Resolutions 2: Shouldering the Burden

   I still have some unresolved issues from last year, some anger simmering on the back-burner that has yet to be brought to a word-punching boil on this blog. But it’s about time, I say. It’s about time I write a word or two about my dislocated shoulder.

   This is the story of something that happened to me a year ago last weekend. Here’s how it all went down:

   Friday, July 9th. I am walking down a busy Chinatown street toward an art gallery to deliver a submission form for an upcoming show. I had just run into a friend of mine who was doing well after about a year of physiotherapy following a dancing accident. I told her about my amazing new job I’d been hired at only the day before after a lengthy, painful stint of no-money-hood. I was thinking about my good fortune, and how much it would suck if I got injured just when things were finally starting to turn my way. Such were the thoughts swimming through my head when I saw the guy. I suppose I’ll go ahead and give him a name… Douchy McPunchyFuck. The street was crowded, but not so much that you couldn’t walk without bumping into someone, and here was this guy seemingly beelining straight for me. He was giving me the old Stare Down- you know, when they walk right at you as if they’re on a collision course, but at the last second they walk around you just so they can stare you down as you walk by (it’s their little way of telling you that the streets belong to them, and you’re not welcome. Or they’re just staring at your boobs). Seen it, been there, done that, ignored it, remained steadfastly unimpressed with each new occurrence, have come up with a staggering list of synonyms for the word “douchebag”. But the sidewalk was messy with trash and fruit baskets and those ring-shaped poles you lock your bike to, and wowzers, the dude really meant it. Lacking the space for total maneuverability, I raised an arm (my left) to protect myself, which brushed lightly against his shoulder as he passed (and by “passed”, I mean, “fully intended to body-check me”). I said “excuse me.” And that’s when the first punch hit.

Perhaps I was so used to the old Stare Down that I hadn’t counted on the old Punch Out. In any case, the dude randomly erupted on me in a fist-shaped explosion. He connected with my right shoulder- the one I broke as a teenager and never let heal right- which was promptly dislocated. Clean dislocated right the fuck out of its little shoulder-hole. It had happened to me before, but this time I couldn’t pop it back in. The ball was out of the park, out of the socket, and somewhere in my back.

He took off rather briskly. I realized I couldn’t move my right arm and I couldn’t pop the joint back in myself. I tried to somehow simultaneously fish out my phone and cradle my right arm with my left, and I realized that I’d be no match in a fight. So, I just let him go without another word, figuring the damage was done and there was no point in seeking retribution. Oh, wait, no, that’s not what happened at all.

So I shouted. “Hey! That isn’t okay! Why would you do that? Are you going to apologize to me?”

“No,” he answered brusquely, the only word he said.

“Well you owe me an apology. You can’t just go around hitting people.”

By this time he had dashed halfway across the busy street, disrupting traffic. I said something about him running off, thinking that he could get hit by a car for all I care, when he spun around and came at me with a fresh volley of blows. These I deflected from my face and neck, gaining a few extra bruises on my shoulders and chest, but nothing serious. He continued off on the same side of the street, and I yelled after him, “do you want me to call the police?”

“No,” he predictably answered.

As I watched him hurry off, I considered my options: walk back to the police station (nearby), and report the incident. Walk to the nearest emergency room (also nearby), and get my immobilized and increasingly numb arm taken care of. I looked around. One person hovered near with a concerned look on her face; everyone else continued with their day.

And that’s when the degree of my injury sunk in.

If you have never suffered a severe shoulder dislocation, I assure you, you cannot imagine the pain.

My arm didn’t move, couldn’t move, and I was in more pain than I had thought possible (and take my word for it, I know pain). I considered calling 911. Not being a frivolous person, I realized that if I was considering it, I should probably just do it.

“Police,” I answered to the first question. I related the details of the incident and described the assailant as best I could. I told them where I was. They asked about my injuries, and I told them I couldn’t move my arm. Did I feel safe staying where I was? The guy was long gone and everyone else was ignoring me, so sure. They said to stay there, they’ll send someone for me. Sure. I hung up. The girl with the concerned look asked if I was okay, if there was anything she could do. I’d be fine, they were sending an ambulance. She offered to wait with me. It was nice of her to offer, but no, I’d be okay. The truth is I just didn’t want anyone around, I didn’t want anyone near me. I was having a hard enough time standing up, I couldn’t engage in conversation. My body didn’t know what was happening and it was reacting strangely. There was water in my eyes. But for the record, Concerned Girl, wherever you are, thank you. Thank you for being kind.

The ambulance arrived, asked for me, I got in. The paramedic asked if I wanted to wait for the police, but I didn’t want to wait for anything. He rolled up the sleeve of my slightly-tight-but-only-article-of-UofT-clothing-I-have t-shirt and winced- apparently, it was that dislocated. We were off, he fished my Health Card from my wallet and every bump and pothole felt like it was going to rip my arm right off.

We get to the Emergency Room, and the nurse at Admitting looks at my shoulder and winces. I sit down in front of another nurse who tells my paramedic he can leave as she looks at my shoulder and winces. After I’ve explained what happened yet again (met with yet another “he just hit you?”), she sends me to the next window. I answer the same questions and tell my story again to a guy who’s looking at my shoulder, wincing. He asks for an emergency contact number. This is the person they call if you die. I give my parents, and picture their reaction to the news that I’m dead. I hope it doesn’t come true. He tells me to have a seat and wait.

I text my significant other, whom I had made tentative plans with for that night, telling him I wouldn’t be making it out. He texted back asking if he should come to the hospital and wait with me. I said no, but realizing how difficult it might be to get home since my entire nervous system was starting to feel like it was doused in acid, I might need help getting home. I tried to focus on my book (Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test), but as the pain was crescendo-ing to a plane where I was fairly certain I would not be able to bear it (which really makes you wonder what your options at that point are), I couldn’t exactly concentrate.

Fortunately, I wasn’t waiting long, although it felt too damn long for me. I pictured them taking me into a space blocked off by curtains, giving me a leather strap to bite on, jamming my shoulder back into place, and giving me a lollipop before sending me on my way (okay, maybe the lolly was wishful thinking, but the rest seemed reasonable enough). Clearly, I did not understand 21st Century medicine.

Once behind the curtains (I got that part right, but I hadn’t expected such hideous stripes), they managed to get my shirt off without cutting it. I lay down, and the nurse grabbed my left hand and started explaining something.

“First, we’re going to give you some Gravol, because the other drugs we’re going to give you will probably make you sick. Then, we’re going to give you some morphine (she couldn’t have started with the morphine?), and then some anti-inflammatories.” I could tell by the way she was holding my hand that these were not to be in the form of orange-flavoured chewable tablets.

I have yet to meet the person who is completely comfortable with needles. Maybe I don’t hang around with enough junkies. I’ve known a diabetic or two, but I think that even they flinch and die a little inside at the sight of an IV. In any case, I kept my eyes averted from my left hand, the hand she stuck the needle (which I have named Excalibur) into, which gave me a chance to look over at the shoulder that everyone had been wincing at. It was weird. It looked like a cross between “mis-shapen” and “gone”. It didn’t do any good, looking away, as she insisted on describing what she was doing as she was doing it. And it hurt. It hurt badly in a sharp yet achy and deeply uncomfortable way- I could feel it fishing around in my vein. I expressed a little discomfort, and she responded with “oh, the needle’s not in there anymore.” Oh, good, but then, why did it hurt even worse? “It’s a tube now. We’ve fed a tube into your bloodstream.” Lovely. Like being violated and having to be grateful for it.

The morphine turned my blood cold- a frozen numbness crept through my veins, and started to make my head spin. But the pain was still there. It was not diminished, I had just sort of.. gotten used to it. Like if your roommate was a murderous robot shark who smelled of sulphur oxide and left the seat up. You just start pretending he’s not there.

This is when Detective Detached and Lieutenant Literally Bored By This Bullshit showed up. They asked me the same questions whose answers I’d started considering changing up a bit just to keep the novelty going. I didn’t, because violent crime happens to be something I take somewhat seriously (one of my buttons, you might say). I answered their queries as best I could, but man was that morphine starting to kick in. Yet somehow, the pain remained undiminished. It only seemed… a little more distant somehow…

After pumping me full of enough anti-inflammatories to kill an elephant who’s allergic to anti-inflammatories, they sent me to X-Ray (no relation), where a delightful technician looked at my shoulder and winced. He asked me what had happened and I told him.
“He just hit you?” He asked.

He was appalled, but had a sense of humour, which was important, as I was trying desperately to keep my own. Freaking out doesn’t do any good. Panicking helps no one. Stay cool, stay calm, find the humour in any situation. I looked at the clock and realized that the gallery would be closed. It was the last day for submissions. That asshole had cost me my spot.

X-ray guy choreographed my poses as we joked about the whole ridiculous mess. The room was not cold, and even though I was in a hospital gown, I didn’t feel a breeze or chill. Yet I was shivering. Was it the drugs? I felt like I was shivering on the inside. I mentioned this to Mr. X-Ray.

“It’s the shock,” he said. He gave me a look that said that he was sympathetic to my determination to stay strong. “Whether you acknowledge it or not, you’ve been through an ordeal. And your body knows that.”

I went back to the en-curtained bed. Ordeal? The word stuck with me. I was walking down the street, minding my business, just another day downtown, where I live. How did this become an ordeal?

I remembered the nurse telling me that I’d be awake when they put my shoulder back, but I wouldn’t feel it, and I wouldn’t remember. I held on to that- not the not-remembering, but the being awake part. I didn’t actually like the not-remembering bit. I much preferred my leather strap idea. But I supposed that they knew best- after all, it’s not like they were going to mis-lead me in order to get me in a position where they could do something even more traumatizing to me that I wouldn’t be able to resist.

As I lay back, another tube was jammed into my hand. Saline solution, I guess, to flush the other drugs out. So now that I couldn’t move either arm, the nurses casually mention that I was not going to be awake for the procedure after all, that I was going to feel a little funny, a little loopy, a little out of it, and then I would feel nothing at all.

I was being put under.

I’d never been put under before. I wasn’t okay with it. I can handle douche canoes on the street who want to get up in my shit, but not this. Being restrained and helpless on a slab as strangers did God knows what to my body… I tried to let them know that I wasn’t okay with it, I tried to tell them no, but they were shoving oxygen tubes up my nose and I couldn’t stop them, and the little electric pads stuck all over my torso made the machine beep in ways I didn’t understand. I tried to object, I wanted off this ride, but everyone was so far away, and they weren’t listening. They weren’t even there, they had all left, they’d left me, and I was all alone. Alone staring at the stupid striped curtains forming grooves and folds and valleys with voices in them that I knew I could understand if only I could hear them, voices that might not have been there, but I wanted them to be, because then I wouldn’t be alone. But maybe they were bad voices, maybe they didn’t care about me, maybe they were out to get me, and I was so helpless, but they tried to guide me, Ken Kesey and Neal Cassaday and the unpredictable pranksters that I couldn’t trust but they tried to guide me through the abyssal wilderness when I knew we were all nothing and existence was insignificant and I was going to die and I was already on the other side, and God help me, it was all real, and I didn’t know what was happening. And among all the colours and the voices that only I could comprehend there was a face, a floating two-dimensional face in front of the endless stripey fields of three-dimensional, four-dimensional, five-dimensional colour, running off into their vanishing points, emptiness now, and now, a face. And now it’s gone- flat face, alien, stranger, it doesn’t belong here. I feel sick. It isn’t part of this world, I don’t understand, it has a smile, and something sickens me. I feel sick. Why is that face here? Is there a head behind that face? Whose is it? Is it familiar? Why is it familiar? Who is in this world who shouldn’t be, whose monument, whose Easter Island, Zardoz, God-Head gazing down at the folding world, head in the abyss that rings a bell of recognition somewhere beyond the stripey plain? What are you doing here? I want to ask it but the words won’t come. I cannot speak, I never could. Forming words are beyond me- they’re already taken by the echo of a synthesized robot voice being carried on the wind from somewhere far away. Why are you here? I try to speak, but the electronic interference takes over again, a buzzing washes over me like a nightmare on the wind. Is it coming from me? Is that my voice? I try to speak again, and I realize the sound is in my head, the spirit of dizziness, migraines and confusion, the interference is in my head and it is coming from me. It’s coming from me from somewhere far, far away.

I can’t move. I have no body. There is a net-like discomfort where my arm should be. I look at the face. There are shoulders now. Soon it will have a whole body. One shoulder, two. Where are my shoulders? I recognize the face. Was it him? It was the Boy. The good guy. The wonderful guy I’ve been with for three years. I’d texted him, earlier that day. Was it the same day? How long had it been? I’d asked him to pick me up when I was done. I wasn’t done, so what was he doing here?

I considered that I was imagining him. I tested my voice again- I was still in the eternal field of stripes, I now lived on the cover of a Yes album. He looked confused. I realized what was going on: they hadn’t told me this was going to happen, that I’d lose grip on reality. I didn’t know I was going to hallucinate, but I was, in fact, tripping balls.

I realized that I probably seemed very strange to him, so I tried to explain. I was high. I was extremely high. I was higher than I’d ever been in my life. And I was terrified. I had no idea what was happening to me, where I was, who I was, how long I’d been gone, what had happened to my arm. My arm! Did I still have it? Were they going to cut it off? Had they done it already? My right arm- my right arm! How was I going to draw? How was I going to write?! It wasn’t fair- I was absolutely terrified, and too stoned to express it, and he laughed. He laughed, and the nurses laughed, and everybody laughed at me.

Did I mention I felt sick?

No one seemed to care how I felt. Everyone had left. I was still in stripe-land with the voices I couldn’t hear, my mentors still trying to tell me about the electric Kool-Aid. I didn’t know what to do, where to go. My arms were still restrained. I leaned over the bar on the side of the bed. Eventually, he was there, holding a container a little too late beneath my retching, terrified face. I was not entirely in contact with my body and yet it went ahead and did horrible things without me. And he was there. We’ll call him Charon, because he was my moon that day, never leaving my side, even if I had been knocked down a peg or two by the world.

I started to come around. I heard the beepy noises of the EEG. The rolling stripe field turned back into a curtain. The cops meandered back in, and I answered the rest of their questions as best I could. It isn’t often that you can say to a police officer “I’m so high” without fear of reprisal. My arm was still there, in a sling. It was over, and I didn’t even remember passing out.

After another round of x-rays (during which I tried to throw up again, but as I hadn’t eaten that day, nothing came up but frothy bile), I was wheeled back on a stretcher by the kind nurses to the bed where I faced the challenge of getting my clothes back on. Charon and a nurse helped. I couldn’t quite follow the sling instructions, and so eventually decided that the process of getting it on comprised solely of getting the Velcro to stick to absolutely everything except what it’s supposed to stick to. I set a follow-up appointment at the fracture clinic to determine my eventual physiotherapy needs, took a bottle of Percocet for the road, and leaned on Charon all the way home.

The drugs didn’t agree with me. I was hungry, but I felt too sick to eat. Charon picked me up some food- grapes, baby carrots, Digestive cookies, crackers and cheese,- and had also brought with him some gummy candies, because they’re my favourite. My weekend was ruined- I couldn’t go out, but he stayed in with me. But I couldn’t write. I was angry about what had happened to me, but I couldn’t write, and I couldn’t draw, so I couldn’t express how I felt.

I couldn’t work, either (as a bartender), but that was okay, since I was starting a new job. A new job that I also couldn’t do, it turned out. I couldn’t type. I couldn’t file. Hell, I could barely make a cup of coffee. Using only my left hand, everyday tasks became challenging to impossible. No more wearing certain clothes or washing my hair. Forget redecorating my apartment which I was in the middle of- I couldn’t even tie my fucking shoes. I couldn’t even put on goddamn deodorant. Fishing out my wallet for my debit card took ten minutes, never mind counting change. I couldn’t do anything fun. I had plans to go hiking, camping, play frisbee, fucking bowling- none of that happened that summer. Possibly ever. And forget sex. I could tell it would be a while before that would happen again.

I couldn’t sleep from the pain (the painkillers did nothing), and from spending most of the night trying to find positions that didn’t hurt or damage me further. My left side began to ache due to the added responsibility. I couldn’t be comfortable or accomplish anything. I couldn’t cook, could barely eat, barely sleep. I couldn’t do fucking anything but feel pain and remember the fear I felt in the hospital. I felt like I’d lost everything, including faith in myself. That one random crazy guy took it all away from me.

And even at the time, I knew I would heal. Soon enough, it would just be another story to tell (again and again and again..). It didn’t matter. This was one of the last summers of my youth, and I spent it being impotent, because of him.

Have the police caught him? What do you think? Of course not. My stoned-out description of the remarkably generic-looking guy I’m sure was a real help. So he gets away with it, right? And I’m just supposed to accept that. Right?

That’s a problem, you see. I don’t think I can. I can’t accept the tongue-clucking, the condescending “my, the streets are getting so dangerous these days, but that’s what you get for living downtown” attitude. I can’t accept the acceptance that this kind of thing is par for the course, the status quo. I can’t. And I won’t.

I have become a target for other douchebags who have some kind of fascination with a girl in a sling. They use it as a pick-up line, they use it to put me in my place, they use it to debase me, to threaten me, to make me feel like a victim. One Kinko’s employee, outside on his smoke break, said to me as I passed by, “hey, can I break the other one?” Strange, when you’re hurt, people feel the need to point it out to you, make sure you feel weak. That doesn’t work on me, fucktards. You think I can’t handle your old Stare Downs? Because I’ve handled worse. You can’t hurt me worse than I’ve been hurt. If Punchy McDouchehat couldn’t do it, you don’t have a chance.

And as for you, asshole…

I know you’re out there. And while I’m sure you’re not reading this, somewhere in your whirling coked-out fever nightmare of a brain is a seething awareness of what you’ve done. You took my independence, my art, my means of expression away from me. You made me feel fear in that hospital. I did nothing to you, nothing. But your ugly face and stupid sweater are burned into my memory, and one day we will meet again. One day, you will feel the wrath of rage contained no longer by fear and social courtesy. You get no more politeness, no more calm requests for an apology. If I ever see you again, you motherfucking assmunching douchecunt waste of human filth, you will know my rage and pain and it will be unleashed a thousand times upon you by an army of righteous souls, and you will have no escape. I have loyal friends, Asshole, and they will straight-up fucking murder you. And I will laugh, and punch out your crooked teeth with my swinging right arm, and I will tell you that that’s what you get for not apologizing. Dickwad.

There is no lesson to be learned here. I was walking down a busy street in the middle of the afternoon in broad daylight, minding my business and getting in no one’s way. And there’s no way I could have seen it coming. There is no lesson, no silver lining. Just rage. The rage is all I have.

It still hurts, you know. I still have to be careful- it slips, every now and then. I’ll never be able to use it like I used to, never be completely free of the fear that something could happen, something could aggravate the injury, and I’ll require surgery. That’ll mean going under again. It’ll mean losing mobility. It might mean an end to my art, or at least my current drawing style. I hope you’re happy, Punchy McAssdouche, but you probably don’t even remember me. You have no idea what you’ve done. You feel no guilt, and while I’ve been in excruciating pain for the last year of my life, you’ve been tra-la-la-ing through yours, blissfully punching strangers and bearing no consequences.

And that’s gotta be the most infuriating part of it all.

Harpercalypse!

Ack! I mean, Jesus! Really? I mean… goddamnit! Seriously! Goddamn those goddamn bastards! Argh! I’m so angry! I don’t even have the words. I don’t even know what to say. Just… just…

AAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

New Year’s Resolutions 1: the Long Arm of the Law

Happy 2011, Rage-aholics!

I realize that it’s almost March. I’ve been busy. And the news has been nearly impossible to keep up with. So many stories, so many issues filling me with anger and contempt, I didn’t know where to start. So I moved a bunch of them to the back burners to simmer. And now that the news outlet’s short-attention span theatre has moved onto other things, I feel it’s high time to start the new year off right by getting some things from 2010 off my chest.

So I’m just gonna go ahead and dive right into today’s retrospective pet peeve of 2010: Police brutality.

Cops are the modern-day Knights in Shining Armour (well, them and Elton John), riding in on great white horses to save us from distress. As our city mourns the loss of one of Toronto’s finest, we become acutely aware of the dangers faced by our law enforcement, and the sacrifices they make on behalf of all of us. For their continued dedication to serving and protecting the public, they have my eternal admiration and gratitude. I have nothing but respect for officers of the law. Every single officer I’ve ever met has been polite to me, and I’ve never witnessed a police officer harassing someone unnecessarily (as far as I could tell). But it’s the start of a new year, and I don’t feel like we can move on until we find some resolutions for unresolved issues from 2010.

Regular readers of this blog (hi, mom!) will recall my indignation at the events of the G20. It probably sounded like I was on the side of the police in that debacle. The truth is, although I admired the actions of some, I knew that the law enforcement heroes of this great city had much to answer for. There is no question that I have no sympathy for the opportunistic vandals and looters (such as those in the notoriously removable “Black Bloc” outfits), but that does not mean that I did not support the peaceful protestors, or that I thought the cops were in the right. Like I said, they have much to answer for in regards to that day.

But will they answer? Will they be held accountable? Will we ever see justice done?

It’s been eight months, and some people are tired of waiting.

On that warm summer day, hundreds of protestors were brutalized by police officers “in the line of duty.” Were some of these individuals in fact being so unruly that the only way to calm them was with force? Were they out of control, a danger to themselves and others? Were they breaking the law?

Sure, some probably were. But not all. In fact, not even most. Truth be told, not everyone beaten within an inch of his or her life by Toronto cops was even a protestor.

Click on that link. Go ahead. And while you’re at it, click on this one too. That’s my friend Dorian, who survived a horrific beating following a sucker-punch from a police riot shield. He was hanging out at Queen’s Park that day, no sign, no chants, no particular beef with anybody, just watching the crowd, ready with his camera in case anything interesting happened. Hell, I wasn’t there, and I’m not a reporter, so if you want the facts of the day, read those links up there. What I do know is that Dorian is one of the most harmless individuals I know. He is reasonable and not prone to starting fights. I honestly cannot imagine him doing anything to provoke this reaction. His injuries were beyond brutal, his experience appalling. And yet, those responsible have yet to see the slightest sign of justice.

I cannot tell you how angry this makes me. But, since that is the entire purpose of this blog, I am certainly going to try.

Somewhere among the shining examples of duty and bravery of Toronto’s finest are some bad seeds that give a noble profession a bad name. To those cops who beat and held my helpless friend who hadn’t done a damn thing wrong, you probably know who you are. And you ought to be ashamed. Your entire profession ought to shun you, kick you out of their ranks. You are the reason that people hate cops. You are the reason they shout “Fuck da police”. You are the ones they call Pigs. You are not officers of the law. You are nothing more than petty thugs. And you must be brought down.

Do you think we’re afraid of you? You’re not above the law, and you can’t get away with shitting all over our civil liberties like that. You are everything that’s wrong with the system. You are “the Man.”

If you use your power to abuse others, we will find you. If you think it’s okay to assault those weaker than you, we will find you. Because we are stronger than you think, and we have numbers on our side. Better than that, we have the law.

Be you beat cop, seasoned detective, S.W.A.T. member, or even Mountie, if you disregard our rights, the very law that you purport to protect, we will find you, and we will take you down.

To those virtuous examples of the Law Enforcement profession, I am sure you are just as disgusted and outraged at the conduct of your so-called comrades as we are. Help us. Help us to find justice.

To those who make a mockery and shit on everything that the good cops stand for:

Fuck you. And the horse you rode in on.

Built Ford Tough

Toronto is known for its multiculturalism, its cosmopolitan inclusiveness, its vibrant youth culture, its cultural and environmental awareness, and its progressive liberal politics. Which is why, during the October 25th 2010 Mayoral Election, we elected this guy:

Laugh it up, Fuzzball.

You see, the lefty hippies, yuppies, and hipsters of downtown were torn between two other candidates: the amusingly named Joe Pantalone, who seemed to be most popular among downtowners, and George Smitherman, who wasn’t Joe Pantalone, but wasn’t Rob Ford either. No one really wanted to vote for Smitherman, you see- they wanted to vote for the unimpressive but inoffensive Pantalone- but they all did anyway. Why? Because no one was going to vote for Pantalone. And because of this reason, almost everyone who wanted to didn’t.

That makes sense, right?

You see, no one thought that Pantalone had a chance, as the early polls from a limited scope indicated little support. Because of this, the massive numbers of people who supported him decided to vote for the other Liberal instead. Everyone I talked to agreed that everyone wanted to vote for Pantalone, but no one would, due to the fact that no one was going to vote for Pantalone.

So since it had somehow been uniformly decided that the candidate with the largest downtown support base didn’t stand a snowball’s chance, the default became Smitherman, who didn’t have the same support, but stood a chance of beating Ford due to not being Pantalone.

This is what is known as “strategic voting.”

Let’s face it: voting for what you want is for pussies. Voting for something you don’t want out of fear of something even worse happening- now that takes balls.

So, with everyone downtown haggling over whether everyone should put their majority vote toward electing the mayor they want, throw it at the guy they don’t want less than the other guy they don’t want, or vote for one of the over thirty other candidates no one had ever heard of, the way was laid wide open for the lone Conservative on the ballot.

And man, did he work the suburbs.

Toronto is a large city, and most Torontonians live downtown (or so they tell us), where things like Nuit Blanche, TIFF, Luminato, Gay Pride, Caribana, Word on the Street, and the Fetish Fair explode on their doorstep with such regularity it’s not even weird anymore. These are people who support the arts, the rights of minorities, help for those in special need, women’s groups, LGBT culture, local organic produce, and bike lanes. And they depend upon public transit.

Unsurprisingly, this is also a laundry-list of everything that Ford is against. And we downtowners tend to forget how much the car-driving traditional-family-values suburban sect can resent our highballin’ hedonistic street-car-ing ways. In fact, we tend to forget they exist at all (which, upon reflection, might account for some of that resentment). Toronto has a lot of suburbs. And damn, they’re big.

While Mississauga was busy re-electing the kindly grandmother who had brought prosperity to one of Toronto’s finest burbs for the two-hundredth time, Etobicoke was hammering down on our dreams of drug-fuelled all-night Hollywood art-party orgies with the power and fury of ten thousand silent K’s.

It makes sense. There are probably slightly more liberal-minded folks around here than conservative, but the liberals were all confused over who they were supposed to vote for. Some of them gave up and didn’t vote at all, often citing their busy downtown schedules as the reason. The Conservatives had one option and a lot more free time. It was a no-brainer.

There’s been a lot of finger-pointing down round these parts. Who’s to blame for Rob Ford’s election? The Smithermites for not going with their gut? The Pro-Pants lobby for supporting a loser? The Ford group for actually voting for Ford? It’s a question with no easy answers if you ignore the obvious one, but anyway, the suburbs are really far. It’s much easier to blame your neighbour.

Did we do it to ourselves? If the votes for Pantalone and Smitherman were added together, they’d outnumber Ford’s by a hangnail. But who knows? Maybe a more unified front from our side would have stoked those fires of fear in the suburban hearths, and would have driven them out in even larger droves. As it is, only slightly more than half of the eligible population voted, so who knows what the outcome would’ve been if things had happened differently. It’s a dangerous game, this What-If-Roulette, with almost as many penises. But there’s a strange and terrifying kind of comfort to be taken in the belief in Democracy. If you’re an idealist, then it’s impossible for the wrong guy to win an election. Even if you don’t agree with the result, the Voice of the People has spoken.

So why am I angry? Well, we have elected a mayor whose vision for Toronto does not match my own, and mere disappointment won’t cut it. But whom is my rage targeted against? Whom do I blame?

The obvious answer is Rob Ford himself. But then again, in his mind, he probably honestly believes that he is the best person for the job, so you can’t really blame him for trying. So, you blame his supporters. Only, they were only exercising their democratic right to choose their candidate, and I can’t really expect everyone else’s values to reflect my own. Clearly, the man appeals to a large portion of the population whom I’m sure is comprised largely of perfectly nice, rational people. You can’t really blame someone for casting their ballot for the candidate of their choosing, at least, not if you really believe in democracy. So how about all those people who didn’t vote? Seems like a no-brainer, except there’s no guarantee that things would have turned out differently, and if they hadn’t, I’d be just as mad, and for the same reason. So is it possible that it really is the fault of everyone who voted for the other guys? That doesn’t seem right. Each person used their one vote as they saw fit- some to vote for whom they wanted as mayor, some as a stand against whom they didn’t. Sure, I personally don’t see that as an example of how democracy is supposed to work. Those who believed that voting for a candidate you didn’t like would work as some sort of Konami-code for winning the whole election found out they were wrong. But hey, they thought it would work. Sure, logic tells us that if everyone who liked Pantalone best had voted for him, he might’ve won, but that’s just logic-ing with your heart. Some people tried to out-think the election, tried to trick it by voting against their own wishes, because the election would never see that coming. Democracy is no match for the solid strategy of voting for the wrong guy. How the hell did that not work out?

But I’m not really angry with those who managed to over-complicate something that by its very nature is designed to be as straightforward as possible. It’s not really their fault- they only did what they thought the smartest thing was. By some convoluted egg/chicken logic, it seemed like a good idea at the time.

But as much as I disagree with such voting “tactics”, in the end, don’t their values reflect my values? Let’s face it; if Smitherman had won, I’d be okay with it. So how could I be angry with those who voted for him? Whatever their reasons, enough people voted for Smitherman to make him a serious contender. If a few more people had done the same, we wouldn’t have Rob Ford as mayor. I do understand the rationale- early polls had Pants way behind Smithers, so it’s reasonable that certain rats will jump ship. Call it peer pressure or jumping on a bandwagon, but in the end, their hearts were in the right place, even if their heads had gotten stuck in a self-fulfilling prophecy while they themselves believed they were outfoxing “the system”.

Am I angry with those who voted for all the other candidates, including those who had dropped out of the race? Of course not. If anything, their hopefulness is adorable.

So who am I angry with?

Anger is a reaction, so if you feel it, your brain is trying to tell you that something isn’t right. There’s an injustice taking place, perhaps, and where there’s injustice, there’s usually a culprit. That’s what on-the-face-of-it rationale tells us. So, to find the culprit, one must determine what it is that one is reacting against. And maybe it’s not what you think. Maybe it isn’t injustice. Maybe it’s something else, something you wouldn’t discover if you didn’t ask these questions. For someone like me, anger can be a reaction to almost anything. It’s my default. Sadness, frustration, guilt, regret, and fear- they all become anger by the time they get to you.

So sure, I’m disappointed. But for all I know, Ford will be a great mayor. After all, enough people believe in him to have gotten him elected. So, I’m not in mourning just yet, because I don’t really know what the future will look like, even if I don’t like the plans. Frustrated? That usually happens when I hit an obstacle of some kind that I can’t overcome. The voting process at the community centre here in Ward 27 was quick and pleasant. I did what I could, and it’s now time to move on. Again, disappointed, but I have no regrets regarding my own decision, nor do I feel any guilt. I did the only thing I could legally do to prevent a future for my beloved city that looks, from where I’m standing, somewhat bleak. I know he’s just a man, and the new City Council must approve every decision he makes. It’s not Ford himself that bothers me. It’s the legions of people who apparently think that this man having power is a good thing. People who care nothing for the things that I care about. People who, apparently, have us surrounded.

I think … I think I’m afraid.

What will become of us? Of our city? Are we working toward the Toronto we want, as all the campaign slogans said? Or are we merely running away from the Toronto we fear? What happens when it catches up to us?

So I’m scared. Big deal. Bite me. You’d be scared too if your mayor looked like this:

All the better to eat you with...

But, as we’ve all been taught, when a traumatic event occurs, denial happens first. Then comes the fear, which becomes anger. Fear hinders you. Anger empowers you.

But like all power, it must be used responsibly.

Today, as Ford took office, he was met with hundreds of protestors. Some genuinely lamented the loss of David Miller, while others seemed only to foam at the mouth at the words “Mayor Rob Ford.” I don’t like the man either, nor am I optimistic for the future of art and transit in this city. But I respect the fact that he was voted in democratically. And since I believe in democracy, I can at least give the man a chance before screaming expletives at his doorstep. Demanding the democratically-elected Mayor be impeached after less than twenty-four hours in office in order to implement an administration the people did not vote for just doesn’t seem like the democratic way. Whether we like it or not, the majority ruled. I guess I just wasn’t in the majority. If you are a democratic idealist, then it is impossible to believe the wrong man was elected. Which begs the question… is it possible that… (*gasp*)… I’m wrong? We were all wrong?

Now I’m really scared.

And I’m not alone.

I forgive those voters who voted against the man who scared them, or for the man who made them scared of others. I forgive those who didn’t even turn up, intimidated by the weight of civic duty, afraid of making the wrong choice. I forgive us our fear.

But you don’t have to take fear lying down. You don’t like the mayor? Fine, tell us why. Be passionate. Let your anger focus you, let it shut out all the noise so you can target the thing that scares you and face it. Don’t just scream and whine- be constructive. Let’s deal with this shit. Let’s deal with it now.

I hereby resolve to become more active in my community. I resolve to pay more attention to politics, and to take a stand when I think that something isn’t right. I will fight for the Toronto I want, and I will not run from what I fear.

You must be the change that you want to see. You must believe that democracy works, and that it allows you to support those whom you believe in. You must act based on hope, not fear, never ever fear. Let’s make our city into the community we want, the place we are proud to be from. Let us not hide our heads in shame for electing an ogre, but be galvanized in our quest for a better tomorrow. With the combined efforts of downtown and suburbia, from every fire escape to every cul-de-sac, let us march forward into the day of a bright, shining city of multiculturalism, cosmopolitan inclusiveness, vibrant youth culture, cultural and environmental awareness, and progressive politics, whatever those may be. What doesn’t kill makes us stronger, until we’re tough enough for the sticks and stones to bounce off our hides. Let’s lead the world in rationality, let our passion for peaceful protests and outreaching optimism be an example to those places still in the shadows of fear. Miller time is over, but today is the first day in a new chapter of our city’s life, one which will bring challenges and obstacles, and therefore just that much more opportunity to focus our fear into the raging storm of hope and change that will finally deliver us the city we want.

Remembrance Rage

(NOTE: Yes, I realize that I haven’t posted in a while. I have a backlog of posts ready, don’t you worry. They will see the light of day soon enough)

Ouch! I just pricked my finger on my Remembrance Day poppy. Oh well, I’m not complaining. It’s not like anyone’s forcing me to wear it. I could choose not to. It is a free country, after all.

You know, for all my bitching, ranting, and raving, the truth is that I am, in fact, a very blessed person. I have a supportive family, fantastic friends, and a wonderful partner who loves me. I have a fabulous apartment downtown in the greatest city in the greatest country on Earth. And I am free.

A man on the subway was selling poppies. Bright red with a black centre- it’s November 11th, after all, and here in Canada we are patriotically convinced that John McCrae was a great poet. The old man on the subway wore a uniform, decorated and freshly pressed. He stood tall, proud, and gave me the warmest smile I’d seen in a long time. He reminded me of my grandfather, a figure of stoic dignity if ever there was one. My imagination led me to consider that his smile came from watching the people go to and fro, free of tyranny and oppression. The smile of one who knows that the years spent in the heat of battle were worth it. So of course I bought a poppy from him. I mean really, is there any other option?

As it turns out, yes. Yes there is.

The White Poppy has been distributed by the “No More War” movement since 1934. This lovely flower has become a symbol for Peace, while her bloodstained brother glorifies violence. Anyone who can take a break from Call of Duty: Black Ops long enough to turn on the news can tell you that War is Hell, and portraying it in a heroic light only encourages the bloodshed. The White Poppy, we are told, serves as a reminder of the virtues of Peace, and stands in opposition to armed conflict, and the horrors of War.

Of course, most people alive today are too young to really understand what exactly those horrors are. So “remembering” them might require more imagination than actual memory. Okay then, imagine that you, your husband, your father, or your son are drafted into a conflict that isn’t yours, that perhaps you do not even understand. Or maybe you volunteered, because you’re that goddamn brave. But bravery only gets you so far in the trenches, and soon, you are lost, cold, alone, and afraid. You are watching your comrades die, some quickly, some slowly and painfully, some, unable to take atrocity in stride, by their own hand. All is terror, madness, pain, death, and you come home from years of exile broken, if you come home at all. Maybe your body is filled with shrapnel, or you lost your leg to gangrene. Maybe you can’t escape the nightmares. Maybe you defeated an evil foe whose holocaust had to be stopped, or maybe you fought an unjust war, and were spit upon by your own countrymen and forgotten by the government that sent you. Maybe you were just doing your part to make this world a better place. Maybe you were confused and didn’t know what was happening. Hell, maybe you even enjoyed the slaughter. In any case, you stood before the fire, at the gates of Hell, you felt the heat and suffered the burn, and you did not turn away. You stood your ground. And you did it for us.

There are fields of dead. Each body is someone’s husband, father, or son. Each body fertilizes the crop growing above it. Poppies rise from the corpses, stained with their blood, amid the white crosses seemingly spattered by violence, and they remind us. They remind us why you fought, why you suffered, and why you died.

To us, from failing hands, they throw not a sword, but a torch. Let us continue the quarrel, they ask, taking up not arms, but light. The foe is oppression, tyranny, slavery. The foe must be defeated. Let us lead the way through the trail they blazed toward an enlightened future.

The Red Poppy does not glorify violence, but reminds us of its consequences. The money collected from its sales go toward providing for veterans, some of whom are too shattered from their experiences to fully provide for themselves, all of whom deserve nothing less than the knowledge that we haven’t forgotten them.

I have been doing my research, and have yet to discover where the money from the sales of white poppies go. Toward the manufacturing of more white poppies, perhaps? How much can a few buckets of bleach cost? You can even make your own at home- take a red poppy, and erase all colour as vigorously as if you had made a horrible mistake that you’d rather forget. What more appropriate way is there to remember?

I am a liberal pacifist myself- I don’t believe in war. Yet the white poppy offends me. I find it distasteful and disrespectful. I imagine the kindly old veteran on the subway who fought so hard and sacrificed so much, watching a white poppy prance by as a statement that the wearer would rather he hadn’t have bothered.

But don’t get me wrong; I am not against the White Poppy. However mis-guided the movement might be, it is still a non-confrontational protest against war, which is a noble idea. In some places, you might be locked up for such propaganda, but Canada is a free country, and censorship has no place here. If we deny those we disagree with the right to wear the poppy of their choice, or even none at all, then those who sacrificed themselves so valiantly will have done so for nothing.

The White Poppy is a means of expressing an ideal. While I may disagree, I believe in your right to freedom of expression. I only wish I had the courage to defend that right to the death. I’m not sure I do, but I know someone who does. He stands on a subway platform, quiet, proud, peaceful. He sells red poppies, so that we will remember the sacrifice he made so that we may choose not to wear them.

G20 Protests Lead to Riots, Lead to Pissing Me Off

Today I walked through a shattered city. My city. A proud city, known worldwide for its tolerance and peaceful resolution to conflicts. My beloved city of Toronto.

Today, Toronto is bleeding.

Today is Saturday, June 26th, 2010. The G20 Summit has converged on downtown Toronto. Local law enforcement has been preparing for this, training riot squads and erecting barricades around much of the downtown core where the summit is to take place. Reasonable precaution? Or self-fulfilling prophecy?

Frankly, I don’t care. This shouldn’t have happened.

Naturally, everyone was expecting protests. Not only were the world’s most powerful leaders congregating to discuss how to further screw both the environment and the economy, but the security parameters were inconveniencing nearly the entire population of Toronto, a city not known for its patience.

Being the Capital of a province run by an apathetic Sith apprentice, we are used to demonstrations. Queen’s Park has been the site of more peaceful protests than a Gandhi-impersonator convention. Being the most multi-cultural city in the world, we are used to resolving, or at least tolerating, the differences between us. And while other cities refer to dark times in their histories, Toronto has suffered fires, blackouts, and, more recently, an earthquake with humour and a helping hand extended toward each other. Today, all that changed.

At around 3:40 this afternoon, a peaceful march protesting the G20 took a wrong turn for the worst, and soon became a full-scale riot. Windows were smashed with bricks and pieces of furniture looted from establishments that had also gotten their windows smashed. Fights broke out, tear gas was dispersed, rubber bullets were fired, and a police cruiser was set on fire. The fire spread, as did the rampant violence. Looting came next, with stores depleted of valuable merchandise (such as every single cell phone from a Bell store), as either an anti-consumerism protest, or, if you acknowledge how retarded that is, in an act of selfish greed. Personally, I don’t even know what statement they’re trying to make any more. Throwing feces through the window of American Apparel? Are you protesting the G20, or sweatshop-free clothing? Or hipsters?

Again, I don’t care. This is my home. This is my community. What makes these people think that they can shit on it?

I believe in freedom of speech. I believe in peaceful protest. I believe that British Petroleum is actually the Evil League of Evil in disguise, and any and all governments who support them are probably also secret super-villain cadres. I believe that unrestrained capitalism leads to corruption in society. I believe that the world’s governments must be held accountable for their actions or inactions. I believe that passionate individuals should stand by their statements and stay true to their positions, and not be persecuted for their beliefs. And I believe that no one should have to live in a police state.

But what I don’t get is how an individual can have a problem with the world and think that if they write that problem down on a piece of cardboard and stand near a building containing powerful people, one of them will read it and think, “hmm, capitalism is the root of all evil, is it? Well, I had no idea! I suppose I’d better roll up my sleeves and start dismantling the system, then.” Shouting “Fuck BP!” isn’t going to clean up the oil spill. If you’re just trying to get something off your chest, then fine, but do you honestly think that you’re going to solve anything by dressing weird and carrying a sign?

Well, maybe you will. And you know what? Bless your heart for trying. Optimism is inspiring, and if it’s only words, then you’re not hurting anybody. Right?

What I don’t understand are the people who take that step from saying things to throwing things. I don’t understand using violence to make your point. You want to protest the millions of tax dollars spent on safety barricades? Fine. You want to do so by attempting to storm the Convention Centre, thereby proving that every penny was well-spent? Retarded.

Freedom of speech is an inalienable right, and words have power. If you choose to exercise your right to this power, you must accept the responsibility of doing so. Remember what Spider-Man said.

Freedom means that you are able to make your own choices. It does not mean that those choices do not carry consequences.

The First Amendment doesn’t mean you get to set stuff on fire.

It is a horrible shame that peaceful demonstrators are often arrested, mistaken for the violent kind. But the way I figure it is this: if you are peacefully protesting when things get hairy, you’d be best to walk away. If you don’t, and you throw in with those who are throwing things, then that is a choice. Your choice has consequences. You might be arrested. Don’t act so surprised. And why would police arrest you? Because the group you represent are bringing anarchy to the streets, and cops tend to have a kind of zero-tolerance policy on that sort of thing.

Maybe you are an Anarchist. A real one, the kind that believes in a self-governing populace, not the kind that spray-paints circled A’s on streetcars, throws tables through store windows, and screams “fuck capitalism” while breaking into an ATM. There’s nothing in the Anarchist manifesto as I understand it that advocates harming innocent civilians. And to those who are just trying to “fuck the Man” by vandalizing everything in sight: do you really think “the Man” is the one who has to clean that up?

I have friends who work at American Apparel, and other places which were torn apart by rioters. They are not “the Man,” they are people like you who are just trying to get by. Some cannot get to work at all, which is bad news during a recession. True, they were already diverted around the fence by the police, not the protesters, but at least they weren’t afraid to leave their house.

Look, the issue of protesting (and whether it accomplishes jack or shit) is one that hasn’t advanced in decades, and I’m certainly not going to solve that now. Nor am I about to offer answers for the issues that the G20 is here to address. I am but a humble citizen, and have no wisdom to share. All I have are my eyes and ears. And as I look around my own neighbourhood, and listen to the people on the streets, I realize that I am just as lost as the frightened, confused masses around me. No, I am not here to offer any answers. I am only here to ask a single question:

How dare you?

I don’t care how angry you are about the G20. I’m angry too. I was on your side. I believe in your right to express your discontent. You were supposed to be the voice of us all. How dare you take that responsibility and use it to terrorize a city? How dare you take your frustration out on the rest of us? How dare you burn our cars, smash our windows, and hurl shit at our buildings and our homes? How dare you make the decent people of Toronto afraid to leave their houses? HOW DARE YOU?

And to those who used the protests and ensuing riots as an excuse to pick fights and loot stores out of business, well, fuck the lot of you.

I’m angry too. It’s kind of my thing. But do you see how I handle my anger, rioters? Do you see how I express my discontent? With words, assholes. WITH WORDS.

Just where do you get off? How does it occur to you that it is okay to behave like this? Just what exactly is wrong with you? Can’t you look around and see what you’re doing? Don’t you know that you’ve entered mob-mode and are engaged in unjustified violence? How can you possibly think that this is okay?
Well, it’s not okay. Do you hear me? It is NOT OKAY TO RIOT. You will accomplish nothing of value. You will only ruin everyone’s day. If you think that mindless violence is a valid mode of expression, then you are a bad person.

But there will always be people like you. We’ll get over it. We’re resilient like that. We’ve survived blackouts, fires, earthquakes, and even unbelievable douchebags before, and we’ve always bounced back. You may annoy us, even frighten us, but you cannot destroy our resolve.

I am launching my own personal protest against both the G20 and the G20 protesters. I am not going to let you disrupt my life. I will walk down my street without fear, and though I may be cut and bleeding from your broken glass, this city will never know a broken spirit.

As I walked past Yonge and Dundas, I heard the drums. The drum band busking outside the Eaton Centre hadn’t even taken a break. The city burns while our leaders fiddle, and yet the band plays on.

Get over yourselves, violent protesters, you haven’t shaken up anything. If you have something to say, say it, and say it in a language we can understand. Personally, I don’t speak Flying Brick.

Give peace a chance?

Whine Tasting: An Exercise in Civility

What would you do if someone offered you a glass of fine red wine, priced at one hundred dollars a bottle? If you did not answer “swill it around, spit it into a communal bucket for some poor sap not even making tips to empty out, and be sure to spill a little onto the white tablecloth without even thinking about the person who’ll have to clean it up,” then clearly, you are not civilized.

A wine tasting, for the 0.5% of this blog’s readership who is not aware, is an event at which rich snobs taste- not drink, mind you- wines presented by wineries who have poured their life’s work for hundreds of years into a glass which they then, rather unceremoniously, dump into a slop bucket destined for the drain.

“But these refined connoisseurs appreciate such beverages for their history, as well as their flavour, which they eloquently describe with such with phrases as ‘refined yet unpretentious, with a clean finish,’” says renowned wine expert Dr. Tedius Pratt. “They’re not there to get drunk, but to appreciate the rich intricacy of vineyard growth cycles apparently evident in the fermented juices of every precious grape. These scholars of viticultural Epicureanism are knowledgeable on a level the casual sipper can never understand.” But is Pratt correct?

Actual overheard conversation snippet from a recent wine-tasting event:
Connoisseur: I didn’t know Beaujolais made a white.
Winery Rep: That’s a Niagara chardonnay.
Wine snobs are full of shit.

Don’t get me wrong. I myself enjoy a bottle or two of wine with my evening meal, and enjoy parsing choice phrases to nonsensically describe the experience. But once you witness a drunk woman (so they do get drunk!) clean her baby on a bar (not in a bar. Actually on one), you will realize that at least part of the mystique is accurate: this is truly a level of class to which most of us can only aspire. Or rather, whatever the opposite of aspire is (de-spire? Pre-spire? Per-spire? I bet it’s perspire).

Which brings us to the topic of civility. If in our grunting caveperson days we were not civilized, as is the general assumption, then what changed? How did we evolve into civilized beings? What precisely distinguishes a large herd of beasts from a civilization? What constitutes civility?

I would argue that civility is rooted in an awareness of one’s self in relation to one’s surroundings. Knowing where you stand with others, and acting accordingly. Treating others as you would like to be treated in their place.

Say you spill blood from a fresh kill all over your cave floor. Naturally, being the disgusting pig that you are, you don’t clean it up. Then, maybe, one day, it occurs to you that blood tends to go rank after a while, or attract scavengers or vermin, or present a very real slip-and-fall hazard. So, you actually clean up after yourself. Congratulations, you’ve just invented civilized behaviour.

At what point exactly does “being civilized” require a reversion to the floor-of-blood days? At what point does carelessly tossing red wine on to a white tablecloth and walking away without claiming responsibility for your own messiness become the pinnacle of civilized behaviour? The answer probably lies around the time we started hiring servants to clean up after us, taking on the burden of consideration toward others so that we don’t have to. We are waited on and cleaned-up after. Like the caveman who left blood on the floor, you simply wait for the lower species to do your dirty work for you, and go carelessly about your way. While this may be the hallmark of high society, I consider it to be the height of uncivilized behaviour.

At a recent conference on urban youth violence attended to mostly by social workers, former young offenders, and other supposed dregs of the lower rungs of society, lunch was served. There was also food and drink throughout the day, and the venue staff, used to cleaning up after wine tastings, prepared themselves for the ungodly mess that was sure to follow. They were completely shocked to find, upon the guests’ departure, virtually no mess whatsoever to clean up. All trash and debris had been properly disposed of by the guests themselves, and all spills were cleaned up by those who had spilled. It seemed that the street thugs and underpaid government minions who work to keep them off the streets (hoping to make them “house thugs” or even “office thugs”) demonstrated the ultimate in civilized behaviour: politely cleaning up after yourself even when you don’t have to, because you are not an animal.

While everyone likes a good wine now and then, the ability to discern a Niagara Chardonnay from a variety closer to the Burgundy persuasion does not make you more worthy than those who clean up your messes, whom you could not do without, and who may in fact drink Bud Light Lime (it is surprisingly refreshing). The wine crowd may have the street violence crowd beat in big words and fancy dress, but the latter displayed greater civilization. Their event was refined yet unpretentious, with a clean finish.