Back in 1992, I went to a rock concert — Metallica, at the Pacific Coliseum… the Black Album tour, arguably their best. A very memorable concert, but before the show… something just as memorable…
Back in those days, like today, you stood in line to get checked by security before going in. Back then, they weren’t looking for guns or knives, though of course those would be confiscated… they didn’t even care about drugs. But alcohol, and the bottles that would house it — that was the big no-no. My friend and I were good little boys, so no concerns. We waited more than 15 minutes for the line to slowly snake its way to the doors, but we finally got there… and then this happened: My friend went in first, and the security guy frisked him…. and frowned. “What’s this?”, he asked…. “Huh?”, says my friend…. “Oh… oh shit… uh… oh boy….” and reaches into some lower hidden pocket of his relatively thick winter jacket and pulls out… a grenade.
Not a live grenade, of course… just a $5 army-surplus “hey, that’s pretty cool” sort of grenade. I imagine if this were today, some undertrained overzealous security fill-in would scream out “GRENADE!!” and there would be pandemonium. But back then…
“Yeah, I’m afraid you can’t take that in with you.”
“No… no, of course not. I’m so sorry. I…”
“You’ll have to check it.”
“… check it?”
“Yeah, coat check… go in, turn left… far wall, there’s a coat check… leave it there.”
So in we go, turn left, go to the far wall to the coat check… he puts the grenade down on the counter. Coat check older lady doesn’t bat an eye… she picks it up, tapes a number to it, gives him the corresponding number, and puts the grenade on the shelf behind her. He hands her $1. Surreal.
After the epic concert, we’re herded out along with the rest of the unruly mob… and we’re far from the coat check, on the other side of the building. “What about your grenade?”, I asked him, as we approached the exit. His response strongly implied he wasn’t too interested in retrieving it.
Every time I see a grenade (which isn’t too often, notwithstanding the Bruno Mars’s song 10 years ago), I think about that grenade. I wonder what became of it? Did it sit on that shelf for a while? Did it make its way down to the Lost-and-Found? Is it still in some “Forgotten stuff people have left behind” pile in some basement storage room? It probably made its way into someone’s home, and when that person is asked where it came from, I wonder what they say.
This is the sort of story that wouldn’t happen today. Even here in Canada, where we’re a lot more chill than south of the border, but still. At one point, I suppose it was ok. These days, no way.
While I’ve been around, Vancouver has gone through three growth spurts, timed with three relevant events… Expo’86, the late 90’s handoff of Hong Kong back to China… and, more recently, the 2010 Winter Olympics. All of them brought lots of people to the city… and many of those people liked what they saw, and decided to stick around.
Those three events shifted the identity of this city… growth, diversity… some degree of “world-class”ness… creating different versions of time and place. Context. A grenade today on a U.S. city street during a protest? Serious problem. 30 years ago at a concert in Vancouver? Not so much.
It’s interesting how I always manage to tie-in some distant historical curiosity of my life and make it relevant to this present-day pandemic. And, more recently, tie it into the societal changes that are occurring. There’s no magic in my writing… it’s just the simple fact that history repeats itself, more often than we think. In concrete terms, pandemics have been reappearing for as long as man has been around. So have protests. And concerts. Same old stuff, dressed-up to be relevant as the flavour of the day. And whenever these days, you’re finding yourself thinking, wow… this is unimaginable. This impossible. This can’t be happening.
Yes, it’s imaginable, possible and it’s happening… again. Because it’s happened before. And it’ll happen yet again. It might look different… H34N87. COVID-68. Civil unrest because the [X] people are sick and tired of the [Y]’s people treatment of them.
We are living in interesting times, but let’s be clear… we’re not that special. Most people have lived through their generation’s versions of the same things. The key aspect is… did they learn anything from it? Have we learned from what they’ve learned, or are we doomed to make the same mistakes?
Yup… some rhetorical questions answer themselves.