August 30, 2002
No matter how old I am, Labour Day always
makes me feel like I should be getting ready for school. As it
approaches I start having that recurring dream about arriving
unprepared for a French exam, and then realizing I've showed up to
write it in the nude and I have nowhere to hide my conjugation
tables. Like that's ever going to happen - again.
This time of year makes me feel
instinctively drawn to the mall in search of new packs of pencil
crayons, binder paper and a protractor set.
With school behind me, aside from a day off
Labour Day really only means one thing now: it's time to put away my
I honestly don't know why I bought it. White
isn't even a particularly Canadian colour. During the snowy season
(which if you live in Calgary now includes most of the summer) you
run the risk that if you ever stumble into a snow bank, you won't be
found again until the thaw.
No, a white suit in Canada is about as
practical as a convertible or rushing out tomorrow to buy the
doughnuts for Jean Chretien's retirement party.
But go ahead and call me a fancy pants if
you must (except of course if I happen to be writing an imaginary
French exam), but I've always had a thing for white suits. I'm not
talking about those jackets with the long sleeves that tie up in the
back that were so popular in some of our better laughing academies.
I mean a real white business suit.
I probably got my liking for white suits
watching TV as a kid. About seven James Bonds ago, Sean Connery wore
a white dinner jacket in "Diamonds are Forever". Peter
O'Toole boozed his way through "My Favorite Year" all in
white, and everyone wore one in "Casablanca". A couple of
years ago I ran into Tom Wolfe, author of "The Right
Stuff" and Bonfire of the Vanities" and famous wearer of
Anyone can wear a black suit and look tough,
but it takes someone with real guts to wear a white one. To begin
with, you put up with a lot of grief. People yell at you to ask how
the Boys from Brazil are doing, or what flavours of Popsicle you
have in the truck. But then again you don't buy a white suit if you
intend to go unnoticed in a crowd. You wear a white suit to stand
out. It's like announcing to the world: "Here I am. I hope the
daily special is spaghetti."
There's nothing like a white suit to make
you realize how dirty and full of peril the world is. Everywhere you
turn there's a kid who has just come back from a face-painting fair
or guy next to you making a point by gesturing with a chili dog. You
worry about everything you sit on and everything you touch.
My brother is particularly good when he sees
me wearing anything white. He always comes up and says: "You
have a spot." When you anxiously ask where, he grinds an
imaginary grubby finger into your chest and says: "Right
I'm not even going to mention the
consequences of not having a good supply of flesh-coloured
underwear, except that without them you might as well be writing a
French exam in the nude.