Monday, October 12, 2009


While the 20th century may have officially ended some nine years back,

- I think there is an argument to be made that the actual curtain dropped on that most American of eras about a week and a half ago. This was the moment that the “Crocs” shoe company –

- and calling those ghastly flower pots with soles “shoes” is rather like calling a McDonald’s ground cow sandwich a “hamburger” –

- officially threw in the towel and called it a day. Apparently when the people of the United States were faced with a choice between feeding their children and owning several pairs of those multi-colored podiatric insults, the kids won. And while it is unfortunate to see any business go belly-up, one is heartened to think that perhaps this event indicates a certain sanity returning to our shores.

There have been other indicators of the end of an epoch - the death of Walter Cronkite, the most trusted voice of the century;

- the death of Michael Jackson, the most danced-to singer of the century;

- the death of Farrah Fawcett, the most imitated hair-don’t of the century –

- all of which seem to point toward a relinquishing of America’s cultural grip on the world.

But it is in the sudden rise and fall of the craze of perforated plastic footwear that one can most readily observe the idea that maybe, just maybe, the much vaunted, and in many cases well earned, ingenuity of these United States has finally been forced to face the fact that a lot of its output is, frankly, crap.

Safely ensconced behind the protective fichus walls of our desert paradise, we at dear old Six Palms have been observing this trend over the past year with something approaching – to be blunt - delight. The drivel which has been served up daily for the past decade as “popular culture” -

- has left us on occasion literally gasping for air as we tried to understand the social urges which compel our fellow citizens to follow celebrity bowel movements on Twitter, and there is much to be said for the fact that the bottom of the barrel may well have been reached when it comes to what passes for entertainment these days.

After all, if that dreadful, overly-fertile couple featured on that hideous reality show can get a divorce and manage to sling their mud with such broad strokes as to soil all eight of their children in the process, anything is possible.

One is aware, of course, of the ever-present risk of sounding like some nostalgia-swathed “Delta Dawn” sitting at the end of an allegoric bar in an old dress with a dead flower wedged firmly behind her ear, especially living as one does in a town which embraces its past like a necrophiliac lover.

But to be honest, in spite of the monthly expenses of running an historic household – not to mention the care and feeding of One Boyfriend with a Sephora Habit -

- One Miniature Manchester with a Bingo Habit -

- and One Houseboy named Panton for whom I've thrown enough bad money into "English As A Fifteenth Language" classes over the years to buy a block of downtown Los Angeles -

- there has been nothing tossed over the wall these past twelve months which has appealed to us enough to slip into our “Dog and Pony” suit and make our way into Hollywood in order to convince The Great And Mighty Oz of the remaining studio overlords that we are the perfect Hitchcock for their epic.

Until now.

Roughly three weeks ago, whilst floating in the Martini Pool and with nothing more pressing on our mind decision-wise than just where exactly we were going for dinner that night, the telephone rang with a rather interesting offer. A bit of research and a couple of meetings later, we found ourselves onboard a plane, en route to commence production on a motion picture for The Walt Disney Company – one of the last remaining studios of Hollywood’s Golden Age – based on a marvelous classic children’s novel entitled “Harriet The Spy”.

We are, of course, delighted to be working in this economy and even more so to be working on a project with a pedigree from the early 1960’s which means, to our relief, it is well-conceived, well-written and well-loved.

Not to mention it features absolutely NO Lohans.

All of these things occurred to us as we walked along the bustling street of the city we are currently calling home. And as we passed the Indian women in their brightly colored saris – invariably smiling and laughing –

- or the Muslim women in their mud hued burkas –

- invariably grim and/or struggling to negotiate the crowded sidewalk with the limited vision granted them by the patriarchal idiocy of a tiny slit in their hoods, we were struck by the fact that we could go for literally blocks at a time here without hearing a single word of English spoken.

Even the turban-wearing young gentlemen of East Indian persuasion loitering outside the nearby industrial engineering college, arguing in that loud, highly strung fashion that turban-wearing young gentlemen often do, resolutely avoided communicating in anything approaching the Queen’s Tongue and for quite a few minutes we were actually relishing the fantasy that we had ventured to a foreign land, full of exotic mystery and intrigue.

But then we turned a corner and saw the CN Tower -

- that most un-sexy of all the phallic objects thrusting up out of the solar plexus of various cities around the world, and remembered that we were, in fact, in Toronto, Canada.

We have, over the years, had a love-hate relationship with this city. When we lived here for half of the 1980’s – back when it was on the verge of relevance on the world stage – it seemed like Paris, full of excitement and wonder. Keep in mind, of course, that when one comes from our kind of humble beginnings – having been born and reared in a white trash village sixteen feet from the North Pole - living in a place where fetching the morning paper doesn’t involve eleven foot snow drifts and the threat of wolves is a relief.

But the innate smugness of a city built entirely around the idea of “We don’t want to be New York!” eventually wore on us and we began to loathe the very idea of returning here for projects over the years. Stuck as it was in some sort of endless Robert Palmer video loop -

- Toronto represented everything we hated about our homeland of Canada.

This is, after all, a place which took the appearance of a couple of second rate nightclub comics on the legendary US tv series "The Ed Sullivan Show" as a sign that they were ACTUALLY funny enough to be given their own Canadian television series for something like 75 years...

And where else but Canada would have chosen as its national animal The Beaver, an oversized rodent as tiresomely industrious and absurdly put-together as the country itself?

To be frank, when we stepped onboard the Air Canada flight to depart my desert paradise - and were promptly told by the flight attendant as we handed him our boarding pass that “you will be treated no differently than anybody else,” – we had a sinking feeling that this trip was going to be just as dreadful as all of those in our past.

But nestling down into our first class seat (where, obviously, we WERE treated differently than everybody else), with a wonderful old film noir available to view on the video screen -

- and an extremely delicious Bloody Caesar in hand – the Bloody Mary is apparently too American for Air Canada, who insist that Clam Juice must be part of one’s daily diet – it quickly became apparent that maybe, again just maybe, an era had ended.

Granted, most airlines serve WARM nuts in first class and the ones we received with our cocktail were as cold as Nancy Pelosi’s stare -

- but given the generally positive experience we decided to simply rise above it.

The flight was, in a word, marvelous, long enough to be enjoyable, brief enough to be endurable. And from the moment we were picked up by Ryan the production assistant, to the arrival at my favorite Toronto hotel – The Grand, plopped unceremoniously in a rather down-at-heel neighborhood but possessed of enough elegance and style to make up for any number of circumnavigating winos and hookers – and all the way through the gracious, encouraging and completely delightful times spent so far with the Producers and Studio Executives, these past several days have led us to believe that, perhaps, it’s not just a Cultural Era that has passed.

Perhaps it’s the end of an era of our own selves as well?

One can only admit this to you, dear reader, but is it possible that, along with this City, we have grown up too? And instead of searching for the negative in all things Toronto – indeed, in all THINGS (which is ultimately a Fool’s Game), the influence of The Boyfriend and Crawford The Dog –

- arguably the steadying power of love - has brought us to a place in our lives where only the good things about a place, about ANY place, seem important?

Time will tell.

After all, those nuts WERE pretty damned cold...