Gold Everywhere!If you can wait. If you can have faith. If you can trust in the gifts of the universe then you will find that there's gold everywhere. 'Never fails. I am in Toronto's famous Rex Hotel Jazz and Blues Bar on an afternoon of apocalyptic weather to interview a man who wasn't there. "He would be in on Tuesday," according to the young, handsome bartender. Rather than waste the trip, I ask for a martini and settle in to wait for the goods. They're out of vermouth but we laugh and I do not protest. The bartender is exactly the right mix of easy-going, and concern. This is an interesting place. More interesting as an entity unto itself during the off hours as I am about to experience.
There are TV's at the Rex mounted on the walls, today showing events from Sochi and the Olympics. When I arrive, the members of the Canadian Women's hockey team are shown getting their gold medals. Here, there is a group of four men in a corner of the room. I glean from overhearing words here and there, that the two older men might be either policemen or judges as they are discussing various court rooms they like over others with two younger men who I would guess might be lawyers. I'm guessing this because the younger men seemed keen to give the older men full attention, sipping their beer with their backs to the TV's, facing the stucco wall instead. Further over, there is a table of three; the only hipsters in the place. Behind me, two men are sitting, nursing their bottles of Blue. One has just checked in to a room for four nights. He has found work in the area and his girlfriend phoned ahead and booked the room for him. To my left, in the back of the room, there is one older man, a regular, finishing his second beer and chatting on occasion with the bartender and the owner as they tend to their tasks. The owner is dealing with a room issue, but stops to chat with a woman on her way out. He is concerned that everything is okay with her. She is learning English, new in Canada, and "Do you have friends?" he asks. She nods. He is glad, and warns her of the weather. He is sincere. A young man is cleaning the glass doors. An older woman comes in and sits up to the bar. The bartender offers her a menu. Over in the corner on a low-raised stage, sacred, there are parts of a drum kit stacked next to a shrouded baby grand piano and a pair of monitors. There are framed photographs of musicians scattered on the walls. Behind me and to my left, there is a large painting of a woman in a red dress and a man playing a blue saxophone. I ask the waitress to tell me about the painting.
"Well," she says, "there's a woman in a red dress. And a man playing a blue saxophone."
I laugh, explaining that I figured it had something to do with the Sirens of Greek legend or something symbolic.
"No. Some lady painted it. She comes here every once in a while with a blind date. She sits right in front of her painting," she says and goes back to her work.
I sip my drink and notice the music. The awards ceremony is over and women's figure skating is two or three contestants in. I hear Ravel's Bolero but instead of watching the skater, I listen to the music and consider the people in the room. The music builds in its slow, steady beat and I notice one of the judges sits down closer to the TV and watches the young skater throw herself up in the air to the music. She has drawn him out. No one bats an eye. This judge, and everyone else in the room, all with their own stories, even the people passing through the sleet out on the sidewalk are beautifully choreographed from where I sit. Those passing have brief roles. A glimpse only as they pass by the doors: shoes or winter boots? Warm coat or not? Umbrella? Alone? And who's in the taxi? Who's on the streetcar?
Bolero: graceful. Intense.
With a click, the bartender mutes the TV and Bolero. Music from a jazz radio station takes over the room. The skater finishes and awaits her score. The judge returns to his seat. The regular in the back leaves but not before handing his empty beer bottle to the bartender. The woman orders food. The next skater takes the ice and dances completely out of sync with the Duke Ellington tune we are hearing, possibly April in Paris. The scene is comical, but touching, like something out of a Vonnegut novel. The story is in the contrast: from fluid movement, to struggle. From comfort to endurance. And from loneliness to camaraderie. Today, the real gold is right here at The Rex, where life is happening in perfect time.