I Hate Outdoor Concerts

When I was in my early teens, my mother drove my friend and I to Canada’s Wonderland to see a Fine Young Cannibals in an outdoor concert. That very night, a hurricane was working its way up the eastern seaboard and Toronto was hit by the edge of this cold, rainy weather system.

This was at about 8:00 PM. FYC did not hit the stage until about 10:30 PM.

That we had to suffer through an hour and a half of an opening band called “The Mint Dulips” was bad enough. But the fact that we had to sit – no, stand, you always have to stand at a concert – just outside the shelter of the giant awning in the cold pouring rain was the real kicker. By the time “She Drives Me Crazy” rolled around, the black polish on my leather jacket had soaked through to my white shirt underneath. It took us another half hour to find our way back to the parking lot through muddy wet grass, and to top it off, the heat in my mother’s car had blown and she had to run the air conditioning all the way home to stop the windows from fogging up.

This was my first outdoor concert experience. And one might say that it has scarred my attitude towards to paying for over-priced tickets in order to sit with a crowd of drunk, pushy people reeking of sun-block and patchouli to stare at a performer so obscured by the sheer number of people, that the organizers have to install a giant TV screen so those who don’t want their toes crushed and ribs bruised can see as well. Well I disagree. Forking out a chunk of your paycheque to stare at a big outdoor TV screen – no, wait, let me rephrase that: to be forced to stand and stare at a big outdoor TV screen – is silly, no matter which way you look at it. Now, picture someone watching a concert through a department store window. If they were to pay what people pay for tickets these days, even the window-shopper would be getting the better deal.

I would like to clarify. As one of my detractors, Paisley Rae, pointed out to me last night, for me, a “concert” is anything that exceeds 500 people. When I think of a concert, I think of the numbers of people that Bjork or U2 would attract. Then again, as a mild anthrophobe, I’m suspicious and weary of public gatherings of more than 15 people. I always have this fear I’ll get sucked into whatever craziness ther’re up to. Don’t even get me started on those Free Hugs freaks.

In theory the idea of an outdoor concert sounds amazing – who wouldn’t want to sit on the open grass and listen to great live music? – and I would be a hypocrite by claiming that the Fine Young Cannibals debacle stopped me from trying to enjoy them. But of all the outdoor concerts I’ve been to, I’ve enjoyed only two.

The first was Pink Floyd in the early nineties. The second was The Tragically Hip’s Another Roadside Attraction in the same period. I enjoyed the former because everyone else was over forty and had the common sense to sit back and enjoy the music, in the now-closed Exhibition Stadium, a much smaller Toronto venue. I enjoyed The Hip’s show because I snuck in with a friend (free!), and we were…herbally enhanced. Actually we spent only about 20 minutes listening to the show, and the rest of the time sitting away from the crowd at a picnic table with a group of other equally-enhanced people cracking what we thought were funny jokes and staring at the grains of wood.

In both cases, I think it was the crowds attending those outdoor concerts that affected my opinion. The Pink Floyd audience was a chilled-out roll-your-own-cigarette set, and the Hip crowd, from my chemically altered perspective, didn’t exist.

There again lies my misanthropic attitude: the whole can’t-you-just-feel-the-collective-energy thing? Well, I don’t feel it, at all. In fact, I have more of a how-can-you-stand-having-a-stranger’s-stinky-sweat-on-you? kinda thing going on.

OK. I’ll be completely honest with you. I hate all concerts, indoors and out. Though I’ve never been to an indoor one, I can only assume it’s the same thing, minus the port-o-potties, but with even longer line-ups for the washrooms.

I recall an anecdote about Bono where he once got angry at an audience because they were sitting down during one of his concerts. My response to this is: When was the last time you were in a throng of strange people, Mr. Bono? When was the last time you had to stand in line to pee in a plastic, sun-baked toilet?

Everyone reclining as they would in the comfort of their own home?

Everyone sharing their own living room experience?

Everyone being able to see the actual performers without breaking their necks?

Now, that would be money worth spending. Until then, my attitude towards concerts will always be as my Facebook status elegantly describes:

“Concerts to me are like trying to listen to my favourite music on a transistor radio while standing in a subway in rush hour about an hour after the air-conditioning has blown, and of course I have to go to the bathroom.”

Other People’s Poetry: All too Brief

The bustle in a house

The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth, –

The sweeping up the heart,
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
Until eternity.


Emily Dickenson


Lament for Shy Man

He would have hated this
the man who turned his face
to hedgerows rather than risk
a greeting on a country road.
It would be another death
to know the details of his life
were being discussed over
breakfast, at church gates,
in hazy snugs as far as
Moate and Mullingar.


Nessa O’Mahoney
Courtesy of the anthology, “The Backyards of Heaven”

Pro-Choice? Start Making Noise

A headline in this week’s demonstrates how the worst possible things can have their origins in the best of intentions: Huge anti-abortion rally hails Canada’s new foreign-aid stand. Pro-Lifers gathered on Parliament Hill to show their appreciation for Harper’s decision to withhold foreign-aid support for abortions. And who wouldn’t be appreciative for someone taking steps to preserve the life of an unborn child? Really, when you think about it this way, it seems like the right thing to do.

Until of course, you find yourself destitute and pregnant. Caught in the light of such a predicament, all symbolism and sentiment withers away rather quickly.

But it is the mindset of the religious Pro-Lifer not to think that far ahead. I should know. I used to be one.

In my mid-teens, a member of an Evangelical youth group, and definitively NOT sexually active, my mantra on the issue of abortion was “you play, you pay”. In other words, if you commit the sin of sex, you have to deal with the possible consequences of a baby, whether you want it or not. This sentiment was directed at my very patient and sexually active friends, who would only shake their heads, and say, “when you get in a relationship, you’ll know.”

Of course I never considered what they were talking about because it wasn’t my position to consider anything. The dispute for me began and ended with the tenet “you play, you pay”. Period. End of story. There was no arguing against my good, moral, Christian position. Anything less than completely illegalizing abortion would result in the continual murder of babies, steady de-population, and the proliferation of foetus farms. As for the unlucky girl: just suck it up. Have the baby and give it up for adoption, how hard could it be? Of course your family would help and of course your boyfriend would stick around, right? And someone’s bound to adopt the little tike. Me? Are you kidding? I’m too young to have kids. Besides, compromising my position would make me less of a Christian, therefore lessening my chances at going up in the Rapture and getting front row seats to watch you sinful suckers fry.(Thinking about it, I am beginning to doubt that I was celibate by choice. I mean come on, what girl wouldn’t want to fuck a guy who does the equivalent of pointing at her body and saying: that isn’t yours. Form an orderly queue, ladies)

You may laugh, but much of my motivation behind the such a hard-line position was about being a good Christian. And that’s what I recognize in the faces of the Pro-Life demonstrators, a lot of people doing their best to follow their faith. (Looking at them I keep thinking of a possible new reality show, So You Think You’re a Christian) Awash in blessed sentiment, these rosary-adorned crowds don’t realize (or refuse to think) that they aren’t the only people who are thanking Harper for cutting abortion funding to countries where war-rape is common. Male soldiers love the idea. What’s the point of war-rape if you can’t saddle your enemies with unwanted babies? Also, his decision will no doubt be a boon to the proprietors of back alley abortion clinics, and to the orphanages who will receive a sharp spike in enrollment in the children of mothers who’ll make the fatal decision to patronize the substandard clinics.

But again, it’s not the role of the faithful to think about such unintended consequences, but simply to follow. When confronted, simply shout something about killing babies, and perhaps wave the results of recently published and swiftly refuted scientific studies about abortions causing breast cancer, or abortions being detrimental to maternal health (the whole Ireland thing – turns out, Irish women still have abortions, but “take the boat to England” to do so)

Please do not take my tone as diminutive towards the faithful. The religious Right in Canada are as politically organized and motivated as they are passionate. We could at least afford a chortle or two if we had some MP’s vocally taking a stand for women’s reproductive rights. But from I can glean from the news, there has been nothing but cowed silence. This has emboldened the Pro-Lifers enough that Pro-Life MP Paul Szabo publically stated, “we’re taking incremental steps, small steps. It’s just a question of knowing when it’s the right time.” This, on the idea of making changes to the abortion laws in Canada in a way that better suits good, moral, Christian values. In other words, if we let them have their way, we’ll soon have our own Canadian surge in the number of wealthy back-alley abortionists.

Given the silence from Pro-Choice MP’s, it looks as though we’ll have to make our own noise.
Joyce Arthur, of Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada, has a list of ideas on her website on how to take a stand on the issue. Among them are contacting your local MP (harangue them if they are Pro-Life), volunteering at local events, and sending letters to your regional newspaper. If you want a template for a letter to your MP, you are welcome to use mine. There was a time when we could laugh-off the religious Right as an American phenomenon. Times have changed. They’re here and they have their own vision of Canada which they want realized, whether we like it or not.

As an aside, check out the article, The Only Moral Abortion is MY Abortion.

Am I…Beta Male?

A man butts ahead of me in line at the LCBO (the liquor store, to my non-Canadian friends). Well, he doesn’t exactly butt, he is a little more subtle than that. He first pretends to be looking for a particular half-Mickey that they sell at the front counter. He then leaves the line and disappears for a few moments, only to return and repeat the same butting-like procedure as before. However, this time he stays in line ahead of me and begins fishing for his wallet. I see that he has a bottle in his hand and the Your-Getting-Screwed centre of my brain – the same centre that goes off when one of my friends takes more than his share of pizza – starts going off. My heart rate gains speed, my gut gets that sinking feeling, and the line-transgressor appears to notice.

“Sorry dude,” he says, “I was already in line with her.” He points at the girl in front of us in line.

“Isn’t that right?” He asks her, smiling.

She smiles back. “Oh, I don’t know,” she says.

They exchange a few more pleasantries, which I don’t hear because my head is a raging sea of indignation. Part of me wants to make a scene, something cool, collected but ultimately violent; something that Stephan Segal would do. But to my horror I discover a part of me – a rather large part – wants very much to believe this guy, who is now bantering with the cashier.

I can already hear your thoughts. Some of you, like my wife, are thinking “why are you making such a big deal about this?” While others are thinking, “Dude, I would have already burned down the guy’s house by now.” Which leaves me somewhere in between, in a place reserved for those who often find their indignation bridled by anxiety. I can’t help but think this is the realm of the beta male.

Funny thing is, I never thought myself as one. I’ve had my fair share of fights and confrontations. To be honest, I never thought myself as an alpha male either, because there has been many a-times in playgrounds and cafeterias and street corners where I’ve skulked away with my tale between my legs.

I’ve always considered myself someone who just does his own thing. I’ve never needed to defer to the rooster with the biggest frock and I’ve never needed a bunch of little buddies to faun over me either.

Lone wolf? Yeah, right.

Perhaps lone husky, or one of those mid-sized dogs with the red bandanna named ‘Bandit.’

But never, never in my life, would I think of myself as an anxious little Chihuahua standing in line at an LCBO.

By this time, the girl is paying for her six-pack. He is still talking to her, and I lean forward and say “well played” as if I’m giving him my blessing on his trespass; as if to say: I know you did it, but I’m going to let it go. He responds in kind by saying that he’s going to have the girl pay for his small bottle of liquor.

In the end they pay for their own liquor and leave separately. I want to shrug off the whole incident as just one of those things that one can’t make a scene over.

However, the thought lingers for the rest of the night. Lisa tells me to stop obsessing, but nevertheless, I think of recent times on the subway where my foot has been stepped on, and I think of a friend of mine who enjoys staring down other men (including police) from his car while idling at traffic lights.

Have I been listening to too much Ron Sexsmith? Have I been reading when I should have been out driving six-inch nails into two-by-fours with a framing hammer, just for the sake of it? Have I misplaced that mannish (and often childish) willingness to disturb the peace, to risk injury, for a perceived transgression?

We are told that we live in a civilized world, where we have institutions to mete out justice and provide security. But we are also told that civilization is always one generation deep. If civilization collapses I can help but worry whether I would be an Eloi, or an Eloi-eating Morlock? The fact that I know the difference between the two possibly demonstrates that I am spending a little two much time reading and not enough time outside knocking holes in things.

Eeshh. I think I either need to quit obsessing, or join a local militia.