Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed Out

Ingredients in the soup of history

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By G.D. Maxwell

A basic formula for comedy, as the Reverend J. Michael Varrin reminded the packed house at Millennium Place Sunday night, is Tragedy plus Time. Knowing the formula doesn’t make comedy any easier; being funny is still a bit like corralling smoke or making a crushed beer can round again.

For example, the wit who quipped, "Hey, I hear Whistler’s having a lift sale… 10 per cent off." the day after the Quicksilver accident a number of years ago, was definitely not being funny. Come to think of it, I’m still not certain that one’s funny but maybe in another decade. Then again, maybe not. Some things, formula or not, simply defy humour. I’m not sure the Bush years in the White House will ever be considered a laugh riot, despite his frequent and tortured use of English as a foreign language.

By contrast – and being an equal opportunity denigrator – Canada’s own Gomery Inquiry is an immediate, almost daily laughfest. Even as it unfolds in real time, I understand David Mirvish has optioned the rights to Gomery: The Musical to play in his Toronto theatre at some unspecified time in the future. There is, of course, a walk-away clause in the event the public outrage over the Liberal’s pilfering of the national treasury is so great we actually lose our minds and elect Stephen Hapless and his cabal of jihadists to government since it seems likely their first order of business would be to outlaw humour altogether.

But pity poor Pauly Dithers. I mean here’s a guy who – against his natural leanings it would seem, given the drunken-sailor spending spree he’s been engaged in to prop up his tenuous minority – cut the heart out of national health care, made downloading costs onto the provinces such a popular idea the provinces, in turn, adopted it as a lifestyle, much to the financial horror of communities from sea to sea to sea, and generally did Big Jean’s dirtywork while being so completely kept out of the loop he didn’t realize the inner sanctum was filling its pockets with the money he was busy saving. While Alfonso the Bagman, Guité the Guiltless, Carle the Puppetmaster and the mysterious and threatening Mr. Choo Choo funneled tax dollars through Weepy Brault’s ad agency so fast he didn’t even have time to enjoy the flashy cars and hookers that came with them, while Big Jean was playing the statesman and collecting monogrammed golf balls, Mr. Dithers was left holding the empty bag and, if anyone could find them, seems to have had his own balls monogrammed with the unmistakable imprint of Big Jean’s shoe.

Man, this story has it all.

But I digress.

Where I was trying to head when this stream-of-consciousness began to meander was into the history books. Okay, I used the H word; stick with me though for another half page. If it doesn’t work, I’ll refund what you paid for this paper.

The formula for history is Anything plus Time. History happens. Special events make it interesting. Unexpected outcomes make it interesting. Colourful people make it interesting. Textbook writers make it painfully dull. And if there is a heaven and a hell, there is most certainly a special, hideous place in hell for 99 per cent of the hack academics who ever wrote the history books that made you recoil when I used the word the first time.

The big problem with contemplating history in real time is Anything. If anything, and therefore everything, contributes to the soup of history, how do you know what’s important when it’s happening? And how, especially, do you know what’s important in your own back yard?

Well, I’m here to tell you what’s going on right now is historical and you’re all part of it. Go ahead, take a bow; you all deserve it.

Of course, the outcome could be tragic – only time will tell – but it could, with a little luck, be, dare I say it, sustainable.

The crappy, bad dream of a winter we’ve just come through was historic. Never been one as nasty. Whether it was an anomaly or whether it was an appetizer of the globally warmed winters to come is best left to time and extended discussions over refreshing beverages.

The Snows of Spring are quickly becoming historic but in the overall history of Whistler, they’re just a cherry on the local sundae. They’re our own private reward for putting up with the rain, the cut hours, the depressed guests, the vanished newcomers and the stinking cloud of anomie that hung over the village most of this season. If you haven’t dug out your boards and headed up to enjoy it, the skiing and riding is about as good as it gets right now. Reward yourself.

WSSF’s tenth annual installment is most definitely historic. What could easily have been a wake for the death of winter has been another life-embracing event. It’s only half over and I’m already exhausted. Despite the missing Big Air, the buzz in the village has been hyper. The music’s tapped into our collective need to dance away the blues, the competition’s been as good as it gets, the art and spoken word events have been uplifting and the best is yet to come. Anyone who questions whether this town had a heart and soul ought to be makin’ his final arrangements with the undertakers because he’s already dead and doesn’t know it.

And despite the seeming inertia of Muni Hall, despite the dog-with-a-ball singleminded focus on the damn Olympics, despite a lack of vision so profound it’s a miracle any light shines on this place, progress is being made on a number of singularly difficult problems, not the least of which is affordable housing. If we can just hang on by our bleeding fingernails long enough, history might record some progress on tackling that problem.

The profound silence in town next week, post festival, après season, will be punctuated with the sound of people leaving. Some will be packing boxes of disappointment, some will be bitter, some will simply be resigned to their version of reality that Whistler has no place for them anymore. And some will be hopeful of returning because something about this place, the something that keeps the rest of us here, has gotten under their skin.

We’re makin’ history here boys and girls. It’s a messy operation and it isn’t always funny but it’s a whole lot better than toiling anonymously in a big city. Kinda makes going up the mountain seem much more important than just sliding back down, doesn’t it?