it. It was only fucking water. Big deal, right?

Plan: Build on that. Have you ever noticed how doing something incrementally is almost like not doing it all? Like you add a little bit more cream and sugar to your coffee at home every day so that your coffee to-go order suddenly becomes a double-double and you've gained an extra twenty pounds since graduation?

Plus, I have no job right now, and I wasn't fired, I was laid off. I did nothing to deserve my current state of economic limbo, so why shouldn't I even out the cosmic debits and credits by breaking some laws, defying a few rules? Rules like:

Limit one per customer. I love napkins and straws, and I'd like some more in my home. Gonna start bringing a hockey bag to Starbucks and just filling up. If you're going to charge me four dollars for lemonade over ice, I'm helping myself to some greentubes (that's crime lingo for Starbucks straws).

Tray tables in upright and locked position. Or what, Westjet? Next flight I take, I'll lock that tray for when the flight attendants do their snooty babysitting walk-through, but once they are strapped in and the plan is just about to land, I'm unlocking it. What could possibly happen? The flapping tray becomes loose, flights through the air, blinds the pilot (who should have kept the cockpit door closed), who crashes into the airport Harvey's? Highly doubt it.

No loitering. Guess what, mattress store? If you're gonna have those sleep number beds, or the beds you can move up and down, or individual coil bed where you can drop a bowling ball on your sleeping partner and they'll just sleep more deeply? I want to try all of that, and I'm just gonna loiter. When I was a teen (the time in your life when you're most susceptible to the temptations of loitering), I never did it. I always bought something for the pleasure of hanging out at a stuffy bookstore or gross Dairy Queen. So look out, merchants! I'm pulling up a chair (or bed).

Shorts. I know there's no specific law against wearing shorts, but my god, shouldn't there be? There's a very small percentage of the population that can wear shorts without looking gross, but if you're even on the fence as to whether or not that's you, it's not you. 98% of humans cannot/should not wear shorts, but I'm sick of that rule. It's so hot out. I'm going to start wearing my trunks (the only shorts I own) when I have NO INTENTION of going swimming.

Ahh, I wouldn't do that to society. Or any of those other things, either. You're going to be embarrassed for me, but I actually went back to the store and beloved Photo guy, and paid for the now empty bottle of water. I don't think he understood, or appreciated what I did by coming back and paying seventy-six cents after tax, but I left the store (a second time), with my head held high and a clear conscience. Because despite its potential freedoms, there's one more common denominator in those people who unlock table trays, loiter, wear shorts: those people are assholes. And who wants to be an asshole? Not me. There should be a law.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

True Beliebers...

Hello Friends.

Please forgive the lateness of this entry, it's been a crazy week. Like so many of my colleagues before me, I was laid off from my job. It wasn't a shock, the company has been doing poorly, the writing on the wall was that there was to be no writing on the site, and I was even tipped-off earlier in the week about my fate as of Friday, when I got the "We'll miss you, just kidding! Ha ha, major lols. Love, Human Resources" letter. What was strange was that I was unable to write about what I was experiencing.

On one hand, I'm sure my reluctance was practical. I couldn't very well announce to my readership (however small but loyal you may be) that I was leaving my job before actually leaving it. There'd surely be some kind of procedural line I was crossing (though really, what could they do? Double-fire me?). But if I'm being really honest, it's that I couldn't be really honest about the experience. Much as I like to record my thoughts about my life, there are things I keep close to the vest: issues with family, my personal life, and, in this case, my professional experiences. But that's the gunk that occupies a lot of my headspace, and it's boring and heavy.

What I need, both to write and think about, is a major distraction. I want something I can mull over when I'm bored, idle, or staring a blank word processing document. I want something completely unrelated to my life in any way, to get super excited about. A personal hero.

Dream: Become a superfan.

Goal: Achievable. I've been a fan of this band or that actor, made an effort to buy the records and see the movies, but they've all been pretty fickle fancies so far. There's nobody I would stand in line for hours to buy tickets to see. No movie I'd see more than once in the theatre. No one whose wave from a limousine would cause me to burst into tears. But why not? What makes me so high and mighty that I can't buy a t-shirt with someone's face on it? I feel like becoming a superfan, finding a celebrity to blindly devote myself to, that might be fun. It might make the hours pass a little faster.

Plan: Learn from the examples of superfandom I have seen to determine the best star to fawn over. Fans and stars like:

Beliebers. Beliebers are the fans of Justin Bieber. Yesterday, two friends and I were people-watching in super-trendy Yorkville: a richy-rich area of town with high-end designer boutiques, celebrity chef restaurants, botox and boobjobs, and five star hotels. You can't afford to buy anything in Yorkville, but they can't easily stop you from wandering around and gawking. Anyway, we came upon a throng of teenage girls clustered in front of the fancy-schmance Hazelton Hotel. The Hazelton Hotel and nearby Four Seasons are where only Toronto's best of the best bring their prostitutes. We observed the giggly and high-strung group of girls and, based on their t-shirts and posters, determined them to be Beliebers. Justin, it seems, was staying at the hotel. We hung out and watch them wait for him for nearly an hour. You'll have to take it on faith, but we honestly had no interest in seeing the Biebs ourselves, but we really, really wanted to see this hysteria hit its zenith. Screams rose up at one point because Justin Bieber's grandparents left the hotel. Not even in a car service; they took a cab. Poor Granpeiber, that has to chafe a little. But such is the power of JB that even the sight of his wrinkly ancestors gets hearts a-flutter. Bigger screams rose up when a guy named Chord left in a car and waved, then a little gaffer named Connor. Far as I can tell from Googling, Chord must be Chord Overstreet (what a ridiculous name! My teen star name will be Triad Underbridge), who is a kid from Glee. Conner might be Conor Maynard who has a RIDICULOUS website ( with his latest single and pictures of his dope charm bracelets. Anyway, my friend Dan and I must have stuck out like creepy thumbs. Two dudes, pushing thirty, lurking near a crowd of excited tweens. Luckily, Dan's girlfriend Lajya was with us and she's gorgeous and stylish and approachable and our "in" with the Beliebers. One hyperventilating teen approached her reverentially, twirling her long ponytail. "Are you waiting for Justin? Because he was here yesterday and I was waiting and he came outside and I was like, 'Can I get a picture with you?' and he was like, 'Yeah!' and then I was like, 'Can I get a hug?' and he was like 'Sure.' It was amazing. So he's like, rehearsing at MuchMusic right now, but he might be going back to Stratford after, where his Mom lives. So he might not be back here until like two in the morning. Ugh! This is the last thing I wanna do right now!" She said this all in one breath and returned to her place in line. We later observed how funny it was that she said, "This is the last thing I want to do" as if this were her job, some kind of obligation, and not voluntarily stalkerish behaviour. As I looked at her and the throngs of teens, tweens, and bweens, another girl stuck out. She was a foot taller, and much, much heavier than her peers, but clearly the same age. She had a picture of the Biebs that she clutched doggedly, sweating in the heat. If she had friends there, she didn't speak to them. Just waited, determinedly, for Justin to appear. I wanted him to show up now more than ever, if only for her...

Little Monsters. These are what the fans of Lady Gaga call themselves. Unlike Justin Bieber (though I'm sure they share the same songwriters, management team, PR people and makeup artist), Gaga touts herself as the heroine of the outsider. Queen of the Square Pegs, the misfits, those without a voice. Most notably, she's been vocal in her support of LGBT kids. Whether this is born of pure-hearted motives, or a swift marketing move, I couldn't say. But I feel like if Gaga had existed fifteen years ago, I'd be putting my paws up with the rest of them. She seems to be the first gay icon with that level of fame, who not only embraces her gay audience, but courts them specifically. While it seems like Madonna and Cher are that way, they've come around to their gay fans after initially hoping, in their heyday, that straight women wanted to be them and straight men wanted to fuck them. It's as if their gay following was a surprising by-product, but not an intentionally coveted audience. But Gaga's whole, "I'm special, you're special, now I'm in an egg" thing wears a bit thin, and I'm afraid I can't actually stand much of her music, which leaves me out of the Monster camp.

Tiffany Stalkers. I saw this amazing documentary a few years ago called I Think We're Alone Now about two superfans of the 80's pop star Tiffany. Both clearly suffered some form of mental illness, akin to Asperger's Syndrome, but both seemed extremely happy to follow Tiffany's tour from city to city (this is the 2000's where she's playing state fairs and trade shows) and spread the good news to the unconverted. It was a terribly sad portrait of these people, if only because their fandom had crossed the border to obsession and both believed Tiffany to be in love with them. One guy tried to greet her at the airport with a sword and so was served a restraining order. He then built some kind of helmet and was convinced that Tiffany was communicating with him through satellites or something. In any case, I wouldn't want to turn out like that, but I do see the appeal in becoming a crazy fan over someone who's star is twinkling a little less than it used to. If you weren't a fan of Justin Bieber's, but instead focused on... I don't know, Jennifer Warnes, you might be able to connect with her somehow, either by seeing her perform at a smaller venue, or writing her a fan letter that might actually land on her desk (Jennifer Warnes was the woman who sang the woman parts in Time of My Life from Dirty Dancing and Up Where We Belong from An Officer and a Gentleman. Should she or a family member Google her name, Jennifer Warnes, and find this blog entry, I'm terribly sorry to use you as a has-been example. I'd kill for the kind of recognition your name still carries and I don't mean to diminish whatever you've accomplished in your career, though I can't say I'm specifically a fan of yours. I wish you well in your endeavours).

We left the throngs of Beliebers to go have dinner, but passed them again, a few hours later, on our way back through Yorkville (I think we invented an excuse to get back there, when we all really wanted to check on Justin and our gals). It was dark out by now, and a lot less girls remained, and I was both happy and sad to see my big girl still waiting. Unfortunately, real-life heaviness intervened. A rowdy, strung-out guy was either denied entrance into, or kicked out of, a nearby nightclub. He and the bouncer exchanged heated, profane words and he screamed obscenities at him from the street. A nearby Dad said, "Hey come on, buddy. There are kids here. Watch your language." Strung-out guy didn't heed this advice and advanced menacingly on Dad. "What that fuck you just say? Watch my language? Fuck you! Scarborough's in the house tonight, bitch. This ain't Yorkville no more. What the fuck you gonna do? What the fuck you gonna do?" Dad, wisely but I'm sure with a really bruised ego, said nothing, and grabbed his daughter, and started to leave. A bunch of other girls trailed off as well. I felt, to borrow a freshly used adjective, fucking terrible for those girls and especially for that Dad. I'm sure he wasn't thrilled to have to stand outside a hotel for hours with his little girl to catch a glimpse of her favourite star, but he wanted to make her happy, and he wasn't about to stand alone in downtown Toronto. He was there to protect her from any eventuality, and when he tried to stand up to a bully in their midst, there wasn't anything he could do.

We left after that and flagged down a cop to point out the rowdy guy, who was quickly apprehended, but I can't imagine many girls stayed for much longer. I would hope that they didn't go home disappointed though. Maybe in a few years, when a Justin Bieber song came on the radio, they'll remember the night they waited for hours to see him, remember Chord and Conner, remember the drugged up scary guy, but mostly remember that Dad who tried to chase him away. If they're smart, and have evolved past the all-consuming life of the superfan, maybe it'll occur to them that they didn't see their idol that night, but there was a real-life hero in their midst.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Your Host for the Evening...

Hello Friends

Welcome, hello. Are you comfortable? Can I get you anything? I made coffee this morning, but dumped it down the sink before I left for work. I guess I could make more, or if you wanted to root around in the sink, you could. It drains kinda slowly these days since I tried to get rid of some pasta by forcing it down the drain.

That's how I would greet you if you were to arrive at my door this minute and I was home. I'm not the greatest host, is my point, but have some excellent hosting gigs coming up in the next few weeks. I am emceeing the wedding of two good friends, then doing the same at my aunt's wedding a few weeks later. In a sense, the master of ceremonies is a sort of host, in terms of a performance or presentation. To that end, and because I rather like the brides and grooms, I hope this Dream comes true.

Dream: Be a good host.

Goal: Achievable. I know it can be done because I've seen really good hosts my whole life, and some bad ones. Consider that America's Funniest Home Videos was basically YouTube before YouTube but nobody thinks to tune in because past host Bob Saget and current host Tom Bergeron are so insufferable as to make the program unwatchable.

Plan: Take a lesson from the hosts I admire and try to apply it when I rock the mic at these summertime nuptials. Hosts like:

David Letterman. I adore this dude and his show. You can keep your late night wars, as far as I'm concerned. Leno doesn't make me laugh, and while Conan's a funny guy, his nervous energy doesn't make for the greatest hour of tv. He always has to be funnier than his guests or something, and while he writes funny, there's something so manic and false about his delivery. Letterman just doesn't give a shit, which is fantastic. He's gotten to the point where it feels like the usual host pulled out and somebody's cantankerous father who doesn't quite know where he is decided to fill in for the evening. Sketches soar or fail, Dave couldn't care less, and so they've gotten so completely bizarre. Their latest trend of the fake guest is probably my favourite. The other night, a man came on who purportedly designed clothes and hats for turtles. He was nervous and sweating and showed off some of his tiny hats that he designed. Then he brought out his turtles to model them and could only find one. “Mario? MARIO!” he screamed, overturning chairs, looking for his best friend. He turned to Dave and the censors bleeped: “Fuck! I can't find him! Fuck!” and he ran off. Unperturbed, Dave turned to his camera and told us to stay tuned for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I think the reason I like Letterman as strongly as I do is because he's so much like my father. Dad will also repeat a line he thinks is funny several times, whether or not he gets any reaction. He doesn't understand why a lot of people are famous or powerful (one of my favourite Dave guest-evisceration is when he hosted a young guy from The Hills and said, “I'm not sure who you are, but if it wasn't for television, you would be living in a tree.”) Anyway, good men and good hosts both.

Terry Gross. As the host of Fresh Air on NPR, Terry's the best in the biz. I remember when I first heard the show, I thought it was a music review because Terry spoke so knowledgeably to her musician guest. But then I heard another show and thought it was a political program because Terry spoke so knowledgeably to her political guest. Turns out she's just an incredibly smart woman who must just read books and newspapers in her every spare moment because she's unbelievably well-prepared for whomever her guests turn out to be. Plus, unlike everyone else who hosts a program, I don't know anything about her. She works so in service of her guests and listeners that she doesn't share her own opinion or experience, but she conducts the most interesting interviews I've ever heard.

Finally, I love that emcee in Cabaret. The weird, pansexual, heavily made-up tuxedoe'd gentleman that opens the musical (and film) with that Fosse-fied “Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome...” song that creeps everybody out except Liza Minelli. I auditioned for that show once, and thought it would be fun to play that part but thankfully, blessedly, a much stronger singer/dancer got it and blew it out of the water. In retrospect, all I would have done was wear suspenders, blink my eyes a lot, and maybe twirl a cane without injuring myself.

I think the best quality a host can have is to know when to take charge of things and know when to get out of the way. I'm gonna say a few funny things at these weddings, but for the most part, I'm gonna step aside and let other people shine, as they should. In a way, I suppose a good host is like a marriage; no matter how much work goes into it, the best ones look effortless.