LONDON, ONTARIO – Last month for reasons that are starkly unfathomable to me, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was invited to give the commencement address at New York University; an event which takes place each year in the academically hallowed venue of Yankee Stadium. I do wonder just what the agenda is of the University’s board of governors in selecting a speaker so lacking in intellectual, moral or even oratorical heft. Do they regard such speeches as a species of light entertainment; an opportunity to let the kiddies feast their eyes on somebody who’s famous for being famous and what does it matter if he has nothing of actual value to impart?
LONDON, ONTARIO – About a month ago following the spring banquet of the Baconian Club, I made my way through the snarled up construction zone at Dundas and Richmond to the Scotiabank’s ATM cash booth. Just outside was a lavishly tattooed gentleman who stepped right in front of me and asked if I wanted to make a hundred dollars. “No thanks,” I told him.
Even if he’d been decked out like Daddy Warbucks, I would’ve given his proposition a pass but this pushy guy was obviously skint and up to no good. As I squeezed my way around him he said, “All my ID got stolen but if you just cash this cheque for me, you can have a hundred dollars.”
LONDON, ONTARIO – I regaled some friends this week with the story about the time I got the strap and I was struck anew by a couple of things. One was the remarkably convoluted chain of events that led to my persecution at the hands of my public school principal. And the other is the aura of fascinated horror that now attends such accounts; the appalled disbelief, particularly pronounced in younger people, that we ever allowed our schools to dispense corporal punishment.
Believe it or not, they didn’t have to send a note home first to get permission from one’s parents. They didn’t even have to check in with their own superiors in the Board of Education’s bureaucracy. They had complete autonomy to act as they saw fit and if some kid in their charge was being a complete pill, then it was okay to lay into him with a leather strap.
OTTAWA, ONTARIO – Prodded by the rising tide of intolerance for those who profess pro-life convictions – most pointedly and menacingly expressed by no one less than Prime Minister Happy Socks himself (with his exclusion of pro-life MPs from the Liberal Party; his endlessly repeated falsehood that unrestricted abortion is a Charter-enshrined right; his ugly stipulation that any organization looking for taxpayer funds to assist in hiring students for summer jobs must first attest that they are not pro-life) my wife and I decided it was time to walk the walk and made our way up to Ottawa for the 20th annual National March for Life on Thursday, May 10th; the traditional Feast of the Ascension.
LONDON, ONTARIO - One year shy of its 30th birthday, publisher N. Breton Downe has unwittingly invoked one of George Herbert Walker Bush’s favourite phrases and announced that “it would not be prudent” to continue publishing SCENE magazine any longer. The prudence which Downe is now heeding is of the business/fiscal kind. From that moment when he was visiting his sister in Toronto in the mid ‘80s, picked up a NOW magazine and wondered if something along similar lines might not be doable in London, profitability has always been his lodestar. And indeed, that’s as it should be if you’re going to venture into a line of enterprise such as publishing where it’s so treacherously easy to take a blowtorch to your life savings.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Ex-980 talk radio host and London Yodeller columnist, Andrew Lawton, is reaping a perfect whirlwind of hysterical abuse since tossing his trademark ten gallon hat into the ring as the Progressive Conservative candidate for London West in next month’s provincial election.
Hatred of the Wynne and McGuinty Liberals is so widespread and so pronounced right now as they try to hang on and extend their 15-year reign at the top of the greasy pole that we could well see a PC sweep that will carry Lawton into the office he seeks. But even if he should get elected, it’s all but guaranteed that there will be no post-election honeymoon for Lawton.
LONDON, ONTARIO - Well, here’s a seriously fabulous novel I’d never even heard of until I pulled out a slightly battered but otherwise gorgeous 1969 Folio Society edition from the new arrivals cart at Attic Books a couple years ago. First published in 1827, then refined and reworked into a definitive edition in 1842, The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi is the Italian title) is the only novel written by Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873). In Italy, this grand historical novel is revered to this day. No Italian gets through high school without reading it and schools, streets and cinemas are named after its author. Manzoni received a full state funeral at the time of his death and one year later Verdi premiered his decidedly operatic Requiem in commemoration of Manzoni at St. Mark’s Church in the author’s hometown of Milan.
LONDON, ONTARIO – One of my favourite encounters of the year took place in that couple weeks of false spring we had in the last half of February when the considerable accumulation of winter snow melted away and some naïve souls dared to wonder, “Could that possibly be it? Wasn’t that a little too easy?” And then, whump: on came a pitilessly cold March and a mostly frigid and sometimes Biblically torrential April. Here, on the very eve of Mayday, like winter-weary dogs who’ve been repeatedly teased with a luscious green stick that’s yanked away just as we try to bite down on it, we consider the averages and the odds and our knowledge of the way this world rolls along, and resolve that surely now it’s safe to trust that the proffered treat will not be withheld again.
LONDON, ONTARIO – Perhaps providentially, my propensity for racking up unmanageable debt emerged early in life, via the Capitol Record Club which I rashly joined at the age of 14, suckered in by a magazine ad featuring a photo of a winking Frank Sinatra inviting me to help myself to 12 free LPs and then, in considerably smaller print, mentioning that I’d have to buy 12 more LPs over the following year at seriously inflated prices, plus an exorbitant shipping fee. Beneath Frank’s devilishly smiling visage were pseudo-postage stamp reproductions of album jackets by one and two-hit wonders like Freddie and The Dreamers, The Outsiders and Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs. You carefully tore out pictures of the albums you wanted along perforated lines, licked the backs and stuck them on the membership application.
LONDON, ONTARIO – “That all those affected by the tragedy in Humboldt, Saskatchewan be comforted by the prayers and support of those across our country – we pray to the Lord.”
As the second reader at the 10:30 Mass this Sunday at St. Peter’s Cathedral, it fell to me to read out the prayers and intentions at that service. There was a slight catch in my voice as I declared those words (perhaps my wife caught it; I doubt anyone else did) because like millions of other Canadians I’ve been suffused with feelings of pity and helplessness for the bereaved families who are struggling to find a way to carry on after sixteen (so far) members of that community’s junior hockey team died following the collision of their touring bus with a tractor trailer.
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No Continuing City
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