Sunday, April 25, 2004

A Streetcar Named Shame

At least one man in Toronto had a rough Thursday afternoon.

And I met that unfortunate man's friend, we'll call him A, as he tried to solicit streetcar fare at Yonge and Dundas.
With suspiciously fresh n' minty breath, A explained that his buddy had been shot and that he needed change to make the fare so that he could rush to his friend's side and whisper things like "Everything is going to be okay", "Hang in there", and "Don't follow the light" into his fallen pal's ear.

If my chum was going to whisper encouragement into my ear, which I will add is quite close to my nose, I should hope that he would show me the same courtesy as this fine specimen. His breath was beyond reproach, even from my standing position halfway down the streetcar! It was as if someone had open a window on a blustery January day only to discover that it was snowing and blowing Mojito out. Dee-lightful!

Patience, not brevity, was the soul of his wit, and it eventually paid off; but apparently some riders had their doubts regarding the validity of A's story, or the severity of the injury caused to his friend.

A, having reached the summit of his goal, now faced the challenge of descending safely into a seat. By the expression on his face, this was a taxing decision. He was considering seating options with the careful attention of a Bride-to-Be examining Reception floor plans. While he weighed the alternatives available, a tiny voice squeaked:

C- "You! Sit down!"

Not the most offensive thing I've heard squeaked on the streetcar, I must admit, but to A this was an attack that wounded him deeply. He turned his entire attention to the complainant, relieved, in my opinion, to set aside the seating issue for a bit.

Focusing, as best as he could through eyes glazed over with welling tears, he gave the speaker a thousand yard stare that was meant to be withering and critical.

Everyone was on the edge of their filthy red seats, waiting for what would happen next.
Pause. Pause. Pause.

Finally A broke the silence. Slowly he admonished:

A- "There are women and kids on here--women and kids! Shame on you. Shame."

He pointed, but his finger roamed from person to person, as if to indite all those on board for the perceived slight. Then he collapsed into a seat and muttered, "Shame!".

Things were starting to settle down, which in Toronto takes about ten seconds, when inspiration struck and A leapt to his feet, and dove at the yellow 'stop request' cord. Straining under A's weight, the 'stop request' cord cried 'DING!' and the streetcar stopped. Off A got.

No hospital in sight.

Only the 'New Moon Cafe', it's window reading "Bottle Beer. Draught Beer. Free Internet."

Head hung low, A solemnly crossed the 'New Moon' threshold.

Does have E-cards that communicate the idea, "I'm sorry that you got shot up"? I don't know.
Even if the internet did offer such thoughtful sentiments in an E-card, I doubt OHIP covers bedside ethernet connections.

Clearly, OHIP must join the 21st Century; or hospitals must become more competitive and offer bottle and draught beer.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Spring has sprung!

There are many traditional signs of spring, iconized by the media, that amount to little more than a hill of buttons to the poor bastard standing in 10 centimeters of mid-May snow wearing capris and Birkenstocks all because he placed blind faith in some hayseed albino woodchuck that didn't see his shadow.
Similarly, the amazed gardener will simply mutter, in a soft, mournful tone while standing over her annuals, "I don't understand--I saw Mr. Robin Redbreast--I don't understand."

What is there to be said? Bad things happen to dumb people.

But to the capri-wearing gents and frustrated green thumbs I announce: Spring has sprung!
How do I know?
"Did he see butterflies fluttering, frogs jumping, worms squirming, or ferns. . .ferning!?!" the ladies at the Bridge Club ask.

My dear friend The Armchair Garbageman would no doubt kindly suggest that, this Friday, the sight of common folks hitting the streets at 2pm to clean up garbage for twenty minutes is a sure sign that spring is upon us.

All are adequate, but rather pedestrian and "commercial", examples of spring; mine is much sexier!

The Snowflake Maker has shaved his beard.
(the tale of how I met The Snowflake Maker begs to be highlighted in an entry of its own, but suffice it to say, he holds a very special spot in my heart)

And since my spotting of the freshly shorn Snowflake Maker is what I consider a bona fide, bankable sign that spring is here to stay, I would kindly ask that you, the reader, assume even more responsibility for your city, and do as my dearest friend The Snowflake Maker does: randomly Windex the street.

On my way to work I spotted my friend nervously petting one of his many LCBO bags. The bag was large and round, and he was stroking it tenderly, as only an actor on Canadian television drama playing "pregnant" does.
The smile on his face, and his lingering hand, was somewhat suggestive of a pedophilic urge; however, it may be unfair to suggest that if he was pregnant his stroking was pedophilic, as there has been little progress on who is ultimately correct in the "Right to Life/Right to Choice" disagreement.
I digress.
No matter the mania, he looked like he was having a hell of a morning.
And so was I.
I'm always delighted to see him.
I was also delighted when he pulled a large yellow hard hat out of his bulging bag, followed by a brand spanking new bottle of Windex!! Experience has taught me that in situations where this individual is concerned, the addition of two seemingly ordinary items can create magic.

Windex bottle in hand, he approached the curb like he was trying to sneak up on it. Studying his street canvas with the shrewd eye of an artist, he pointed his bottle and squirt squirted a spot on the ground. He continued on further down the street, eyes still fixed on the parking lane of Broadview, then squirt squirted again!
My heart cried, "Marvelous!".
What discerned the filthy spots from the clean was based on criteria known to him alone; in my opinion, I would eat dinner off of a slaughterhouse floor before I'd dine on the asphalt of Broadview. It could RAIN Windex and I'd still tippy-toe on some parts! But he had guidelines, and he was passionately sticking to them.
Right in the middle of his superclean, a van tried to pull away from it's parking spot; unfortunately it happened to be sandwiched between two very dirty bits of real estate.
The Snowflake Man squirt squirted at the nose of the van, then scrambled to the rear and squirt squirted a bit there. Back and forth he scurried, and the van rolled to and fro, the driver desperate to escape. It was like a game of monkey in the middle if you replaced the ball for Ammonia.
I was in heaven.
It was my own private Wimbleton!

The van finally escaped and sped away. The Snowflake Man wandered off in the opposite direction, squirt squirting as he walked, until he faded into the horizon.

The first thing that sprang to my mind was the City of Kitchener's slogan, emblazoned on each litter can:
Keep Kitchener Clean as a Kitchen!
I suggest:
Keep Toronto Clean as a Bathroom!
to honour the effort that is already underway in our fine city's streets.

And I happen to have friends in high places that know about garbage in this city.


Modern surgery can work wonders.
People the world over, each and every day, look at themselves in the mirror and say:
"I'm just not making the grade--my nose is too big."
"I have spare tires that only a dune buggy could love!"
"My ears make me look like an waffle."

All cruel, yet all devastatingly true.

Recently, as a result of a visit to the neighbourhood convenience store, my eyes have lingered longer on a certain part of my body. With a heavy heart, I had to ask myself:
Has my back side ever offended anyone?
I mean, really offended anyone.
My question might sound ridiculous to the uninitiated; but those that have been to Trident Convenience will know the source of my insecurity exactly.
And it isn't popular media or fashion runways.

There is a cat there without a tail.
The cat is black and dingy.
The cat and I met when he ambushed me from above the door, continued on down my left shoulder and arm like an unwashed avalanche, piling to rest on the Toronto Sun rack.

I was surprised that my surprise had not caused another avalanche of yesterday's supper down my pant leg.

I noticed that the cat had no tail, and was black, and immediately a funny line occurred to me.

B- (to the clerk) "That black cat's got some bum luck--he's lost his tail!"

It was something to that effect. You may not be impressed by that line, and to be honest I had a million better lines, most making a clever reference to the nursery rhyme about three little kittens that have lost their mittens, but something about the expression on the girl's face told me that she wasn't really the booky type. That literature was something one found on the streets of Toronto when the snow melted.

The clerk, rather matter-of-factly reported:

A- "The tail knocked stuff off shelves; I put elastic on it, and it fell off."

Well. There you have it.

Matthew said it best in Chapter 18, verse 8:
". . .if it offend thee, cut it off."

Monday, April 12, 2004

Specious Beauty!

Mr. Dressup, Raffi, and Fred Penner all advocated the practice of 'sharing'.
Examples of sharing that I like best are: ice cream; scotch; licorice.
Examples of sharing that I tolerate are: colds; responsibility for a broken vase; seal clubs.

Today, however, was an example of sharing that I like least: an opinion contrary to my own.

I drive, as is my good fortune, a classic Ford Fairlane Ranchero. With its aggressive angles, fuzzy dice, and a paint job so midnight black that a bat would get lost, it looks pretty snazzy. The fact that it is a 'cruck', or car/truck, only adds to its mystique and charm.
Driving around town the Ranchero raises a lot of eyebrows, and many people will call out "Nice car!" or "Lookin' good!" or "What year is it?".

The last question is the most popular.
"Lookin' good!" is the least.

People who call out "What year is it?" usually have no idea what year, or even what make, the car should be. Being guilty myself of this, I should know. The question is just part of the fraternity of men. 'Car Talk' binds us together the same way 'Sex in the City chat' or 'Jennifer Aniston Hair Talk' does women, and therefore there is no shame in using a slightly misdirected question to open up discussion.

So today, from the sidewalk at Queen and Woodbine a man calls to me, the Ranchero driver, and he says:

A- "Is that a '68?"
B- "Naw, it's a '74."

The man looked the car back to front.

A- "Looks like a '68!"
B- "Nope. I'm pretty sure it's a '74, pal."

This is where things got a whole lot more 'Toronto'.
The guy looks right at me, and shouts:

A- "Fuck you! It's a '68!!"

I drove on.

Fuck me? What the hell is that? I mean, I'm the one behind the wheel; I ought to know better than some chump walking what year my car is. Things would be different if I called out to him while stopped at a red light and asked, "Those 'Hush Puppies' the Aught-Threes or the Aught-Fours?". In that situation one could safely assume that I don't know the correct answer and require clarification. Isn't that the fundamental difference between a question and a statement?

Flustered, I pulled over to consult the Ford Owner's Manual. I only needed to take it half way out of the armrest to read: Enjoy driving your 1969 Ford Fairlane Ranchero!

So I was wrong.

But so was he!

Fuck him.

I wonder if he'd be as cheeky asking Phyllis Diller her age.

Phyllis Diller- "Twenty-nine!"
A- "Fuck you! You're seventy-eight!"

Not likely. She'd back her car over him.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Panhandling Do's and Don'ts!

I realise salesmanship is a virtue that not all possess.
Take American foreign policy in the hands of George W. Bush, for example.
Or, on a more metropolitan scale, panhandling.

There are certain strategies I have observed around town for soliciting funds that are more effective than others.
For example, smell.
That's a "don't".
Be polite.
That's a "do".
Offer some of your Scope in exchange for a quarter or two.
That's a "maybe". I've had days where I'd have killed for a swig of Scope to keep me keepin' on.
Offer to "smack" someone if they don't comply with your request.
That's a "don't".

A practical application of these rules of thumb can have a positive or negative effect on your cup balance at the day's end.

Recently, an acquaintance of mine from Timmins (or was it Sudbury?) strayed a bit from my 'common sense rules', and his freeform panhandling was both unorthodox and unsuccessful.

A- (approaching me outside Union Station)"Hey, buddy! Can I speak to you for a minute?"
B- "Sure!"
A- "Look. I'm, I'm real embarrassed to be asking you this, but I. . ."
B- "Sorry, pal. I know the schpeel you're going to give; not today. Have a good one, though."
A- (to my back as I walk on)"Fuck you!!"
B- (amazed; turning)"What did you say?"
A- (amazed that I turned to face him)"Fuck you!!"
B- "Look, buddy, I was trying be polite and all you can do is tell me to fuck myself?"
A- "Trying to be 'polite'!" (mimicking my voice, like a girl's) "I know the schpeel! Fuck you!"
B- "Look, asshole! I do know the schpeel. You're real embarrassed, but you need some money to get a train ticket back Timmins, or Sudbury, or wherever, and could I spare some change. Am I wrong?"
A- (silent, a bit confused)
B- "There's no reason for you to tell me to 'FUCK OFF!' just because I don't want to give you money."
A- "I've got $30 already!" (shows me a ten and a twenty)
B- "Can I have some money?"
A- "No! Fuck you!"
B- "Fuck you! You've got more than me!"

I began to walk away again, when A tried to get the last word.
No one gets the last word with me. I hate having the second to last word!!

A- "I should smack you."
B- (turning to face A again)"You should what? Smack me?"

I was getting pretty indignant. This dude was trying to get money out of me in all the wrong ways.
And, I feel it is important to note that he was no bigger than a benchwarmer on an Eighth Grade basketball team. Now I'm by no means a goliath of a man, but if I can see someone's pattern baldness, I begin to feel at bit bold.

B- (nearly chest-to-chest)"If anyone is going to do some smacking it's not going to be you, little man! Try using some manners, asshole! This approach is getting you nowhere fast."
A- "Whatever!"

He started to walk away, but I felt proud because he kept looking over his shoulder in what I construed to be a 'fearful' manner.

Afterwards, it dawned on me that I should have given him some money to get back to Timmins or Sudbury as part of my civic duty to clean up the manners of the city.

Rush Limbaugh's 'Coles Notes'

Sometimes when I'm riding the streetcar I eavesdrop, or glance over someone's shoulder at what they're reading, or make faces at babies.

Sometimes I downplay character traits that I think people will find undesirable or creepy, like eavesdropping, glancing over people's shoulders, and making faces at babies.

So I was 'glancing' at something this late-twenty-something Asian girl was reading the other day on the streetcar. She was conservatively-dressed and wore glasses, which made me automatically think that what she was reading was likely engineering notes from school or something; but this was not the case.

Scribbled out on one sheet of lined steno paper were the following nuggets of knowledge:

"Children are watching too much television today and it is making them stupid and violent. We need to control television to control violence."

"There is so much war in the world today that life is barely worth living."

"Food in the grocery store is covered in germs."

"Be careful who you trust. Not everyone wants the best for you. Some people will take advantage of you."

"People should be told what to do. If we are told what to do, then everything will be ok."

Life's a real bowl of cherries to her, ain't it?
Regrettably my study of 'her words to live' by was cut short when she noticed that I was glancing at her paper. I felt like telling her that it wasn't my fault, that television was to blame, but she had folded up her paper and moved away from me by the time I thought of my clever line.

The more I thought about the adages on her paper, the more I thought, "Maybe I should make up my own 'words of power' to read on the streetcar!!" So I did:

"People are watching too much 'Train 48' and it is making them stupid and causing them to have unrealistic hopes for their own transit experience. We need to derail the train and park it in the roundhouse next to Mike Bullard."

"There is so much Bubble Tea available on Yonge St. that no one can make a living."

"Food in the Dominion grocery store is over-priced."

"Be careful when picking up newspapers left on the streetcar. Someone may have used it as a tissue. It happens."

"People get off the streetcar through the front doors should be told to go to hell."

My list isn't nearly as interesting as hers.
In fact, to be perfectly honest, I prefer her's over mine. It has more. . .spunk.
I think that they'd make perfect fortunes for fortune cookies. Very right wing, Communist manifesto-cum-Oprah fear-mongering fortunes, but pefect nevertheless for today's world!

Friday, April 02, 2004

Yahoo! A "mud room rug"!

Today, by the grace of sitemeter I learned that, on the world wide web according to Yahoo, the only "mud room rug" is my passing reference:

From A to B
... of the shower NAKED. Washing the dishes NAKED. Maybe running the vacuum
over the mud room rug NAKED. Sighing deeply the whole while ...

In an effort to further frustrate searches, and pervert online research by students too lazy to turn on the teevee, I submit this statement and leave it to be discovered:

Alexander Graham Bell invented the Slinkey

In 1957 Alexander Graham Bell was flying a kite in a thunderstorm while enjoying a Coca Cola. When the kite was unexpectedly struck by lightening, the Coca Cola can that Mr. Graham Bell was holding blew to ribbons. Shaken by the experience he strapped the tin ribbons to his feet and bounced home in a hurry. Arriving at home, drunk, he fell down the stairs. Though Alexander's numb body lay limp at the terminus of the stairway, his shoes continued into the kitchen, then on to the den. Legend has it that the tin-ribbon shoes came to rest perfectly at his fireside lounge, though many historians believe this story to have been fabricated by marketeers trying to sell Slinkeys.