Turn That Frown Upside Down

He didn’t like the general drift in tone the blog was taking.

‘He’ was Urban Sophisticat who’d dropped by the office in between jaunts abroad.urbansophisticat

“Abroad? Where abroad?” I asked him.

He waved me off.

Urban Sophisticat was looking more and more, how do you say it, downtown elite-ish, every time I saw him which hadn’t been often recently. As you may or may not recall, as a former contributor to this site, he hadn’t taken the victory of Rob Ford as the mayor of Toronto particularly well. I guess it’s safe to say, as a person, he hadn’t taken the outcome particularly well. He seemed determined to become the very essence of that thing Ford Nation hated most after taxes.

He drank only lattes or champagne. He owned 4 different bikes, one for each season. He smoked a pipe but not that kind of pipe. His natural city habitat was quite tiny and he rarely ventured beyond its borders except on those occasions he went abroad. And yes, he said ‘abroad’.

Today he was wearing spatz.

elitist“Are you wearing spatz, Fred Astaire?”

“What shoes do you wear with a cape?”

I hadn’t noticed the cape.

He’d just returned from the States before Thanksgiving.

“I mean, can you imagine?” he asked/stated. “Having Americans pity me for where I live because of the mayor? A-mericans, Cityslikr? Pity me? Because of where I live? Intolerable. I couldn’t stand it.”

“Since when does visiting the States classify as going abroad?” I wondered.

“In transit?” he snapped. “Ever heard of it?”

This visit of Urban Sophisticat’s wasn’t entirely social. He’d come to register a complaint.

“What’s with the Up With People direction you’re going in? All Fired Up in the Big Smoke? How about All Kumbaya in the Big Smoke. What are you? Vincent Van Peale?”

(Not quite. For all you kids playing along at home.)fredastaire

It was true. I’d been trying on a new look lately, not sure if you noticed. Picking at the bones of the carcass that was the Ford Administration was yielding less and less meat. With each passing day it felt like you were just kicking a guy while he was down on the ground flogging a dead horse. (Although, by the sounds of it, next Friday just might re-fill the all-you-can-eat buffet table of Ford’s WTFs.)

“Don’t you just love pounding away at the guy?!” Urban Sophisticat said. “Everything we warned about, wrote about, said was going to happen, happened. And now you’re just going to let up? That’s not very sporting.”

For all the doom and gloom we had predicted accompanying Rob Ford into the mayor’s office, I wish one of us had predicted crack being part of that. Sure would’ve increased traffic to this site, making all those media rounds south of the border. Man, how did we not see that coming!

“What’s the point, dude? He’s been neutralized. He’s not actually contributing anything to the actual functioning of the city. We can safely move on.”

That wasn’t entirely true. At least, I wasn’t absolutely convinced that was the case. upwithpeopleOK. I kind of was convinced. It just… just… I needed to see the house fall out of the sky and crush him or a bucket of water to make him melt away. Ding dong and all that.

“By why would you want to move on?” asked Urban Sophisticat. “Move on to where?”

That was a good question. Move on to where? After almost 4 years (4 years! Where does the time go when you’re not getting paid?) of hectoring, badgering, playing defense and catch-up, it was difficult to change course. With a new campaign starting up in just over a month, it felt like it might be time to start talking about what we wanted in a city and the government that leads it. Enough of the what we don’t want, well it sure as hell isn’t that mode.

Time to accentuate the positive.

“But that’s not what you do,” I was informed by my spatz sporting colleague. “You attack. You berate. You mock and ridicule. I don’t say that as a criticism. It’s just a fact. What’s the last positive thing you’ve suggested?”

“I’ve been trying.”floggingadeadhorse

“Exactly. And you don’t wear it well. Positivity does not become you.”

It’s true. The past week as I’ve been taking pains to stress the need to reach out to like-minded people throughout the city and embrace our commonality, to ask what the city gives us rather than what we give the city. Frankly, it’s been something of a battle. My upbeat muscle has become a little atrophied. Apparently I don’t sing praise like I heap scorn.

“Everybody has their place, Cityslikr. There’s no shame in that. Do what you do well. Even Dr. King said, A Man Has Got To Know His Limitations.”

“Dr. King didn’t say that. Clint Eastwood did.”

clinteastwood“No… I don’t think so. I think if anyone knew their limitations, it was Martin Luther King.”

I was truly stumped by that statement and must’ve looked it.

“I mean, he was assassinated, right? That pretty much puts a limit to… your limitations… is what I’m saying.”

The problem was, All Fired Up in the Big blew into town on an ill wind. We appeared on the scene just as the 2010 campaign kicked off, and it kicked off essentially on an anti-everything note. It wasn’t just Rob Ford. George Smitherman. Rocco Rossi. Everybody had a beef about something at City Hall. It was all going to hell in a hand basket and voices of reasoned hope and constructive ways forward were drowned out in the cacophonous noise of grievance.

While some of the players have changed and roles reversed, that discordant tone has continued, if not increased, over the course of the past 4 years.

Maybe it was time to start fighting for something instead of against everything.illwind

“Maybe it was time to start talking about what we want in this city,” I suggested to Urban Sophisticat, “rather than what we don’t like.”

“Love is better than anger? Hope is better than fear? Optimism better than despair?”

“That’s so creepy coming out of your mouth.”

“Yeah, well. I give it two, maybe three posts. No wait. The entire holiday season. You can be all mushy mushy, hopey, changey. Come January when the campaign begins. You’ll be right back at it, right back down in the mud and goo, doing what you do best. Slinging it, my friend. Slinging it.”

That seems especially harsh. Even more so coming from a guy wearing spatz. brightsideoflifeAlthough I hear that Fred Astaire was quite the asshole himself.

“Take heed, Cityslikr. You’ve got the mark of the nasty in you.”

Maybe… maybe. But perhaps it was just the company I keep. Maybe it was a good thing Urban Sophisticat infrequently dropped by these days. Maybe he was just a bad influence.

brightly submitted by Cityslikr