Life Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

My Short Electric Bike Rant

electric bike on bloor

I took the photo above on Monday afternoon at the corner of Bloor Street West and St. George while biking towards downtown…under my own power.

There’s something that’s just plain wrong with the many young, healthy, able-bodied people I’ve seen about town using electric bikes in increasing numbers. Use your damned legs, slackers!

It Happened to Me Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

Course Marshal at the Pride and Remembrance Run

pride and remembrance runOne of the big events of Pride Week in Accordion City is the Pride and Remembrance Run, a 5K run that raises money for a number of good causes. One of the causes for this year’s run is two undergrad scholarships in Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto, a study program administered by the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, where Wendy works.

Rock star that she is, she gave up some of her time to help out with the logistics of the run. Rock star spouse that I am, I volunteered as well – I was a course marshal. My job was to stand at a specified spot on the course, point the runners in the right direction and encourage them on.

I was assigned a nice location: the corner of Yonge and Wellesley, which the runners would pass through twice: just after the start of the run, as they ran westward towards Queen’s Park, and again just before the end of the run, as they ran the final couple of blocks back to where they began at Church and Wellesley.

If the race began with a starting pistol, I was too far away to hear it, but from my station, I could see a cloud of balloons released from the starting line, followed about a minute later by the fastest of the runners:


Then came the larger group in the middle:


Followed by the more casual bunch. What they lacked in speed, they often made up for in costumes and atypical running outfits:


A run on a downtown street isn’t possible without the assistance of the police. Three cops stopped the traffic on Yonge Street so that the runners could pass, and they were the exact opposite of the cops that we all saw in the G20 footage: good-natured, non-antagonistic, and even downright helpful and cheerful. It’s more evidence for the increasingly popular theory that the thuggish cops from the G20 weren’t locals, but out-of-towners raised on the small-town-stupid notion that Toronto is the Big Bad City full of Big Bad People.

These guys appeared just after the last of the runners passed through the intersection:


Oh shit, was my first thought. This had better not be the Fred Phelps crowd.

They numbered about two dozen, most carrying white placards with messages that were very clearly not like those that Phelps’ jerks carry. Instead, they were more like:

  • Love is humble
  • Love is sacrifice
  • Love is forgiveness
  • Jesus is love

…with not a single mention of the story of Lot, Sodom and Gomorrah or how God nuked those twin cities (or, for that matter, Lot’s wife getting turned into a pillar of salt and the distasteful sequelae). They were a quiet, well-behaved bunch whose only out-of-the-ordinary characteristic was a white clown-like smile painted over their mouths. The term “Jesus Juggalos” popped into my head.


I had precious little course marshalling to do until the runners made their return trip, so I picked up a large lemonade from the Starbucks at the corner and waited. About twenty minutes later, the first of the runners came back:


And after him, a trickle of runners:


And the Jesus Juggalos took their position. Like me, they encouraged the runners on – but in silence and with a different message:


I didn’t have the heart to let the guy in the photo above hold his sign upside the entire time. I just wanted this photo, and then I told him.

The rest of the runners followed:


And the Jesus Juggalos just held up their signs and offered bottles of water:


Some of the runners accepted the bottles, others politely declined, a couple pointed out that Jesus never said anything about homosexuality and a couple said “I forgive you!” to the Jesus Juggalos. I told a number of runners “Forgive the guys with the signs; they know not what they do!” which got some laughs from the runners.


The intersection of Pride Run participants and Jesus Juggalos went without incident, despite the chasm that divided the two groups, both philosophically and class-wise (the runners were by and large white-collar; the Jesus Juggalos blue collar) and each groups went on its way afterwards without any apparent effect on the other.


With the last of the runners gone, I thanked the cops who helped cordon off traffic at the intersection, shook their hands and made my way back to the run’s volunteer station.

Life Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

Seen on the Street: The Ethnic Show

Poster: "The Ethnic Show, featuring Mo Mandel (the Jew), Aron Kader (the Palestinian), Bret Ernst (the Italian), Ron Josol (the Filipino), Wil Sylvince (the Haitian)"

Here in incredibly multicultural Accordion City, where it’s okay to wear your ethnicity on your sleeve, you can do a poster for a comedy show like this.

I took this photo on Bloor Street near Christie yesterday afternoon.

Life Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

The Latest Threat to Hit Toronto: Vuvuzela Vendors

vuvuzela vendors 1

As if the annoyances both minor (tornado warnings, earthquakes, blackouts and a heat wave) and major (riots and police chiefs with Stasi fantasies) weren’t enough. Now Accordion City faces a new threat: guys selling vuvuzelas, the latest in a long line of scary products from South Africa (including apartheid, District 9 and Johnny Clegg).

These guys were hawking their wares at the corner of Yonge and Dundas. Don’t encourage them by buying one.

vuvuzela vendors 2

Accordion, Instrument of the Gods Geek It Happened to Me Music Play Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked

Joey deVilla playing "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" on accordion at Loser Karaoke

One of the songs in my MP3 collection that’s on heavy rotation is Cage the Elephant’s Beck-ish, slide-guitar southern-rock-y ode to “doin’ what you gotta”, Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked. It practically begs for an accordion version, so I’m learning it in order to add it to my repertoire, which could stand a little refreshing.

Joey deVilla playing "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked" on accordion at Loser Karaoke with Jason Rolland in the background

While I haven’t learned the song well enough to perform it unaccompanied, I’ve had just enough practice to do it as an accordion karaoke number, which I did at last week’s Loser Karaoke. Loser Karaoke is a regular Thursday night event at Tequila Sunrise where having a good time trumps singing ability. It helps that Jason Rolland is an entertaining karaoke host. As an added bonus, it’s where a lot of the people from Accordion City’s high-tech, startup, social media entrepreneur scene come to cut loose. For more on Loser Karaoke, check out their Facebook page.

I should feel ashamed to say this, but a decade’s worth of public accordion playing has attenuated my ability to feel shame: the reason I know about Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked isn’t because I’m dialed into the alt-rock music scene. Thanks to middle age, I used to be with it, but they’ve since changed what “it” was. I know about the song because of…well, a video game. Namely, Borderlands, which uses the song in its intro sequence:

For the curious (and the fans), here’s Cage the Elephant’s official video for Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked. Enjoy!

It Happened to Me Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

A Last Minute Sweetup (Saturday, June 26th)

come to the sweetup

Yes, the G20 conference with the protests that go along with it have turned downtown Toronto into “Torontonomo Bay” and the weather’s been bouncing between rainy and gloomy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a nice Saturday evening in Accordion City! The Missus and I have decided to hold a meetup at Sweet Flour Bake Shop (2352 Bloor Street West, just east of Jane) – a sweetup, as she calls it – to enjoy some frozen yogurt and made-to-order cookies.

sweet flour interior

Sweet Flour’s specialty is made-to-order cookies in no time at all. You pick the dough and the “mixins” – from chocolate chips to nuts to fruit to smashed-up Snickers bars – and they’ll bake it into a custom cookie for you in a couple of minutes. There’s also  frozen yogurt, and you can take the mixins for cookies and have them as toppings. They also have other stuff – check out their site for details.


We’re going to be there tonight (Saturday, June 26th) at 8:00 p.m. and we’d like you to join us! See you there!

Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

How Many Cops Does It Take to Write a Jaywalking Ticket?

Typically, one – but during the G20, with heightened security turning Toronto into “Torontonomo Bay”, it takes ten.

We were sitting on the patio at The Rhino (Queen Street West, west of Dufferin) when a guy started calling out to the patio-dwellers, announcing that 4 cops were writing him a jaywalking ticket:

01 g20 cops

One of his friends was wearing an Anti-Flag t-shirt, another wore a t-shirt with the words “Action Now” and another was wearing an anarchist-themed T-shirt. They looked like the protester type, which probably drew the cops’ attention.

He committed Big Mistake Number One: he got a call-and-response going with the bar patrons on the patio: “What do we say to the cops?” “FUCK YOU!

02 g20 cops

At this point, the cops started getting on their cellphones and called for backup (a particularly interesting thing to see, having just come from a conference on the iPhone):

03 g20 cops

The backup came remarkably quickly. It couldn’t have been more than a few minutes before 6 more bicycle cops arrived to form a phalanx around the jaywalker and his cohort.

04 g20 cops

Take a close look at the panniers on the back of the cops’ bikes: those are riot helmets. These guys are ready for some serious G20 hellzapoppin’ action. So this is what a billion dollars’ worth of security investment buys you:

05 g20 cops

In the end, the cops showed great restraint, considering the circumstances and the high emotions, letting our young anarchist friend off with a ticket.

You’ll probably see a lot more photos of this incident. A number of people and passers-by, upon seeing the commotion, whipped out cellphones and cameras and shot still photos and video.

Welcome to Torontonomo Bay!