I don't head to Downsview Park to decry the co-opting of rock and roll. And I don't care if Mick is 10 years older than Shakespeare got to be. I love the Stones, and I intend to wade right up front where I can get a good look. I'm the kind of person who can get to the back of the bus in rush hour, slide out of headlocks and enter through milk boxes, so my plan is to wriggle my way to the stage.
But this is a megacrowd for the megacity with the megaproblem, a massive local-global spectacle, and there are too many people and not enough organization. It takes me about two hours to tiptoe through, trip over and squeeze by about 10,000 head of them.
I'm riding the wake of big, blustery guys, bargers, conga lines, urgent wave-parters, and we are slowly moving forward until we are all stopped by a double-lane security fence. Perhaps there's a way around this fence. There are rumours to that effect, but no proof. I'm running out of water, and getting any means a trek of hours. What if I got trapped up front without fluids? OK, so if this is globalization, why not go with the spin? Surrender to the centrifugal - be flung out to the edge, get into the plutonian perspective, examine periphery phenomena. In other words, Plan B. Retreat. Stay back by one of those satanic Blade Runner video screens.
While Justin Timberlake gets his just desserts, I get mine - I get high and hydrated. Then I settle with a bunch of other moths around the farthest-flung of the monitors as the Guess Who prepare to take the stage. Here, 2,000 light years from home, my quest's questions come at me. When we said "one world,' did we mean this? One marketplace? One big concert? One massive slaughter of all the cows possible, to dance strewing ribs over waste and water bottles? To look at TVs in the sky?
And is this monitor I'm at a metaphor? Are there monitor countries? (They don't actually get the lifestyle or the food. But they get to look at it.) What if at the centre of this there's no "real" concert at all? I have no way of knowing if that's actually Burton Cummings up there. It looks a lot like those recent pictures of Uday. How do I know that's really Burton's voice? I'm waiting for an expert opinion. But I'm not gonna get one, because something has happened to the sound. All we can hear is the distant boom of drums coming from somewhere over the horizon, the attendant buzz of guitar mosquitoes and a minuscule squawk-echo of "Don't give me no hand-me-down world."
People start a shout: "Turn it up! Turn it UP!" but nobody hears them. Next up is Rush, but still no sound. I reach a conclusion: if I really want to submit my being to a lot of hot air, bad video and patchy sound, I could save a lot of money by just going to the next Reg Hartt lecture/screening.
So, as much as I want to support AC/DC for having the courage to go ahead with a singer who has clearly had his throat slit, I start to drift away. Which leads to this question: how far away can you get before you're not actually there any more? Maybe I can go to my own personal monitor - at home - and still be "here." Still be "with it."
Traipsing back through the immense "park," the questions keep coming. Where was the diverse city? How come there was only one black band? Can't people of colour save us, too? Doesn't hiphop have a huge audience? And where were the women? Sure, the great and sassy Sass was there, but where was the other, darker half of Killith Fair, Alannah Myles? Was Alanis busy? Where was Avril Lavigne?
The choices weren't all driven by the economic override. Some acts were there because they were being given a chance. So how about giving a chance to black rockers like Staggered Crossing? Or if you need French, how about some great African band out of Montreal? Where were the Dream Warriors or Michie Mee? Why wasn't Choclair there? Was there some strategy to this? Like, are rap and the rap audience too dangerous to party in front of those placid Stones? How many new diseases, how many more plagues before we get saved by rap, and at that time will it just be Sir Eminem?
Thinking such thoughts, I make my way back over cattle and pig ribs, fields of bottles like brittle condoms abandoned after mass casual sex. Here at the rim of the audible universe, I think of the real heroes in this hero quest, the health care workers for whose benefit this event has been thrown.
While the poor player struts and frets his hour on the stage, while Jumpin' Jack-be-nimble leaps over life's brief candle for the umpteenth time, the health workers toil and grieve, bury their dead and risk their lives to save others. Should any child of a departed health care worker ever suffer privation because of his or her parent's sacrifice, it would be a failure of public conscience and a betrayal.
Riding the subway afterwards, I notice that I've been sitting under a fragment of a poem by Canada's greatest poet: "They dance best who dance with desire / who lifting feet of fire from fire / weave before they lie down / a red carpet for the sun." Thank you, Irving Layton. Really, that was the best rush I had all day. I get home in plenty of time to catch reruns of an inspired set by the Tea Party. It looks great. It looks like the biggest party on earth. Wish I'd been there.