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.
Better.

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.

Amen.

Saturday, November 29, 2003

THRILLER!

If my brother had not been there to see it himself, the truth would have been wasted on me alone.

I should mention that we had also been drinking.
. . .and were drunk.

The scene: once again, Broadview and Gerrard!

My brother and I spot someone who is either taking a break from jamming with their "Teen Wolf" tribute band 'The Michael P. Keytones', or is a full-fledged wolfman!
Obviously no matter which one turned out to be true, the night was about to take a turn for the radical!

A couple seconds of gaping more, and our eyes had it: a real, live, WOLFMAN--in our neighbourhood!! For kids that grew up with "Thriller" on their record player, life does not get any better than this! But as soon as the Wolfman realised that it was he we were staring at, he took off with super-human speed. . .and ran directly for. . .Kentucky Fried Chicken. We called after him: "Wolf in the hen house! Wolf in the hen house!"
Which is funny.
And horribly mean.
But we were drunk.
And it was meant as a warning to the Colonel that something wicked his way comes.

It's still pretty funny.
. . .I mean, laughing at the wolfman's misfortune doesn't make us a monster like him, does it? I mean, not monsters on the outside. Maybe just monsters inside.

"WOLF IN THE HEN HOUSE!!"

Are you thinking right now: "Since he's been so mean to that unfortunate man, God will give him a child that suffers from the same condition"?
I'm thinking, "Cool".

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

Underwhere?

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.