My Week 101: In The Club, Calling 911

Wednesday: I wonder about “the club”

On Wednesday, K and I were driving back from town. We’re getting her ready to go to university, and I can’t really talk about that because I’ll probably cry. But anyway, we were listening to the radio, and a rap song came on. I’m not a huge fan of the “my money/my fame/I’m a pimp/I’m a player” school of rap, but I was trying to listen, and the only lines I could really make out were “in the club”, over and over again. It occurred to me that the phrase “in the club” seems to be a mainstay of many songs these days, but as a cosmopolitan person, I was confused. I’ve lived in small towns and big cities, and I’ve certainly gotten around, but I still don’t know exactly where “the club” is. So I said to K, “Tell me—you’re 18 and fairly worldly. Where is the club? Have you been to the club? And if not, do you know anyone who HAS been? I ask merely out of a burning curiosity.”

K shook her head. “Sorry, no. I don’t know anyone who goes to ‘the club’.”

“But you’re a teenager. If not teenagers, then who? I’m 50—I don’t know anyone who goes to the club. I know a lot of people who go to “the bar”, but I think that’s different than “the club”, if modern music has taught me anything. Maybe it’s 20 year-olds with a lot of free time and disposable income.”

“Maybe,” said K. “SOMEONE must go there for so many songs to be written about it.”

“I wonder what one does ‘in the club’?” I mused. We listened to the radio for a minute.

“According to this song,” said K, “you get ‘in some trouble’.”

“Hm. Doesn’t sound like much fun. There must be other things you can do there; otherwise, why would anyone go?”

So we made a list. Here are the top things so far that you can apparently do “in the club” according to people who write songs about it.

1) Get down
2) Get up
3) Get busy
4) Get on the floor
5) Throw your hands in the air and wave them like you just don’t care
6) Do business (but not while drunk—see below)
7) Party
8) Party like it’s yo birthday (a more enthusiastic style of partying, apparently)
9) Hang
10) Hold out for one more drink

I don’t know about you, but the club was suddenly sounding very tantalizing. I wanted to go there. Remember, back in my heyday I’d been a DJ, and I wondered if the club today was like clubs when I was young, with the disco dancing and all (just kidding—I’m not that old). Yet, I still had one major problem—I didn’t know where it was, and my teenaged daughter was no help either. So I did what any normal person would do—I asked Ken.

Me: You know how all these songs keep talking about “the club”?
Ken: Club? You mean like a speakeasy?
Me: How old ARE you anyway?

So dead end there. Finally, I had no choice but to turn to my good friend Google. I typed in “how do I find the club?” but all I got were hits on golf clubs. And while I LOVE driving the golf cart, I’m not actually keen on the game itself. Also, I got links to a game called Club Penguin and how to find its hidden pins, and none of that made ANY sense. Perhaps the club was simply a figment of everyone’s imagination, a kind of Zen state only achieved through listening to hip hop music. Then I tried “What do I do in the club?” The first thing that came up were several lists of things NOT to do “in the club”, and they were very detailed lists which included things like ‘get drunk and try to do business’, ‘stand instead of dancing’, ‘don’t order an appletini’ (seems pretty obvious), and ‘don’t stand on the stairs’ (which seems very random, but apparently it can create ‘gridlock’, and no one in the club wants THAT, am I right?). But the number one thing, according to Google, that you should never do in the club is TAKE PICTURES, especially of the DJ. Now, I couldn’t remember anyone ever wanting to take pictures of me when I was a DJ, but the kids today with the cell phones—they just take pictures of everything, so it seems. But all the lists were adamant that it was absolutely verboten. Then I was super happy that I’d done all this research, because towards the bottom of the lists was a link to the club! It was called the It’ll Do Club, and it was in Dallas, Texas. Well, I’d always wanted to see Dallas and now not only could I go to the club, I wouldn’t make any stupid rookie mistakes while I was there. There was a link to a Youtube video about the It’ll Do Club and I was even more pumped to be able to go there virtually first. But wait—in the video clip, everyone was breaking ALL the rules! People were standing instead of dancing, and I’m sure I saw a couple of appletinis. But the worst thing was that half the crowd was taking pictures of the DJ! The worst thing you can ever do, according to my investigation. What the hell kind of club was this, anyway? The ANTI-CLUB? See for yourself:

So while the DJ sounded great, I knew that my first foray into “the club” couldn’t possibly be to a place that so blatantly flaunts the status quo. I guess I’ll just have to keep looking for clues by listening to more dang rap music.

(If what you’ve just read seems a little more whimsical than usual, it’s to make up for the seriousness that is about to follow. Hope you don’t mind.)


Thursday: I call 911

I had to go back to Toronto on Thursday because my secret agency had a big deadline coming up. Also, I wanted to make sure that my condo was still in the same condition that I left it—I always worry that I’ll forget to close a window and I’ll be invaded by pigeons, or I’ll leave food out and it will have rotted and all my neighbours will think something died in my unit. But no—everything was just fine. I left work on Thursday, and as I was approaching my building, I could see, a couple of doors down, a man lying on the sidewalk. Now, that’s not unusual for downtown Toronto, which is weird to say, but it’s something you get used to. So I went upstairs, got unpacked, and made a grocery list. About half an hour later, I came back down, and the guy was still lying in the same position on the sidewalk, like he hadn’t moved in ages. People kept walking past, but I started to get worried, so I went over and knelt down next to him. Then I realized that I recognized him as one of the regular panhandlers in the neighbourhood. Not Mike, or John, or the guy who always asks for smoked oysters, but I’d definitely given him change and bottles of water over the last year. I shook him and said, “Hey, are you OK?” He tried to answer back but he was pretty incoherent. He was lying directly in front of the entrance to a place that does “eyebrow threading”, (which sounds and looks like NOTHING I ever want done), so I went in and said, “You know that guy lying on the ground outside your door? Has anyone called for an ambulance? I think he needs help.” The four women inside were all like “Oh…no…um…” so I said, “It’s OK—I’ll call 911.”

I explained to the dispatcher that I’d seen him around but never just lying on the ground, and that I was concerned, and the dispatcher said he’d send an ambulance right away. Sure enough, it was there in about two minutes, with two paramedics who, I’m sorry to say, seemed extremely pissed off about the whole thing. They asked me if I knew the man or knew his name, and I said again that I’d seen him in the neighbourhood but never lying on the sidewalk like he couldn’t get up. The eye rolling was so loud you could almost hear it. “What’s your name?” one of them asked him. What the homeless guy said didn’t sound like “Edward” to me, but suddenly that was his name. “OK, Edward,” said the other paramedic. “Have you been drinking today?” Edward kind of shuddered and the paramedics took it for a Yes, which started another round of eye rolling and exasperated sighs. “Ok, you have to get up now,” said one. “We’re taking you to the hospital. You’re not going to throw up on the stretcher are you?”

As one of them went to get the stretcher and the other one studied the traffic, Edward motioned to me. I knelt down again and put my hand on his arm. He reached over and took my hand in his other hand.

“Sorry. Sorry. Sorry,” he kept saying over and over again.

“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” I said. “These guys will help you.”

He gave my hand a squeeze. Then he gave me the finger, but it was fine, because in retrospect, I think it was aimed more towards the ambulance than me. I just kind of laughed and said, “That’s OK—you’ve had a bad day.” And it really WAS a bad day for Edward, because as the paramedics were laying a drop sheet on the stretcher, I realized that he’d also wet himself at some point.

Why am I telling you this? Because when I went over to talk to him, I was reminded of a story out of our nation’s capital from about 20 years ago that has always stuck with me. In the winter of 2000, a woman not much older than me, who’d just had knee surgery, fell on an icy sidewalk into a snowbank. She couldn’t get herself up, and slowly froze to death while people walked past her, ignoring her cries for help. So maybe Edward was drunk. Or maybe he’d had a stroke or a heart attack or had hit his head when he fell down drunk. Either way, he was going to get some help, whether he liked it or not. The takeaway from this is not that I’m some kind of hero. If I was, I would have gone over right away instead of waiting until later. No, the lesson is simply this: don’t walk by someone who is lying on the sidewalk. Be the person who stops. Because as soon as I did, the women in the eyebrow threading place gave me towels to put under Edward’s head, people on the street stopped to ask if everything was OK, a couple of really sweet university students asked if I needed them to wait with me, and the paramedics, even though Edward was urine-soaked and was looking like he might puke on them any second, still got him onto the stretcher and took him to the hospital. And that, my friends, is what happens in MY club.

My Week 81: When I Was A DJ

Wednesday: I reminisce about being a DJ

For the last three weeks, I’ve been working in a very large convention centre near the airport in Toronto, which is one of the reasons I’ve been neglecting a lot of my online activities. The centre itself is like 5 miles long, and my legs and feet are KILLING me from all the walking—I would probably have lost weight at this point, except that our lunches are catered, and they are full-sized meals. The menu repeats every week—I’ve eaten more butter chicken, rice, and raita in the last 14 days than I’ve eaten in the last 5 years, and then there’s the large chunks of beef with instant mashed potatoes, the chicken wraps and baked beans, and the hamburgers/hot dog steam trays. Wednesday, though, is lasagna day, and since I can’t eat gluten, I dashed next door and brought back Swiss Chalet chicken (if you’re a true Canadian, this is better than caviar to you, mostly because caviar is fish eggs and that’s just disgusting, while Swiss Chalet chicken is delicious and comes with an amazing dipping sauce that can also be used with your fresh cut fries. And now, even though it’s 8 am, I badly want some). Anyway, we were all sitting around the banquet table, and one of my colleagues brought up the fact that she had worked for years at Swiss Chalet to put herself through university. Then we all started talking about our own part-time jobs, at which point I offered that I had been a DJ in university. I didn’t get much of a chance to elaborate, because then the bell rang, signalling the end of lunch (yes, I said “bell”, because we have almost 1500 people working for us, and if there’s no bell, it gets confusing. Just when you thought you were OUT of high school, am I right?).

But I continued to reminisce in my head about being a DJ, and what that meant in the late 80s compared to what it means now. Being a DJ now is like being a rock star; they have their own shows, and equipment that absolutely boggles my mind. One of my all-time favourites is the Canadian DJ and producer Deadmau5, who is amazing and wears this ubercool mouse helmet when he performs. (Yes, it’s called a performance now, unlike back in the day, when I was just “background to the party”).


Me, I had two turntables and a microphone, to quote Beck, and sometimes not even that. My first actual job was working at a local university radio station, a job for which I had to audition in their sound booth. I did well enough for university radio—I’d been a club kid for years and was pretty familiar with that scene–and was given a position subbing in for a friend when she was unavailable—her show was called “Your Grandma’s Tractor”, and it was alternative music featuring bands no one had ever heard of. Then I was offered my own show. This might sound amazing, but they needed to meet some kind of broadcasting regulation, and they’d just lost their Classical DJ. Yep. Classical Music. Luckily, I’d grown up on that sh*t, and my parents had enough albums to start their own store, so “Symphonic Gestures” was born. I did that gig for over a year, putting together intro notes from the backs of record covers, then just letting the music play for the next half hour. I didn’t have an audience per se—I know this, because once the radio station ran a contest for prizes (I can’t remember what they were), but the only person who “called in to win” was my Mom. God love the woman. But it was great experience, and it got my my next two jobs.

The first was at a local hotel that had a dance club on the top floor. It also had a strip club on the second floor, and I was always careful to specify WHERE I worked, which is ironic, as you will soon find out. The problem was that the building was really f*cking old, and the floors were super-bouncy. DJs today can’t relate to this—everything’s so high-tech, and they have crews and all that, but the bouncy floor was my biggest problem in an era where the “pogo” was still one of the most popular ways to express yourself on the dance floor. My stabilizers were a joke, and at least twice a night, I would have to talk over some New Order song and nicely request that everyone STOP JUMPING UP AND DOWN because they were making the record skip. They were usually too drunk to notice the gaps in the lyrics, but it pissed me off and made me feel like an amateur. Still, the money was good and the drinks were free. Well, the water was free—in order to maintain a constant flow of song, I had to start one track before the other ended, and I don’t know how they do it today, but I had to physically put my thumb on one record to slow it down if need be, and I had a knob that would speed it up otherwise, so that the beat would match to the best of my ability. My motor skills are shite even when I’m sober, so I stayed alcohol-free until the night was over.

Then I saw an ad from a DJ service called Doctor Music. They were looking for a club DJ for a bar in Waterloo, and the money was better, so I applied, auditioned, and got the job. My boss was this huge guy named Ron—I mean gigantic, like 6 foot 5, about 300 pounds, with tight curly hair that he gelled up like crazy. I was excited, but then I learned that their entire music collection, which I would have to transport back and forth with me to the club every night in a suitcase, was on MIXED CASSETTE TAPES. Skrillex would probably be screaming with laughter right now. Kristian Nairn wouldn’t, though–he would just say “Hodor” in sympathy. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to try and blend the beats between two cassette tapes? I would spend at least a couple of hours at home every night before work, cuing each song that I wanted to start with on each mixed tape, using my index finger in the circular hole to cue it back about 15 seconds (or two and a half winds) so that I could try to match things up. And how the f*ck did I do that once the tape was playing, you ask? By using my fingernail against the ridges in the reel hub to slow one of the songs down–there were no covers on the decks, so it was just slam the tape in and mess with it however you needed to. It was STRESSFUL. Because once I had exhausted my predetermined selections, I had to start cuing up new songs in a cheap-ass glass sound booth that was NOT soundproof. Even though I had the best headphones that money could buy (well, the best for the 80s anyway), I could still barely hear what I was doing over the sound system in the club. My only saving grace was Milli Vanilli, that pseudo dance duo who put out an eight minute long extended version of a song called “Girl, You Know It’s True”, so that I could either get my next set ready, or go to the bathroom. My job at the club was good for a while (aside from all the drunks requesting “Paradise By the Dashboard Light” every five minutes), and I would dance away, hyping up the crowd with my arms in the air, or shouting encouragement into the microphone–until the fateful day that the club owner, who was a young, chauvinistic d-bag, decided to have a special university night with a “Wet T-shirt Contest”, which involved young men in the audience being encouraged to spray young women’s tops with water. My job was to play “sexy music” whilst said contest was progressing. As a woman, I was unhappy about the whole thing, but then the shit hit the fan as the contestants got more and more drunk, and more and more desperate to win the $100 cash prize, which back then was a lot of money for a university student. Suddenly, one girl tore off her t-shirt and bra, and started dancing topless. I was shocked, and then relieved as the owner came over to the sound booth. I assumed he was going to call the whole thing off, but no.

Club Owner: This is awesome! Play that stripper song by Man Parrish. That’ll really get the girls going.
Me: No! This is ridiculous and probably illegal!
Club Owner: Play it or you’re fired.

So I put the song on. But then, another girl took her top off, and then another and another. There was one girl left, the men were screaming encouragement, and I realized that as she was taking her shirt and bra off, she was CRYING.

So I shut the sound system down.

Me: Not any more–I’m a professional! You want “stripper music”? Play it your goddamn self. There’s a sh*tload of cassette tapes in there—I’m sure you can handle it.

And I walked out, the club owner screaming epithets behind me, and the men in the crowd booing. I would have thrown down my headphones, but as any good DJ knows, your headphones are your best friend, and you would never hurt your best friend. Or a naïve university girl who was pressured into doing something that made her cry.

When Doctor Music found out, he was pretty upset, but he understood when I explained that, had the police shown up, his business might have been in jeopardy also. I had no idea if that was true, but I was working on a Master’s Degree at the time, and he assumed I knew what I was talking about. At any rate, I decided that I needed to get a job that was more career-oriented (because again, DJ was not a real profession YET, at least not in Ontario), so I started working as a teaching assistant at the university. The money wasn’t as good, but there was less nudity. Sorry, I mean NO nudity.

As an addendum, the club shut down not long after I left. Poor Doctor Music met a tragic end a few years later. Apparently, he lived in a compound out in the country surrounded by a huge barbed wire fence and patrolled by five German Shepherds. When the neighbours heard the dogs howling for days, they called the police to investigate. They found him dead inside the house, wearing a long wig, eyeshadow, and a giant flowered muumuu. And although this is a humour website, I don’t have anything particularly funny to say about that, because he was a really nice guy, all in all, and I guess living a secret life was pretty hard on him.


My Week 5 – Lord of the Dance, Funerals, and Grocery Revenge

Sunday: I realize my disappointment with Celtic Spectacles

So Ken and I were hanging out at the cottage, after a dinner at the local pub (run by this awesome gay guy and his partner–I only mention this because it’s nice that our society has come so far that even in a place like PB, no one seems to care) and we had come back to the cottage and were watching not much on TV, just waiting for something interesting to come on, when Ken switched the channel to Celtic Thunder. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a group of 5 “boys to men” types who sing traditional Celtic music to a screaming crowd of women. I’ve never seen anything quite like it (yes, I have, but at the time I’d forgotten), and we had a really fun go at these guys. For one, they are super-choreographed. They step very deliberately to one side, then the other, and when it’s their turn to sing, each one descends a flight of stairs like he’s a robotic Miss America or something, then returns to the top when his “turn” is finished. Second, they are ranged in age, and oiled up appropriately to appeal to a mass market of women. There’s the teen-something one, who is meant to appeal to the 5 to 7 year-old range (as well as the Cougars), the early twenties hottie with superwhite teeth, then the 30-ish guy with his shirt open just enough to show off his gold chains, the 40 , and 50 year-olds (who look amazing for their age and would definitely be lusted after by the 70 and 80 year-olds in the audience). It was like watching a One Direction concert for the extremely young and the extremely geriatric—grandmas and granddaughters holding up signs with slogans on them (I love you Neil…I want to marry you, Emmet, and so on, ad nauseam.) I actually just googled their home page and realized to my horror that they have ‘Daniel’, a 7 year old member of the group—who the hell is lusting after him? and you should be ASHAMED.OF.YOURSELF. And I say this with all sincerity, since these ‘men’ are held up to the audience as symbols of manliness, even the seven-year-old, which is kind of creepy. Can you imagine being Daniel’s mom, and worrying about some 40 year-old woman carrying a sign that says “Daniel, I love you!! Marry me!! Kissy face smiley face”? But the best thing about the whole spectacle is the singing, by which I mean the lipsynching, because none of them actually sing. They pose. They move their lips and pre-recorded music comes out of their manly mouths, and it’s really obvious they’re doing it, shamelessly, like it’s the CELTIC WAY or something.

And now I get to the thing I’d forgotten, which was one of the greatest disappointments of my life. Lord of the Dance. Yes, Lord of the Dance, the incredible Celtic stepdancing/musical phenomenon of the 90s which had my heart on fire. I loved Lord of the Dance, the music, the spectacle, that Michael Flately guy who was so tiny and arrogant but tapped his little heart out. When they came to town, I begged Ken for tickets. Being the wonderful husband he is (or just to stop me whining), he agreed, and there we were in the first row of the balcony. The lights dimmed—the music began—dancers came on stage—it became PATENTLY OBVIOUS that every sound was pre-recorded. OMFG Lord of the Dance—even the tapping sounds were pre-recorded and were played over top of the actual tapping on stage!! The violins, the singing, the dancing, were all fake. I just paid $75 to listen to the CD I had at home. And that’s why I’ll never pay to see Celtic Thunder. So there.

Saturday: Ken and I get a little irreverent about death.

Ken and I went to a funeral recently. On the drive there, we had a chance to discuss some of the things that we wanted the other to know about our “arrangements”. I, of course, am insistent that I be kept in an above-ground mausoleum, which Ken will build, due to my fear of being buried alive. Ken, on the other hand, is quite content to be cremated, and told me that if he had some “lead time”, he would even build his own casket, a la Oscar, a character from our favourite show Corner Gas, so that I could save some money. That’s what I love about Ken—he’s always thinking about me. Anyway, we got to the funeral and it was appropriately solemn and sad, but then we went through the receiving line (which is REALLLY different from the ones they have at weddings) and we were left to pay our respects at the coffin. While we were standing there in contemplation, Ken turned to me, pointed at the casket and whispered, “Remember Oscar? Beautiful woodgrain here.” I was taken aback and kind of guffawed/choked/snorted, and I think a giggle escaped from me, to my horror. Ken and I spent the next 60 seconds staring violently at the floral arrangements and trying not to look at each other. I think it’s true that old saying about laughing in the face of death, although it should be more of a defiant laugh, and not something out of a sit-com. On the way home, we passed a graveyard, and some workers had a bonfire going (let’s assume they were burning leaves), and Ken, in that wonderfully naïve way he has, asked me, “Are they cremating someone?” to which I replied, “WTF, Ken! They don’t do that in the actual graveyard!”

A little while later, Ken said to me, “If you don’t want to talk about this, it’s OK, but I was thinking about the kind of things we’d want the other person to read at our funerals.” I immediately said poetry, and he immediately said that if he had enough “lead time” (he seems pretty positive that his impending doom will be pre-ordained), that he would video his own eulogy. I reminded him that no one would want to listen to him pontificate about critical thinking skills and the education of our young, let alone want to fill in a “descriptive feedback card” at the end of the funeral, but he’s determined. At this point, I told him MY plan, which is to write a eulogy FOR him, full of swearing and the liberal use of the F word, and then I’d tell people that I’d begged him to be more polite, but he was like “F*ck that! It’s my f*cking funeral, and I can say whatever the f*ck I want.” Of course, Ken rarely swears in real life (unless he hits his thumb with a hammer—you wouldn’t believe how often THAT happens), and people would be shocked by his foul language, but at the same time admire me for following through with his last wishes. This would be my revenge for his refusal to pay my kidnap ransom.

Tuesday, when I mess with people in the grocery store.

Have you ever been in a grocery store, trying to shop, and someone keeps parking their cart in the middle of the aisle so you can’t get by? Have you ever wondered how to get your revenge on that person? Does it seem a little weird to take revenge on strangers in grocery stores? No it’s not—it’s necessary to keep a sense of balance in the universe. Like how in Thor, which I just watched with my grade nine class as a way to wrap up our mythology unit, Thor battles the evil elves to save Earth. (By the way, there is nothing more difficult than doing a mythology unit with grade nine students, because there is no easy way to introduce them to Uranus. Say it to yourself one more time if you don’t get it. Also, it can be very difficult to talk about flying buttresses as part of a unit on Gothic literature to a group of grade 12s with a juvenile sense of humour. Did I laugh in both cases? Maybe.)

So on Tuesday, K and I were grocery shopping. (This is always a challenge because I like to go to the store where I get points, and K spends the whole time criticizing me for buying things we don’t need “just for the points”. I’m sorry, but you can always use another head of cauliflower or a family pack of Axe body spray.) Anyway, we were in the Gluten-Free/Organic Aisle (because I stopped eating gluten last year, thinking it would help my joints. It didn’t, but now it’s a habit, and I feel guilty if I break it, like when a smoker sneaks a cigarette, except instead of getting pleasantly dizzy, your stomach gets angry at you. Enough said.) Ahead of us was a middle-aged woman, (MORE middle-aged than me, anyway) who seemed completely oblivious that she was in a grocery store with many other people, and hadn’t just won a private shopping spree on The Price Is Right, because as she was lingering at the gluten-free freezer, her cart was in the middle of the aisle ON AN ANGLE. T and I were on our way to buy some special crackers, but we couldn’t get near them, thanks to Frumpy McDuh. We waited patiently for her to realize we were there, but she seemed to be deliberately ignoring us as she perused the shelves. A young guy came down the other way, and we both stood there helplessly, looking at each other for support. He seemed content to wait, so K and I turned around and went back the other way, thinking we could go down the next aisle and go round the corner back up to the crackers that way. A clever plan, but wait—as we came around the top of the next aisle, this woman, like a polyester-pantsuited NINJA, was already there, with her cart again parked in the middle of the aisle! We quickly devised a second, even better plan, and we hightailed it around to the next aisle, where we waited patiently, steadfastly. Sure enough, here she came, strolling down the aisle quite leisurely. But what’s this? There’s a cart in her way? Whose cart? Yes, you know it. And it was on an angle that was quite impossible to navigate around. K and I pretended to be VERY interested in organic quinoa, discussing the merits of each brand, while she stood and waited. But she wasn’t patient, or polite either. She started to push her cart towards me, and nearly grazed my ankle, but I stood my ground, daring her to come any closer. She finally gave up, and as she rolled her evil elf eyes and moved off, K and I felt like we had achieved some kind of universal victory, like in Thor, plus, we finally got our crackers. And the 2000 points that came with them.