Thursday, August 12, 2004

Just Rock On By, Part Deux

Last Friday, The Wife and I took our kids down to Ontario Place, a typical summer destination for our family. Every year I'm struck by how expensive admission is, and how shabby the park is getting. The faithful consumer in me naively hopes my hard-earned bucks are contributing to the park's improvement, while evidence to the contrary keeps mounting. To be fair, the place was at its peak during the end of the Trudeau era, when there was lots of government money for everybody. I should also report that the Prajer girls had a truly swell time in the recently added "Go Zone" at the far end of the park.

Still, the place is a little creepy. It's noisy in an impersonal, industrial way. Where other parks pipe in canned "Dancing In The Streets" type music, this one lets the atmosphere speak for itself. For the last few years, the first thing visitors saw was a motor-boat speedway attraction. Visitors could board a well-padded, single-seat boat powered by a noisy, noxious two-stroke engine, and race with fellow novices. This attraction ran beneath the bridge that allowed you entrance to the park, forcing visitors to walk through an athsma-inducing cloud of blue exhaust. Add to that go-carts, and a helicopter that circles the park every seven minutes, and you get a lot of gasoline-powered noise. At present only the helicopter is still employed, but combine its police-state rhythms with the deep-throated burble from the marina, and you still feel like the park is located on the meridian between two freeways.

Thankfully, there are other attractions to this park. The aforementioned "Go Zone" is a fabulous treat for kids under 12. There are a number of decent thrill rides, a reasonable water park, and of course the Molson Amphitheatre, which plays host to various rock acts of the day.

We went with my sister and her boyfriend, and mostly followed the kids around from attraction to attraction. Mid-way through the afternoon, we could hear the sound check being performed in the MA. To a borderline Boomer/Gen Xer, the bass riff was unmistakeable. The boyfriend and I looked at each other and said, "That sounds like Love Me Two Times!"

Sure enough, the evening's attraction turned out to be The Doors of the 21st Century (as the helicopter took another low throp-thropping swing around the park, The Wife quipped, "They ought to begin the concert with The End."). While lining up for a plate of fries, I heard the guy ahead of me, well within the Boomer demographic, try to engage the kid in the booth.

Guy: "So The Doors are playing tonight, huh?"
Kid: shrugs.
Guy: "They've got that guy from The Cult singing for them, that nut-job - what's his name?"
Kid: shrugs. looks at Guy as if to say, "You would know that better than I." End of conversation.

There was a great deal to that conversation that annoyed me, the cross-generational attempt at "Cool Cache" being one aspect. The kid's manners could use a little polishing, but the Guy's efforts needed a major overhaul. If you really want to impress a kid, any kid, don't start from a position of authority ("I know who The Doors are, and I, like you, think this concert is lame"). Instead, get the kid to do all the talking ("So: has there been anything worth seeing at the MA this year?").

It also bugged me to hear Ian Astbury called "a nut-job." I suspect it's a verifiable fact, but I also suspect Astbury is a slightly lesser nut-job than Jim Morrison was. And, in either case, it doesn't matter to the music. There's still something rather touching, I think, about the singer of an established band from the 80s/90s, agreeing to pick up the mic that once belonged to his late hero. Whether you call it homage or fromage, it still amounts to a sweet gesture.

We were pulling out of the park just as the fans were trickling in. They were pretty much what you'd expect: lots of paunchy, hovering-around-the-50-mark guys in Starburst tie-dyed shirts; women of roughly the same age, with very long hair; bikers and biker-chicks; emaciated, dark-eyed Morrisonites in their 20s. The last group surprised me - I was sure Oliver Stone had decimated the final shreds of Morrison's appeal with his self-regarding hagiography. With the exception of these young turks, everyone had a pleasant look of cheerful anticipation.

I thought it was all delightful. People showed up just to have a gas, something that would have driven the Lizard King absolutely batty. Still, I can't help looking at a survivor like Lou Reed and wonder: if Morrison had somehow found the will to clean up, might he have gone on to compose an ode to ice cream?

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