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No City for Middle-Aged Men
In Toronto, generations don't mingle. Is there a place for concertgoers beyond their 30s?

As I faced the urinal, minding my own business, a guy a few pieces of porcelain down the row turned and asked: “Aren’t you a little old to be here?” Here was the Kool Haus, the cavernous venue near the waterfront, and perhaps I did seem too old. But I can’t help it if the bands I like don’t play hockey arenas. Frankly, I’m not that interested in–or have already seen, usually in a more intimate setting–most of the acts that do play big venues. So my idea of a good time is to stand, cold beer in hand, amid the crush of the sweaty crowd at the Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, bopping and singing along to great music. I do know a few other middle-aged teenagers–and not all of them are aging rock critics–but most people my age roll their eyes when I mention what I listen to. Meanwhile, I’m convinced the young concertgoers around me are thinking, “Who brought her dad?” (Of course, if I ever want to push my way to the front, I can always just keep announcing in a slightly panicked voice, “I need to find my daughter. Where’s my daughter?”) Club shows are bad enough, but once you hit middle age, don’t even think about going to a dance club unless you want to creep everyone out and make them assume you’re the worst kind of pervo. No, if you want to dance to good music, you do it in the privacy of your own home or wait until your friends’ kids start throwing fun weddings. Aside from the soul patch kid, most people are polite enough not to say anything. But when I gave the stare to two women behind me yakking through a Calexico show at the Mod Club, one said, “Come on, let’s move away from this middle-aged party.” (Whatever, I figured. One thing about being old is I actually listen to the music. On the other hand, who goes to Calexico to be seen?) My friend Kelly says the age difference stops bugging her as soon as the lights go out, but I’m more self-conscious than that and I cringe when someone bumps into me and says, “Sorry, sir.” I asked the guy at the nearby urinal, “How old is too old?” That was a question I really didn’t want the answer to. Unless I am at an over-priced restaurant, going out in Toronto means wondering what happened to the rest of my generation. After all, I was far from the coolest kid: I was the only person in a button-down collared shirt and chinos pogoing in the mosh pit at a Viletones gig at Montreal’s Hotel Nelson in the late ‘70s and I’m still not sure if that punked out chick who seemed so fascinated with me was hitting on me or goofing on me. Nowadays my friend Bill and I laugh at the over-parented kids who wear earplugs. Shouldn’t they act as if they’ll never grow old–or at least die before they do–while we take care of ourselves because we totally get what Leonard Cohen was on about when he sang that he ached in the places where he used to play? All I can say is: if I go deaf at 80, it was worth it. I imagine those with earplugs will soon relocate to the burbs to mow lawns and over-parent their own brats, but even if my washroom interrogator is one of the many young people who stay in the city, the odds are against him going to club shows much longer. Perhaps Toronto is becoming more like San Francisco, which Joel Kotkin (who describes himself as “an internationally-recognized authority on global, economic, political and social trends”) crabbed was, “the ultimate expression of a new kind of urban area–the ephemeral city. This urban form, dominated by the nomadic rich, the restless young and those living off them, has emerged across the advanced industrial world.” But if Toronto is now a theme park for the young and hip, who’s to blame? Oh, how handy–and fun–it would be to finger Rob Ford for this. But I’m pretty sure the fault lies in ourselves. A few years ago, a friend who’d just turned 50 inadvertently let me in on what to expect when she complained: “I don’t want to invite my friends over for dinner anymore. There are too many things they won’t eat, they don’t drink and they go home at 10 o’clock.” And they certainly do not go to club shows. For one thing, they whine, they don’t have time to keep up with new music. And the shows start so late. At least if they go to the Air Canada Centre to see some aging boomer band on a reunion tour, they’ll be in bed before midnight. Simply blaming demographics seems too convenient, though. When I go to Montreal, a city where work doesn’t seem as crucial as fun, I don’t worry so much about my age. And surely everyone in New York City is more stressed about appearance than age. Or maybe small cities have the answer. My buddies and I always celebrate the end of our annual canoe trip with a dinner of red meat followed by a visit to a fun bar. One year, in Timmins, we ended up in a packed place with plenty of dancing and intergenerational drinking. Perhaps the town’s options were limited, but everyone seemed to get along and we felt right at home. So, who knows, maybe all those Toronto Life readers who are part of the diaspora to Port Hope are onto something. Personally, I can’t do it. Unless the Horseshoe leaves Queen and Spadina for some sleepy, small town main street, I’ll stay here and wait until a bar owner stumbles onto a new formula for a hot spot that’s fun for the whole (extended) family. Or hope that more people my age stop acting it. Until then, I’ll live with the humiliation. Recently, a bouncer at Wrongbar mocked me by asking if I had ID before guffawing as he waved Kelly and me through. He stopped our friend Lisa, though. Just 30, she has the infuriating habit of always getting carded, which does nothing for the egos of her older companions. And yet, she goes to shows with us because her gang is already losing interest, especially on weeknights. “You look younger than your friends,” he told her. As he eyed her ID, he added, “You can’t deny facts or nature.” I guess that in the city of the young, we should just be thankful that he didn’t think Kelly and I were her mom and dad.

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