Friday, October 18, 2013

Steve & Eydie at Loblaws

It was a day like any other day, inspiring sentences like so many other sentences. Nothing original about it. In fact, if one were to adopt a literary model it could be argued - and won - that the day had stolen all of its best lines from so many other days. But I still got up out of bed, against my better judgment, remembered how to put on my clothes, and began to prepare for whatever life had borrowed from other lives for me to experience over the course of the next thirteen installments of sixty minute intervals all designed to lend order to our chaotic lives.

It was eleven am so almost half the day was gone. What a difference that makes to twenty-four little hours, to cut them in half and spare one’s self the luminescent glare of another god damn sunny morning. I like to keep my sunglasses on the bedside table just in case the curtains have accidentally been left open and I am wakened by the unpredictable energy of my least favorite star.

Forgetting how to put on my clothes has been something that has haunted me ever since I witnessed an elderly gentleman - in the nursing home where my mother lived - struggling to put on his sweater. He seemed much too distressed and angry for a stranger to approach him. At one point he had the armhole over his head. It was kind of an interesting look, like Garbo in Nintochka with a seamless opalescent veil. I was about to offer assistance when a nurse came to his rescue. My mother nonchalantly looked at me and said, “He’s from the third floor, the Old Timer’s ward.” She always said old timers instead of alzheimers after hearing someone refer to it that way in a TV movie. I had come over to take her for pizza. She loved pizza and it was a welcome change from the nursing home food she hated but I loved. I always finished her meals for her.

So that morning, like any other morning, I got out of bed, dressed myself, and boiled an egg. My room mate’s leftover pizza in the fridge acted as an appetizer before the egg, and a small crystal juice glass, half filled with Prosecco and the other half filled with a pulpy fruit medley, helped to wash down my elegant impromptu late morning snack. There had been a faintly sexual and undesignated celebration the evening before in my room mate’s bedroom and some booze had found its way into one of my favorite heirloom tumblers - just the right size to act as juice glasses. Well, actually I poured it in before going to bed, after leaving her room, so I would have a little pick me up when I awoke. Champagne and fruit juice at home always make me feel like I’m still in my early thirties and living in an expensive hotel.

I  dressed quickly, in case I forgot how to put on socks or underwear part way through, or when exactly to put them on. I have an irrational fear of leaving the house one day without realizing that I have slipped my underwear on over my trousers. So I dressed at breakneck speed, had breakfast, put on my hat and coat, and went out to greet the day. As I got off the elevator I looked at the bulletin board in the lobby and let out a little squeal.

“Shit, not today. I hate those fucking members meetings.”

I only went for the pizza, and the armed police officer. I don’t like guns, but there is  just something about all that bulk, the tight heavily packed uniform and the ambient bulges here and there with the little Velcro or domed flaps concealing whatever it is they carry in those little pockets placed strategically all over their uniforms. The decision to have an armed police officer present at every member’s meeting had been made by the board of director’s after a violent altercation between two warring residents who actually stopped an elevator once long enough to have an uninterrupted fist fight. It seemed to be the only place on the premises where their outbursts would go uninterrupted, at least for as long as it took the fire department to arrive. What on earth would a firefighter do?  Spray them? But that seemed to be the order of the day when someone was trapped voluntarily or otherwise on an elevator in the co-op where I live. In the excitable meeting that prompted the board to hire police officers they just slapped each other and cried out in elevated tones and stormed out of the room. I often wondered whether they took separate lifts back to their apartments or got in the same one and just kept slapping all the way up. They both lived at the top of the building in side by side units, one of which had been raided when a former tenant was found to have firearms. Apparently he threw a small loaded pistol into the street from his balcony when the police broke down the door. He was evicted soon after and many residents were up in arms - very angry with the board of directors - that he had even been allowed to live there in the first place. All I could think was, it must be very hard to design applications and interview procedures where you can find out for sure whether or not the future tenant might ever be in possession of an illegal weapon.

The board had also decided to offer free pizza and soda pop at members meetings. This was done in order to attract more people and raise numbers to a level that would provide a quorum and the continuation of meetings designed to pass budgets and other pressing items on any given agenda. Eventually they had to add a contest for twenty five dollar gift certificates form a nearby grocery store in order to further entice members.

But this particular meeting, the day of my Prosecco breakfast, was happening at a
particularly inconvenient time. I had forgotten to jot it down and had made somewhat conflicting plans to go to a late afternoon film that would end only ten minutes before the meeting started, and the leftover Prosecco in my water bottle, to consume during the film, that I had stolen from the half empty bottle my room mate had left in the bathroom sink, would be delightful with buttered popcorn, but would ultimately exhaust me by the time I got back to the co-op. But at the end of the day, all things considered, free pizza was not something I could pass up on my limited budget. So I would rush home and go to the meeting.

After the film ended, a ninety minute romantic comedy about an eighty year old American lesbian couple fleeing homophobic idiocy to get married in Canada, I went to Loblaws with my film companion and we reminisced about all the celebrities we had seen there when it was Maple Leaf Gardens.

“When I saw Frank Sinatra here he was so out of it he couldn’t even follow the lyrics on the monitor, and he made xenophobic remarks about Kurt Weill’s name when he sang Mack the Knife, followed by some insipid comment about Richard Rodgers and the great American songbook. Moron, did he even know anything about Rodger’s German Jewish heritage, that his original surname was Abrahams, changed by his father, a prominent surgeon in Queen’s, and that Lorenz Hart, one of Rodger’s greatest collaborators was a lovesick homosexual who was obsessed with Desi Arnaz and stood up for him when he married Lucille Ball? But when Frank sang My Way I just cried. It was so beautiful, even though he did seem a little unsure of the lyrics.”

“And Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme opened for Frank and she was in such a             bad mood. I could have sworn she was drunk the way she lugged herself across the stage in some horrific watercolor chiffon caftan and said such snippy things to Steve. I always loved Steve, and Eydie, but she was so off that night”

“And when I saw Freddy Mercury here I had no idea who he was. A friend made me go to see his favorite new brand named Queen, and I thought it was such a weird name for a rock band, but I went because I had such a crush on that friend, even though he was straight, and dating my best girl friend, and he kind of looked like Freddy, and had a very sexy moustache and large breasts in high school, so I couldn’t resist.”

“And Linda Ronstadt, she said during the concert, in between songs, that she was going to sing another Elvis song after singing Love Me Tender, and I was so disappointed it was Alison by Elvis Costello and not Jailhouse Rock or Burning Love.”

As I finished blathering on about Elvis and Linda I noticed frozen pizza with roasted garlic and asiago cheese on sale for $2.99. So I stuffed four into the shopping cart and felt very pleased with the bargain, half forgetting I had already eaten leftover pizza for breakfast and that there would still be lots more to consume when I got home.

It was a delightful visit to Loblaws, the former home of Canada’s greatest pastime, hockey, and countless summer concerts when the ice was gone and the stage was set for touring acts from all over the world.

Halfway back to my apartment I suddenly remembered the co-op meeting. I was strolling slowly, a little worn out from the Prosecco during the movie, and had completely forgotten about the meeting. I began to walk much faster and got there about ten minutes after it had started. And there they were, six large boxes filled with pizza -  one Hawaiian, two pepperoni and cheese, one vegetarian, and two tomato feta and mozzarella - with cans of Ginger Ale, Coke, Diet Pepsi, Seven-Up and some kind of carbonated cranberry drink. Wandering through Loblaws, overwhelmed by the bittersweet cinematic romance of an aging lesbian couple, I had forgotten about the pizza and now had four frozen ones in my bag that would be half thawed by the time the meeting ended. As much as I loved it, pizza was going to be an unwelcome staple of my diet for the rest of the week.

And as I sat there, trying not to stare at the beautiful bulky lesbian police officer - I shouldn’t have, but just assumed she was lesbian because she was a police officer and very butch, she probably had four kids and a cute skinny house husband at home for all I knew. But there she stood, instead of the hefty muscular tightly packed police officer of the biological male persuasion that usually attended members meetings. I wasn’t really all that disappointed. My faint but notable bisexual tendencies were given a little air time and I settled into an unexpected bout of voyeurism while the rest of the room ate their pizza and listened to a lot of boring shit about budgets and how to discipline your pet when in public areas in and around the coop - especially on the elevator where house pets can really pose a problem for anyone terrified of being bitten, or worse, pissed on, in confined spaces. 

And then, for some inexplicable reason, as I caught the eye of the woman police office, I quickly looked away and then down at my trousers to make sure I wasn’t wearing underwear over them. Lucky for me, I wasn’t. That would have been very embarrassing. And as I stared at my pants, and reached for a slice of Hawaiian on the table beside me, I thanked god for the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and remembered a performance I had seen by an ex porn star, Annie Sprinkle, where she asked for an audience member to take her panties off for her before she did a procedure with a speculum where she let spectators look at her cervix with a flashlight. I raised my hand, ran up, carefully slipped off her black lace panties with the pearl below the navel, then slipped them over my own trousers, and pranced back to my seat. It was an exciting night in my life that I will never forget, well, so long as I don’t get alzheimers. But sometimes people with alzheimers do inexplicable things, like wearing a pair of treasured underwear over their trousers for no apparent reason, even though deep in their brain there could be imbedded the memory of an especially exciting night of live performance. I also have a photo of Annie with her right breast on my head and her left breast on my lesbian friend’s head. She was selling them for five dollars after the show.

That night, after the members meeting, like any other night, as I readied myself for bed, washing my face and brushing my teeth, things I often felt too tired to do but always tried to force myself, at least the teeth since the face isn’t a priority in the area of health insurance. If the face goes social services definitely won’t help. If the teeth go they will give a bit of assistance. But as I readied myself for bed I began to mutter the serenity prayer under my breath.

            I thank God for the small but beautiful way
            in which alcohol has touched my life today

And then of course I instantly remembered that this was not the serenity prayer. It was my serenity prayer. I had written it in response to an Ala-non meeting where one of the participants became enraged that no one seemed interested in listening to their longwinded diatribe about a philandering lover. It just wasn’t her turn to speak but that didn’t seem to be an organizing principle she had any time for. So she stormed out, and smelled of booze the entire time she was there. One couldn’t help but wonder whether she had mistaken herself for someone profoundly affected by the behaviour of alcoholics rather than an alcoholic herself. But that would be her mission perhaps, not mine. 

So I put my thoughts to rest with the proper version of the serenity prayer and went to sleep. It had been a day like any other day. Except, of course, for the pizza.

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