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October 10, 2005

  • Future Nostalgia
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    He knew he was really old when they showed The 40 Year-Old Virgin on Saturday Night at the Movies.

    This was not exactly a new occurrence. He remembered back to the early double-0s when they showed Blade Runner on Saturday Night at the Movies, back when CityAccessOntario was still called TVO. For decades, Saturday Night at the Movies had been showing films from his parent's generation; with first strains of Vangelis' theme, he realized this was the first time they had shown a film from when he was a kid. Now, complete with interviews with Judd Apatow and a white haired-but-still-gorgeous Catharine Keener, they were showing a movie he could remember seeing as he approached middle-age.

    He remembered the first time he saw The 40 Year-Old Virgin. He was 35 and he went to a repertory house (was it the Kingsway? No it was the Fox!) to see it. Rep cinemas. That took him back. When he was a kid, he was just at the end of practice of re-releasing popular movies a couple of years later—a practice that was killed by the VCR. Rep theatres died a similar death with the advent of iCinema.

    He was sad when they closed the Fox seven years before. It was a beautiful little theatre in a funky part of the Beaches that had old movie memorabilia from decades before. He remembered reading about the people determined to keep the place from closing. They failed. Such efforts are usually doomed to failure. Progress continues, unrelenting, turning once grand little 1950s theatres and all the quaint little shops that dotted the Beaches into Storefront Condos and Kelp Bars. He remembered his niece being shocked at the notion that people once sold goods and services where he now lived; but then he himself was shocked by the notion that people once laboured in garment sweatshops in the lofts his friends lived in decades ago.

    But weren't the Beaches so beautiful back then? When he saw The 40 Year-Old Virgin at the Fox he was excited and delighted when he arrived in the Beaches. They were a place made for autumn. There was nothing better than being out window shopping in the Beaches in October. (By now, he had realized that October was his favourite month; fall was in full swing, the leaves were still changing and the lights were golden). Of course, he hardly ever went shopping in the Beaches, it was more the idea of shopping in the Beaches that appealed to him.

    The October night he saw The 40 Year-Old Virgin all those years ago, he bought an ice cream from a nice little store (now a Kelp Bar) before the show. And he walked part of the way home—this was back in the days before the Leslie Overpass—and stopped off at Hasty Market (oh gods, Hasty Market! ) to buy a pop. That was back when they had 500 ml bottles, and Coke still had separate labels for everything, so there were drinks like Sprite and Barq's Root Beer. Now it's all a swatch of uniform red and white swoops, with only the colour of the liquid to distinguish it. Branding triumphant.

    When did we lose interest in the corner store, he wondered? When did we lose touch with the idea of going somewhere to get some milk or M&Ms or some smokes (when you could actually buy such things!) or even to make photocopies on an ancient Canon copier? There was always a corner store nearby when he was growing up. There isn't any more. There was have ShopTVWeb instead.

    But it was a good time to be alive, he thought, and a good time to be in love. Of course he didn't see it that way back then. Back then he had lost his job and found the heartbreak of that termination to be almost as bad as the loss of a relationship. And he felt like he would never be whole enough to look for more work. As ever, he didn't have the benefit of the long view, the realization that there isn't one route, one journey, one straight line. Everything is winding, jumbled, you go down this path here and you find yourself at a weird junction there…but eventually you wind up somewhere else, somewhere totally unexpected.

    Was the world a safer place back then, he wondered as he listened to Catharine Keener talk about working with Steve Carrell (back when he had just exploded on the scene, long before his dominance was established by starring in the Quantum Leap movies), or did he just know less?

    In a month, he would be 51. He didn't mind that, really, but the trouble with becoming older is that you remember all the ways the landscape has changed. One day you're 35 going to see a repertory movie, enjoying the Beaches in autumn and thinking about how your life is going to change, and the next you're 51 and its 2020 and there hasn't been a streetcar in Toronto for five years and the RBC-TD has yet another logo. Everything, he realized was change. Being old was simply the point at which you became tired from the constant motion.

    And yet, the future wasn't much different than the past in all the basic ways. People still used cars, and first-run cinemas will never quite die, and there were still friends and family and people he loved madly and deeply. And for that he would give thanks over turkey and a stuffing recipe he still had from his mother.

    He remembered a silly, pithy observation he once made in his twenties when he fancied himself a poet: You can only see your footprints after you left them, never as you walk.

    He turned up the volume on The 40 Year-Old Virgin. It was coming up to his favourite part.


    Posted by graeme | (0) Comments | Permalink

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