“As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be strange to meet a Megolosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill.”
–Charles Dickens, Bleak House
It’s rainy amongst the berms of St. James Park. Consider the one percent of the one percent of the ninety-nine percent who are standing in for, and sleeping in for, the whole. The tithe of the tithe, they are the part for the whole, the vicarious substitute, if not the downright vicarious atonement. Hail the Vicars of St. James Park. Breaking bread by day, living out our wettest dreams of utopia by night. They are the unholy one percent, fallen angels, slouching sodden off to Bethlehem in antic and paradoxical opposition to the godly one percent at the top of the bank towers.
Had enough yet?
Okay faithful reader standing in for the rest, I’ve got a bit of a potpourri for you this week. The main focus is on October 15 as the formal inaugural day for Occupy Toronto. Feel free to skip around from section to section. I’ve got cophunting and politician baiting as special Saturday activities, but I’ve got the more sedate stuff that’s in my repertoire of reportage, including wo/men-on-the-street sound bytes and ruminations about what bankers are good for.
Why Bankers Should Get a Real Job
Bankers are cunning folks. As my brother, the Poorest Man in America, points out from Brownsville, Texas, the Poorest Town in America, bankers don’t actually do anything. They don’t protect our money. That’s contracted out to security firms. They don’t loan money to start nice little It’s a Wonderful Life-style houses, since most of their loans are speculation on existing property. And although they invest money, there is no reason to let bankers do that when there are other brokers more qualified and specialized. In fact, there’s no reason to invest money at all unless you enjoy underwriting corporations that wreck the world.
This theory has not noticeably improved my stock portfolio. Above all, bankers don’t take risks in the hopes of rewards, since the risk is contracted out to taxpayers. Very clever people, bankers. Do nothing, get everything. They don’t even protect their own money. They contract out the little people to do that for them. And they don’t even have to pay them anything, as the city (those willing taxpayers again!) does the protection work for them in the form of police. “Bankers hours,” my mom used to say about the old Toronto practice of letting the children of the ruling class slum it as bank tellers between ten and two o’clock (the old hand safety positions on the steering wheel) before breaking for drinks and tennis.
Cop Hunting for Fun and Prophet
The police are on their best behaviour today (Oct. 15). Plenty of them lurking in groups of three or four in alleys up to a mile from Bay and King, but compared to the G20 it’s just a skeleton crew. And they’re susceptible to banter, unlike the G20 cops. Not every day is cophunting day, but today’ll do. I pick up a plainclothes one west of St. James Park. This isn’t like how I used to wear a skirt and go around kissing SS guards when the president of those United States would come to whatever town, although that was fun. By pick up I mean trail, track. And of course for legal reasons it isn’t “me” doing this but my poet, who has no ontological presence, but a poetical one that a lawyer would understand.
So anyway the poet and I follow him north, marvelling that he (the dick-in-wool) does, in fact, look a lot like me, or like me if I’d gotten a bit of extra flesh from living in the suburbs. No wonder people tend to think I’m an undercover cop. I’m about to turn right (east) on that first cross street north of the park when I notice someone else tracking the same guy. For cripes sake, that’s two or three of us tracking one cop, or maybe just one depending on the ontological status of that poet figure. Anyway, I’m walking boldly down the sidewalk after the undercover guy but this other guy is darting back and forth out of the shadows from parking garages and so on. I’m like, “are you tracking him too?” And he’s like, “this is my third one. They don’t even care.” Now we’re laughing, but the cop doesn’t even turn around, though we’re the only characters in the drama that is this whole side street on a Saturday morning in October. We start out again and the other tracker guy keeps flitting along in the shadows, but I cross the street and run ahead a bit to flank the cop.
So we do that for a bit but now the cop jumps into a grey SUV with license plate number BAZD 913 and I run ahead and maybe stand in front of the vehicle, and maybe I’m kind of bumbling for a bit so he can’t pull out, and one thing about me is I’m always friendly, and I get him to roll down his window, and I’m like, is there like a rally around here or something, and he’s irritated and like, it’s right there, can’t you hear it? and I’m like, oh, are you going? He’s like no, and I don’t push my luck, and he makes tracks. My compadre comes up and he’s like, ‘not going’, did he say? He was there all morning. And we’re laughing and such and he tells me he bagged one that had cop pants on the bottom and civ’s on top. We love that idea, of just wearing cop pants. An undie with undies. You can tell who’re the undies because they’re off in the alleys with the bike cops. Cop gave this guy a good whack with a club during the G20 in the lower back, so that probably accounts for his wariness.
Falling In With Big Bob Ray
Back at the park there’s some white-haired guy fondling the shoulders of two bike cops, doing it in that proprietary way that Big Men and Megalosauruses have. “You scratch my back I’ll scratch yours,” as dear old Ma used to say. He’s got a general air of obeisance suck’ring the air out of the folks around him, so I push his arm off one of the cops by accident–not me but that poet, who is legally speaking Absolutely Not Me–and I whisper to him, the Big Man, about how if he likes cops we can hunt them in the alleys, nonviolent fun, just for yucks and no one gets hurt, and is he like a politician or something and does he think cops should be spying on people who are expressing their opinions nonviolently in a park, and if he likes spying so much why don’t we go do some just him and me come on dude it’s fun you should try it.
People are naming the guy Bob Ray (all spellings are street spellings) in hushed tones so I figure he’s president of something and my poet’s not very coordinated and keeps bumping photo ops and oops out of the way by accident and Bob Ray is telling me in different ways how he’s not up for a bit of fun but my poet figures that with all that coplove we must not’ve expressed ourselves clearly, what with being poetical and all, so we keep trying for a while and…
So if you happen to see Big Bob Ray, those of you who think democracy’s such a great thing, can you ask him why he hates Canadians so much that he hangs out with armed men who are spying on unarmed people while pretending to be unarmed men? Can you ask him why–those of you who think prisons are such a great idea, and I’m not saying I do–why, I say, the likes of him aren’t in our deepest dungeon reserved for our most dangerous and despicable traitors? Quisling.
From Banks to Berms
October 15, things started simmering at Bay and King. We march out from the banks in the direction of the berms of St. James. I’ve got my little red book, like I’m a Maoist or something, but the first two thirds are ruminations on love, acquired the hard way. Into the back end I scribble all the phrases I can, what people tell me, what the signs tell me. Reviewing this later, I’m thinking, what the hell, people can YouTube this if it’s slogans and shriek marks they need. Self, says I, the journalist’s pose is bullshit, and you know it. It’s the old master-servant paradox of faithfulness, of faithful delivery from the mouths to eyes or ears. But 99% is also a number that nicely describes how much misunderstanding there is in every utterance. We mean, someone takes it down, the meaning goes flying off somewhere else.
Still, we try to pin it down for a while. I’m “getting it down” with Officer Suddes, my straight shooter and manly counterpart amongst the yellow-robed bike cops, who comes by now and then and gives me an update on crowd size, beginning at 1500 and working up. As he talks the ink on the end of my stylus phallus squirts out onto the dioxin-laden wood pulp of my little red book and numbers appear. Suddes and me: we lose each other in the neighborhood of 3000, but it’s all love till then.
What else… There’s a beagle named Gabe with a sign that says “Bay Street Fat Cats Stop Stealing My Bone.” He attacks a beagle cross named Fido. There’s a sign that says, Remember When Working Class People Caused That Financial Collapse? I can’t see the bottom of the sign, but I’m assuming it says Me Neither. I’m “David Care Thomson Counterpunch”-ing everyone, and one guy in a kilt claims improbably to read my work and like it. “Oh, so that’s you,” I say to him. There’s a lady named Shari Drinkwater who just came in from B.C. last night. Her sons have lived and worked in Toronto all their lives, and she’s here for the right of her sons to own their own homes. She rattles off the ages of the three sons like it’s a measurement of a single body chiseled by time and space: 42, 34, 33. in this regard I can’t help noticing the taunt that loomed over the protesters at the Bay and King intersection from the massive TD Bank: “We’re Still Open for Business.”
One lady tells me she’s here to stop chemtrails, which turn out to be the effed-up stuff in the exhaust vapor of airplanes, including aluminum, berium, and strontium. A sign warns me that Canadian corporations spend $25 billion hiring 10,000 professional lobbyists. “Democracy in action,” I sigh to myself.
A guy tells me: I’m the oldest guy here so write down what I say. I try: “Harper and Flaherty [word badly written by scribe] we did bail out the banks to the tune of 200 billion.” My apologies to the oldest guy at the march, but such scribal emendations aren’t a hitch in the giddyup of the tale, they are the tale. “No commodity without despair,” says one sign, and that makes me happy to see, and I have this warm feeling that the person who wrote the sign and me as the reader, we’re getting each other. Spurious, but it feels good. Though that “quisling” about Big Bob Ray, that was pretty clear, wasn’t it?
A guy named Charlie Cournewea is from the United Steel Workers, and there are a few steelworkers about. “We’re part of the 99%,” he says. I hang out with a guy named Bob (not Ray) who has a steelworker jacket on and does paperwork with them, and he’s a kind of philosopher and he gives me the whole history of the labor movement in Canada from the Mulroney era. Imagine having something like that in your head. I chat with a guy named Dave who’s 50, has a tent on his back, and has complex theories about how to fall back if the cops attack. And there are teachers’ unionists and there are girls with wiry legs that go sproing and there’s a mother who has a 20-year-old son with her and she looks too young for it and there’s that dog Gabe again and there’s the whole human comedy, and it’s about to flow into St. James Park, curl once or twice around itself, go to sleep, and have a dream.
David Ker Thomson writes from Toronto. He can be reached at: dave dot thomson at utoronto dot ca