Baseline: LCBO of the Twilight Zone?

Just a few weeks before Christmas, for the first time in years and years, I got myself onto television.Minutes later, my mother-in-law was the first to ring us to see what the hell was going on.It seems she was quietly taping...

Just a few weeks before Christmas, for the first time in years and years, I got myself onto television.

Minutes later, my mother-in-law was the first to ring us to see what the hell was going on.

It seems she was quietly taping a late afternoon soap, when a promo for the Global Early News popped on, and, there was I, resplendent in black leather jacket and Porsche sunglasses, standing in front of a Liquor Control Board of Ontario store, babbling.

Typecasting! Damn!

No, seriously, around mid-afternoon that day, I’d left Cheryl and the kids and the baby in the Windstar with the engine running to beetle into Toronto’s Queen’s Quay People’s Alcoholic Beverage Commissary.

Two guys, one with a videocam, were standing at the edge of the parking lot by the entrance.

The one without the camera called me over, and said he wanted to ask me how I felt about the lcbo suddenly accepting credit cards!

oh my gawd! ten seconds to compose the immortal one-liner putdown of the socialist paradise and the el-see-bee-oh or you’re another face on the cutting room floor!!!

For a nanosecond I conjured with something like it’s a minute to midnight, and finally Bob Rae decides to get one thing right???

Naaa! Too partisan. An easy throwaway for some lefty news editor.

They flipped the videocam on, popped the question, and I heard myself mutter Yeah, wow, here come the Sixties, or some such.

But, yeah, watching myself on tape inadvertently doing a sort of Bob-Newhart-inspired attack on My Line, it struck me just how deep the Retailing Revolution has burrowed into the Soul of Our Nation.

Darting inside the liquor store, flushed with the euphoria of my performance piece, I almost collided with a very large man standing directly in my path, wearing a burgundy apron.

Fixing me squarely in his gaze, he shouted helloooo! Quite a nasty shock it was to realize, like Wal-Mart, the lcbo now has a greeter!

Then, I suddenly realized the air was charged and fragrant with the aroma of a Mediterranean restaurant, and, holy cow! They’re sauteeing shrimp in garlic to go with the sampling of Chardonnays!

A gourmet sampling bar at the lcbo! I must be dreaming! Or, maybe this is Cleveland!

Arriving home, I noticed the mailman had delivered the latest issue of my free bilingual catalogue of recent arrivals in the Vintages department of our provincial boozeterias, complete with pithy little descriptive quotes from The Wine Spectator.

Flipping through, you can plot each stop on your next excursion into the panelled, pampered cloister that is the Vintages aerie, walls lined with bottles cradled in pale, lemony, satin-finished cabinetry, the construction of which must have provided a fiscal bonanza for a whole generation of Ontario master carpenters.

I filed it along with the recently arrived Vintages Classics Catalogue, a gracefully designed and ever-so-preciously typeset 100 pages of ‘wines only available from the world’s finest merchant vintners.’ (Like us!)

Wow! First, it’s government-hyped gambling, and now government-hosted happy hours in liquor stores that went to retail school on Wal-Mart, Bloomingdales and L.L. Bean!

Can this be the Ontario of our Methodist forefathers? Can a major advertising campaign for the lcbo be far in the offing?

I rang the order-by-phone (!) number in my Vintages Classics Catalogue to order a case of Chateauneuf-du-Pape! By the time she’s verified my Visa number, the civil servant telephone lady and I are on a first-name basis!

I ask how long it’ll take to deliver my case three miles to my local Vintages for pick up.

Two or three weeks, Barry, she croons.

Like, it’s kind of Wal-Mart, but, it’s also kind of Ontario, eh?