Sunday, October 31, 2010

Toronto Not So Divided After All

Sometimes my crazyness gets published.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Flip Flopping Part Deux – the Rob Ford Edition:

A couple of months ago I wrote a piece mocking the McGuinty Liberal government for flip flopping over their sex ed policy. I mentioned that I much preferred bedroom flip-flopping to the political kind.

For the un-initiated: In the gay world flip-flopping is when two men (let’s assume they are partners, and maybe, depending on where they live in North America lucky enough to be considered husband and husband) take turns penetrating each other. This is what we gays like to call a flip flop f*ck and this versatility is one of the many reasons, of which sharing bow-ties and face-cream are others, that being gay is super awesome. And with that I just wrote the text to my own “It Gets Better Video.” Just think of the penetrative combinations the average gay couple’s sex life includes; while who's on first is NOT a common question being asked in gay bedrooms across the nation, we do get to ask: who's doing who first?

In politics, however, a flip-flop means something completely different, obviously; and furthermore, get that visual image of Dalton McGuinty and George Smitherman flip flopping on the health tax credit out of your head. Ew. In politics flip flopping refers to political leaders who approve a policy before clawing back on said policy; this claw back is often due to demands from special interest groups.

"Dalton really flip-flopped on Transit City," would be one example of a political flip flop. Occasional flip flopping on gay porn site Sean Cody would define the gay meaning.

While McGuinty probably knew about the gay kind of flip-flopping I'm pretty sure that Mayor-Elect Rob Ford doesn't. This is probaly because Rob Ford doesn't have very many gay friends. Or at least the type of bro-friendship that would lead to a bottle of wine and late night policy session where Dalton may ask, “So… uhm… George… I’ve always wondered how it actually works.” And if you don’t believe me – my first political campaign included a car ride wherein a straight friend actually asked: so how do you avoid getting beard burn on your thighs if a dude gives you a blow job. The reality of politics is that you spend a lot of time together and ya know… you exhaust a lot of topics.

Anyway… why am I so sure that Rob Ford doesn’t have a gay friend to enlighten about the intricacies of gay sex? If Rob Ford had a gay friend I'm sure said gay friend would help Rob with his style, be like look here’s my stylist at holts and maybe for Christmas purchase him an ab-roller and or P90X.

So subsequently and unlike McGuinty I'm pretty sure that Ford knows nothing about the intricacies of hard-core male on male action specifically flip flopping. This is of course a man who has said the following about gay people and HIV/AIDS: "If you are not doing needles and you are not gay, you wouldn’t get AIDS probably, that’s bottom line. These are the facts." More recently Ford referred to homosexuality as a lifestyle choice (via twitter).

Imagine the awkwardness rolling around FordHQ (which in my mind looks like Gargamel’s Castle) this morning as the Toronto Star published the following: Ford Won’t Ditch Streetcars. According to Doug Ford “that was a rumour from our competition,” even though a direct quote from Ford’s Transit Plan, A Transportation Plan that Makes Sense for Toronto, is: “We will improve traffic flow downtown by removing some streetcars. Streetcars on downtown arterial streets will be replaced with clean buses that provide the same capacity on the same routes.”

Rob Ford you old dog – you just flip-flopped. And to quote Matt Damon from the seminal movie Good Will Hunting: How do you like them apples?

Ford’s flip-flop on streetcar removal is of course no big surprise. Metrolinx, the regional transit agency, recently signed a $770 million streetcar contract with Bombardier; that is on top of a $1.22 billion purchase of 200 streetcars that the City made in 2009. Furthermore funding for Transit City, David Miller’s LRT (not streetcar) expansion project, has been committed to by the province (with a bit of help from Ford’s BFF Flaherty). Transit City routes will be owned by Metrolinx, NOT the City of Toronto. Metrolinx has a corporate Board of Directors, none of whom are politicians. For Ford to literally stop the supposed streetcar gravy train he’ll have to somehow weasel his way out these two contracts, and incur significant penalties from Bombardier, which as we all know is the Federal governments favourite Quebec-based company (oh and not to be too conspiracy crazy… but remember that Harper and the Conservative government needs all the help it can get in Quebec City…). Add all of that up together and it’s no wonder Ford has already flip-flopped on the streetcar issue. It was DOA to begin win.

That being said Torontonians do need to have a debate about streetcars, especially on King and Queen. I understand everyone’s frustrations with streetcars. As drivers they slow down through traffic, and as commuter’s they’re just not fast, flexible or big enough for our current transit needs.

Many people point to St. Clair West as an example of the failure of Miller’s Transit City potential. I beg to differ. St Clair is a failure because of significant cost over-runs (how it ballooned from a $48 million projection to $106 million project is a giant mystery) and a failure because it was sold as a transit time-saver, when in truth it only shaves 3 minutes in overall travel time. All of that being said St Clair isn’t a disaster, it was a PR misnomer.

The truth about St. Clair is that it actually facilitates cars as much if not more so then transit users.

Unlike Queen Street St. Clair now has dedicated left turning lanes. One of the big annoyances is being stuck behind a streetcar in either the centre lane or in the right lane and being unable to move as it offloads and on-loads users; this no longer happens on St. Clair. The reality is that now that construction is over – St. Clair is kind of a drivers paradise.

The other big fear mongering point that St. Clair detractors used in the recent election (especially in my Ward where pamphlets urged voters “Not to let what happened on St. Clair happen to Eglinton.” Have people lived anywhere near subway construction? [probably not… we haven’t built a subway in this city in like a decade]. If you thought St. Clair was ugly…. Try subway construction. Let’s not be so na├»ve as to think that an Eglinton Subway, for example, may not harm businesses along Eglinton. While tunnels can be bored using tunnel boring machines – most stations are built using cut-and cover techniques, which my dear friends means exactly like it sounds. They cut into the street, build and then cover it.
So let’s have a debate about streetcars, I’d love to see a study about having queen turn into an east only streetcar route and king westbound. Surely there are efficiencies that someone can find somewhere…

My long-winded point: the time is now for Torontonians need to have a debate about streetcars and maybe Mayor-elect Ford is winking at us gays with his latest flip-flop?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Please Don't Blame the Latte Drinkers...

Consider dearest friends, who’ve taken to Facebook and Twitter to express their outrage over Toronto’s 2010 municipal election, the reality that we’re going to have to live with Mayor Elect Rob Ford for the next four years. So the time is night to park our outrage on a colour coded sidewalk and learn to deal with apparent regime change.

The reality is that of the five main candidates for mayor (Ford, Smitherman, Rossi, Thompson and Pantelone) was there any one candidate that really excited anyone? In the ten months that we’ve had to deal with non-stop campaigning, breathless press-releases, doomsday warnings, endorsements, bad-advertising (Bocci Balls) and cock-a-many ideas (I’m looking at you Rossi) have you really been inspired by anyone’s vision for Toronto?

I ask that question even to Ford supporters (although I don’t really know any admitted Fordites); Ford’s vision consisted of stopping the quote un-quote gravy train and demanding respect for taxpayers. Anything beyond these mantra’s that was released by the Ford people was nebulous at best from a policy perspective. Destroying streetcar tracks, colour-coding sidewalks for parking purposes and slashing councillor budgets are probably not going to happen. So like Londoner’s during the Blitz – let us all keep calm and carry on.

In the ensuing cluster-fuck of post-election game playing I suspect that many people are going to argue that Toronto is now like London, England where a divided electorate oscillates between the musings of the inner city elite and demands of the exurb proletariat. We’ve already seen this supposed thesis from faux-Torontonian Richard Florida who tried to tie is aged creative class thesis to Toronto’s electoral map; the result was a downright intellectual #fail. Still the belief that a Ford win represents the triumph of the suburbs over the downtown elite will be propagated by all of us looking for answers over this undesired outcome.

Pish-posh people. The reality is that Ford polled decently well downtown; his message resonated even with us latte drinkers. You may not know of anyone who voted for Rob Ford, but almost 400,000 Torontonians did. Vote spread in the old city and suburbs hasn’t yet been published – but by my simple arithmetic (using a 64% eligibility factor) there were 440,000 eligible voters in the old City of Toronto versus 1.1 million in the inner suburbs (North York, Etobicoke, etc..); accounting for 52% turnout that means there were 220,000 votes cast in Toronto versus 550,000 thousand in the inner suburbs. Are we assuming that every voter that bothered to vote in the old city voted for George? Don’t think so… That $60 vehicle registration tax buys almost 15 grande latte’s at Starbucks. And that anti-immigrant stuff? I had a cab driver who immigrated to Toronto from Sri Lanka with a Ford sticker on his bumper… to quote Kevin O’Leary from Dragons’ Den – MONEY. Where is MY MONEY?

The reality is that people from St. Clair to Cityplace to Flemingdon Park to the Bluffs were pissed right off at City Hall. No foot in mouth antics from our fat fuck of a nearly mayor Ford was going to stop their support of him.

So anyway before we all start freaking out and drooling over Calgary’s hot young thing of a mayor, let’s pull up the bootstraps of our Hunter Wellies (for those who live downtown) and whatever it is people buy from payless (class-joke alert!) and assess what we should do next.

There are two main take-aways from last night's result:

1) Things Are Going to Be Fine – Look I will probably not be sharing bow-tie tying tips with our mayor-elect (“Rob, don’t you hate that final step when you have to make the final loop…” “I know Naymark, I find it easier with silk bow-ties versus cotton,” “oh Rob you are so right! <3”), but the man is our democratically elected Mayor and as much as I may find him distasteful he is only 1 vote on a dysfunctional council 45. His hands are somewhat tied by legalities of our provincial masters. Furthermore Toronto has a unique (I may say blessed) ability to do seemingly ok without a strong leader. We’ve kinda had mediocre mayors since the City was amalgamated (the first couple years of Miller’s regime showed promise). This may be a complacent attitude, but sometimes when I walk around downtown I can’t help but think that all of this talk of Toronto’s decline is well, a bit overwrought. If Toronto is the next Detroit – why is Cadillac Fairview spending $200 million dollars renovating the Eaton Centre and why is the Ritz Carlton opening their first Canadian hotel on Wellington, amongst other hundred of construction projects that are occurring downtown? In a sense, and this is why I don’t agree with the two Toronto thesis, Fords victory was an attempt to bridge the clear disconnect between our fiscally responsible and fairly successful corporate identity with our fiscally irresponsible and union-jammed City Hall.

2) The Lack of Leadership in this city needs to be addressed - As a city we seem to not attract the type of leadership some of us think we deserve. Why was there not a single credible candidate in the centre-left that was able to bring forth a vision of Toronto that resonated with Torontonians? Rocco Rossi’s vision (especially from his early days) never resonated with the broad public while George’s “man with a plan” was vague at best. Is the city so devoid of its own sense of self that the best and brightest in Toronto could not cobble together a single hope vision that countered Ford’s vision for a fiscally responsible municipality? Eek.

So there ya have it folks – Ford, built tough.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sliding into Real Life and Stealing Home…

There was a big NY Times magazine article a couple of weeks ago about how your late twenties is like [sic]the worst time to be alive. Sing it sister.

Captain Obvious, the NYT, portrays the latter twenties as a time of general generational fear. No shit NYT. For the past two nights I’ve had nightmares about being on a plane that crashes into a bunch of skyscrapers right after take-off and you’re telling me that I’m scared about something? What fancy Ivy League school granted you an MBO – a Master’s in the Business of Obviousness?

According to Dr. Google my dreams can be interpreted as follows: I have high expectations for myself and am concerned that they’re not going anywhere. I like to think that the plane is evocative of my career; I am psychologically afraid about failure to launch.

While I’m willing to chalk up such alarming and overly dramatic dreams to my own neuroses there is some circumstantial evidence that being late twenty-ish isn’t the walk in Central Perk that Friends made it seem.

Sometimes it feels like going from 22 to 28 is like crossing the Rubicon from a happy-go-lucky city-state that sniffs glue into full-blown Empire that has mortgage payments on its far-flung colonies AND has to deal with the Senate that is its student loan payments [that’s a reference to Caesar that doesn’t fully work, just go with it].

Now before I get heckled for being one of those bitchy people who says stuff like: “5 years is so much older; I’m so mature and wise” let me tap in to save myself and admit that yes, everyone looks at someone five years younger and says, wow I’ve grown up so much in the last five years, I was so immature then. Just ask my sister, Bold Sharon, who is seven years older than me. While I can be found nursing a hangover most Saturday mornings, she can be found nursing her two children. So when I ask her if she likes my new haircut, she genuinely closes her eyes, takes a moment to pause while probably thinking: my brother is so immature, why does he smell like gin?

Five years is major at 18 and you look back at your geeky bar-mitzvah photo’s. Those seminal five years probably included such important life stages such as pubic hair. And truthfully at 27 – am I really that mature compared to my 23 year-old self? Not really… I mean, throw me into an open bar reception and I’m liable to get the slurs before midnight.

But still there is something about being closer to 30 then not. And I realize of course that being 27 or 28 isn’t really old. 30 is old. Just joking! Neither is old [especially since we’re all going to live to like 110], and yet – I would be remiss to not notice that there are vast different between being fresh out of college grasping an undergraduate degree and being 28 and fresh out of grad school. Something happens in those five years which make life a little bit more serious.

I ran into the daughter of a family friend the other day who is 23. She’s moving to New York to take some classes in design and then start her career in fashion; this is after spending the year in between her philosophy degree and grad school picking fruit in Australia. What is she most looking forward to? “Beginning real life…”
And that’s the trick really… at 23 you can still get away with living at home and eating fruit that your parents purchased from Harvest Wagon. Heck at 23 maybe your mom still takes you to Club Monaco every once in a while and buys you a nice new outfit. Life can be that much more frivolous when you’re 23.

By 28 that shit is cut off. Suddenly you realize that most of the people who are winning Teen Choice awards aren’t your age; they’re younger then you and they’ve achieved more success then you have or probably ever will. Not to say that aging is really the problem per se. Its not like I’ve booked myself a botox appointment for my 28th birthday.
At 23 the world is sort of your oyster; but by 28 you’re expected to have it all figured out, even if you don’t. This sense of listlessness coupled with anxiety has been identified by psychologists as the new life stage of “emerging adulthood”. Thrust into the world with a graduate degree and supposed maturity a 28 year-old isn’t really that different from your typical 23 year-old, yet there’s a looming sense that we should be. Psychologist Jeffrey Arnett, who coined the term emerging adulthood, feels that twenty-something angst is deeply related to “the age 30 deadline.” That period is psychologically when we’re supposed to make life-altering choices about marriage, careers, babies etc...

I’m not sure this generational anxiety is simply about the age 30 deadline; rather it’s the fact that real life gets that much more complex as you wade through your twenties. I call this complexity the mail barometer. When I moved back home after university I cancelled my hydro, locked my apartment door for the last time and left the key in the mailbox. My most recent move required like twenty different address changes: OSAP, multiple banks, multiple visa cards, financial advisors, RRSP’s… I’m exhausted already; can’t I just watch Gossip Girl and eat pizza for dinner?

Remember when you were 8 and wondered when you were going to start getting mail like your mom and dad? That’s what being 28 is. You get mail. And most of that mail is money related.

But the root problem of being an emergent adult may be that you’re caught with one foot in the world of being a 23 year old who just wants to binge drink on weekends with another foot deeply entrenched into the mountain that is adulthood.

Straddling this chasm not only isn’t very fun; it is also exhausting. It may also lead to a groin injury and that is just simply bad for business.