Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Piece of mind.

I recently overheard a conversation between two teenage girls on the 504 King Streetcar that caught my interest.

Pretty much any conversation catches my interest so long as it saves me from minding my own business or has nothing to do with gutting eavesdroppers.

I suspected that these two pretty Hoochies were on their way to the Don Jail; see if you come to the same conclusion.

Girl A- I'm tellin' you, I'm afraid of him.
Girl B- Then why are we goin' to see his sorry ass?
Girl A- Girl, you know how it is.
Girl B- Yeah.
Girl A- I just wish that I had more protection at home than a buddah knife.
Girl B- Like what? A gun?
Girl A- Naw. Just a bigger knife. Steak knife, maybe.

The girls went about checking each other's hair and doing some last minute preening before getting off the streetcar at Gerrard--my stop.

I last saw them heading towards the long line winding down the wheelchair ramp at the Don Jail.

I got me thinking about my own security.
I have only a cast iron alligator-shaped nut cracker to defend myself and my own.
I know that my girlfriend's mother has a Christmas Nutcracker soldier that stands five feet tall, and has scary eyes; I may try to conscript his services.

"Why buy the cow when the milk is free?"

Now that Christmas is over, and New Year's Eve nearing its annual go-around, it's time to start focusing on Valentine's Day.

And nothing pleases me more than to deliver a story of unconventional romance straight from the heart of Toronto's zaniest neighbourhood east of Yonge St.--the Arse of Riverdale!

Bruce Cockburn never said that being lovers was a safe proposition; apparently employees of Riverdale Farm share Cockburn's mother-like apprehension.

I wonder if this is what Stompin' Tom would call a 'Thunder Bay Thursday Afternoon'?

Oddly enough, the encounter was shunned by the "dauntless" reporters of The Friends of Riverdale Farm who chose to favour more mainstream newsworthy events. Even then, the "Friends" news is so sanitized and Bowderdized that their on-line publication can barely pass for something more than 'fairy tales'. Following are examples from the "News" page with modest injections of the truth: "English Black Sow 'Mathilda' and the birth of her piglets" (out of wedlock); "Cotswold Twin Male Lambs 'Frosty & Icicle' born at Riverdale Farm on January 24th" (were sent to Italy after being caught in an incestuous embrace); "Goat - Alpine Doe 'Kaboom' had a single birth, 1 female kid 'unnamed' yesterday around 10 am" (and was quickly taken into American captivity as 'Detainee Kaboom' and 'Detainee Unnamed').

The City of Toronto also failed to deliver honest and objective coverage of the 'Riverdale Romance', even though their "Purpose" as outlined on their website clearly states that Riverdale Farm will try to provide ". . .the opportunity to experience the atmosphere of a small Ontario farm".
Show me a small Ontario farm (besides 'SizeSmall Farm') where there isn't a little sex between the species going on and I'll show you a time bomb waiting go off! You'd be able to cut the sexual tension with a knife.

I also noticed that on the list of words one might hear at the Riverdale Farm the glossary fails to define recent expressions I feel would be helpful for visitors, such as: beastiality or unconsentual sexual relations; dismount; assault with a weapon; animal midwifery. The farm should be more than just 'a slice of country' for the children of large 'c' Conservatives.

Lastly, is anyone surprised that beer was involved?
Can the police really charge a guy for having his beer goggles on?
Surely there are some men amongst us that can sympathise with the situation?
And who was Mr. Kottaris trying to impress by running into the horse stall? Not only was that a "dangerous" move; but when was the last time you heard someone exclaim, ". . .and he was hung like a MAN!"
I doubt Holly, the resident mare, was the least bit impressed.
Perhaps Rooster, the gelding, took a mild interest.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Fledgling George Washington

I have noticed that it is cherry season in Little Chinatown again, a time when young virgins giggle at the idea of having one of THOSE inside of them (while secretly worrying about what happens to the stem and pit when their cherry is popped).

And it made me think of a time, last year, when I bore witness to drama played out over the most common form of felony--the casual sample. In this case, the 'casual sample' serving size was above the recommended, and comprised of an entire fistful of the luscious red fruit.

On the corner of Broadview and Gerrard is a place I like to call 'The Bazaar'. One can roam the sidewalks browsing through the many commodities available, living or dead, legal or illegal, edible or simply advertised as such. Many merchants patrol their goods along the sidewalk in an effort, I assume, to discourage thieves, as it certainly isn't to provide product knowledge.

(while standing over a basket of little blue crabs wrestling for their lives)
B- How do you cook these little fellas?
A- Dolla four-nine.
B- Yes, but how do you cook them?
A- (begins to package some up)
B- I don't want any--I don't know how to cook them.
A- (holds up a crab for my approval) Good?
B- I don't know--I don't want any. No crab for me.
A- (dumps bag of crabs out and turns back on me, newly-liberated crabs try to hide under other crabs)
B- How do you. . ah, nevermind.

I almost bought one to let loose in my bother and his wife's house as a playmate for the cat, but didn't. His wife is a redhead and I still have too much to live for.

What I'm about to descirbe unfolded like a Hong Kong action movie version of the classic 'David and Goliath' tale.
The casual sampler is A.
Storekeeper is B.
Casual sampler looks like he spent the under aboard Captain Morgan's ship "The Pisstanker".

A- (grabs a HUGE handful of cherries, stems and all, and begins eating them like you would an apple)
B- NO! You--NO! (grabs the forearm of A and begins to pull it away from his mouth)
A- (silent, but bent on eating cherries, continues to struggle, his lips reaching for the fist with the fruit. . .red juice trickles out of his mouth)
B- NO! (something in Chinese--sounds like cursing, or a call for help, but definitely not a song)

Back and forth the fist of cherries goes, and it looks for a moment that the men are too evenly matched for one to win. Cherries are flying everywhere; some half-chewed, some still saleable.

A- (begins to yell) Hey! Hey hey hey!
B- (still cursing, absolutely not lyrics to a song)

In this situation, and if I were B, I would have let the vagabond's forearm go, as his fist would have likely catapulted the cherries into his own face. B, however, had different plans: wrestle it out. Good on him!

They jerked the fist of cherries back and forth until there was but one left in A's hand, which A managed to pop in his mouth. The shopkeeper looked very upset, and his mood wasn't helped by the gloating laugh of the nere-do-well. Johnny No-Good pushed his luck when, in response to the shopkeeper's scolding (part in English, part in Chinese, mostly just finger-waving) was to spit the ill-gotten fruit pit in the face of his critic. The pit bounced neatly off the proprietor's forehead.

A- (loud, for the crowd) I don't know what yer sayin', but I ain't done nothin' wrong.
(the irony literally staining the plaque on his teeth blood red)
B- (for himself, kicked the man in his left shin)

Neighbours and friends descended on the scene to add distance between the two men, both very very angry and ready to rumble. As a final act of defiance the hobo grabbed an orange off the stand and bit into it. . . then spat it out, realising that an orange demands more commitment than cherries, and will only yield its fruit if peeled.

Just another day at the market.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

"There's a Brown-Sheared Choda Finch at the feeder!"

In the small town I called home for so many years of my life (and still harbour great affection for) eccentrics were the norm, not the exception. Everyone has something about them that, in this fine city, would cause people to cross the street to avoid contact (or, at the very least, wish that they had). People wore cowboy hats in church, or kept Christmas lights on their house until August, or got drunk and shot the neighbour's Christmas lights off their house with a rifle, or got drunk got naked put a paper bag on their head and tormented their ex-girlfriend.

I am especially fond of that last one: got drunk got naked put a paper bag on their head and tormented their ex-girlfriend. I mean, where else can something like that happen and have it seem more hilarious than frightening?

A jilted ex-lover, drunk and missing his former squeeze, one night decided that the best way to recapture that "lovin' feeling" was to pay her a visit 'in cognito'. Lacking any real skill for disguise, and being more drunk than clever, the fellow reasoned that the materials at hand were enough to satisfy his need.
The materials happened to include all of one item: a single brown paper bag, slightly used.

Hoping, in his drunken haze, that just seeing him again might feed a flickering flame back to a fiery passion he put his best attribute forward and left the house without his pants.
Or shirt.
Or socks. . .actually, he may have had socks on--the paper didn't say.

Arriving at his ex's house he crept about in the bushes, bag on head, hoping against all hope that he might escape discovery and catch a glimpse of her, oh--I don't know, climbing out of the shower NAKED. Washing the dishes NAKED. Maybe running the vacuum over the mud room rug NAKED. Sighing deeply the whole while, wishing that some sweaty middle-aged man with 18 fingers of rye down might come and exorcise the boredom of her world with his member.

There are no accounts of how long it took her to notice the man wearing the bag mask and stomping about her geraniums with his dingly-do swinging about between his legs like some half-dead monkey clinging to a tree in a hurricane, but my guess is "not long".
Which was surprising, considering that he had taken great pains at discretion.

Ideally, when he saw her picking up the phone, it was to call him, and he wouldn't be home; that would cause desire in her, perhaps even a bit of jealously--"Out having fun with another woman!"--and just when her evening couldn't get any worse, Ding Dong! and there he'd be!

So when the police arrived, he pretended that he was just out for some fresh air.

And when the police asked him why he had no clothing on, and was wearing a paper bag where most men in town wear John Deere hats, he plead ignorance. The paper didn't say if he attempted to affect the "Who. . .wha. . .where am I? What's happening?" but if he's anything like me in a pinch, then the paper would have been wasting ink--the weather column doesn't print that the sky will be blue when you wake up tomorrow, with a 30% chance of rain; you already know.

"Yes, officer? Can I help you?"

That would have been a smooth line, too.

The paper also neglected to note whether he was photographed by police with or without clothing, and bag on or bag off. It would have been interesting collecting his personal belongs before admitting him to the holding cell: "One brown bag w/ eye holes". I'd love to find that outside my house one morning.

Thinking about the story now, it reminds me of that joke about 'sealing the deal' on a date with someone who was so ugly that they needed to wear a bag on their head to make love. He was, according to witnesses, a double bagger.

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Not Wanted at the Inn.

Recently my brother and his wife were on a retreat to downtown Toronto when, early in the morning, they bore witness to a contemporary variation of a classic story. A classic bestselling story, I should say.

Danielle Steele? No.
John Grisham? No.
Anne-Marie MacDonald? No.

The Bible.

This story begins with two men fighting in the street. Cain and Abel? No.
Are they like the sex-crazed men Lot defended the Angels from in Gomorrah? No.

Then when, you may be demanding, are we going to get to the Bible?

In fact, the opening of the story doesn't remind me of any part of the Bible; that comes later. They were just two men in a quarrel. A big one. . .
. . .and they were outside an INN. A Holiday Inn.
This is where, for me, the story starts taking on some more Biblical qualities. As the men disengage, one retreats to the inn, and the other is left in the street to proclaim himself the victor. Calling after the fleeing vagabond, he warned "Come back here, mother fucker! I'm gonna kill you!".

He didn't sound like he was lying. He was all business. Not like some of those other people who strut and preen around Toronto issuing hollow death threats; this guy wasn't a poser like those losers.
My brother and his wife just so happened to be going into the Holiday Inn as well, and caught a brief exchange between the Inn Keeper and this wayward Son (we are, after all, God's children no matter how infrequently we're sober). They caught the conversation just as the Inn Keeper was saying, "We have no more room! No more! All the rooms are gone!"

Sound familiar?

Dejected by the news, this lost lamb tried to reason with the Inn Keeper.
"He's going to kill me! That guy out there is going to kill me! You have to let me stay here!"
The Inn Keeper toed what must be nearly a two thousand and four year old line familiar to anyone who doesn't celebrate the birth of Saint Nick, and repeated that there was no room at the inn. There wasn't even an offer of a stable.

"If he kills me, then I'm going to sue you!" seethed the man.

And just like Christ, this man would rise from the dead to perform that most American of miracles: the lawsuit.


Friday, November 28, 2003

Don Jail Baggie Discovery!

Latest evidence reveals new secrets about Don Jail incarcerees!

Anthropologists the world over recognise this latest find as definitive evidence that men in the Don Jail wore, while carousing, a hat like the legendary Bob Denver wore on his groundbreaking series "Gilligan's Island".

These most recent findings are based on the discovery of a Don Jail personal belongings bag found outside the Coffee & Donut STOP at the corner of Broadview and Gerrard, and the inscription it bore: 1 black Gilligan hat.

Authorities in the field have now set about the arduous task of understanding the meaning of the find. What was the significance of the Gilligan hat? Was its function the same as contemporary hats, or did it serve as mark of distinction or denotation of caste? Was it 'one size fits all' or did the Gilligan hat discriminate between those with average heads, and those with large ones?

Already industry journals have begun to hint that this new discovery of the "Gilligan Hat" may replace the aging "Shroud of Turin" as an object of curiosity and speculation. The "Shroud"'s popularity has been waning in recent years as experts revealed that many men of the time, and even of today's time, sport beards.

Thursday, November 27, 2003


Earlier in the day I mentioned underwear briefly. . .I'll give you a minute if you missed that one. . .and I'd like to share another story about this handy little accessory.

At the Brewery we recently hosted the Young Liberals, who partied the night away, and really rocked the place out. But most Young Liberals saved some of their best rocking for when Prime Minister in Waiting Paul Martin arrived to smile down upon his disciples.

The excitement for some was too much.

The excitement for one young man was too much for his colon to bear.

As the dazzle and sparkle faded, and the music died, we began to pick up the pieces of what will stand, for many weeks at least, as the largest collection of Young Liberals in our Brewery at one time. It was in this afterglow that the discovery was made.

One young fellow, bullied and overwhelmed by his own digestive system, had clearly had an accident.
To say that 'he shit his pants' would fall short of capturing the full picture.
For the faint of heart, or those eating pudding, drinking chocolate milk, or enjoying a slice of pecan pie, turn away from the screen.
For those who wish to bear my burden with me, read on.

In what appeared to be one, perhaps two, completely unregulated colonic releases, this Young Liberal had turned his underwear into an contemporary art piece. The impact on his drawers was so devastating--so saturating-- that he chose to leave them behind. Some Marine he would make.
The abandoned undergarment lay on the floor of stall three, languishing in a landscape equally devastated by additional shotgun discharges of efluence. This was no longer stall three, not to me. This was Vesuvius. This was Mount St. Helens. This was a land so depressed and scared by a digestive eruption that it bore no resemblance to the stall three we had all known. It was a sight so shocking that even now, if I try to remember stall three the way it was before the accident, the only image that I can conjure is of a pasture, filled with daisies, and a lone unicorn standing placidly in the summer's breeze. Clearly, that is not the way stall three once was.

If I ever find myself in a position where I'm considering whether my underwear should stay or go, I wonder what I would choose.

Drunkin' Donuts

My happy little family lives near the Don Jail.

We play on the same street that small time crooks, cat mutilators, drunks, and hardened murderers call home. When they've done their debt to society, these same crooks are vomited back into circulation a stone's throw from our front door. From where I rest my head on my pillow, when the hedges are clipped just right, I can watch them rediscover freedom. . .and occasionally take a piss on the building.
Or run for their first beer in days--maybe even weeks!

Which means that we, the crooks and I, use the same transit stop.

Which, statistically, means that I've shared a morning commute with countless nere-do-wells over my tenure in the city. I try to look my best for them.

And the anthropology has been great!
See, these dudes get kicked out of the Don with all their personal belongings (for some, this accounts for 'all their worldly belongings' as well) in a baggie. On the baggie is a list of the contents that the aforementioned criminals had on their person at the time of their arrest. The list is to stand as a record that "Johnny No-Good had thirty-four cents, nail clippers, a pornographic deck of cards, and a red mesh cap when the Man came a' knockin'--SO DON'T TOUCH! He'll be back to claim these things once his life has cooled down a little."

The first unlawful act that most newly re-patriated men do, excusing the ones who urinate on the Don, is litter. The little baggie sets sail in the dusty Don Valley breeze, and the reinstated member of the voting populous is at large. I've found that these baggies make great reading.

The best--absolute best--that I have ever read on one of these baggies also happens to carry the distinction of being the BIGGEST baggie that I have ever seen as well. This huge baggie read: wallet (empty), 6 keys, pack of 6 chocolate donuts.
Who gets sent to the hoosegow with a three day supply of donuts?
And the other question that begs asking--
Were the donuts still edible when he got them back?

If you were picked up by the coppers today, what would your evidence baggie read? Something else to consider in the morning while you're putting on your clean underwear; Mom was always afraid that you'd befall an accident with dirty drawers, but never cautioned you about incarceration with a Britney Spears album.

Think about it.

Monday, November 24, 2003

The High Life

The 504 King Streetcar has been diverted for a number of months.
This inconvenience was clearly taking its toll on the ridership--people were on edge, depressed, and more confused than usual.
But Sunday, November 23rd marked a return to normalcy for those of us east of Yonge Street, and the elation for some was hard to contain.

One gal captured the excitement best when, upon hearing the good news, cheered, "Right the fuck on! Life is pretty fuckin' good, eh?"
Then she took the bottle she was holding, which was clearly not Crystal Springs Water, pressed it to her lips, flung her head back and took a rock star sized swig.

Though no one said it, everyone was thinking it: the chick's got a point--life is pretty fuckin' good.

Monday, November 17, 2003

The Phantom Slur

I am many things, but a random name-caller I am not.
At least, not usually.

Waiting on Yonge St. is always a trip; what kind of trip depends on the time of day. Night time is my favorite; the crazies in the city find the dark liberating. It gives them enough shadows to hide in so that they can get up to enough mischief to entertain me. And the best way to attract the attention of these free spirits of the night, is to try and not attract attention. The more common and innocent you look, usually the more suspicious you become to them.

The stage: a bit of sidewalk outside Starbucks at King and Yonge.
Yours truly barely minding my own business, let alone anyone else's, and this rough version of The Scarecrow in 'The Wizard of Oz' goes rolling by. Stops. Comes back to me and says:

A- "Did you just call me 'Puke', man?"

I was taken aback by a few things. His appearance wasn't especially 'crazy'; it was how close of a look I was getting at it. He was right in my face. I was trying to read a detective novel. It looked as though the mysteries of Chapter 13 would have to wait.

B- "Uh. . .no. I didn't."
A- "Shit. I'm cracking up, man! I'm cracking up!!"

He was.

He proceeded to ask me, at a more comfortable distance, my opinion. It was to set the next course of his life, and he figured that I was the guy destiny had chosen to direct him.

His question?

A- "Should I stay, or should I go?"
B- "That depends. Where will you stay, and where would you go?"
A- "I would go to London."
B- "Ontario?"
A- "Yeah."
B- "The Forest City! It's nice, pal. I'm from near there. You should go there; get out of this busy city."
A- "If I go there, I'm going to the looney bin."
B- ". . .oh."
A- "I'm A-WOL from there. The looney bin in London."
B- ". . .oh. Well, maybe you should stay here. . .?"

I didn't know if I should word it like a question, or a direction; I couldn't figure out if he favoured one over the other, and I didn't want him to think that I was telling him that he was a nutbar and should not pass 'Go', but go directly to the booby hatch.

A- "If I stay here I think that I'm going to kill someone and end up in jail."
B- ". . .oh."

I've said some things in the past that could be construed as 'conversation killers', but this one was all him.

All I was thinking at the time was, "Gosh. Am I ever glad that I didn't call this guy 'Puke'." And then I started trying to figure out if I should dial my cell phone on the sly and leave the line open, so that whomever I dialed could catch my last minutes on Earth. I could pull something clever, like saying "Well, any place is better than standing on the corner of King and Yonge talking about killing people." or "Have you ever just wanted to say, 'I love you Mom and Dad, and I wish that I had fresh underwear on'?". Or maybe even just, "Scooby-Doo, where are you!?"

But I didn't. In fact, I was concentrating so hard on what he was saying, and trying to carefully word a response, that I don't think I could have managed something even so clever as, "HEY! Look over there! Yoink."

My nutty buddy began to weigh the pros and cons of each city, gesturing occasionally with his hands (one of which clearly had a hospital wrist band on it). I listened with great interest, having no other bright ideas at the time.

He laid it out like this:
If he went back to London he could get help, but he'd be locked up in the hospital again, and likely in solitary, because he had been bad and run off.
If he stayed in Toronto, he was going to kill someone, and he would get caught because he was never good at anything.

I thought that it was too bad he was better at killing someone than he was at getting away with it. If I had my druthers, I rather have someone cut off my finger and never have the cops find him, than be dead and vindicated by the law.

We discussed the upside and downside of each option, and I told him that I thought getting out of the city would do him a world of good. I said that Toronto drove me crazy, and if I were him I'd grab a bit of peace and quiet in the good ol' Forest City if I were him.

Here's the pinch, though. He agreed with me, then asks for some money to get to London.
The fucker.
I told him that I knew how to get him a free ride to London.

Some people are always on the take, no matter how crazy or homicidal they are.

Professional Stool Pigeon

In today's economic climate, with downsizing and cut-backs, it is refreshing to know that there are some people in this world who still love their job.

Take my recent acquaintance at the corner of Yonge and Dundas for example. His chosen vocation, as he proudly announced, was:

A- "I'm a professional stool pigeon, ya see."
B- "A what?"
A- "A stool pigeon. There are a lot of guys that wish I didn't see, didn't know, what I do. I'm a listener, and then I go straight to the police when I've got something."

So a professional stool pigeon he was. He looked the role, squeezed into a ratty corduroy suit, peering out from behind glasses that looked thick enough to be the windshield for a space shuttle. But who did he squeal on?

A- "The underworld in Hamilton knows all about me. Most of the good stuff I know has already been used by the police. Now I specialize. I can't go to Hamilton anymore--they hate me there. They'll put me to bed with the fishes."
B- "I don't think that there are any 'fishes' left in the water around Hamilton."
A- "Then I guess that I'll be pretty god-damned lonely, smart ass."

I wasn't trying to antagonize him; I just needed to know more about his job. Don't people in his position usually try to hide the fact that they are operating in criminal circles as snitches? To him I must have reeked of innocence--even if he revealed himself to me, who was I going to tell. I don't, to my knowledge, have any mobsters or drug cartel kingpins programmed into my cell phone.

A- "I have a vivid imagination. I imagine that I'm James Bond when I'm crossing the street--it's the only way to get across alive! The people driving those cars are crazy!!"

Professional stool pigeon and international operative for MI-6? This little troll leads a more exciting life while he makes coco than I do even in my most daring moments.

A- "Tell me your birthday, and I'll tell you a bit about yourself. Tell you who was born around your birthday."

AND astrologer AND 'Entertainment Tonight' birthday almanac? This lake has many tributaries!

He did not proceed to reveal any truths about who I am, as May 17th proved to be a relatively boring birthday compared to February 7th, or even December 25th. But he did seem to have an impressive collection of notable Hollywood birthdays floating around in that nut of his. It was a marvelous display of 'stream of consciousness' that ended all too soon; pressing business at Dundas and Sherbourne ended our conversation abruptly, and left me on the streetcar wanting more. It was like watching half of the movie 'Rainman'--there was no heartwarming bit at the end to rationalize all the mystery and eccentricity.

And he claimed to have a special knack with the slots.
Look for this 3 Bar fella out and about, dodging cars like an international man of espionage and intrigue--you'll know him when you see him.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Party Darwinism

I'm afraid that I'm falling into a rut.

The best thing that I have to share today is yet another "party monster on the loose".

But it's pretty sassy.
From time to time it falls on my shoulders to tell a person when they've partied enough. I hate doing it, because to tell someone at their best buddy's wedding that they've had enough is very much like telling children not to throw snowballs after the first snow. They've been waiting all this time for their buddy to get married for the express purpose of getting shitty at the open bar. What is it about the novelty of free booze that makes people think that they're younger/thirstier/sexier/smarter.

Enter Smarter Man #1.
At this point in the party, I've already personally carried a drunk, a grown man that cannot stand whom I peeled off the floor in the bathroom, to a taxi cab. That was 7:30pm.
Smarter Man #1 has been cut off, and he knows it, as it was the subject of a 5 minute, round-and-round discussion he and I had.

Man- Can I have a double scotch and water?
Me- I can get you a bottle of water, or a soda, but I won't be serving you any more alcohol, sir.
Man- (blink) Are you out? I'll have a beer then.
Me- No, we're not out. I just think that it's time for you to have a water, or a pop, sir.
Man- No, I want a scotch and water. Not just water.
Me- I'm sorry, sir. . .
Man- Okay, okay, okay, a beer.

And on.

When he finally got the point, it just didn't sink in. And soon he turned up before me with a bottle of wine (his wedding favour) and wanted it opened.
I told him that we weren't serving that wine, and that I couldn't open it. But I would love to open him a water or a pop.
This is where the cro-magnan are separated from the homo habilis. Lots of fellas would be beat, would see this as a checkmate, but not this fella. He assessed the situation for a couple of seconds (the silence always kills me--they're just working so hard in that time) and then he says:

"I don't need your fuckin' opener!"

Took one step back from the bar, brought the bottle up over his head, then like the fateful blade of the guillotine he brought the bottle down and smashed the neck off on the stainless steel countertop. To which I replied:

"Dude, that is the stupidest fucking thing I have ever seen done at this bar, and I've seen some pretty fucking stupid things. What are you going to do now? The wine is everywhere, and the top of the bottle is all jagged glass; how are you going to drink out of that?"

I kid you not, he had an answer, lickity-split.

"Can I have a cup?"

The tenacious spirit of man.

Monday, November 03, 2003

More 'Party Animal' Than Most

Weddings are always hollowed and blissful events. There are so many moments in the day, and each moment is so full of cherished memories that I would only humble myself to try and record them all.

. . .save this one.

I work at Steam Whistle Brewery, and we host a number of special events each and every week. None could be more special than the weddings that we take part in. There could also be no more special a breed of party animal than the ones found at the free bars of weddings.

Free bar.

Listen to those words. So special. So sacred. So welcomed.

Free bar.

But all good things must come to an end, and so at 1am the free bar joins all the other cherished memories, however hazy they may have become, and the special day is, for all intents and purposes, over.

For most.

I met this fella attending a wedding a month or so ago, and was just thinking of him today, and thought that I might share my own 'cherished wedding memory' with all of you. Come 1am, he and I had become very well acquainted. He was polite, a bit overweight, and not necessarily someone you would consider handsome--but he was polite and had a nice smile. And he held his liquor reasonably well, considering the volume he had consumed.

When I informed him of the depressing state of affairs concerning liquor laws in Ontario, and that the bar was officially closed for business, he was devastated. He was just the biggest fan of Steam Whistle Pilsner, and could he possibly have just a bit more--between friends.
Always the sympathetic ear, I listened intently to his pleas, and even though I adore and will protect any Steam Whistle fan's right to party--and party hard--while enjoying Canada's Premium Pilsner, the law is the law, and it's a real stinker.

I ceremoniously unscrewed the tap handle from the beer tree, and with a heavy heart, said:
"Sorry, dude. Ontario sucks."
It doesn't, but at the time it seemed like the right thing to say.
Then I jokingly suggested that there were several half-finished drinks sitting on tables all through the event hall; perhaps he should drink those, as they were perfectly legal in the eyes of the law, and only going to be dumped by yours truly into a swill bucket and given to the carp in Lake Ontario (which does suck).

With a glint in his eye like some mischievous goblin, he winked at me, smiled broadly, and tip-toed over to a table with three or more half-full glasses of Steam Whistle on it. Then, like a mercurial Frederick Banting, he began to carefully combine each glass into one. He was being so deliberate and careful--likely because he was roaring drunk and needed to dedicate all his attention and focus to the simple task--that he took on this "MacGyver-like" hero quality. He had been put in a situation where everyone had told him, "It's IMPOSSIBLE! The party is OVER! Do up your tie and behave yourself!"
And he was like, "Fuck you! I'm gonna party until the sun comes up!"

With another wink over to me, his broad smile still beaming, he brought the concoction of beer leftovers to his mouth and slowly began to pour it into his mouth. His brain, I suppose, did not give his body the order to swallow, so his mouth soon began to overflow, sending most of his carefully collected beer down the front of his shirt.
Cup empty, he licked his lips, still smiling, and gave one last wink before heading out the door. He was not, to my knowledge, aware that his blood stream would benefit very little from the beer he had collected. To him, the idea of gathering up unwanted drinks and giving them a home was the reward, not the drinks themselves. A bit like early man inventing the wheel; nowhere to go, but who cares--it's THE WHEEL!

So I ask you, all of you, what good ideas have you had when YOU were drunk lately? Were they as innovated, or as enduring?

Likely not.
Just as everyone who watches teevee isn't Marshall McLuhan; not every drunk is the ultimate party animal.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Whoops. Lost another friend.

This morning, at 5:30am, while I was waiting outside Union Station eating some street meat and watching cabs pass me by, some dude half-lit on something ran over to me with his hat in hand and said: "Got some money I can have?"

Sorry, no. It's all mine.

So he says to me, "I'm not your friend anymore!"

And I said to him, "Fine. I'm not your friend anymore EITHER!"

And I put just a little of that Grade 5 school yard sass that girls give each other when they're young. That was about as playful as I could be at 5am, being barely awake and having already decided to slowly commit suicide by eating a hot dog that may or may not have been sitting over the grill since 11pm.

This fella just blinked at me. Whatever reaction he was expecting, he didn't expect me to put an end to our friendship.

After a few seconds he scuttled on his merry way, and I last saw him soliciting help from an over weight Slim Shady with a dismal bleach job. As I stood under the street light, more cabs passing me by, I tried not to be offended that he had moved on so quickly from our friendship.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Homage to "It's a Wonderful Life"

The silence of a late summer's night was shattered by: 
 "Fuck you, bitches! I'm coming for your women!" 
Frightening? Not when you live in the neighbourhood that I do. No, murderous statements screamed into the cold dark night by unseen provocateurs, are pretty much the norm. So when this guy, a slight drunk Asian twenty-something, sped past my lookout it was pretty much business as usual. 
 "Old ladies, I am coming for you! I will kill you!! Fuck you!" 
 "Call the police! I want you to! I want them to shoot me!!" 
 and on, 
 and on, 
 and on he went. 
 His rant was filling prime air time usually occupied by a series of "zzzzzzz" coming out of my nose (they are invisible zeds, of course, but you get the idea), so I quickly tired of him and his blanket threat to "bitches", "old ladies", and the all-encompassing "you". My brother got tired of him, too. So just as we were getting ready to chase him off our street and on to another, making it their problem, a fella steps out his door and says, and get this: "Hey, Friend, why don't you come into my place and have some tea and we'll talk about what's wrong." 
 Typical bible thumper reaction. Call the guy "friend" and throw some tea on his problem. THAT'LL fix whatever is causing him to rip-roar up and down our street a 1am screaming obscenities. Chris and I were skeptical that this 'good Samaritan' could diffuse the situation. We figured that he had seen one too many Westerns where the generic 'wild one' was stared into submission by the Sheriff. 
 Our skepticism turned out to be founded, as less than four minutes of silence passed before all I heard was a mighty: 
 And saw this streak zip by my window. I think of him now only as the Asian Jimmy Stewart, who found no relief from his demons through the help of a good Samaritan or tea, and likely only slept quietly that night, thanks in no small part, to Captain Morgan.

Five Million Dollars.

Met this dude sporting what was obviously a hospital wrist band (what type of hospital, and what ward, I shall let you decide) who was entering a Starbucks I frequent just as I was leaving.

He had control of the real estate around the door, and I wasn't getting by without a conversation.

His opener?
"Five million dollars!!"

My opener?
"Wow. That's a lot of money."

Him- "That's how much the Government is paying the Stones to play at Sarstock!"

Me- "Wow."

Him- "Charlie Watts is an amazing drummer, eh?"

Me- "Yes, he is."

Him- "I used to drum, too, you know."

Me- "Really? You look like a drummer."

Him- "I saw Charlie Watts once. He was like [thrashing, drumming action--very intense]. I was a fucking disgrace!"

Me- "I'm sure that you're exaggerating. I bet you were good."

Him- "No. No, man, I wasn't. I stunk."

Seconds later the man was bounced from Starbucks by a fleet of Barista who obviously already had a prior relationship with the man, and weren't interested in his entertaining tales concerning civil expenditures or his previous drumming experience.
I had to run, anyway.

I met him another time, at another Starbucks, and he noticed that I was wearing steel-toed boots. I told him I was, and that he could stomp on my toes all day long and I wouldn't feel a thing.
He proceeded to stomp on my toes.
I felt nothing.

The Baristas at this particular store were horrified beyond action, and stood shivering in their green aprons while my friend exhausted himself with his little 'experiment'.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Mission statement

I've always felt that if you surround yourself with the ugly and the crazy, you'll be all the more beautiful and sane. It's about compare and contrast.

Polluted stream of consciousness.

As Frank Sinatra sang:

"It isn’t your sweet conversation
That brings this sensation, oh no
It’s just the nearness of you."

That's how I would describe my subway ride two nights ago, when from the belly of Castle Frank station came my new argument for mothers to do drugs while pregnant.

A scruffy fellow entered the subway car, sat, and began a stream of conversation that I imagine continued long after I deboarded the train at Bathurst.
He looked as though he should smell like a bowl of steamed skunk assholes, but he didn't.

Here, for posterity, I record the highlights.

And by "conversation" I should clarify: he spoke to an unseen provocateurer known only to our subway car as "Jew boy" the entire time.

"Hey Jew boy! You want a piece of me? Want a piece of this? If I get my piece I'll blow your head off! (pffffft) Blow it right off!"

"How long has it been? How long? Eleven years? Eleven years! And I hate you! And you've never got the title! Never got the title off me! (time-honoured motion to invisible wrestling belt around waist) It doesn't matter what name you use in the ring, you'll never get the title, Jew boy!"

"How long has it been? Thirty years? Thirty years! And I'll fuck you up, like I fucked you up all those years! And you fucked me up--messed with the wrong guy! How long has it been? Thirty fucking years!"

"Bring your regiment--bring the whole platoon! They won't get me--too scared to get me! They'll run, if I have my piece (pfffft) I'll blow them away! Or I'll turn them against you! Eleven years, and no one has got me!"

"I'm not paying you for the ambulance ride!! The driver said that I get ten rides for free! That was the tenth! I'm not fucking paying you for that ride! I don't care what drugs I'm on, I'll drive the ambulance myself if you want to charge me for the ride! I'll drive it myself, Jew boy! The driver said 'The first ten rides are free' I remember!"

"I'm feeling fucking happy fancy-free tonight!"

"They gave me eight cats for free. Eight's a lucky number."

And then I was gone. Our lives, for an instant, were on the same track; then Bathurst station came, and I went.
It isn't just his sweet conversation with the Jew boy that I miss; it's also the nearness of him.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Uncoventional homage to "Black Christmas" and "Charlie's Angels".

It is raining in our fair city today.

Many people find the rain a put-off, others simply a nuisance, but some find rainy days to be desperate times indeed.
Take, for example, this older man I saw while clickity-clacking home on the streetcar. . .nice and dry. . .feeling no need to sympathise with those stuck out in the weather. The man's most striking feature? Flowing hair like Farah Fawcett. For a man of his age, it was immaculate!
But his eyes had a wild look in them.
Like an animal in a sinking cage.
Or those unfortunate Irish folks in the film "Titanic" that are trapped in steerage.
Not nearly as playful and coquettish as Ms. Fawcett.

I saw him desperately searching in his jacket--but what for?!

His hands were moving so rapidly around his jacket he looked a bit like those old film reels of Harry Houdini doing the straight jacket escape. Only this spectacle much less impressive, as his hands were clearly unbound, and he wasn't hanging inverted in a pool of water. No, he was just standing in the rain.

A clear plastic bag was ripped from the depths of a pocket, given one quick flick, as you would a garbage bag before placing it in the bin, and then. . .well. . .pulled over his head, fading flaxen locks and all! Like netting a fish--just that quick.

The site of a wilting Farah Fawcett drag queen, practically suffocating under his own power, was like nothing I'd seen before.

I don't condone such behaviour; but I understand it.
With hair like that, the rain could fuck it around so bad that there would be no point in living.
Or, at the very least, killing enough brain cells to make it hard to recall such a traumatic event.

. . .I left him, gaping for air from behind his plastic tomb, and thought, "Buddy, your hair is still going to get fucked up."
The static charge in his hair would be his reward for such a stupid innovation in rainwear.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

The assholes are chirping!

The first full day I spent as a resident of our "living city" I witnessed likely the best example of human conflict ever!

The scene: Bay Street, near Wellington.
The players: Suit on foot; Suit in van.
The time: roughly 10am

So this 30-something guy is getting dropped off, presumably in front of his office tower, by his wife (presumably). The driver--the wife, as I have referred to her as--stopped in front of a service alleyway (woman driver, no survivor) and the two are kiss-kissing their way through a farewell. An older suit in a van pulls up and decides that he wants to shove his van down this service alleyway, but (gasp!) the car is blocking his path! The suit in the van gives his horn a friendly toot, as if to say GET THE FUCK OUTTA MY WAY!. The following scene unfolded before my eyes, much to my delight:

Foot Suit- Hey, asshole!
Van Suit- You're the asshole!
Foot Suit- Whatever, asshole!
Van Suit- Give yourself a shake, asshole!

Foot Suit does not give himself a shake and once the car pulls away, Van Suit tries to drive, quite literally, over Foot Suit. Foot Suit is left looking very much on the short end of the stick, sprinting for his life in his pointy leather shoes, his jacket no longer coolly flung over his shoulder--it's flapping now more like a flag--a flag that says "I, I am the asshole!"

What I find most exciting is that neither man wanted to escalate the cursing beyond the word asshole. I mean, the whole escapade, from first contact to attempted murder, took maybe 8 seconds. It was fabulously quick! And neither one even came close to resorting to "FUCK OFF!" or "GO FUCK YOURSELF!" or even the hybrid "You're the fucking asshole, man!". I mean, that's the evolution of communication in this city! Haven't they lived here long enough to know that you don't even say Hello! to folks in this city before saying Have you fucked yourself today?. I mean, that's the natural evolution of communication in Toronto:

A- Hello!
B- Fuck you! And how are the kids?

A- Would you like to Super Size that today, ma'am?
B- Did you just fucking call me fat? Where's your fucking manager, you teenage fucking piece of fucking shit?
A- (to the MacDonald's burger sous chef) Fucking spit in this bitch's McWrap!

I am also suspicious that the word "fuck" might possess a literal, homosexual, connotation and neither man was interested in flirting with the chance of being misunderstood. As in, "If I tell him to 'Fuck off!', will he think that I want to have penis-in-bum relations?".

But give yourself a shake? Who says that to someone?

St. Andrews Delphi

When dealing with the street life in Toronto, diplomacy is always the order of the day.

It doesn't always work, mind you.

One evening, in front of St. Andrew Presbyterian church in Toronto, I had the most remarkable series of conversations that I have ever experienced. The following is the 15 second transcript of the evening, wherein I managed to travel one half block and be damned twice in a most contradictory fashion.

I am "B", vagabond #1 is "A" and vagabond #2 is "C".

A- Hey, spare some change?
B- Sorry, not tonight, pal.
A- Got a smoke, then?
B- Don't smoke, man.
A- I'm talkin' weed.
B- Don't smoke that, either.
A- (yelling)I know you do!!

five steps pass uninterupted.

C- Give me some change.
B- Sorry, not tonight.
C- It's raining and I'm hungry, fucker!
B- I'll think about that.
C- (yelling)I KNOW YOU WON'T!

So, in the span of 15 seconds I had two different people yell two completely contradictory things at me. The second exchange was much more frightening than the first, as "C" was about as much of a crack whore as one can become, and she yelled at me much louder than "A". Plus, "A" made what I thought was a funny, though slightly ominous, character judgement based both on my appearance, and our 5 second "gettin' to know you" session. It would have been like me saying to "A" You poop in your pants!, and "A" denying it, and me countering by stating absolutely, I know you do!

And the funny thing is, in truth they both had me pegged perfectly. Perhaps we could all learn just a little bit more about ourselves if we turned to our city's downtrodden--lent them an ear.

What would they say to you? What lies would they expose?

Monday, October 06, 2003

To feed a need.

I have this need to share all the encounters I have with the hilariously crazy in this city. So many people in Toronto leave their front door, turn on the auto-pilot, and notice nothing about their surroundings until they hit the revolving door at work. Come 5pm they repeat the whole process in reverse, thus missing the rich mosaic of nutcases and slipping/tripping pedestrians that fill this city to the brim. I suggest that people look up when they go from "a to b", and notice the world around them in all its splendor. I bet all of us would be surprised at just how entertaining the commute can be.

In the words of one man I walked past recently in Parkdale:
"I'm so sick of your bull crap that I'm begging for horse crap!"
If you'll believe me, I'll tell you that he was yelling it at a book he threw in the trash cans outside his halfway house. What was the title of the victimized tome? Not "The Way Things Ought to Be" by Rush Limbaugh, nor "Does Anybody Have a Problem with That? The Best of Politically Incorrect" by Bill Maher, but "North American Bird Songs".
He either needed something to throw at the invisible party who was spewing the offending "bull crap", and "North American Bird Songs" was the only thing in arm's reach; or, he was particularly frustrated with the suggestion that the Willow Ptarmigan was slightly more rich in voice than the Helmeted Guineafowl.

If you ask me, both birds are inferior to Buffy-crowned Wood-Partridge. And I don't care what Mr. Crazy-Pants thinks of that.