Friday, June 30, 2017

Summer of '67

One, little, two, little, three Canadians
Now we are twenty million!

Longue vie!

North, south, east, west,
Church bells will ring, ring!
It's the hundredth anniversary of 

If you know it, sing along! (Bonus points if you know it in French.)

To my American friends, be glad you DON'T know this little ditty; it is a persistent ear worm at 3 am.

And why do we know this song so well? How is it we remember every word after 50 years? Because it was everywhere that summer of 1967. Every school kid across the nation learned it for Canada's Centennial celebrations. In Winnipeg, we marched in a giant parade; a sea of kids, all singing Bobby Gimby's Canada song, all waving little Maple Leaf flags, all wearing red and white. I was 14. It was a big moment in a kid's life.

Now Canada is celebrating 150 years since confederation. I don't know if there is a Canada 150 song, but I do know that celebrations are planned nationwide for the July 1st, Canada Day holiday, and I understand that Peter Mansbridge is retiring from The National on Saturday. (Say it isn't so!)

Even though we live in the US, we will hoist our Canadian Maple Leaf into the flag holder on our front porch and go out for dinner. We know a place here in Dayton that serves a righteous poutine

The summer of '67 was a stand-out year for me as a 14 year-old. There was that parade I mentioned above. I have a clear picture of walking along Portage Avenue with my school mates, beaming with pride at the cheering crowds lining the sidewalks and center boulevard. 

Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, came in July to open the Pan-American Games. I remember being so impressed that my brother was volunteering as a driver to pick up athletes at the airport in a fancy convertible. He met people from all over the western hemisphere. 

Mostly, I remember my trip to EXPO 67 in Montreal. 

My Dad arranged the entire trip — and looking back, although he didn't accompany us, he did treat Mum and me to the very best — and I ought to have been a bit more grateful. It was my first flight on an airplane — an experience that cemented my fear of flying for a lifetime. We landed in Montreal during a thunder storm that made my short, pre-teen life flash before my eyes. 

He booked us a room at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel — one of Canada's premier CPR Chateau hotels — luxury accommodations then, as they are now. (And a couple of weeks later, the scene where French president, Charles DeGaulle's declared, "Vive le Quebec LIBRE!" It was a news event that my 14 year-old self could actually engage with because I had been in that same spot where he threw out this inflammatory remark.)

That week of EXPO 67, I got my period and was miserable the entire time. (Thus setting a precedent for my cycle to arrive in time for every vacation thereafter, until menopause finally kicked in.) Poor Mum had to put up with a sullen, moody girl whom she had to drag away from the hotel room TV, where I was watching kids slow-dance to Procol Harum's "Whiter Shade of Pale," to go experience the wonders of the World's Fair. 

I do remember some of it: long lines to get into pavilions, many oddly-shaped buildings, multi-screened films, people-moving conveyors, and entire seating banks that saved you the bother of walking from one exhibit zone to the next as they actually took you on the journey. I woke up one night in the QE hotel with motion sickness. (Such a joy of a child.) 

Ethnic food of every variety was available in every pavilion, presenting a severe challenge to the mother of a confirmed fussy eater. We wandered for hours, hungry, one afternoon at the Fair, searching for something to feed a kid that had grown up on a decidedly bland, Canadian Prairie diet. How on earth, then, did we end up with Naan bread and Chicken Tikka Masala? Maybe Mum thought it looked like chicken soup. I remember liking the Naan. (Rotten kid.)

I don't recall if I ever gave up my ill-tempered EXPO 67 sulk — I was likely too stubborn to let on that I might be having fun — but I do recall being so proud in the Canadian pavilion, the inverted pyramid by preeminent architect, Arthur Erickson. A lasting impression.

I think I cheered up a little when Mum and I departed on a train bound for Toronto. Dad came through on great accommodations here, too. We stayed in the then-brand-new Inn on the Park, a luxury resort in suburban Don Mills. It had a pool and Canada's first discotheque, although we availed ourselves of neither. Mum in a disco! Ha ha ha!  (I find it something of a marvel that my dad would have found out about these places without the benefit of or Trip Advisor. How did anyone make reservations in the olden days before the internet?)  

We toured the city's highlights, finding our way around on transit. We ate safe, sane Canadian food in the hotel restaurant. My aunt and uncle came to pick us up after a couple of days to take us out to Newmarket to stay with them. Before leaving Toronto, they took us on a drive to show us any city sights we might have missed. One was Yorkville, "to see the hippies." Yes, in 1967, the Summer of Love, Toronto's Yorkville was a hippie hang-out — the Canadian version of Haight-Ashbury. The adults in the car gawked and tsk-tsked about long hair, "I don't mind if it's clean!" and colorful clothing, "How do their parents let them go out looking like that?" But my eyes were as wide as saucers. I was overcome by the sudden need to be a hippie. I was instantly desperate to trade my sensible shift dress with its daisy appliqué for bell-bottoms, a fringed leather vest, and a headband. "You don't want to be like THEM," my uncle said. Oh, yes! Yes, I do! I thought it, but didn't say it out loud.

The summer of '67 — it was my turning point. From impossible pre-teen to impossible teenager. I went into grade 10 that fall. High school. I used my clothing allowance to buy bell-bottom jeans in a neon turquoise and an equally garish orange sweater to go with them. My mother said, "Well, if that's what YOU think looks nice…" her preferred passive-aggressive comment that meant, "How DOES your mother let you go out looking like that?" Thus, my teen years began.

The summer after grade 12, I went to EXPO 70 in Osaka, Japan, where our school choir sang at the Canadian pavilion. Hippie values informed my high school and university years, although I never ran away to join them; to hitchhike to Vancouver as so many kids did. 

I grew up to appreciate luxury hotels, great food, and interesting fashion. I worked on design teams for the Canada and Yukon pavilions at EXPO 86 in Vancouver and wrote design proposals for EXPO 92 in Seville. World Expos ended up being components integral to my life; those experiences leveraged later career choices. 

And now, it's the summer of '17. Fifty-years since that amazing summer. I hope there is at least one little, two little, three little, Canadian kids of 14 for whom Canada 150 is their amazing, memorable turning-point summer. Happy 150! Happy Canada Day!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Creaky Chronicles OR: When WAS the last time you touched your toes?

My bad knee, thanks for asking, has improved considerably due to a combination of ice, Ibuprofen, physical therapy, and the passage of time since the original injury. But limping for the better part of a year has left me with poor balance, tight hamstrings, and an old lady shuffle. Walking past shop windows, I catch myself looking elderly. The reflection I get is my mother at 92, wearing her mammoth white Easy Spirit runners, wobbling across the carpet in the Assisted Living dining room. I'm not prepared to go gently into my senior years just yet, certainly not lurching — and definitely not wearing Easy Spirits. Time for action.

My physical therapists recently added a personal training business. Great idea, I thought. The on-site trainers have the advantage of working alongside the very therapist who knows your history, which means that, you know, they might not hurt you. Plus, the clinical environment is focused on healing rather than on Spandex and S'well water bottles. Far less intimidating than those pilates studios where the women look like they work out with the International Body Building Association. Those gals terrify me.

I prepared a list of my goals in advance knowing they would ask. Goal #1 — walk like a twenty year old. I want to put some strength in my stride. A little pep in my step. A little giddy-up in the gait. And…well, that's it, really. (I'm not by nature a goal-driven person. Okay, Goal #2 — I want to live to 100 and look good doing it.) 

Neither am I much of an athlete. I hid in the high school locker room on volleyball days, hoping to escape the scorn heaped upon me by more adept players and the gym teacher — a woman who elevated torment to an art form. I tried jogging once but it was more fun to skip — and I broke my ankle. I liked the Jane Fonda aerobic era until I joined a gym with huge mirrors and suddenly realized that, not only am I short, but I look ridiculous in leg warmers.

As predicted, at my first appointment the trainer asked, "What are your goals?" Standing  before me was a handsome young man, maybe mid-30s, muscular, arms like a stevedore, glowing with good health. I'll call him "Gary." And there I was. Old enough to be his grandma. A little too heavy. A little too saggy. A little too creaky. 

I sucked in my gut and tried to look fit. And taller. I mentioned "core strength" to impress him. "Hop up on the bench," he said. It wasn't so much a "hop" as a slither. And let's face it, sitting on an exam table with your feet dangling over the edge erases any "cool" you think you might have walked in with.

"Let's see, your chart says, knee issues, sciatica, posterior tibial tendonitis, flat arches, Achilles heel. What else?" I was starting to get depressed, like the first time I slipped orthotic inserts into my shoes and understood, well, it's downhill from here. 

"Let's watch you walk," said Gary. 

I stumbled along the carpet, away and back to Gary. Bad start. (The soles of runners always catch on carpets, don't they?)

Next "we" tried a couple of mobility tests. Gary set up a low barricade and demonstrated how he wanted me to step over it, touch my heel to the floor, and then step back on the same foot, all the while holding a long bar across my shoulders. Warning. Do NOT try this at home. This exercise is designed to throw you totally off balance in utter embarrassment. "Don't worry. I got you!" says Gary. He calls it the "hurdle test." I call it the, "Let's see if the old lady can step out of the bathtub without toppling" test. 

After that, Gary asked me if I could squat. IF I could squat. Ha! I got this one. I've practiced at exercise class. I bent my knees and thrust my derriere back as if about to sit, and I'm thinking, "See? I can get pretty low!" Nope. Not what Gary was after. "Let's try again with this bar held straight up over your head." What the heck? "And now turn sideways for me. Let's see it from the side." Alright, now he's torturing me. I don't know about you, but my figure goes all pear-shaped bending over, butt stuck out there somewhere, doing the port-a-potty squat. Not a flattering pose. And holding that bar just makes everything go all spasmy. Good grief. Can it get any more humiliating?

"That's all I need to see," says Gary. 

OKAY. NOW WHAT THE HECK DOES THAT MEAN?!?!? He's got all the information he needs about my limitations? Or that he's simply had enough of watching this old lady contorting like a hippo giving birth? 

Or maybe he's of the same ilk as my gym teacher and those Amazons at the pilates studios, metaphorically stuffing non-athletic nerds like me into lockers. Where's the sport in it? Why bother -- it's too easy.

"Great," said Gary. "We'll work up a program for you and have you come back next week. You'll be working with Karly." 

Thank goodness. Maybe Karly will be a nice girl who respects a grandma-type with groaning knees and flat feet — like me. I'll wear my new Nikes. You know, just to look athletic.