Friday, April 11, 2014

Who's zoomin' who?

Terrorism made September 11th a date none of us can forget. For entirely different reasons this year, residents of Toronto have incentive to set digital reminders or circle the date on calendars.

That day is the end of registration for the job of Mayor of Hogtown, the entirely unflattering nickname that has stuck to this sprawling, metropolis. Actual Election Day is October 27th.

Incumbent Mayor, Rob Ford has, during his tenure, acquired a prodigious level of international media notoriety, solidifying his status as head hog. His campaign for re-election is fueled by an unlikely anti-hero aura, eclipsing any moral authority of civic oath, which threatens to undermine all opposition as well.

Themes of understanding, rehabilitation and redemption are invoked by Ford Nation spin-doctors. Team Rob posits that no individual is entirely infallible, and this man's foibles are his own, providing they don't impede execution of official duties.

To court like-minded support, he's aligned his aspirations to an iconic constituent whose travails are comparable.

"Big" Ben Johnson surely knows this territory more than most.

September 24th 1988 is another one of those dates we easily recall. Our hearts thumped at the sight of our likely-lad humbling Carl Lewis, and an elite Olympic sprint field, before the world.

Shame, scandal and steroids summarily rescinded Ben's gold medal, and his world records, but couldn't disqualify his sport-celebrity, albeit tainted, due to the giddy high of glory.
Energy put into what has to be seen as cheating, realised a goal in Seoul, and what was done couldn't be comprehensively undone.

Indeed, just as our bellicose burgermeister seeks a second term at City Hall, so too is Ben afforded another chance. Personal ambition and a public unwilling to pass up a thrill, continue to offer opportunity. In a previous manifestation of this phenomenon I fell into the vat of adrenaline, excitedly running behind Ben in a field full of horses, when that comeback trail passed through an episode of Neon Rider. 

Featuring a redemptive storyline, the show was titled "Phoenix."

Come to think of it, that's a word the Mayor's camp could use, in acknowledgement of the damage Mr. Ford's behaviour has done to his career, and signal an intention to transcend. But strategy seems to be more-of-the-same, which could sink the ship.

Still, with tabloid mentality in the mix, plebiscites can be unpredictable, so we watch as the thick-skinned Ford forges on. What's entirely possible is that celebrity survives the vote and revives at some point, in another form. On reality TV perhaps?

A spot on "The Biggest Loser" or "Hog Dynasty" anyone?

Ben Johnson meanwhile (nobody's fool if you take my word for it) maintains profile and lines up for a prominent personal trainer challenge to add to his Maradona and Ghaddafi credits. 
This is a counter-intuitive, unholy alliance - but, to borrow from Aretha Franklin's 1985 disco hit ... who's zoomin' who? 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

As the tundra thaws.

Can it be that it was all so simple then,
or has time rewritten every line ...

That couplet query from the classic tune "The Way We Were" has been crooned by everyone from Doris Day to Gladys Knight, Bassey to BeyoncĂ© - even sampled by Wu Tang, but originally featured in Barbara Streisand's 1973 film of the same title.

Undoubtedly intended for wistful romanticism in the context of the screenplay, the universality of sentiment lends itself to broader interpretation, in the tradition of the greatest song lyrics.

A chilly mid-March trip to Ottawa, the stoic capital of Canada, and a foray to its impressive Museum of Civilization, stirred some misty watercolor memories in the corners of my mind, which I've parlayed into a dot-to-dot, didactic dispatch from the diaspora.

Images of imperial impetus, implicit on London's festooned Coronation Arch, surpass largesse and God's love for King.

This was in fact, brilliant billboard marketing strategy by Canadian politico Sir Clifford Sifton, in encouragement of immigration en masse from Britain, amid the euphoria of Edward VII's crowning.

Invite them and they will come. All so simple then, in 1902.

However, just as each successive singer re-interprets a familiar standard, so too is history, in time, rewritten ... every line.

Sifton's Conservative immigration policies expressly discouraged such "undesirables" as Asians, Jews and Blacks, while millions of Continental Europeans were seduced and settled. Still, post-war, and particularly post-Expo '67, patterns of immigration ensure what's too painful to remember, we can't simply choose to forget.

 As my scattered pictures can attest to, the social fabric of Canada is sewn with imported memories from disparate realities and far-flung motherlands. We are a populated, yet sparse Precambrian template where tropic meets temperate, turning tundra into hybrid identity.

Don't tell me Jerk Poutine doesn't make sense in this melange.

Back in the sanctuary of my venerable copper-roofed refuge, the Lord Elgin Hotel (on, you guessed it, Elgin Street - after James Bruce 8th Earl of Elgin who became Governor General of Canada in 1847), I mine for more insight into the way we were.

And I find gold.

It turns out that our good peer, was deployed northward after four challenging years as Governor of Jamaica. From one territory reeling from profit-loss after the end of four hundred years of enforced agricultural labor, to another where farms were selectively granted gratis.

Both lands requiring responsible structural self-governance. A cooling Carib-cauldron, for flux of a frigid frontier, warming up.

But, as I've discovered during this throwback winter-of-old, it can't have been easy as a pioneer, regardless of circumstance. So much so, that even when the weather improves it's advisable to keep looking above, as the thaw presents a discrete set of issues.

This is testimony that nothing is ever truly simple, answering one question in the song - the one about simplicity and time, yet highlighting the next conundrum therein.

If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? could we?