I only met former Rob Ford staffer Graeme McEachern in person 3 times, all post-mayoralty, post-2014 election, post-cancer diagnosis. We’d had testy social media exchanges previous to that although I can’t remember on what policy issues. Pretty much any and all of them, I imagine. Our most recent bit of sparring on the Twitter, a few months back, came after having been introduced in person. We disagreed – naturally — on voting reform.
The first time we encountered each other face-to-face was outside a favourite College Street haunt of his, Café Diplimatico. I was walking down the street with the Torontoist’s David Hains, having just grabbed a bite to eat. Graeme was on his way to see his boss in the hospital. “I know who you are,” McEachern informed me after David did the intros. It was said joshingly not ominously. After some pleasant back-and-forth, we asked about Councillor Ford’s health, and some other work related stuff. Graeme wanted me to know he was an avid cyclist, certainly sounding more avid than I was. You see? We have some things in common. (We also shared a dislike of the current administration at City Hall.) “I like how you write,” he told me before heading off. “I don’t agree with much of it but I always enjoy reading it.”
That was nice, I told David as we continued on. On the political level, I wasn’t sure I believed the part about him liking my writing. You assume compliments to be nothing more than smoke being blown up your ass, no matter where on the spectrum they come from, but it was a friendly gesture, nonetheless, totally unsolicited in the situation and unnecessary on Graeme’s part.
The next time our paths crossed was just outside City Hall. I was going to a Public Works and Infrastructure Committee meeting and was wheeling around to a bike stand when this voice boomed out from under the stairs of the southwest corner of the building. “Cityslikr!”
I, of course, didn’t immediately recognize Graeme which happens with increasing frequency these days, in my dotage. Once again he was gracious with my blank look, re-introducing himself. I apologised and joked that it was appropriately troll-like that he popped out at me from under the stairs. He laughed. We talked a little bit about the meeting that was about to begin. There was an important item on the agenda although now, I’m at a loss to remember what it was. We chatted a little bit more about other stuff. Graeme told me he was a staunch conservative raised and surrounded by a family of lefties. He again assured me that he liked to get around the city on his bike as much as I did. After some more small talk, he went back to work and I went off to the meeting.
The last time we met up was a little bit before Christmas, again on the street outside the Café Diplimatico and again I didn’t immediately recognize him when he said hi although, this time in my defense, I had had more than a little something something to drink and wasn’t operating at peak performance. It was shortly after a second tumour had been found on Rob Ford’s kidney and he was heading back for another round of chemotherapy. Graeme was upset at the news, telling me that with his illness, his boss had turned the corner on some of the other struggles in his life, the addictions, so the most recent diagnosis felt like a real body blow.
We chatted a little bit more about this and that. I suggested we should grab something to eat or drink sometime, sort through all the problems in the world. “Let’s do that,” he said.
Of course, we didn’t. What with the busy holiday season and then me heading off shortly afterwards down here to Los Angeles. You know, life, and good intentions regularly taking a back seat to… just stuff.
That’s sad because, despite our mountain of differences on just about everything, politically speaking, it would’ve been great to get to know Graeme a little bit more. We’d all probably benefit learning to understand what makes those across such a hug divide tick. Especially someone like Graeme McEachern who seemed so passionate about the causes and politicians he believed in. I could only wish to be so engaged in something so ferociously.
— submitted by Cityslikr