We Want To Rule. Just Don’t Ask Us To Govern.

January 31, 2011

Last week the notion got floated that if the province really, really insisted, the Ford administration was more than willing to hand it control of the TTC. That it got publicly slapped down in fairly quick order by folks from the McGuinty government should come as little surprise. Queen’s Park still refuses to re-upload its obligation of paying 50% of the annual operating costs that it booted in 1995, so the idea that they would willingly pick up the tab for the entire operation seems, well, more than a little fanciful.

I am hardly a transit expert. Scratch that. I am a transit ignoramus. That may be a bit strong. I don’t know nearly enough about public transit as I should. There. That’s better. So I wouldn’t dare offer an opinion as to whether it would be better or worse if the TTC was under the auspices of our provincial government. There might be some sense in it if it provided a certain seamlessness to an entire GTA regional transit system. On the other hand, it would distance management even further from the day-to-day operation in an organization already maligned as being out of touch with its customers. In addition, the province in its oversight of Metrolinx hasn’t been heaped with praise for its responsiveness to the public.

No matter. The province doesn’t appear willing to saddle itself with a millstone like the TTC leaving it in the hands of the city now under a leadership allergic to actual governance. It talks up mightily the concept of customer service but wants the scope of the services it provides limited. Policing. Potholes. Streetlights. Anything more than that and it’s probably gravy.

It’s a divestment of authority under the banner of fiscal discipline that is the mark of small-minded municipal politicians unconcerned with much else outside of keeping taxes low and the streets safe and clean. As if we’re living in Mayberry or Pleasantville. They seek as little responsibility as possible as more responsibility only comes with more decisions and increased complexity. Complexity, ultimately, costs.

Problem is, 21st-century cities especially big ones like Toronto are complex organisms, long since outgrown the facile perspectives on municipal governance now on offer by our current mayor. Yes, we (like every other municipality in this province) are saddled with an incredibly dated structural burden that goes back to Confederation when we were an agrarian country and cities were looked down on as nothing more than ‘creatures of the provinces’, subject to provincial whim, abuse and neglect. But the world has changed, whether or not senior levels of government accept that fact, and cities that stand pat, unwilling to adapt to their growing importance on a global scale, are in danger of turning themselves into backwaters.

Backwaters deem public transit unimportant enough to try and unload. Backwaters question environmental measures like re-forestation and water efficiency. Backwaters relegate culture, nutritional programs and even libraries as outside the sphere of “core services” that they should provide. Backwaters sound like this: “Graffiti is vandalism, pure and simple.

The blind forces of urbanization flowing along the lines of least resistance show no aptitude for creating an urban and industrial pattern that will be stable, self-sustaining, and self renewing.

So wrote Lewis Mumford some 55 years ago. Unfortunately, those ‘blind forces of urbanization’ are now hard at work here in Toronto, refusing to look up from their abacus and see that the well-being of the city depends on much more than the bottom line. ‘Affordability’ is not always about money and ‘hard decisions’ don’t always mean cuts to services that make a city more competitive, attractive and liveable.

Hard decisions aren’t those that are made that conform to your ideology. Hard decisions are made by those who take their leadership role seriously and see themselves as more than merely bookkeepers. Hard decisions accept responsibility. They don’t shirk it. And so far, Mayor Ford and his team seem determined to show they want less responsibility for the welfare of all the citizens of this city, and that hardly bodes well for either our posterity or prosperity.

cheaply submitted by Cityslikr


Harmonic Convergence

January 28, 2011

This irony cannot pass quietly without us taking an opportunity to kick it around for a moment. At least, I hope it’s ironic. I’ve never been able to get a good grasp on the word and whenever I attempt to use it, I think I might be coming across a little Alanis Morisette-y. (Not to mention repetitive. Almost a year to the day. We here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke are nothing if not annually consistent.)

Last night our mayor participated in a fundraising dinner with 3 of his opponents from last year’s election to bring attention to the horrors wrought by campaign debt. The Harmony Dinner it was dubbed, and for anywhere from $250-$2500 a pop, you could pitch in and help put George Smitherman, Sarah Thompson, Rocco Rossi and the mayor back into the black. Or at least, less out of the red. Joe Pantalone, bless his red, white and green heart, inharmoniously held his own fundraiser earlier in hopes of burying a $30,000 debt because he still cannot bring himself to be in the same room as former premier Mike Harris who served as the Harmony Dinner’s co-host and who, the ex-councillor feels, inflicted untold damage on the is city. Talk about carrying a grudge. Although, remember when we almost had that subway running along Eglinton?

For his part, George Smitherman doesn’t owe any money but apparently participated in the event to help Sarah Thompson who wound up $80,000 in the hole before she ended her campaign and threw her weight behind Smitherman, helping the longtime frontrunner finish in an unspectacular second place. Personally, I would’ve let her dangle. Rocco Rossi, first in and first out of the “big” names in last year’s race, came to the dinner hoping to erase the last half of the $60,000 he was on the hook for.

The mayor… the mayor… and here’s where the irony kicks in. (We think.) Our mayor, the boastful tightwad, the budget buster, the Gravy Train stopping, little guy looking out for-ing, riding the rail of populist outrage at City Hall profligacy, yes that mayor, spent $1.7 million to get himself elected while raising almost, and I’d stretch it out a little with the playful TV catchphrase `wait for it, wait for it’ but everybody already knows where I’m going with this, almost one million dollars. 900 K to be exact which left him the biggest panhandler at last night’s event.

Mayor Rob Ford has $800,000 in campaign debt. How is that not ironic? And if it is (and I really do think it is), add another irony layer to it because, like most political donations, people giving money get partial tax rebates. So this mayor, preparing to gut the city back to its skeletal remains, first wants City Hall to help pay off the debt he accumulated campaigning for the job that would put him in the position to do the gutting.

The fuck is that?!

And why hasn’t there been a much larger public excoriation of him?

I have nothing against public financing of election campaigns. In fact, I’d be all for full public funding if there was some way to portion out money equitably and sensibly. But something about Mayor Ford wanting a piece of it just doesn’t sit well with me. And the fact that he dug a significantly bigger hole, we’re not just talking degrees but by orders of magnitude, makes me believe that we’ve elected a mayor who thinks austerity is for other people.

So those 10 years of office budgets the mayor never used while he was a councillor and saved the city, let’s call it half a million dollars? The mayor now wants some of that back. To pay his own personal campaign debt. Let’s remember that, shall we, when we’re standing out in the cold, waiting for a bus that no longer runs on Sundays.

ironically (I think) submitted by Cityslikr


Can’t Touch This

January 27, 2011

So, imagine you just finished a game of coed slo-pitch. You and the team’s centre fielder are the last ones at the bar and are into that ill-advised 4th pitcher of Canadian. He hit 4 home runs in the game although, two would’ve gone down as ‘errors’ in any official scorecard, and a 3rd one probably should’ve been caught as well. No question, though, he hit one of them really hard, really far.

“I don’t think it’s out of the question,” he offers bibulously, “given the right pitch, at the right moment, I could take Doc Halladay yard.”

You might call that a little deluded, right?

And yet we allow the mayor and his equally self-aggrandizing councillor brother to promote the idea that they — inheritors of a label printing business from their father that employs, what? 300, 400 people? (You’d think I’d remember since the mayor took every opportunity to tell us on the campaign trail) — are equipped and have the business acumen to bring the corporation of the city of Toronto to heel. An organization with annual budgets over $10 billion and that employs 34,000 full and part-time employees. Sure, why not, boys? And after that, why don’t you mosey on over and sort out GM or Ford? Business is business, right? Government is business. Easy-peasy.

“I can assure you every department down here has fat,” Councillor Ford said at the budget committee meeting on Tuesday, touting the 2 months of experience he’s accumulated at City Hall already. “There isn’t one single department that does not have fat down here and they would not survive in the private sector, I guarantee you … In my guesstimate, there’s probably 10 per cent waste and fat …People have been down here too long, they don’t know what’s going on in the real world. The real world is making things run efficiently.”

There’s a lot more where that comes from, and sifting through it would be worth another post but I use this as an example of how cavalierly and nonchalantly the councillor, the mayor, his budget chief and every one of the other right thinkers on the budget committee just toss about numbers as if there are no implications or repercussions to them. Just like that, Councillor Ford  ‘guesstimates’ there’s ‘probably’ 10 % waste and fat that can be disposed of and no one would be the wiser. So simple, it’s a wonder no one’s ever thought of that before.

There’s just one hitch to this whole New Sheriff In Town schtick that the mayor and his posse are playing at. It’s not going to be all that and a bag of chips. As pointed out by Matt Elliott over at Ford For Toronto (and if you haven’t checked the site out yet, bookmark it now or follow along on the Twitter at @FordForToronto He is so much more informed than we are and doesn’t demand that you take up your entire lunch to read his posts) this past Monday, the city’s fairly handcuffed financially.

It goes something like this: Toronto’s biggest source of revenue, nearly 40%, comes from property taxes (which the mayor happily broke a campaign promise and froze this year). About 77% of that money goes to pay for largely inelastic items that can’t easily be sliced and diced because they are provincially mandated programs or are services that, either, “involve arbitrated labour contracts” as Ford For Toronto puts it and/or the mayor wouldn’t touch in a million years like the Police Services, at least not 10% worth.

Which means when the Fordites realize that privatization isn’t going to bring them anywhere near the amount of savings they, with their infinite private sector wisdom planned for, they are going to be faced with either raising taxes (the horror! The Horror!) or bringing the axe down on things like libraries, children’s services, long term care homes and services, city planning. They might be just fine with that but I’m guesstimating here it’ll start cutting into their popularity as all those folks who didn’t really vote for service cuts because the mayor assured them – no, guaranteed them — he wouldn’t cut services, will snap to attention when their bus stops running or their library branch starts closing on Sundays or they’re forced to put their little tot into unlicensed child care. There’s just not that much money, er, fat left over for them to cut away at.

It’s not like at Deco Labels and Tags when ‘customers call you up and ask for a 10 per cent reduction or they’ll go somewhere else’ and you have to lay off just 2 or 3 people and make do without year-end bonuses. Hundreds of people, perhaps thousands, will be affected by your customer demanding a 10% reduction at City Hall. That’s why the government isn’t just like a business, no matter how much you think it is and how much your supporters want to believe that’s true.

And, lest we forget, the Fords aren’t the first businessmen-turned-politicians who have brought their private sector savvy to City Hall. Remember His Honour Mel Lastman? The self-made millionaire appliance salesman possessed much more municipal governance experience than the Fords and he ultimately proved to be way in over his head, discovering (to our detriment not his) that a city of this size and complexity is nothing like running your own business.

It’s unfortunate we insist on re-learning that lesson over and over again.

submitted by Cityslikr


Dr. Jekyll And Mr. James

January 26, 2011

Or a tale of two Roysons.

Over the course of 12 days, the Toronto Star columnist wrote two pieces so diametrically dissimilar (with another one of surprisingly readable quality between them) that it’s almost as if there is at least two of him. If that’s the case, would the reasonable Royson James keep writing while the insufferable one… well frankly, I don’t care what he does as long as he stops contributing to the paper.

It was the best of James and the worst of James.

On January 12th, James’s column, TTC choking on its own success came across as, if not sympathetic, let’s call it understanding of the role ‘underused’ bus routes play in ‘city-building’. He was all over Councillor Maria Augimeri’s assertion that “the city is not a business…Rather, transit service is social service.” It’s not always about money when it comes to running a city. Is that what you’re suggesting, Mr. James?

Less than two weeks later, Royson had clearly spent some time in the lab, knocked back a concoction or two, and was singing a different tune. “How many of those 48 bus routes really need to go because ridership levels are woefully low and will always be unsustainable?” Wait, what? Remember when you talked about public transit as a ‘social service’, Mr. James? Now, it’s all ‘woefully low’, eternally ‘unsustainable’ ‘ridership levels’? We’re not asking for brilliance from you, sir, and even mere adequacy may be out of the question but how about just a little consistency?

That wasn’t even the worst of it. In a piece that could’ve come straight from the mayor’s media team, James paints all those who are standing in opposition to the proposed budget as ‘lefties’ merely bleeding ‘over “minor” cuts.’ Minor cuts? Like those 48 unsustainable bus routes with woefully low ridership levels that will merely affect only about 250,000 people (just under 10% of the city’s population) according to the TTC GM, Gary Webster? Where’s the dividing line between ‘major’ and ‘minor’ in terms of cuts, Royson? If not affecting 10% of Torontonians, what’s the number? 15% A quarter?

Worse still, not only does James label all the mayor’s opponents lefties but, to his eyes, they are only motivated by politics. Don’t believe him? “Council Shelley Carroll admits the strategy is to force the new administration to face up to every proposed cut, however small.” Then he goes on to read between the lines of what he’s quoted Councillor Carroll of admitting. “The unspoken message is: “We’ll fight you to the death on what you see as small cuts; so imagine the uproar next year when the real big cuts arrive.”” Neat trick, James employs there, putting in quotes something he imagines Carroll thinking so that it actually looks like the councillor said that out loud.

Even worser than all that (as if it could get much worse but it does), James shrugs off the effects of the proposed service cuts (bus routes excluded) as not ‘calamitous’ since ‘the truth on these services is so elusive.’ I says what?! The vacuity of that claim is as monumental as its callousness. Adding dismissive insult to that injury, James claims “… the city voted for a mayor who promised cuts, so many citizens are hunkering down, expecting a guillotine and thanking their stars that the damage isn’t worse.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Imma stop right there, Royson. You watched as many of the mayoral debates as I did, probably more. You must’ve heard our mayor, upon being pilloried by his opponents for having a hidden agenda of service cuts to meet all the tax cutting, Gravy Train stopping pledges he was making, guarantee there’d be no cuts. Guaranteed, Mr. James.

So no, ‘the city’ did not vote ‘for a mayor who promised cuts’. In fact, he promised just the opposite which makes him a lying sack of shit and you’re now covering for him, picking up the narrative of No Cuts, Guaranteed now becoming No Major Cuts, and anyone who opposes them as ‘lefties merely bleeding over minor cuts’. This just days after writing a moderately thoughtful piece about politicians (not just the lefties) playing, well, politics with the different service needs in different parts of the city. (h/t to @goldsbie for drawing attention to all three articles)

Is it just simply an example of Royson James attempting to be some sort of objective reporter? Never taking one side without responding in kind from the other regardless of an issue’s merit? Or has he just grown tired of the city beat, unable to muster the enthusiasm anymore to mount a sustained argument? He gets up in the morning and flips a coin to see who he’s going to heap derision on in his next column. Nothing more than a whole lot of tit for tat and he said, she said, contributing only unhelpful clutter to the ongoing civic dialogue.

Paraphrasing Stephen Colbert from the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner, maybe you should take some time, Royson, finish that novel you’ve always wanted to write. The one about that intrepid newspaper columnist, covering City Hall for the country’s largest newspaper, keeping politicians honest, speaking truth to power and standing up for the little guy.

You know, fiction.

— plagiarizingly submitted by Cityslikr


The Bad New Just Keeps On Coming

January 25, 2011

So the bad news just keeps flowing in for Toronto. Last week, the British Council’s OPENCities project ranked Toronto the third most “Open” city in the world. Yikes! What did we do now?

Apparently, measuring an “Open” city consists of looking at factors including diversity policies, quality of life and education to determine “… the capacity of cities…to attract and benefit from international populations…” Of the cities participating, only London and New York fared worse than Toronto. Having elected Team Ford, at least we’ll be trying to rectify such shortcomings.

“Openness is a real advantage for cities if they are pursuing plans to be internationally connected and play international roles. Whilst some of the factors influencing openness are beyond the direct control of cities, many of these factors are well within the control or immediate influence of city governments: the city’s identity and character; its education, housing and cultural offer; the kind of local democracy it practices and the forms of participation it encourages.”

M’eh.

Then RealNet Canada pops up to tell us that new homes sales in the GTA last year increased 8% over 2009 and that the condominium market jumped by 30% during that time. “Interestingly,” George M. Carras, RealNet Canada’s President says, “the Downtown West submarket accounted for almost one quarter of the GTA’s total new condominium sales.” Oh no! Only a quarter?! Repeal that Land Transfer Tax. Stat!

Worse yet, 905 outpaced 416 in total sales, 55% to 45% last year although the RealNet report claims new home development in the City of Toronto continues on an upward trend, “…almost double what it was ten years ago,” says Mr. Carras. Clearly, this is a city that has been mismanaged and misruled for too long. Our politicians know it. Our media knows it. All right thinking citizens know it. Now, even outsiders and the “experts” like the British Council and RealNet Canada with their studies and data know it too.

The secret is out. Toronto’s a terrible place to live, work and play. Pass it on.

alarmistly submitted by Cityslikr


More Of The Mayor’s Magical Musings

January 24, 2011

“To be a world class city, at least a North American world class city, we need an NFL team.”

— Councillor Doug Ford, older, allegedly smarter brother of Mayor Rob Ford.

If there’s another statement that would better reveal this administration’s horrifying ignorance about what makes a city vibrant, livable, “world class”, it would have to be grunted by a speaker who’s covered in their own feces. Assuming the mayor agrees with his brother’s view (a fair one to make, I think, given the cover of the newspaper the story appeared in), we bear witness to yet another dimension in the realm of the mayor’s magical thinking. You can cut taxes and not cut services. If you absolutely have to have public transit, subways are always better than any alternative. Professional sports franchise equals civic health.

Look down there at Detroit. After decades of on-field futility, their Lions showed signs of life this past season. Can recovery be far behind for the city?

It seems the mayor and his brother headed off to Chicago this weekend on a fact-finding mission to take in the NFC conference championship game. Because, it stands to reason, that if a world class city needs an NFL franchise, having a winning franchise will make a city even more world classier. Why, winning the Super Bowl just last year, turned every Hurricane Katrina induced disaster around for the city of New Orleans.

Hopefully while in The Windy City, the mayor and his brother managed to find time to take in some other sights outside of Soldier Field that contribute to Chicago’s vitality. Just down the lake from where they would’ve seen the Packers defeat the hometown Bears, there’s the Art Institute. A little further from AIC, there’s Millennium Park with its Frank Gehry Pritzker Pavilion, built on former industrial railroad land. It’s all part of a renovated waterfront that reclaimed the lake. A familiar sounding problem, Mayor Ford?

Or maybe the mayor and his brother rode around for a bit on the Chicago transit system, just to see how other cities of comparable size move their people around. Not being knowledgeable enough myself to know how it matches up to ours, I’ll assume neither is the mayor. It’d be nice to think that he took the opportunity to help enlighten himself further on the pressing issue of public transit.

And while they were at it, I wonder if the mayor and his brother sought the advice of anyone who could give them a hands-on account of how the privatization of parking in Chicago has worked out. Since his budget chief has mused publicly about the necessity of the city being in the parking business, the mayor certainly needs to take some time to weigh the issue fully to see if other places benefited from such a move. Some due diligence done on either side of a football game.

On the other hand, maybe this whole call for an NFL team was simply a dog whistle that only the mayor’s supporters could hear. After a week of sometimes bruising public consultations over the proposed budget where it became crystal clear that the mayor wouldn’t be able to maintain his campaign promise of holding the line on taxes without cutting services, they needed a diversionary tactic. Hey! Look over here! The NFL! Remember? The mayor loves football. Just like you and me.

As cynical as that would be, it’d still beat the mayor and his brother actually believing that having an NFL team in Toronto puts us on the road to world classiness. The simple-mindedness of that is a little too much to bear on a cold Monday morning after a weekend where the Raptors lost their 7th game in a row, the Leafs further mired themselves out of playoff contention and the Blue Jays traded away their center fielder in what was little more than a salary dump. By professional sports franchise standards, Toronto’s sitting on the corner of Shithole & Crack  Alley, smack dab in the middle of Nowhere’s Ville on a rail line that no longer stops here on its way to Classy Town.

abracadabraly submitted by Cityslikr


A Letter Home

January 22, 2011

As many of our regular readers may remember, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke used to be three. While I, Cityslikr was the point man, I was ably assisted on occasion by two contributors, Urban Sophisticat and Acaphlegmic. Not a perfect union by any stretch, sometimes more 3 Mouseketeers than Musketeers, but not unworkable.

Then came the election of Rob Ford as Toronto’s mayor. My compatriots got spooked. (See the post-election analysis here.) Urban Sophisticat threw up his hands and left town. Over the holidays a postcard arrived from him. He’s on a boat somewhere in the Mediterranean, burnishing his elitist cred.

In truth, Acaphlegmic wasn’t spooked so much as… spookily ebullient. He’d met some Ford supporters shortly before the election and after their man won, he decided to infiltrate their ranks, he called it. To live amongst them. Get to know what made them tick. He went off to live in Larry’s Garage and since then we’ve heard hide nor hair from him.

That is, until the wee hours of this morning.

Under the cover of darkness, an email appeared in the inbox, purporting to be from Acaphlegmic but we could hardly recognize it as something he’d written. Gone was the usual bombastic flamboyance, the tone of condescension, the obscure wordplay. It was a note racked with doubt and a certain degree of fear. This was not from the Acaphlegmic of old.

Despite some concern I have of posting a fraudulent letter on this site, I do so reluctantly as many of you (OK, two) have asked about the whereabouts of Acaphlegmic. Part of me hopes it isn’t him. That it is just some cruel hoax. But if it is Acaphlegmic and you’re reading this out there, buddy, come home. All is forgiven. There’s always a spot on the couch for you here at the office.

I write this quickly. They are suspicious if anyone spends too much time on the computer that’s not some sort of pornography. Big breasted women pornography, it seems. Anything else and they start asking questions.

(Which is why it’s been so difficult to be in contact.)

My field work has been compromised, I fear. Not long after settling into these comfortable digs in Larry’s garage, his middle daughter, Darlene, returned to the nest, her third marriage in tatters. She came to me, inconsolable, poor thing, because her family simply didn’t understand. Truth be told, neither did I. Three marriages and not yet 34? Come, come. How be we try and put in a little effort.

Thoughts I kept to myself as you know I try not to be judgmental about such matters. The lack of criticism on my part was taken as, well, affection, I guess, leading to one thing leading to another and before you could say, maybe you should take a little relationship timeout, Darlene was spending more time in the garage than in the house, if you get my meaning.

So, full disclosure. My thoughts and views of life out here in Ford Country may be clouded through the distorted lens of romantic entanglement.

First thing to note is that, despite the huge upswing in turnout for the election last October which helped propel Rob Ford into the mayoralty, politics is not on the minds of many out here. Most of the time, it’s the last thing they want to talk about and sometimes an open hostility is exhibited at the very mention of it. For example, one night at dinner I brought up Transit City and the whole subway versus LRT imbroglio. Immediately I was set upon by Artie, Larry’s brother (Darlene’s uncle) who was in town, visiting from… somewhere north of here… starts with a B, I believe.

“What’s with the politics?” he bellowed at me. “You know who talks about politics? The Shah of Iran talks about politics. That’s who talks about politics.”

The Shah of Iran?

Of course, there was a slight uptick in the acceptability of political discourse when Don Cherry delivered his boffo performance at the mayor’s inaugural meeting. “Atta boy, Grapes! Sweater the bunch of whiners.” Sweater as a verb? What does that even mean? I was afraid to ask lest it make me even more conspicuous in their presence.

They love their Don Cherry, just like they love their mayor because they sense the two are just ‘one of them’. Aside from a similar vocabulary and a propensity toward constant sweating, I don’t see the comparison, frankly. But maybe I don’t have the right kind of eyes, as Hunter S. Thompson once framed it. “That’s right, you don’t,” Darlene informs me when I use such a turn of phrase. “You nerdy bookworm. Come here and give your honey a kiss.”

They also love their sports. Any sports, really. Hockey, the NFL, something utterly barbaric called Ultimate Fighting. Do you have any idea what that is? Men in a cage, kicking and punching each other into bloodied pulps until one renders the other unconscious! It so riles the boys up around here that they inevitably wind up trying out some of there ‘killer’ moves on each other (and me, unfortunately) until somebody, again inevitably, winds up pulling, bashing or splitting something. I’ve lost a tooth after being forcibly thrown into one of their impromptu matches and consider myself lucky at that.

Strangely, they also watch curling.

Much was made during the course of the campaign of how those supporting Rob Ford weren’t much into the ins-and-outs of policy and such. They didn’t have the time, what with them leading busy lives, holding down jobs (sometimes 2), raising kids, etc., etc. While I wouldn’t deny any of that. Everybody in this house works diligently at their respective vocations. But what I will say is that if they spent even a fraction of their spare time, reading a newspaper that wasn’t the Sun or just staying even moderately informed about the world around them as they do following sports… well… The information they have at their fingertips about penalty minutes, batting averages, 3rd down conversions. Heads full of stats! Just none of it relevant to the decisions that are made which affect their lives, down at City Hall, Queen’s Par–

… I’m back. Darlene surprised me with an unexpected appearance. I think I switched over to the girlie site before she realized what I was actually doing. Is it me or do you too find it strange that a woman you’re intimate with would be less put out by you looking at other scantily clad females than writing about politics?

Anyway…

Out here in Ford Country, they also love their cars. I guess it’s not surprising as they spend so much time with them. Driving to and from work. Driving to get groceries. Driving back to get the groceries they forgot because they didn’t make a list. I don’t understand it. What have they got against making a list? It would just save much time and effort, pain and anguish.

They drive a lot, is the long and short of it and their cars are important to them. In some cases (and I’m not naming names here but Roger is Darlene’s younger brother), their cars are like another member of the family. They name their cars. Dora. As in Dora the Explorer. Apparently some cartoon character. They wash their cars whenever an opportunity arises. They stand around with the hood open, just staring in at the engine, and poking at it every now and then.

They while away hours, sitting in their cars at the drive-through… no, excuse me… the drive-thru at Tim Hortons. Even if the place is empty inside! “Why don’t we just park and grab coffees inside?” I’ll ask only to be met with blank stares and stony silence.

Now, you should be sitting down for when you read this next part, I know about these people’s love of Tim Hortons first hand as, are you ready, I have a job at one. Yes, yes. Believe me. I’m as surprised as the next person but Larry and everybody started wondering where I was getting my money from [we’ve often wondered that ourselves here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke – ed.] so I asked Darlene if she could get me a job at the branch she works. You know, as a cover. It has been a very eye-opening experience, let me tell you, holding down what everyone around here calls a ‘real’ job.

People love their Timmies as they call it. Again, very familiar just like with their cars. A friend. A family member. “Let’s grab a nosh at Timmies,” they’ll chatter like they’re skipping through some sort of storybook tale. “I’m beat. Let’s grab a double-double at Timmies.” Such reverence and adoration you’d expect from people talking about church or an exotic location with great historical significance. It’s just coffee, I have to resist from yelling at them, the hair net scratching my scalp. A donut. You know what that is? Deep fried dough. Not the body of Christ.

Whenever I lose my patience like that, though, I try to remember that it’s me who is out of step with the majority. My ‘downtown’ views and kooky ‘elitist’ attitudes are not the mainstream. I am a stranger here. Still trying to learn their ways, their rituals, their manner of seeing the world.

It’s much harder than I initially expected, I will admit. They look so much like us but there are times when I think they might as well be a different species. I fear it’s going to be a long, hard winter out here. It already has been. At least, I have something to keep me warm through the dark night out here in Larry’s garage. The space heater works like a charm!

I must go now. There’s rumblings from the others drawing nearer. Meaning only one thing. Some sort of televised sporting conflict and they’re coming out to watch one or the other. Damn. I’d hoped for a quiet CSI night. Fingers crossed, it’s not the ultimate fighting crowd. I just don’t think I’m up for any sort of rambunctious tussle later. I have to work in the morning.

Take care. I will attempt to write more often with further observations.

Yours undercover,

 

Acaphlegmic

PS

Thumbs down on the new design. It looks like you’re writing about gardening or a love of cats.