Saturday, December 22, 2012

Little toy store.

It's that shop you can't walk by without further investigation.

This community calls itself a town, and in most ways it is. There's a Walmart (a sure sign of commercial critical-mass in North America), two dedicated supermarkets and an equal number of pharmacies. The Salvation Army runs a high-turnover thrift shop and parking meters get converted into free Holiday gifts.

A lone McDonald's duels with two vibrant Tim Horton's, and a similar number of Chinese restaurants offer prosaic Asian comfort food. There's a cosmo-style sushi joint, a branch of most leading Canadian Banks, and main street has at least one of every other establishment typical of such locales.

But in other ways the town is more like a bigger village. You get that sense coming to the occluded streetfront window. Fresh. Innocent. Exciting. The little toy store represents everything that's charming about a place with a population of 16,000 and the magic only gets more palpable at Christmas time.

Where there are children there should be beehive destinations like this. Inside, a honeycomb of busybees doing what comes naturally. Wide-eyed and laughing. Playing. Praying at Santa.

Maybe my sentimentality this Xmas has been keened by the prominent portents of impending apocalypse we see around us. Gunned down six-year-olds is not only good for the hyperbole business, but also for the business of dreams.

Y'see, adults now have added reason to contemplate the blessing of dreams as motivation in young lives. How much doesn't happen if lives end at six Christmasses?

Magnetic slime. Themed Jigsaws. Dolls. Trinkets. Games, and children to verify their gravitas. For me, that's this Christmas, and my wish for all who read here. May everyone look around through the eyes of a child these holidays. And hug a lot.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Guns and culture.

I started writing this particular post over a week ago, but found the acceleration of time which comes with an approaching yule too intrusive to continue, so it simmered in my drafts folder awaiting revival. And, sooner than expected, here we are.

On that day, NBC sportscaster Bob Costas used his halftime slot to weigh in on the perennial polemic of America's gun culture. Result? Tweeps go apeshit in a manner unseen since the recently concluded, culturally bruising presidential election.

Scant days later America is further traumatized and desensitized by twenty dead toddlers and the latest armed malcontent.

Last week, the gridiron couldn't escape the pall of the public murder-suicide involving a player and his girlfriend. This week, first-grade schoolrooms make an even more shocking pallette. Yet another gun-related tragedy breaks the collective heart of people everywhere, and also, spurs a recurring loop of righteous indignation as the obdurate NRA lobby braces for more heat.

Michael Moore's 2002 docu-treatise "Bowling For Columbine" remains on point in the face of sanctimonious invocations of the 2nd constitutional ammendment. This 18th Century edict is what enshrines and justifies American rights to bear arms today.

It's worth noting, that when said parchment was penned, little was deadlier than a musket and a reload. This elementary school assailant had a Glock handgun, a Sig Sauer, presumably for his second hand, and a Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle. Superfluous, considering  one man has only two hands.

Societal history of weapon proliferation is mostly understood. What is harder to accept, in 2012, is the imperative to protect every individual's inviolable right to wield death.

There are some fantastic opinions bouncing around. "Arm all teachers," "More guns." ... Really? Has the United States become a society of double-0 operatives with licenses to kill?

Special dispensation, while people still get locked up for selling Cannabis seeds and certain kiddie bon-bons remain verboten.

Kneejerk logic sure speaks loudly. It reveals social fears which deeply underpin the constitution rationale. Immutable defense of gun ownership rights reminds me of the intensity around other hot-potato topics, like voter registration, affirmative action or institutionalized Confederate flags. Hmmm.

"They want to take away our culture. Take back America."

It's no accident that the G.O.P., clearly based in Southern State traditionalism, is aligned firmly in favor of firearm freedom. What else does the old-guard have, if not weaponry, to lend some sense of security to its phobias?, though, in fairness, there are also Democrats who dearly defend a damsel's right to a Derringer.

This isn't just political. Pandora is out of the box. The die is cast. American culture is John Wayne, Smith, Wesson, Bonnie and Clyde. Here, the shooting of a leader can morph into romantic lore. Honest Abe, himself felled by a gun, is the Spielbergian subject of big Oscar buzz. Stand Your Ground makes a legal defense but somehow it's tough to find French Brie de Meaux outside of a Zabar's or a Dean and DeLuca delicatessen.

 Which further fuels my lament. More Limburger, less Luger.

If that seems light, and cavalier, please consider these are words, not bullets. They are meant to stress a cognitive dissonance.

Yes, we all reflect our varied histories but, as times change, it's in our best interests to ammend and update strategies in going forward. This is as true for community as it is personally.

Besides, whatever their use, continuing to treat guns as sacrosanct offers greater opportunity to unstable, trigger-happy personalities, the criminally motivated and the violently inclined. The grief we feel over the Newtown massacre was inflicted by an individual who was all of the above. Legal guns were his tools.

To be sure, it's not only the U.S.A. where this argument rages. Canadians acquire guns too and manage to defy the national stereotype on occasion. And Jamaica, my island of origin, has its own peculiar, illbegotten enamorment with the steel bore. Unsurprisingly, politics is culpable there as well.


Even One Love talisman Bob Marley, who famously, but figuratively, Shot the Sheriff, and survived a gun-blazing Ambush in the night, curiously assessed some replicas.

Impossible to know for sure what ran through his mind in that moment, but informed imagination tells me he would've given a thoughtful Rasta response to any question of gun culture ...

... "gun culture? guns nuh have no culture."

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Win. From the pen of Pin.

To say Winston Rekert (1949-2012) had a big life before he met me is a self-centered way to start this remembrance, but the times I worked with Win altered the tone for what has become my life.

In fact, he was one of the first cultural touchstones I identified in my early years in Canada. Before I knew what all the fuss was with this Wayne Gretzky guy, I was ardent about Adderley.

Win's charismatic presence and sense of humor overcame the limitations of a nascent local television industry and made him cool enough to want to emulate. Canadian, yet still, more.

When I met Win in that hotel audition-room I remember being star-struck, but felt little pressure. Odd to say, but I felt as though it was he who knew me 'cos I watched his show.
As it happened, this was a threshold to my personal reinvention.

Neon Rider legend has it that it was Win who ammended my character, conceptually, from a Latino named "Chico" to a Jamaican called "Pin." I will always applaud that foresight.

What other show would encourage my Jamaican accent, hand me a cricket bat, dress me in black with a Lion Of Judah emblazoned on my back, run me against Ben Johnson and let me grow dreadlocks on TV over five seasons?

(Bizarre perhaps, but I been lookin' fi anadda gig like dat since.)

I didn't see too much of the hype-side that Win loved - never even sat in the Ferrari or the Lincoln, but I did know his fatherly, and dedicated, thoughtfulness. There were many hours spent in a defunct North Vancouver gym with Win and trainer Dave, learning how to improve myself through physical effort.

Win moved seamlessly from stage to screen to directing, to teaching - passionate as ever, this was the role in which I most recently saw him. His class was enacting a Neon Rider theme and I went along for the day. I happily recall that this exists somewhere on video. Maybe we did get our sequel after all.

His longtime brother and symbiotic crony, Danny Virtue, says Win gave half the people in Vancouver's film industry their start. If you consider the intangible "ripple effect," I'd say Danny makes a very conservative estimation.

Winston Rekert had a big life after I last saw him too, and by all accounts he had battled his cancer nobly and bravely.

 He was most definitely loved and his legacy liveth.