(Thomas Froese photo)
(The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday September 1, 2018)
So I was recently getting my passport renewed when I was mistaken for a lost rock star. “Are you the long lost Beatle?” I was asked by a passport attendant who noticed my Beatles T-shirt.
“No,” I said. “But I can see why you’d think so, because even when I appear lost I still carry myself like a cool and laid-back rocker.
“And I appreciate the value of having a skilled trade like, say, running across a stage screaming like my underwear are on fire. This, after all, is why my wife married me, and why she still melts in her shoes with uncontrollable hot flashes whenever I walk past.”
At least I think this is what I said. Or maybe I said, “No. I’m not.”
I can get confused sometimes, you know? This, even as people confuse me for one star or another. In both Berlin and New York I’ve been confused with former tennis star Boris Becker. And in Niagara-on-the-Lake a woman once asked me if I was former all-star Ottawa Senator Daniel Alfredsson.
In either case, over many a Labour Day, there’s been this chronic shortage in the skilled trades. And it seems to me that if you’re looking for a career with a decent salary, travel opportunities, and a way to keep your abs trim, you could do worse than being a rock star.
Look at the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger. Fifty-six years and 2,000 (2,000!) screaming performances into it, he turned 75 this summer. Keith Richards the same: 75 in 2018. Both running like it’s 1968.
For my own stage presence, I prefer a jumpsuit. Something between Elvis and some space traveller. “What do you think?” I’ll ask the children. “Oh Dards,” they’ll say. “Dards” is the children’s pet name for me, this after they started calling their mother “Marms.”
You’ll notice how “Oh Dards” sounds like “No Dards.” This is what my oldest – she’s 15 now – likes to say especially when I ask if she’d mind much if I joined her at, say, a Taylor Swift concert with thousands of other screaming girls. “No Dards.”
It’s for my writing.
I won’t wear a jumpsuit.
Taylor, with her multi-stadium Reputation Tour, has now reached levels as lofty as the Stones’. The main stage she now runs across is 110 feet. It reportedly takes upwards of 80 trucks to move her equipment between venues. Just 47 years, I tell my daughter, and young Taylor will reach the Stones’ longevity.
Regardless, my daughter did see Taylor perform recently, with a dear friend, a Brit we knew from our years in Uganda. The 15-year-old, rather remarkably, flew herself over the Atlantic to us. I was the Uber driver for the visit, and a guiding light, really, to the big city when the two girls went to their summer highlight, the big concert.
You can imagine the reaction of passersby at the train station when seeing the girls’ placard: “7,282 miles to see Taylor.” Uganda? Really? Wow.
I’m with the girls, I’d motion with my eyes.
So, once in the big city, shut out of the stadium and waiting for the girls to finish, I found myself leaving Toronto’s entertainment district, walking through Chinatown and eventually down a wanting street to an unpretentious café that was billed as a place to enjoy jazz and poetry.
It was a long walk, but the Bob Dylan T-shirt I happened to wear was a suitable passport of sorts, a garment that got a nod from the doorman. “I like your shirt.”
I then waited and left and re-entered the joint several times before the band – its equipment could have all fit inside an old VW van – got its musical motor going. But an hour into the set and not a single jazz piece, never-mind poem.
The place was so narrow and dark and loud that I could have easily bumped into myself, spilled my drink everywhere, and never heard myself say, “Look what you made me do!”
All I know is that later, on the long way home, the girls beside me, Old Dards, the lost rocker, was so tired, all I could think about was how far it was getting past my bedtime.