Running For Our Lives

May 3, 2010

Standing at the back of a throng of 14,000 or so people, waiting to run Sunday’s 10k race, just over 12 hours after the failed car bomb attempt in Times Square, I am struck at just how vulnerable we are as a society. Despite the increased surveillance and information gathering in our post 9/11 world, it seems we cannot cast a net wide enough to ensnare all those looking to do us harm. (Nor is that something we should aspire to, given the assault on our liberties and freedom it would involve.) We are sitting ducks for those determined and intelligent enough.

Take this situation for example. At any point of time along the race route down one of Toronto’s main arteries, Yonge Street, cars are parked on side roads close enough to inflict serious destruction. Someone could easily drive a vehicle loaded with explosives straight into the crowd, killing a lot of people. Hell, you wouldn’t even need the explosives. Just driving a car alone into the crowds would result in a great many casualties.

Yet it doesn’t happen with any great frequency. Why is that? There is certainly enough hatred out there. Obviously the events of 9/11 along with the Bali, Madrid and London bombings have made us a little more vigilant than we were before, on our toes for shady behaviour. It was a t-shirt vendor in Times Square who first spotted the suspicious SUV (although, all SUVs look suspicious to me) on Saturday. So we now think the unthinkable and expect the unexpected.

However, a bigger reason we live essentially terrorism free, I assume, is that organized large scale attacks simply aren’t that easy to pull off. What made 9/11 so spectacular, along with the high death and injury count, was the very fact it was executed to such a degree of perfection. It was dependent on a level of coordinated planning, dedication, selflessness and luck that doesn’t coalesce all that easily or often. The fact that United flight 93 was interrupted by passengers and brought down before it hit its target in D.C. speaks to how important the element of surprise is for such plans to work.

Of course, I’m spending much more time thinking about all this now than I did yesterday. It was merely a fleeting thought as I made my way down Yonge Street much less fleetingly.

What a gas to have the street all to ourselves, running through red lights, marveling at the cars waiting on the side streets. I mean, seriously folks. This is going on for a couple hours. You don’t want to turn around, find yourselves a detour?

To sing a very familiar refrain: Toronto is a far more pleasant place without vehicular traffic. Of that, there can be no argument. There’s less noise and pollution. A more easy going vibe fills the vacuum of their absence. As I make my way along Richmond Street, I think to myself, what a wonderful world it would be without cars. If there is a war on cars going right now, it should not only continue but escalate. If there’s not, there should be.

All of which I have a mind to tell mayoral candidate George Smitherman as he and his purple shirted entourage pass me at about kilometre 8. However, I am immediately consumed by a competitive edge. If I beat no one else in this race across the finish line, it will be George Smitherman and his pack of shiny-faced campaign workers. That will be victory enough.

I’m still lagging behind as we make it to 9k and then up and over the Bathurst Street bridge just south of Front Street. Turning onto Fort York Boulevard, however, I turn the jets on, blowing past the Smitherman team with the finish line in sight. There is no counter attack and I leave the Smitherman team in my dust.

Rival candidates take note. It seems that George Smitherman is vulnerable down the home stretch of a race.

victoriously submitted by Urban Sophisticat


Angry Torontonian Rant #1 (In A Minor)

May 2, 2010

(In a bid to be seen as less partisan and as fair and balanced as the next guy, we here at All Fired Up in the Big Smoke are handing over today’s space to Angry Torontonian #1. He/she is fed up with the way things have been going down at City Hall in recent years and believes we are just enablers and downtown core sissies who think we know better than everyone else. Or something like that. No one is listening to him/her and he/she are demanding to have his/her voice heard. Since we imbibed heavily last night at some birthday celebrations, we say, hey, knock yourself out, Angry Torontonian #1. Have at it.)

… Am I on yet? Is this thing working? Testing, testing… ?

OK, yeah so, anyway. I was out last night, whooping it as I usually do every Saturday night, having some drinks, nachos and stuff. And as usually happens, right, I fall asleep on the streetcar heading home. I’m pretty sure it was a streetcar although I did wake up on the subway or should I say I was rudely woken up by one of those TTC union thugs, telling me to get up and go home as if it was that easy, right? I’m like, where? Finch Station and it’s like in the middle of the night. Yeah, I know. There’s the bus but I’m just saying it’s not as easy as Mr. Lazy Ass Union Guy makes it to be, OK. He’s probably got like a chauffeur or something to get home at this time of night and he can’t even offer me a ride? Typical union guy.

Anyway, I fall asleep again on my way to the bus stop because it’s not all that obvious where exactly the stop is. You’d think I’d know by now too because this isn’t the first time this exact same thing has happened to me. Shit happens, right?

Long story short, I wake up again early but light out. Too early for the Sunday subway, so it’s again with the bus ride down Yonge. Except that I don’t have enough money on me. No tokens, tickets. I’m busted, is what I’m admitting to and do you think a bus driver, Mr. Compassionate Union guy would let me on? Clearly I’m not just some drunken bum trying to scam a ride for free. Like hey Mr. Bus Driver. I read that you make like 100 Gs a year, just driving your bus. And you can’t front me a little cash-ish?

This is why I hate the unions. They don’t understand the regular people that depend on them to get back and forth to work and back and forth to home again. They’ve lost the common touch with their cushy jobs. I am a hard working citizen who just had a little too much fun the night before and spent a little too much money and now just needed a little understanding. Good luck with that, right? From a union guy?! I don’t think so.

So there I am left to my own devices, on foot, walking home. One foot in front of the next and so on and so on.

I don’t know how long this goes on for but it seems like hours. Finch. Sheppard. Man, there’s a lot of terrain to cover up in those parts, let me tell you. It goes on forever. No wonder all those people have two, three cars. You do not want to be trapped up there if one of them breaks down and you have to depend on the TTC. That would be a nightmare.

So I finally get to somewhere near Eglinton when it dawns on me that I could just stop at an ATM and draw out a little money to get home with. How dense is that? Walking for fucking miles thinking I’m penniless and I got my bank card burning a hole in my back pocket! Give me a break, huh. I’m like seriously hungover.

As I start looking around for a bank machine, a crowd of people catches my attention. What’s going on, I wonder. Maybe a car crash or something. A murder even! So I rush over to see what’s up only to find a bunch of idiots, dressed in shorts and tshirts with million dollar running shoes. Runners. Thinking they’re going to escape old man death by running. What a waste of time if you ask me. Not to mention waste of space either. There’s like thousands of them and they’re taking up all of Yonge Street all the way downtown and beyond. So a bus isn’t even going to get me down there without some major detour and nobody here seems all that interested in letting me know where the nearest bus stop is. They’re all too busy stretching and huffing and puffing.

Here’s what drives me nuts. Why are we letting runners and bikers and rollerbladers etc.,etc. always take over streets that were clearly made for cars? Roads are for traffic, OK. And traffic means cars. End o’ story. And trucks. Traffic means cars and trucks. End o’ story. If you want to run or ride, go run or ride somewhere else like a gym or a track.

This is the problem with the city these days. It spends too much time trying to keep people happy. I mean, people like runners and bikers and the like. Not people like business people and everyday Joes like me. People who do real work for a living and contribute to the city. Traffic means business even on a Sunday. Traffic means cars. And trucks. Not bikes and jogistas (ha, ha. I just made that one up.)

If a normally hard working guy like myself can’t easily get home after a Saturday night of partying, then this city just isn’t working. Instead it is going to hell in a handbasket. Something’s got to change.

angrily submitted by Angry Torontonian #1