March 18th 2002
My Daughter, realizing that I am what is now referred to as a “wrinkly rocker”, decided that a good Christmas present would be a ticket to the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young Concert here in Toronto. Which, I might add, is what I call an excellent present that shows great thought as to its usefulness. Something along the same lines as a good vintage wine! Or maybe a case of wine.
Having seen CSN in Johannesburg I was looking forward to seeing the full CSNY for a change. It helps that I am a Neil Young fan of course. If I have to see Rock Stars even older than I am then at least make them ones whose dissonant lifestyles have been paid for by my buying of their records! At least I can claim to have most of Neil Young's records and, even better, I still play them on a regular basis as well. Like now!
There is however a large difference between seeing CSN in Johannesburg and CSNY in Toronto. One significant factor being that after the warmish weather we had had, it suddenly got cold again and we wound up with a dusting of snow all over the place. Blown there by the wind, which of course dropped the temperature somewhat. As it makes a lot more sense to take the GO train into town than drive this means waiting around at the station. Something which, unfortunately, is not the sort of experience recommended when going to concerts at Ellis Park at the time.
Mind you I realised that we were going to have a reasonable experience when I entered the closed in shelters on the station platform and had a serious whiff of dagga entering my nostrils. At least the only other occupant had the good sense to look away when, recognizing the smell, I stopped and looked around and made some comment. He probably didn't think that this old fart would be aware of what was going on.
By the way the reason for going into Toronto on the GO train is many fold. It is definitely cheaper than parking your car. At a minimum of $20 at the parking lots nearby, a return ticket at $10.10, knowing that you will also get there and back safely without too much stress, is worth the investment. In addition the concert was at Air Canada Centre, which has a convenient covered walkway between the arena and the Union Station. Which in winter is a blessing.
So we toddled through the walkway and got to the “bleed the suckers dry” area commonly known as the merchandise stalls. Where a T-shirt starts at $40 merely because it has the name of the artists on it! Mind you the tie dyed one was really appealing and nearly caused me to dip into the zippy-zappy penury card. I debated that the whole night.
After all you need some souvenir of the evening. Don't you? Well so long as the bank manager understands maybe!
After surrendering the tickets to the chap at the door, who seemed more interested in checking to see if I had a camera, video or tape recorder, I strolled around the inside stalls to see whether any of them had the testicles to break away from what is obviously a price fixing exercise. Nope! Every T, cap and program is exactly the same price. Amazing that. Absolutely no choice whatsoever.
CSNY being a band that appeals to causes there were a lot of the cause type stands up. Greenpeace, Amnesty and local organizations dedicated to saving all sorts of things. I was amused to note that at most of the stands I was totally ignored by the earnest types there despite my obvious interest. I gave a well-deserved lecture to one youngster about why people like me should be approached. Then laughed at his request for a donation. If I am being ignored because I am too old to suit his needs so is my money. Pity that he probably won't read this.
So suitably refreshed mentally I decided that the liquid variety would be welcome and popped across to a stand selling kosher hotdogs to get a coke. (Beer later!) And out of fifteen thousand people in the ACC that night the first person I approach is a South African. The owner of the stand having come over to Canada some years before. Didn't get to have too much of a chat but that was some co-incidence!
Now one of the things that really impressed me was that the start time was set for eight and it started on time! This has never happened at any concert that I have been to before!
Even better was that most of the audience was already seated. Seated being a term I use loosely by the way. What is it with arenas that they always put in minute seats to cram as many people in as possible? I have large shoulders and without a doubt I am always making the people next to me squirm. Never mind my long legs crammed up around my ears either. Aside from this they were excellent seats. Slightly raised enough to give a good view of the stage and to stop the people in front from blocking the view if the need to stand up and dance took hold. And that need did quite often.
This concert was a full-blown good rocking session with the amps turned way up and all the oldies being cranked out at full volume. Because it was CSNY we got a lot of the individual songs of each member as well as the well-known CSNY classics. “Our House, Woodstock” and many others that always bring out the memories of a misspent youth.
I enjoyed Neil Young immensely. It is the first time I have heard him live and he blew the house away. OK, he is a Canadian, which meant that the whole audience was biased but that was really good rock being pumped out. His new song “lets roll” has not been quite that catching when it is played on the radio but in the arena it was amazing! Because he is Canadian I think that he may have been allowed a little leeway in how many songs he played. I don't care because every one he went through was played like good hard rock should be played. Loudly and with passion!
The organist on the show was Booker T who did a short stint with Stills at one time which was also an old blast from the past to add to the collection I am amassing over the last few years. Dylan, CSNY, Jethro Tull, Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, ZZ Top, Hawkwind and others!
About the only sad side to the whole concert was the decay in the voices of the others (Young has always had a compellingly weird nasal drone which is still the same). Stills in particular for most of the show and Crosby every so often. It didn't detract but it was noticeable unfortunately.
The other startling side to the show was the complete lack of awareness of the non-smoking signs. People lit up all over the stadium. Mostly grass I must admit but there were many others puffing away quite merrily. The group in front of me had a joint going continuously. My very own “second hand smoke” test in a way!
The group played from eight until eleven thirty with a fifteen-minute break mid way. And just long enough to mean that we missed the midnight train back to Oakville and had to wait for the one-o-clock one instead. Which wasn't too much of a problem as it allowed me to buy a bootleg T-shirt from vendors outside the complex for $10 instead. Obviously the price decreasing as the hours went by!
Considering the dagga slipstream inside, taking a train was a wiser choice than driving as well.
So now we wait for a few more memories to pop up here and play, which I can add to the collection. I think King Crimson is due in Hamilton sometime. I will probably have to drive to that one though.
March 11th 2002
I have been lucky enough to see mass hysteria take place three times in my life. I say lucky because this has taken place in an atmosphere of joy as opposed to any other type.
The first was when Natal won the Currie Cup for the first time in one hundred years. Forgive me but, as a staunch Sharks supporter, I really must put the boot in here by pointing out that Nasty Booter still has egg on his face with regard to his “not for another hundred years” sour grapes comment!!
I can remember the jubilation that went on that night all over Natal. Alarms, hooters, screaming, shouting and general stupidity. It was great! Except for the hangover a few days later. (well you don't think that the celebration stopped at midnight did you?)
A few years later I was lucky enough to have tickets to the Rugby World Cup finals at Ellis Park where, as we all know, South Africa won the final to become World Champions. Once again the degree of hysteria that burst out was phenomenal. Once again parties lasted well into the night and next day. Once again my liver worked overtime to cope with the copious quantities of liquid required to suppress the blood in my alcohol stream. Once again the hangover a few days later was….well I was older. It felt more like punishment this time.
And now here in Canada I am once again in the middle of mass jubilation and celebration.
Canada won the Gold medal at the Winter Olympics for the Men's Hockey. Mind you they won the Gold Medal for the Woman's hockey as well but the Men's Hockey seems to be the one that “all of Canada was waiting for!” I believe that, to the day, it was fifty years ago that Canada last won a Gold Medal for Men's Hockey so I guess that it was a long time coming.
The final was against the USA, who not only have taken most of the preceding fifty years Gold Medals (along with Russia), but haven't lost a game on home ice for the last twenty-four games. They cruised through the preliminary rounds without losing any games while Canada lost to Sweden in the first game. So you can understand why the Canadians weren't exactly seen as the favourites.
Come the day and with the Woman's team having walked away with the Gold earlier even I had some trepidation as to what would happen should Canada lose to the USA. There was so much propaganda floating around in the news media that it was becoming a bit embarrassing.
Apparently, and no one seems to have been able to confirm this, the American Woman's team had placed a Canadian flag on the floor of their dressing room and were walking over it to get to the rink. According to the Canadian captain that is. In a pep talk to the team before the match! In other words I, cynic that I am, wonder how true that was. The press, of course, latched onto that comment and hounded it to death. Without ever asking the Americans for their side of the story. As it was, the Woman's final had an American referee who, to put it mildly, was just a little biased. Some of the penalties called seemed dubious to say the least.
Considering the furore over the Canadian skating pairs final with Sele and Pelletier I was surprised to see that they had an American referee with the American team as one of the finalists but apparently when it comes to the Olympics anything can happen. And generally does! The upshot was that the Canadian team had to play better and score more. Which they did! Much to the delight of everyone at the time.
Then it was the turn of the men's team. And here is where I also find my cynicism coming to the fore with regard to the Olympic spirit. All of the team members here, for most of the major, and many of the minor, countries participating play for the NHL. In other words they are professionals, which tends to make a mockery of the so-called amateur side of the Games.
One of the good parts of the Olympic hockey though, is that the general thuggery condoned by the NHL is penalized in the Games so that you have a good flowing game for a change without the stoppage while various quasi-boxers look for their teeth!
It was a good game and right up until the last quarter could have gone either way but a flurry of goals resulted in the Canadian team winning five goals to three.
At which stage Canada went barmy. Alarms, hooters, screaming, shouting and general stupidity. Yup! Natal all over again.
So what did I as a good new immigrant do?
Of course! I joined in! Well why not? A party is a party after all and everyone was happy so, hey let's celebrate as well. My daughter even convinced me that she had to come with me when I went to pick up the other family members and hung a Canadian flag out the window. She also coordinated the hooting as well. Even the small twinge I had originally felt on buying a Roots Po'Boy cap (if you watched the Games you will recognize them as the red caps worn backwards and by all the Canadian team and supporters) was relegated for the duration. I wore it with pride too.
It was a fascinating experience and one that I have had the good fortune to have undergone three times now. Maybe I should market myself as a good luck immigrant. “Am mascot will travel” sort of thing.
On the other hand I was amused to see that while everyone shakes their heads at the African practice of sprinkling muti around before soccer games no one here batted an eyelid at the very same type of practice which occurred during this game. Never mind the Americans walking on the Canadian flag (which is a type of muti in itself!) but apparently both the Woman's and Men's matches were assisted by the ingenious placing of a loonie in centre ice by the Zamboni driver who was a Canadian specially imported to make the ice.
Canadian Zamboni drivers apparently being the best in the world. (A Zamboni by the way is what Woodstock, in Peanuts, uses on the bird bath so that Snoopy can play hockey as well!)
This particular Canuck, tasked with ensuring the best Ice Hockey surface in the world, buried the loonie while he was so engaged. So both of Canada's teams played with their own little piece of muti, in situ as it was! As I understand it, it was dug up shortly afterwards, presented to Wayne Gretsky the team Manager and he is going to present it to the Hockey Hall of Fame here in downtown Toronto! Such is the spirit of magic!
Something like the spirit that permeated Canada that Sunday night. It was magic!
March 4th 2002
I am one of those people who use an Orbital Input Device to transfer data to the memory banks. In addition I have 360degree surround sound aural input bi-directional devises, which stand me in good stead when it comes to gaining audible input.
Very effective the whole set up is as well. I have been using this system my whole life and found that it suits my need to find out things. All things necessary to blunder my way through a very interesting life I might add.
This was of course my extremely lame attempt to appeal to the youth market. For those of you who are old enough to remember how it was BC (before computers!) I am of course referring the days when we used to gain all our information from listening to people and reading books. Not just comic books either, no matter how much they may claim that “reading comics is reading too!”
As an avowed bibliophile one of the first things I do when I need to find out some information is either go to the library or else, and this is my normal option, go to the local bookstore. Exclusive Books and Adams now being supplanted by Chapters/Indigo here in Canada.
So when I wanted to find out more about my new country I toddled off and indulged myself once again. Atlas's, dictionaries and history books. I know you can do all this online, and in fact have done many hours of research in different sites, but there is nothing like having a book that you own and which you can have handy at all times when you need to refresh your memory. Or write articles!
I have been in Canada for three years now and so I am able to apply for citizenship. Which entails a good working knowledge of Canada, it's history, politics and regional peculiarities. Preferring to learn more than the canned synopsis available from the Government booklets I have spent some time buying books to help me learn more. Part of the pleasure of this has been the ability to add a whole new section to my website that will be valuable to many South Africans who either wish to learn a little more about Canada or who, like me, are contemplating the Canadian Citizenship test. (gratuitous plug!: http://members.tripod.com/saontario)
I love history and so I initially settled for a quick fix in the form of “The idiots guide to Canadian History”. Unfortunately this particular book follows the present day need to sanitise history and follow politically correct viewpoints. Written by a woman it basically can be summed up as follows:
“All history before the feminist revolt was immaterial because men were involved”. Which is a pity because it also does injustice to many of the woman who were the original pioneers of equality and in many cases glosses over some of the extremely glaring faults that some of the politically correct “chosen” showed. Male and Female!
I was, too put it mildly, disappointed.
So I “borrowed” my son's history book from school. Perhaps I should rephrase that. They don't teach history at schools here. It's part of a “civics” or “humanities” course instead. Even worse is that it concentrates almost exclusively on twentieth century history and the latter part of the twentieth century at that! When did my youth become history??! Damn!
Sadly this book was even worse than the other when it came to re-working the facts. I say sadly because this is a textbook, which is being used to brainwash the uninterested. Bias belongs to the victors. Or in this case to those who would desperately like to rewrite history to suit a sanitized view according to Marx. Not Groucho either! Unfortunately!
Then I discovered a Canadian author who I absolutely adore. Of course it helps that he has the same cynical outlook on life that I do. That he looks at both sides of the question and presents both arguments. More importantly that he has a love of history and Canada that shines through at all times despite the names of some of his books.
Ever one to carry on rewardless I went back to Chapters and purchased a new book called “Canadian History for Dummies” (no there isn't any hidden meaning in the idiots and dummies connection!) by one Will Ferguson. It was one of the best buys I have yet made. In the time it took me to read the book I learnt masses of information about Canada. Both good and bad. And fascinating! Ferguson's' habit of putting opposing viewpoints into the debate makes you think. He doesn't shy away from controversy either and will put in facts that have been sanitized from other journals in the search for political correctness. I don't suppose everyone will enjoy his cynical take on many of the events and people who have made Canada but I enjoyed them. It made this country so much more than the bland “nice” nation that it pretends to be.
Of course I looked around to see whether Mr. Ferguson had written any other books. At which stage I noticed that he has a penchant for titles that are designed to really annoy the politically correct and gain attention.
“Why I hate Canadians”
“Bastards and Boneheads”
“How to be a Canadian”
“I was a teenage Katima victim”
What could I do? Imagine asking for “why I hate Canadians” at the counter with an accent like mine. It seems so impolite! So ungrateful!
So I bought them. All!
I can wholeheartedly recommend them all as wonderful sources of information as to why Canada is the country that it is. Despite the titles one thing that does shine through is that Ferguson loves this country. Warts and all! As such he gives a perspective that is fairly unique. It also allows you to understand why Canada, as a nation, is so schizophrenic. In addition it debunks a lot of the theories that pretend that Canada is a bland nation. Perfect grist to my warped mill! Did I mention that in all of them he has a sense of humour that adds to tenor of the learning experience? Just another reason why these books have made the learning experience so enjoyable.
Right now I believe that I have a far better perspective on my adopted country. One that has added to my resolve to stay here and add to the community.
Or, as one of my Canadian friends put it: “you know more about my country than I do. And I was born here! About time to become a citizen, go to parliament and become another bonehead” I think he was joking.
Oddly enough one of the facts that springs to mind through all my learning is how similar Canada and South Africa were in all the facets of history, past and present. Perhaps when I made my choice, deep down I recognised that. Which is why I am here today and learning again.
Thank God for people like Ferguson who make the learning experience so easy.
For anyone who like me is interested in Canada I recommend that at the very least you buy the “Dummies” guide. It is worth the money!