|Like Sunspots Through the Telescope, So Are the Pains In My Back
||[Nov. 20th, 2003|03:25 pm]
Yes, I've been away for a while since my last entry. The sordid details are available for those of you willing to wade through 2000 words of my pithy prose - fashion and fetishes! Beer and no beer! Pleasure and pain ...|
It's all here in Young Geoffrey's Livejournal!
Like a rubby passed out by the entrance to a liquor store, Young Geoffrey lay on the damp concrete just outside the doors of the Bill Bolton Arena.
The sky was dim and rain-grey, the air thick with mist; it had rained a few hours before and would start in anew very soon. The concrete held night's chill like a battery, the thin layer of water between the synthetic stone and Young Geoffrey's lightly-clad side a super-conductor for the icy sword of frozen Hades.
"Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck ..." Young Geoffrey panted like a woman in labour, each intake of breath, each gasping exhalation, coming in time with bolts of splintered lightning hurled from the base of his spine, spreading along his thighs like blades of a twinned sword and up his back like shards of deliberately sharpened glass.
"Oh Christ!" he gasped, "Help me!" But there was no one on the street.
* * *
Everything had been different the day before. Sunday afternoon, following a leisurely walk from his workplace at University and Dundas, he found himself outside the Savage Garden on a still-grungy stretch of Queen Street West, just east of Bathurst Street. Young Geoffrey straightened his fedora and passed by a knot of kids gathered at the entrance. Strangely, he thought, the kids looked as though they expected to get in, though not one of them looked to be older than 15.
Young Geoffrey dismissed the minor mystery, shook his head to make sure his ear-rings were still in place and started up the stairs. He stopped at the landing and looked around the room, his vague feelings of discomfort at the thought of the spiked collar he wore quickly dissipating. The leather and latex-clad revellers wandering the long, narrow bar made him feel positively conservative.
Music - some variant, he presumed, of goth or techno or ... something, blared not quite defeaningly from the speakers set at regular intervals high along the walls. The front of the bar, overlooking Queen Street, was crowded with booths set up as jewelry and zine stalls. And there were a lot of kids hanging around in small groups among the leather, hand-cuffs and chains wandering about.
There was no sign of Nicole, but a woman near the landing told him to go on in.
4:00 o'clock in the afternoon and work was done! Young Geoffrey sauntered over to the bar. "What have you got on tap?"
The tall, thin bartender shook his head. "I'd love to serve you, but it's an all-ages show."
"Ah!" Well, that explained the kids all over the place. It was a shame he hadn't known, he thought; Julie would probably have wanted to come. After thinking over the non-alcoholic options, he ordered a coffee and retreated to an island bar near the front and lit a cigarette, wondering how many young lungs would inhale his second-hand smoke. Young Geoffrey shrugged, wondering how the law thought the kids in attendance would swallow second-hand beer.
* * *
After some time a band took to the stage - harsh, dissonant and very, very loud. Despite, this Young Geoffrey slowly made his way toward the cramped and crowded area at the back end of the bar. Though some among the crowd moved a little, possibly in time to the music, no one danced. There was no thrashing at the Savage Garden this Sunday afternoon.
Young Geoffrey endured the sonic assault with a decades-old bemusement. Why does it always have to be so fucking loud?
The singer, a gangly young man decked out in black leather strutted about the stage hurling incomprehensible lyrics into his microphone, which he clutched close, like some knight of the Round Table come at last upon the Holy Grail, drunk with ecstatic fervour, screaming prayers into the Holy Chalice.
Young Geoffrey didn't get it. But then, he never had. He remembered his younger brother, Tom, back when Tom was in a band - one whose music Young Geoffrey liked quite a lot - would ask him what he thought, after a gig. Geoffrey's answer was always prefaced the same way: "Too loud!"
And even before that ...
* * *
Young Geoffrey came late to pop music, discovering the Beatles in grade 7 and not learning much more about what was out there beyond the weekly top-40 show on CBC Radio. Only after he moved to Toronto, only after he found himself, for the first time in his life, for once a part of a group of friends, did his musical horizons recede beyond the nursery. Dylan. Joni Mitchel. The Dead. Marley. Neil Young.
Yes, Neil Young. He of the deceptively simple acoustic guitar, he of the keening, mournful voice (so easy to mock, so hard to match), of "Harvest", of "Old Man", of "Needle and the Damage Done" ...
Of course Young Geoffrey wanted to see Rust Never Sleeps! He'd never heard of the band, Crazy Horse, but how could he go wrong seeing a Neil Young concert film?
If you know Neil Young well, you know he is not only a coffee-house troubadour. You know a harsh, ripped-steel anger lurks not at all far beneath the introspective poet. Rust Never Sleeps is the acid yang to Harvest's delicate yin: two guitars, bass, stripped-down drum-kit and enough feedback blow a thousand power-grids.
So much older then, a 15 year-old Young Geoffrey was first confused, then almost religiously outraged by the cacophony which emerged from the Bloor Theatre's speakers.
20 minutes in, it was clear the shrieking storm of squalling guitars and thrashing cymbals was no joke, clear there would be no delicate rendition of "Like a Hurricane" or "Cinnamon Girl".
With the brash arrogance of outraged youth, the young Young Geoffrey made his way up the aisle, stopped at the ticket-booth and demanded his money back.
"Why?" the young woman behind the glass wondered.
"'Why'?" Young Geoffrey repeated, taken aback by the question - wasn't it perfectly obvious? He gathered his wits. "The movie's terrible," he said, "It's just awful," he added, as if the second adjective would prove more persuasive than one alone.
"Sorry." The woman shrugged. "No refunds." Muttering at the extraordinary, the blatant, absence of justice in the world, he stalked off to a coffee shop to await his friends.
(Young Geoffrey would like it made clear to all and sundry that, in his so-called maturity, he has come to appreciate Crazy Horse - as he has, for that matter, The Clash and any number of other musicians he once disdained. He continues, however, to question that volume at which such music is too often played.)
* * *
Back at the Savage Garden, the singer continued to chant his mysterious prayers. Suddenly, from the side of the stage, a smile flashed in the dark and an arm waved at Young Geoffrey.
Nicole had spotted his fedora!
He waved back and drank in the sight of the beautiful woman approaching him. She was already in costume, a tight, rubbery dress clinging to her curves like a drunk holding on to his bottle after last call, her breasts shifting just enough to make it clear they were free beneath the tight bodice.
They exchanged hugs and Nicole suggest they get away from the stage. She thanked him (unnecessarily) for coming and permitted him the pleasure of tying her bustier a little tighter. They agreed the music was not to their mutual taste and Geoffrey said that he would probably take off following Nicole's performance - she had a second show later on and he didn't think they'd get much of a chance to talk anyway.
* * *
Young Geoffrey once again drifted toward the stage as (he hoped) the band was getting ready to wrap up. He found a spot behind a couple standing arm-in-arm in such a way as to provide him with a decent view of the stage.
The music roared on. He found himself now able to locate and even enjoy the rhythm; he wondered if his ears were going numb. But it ended soon enough.
And a female voice rang through the Savage Garden, announcing the start of the fetish fashion show. About half the crowd near the stage turned over.
Though on a smaller scale, and with models happily not uniformly anorexic, the show wasn't much different from what one can see on Fashion Television, except that all the clothes had an S&M feel to them.
There was less over sexuality on display than he had expected but the clothes themselves were all business and - to Young Geoffrey's untutored eye at least - largely indistinguishable variations of a them: all black, all tight, all shiny, set off by flashes of flesh and silver.
Young Geoffrey could not help smiling - indeed, he found himself stifling the occasional giggle. All this energy, all this dead-pan passion, for another short skirt, another pair of tight black pants. He imagined there were layers of subtlety invisible to his ignorant gaze but, unable to pierce those depths, he felt like a Shakespearean scholar at a comic book convention or an atheist at Midnight Mass: half curious anthropologist, half scoffing unbeliever.
But still, he watched, not just out of personal loyalty to his friend, but out of a genuine, if weak, desire to immerse himself in the rituals of an alien sub-culture.
Nicole modelled for the 2nd or 3rd designer on the bill. She emerged from behind the jury-rigged curtain in the company of a male model, with whom she seemed to share a good deal more chemistry than had the earlier pairs - more theatrical, more erotic, more fun.
But still, it was just a fashion show, and when Nicole left the stage, Young Geoffrey turned from it and made his way through the bar and down the stairs to the street. He found a nearby watering hole, ordered a pint, chatted with the very friendly barmaid and paid occasional attention to the Grey Cup playing above the bar.
* * *
Monday morning found him a little hung over but excited about the upcoming game. He had a light breakfast, checked his email, then packed up his bike with his hockey gear and headed out into the drizzly morning.
He was the 3rd player to arrive and greeted the other early birds, Ron and Fred. He got dressed, happily showing off his newly-acquired pants, elbow-pads and - a first! - actual hockey gloves.
The ice was in good shape and the game started fast. Despite the lingering hang-over, Young Geoffrey felt good. He was playing (for him) a strong game and had just stripped an opposing player of the puck at his own blue line when he turned - and something in the small of his back gave way, letting loose a searing pain at the base of his spine.
Hunched like a dowager, he skated to the bench. For a time he tried to stretch the pain away, turn left, then right, trying to work through the injury. It had been more than 10 years since he'd last seriously thrown out his back and he hoped this would prove to be only a passing storm of pain.
Before long, he gave up and trooped off to the dressing room, where it took him a good 20 minutes to de-equip himself and get dressed in his street clothes.
There was something depressing about sitting in a dressing room, hearing the shouts and laughter and especially the ever-present, biting swoosh of steel blades biting ice. He wanted a cigarette and decided to wait outside. Bending with difficulty, he reached for his lightest nap-sack, carrying his jock and helmet and shrugged it on.
Very quickly, Young Geoffrey realized his mistake. Sinking to his knees, he checked himself on the bench against the wall and slowly crumpled to his side on the floor.
He lay there, growing cold, unable to move while the sounds of the game carried from beyond the dressing-room door. From time to time, he heard himself shouting out in response to rhythms of his pain, but no one heard his call.
When at last the buzzer sounded and the team started in the door, he was helped to his feet. He asked one to carry his stuff outside, intending to get someone else to lug it to Bathurst, where he intended to catch a cab.
* * *
That had been the second mistake. He lit a cigarette while standing near his bicycle. He'd had a few puffs when the pain renewed its paralyzing attack. Once more he found himself lying on cold concrete, now wet and even colder than it had been inside.
He must have laid there 10 minutes before anyone else came out. Ron helped him to his feet and told him he had driven to the game. "I'll give you a lift home," he said. Ron drives a van, so there was even room for Young Geoffrey's bike.
Sometime very early the next morning, still dark, Young Geoffrey arose to nature's call. Slowly, painfully, he eased himself to the edge of his bed, slid his legs over the side and managed to dismount, kneeling. With an effort that was as much will as muscle, he lifted himself to his feet, bracing one hand on a card-table, the other on the backrest of a chair.
On the way back from the bathroom, he stumbled again, and lay for a while in his hall, thinking about the telephone at the far end of his apartment and the numbers, 9-1-1. But the bed was closer and, when the pain had lessened, a bit, he crawled to it and managed, somehow, to ensconce himself upon it.
The pain diminished as time went by. On Thursday, he found himself able not only to stand up without bracing himself, but to sit at his desk! Once more, to check email! Once more, to type! Thank god, he mused, that War and Peace is such a long book.