Old Friends Reacquainted

February 21, 2011

Why do these things always happen on weekends? Prepped for a couple lazy days of kicking back and doing a whole lot of nothing, maybe catching up on some reading, a movie or two; indulge in an extended wine tasting. Go time on me time.And then the phone rings. And rings. And rings.

There’s no ignoring it, ultimately. It’s not in my nature. A ringing phone must be answered regardless of the technological advances made in allowing us to avoid engaging.

Because of this weakness of fortitude, my weekend unfolded in the most unexpected manner… which, in looking at it, really should’ve been the first sentence of this post. A tweak here and there and it would be a killer opening line.

The caller ID offers no assistance. It’s a name I don’t recognize. Perhaps without the extra spicy, extra strong Bloody Caesar under my belt I would’ve let it go to voice mail. I’m feeling magnanimous, inclined to reach out and touch somebody and not in any sort of creepy way.

It’s Mrs. _________, you don’t know me but I’m the downstairs neighbour of ________. ________? Who the fuck is _________? (I only swear retrospectively, telling the story to you.) Oh, wait. You mean, Urban Sophisticat!

You remember Urban Sophisticat. Long lost colleague, hightailed it out of here not long after the day infamy, October 25th, when the city he loved lost its collective mind and voted Rob Ford to be mayor. If you’ve only just recently joined us here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke, allow me to submit his last appearance for your reading pleasure.

He up and left for sunnier climes and the boating life. Our very own George Clooney living la vida loca Mediterranean style. Or so I thought. I mean, he sent a postcard claiming as much.

“Oh, no, no, no,” Mrs. _________ tells me over the phone. “He’s here. But acting very, very strange.” Strange, you say. Strange how? “I haven’t seen him for a week now. Maybe two. And there’s this smell…”

Oh, god. The Smell.

And why was his neighbour calling me anyway? He had family in town all over the place. Let them deal with his rotting corpse. Urban Sophisticat had been dead to me for months now. I’d long since buried him.

“There was a note under my door this morning,” Mrs. ________ says. “Asking me to summon Cityslikr. That’s you, right? Cityslikr?”

Summon Cityslikr? OK. This, I had to take part in.

Arriving outside his door and, yes the stench was more than a little disagreeable. But even if Urban Sophisticat had died since slipping the note under his neighbour’s door, he couldn’t be decomposing this badly, this quickly, could he? Besides, there was a hint of cumin… no, wait… cardamom in the stench. Is that what decaying flesh smells like?

I knocked at the door. It took long enough for a response that I almost left, thinking why would I expect a dead guy to answer the door anyway. Then the door opened.

I turned to see Urban Sophisticat already heading away from me, back into his place. He hadn’t said a word. By the time I walked in, he was sitting in a chair in the living room, looking not unlike Michael Corleone near the end of The Godfather II just after hearing the gunshot that killed his brother in a hit he’d ordered. And there was that smell.

“What the fuck is that stink?” I asked.

“I’m fermenting lentils.” Urban Sophisticat just stared at me and clearly wasn’t about to tell me why. The ensuing silence became a little annoying, I must admit. I chose not to pursue the lentil line of questioning and instead inquired into his whereabouts over the last 4 months or so.

“I thought you were sailing off in the Mediterranean,” I said. “What are you doing—“

He waved me off, with clearly bigger fish to fry which wouldn’t be a bad idea if it could mask the stink of lentils long past their best before date.

“I needed you to think that,” he says matter of factly as if no further explanation was necessary. It was.

“Why?”

“We needed time apart.”

Clearly there was going to be no making sense of him. I’d made a terrible mistake coming. But this was the kind of erratic behavior to expect from my other colleague, Acaphlegmic, not Urban Sophisticat.

“I probably should be going,” I told him. Before I could turn back toward the door, Urban Sophisticat got out of his chair and walked toward me as if he was walking on water or some sort of fragile surface that might break under his weight if he stepped down to forcefully. Almost gliding.

When he got close, he lifted his arms and grabbed me by both shoulders and looked deep into my eyes. I won’t lie. I start to giggle, semi-nervously.

Was he really going to take my head in his hands and kiss me? “It was you, Fredo. I know it was you,” I was fully expecting him to say. Instead, he just continued to stare at me in dire earnestness.

“We failed miserably, you and I,” I’m told finally. “We paddled hard against the tide but were washed ashore by a rogue wave of unrighteous indignation and misguided populism.”

He started to squeeze my head. Combined with the lentil stench, I was getting more than a little nauseous. I refused to show any sign of discomfort, however. That would give Urban Sophisticat the upper hand which is something I categorically could not bring myself to do. Ever.

“But in defeat,” he continued, “we must become warriors. Warriors of change. Warriors for change.”

“Whphfedleshdamyhthdsss,” I asked through painfully compressed cheeks.

“What?”

Taking control of the situation, I pushed him back away from me. “What are you talking about? And what’s with the lentils, dude?! Seriously. I’m going to pass out here.”

Urban Sophisticat returned to his chair and sat down.

“It’s time to talk electoral reform, my friend,” he informs me. “Toronto does not have a spending problem. Toronto has an electing problem. I want to be your point man on this. I want to be All Fired Up in the Big Smoke’s ground zero for election and voting initiatives. Unless you grant me that, I won’t come back. This thing between us? It’ll be over.”

It’s not that I disagreed with his sentiments on the issue. Voting reform was long passed due. I had never said otherwise which made this whole display on my colleague’s part unnecessary and so over-the-top.

“Who’s stopping you?” I asked. “Write away.”

Urban Sophisticat looked hard at me, as if I were lying.

“What? Start the conversation. You have carte blanch.”

“Really?” he asked. “And can I have the title of Electoral Reformer in my posts?”

“If it makes you less nuts, I’ll call you Electoral Reformer King.”

Urban Sophisticat sat back in his chair, looking satisfied as if he’d just squeezed a major concession from me.

“But whatever it is you’re doing with those lentils, it stays here. I don’t ever want to smell that smell again.”

With that, I turned and fled the premises. My weekend ruined by the stink of rotting lentils. An aroma that will forever be associated with the notion of electoral reform. But as I think a great suffragette once said: change is never easy and it never smells quite right at the beginning.

wretchingly submitted by Cityslikr


A Summer Lake View

July 1, 2010

Far be it from me to opine on matters urban while rusticating up here in a wee small cabin in the woods on the shore of a lake deep in the heart of cottage country, equipped with not a whole lot more than simple high-speed internet access and satellite television but events have transpired to a degree where I can no longer remain silent. Right after I freshen up my Caesar…

There. Nice. Now where were we?

As one of the many truants to which my colleague derisively ridiculed earlier this week, I hardly feel qualified to offer any views on a situation that I was not part of. So this is from more of an outsider’s stance, an objective take by a non-participant. A Big Picture observation of the political dynamic at work.

Disregarding advice from those on the ground in Toronto, the federal Conservative government arbitrarily decided to hold the G20 gathering smackdab downtown, invading the area Independence Day style. What did they care? They possessed zero political representation anywhere in the vicinity of the proceedings, so any fallout from things going badly could hardly hurt their fortunes here since they had none to begin with. In fact, spun right they could gain some mileage in the rest of Canada by exploiting the latent anti-Toronto that runs deep, pointing out that they poured over a billion dollars into the city and the leftie, hippie, pot-smoking, climate change believing vegans who live there still weren’t happy. Can you believe those people?!

Their obliviousness and/or maliciousness is best encapsulated by a post-summit Tweet from the Minster of Industry, Tony Clement, M.P. for Fucking Miles Away From Toronto (quite possibly where I’m writing from now). After the outbreak of violence, after the suspension of civil liberties, after the world press basically acknowledged that nothing much of substance came from either the G8/G20 meetings, the Honourable Minister thumbed: Wow, what a successful #G8 + #G20! Lots of substance on economic, security & devt issues. I’m proud of Muskoka, Toronto & Canada.

Here, allow me to say the same thing but with many fewer characters, Mr. Minister. (Tweeting in the voice of Tony Clement): Wow, I’m such a douchebag.

The provincial Liberal government, with only slightly more presence in downtown Toronto than the federal Conservatives, quietly dusted off and updated a decades’ old law that at least gave the impression that the police were being granted  extraordinary powers of search and detention. Although after the event, they fervently denied doing any such thing, saying that all they did was allow police more latitude dealing with anyone who got within range of targets inside the fence which, categorically, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. We’re to believe that the police needed more legal heft to deal with people who managed to scale the fence and get inside the security zone?!

But like the feds, the McGuinty Liberals don’t really have much to lose politically by ignoring the concerns of Toronto voters. Their one M.P.P. closest to the action, former urban demigod now lowly party apparatchik, Glen Murray, is scrambling after the fact to seem concerned, imploring those with negative experiences at the hands of the police to come forward and tell their stories. He’ll look into it.

Aside from that, what have the Liberals to fear? Certainly not the law and order loving, Tim Hudak-led Official Opposition. What kind of hay are they going to make of this, what with the stench of the Ipperwash debacle still on their clothes. The NDP? Dalton’s got two words for you: Bob Rae. No, these guys must feel untouchable on this.  Just duck and cover and let the summer breezes blow it all over.

Leaving our increasingly hapless, lame duck mayor – a politician that the citizens of Toronto actually had an opportunity to vote for as opposed to all the other carpetbaggers mentioned above – stridently defending the police force and its chief who went over the mayor’s head to seek additional powers from the province, tarnishing whatever remains of his once lustrous reputation in the process. The man who once wielded a broom as a symbol of sweeping corruption and cronyism from City Hall has de-mothballed it so as to sweep this whole sad affair under the carpet, to be sifted through once he’s long gone from office. It’s a sad spectacle made that much sadder by the fact that his rigid stance on this has actually enabled two candidates vying for his position, Rocco Rossi and George Smitherman, to seem almost thoughtful and proactive in their calls for an inquiry. Something they had not yet managed to do during the campaign.

With all this, is it at all surprising we have a growing indifference and disdain towards our politicians and the political system itself? No one steps forward to take responsibility or to truthfully address citizens’ concerns. It is all about damage control and maintaining the status quo no matter how bankrupt or devoid of fairness and justice it may be. It’s almost as if they want us to stop caring. To turn our backs on them and let them get on with the business of governing us as they see fit. To simply walk away and spend our time up at the cottage, sitting lakeside, sipping cocktails.

Another one? Well, I really shouldn’t but… don’t mind if I do.

Oh yeah. And Happy Canada Day everyone!

patriotically submitted by Urban Sophisticat