By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
He never knew he’d end up dead like this, let alone in a coffee-table book. In 60 years, it might be you or me.
I ask the LAPD Boss Hog to write, "To Peter, a law-abiding citizen." He looks over the top of his gold-rimmed glasses at me, and doesn’t roll his eyes, though my feeling is he wants to. Then he scrawls it out, small. Wishes me happy holidays. I move on to the Demon Dog, Ellroy himself. He digs the photo, then whips his pen across the page, over the late man’s crumpled apron, speaking loudly what he writes:
"PETER — HE’S DEAD!"
Ellroy slams the book shut, looks up at me grinning and extends his hand.
Oh . . . Canada!
When I first glanced at them, it seemed like the 50-something couple sitting behind me at last Monday’s seminar on how to immigrate to Canada were in the wrong place.
After all, they weren’t gay. They weren’t dressed in the loose and crumpled duds of old-time radicals. Their demeanor did not betray the self-serious liberal anger I’d assumed brought many of these 80 or so people to the bunkerlike conference room three escalator rides beneath the Downtown Hyatt Regency to hear about . . . the Canadian Option. The man — whose austere wooden walking cane and rotund girth pushing against his crisp, white button-down signified a preference for steak dinners over alfalfa sprouts — could’ve been a senior accounting exec attending an investment tutorial with his lovely, beginning-to-gray but still open-toe-wearing, shawl-clutching wife along for the ride.
In front of a full (but not packed) room, the Canadian option started to unfold in a business-like presentation by two immigration lawyers from the Vancouver-based Embarkation Law Group (ELG). The PowerPoint proposal, the expert analysis from men in cheap ties and the clearly focused questions about opportunities and rights lent the scene a clinical air. Whatever deep passions may have been stirred by the notion of American citizens abandoning the United States for Canada in light of President Bush’s re-election remained deep below the surface. Partisan fervor was not a talking point in ELG’s sales pitch.
The pair of 50-somethings lifted my apolitical veil soon enough, quietly conspiring about "religious fanatics running this country" and how they "may be interested in meetings like this," and commenting on the television cameras that packed the back of the room, filming "America’s deserters" stories. But by that point, the unexpected demographics and the less-than-revolutionary intentions of those gathered here to learn about trading in the Stars and Stripes for the Maple Leaf were starting to become clear.
Retirees whose Social Security checks were not yet bouncing sat next to upper-middle-whatevers still basking in the tax cut, furiously scribbling notes on taking off to the Great White North. Bookish men in black turtlenecks inquiring about intricacies of skilled-worker status outnumbered hippies wondering about British Columbia’s liberal marijuana policy two-to-nil. And though you could spot potential draft dodgers and gay partners around the room, it was obvious the media-fueled propaganda about the Canadian exodus got some of the suspect sketches all wrong.
After the presentation, Joshua Sohn, the ELG partner who spearheaded the three-stop West Coast tour (immigration seminars were also held in Seattle and San Francisco), said that at every location the average age of attendees was much older than organizers expected. "That’s why I think it’s more than just post-election anger. It’s a lot of people who came of age in the ’60s who’ve grown disillusioned."
But was the disillusionment politically and socially motivated? Or did it have anything to do with underfed economic aspirations?
Before the immigration lawyers even got to the podium, a Vancouver-area RE/MAX realtor and a representative from the Customs House, a multinational foreign exchange, addressed the crowd about investment and money-market strategies. Floating among the attendees after the two-hour session, stories of real estate dilemmas were as common as disenfranchisement over the Federal Marriage Amendment or general Blue State vitriol. More often, people mixed the two. Like the 40-year-old writer from Burbank who was motivated to pursue immigration when his rental agreement of 14 years unceremoniously expired the week of November 2nd. He took it as a sign that he should relocate to where he could afford property taxes.
There was also 30-year-old Todd Erickson, who drove up from San Diego with his partner, Omar Angulo, to attend the seminar. The pair spent a couple of minutes eloquently explaining the passive notions of gay community members unwilling to struggle for their rights, before Erickson’s aside that his desire to escape might have "a lot to do with Southern California. I can start building a life in Canada where I can buy a house for $100,000 instead of $400,000."
In the lobby, Canadian expat filmmaker Mark Wiegers unwittingly reaffirmed that the pursuit of happiness was moving north. Interviewing seminargoers for the final reels of a documentary he’s making about the evolution of the American dream, Wiegers spoke of the dichotomy between the tired masses looking to immigrate to America for its opportunities, and of unquenched American citizens struggling to attain the lifestyles that have been marketed to them below the 48th parallel — lifestyles many seminar attendees clearly sought to find in Canada (with government-provided health care to boot). In the age of global economies, that may be harder to come by than an agreeable president.
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