After listening to our two favourite CKUA radio shows and completing Saturday’s New York Times crossword puzzle, Ann and I decided to break free, move beyond the boundaries of our property. Our destination was
Whyte Avenue, the south side’s shopping
and nightlife strip, and home to Blackbyrd, maybe the city’s last pure record
store. We wanted the new releases from Willie Nelson and Jason Isbell, and I
knew that with the leisure to browse we’d find some ancient catalogue gem from
someone at a reasonable price.
The day was sunny and breezy, the solstice imminent. The bikers and hot-rodders were congregated in the Timmy’s parking lot, showing off their clean machines. The day drinkers were in the darkness of the Commercial Hotel’s blues bar. The sidewalks were tight with people and their dogs and children meandering on weekend time. Some of the pubs and eateries erect temporary street-side patios so patrons can enjoy the crush of humanity in the sunshine from behind a barrier. Pedestrians then must navigate boardwalks that extend onto the road which makes vehicle traffic flow like blood through an artery rimed with cholesterol. Everybody move over, that’s all.
Ann and I were impeded by a group of gym-rats and their skinny little molls. There was jostling, a molten shoving mass and raised voices. Somebody shouted, ‘Let’s go into the alley and fight it out!’ Ann said, ‘Somebody should call the police. Should I?’ I looked at the puffed up corner boys with their oiled haircuts, their muscle shirts, their baggy track pants and pristine leather sneakers. I said, ‘Fuckit, let ‘em cull their herd.’ I’m not afraid of youngsters but I don’t approve of the way they present these days; green ink tattoos scream infection through toxic clouds of sweat and Axe.
One of the fighters jogged ahead to get ready for the dumpster cage match. When Ann and I reached the crosswalk at the end of the block, he was bouncing on the balls of his feet, unable to make the turn into the fight site or even cross the street. ‘Do you got a lighter? A lighter? Do you got a lighter?’ A cigarette butt burned down to the filter flipped up and down between his lips. The end appeared sodden. He hadn’t been alive long enough to ask for a match but he was jitterbugging on some drug that had yet to be invented when I used to take them. ‘Do you got a lighter? A lighter? Do you got a lighter?’
Have I a lighter? Me? Us?
There’s a Toronto Blue Jays Bic in the kangaroo pocket of my sweatshirt right now but only because I could not find a Montreal Expos one earlier this spring. There’s a winter use Montreal Canadiens at home in one of my bedroom bureau drawers. I’ve got two Elvis Zippos that need flints and fuel. I’ve got a heavy metal Rolling Stones American tongue logo lighter that’s a bit too tacky to use. There’s an emergency Bob Marley Exodus tour lighter that I bought in
on the shelf by the kitchen door staging area where I do all my standing,
staring and thinking, and its purchase was a misremembered mistake because I
actually caught the next year’s Kaya
tour at the Montreal Forum. There’s an emergency 7-11 lighter in a tray of our
Honda’s console. Ann’s got about six plain Bics secreted about her person
because she knows she’ll likely mislay five of them. Do I have a lighter? Do
Ann and I have lighters? Do we have lighters? Bridgetown, Barbados