Political Thoughts From The Love Shack

For those of you assigning my absence at this site to being lost in pursuit of pure and utter carnality, having last seen me being carted off a dance floor tucked under the arm of… how was it described.. ? “… one of the [statuesque] blondes just as Come Sail Away by Styx kicked into high gear”, allow me to set the record straight.

1) While it was Styx that played me out of the bar, the song was Lady not Come Sail Away.

2) The [statuesque] blonde in question is named Cerise and while she is on the tall side, statuesque may be somewhat hyperbolic. In bare feet, she is no more than 4 inches taller than I, and I am certainly not a tall man.

3) That most definitely was an impersonator of my person in this week’s comment sections. I have remained faithful to my vow of abstinence with KFC since the retainer incident. So I would hardly be gallivanting around the countryside with a bucket by my side. Also, I have no idea what a ‘speedball’ is.

4) Holed up as we have been in her quaint farmhouse all by its lonesome in the hinterlands of Dufferin County, our intercourse, as it were, has hardly been to the exclusion of anything outside of the primal kind. After all, we aren’t base animals, blind to all but our corporal desires.

In fact, over the past week, Cerise and I have discovered a mutual love of municipal governance and civic legislative structures. (I think this one may be a keeper!) Between mouthfuls of bonbons and tankards of merlot, we debated the merits of prescriptive versus permissive powers, the nature of the so-called ‘in between’ cities, the ridiculously inflated rock star persona of Richard Florida. And, of course, we both mooned over Saint Jane Jacobs.

More to the point, it was during a heated discussion about Thomas J. Courchene that I was struck by an idea that is pertinent to the discussion here over the last few days. In his June 2005 IRPP Working Paper entitled Citistates and the State of Cities: Political-Economy and Fiscal-Federalism Dimensions, Courchene suggests that, traditionally, municipal governments – deprived of actual fiscal and legislative powers by their respective provinces – have been little more than caretakers or purely administrative units. That is to say, doing the grunt work for their superiors.

Think the British Raj in India. Local government answerable ultimately to their political masters in a faraway place. Or to bring it closer to home, as Professor David Siegel has framed it, municipalities are merely vehicles for decentralized provincial service delivery. Provinces say “jump” and cities ask “how high”. From that vantage point, Rocco Rossi’s Empire Club speech should be seen as merely an extension of that mindset.

And who’s to say that the voters of Toronto don’t share Rossi’s point of view? If the newspapers and polls are to be believed, we no longer remain in thrall to Mayor Miller and his minions’ (again, borrowing from Courchene) ‘policy-intensive and participation/accountability-enhancing’ approach to governing this city. Perhaps, Rossi simply recognizes our latent desire to want someone else to tell us how to live our lives and therefore rid ourselves of the responsibility to accept the consequences of our own decisions. Maybe deep down in our heart of hearts, we Torontonians are simply of the administrative sort; reactive rather than proactive.

There’s no shame in that. Unfortunately, little excitement either. But hey, what are you going to do? Unburdened by responsibility, we have more leisure time to eat bonbons and drink merlot.

satiatedly submitted by Acaphlegmic

We Got Totally Punk’d

Yep. We got played. We got duped. Flim-flammed, hoodwinked, bitch slapped with our dress shirts at the cleaners.

We were had, is what I’m saying.

Hang the rich.

It seems that the invite we received for a weekend in the country (and wrote about here on Friday) was extended with fingers crossed behind the back and tongue firmly planted in cheek. After packing up our gear and heading north to Caledon, we found ourselves on a muddy trail, staring out at an abandoned, dilapidated barn. Thinking maybe we had misread our Google map and retracing some of our steps, 45 minutes later we were back in front of the same barn. Suspicions now aroused, we called the number we’d been given only to discover that it was the automated system for road conditions in Peel county.

At which point of time, all hell broke loose in the car. Accusations were hurled. Fingers pointed. One punch was even thrown, but wildly and the only damage inflicted on the rearview mirror. Things might’ve turned really ugly if we hadn’t been interrupted by a truckload of men with shotguns, wanting to know what we were doing on their property. When they realized we weren’t a bunch of local teenagers looking for someplace to get drunk but rather 3 lost Torontonians, well, things turned rather ominous. It was only by offering up the turducken which we had planned to cook for Saturday dinner that saved us from a grisly fate, I believe. So distracted by the concept of a chicken stuffed into a duck and stuffed again into a turkey that the men in the truck temporarily forget their complete and utter hatred of anyone from Toronto and they allowed us to go free with the promise of never setting foot in the Peel region again.

A promise I was happy to abide by starting immediately but found myself outvoted on the issue. It turned out Acaphlegmic had spent a magical month one summer a few decades earlier with a beloved great aunt in the nearby town of Orangeville. Why waste the weekend and all the packing and planning we’d done to just head home again? Besides, Orangeville was in Dufferin county not Peel, so the men in the pickup couldn’t possibly take issue with our presence there if we happened to encounter them. Could they?

I for one was all for not finding out but again was outvoted. So off to Orangeville we drove and with Acaphlegmic’s photographic memory we found his great aunt’s house, not far from the main drag of the older part of town. What Acaphlegmic had failed to remember, however, was that his great aunt had died nearly 20 years ago, so no longer owned the house where we found ourselves on the porch, knocking at the door. The current owner hadn’t known Acaphlegmic’s great aunt but seemed to be nice enough although we made sure not to mention from where we hailed given the previous reaction to our place of residence.

With our plans foiled once more, I suggested heading home only to find myself in the minority again. Before departing his former great aunt’s house, Acaphlegmic inquired as to where we might find ourselves some suitable lodgings for the evening. The man simply chuckled, saying we’d have no luck on that front as there was snoball tournament in town for the weekend and everything would be booked up.

Snoball?” Urban Sophisticat inquired, surprisingly interested, it struck me. Apparently snoball is the game of softball played in the inclement weather of January. There would be 50 or so teams from all over the place playing in the tournament. So accommodations would be at premium.

Figuring that would be the end of it, I stepped from the porch back toward the car only to be stopped up when the man offered us room in his old camper out back with a little space heater for warmth. “It’ll only cost you a couple sawbucks,” he said. “Each.” Surprised my traveling companions were even discussing it, for the third time that night I was on the losing end of the decision and found myself unpacking my suitcase into a pop-up trailer that smelled of barbequed something. “Do we even know what a sawbuck is?!” I asked the other two. They didn’t but weren’t particularly concerned. (Turns out a sawbuck is worth $10.)

This is when the evening and weekend got especially strange.

After settling into the trailer, we headed out to grab a bite to eat and catch a little of the Orangvillian nightlife. We wound up at a place called T.J. Hangar’s in a stripmall-y area of town. “It was impossible to miss,” we were told because of the big yellow airplane stuck into its roof. It was true. The place was impossible to miss.

Inside was packed with what I assumed to be snoballers. My guess is many of them were also snowmobilers, given the large numbers of adults running around in suspendered snow pants. It was a heavily muscled, tattooed, paunchy crowd of men, ranging in age from mid-20s to their 60s. The female folk were a little less generic although my guess is every one of them who played in the tournament smoked cigarettes. There was also a short, squat contingent of an indeterminate gender that made their presence felt with frequents bursts of “Oh yeah! Fuckin’ eh!!!”s.

All of which led me to believe that our stay there would be short but again I was caught unawares. Turns out Urban Sophisticat was a bit of a ball player in his day and he fell in with a team from Grimsby who adopted him and by the time the games started on Saturday morning, he was filling in for them. Playing under the name ‘Rusty’ and outfitted in a wacky hat and yellow pants, he held down the position of shortstop, replacing the real Rusty who’d fallen into a boozed induced coma much earlier in the weekend than usual.

For his part, Acaphlegmic took to the dance floor and was soon shaking his booty with a bevy of statuesque blondes that I learned later weren’t part of the tournament. The last I saw of him was on Friday night as was carried out of the bar under the arm of one of the blondes just as Come Sail Away by the Styx kicked into high gear. I’ve heard hide nor hair of him since and if he’s reading this now, just drop me note to let me know you’re OK.

Me? I spent the rest of the weekend alone in the trailer, reading the Toronto newspapers that I found around town. My host, Joseph who went by the nickname Billy (no, I didn’t ask why), stopped by regularly to make sure I was enjoying the trailer. I tracked down Urban Sophisticat to watch a couple of games but when the rain started on Sunday and he was vying for the championship of Division C, I’d had enough. Assured that he’d have no trouble finding his way back home, I hoped into the car alone for the hour or so drive back to Toronto.

And I vowed to myself that I would never leave the city again under any circumstances whatsoever.

exhaustively submitted by Cityslikr