Tag Archives: Childhood

Where’s My Corner Store?

True Story….

The other day I drove through the old neighborhood where I grew up, looking for my barber who had mysteriously changed locations or retired or who knows? I know the last time I went, the barber shop was closed and there was a strange note on the door signed by someone other than him with an address that wasn’t too far away. When I had checked out the new address, and it appeared to be a beauty salon, but it was still being renovated, and not yet open for business. I couldn’t imagine my barber (who has been cutting my hair, almost exclusively since I was old enough to pay for my own haircuts), working out of a beauty salon. He’s not the type. His barber shop was incredibly old school, and BARELY changed in the last 20 years. The prices were good, and he was reliable and good at his craft. This time when I went, I decided to drive past that beauty salon again. It was open for business, but I couldn’t see in the window. I know this seems weird, but even after driving all that way, I didn’t want to walk into a beauty salon and ask about my barber. Out of respect for him in a way. So I drove back to the original location to see if there was any more information available. When I got to the strip plaza in my old neighborhood, it was fenced in by a construction company and just about the whole thing had already been gutted.

That was my neighborhood strip plaza.

I lived with my parents until I was 29. I know that sounds bad. My room was in the basement, so I had a fair amount of privacy. When I finished school and joined the workforce, they charged me a reasonable amount of rent. I wouldn’t have been able to live anywhere else for that price, and on months where I couldn’t afford to pay, they didn’t kick me out. I love my parents. I had a great relationship with them, so it wasn’t a difficult arrangement. The house we lived in was a 5 minute walk from the house we used to live in. Both houses were a 10 minute walk from my neighborhood strip mall. A 2 minute drive. 5 minute bike ride. I remember that plaza.

I remember the convenience store. The lady who owned it was Chinese, and she had a speech pattern that sounded like she was singing everything. She was delightful. I remember her husband who had the opposite speech pattern. They had a son who would work in the store once he was old enough. I could tell he liked Hip Hop because he was always reading The Source magazine. I used to like Hip Hop, and that’s where I went to buy The Source Magazine as well. I remember the girl who worked for them in the 90’s. She was Italian or Portuguese or something. We had little teenage crushes on her. She was sweet to everyone. Every guy that went in there thought they were the only one. I remember when there was a drug store on the other end of the plaza. My parents used to give me $50 when I was a kid to buy all of my Christmas presents for people. I know $50 doesn’t seem like a lot, but I was probably only 10 or 12 years old, and I guess adults thought it was really cool that they got an $8 present from me since I had to go to the store and pick it out myself. Plus inflation. It was the 80’s. I remember the Dry Cleaners who never spelled my last name right, but committed it to memory, so they never asked what it was, they just saw my face and remembered my name, but with the wrong spelling. I never bothered correcting them. I remembered the greasy spoon restaurant, and how we used to go there for fries and gravy, and maybe played the 2 arcade games that were there, until we’d get kicked out for making too much noise. I remember them renovating and getting their liquor licence, and then the same 5 people perched themselves at the bar stools for 5 hours a day, and drank cheap beers every single day. Still some of the best Pork Souvlaki around.

I remember when the Mafia place opened up. Yeah, they got all legit and started serving Gelato etc, but I never set foot in there after the first time (and that story could be its own blog). I remember when a guy was murdered in the parking lot. I remember the waitress from that establishment always bringing Espressos or Soda to my barber, and wondering how that arrangement was set up. I remember way back when there was a place where you could get schnitzel on a bun, and I took that for granted, but as time went on I realized how hard it is to find a little place like that at a small neighborhood strip plaza. I remember when my mom started a drop in day care for senior citizens suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, and had her office there for many years. I remember her having to go there every time someone set the alarm off in the middle of the night. I remember her retirement ceremony, and how being there, and hearing everyone pay tribute to all she had accomplished made us so proud.

I remember when pop was 50 cents at one store and 65 cents at the other. I remember buying Sarasoda and Twist Shandy because they had 0.5% alcohol, and we thought we were baaaaaaaad. I remember the New York Knicks having a pretty solid lead with about 30 seconds left in a playoff game against the Pacers, so I walked from my friend’s house to this store to get some chips and pop for the next game, only to find out when I got back that Reggie Miller scored 8 points in 9 seconds, and the Pacers won the game. I remember my friend being so obsessed with a certain brand of chocolate chip cookies that we made a day of looking in couch cushions and raiding coat pockets in our parent’s closets so we could go buy these damn cookies. I can’t even remember if they were good or not. I remember playing basketball for hours in the summer, and buying a 2 litre jug of peach flavored drink, and finishing all of it every time!

Seeing that building almost ripped to shreds made me sadder than I was expecting. I have 2 nieces that actually live within walking distance of the spot, but by the time they’re old enough to walk there by themselves, there will likely be condominiums there. I guess this happens to all of us eventually, and not to sound too cliché, but I definitely felt like a part of my childhood had just disappeared. Perhaps more importantly, where am I going to get my haircut?

If I HAD to get caught in a time warp, the year would be……….

“Oh, when I look back now…. the summer seemed to last forever…. and if I had a choice…. yeah I would wanna be there….. those were the best days of my life”  –  Bryan Adams – fellow Canadian who was having the best days of his (musical life) at that exact moment (in my opinion).

The song was called Summer of ’69.  But it was released in 1985 which is the year I would want to get caught in a time warp.  Why would I choose a song which was clearly not about the year that I wanted to talk about?  You’re guess is as good as mine.  Don’t fight it, just go with it.  I mean, I’m sure that ’69 was cool, but I was born in 74 so I don’t want to gamble on the unknown.  I’ll pick a year that I’ve seen and lived through.

Now I don’t really know what a time warp is, and Wikipedia didn’t help, but I’ve always saved this term for describing people who just stopped evolving at a certain point in the world’s history (to be fair, I base this on appearances if I don’t know the person…..which isn’t really fair at all, but I can’t slow down for technicalities right now).  I see it all the time, at work, on the train, at the mall.  It usually happens to people over 30, and it probably will happen to everyone at some point.  I sometimes see a person, and look at the way they’ve dressed, the way they talk, and I can usually pick the year that they stopped evolving.  Fashion is the easiest indicator.  It moves around, and sometimes you move with it, and look current.  Sometimes you might skip over a trend or two if it doesn’t suit you, but other times people just stop forever with a certain ‘look’, and that’s the ‘look’ they have for the rest of their lives.  As time moves further and further away from that moment, you look more and more like you weren’t made for these times.

I have an example of a guy who is a tradesman that I run into from time to time.  He’s a nice guy, and he is usually wearing some sort of work uniform, but he has a mullet.  A great mullet mind you!  There is definitely product in his hair, and it’s well maintained.  If this were 1985, you’d look at his hair with fascination and approval.  Now I look at it still with fascination, but…..  I can tell that in his mind it’s 1985.  That his ‘Glory Days’ (released 1985 by Bruce Springsteen) were in the mid 80s, and he just stopped evolving.  He got stuck in a time warp, so now his clothes and hair probably look a bit weird to most, and if he was single and wanted to meet women, he’d have to find someone who was also stuck in that same time warp, so that they would ‘get’ each other.  I’m not saying that’s bad.  I’m not saying this guy doesn’t have a great life.  After all, what better year to be stuck in?  I remember another guy who owned a bar in a small town, and it was near the lake, but you could tell he wishes he was a Sam Malone type of bartender, but based out of California in a Huey Lewis & the News video.  This wasn’t that, but it didn’t seem so bad.  After all, he had a great ‘Mark Harmon in Summer School’ Hawaiian shirt.

My advice on avoiding the time warp phenomenon?  3 things.  First, believe that your best days are ahead of you.  The fashion time warp hits people who (subconsciously) feel that they’ve already peaked.  They want to be like they were in their ‘glory days’, so they act, dress, and talk like they still are.  Second, keep an open mind about things that are happening today.  Yes, the music we listened to back in the day was way better than this shit, but there’s still some good stuff coming out if you’re patient enough to find it and give it a fair listen.  Third, don’t dive too deep into the fashion trends.  There are always some classic looks, and some wardrobe staples that never go out of style.  If you can stick to some of those looks, then people won’t be able to pinpoint the year you got stuck in.

Finally, why did I pick 1985 to get stuck in (if I had to get stuck, which I hope I never do)???  Because I was 10 years old….my hair had an ambitious concoction of mousse, gel, hairspray, all to try to get that Duran Duran look…….Back to the Future came out (and btw, the future is 3 years from now…. where are our flying cars?)……My Toronto Blue Jays made the playoffs for the first time, and had a 99 win season which is the best regular season they ever had (including their 2 World Series years)…..On July 13th I woke up at 7am to watch Live Aid on TV which is probably the most extraordinary concert of all time for a lot of reasons…….I wore parachute pants……I had a Commodore 64…….Pop music was on the tail end of possibly most interesting period (ok fine music purists, the keyboards and electric drums were a bit much, but is was fun as shit)……WWF wrestling hadn’t yet become a weird soap opera for men (they actually had wrestling matches)……..The San Francisco 49ers won the Superbowl……Music Video stations like MTV and MuchMusic actually played Music Videos!!!……There was so much neon (my wife thinks it’s disturbing that I have such a fascination with this, but if your restaurant or hotel has a neon sign, I’d like to eat/stay there…. reminds me of Miami Vice)………Probably the funnest part of 1985 (other than Coca-Cola shitting the bed by changing the recipe of the most popular drink in the world, and then having to change it back (btw… ughh I know bracket within a bracket… ugh I know, they’re called parenthesis, people should never be afraid of making mistakes….. just be awesome all the time and people will forgive you…. that’s the first thing I’ll tell my kid when he/she is old enough to understand….. Look at Coke!!!)) was the fact that I was 10 years old and didn’t have a care in the world.  I couldn’t fault anyone for being stuck in a time warp like that!!  I wouldn’t recommend it either though…. it’s not a good look.