Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Sim, Sim, Sima - She has the Keys

This transpired over the weekend:

Papa Len and I were driving in the car with my mother, en route for dinner. My father began talking about a recent Globe and Mail article about how people were starting to feel trapped by suburbia because of the lack of culture, transit and other urban amenities.
"Thank god we didn't buy that house up north." Sim Sim Sima declared.
"What? How could I have a blog if we lived up north?" I was shocked and imagined us living in Yorkmills or even worse - Thornhill. "Where did you almost buy a house?"
"Lawrence Park." My mother deadpanned. No not deadpanned. She meant it seriously - Yonge and Lawrence is considered north of the city for Portand's favourite princess.

Sima though, is nothing but frank in her opinions. Why just the other day she went on a rant about Stephen Harper's budget.
"I just don't get it - I thought this budget was supposed to appeal to Middle American's; working class Canadians like you and I." She said to my father last night. "I'm not getting any of these tax breaks, this is just so unfair." I looked at her and tried to explain how she wasn't considered a working class Canadian, but she would have none of it. She works so considers herself working class; Harper just doesn't understand her needs.

I offered her a bit of consolation:
Last week Holt Renfrew had their private shopping night - those invited were given a consumption based rebate on purchases; spend $1000.00 receive a $100.00 gift certificate, spend $5000.00 get a $500.00 certificate. Tax break right there, right?

My mother's reply: I don't shop at Holt Renfrew.

Hmm... maybe she truly is a middle class Canadian?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Won't You be my Neighbour?

This morning at breakfast Sim Sim Sima went on a bit of a rant about our next door neighbour, Gail, until Papa Len interupted her and said - "we could have worse neighbours - like the ones across the street." You get down with your bad self Papa Len.

We don't like the neighbours across the street, because they leave their dog outside on the front porch, park their car in front of our house and blah blah blah. These aren't things that ONE does in the Village, FYI. According to street gossip: they moved down from Thornhill after a family windfall. How dismissive is that?

On the surface the Village is a seemingly bucolic place of tidy lawns, botoxed beauties and SUV's. Walk into Banfi on a Saturday night and you'll be greeted with a chorus of "You who! Sandra, how are you? How was Florida?" It's almost like they care about your trip to Florida. When they don't. They just ask you about it, so they can make sure that their trip to Florida was both better, longer and more expensive then yours. This also allows them to talk about how their children are smarter and prettier [and less gay!] then yours. It's a cruel cruel world over here. Dripping below the surface of such friendlness is the constant fear of one-up-manship and SUV jealousy. Literally Gail once knocked on our door to show my mother her new vintage planters. Sima didn't know what to say except to trott out her new tropical planter in retaliation. Yikes, bring home the troops please, I'm sensing a domestic.

Such simple one-upmanship is nothing compared to some of the other shit that goes on round here. Just the other day, as I ran into the local subway station, I spotted an old classmate from elementary school. Seeing as most of the people who I spent nine years with in jewish day school live in the Village or in the Other Hill, this is no big surprise. It's also no big surprise to find someone my age still living at home as why move out unless you're getting married?

Well hello Ilana Lipman! I stopped to say hello and ask the patented, "So how are you doing?" Ilana smiled, nodded her head and told me how great she was doing, before turning away and opening her book. No asking how I was. No nothing.

Woah you might say, well isn't that a bit cold? And you'd be right, especially, since not a year ago - I was Ilana Lipman's newest bestie. One year ago, I sat, unemployed and in the Village Starbucks thinking about my life, when she ran up to me and started telling me about her boyfriend who really wanted to work at my brother in laws firm, and maybe I could set something up. Not a big deal, I was particularly happy to help a fellow job seeker thinking that by paying it forward Karma would come back to reward me.

You'd think after all of that - she'd have been happy to see an old friend on the St Clair West subway platform. No dice. All of this would have been fine, had I had the time to move past her on the platform. Alas, as she turned, fate interveened, the subway arrived and fearing missing the train, I got on to the same, empty car, that she did. So there we sat, across the way from each other, not talking.

Lovely. What would Mr. Rogers say?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

FST: Faux Hill Sales Tax

Generally I'm a pretty nice person. I like to buy tulips and I used to have a pet rabbit. And with the exception of a couple of months in fourth year when I certifiably went nuts (total crazy), I'm generally pretty reasonable. There are, however, certain things in this world that I have no time or patience for.
Beyond the usual suspects, such as Uggs and dogs that aren't allowed to walk on sidewalks, I also have no time for closeted celebrities and politicians. I also reserve my real wrath for the few retail establishments that are on my "bring down" list. Actually for awhile, there was only one such store I've been planning to destroy: Forest Hill Tutoring [don't even get me started on the troll woman who rips off parents by charging $55.00 an hour for tutoring and pays her high school student tutors $15.00 an hour, I've thought about unionizing them]; thankfully I have a new nemesis: Parker's Cleaners.
What pretell - has brought about this particular rage attack?
The following:
Because I'm not a particularly real person (I don't buy groceries, pay rent and sometimes I borrow twenty bones from my father to buy gin-martini's from Habitat on Queen Street) my new years resolution was to act more adult-like.
As part of this attempt to take on more responsibilities imagine how proud I was, of myself, just the other day, when I walked down into the Village to drop off a pair of pants that I needed to dryclean. Thanks for the clapping. Huge step right? I thought so.
It reached the denoument when I was chatting with my coworker about the salt stains on my new suit, facetiously joking: "Fuck, I hate winter- I don't know how the hell my father affords my dry cleaning bills." Deciding that I was bordering a bit too much on being a Faux Hillary for my own good - I marched straight from work to Parker's thinking to myself: I'm not even going to charge the cost of the pants on my father's tab, which, to be honest, was my original intention (don't judge).

I walked right up to the woman behind the counter, gave her my slip, and watched her ring up my total.

Cost: $10.33

Let me repeat: ten dollars and thirty three cents to clean a pair of wool pants from Banana Republic. Shocked, I gave her, begrudgingly, my interac card calculating other things I could do with ten bones: latte's, food, porn. Deciding that this was way too much to pay for dry cleaning, I found my inner Sima and did a little comparison shopping. The dry cleaning place by work, at Yonge and Bloor, charges $4.99 for a pair of pants. Nuff said.

Realizing that I was victimized, by what Sim Sim Sima calls, FST or Forest Hill Sales Tax, I from this day on vow to bring down the oligopoly that Parker's has. Viva la revolution.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

My Two Villages

Hilary Rodham Clinton infamously published a book a couple of years ago entitled “It Takes a Village.” Lifted from the African proverb, “It Takes a Village to raise a child” Clinton espoused her unique vision about how to parent a gawky red head in America (loves ya Chelsea!). The Village she was talking about, I suspect was NOT Forest Hill. Here it takes one immigrant nanny to raise a child, yet an entire Village to corrupt said child into a bitchy sixteen year-old wearing $90.00 sweatpants. Sigh. [Sidenote: how much do you love the fact that Old School Roots Sweatpants are back?]
Toronto, in true Clinton esque fashion, is however city defined by its villages, neighborhoods and nabes. At the recent Toronto City Summit, the health of our neighborhoods was on par with discussions on transportation, economy and even topic du jour, the environment. In fact “Strong Neighbourhoods, Stronger Toronto Region” was one of the most dynamic and provocative session of the summit; more attendees wanted to talk about Toronto neighborhoods with Frances Laskin then those who humored Mayor Miller’s frenetic One Cent Now campaign.
In Toronto – communities and villages represent a rather simplistic, yet provocative, version of identity. Neighborhoods are instant generalized value judgments. Annex = hippie. Rosedale = WASP establishment. This list could go on and on and like any sweeping generalization there are I’m sure exceptions to the rule; that being said you can bet your Holt Renfrew Amex card that the McGregor Smith’s outnumber the Singh’s on Binscarth Avenue, Rosedale.
As a gay and Jewish man who grew up in the Faux Hill my community based identity should be pretty clear. I oscillate between two of the city’s most infamous villages: the Gay Village at Church & Wellesley is where I indulge in my love of non-kosher meat, and in the Faux Hill Village at Spadina-Lonsdale, I can wolf down a chopped egg salad sandwich from What a Bagel. Sometimes it’s hard to choose.
In funneling between these two villages I’ve realized however that I’ve never felt particularly comfortable in either. Sometimes when I go to Woody’s [That would be a gay bar for those not in know, because yes – gays love phallic gay bar names] I feel like a 14 year-old twink awkwardly venturing downtown for his first taste of homosexuals. A friend looked at me recently and said, “you really don’t like either of your identities, do you?” I stonewalled for a second before looking at him and argued, “Its not that I reject who I am,” I love being gay, and like some aspects of being Jewish, “I just reject the popular connotations of my identities.” What I meant, when I took some time to actually examine my use large, multi-syllabic words, was that I hated the public connotations of my two villages. As a happy fag and embittered Jew I don’t particularly associate or feel represented by the popular connotations of my identity groups, which in Toronto is best personified by the their respective Villages.
When I went to Puerta Vallarta over Christmas (yes - that would have been a vacation I took WITH my parents) I ended up in a hotel about a stones throw away from the Puerta Vallarta gay village. Same rainbow flags, same sex shop, phallic based bar names – and same sense of not belonging. I don’t particularly like the popularized image of the gay village for some reason – perhaps best represented by an inverse graph to the number of times I’ve been asked to “join me and my boyfriend for some hot three way action.” I’m more of a love the dick, hate the Village kinda guy. As if to exacerbate my views on gay villages, one relatively infamous Canadian fag I know had this to say about PV, “I can’t believe you went there with your folks – there are so many men there; Martin [boyfriend of ten years] really loves the Latin men.” Did you just vomit in your mouth, because I did. And as for the other village in my life – Faux Hill, my distaste with these parts has an entire blog devoted to its Lululemon clad ass so really nothing more to say there.
Too often I get accused of some form of self loathe. Gay friends accuse me of being a bad gay, Jews accuse me of being a self-loathing Philip Roth lite; and maybe they’re all correct in their assumption. Maybe I should accept who I am and get myself a nice set of Burberry earmuffs. Don’t worry – I’m not going to. I realize the problem though: at base we all love to belong. We all love to be amongst peers who we recognize and who we can borrow from a Coach purse now and again. For example, there is even a group for people ‘like myself’, Jewish-Fags, which attempts to bridge the cultural gap between uptown middle class Judaism and downtown hardcore faggotry. One could argue even that the success of Toronto is inherently tied to its Village structure and the sense of belonging it imbues. Residents feel an intense sort of pride in the common sense of identity that their neighborhood provides.
The bigger problem though beyond this sense of belonging, or in my case, lack there of is that the Village creates a sort of identity that sometimes is often more stereotypical then real. I.E. all gay men aren’t obnoxious pigs, no matter how many times the bisexual tells me that over the phone [that is called self-loathe sweetie] and no matter how many times I leave a gay bar shaking my head in revulsion. And not all Village residents are Faux Hillary’s – remember Bold doesn’t own anything from Tiffany’s.
My friend Kitty often introduces me as Jewish Jon to her friends. When I came out we discussed adding the additional adjective before deciding that one derogatory nickname was enough. The rather intelligent joke of course is that by calling me Jewish Jon, she was in fact making fun of that particularly stereotype, that Village mentality if you will, wherein cultural identity is trump. And more then that, cultural identity is a broad stereotype that everyone gets. “Oh you’re Jewish?” Her friends would say. “I love latke’s! I love hanging out in the Forest Hill Village!” Jewish Jon was a motif for the fact that for the most part the people that we associate with are happy to loudly and proudly declare their minority status. I’m gay! I’m Jewish! I’m Asian! I blame the whole multi-cultural mosaic concept; either way, welcome to Village Pride baby.
Ghettoization has never been so vogue.