Monday, September 03, 2007


Time marches on.

I know this to be true because even though it feels as if the minutes are literally oozing by while I’m here in Toronto preparing to shoot a movie, it is in fact Labor Day already. And while many of the city’s denizens have made their way to “cottage country” -- a loosely assembled group of backwater townships five hellish hours drive north where the wealthy, the near-wealthy and the friends of the near-wealthy retreat during the summer weekends to swat at black flies between shivering plunges into rash-inducing lake water barely fit to drink -- the place is far from empty.

I know THIS to be true because I was awakened this morning by the noise of some sort of parade featuring a large group of the unemployed storming through the downtown core demanding their “rights”. Exactly what kind of “rights” was unclear and one wonders if perhaps the entrepreneurial energy and organizational skills they used to complain on such a massive scale about their lack of jobs could have been put to better use by creating their own. But then again this is Canada and everything here seems to run upside down anyway.

Case in point: upon arriving some weeks back, I joined the nearby Bally’s Fitness Club where I had, in previous visits, enjoyed their spotless facilities and excellent service.

To my chagrin, the gym has been sold to – yes – a Canadian company called “GoodLife” which, while sounding vaguely cult-like, does absolutely nothing to live up to its name. It is apparently now owned by some local Canuck sports legend named David Patchell-Evans

-- who goes by the too-cute-for-words nickname of "Patch Evans" and whose smug face beams out from the advertising materials as he exercises with a level of comfort that suggests he’s not in one of his own gyms.

I'd like to think that he bought the place for the real estate value alone and is actually just waiting for the gym to go out of business. If that's the case then this Free Weight Slum Lord may get his wish soon when members return from their summer holidays, hoping to shed those extra few hundred cheeseburgers they scarfed down "up at the cottage". The air conditioner has been "broken" since my arrival last month (and when one complains, one is told "we're having problems with the repair company" which posits the rather unlikely possibility that there is only ONE air conditioning repair company in all of Toronto OR the more likely possibility that they are lying!); the front desk help, justifiably tired of the complaints, have turned surly; and the change room, once a pristine tile and hot shower affair, now smells like a low rent bathhouse. The only thing missing is the crappy music and the free condoms.

Actually, I take that back. They’re doing fine in the crappy music department, with the soundtrack of my morning exercise regimen currently being scored by Foreigner. But in that respect the place is no worse than any other establishment in Toronto. Everywhere you go in this city, be it restaurant, retail store or public space, it seems as if popular music simply stopped being created after the year 1989. I know this sounds like an exaggeration for comic effect, but I swear to you dear reader this latest trip to my long-abandoned homeland has featured the song stylings of such 80's icons as Tina Turner, Robert Palmer, Rush and-

– god help us – Milli Vanilli belting out tunes so ancient I could actually feel a mullet growing out of the back of my head.

But in spite of all this, Toronto continues to draw people to its still considerable lights. Just this past weekend, my youngest sister and her son – my nephew Brandon whom, because of my chronic inability to remember anybody’s name other than my own is now, and will always be, Benmont – came to brighten my otherwise grim, hotel-bound existence.

They were terribly excited to visit the Eaton Center-

- named after a long-dead social icon whose family-owned department store was once THE place to shop. Sadly, the store, like the man, is long gone but his namesake Mall lives on in infamy, fairly teeming with what seems to be an endless supply of failures from The Miss Manners School of Etiquette. Call me old fashioned, but swarming mobs of badly dressed teenagers using epithets to describe everything from knit sweaters to their own genitalia don’t seem like the kind of clientele Lord Timothy would have encouraged.

(Sidebar: I was delighted to read about Atlanta’s passing a bylaw prohibiting young men from sporting overly low slung jeans. Interestingly enough, the saggy no-belt look comes from the "haute monde" of Prison Fashion, so once convicted, these young men will in fact end up dressed entirely appropriately for their environment after all! Naturally, there has been the usual public outcry about “civil rights”, as if showing off ones’ underwear clad buttocks is in fact written into the Constitution. If the lawmakers of Georgia really wanted to effect a quick behavioral change in the youthful scofflaws, they would remind them that gay men are watching them too….)

These are, of course, the “back-to-schoolers”, returning in the fall to stare dully at their teachers while furtively text-messaging each other with LOL’s and NSA’s on their way to minimum wage careers or, more likely given the current trend in globalization, chronic unemployment.

I’m always amazed at the righteous indignation sputtered by those who didn’t bother to pay attention in math class when they discover their jobs have been outsourced to some 9 year old child in a Third World country who would have gladly given his right eye for even half the educational opportunities we have in North America. Are they really that shocked to discover that in an era where the click of a button sends these words around the world in a microsecond, a factory job screwing a nut onto a bolt 700 times a day is no longer worth twenty bucks an hour?

I expect in a few years we will see them out on the streets too, marching briskly enough to wake late-sleeping sloths like myself but not briskly enough to keep up to a world that is changing in ways which sometimes surprise even me. For example, my best friend, a fellow of usually impeccable taste in most matters, actually tried to argue with me the other night that one can still wear white shoes after Labor Day!

“Things change”, he insisted, which is easy for him to say given that he’s never even WORN white shoes, having adopted a uniform of navy blazer, tan slacks and blue Oxford shirt back in his early, private school days in order to deflect attention from his Barbie collection.

But perhaps he's right. Maybe the world IS passing me by? After all I am, as I was reminded last week in a movie theater, middle aged. Yes that’s right. For the first time in my life, I was called “middle aged”!!

It wasn’t an insult. Far from it. I had stolen away from the production office to catch an afternoon matinee of “War”-

- an utterly forgettable Jet Li movie, and the Snack Bar Clerk asked me if I had seen the latest teen sex comedy playing in another theater. When I told him that no, in fact, I hadn’t had a chance to catch “Superbad”, nor did I plan to, he told me – and in no way meant it to sound unkind – that “everybody likes it, even middle aged guys like you.”

I smiled. I took my popcorn and bottled water into the theater and as I watched the mindless violence unspool before me I tried very very hard to feel dreadful. But for some reason, I couldn’t muster anything more emotionally draining than a grin. Middle age fits very nicely, thank you, especially if you have an excellent tailor.

Time marches on. And indeed, things change.

But at the same time, I believe it is a wise man who understands that some things stay the same. For example, Milli Vanilli are always going to be crap. Dinner in a fine restaurant is always better when there are no children around.

And one simply can not wear white shoes after Labor Day.

Unless you’re a nurse.


Blogger wcdixon said...

Sir, we're ALL getting on. Another long yet fabulous post Mr. Oliver.

7:34 AM  
Anonymous derp said...

So much writing, only to amount to two comments and one flaming.

Suck shit, motherfucker.

1:55 AM  
Blogger ron oliver said...

well, thank you for reading anyway, "Derp". Are you enjoying the weather in Toronto this winter?

8:53 AM  
Anonymous derp said...

I've never actually left my home country.

Home country being Botswana.

9:26 PM  
Blogger ron oliver said...

Ah Botswana...beautiful country. While I was living in South Africa a few years ago, we crossed border up to Botswana for a couple of weeks to film in Chobe Park and the elephants there. What a breathtaking country and what warm and welcoming people; gracious and extraordinarily well spoken. I believe the literacy rate in your home country is amongst the highest on the continent, yes? Remarkable place, and quite remarkable citizenry; certainly not the kind of people who would post profanity and insults on a blog I would imagine...ah well, as i say in the blog here, times change. Sadly. Thanks again for reading.

7:10 AM  

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