Santa, Timeless

Last year I went to Metrotown for the first time in my life to interview Santa, but I got too stoned before hand and got all nervous and chickened out. This year I stayed straight and got the job done. It was rewarding.

ONLY: How old are you, Santa?

SANTA: Oh, I’m pretty old. Many moons have passed since I was…

ONLY: What do you do during the off-season?

S: Relax. Get things in line for next year.

ONLY: What’s your favourite pastime?

S: Uh, that’s a good question. What’s my favourite pastime… I really don’t know. I like everything.

ONLY: What do you think is the number one gift for Christmas this year?

S: Well, the little ones still like Thomas the Tank Train…

ONLY: Really?

S: …And there’s a bunch of fancy things out there. Animals and what have you… you know, prehistoric.

ONLY: If you could wish one thing for the world this Christmas, what would it be?

S: Get things in order, and get peace all over. Get rid of the fighting and get the boys back home.

ONLY: That’s a great wish.

S: Oh, and Merry Christmas.

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Rachel, Airline Passenger, 27

Rachel, 27

Rachel was sitting next to me during my flight from Chicago to North Carolina last Wednesday.

ONLY: What are you reading?
Rachel: This is the new Nicholas Sparks book.
ONLY: Is it good?
R: Oh my god it’s incredible. Did you see me bawling over here a couple minutes ago? I just love it. It’s just… well, I just love all of his books.
ONLY: Nicholas Sparks?
R: Yeah, I’ve read them all I’m pretty sure.
ONLY: I don’t think I’m familiar with his work.
R: No way. Are you sure?
ONLY: I dunno. What’s he written? Like, what’s his most famous book?
R: Well, “The Notebook” I guess. You must have heard of that. They made it into a movie a few years ago.
ONLY: Oh wait. Yeah. That was like the biggest chick flick of all time, right?
R: Ha ha. Do you think so?
ONLY: Christ, I have no idea. I haven’t seen it.
R: You aren’t from North Carolina, huh?
ONLY: No, I’m just going to visit family for Thanksgiving.
R: You know he’s from there.
ONLY: Who?
R: Nicholas Sparks. He lives in North Carolina. Lots of his books take place there too. Almost all of them I think.
ONLY: Well that’s pretty cool, I guess. Are you from North Carolina?
R: I’m from Raleigh, yeah. I live in Michigan now, but my parents still live there.
ONLY: So is it nice to read books that take place there? Makes you feel a bit closer to home?
R: That’s part of why I like them so much, definitely. But they’re about such great things. Lots of great love stories. Real heartbreaking stuff.
ONLY: Real chick flick stuff.
R: Well hey, is there anything so wrong with that? I’m a chick!
ONLY: I know, I know… I have a soft spot for Stepmom.
R: You shouldn’t tell people that.

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Moondog, professional wrestler and computer programmer, 30

Moondog photo by Chuck Ansbacher

ONLY: How did you become a wrestler and computer programmer?
MOONDOG: Well, I was living my dream—fighting several times a week, going out of town all the time—but about ten years ago, I noticed that the internet was starting to grow in popularity, and I figured what better way to promote myself than to put a fan site up there so fans can see where my matches are and some pictures and such. Originally I had my brother doing it for me, but I didn’t like the concept of having to tell somebody to do something. And then the ideas in my head didn’t always work out to what he did, so I just started toying around on the side, working on things, and soon enough I was building websites that were so good that friends started contacting me to build them websites for cash.
O: And you’re completely self-taught?
M: Oh yeah. Honestly, I never even graduated from High School. I personally think school is a complete waste of time.
O: Which wrestlers have you modeled yourself after?
M: It’s weird because the wrestlers I looked up to when I was a kid, and then the wrestlers who inspired me through my career are almost two completely different sets of wrestlers. When I was growing, up all the wrestlers looked like superheroes. But when I started actually wrestling, and got into all sorts of hardcore style matches and harder hitting stuff, I started taking interest in a lot of guys wrestling over in Japan. Not Japanese wrestlers, but a lot of wrestlers who weren’t necessarily making it big over here, but were huge stars in Japan. Guys like Cactus Jack.
O: You’ve got some massive calves. What’s up with that?
M: The honest truth about that is they’re one hundred percent natural. I’ve never done anything to get them any bigger. When I used to train in the gym, the body builders used to joke around that they were jealous since I didn’t have to work my calves out. I haven’t measured them lately, but they’ve gotta be close to twenty inches just naturally, maybe larger.
O: What is your favourite dessert?
M: You know, I’m actually just a really big fan of good old-fashioned apple pie.

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Perfume Saleswoman, The Bay, 50

Chuck Ansbacher photo

About a week ago I was in The Bay looking for some sheets, and I noticed all these posters announcing a new perfume called “Insolence” that Hilary Swank is the face of. A few days later I went and talked to the woman working at the Insolence counter and asked her how she felt about it. She was fairly candid, and in exchange requested anonymity. She was about 50.

ONLY: Have you ever seen any of Hilary Swank’s movies?
Saleswoman: I’ve seen Million Dollar Baby, which I rather liked.
ONLY: Don’t you think that she’s an odd choice for this sort of a thing?
Saleswoman: No I don’t think so. There are lots of fragrances now using celebrities as their spokesmodels. Chanel is using Nicole Kidman. And celebrities are even making their own fragrances. Sarah Jessica Parker is a great example of that.
ONLY: Fair enough. But okay, right next to you here is Lancome, and they’ve got Daria whats-her-face—
Saleswoman: Werbowy.
ONLY: Right. And I mean, she’s a total supermodel. She’s gorgeous, she’s young, whatever. And Sarah Jessica Parker? I don’t really think she’s that great, but at least she is sort of iconic with Sex and the City and everything. But Hilary Swank? She’s only been in two movies, and she looked like a dude in both of them.
Saleswoman: You don’t find her attractive otherwise?
ONLY: I find her horsey.
Saleswoman: Have you smelled the fragrance yet?
ONLY: Do you know the actual definition of insolence?
Saleswoman: I think in this case they’re using the word to inspire sexiness and empowerment—maybe an unattainable quality that women possess.
ONLY: It means arrogant and rude. And have you seen her husband? She’s definitely attainable.
Saleswoman: …It is a very odd name for a perfume.

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Neetai, Hare Krishna, 32

Neetai is a Hare Krishna. He’s 32.

ONLY: What do you think is the best Halloween costume ever?
Neetai: The best Halloween costume I’ve ever heard of is someone dressing up as a Hare Krishna.
ONLY: Really? You wouldn’t find that offensive at all?
N: Ha ha. No, not at all.
ONLY: At what age did you stop trick-or-treating?
N: I can’t remember.
ONLY: Were you 13 or six or…
N: It’s not really a significant moment in my life.
ONLY: Well, at what age did you become a Hare Krishna?
N: I was 23.
ONLY: And how did that come about?
N: I met somebody who was a vegetarian—Hare Krishnas are vegetarian—and he was serving some vegetarian food at an event that I was at, and I was attracted to what they were cooking.
ONLY: So it was the food that initially attracted you to the religion.
N: Pretty much.
ONLY: So what are Hare Krishnas all about?
N: We’re into, like, chanting. Meditation and chanting. And mostly we chant the Hare Krishna mantra, which is, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare,” and those are the names of God, so basically we’re into getting people to chant the name of God.
ONLY: Do you think that scary costumes or slutty costumes are better?
N: Um… Well I’m a monk, right? How do you think a monk would respond to that?
ONLY: I imagine you’d probably say neither. Maybe a pleasant costume?
N: Or maybe an inspirational one, like a Hare Krishna.

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George Stroumboulopoulos, CBC-TV host, 34

George Stroumboulopoulos

On Thursday night, we went to the opening gala for the VIFF. Disappointed by the lack of minor Canadian celebrities and feeling emboldened by all the really free booze, I saw hunky George standing around and decided to chat him up. I was drunk, he was straight-edge sober, and by the end of the night we were arguing on a Granville Island pier and he straight-faced compared U2 to God.

GEORGE: Check one two. I think it’s on.
ONLY: Okay, fuck. Now I need questions. Oh yeah, what do you think young Canada thinks of you?
G: Oh, I don’t know. Ask them. I think that the ones who have seen what I do may think that, like me or dislike me, I’m not bullshitting them.
ONLY: What’s, like, your life goal? The top, you know.
G: Fill up the time ‘til I die. I just want to be able to feel good about what I do. Not pride, because pride’s bullshit. I don’t want fucking pride in what I do. I make television, for christsake.
ONLY: Might you ever run for political office?
G: Way too much shit to hide.
ONLY: What’s the difference between working for CBC and working for MuchMusic?
G: Interior design. Working at MuchMusic was like working in a rock video, walking into the CBC building is like walking into a dentist’s office.
ONLY: Do you think you’re going to lose your job when you get older and you don’t have the whole “young guy” thing anymore?
G: I’m not a young guy. I’m 34-years-old. I’ll lose my job when people don’t watch the show anymore.
ONLY: What’s your favourite band right now?
G: I like System of a Down. A lot. In a genre that has become extremely narrow, heavy music, System of a Down have found a way to be artists.
ONLY: Your gum smells soooo good.
G: It’s my last piece.
ONLY: I’m going to take it.
G: Okay.
ONLY: Mmm. Bubblicious?

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Paul, Victory Square Attendant, 53

Victory Square toilet by Chuck Ansbacher

Paul wasn’t into having his photo taken, so this is a picture of the booth he hangs out in day to day.

ONLY: How long have you been doing this job for?
PAUL: Four years.
O: Are you the first person to do this job?
P: No.
O: How did you get the job?
P: I took a course.
O: What sort of stuff do you deal with here day to day?
P: Oh basically it’s just clean up – make sure the place is safe and secure for everyone to use.
O: Is there anything that you dislike about this job?
P: Sometimes you get into verbal arguments.
O: Where do you live?
P: A couple blocks away.
O: What did you do before this job?
P: When I first graduated from college I worked at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver. I was a janitor there. I did that for a year and came here.
O: And what did you do before that?
P: I was on welfare.
O: What do you do when you aren’t here? What are your hobbies?
P: Oh I’m into computers, martial arts, camping…
O: What kind of martial arts?
P: Internal arts.
O: Like what?
P: Like Qigong.
O: What is that?
P: It’s strengthening exercises for your mind, body and spirit.
O: What would you like to see done for the city of Vancouver?
P: More of these.
O: Bore bathrooms?
P: Yeah.

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Spencer

Chuck’s Cousin

Spencer is Chuck’s cousin. He’s 13 and in grade 8.

ONLY: Do you have a good idea of what it means to be a pedophile?
Spencer: Yeah, It’s people who go around and molest kids.
ONLY: Do you have any fear of pedophiles?
Spencer: Um, not really. I’m always with my parents wherever I go.
ONLY: But you went to summer camp, right?
Spencer: Yeah I did, but I was with a lot of people.
ONLY: Were any of them older men?
Spencer: Yeah, tons. But they weren’t all that old.
ONLY: Do you have any male teachers?
Spencer: Yeah, like three of them.
ONLY: Did you know that those are two of the most coveted jobs for pedophiles?
Spencer: Yeah I knew that. It’s kind of freaky. But, you know, you just have to watch out I guess.
ONLY: What steps should kids take to avoid pedophiles?
Spencer: Don’t go in public scantily clad.
ONLY: For boys?
Spencer: Well, I guess. You could probably kick their ass anyways cause they’re old geezers. But also you just can’t walk around Granville Street by yourself.
ONLY: Well that’s okay, but did you know that pedophiles have these networks set up to figure out the best jobs to have in order to deceive parents and infiltrate groups of little boys and seduce kids and shit like that?
Spencer: Well… that’s kind of freaking me out right now, but… I was once in a film course where the teacher turned out to be a pedophile. That completely freaked me out, because you just never know with these people!
ONLY: Did anything happen with this guy where in retrospect you went, “Wow that was a pedophile thing”?
Spencer: Um, he was kind of nice. I think a bit too nice… I heard a story about this girl once who had a dance instructor, and he was always nice to her – she always got the best marks and stuff like that. And he invited her into this special dance program, and of course she accepted, and then she was getting a bit suspicious, but she finally sued the guy when he asked her to eat a Smartie off his tongue.

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Gerald, 50

Chuck Ansbacher photo

Gerald passes out copies of 24 at the Burrard Skytrain station. He’s 50.

A few days ago I did some work on my bicycle at that spot on Hastings and got my hands all dirty, so I dipped into the bathrooms at Victory Square to give them a wash. I brought my bike down with me, and just as I leaned it against the wall, this old guy taking a piss in a urinal turned his head and yelled “no bikes!” in this gruff, old guy voice. I just stared at him. Again, he yelled “no bikes!” Crazy dude. “What do you, work here?” I aked. Then he turned around and showed me his name tag. He was the bathroom attendant. I felt like a dick and apologized lots. I wanted to talk to him in here and let him bitch about things, but when I went there to interview him he wasn’t there. Bummer. So I went to the Burrard SkyTrain Station and interviewed Gerald instead.

Only: How does it feel to be working for the number one paper in Vancouver?
Gerald: It’s good. It’s a fun job.
Only: Nice to be outside during the summer?
Gerald: Yeah, but it’s horrible in the winter.
Only: How do you stay warm during the winter?
Gerald: Uh… you dress warm. Try to keep dry.
Only: You’re usually here with someone who hands out the Metro too, right?
Gerald: Uh…no. No, I’ve never seen a Metro.
Only: Do you ever talk to anyone handing out the Metro?
Gerald: I’ve never even seen one. They’re different time schedules than us.
Only: Well you guys have better Sudoku puzzles.
Gerald: The who?
Only: The Sudoku puzzles?
Gerald: ...
Only: You never do the Sudoku puzzles?
Gerald: No.

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Edgar, 28

Edgar, 28

Edgar tries to lure people in to Kalypso – the Greek restaurant on Robson – by dressing in uniform and promising free homous or tzatziki with the purchase of an entree. He’s 28.

ONLY: Where are you from originally?
Edgar: Mexico.
ONLY: And why this job?
Edgar: I try to bring people inside. Try to talk to them, try to show the menu.
ONLY: Did you know the guys that own this place before you got the job?
Edgar: Yeah I’ve known them for almost six years.
ONLY: And what does the uniform represent?
Edgar: This is a traditional Greek costume. Military.
ONLY: What do you think about having to wear this kind of uniform for your job?
Edgar: Oh I don’t mind it. For people it’s very easy to recognise. A lot of people like it, and then they come to the restaurant. There’s a lot of restaurants around here.
ONLY: Did you ever see Fast Times at Ridgemont High?
Edgar: No.
ONLY: When Brad gets fired from All American Burger and has to take that job where he has to dress up as a pirate?
Edgar: No, but I like this kind of a job. You can meet a lot of people — different kinds of people. You get to meet actors and meet friends. It’s nice. And I can practice my English, which is good for me.
ONLY: Do you like bubble tea?
Edgar: Yeah.
ONLY: What’s your favourite flavour?
Edgar: Um… Green tea.
ONLY: Yeah I like the green tea too. I just had one. I’m full of pearls.
Edgar: I like it it’s so good. I’m waiting for summer to start buying them.
ONLY: You ever drink mango nectar?
Edgar: No.
ONLY: Oh I’m hooked on it these days. If you like mangos…
Edgar: I’m going to try it then.

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