Tuesday, February 22, 2011

WELFARE

B was on welfare. We weren't sure, but she and her sister were being raised by their single mom, her clothes looked like Value Village specials, and her greasy hair was begging for bathing, so obviously she was on welfare. She was the punchline of all our jokes, both in and out of her presence. She was synonymous with ugly.

"I wouldn't fuck B in a million years!" we'd say when we began to dare swear. And, more damning, "You're gonna have sex with B!". The only proper response to that curse was a punch to the back and tackle.

She was our ultimate butt for years and it didn't help her case that she was silent, never told us to shut up. We were in school together from Grades 4 to 7 and I recall hearing her voice only a few times. I recall she had one friend, or maybe it was none. Probably it was none, otherwise why else would she get on stage solo for Air Band? It's Band. And what the fuck is this hippie-oldies "I Feel the Earth Move" shit that she's doing? -- it ain't The Bangles or DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince or Salt or Pepa. Every time B mouthed "I feel the earth move under my feet" we snickered because, obviously, she was fat. Elementary school kids might not be able to explain irony, but we knew when it was happening.

We did manage to envy B for one thing: she was among the first in our school to get a Sega Genesis. But our "I wish I had a Genesis like B" was matched by "Shouldn't they buy clothes and food first?". The thing about our neighbourhood in East Van is that you fit in the spectrum between poor and working class. Class is structured by who is less poor. We kids would flaunt whatever objects we could to avoid looking poor; if you wore Brooks instead of Nike, you had welfare shoes. We weren't sure that B was actually on welfare, but we wanted to believe that and she never said otherwise when we told her to her unwashed face.

Around the time of Air Band, Nick and I had a secret. We shopped at Value Village. But just for board games like Master Mind and Clue, not for Bugle Boy and Nike because, god, that's so used and so poor. We refused plastic bags because, god, how could we be seen biking down Victoria Drive toting "Value Village" across our handlebars. Walking into a second-hand store gave us the same taboo titillation that we would experience later when we were fifteen and walking into our first strip joint. "Battleship for only a buck!" Nick shouted. The aisle of knick-knacks, games, and National Geographics was our clandestine budget wonderland. We steered clear of the clothes because, even as East Van almost-teens, we couldn't let ourselves look like poverty and there's nothing cool about wearing someone else's jeans.

Now I'm an adult and 80% of my wardrobe is used. I rely on vintage stores for my cowboy boots and jeans that no one else will be wearing, but even that's a bit easy -- I thrill at the challenge of saving coin and finding sweet André Michel jeans at Sally Ann. I wear sneakers that cost ten dollars. The brand: Sportek. Now I'm an adult and I adore Carole King and am proud that I discovered Rhymes & Reasons at Goodwill for only a buck. Among her other albums, I also own Tapestry, but B beat me to it by decades. I recall her dancing on stage without anyone backing her up, sweating through her shirt stenched by her mom's cigarettes, lip-synching with complete concentration "I feel the sky tumbling down" under the dinky strobe, and I understand that B was cooler than all us kids in the gymnasium. We just didn't know it yet.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

BREAK

It's like this. You don't know? It's like this. Spring Break in East Van and what am I gonna do? Wake up at 10, watch The Price is Right and The Monkees. Later, go play hockey in the alley. Naw, not on skates, don't be stupid. This is the inner-city and we don't skate -- we run. School's out for a few, what else'm I gonna do? Play fucking Nintendo at Nick's. That's it. Fuck around, that's it. Now it's summer and school's out for more than a few. What am I gonna do? I just told you: Wake up at 10, watch The Price is Right and The Monkees. Later, go play hockey in the alley. Buy a dilly bar at the Dairy Queen shack up the block. Ride bikes to Trout Lake to fish for toxic fish. Boost some porno mags from C&T at Kingsway and Nanaimo. Nintendo. What else? That's it. Fuck around, that's it. Now it's winter and school's out for a few. What am I gonna do? I just told you already. Same shit. Fuck around, that's it. If it's snowing we're gonna risk our thirteen-year-old limbs by bumper skiing up and down the block. If it ain't snowing we're gonna do Nintendo. Done. That's holiday.

The first day of class in September, woe be unto the naive teacher who says, "Welcome back. Did anyone go anywhere for the holidays?" Don't be clueless, you stupid fuck. You know ain't nobody gonna put up their hand. Maybe one kid, but it's always gonna be like this: "Yeah, my family went to Kelowna." That's just four hours away and that's your vacation? That's all you could afford? Whatever, good on you 'cause the farthest I went was fucking Burnaby.

Spring Break is coming. Ain't no Fort Lauderdale happening in East Van.

Monday, February 7, 2011

PISS

The commercial features mothers voicing their disgust at the video game. If that inspires you to buy the game -- indeed, if any of your actions are motivated solely by a desire to piss off your mother -- then you are a child.