I was rambling down the mean streets of Tiny Town, tinnitus still hammering my ears from Chilliwack's reminder of why the 1970s were the forgettable decade - ooh, baby, dig your polyester - when I saw him coming.
To be honest, I wasn't sure it was him. For starters, he seemed to be, well, groomed. And he was wearing one of those bogus, blue muni Olympic-swag jackets. It wasn't until I spotted the ratty old sneakers, no sox and nascent syphilitic gait that I was certain: J.J.
Too late to avoid his sharkeye gaze; still too soporific from the witty, trance-inducing lyrics of "My Girl" to run, I resigned myself to fate.
"Yo, bro," he said, grinning through tobacco-stained teeth, "Gotta match?"
"You know, J.J., it's been, like forever, since somebody asked me that. No smoke; no match."
He shrugged his shoulders, grabbed a passing tourist and lit his Gauloises Blue off the bewildered man's cigar. It was a tossup as to which stunk worse.
"I can't believe you're still smoking those stinksticks, J.J." But then, I couldn't believe he still drank Colonel Lee bourbon either, especially since he had to go to the trouble of having someone sneak it across the border for him since no self-respecting liquor store would ever think of stocking it.
"What would I be without my bad habits, bro?"
"I hate to ask, J.J., but why are you wearing a muni jacket?"
"Gone to work for da man, my man."
"But I thought those jackets were for staff working during the Olympics?"
"Well, yeah. But they got such a good deal on 'em they bought a bunch extra. Buying twice as many only cost 85 per cent more, talk about a savings. Besides, it was something called hotel tax, not real money."
"Well, you've certainly got the patter down. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't you going to work for the muni one of the seven signs of the apocalypse ? What in the world could they have been thinking hiring you on as staff?"
"Not staff. A consultant."
"Oh, well that explains it. They even hired me as a consultant once. So, if it's not prying, on what are you consulting... and I'm not entirely sure I want to know."
"I'm the Peace & Harmony consultant."
The stunned look on my face and the pause that followed - pregnant, delivery, childhood and adolescence - flummoxed J.J. For a moment, he actually looked concerned he'd short-circuited my brain, which he had.