“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.”
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. How 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.
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. (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? All 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
Thumbs down on the new design. It looks like you’re writing about gardening or a love of cats.