Sheer Depravity

December 19, 2013

“The little lady won’t come anymore,” he said. “She grits her teeth and turns me loose for this one. And when I say ‘loose’ I do mean loose! I toss ten-dollar bills around like they were goin’ out of style! Horses, whiskey, women…shit, there’s women in this town that’ll do anything for money.”

The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved, Hunter S. Thompson

*  *  *

kentuckyderby

I’ve always wanted to use the word ‘depraved’ at some point of time in writing about the Fords. ‘Depravity’ too would be good. In fact, hardly a mention of them might pass without some version of the word being highly appropriate.

I don’t believe I ever have used it however and the reason is simple. For me, the word is owned by Hunter S. Thompson. Any attempt to incorporate it in anything I wrote just seemed like a desperate scream for attention. Look at me! I’m all gonzo!

But frankly, I’m at a loss for a suitable replacement descriptor to attach to what’s been going on, especially recently. lovemoneyHow else do you depict the past week or so? I cannot get ‘a pit of depravity’ out of my head.

“Just money, women love money,” the mayor responded to the hosts of radio talk show ‘Sports Junkies’ who’d asked what he was getting his wife for Christmas. “And get perfume … you give them a couple thousand bucks and they’re happy. Get some treats on the side obviously for her but she says, ‘I want cash honey, I want cash’…Oh yeah, yeah, I get a basket and flowers and a little bit of this and that but at the end of the day, she wants her cash so I give her a nice cheque and we’re all happy.”

This coming just a day after the mayor issued a full retraction and abject apology to the Toronto Star’s Daniel Dale for suggesting Mr. Dale had crept around his backyard, taking pictures of his kids and generally doing what one of those guys there’s a word for does that is the most despicable thing you can really accuse someone of being.

And what? A month after his all he could eat statement?

Set aside, for the moment, the simple lack of social filter that inhibits most people from publicly uttering such depravities even if you do hold those thoughts in your depraved mind. verbaldiarrhea(Yes. I am all in with the word today). Know who you’re talking to, who may be listening to what you’re saying.

It’s about the absolute lack of any sort of moral compass that astounds me. Never mind Oakland, Gertrude Stein (h/t Jude MacDonald and Gord Perks). There is no there there in whatever spots of the brain and soul empathy and shame reside in the body of our Fords.

I get it. Politics is a blood sport. But in what nasty, unfortunately inhabited universe is it OK to imply that someone is a pedophile? Imply it on TV and stand by every word for a week before capitulating in the face of a libel lawsuit.

Who does that?

Who drags their spouse out into the spotlight in some vain attempt to cover the soiled tracks that lead to proof of their depraved behaviour?

At least Richard Nixon – depravity personified for Hunter Thompson – only subjected the family dog, Checkers, to such public humiliation.

It could be even more dispiriting than all that. Having wondered earlier at the mayor’s inability to gauge the audience he was talking to, what if, as someone stated earlier somewhere on the social media, the mayor knows exactly who he’s talking to, who’s listening to him? Is he digging down and firming up support with the percentage of us who operate with our worst instincts first? beatbackthehordesAll the conscienceless among us whose only concern is with their own pocketbooks?

I, for one, don’t believe he’s that tactical. His brother either. Maybe back a bit, there were people around them that darkly calculating. Maybe some of that’s worn off but…

Very likely, what we’re witnessing is the massing of the truly depraved among us. Those hearing poetry in the words the mayor and his brother speak, the ones still hanging on, believing these two rich guys from Etobicoke are in their corner, looking out for them, representing them. They see nothing wrong with the things they say or do. Or maybe, they just believe it’s none of their business, it has nothing to do with the running of the business of the city.

But as Hunter S. Thompson wrote and may well have lived as an example of, you can’t be depraved in just some aspects of life. It’s bone deep, past that into the genes. You can’t compartmentalize depravity.

depraved

The hope is that we’ve kept it contained to a small, negligible segment of the population. One that can’t inflict much damage but serves as a helpful reminder of what can happen when we unhitch ourselves to the moorings of morality.

savagely submitted by Cityslikr


A Sheepish Admission

July 25, 2011

Standing outside the tent on Saturday night, listening to The Sheepdogs rip through their 2nd set of the day (the first being an acoustic one in the blazing sunshine) at Hillside, my thoughts turned to the 70s. How could they not? Here was a band channeling the spirit of Southern Fried Rock in both sound and look with a touch of The Black Crows and My Morning Jacket thrown in for good measure to a capacity crowd that consisted largely of folks who weren’t even born when this sound first emerged.

Kids these days, with all their rap and bleep-blop electronic music, enthusiastically embracing the more countrified roots rock sound of their parents. Nothing wrong with that although, for me, if I want to listen to the Allman Brothers (an impulse which occurs almost never – my musical taste tends more to the bands that bracketed The Sheepdogs, Hooded Fang and Hollerado) I’ll listen to the Allman Brothers. But certainly, there are worse things to adopt from the recent past as I await the re-arrival of wide, wide ties with some trepidation.

I have mixed emotions about the decade I came of age in. While many of us benefited from the social and political freedoms that opened up as a result of the upheavals of the 1960s, we also wound up stunting them, stopped the march of progress far short of its goals, twisting and bending the ideals into an almost unrecognizable shape that called itself the Reagan (Neo-Conservative) Revolution. In 1969, America put a man on the moon. By 1980, we’d convinced ourselves that government was a problem not the solution. The 1970s just don’t hold up well in that light.

I was still mightily in my pre-teens during the tumultuous year of 1968 but I do remember that mixed sense of fear and, if not hope, a curious anticipation of what might be right around the corner. Protestors derailed a presidential re-election bid in a fight against an illegal, immoral war. Cities exploded in riots, set alight by inequality and racial oppression. Assassinations. First, Martin Luther King. Then, Bobby Kennedy. More riots.

It was Kennedy’s death that we can now see as something of a turning point for progressivism. Not that it was any more important or devastating than the slaying of King but RFK’s journey from his privileged, elite upbringing and early rabid anti-communism to the moral conscience of a country as presidential candidate signaled that the old order was rotten to the core. A fundamental change of course was needed and underway.

And then he was dead.

The politics of spite and tribalism filled the void and prospered. Even the downfall of the petty tyrant of vindictiveness, Richard Nixon, in 1974 only served to temporarily delay the triumphant of reactionism. It emerged in its full blown hideousness with the ascent to power of Margaret Thatcher in 1979, Ronald Reagan in 1980 and so on and so forth.

So by the time those younger Sheepdogs fans began sitting up and noticing the wider world around them, radical conservatism had become the entrenched orthodoxy. We who had benefited from progressive ideas in action – livable wages and working conditions, accessible and affordable health care and education, reasonable expectations of fair pensions and a well earned retirement, all that solid middle class claptrap – had decided that enough was enough. No longer would or should we extend such luxuries. They only served to sap our work ethic and encourage lolly-gagging and freeloading. Nose to the grindstone, pull yourself up by your boot-straps and all that.

The flagrant hypocrisy of such I-Got-Mine-Jackism manifested itself to me last week when I came across a video of Paul Ainslie’s maiden speech at Toronto city council (h/t Jonathan Goldsbie) after he was appointed councillor in 2006. Ignoring for the moment his vow never, ever to run for council in ‘Ward 41 or any other ward in this city’ after his interim time was up (he did run both in the 2006 and 2010 election, successfully unfortunately), what really got my goat was Ainslie’s citing of a Bobby Kennedy quote as a source of his political and public service inspiration.

The task of leadership, the first task of concerned people, is not to condemn or castigate or deplore; it is to search out the reason for disillusionment and alienation, the rationale of protest and dissent — perhaps, indeed, to learn from it.

Councillor Ainslie is a nose-pick of a politician who is a certified member of Mayor Ford’s wrecking crew, intent on dismantling much of what makes this city work so well. Rather than searching out and learning from ‘the reason for disillusionment and alienation’ as Robert Kennedy implored, Councillor Ainslie, the mayor and his other enablers only seek to exploit the disillusionment and alienation in order to reduce government to impotency. The exact opposite of what RFK was seeking to do.

That a politician of Ainslie’s low caliber was able to co-opt the words of Robert Kennedy goes a long way to explaining our modern political dynamic. The Reactionary as Revolutionary. I’m a neo-conservative politician and Robert Kennedy would endorse these words I’m about to speak.

It takes me to the words of another icon of the 60s, Hunter S. Thompson. The best known passage from his best known book, and perhaps the best analysis of the end of what we now think of as the end of the 60s and the birth of a generation of swine.

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

And it’s been rolling back now for over 40 years, slowly and surely drowning much of the progress that had come before it. Just when you think it’s crested, unbelievably you’re hit with another surge. Stephen Harper. Rob Ford. This has to peak too, doesn’t it? That’s the way waves work. Where is the neoconservative ‘high-water mark’? Have we just not seen it yet? Are we lacking the ‘right kind of eyes’?

So kids, follow in our musical steps all you want. Remake it. Remix it. Rejig it. It’s all harmless, nostalgic fun. But stop listening to our politics. We’re sell-outs and con artists. We’ve shirked our duties and responsibilities, leaving us all worse for wear. Our taste in music far exceeded our sense of citizenship, and the sooner you learn that the better.

guiltily submitted by Urban Sophisticat


A Letter Home

January 22, 2011

As many of our regular readers may remember, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke used to be three. While I, Cityslikr was the point man, I was ably assisted on occasion by two contributors, Urban Sophisticat and Acaphlegmic. Not a perfect union by any stretch, sometimes more 3 Mouseketeers than Musketeers, but not unworkable.

Then came the election of Rob Ford as Toronto’s mayor. My compatriots got spooked. (See the post-election analysis here.) Urban Sophisticat threw up his hands and left town. Over the holidays a postcard arrived from him. He’s on a boat somewhere in the Mediterranean, burnishing his elitist cred.

In truth, Acaphlegmic wasn’t spooked so much as… spookily ebullient. He’d met some Ford supporters shortly before the election and after their man won, he decided to infiltrate their ranks, he called it. To live amongst them. Get to know what made them tick. He went off to live in Larry’s Garage and since then we’ve heard hide nor hair from him.

That is, until the wee hours of this morning.

Under the cover of darkness, an email appeared in the inbox, purporting to be from Acaphlegmic but we could hardly recognize it as something he’d written. Gone was the usual bombastic flamboyance, the tone of condescension, the obscure wordplay. It was a note racked with doubt and a certain degree of fear. This was not from the Acaphlegmic of old.

Despite some concern I have of posting a fraudulent letter on this site, I do so reluctantly as many of you (OK, two) have asked about the whereabouts of Acaphlegmic. Part of me hopes it isn’t him. That it is just some cruel hoax. But if it is Acaphlegmic and you’re reading this out there, buddy, come home. All is forgiven. There’s always a spot on the couch for you here at the office.

I write this quickly. They are suspicious if anyone spends too much time on the computer that’s not some sort of pornography. Big breasted women pornography, it seems. Anything else and they start asking questions.

(Which is why it’s been so difficult to be in contact.)

My field work has been compromised, I fear. Not long after settling into these comfortable digs in Larry’s garage, his middle daughter, Darlene, returned to the nest, her third marriage in tatters. She came to me, inconsolable, poor thing, because her family simply didn’t understand. Truth be told, neither did I. Three marriages and not yet 34? Come, come. How be we try and put in a little effort.

Thoughts I kept to myself as you know I try not to be judgmental about such matters. The lack of criticism on my part was taken as, well, affection, I guess, leading to one thing leading to another and before you could say, maybe you should take a little relationship timeout, Darlene was spending more time in the garage than in the house, if you get my meaning.

So, full disclosure. My thoughts and views of life out here in Ford Country may be clouded through the distorted lens of romantic entanglement.

First thing to note is that, despite the huge upswing in turnout for the election last October which helped propel Rob Ford into the mayoralty, politics is not on the minds of many out here. Most of the time, it’s the last thing they want to talk about and sometimes an open hostility is exhibited at the very mention of it. For example, one night at dinner I brought up Transit City and the whole subway versus LRT imbroglio. Immediately I was set upon by Artie, Larry’s brother (Darlene’s uncle) who was in town, visiting from… somewhere north of here… starts with a B, I believe.

“What’s with the politics?” he bellowed at me. “You know who talks about politics? The Shah of Iran talks about politics. That’s who talks about politics.”

The Shah of Iran?

Of course, there was a slight uptick in the acceptability of political discourse when Don Cherry delivered his boffo performance at the mayor’s inaugural meeting. “Atta boy, Grapes! Sweater the bunch of whiners.” Sweater as a verb? What does that even mean? I was afraid to ask lest it make me even more conspicuous in their presence.

They love their Don Cherry, just like they love their mayor because they sense the two are just ‘one of them’. Aside from a similar vocabulary and a propensity toward constant sweating, I don’t see the comparison, frankly. But maybe I don’t have the right kind of eyes, as Hunter S. Thompson once framed it. “That’s right, you don’t,” Darlene informs me when I use such a turn of phrase. “You nerdy bookworm. Come here and give your honey a kiss.”

They also love their sports. Any sports, really. Hockey, the NFL, something utterly barbaric called Ultimate Fighting. Do you have any idea what that is? Men in a cage, kicking and punching each other into bloodied pulps until one renders the other unconscious! It so riles the boys up around here that they inevitably wind up trying out some of there ‘killer’ moves on each other (and me, unfortunately) until somebody, again inevitably, winds up pulling, bashing or splitting something. I’ve lost a tooth after being forcibly thrown into one of their impromptu matches and consider myself lucky at that.

Strangely, they also watch curling.

Much was made during the course of the campaign of how those supporting Rob Ford weren’t much into the ins-and-outs of policy and such. They didn’t have the time, what with them leading busy lives, holding down jobs (sometimes 2), raising kids, etc., etc. While I wouldn’t deny any of that. Everybody in this house works diligently at their respective vocations. But what I will say is that if they spent even a fraction of their spare time, reading a newspaper that wasn’t the Sun or just staying even moderately informed about the world around them as they do following sports… well… The information they have at their fingertips about penalty minutes, batting averages, 3rd down conversions. Heads full of stats! Just none of it relevant to the decisions that are made which affect their lives, down at City Hall, Queen’s Par–

… I’m back. Darlene surprised me with an unexpected appearance. I think I switched over to the girlie site before she realized what I was actually doing. Is it me or do you too find it strange that a woman you’re intimate with would be less put out by you looking at other scantily clad females than writing about politics?

Anyway…

Out here in Ford Country, they also love their cars. I guess it’s not surprising as they spend so much time with them. Driving to and from work. Driving to get groceries. Driving back to get the groceries they forgot because they didn’t make a list. I don’t understand it. What have they got against making a list? It would just save much time and effort, pain and anguish.

They drive a lot, is the long and short of it and their cars are important to them. In some cases (and I’m not naming names here but Roger is Darlene’s younger brother), their cars are like another member of the family. They name their cars. Dora. As in Dora the Explorer. Apparently some cartoon character. They wash their cars whenever an opportunity arises. They stand around with the hood open, just staring in at the engine, and poking at it every now and then.

They while away hours, sitting in their cars at the drive-through… no, excuse me… the drive-thru at Tim Hortons. Even if the place is empty inside! “Why don’t we just park and grab coffees inside?” I’ll ask only to be met with blank stares and stony silence.

Now, you should be sitting down for when you read this next part, I know about these people’s love of Tim Hortons first hand as, are you ready, I have a job at one. Yes, yes. Believe me. I’m as surprised as the next person but Larry and everybody started wondering where I was getting my money from [we’ve often wondered that ourselves here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke – ed.] so I asked Darlene if she could get me a job at the branch she works. You know, as a cover. It has been a very eye-opening experience, let me tell you, holding down what everyone around here calls a ‘real’ job.

People love their Timmies as they call it. Again, very familiar just like with their cars. A friend. A family member. “Let’s grab a nosh at Timmies,” they’ll chatter like they’re skipping through some sort of storybook tale. “I’m beat. Let’s grab a double-double at Timmies.” Such reverence and adoration you’d expect from people talking about church or an exotic location with great historical significance. It’s just coffee, I have to resist from yelling at them, the hair net scratching my scalp. A donut. You know what that is? Deep fried dough. Not the body of Christ.

Whenever I lose my patience like that, though, I try to remember that it’s me who is out of step with the majority. My ‘downtown’ views and kooky ‘elitist’ attitudes are not the mainstream. I am a stranger here. Still trying to learn their ways, their rituals, their manner of seeing the world.

It’s much harder than I initially expected, I will admit. They look so much like us but there are times when I think they might as well be a different species. I fear it’s going to be a long, hard winter out here. It already has been. At least, I have something to keep me warm through the dark night out here in Larry’s garage. The space heater works like a charm!

I must go now. There’s rumblings from the others drawing nearer. Meaning only one thing. Some sort of televised sporting conflict and they’re coming out to watch one or the other. Damn. I’d hoped for a quiet CSI night. Fingers crossed, it’s not the ultimate fighting crowd. I just don’t think I’m up for any sort of rambunctious tussle later. I have to work in the morning.

Take care. I will attempt to write more often with further observations.

Yours undercover,

 

Acaphlegmic

PS

Thumbs down on the new design. It looks like you’re writing about gardening or a love of cats.


The Wave Considered

December 5, 2010

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda….You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning….

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave….

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark —that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

— Hunter S. Thompson, 1971, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

For some reason, I sit and read over this passage whenever I’m feeling particularly depressed, politically speaking. Not sure why. By no means is it an uplifting passage. In fact, you might call it ‘eulogistic’. Maybe more ‘elegistic’ if the word actually existed.

I first came across it probably, oh, 5 years or so after it was written. Some nearly 35 years ago, yikes. As a tail-ender of the baby boom, my initial impression was full of, I don’t know, disdain, let’s call it. Another old hippie, waxing all nostalgic about how great it was back in `68, blah, blah, blah. Eat it, grandpa. Haven’t you heard? Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust.

But now those words carry a little more resonance for me. Either because they’ve aged well or I haven’t. From this particular vantage point, looking back and with the right kind of eye glasses, it seems as if ours is a regressive age, politically and economically, as Thompson’s passage predicted. The wave broke and the promise of 1968 seems unattainable.

Is that too melodramatic? I don’t know. We’re still invading and occupying foreign countries both militarily and economically, plundering them in the name of advancing democracy. The rights and responsibilities of consumerism have trumped those of citizenship. We’ve raised a generation of children with lowered expectations because we hate paying taxes. And the fucking Rolling Stones are still on tour with almost the exact same play list they had 4 decades ago!

So no, that ain’t progress, folks.

And the politics, oh lord, the politics. As a society we’ve disengaged and into the void has rushed… no, that’s not the right word… slunk? oozed? gestated?… Yeah, let’s go with gestated… into the void has gestated a breed of politician who make very few, non-fiduciary demands on us and rarely appeal to the better angels in our nature. Politicians test marketed and prepackaged in order to smooth over the rough edges of intellectualism, erudition or worldliness that might make the public feel self-conscious about their own lack of any of those traits. Keep it simple, stupid. Always avoid complexity. Hell, scorn it if given the opportunity. Nothing more than can fit on a bumper sticker. Slogans and jingles, if you don’t mind, with the depth of a radio advertisement.

None of which should come as a surprise since, like almost every other aspect of our lives, politics and those that dwell within have been fully corporatized. Advertising and marketing is the lifeblood. Without that, well, it’s all just shit we don’t need at a price we really can’t afford. And I’m not just talking money.

In a corporate world, we put our personal comfort and security above all else. If those we bestow positions of power on ensure us our comfort and security, everything else is negotiable. Free speech. Civil rights. Public space. Compromised government. When a government’s compromised, those it purports to lead cannot claim to be free from the stain or stench of it.

Now I’m not bemoaning our fall from a 1960s paradise. I am well aware that it was an era never as pure and clean as some vocal boosters maintain. Yet, as the above quoted passage suggests, in the ongoing battle between progress and the status quo, revolution and reaction, Bilbo Baggins and Sauron, there was a point of time in the not-too-distant-past when the new guard had the old guard by the throat, demanding and receiving concessions in the way the world was run. It must’ve been heady times.

But we eased up, started taking things for granted, and it’s all been pretty well in retreat since then. Sure, there’s been seismic shifts since then but mostly elsewhere. With the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet empire, much of it bloodlessly. Latin America has shaken off its heavy coat colonialism, dictatorship and military rule to become a growing global force. China and India have fully embraced modernity in both dizzingly positive and ghastly ways.

Still, sitting here on this particular Sunday, darkness pervades much of my perspective. We’ve abrogated our duty as citizens and voters by our fierce insistence on being ignorant of matters of vital importance. Economic. Environmental. The democratic process. (Coalition in a parliamentary system? Anarchy, I say. Anarchy!) In so doing, we’ve handed over the keys of power to those who don’t have society’s best interests at heart. Demagogues. Rightwing, anti-government populists. Corporate lobbyists and big business technocrats. Ill-educated scions of the wealthy. Those claiming to stand in opposition to all that but who cave at the first sign of conflict.

It is darker still to me because as a child of the 60s (technically) but whose heart and head are really of the 70s (don’t hate me for that), I feel responsible for the present state of affairs. Me and mine were the first wave of defectors from the cause of informed and engaged citizenry to that of consummate consumers. I didn’t fight the law, so of course the law won. There wasn’t even a fucking contest. Now, I’m struggling to figure out how to make amends.

And I just can’t help feeling that I was the one who let Hunter S. Thompson down. I was part of that Generation of Swine. No amount of booze, drugs or shooting at things can ease the pain of that realization although they do help dull it somewhat.

self-indulgently submitted by Cityslikr


Mayoral Endorsement I

October 22, 2010

Some 292 days and 270+ posts since the beginning, it has come to this. The final weekend of campaign 2010. They grow up so fast and times passes so quickly.

At the mayoral level, it’s hard not to think of the past almost 10 months as one big, dispiriting cock-up. A year long orgy of slagging and recriminations directed at the very institution a near unanimous number of front running candidates want to lead. Dismal and dreary, I’d call it, enticing only at the level of vitriol generated by the discourse.

None uglier and more bitter and heated than in the office here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke. Blows have been exchanged. Invective hurled. Precious little meeting of eyes. Unsurprisingly, no consensus is possible at delivering one unified endorsement. (At the mayoral level that is. Still 6 big thumbs up from us for Karen Sun as councillor of Ward 19!)

So, we bring you three endorsements, one a day, Friday-Sunday. Up first, resident hippie, 1968 deifier and Hunter S. Thomspon wanna-be, Acaphelgmic.

My Endorsement For Mayor: Rob Ford!

In the immortal words of the Mahatma Gandhi (or perhaps it was MLK), I say, let’s tee this motherfucker up!

So you actually think Rob Ford is suitable to be mayor of the city of Toronto? A place of over 2.5 million people, representing a wide swath of the world’s populations? You truly believe that a government with over a $9 billion annual operating budget can be managed by pea-brained adages of looking after the pennies and the pounds taking care of themselves? You have no problem handing over the reigns of power to a councillor who readily admits, boasts really, about not reading reports before voting on items? It makes sense to you that slashing the number of councillors in half will somehow bring about a more responsive, approachable form of local governance?

If you’re OK with all that (and so much more lunacy to boot), if you search deep down into your soul and truly come to the conclusion that the kind of change this city needs is a coffer draining, vindictive bureaucracy purging, bring it on then. Give him the keys to the mayor’s office and all the inherent powers that go along with it. Wind him up and let him loose to have at it. Stop the Gravy Train. Respect the Taxpayer. Take Back City Hall!

And when he fails, when he falls, when he crashes and burns spectacularly, all of which he will do, probably sooner than later, because Rob Ford is simply unfit to manage such a complex and difficult task that is being the mayor of Toronto – nothing personal, you understand; anyone with his limited world view and complete lack of curiosity about anything much beyond his BBQ life would be similarly inadequately prepared for the job – when it becomes so glaringly apparent that he is a big-assed bust of an embarrassing mistake of a mayor, and has been marginalized as nothing more than that blustery, red-faced tool we’ll all regret having allowed to have been elected, we can get on with the job of really building the city.

Yes, there will be collateral damage. Repairs will have to be made. Fences mended. Apologies doled out. Probably by the bucketful.

But it will be worth it and let me tell you why.

In the inevitable disastrous wake of a Mayor Rob Ford, his ideological kin will be forced to run for cover. After an initial blush of success when a tax is cut, a union is busted or… whatever else it is that so engulfs his followers with such rage (although that seems to be about the extent of it), the reality will quickly set in, even for those who live their lives operating in the protective, impermeable bubble of right wing, libertarian belief. Governing isn’t just about saying no. A city can’t be run on the basis of simply what’s in it for you and yours. Being a successful mayor means reaching out not slapping away.

Rob Ford’s ineptitude will damage the modern day, small ‘c’ conservative, anti-government cause. Not for the blinkered, unwavering true believers, of course, who will continue to lock their jaws on the stick of dogma regardless of how hard you beat them over the head with a pipe of reason, logic and rationality. They will simply slink away, back into their dank burrows, awaiting for the next opportunity to pop back up and foul the public space with their acrid yapping, yipping and yelping.

The real damage will be done in the eyes of those who are truly justified in their anger toward City Hall. Those left behind and struggling in this city as it slowly pieces itself together from the rubble of an ill-thought out and malignantly intended amalgamation process. Citizens living in neighbourhoods where crime rates are actually too high and their prospects for bettering their lives too low. Citizens left to their own devices, stranded as they are in neighbourhoods without access to functioning public transit. When they realize (and the realization will come quickly) that their anger, frustration and resentment has been hijacked by the likes of Rob Ford and his gang of Etobicokan elitists, the gig will be up.

For a period of time after that, perhaps even with Ford still as mayor, ineffectually blustering and beating his chest and wondering why he ever ventured away from the comfy confines of his daddy’s business… that is, if he did venture away from the family business even as mayor… another solid majority of Torontonians will band together and get down to the task of building a better, more equitable 21st-century city instead of looking back and pining for a mythical town of the 1950s.

We must go forth into the darkness before emerging into the sunlight, my friends.

And for that reason I, Acaphlegmic, endorse Rob Ford for mayor of Toronto.

feistily submitted by Acaphlegmic


Head In The Toilet

July 22, 2010

We’re sitting around the office staring at each other. That is, when we’re not peaking around the corner at the plumber snaking the drain of our toilet. What exactly will he find down there, blocking up the system? I hope it’s some sort of exotic snake, a cobra perhaps. To think I might’ve been that close to death each time I sat down to go about my business. It probably won’t seem as thrilling a few decades hence, in my dotage, when such occasions are always a question of life or death.

On the other hand, Cityslikr knows what’s clogging the pipes and when he’s not looking at me or the plumber, he tries out one of those George Smitherman glares toward Acaphlegmic who lies on the couch across the room from us, smirking up at the ceiling, eyes closed, humming something that approximates a tune. He is high and Cityslikr believes he is the cause of the clog. Every time Acaphlegmic is startled awake (a frequent occurrence), he darts into the bathroom and flushes what can only be his stash down the toilet. Every time. It’s like he has no memory of any previous occasion that he does it. Which is probably the case.

A certain pall has descended down around the office since Wednesday’s night mayoral debate. This one seems to have taken it out of Cityslikr. He is unable to shrug it off, get past it and look ahead. The future’s too bleak to be looking forward to.

“One of these assholes is going to win,” he said to no one in particular. He kept wondering aloud why Sarah Thomson insisted on calling Deputy Mayor Pantalone, ‘Joey’.

“Who’s she playing to with that shit?” he demanded to know. “Who the fuck is she playing to!?”

Acaphlegmic just laughed, putting Cityslikr that much more on edge.

They have a complicated relationship, these two. Cityslikr admires what he imagines Acaphlegmic once was and detests what he’s become. Acaphlegmic admires nothing about Cityslikr, imagining he and his ilk are all that has gone wrong in the world these days. Borrowing a moniker from Hunter S. Thompson, Acaphlegmic refers to Cityslikr as part of that ‘Generation of Swine’. Cityslikr tolerates such ridicule as he, deep down, might well agree with that assessment.

“How have we let this happen?” he asks, as if he was reading my mind. The plumber pops his head out of the bathroom to answer the question, assuming I guess that Cityslikr was asking about the clog but is waved off and turns back to the task at hand. Acaphlegmic lets out another snort of bemusement.

“I mean, seriously. We didn’t do anything wrong this time. We let the bastards have their way. We bowed down at the feet of their Milton Friedman statue.”

“Gave them enough rope, what?” Acaphelgmic interjected, using that strange upper class British accent he sometimes affects for no apparent reason whatsoever. He then breaks out into a verse of The Clash’s song, Tommy Gun.

Cityslikr stares over at him, malevolence changed to dismay. The plumber joins in, singing along with Acaphlegmic from the bathroom.

Tommy Gun, you’ll be dead when the war is won.

Tommy Gun, but did you have to gun down everyone.

I can see it’s kill or be killed, [garbled, garbled, garbled] something, something…

Whatever you want you’re gonna get it!

As the song muddles on with even some startling attempts at harmonization, Cityslikr turns his attention full in my direction. He calls the front running mayoral candidates ‘henchmen’, sent in to bring down the hammer, the final blow on any remnants of the laughably called ‘welfare state’ that the city’s been trying to desperately maintain for the last 7 years.

“And when it’s all gone, guess who’s going to get the blame?” he asks. “Us. The city. Because of our alleged fiscal irresponsibility.”

He refers to Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone’s run as little more than a bone thrown our way. To make us feel like we’re not actively participating in the dismantling of the last vestiges of Trudeau’s Just Society. To assuage whatever guilt we might be feeling. To mollify us.

Before he goes any further, Acaphlegmic bolts up from the couch and onto his feet and begins reciting.

“And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.”

Ahh, Acaphlegmic certainly did love his Hunter S. Thompson. It never failed to amaze me how easily the words tripped off his tongue, how deeply imbedded in his memory they must be. How many times had he read the book? I mean, the man sometimes has trouble remembering his own address. Where did he summon this from?“So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

Recital over, Acaphlegmic sat back down on the couch, spent. But wait, he wasn’t done just yet.

“The greatest decade in the history of mankind is coming to an end and as Presuming Ed here has so consistently pointed out, we have failed to paint it black.”

Although sometimes, he did get his cultural references all entangled, much like his neuronal memory, I imagine. It is this kind of cheap sentiment, the ‘60s veneration, that drove Cityslikr nuts. The disgusted look on his face registered as much.

“Alright, which one of you boys has been playing with dolls again?”

This came from the plumber as he emerged from the bathroom holding a horribly disfigured dolls head. It was big enough that some force would’ve been necessary to push down into the drain. Cityslikr threw up his hands to such a degree of raging disbelief that I’d almost think he’d finally had it with Acaphlegmic and the break between them would actually happen this time. That is, if I hadn’t seen it a few times before but never, ever over a situation that involved a doll’s head being shoved down a toilet. This was new and there was no way of judging if it actually might be the final straw.

But the tension was broken when Acaphlegmic stood up and walked toward the plumber, never taking his eyes off the doll’s head. As he came close, he reached out his hands, cupped together. The plumber was probably much more freaked out about the situation than we were but he’d never witnessed Acaphlegmic in action before. We were used to it although this was particularly odd.

Acaphlegmic accepted the doll’s head from the plumber who just turned back and started assembling his tools. Quickly. For about a minute, Acaphlegmic stood, staring down at the doll’s head in his hands before he turned and walked slowly and carefully back to the couch, his hands still out in front of him. He sat down, still transfixed by what the plumber had just retrieved from the toilet.

Cityslikr and I exchanged looks. Were we witnessing a real life Citizen Kane moment? Charles Foster Kane finally reunited with his Rosebud. The rediscovery of lost innocence and all that. I mean, it was too perfect, almost scripted.

“You found my bong, man.”

And the magic was gone. Once again, Cityslikr threw his hands up and stormed away from the desk toward the door, heading out for a drink no doubt. As he left, we heard a familiar refrain.

“Fucking hippies.”

I had to agree with my colleague’s sentiment. It is little wonder that the future looks so bleak if this is what’s become of the past. We may’ve thought we’d won but lost whatever ground we had gained when we stopped fighting and got all caught up celebrating at the victory parade.

The day was not a total loss, however. At least, we’d be able to use our toilet again.

novelistically submitted by Urban Sophisticat