Candles gutter warmly on tables and behind a bar stocked with premium whiskies and lined with martini glasses. Bluesman Nickel City Slim sends one jazzy guitar lick chasing another through air grown heavy from the smoke of Havana cigars. In a corner, Damion Pohl and Laurie Nichols hold hands under the table. He is 26, and in the morning he will get up at 5 to deliver bagels. She is 23, a part-time makeup artist, mother of a three-year-old daughter. But tonight, at the Purple Onion dance and jazz club on the fringe of Vancouver’s Gastown, they look like a million bucks. They chose the place partly for the people—902Iffs Tori Spelling has been spotted in the Onion. But mostly, Nichols says, “for the music.” Adds Pohl: ‘We like all the old stuff, Duke Ellington, Artie Shaw, Coltrane.”
For the young of the Nineties, the retro pleasures of martinis, cigars and jazz are among the
hottest new diversions. Evidence is in the lineups that form outside the two-year-old Vancouver nightspot’s door each weekend—and in responses to a question in the Maclean’s/CBC News poll aimed at uncovering how Canadians spend their leisure hours. It comes as no surprise to learn that the fit and energetic young are more likely to be out and about—whether going to the movies or scaling a mountain—than other age groups. Or to find that the rich, on the whole, can afford to indulge more recreational impulses than the poor. Still, the Maclean’s survey reveals some surprising differences—and novelties—in how Canadians kick back from coast to coast.
Among them: nightclubs, once the preserve of expense-account suits and flashy individuals in gold chains who paid cash, are now almost as popular for a suburban Saturday night date as the latest Brad Pitt movie. Among those 18 to 24, more than half (55 per cent) say they have been to a club in the past month, while 60 per cent have been to a movie. But the clubs are overwhelmingly a preserve of youth. Among the next oldest age group, 25to 29year-olds, club-going plummets to 37 per cent. Past the age of 40, barely one Canadian in six is out in the nightclubs.
Perhaps it is the energy thing. The young are also far and away the most likely to play a sport regularly. “I play ball hockey religiously,” says Pohl, adding,
“every week for five years.” Across town in particularly outdoorsy Kitsilano, 80 per cent of customers at the Boardroom, a store devoted to snowboards in winter and water skis in summer, are under 30. “It’s the fun factor,” says manager Gary McBride, explaining his young clientele’s preference for the colorful plastic ovoids over other ways of getting down a mountain. “You play more on a snowboard.”
Sporting fervor is regional as well: residents of Quebec and, less so, British Columbia are more likely than other Canadi-
Dedicated to pleasure
ans to play a sport—something 53 per cent of Quebecers and 42 per cent of British Columbians say they do, compared with only 35 per cent of Ontarians or Prairies people and 27 per cent of Maritimers.
Some other truths about time off:
• Playing games of chance is one leisure activity that does not disproportionately attract the rich; people whose incomes are under $20,000 are just as likely to be among the 15 per cent who visited a gambling establishment.
• Across all categories of leisure that Maclean’s measured—from sports to visiting a bar or going to the theatre—men were more likely than women to say they had been there, done that recently. The best gender balance is at the movies and the gym.
• Among ethnic groups, Asians seem to be having more fun—at least as measured by the number of respondents saying they had partaken of at least five of the 10 leisure activities on the list in the past month. Forty per cent of ethnic Asians said they had, followed distantly by Europeans at 26 per cent.
What unites the country on its time off, in turns out, is its stomach. Across every demographic scale, nearly three-quarters of Canadians
dined out at a good restaurant at least once in the past month. The better off, unsurprisingly, were most likely to eat out (90 per cent), but even among the most financially pressed—earning less than $20,000 a year—two-thirds said they had managed a good restaurant meal. In a nation of eaters, Saskatchewan leads in dining out, Prince Edward Island in cooking at home. On a December evening in Vancouver, though, a good martini, a perfectly rolled Cohiba cigar and a bluesman’s guitar offered the soothing magic that keeps drawing Canadians—especially the young— out into the night.
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