So here’s how it happened.
I was at my doctor’s, checking in for my annual checking up. To see what condition my condition was in. (I am of that age, yes.) Everything but my attitude came out just fine.
“You have the heart of a 57 year-old man,” my MD informed me.
“But I’m only 54.”
“A very healthy 57 year-old man,” the doc said, as if somehow… Never mind. That’s beside the point of this particular story.
Like I said, I was not feeling particularly ebullient at this juncture. It could be just a case of the post-holiday, January blues, my doctor suggested. “SAD, maybe.” He told me to seek out some light, shine it on the darkness.
“The days are getting longer.”
While I felt comfortable leaving my physical health in this man’s hands, I was less inclined to adhere to his mental health diagnosis. I knew the January blahs. I’d never been prone to the deeper seasonal affective disorder, and wasn’t entirely sure why I might be now.
No. This was different. I didn’t feel sad or depressed or down in the dumps. I was just angry. Anger mixed with an occasional dose of despair. Angrair. Despry.
“What on earth do you have to be angry about?” my doctor asked me. “You’re a healthy, middle-aged man with no family history of prostate cancer. You know how many people would be ecstatic about that prognosis? Get your angry ass out of my office.” A little too dismissive, I thought as I headed down the hallway toward the receptionist’s desk to make an appointment for my next physical a year from now. But not entirely without merit.
I have very little to be angry about, let alone despair. Aside from all that creeping mortality business that begins to make a serious appearance when your life’s well more than half over. I know, I know. 55 is the new 25 and all that. That’s what the kid’s are saying these days, isn’t it?
Still. You do reach an age when you always think before getting down to shovel the snow from the walk, Will this be my last shovel of snow? Dying with your winter boots on.
That said, in my medical opinion, this wasn’t really about my impending death. It had more to do, in my humble opinion, with what I was doing with my dwindling time here on earth. Pounding your head ceaselessly against a wall doesn’t feel like a productive use of your time. I’m not sure it ever did. It’s just started to feel especially useless at this point in my life.
And let’s face, that’s what I’ve been doing, have been doing for at least a year now here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke. When the Ford’s were defeated back in October 2014, I imagined myself stepping back from the fray, the political side of things, to concentrate on the stuff that really interested me. The nuts and bolts of building a better, fairer, more sustainable city. Lots of the nerdy, geeky stuff I didn’t know enough about but wanted to learn in more detail.
Obviously, that’s not what happened. While I never entertained the highest of hopes in John Tory, I never thought he’d flounder as much as he has. Competent if not inspirational or reform-minded, I’d hoped, for no other reason than hoping for less would be too soul crushing to imagine.
Maybe he has turned a corner with his recent conversion on the public transit file. Maybe not. Maybe competency is possible! I don’t know and, frankly, it just makes me angry and despairing more than a little that that’s the straw I’m left clutching at. Maybe our mayor may just be less worse than he was shaping up to be.
Huzzah and hurrah!
Which brings me to the point of all of this, if you’re still following along.
LA, CA. Los Angeles, California. Swimming pools and movie stars. That’s the place I ought to be.
Until April, at any rate. Until the snow begins to retreat. Until it’s baseball season again
It’s an enforced step back that I could not execute under close proximity. A little breathing space. Some distance.
Now, there’s a little history between Los Angeles and me. This ain’t my first… a-hem, a-hem… Rodeo… Drive. LA and I go back some.
Back to the early-90s, when I had dreams of being a big time sitcom writer. (Don’t believe everything you read in the About section of any blog. Hell, you might not want to believe anything I’m writing right now.) I had my Home Improvement and Murphy Brown spec scripts tucked under my arm, and made my way south and westward to find the kind of fame and fortune that is so lavishly heaped upon screenwriters. Swimming pools, movie stars.
The early-90s turned out to be an interesting time to live in Los Angeles. Fires, floods, riots, lurid celebrity murders, surreal police car chases and trials, earthquakes. Did I miss anything? A “string of disruptions and upheavals, both natural and civil,” as David L. Ulin, who moved to LA from the east about the same time as I had, describes it in his recent book, Sidewalking.
With my career plans not panning out like I’d hoped and the city I was pursuing them in feeling more and more like Old Testament times, I decided to cut and run back home to Toronto, never to return but twice. In 1995 to pitch a sitcom pilot to the Seinfeld production company, Castle Rock, the closest I would come to a full on sitcom career, and not again for nearly 20 years, a couple years back, on nothing more than an extended long weekend visit.
A funny thing happened in those ensuing two decades. I had begun writing about city and urban issues, albeit one city in particular but not without some wider overlap, and Los Angeles, for its part, had started taking on some of those same urban issues. When I left the city in the fall of 1994, there was one light rail line and a 5 station stubway, largely serving downtown LA. Outside of that, it was buses operated by a litany of municipalities that make up Los Angeles County. It was generally acknowledged that to live in LA, you drove in LA.
Today, the city has two subway lines, consisting of 22 stations and 4 light rail lines serving nearly 70 stations with further expansion right around the corner. It’s pushing dedicated bus lanes in other under-served areas. In the kingdom of the private automobile, the last two mayors of Los Angeles have seemed serious about pursuing mobility alternatives to the car.
During that same time span, Toronto has what? Built a stubway of its own after having buried a previous project already underway. Converted a couple streetcar lines into their own ROWs without any other sort of traffic priority. There’s another subway extension in progress and only a couple years from completion. The Eglinton Crosstown LRT is still 4 years away.
And plans for more. Plans, lots of plans. Always with the plans.
You see what I’m talking about here?
We need a little break, me and Toronto. A trial separation. If you can’t say anything good, then maybe don’t say anything at all. Shut it down and open up space for other, more constructive, voices to speak up and be heard.
Settle in for a spell, down here in Southern California. Take in how another city is attempting to deal with the 21st-century. Don’t get caught up in the politics of it all. Just observe and report. What’s working. What’s not. Why and why not.
Maybe try to learn a thing or two instead of driving myself and everyone else crazy with the know-it-all pose. Stop being so angry and try to embrace the whole mellow thing. At least for a couple months. A little change of perspective might go a long way to brightening my outlook when I get back home.
— dreamingly submitted by Cityslikr