Canada as the New Evil Empire - Part 2
Photo by Bruce LaBruce
I don’t want this column to become too Canuck-centric, but as Canada is rapidly becoming the 51st state (of a country in the midst of a catastrophic decline—leave it to Canadians to jump on a bandwagon that’s about to plummet off a cliff), I think everyone ought to know exactly what’s going on in the Land of Nod.
Not much, as it turns out. A New York friend of mine visiting Bore-onto several years ago said that he didn’t understand how three million people could get into so little trouble. (If you include the suburbs—and sometimes you have to—it’s more like five million.) A misguided friend visiting from Berlin last week was astonished at how preternaturally quiet the downtown core was. As we walked through the alleys and sidewalks of various Toronto neighborhoods, it was like the proverbial ghost town: not a soul on the streets, no stray cats, not even the sound of a dog barking. Even when we looked in the windows of the houses, there seemed to be no one moving around inside—lights on, nobody home. Did someone drop a neutron bomb? A zombie apocalypse of some kind didn’t seem entirely out of the question. No wonder, I often think while riding my bike home late at night through the dead, empty streets, that even though Toronto is only an hour by plane from New York, so many people from that over-crammed metropolis never bother to come here.
Street life, particularly at night, has declined in many North American cities. I’ve wandered through similarly deserted The Last Man on Earth sets recently in Nashville and San Francisco. The narcotic effect of new technology is probably partly to blame. Fellow Canadian Naomi Klein might chalk it up to disaster capitalism and the fear mongering of a mass media hopped up on violence and terrorism. Why go out on the street and risk being picked off by a sniper or blown to bits by a terrorist when you could stay at home glued to CNN waiting to see if the debt ceiling talks will collapse, sending the world headlong into a fiscal holocaust?
But there’s something peculiarly “Dead Set” about Toronto. Lest you think I’m exaggerating, I talked to a club owner recently who lamented how dead the city has been, winter and summer, over the past several years. Bartender friends twiddle their thumbs as people trickle in and out of neighborhood watering holes. And last week, on one of the hottest days on record, Hanlan’s Point, Toronto’s idyllic “clothing optional” beach (so demurely Canadian), was sparsely populated. Maybe it had something to do with the severe heat advisory warning people to stay indoors. Someone tried to tell me it was because people have jobs, but I found that hard to believe.
But never fear. I’m here to assure you that things are only going to get worse. Toronto’s new mayor, Rob Ford, whose photograph could be beside "Fat Cat" in the Urban Dictionary, is about to enact a stunning array of new austerity measures that will discourage the quaint habit of public interface on an even larger scale. Despite a 22.5 hour public lambasting of the Mayor last week at City Hall by weeping children and sarcastic senior citizens alike, it seems inevitable that late night bus routes will be discontinued, public libraries and community centers closed down, and Ford’s bizarre crusade against cyclists and bike lanes, and, as always, graffiti and “street art,” will move forward. This Pig-at-the-Trough mayor (that he looks like a caricature of an actual pig—a fact that brings out a lot of latent fat-ism in people—probably shouldn’t be held against him—or pigs) will continue to support the gentrification of the city (the hideous luxury condo capital of the world) and cut municipal services supporting needy children, tenants fighting greedy landlords (the tenant defense fund is set to be cut by 100k), and programs supporting drug and HIV prevention. So looking on the glass-half-full side, there could soon be a whole new upsurge of street life in Toronto: homelessness. Adding to the glamour, Mayor Ford proposes eliminating fluoride from the city’s water supply to pinch a few more pennies, making toothlessness no longer the exclusive right of the poor: democracy in action!
I’m heading to the left coast in a couple of weeks, so I’ll let you know if Bland-couver, as one of my friends there is prone to call it, is any different. Prolly not.
Previously - Beware the Bieber