The Platinum Ticket by David Beynon

The Platinum Ticket by David Beynon
Shortlisted for The Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now First Novel Prize

Monday, 13 January 2014

Showering With The Old Guys

Odd title for a blog post.  I know.  We’ll get to it shortly.

Last August, I did something I hadn't done in almost thirty years.  The kids expressed interest in visiting the CNE, the Canadian National Exhibition. 

It was an annual ritual when I was growing up.  My parents would drive to a GO train station and park the car.  The train ride was a treat for a couple of rural kids who only encountered transit in the form of a school bus.  The train would take us to Exhibition Station and we’d be off for a day of games and rides and exhibits and, of course, the international flavours of The Food Building.

I honestly don’t know why it had been thirty or so years since my last visit.  It might be that as I’ve grown older my tolerance for line-ups and crowds has decreased.  It might be that my love of midway rides has dwindled.  I think that the most likely reason of all (isn't that my heart is two sizes too small) might have to do with the Food Building

My mother was born in India and I was exposed to curry (of sorts) at an early age but beyond the liver curry with far too many raisins, it was typical British fare with very well done meat and vegetables that had been boiled into submission.  When I was young, the International Food Building was a chance to sample cuisine from all over the world and every vendor presented free samples.   Canada has grown more cosmopolitan.  When my wife and I lived in Mississauga, any food from any part of the world you can imagine was available within a ten-minute walk of our condo.   In our little town of Fergus we have an Indian Restaurant that’s just as good as anything our friends in Vancouver can find in their city and our Sushi restaurant, while not the best sushi restaurant I've ever eaten at, is among the top three.  I've eaten food from around the world and tend to love it all and although a new culinary discovery is still an adventure, it’s not an adventure I’m likely to have in the CNE Food Building of 2013.

Anyway, the kids expressed a desire to go and other than my dislike of crowds and line-ups, I saw no reason not to.  Hearkening back to my childhood, we parked at a Go station (not the same one as in my youth) and took the train to Exhibition Station.  I girded myself for crowds and line-ups and got neither.  It turns out that a multi-cultural society’s Food Building is a different place.  Not able to entice the crowds with now commonplace international cuisine, they resort to things like “THE CRONUT BURGER”.  Here’s a link to the question floating in your mind:  What on earth is a cronut burger?

We had a line-up free day at the CNE because the previous two days a goodly number of patrons fell victim to that failed culinary experiment.  Just as well – I didn't feel crowded at all.

During our day of no line-ups and food-poisoning reduced crowds, I rediscovered my love of midway rides.  I was doubly delighted to discover that my 12 year old daughter loved them too.  Anything she wanted to try, I tried as well.  Everything was good and happy until we rode The Avalanche! It’s a magnificent ride that teaches you the wonders of centrifugal force.  The problem is, last time I rode this thing I was…ahem…let’s just say considerable lighter.  The ride caused parts of me to exert pressure in new ways on other parts of me that became increasingly unpleasant.  I was carrying too much weight to enjoy midway rides with my children.

Here’s where we get to showering with old guys.  Once the kids started back a school a few weeks later, I signed up at the gym.  Everything was sore and rusty to start, but with time and effort, I’ve lost some weight and my stamina is remarkably increased.  There’s still work to be done, but I do an average of 5 miles on the elliptical trainer (or just over 40 minutes) daily with a bit of weight training thrown in for good measure. 

I work out in the mornings, after the kids have caught the bus.  The vast majority of folks working out at that time of day are retired…very retired.  Most are in their seventies.  It’s great working out with seventy year olds.  Not because I feel more fit – I don’t.  These guys are in terrific shape.  All stringy and lean.  I like working out with them because they talk.

After the elliptical machine, I rest a bit and chat with the guys.  They come from all walks of life and each have fantastic stories that come out with very little prompting.  All of them are characters and, as a writer, they are fodder for characters. 

The new exercise routine gives me forty minutes of uninterrupted “thinking time” each morning before I come home and sit down in front of the keyboard.  I get real-life experiences that can be woven into the fabric of characters I create.  Most days I feel like a Viking, ready to conquer the world.  And I’m making it possible to enjoy years and years of midway rides for as long as my kids will let me ride with them.

And the showers with the old guys?  Doesn’t actually happen too often that we’re showering together.  Whether by unconscious choice or happy accident, most often I have free run of the change room with nary a soul about.   But when we do share the change room and find ourselves in the shower together...well, that would be telling.