Friday, July 02, 2004

Canada Day *** The Vanishing and the Vain

Went to the celebrations for North York, Toronto, which were at Mel Lastman Square. I never thought I'd see the day when this public space would be packed out with people. Named after the self-aggrandizing ex-Mayor, it is entirely surrounded by large buildings in an artificially created "city" centgre, none of which existed 20 years ago. This was of course when each distinct district of Toronto had separate municipal governments grouped under Metropolitan Toronto, and each was striving to achieve an identity of its own.

What was once a soulless concrete urban space is finally attaining a measure of life. I was delighted to discover well-designed tiny parks in the vicinity. Gibson park, which shelters the lovely early Victorian brick-built farmhouse called Gibson House, and across from it was another, called Dempsey Park.

The Canada Day celebrations at the Square had a small stage, with a very weak sound system, featuring the band Lighthouse, which finished its set with its most famous ever hit from the Seventies, "One Fine Morning (I did wake Up)". It didn't sound right at all, with such a miserable sound system.

It was nice though that they were handing out free hand-held Canada flags. I couldn't imagine this happening in Britain, without some uproar from the dinosaur Eighties political extremists. When the fireworks finally came on at 10.20 pm, they had very little preamble, since the soundstage was so feeble. The display was satisfactory, given that the venue being surrounded by tall buildings, really doesn't give much room for a major blow-out. The finale was to the sound of Oh Canada, with a predictable explosion of alternating Red and White fireworks.

I was very surprised that I couldn't hear anybody sing along to Oh Canada. Although there is a lot more national unity and self-respect here than in London, dumping the anthem is doubtless a reflection of the inevitable cultural anarchy that has also descended on this society, especially in its most cosmopolitan city.


Back to my Dad. Although I help, I have been afraid to look too closely. To be honest, alongside Empathy and Pragmatism there is a very primal fear. If he were a stranger in a hospital, and I were merely a worker, I would still be afraid, but not so strongly. But because I have known him all my life, there is within me an abject terror of what he has been reduced to.

When someone withers away and dies quickly, which is what he nearly did in March, the horror is all so overwhelming that various mental resistances automatically kick in. The emotional effects are different, when someone lays in their own home, spending 75% of the day asleep, otherwise fully cognizant and in possession of their faculties but all contained within a body that is an insult to their memories.

All the time that I have the choice to be empathetic and/or pragmatic, I also am trying to control and decipher my horror that one day I might become like this. This is a gay man's nightmare.

I love the fit healthy human body. Of these bodies, I love men's bodies above women's. Of men's bodies, I adore those that are stunning fine examples of their type of design, in the prime of their existence.

What purpose does my admiration of a fine male body serve, if that body, and my own, eventually decays to this feeble unattractive condition? Is it not a fatuous and pointless urge, or is it an inescapable phase of animal instinct that has to live out its day until it has done its living? I am inclined to think it is the latter, but even in these middle years I cannot yet fully understand how I will compromise it with the need to provide empathy and pragmatism, especially to my mother after my dad has gone.

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