It was a double bill at the drive-In. The first movie, some cheesy action flick about a bank heist. Lots of chase scenes and car crashes. My boyfriend, Mike, and I necked through it, while his brothers in the front seat shifted their focus between rooting for Mike, and watching the movie. The second movie was ‘2001 A Space Odyssey.’ I had been waiting to see it. They were somewhat bemused by the ape scene, but once the Strauss waltz started, the brothers had enough and pulled up stakes. It was years before I saw it all the way through.
I was about to say that I’ve never walked out on a film—if I pay for a movie, I’m damn well getting the whole movie—but then I remembered I’d walked out of The Shining of all things. It was the third feature in a triple bill, I’d already seen what I’d really come for, and it was a crappy print. So, when that first wave of faded, purple blood came crashing down the hallway towards the camera, I knew I’d already reached my limit for whatever the hell that was supposed to be . . . but thanks for trying, Stanley.
Skiz and I just saw Age of Arousal at the Shaw Festival. Set in the 1880s, it’s a play about female emancipation, sexual awakening and Remington typewriters. You’re warned when you buy your ticket that the play’s sexual content might put some people off. Quite a risky move since most of the patrons are old, pink Nibblers out for a weekend of fudge and farce. After intermission the attendance was noticeably lighter and proffered only polite applause. Imagine the Hurlburts driving back to Rochester, Bob appalled by the use of the word ‘quif’ and Diane contemplative over two women kissing.
I thought I had died and gone to heaven when the first typewriter came out that had the correction tape built right into it. Later when technology arrived where at the touch of a button you could erase back several lines it seemed things could not get better than that. Then a memory typewriter came out that you could set up to fill in the blanks of a form letter. Holy cow! I thought. Incredible! … I have not had a typewriter for twenty years now and the last few offices I worked in were not equipped with them, either.
I’m thinking I came face to face with my first bona fide laser printer in the summer of 1982, back when the typewriter was still holding fast and children grew up learning how lasers were developed to cut through steel. So, forget all you know about that friendly little unit humming away on your desktop, the Xerox 9700 was a good city block long and capricious as hell. It swallowed toner by the barrel and spat out paper by the ream . . . box after box of reports they’d never read, but look the wrong way and the paper jams were legend.
When I first started out I did everything myself: research, writing, photocopying, schlepping. To keep from crying out in boredom I made a mental game of it: Listening to the hum of the machine, knowing the exact second I could flip the cover up and turn to the new page. At times I was truly one with the machine simultaneously centering the frame, focusing the image, printing it out and doing it again so quickly that the process never stopped. Now Colin my associate does all the copy work. I’d like to say I miss it, but that’s just bollocks.
Joan was stuck in a rut. At one point she thought of becoming a librarian and she now wondered if she made the wrong choice. People were always impressed when Joan told them what she did. They were all ears for more details about her job at the prestigious design firm where she worked. When she protested that it was not as glamorous as it sounded, they chuckled ironically. Joan knew they thought it must be better than whatever mundane thing they did. The fact is, after you have been doing something for years, any job gets boring and repetitive.
In retrospect, Danny chose the worst time to leave the band; but then who could have guessed their next song would make them all rich? . . . except Dan, of course, who came to be known as the Stuart Sutcliffe of the Cowper Gland Band, and who, if anyone had bothered to ask, was secretly relieved to have dodged the fame, the obligations, and the inevitable sitcom. Twenty years on, and he could jam whenever he wanted with the best friends a man could have, while every night, the remaining Cowpers had to smile through yet another encore of “Up and Coming.”
We never baptized Daniel, so instead of a Christian name he was given a special Hindu name by our neighbours. Not only was this a way to yet again thumb my nose at my Catholic roots, but it also gave him a very cool handle: Daniel Patrick Deepak Haynes. When he got older he could choose any combination from the lot. D. Patrick Haynes the academic, Paddy Haynes the fiddler or Daniel Patrice Leclair the French oceanographer. If his fledgling band makes it big and my son plays bass for a living he could be known simply as The Deep.
My Lebanese neighbour calls me Mary Jones. This is not the first time this has happened to me. I had an Italian friend who also kept calling me Mary Jones. He never shortened it to Mary, even though he knew that Jones was a last name, because he had been previously married to a woman named Mary Jones. But then, he also always referred to her by both names, too. Perhaps that is why the marriage did not last. It would be weird to be married to somebody who called you by your first and last names at all times.
Not long after moving into the neighbourhood—Garden Avenue just off Roncesvalles—I was talking to an old locksmith who needed to know where I lived. “Oh, just up Roncey,” he said as if it were some sort of password or my introduction to their inner circle, like the people I’d meet from Geoffrey Street who pronounced it “joff-free,” and I just figured that’s how things were done here on Roncey, and so I did it too, or at least I did until they installed a new system to announce the streetcar stops and opted for the more traditional pronunciation.
Language is a living thing. You’ll notice how young people pronounce “str” like “schtr” so strawberry sounds like “schtrawberry”. Even though the aboriginal and thus correct way of pronouncing Spadina is Spa-DEENA, local Torontonians call it Spa-DINA. And they have for years. I come from a place where Pelissier Street is pronounced Pa-LISH-er, by local folks, no less. But there are pockets of the world where language stands still. Like Tecumseh. Since my ear has been trained to understand this beloved corn-fed patois, I can read eighteenth century French documents like it was Mémé reading out her weekly grocery list.
The son of an old family friend from Italy was visiting Toronto and I was charged with making sure he was well-entertained. I arranged to meet him at the Bamboo Club, my favourite night spot at the time. I gave him directions to make his way over to Queen and Spadina. He was a bit late, but eventually showed up. He had been confused by my Toronto pronunciation of Spa-DIE-na, but after awhile figured out it was the street he would have pronounced Spa-DEE-na. Later I sent him a recording of ‘Spadina Bus,’ by the Toronto band, the Shuffle Demons.