I live in Vancouver, I don't actually need a parka. I could get away with a windbreaker over a sweater. Growing up on the Prairies, though, I had some parkas, yes sir. Big puffy numbers from the Hobo Shop, three-quarter length Hudson's Bay doozies, and yeah, oversized army surplus parkas. When I was 15, everyone I knew either had a green army surplus parka or was about to get one. Friday nights we slouched and loitered around the South End of Regina imagining ourselves ruthless street toughs until the minivans and station wagons rolled into the DJ Cinnamons parking lot at 9:30 to take us home, where, if we were lucky, our mothers would make us hot cocoa and popcorn.
My big green army surplus parka followed me around the country the winter of 1995/96. We were out there near Hawk Junction, tending to the snow mobile trails, trimming the undergrowth with Husqvarnas and Stihls. I used to put a mandarin orange in the pocket of my parka as we'd leave for the trail in the morning. By midafternoon, the juice would be frozen, but not the pulp, making for a sweet, slushy snack.
For the last three years, since I've been out on the coast, I've made do with a flock-lined corduroy jacket, real rugged-like. I bought it at a mall. In the suburbs. Aside from how heavy it gets in the rain, it's been a good coat. The main problem I've had with it is that wearing it supercedes wearing corduroy pants. Which I really like to do. But you can't wear top and bottom corduroy. Unless you're in the woods. Wrestling Bigfoot. In the year 1978.
My new parka, purchased downtown, has street cred. It's fitted, with a vinyl shell and a fuzz-lined hood. At first it reminded me of Han Solo's parka from Empire, but I don't have goggles for it. Yet.
What it really reminds me of is the type of coat tough, young single mothers from Queens wear in hip hop videos and inspirational movies. You know, that stereotypical image of the girl with the big hoop earrings and her hair back in a super-tight ponytail. She won't listen when everyone says she can't do it, or she shouldn't do it, because she has a dream and can't no one tell her she can't chase her dream. I have the same parka as her. And for a minute or two today, I was her.
It wasn't raining, so I had a choice of outerwear. Lill and I were going to the grocery store to pick up some bananas and bread, two of her favourite foods. It was just cold enough that I wanted something snug, so I wore my new parka out for the first time. I zipped it all the way up, like a turtleneck, and let the hood sort of half hang off the back of my head. On the way back, I pushed the stroller up Commercial Drive, a cloth grocery bag slipping off my shoulder. I started to feel a little swagger in my hips, a little J.Lo in my attitude. I became Emmet from the Block, and I was gonna go to beauty school and someday take my baby out of this neighbourhood and have a nice house with a yard and little fence, and well, it's just a little dream, but it's my dream and you can never take it away from me. I bobbed my head as I thought these strange thoughts and gave the stinkeye to all these people on the street judging me, thinking I'm just another girl from Queens going to beauty school, learning how to do extensions. But I'll show them, I'll show all them, that I'm something else. I'm something else.
The Parkas of Ontario release their final album today. You Should Have Killed Us When You Had the Chance. Great record, great band. I'll hopefully have more to say about it by the end of the year. Until then, here's a fitting track, "The Gang's All Gone" from the new alb, you can buy it from the Parkas. As well, what the hell, a track from their previous alb, Put Your Head In the Lion's Mouth: "You and What Army".
mp3: "The Gang's All Gone" by Parkas
mp3: "The Gang's All Gone" by Parkas