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.