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The Big Apple beckons

By G.D.

By G.D. Maxwell

Strange the way life plays tricks on you, isn’t it?

That’s what I was thinking, sitting on the patio at Zeuski’s, watching the endless parade of summer people, nursing a beer and contemplating the unfair twist of events that had dragged me away from Smilin’ Dog Manner and back to Whistler.

In the hot sun of Whistler’s smokin’ summer the beer tasted especially good. It kept my mind off the horrible things I imagined were about to happen to me, gave my tongue something to do other than worrying the broken piece of molar loose in its socket, and fortified my courage for the rescue effort the dentist would be undertaking within the hour.

A mime, probably a freelancer, annoyed tourists as they passed, following them, mocking their movements. A kid whose scoop of ice cream broke through its cone and dropped to the ground bawled while a black mongrel dog revelled in his unexpected treat. Bikers in mud-spattered armour walked their rides down the plaza regaling each other about what a fornicatin’ great time they’d just had.

A stick of gum. I still couldn’t believe I’d broken the biggest damn molar in my mouth on a stick of gum, something I don’t even chew as often as I have birthdays.

More jugglers. More clowns. And... what the...? My first thought was, "This is why I’ve decided to leave Whistler during the summer." I know we’re a resort and tourists are our collective lifeline. But Uncle Sam? I took another drink and rubbed my eyes. There he was. Uncle Sam in full redwhiteandblue regalia. Tourism Whistler had gone too far this time.

Then I really started to get uncomfortable. I couldn’t see his face with the sun behind him but I recognized the walk... or more accurately the almost syphilitic shuffle, a unique amble part lack of co-ordination, part uncertainty of destination, part ill-fitting shoes. Worse yet, it was clear he was shuffling my direction, purposefully.

I braced myself, ordered another beer and one for him on my tab since I was sure he would if I didn’t.

"Yo Bro."

His voice sounded like bald tires spinning on a loose gravel road. I was still too lost in the visuals to answer. Top hat, white goatee, swallow-tail coat, stovepipe trousers, all in patriotic colours. Make it go away, please.


"A/k/a Uncle Sam, dude."

"Costume party? Or just getting an early jump on Halloween this year?"

For all I knew, J.J. might have found this get-up dumpster diving. It was no more outrageous than the tattered brocade housecoat he was sporting most of last winter. J.J. was a flamboyant dresser, no doubt about that. Unless he was actually working, tailing someone, a more and more infrequent occurrence. As Whistler’s only private eye, J.J. worked less than any adult I knew. The local market for bail bond jumpers and cheating spouses wasn’t exactly robust.

"Guess costume party would come closest," he said, lighting a Gaulois and swallowing a long draught of beer. "I’m headin’ down to the Big Apple to help commemorate September 11 th ."

"Don’t you think those people have suffered enough already?"

"Whoa, you’ve got me all wrong buddy. Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country."

"I thought you still weren’t, how should I put this, exactly welcome in our home and native land. Wasn’t it you telling me there were still some pretty powerful guys in the scary part of the government who’d nail your sorry ass to a flagpole if you ever slipped back across the border?"

J.J. had – at least he’d intimated, not that anything he said could be believed – been involved in covert operations in Indochina before the US had given up on that part of the world, kill ya if I tell ya kind of stuff. The details were sketchy but he’d always been adamant about staying north of the border.

"All’s forgiven in the new world order. ’Sides, with Rumsfeld and Ashcroft running things, the spooks have pretty much taken over. If Dubya can buddy up to Pakistan, he can certainly overlook my particular brand of treachery."

"Don’tcha think the Uncle Sam thing is a little over the top though?"

"Marketing, dude. This is the time and this is the costume. Super patriots are back in vogue. Flag decals poppin’ up all over. ’Sides, I’ve got something to sell and the duds won’t hurt that effort one bit. Er... stand me to another beer?"

"Course. So, what exactly are you trying to sell?" Did I really want to know?

"WTC memorial. Got the plans drawn up and a friend’s making up a model for me to take down there."

"I hadn’t heard they’d made a call for memorial plans. I thought they were going to do what you’d naturally do with extremely valuable New York real estate – rebuild."

"Fer sure. But they’ll site a memorial somewhere between the shadows of whatever they build and I’ve got the perfect plan."

I braced myself and asked, "Do I want to know about this?"

"Dude, this is brilliant. This is America. This is in the proudest tradition of rugged individualism, popular culture and damn the torpedoes, we’re Americans and don’t you ever forget it."

"Okay, I’m on pins and needles."

"No maudlin sentimentality, dude. Just picture this. A simple, clean plaza. Some nice plantings around the perimeter, a couple of seats for contemplation and... and a lifesize statue of Ricardo Montalban and Hervé Villechaize, little Hervé pointing up at the sky."

I waited for him to go on but he didn’t. "I don’t get it J.J."

"Fantasy Island, dude. Look boss, de plane, de plane."

I didn’t know what to say. I searched for the right words. "J.J., if they don’t stone you to death, you’ll probably be arrested and never heard from again." Yeah, I think those were the right words.

"No, you don’t get it. This is brilliant. Look, think whatever you will of it, but it’s beyond argument that Manhattan is Fantasy Island. Everybody said 9/11 was like a movie. Movie, television show, whatever. Nothing ever happened on Fantasy Island until de plane arrived. It’s an allegory everyone will get because it draws on television, the lowest form of popular culture, not some airy-fairy artist’s idea of symbolism. Finally, it’s so damn American. It just thumbs our collective noses at the bastards who’d try to bring us down. We spit on your Jihad."

"You don’t find it just a little bit, what’s the word I’m looking for, tasteless?"

"I think it’ll resonate with Joe six-pack."

"Well, maybe you’ve got a point. But I’ve got to go let the dentist crawl around my mouth. Been nice knowin’ you J.J."