The phone rang at god-knows-what time in the morning which meant it was you-know-who calling.
“What do you want?” I yelled at it more than into it. “Do you know what time it is?”
“Were you sleeping?”
I did not immediately answer the lingeringly bad question as it turned out not to be asked by the person I assumed had called me. No, it wasn’t our long departed former contributor, Acaphlegmic, who was in the habit of making late night/early morning calls when the fancy caught him and he found himself near a phone. It was the other long departed former contributor, now residing in rural Spain but usually acutely aware of the time differential. Urban Sophisticat.
“What did you just ask me?”
“Were you sleeping?”
“That’s what I thought you asked. Yes, I was fucking sleeping.”
“Good. You needed to be woken up. ¡Espabílate!”
Oh. So this wasn’t going to be just a literal wake-up call but figurative one as well. I was about to get a talking to.
“OK. I’m awake. What do you want?”
“I’ve been watching you on this Gardiner expressway business. This whole John Tory business, actually. You need to relax a bit. Sit back, take a deep breath. ¡Cálmese!”
He wasn’t wrong, although I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of admitting that. He has a smugness that transcends time and space. It was too early in the morning to have to bear it.
But I have been given to spontaneous nose bleeds lately whenever my mind turns to the ineffable machinations of Mayor John Tory on things like police carding, the Gardiner east debate… Most of it, actually. And by nosebleeds, I mean, blood streaming from my right eye. Blood is blood, I know. Nosebleeds just sound more benign, not out of the ordinary, than an eye bleed. You really should go see a doctor with those, I imagine.
“You really need to start looking at the bigger picture here. I know John Tory. I know what makes him tick. More importantly, I know what scares him.”
Urban Sophisticat doesn’t know John Tory in the up close and personal sense. He knows John Torys. He knows the type.
While certainly not a bona fide blue blood or of Toronto Family Compact lineage, Urban Sophisticat was familiar with the species, in the monied, boarding school, which house should we spend the weekend manner he’d grown up in. As the Ford debacle grew worse and noisier, Urban Sophisticat basically packed up his belongings and hunkered down somewhere in Spain, never revealing his exact whereabouts to me for fear of an unexpected extended layover there on my part. He was a man of means, in other words, boosted to that status with family money.
In fact if memory serves, Urban Sophisticat was a John Tory for Mayor fan (of the tepid sort) back in the day when it was thought to be fashionable to be so. He saw something in the man that I failed to grasp. His thoughts at this juncture might be worth staying awake for.
“Men like John Tory are really and truly only afraid of one thing. It’s not electoral defeat. It’s not derision from the lowly likes of you. You know what it is?”
“You made the call, bra. You tell me.”
“Country club opprobrium.”
“Can you say that in Spanish?”
It sounded good. His Spanish, I mean. But to my linguistic tin ear, he could be saying anything.
“Look at the pictures of all those prominent Torontonians speaking out against Tory. The Gardiner, carding. It’s his worst nightmare, believe me. He’s supped with some of these folks. Probably played a round of golf or two. Smoked a cigar when deemed socially necessary to do so. Shunning by this go-to group of eminent citizens would be a catastrophe for John Tory.”
“Oh, come on. The man can’t be that shallow.”
“Amigo mio. We are all that shallow. Self-reflection does not suit the wealthy. Trust me. The man is desperately searching for a clean-ish way out of this mess.”
“He could just admit he made a mistake, own up to setting fire to everything.”
A heavy sigh and long pause greeted my suggestion. I was only partially kidding. On the public stage, it can’t be as easy as just throwing up the white flag. That signifies weakness. No politician wants to look weak especially this early into their term. Still, John Tory billed himself as reasonable and practical. Reasonable and practical people can change their minds if their positions grow untenable.
“Alphas don’t back down at the first sign of trouble, Slikr. That’s not just human nature. It’s primate nature! You’ve seen chimpanzees at work, right? There’s got to be a lot of noise and teeth-baring before the big guy retreats, so it doesn’t look like a retreat. It’s got to be tactical, almost like it’s their idea.”
OK but, is being an alpha all about brawn? I thought to myself. Shouldn’t some smarts go into it too? Wouldn’t a real top notch alpha have avoided digging himself into such a big hole in the first place, necessitating some sort of elaborate exit strategy?
“At this point, even a narrow win on the Gardiner east for the mayor won’t be any sort of victory in the eyes of his peers.”
“Your betters. The real Torontonians.”
“He’ll come out bloodied and bruised, looking the worse for wear. Over dinner at the club, someone will say, en voz baja, You’re no bloody better than Ford. You said you would be better than Ford. Trust me. That is the kind of thing that keeps men like John Tory up at night. That, and undercooked beef bourguignon.”
Yeah. I wasn’t buying it. Why, just earlier today, Mayor Tory showed little sign of backing down in the face of any peer pressure either on the Gardiner east or carding issue. He lives in the ‘real world’ don’t you know. He is the Mayor of Toronto in 2015. Beats his chest, flings his shit at any and all detractors. David Crombie’s not the boss of John Tory! Not anymore!
“Just relax, is all I’m saying. ¡Tranquilízate! You can’t comprehend the pressures that come to bear on Sundays at the country club. The not-so-subtle snub of a “missing” salad fork. An errant golf shot without the accompanying FORE! A pass on an invitation to the season’s hottest charity event. These are the kinds of things that matter to John Tory not the outrage of the invisible hordes like you.”
Wouldn’t that be nice. The shame of being shamed by the city’s influential movers-and-shakers. The motive for doing the right thing might not be noble but if it resulted in a better outcome? Who was I to argue or judge?
But as my eye started to bleed again, I fear I’m far from convinced such a thing is possible. Urban Sophisticat’s smooth Spanish utterings to the contrary.
— sleepily submitted by Cityslikr