Hogtown: A Satire of Rob Ford’s Toronto
Difficile est saturam non scribere.
–Juvenal, Satire I
I’m going to miss my friend. But I think Hart
Has made a choice no one can fault him for:
To move out of this town to what they call
The Forest City, two hours’ boring drive
Along the 401. True, Western U’s
A cracker-box, suburban with no core;
But wouldn’t you, like Hart, accept a spot
In under-funded grad school rather than
This jobless desert, banker’s paradise,
Where thanks to cheapskates everything falls down,
The centre of our nation’s commerce, arts,
And culture, even as we subsidize
The TV shows of dreary talking heads
Or stand-up acts who couldn’t hack it in
LA or NYC? Like those two guys
Who bitched about the other London, and
Who wrote how everything was wrong in Rome,
It fell to me to tell my friend goodbye
While loading stuff into his mother’s car.
Hart slammed the trunk, and then turned back to me
To say, “There’s no work here for decent kids,
Not anymore. The only talent that
Pays off is hustling. What profit’s left
In working hard when we’re all forced to dive
Deep into debt to land an internship?
Meanwhile, the boomers with the jobs, who pissed
Away our generation’s chances for
Inheritance, are too broke to retire.
It’s time to leave this town, my home, for good.
They used to call it Hogtown, so let’s use
That name again: this place is packed with swine.
The pigs and shit may long be off the streets –
‘It’s Albany, but cleaner!’ – only now
The city’s got the filth within its soul.
So when the second-least ridiculous
Celebrity to nominate herself
As candidate for mayor’s a pornstar, who
Was in our grade-school class before the bleach
And silicone, why should I stick around?
“If only for the sake of argument,
Let’s say I chose to stay; where would I live?
The housing market here is for the rich.
Like weeds, new condo towers sprout into
The sky, which no one I know can afford.
Perhaps it’s for the best; they’re cheaply made
With leaky, floor-to-ceiling glass that pops
Out at the slightest nudge. Who’d want to ape
That self-defenestrating lawyer if
The Darwins won’t award you runner-up?
Why live inside a box above the lake
When you’ve gone underwater with the bank?
Just wait until the speculators come,
And buy foreclosures on the cheap, then turn
Around and rent them out. At least I know
Where I’ll be scoring drugs in twenty years.
But that’s enough about our future slums;
We’re short of even crappy housing now.
It’s so depressing that the only list
That’s longer than the wait list for repairs
In TCHC properties today
Is actually the wait list to move in!
To let the bed bugs die off from old age
Before you ever live there: what a great
Cost-saving innovation! After all,
We spent two hundred grand to terminate
The rat who ran the corporation last.
“At least they could have found a local hire,
Instead of bringing in a ringer from
The States. I thought that immigrants
All ‘work like dogs,’ if Ford’s to be believed.
But that’s not true. Is laziness a vice
Restricted to one nationality?
For every family of hopeful and
Industrious arrivals, there’s a swarm
Of moochers, grifters, well-connected hacks –
The very parasites that sucked the life
Out of the countries they once left behind.
Our city’s the most multicultural
On Earth; for proof, check out our underworld:
Italians, Chinese, Greeks, Somalis, WASPs,
A regular United Nations full
Of crooks and gangsters, dealers, pimps – but that’s
Street-level stuff. There’s also businessmen
With shady deals, and friends at City Hall:
They too can come from anywhere; this town’s
Got equal opportunity for all
Who leave their sense of morals back at home.
It’s always who you know – and who knows you.
So don’t romanticize new citizens;
A couple generations down the line,
Watch how they all get just as arrogant,
Entitled, out to lunch, and full of it
As any white trash with a pedigree
Whose ancestors kicked out the Iroquois.
As soon as they’ve got theirs, they pull up stakes,
Become reactionaries, and pop out
McMansion-dwelling, good Bramptonians.
How stupid must they be to back a slob
Who calls them ‘wop’ or ‘paki’ to their face,
Who proudly claims his racist slurs provide
The proof that he’s ‘one of the people’ too.
The problem with democracy is that
Each moron has his own God-given right
To vote for moron representatives.
“If, by some miracle, you find a place
To live, a job to help you pay the bills,
A night out on the town ain’t in the cards
Unless you’re flush with cash. If I had kids,
Though I can’t see myself affording one,
Why would I even want to take them to
The nosebleeds at the ACC, where we
Would have a bird’s-eye view of all
Those suites, leased out to Bay Street law firms or
To corporations, which, assuming that
They aren’t sitting empty half the time,
Are passed around their clients and their pals,
A rich man’s season-ticket circle-jerk.
It’s not as if they stay to watch the game.
Who would, these days? What other line of work,
Except our nation’s hallowed sport, can boast
A team of losers of that magnitude?
The Leafs got booed right off the ice this year,
And still they take home millions? How is it
They have the nerve to charge a ticket price
Unmatched by any other team across
The continent? If players for the Leafs
Had half the balls their owners do, the team
Might squeak into the playoffs once again.”
Hart took a breath. He’d gotten quite worked up.
“It’s true in all these ways that being rich
Makes getting by a little easier.
But even if you’re one who’s got it made,
Good luck getting around. For everyone,
All over town, our transit is a mess.
(I’m almost glad a frozen tree fell on
My car the night the ice storm came to town.)
You’re liable to die behind the wheel
Of boredom or old age while crawling through
The gridlock; see what good your chauffeur is
When stuck behind a streetcar on Queen West!
It’s just as fast to walk – but not quite safe.
A stroll along our city streets means that
You never know when you’ll get ground beneath
The filthy wheels of some delivery
Truck turning right on red. And god forbid
You try to ride your bike around downtown:
We spend more money ripping up new lanes
For cyclists than it cost to put them in;
So look over your shoulder every time
You brave our streets, unless you want to get
Your handlebar clipped by some Escalade.
And if you thought that rush hour was the worst,
The traffic on the weekend’s just as bad.
Delays are not a problem when, thanks to
Some marathon, the Gardiner’s flat-out closed.
The side-street overflow is bad enough
Without those cockamamie BIAs –
You know, like “Little” this, or “Village” that –
Which feel the need to throw a festival
That wrecks the traffic in your neighbourhood
And gives police a chance to stand around
For overtime made on the city’s dime.
And flying? While the yuppies lobby hard
For non-stop island jets to shuttle them
To Whistler, those of us without a plane
At Buttonville are doomed to wait for hours
In line at Pearson, with our shoes in hand,
Submitting to the gropes of rent-a-cops
To board Air Transat flights to Florida.
“However long it takes to leave, it’s best
To go; the city’s downright dangerous.
The crumbling infrastructure’s bad enough--
Try driving on the Lakeshore, keeping one
Eye looking out for concrete chunks that fall
Down off the Gardiner—but add to that
New perils, each more lethal than the last,
Which spring up with sad regularity.
We used to pride ourselves about the lack,
Compared to cities in America,
Of shootouts—‘til the ‘Summer of the Gun.’
If even cute, blonde teenaged girls can’t spend
A weekend at the Eaton Centre, of
All places, without getting caught between
The crossfire of some gangster wannabes,
Then how good are the odds for guys like us?
It’s not New York, you say; no highjacked planes
Have flown into our skyscrapers. Just wait.
Once members of the ‘Toronto 18’
Set up their cottage-country training camp,
And jerked each other off with crazy plans
To blow up CSIS and the CBC,
And once another wacko plotted to
Derail a VIA train, it won’t be long
Before some other nut has better luck.
Their own incompetence, not vigilance,
Is what stopped them from doing major harm:
Thank god our terrorists are not ‘world class.’
For other civic horrors, though, we’re on
The bleeding edge: there’s Swine Flu, SARS—you know
We’ve made it as a global city when
We’re first to catch the hottest new disease.”
Hart sighed. The car was loaded, and all there
Was left to do was share a smoke before
He hit the road. So after lighting up,
And pausing as his exhale wafted off,
Hart mused, “You know, none of the stuff I’ve said--
The unemployment, crookedness, decline
Of public assets, dangers to our lives--
Might be so bad if there was half a chance
Those problems would get solved. But not until
Our worst disease is cured: our politics.
Now that Toronto City Council’s been
Live-streamed for all the world to see, it’s clear
How second-rate these bumpkins really are
Whom we’ve elected, and how wide the void
Of leadership now gapes; yes, Ford’s the worst,
He makes Mel Lastman look like Pericles,
And put the ‘K’ back in Etobicoke;
But there are plenty more who, over time,
Have bankrupted our name enabling him,
Not just his dealers and his junkie friends.
So to the list of creeps like David Price
Or Sandro Lisi, let’s add other names
Like Nunziata, Holyday, and Stintz,
And all Ford’s Council allies who spent years
Excusing his disgraces, propping up
A councillor, then mayor, who – check that GIF –
Without support falls over at a snap.
And then there’s Doug, cheerleader number one.
The elder Ford’s co-mayor in all but name,
But when it comes to bullying, he’s his
Own man. It’s no surprise the brothers Ford
Still think in racist, sexist tropes; the firm
Their daddy built exists to label things.
How else, except with help, could such a man,
So utterly incapable, be mayor?
Poor Robbie couldn’t even keep the job
He did for free as football coach without
A fed-up school board giving him the sack;
He came within a hair of being stripped
Of office: after Ford admitted that
He’d never bothered looking up the rules,
The court condemned his wilful ignorance.
And all that drama came before the crack.”
Hart hung his head, then sighed. “There’s not much point
In going on about the videos,
The drunken stupors, lies, embarrassments
On late-night TV shows—you’ve heard it all.
Those ‘maggots,’ as Ford called them, in the press
Were right, and nothing shocks us now, we’re numb.
When Ford’s away at rehab summer-camp,
His car still makes the news, pulled over with
An off-the-wagon townie at the wheel.
Who are these bimbos hanging out with Rob?
The only scandal left to break would have
To be a sex tape; but I’ve got my doubts.
The only whore I’ve seen him with
Here I cut Hart off.
I asked about the looming vote, the hope
That Ford would lose his re-election bid.
“Odds are, he’s done; but what alternatives
Are left? There’s Tory, whose experience
In politics is vast, but only if
You count concession speeches. When your name
Sounds like a villain out of Dickens, then
It’s time to think about another brand.
It won’t be Stintz, that opportunist hack,
Who flip-flops like a suffocating trout.
Her tenure at the TTC, aside
From wasting billions voting for the scheme
To build the three-stop ‘stubway’ she once fought,
Forced us to play sardines in buses and
In subway cars; she had the nerve to think
Free Wi-Fi at St. George would make it right.
But what about Socknacki, you might ask?
He’ll never win, because he tells the truth--
Or maybe it’s the other way around.
And Chow, she’ll make Ford Nation’s heads explode,
Our local little Hillary; but when
The socialists start lurching to the right
With talk of tax breaks for ‘good’ companies,
Then what the hell’s the point?”
Hart shook my hand.
“I’d better go, if I’m to beat the rush.
The 401’s a mess most afternoons.
So long, but not goodbye; I’ll still be back
To visit family. You’re welcome to
Drop by my place in London anytime.
I know it’s pretty dull; but there, at least,
A mayor might get convicted of his crimes.”