Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – May 25, 2004
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – May 25, 2004 – People are strange and wonderful creations, capable of extremes in behaviour that are incredible. Witness the state of our world today. I like to think (perhaps naively so) that most people are decent at heart. The exceptions stand out by virtue of their appalling conduct, and one day they will answer to a power far greater than ours.
However today, rather than thinking about the evils of the world, I’m remembering the funny or unusual things I’ve seen over the years.
When Wally and I lived on Homewood Avenue in the early eighties, it was a tough street with its share of neighbourhood characters and street people. The lower portion of our front door was painted yellow. The top half was glass. On occasion I enjoyed standing in the hallway and watching the street. I was never sure what might transpire outside my door and I learned not to question the comings and goings in my neighbourhood. A lot of alcoholics, drug addicts and homeless people walked up and down the street. Wellesley Hospital was at one end and Allen Gardens at the other. There is probably a book there for someone so inclined.
One night in February I was standing at the door sipping a cup of coffee. It was cold, not frigid, but there was a lot of snow from a recent storm. Cars had created ruts in the road, and most people were walking on the street, rather than plodding along the sidewalks which hadn’t yet been shovelled – mine included. I was just about to go back into the living room when a movement on the street caught my eye.
I turned back in time to watch a man walk by my front door. He was tall and gangly, probably mid-twenties with long thick hair. He was wearing a white tuxedo with pink satin lapels and a pink satin tie. His feet were bare. It was very cold but he didn’t seem to notice. He was carrying a large television set. He paused in front of my yard, re-adjusted his burden and walked on. I tried to imagine his story, but I could never come up with a tale to match what must have been the truth – whatever that was.
Another day – time – summer – about two o’clock in the afternoon a horse walked by on the street outside my house. On his back were two of Toronto’s finest. It’s common to see the mounted police patrolling in pairs on Toronto’s streets, but usually they each have a horse. Maybe one of the horses called in sick that day! I wondered if they rode around like that all day. They looked absolutely comical – the Keystone cops on horseback – but I’m sure they were ready to Serve & Protect nonetheless, even though their horsepower was limited. Hopefully between them they had a gun and a walkie-talkie, and I’m almost certain the horse had a sense of humour!
The Eaton’s Centre is always good for a laugh on a slow day. If you ever need a pick me up, just pop down there and sit on a bench for an hour. You will see or hear something funny. My dentist, Peter, used to rent space for his dental clinnic in one of the office towers near there. I was on my way to a nine o’clock appointment one morning and had crossed at the traffic light at Dundas at Yonge. I was walking up to the main doors when they burst open and out walked three clowns. Two were tall, the third was either a child or a midget. I couldn’t tell because of the clown outfit. The small clown had a monkey perched on his shoulder and the two big clowns were carrying a canoe.
It was early morning – what was their story? I asked my dentist and he thought it might be Toronto’s annual “Clown, Canoe & Monkey Convention”. I think not! A number of years ago, Peter and his brother Terry moved their dental clinic to the Flat Iron Building on Wellington East and it’s rather dull by comparison. I must remind him of the obvious lack of comic relief, now that his location is more up-market.
In 1999 – Toronto got an inordinate amount of snow during the first week of January. Our mayor at the time, the illustrious Mel Lastman – called in the Army to beef up our snow plough operators and help maintain the peace. Torontonians tend to get a bit testy (and perhaps dangerous) when confounded by snow. The Army’s presence was essential to quell the undercurrent of civil disobedience percolating in the mind of the average man and woman on the street.
Because of the military presence, my own tendency to instigate a riot was nipped in the bud. I got stuck so many times during the week that I lost count. During one such adventure I saw an old man shovelling a little pathway to his front door. He was wearing a knit cap pulled down over his ears and a big pair of gloves. He had on a sweatshirt with an army truck on the back with an “X” through it. On the front it said, “Senior Citizens can shovel their own snow”. My kinda guy – combining a political statement with a sense of humour.
I live on a one way street, at the end of which is a Beer Store. An interesting assortment of people pass by, and without casting aspersions on beer drinkers, some of them are a few bricks short of the proverbial load. Last summer in the middle of a sunburn afternoon I was sitting on my front porch, having a cool glass of lemonade, when a man walked past my house on the way to the Beer Store. He had four cases of empty 24’s piled on a wagon. Trailing about five feet behind was little girl clutching her teddy bear, and trying very hard to keep up. About fifteen minutes later I heard the wagon coming back up the street. Four fresh 24’s were piled on the wagon, but this time, the teddy bear was perched on top of the load. The little girl was still struggling along behind the wagon, but at least she had her priorities straight! Too bad the same thing couldn’t have been said about her caretaker.
Suffice to say, people have done strange and wonderful things since Adam first plucked the forbidden apple and it will be ever thus. Most days I find numerous reasons to smile and I’m always on the look out to see what my fellow citizens will do next. If you’re not already a people watcher, it’s a great hobby, and as long as you refrain from judging the things you see, you’ll be endlessly enlightened, frequently entertained, sometimes appalled and often moved to say – “proof positive – “there but for the grace of God, go I”