Thursday April 17, 2014





Knox: Bemoaning the lost art of mooning

Someone mooned me today.

I was parking downtown. Pulled into a spot, glanced to my right and — whoa! — got a passenger-side window full of something that looked like it should be influencing tides.

My first thought was “Dang it, Harper found me,” but no, no, no, it was just some random, scruffy-looking guy, pausing for no apparent reason to drop trou and give me a good view of the Sea of Tranquility before continuing on his way.

One of his two companions laughed, but Butt Boy himself didn’t even bother with a backward glance before disappearing down Government.

It brightened a grey day.

We don’t see a lot of mooning here these days. Not like, say, Laguna Niguel, California, where for 33 years up to 10,000 people at a time have gathered for the annual Mooning of Amtrak, losing their pants whenever a passenger train rattles past.

Mooning is a pretty effective way to express yourself, though, to mock the gods and deflate the pompous.

At the Battle of Crécy in 1346, hundreds of Norman soldiers presented bare bull’s-eyes to English archers. In 2011, anti-elitist Sydney protester Liam Warriner ran alongside the Queen’s motorcade with an Australian flag squeezed between his cheeks.

Unimpressed with what he saw as Michael Jackson’s portrayal of himself as a Christ-like figure with the power of healing, Jarvis Cocker, frontman for the British band Pulp, invaded the stage to moon (albeit with pants on) the King of Pop during a televised performance in 1996.

My mooner, who knows? Maybe he didn’t like Toyotas. Maybe he didn’t like me. Maybe he was high (“This crack problem is out of control,” tweeted my colleague Lindsay Kines).

Or maybe the guy was just grouchy, had been pushed around by fate and felt like pushing back. Flipping the bird to the world might not be the best reaction to life, but at least it feels better than surrender.

Writer Ian Ferguson related a similar sidewalk experience Saturday. He had been enjoying a particularly good week — it was his birthday, he had a very funny piece on the NHL lockout published in a national newspaper, his brother Will had just won the Giller Prize — and was cheerfully strolling through downtown Victoria when a voice behind him barked “GET THE BLEEP OUT OF MY WAY!”

“Dang it,” Ian thought, “Gary Bettman found me.”

No, no, no, what was actually crowding Ferguson’s heels was an angry, sweating-with-booze, elderly man in an electric scooter. “Sorry,” said Ian, “I didn’t see you.”

“YOU DIDN’T SEE ME, LIKE I’M BLEEPING INVISIBLE, YOU BLEEPING BLEEP?”

It was at this point that Ian noticed all the white-faced, reeling pedestrians the man had left in his wake as, like Sherman laying waste to Georgia, he cut a profanity-laced swath down the sidewalk.

And this is what Ian thought: What a great town Victoria is, where being a nasty, abusive, vulnerable old drunk offers its own protection from retribution. “This city has a tolerance for eccentricity,” Ian says proudly.

Perhaps that’s because Victoria (like it or not, this is your capital, Kamloops) is a city of misfits, the last refuge of the disaffected and the disconnected, people from somewhere else looking for something else, stopping at the water’s edge down here in the lower left-hand corner of Canada only because any further migration would result in drowning. Vancouver Island is where the snowy part of Canada shovels its flakes.

Or perhaps we all recognize that people need to blow off steam now and then. B.C. writer Tom Henry, in his book The Ideal Dog, has a terrific piece on the value of occasionally losing your cool: “A vigorous temper, I’ve always thought, is as much a part of a healthy life as howls of laughter. Both are irrational. Both are satisfying. I wouldn’t be without either.”

Or perhaps that’s overthinking things and the weather has just made us a little grumpy. Oh well, if we can’t frolic in the sunshine, then at least we can be bathed by moonlight.





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